Seventeen field rangers and reserve managers participated in the first wilderness management training courses in the Western Cape, South Africa during June. The courses, presented by the Wilderness Action Group and accredited by the University of Natal's Centre for Environment and Development, were the first offered in the Cape Floristic Region biodiversity hotspot.
The Wilderness Action Group (WAG) has conducted education and training programs for wilderness managers and administrators and communities living adjacent to wilderness areas for more than 10 years in South Africa and in Namibia for the past five years. The newly offered courses in the Western Cape are part of an expansion supported by a grant from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.
"The wilderness concept is little understood throughout this country and it is almost unknown elsewhere on the subcontinent," says Drummond Densham, Wilderness Concepts and Practice Course convenor and WAG chairman.
"One of the ways to raise awareness and improve management of these areas is to ensure that wilderness managers, key persons in the local communities and others have a good understanding of the uniqueness of these areas and appreciate that a different approach to management and use is essential. To do this, specialized training is vital."
Government-designated wilderness areas in the Western Cape include Boosmansbos, Cederberg, Doringrivier and Grootwinterhoek wilderness areas.
The training program involves lectures, discussions and group case study work. All participants are required to complete all group work assignments and to submit an essay.
The WAG courses remain the only ones of their kind in southern Africa. To date, more than 600 people have benefited from both basic and/or advanced training, including delegates at the 7th World Wilderness Congress held in 2001 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Since the Congress, WAG has learned that participants from Brazil, Ghana, Uganda and Russia have applied lessons learned during the course in their own countries. WAG has also received requests to present the courses in India, Russia and Zimbabwe as well as other parts of South Africa.