How to nurture nature

2010-10-22 00:00

IT was reported in The Witness last week that World’s View residents are starting up a conservancy — a public meeting is to be held on October 26. It’s a move that comes at a time of growing awareness of issues such as climate change, pollution, as well as South Africa’s energy crisis. The formation of the conservancy can also be read as a response by civil society to official inertia with regard to problems in the area. The people are now doing it for themselves.

World’s View is an area rich in bird life, while the mammals include several species of buck, along with bush pig and caracal. The area is also home to a historic site, the wagon trail route used by the Voortrekkers which lies close to the once-popular viewpoint. Formerly a drawcard for locals and visitors alike this has fallen victim to vandalism and littering. The new conservancy is hoping to reverse this situation.

A conservancy consists of people — individuals, landowners or businesses — who join forces over concerns over their local environment and are looking to improve or monitor it. To be properly constituted, a conservancy has to form an elected committee and register with the local conservation authority, in this province Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

The conservancy can also join the KwaZulu-Natal Conservancies Association (KZNCA) which was formed in 1981 to provide a forum where members can discuss matters of mutual interest and be represented at provincial, local government and non-governmental organisation meetings. “We are a lobbying group that can back our members,” says KZNCA chairperson Malcolm Stainbank. “We have more clout as an association. We also comment on environmetal management plans and lend out our expertise to members.”

There is no limit as to the size of a conservancy — schools and town-house complexes can register — neither does it have to be packed with wildlife. Conservancies exist in rural, urban and even industrial areas.

KwaZulu-Natal can proudly boast the first conservancy in South Africa — the Balgowan conservancy established in 1978 by local farmers. Its main objective was to protect game on agricultural land, thus becoming the first initiative of its kind to protect natural areas outside of formally protected reserves.

Since then, according to the website, conservancies have contributed to the protection of specific biodiversity hotspots, provided green corridors for the movement of game, and protected habitats and occurrences of rare and endangered species — plant and animal. Typically, their activities include monitoring river and catchment pollution, river clean-ups, invasive alien plant control, education and awareness programmes, waste recycling drives and identification, and monitoring and protection of rare and endangered species.

The following conservancies are active in the Msunduzi municipal area:


Probably the most successful conservancy in Pietermaritzburg, it has been going for over 15 years. The conservancy area includes Town Bush Valley and Chase Valley, and extends to the Old Howick Road and down to the Liberty Midlands Mall.

The conservancy operates as a lobby group as well as monitoring environmental issues, such as building developments in what is a major catchment area. This also includes monitoring invasive alien plants, implementing rehabilitation programmes and advising the community on the do’s and don’ts regarding open spaces and riparian areas.

“Our two main problems are pollution, especially dumping in plantations, and the widest spread of aliens in the province,” says conservancy chairperson Kelson Camp. “We’ve counted up to 80 alien species, 12 of which are a big problem. Most of the our water courses are clogged with aliens.”

“That’s where our most important initiative, Adopt-a-Stream, comes in,” says Camp. “A lot of town-house complexes have signed up and adopted streams on their property boundaries. We award a green custodian award annually.”

• Inquiries: Kelson Camp at 033 394 2948 or 083 289 7884. Website: www.ferncliffe conservancy.


The Winterskloof Conservancy was relaunched earlier this month under the banner of “Tackling Crime and Grime Together!”

The relaunch was a logical progression from the Winterskloof Crime Fighting Bobbies inititiave.

“Security and environment go together,” says chairperson Judy Bell. “Crime and grime. There’s a study that found that if there is litter around and the area is unkempt people are more likely to break the law, even previously law-abiding citizens.

“We are keen to improve our successful fight against crime, by linking with initiatives to improve the environment in which we are so fortunate to live.”

There are 220 householders in the area and 200 are members of Bobbies. “It’s a working initiative and if you put something on something that is already successful it always works.”

Since the relaunch, the conservancy has already teamed up with Wildlands Conservation Trust in a recycling initiative. In the first collection, 460 kgs of recyclables were collected. “It’s not just another refuse collection,” says Bell. “It makes us responsible for the way we live.”

The Bobbies — supplied by Red Alert — will also be an integral part of the conservancy and will be trained to monitor monkey troop movements as well as keeping an eye on suspicious characters. “We hope to multiskill them,” says Bell. “We will train them to look at monkey behaviour and troop dynamics in the area. We intend to create a database of the local biodiversity.”

• Inquiries: Judy Bell at 033 343 4752; Harold Rees (Winterskloof Bobbies) at 033 343 3621.


This conservancy bordered by the N3 to the west and Msunduzi River to the east extends between the Lion Park road and the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. It has 20 members, mainly smallholders as well as Ashburton residents, and has been in existence for 12 years.

The Lower Mpushini Valley consists of fairly steep hillsides sloping down into the many drainage ravines that flow into the Mpushini and Msunduzi rivers and features three main ecotypes: valley bushveld, coastal hinterland thornveld and savanna grasslands. There is a huge biodiversity of plant, animal, bird and invertebrate species in the area.

“Our constitution says our purpose is to conserve the environment in as a pristine state as possible,” says chairperson Neville Durow. “We also aim to educate and we provide educational opportunites for both children and adults.”

The area is currently under threat from property developers. “We are opposed to the higher density developments,” says Durow.

• Inquiries: Neville Durow at 082 708 4285. Website:


The conservancy was founded in 2006 and has just under 20 members consisting of farmers, smallholders and homeowners. It is to the east of the N3 and extends to the R56, to Bisley in the north and the Dardenelles Road in the south.

“Currently, there is so much potential for our area to remain a green belt and lung for Msunduzi,” says chairperson Stefanie Schutte. “There have been various new developments of game farms and wildlife estates within the area.”

Property development is also an issue in this conservancy. “We have commented on various development proposals within the area and the Msunduzi Spatial Development Framework and Environmental Management Framework,” says Schutte.

Other conservancy projects include establishing a conservation corridor. “We work together with the Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy towards keeping our areas linked with conservation corridors, and ultimately hope to establish a link from Baynesfield to Cumberland.”

• Inquiries: Stefanie Schutte at 082 488 6712


Other useful contacts

• World’s View Conservancy: Hugh Temple at 033 343 1286; Howard Richardson at 033 343 2884.

• Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife: Pietermaritzburg District conservation manager, Benfred Dlamini at 033 343 3184 or 074 892 9436.

• KwaZulu Natal Conservancy Association: website; Malcolm Stainbank (chairperson) at 031 781 1691; Alison Young (secretary) at 033 260 5154.


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