About the KwaZulu-Natal Region
uMngeni Valley, which was purchased by WESSA members in the 1970s, has traditionally been the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal region. The KZN region has nine affiliate members and seven branches several of which have been in existence for more than 40 years. They are: Durban; Upper South Coast; Kingsburgh; Sani; Midlands; Lower South Coast; and Highway. The branches play an important role in networking with the conservancies of which there are 85 in the KZN region.
Currently, the main projects and focus areas of the region are: environmental education, sponsoring disadvantaged schools, teacher and student support, marine and reserve ecosystem restoration, environmental monitoring, advocacy and representation. Projects include: Tree labelling, Fundraising for the Zululand K9 Units; Adopt-a-Spot Amanzimtoti Police Station; and the Umbogavango Nature Reserve Education Project.
The KZN Region is also in the process of building partnerships and networking with a number of local groups and organisations. Some of these are not affiliates as yet but may become so in time. The initiatives that are being explored focus on building sustainability in urban communities; skills development; environmental education; mentorship; and creating opportunities for income generation.
Recently this has resulted in a collaboration with the Inner City Faith-based Conservancy, to develop a campaign around waste. Other focus areas are food gardens, green rooves, water and energy audits for companies, skills development and green job creation.
Tree Labelling Project
Upper South Coast Branch
Umbogavango Nature Reserve Education Project
Umbogavango Nature Reserve was created by the 13 industrial companies that form part of the Umbogintwini Industrial Association (UIA.) The reserve celebrated its centenary in 2008. The Umbogavango Educational Resource Centre is managed and maintained by AECI, which also funds the Umbogavango Nature Reserve Education Project, a comprehensive educational programme for rural primary school children from the Amanzimtoti area.
This programme is run under the auspices of the Upper South Coast committee and includes a yearly internship for a third year student from the Department of Conservation at MUT (Mangosuthu University of Technology.) The intern makes contact with the schools and organises for the children to be brought in by taxi. They then spend a morning having lessons and nature walks through the reserve. In addition the student is involved in carrying out individual research projects for her diploma within the Reserve and at Treasure Beach and assists in judging those schools in the area that are part of the School Beautification programme.
The School Beautification programme was begun in 1992 by the Department of Environmental Health and WESSA. Since then, government and municipal departments such as the DAEA and DSW, as well as other organisation and companies such as AECI have come on board. A wide variety of teaching materials are available at the Centre provided by WESSA and the courses are in line with the syllabus for primary school pupils with a particular emphasis on the protection of wetlands, and the conservation of the indigenous tree and bird life within the reserve. Over 200 birds and 100 indigenous trees are found within the 36 hectare reserve as well as a variety of small mammals and snakes.
WESSA KZN Wildlife Handbooks
Wildlife Handbooks are intended to educate across a broad spectrum of readers, not necessarily with scientific backgrounds so the text is presented, as far as possible, in simple layman’s terms making the books accessible and appealing to a wide audience. All Wildlife Handbooks are high quality, full colour publications and come in a compact A5 size for convenience and easy reference in the field.
Friends & Affiliates, Business Members and Partners
A Challenging Land – KwaZulu-Natal
When the first settlers lighted upon the shores of “Natal” they thought it was a sub-tropical paradise. Residents felt the same way, but not about the settlers. Over many centuries many different groups have laid claim to this desirable real estate, fought over it, made imaginative and sometimes wildly inaccurate claims to justify their alleged rights, and eventually settled down to enjoy its beauties and bounties. For the Wildlife Society it has been a proving ground, a setting for remarkable victories and achievements, a place to nurture new eco-warriors and treasure the older warriors. A place which gives inspiration to our motto “People Caring for the Earth”.
Kwazulu-Natal have always liked to be a bit independent; they only joined with WESSA in 1960. But the Natal Society for the Preservation of Wildlife and Natural Resorts had worked closely with other conservation organisations for many years. Its origins go back to 21st August 1883 when a group of five sportsmen met in Durban to establish the Natal Game Protection Association, chaired by SF Beningfield. After just 60 years of uncontrolled hunting it was only too clear that the wildlife had been virtually wiped out over large areas. Even before that the governor, Sir Henry Bulwer, had recognised that the forests and fisheries were also being harvested at an unsustainable rate. And already there were complaints in the press about industrial pollution from the sugar mills. Today’s challenges are not new, although the causes have evolved, and the issues often seem complex.
The NGPA’s stated objectives were to preserve the wild game, to secure prosecution of offenders against the game laws, and to take an active role in improving those laws. That mandate still holds good but has much increased in scope to cover every aspect of conservation. And in due course it was supplemented by a new and powerful concept; environmental education for all. Kwazulu-Natal can be justly proud of its four Environmental Education centres, (Can you name them all?T) which have had such a great impact, as well as the world-renowned Wilderness Leadership school founded by Ian Player in the 1950’s.
Zululand’s first game preserve was set aside by King Cetshwayo. In 1895 five game reserves were proclaimed by the Zululand government. But then disaster struck; not only rinderpest but also nagana became a major problem, and the then government decided that eliminating the big game was the easy solution. That policy was bound to fail, but it decimated the Zululand wildlife and upset the whole ecosystem. By 1926 Natal could only boast 6 nature reserves, and the few remaining White Rhino. Today there are numerous local reserves supporting the provincial parks, and White Rhino are flourishing, although the activities of poachers are an increasing cause for concern affecting many of our wildlife species. The Metropolitan Open Space System (MOSS) of Durban was a WESSA initiative. Part of the MOSS was Pigeon valley Park, which was transformed into a nature reserve in 1989 and is now managed by a WESSA Friends Group. However, it was not all plain sailing.
In 1958 the Zululand Branch was formed in order to oppose a proposal to de-proclaim the Mkhuze Reserve for farming, and to protect the Zululand crocodiles from extermination. Those battles were won. In 1963 the Natal Branch of WESSA launched the African Wildlife Society; at a time of political division they tried to bridge the racial divide by creating a branch for the previously excluded. Sadly, it never really got going, but it showed that in Natal conservationists had recognised both that conservation issues affected everyone, and the need to involve all communities.
In 1970, and again in 1976, another, more local, campaign was successfully fought in Durban to prevent the municipality from driving a road through Yellowwood Park and bisecting the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, the largest reserve in the metropolitan area.
The Natal Region also has an outstanding record of publishing guides to our wildlife, including titles as diverse as “Forest Trees of Natal”, “Wild Walks of Natal”, “Suburban Wildlife”, “Mangroves”, and the indispensable “Antelope of Southern Africa”. The little handbook on eradicating “Invasive Alien Plants” was recognised as a first-class aid to practical conservation not only in the members’ neighbourhood but also at government level. These well-illustrated guides were supplemented by numerous Sharenet publications emanating from Umgeni Valley which supported the eco-schools program.
It has recently been announced that Umgeni Valley has been proclaimed nationally as a nature reserve. But it has been a WESSA flagship for over forty years. It was bought and established in the 1970’s by the efforts of the Kwazulu-Natal Region members, and in 1976 an outdoor education centre was created to enable scholars of all ages to study the environment and learn about our natural heritage. With three camps, a variety of biomes, well-trained leaders, and a pioneering approach to learning it has changed the lives of many thousands of young people, and quite a few schoolteachers as well. It is a key component of the Umgeni Biosphere Project, and visitors are still warmly welcomed.
The Upper South Coast Branch can take credit for the Umbogavango Nature Reserve and an equally successful environmental Education project. With sponsorship from the Umbogintweni Industrial Complex they have been running regular day courses for local schools for some twenty-seven years, based at the rehabilitated site. The trail wanders through magnificent trees around an artificial lake which is slowly transforming back to a paradise for birds. And in the last few years the conservation area has been extended as “Vumbuka” has been transformed from a toxic waste dump into an indigenous forest.
Another Kwazulu-Natal Friends Group has charted a different course. Coastwatch was established partly as a watchdog but mainly as a team of well-qualified specialists who could provide informed and relevant responses to conservation issues affecting the coast and the marine environment. The coastline is very special to a great many people, both residents and visitors, and consequently the pressures upon it have steadily increased, especially for “development”. But recent events have shown just how vulnerable our beaches and our beachfronts are to storm damage and climate change. Our estuaries also were becoming very degraded, not least due to land-derived waste and to sand-mining operations. Calling on the varied expertise of its members Coastwatch has challenged illegal and ill-considered activities and developments, although usually its successes will not even be noticed. We can be particularly proud of their efforts in lobbying for better legislation, including NEMA, NEM:CMA, and NEM:BA and the subsequent regulations, and most recently our new MPA’s.
Kwazulu-Natal is not just a strip of coastline. The Sani Branch has become famous for its annual Wildflower Walk down the Sani Pass; there is an excellent guide to the flora you may encounter, “Mountain Flowers”, written by Elsa Pooley. The Midlands Members are known for their conservation activities, protecting the sources of so much of our water supply from fracking and other idiotic schemes. Other members have made DUCT a force to be reckoned with, and the incredible work of the Duzi-Umgeni Conservation Trust from source to sea means this river system can continue to host the world famous Duzi Canoe Marathon.
Kwazulu-Natal has had the benefit of some truly outstanding talent. WY Campbell, the first secretary of the NGPA, was tenacious, persuasive and well-informed; in his second day in office he was already petitioning the authorities to enforce the game laws. In 1947, Dr George Campbell led the first scientific expedition to survey the wildlife of Maputaland, which subsequently led to the founding of SAAMBR and the first Durban aquarium, which was built with funding from the Natal Branch of WESSA. This has now become Ushaka Marine World and, along with SAAMBR and ORI, still plays a significant role in research and conservation. Lake St. Lucia found a champion in Nollie Zaloumis and was transformed into the Isimangaliso World Heritage Site; Dr Zaloumis subsequently was elected as WESSA’s chairman. We have neither time nor space to do justice to Ernest Warren, Ian Garland, Mlindeli Gcumisa, Keith Cooper, Di Dold, Jim Taylor, Jerry Goznell, and so many others who each in their own way have helped turn conservation into a better way of life for so many of us. The challenge is to follow in their shoes.
Perhaps WESSA’s crowning glory was the successful campaign to prevent mining in what is now Isimangaliso. That battle started in 1972 when RBM was issued with prospecting licences for areas within the St Lucia Wetland Park. The public outcry led to a four year long environmental impact assessment and a judicial review. Over 222 000 people signed a petition to preserve the park before the battle was won, but the fight is not yet over as once again application has been made to mine the dunes right next to the world heritage site. Can we once more unite to show that we are indeed “People Caring for the Earth”?
From the Berg to the Beach – We Care About Kwazulu-Natal
REFERENCES and FURTHER READING:
1. Berjak, Campbell, Huckett and Pammenter; 2011. In the Mangroves of South Africa
2. Gosnell, J; 2011. The Beach Book
3. Londt, Jason; 2009. Suburban Wildlife in KZN
4. Irwin, Akhurst and Irwin; 1980. A Field Guide to the Natal Drakensberg
5. Moore, Wildy et al; 2008. Invasive Alien Plants in Kwazulu-Natal
6. Moll, EJ; 1967. Forest Trees of Natal
7. Pringle, John; 1982. The Conservationists and the Killers
8. Pooley, E; 2003. Mountain Flowers; A field Guide to the Flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho
9. Pooley, T. and Player, I; 1995. Kwazulu/Natal Wildlife Destinations
10. Shepherd, Olive; 1990. Wild Walks of Natal
11. Zaloumis, N. and Cross, R; 2005. A Field Guide to the Antelope of Southern Africa
T For those who didn’t know: Kwazulu-Natal has Four Environmental Education Centres; Umgeni Valley; Treasure Beach; Twin Streams; and Umbogavango.
Written by Paddy Norman WESSA Lower South Coast chair for African Wildlife and Environment issue 74
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