Get out your binoculars: Kruger's annual birding weekends flies off this week

2017-10-13 11:34 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Cape Town – With birding being a very popular activity amongst bird lovers and enthusiasts visiting the Kruger National Park (KNP), 2018 celebrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the annual Kruger National Park Birding Weekends have officially started.

Sponsored by Sasol, the weekends are facilitated by the SANParks Honorary Rangers West Rand Region, which is an organisation of unpaid conservation-minded volunteers who serve as an extension of SANParks’ staff and are committed to furthering SANParks’ objectives.

Sasol has recently been listed among the top 100 highest regarded companies in Forbes' 'Global 2000: Top Regarded Companies' in the world list and has been the proud and sole sponsor of the annual SANParks Birding Weekends for the last 18 years.

“This flagship project has stood the test of time and continues to be hosted at the various camps, with incredible enthusiasm, by the members of the West Rand Region," says Simon Ridge, Chairman of the West Rand Region of the SANParks Honorary Rangers. "We are very grateful to Sasol and our other sponsors for their considerable support over the past two decades. We are proud of its contribution to SANParks and the Kruger National Park, to avian science and conservation, and to the development of bird-watching as a major tourist activity.” 

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Wrenelle Stander, Sasol Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs says conservation is of great importance to Sasol.

"As Sasol, we understand this is not the sole responsibility of one organisation. This is why Sasol is proud to have partnered with Birdlife South Africa and SANParks Honorary Rangers for so many years," says Stander. "This partnership gives us the opportunity to play our part in protecting and preserving South Africa’s natural heritage while educating the public about some of the unique bird species we have in our country.” 

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These weekends have, over the past two decades, contributed significantly to the R248 million in funding contributed for the conservation of South Africa’s national parks.

All proceeds from the weekends are used exclusively for conservation efforts in various National Parks, and these include procuring aircrafts, boats and quad bikes to counter poaching, securing additional ranger equipment, dog cages for safe transport and various animal tracking collars. 

For education purposes, the weekends also go a long way towards educating the general public about the wonders of birding and the importance of protecting South Africa’s rarest and endangered bird species. 

Over the years, this initiative has also inspired other regions to host similar events in other National Parks, which have created more fund-raising streams to support conservation across South Africa.

Various parks host annual coordinated weekends of bird spotting activity where members of the public gather in parks and in teams or as individuals to try and record as many different species in the park in approximately a 24-hour period.

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The Birding Weekends take place every year between January and February. In 2017, a total of 19 camps were run, attracting more than 600 birding enthusiasts.