The infestation of the shot hole borer beetle has spread to multiple places in Western Cape and poses a threat to indigenous trees throughout South Africa.
Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer is a tiny beetle that feeds on living trees. It's difficult to see the beetle. The females are black in color and (1.8-2.5) mm long and males also small but brown and wingless. The males are 1.5-1.7 mm and are less common than females.
The beetle needs breeding and feeding space and enters a tree through the bark, creating breeding and feeding lines, with a layer of spores of the fusarium fungus. The shot hole borer beetle has a symbiotic relationship with this fungus because it is the beetle's primary food source. To reproduce and eat fusarium fungus, the beetle digs tunnels deep within the infected tree. The beetle does not kill the tree but the fungus (Fusarium Euwallacea) does. The fungus spreads from the tunnel into the tree, obstructing the vascular system of the tree. This fungus is the main causes of tree wilting.
The Shot Hole borer beetle is native to Southeast Asia. It arrived in South Africa in 2017 and has caused some environmental damage. It reproduces in both exotic and native tree species. Outside of its native habitat it appears to be much more aggressive.
The symptoms of infected trees differ from one tree species to another, and there are numerous signs that a tree is infected. Some of these indicators could be sawdust collecting on the bark and around the base of the tree. Certain tree species may experience leaking of liquid and gum from beetle holes. Most people will not notice the problem until the tree dies. As a result, the wood from the dead infested tree must be processed to kill the beetle inside; otherwise, the surviving beetles will move to nearby trees and spread the infection. You have a few options for dealing with the dead wood. If possible, solarizing an infested wood pile and burn the wood right away. Alternatively, one can also chip the wood.
We can't completely stop the infestation of shot hole borers, but we can treat and manage it to lessen its impact and spread. If you grow trees and observe tree wilting, try to determine whether the symptoms are caused by Shot Hole Borer. If a tree is heavily infested, it should be cut down and destroyed. If the main stem is unaffected, infested branches can be removed. Dump wood at a designated dumping site or inquire with the municipality. If you chip the wood finer than 5cm, you can make compost or burn it on-site. Note that some beetles will flee if the wood becomes hot or there is smoke so make sure to contain the burn area and burn at a high enough temperature.
As we approach the festive season when we all like to make braais at our holiday destination, please do your part and DO NOT MOVE FIREWOOD around, especially if you live in an infested area. We recommend that you rather buy invasive firewood at your local holiday destination and thereby supporting the local rural economies and helping to reduce the spread of invasive vegetation and the shot hole borer beetle. Make sure that the wood that you buy is invasive and that it is locally obtained.
Note: All guests houses in the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy, including Cape Nature, do not allow external firewood to be brought in.
Let us do everything we can to protect our forests and control the Shot Hole beetle infestation.
The fynbos biome is fire driven which is why frequent fires can occur. The GVB Conservancy includes mountain fynbos, semi forested areas and lowland fynbos which is found south of the Langeberg mountain range. In the conservancy, we have had to deal with many fires which have shaped our perspective on fire, and we have learnt so much about the risks and how to manage them. Fires can start from powerlines, lighting, even falling rocks so one must always be prepared. This blog shares some of what we have learnt about fire and fire management.
Fire, a disturbance or a prerequisite
Fires are very important but can be an unwelcome interruption in people’s livelihoods, both socially and economical (Pereira et al., 2012). Fire can destroy vegetation, buildings, and crops or endanger human lives (Cowling and Richardson,1995). Depending on where and how they burn, fires can be either harmful or beneficial (Hardesty et al.,2005).
Why fires are important in the natural environment?
Fire is necessary in fynbos ecosystem (Manning, 2007) (Pyne,1990). It is a natural and normal process in fynbos and some of the lifecycles in this biome are shaped by fire. (Cowling and Richardson,1995). Fynbos is a fire adapted vegetation and if regular fires do not occur most fynbos types would get dominated by woody shrubs and trees (Manning, 2007). They say fire is the engine that drives the fynbos cycle, and periodic fires are not only an integral, but an essential aspect of fynbos ecosystem (Manning, 2007). Fynbos has more fires than any other type of heathland on the planet. This is due to the severe flammability of the dried, frequently intricated branches, bushes, and restoids, and it is not common to come across strands of fynbos vegetation that are older than 20 years (Manning, 2007).
Without fire in fynbos, there is a chance that the fynbos plants do not produce offspring, resulting in biodiversity loss. If fire is being excluded from fynbos for too long many of the landscapes would become densely infested with limited species of forest/thicket shrubs or trees (Cowling and Richardson,1995). Different vegetation types experience different fire regimes depending on the source of ignition (e.g. lightning), the fuel load (the amount and arrangement of flammable vegetation) and the climatic conditions. Most fynbos communities burn every 12 to 15 years. This frequency is determined by the rate at which the fynbos grows, or the way fuel loads accumulate after the previous fire. (Cowling and Richardson,1995).
Goliath Highburg (Oom Twakkie) mentioned that alien invasion is a larger fire threat than fynbos. This is because the wood of alien trees is hard and burns for much longer, while fynbos burns out quicker. In the long run, the removal of invasive plants will greatly reduce your risk of destructive fires. The veld ages across Grootvadersbosch differ and depend on the natural vegetation and land use. Veld that is older and has more woody material will have more fuel load and will therefore be more likely to burn and will burn for longer with more intensity.
Renosterveld is at elevated risk of extinction. With 4% of renosterveld remaining in the Overberg, management of these areas is so important and proper management is needed to control some of the threats that renosterveld is facing. (Curtis.,2013).
The following rules apply for ecological prescribed burns in renosterveld, described by the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust, (Curtis.,2013).
Controlled burning also known as Prescribed burn
Prescribed burning or controlled burning is a management tool used in terms of resource management objectives (DiTomaso et.,al 2006)( Fernandez and Botelho, 2003). It’s ignited by a person and confined to a specific area (Teie and Pool, 2009).The objective of a prescribed fire is to establish and maintain plant life conditions (Teie and Pool, 2009). A prescribed burn needs to be managed carefully (Teie and Pool, 2009).
Before one starts a burn, it is important that you have infrastructure in place such as firefighting equipment, water, firebreaks, and manpower plus up to date weather forecasts (Bothma and du Toit.,2016).
A fair amount of planning goes into the controlled burning of areas. This includes:
How to prepare for fire and avoid uncontrolled burns?
Firebreaks are frequently included in a management plan to prevent a fire hazard. A firebreak is usually a natural barrier used to put out flames and create a working control line (Teie, 2003).
A word with Goliath Highburg (Oom Twakkie) who is responsible for fire management in the conservancy, and he says the following: ‘‘Firebreaks are advantageous, I would advise when constructing a firebreak, make it ankle high, so that it doesn’t cause erosion'', which will have a bad environmental impact later and that’s one of the disadvantages of firebreaks. Other negative effects that can be caused by firebreaks include soil becoming more acidic, compared to grassland soil for example and other aspects such as lower nitrogen count in the soil (O’connor., et.al 2004).
Every landowner on whose land a wildfire may originate, burn, or spread must create and maintain a firebreak on his or her side of the boundary between his or her land and any adjoining land, according to Section 12 of the National Wild and Forest Fire Act. The purpose of the firebreak will determine the type of construction that should be used. The aim of the fire breaks could be to (Teie and Pool.,2009):
Planning to burn. A plan should be prepared for even the simplest burn. If it's a low-risk burn, a checklist may suffice, but if it's a higher-risk burn, you'll need to think carefully about the place and put your plan in writing. You can create a burning plan if you want to do a large, controlled burn (Teie and Pool.,2009).
Some of the questions that one must think about and answer prior to burning include:
1. How much manpower do you have?. The amount of labour depends on the size of your burn and the risk of runaway fires. Most importantly the bakkie sakkie will require a driver and an operator. In addition, several experienced persons (6-10) on the ground to light and extinguish the fires.
2. What equipment do you have for undertaking the burn? You will need a bakkie sakkie (water tank on the back of your vehicle), drip torches with petrol/diesel mix. Spray backpacks, beaters, rakes, have enough food, drink and first aid kits available for the fire team.
3. Is your team wearing the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? Head protection, such as a hard hat, and leather or other robust material boots are types of PPE. Eye protection (goggles) is necessary and a balaclava for the face. Leather gloves should be available. Fire-retardant and acid-resistant overalls and fire-retardant endurance pants are needed, along with headlamps and torches.
4) Where are the water refilling points? Consider the location of your dams and water tanks for both routine and emergency filling for the bakkie sakkie. Ensure that you have access to water stations so that you can ensure a safe rotation for the bakkies sakkie, ensuring that the fire line is never without backup from water tankers.
5) Do you have the necessary burn permits? A permit from your local fire protection association is required. A maps of the region that you want to burn is usually included. Have you gathered the information you'll need to make your burning plan? Have you prepared the necessary background to inform your burning plan?.
6) Are you looking for help from a working on fire, FPA, Cape nature, or the conservancy with your burn? If you are part of a protected area, or are a stewardship site, you may be able to get help with your controlled burn.
7) What is the burn's ignition point, and which wind direction will you need to light it? Before continuing with the rest of the burn, look at your veld and consider your ignition point, as well as where your danger zones are and how you'll burn them to be safe.
Why join the FPA.
A FPA (Fire Protection Association) is there to protect, Prevent, manage, and extinguish veld fires. A FPA develops a fire management strategy and plan for the area; establish rules and regulations, provides training, appoints a fire protection officer and can take action to suppress unwanted fires.
Benefits of being a member of the FPA are 1) in civil actions the landowner is not automatically assumed negligent if a fire leaves their property and 2) the landowner may be exempt from making firebreaks on all their property boundaries.
The fire protection officer has important duties. At the conservancy Goliath Highburg is the fire officer and the duties that he performs are to control firefighting activities, enforce rules and regulations of the FPA, inspect members land for compliance and to provide fire protection training.
All GVB conservancy members must also be a member of a local FPA .
We hope that this information will help you prepare for the fire season ahead. Lets hope that it is a fire free season!
Botha, N., 2020. Agriculture vs. conservation: how Grootvadersbosch Conservancy finds the common ground. South African Geographical Journal, 102(3), pp.372-388.
Cowling, R.M. and Richardson, D.M., 1995. Fynbos: South Africa's unique floral kingdom. Fernwood Press.
Manning,J., 2007. Field guide to Fynbos
Curtis, O.E., 2013. Management of critically endangered renosterveld fragments in the Overberg, South Africa.
DiTomaso, J.M., Brooks, M.L., Allen, E.B., Minnich, R., Rice, P.M. and Kyser, G.B., 2006. Control of invasive weeds with prescribed burning. Weed technology, 20(2), pp.535-548.
Fernandes, P.M. and Botelho, H.S., 2003. A review of prescribed burning effectiveness in fire hazard reduction. International Journal of wildland fire, 12(2), pp.117-128.
Hardesty, J., Myers, R. and Fulks, W., 2005, January. Fire, ecosystems, and people: a preliminary assessment of fire as a global conservation issue. In The George Wright Forum (Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 78-87). George Wright Society.
Kraaij, T. and van Wilgen, B.W., 2014. Drivers, ecology, and management of fire in fynbos. Fynbos: Ecology, evolution, and conservation of a megadiverse region, pp.47-72.
O'connor, T.G., Uys, R.G. and Mills, A.J., 2004. Ecological effects of firebreaks in the montane grasslands of the southern Drakensberg, South Africa. African Journal of Range and Forage Science, 21(1), pp.1-9.
Parker, D., 2016. Game Ranch Management, J. du P. Bothma & JG du Toit (Eds.): book review. African Journal of Wildlife Research, 46(2), p.144.
Pereira, Paulo, Pranas Mierauskas, Xavier Úbeda, Jorge Mataix-Solera, and Artemi Cerda. "Fire in protected areas-the effect of protection and importance of fire management." Environmental
Pyne, S.J., 1990. Fire conservancy: The origins of wildland fire protection in British India, America, and Australia. In Fire in the Tropical Biota (pp. 319-336). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Raitt, G.R., 2005. Themeda triandra renosterveld in the Heidelberg district (Doctoral dissertation, Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University).
Research, Engineering and Management 59, no. 1 (2012): 52-62.
Southern Cape fire protection 2019.
Teie, W.C., 2003. Fire manager's handbook on veld and forest fires: strategy, tactics and safety. South African Institute of Forestry.
Teie, W.C. and Pool, C., 2009. Fire manager’s handbook on veld and forest fires. Strategy, tactics and safety-2nd Edition. Menlo Park: Southern African Institute of Forestry.
A few weeks ago, the Conservancy staff attended the annual fynbos forum which was hosted online. Our manager, Aileen Anderson, was presenting at the conference and so we were all able to participate in the on line conference.
During the conference, Intaba environmental services gave an informative presentation about their nursery, and what caught our attention was the palmiet plant (Prionium serratum) and how they rehabilitate unnaturally degraded riverbanks.
We found the fynbos forum, especially the rehabilitation aspects, to be very interesting. We are currently in the process of relocating and establishing a new nursery at the new offices. As the nursery is established, we will apply new concepts and methods to cultivate trees and vegetation for our restoration activities.
As part of the fynbos forum, Twakkie and Zaniel went on a fieldtrip to Intaba environmental services (Tulbagh) This allowed us to experience and engage more with the team We came away with so much knowledge that we can now apply and put into practice within the conservancy.
Most importantly, the cultivation and use of palmiet which we will discuss in this blog.
Characteristics of Prionium serratum (Palmiet)
The leaves remain encircle (Boucher, 2004) which means that the stems of the palmiet plant branch, and the remains of the previous stems protect the plant from injury during floods, when rocks and stones migrate down rivers and can smash the stems (Boucher, 2004). The plant has dense stems that seem to be a grouping of separate plants but are really interconnected stems, usually originating from one initial plant through vegetative reproduction. The grey- green, shaped pointed leaves can be 1.2 meters long and 30-40 meters wide, crowed together in rossetes at the end of the stems (Boucher, 2004) (September to February) (Boucher, 2004).
Palmiet usually grows about 2 m high and is found from Western Cape to Kwazulu Natal in marshy areas, streams, rivers, and riverbanks and large dense strands http://pza.sanbi.org/prionium-serratum. Palmiet grows in swamps and riverbanks, whereas palmiet wetlands are wetlands where palmiet grows and qualify as ecosystems that reduce floodwater erosive damage.
The many benefits of palmiet in the ecosystem
Palmiet is a fascinating plant that acts as an ecosystem architect (Rebelo, 2019). The plant is excellent in providing habitat for fish, birds, and insects (Boucher, 2004). Palmiet stabilizes riverbanks from erosion http://pza.sanbi.org/prionium-serratum. Palmiet wetlands have built up layers of peat and organic material with high layers of carbon content Palmiet wetland conservation | Farmer's Weekly (farmersweekly.co.za). Palmiet wetlands can improve water quality because the thick layers of palmiet act as a pure carbon filter for the water. The leaves of the palmiet act as a sieve, retaining chemicals and bacteria in the wetland. The plant has a thick root that keeps the plant from being ripped out during heavy rains. The flatness of palmiet allows the water to slow down. Palmiet wetlands act as a giant sponge, collecting water during the rainy season and releasing it during the dry season. Wetlands also slow surface flow, allowing groundwater aquifers to recharge.
Rapid population growth and expansion of human activities is increasing the amount of waste and pollution (Naidoo,2005) and is endangering wetlands. Changes to wetlands can have far-reaching consequences (Boucher, 2004). Palmiet (Prionium serratum) is declining in some habitats because of degradation, of habitat from overgrazing and frequent fires http://pza.sanbi.org/prionium-serratum. Other threats to wetland or palmiet wetlands may be additional water abstraction as well as pollution and invasive alien plant infestation (Branch,1984) (Rebelo, 2019).
The removal of palmiet leads to the damage of wetlands. The absence of palmiet causes greater flood damage, more severe erosion, and dam silting. If palmiet is removed, water may become contaminated because of the filter provided by the thick layer of palmiet that is no longer present. If palmiet is taken out of rivers, open water bodies will result in high evaporation and water loss. The absence of Palmiet results in greater flood damage, severe erosion and silting up of dams Palmiet wetland conservation | Farmer's Weekly (farmersweekly.co.za).
It is a myth that palmiet clogs rivers and impedes water flow. Palmiet is said to clog streams by filling them in their natural state. This assumption may be based on the tendency of immersed stems, anchored on the riverbank's borders to bend outwards into the channels as water levels fall during dry spells (Boucher, 2004). It may therefore appear as if palmiet is invading the rivers, even though the stems will normally fold back against the banks when water levels rise and flow velocities increase (Boucher, 2004).
The best time to propagate this plant is during the winter months. The plant can be reproduced and developed from divisions, and because it is a semi-aquatic plant, it requires a moderately damp environment to thrive. http://pza.sanbi.org/prionium-serratum. This plant can be planted and nurtured in our nurseries.
In terms of healthy wetlands, the conservancy runs an initiative that involves alien removal along rivers to improve the quality and quantity of water. Other monitoring programs include river monitoring as part of GASPP (Grootvadersbosch Aquatic Species Protection Project), which includes the SASS (South African Scoring System) and fish monitoring. This monitoring study also allows us to investigate other features of the rivers, such as water quality, pH, and temperature etc.
We can all work together to promote awareness and maintain our wetlands. Palmiet is a crucial species to protect in our rivers systems. We can work together to raise awareness and communicate the wonders of this wetland plant.
Please leave a comment if you have any other thoughts or suggestions.
Boucher, C. and Withers, M., 2004. Palmiet. Veld & Flora, 90(1), pp.26-28.
Branch, GM & Day, J.A., 1984. Ecology of southern African estuaries: part XIII: the Palmiet River estuary in the south-western Cape. African Zoology, 19(2), pp.63-77.
Naidoo, K., 2005. The Anthropogenic impacts of Urbanization and Industrialisation on the Water quality, Ecology and Health status of the Palmiet River catchment in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (Doctoral dissertation).
Palmiet wetland conservation | Farmer's Weekly (farmersweekly.co.za)
Rebelo, A.J., Morris, C., Meire, P. and Esler, K.J., 2019. Ecosystem services provided by South African palmiet wetlands: A case for investment in strategic water source areas. Ecological Indicators, 101, pp.71-80.
Other names: Pofadder, Imbululu
Classification: very dangerous
Snakes are fascinating reptiles that are sometimes unnecessarily feared by field, forestry, and other outdoor workers.
Puff adders are widely distributed throughout South Africa and northern Africa (African Snakebite Institute), and we are delighted to have a number of these beautiful creatures in and around the conservancy. These short, stubby snakes have V-shaped patterns on their bodies and a triangular head that is unique from the rest of their bodies (Umbono training, 2014).
Puff adders have a large body and use camouflage to hide. A puff adder's life is mostly spent in camouflage mode (African snakebite institute). On the ground, puff adders move slowly, although they will climb small plants to get sunlight (Marais, 1999).
They are “ambush hunters” who will coil up into a striking position and wait for prey to approach (African snake bite institute). This snake is very active after sunset and comes out of vegetation towards the road to bake in the sun. This often means that they are, sadly, often driven over by vehicles (Marais, 1999). They usually feed on rats and mice as well as other small land mammals, including, ground birds, lizards, toads. The puff adder follows the scent of its prey with its flashing tongue, with sensors, and then catches its prey (Marais, 1999).
Puff adders give birth to approximately 20-40 snakes, usually after summer. The hatchlings are approximately 15-20 cm long and are born in a fine membranous sac, from which they break shortly after birth (African snake bite institute).Go to https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/ -for more intresting reading on puff adders and other snake species.
Threats to these lovely beasts
Habitat loss is one of the factors that place puff adders in jeopardy. This includes, fragmentation, degradation of land, as well as agricultural expansion. Alien vegetation is not a direct threat to puff adders, but alien vegetation increases the risk of wildfires which can pose a threat to snakes. Alien vegetation does therefore impact these creatures (Branch, 2014).
Twakkie, are knowledgably quality controller at the conservancy, is of the opinion that snakes are generally feared because their venom has the potential to kill humans. However, snakes seldom actually strike and therefore their danger is exaggerated
Snakes are also often killed because of urban legends or superstitions that vary in different cultures and religions.
Superstitions about snakes
I am a coloured, Baptised Christian from the Knysna area. In my religion, snakes are associated with the devil, and it is said that the snake was a traitor, associated with evil, and sent by the devil in the days of Adam and Eve.
When I asked other employees about some myths they know about or believe in their faith or culture, Twakkie said that in the bible it states that a snake will bite your heels and the man will knock his head. Twakkie also revealed that he is aware of a legend in which Satan is depicted as a serpent.
Another employee, Linda, who works as the administrator in the conservancy, says there's a myth that if you find one snake in your house, you'll find more because snakes travel in pairs.
I also asked Ndukwenthle, who is from Swaziland and works on one of the farms in the conservancy. He said that some people in his culture eat snakes and use snakes for black magic. He said some people believe that you should kill them before they kill your child. Apparently, it is believed that snakes can smell fresh milk and that children are usually around milk and so they might get bitten by snakes.
With all these superstitions associated with snakes, we need to work extra hard to protect them. As a conservancy, it is our job to conserve our biodiversity and establish a sustainable environment in terms of conservation. Here is some useful information to help better understand snakes, the real risks they pose and how to treat a bite if it does occur.
Snakes are not aggressive unless provoked
People do not see puffadders because of their camouflage, and as a result, the puffadder is responsible for at least 60% of snake bites in South Africa. There is a myth which states that snakes are always aggressive which is not true. Snakes aren't hostile, and they don't pursue humans. When they are disturbed, most snakes flee (Strydom and Schoeman, 2016).
Snakes will not chase you, contrary to popular belief.
If you happen to come across a snake, don't try to kill it. Stand stationary; snakes will not attack you. It is best to retain a safe distance of at least 5 meters or more (Umbondo training, 2014). If you see a snake, don't try to kill it; instead, keep a watch on it and call the appropriate authorities if it needs to be removed (Marais, 1999). Furthermore, treat all creatures with respect by leaving a dead snake alone. Sometimes snakes will pretend to be dead and may then become aggressive if provoked or prodded.
Understanding venom and snake bites
In South Africa, many snakebites occur during the summer months, from January to May. Puff adder or rhombic Night adder bites account for over 90% of snake bites in South Africa (Strydom and Schoeman, 2016).
The most common types of venom found in snakes are cytotoxic, neurotoxic, and hemotoxic venom. Each of these different venoms attacks a different organ or system in the body and its useful to understand the differences.
Cytotoxic venom destroys cells and affects tissue and blood cells. Severe pain and swelling around the bite region are possible side effects of cytotoxic venom. Some of the snakes with this venom is
puff adders (Bitis arientans), Gaboon viper(Bitis gabonica), horned adder(Bitis caudalis), Rhombic night adder(Causus rhombeatus).
The nervous system gets poisoned by neurotoxins. Paralysis, convulsions, or rapid muscle twitching are all symptoms of neurotoxic venom, which can also cause trouble breathing and other respiratory problems. Some snakes with this venom are the berg adder (Bitis atropos), Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), Green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), Cape cobra (Naja nivea).
Swelling, internal bleeding, and haemorrhaging necrosis are symptoms of hemotoxic venom. This is caused by poisoning of the circulatory system or bloodstream (Umbono training, 2014). Some snakes that have this venom is Boomslang (Dispholidus typus).
The Cytotoxic Venom from a puff Added will not cause immediate death
Puff adder venom is extremely cytotoxic, attacking blood tissues and cells. Serious pain, significant swelling, and occasionally blistering at the bite site are all indicators of being bitten. (Marais, 1999). Polyvalent antivenom is effective and should be used as soon as possible (African snakebite institute). Fatalities are uncommon (African snake bite institute) since the puff adder is usually straightforward to identify and treat with antivenom.
Most of the victims are bitten on the lower leg. If victims are not treated or if treatment is unsuccessful, the poison takes longer to function and can take up to 24 hours or more before they die. It is unusual for the victim to die in a short amount of time (Marais, 1999), because puff adders have a cytotoxic venom that takes time to work (Marais, 1999) (Strydom and Schoeman, 2016).
When bitten by a puff adder, what signs and symptoms may you expect? Inflammation and swelling in the bitten regions, as well as a change in skin colour (Strydom and Schoeman, 2016). Excessive swelling is the most common cause of fatal bites. Antidote should be provided in extreme circumstances (Strydom and Schoeman, 2016).
Because most bites occur on the lower leg or ankle, wearing boots, long pants, and leg protection are effective measures to avoid being bitten. Keep your eyes open and don't put your hand in a place where you won't be able to see. Large rocks should be walked on, not over.
If you are bitten, stay calm, and try to and identify the snake. Identification of the snake will help to ensure the right anti-venom is administrated. Go to the doctor or local clinic right away as anti-venom is required (Strydom and Schoeman, 2016).
First aid procedures for a puff adder snake bite
Branch, W.R., 2014. Conservation status, diversity, endemism, hotspots and threats. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata, 1, pp.22-50.
Marais.,J Slange & Slangbyte in Suider-Afrika .,1999 ,Kaapstad
Nielsen, A., Fatalities, Attacks, Teeth, and Fangs.
Strydom and Schoeman, Fransmanshoek Conservancy.,2016., Season, S., Compliance Management.
After many decades of being a steadfast leader for conservation in the Grootvadersbosch Valley, our chairman (John Moodie) is stepping down. “It was exiting to work with people and find new ways to conserve the environment, but fresh input and new ideas are important. “ says John Moodie. John has been chairman of the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy since 1992 and has seen the organisation start and mature. For John, it was a pleasure to see the growth in the organisation and how it has transformed to not just be keepers of the ecosystem but working toward a common goal of protecting the ecosystem.
The thought at the start was that a state-owned nature reserve is not enough to conserve this important natural ecosystem and there needed to be other ways in which the environment can be conserved on private land, mainly focusing on alien clearing and fire management. John Moodie, along with Chris Maartens (from Cape Nature at the time) and Keith Moodie’s father Lindsey Moodie put their heads together and started the first Conservancy in the Western Cape in the 90’s. One of the aims was for landowners, in particular, to buy into the project. From the start, it has been a farming community that joins forces with a non-profit trust to promote conservation on private land and that is still how it operates today, although in a different way now. We have 4 permanent staff and much larger budget which mainly goes towards employing people to clear alien vegetation.
Today, the services that the conservancy perform have also broaden to include protecting river species, forest restoration, training as well as environmental education projects and all in a non-profit trust.
When I asked John what he has gained from being the chair, he smiled and asked, “How does one measure gain?” I smiled, awkwardly. As a student to conservation, I certainly don’t really know what answer to give. I waited intently for insight from someone who has been in conservation for so many years. I was eager to learn from years of experience, in conservation and agriculture. “You implement,” he said. “Sometimes, something works and sometimes it doesn’t. You loose and you win and learn from it and know what to do or what to apply next. Conservation has to be about doing and not just about talking about doing.”
He reflected further on the many years and experiences of being a chair. “While being the chair, I had good years of experience and growth. I’ve enjoyed the festivals (thee silver mountain music festival), trail runs, conferences and events that I’ve attended or been part of while being part of the conservancy. It was always good and always exiting. I am immensely proud of the many awards that the conservancy has achieved, while I was on board. There have been mistakes and challenges, but we kept on learning and doing.”
I asked John what makes this organisation different from others. He reflected that the organisation has three different pillars that work together-the conservancy landowners, the trustees of the trust and the implementing team or staff. This is a unique and important synergy.
The next unique aspect that stood out for him was the fact that landowner do not reap direct financial benefit from this organisation but are positive about the work of the conservancy in terms of alien clearing, tourism, and fire management. This work does increase the value of the land but there are not always direct financial returns.
John was hesitant to offer advice for a new chairperson but said he would rather not dictate how the next person does his or her work but rather offered to make himself available for help and advice. “Let there be room for mistakes, learn from them and become wiser.” Thankfully, John is still on the conservancy committee and so we still have access to his wisdom from many years of experience in the valley.
We are incredibly lucky to have had such a wise, steadfast and influential chair in the conservancy for so long and pleased that he is still at hand to assist whenever needed. The conservancy is deeply grateful for all the time that John has volunteered to lead the organisation and we certainly would not be where we are without him. We hope that he will now have more time to enjoy the restful beauty of the valley that he loves so much.
Jeanne Gouws is a freshwater ecologist working for Cape Nature, based in the Western Cape. She regularly visits the Grootvadersbosch cConservancy to do freshwater monitoring in multiple river sites. She captures macro invertebrates to determine the health and other aspects of the river systems. I asked Jeanne what her favorite tree is, and she said without hesitation: “The fever tree is beautiful, and it is my favorite.”
The tree is not found naturally in the Grootvadersbosch Conservancy or in the Western Cape but is a renowned feature in the lowveld of South Africa (Plant ZA). The fever tree occurs in spaces where underground water is present, or surface water accumulates, after summer rains (Plant ZA), also in low-lying swampy areas, along rivers. This sounds just like where our freshwater ecologist spends most of her time! The tree can be found from Kenya in the north to KwaZulu-Natal in the South. It is a very beautiful South African tree and, although it is not found here, because it is “Jeanne’s tree”, we are highlighting it anyway.
The fever tree or Koorsboom (Vachellia xanthophloea) is a striking tree. The most interesting trait of the tree is the lime green to greenish-yellow, smooth bark. It is coated with a yellow-green, powdery substance which comes away when you rub it with your finger. The flowers are bright yellow and have a sweet scent (Plant ZA). The pods are flat with thin valves, yellowish brown to brown, slightly constricted between the seeds, hairless and somewhat straight (Van Wyk and van Wyk.,2013). The fever tree has lengthy straight white thorns which are gathered in pairs. The thorns differ from young trees to older ones. The thorns aid as a defense mechanism against herbivore predation (Milewski., et. al 1991).
The name has an interesting origin. Early settlers thought that this tree caused fevers since people traveling or living in the areas where it grew contracted fevers. However, the fever tree grows in swampy areas that is ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carried malaria so it was this myth that linked this tree to fever and hence the name “fever tree”.
The tree provides food and protection for many animals. Birds like to build their nest in the tree because the thorns give them extra protection against predators. Elephants munch on the branches, giraffes and monkeys eat the pods, grey louries eat the flowers, baboons eat the gum and green seeds of the tree. Bees are also drawn to the yellow-colored flowers and the sweet scent. The tree provides a home for ants that are housed in the swollen thorns of the fever tree (Isbell., et. al 2013).
The tree has multiple uses for humans too. The wood is hard and suitable for Timber. The bark of the tree is used as raw material in traditional medicine (Kotina et al, 2016). The bark is used for fever and eye problems (Plant ZA). The tree provides lovely shade for humans and other plants growing beneath or around it. A lovely garden tree.
Finally, this plant plays a vital role in the nitrogen enrichment of soils, and this has a positive impact on the growth of other plants growing near it. The reason for this is because the tree has root nodules that contain nitrogen fixing bacteria.
This is a very interesting tree indeed and we can see why Jeanne loves this tree. Truly special!
Stay tuned for our next tree!
Isbell, L.A., Rothman, J.M., Young, P.J. and Rudolph, K., 2013. Nutritional benefits of Crematogaster
mimosae ants and Acacia drepanolobium gum for patas monkeys and vervets in Laikipia,
Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 150(2), pp.286-300.
Kotina, E.L., Tilney, P.M., and van Wyk, B.E., 2016. Identification of South African medicinal
barks. Planta Medica, 82(S 01), p.P222.
Milewski, A.V., Young, T.P. and Madden, D., 1991. Thorns as induced defenses: experimental
evidence. Oecologia, 86(1), pp.70-75.
Van Wyk, B., 2013. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Penguin Random House South Africa.
Common names:Tree-fuchsia. notsung
The tree-funchsia is usually a shrub or a small tree that occurs in the forest areas or grassland. It often grows along streams or in rocky places (Van Wyk.,2013). Ricardo Januarie our alien clearing project manager at the conservancy speaks about his favourite tree and says, “Oh I love this tree because of all the different kinds of birds that it attracts”. The tree-funchia has these bright orange flowers which attract nectar feeding birds. Bees and other insects are also seen feeding on its flowers.”
This tree flowers from May to December (Autumn to summer). The flowers are small in red clusters. Sunbirds (except the greater double collared sunbird) and sugarbirds usually feeds on the nectar of the flowers (Stirton.,1977).
The tree has a fleshy fruit (Adedapo et., al.2008) and these turn black when they ripen. The fruit is edible but not appetizing (Van Wyk.,2013). Times for fruiting is August until January (Plantbook.co.za).
Various parts of the fruit are used in traditional medicine. It has antibacterial and antioxidant properties in both the leaves and stems (Adelapo et., al.2008). Helleria lucida is used by Zulu tribes to treat skin and ear difficulties. It was traditionally used by the Zulu tribes in the following way- the leaves were dried and then soaked in water and then squeezed into the ear to relieve pain. The tree is also considered a charm against evil (Adelapo et., al.2008). The leaves can be eaten by livestock, including wild animals such as Eland (Adelapo et., al 2008).
The wood is hard enough to make panga handles with (Trees SA) and is a good container plant and is low maintenance when growing in a garden (Trees SA). Look out for this amazing indigenous tree in your local nursery.
Stay tuned for other exiting trees.
Adedapo, A.A., Jimoh, F.O., Koduru, S., Masika, P.J. and Afolayan, A.J., 2008. Evaluation of the
medicinal potentials of the methanol extracts of the leaves and stems of Halleria
lucida. Bioresource technology, 99(10), pp.4158-4163.
Stirton, C.H., 1977. A note on the flowers of Halleria lucida. Bothalia, 12(2), pp.223-224.
Van Wyk, B., 2013. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Penguin Random House South Africa.
GASPP (Grootvadersbosch Aquatic Species Protection Project) is a one-week survey, focusing on freshwater fish and macro invertebrate monitoring. During this week, our team works works with Cape Nature to better understand our river systems. It is also a fun week where we socialize with leading freshwater scientists.
Fresh water is crucial for most life on earth. According to Vorosmarty.et al (2005) the current water withdrawal per year globally is approximately 3 600 cubic kilometres. Four out of every five people who live downstream of rivers are supplied by renewable freshwater services (Vorosmarty.,et al 2005).
The GASPP project started in 2017 and is funded by the Table Mountain Fund. During the week survey, SASS (South African scoring system) is conducted on numerous river sites. In addition, nets are placed to record freshwater fish. We use the time to obtain useful Information on fish and macro invertebrates and explore several river sites in the conservancy.
SASS (South African scoring system)
SASS is used as a method to determine the health of the river by assessing the biota (Dickens and Graham, 2002). Macroinvertebrates are the basis for doing this. The SASS is completed by Jeanne Gouws who is a Cape Nature freshwater ecologist. She visited several sites per day to do SASS. During the SASS survey, nets are placed strategically along rivers to capture macro invertebrates and note them down. Once captured, they are identified and noted on a scoring sheet. In terms of health and safety regulations, Jeanne always wears waders when going into the river and avoids water that is flowing too quickly.
SASS is based on the fact that macro invertebrates have different sensitivities to different levels of pollution. Some species are more sensitive than others. We also looked at the habitat availability of the macroinvertebrates.The more diversity in species you find, the higher the SASS score for that site. The more sub species of the same species you find, the higher the SASS score. For example, if you note more than one mayfly species, such as brushlegged mayflies as well as small minnow mayflies, the score will go up.
Jeanne collects samples from different habitats: including rocks or boulders, gravel, vegetation and sand. She samples for set time intervals. “You collect for a set time so that when someone else comes to the same site on the same day, they could easily compare the data as the same periods were used.” explained Jeanne. We noted a range of different macro invertebrates, including worms, stoneflies, damselflies, caddisflies (cased and caseless), dragonflies, mayflies, bugs and beetles, snails, crabs, and other larvae. What amazing diversity!
We also measured water quality. The velocity of the of the different streams was measured with a tool called the transparent Velocity Head Rod (TVHR) (WCR,2016). This tool is a transparent plastic board with a measuring ruler to estimate the flow velocity of the stream. Measurements of the width and dept of a particular stream needs to be measured and data can be used in a spreadsheet to calculate the area, discharge and velocity of the river.
The pH of the water was also important as well as other aspect and questions such as:
The two GVB Conservancy teams, with support from Cape Nature, placed nets in set sites in the rivers to note the presence and absence of freshwater fish.
Alien fish are the primary threat to indigenous fish. In some river systems, they can have an economic value in terms of angling and aquaculture, but the management thereof is important (Jordaan and Skelton,2001). Without correct management of the Alien fish, the fish might escape from these farms and take over other river systems. Alien fish invasions can cause harm and contribute to indigenous freshwater fish becoming endangered. Alien fish that we found included catfish and blue gill that usually feed on invertebrates and small fish. We found lots of tilapia in the river, especially in the upper Tradouw River. It is possible to control the spread of alien invasive species. We as the public can prevent the spread of Invasive fish species by familiarise ourselves with the relevant legislation and not releasing fish into the rivers and not stocking or transporting fish without a permit (Jordaan and Skelton.,2001).
The indigenous freshwater fish that were found included the Cape galaxia, which is a smaller fish. Its adult size is a maximum length of 75mm total length average length (Jordaan and Skelton, 2001). The Cape galaxia is usually widespread in the Cape floristic region and we found quite a lot in the river sites around the conservancy. We also found the Breede River redfin that usually grows up to 135mm in standard length (Jordaan and Skelton, 2001) and prefers rocky pools and is near threatened. The Tradouw redfin or Barrydale redfin is a redfin species that has an extremely small natural distribution range and is only found in the Tradouw river system and is critically endangered. Threats to the redfin fish include loss of habitat as well as predation by exotic fish.
The Cape kurper was also found in some sites. The Cape kurper is another fish that can survive in a large variety of habitats.
Eels are indigenous predators to redfin fish and the challenge is that they if they are trapped in the nets with the redfin fish, they will predate on the redfin. In order to avoid this, eel fences were placed in the nets which stops them getting into the nets and feeding on the fish. Eels are also fascinating creatures and they give an indication of a healthy, connected system as they show that the river is free flowing as eels breed in the ocean and move upstream.
Other small challenges we had was that some sites were tricky to get too and require longer walks, especially the Tradouw river sites.
The GASPP team visited Mullersrus primary school in Buffelsjags. Biodiversity was the topic and Dr Jordaan spoke to the class about pollution and protecting our rivers. She discussed how to take care of our rivers and why it is important to do so. She spoke specifically about freshwater fish. The class listened attentively and interacted nicely. After the talk, they were given an art assignment by Donovan Julius, a local Suurbraak artist. Donovan asked them to put their thinking down on paper or in art form. They later showed off their beautiful posters and ideas for the camera. They complied strictly to COVID 19 regulations and received sweets for good behaviour.
Klein Pikkewyne preschool also visited the conservancy with little toddlers of four and five years old. They were 38 little ones. Ricardo Januarie spoke to them about fish and forests. Donovan was there and hands on with art and they had to draw and make posters in groups. They got the chance to see fish and then took a short hike through the forest patch near our office and came back for lovely juice and a sweet.
As a conservation student, GASPP was a very fruitful and enlightening experience. I have new respect for conservation. It is not simple at all and there are so many aspects to consider. We had long days in the field and visited the most beautiful river sites, waterfalls, and weirs. I appreciated the experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting people.
Dickens, C.W. and Graham, P.M., 2002. The South African Scoring System (SASS) version 5 rapid
bioassessment method for rivers. African Journal of Aquatic Science, 27(1), pp.1-10.
Freshwater fishes of the Cape floristic region (Martine Jordaan and Paul Skelton.Cape Nature).,2001.
Matthews, S., 2018. Suite of tools help citizens take control of freshwater management. Water
Wheel, 17(5), pp.24-27.
Temple, J.L. (2004). The Musk Shrew (Suncus murinus), A Model Species for Studies of Nutritional
Regulation of reproduction
The Transparent Velocity Head Rod., WRC (Water Research Commission project 2016 No: K5\2350
Vörösmarty, C.J., Léveque, C., Revenga, C., Bos, R., Caudill, C., Chilton, J., Douglas, E.M.,
Meybeck, M., Prager, D., Balvanera, P. and Barker, S., 2005. Fresh water. Millennium
ecosystem assessment, 1, pp.165-207.
Rothmannia capensis (witklokke) is a small or medium tree occurring in the forest or on Rocky Hillsides in bushveld. The tree is of the family, Rubiaceae (the coffee family), states Van Wyk (2013).
“The reason I love this tree is because of its growth form and the way it grows very straight. The flowers are also beautiful, and the tree is very thick. I find its shade of green absolutely glorious” says Oom Twakkie. Oom Twakkie (Goliath Highburg) is our quality controller and our "go-to" person for species identification. He calls this tree katjiepiering or wild gardenia which are some of its common names. “The gorgeous flowers almost look like the ones from a granadilla bush” adds Ricardo, our project manager.
Rothmannia capensis is usually distributed from Limpopo in the North to the Western Cape. It is found in forest, kloofs and on rocky edges from sea level up to about 1600 m. The flowers are white with maroon strips inside the throat of the corolla tube, fading to cream with green fruit that is about 70 mm in diameter (Van Wyk., 2013). The flowers have a strong scent and are extremely attractive to the eye.
The plant is called omkhulu in the Zulu tradition (Kelmanson et.al, 2000).The juice from it can be rubbed on burns and wounds to help them heal. Interestingly, the wounded parts of burns can be held in the smoke of burning roots. Baboons eat the green, ripe, fruits from the trees, while bushbuck and bush pigs eat the fruit that falls off the trees. The tree also attracts birds, and it acts as a nice garden tree. The wood of the tree is hard and strong and suitable for making implementing instrument handles (Sanbi and Van Wyk .2013). The wood can also be used to make strong spoons for cooking and porridge sticks and the dry wood is used for fire.
The tree grows well in light shade or full sun and is simple to grow from the seed. It grows in loamy soil. You can take out the seed from the brown fruit and spread them in a mix of 3 parts river sand to 1 part compost. Keep the seed mix moist until germination, which is generally 14 days.
There are several Rothmania species but when I see them, I am always hoping to see this specific one in the indigenous forest. According to Oom Twakkie, the last time he saw it was in February, but he is hoping to see it again soon. He smiles when he says that the wild gardenia tree is found quite commonly in the conservancy forests. As a newcomer to the area, I have not yet had a chance to see this lovely tree but I’m now on a hunt to see Oom Twakkie’s favourite tree in our special forest.
What’s your favourite indigenous tree? Leave a comment below and share your favourite tree and why.
Kelmanson, J.E., Jäger, A.K. and van Staden, J., 2000. Zulu medicinal
plants with antibacterial activity. Journal of
Ethnopharmacology, 69(3), pp.241-246.
Van Wyk, B., 2013. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Penguin
Random House South Africa.
Participants of the working for water programme, which focuses on the clearing of alien vegetation, completed first aid level 1 as well as health and safety training last week. The training was facilitated by Verity Arends from Coalition Training and Skills Development. The trainig involved 12 participants for both first aid as well as health and safety and both courses were set out over two days and included practical and theory and were held at the new Shed at Strawberry Hill Farm.
The sessions started at 8am in the morning and ended at 4pm in the afternoon, including a lunch break. The participants strongly engaged in the practical aspects, where they had to perform CPR on dolls, and practice using the stretcher and wearing protective clothing, such as gloves. The outcomes that the learners needed to be able to perform after this training, included understanding emergency situations and treating injuries in the workplace and demonstrating knowledge of hazards, safety and emergency procedures in forestry operations and explaining preventative measures in the workplace.
The enthusiasm of the learners was high throughout the first aid as well as health and safety. They enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories and experiences in the workplace as they are not from the same teams and they hardly knew each other but could speak about common challenges in the workplace. They were able to give each other possible solutions and discuss what works for certain teams and what doesn’t.
As the student attending the training, I was encouraged by the stories told and how people spoke from the heart. For example, there was someone who had recently had a heart transplant and was still working and there was someone who had injured his hand with a chainsaw, while working elsewhere.
The teams were aware of the hazards for the people on the ground. Going back into the field as safety representatives or first aiders, they knew they had a responsibility towards the team, not only to be available for whenever an incident occurs, but also to inform and educate their team members so everyone is safe. In addition to all that was learnt, it was lovely to get to know the people in the teams. To hear what they face in the workplace, to hear them ask questions, engage and want to educate and better themselves and to develop their skills.
GVB Conservancy Staff