While Humanity, and consequently our natural capital are further tested in 2021, there are moments to celebrate in bringing people closer to nature. We are proud to share these with you!
The K2C Team
Research article on the Butterflies of Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
– By Daddy Mathaba, Environmental Monitor – PRIDE Member
This article is based on butterfly research that was conducted in the Lekgalametse Nature reserve from the 28th to the 30th of April 2021. The research was organized and led by Daddy Mathaba, an Environmental Monitor under the host, Kruger to Canyon Biosphere Region (K2C BR). The research was a social-learning and team-building event for 15 K2C Environmental Monitors from different regions, namely Lekgalameetse, Olifants, and Phiring. Tents were provided to accommodate the EMs.
On the first day, a route from the Lekgalameetse entrance gate to the waterfall was followed. Two teams were allocated a sweeping net each. The atmospheric conditions were perfect for ectotherms and many butterflies were spotted, caught, squeezed on their thorax, and kept safe for later identification.
The team had diverse background knowledge on biodiversity. Within the research team, there was Lucius, who was assisting in identifying the arachnids, amphibians, and plants. His knowledge of invertebrates sparked the brains of the whole team, many of whom knew little about these small creatures. Most flora and fauna of the region were identified whilst catching butterflies. The dominant butterfly species spotted on this day was the Soldier Pansy, found perching on the road and certain plants. Research was not conducted on camp days, so most butterflies were caught and released as they had been collected previously. This highlights the eco-friendliness of the methods used to collect butterflies.
On the 2nd day of research, the temperature was not in favor of mobility for most butterflies; it was windy and overcast. However, the team took a 5km route from the entrance gate to the south-side gravel road of the reserve.
The team took three hours to reach the waterfall. The Olifants and Phiring EMs were over the moon experiencing the beauty of the waterfall and its surroundings. Many enjoyed immersing themselves in the water and more photographs were taken.
The research aims to:
- Determine the butterfly species diversity of the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
- Assess the concentration of different species in various habitats
- Assess the hotspots of butterfly species in the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
- Identify the correlation between seasons and butterfly species’ richness
The data collection was effected on the 29th and 30th of April 2021. Only two methods were applied, namely the Fruit trap and Sweeping net.
The aim of this sampling was to evaluate butterfly diversity. Five fruit traps were hung between 7am and 8am. The traps contained four month old fermented banana bait. They were placed on trees in silent areas, approximately one meter above the ground with the aim of being in the sun for the longest part of the day. At 4pm, the traps were retrieved and the specimens collected.
The aim of this sampling was to evaluate species diversity. The method was performed between 9am and 3pm. Two groups composed of seven and eight participants had their sweeping nets; one net per group.
The overall results of the research have shown that Lekgalameetse has diverse flora and fauna. 12 different butterfly species were collected during the research, 6 species on the first day and 6 species on the second day. Some species were identified, and some are still awaiting identification. The Lekgalameetse EMs have already collected more than 40 different butterfly species, which is more than the 1990 Master Plan of the Lekgalameetse.
Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve is believed to have a diverse number of butterfly species. The results indicate that various environmental factors (humidity, temperature, and wind intensity); habitat variables (host plant and vegetation) and elevation indicate a strong correlation with species richness and diversity. Certain butterfly species can survive cold, windy conditions, however, the highest diversity of butterflies is observed during blooming season, and at less steep elevations. Sweeping nets and fruit traps are highly effective when collecting butterfly species as they assist in identifying hotspots of an abundance of butterfly species.
The study recommends more research to identify the relationship between vegetation types and butterfly species richness.
The team would like to acknowledge the K2C management for food provision, Prof. Alan Gardiner for assisting in identification of the butterflies and the Lekgalameetse management for hospitality.
Triple, A.D, (2012). Butterfly species diversity, relative abundance and status in Tropical Forest Research Institute. Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, Central India. Journal o
f Threatened Taxa, 4(7), pp. 2713-2717.
William, M. C, & Altenroxel, B. (2014). The butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea) of Lekgalameetse Provincial Park, Limpopo Province, South Africa. ResearchGate Journal,25, pp. 126-137.
Ishmail, N., Mohamed, M., Khim, P.,C . &Tokiman ,L.(2018). Spatial distribution of butterfly ( Lepidoptera: Papiliondea) along Altitudinal Gradient at Gunung Ledang National Park. Johor, Malaysia.
Measuring the outcomes of ecological restoration
– by Jan Graf
Ecological restoration, including invasive alien plant clearing, erosion control and wetland restoration aimed at improving the health and integrity of upper Blyde, Sand and Klaserie Catchments, has been taking place for well over 2 decades in these catchments. However, until recently very little monitoring to measure the longer-term outcomes and impacts of this restoration process – particularly in terms of water and biodiversity gains – has been conducted.
As part of a broader process supporting the development of more integrated, coordinated and systematic restoration of the area, a long-term monitoring network of vegetation and hydrological monitoring points was initiated in 2019 by SAEON, the K2C, and AWARD, in partnership with all key management and restoration agencies working in the area. This process is also linked to the current expansion process of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve as well as the development of a new Integrated Management Plan for the area. This expansion includes ca. 16000 of the previous State Forestry Lowveld Plantations which contains large areas of remaining plantations and alien plant invasions. The removal of these decommissioned plantations and invasions is hoped to improve the flow of water out of these catchments, particularly during the dry season.
To date, a lack of funding has prevented the immediate establishment of such a network. In order to overcome this challenge, a collaborative co-funding approach has been adopted by the group of partners involved. Over the past four months however, funding from the SANBI Biodiversity and Land Use Project to the K2C, as well as internal funding within SAEON, has enabled the expansion of the hydrological monitoring network in the area to take place. This has involved the installation of two new automated streamflow monitoring devices within tributaries in the Upper Blyde and Klaserie Rivers respectively. This work has also included capacity development of the Restoration Champions Team members in terms of environmental monitoring.
These monitoring points, along with two existing ones, will allow for the establishment of a baseline against which future streamflow can be compared once these upper catchments have been restored. Additionally, the potential impacts of climate change on water flow may also be measured. Current plans are in place to continue the installation of further such devices.
The K2C is proud to partner with SAEON, the national custodian of long-term environmental monitoring, in supporting the broader data collection and maintenance of these monitoring sites in the Biosphere.
Funding for this work has been received from UNDP GEF5 via the SANBI Biodiversity and Land Use Project and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)
PARTNERS: MTPA, DEFF Forestry, DEFF NRM
Sabie River Catchment Irrigation Water Use Training
– by Mbali Mashele, Project Manager
As the WWF Sabie River Water Stewardship Project drew to an end, one of the most important stewardship responsibilities was to engage with principal stakeholders and transfer skills from the various water stewardship activities conducted in the farming areas. These included water accounting, the use of water-smart tools, and policy concerning water access for farming communities. They developed an Irrigation Water Use training module in collaboration with IUCMA to provide an overview of these issues and form a network of contacts between the IUCMA and DARDLEA. The training module was co-designed with DARDLEA, to suit their specific needs.
The training was held on the 11th of March 2021, in Hazyview, and the following topics were discussed: Strategic water source areas and their importance; hydrological features of the Sabie Catchment; the role of ecological infrastructure, and the importance of stewardship activities for Water Resources Management; Sabie catchments’ municipal boundaries; built-in water infrastructure and capacities; the water value chain; water-use legislative framework; water allocation reform planning; revenue and billing; water accounting and smart irrigation techniques.
The training provided insight and clarity on the water licensing processes, irrigation water legislation, and policies. Most importantly, DARDLEA stressed that the information gathered would allow them to provide informed guidance and support to emerging and smallholder farmers concerning irrigation water use and processes. The training content and engagement aligned with DARDLEA’s mandate within a catchment context. IUCMA, DARDLEA, and the Project noted the importance of strengthening intergovernmental and organizational relationships within a water-resource and management context. This led to stimulating and engaging discussions around issues in the landscape and possible collaborative solutions which would be crucial to good water governance. Follow-up interactions and engagements on irrigation water use were envisaged by all present.
FUNDERS and PARTNERS: WWF -SA, DARDLEA, IUCMA, SANParks
Dinkwanyane Water Smart project- Phiring is Saving Money!
– by Shoki Mafogo, Project Manager
Together with the Phiring community, we have established five functional Savings Groups to date. Many of these groups are at an advanced stage as some have already had their savings collected and others are ready for the financial education phase. These savings groups are each assigned a facilitator who workshops a group of 10-20 members on the Save Act Methodology.
The SaveAct Methodology is about access to a simple savings and loan system that is managed by group members within a community which does not have access to formal financial services. Self- selected groups voluntarily form a SCG and save money, through savings contributions (or purchasing shares). There is mandatory savings and lending training for all groups, which explains the savings and credit system. During training, groups draw up their own constitution; deciding on their own code of conduct, share value etc.
It is very exciting to be part of this empowering process which strengthens governance structures and maximizes the full value of these groups within the community. These SCGs are also a means for CAPEX fund recipients to pay back their loan value. As a “pay-it-forward” group, this frees up money for another member to purchase inputs in keeping with the objectives of the group.
We have plans to establish more groups in and around the Phiring community this year.
PARTNERS:HH; CSA; SaveAct
Hike of a lifetime
– by Mpho Lavhengwa, Assistant data capturer
Abel Erasmus pass, where the J.G Strydom tunnel is located, is an exquisite hiking spot with breath-taking terrain and exquisite views. The area offers an array of ecosystem services to the locals who visit the area for various spiritual, cultural and recreational purposes.
The limestone caves and numerous waterfalls with clear, blue water are spectacular. Birding specialists visit for sightings of diverse and rare bird species, whilst church groups and hiking enthusiasts are content to enjoy the serene environment.
The majestic J.G Strydom tunnel waterfall is visible at close range from the land below , with water cascading down a slope formed from years of mineral sedimentation. The tranquil and soul-soothing atmosphere is calming and provides a much needed break from our busy lives.
We were guided along by our very own Mr Michael Kumaku; a professional guide with BirdLife SA. He knows the tracks like the back of his hand and navigated the very steep slopes like a pro while we all panted behind. It was Michael’s 3rd hike of the day – and our first – when I decided that hiking is just not for me! Despite this, Mr Kumaku guided us patiently until we were safely back at the top and could all breathe again.
The how, what, and why of Gender Mainstreaming
Cindy Koen, Project Manager
Gender Mainstreaming refers to an implemented strategy that supports actions focused on bringing equality between all genders. The purpose for this is to ensure that previously marginalized genders have equal opportunities going forward.
The biggest question is how to achieve gender mainstreaming. It starts with small steps; simple things such as educating the youth as to how all genders are equal, teaching women and girls to make educated decisions about their lives, empowering all genders and allowing them to feel a sense of belonging. Then there are bigger matters to look at; allowing representatives of all genders to have a say in policy making and to participate in both high-level and grassroot discussions. All genders should feel that they have a worthy opinion on matters of life. The ability to access resources such as financial mechanisms is important; women especially, should understand their right to equal compensation in the workplace.
Why is all of this necessary? Having input from a wider range of stakeholders allows for greater efficiency and representation. For this reason, our country will be more effective in policy making and better able to find solutions to pressing problems.
TASC introduces fuel efficient stoves in the K2C landscape.
– by Dimakatso Nonyane, Resilient Waters Project Manager
The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region has partnered with TASC, a carbon finance and project development company, they are positioned to identify emerging opportunities in the carbon market which includes the origination of projects that reduce CO2 emissions.
This fuel-efficient stove project is a solution that was longed for by our landscape because the K2C Environmental Monitors who are based in various villages have been reporting on the increase in illegal harvesting of indigenous plants which reduces biodiversity richness of the area, and several research projects was done by the Wits Rural Facility and SAEON to quantify the scale at which harvesting is happening communities.
The fuel-efficient Stoves will be distributed free of charge to households and in return an End User Agreement will be signed which stipulates the terms and conditions for the user who will agree that TASC will sell the savings of carbon emissions on the carbon market to pay for the stoves and monitoring of the use by our Environmental monitors.
The first step in the process is rigorous stakeholder consultation and in the second week of May 2021 a team from TASC visited the K2C to be part of the stakeholder consultations that took place within the four identified project clusters of Sekororo, Phalaborwa, Greenvalley and Islington. These villages also took part of a baseline study that took place in March 2021.
The week kick started with the EM managers doing presentations to show their understanding of the project in preparation to deliver precise information to the communities and did a little exercise of lighting up the stove to demonstrate that it is easy to use. Using only twigs a pot of water can be brought to the boil in less than 20 minutes!
This was followed by a four-day visit to the different clusters as the TASC team got excited to see how the communities will react to this project and any concerns that might arise. Approximately 250 individuals were reached and welcomed the project because it is a life changing one, it will spare them some time to focus on other activities rather that wood collection and save them money because some families buy firewood. In addition, it reduces smoke from cooking in houses. The Chiefs and Indunas were excited because they can promote conservation of protected species in their land and keep rangelands in a good state because of the reduction of over harvesting.
The TASC project aims to save indigenous trees that are being harvested at a larger scale in different communities in our landscape for everyday use and will also help households to save money because electricity is becoming more and more expensive This project will also benefit the community in a sense that their use of the cookstoves will assist in the adaptation/mitigation of climate change as they will be reducing
carbon emissions from open fires that are commonly used to prepare food or water.
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: TASC, DFFE Environmental Monitor programme
Partnerships for catchments
– by Nicholas Theron, Senior Manager
One of the key programs managed by the K2C team focusses on protecting and improving the management of catchment areas. Our mountains and rivers are the source of our water. This underpins the local economy and it does not matter who you are and in what sector you may work. It therefore makes sense that these areas should be a priority for conservation action. Historically, the focus has been on alien invasive plant clearing but over the past few years this has also shifted to the use of fire to protect, safeguard and enhance the restoration effort. This type of work is also labour intensive and is thus an important potential employment driver. Historically this type of work has largely been funded by government programmes such as working for water but there is an increased focus on exploring models to sustainably finance these initiatives, after all, it is something that impacts on us all! In this regard K2C with key partners such as the Kruger National Park and Conservation South Africa are exploring opportunities to establish a catchment fund that would unlock financial inputs to ensure catchment areas are optimally managed.
The water fund model, developed by the Nature Conservancy has been identified as a framework to achieve this. Water funds have proved successful throughout the world with the Cape Town Water Fund the most well-known local example. The aim of this fund would be to galvanize partnerships to drive a process into the future that aims to protect and better manage catchment areas thus supporting a resilient and thriving local economy, especially in the face of climate change. The success of this initiative relies on the support of a diverse range of partners and stakeholders from different sectors, but luckily the greater Hoedspruit area has these in abundance!
FUNDERS/PARTNERS: USAID Resilient Waters, UNDP GEF 5 SANBI Biodiversity and Land-use Project
Greater Kruger Landscape Level METT and Cooperative Agreement Review
– by Wehncke van der Merwe
Protected area management is a highly complex process with many different moving parts. South Africa is a world leader when it comes to the application of innovative and novel approaches towards protected area management that tie all of these complex processes together. One of the tools that has been championed across our country for unpacking protected area management is the METT (Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool).
The METT helps entities better understand the legislative environment and best practice associated with successfully running a protected area. Through the Greater Kruger Cooperative Agreement, with support from K2C through the GEF Protected Area programme we assess the reserves part of the Greater Kruger every two years. At the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 we were due to undertake another review. COVID-19 and associated restrictions made doing this iteration of the assessment hard to complete but we persisted and did the METT and Cooperative Agreement Review for 24 reserves in total. This included provincial, national, communal and private reserves. The assessments was then compiled into a report by an external party to ensure objectivity prevails. The assessment highlighted many key issues such as the impact of COVID on income for many reserves, increased bush meat poaching and slow bureaucratic processes holding back legal progress such as declaration and management authority assignment. Through the partnership driven approaches of the Cooperative Agreement we hope to be able to address issues such as those highlighted below during the next few years.
Apart from the challenges faced there was also significant wins over the last few years for our protected areas. Importantly, multiple new protected areas were declared, multiple reserves experienced substantial improvements in day to day operations on things ranging from conservation beyond borders to compliance, public awareness and education. This has taken place through the dedication and hard work of our protected area management teams who pour their harts and souls into protecting our natural heritage. We at K2C Biosphere appreciate their efforts immensely and feel privileged to work closely with them.
Protected area management is a continuous process and we hope that through working together we can continue to improve the ability of our landscape to excel in protecting our biodiversity and showcase socio-economic beneficiation.
Map of the Greater Kruger protected area system (Special mention needs to be made of Makalali, Selati, Karongwe Hans Merensky, Wolkberg, Lekgalameetse, Andover, Blyde Canyon and Bushbuckridge protected areas who also participates in the Greater Kruger METT process even though they are not directly open to the Greater Kruger
 The Greater Kruger Cooperative Agreement is s a landscape-level legal agreement between public and private conservation entities in the Greater Kruger open system. It enables cooperative, integrated and consistent PA management. It is based on five key management pillars: Governance, Environmental Management, Socio Economic Benefits, Safety and Security and Land Inclusion.
Youth day celebration
– By Vusi Tshabalala, Project Manager
On the 17th of June 2021, the Kruger 2 Canyons Biosphere commemorated the 16th Of June Youth day celebration through capacity building in a form of an excursion to one of Hoedspruit tourism destinations; Hoedspruit Reptile Centre (HRC). A total of 26 Environmental Monitors leaders from different partner organisations and communities implementing the EM programme called the PRIDE group were the fortunate young leaders to show courage and heart just as the youth of 1976 by facing their giants. The word PRIDE stands for:
P = PROGRESSIVE
R = RESILIENT
I = INITIATIVE
D = DRIVEN
E = EMPOWERED
Celebrating this day aligns well with the biosphere’s objectives of linking people to their natural resources and capacity building as the protest by the youth back then was access to information in a language that they could understand as they seek to better their lives. On this day K2C biosphere celebrates the young people through education, information, capacity building, and empowerment of its young leaders. The PRIDE group was empowered through a snake awareness course by the owner of HRC Chris Cooke, who taught them about different snake venoms, myths around snakes, how to identify snakes through their skin type, eyes, colour, time of day and type of environment. The group was fascinated and asked a lot of questions as snakes and reptiles are one of the topics they teach in their communities and school where many myths and challenges with living in harmony with reptiles comes up due to fear and stories passed down from generation to generation as experienced by the monitors. Some of the brave ones faced their fears and tested the new information received by having boa constrictor around their neck while smiling away for pictures. The group was not only exposed to snakes but other reptiles such as chameleons, crocodiles, iguanas just to name a few. All the participants completed the course and were awarded certificates of attendance.
K2C Quarterly Learning colloquium
– by Noxolo Mbebe
The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region hosted one of its quarterly learning colloquiums on the 19th May 2021. The theme of the colloquium was water resources monitoring. Due to the current Covid situation, the colloquium was hosted online. The colloquium was attended by the PRIDE EMs (EM leadership forum) and partners, including CSA, SANBI, SAEON, MTPA, IDLES and DFFE. This pleasing turnout showed that there is a keen interest in water related research and learning amongst these stakeholders.
The colloquium programme featured four speakers and was chaired by Romy Antrobus-Wuth, the K2C’s Stewardship ecologist.
Hilary Kordecki, a researcher with Ohio State University presented on the “One Health Approach to Disposable Diaper Waste Management”. The key findings included that on average, the number of disposable diapers used per child per day is 2.63 and half of all diaper waste sites were within a 2,200m buffer zone to major rivers. She also stated that less than 1/3 of all diaper waste sites fell within a 4,000m buffer zone to protected areas, and interestingly, women are largely responsible for the purchase (72.37%) and disposal (89.75%) of diapers.
The second presenter was Noxolo Mbebe, a Biodiversity and NRM intern with AWARD and the K2C BR. The main objective of the presentation was to share her learnings and knowledge gathered during the wetland course she attended in alignment with the wetland work she has been involved in. The key aspects of the work was the desktop-based wetland mapping and infield ground truthing, characterization and health assessment of wetlands.
Tony Swemmer, Ndlovu Node Manager with SAEON presented on the long-term hydrological monitoring of the Upper Blyde, Sand and Klaserie Rivers. The aim of the work is to monitor changes in river flows as land management changes and predict future changes in river flows. A total of 2056mm of precipitation (rain and mist) was recorded between 2019 and 2020 and about 1779mm recorded between 2020 and 2021 in Mariepskop.
Lastly, Jan Graf, a Research Associate with IDLES and K2C focussed on mapping and assessing wetlands on the Upper Blyde, Sand and Klaserie Catchments. The main focus is on the Lowveld Plantations & Blyde Nature Reserve. Major findings were that more than 500 locations have been identified & mapped as potential wetlands and nearly all wetlands in the Lowveld Plantations have one or multiple forms of degradation, including plantations upstream of wetlands, invasions, plantations within wetlands, roads through wetlands, siltation and moribund herbaceous material & woody species encroachment resulting from lack of fire.
South Africa is a water scarce country and the K2C BR is a unique study area as it represents a crossroad for interaction amongst humans, animals and the surrounding ecosystems. As such this work is important for the K2C region and its people as it provides crucial information and addresses major environmental issues such as pollution affecting water resources, assessment, conservation and restoration of degraded ecosystems for increased ecosystem services as well as monitoring to better manage our water resources to meet economic and environmental needs. Furthermore, this different bits of work informs the implementation of relevant restoration strategies and efforts.
The session was very interactive and informative. The K2C extends its gratitude to everyone who attended and contributed to the success of the colloquium.