MONTHLY REPORT: DECEMBER 2006 NEW RANGERS On 1 December two new rangers, Wayne Meyer and Justin Westington, were appointed full time positions at Fransmanshoek Conservancy for the period of one year (see fig. 1 & 2). Both of the rangers are students of Cape Peninsula University of Technology (old Cape Tech). The students are both entering their third year in Nature Conservation and are aiming to complete their diplomas by the end of their contracts. During the course of the year the students have various projects and research to complete and prescribed experience to gain. Mr HJ van Rensburg has very generously once again offered to provide accommodation for the two students. Fig. 1. Wayne Meyer Fig. 2. Justin Westington (Westington 2006). (Meyer 2006). COMPLIANCE MANAGEMENT The month of December was a very busy month in terms of visitors to the conservancy. A total of 173 fishermen were checked for permits throughout the month. Of the 173 fishermen checked, 21 people did not have valid permits. Nineteen of these fishermen were given warnings and two were issued with J534’s by Mossel Bay Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) and fined R300 each. Both fines were issued at Fransmanshoek on 23/12/2006. Details are as follows: 1. Name: Henry Ely J534#: 15899 ID #: 700109 5028 081 Fine amount: R300 Pay date: 23/01/2006 Court date: 01/02/2007 Offence: Fishing without a permit. 2. Name: Gerhard Muller J534#: 14081 ID#: 690715 5102 080 Fine amount: R300 Pay date: 23/01/2006 Court date: 01/02/2007 Offence: Fishing without a permit. On various occasions throughout the month the rangers worked hand-in-hand with Mrs Theresa van der Westhuizen of Cape Nature, and a few times with MCM on joint operations. The rangers also participated in a joint operation with Cape Nature and MCM in a patrol of Gouritzmond and surrounding areas on 10/12/2006 in which a number of fishing permits were checked and one J534 was issued. GATE TO FRANSMANSHOEK PENINSULA In anticipation of the busy festive holiday season, it was decided by Eden District Municipality to erect a temporary gate just past Vleesbaai on the road down to the peninsula, as it was done the previous year, from 15 December to 8 January. A security guard was posted at the gate between the hours of 07h00 and 19h00 every day to issue free of charge daily permits to vehicles. The reason for this decision was that there is limited parking on the peninsula and as shown in previous years, if more cars enter the peninsula than there are parking spaces available, people park on the grass and on the fragile vegetation which has taken much effort to restore after previous years’ negligence. The festive season rush was well anticipated with a total of 3935 people visiting the Fransmanshoek Peninsula between 15 December and 31 December and a total of 1179 vehicles passing the gate excluding residents of the peninsula. A total of 36 cars were allowed in to the peninsula at any one time. As many as ten cars were recorded queuing outside of the gate on occasion waiting for their chance to enter (see fig. 3). Fig. 3. Cars queuing up outside the temporary gate to the peninsula (Meyer 2006). ANIMALS KNOCKED OVER On two separate occasions during the month, indigenous buck were run into by vehicles on the dirt road of the peninsula leading to the death of the animals on both occasions. Nobody has claimed responsibility and negligence/reckless driving are suspected. During the night of the 9th December a Cape Grysbok Raphicerus melanotis was run down; and during the night of the 31st December a Common Duiker Sylvicapra grimmia was run down. The conservancy appeals to visitors and residents alike to abide by the 40km/h speed limit of the peninsula for the sake of the wildlife and also for safety sake of oneself and others. AFRICAN BLACK OYSTER CATCHERS On Wednesday 6 December the rangers took part in an external African Black Oyster Catcher breeding success survey along a 7km stretch of coast from Danabaai Second Beach towards Boggomsbaai. Along this stretch 10 nets were counted. Three of the nests were empty and amongst the other seven nests a total of 12 eggs were counted. On 20 December the rangers undertook the same breeding success survey as above along the entire conservancy coast (roughly a 15km stretch) between Boggomsbaai and Cape Vaca. A total of 3 nests were counted (see fig. 4). One of the nests was empty and the other two had two eggs each. A further two chicks were counted on Visbaai beach. Fig. 4. Ranger Wayne Meyer taking a GPS reading at a nest site (Westington 2006). The conservancy’s breeding success of the African Black Oyster Catcher, considering the abundance of food and nesting areas, is minimal. It is suspected that these results can be blamed on high degrees of human as well as “dog traffic”. Previous research has shown that the main threat to the oyster catchers is indeed dogs. Despite the national law that no dogs may be allowed onto South African beaches, even with a lead, residents and visitors of Vleesbaai alike continue to allow there dogs to run freely on the beach. The rangers have throughout the month advised people of the new dog laws and have advised/encouraged people to at least walk their dogs on a lead if they have to walk them on the beach at all. These appeals seem to have gone either unnoticed, or simply have not made a dent because on the final days of December, an average of 40 dogs per day without leashes were estimated to have been on the beaches of the conservancy, almost entirely between Vleesbaai and Boggomsbaai. The conservancy appeals to the public to keep their dogs off the beaches for the sake of the African Black Oyster Catcher and human hygiene, as although dogs were seen messing on the beach throughout the month, nobody was seen cleaning up their dog’s mess. INFORMATION CENTRE The “Punthuisie” at the top of the peninsula was once again opened this holiday season as an information centre from 15 December (see fig. 5). The centre was cleaned out and updated. The live herbarium was updated and the visitor’s book showed much delight and interest from visitors (see fig. 6). The information centre will remain open until the end of the holiday season. The rangers would like to thank Mrs van der Westhuizen for her help with the information centre; and a very big thank you to Mrs Lettie Hanekom for her help with the live herbarium displays which was much appreciated. Fig. 5. Inside the information centre (Meyer 2006). Fig. 6. The live herbarium display updated by Mrs Lettie Hanekom (Meyer 2006). NURSERY INSPECTION On Thursday 21 December ranger Wayne Meyer accompanied Mrs van der Westhuizen and Mr Charles Adams of Cape Nature on an Endangered Flower Grower nursery inspection on Prof Frederich Johannes de Jager’s Cycad nursery in the Gouritzmond area. Prof de Jager’s was applying for a permit to grow and sell endangered flowers (see fig. 7). Formalities were followed and plants counted and everything was shown to be in order. Fig. 7. Mrs van der Westhuizen and Mr Meyer counting the Cycad seedlings (Adams 2006). THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING On Friday 22 December, after a brief management meeting, the AGM was held and well attended. Once again Mr HJ van Rensburg very generously offered his household for the purpose of the meeting. The main agendas were the starting of a home owner’s association on the peninsula, purchasing of a conservancy vehicle, the conservancy management plan and the conservancy web-page. Minutes were taken by Theresa van der Westhuizen of Cape Nature and Justin Westington (conservancy ranger). ECO-HIKE On 27 December Mr Fred Orban of Boggomsbaai organized a free “Eko-Hike” from Boggomsbaai to the Fransmanshoek Peninsula. The hike was guided by Stephan of Mr Orban’s Kleinbos and Oyster Catcher Trail and co-guided by the conservancy rangers (see fig. 8). The hike was well attended by about 35 people, young and old. Throughout the hike the hikers were taught of various interesting and educational facts of the coastal ecosystem. The hike was a great idea and was enjoyed by all. Fig. 8. Stephan of The Oyster Catcher Trail educating the hikers (Westington 2006). LITTER Throughout the month the conservancy rangers fought a loosing battle against litter. The rocky stretches of coastline and Visbaai have previously been found to be littered with a very high percentage of litter coming off boats at sea. This is very evident by all the pallets, drums and water bottles with foreign languages on them. Unfortunately at this moment in time this matter is out of our hands. During the month a total of 20 black bag’s worth of litter was removed from the peninsula. This is blamed directly on ignorant fishermen. There are 10 bins on the peninsula, which were checked daily to ensure sufficient space, and black bags are available at the entrance to The Saal, the most famous fishing spot on the peninsula. Ninety percent of the litter was collected of the rocks of The Saal and was made up of fishing gut, bait boxes, old rags, bottles, packets, food wrappers and much more. We appeal to the public to make use of the bins provided and to take home what you came with. We now go further and ask if the public could please help the conservancy and it’s biodiversity by picking up a few items of litter when found, and by approaching litter-bugs when caught in the act of littering and kindly asking them to pick up their own mess. It is noted that to litter is a criminal and fineable offence. Thankfully Vodacom sponsored a team of beach cleaners to clean the stretch of coast between Vleesbaai and Boggomsbaai. They did an excellent job keeping the beach clean throughout the busy season. The conservancy thanks the team and Vodacom for this initiative. INTERESTING SIGHTING On Wednesday 20 December it was reported by Mr Beyers of Blok-se-baai that a Killer Whale Orcinus orca had been spotted cruising the bay over the previous two days. This is an interesting sighting as it is not often that they are spotted so close to the shore and this far up the south coast. They are more fond of the cold waters of the Atlantic.