Conserving wildlife is vital to the planet’s future. South Africa’s Soutpansberg Mountains had one of the highest population densities of leopards in Africa in 2008. Today, that population has been cut by nearly two-thirds.

For two decades, Shell employees have, in collaboration with Earthwatch, contributed to conservation efforts in areas like this. Rachel Smith, an engineer from Houston, recently became the 1,000th Shell employee to volunteer on an Earthwatch expedition.

Hands-on experience

The Earthwatch collaboration seeks to inspire participants through hands-on scientific research and conservation projects. Smith joined nine other Shell colleagues from around the world who spent 10 days with primate and predator researchers in the Soutpansberg Mountains.

The team broadened their understanding of South Africa’s conservation challenges and worked with local researchers to develop a range of sustainable solutions.

“The expedition was truly an eye-opener,” says Smith. “One day we worked on building ‘bomas’. These are a type of cattle enclosure that help the farmers protect their livestock from leopard attacks. In turn, this reduces their desire for lethal wildlife controls.”

The team also learned the value of listening to stakeholders. “It means we can help provide a sustainable solution and not just treat a symptom,” noted Smith.

Finding sustainable solutions

Through the Earthwatch Expeditions Programme employees like Smith learn new skills, enhance networks and gain a greater understanding of sustainable development. The knowledge gained can then be applied to life both at work and at home. It is invaluable to Shell’s sustainability agenda.

Shell and Earthwatch run similar expeditions in India, Canada, the US and the UK. Shell and Earthwatch also collaborate to deliver the Earth Skills Network programme, where employees share their knowledge and expertise by mentoring managers of protected areas.

Read about Shell’s work with other environmental partners.

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