Some members of the newly formed Strtaegic Support Committee. From left Roger Porter, Dr George Hughes, Peter Thomson, Drummond Densham, Dave Cook and John Vincent

THE birth of the province’s biodiversity regulator, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, after the KwaZulu Directorate of Conservation and the Natal Parks Board merged in 1998, resulted in the loss of some highly respected conservation experts.

But the recent move by Ezemvelo CEO Bandile Mkhize to bring former employees back on board has been hailed as a step in the right direction.

In a bid to overturn the “ugliness and bitterness” of the past as well as engage with expertise and experience available to the province, Mkhize got the ball rolling by setting up a strategic support committee comprising former staffers who will now serve Ezemvelo as consultants.

Included in the committee are David Cook, Roger Porter, George Hughes, Drummond Densham, John Vincent, Peter Thomson, Ian Player and Paul Phelan.

Roger Porter, who was head of planning for the former Natal Parks Board, welcomed the gesture, saying “Mkhize has already shown fine leadership qualities, a big heart and wisdom.

“It’s an excellent example of how to use intellectual capital in the face of burgeoning demands and the constant threat to the natural heritage.”

Respected conservation expert Derrick Potter also welcomed the move.

“It’s about time,” said Potter. “Transformation was implemented across the board in South Africa, not only in conservation, and some people became surplus to requirements.

“But if the new conservation heads feel some of the old hands could make a difference, they must go for it.

“If they can pull that off, we would have a winning formula,” he predicted.

A respected Ezemvelo employee, who did not want to be named, said conservation was dealt a severe blow when some people lost their jobs in the merger.

“We lost some of our best conservation people in the province. Some of the younger guys were snapped up by other provinces. Others took up positions overseas, while the older guys who collected packages stuck around.

“Not only did we lose rangers; we also lost scientific staff. So bringing past employees back into the fold is a positive move.”

Mkhize said he had had misgivings about the circumstances of the merger of the two organisations to form Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

“Of course, I was not here at the time of the merger. What I do know and have learnt over the years is that this merger involved a regrettable and unnecessary loss of some of the finest conservation minds in South Africa, not just in KwaZulu-Natal,” said Mkhize.

“No organisation can afford to ignore this scientific and practical excellence as well as the wealth of experience, whatever the past circumstances.

“But I am not a man to dwell on such things. Let’s move forward together in a spirit of co-operation and friendship, and for the betterment of the KZN environment.”