WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) is celebrating its 90th birthday this month and a number of special activities are planned for the year to mark this milestone event.

Whilst the organisation can trace its roots back to 1883, it officially formed in 1926 as The Wildlife Protection Society of South Africa, when a group of passionate individuals got together to campaign for the creation a National Parks Board (now known as SANParks), to ensure the proclamation of the Kruger National Park, and to advocate the formation of other national parks in South Africa.

Over the years WESSA has continued to play a strong role in shaping conservation practices throughout South Africa, proactively engaging with the challenges and opportunities presented by our country’s unique natural heritage and the social and economic systems that depend on it.  Whilst the organisation has changed its name and its focus several times over the years, one very important aspect of WESSA’s mission that has remained unchanged throughout its history is articulated in its logo: “People Caring for the Earth”.

Today WESSA is working towards meaningful and sustainable capacity building solutions, which enable individuals, communities and government to make better lifestyle and environmental management choices for a more sustainable future.  WESSA has become a leading implementer of high-impact environmental and conservation initiatives in Southern Africa, and a trusted and effective project execution partner.  The organisation is made up of an extensive network of professional staff, dedicated Members, Branches, Friends Groups and other affiliated groups throughout the country.  The critical focus areas of WESSA’s work include the international Eco-Schools and Blue Flag eco-labels, environmental training to address the scarcity of skills in our country, the conservation of life-supporting biodiversity and water resources, climate change mitigation, environmental governance, and the WESSA Rhino and Elephant initiatives.

WESSA is also an integral part of the international environmental community. We have been entrusted with running two international Foundation for Environmental Education programmes in South Africa, we are a founder member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we work with UNESCO towards strengthening their Global Action Programme for Sustainable Development, and we have also implemented the SADC Regional Environmental Education Project (SADC-REEP) in southern Africa for over 20 years. We are gratified to have earned significant international recognition for our efforts over the years.

At 90, WESSA is proud of its history. We are also excited about what we are achieving through our current projects and partnerships and – in spite of the significant challenges facing our environment – we look forward to the future and to all the opportunities it will present, in our ongoing quest to be champions of the environment.



WESSA’s history:

WESSA’s achievements over the years have been well documented:  The book “The Conservationists and the Killers”, first published in 1982, covers WESSA’s history for the period 1926 to 1980.  A special “Diamond Jubilee” issue of WESSA’s then magazine, African Wildlife, was published in 1986. To mark WESSA’s 85th birthday in 2011, “A celebration of 85 years of Caring for the Earth”, was compiled and a new publication celebrating WESSA’s 90th birthday will be produced in 2016.  A snapshot of WESSA’s achievements over the decades may be viewed on our website.


Broadcasters please note that WESSA CEO Dr Thommie Burger, Chairman Dr Richard Lewis, and senior staff are available for radio and television interviews.