Spotlight on Die Oog

Die Oog in better years with no drought.

At the Friends of Die Oog annual general meeting, members of the volunteer group that looks after the eco-sensitive site heard that with just over R20 000 in the kitty they would, in the words of outgoing chairman Mark Shaw, need to start doing some “serious fund-raising”.

Funding from the City of Cape Town stopped at the end of July last year. It was R1 700 a month, but it paid for a part-time caretaker.

Mr Shaw and his wife, Anne, are stepping down, having co-chaired the group for four years.

Brett Castel, who lives in Midwood, which runs alongside Die Oog, is taking over.

“It seems the consensus is that we are looking after the place so well on our own that we don’t need any help (from the City),” said Mr Shaw, at the meeting held, at the Meadowridge library, last week.

Mayco member for safety and security and social services, JP Smith, told the Bulletin that before the City parks and sport and recreation departments had merged, the old City parks department had run community park maintenance programmes which had assisted the department by appointing people to care for a specific park.

With Die Oog, the City had paid a caretaker R1 700 a month to maintain the park.

But the new department had scrapped that programme in favour of appointing people through the Expanded Public Works Programme.

That option, Mr Smith said, had been turned down by Friends of Die Oog as they had wanted to appoint their own person.

Mr Smith said recreation and parks was still ultimately responsible for the maintenance of the park, according to set standards.

However, Anne Shaw said there was mention of putting in a team of EPWP workers to help complete some of the projects that are needed for Die Oog but they raised concern as to ablution facilities, as none are available at Die Oog.

She said they have a good working relationship with the superintendent of parks and recreation who manages Die Oog and the end goals of looking after Die Oog are reached, all be it slowly.

Mr Smith said Die Oog was not a proclaimed nature reserve but, as an environmentally sensitive public open space, it was listed as a biodiversity site with CapeNature.

Asked if the City would consider selling or developing it, Mr Smith said there were no such plans.

Mr Castel said he was concerned that they no longer had financial support from the City but the suburb was full of young people and families and hoped to get more of them involved.

From waterbirds to weavers, otters and porcupines and possibly caracal, the reserve is a sanctuary within suburbia.

Since 2003, with Dr Dennis Davey as chairman, Die Oog became part of the Friends group, an initiative started in the Western Cape in 1985 by the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA).

At the recent Wessa Big Friends Group gathering at Rondevlei, the City’s nature conservation regional manager, Dalton Gibbs, talked of the threats to open areas from urbanisation, land invasions, light pollution which affects pollinators and the life cycle of creatures, alien invaders, noise pollution, too frequent fires and too few fires.

Mr Gibbs stressed the importance of people joining the Friends groups of which an annual membership fee of R600 provides regular newsflashes of events, topics of importance and newsletters from WESSA.

In 2003 “Die Oog Partnership” was formed with representatives of the City’s department of parks and biodiversity management to help manage Die Oog.

Die Oog is a natural spring or “eye” around which a dam was built 250 years ago to supply water to Bergvliet Farm which occupied most of the Constantia valley.

Slightly larger than a rugby field, it is one of the few remaining breeding sites for the endangered western leopard toad. It also has five biodiverse areas: granite fynbos, the dam itself; the artificial ironstone island; a seasonal wetland below; and sanctuary and recreational area.

The drought had seen Die Oog drying up almost completely.

“As a consequence we lost all seven of the carp that were introduced a few years ago,” said Mr Shaw.

Co-founder of ToadNUTS (Noordhoek Unpaid Toad Savers) Alison Faraday questioned the impact of those fish on the western leopard toad.

Mr Shaw said the carp ate grass and not toads. Ms Faraday said leopard toads needed at least one metre of water in which to lay their eggs.

For more information about the Friends of Die Oog, call Janine at 021 715 2736.