Millennials: The New Heroes of Wildlife Conservation

  • For Immediate Release

Millennials: The New Heroes of Wildlife Conservation

A new generation of hands-on conservation champions

Johannesburg South Africa 10 May 2019 – While often criticized for being self-absorbed and lazy, Millennials are emerging as the driving force behind a new generation of hands-on volunteer travelers, who are making a significant impact on wildlife conservation – on the ground, where it counts.

It may surprise many conservationists to learn that Millennials – so often considered as spoiled and lazy – are supporting wildlife conservation in ways that are making a substantial impact. And their support is not just passive – this is a generation willing to travel to Ground Zero, to roll up their sleeves and to get the job done.

According to a study by WYSE Travel Confederation, the world’s leading trade association for the global work and volunteer abroad industry, economists have estimated that at least 971 million people volunteer each year across the globe: if these volunteers were a nation, they would constitute the largest adult population in the world, behind only China.

This ‘nation’ of volunteers comprises – quite surprisingly – mainly of Millennials, aged between 18 to 25. And wildlife conservation and education are their volunteer projects of choice, with 70% of volunteers at these projects being Millennials. This matches the results of a previous Millennial Traveler Survey (2014), which indicated that 65% of volunteer travelers were aged 18 to 25. And for these volunteer travelers, South Africa, Ecuador and Mexico are the top three destinations in the world.

On the ground in South Africa – one of the world’s three volunteer hotspots – and on the forefront of facilitating wildlife conservation volunteer traveling – Volunteer Southern Africa confirms these global research findings.

“Over the last 10 years, Volunteer Southern Africa has hosted more than 9,500 volunteers from 25 countries – and 81% of them are Millennials. These young wildlife conservation volunteer travelers have helped to rehabilitate more than 1,100 animals, donating countless manhours and contributing significant tourism spend to diverse wildlife conservation projects across Southern Africa, while enjoying a travel experience of a lifetime – as evidenced by the fact that more than 850 of our volunteers return again and again,” says Earl Smith, founder and CEO of Volunteer Southern Africa.

“It gives me renewed hope that we may well be able to turn the tide against the professional poaching and wildlife crime syndicates that decimate our wildlife heritage. Wildlife conservation volunteering has the potential of becoming a powerful force in conservation efforts – ensuring that conservationists and wildlife sanctuaries are no longer constrained by few hands and limited budgets. Volunteers contribute enormous amounts of manhours as well as much needed funds to help cover the vast expenses of looking after our precious wildlife and conservation areas.”

In addition, the WYSE research also notes that international volunteering contributes towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, fosters mutually-beneficial exchange of cultural knowledge and increases project awareness. In addition, visiting volunteers contribute a considerable number of work days and tourism spend directly into local economies that might not otherwise benefit from mainstream tourism spending.

“Conserving our wildlife for future generations, in the face of growing and ever-more sophisticated poaching and wildlife crime, requires a global effort,” says Smith. “Wildlife conservation volunteering is a vast new resource for conservation projects across Southern Africa and we take great pride in professionally and ethically recruiting, hosting and looking after our volunteers during their stay at a wildlife conservation program that ignites their passion. We invite you to meet some of these Millennials – the new heroes of wildlife conservation – on our YouTube channel and discover how wildlife conservation volunteer programmes are changing their lives, while making a real contribution to the global effort to conserve our precious wildlife.”

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Note to the Editor

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About Volunteer Southern Africa

Volunteer Southern Africa is wildlife conservation volunteering program established 10 years ago with the vision of the long-term sustainability of Africa’s wildlife. Its mission is to recruit, host and look after wildlife volunteers during their stay. Along with these wildlife champions, Volunteer Southern Africa is leaving a lasting and bio-diverse legacy to future generations.

Over the last 10 years, Volunteer Southern Africa has safely hosted more than 9,500 volunteers from 25 countries, and rehabilitated more than 1,100 animals. More than 850 of these volunteers are return volunteers, who love the experience and ability to make a difference so much that they return again and again.
While 81% of Volunteer Southern Africa’s volunteers are Millennials and 73% are women, they all have one thing in common: they want to make a difference, even if in some small way.

As these volunteers are generally single travelers, and a high majority are high school leavers, university students or university leavers taking a gap year, Volunteer Southern Africa’s main priority is the volunteers’ safety and security. Volunteer Southern Africa carefully selects its wildlife conservation projects, considering the worthiness of the project, the experience the volunteer will receive, the quality of the facility and above all, the safety of the volunteers. Over the last 10 years, the company has ironed out snags and built the best experience possible for volunteers. This includes a choice from a variety of conservation programs, suited to diverse wildlife passions, so volunteers can choose which animals they’d like to work with.

Volunteer Southern Africa’s priorities for 2019, as always, is to remain ethical and honest when dealing with animals and volunteers. Plans to grow the Asian and North American markets are underway to help fund the end goal of ensuring African wildlife remains protected for generations to come.

About Earl Smith, Founder and CEO

Raised in Pretoria, South Africa, Earl Smith matriculated from Crawford College before completing a degree in Electrical Engineering from Tshwane University. However, his ultimate passion has always been wildlife, sparked by regular childhood visits to The Kruger National Park and many other African wildlife reserves.

An opportunity to grow and improve the Lion Park in Johannesburg brought him closer to his true passion – wildlife and business. Here Earl first became involved in a working environment within the wildlife industry and with wildlife volunteering.

Watching wildlife volunteers working on the commercial side of the Lion Park business – collecting tickets from tourists and selling giraffe feed – Earl realised that by working with volunteers in the right capacity, conservation efforts could be improved – and Volunteer Southern Africa was born.

Earl considers building this flourishing business while contributing to African wildlife conservation as his most significant professional achievement to date. He believes that wildlife conservation volunteers are a powerful resource for conservationists and wildlife sanctuaries – contributing vast numbers of manhours, bringing much-needed tourism spend and raising crucial awareness within their social spheres.

An avid cyclist, Earl is married to Jade and father to four boys. His favourite pastime is still spending time with his kids in the African bush – the perfect place to practice his life philosophy: ‘Collect moments, not things’.