This year the Southern African Wildlife College was privileged to welcome Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta from the Simalaha Community Conservancy in Zambia to the graduation of its protected area management students at the higher education and training level.
In addressing the students, Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta said: "Fifty percent of Africa's protected areas fall within transfrontier conservation areas.This is no coincidence, as it reflects the concerted efforts of governments, NGO's, communities, conservation agencies and protected area managers to conserving our natural heritage. The rest of the world is losing land to mining, agriculture, forestry and the like whilst Africa is growing its natural areas."
"The 51 graduates are testimony to these efforts. The future of conservation is in good hands. The skills mastered at the Southern African Wildlife College places these students, who hail from nine different countries including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in a very advantageous position, as they have been equipped to manage the challenges that lie ahead," he added.
This marked the 16th year that the college has been offering its flagship protected area management programmes designed to help achieve long-lasting conservation results across the region. In implementing a collaborative approach to conservation and community-based natural resource management and resource ownership, the natural and cultural heritage of the region can be conserved.
"We need to help mitigate the link between natural resource destruction and poverty amongst rural communities," said Annelize Steyn, head of academics affairs at the college. "The college is actively involved in empowering protected area managers, not only with the necessary conservation skills, but also with the ability to engage various stakeholders so that long-term solutions can be found to ensure the biodiversity of the region. The graduates are poised to play an active role in the management and protection of Africa's parks and wildlife. Their enthusiasm and dedication is infectious and gives one real hope for the future of conservation," she said.
During the graduation ceremony, six students were recognised for their outstanding achievements during the year.The Rosie Sturgis Award for the Most Improved Student went to Manei Bernard Penane - Ministry of Tourism in Lesotho, the WWF South Africa Award for the Most Outstanding South African Student was awarded to Khumoetsile Phala - North West Parks and Tourism Board (summa cum laude), the Hans Hoheisen Award for the Best Protected Area Management Student went to Mable Shibata - Zambian Wildlife Authority (summa cum laude), Best Animal Studies student was awarded to Thomas Bwalya - Zambia Wildlife Authority and Simba Sandram from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (summa cum laude) was awarded the trophy for the Best Financial Management student.
The two top awards sponsored by the Distell Foundation for the Best Student – Higher Certificate in Nature Conservation and Leadership and the Advanced Certificate in Transfrontier Conservation Management went to Caroline Katsande - Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (summa cum laude) and Khumoetsile Phala – North West Parks and Tourism Board (summa cum laude) respectively.
In addition, and amidst much excitement, three students from the Higher Certificate course were awarded scholarships made available by the Southern African Wildlife College Trust to continue their studies at the Wildlife College in 2014. The scholarship recipients included Caroline Katsande and Alice Chatikobo both from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management and Thomas Bwalya from the Zambian Wildlife Authority. Between them, the students achieved 29 distinctions.
Theresa Sowry, CEO of the Wildlife College, said that apart from the higher education and training students who graduated, over 2 000 students were trained at the college over the past year. As such, the college has demonstrated its potential to identify conservation training needs across the region and to respond accordingly.