- South African-born Jonathan Smuskowitz CA is fervent about preserving wild places for future generations.
- He is treasurer of WildArk, which partners with groups around the globe to protect and restore wildlife habitats.
- He says conservationists, business and industry should work together to restore and protect ecosystems.
As told to Hannah Tattersall
Photos by Natsky
Growing up in South Africa, I was fortunate enough to experience the ‘wild’ by spending time in the bush: walking, watching, listening and learning about the ecosystems and animals. I always felt a sense of inner peace and calm.
As I got older, it struck me that unless we work to protect these wild places, our children may never get to have these experiences that make us human.
WildArk’s mission is to promote and support activities that educate and enable people to protect or restore the world’s ecosystems. It was set up in 2015 and, with our partners, we have protected wildlife habitat in Alaska, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Australia. We’ve also helped NGOs fund their research and conservation work.
“Working in finance and the corporate world for more than 25 years means I understand how to engage and work with industry. [Smuskowitz founded MediPay Financial Services in 2014.]
I believe if we’re to be successful in protecting nature, we have to work with industry and provide ways for industry to value and protect nature that meets their return-oninvestment measurement – whatever that is.
Picture: Jonathan Smuskowitz CA.
“We have to provide ways for industry to value and protect nature that meets their return-on-investment measurement – whatever that is.”
An example is our desert elephant project in the Erongo region of Namibia. With the support of European ice-cream brand Nuii, WildArk worked with local partner EHRA [Elephant- Human Relations Aid] to build an elephant education centre.
We’re in the process of installing 40 solar-powered water pumps to help communities and elephants access water.
In Australia, we partnered with Aussie Ark on its work to release Tasmanian devils back onto the mainland for the first time in 3000 years. We ran our most successful fundraising campaign, the Koala Comeback, after the 2019–20 bushfires, raising more than US$1.5 million for bushfire recovery.
We joined forces with Aussie Ark again to acquire Mongo Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, a 1500-hectare property in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. It’s part of a bigger vision to create a network of sanctuaries for native species.
We are working on predator-proofing the property and have already planted 20,000 trees, including 10,000 koala feed trees.
One of the best things about WildArk is that it allows me to follow my passion and give back at the same time. And I get to meet some incredible people devoted to protecting nature.
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