Send in the eland
By Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
The Gantouw Project
About pruning and browsing
They say the best way to achieve a perfect lawn is to have a resident sheep. (An actually sheep, not the bead wire our neighbour has) Sheep mow in a Paris park.
Prince Charles at Highgrove when the petticoats on the trees are trailing says - send in the cows - so I would prune our Porterville ash trees to shoulder height.
From a Californian blogger - you are the fire, you are the deer. Prune hard!
The Gantouw Project is returning eland (Dutch settlers used their word for elk or moose) to the Cape Flats. Gantouw is Khoi for the Way of the Eland. Hunter gatherers followed the migrating eland across the mountain pass. Later followed by settlers in their ox wagons (ruts in the stone can be seen by hikers). Today the road is across Sir Lowry's Pass. That wonderful moment of coming home, when we see Table Mountain and the sea in the far distance.
We had an early appointment to see the eland. Between 8 and 9 in the morning. Running around between the piles of branches were a family of mongoose.
At Rondevlei there are small antelope like grysbok and duiker - but their delicate appetite is like dead-heading the roses - doesn't make a visible difference. To open paths and make space for bulbs and annuals - the rare and endangered plants for this remnant of Sand Fynbos - it needs the hearty appetite (about 24 kilograms a day) of our largest antelope the eland. The eland can make a difference to the three exuberant shrubs. Pictures of browse lines. Blombos Metalasia has honey-scented tiny white flowers. Searsia (was Rhus) grow in our garden, and lie in those piles of felled branches waiting for the next controlled burn (20 April 2016 hoping for Rondevlei spiderhead seedlings) (the controlled burn took place). Bietou Osteospermum moniliferum is also in our garden.
Five eland calves came from Bartholomeus Klip. 2 males (which have been castrated, breeding not wanted and also to make them friendlier to their monitors) and 3 females.
Project monitors always escort the animals. Teaching them to return to the boma at night where they can be safe from potential poaching. If the project is successful the eland herd will be 'migrated' around Cape Town's reserves - opening up paths and restoring 'lost' plants. They will be taught to enter the trailer - avoiding darting, immobilisation and associated stress.
Gantouw Project is in a separate part of Rondevlei Nature Reserve where there is a seasonal pan. Again a pruning problem. This time, reeds. Hippos were brought in to trample paths down to the water for smaller animals. It was so exciting then! Now it seems ancient history. Nearby Zeekoevlei is named for once were hippos.
'Hippo leg bones, estimated to be about 300 years old, were uncovered by [the new] Rondevlei's hippos while they were excavating a deep wallow in the vlei. These bones are the first real evidence that the animals once occurred in the sanctuary'
Despite the - come back when we've had some rain - we did see dramatic flowers. April Fool. Haemanthus coccineus
And birds in the distance ('where seepage from the Cape Flats Waste Water Treatment Works keeps this wetland permanently full'). Flamingoes and pelicans.
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