River Ambassadors in Action

Emergent (instream) vegetation management/ river profile enhancement

Over the past two months the River Ambassadors had a backlog of work they needed to catch up with, prioritising the activities that couldn’t be done during the Western Leopard Toad breeding season. Due to the presence of the Western Leopard toad, the Mocke Road waterway is considered an area of conservation significance. During the breeding season – between late July and December – their populations are most vulnerable, therefore much of the significant work could not be done during this time, however, restrictions were lifted in February and work resumed.

The River Ambassadors’ first activity at Mocke Road Waterway, upon the lifting of Western Leopard Toad breeding season restrictions, was to clear the stream allowing the water to flow freely. Although Phragmites invaded 60% of the total stretch, the other 30% was covered by Tradescantia zebrina.

Phragmites are a highly invasive reed that is well established in most of Cape Town’s Rivers and Wetlands. It can spread at five metres per year by horizontal runners and is common especially in riverbeds and damp grounds. It also plays an important ecological function in wetland by filtering water and preventing soil erosion, but needs to be controlled. At Mocke Road Waterway, it has formed a thick and dense mat, and established itself as the dominant species. It has outcompeted the other plants, leaving a monotonous looking landscape of overgrown reeds.

Tradescantia zebrina, more affectionately known as “wandering Jew” is also an aggressive invader. As it is a creeper, it attaches to the Phragmites, making it a thick network of invading plants. The thick mat covers the river, choking sunlight and oxygen that plants and animals need to survive. Other instream alien plants removed through this operation include Parrots feather, Spiked water milfoil, Willow herb and Watercress.

The same operation was conducted at the Doordrift Walkway, the other site used for this pilot project.

Little Princessvlei Terrestrial vegetation management (Alien plants)

At Little Princessvlei up to 25 tonnes of Port Jackson has been cut. Port Jackson is a category 2b invader plant, according to NEMBA regulations. It is also a fire hazard. Other activities included maintenance of the erosion control infrastructure and manual litter and debris removal from the waterbodies and stormwater infrastructure.

The River Ambassadors also did Snake Handling training and their final assessment of the Nature Conservation NQF2 qualification they have been working towards over the past year.

Snake Handling Training

On 9 March 2021, 14 River Ambassadors and their Site Manager, Hlomla Dali went on a snake handling course at Butterfly Sanctuary, which was facilitated by Johan Marais from the African Snakebite Institute. The course included Snake Awareness, First Aid for Snakebites and Venomous Snake Handling.  This training is a great addition to diversifying the skill set of the River Ambassadors, but very importantly, it prepares them for real on-the-job encounters. Many of the River Ambassadors were terrified of handling a Cape Cobra, but through the training and the guidance of the snake handler, they overcame some fears and have all passed the course.

Work done at Mocke Road waterway

Work done at Doordrift Walk

River Ambassadors receive Snake Handling and Health and Safety Training