Capetonians invited to ‘bioblitz’ nature

Moira Truter, of Tokai, photographing a strelitzia.

Capetonians will be competing against more than 170 cities around the world in the annual Global City Nature Challenge.

For four days, from Friday April 26 to Monday April 29, nature lovers of all ages are encouraged to go outside to photograph plants, insects and animals using the free iNaturalist app, as part of a global competition.

Participants can record any animal, plant, fungi, slime, mold, or evidence of life such as scat, feathers, tracks and shells they find in Cape Town.

Bergvliet ecologist Dr Tony Rebelo said tours and “bioblitzes” of local reserves would take place during the challenge, headed by local experts and managers.

They are desperately short of activities for mushrooms, seaweeds, goggos, sea shores and trees.

And Dr Rebelo says some night time activities will also be useful.

According to Dr Rebelo, the competition started between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2016 (Los Angeles won). It went national in America the following year and international in 2018.

This year the event sees over 150 cities participate worldwide inclu-
ding three African cities: Nairobi in Kenya, Port Harcourt in Nigeria and Cape Town.

To get involved, you need to register as a user on iNaturalist, download the smartphone app, and then post as many biodiversity observations made within Cape Town over the four-day period, as possible.

These can be posted from home, a school, a City nature reserve or a library.

Dr Rebelo is asking people to practise leading up to the event and to plan activities over weekends to get to all the fun areas and map what is there.

Groups taking part include Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW), Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Friends Groups, the Kirstenbosch branch of the Botanical Society of South Africa, Table Mountain National Park Honorary Rangers, Scouts South Africa, Girl Guides South Africa and diving groups.

Dr Rebelo said it was a chance to discover other citizen scientists in Cape Town as well as the different environmental organisations and to get out and discover our fauna, flora and fungi.

“At the same time, we will collect data for monitoring and documenting species in our reserves, open spaces and city. The data will be used by reserve managers to plan and run the reserves more efficiently, and by Red List staff at SANBI (SA National Biodiversity Institute) and to evaluate the conservation status of our species.”

The City’s mayoral committee member of spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, said the event would encourage locals to explore Cape Town’s abundant natural attractions.

“We’re inviting all Capetonians to ‘bioblitz’ our nature reserves and natural open areas to record everything alive over those four days. We’re extremely proud to participate in this globally-important biodiversity competition and look forward to this exciting challenge,” she said.

Conservation groups will organise bioblitzes and family days in local nature reserves, open spaces and arboreta.

Gigi Laidler, of Crew, said that last year 17 000 people in 68 cities around the world, had made 441 000 observations of 18 000 species over four days. This year, Cape Town’s target is to make
50 000 observations, of 3 500 species from 2 000 observers – that is a minimum of six observations a day.

Ms Laidler said the observers need not worry about identifying what they observed because teams would do that over five days following the challenge.

Ms Laidler advised switching on your phone’s GPS at least two minutes before starting out
to get accurate localities; switching off autocomplete names and automatic upload to save data; and synchronising when getting to a Wi-Fi hot spot.

She will be holding training courses at Kirstenbosch in the run-up to the competition. Contact her at 021 799 8766 or g.laidler@sanbi.org.za.

Caitlin von Witt, of FynbosLIFE and Wessa, is holding a bioblitz in the Spaanschemat and Grootboskloof river valleys of the Constantia Valley greenbelts on Saturday April 27. RSVP to wessawesterncapemembers@gmail.com

Sign up at www.inaturalist.org, then load the iNaturalist app. For updates visit www.
inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge
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