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Moutonshoek protection boosts West Coast biodiversity

Declaration of Moutonshoek Protected Environment welcomed.

The Moutonshoek Protected Environment (MPE) is South Africa’s newest privately protected area, lying in the mountains of the Moutonshoek valley near Piketberg which is an important catchment for the Verlorenvlei on the West Coast.

The MPE was established through the work of BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme, with support from CapeNature and forms part of the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project, funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.

This project has not only facilitated the declaration of the 9 000-hectare MPE, but also assisted with the establishment of the 12 000-hectare Verlorenvlei Conservancy which brings together landowners around the Verlorenvlei estuary committed to improving the environmental management of this critical site.

The project also facilitated the training of more than 40 local community members working on environmental management projects in the area, thereby helping to enhance their socio-economic situation, whilst simultaneously contributing to the conservation of South Africa’s natural resources.

The MPE comprises an area of integrated land-use, where agricultural production and biodiversity conservation coexist side by side. The site protects the Krom Antonies River and its catchment, which acts as the main tributary of the Verlorenvlei wetland system.

The Verlorenvlei Estuary is listed as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and a Ramsar site. The future of the Verlorenvlei Estuary and its biodiversity is dependent on the health of this upper water catchment.

The Moutonshoek valley also provides a safe haven for a variety of species, including the endangered and endemic Diascia caitliniae flower and the endangered Verlorenvlei redfin fish (Pseudobarbus verloreni), both of which occur nowhere else in the world.

The site is also important for the vulnerable Cape leopard (Panthera pardus) and threatened birds species such as the endangered blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), African marsh harrier (Circus ranivorus) and black harrier (Circus maurus). It forms part of the Sandveld Corridor within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor, a landscape initiative designed to connect protected areas and ensure sound environmental management.

All protected areas require a management plan, and the MPE’s management plan includes habitat management activities such as alien vegetation removal, fire control and appropriate burning, as well as river and wetland rehabilitation. However whilst still allowing residents to continue with their economic activities of growing food and promoting ecotourism in the region.

A “protected environment” is a category of protected area declared under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA, 2003), which, after a nature reserve, offers the next most secure form of protection. The declaration of protected areas on privately owned land is facilitated through the innovative national biodiversity stewardship programme. Biodiversity stewardship allows for the expansion of our protected area estate through ground-breaking legislation and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Jan Coetzee, Manager: Land Programme, WWF-SA, commented: “WWF-SA’s Land Programme supports current efforts in the establishment, expansion, consolidation and management of protected areas in South Africa. The programme focuses mainly on acquiring land through land purchase, facilitation of donations of land and funds, and innovative mechanisms for securing biodiversity, such as biodiversity stewardship. Also, the programme continues to support the strengthening of capacity within provincial conservation agencies and processes to develop and implement key conservation policies.

"Through the support of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, BirdLife South Africa has been able to secure the protection and sustainable management of the Moutonshoek catchment and Verlorenvlei Estuary. This project has successfully engaged landowners and other stakeholders in the area, and thus has ensured the continued support of the initiative. The Land Programme would also like to congratulate BirdLife South Africa on this important achievement in this critical biodiversity area. We value this partnership with BirdLife South Africa, and will continue to support this project and other landscape initiatives in biodiversity priority areas.”
Map of Verlorenvlei Project Area
The Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project is supported by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust

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