Eland released at wine estate
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.