2009 Missions

Land Cover Classification for the CSIR

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Mission: Test the aerial surveying technique for a project which develops classification techniques to update the current National Land Cover (NLC), and which will produce maps which abide with international classification standards
Date: 31 August 2009
Requesting organisation: Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)
Location: Centurion and Vereeniging, Gauteng
Pilot: Tony Kent and Rob Osner

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Crocodile Counts 2 and 3 for UKZN

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Mission: Counting Nile Crocodiles
Requesting organisation: University of KwaZulu-Natal
Location: Pongolapoort Dam and St Lucia Estuary
Pilot: Donavan Bailey and Donovan Barton-Hobbs

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Nile Crocodile count in Pongolapoort Dam

Mission: Nile Crocodile count in Pongolapoort Dam

Requesting organisation: Garreth Champion of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus
Location: Pongolapoort Dam
Pilot: Donavan Bailey

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The N2 Toll Road

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Mission: Monitor Bridge Building along N2 Toll Road
Date: 14 August 2009
Requesting organisation: John Clarke of Sustaining the Wild Coast
Location: Wild Coast, Transkei Coast
Pilot: Nick Lincoln

On the morning of 12th August we were contacted by John Clarke of Sustaining the Wild Coast, wanting to do a monitoring flight along the Wild Coast to determine whether or not bridge-building had begun along the controversial N2 Toll Road.  For one reason or another our usual Bateleurs pilots were unavailable, but we were put in touch with Nick Lincoln in KwaZulu-Natal.  We explained our situation to him and by the end of the following day we had found ourselves a new member, John Clarke and his team were booked to fly from Johannesburg to Durban early the next morning, and another Bateleurs mission was under way.  John Clarke has provided us with a detailed report of this mission which includes a great deal of fascinating historical and anecdotal background.  Unfortunately space limitations mean that we are unable to reproduce John’s report in its entirety, but anyone wishing to see the full report should please contact info@bateleurs.org to request a copy.  Please find below extracts from John’s report.

A map demonstrating the proximity of proposed mining operations to the N2 Toll Road

Investigation of construction on the N2 Toll Road
by passenger John Clarke

“On Wednesday 12 August 2009, following a conversation between myself and Queen Sigcau  to arrange for the AmaDiba Crisis Committee to visit Qaukeni to report the fraudulent use of names, forged signatures and deceit by mining rights applicants in claiming local support for mining activities on the Wild Coast, and various reports that construction work had already started on the N2 prior to environmental approval having been given, I contacted the Minister of Transport, Subusiso Ndebele, and was advised that he would return my call.

To ready myself to give as factual a report as possible to the Minister, I consulted Cormack Cullinan, the environmental attorney who was representing SWC and local residents in the matter of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road proposal.   He advised that we should obtain firsthand confirmation that construction work had already begun.  Stuck in Johannesburg I puzzled over how best to do this and decided to call The Bateleurs to see if they could fly me over the route.

Continuing the extraordinary commitment to environmental stewardship shown by the late Nora Kreher, founder of The Bateleurs, and within forty-eight hours, The Bateleurs and their (newest) pilot, Nick Lincoln,  had me airborne, together with veteran Sunday Tribune journalist Fred Kockott and cameraman Luke Frankel, heading for the Wild Coast.

The flight along the 85 km stretch of this controversial road produced no evidence of road construction having commenced.  This was very good news indeed, although it deprived Fred Kockott of a potential front page story.  After three years of constant battle I was weary of the confrontation and adversarial positioning. Now that we have the ear of Minister Ndebele and a new government administration, it is high time for ‘swords to be turned into ploughshares’, so that hardworking individual activists and all the Pondo people can be left in peace to cultivate their soils and graze their cattle.

I arrived back in Johannesburg the following day and as I entered the front door and put down my bag, my cell phone rang. It was Minister Ndebele himself, and he was as relieved to hear my report as I had been for the generous support of The Bateleurs, which ensured that I was able to give the Minister an up-to-the-minute and credible account of the situation.”

An aerial view of our beautiful Wild Coast

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Leopard Tracking for the Cape Leopard Trust

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Mission: Track Collared Leopards
Date: 4 August 2009
Requesting organisation: Cape Leopard Trust
Location: Cederberg, Western Cape
Pilot: Johan Ferreira

In August pilot Johan Ferreira flew the third of our missions this year to help Quinton Martins of the Cape Leopard Trust to track collared leopards in the Cederberg, in the Western Cape.

From the left:  Bateleurs pilot Johan Ferreira, with Quinton Martins and Willem Titus of the Cape Leopard Trust

Leopard Tracking for the Cape Leopard Trust
by passenger Quinton Martins

“On the 4th of August 2009 Johan Ferreira and I took to the air on a chilly Cederberg winter morning.  Our mission was to locate and track F5, otherwise known as ‘Lizzy’, our female leopard.   A few months prior to this flight we had tried to track her with a helicopter – also a Bateleurs flight – but had no luck. We suspected her collar had died on us, but were concerned that she too she might have died as we had seen no sign of her.  Unfortunately, this flight was no different.  Although it was a stunning morning and we enjoyed great flight, we did not hear a peep on the VHF receiver as we circled several times around a 500 sq. km area.

That was that!  There was no way of finding Lizzy using her R30,000 collar, so we set up more infra-red camera traps in her area.  Eventually, on the 3rd of September, we retrieved one of the digital camera cards and to our great relief saw Lizzy in good health, sniffing the perfume we use to slow them down as they walk past the cameras. The downside is that her collar has definitely malfunctioned and we have possibly lost a whole year’s worth of very valuable data.  We will try and recapture her to remove the collar in the new year once it has cooled down a little.  With any luck, the data may yet be retrieved.

Many thanks to The Bateleurs and Johan for their amazing support.  Tracking these elusive cats in these wild mountains will always be difficult, but the flights made possible by The Bateleurs have been an incredible help.”