Gamkaberg Conservation area
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The Gamkaberg Conservation Area is one of the most
unique and diverse areas on earth. Not only biologically (the plants and
animals), but the geological and fossil history is also fascinating. Some of the
rocks here are more than 750 million years old and the marine invertebrate
fossils date back to about 360 million years ago when this entire area was
covered by the ocean. Add to this, the highest peaks in the Western Cape, and
the picture begins to unfold.
The record of early man, with artefacts
dating back to the early stone age when stone tools were still the order of the
day, and the more recent Khoisan rock art which is abundant in the rock shelters
in the mountains, also adds to this richness.
It is for this reason
that the Gouritz Catchment has been identified by conservation planners as one
of the areas in the Western Cape for the development of a special Initiative the
Gl (Gouritz initiative). (The other area is the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity
corridor). The Gl domain stretches from the Great Karoo to the sea, using the
Gouritz River and its tributaries as the backbone. Five of the seven Biomes in
South Africa are also included in this Gouritz area; Forest, Succulent Karoo,
Valley Bushveld (thicket), Fynbos, Nama- Karoo. This is unequalled in any
Conservation Area in the country.
This Gouritz Initiative is not a
massive State owned reserve, but one made up of partnerships between private
landowners and existing nature reserves. Landowners are not expected to down
tools but rather to adopt conservation conscious farming methods and where
possible, to set aside portions of conservation worthy land to be carefully
protected. Tourism is also high on the agenda, once again looking at
establishing partnerships with the local communities to provide the services, so
that everyone benefits from the initiative.
The whole idea of
the Gouritz initiative is to allow plants and animals to migrate North-South and
East-West through long term as well as seasonal climate change.
More about the plants
The Fynbos and Succulent Karoo which are the dominant vegetation types in
the area, are receiving international attention due to their high numbers of
plant species and the fact that most of these are uniquetothearea.
Another benefit to the community is that Conservation Organisations are
providing funding for conservation projects in the Gouritz Initiative area. For
example, we have recently employed more than 50 previously unemployed persons on
maintenance and alien plant eradication projects.
Cape Mountan Zebra
Gamkaberg Conservation Area is one of the core areas of this Gouritz Initiative.
It was established in 1974 to conserve a naturally occurring population of the
endangered Cape Mountain Zebra. Unfortunately before any protection could be put
in place, the herd was reduced to 5 animals. Today, almost 30 years later, the
numbers have only reached 35. We need additional habitat for theses animals as
the present reserve confines them to a small section of the mountain and they
need to move onto the flats, as well as East-West along the mountain, according
to the seasonal changes in the vegetation. The Gouritz Initiative will help
address problems like this. Another animal, which will be positively affected,
is the leopard, which is hanging on in the remote mountain areas although they
are still regularly trapped illegally by stock farmers.
Western Cape Nature Conservation Board (WCNCB)
WCNCB is prepared to enter into contractual
agreements with landowners in key areas. This would entail management of the
area by WCNCB while the landowner would retain access and certain development
rights. A number of stewardship options exist which can be tailored to suit the
needs of the landowner.
For anyone interested in contributing towards a worthy biodiversity conservation
project, the opportunities in the Gamkaberg Conservation Area are endless. Time
is however running out so lets stand together and make a success of this while
we still can.
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Source: Tom Barry
Article Date: 22 December 2004