The Rhino Conservation Awards 2014 were held on the 31st of July 2014, at the Montecasino Ballroom, Fourways, coinciding with the celebration of World Ranger Day as proclaimed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The annual Rhino Conservation Awards were first held in 2012, having been founded by Dr Larry Hansen, in an effort to create awareness of rhino conservation issues while recognising exceptional individuals and organisations for their efforts in protecting Africa’s rhino population. The Awards are held in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa and the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA) – a non-profit organisation with a membership of over 1 500 across Africa, many of whom are rangers active in anti-poaching activities.
In 2014, the stature of the Awards was confirmed as His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco accepted the position of Patron of the Rhino Conservation Initiative and the Rhino Conservation Awards. HSH Prince Albert is committed to the protection of species dangerously close to extinction, through the support of his foundation to various preservation projects. It is hoped that this patronage will encourage international publicity and lead to the reduction of rhino poaching. Barclays Africa Group Ltd also joined as co-sponsor along with the existing sponsor, Ms Xiaoyang Yu, Founder Partner of China New Enterprise Investment (CNEI), a China focused growth capital fund, and one of the originators of the Awards.
Dr Hansen welcomed guests, gave thanks to all who gave of their time to make the Awards a reality and played a video message from HSH Prince Albert II. The keynote address was given by the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Bomo Edna Molewa, and guests were addressed by a representative from the ABSA/Barclays Africa Group, after which Louis Olivier gave some insights into the life of a ranger. The Awards were attended by members of the DEA, the South African National Parks Board, media, sponsors and organisations and individuals involved in rhino conservation.
This year, nominations were invited from African rhino range states in five categories, namely; Best Field Ranger, Best Conservation Practitioner, Best Political & Judicial Support, Best Science Research & Technology and Best Awareness, Education or Funding. The nomination process was open to anyone to nominate any candidate that they felt was worthy of an award. A large number of nominations were received and the executive committee carefully reviewed all nominations to draw up a shortlist of finalists in each category. A panel of adjudicators then identified the winners in each category, to be honoured at the gala dinner ceremony.
The awards were proudly handed to winners and runners up before dessert was served. The winner in the Best Field Ranger category was Mpho Malongwa, working at Wilderness Safaris Botswana. The runner up was Amos Mzimba while Wilson Siwela was elected as second runner up, both of whom are field ranger sergeants at the Kruger National Park (KNP). In the Best Conservation Practitioner category, the winner was Lawrence Munro from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Second place went to Rob Thomson, section ranger at KNP, while third place went to Jack Greeff, security officer for Ntomeni Ranger Services. The winner of the Best Political and Judicial Support category was Botswana’s President, President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. The runner up was law practitioner, Coert Jordaan, and second runner up was Lovemore Mangwashu of the Lowveld Rhino Trust, Zimbabwe. In the Best Science, Research and Technology category, the winner was Saving the Survivors, Onderstepoort, with Colonel (Rtd) Chris Serfontein from the CSIR coming in second place and wildlife veterinarian, Dr William Fowlds, in third place. The winner of the final category, Best Awareness, Education and Funding was the SANParks Honorary Rangers, Counter Poaching Region. The runner up in this category was the Southern African Wildlife College, while rhino awareness ambassador and African explorer, Kingsley Holgate, was second runner up.
The Rhino Conservation Awards recognise those that are willing to sacrifice of themselves and their resources to ensure that this iconic species is not lost to future generations. With global reach and a platform for appreciation, so much more can be achieved and so many more efforts acknowledged.