The NAPHA Conservationist of the Year award is allocated by NAPHA to a person or institution that has achieved significant accomplishments in the conservation of Namibia’s habitats and wildlife, and is highly honoured and recognised. It is a tough choice each year, and even though we acknowledge an ardent person, a vast number of people in Namibia deserve this distinction. This award should symbolise those whose efforts in some way or another contribute to conservation. This year we give credit to a man who has spent his entire career in the dust and grind of Namibia. It started with a love for Namibia’s nature and wildlife and culminated in a work effort that truly makes a difference. Most hours are spent away from the family at home, assuring the sustainability and continued existence of what our country is most appreciated for, with pure sincerity for the cause as the driving force behind it. We salute Manie le Roux as a great conservationist and patriot of Namibia.
With the surge in organised crime and rhino poaching experienced in the past years, conservationists were waging a battle at the forefront that often seemed to be never-ending. In an attempt to save an entire species from the brink of extinction, rhinos in Namibia were dispatched to new sanctuaries and dehorning strategies were implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).
Manie has participated in major rhino capture operations in the country. He holds a track record of capturing more than 500 rhinos and has dehorned 180 in the past 12 months. Through the use of innovative tools (including grinders and routers), he has managed to refine dehorning techniques.
His presence and responsibilities stretch far and wide across the country. As the Chief Control Warden of Central Parks in Namibia, he is tasked with game culling, water installations, infrastructure development and logistics at Waterberg Plateau Park, Namib Naukluft, Von Bach and Daan Viljoen. He played an instrumental role in the introduction of rhino into Namib Naukluft Park. So far he has not lost a single rhino to poaching in the areas he manages and, needless to say, he aims to keep it that way.
However, the journey has not been obstacle-free. Often he has to leave his wife and two sons behind to carry out fieldwork elsewhere in the country, including Etosha, the northeast, Keetmanshoop and Hardap. He furthermore has to deal with extreme budget constraints and limited cooperation from certain departments.
But nothing can slow down the pace that Manie has set to conserve our wildlife, which is further demonstrated by the establishment of the first Wildlife Protection Training Centre in Namibia. The school was opened by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, in March 2017. It is the first of its kind and destined to train Anti-Poaching Units (APU), as well as dog handlers and horse riders.
Manie maintains the best APU in Namibia, which already includes a horse unit. Another project in the pipeline, which he intends to finish within the next 12 months, is the construction of kennels for the first dog unit in Namibia. His goal is to deploy detection dogs and tracker dogs in wildlife parks.
With 28 years of experience in the MET, Manie continues to raise the bar for conservationists. As part of the range expansion project, he aspires to introduce white rhino into two new parks. According to current plans, he will dehorn another 200 rhinos in the coming year and assist at least 40 APUs with training.
If you are eager to walk in the tracks of a rhino, it is important to know that of all the MET parks, those under his supervision have recorded the most rhino sightings on foot over the last 12 months. A conservationist worthy to follow.