Newsletter – June 2024


The month of May has been marvellous! We’re excited to share our progress with you, as there is so much to tell…

In this issue:

  • Velvet Worms – the Missing Link!
  • Peatland Expos Continued…
  • Hawston TMF Project – What Happened Next?
  • Rewarding results of Alien Clearing in the Whale Coast Nature Reserve.
  • Ecological Burn in Voelklip

Velvet Worms – the Missing Link!

These interesting invertebrates have been described as the “missing link” between the worms (annelids) and insects (arthropods). But velvet worms are neither worms nor insects. They have some characteristics of both, as well as other unique features of their own.

The truth is that velvet worms (Onychophora) are a very early evolutionary offshoot of a common ancestor of annelids and arthropods. They have not changed much in half a billion years.

Onychophora can be seen with the naked eye. So why have so few people seen them? For a start, they are nocturnal and hide under or inside rotting logs and damp vegetation during daylight hours. What’s more, they are only found in temperate indigenous forests that have been around from ancient times. By ancient, I mean from the time before the break-up of the supercontinent Pangaea. The early Peripatus drifted with the southern continents and, of the two existing families, the Peripatopsis family is now found mainly in ancient forest patches in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America.

Whale Coast Conservation staff recently spotted them not far from Hermanus and we are inviting other enthusiasts to join us for a “Paripitus party”. That means we’ll lead a search party followed by a picnic party to recount our experiences.

So if you, too, like to mess about in rotting logs and damp leaf litter, contact to join the party on a day in June when the conditions are just right. The party is suitable for children over 6 years and the cost is R150 for adults and R100 for children. Numbers are limited.

Peatland Expos Continued…

As mentioned in our last newsletter, we planned to continue sharing the story of our precious peatlands with various schools over the month of May.

Here we have the Precious Peatlands Expo being held at Waldorf School, one of the recipients of the Expo. We’re especially grateful to our funders, the Hermanus Botanical Society, for sponsoring the Precious Peatlands Expos we hosted this month.

Hawston TMF Project – What Happened Next?

Starting out as Hawston Paddavlei Waste Project, earlier in January this year, a survey was carried out to find the reasons for high levels of illegal dumping occurring in Paddavlei, shown by the large amount of litter and pollution in the water system. The aim from the get-go was to rehabilitate the Paddavlei Wetland, and turn it into a healthy water system that also serves as a recreational space for the local community in Hawston.

The goal is to also involve and train up individuals within the community to efficiently maintain the Paddavlei Wetland.

With the sponsorship of the Table Mountain Fund, over the course of three years, the project is following a Maintenance Management Plan. This involves preventing illegal dumping, and also cutting down the overgrowth of various reed species.

In order to do this efficiently, a raft is being built on which the Municipal Team can stand and cut. The raft can later be used as a diving platform once Paddavlei is clean and clear!

Many thanks to Nicholas Rabie, Noel Dreyer, Marco Cornelius, from Environmental Services in the Western Cape, and the Overstrand Municipal Team, for their involvement and effort in the project so far!

Finally, the journey of Paddavlei’s water purification begins with testing water samples in the lab. Volunteer Hazel Gillion conducted ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and oxygen content and pH tests on various samples of water flowing into the Paddavlei wetland.

In celebration of the Project’s Progress, Noel Dreyer, of the TS Birkenhead Unit in Hawston, will be hosting a fun-filled day of activities on the Paddavlei grounds! In honour of Youth Day, this event will take place on the 17th of June – we’re looking forward to it!