Tag Archives: KZN Midlands

Rare Midlands Skink

– Article written by Nick Evans of KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation –

The Midlands boast a wonderful array of reptiles. Along with its endemic chameleon (the Midlands Dwarf), there is another reptile species endemic to this area: the Bourquin’s Dwarf Burrowing Skink (Scelotes bourquini). This legless lizard was only described as recently as 1994. It was named after the man who discovered it, Orty Bourquin, who used to work for the Natal Parks Board.

Bourquin's Dwarf Burrowing Skink 1

It looks very similar to other species in this genus. However, the tail is much longer than that in other species, and it has two extremely tiny limbs, barely visible to the naked eye. Some of the other Scelotes species either have slightly large legs, or none at all. This little lizard could be confused for a snake, due to its apparent limbless body. Those typical skink scales (small, smooth and shiny) are one way of identifying it, along with its indistinctive, small head.

Bourquin's Dwarf Burrowing Skink 4

It is currently listed by the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable, due to its restricted and fragmented range. It is found between Howick and Nottingham, a fairly small area, where they occupy grasslands. They spend most of their time underground, feeding on small invertebrates. They’re a difficult species to find, but do not seem to occur in high numbers. Their habitat is threatened by the usual: housing, plantations and agriculture.

Bourquin's Dwarf Burrowing Skink 3

Myself and three friends recently went on a mission to find one of these elusive skinks, after getting a reliable locality for them from a friend. Our trip was a success! One of our group, Darren Van Eyssen, managed to locate one hiding under a rock. It was a gravid (pregnant) female, which was great news for this species, measuring at around 15 cm long. We were delighted! After a quick photoshoot, to document the find, we put it back where it was found. These lizards are live-bearers. Little is known about their reproduction, but I would guess she could give birth to around five babies +-.

Bourquin's Dwarf Burrowing Skink 2

We managed to see a few other nice reptiles too, including Drakensberg Flat Geckos, Drakensberg Crag Lizards, two other species of skinks (with legs!), a harmless Slug-eater and a Skaapsteker. It’s always nice to spend a day out in the field!

I’d love to be able to see more of the amazing reptiles occurring in the KZN Midlands soon!

Nick Evans

kzn-amphibian-reptile-conservation

Email: nickevanskzn@gmail.com
Website: www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com

Advertisements

Boston Wildlife Sightings – July 2016

Christeen Grant of Sitamani

02 Cover IMG_6073

Fire and Ice July, the first part of the month was characterized by smoky, hazy skies from fire-break burning. A cold front brought a sharp frost on 3 July, with very chilly temperatures and a few flakes of snow on the previous day.

02 Cover IMG_6101

The dry, warmer, intervening weather was changed into a snowy winter wonderland on the 25 July, much needed moisture, including rain, soaked the dry soil for a few days.

02 Cover IMG_621602 Cover IMG_626202 Cover IMG_6273

Aloe maculata have started fruiting, there are still some bright orange flowers on the hillside;

Buddleja salvifolia burst into flower after the snow;

as well as hundreds of bright yellow Gazania krebsiana;

03 Flora Flower Gazania krebsiana IMG_6307

one or two Greyia sutherlandii flowers had opened earlier, now the tree is covered in red tipped branches;

03 Flora Flower Greyia sutherlandii IMG_6293

the Halleria lucida branches are dripping with flowers, the most I’ve seen in a long time;

03 Flora Flower Halleria lucida IMG_6297

now that the soil is damp Ledebouria ovatifolia rosette, flat leaves have tightly packed buds above them.

03 Flora Flower Ledebouria ovatifolia IMG_6327

We have been working at rehabilitating a hillside that had a stand of pine trees growing on it. It is a very slow process, nine years since the trees came down in a tornado. Removal of the trunks and large branches came first, then regular annual burns and weeding out alien species. We are seeing indigenous pioneer species coming in. Recently we cut down and removed Acacia melanoxylon

and were happy to identify small indigenous trees that grow in a grove, Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum, which will remain there.

03 Flora Tree Canthium (now Afrocanthium) mundianum IMG_2301

This last month there have been several sightings of Common Reedbuck. A very fine male, with beautiful horns, regularly wanders quite close to the house. He rests in a patch of bracken, one evening he was emerging as I arrived home.

04 Mammal Common Reedbuck P1070655

Male Common Reedbuck

Then on a walk to the top of our property I saw three males and four females, the largest group I’ve seen together in recent years.

04 Mammal Common Reedbuck spoor IMG_6331

Common Reedbuck spoor

Down near the gate I found many small pieces of fur, possibly Vlei Rat, that had been discarded by a predator, possibly the Long-crested Eagle, as that gatepost is a frequent perch.

04 Mammal fur IMG_6029

A pile of Porcupine droppings indicated they are still around.

04 Mammal Porcupine droppings IMG_6312

Porcupine scat

A Black-headed Oriole has taken over from the Black-backed Puffback, trying to attack his mirrored image in the windows, defending his patch. His liquid song from the verandah, where he perched in between bouts was so beautiful.

05 Bird Black-headed Oriole IMG_6145

Black-headed Oriole

A Cape Robin-chat splashed in the verandah birdbath even though there was still snow on the ground.

05 Bird Cape Robin-chat IMG_6174

A flock of Cape Weavers sunned themselves in bare branches.

05 Bird Cape Weaver IMG_6078

Cape Weavers

The large group of Cape White-eyes are my favourite winter birds, they all keep together, moving constantly whether foraging or taking a drink and dip.

05 Bird Cape White-eye IMG_6111

Cape White-eyes

05 Bird Cape White-eye IMG_6321

Cape White-eye

The Speckled Pigeons have multiplied, there are about six living here, roosting and nesting in the carports. I regularly hear the African Fish-Eagle calling from the valley, took a flight up over the house.

05 Bird Speckled Pigeon IMG_6163

Speckled Pigeon

There are many Striped Skinks living among the wooden slats of an outbuilding. They enjoy the warmth of a winter sun, basking.

06 Reptile Striped Skink IMG_6316

Striped Skink

There are many bees and hoverflies buzzing in the few flowering plants.

07 Invertebrate Bee on Buddleja salvifolia IMG_6288

I found what I think is a Wasp nest on the ground and several huge ant nests in trees.

07 Invertebrate Wasp nest IMG_6308

Possible wasp nest on the ground

07 Invertebrate Ant nest IMG_6314

Ant nest in the tree

A beautiful Painted Lady butterfly soaked up warmth from a rock on the hilltop.

07 Invertebrate Butterfly Painted Lady IMG_6310

Painted Lady Butterfly

Caroline McKerrow of Stormy Hill

We are getting quite a lot of activity at Stormy Hill Horse Trails. The buck are coming to drink at our horses’ water trough on the hill, so we have spotted a pair of Bushbuck, a Reedbuck, including a ‘teenager’ Reedbuck, and our resident Common (Grey) Duiker. We have even had a Bushbuck doe eating the rose bushes in the garden, which is great as it will save me some pruning.

We were quite excited to see a pair of Knysna Turaco (previously know as the Knysna Lourie), so I’m hoping that they have decided to nest in the area.

Crystelle Wilson of Gramarye

Birds have evolved very efficient ways to regulate their body temperature, but in winter it is hard not to think they are feeling the cold when they are sitting all huddled up like the Speckled Pigeons on the roof of a barn

image1

Speckled Pigeons

or facing into the cold wind like a group of Helmeted Guineafowl

image2

Helmeted Guineafowl

Black-headed Herons also appeared to huddle together in supporting companionship

image3

Black-headed Heron

The atlas list for the Elandshoek pentad 2935_3000: Cape Weaver, African Sacred Ibis, Spur-winged Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red-winged Starling, Lanner Falcon, Rock Kestrel, Denham’s Bustard, Green Wood-hoopoe, Bokmakierie, Forest Canary, Pied Starling, Buff-streaked Chat

image4

Buff-streaked Chat

African Firefinch, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, House Sparrow

image5

House Sparrow

Cape Wagtail, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola

image6

Levaillant’s Cisticola

Black-shouldered Kite, Long-crested Eagle, Black-headed Heron, Cape Sparrow, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Crow, Cape Turtle-dove, Fork-tailed Drongo

image7

Fork-tailed Drongo

Cape White-eye, Speckled Pigeon, Village Weaver (the males beginning to practise their building skills)

image8

Village Weaver

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, Yellow Bishop, Little Grebe

image9

Little Grebe

Drakensberg Prinia, Red-eyed Dove, Hadeda Ibis, White-necked Raven, African Stonechat, Dark-capped Bulbul, Cape Canary and Southern Boubou (which appreciated having water available in the bird bath).

image10

Southern Boubou

Threatened Plant Species – Nerine pancratioides

AMARYLLIDACEAE: Nerine pancratioides [Near Threatened]

Nerine pancratioides, commonly referred to as the White Nerine, is a plant that grows up to 600 mm long. It was previously observed in parts of the Midlands, south-western KZN as well as in north-eastern Lesotho. This gorgeous flower is also featured in the Midlands Conservancies Forum 2016 Wildflowers Calendar.

RB

Nerine pancratioides photographed in the Karkloof by Richard Booth

Habitat loss and destruction has caused a significant decline in the species population size in several of its localities, and in some instances even resulting in extinction. Deterioration of wetlands in the form of overgrazing, invasive alien plant infestation and damming are major concerns for the population’s survival.

Nerine pancratioides

Nerine pancratioides photographed by CREW

The plant grows in moist areas with acidic soils, on banks of streams, in grassy depressions and in seepage areas on steep hillsides. The flowers appear between March and April and are known to respond well after fires have occurred.

Nerine pollinator

Nerine pancratioides photographed in the Karkloof by Richard Booth

The leaves grow to 300 mm long, are narrow, round at base and almost flattened towards the top. The stalk is robust growing to 600 mm long. The sheathing bracts are narrowly egg-shaped with sharp tips. The pedicels are densely covered with hairs, 300−450 mm long. The inflorescence is umbel, 10−20. Tepals are ± 25 mm and white.

Nerine pancratioides seed

Nerine pancratioides photographed by CREW

If you have seen this plant, please contact Suvarna Parbhoo, CREW programme: KZN Node Manager S.Parbhoo@sanbi.org.za

REFERENCES:

  • Baker, J.G. 1896. Amaryllideae. In: W.T. Thiselton-Dyer (ed). Flora Capensis VI (Haemodoraceae to Liliaceae):171-246. L. Reeve & Co., London.
  • Craib, C. 2004. Nerine pancratioides. Degradation of grassland habitats by exotic plantations are threatening the beautiful white Nerine with extinction. Veld & Flora 90:105-107
  • Mtshali, H. & von Staden, L. 2015. Nerine pancratioides Baker. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2015.1. Accessed on 2016/03/16
  • Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Sprightly Sparrows’ Birding Big Day Experience

BLSA and Club logos

Sally Cumming describes her wonderful experience during Birdlife South Africa’s 31st Annual Birding Big Day (BBD) held on the 28 November 2015. Team Sprightly Sparrow, from the KZN Midlands Bird Club, consisted of four participants with Pam Nicol as their leader, Sally Cumming, Rosemary Forrester and Gail Glyn.

One of the goals of the Birding Big Day was to collectively tally as many of South Africa’s 846 bird species in a single day. In the end, a total of 621 bird species were recorded. Another goal is to fundraise money for bird conservation, and R60 000 was raised in donations and sponsorships from over 120 teams and individuals who took part in the 2015 event. Birding Big Day 2015 also created an awareness for the importance of citizen science, with the help of BirdLasser.

We started by birding in Amber Valley, just catching the African Sacred Ibis and Cattle Egrets roosting on the trees in the pond before they flew off on their daily search for food. Falcon Dam in the game area produced a Reed Cormorant, Southern Red Bishops, and the call of a Rufous-naped Lark, among others.

Southern Red Bishop

Southern Red Bishop

Our next stop was Howick Falls in the hope of seeing the Peregrine Falcon, but we only found Olive Thrush and Green-backed Camaroptera before moving on to the Fairways car park to tick Village and Cape Weavers and Common Mynas!

The drive out to Thurlow at Midmar was unproductive, as the road is busy and travelling slowly is not advisable, but once inside the reserve we were able to concentrate on looking out for birds. Not far from the gate we ticked White-necked Raven, Speckled Pigeons, and Pied Crow. The water level in the dam was extremely low, so the first inlet, which is usually very productive, was almost deserted. However, we were done proud as regards Raptors, for we saw Yellow-billed Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, a pair of African Fish-Eagles with a youngster, Long-crested Eagle, Jackal Buzzard and, as we were leaving, a Rock Kestrel. Further into the reserve we eventually saw our highlight for the day, a rather distant view of Southern Red Bishop, over 30 Grey Crowned Cranes, and an Osprey.

Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite

From Thurlow we headed to Queen Elizabeth Park. Lots of bird calls greeted us in the forest, and we saw and heard Chorister Robin-Chats. Continuing on to the end picnic site – the road potholed and muddy – we had a cup of coffee while admiring the dainty white Mystacidium orchids flowering on the branches of several trees. I was not permitted by our driver to “adopt” one orchid which had fallen out of a tree, and instead hid it in another tree in the hope that it would take root on its new host.

Then it was on to Darvill Sewerage Works, where the ponds are overgrown with reeds, but we did see a large flock of Cattle Egrets, several Spur-winged Geese, a couple of Goliath Herons, and pair of Red-billed Teals, as well as Weavers and Bishops. We had hoped to take in Albert Falls, but with a couple of participants needing to get back for another commitment, we headed back to Howick from Darvill. We unfortunately got caught in Saturday road works on the N3, as all traffic was diverted into one lane, holding us up considerably.

Red-billed Teal

Red-billed Teal

Our count amounted to 94 species, which was a little disappointing but understandable in cloudy dull weather, and Pam was able to send R1 000 to BLSA for their conservation projects.

Click here to view the Sprightly Sparrow’s Bird List.

Hisss – Helping Individuals Survive Snake Season

-by Nick Evans –

We are all aware that snake season is well underway, especially now that Summer’s here and the temperatures are constantly rising. The snakes have started to come together to mate and to hunt, after their low activity period in Winter. This causes a widespread panic and fear, especially for the well-being of family and pets. This will have been exacerbated by the much publicised snakebite, on a young girl from a Night Adder, in Pietermaritzburg recently. There is, however, no need to panic and there is no need to live in fear of snakes either.

Brown House Snake - One of the friendliest snakes to have around. Docile, non-venomous and they love eating rats! They’re brown with cream-coloured markings going down the body.

Brown House Snake – One of the friendliest snakes to have around. Docile, non-venomous and they love eating rats! They’re brown with cream-coloured markings going down the body.

Snakes are amongst one of the most feared and misunderstood animals on earth, which stems from myths, legends, superstitions and over-exaggerated tales about these unique creatures. T.V. also has a negative impact by portraying them in a false way (i.e the Anaconda movies!). The lack of understanding and education about these animals often leads to them being killed, so it’s time we change our perceptions of these ecologically important animals.

Boomslang (male)- Thicker than the harmless green snakes, with a much larger head and eyes, these snakes are actually South Africa’s most toxic snake species. Fortunately, they are very shy and are reluctant to bite unless harassed. Interestingly, and quite uniquely amongst South African Snakes, they are sexually dimorphic. Males are green with black patterns, while females are a drab brown colour.

Boomslang (male)- Thicker than the harmless green snakes, with a much larger head and eyes, these snakes are actually South Africa’s most toxic snake species. Fortunately, they are very shy and are reluctant to bite unless harassed. Interestingly, and quite uniquely amongst South African Snakes, they are sexually dimorphic. Males are green with black patterns, while females are a drab brown colour.

Contrary to popular belief, snakes do not attack people. They do not want to bite us. They are more scared of us than we are of them and that is the truth of the matter. Whenever they see us or sense our presence approaching, they either flee or remain undetected. They are very secretive and shy animals that prefer to be left alone, and that is exactly what you should do if you see a snake.

Boomslang (female)

Boomslang (female)

People are often bitten while trying to capture or kill a snake, so don’t ever try. If you see a snake while out walking, in one of the many beautiful nature reserves or conservancies in the Midlands, simply keep calm and stay still. Snakes get nervous when they see a lot of fast movement. If it’s crossing the path, keep a safe distance, appreciate the sighting, and consider yourself lucky that you have seen such a secretive animal. It will move off quite quickly. If it appears to not be moving and just basking (typical Puff Adder behaviour), either walk around it, giving a wide birth, or walk the other way. That’s all you need to do to avoid being bitten. You may shout it if you want, but you would just be wasting your breath. Snakes are completely deaf and have no ears. *NEVER pick up a snake, alive or dead. Even if you think you know what it is.

Puff Adder - Quite common in the Midlands and highly venomous. They are a thick-bodied snake, with chevron markings and a large head, that are responsible for a few snakebites every year. This is because they prefer to keep still and rely on their camouflage to conceal them. They will not definitely bite if stood on.

Puff Adder – Quite common in the Midlands and highly venomous. They are a thick-bodied snake, with chevron markings and a large head, that are responsible for a few snakebites every year. This is because they prefer to keep still and rely on their camouflage to conceal them. They will not definitely bite if stood on.

If it’s in your house, or somewhere on your property where you really don’t want it, you will have to call your local snake catcher. Otherwise, give it a chance to escape, like leaving a door/window open that leads outside. You can try the police too if you can’t get hold of a snake catcher, but make sure they do not kill it (some policemen unfortunately do). Snakes should not be killed, for your own safety, and for the well-being of the environment. They’re actually doing us a favour.

The Green Snakes - These would consist of the Spotted Bush Snake, Western Natal Green Snake and Green Water Snakes. All are completely harmless, long, thin and green, which often leads them to being identified as Boomslangs or Green Mambas. Green Mambas do not occur in the Midlands. The Bush Snakes have quite prominent spots going down the body.

The Green Snakes – These would consist of the Spotted Bush Snake, Western Natal Green Snake and Green Water Snakes. All are completely harmless, long, thin and green, which often leads them to being identified as Boomslangs or Green Mambas. Green Mambas do not occur in the Midlands. The Bush Snakes have quite prominent spots going down the body.

Snakes play a vital role in the ecosystem in two ways, as predators and as prey. Snakes are like a free pest control service, especially with regards to rats. We don’t really want rats around, as they can cause havoc in homes. Snakes are one of the many creatures that do a fantastic job at keeping rodent populations in check, so no need for rat traps or poisons, just let the local House Snake hunt in your garden. Venomous snakes like the Black Mamba, Puff Adder, Rinkhals and Mozambique Spitting Cobra, do the job just as well as House Snakes, if not better. Snakes also keep gecko populations in check, as well as all other lizards. Birds, bats, slugs, centipedes, and frogs are all on the menu.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

Mozambique Spitting Cobra

They’re not just predators, but prey too. Birds, like raptors and herons, mongooses, genets and monitor lizards all love eating snakes, and so do some other species of snake. Yes, snakes will eat each other! They clearly are a key link in the food chain and are here for a good reason, just like all native wildlife.

Night Adder - A venomous species which is often mistaken for a Puff Adder, but is a lot smaller and a lot less toxic. They are more slender snakes than Puff Adders, brown in colour and have dark, pentagon-shaped patches going down the body.

Night Adder – A venomous species which is often mistaken for a Puff Adder, but is a lot smaller and a lot less toxic. They are more slender snakes than Puff Adders, brown in colour and have dark, pentagon-shaped patches going down the body.

So, how does one keep snakes away from one’s property? In truth, there is no set way or definite method in keeping them away. The best thing you can do is to keep your property neat and tidy. Get rid of piles of wood, bricks, and logs which provide shelter to snakes and their food. Jeyes fluid does not work, nor do any other repellants. Planting Geraniums all around your property will not keep them away either. If there’s “food” around, you’ll get snakes. If you are lucky enough to live on a farm/conservancy/reserve, you will definitely see a snake around the property at some point in time. It’s something you have to deal with while living in Africa. We are privileged with an abundance of wildlife.

Black Mamba - The most feared and notorious snake, but arguably the most shy and retreating. Occurs in some areas around Pietermaritzburg, and in Ashburton, but not a common species in the Midlands. Africa’s largest venomous snake, that averages in length of 2-2m. Highly venomous, and highly misunderstood. They have a bad, over-exaggerated reputation that is largely false.

Black Mamba – The most feared and notorious snake, but arguably the most shy and retreating. Occurs in some areas around Pietermaritzburg, and in Ashburton, but not a common species in the Midlands. Africa’s largest venomous snake, that averages in length of 2-2m. Highly venomous, and highly misunderstood. They have a bad, over-exaggerated reputation that is largely false.

So please, give the snakes a break. Next time you want to reach for a spade or stick to kill it, reach for a camera or cellphone instead. Keep a safe distance, and take a pic or too of your lucky sighting. Share your sighting with friends over email or social media! Tag the Midlands Conservancies Forum and the KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation pages too.

Respect snakes, don’t fear or hate them. Understand that they’re fulfilling a role in nature, and they are needed.

Nick Evans runs a programme called KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, a chapter of The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. The aim of the programme is to promote awareness of these ecologically important animals, and to educate the public.

For snake awareness and identification talks, or frogging evenings, please email Nick at nickevanskzn@gmail.com

With assistance for snake removals, you can contact Nick on 072 8095 806, who will put you in touch with the closest snake catcher. (Nick is based in Durban).

Stop Fracking in its Tracks

It comes as a surprise to most South Africans to discover that land ownership does not extend to ownership of any of the minerals buried in the earth. Mineral rights belong to the State. ‘Mineral’ means any substance, whether in solid, liquid or gaseous form, occurring naturally in or on the earth.

FRACK 01

We are justifiably proud of our Constitution – it is one of the best in the world. The Bill of Rights section of the Constitution includes our right to an environment that is not harmful to our health and wellbeing and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations – through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation, promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources, while promoting justifiable economic and social development. In reality, economic rights and development goals often override environmental rights leading to a situation where people have to live with toxic air, polluted water and downright dangerous surroundings.

FRACK 05 rs

Two companies, Rhino Oil & Gas and Sungu Sungu, have been issued Technical Cooperation Permits (TCP) by the SA Government for large swathes of KwaZulu-Natal. The TCP permits allow the companies to survey existing geological maps/seismic data and explore the area, but not to actually prospect – i.e. disturb the earth. Landowners cannot legally object to a permit holder entering their property, if they have been given 14 days written notice. Prospecting Permits (issued by Department of Mineral and Energy, not Environmental Affairs) allow the prospector to establish the existence of the mineral or gas by digging test holes or wells. They have the right to extract gas if they find it and, rest assured, they will take it to the next level should they find something! We need to prevent the issuing of prospecting licences as these will inevitably lead to full scale extraction. In the case of fracking the same extractive techniques which are employed in full-scale operations, are likely to be used in the prospecting phase. This has the potential to impact on the water, soil and air in the vicinity.

f13

Most of us agree that fracking in the Midlands will completely destroy the sense of place and our psychological wellbeing, let alone the environmental disaster it could cause. How do we ensure this does not happen? It is vitally important for landowners to be prepared and informed should prospectors arrive at their gate and to ensure they have followed the correct notification procedures. Often environmental consequences are not valued as much as the effect on humans, so make sure you know all about the health issues associated with fracking – pollution from toxic emissions, dust, noise and light, waste disposal, water pollution and the impacts from truck traffic. One of our best allies may be the local Municipality. Make sure that you participate in the public process of creating the Land Use Management Scheme (LUMS) for the area. Listen to others and speak up, don’t expect someone else to deal with these issues on your behalf. Become informed – the internet makes it so easy!

FRACK 02

Make friends with local officials. In the Midlands, land zoned for ‘Agricultural Use’ will need to be re-zoned for mining, so current local land use could help prevent fracking. Help your Municipality to understand that they will need to deal with all the waste, water and environmental issues that mining creates, but without benefitting financially. Any benefit in terms of employment creation is likely to be limited and of short duration whereas the negative impact on tourism is likely to gravely affect municipal income and job creation in the area.

f4

Register and comment on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for developments when they arise in your area. Inappropriate development affects our health, water and food security. Start now on smaller projects to get used to the public participation process – don’t assume someone else is doing this work. We will achieve much more with a strong common voice. If we need to fight on behalf of the environment in court, at least our Natural Environment Management Act (NEMA) ensures that even if we lose, costs are not ordered against us. Let’s make sure that it does not come to that.

f7

Other places on our planet have successfully prevented mining with low-tech tactics like refusing to serve or host prospectors in restaurants and B&B’s, creating human barriers that last for months and relentlessly reporting minor infringements like insufficient ablution facilities for workers. The Midlands is renowned for its creativity, surely we will not allow prospectors to destroy our environment for short term exploitation of a non-renewable resource. Support other communities fighting mining, such as Fuleni beside the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, Xolobeni on the Wild Coast and Mtunzini up the North Coast. See how they have approached their stand to keep their ecosystems functioning and learn the lessons to make your campaign more successful. Everyone can make a difference, no matter how small the action may seem.

SOLAR 01

Sign the petition: extra.greenpeaceafrica.org/petitions/keep-fracking-out-of-the-drakensberg-karoo

Learn from other campaigns:

Don’t Fiddle With our Water Factories

In nature, there is no magic water factory – the water on the earth now is the same water that has been here since the beginning of time. Whether in the Karoo or the forests of the Congo, the basics of the water cycle are the same: Water falls on the land as rain, snow, sleet, hail and mist, runs into our rivers, fills our dams and underground aquifers, and flows out to the oceans. The sun evaporates this water, clouds form and some of it falls again on the land. This is the water that we all use. Only 3% of the water on our planet is freshwater (as opposed to saline) and only 1% is available for our use.

f

South Africa is a water scarce, semi-arid country, and unfortunately, even the little water we do have is often badly managed, used wastefully and polluted. It seems crazy then that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which uses a lot of water AND contaminates water, should even be considered an option to boost our energy resources! A number of technical cooperation permits have been issued in the Midlands and Berg foothills, which give the holders rights to research the area as a desktop exercise with a view to fracking. In order to verify the amount of shale gas present and its viability as an energy source, prospecting or exploration as it is termed in the oil and gas sector, will need to take place. This activity has the potential to affect groundwater quality as it uses hydraulic fracturing techniques.

f13

The KZN Midlands is a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area. The role of the Drakensberg and foothills as the ‘water factories’ of Kwa Zulu Natal cannot be underestimated. Intact grasslands are important for storing rainwater in wetlands or as ground water which is gradually released throughout the year. It is vitally important to protect these areas which sustain the flow of clean water, supporting the lives and livelihoods of nearly 6 million people downstream. Other free ecosystem services provided by these Midlands grasslands include pollination, soil production, flood water attenuation, carbon storage, cultural and recreational amenities and support to subsistence livelihoods. The uMngeni River catchment supplies 1000 million litres per day of potable water to a vast area including Howick, Hilton, Edendale, Wartburg, Vulindlela, most of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

f6

The Midlands Conservancy Forum (MCF) opposes, on ecological, social and economic grounds, the use of fracking to recover natural shale gas. Specifically, the MCF believes that the risk of contamination of groundwater in an already water-stressed environment is simply unacceptable. Despite assurances from potential extractors that the technique is safe, evidence of failed safety measures and resultant contamination is increasingly common in areas where fracking has been undertaken, even under first world conditions. We can’t drink gas! Want to be better informed about this issue?

f15

Learn more here: http://www.midlandsconservancies.org.za/prpagefracking.php