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Our members would have noticed lots of rubbish along our Conservancy roads, as well as roads leading into the Conservancy (mostly polystyrene food containers, empty chips packets, water and soft drink bottles), left behind by weekend visitors.

It seems that, except for locals dropping their rubbish at taxi ranks, weekend visitors (cyclists, bikers and motorists) are also guilty of this.

In 2007, one of our Conservancy members, Shelley Bownass, decided to put an end to this. She organised four unemployed ladies of Hekpoort Informal Settlement to pick up rubbish along the Conservancy roads twice per month. The AFM church in Magaliesburg, where Shelley is a member, took responsibility for this job creation project, and it became known as the Barnabas Road Project. The church donated bags, safety clothing, overalls, backpacks and shoes donated to the church, and Mogale City Local Municipality also provided bags. Another Conservancy member, Linton Raaff, collects the bags and drops them off at the collection point, at his own cost. Currently, only two ladies are picking up rubbish along our roads. The Conservancy contributes towards their salaries. We would like to thank Shelley and Linton from the bottom of our hearts for their much-needed help with this project.

Once again, it is vulture fledgling season (September/October to early next year). During this time, young inexperienced vultures get themselves into potentially fatal situations as they start to experience the freedom of the skies.

Young vultures have not yet learned of the threats that civilisation and modern developments create for them. Power lines and poisonings contribute to the greatest number of fatalities and injuries. Such collisions often result in various broken bones and permanent disabilities. Other threats that these young vultures face are small high-fenced or walled gardens, swimming pools and reservoirs, dogs, unsafe food sources and ignorance or a lack of empathy from people. Vultures are large, heavy birds that require significant space in order to be able to take off and fly. Small gardens often prevent them from being able to take off again, once on the ground. Dogs may worry or kill a grounded vulture if it is trapped inside their garden, and electric fencing creates the threat of electrocution, wire cut injuries and even death as the vulture attempts to escape. Heavy rains and swimming pools can end up water-logging a vulture's plumage. With the added weight and the lack of functionality of their wet feathers, they are unable to fly. Young vultures may also not yet have sufficient body weight and condition to enable them to survive cold and wet for a sustained period.

National Invasive Species Week took place together with the annual national Weed buster Week, from 10 – 17 October 2015. Invasive species week aims to create awareness and increase public understanding about invasive species and NEMBA regulations.

In our area we haven’t experienced petrichor – the smell of earth after rain, often during the current rainy season. We are experiencing a severe drought, like in the 1960s and 1980s, according to people who have lived here for a long time.

Rain forecasts do not look promising, and long periods of heat wave conditions make it worse. Some landowners in the Conservancy are already experiencing problems with boreholes drying up, and the Magalies River has stopped flowing. Many discussions are taking place, and accusations are the order of the day, about who is responsible for the shortage of water and what should have been done to not have ended up in such a situation. Such discussions and accusations are not going to solve the immediate problem, and should be left for later, to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Fact is that we are facing a disaster, and that not a drop of water can be wasted. As a community, we should now focus, prepare and plan to provide water where boreholes run dry. Unemployment is increasing, and food prices are skyrocketing (e.g. dairy products) as a result of the drought. The drought is also resulting in an escalation of crime. We therefore also have to prepare to prevent and control crime better (Deon Greyling).

"Countries rise or fall on the state of their agriculture” (Iain Hulley, Nottingham Road).

The world’s population, growing by more than 200 000 per day, will increase to nine billion by 2050. More than 50% of people now live in cities, compared to just 5% at the turn of the 20th century. These factors, combined with climate change and declining natural resources, are reshaping the world we live in. Global warming is the ultimate game changer, as even small increases in the average temperature will have a very significant effect on pest and disease populations. In addition to this, associated changes in climate such as rainfall patterns will affect ecosystems. One of the greatest emerging challenges is a threat to global food security. Real food security depends not only on a thriving farmer but also on a thriving consumer. You cannot have the one without the other. To adequately feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. And to achieve this, farmers will have to produce more with fewer resources. It is also crucial to improve worker productivity (Denene Erasmus, Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014).

Recent garden visitors: About two weeks ago, our swallows returned, which means that summer has definitely arrived.

The Eucalyptus species have been, and are of huge benefit to SA for their timber, shelter (roosting and nesting sites), windbreaks and honey production.

A media statement on 31 August 2015 by the Griffon Poison Information Centre clearly states that the illegal poisoning of wildlife is definitely on the increase.

Gall sickness, spread mainly by the blue tick, was and still is a serious cattle disease in South Africa. (We have reported on this in previous newsletters). Letters from farmers recommending preventive measures were featured in the Farmer’s Weekly of 70 years ago, such as this one by JB Cawood of Hopewell Farm near Tarkastad:

Research findings indicate that Glyphosate 2, 4-D and Dicamba (active ingredients in Roundup and other herbicides) were found to affect bacteria in ways that could promote resistance to common antibiotics. This is one of the most pressing public health crises of our time. Pesticide-included antibiotic resistance could also affect honeybees, since many commercial hives are now being treated with antibiotics (Elizabeth Grossman, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015).

 Vultures evoke strong emotions from many different individuals and walks of life, including those of enthusiastic pilots from large fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters to motorised and non-motorised gliders.

Creative Commons- CC BY-SA 3.0

The first week of September is Arbor week. 

We are now in the midst of the danger time for veld fires. Until good rain has fallen, we must therefore do everything in our power to prevent veld fires. Up to now, members of the Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association (FPA) have successfully kept fires out of the Hartebeestfontein area and have controlled a number of small fires before they could become runaway fires that could have caused much damage. Except for a few incidents where there is no control on government property or properties of landowners who don’t belong to the FPA, not much damage was caused.

Our members/readers will remember that we reported on Werner Fiel and Esther Müller’s horse that had somehow landed in their pool and could not get out, towards the end of last year. It took a concerted effort from a number of people to get the horse out of the pool uninjured. The pool was so badly damaged that it had to be remade. Now the newly made pool has had an animal visitor once again – this time a porcupine! Fortunately, the pool was still empty. Thanks to Esther who sent us the photo.

One of our committee members, Annette Raaff, read interesting information about Damhoek in the recent Heritage Portal newsletter and shares it with us.
Castle Gorge and Damhoek Pass saw significant Boer and British activity during various periods of the Anglo-Boer War. The Damhoek Pass was an important route over the Magaliesberg, and for this reason, in August 1901, the British Army fortified the area with no less than seven "Rice Pattern" blockhouses [and] various other smaller fortifications. The remains of these structures can still be seen today. Castle Gorge was the probable site of several hidden Boer industries, including a grain mill powered by the stream, a blacksmith, and a shoemaker. Unfortunately, no physicial evidence of these Boer industries has yet been found. A hike of this area to explore its history and structures, and to admire the beautiful scenery will be taking place on 2 June 2015. This is a strenuous hike of about 10km, and is only suitable for the fit! For more information, visit http://www.heritageportal.co.za/event/hiking-tour-damhoek-and-castle. Won’t it be exciting if the participants find some of the hidden Boer industries? – Ed.
Go to www.heritageportal.co.za and read the section on Paul Kruger and “boer maak ‘n plan”.

Our members/readers will be aware that a previous attempt to have the Magaliesberg Biosphere registered as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, was unsuccessful for two years running (we reported about this process in our newsletters). Currently, new attempts are being made to have this historical and biodiversity-rich area registered as a biosphere reserve. The Magaliesberg (and its surrounding buffer and transition zones) is one of oldest mountain ranges in the world.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves‚ which Magaliesberg now joins‚ counts 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries. South Africa has eight biosphere reserve, including the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve designated in June 2015. 

Other Biosphere Reserves are - 

  • Kogelberg (the first South African biosphere reserve) 
  • Cape West Coast, 
  • Waterberg, 
  • Kruger to Canyons,  
  • Cape Winelands  
  • Vhembe, 
  • and Gouritz Cluster also proclaimed in June 2015

On 9 June 2015, the International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) announced in Paris that the Magaliesberg has been declared as a World Biosphere Reserve.

This announcement is the culmination of a campaign to have this mountain, which is about a 100 times older than Mount Everest (about half the age of the earth), declared as a World Biosphere. The Magaliesberg is under severe pressure from urbanisation and has lacked the support of a strong regulatory framework to back its status as a protected area. The Reserve covers almost 358 000ha – 58 000ha making up the core area (in which our Conservancy falls), 110 000ha the buffer area and 190 000ha the transition area. Besides the area's unique biomes – Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah – it has a very rich biodiversity. The plant species, Aloe Peglerae and Frithia pulchra, are unique to the area, and it is also home to 443 bird species – almost half the total bird species of southern Africa. In a report of the International Advisory Committee for Biospheres it is noted that "The area is endowed with scenic beauty, unique natural features, rich cultural heritage value and archaeological interest with the Cradle of Humankind, which is part of the World Heritage Site, with four million years of history".
The Magaliesberg now joins 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries worldwide. There are now eight UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in South Africa, namely: Kogelberg (Western Cape), the Cape West Coast, Kruger to Canyons (Limpopo & Mpumalanga), the Waterberg (Limpopo), the Cape Wine Lands, Vhembe (Limpopo), the Gouritz cluster (Western and Eastern Cape), and the Magaliesberg. The Magaliesberg Biosphere will be formally registered by UNESCO and the Department of Environmental Affairs as a World Biosphere Reserve in October 2015.
In the words of Vincent Carruthers, well-known author of the book, The Magaliesberg, "...the real challenge is to learn how to use and enjoy all that the mountain has to offer and allow that enjoyment to be sustained in perpetuity".

We have reported in detail on the NEMBA AIS Regulations, published in the Government Gazette of 1 August 2014 in previous newsletters.

On 29 May 2015, amendments to these Regulations (Notice 493 of 2015) were posted for public comment. A few important highlights include:

Invasive animals
* Removal of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus) from the invasive species lists;
* Listing of Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) as a Category 2 invader;
* Listing of ALL American red slider turtles (Trachemys species) as Category 3 invaders;
* Listing of the European shore crab/Green crab (Carcinus maenas) as a Category 1b invader;
* Removal of the Common Boa and Green Iguana from being listed as Category 2 invaders in Gauteng. Restrictions in other provinces remain.
* Dispensation for the official parakeet and pigeon racing associations to issue Category 2 permits to their members; and
* Detailed confirmation of the status of carp.

Invasive plants

* Confirmation of the sword fern (Nephrolepis) as a Category 1b invader in KwaZulu-Natal.
* Detailed confirmation of the status of Pinus pinaster and Pinus radiata.

Visit www.invasives.org.za for more information.

The NEMBA Alien and Invasive Species regulations, published on 1 August 2014, list 8 species of pines as invasive, with provisions on where and how they are to be managed.  Image from www.invasives.org.za

Further training opportunities for Invasives Consultants:

To date, 410 consultants have been trained (during April & May 2015). Further training workshops will be taking place during July. Contact Margie Vonk on 011 723 9000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

The International Day for Biological Diversity was celebrated on 22 May 2015. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), globally about one third of all known species are threatened with extinction. That includes 29% of all amphibians, 21% of all mammals and 12% of all birds. If we do not address the threats to biodiversity, we could be facing another mass extinction with dire consequences to the environment, economy, human health and our livelihoods.

Despite the declining rate of our biodiversity, South Africa remains one of the countries with high levels of biodiversity. South Africa occupies only 2% of the world’s land surface area and yet is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of its reptile-, bird and mammal species. Our oceans are home to 10 000 life forms, representing 16% of the world’s marine wildlife. Our country ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the world and is a sanctuary to more than 9 000 plant species, and home to the magnificent Big Five (email, 22 May 2015).

Since very long ago, water rights has resulted in all kinds of fights, even mini wars. There are still many remainders of storage and irrigation dams, irrigation ditches and weirs in the river, all examples of water management systems from long ago. One can just imagine how many family fights and general disagreement this had resulted in!

Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA, Act 10 of 2014) and the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations which became law on 1 October 2014.