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Students of SA Wildlife College team up with SAEON Ndlovu Node

South African Wildlife College students who participated in the SAEON Vegetation Monitoring Day, together with staff from SAEON’s Ndlovu Node. Students come from all over Africa to attend these courses, with students from Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, the DRC and South Africa in the current class.

A group of students conduct a step-point transect to measure the cover of grasses, forbs and trees in one of SAEON’s permanent plots.

Two students sample a vegetation transect.

- By Dr Tony Swemmer, Manager, SAEON Ndlovu Node

In May this year, students from the South African Wildlife College - located within the Greater Kruger National Park - again assisted SAEON’s Ndlovu Node with long-term research.

The students are enrolled in the College’s Higher Certificate Course, which provides field rangers with the skills needed to advance to management positions.

Dr Tony Swemmer, Manager of SAEON’s Ndlovu Node lectured the students on vegetation monitoring. This included a field assignment in which students had to collect and analyse basic vegetation monitoring data and write a report of their findings. The data they collect contributes to a long-term dataset that the Ndlovu Node has been collecting at the College since 2008.

In addition to the basic data that students collect each year as part of their training, more detailed vegetation data are collected by Node staff within permanent monitoring plots on and around the College grounds.

New skills equip rangers to monitor Africa’s reserves

The College students are employed as rangers in protected areas throughout Africa, and are given one year of training leave while at the College. The collaboration between SAEON and the College aims to provide them with skills to initiate or improve monitoring conducted in the reserves and parks where they work.

Furthermore, the permanent plots set up by SAEON will ultimately provide long-term ecological data on the effects of climate change, fire and herbivores on one of the major ecosystems found within South African savanna biome.

According to Craig Hays, a training manager at the College, the collaboration with SAEON provides a great opportunity for their students to learn practical monitoring methods in the field. "These are skills many of them will use to conduct monitoring programmes when they return to the parks and reserves where they work," Hays said.

The South African Wildlife College is a non-profit organisation established in 1996 with funding primarily from the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)  and Peace Parks Foundation . Courses provide ranger-level staff with a variety of skills needed to manage protected areas effectively, and range from scientifically-oriented courses on ecology and monitoring to management courses and vehicle mechanics.

Learn more about the College at www.wildlifecollege.org.za

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