A short story about – Ester van der Merwe wildlife conservationist
I started my career in 2006 after finishing a diploma in Nature Conservation. I had the opportunity to monitor cheetah in Thornybush Private Game reserve in the Lowveld. This opened the option of following a wildlife monitoring career path rather than guiding. I have a great interest in the bush and everything it has to offer, but I cannot live a repetitive lifestyle, and found working with volunteers in various wildlife research programs across South African parks and private game reserves, gave me the opportunity to not only teach while I was gaining knowledge but also to get to know different people from all over the world. I was forced to look beyond my personal boundaries, forced to see what the world looked like, and how many different views and cultures there really are. I slowly became who I am today with an ever-growing knowledge and passion for the African Savannah. While staying true to my Afrikaner heritage and core values.
After an eight-year career on wildlife monitoring volunteer programs, working with mainly large predators such as lion, cheetah, and wild dogs I felt the need to move on. I am extremely grateful to then have gotten the opportunity to work with Black rhino in Hluhluwe-imfolozi Park, I was thrown in the deep end with language barriers, and extremely dangerous situations. But I caught on quickly and this started an almost slight obsession with one of Africa’s most dangerous animals on foot. But also, as I have learned completely misunderstood and extremely intelligent animals. Underrated and undervalued. I cannot begin to explain how amazing Black Rhino really are, they are highly social animals with unique personalities, they are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and have internal communication that goes beyond our human understanding. They are very much like me, set in their ways and don’t like it when you mess with their personal space. 😊 I truly love every minute I get to spend with them. And I look forward to many years to come, studying and protecting such an amazing animal. I have since moved on from Kwa-Zulu Natal and is currently in a position with Wilderness Foundation Africa, in partnership with SanParks. I work alongside the best in Conservation and I am honored to call these people my colleagues and friends.
Ester van der Merwe
Black Rhino Monitor
Wilderness Foundation Africa