Development vs conservation of wild space in Joburg

I’m sad to have to report on two issues of development vs conservation happening right in our backyards.

The first one is in Krugersdorp. It’s the Proteadal area – the mountain ridges between Krugersdop and Roodepoort alongside the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. The only remaining wild and open land in that area which the wildlife, and in particular the famous Black Eagles, take refuge in from the ever-expanding Tuscan-style complex development that is taking over that area.

Views of Proteadal. Photo via Proteadal Conservation Association.

The second one is even closer to my home – it’s the extension of the K60 road in Sunninghill and Paulshof. It’s the Paulshof stretch that is of primary concern particularly because it is set to cut through a portion of the Rietfontein Nature Reserve, which is where the FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is based. The Nature Reserve is not big, but it is a perfect sanctuary for sick and injured wildlife that has taken the brunt of our ever-increasing march into their habitat.

Rietfontein Nature Reserve. Photo via City of Joburg.
Rietfontein Nature Reserve. Photo via City of Joburg.

I’m sure you know how I feel about the loss of open land – I am firmly on the side of conservation on this one. And before you start yelling “bunny-hugger” I’d like to point out that while yes, I am enormously concerned about the fate of the wildlife in these areas, but more so, I am also actually concerned about the limited amount of natural open areas in Joburg in general. It is neither sustainable nor good for us to pave over every bit of open land in our neighbourhoods all in the name of more houses and bigger roads. Believe it or not, we humans actually NEED open space.

More and more, researchers and scientists from many different disciplines are realising that humans need nature around them. It calms us. It also helps us in ways that we aren’t even aware of – like pollution control, insect and vermin control, water management. (Read this. )

It is incredibly short-sighted to demolish our small remaining tracts of open land. These areas should be protected as part of our natural heritage and be recognised for the many benefits they are already providing for humanity.

If you would like to get involved with supporting the conservation efforts of either of these two areas, here are the details:

Proteadal, Krugersdorp/Roodepoort

Join the Proteadal Conservation Association to help preserve the area. Membership is mere R10 per year. Email for more information.

You can follow them on Facebook and they are currently running an online petition which I encourage you to sign.

K60 extension, Paulshof/Sunninghill

For information about the EIA, see the map for the proposed extension or to participate as an Interested and Affected Party please download the documentation from either or . If you wish to apply as an AIP, you have until the end of the month – 30th April (ie: do it RIGHT NOW). I suggest keeping an eye on the FreeMe website and their Facebook page as well as the Paulshof Community website  or Sunninghill Community website for updates.

Keep your eyes on local newspapers too, as both of these issues have been written about in their areas.

Trees vs Billboards – episode 3

In the past I’ve highlighted the annoying habit that some of our outdoor advertising companies seem to enjoy: that of cutting down or dramatically trimming back street trees so that their billboards are more easily visible.

In two previous cases, the issue ended up in the local papers, in one the advertiser withdrew their ads and people hung their head in shame and promised not to do it again.

So you can imagine how annoyed I was this morning to discover another tree has fallen victim to this habit.

The tree in question is just south of the William Nicol and Ballyclare intersection in Bryanston. It’s a beautiful established Acacia tree which has been literally butchered so as to ensure a clear view of a Primedia Electronic billboard. The branches have been torn and broken – look at these pictures I took:


I actually cannot explain the rage I feel about this. This behaviour is shameful.

There is NO advertising in the world that will bring as much benefit to the world as a tree does.  When will advertisers (and developers for that matter) start to realise that they need to work with and around nature?!

PS: If you don’t think trees are important to society, please read these articles:

About water

It’s National Water Week this week so of course I feel that it’s my duty to help you learn more about water… I’m starting off with this infographic about the global water footprint. It’s a little old – the data is from 2010 – but it’s doubtful that too much has changed. The bottom line is that worldwide there is very little freshwater available for us to use – and we’re very demanding and wasteful with water. Take a read and pause for thought on just how much water you use on a daily basis.

Global Water FootprintInfographic via


Insect hotels

Thanks to that wonderful website Pinterest, I have discovered an amazing little thing called “insect hotels”.  Basically they are manmade structures created from natural materials which provide a sort of ready-made home to beneficial insects like solitary bees, wasps, ladybirds and butterflies.

Popular amongst gardeners, particularly those with veggie patches, these “hotels” aim to attract and keep bugs in their gardens which help with insect pollination of their plants. Some cities, like London, have even introduced them to help increase biodiversity in the city.

They come in all shapes and sizes, and while they really just need to be a combination of twigs, drilled wood and other natural bits and bobs to nest in that you can make yourself, of course these days you can buy ready-made pretty ones. Take a look below…


Large structure as an insect hotel. Image via Root Simple.


Garden art for the wall serves a dual purpose. Image via Sunset 


The most basic versions: holes drilled into old logs or a tin filled with sticks. Images via: GGO Debat and Pinterest


A super-sleek insect hotel perfect for any modern home. Image via Pinterest


Another fancy version, this one with 3 differing types of material. Image via Etsy


Huge multi-unit – even with a bird box! Image via Tuinieren

I think they’re just the bees knees and even though I have plenty of bugs in my garden I think I’m going to make a simple one to hopefully attract that odd carpenter bee and the random ladybug I see around every now and again so that they can live here permanently.

Do you think it’s necessary here in Africa – aka “bug-city”? How about in our towns? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Wise words from EWT’s CEO

I received the latest EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) newsletter this morning, and the introduction written by CEO Yolan Friedmann really struck a cord with me. So much so that I feel the need to share it with you… (hopefully both Yolan and the EWT are cool with that!)

“Numbers. Mathematical objects used to count, label and measure. Loved by politicians, journalists and teachers, adored by accountants and biologists. Depending on the context, these configurations of symbols have the power to shock us, thrill us or catalyse intense debate about not only the system of tallying which was applied, but the implication of such numbers for the object of its measure. Let me demonstrate: 38 – the number of Blue Swallow pairs left in South Africa. 600 – the number of rhino South Africa will probably lose to poachers during 2012. 48 (or so) days until Christmas and then another 7 until the end of 2012! But the scariest of them all is that there are now over 51.8 million people living in South Africa! That’s a worrying 13% increase in just 10 years! Globally, the human population crossed the 7 billion mark in March 2011. By far the most successful species to ever have existed, human beings seem to multiply despite the stresses of famine, disease, pollution, natural disasters, perpetual conflict and warfare and simply put, our increasingly unsustainable modern way of life, stresses that would probably have wiped out most other species!

So I am going to say it. It is probably no coincidence that the trends within the numbers of so many species are changing disproportionately to the trends within the numbers of humans. There are, simply put, too many humans. Yes, I have had endless debates and hours of discussion with various parties who argue that qualitative measures are more important than quantitative. So it is not about the number of humans per se, but more about the footprint of each human being, the quantity of resources we consume, destroy or just ruin, for others. The social scientists will argue that we need to reduce our impact and not our numbers; numbers alone don’t tell the story. The latter comment is of course true, but let’s consider this: we don’t always employ the ‘qualitative’ argument when we turn the discourse to other species. Numbers alone tell us that we will very possibly lose the last Blue Swallow or East Indian Ocean Dugong, the last of a range of cycads and even the last Wild Dog in South Africa in the next few years unless some drastic action is taken. Numbers alone tell us that the markets in the east for the resources in the south are simply too big to ensure sustainability. Numbers alone send shivers down our spine when the rhino poaching stats are revealed every year.

Yet numbers of humans is a taboo subject in most civilized circles. So let’s qualify the human population issue then. Person number 7 billion, when he or she was born last year, stood a 1 in 7 chance of going to bed hungry for most of his or her life. Over 18 000 people will die of hunger and over 3 000 will die from water related diseases – just today. Around 7 million children will die before they reach their 5th birthday this year. Not much quality for many, many people it seems. And the majority of the people that are counted into the stats above, come from the most populous countries with the highest population growth. Coming back home, 51.8 million folk is a lot of people to house, feed, educate and provide with work. It’s a lot of folk competing with Blue Swallows and Wild Dogs for land and food. Bottom line: Quality versus quantity aside, there are just too many people on planet earth, and if you ask me, this is the greatest and possibly most pressing challenge that the conservation community, AND the social scientists, politicians and in fact every one of us has to admit to, and address if we are ever to comprehend the notion of sustainability, for the sake of not only our wildlife but the future generations of humans too.”

Visit the EWT’s website for more information about the important work they do: