World Wetlands Day celebrated at Ingula
On Saturday, 18
February 2017, the Ingula Partnership will host its seventh Wetlands
Walk. The walk will take place in a section of the lower Wilge River
wetlands in Eskom’s care in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. Ingula is
Eskom’s third hydro pumped storage scheme, completed in 2016. It contributes 1332 MW to the national grid.
At Ingula, Eskom
manages about eight thousand hectares of expansive mountainous grassland,
including around one thousand hectares of sensitive wetland. To increase
awareness of its wetlands, and the Ingula Nature Reserve, an annual wetlands
programme is rolled out, giving participants a rare opportunity to experience
wetlands first hand. The highlight of
the programme is the Wetlands Walk launched in 2010 by the Ingula Visitors
Centre and Conservation Team.
Partnership report for 2016
Companies around the world have begun to recognise the value of addressing environmental concerns through positive discussion and the formation of sound environmental relationships with organisation leaders in respective environmental fields.
Eskom formed the Ingula Partnership with conservation NGOs BirdLife South Africa and Middelpunt Wetlands Trust when it became apparent that such a partnership could add immense value to the conservation of a very important biome ensuring the protection of the critically endangered White-winged Flufftail, Bald ibis, other endangered species and the habitat in which they exist.
The Partnership is based on mutual trust and respect, which allows for considerable assurance and transparency on all related environmental matters. Since conservation is not Eskom’s core business the input from various conservation specialists, provincial government departments and our partners has been invaluable in setting the foundation for a remarkable conservation achievement.
Exciting times lay ahead for the Ingula Partnership, most significantly being the contribution towards ensuring a nationally proclaimed Nature Reserve of the Ingula property and the declaration the Bedford Wetland under the Ramsar convention.
Our aspiration is that this site will form the core of a much larger conservation area and that in future surrounding land owners will use this area for tourism related activities and enhance the biodiversity of their land. If this anticipated growth is achieved there would be added socio-economic benefits for the communities in the area.
It has truly been an honour to be part of this partnership since its inception and to experience the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone that contributes to its success.
Senior Environmental Manager, Generation Division
BirdLife South Africa
Ingula is an excellent example of a partnership between two conservation NGOs and a corporate and, through this collaboration, take equal responsibility for conservation at an important grassland site.
The partnership with BirdLife South Africa and Middelpunt Wetland Trust originated from the presence of the ‘Critically Endangered’ White-winged Flufftail at Ingula. Two other Critically Endangered species also occur on site, the Wattled Crane and Rudd’s Lark. More than 250 bird species have been found at Ingula since construction commenced seven years ago.
Ingula also protects important grassland habitat, contributing to the conservation of the Grassland Biome, the most threatened and least conserved biome in South Africa. Grasslands are mostly threatened by agricultural activities, incorrect farming practices, urbanisation and mining activities. An encouraging improvement of the vegetation at Ingula has been observed, especially following a reduction in grazing and less frequent burning.
BirdLife South Africa’s David Maphisa is developing a management plan to sustainably manage this site, which will then be used to advise the management of other high altitude grasslands to benefit birds and other biodiversity. As the management plan will be applicable to a wider area, there will be important conservation benefits for the Grassland Biome beyond Ingula.
David Maphisa, who grew up as a herd boy in Lesotho and has an MSc degree on the biology of Rudd’s and Botha’s larks, is the BirdLife South Africa Ingula Project Manager. He is now registered for a PhD at the University of Cape Town, supervised by Dr Res Altwegg (SANBI), Prof Les Underhill (Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town) and Dr Hanneline Smit. Thus, with funding from Eskom, David Maphisa will receive an important post-graduate qualification.
David Maphisa is assisted by two young men from the local community, and they have been trained in bird identification, power line surveys and all other aspects of his fieldwork. David is also involved in a number of community (including school) projects in the surrounding areas. He is also frequently invited by bird clubs to present talks and slide shows at their public meetings and he often leads local birding weekends in the area.
Ingula will be proclaimed as a provincial nature reserve and declared a Ramsar site. When open to the public, there will be important ecotourism opportunities, including the employment of BirdLife South Africa accredited bird guides.
The Ingula Partnership is also contributing to the study and conservation of the Southern Bald Ibis, a ‘Vulnerable’ endemic grassland species. The threats that the Southern Bald Ibis faces include habitat fragmentation, human disturbance and poisoning. This species’ distribution has contracted significantly and it no longer occurs in the Western Cape and has a very small range in the Eastern Cape.
The Southern Bald Ibis research project involves conducting regular surveys at the breeding and roosting sites across the species’ range and, more recently, studying movement through radio telemetry and colour-ringing. The outcome of the project will be a Species Management Plan, and the implementation of the plan will ensure the future conservation of the species. Kate Henderson is now also registered for a PhD at the University of Cape Town, under the supervision of Dr Res Altwegg, Prof Les Underhill and Hanneline Smit. Kate Henderson’s field work is mostly done on commercial farms and, as a result, she has built up good relationships with many farmers in the grasslands. Apart from habitat for the Southern Bald Ibis, Ingula provides habitat for a list of threatened species, including White-winged Flufftail, Wattled Crane, Blue Crane, Grey-crowned Crane, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Secretarybird, White-bellied Korhaan and Denham’s Bustard.
Mark D. Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, BirdLife South Africa
Hanneline Smit, Conservation Division Manager, BirdLife South Africa
Middelpunt Wetland Trust
It started off about ten years ago with alarm bells ringing for the security of a special marsh: the Bedford Chatsworth Wetland. As one of only nine sites in South Africa that the ‘Critically Endangered’White-winged Flufftail is known to visit, any threat to one of these locations is of huge concern to Middelpunt Wetland Trust.
Formed in 1993 for the sole purpose of conserving the flufftail and its habitat, the Trust became one of the three members of the Braamhoek (now Ingula) Partnership. And so began an extraordinary journey between such different partners: one of South Africa’s largest state-owned entities, a leading conservation NGO and a tiny trust, driven by five concerned individuals.
As in any successful relationship, it has been a process of learning and earning trust and respect. The Ingula Partnership is probably unique in terms of both its composition and the scope of the topics with which it has been involved: from conservation in all its guises to the socio-economic effects of a major construction undertaking in a rural area.
Ten years on and the bells are still ringing, but this time in celebration of the Partnership’s achievements! Probably the best indicator of its success is that the process for Ingula to be proclaimed as a nature reserve and a Ramsar site is well under way.
Middelpunt Wetland Trust