South African Member WESSA celebrates 85th birthday

25 March 2011 | News story

This year, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) celebrates 85 years of proactive nature conservation and education, which has benefited the country and beyond.

Throughout the year, WESSA – one of South Africa’s oldest and largest independent non-government environmental organisations – is hosting, or partnering with other organisations to host, a series of exciting events and campaigns across the country, which will provide the opportunity for all South Africans to enjoy both the beauty of, and the responsibility that comes with, this unique natural heritage.

The exciting events planned will be based around four themes focussing on the work WESSA does as an organisation: water, biodiversity, energy and waste. These events will culminate in a national gala and awards evening in September.

Although WESSA’s origins go back to the 1890s, the organisation has been in continuous existence since March 11, 1926 when it was founded as the Wildlife Protection Society of South Africa. WESSA has been a Member of IUCN since 1949, a year after IUCN was established.

While its emphasis has changed with the times – moving from the protection of wildlife to a more people-focused and sustainability-driven approach to conservation – the organisation has consistently been at the forefront of conservation struggles and debates in South Africa. It has, for example, played a major role in the establishment of the National Parks Board and proclamation of the Kruger National Park. In 1980, it produced the first Environmental Conservation Strategy for South Africa becoming the first NGO in the world to do so.

More recently, the organisation has increasingly gained relevance and influence as both an environmental watchdog and as an educator and operates through an extensive network of regional offices, branches, friends’ groups and environmental clubs.

WESSA believes that the organisation’s adaptability and its openness to new ideas and thinking are among its greatest strengths. Its style is democratic, seeking collaboration and consensus where possible, but remaining firm in pursuit of its aims. It aims to continue this approach as it moves into the next 85 years of proactive engagement with the challenges and opportunities presented by South Africa’s natural heritage and the social and economic systems that depend on it.

For more details of WESSA’s 85th anniversary celebrations and/or more information on WESSA, contact the Marketing Department at WESSA on: marketing@wessa.co.za or on (+2733) 330 3931, or visit: www.wessa.org.za