Friends of Rietvlei
Newsletter March 2005
Evening Meeting
Our next meeting of the year takes place in April and we would like to see old and new members, as well as any interested visitors joining us on ....
Date: Thursday 7th April 2005
Time: 7.30 p.m. for 8p.m.
Venue: Rietvlei Education Centre, behind MAC Clubhouse, off Pentz Drive
Speaker: Koos Retief & Rietvlei staff
Topic: 'What's happening in and around Rietvlei'
Enquiries: Pauline 557 6920 a/h or 4644748 o/h
The staff and students are very busy conserving Rietvlei and this will be an opportunity to find out what exciting projects are on the go.
 
Annual General Meeting
Please diarise Thursday 5 May 2005 for this very important event in the calendar of Rietvlei. An interesting speaker on lighthouses will be our guest. Milnerton Lighthouse lies on our boundary so this a pertinent topic. The AGM is also the time of hearing what has been done over the last year and setting up an effective committee for the next year.
 
From chilli powder to prickly pear…. Louis Raubenheimer writes…
I read recently in the newspaper a report into the illegal use of Sudan Red, a dye which causes cancer, in various foodstuffs. It so happens that Sudan Red is well known to alien clearers, since it is used with diesel-soluble herbicides. It allows one to see which cut stumps have been treated with herbicide. Lately we have stopped using diesel-dissolved herbicides because diesel is not environment-friendly, and does not evaporate or decompose. It stays in the soil and makes it infertile. We nowadays use water-soluble herbicides with appropriate dyes.
What is interesting is that in both America and Europe eleven synthetic red food-colourings have been available, of which ten have been outlawed in the USA and ten in Europe, because they cause allergies or even cancer. Unfortunately the one allowed in the US and the one in Europe are not the same, so no red foodstuffs can be exported from one area to the other.
The only universally allowed red food colouring is a natural one made from cochineal, an insect which lives off prickly pear plants. The cochineal looks like a fat blood-sucking tick. It is filled with a red liquid which makes an edible dye. A cochineal species is currently being used with great effect to combat an invasion of a specific species of prickly pear in the Western Cape. This prickly pear is found in Rietvlei, in the BCA, in Table Mountain National Park, and along the coast all the way to the Transkei. Because the cochineal does not like wet weather, its effectiveness is much greater in and around Cape Town than along the Garden Route. It gets washed off when it rains, so because we have not had much rain over the last few years, the cochineal is thriving here. So the drought has had at least one benefit!
The introduction of the cochineal has been due to the Friends of Rietvlei and Nature Conservator Koos Retief who realized that continued spraying of prickly pears with highly toxic herbicides was neither desirable nor effective. The knowledge so gained is now available to anyone who has the same problem.
By joining the Friends of Rietvlei or the Friends of BCA, people can get involved in nature conservation and learn more about the environment. For further information contact Louis Raubenheimer at 021-554 2221 or Koos Retief at 021-550 1086.
 
Rainfall.. or the lack of it
As you all know, the City of Cape Town is suffering a shortage of water and restrictions on its use are now in full effect. So far this year the following rain has been recorded at Rietvlei: Jan 2005 16mm, February 4mm. A couple of residents of Famingo Vlei have also been watching the central pan anxiously as it dries up. As per the recommendations of the CSIR study undertaken in 2001, the Rietvlei staff have been keeping a watch on the water and moisture levels of the central pan. On 25 February, although NO dust had been blowing off the pan the pump and pipes were deployed. On the 28 February the pumping began and at that stage the pan was 20% wet. To date, water has been pumped onto the pan for 16 days. During this period there have not been any exceptionally windy days and no dust storms have occurred. As we move into autumn it is hoped that the reduction of wind, increase in dew and hopefully some rain will keep the pan damp.
 
Gentle Cuddles turns Killer…
Report from Rietvlei - It has been noticed by the conservators that the frequency of feral cats in the reserve has suddenly increased dramatically.
The reserve is visited early in the mornings, to switch on the water pump that is being used to control the dust problem on the pans. Recently four cats were spotted in the reserve. Feral cats pose a big threat to the wildlife of our reserve, the reason being that even the most placid of cats can suddenly turn into a killing machine when it gets to the veld and instinct starts to take over. Many will argue that cats will only catch mice and sometimes a dove or two, but unfortunately this is not always the case. A hunting cat will virtually catch anything edible within its reach, ranging from insects-like locusts- to baby hares. Not even snakes are excluded. If cats were able to identify exotic or alien species, and to prey only on them, then the problem would be a lot less severe, but unfortunately a large percentage of their diet includes indigenous and even endangered species.
According to law feral animals are not permitted to be in reserves, and we thus urge The Friends that live in the close vicinity of Rietvlei to please place collars with bells on their cats, as this warns prey animals of the presence of a predator , thus allowing adequate time to escape. Should you spot stray cats in the reserve please alert the nature conservators on 550 1086 or 5507564. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!
 
Milnerton Racecourse/Royal Ascot update
For residents of Table and View and Milnerton who have lived in the area for 5 - 10 years you will be aware of the changes that have taken place to the old Milnerton horse-racing track, grandstands and stables. This area is now called Royal Ascot and consists of housing, a shopping centre and a garden centre. However, due to efforts of Friends of Rietvlei and other conservation bodies, the approving authorities required that two portions of the inside track area be conserved. The northern conservation area is now accessible to the general public by way of a path from the traffic circle adjacent to Sandown Crescent complex. The path takes a meander around the area and siting of interesting plants and birds is possible. Kirsten Louw does a regular check of the area and some of his latest new sitings are Spurwing Goose, Vivid Blue butterfly, Long Skimmer dragonfly. Plants flowering are Haemanthus pubescens, Athanasia dentata, Geranium incanum, Pelargonium capitatum, and many others. If you visit the area please STAY ON THE PATH, NO DOGS ALLOWED, NO LITTERING , but ENJOY THE VISIT.
  
From the Chairman..
We gave input for the EIA process of the Duikersvlei Stream (old Kynoch factory site in Montague Gardens), regarding the prevention of groundwater contamination and the proposed realignment of the stream on the site with the new industrial development in mind.
Our main concern is the water quality that this stream produces, and how to ensure that the system stays natural. We support the alternative that re-aligns the stream along the southern boundary before linking to the existing drainage structure underneath Koeberg Road before discharging into the canal. The stream should have a natural appearance with wider/narrower & shallow/deeper areas to promote polishing of the storm water. This new alignment will bypass the existing polluted area and stop the area from further contamination of ground water.
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