WOMAN EMPOWERED: Northern Ireland volunteer back at Kwantu Private Game Reserve

AUGUST 23, 2016

The glass ceiling in the wildlife game ranger industry is slowly being shattered as more women are preparing to professionally enter a traditionally male dominated career field in wildlife tourism and conservation industries.

Kwantu Private Game Reserve CEO Shakir Jeeva today said “wildlife and conservation volunteering programmes are gateways to balancing the scales of gender equality in the industry.”

Jeeva said he believed change is occurring in wildlife tourism and conservation based on admission statistics to Kwantu’s volunteer programme.

“Since the start of our volunteer programme 80% of all volunteers have always been women, and 10% of volunteers have received training in the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) course,” he said.

“We should not forget that volunteering is gateway and indeed offers an articulation path to   field guide and game ranger qualifications,” he said.

Natalie Koch from Northern Ireland is volunteering at Kwantu for the second time this year.

Koch who graduated with a masters in Animal Behaviour and Welfare completed her FGASA Level 1 training at Kwantu over a period of eight weeks earlier this year.

“After I graduated I was looking to gain experience working with animals. I started looking up volunteering opportunities and came across the ranger course at Kwantu and it seemed the perfect opportunity to gain this experience,” she said.

During her first eight-week stay at Kwantu, she obtained her FGASA’s Level 1 Nature guide qualification.

“My course involved taking classes to prepare for the theory exam and learning how to take guests out on game drives, practising drives helped us prepare for the practical exam. My favourite class was animal behaviour as I got to learn how to track animals such as lions and my favourite part of my stay in Kwantu was going out on drives and seeing the elephants in their natural habitat,” she said.

Koch had only spent three weeks back home, spending time with family and friends, before returning to South Africa.

Her friends and family were very supportive of her return South Africa.

“I came back to Kwantu as I was offered the chance to return as a ranger intern having successfully obtained my Level 1 nature guide qualification the first time I was at Kwantu. I loved my first time at Kwantu and couldn’t wait for the chance.

Koch who had a love for animals from a very young age says her goal is to further her education and share her knowledge with others.

“My time at Kwantu has made me realise how much I enjoy teaching and sharing my own passions and knowledge with people. When I go home I would like to obtain a teaching qualification so I can become a teacher of animal behaviour. I still would like to learn more about animal behaviour so I may also consider obtaining a PhD, which will help increase my research skills.”

She said volunteering is viewed as a great opportunity to obtain work and life experience.

“Most of the people I know from home who volunteer have a background in animal science and want a career working with animals but I have met people from all backgrounds during my time volunteering. I think a lot people from home volunteer to have the opportunity to gain experiences they couldn’t back home.”