Editor’s Message

At present our thoughts seem to be dominated by the horrific fires and the results of the fires that swept through our beloved Silvermine Nature Area.

These sorts of events seem to put into perspective how unimportant we humans are in the greater scheme of things. It is humbling to realise all our mighty efforts are so effortlessly obliterated by fire! How powerless we really are when opposed by natural forces!

While we sympathise with the families and friends of those who lost their lives and possessions and we are grateful to the brave fire-fighters who fought so tirelessly to control the blaze, we must remember that fire is in fact part of the ‘Circle of Life’. Out of the ashes new life emerges. Already this is evident along the side of Ou Kaapse Weg. How wonderfully green this new growth looks against the charred background!

It is encouraging to see that in the midst of the devastation so many positive aspects of life emerge.

There are many stories of this:

The radio station that put out a plea for donations of goods or money to be used for the voluntary fire-fighters. Within a very short time their goal was surpassed by the generosity of businesses and individuals of Cape Town.
Various organisations put out requests for donations of food or other items. The donations came in fast and furious! In a short time there was an abundance of donations.

Since the bush has been burnt the rubbish along the side of the road is more obvious. I heard of one person who put out a notice asking for volunteers to help clean up along the road. He was inundated with so many calls he didn’t know how to handle it so cancelled the event! People turned up anyway. Two skips were donated and within a couple of hours the skips were full!

These are just some of the many stories around. We are very grateful to all those who helped in whatever manner they could. It is wonderful to be party to the generous spirit of people in the face of adversity.

For me this highlights that there is always a balance in life. For every negative there is always a positive. We should accept them both.

As I mentioned in the last newsletter I was, once again, very privileged to take part in the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race from Simons Town to St Helena Island.
I am not going to write anything about the trip in this newsletter as I will be giving a presentation on it at the AGM. So if you are interested please come to that.

Happy hacking and hiking.
Meryl Hutchison
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Chairman’s Report

Please note our Annual General Meeting will be held on 13th May, 2015 at the Methodist Church Hall, 1st Ave., Fish Hoek.
Time 19H00 for 19H30

Our speaker will be our very own Meryl Hutchison who will be telling us about the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race and trip to St Helena.

I, with an official from Sanparks, went on an inspection of Silvermine to access the damage done by the fire. Can you believe that it was still smouldering strongly in one or two areas a full seven days after the fact?

It was a devastating fire as you all know.

First and foremost Silvermine is closed to the public and will be for the foreseeable future. It is dangerous with dead trees, very uneven paths and there are no facilities. All walks in the Silvermine Nature Area have been suspended. Please contact the walks coordinators for alternative arrangements.

Sanparks are making an assessment of the damage to present to the insurance company. Fifteen years of dedicated growth – how does one put a cost to that?

The beautiful trees FOSNA bought and planted round the parking lot have been burnt with the exception of one yellowwood. Most of the boardwalk around the reservoir has been partially destroyed or completely destroyed. The planks that are left are lying at strange angles and there are nails protruding from the oddest places. The cement bridge connecting the path to the reservoir wall has cracked.
The board walk up the river walk too has been gutted. Apparently there was a little bridge built near the waterfall. That too is no more.

The toilets have been spared but the water tank and pipes (partially sponsored by FOSNA) have melted thus the toilets have no water.

Two tents in the tented camp have been completely gutted and a section of that board walk also destroyed. The fence looks like it has been chewed in places by an angry beast with dirty black teeth.

Sadly a number of baboons from the Tokai troop were killed or badly burnt and have had to be euthanized. Who knows the number of little animals who were unable to escape?

While the picture is bleak there are already signs of fresh green growth. We look forward to new growth of the fynbos and the emergence of the Haemanthus sanguines and the Cyrtanthus ventricosus. The Cyrtanthus ventricosus flowers only after a fire and is beautiful to see.

As Friends of Silvermine Nature Area we will be receiving a damage report from Sanparks and will assist as much as we possibly can. We will keep you up to date with progress made.

The alien vegetation should start making an appearance in 5 or 6 months. Please be observant and while walking on Silvermine pull out any young alien saplings.Jay Cowen and his team have done a wonderful job of ridding the mountain of aliens, but this fire may well stimulate them to sprout with renewed vigour.
We will be increasing our subscriptions as from the new financial year to R50-00 per year per family. In the light of the recent fire we ask you please to ensure that your membership is paid up to date. Now more than ever we do need our subscriptions.

When making payments into our account please do not use cheques or cash deposits but rather EFTs. The bank charges on cheques and cash deposits are very heavy. If you would like to use cash please pass the cash onto a committee member and we can make a lump sum deposit.

We received a wonderful anonymous donation of R2500-00. Thank you to the donor.
The plight of Henry the car guard at the reservoir has received marvellous attention.
So thank you, thank you and thank you once again.
May you have a wonderful autumn and let’s pray for soft gentle rains to soak into our parched mountain.

Sue Frew
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Baboon Technical Team Situation Report-Tokai Troop

Tuesday 24 March, 2015

1. Managed troops
Over 60 baboon rangers from City of Cape Town’s service provider, Human Wildlife Solutions, manage 385 baboons in ten managed troops, divided into three management regions.
* South-eastern region: Smitswinkel Troop, Waterfall Troop & Da Gama Troops.
* South-western region: Groot Olifantsbos Troop, Misty Cliffs Troop & Slangkop Troop.
* Northern region: Tokai Troop, Zwaanswyk Troop, Mountain Troop and Constantia Troop

2. Tokai Troop & Zwaanswyk Troop
The Baboon Technical Team (BTT) regrets to confirm that a total of twelve baboons in the Tokai Troop are confirmed dead, on account of injuries sustained in the Cape Fires.

The final tally of dead and recovering fire-injured baboons in the Tokai Troop is as follows:
* Four critically injured baboons have been euthanased.
* Eight dead baboons found deceased as a result of the fire (either charred or died of their injuries shortly after the fire);
* Eight adult male baboons continue to be monitored for distinctive round red patches on their rumps. The result of fire burn, these red patches are now scabbing and veterinarians confirm that they will heal.

The Tokai troop is now confirmed to have 61 baboons in the troop – down from 73.

The Zwaanswyk Troop has lost a juvenile and this is suspected to be from smoke inhalation. The troop now has 26 members.

3. Foraging for the Northern Region baboon troops
Baboon rangers, BTT members, veterinarians and animal welfare experts are all evaluating the situation on a daily basis. The assessment is that there is adequate food and plenty of water in running streams, for all four Northern Troops.

4. Plea to residents NOT to feed the baboons
It is absolutely critical that residents do NOT start to randomly feed baboons in their gardens, natural areas or along the road with vegetables, fruits or ANY food. This will just encourage baboons to start raiding homes again.

It is vitally important to encourage the baboons to continue foraging out of town. Research has shown that the fires stimulate plant growth and new growth. With the arrival of the first rains, bulbs will be easier to find and the foraging may be better than it was before the fires. Baboons are already benefiting from the first flush of green growth that has already occurred after the fire.

5. Tokai Forests closed to the public
Due to the fire, the Upper Tokai Road and Plantation, Tokai Picnic site, Arboretum and Lister’s Tea Room remain closed indefinitely to the public. This closure includes access to all the tracks and paths – and affects all user groups such as hikers, cyclists and horse riders. Silvermine East and West are also closed due to the fire, until further notice.

The closures are in the interest of the environment, the safety of the public and user groups on account of hazards that include:
• Standing trees that have been burnt or damaged by the fire are extremely dangerous as they continue to come down in the area.
• Recently burnt veld (as well as adjacent areas) is hazardous as the fire will have burnt roots underground and foot falls may cause serious injuries.
• Unstable slopes may result in rock falls.
• Winds and rain may exacerbate the danger with respect to falling trees, branches, rock falls and mudslides.
• Hazardous clear-felling operations of the burnt plantation trees are underway by Cape Pine.
• Disturbance to surviving animals.
• Burnt areas are sensitive as windblown seeds can be damaged and the first shooting plants can be killed by accidental trampling.
• Disturbance to sensitive erodible soils.

Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) needs to assess the damage and ensure the areas are safe for all users before the gates can be reopened.

Any unauthorised entry to closed sections of TMNP will result in a R2 500 spot fine by SANParks law enforcement officials.

For more media enquiries, contact Julia Wood, Manager: Biodiversity Management Branch, Environmental Resource Management Department (ERMD), Tel: +27 21 514 4155, Alt Tel: +27 21 514 4189, Cell: 084 464 9153. E-mail: julia.wood@capetown.gov.za

 Background information

The management of baboon troops on the Cape Peninsula is undertaken jointly by the City of Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park (SANParks) and CapeNature, who are known collectively as the Baboon Technical Team (BTT).

Valuable input is gratefully received on various issues from the baboon rangers, wildlife veterinarians, Baboon Research Unit (University of Cape Town) and animal welfare organisations (such as Cape of Good Hope SPCA).

Management decisions regarding raiding baboons are subject to assessment by recognised wildlife management experts and permits are issued by the Wildlife Advisory Committee of CapeNature.

A wide range of City of Cape Town residents are elected to the Baboon Liaison Group which is made up of representatives from the Constantia Property Owners Association, Constantia Hills Residents Association, Scarborough Residents & Ratepayers Association, Kommetjie Residents & Ratepayers Association, Misty Cliffs Village Association, Ocean View Civic Association, Tokai Residents Association, Zwaanswyk Residents Association and the Simon’s Town Civic Association.

The BLG meets regularly with the BTT to discuss a range of issues such as protecting baboons from retribution by residents which includes injuries from pellet guns, poisons, dogs and car injuries. The aim of both organizations is to maintain a sustainable baboon population that lives in the natural areas. The City of Cape Town’s is also mandated to protect residents and visitors from raiding baboons.

Chacma baboons form part of the Peninsula’s rich biodiversity and they play a potentially significant ecological role in the Cape Floristic Region. Under current management programmes, the Peninsula baboon population is growing steadily and is not endangered, nor is it under threat.

Article reproduced with permission from Tokai Residents Association
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Clean-up in Silvermine

Last Thursday our morning hike, led by Heron Burger, was rescheduled to be a clean-up walk around the Silvermine Dam area.

A group of twenty one ladies and one gentleman armed with heavy duty rubbish bags set off in groups to clear different areas around the dam. After tea at the car park we made our way back to the gate along the road picking up rubbish along the way. A good amount of rubbish was collected!

Clean up in Silvermine Nature Area after the fire. Photo: FOSNA

Clean up in Silvermine Nature Area after the fire. Photo: FOSNA

It was interesting to see the see the amazing new growth sprouting from the ashes. The fire lilies were blooming as well as a lovely little yellow daisy. The bulbs and grasses are already growing vigorously. Along the roadside there were areas carpeted by Protea seeds released after the burn. I imagine that with favourable conditions these will germinate in profusion resulting in an amazing floral display.

New shoots emerging in Silvermine Nature Area after the fire. Photo: FOSNA

New shoots emerging in Silvermine Nature Area after the fire. Photo: FOSNA

It should be interesting to observe the growth and development of the flora and fauna over the next few years. While it is sad to see the destruction as a result of the fires it is heartening to witness the miracle of Nature as new life tenaciously pushes through the ashes. Is there a lesson in this for us?

It was a morning well spent where a lot was achieved. Thank you to Heron for organising to all who helped.
Once Silvermine reopens the public can look forward to pristine picnic and braai sites!
Due to Silvermine being closed to the public many of the walks on the program will have to be changed.
Please contact the hike leader the week before to find out the latest details for the hike.

Meryl Hutchison
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News from Riverine Rovers

Things are fairly quiet at the Silvermine Wetlands – the main talking point has been the recent fires. We are concerned that, as in 1989, there may be large mud slides due to lack of vegetative cover on the mountains. We have written to Council asking for this to be taken into consideration and for some dredging and removing the large amount of silt in the gabion ponds. These will not work as flood control measures much longer. Due to budget constraints it is unlikely that anything will happen this year, we can only hope something will be done in the next year.

We were very fortunate in that we were not affected by the fires as it only touched the top of Trappieskop and along the golf course. We live in trepidation as to what might happen should the reeds in the river catch fire in a howling South Easter. Some local residents have also become concerned about this and have taken the matter up with City Council. Provision has been made in the new management plan for fire management; however, we have not been able to get hold of the final copy from the City who is sitting on the draft copy.

Thanks to The Invasive Alien Species group, we had the loan of a brush cutter, and Albert (the river warden who is paid by City Council) has done a sterling job of work opening up the boardwalks, stepping stones and clearing the grass alongside the paths.

Otter tracks have been seen again on the beach – after a lapse of several months. The group of people living under the railway line bridge remains a concern and we wonder what effect they are having on otters, porcupine and mongoose that used to go to the beach on a fairly regular basis.

Our annual Source to Sea Walk has been cancelled due to the fires in Silvermine. If the park is open by October we will consider approaching parks for permission to do the walk then.

Due to the burning of Proteas on Silvermine, if anyone is putting up extra bird feeders, please remember that if you use Xylitol instead of sugar you will sign their death warrants, as it is lethal to sugarbirds. Ordinary sugar is much cheaper, anyway. As a matter of interest, Xylitol is also extremely dangerous for dogs to ingest as it can lead to hypoglycaemia and liver damage.
Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area

In Nov 2014 I went to the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area with a birding group from U3A. This area is in the middle of the racecourse and is therefore not open to the public. Access must be booked through Friends of KRCA. We were guided through the area by three enthusiastic conservationists from the KRCA environmental education program. It is a little gem of a place with pristine sand fynbos right in the middle of suburbia. There are rare and threatened plant species which delighted the botanists in our group. The highlight was when two tiny Micro Frogs were found for us in a wetland. The ones we saw were babies, as small as a fingernail, but when full-grown they would still only measure 18mm. The Micro Frog, also known as the Cape Flats Frog, according to Wikipedia, is critically endangered and endemic to the SW Cape.

Lynda Downing
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Whale Sharks of St Helena
(Rhincodon typus)

While visiting St Helena Island in January this year I attended a presentation on the Whale Sharks of St Helena by Dr Alistair Dove of Atlanta Aquarium in Georgia, USA.
Dr Dove and another marine biologist, Raphael de la Parra of Mexico, had come to St Helena for two weeks to see if they could find some whale sharks. With the help of a local crew they not only found a good sized group, but managed to tag fourteen of these enormous but docile and beautiful creatures. They tagged nine large females, four mature males and one juvenile male. Around St Helena they came across a population of about fifty young and mature adults of both sexes. The tags they used are programmed to pop off after either six or twelve months.When the tags pop off they report their location via GPS and then uplink their saved data. From this, by using a combination of light levels and magnetic fiels measurements, “the most probable track”of the animals can be extracted. Other data collected will include information on temperature, pressure, where and when the whales travelled etc. From all this data the scientists can start to tell a story of what what the members of this population are doing.

Whale Shark. Photo credit ©2015 Alistair Dove/GeorgiaAquarium, used with permission

Whale Shark. Photo credit ©2015 Alistair Dove/GeorgiaAquarium, used with permission

Tissue samples of the St Helena whale sharks were also taken for analysis. This data will be added to their whale shark genome project. Laser photograhs which they took will be used to analyse the physical characteristics and measurements of the whale sharks. The spots and stripes which occur in the area just behind the lateral fins acts as a unique identifiing feature similar to our finger prints. The genome project is being conducted in collaboratuion with Emory University and aims to identify all whale sharks sighted.
Little is know about the whale sharks. Atlanta aquarium has four juveniles in their large marine tank. Appantently this tank was, until recently, the largest in the world being about the size of a rugby field. China has now built a bigger tank.

Whale Shark. Photo credit ©2015 Alistair Dove/GeorgiaAquarium, used with permission

Whale Shark. Photo credit ©2015 Alistair Dove/GeorgiaAquarium, used with permission

Dr Dove and Mr de la Parra have been studying whale sharks in Quintona Roo, Mexico where there is a population of mainly juvenile males. This is thought to be one of the biggest known populations.
Whale sharks are the largest fish species known. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 m and a weight of more than 21.5 metric ton. The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans and lives in the open sea, with a lifespan of about 70 years. As filter feeders whale sharks have very large mouths, and feed mainly on plankton and fish eggs.
They are slow-moving and docile and have the thickest skin in the animal kingdom.

Photo credit ©2015 Alistair Dove/GeorgiaAquarium, used by permission
Information supplied by Dr A. Dove (Atlanta Aquarium) and Wikipedia.
Meryl Hutchison
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Forthcoming Environmental Days

World Health Day 7th April

Earth Day 22nd April

World Environmental Day 5th June

World Oceans Day 8th June

World Desertification Day 17th June
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Newsletter Contributions & Useful Contacts

Our membership portfolio is run by Tammy Weinberg. For any membership related queries please contact her at: weinberg@discoverymail.co.za
Our chairman Sue Frew can be contacted at: suefrew@isat.co.za