iSimangaliso commends excellence in all fields

2 Oct 2016

The contributions of a number of individuals towards conservation, science and sustainable business opportunities, all of which align with iSimangaliso’s core mandates, have been recognised in a variety of accolades and awards in recent weeks.

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Last week’s provincial Lilizela Tourism Awards recognised two of iSimangaliso’s Rural Enterprise Accelerator Programme entrepreneurs for excellence in their eco-tourism business ventures. (Above left) Induna Phillip Mkhwanazi’s Veyane Cultural Village and Accommodation near St Lucia won the award for best tourism operator in “Culture and Roots”. Local tourism entrepreneur and freelance guide Xolani Theo Gina (above right, third from left) received first place in the “Nature Guide” category as well as second runner up in the category “Cultural Tours” for his growing business, Theo Tours. iSimangaliso Board Chair Buyani Zwane congratulated the two winners saying that they were a “great example of sustainable entrepreneurial tourism business models moving from the periphery to the core”. He also congratulated the St Lucia Wetlands Guest House who won the category of ‘Service Excellence – Accommodation’, and licensed Park operators ‘Heritage Tours and Safaris’ and ‘Shoreline Hippo Cruises and Turtle Tours’, both of whom were finalists in the category ‘Visitor experience – Wildlife’.

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(Above centre) iSimangaliso-based Dr Dave Cooper is Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Chief Veterinarian, who for over two decades has been the sole vet responsible for the animal health and welfare within the province’s protected areas, of which iSimangaliso is the largest and most biodiverse. His dedication was recognised at this year’s national Rhino Conservation Awards where he received the award for “Best Science, Research and Technology”. The judges based their decision on the fact that “Dr Cooper and his team are called on to respond to each poaching incident, attending to injured and orphaned rhino and processing fresh crime scenes, completing forensic reports and collecting DNA samples. Dr Cooper is regarded as one of the leading experts in rhino immobilisation, capture and transport and has been involved in the ‘Rhino without Borders’ project which plans to translocate as many as 100 rhino to Botswana. He has also been involved in the relocation of over 150 black rhino to nine different localities as part of the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion project.”

On 17 September, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa announced a list of 90 Lifetime Conservation Achiever Awards which included a number of individuals who have shown significant commitment and involvement in the fight to save Lake St Lucia and the subsequent evolution of iSimangaliso as a World Heritage Site. These include: Jean Senogles, Keith Cooper, Tony Carnie, Paul Dutton, George Hughes, Di Dold, Andrew Zaloumis, Mavuso Msimang, and Steve Raney.

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(Above right) St Lucia resident, Dennis King’s vast knowledge and contribution to science has resulted in three accolades in 2016: He was invited to become an Honorary Research Associate of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB); recognised as a VIP contributor to the South African underwater magazine SUBMERGE; and he has been invited to be a ‘SAAMBR Legend’ through the “vital role he has played in the South African Association for Marine Biological Research”.

Dennis King describes himself as a ‘citizen scientist’. As an avid scuba diver from the age of 14 as well as a keen underwater photographer, Dennis has risen to become one of the most knowledgeable and experienced divers and fish identification experts in South Africa today. He has authored and co-written numerous papers and books on fish identification, and together with his diving partner, discovered at least two hitherto unknown species and documented many new fish distributional records. In 1984, he discovered a new species of Angelfish off Durban, named Tiger Angel, Aplolemichthys kingi. He and fellow diver Mike Fraser also discovered new species of Goatfish off Southern KZN in 2009, named Frasers Goatfish, Parupeneus fraserorum. A couple more unknown species are ‘still in the melting pot’ awaiting confirmation as undescribed.

Since January 2009 Dennis and his team of citizen scientist divers have been monitoring the succession of marine life on the two ‘DAR’ barges sunk near Cape Vidal to create artificial reefs. This research has made an important contribution to science in South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. A total of 100 individual dives have been completed to date, with hundreds of photographs taken. Three hundred and twenty nine different fish species have been recorded on the two barges, including one new fish species known to science, named yellowtail blenny (Cirripectes heemstorum).

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iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis (left) and Phinda Conservaton Manager Simon Naylor (right) received Ingwazi ‘Legend’ awards.

And last but not least, at the annual Land of Legends Association’s Ingwazi Awards held last weekend, iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis was one of two conservationists recognised as a ‘Legend’ who has contributed significantly to the upliftment and promotion of KwaZulu-Natal. The other recipient was Simon Naylor, Conservation Manager at andBeyond’s Phinda Private Game Reserve.

Said Andrew Zaloumis: “A public acknowledgement of this nature is more about the ability it has to promote sustainable conservation – and in turn generate support for conservation – and less about the person who receives it. That’s what makes it meaningful – because we need to do everything we can to make sure that the framework for conservation with people for people going into the future is robust. A huge part of this is replacing dependency with entrepreneurship and tangible economic opportunities for iSimangaliso’s local communities to ignite a virtuous cycle of economic growth. With Phinda sharing a fence with iSimangaliso, Simon’s work has achieved significant success for conservation and importantly, has engendered support from local communities. As a valued neighbour to iSimangaliso, this collaboration with andBeyond is important to the Park’s future. In the same vein, we recognise the efforts of another conservation organisation, Wilderness Safaris who operate the Rocktail Beach Camp in the Coastal Forest section of the Park.”

Buyani Zwane, said: “These are just some of the many stories of excellence associated with iSimangaliso and protected areas in general. As a leader in the new era of conservation, the Park applauds those who continue to excel, forge new paths and find innovative solutions and economic opportunities.”

Media enquiries should be directed to Bronwyn Coppola +27 83 450 9111 or bronwyn@abetterworld.co.za.