22 April 2005
Statement by Dr Anton Rupert, Chairman of Peace Parks Foundation
A wildlife and veterinary research facility of international standing is being created as part of the Hans Hoheisen Research Station adjacent to the Orpen gate of the Kruger National Park, Dr Anton Rupert, Chairman of the Peace Parks Foundation, announced. The facility to the value of more than R30 million will be linked to the Southern African Wildlife College, where conservation managers, game rangers and field guides are already being trained to manage peace parks established in Southern Africa.
Dr Rupert said that Peace Parks Foundation and the Limpopo Province have signed a partnership agreement to conduct research in wildlife diseases at this facility. Some of the world's leading researchers will partner the Foundation in addressing specific wildlife disease issues. "The current bird flu problem that is being experienced in Asia is a reminder to us to be prepared for such problems in Southern Africa" he said.
"Upholding and creating space for the conservation of nature was and will always be one of my key personal priorities, but the challenge for the Peace Parks Foundation in the next decade is to be the leading force behind the training of veterinarians specialising in wildlife diseases," Dr Rupert said.
"We need to study the interaction between wildlife, domestic animals and the communities in our region, and develop a joint policy and contingency plans for the veterinary management of wildlife in our region. Our wildlife is Southern Africa's biggest competitive advantage in tourism," he said. Together with the SA National Parks Board and the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria the following have already been implemented:
- Dr Cobus Raath, an experienced wildlife veterinarian, was appointed by Peace Parks Foundation to assist with the programme. The Foundation also funds an extra veterinarian within Kruger Park.
- Dr Jacques Godfroid, an internationally renowned scientist from Brussels (an expert in Bovine Tuberculosis) was appointed to fill the Alexander Forbes Chair in wildlife diseases at the University of Pretoria.This chair is a partnership between Peace Parks Foundation and the Faculty for Veterinary Science of UP.
- Peace Parks Foundation appointed Dr Louis van Schalkwyk, a veterinarian and researcher with skills in geographic information systems to provide a database on the threats facing Southern Africa as far as wildlife diseases are concerned. This will form the basis for veterinary research and action needed to address the risks. Dr Van Schalkwyk recently assisted government departments regarding the impact of bird flu disease in the country.
Peace Parks Foundation - 22 April 2005