Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo
Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo have worked together for 23 years in the bushveld, conducting safaris, training wildlife trackers and presenting their talk, “The Power of Relationships” to audiences around the world. Their work has taken them throughout Africa, including Australia, England, Brazil, Peru and North America. They have als0 been featured on several TV news documentaries, most notably one on CNN International.
Alex and Renias’s journey together has seen them tracking leopards at Londolozi game reserve to following wolves and grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park – and speaking internationally.
Alex’s greatest fascination is with the traditional skills of wildlife tracking. He has dedicated much of his life to learning the ancient skill, eventually qualifying as one of a handful of Senior Tracker assessors in 2004 – the youngest ever to achieve this feat. Taught by Renias, Alex converses in Tsonga (Renias’s language), which the pair use to great effect in their presentations.
In addition to his conservation work Alex worked as a facilitator conducting diversity training with Vulindlela Transformational Services. He led programmes aimed at facilitating a better understanding between black and white people working in corporate South Africa.
Renias Mhlongo was born in a mud hut in what is today the greater Kruger National Park. He is one of the last people alive to be raised in the original traditions of a Shangaan hunter-gatherer. The Mhlongo family sustained themselves on the land by growing vegetables, tending cattle and hunting small game. Renias, almost as soon as he could walk, became responsible for the safety of his family’s cattle herd.
During the forced removals under the apartheid government of South Africa, Renias and his family were sent to a settlement called Dixie. Without any formal education, he got a job at a game reserve as a wildlife tracker. In 1984 he became a tracker at Londolozi game reserve – thereby putting to use his exceptional skills as a naturalist. Over the last 34 years Renias has played a pivotal role in habituating the world-famous leopards of Londolozi.
Their book, “Tracker Manual”, co-authored with Karel Benadie, is a best-selling tracking reference guide published in 2017. Alex is currently the general manager, and Renias, head trainer of the Tracker Academy – a not-for-profit which trains rural Africans in the ancient skills of wildlife tracking.
Alex and Renias’s long friendship and working relationship represents an inspirational model for a multicultural South Africa.