Western Cape learners celebrate Environment Week at biodiversity conference
As part of South Africa’s Environment Week celebrations, up to 350 learners from various schools across the Western Cape were treated to an interactive day of biodiversity education.
Arranged and sponsored by CapeNature, the top Life Science learners in Grades 10-12 from up to 30 schools were graciously hosted by Muizenberg High School on Saturday, 15 June where they taught about the value of biodiversity conservation and given insight into various careers in the conservation sector.
Topics were identified by the Western Cape Education Department’s subject advisors for Life Science to ensure the conference explored key questions to enhance the learning experience, provide environmental education and learner participation in discussion and feedback sessions.
Keynote speaker Dr Guy Preston, the Deputy Director-General of Environmental Programmes provided a thorough education on the significance of Invasive Alien Species and how easily they can spread through areas, destroying life and life-support systems on its way.
“The introduction into South Africa of invasive animals that threaten human life, amongst other impacts appears almost inevitable, given the levels of trade, travel, transport & tourism,” said Dr Preston.
Dr Preston is also the national programme leader for Working for Water – one of the most significant conservation programmes in the history of South Africa – and educated the learners on the mechanical, chemical and biological methods of controlling invasive alien plants.
WfW is said to be the biggest conservation programme in Africa, and the biggest programme of any country on invasive species (relative to GDP). WfW has spawned the highly successful Working on Fire, Working for Wetlands, KZN Invasive Alien Species Programme, Working for Forests, Working for Land, Working for Energy, Eco-Furniture Factories and other programmes.
Learners from Simon’s Town High School found the discussions on Invasive Alien Species to be particularly valuable.
“The species are our future generation, once they become extinct our grandchildren won’t have fauna and fynbos to appreciate, therefore we learnt today that it is important to get rid of the alien species.”
A learner from Westbank High School added: “Biodiversity is important for our natural being and looking after the environment is also crucial.”
Arguably, the highlight of the day was when CapeNature marine ranger, Vernon Munnik talked about the dangers of his job in combating abalone poaching in the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area.
A veteran with over 25 years’ experience as a marine ranger, Munnik said that the business of poaching is worth an estimated R1.5 billion per year and despite all efforts to prevent it, poachers are continuing to loot.
“If I had one wish, it would be to draw some international awareness to our plight and get all the law enforcement organisations on our side so that we can take back our communities and educate the youth that we care about,” said Munnik.
“The youth need this commitment from us. It is in this vein that we continue working as rangers to protect the ocean’s resources.”
CapeNature is driven by the vision to establish a successful ‘Conservation Economy’ – embraced by all citizens of the Western Cape and to transform biodiversity conservation into a key component of local economic development in the province.
CapeNature’s own definition of a conservation economy is an economy in which key principles and practices of biodiversity conservation have been fully integrated into all forms and levels of economic activity.