TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Hanneline Smit-Robinson attended several meetings including with Martin Harper (RSPB), Dullstroom Trout Farm and Toyota regarding their support for the upcoming Flufftail Festival. Hanneline is currently participating in the Kruger Bird and Wildlife Challenge, a fundraiser for the conservation of the Critically Endangered White-winged Flufftail, arranged through the BirdLife International Species Champion, Rockjumper Birding Adventures. She has been guiding one of the teams and provides logistical support to the event. Melissa Whitecross presented a talk on the Southern Banded Snake Eagle (SBSE) Project to The Ridge School Junior Prep – the school will be raising funds as part of their centenary celebrations to fund the purchase of a tracking device for a SBSE. Melissa has submitted a permit application to EKZN Wildlife to fit tracking devices to juvenile Secretarybirds in KwaZulu-Natal. Melissa drafted a media release for the White-winged Flufftail Project and Kruger Challenge fundraiser which is supporting the species conservation work. Melissa will be guiding one of the Kruger Challenge teams as part of this fundraiser and has assisted in the logistics for this event. Linda van den Heever presented a talk on lead poisoning in vultures to the South African Hunters Forum in Pretoria. She participated in a workshop on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs), organised by Candice Stevens and Daniel Marnewick, and met with Martin Harper (RSPB) to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s lead project. On Friday and Saturday she participated in the 2019 Flufftail Festival, held at the Joburg Zoo. The event, co-hosted by BirdLife South Africa, Rand Water (Water Wise), Toyota, the Rare Finch Conservation Group, Joburg City Parks and Zoo and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, incorporated a schools event and an adult learner day, and focused on raising awareness about water, wetlands and waterbirds. A second event will be hosted at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria from 1 to 3 March.
Sam Ralston participated in an all-day “inception workshop" towards the development of Species Environmental Assessment Best Practice Guidelines. She met with Martin Harper (RSPB Conservation Director) to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s work on renewable energy and had a Skype meeting with Donovan de Swart who is considering doing his Environmental Management Masters mini-dissertation on assessing the impacts of renewable energy on birds.
SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel met with Compliance Director at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to discuss further training of compliance officers in seabird bycatch mitigation measures. She also met with Martin Harper, Conservation Director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to discuss the future direction of the ATF team. Reason Nyengera analysed data from temperature depth loggers, deployed to investigate sinking rates of Demersal longline fishing gear.
Nini van der Merwe, along with the rest of the project team, discussed final amendments to the agenda and continued to prepare for the upcoming global seabird assessment workshop.
Gough Island Restoration Project
Nini spent time with Andrew Callender, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, discussing the upcoming bait transport trial. She also conducted a few warehouse inspections and procured paper work for import permits.
Andrew de Blocq and Christina Hagen visited the De Hoop penguin colony site on Tuesday and Wednesday to do some maintenance on the electric fence and the CCTV cameras. Andrew and Christina also met with colleagues at SAEON about the hosting of the Atlas of Seabirds At Sea (AS@S) project on their servers. Andrew spent the remainder of the week organizing observers for upcoming and potential trips on vessels for the AS@S project, drafting articles, and assembling metadata for the penguin tracking project. Christina also attended a meeting at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries about the setting of the sardine quota for the year and worked on funding reports for donors.
The Seabird Conservation Programme staff along with Mark Anderson and Nndwa Muhali, Martin Harper and Andrew Callender of the RSPB and a number of Golden Bird Patrons attended a 'Penguin Party' hosted by Pamela and Neville Isdell at their beautiful home in Bantry Bay. The party celebrated the successful erection of a fence, the deployment of decoys and acoustic lures, and the installation of CCTV at the De Hoop Nature Reserve new colony site. The site is now officially ready for occupation by penguins. This is the culmination of many years of work the Isdells have supported. Pamela announced a further $150 000 in support for Christina's work, which covers this project for a further two years at least. Thank you, our Penguin Patron Pamela Isdell!!!
Estuary IBA Conservation Project
Giselle Murison attended the Bot River-Kleinmond and Klein River Estuary Advisory Forums this week, and provided updates on bird information signage at the Klein, and bird monitoring at the estuaries in the Cape Whale Coast IBA. The Forums also included feedback on the Estuary Management Framework and Implementation Strategy, and presentations on the results of the National Estuaries (Water) Monitoring Programme. On Friday, Giselle also participated in a workshop on the delegations and role players for the by-law relating to the management and use of the Berg River Estuary, as well as the next steps in progressing with the estuary management plan.
Blue Swallow Monitoring Project
The Blue Swallow monitoring season is proceeding with, again, some better news this week. A site that has in the last few years not reported any breeding activity (Buddhist Retreat, Ixopo) has produced 2 fledglings which were seen with their parents this week. In addition, the adult pair are flying in and out of nest holes and so there is a good chance that they may breed again this season. Steve McKean met with Brent Coverdale (EKZNW) to update the coordination of the monitoring effort this year. Brent has also now completed a draft of the BirdLife South Africa – Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Memorandum of Agreement and will be sending this to Daniel Marnewick and Dale Wright for comment.
Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project
Trewirgie, Sunnyvale and Tillietudlem areas are still in the midst of the required 60 day public participation process, as part of the required process to declare these areas as Nature Reserves. Steve McKean is revising the draft declaration agreements for these properties so that they comply with the latest requirements and reflect accurate and correct information, before meeting with landowners to finalise these agreements.
Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas
Simeon Bezeng and Domitilla Raimondo had a BASPA engagement meeting at Nature Kenya on 4 February, and with a technical team put together to coordinate the BASPA project in Kenya. Issues around data availability for red listing and funding to support in-country project implementation were discussed. Following this meeting, Bezeng is drafting a funding proposal for the JRS biodiversity Foundation. Simeon Bezeng, Paul Matiku and Domitilla Raimondo had a funding meeting on 5 February with officials from the Kenyan USAID environment mission to scope if USAID can fund KBA delineation in Kenya. Bezeng also followed up with the BASPA contract renewal and the final agreement has been sent to Global Wildlife Conservation for approval.
Other Effective Area Based Conservation Measures
Daniel Marnewick and Candice Stevens hosted a full day workshop with key stakeholders to assess the proposed OECM framework and Assessment Tool that has been compiled. This is a very complicated process as it takes a very theoretical, high level international target (Aichi Target 11), and tries to implement it on the ground, in the South African context. The proposed list of candidate OECMs was broadly accepted by stakeholders and the OECM types were then run through the assessment tool by experts in each field. While minor changes need to be incorporated to better the process, the OECM criteria were accepted and it was widely acknowledged as a useful tool to ultimately incorporate into the existing biodiversity stewardship framework and community of practice. Feedback from stakeholders was extremely helpful and will assist the project going forward. Specific sites, within the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere Region, will now be selected to further assess the assessment tool and provide empirical data for the South African case study.
POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME
Candice Stevens, together with Daniel Marnewick, hosted the second National Workshop on Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECMs) this week, which saw experts and stakeholders from around the country engaging on this pioneering topic. OECMs form part of Aichi Target 11 on area-based conservation but have never been investigated or explored before. The OECM Project that we are leading is the first country level review and assessment of OECMs globally and places South Africa at the forefront of area-based conservation policy and implementation. The OECM topic is challenging but the workshop was full of interesting and positive outcomes. The Project has now been able to identify South African focus groups to further identify South Africa’s OECMs in-country. This will also be tested at the Project’s case study area with Kruger2Canyons. All these processes are being developed into a global methodology for other countries to use. Candice also met with Martin Harper from the RSPB this week and explored possible lesson-sharing opportunities around innovative biodiversity finance for conservation.
This week Jonathan Booth organized and facilitated a workshop attended by SANBI, the CSIR, BirdLife South Africa and Enviro-Insight on the best practice guidelines for species impact assessments that BirdLife South Africa and SANBI are producing. He also worked on the Policy and Advocacy programme strategy and finalized a coalition of partners to oppose a mining application in the Moutonshoek Protected Environment.
Ellane van Wyk, Tax Extension Office for the Fiscal Benefits Project, had a meeting with Garth Mortimer, Senior Manager: Protected Area Expansion & Stewardship for CapeNature, where a strategy around prioritising the tax extension work for the Western Cape stewardship sites were discussed and planned. A number of landowners will be approached (with the assistance of the stewardship extension officers) in the coming two to three weeks. Some sites which are on the verge of being declared were identified to have meetings with the landowners about rather declaring 99yr contracts instead of 30yr contracts, as the former provides a potentially more beneficial tax position. Ellane also attended the Protected Area Expansion Meeting at the Helderberg Nature Reserve, where stewardship staff presented their progress reports. Kevin McCann of Conservation Outcomes also presented the position and way forward with regard to ‘old’ private nature reserves (PNRs) which are going to be regularised and brought into the NEMPAA scope. Ellane gave inputs regarding this process in order to also provide these PNRs with the opportunity of accessing the section 37D tax benefit. Considering this early in the regularisation process will enhance and extend the tax extension service. Finally, Ellane had detailed discussions with Kevin McCann and Alan Wheeler about numerous sites which will be engaged with on the tax benefit.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
A large proportion of time was spent working on the drafting of legislation aimed at protecting avifauna in Mozambique. A section on the sustainable utilisation of avifauna, including regulations for hunting, was completed as were lists of threatened species as well as migratory species that should receive protection. Planning was undertaken for an upcoming KAZA Bird Conservation Working group meeting to be held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe as well as a meeting including Peace parks Foundation and Boundless Southern Africa in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A Skype meeting was held with Ian Barber to provide him with an update on partner development work. A meeting was held with Martin Harper of the RSPB to update him on work undertaken in southern Africa with particular reference to RSPB supported work in Zimbabwe.
Mark Anderson attended many meetings this past week, both in Johannesburg and Cape Town. These included a meeting with Dullstroom Trout Farm, a BirdLife African Regional Committee meeting, an Arderne Garden/BirdLife South Africa fundraiser organising committee meeting, Gough Island Restoration Project SteerCo, meeting with Dr Guy Preston (DDG, DEA), and meeting with Dr Morne du Plessis (CEO, WWF-SA). Mark hosted Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Global Conservation Director, in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and they had extensive discussions about a range of subjects. He also attended the Penguin Party that was kindly hosted by Pamela and Neville Isdell, and presented a brunch talk on Saturday to the SANParks Honorary Rangers (Pretoria Region). Kamfers Dam’s flamingos kept him very busy during the week, and he headed off to Kimberley (his second trip in a week) for meetings with the stakeholders.