A SUCCESSFUL EVENING HONOURING MODERN DAY HEROES
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”- Joseph Campbell
The rhino is not only an iconic animal for its strength and majestic beauty, but also as an intrinsic part of Africa’s wildlife story. These animals are integral to the heritage of Africa. This is evident in the concerted efforts of various individuals and organisations who have dedicated their lives, operations and missions towards conserving these beautiful creatures.
Despite the ongoing assault on rhino populations across Africa, conservation efforts have yielded some success. In 2018, the national poaching figures in South Africa showed a 25% decrease in rhino poaching year-on-year. According to Andrew Campbell, the Chief Executive Officer of the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA) since the early 1990s White Rhino numbers having almost tripled and Black Rhino numbers having almost doubled in Africa.
Such successes are not easily achieved: they require sacrifice, dedication and hard work. “These conservation efforts, undertaken by individuals and organisations, need to be recognised,” continued Campbell. Award ceremonies such as the Rhino Conservation Awards Gala Dinner, which was held on 21 July 2019 at Montecasino in Johannesburg, aim to do just that. Honouring these modern-day heroes not only gives recognition where it is due, but also helps to encourage and motivate further conservation efforts.
The Rhino Conservation Awards were founded by Dr Larry Hansen and Miss Xiaoyang Yu in 2011 and have been hosted annually in collaboration with the DEA and the GRAA. The 2019 Awards Ceremony, sponsored by ZEISS and China New Enterprises Inc., was well attended and supported. The award finalists were joined at the event by high-level dignitaries such as the Awards patron His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, South African government officials, foreign diplomats, media, sponsors, and other significant NGOs supporting rhino conservation.
The winners, selected by evaluation of the work done over the last 12 months starting in July 2018, were announced as follows:
Field Ranger Award: First place was a tie between Lance Corporal Samuel Ndlovu from the Kruger National Park and Senior Sergeant Nderu Loormuyeni from Chyulu Hills in Kenya. Second Place went to Francis Mpigwa from Uganda.
Conservation Practitioner Award: First place went to Markus Hofmeyer for his work on the Rhino Without Borders initiative in Botswana, second place went to the Southern African Wildlife College K9 Unit and third place was awarded to Endri Steyn from the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve.
Rhino Conservation Supporter Award: First place was awarded to Rhino 911 for their work supporting rhino conservation in the North West Province, second place to Nicholas Duncan from Save the African Rhino Foundation and third place went to SANParks Project Embrace.
Political/ Judicial/ Investigative Support Award: First place was awarded to SANParks Environmental Crime Investigators (ECI) for fighting against organised wildlife crime in South Africa, second place to the investigative rhino poaching documentary, Stroop, and third place went to the Honorable L.O Mabuyane, the Premier of the Eastern Cape Province.
Endangered Species Award: First place was awarded to Amos Gwema for his work combating wildlife crime in Zimbabwe, second place went to the Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST) in Namibia and third place to Craig Reid from Liwonde National Park in Malawi.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to recognise just some of the men and women across Africa who are making a positive difference in the conservation of endangered species,” concludes Campbell. “With such dedicated people involved in conservation we look forward to more progress in the year ahead.”