COMMENTS ON THE FERNKLOOF PROTECTED AREA MANAGEMENT PLANPosted on the 30th June 2019
COMMENTS ON THE FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE PROTECTED AREA MANAGEMENT PLAN (PAMP) 2020 – 2024 (Version: Draft1. 2019).
Municipal notice 33/2019
COMMENTS PREPARED BY DR ANTON ODENDAL OF BIRDLIFE OVERBERG
1. INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS
The comments noted herewith only refer to avifauna and avi-tourism issues that are sadly poorly described and underestimated in the PAMP. Concern is further expressed about the apparent lack of recognition of the work done by both BirdLife South Africa (BLSA) and BirdLife Overberg (BLO) in the PAMP. The comments to follow are aimed at the incorporation of the issues raised into the next draft of the PAMP.
2. FERNKLOOF AS A TOP BIRD-WATCHING DESTINATION
The global growth of avi-tourism (birding tourism) is generally accepted and members of BirdLife Overberg have been involved in the marketing of the Western Cape Province to domestic and international bird-watchers for many years. The Fernkloof Nature Reserve (FNR) is hugely underestimated as a birding destination and compares favourably with similar destinations such as the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens and the Karoo Botanical Gardens at Worcester. Several reports on bird-watching outings to Fernkloof have been published and local and regional tour guides and specialist bird guides regularly use the reserve to entertain their clients. The section on the FNR in the Cape Whale Coast Birdfinder web page is visited regularly by birders planning to visit the reserve. (It is ironic that the development of this web page, as well as the brochures that preceded it was sponsored by the Overstrand Municipality).
Fernkloof is a significant attractor of birding tourists to Hermanus and the Overstrand and this should be recognised as such in the PAMP. This applies specifically to the auditing objectives (Tourism and Marketing – page 20) and the vision of the FNR (Ecotourism values – page 22).
Several marketing and conservation actions in this regard should be incorporated into the PAMP. One example should be the banning of balloons in the reserve as many reserves and botanical gardens have done so. The releasing of balloons at birthday parties in FNR is observed fairly often.
3. CORRECTION ON REFERENCE TO THE “IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREAS OF SOUTH AFRICA” (IBA)
FNR forms part of the Cape Whale Coast IBA and this is recognized by both BirdLife International and BirdLife South Africa. The PAMP uses an outdated reference to this (Page 42): Birdlife South Africa. Cape Whale Coast. Available online: https://www.birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/260-sa118botriviervlei-kleinmond-estuary
This should be replaced by a reference to the Second Edition of the IBA directory published by BLSA in 2015.
4. THE AVIFAUNA DESCRIPTION IN THE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT SECTION OF THE PAMP (PAGE 42)
This section of the PAMP only makes mention of the endemic bird species associated with the Cape Floral Kingdom and some other species found in the upper gardens of the FNR. There are many critical species found in the Coastal and Estuary Zones of the reserve and other areas that need to addressed in any management plan. It is recommended that at least the following species taken from “The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of BIRDS of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland” be incorporated into the PAMP:
Endangered species: Bank Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, African Marsh Harrier, Black Harrier, African Penguin, Antarctic Tern and Roseate Tern.
Vulnerable species: Verreaux’s Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Cape Gannet, Great White Pelican and Caspian Tern.
Near Threatened species: Crowned Cormorant, Blue Crane, Eurasian Curlew, Maccoa Duck, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover and Knysna Woodpecker. (This list excludes several pelagic species that are observed occasionally during stormy weather and sometimes come ashore through injury or exhaustion).
5. CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PROJECTS NOT MENTIONED IN THE PAMP
There is a variety of such projects that impact directly on the FNR that need to at least be taken note of in a proposed management plan for the reserve. These projects can clearly not be described in detail in these comments and only brief notes are made for the record. This list should not be regarded as being comprehensive. The representatives of Environmental Management Services of the Overstrand Municipality (EMS) are most welcome to approach the relevant researchers for assistance to incorporate these projects into the PAMP.
• Periodic outbreaks of avian flu among coastal birds should be monitored and seen as a priority. The African Penguin and Seabirds Sanctury (APSS) should be seen as a critical partner in this regard.
• Dr Giselle Murison, the Estuaries Manager at BLSA, is involved in a project along the Kleinriver Estuary that has implications for the PAMP.
• BirdLife Overberg’s CleanMarine campaign was re-launched in 2017 and some of the projects forming part of the campaign have a direct bearing on the PAMP. Note should be taken of the fact that EMS was represented at the workshop facilitated by Dr Mark Brown of the Nature’s Valley Trust in September 2017 where the campaign was conceived. Meetings regarding collaboration between representatives of EMS and BirdLife Overberg were also undertaken in the first half of 2018 – feedback from the official concerned is still being awaited. Pertinent projects in the CleanMarine campaign that reflect on the coastal and estuary zones of the FNR are:
• The development and erection of billboards, nest warning signs, as well as brochures and media campaigns on African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers breeding sites along the shoreline.
• Regular monthly coastal clean-ups undertaken by members BLO in collaboration with several other likeminded organizations and volunteers. The coastal and estuary zones of the FNR are targeted at least twice per annum. In most cases the litter collected is scored and the data sent for analysis by Plastics SA and the Oceans Conservancy in Washington. BLO’s current fundraising efforts (The Xmas in July dinner on 27 July and the charity golf day on 29 August) are aimed at sustaining the two projects mentioned. The hope is expressed that the Overstrand Municipality will support these two efforts.
• Bins to collect fishing line are being set up along our coastline in collaboration with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) and Plastics SA. Bins have already been set up by BLO members along sections of the coastal and estuary zones of the FNR and additional sites will be serviced as problematic areas are identified.
• Regular Coordinated Water Bird Counts (CWACs) will be launched officially at all the estuaries along the Cape Whale Coast during July 2019. Volunteers from at least eleven organizations and agencies will participate in these counts and the Kleinriver section counts will be undertaken by members of the Hermanus and Stanford Bird Clubs. The data gathered at all the estuaries will be collated by members of BLO and then forwarded to BLSA and researchers at UCT. This data will shed more light on the seasonal distribution of species and contribute to the development of meaningful management plans for our estuaries.
• A range of environmental education campaigns and brochures developed by members of BLO over many years should be taken note of. An example is the annual Marine Week schools competition coordinated by DICT with support from BLO and the municipality – last year 16 schools were reached through this competition and this will be increased during 2019.
6. CONCLUDING COMMENT
The information provided is in total support of the editorial comment placed in The Village NEWS of 5 June 2019 (“A FAB idea for Fernkloof”) and the letter by Pat Miller on 26 June 2019 (“Enable local bodies to manage Fernkloof”). It is evident that the EMS simply does not have the capacity (from both manpower and financial perspectives) to manage the FNR meaningfully. Collaboration with many local environmental bodies should be seen as a priority and needs to be pertinently addressed in any attempt at developing a Protected Area Management Plan for the Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
Dr Anton Odendal
27 June 2019.