District Mail

New res­i­dents at Vergele­gen farm

- South Africa News · Animals · Ecosystem · Wildlife · Ecology · Cape Town · Netherlands · Wellington, New Zealand · South Africa · Maryland

SOM­ER­SET WEST – An am­bi­tious project for veld man­age­ment and eco­log­i­cal re­search took a step for­ward with the re­lease of five eland at Vergele­gen Es­tate last Wed­nes­day (29 July).

The ar­rival of the eland is the lat­est stage of the Gan­touw Project, which com­bines an­cient an­i­mal lore with sta­teof-the-art tech­nol­ogy. The pro­gramme of the Cape Town En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Trust (CTEET) was launched in 2015, un­der its Na­ture Care Fund, and mim­ics the his­toric mi­gra­tion of eland us­ing them as a nat­u­ral driver to boost ecosys­tem di­ver­sity.

“Gan­touw is a word de­rived from the Khoi lan­guage and means ‘the way of the eland’,” Dr Anthony Roberts, CEO of CTEET, ex­plained. “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, one of the main threats to the eco­log­i­cal health of these sys­tems is elim­i­nated and 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 on­the-ground flora and fauna sur­veys. This will in­di­cate the an­i­mals’ graz­ing pref­er­ences, their im­pact on flora and fauna as well as es­ti­ma­tions of veld car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.

The eland group com­prises three cows and two neutered bulls, trans­ported from

Elands­berg in Wellington. The project will run for five years and then be re­viewed.

Vergele­gen has pro­vided a fenced 10-ha camp near the hill­top wine cellar, se­cluded from its hos­pi­tal­ity and man­age­ment oper­a­tions. CTEET, an NPO, has erected a boma in the camp to shel­ter the eland and es­tate man­age­ment has un­der­taken to mon­i­tor the an­i­mals’ health.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion will conduct re­search to ob­tain base­line data and on­go­ing eco­log­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing, and will sub­mit an an­nual re­port.

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, ex­plained Vergele­gen MD Wayne Coet­zer.

Com­pleted in 2018, the project has re­stored 2 200 ha of fyn­bos veg­e­ta­tion while sup­port­ing job cre­ation and skills de­vel­op­ment in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties of the Helderberg.

The eland re­search will form part of a PhD th­e­sis by ecol­o­gist and project man­ager Petro Botha.

The es­tate has a long his­tory of col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional univer­si­ties so that stu­dents and pro­fes­sion­als can fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion through var­i­ous projects, said Coet­zer.

By the end of 2018 there had been 24 for­mal stud­ies – seven un­der­grad­u­ate, 11 post­grad­u­ate and six PhD stud­ies. Of these 19 were from lo­cal in­sti­tu­tions and five from in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

“We are de­lighted to be able to play a part in this far­sighted project and look for­ward to see­ing the re­search find­ings in due course,” said Coet­zer. “We hope the knowl­edge gained at the es­tate will help to pro­tect other pre­cious nat­u­ral habi­tats.”

 ??  ?? Eland ex­plor­ing their new habi­tat at Vergele­gen af­ter their re­lease at the farm last week.
Eland ex­plor­ing their new habi­tat at Vergele­gen af­ter their re­lease at the farm last week.

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