Another park with swing and pines

Margaret Kahle, Wynberg

Why ecosystem restoration in Tokai?

An uncomfortable truism – in the sphere of human consciousness, self-interest and self-comfort occupy a sacred and inviolable space, while the wonders of the living world are dispensable.

With sorrow and a shrug we acknowledge the sliding towards extinction of iconic animals such as the rhino.

But so too are an astonishing array of lesser charismatic species from the tiniest micro-organism to unattractive prickly vegetation. Do we notice or even care?

These should be among the central issues of our age. For as we deplete the earth’s biosphere of the diverse genetic material evolved over myriads of millennia, so indeed we hasten the demise of our own species.

Yet we treat these losses as sad but peripheral.

There exists in the genteel suburb of Tokai a unique stretch of land. After decades under pine plantations, an accidental little fire resulted in the emergence of several threatened plant species thought to be extinct.

The fynbos seedbanks had survived. This is equivalent to lost treasure being found since this seedbank is of the Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, a critically endangered vegetation type endemic to the greater Cape Town area.

Since pine harvesting began in 2005, well over 320 plant species have emerged naturally and many animals, insects and micro-organisms are now populating the area of once barren pine mono-culture.

Sadly, the last unharvested plantation section has become the focus of bitter dispute – conserve biodiversity or establish an urban park.

The ephemeral pleasure of a picnic or a walk in the shade occupies an inviolable space in the park proponents psyche and by preventing the restoration of this critically endangered veld type, the disposal of an entire ecosystem with all its diverse life is sanctioned. Are the wonders of the living world indeed dispensable or are we humans capable of acknowledging this astonishing life all filling specialised and often underrated niches.

Blessed and cursed with higher consciousness, will we use that capacity to ensure that our niche harmoniously embraces and protects those of all fellow organisms?

Will the Tokai residents become the custodians of a unique natural heritage, or just have another park with swings and pines?