Cultivating a conservation culture in the Overstrand: The Whale Coast Conservation

For 19 years, the Whale Coast Conservation (WCC) has launched environmental interventions to create a conservation culture. No doubt those living in the Overstrand would have heard of this community development organisation, and their many projects. 

WCC has a strong focus on environmental education, regularly visiting schools to showcase our natural heritage and using citizen science projects to foster excitement and interest in the environment.

For their commitment to conservation, WCC is our featured ABI Partner. WCC’s Anina Lee tells us more about their current work, and their future goals.

Cliff Path Geotrail educational experience.

Photograph by the Whale Coast Conservation.

Who is the Whale Coast Conservation?

Overstrand Conservation Foundation, trading as Whale Coast Conservation (WCC) is an NGO established in 2002 that is registered as an NPO (020-771-NPO) and as a PBO (PBO 18/11/13/4541). WCC is well established as a community development organization with a strong environmental education focus that supports conservation initiatives along the Cape Whale Coast. We offer membership driven environmental interventions to cultivate a conservation culture amongst the youth and adults we reach through our community and conservation projects, citizen science research programmes, awareness drives and open-day environmental expo’s – all whilst promoting and supporting the economic well-being of the communities we serve.

What are WCC’s current focus areas?

 

WCC has 3 focus areas:

LEARN

We share our passion for nature with communities so that they may benefit from a closer relationship with our awesome natural world. We do this through lessons, expos and nature experiences.

 

  • Inspiring the youth: We connect the youth with their natural heritage through school visits, outdoor camps and leadership mentoring Our Youth Environment Programme (YEP) introduces youth to the fascinating natural world. We visit schools with travelling exhibits or expos on different themes that complement the school sciences curriculum. Our interactive learning material brings the natural world into the classroom in a meaningful way, connecting book learning to real life. Camps in nature are jam packed with nature lessons on land and on the beach. Excitement ramps up after dark when nocturnal animals like frogs and chameleons are easier to find.  Camps provide many opportunities for mentoring the youth in science-, life- and leadership skills.
  • Knowledge sharing: We share our passion for our unique but fragile world through talks, webinars, adventures in nature and weekly press articles. Our regular talks and webinars feature experts in their field, talking about aspects of nature that inform and inspire us. Webinars are recorded and appear on social media to reach a wide audience. We lead small groups on amazing adventures in nature on a specific topic. We share our passion and knowledge and encourage nature positive actions. We publish weekly nature articles in the local newspaper, The Village News, to reach a wide audience. Articles appear as blogs on our website. Regular newsletters keep members informed about our activities.
  • Citizen Science: Many projects rely on collection of data. The more bodies we have in the field, helping to collect information, the more successful our projects. Cape Dwarf Chameleons are increasingly impacted by urban expansion and habitat transformation. They fall victim to bulldozers when plots are cleared. In gardens they might be undetected and dumped with garden cuttings. Our team leader and volunteers survey where chameleons occur in urban areas and relocate them to safe habitats when necessary. Together with partners and volunteers we participate in beach clean-ups along the WCNR coastline. The litter collected is analysed and tallied, then uploaded to a central database, so that sources of litter can be tracked. This knowledge informs educational interventions to reduce littering. We are building up records of biodiversity in the WCNR through iNaturalist.  Staff and school groups take photos of what they see and upload it to the WCNR project.

School educational expo on marine conservation.

Photograph by the Whale Coast Conservation. 

PROTECT

  • Whale Coast Nature Reserve (WCNR) provides a vitally important coast-to-mountain corridor in a Table Mountain Fund identified Climate Mitigation Area. As soon as it was permitted for staff to return to work after hard lockdown, we resumed clearing alien invasive species on the WCNR and conducting plant and animal surveys. A chameleon sanctuary is slowly taking shape in the WCNR and will eventually provide a safe haven for rescued Cape Dwarf Chameleons. Long-term preservation of ecosystem structure and function ensures the conservation of biodiversity through natural processes.
  • People. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown caused enormous human suffering. Lost jobs exacerbated existing poverty in neighbouring communities. Our Protect function extended to protecting people from hunger. The Raimondo Family Trust stepped in and, through Whale Coast Conservation, supported soup kitchens, primarily in our neighbouring community of Hawston.

WATCH

Through our Watch programme, Whale Coast Conservation registers as an interested and affected party (I&AP) in all advertised public participation processes related to environmental impact assessments, change of land use applications outside of the urban edge and other processes. 

During the past year, WCC’s Eco-Watchers, Pat Miller and Rob Fryer, have commented exhaustively on several environmental issues that are of great concern.

WCC also offers consulting services for environmental public participation processes to people and organisations outside of the Overstrand, for which we accept a fee.

“Our vision is an expansion of wild places across more of the Overberg. ”

What is your vision for a better Overberg?

Our vision is an expansion of wild places across more of the Overberg. An example is the establishment of the Whale Coast Nature Reserve – over 400Ha of fynbos that will be protected in perpetuity. This reserve is a very important upland-lowland link with a variety of fynbos ecosystems and ecotones that has been designated as one of the Table Mountain Fund’s priority Climate Change Corridors. It also contributes to the conservation of rare, threatened and endemic species.

Experiencing nature (and participating in caring for it) has been shown to have enormous social and psychological benefits. This reserve is easily accessible to people from the surrounding urban areas, providing a place of refuge from sociological pressures. The reserve also has great potential for educating the local youth about nature, biodiversity and ecosystem services – so important to our health and wellbeing.

“Let me help you with this big one”. Home school chameleon monitor volunteers removing aliens on the Whale Coast Nature Reserve’s chameleon sanctuary.

Photograph by Tertia Hendricks.

Photograph by Heather D’Alton.

Where should we be focusing to make the Overberg a better place, for all, as per the ABI motto?

 

WCC is a small organisation with 5 permanent and one part-time staff members. Therefore we have to focus on our areas of strengths – namely those above. We further encourage volunteers to be involved in our citizen-science projects, alien clearing, chameleon monitoring, etc. We focus on involving the communities in our immediate neighbourhood.

How can people get involved with WCC’s work?

Volunteers are very welcome to join our chameleon monitoring citizen science project; help to establish our chameleon sanctuary on the Whale Coast Nature Reserve by removing aliens or recording plant species; volunteering as environmental educators; providing legal input (if needed) for our Watch function; doing maintenance on the Green House; or whatever skills volunteers may offer.

Contact Shirley Mgoboza on shirleym.wcc@gmail.com or 028 316 2527.

Images credit: Whale Coast Conservation

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