Tag Archives: Working for Wetlands

Working for Wetlands- Kamiesberg, Northern Cape


Mission: Finding areas of Erosion in the Wetlands of Kamiesberg
Date: 19 July 2008
Requesting organisation: Working for Wetlands
Location: Kamiesberg, Northern Cape
Pilot: Harold Bloch

Report by Harold Bloch
Report on the Kamiesberg by Winston Coe

The Kamiesberg flight was the sixth and final mission in 2008 for Working for Wetlands.  The mission was flown by Bateleurs pilot Harold Bloch of Cape Town, and this is the short report he sent us after the flight:

Report by Harold Bloch

“We had a great flight on Saturday 19th July, startng at 06h30 on a cold and misty morning. The team was made up of Nancy Job, a Wetland Specialist, Winston Coe, the Provincial Co-ordinator for Working for Wetlands, Graham Smith who is a fellow Bateleurs pilot, and myself.

We took off and flew to Garies/Kammieskroon/Leliefontein in Namaqualand, where we started our low level survey.

Nancy was particularly eager to find areas of erosions in the wetlands. Often this starts next to roads where the necessary drainage had been under-engineered.  Farmers grow their crops [mainly sheep fodder] in the wetland areas and in so doing have drained the wetlands. However, the area is in pristine condition and it was very exciting to see the area after the rains with springs issuing from every granite outcrop. The amount of water was truly amazing. Nancy was delighted and felt she had enough material to get started.  The repairs will be done by the community with the consent of the farmer. The Dept of Public Works supervises the repairs using local community workers and in so doing provides jobs for local people.

The flight to Kammieskroon was over thick low level fog.  But miraculously it cleared in the survey area and stayed that way while we worked. The return flight was again over thick fog.  A coastal survey had been requested but this was impossible due to the fog.

Something else of interest was the destructive operations of potato farmers along the west coast.  They use centre pivots and farm a plantation for 3-4 years, after which the ground becomes infected by a potato blight which they treat by letting the ground lie fallow for 10 years. They then create another centre pivot plantation next to the first one, and this pattern continues so that an area may have 5 -10 fallow centre pivot plantations and only one being actively farmed.  Apparently this plays havoc with the aquifers in the area. The huge amount of destruction to the fynbos was really sad to see in this marginal area.”

kamiesberg2_19072008Report on the Kamiesberg by Winston Coe

“The Kamiesberg Local Municipality is custodian of the Kamiesberg centre of endemism – a distinctive and unique bioregion located in the high-lying region of the uplands, an area just north of the town of Garies. This area constitutes a key priority for conservation by virtue of its remarkable biodiversity and high levels of endemism – plants and invertebrates are found here that occur nowhere else in the world.

The flight to Garies left from Stellenbosch airfield at 07h00 in favourable weather, although low clouds covered the landscape.  We were treated soon after take-off to the full moon setting on one side and the sun rising on the other.  A small amount of snow remained on the Winterhoek mountains.  We traveled in the direction of Piketberg, over the Riebeeck Kasteel mountains and north along the Olifants River, which had recently been in flood, and the Knersvlakte plains, before reaching Garies at the base of the Kamiesberg Uplands. From there on our flight remained within the upper reaches of the two montane catchments (F30A and F50A).

The flight was extremely valuable in providing an overview of the wetlands of the Kamiesberg Uplands and definitely helped confirm the location of the handful of largest remaining intact wetland systems.  Unfortunately it also very starkly brought to light the extent of wetland loss.  Previously it was thought that there had been a loss of 30% of the wetland area.  It now appears that the loss of the original extent of granite renosterveld valley bottom wetlands in the Kamiesberg Uplands is more likely to be around 70% or more.  Two areas of intact wetland abutted by cultivation were identified for further investigation.  A third site was photographed, where a known headcut occurs, and it is expected that ground surveys will locate sites for intervention.

The considerable experience of our Bateleurs pilot and navigator ensured an extremely efficient flight and that we were well-placed to thoroughly investigate the area.  Further, both were experienced at placing the aircraft for the perfect photo, and we are lucky to have Harold’s photographs as proof of this.  Our flight lasted approximately four hours.  We returned just after 11h00, grateful to have been in the hands of two very capable pilots and for the opportunity which The Bateleurs continues to offer to the Working for Wetlands programme.”

Working for Wetands – Bushbuckridge


Mission: Identify Wetland Habitats Suitable for Rehabilitation
Date: 28 June 2008
Requesting organisation: Working for Wetlands
Location: Bushbuckridge, Limpopo
Pilot: Hill van Schalkwyk

One of our newest pilot members, Hill van Schalkwyk, volunteered to fly Craig Cowden and Anton Bothma to survey wetland habitat associated with the Sand River near Bushbuckridge in Limpopo.  The photograph above shows the survey team, comprising (from the left):  Hill van Schalkwyk – Bateleurs pilot, Craig Cowden – Area Manager for LRI, and Anton Bothma – the Project Implementor of the Eastern Wetland Rehabilitation project. The flight took place from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport at the end of June, and this is the enthusiastic report from Hill:

“Flying my first mission for The Bateleurs was one of my flying highlights!  It is possible that I over-planned the whole mission as Craig Cowden, the Area Manager, was calm and collected and knew exactly what needed to be done. He was familiar with the terrain and knew the area well from the air.  We were accompanied by Anton Bothma who is responsible for the implementation of wetland rehabilitation in that area. He too knew the area well, and all their knowledge made my task of flying so much easier. We met at Kruger Mpumalanga airport which is an hour’s flight from my home base in Polokwane/Pietersburg. The day started slightly later than expected due to the poor visibility in the early morning and the heavy smog all the way to Nelspruit. When I was planning the operation I realised that the weather would have the final say, but in the end it turned out to be a brilliant flying day.

We departed Kruger Mpumalanga at 099h15 and arrived at our “site” – the Save the Sand project – 20 minutes later. All the points that I had carefully marked on my GPS were spotted in a flash by the two professionals.  They discussed issues that did not make much sense to me, but obviously knew exactly what they were looking for. The stable weather made it possible to fly low and slow – very safely!

The area near Bushbuckridge is clearly seriously damaged as a result of erosion and it was heartwarming for an outsider to learn about the interventions being planned to save the wetlands.  Unfortunately, as per anecdotes related by my passengers, some of the structures put in place to save the wetlands occasionally end up as walls in houses, or even as chicken pens!”

wetlands_bushbuckridge2_28062008The escarpment near Mariepskop

“For me one of the highlights of the day came when we had to fly to the top of Mariepskop where the old radar station was built in the 1950s. It was launched to establish a chain of radar stations along the border of the then Transvaal in order to protect the Witwatersrand area from possible aerial attack.  On the eastern side of the Drakensberg escarpment, facing away from the Blyde River Canyon, is the Mariepskop complex, a mountain enclave and centre of endemism of unsurpassed beauty. Mariepskop is the highest peak in the northern Drakensberg and from 1,945m above sea level, on a clear day, you can see the Indian Ocean and Maputo.

We returned by flying down a ravine back to the Lowveld and then straight on to Kruger Mpumalanga International.

Thanks a lot for the opportunity!”


Save the Sand surveyed by Craig Cowden

wetlands_bushbuckridge3_28062008This photo illustrates several large erosion gullies in the centre of the picture.

And here are extracts from the report of this same flight, from Craig Cowden:

“The flight was carried out from the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport by Hill van Schalkwyk.  This was Hill’s first flight for The Bateleurs, but he was more than capable of adjusting to the demanding requirements of the Working for Wetlands project team’s requests to “turn right – NOW”.

Nine wetland sites were identified with the project area, of which seven were prioritised as having ‘moderate’ to ‘high’ potential for rehabilitation.  The majority of the problems associated with the wetlands related to headcut and gully erosion.  Unfortunately, the wetelands within the project area have been severely impacted upon by over-grazing and erosion, with the majority of the valleys being seen as ‘lost causes’.  Due to the small size of the catchment the team was able also to fly over the Mariepskop Nature Reserve, identified as an area with potential for rehabilitation, in addition to the X32A quaternary catchment.

As a whole the flight was highly effective in reducing the otherwise difficult and lengthy process of identifying problems by vehicle or on foot, as well as eliminating the need t identify and contact landowners (to request permission to enter onto their land) within the project areas.”

The sixth and final flight for Working for Wetlands in 2008 will be presented in our next Newsletter.

Working for Wetlands – Maluti-A-Phofung


Mission: Identify Wetland Habitats Suitable for Rehabilitation
Date: 23 June 2008
Requesting organisation: Working for Wetlands
Location: Maluti-A-Phofung, Free State
Pilot: Dries Lategan

It was Bateleurs pilot Dries Lategan who answered our call for a volunteer to fly the Working for Wetlands team to survey the Maluti-a-Phofung area.  A message from Dries after the mission confirmed that weather conditions (minus 4 degrees C with heavy frost) in and around Harrismith had been perfect for flying, and that all the wetland areas between Harrismith and QwaQwa had been identified.

The photograph shows (from the left):  Dries Lategan, Bateleurs pilot, Trevor Pike of Land Resources International (LRI), Thilivhali Nyambeni – Provincial Co-ordinator for Working for Wetlands, and Doug McCulloch, also of LRI.

wetlands_maluti2_23062008This photo shows relatively small erosion gullies and headcuts threatening a large wetland.

Here are some extracts from the report by Trevor Pike of Land Resources International:

“The focus of the assessment was wetland habitat associated with the Elands River, particularly the northern areas of the quaternary catchments.  The flight was carried out from the Harrismith airfield by Dries Lategan in his Cessna 210.  Dries had previously carried out survey flights of the Wilge and Seekoeivlei project areas and was therefore well aware of the specific requirements for an aerial survey of welands.  This, together with his local knowledge of the area, was invaluable in producing a very successful flight.

Twenty-one wetland sites were identified within the project area, of which eleven were prioritised as having good potential for wetland rehabilitation.  An additional twenty-four wetlands were identified just outside the prioritised catchments.  Many of these sites had good potential for rehabilitation and will be considered when planning for future rehabilitation projects.”

Working for Wetlands – Ezemvelo


Mission: Identify Wetland Habitats Suitable for Rehabilitation
Date: 19 June 2008
Requesting organisation: Working for Wetlands
Location: Ezemvelo Area,  Eastern Gauteng
Pilot: Wouter van Ginkel

This photo shows wetland habitat associated with the upper reaches of the Honde River, with a few erosion problems.

Bateleurs pilot Wouter van Ginkel volunteered for the mission to survey wetland habitat in the Ezemvelo area, in eastern Gauteng.  The Working for Wetlands Team comprised Co-ordinator Retief Grobler, accompanied by Thomani Manungufula.  Here are some extracts from the report by Retief:

“The focus of the assessment was to identify wetland habitats suitable for rehabilitation in Gauteng that are primarily associated with drainage lnes forming part of the Upper Olifants River Catchment (Wilge River Catchment in Gauteng).

In general, surveyed drainage lines flowed in two different directions:  the larger area drained eastward along the Wilge River System into Loskop Dam . . . while the remaining area drained northwards along the Elands River System into Rust de Winter dam.  Both the Wilge and Elands rivers are part of the Olifants River Catchment.

The surveyed Gauteng portion of the Wilge River catchment is currently unaffected by coal miing and is largely intact, with the main land use being related to agricultural practices.  Wetlands in this area therefore considered as important sources of good quality water to the Olifants River, which helps to partially dilute some of the existing pollution.  Opportunities were therefore sought to protect (secure) existing wetland habitat by stabilising erosion features, while improvements in the provision of wetland ecosystems services, via rewetting of desiccated areas, were also targeted.  Tributaries of the Wilge River that were investigated from the air included the Osspruit, Honde River, and several unnamed ddainage lines. …
The survey was considered a success despite the hazy conditions typical of the Highveld during winter.  The Working for Wetlands tean expressed their gratitude for the flight and confirmed that they had accomplished what they set out to do.  A big thank you to The Bateleurs for affording us the opportunity to fly for a good cause!”

Working for Wetands -Suikerbosrand and surrounds


Mission:Identify Wetland Habitats Suitable for Rehabilitation
Date: 11 June 2008
Requesting organisation: Working for Wetlands
Location: Suikerbosrand and surrounds, Gauteng South
Pilot: Rob Osner and Tony Kent

The photo illustrates an unchannelled valley bottom wetland to the left of the road inside Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve.

The Suikerbosrand mission for Working for Wetlands was flown by Rob Osner with Tony Kent acting as his co-pilot.  This is the report prepared by Tony:

“Rob Osner and I volunteered to fly this mission request in his neat C210 out of Brakpan Benoni Airfield.

Retief Grobler and Thomani Manungufala from Working for Wetlands arrived early, armed with their cameras, GPS and Google pictures. Both are veterans at aerial surveys so the ground brief covered just the intended route – starting at Suikerbosrand, heading westerly, taking in the Blesbokspruit, Meyerton area, Rietspruit running through Evaton, then further west to the Fochville area, before completing a circular routing back to our home base.

By 09h00 we were airborne and immediately noted that horizontal visibility was rather hazy, thanks to the usual winter Gauteng smog!  Within five minutes, we were over our target area. The Suikerbosrand is a hilly area near Heidelberg running East-West, and is a declared nature reserve with plenty of zebra, wildebeest, impala and other game and birds.  It is a favourite hiking area, with overnight huts if you take the longer walks. Retief had identified six points he wanted to see and photograph, and this was a little challenging as Suikerbosrand is a relatively small area of about 30 km x 12 km.  In addition, as we flew, a few new sites needing attention presented themselves.  They needed to be photographed and have their co-ordinates noted, and this required some fairly aggressive aerial manoeuvering!  Depending on the light, Rob would position the aircraft for the best camera angle for either Retief or Thomani to snap away.

We then headed westward, which thankfully was more relaxing and gave everyone a chance to settle their tummies …

The fix at Meyerton passed quickly, as did the Rietspruit at Evaton, and onward to the four fixes in the Fochville area.

We then routed southeast towards Vanderbijlpark, flying over Boipatong and Sharpeville before intercepting the confluence of “three rivers” at Vereeniging. We then followed the Suikerbosrant River back towards Heidelberg, and finally back to Brakpan Airfield.  Just over 1.5 hours later we landed back home safely.

Our guests from Working for Wetlands expressed their gratitude for the flight, and confirmed that  they had accomplished what they set out to do.

From the pilots, again, thank you to The Bateleurs for affording us the opportunity to fly for a good cause!!”