Introducing passionate conservationist Megan Lategan, our new rotational wildlife monitor for our iMfolozi, Mkhuze and Tembe projects. If you’re joining one of these projects as a wildlife volunteer, you’ll be sure to meet her. So let’s get to know her a bit better and find out why she loves to hang out with wild animals in South Africa!
1. Tell us about yourself…
I grew up in the bustling metropolis of Klerksdorp in the North West province. From a young age I had many pets that I cared for dearly and I was curious about nature and the environment. Much time spent travelling and holidaying in the wilderness of Southern Africa has grown my love for the bush.
2. What did you study?
After matriculating I wanted to study Nature Conservation but my parents felt I should do something more “substantial” and not mix my passion for wildlife with my career, so I decided to study a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree, specializing in Marketing thinking that my love for animals and the environment could be fulfilled as a hobby, rather than a vocation. However, after working in the corporate marketing and advertising industry, which was stimulating in its own way, I always found myself longing to follow my heart and work in the bush.
Fortunate circumstances allowed me to change my career path and now I have completed my FGASA Nature Guiding, Trails Guiding, Advanced Rifle Handling and Track and Sign courses. I plan to start my Diploma in Nature Conservation in June this year.
3. When did you decide that you wanted to work with wildlife?
In November 2011, I met Grant Beverly from the Endangered Wildlife Trust and he told me about Wildlife ACT. For over a year I was in touch with Simon Morgan, one of the Wildlife ACT founders discussing job opportunities. During this time I said to my family that if I could even make coffee in the Wildlife ACT office, I would be happy – any association with them would have been first prize for me! Eventually things fell into place and I was offered the job as the relief monitor for Tembe, Mkhuze and iMfolozi reserves – my prayers had been answered.
4. Where were you and what were you doing before you joined Wildlife ACT?
After studying my Marketing and Business Administration degree I worked as an Online Media Strategist at a digital online advertising agency in Cape Town for two years.
I then changed industries. Started out as a guide and also ran the Cheetah re-wilding program on a private game reserve in the Limpopo province for 14 months. I worked with cheetahs and was involved in tracking them on foot and in the vehicle, recording their movements, eating patterns and behaviour as well as feeding them while they were in the transition boma. I was also involved with darting and collaring cheetahs and the construction of a boma used for coalition bonding of male cheetah.
After completing my trails guiding course I then worked at a small wilderness camp in the Kruger National Park as a back-up trails guide which taught me a lot about animal behaviour and how to deal with animals on foot and living in a tented bush camp. We guided walking safaris in this Big 5 area approaching dangerous game, as well as having the time on foot to stop and admire the smaller things that nature has to offer and enjoying the intimacy of the bush without the sounds of a vehicle. We also tracked lions and rhinos on foot on a weekly basis.
5. What made you decide to work for Wildlife ACT?
I am passionate about my career in conservation and protecting endangered species. I feel that working for Wildlife ACT as an endangered wildlife monitor affords me the opportunity to make a real difference to the environment and the situation we find ourselves in with our endangered wildlife species.
6. What are the perks of being a rotational monitor?
Getting to experience the beauties of three very different reserves with different objectives and routines, and working with so many different people who are just as passionate and dedicated as I am!
7. What do you love the most about your job so far?
Spending time with the animals we monitor especially the wild dog packs, getting to know them as individuals and family groups in their daily routines. They become a part of your life and feel like extended family.
8. Who is your role model in terms of conservation? Why?
I can honestly say that whoever shares my passion for creatures great and small, is an inspiration to me. All conservationists are my role model because I know the frustrations, long hours, dedication, heart-break, weather extremes to mention a few, that challenge us every day. Conservation is not a controlled 9 to 5, comfortable, office job with a big remuneration package at the end of the month.
9. What has been your most memorable ‘conservation moment’? Why?
While working in the Limpopo province I had the privilege of working with three cheetah sisters who were brought to us. Their mother had been shot by a farmer and these three cubs were left without a mother and therefore without a teacher. The cubs would have learned vital skills from their mother, such as how to hunt. I was able to step in and monitor them while they were learning and teaching themselves the skills they needed and I would supplement their feed while they were still clumsy and practicing the art of hunting. It only took them three weeks to master the art and they were hunting adult Kudu’s by the age of two years old! We eventually moved them to other reserves where they could live a very normal life despite their unusual upbringing! This made me so proud and incredibly honoured to help conserve such amazing animals.
10. Any interesting hobbies?
I enjoy outdoor activities, photography, water skiing, scuba diving, snowboarding as well as travelling – I lived in Austria for 5 months and travelled Europe and holidays in Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zanzibar and India.
11. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
I would have to say the Micro light trip I did in Botswana in 2004 with a group of 4×4 and outdoor enthusiasts, including my brother and father.
We started flying from Nata Camp, my brother and I were passengers in the micro lights every day and flew from salt pan to salt pan not knowing where we would land next. My father was our ground support, driving from pan to pan checking if it was safe to land or not. He would give us GPS coordinates of a good landing spot. On landing we would set up our temporary tented camp for our stay. Our first flight was approximately 68 km and we landed on the Ntwetwe Salt Pan where we spent the night with lions roaming around our tents. We worked our way up to Maun stopping at Gweta and Santawani, which we then used as a base to do daily flights around Moremi Game reserve.
What an incredible experience!
12. If you won R20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
I would put the money in a trust, appoint a board of trustees and either choose worthwhile organizations and projects like Wildlife ACT to sponsor or start my own conservation project.