------ Forwarded Message
From: Morne Viljoen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2006 12:40:34 +0200
To: "Trevor Babich (Fishingowl)" <email@example.com>
Subject: So sad
'Ex-abattoir workers' running reserves
August 08 2006 at 07:41AM
The City of Cape Town's nature reserves, home to some of the most threatened plants and animals on the planet, are being run by students, labourers and former abattoir workers.
This comes after the city abruptly ended its contract with Nature Conservation Corporation last week, losing half the managers and senior conservation staff who ran the reserves.
The city says this is necessary while it investigates whether the appointment of Nature Conservation Corporation went by the book.
But environmentalists say they are appalled at the way the city has dealt with the issue, leaving reserves that are critical to the country's successful biodiversity conservation without managers.
Ally Ashwell, who has worked closely with the contract conservation staff on education projects, said the 27 contract staffers who had had to "pack their bags, turn off the lights and leave the reserves" had taken with them "priceless institutional and ecological knowledge".
"It's bizarre. You've got these priceless nature reserves, with highly threatened biodiversity, and who's left to run them? A load of abattoir workers, who are trained to cut animals' heads off and know zip about nature conservation," Ashwell said.
"At Zandvlei, the only staff member is a former abattoir worker with a student who is meant to be there to be mentored.
"If the city had to sort out some bureaucracy about the appointment procedure of Nature Conservation Corporation, fine, but could they not have done it in a way that did not leave the reserves without management?"
Nature Conservation Corporation is run by Dean Ferreira, a former city council conservation official and highly regarded in conservation circles. Of the city's 23 nature reserves, Ferreira's company runs seven.
All the reserves' capital projects are on hold, while surveillance for poaching and other criminal activity is severely limited.
At the weekend Rondevlei and Tygerberg reserves had to close their gates, while Helderberg's was kept open only because of the restaurant. Reserves are not taking new bookings for school environment education projects. More than 7 000 schoolchildren a year visit Rondevlei.
Ossie Asmal, director of environmental resources planning, said the investigation into the service provider was being carried out by the city's auditing department on the instructions of the city manager, Achmat Ebrahim.
"It is purely about the procurement process of the service provider, and is happening in other departments. We happened to be the first," Asmal said.
He said that under the Municipal Finances Act, any contract worth more than R200 000 had to go to tender, which this one had not. Even if it were less than R200 000, the city had first to get three quotes before awarding it.
This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Times <http://www.capetimes.co.za> on August 08, 2006
Natural Resources Law Department
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