SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Albatross Task Force
Andrea Angel spend time assisting Namibian Albatross Task Force (ATF) in planning a training course for their fisheries observers in Luderitz. In South Africa the course is run though the Responsible Fisheries Alliance supported by the ATF, and its success in raising awareness and changing attitudes towards more sustainable fishing practises has been instrumental. Bokamoso Lebepe and Andrea worked together to finalise Bokamoso's at-sea trip report from his recent pelagic longline trip which was sent to the skipper for feedback. The ATF team agreed on a work plan with which to engage the South African Hake Longline Association (SAHLLA) to arrange for targeted sea trips for seabird data collection and the improvement of current mitigation measures for this fleet. They also discussed the bird-scaring line designs that will be tried in the local longline fleet with Oliver Yates, ATF Programme Manager. Reason Nyengera had a productive meeting with CapMarine observer agency about their continued support to the ATF with seabird bycatch monitoring and basic data collection protocols. He and Bokamoso also conducted a port visit on a local demersal longline vessel for Reason to familiarise himself with the type of vessels and get a better understanding of their operations and seabird bycatch mitigation measures.
Pete Watt-Pringle continued with his port-based outreach work, including visiting another vessel and assisting Ross Wanless with a proposal to access additional data from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Bronwyn was on leave this week
Taryn Morris and Christina Hagen worked on the launch of the Global #protectapenguin Campaign. The campaign is off to a flying start (or perhaps it is going swimmingly for the penguins). Taryn also spent time working on budget and progress reports. Christina had a Skype meeting with her advisory committee in Plett, who are assisting with plans for the establishment of a new penguin colony in the area.
This week, Nini van der Merwe assisted Emma Askes with preparation for Flock at Sea AGAIN!. The seabird office was transformed into a temporary workshop, when the volunteers from the Cape Bird Club came to organise the merchandise to go onboard for the trip. Correspondence with the individuals presenting lectures onboard, counting (and re-counting) of boxes and banners and pamphlets to go on board...let's just say, it was chock a Flock full of admin! Ross Wanless was lecturing the Conservation Biology Masters students at University of Cape Town (UCT) this week, but also managed to achieve a few things, including assisting Nini with lecture schedules for Flock, making final changes to the Annual Report, and developing an advertisement for a post-doctoral position at UCT, with Peter Ryan. He also met with Kerry Sink to discuss data needs to support the proclamation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPA), and worked with BLI colleagues to develop a data request for seabird tracking data to overlay onto proposed MPA boundaries. Ross also discussed Responsible Fisheries Alliance matters with colleagues and staff, in an effort to strengthen the functioning of the alliance and to bring a few important matters up for discussion at the next RFA steering committee meeting. Ross continued discussions with various colleagues overseas ahead of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission meeting in May, where Ross will join the SA delegation and hopes to support Australia’s decision to propose a strengthening of the existing seabird conservation measure
TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
Linda van den Heever and Albert Froneman met with Antoinette Kotze (National Zoological Gardens) to discuss the NZG’s assistance in conducting DNA analysis on blood smears from unidentified bird strikes on aircraft. Linda met with Antoinette Kotze, Grant Hall (University of Pretoria) and Vinnie Naidoo (Onderstepoort), respectively, to investigate the best way to prepare bone samples for lead analysis. Linda and Albert also met with Hanneline Smit-Robinson to discuss BirdLife South Africa’s continued assistance to wildlife officers at ACSA airports. Finally, Linda had a discussion with Sharon Thompson (SANParks) on the Black Stork and Taita Falcon survey that is scheduled to take place in Kruger National Park in August.
IBA PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
IBA PROGRAMME NATIONAL
Daniel Marnewick completed the next draft of the Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) Community Strategy document, as well as submitted a funding proposal for his work on KBAs. Another meeting was held with Ian Little from EWT to further discuss how to continue improving collaboration between the two organisations. Daniel then attended a dinner meeting with Anthony Solomon (IBA supporter) and the CEOs of the Gauteng Tourism Agency and South African Tourism Services Association. Finally Daniel had a meeting with Greg Martindale to discuss the writing of a chapter in the Biodiversity Stewardship Guideline. Daniel was on leave from Thursday.
IBA PROGRAMME - REGIONAL CONSERVATION
Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State
Ernst Retief spent most of the week in the office finishing various administration tasks and drafting documents. The most important of these was the drafting of the press release for the declaration of the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment. Ernst also received the final comments for the document on measuring protection levels for species for South Africa's National Biodiversity Assessment. This document has now been submitted to the project committee for approval. Ernst also provided comments on a scientific article, tested the Beta version of the BirdLasser app and took the Terios in for a service. Ernst will be on leave for the next week and will then attend the Flock at Sea cruise.
Dale Wright travelled to Wilderness on Monday morning for meetings with landowners in the Wilderness – Sedgefield Lakes Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, who are interested in securing formal protection for their properties. A strategy meeting was held with three landowners and South African National Parks to discuss the best way forward for achieving formal protection. This included investigating options such as a Protected Environment or Contract National Park. The landowners themselves are strongly conservation orientated and are already managing their properties, which border on the Wilderness Lakes, in such a way as to enhance biodiversity. Field visits to the properties were conducted on Tuesday morning. Dale spent the remainder of the short week travelling back to Cape Town and dealing with project administration. This included reviewing and finalising landowner agreements for the Moutonshoek Protected Environment, following up on matters related to the Birdathon event, reviewing a SANBI collaboration agreement for the Karoo Birds Project and drafting potential research projects for the UCT MSc Conservation Biology class.
IBA PROGRAMME - PROJECTS
Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project
Candice Stevens had an eventful week and dealt with a number of varied tasks. Importantly, Candice reviewed the Draft Offsets Policy which has recently been released for public comment. This policy aims to detail a controversial but necessary environmental tool which will impact a number of areas of BirdLife South Africa’s work. Candice had a briefing session with Romy Antrobus-Wuth regarding the collation of comments on this draft policy. Candice then focused on drafting her authorship sections of the Biodiversity Stewardship (BDS) Guideline on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the BDS community of practice. The BDS Guideline is a national document combining authorship on all BDS related topics by experts across the country. Candice is contributing two chapters to the Guideline; the first relating to fiscal benefits. Candice also drafted an extension request to the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and had discussions with Angus Burns (WWF-SA) regarding this during the week. Candice drove to Bryanston to meet with Shelley Lizzio (head of the Business and Biodiversity Network, EWT) on Wednesday. Other meetings this week included: discussions with Tracey Cumming (BioFin head, DEA) about a number of policy related queries and legislation interpretation for Privately Protected Areas; Daniel Marnewick on a number of future project plans; and Mark Anderson regarding Candice’s work on expanding BirdLife South Africa’s fiscal benefits offering. Candice also researched and held discussions surrounding title deed endorsements and governing legislation for BDS sites with the IBA team. Finally, Candice organised and participated in BirdLife South Africa’s first Easter Egg Hunt held at Isdell House.
Verlorenvlei Protected Area Project
Samantha Schröder spent time this week reviewing the MOA and Management Agreements for Moutonshoek Protected Environment and sorting out the repairs on her vehicle. Dale Wright and Samantha had a Skype meeting on Wednesday to discuss project progress, the Verlorenvlei Estuary Advisory Forum and input into various documents.
Cape Estuaries Stewardship Project
This week Giselle Murison visited two sites at the Berg River Estuary, where applications have been made for changes in retail activity and/or re-zoning. Both sites border sensitive estuarine habitats. The applications are currently out for public consultation and the visits helped to formulate comment for submission next week. Giselle also met with property owners at the Berg River Estuary. These meetings were to discuss the possibility of applying for Ramsar status for the estuary and to continue discussions around the formal protection of the estuary, specifically the options offered through Biodiversity Stewardship. Giselle spent most of the rest of the week on a number of administrative tasks, including preparing a presentation on the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project for a meeting of the Hermanus Bird Club next week and dealing with requests for information and comment from landowners and users of the estuarine project sites.
IBA PROGRAMME ADMIN
Romy Antrobus-Wuth reviewed the IBA section of BirdLife South Africa’s Annual Report and compiled more marketing material for the IgerBook. She compiled the template for the monthly IBA Quiz to be run on social media platforms to help raise awareness around IBAs. Romy and Candice Stevens reviewed and discussed the DEAs Draft Offset Policy which is out for comment and discussed how to collate BirdLife South Africa’s comments on the document. Romy also started work on mapping possible future threats to IBAs across South Africa and requested data from various provincial sources.
AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME
Martin Taylor continued work on the Red List Index as well as uploading references to the SANBI online platform. Ian Owtram and Martin discussed a plan of action for the next six months of the bird guide training programme. Work was completed on a presentation to the Peace Parks Foundation that will cover a tourism development product in the KAZA regions of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Martin met briefly with Andrew Whylo of Whysall’s. A large proposal compiled by BirdLife Zimbabwe and submitted to the Zimbabwe—Transparency, Responsiveness, Accountability, and Citizen Engagement (TRACE) Fund to undertake work in wetlands around Harare was accepted. Ian hosted a guide training course at Wakkerstroom for students rewriting their FGASA Level 1 Nature Guide exam.
The past week was a hive of activity with final preparations for Flock at Sea, the finalisation of the annual report, and other admin.