Community engagement is vital to conservation success—it allows conservationists to involve local people in the management and protection of the wildlife they live alongside, while also improving their livelihoods and granting them access to exciting new opportunities. Members of local communities also bring their own immense knowledge and talents to conservation, as seen in the uplifting story of Survivor, a young man making a big difference for painted dogs in Zimbabwe.
Survivor Nyasulu developed a fascination with photography during childhood, marveling at wildlife documentaries he would watch on television. When he attended a Bush Camp held by Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in 2005, his love for wildlife was fueled even more. Every year, PDC hosts nearly 1,000 children at their Iganyana Bush Camps, where they can see painted dogs up close at PDC’s rehabilitation facility along the border of Hwange National Park, free of charge. This experience left a profound mark on Survivor, and confirmed in his young mind that he wanted to be involved in the protection of painted dogs.
In 2015, Survivor joined PDC’s Anti-Poaching Unit, acting as a scout on their frequent ranger patrols around Hwange. Their main task is removing poaching snares that might trap and kill painted dogs around the Park. He also helps train and care for the dogs that accompany the rangers on patrols.
His burgeoning passion for conservation grew hand in hand with his love of photography, and in 2018, Survivor borrowed a friend’s camera and began his journey as a photographer. After several years of experimenting and developing his creative vision, Survivor bought his own camera in 2021. Whenever he ventures into Hwange on a patrol or in his free time, Survivor captures wildlife on film.
Photography is Survivor’s way of discovering the beauty of nature and sharing it with the world, so that people may come to appreciate painted dogs and other wildlife as he does. He also tries to highlight the harmony that can exist between animals and people, to further promote coexistence with communities living in close proximity to wildlife.
Survivor’s talent as a photographer has only grown over the years. His photos have been utilized by Space for Giants, Citizen Bulletin, and other outlets, and he also documents sporting events for the Rhino Cup Champions League. To promote PDC’s incredible programs, he often takes photos while on anti-poaching patrols, at Bush Camps, and for other special events. And to further unite his interest in conservation and photography, Survivor also works as a safari guide, escorting tourists through Hwange and sharing the beauty of his home with them through his lens.
Above all, Survivor wants to inspire others in Zimbabwe to find their own creative, unique way to celebrate wildlife and share their perspective with the world.
“I am a photographer who wants to inspire more Zimbabweans to tell African stories, rather than having people abroad coming to Zimbabwe to document and film for us.”