Fred Kockott & Mlu Mdletshem, Ground Up | September 25, 2019
Nineteen-year-old Kgaugelo Neville Ngomane has won a prestigious environmental photographic competition.
Ngomane’s powerful image of a rhino dehorning, titled Desperate Measures, was picked from more than 4,000 international entries by the judges who commended its storytelling and photographic merit. The judges said: “When his photo flashed up on screen, there was a sharp intake of breath around the judging room; it’s such a powerful image.”
The Young Environmental Photographer of the Year Award is run by the international Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).
On learning that he’d won, the unemployed teenager from Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, said: “Winning this competition means a lot, because I love photography. But I don’t just want to win, I want to make a difference. It is not easy to watch such an iconic animal being dehorned. I hope this picture will make a lot of people see what we have to do to save our rhinos and then support conservation.”
Ngomane is a graduate of Wild Shots Outreach – a Hoedspruit-based non-profit organisation that teaches wildlife photography to young people from poor communities.
The programme prioritises high school students from government schools and unemployed young people bordering the Kruger Park.
“Despite living right next door to a National Park, 99% of these young people have never had access to their natural heritage and have never seen Africa’s iconic wildlife,” said Wild Shots Outreach founder and director, Mike Kendrick.
“This award is a fantastic accolade for Neville, for Wild Shots Outreach, for the communities and all the young people I work with,” added Kendrick. “They have developed pride in their images, pride in their stories, pride in themselves and a pride in their natural heritage – a natural heritage which has previously been hard for them to access.”
“Can we hope that images like Neville’s will capture the imaginations of communities like his, which border the Greater Kruger Park? And can photos like this bring people a better understanding of the drastic measures being used to conserve the iconic wildlife which we hold so precious?” asked Kendrick.
Kendrick said that Ngomane’s award winning photo was made possible by a rhino conservation charity, Rhino Revolution, which had the “foresight and vision to invite Wild Shots Outreach students to attend and document the dehorning of their wild rhino on a private reserve outside Hoedspuit, in Limpopo.”
Although an unpleasant experience for the rhino, dehorning is like cutting one’s fingernails and the horn will grow back, said Kendrick. “Desperate times call for desperate measures and dehorning is a last-ditch attempt to deter the poaching of rhinos.”
The presentation of CIWEM’s Young Environmental Photographer of the Year Award coincided with this week’s World Youth WildLife Summit hosted by the Southern African Wildlife College in the Kruger National Park.
Before the summit, 20 youngsters from rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were selected to take part in a National Geographic Photo Camp in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Park and other Project Rhino reserves, including Somkhanda and Manyoni. They learned skills from world class photographers while immersed in the wilderness.
“We came face to face with wild game and took photographs with meaning,” said 17-year-old Monique Keganediste from Nongoma, whose photo of a Somkhanda Game Reserve Anti-poaching ranger, Bhotsotso Hebron Gumbi, formed part of a photo essay at the summit.