Vol 6. April 2013

Vision of the Drylands Conservation Programme

The Drylands Conservation Programme, part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, has a vision: 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.


 

PROGRAMME NAME CHANGE

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Programme has been renamed the Drylands Conservation Programme (EWT-DCP). This follows a period of review during which the strategy, functioning and objectives of the Riverine Rabbit Programme were re-assessed over the last year. We will be broadening the scope of our conservation activities under the Drylands Conservation banner to include additional species and ecosystems in arid areas.

The current conservation work we are doing on the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit will continue as before, but as one of several exciting projects the EWT-DCP will be undertaking.

 

THE EASTER BUNNY HUNT IS BACK!

Lindt SA has once again enlisted the Easter bunny to raise funds for the Riverine Rabbit. For every Lindt 100g Golden Easter Bunny sold, Lindt SA is donating R1 to the Riverine Rabbit Project. We encourage all our supporters to please feast on these delicious chocolate bunnies this Easter; and create a “hop on” effect by encouraging your friends and families to join in the feast. In so doing we can all gift the Riverine Rabbit with a better chance of survival by contributing towards its conservation.

Lindt SA has gone to extra lengths to support the Riverine Rabbit this year as they are also running a facebook auction, where the public can bid on celebrity-signed porcelain gold bunnies. The proceeds of this auction will go to the conservation of the Riverine Rabbit. So please visit http://bit.ly/lindtsouthafricagoldbunny to bid on a beautiful gold rabbit, signed by A-list stars such as Schalk Burger, Jeannie D, Lira, and many many more! We extend our warmest, fuzziest thanks to Lindt SA for their ongoing contributions and support for our rare Karoo rabbit.


 

CONSERVANCIES WORKSHOP LOOKS AT THE WAY FORWARD

On the 7th November 2012 the Riverine Rabbit Project, in collaboration with the Wagenaarskraal and Brak River Conservancies, hosted a Riverine Rabbit Conservancies workshop to assess the current status and the way forward for these conservancies. Facilitated by Kirsten Fourie, the theme of the workshop was inclusive of all farming needs, not just the needs of Riverine Rabbit conservation within riparian areas. In this way many new possible avenues for developing incentives were explored within the context of the whole farming landscape. What was exciting to see was that the needs of the farmers reflect conservation farming ideals namely: habitat improvement, veld management and sustainability. Members agreed that it was a very insightful workshop.


Many thanks to Melton Wold for kindly making the venue available, to the conservancy members and the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund for the funding for this workshop. Mr R. Christie is also thanked for his donation to the support of the Conservancy work.


These boards indicate farms that are part of the Riverine Rabbit Conservancies in the Karoo.
Habitat improvement, and veld management and sustainability are priorities for farmers – both of which dovetail perfectly with Riverine Rabbit conservation priorities. Conservancy members share ideas during the workshop in November.
 

CAMERA TRAPS TRAPPING THE PUBLIC’S ATTENTION

• Jan Human, farmer and Riverine Rabbit conservationist since 1978, was instrumental in persuading the regional SA Hunter’s and Wildlife Conservation Association branch to donate a trap camera to the EWT’s Riverine Rabbit Project, which he handed over to Christy Bragg, Programme Manager, at the Conservancies Workshop.
• The Riverine Rabbit Project would also like to gratefully acknowledge Ian Müller, for donating a camera trap.
• The Sean Williams Living Trust has also very generously donated R 22,000 for camera traps. It looks like the ball is rolling on our demography project!

The ZGAP (Zoological Society for Species and Populations) and Zoo Berlin organizations have also been instrumental in supporting the camera trap work. The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation fund is gratefully acknowledged for their funding for further camera traps and for the trials done last year.

 

SEARCH FOR NEW REHABILITATION SITE

The search for a new rehabilitation site is underway! Various sites identified during the flight survey carried out by the Bateleurs in 2007 were visited during February to assess their on-the-ground potential for rehabilitation. The potential sites will be evaluated with the assistance of experts from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Landcare, and attention will be given to using tried and tested methodologies to monitor landscape restoration, ecosystem functioning and services. Andrew Jackson, a Master’s student at the Nelson Metropolitan University of Technology, will also be carrying out ecological research on the site. Watch this space for more information in the next newsletter.

Altered riparian habitat along the Sak river.


Degraded riparian habitat.
 

The Rand Merchant Bank funding has sustained our work on rehabilitation for three years and recently Altron and Altech sponsored a Christmas present of R80,000 for the upscaling of our work.

 

TREASURE HUNTS AND RABBIT RACES

Late last year the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Programme staff travelled to two schools, one in Loxton, and one in Fraserburg, and hosted another Loxton school at the Indigenous Karoo Plant Nursery. All together 140 learners from grades one to nine participated in the Riverine Rabbit awareness and education activities

.At the EWT-DCP Nursery learners are introduced to the Karoo bossies, grown for riparian habitat rehabilitation purposes. The bossie introduction entails smelling the different bossies – most of which have a very distinctive and pleasant smell. The staff then lead children on a treasure hunt along the bossie trail. Each team is armed with a map of the trail, which includes clues to help them find the treasure. Amongst other things they have to bring Johnny a twig of Skaapbos before being allowed to proceed past Skeleton Corner. Activities are usually rounded off with a hopping bunny race, which subsequently continues all the way through town and back to school - the joys of a small town – no transport problems!

Grade 4 Learners (JJ Booysen Primary, Loxton) getting to know their bossies at the EWT-RRP’s Indigenous Karoo Plant Nursery.  
 

NEWS FLASHES

2012 was a busy year for the programme and was jam-packed with events. Herewith a quick summary of what we have been up to.

Upscaling the rehabilitation efforts: Plans are afoot to upscale the rehabilitation based on the success of the trial sites and concept. The idea is to ensure the scale of our work contributes to the restoration of vital ecosystem services, such as soil retention and water infiltration, which contribute to building the resilience of ecosystems.

Out and about: Christy and Bonnie covered a lot of bases during 2012, including attending the Karoo Development Conference in Beaufort West, (where Christy was invited to present on the potential environmental impacts of fracking); the Arid Zone Ecology Forum Conference in Worcester, (where Christy was nominated as Vice-Chair); the Ecosystems Based Climate Adaptation Workshop in Johannesburg (Christy was invited to speak at this workshop hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs); the quarterly Northern Cape Stewardship Forum meetings in Nieuwoudtville; various farmers association and conservancy meeting; the Williston Winter Festival; the Carnarvon Fly-in and many more.

In the spotlight during 2012: The Programme’s media profile was super last year – 17 Print articles, 31 Electronic articles; 6 Radio interviews and 1 TV interview.

 

Newsletter Logo Competition
Our newsletter logo competition has been extended – we are still receiving beautiful pictures in the children’s categories - send your entries (including your age and details) to christyb@ewt.org.za, before end of April 2013.

For your diary
Arid Zone Ecology Forum (3–6 September)
Don’t miss the Williston Winter Festival (6-7 September)

Congratulations
We are very proud of our Senior Field Officer who shared the EWT’s Conservation Achiever of the Year award with Tanya Smith of the African Crane Conservation Programme. Well done Bonnie, it was very deserved!

 

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