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Winner of the 2014 Mail & Guardian Skills for Sustainability Award
The Southern African Wildlife College, situated 10 km west of the Orpen Gate of Kruger National Park, opened its doors in 1997. It is proudly supported by WWF South Africa and Peace Parks Foundation, who share the vision of building the capacity of staff in wildlife areas. The programmes presented at the college cover the full spectrum of skills needed to sustain and rehabilitate wildlife areas. The foundation has been sponsoring student bursaries since 1997 and in 2004 took over from WWF South Africa the responsibility of covering any operational shortfalls.
Following the development of a new business plan in 2010, the college has expanded its relevance and reach and created opportunities to ensure its financial sustainability. It has also developed and diversified its training products to cover a broad spectrum of essential skills needed in the conservation sphere. The college now presents courses that will not only develop and open up career opportunities for conservation personnel but will also help to transform the biodiversity economy of the region and open up southern Africa’s existing protected area network and TFCAs.
Following its registration as a Private Further Education and Training (FET) College, the college achieved accreditation as a Private Higher Education and Training (HET) institution. In 2013 the college also entered into a new agreement with Peace Parks Foundation, by which the foundation contributes to the annual costs of the college’s flagship training courses, the Higher Certificate: Nature Conservation – Conservation Implementation and Leadership, and the Advanced Certificate: Nature Conservation – Transfrontier Conservation Management. The foundation also assists with fundraising for conservation projects and serves as a business partner for training initiatives in the TFCAs.
During 2014, the college developed its 2015–2019 business plan, which follows on from its strategy to diversify its training products, establish strategic long-term relationships within the conservation sector and take advantage of business opportunities in the skills development field. In June the college won the prestigious Mail&Guardian Greening the Future Award in the newly established category ‘Skills for Sustainability’. The college was also a runner-up for the 2014 Rhino Conservation Awards in the category Best Awareness, Education and Fundraising for rhino protection and conservation.
Through testing and ensuring best practice for conservation organisations, the college remains abreast of current conservation challenges. In so doing, it has expanded its scope of training, as well as its projects, which in turn ensures skills transfer via applied and work integrated learning.
Combatting wildlife crime
Kruger National Park’s joint protection zone is an area demarcated as a cooperation-based conservation management block with Kruger National Park in the centre, and including all private and community-owned reserves in Mozambique and South Africa that lie adjacent to the park. The headquarters for this zone is based at the college, with the ranger camp, aerial support and canine unit all seen as assets to the zone, while at the same time enhancing training.
The college’s Bathawk microlight aircraft flew almost 600 hours of patrol flights in 2016. The Bathawk, combined with well-trained field rangers and canine units, has had a major effect on curbing poaching incidents in the area. This year, the college added a light Savannah aircraft to its fleet, for more specialised missions and faster response time.
In January, a Reaction Force Ranger course was run as part of the Rhino Protection Programme training contract. Nine Kruger National Park members attended and were qualified in this training intervention. The concern about wildlife crime in the region’s protected areas brought about an increased demand for well-trained rangers, with 826 field rangers trained during 2016.
The use of trained dogs has added to an increase in the arrests of poachers in the area west of Kruger National Park. The college now has a canine anti-poaching training unit, with dog kennels and a full-time professional dog master. The unit presented its first training course for dog handlers, from 9 May—3 June. The course called on participants to be able to deploy, handle and control tracking and patrol dogs. The training was very intensive and the dog master proved his mettle, both as a trainer and mentor. To increase capacity, a kennel hand and a dog handler trainee were also appointed. Toward the latter part of the year, the unit launched two new projects. The first looked at training dogs to detect poison and the second to detect gunshots and then take the handler to where the shot was fired. ‘This will help rangers to reach the crime scene earlier and either apprehend the poachers or allow for a faster follow-up time,’ said Dog Master Johan van Straaten. ‘It will essentially allow the dog handlers to use all the assets of the dog, namely nose, teeth, ears and stamina. All these skills add real value and make the dog team so much more functionally efficient,’ he added.
A project awarded to the college by the South African National Treasury’s Jobs Fund ensured that 255 unemployed youth were trained and placed in permanent employment. The majority of the students completed a National Certificate in Nature Conservation: Resource Guardianship, with 10 of the students, all female, completing the Skills Programme Dangerous Game Site Guide.
Bridging the gap
Aimed at bridging the gap for school leavers from historically disadvantaged communities who want to follow a career in conservation but do not have the necessary credits, tools or funding to do so, the Conservation and Environmental Education programme has become an integral part of the college’s curriculum. For the first time this year, the course was offered to youth from the Southern African Development Community ADC region as an additional programme funded by United for Wildlife through the support of The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It is also supported by Children in the Wilderness.
Dr Bartolomeu Soto, director-general of National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC) in Mozambique, was appointed as chairman of the college board in May. Dr Soto had been a director of the board since the college’s inception and brings a wealth of experience and historical knowledge to the table.
The expansion of the college’s current facilities, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through KfW, progressed well. By the end of the year, nine family houses; four single units; a fully-fledged ranger camp accommodating for up to 200 students; a camp ground; 11 new offices and a boardroom had been added to the college infrastructure. Three new classrooms, built in three different eco-friendly styles are nearing completion.
Leadership and the relationship between humans and nature was the theme for this year’s Higher Education and Training Wildlife Area Management Qualification graduation ceremony. The 43 graduates were honoured for their hard work and commitment to become better natural resource managers. They hailed from the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Southern African Wildlife College Trust
The Southern African Wildlife College Trust was registered in 2000 as the Southern African Conservation Education Trust when WWF-SA saw the need to establish a trust fund in support of the work being done by the Southern African Wildlife College and to promote conservation education across the region. In 2011, the name was changed to the Southern African Wildlife College Trust to better align with the Southern African Wildlife College, its sole beneficiary.
Deserving conservation and wildlife management students at the college qualify for scholarships and bursaries awarded by the trust, which also awards funding to other priority projects at the college. A major objective of the trust is to continue to raise funds to assist the college in perpetuity. The assets of the trust are aligned with the WWF-SA Prescient Living Planet Fund, its objective being long-term capital growth with a high level of sustainability and environmental integrity.
Donors supporting the college
The Southern African Wildlife College would like to thank the following donors currently supporting its work, as well as past donors listed in previous years' Annual Reviews
Aim Training Centre
Bathawk anti-poaching aerial patrol donors
Dallas Safari Club Foundation
Dioraphte Foundation; Distell Foundation
Edgar Droste Trust
First Rand Foundation – Rand Merchant Bank Fund
Friends of African Wildlife and its donors
Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust
Hoedspruit Steel & Cupboards
KfW Phase II
K-9 Anti-Poaching Unit donors
MAVA Fondation pour la Nature
Mr and Mrs Weber (Switzerland)
Mr and Mrs Walhof (Netherlands)
Mrs Fanja Pon/Ms Sommer Johnston (Germany)
MyPlanet Rhino Fund
Nitrogen Advertising & Design
Our Horn is NOT Medicine donors
Peace Parks Foundation
Safari Club International Foundation
Southern African Wildlife College Trust and its donors