Conservation mourns the passing of Vitalus Florry

Photo: Helge Denker
Photo: Helge Denker

On Saturday 4 August at Dreifontein Pos, Torra Conservancy and the community of Bergsig paid tribute to Vitalus Florry, a great Kunene conservationist, who has died at the early age of age of 50.

As Florry’s first name suggested, he was a man full of vitality, who served as the Field Officer, or chief game guard, of the vast conservancy of Torra for many years. It is a harsh and arid environment that stretches from Twyfelfontein to the Skeleton Coast, but one that, thanks to the work of conservationists including Florry, has brought benefits to the local community and has allowed wildlife to flourish in the area.

Russell Vinjevold, the Kunene Coordinator for conservation NGO Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, said that Florry was the "go to" man for all things in nature conservation management. Like many livestock farmers, Florry had earlier regarded lions only as a menace. But thanks to his deep understanding of the value of wildlife in tourism, he went on to develop and organise lion management in Torra, and established a protocol to deal with conflict incidents. Above all, he understood and promoted the importance of the conservancy and community in taking responsibility and ownership of conservation issues. Vinjevold stated that Florry’s extensive knowledge and effort has been a shining light in the whole conservation programme.

Speaking for Save the Rhino Trust, Jeff Muntifering added that Florry played a critical role in establishing and managing Torra's Rhino Ranger team, the largest of any participating conservancy in the programme. Further, he was intimately involved in developing two rhino tourism enterprises that Torra's rangers currently lead from Palmwag Lodge and the conservancy office for overland groups. Both of these activities have generated significant income to Torra Conservancy, helping to create jobs. Most importantly, not a single rhino was poached in Torra on Florry's watch as Field Officer.

In his own words: "Before the conservancy, there were absolutely no jobs," said Florry, as manager of Torra Conservancy's tour guides. "Now we see a small economy developing. Now we see some benefits."

Florry leaves four children, and will be missed by the whole community. A unnamed voice said: “Your hiking boot’s prints within Torra conservancy, and specifically at your favourite springs: Poachers Camp, Big Spring, Mud Spring and Springbok River will be sorely missed by your conservation colleagues in Kunene region.”

Steve Felton
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