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Zinhle Manda

2021 Intern

As a trained Botanist with no animal or veterinary background, Zinhle Chalo Manda sees her WWF internship as an opportunity to learn and contribute to nature and wildlife conservation in various ways. She works at the Veterinary Wildlife Services at the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. In her internship role, Zinhle’s duties include capturing wildlife species for sample collections, research on wildlife diseases and community engagement.
Zinhle has a Master’s degree in Botany from the University of Johannesburg.
She gives us a glimpse into her career aspirations and shares how she plans to combine her botany expertise with the skills and experience from her internship position.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about understanding and preserving nature and the environment. One of the things I love about what I do is the continued growth opportunities in the field – from traditional medicines to ecology and biosecurity. The learning curve is endless.

What inspired your choice of study?
Having been brought up in a rural environment in KwaZulu-Natal where holistic living was almost second nature, it was interesting that traditional suburbia found it very taboo. For us, using umhlonyane (African wormwood) to treat the flu was a norm. Natural remedies were preferred while modern medicine was a last resort. However, I found the opposite when I moved to the city and lived in suburban areas. Holistic living has only recently become a trend, with more and more people using essential oils, for example.

My grandmother’s vast knowledge of indigenous plants inspired me to investigate methods to highlight the importance of indigenous medicine and the sustainable management of plants and animals that we consume. That’s why my Botany studies focused more on traditional medicine and sustainable management, as well as the conservation of human and environmental aspects.

What excites you about your internship?
The work environment where I am based is thrilling for me. Coming from a Botany field and working in South Africa’s largest national park has introduced me to many animal species that most would only ever dream of working with daily. It’s also allowed me to see and learn more about the relationship between humans, animals and the environment.

What are your expectations of this internship?
I wish to learn a lot about animals and wildlife pharmacology so that I can eventually merge all this veterinary knowledge – combined with my plant background – into a PhD. While gaining professional work experience in my internship, I also hope to improve existing skills and learn new skills such as workplace communication, networking, and analytical competency.

What contribution do you hope to make towards a future in which people and nature thrive?
I’d love to be involved in strategy development initiatives around ensuring that both people and nature live in harmony. I also wish to influence policymaking and partake in educational activities with local communities, focusing on holistic living and ways to contribute to conserving the environment.

Who inspires you the most and why?
My family inspires me a lot. I am blessed to have a family that is supportive, loving and strongly determined to achieve beyond the conditions in which we grew up. My parents have been consistently supportive throughout my academic life and career choices. My siblings keep setting the bar high and continue fighting to rise higher.


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