Tracks of Giants: Key People!

Key People

The WILD Foundation is the North American face of Tracks of Giants – which is a collaborative initiative spearheaded by The WILD FoundationWilderness Foundation South Africa, including the Wilderness Leadership School South Africa and other non-governmental organizations,  wildlife management authorities, parks and reserves management and other government, community and corporate partners.

 Core Team:

IAN McCALLUM

Ian McCallum is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, writer and a specialist wilderness guide. A co-founder of the Wilderness Leadership School in the Cape of Good Hope in 1983, he has subsequently written two anthologies of wilderness poems, Wild Gifts (1999) and Untamed (2012), a novel – Thorns to Kilimanjaro (2000) and more recently, the award winning Ecological Intelligence – Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature (2005). An adjunct professor at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, he is the writer/poet for the Dylan Lewis Untamed Exhibition currently on display at the National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. He is presently a director of the Wilderness Foundation where he heads up the Academic and Leadership projects portfolio. He is a former rugby Springbok fullback.

Poetry by Ian McCallum:

In the Tracks of Giants
The Rising
Wilderness
Fierce

IAN MICHLER

Ian Michler is a top specialist wilderness guide, photojournalist and naturalist, and has lived and worked across Africa for the last 22 years. His feature articles, diaries and blogs documenting the major conservation challenges facing Africa are well known to readers of the award winning magazines, Africa Geographic and Africa Birds and Birding. He is also the author of seven natural history and travel books on various African countries, does ecotourism consultancy work for both the private and government sectors, and has worked as a researcher and field coordinator on various natural history television documentaries for international broadcasters. Prior to his life in the wilderness, he spent almost eight years practicing as a stockbroker in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Ian is presently based along the Garden Route in South Africa where he is co-owner and manager of Invent Africa, a specialist safari company that runs trips to 15 countries across Africa.

Photography by Ian Michler:

Africa Geographic articles by Ian Michler:

If it Stays it Pays
People, Poverty & the Environment
The Conservation Quandary
Too Clever by Half
Who’s Causing the Damage?
Don’t Fence Me In

LIHLE MBOKAZI

Lihle Mbokazi is the Experiential Education Manager at the Wilderness Foundation, South Africa.

Nature found Lihle Mbokazi as a young child walking along rural KwaZulu Natal roads on the way to school. It was on these journeys that she learned to appreciate the sounds, sights and smells of the wilderness, and where her soul found peace away from the difficulties of everyday life.

Daughter of a single mother who earned a living as a domestic worker, and one of seven siblings, Lihle’s early years were poverty stricken. “But it is my past that has driven my future,” says Lihle. “My mother was uneducated, but she instilled in us a motivation to succeed. She worked extremely hard so that we could eat and go to school. She was, and still is, my inspiration. She taught me to be positive, and to look towards the future no matter what the current circumstances are.”

Through her involvement in various NGOs as a volunteer during her early twenties, Lihle became a well known name in activism circles, and her potential was identified by members of the Wilderness Leadership School.

In 2004, Lihle jumped at the opportunity to attend the WLS where her studies were paid for by a group of close friends and sponsors. In 2005, Lihle was the first black female guide to graduate from the WLS, and to her knowledge, the first in the country to earn her NQF level 2.

Lihle’s environmental experience includes involvement with Earthilfe Africa, eThekwini EcoPeace, Community Networking Forum, Vuka Community Environmental Development, Wilderness Leadership School and Wessa.

She is currently employed as the Experiential Education Manager at the Wilderness Foundation where she leads regular Pride and Imbewu trails.

Lihle will be joining the Tracks of Giants team on the Botswana leg of the expedition. She is looking forward to being part of the journey.

“Being a part of this life-changing expedition is an incredible opportunity. I am looking forward to meeting and spending time with some wilderness legends. There is so much that I can learn from the team that is going, and I am hoping to be able to interact with the communities in Botswana too. I want to share what we do, and also learn from them.”

MANDLA BUTHELEZI

Mandlenkosi Mbekezeli Buthelezi, known as Mandla to his friends and co-workers, is a 40 year old Zulu family man of the royal Zulu bloodline. His home adjoins the world famous iMfolozi Game reserve in the heart of Zululand. Mandla is the head Wilderness Guide at the Wilderness Leadership School where he has practiced his bushcraft and passion for wilderness for the past 13 years.

With a diploma in Wildlife Management from the University of Pretoria, Mandla is currently broadening his qualifications through UNISA by following a further diploma course in Nature Conservation Management.

An extremely experienced and highly qualified Wilderness Guide and Tracker, Mandla has a passion for the big cats of Africa and has an uncanny ability to find them through the use of traditional skills and a highly developed intuition. He represents the Wilderness Leadership School in ultra-marathons and is a regular face on television wildlife and environmental programmes aimed at African youth.

In true Zulu tradition, Mandla is a consummate story-teller and is looking forward to the times spent around the campfires in the deep bush of Africa during the Tracks of Giants expedition.

“I am really excited to be trailing in new wilderness areas and sharing this experience with others.” (Mandla B)

Field Support Team:

SHARON McCALLUM

Married to Ian McCallum, Sharon is the Operations Manager for the expedition & based out of Cape Town. She handles key logistics and is essential to everything. Sharon is awesome!

FRANK RAIMONDO

Frank is the Director of the Peace Parks Foundation, a retired businessman and volunteers on the Tracks expedition. He has supplied and also drives the “Green Machine” as one of the backup vehicles, helps all logistics, provides harmonica music at key times!

JOHN FRANKISKOS

John is a retired businessman from Durban. He drives the Avis-provided backup vehicle and quietly knows everything about the most essential things like mechanics, electrics, engineering.

ANTON KRUYSHAAR

Anton is volunteering with the Tracks of Giants expedition on a university gap year.  Mr. Everything works on the back up team as an assistant cameraman, cook and organizer.

Media Team:

CLAIRE WARNEKE

Claire works as the Public Relations Officer for the Wilderness Foundation, South Africa. For the Tracks expedition, Claire is the primary Media Contact and also provides the public with immediate Twitterupdates from the Core Team! To contact Claire with any media questions/contacts, email her at:info@sa.wild.org. Don’t forget to follow Tracks on Twitter! @TracksOfGiants

MELANIE HILL

Melanie is the Communications Manager at The WILD Foundation based out of Boulder, Colorado, USA. For the Tracks of Giants expedition, she runs and updates all website content and uploads/organizes all incoming images from the field. At WILD she manages multiple websites, social media platforms & blogs. In addition to web and social media, Melanie contributes her design and photography skills to the WILD’s communications program. For questions about the Tracks website and images, contact her at: melanie@wild.org

BRITT HOSMER PETERSON

Britt Peterson, LEED AP, is the US-based Manager for the Tracks of Giants expedition, associate of The WILD Foundation, and also serves as the president for Rock Environmental LLC, an international conservation consulting business which works with various NGOs and nonprofits. As well as being the US Manager for Tracks, she also runs the social media program for the expedition. For any questions or comments, you may contact her at: britt@rockenvironmental.com. Don’t forget to follow Tracks of Giants on Facebook!

In the Tracks of Giants

Following ancient African elephant migration paths, In the Tracks of Giants, is a 6 month east-to-west journey connecting major conservation nodes to promote a greater awareness of conservation, human community and leadership issues specifically relevant to southern Africa. The journey aims to rekindle the rapidly declining indigenous knowledge base of the human – animal interface, and indigenous solutions to conservation challenges and issues.

A team of trackers, conservationists and media will travel by foot, cycle (in regions outside of conservation areas and wildlife parks) and kayak in the Okavango Delta and Zambezi through eight major conservation nodes. Along the way, they will meet with local communities, work with partners, survey and document animal movements and conservation issues focusing on the following issues:

  • Climate change: potential impact on biodiversity and natural habitats
  • Water: The vital role of wild natural areas in supplying water to human communities
  • Human – animal issues: identification of conflict areas and possible solutions
  • Habitat fragmentation and loss of traditional animal migration routes
  • The importance of designated wilderness regions in Transfrontier Conservation Areas
  • Preserving indigenous wildlife knowledge – tracking skills, resource use, oral history
  • Linking environmental issues to leadership issues- biological, social, psychological

Get Involved

To stay up-to-date on In the Tracks of Giants, become a fan on Facebook!  If you’d like to get involved or are interested in sponsoring the trek, please send an email to WILD (info (at) wild.org)  with the subject line “Tracks” with your contact information and how you would like to be involved.

The Big Picture

“We are all profoundly affected by ecosystem disintegration and biodiversity loss. The idea of “following ancient elephant migration routes” developed by Ian McCallum provides the opportunity to see this at ground level through the difficult choices that elephants face in a world where their horizons are rapidly contracting. Elephants, with their need for space, provide an inspiring and obvious example of how Nature needs large interconnected wild areas in order to continue providing the essential services and support for all life on earth – including humans! “How much” of wild nature should be kept intact is always a question, but increasingly science confirms that “nature needs half.” Ian McCallum’s project can bring light and awareness to this matter,” Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder, Save the Elephants.

Why the Elephant?

Many of the conservation challenges facing Southern Africa, and in particular wilderness regions within Southern Africa, can be highlighted or characterized through umbrella species – where protection of sufficient habitat and connectivity to assure viable populations of the umbrella species benefits other species more restricted in their range. For example, the challenges facing southern African megafauna are exemplified by issues facing southern African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations in the region.

In this regard, the In the Tracks of Giants project has identified the African elephant as the charismatic mammal of the region and as the iconic species of this coast to coast traverse. Large charismatic wildlife, such as elephants, play an important role as ‘flagship’ species, both in terms of anchoring conservation initiatives and in attracting tourists to protected areas. Furthermore, as keystone species, elephants also play an important role in the broader landscape, through their influence on vegetation patterns.

Local distribution of elephants varies seasonally due to variation in resource availability, and the species is known to undertake long-distance movements. In the selection of the African elephant as the icon of the project, the In the Tracks of Giants journey route has been carefully selected to follow ancient elephant migration paths and to traverse current elephant habitat, thus highlighting the issues faced by southern African elephant populations (and other megafaunal populations) across their former range.

Key People & Partners

The WILD Foundation is the North American face of In the Tracks of Giants – which is a collaborative initiative spearheaded by members of the Wilderness Network (The WILD Foundation USA, Wilderness Foundation Africa, Wilderness Leadership School South Africa and the Wilderness Foundation UK) and including other non-governmental organizations, wildlife management authorities, parks and reserves management and other government, community and corporate partners.

Final participant lists are currently being addressed. The initiative will however be lead and hosted by three Conservation personalities; Dr Ian McCallum, Ian Michler and a top female African guide.

Ian McCallum, a medical doctor, psychiatrist, specialist wilderness guide, Jungian analyst and naturalist has a unique perspective on man’s relationship with the natural environment. Promoted in his highly acclaimed book Ecological Intelligence – Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature, his message is one of an urgent need to understand human history, position and responsibilities in the web of life. He is the author of an anthology of wilderness poems – Wild Gifts.

Ian Michler, a top wildlife guide, photojournalist and naturalist, has spent the last decade documenting the major conservation challenges facing Africa. An author of 6 travel books on various African countries, his work is well known to readers of the award winning magazines, Africa Geographic and Africa Birds and Birding.

Both McCallum and Michler have extensive guiding experience throughout Southern and East Africa and will be assisted be experienced local guides in each country.

The third full-time participant will be an African female guide trained and selected by the Wilderness Network.

The involvement of specialist participants is proposed as a major component of In the Tracks of Giants by providing the opportunity for their participation in the journey. Both Wilderness Leadership School and environmental seminars will be carried out within each conservation node.