Conservation Champions win Kudus

The Kruger National Park's (KNP) Nxanatseni South regional ranger, Louis Olivier, has been honoured with the lifetime service award at the fourth annual SANParks Kudu awards. A five-minute standing ovation spoke of the audience's appreciation for "Oom Louis" and his dedication towards the KNP over the last 39 years.

SANParks staff and other stakeholders celebrated a gala event of recognition and reward at Utopia Place in Pretoria in June 26, 2008. Lukimbi Safari Lodge, based in the Kruger National Park, received the business partner of the year award for "showing consistent business growth which contributes positively to the partnership with SANParks as the Public Private Partnership Fee is the deciding criteria for determining the ideal partner," according to the organisers of the event.

PC Ferreira was honoured for his contribution to conservation. Having realised the loss suffered generations ago to the area he lives in, PC re-introduced hippo to the Seekoei River in the Northern Cape. "This farm owner in Hanover in the Karoo, has taken personal initiative and incurred costs and energy to bring hippopotamus back to a place it had not been seen in for over 230 years.

The project involved declaring the Karoo Gariep Conservancy and applying for hippo permits and fencing directives and working to develop the 12 000 hectare area around a section of the Seekoei River into an approved environment for the hippo." Through many setbacks, PC persevered and in 2006 received the first two hippos from the Damage Causing Animal Forum. S u e Downi e and Lucky Mavradonis, with more than 30 years of voluntary involvement in conservation, were the winners of the corporate contribution to conservation award.

These pharmacists have dedicated themselves to the cause of the black rhino. They have raised funds for various projects involving South Africa's national parks. The most publicised effort, televised by 50/50, was the translocation of the black rhino cow, Shibula, from Lisbon Zoo in Portugal to Augrabies Falls National Park, for which the transportation costs were raised by Sue and Lucky from the David Shepard Wildlife Foundation.

They have also raised funds for land purchases to expand Augrabies Falls National Park and Mountain Zebra National Park. Aside from their financial contributions, Sue and Lucky have been personally involved in monitoring black rhino, which started with their monitoring of Shibula. Now, seven years later, they monitor black rhino across the national Conservation champions win Kudus parks and have just completed their 70th monitoring trip.

A summary of their monitoring expeditions has been published in the 2007 of "Focus on Rhino". Ruth Hlahu and NA Moloto from the Piet N Aphane Secondary School were joint recipients of the environmental education / capacity building by an individual award. They were recognised for "for vision beyond the regular school syllabus and for getting everyone's hands involved in the quest for environmental protection and education, as well as providing opportunities for community members."

"They involved staff, children and parents in projects like cultivating food gardens, planting and pruning trees, cleaning up community areas like taxi ranks and coupled this with an educational element so that all may understand why these projects are important." Ruth has been doing this since 1998, often at personal cost, while Moloto has been instrumental in facilitating these projects at both school and community level.

The environmental education / capacity building contribution by a group was won by the Conservation Leader Group. This group has established various community-based education programmes, which also helps aspiring conservationists from prevously disadvantaged communities in their tertiary nature conservation studies and with internship programmes for senior conservation students in order to cultivate practical skills and work ethics.

It also runs rural-based training programmes to train students in tracking and field guiding and the Rural Eco-Warriors programme which involves members of local communities who engage their community members in the interest of conservation. The Gauteng Conservancy Association (GCA) scooped honours in the community contribution by a group category. In the last five years, the association has provided communities in Gauteng with knowledge and support required to protect and restore their respective environments. It represents 60 community-driven conservancies of varying sizes.

These conservancies encompass rural and urban areas, informal settlements, industrial areas and schools and hospitals too. One of their most notable projects is the Bullfrog Pan Conservancy.

Media Awards

This year the media awards went to John Yield, best journalist, and Ocean Messengers, best publication, programme or website. John is a seasoned journalist who has shown consistency in his coverage of environmental and conservation issues especially related to South African National Parks.

He is a senior journalist at the Cape Argus of the Independent Group of Newspapers. He has won numerous awards for his environmental journalism including environmental journalist of the year, which he won three times. John has published "Mountains in the Sea: An interpretive guide to Table Mountain National Park" for SANParks and has most recently written news reports on various issues including the ban of recreational fishing in the sea around Tsitsikamma National Park and the restoration of indigenous plants at Tokai and Cecillia Forest.

Ocean Messengers highlights the plight of the marine ecosystem and what this translates to for future growth of the country and its ecology. It was filmed in the waters of Algoa Bay known as Ocean Messengers. While this film reveals the ecological treasures hidden in the waters of Algoa Bay, it also highlights the negative impacts which the proposed industrial development will have on the natural environment, the profitability of industry, job sustainability and the tourist industry in the area.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari