Eric Norton, a volunteer at the Applied Learning Unit, took part in the Environmental Conflict Management M.Sc. course, recently hosted at the Southern African Wildlife College. He noted his interest in the field of human-wildlife conflict from a career perspective, and looked forward to hearing the knowledge from those who have experience of working in the field.
One of the things that stood out about the course for him was the range of people that attended; SAWC staff members, academics from Norway, students from Copperbelt University, Zambia, as well as local community members who work for Conservation South Africa (CSA).
There was a wide range of topics discussed, from wildlife crime, to translocation of people, to crocodile-human conflict, to governance, and also the value of wildlife. This, coupled with the range of speakers (from the College, from Norway, from a local community committee, from SANParks and other organisations),served to present a well-rounded view of environmental conflict management in general.
Some of the insights that Norton noted from the course included realising that in human-wildlife conflict, people’s lives are sometimes at stake and that the cost associated with living with dangerous wildlife (i.e. crocodiles) goes well beyond inconvenience.
He noted that the complexity of the problems that these people are attempting to solve was new to him, and realised that different stakeholders may not always want to work together, even different groups within the same organisation. So, in solving the problems within human- wildlife coexistence, governance and structures are important, as are building relationships first before attempting to find solutions.
He added that it was incredibly interesting to hear from the personal experiences of the chairman of a local Communal Property Association (CPA). Hearing his practical examples, as well as how he explained the history of the area and how it came to its current state, “helped me to see what the situation really looks like on the ground, which put the rest of the course in some perspective”. Conducting field trips as well as class lectures also meant that the concepts discussed were much more tangible and easier to grasp for the listeners, as the examples used in the lectures were right in front of them.
Norton spent some of his formative years at the College when his Dad, Dr Peter Norton, was the then Director of the institute. He fondly recalled the fun he and his brothers as well as the other youngsters on site, including Brent Poultney and Starr-layne Moolman, had on site and said it was good to finally be back.
This was a pilot course to trial the content and approach. It was funded by Stellenbosch University as part of the Norhed partnership. Thanks to the speakers for their valuable contribitions:
Prof Thor Larsen – Norway – NMBU (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)
Prof Alan Gardiner – SAWC
Dr Cleo Graf – SAWC
Richard Sowry – SANParks
Mark Bourne – MTPA
Mr A Mangena – Chariman Legkalametsee CPA.
Dr Richard Fergusson – SAWC
Ms Elna de Beer – SAWC
Mr Jan Graf – AWARD
Mr Pieter Nel – SAWC
CSA herders (as a group)
Dr Annette Hübschle-Finch – who was visiting SAWC during the course