25 years ago NAPHA introduced the Conservationist of the Year Award to acknowledge a person who has played a significant role in any field of conservation.
The first recipient was Hanno Rumpf, the first Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism who later became Namibia’s Ambassador to Germany. He played a significant role in making sure that this newly independent country’s status as an ethical hunting destination was upheld.
More than a decade later, in 2003, Ben Beytell, then Director of Parks & Nature Conservation in the Ministry, received the honour. Frank Heger, at that time President of NAPHA, officially declared that selective hunting played a big and ongoing role in wildlife conservation around the globe and that it should be considered to be a conservation tool. But all conservation drives, Heger said, and especially trophy hunting, were dependent on a solid and detailed legal framework. Ben Beytell was the person in the Ministry who made sure that the laws, rules and regulations were interpreted the way in which they were intended, he said.
Other MET officials who have been recipients of the Award over the years: Dr Malan Lindeque (1997), Deputy Director of Specialist Support Services; Imelda Lombard (2001), Permit Office; Dr Pauline Lindeque (2004), Head of Scientific Services; Sem Shikongo and Kenneth Uiseb accepted the Award in 2012 on behalf of the entire Ministry; Birgit Kötting was awarded in 2013 for her work on rhino at the Etosha Ecological Institute, as the coordinator of the Rhino Custodianship Programme; game ranger Victor Katanga was awarded in 2015, the year when anti-poaching efforts intensified in Damaraland; and in 2017 Manie le Roux received the honour for his career in conservation which included capturing 500 rhino for re-location and dehorning, 180 of them in one year alone. He also established a dog unit in the Ministry, to support anti-poaching operations.
Well-known for his research on the free-roaming lion in the northwest, Dr Flip Stander was the first scientist to receive the award in 1998, and Dr Chris Brown, currently CEO of the Namibian Chamber of Environment, was honoured in 2011. Chris Weaver, WWF Director in Namibia and champion of the Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRM) was the recipient in 2003. Bennie Roman, the Chairman of the Torra Conservancy, the first communal conservancy to offer trophy hunting concessions on their land, was awarded in 2000. In 2007 John Jackson became the first non-Namibian recipient for his commitment and support of NAPHA’s conservation projects. Geofrey Tukuhupwele was the choice for Conservationist of the year 2015 for his contribution to the anti-poaching efforts and successes in the Zambezi Region (formerly Caprivi).
Several NAPHA members have been awarded for their contributions in leading the conservation way – negotiating, lobbying, influencing – Volker Grellmann (2005), Rainer Ling (2010) and Kai-Uwe Denker (2016). Campaigner for the cause, Dirk Heinrich, is the only journalist so far to receive the award (1999), and FENATA CEO Jackie Asheeke the only tourism personality (2008).