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Months of planning and fund-raising by Hanna Coetzee of Assegaay Blosch culminated in a spectacular Christmas wonder for 175 children of the Vanwyksdorp Primary School yesterday. As an integral part of fulfilling the objectives of the Gouritz MAB UNESCO Biosphere Reserve objectives and the committed approach to social responsiblity of care in the community by Assegaay Bosch Ranch, the Christmas Party was a huge success and brought smiles and laughter to the faces of many disadvantaged children. The activities were meticulously planned and organised for all the children to enjoy a safe and fun-filled day.
Included in the many activities was a huge jumping castle, two water slides (a true hit with all in the warm weather!!!), pin the tail to the donkey, fish for a prize, clay model making, cricket, a whale theatre show, painting plates and faces and a visit to Santa’s Grotto to receive their presents. For all, there was no shortage of lovely things to eat. Breakfast, a hearty lunch, cake, cold drinks, hotdogs, sweets and chips all part of any child’s favourite munchies.
A Very Special Thank you to Hanna Coetzee for such a brilliantly organised event and to Assegaay Bosch for initiating this great event and their generous sponsorship. Too many people need to be thanked for ensuring the success of the day. A special word of thanks to all who also kindly contributed to sponsoring this event. From Jenny and Abe’s preparations and assistance, to Wendi and Manfred Schowronek for the help, to the headmaster Mr Esau and his staff for assisting with the groups, Des and Allan for their help, Lunchbox Theatre, Ronel for her great assistance, Nicole for her time and patience, the staff of Assegaay Bosch and Rooiberg Lodge, Father Christmas and to the many behind the scenes who, through a great team effort, made this a truly memorable occasion.
ENJOY THE PHOTOS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Vernon Gibbs-Halls of the Eden District Municipal Environmental Management Unit was the recent recipient of the acclaimed national conservation SANparks prestigious Kudu Award. At a gala ceremony held at Gallagher Estates in Gauteng on Friday, Gibbs-Halls was one of thirteen national finalists who won the South African Environmental Education and Capacity Building category for 22 years’ service to environmental education in South Africa.
In his acceptance speech, Gibbs-Halls stressed that environmental education went far beyond the outdoor classroom but said it was equally important that public education, awareness, training and the empowerment of emerging conservationists is paramount to securing our natural resources for future generations to take custodianship of. To ensure success of this paradigm, Gibbs-Halls also emphasized the importance of building strong inter-governmental co-operation and collaboration as well as the important role the private sector and NGO’s played in achieving conservation objectives. The building of the green economy as well as the realisation of the real value of conservation services and infrastructure plays a pivotal role in environmental education which needs to be accessible and understood by all South Africans.
According to Dr David Mabunda SANParks CEO, “The Kudu Awards is an important initiative that recognises external stakeholders for their contribution and internal stakeholders efforts in making South African National Parks the custodian of choice for the national parks system of South Africa, and also plays a significant role in the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage, thus protecting South Africa’s most valuable national assets.”
He said this awards programme aims at enhancing equitable and sustainable relationships with various external communities with a particular caring interest to the national parks of our country and conservation of our national heritage in general. “This gives meaning to the vision of ‘SANParks Connecting to Society’
Gibbs-Halls has, over recent years, enjoyed a number of awards for his continued efforts in the Garden Route. In 2009 he received the CapeNature Award, in 2010 he received the acclaimed Fynbos Award, in 2011 the WESSA Award for his contribution to conservation. He was also named Green Champion of the Western Cape in 2011 by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Gibbs-Halls extended a very special thank you to the national SANParks adjudication panel, and extended a special thank you to Mjwai of the Wilderness Ebb and Flow Camp and Ms. Jill Bunding-Venter, General Manager of the Garden Route National Park for her continued support of the joint initiatives they are involved in, with specific reference to their pivotal role of securing a further 3 Blue Flag beaches for Eden. He further expressed his gratitude to Mr Johan Compion and Mr Clive Africa of Eden District Municipality for their continued faith and trust in all aspects of his work.
I recently had the fortunate opportunity to represent the Garden Route Initiative in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve in Limpopo Province at the FIFTH NATIONAL MAN AND THE BIOSPHERE COMMITTEE MEETING between the 19th and 21st November. The two days was an exhilarating experience. The Waterberg have been a biosphere for 10 years now and have achieved great strides regarding the upliftment of the poor and people in conservation within their domain.
The official GCBR application to UNESCO was formally handed over by Willem Smith to Mr Kallie Naude of DEA. We look forward to the grand announcment once the United Nations have received the application.
After the Meeting had opening and the formalities covered, the new biosheres were granted an opportunity to present an update on their progress. The presentation I gave on the GRI was very well received and there is keen support from all the biospheres for us to become a new UNESCO registered biosphere. I will be spending much of my time in 2013 working towards this goal, and fundraising wherever I can to make this dream a reality to protect our natural resources and our people in the GRI domain. The new biospheres include:
• Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve
• Marico Biosphere Reserve
• Garden Route Biosphere Reserve
• Amathole Biosphere Reserve
After lunch the following items were discussed on the agenda.
• Development of national strategy
• Biosphere Reserve Tourism signage boards
• Biosphere reserve information sharing
• Web link
• Report back on the 24th ICC meeting in Paris
• AfriMAB Book Project • Research related to the MAB Programme
• Strategy on Buffer Zones for National Parks
• UNESCO / DEA requirements for amending BR spatial plans
The next day was site visit around the Waterberg Biosphere where we were introduced to some amazing projects. Starting at our base, the Inzintaba Lodge, we were transported to the Waerberg Biosphere Reserve Office (Yes, they even have their OWN office!!!!!!) where they have started an amazing beadwork factory which brings an income to many previously unemployed. At the meander site 5 we were treated to a geology lesson which revealed the Waterberg area as the oldest geological site in South Africa created by rivers transporting sediments hundreds of millions ago. We then moved to a Pedi Cultural Village sponsored through the Biosphere by the Limpopo government, and treated to wonderful dance and song routines from the locals including a buffet spread of great traditional Pedi food. We then moved quite speedily (in fact very fast on the dirt road) to Lapalala Wilderness School, the patron and founder Clive Walker, a truly lengendary figure in pioneering environmental education in South Africa back in 1986. We finally ended an exhausting day of driving with a game drive and cocktail sundowners, ending our two days with a feeling of melancholy and relaxation. Thank you to everyone at Waterberg, Rupert Baber in particular for hosting us and allowing us to explore his treasures of the Waterberg. We will be back. It is also a point of celebration that the GCBR will be hosting the next UNESCO MAB meeting in the Little Karoo end of March early April. We certainly look forward to hosting the biospheres in this regard.
“Precious” reposes between nappy liners and the George Herald. When it is dry, we will send it to Dr Anthony Magee to describe and put one specimen into the Southern Cape Herbarium. It was with huge relief that we found the Hippia sp. nova on the jeep track between the Rooiberg Pass and Bailey’s Peak. On the previous trip when we first found it, we didn’t know that it would turn out to be so special. Because of this, we didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to the locality. But it’s position on a damp south-facing bank on the steep bit of track just before Rooiberg, was almost impossible to miss the second time round.. This is the only place that it occurs on the 28km long jeep track.
Young Brian du Preez, who is studying Nature Conservation at Saasveld, had a rude introduction to life with the aunties and 1 uncle. Standing on the back of the bakkie for such a long time on a very rough road, was testing. By the time we got back to Gamkaberg, we were all good examples of the weatherbeaten/windswept look. It is impossible to wear a hat under those conditions, so Jean, Brian and I were red in the face from long hours in the sun. Skhumbuzo’s darker skin is much better suited to these conditions. Johnny drove superbly and seemed to cope well with Bill’s endless stream of questions. There were several bets taken on various localities. Johnny won them all. Considering the length of time that he’s been at Gamkaberg, I thought Bill was taking a bit of a chance arguing with him. But the leopard doesn’t change its spots.
We were able to get a specimen of the female of the Leucadendron sp. nova (album) from just below Bailey’s Peak. We didn’t notice any seedlings coming up after the fire, but we were short of time. Skhumbuzo and Johnny have promised to keep an eye out for small plants and report back to us. The scenery was as spectacular as I remembered it. The weather was kind with only the odd spit and a spot towards the end of a long day. We were very happy to get back to Gamkaberg, a comfortable seat and a glass of red wine. Zandile and Brenda popped in to say hello. It was their last day as interns and it was great to see them. Once again all our thanks must go to Tom and the Gamkaberg team. The rangers have just won the award for the top Ranger Team at Cape Nature. They more than deserve it. Thanks to all of you including the ladies, who have helped the Outramps to make 2012 our most successful year ever.
On the Wednesday prior to the Rooiberg trip, it was the WAGS Christmas party. The day dawned hot and clear, making it ideal for the Giant Kingfisher Trail at Wilderness. After the walk, we met at Ebb and Flow for a real feast. Everyone outdid themselves and it was great seeing some old friends as well. Thank you Marge for a wonderful year.
The field trip last Friday was washed out by some very welcome rain. So this week, we will once again try and visit Geissorhiza outeniquensis and Erica stylaris on the railway line on the Montagu Pass. We haven’t monitored this locality for about 2 years, so it’s more than time. Our usual 6 weeks break doesn’t seem to be happening this year. But what a year 2012 has been. We have found 2 totally new species and monitored 70 special plants that are new to the Outramps CREW Group. Site sheets will reach a massive 250 sites monitored. Our knowledge has increased exponentially during the course of this year, mainly due to iSpot. New experts are joining this SANBI website all the time, making it more and more effective as an id tool. Thanks Tony for all your hard work.
And lastly, “Congratulations to the Outramps Team for a brilliant year”.!!
Groete en dankie
Outramps CREW Group