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The MSU Spartan’s rush in…


The month of August had a busy time with groups visiting our nature-based campus.  

During this time the SAWC hosted two universities from the United States of America.

Michigan State University came running in on 28 July 2018 as only Spartan’s can!! They have had a packed programme around the themes of “Cash, Crime, Conflicts and Conservation”. This university has for a number of years now come to the college, but for the last two years they have aligned their programme themes around some of our departmental mandates.  

The current programme in particular runs over a three-week period. The first week focused on tourism aspects intertwined with community tourism aspects as regards Responsible and Sustainable Tourism. During the second week, the group visited the Kruger National Park, camping for five days and having talks with Scientific Services on Court Procedures and how South Africa deals with poachers that have been convicted. The group was fortunate to attend an actual court session with the Advocate that facilitated a talk for them. Prof Eugene Moll also accompanied the group for the entire duration. He has worked in the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology of the University of the Western Cape for many years, and as an Environmental and Eco-tourism Consultant and a Nature Guide. During the third week the group had the opportunity to participate in an Elephant Collaring day with Elephants Alive in the Klaserie and Timbavati Private Nature Reserves. The remainder of the week was focused on the SAWC’s efforts in training field rangers for counter poaching operations, which included a rhino ear tagging operation.  

We also hosted the University of Indiana for a day in which they had the opportunity to speak to pilot Bruce McDonald on the role of aircraft in counter-poaching operations. Although we cannot always guarantee that all of these activities are available but as a college we certainly have the capacity to provide all groups with in depth knowledge and exposure to a number of conservation-based interventions during the year.  

The college, supported by our Applied Learning Department, has four main training departments that collaboratively push into the conservation industry with needs driven training programmes. Each of these departments are interlinked and have an important role to play.  

The Natural Resource Management department houses our Higher and Advanced Certificate programmes, as well as needs driven Short Courses related to it programmes. Those involved in the training of our own students have all worked or are working in many different conservation management sections. Dr. Yolanda Pretorius spoke to the group on the Management of elephants within the region. This department also has expertise in the fields of tourism that expounds on Responsible and Sustainable Tourism and combined excursions to both protected area based tourism and community driven tourism initiatives with realistic economically viable opportunities.

The Sustainable Use and Guiding Department focuses on training according to the ethical and practical needs of the hunting and guiding industry. This department provides groups with an insight into the economics of hunting as a tool in conservation areas and how to ethically manage game numbers in a sustainable way with benefits to impoverished communities bordering many of our protected areas. It’s not only about hunting sustainably, but also about having people within the region benefitting from the resources. This department also facilitates game drives and guides walks for groups.   In doing so it also gives valuable insight into what is involved in the work of a field guide as well as what goes into the training of field guides.

The Protected Area Integrity Department trains field rangers in order to combat poaching and address other law enforcement issues. Contacts with this division allows groups the opportunity to engage with their well trained personnel and listen to many stories about real life operations and the success of combining aircraft and ground patrols with dog units. More of this is available on YouTube titled “Nature Guardians – Training available to watch here. 

The fourth department is our Community Development and Youth Access department that together with the Rural Initiative for Sustainable Environment (RISE) Unit offer groups a chance to engage with our neighboring communities, visiting their villages, getting an understanding of their circumstances and the efforts our college along with many other stakeholders are engaged in to uplift and partner where possible.    

The SAWC is in the unique position of being able to host groups along these particular themes both on site with all our own expertise, but also because of the multiple collaborative set of expertise available in the region, that we have built relationship with over the past 20 years. Together we are giving South African and African conservation efforts a much-needed voice that is heard when international groups visit our region in an effort to fulfil our part in conserving Africa’s natural assets.  

Article supplied by Marilize van der Walt  Senior Advisor/Coordinator: University Groups and Short Courses