Sedgefield Island Conservancy
Caring for Nature in Suburbia

Sedge Island Conservancy sign

The Island Conservancy is a special group of individuals that the Sedgefield environment is fortunate to have rooting for it! Begun in 2003 with founder members Di Young and Jean Wright, the conservancy is now nearly 9 years old and has grown from strength to strength. Nine people make up the current committee.

Founding members of the SIC

Their job requires ongoing commitment and physical hard work. Although they have a support group of +/- 260 members, it is mostly the committee members that get stuck in and do the manual labour with assistance offered by others occasionally. (not that this dampens their enthusiasm!)

Collectively it is the aim of this active group of caring conservationists to counteract and minimise the negative effects that many human actions have on the natural surrounds of the Island. After all it's the Garden Route’s magnificent outdoors that draws so many people to it.

Addressing the Island Conservancy, retired geologist, Mr Tony Cain said of the area,

“You have the unique, total and remarkable continuous geographical history of the last 2 million years right here on your doorstep - mountains, lakes, rivers, dunes, and estuaries all intact and together…… We are sitting on a major historical heritage site and it should be sacrosanct. It should be guarded jealously”

Island Conservancy Committee

The Plan and resulting Activities

So as Tony Hunter wrote in our local newspaper on 4 June 2008, they did 3 things when the Island Conservancy was first formed in 2003 – read the Cape Nature Guidelines carefully - stole ideas from other conservancies – created a Management Plan to build a foundation for the conservancy to facilitate continuity when the time came for one committee to hand over to another.

The business-like intentions of the plan to conserve, participate, co-operate, educate, etc. translates into demanding day to day activities such as:

Educational tree talk
  • Affiliations -Try to attend all meetings and forums of related and like-minded bodies to create alliances in order to learn from or give help to, such as Cape Nature, SANParks, Knysna Municipality, Eden to Addo Project, Garden Route Initiative, the Outeniqua Forum, the Water Forum, Botanical Society of South Africa, WESSA and Sedgefield Ratepayers Association. (and.... still have a life!)
  • Conservation Efforts – 1.Chase guinea fowl with gut on legs for 2 weeks, resort to trap, succeed. 2. Lose Conservancy members for protecting nesting birds.
Egrests'roosting trees removed

3. Propose creation of island refuges in the Swartvlei for roosting and breeding waterbirds to free them from human interference. Get told by conservation authorities you are being silly. 3. Layout new indigenous garden, have compost stolen before completion.

Island flooding 2007

4. Create “example gardens” – waterwise being one of them – then wait 2 weeks for floods to subside to see if plants have survived. 5. Erect “Fishing Code of Conduct” signs, try to remove graffiti one week later.

fishing code of conduct sign
  • Try to work with Developers - 1. Meet and get bamboozled by all the benefits and jobs coming your way. 2. Get dirty looks for asking awkward questions.
  • Work Parties - 1. Remove builders’ rubble or swimming pool filter sand from Enviro-gardens. 2. Remove alien vegetation only to find it’s back next week.
Alien eradication team
  • 3. Get a “degree” in effective use of herbicides. 4. Erect bird perches in difficult position, capsize canoe and nearly drown. 5. Request map of underground pipes/cables to facilitate tree planting and discover such a document does not exist. 6. Meet with geologist to understand geology of area for management plan. Don’t understand. Learn new words like “Holocene era”!
  • Create Awareness – 1. Spend weekend putting up tortoise crossing signs then removed squashed tortoise from road. 2. Be friendly to local newspapers to ensure you get your conservation articles published. 3. Put up signs to ‘brag” about work done. Have sign ridden over by car.
island nature
  • Fund Raising – 1. Create postcards to sell at profit. Destroy one’s printer in the process. 2. Hold annual plant sale. Get sunstroke. 3. Hold a photographic competition of the area. Expect 5 entries. Spend 2 weeks trying to judge 120 stunning entries.
Island photo competition

Some of the Island Conservancy's Successes

  • Cleaned up the alien vegetation on the Island side of the Perdespruit.
alien vegetation eradication efforts
  • Have considerable success in encouraging homeowners to remove Class 1 and other aliens on their properties and replace them with indigenous shrubs/trees.
Traffic calming sign
  • Printed tortoise t-shirts, bumper stickers, licence disc holders and “warning” road signage to make people aware of their SLOW but valued presence round and about Sedgefield and particularly, on the Island.
  • Signage to remind people that the Island is a residential suburb and to watch out for people, bicycles, dogs and birds like (guinea-fowl and dikkops)as well.
Conservancy stickers and pamphlets
  • Formed a Tree Committee that includes Members of the Ratepayers and the Municipality. – no trees can be cut down on verges without their permission.
Watering newly planted trees
  • Built a Bowser to water the young indigenous trees that they or the municipality have planted in public areas.
  • Have created lists of Island Plants and Birds.
  • Have planted various Sample Gardens on verges – a) Top of Van Riebeck along the side of Island Village. b) On Fish Eagle Green. c) Corner of Dr Malan, Lorraine and Van Niekerk streets. Members regularly water and weed these gardens.
Island Conservancy signage
  • Awareness signage – Boards of Estuaries and Estuarine Birds, Tortoises and Fishing Codes of Conduct.
  • Maintenance of the Enviro-gardens established by WESSA that provide sanctuary for island wildlife and birds.
Spring Indigenous Plant Sale
  • A holiday pack placed in timeshare units for Island visitors. It includes information about the conservancy, tortoises, Fishing Code of Conduct and an Island Bird List.
  • Hold a popular annual indigenous plant sale to create awareness and raise funds for projects.
  • Port-a-loos are arranged at Eagle Green for the holiday season so people don’t use the bush.
  • Created their own website www.sedgefieldislandconservancy.co.za

The conservation world can be political, emotional, confusing, disappointing and very, very frustrating. An Urban Conservancy brings with it a lot of added problems and challenges. Fortunately, all the folks on the Island Conservancy committee remain dedicated to the Island’s conservation ethic and accept the challenges they face believing they are making a difference.

Info for new Residents

Coming from the urban jungle where wildlife is the last thing on people’s minds, would-be residents are oblivious of the fact, as they clear their stands down to bare earth in preparation for building their homes, that they have, in the process, utterly obliterated the habitat of many wild creatures that had been living there up to that point.

It would help no end if among all the Municipality’s restrictions and guidelines they impose on new building sites, (we know from first hand experience) they could include something about asking new residents to consider retaining a small portion of indigenous bush on their properties for bird and animal life.

Clearing vegetation for building

Local builders could play their part by advising newcomers to call in the “tortoise squad” (see contacts below) to remove tortoises before the bulldozer moves in to rip out and flatten everything.

The Island Conservancy would be happy to remove indigenous bulbs and plants to enviro-gardens that would otherwise be stifled forever under concrete foundations.

Fynbos is one of the most unique and threatened biomes on the planet and few suburban areas have the privilege of experiencing tortoises, dikkops and guinea-fowl living amongst them. Sadly, many of us find out in retrospect and only after living here for a while, the devastating and unnecessarily destructive effects of our ignorance.

Island tortoise garden

The mosaic tortoises that greet one at both entrances to the Island should remind us that the tortoise is an integral part of the Island environment treasured by most of its iinhabitants and drivers are asked to please give way to tortoises wherever they chance to come across them.

As a village, we should be exceedingly grateful for the priceless contribution the Sedgefield Island Conservancy makes to preserving and maintaining nature’s presence on the Island. It all adds up to keeping Sedgefield the ‘Outdoor” home and holiday place so many people appreciate.

Important Contact Numbers

  • Snakes and Bird rescue – Gill Thomas 044 343 2561
  • Tortoise removal – Margaret Underwood 072 278 9695
  • Advice on eradicating aliens – Oliver Purcell 044 343 3250
  • Conservancy Work Party Days – Antony Tooley 044 343 1602
  • Information packs for guests in your Holiday AccommodationMary Hunter 044 343 2448
  • Website – Paul Marshall 044 343 1815

References

Sedgefield Island Conservancy Article in the Edge dated 4 June 2008

The Sedgefield Island Conservancy annual Newsletters

My thanks toTony and Mary Hunter for photos and assistance

Aerial view of the Island

Links to Related Sites

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Percherons in the Indigenous forest
Best of British workshop
Gerickes Poin

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