The hunt is on! But the sights aren’t set on big game – rather, on a fascinating group of plants that are found in a unique part of our world.
The Succulent Karoo, stretching from Namaqualand to Namibia and through the southern Karoo, is internationally recognized as a Biodiversity Hotspot because it is so rich in terms of plants and animals. There are over 6000 plant species in the Succulent Karoo and 40% of these – such as the intriguingly-named bababoudjies (baby bums), volstruistone (ostrich toes),gansmis (goose droppings) and toontjies (little toes) – are found nowhere else on earth.
But only 6% of the Succulent Karoo is protected from threats such as crop agriculture. overgrazing and development.
According to Alan Wheeler, a Conservation Services Manager at CapeNature, one way of improving the situation is for conservation agencies to buy up private land and turn it into nature reserves.
“Because resources for purchase are limited, the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust, the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa (WWF-SA) and CapeNature have come up with an innovative solution. Through WWF, the Trust is funding three people in CapeNature’s Stewardship Programme to talk to private landowners in the Little Karoo and the Breede River Valley about conservation options for their properties,” he says.
Stewardship is the protection and responsible use of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices. “The Stewardship Programme finds privately-owned sites with high natural value, whose owners are conservation-minded. The landowner can then enter into one of several types of voluntary stewardship agreements. The type of agreement depends on the biodiversity value of the land and the degree of commitment to conservation that the landowner wants to make,” says Alan.
Under the highest level of stewardship, the property will be declared a privately-owned nature reserve and will be protected under South African environmental law. This is a legacy for future generations – the agreement ensures that the property is protected beyond the lifetime of the current owner. At the other end of the stewardship scale is a non-binding, voluntary agreement to conserve the biodiversity on a property. Once signed into an agreement, landowners are assisted, by CapeNature, to manage their property in a way that protects the biodiversity on their land.
CapeNature CEO, Dr Razeena Omar, says: “Much of the land in the Western Cape is under the ownership of private landowners and it is through stewardship and partnerships with organisations such as WWF-SA that we are able to better conserve the province’s biodiversity.
“The stewardship programme has already secured over 113 320 ha on private and communal land and since the programme’s inception in 2003, the organisation has signed 113 stewardship agreements – the most by any province in the country.”
WWF-SA Project Coordinator, Taryn Rossenrode, says: “WWF’s primary influence in the Succulent Karoo was through the establishment of the Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust (LHSKT) in 1995. The primary aim of the LHSKT is the preservation, restoration, conservation, and promotion of plant species indigenous to the Karoo, and more specifically, but not exclusively, to land situated in those areas of the Karoo known as the Knersvlakte, Namaqualand and Southern Richtersveld, and Bushmanland. To achieve this aim WWF, through the LHSKT, partners with CapeNature to implement stewardship projects as mentioned above. Over the last two decades there has been a shift for the LHSKT from land purchase towards the stewardship projects in order to secure this threatened ecosystem in the changing times.”
If you would like more information about the stewardship programme, please call Alan Wheeler or Marienne de Villiers, 044-203 6300 (if your property is in the Little Karoo) or Garth Mortimer, 079-490 8889 (if your property is in the Breede River Valley).