What’s really irreplaceable

When we launched on 4 August, it was still enormously dry (and, we’ve since realized, not remotely warm – today is billed as 40 degrees Celcius). Since then, there’s been lovely rain, and the soil is like cake, all rich and crumbly when we dig holes for trees. It feels like you could add a tot of sherry and eat it up.

Every one of the indigenous trees we’ve planted out is looking delighted to be released. So far, so good.

The rain has meant escape from the shadehouse for the first batch of trees…

Two wonderful moments to savour:

1. You’ll remember that while Ferncliffe was declared a Site of Conservation Significance in 1993 and is a municipal nature reserve, it has never been legally proclaimed as such (quite common, actually, as can be seen from the recent proclamation of 10 reserves in Durban). Proclamation adds a formal layer of protection to such sites – which of course we’d like to see for Ferncliffe.

Funds were raised by an amazing committed citizen to initiate the process, and a biodiversity site assessment took place on 21 September, run by Conservation Outcomes. All the Ferncliffe stakeholders came along, some of whom have been pushing for this for ages: Wildlands, A Rocha SA, KZN Mountain Biking, Botanical Society experts, municipal representatives and University of KwaZulu-Natal staff and students, as well as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.  

Ferncliffe scored sufficient points to be considered for protected environment status, and we’re just waiting on the decision from the review panel before it goes to the municipality as the land owner. There will be some tough conditions to meet – such as surveying the boundaries, a murky area thanks to timber plantations and seemingly lost maps. But how amazing it will be for the city, to have this irreplaceable biome (it scored top marks in this category) kept safe for the foreseeable future.

At Bat Cave for the biodiversity site inspection

2.  We have had the pleasure of working with our inaugural Forest Guardians – Siyabonga Sangweni & Vusumuzi Mlangeni, both BSc Honours students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Siyabonga is majoring in Ecology and he’s currently researching small mammals, rodents in particular. Vusumuzi is majoring in Biology and he’s doing research into the control of false codling moths.

And judging from how they’ve dug in (literally – who knew bamboo roots were such demons to get through?) – they’re setting the bar high. Next time they come, we’re keen to get them to use their science and data skills to help us demarcate a couple of plots and learn how best to monitor them as we watch species return to cleared areas.  

Siyabonga and Vusumuzi with a Pompon Tree they’ve planted. First of many!

PS: You can of course help Ferncliffe enormously by donating a day’s wage or planting an indigenous tree. (Try and imagine, say, a white ironwood standing here just because you made it happen, wreathed in mist and with a black cuckoo calling from its branches.)

Every tree in the ground is a mini victory.