Working for Wetlands 04 of 2010 – Mutale Wetlands

May 21, 2010

MISSION 17 of 2010

Name of Mission: Working for Wetlands 04 of 2010 – Mutale Wetlands
Date of Mission: 21st May 2010       
Pilot: Craig McKenzie
Aircraft used: PA 32 300   
Beneficiaries: Piet-Louis Grundling  – SANBI  – Working for Wetlands,
Collin Nemadodzi – SANBI – Working for Wetlands, Marius Snyders – SANParks – Working for Wetlands

Report from the pilot: By  CRAIG  McKENZIE

Objective of the Flight:

The objective of this mission was to survey various river courses, wetlands and catchments in the area north of Thoyandou in Limpopo province.  By observing and logging areas of degradation, the team can then plan proactive steps for rehabilitation.

The mission had already been postponed due to weather, and on the revised date, the forecast was still cloudy with showers.  However, with the team coming in from three different locations, rescheduling did not seem viable.

The meeting point was Tzaneen airfield.  Cloud bases were low but flyable.  After briefing the departure was delayed by an hour while we hoped for the cloud bases to lift as some of the target areas were in the mountains. 

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There was little change in the weather and the decision was then made to proceed before significant Cu cells developed.

We got to within 5nm of the first target area but it was in low cloud and mist – so we diverted to the second target area and managed to fly two of the target zones there. The team managed to record (notes, photographs and GPS points) a number of zones that require intervention. The remainder of the target areas were higher up in the mountain which was covered in low cloud.  Unfortunately that was as far as we could go and we then returned to Tzaneen.

Report from beneficiary: PIET-LOUIS GRUNDLIG

Objective of the Flight:

Determine the status of wetlands in the Mutale catchment by doing an aerial survey of impacts in these wetlands. The results, by prioritising identified wetlands for field verification,  will feed back into the SANBI Phase 1 and rehabilitation planning procedure.

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The regional co ordinator for Working for Wetlands, Limpopo Province, Collin Nemadodzi, was joined by the implementer for the Mutale project, Marius Snyders, and Piet-Louis Grundling (Wetland specialist) to fly this mission with Bateleurs pilot Craig Mckenzie.  We took off from Tzaneen Airport on an overcast day with reports of low clouds in the Soutpansberg – the area of interest. The mission had been postponed previously due to bad weather and after delaying take-off by an hour, plus having made a few calls to observers in the target area, it was decided to proceed.  It soon became clear that both the eastern and northern part of the area to be studied were inaccessible due to low cloud.  However, we had a break in the clouds and were able to fly the Tshandama section of the Mutale river.

The wetlands investigated during the flight are mainly valley channelled and un-channelled valley bottom   wetlands, as well as the Mutale river floodplain. The Tshandama tributary  wetland was prioritised for 2010/11 Phase 2 investigations due to severe headcut erosion at its confluence with the Mutale river posing a threat to the health of the system.

Other impacts in this wetland include gully erosion and extensive cultivation. Wetland no 4 was rehabilitated in previous years. It is included in this report as structural failure was noted.

The weather did not favour a comprehensive mission, but the professional and persistent conduct of pilot Craig Mckenzie resulted in a successful mission. Although the whole project area could not be covered the Tshandama section resulted in an adequate number of wetlands and problems to be investigated given that large proportion of maintenance will be undertaken in 2011/12.

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