The Johannesburg Wilds given a new lease on life!
Photo Cred: James Delaney | The Wilds

The Wilds were abandoned by the people of Johannesburg due to fear of crime, overgrown areas and general lack of upkeep, but an Artist had a goal to reclaim them and has since created our very own “central park” which has since become a safe haven for Joburgers.


Johannesburg, South Africa (20 December 2022) – The Wilds has just been named TripAdvisor’s Top 10 things to do in Joburg!

The Wilds Nature Reserve (The Wilds) has transformed from an unkempt green space that fell into steady decline – earning a bad reputation for being a haven for criminal activity – to one of the City’s most popular escapes to experience scenic views.

James Delaney, who lives a few meters from the historic park in Houghton, has been involved in its revitalisation and upkeep for over nine years. He officially adopted The Wilds five years ago.

“The Wilds is an extraordinary piece of land with so much to offer; a lot of history, amazing architecture, stonework, and a great plant collection, to name a few. I liken it to Central Park in New York [because] it’s our Joburg Central Park, our beauty in the City,” he says, describing his favourite hangout spot.

Sandwiched between Killarney and Houghton in northern Joburg, The Wilds holds about 40 acres of indigenous South African plants, placed over the last 90 years, and was set up in the 1930s. The park neighbours downtown Joburg, making it easily accessible for the many residents who are interested in visiting.

Delaney’s involvement in the park started when he realised that the green piece of land near his home was derelict and needed a caring hand. This was around the time he had just bought a Labrador named Pablo, who needed somewhere to be walked, which was further motivation for him to get involved in efforts to spruce up the park.

The Johannesburg Wilds given a new lease on life!
Photo Cred: James Delaney | The Wilds

He started the project to clean up The Wilds by trimming overgrown plants, removing dead wood, and clearing the pathways on his own. He was later joined by other volunteers and was able to employ a few people to help him with fixing the park.

In addition to restoring The Wilds, Delaney designed and created metal sculptures to attract people back to it, including 67 owls, one life-size kudu, a life-size giraffe, two ostriches, and all kinds of bokkies, which together make up about 100 sculptures dotted around the green space.

“The sculptures are cut-outs of metal and are either painted or coated. Those sculptures have since become sort of park landmarks. People visit the park to see them. The sculptures are also very social media-friendly and have helped us market the park,” he says.

And now the incredible nature reserve has been named TripAdvisor’s Top 10 things to do in Joburg!

Congrats to Delaney and the entire team who have given so much of their love and time to this incredible part of our city.

The Johannesburg Wilds given a new lease on life!
Photo Cred: James Delaney | The Wilds

Sources: James Delaney | The Wilds 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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