Protecting and preserving
South Africa has a rich and diverse natural heritage that we need to treasure and care for. Luckily, there are people who realise this.
For all its wanton consumption and destruction, ensuring the survival of species within our world is something the human race owes to the planet. Thankfully, large companies like Toyota – along with its partners the University of Johannesburg, African Centre for DNA Barcoding, International Barcode of Life and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – realise this. As a result, two years ago the Toyota Enviro Outreach programme was launched with the aim of protecting and preserving South Africa’s rich and diverse natural heritage.
Since its inception, the programme has supported the International Barcode of Life initiative, whereby local and international scientists work to collect, catalogue and list the DNA coding of plants and insects in order to ensure their survival. Now the Toyota Enviro Outreach programme is focusing its efforts on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, as part of the 2011 International Year of Forests.
The 332 000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa’s third largest park, extending from Maphelane (Cape St Lucia) in the south through Lake Sibaya to Kosi Bay in the north. The area contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking eco systems, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system,
25 000-year-old coastal dunes (which are among the highest in the world) and 700-year-old fishing traditions. iSimangaliso, meaning “miracle and wonder”, was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999.
Although part of a broader ongoing environmental initiative, the aim of the 12-day iSimangaliso project – which kicked off from Toyota’s outdoor 4×4 stand at the Johannesburg International Motor Show on October 8 – was to collect specimens from a broad range of species and sub-species from this sensitive area, in order to produce
DNA barcodes for each.
The intention is to grow a reference library of DNA barcodes for South African plants and animals, intended for open access and use by the broader scientific and amateur environmentalist, ecologist and biologist communities. Over 1 020 species representing approximately 2 806 individuals were collected.
“It was amazing to witness how scientists from different backgrounds and experiences can work as a group to achieve a common goal. The spirit and passion were fantastic,” said team leader, Michelle van der Bank, on the Toyota Enviro Outreach blog.
The iSimangaliso project featured some of the most experienced and respected local and international scientists and researchers, including fish and mollusc specialists Herman van der Bank, Richard Greenfield and Andrew Deacon. Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman focussed on spiders, while Paul Herbert, Erik Holm, Christian Deschodt, Vincent Savolainen and Brigitte Braschler conducted insect research. Olivier Maurin and Michelle van der Bank documented various plant species.
Renowned 4×4 specialist and eco-warrior, Gerhard Groenewald of the Klipbokkop 4×4 Academy, was available to lend an experienced hand, along with representatives from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, various media, and personnel from Toyota South Africa.