This year's Southern African Wildlife College Graduation ceremony celebrated 20 students receiving natural resource certificates and 22 students receiving diplomas. The graduates were from Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Dr Isabel Macie, deputy director conservation areas in Mozambique, praised the graduates on their achievements and encouraged them to apply their knowledge in their workplaces, especially referring to the transfrontier conservation areas.
According to Tony Frost, chairman of the College Board and chief executive officer of the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa, the Southern African Wildlife College may soon become a Centre of Excellence with assistance from the Blair Commission. The College has been nominated for consideration for the recently approved three billion pound fund to assist Africa in its development programmes.
The linking of the Hans Hoheisen Research Institute to the College will add to the status of the college in this respect, said Frost. Since it opened its doors in 1997, the College has trained more than 2 000 students from 20 countries in Africa, but mostly from the Southern African Development region.
The training focuses on natural resource management, mainly of protected areas and associated wildlife populations, sustainably and in a culturally acceptable manner and in conjunction with communities around them. The Peace Parks became involved in 1994 and are encouraging the establishment of a veterinary unit, based at Hans Hoheisen.
This facility is needed to minimise the risk to Africa's wildlife as without adequate veterinary disease management, national and international borders become meaningless and the spread of wildlife diseases can have a devastating impact on local and regional economies.
Several students were individually recognised for their hard work and dedication throughout the year through awards given by Absa, Distell, Hans Hoheisen, Rose Sturges and WWF-SA.
Stephen Malign, a diploma student from Zimbabwe and also president of the student body, received both the Distell best diploma student award and the Hans Hoheisen award for top student in protected area management.
Another Zambian student, Bovax Kachali was awarded the Distell best certificate student as well as top student in office and financial award sponsored by Absa.
The Rose Sturges award for most improved student went to Jose Zavale who is currently employed in the new Limpopo Transfrontier Park in Mozambique and the WWF best student South Africa is Zephred Mazibuko from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Four diploma scholarships were awarded by the Southern African Conservation education trust to Bovax Kachali (Zambia), Elias Libombo (Zimbabwe), Sunnyboy Msetfwa (Swaziland) and Zephred Masibuko (South Africa).