In a bid to bolster environmental protection and law enforcement, iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal has welcomed 30 new Environmental Monitors into its fold, to be deployed throughout the park at key field ranger stations.
The National Environmental Monitors Programme is a Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) initiative which has seen 1 659 monitors deployed throughout the country since its inception in 2013, Zululand Observer reported.
Monitors are trained as armed or unarmed field rangers at the Southern African Wildlife College in Hoedspruit.
Further, non-accredited training is provided by various host institutions in both the private and public sectors.
Key objectives of the DEA programme include additional conservation support through patrolling and monitoring, and providing capacity to conservation communities to enhance their mandate for biodiversity and ecosystems services.
According to the DEA Deputy Director for National Programmes, Pitso Mojapelo, the deployment of Environmental Monitors has resulted in a 50% decrease in rhino poaching in private host institutions.
The programme won the Expanded Public Works Programme Kamoso Award for Best National Programme in 2014 and won two awards in 2015 – the King of Monaco Best Conservation Programme, and the United Nations Environment Programme Champions of the Earth Award.
“The Environmental Monitors programme combines the need for the protection of our biodiversity in general with the need for employment and empowerment in rural communities,” said Guy Preston, DEA Deputy Director-General for Environmental Programmes.
“An additional 30 pairs of boots on the ground working with seasoned Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife field rangers has significantly bolstered the protection of iSimangaliso’s rare and endangered species.
“Our trainee cadets are a valuable asset and we appreciate being part of the Department of Environmental Affairs Programme,” said iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.
– Caxton News Service