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09/05/2018

Only serious collaborative action can fully address the challenge of invasive alien exotics and so a call to action for volunteers to help preserve the finest collection of dune fynbos in the world is being made.

 

Exotic invasive species are threatening to take over large sections of the nature reserve, including the rare dune fynbos, at Nelson Mandela University following intensive bush fires there just over a year ago. At least one exotic – rooikrans (acacia cyclops) – can, however, easily be removed by hand at its present miniature size, and hence the call for help. 

“We largely had the exotics under control, but 380 of the 500 hectares on our reserve was burnt. The 1 March 2017 fire stimulated intensive germination. Now we need to do whatever we can to ensure that we do not have a ‘wattle jungle’ out there,” says Mandela University’s nature reserve ranger Craig Breedt.

With earth stewardship as one of the University’s values, Breedt is hopeful that both staff and students and the wider Mandela Bay community will support the “big (alien) pull” planned for Friday, 11 May from 10am to 11.30am (meeting details below).   

Breedt will educate volunteers, including schoolchildren, about the challenges relating to exotic invasive plants and set up teams working in various blocks in the reserve. Volunteers should bring water, wear gardening gloves and have a strong back.  

He is confident that with 100 volunteers, key areas within the conservation area, which is also home to the popular public Grysbok trail, can be cleared of the problematic rooikrans.

At present, the saplings are just 10cm to 30cm tall and can easily be removed by hand. Allowing them to get any taller and stronger, however, will create more problems going forward.

“Right now it is easy. But by about September, this particular species will be difficult to remove manually. We will have to resort to other methods, which are costly,” said Breedt, who has overseen the welfare of the reserve for the past 10 years.

Among the first to respond to the call for help was the Algoa Bay branch of the Wildlife Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), which regularly holds volunteer beach clean-ups and also takes school groups on environmental trips.

“We want to assist where there is a need and continue to educate the public about the importance of conserving the natural environment,” says the branch’s Tim Douglas-Jones.

Outdoor laboratory for students

The 820-hectare reserve, 500 hectares of which is fenced and managed by Nelson Mandela University, was given to the university as a gift by the municipality in the late 1960s for educational purposes. As a result, Mandela University is the only institution of higher education in the country to be located within a reserve. This rare privilege, along with easy access to the adjacent Algoa Bay, gives its students direct access to “a fantastic outdoor laboratory”.

Botany, zoology and photography students consistently use the reserve with its abundance of wildlife, wild flowers and rare fynbos dune system.

Breedt said the reserve was particularly beautiful right now because of the proliferation of veld flowers and the healthy state of the animals.

The reserve is home to zebra, many of which were removed immediately after the fire as three-quarters of its feeding ground had been destroyed by fire, bushbuck, vervet monkeys, grysbuck, duiker, springbok, a red hartebeest, caracal and genet.

More red hartebeest and zebra will be reintroduced to the reserve later this year.

Meeting details

Please meet Craig Breedt at the reserve by meeting at the Springbok Road parking entrance on South Campus. 

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057
debbie.derry@mandela.ac.za