The Forum is devastated by the damage done to the Princess Vlei eastern shoreline and restoration area.
On 6 May, concerned citizen Zoe Poulsen spotted an earth mover ripping up the shoreline vegetation and dumping the biomass on botanically sensitive areas - including a plot that was restored by the Forum last year as part of the community-led fynbos restoration project.
As Zoe had herself grown some of the plants for this restoration, she did not hesitate to stand in front of the machine until she could alert someone in authority to prevent further damage. Without her fortuitous presence and courage, the entire eastern shoreline and restoration area, including hundreds of plants put in by school learners, would have been destroyed.
However, the operator of the machine had already caused catastrophic ecological damage to the vlei (see area marked in red on the photograph below).
Although this is the most damaging, it is not the first incident. In 2018, a Western Leopard Toad breeding site was destroyed by a contractor removing water hyacinth. In 2019, a contractor dumped biomass on one of the older restoration sites, causing major damage to the plants. After this, a map was drawn up delineating where the machine could safely move and dump material, and the City undertook to inform the Forum’s biodiversity project manager, Denisha Anand, whenever the contractor was on site. Unfortunately, these protocols were not followed, leading to this tragic result.
The GPVCA forms part of the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity network, and the City is obliged to manage it as a biodiversity sensitive site, by agreement with Cape Nature. The area has also recently been declared a Provincial Heritage Site in recognition of its biodiversity and cultural value.
As a biodiversity sensitive site, it is vital that utmost care be taken with mechanical operations on site. This act demonstrates an extreme lack of care. While the ward councillor and some officials have supported the restoration and revitalisation of the area, this is not upheld by the overall management of the site. Princess Vlei has suffered from chronic neglect, going back several decades to the apartheid era. This neglect continues, as the level of care and attention given remains far short of that given to equivalent areas in wealthy, formerly white areas in Cape Town.
This incident highlights:
Princess Vlei contributed over 400 observations to Cape Town’s City nature challenge on Friday 30 April.
The City Nature Challenge is an annual four-day ‘bioblitz' to motivate people around the world to find and document wildlife in their cities. Although there is a friendly competition to see which city can gather the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the event, the 2021 City Nature Challenge will focus on the healing power of nature, and on celebrating the thousands of nature enthusiasts around the world documenting local biodiversity.
At the Princess Vlei bioblitz, 440 observations were made by 38 observers, with 170 species identified. These included plants, birds, toads, and insects.
The event was supported by learners from the Brave organisation, and the Leisure Education Trust. Brave targets girls in the Manenberg area, and is aimed at building strong leadership amongst women. The girls were accompanied by Lee Ann Jenkins, who is employed by the organisation after volunteering for ten years.
‘One of our focus areas is conservation and travel which includes adventure, that is how this comes in. These activities are great to help them feel more relaxed, and to enable them to get out of the community and see something different … this is my first time at Princess Vlei … I loved the whole vlei itself, and all the small living organisms.’
Kiana Samuels, a grade 9 learner from Brave, commented on how she enjoyed coming to the vlei to learn more about how important plants are to humans. Dominique Fortuin enjoyed scattering seeds, and Iqrah Anders liked learning about how plants are used medicinally and for other purposes.
The Leisure Education Trust sponsors talented students, and encourages them to engage in community activities. Four of these learners were so inspired they came to both the morning and afternoon session at Princess Vlei and also attended the session at Rondebosch Common on Saturday
One of these was Vanshika Patel, a Grade 11 learner from Rylands High. Vanshika said that she had not heard of iNaturalist before the event, but that she enjoyed taking pictures of different plants and learning more about them after uploading them on the app.
‘I found all the flowers that I took pictures of really interesting because they were all so pretty and colourful. I would definitely encourage other young people to get involved because getting involved in conservation allows us to learn more interesting and new things about the nature.’
The event offered us an opportunity to scatter seeds in our restoration areas, and to monitor the plants that were put in last year. A number of protea seedlings are thriving, and some are ready to flower - the first proteas to flower at Princess Vlei for over fifty years.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.