SA is global conservation leader

Christi Cloete -- Thu, 06/11/2015 - 10:08

SA is global conservation leader

The world is losing its biodiversity at an alarming rate, but South Africa is at the forefront of helping to stem the devastating tide. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the current species extinction rate is between 1 000 and 10 000 higher than the natural extinction rate, which equates to between 200 and 2 000 extinctions every year.

That is the conservative estimate. The yearly extinction rate may be as high as between 10 000 and 100 000 species.

“The numbers are not only shocking, they are unacceptable. A world devoid of natural diversity is a world bereft of its splendour. It is a barren world where once there was beauty. We have the knowledge to buck this sad trend and we have a responsibility to share it,” explains Professor Peet van der Merwe from the Tourism programme at the School of Business Management at the North-West University’s (NWU) Potchefstroom Campus.

Van der Merwe elucidates that the manner in which the private sector and government works together for the purpose of wildlife conservation makes South Africa the envy of the world.
“When it comes to conservation, ecotourism or even counter-poaching techniques, we are global leaders. This can mainly be attributed to the superlative cooperation efforts between the private sector and government in ensuring the sanctity of our wildlife. An example thereof is the South African National Parks model, which is almost without peer compared to the rest of Africa. Countries such as the United States of America do not have as many practical fields concerning wildlife and the diversity of animal and plant species such as ours. They are not exposed to management models like ours, and therefore they come to us to learn.”


In May, TREES (Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society) at the NWU collaborated with Ecolife to present its first short course on Wildlife Tourism and Conservation.
“This is a unique collaboration between academia and industry that will contribute to the development of the wildlife industry. The focus of the course is to educate international and local students in wildlife conservation, wildlife tourism, conservation economics, animal science, as well as pre-veterinary and veterinary science,” says Van der Merwe.

The first group of students, mainly from America, attended this course at the Potchefstroom Campus together with the tourism honours group of the NWU. The course was presented by leaders in the field of wildlife tourism and conservation, such as Prof Wouter van Hoven (Ecolife), Prof Melville Saayman (NWU), Dr Flippie Cloete (NWU), Dr Gert Dry (WRSA) and Van der Merwe, to name a few. Another ten courses are scheduled for this year.

This short course links to the current Tourism programme at the North-West University, which is the only university in South Africa that offers a BSc degree with major subjects related to Tourism, Botany and Zoology.
“All of this contributes to the development of the image of South Africa as a wildlife tourism destination and increases the level of professionalism in the industry,” says Van der Merwe.
To that, and more.