VERVIEW BY DR PAT MILLER, BOARD CHAIR: SEPTEMBER 2021
Last year we were navigating the unfamiliar waters of the various lockdowns into which Covid19 had plunged us. This year has been largely one of treading water as the virus-driven situation has made us find ways of coping with its impact on our lives and our ways of relating not only to each other but also to our environment.
Yet again, WCC’s wonderful staff and supporters have risen to the challenge and managed to soldier on in the service of our vision that of ensuring that our very special local environment is valued and protected for the future. Our Annual Report gives some detail to the ways in which we are doing this, and I encourage you all to read it.
Covid19 has had the most significant impact on the first of our three main focus areas (Eco Learn), as the education departments’ responses to the pandemic closed schools for extended periods. This made it impossible for us to do our usual work to supplement the schools’ environmental education. Still, we were able to offer some after-school outdoor activities in the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021.
Eco Watch is the focus under which we keep a beady eye on proposed developments and legislative implications. Last year we expressed the hope that the “Zombie Project” that would not die otherwise known as the Proposed Hermanus CBD Bypass Road was finally on its last legs. Inexplicably, however, the provincial government saw fit to give the proposers permission to try yet again (for the third time) to make their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) acceptable. A formal request for their reasons for the decision has been submitted, and we await a reply. Keep the bubbly on ice… Our extensive comments on the proposed Biodiversity Bill were broadly accepted; that piece of important legislation is not yet finalised.
Eco Protect is focused on a very exciting work in progress, namely the development of the Whale Coast Nature Reserve. This property stretches from coast to mountain, and the work involves rehabilitating what is one of the most beautiful pieces of land in our area. The GreenHouse is situated on the mountainside of the Reserve. In the long term, preserving ecosystem structure and functions will ensure the conservation of biodiversity through natural processes. In the short and medium terms, there are many challenges. Alien vegetation must be removed to allow the indigenous vegetation to thrive, poaching and encroachment need to be combatted and so on. All these efforts also offer opportunities to put our focus areas into practice. Camping out in nature is an excellent opportunity for some “getting down and dirty” rich learning eco-experiences for young and old alike.
The rehabilitation of the Mill Stream in Stanford is another holistic and many-faceted rehabilitation project that is starting to show results; well done, particularly to Sheraine for her never-flagging input.
Sharing knowledge is, of course, vital to environmental protection and awareness, and our Zoomed talks and webinars, articles and group adventures have continued, as have our citizen science initiatives with (for example) chameleon and frog rescues and beach clean-ups. We published a collection of Anina’s wonderful articles under the apt title “What a Wonderful World!”. Stripes the Eco-cat has also been put into print to engage young minds in all things environmental.
News on the big environmental picture is bleak, but I continue to hope against hope that politicians will find a way to do what science and our experience clearly shows is urgent and essential. In the meantime, it is up to us to do what is necessary on a personal level. To those who support us with time and money thank you so very much. Your support is put to good use.
OVERSTRAND CONSERVATION FOUNDATION T/A
ABOUT WHALE COAST CONSERVATION
The unique biodiversity of the Cape Whale Coast environment is valued and protected to ensure its wonders never cease.
To raise awareness of the unique and biodiverse natural resources of the Cape Whale Coast region and to promote sustainable communities.
Respect, protect and enjoy nature.
Negative Impact of COVID-19 on our work
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that schools were closed for extended periods, making it impossible to do our usual work in the schools. Schools could not offer us the time to continue with schools expos until the second term of 2021. However, WCC offered some after-school outdoor activities in the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021.
HOW DO WE FULFIL OUR MISSION?
To fulfil our mission, Whale Coast Conservation focuses on three main areas of operation, namely LEARN, PROTECT and WATCH. We aim to inspire a culture of respecting and protecting the unique biodiversity of the Cape Whale Coast and thus caring for our environment.
We share our passion for nature with communities so that they may benefit from a closer relationship with our incredible natural world. We do this through lessons, expos and nature experiences.
Inspiring the youth: We connect them with their natural heritage through school visits, outdoor camps and leadership mentoring. Our Youth Environment Programme (YEP) introduces youth to the fascinating natural world. We visit schools with travelling exhibits or expos on different themes that complement the school sciences curriculum. Our interactive learning material brings the natural world into the classroom in a meaningful way, connecting book learning to real life. Camps in nature are jam-packed with nature lessons. The excitement ramps up after dark when nocturnal animals like frogs and chameleons are easier to find.
Sharing Knowledge: We share our passion for our unique but fragile world through talks, webinars, adventures in nature and weekly press articles. Our regular talks and webinars featuring experts in their fields are recorded and appear on social media to reach a broad audience. We lead small groups on amazing adventures in nature on a specific topic. We share our passion and knowledge and encourage positive nature actions. We publish weekly nature articles in the local newspaper, The Village News, to reach a wide audience. Articles appear as blogs on our website. Regular Newsletters keep members informed about our activities.
Citizen Science: Many projects rely on the collection of data. The more bodies we have in the field helping to collect information, the more successful our projects are. Cape Dwarf Chameleons are increasingly impacted by urban expansion and habitat transformation. They fall victim to bulldozers when plots are cleared. Our team leader and chameleon volunteers have surveyed where chameleons occur in urban areas and can relocate them to safe habitats when necessary.
Together with partners and volunteers, we participate in beach clean-ups along the WCNR coastline. The litter collected is analysed and tallied, then uploaded to a central database so that sources of waste can be tracked. This knowledge informs educational interventions to reduce littering. We are also building up records of biodiversity in the WCNR through iNaturalist.
Whale Coast Nature Reserve (WCNR) provides a vitally important coast-to-mountain ecological corridor. Long-term preservation of ecosystem structure and function ensure biodiversity conservation through natural processes, and WCC is intimately involved in the management of the reserve. Staff and home school volunteers are also clearing alien invasive species on the WCNR, and our chameleon sanctuary is rapidly taking shape in the Reserve. It will soon provide a safe haven for
rescued Cape Dwarf Chameleons.
Whale Coast Conservation’s eco-watch activities encompass reviewing proposed changes of land use, environmental impact assessments triggered by development proposals, proposed amendments to legislation, the integrated development plan, spatial development frameworks and other municipal plans, such as the Fernkloof Nature Reserve Protected Area Management Plan, and the participation in forums created to advise government agencies, such as the Municipal Coastal Committee and estuary forums. Eco-Watch is a busy portfolio requiring keeping abreast of government thinking and policy and vigilance so that we become aware of the opportunity to comment within narrow windows of time in which issues are open for public participation.
WHALE COAST TECHNOLOGIES
Whale Coast Technologies offers a range of technologies that can save electricity, give us electrical back-up during power outages or allows us to go completely off-grid. Prices are competitive, and all profits go towards supporting WCC’s work for the environment. Expert advice on all the options is available. Whale Coast Technologies (WCT) is managed as a separate business entity dedicated to generating a profit donated to WCC.
ACTIVITIES – OCTOBER 2020 TO AUGUST 2021
More than a year since our last Annual Report, Covid-19 is still ravaging lives. We are especially concerned about the loss of school time when schools were closed and, once opened, had to split classes with only half the learners going to school at any time. The educators worked hard to provide distance schooling, but some learners simply did not have the facilities to study effectively at home.
YOUTH ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
Once the strict Lockdown ended, WCC could participate in the International Coastal Clean- up Day (ICC) at two of the Gansbaai schools – after school hours and in the open air. We brought home the fact that all litter ultimately lands up in our rivers and oceans. We emphasised that “the ocean starts here on the school grounds”. We combined the ICC with Arbor Day and planted trees and a pavement garden. The same message was taken to Hawston on World Environment Day in June 2021. The excited kids stencilled the message “the sea starts here” on stormwater drains.
In December 2020, WCC ran a successful 3- day Ecology Camp with Grade 10 Life Science learners and two educators from Gansbaai Academia. The camp covered fynbos ecology, beach ecology and two chameleon searches after dark.
The ecology camp was also offered to the whole Grade 10 class at Hermanus High school at the end of the first term of 2021. This camp is a firm annual favourite with the Grade 10s, and we are told that a good number opt to carry on with Life Sciences to Matric inspired by WCC.
Since our schools’ activities were severely curtailed due to COVID restrictions, WCC produced an educational book for both children and adults that could be donated to schools and libraries in place of personal interaction.
In early 2021 WCC launched the book “What a Wonderful World!” written by Anina Lee and illustrated by Margie Crossman. With sponsorship from AVI Community Trust, we donated 200 books for educational use to schools and libraries in the Overstrand. The bulk of donations went to the Gansbaai Academia Life Sciences educator for use in classroom teaching.
In May 2021, we were once more welcomed into schools. We visited Gansbaai Academia, Gansbaai Primer, Masakhane Primary, Hermanus Waldorf and Mt Pleasant Primary. With live and pictorial exhibits, we illustrated some of the stories from What a Wonderful World! to introduce the topics and to encourage the learners to read the book. Copies of the book were donated to schools and libraries. Exhibits included specimens of Sengis, a mouse, Kiggelaria leaves, Acraea butterflies, pupae and caterpillars, hawk moth pupae, arum lilies and the creatures they harbour, and live antlions.
In early June, we celebrated World Oceans Day with an after-school excursion with Gr 6 and 7 learners and their educators from Gansbaai Primêr. The outing took us to the Uilenkraals Estuary, where we emphasised estuary ecology and its importance as a fish nursery for sustainable fish stock. We also talked about birds at the estuary and the economic benefits of avi-tourism.
After a long winter holiday and with whales in the Bay, we again visited our Gansbaai schools in late August with an expo on marine life. We were welcomed by Gansbaai Primêr, Academia and Masakhane Primary. Topics included abalone, penguins, kelp forest, whales and the scourge of marine litter. Our thanks go to I&J and Dyer Island Conservation Trust for their participation in the expo.
As a result of our limited access to schools over the year in review, we decided to produce another book, specifically aimed at younger children to help to develop proficiency in science and reading skills.
Environmentally astute children also tend to influence their parents, which leads to more informed communities that are better able to understand the need to protect biodiversity and lead more sustainable lifestyles.
The Stripes project is designed to introduce environmental conservation concepts to children from an early age. The stories, as told by a naïve and uninformed cat, is charmingly illustrated. It introduces them to biodiversity and sustainability topics in a fun way and takes them on a journey of exploration with Stripes. His language is simple English, avoiding eco-speak.
With Covid-19 restrictions, Zoom continued to be the best way of reaching our audiences. Electronic communication offers the opportunity to connect with brilliant speakers far and wide. The conservation message could be spread much wider than with physical meetings.
We presented monthly talks by outstanding guest speakers. Topics included: The funny side of science; Cape Leopards; Biomimicry, Coastal Paleozoology; Marine Protected Areas; Geological Adventures in the Fairest Cape; Endemic Birds and Climate Change; and Western Leopard Toads. The talks were recorded and posted on electronic platforms. We have counted a total of XXX views.
The Village News published another 51 articles written by Anina Lee. Topics ranged from fireflies, wild dogs, arum lilies, dragonflies, rain frogs, velvet worms, moles and jumping spiders to shoebills.
All the articles can be read on the WCC Blog page.
Adventures in Nature
As our adventures were all outdoors, we could resume our activities with social distancing. We were able to take excited guests to see many interesting sights: the spectacular firefly mating displays; to walk the cliff path geotrail with David Mourant; to go hunting for Tardigrades; to study life between the tides; to hunt for spiders in Fernkloof with Vic Hamilton-Attwell; to find the elusive Peripatus; to track down endangered Western Leopard Toads.
MILL STREAM IMPROVEMENT PROJECT IN STANFORD
Sheraine van Wyk has put together a crack project team for this project in Stanford. The team comprises a cross-section of society, from researchers to ecologists, from concerned community members to interns studying ecology and the management of natural spaces.
The problems in the Mill Stream are many. They range from the pollution of the stream from both upstream and surrounding areas; the eutrophication of the water leading to uncontrolled growth of reeds and algae choking the stream and dam; the dam that was never a dam but a borrow-pit that now holds back free-flowing water; and the gradual degradation of the wetland below the dam.
There are two main reasons why this project is important. The stream represents a historical and socio-economic divide between two sectors of the Stanford community. This project sought buy-in from all sections of the community, so bridging the divide. The stream and wetland system is also a breeding site for the endangered Western Leopard Toad. Conserving this habitat is of vital importance for the survival of these amphibians in Stanford.
The team’s vision is to see the free flow of water through the Mill Stream, improve water quality and restore the extensive wetland system. It’s also their aim to create a space that all sectors of the community will love and enjoy.
The project aims to become self-sustaining through the beneficiation of the overgrown reeds removed from the system into animal feed. Marketing and sales of the feed product will be ploughed back into the project. A significant obstacle to the project’s success has been the difficulty of shredding the reed since conventional chippers do not do the job. Rob Fryer has designed and developed a prototype reed processor that not only works but is cheap and can be marketed to other areas with similar reed problems.
The project is highly regarded and has attracted funding from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency.
ECO-WATCH: SPEAKING FOR NATURE
ECO-WATCH REPORT SEPTEMBER 2020 SEPTEMBER 2021
In the past year two opportunities to comment on important legislation: The Western Cape Provincial Biodiversity Bill (WCPBB) and the National Estuarine Management Protocol (NEMP).
The first version of the WCPBB was seriously lacking in many respects and gave rise to a number of concerns about limitations in the powers of CapeNature and the Western Cape Department of the Environment and Development Planning to influence the management of municipal nature reserves. WCC made a detailed submission highlighting this concern in particular as well as a number of other issues, including the control of wildlife sanctuaries / game farms such as the one proposed in the Lamloch wetland. Fortunately the second version of the WCPBB published for comment by the parliamentary subcommittee prior to it being submitted to the Western Cape Legislature is a vastly improved document that has addressed virtually all WCC’s concerns, excepting control of game farms, which WCC has again raised as a concern.
The allocation of estuarine “management authority” set out in the NEMP was found to be unconstitutional during the Abbott vs Overstrand Municipality (and others) court case in which the control of the Klein River Estuary mouth breaching was taken to court. An amended version of the NEMP was put out for public comment, in which the management authority for estuaries is allocated to provincial or national agencies and only devolved down to local municipalities that are willing and capable to accept the responsibility. WCC submitted detailed recommendations, on broad changes to the protocol that will improve estuarine management in general. Although both national and provincial officials agree with WCC’s proposals, implementation will require amendment of the Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICMA) because the NEMP cannot institute management processes that the Act does not allow. WCC is considering making formal proposals to the National Department of Environment that the process of amending ICMA should be seriously considered.
In WCC’s participation in the review of the WCPBB and in making comments on the proposed Lamloch game farm, WCC has proposed to the Municipal Coastal Committee that serious consideration must be given to using a provision in the ICMA for the revision of the Coastal Public Property boundaries along the Lamloch wetlands between the Bot River Estuary and the Kleinmond Estuary. This proposal is to prevent the degradation of the wetland by developments that are being considered by landowners of the wetland areas. This is an example of the important role the WCC plays in the protection of critically important conservation-worthy areas in the Overstrand.
WCC has played a guiding role in the development by the Onrus River Estuary Forum, Overberg Municipality Health Department and the Overstrand Environmental Services department of an integrated protocol for the management of recreational water quality in the Onrus River Estuary. This is ground-breaking work that has required coordination of the district and local municipal officials and technical input from people like Dr Peter van Niekerk and Rob Fryer to interpret international and national standards and set out a workable control protocol. The successful implementation of this protocol for the Onrus Estuary will form the basis for improved recreational water quality management for the whole of the Overberg.
WCC has been intimately involved in countering proposals for building a CBD relief road through the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. With the Provincial Department of Environment and Development Planning (DEA&DP) rejecting the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a second time, but nevertheless allowing the Environmental Assessment Practitioner yet another attempt to rework parts of the EIA, WCC has become part of a consortium of NGOs that has engaged an environmental attorney to undertake a legal challenge of the DEA&DP’s decision.
WCC continues to challenge the proposed Fernkloof Nature Reserve Protected Area Management Plan (FNRPAMP), which has been submitted by the municipality to CapeNature for review and forwarding to the MEC for the environment for approval. Although there is not any Overstrand or other NGO that supports the proposed FNRPAMP, the Director for Infrastructure and Planning succeeded in getting Council to recommend that CapeNature approve the document. WCC attempted without success to engage with the CapeNature regional manager to express our concerns directly to the panel that will review the document. WCC is in possession of a letter in which a CapeNature director gave assurances that a precondition for CapeNature’s approval of a FNRPAMP is that the Overstrand Municipality must have the support of environmental NGOs for the document. WCC has referred the issue of considering a FNRPAMP that has no support to the CapeNature director, asking for clarification of the review process and for opportunity to engage on the issues that have caused broad rejection of the municipality’s proposed document.
Audited Financial Report year ending 31st March 2021
Regrettably, the last financial year was challenging given the COVID 19 pandemic resulting in numerous stages of Lockdown during the year, which adversely affected the projects and initiatives planned for the year.
While revenue increased to R2.0m, an increase of 32.1%, some R750, 000 was spent on a COVID 19 food and equipment project financed through a charitable trust grant of R900 000. If this grant is excluded, revenue decreased year on year by some 26.6%.
Operating expenses excluding the R750 000 COVID project were R1.3m against R1.36m the previous year.
Unfortunately, a loss of R44 973 was realised against a profit in 2020 of R183 912.
As highlighted in the 2020 report, the long term future wellbeing of our Foundation is reliant on the sustained improvement in grants and project funding which were not forthcoming in the last financial year with project funding down by R102, 527.
Notwithstanding the disappointing results during this difficult year, we are most grateful for the continued support from charitable trusts and donations and project funding.
The accumulated surplus was reduced to R907,355 against R952,328 the previous year.
OUR FUNDERS AND THE WCC TEAM
In an economic climate where money is tight and an increasing number of charities and non-profits competing for funds, we have been reasonably successful perhaps a tribute to the quality and value of the services we perform.
We extend our thanks to those companies, organisations and individuals who have provided funding for our work:
- Anglo Vaal Industries Community Trust
- The Joan St Leger Lindbergh Charitable Trust
- The G&R Raimondo Charitable Trust
- The Department of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment
- The Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Agency
- And we gratefully acknowledge contributions from private individuals.
Dr Frank Raimondo
Judge Mark Kumleben
Prof George Branch
Mr Louis De Waal
Mr Paul Du Toit
Dr Pat Miller: Chairperson
Mr Roy Moulton: Treasurer
Mr Rodney Anderson
Dr Shirley Kokot
Mr Mike Kokot
Mr Michael Raimondo
Mr Pat Hart
Mr Robert Fryer: General Manager
Mrs Sheraine Van Wyk: Manager: Environmental Awareness and Education
Dr Anina Lee: Manager: Communications
Ms Ingrid Du Plessis: Manager: Facilities and Administration
Ms Shirley Mgoboza: Youth Environment Programme Coordinator
Mr Denfred Bruintjies: Field Assistant