Wildlife fundi shines spotlight on conservation

Dr Markus Hofmeyr, SANParks' head of Veterinary Wildlife Services, who presented a speech at the fundraiser, and Brian Courtenay, chairman of the SATIB Conservation Trust, look back at some of the projects supported by the NPO.

AS outrage over Cecil the lion’s death and the subsequent focus on wildlife conservation has slowly begun to die down, uMhlanga-based NPO, SATIB Conservation Trust, has once again drawn attention to the plight of Africa’s priceless fauna with its first fundraiser.

Fittingly, on World Elephant Day (12 August), the trust managed to collect R243 000 at the elegant auction and benefit dinner held at the Mount Edgecombe Country Club.

The trust, founded in 2013, aims to source funding for various research projects, anti-poaching programmes and community education initiatives that strive to reduce the conflict between humans and wildlife, and ultimately facilitate the conservation of Africa’s animals.

“By working with academic institutions and enabling them to conduct their research, the information can be used to facilitate community education and to include the community in the projects’ efforts. If we don’t encompass the community in either the research or conservation efforts, all of the programmes are dead in the water,” said Brian Courtenay, the chairman of the trust.

Grass roots conservation, that utilises the information learned about the wildlife rather than high-tech measures, has also been supported by the NPO and has proven to be very successful.

“For example, researchers have learned that elephants are very much afraid of African honey bees, as they swarm and can sting them behind their ears, which are extremely sensitive. So beehives are placed on land borders to prevent elephants from crossing into the undesired properties or dangerous locations,” he said.

Courtenay, an uMhlanga resident, said his love of wildlife spawned from his childhood. “My father worked at the Kruger National Park in the 1950s, and I spent many of my holidays immersed in the park’s beauty,” he said.

Amidst the celebrations, he sadly revealed that he and fellow environmentalist and Oxford University’s leader at the Hwange Lion Research Project, Andy Loveridge, were probably two of the last people to touch Cecil before he was hunted and killed last month. Poaching and snaring have reduced the number of lions at the Zimbabwean National Park from 200 000 to 30 000. Anti-poaching scouts from within the community have been hired to protect the lions, alongside the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

On a positive note, Dr Markus Hofmeyr, SANParks’ head of Veterinary Wildlife Services, presented a speech at the fundraiser and said that through breeding programmes they were able to significantly increase the rhino population 8 500. “There is definitely hope. We can save the rhinos. All we need to do is prevent poaching,” he said.

To view more photos of the event please click here.

Related articles:

Cecil’s death highlights struggle to conserve lions

Shout-out for rhinos

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