Eland re­leased at wine es­tate

Cape Argus - - METRO -

FIVE eland were re­leased at Vergele­gen Wine Es­tate in Som­er­set West in an am­bi­tious project for veld man­age­ment and eco­log­i­cal re­search.

The ar­rival of the eland (Tau­ro­tra­gus

oryx) at Vergele­gen forms the lat­est stage of the Gan­touw Project.

This is a pro­gramme of the non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion Cape Town En­vi­ron­men­tal Education Trust (CTEET), and has been in op­er­a­tion since 2015 un­der its Na­ture Care Fund. The project mim­ics the his­toric mi­gra­tion of eland, us­ing them as a nat­u­ral driver to boost ecosys­tem di­ver­sity.

“Gan­touw is a word that is de­rived from the Koi lan­guage and means ‘the way of the eland’,” said Dr An­thony Roberts, CTEET’s chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“This refers to a path that eland carved into the land over many years as they mi­grated back and forth from the Cape Flats over the Hot­ten­tots Hol­land Moun­tains.

“Ur­ban­i­sa­tion has re­sulted in frag­mented ecosys­tems, many of which are col­laps­ing. By in­tro­duc­ing eland and al­low­ing them to browse veg­e­ta­tion and pre­vent bush en­croach­ment, the char­ac­ter­is­tic di­ver­sity of the veld starts to re­turn and the ecosys­tem func­tions more ef­fec­tively.”

The im­pact of the eland on the Vergele­gen veld will be mon­i­tored us­ing drones and spec­tral imaging, as well as on-the-ground flora and fauna sur­veys. This will in­di­cate the an­i­mals’ graz­ing pref­er­ences, their im­pact on flora and fauna, and es­ti­ma­tions of veld car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.

The eland group com­prises three cows and two neutered bulls, trans­ported from Elands­berg, Wellington. The project will run for five years then be re­viewed.

The first phase of the Gan­touw Project fo­cused on Cape Flats Dune Strand­veld, which is en­dan­gered and only found on the low­lands of Cape Town. At Vergele­gen the eland will graze on var­i­ous species of fyn­bos in­clud­ing renos­ter­bos, os­teosper­mum, sear­sia, he­lichry­sum, ox­alis, var­i­ous grasses and restios.

Much of the orig­i­nal veg­e­ta­tion at Vergele­gen has re­vived since the es­tate man­age­ment em­barked on South Africa’s largest pri­vately funded alien veg­e­ta­tion clear­ing project, said Vergele­gen MD Wayne Coet­zer.

The eland re­search will form part of a PhD the­sis by ecol­o­gist Petro Botha, the Gan­touw Project man­ager. |

FIVE eland that were re­leased at Vergele­gen Wine Es­tate as part of the Gan­touw project.

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