'Thank you for making Africa beautiful' - Tusk Conservation Awards

(Traveller24/Gabi Zietsman)
(Traveller24/Gabi Zietsman)
Gabi Zietsman

Cape Town - On Wednesday the top conservationists and wildlife rangers in Africa were honoured at the annual Tusk Conservation Awards in Cape Town.

The awards hope to highlight the successes and work done on the ground to protect and conserve Africa's parks and wildlife, as well as teach and raise awareness in the communities to foster stewardship over these last wild places.

This is the first time the awards were held in Africa, at the V&A Waterfront's The Lookout. "Our purpose is to advance innovation in conservation," said Tusk Trust CEO Charlie Mayhew. 

WATCH: A day in the life of a ranger's dog

Each winner will receive grants that will go towards their work in conservation, with some receiving up to £40 000.

One of the winners was South Africa's own Sergeant Lucky Ndlovu, wildlife ranger for SANParks who leads the Field Ranger K9 unit in Kruger National Park. He shared the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award with Zambian ranger Solomon Chidunuka, who is considered the foremost warden in Zambia.

The award was presented by former president FW de Klerk.

""The nomination motivates me to train the youngsters who will follow me, to be good field rangers," said Ndlovu.

For Chidunuka, he was surprised that their efforts in protecting Africa's wildlife was recognised outside of their respective countries.

SEE: Tusk Awards finalist Lucky Ndlovu: Rhino is our heritage

The Tusk Award for Conservation was awarded to Brighton Kumchedwa, the current Director of Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife. He was instrumental in securing commitment from the government to combat wildlife crime and helped establish the Wildlife Act, which has some of the toughest penalties in Africa for wildlife crime. The award was presented by Graça Machel, humanitarian and widow of Nelson Mandela.

The final award - The Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa - was awarded to Rian Labuschagne who, alongside his wife Lorna, has dedicated 35 years of his life to improving conservation efforts in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Chad. The award was handed over by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said that "we are linked to one another and all of nature" and thanked the finalists for "making Africa beautiful".

ALSO SEE: #WorldRangerDay 2017: SANParks salutes rangers who risk their lives to save our heritage

Tusk's royal patron, Prince William, paid tribute to the winners of the night through video and thanking them for their hard work.

"I worry a great deal that our generation is not meeting our moral obligation to leave this planet in better shape than we inherited it. Our children and grandchildren will not thank us if we fail in our duty to reverse the decline in so many species,” said the Prince.

In closing the ceremony, De Klerk said, “Africa, indeed the whole world, owes them [the finalists] a huge debt of gratitude.”

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