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From A Different Angle

A branch breaks and the elephant bull’s position is suddenly revealed. It is undisturbed by the humming of the vehicle’s engine and the burst of clicking cameras.

This is the first time Joseph Khoza (31) and Innocent Mnisi (29) have seen an elephant in the wild. Their homes, White City and Islington respectively, are only a few kilometres from the Kruger National Park and other private game reserves in the Lowveld. They have often seen planes flying overhead and buses brimming with tourists travelling past, on their way to their wildlife safaris. Like many other people from these communities, they have never had the pleasure of
visiting these spaces. Innocent’s eyes shine brightly, and his smile is unparalleled as he talks about his first sighting of an elephant.

“We used to only see it on TV, the Big Five,” he says. “I was so scared, but the ranger told us to relax, to just be ourselves. We felt safe with him,” Joseph chips in.

Innocent and Joseph were part of a group of eight unemployed youth who attended a wildlife photography course hosted by Wild Shots Outreach with support from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Neither Innocent nor Joseph had ever held a camera before. The five-day course concluded with a game drive in the Thornybush Nature Reserve where they spent the day practising their newfound skills and interacting with the guides. That day also sparked a flame of interest in Joseph and Innocent for learning more about nature and exploring the opportunities it can provide.

Innocent Mnisi

Innocent Mnisi

Wild Shots Outreach

Since 2015, Mike Kendrick, founder of Wild Shots Outreach, has been offering wildlife photography courses, training more than 500 young people from schools and youth centres in disadvantaged communities bordering
the Kruger.

Mike brings young people closer to wildlife, to nurture an appreciation for, and deepen their understanding of, the environment and conservation, to develop self-confidence, and to promote creativity. In partnership with the Kruger National Park and numerous private game reserves, he takes students into protected areas to experience wildlife up close and test their new photographic skills. He also leaves a camera in each school and youth centre so they can continue to develop their photography skills.

Today, Innocent and Joseph are employed as interns at the Tanda Tula Safari Camp in the Timbavati Nature Reserve. Mike brought a group, including Innocent and Joseph, to the Camp for further career development training. They spent the weekend there photographing behind the scenes and working with the staff. Dale Jackson, General Manager at Tanda Tula, immediately saw potential in both men. “They showed an eagerness to learn. No job was too much to ask.”

Innocent and Joseph are learning the ropes, attending to the various operational needs of a lodge, from housekeeping to bartending, office administration and guest relations, as well as guiding and tracking. Training is done in-house with the
managers and staff who provide guidance, mentoring and support to the newcomers.“[Tanda Tula] restored my confidence. I learn a new thing every day,” Joseph says.

Joseph Khoza (left) and Innocent Mnisi

Joseph Khoza (left)
and Innocent Mnisi

Building A Better Future

Innocent sees a long-term future for himself in hospitality, to build a better future for himself and his family. Both men have a strong desire to look after their families and build their communities where opportunities are few and unemployment is rife.

Joseph wants to revive an orphanage where he used to volunteer, looking after more than 60 orphaned children.
“I want to build a legacy in my home town; I want to be remembered as someone who looked after my community,” he says. Both men talk about their mothers when asked their families’ thoughts on their jobs at Tanda Tula. “My mother borrowed R100 from a neighbour for my transport to the interview. I came back with R50, but she didn’t want
it, she told me to put it towards my future,” Joseph recalls.

Innocent remembers how his mother burst into tears when he told her he got the job. “I am now a respected man
in my family. It is a lot of pressure,” he laughs. “The training was never just about the photos,” he adds. “It was about the wildlife and our access to these opportunities.”

Improving Relationships With Wildlife

The WWF South Africa, through its Khetha Programme, supported by USAID, brings people living on the boundary of protected areas closer to wildlife and conservation managers to improve their relationship with wildlife. For more information visit wwf.org.za, or contact khetha@wwf.org.za

Wild Shots Outreach engages young people from disadvantaged communities in wildlife and wild places through photography. For more information visit wildshotsoutreach.org or contact mike@wildshotsoutreach.org.

 

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