Welcome to our news update for the last few months! We are very excited to share our progress in getting the Protected Environment established, our partnership with the Cape Leopard Trust and our recent moss discoveries.
Thank you to all of our members for your ongoing support and commitment to the incredible environment of which we are part of. Sean, Mike, Thili & team
Protected Environment Update
The Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy was established in 1999 by a collective of landowners with similar conservation objectives. Conservation cannot happen in isolation, with fauna and flora as well as alien plant species and fires knowing no boundaries. The establishment of the conservancy therefore provided a platform to look at the landscape as a collective and jointly manage the biodiversity of the area. The conservancy has grown significantly over the recent years and now encompasses an area just shy of 22 000 hectares of fynbos and forest habitat, with 49 landowners.
Conservancies are voluntary and there are no formal ties binding the landowner or the land into long-term conservation. Relationships are based with the current landowners, and not with the land. Strengthening the conservation status of these landscapes is very important if we are to ensure that the natural processes and the unique biodiversity within this landscape persist beyond the current landowners and well into the future. With conservation efforts having been invested in the region for over two decades, the concept of a Protected Environment was presented to the conservancy at the AGM in 2019. A Protected Environment ensures that key biodiversity areas are secured in perpetuity, despite future change of ownership of properties and thereby contributing to national conservation targets, and creating a formally recognised conservation area. Eight landowners have committed to signing areas of their property into a Protected Environment. Alongside the seven established private nature reserves within the region, this will create a protected area network of 12 500 hectares within the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy. The establishment of the Protected Environment has been a long journey, but will result in an incredible conservation legacy for the region. Thanks to all the landowners who contributed to finalising the Walker Bay Protected Environment Landowners Association Constitution. This document was signed at a ceremony under the ancient milkwood trees on Grootbos on the 5th November. Through the proclamation of the statutory Protected Environment, together with the Nature Reserves in the Conservancy more than half of the total area of the conservancy will be safeguarded in perpetuity.
Wildlife Monitoring 2021
The Grootbos Foundation wildlife monitoring team began surveying wildlife in the WBFC in 2017, which has led to some interesting discoveries, new survey methods; new members to the conservancy, collaborative partnerships and insights to the ecology and habits of our more secretive species. In September 2021, the Cape Leopard Trust established a leopard population survey throughout the Southern Overberg, called the “Tale of two leopards”, click here for more information.
Together with an intensive camera trap survey, the project aims to map out the breeding populations of the Western Leopard Toad with the hopes of creating a better understanding of ecological corridors and how they affect species across various trophic levels and habitat types.
The Western leopard toad is a conservation concerns species found in two isolated populations including the city of Cape Town and a population in the Southern Overberg, with the vast majority of the latter population being within the WBFC.
|Through our collaborative relationship with the Cape Leopard Trust, and the 5 years of leopard monitoring we have conducted on the conservancy, we are excited to assist CLT with the geographical area of the conservancy and surrounding landscapes. The project involves setting up paired camera trap stations to gain images of both sides of individual leopard for ID purposes. The data will be made available for us to create a better local understanding of the leopards of the WBFC. While the project is still underway, it is great to see that we have a breeding leopard population and that the habitats seem to be connected enough for them to move between protected areas relative to their home range sizes.|
The Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy is a Moss hotspot
|Mosses are part of the group Bryophyta, which they share with hornworts and liverworts. Given their tiny physique, mosses are often overlooked; as you need magnification to physically see the differences between mosses and their super amazing structures. A recent visit to our region from an expert bryologist, Prof. Terry Hedderson from the University of Cape Town, revealed a surprising number of moss species in our region! Over two days, 77 species of moss were sampled, with an estimated 160 species overall present in the area. Even fynbos areas showed various mosses on the clay soils and rocks, easily overlooked when one often assumes that mosses only occur in forests. According to research, our region is stamped as a bryophyte hotspot and much more work on this amazing group still needs to be done. So, next time you see a green mossy carpet, remember, there could be three to five species in that tiny patch.|