/ 16 September 2008

Suspended conservation official wins top award

The suspension of senior Northern Cape nature conservation officials linked to the Kamfers Dam flamingo project must be resolved immediately, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) said on Tuesday.

Northern Cape ACDP leader Francois van Wyk reacted after one of the officials involved, ornithologist Mark Anderson, won a prestigious international award for his work to save flamingos.

”It is very sorry that the award was made under the cloud of a suspension,” Van Wyk said in a statement, adding that it was nevertheless a great achievement by a Northern Cape citizen.

Anderson was awarded the annual African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement Waterbird Conservation Award in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Monday.

The award recognises contributions to the conservation, research and monitoring of migratory water birds, as well as support to the development of the agreement.

South Africa ratified the agreement on January 1 2000, and is one of 25 African countries that are signatories of this important conservation agreement.

Anderson, who was suspended with two other officials last month, was for the past 15 years the driving force behind the conservation of Kamfers Dam, the largest permanent population of lesser flamingos in Southern Africa.

A spokesperson for the Northern Cape department of environmental affairs, OB Phillips, said the investigation in relation to the suspensions was continuing on Tuesday. A hearing is expected on Friday.

The department has been tight-lipped on the reasons for the suspensions, only indicating that the ”precautionary suspension” of the three officials is an internal matter.

However, reports have suggested that Anderson and the others might have been suspended for their efforts to protect the flamingos at Kamfers Dam as officials, as well as their alleged personal link to a ”Save the Flamingo” campaign.

The campaign highlighted the ”raw sewerage” threat to Kamfers Dam, which originates from the nearby Homevale sewerage plant. It also focused on a possible threat to the flamingos by a nearby upmarket housing development, which would be constructed on a property adjacent to Kamfers Dam.

Anderson is expected to take up the position of executive director of BirdLife South Africa, a member of BirdLife International, on October 1 this year. — Sapa