By staff reporter – The Independent Online
A nature conservation organisation has received a more than R350 000 boost when it was honoured with the Conservation Lab Award 2019 for its elephant protection work in Namibia’s Kunene region.
Accor, a world-leading augmented hospitality group, and Mantis, a South African-based hospitality and travel conglomerate, honoured the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) group with the award last week.
The groups, both founding sponsors of the Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA), which helps rural communities to engage in biodiversity conservation through improved development of their land, wildlife and natural resources, presented the CCFA Conservation Lab Award 2019 to the elephant protection project.
The CCFA award includes the more than R350 000 donation to the IRDNC, which has outlined a four-pronged approach to protecting the elephant population, which is considered a liability by local residents and farmers.
The donation will fund community engagement initiatives; improve monitoring of the elephant population and its behaviour; resolve elephant conflict mitigation to limit damage caused to farmers and residential properties; as well as programmes and training designed to incentivise communities, helping them to understand the economic potential of the elephants, which adds significant value to Nami- bia’s tourism offering.
Accor chief executive Mark Willis said they co-founded the CCFA to help rural African communities that live among wild animals with sustainable management wildlife systems and community empowerment initiatives.
“The IRDNC’s project encapsulates all that we set out to achieve by helping residents in Namibia’s Kunene region with their native elephant population, and seeing them within a larger context of preservation as well as delivering economic benefits through tourism.”
Mantis Group chairman Adrian Gardiner said: “The IRDNC has a proven track record in not only preserving but increasing Namibia’s wildlife populations through its education initiatives, and this champions the CCFA’s mission to encourage rural African communities to take an active role in wildlife ownership and management.”
The IRDNC met stringent criteria, which included technical soundness and expected long-term results, effective project management measures, organisational capacity and experience, and the potential to benefit the tourism industry and promote sustainability.