Throughout the devastating fires of the past few days we have seen and heard of many members of the public, emergency personnel, firefighters and environmental personnel who have found injured animals and taken them to a vet or have assisted by removing animals from areas before the flames of the fire engulf them. These are our unsung heroes and we would like to thank each and every person that has taken the time to help our animals in need and for caring for our environment.
It will take time for the veld to restore and seeds to regenerate again and this means that the natural food source, shelter and habitat for the animals will have to be provided in another way. The lack of vegetation in vast areas also impacts on the availability of water and moisture for a myriad of species.
Given the devastation caused by the fires and the enormity of the associated impacts, some of which have been referred to above, it is just too extreme to say “They will move to another area, they will be fine”. Yes, they will have to move to other areas but the limited amount of natural space available for these animals that already only inhabit the narrow strip of veld between difficult mountainous terrain and the urban edge, will have an impact on their behaviour and movement patterns as they search for food and shelter.
We should all be aware that feeding of wild animals is prohibited and therefore Overstrand Municipality cannot support feeding of any wild animals in their natural habitat but we would like to ask that people be aware that animals such as small mammals, lizards, snakes, birds, tortoises etc may frequent their gardens more and more over the next few months for shelter, protection, water or food. Please do not destroy these creatures and rather report them to us if they become a nuisance.
The Overstrand also has a large number of baboon troops in the areas of Rooiels, Pringle Bay, Betty’s Bay, Kleinmond, Onrus, Hermanus, Voëlklip and Franskraal. It is possible that we could start seeing a big change in the behavioural patterns and movement patterns of our troops. A great deal of their natural feeding ranges have been destroyed by the fire.
Bearing this in mind, refer to an article written by doctoral researcher, Joselyn Elise Mornile: “Fynbos is a fire adapted vegetation that requires burns every 10-25 years for survival. Fire allows the seed cones of several plant species to open where the seeds then fall to the ground, allowing them to be consumed and dispersed by wildlife such as baboons, mice, birds and ants. Baboons play an especially pivotal role here as they are the largest seed dispersers and germinators in our areas through faecal deposition. The seeds then come out the other end intact in a happy fertilized home away from their parent plant. This facilitates the plants genetic survival and increases plant diversity in our area. It is of vital importance that baboons serve this role in the fynbos after fire”.
Because of this we would like to ask the people of the Overstrand NOT to feed the baboons. Please do not put out food for them in the veld - this will prohibit them from doing what they are supposed to naturally do and this in turn will have a negative impact on the regeneration of our natural environment, which later could lead to erosion and serious soil and vegetation loss. This could all have a long-term negative effect on the biodiversity of our areas. Please refrain from leaving food in the veld.
If you would like to put out water for animals and birds, please do not do it close to your house. Rather put it in the veld, away from the urban edge. There are other animals such as cats and dogs that could prey on these animals in and around the urban area. Please ensure that you do not have fruiting trees, vegetable gardens, open refuse bins or bags, open compost heaps, etc. in your gardens if you live within 500m of a nature reserve or natural area that has burnt. The animals will try to feed on these easy pickings and this can lead to constant and more severe raids and the associated conflict with humans. This could ultimately lead to the capture or death of the animal.
Please do not start this vicious cycle by feeding the baboons.
The Overstrand Municipality would appreciate your understanding and support in this matter. Please report any major invasions of your gardens by wild animals or birds.
Who to call?
Sick birds in the Overstrand area should be reported (GPS co-ordinates for location will be most helpful) to the African Penguin & Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) on 072 598 7117, the nearest local state vet, BirdLife Overberg, CapeNature office or the Overstrand Municipality's environmental department (028 316 3724 or a/h 028 313 8000/8111).