Champions of Conservation:
Recognising excellence through the 2023 WESSA Awards



The annual WESSA Awards celebrate the remarkable efforts of individuals, groups, and institutions who have gone above and beyond to advance environmental conservation and education in South Africa. Among the categories honoured are those that recognise the vital contributions of youth who are shaping the future of conservation, individuals whose dedication and passion inspire change, and corporates making significant strides toward sustainability.


Additionally, groups and teachers are acknowledged for their collaborative efforts and innovative approaches to environmental education. The WESSA Awards also pay tribute to those whose lifelong commitment and impact have left an indelible mark on the landscape of environmental conservation—a recognition of lifetime achievement in the field.


This award celebrates the unique contribution of teachers who are a part of the Eco Schools Programme. It honours their commitment to improving the quality of environmental education in the South African school curriculum and enriching the lives of their students.

Teacher Award

Gemma Dobson of St Patrick’s CBC Kimberley received this Award for her dedication to environmental education through the Eco-Schools Programme. Her passion, innovation, and commitment to waste management through art classes exemplify the spirit of caring for the Earth.


This award is made to any group of volunteers (e.g., community, educational, environmental) who have done outstanding work for the benefit of environmental conservation and/or education over a sustained period.

Group Award

Friends of Toloane in Johannesburg earned this Award. Their dedicated volunteers have demonstrated outstanding community-inspired environmental awareness and conservation initiatives. Their partnership with the City of Tshwane Nature Reserve Management showcases the power of collaboration in protecting our natural spaces. WESSA is proud to align with their efforts to champion local citizen action that embody the spirit of ‘People Caring for the Earth’.


Youth have become more dedicated to addressing environmental concerns with passion. WESSA aims to recognise individuals under the age of 35 who have wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to environmental preservation and/or education.

Youth Award

The 2023 winner is Skhumbuzo Lekhuleni, Vice President of the White River Youth Forum. Skhumbuzo’s dedication to conservation and leadership in community-inspired initiatives has uplifted the White River Nature Reserve and its surroundings. He is a great inspiration to South African youth.

The runner-up was Rifumo Mathebula, who earned recognition for his outstanding contribution to advancing the mission of Wild Shots Outreach. His passionate teaching of photography has inspired disadvantaged communities to protect wildlife.


This award is made to corporations or institutions for outstanding contributions to environmental conservation and/or education in South Africa over a sustained period and at a national level.

Rhino Africa

Rhino African Safaris is the winner in this category, specially commended for its Corporate Social Responsibility Programme uniting travellers, suppliers, and staff to passionately support and grow Southern African community conservation and sustainable tourism initiatives.


The runner-up in this category is the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), presented in recognition of their determined efforts to combat succulent plant poaching, through in-situ conservation actions, community engagements, confiscated plant management, and cultivating sustainable local livelihoods through succulent propagation projects.



As WESSA’s premier award to an individual, the nominated person must be considered to have made an outstanding contribution to environmental conservation and/or education in South Africa over a sustained period and at a national level. “Outstanding contribution” in this context is understood to be a contribution over and above what would normally be expected from their work.

Bronwyn Jones

Bronwyn Jones received WESSA’s premier award for individual excellence in environmental conservation and education. Brownyn’s outstanding contribution to environmental sustainability, through the innovative Bokashi Bran initiative, has transformed waste management in Johannesburg. For over a decade, her efforts have diverted significant volumes of food waste to composting facilities, supporting sustainable farming livelihoods, and empowering communities to care for the Earth.

Roger Graham

Runner-ups include Roger Graham, recognised for his outstanding contribution to local citizen conservation through the protection of Meadowridge Common’s unique Cape Flats Sand Fynbos biodiversity, and Margaret Burger, acknowledged for her exceptional contribution as Chair of WESSA KwaZulu-Natal branch to citizen-led conservation and environmental education actions, especially in encouraging and mentoring KZN youth action for sustainable development.

Margaret Burger


The Lifetime Achievement Award honours a person who has made an outstanding contribution to environmental conservation and/or education in South Africa, over their lifetime and at a national or international level.

Stan Madden

The recipient of the WESSA Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023 is Stan Madden. Stan’s lifetime dedication to conservation is truly inspiring. From tireless efforts to protect birdlife through education and citizen science initiatives to his pivotal role in declaring the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site in 1986, his contributions have been invaluable. WESSA salutes Stan for his exceptional contributions to the conservation movement.