An intern working for a local environmental partnership identifies a problem amongst the game animals in a refinery’s veld area, so a private game reserve steps in to help. Kelly-Jane Peo - a 3rd year student in game ranch management at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – is currently employed as an intern at the Oyster Bay Reserve, a community-based project of the Mossel Bay Environmental Partnership (MEP). Her work includes the management of the game in the veld areas that surround the nearby PetroSA refinery.
“In terms of our internship agreement with PetroSA, Kelly-Jane has been doing research into the carrying capacity, veld conditions and the condition of the game at PetroSA as part of her practical training,” said MEP chairperson, Beverley Boer.
“She found that the carrying capacity has been exceeded, and that some animals are starting to inbreed, which is weakening their gene pools.
"At the same time, one of our past interns - Chris-Mari Dorfling, who now works at Gondwana Game Reserve – found that Gondwana needed springbok.
“So a game swap was proposed, and with the blessing of the PetroSA and Gondwana management teams, some of Gondwana’s zebra will now be swapped for some of PetroSA’s springbok.”
“None of this could have happened if Kelly-Jane and I hadn’t worked together earlier this year at PetroSA, and if I hadn’t come to Gondwana knowing the situation at PetroSA,” said Ms. Dorfling.
Ms. Boer said that Ms. Peo and Ms. Dorfling – working with John Vogel, Ms. Dorfling’s mentor at Gondwana – are currently busy attending to compliance with CapeNature’s permit conditions.
“They have to get approval for the transport we’ll be using, and to make sure there’s adequate fencing at PetroSA, and so on – but the game exchange will probably begin next week, weather permitting.”
Ms. Peo said that, for her, the most challenging parts of the project have been getting the correct permits from CapeNature, and planning an operation in which so many parties involved. “But Natalie Baker, the Conservation Services Officer at CapeNature helped us with this – and I really want to thank her for that: I’ve enjoyed the cahellenges, and the learning process has been an invaluable .
“The long term goal for this project is to improve the condition of the veld on the reserve at PetroSA, and also to establish viable populations and breeding herds for all animals.
“The intention is also to build up good relationships between Gondwana, PetroSA, and the Oyster Bay Reserve, to ensure future game exchange opportunities if they’re needed, and also to provide further research opportunities for students like the people who will take over my projects when my internship is finished,” she said.
Ms. Boer said that PetroSA’s executives have provisionally accepted a game management plan proposed by MEP.
Russel Mamabolo, regional manager of corporate affairs at PetroSA, said that, “PetroSA is excited about the animal exchange programme as it will assist with the effective game management at the nature reserve.
“It should be noted that the nature reserve is an indication that PetroSA can co-exist with an environmentally sensitive facility.
“As a company, PetroSA is committed to ensuring that its operations minimise any possible harmful impact on the environment.”
Fred Orban, a founder member of MEP and a member of the board of directors of Mossel Bay Tourism, said that the game swap – and the management agreement that has resulted from the project – auger well for the future of wildlife in Mossel Bay.
But, he said, there are economic considerations here, too.
“As an industry, tourism could transform the economy of Mossel Bay - but it will only be able to do so if the environment is protected, since the environment is the town’s main attraction.
“So while the PetroSA/Gondwana game swap is scientifically sound and displays good management practice, it’s also a symbolic gesture which shows that industry in Mossel Bay is serious about conservation.
“And that’s very good news for everyone.”