Cape Town takes second place in nature challenge

Ashton Mouton at Die Oog Nature Reserve in Bergvliet.

Cape Town achieved second place in the recent City Nature Challenge 2022.

With 445 cities from 44 countries participating, La Paz, in Bolivia topped the charts in all three categories with 138 105 observations, 4 300 species identified and 4318 observers in the city.

Cape Town recorded 66 271 observations and 4 388 species, and was top in the category for most research-grade identifications at over 25 000.

The first part of the challenge opened on Friday April 29 and ended at midnight on Sunday May 1. The second part was for participants to load their pictures onto the iNaturalist app where they were identified by specialists around the world.

Since the first edition of the City Nature Challenge in 2016, organised by the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the San Francisco-based California Academy of Sciences, no city ever passed 71 150 observations, or 2 500 participants.

Stephen Sautner, spokesperson for Bolivia’s Wildlife Conservation Society, said La Paz’s achievement was thanks to the momentum of citizen scientists who had grown up around the competition. La Paz had previously participated in 2019, finishing second, third and eighth in the observations, participants and species categories, respectively. The Covid-19 pandemic frustrated efforts in 2020 and 2021.

Cape Town deputy mayor Eddie Andrews thanked the almost 1 700 participants who had helped to record the city’s diverse plant and animal life.

“A special thanks to all the participants, and especially to the people who helped identify 80% of the over 66 000 observations that were recorded in Cape Town,” he said. “For the second year running, we had an increase of just over 25% in our number of participants year-on-year. This is a wonderful achievement,” said Mr Andrews.

Bergvliet ecologist, Dr Tony Rebelo posted the most observations in Cape Town with 1 731 identifications and 374 species. Heather and Andrew Hodgson posted the second most with 1 362 observations. They had the highest number of species observed with 462.

Tim Kirsten, who recently found longleaf fountain bush (Psoralea filifolia), a plant possibly only last seen many decades ago in Cape Town, also participated.

Mr Kirsten led one unofficial event that he advertised on social media around the Kirstenhof wetland and greenbelt area. He chose two places nearby – Silvermine and Lower Tokai Park – to photograph at least one individual of each species he saw during his short walks.

“I also took photos of plants, insects, toads and skinks in my garden throughout the weekend. I then spent some time during the following week identifying plants for other observers,” said Mr Kirsten.

Dr Rebelo said the challenge – apart from being fun for the whole family – collected some very useful data, including more than 2 000 observations from over 300 threatened species. One example is the red spider, Strawberry Theridiid. Photographed on Table Mountain above Constantia by someone using the name “swoppet”, it was previously undescribed.

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Strawberry Theridiid, photographed on Table Mountain above Constantia, by someone using the name “swoppet”, was previously undescribed.
Cape Town deputy mayor Eddie Andrews taking part at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.