Tanglewood Conservation Area: Research, Restore and Conserve 22 months on

Jun 29, 2023 | WFA News

Within the “Bushmansriver Corridor” of the Eastern Cape, South Africa, lies an 800ha property previously farmed through grazing and planting, and then followed by overstocking of game for hunting.

In August 2021 Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA), through a partnership with Tanglewood Foundation, acquired the property with the vision for the land to become a key property within the proposed Bushmansriver Corridor, to form part of the broader Albany Biodiversity Corridor vision: a proposed corridor that will extend from Addo Elephant National Park to the Great Fish River Nature Reserve through the formation of connected conservation land via a series of biodiversity and nature corridors and the expansion of protected areas.

In 2021 WFA partnered with the Conservation Landscape Institute (CLI) through an implementation partner agreement, for CLI to assist with the establishment of the Tanglewood Conservation Area (Tanglewood) as the catalyst for corridor expansion, ecosystem restoration and socio-economic opportunities.

At the height of the drought in the Eastern Cape, the first steps for restoring Tanglewood was to remove extralimital species and to alleviate the stocking rate on the property. Through this rest process, and recent rains within the area, natural restoration has occurred on some of the degraded areas on the property.

Active restoration was also initiated and is currently taking place on bare soil patches within the conservation area, to ensure improved water retention, soil protection and the opportunity for pioneer shrubs and grass species to establish. Soil ponding and brush cutting methods are being used to test microclimatic thicket restoration.

A restoration research site was also established on the property, through which biodiversity planting using the ponding method was used. The one hectare fenced off area within a cleared area of the property, was planted with a variety of woody species and is watered on a regular basis. This monitoring site will be used to determine if this very labour-intensive restoration method is viable when compared to other restoration methods for this property and the area in general.

Additional research currently underway, which also forms part of the conservation management of the property, include biodiversity, grass and browse surveys, setting up of camera traps to record species on the property, temperature and rainfall data collection, rodent surveys, game counts, insect surveys, to name a few.

Since the property has been naturally rested with reduced number of game and extralimital species, and previous hunting activities ceased, the following exciting discoveries have been made on the camera traps, showing a return of species onto the property: leopard, caracal, honey badger, water mongoose, porcupine, black-backed jackal and small spotted genet.