Fortunate Phaka did his internship at Youth 4 African Wildlife.

Fortunate lives out his passion while teaching children from Botswana more about nature conservation.


Passion for nature has

Fortunate results

We have to teach our children from a young age to respect nature and should instil in them the principles of nature conservation.

This is the passion of Fortunate Phaka, a master's student at the School of Biological Sciences on the Potchefstroom Campus, and one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans 2016 (in the environmental category).


Fortunate, who spends most of his time in nature, says that school children have an abstract perception of nature conservation from their curriculum, but cannot apply it in their daily lives. His goal is to help them understand and bond with nature.


He is currently a volunteer for Youth 4 African Wildlife, an organisation that provides internships for two students every year. He completed his internship last year and this year is helping to mentor young people. “I wanted to remain involved with the organisation and the work they are doing.”


Youth 4 African Wildlife works mainly in communities around the Nduma Nature Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal.


From elephants to amphibians


During his internship, he and Darian Hall, a Canadian, helped the Elephants Alive organisation to investigate the problem of elephants pushing over trees. They helped make a video about the role bees can play in preventing the elephants from destroying trees. He says this research is ongoing and that he was privileged to be able to work with Elephants Alive for a short time.


Fortunate's postgraduate studies at the NWU focus on amphibian diversity and community-based eco-tourism at Nduma Nature Reserve. This is also the title of his master's dissertation.


His supervisor, Prof Louis du Preez, says Fortunate is a gem because of his passion for nature conservation. “He is a hard worker and does an incredible job of informing communities about the variety of frogs in their environment.”


Frogs may soon croak in Zulu


Louis says Fortunate is helping to compile a book on frogs in Zulu, and this will form part of his postgraduate studies. It will be the first book on frogs in the country written in this language and is partly financed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute. School children in particular will be able to use it to get to know frog sounds, habitats and species.


Fortunate also presents workshops to train the game rangers of Ndumo Nature Reserve as guides.The guides use this knowledge during game drives to make visitors aware of the various frog species in the reserve and their calls. According to Louis, visitors enjoy the additional information.


The origin of love


Fortunate comes from Limpopo and was raised by his grandmother. She was very strict and extremely neat, which helped shape Fortunate's love of nature. For the house to stay tidy, he had to play outside during the day and this is where the seeds of his future career were planted.


He completed his undergraduate studies at Unisa after taking a break to work as a researcher for the television programme 50/50. He says his experience on the programme came in useful when making short films as an intern at Youth 4 African Wildlife.


Fortunate came to the NWU for his postgraduate studies, and clearly remembers the day he walked into Louis' office. He initially wanted to study snakes, but decided that frogs were close enough, and Louis was very excited at the prospect of taking this postgraduate student under his wing.


Since then he hasn’t looked back, and is excited about submitting his dissertation at the end of the year. However, he says this will not mean the end of his research; he is hoping to complete his doctorate at the NWU as well.


The NWU & U


Please send us your comments, suggestions and any other contributions you would like to make, for instance photographs or news snippets.


We value your opinions and input – after all, the NWU & U belongs to us all.






Next Article

previous article



more info


Watch this


In this video, Fortunate Phaka, master's student at the NWU, talks about his involvement in conservation and his work for Youth 4 African Wildlife during an interview on the SABC programme Newsroom Live.




NWU & U  |

NWU & U  |