Rangers and conservation workers are under the gun as Covid-19 cuts funding and poachers up the ante, but their passion and dedication for work is definitely worth celebrating. Fred Kockott reports
Africa (31 July 2020) – Winners of Africa’s prestigious 2020 Rhino Conservation Awards are to be announced today (July 31).
Coinciding with World Ranger Day, the awards honour people and organisations who work constantly to reduce the threats and increase the sustainability of conservation efforts in Africa.
Initially scheduled for a glitzy ceremony at Montecasino in Gauteng, South Africa, on July 3, Covid-19 lockdown disrupted these plans. The awards will instead be announced tomorrow as part of commemorations to mark World Rangers Day.
Click here to read profiles of the 12 shortlisted finalists.
This year’s awards follow an increasing number of attacks on rangers across the continent by armed gangs working with poaching syndicates. This has included the deadliest militia attack in the Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April. It claimed the lives of 12 rangers and five other people.
The awards also come as the global economic crisis brought on by the Coronavirus has deprived countries and conservation efforts of vital wildlife tourism revenue, especially from parks and lodges. This has added to the importance of paying tribute to the courage of those working to ensure the survival of endangered species, said the patron of the awards, Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Chris Galliers, president of the International Ranger Federation, said: “Conditions out there are already tough, and now even more so given the drastic critical resource shortages conservation agencies now face.”
Andrew Venter, head of the South African chapter of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership, and Francois du Toit, chief executive of the African Conservation Trust agreed.
“There’s no tourism activity happening at the moment at all. That income flow has dried up for all the destinations and communities and conservation work associated with them,” said Venter.
Initiatives such as Africa’s Rhino Conservation Awards helped strengthen the resolve of individuals who deserved worldwide recognition, said Du Toit.
Among the judges is Dr Larry Hansen who initiated the Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in India in 2000 to recognise Tiger conservation heroes.
Following a visit to South Africa’s Kruger Park, Hansen joined Xiaoyang Yu of the Chinese New Enterprise Development to found Africa’s Rhino Conservation Awards in 2011. This was in collaboration with the Game Rangers Association of Africa.
Supported by South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, and sponsored by Zeiss and Chinese New Enterprise I|nvestment (CNEI), the awards not only acknowledge the work of game rangers and fieldworkers but pay tribute to other “wilderness warriors” working to conserve endangered species.
”Every day, hundreds of creatures on the planet become extinct due to environmental damage, loss of habitat, poaching and other human activities. Countering this, required tireless work of people dedicated to ending this tsunami of destruction,” said Hansen.
Last year’s winners included Amos Gwema for his work in combating wildlife crime in Zimbabwe, (Endangered Species Conservation Award); Rhino 911 for their work supporting rhino conservation in the North West province of South Africa (Rhino Conservation Supporter Award); and Markus Hofmeyer for his work on the Rhino Without Borders initiative in Botswana).
The Best Field Ranger Award was shared by Lance Corporal Samuel Ndlovu from the Kruger National Park and Senior Sergeant Nderu Loormuyeni of Chyulu Hills in Kenya. The SANParks Environmental Crime Investigators took the top prize in the investigative category.
This year, the Rhino Conservation Awards include the following categories: Best Field Ranger, Best Game Ranger, Best Conservation Practitioner and Best Conservation Supporter.
The shortlisted finalists are:
- Julius Kaputo – Working in the Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia for Conservation Lower Zambezi
- Losas Lenamunyi – Working in the Sera Community Conservancy, Kenya for the Northern Rangelands Trust.
- Samuel Loware – Working in the Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda for the Uganda Wildlife Authority
- Albert Smith – Working in the Kruger National Park, South Africa as Malelane Section Ranger for SANParks.
- Benson Kanyembo – Working in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia as Law Enforcement Advisor for Conservation South Luangwa.
- Don English – Working in the Kruger National Park, South Africa as Marula South/Intensive Protection Zone Regional Ranger for SANParks.
- Eastern Cape DEDEAT Green Scorpions – Working as Environmental Management Inspectors in Eastern Cape, South Africa for the Department Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
- Marula South (IPZ) Rangers – Working as a ranger team in the Kruger National Park, South Africa in the Marula South Region/Intensive Protection Zone for SANParks.
- SANParks KNP Airwing – Working as pilots in the Kruger National Park, South Africa for SANParks
- Lynne Taylor – Director of ‘The Tashinga Initiative Trust’, Zimbabwe supporting rangers and their work in the entire Zambezi Valley region
- SANParks E&CI – The Environmental Crime and Corporate Investigations (E&CI) Unit of SANParks focus on the investigation and apprehension of organized crime syndicates across South Africa
- WWF-SA Wildlife Programme – A WWF-SA initiative working in Southern Africa and beyond to conserve rhinos and other endangered wildlife.
The winners in each category will be announced at noon tomorrow. This year, the Rhino Conservation Awards will also be sponsoring over 250 rangers with Ranger Protect insurance cover.
“This policy provides rangers with the necessary protection they need to comfortably and confidently perform their duties in the field and ensures the well-being of Africa’s rangers and their families is improved through the provision of adequate insurance cover in the event of injury or death.” – Andrew Campbell, CEO of the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa.