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.
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”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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