Chief Honorary Ranger Report 2014
2014 in line with previous years once again proved to be an eventful year providing a number of positive outcomes along with challengers and disappointments. I would like to begin by thanking all Honorary Ranger members very much for their wonderful contribution, efforts and commitment throughout the year. I thank the committee for their support, knowledge and experience which was invaluable in many of the decision making processes. This along with their hard work has made my task so much easier. Thank you to Penelope for her secretarial contribution often under difficult circumstances.
Some conditional changes from the outset were implemented with the intention to elevate the identity, image and standing of the Honorary Ranger organisation within the community. Some modifications were adopted during the year and more work is required in this regard. The introduction of our Facebook page at the beginning of the year has made a positive contribution towards our outreach objectives however this form of social media also has its limitations.
Our year began on a sad note with the passing of Barbara Long who was a long standing member of our organisation and made such a valuable contribution. She has been sorely missed throughout the year.
We implemented the process of ensuring that the Ndlovo Retirement Centre development followed the requirements for an Environmental Impact Assessment to be undertaken as stipulated by the department. These efforts were rewarded with the developer appointing a consultant who is currently busy with this process.
The first of two Forum meetings took place in March where responsibilities were agreed on. We began a series of discussions with NLMP in our endeavours to rally support for the implementation of speed humps, upgrade of street signs and address the issue of advertising boards. We have had limited success with only advertising boards receiving attention. We will however continue to pursue these objectives.
Funding was approved for the printing of our Honorary Ranger banner and calling cards for committee members. These items have been of great benefit at our annual functions. Our code of conduct was revised and asset register updated. Lionspruit was closed for a lengthy period due to road damage from extreme summer rains. This impacted on some of our projects and resulted in the closure of a section of the veterinary road along Seekoei. Municipality logos were placed on all directional sign boards.
We once again found it necessary to confront a number of property owners for the illegal removal of vegetation and unauthorised advertising. Our rates insert campaign continued to focus on informing and educating property owners with regards to many of the challenges and issues confronting Marloth Park. Alison along with an international donor commenced with the Clean Up project which proved to be very successful. This initiative prompted Dean Jones to take on the recycling project which has also grown from strength to strength. The Clean-Up activity has now been passed on to the “Care 4 Marloth” organisation under the control of Alison Fitzgerald.
A meeting was held with Velly Makwakwa in May to discuss the condition of the old lioness along with a request to undertake the game culling earlier in 2014. Further assessment of the lioness’s condition resulted in the decision to euthanize. A new collar was fitted to the male lion during the same exercise. Collaring and dehorning was carried out on our Rhino later in the year. Tracking and monitoring of our lion is an on-going process demanding many hours of dedicated work and reporting to the conservation department. Thank you to Joce Gordon for this dedication along with all the motivation for WFW teams.
The Marloth Park Honorary Ranger web site had a complete overall during 2014 with a fresh look and hosting company. Our vision and mission along with our activities was introduced together with a new strategy for this site. A tremendous amount of work went into this project and we extend a big thank you to Andrew Hudson for his time and effort. Our accounting and finances were again expertly managed and we thank Nellie for all her hard work in this regard. A number of our team underwent first aid training level two and we congratulate them on achieving their certificates. Our service to property owners for the removal of snakes from their homes resulted in almost ninety call outs during the 2013-2014 summer season. Thank you to John Webb for his contribution.
Work parties were well supported throughout the year where the team made a valuable contribution. Activities included the control of alien invasive plants, maintenance along the river front, clearing around benches, Lionspruit projects, clean-up activities, road closures, erosion prevention and vehicle access control. The fire season fortunately had very few incidents and fire awareness brochures were printed and distributed. The printing of these brochures was financed by the Honorary Rangers and MPPOA.
Our annual winter fair was once again a great success with a record number of stall holders and substantial visitor support. As this event is our major fund raising activity it is important that it remains an important attraction on the events calendar. We were very fortunate to have received donor support for a number of projects throughout the year. This included new bird posters for our bird hides, a chain saw, two way radios, PPE clothing for the municipal team, heritage day visit to KNP and substantial funding of the Jackalberry bird hide project. A few of the smaller improvements we made during the year included the face lift and gardening at Lionspruit gate, the replacement of the Lionspruit signs and revamp of our notice board. Funds were also allocated this year for the complete re-thatching of the bird hides at Impala Dam and Ngwenya Dam. This improvement along with additional maintenance has made these facilities a pleasure to visit. The thatch roof at the Krantz lookout was also repaired and recovered with new wire mesh by the Honorary Rangers.
Our monthly nature walks again proved very enlightening and informative. Thank you to Andre’ for all his preparation contribution and good humour. Also to Keith who stood in for Andre’ when he was not available. The Honorary Rangers have again introduced a dedicated bird walk on the first Saturday of each month headed up by Genie Retief. These are proving to be a wonderful birding experience and Genie is also planning a bird course for early in the year.
Following some of the questionable animal numbers resulting from this year’s aerial game count, we decided to again conduct our annual ground count. This count was very successful and resulted in a more accurate game number model. Unfortunately the culling program was again scheduled too late in the year resulting in substantial community hostility. Events which followed this response ultimately resulted in the complete termination of the 2014 game reduction program. Social media was very hostile towards our organisation and I thank Peter for his support during this difficult period. The damage caused to our habitat as a result of this will be apparent for a long time. In an effort to address this concern, the well know ecologist Ralf Kalwa was commissioned by MPPO to do an assessment and provide recommendations and long term strategies for Marloth Park.
The forum presented a five point concept plan to the municipal manager and his team which is based on a partnership approach to the many challenges facing Marloth Park. We hope that some of these objectives are achieved during 2015.
To end on a positive note I am happy to record that our two major projects, the Frikkies Dam toilet and the Jackalberry dam bird hide were completed before Christmas. These two structures will certainly be an asset to Lionspruit and provide visitors with additional facilities. Thank you to all of you that assisted at Frikkies dam, to Buck Buchan for his generous sponsorship and to Philip Minnaar for providing us with a bridge across the stream.
Chief Honorary Ranger