The Lifetime Contribution Award
In this world, there are people who are the models for dedication and commitment. SANParks acknowledges that in order for this organisation to have reached the heights it has, there had to be pillars of strength and dedication that kept the fires burning and tonight, SANParks honours one of these special pillars whose life is intertwined with the Kruger National Park. It is an honour for me to announce the winner of
Dr U. de V. (Tol) Pienaar 12 August 1930 – 2 February 2011
Dr U. de V. (“Tol”) Pienaar studied at Wits Medical School where he graduated in 1953 with a PhD. in histology and embryology. He then worked as a lecturer in histology for two years in the Anatomy Department under the world famous anthropologist, and then head of department, Prof Raymond Dart.
However, he had an inborn love and passion for nature, and continued applying for conservation posts in South Africa and Namibia. He eventually was successful, and on 1 December 1955 he started as Junior Ranger in the Kruger National Park based at Kingfisherspruit section. This was only after convincing the then CE of SANParks, Mr Rocco Knobel, not to hold against him the fact that he was “overqualified” for the post. It was during his time as ranger on 21 July 1956 that Dr Pienaar survived being attacked and bitten in the side by a wounded lioness close to the present day Roodewal camp along the Timbavati River.
Dr Pienaar quickly rose through the ranks and was appointed as Assistant-Biologist in April 1955, promoted to Biologist in 1961, Assistant-Director of conservation in 1970, and Director of Conservation in 1974. In 1978 he was appointed as Park Warden of the Kruger National Park and in 1987 as Chief Director of SANParks. He held this post until his retirement on 30 March 1991 after 35 years of service, 32 of which were spent in the Kruger Park.
Dr Pienaar was an excellent naturalist with a wide scientific interest, and was largely responsible for guiding research & management direction during a long and influential era. He established the Reference Museum in Skukuza and started inventorising plant, fish, reptile, mammal, amphibian, insect and bird diversity in the Park. Dr Pienaar also played a leading role in research on chemical capture and immobilisation techniques of wild animals. He wrote numerous scientific papers and reference books, as well as two books about the history of the Kruger National Park, namely “A Cameo from the Past (1990)” which deals with the early history of the Kruger Park until 1946 and “Goue Jare (2010)” which covers the era from 1946 until his retirement in 1991.
Dr Pienaar built up the scientific capacity of SANParks, achieved accolades for the organisation’s management excellence and leadership, and foresaw and began responding to South Africa’s river crisis. He was the driving force behind ‘pragmatic management by intervention’, and campaigned tirelessly to improve the worsening water situation in Kruger Park’s perennial rivers. During his tenure a large number of boreholes were sunk and dams built to stabilize and improve the water situation in the Kruger Park.
He was also instrumental in improving the conservation and tourism infrastructure in the park, and during his tenure a total of nine new ranger posts, two large tourist camps (Berg-en-Dal, and Mopani), nine private & bushveld camps, seven picnic sites, six walking trails and two entrance gates (Kruger Gate & Pafuri Gate), as well as a number of new tourist routes, were developed and came into use.
Dr Tol Pienaar will rank amongst those who have had the most influence in shaping the Kruger National Park into the world renowned conservation icon that it is today. His foresight and action laid the foundation for much of SANParks’ current success as a conservation agency and a popular ecotourism destination.
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