Celebrating women in conservation

National Women’s Day draws attention to the challenges African women still face but also the ever-increasing opportunities for them to empower themselves.

In South Africa, August (Women’s Month) acknowledges these challenges and celebrates the many achievements of women in South Africa. It encourages others to learn from those who came before them and how they overcame the limitations they encountered.  Women now have louder and more powerful voices, playing a necessary role in highlighting many issues, including environmental degradation, women and child abuse, unequal pay, lack of good education for their children, and many more.

During this Women’s Month, the EWT pays homage to women in the conservation space who do their bit to save species, conserve habitats, and benefit people.

Meet these amazing women here and on social media under #EWTWomanCrushWednesday.

The historical role of women in the EWT

Clive Walker, Founder and Former Director of the EWT

In 1975, I took a group of eight women on a walking trail in the Mashatu Game Reserve in northeastern Botswana. They had told their husbands they were off to the bush for five days, and their husbands had to take care of their kids while on ‘trail’. Among them were Wendy Farrant, whose husband was an EWT trustee, and her friend Joy Cowan. Both husbands were accountants who made up a number of the professionals who made up the board of directors. The very first afternoon, we encountered on foot some 100 elephants standing in the dry Shashe river bed that borders Zimbabwe. One can only imagine the experiences that were to follow over the next four days. On the last night around our campfire, a number asked what they could do to help the EWT as they had become so fired up by their experiences, and my response was why don’t we form a ‘ladies’ committee’ and, after discussing it with the board, we did just that. The committee consisted of Wendy Farrant, Jill Morrison, Felicity Street, Joy Cowan, Maureen McCall, Jenny Doak, and Conita Walker. As volunteers, they contributed 100s of hours in administration work, ran all the fundraising functions, organised three symposiums and various workshops during my tenure and became the flag bearers of the Trust’s work. I must commend my secretary, the late Petra Mengal, who ran the zoo office, and my PA, Jane Zimmerman, who were the only two permanently employed staff and were a tower of strength to the organisation.


Ladies accompanying Clive Walker on a wilderness trail in the Mashatu Game Reserve in northeastern Botswana in 1975 (Left) and The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Ladies Committee , formed in 1975. As volunteers, they contributed hundreds of hours in administration work, ran all the fundraising functions, organised three symposiums and various workshops, and became the flag bearers of the Trust (Right).


Twenty years later, another woman was trailblazing through conservation – the conservation of cranes in particular. Lindy Rodwell cofounded the EWT’s  South African Crane Working Group (SACWG) with Kevin McCann, having established and grown the Highlands Crane Group two years prior. The SACWG was formed to coordinate all crane conservation efforts across South Africa. In 1999, Lindy was the first person from the EWT, and from South Africa, to win the Whitley Award, often referred to as the ‘Green Oscars’. The award is awarded annually to individuals from the Global South by UK-based conservation charity the Whitley Fund for Nature.


Lindy Rodwell, Edward Whitley Junior, and HRH Princess Anne at the 1999 Whitley Awards at the Geographical Society in London. Lindy won a Whitely Award for her work conserving cranes.