EWT Riverine Rabbit Programme
The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Riverine Rabbit Programme (EWT-RRP) is aimed at the conservation and protection of the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis). The Riverine Rabbit is endemic to the seasonal riverine systems in the Nama Karoo. It is an important biological indicator species, the absence of Riverine Rabbit in confirmed suitable habitat suggests that the Riparian system in question is not functioning as it should. Nama Karoo river systems have been damaged by farming practices and other human activities that have resulted in extensive erosion and degradation in and around riparian habitats of the Riverine Rabbit. This degradation coupled with the expected impacts of climate change in South Africa’s arid and semi-arid zones provides a strong incentive for the rehabilitation and restoration of these habitats.
EWT-RRP’s Riparian Habitat Rehabilitation Project
This project is aimed at developing and implementing strategies to rehabilitate the precious, but heavily degraded freshwater systems in the Karoo. The project, based in the small town of Loxton in the Northern Cape, aims to combine sustainable water and biodiversity conservation with job creation and the development of skills for members of the local community.
EWT-RRP Indigenous Nursery
The nursery, located in Loxton, has expanded gradually from two trained half-day nursery workers to six in 2011. Through a process of experimentation the indigenous plant nursery now propagates eight species of indigenous plants that are found to establish themselves in local riparian ecosystems with a high success rate. The plants propagated in the nursery are used for planting out at rehabilitation sites around Loxton. The EWT team has experimented with a variety of planting techniques and is now exploring the viability of seed banks and seed islands for land restoration, without necessarily having to propagate and care for plants in a nursery environment.
All plants propagated in 2008 and 2009 were planted in the three trial rehabilitation sites during the course of 2010. The plants grown during 2010 were planted in strategically selected areas intended to form corridors between or within optimum habitats for the Riverine Rabbit.
Riparian habitat rehabilitation and conservation of valuable top soils
The three pilot rehabilitation sites are located on the private farms Sakrivierspoort, Dunedin and Lapfontein. Conservation Management Services led the rehabilitation work and trained the project coordinator and three local men from Loxton in land restoration techniques.
In this semi-arid environment, rehabilitation techniques are aimed at trapping valuable water, topsoil, seeds and organic matter in man-made hollows. These hollows then form favourable micro-environments, assisting with the natural germination and growth of plants.
Dr Vicky Nel
Manager, Riverine Rabbit Programme
Tel: +27(0)53 - 381 3068
Fax: +27(0)53 - 381 3068 or (0)11 - 486 1506
Senior Field Officer
Tel: +27(0)53 - 381 3068
Fax: +27(0)53 - 381 3068