Mr Stephen Theodosiou (right), Dealer Principal of Eastern Cape Motors and representing the Mazda Wildlife Fund, hands over the keys of the new Mazda BT50 4x4 Twincab research vehicle to Prof Thoko Mayekiso, Acting Vice-Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Looking on is Prof Andrew Leitch (left), Dean of the Faculty of Science and (seated) Prof Graham Kerley, Director of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology.

The Mazda Wildlife Fund handed over a brand new Mazda BT50 4x4 Twincab to the Centre for African Conservation Ecology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. This vehicle will be used for support of the “Sustainable Resources Research Project” which is run by the Centre and which aims to develop the scientific information needed for sustainable land-use of the Thicket Biome, as well as generate appropriate scientific manpower. The provision of transport remains one of the biggest expenses of this project, given the field-based nature of the work. The Mazda Wildlife Fund support has therefore been crucial in this regard. In addition, the vehicles provided by the Mazda Wildlife Fund provide much-needed 4x4 capacity, thereby increasing access to remote and rugged areas. Furthermore, the vehicles provide a high level of safety to students undertaking field research. These vehicles have collectively been driven over more than half a million kilometres by staff and students over this period.

What is particularly auspicious about this vehicle handover is that it marks 20 years of support provided by the Mazda Wildlife Fund for the Centre. The productivity of the project is indicated by its outputs over the last 20 years, these include 75 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals, eight book chapters, two books, 14 popular articles, 48 technical reports, and 185 presentations at scientific conferences. In addition, 26 MSc and 13 PhD students have graduated, and a further three MSc and four PhD students are working under the auspices of this project.

The project has had some notable successes, including the development of the concepts for the Greater Addo Elephant National Park and the Baviaanskloof Megareserve. In addition, the work on sustainable land-use options has influenced government policy regarding the expansion of national parks across South Africa.

Based on this it is clear that the support by the MWF has been critical in this highly productive and influential project, and this support remains crucial to the ongoing success of this project.

Graham Kerley

Centre for African Conservation Ecology,

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University