A LEGACY FOR LIFE
My involvement with EWT goes back to the late 1970s when I became aware of the amazing work being done even then by the EWT and its charismatic and committed Founder, Clive Walker.
I was particularly impressed that, despite running on a shoestring, based on funds raised from the sale of prints of Clive’s paintings (see here), and through the efforts of a dedicated volunteer Ladies Committee, EWT was able to make a discernible difference in Southern African conservation. It was not just the conservation of Cheetah and Wild Dog that drew my attention, but I was particularly moved by EWT’s contribution towards saving the desert elephants and desert rhinos in the remote regions of Namibia and the engagement of local communities to help make this happen.
I volunteered my services to Clive as a reasonably well-connected businessman and fundraiser, and one of my first successes for the EWT was to raise funds to repair the leaking roof of the old premises at the Johannesburg Zoo.
In the early 1980s, then EWT Chairperson Angus Morrison invited me to become a Trustee. By this stage, Dr John Ledger had become EWT’s Director, and the Trust was expanding its reach, building on the solid foundation created by Clive Walker and the earlier Trustees. As a Trustee, I continued to be active in the procurement and fundraising areas and was also privileged to represent EWT in various forums, including presenting a special award to the SANDF unit that did the most for conservation. Later on, I was instrumental in merging the African Raptor Information Centre into the EWT’s Raptor Conservation Group.
I migrated to Australia in 1999, where my future wife lived, but was requested by John Ledger to remain a Trustee. I did so until 2006 when I felt that as a Trustee living abroad, with limited opportunity to make a worthwhile contribution, I should step down and make way for other potential Trustees living in South Africa, who would be better able to serve EWT. However, my interest in EWT has never abated, not least because of my many years of involvement and my life membership of the organisation but importantly because of the great strides EWT is making in wildlife conservation and human engagement.
I had met Yolan Friedmann during my time with EWT when she was involved, together with Dr Paul Bartels, in an EWT-supported project to explore the viability of storing DNA samples for genome sequencing, with the potential to revolutionise biodiversity research. There was even talk of using the DNA of a Quagga skin at a museum in Holland to recreate the quagga and other extinct species. Australia has also experienced the loss of some flagship species, including the famed Tasmanian Tiger, and so from Australia, I contacted Yolan to explore possibilities for collaboration with the Australian Museum, who were interested in the work being conducted by her and Paul.
I was very happy to note Yolan’s later appointment as EWT CEO, and her impressive stewardship of EWT since then has reinforced my views that EWT is one of the most effective ‘conservation in action’ organisations in the world, and certainly in Southern Africa.
It is funny how the wheel turns because, in 2020, I joined a webinar organised by Jacana Publishers that featured Yolan and Clive Walker. It was an absolute eye and ear-opener to learn just how much this organisation has achieved over the years and continues to achieve today, and I seem to recall Yolan having used words to the effect that she dreams of a day when there will be no need for an EWT, but sadly, I can’t see that happening. EWT will and must continue to perform its vital role in line with its vision of “a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature.”
Following that webinar, I have volunteered to assist EWT in Australia and New Zealand to help it to achieve this vision. In addition, I have decided to leave a bequest to the EWT because I believe it is the most effective conservation organisation in Southern Africa, with measurable successes in both human and animal terms. I believe that it behoves all who support the EWT’s vision and mission to do everything possible to help it to succeed, both in our lifetime and beyond, and that is what I am doing!
Rob Schneider, 2021
In the spring, a tree will be planted in Rob’s honour as the first in our Forever Forest. A tree will be added for each person who leaves a bequest to the EWT to acknowledge that their legacies will live on through the EWT’s conservation work.
If you too yearn for a better future for your children, leave a Legacy for Life by remembering the EWT in your will, and help us secure the health of our planet and its wildlife beyond your lifetime.
All bequests made to the EWT create legacies for life that are immeasurable and remembered through the survival of our endangered species and spaces.