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Apr 28, 2016

iSimangaliso News Flash By African Travel Solutions

iSimangaliso joins National Environmental Monitors programme
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park recently welcomed thirty young men and women into its conservation ranks as Environmental Monitors (EMs). Deployed throughout the World Heritage Site at key field ranger stations, this injection of more feet on the ground adds to the Park’s thin green line of protection and law enforcement.

iSimangaliso’s Environmental Monitors were among those visited during their field ranger training at the Southern African Wildlife College by HRH Prince Harry when the British royal undertook a personal fact-finding mission on the state of rhino poaching in Southern Africa last year.

The initiative is being implemented by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Their Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme has deployed 1 659 EMs – 612 of whom are women – throughout the country since its inception in 2013. Monitors are trained as armed or unarmed field rangers mostly through the Southern African Wildlife College in Hoedspruit, Limpopo. Further training, mostly non-accredited, is provided by various host institutions both in the public and private sector.

One of iSimangaliso’s new Environmental Monitors, Thembelihle Mkhwanazi, is flanked by her mentors (left) Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Field Ranger: Mfabeni, Clive Khanyile and (right) Acting Sergeant: Mfabeni, Michael Nyandeni.

Key objectives of the DEA programme are:
• Provision of additional support for conservation corps through patrolling and monitoring.
• Provision of capacity to conservation communities to enhance their mandate for biodiversity and ecosystems services.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Deputy Director: National Programmes, Pitso Mojapelo, reports show that through the deployment of EMs, rhino poaching has decreased by an estimated 50% in private host institutions. The efforts of the Environmental Monitors have been recognised and appreciated nationally and internationally.
The programme won the Expanded Public Works Programme Kamoso Award for Best National Programme in 2014, and won two awards in 2015 – the King of Monaco Best Conservation Programme as well as the United Nations Environment Programme – Champions of the Earth Award.
Dr Guy Preston, Deputy Director-General: Environmental Programmes at the Department of Environmental Affairs, says, “This programme integrates many of the issues that Minister Edna Molewa has tasked us to do. The Environmental Monitors programme combines the need for the protection of our biodiversity in general (acknowledging the very strong focus on combatting the poaching of black and white rhinos) with the need for employment and empowerment in rural communities. Furthermore, the EMs are the eyes and minds that can help to address multiple threats to the environment, including invasive alien species, wetland degradation, unwanted wild fires, soil erosion, path degradation, dangers posed by fencing breaches, and other impacts. They are also ambassadors for the real value of conserving and optimising jewels like the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This partnership, where the iSimangaliso Authority has provided the management, training and equipping of the EMs, is a significant strengthening of the value of conservation.”
Applicants hoping to join iSimangaliso’s environmental monitor intake were put through strenuous physical tests to ensure that they had the required fitness levels and stamina to undertake work in the field under extreme weather conditions. iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis says, “An additional thirty pairs of boots on the ground working with seasoned Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife field rangers has significantly bolstered the protection of iSimangaliso’s rare and endangered species. Our trainee cadets are a valuable asset and we appreciate being part of the Department of Environmental Affairs Programme.”
In iSimangaliso’s EM’s words:
Thembelihle Ethel Mkhwanazi, EM based at Mission Rocks on the Eastern Shores
“We EMs are given a chance by iSimangaliso to protect rhinos on a daily basis especially as they are at risk of getting poached. This has been a wonderful opportunity especially for people of our background and the different communities we come from. I always had a love of nature but working as an Environmental Monitor has allowed me more insight and taught me a lot more about nature.”
Nolithi Shabalala, EM based in the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso
“The opportunity to be an Environmental Monitor has taught me so much about loving and protecting animals.” Initially she didn’t see herself being deep in the field of nature as she had been a photographer for licensed iSimangaliso operator Advantage Tours. “Getting this job has made a big difference to me; having that financial security and knowing there is money coming at the end of the month. And I enjoy the different experiences I have each day. I definitely see this as a career”.
Induna Nkosinathi Khumalo, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Field Ranger at Mission Rocks
Khumalo says the arrival of EMs has assisted them greatly as EKZNW had been understaffed in the field. He said most of the EMs are very dedicated and eager to learn from the ‘seasoned’ staff, saying even when they are out in the field they do not appear as new people in their jobs because of their hard work and dedication.
For Park information, visit www.isimangaliso.com, contact info@isimangaliso.com or call 035 590 1633. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, or visit our website at www.isimangaliso.com.
Media enquiries should be directed to Siyabonga Mhlongo at siyabonga@isimangaliso.com or 084 382 0884.
Category: Blog
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