I've always believed that the spiritual impact of wilderness is the spark which motivates the individual to the higher ideal of conservation. Together with others, the Wilderness Foundation realises a vision of a wild legacy for future generations. Through my experience of many years in conservation, I understand profoundly the words of Professor John Phillip:'There will never be a Waterloo in wildlife conservation, only a long drawn out guerrilla war.' - Founder of the Wilderness Foundation, Dr Ian Player.
The Wilderness Foundation is one of few South African Conservation NGOs currently involved with active, sustainable social intervention programmes.
Recognising that the protection and sustainability of South Africa’s unique wilderness areas and natural heritage is dependent on socio-political and economic conditions within society, the Wilderness Foundation takes a holistic approach to implementing its mandate for conservation.
Focusing on four main programme areas (Conservation; Social Intervention; Experiential Education and Advocacy & Awareness), the Foundation creates opportunities to encourage, plan and protect wild lands and wilderness, uplift the knowledge and lives of citizens and stimulate an environmental ethos among current and future leaders.
“We envisage a world that has sufficient intact natural ecosystems and wilderness areas that
are valued and effectively protected for the benefit of all species.”
The vision for the Wilderness Foundation was first conceived by Dr Ian Player (international conservationist) and the late Magqubu Ntombela (a Zulu tribal chief and renowned conservationist), in the Mfolosi Game Reserve in 1959.
The Foundation was officially registered by Dr Player in 1972 as a South African non-profit organization headquartered in Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape. It was the first organization in Africa dedicated to providing a pure wilderness experience for people of all backgrounds, races and nationalities. During the troubled days of apartheid, the multi-racial education and experiential programme spawned a global network of conservationists from all sectors of life who are committed to saving wilderness and wildlife.
After 28 years of heading up the Wilderness Foundation, Dr Player handed over the reigns to his mentee and fellow conservationist, Andrew Muir in 2000. Muir has expanded the organisation’s influence through holistic social intervention strategies, incorporating a powerful conservation ethos into successful social projects targeted specifically at vulnerable youth. In 2008, Muir won the Rolex Award for Social Enterprise for establishing the successful Umzi Wethu Vocational Academy.
The Foundation is built on the values of: respect for all living things; a passion for conservation and education; integrity and transparency; sustainability and innovation.
Vision of the Wilderness Foundation
To protect and sustain African wilderness and wildlands through integrated conservation and education programmes, the benefits of which support biodiversity and cultural, scientific, economic and spiritual values. The Vision arises from the following concerns:
- The African population is becoming increasingly urbanised and potentially alienated from the natural environment;
- An unacceptably small percentage of African land is allocated to the establishment and preservation of wild lands and wilderness areas;
- Widespread ignorance of the value of our natural heritage including the role and significance of wild animals in human life, is placing wilderness and wildlands under threat. Consequently there is an urgent need to promote these areas as important living laboratories for understanding the environment, the human-animal interface as well as places for human spiritual growth.
The conservation projects pioneered, supported, or managed by the Wilderness Foundation under the Conservation programme focus strongly on protected areas. Protected areas play a critical role in supporting biodiversity conservation, and are an essential element in a comprehensive plan for reducing poverty and supporting economic development. The Wilderness Foundation continues to actively expand its existing conservation networks, ensuring that protected areas and reserves are well managed, and provide benefits for their surrounding communities.
Social Intervention programme
The Wilderness Foundation’s social intervention programme includes various projects which are developed and implemented independently, or in partnership with other projects of the Foundation.
Due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic throughout the continent of Africa, huge numbers of youth are left orphaned and vulnerable, stuck in a cycle of poverty, with little hope of a brighter future. There is a dire need for holistic social intervention programmes which can offer these youth a chance at becoming successful contributors to society through personal growth and future employment. Through the Wilderness Foundation’s social intervention projects, young people are empowered to become financially independent entrepreneurs and breadwinners for their families.
The Wilderness Foundation has pioneered a number of holistic social intervention projects which draw on the opportunities presented by the growing eco-tourism industry in South Africa. Some of the projects are linked up with the Wilderness Foundation’s Environmental Education programme which helps carry the Foundation’s message of the importance of conservation in the 21st century. The projects have been shown to develop conservation leaders with a strong conservation ethos.
Leadership & Education
The Wilderness Foundation believes that a personal experience of the healing and motivating power of wilderness areas can lead an individual to a greater understanding of conservation and its integral part in building sustainability in all areas of our lives.
South Africa’s history has confined most South Africans to townships or degraded rural areas, and has fractured traditional cultures. Even today, experiences in nature reserves are beyond the economic reach of most South Africans. The Foundation pioneers, supports, or manages a number of leadership and experiential education projects which aim to develop ecological leadership in the country’s youth and various decision-makers. Through experiential education, thousands of youth, community leaders and others are able to re-discover their natural heritage every year. This leads to personal growth and a greater understanding of conservation in its broader context.
Advocacy & Awareness
The Wilderness Foundation believes that government and business leaders have an inherent responsibility to act as conscientious custodians of the environment through best practice. Sustained economic growth is a necessary priority, but it will continue to put pressure on the Earth’s natural resources unless it is carefully managed and monitored.
The Wilderness Foundation develops environmental standards and information which is used to brief and motivate individuals, governments and society at large towards the higher ideal of conservation and its role in the 21st century.
For general information please email us at:
Our Head Office address is:
11 Newington StreetRichmond HillPort Elizabeth6001
PO Box 12509CentrahilPort Elizabeth6006
Tel: +27 (0)41 373 0293 Fax: +27 (0)41 374 1821
NPO number: WF-009-437
PBO number: 18/11/13/632
Wilderness Foundation, SA
Bank: First National Bank
Account: Wilderness Foundation
Branch code: 211417
Account number: 50750071629
SWIFT NO: FIRNZAJJ900
Their relationship and their commitment not only to each other but also to the conservation of wilderness is a shining example of the spirit of the people of this country. - Dr Nelson Mandela.