MISSIONS 27 and 36 of 2010
Name of Mission: Ndumo Land Invasion 1 and 2 of 2010
Date of Mission: 27th August 2010 and 3 October 2010
Aircraft used: Helicopter and Foxbat A22
Pilots: Ashley Bell and Brett Hill
Beneficiary: Paul Dutton
Objective of the Flight
To obtain up-to-date photographic evidence of destruction to the Ndumo reserve, wrought by legal and illegal settlers on the land
Beneficiary’s story of the mission By Paul Dutton
Bateleurs pilots Ashley Bell and Brett Hill volunteered on 26th August 2010, and Brett volunteered again on the 3rd October 2010, – to fly missions to Ndumo to obtain up-to-date evidence of the destruction that has been wrought on this precious RAMSAR designated wetland reserve.
Both missions showed the escalating damage caused by pure vandalism to sensitive riverine habitats as well as destruction to property and harassment of tourists to this reserve, which is regarded as the best birding area in South Africa. The resulting imagery from the missions was circulated to the influential Mail & Guardian and the Natal Mercury. Ms Lydia Johnson the MEC for Agriculture / Environmental Affairs & Rural Development subsequently responded to questions raised in the latter newspaper. On 3rd October Brett and I shared the ample cabin of his Fox Bat A22 light sport aircraft for the two hour flight, dodging scattered low cloud all the way to Tembe Elephant Park where we prepared the aircraft by removing the doors for aerial photography. We spent two hours recording all the recent damage to towering Sycamore fig trees that have enjoyed protection since the area was proclaimed a reserve in 1922. A swing bridge which was built in the early sixties to facilitate birding tourists crossing the Pongolo River by Warden Hancock, and maintained thereafter by me when I was OC from 1965 until 1972, had been destroyed.
The police and military were called in to maintain law and order but the vandals, most of whom are originally from Mozambique, have vowed to continue with the plundering of the reserve.