EZEMVELO KZN WILDLIFE
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s (Ezemvelo) mandate is derived from the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Management Act (Act No.9 of 1997), which is to direct the management of nature conservation within the Province including protected areas (PAs). This includes the development and promotion of ecotourism facilities within the PAs.
With its headquarters at Queen Elizabeth Park in Pietermaritzburg, the provincial capital, Ezemvelo manages more than 120 protected areas and is the leader in sustainable biodiversity conservation. It has recently broadened its focus to become more relevant to communities living adjacent to their parks - primarily through job creation and sustainable natural resource harvesting.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife - is entrusted with the long-term conservation of the regions rich biodiversity for the people of South Africa. In more than 100 years of formal conservation in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, the various departments and statutory organisations that evolved into today`s KZN Wildlife have received many formal awards and words of praise for the quality of their service to conservation and for the high standard of management of the province's natural resources.
OCEANS ALIVE CONSERVATION TRUST
Oceans Alive Conservation Trust is a registered non-profit, global conservation and public benefit organization dedicated to saving and protecting our oceans and our coastal environments through providing strategic guidance and managed project funding to encourage and support scientific research, ocean wildlife conservation, protection, ocean recovery, ocean and coastal environment clean-up programmes, community awareness programmes, social upliftment programmes and ocean education programmes to help change attitudes and ensure informed decision and policy making processes which lead to effective ocean action programs and positive conservation and wildlife protection outcomes
Our vision is for healthy, pollution free and protected oceans and ocean wildlife and coastal environments which contribute to a sustainable and healthy planet in an equitable and rapidly changing world where community awareness, social upliftment and education is essential to enable people to understand, respect, value and participate in the wonder and diversity of nature and our oceans and all life on earth.
Extreme high seas during August and September 2022 caused severe damage to the beaches and the coastal sand dunes all along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coastline, and in particular, in and around the area of the Umgeni River Estuary, and the Beachwood Mangrove Forest Reserve, just north of Durban, South Africa.
The Beachwood mangroves and the marine wildlife within the reserve are completely reliant on the intertidal exchange of seawater and the accompanying nutrients for survival.
The coastal sand dunes were severely eroded and disrupted by the extreme high seas, and the sand dunes in this specific area were completely washed over and the sand was pushed into the riverine estuary and into the mangrove forest area, effectively obstructing the interconnecting Beachwood Mangrove Creek and completely cutting it off from the river and from the ocean and from the critically necessary tidal exchange.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), and the eThekwini Council were all concerned about the situation, and they called on the South African Association for Marine and Biological Research (SAAMBR), and the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI), and the CSIR for an urgent professional environmental evaluation, to understand the seriousness of the situation and to advise on possible strategies and solutions.
SAAMBR, ORI and CSIR confirmed that without the critical link to the ocean and the necessary tidal exchange, the mangroves and the wildlife living in the mangrove forest were suffering heavily and were in the process of dying.
More than one in six mangrove species worldwide are in danger of extinction as a result of a number of factors, including coastal development, over population, plastic pollution, untreated sewage, toxic chemicals, climate change, logging and agriculture, to name a few.
We have already lost over half of the world’s original mangrove forest areas, estimated at 32 million hectares (approx. 80 million acres).
Mangroves are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet and they are incredible carbon sinks, sequestering more carbon from the atmosphere than any of their terrestrial counterparts, and globally we just cannot allow the catastrophic loss of any more of these critically important and threatened natural environments.
In the absence of an immediate strategy and a basic capability among the various parties present to find a solution, Oceans Alive Conservation Trust were invited to join the team to also make an assessment of the situation.
The enormous amount of sand which needed to be excavated in order to dig the predetermined channels to re-connect the Beachwood Mangrove Creek to the riverine estuary, and ultimately to the ocean, and then also attempt to move the excavated sand and re-build the dune barrier, seemed like a massively expensive exercise and an almost impossible task.
The mangroves and the wildlife were in serious crisis and time was the enemy, so only a massive emergency effort using massive heavy-duty excavating and earthmoving equipment would be able to save the day.
One call from Oceans Alive Conservation Trust to the Teichmann Group for urgent assistance was received with enthusiasm, generosity and tremendous grace, and on visiting the site, without hesitation, they agreed to assist us with the huge heavy-duty earth moving excavator which was essential to take on this massive operation successfully.
Morgado Plant Hire also responded graciously with lowbed transport assistance, and transport permits, and with a huge front-end loader which would move the excavated sand away from the channels and attempt to re-build the sand dune barrier to try and protect the mangroves from future rough seas.
Oceans Alive Conservation Trust agreed to sponsor the expected heavy cost of the project together with the very gracious assistance received from Teichmann Group and Morgado Plant Hire.
All parties were briefed, the strategy was agreed, the necessary environmental permits were arranged, and the huge earth moving machines were moved onto the beach at the Virginia Airport access point, with the help and the very kind assistance of eThekwini Parks, who had to trim some large overhanging trees on the access road so that the massive machines could reach the beach entry point.
The machines were driven the 4.5 km south on the beach to the river estuary site where everyone started working together with our Oceans Alive and Adopt-a-River teams, and our supervisory support network, to intervene and reopen, and reconnect the Beachwood Mangrove Creek to the estuary and the ocean, as a matter of extreme urgency to prevent further irreversible damage and loss.
With everyone working together, it took a monumental effort and only 5 dedicated days for the teams to re-connect the Beachwood Mangrove Creek to the riverine estuary, and ultimately to the ocean, to return the natural flow of water to and from the ocean and restore the tidal exchange, and ultimately 'Save the Beachwood Mangroves'.
This project could not have been undertaken successfully without assistance from Teichmann Group, Morgado Plant Hire and all the individuals involved, and the amazing dedication of the Ezemvelo Durban North Honorary Officers.
The project was a huge success, thanks to everyone who came together, 'stronger together' to make this possibl