Newsletter - Summer 2010/2011

During Summertime, interesting wildlife seems to abound – perhaps it is simply because we are out and about a bit more? Kevin Culverwell was thrilled to see a Starred Robin in the forest on Ray Martinaglias' property. Éidín Griffin could hardly believe her eyes when an Aardvark crossed the Dargle river bridge in front of her late one night! The Bronners' have had a succession of chameleons wandering into their living room and the Downards' report that the Buff Spotted Flufftail has taken up his seasonal residence outside their bedroom window. Kevin Barnsley was very excited to observe a pair of Blue Cranes with a chick foraging in the maize lands on Sinclair's and a pair of Crowned cranes on Portmore too. We have heard reports of leopard just over the hills in Balgowan too – very exciting! Wildflowers were a bit late, but the spectacular display of Brunsvegia radulosa (Pink Candelabra) at Phumula along the Dargle road was unmissable. The Eucomis (pineapple flower) family have also been flowering profusely, with three different species seen on Old Kilgobbin Farm.

The first bird the kids from Dargle School spotted on their forest walk earlier this Summer, was isiqgobhamithi (an Olive Woodpecker) and pretty exciting! Expert Bird Guide, Michael Blose, told everyone that this was a special for the area and that tourists came from far and wide to see it.

Before setting off, the Midlands Meander Education Project facilitators taught everyone about bird families, how to identify different birds using the bird guides and did some simple drawing activities to enhance their forest experience. Keeping their eyes peeled, the group wandered up the path, over roots and rocks and through rustling leaf litter, marvelling at the Strangler Figs and giant Celtis Africana trees. They found a peaceful clearing to spend some time in quiet contemplation, exploring the surroundings with their ears, before tucking into their picnic. After lunch everyone listened to a story of a small seed that grew into a tall tree, before exploring the forest area and gathering leaves to make a 'leaf-sosatie' showing leaves in a progressive state of decomposition. Before leaving, everyone blessed the clearing with kisses to thank the forest for hosting them and set off back down the trail, stopping at a big fallen tree to discuss how life never ends in a forest. The dead tree provides food for mushrooms and other fungi, new homes for insects, and most importantly opens up the canopy to let in light so that a new tree and germinate and grow. Emerging from the cool canopy into the heat of the day, everyone agreed that the Dargle Mist-Belt Forest was a magical place indeed and hoped to visit again soon. This trip was made possible with the help of generous locals, Katie Robinson, Irma Willan and Rose Downard.

In March, learners from Corrie Lynn Primary will be exploring the forest at Kilgobbin Cottage as part of their Special Eco-Schools Theme for the International Year of Forests. In 2010, Corrie Lynn achieved International Eco-Schools status, joining an elite group of about 80 schools in South Africa to have achieved this. Congratulations must go the dedicated and committed teachers whose hard work made this possible. In December, the Grade 7 class (about to go off to High School) organised a workshop for the community around their school to tell them about the importance of conserving the wetland nearby. They stood in front, confident and proud to share with the residents what they have learnt throughout the year, using wetland posters and charts. They talked about the importance of wetlands, different kinds of pollution and explained the ecosystem. The parents were so delighted and proud of their kids. In closing, they asked the question "what can we do to protect and to keep our wetlands healthy?" Many different ideas were voiced and everyone promised to try their best not to harm the wetlands.

How fortunate we are in the Dargle to have two such exceptional little schools. Please do all you can to support them and encourage your staff and neighbours to enrol their children locally. Education is far superior here than at the big schools in Howick, with personal attention, lots of love, well stocked libraries and good feeding programmes too. The Dargle Conservancy supports the Midlands Meander Education Project to do Environmental Education in the two Dargle Schools.

Don't forget to take the opportunity to spend a hot summer morning under the cool canopy on our regular Forest Walks. First Thursday of the month at Kilgobbin Cottage D707. 3 March, 7 April. Call Barend Booysen to book 082 787 0797

Recent research by Dr Jean Harris (EKZNW) indicates that at the current rate of transformation all remaining land not under formal conservation will be completely transformed in 37 years time. Well, we just simply cannot allow that to happen but it does bring home the point that the future of conservation, particularly biodiversity protection, is in the hands of the private sector and private landowner in particular.

The Wildlands Conservation Trust (WCT) approached us in November, to consider submitting a project proposal for funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF). The CEPF is an international partnership between l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank (see for more information). You may have noticed the article in the local newspapers when WCT was appointed as the implementing agent.

There are 34 biodiversity hot spots on Earth and the CEPF exists to support initiatives that protect biodiversity in these hotspots. Three of these hotspots occur in SA and the KZ Midlands falls into one of these : the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot. Within this hotspot, specific priority nodes have identified and the Mildlands falls slap bang into one of them! A small Dargle Conservancy Committee task team has spent a considerable amount of time working on the proposal over the past two months and has finally submitted it for approval. Wildlands seem very confident about our chances of securing the funding. This is a short synopsis of our Vision and Plan:
Project Vision: To highlight the biodiversity value of the remaining unmodified mist belt grasslands and indigenous forest to civil society, focusing on important environmental issues and inspiring greater community action. To bring together landowners, the greater community and relevant government and NGO role players in a way that contributes meaningfully to sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation, through the Protected Areas Act (PAA) and the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme (BSP).

In conjunction with BSP the Dargle Conservancy successfully facilitated the initial process with landowners for the establishment of the "Dargle Nature Reserve". This initial phase has resulted in 10 landowners cooperating to set aside approximately 2500 ha of indigenous forest and grassland which has met all the criteria to be granted full Nature Reserve status in terms of the Protected Areas Act. The Project plans to ensure the establishment of the Dargle Nature Reserve and support landowners and EKZNW in the development and implementation of a management plan for the Dargle Nature Reserve, as well as developing a strategy to expand on the existing protected area by identifying candidate core areas suitable for 'Nature Reserve' status and linking these core areas and existing protected areas with corridors of biodiversity with 'Biodiversity Agreement' status.

We will keep you posted on developments and hope to have the project running in the next couple of months. Please contact Andrew should you have any questions:

Not all of us are lucky enough to spend our days in the Dargle. Back to school and work offers a perfect opportunity to go greener and live more sustainably on our planet. Think about your stationery and buy the most eco friendly options available. Do an energy audit with your colleagues or classmates and make small changes which could make a big difference. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Buy pencils made from recycled materials rather than trees.
  • Sharpeners, pens, erasers made from waste (recycled crisp packets, car tyres etc) are pretty cool and a better option than ones made with new plastic.
  • Use a fountain pen which can be refilled with ink, rather than plastic cartridges (a very stylish idea).
  • Look for locally made art materials, rather than imported ones.
  • Printer paper and notebooks made with recycled paper is an easy choice.
  • Collect paper used only on one side for reuse – or donate to a school.
  • Ban desk side waste bins. Have central recycling bins for different materials and enjoy strolling over to put things into the right bin when you need to. Oops, have something that can't be recycled? Perhaps think twice about buying it next time.
  • Make sure all electronic equipment is unplugged when not in use – those twinkly red lights are using energy!
  • Obviously, switch off the lights when you leave the room.
  • For serious green credibility cycle to work and school or get friends together to car-share and enjoy friendly chats on the way. Best choice: work from home!
  • Take yummy left-overs for lunch rather than buying fast food in containers which may embarrass you at the recycling centre.
  • Grow herbs, lettuce and peas in pots outside the office for fresh snacks anytime.

Remember, Dargle Primary School is a recycling collection point. Last year, they earned R83.67 for the almost 500kgs of waste they collected. Let's help them earn some real money this year by dropping off all clean, sorted recyclables during school hours.

For those celebrating Valentine's Day soon, may we recommend that you Adopt-a-Dargle-Dassie as the perfect token of your love? Contributing to our biodiversity and a future for all is the most generous gift you can possibly give. Dargle Dassies are cute and fluffy too! Why not adopt a dozen?

We plan to host a series of interesting films again this year as they proved so popular in 2010. The first one will be 'Home' – a bird's eye view of our planet – glorious photography and uncomplicated coverage of some of the major issues which we face. Venue is Tanglewood Country House Wednesday 9 March - 5.30pm for 6pm. Please let Nicky Mann know if you'd like to stay for supper afterwards. 083 645 5619.

From the green, green hills and valleys of the Dargle, we wish all our members and friends an interesting 2011. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will all have taken substantial strides towards ensuring our environment is better protected for the future of all beings and our individual lives impact less on the Earth's resources.

For any additional information please click here to contact us.