Eland have been reintroduced to the Cape Flats for the first time in 200 years to control overgrown vegetation and protect biodiversity in the False Bay Nature Reserve.
The False Bay Nature Reserve is receiving help
from a new specialised conservation team.
Five eland have been introduced to the Rondevlei section of the
Reserve to control growth of dominant plant species and improve
Some species have become overgrown, which impacts on the vulnerable
endemic flora and fauna.
Although it is unclear exactly when the last eland was hunted from
the Cape Flats, it is estimated the antelope have not roamed here for as much as
Eland are present in the Cape Peninsula at Cape Point, but until
now have been absent from the Cape Flats, as most of the remaining natural areas
are too small or have complex social problems that make the reintroduction of
The three-year pilot project, a partnership between the Cape Town
Environmental Education Trust and the City of Cape Town, aims to replicate the
eland’s historical natural migration patterns, which will also play a vital role
in the conservation of species and ecosystems.
The Gantouw project – after the Khoi name for the ancient migration
route, the Gantouw Pass, that the eland and the Khoi took with their livestock
across the Hottentot-Holland mountains – has seen two male and three female
eland donated from the Elandsberg Nature Reserve in Wellington.
Between three and five months old, the adolescent antelope are
being trained to work with herdsmen, so-called eland monitors.
The young bucks are already starting to show their personality,
says project manager Petro Botha, and have each been named because the team
works closely with them.
“When some of the staff joined us, they didn’t even know what an
eland was,” she says. “Now they are conditioning them.”
One of the female eland, Uniqua Khan, is soft and loving and was
the first to respond to training.
“She’ll even come up to you and lick your neck,” she says.
Gibbs, one of the males, has taken on the role of the dominant male
and is challenging and cheeky, while the other male, Mike – who was initially
resistant to his new home and training – has developed a love for treats.
In the four weeks since they moved to the nature reserve, the group
has displayed remarkable social bonding, Botha says.
“When we released them into the field they came back covered in
ticks. But they now have none. Those they couldn’t remove from themselves the
others removed for them.”
The project is proving to have further reach than just controlling
vegetation in the False Bay Reserve.
If the project is successful, the eland will be moved between the
nature reserves and areas in Cape Town, mimicking natural migration patterns.
They will remain at each site for a few months to browse, before moving on to
the next site, which will allow the natural patterns that shaped and sustained
plants to be restored.
In addition, cameras have been set up around the reserve to monitor
the project. These cameras have recorded previously unknown caracal in the
reserve as well as the resident hippos.
Once the eland have been conditioned, they will be released in a
small area of the reserve to test the effectiveness on overgrown vegetation,
before they are given the run of the reserve, Botha says.
“It’s been exciting to see how the animals react. We know what we
want to achieve, but they are really the team players that make it happen,” she
- The eland’s growth and progress can be followed by visiting the
Gantouw Project page on Facebook.