VWSA support for Wilderness Foundation Africa

Volkswagen Group South Africa have been a staunch supporter of Wilderness Foundation Africa since June 2011, with an initial sponsorship of six Volkswagen Amarok bakkies to the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative.

Thomas Schaefer and Thanh Bui

The formal relationship between these two organisations has surpassed all expectations over a lengthy period of time and extended to two of the key focus areas of this internationally recognized conservation organization, i.e. the protection of endangered species and the Youth Development Programme, which focuses on equipping vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.

However, the relationship between WFA and VWSA started in the 1980’s when the late Dr Ian Player and Peter Searle, the then CEO of Volkswagen South Africa, went on a wilderness trail in the iMfolozi Game Reserve.  The concept of wilderness trails was introduced by Ian Player as a means of introducing people from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life to the life changing process brought about by walking through the wilderness on foot and experiencing the wonder of nature at first hand.

In a further commitment to the conservation efforts of Wilderness Foundation Africa, the Chairman of VWSA, Thomas Schaefer, this week joins the WFA team in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to introduce them to key role players in the motor vehicle and corporate industry, in order to further develop the highly successful Demand Reduction campaign to the corporate world.

“Conservation NGO’s such as Wilderness Foundation Africa would not be able to continue the work that we do on a local, national and global scale without the support of corporates such as Volkswagen South Africa”, says Dr Andrew Muir, CEO of Wilderness Foundation Africa.  “This partnership has exceeded the general NGO/Funder relationship, and we are grateful to the team at VWSA for their continued and loyal support of our various conservation initiatives”.

Thomas Schaefer, Chairman of Volkswagen Group South Africa says: “I am delighted that apart from our companies material support through the sponsorships of the Amaroks, I am able to contribute personally through the contacts I have in that region due to having previously worked with many parties in a previous role”


Through the yearly usage sponsorship  of 6 Amarok double cab bakkies, Volkswagen has assisted the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative in the protection of South Africa’s rhino popular through active patrols, anti-poaching unit transport and deployments, supporting anti-poaching dog units, supporting Rhino Security managers and analysts, rhino monitoring, intelligence gathering, road blocks, joint operations with SAPS and SANDF, and also supporting the teams responsible for the Eastern Cape DNA and tracking device project.

These vehicles are deployed at various game reserves throughout South Africa, where they operate in high risk zones and are involved daily in the fight to protect the rhino from extinction.  These vehicles have driven more than 800 000 km over the past 6 years, and assisted with the arrest of suspected poachers, confiscation of rifles, prosecution of rhino poaching suspects, as well as the prevention of rhino deaths through intelligence and pro-active operations in the Eastern Cape.

The partners between Volkswagen South Africa, and Wilderness Foundation Africa has further increased public awareness of the rhino poaching crisis through the Forever Wild Amarok competition over a 2 year period.  This competition afforded members of the public the opportunity to experience the work being done with the Amarok bakkies on the ground, by being taken on a 3 day expedition where they assisted with the darting of rhino for conservation and security purposes.


In addition, VWSA supplies the Youth Development Programme of Wilderness Foundation Africa with vehicles for the transportation of students during the implementation of our various Youth Development Projects.  WFA runs a number of holistic skills development and education interventions that harness the healing power of nature to equip vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens. 

The VWSA vehicles are actively utilized during the Pride and Imbewu Trails, by our Employability skills and wellness interventions as well as during our vocational training of Umzi Wethu students.


Wildlife crime is decimating populations of many of Africa’s iconic species of elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and pangolin threatening the very existence of Africa’s protected areas where ecotourism is a major GDP contributor. The alarming rise in rhino poaching stands at the forefront of this wildlife crime crisis. Currently approximately 4 800 black and 20 000 white rhino are fighting for their survival in the wild, with more than 80% of these rhinos found in South Africa.

The demand for rhino horn in Asian countries in particular has been identified as one of the main driving forces for the escalation in poaching of rhinos, with over 80% of poached rhino horn passing through Vietnam either for local use or for export to other countries.

In response to this, Wilderness Foundation Africa joined forces with Peace Parks Foundation to research, develop and implement a youth awareness and engagement campaign aimed at reducing the use of and demand for rhino horn in Vietnam.

The Wild Rhino demand reduction campaign utilizes three separate yet cohesive components to educate and engage Vietnamese youth on the issue of rhino poaching. The overarching goal of these components, namely the Wild Rhino Competition, the Youth Ambassador Awareness and Education Campaign, and the Rhino Ranger Super Hero Campaign, is to incite passion for conservation, whilst motivating these young people to not use rhino horn. In addition, they are encouraged to assist in saving the rhino by becoming vocal ambassadors for the cause in their communities. The demand reduction campaign, which has been active in 11 participating schools in Ho Chi Minh City since the launch of the first Wild Rhino Competition in 2014, has reached about 15 000 Vietnamese youth directly, and nearly 1 million youth indirectly through campaign and youth ambassador social media activities.

In a further commitment to the conservation efforts of Wilderness Foundation Africa, the Chairman of VWSA, Thomas Schaefer, this week joins the WFA team in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to introduce them to key role players in the motor vehicle and corporate industry in order to further development our highly successful Demand Reduction to the corporate world.


Wilderness Foundation Africa is a conservation organisation working to protect and sustain all life on earth for current and future generations. Whether it is direct action anti-poaching in the field, large landscape wilderness management, or developing rising young leaders from disadvantaged communities for a career in conservation, Wilderness Foundation Africa has over 40 years of results.   The  Forever Wild Conservation Programme was developed in 2011 as a response to the rhino poaching crisis and has been active through the Rhino Protection Initiative. In 2013 the programme was expanded to include lion, leopard, elephant and shark conservation initiatives as they represent key species symptomatic of the challenges facing the environments in which they live.


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