THE Cape Town Environmental Education Trust and the City have launched the Gantouw Pilot Project to reintroduce eland to local nature reserves.
The three-year pilot project involving five eland, the world’s largest antelope, starts at the Rondevlei Section of the False Bay Nature Reserve.
A number of other reserves around the city.are to benefit.
The absence of eland over the past few hundred years has led to an increase in the shrub component of natural areas in and around Cape Town.
Gantouw, the name of the project comes from a Khoisan name for the ancient migration route, the Gantouw Pass, that the eland and the Khoisan took with their livestock across the Hottentot-Holland Mountains. It was also the first wagon route into the interior from the early Cape Colony.
Mayco member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning Johan van der Merwe said this had resulted in a move from an open habitat to a closed, dense thicket.
The consequences were shrinking populations and the disappearance of certain plants and animal species.
The project would entail the moving of five eland – two males and three females – between nature reserves in Cape Town, mimicking natural migration patterns.
“They will remain at each site for a few months to browse, before moving on to the next site.
“In this way the ancient movement of eland across our landscape will be replicated, allowing the natural patterns that shaped and sustained our plants to be restored,” said Van der Merwe.
Cape Town was historically home to a number of large mammal species including the black rhinoceros, hippopotamus, elephant and eland.
As browsers, eland affect the natural vegetation through feeding habits.
Eland were present on the Cape Peninsula, at Cape Point, but have been absent from the Cape Flats as most of the remaining natural areas are either too small or have complex social problems that preclude the reintroduction of eland.
“By reintroducing eland, we are hoping to see their historical migration patterns being re-established. This may also lead to the restoration and conservation of plants and the ecosystem because their browsing will impact on the natural vegetation,” said Van der Merwe.