WESSA standing strong and caring for the earth at 90

WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) is celebrating its 90th birthday this month and a number of special activities are planned for the year to mark this milestone event.

Whilst the organisation can trace its roots back to 1883, it officially formed in 1926 as The Wildlife Protection Society of South Africa, when a group of passionate individuals got together to campaign for the creation a National Parks Board (now known as SANParks), to ensure the proclamation of the Kruger National Park, and to advocate the formation of other national parks in South Africa.

Over the years WESSA has continued to play a strong role in shaping conservation practices throughout South Africa, proactively engaging with the challenges and opportunities presented by our country’s unique natural heritage and the social and economic systems that depend on it.  Whilst the organisation has changed its name and its focus several times over the years, one very important aspect of WESSA’s mission that has remained unchanged throughout its history is articulated in its logo: “People Caring for the Earth”.

Today WESSA is working towards meaningful and sustainable capacity building solutions, which enable individuals, communities and government to make better lifestyle and environmental management choices for a more sustainable future.  WESSA has become a leading implementer of high-impact environmental and conservation initiatives in Southern Africa, and a trusted and effective project execution partner.  The organisation is made up of an extensive network of professional staff, dedicated Members, Branches, Friends Groups and other affiliated groups throughout the country.  The critical focus areas of WESSA’s work include the international Eco-Schools and Blue Flag eco-labels, environmental training to address the scarcity of skills in our country, the conservation of life-supporting biodiversity and water resources, climate change mitigation, environmental governance, and the WESSA Rhino and Elephant initiatives.

WESSA is also an integral part of the international environmental community. We have been entrusted with running two international Foundation for Environmental Education programmes in South Africa, we are a founder member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we work with UNESCO towards strengthening their Global Action Programme for Sustainable Development, and we have also implemented the SADC Regional Environmental Education Project (SADC-REEP) in southern Africa for over 20 years. We are gratified to have earned significant international recognition for our efforts over the years.

At 90, WESSA is proud of its history. We are also excited about what we are achieving through our current projects and partnerships and – in spite of the significant challenges facing our environment – we look forward to the future and to all the opportunities it will present, in our ongoing quest to be champions of the environment.



WESSA’s history:

WESSA’s achievements over the years have been well documented:  The book “The Conservationists and the Killers”, first published in 1982, covers WESSA’s history for the period 1926 to 1980.  A special “Diamond Jubilee” issue of WESSA’s then magazine, African Wildlife, was published in 1986. To mark WESSA’s 85th birthday in 2011, “A celebration of 85 years of Caring for the Earth”, was compiled and a new publication celebrating WESSA’s 90th birthday will be produced in 2016.  A snapshot of WESSA’s achievements over the decades may be viewed on our website.


Broadcasters please note that WESSA CEO Dr Thommie Burger, Chairman Dr Richard Lewis, and senior staff are available for radio and television interviews.

Image and graphic links and captions:

View an infographic illustrating our key achievements over the years.

Image_90th_1: WESSA – celebrating 90 years of Caring for the Earth and looking forward to the future and to all the opportunities it will present.
Image credit:  Helena Atkinson ©

Image_90th_2:  WESSA is working to conserve our natural heritage and achieve formal protection status for areas of high biodiversity, such as the Midmar to Albert Falls Biosphere Reserve in KZN.
Image credit:  Chris Galliers ©

Image_90th_3:  WESSA is working to conserve South Africa’s natural heritage, while creating measurable social and economic benefits for people at the same time.
Image credit:  WESSA ©

Image_90th_4:  WESSA initiated the international Eco-Schools programme in South Africa in 2003.  The programme supports education for sustainable development in the National Curriculum, as well as whole school development.
Image credit:  WESSA ©

Image_90th_5: WESSA has successfully managed the international Blue Flag eco-label in South Africa since 2001, providing environmental accreditation for beaches, boats and marinas.
Image credit:  WESSA ©

Image_90th_6:  WESSA has been involved with elephant conservation for most of its 90 year history and launched a rhino conservation initiative in 2010.
Image credit:  Helena Atkinson ©

Image_90th_7: Through its environmental skills development courses, WESSA is working to address the critical scarcity of skills and training required to drive South Africa’s green economy.
Image credit:  Chris Galliers ©

Image_90th_8: Environmental Education at Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.  WESSA started one of the first environmental education projects in South Africa in 1968.
Image credit:  Chris Galliers ©

Image_90th_9: WESSA Members – embodying “People caring for the Earth”.
Image credit:  Helena Atkinson ©

Image_90th_10: The Howick Falls in WESSA’s Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, home to WESSA’s first Environmental Education Centre, established in 1976.
Image credit:  WESSA ©

About WESSA:

WESSA is a South African environmental organisation with a mission to implement high impact environmental and conservation projects which promote public participation in caring for the Earth. With a remarkable history of 90 years, WESSA has a strong track record of delivering human capacity development projects by working in strategic partnerships, thus enabling people to make more sustainable lifestyle and environmental management choices. Critical focus areas include the international eco-labels of Eco-Schools and Blue Flag, environmental training, sustainable energy, and life-supporting eco-systems such as water and biodiversity.  For more information visit www.wessa.org.za

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