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Exceptional conservation achievements recognised with 2014 WESSA Awards

Sep 18, 2014
Category: Press Release

WESSA has recognised and celebrated a number of remarkable achievements in the environmental conservation sector, with the presentation of the organisation’s 2014 WESSA Awards.  The awards were presented at a ceremony during WESSA’s Annual General Meeting, which was held at Hartbeespoort on Saturday 13 September.

Presented annually since 1974, these awards enable WESSA to recognise and honour individuals, corporations, organisations, and community, educational or volunteer groups that have made a significant contribution to environmental conservation or to environmental education in South Africa over a sustained period of time.

Nominations were judged by the WESSA Board, and the winners of the 2014 WESSA Awards were announced as Professor Les Underhill, Vincent Carruthers and the WESSA Grahamstown Branch.

Northern Areas Regional Awards were also presented to Rotary Club of Brits-Hartbeespoort, Andre Botha, Charl du Toit and The Success Academy (TSA).

Furthermore, outgoing WESSA Board member, Michael Fischer, was acknowledged at the event for the valuable contribution that he has made to WESSA.  Malcolm Powell, who retired as WESSA Company Secretary earlier this year, received a special award from the Chairman of the Board, Dr Richard Lewis, for his continued dedication and service to WESSA following his departure as CEO in 2006.

The programme for the day included an early morning visit to Nyoka Ridge Vulture Restaurant, where guest enjoyed the spectacle of the daily vulture feed, as well as talks by two guest speakers. James Clark spoke about the challenges of human wildlife conflict and John Power presented a talk on Magaliesberg leopards.  Dr Richard Lewis also addressed the guests.  He emphasised the point that although we face many challenges to our environment, WESSA is well-placed as an organisation to respond to these challenges.

The full 2014 WESSA Award winners and citations follow below: 


Professor Les Underhill
For his remarkable commitment to the scientific field.  A significant feature of his work is his willingness to contribute his expertise in statistics to scientific research across a wide range of disciplines.  Apart from his ability to assemble and develop an understanding of the baseline data that are relevant to conservation issues, he has harnessed the wider interest and motivated the involvement of professionals and citizens alike. Highly successful projects include the well-known Bird Atlas, which is a prime example of effective scientist – citizen-scientist collaboration towards the achievement of a common goal.  His work has included the support and training of many students who have been inspired by his dedication, rigor and creativity.  Key features of his life-long dedication to the field are the establishment and management of the Animal Demographic Unit (ADU), and the extension of this work by involving the public in citizen-science opportunities. 

Vincent Carruthers
For his integrity and for the remarkable commitment that he has made towards furthering the understanding of natural science and conservation, including contributions to high-level strategic environmental management and effective environmental consulting. His humble yet efficient manner is well-known and much appreciated by all who work with him.  Vincent’s published work as an amphibian and wetland specialist has earned him high regard in the academic realm, and his expertise includes a thorough knowledge of broader environmental contexts within South Africa’s history.  


WESSA Grahamstown Branch
For the unassuming yet inclusive manner in which it supports environmental work across the Grahamstown district and the wider Eastern Cape.  Working with Rhodes University and with various interest groups the highly respected members of this branch are the unsung heroes of many significant developments in the natural science and environmental education fields.  Of much significance is the sustained manner with which this work has been implemented over the long-term.  The collaborative partnerships, which this group of public-spirited people facilitates and supports, are an example to all who wish to make a significant and long-term commitment to the sustainable management of South Africa’s spectacular natural resources. 


Rotary Club of Brits-Hartbeespoort
For their contribution over many years to conservation in the Magaliesberg area through their Preserve Planet Earth (PPE) initiative. Noteworthy achievements include their flagship Nyoka Ridge Vulture Restaurant and Monitoring project as well as the publication of the Birds of the Magaliesberg booklet. 

Andre Botha
For his life-long dedication and significant contributions to the conservation of Birds of Prey and Ground Hornbills.  His dedication and contributions to conservation in general are widely acknowledged and appreciated, not only in this region but across Southern Africa as a whole. 

Charl du Toit
For his personal commitment to making a difference in the environmental field.  His work includes the donation of over 45,000 trees to the residents of Pretoria as well as a remarkable commitment to WESSA in their efforts to support rhino conservation work.  The award was accepted by Peter du Toit on behalf of Charl du Toit. 

The Success Academy
For their remarkable commitment to conservation.  The Success Academy has provided significant support to WESSA through its annual gala event fundraiser and by joining the organisation as a Gold Business Member. The dedication of three key people stands out in this work, namely Charl du Toit, Peter du Toit and Lisa Breedt.  All who care about conservation in South Africa are indebted to their dedication and determination. 

A selection of captioned images may be accessed below. 

WESSA Awards 2014 - 1
Left to Right:  Lisa Breedt (The Success Academy), Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board), Peter du Toit (The Success Academy), JC van Rensburg (Brits-Hartbeespoort Rotary), Prof Les Underhill (back), Margaret Crampton (Chairman, WESSA Grahamstown Branch (front)), Dr Thommie Burger (WESSA CEO),  Willem Hazewindus (Chairman, WESSA Northern Areas), Vincent Carruthers  

WESSA Awards 2014 - 2
Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board) and Peter du Toit (The Success Academy) who accepted an award on behalf of Charl du Toit 

WESSA Awards 2014 - 3
Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board), Dr Thommie Burger (WESSA CEO), Peter du Toit and Lisa Breedt (both from The Success Academy)

WESSA Awards 2014 - 4
Dr Thommie Burger (WESSA CEO), Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board) and Prof Les Underhill

WESSA Awards 2014 - 5
Dr Thommie Burger (WESSA CEO), Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board) and Vincent Carruthers

WESSA Awards 2014 - 6
Willem Hazewindus (Chairman, WESSA Northern Areas), Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board), Dr Thommie Burger (WESSA CEO), JC van Rensburg (Brits-Hartbeesport Rotary Club)

WESSA Awards 2014 - 7
Dr Thommie Burger (WESSA CEO), Dr Richard Lewis (WESSA Chairman of the Board), Margaret Crampton (Chairman, WESSA Grahamstown Branch)