Tyrone Mckendry writes:
After nearly six years of working on the committee of the Greater Kyalami Conservancy (Gekco), I have officially resigned.
In 2011, I was in the second year of my BSc degree and I decided it would be good to get some actual experience in the field. My friend, Kristin Kallesen, lived and worked in Kyalami and she suggested that I attend one of the Gekco meetings and see if I liked it. I remember the meeting like it was yesterday, the feeling of attending an official meeting with a group of people much older and more experienced than myself, and not knowing what on earth I was supposed to do or say there.
I don’t remember much of what was discussed at the meeting but I do remember the overwhelming sensation I experienced while trying to understand the conversations regarding EIAs, Nema, GDARD, CoJ, Keroa, RAs, and various other acronyms! Nevertheless, I decided to keep attending the meetings and all the seminars and slowly but surely I began to understand what was going on in the area and what I could do to help.
Over the next couple of years, I was exposed to challenging new experiences constantly and I believe that my willingness to step out of my comfort zone allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. In my time with Gecko I learned how to conduct biodiversity surveys, comment on environmental impact assessments, object to illegal development applications, do long public presentations, write articles for magazines and newspapers, build a website, and how to deal with drama (so much drama).
My passion for photography was fueled by my work in Kyalami and worked hand-in-hand with my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Every year we released a Gekco calendar which featured some of the best photos taken in the area by Anton and myself. The challenge of producing better quality images every year forced me to expand my knowledge and hone my skills which are still improving all the time (I hope).
Our work with the African grass owls in Kyalami started with the incredible and tragic fire that blazed through their nesting site. I have written about this so many times and still tell the story in every presentation that I do but it really was the catalyst for some of my proudest work and greatest achievements. The photo that I captured of the grass owl escaping from the massive fire went on to be published in various newspapers and magazines and placed second in the 2014 Getaway Gallery competition and second in the 50|50 Veldfokus competition. Since that day we have made amazing progress towards understanding the behaviour of the grass owls in the area and how we can conserve them.
My time with Gekco has been invaluable and I can’t believe that it is coming to an end. I just want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me over the years, I could never have achieved so much without the love, guidance and assistance from all of you. Kyalami is a special place and is lucky to have such a dedicated group of people watching over it. The fight to protect the ecosystems and biodiversity within that area is far from over but I leave my duties as the biodiversity specialist in Anton’s very capable hands.
Good luck to all of you and thanks again to everyone for everything that you have done over the years.
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