One family. Three generations. The rangers who saved a species


Conservation runs in Cornelius Julies’ blood. His grandfather was a ranger who passed on his knowledge to Julies’ father, who worked as a ranger himself for 24 years. During this time, Oom Willie, as Julies’ father was known, discovered the Golden Pagoda. In 1987, the rare protea species had yet to be identified. SANBI considered it a landmark botanical find. But the ranger’s most important contribution was his son. Julies spent his days as a young boy accompanying his father to the veld, demonstrating a keen interest in the plants and animals they encountered.

“Before my father passed away, he passed on as much knowledge as possible to me,” Julies says. Today, he’s a senior field ranger at the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, the same place his father worked. Between the three generations, one animal in particular has been the focus of their conservation efforts – the Cape mountain zebra. Oom Willie could identify each one at the reserve just from its stripes. Julies is now involved in monitoring and protecting the animals. Data he has collected has been used by the Cape Mountain Zebra Project and is an invaluable contribution to the survival of the species. “Due to the work that the rangers and nature conservationists have done, the status of zebra has changed from endangered to protected,” Julies says.

The trail of efforts to preserve our natural wealth doesn’t stop with Julies. “I can see that my daughter has an interest in the work I am doing,” he says. Just like Julies learnt from his father, and he from his father before that, the ranger is handing down his passion and knowledge. “It gives me hope that the future generations will look after the indigenous wildlife of South Africa,” Julies says. With his daughter following in his tracks, the family’s legacy of conservation continues and our wildlife remains in safe hands.

Photographs taken by Dylan Boucher, Grant Atkinson, and Helena Atkinson were used in the creation of this film.