The Wagenaarskraal Riverine Rabbit Conservancy in the Nama Karoo is the first of the four Riverine Rabbit Conservancies to have finalised and submitted its management plan to the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Tourism. As part of the management plan development process, the EWT-DCP hosted workshops with the conservancies in 2012 and 2013 to determine members’ priorities and needs; these were then incorporated into the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation management plan pro forma.
Late last year additional workshops were hosted by the EWT-DCP to start the process of developing detailed maps of all the conservancies. This unique mapping exercise saw the Endangered Wildlife Trust, farmers, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, LandCare (Northern and Western Cape) and the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation joining forces to map farmland for future conservation planning purposes. This is the first time that World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT) internationally used assessment tools, in the form of standardised questionnaires, were applied at farm and conservancy level to map current land use and the type and extent of degradation. This fine-scale mapping forms an integral part of the long term planning of sustainable land management in the region. The four Riverine Rabbit Conservancies, encompassing some 350 000 hectares stretching across the Western and Northern Cape in the vicinity of Loxton and Beaufort West, currently form the core area for biodiversity conservation in the Nama Karoo.
Home to the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit, the conservancies continue to demonstrate what can be achieved through strategic partnerships to ensure the conservation of the Karoo’s biodiversity within the living, working agricultural landscape. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries prepared detailed satellite images to be used as working maps during the mapping workshops, which were facilitated by a research scientist from this Department. The participatory mapping workshops were held at Melton Wold in the Brak River Conservancy, and the Riverine Rabbit Retreat in the Sak River Conservancy. Staff from LandCare assisted with the mapping. The Landcare staff have always been very supportive of the Conservancy work and continue to provide technical support to combat soil erosion. The Northern Cape Department of Environment and Nature Conservation has been a mainstay in helping facilitate the biodiversity stewardship process on farmland. The conservancies are represented by landowners passionate about conservation on farmland in the Karoo.
Given that so much of our biodiversity, including many endangered species, occurs outside of formally protected areas, it is critical that landusers are supported by the Government Departments and NGO’s to ensure the conservation of this biodiversity. What was achieved by these workshops is a great example of what can be done when priorities are aligned and teams work together towards a common vision.