WATCH: Gekco receives Greening the Future award

KYALAMI – The Greater Kyalami Conservancy (Gekco) last week received an award from the 2016 Mail and Guardian Greening the Future Awards.

August 5, 2016 | Robyn Kirk | Fourways Review

WINNERS: Secretary, Anton van Niekerk; chairperson, Kristin Kallesen; and head of biodiversity, Tyrone McKendry hold the Community Conservation Award given to Gekco.

They came first in the Community Conservation category for the Green Neighborhood Project, which Gekco began in 2012. The project encourages residents from both the greater Kyalami area and from neighbouring Diepsloot to become more engaged with protecting the environment with activities like Mandela Day cleanups of the Jukskei River and a recycling scheme in Diepsloot.

“The Green Neighbourhoods Project is about community engagement,” explained Kristin Kallesen, Gekco’s chairperson.

“[We believe that] problems stemming from climate change can be solved locally, so we listen when the community puts forward ideas about how to do that in the area.”

The award was handed over to Gekco on Thursday, 28 July during a prestigious awards ceremony in Modderfontein, where Gekco’s Tyrone McKendry was there to receive it.

McKendry, who responsible for biodiversity, wildlife sightings and research at Gekco, said the number of species in the conservancy’s area is truly astonishing, despite outside pressures affecting it. “Residents have seen a huge diversity in the area, including mongoose, duiker, African grass owls and even genets. Despite the number of people who have moved into the area over the past few decades, the corridors [that animals use to move around the area] have mostly been left intact.”

When asked why the conservancy has been successful enough to win an award, Anton van Niekerk, Gekco’s secretary said, “I’ve seen, personally, that at the core of people’s values is the desire to do the right thing.”

“We would be nothing without the community,” agreed Kallesen.

“It’s the community who send in reports and photographs of animals in the area and who write protest letters against activities in the area that could be harmful to wildlife. This award belongs to everyone.”

And what is Gekco hoping for from the future?

“We already have a strong relationship with our communities, but we would like to make it even stronger,” said Van Niekerk.

“[In the future] we want to to help people see that there is a definite reward that comes from giving back.”