Conservancies - private conservation initiatives

Conservancies - private conservation initiatives from Chronicle - Environmental News for South Africa

By: Chronicle - Environmental News for South Africa  05-24-2009
Keywords: Biodiversity, Conservancies

A growing concern about the environment and humankind's impact on natural resources has led many people to ask "What can I do?"

For some the concern about sustainability, the energy crisis and water scarcity has triggered a different lifestyle. Homes are geared to be less resource intensive, and people make an effort to consume less.

Other people have looked with appreciation at what they have in their own backyard. They have recognised that in order to protect the environment in which they live, co-operation is essential. Working with others - stakeholders in the same situation - in a collaborative manner strengthens their ability to make a difference where they live.

Conservancies are about doing something "in your own backyard". A conservancy is the entry-level to community-based conservation. Unlike other conservation initiatives, conservancies do not require you to set aside vast tracts of land and to actively stock wild animals. Conservancies can be anywhere and any size.

Conservancies may be a rural natural area, a small space in an urban setting, a school or an industrial plot. Wherever the land is managed according to sound environmental principles and best environmental practices, you may register a conservancy.

The first conservancy was established in 1978 in the Balgowan district of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands and was formed by local farmers with guidance from the Natal Parks Board. The primary objective was to protect game on the farmlands and so this initiative became the first to protect natural areas outside of formally protected reserves.

Since then, conservancies have contributed to the protection of specific biodiversity hotspots, provided green corridors for the movement of game, and protected habitats and occurrences of rare and endangered species - plant and animal.

Of the more unusual conservancies is the Marionhill Landfill Conservancy. This is an excellent example of an ecosystem restoration project. Additionally, Durban has launched Africa's first landfill gas to electricity project at the Marianhill Landfill Conservancy. The project that converts landfill gas to electricity, will produce enough electricity for thousands of homes and inject tens of millions of rands into city coffers through the sale of "green" electricity.

There are rural conservancies protecting specific biomes, ecosystems or species. In Gauteng, the Klipkop Wildlife Sanctuary is a specialist buck reserve, located on a rare and endangered type of high altitude grassland called Bankenveld.\Bankenveld is found exclusively on South Africa's interior plateau and centred around Johannesburg.

Other conservancies also protect sites of historical, archaeological and paleontological significance. One such Conservancy is the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy located within the proposed buffer zone of the Cradle of Humandkind. Some locations are "littered" with archaeological debris, and there are dig sites where Dr Broom worked at the time of the discovery of Mrs Ples at Sterkfontein. A linked karst landscape underlies the northern parts of the Conservancy, and treasures yet to be discovered are protected by residents sensitive to the rich history underfoot.

Registration of a conservancy does not require a change in land use. There are many farms that are part of conservancies. An interesting example is in the Northern Cape where farmers work to protect the most endangered mammal in southern Africa - the Riverine Rabbit. Habitats are identified so that farming activities avoid encroaching on the areas where the riverine rabbit is found.

There are also more general activities which many conservancies share as practical ways to make to protect the environment. These include:

  • Monitoring river and catchment pollution, often leading to river cleanup activities
  • Invasive alien pant control
  • Education and awareness programs
  • Waste recycling drives
  • Identification, monitoring and protection of rare and endangered species
  • Mitigation of pollution
  • Erosion control

To locate a conservancy in your province, visit our website. 

Keywords: Biodiversity, Conservancies

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