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At the Rietfontein Nature Reserve, duiker breed happily, birds chirp and nature goes on her eternal way. It’s a quiet retreat from the pumping energy of Joburg.
LIKE any big city, Joburg is said to never sleep. Whether it is traffic, work, entertainment or sport, there is always something on the go to capture the imagination. In the heart of all the bustle, though, lies a place where the chirping of birds is one of the only sounds you will hear.

 

The education centreThe education centreThis place is the Rietfontein Nature Reserve, located in the Sandton suburb of Paulshof. Just 24 kilometres north of the city centre, the tranquillity makes it seem more like 240.
 

The 25ha reserve has long been recognised as one of the city’s jewels, with its variety of trees, birds and animals. There are 134 registered bird species and a huge variety of indigenous tree species to keep visitors enchanted.

“The site is situated in an area of significant conservation value, due to its high biodiversity. The area is extremely valuable from a botanical point of view, and can be utilised by limited numbers of selected game species that are suitable for rocky habitats of the area,” explains the conservation specialist for protected areas at City Parks, Kobus Theunissen.

Duiker, mountain reebok, blesbok and klipspringer are among the selected game species which are in evidence in the park. These animals were introduced to the reserve in 1993, with four duiker and mountain reebok each and three blesbok brought in.

These numbers have increased over the years, but it is necessary to restrict and control the populations. As such, Rietfontein has a service level agreement with Johannesburg Zoo. “We have had to capture and relocate some of these animals to Klipriviersberg and Kloofendal nature reserves,” he says.

Duiker

DuikerThe Rietfontein Nature Reserve is a haven for duiker“In 2006, we captured duiker and blesbok to relocate, but we couldn’t catch all the duikers and there were 12 left behind. From those, there are now 21, but we would like to restrict duiker numbers to between 12 and 17.
 

“We are fortunate that the zoo is providing such an excellent service, by treating injured animals and helping us to control the number of animals in the park by relocating them.”

This does not mean that the reserve is not interested in acquiring more animals, though. On the contrary, Theunissen says, the reserve would like to introduce a new gene pool of the species it already has, but not new species themselves.

Other plans include introducing female animals to mate with their male counterparts. “We want to introduce a female klipspringer to mate with the male. That would happen through the zoo. We would also consider bringing in three springboks.”

The animals are not the only area of change in Rietfontein. Just recently, an ablution facility has been completed for a tented camp area. The camping area is a project still in the pipelines, but one which Theunissen is hoping to complete this year.

“We would like to develop a rustic overnight facility for small parties; at most, there will be two or three tents which will cater for four people each.”

Education

A helmetted guinea fowlA helmetted guinea fowlAnother important change is the recent completion of an education centre. “Our core function is being an education centre for schools. About 60 learners a month benefit from being exposed to nature; on average we host six school groups a month.”
 

One thing that has remained unchanged, however, is the presence of FreeMe, the wildlife rehabilitation centre. “It initially started with the rehabilitation of small birds, but with the changes in the area, small mammals and occasionally reptiles also started being treated.”

The centre works with the Gauteng department of agriculture, conservation, environment and land affairs, the NSPCA, local SPCAs and provincial vets. Animals needing treatment are brought in by members of the public, the fire department and local vets, of which six in the area offer their services for free.

These animals are nursed back to health and released back into the wild, by volunteers and a small permanent staff of five. The organisation is non-profit and relies entirely on donations, membership and sponsorship.

For more information, you can visit the FreeMe website.

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