Protect what you love
Under a blanket of southern stars, sitting around a crackling fire, one of the Jocks kept watch whilst the rest of the group slept soundly in the Shikomu river bed. A silent giant approached, the only sound was his padded feet and knobbly toes gently separating the soft thick sand. Their eyes locked, a midnight moment lasting a few minutes. Should he wake the others? How close is too close? A male white rhino can grow up to 1.8 m tall and weigh up to 2,500 kg. There was no getaway car or tree to climb, so he spared the others and sat still, stiff, staring ahead. They shared that space for a while, until the Rhino turned around and made his way back to the trail, a trail his ancestors had carved out for him, the one the Jocks were grateful to borrow and follow and just like that, he disappeared into the thick of the night, never to be seen again.
It was a humble beginning for the Jocks of the Bushveld, a group of young men living with their heads in Johannesburg and their hearts in the bush. Ten years ago, they swopped their work shoes for vellies and took to those footpaths on a quest to walk each section of the Kruger National Park. Each year they set aside a few days to pick up where they left off, taking in each zone, the shifting eco-systems and varying vegetation along with an array of wildlife they met along the way. During these trips, they had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with some of the EWT fieldworkers and were inspired by their dedication and passion on the front line.
One evening on the Wolhuter trail, gunfire started ringing through their surroundings. The fight against rhino poaching was taking place a few kilometers away while they sat feeling helpless and hopeless. As the years went on, rhinos in the park became few and far between. Many trips left them with only sightings of scattered bones, smoothened rhino posts or derelict middens. A stark reminder of the wildlife war hidden within the hills.
A conservation conversation came alongside an evening of Amarula on ice around a bustling fire. The rumbling roar of a lion was broken by the sharp short call of a spotted hyena. The bush was alive, its beating heart battered and needing help.
One of the Jocks spoke, his tone serious and sincere. “Gents, we need to start protecting what we love. We need to connect our community with the conservationists, or only in our future will we face the consequences.” The connection was there, and each time the group left the Lowveld, they became deeply invested and inspired by who they had met along the way and the causes they were fighting for. From this day forward, a valued connection with the EWT was born.
The group started their fundraising efforts, linking their love for all things wild alongside the expertise of the EWT. Each year since 2020, the Jocks have arranged events, working closely with the EWT, and sending the funds raised to areas that need it the most.
As fate would have it, in 2023, the Jocks were celebrating their 10th year anniversary alongside the EWT celebrating their 50th year. It was time for the biggest collaboration yet.
The bush legends ball.
It’s not a common occurrence to see the legends of the bush suited up in the heart of Johannesburg. Alongside a local jazz band, the black-tie event bought with it smart appearances with snippets of Khaki that filled the room. The night was 180 strong, and each table honoured a bush legend. The teams shared their stories and strategies of how they are shaping the future of conservation. Moving presentations by some of our senior field officers, Grant Beverley and Marnus Roodbol, were a few highlights from the evening.
The concept was built around networking and sharing ideas of conservation. The connection was integral for those working in the field and the city dwellers who were motivated and moved to get involved. The night was a memorable milestone, alongside a generous auction, the evening managed to raise over R800 000 for conservation.
Wilderness areas and big game wildlife are some of Southern Africa’s greatest natural resources. It is not just about the animals, these areas provide more than most realise – the air we breathe and the water we drink – it’s the butterfly effect of the natural world. The one we are all a part of. It is up to us to step up as the protectors of what is left. What other incentive is needed than being able to give the gift of the wild to the next generation? That is why we will continue to connect and collaborate so we can all move forward in protecting what we love.