Peace Parks Foundation supports iSimangaliso Youth Rhino March

16 September 2015

“iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale)” - President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, 2001
President’s Nelson Mandela’s words have inspired the iSimangaliso Authority and a consortium of partners to implement a large-scale community conservation awareness and rhino protection programme with 75 schools and over 11 250 learners from around iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
The broad-based programme specifically targets youth in the protection of rhino and other iconic and endangered species in iSimangaliso and in South Africa. It also enables youngsters to take pride in and ownership of South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, listed in December 1999.

Given the depth and breadth of the initiative, a multi-disciplinary partnership – including the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Kingsley Holgate Foundation, Wildlands, Project Rhino KZN, Wildlife ACT, African Conservation Trust, Peace Parks Foundation and the Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing – was required. Each partner has brought its own strengths and experience, as well as a deep commitment, to stop the scourge of rhino poaching.
The South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa (MP) says: "We have long acknowledged that the fight against rhino poaching cannot be won alone. We are especially proud to partner with iSimangaliso as part of a consortium of environmental organisations rooting an innovative anti-poaching initiative deep in the communities of northern KZN – and, in particular, turning a new generation of learners into conservation ambassadors. It’s only through this combined, community-based effort that we will be able to rid South Africa of this scourge.”

The ‘Rhino Walk’ will take place from 7 September – 2 October 2015. Learners, principals and educators will walk with conservation agencies, NGOs, traditional leadership, land claimant groups and local, provincial and national government, from school to school across the length of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park - which is over 220 km from Maphelane to Kosi Bay. The Walk will provide an opportunity for all these groups to show solidarity for the conservation of rhino and other iconic species within iSimangaliso. It is a challenge to young people here and afar to take up the cause – hopefully spreading to all corners of the earth through the power of social media.
Much like an olympic event, this bold and groundbreaking programme will represent the single biggest such organised youth drive in the country to date, carrying the torch of knowledge from school to school in some of the most remote parts of South Africa.

Says Andrew Zaloumis, CEO of iSimangaliso Wetland Park: “We have an established developmental partnership with these schools. The aim of this environmental awareness and rhino protection intervention is to nurture a generation of wildlife ambassadors and leaders who are committed to all threatened species, big and small – the ecosystem processes, biodiversity, and incredible beauty of the region where we live. We will only achieve long-term success in stopping rhino poaching if we have the support of conservation-minded local communities and, most importantly, the next generation."

Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation, echoed the critical influence that the voice of the younger generation can have in affecting change: “As part of our Rhino Protection Programme, Peace Parks Foundation recently engaged youth from Vietnam in a demand reduction awareness programme. These youngsters returned to their home country with a fervour and determination to transform the behaviour of their communities towards conservation – reminding us again to never underestimate our youth. We are proud to be part of the iSimangaliso programme, which will surely ignite the same passion and resolve in the youth of South Africa.”
A highlight of the Walk includes a celebratory event on World Rhino Day, the 22nd of September, which will turn the spotlight on the youth's commitment to conservation. Learners, educators, community leaders, government and conservation organisations will come together and symbolically join hands as a united front in the fight against poaching.

iSimangaliso’s conservation partner, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s CEO, Dr David Mabunda says: “We are excited to be part of this project as it will compliment Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's enforcement efforts with iSimangaliso and our nearby parks like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi on the ground by building a critical mass of people in the area who believe in conservation.”

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Source: Joint Media Release 2015/9/07: iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, South African Department of Environmental Affairs, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Wildlands, Kingsley Holgate Foundation, Project Rhino KZN, Wildlife ACT, African Conservation Trust, Peace Parks Foundation and the Zululand Anti-Poaching Wing.

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