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Poached bulbs replanted

More than 2 000 bulb plants, or geophytes, which were rescued from poachers in Durbanville, recently found a new home in Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

The bulbs were replanted by the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity management branch. The bulbs will colour the nature reserve in a splendour of colourful flowers in spring.

This was welcomed by Thys Louw of Diemersdal wine estate, one of the Durbanville farms which is regularly targeted by poachers.

These plant species, including Drimia elata (jeukbol, eaten by Cape Grysbok), Haemanthus coccineus (blood flower), Tulbaghia capensis (wild garlic or wildedagga) and Asparagus plant species (wild asparagus and katdoring) are often illegally harvested as they are believed to have medicinal use. The plants are often sold at stalls all over the city, including at the Bellville station.

“The team acted swiftly to get these bulbs replanted just in time. It had to be done this month as geophytes come out of their dormant stage during this period and are then ready to sprout into a full bloom of flowers, which will later turn into fruit that produces seeds,” says Marian Nieuwoudt, the Mayco member for spatial planning and environment.

Geophytes are a group of plants with underground storage organs that allow plants to survive unfavourable weather conditions and to flower at times where resources like water, warmth or sun are not highly abundant.

The plants were confiscated by CapeNature officials on 16 April from poachers on Tygervalley Road and were handed over to the City’s biodiversity management branch.

“The illegal harvesting of geophytes has become a biodiversity threat and has led to the loss of plant species, habitat destruction and opens natural veld to be vulnerable to the invasion of emerging weeds.

“This threat, however, is in our control and we ask that residents involved in this illegal activity refrain from doing so,” Nieuwoudt says.

The rescued geophytes were planted in the previously ploughed areas of the reserve which staff are working hard to rehabilitate by introducing locally sourced indigenous plants such as these geophytes.

Staff from the City’s nature reserves have been monitoring the reserves throughout the lockdown period by conducting regular patrols and maintaining the natural beauty thereof.

“Cape Town is one of the most biodiverse cities in the world, and the only way we can maintain this is if we protect our precious indigenous plant species. Biodiversity is something many take for granted but will definitely feel the effects of it being lost,” says Nieuwoudt.

Louw applauded the replanting of the bulb plants and told TygerBurger he is very pleased about it.

In May 2017 two Rastafarians were arrested on Vissershok Road outside Durbanville for the illegal possession of bulb plants after being spotted by Louw and Wheaty Louw, owner of Maastrict.

That came after seven Rastafarians were arrested on Maasticht earlier the same month.

They were found in possession of bulb plants to the value of R65 000.

Farmers were worried that the continued illegal harvesting can threaten the sustainability of the species.

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