It has been the view of the management of the conservancy that the trained guards must be employed to do the legwork in the field. At first Free State Nature Conservation were instrumental in seconding guards from other areas but it has been the experience of the management that the guards should be appointed from local sources. With the increase in public awareness in environmental issues and the emergence of Clarens as a major tourist centre the number of members of the conservancy has increased and there are now four permanent guards employed by the conservancy on patrolling the Clarens area. Two of these have been with the Conservancy virtually since inception.
The benefit/effect of the work of the Conservancy can be seen from the success it has had in the improvement in the fauna and flora of the area, which is reported as follows:
Since the establishment of the conservancy there has been a very marked and noticeable increase in the grey duiker population, which is very easy to see on most nights if you chance to go out with a spotlight. In the early days they were mercilessly hunted with dogs.
The numbers of the Stevenson’s Rock rabbit have increased for the same reason and the Genet population has also improved dramatically. The African wildcat population has improved to the extent that you actually see them during the day sometimes. In the early days they were killed as they preyed on poultry. Otter numbers have increased which is easy to see as if you happened to walk around water. The tracks and middens are evident. Aardwolf, which was never seen, has also increased . A new resident is the Slender mongoose that didn’t stand a chance until the conservancy days. His cousin the grey mongoose shared the same benefit. Even the much-persecuted jackal and porcupine have had an advantage.
A survey of dogs in the valley has shown that we have very few greyhound type hunting dogs and the few that there are we watch very carefully.
Conservancy guards have shot in excess of 80 dogs, which has been achieved by the programme of eradication of wild feral dogs of which one dog actually attacked one of the farm labourers and was shot by Mr. Rob Martin.
The removal of snares has resulted in almost no animals being strangled to death on a fence and the monitoring of skins and animal parts has all but eradicated the trade in muti animals and plants in the conservancy area.
By re-establishing the food chain we have managed to bring back a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles into our area, which were gone for the last ten years. These are the visible battles we have won not to mention the smaller battles won. like insects, which will then attract the insect eaters to the valley.
The enforcement of the laws has resulted in permits for animals that were considered pets, which also educated the owners about the laws.
The conservancy has set up 2 huts and an overnight cave for hikers that served to allow people to enjoy the beauty of the area at an affordable price.
The guards have been instrumental in crime prevention over this period and have made more than 100 arrests that have ranged from poaching fish to stock theft.
In the prevention and fighting of fires the guards have taken charge and been instrumental in that field.
The educational value of the conservancy has also been extremely valuable. With the help of Jan Lesale from Free State Nature Conservation our guards did educational exercises amongst the residents. Our guards have been on numerous training courses with Free State Nature Conservation.
The conservancy encourages sensible hunting practises in the valley and reports all poaching of game.
Some of the new birds that have come into the valley would include the large Spurwinged Goose, Southern Bou Bou, 2 species of Lapwings, Green Woodhoepeo, Longcrested Eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, to mention but a few. These birds would never have come here if the environment were not looked after.
In co-operation with SAFRING and the Bethlehem Bird ringers group we have been ringing birds in the conservancy area for the last year. We also have been doing raptor re-habilitation and relocation in the conservancy area for the last five years and in this year have released 27 birds of prey into our conservancy.
We released 20 mountain tortoises into the conservancy area and have our guards monitoring them. We are building up a data bank of photographs of all the conservancy work for the next generation to take over in order to ensure the long-term protection of our valley from exploitation.
The committee and members have been on several seminars on conservation and have worked hand in hand with NC for all this time to preserve our environment. All this was done at their own expense and time and for no remuneration, the reward has been what we see above.
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