iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species boosted by Eco-Series events

4 Sep 2017

Since its inception in 2012, the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund has continued to grow and fund a number of projects exclusively dedicated to the conservation of these flora and fauna in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over R1.7million has been raised to date and channelled into critical conservation projects.

The Fund began as the brainchild of iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis at the same time as the Park’s Eco-Series events, with the idea that through sport and recreation events, a compulsory contribution portion of the entrance fees would automatically be allocated to one dedicated fund.

“Over time, as the Eco-Series events have expanded to include the iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day, the iSimangaliso Half Marathon, the iSimangaliso Sodwana Shootout and the iSimangaliso Trail Challenge, so too has the amount raised. This money has seen the realisation of a number of key conservation activities within our Park including the collaring of elephant, lion, oribi and wild dog; reintroduction of a number of animals and recently, the necessary dehorning of rhino in vulnerable areas of our Park to deter poachers,” says Zaloumis.

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The projects have now expanded from the terrestrial area of the Park to the marine environment with a new study funded to study coral reef health. This is a vital area of great global concern to marine scientists. With a large area of iSimangaliso’s 332 000ha expanse falling in the Marine Protected Area – part of Africa’s largest transfrontier MPA as well as one of only 49 UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites globally – the study is essential to ensuring the health of our ocean environment (Photo: Dennis King).

“iSimangaliso includes Africa’s southernmost nesting grounds of two turtle species (and is home to three others) and the southernmost warm water coral reefs at Sodwana Bay with astonishing biodiversity including the ‘living fossil’ coelacanth fish. It is therefore fitting that our attention is strongly focused on the preservation of this critically important section of the Park,” adds Zaloumis. “Another field of study will include Lake St Lucia, Africa’s largest estuarine system and the centrepiece of the World Heritage Site, where species new to science are still being discovered.”

“We are immensely grateful to those whose contributions through activities in the Park have made such a direct and meaningful impact on the many projects enabled by this fund raising initiative,” he says.

The largest contributor over the past five years to the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund has been the annual iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day event. This hugely successful event took place from 17-20 August this year, leading riders on a 260km adventure ride from the high mountains and savannah of the uMkhuze section to the coast at Lake St Lucia Estuary. The fund’s coffers were boosted by a further R265,161 this year thanks to some 240 riders from all over South Africa as well as international entrants.
The inaugural iSimangaliso Trail Challenge in July this year brought 127 trail runners into close proximity with the natural beauty of the Lake St Lucia Estuary, Eastern Shores and Maphelane sections of the Park. Event organiser Andrew Booth (above left) was delighted to hand over their contribution of R117,570 to iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.

Other contributions to the fund are no less important and the Park is privileged to have received significant donations from companies and individuals. Bidvest Waltons and Mondi generously supported the fund through an in-store campaign for sales of Rotatrim A4 Paper that resulted in a handover of almost R68,000 to iSimangaliso earlier this financial year. Another large donation was from Rudolph van der Veen of Allied Nutrition who opted to make a fund contribution of R30,000 in lieu of the usual Christmas party for valued clients – choosing instead to send them a letter and photographic portfolio explaining the importance of ‘their’ part in the donation to iSimangaliso’s conservation efforts. Van der Veen has expressed a desire to support iSimangaliso’s projects again this year, a greatly appreciated offer.

And last but not least – every commercial event that is permitted to take place within iSimangaliso, such as major fishing competitions or externally organised Mountain Bike rides, also includes a compulsory contribution to the fund. “In this way,” says Zaloumis, “other user groups enjoy the facilities of the Park knowing that they are also giving back and helping the protected area to thrive for everybody’s future benefit. And that includes not only the survival of the rare and endangered species themselves, but also expanding economic opportunities for those surrounding the Park, whose existence depends on a healthy, thriving World Heritage Site. We all win.”

A gallery of photographs of the event, as well as results, can be found at https://isimangaliso.com/event/trail-challenge or https://www.facebook.com/iSimangalisoTrailChallenge.

For media enquiries and photographs contact Bronwyn Coppola on 083 450 9111 or bronwyn@abetterworld.co.za.