When Themba Mthembu first became obsessed with birds and conservation, people called him names. He was a “madman” wondering about, carrying binoculars; he was “brainwashed” when he talked sustainability, or suggested that locals be mindful of birds’ breeding seasons when they burnt the fields.

It was when he started to bring “other mad birders to their fields” and paid villagers to let tourists look for special birds on their land, that attitudes started to change, says Mthembu. “I wanted locals to reap the benefits of conservation and birding tourism.”..

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