KZN Estuaries to Kosi River(34) and Umtamvuna River(35)

Sep 22, 2010

MISSION  34 and 35 of  2010

Name of Mission: KZN Estuaries to Kosi River(34) and Umtamvuna River(35)
Date of Mission: 18th and 22nd September 2010
Beneficiary: Santosh Bachoo of KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife
Aircraft used: Cessna 172
Pilot: Donavan Bailey

Objective of the Flight

To visually document estuary mouth behavior in the spring season, as well as to record developments around these extremely sensitive habitats.  Also to conduct an aerial count of hippo in the riahcrds Bay Sanctuary.

Beneficiary’s story of the mission: By SANTOSH BACHOO

KwaZulu-Natal is endowed with 73 estuaries, all of which are in various states of degradation due to anthropogenic impacts like increased water abstraction, pollution, insensitive development, bad farming practices, artificial breaching etc. Oblique aerial photography of estuary mouths for the entire KwaZulu-Natal coast was started in 1999, the main objective being to visually document estuary mouth behavior when the mouths open around the spring season, as well as to record development around these extremely sensitive habitats.

All the images are captured in the official Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife database that is used as part of a decision support tool to manage estuary mouths.

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We use it to make informed decisions when commenting on development applications that may impact estuarine systems and keeping a visual record of the changes to these systems over time, with the ultimate aim being to protect these sensitive and valuable habitats. I have provided a few examples at the end of this document.

In addition, another objective was to do an aerial hippo count over the Richards Bay Sanctuary on this same flight, as part of the animal population survey for that system. This did not work out too well as the water was quite turbid and no hippo were spotted.

Ezemvelo managed with its own Cessna until 2010, when our engine had to be overhauled just at the time we needed to fly the coast. The Bateleurs came to the rescue and flew two Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff members (Mr John Craigie and Mr Santosh Bachoo) on two separate flights so that the photography could be completed. The  Bateleurs ilot, Donovan Bailey, was extremely professional, and flew exceptionally well. His aircraft was always in an immaculate state which did much to inspire our confidence!

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife would like to extend its gratitude to The Bateleurs – to the Directors for approving the mission, to Joan Cameron for facilitating the mission, and especially to the pilot, Donavan Bailey, for sacrificing his time for us.  It is much appreciated.

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Pilot’s story of the mission: By DONAVAN BAILEY

The proposed mission was to look at the state of our river mouths from Port Edward to Kosi Bay. We would also try and see if we could spot any hippos south of the Richards Bay harbour plus check on a few coastal reserves on the North Coast. My expectations were high:  I hoped to do the whole mission in one day –  Virginia/Kosi/Virginia and then Virginia/Port Edward/Virginia.

We started with our trip to Kosi Bay. There was a slight tail wind but by the time we reached Richards Bay we had a heavy head wind that grew stronger the further we travelled. We were knocked around which was not pleasant for my passengers. Most of our coastline river mouths are all rather silted and not in good health.  It was also sad to see how dry everything is at the moment. The St Lucia wetlands are very dry and will need plenty of rain to fill the main lakes again. Sadly, it was noted that locals are using the park to graze their cattle. It was also sad to see all the fish traps in Kosi Bay. I don’t think a fish can even swim there now without being caught in a trap. Once we turned at Kosi the tail wind was a big relief.

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We landed at the strip near Rock Tail Bay lodge as we had one unhappy passenger, but the hard bouncing would have tested the best of us. After a quick break we headed south. We tried to look for hippos in the lagoon south of Richards Bay harbour but could not see any. Again we noted the illegal nets. Once we arrived in Virginia it was decided to delay the leg to Port Edward. We were all rather tired. We had some great whale spotting up North even with the sea on its head.

On Wednesday 22 September we left early from Virginia to head south for Port Edward. The weather was perfect. Again going south our rivers are not in good condition and it is very dry. Even the Gum Trees next to the rivers are dying. We flew south remaining over the sea to look up the rivers. We spotted whales plus turtles. After Port Edward we decide to look at the first few Transkei rivers. The difference is huge. They all look in good health with the main difference being no commercial farming close by. On our return we flew inland to look at the rivers flowing out to sea. Sewerage can be seen in some of the rivers. Rather sad. It was a great flight in excellent conditions. It is always fun to fly!

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