Five eland have been at the heart of the Gantouw Project

Eland take ground-breaking research in their stride

This award-winning pilot project has led to ground-breaking research, which is in line with the City’s commitment to protecting and promoting natural conservation of our biodiversity. 

Over the past two years, five eland have been at the heart of the Gantouw Project, which looks at using one of the world’s largest antelope for veld management. 
A group of five eland, Mike, Gibbs, Uniqua, Berni and Little P, are making strides that are leading to ground-breaking research in the management of veld.
Since the reintroduction of eland to the City of Cape Town’s False Bay Nature Reserve, their browsing has assisted in managing dense veld and opening up areas which have made way for plant species to grow.
The eland are at the heart of the Gantouw Project, a partnership between the City’s Biodiversity Management Branch and the Cape Town Environmental Education Centre (CTEET). The future of the pilot project will be assessed next year once the research and cost and benefits has been collated.
Eland historically browsed the Cape Flats, which was part of their natural rangelands. Eland were absent from these rangelands for over 200 years prior to the implementation of this pilot project. 
Preliminary observations include:
The eland are successful as a veld management tool in combating bush encroachment, which is a current threat to the endangered Cape Flats Dune Strandveld
Investigations are showing that the eland target and browse the dominant woody bush, encroaching on shrub species (like Osteospermum moniliferum, Euclea racemosa and Olea europaea africana). Two alien invasive species (Acacia saligna and Acacia cyclops) are among the top 16 plants that are being browsed by eland at the current experiment site
Preliminary observations are also showing a significant decrease in the volume of individual shrubs in the experiment site where eland are browsing, as well as a decrease in vegetation cover and an increase in the number of plant species in the experiment plots.
The plant species that increased in the research plots are not new plant species to the reserve, but indicate that the decrease in the woody component is creating opportunities for other plant species to establish
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Area South, Councillor Eddie Andrews, visited the Gantouw Project today, where he met the eland.
‘It is great to be partnering with CTEET for research on this very innovative approach to conserve our biodiversity, including the endangered Cape Flats Dune Strandveld, which is not found anywhere else in the world and is being threatened by bush encroachment,’ said Councillor Andrews.
In light of the Gantouw Project, Petro Botha, the Gantouw Project manager from CTEET, recently won the Kudu Award at the 13th annual SANParks Kudu Awards ceremony.
She was recognised in the Women in Conservation category for her contribution to ‘sustainable conservation of fynbos through ground-breaking research on using eland as a management tool (as opposed to fire) to conserve the vegetation of the Cape Flats’.
‘This pilot project highlights the importance of veld management as bush encroachment suppresses grass, herbs and other species, and can shift the equilibrium of an ecosystem to an unfavourable state. Up until now, the eland have been habituated to be used as a veld management tool to combat bush encroachment and their browsing has been monitored by our team within the experimental site,’ said Ms Botha.
The next step is to assess the success of this pilot project.
Last year the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP) was adopted by Council to improve how the administration works.
‘This pilot project is in line with the City’s ODTP commitment to promote the conservation and protection of our natural assets, being our environment and biodiversity, for generations to come. It is encouraging to know that the public, including our children, have been meeting the eland and have been educated around the eland’s role in nature conservation based on the research.
‘Furthermore, we are happy to be celebrating with Petro Botha for the recognition that she has received for this pilot project. We also want to thank everyone who has been involved with this pilot project for all their hard work,’ said Councillor Andrews.