Celokuhle ‘Smax’ Biyela of Umzimkulu was among eight women from South Africa who recently completed conservation tours to various game reserves in Southern Africa.
The South Coast animal, plant and marine protector is aligned to the Blue Sky Society Trust. The team led by eco-warrior, Carla Geyser, also included Lungile Dimba, an education administrator at wildlife body WESSA in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands; Durban’s Erin Dickson, an on-air personality at East Coast Radio, Laura Thomas-Gilks and Tarren Benson both from Durban, Pietermaritzburg photographer Stephanie De Wit; Bronwyn Laing, a Durbanite living in Tanzania; and real estate business owner, Joan Arnestad, from Hoedspruit, Limpopo.
Four Americans joined the journey too, namely wildlife biologist and conservation scientist, Jennifer Palmer; nurse and travel blogger, Emily Scott; camerawoman, Alize Jireh Yaccino; and acclaimed business coach and conservationist, Tommi Wolfe.
Geyser’s Journeys with Purpose: The Rise of the Matriarch expedition spanned South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, and attracted 12 women from around the world.
The eco-adventure started in South Africa on 16 September, under the banner of Geyser’s NPO, the Blue Sky Society Trust.
The mission had four distinct goals: to raise global awareness about the contentious human-wildlife conflict issue, to educate the youth about conservation, to support local empowerment efforts targeting young women from localised, rural communities, and to raise funds for four wildlife conservation bodies, namely Elephants Alive (South Africa), Rare and Endangered Species Trust (Namibia), Eco-Exist Project (Botswana) and the Soft Foot Alliance Trust (Zimbabwe).
In the seven week adventure, they distributed 30 000 educational booklets, visited 13 on-the-ground conservation projects and met 16 phenomenal women who are doing incredible conservation work at a grassroots level.
The conservationists also met the world-famous Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit in South Africa. This elite group made up of 33 women protects the boundaries of the 52, 000 hectares Balule Nature Reserve, which is part of the greater Kruger National Park. In Botswana, they saw over 400 elephants crossing the road – which was a sight to behold. On the dark side, poachers kill approximately two rangers every week in Africa. They also kill on average of three rhinos , 98 elephant and countless pangolin daily.
“I learnt so much on my trip. It was a fantastic experience,” said Biyela.
“I witnessed a love that cannot be described from each member of staff who worked with the animals and how they treated them stirred something so deep within me that made me want to fight for my children and my grandchildren and generations thereafter to experience what I was not just in the sanctuary but in the wild,” added Biyela.