Species Conservation Programmes
The patchwork forestry landscape provides a range of habitats and ecosystem services for a wide variety of species. As a result, forestry companies are now the custodians of these species, some of which are threatened, rare or endemic and as such, they require specific monitoring and management programmes.
The Treur River Barb on York plantations in Mpumalanga
“The upper Blyde and Treur Rivers are the only home to critically endangered Treur River Barb (Enteromius treurensis), and the bulk of this habitat falls within York Timber managed land. As custodians of the land, and therefore the species residing within it, it is our responsibility to protect the Treur River Barb and the ecosystem upon which it relies”, explains John Crawford-Brunt, York Timbers Compliance Manager.
Reintroduction programmes from the Blyde River in 1995 saw the Treur River Barb returned to the Treur River where the species was presumed extinct since the 1970s. The reintroduction was done upstream of Clearstream Falls Pools In the Treur River a tributary of the Blyde River.
“We are excited by the results of the survey, which suggest the Barb has significantly increased its distribution along the Blyde River, historically only populating 4.5 km of it and now found along a 7.34 km stretch. Even better, is that the Barb has successfully recolonised 12.4 km of the main Treur River and sampled tributaries. Perhaps the most exciting news of all, is that a previously unknown population of Treur River Barb was discovered during the June 2019 survey in the Goedgeloofspruit within the 12.4km Treur River distribution”, John continues.
Photos provided by York Timbers
Crowned Eagle on selected Komatiland/SAFCOL Plantations in Mpumalanga
“SAFCOL, as a significant land manager and custodian of several threatened bird species, including the Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus), has appointed a Crowned Eagle expert, Dr Garth Batchelor, to research and monitor breeding populations of Crowned Eagles on SAFCOL plantations in Mpumalanga”, explains Chris Foster, SAFCOL: Environmental Practitioner.
The Crowned Eagle is a flagship predator along the Mpumalanga escarpment, and as such, is a good indicator species of the health of the forest ecosystem. The research aims to establish whether the Crowned Eagle populations on the plantations in Mpumalanga Province are being impacted by plantation forestry practices and to provide management recommendations to minimise the negative impacts while maximising positive impacts.
Five pairs of Crowned Eagle are known to have bred on SAFCOL plantations during the 2020/2021 season. Their nests were monitored from August 2020 to ascertain use, to March 2021 to know whether the chicks have successfully fledged. During the monitoring process, sightings of other Red Data species were recorded, including the critically endangered Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea), the vulnerable Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), the near-threatened Half-collared Kingfisher (Alcedo semitorquata) and the vulnerable Black Stork (Ciconia nigra).
“It is important to understand the role commercial forestry plantations have in the future survival of Crowned Eagles and know how best to manage commercial activities in immediate and adjacent plantations to ensure minimal disturbance around active nests. Being part of this project, which also involves other land users, has illustrated how the changes in land use that are going on outside the plantation boundaries are presenting new threats to the Crowned Eagle and as a result, plantations are becoming even more important as a refuge for the Crowned Eagle”, Chris concludes.
Photo credits: Dr Garth Batchelor
NCT Forestry, helping conserve species through a citizen science approach
“As a corporate citizen, NCT Forestry and Agricultural Co-operative encourages the sustainable use of natural resources, the protection of wildlife and believes this is achieved through improving the capacity of communities and private farmers to manage their land sustainably with a view of promoting biodiversity and ecosystem management”, explains Anita Nicholson, NCT Forestry Public Relations and Communications Officer.
The latest figures show 27% of NCT-owned land is managed as “open areas” and is therefore unplanted, and many of these areas are set aside as conservation areas and are monitored as such. Citizen science projects are a great way to monitor the biodiversity found within these “open areas”, and NCT is proud to be involved in the following projects.
Conservation of the endangered Oribi antelope
NCT has been sponsoring the efforts of the Oribi Working Group since 2002, playing an active role in influencing NCT Members to preserve natural grasslands, the Oribi’s (Ourebia ourebi) preferred habitat. While raising awareness of the Oribi’s plight and protecting grasslands found within the forestry landscape is key to the conservation of this endangered species, the remit of the Working Group goes far beyond this and includes education programmes, antipoaching, surveys and translocation.
Monitoring the iconic Southern Ground Hornbill
NCT has been actively monitoring the Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) in the Melmoth/Mtonjaneni district since 2005. In 2020, 46 sightings of these magnificent birds were recorded. While the exact number of individual birds is uncertain, monitoring suggests there are possibly seven groups of Southern Ground Hornbills roaming this 388 km2 area.
Part of the monitoring involves the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project team assessing three nests in the area twice yearly, with NCT’s staff reporting sightings of when the birds are out on their daily activities. Aaron Mngomezulu, a driver and active conservationist on the project provides the bulk of these sightings and travels into communities to educate them on the importance of endangered species.
NCT’s support for this project goes beyond our own boundaries. We have contributed towards the erection of five enclosures that form part of a pre-release aviary for young chicks at the Limpopo field office.
Restoring landscapes after runaway fires
A runaway fire in the upper Umgeni River catchment resulted in significant denuding as a result of the fire’s heat causing the soil to bake. As a result, it presented a serious erosion risk. In association with DUCT (Duzi Umgeni Conservation Trust) and the Upland River Conservation Project, NCT contributed to the restoration of a section of the Poort stream valley. This included planting grass seeds and using eco logs to prevent further erosion.