To the dragonfly nymph of Princess Vlei, thank you for allow us to visit your eco-system. You make me feel as if I have a duty to keep your environment safe. I promise to respect your habitat (water) and protect it from pollution, whenever I see someone polluting it - Damica Fortuin Lotus High school
To the butterfly of Princess Vlei Thank you for standing out so beautifully. You make me feel happy when I catch a tiny sight of your beautiful wings. I promise I won’t destroy any flowers - Caithlin Davids Zeekovlei High School
These messages were written by learners to express their gratitude to the creatures of Princess Vlei, during the World Wetlands Day event on February 3. Nearly 200 learners from Lotus High and Zeekovlei High attended the event, which was hosted jointly by the Princess Vlei Forum (PVF) and the Western Cape Wetlands Forum (WCWF).
The international theme for the day this year was Wetlands and Biodiversity – highly relevant as our planet is faces catastrophic loss of biodiversity due to Climate Change, plastic waste, industrial pollution and habitat loss. Wetlands, which support a wide range of species, and serve as nurseries for fish, amphibians and other aquatic animals, are the most threatened ecosystems.
The Greater Princess Vlei Conservation Area is one of many important urban wetlands in Cape Town. An important part of the Princess Vlei Forum’s mission is to foster a love of the wetland and nature amongst our younger residents. The day offered learners many opportunities to experience the biodiversity at the vlei.
The Western Cape Wetlands Forum is devoted to sharing information and expertise for the protection, management and restoration of wetlands in the Western Cape. It is supported by the Departments of Environmental Affairs and Water and Sanitation; Cape Nature, City of Cape Town, among others.
Learner were welcomed by Margo Adonis, the Miss Earth South African Ambassador. Adonis told learners that the older generation had failed them by failing to take proper care of the environment. The children were also welcomed by Denisha Anand (Princes Vlei Forum) and Kate Snaddon (Western Cape Wetlands Forum).
The learners were divided into groups, and rotated between six activity stations, which each gave them a different way of experiencing the wetlands.
A highlight for all the learners was the opportunity for a short canoe ride – this was provided by Gravity Adventures. After kitting up in life jackets and learning some principles of paddling, the children set out for a short paddle on the water – for many their first experience of being on a boat.
Noloyiso Dlamini and other CapeNature educators used various filtration mediums to show how wetlands act effectively as filters to clean water.
Kate Snaddon and Tumisho Nogobela from the Freshwater Research Center gave children a glimpse of the life that thrives beneath the surface. They waded into the vlei, and netted various creatures to show the children. These included dragon fly and mayfly nymphs, water beetles, tadpoles, and hatchling catfish. They helped the children identify the creatures with charts, before releasing them back into the water.
The Cape Bird Club introduced the feathered members of the Princess Vlei community. Children were given an identification chart, and ciscussed the importance of birds in a wetland ecosystem. The children learnt how to use binoculars, and the birdclub members helped them to spot and identify birds from the charts. “The children showed great excitement when they could use the binoculars properly, but spent quite a lot of time looking at things not related to birds!! Fortunately others got very excited about the birds as well,” said Gillian Barnes of the CBC. 36 Species were spotted on the water or flying past, including Red-knobbed Coot, Egyptian Goose, Greater Crested Grebe, Common Moorhen, Great White Pelicans, Jackal Buzzards, Gulls, Herons, Cormorants and Terns and smaller birds that live in the reeds surrounding the vlei.
The Princess Vlei Forum team helped the learners to grow a "Gratitude Tree" – learners were asked to choose a species from a number of photographs of animals at Princess Vlei. They were given a colourful card “leaf” in which they wrote a message to the animal they had chosen, thanking it, saying what they liked about it, and making a promise to the animal to help it or the environment in some way. The leaves were hung on a branch. The activity helped the learners see the diversity of species found at Princess Vlei, and to reflect on their own personal connection to these animals and their habitat.
The Cape Town Environmental Education Trust got the kids moving with a “Race to save the earth”. “Our aim was to make learners aware of the function of wetlands as habitats. Learners were also made aware of the human impacts and the possible solutions to not just wetlands but the environment as a whole. Learners enjoyed this game as it also opened their mind to other environmental issues.” Said Nondumiso Myataza. She was helped Phindile Gazu
After a busy morning, the leaners were happy to sit under the trees and enjoy the Jungle Theatre’s performance of the Python and the Qunube Tree. Based on an African folktale, the story tells of how the little tortoise saves the animals by breaking the cycle of the drought and freeing the Qunube berries for all the animals to eat. The play featured puppets, hilarious animal masks and beautiful singing, and was performed by Vincent Meyburgh, Siyawandisa Badi and Naledi Tlailane.
Children were given a burger from Abenaki Spur Steak Ranch and a stationery pack from Shoprite before leaving.
Speaking afterwards, Shafiek Isaacs of Lotus High School said, ‘The learners really loved the event – it was a great way to give them an experience of Princess Vlei and to learn something about the wetlands. So many of them now want to sign up with our eco-club.”
Sponsors for the event include the WWF-SA; Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, managed by Nedbank Private Wealth, which funds the Princess Vlei Forum’s educational program; Abenaki Spur Steak Ranch and the Grassy Park Spar. Shoprite donated stationery packs to participants.
Huge thanks to Shaddai Daniel-Harris & Phillip Frenzel for initiating and co-ordinating the event with the Princess Vlei Forum. Thanks also to all the many other volunteers who helped with the event.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.