12 September 2013 Volume :1 Issue :1

Mazda supporting conservation in KwaZulu-Natal

Mazda supporting conservation in KwaZulu-Natal
Representatives from WESSA, UKZN, WWF, Mondi and Barlow World Pietermaritzburg at the recent Wildlife Seminar held at the WESSA Venue, Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.

Eight progressive conservation projects the Mazda Wildlife Fund is currently supporting in KwaZulu-Natal were outlined at a recent wildlife seminar held at the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) venue at the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve near Howick.

UKZN researchers and academics were among those who gave presentations at the function.

Now in its 23rd year, the Fund is one of the foremost and long-standing bodies in the South African motor vehicle manufacturing industry which support conservation in the country.

‘Mazda is exceptionally proud of what it has achieved in support of conservation and environmental education projects in South Africa,’ said Mr Ward Huxtable, Dealer Principal at Barloworld, Pietermaritzburg. ‘We are committed to strengthening this work in the future.’

Despite the economic difficulties currently being experienced by the motor industry, Mazda has remained committed to conservation initiatives ‘because it’s the right thing to do’, said Mazda Wildlife Fund Manager, Mr Humphrey le Grice.

The Seminar focused on ground-breaking conservation projects taking place in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Xander Combrink of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the School of Life Sciences at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, highlighted the value of crocodiles as barometers of environmental change.

His PhD work is mainly in Zululand where human/crocodile conflicts and the threat of climate change are of concern. His supervisor Professor Colleen Downs, also of the School of Life Sciences, said she was very grateful for the vehicle support Mazda Wildlife had provided since 1998 - it had made much of her field research possible.

Dr Mike Schleyer from the Oceanographic Research Institute and the School of Life Sciences, showed how there was a need to re-examine the value and management of reefs. In his research he has found that all reefs are not necessarily linked genetically, meaning that they need to be managed on a reef by reef basis. In addition to this, new evidence is showing that recreation practices are having a higher impact on the reef life than previously thought.

Such research had thus increased the need, said Schleyer, to ensure that there were well defined and located marine reserves where impacts were minimised.

This coastal work was supported by the positive manner in which the WESSA Blue Flag project was being adopted in KwaZulu-Natal as a tool to support environmental objectives and simultaneously also offering economic opportunities through its tourism value.

The Mazda Wildlife Fund also supports the work of the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa’s second most bio-diverse biome; the grassland biome. This environment is at the head of the catchments which supply most of the country’s water.

Programme Manager, Dr Ian Little, said with 60 percent of grasslands having been irreversibly transformed and only a small percentage under formal protection, the need from both an economic and biodiversity perspective to conserve these areas was desperately needed.

Huxtable further noted that ‘the quality and positive impact that each of the projects was having was exceptional. ‘This is not widely recognised, neither is the passion and commitment of those implementing the projects,’ he said.

He concluded by emphasising the long-term commitment Mazda had to conservation, environmental education and sustainable living. 

author : Barrington Marais
author email : maraisb@ukzn.ac.za