And what a wonderful occasion it was!

In celebration of the Southern African Wildlife College’s Sustainability Fund and of its Patron, Countess Sylvia Labia, a reception was held in the ballroom of Casa Labia in Muizenberg, Cape Town on 1 November 2023.

Despite market volatility and local markets working against us, the Sustainability Fund has grown by a further R14,3-million after reaching its first target last year. This is due to the continued support of our valued donors and the prudent management of each of the portfolios held by WWF-SA in the Sanlam Living Planet Fund and by Personal Trust in the Endowment Fund, where our stance to remain defensive has paid off.

In thanking donors for their continued support, Countess Labia provided a heartfelt address on her journey with the College since the start of the Southern African Wildlife College Trust (which forms part of the Sustainability Fund) in 2000. Theresa Sowry, CEO of the College also updated the guests on the College’s exciting work over the past year. She also thanked Sylvia for her wonderful contribution not only to the College but to conservation education over the years. This has certainly stood us in good stead as we navigate the challenges as well as the growth in our training offerings and the opportunities moving forward.

Indicative of this is our new three-year Diploma in Natural Resource Management, which has been submitted to the Council of Higher Accreditation for accreditation and  will be a game-changer given its blended and applied approach; the opening of our Operations Room which recently concluded a pilot training course on Specialist Environmental Crime Training – Law Enforcement Analytics and Data; as well as the number of international conferences taking place at the College. More recently these have included the TREPA conference –  a five-year multinational science team-based effort to help reduce the risks of zoonotic disease transmission to the environment, people, and animals; a K9 workshop hosted by Save the Rhino International; as well as the most recent International Wildlife Trade Conference where Dr Ross Harvey from Good Governance Africa and Kim Robinson the Attorney-General representative gave resounding positive feedback. Peter Hamming, one of our Lecturers in our Applied Learning and Research department also recently represented us at the 43rd ESRI User Conference that was held in San Diego, California thereby ensuring that the College remains abreast of the latest technology for application within the conservation sector.

Another milestone was the open day of the newly established K9 satellite unit in Skukuza within the Intensive Protection Zone of the Kruger National Park. The unit’s establishment is a collaborative effort between the College and South African National Parks to increase capacity and continue the successes achieved by the SAWC’s free tracking hounds to help counter poaching and ultimately the illegal wildlife trade.

As with many leading academic institutions, the creation of an investment fund is critical to the future sustainability and viability of the institution. This is pre-empted by a shared vision for conservation in Africa to succeed; backed up by the necessary training, skills development and thought leadership. We thank all our donors for making our work possible including those donors that continue to contribute towards our Sustainability Fund.

To Sylvia our Patron, we wish you an incredibly beautiful and peaceful birthday year as you step down from active duty having reached a milestone of your own! As Theresa said, “you may be stepping off the train, but we know your journey will the College will continue.”

Once again, our heartfelt thanks for your incredible support. Should you wish to read more about the Sustainability Fund please click on this link, where you may also provide your support.

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