The environment has often been used as a green safety net during times of stress and COVID-19 has been no exception. The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve (MBR) has experienced an increased number of poaching incidents for bushmeat in the last few months, as well as an upsurge in the indiscriminate felling of indigenous trees on a commercial scale. Snares too, are indiscriminate and there have been recent reports of domestic dogs being caught and killed in these. Poachers often light multiple and unseasonal wildfires to attract antelope to new grass growth and these fires can result in run-away wildfires, destroying vegetation and at times property.

Volunteers assist in the snare removal sweeps.

As a result of these human-induced pressures, heightened during lockdown, the species and habitats of our biosphere are under threat. To enable the biosphere to tackle these threats, the MBR has embarked on the Saving Our Species (SOS) Project, with the support of the German Commission for UNESCO and German Federal foreign office.

The project involves an intensive three month anti-snaring campaign in the Magaliesberg Biosphere in collaboration with Tshwane University of Technology, Kainev Conservation and WESSA Northern Areas who will be coordinating nature conservation students from TUT and UNISA, as well as citizen volunteers in active mountain patrols and snare removal sweeps across the Magaliesberg Biosphere to help prevent environmental crime.

By using a custom built Geo-location field survey app, the team will collect data on snaring, wood felling, plant collectors, the occurrence of invasive alien plants, pollution, fire-spread and illegal camping within the biosphere. Such information will be pinned to a basemap of the Magaliesberg Biosphere and used for ongoing research and help to prevent the loss of natural areas and species and plan future activities.

In support of awareness and capacity building the project has also committed to training seven Eco-Rangers from the biosphere community who are being trained as Biosphere Conservation Ambassadors and patrollers. During and post training they will accompany the citizen rangers, and form their own Eco-Ranger teams to ensure sustainability of the SOS Project objectives into the future. For further on the Magaliesberg Biosphere see website, and for project progress and updates please follow these social media pages: @MagaliesbergBiosphereReserve @KainavConservation @WessaNAR

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