More on Hippos, Rondevlei News and Other.

16 Jul 2010 Posted by in Environment, News and Events | 6 comments

There is a load of information here but it is really a nice summary of some of the fantastic work done in our community by the vibrant, passionate and energetic team who work here. Please take the time to read it and pay attention to the suggestions bit, any comments forwarded to me will be sent on to the Management of the reserves.

News from the False Bay Ecology Park News June/July 2010 –

Compiled by: Joshua Gericke (Manager: Zeekoevlei Nature Reserve) and Tamaryn (Manager: Rondevlei Nature Reserve)

Edited (poorly) and posted by MoonDance again

Cape Flats Waste Water Treatment Works – (alias Strandfontein Sewerage works)

Hippo caught

Zorro has finally been caught. On the evening of 5 July at about 2am Vicky received an sms from the boma trigger. She responded and found that Zorro had wandered into the boma and the trigger mechanism had functioned correctly for once. He was caught. Maintaining this state of affairs proved difficult however as he used his 1.2 ton bulk to good effect. The heavy ply wood panels on the doors quickly shattered and had to be continually repaired after each successive assault. The doors were braced with bakkies and poles to prevent structural failure.

At about 10 am the crane truck arrived with the container. Everyone was relieved when he was easily and quickly coaxed into it. He was loaded onto the truck and moved off to his new home at fairy glen nature reserve near Worcester. Upon release he calmly trotted out of the container into the nearest water.

We are all relieved that he has been caught, especially Vicky since she can now address hyacinth problem in the pan where he was living.

Rondevlei Nature Reserve:

Hippo count

Hippo monitoring at Rondevlei: Tamaryn & the Rondevlei student (John Thorpe) ran a hippo monitoring programme from 9 March – 30 April this year to assess the current population size for management purposes.

This was done by placing lucerne on the small grassy bank in front of the Rondevlei tearoom building & then hiding out in there the evenings to wait for the appearance of hungry hippos to munch on the lucerne.

They concluded that there are 6 hippos in total at Rondevlei (the 7th Rondevlei was Zorro at Strandfontein, who as you know we captured last week) – the herd appears to consist of 3 adult females, a very large male (Brutus) & two calves (sex unconfirmed). The one calf is about shoulder height of the adults & the other calf is quite tiny, perhaps only a couple of months old. One of the females also looks heavily pregnant. The rangers & Josh have had reports of a potential lone male hippo wandering the back of Rondevlei towards our southern boundary, but these reports are based on spoor & it is difficult to ascertain whether this is a separate animal from the six that frequented the tea room baiting site.

The eldest male calf will need to be caught soon as he is reaching the critical age where he will be ejected from the pod by Brutus, as will the lone male, if he exists. Preparations are being made.

Hyacinth at Rondevlei:

On Thursday the 10th of June a large storm washed several tons of hyacinth into Rondevlei from Princessvlei. Josh (the only manager on duty that week) reacted to the problem along with all other available staff. They cleaned out the canal on Thursday and Friday. Josh managed to organize a catchment management crew to remove the hyacinth that had built up again on Saturday at the Princessvlei weir.

All staff continued with hyacinth removal the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, after which the Rondevlei team took over. They are continuing.

by Tamaryn – I was away on training for 2 weeks in June, only to return to reports on 11 June of a hyacinth “disaster”. Fortunately my False Bay Ecology Park colleagues attended to the hyacinth with immediate effect while I was away, but work continued for an entire month, where we spent every day out on the boat removing hyacinth manually – I’ve been wearing a wetsuit all day to work for a solid month! Literally tons have been removed & we are now at the point where we are no longer finding plants within the vlei body, but continuing with follow-up checks every week as of this Monday. There is one reedbed near the Princess Vlei canal mouth where it leads into Rondevlei, where I am aware of a patch of hyacinth that is still hiding away, but I am trying to obtain our department’s reed harvester to access this, as our boat is not able to penetrate this deep into the dense reeds & I have several times waded / swum into the reedbed only to have to depart quickly again because of the hippos who enjoy resting in this reedbed during the day. So we are attending to this asap.

The cause of the disaster was mismanagement of a large hyacinth invasion at Princess Vlei, which then led to the stormwater department allowing hectares of hyacinth to wash down during heavy rains & find its way into Rondevlei, where the force of the flooding tore down our nicely maintained litter / weed barriers at the Princess Vlei canal.

I have met with City Parks about what happened & we have come to an agreement on management solutions that can be put in place in advance at Princess Vlei in order to prevent a future recurrence e.g. starting hyacinth removal much earlier in the growth season (November – April) rather than letting it get to the point of breaching Princess Vlei’s borders, installing a boom at the mouth of the Princess Vlei, dredging sludge from our nearby sportsfield culvert to reduce flooding, & we are busy looking at replacing our barriers with more flexible structures. The stormwater guys have responded very positively to the whole thing & have been of great help in taking away the piles of hyacinth we have been removing from Rondevlei. A work order is also in progress for about 3 weeks now at Princess Vlei to herbicide & remove the remaining hyacinth at Princess Vlei so that we reduce the source upstream that poses a threat of also washing downstream. We have also given some netting to the team to act as a barrier while they are working on the hyacinth upstream so that none of the shifted plants wash down.

The process has so far been extremely labour intensive but we are pleased to say that it looks like we are winning the battle this season.

Rondevlei tearoom:

The Rondevlei tea room is still a work in progress, but we can note that the ceiling & wall panels are installed & have been plastered during this year, & the electricity & lights have been installed & are operational. I met with Joanne Jackson (FBEP Steercom) today to look at next steps & funding to install a kitchen area & boardwalk to the tea room as soon as possible, so that we may get the tea room up & running as quickly as funding will allow. If there are any further progress updates I will keep the Friends informed.

Reserve entrance fees: – still the best value outing in Cape Town

Please note fyi that as of 1 July there have been some changes to our public entrance fees:

Adults – R10

Children 3 -13 yrs – R5,

Seniors – R5

Children below 3 yrs – free of charge

Adults’ fishing permits – R34

Children’s fishing permits – R12

Season tickets – R105 (adults), R53 (seniors), R160 (family).

Rondevlei Nature Reserve suggestions:

Please will Friends’ always feel free to make comments & suggestions on / for our reserve, I really appreciate the feedback & input that you have to share. While I am aware that we have the age-old problem of budget constraints, which for example limit our maintenance abilities, infrastructure etc. this is no reason why we cannot still note your suggestions for problems & improvements & address these as we are able to. I keep a big book of “to-do’s” where I jot down anything I / public / colleagues note is in need of some attention, so your observations are always useful, because then I know what work needs to be done & can prioritise accordingly.

Zeekoevlei Nature Reserve:

Drawdown Contracts and Staff

The original drawdown contracts (20 staff members) were completed at the end of June. Eight of the drawdown team members have been re-employed in two teams on one month contracts. These cover hyacinth and litter in the vlei.

Lotus River Team

This team began with hyacinth removal in the Lotus River on Thursday 8 July. They have advanced almost to Edith Stephens and the quality of work is exceptional. Their contract is for 6 months.

Skills Development

Skills development contracts also ended at the end of June. Five people have left the team, and five others have been drawn from this year’s drawdown team. These five are: Amelia Meyer, Byron Benjamin, Lynette Groenewald, Corne Fortuin, Joslyn Adams and Audrey Benjamin.

Rapist caught and released…

On Friday 18 June Drawdown staff observed a rape in progress on the Eastern Shore. The assailant was threatening the victim with a screwdriver. They contacted Zeekoevlei’s manager who arrested him. David Morris and Garry Rossouw responded quickly and assisted. The victim turned out to be his girlfriend (we verified this with her family). For this reason and we believe for fear of retribution, the woman refused to press charges. We were therefore forced to release the man.


Dr. Liz Day and student Helashini Kalawan have commenced research into the Zeekoevlei midge problem. We will report back when anything newsworthy is found.

  1. Richard07-21-10

    Does anyone read this stuff?

  2. James07-22-10

    I note they are trying to find a cure for the midge problem, in the UK we are having the same discussions as we were having a fantastic summer until this week, now it’s gone back to more like autumn with really strong winds and peeing down…….Anyway, one remedy that keeps on getting repeated and is supposed to work really well is spraying Listerine (mouth wash) around decking, seating areas and wet areas, people were sceptical to start with but the results appear to be amazing, that might be worth a suggestion?

  3. James07-27-10

    Re the litter problem in Zeekoevlei and contract workers who drink and laze about

    I live on the beautiful Bottom Road on the Northern shore of Zeekoevlei and I was recently horrified-and still am- at the amount of litter in the Vlei and on the shore and in the lake, even now well over 2 months since the drawdown took place. It is time for someone to effectively act. I certainly am not prepared to live on a rubbish heap for 2 months of the year while the drawdown of the Vlei is in effect.
    From what I can see the council workers who are cleaning up the mess are not near enough and they are to put it mildly, lazy. The last couple of days I have observed them finishing their shifts way ahead of 4pm when they are supposed to finish thier work for the day.From about 2pm i have seen them lazing about just waiting for the time to pass; they even appear to have alcoholic beverages with them! This is totally unacceptable!-meanwhile the state of the Vlei continues to leave a lot to be desired given that the lake is scheduled to be filled up again in a few days’ time.
    The fact that all the litter of the Flats ends up in the Vlei should immediately warrant a response second to none from the City. Full time people and good contract workers should be immediately employed to continually clean up the vlei and the surrounding shoreline.
    Catchments will have to be built and fast to prevent reams of rubbish washing into the Vlei.
    The Bottom Road sanctuary is one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets- it is a magical kingdom and wetland system-the only one of its kind in Zeekoevlei, just spoiled by the amount of litter that gets washed up due to completely ineffective management.
    The residents of Bottom Road take a serious amount of pride in their environment. This is continually spoiled by the rather mediocre attitude of the City,- time to act and act NOW

    Bottom Road

  4. Sandy Schuurmans08-03-10

    Yes, Richard – I sure read it – well done to you and the team for all your work and getting the news out to us. It’s really super having our very own newsletter by e-mail.

  5. dagny08-08-10

    midges: besides the many other reasons we have them….here are three or so to add to the pot…we are not protecting our wildlife in zeekoevlei. take care of the frogs and toads who eat these little pests…we have an endangered leopard toad that is being decimated by our carless driving, lets be diligent. Also, stop using pesticides. we need our spiders to eat them. We need our bats. Is the endemic and non endemic wildlife, biodiversity and nature surrounds not one of the major reasons we live in and love zeekoevlei? We each need to take responsibility for our home.

  6. MoonDance08-09-10

    midges: I heard a very interesting thing the other night, the midge we have now and last season (its early in the season) is (may be) a new type of midge. Due to the cleanness of the Zeekoevlei water and sludge / mud the one type has diminished in numbers and there is a new kid in town (one that lays eggs in the grass instead of in the water to sink to the bottom and become a blood worm)- it will be interesting to see whether we have another midge massing followed by them spiders like last year (or was it earlier this year?) I don’t like midges much but this is all part of the natural cycle of living at a vlei, if you hate them, understand that you will be in a constant battle against nature (which you will lose) and deal with it, we need the natural balance of spiders, fish, frogs and toads, bats etc. don’t wipe them out, they are allies in the midge wars. Do as a vleibour did recently, collect a jar full of midges and send them to our less fortunate friends in Rondebosch who are not fortunate enough to live in a paradise like Zeekoevlei so they can sprinkle them about and get a taste of paradise at least…

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