ADU travels, expeditions and events

Marine and Coastal Communicator of the year award

The winners for 2001 are:

Scientific category - Prof Les Underhill and René Navarro (Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town)

  Les and Rene receive their Marine and Coastal Communicator of the year award
Photo Tony van Dalsen
Les & René showing off their award

Both men were instrumental in informing and educating South Africa about the progress of the Treasure Oil Spill saga and the valiant efforts of the people and penguins. This was done via the Unit's web page.

The information on the website was updated constantly on the progress of the oil slick, the clean-up activities and eventually the journey's of penguins Peter, Pamela and Percy. The website received over 65 000 hits, which represent a significant outreach activity to the South African public and the international community. It is an educational legacy that has aptly and accurately been documented by two dedicated scientists.

Amateur/volunteer category - Robert Dyer, Derek Brown and Ray Ngubane (Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal)

To walk 3 300 km along the entire coastline of South Africa (from Kosi Bay to Alexander Bay) in seven and a half months, is no mean feat. These three inspiring men completed the journey to create public awareness of coastal conservation and monitor various aspects such as the impact of 4x4 vehicles on dunes; estuaries and their bird life; coastal pollution; eco-tourism; and the over-exploitation of marine resources such as mussels.

The combined knowledge of the three hikers will offer a unique perspective on the state of the coastline and its inhabitant, information that is vital in the conservation of our coastal ecosystems. Their efforts have created a public fervour for marine conservation issues.

Professional communicator - Arno Munro (Marine environmental educator at Marine World 2000 Aquarium)

Munro, a self-taught marine educator, has been accredited with bringing marine education to life in Mossel Bay through starting and promoting outreach projects with the community. He was instrumental in the establishment and development of the Mossel Bay aquarium and is responsible for repairs to the tanks, filtration system and exhibits by producing models, teaching tools and posters and creating an awareness of marine conservation.

Munro has been one of the key fundraisers, obtaining sponsorships and organising functions to improve and maintain the educational aquarium and conservation activities. Through his devotion marine conservation is a strong issue in Mossel Bay.

About the awards

The marine communicator awards are linked annually to National Marine Week (this year held from 15 to 19 October). The awards recognise individuals or groups for outstanding contributions to making the marine and coastal environments accessible to the public through different media.

People's activities of the past five years are looked at, with a broad definition of communication that includes public talks, popular articles, books, videos, hands-on education, and education projects.

The awards are hosted under the auspices of SANCOR (South African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research). The competition is organised by the National Research Foundation (NRF) as secretariat to SANCOR, while the awards are sponsored this year by Marine and Coastal Management of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.


René Navarro acceptance speech:

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

I feel very privileged to be standing here tonight as one of those that have been honoured with these awards. I am very grateful to SANCOR and its Steering Committee for choosing me as deserving of this prestigious award.

I never imagined that doing what I saw as my duty would have resulted in so much. The penguins Peter, Pamela and Percy became media celebrities because an old fashion academic web-site literally put them on the map! A map that thousands around the world followed every day. The saga of these three birds became a beacon to the plight of all the other penguins affected in one way or another by the Treasure oil spill.

To maintain the level of information flow through the web-site was a full time job and a bit more. My duties were put on hold until the crisis was over and I was dedicated solely to this purpose. The unprecedented success of the web-site was clearly the product of a team effort. I could do nothing without information, pictures and text that others constantly supplied, chief amongst these was Les, my co-awardee.

The popularity of these three penguins has transcended the academic and conservation circles, they have established themselves as sellable commodities. One finds them in all sorts of products, including pet food! But then, one can always tell who visited the web-site: the label of one of these products sports a picture of Adelie penguins!

But what impressed me most was the way the people of Cape Town and yonder pulled together and responded to help in the way they did. I would like to think that this amazing response was, in part, motivated by those three lines inching along a map on computer screens around the world. For several weeks penguins became the focal point in our lives. So many people came together with the single objective of saving the penguins and it was great knowing that we could contribute to this cause.

No doubt these three heroes of the animal world did more to increase public awareness for penguins, marine birds and the environment at large than any of us could have done.

Once again, thank you very much, for me, it was only a pleasure."