Urban Programme

NVT supports and guides action on the ground with innovative and simple solutions to problems that affect all. Additionally, it bridges the gap between urban communities, government structures and formally protected areas. One of NVT’s key goals is the integration of conservation education and community involvement as a key priority for all its projects. The organisation recognises the need for complex conservation issues to be inclusive, taking positive and proactive approaches to include communities in seeking solutions to the impact they have on local biodiversity.

Good urban planning and the conservation of green spaces within urban environments can enable humans and biodiversity to co-exist. Furthermore, by cultivating a more ecocentric mindset in young and old, we can ensure that important vegetation types and the wildlife that inhabit them are safeguarded while, simultaneously, enhancing our sense of place and well-being. However, every now and then humans come into conflict with local wildlife or have an adverse effect on local wildlife. In such cases, these threats have to be mitigated.

Nature's Valley Urban Conservancy project

Nature’s Valley is registered as an Urban Conservancy with the provincial authority, CapeNature, and many of our valley-based conservation work is done under the joint banner of NVT and the Conservancy. The aim of the Urban Conservancy is to encourage members to participate in projects which focus on their individual erven with the common goal of maintaining the environmental integrity of the valley. Projects include wise waste management, indigenous gardening and sensitive lighting. Currently, the main project for the Conservancy is to educate homeowners on their legal responsibilities in terms of the removal of alien plant species and the management and improvement of various open spaces in the valley as well as documenting biodiversity in the valley.

Revitalising open spaces

The Open Spaces are managed by the Urban Conservancy Open Spaces Committee which is a collaborative effort by the Nature’s Valley Rate Payers Association, the Bitou Municipality, interested residents and NVT.

The Phyl Martin Park and indigenous nursery is a botanical garden established within Nature’s Valley. The Park is well-loved and utilised by residents and visitors alike, and NVT uses it extensively for its Conservation Education Programme.

 The Fynbos Reserve is a pristine section of the rare coastal dune fynbos and has a small network of trails and information boards set out to inform users. The NVT Applied Research team is busy documenting flowering plants in the reserve, and the Conservation Education Programme uses it as an outdoor classroom for school groups.

The Padda Puddle is a small wetland with natural grass and shrubland, with a trail leading through it.

The Dell is a lovely patch of developing Afromontane Forest, with trails and benches to enable visitors and residents to absorb the splendour and quietness of the forest interior.

Re-establishing the Indigenous Nursery

In the 1980s, this municipal open space was developed into Phyl Martin Park by a group of volunteers led by Phyl Martin. The park commemorates her initiative to turn this valuable land into an interesting botanical and peaceful recreational area.

Within the park, there was a “community nursery” established by Danie Muller (Oupa Daan) in 1995 where indigenous plants were propagated. NVT in collaboration with Valley homeowners, Bitou and local nurseries are revitalising this wonderful nursery to supply residents with indigenous alternatives for their garden as well as maintain the flora of the beautiful botanical garden. These endeavours are part of a greater Corridor Greening initiative in order to create a more natural mosaic of vegetation for our birds, bees and other wildlife, while at the same time getting local and neighbouring community members involved.

  • Vision: A greener, indigenous, invasive-free, Nature’s Valley.
  • Mission: Work with our community to revitalise the nursery and create green corridors in the Valley.
  • Purpose: Green corridors will benefit wildlife, the community, including learners, and critical biodiversity areas.

The nursery is managed and maintained by Yonela Rubuluza, who is a Horticulturist intern. Plants are propagated from seeds, cuttings, and division and some are sourced from neighbouring nurseries within the Bitou Municipality.

Bush Buck Monitoring project

NVT launched a citizen science project to monitor the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) population within Nature’s Valley and the immediate surrounding area, through the collection of photographic evidence to help identify individuals and determine a population size estimate and population movement through Nature’s Valley. Additionally, NVT also conducts weekly surveys to determine movement patterns and areas that specific bushbuck frequent, gaining population estimates within Nature’s Valley, as well as identifying bushbuck individuals. It is estimated that there are 11 well-identified bushbuck individuals that regularly use the Valley as part of their territories and or browsing areas.

The presence and movement of bushbuck is an ongoing point of discussion, and we are investigating additional methods to continue monitoring and identifying individuals and track presence and movement through the Valley.

The citizen science component of this applied research involves engaging the local community to continue collecting data on bushbuck sightings and habitat preferences, this is critical for a greater chance of sightings, as these are inconspicuous and easily startled animals and are often seen later in the evenings. Participants report the date, time, and location (ERF/property number) of the sighting, along with any other desired additional details like habitat type, weather conditions, and behaviour observed. This information is collected through a public WhatsApp group or via email. The periodic counts or estimates of population size throughout the Valley and immediate surroundings can provide valuable insights into population trends and distribution patterns.

Currently, this project falls within the Urban context, integrating across the Forest programme and incorporating collaboration with researchers and international students working on large mammal studies to exchange knowledge, share data, and contribute to broader applied research and conservation efforts.

Regular monitoring allows for tracking changes in bushbuck distribution, behaviour, and habitat preferences over time. By involving the local community members as citizen scientists, this project not only contributes to the collection of valuable data on bushbuck populations and habitats but also raises awareness and fosters a sense of stewardship among participants. Citizen science initiatives can play a crucial role in enhancing the understanding and conservation of bushbuck, ultimately contributing to their long-term survival and the conservation of their habitats. Therefore, it is important to continuously engage citizen scientists and encourage their long-term participation in the monitoring project.

The Baboon Management Forum

The Baboon Management Forum provides an interface for conservation authorities and residents to engage on issues relating to human/baboon conflict. This collaborative forum is composed of members from SANParks, Cape Nature, the Nature’s Valley Rate Payers’ Association, the Bitou Municipality, interested residents and NVT. NVT has accumulated five years’ data on the presence and invasion of Chacma baboons in Nature’s Valley. This data has been obtained with the aid of a baboon WhatsApp reporting group used by residents to alert their neighbours to baboon activity, which has proven to be very important in alerting home owners and residents to baboon movement and to take the necessary precautions when baboons are close by.

Currently, NVT, in conjunction with the Nature’s Valley Ratepayers’ Association, is investigating improved waste management practices, particularly the use of baboon- and monkey-proof bins in the village. The intention here is to ensure a safer environment for both the baboons and the residents with whom they have to co-exist.

Citizen Science Buzzard Project

This citizen science project spanning the Garden Route aims to establish where and how frequently buzzards move around this landscape. Movements of these endemic and near-endemic species are not well known, and given that they are top-of-the-food-chain predators, raptors are often used as key indicators of the health of a region’s ecosystems. To gather data on their presence and movements, NVT is now assisted by a handful of citizen bird-ringers to help band these birds with engraved coloured rings. These rings serve as a unique identifier that can be viewed with binoculars and can also be detected on good-quality images.

Citizen Science Projects

NVT is a firm proponent of citizen science, where ordinary every day South Africans and visitors can collect useful scientific data. We involve the community in citizen science projects, where individuals contribute to data collection and applied research. By participating in activities such as bushbuck surveys, bird surveys, frog monitoring, or plant identification, community members become citizen scientists, contributing valuable data that inform conservation efforts. These projects provide hands-on experiences, fostering a deeper connection to the natural world and empowering individuals to become actively involved in environmental monitoring and applied research.

NVT also collects data for several other citizen science programmes, while at the same time contributing to larger datasets. We contribute to the following National and International Programmes  and you can too:

The African Raptors Databank (ARDB) aims to ascertain the conservation status of raptors and their habitats across Africa and to help build the local expertise needed to monitor these indicator species in the future and implement a sound strategy for their effective safeguarding.

The Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC) project was launched as part of South Africa’s commitment to International waterbird conservation. This is being done by regular mid-summer and mid-winter censuses at a large number of South African wetlands. All the counts are conducted by volunteers; people and organisations with a passion for waterbird conservation.

iSpot is mainly used to help you with the identification of various life groups (from fungi and lichen to animals and everything in between). By adding an observation you can contribute to projects that are running on iSpot or obtain an ID for one of your observations. You can also make IDs on the observations of others or agree with an ID that was already made.

ADU Virtual Museum

These ADU maps aim to conserve wild populations of specific plant and animal groups and their habitats in Africa. It forms part of the Animal Demography Unit’s Virtual Museum and is a database containing photographic records, with dates and occurrences. We contribute to:

BOP (Birds with Odd Plumage) aims to provide a place where photographs of unusual bird plumages can be curated into one database. Any bird with any unusual plumage characteristic qualifies for inclusion in the virtual museum. This will provide the opportunity to look for patterns. Do certain species have abnormal plumage more frequently than others? Do unusual plumage patterns occur more in some places than in others?

The continuation of the Southern African Frog Atlas Project (SAFAP). It aims to build on the distribution data collected during seven years of fieldwork (1996-2003), plus earlier data compiled from museum records, private collections, literature and conservation agencies.

The continuation of SABCA, the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment. Lepimap is a project aimed at determining the distribution and conservation priorities of butterflies and moths on the African continent.

The objective of MammalMAP is to generate 21st-century distribution maps for all of Africa’s mammals.

This map aims to help solve one of the big mushroom mysteries: “How are they distributed?” Even within South Africa this information is remarkably incomplete.

A Virtual Museum project aiming to: (1) map the current distribution of the insect Order Odonata, i. e. Dragonflies and Damselflies, occurring in Southern Africa; and (2) to serve as a repository of all existing distribution data for this group in the geographic extent of the project.

By submitting photos of orchids along with details of where and when the photo was taken, you can help us to improve our understanding of the distribution of South African and African orchids.

Photos of Weaver Nests (PHOWN) is a citizen science monitoring project aimed at determining the distribution of colonies or nests of all weaver species globally and studying the variation in their colony sizes.

The continuation of the Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment (SARCA). It aims to improve our understanding of the diversity and distribution of reptiles in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and thereby make possible an improvement in the conservation status of these animals.

The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is the most important bird conservation project in the region. It holds this status because all other conservation initiatives depend on the results of the bird atlas, to a greater or lesser extent. The fieldwork for this project is done by more than one thousand seven hundred volunteers, known as citizen scientists.

SAFRING administers bird ringing in Southern Africa, supplying rings, ringing equipment and services to volunteer and professional ringers in South Africa and neighbouring countries. They are an essential arm of the Animal Demography Unit and all ringing records are curated by them. Contact is maintained by our Project Coordinator with all ringers.

Elasmobranch Monitoring (ELMO) is a citizen science project, which monitors the Southern African shark and ray populations through public participation.