Simson !Uri-≠Khob wins a lifetime award

(L-R) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge presents Simson Uri-Khob with his award during the Tusk Conservation Awards 2021
(L-R) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge presents Simson Uri-Khob with his award during the Tusk Conservation Awards 2021

Congratulations to the man of the hour, Simson!Uri-≠Khob for winning the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, in recognition of the 30 years he has worked to save black rhinos, and in his role as Chief Executive Officer of Save the Rhino Trust in Nambia (SRT).

This is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes outstanding dedication and exceptional contribution to conservation in Africa. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who launched the annual TUSK Conservation Awards in 2013 in his role as royal patron of the Tusk Trust, handed over the awards with honour and a few words, “our wildlife plays a vital role in keeping nature in balance and maintaining this precious cycle of life.” Said his Royal Highness.

The awards serve to bolster international recognition for the winners and the work they do. The three award categories are: The Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, a lifetime achievement award, won by Simson; The Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa which recognises an emerging leader in conservation, won by Julie Razafimanahaka from Madagascar and the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award which recognises dedication and bravery of rangers work to protect wildlife won by Suleiman Saidu from Nigeria.

During the years Simson has worked for SRT, he has progressively built up his portfolio in different positions and currently leading a team of 43 staff and 60 community rhino rangers from 13 conservancies, spanning an area of 25,000 km² in northwest Namibia. When Simson joined SRT in the early 1990s, Namibia’s black rhino population was just back from the brink of almost complete decimation after a terrible drought and surge of poaching in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, rhino numbers have increased, and conservancies have generated more than US$10 million in cash income and other benefits for conservancy members.

Namibia’s successful rhino conservation efforts in the northwest region have been largely driven by engaging and empowering local communities in rhino protection. SRT, alongside local partners, has spearheaded these efforts for nearly 4 decades. Today, rhino numbers have dramatically increased, and conservancies are supported to employ locally recruited rangers, provide education and health improvements, and help for farmers.

It is impossible not to feel Simson’s passion and commitment for protecting the rhinos and ensuring that the rangers are given the support they need and deserve. Speaking at the Awards ceremony on the evening of 22 November 2021 in London, United Kingdom, Simson said that “It’s not always that you see a rhino. There aren’t that many around. But you know God graced them to be on earth.”

Simson’s ability to connect with not only his team but also traditional leaders, politicians, donors and royalty has earned him worldwide admiration. “I try my best to always come out and see the field staff and talk to them where possible. I feel like I can always stand up, go out in the field with all the challenges that are out there and do the job with them and make sure that all rhinos are saved for the future generations, for the little kids that are growing up now.”.

His steadfast loyalty and hard work is also recognized by his colleagues and acquaintances who described him as a passionate, and trustworthy person, dedicated to his work and community.

“Simson is a very passionate person, who is very dedicated to his work. He has a lot of skills working in the field. He is not just a CEO that sits in the office and gives instructions. He is a CEO that goes out in the field and gets his hands dirty. When he speaks about these rhinos, there is always this spark in his eyes. He just loves the rhinos and has sacrificed his life for them.” Maxi Louis, Director of Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations.

Simson is an especially gifted conservationist. It is impossible not to feel his passion, commitment, and honest open heart when he talks about protecting the species.

Piet Beytell, Principal Conservation Scientist for Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism described him as “a very soft-spoken gentle giant. He is also a community leader for the entire community, and everyone knows him and people in the community looks up to him. He is the face of Save the Rhino Trust, and without him, I don’t think we would have had this success in the rhino population as we do have now. I constantly get calls from Simson over the weekends. He doesn’t even greet me, he just says, ‘Piety there is a new black rhino calf’, or ‘We found Speedy again’. I think that epitomizes Simson as a person. Even being the CEO, he still gets excited about rhinos.”

In Namibia, all black rhinos belong to the state, and the Save the Rhino Trust Namibia has been in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, looking after the rhinos in the Kunene region since their inception in the 1980s. The area has gone through a severe drought over the last ten years.

“With efforts like we have had with SRT, we managed to bring rhino poaching down and have had a dramatic reduction since 2015 in the poaching numbers. Simson as a leader has been at the helm in probably the most difficult time for the organization” said Beytell.

“He has put in so much effort in saving rhinos, travelling away from us for weeks, months, years. So, he deserves this achievement.” Said Simson Rudy !Uri-≠Khob -Simson’s son.

He is indeed a rhino guardian and without doubt a worthy winner of this lifetime achievement award, which reflects his hard work and dedication towards the rhinos, and the community at large who contributes to the well-known Namibian conservation success story.

During his acceptance speech, Simson spoke of the future, encouraging young people to take up conservation as a career.

“Conservation needs dedicated, responsible, committed and strong leaders and this is the time for the younger generation to prepare to take over. It may not be a career which makes you rich, however, safeguarding nature for future generations is priceless”.

 

ENVIRONMENT WATCH

Glasgow climate pact

Last month at the COP26 summit, a new global agreement was reached to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. Although it has been said that this new agreement does not go far enough, many leaders and activists believe that this is a good start for individuals and countries to take responsibility.

The agreement reached at the climate summit is not a legally binding treaty, but it sets the global agenda on climate change for this decade. The document set out nine action points that each country should pursue to limit global warming, such as reducing deforestation and driving investment into sustainable green sectors such as solar and wind power.

It was agreed that countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide one of the greenhouse gas that causes climate change.

This is to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5C - which scientists say is required to prevent a "climate catastrophe". Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.

For the first time at a COP conference, there was an explicit plan to reduce coal use, which is responsible for 40% of annual carbon emissions.

However, countries only agreed a weaker commitment to "phase down" rather than "phase out" coal after a late intervention by China and India.

The agreement pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy.

There's also the prospect of a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025 - after a previous pledge for richer countries to provide $100bn (£72bn) a year by 2020 was missed.

While some observers say the COP26 agreement represented the "start of a breakthrough", some African and Latin American countries felt not enough progress was made.

World leaders agreed to phase-out subsidies that artificially lower the price of coal, oil, or natural gas. However, no firm dates have been set.

International efforts to deal with climate change made significant advances this year. Particularly notable is the US-China agreement which includes an accelerating effort to ween economic activity from fossil fuel, and the US-Canada climate cooperation, manifested in a landmark substitute for traditional oil sands pipelines.

China has previously been reluctant to tackle domestic coal emissions - so this was seen as recognising the need for urgent action.

Victoria Amon

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