Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Epilogue


The end of an adventure…

Arriving back home from South Africa, it felt like the most exciting adventure of my life had come to an end. Although the promise of university was on the horizon, I couldn’t imagine spending years — and perhaps even a lifetime — without going onto the reserve to dig the soil, remove the non-indigenous plants, or see the wildlife sweep through the plains; undisturbed by human presence.

New life philosophy

Over time, I began to accept that rather than remembering the experience as a one-off, I could weave it into my life and career to positive effect. A vision I have steadfast held on to

In the years that followed I found various ways to fundraise to pay homage to my gap year experience, in 2017 I joined the board of Born Free Foundation as a trustee and a couple of years prior, I even saw Glen Vena, Animal Care Manager at Born Free’s two big cat sanctuaries at Shamwari Game Reserve, for the first time in six years!

Kate on Conservation with Glen Vena

Developments on the reserve

Although I have never had the privilege or good fortune of returning to Africa since boarding my flight on the 15th October 2008, I have followed closely the stories and developments of Shamwari. From King the lion cub, rescued from abuse in an apartment in Paris (you can read more about him here, if you missed it the first time around) to the new camera trap footage of the brown hyenas (continuing the now very crude-seeming radio collaring and data collection project we began in 2008!).

It has also been very exciting to hear of the opening of a new wildlife rehabilitation centre. Whilst my memories of Themba the elephant and Melvin the giraffe — residents at the previous rehab centre — are some of my fondest memories, memory serves to remind me that there was room for improvements.


I’m happy to read an update from Captured in Africa that the new facility has been designed in such a way that it focuses on rehabilitating animals without habituating them to humans, thus increasing the success rate of returning individuals to their natural habitat. You read more about that here.

Community volunteer projects

While some of the things I’ve recounted over the Shamwari Diaries blog series appear to have flourished over the last decade, other things are sadly no more.

The Sinovuyo Day Care Centre in Paterson, where we dug a sandpit and watched the children’s fantastic gum boot dancing routine, unfortunately had its funding stopped by the Department of Social Development and has apparently since closed down due to the building’s poor condition.


A Shamwari Conservation Experience webpage set up to fundraise for new place for the children to go, explains; “Sinovuyo (meaning, ‘We have happiness’) was the first school to ask us for assistance back in 2011 and we have done our best to patch up the shack over the years.

“The building has now reached a state of non-repair and needs to be replaced. The roof and walls have holes in it. The electricity is fed through the building via an extension cord from the building next door. There are no toilets or water in the building. There is no baby room to change nappies or space for the babies to sleep. The kitchen’s walls have so many holes in it that the ladies are unable to stop sand from blowing in from the outside.”

“The closing of this school will leave 4 women (who have mostly been volunteering) unemployed and 55+ kids will not be able to afford to pay to go to the other schools.”

Please visit their Plea for Help, if you’d like to support the funding of a new facility.

The Richard Cann Wildlife Foundation

I mentioned in the final post of my diary entries that I am dedicating this blog series to the memory of my friend and fellow volunteer Richard Cann.*

Richard has appeared several times in the images that accompany these diary entries, and went on to volunteer for an orangutan project in Sumatra, where he sadly passed away in 2014. The Richard Cann Wildlife Foundation was founded in his memory (which you can donate to here), 

The objective of the Foundation is to assist in the education, conservation and protection of Orangutans and their habitats. Richard’s family have chosen to support two well-established organisations in Sumatra, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and the Bukit Lawang Educational Trust.  It is hoped that by concentrating on these organisations, Richard’s memory will live on.

Shamwari student volunteer group 2
Richard on the far right, myself on the far left; the day the new volunteer group arrived. I wondered what they’d be like, at the end of this post: Learning to let go.

Projects supported

During his last few months of volunteering, Richard was based in Bukit Lawang in Sumatra and helped out at the school there from time to time.

Bukit Lawang Educational Trust

Bukit Lawang Educational Trust is a Charitable Trust working to enhance the education and employability of the local community in Bukit Lawang, through engagement in environmental and wildlife projects in connection with the endangered Leuser Ecosystem. 

In 2015 The Richard Cann Reading Room was established at the school, funded by The Foundation.

The Reading Room is used regularly for the Trust’s youth ranger courses and teenage classes. It is equipped with reading materials and equipment that play an integral part of the Trust’s programme to educate the younger generation on the need for conservation.

The Richard Cann Wildlife Foundation has also provided financial support to the Bukit Lawang annual Conservation Festival, which was first held in 2016 and organised by the Bukit Lawang Trust in conjunction with SOCP and other local NGO’s. 

The idea behind this festival was to strengthen the relationship between the local community and conservationists to engage in environmental and wildlife projects in connection with the endangered Leuser ecosystem.

The fourth festival was held in August 2019 and is becoming a regular event, growing year-on-year.

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) is the only project actively establishing entirely new, genetically viable and self-sustaining wild populations of any great ape species, anywhere in the world.

SOCP works on all aspects of Sumatran orangutan conservation, including:

• Rescue, quarantine and reintroduction of illegal pet orangutans to form new, genetically viable and self-sustaining wild populations;

• Surveys and monitoring of wild and reintroduced populations;

• Research on conservation and behavioural ecology of wild orangutans;

• Habitat conservation;

• Conservation education and awareness raising.

In 2015 and 2018 The Richard Cann Wildlife Foundation provided funds to SOCP to construct new quarantine and treatment cages at their rehabilitation and quarantine centre near Medan in Sumatra. where they are able to treat new arrival ex-captive Orangutans in purpose built facilities close to the on-site medical centre, before arranging to release them back into the wild.  

Another exciting SOCP project is the construction of the Orangutan Haven, which it is intended will be used to house those rescued Orangutans who are not capable of being re-introduced to the wild for health or disability reasons.

Here, those individuals will be able to live out their lives in optimal conditions on large naturalistic islands. I’m reliably told that The Richard Cann Wildlife Foundation has this year made a further significant donation to SOCP to provide the equipment they need to get the planned “Forest School Education Centre” at the Haven started.

*All information shared here has been shared with the permission of Richard’s family.

kate on conservation wildlife blog logo

If you’ve been inspired by our volunteer work at Shamwari Private Game Reserve, or the incredible projects that have been financially supported in Sumatra in Richard’s memory, and would like to offer a donation, head to: justgiving.com/richardcannwildlifefoundation

Thank you for taking a look into my diaries and sharing the adventure. Head back to the start here.

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