Thursday, 8 February 2018

Albertina Sisulu Orchid

I joined the annual count for the Albertina Sisulu Orchid along the southern slopes of ridge that runs through Proteadal. This orchid was once thought to be extinct but a few years back a viable population of the orchid was found. Once thought to be extinct, in 2015, just over 100 of these extremely endangered ground orchids were counted. The problem is that developers want to build very close to where the orchids are and with their own environment specialist claimed that there where no endangered plants such as this orchid there. Well every year an annual count is done.

The following year 2016 only 3 were found, and 2017 it was a bumper year with nearly 150 found. So today we spread out about 5 metres apart and walked and walked and walked. What felt like 20km, we only walked just over 10km but over rough terrain. Even with the 5m gap being searcher we could have missed a few plants but this margin of error is the same every year and gives us an indication of how many there actually are. The main issue is that the orchids are there, and it contradicts the environmental specialist hired by the developers, assessment that there are no orchids here. Sadly we only found 8 Albertina Sisulu orchids on our count today and I was finished. Kaput! No more walking for me for a while.

I saw plenty of other orchids, more common ones and also just as beautiful. we saw plenty of the African Red Toads, yet no snakes. 2 Flap Neck Chameleons, a Giant Eagle Owl, a couple of Night Jars, and lots of Francolins. Below are a sample...

Large Flap Neck Chameleon waiting for lunch on some pompom weeds

A much smaller Flap Neck Chameleon, this one was very aggressive and bit me twice as I moved him safely to a tree

I stand corrected with the names, we saw plenty of pink orchids and these white Habenaria epipactidea

A big problem, Protea tree deforesting for firewood

Protea flowers

Now this is my favourite find, also an orchid 

Damage done by 4x4s in the area

I have been told that these repairs to the 4x4 tracks have already cost over R4million

And finally a giant caterpillar on a protea tree 

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