Changing lives through nature

Pictured, from left, are Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) trustee, Dalton Gibbs, chairman David de Korte and trustee Mike Gregor.

Sleeping in a bushcamp on Rondevlei or on top of Table Mountain, exploring the rugged Cederberg or hiking to the Elephant’s Eye: these are some of the exciting adventures experienced by 5 928 children who have been connected to nature through various conservation projects run by the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET).

The trust held its annual general meeting recently.

Over the past year, CTEET has raised R7.76 million for various conservation interventions, and 110 youth have found employment in nature-based career paths through their training and development programmes (“CTEET nurtures tomorrow’s leaders”, Southern Mail, November 19).

In his report, CTEET chairman David de Korte said: “In a time when children are kept indoors for their safety, we are taking them
outside, teaching them about insects, animals and plants. We
are reconnecting them with nature.”

This year a tented camp at Bokbaai near Melkbosstrand on the West Coast has been added to the one at Rondevlei. “We’re really excited about the opportunities that this tented camp offers for schools through the life science curriculum. The site offers both the rocky shore experience and fynbos,” said Mr De Korte.

CTEET CEO Dr Anthony Roberts said it is a pristine environment where children feel safe and can explore both the terrestrial and marine environments having close encounters with creepy crawlies. “No wonder bookings are piling up,” he said.

Dr Roberts compared graphics of bountiful green areas in Cape Town in 1984 to 2016, illustrating massive development growth with drastically reduced open spaces. Dr Roberts said that with so many people coming to the city we risk losing most of our green open space by 2050.

“We try to work with communities and teach them the importance of green open spaces, that they can become a place of opportunity, a spiritual reconnection and where people can work and learn,” said Dr Roberts.

CTEET has a number of projects under its Nature Care Fund, including African Penguin conservation, employing four penguin monitors; three have come through CTEET’s learnership programme. The monitors collect eggs and birds and either return them to Boulders Penguin Colony or to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) where they are cared for along with injured penguins.

CTEET has been involved with the City’s Alien Invasive Species Unit for the past seven years and currently employs four people to work on this.

Dr Roberts says CTEET works on a creche-to-career model by providing environmental education, training and development ,which lead to careers in the green economy.

Another project is the Conservation Leadership Programme, launched in 2013, where the idea is to identify youth from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) Eco-Schools project who in Grade 6 showed interest in and dedication to the natural environment.

CTEET nurtures the pupils over their remaining school years, exposing them to the outdoors where they meet people from various environmental fields and are exposed to careers in the environmental sector.

CTEET assists them with subject choice and exposure to the options available to them. During the past year, the programme had nine camps, eight action days and five hikes.

OneoftheConservation Leadership participants is Raulston Brown who has been on the programme for five years. “When I started I didn’t know much about nature but it was a chain reaction where I would tell people not to do certain things, like taking tadpoles from pools,” he said.

Now he mentors children, takes them into nature where they are doing things with their hands and getting dirty.

CTEET trustee Dalton Gibbs spoke of bush encroachment threatening the Cape Flats Dune Strandveld.

The problem was that there were no ungulates left such as black rhino or eland.

An ambitious project was launched in 2015 when five young eland were introduced to the Rondevlei section of False Bay Nature Reserve. “Through this, we hope to maintain biodiversity and prevent dominance by a handful of plant species and subsequent loss of vulnerable, endemic flora and fauna,” said Mr Gibbs who is the regional manager for the Biodiversity Management Branch. The eland were donated by Mike Gregor who is a CTEET trustee and who attended the meeting.

Going forward, Dr Roberts said they will be targeting more affluent schools to cross subsidise those schools which cannot afford to come on camps.

For more information about CTEET, contact Louise Matschke on 021 444 2794, or email louisem@cteet.co.za