SEABIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

The Seabird team hosted a farewell dinner for Ross Wanless, who will be leaving the team at the end of March. It was an occasion to reminisce and celebrate the contributions Ross has made to seabird conservation. Best wishes for your new adventures Ross!

Mouse Free Marion

Nini van der Merwe worked on the Memorandum of Understanding that will soon be signed between BirdLife South Africa and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Mark Anderson and Fanie du Plessis visited the seabird office on Thursday. Nini, Ross Wanless, Andrea Angel and Christina Hagen met with them both to discuss the project and prepare for a meeting they had with Guy Preston from DEA on Friday. Nini, Christina and Fanie also discussed the budget for this project. Nini worked with the web developer to discuss changes to the fundraising website and also responded to a number of queries from potential Canadian donors. 

Coastal Seabirds

Christina Hagen discussed and planned the coastal seabird project budgets with Fanie du Plessis, and met with Mark Anderson and Ross Wanless about recruitment of Ross's successor. She and Andrew de Blocq prepared abstracts for submission for the International Penguin Conference later this year. Andrew also reviewed updates and changes to the BirdLife South Africa website.

Albatross Task Force

Andrea Angel and Reason Nyengera ran two training workshops in Port Elisabeth with Fisheries compliance officers from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Reason Nyengera carried out a bird mitigation plan assessment on an offshore trawl vessel.

Common Oceans

This week Nini van der Merwe continued to work on wrapping up after the final Global Seabird Bycatch Assessment workshop.

Gough Island Restoration Project

Nini van der Merwe assisted colleagues at the RSPB with import permit applications for a bait trial taking place in April. She also met with a shipping company and inspected potential warehousing for the project.

 

TERRESTRIAL BIRD CONSERVATION PROGRAMME

Hanneline Smit-Robinson and Linda van den Heever attended the fourth (and final) meeting of the Saving Africa’s Vultures pursuit at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre in Annapolis (Maryland, USA). The aims of the meeting were to map out ongoing collaborations, and to finalise publications that resulted from the meetings. Robin Colyn, assisted by Carina Coetzer, serviced camera traps across two wetland sites as part of the White-winged Flufftail Project this week. The remainder of the week was spent on spatial modelling as part of the Black Harrier Project, data collation and analyses as part of the White-winged Flufftail Project and scientific manuscript compilation synthesising recent breakthroughs in the respective projects. Melissa Whitecross attended the African Conference for Linear Infrastructure & Ecology in Skukuza, Kruger National Park, where she presented her work on modelling the risk of electrocutions on transformer boxes within the range of the Critically Endangered Southern Banded Snake Eagle. Carina and Sakhile Mthalane completed several avifaunal counts on Ingula Nature Reserve, and also placed and serviced camera traps for on-site projects.

Renewable energy

Sam Ralston gave an on-line presentation to SESNYC on the risk that wind energy might pose to vultures in Africa. She also assisted AMDA Developments with high-level screening of a potential wind farm development and worked on a paper she is co-authoring with Prof. Peter Ryan and Vonica Perold which describes the diversity of species affected by wind energy facilities.

 

IBA PROGRAMME

Landscape Analysis & Project Development

The IBA team held a planning and progress meeting via Skype on 12 March. This gave team members the opportunity to provide an update on their various projects and discuss shared challenges. Dale Wright and Daniel Marnewick held a lengthy Skype meeting on Wednesday to discuss the current IBA Implementation projects and the plan for the year ahead.

Estuary IBA Conservation Project

On 11 March, Giselle Murison had a Skype meeting with landowners at the Klein River estuary, who are looking to declare a Nature Reserve at their property. The details of the declaration process were discussed, including timelines and the relevant documentation. Giselle met with Dale Wright on 14 March to discuss project progress and the next steps in the project. They then met with project funders, WWF-SA, the same afternoon to discuss project timelines. Giselle also spent time this week preparing a brief on the use of BirdLasser in Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC), and suggestions for increasing the number of CWAC counts and sites within the Cape Whale Coast IBA.

Blue Swallow Monitoring Project

Steve McKean travelled to the Harding area to meet with the landowner at Sunnyvale and to check on the Blue Swallow sites there. A pair of Blue Swallows was seen, and reports indicate that they have been active in the nest holes. The landowner engagement meeting was positive, with several outstanding issues being resolved. However, the landowner is under heavy financial pressure and is having to re-assess his operation and re-considering Stewardship on the property. Several alternatives to his current Stewardship situation were discussed and it was agreed that Steve will contact him again after a month to take the matter forward.

Mistbelt Grassland and Forest Conservation Project

Steve McKean attended the Zululand IBA launch at Mkhuze and met with Linda van den Heever to initiate discussions around adding value to the vulture work she is doing in the IBA. The meeting was positive, and the next steps will include setting a date for a more inclusive brainstorming session with landowners, to decide on ideas to take forward in the funding proposals. Steve will also be joining Linda to assist in assessing Manypni as a “vulture safe zone” in early April.  Steve McKean attended the BirdLife KZN Bird Club Forum held at the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) in Howick, on 9 March . He gave a presentation on the BirdLife South Africa – Conservation Outcomes partnership work in KwaZulu-Natal . The presentation was well received. Final touches and edits are being made to renew the BirdLife South Africa– Conservation Outcomes partnership agreement and this should be ready for signing imminently.  

Karoo Research and Conservation Project

Dale Wright met with colleagues from WWF-SA to discuss ideas for a Karoo Birds Conservation Project, which will look at implementing the recommendations which have arisen from the last two years of research.

Regional and Global Key Biodiversity Areas

This week, Simeon Bezeng and Daniel Marnewick completed and submitted a proposal to the Rainforest Trust to fund species Red List and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) identification in Cameroon and Gabon. Simeon, Daniel and Paul Matiku from Nature Kenya, started planning a proposal to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The proposal includes methods to develop training material for KBA identification and sharing experiences on mainstreaming biodiversity, into large development projects for the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot.

Awareness for IBA & KBA Conservation

Simeon Bezeng gave a presentation to MSc conservation students, at the University of Johannesburg on 13 March. He presented on the IUCN’s) Red List and KBA standards and how this data is mainstreamed to inform policy and decision making.

Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures

Hiral Naik spent time this week drafting invitations for the Conservation Areas Project Focus Groups and emailed them to the relevant stakeholders.

 

POLICY & ADVOCACY PROGRAMME

National

Candice Stevens had a number of important meetings this week regarding the following: hosting the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) programme finance webinars; tax planning with the National Treasury; financial solutions input with the United Nations Development Programme; and project updates with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Candice spent time working on the Conservation Areas Project Assessment Tool and aligning it with the latest global guidelines and technical accuracy.

Advocacy

This week Jonathan Booth worked on a biodiversity offset related project proposals, which will be submitted to prospective funders next week. He also worked on the public participation aspects of the Species Impact Assessment Best Practice Guidelines, and engaged with stakeholders regarding a collaborative approach to dealing with mining threats to the Marievale Bird Sanctuary in Gauteng.

Tax Extension

Ellane van Wyk, made good progress with regards to implementing the tax benefit for landowners in the Fiscal Benefits Project. The legal supporting documents for Western Cape Tax Site #1 have been requested and are awaited. Once these have been received, the section 37D tax benefit will be included in the calculation of taxable income for the landowner/community of the site, which is the significant final step in the process. Ellane also prepared and sent Landowner/Community Information Tables for 6 x landowner/communities in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which will be followed by Engagement Letters for these tax sites. Supporting documents for KZN Tax Sites #1 and #2 have been received, and Engagement Letters for these sites will be signed by landowners/communities when Ellane visits them on Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th of March. These sites will then also be ready for the tax benefit, when the sites’ upcoming tax returns are processed. Finally, Ellane drafted a Frequently Asked Questions document which will assist landowners/communities and stewardship staff to better understand the tax process.

Administration

Hiral Naik spent time this week drafting invitations for the Conservation Areas Project Focus Groups and emailed them to the relevant stakeholders.

 

AVITOURISM & SPECIAL PROJECTS PROGRAMME

Martin Taylor submitted the second draft of the avifaunal regulations for Mozambique to ANAC and USAID for review and comments. Work was completed on  a proposal to the Whitley Conservation Trust in order to undertake raptor surveys in the Matobos National Park, Zimbabwe. A further proposal, developed by Toga Fakarayi to assess the seasonal distribution of Grey Crowned Crane in Hwange National Park, was reviewed prior submission to the British Ecological Society. Time was spent drafting a birding tourism feasibility study for four transfrontier conservation areas in southern Africa. Initial work was completed on a species account for the planned review of the Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Logistics relating to guide training and attendance at Indaba 2019 were attended to.

 

EVENTS PROGRAMME

The call for nominations for the Owl Awards was sent out, and the deadline for submissions is 5 June.

 

CORE

Mark Anderson spent most of the week in Cape Town. He stayed with Chris and Barbara Cory, two of BirdLife South Africa’s important donors. The monthly Marketing Committee meeting and a strategic planning meeting with Utopia, our ad agency, was held on Wednesday. The bi-monthly African Birdlife Magazine Management Committee meeting was held on Wednesday. A Friends of the Arderne Gardens-BirdLife South Africa fundraising event was held at Arderne Gardens on Wednesday night, and significant funds were raised. Mark and Fanie du Plessis spent time at the Seabird Conservation Programme office and held discussions with the staff, including about budgets, Marion Island, recruitment of a successor for Ross Wanless, etc. A farewell dinner for Ross was held on Thursday night, and it was attended by Mark, Fanie, Roger Wanless, Peter Ryan, Vernon Head, Mel Tripp and Seabird Conservation Programme staff. Mark, Peter Ryan and the relevant Seabird Conservation Programme staff met with Dr Guy Preston, DDG of DEA, to discuss the Mouse Free Marion project.

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