During an awards ceremony in Letaba Camp in Kruger on February 19th, the Game Rangers' Association of Africa (GRAA) honoured Dr Ian Player with a lifetime achievement award, 'The Spirit of Africa' in recognition of his invaluable contribution to conservation in South Africa.
His conservation career has spanned more than half a century. In his acceptance speech Dr Player quoted Andrew Little: "Prophets do not come from the cities, Talking of store clothes and riches. No. They come from the wild places, Speaking of goats running with life and Talking of a different kind of treasure." ... As it appeared in the Heron Dance.
"The Spirit of Africa" is a new award and will only be presented when a deserving recipient is identified.
Div de Villiers, a ranger in the Eastern Cape, received the coveted Norman Dean award and gold medal, equivalent of Ranger of the Year. Linda Spangenberg, editor of the GRAA magazine, received recognition for her efforts and so did Paul Dutton, a pilot for the Bataleurs. Fraser Smith who has been instrumental in the protection of rhino in Africa was also recognised. Derrick Potter and Jan Willem Sterk were awarded medals for their contributions to conservation.
The event took place at the Letaba Camp in the Kruger National Park and kicked off with a seminar on 'Management effectiveness and the ranger: Building Capacity" on Thursday February 17. Various speakers enlightened the delegates who adopted a formal resolution at the AGM in this regard.
The approximately 60 delegates resolved that they are concerned with the effectiveness of Protected Area management in Africa. They noted that international conventions and agreements require that appropriate protected area management systems are implemented and their effectiveness be assessed and reported on.
In this regard the GRAA "recommend that conservation authorities:
- Allocate adequate resources to institute appropriate protected area management systems and appropriate management effectiveness assessments in support of international conventions and national conservation legislation
- Together with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas develop an appropriate set of indicators and standards against which they will be evaluated, and third party implementation of assessments against appropriate indicators and standards
- Comply with Goal 1.4 of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to 'Ensure that protected areas are effectively managed or supervised through staff that are well trained and skilled, properly and appropriately equipped, and supported, to carry out their fundamental role in the management and conservation of protected areas.
To this end the GRAA, as active members of the IUCN and International Ranger's Federation, offers its expertise to implement these recommendations." FIELD TRIP TO MOZAMBIQUE A field trip the following day to Massingir in Mozambique, entering from the Kruger National Park, proved an eye opener for the delegates.
On the international front one of the highlights was the attendance of the GRAA at the IUCN World Congress in Bangkok in November. For the first time, the GRAA, as one of the 1063 IUCN members, used its voting powers. Snow, representing the GRAA, also used the opportunity to increase awareness of the organisation's Protection of the Protectors and Green Helmets programmes. "In order to grow the GRAA we need remain committed and I encourage you all to remain involved," said Snow in conclusion. He added: "My thanks go out to all Africa committee members for their continued work and support. Without this the Association cannot go forward."