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.