‘A blessing in disguise’

2014-09-26 00:00

THE fierce fires that ripped through the city last week have left a black pall of devastation on the grounds of Pietermaritzburg’s natural areas.

The Witness spoke to the KZN National Botanical Gardens’ estate manager, Charlie Maimela, who said 80% of the 45-hectare estate’s natural vegetation was engulfed in the flames. Thankfully, Maimela added that most of the wildlife, such as common duiker and other antelope, appears to have escaped the fire.

“With regards to birds, insects and reptiles, their physiological behaviour enables them to sense … danger. Therefore, I believe they managed to migrate to a favourable [place],” he said.

However, the fires might have been a blessing in disguise. According to Maimela, the natural estate was invaded with invasive plant species before the fire. The fires may then have assisted the estate team with the eradication of these.

“Most of the alien plants such as baloonvine, bug weed and catsclaw were destroyed. Fire is a natural tool that maintains, monitors and looks after the environment,” said Maimela.

The World’s View Conservancy chairperson, Hugh Temple, said the conservancy’s indigenous trees were destroyed, but there’s hope for recovery.

The Natal Co-operative Timbers (NCT), who manage commercial plantations for the Msunduzi Municipality, estimated that about 60 hectares of commercial plantation were destroyed.

NCT’s general manager Jacob Kotze said that they will be submitting insurance claims to recover and replant the destroyed plantations.

Yesterday, smouldering embers at the Botanical Gardens flared up, but were extinguished.

Msunduzi fire department’s operations manager Essak Khan speculated that the fires might have been caused by negligent people throwing down lit cigarette butts.

According to Accuweather, there is a 40% chance of showers with just five millimetres of rain expected on each day from tomorrow through to Monday.

• siso.naile@witness.co.za

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