Jeremy earns top observer title in nature challenge

The Laughing Dove captured by Jeremy Gilmore in Brassie Street, Lakeside on Thursday April 23.

A Tokai boy has come out tops in a citizen-scientist challenge to spot living creatures in our backyards.

Jeremy Gilmore, a Grade 11 Constantia Waldorf School pupil, was crowned Cape Town’s top observer with the 834 observations he recorded on the iNaturalist app for the City Nature Challenge.

Despite being in lockdown, Capetonians recorded the most observations in the worldwide challenge

Jeremy usually captures his discoveries on various hikes and rambles in Tokai Park, Cape Point National Park, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and more, but during the lockdown, he captured observations at his home in Lakeside.

In his spare time, Jeremy works with Friends of Tokai Park to remove invasive species that threaten Cape Town’s natural vegetation.

Friends of Tokai Park is a community organisation that is made up entirely by volunteers who support efforts to restore the Cape Flats Sand Fynbos.

Jeremy first joined iNaturalist in 2018. He has more than 3 000 observations to his name. He has previously written essays on topics such as the felling of the pine trees at Tokai
Park.

The City of Cape Town participated in the global City Nature
Challenge from April 24 to 27. Collectively, Cape Town recorded 34 254 observations and 3 270 species. The common spekboom; western honey bee; marbled leaf-toed gecko; garden snail; Cape honeysuckle and Chinese hibiscus featured as the most recorded species.

“‘I would like to thank all the residents who participated. Your enthusiasm for capturing the beauty of our natural environment, and this time right in your backyards, must be commended. We now have another City Nature Challenge
under the belt where we captured the most observations worldwide and recorded the second most species.” said the City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt.

“Even though we were not allowed to leave our homes, we have recorded a formidable base of species in our gardens and streets across the city.”

Nearly 50 000 people from all over the world participated and made a total of 810 527 observations and recorded 32 000 species.

Runners-up included various cities within America, such as Dallas with 33 638 observations and San Francisco with 31 468. The Western Cape’s Garden Route secured tenth place.

The challenge was founded in 2016 and only had two
cities participating back then, with 19 742 observations. Last year, there were 159 cities with just under one million observations.

“Several hundred observations from a garden is no mean achievement. We appreciate that we have residents who realise just how fortunate we are to have a natural environment as biodiverse as we do. Residents are welcome to continue
recording their observations on the iNaturalist app,” said Ms Nieuwoudt.

She said some very interesting creatures had been spotted during the challenge, including the ant-mimicking spider, which is seldom recorded. These spiders do not feed on ants but rather live in close proximity to them thereby getting some form of protection.

In light of the worldwide lockdown restrictions, the challenge included both indigenous and alien animals and plants, and cultivated plants, especially because it was focused on residential gardens