An innovative approach to protecting our natural heritage is the secret to success for the regional conservation body.

The Mail & Guardian’s Greening the Future Awards take place yearly, recognising South Africa’s most impactful environmental projects. Award categories change annually, and this year’s list ranged from Youth Leadership and Job Creation to Community Renewable Energy Innovations. CapeNature stole the show by winning not one but two of this year’s award categories: the Biodiversity Stewardship award and Species Conservation Award.

The Biodiversity Stewardship award honours organisations promoting biodiversity, specifically outside of established protected spaces, and CapeNature’s Conservation Stewardship Programme was the perfect fit. The programme bestows conservation status on privately owned areas high in biodiversity, and promotes conservation by implementing biodiversity management on privately owned land.

CapeNature CEO Dr Razeena Omar noted: “The work done by our stewardship programme is vital in the Western Cape as we are able to work together with landowners who now have the opportunity to formally contribute to national conservation targets for threatened species and ecosystems and ensure better management of natural resources and ecosystem services.”

The Species Conservation category recognises those developing solutions to the poaching of endangered species, and CapeNature won again – this time with the Conservation Detection Dog Project. The project works to conserve the geometric tortoise by training dogs to detect the rare species. Once researchers track down the reptiles with the help of the dogs, they can gather information to better understand the fast disappearing animals, and develop a plan of protection. The geometric tortoise is one of the most endangered tortoise species, and South Africa’s highest concern when it comes to tortoise conservation, making it the perfect recipient of the award.

The Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, applauded Cape Nature: “Generally a lot of the hard work institutions like CapeNature do, goes unnoticed and it is always welcome to get some recognition, especially because acknowledgements like these are useful indicators of whether we are on the right track or not in terms of the work we do.”