Calling all heroes of the rhino anti-poaching battle

Lifestyle

Calling all heroes of the rhino anti-poaching battle

Entries open for the Rhino Conservation Awards, to be presided over by patron Prince Albert of Monaco

Claire Keeton

A Tinder dating account was not enough to get the last male northern white rhino, known as Sudan, to mate before he died in March, leaving behind two surviving females with no breeding partner. But every day the heroes of the anti-poaching movement in Africa risk their lives to stop the extinction of rhinos like him and, in August, the Rhino Conservation Awards will celebrate their dedication.
More than 7,000 rhinos have been killed through poaching in Africa since 2008 and rangers (one of the five awards categories) are directly in the firing line. More than 500 rhinos were poached from the Kruger National Park last year.But last Tuesday the Hawks, in co-operation with SANParks, announced a breakthrough against a criminal syndicate poaching rhino in South Africa. Colonel Johan Jooste said they  had arrested two alleged kingpins in the smuggling of rhino horn from Kruger via Gauteng to Southeast Asia.
The increasing demand for rhino horn, mostly in Asia, poses the gravest threat to rhinos according to the World Wildlife Fund-SA.
“Although international trade in rhino horn has been banned under Cites since 1977, demand remains high and fuels rhino poaching in both Africa and Asia,” the organisation warns. Habitat loss is another major threat to their survival.
The Rhino Conservation Awards are held annually in collaboration with the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and the Game Rangers Association of Africa. The Prince of Monaco, the patron, attends the ceremony.Andrew Campbell, of the Game Rangers Association of Africa, said: “Often facing physical danger, political opposition and severe financial constraints, this selfless group of conservationists continue to work to save our natural heritage.”
The winner of the Best Rhino Conservation Supporter award in 2017 is the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) Wildlife in Trade Programme team led by Adam Pires. They train enforcement agencies and passed on specialised skills to more than 1,000 officials in the past year.
The runner-up in that category was Richard Mabango, who educates rural communities about the “cultural significance of rhinos to the Zulu society” and promoted The Rhino Art: Let the Voices be Heard campaign.The efforts that men and women have made to protect rhinos in the 12 months, starting in July 2017, will be eligible for the awards this year. Larry Hansen and Xiaoyang Yu  founded the awards with the support of Zeiss and China New Enterprises Inc.
The five categories in which people or organisations can win are:
1) Best Field Ranger
This must be an employed field ranger who works daily in the field of active rhino protection and risks personal safety and comfort to do so.
2) Best Conservation Practitioner
This must be a person, team or entity working full-time in the conservation field and combating rhino poaching through excellence in protected area management, intelligence gathering, strategic counter poaching operations etc.3) Best Political, Investigative and Judicial Support
This must be a person, team or entity that plays a significant role in the political, investigative or judicial arenas and whose actions resulted in supporting the conservation of rhino in Africa. This includes law enforcement agencies, units and personnel.
4) Best Rhino Conservation Supporter
This must be a person, team or entity that plays a significant role in supporting the conservation of rhino. Supporters can lend support from any field that includes but is not limited to the scientific, awareness, education or funding spheres.
5) Special Award for Endangered Species Conservation
This must be a person, team or entity working full-time in the field to combat poaching of other endangered species through in-field protection, protected area management, intelligence gathering, strategic counter-poaching operations etc. This includes field rangers and conservation practitioners.
The nomination form is on www.rhinoconservationawards.org and nominations close on June 24. Shortlisted nominees will be contacted in writing, said spokesperson Jenny Griesel. For details contact: jenny@jennygriesel.co.za

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