Innocent Ngwenya is one of the most remarkable humans I know. He is kind, gentle and driven. He smiles more than anyone I’ve ever met, nothing is too much effort for him and he is well-respected for his tracking genius. Just a few years ago though, Inno was living a very different life to the one he is now. Just a few years ago he was poaching the very same animals he now works so hard to track and protect. It is a time in his life he regrets hugely but his deep hunger to affect change in the world has driven him to share his powerful story. Not only is he a storyteller of the wilderness but a storyteller of wildness too.

For most of Innocent’s youth he was hungry. Truly hungry. As he describes it, he was driven to a hunger so fierce “it disturbs your brain and all you can think about is getting food”. Back then his father was not a part of his life. His parents separated when he was young, which is rare in the Shangaan culture and his grandmother asked his father to stay away from the family. Lyson, Innocent’s father, respected her wishes. So in an attempt to provide for both himself and his family, Innocent turned to poaching. It started out small but it slowly grew in scale and eventually he was poaching for money, not food.

In this mini-documentary, Innocent tells the story of how hunger was what eventually saved his life.

Innocent believed his father always knew he would come to find him and trusted that when the time was right, the two of them would be reunited. After 15 years, they eventually were. Because of his patience and his trust in life, Innocent was able to put the past behind him and the moment he re-connected with his father, the trajectory of his life changed dramatically. He is someone who sees the goodness in everything and as a result the goodness in everything has taken care of him.

From the remarkable search for his father, to his journey with the Tracker Academy, through tragically losing his father to a battle with cancer and then to eventually becoming one of the youngest Lead Trackers in the country, Innocent has always hungered for more. And even to this day, Innocent continues to track a more powerful presence in the world.

For me, the hunger I respect in him most though, is his hunger to tell this story. He is a man who deeply craves creating positive change around him and has therefore taken this brave step to share his past with you. Inno wants young people to grow up knowing what power and potential they have. He wants them to know that they have choices. And he wants them to know that with a deep hunger for a better life, they can become whatever it is that they choose.

He is a person who has not allowed circumstance to determine who he is or how his life has mapped out. He has tracked the feeling for an authentic and honest life and through that, he is mapping the landscape of the unknown for all those around him. In our opinion, he is one of the most beautiful examples of what it means to Live Guided… Witness how he has been able to shift his life from one of poverty to one of immense purpose and promise.

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

View Amy's profile

21 Comments

on A Hunger for Life

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Barbara
Guest

He is a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing your story.

David Attenborough
Guest

Well done team on a fantastic tribute to Innocent’s trip from “hungry poacher” to “Custodian of our Wildlife”, you have managed to put the story across with such impact and empathy – well done! In these days conservation disasters, it is so nice to hear of a story like this.
Please relay my message to Innocent … Innocent well done on telling your story, it is fantastic that you have taken control and raised yourself from that hungry young man to a highly skilled tracker who is now a protector of our wildlife. Well done, my man – your father would have been so proud of you. I look forward to meeting you soon.

Yvonne & Ross Powell
Guest

What a fantastic and inspiring story and so brave to tell it, we were lucky/honored to spend a couple of days with Innocent & Fin last December and hope to have them as our guide/tracker/friends again when we come back in July..

Tim
Guest

Wow. What an amazing story. So gratifying to see good triumph over evil.

Dina,Guido
Guest

we always admired Innocent and we were proud to have game drives with him and James Souchon , we will never forget that time in Ngala, very warm regards to both of them

Carolyn Byars
Guest

Innocent is an impressive young man! We enjoyed our time with Inno and Fin when we were at Londolozi in May. Africa is an amazing place and Londolozi is life changing! Amy, thank you for this wonderful story!

Pamela Baca-Hanes
Guest

Powerful

Mary Beth Wheeler
Guest

What magnificent story and video. You brought me to tears, Innocent. The wisdom you’ve gained from your life experiences so far is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

Samantha Hamilton
Guest

Innocent, Amy and team. What a story. I am touched. you are a wonderful inspiration. Custodians of a world so valuable. Innocent, I am so happy you got to meet your father, connect and learn from him. He would be SO proud of you. Brilliantly filmed, well spoken and a truly remarkable story. Thank you

Jenny
Guest

Thank you Amy and Innocent. What a beautifully told story and one that has such a resounding and powerful message.
Amy your bio does not do justice to you as a person; someone who has the ability to touch a person’s innermost being. Thank you again.

Kristine
Guest

Wow, that was beautiful!

Peter and Sandra Jackson, Glenn, Louisa & Isla Stevens, Sara, Michael, Benjamin Loetz & Josh.
Guest

Well done Innocent! You told your story so eloquently and it is an inspiration to us all. I hope to meet you when we return to Londolozi in the not too distant future.

Eve
Guest

So beautiful! What an amazing story and a lesson for us all.

Shawn Mahan
Guest

Innocent Ngwenya, thank you for sharing your story. I am always humbled when I see true perseverance and a desire to make yourself better. I hope you are always successful in all that you want to achieve.

Jill Larone
Guest

So beautifully told – thank you for sharing your story with us, Innocent. Lovely to hear that you reconnected with your father, sadly for such a short time, but how wonderful that you had that time together and that he helped you to see the path that would change the direction of your life. Truly an amazing story!

Deepak Menon
Guest

A Hunger for Life – Amy Attenborough your story about the life of Innocent Ngwenya is truly inspiring and the narrative and settings inspiring. I congratulate you, all the people involved in the filming of the videos as well as Innocent on a deed well done. I reached your blog following a link from a wonderful author friend of mine – Bianca Gubalke who lives in Africa and is equally close to nature – so I thank her too. I am from India and perhaps shall visiting Africa too one day. Thanks again
Deepak Menon

Amanda Ritchie

Thank you so much for the comment, Deepak. We’re glad that you found us, and hope that you stay in touch and, indeed do come and visit us in the near future.

Susan Strauss
Guest

Beautiful!!

Amanda Ritchie

I absolutely love this story, and am proud to know Innocent. Thank you for the work that you put into this video, and for sharing Inno’s story.

Humaira Paruk

Wow! Utterly powerful and inspiring!

Gawie Jordaan

I salute you, Innocent!

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