The Biodiversity Law Centre receives an Owl Award

On 19 September 2023, the Biodiversity Law Centre was awarded one of BirdLife South Africa’s prestigious Owl Awards. The award is to acknowledge the Centre’s contributions to the study, conservation and enjoyment of South Africa’s birds. We are extremely honoured to be recognised for our work, and grateful that it serves towards our vision of flourishing indigenous species and ecosystems in Southern Africa.

Since the Centre commenced operations 18 months ago, we have provided legal advice and support to BirdLife SA’s Policy and Advocacy, Landscape Conservation, and Seabird Conservation Programmes. Complementing BirdLife SA’s scientific knowledge, we have been able to leverage legal interventions in the context of two key projects, Protecting Verlorenvlei, and Protecting African Penguins.

“The Verlorenvlei estuary is a Ramsar Site and IBA, being regarded as one of the ten most important wetlands for wading birds in the South-Western Cape. However, the condition of the vlei has deteriorated exponentially in recent years. Strategic interventions are urgently needed to prevent the site’s further deterioration. The BLC has complemented BLSA’s scientific knowledge with legal advice and support – including by investigating legal avenues for a moratorium on impactful activities in the catchment, supporting engagements with local and provincial authorities, and preparing letters to the Minister of environment, with suggestions for interventions. It is also assisting BLSA to oppose a proposed mine in the Moutonshoek Protected Environment (with relevance for Verlorenvlei).”

“The African Penguin is Africa’s only penguin species, yet is currently categorised as Endangered and is heading towards Critically Endangered on its current trajectory. Despite BLSA having long recognised the need to explore and potentially pursue legal options for strengthening this species’ protection (e.g. from ship-to-ship bunkering), we’ve lacked the capacity to do so. The BLC has provided invaluable support in this regard – including by investigating opportunities for legal reform, drafting associated motivations to the Minister, engaging Transnet about existing bunkering licences, and identifying strategic opportunities for future action.” 

“NGOs’ efforts to address the rapidly escalating threats to biodiversity are often frustrated by lack of resources to secure legal support. The BLC’s establishment was therefore much needed. Despite being a young non-profit, with limited capacity, the BLC has invested considerable time in supporting BLSA and has actively promoted public awareness about the above-mentioned issues (including through op-eds and interviews). Kate Handley’s dedication to her work, willingness to step in at short notice to address urgent issues, and ability to come to grips with the varied scientific, legal, and socio-economic aspects of these matters are most impressive and highly appreciated; and we believe that the BLC’s important contributions warrant its receipt of an Owl Award.”