Nicolette Griffioen

Cape Leopard Trust Ambassador: Nicolette Griffioen
Cape Leopard Trust Ambassador: Nicolette Griffioen

My earliest memory of being fully immersed in nature is hiking the Blyderivierspoort trail, a 3-day self-supported hike, at 5 years of age. Of course, I complained of tired legs, a perceivedly heavy backpack and hours of boredom, but in between, I splashed in streams, launched myself into rockpools and wandered freely through pristine riverine forest.

More than 20 years later I suppose I can say that the core of my being has not changed all that much... I still do all of the above, just on a different level. I like to call myself a mountain runner although there is no all-inclusive term to describe my sport. Sometimes there's a trail or track and route markers, sometimes there's nothing but me, a mountain and a map. But always the simple consistency of moving on foot in nature.

My love of the natural environment, birds and animals eventually resulted in my studying veterinary science. I will qualify at the end of 2019 and then complete my compulsory community service year. I've always wanted to play a part in conservation though, and I feel that this cannot wait longer.

So while I finish my degree and continue my mountain running career, I have also decided to join the Cape Leopard Trust as an ambassador. This non-profit organisation is about far more than just a single species - they focus on everything from the education of children to farmers and the public, monitoring and seeking a greater understanding of the Cape's predators, as well as using the leopard as an icon for biodiversity preservation.

Although I won't be able to make a big difference on the ground with the Cape Leopard Trust just yet, I plan to start by raising awareness. Through my love of moving in nature, often in the exact areas where endangered species like the Cape Leopard can be found but are so seldom seen, I hope to inspire a greater movement towards eco-sensitivity.

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