Denisha Anand has been employed by Princess Vlei Forum to manage the Greater Princess Vlei Conservation Area. This is a huge site, with both great rewards - and great challenges. In this post, Denisha looks back at some of the challenges and rewards of her first year as manager of GPVCA
There is much to do on the site, both to restore it's ecological integrity, and to manage it. Getting enough hands on ground to do this work has been one of our biggest challenges this year. Even though we were allocated EPWP contracts for most of the year, our work load on site has been backlogged for quite a few years. We have made a lot of progress on site but encourage the public to participate in clean-ups and alien species removal events hosted by either the CoCT or PVF.
The tragic loss of our team member
Losing one of our first contract workers, Neville De Koker, was a devastating tragedy. Neville was part of the first CoCT EPWP team on site. He was shot near his home in Retreat and later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. Neville’s passing had a huge impact on the team and on myself as a manager. His family came together to plant a tree with the PVF at Princess Vlei and continues to visit and water his tree in memory of him.
Theft and vandalism
This year we have attempted to do some rehabilitative planting on site. We planted a healing garden in the shape of a spiral. But over the past few months since the planting people have been stealing the river stones that have been set out to mark the garden and create the pathway. This has been extremely disappointing. We have also had wooden edging stolen from one of our planting projects done by High School learners. Stealing plants, rocks and infrastructure from the site is stealing from the children and community members who come to enjoy Princess Vlei. It is very discouraging for our learners, who take great pride in the gardens they create on site, to see their work destroyed like this. We urge the public to report any theft or vandalism seen on site. Please don't buy any plants or garden features which you suspect may have been stolen from this or any other nature site.
We have experienced large amounts of litter being left behind by visitors, particularly near at the braai facilities such as alcohol bottles, chips packets, meat packaging and so on. There are black bins available for refuse on site. If the bins are full or you can not access them then please take your packaging home and discard it there- if you managed to bring it to the Vlei, it should not be difficult to take it away. The wind blows a lot of the rubbish in to the water and has a negative impact on aquatic and bird life at the vlei.
During the worst phase of Cape Town’s drought, we experienced quite a number of people attempting to harvest water from the Greater and Little Princess Vleis. This is illegal and fines can and will be issued on site. We have also seen people collecting water from the ablution block near the old fish market on Prince George Drive. While we know water has become a scarce resource in the City, we cannot allow this on site - it would quickly grow out of hand, with a devastating impact on the plants and animals which rely on the water. The traffic to get the water is also very destructive.
Princess Vlei Guardians
Having a full-time manager has enabled us to take our relationship with the schools to a new level. In addition to the regular creative art and eco- awareness activities, such as the Flight of Dreams parade, they manager has been co-ordinating a group of high school learners, who have formed a club called the Lotus Princess Guardians. These learners visit the vlei, do clean-ups, observations, planting and other hands on activities that feeds in to the science curriculum. The Lotus Princess Guardians has been our first guardian school and has done exceptionally well this year. Next year, we plan to involve other high schools, and to have a junior guardian school programme with the primary schools as well. Altogether, we have involved nearly 200 children in over 20 events this year.
Western Leopard Toad Workbook
Management and the PVF co-created an amazing workbook for young scientists to facilitate the collection of baseline data for the Princess Vlei endangered Western Leopard Toad population. The workbook will be completed by high school learners who are part of our guardian project, and the data they collect will be logged by management. This will help us understand where the toads travel to when they’re not on site, where they call from, where they’re breeding and if there are any new risks and threats that we need to be aware of. It will also raise awareness of these magical creatures, and encourage all community members to help look after them. Click on the image to download the workbook. This can be freely used for non-profit educational purposes, but please email us if you want to reproduce it.
Restoration Management Plan
Princess Vlei will have a full Restoration Management Plan in 2019. An expert consultant, Alex Lansdowne, was brought in by management and funded by PVF to create a plan to guide the restoration and rehabilitation process of the vegetation on site. This plan will guide alien invasive clearing, fynbos and Strandveld restoration and rehabilitation etc. Alex Lansdowne has been putting this document together for Princess Vlei over the course of 2018. As management, we’re excited to be following a set plan that aims to see species and habitat recovery over a period of 5 years plus. We plan to raise further funds for an exciting community project to re-establish signature endemic species on site such as Serruria Foeniculacea and Erica verticillata. This beautiful Erica was once abundant in the area, but is now extinct in the wild. Serruria Foeniculacea was restricted to a 50km2 area around Princess Vlei, and is now critically endangered in nature.
Partnership with Platbos Forest
A beautiful partnership was fostered between Princess Vlei and the Platbos Forest Family. Platbos has donated over 30 trees to Princess Vlei this year which was used to create a memory thicket, in memory of those that we have lost and in memory of the plant species that have been lost too. An event honouring Neville De Koker was held to plant the trees, during which people were invited to dedicate trees to memory of loved ones. In 2019, PVF will partner with Platbos to take 15 to 20 young Princess Vlei Guardians to the Reforest Fest. We’re excited about this partnership and look forward to seeing it grow.
Water Hyacinth Eradication Plan
Management and relevant CoCT staff have created an Eradication Plan for water hyacinth at Princess Vlei. The Plan will be adjusted as we go along in order to establish what works and what does not. The plan hopes to have Water Hyacinth controlled within a space of 2 to 3 years on site.
In addition to management work on site, Denisha has represented PVF and Princess Vlei at various fora this year, in particular the National Wetlands Indaba, and the Fynbos Forum. She presented a poster at the Fynbos Forum this year, and will do a presentation on Princess Vlei next year. This has greatly boosted the profile of Princess Vlei in the conservation community, as well as providing Denisha with many exciting opportunities to share experiences and knowledge with others in the field.
‘The learners couldn’t stop talking about the event … they were in and out of my class wanting to talk and get pics.’
These words from Lotus Primary teacher, Priscilla de Wet, capture the excitement of the learners who attended the Princess Vlei Boats and Toads event on 29 November. The event was held in partnership with Gravity adventures, to raise awareness about and appreciation for our beautiful leopard toads.
Forty learners from Lotus and Harmony Primary attended. They were given worksheets about the leopard toad, completed and activity and answered questions about habitat, size, life cycle and threats. They then looked at photographs of a toad and modeled a clay toad based on these. This activity helped them get a real, sensory feel of how the toad looks and is shaped – particularly as the models were life size. The learners then visually decorate the ‘toad habitat’ on the bases for the toads to sit on.
While one group was busy with the toads, the others went onto the water. Gravity Adventure facilitators showed the learners how to paddle, and gave them some practice on land. They were strapped into life jackets, and off they went. A few learners had a good opportunity to study toad habitats and breeding grounds when they landed up in the reeds.
Western Leopard Toads have recently expanded their breeding grounds at Princess Vlei, and we hope that we will get more toad activity as we improve the environmental health of the area. The Forum is busy with a project with older learners to monitor toad movements at the vlei and in surrounding private gardens, and to raise awareness of the need to protect these animals. Toads are on the move, and we’d like to invite any local residents to inform us of toad sightings, or if you have heard them at night.
A huge thanks to Gravity for making their canoes, life jackets and facilitators available, and enabling the children to have such a wonderful time on the water.
Thanks also to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust Managed by Nedbank Private Wealth for funding our conservation education programme.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.