On World Ranger Day, the winners of the prestigious Rhino Conservation Awards were officially announced during an online event to celebrate the people and organisations who work constantly to reduce the threats and increase the sustainability of conservation efforts in Africa, with South Africans amongst the winners.
Prince Albert II of Monaco, Patron of the Rhino Conservation Awards, said: “I’d like to say how deeply grateful I am to all these men and women. And I would also like to say that your work goes beyond the individual animals you protect and save. You are defending the rights of nature faced with humanities destructive and irresponsible greed.”
South African National Parks (SANParks) – which was awarded in the categories of Best Game Ranger, Best Conservation Practitioner and Best Conservation Supporter – said it was excited to congratulate its winners and runners up.
SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said: “We are extremely proud of these dedicated rangers. They are a shining example of the commitment and passion that our staff possess and I am honoured to call them colleagues and friends. Congratulations to Don English, SANParks Kruger National Park (KNP) Airwing, Albert Smith and SANParks Marula South Rangers.”
Every finalist was a deserved winner and the judge’s task was not an enviable one. In a difficult selection, the winners, chosen for the work they have done over the last 12 months, are:
BEST FIELD RANGER
Winner: Samuel Loware of Uganda Wildlife Authority. Because of his effective monitoring and data collection skills, Samuel has made a significant impact on the increase of both giraffe and lion populations in the Kidepo Valley National Park. He is now conducting habitat assessments for the reintroduction of rhino into Kidepo, and other translocations of wildlife to ensure the conservation of these key species.
1st runner up: Julius Kaputo of Conservation Lower Zambezi, Zambia.
2nd runner up: Losas Lanamunyi of Northern Rangelands Trust, Kenya.
BEST GAME RANGER
Winner: Don English of South African National Parks for his outstanding leadership in the Kruger National Park where against all odds, through sheer tenacity and persistence and with the support of his ranger teams, he has managed to lower rhino poaching activities year on year in the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ).
SANParks said that the Marula South Regional Ranger has, against all odds and through sheer tenacity and persistence – along with the support of his ranger teams – managed to lower rhino poaching activities year on year in the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ).
1st runner up: Benson Kanyembo of Conservation South Luangwa, Zambia.
2nd runner up: Albert Smith, Section Ranger of South African National Parks, South Africa.
BEST CONSERVATION PRACTITIONER
Winner: SANParks Kruger National Park Airwing – This dedicated team of committed professionals work tirelessly to support rangers, veterinarians and researchers in protecting, saving, conserving and monitoring endangered species within the Kruger National Park and neighbouring protected areas. These pilots and their support staff are instrumental in many of the counter-poaching successes in the area.
1st runner up: SANParks Marula South (IPZ) Rangers, South Africa.
2nd runner up: Eastern Cape DEDEAT Green Scorpions, South Africa.
BEST CONSERVATION SUPPORTER
Winner: Lynne Taylor – The Tashinga Initiative. Lynne’s targeted initiatives ensuring rangers receive the support necessary to perform optimally have transformed the well-being and operational capabilities of the rangers in the Zambezi Valley. This enables them to function effectively and supports their extraordinary work in conservation and on-going protection of threatened species in Zimbabwe.
1st runner up: SANParks Environmental Crime Investigators, South Africa.
2nd runner up: WWF South Africa – Wildlife Programme, Southern Africa.
Rhino Conservation Awards sponsoring 250 rangers with Ranger Protect Insurance Cover
This year, in an effort to make the rangers of Africa safer, the Rhino Conservation Awards will be sponsoring over 250 rangers with Ranger Protect insurance cover. This vital policy provides rangers with the necessary protection they need to comfortably and confidently perform their duties in the field and ensures the well-being of Africa’s rangers and their families is improved through the provision of adequate insurance cover in the event of injury or death.
The Rhino Conservation Awards are hosted annually in collaboration with the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA) and are made possible with the generous support of sponsors ZEISS and Chinese New Enterprise Investment (CNEI) and are endorsed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
‘What better way to celebrate World Ranger Day than recognising the incredible efforts of these rangers and those who support them,’ said Andrew Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Game Rangers Association of Africa.
Chris Galliers, President of the International Ranger Federation and a judge of the 2020 Awards, added that “this year has seen an incredible list of worthy candidates and having been involved since the inception of the awards, this has been the hardest to adjudicate on so far. Thanks to all those who took the time to write-up the nominations of these special people who deserve recognition as in most cases, they themselves would not have done so as the work that they do is passion driven and for a greater good.”
SANParks Mketeni said: “As International World Ranger Day celebrations come to an end, we salute all our rangers and honour those that have lost their lives fighting to protect our country’s heritage. We appreciate your efforts and thank you. Keep fighting the good fight and know that we stand behind you 100%.”