Mission of the Drylands Conservation Programme

The Endangered Wildlife Trust Drylands Conservation Programme’s mission is to maintain ecosystem conditions in the drylands that can support biodiversity, including threatened species such as Riverine Rabbit, whilst simultaneously ensuring socio-economic benefits to landowners and communities

RESTORATION 2015
This year saw the restoration team completing the second phase of our restoration site on the farm Maanhaarspoort in the Wagenaarskraal Conservancy, just off the N12 outside Victoria West. Our hopes were high following the good results we had on the Sakrivierspoort site in 2013. However 2014 proved to be a record-breaking year in many respects – in all the worst ways! The site experienced extreme cold – even salted Karoo-dwellers reckon they can’t remember experiencing such a cold winter, and, to add insult to injury, it was excessively windy and very, very dry – even more so than usual. None of these conditions were conducive to successful veld restoration – which is challenging enough during “normal” years. As a result the survival rates of the bossies planted was poor. During this year’s work we are exploring ways to protect the newly planted bossies with basic shade cloth structures and we have also split our planting between Autumn (thus far preferred) and Spring, to compare survival rates during the two different seasons. Once again LandCare’s (Beaufort West) Stefan Theron has kindly provided valuable insight and advice to the restoration efforts.

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RIVERINE RABBIT CONSERVANCIES MAKING PROGRESS IN THE NAMA KAROO
By Bonnie Schumann
The Wagenaarskraal Riverine Rabbit Conservancy in the Nama Karoo is the first of the four Riverine Rabbit Conservancies to have finalised and submitted its management plan to the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Tourism. As part of the management plan development process, the EWT-DCP hosted workshops with the conservancies in 2012 and 2013 to determine members’ priorities and needs; these were then incorporated into the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation management plan pro forma. READ MORE ...

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CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP NEWS FROM THE NORTHERN CAPE
Mandy Schumann and Bonnie Schumann
The Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC) held its quarterly Northern Cape Stewardship Forum (NCSF) meeting on the 20th of May at the Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm outside Nieuwoudtville. Various partners working in the Northern Cape participate in this forum, which is aimed at aligning biodiversity conservation priorities in the province and collaborating towards successfully implementing the province’s Protected Area Expansion Strategy (PAES).They are also assisting with expertise on the ground, working with landowners to improve the management of critical biodiversity and encourage participation in the Provinces protected area network. READ MORE ...

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SEARCHING FOR RABBITS WHERE THE JACKALS DANCE
The Jakhalsdans Game Farm and Guest Lodge is rather famous for its role in the South African movie that goes by the same name, but not many people know it is also home to the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit. As part of our ongoing work confirming Riverine Rabbit distribution and to test two brand new trap cameras donated to us by the Cape Hunters and Game Conservation Association of the Western Cape, we recently went searching for bunnies close to home. Situated just six kilometres south of Loxton and a member of the Sak River Riverine Rabbit Conservancy, Jakhalsdans is now the closest location to Loxton we have confirmed photographic evidence of Riverine Rabbit presence. It’s rather nice knowing they are just next door! READ MORE

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FRACKING FACTS AND FICTION
The EWT-DCP has undertaken a lot of background research on the potential environmental impacts of fracking in the Karoo and is collaborating with several organizations on informing the sustainability of this water-intensive unconventional shale gas mining technology. The EWT-DCP has commented on the relevant oil and gas companies’ Environmental Management Plans and the government’s technical fracking regulations. The EWT-DCP is also participating in the CSIR’s Strategic Environmental Assessment for fracking in the Karoo. Please liaise with Christy for further information.

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MENTORING, MONITORING AND MOVIES – THE LIFE OF A GROENIE IN THE KAROO
Janice Essex
I am a Groen Sebenza mentee based in the middle of the Nama Karoo in a small town called Loxton. I joined the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme (EWT-DCP) here in 2013 – relocating from the buzzing metropolis of Cape Town to this sleepy Karoo village. Here my love of nature has been revived and nurtured, a love originally awakened by the farm life and vibrant ambience amongst my siblings and I when we regularly visited my grandparents on their farm in the Boland.
In August 2013 I was accepted at the EWT-DCP’s regional office as an intern Field Officer under the Groen Sebenza job creation programme, a collaboration between SANBI and environmentally-centred host institutions, providing internships for previously disadvantaged youths. In this quiet and tranquil place, where everyone knows everyone, I have blossomed under the mentorship of Bonnie Schumann, Senior Field Officer of the Programme. The exposure I have received since I joined the EWT-DCP team is phenomenal. I have learned to distinguish different landscapes while assisting with monitoring on habitat rehabilitation sites; met land owners working to conserve biodiversity on their land and interacted with them at workshops to understand their concerns and the search for possible solutions. One of my highlights was being part of the 50/50 team that filmed our project and the landusers we work with through the National Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, aimed at conserving Riverine Rabbits and their unique riparian habitat along the seasonal rivers in the Nama Karoo...READ MORE


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CLANWILLIAM SANDFISH TRANSLOCATION IN THE BIEDOUW RIVER
Alwyn Lubbe
In October 2013 the Cape Critical Rivers team (EWT, DENC, FRC and CapeNature) discovered a high number of juvenile sandfish (
Labeo seeberi; Endangered) in the Biedouw River, a small tributary off the Doring River – a species previously not known to spawn in that system. The CCR team and partners realized that these young fish were extremely vulnerable to predation by the bigger and ferociously hungry bass (alien invasive fish) as well as desiccation during summer, when this river dries up in the lower reaches. Thus the team decided to translocate them to a safe place and undertook a comprehensive risk assessment and monitoring protocol to inform the decision on where and how to translocate them. In November 2014, the whole team plus partners (Organization for Tropical Studies) gathered at the Biedouw Valley and successfully undertook the translocation of 338 juvenile sandfish from the lower reaches of the Biedouw river, where they were doomed to predation to a pristine stretch higher up in the Biedouw River, where these juveniles will be able to mature without the risk of predation by alien fish. For more information on this project please see; http://www.sospecies.org/sos_projects/fish/ewt_freshwater_fish/
The CCR team also collaborated with the Explore4Knowledge team to produce a series of short videos which covered the entire process from the pre-monitoring through to the actual translocation of the sandfish, these are available here; http://www.explore4knowledge.com/productions/ READ MORE …

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CONSERVATIONISTS GO FISHING: OORLOGSKLOOF-KOBEE FISH SURVEY 2015
Bonnie Schumann and Mandy Schumann
Twelve determined conservationists, a sturdy net, lots of stamina and 20 kilometres of some of the toughest terrain in South Africa and the scene was set for the 2015 Oorlogskloof-Kobee fish survey. The Endangered Clanwilliam sandfish (Labeo seeberi) and the Endangered Clanwilliam sawfin (Barbus serra) are the diminutive targets of a lot of attention from a four-organisation partnership working under the Cape Critical Rivers Project.
The fish survey is carried out annually. The objective is to monitor the abundance and distribution of the indigenous fish in the system, as well as check for alien fish presence. READ MORE ...

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THE PASSING OF OORLOGSKLOOF CONSERVATION LEGEND
Mandy Schumann – Department of Environment and Nature Conservation, Northern Cape
The 19th of March was a very sad day for many people who over the years have crossed paths with Wessel Pretorius, Reserve Manager of the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve for nearly 30 years. Wessel died suddenly from a heart attack while on a game count doing what he loved and lived for. Wessel was well known as a colourful character and for his whirlwind energetic personality. He will be remembered for his love of and dedication to conservation in the Northern Cape. Rest in peace friend and colleague.

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EXCITING NEWS FOR THE KAROO
The EWT-DCP is very happy to announce that we are partnering with CSIR and Rhodes University on the Global Environmental Facility’s (GEF) South Africa project on "Securing Multiple Ecosystem Benefits through Sustainable Land Management in the Productive but Degraded Landscapes of South Africa.”. The project recently received CEO endorsement from the GEF and can begin within a few months. We are very pleased to be acting as the coordinator of the Karoo project site and anticipate some exciting new initiatives in partnership with the Riverine Rabbit Conservancies as well as undertaking some key biodiversity research to inform sustainable development in the Karoo.

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HAVE YOU SEEN A FISH LATELY?
Cape Critical Rivers project partner Martine Jordaan, from CapeNature, recently completed a revised version of the Skelton freshwater fish guide, which has been adapted with a focus on the indigenous and alien freshwater fish of the Western Cape, the focal area of the Cape Critical Rivers project. The aim of the guide is to provide a user-friendly and hardy companion for conservation officers and farmers to use out in the field and improve their knowledge of the fish in their farm dams and the rivers running through their properties. The guide also includes important information on the new legislation pertaining to the management of alien invasive species, and how landowners can endeavour to comply with the legislation.

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HAVE YOU SEEN A RIVERINE RABBIT LATELY?
Have you see a Riverine Rabbit recently? Please see our latest sightings form HERE for handy tips on how to identify a Riverine Rabbit, as well as a form which you can send to us to add to our database. Every sighting helps us make better conservation decisions.PDF Form

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AWARDS
The DCP – Cape Critical Rivers team was honoured to have been shortlisted for the Mail and Guardian, Greening the Future Awards, in the Biodiversity Stewardship category. We were announced as winners of this category on 23 July 2015. Well done, team and all partners!

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WASHED AWAY! APPEAL FOR 3 CAMERA TRAPS
As many of you are aware, finding rabbits is very difficult, especially in rough field conditions. Zoe Woodgate, the EWT-DCP’s MSc student, was recently in the field, checking her camera trap grids and was devastated to find that three of the EWT’s camera traps had been washed away in floods after the recent rains. As Riverine Rabbits tend to live near rivers, this was always going to be a risk we had to accept. However it means we are now short three camera traps, which means we have lost one of our Occupancy-grid trap arrays, putting us at a distinct statistical disadvantage! It might seem that ‘saving’ statistics isn’t a conservation concern, but if we want a fool-proof protocol to count Riverine Rabbits, we need to scientifically verify our methodology – hence the need for stats – Stats for Saving Species!
We therefore are sending out an appeal to all our supporters to please consider giving us an early Christmas present - a couple more camera traps, which cost R4300 each (with card, batteries, etc), would make us (and the rabbits) very grateful.

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NEW ASSISTANT INTERN
Insauf De Vries
I am currently employed at Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) as an intern for the Drylands Conservation Programme (DCP). I am an assistant to Christy Bragg, the programme manager. We are situated at the Cape Town office in Muizenberg.
I successfully completed a course in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology last year at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and graduated this year March. My final year modules included community ecology and conservation genetics, coastal and marine environments and plant life of the Western Cape, living landscapes and conservation planning, animal ecophysiology and lastly animal ecology. I have also completed a 6 month internship at South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) from January 2015 until June 2015. At SANBI, we worked with the invasive alien species European shore crab or green crab (
Carcinus maena). As an intern here at EWT, I hope to get the exposure to both field and administrative components in running a conservation programme. The position is for me to shadow the project manager. Mentorship will include project planning, execution and oversight; exposure to good governance principals; exposure to field work including data collection, data analysis and data management.
I look forward to the next 6 months here at EWT, I have no idea what’s in store for me but I am definitely excited. I feel I can apply myself fully and bring together all those years of hard studying. The staff here is really nice and welcoming... I cannot wait to meet the rest.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF DONORS SUPPORTING THE EWT-DCP
We would like to thank the Altron Group for their tireless efforts to raise funding in 2015 to support us in these tough economic times. Another long-term supporter is Lindt & Sprüngli South Africa, who has again provided substantial support for the Riverine Rabbit Project through their Easter Lindt Gold Rabbit 2015 campaign.
FreeRange Jewellery is also supporting the Riverine Rabbit Project through sales of their delightful Riverine Rabbit jewellery sets. Rand Merchant Bank has provided significant three-year funding to allow us to consolidate our Karoo Riparian Ecosystem Restoration work and the Zoological Society for Species and Populations (ZGAP) also provided funding in 2014. The National Lottery Distribution Trust grant, which helped consolidate some of our stewardship project activities, has also come to an end.
Our Cape Critical Rivers project has completed the Save Our Species grant but through this project we managed to leverage further funding from the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Table Mountain Fund and the Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Charitable Foundation. We also gratefully acknowledge support from the Ford Wildlife Foundation for continuing to support the projects with vehicles for our work.


If you would like this newsletter in Afrikaans, please send an email with this request to Christy

Head Office: Endangered Wildlife Trust, Private Bag X11, Modderfontein, Gauteng, 1645 (T) +27 11 3723600 (F) +27 11 6084682

Karoo Regional Office, Loxton: (tel/fax) 053 381 3068; Postal address:  P. O. Box 172, LOXTON, 6985, South Africa