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Citizen scientists go app in hand for species census

Wessa youth in Durban, from left, Melisa Nonjiko, Azile Mpukwana and Siphiwe Rakgabale, will take part in the ‘City Nature Challenge 2022: eThekwini Municipality’. Picture: Supplied

Wessa youth in Durban, from left, Melisa Nonjiko, Azile Mpukwana and Siphiwe Rakgabale, will take part in the ‘City Nature Challenge 2022: eThekwini Municipality’. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 23, 2022

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Durban - It’s time to go, app in hand, as nature lovers to join the race to measure their local biodiversity.

Next weekend from Friday to Monday, nature enthusiasts in 200 cities worldwide will act as citizen scientists, logging plant and animal species they set their eyes on to see which has the greatest variety of birds, bugs and animals. Twenty of the cities are in Southern Africa, and Durban is one of them.

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Last year Cape Town came out tops, documenting 4 671 species and with 1 338 observers, according to iNaturalist.org

Taking part involves calling up the app, iNaturalist, joining “City Nature Challenge 2022: eThekwini Municipality” and then photographing a specimen.

The app helps identify it, offering a number of suggestions either based on what is close to the location or, if need be, what is not.

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(The Independent on Saturday tested it on an indigenous Natal plant bought from a nursery. The correct answer came in the second suggestion.)

“All nature lovers are encouraged to join the challenge in 2022 over the weekend, to log all the plant and animal species they see in their gardens or their region. The following week, between May 3 and May 8, those interested identify all the species recorded and logged on the app,” said a media release from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi).

App in hand, a citizen scientist shows how to identify species the digital way. Picture: Supplied.

The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) will take City Nature Challenge walks at Virginia Bush, Virginia, from 8.30am to 11am on Friday; from 9am to noon on Saturday at Burman Bush, Morningside; from 9am to noon at Treasure Beach, Bluff, and from 9am to noon at the Bridgevale Park and Japanese Gardens, Durban North.

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Other organisations involved in the Durban challenge include the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Flowers (Crew), the Botanical Society of SA (BotSoc) and the eThekwini Municipality.

The City Nature Challenge started in 2016 between Los Angeles County and San Francisco but has subsequently grown into an international event.

“Since SA cities joined in 2019, we have consistently delivered nature’s winners, with Cape Town winning the most observations and most species observed last year, and South African participants in general gaining global recognition for their contributions,” the Sanbi said.

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Other cities and areas in SA participating, are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, the Garden Route, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Nelson Mandela Bay, Overstrand, Southern Overberg, Stellenbosch, Thoyohandou, Tshwane and the West Coast.

For further information, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1005580253497942.

The Independent on Saturday

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