EcoTraining’s foundation is built on connecting our specialist naturalist instructors with passionate course participants. Here is an epic fireside chat about someone making a difference to wildlife and conservation after attending an EcoTraining course.
Natasha de Woronin Britz crisscrossed the globe before landing the perfect job: researching big spotted cats for the Global Leopard Project in Namibia. She credits her EcoTraining course with helping achieve her lifelong dream of working with wildlife and inspiring her to help save the natural world.
“I managed to secure a place on the guiding course that EcoTraining was conducting in co-operation with the Allenby Campus ,” Natasha recalls. “With the theory done and dusted on campus, our class headed to Elephant Plains Game Lodge in the Sabi Sands [in South Africa] where we were met by Lex Hes, Anton Lategan and Kimbian Mnisi, our practical trainers.
“Their passion and knowledge were infectious and the course was unbelievable, to say the least. Lex was so willing to share everything with us — as well as how to take photographs in the bush — and he never missed a detail on leopard behavior. From Kimbian, his tracker, we learned that tracking was indeed a very important part of guiding, especially when it comes to the elusive spotted cats. Anton’s passion and knowledge — and his way of sharing this — made us never want to leave.
“I wasn’t the easiest of students and gave the trainers quiet a hard time. I remember the following incident that illustrates this well. On a training drive one evening, a leopard sighting was called in. Having no bush driving experience, Anton asked me politely to move over so he could drive and we could go into the sighting, upon which I rudely replied something to the effect of, ‘How will I learn anything if you drive?’
“I think he was shocked at my over-ambitious attitude. But he let me drive and he was brilliant in that he guided me to get it right! After finishing the course, I was very lucky to get a job as a guide at Elephant Plains. It was heaven!
“Londolozi was still my dream and I applied to CC Africa [now &Beyond] for a job every week. They turned me away and eventually Lex helped set up an interview for me. I did the stringent company guide training at Phinda and Londolozi, and at first was told that I didn’t make it. But a lot of tears and challenges later, I eventually made it and worked at Londolozi and a couple of other CC Africa lodges on and off for 10 years.
“During 2006/2007, while at Londolozi, I took mainly leopard specialist trips. And what an amazing experience it was, following only leopards day after day, night after night. I documented everything the leopards did and discovered that the information I had gathered was a gold mine.
“I also realized that this data was worth nothing if I kept it to myself. So I did a national diploma in nature conservation — with the future aim of a PhD — to ensure that all the information becomes usable to leopard researchers working with disappearing leopard populations around the world.
“Dr Douw Grobler, a wildlife veterinarian, saw promise in the leopard work and he helped set up the Global Leopard Project (www.globalleopard.com), which now runs from Erindi Private Game Reserve in Namibia.
“Although I research leopards now, I still use guiding skills daily to help train guides and take guests to see the leopards of the research project. We capture, collar, habituate and monitor the Erindi leopards, and share their stories as much as possible to help create awareness of the species.
“EcoTraining, Lex, Anton and Kimbian gave me everything that has made me who I am today, made all my dreams a reality and ultimately ensured that my passion be used for the good of not only my life but hopefully all leopards worldwide. From my own fantastic training I have helped set up guide training in Namibia at Erindi, which is breaking ground, as nothing like this exists in the country yet.
“Today, EcoTraining students come to Erindi for their practical [experience] and many have stayed on as permanent guides. Thanks to EcoTraining’s standards and fantastic courses over so many years, Namibia is now developing a higher guiding standard. EcoTraining will give you the very best chance you can wish for to follow any dream in wildlife, not only for guiding.
“It’s the people of EcoTraining who are saving the world of wildlife, by training and inspiring their students.”Tags: African Wildlife, EcoTraining, leopard researchers, nature conservation, saving wildlife