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Our Vision

For us, conservation is more than just a passion or a calling. It is a way of life. We have made our home in the heart of beautiful Zululand. Here, we are dedicated to sustaining the land, and conserving endangered species while uplifting local communities; through partnerships, projects, and programmes.

“Partnering with protected areas and communities to fulfil our commitment to conserving endangered species and their environment.”

Our Mission

The Zululand Conservation Trust (ZCT) has been growing and expanding its reach in the Zululand region for over a decade. Our mission is a commitment to enhancing the conservation and protection of endangered spaces for endangered species whilst maintaining and supporting partnerships with neighbouring communities. We aim to target regional conservation and community projects, to facilitate a far-reaching impact throughout the greater Zululand region. We fund our wide variety of projects through generous donations from individuals, businesses, and organisations, as well as our fundraising events. All funding goes towards our main divisions:

  • Community upliftment – Projects with a keen focus to create sustainable change in previously disadvantaged communities; and provide critical resources in economic, food and water security.
  • Wildlife Conservation – Projects targeted at the preservation of endangered black and white rhinos, cheetah, wild dogs and Temminck’s pangolin; as well as the protection of rhinos by supporting field rangers, our dedicated K9 unit and The Zululand Rhino Orphanage.
  • Four per cent (4%) of all donations to the ZCT are assigned to our admin fees, – enabling us to improve our impact on the ground. All donations we receive are tax-deductible, can earn B-BBEE points, and are allocated according to sponsors’ wishes.

Further, our business model follows the RED plan:

Rehabilitate: Habitat restoration focused on alien plant removal, soil restoration and hydrology management to reinstate natural ecological processes that have deteriorated over time; within and outside the protected areas. Develop, train, and upskill local farmers on environmentally compatible farming practices and develop sustainable commercial business models.

Expand: Expansion of protected areas to enhance natural ecological processes, create ecosystem resilience, reduce management intervention, and stimulate genetic flow between previously isolated populations, especially in endangered species. Generate small business opportunities within the communities to grow the local economy and ensure sustainable tourism development. Develop and implement sound ecological management practices for habitat and wildlife conservation within the protected areas.

Develop: Developing resilience to ensure the long-term sustainability of protected areas and tourism. We develop resilience through securing employment and business opportunities for local communities that support and depend on these protected areas, through the expansion of protected areas, and by the implementation of sound ecological management principles.

Our History

The Trust was established in 2011 to achieve a common dream between a group of devoted wildlife enthusiasts- our Trustees. In setting up the Trust, the fundamental need to involve, empower, educate, and support local communities to achieve effective and lasting conservation of our natural world was recognised. In the 13 years since our inception, the Zululand Conservation Trust (ZCT) has developed partnerships with organisations within South Africa, and across the globe.

We aim to use these partnerships to nurture our targeted regional conservation and community projects, to create a far-reaching impact throughout the greater Zululand region. Each year, we reflect on the year’s achievements and evaluate our way forward for the future. In the last years, we were able to fund our projects through collaborations with our partners, through our fundraising efforts, and with generous donations from a variety of entities.

We look back on more than a decade of hard work, growth and expansion in conservation and community engagement. The trust has expanded its reach regionally by supporting reserves with rhino populations in Zululand, extending the community food security programs, arts and culture programs, and creating additional early learning centres for preschool children in remote areas.

Manyoni Private Game Reserve

Over the years, we have partnered closely with the Manyoni Private Game Reserve, a 23,000 hectare private game reserve, which was established under the Protected Areas Act (Act No. 57 of 2003).

Many of the communities that the Zululand Conservation Trust work with boarder the Manyoni reserve boundary and a high proportion of our conservation funding goes towards the conservation of the wild dogs, pangolins, black rhino and white rhino populations on the reserve.

The Team

Karen Odendaal

Chief Operating Officer
Karen Odendaal, Chief Operating Officer at Zululand Conservation Trust (ZCT), has been a key figure since its inception. With an M.S. in Resource Conservation Biology from the University of the Witwatersrand, she began her career in 2005 as a Black Rhino Monitor at Manyoni Private Game Reserve. Her role evolved from General Manager at Manyoni and Zululand Rhino Reserve to becoming COO of the ZCT in 2015, focusing on community and conservation projects. She played a crucial role in establishing the Zululand Rhino Orphanage in 2017 and continues to drive initiatives like the range expansion and pangolin rehabilitation programs, fostering ZCT's growth and impact on conservation and community support.

Simoné Marshall Smith

Zululand Rhino Orphanage Manager
Simoné grew up exploring farms and visiting reserves around South Africa and so her love for nature and the outdoors started at a very young age. She completed her FGASA through Bhejane Nature Training and then went on to complete her BTech Nature Conservation through Nelson Mandela University which sparked a passion to preserve and protect the natural environment. She has worked in conservation and with wildlife vets in a number of different parts of the country but loves being back in Zululand where her journey started. Simoné loves the small creatures just as much as the big ones; she is a bird nerd and has recently developed a keen interest in amphibians and reptiles too.

Nokwanda Mabuyakhulu

Rehabilitated Animal Carer
Nokwanda has always had an incredible nurturing attitude and has a history of au pairing inside the game reserve, she later moved to housekeeping and thrived in the cleanliness and hard work that was required by guest’s standards. Nokwandas husband is a field ranger who monitors wild white rhinos and his skill and passion for them rubbed off on her. When we needed an extra pair of hands at our facility during our expansion she was the natural choice. With tiny Khula needing round the clock care, Nokwanda’s caring nature, motherly love and affectionate manner added to our team perfectly.

Sitembiso Makhanyela

Maintenance Guru
Sitembiso has a background in the building industry. His handy work and creative mind have paired perfectly with the needs of the ZCT. He is our ‘go to guy’ no task is too difficult, if its installing cupboards, building bomas or chairing community meetings, he is an all-star that we’re not sure how we did so long without! Sitembiso joined our team in early 2019 when a building contract finished up, we were impressed by his interest in the animal’s welfare and his extremely useful skills. Sitembiso works closely with the communities, making sure that he minutes all meetings and resolves any conflicts.

Louis Fourie

Eco Tourism and Volunteer Coordinator
Louis started working at Manyoni Private Game Reserve as a guide in 2018, and since the pangolin monitoring project began in 2019, he has often assisted with it in his spare time. With his background in volunteering for the pangolin program and his expertise as a field guide and assistant lodge manager, Louis is an ideal candidate to lead the ZCT Eco Tourism and Volunteer coordination. He is passionate about endangered wildlife and enjoys raising awareness when interacting with guests and donors.

Siyabonga Ngcobo

Food Security Programme Coordinator
Siyabonga (Siya) Ngcobo, Program Manager at Zululand Conservation Trust (ZCT), holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Management from the University of South Africa and a National Diploma in Community Extension from Mangosuthu University of Technology. As a horticulture specialist certified by the Future Farmers Foundation, he worked with Imbewu Yoshintso, where he advanced from an agricultural intern to sales manager. Ngcobo collaborated with ZCT through community development projects like the "creche support" initiative, focusing on creating food gardens to combat food insecurity. At ZCT, he now leads food security and garden programs, leveraging his expertise in permaculture and regenerative agriculture to drive sustainable community support.

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