WATCH: Vergelegen Wine Estate welcomes eland as part of Gantouw Project
Five elands were released at Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West this week as part of the Gantouw Project.
For the past five years, these eland have taken part in a research programme that mimics their historic migration, using them as a natural driver to boost ecosystem diversity.
The Gantouw Project is a programme of the non-profit organisation Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) and has been in operation since 2015 under its Nature Care Fund.
The project previously focused on their impact on Cape Flats Dune Strandveld, and will now focus on renosterveld at Vergelegen. Dr Anthony Roberts, CEO of CTEET, said Gantouw is a word that is derived from the Koi language and means ‘the way of the eland’.
“Urbanisation has resulted in fragmented ecosystems, many of which are collapsing. By introducing eland and allowing them to browse vegetation and prevent bush encroachment ‒ one of the main threats to the ecological health of these systems ‒ the characteristic diversity of the veld starts to return and the ecosystem functions more effectively,” he said.
Roberts said the impact of the eland on the Vergelegen veld will be monitored using drones and spectral imaging, as well as on-the-ground flora and fauna surveys. “This will indicate the animals’ grazing preferences, their impact on flora and fauna, and estimations of veld carrying capacity.
“The eland group comprises three cows and two neutered bulls, transported from Elandsberg, Wellington. The project will run for five years then be reviewed,” he said.
Vergelegen has provided a fenced 10 hectare camp near the hilltop wine cellar, secluded from its hospitality and management operations. CTEET has erected a boma in this camp to shelter the eland and estate management has undertaken to monitor their health.
CTEET will research to obtain baseline data as well as ongoing ecological monitoring and will submit an annual report. Vergelegen was the first Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Champion in 2005.
It was also awarded the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) 2019 corporate award, which recognises the wine estate’s sustained commitment to environmental initiatives.