The Fountainhill Estate Bush Telegraph – Vol. 2

Vol. 2


The first of these newsletters (Jul’15) promised that further news would follow without committing to the frequency at which such news items would be distributed. This practice will continue.

We are happy to report that the Research & Training at Tertiary Level is gaining momentum numerous research projects and activities in progress:

  • Tafadzwanashe Mabhoudhi a post-grad student under the leadership of Albert Modi (UKZN) has established a trial food plot in the Fountainhill Estate (FHE) staff village.
    • The project is titled: “Water use of crops and nutritional water productivity for food production, nutrition and health in poor rural communities.”
    • The objectives are to:
      • Identify food intake and sources of food for farm workers;
      • Identify reasons behind choices of food intake and nutritional evaluation of food intake;
      • Determine nutritional value of current and alternative crops;
      • Determine water use and nutritional water productivity for improved production, nutrition & health;
      • Establish a community garden and formulate best management practices for maximising water use and nutritional value in the garden.
    • Albert Modi has further utilised the commercial crop production element of FHE to expose under-grads to commercial agricultural management by exposing a group of 69 students to a practical field visit.
    • Brigid Letty (INR – PhD candidate) has established an agro-forestry trial titled “Optimisation of water use in agro-forestry systems: A case study of Sesbania sesban and Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea) intercropped with Zea mays (maize) and Panicum maximum (guinea grass) in KZN.”
      • The objectives are to:
        • Compare water use of two agro-forestry tree spp. in a sequential agro-forestry system;
        • Tentatively determine and quantify the impacts of agro-forestry systems on hydrological processes (infiltration, evaporation, drainage and soil water availability);
        • Describe and analyse/quantify the interactions between different agro-forestry tree spp., maize and guinea grass in terms of yield and biomass production.
      • Under the leadership of Gordon O’Brien (Aquatic Ecosystems Research Programme) four post-grad projects will be executed at FHE this year:
        • River health programme of KZN including the Ph.D project of Lekan Agboola, the M.Sc projects of Wesley Evans, Perceverence Tenza & Lungelo Madiya.
        • Ecological Risk Assessment study of stressors affecting the well-being of the rivers in the uMgeni Catchment which is part of the Ph.D of Hazel Govender.
        • Biology, ecology and conservation requirements of Anguillids in KZN a proposed Ph.D project of Celene Hansen.
        • The value of riparian ecosystems on the Umgeni river, their use and recommendations to manage these ecosystems, which is a B.Sc., Hons. Project of Sachin Doarsamy.
      • The evaluation and scoping studies of raptors present on FHE, undertaken by Shane McPherson (Ph.D candidate) & Tammy Caine , during various seasons of the year is almost complete with the final scoping study to be undertaken in Apr’16. This study has already provided benefits in the formulation and implementation of management strategies, aimed at integrating sustainable farming practices with conservation efforts.
      • A raptor release site is currently under construction at FHE.
      • The raptor study has led to an evaluation study regarding the re-introduction of an unwanted dassie (Hyrax) population to FHE, currently being undertaken by Shane McPherson & Ezemvelo Wildlife.
      • Leigh Combrinck (Ford Wildlife Trust) is currently evaluating the re-introduction of the red-billed oxpecker to FHE.
      • Lorinda Hart (School of Biological & Conservation Sciences – UKZN) will be monitoring and studying the movements of a Secretary bird fitted with a transmitter, released on FHE by the Raptor Rehabilitation Centre.
      • Unfortunately there has been a delay in the implementation of Vegetation Transects in the FHE conservation area, however, with two new under-grads Stuart Demmer & Anke Scharlach this work has now been initiated, and will provide valuable base-line data against which to measure management interventions aimed at grassland improvement.
      • Enquiries have been made to incorporate FHE in two other post-grad research sites studying dragonflies and butterflies, we sincerely hope that this will happen.

It is the intention of FHE to host an annual workshop/seminar at which these research projects, and interim results could be presented to colleagues and the environmental specialists engaged in the Environmental Awareness & Education Programme.

We thank the academic community for supporting our efforts toward research and request that they encourage their colleagues to do the same. We will in turn assist in every way possible to support their research and wish all those engaging in this research, toward the achievement of academic qualifications, every success in their endeavours.

Training & Education at the Secondary Level has not progressed much, however, it is our intention to canvas local schools for participation in the eco-school programme, specifically linked to FHE. Further, we intend to promote the adoption of these eco-schools and/or individuals from less fortunate backgrounds, by parties engaging in the Environmental Awareness & Education Programme.

As mentioned previously these three programmes are very much “works in progress” requiring shifts in direction, from time-to-time. We launched the Environmental Awareness & Education Programme, in December’15 to independent environmental specialists and potential target institutions. Unfortunately attendance was poor and this process will be repeated on 12 March 2016.

Nonetheless this programme has attracted interest and will be strongly promoted, as the synergies between ourselves and the businesses of environmental specialists as well as local private catering and service industries are vast, and will lead to mutual benefits.

We are already disseminating the resumes of the participating environmental specialists to interested institutions, organisations and the public who express an interest in visiting FHE to explore the environment. Current accredited environmental specialists include:

  • Rob Humphry – A trained “Wilderness Leadership Guide”
  • Pat McKrill – A renowned local herpetologist, public speaker and environmental team building expert
  • Nick Evans – An enthusiastic environmental guide
  • Shane McPherson – An expert on raptors and in particular Crowned Eagles
  • Tammy Caine & Ben Hoffman – Raptor experts, raptor rehabilitation and raptor capturing and ringing.
  • Dave Hadlow & Mathew Weedman – Yellow fish Fly-fishing Guides
  • Gordon O’Brien – Aquatic Ecosystems and River Health specialist
  • Doug Burden – A former Conservation Officer with Ezemvelo Wildlife, a member of numerous working groups of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and conservation expert.

We are engaging with experts from WESSA to have them utilise FHE with their huge group of experts for training and guided trails. Similarly we are looking for more ornithologists, botanists, lepidopterists as well as experts on amphibians and reptiles who may be interested to be on our panel in order to exploit the facilities.

Currently Doug Burden is mapping trails and potential trails within the conservation area for further development.

Further to this process, in principle agreement has been reached between FHE, Cumberland Nature Reserve, & The Edmonds Brothers to establish a Conservancy Corridor with traversing rights for groups participating in the Environmental Awareness & Education Programme, on any of the three properties (obviously with consent being sought for each group wishing to traverse the three properties. Once this corridor is formalised it is the intention of the participants to expand it to other neighbouring properties willing to participate and abide to the same environmental ethos. This process has already increased the available 1,500ha to almost 2,200ha of accessible conservation area.

Other matters of interest include:

  • The Conservancy Corridor has been incorporated into the Greater Umgeni Biosphere Reserve, by WESSA, for registration by
  • The alien invader control initiatives continue with DUCT & “Working for Water” as well as our own team.
  • Wildlands Trust has kindly agreed to support our rehabilitation of the riverine area, cleared of Eucalypts, with the supply of indigenous tree and shrub spp.

Once again we wish to thank all participants in developing these programmes. These partnerships will need to engage in further developing the concepts, facilities and processes we envisage.

Again we appeal to you to promote the facility to colleagues and parties who may benefit from what FHE and the corridor participants have to offer!

Ed Gevers

General Manager: FHE

083 321 4100

033 9400583

(Previous copies of this newsletter are available upon request)