Tag Archives: endangered wildlife trust

Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Article supplied by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on 2 February, provides an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. Much of our conservation effort within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is centred around the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we encourage you to celebrate World Wetlands Day with us.


Two of South Africa’s three crane species, the Grey Crowned and Wattled Crane, are completely dependent on wetlands for their survival – yet both are threatened with extinction. Their threatened status mirrors the loss of wetlands in our country, with an estimated 50% of wetlands completely transformed in South Africa. The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the EWT and the International Crane Foundation, has used these charismatic, long-lived birds as flagships for wetland protection, restoration and management.

The ACCP’s South Africa Regional Manager, Tanya Smith, confirms that the efforts of the ACCP team and its partners have ensured the protection of nearly 100,000 ha of grasslands, wetlands and associated rivers in important catchments for people and cranes in South Africa over the past five years. The protection of the key water resources contributes to the long-term security of our water supply for millions of people in South Africa.

Wattled Cranes

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

From large charismatic cranes to the small and slippery, wetlands are home to many. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate with 32.5% of species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Approximately 800 species of amphibians make exclusive use of wetland habitats. Here in South Africa, a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail is found only in 25 wetlands along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Therefore, a key focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), is the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. These coastal wetlands are unique in their structure and are themselves classified as Critically Endangered. “The presence of flagship species that depend on wetlands for their survival really helps leverage support for the protection and restoration of wetlands,” says Dr Jeanne Tarrant, TAP Programme Manager. The EWT embarked on an ambitious journey to restore four of these wetlands in the Durban area through alien plant control, re-establishment of indigenous plants and assessing wetland rehabilitation needs and this year will be working towards formal protection of two of these wetlands through community stewardship models.

This year’s World Wetland Day theme is “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction” and this theme truly celebrates the services wetlands provide for us free of charge. Wetlands greatly reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, and reduce the impacts of droughts by slowly releasing water to our streams and rivers. In the current drought gripping much of South Africa, the role and protection of healthy wetlands has never been more important.

silindile learning about wetlands

Slindile students learning about the importance of wetlands

The EWT is involved with several World Wetlands Day celebratory events around the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February from 10am. This is a collaboration of all partners of the KwaZulu-Natal Wetland Forum and will see over 300 children learning about and experiencing the value of wetlands. In the Eastern Cape, the EWT and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa have partnered to get our future generation’s hands dirty experiencing the wetlands of the Amathole area, where the EWT has been implementing catchment restoration work for the past three years. Lastly, in Gauteng, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on 17 February at Tembisa Esselen Park Pan. A fun day of activities is planned, so be on the lookout for the EWT stand.

Later on in the month, you can get involved in raising awareness for our special wetland dwellers, the frogs, by joining in on a number of Leap Day for Frogs activities, including the EWT’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog on Friday, 24 February. This exciting event gets underway at 10am on the Durban beachfront promenade near uShaka Marine World. Find out more by visiting www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za or emailing JeanneT@ewt.org.za

Yellow-striped Reed Frog 1 - Nick Evans

Yellow-striped Reed Frog by Nick Evans

You can make a difference to our wetlands all year round in a number of different ways, including:

  1. Planning a wetland clean up in your community with local schools and parents.
  2. Reducing your waste, reusing bottles and containers you would normally throw away, use reusable shopping bags and recycle! Our water resources like rivers and wetlands are heavily impacted on by litter and waste, so these small actions can make a huge difference.
  3. Reporting any illegal dumping in wetlands and rivers to your local municipality or police station.
  4. Supporting the efforts of organisations like the EWT in protecting wetlands on your behalf.

Useful resources to learn more about World Wetlands Day 2017:

David Clulow – Inspirational Environmental Champion

David Clulow: 02.10.37 to 28.10.2015

By Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

“Where did you see that? What day was that, and what time? How many were there . . .?”

David clambering in the rocks on Sitamani

David clambering in the rocks on Sitamani

Over the years Boston residents have learned that it was not good enough simply to mention an interesting sighting in passing to David, especially when it came to all three crane species and Southern Ground-Hornbills.

During the 20 years or so that the Clulows lived in Boston they took an active part in community life and David was a leader in the Conservancy since its inception.

There has been a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes nesting in the pan adjacent to the Elands River on The Willows for many years. He began monitoring their breeding, which he recorded for the African Crane Conservation Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), as well as other crane sightings in the district. In 2011, his efforts were acknowledged when he was made a crane custodian.

2015 Grey Crowned Crane family hatched on The Willows

2015 Grey Crowned Crane family hatched on The Willows

In February 2012 David called to say their neighbour on the other side wanted him to come and look at a strange bird on her lawn. When we got there, we found a day-old crane chick, which had somehow made its way from the nesting site through thick vegetation into the garden. David took the chick home overnight, feeding it ProNutro (chocolate flavour!). Tanya Smith of the EWT collected the bird the next morning and “Bossy-Boston” is now living at the Hlatikulu Crane Centre.

Tanya Smith and Bossy

Tanya Smith and Bossy

It was David’s idea to extend the listing of sightings on a monthly basis to all fauna and flora– an idea that was later adopted by the Midlands Conservancies Forum. When the Boston Conservancy ceased to operate on a formal basis in about 2008, David began compiling a list of sightings which he distributed to the locals. He would keep an ear out at gatherings at the Country Club or elsewhere for any interesting snippets. We firmly believe that David’s gentle badgering of people for their observations had led to an increased interest in the environment and a greater awareness of the need for the conservation of special areas.

Twané Clarke of the Karkloof Conservancy said: “David was an inspiration to all who had the delight in meeting him. His Boston Sightings newsletter was a monthly highlight to our inbox, and his dedication certainly paid off by encouraging other Conservancies to start taking inventory of what they were seeing too. These monthly sighting contributions are now being enjoyed by thousands of people in over 136 different countries worldwide. He was a team player and embraced the concept of Conservancies working together and motivating each other. We will miss him and his cheerful encouragement, but his legacy will live on.”

CREW: Barbara, Christeen and David in Impendle

CREW: Barbara, Christeen and David in Impendle

After retiring for the second time (first as a professor of accountancy, and then from dairy farming) he and Barbara spent more time pursuing their interest in wildflowers, and many happy hours were spent in the veld looking at plants and recording them for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW).

Isabel Johnson of the Botanical Society of S.A. said: “He was a special person. I will always remember how much fun we had looking for special plants at Edgeware, Impendle, Mount Ashley and so many other places. His great patience and good humour when I dragged him off on immensely boring grassland surveys. He was a fantastic ecological spy and gave us many helpful early warnings of what was happening in the Boston community and district. His monthly species reports have been an inspiration to a number of conservancies. David’s contributions to conservation were of huge value and will always be valued. I will miss him.

David and Barbara on Mt Edgeware in Boston

David and Barbara on Mt Edgeware in Boston

He began accompanying me on outings to do atlasing for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) and soon became hooked on birding. The Clulows and I had several adventures while exploring the areas between Boston and Bulwer, one involving a flat tyre which might be better not to repeat here. There are still a few pentads with a lack of data that we were planning to tackle soon. I don’t relish the prospect of doing it on my own. We also took part in the annual Cape Parrot count in the Boston area for the University of KZN. Sadly, on the last two counts we did, there were no parrots to report.

Cape Parrot count Nhlosane Ridge 2013

Cape Parrot count iNhlosane Ridge 2013

On a personal level I treasure the friendship between the Clulow and Wilson families over many years as neighbours. We received support and encouragement in many ways. I admired David’s enthusiasm for life, strong belief in justice and sharp sense of humour. He will be sorely missed.

David Arthur Clulow, 2.10.37 to 28.10.2015. Husband of Barbara, father of Alistair and Megan, Suzie and Jared, much loved gramps of Noah, Fynn, Hannah and Nathan, brother of Jean and Sheila, passed away peacefully.
Memorial service at Gramarye, Farm 309 on the Everglades Rd, Boston, at 14h00 on Thursday 5 November. Open house at Clulow home in Amber Ridge on 11 November, 10h30 – 16h00.
In lieu of flowers suggest donations to the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

The Guttural Toad

Article by Nick Evans of KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

The migratory birds are back, the flowers are out and the temperatures are rising, Spring is officially here, and Summer is fast approaching! It’s a busy time of the year for wildlife, as it’s the breeding season for many animals. This is the case with frogs too.

Guttural Toad

Guttural Toad

Many of us will have noticed that the frogs are now active, by hearing their choruses in full voice every night. Some of us love listening to it, others, who have ponds outside their bedroom window, might not appreciate it as much…

In South Africa we are lucky to have such a high diversity of frog species. The KZN Midlands has some rare and endemic frogs in the area, two of which are listed as Endangered (the Long-toed Tree Frog and Mistbelt Chirping Frog). What a privilege! Frogs are the fastest disappearing group of vertebrates (animals with a backbone) in the world, so we are very lucky to have so many in the area. This is why we need to do our part to conserve these wonderful creatures.

One of the most common frogs in the area, and one which starts calling earlier than most other species, is the Guttural Toad.

Guttural Toad photographed by Richard Booth

Guttural Toad photographed by Richard Booth

Guttural Toads are often labelled ‘Bullfrogs’, because of their large appearance. Bullfrogs are a completely different family and species, which do not occur in the Midlands. Toads are not a different animal to frogs, they are just a family of frogs.

Guttural Toads are quite infamous amongst people, with many who sadly dislike them. The reason? They often take-up residence in suburban gardens, and they make a loud croaking sound throughout the night. This choir of croaking lullabies often keeps people from a peaceful nights sleep, despite their best efforts.

Recent frog evening in the Karkloof. Teaching children to love and appreciate amphibian friends.

Recent frog evening in the Karkloof. Teaching children to love and appreciate amphibian friends.

Unfortunately there are many cases where people have gone to cruel and drastic measures to get rid of this “problem”. This includes hitting the poor toads with golf clubs, shooting them with air rifles, or even pouring salt on them (which dries them up and kills them). This needs to end! If you can’t tolerate the presence of frogs, you’re going to have to get rid of your pond.

A more tolerant attitude, coupled with patience for them, may help you realise that they’re actually helping you out. Having frogs in your garden indicates that you have a healthy ecosystem in your backyard. They are a crucial link in the food chain, as they are predators and prey. Frogs keep insect numbers in check, especially the ones we don’t like so much, like flies and mosquitoes. They are also food for a whole host of animals, such as birds, snakes, and small mammals.

frack frog2

If you have a garden pond or a swimming pool, you may wake up one morning and find strings of eggs inside. Those strings of eggs belong to toads. Toads lay their eggs differently to other families of frogs, in that they lay their eggs in strings instead of clumps. If this does happen in your garden, kindly move the eggs out with the pool net, and transfer them to a nearby pond or dam. Often, most of the eggs do not hatch, due to damage from the move and chlorine. But it’s worth a try!

Let’s appreciate the toads in our gardens, and take delight in their unique calls. It’s one of the many privileges that we have living here in Africa. Wouldn’t you rather hear the ‘croaks’ of nature at night over the sounds of traffic and house parties? A lot of their habitat is being destroyed, so let them live and breed in your garden. No need to buy insecticides and poisons, let the toads and other frogs do the job for you!


Making Sense of Oribi Census

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust discusses the results of the most recent Oribi census which many farmers and landowners participate in annually. Please contact the EWT should you have any oribi on your land and consider participating in their annual survey.

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust

Jiba Magwaza of the Endangered Wildlife Trust

The Oribi census is an exercise used to monitor animal numbers in private and protected areas. The period September to November is chosen because this is when the grasslands that have been burnt are flushing green making the Oribi easier to see as they are attracted to this green flush. Unfortunately in 2014 this was rather difficult with delayed rain leaving landowners skeptical of burning, thus making it difficult to count animals since they hide in the standing tall grass.

Female Oribi standing in tall grass.

Female Oribi standing in tall grass.

Oribi (Ourebia ourebi) surveys have been conducted in South Africa for over fifteen years and for that the Oribi Working Group would like to thank each and every landowner who has been involved since day one of this long-term survey effort. The Oribi Working Group saw a need to monitor Oribi because of the rate at which the population was perceived to be decreasing. Oribi face a lot of threats and require ongoing conservation attention in South Africa, as a working group we are committed to working with private landowners and protected land managers to ensure the conservation of this beautiful species.

Oribi - Ourebia ourebi

Oribi – Ourebia ourebi

In 2014 a total of 3006 Oribi were counted in South Africa from 266 survey returns, these numbers include protected areas and privately owned properties. When comparing between provinces KwaZulu-Natal submitted more surveys and has the highest number of animals, 1583 from 149 returns. KwaZulu-Natal is followed by the Eastern Cape with 1103 animals from 88 returns and then Mpumalanga which submitted 29 surveys and had a total of 320 animals.

Total national survey results and number of records as compared to previous year’s results. EKZNW reserve counts were included in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 1998-2003 only included KZN province, thereafter the survey had a national focus. All of these values have been revised based on the discovery of historical data records previously not included.

Total national survey results and number of records as compared to previous year’s results. EKZNW reserve counts were included in 2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 1998-2003 only included KZN province, thereafter the survey had a national focus. All of these values have been revised based on the discovery of historical data records previously not included.

Oribi surveys data to date have shown a high level of fluctuation of animal numbers with an increase in recent years of years back to similar numbers as recorded at the change of the century. This fluctuation in numbers is a result of varying survey efforts resulting from changes in the survey team and shifting levels of capacity. The crux of the story is that overall numbers in the country sit at just over 3000 animals and regionally populations have declined dramatically. The KZN population has about halved since 2001.Of concern is the high number of properties who are not sure of their population trends coupled with a high reporting rate of decreasing numbers. Mpumalanga submitted only 29 returns and the Oribi Working Group would like to see more returns from this Province in order to assess the overall trend.

Dr. Ian Little, Manager of the EWT's Threatened Grassland Species Programme

Dr. Ian Little, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Grassland Species Programme

Unfortunately Oribi are faced with many threats. These animals are an easy target for predators and humans. As grassland specialists they need good quality grasslands to survive, if it is disturbed in any way Oribi will have a hard time surviving. The 2014 Oribi survey reported that poaching with dogs is by far the most prominent threat, followed by stray dogs then snaring and illegal shooting. Another major threat to Oribi is habitat destruction, with considerable development (including widespread mining and agriculture) taking place in grassland areas. From our experience these threats are not confined to any province in particular and are significant throughout the region.



The issue of poaching with dogs is a serious threat and has seen a significant recent increase with the shift from hunting as a hobby to poaching and gambling in large numbers (also called taxi hunting). The EWT, EKZNW, The KZN Hunters and Conservation Association and SACAN are working closely with each other to tackle all these issues by working directly with landowners and communities at large. Environmental education and awareness is very important for all of us to achieve our conservation goals. Collectively we can do more and make a difference by tackling all the problems faced not only by Oribi but all of our natural resources.

For more information or to report poaching with dogs contact SACAN on 08-616-72226.

Making Sense of Roadkill

Roadkill is a widespread issue. Wendy Collinson of the Endangered Wildlife Trust shares some interesting information discovered by the EWT’s roadkill research team in the Pilanesberg National Park. Well done to all involved.



Surveys of wild animals killed by passing traffic (roadkill) have produced strong data and several recommendations. This is according to Bridgestone, which sponsored the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) recent investigations into the issue of roadkill in the Pilanesberg National Park.

The surveys, conducted by the EWT between 21 October and 23 November 2014, consisted of on-site investigation of roadkill as well as questionnaires completed by 302 visitors to the park. Of the 120 roadkill observed by the roadkill research team, 62 were amphibians, 27 were reptiles, 20 were birds, ten were mammals and one was not identifiable.


Vehicle numbers were monitored by the use of traffic counting devices. However, the roadkill research team soon discovered that elephants had taken a liking to the devices and damaged them. Drawing on previous research which has shown that elephants dislike the smell of chilli pepper, the team then applied a daily coating of chilli pepper and oil onto the counters. The traffic counting devices were then protected from further damage.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project was the role of speed in contributing to roadkill. “More than 95% of respondents to the questionnaire survey believe that speed is the sole cause of roadkill. Our aim was to investigate this issue in more detail,” said the EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project Executant, Wendy Collinson.


Compliance with park speed limits was found to be reasonably high, with 72% of the 6,981 vehicles monitored driving at or below the speed limits. “We postulated that roadkills were likely to occur because drivers were either unaware of their surroundings or travelling too fast to be able to avoid collisions. To investigate these factors we monitored a sample of 201 vehicles and nearly 70% of the drivers were observed to not be looking at the road, but rather scanning the bush for wildlife”, said Collinson. “This suggests that many roadkills in national parks happen because of the expectation that animals are to be found in the habitat alongside the road, rather than on the road itself”, she added.

The same sample of vehicles was used to investigate the role of speed in determining rates of roadkill. The research team placed three fake animals on the road, and recorded how many times each roadkill was hit (for a total possible hit count of 603 roadkill). We also recorded how fast each vehicle was driving, assigning them to three speed categories of <20km/hr, 21-40km/hr and >40km/hr. We found no significant difference between hit rates of drivers in each of the speed categories, with approximately 50% of drivers hitting the fake roadkill across the board.

“From our survey, it seems that observation levels of the driver, rather than the speed of the vehicle, is the key factor in preventing roadkills,” Collinson commented. “One of our recommendations from the latest roadkill survey is that a driver awareness campaign be launched in parks to make drivers more aware of animals on the roads themselves,” Collinson commented.


Collinson also said she was concerned about the low awareness levels of roadkills among park visitors. “Of the 284 respondents who had visited a park previously, only 2.8% had noticed roadkill, with 6.3% noticing a roadkill on their current visit,” she explained.

Steven Dell, Pilanesberg National Park’s Field Ecologist remarked, “despite the use of road signs both at the park gates and within the park as well as efforts to raise public awareness of roadkill, roadkill still occurs. This project was extremely beneficial to the park as it has assisted in identifying the cause for roadkill and will enable us to focus our future public awareness efforts.”

Bridgestone PR Manager, Desirée van Niekerk, said the results of the latest roadkill survey had proved as fascinating as ever. “Bridgestone has been involved with the roadkill project for three years now, and we applaud Wendy and her team’s contribution to both road safety and wildlife protection,” she said. “We hope these latest findings will soon be used to improve the quality of the experience of park visitors and safeguard the animals in these protected areas,” she concluded.


The next stage of the project will shortly commence in Addo Elephant National Park.

The EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project in Pilanesberg was supported by Bridgestone SA, Arrow Bulk Logistics, Pilanesberg National Park, Copenhagen Zoo, Mikros Traffic Monitoring and Africa:Live.

For further information please contact Wendy Collinson on wendyc@ewt.org.za

World Wetlands Day

“What do you know about wetlands?”, facilitator, Nkanyiso Ndlela, asked the team from the Rock Farm wetland rehabilitation project  when they settled down in the shade at the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Reserve, this week.  After establishing that they were indeed very wet places, everyone shared stories about the interesting creatures, the plants, the cultural beliefs associated with wetlands.   It came as a surprise to the group to realise how important wetlands were to humanity too – storing and cleaning water and providing numerous other ecosystem services.   This day of celebrating wetlands was to teach those engaged in the restoration programme about why their work is important.

In the past, wetlands were misunderstood and many were drained for agriculture, development and dams.  Nowadays, the value of the eco-system services they provide humanity is being increasingly understood.  A healthy wetland has richer species diversity than other eco-systems and plays an important role in traditional Africa culture with medicinal plants and spiritual beliefs. Throughout the world wetlands are used to sustain livelihoods, providing access to a unique array of natural resources. They store and clean water, are havens for wildlife, provide useful materials (eg reeds) and offer fishing, recreation and tourism opportunities too.  They also help protect people and homes from floods by slowing down the flow of water through the landscape.   Small wonder then, that there are many efforts in process to protect and restore them.

One such project is the midlands wetland rehabilitation project, funded by NLDTF and implemented by Eastern Wetland Rehabilitation.  This project aims to rehabilitate four wetlands in the Nottingham road area, all of which are important for biodiversity, including the critically endangered Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus).  It is for this reason that this project is acknowledged and fully supported by the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s African Crane Conservation Programme Programme.  Wetland rehabilitation often includes the construction of gabions and weirs that are carefully placed within the wetland to slow the flow of water and reinstitute wetland functioning.  It is estimated that KwaZulu-Natal has lost the functioning and ecosystem services of approximately 50% of our wetlands.  Wetland rehabilitation is slowly giving back some of the essential services wetlands are so effective at delivering.

World Wetlands Day is celebrated around the globe in February to highlight their importance.  The rehabilitation team at Rock Farm in Nottingham Road celebrated by spending the day at the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve, owned and managed by the KZN Crane Foundation in Nottingham Road, learning all about the importance of wetlands and having fun at the same time.

Tanya Smith of Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), spoke about the importance of wetlands for Cranes – particularly as there is a pair nesting on Rock Farm now.  Pat McKrill brought along some snakes to help dispel myths and fear around these creatures and, after a while, even those who were nervous to begin with, held the snakes gently and realised that not all snakes were dangerous. Other activities included: playing the Windows on our World Wetland picture building game, with everyone vying to show off their newly acquired information and beat their colleagues; taking soil samples to see the differences between wetland and grassland areas and constructing model wetlands from sponges and plastic bottles to demonstrate their cleaning abilities.

Before the team, wearing their bright bandanas declaring “Nginakekela amaxhaphozi!” (I save wetlands), headed back to Rock Farm, Laila Smith-Blose thanked everyone saying “Your work is critical for the survival of our planet and we have also learned a lot from you today.”  Participant Vusi Lamula commented “I learnt a lot, especially about the crane birds. I have never seen one, but everywhere I go now, I will look for them.”  This enjoyable learning and sharing experience will go a long way to helping cranes and wetlands in the KZN Midlands.

Contact Laila Smith-Blose 072 867 0462 to find out about future workshops.