City nature reserve stops bulb poachers in their tracks

14 Jul 2022 in Where We Govern

City of Cape Town field rangers at the Tygerberg Nature Reserve managed to apprehend poachers from illegally harvesting bulbs and indigenous plants from the reserve on Tuesday, 12 July 2022.

On Tuesday, 12 July 2022 after 16:00, the Tygerberg Nature Reserve staff was alerted by a visitor to three suspicious individuals who seemed to be removing plants from one of the hiking trails.

Two field rangers responded to this call and managed to apprehend three individuals carrying more than 800 bulbs (geophytes) from the Tygerberg Nature Reserve western slope. The Plattekloof Neighbourhood Watch arrived on the scene to assist the field rangers in stopping the suspects while waiting for SAPS to make the arrest; the three suspects were placed in custody and arrested and are being held at the Parow police station.

The suspects will be charged with Contravening the City of Cape Town’s Nature Reserve By-Law 2020, as they entered the nature reserve illegally and were caught in the possession of protected plant species.

‘Illegal harvesting of bulbs and indigenous plants remains a challenge for us and is of great concern as it is affecting our natural biodiversity and contributing to the increasing loss of species. The presence and activities of these individuals also take away from the sense of place in our nature reserve as the peaceful and safe aspect is compromised.

‘I would like to thank all the role players involved in this effort, namely the helpful visitor who reported the individuals, the local neighbourhood watch and our reserve staff and rangers. This was a joint effort which was well executed by all,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Eddie Andrews.

The 800 bulbs consisted of five plant species, Drimia elata, Drimia capensis, Tulbaghia capensis, Dicerothamnus rhinocerotis (commonly known Renosterbos), and Helichrysum patulum. Most of these species are targeted and poached as they are believed to have medicinal use. The illegal harvesting of geophytes and other indigenous plants is a real biodiversity threat and has led to plant species loss, habitat destruction, and has increased the vulnerability of the natural veld to invasion by emerging weeds.

A week ago, Tygerberg Nature Reserve replanted 500 bulbs that were confiscated by CapeNature officials from poachers on one of the neighbouring wine farms. Tygerberg Nature Reserve was identified as the best suitable location, being a protected area within close range of where the bulbs were removed.

‘The City’s conservation officials are always on the lookout and have increased patrols to keep an eye on the reserve.  We would like to encourage our visitors and surrounding communities to continuously support our efforts in curbing these illegal acts, which threaten our biodiversity. The Tygerberg Nature Reserve is visited by more than 30 000 visitors annually, and has become a space that is enjoyed by all for its safe picnic areas, majestic viewpoints and hiking trails; our staff will therefore continue in their efforts to protect this area from any illegal activity,’ said Alderman Andrews.

The rescued geophytes will be planted in the previously ploughed areas, which are currently disturbed and in need of rehabilitation. The reserve staff are working hard at rehabilitating the area by introducing locally sourced indigenous plants and seeds.

The Tygerberg Nature Reserve remnant is an important green lung for Cape Town, and a critical node in the BioNet, creating connectivity with surrounding open spaces and reserves, allowing genetic interchange, and providing for species with a relatively large home range.