Many of you have been press-ganged into involvement with Fountainhill Estate (FHE) over the last 18 months and have contributed enormously in assisting me to formulate a Conservation Utilisation Model, that is gradually evolving into an implementable Plan. It is my intention to keep you updated on the progress, new concepts and opportunities as well as the practical initiatives being implemented as they occur through this mouthpiece.
From the broad, all-encompassing proposal discussed at our workshop in October 2014 we have decided on an initial strategy of Environmental & Wilderness Research and Training Philosophy, which is in keeping with the objectives of the Taeuber Management Trust (TMT).
Our approach will focus on:
- Tertiary Research & Training in Environmental and Agricultural Sustainability
- Secondary School level Environmental & Wilderness and Agricultural Training and Exposure
- Public Environmental & Wilderness Training and Exposure
We have been focussing, primarily, on the Research & Training at Tertiary level. Our promotional efforts have been very positive and much interest has been expressed by:
- Albert Modi in exposing undergraduates to practical farming issues
- Also to involve Honours level students in evaluating the implementation and adoption of communal vegetable gardens for the FHE staff.
- Colleen Downs (School of Biological & Conservation Sciences – UKZN) in utilising the FHE property for post-graduate research
- Amy Shuttleworth – Aardvark, Porcupine & Warthog (post-doctoral research)
- Lynne Combrinck – Oxpecker releases/introduction
- Shane McPherson – Crowned Eagle (PhD)
- Michelle Tedder (Grassland Science & Rangeland Ecology Department – UKZN) has expressed interest.
- Trevor Hill (Head of Geography and External Research Fellow of Wits Archeological Dept.) has expressed interest to utilise FHE for demonstration and monitoring purposes for his students.
- Duncan Hay (CEO of the Institute of Natural Resources) views the property as an invaluable resource tool for applied research in establishing fundamental principles for some of their policy work.
- FHE is contracting an MSc and an Honours candidate to conduct baseline Vegetation Survey Transects. This will form a baseline study against which management interventions can be measured over time. Similarly this work will be made available for other interested research parties, in the future.
- FHE is partnering with the Raptor Rehabilitation Centre, in the form of Ben Hoffman and Tammy Caine, in establishing a Research Centre, Release Site and Flight Tunnels, on FHE
We are able to offer the resources of a well conserved sustainable property which closely integrates commercial agriculture and conservation on the same property. The property is conveniently located within 30km of Pietermaritzburg. Further to this we are able to accommodate the researchers on site while they conduct their research and data collection.
The aspect of Training & Education at the Secondary level is fraught with financial implications and we are therefore approaching it with greater circumspect. The TMT does, however, view this as an important component and will implement some initiatives, on a trial basis when the programme has been considered in greater depth. The GM paid an informative visit to the LapaLala Wilderness School at the invitation of the Parker family and Dr. John Hanks. Much knowledge was gained and an approach along these lines is envisaged when implementation is approved.
We will be meeting with various experts and specialists in the environmental arena shortly to explore the implementation of our Public Environmental & Wilderness Training and Exposure. It is envisaged that independent accredited specialists will partner with FHE in guiding and educating paying members of the public on walking, and possibly cycling, trails within the conservation boundaries of the property.
Other matters of interest and development, since October, include:
- FHE has been evaluated by Chris Galliers of WESSA, for possible incorporation into the UNESCO Umgeni Biosphere Reserve.
- FHE has endorsed the principle of registering the Umgeni Biosphere Reserve.
- FHE is engaging neighbouring farmers in establishing a Conservation Corridor with a unified conservation ethos and a willingness to participate in the avenues of research, education and training for mutual and public benefit.
- FHE has embarked on an active campaign to reduce the pressures of alien invaders on the natural grasslands and indigenous bush, which includes a dedicated in-house gang doing follow-up treatment; partnerships with “Working for Water”; DUCT and an independent operator Hudson-Orchard. The latter two being engaged predominantly on Eucalyptus eradication along the Umgeni river.
- FHE has purchased some additional game to improve imbalances in sex ratios and in an effort to introduce new blood-lines, these have included blesbok, impala, wildebeest, zebra and eland. Delivery of the eland is still awaited.
- The FHE Guest Lodge is gradually being made available to the public again, currently without catering arrangements.
- A Raptor Release cage is being built alongside the “Hunters Cottage” which is being refurbished and will be made available as accommodation to trail groups, if required.
We would like to express our appreciation for the enthusiastic support provided thus far and appeal to you to promote the facility to colleagues and people you feel may benefit from what FHE has to offer. We will keep you posted on further developments through this mouthpiece in the future.
General Manager: FHE
083 321 4100