Rhodes Environmental award 2019
At a celebratory function on Tuesday 25 September 2019, I received the Environmental Award (Individual Category) for my contribution to the Grahamstown environmental community through my snake awareness talks, critter walks and school demonstrations. In addition to my certificate I received a very unique and beautiful floating trophy that currently sits atop my shelf in my departmental office.
The award was presented to me by Prof Hugo Nel and Associate Prof. Michelle Cocks was the speaker at the event. Thanks go to Rhodes University and the Environmental Committee for considering me for this award. Thanks also goes to my amazing girlfriend, Megan Reid, for Nominating me for this prestigious award.
Award write-up from Rhodes University Environmental Committee.
The individual award winner, Chad Keates, has embarked on initiatives to conserve biodiversity and to promote greater environmental responsibility in the local community with great passion. His actions reflect the University policy’s commitment to the protection of biodiversity and enhancement of ecosystem functioning. His educational activities show strong evidence of increased awareness in the community of how vital animal conservation is.
In the last few years Chad, who is completing his PhD in genetic herpetology, has organised and presented countless presentations and demonstrations about reptiles and amphibians in Makhanda. With these interactions he educates the public and dispels myths about these creatures. Many people resort to killing these animals because they do not understand them. Through his educational talks, and also because he is on call to remove and release reptiles safely, he has reduced the number of reptiles killed by the community. He organises “critter walks” to show the community the diversity of native reptiles in the town, and highlights issues posed by habitat destruction and pollution. A previous environmental awards winner had the following to say about her experience at one of these presentations:
I have attended one of his talks, and he really does go above and beyond his duties as a researcher. His passion for snakes and reptiles shines through and his efforts to educate and enhance understanding of our indigenous snakes is truly commendable.
A fellow researcher in the department of Zoology and Entomology also attests to the positive effects of his community engagement and the infectiousness of his love for snakes and reptiles:
I have attended many of his talks and events, and have heard and seen how adults and children alike have admitted to completely changing their perspective of reptiles. Many people who were terrified of snakes before, touch and hold a snake for the first time at his demonstrations, and people who admitted to killing snakes before prefer to call him to remove them instead.
Most of Chad’s work is completely voluntary, as his main goal is to do as much as he can to conserve the animals he studies and loves. Besides presentations and demonstrations, our winner runs his own website, which not only documents these events, but also acts as a database for one to identify reptiles in South Africa. Furthermore, he distributes posters on reptiles – currently he is collaborating with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) to create placards and signs aimed at educating and reminding people about frogs and how to conserve them.
His work has continuity. Chad has sparked the interest of other students at Rhodes University who have learned from him and are available to remove snakes in Makhanda when he is not available and his collaboration with WESSA has helped to highlight the importance of those reptiles which are not well known by the general public.
For more information, check out the link provided: https://www.ru.ac.za/environmentalsustainability/awards/2019awards/