A solar-powered 'Meerkat' is protecting South Africa's rhinos
17 February 2020
The Peace Parks dream attracts visionaries from all walks of life, from Presidents, traditional leaders and policy-makers across the world, to individuals who share our passion and dedication to securing a harmonious future for man and nature. As Nelson Mandela, one of our founding patrons said, “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, and no ideology which does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all. In a world beset by conflict and division, peace is one of the cornerstones of the future. Peace parks are building blocks in this process, not only in our region but potentially the entire world.”
One such entity that shares in our dream is Duke Gin, a family-owned distillery based in South Africa’s Hazyview, a town known for its proximity to incredible wildlife reserves and a community deeply devoted to nature conservation.
In 2002, the Van Heerden family decided to exchange city living for a life in the countryside and became the proud owners of Summerfields Estate. Andre, Ilse, their children and an entourage of dogs arrived at their new home to begin creating what they envisioned the estate could be. This was no small undertaking as, much in the same manner Peace Parks crews tackle the development of conservation areas, roads had to be built and natural wilderness areas rehabilitated. They also established orchards, one of which produces the litchis now used to make Duke Gin.
In September 2017, when Andre and Ilse started contemplating their gin production endeavour, the Duke of Summerfields, a quizzical-looking Hungarian Viszla joined the Summerfields tribe. He had a front-row seat to what the family remembers as ‘the all-consuming experimental phase’. Throughout trial and error, every trip to the distillery and the long, slow hours of waiting, Duke’s expectant demeanour and energy kept spirits high, while his questioning frowns translated into ‘just one more attempt at a slightly varied recipe’. It was in tribute to this that they decided to name their craft gin after their beloved pet.
Duke Gin quickly became a respected member of the craft gin community and the team wanted to give thanks for their success by donating to conservation efforts. “Kruger National Park is our neighbour and with the current surge in wildlife crime we wanted to offer our help. We felt that if we wanted to help preserve Kruger and its inhabitants, we had to assist in safeguarding the border that is currently an entry point for poachers and smugglers,” says Andre van Heerden.
“At Summerfields the animals are like family so we wanted to support a cause that also heroes the dog and its amazing abilities as man’s best friend and protector of other animals,” says Cecilia Steenberg, Duke Gin Brand Manager.
To strengthen wildlife protection efforts in Limpopo National Park, Mozambique’s National Administration of Conservation Areas in partnership with Peace Parks and supported by the Dyck Advisory Group, deployed the park’s first canine unit in July 2019. Tracker dog Fury and his handler have become valued members of the security team by contributing to successful security operations. “Dogs are proven to be one of the most effective force-multipliers in anti-poaching operations. They have made international headlines with their successes and there is no doubt that when they are deployed in an area, illegal poaching activities are reduced. A canine unit is invaluable when trying to secure a park that is over a million square hectares with limited resources.” Says Peace Parks’ Senior Project Manager, Antony Alexander.
“As Limpopo National Park is also one of Kruger’s neighbours, supporting the park’s canine unit was the perfect fit for us to give back to our community. Proudly displaying a ‘in support of Peace Parks Foundation’ label, a percentage of the profit made on each bottle of Duke Gin sold goes to the Limpopo National Park dog unit in aid of Fury and his team mates,” says Cecilia.
“It is amazing how a family pet in South Africa has become the inspiration to support a tracker dog in Mozambique to help secure the future of wildlife in southern Africa, each contributing in their unique way,” says Kathy Bergs, Peace Parks’ Chief Development Officer. “Over the years we have seen support partnerships form in the most unlikely of places; some between global brands and African chiefdoms, and some between smaller, passionate organisations and national parks, as seen in the friendship with Duke Gin. ”
As the fund development team, we invite anyone who feels inspired by the work we do to join our efforts – there really is no limit to what we can achieve when we all work together.