The Jewel in the Crown
Two hours drive north of Johannesburg in the Limpopo Province, is located one of South Africa’s prime birding havens: the Nylsvley Nature Reserve.
An unusual combination of 4000 hectares of wetland and savannah, a critical water resource. The region contains the Nyl floodplain - the largest inland floodplain in South Africa, which, when fully flooded, extends over 16 000 hectares. About 20% of this vast floodplain is conserved as the Nylsvley Nature Reserve. It has 365 bird species.
After good rains, over 20 000 ducks can bee seen from one of the hides overlooking the floodplains. Nyslvley is an important resting and feeding site for migrating birds and birders are continually surprised by their sightings here. The reserve also has plenty of game, including a 60-strong herd of the rare and endangered roan antelope.
A voluntary group of conservationists called the Friends of Nylsvley and organisations like the Nedbank-funded Green Trust have stepped in to keep Nylsvley running. When the old wooden walkway over the floodplain to the Jacana Hyde overlooking the Nyl River collapsed from old age and floods, The Green Trust sponsored the reserve with R44 000 to build a new wheelchair-friendly walkway. The money was also used to build the Bittern Bridge - a pedestrian bridge upstream from the Jacana Hide Walkway. This bridge allows visitors to access the wilderness area of the reserve where no vehicles are allowed. The man responsible for their design is one of the Friends of Nylsvley, engineer Kobus Boshoff who has been coming to Nylsvley since 1987. “Four-and-a-half tons of steel went into the walkway,” says Boshoff who, together with many of the Friends of Nyslvley, gave freely of their time to build and install the bridge and walkway.
The Friends of Nylsvley was formed in 1991, has 300 members and is affiliated to the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and Birdlife South Africa. Membership is R100 a year and funds are used to maintain the reserve.
The dedicated co-ordinator of the Friends is Marion Dunkeld, an ardent birder and conservationist:
Flooding at Nylsvley is dependent on the catchment area in the east-facing Waterberg mountain slopes, from which the reserve receives run-off via the Nyl River - which begins in the Waterberg some 40 kilometres outside the reserve. The problem is there are far too many farm dams between the Waterberg and Nylsvley, which wastefully deplete the run-off supply to the floodplains.
To facilitate Nylsvley’s conservation, the Friends’ dream is to extend the 4000-hectare reserve and to see it become a National Park.
Acknowledgements: Nedbank and Friends of Nylsvley