Our History

Recognising our roots

Established on land owned by the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa (WWF-SA) and managed as a contractual National Park by SANParks, the construction of the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) was completed in 1996, with funds raised from local donors and bilateral aid agencies of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. A grant made possible by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ) via KFW made the construction of the College possible. With the support of major conservation stakeholders both within South Africa and regionally across the Southern African Developing Community (SADC), the Wildlife College was registered as a Section 21 (not for profit) company and became operational in 1997.

Born out of the need to strengthen the training of protected area mangers for challenges arising within the sector, including growing regional cooperation in parks management, the Wildlife College’s vision was to become a regionally recognised centre of specialisation in conservation education, training and skills development. 

WWF-SA, under the leadership of Dr. John Hanks, was originally financially responsible for the SAWC.  However, the ability for Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), a foundation borne out of WWF-SA (founded by Dr Anton Rupert; President Nelson Mandela and Prince Bernard of the Netherlands) to fundraise for SADC students led to the establishment of a formal relationship between the SAWC and PPF. This was coupled with the fact that capacity development across transfrontier conservation areas was one of four pillars of the foundation. Subsequently the financial responsibility moved over to PPF for the period 2004-2012. From 2013 onwards the relationship has further matured with PPF assisting with fundraising, corporate governance and technical expertise.

The aim of the College was, and remains, to meet SADC training needs within the sphere of natural resource management. From the onset, the curriculum covered a broad range of conservation management skills as well as a range of specialist short courses, which included a wide spectrum of wildlife management, nature-based tourism, community-based natural resource management and other environmentally-related topics. Custom-made short courses were also developed for those organizations wanting specialist training courses designed to meet their specific needs. Moving into the future, the SAWC continues to strive to meet the needs of the region, coupled with holistic, transformative thinking (‘thought leadership’) with regards to its approach to conservation.

Located on land donated by the Late Mr Hans Hoheisen to WWF-South Africa, the SAWC construction of the College campus was completed in 1996.

The College opened its doors to the first students in 1997 and in 1998 ran its first year-long natural resource management programme.

To date (2020) it has trained over 18,000 students from across Africa and beyond.

The Southern African Wildlife College was conceptualized in 1993 and established in 1996 by the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa (WWF-SA) in close cooperation with interested and affected parties in southern Africa. This included national and provincial government departments, other conservation agencies and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

A grant made by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation (BMZ) via the German Development Bank (KfW) and WWF-SA made the construction of the College possible.

HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh officially unveiled the foundation stone of the SAWC on 28 October 1996 at the College’s entrance. Our sincere thanks is extended to the early pioneers of the College including the Late Dr. Anton Rupert and Dr. John Hanks, the then CEO of WWF-SA.

Pictured is the architect of the Southern African Wildlife College, Mr. Dennis Moss from Dennis Moss Partnership, (centre) with (from right) Mr. Colin Savage – Site Architect, Mr. Francois Malherbe – Civil Engineers (now Kwezi V3), the Late Dr. Joe Venter – the first Director of the College and (to the left) members of the construction team including the Bushbuckridge Builders Consortium – 1995.

The Southern African Wildlife College is built on land that was donated by Mr. Hans Hoheisen to WWF South Africa.

The Late Mr. Hans Hoheisen is pictured with HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, President Emeritus and International President of the WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature (1981 – 1996), during HRH’s visit to South Africa in 1995.

Becoming a SADC recognised centre of specialization

 The SAWC became a SADC recognized centre of specialization in conservation education, training and skills development on 15 August 2007 (meeting of the SADC Council of Ministers, Lusaka, Zambia).  The SAWC continues to work closely with conservation organizations across SADC to train according to current training needs; both within formal protected areas as well as to train according to the needs of communities surrounding these natural resource areas.

With the support of its donors both locally and internationally, the Wildlife College continues to make a consistent, measurable difference in the management of natural resources throughout the SADC region, and indeed, throughout Africa. Since inception, more than 18 000 students from 56 countries and 127 wildlife areas, mostly from countries in the SADC region, have received training in natural resource management.

Our purpose, mission and values

Conservation needs to be people-centred, environmentally sound, and economically viable.  Not only do our training programs include this understanding of conservation, but the College itself showcases this understanding in its vision and mission, underpinned by our four training departments.