The WWF is run at a local level by the following offices...
- WWF Global
- Central African Republic
- Central America
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- European Policy Office
For three young people in Kleinmond, a job opportunity in 2019 changed the course of their lives. They, along with twelve others, had been chosen from a large pool of applicants to work as marine coastal and community monitors along the coast of the Kogelberg region in the Western Cape.
With a thirst for knowledge and the official title of Marine Coastal and Community Monitors (MCCMs), the fifteen – funded by WWF South Africa – were given an opportunity to complete or improve upon their matric.
In the second year of their contract, they completed the Criminal Law Enforcement Programme through Nelson Mandela University, and the following year 11 of them completed the Criminal Justice Higher Certificate at the same university. In February this year, three of them were hired by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) for a two-year contract working as honorary conservation officers based at the Kleinmond DFFE compliance office. Their work is focused on patrolling the coast and ensuring that restaurants and fishers comply with the terms of their permits.
I chatted to the recently appointed young “DFFE three” about how their work with WWF as monitors helped set them up with their green career pathways and bolstered their new roles with DFFE.
Danelee Plaatjies is passionate about protecting the biodiversity of marine life, and in particular, protecting species under threat.
Ever since childhood, she knew law enforcement was her calling, and now she is even more inspired that it’s in the world of nature.
“Kleinmond is very small and it is difficult to find a job,” she said, explaining that she had worked on contract as a gate guard for CapeNature at Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay before a bout of unemployment was followed by her contract and upskilling with WWF as a MCCM.
From the moment the work with WWF began, she loved it.
“We monitored many different things. We counted and identified birds, and we monitored mammals like the dassie, seal and Cape mongoose. Then there was the ‘dirty dozen’, which meant picking up plastic pollution along the coastline,” she said.
Added to that was keeping an eye on the conditions at the estuaries of the Palmiet and Kleinmond Rivers and of the main beach in Kleinmond. They also tested water quality, and focused on human activities too, keeping a record of how the area is used recreationally for jogging and dog walking, for example.
In her new role with DFFE, the most satisfying for Danelee is playing a role in upholding the law.
“We don’t have the authority to make arrests as we’re not law enforcement officers yet. We also must consider our own safety, but our job is to alert the authorities if we’re suspicious,” she said.
She adds, “We are here to play our role in the local marine protected area. If we don’t do that now, in a few years the next generation won’t even know what an abalone is. The moment I started playing my role in protecting the waters, I had a passion for that work and it has grown ever since.”
The meaning of an African oyster catcher’s egg has changed for Kopanang Jankie.
What he once saw as an artifact to be taken from the beach to his house, he now understands to be a vital part of an ecosystem and the many species within that.
He joined the Marine Coastal and Community Monitors at WWF towards the end of 2019, and since then, his life path has changed.
“I was working at a large supermarket in Brackenfell in Cape Town when I came to visit my parents in Kleinmond,” he says, “and that was when I saw a poster at the tourism cafe that WWF South Africa was looking for people to monitor the coast.”
Kopanang said he had lived in Kleinmond for more than 10 years but that nobody had taught him about the ocean and the ecosystems of the coastline.
“We knew about birds, seals, penguins, and the beach, but we didn’t know how important such things are,” he said at the DFFE offices in Kleinmond recently, “and a bird’s egg was just something I took home to play with. Now if I see an oystercatcher egg on the beach, I alert Cape Nature so they can put up a notice to alert the community to leave it untouched.”
Since his MCCM contract with WWF, he says, “I learnt about different species, and which are endangered.”
Earlier this year, more than 2 000 applicants applied to work along the coast for the DFFE and for Kopanang, the experience he’d gained with WWF gave him a leg up.
“It was definitely a springboard for me,” he said, “because with WWF, I had also upgraded my skills.”
His contract with DFFE will end in 2025 and Kopanang says after that he will only search for jobs that are based in nature.
“Even if it’s not in the marine world, I will always want to work with the environment because my whole path has changed now,” he said.
Ganfried May was working as an assistant teacher at Kleinmond Primary School when he saw the shadow of unemployment ahead as the end of his contract neared.
“I applied as a monitor with WWF and was so happy when I got an interview,” he said, “because I was always interested in conservation and the environment.”
Having grown up in landlocked Oudtshoorn and working on an animal ranch there, he knew about preserving species, but the marine world was a whole new frontier for him when his mother got a transfer to Kleinmond.
He remembers the steep learning curve of being a coastal monitor.
“We would go out around three times a week and do data logging and admin work on the other two days. I was surprised by the number of seals out there, and was interested in whales (especially during birthing season) and other mammals.”
The work has also given him positive and negative feelings about his own species: human beings can do so much to protect nature, and yet some don’t realise that “a piece of plastic or paper can be thrown down several kilometres from the sea but end up in the ocean being eaten by a fish who dies from it.”
In his current role with the DFFE, he enjoys doing the same job every day but facing different scenarios.
Ever since he went with the WWF team to the annual MPA Forum in Saldanha in November 2022, he decided that is where his heart lies: in protecting the ocean and the beauty that lies within it.
His hopes for after the contract are to find a permanent place in law enforcement in a nature reserve or marine protected area or bringing together his two passions: education and nature conservation.
Our careers portal has a list of different green jobs to explore.