The conservancy has established itself as a committed and forward thinking conservation group. Custodians to an amazing diversity of fauna and flora, the members have set about securing the long-term conservation status of the area. The conservancy has developed its own constitution, registered a Trust, and is run by a committee representing the members. Committee members are elected annually at the AGM meetings.
The biodiversity stewardship program is aimed at female empowerment within the conservation sector, capacity building in various fields and activities. Two teams of women have been trained in various conservation activities including alien plant management, trail maintenance, fire safety, restoration, reforestation and a number of other conservation related activities. The teams are also exposed to heritage and nature based activities, including educational presentations and workshops. These environmental engagement activities are aimed at building compassion and care for the environment for those who are the custodians and caretakers.
Through the Grootbos Foundation Conservation Unit, various wildlife surveys have take place throughout the WBFC. These vary in size and methods, some being ad-hoc, other being of scientific methods. Our most recent undertaking was conducted in collaboration with The Cape Leopard Trust. The Tale of Two Leopards Overberg survey took place in 2021/2022 over a larger area spanning from Bot River to DeHoop National Park. The WBFC covers roughly a quarter of the survey area. During the survey a minimum of 10 leopards were recorded on the conservancy. This includes resident animals and some transient individuals.
Leopards with their unique markings and appropriate home-range sizes, act as good indicators and flagship species for the establishment of conservation corridor networks. Through the information gathered, we can identify conservation hotspots and threats such as invasive species entering our fragile systems, and interact with landowners. The majority of the land within the conservancy boundaries is private, and so interactions and involvement of landowners is vital to conservation success.
The conservancy operates on a basis of a conservation management plan which is regularly updated and provides the framework for annual plans of action (APO). The management plan is adaptable and on-going.
Assistance from the Grootbos Foundation Conservation Unit has been incredibly vital to the success of the WBFC’s management strategies. Our policies must be informed through research, monitoring and ecological understanding. The Grootbos Foundation conservation unit offers landowners Bioblitz Surveys, a rapid surveying method that includes camera trapping, entomological sampling, botanical plant lists, alien plant assessments and fire strategies with various management recommendations forming a large part of the report. Collectively, the Bioblitz surveys are compiled to form the updated management plan for the WBFC in its entirety.
LIST OF SPONSORS FOR THE WALKER BAY FYNBOS CONSERVANCY IN THE PAST TWO DECADES
1.WHITLEY AWARDS FOUNDATION
Sean Privett, the first chairperson of the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy, was awarded R220 000 as a winner of the Iris Darnton Award for his contribution in establishing the Conservancy.
2.DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE AGULHAS BIODIVERSITY INITIATIVE
In partnership with the DEA, ABI and the Flower Valley Conservation Trust, the Conservancy was allocated approximately R2,7 million on alien clearing over the last three years (2013-2015), keeping approximately 6000 hectares cleared of alien vegetation.
3.WWF – SANBI GROEN SEBENZA PROGRAMME
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) embarked on a major skills development and job creation pilot programme in 2013, Groen Sebenza, a Jobs Fund Partnership Project funded by the National Treasury. Groen Sebenza was aimed at developing priority skills in the biodiversity sector to create sustainable job opportunities to unemployed youth for a period of two and a half years, bring young South Africans from previously disadvantaged backgrounds together with experienced biodiversity professionals to learn, grow and eventually gain the competence and confidence to embark on rewarding and meaningful biodiversity careers.
The programme partnered with 43 host institutions across the country from all tiers of government, NGOs and the private sector. Through the WWF-SA the WBFC was amongst the beneficiaries of this funding initiative, hosting Thilivhali Murivhami as an intern. The WBFC has equipped Thilivhali with various life and generic skills training eg. Computer literacy, workplace communication, career guidance, leadership and project management skills and in addition to this, received relevant technical and occupation-specific skills. To date Thilivhali has been made alien clearing manager for the WBFC.
The Grootbos Foundation plays a vital role in the persistence and success of the WBFC over the years. Through the involvement of the Conservation nd Research Unit under the guidance of Conservancy Chair Sean Privett, the conservancy has the advice and support of 2 full time botanists, wildlife ecologist, alien clearing manager, two full time entomologists and a rehabilitation specialist. Together with fundraising for formalizing private conservation areas, office spaces, vehicles and equipment, the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy has been considered one of the leading conservancies in the Western Cape, and we are extremely grateful for the support of our leading partners in conservation.
The WBFC is a member to Conservation@work, an organization aimed at being a central space for conservation agencies of the Western Cape to come together sharing challenges and successes. The organization is focused on Private Nature Reserves, Conservancies, NGO’s, Cape Nature Reserves, and Private landowners of the Western Cape. In 2019, the WBFC won the Cape Fox Award for best managed conservancy in the Western Cape.