Greeting’s from a new volunteer intern
Nature’s Valley: endless beaches, primeval forests and tranquility: Naturally many people are attracted to this area and so am I. Opposite to most visitors who are only staying for a couple of days or weeks, I now belong to the privileged few who have come to work here. And where but in Nature’s Valley could research be any prettier? From my office desk I can see the lagoon, watch birds and literally smell the forest. My start here has been made very easy thanks to number of reasons. One is that Felix, a volunteer at the Nature’s Valley Trust, has done an amazing job starting the project for me. He has interviewed more than one hundred fishermen and I am more than thankful for his work. Also the people working at the Trust have an absolutely easy going way of working with each other – teamwork is not just a word here, but a matter of course even in the everyday routine. And last but not least, this area is already relatively familiar to me since I have lived in the Crags about five years ago.
A major rule in Nature’s Valley is that you are not just looking at nature but you are part of it. The other day, a female bushbuck brought her young into our garden for feeding. At the same time the resident baboons would like to do the same, but they’d rather check out the insides of your fridge – so we better keep the doors locked and the monkeys out. And at night we sometimes hear the guineafowls scratching and picking around the house. Luckily my workdays aren’t any less exciting. If I’m not sitting in the office with a view (as described above) you can find me on the beach interviewing fishermen. For a Master’s degree in Ecology at a German University, I am assessing the impact of shore-based linefishing in the area between the Robberg Reserve and the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park.
Felix has briefly described the project already. With the help of the fishermen who I encounter during fieldwork days, I can reconstruct the current state of fish populations. I’m also collecting data on pollution, more specifically plastic litter that is left behind by some anglers. The effect of e.g. fishing line on marine megafauna, such as sea gulls, can be severe. Thus I keep an eye open for entangled animals or such, which have lost a limb. It is a very extensive project, which requires me spending considerable amounts of time on the beach. And while I’m enjoying the days out a lot, they don’t come without a lobster red peel. This actually sometimes makes it easier to get in touch with the local population since they don’t hold back with jokes about or advice for sunburns. I’m using these chats to get a feeling for people’s thoughts about fishing, the marine environment and nature in general. This is going to be of big help when it’s time to develop an awareness programme once my part of the work is done. Until we get to that stage, there are still 816 more hours on beach and hopefully many more fruitful interviews to come.