Mariana Balt
3 minute read
16 May 2019
1:41 pm

Mpumalanga’s White River Nature Reserve could be revived

Mariana Balt

A group of passionate residents are trying to reclaim the reserve and transform it into a safe space to walk through while enjoying nature with indigenous fauna and flora.

Image: Facebook

Stand aside, Kruger National Park. Enter the White River Nature Reserve!

Few people would mention the neglected open piece of land between the suburb of Parkville and the White River Rugby Club in the same sentence as the world-renowned national park on our doorstep, but even fewer people realise that these two pieces of land in fact enjoy the same status.

Both were declared as national parks according to the same Nature Conservation Ordinance many years ago, reports White River Post.

The White River Nature Reserve was first proclaimed as the White River Rotary Bird Sanctuary and later confirmed as the White River Nature Reserve.

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A group of enthusiastic and passionate residents are now trying to reclaim this reserve and transform it into what it should be: a safe space to walk through while enjoying nature with indigenous fauna and flora in the middle of White River.

This dilapidated building could become an information centre.

The community initiative to protect the nature reserve has recently been established, and meetings are currently being held to discuss the way forward. The aim is to look at the future of the reserve and preserve one of the few green spaces left where wildlife flourishes.

PG Joubert at the nests of the white-fronted bee-eater.

What makes this reserve even more valuable is the fact that it is home to the endemic Aloe simii species, which is classified as critically endangered.

“It is vital to get this conservation effort up and running to protect it. Not only for the current residents of White River but future ones as well,” says PG Joubert, who currently heads this project.

Tiffany Briggs, PG Joubert and Frans Relling are currently driving the initiative to revive the White River Nature Reserve.

Nests of the beautiful white-fronted bee-eater are also found near the rugby club buildings and are often vandalised by visitors.

The section situated on Danie Joubert Street, alongside the White River Rugby Club, is a protected wetland and the White River runs through it.

Joubert points out that the reserve currently is a popular thoroughfare for workers to and from bus stops and smallholdings north of the town. It also serves as a hiding place for criminal elements and a hunting field for poachers.

They hope to change that in the near future by fencing off the area, which would be beneficial to landowners in Parkville and Kingsview too.

“We found several home-made measures against crime in the area and don’t blame residents for that, but would appeal to them not to use things like gin traps, as found in the area.”

Moreover, some people boast about removing and now owning specimens of Aloe simii.

“They should note that removing the plant from a nature reserve is totally illegal and, with it being critically endangered, it actually enjoys the same status as rhino horn!” Joubert says.

He urges any resident who may have removed a specimen to preserve it in his or her own garden to bring it back to be resettled in its natural habitat. Nor should anybody remove seeds from the plants.

He emphasises that the support of the whole community is needed to take this initiative to the next level.

A first very well-attended public participation meeting was held on Tuesday, and two more will be held on May 21 and 28.

Enquiries: Tiffany Briggs on 082-530-2428 or Residents can also follow the group on Facebook.

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