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6th Diamond Route Conference a big success

Thanks to an array of informative research presentations, the 6th Annual Diamond Route Conference which took place over two days at the DeBeers Head Office in Johannesburg earlier this month, once again put the spotlight on Southern’s Africa’s rich bioversity as well as some of its archeological treasures.

Themed Don’t miss a thing, conference topics touched on several of the continent’s most elusive species such as the secretive blackfooted cat, the critically endangered wattled crane, the fascinating hedgehog and majestic leopard. Also under the spotlight were the threat to bee pollinators and thus food security, vegetation monitoring, water quality, biogeographic patterns of insect species richness and diversity, and lessons we can learn from mole-rats about altruism.

Mr Nicky Oppenheimer, founding member of the Diamond Route, opened the conference with an overview of the Diamond Route. World renowned small mammal expert Prof Ara Monadjem from the University of Swaziland delivered a captivating keynote address on the under-studied and under-valued African small mammals, while well-known conservationist Dr John Ledger opened the second day of the conference with an enlightening presentation on global warming and climate change.

Launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the Diamond Route was initiated as a programme linking the conservation properties owned by De Beers and E Oppenheimer & Son, pulling together their physical and intellectual ecological and cultural assets. The Diamond Route grew out of De Beers’ century-old practice of using its mining-license landholdings for conservation purposes, going back to the late 1880’s. De Beers now actively manages roughly six hectares of land for biodiversity conservation purposes for every one hectare used commercially.

The Diamond Route Research Conference was established in 2010 to take this initiative a step further, creating a a platform to highlight some of hundreds of research projects, on a wide range of subjects, that have been conducted over the years, with some active for more than 30 years.

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Researchers of 14 local and international universities attended the 2015 Diamond Route Research Conference. From left: Meredith Palmer of the University of Minnesota, Reinier Terblanche of the University of Stellenbosch, Laurence Kruger of the Organisation of Tropical Studies, University of Cape Town and Themb’a Mahlaba of the University of Swaziland.

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From left: Keynote speakers Dr John Ledger, well-known conservationist (left), with Prof. Ara Monadjem of the University of Swaziland and Tania Anderson (right).

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From left: E Oppenheimer & Son’s conservation manager, Dr Duncan MacFadyen (left), with Strilli and Nicky Oppenheimer (right).

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Chantelle Jansen (left) received the award for the best presentation from Phillip Barton, CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines and Chairman of the Diamond Route (middle). Reiner Terblanche (right) received the award for the best poster.

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