Communities collaborate with conservationists to protect threatened species

By Drum Digital
01 November 2016

Department of Environmental Affairs is working with communities to get them involved with conservation projects in order to simultaneously promote biodiversity and support sustainable livelihoods.


Turtles Under Threat

Did you know?

  • Turtles are a critically endangered species across all oceans
  • Five species of turtles have been recorded in South Africa’s waters and within iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s protected coastline
  • The turtle nesting beaches of iSimangaliso are of critical importance as they host populations of Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles that are genetically distinct to other populations found in the Western Indian Ocean
  • The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, with the support of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, monitor over 220 km of iSimangaliso coastline to protect these giant turtles?

Local community organisations are employed to monitor the turtles from October to March. They monitor nesting, numbers and sizes of leatherback and loggerhead turtles on the 56km stretch of beach between Kosi mouth and Mabibi. In addition, communities also benefit through concessions that take visitors on turtle tours, giving tourists an opportunity to see the turtles up close. Both initiatives have been instrumental in securing community support for the conservation of turtles by creating jobs and economic benefits.

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“With less than 100 nesting females coming ashore each year, iSimangaliso’s leatherback turtles, the most southern population in the world, are rarer than Black Rhino and vulnerable. This means they face a high risk of extinction in the wild due to human influences. Having survived aeons and ice ages along with rhinos, and at a time where over 1000 biological species are going extinct globally every year, their future survival lies with all of us,” said iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.

Learn more about turtles and the Department of Environmental Affairs’ conservation projects at

Organisations collaborate to save Southern Africa’s Bearded Vulture

Did you know?

  • With less than 400 individual Bearded Vultures and just 100 breeding pairs in the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Park these majestic birds are classified as critically endangered.
  • The entire population resides in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountain range, which straddles South Africa and Lesotho, and is the southern hemisphere’s only population.
  • Vultures are an important species contributing to biodiversity as they perform an important ecosystem service keeping the environment free of disease by eating carcasses and thriving vulture populations are a sign of a well-balanced ecosystem.

As a result of the rapidly declining numbers the Maloti-Drakensberg Bearded Vulture Project facilitated collaboration between several organisations to ensure the bird’s continued survival. The Department of Environmental Affairs together with the Bearded Vulture Task Force (BVTF) started working together to protect these beautiful birds.


The Bearded Vulture is commonly known as the “Monarch of the Mountains” and with its striking plumage, wingspan of 2,6m, red eyes, and long, diamond-shaped tail, it is easy to see why.

But with a productivity rate of 55% and high mortality rate the species survival is under serious threat with experts predicting that the species may be extinct within the next 50 years. The main threats facing the population include use in traditional medicine, accidental poisoning by feeding on bait left for other predators, loss of foraging habitat, nest disturbance and collisions with power lines and cables.

The Bearded Vulture Project aims to halt population decline and stabilise the population numbers in order to ensure their long-term survival.

The project was established in 2000. Using satellite transmitters, monitors observe ranging behaviour and species survival. In addition to the research and monitoring the project aims to generate awareness and educate the public, farming communities and school learners in the regions in order to eliminate myths about vultures and to address the threats that the species faces.

The project has started a captive breeding programme. Bearded Vultures lay on average two eggs, but will only ever raise one chick. The captive breeding programme will harvest the second, biologically redundant but genetically-viable egg towards the end of incubation. They will be incubated, hatched and raised in captivity with a puppet initially to avoid human contact. Once they are ready to fledge they will form part of a captive breeding stock, the offspring of which will be considered for reintroduction into parts of their former range and carefully monitored to encourage breeding and boost population numbers. This breeding programme took flight in 2015 with the collection of 2 eggs.

These projects are a prime example of how the

Learn more the Department of Environmental Affairs’ conservation projects at

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