KAROO, GAMKABERG – CapeNature, the conservation authority responsible for biodiversity in the Western Cape, celebrates World Wildlife Day with the arrival of a new Cape Mountain Zebra foal born at Gamkaberg a few months ago. The special calendar day falls on 3 March each year and is aimed at highlighting the importance of wild plants and animals. This year’s global theme is “Sustaining all life on Earth.”
Without plant and animal wildlife, the key component of all biodiversity on Earth, life could not exist. Plant and animal wildlife support soil formation, regulate water purification, pollination and even disease as decreased biodiversity may accelerate the spread of disease to human populations. Wildlife provides food, fuel, fresh water, oxygen, medicine and regulates climate change. Protection of our wildlife is therefore critical to our survival.
One of the many animal species protected by CapeNature includes the Cape mountain zebra (CMZ) with populations managed in accordance with the Biodiversity Management Plan for Cape mountain zebra in South Africa.
CMZ is a subspecies of mountain zebra that was historically restricted to mountainous regions of the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape, South Africa. The smallest of all existing zebra species, numbers were reduced to 58 animals at the turn of the century. By the 1950’s there were about 80 CMZ and through conservation efforts numbers, have been increased to an estimated 2 700 individuals that remain today.
“The CMZ population on Gamkaberg represent a unique genetic lineage and thus the addition of a new foal, a reason for celebration. The Gamkaberg CMZ population are especially precious because they represent a third of the global gene pool. A growing population also indicates a healthy one”, says Tom Barry, Landscape Unit Manager for the Karoo.
The reserve’s CMZ population suffered a setback after a devastating fire in 2017, followed by a period of drought. The birth of the new foal last year and the good summer rain that was received early this year could be a sign that things are about to change, and the foal’s progress will be closely monitored.
CMZ occur on 19 protected areas (provincial nature reserves or national parks) and on a number of private properties. These animals can be seen on five CapeNature reserves – Gamkaberg, Anysberg, Kammanassie, De Hoop and Hottentots Holland, accounting for approximately four percent of the global population. Last year has also been a good year for CMZ on De Hoop and neighbouring Overberg Test Range, where 10 foals were counted during a helicopter census in October 2019.
CapeNature is a public institution mandated to promote and ensure biodiversity conservation within the Western Cape. The entity manages most of the mountain catchments and reserves that supply ecosystem services to the citizens of the Western Cape. This requires good scientific data, a sound understanding of fynbos ecology and commitment to the principles of integrated biodiversity management and planning.
Much of these efforts are in remote areas out of the public eye, but have a direct bearing on the quality of life of millions of people in the province.
Submitted: CapeNatur, General Manager: Advocacy, Petro van Rhyn