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Bongekile Kuhlase

Bongekile Kuhlase

2021 Intern

WWF intern Bongekile Kuhlase recognises the value of science education and the need to link indigenous knowledge and science to create a sustainable future for everyone. Her Master’s degree in Plant Science, which she completed at the University of Pretoria, was the beginning of her journey towards making a difference for people and nature. She is currently doing her WWF internship at Wildlands Conservation Trust in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

In her year-long position as an Ecologist intern, she is responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of different vegetation types at various sites across the province. The areas she is working in include the Upper Tugela River region. This hands-on work allows Bongekile to spend time in the field carrying out species ranking of the plants, carbon analysis of woody plants, as well as soil erosion assessments, among other aspects. She also trains contracted field staff who work with her on these projects on how to do assessments so that they can do the tasks when she’s not around.

We asked her to share some of her hopes and goals in the internship and her career going forward:

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the natural environment and science education. I also love to help people see the beauty in conservation work and why taking care of nature is important for communities and society as a whole.

What inspired your choice of study?
I was always curious about nature and how it functions. My father used to take us to different places to see the various natural wonders that our country has to offer. Being outdoors brought us closer as a family. So, I want to spend most of my time in nature and help protect it and the natural services it provides for us and future generations.

What excites you about your internship?
I am excited about the work skills that I will gain from the internship programme and the opportunity to engage with other interns.

What are your expectations of this internship?
I expect the internship to help me grow as a scientist and offer me valuable work experience. I also hope to get a chance to network with other professionals in my field and gain the soft skills that I need to have a successful career.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
I hope to bridge the gap between indigenous knowledge of communities and science. I’d also like to contribute to making our work in the conservation field more relatable. Lastly, I wish to initiate change in policies that separate people and nature into different entities making one seem more important than the other.

Who inspires you the most and why?
Everyone close to me inspires me. I have witnessed how they handled failures and successes. Their unwavering support inspires me to be my true self, unapologetically.

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