The Elandsberg Nature Reserve was formally declared a provincial nature reserve in 2008 in recognition of its importance to conservation. Bartholomeus Klip has signed up with Cape Nature’s Stewardship programme to safeguard the reserve in perpetuity.
At Bartholomeus Klip we are part of the Cape Floristic Region, which is one of the world’s six floral kingdoms and the smallest of these by far, but extraordinarily rich in species of flowering plants. The particular flora in our reserve is so special that it has been declared a provincial nature reserve, as well as a Natural Heritage Site, to safeguard it.
The reserve is a critical conservation area for two rare fynbos vegetation types, Swartland Alluvium Fynbos and Swartland Alluvium Renosterveld, and their wealth of associated animal and wildflower species. With its unusual plants, the reserve is the subject of many ongoing studies by local universities and other institutions, and an in-house project has already identified more than 850 species of plants here, including a spectacular diversity of spring flowers and bulbs. Many of these species are threatened and at least five of them have only ever been found in the reserve.
The reserve, which was established in the 1970s, has abundant herds of eland, springbuck, black wildebeest, zebra and bontebok, as well as other animals, such as baboons, bat-eared foxes, lynxes, and smaller species of antelope. Several different leopard individuals have been photographed in the reserve by trail cameras, usually at nighttime.
Although the fynbos is naturally poor in birdlife, we do have the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, once farmed here in large flocks at the height of the ostrich feather boom in the 1870s and today one of the leopard’s favourite foods. The magnificent black eagle (correctly known as Verreaux’s eagle) nests in the mountains, and the enormous dam near to the farmhouse has a spectacular array of water birds, some resident like the fish eagles and the kingfishers, and others such as the pelicans and the spoonbills less regular visitors. Flamingos have also been seen in some of Bartholomeus Klip’s smaller dams and there are a host of interesting large and small birds out in the reserve and on the wheatlands, including large flocks of the blue crane, South Africa’s national bird.
Perhaps the most important inhabitant of the reserve however is a far smaller creature: the endangered geometric tortoise, one of the world’s rarest reptiles, safe here in its last remaining viable habitat near Cape Town.
This project, started in 1987 by a group of dedicated people in South Africa, has successfully brought back an animal from extinction and reintroduced it into reserves in its former habitat. DNA analysis has shown that the Quagga was not a separate species of zebra but in fact a subspecies of the Plains Zebra (Equus Quagga) The Quagga, formerly inhabited the Karoo and southern Free State of South Africa. Like other grazing mammals, Quaggas had been ruthlessly hunted. They were seen by the settlers as competitors for the grazing of their livestock, mainly sheep and goats.
By selective breeding from a selected founder population of southern Plains Zebras an attempt is being made to retrieve at least the genes responsible for the Quagga’s characteristic striping pattern.
An interesting and unusual project at Bartholomeus Klip is the breeding of disease-free buffalo, which was embarked on in 1999. As most of the buffalo in Southern Africa are infected with corridor disease and foot and mouth disease, ‘clean’ animals from Bartholomeus Klip are in great demand on game ranches, especially as buffalo are one of the ‘Big Five’ (the others being lion, elephant, rhino and leopard) that tourists always want to see. The breeding programme has been managed along basic farming principles since the original founder herd of 20 buffalo calves were raised on dairy cows. The herd is now breeding at a sustainable rate and numbers are kept at around 60 animals, with offspring being sold to areas that need stocking. This programme provides a wonderful insight into the successful combination of modern farming and conservation, as well as allowing you the chance to get up close to view these magnificent animals.
The Geometric Tortoise headstart project aims to research, protect and ensure survival of this critically endangered tortoise.