News & Insights

Protecting and restoring our natural planet: the breath-taking charity WILDTRUST

The current pandemic has led more of us to pause and think about our place in the universe and the impact of our actions on the natural world. With the mission to regenerate the interconnectedness of all things, to create opportunities to empower and restore socio-ecological resilience and the balance between humankind and nature for a just and healthy planet. Ruo Wu, Head of Charities and not-for-profit had a very heartening discussion with Roelie Kloppers, the Chief Executive, Lauren Van Nijkerk, Director of Campaigns & Communications and Buyi Makhoba – Dlamini, Deputy Director of Communications & Fundraising at WILDTRUST – We also explore:

  • climate change mitigation, marine conservation and healthy oceans;
  • using simple low-tech solutions to restore our land and sea;
  • helping communities to adapt to the visible impact of climate change;
  • how to protect endangered species such as a Rhino or lion;
  • helping youths as our future and stewards of our planet;
  • conducting vital research on the vessel Angra Pequena to learn about our ocean environment;
  • the Marine Protected Area Expansion Campaign ‘OCEAN IMPACT’ (see & for further info);
  • the ‘SHARK ATTACK CAMPAIGN’ and increasing protection for sharks and rays in South Africa (see; @Sharkattackcampaign) and
  • celebrating some fundraising endeavours – Wildtrust’s endangered species adoption programme, The Comrades Marathon, Sadka, CIRDIC & Smartworks Reading.

Speaker bios:

Roelie Kloppers – Chief Executive

With his background in anthropology and trans-boundary community, conservation and economic development, Roelie has profound knowledge and a deep understanding of climate change and socio-economic development.

Roelie holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Pretoria and has Masters Degrees in History (Stellenbosch University) and Social Anthropology (Pretoria University). He has published on a wide range of subjects, including environmental refugees, rural development, poverty and transboundary conservation.

After completing his PhD as part of a multi-disciplinary team funded by US Fish and Wildlife Services and the Ford Foundation, he joined the Peace Parks Foundation and later Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as Transfrontier Conservation Area Coordinator. In 2009 he was contracted by Conservation International to lead the development of an investment strategy for the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Global Biodiversity Hotspot. This secured an investment of $6,5 million by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which he led as head of the Regional Implementation Team. He joined the WILDTRUST in 2010 where is has recently been appointed as Chief Executive Officer leading a multi-disciplinary team focussing on terrestrial and marine conservation through its WILDLANDS and WILDOCEANS programmes.

Lauren van Nijkerk – Director Marketing & Campaigns

Since joining WILDTRUST in 2011 as head of their marketing team, Lauren has helped make the trust a household name in environmental advocacy through creative means, including film and audio-visual materials. Lauren was campaign lead on the “Only This Much” campaign, an awareness and advocacy movement that contributed to the South Africa expanding marine protection from 0.4% to 5%. Lauren also lead the campaign linked to the world-renowned film Blood Lions® released in 2015 and broadcast in 185 countries worldwide. Following the global success of Blood Lions®, Lauren van Nijkerk took on the role of producer of ‘Our Oceans’ – a feature film released in 2019 that has won countless awards and is also being used as a tool to promote ocean protection.  Lauren is now driving the recently launched Shark Attack campaign – which hopes to ultimately see the increased protection of sharks and rays in South Africa (and beyond).

Buyi Makhoba-Dlamini – Deputy Director of Communications & Fundraising

Buyi’s role at WILDTRUST is to strategically lead and guide the team in terms of their communications strategy and to align their marketing plan with their donors in order to leverage their brand and solidify their position as one of the leading environmental non-profit organisations in South Africa. Buyi is very concerned about how she can be part of the solution in educating people and making them more aware of how we are destroying our environment as well as how we can make small changes to mitigate these negative actions.

Buyi believes the environment and sustainability debate needs to be owned and discussed by the youth of South Africa. Buyi’s concern is that it “still seems like it is not our (youth) problem but it starts with us. The time to take action is NOW. We need to start making small changes in our everyday lives in order to effect change and make a difference. I can only hope that what I do (and my voice) can begin to penetrate my immediate social circle and spread to other spaces where I can be viewed as a ‘new age’ environmental activist, mobilizing youth across all ages and races, where people begin to internalise current issues and take more responsibility of their own environmental action.”