FoBCA Newsletter - January 2019
FoBCA NEWSLETTER - JANUARY 2019A hearty welcome to 2019 to everyone! We trust our FoBCA members have returned from their holidays fully refreshed and ready to embark on new beginnings. This year promises to be an exciting one, and I hope we will see a lot of our members at our various events and projects. Please get involved in the various projects of the FoBCA, and if there is not a project that interests you, create your own!
Welcome to our first newsletter of the year…
FoBCA New Year’s get-together – Saturday 2 Feb at Eerste Steen
Very important is our FoBCA New Year’s get-together! Please pop in at Eerste Steen on Saturday morning 2 Feb between 11h00 and 12h30 to meet and greet the committee and other members! We will be selling Boerewors rolls, so you can buy for your whole family back home for Saturday lunch, or come and enjoy it with your family right there with us. Tea and coffee will also be served.
Eerste Steen has a beautiful view of Table Mountain and you can literally feel the sea spray, and smell nature’s freshness. Why not also take an early morning walk on the Coastal Dune trail – as members of FoBCA your walk is free!
We are looking forward to seeing you again.
WESSA BFG – Saturday 16 Feb 2019 at Atlantic Beach Country Club
The FoBCA is the host of this year’s BFG (Big Friends Group) event! As you know, the BFG is a meeting of all the Friends groups in the Peninsula (click here for a list of some of them) and those who have attended in the past have really enjoyed this informative event.
There will be four speakers altogether, and TWO of them are related to the FoBCA – Roy Fuller-Gee, our Green Coast implementer and Dale Slabbert (previously the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve’s Visitor Controller, now Assistant Conservation officer at Rietvlei). Below is WESSA’s invitation. Everyone is welcome, including non-members and members of the public.
Dear WESSA affiliated Friends Groups 08/01/2019
and all WESSA Individual Members and Supporters
We are delighted to invite you and your Friends Group Members to our next Big Friends Group (BFG) Event, Coastal Matters co-hosted with Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area (FoBCA). The event will beheld on Saturday the 16th of February at the Atlantic Beach Country Club in Melkbosstrand.
Join the optional guided walk to learn about the complexities of maintaining an eco estate, such as the Atlantic Beach Country Club.
There will be an optional light vegetarian lunch at R95 per person. Please select your option via the RSVP link below.
Friends Groups, please circulate the invitation to ALL your Friends Group members.
Honey, Who Stole the Cheese?
Something strange has been happening in Melkbosstrand, ever since Sylvester the Badger moved in to the seaside resort...
Read a delightful account from Country Life magazine of Sylvester the Badger and his timeshare at BBNR! Those of you who have joined us on some of the FoBCA walks, will know where Sylvester was held ‘captive’. His story will elicit a few chuckles.
Once branded a criminal, Sylvester the badger makes a fresh start
- South African Country Life
- 1 Feb 2019
- WORDS ANN GADD PICTURES ANN GADD AND BLAAUWBERG NATURE RESERVE
Sylvester the honey badger creeps out of his man-made ‘cave’ in the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, where he spent a year before his release into the wild.
The local Facebook page of residents in Melkbosstrand on the West Coast was alive with messages reporting an ‘American skunk’ entering homes and helping himself to plentiful pickings. The ‘skunk’ in fact turned out to be a honey badger, spotted on several occasions in the area either lurking about suspiciously, or fleeing the scene of a crime.
As a result, the chap was soon prime suspect about town, although there remained a number of residents who believed that many of the crimes could well have been perpetrated by meerkats, even a caracal spotted in the area.
As speculation on the identity of the culprit increased, so did the rampage. A devastating ‘murder scene’ was uncovered at a Koi pond. Kitties went missing at Atlantic Beach.
Food was stolen, a fridge was broken into and entered… The Facebook page gathered momentum:
‘Caracal gets a reprieve on estate cat burgling… honey badger now main suspect… don’t mess with him.’
‘And they lurrrrve cheese and ham.’
‘Has now run off into the Green Belt at the old fire station. Am not sure who to report it to or if it is in fact someone’s pet.’
‘Wow we have been here for 16 years and never seen anything like it!’
‘I had one in my bathroom! Took a week to get rid of the smell.’
But I soon forgot about the badger, until I happened to go hiking in Blaauwberg Nature Reserve with my Wednesday Walks group, and our volunteer guide Stephanie Muller mentioned that the badger had been housed in the reservoir there. “The first time he escaped, he was caught by the SPCA, who contacted the conservation authorities. He was then placed here again, but escaped, as I recall. He was very determined.”
Honey badgers (Mellivora capensis) have been recorded over most of South Africa, as well as sub-Saharan Africa, and from southern Morocco to south-western Algeria, and outside Africa through Arabia, Iran and western Asia to middle Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Inevitably there are problems when wildlife meets urbanisation. Wild animals that grow up in urban or semi-urban areas usually adapt their habits to survive, but this particular suspect, an eight-week-old orphaned badger, had no one to teach him to avoid humans and how to hunt.
I personally encountered a honey badger while camping at Trouthaven near Rawsonville. Waking up one night I heard a ruckus in the other ‘room’ of our tent. Presuming it was hubby Anthony seeking a snack, I was about to roll over and go back to sleep, when I saw him sleeping soundly next to me. Leaping out of my sleeping bag in full warrior mode, I saw the tail end of a honey badger exiting the tent. I spent the next few days trying to get a photo of him but, although we spotted him on several occasions, by the time I clicked the shutter button he was just a streak in the undergrowth.
Due to human conflict and habitat destruction, badgers are either absent or now very rare, in areas where they used to occur. I was surprised to hear about one at Melkbos, so I went to the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve office at Eerste Steen, just south of Melkbos, to meet Dr Dorothy Breed, the City of Cape Town’s veterinarian and urban-wildlife specialist, who I’m told had dealings with the Melkbos badger.
“The badger was brought in by a member of the public to a local conservation office. Due to their suspected low numbers in the area, it was decided to attempt to rear and rehabilitate him,” she told me. “The initial intensive milk-rearing phase was done at a rehabilitation centre that had the resources and trained staff to do so.”
Nature conservation officer Dale Slabbert oversaw cleaning, stimulating and feeding the badger, who was named Sylvester. “He was fed a variety of foods that he might come across in the local environment, to develop his foraging skills,” explained Dr Breed. “Roadkill snakes and birds, eggs, etc.”
But this period was kept as short as possible. “In the wild, badgers remain with their mother for up to 18 months, learning how to survive in that specific habitat. To limit human contact and to avoid associating people with food, we used a remote enclosure and special feeding techniques.”
Dr Breed said that the ‘wilder’ he was, the greater chance he had of survival. Habituated animals have almost no chance of being successfully reintroduced into a natural environment, and either have to be euthanised or spend their entire lives in captivity.
“Once the badger was weaned and eating solids comfortably, he was placed in an old reservoir in Blaauwberg Nature Reserve for the rest of the rehabilitation process, where he remained for about a year.”
The day he caught a bird unaided was a sign that he could fend for himself. But, the best laid plans of badgers and men, seldom pan out as planned and, unfortunately, on initial release, the badger ventured into Melkbos in search of its culinary delights.
“Some residents even left food out to attract him to their properties,” added Dr Breed. “We realised after he was caught the first time that, if he repeated this behaviour, we would have to find another location as soon as possible before the behaviour became set.
In the end, it was decided to move the badger further north to Bokbaai, which was still in the allowed area of release. “We hoped this would reduce the chance of further incidents. We were also hoping that the coastal habitat would provide increased food resources.
A ‘soft’ release technique was used again.
“As before, we slowly reduced the frequency of feeding, as we monitored his returns to collect food occurring less often. We had cameras in Bokbaai to keep an eye on his movements and were very happy to see he joined two other bachelor badgers.”
She said he slowly stopped returning altogether, and that the local manager reports that there have been no incidents since he was released. “We were very lucky that he met the other male badgers at Bokbaai to assist in teaching him survival methods specific to the area. They helped hugely with the successful release. We were very worried when he entered Melkbos, but luckily the roughly 18-month project ended successfully, and we were able to learn many valuable lessons along the way.”
And life, now, for Sylvester? Indeed, it is a beach.
Forthcoming FoBCA events
- 16th Feb 2019 - WESSA BFG – see details above
- 28th Mar 2019 - Brunsvigia and Bulbs Walk and Talk: A walk led by our botanist Petra Broddle to look at the Brunsvigia, followed by a talk on bulbs in the area
- 30th Mar 2019: Two Hills Walk
- 27th April 2019: Battle of Blaauwberg Walk.
The calendar of events is always available on the Home page of our website, as well as on our facebook page. What to see now in Blaauwberg Nature Reserve....
Remember that our very handy Flower Guide is available at Starke Ayres Garden Centre (please ask at the information counter), at Plants on 6th Nursery, Melkbosstrand and at Eerste Steen for purchase at R100 each.
Please continue to spread the word about the FoBCA and its purpose. If anyone shows an interest in joining the FoBCA, you can always send them this brochure, which explains all the benefits of being a Friend, and the value of their contribution to nature conservation and preservation when they become a member.