In September 2011 students from Roehampton University, London’s School of Biological Anthropology, visited South Africa on an academic fieldtrip, facilitated by African Insight. The group comprised Biological Science as well as Social Anthropology students as well as a senior lecturer from each subject area.
The 2 week field trip organized by African Insight included both biological as well as anthropological elements designed to expose the students to a range of human / wildlife conservation issues.
During their stay they visted Hundzukani community outside of the Kruger National Park, where they were hosted for 4 nights in the homes of the local community. During the day they undertook research in the community relating to a range of the issues (positive and negative) that arise from living on the boundary of this famous wildlife conservation icon.
It was during this stay that the group’s leaders were introduced to an initiative to establish a training school for wildlife field guides and various hospitality industry careers, to service the wildlife tourism industry that is the lifeblood of the local economy. Land had been allocated by the local tribal authority to accommodate the project and funding secured to develop the necessary infrastructure.
With the success of the field trip the leaders were eager for it to become an annual event and to develop an ongoing relationship with the community. Hence the seed was planted to try and secure funding to supply the facility with a comprehensive library of appropriate field guides for the training programme.
On return to the UK Professor Marvin approached the Whiteland College Guild alumni of the University of Roehampton, London who agreed to a generous £2500 donation.
In September 2012 the 2nd group of students arrived at Hundzukani and during their stay they presented the community with a collection of almost 100 reference books and field guides covering a variety of topics including: trees, birds, mammals, insects, spiders, reptiles, tracking, astronomy, geology, biographies of famous conservation personalities such as James Stephenson-Hamilton (the first Warden of Kruger Park) and a collection of BBC and National Geographic DVDs. This collection that will rival that of the most well established ecotraining school in the region. All these books and resources were presented in a custom made bookcase.
According to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund of Conservation International one of the greatest threats to biodiversity is the lack of economic benefits directly related to protection of biodiversity. Well done to Roehampton University and Whitelands College Guild for investing in the education of the youth of Hundzukani community in a way that will make a direct contribution to the sustainability of wildlife conservation and ecotourism of this internationally important wildlife resource.