2024 is in full swing

As we look ahead, we are filled with hope and determination. Our collective efforts have demonstrated collaborative growth opportunities and the continuance of positive impacts on the lives of people and within the conservation sector. Certainly, an inspiration moving ahead in 2024.

To fill you in on some of our current news we tried to keep it brief. However, having reached out, we realized that despite us only having reached the end of January, there is already a great deal happening across the College.

Field Ranger Students

Our Protected Area Integrity (PAI) Unit commenced its operations on 8 January 2024, with the management staff taking charge of planning and preparing for the year ahead. The training initiatives are already in full swing, including the Field Ranger Training in Saudi Arabia, which began on 9 January 2024, with 35 students participating. The Field Ranger Law Enforcement Armed course kicked off on 15 January 2024, hosting 13 students from Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, Golden Gate SANPARKS, private students, and five (5) bursary students sponsored by Friends of African Wildlife. Concurrently, a two-week Regulation 79 shooting programme with Kruger National Park also commenced on 15 January 2024. Looking ahead, we are gearing up for the Warriors for African Wildlife training that is set to start on 5 February 2024. Led by Mr. Gert Dibakoane, military veterans from the USA will receive training on Introduction to Conservation and Introduction to counter poaching operations.

In addition, we will also provide skills transfer to a group of young men who recently completed their service. Arranged with WildArk, who have very generously supported critical institutional needs, they will spend time in our PAI department including our K9 unit.

Towards the end of January, we had a visit from the College of Tourism and are delighted to share the exciting news of the Herding Academy’s transition to the SAWC to foster Regenerative Land Management training. Well-known for its dedication to regenerative land management, the Herding Academy and the SAWC are taking a strategic step forward by way of this transition. This marks a significant commitment to advancing regenerative land management and conservation training across the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In this exciting move, the Herding Academy which will now fall under the banner of the SAWC, is set to soar to new heights. With the College’s own research into regenerative land practices and its herding and eco rangers training programme, the training capacity will be enhanced with a view making a more substantial impact in the realm of regenerative land management.

We are also thrilled to announce a unique opportunity to enroll on the accredited, NQF5 Responsible Resource Use (RRU) short course managed by our Responsible Resource Management department. Funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), this five-day course aims to revolutionise thinking about resource use activities in Southern Africa. Participants will learn theoretical foundations and practical applications using the ‘RRU Assessment Tool.’ The course includes field excursions in the Greater Kruger Landscape, fostering a hands-on approach. Open to applicants from various sectors in the Greater Kruger Landscape, the course is free for the first 10 participants, covering food and accommodation. It will be held at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) campus from 5 to 9 February 2024. Apply now and commit to attending the full five (5) days for a transformative experience!

On the canine front, we’re wagging our tails in excitement having received a wonderful donation from the Thornley Family Trust towards the end of last year.

The K9 Unit is now in the final stages of training a “paw-some” pack of off-leash, free-tracking hounds that will be working in Bubye Valley, Zimbabwe. Our team is also busy training line-tracking dogs bound for adventures in Malalangwe, Zimbabwe, and for PPF in Mozambique.

We will keep you posted on these developments whilst we also strive to secure project funding for the K9 unit infrastructure upgrade, which after eight years is now due.

Exciting changes are underway in the Community and Youth Development (CYD) Department as it proactively responds to evolving educational landscapes in South Africa. Following a thorough consultative process in 2023, the department is gearing up for a new era beyond the expiration of its current business plan in 2024. Renamed Skills Development for Conservation (SDC), the department is aligning its vision with a focus on inspiring and empowering conservation leaders. Whilst still offering the Natural Resource Management: Terrestrial Level 5 (NQF 5) occupational training programme, the department aims to introduce new learning programmes with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) in 2024 so please watch this space in upcoming issues of our Bateleur newsletter.

The Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment (RISE) Unit, which was part of the CYD Department, is now stretching it’s wings and will find a new home in the Responsible Resource Management (RRM) Department for a landscape-based approach. These changes mark an exciting transformation in the department’s commitment to creating a pathway for future conservationists.

As part of these developments, the RISE Unit has secured support from Pan African Conservation Education (PACE) destined for activities within the  Welverdiend  and Makuleke regions. This is aimed at broadening access to educational resources for specific communities and schools associated with the SAWC’s zone of influence and partner sites. RISE now eagerly anticipates the ongoing collaboration with PACE and Vulpro, as they are eager to extend their efforts in vulture conservation to new project areas in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo regions.

Looking ahead, the RISE Unit is also enthusiastic about engaging with the People and Parks structures through the GEF 6 project. As part of this initiative, they plan to train 20 representatives on the Community Practice in Responsible Resource Use, an extension of the SAWC’s short course: Responsible Resource Use and Management (RRUM01). The objective of this course is to introduce the concepts and principles of Responsible Resource Use within community contexts, encouraging action toward sustainable and responsible utilization of a diverse range of resources. The course is tailored for community conservation practitioners and community members engaged in various activities that highlight the connection between livelihoods and, particularly, natural resource utilization.

2024 Natural Resource Management Students

Also speaking of future conservationists, organizations such as African Parks, SANParks, Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Provincial Conservation Authorities, Malawi and Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife as well as Mozambique’s ANAC, through the support of the Peace Parks Foundation, have sent 26 students enrolled on the Natural Resource Management NQF 5 Programme and 30 students enrolled on the NQF 6, Transfrontier Conservation Management programme reintroduced this year given the demand. The students hail from Angola, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. We are also delighted to have new supporters, including private organizations like !Khwa ttu, Leppele Lodge, and Angola’s Polytechnic Institute sending students to the College for the first time in 2024. With various donors pledging their continued and unwavering support, the bulk of students arrived on 22 January 2023 in time for their induction and the department is anticipating a productive and exciting conservation journey ahead.

Internally, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Department is poised for significant growth and innovation in 2024. This is largely thanks to the Keystone grant awarded by Tusk Trust in support of the institution. The focus for the year includes upgrading the ICT Backbone infrastructure to accommodate the increasing number of members on campus. We are also looking to develop internal processes to enhance overall staff efficiency and effectiveness. Key initiatives will involve creating a Balance Scorecard database, establishing a comprehensive student database, refining induction processes, automating leave forms, and implementing systems at the main gate for car tracking and access control. Streamlining collaboration between the finance department and ICT is a priority. Additionally, the department will place a strong emphasis on staff training, with a focus on improving ICT literacy and providing cybersecurity training. The overarching goal is to solidify internal processes to deliver a relevant, efficient, and timely service to all stakeholders, with a vision to transform the intranet into a vibrant information hub for all staff.

As we stand on the threshold of another promising year, we want to express our deepest gratitude to all our partners, including our valued donors, for being a crucial part of our journey. Your commitment to the College has made a tangible difference, and we invite you to continue partnering with us as we navigate the challenges and opportunities that the future holds.

Wishing you a joyous and prosperous New Year, filled with the same kindness and generosity you’ve shown to us. May this year bring you fulfillment, happiness, and the knowledge that your support is both impacting the College and having a lasting effect on the conservation of Africa’s precious biodiversity.

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