Over the past year, Friends of the Haenertsburg Grassland (FroHG) has made great strides in its plight to conserve Limpopo Province’s most threatened ecosystem, the Woodbush Granite Grassland (WGG). The WGG has an incredibly high level of biodiversity with numerous endemic and rare species. Throughout the last century approximately 95% of the original WGG has been irreversibly transformed, mainly through the establishment of alien forestry, agriculture and ever-encroaching alien invasive vegetation.
The year kicked off with an insightful talk by FroHG’s chairperson, Sylvie Kremer-Kӧhne. On the 26th of January SARChI Chair in Ecosystem Health, University of Limpopo, hosted Sylvie, where she once more stirred up the urgent need to conserve the remaining portions of the WGG. Later the year, 11-16 April, a small mammal survey was carried out in the grassland surrounding Haenertsburg and the Ebenezer Dam. This survey was the first of its kind for the WGG. The aim was to determine the number of different small mammal species (rats, mice, shrews and elephant-shrews) that inhabit the grassland. Christia Newbery (Small Mammal Survey Services) ran the project and with the help of a few volunteers, set out and monitored 200 PVC live-traps. The traps were checked daily and all of the critters caught released after they were identified. From the total of 106 animals caught, four rodent species and two shrew species were identified. Despite being a baseline study, the survey was necessary in laying a foundation for more intensive studies, which would be essential for the long term management of the WGG ecosystem.
FroHG also hosted a few very informative science talks at the Red Plate in Haenertsburg. On the 13th of April, Christia Newbery, explained the important role small mammals play in upholding many ecological systems. On the 24th of August, Dr Ali Halajian who is the senior researcher at the University of Limpopo, gave a talk on alien parasites and animals and the devastating impacts they have on our endemic fauna and flora. This is something that we need to discuss earnestly if we would like to preserve the grassland as an intact ecological system.
FroHG also rolled up its sleeves on 15 September on World Cleanup Day! A team of 30 enthusiastic volunteers put commendable effort into picking up litter in the grassland. Some volunteers came all the way from the University of Limpopo and Mankweng. At the end of what turned out to be a very enjoyable day, 10 giant bags filled with a concoction of rubbish were extracted.
To wrap up the year, FroHG held its AGM on the 26th of October where the following committee members were re-elected: Sylvie Kremer-Kӧhne, Laurie Railton, Sylvia Thompson, Quentin Hagens, Peter Moreroa, Wiam Haddad, Nipper Thompson and Johannes Ragophala. Additionally, two new committee members, Dr Ali Halajian and Dr Ingrid van der Merwe, were elected. Furthermore, a short video showcasing our beautiful grassland was launched and Vincent Egan gave a most interesting talk on biodiversity. FroHG would like to extend its gratitude to the 10 new members that joined this year.
Keep your eyes open for more exciting science talks and events in the upcoming year.