Well over 7 000 rhino have been lost to the hands of poachers in Africa in the last decade and the continent continues to lose nearly three rhinos per day. The pressure on those who seek to protect and conserve Africa’s rhino has never been greater. In South Africa, while poaching is down in Kruger National Park, incursions into the Park continue to rise annually. KwaZulu-Natal is experiencing a year on year poaching increase of almost 50 percent, with the iconic Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park being worst hit.
This supports findings by the Department for Environmental Affairs, which released poaching statistics for 2016 in February this year. Although the DEA statistics show a 10.3% decline in rhino poaching (as compared with the previous year), nearly three rhinos are being killed in South Africa every day.
The reality is that the rhino poaching war rages on, and those that offer their lives, their skills, or their support are in it for the long haul. Since 2012, the Rhino Conservation Awards have been held annually, honouring those that put themselves between Africa’s rhinos and those who seek their destruction.
This year, the ceremony will be held on the 21st of August 2017, under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco. The founders of the Awards, Dr Larry Hansen and Miss Xiaoyang Yu look forward to hosting the ceremony, recognising those who are fighting on the frontlines of the rhino poaching war. The Awards are sponsored by ZEISS and are held in collaboration with the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and the Game Rangers Association of Africa.
Nominations are now open, and are invited from all African rhino range states. There are five categories for nomination, for activities occurring between July 2016 and June 2017. “In the past, the youth category was adjudicated separately, but this year we’ll be adjudicating these inspiring youth along with their adult counterparts, in the relevant category,” says Dr Hansen. “Nominations can be made by and/or on behalf of any person or organisation that has played a part in rhino conservation, on any scale.”
The Best Field Ranger division celebrates employed field rangers who work daily in the field of active rhino protection and risk personal safety and comfort to do so.
Best Conservation Practitioner honours a person, team or entity working full-time in the conservation field and fighting rhino poaching through protected area management, intelligence gathering, strategic anti-poaching operation management, and so on.
The Best Political, Investigative and Judicial Support category goes to 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.
Best Rhino Conservation Supporter will go to 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.
The Special Award for Endangered Species Conservation is a new category, and will go to a person, team or entity working full-time in the field to combat poaching of other endangered species, in field protection, protected area management, intelligence gathering, strategic anti-poaching operations management, etc. This includes field rangers and conservation practitioners.
“Our hope is that these Awards will raise awareness around what is being done in the war against rhino poaching. This will serve to motivate involved role players to keep fighting in order to ensure the rhino’s survival,” concludes Dr Hansen.
Nominations are now open, and forms can be requested from Janyce Dalziel at firstname.lastname@example.org, or downloaded from http://www.rhinoconservationawards.org/nominate.html. Nominations will close on the 30th June 2017. An executive committee will review all nominations and draw up a short-list. A panel of adjudicators will then identify the winners and runners up in each category.
For more information, visit www.rhinoconservationawards.org.