Indigenous flora and fauna flourish

2016-05-18 06:00
ECO TRIUMPH: Baywest environmental conservation officer Marcel Basson shows off Cyclopia pubescenes – a rare plant species within the mall’s precinct, which developers have been at pains to preserve during construction.                             Photo:supplied

ECO TRIUMPH: Baywest environmental conservation officer Marcel Basson shows off Cyclopia pubescenes – a rare plant species within the mall’s precinct, which developers have been at pains to preserve during construction. Photo:supplied

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One year after the opening of the Eastern Cape’s largest mall, an environmental report has pointed to the positive impact the responsible development has had on the sensitive fauna and flora in the area, thanks to careful interventions to preserve indigenous species.

A recent environmental audit of the Baywest site by Moorhouse Consulting – the independent consultants appointed to monitor rollout of the mammoth multi-billion rand project – states that the environment is better off today than it would have been if the property was not developed.

Before development began, the site was prone to regular bush fires and had been overrun with herds of grazing cattle and illegal quad-bikers, while alien plant species such Port Jackson and Blue Gum had been left to grow unabated. This had seen threatened indigenous species such as the Cyclopia pubescenes almost eradicated.

To ensure that sensitive flora and fauna were preserved during construction, co-developers Abacus Asset Management and Billion Group cordoned off 55ha of the 310ha Baywest City site as protected areas, which will never be developed.

According to the report’s authors Sherry Moorhouse and Marcelle Basson, money and resources committed by the Baywest developers have seen the Cyclopia pubescenes thrive, while a team has been consistently working to eradicate invasive alien plants, in the conserved areas.

“In the past some developers threw caution to the wind and built without any concern for preserving the environment. This project makes a strong case for how responsible development and environmental preservation can go hand-in-hand,” said Moorhouse.

“Here we now have wetlands which are thriving, and the community is involved in the alien eradication programme, which they cut down and sell as firewood.”

In addition, special environmental awareness training given to all construction workers on site has seen local fauna rescued and relocated to the conserved areas, rather than killed by workers.

“The norm is for workers to kill snakes, out of fear. Following the environmental training, they would instead call our environmental control officer on site to remove it from the construction area,” she said.

“A large number of fauna were rescued and relocated, including more than 180 snakes, 275 tortoises, 110 lizards and chameleons, 30 invertebrates such as scorpions, eight arachnids [baboon spiders].”

Prior to construction, independent conservation officer Mark Marshall and a team undertook the mammoth task of relocating an entire natural rocky outcrop and replanting 3 500 individual plants at the site of the relocation within a cordoned-off protected area.

This was in addition to handpicking and preserving more than 4 500 plants, noted as “species of special concern”, from the footprint of the Baywest Mall, preserved in an off-site nursery and returned last year to the various conserved areas.

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