Academic wins international thesis award

A young, local Stewardship Officer who came up with a unique approach of looking at how attitudes and beliefs about hunting can be used as a basis for strategies to improve the social legitimacy of hunting, has been recognised with a prestigious, international thesis award.

Dr Wentzel Coetzer (30), a former Hananja Academy learner, was awarded the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation’s (CIC) Young Opinion Research Award for 2016 at the CIC’s 63 General Assembly in Brussels, Belgium, on April 21 to 23.

The award is aimed at supporting young scientists under the age of 35 whose research projects contribute to the sustainable use of wildlife for the benefit of natural heritage conservation.

To qualify for the award, students of Masters or Doctoral programmes had to submit a summary of their research project, explaining the aim, methods and conclusions of the project.

“The quality of this year’s submissions was outstanding, but the judges felt that our work and the work of another applicant were superior to the other submissions, and addressed the three pillars of sustainable wildlife management,” says CIC Young Opinion Vice-President Denis Slobodyan about Coetzer’s thesis that formed part of his doctorate at the Department of Agriculture and Game Management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2015.

Coetzer, who had worked at NMMU as a contract lecturer for five years, says he is ho-noured and overjoyed by this prestigious award.

He is currently the Biodiversity Stewardship Facilitator for the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) initiative that is managed by Conservation Outcomes. The GKS initiative was established by the St Francis Kromme Trust under the leadership of Maggie Langlands, along with a group of renewable energy deve-lopers. The initiative offers private landowners in the area the opportunity to play an important role in the conservation of the region’s natural heritage.

According to Coetzer, who grew up on a farm near Thornhill, conservation formed part of his daily life from a very young age and is embedded in his DNA.

“Having to decide what to study after matric, was a toss-up between mathematics and conservation. When I heard that the only career with a degree in mathematics is that of a statistician, the choice was easy - conservation it was. At that time, I had no idea what a statistician is,” says Coetzer.

What is this ambitious young man’s plans for the future? “Who knows. Maybe I will return to the life of an academic, a great love of mine, or stay out in the veld close to nature. Only the future will tell.”

  • The CIC is a global non-profit inter-governmental organisation aiming to conserve wildlife through its sustainable use. The Young Opinion working group of the CIC focuses on creating a global network of young scientists under the age of 35, who believe in the values which the CIC advocates.
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