Opening Plenary - The Future of Sustainable Use

Southern Africa incorporates into its approach to conservation a sustainable use paradigm, and there are many excellent examples of how allowing people to benefit from the use of biodiversity has ultimately created incentives to maintain species and their habitat, contributing to conservation outcomes. The Biodiversity Economy Strategy recently launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa is premised on sustainable use. However, what exactly is encompassed by the concept of sustainable use? Is the commodification of wildlife for purely commercial purposes with no conservation benefits – and possibly even with risks to conservation - part of the definition?

The current broad definition, combined with certain irresponsible practices, is providing opportunities for the entire concept of sustainable use to be confused and undermined. Increasingly there are polarised, dogmatic, emotional and antagonistic debates, essentially between utilisation and protectionism, ultimately at the expense of conservation. Many decisions, opinions and legal tools do not adequately consider those that ultimately will decide the fate of Africa’s wildlife – the local people that live with and depend on these resources. 

In what promises to be a thought-provoking and lively session, there will be a number of presentations and a facilitated panel discussion with prominent leaders in the field in southern Africa and beyond, with a view to providing direction for the future of the sustainable use concept, so that it remains acceptable and continues to contribute to conservation.

Panellists include: Dr George Hughes (South Africa), Angus Middleton (Namibia), Rowan Martin (Zimbabwe), Lizanne Nel (South Africa) and Prof Annecoos Wiersema (USA)



Dr George Hughes, Independent, South Africa

After spending over four years as a Natal Parks Board Field Officer (Game Ranger) in the Natal Drakensberg, George Hughes went to university graduating with Honours in Zoology (First Class) in 1968. He spent the next six years at the Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban, studying sea turtles and was awarded a PhD by the University of Natal, Durban for the thesis "The Sea Turtles of South East Africa". In 1974, he returned to the Natal Parks Board as a Senior Research Officer, taking responsibility for the sea turtle programme whilst maintaining supervision, direction and analyses of sea turtle research. He was a Founder Member of the IUCN Sea Turtle Specialist Group in 1969 and became Chairman of the IOSEA Memorandum of Understanding Advisory Committee in 2003. Management in the Natal Parks Board proved an inspirational experience from 1975 -2001, with him eventually attaining the rank of Chief Executive Officer of the Board and its successor, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The Board’s policy of sustainable use made a significant contribution to the restoration of South African wildlife. George Hughes has served on 17 national and international committees, was chairman of SABC programme "Talking of Nature" for 4 years and was granted, amongst others, a "Lifetime Achievement" award from the International Sea Turtle Society.

Angus Middleton, Executive Director, Namibia Nature Foundation, Namibia

Angus Middleton is the Executive Director of the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) he has over 15 years of senior management experience and brings together a relevant mix of knowledge and technical experience in, environmental economics, ecological resource management, agricultural management, hunting and biodiversity policies. His work at the Namibia Nature Foundation covers a very broad array of conservation and sustainable development aspects and ranges from policy engagement through to programmatic development and down to field implementation. He was previously the Secretary-General of the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU, where he worked right across Europe at the interface between international, supra-national, national and local biodiversity-related policies. His background further includes sustainable agricultural management, rangeland management and integrated water resource management in Zimbabwe. He has a passion for raptors, a penchant for fishing and a never-ending fascination with nature. He holds an MSc in Environmental Economics and Policy from Imperial College London and a BSc in Ecological Resource Management from Newcastle University.

Rowan Martin, Independent, Zimbabwe

Rowan Martin was born in Zimbabwe and is a Zimbabwe citizen. He graduated as an engineer and physicist from Manchester University in England in 1965, worked for Anglo American Corporation in South Africa until 1970 and was an ecologist in the Zimbabwe Wildlife Department from 1972-1997 (he was head of Research for the last 10 years of this period). He developed the first community wildlife management programmes in Zimbabwe in the 1980s (CAMPFIRE). He represented Zimbabwe in the CITES forum and carried out a number of consultancies for the CITES Secretariat. He prepared several CITES Resolutions including the Criteria for Listing Species on the Appendices and the Recognition of the Benefits of Trade. He was a founder member of the African Elephant and Rhino Specialist Group in 1983. He helped to establish the SACIM Treaty (Southern African Centre for Ivory Marketing) in the 1980s which played a significant role in elephant conservation and CITES. He was a member of the IUCN Sustainable Use Specialist Group and Chair of the Southern African branch of this group. For the past 20 years, he has been a wildlife consultant in southern Africa and has prepared management plans for elephants and rhinos and restructured wildlife departments in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

Lizanne Nel, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association, South Africa

Lizanne Nel has more than thirty years’ experience in developing innovative solutions in support of sustainable conservation and responsible use of biodiversity by integrating conservation and responsible business principles in a socially responsible manner to the benefit of wildlife and the broader public. She was instrumental in the development of several of the institutions and policy frameworks that govern conservation in South Africa, as well as the development of current concepts used by conservation managers. These include concepts such as Goal Orientated Management for protected areas, using Thresholds of Probable Concern to deal with risks in adaptive biodiversity management models and the establishment of Biodiversity Economy Nodes where the wildlife economy and protected areas become drivers in rural socio-economic development through an integrated and clustered land-use management approach, which is now part of the national Biodiversity Economy Strategy. She provides expert advice to several national and international programs, such as the Resource Mobilisation for Biodiversity Conservation Program of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia and the German Government. Although starting out as a nature conservation scientist, most of her work is now at the interface between science and conservation practice and closing the gap. Several initiatives have been launched to this effect, of which the latest include, establishing a social media platform on conservation and responsible wildlife use, establishing citizen science initiatives and serving as co-editor conservation for an international hunting magazine. Lizanne is currently the Conservation Manager for the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association, the largest hunting and conservation association in Southern Africa. She holds an MBA and a BSc (Hons) in Wildlife Management both from the University of Pretoria.

Prof Annecoos Wiersema, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, USA

Annecoos Wiersema is a Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Co-Director of its Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. She has a doctorate in International Law and Environmental Law from Harvard Law School (SJD, Harvard Law School), her law degree from the London School of Economics (LLB (Hons), and her BA from the University of Southampton (BA (Hons), University of Southampton). Professor Wiersema’s publications focus on international environmental law, and she has particular expertise in international wildlife law and species and biodiversity conservation. Her work breaks down the traditional division of local, national, and international law and incorporates cross-disciplinary work. She is a member of the World Commission on Environmental Law of the IUCN and a member of the Board of Editors of the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy.