OVERVIEW BY THE CHAIRPERSON DR PAT MILLER
Many years ago when I moved to Hermanus, someone informed me – not altogether approvingly – that there were a lot of rather strange people drawn to Hermanus “by the unusual magnetic forces in the area”. Although the people I have met have been (almost all) wonderful rather than strange, maybe there are indeed strange forces at play here, as time certainly seems to go by faster here than anywhere else. Impossible to believe that another year has gone by; again, in a flash.
The past year has – as usual – been very busy and challenging for WCC. We continue to work hard in our three focus areas of EcoLearn, EcoProtect and EcoWatch. Please read about our projects and activities summarised in the Annual Report. Our wonderful staff are supported in their efforts by our equally wonderful volunteers, and our sincere and grateful thanks go to you all.
There have been some organisational changes in WCC over the past year. Three members of the Board resigned; Alan Butler – our previous Treasurer who did much invaluable work during his short tenure – has been replaced by Venco Kruger, an accountant based at PragmaKonsult; Sue and Mark Longridge resigned to pursue their new venture in environmental consulting; and three new members joined, namely Ann Bown, Stephanie Vegter and Noeleen Nunes. They are already bringing fresh enthusiasm, ideas and hard work to the table.
Anina Lee, our indefatigable communications and public relations manager, will be resigning after over twenty years with the organisation. None of us can imagine WCC without Anina, but thankfully she has promised to continue to be involved – for example, by writing her very popular columns for Village News and helping out where she can with expos and “experiences”. But of course she does so much else as well, and we need to replace her in areas such as writing the Annual Report and reports for sponsors, as well as managing our social media presence. Hers are very large shoes to fill and we may need a few Cinderellas to do so.
Clearly, the world as a whole is in trouble. News bulletins are routinely filled with news of wildfires, floods and storms. Data tells of increasingly extreme weather records being breached. None of this, sadly, is unexpected, as scientists have been predicting this situation for decades. Our response has also been predictable, ranging from dithering and procrastination from those with the political power to put the brakes on the accelerating disaster, to various “shoot the messenger” approaches that seek to normalise the situation by those seeking to deny our collective blame as homo sapiens.
As large areas of the earth become inhospitable to humans, a new category of climate migrants are joining economic migrants in their perilous search for areas more conducive to human existence. The irony in this is clear, as it is our wasteful consumer-centred economic models driven by our constant search for “more” that are at the heart of this perilous situation. We feel entitled to continue to plunder the earth’s resources in search of pleasure, amusement and profit, content that technology will pull the rabbit out of the hat that will rescue us from our profligacy. The bad news is that there is no “magic bunny” to replenish those resources we squandered so thoughtlessly.
Natural systems function in equilibrium; when one part of a system is over or under-represented, another part or parts will compensate to bring the system as a whole back into balance. Nature does not apportion blame, only consequences. We are a part of natural systems, but a part that in our very short time on earth has unbalanced the equilibrium. There are, and will continue to be, consequences for our actions. W e are facing the consequences.
By our presence and actions we have altered the balance profoundly, and as the pendulum swings back we are very likely to be knocked out by its force. What can we do? We must do what we can.
WCC is doing what it can. We would love to do more. Whether we are able to will depend on the continued support of people like you who want to redress the damage that we have caused and work towards an increasing awareness of the sheer magnificence of our portion of this planet. Thank you for making a difference.
ABOUT WHALE COAST CONSERVATION
Whale Coast Conservation (WCC) is a registered NPO that has been working to protect the spectacular natural environment in the Overberg region of South Africa for over 20 years. This is an area encompassing marine, coastal, lowland and mountainous regions. It is in the heartland of the fynbos biome of the Cape Floral Kingdom and is a biodiversity hotspot.
Ironically, its natural beauty is the main cause of its extreme vulnerability. The more people who are attracted to the area to visit and settle, the greater the detrimental impact on various facets of environmental sustainability.
WCC has three main (inter-related) focus areas, namely:
W e run various information-based programmes for both children and adults, aimed at improving their knowledge of and exposure to our natural environment. These are all science-based and include:
- Supplementing the school environmental syllabi through holding expos at schools in the area which give concentrated information on specific topics
- Running holiday programmes in nature, including sleep-over camps
- Hosting adventures in nature where children and adults are able to enjoy hands-on experiential learning on specific topics and natural phenomena
- Offering monthly talks on specific topics by specialist speakers
- Writing a weekly column in a popular local newspaper on topics of environmental interest
- Writing and publishing books on the environment for adults and children
- Running citizen-science based projects such as rescuing and rehoming Cape Dwarf Chameleons endangered by developments, and generating base-line data on the cryptic Drewes Moss Frog.
The Overberg area is subject to intense development pressure with environmental consequences.
WCC scans the media for development proposals put out for public participation, scrutinises these for compliance with environmental legislation and processes, and prepares and submits comments accordingly. An example of this work is our comments on the various phases of the environmental impact assessment of the proposed CBD bypass road for Hermanus.
We also identify areas of concern such as the status and condition of the estuaries in the area – including the rivers that feed them – and develop multi-discipline and multi-player approaches aimed at workable solutions. These are put to the test in project-based approaches, such as the rehabilitation of the Mill Stream in Stanford.
WCC is housed in premises on the privately-owned Whale Coast Nature Reserve (WCNR). WCNR encompasses diverse habitats from marine to mountain, all in need of restoration. It is bordered by urban and agricultural areas and bisected by a provincial road.
Activities on the reserve provide opportunities for WCC to expose people to pressing environmental issues such as alien invasive vegetation, the urban/wild interface, the impact of marine poaching and litter, and the impact on wildlife and biodiversity of urban development.
Through this approach participants are also exposed to the healing power of the natural environment. Physical participation in habitat restoration and the protection of wild spaces and their biodiversity is a powerful counter to the negative pressures and stresses of modern life.
We need your support
WCC is totally reliant on funds from projects and the public. We have been hard hit by the Covid19 pandemic. Programmes have been disrupted and benefactors are themselves feeling the pinch of a severely stressed economy. Please help us to continue our vital work by funding us.
As a registered NPO, donations above R500 are eligible for a tax relief certificate.
OUR TOP FIVE PROJECTS
1. Chameleon rescue and sanctuary
Everybody loves a Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Badypodion pumilum). But we hardly ever see them anymore. Their habitat is fast disappearing under urban expansion with its pesticides and domestic predators. Whale Coast Conservation to the rescue! We and our devoted band of volunteers have mapped their occurrence in urban areas of Greater Hermanus and keep a watchful eye on possible developments that may threaten them. We have the necessary authorisation to remove threatened animals and relocate them to the chameleon sanctuary that we are developing on the Whale Coast Natures Reserve. To this end our home school volunteers meet on a weekly basis to remove alien vegetation from the sanctuary to encourage indigenous growth for the benefit of the rescued “little slow foot” residents.
2. Mill Stream project
The Mill Stream and associated wetlands in Stanford, Western Cape, is a historic stream arising from a natural spring. Over the years it had become degraded and polluted, impacting the critically endangered Western Leopard Toad resident in the area. Having secured stakeholder involvement in the project, WCC is slowly spearheading its improvement for both people and frogs. A lovely recreation area with hiking paths along the banks of the stream and through the wetland is taking shape and providing employment and training for youths.
Over-proliferation of reeds in the nutrient-enriched waterways has a potentially negative effect on the riverine eco-system. Reeds are thus being cut and beneficiated into commercial products, including animal feed, so ensuring the sustainability of the project.
Many alien invasive species have also encroached in the riparian area having spread in from adjacent private gardens. It is an ongoing job to clear and poison, and the fight against these stubborn species continues.
The Die Bron Primary School has adopted their section of the stream and assists monthly to clear litter and enjoy the developing outdoor classroom. Soon the amphitheatre will be done and we will be able to host many a nature study lesson there.
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.
3. Youth Environment Programme (YEP)
We work extensively with schools with traveling exhibits and lessons on different themes that complement the school life sciences curriculum. Our interactive learning material brings the natural world into the classroom in a meaningful way, connecting book learning to real life. Nature camps and excursions complement the learning and provide opportunities for personal and social development. We aim to ensure that, when the youngsters leave school, they will continue to consider the environment in their decision-making, be it in business, government or personal lives.
We thank the AVI Community Trust and the Hermanus Botanical Society for their support of our YEP initiatives.
4. Hawston Eco-Warriors
WCC is a partner in this project for the Hawston youth.
The programme is designed to nurture future young leaders with various leadership training and nature based experiences, including seven eco-adventure camps this year alone! The aim is to support the youth in a way that focusses their attention on their studies and the value of education for decent careers and jobs. We have linked to the schools, a councellor and a psychologist in order to do this important work. We also hope to provide assistance with extracurricular maths and science tutoring in the future. We have included in the many eco- adventure camps, training modules on first aid, catering and swim training. We aim with this project to present alternative choices to gangsterism, poaching and criminality and are experiencing that after the second year, the older youth are becoming positive role models for younger children in a fractured society.
The project focuses on personal development of each youngster and to instil a passion for their natural environment and its potential to change their lives.
5. Eco-Watch Project
WCC watches for activities that could have a detrimental effect on the environment or do not comply with environmental law, making pertinent comments during public participation.
ACTIVITIES: OCTOBER 2022 TO AUGUST 2023
YOUTH ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (YEP)
Creatures of the Night Expos
In the third school term of 2022 the WCC education team presented expos on “creatures” at six schools in Gansbaai, Stanford and Hermanus.
The expo topics included bats (illustrated with the use of a beautifully taxidermied Pipistrelle Bat); Caracals (including the threats of rat poinson); Fynbos rodents (including a taxidermied pair of elephant shrews); Owls (with prey analysis in a regurgitated Eagle Owl pellet); and a large taxidermied monitor lizard.
A total of 747 learners attended the expo. 99% of the target groups were from disadvantaged communities.
We thank our generous sponsors for funding these expos.
Fynbos Ecology Expos
The Fynbos Ecology expo was taken to three schools in Gansbaai (Gansbaai Academia, Gansbaai Primer and Masakhane). We also offered the Fynbos expo to two schools in Stanford (Die Bron and Okkie Smuts Primary Schools) and to a further four schools in the Hermanus area (Hermanus Waldorf, Mt Pleasant Primary, Hawston and Zwelihle Primary).
A total of 850 learners learned more about the ecology of fynbos.
The topics covered in the expo were: The concept of biodiversity; pollination syndrome; causes of climate change and its effect on fynbos; ecosystem services derived from fynbos; and the process of photosynthesis.
Generous funding from our sponsors made these expos possible.
Wetland Ecology Expos
Wetlands are one of the most threatened habitats world-wide. It is therefore critical for the youth to understand what they are and the threats to wetlands.
Expos on wetland ecology were taken to Masakhane Primary, Die Bron and Okkie Smuts Primary. Topics included the importance of wetlands, threats to wetlands, wetland vegetation and birds and frogs in local wetland habitats.
A total of 196 learners attended the expos.
We thank all our funders who made these critical lessons possible.
In the third school term the WCC team supplemented the school curriculum on energy. Energy, especially the generation, distribution and availability of electricity is an ongoing national issue. The expo on energy covered electricity generation, energy sources, different forms of energy, energy transfer and load shedding.
More than 600 learners attended the expos.
We thank the all our sponsors for making these topical lessons possible.
HHS Grade 10 Ecology Workshop
Over the last few days of the first school term Whale Coast Conservation presented an ecology course for the Grade 10 class at Hermanus High School. Fernkloof Nature Reserve, steeped in natural beauty, was the ideal venue. This programme has now become a favourite annual event.
The course, run by WCC’s Sheraine van Wyk (with a little help from her friends and colleagues), included both theory lessons and the opportunity to look at cellular structures through microscopes.
They studied the anatomy of a plant – roots, stems, leaves – and how these structures are designed to perform their functions, including how the roots take up water and minerals; how stem tissues transport both water and food and how leaves transpire. The learners also took a walk up the mountain to study fynbos ecology in situ.
A study of the ecology of a sandy beach was probably the most fun for the learners as it meant frolicking on the beach. The live abalone exhibit by I&J Abalone farm was a big hit.
The second day saw Sheraine van Wyk talking about the physiology of transpiration in plants. They participated in experiments to measure the rate of transpiration under different experimental conditions – heat, wind and humidity. The science programme was rounded off by a practical workshop to enhance lifeand leadership skills.
Eco-camps: camping on Whale Coast Nature Reserve
In October 2022 it was the turn of Die Bron Primary to experience camping in the Whale Coast Nature Reserve.
The group or 40 learners was comprised of current student leaders and the next year’s leaders of the school. Five school educators accompanied the group. They slept in tents under the Milkwood trees at the reserve, which was a wonderful experience for those who had never before camped outdoors. Camp activities included learning about milkwood trees and collecting seeds; a chameleon survey in the chameleon sanctuary; making sand art installations at the beach; playing games that encouraged trust and leadership; and alien plant clearing.
In April 2023 W CC hosted a 3-day camp for the cub scouts. The activities included fynbos studies a stransect study in the chameleon sanctuary; developmental games; a chameleon survey; a bioblitz; and clearing alien vegetation.
CHAMELEON SANCTUARY AND CHAMELEON RESCUE PROJECT
Our chameleon enthusiasts continue to create a wonderful Chameleon Sanctuary on the Whale Coast Nature Reserve. Our committed homeschooler group has volunteered their Wednesday mornings to clear alien invasive plants. Their little hands have now pulled up 90 000 invasive alien saplings over the last three years. Periodically we check up on our reserve chameleons during the eco-advanture camps that we host in the reserve.
No chameleons have had to be translocated in the past year. However, monitoring of chameleon numbers and locations have continued and GPS coordinates were recorded for known populations. The data will be captured in a map that will assist in the management of chameleon habitats.
THE TRANSFORMATION EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE FUTURES RESEARCH PROJECT
The citizen-sciece chameleon project has contributed to an academic-level research project on citizenscience geostories methodology. The outcomes have been presented at national as well as international platforms. A paper by Sheraine van Wyk and Priya Vallabh is in preparation for publication in a special edition of the Southern African Journal of Environmental Education. A further two papers are planned for international publication.
In the past year, our monthly talks have once again been offered in person at the Green House. The first talk, on the occasion of the WCC AGM 2022 drew a large crowd to hear about (and see videos of) the southernmost coelacanths discovered off the KZN coast by Bruce Henderson and colleagues. In another talk, Prof Mike Bruton asked us to consider what conservation is all about. Dr Guy Preston talked about the Value Added Industries Programme. Janine and Stefan Schoombie described their work on Marion Island and the Mouse-Free Marion Project. Mike Bruton described Darwin’s voyage of discovery and how his visit to the Cape influenced his thinking. Finally, we rounded off the year’s activities with a fascinating talk by Prof Jill Farrant on the quest for developing drought resistant crops. Due to the speaker’s indisposition the talk will be recorded via Zoom and posted on the WCC YouTube platform.
Outdoor educational walks included the ever-popular Fireflies in Fernkloof and a Beach Adventure. Sheraine and her group of Hawston Eco-warriors conducted a survey of Drewes’ Moss Frogs in Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
In August we were privileged to visit the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area to hear the frog chorus. It was especially exciting to hear the call and see the critically endangered Micro Frog and other wetland creatures.
We continued our weekly articles on interesting nature topics that are published in The Village News. In the past year over 40 articles by Anina Lee were published and we are planning the publication of another collection of these articles in book form.
Our EcoWatch work continues apace. On a national level, the Department of Minerals and Energy Affairs (DMRE) has divided up our seas into blocks for which, in a long drawn-out process, it is calling for proposals from oil prospectors using seismic testing. This has caused outrage by environmentalists on many fronts, not least that this new-era colonialism (the applicants have been the major oil players) flies in the face of our country’s international commitments to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Naturally, WCC is firmly in the camp of the objectors and is voicing its concerns to these proposals.
On a local level, we can expect our EcoWatch work to gather momentum as the effects of the ‘semigration’ to the Western Cape from other parts of the country continues and developers – wittingly or unwittingly – push the envelope in terms of the environmental legislation. A recent application to build a housing development in an important wetland system is one such example.
Again on a local level, WCC continues to act on its concern for the health of the Onrus River. A conference on this early in the year exposed just how poorly this important local river system is, caused by neglect and abuse. W e are represented on and will be involved in a comprehensive collection of concerned organisations that aims to redress the damage and restore the river to a healthy state.
FINANCIAL REPORT BY TREASURER
Following the few years of COVID, everything from a financial perspective seems to be stabilising and getting back to normal in a way.
Income for the 2023 FY decreased with 7% year on year (R141 111), mainly in the project and other income sectors of the organization. Expenses increased with 12.5% (R246 745). The increase in expenses can be attributed to project expenditures. Keep in mind that some project income related to these expenditures were received in the previous FY and were only expended in the 2023 FY.
Restricted funds related to project expenses at the end of March 2023 were low (R183 594), indicating a healthy spend of project funds.
The balance for operations in 2023 was indicated as R791 763. Therefore, operations for the 2024 year can be covered but at a cost of leaving very low reserves for 2025. This emphasizes how important the current funders G & R Raimondo Charitable trust and the Joan St Leger Lindbergh Charitable Trust support is to WCC and that WCC should supplement operations funding.
As highlighted in previous reports, the long-term future and wellbeing of our organisation is reliant on the sustained improvement in grants and project funding. We are most grateful for the continued support from charitable trusts as well as donations and project funding.
For a detailed copy of the audited financials, please write to greenhouse.wcc@ gmail.com.
OUR FUNDERS AND THE WCC TEAM
In an economic climate where charities and non-profits compete for funds, we have been reasonably successful – perhaps a tribute to the quality and value of our work.
We extend our thanks to those companies, organisations and individuals who have provided funding for our work, both now and in the past:
- AVI 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
- Hermanus Botanical Society
- Resilience Fund
- UKRI Social and Economic Research Council
- Global Challenges Research Fund
- Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime
- Overstrand Municipality
- Johan Conradie and Catherine Maxwell
- Abagold Development Trust
Dr Frank Raimondo
Prof George Branch
Dr Pat Miller (Chairperson)
Rodney Anderson (Vice Chair)
Venco Kruger (Treasurer)
Mrs Sheraine Van W yk: Manager: Environmental Awareness and Education
Dr Anina Lee: Manager: Communications and Public Relations
Ms Ingrid Du Plessis: General Manager
Ms Shirley Mgoboza: YEP Coordinator and General Assistant
Mr Denfred Bruintjies: Field Assistant