A day under the sun
The fieldwork started on Egoli Granite Grassland (EGG), a valuable, species-rich grass type that is endemic to Gauteng and is rapidly being destroyed.
Volunteer Justin Henry surrounded by the gold of the Egoli Granite Grassland
Justin Henry, a final year student and resident of Doornrandje led the fieldwork. He was assisted by two students from the University of the Witwatersrand - Sarah Amy Goodbrand and Alessio Predieri. Along the way, various land owners participated, including Stella Angus, Fransa Cole and Nick and Dawn Dale. Sell Ncube, a permanent employee of the Oori, also joined the team.
Ernest Seamark and Antonia Bezuidenhout from Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development provided guidance and direction. Antonia has been doing research on the Egoli Granite Grassland, and is proffecient in identification of forbs and grasses. Ernest is Antonia's supervisor, and our contact in the Conservation Directorate. We are very grateful to these two individuals in particular for their support and advice.
The team identified grass species, checked the vegetative cover and verified what every landowner already knows - the species richness in our veld is astounding!
In Doornrandje, the Henry familys' poolside gazebo became an impromptu lab, strewn with notes, leaves, roots and flowers. Books bulged with specimens that were studied in minute detail for identification each afternoon.
The team assessed a productive portion (grazed by horses), a portion grazed by naturally occurring game (mostly scrub hares and duiker), a portion on dolomite, a high-lying area and a portion ploughed over in the summer of 2010. In addition, a portion grazed by stocked game was assessed.
Volunteers Justin Henry, Sarah Amy Goodbrand and Alessio Predieri, pictured here with Fransa Cole and Dawn Dale
The next goal is to provide GDARD with formal commitments. Before mid-February 2012, every landowner wishing to be part of the Nature Reserve (or Protected Area), will have the opportunity to take the first formal step. This entails signing a first-tier stewardship contract as a stepping stone on the way to formal proclamation.
The contract will allow the department to capture all participating land portions on its GIS layers, and to map the scope of the project. The GDARD will also have visibility of important portions which link to form corridors or an expansion area.
With the formal commitment captured on paper, GDARD will be in a position to motivate for the resources to see the process to completion. Resource limitations have curtailed the progress.
A name for the Project
A working title for the project has been proposed and will be used until such time as all stakeholders have the opportunity to agree on a name. For now, the project is called “Crocodile River Reserve”.