Five Fast Facts: Flora And Fauna In UWC Nature Reserve
Happy World Wildlife Day! Worried you won’t be able to celebrate properly on campus? Clearly you’ve never been to UWC Nature Reserve…
The Cape Flats Nature Reserve is a private reserve that falls under the administration of the University of the Western Cape. First created as a refuge for Strandveld and Coastal Fynbos, the 30ha reserve now functions as a base for ecological teaching, environmental education, research and a natural space for the public to enjoy. There are around 220 indigenous plant species in the reserve, from small reeds and grasses to tall, broad-leaved shrubs. The reserve also hosts a variety of animals, including tortoise, mongoose, a variety of reptiles and insects, and dozens of species of birds.
Here are some of the interesting flora and fauna you can meet in the Reserve...
1. Caracal: The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a mid-sized, powerfully-built wildcat that’s nocturnal, secretive, and territorial. They’re widely distributed across Africa, Central Asia and South-West Asia and India...and there’s one right here on campus. Nothing to worry about, though - it hunts mainly small- to medium-sized mammals and birds (which it can jump 3m up to grab). Want to know more about caracals, or share some information about one in your neck of the woods? Then the Urban Caracal Project is the site for you. Fun fact: Caracals were tamed and used as hunting “hounds” in Ancient Egypt.
2. Grysbok: The Cape grysbok (Raphicerus melanotis) is an antelope endemic to the Fynbos biome in the Western Cape - so it’s right at home in UWC Nature Reserve. They’re small (about 50 cm high at the shoulder as adults, around 10g in weight), have a mix of coarse white and reddish fur, and are mostly solitary, shy and primarily nocturnal...though they do sometimes get spotted in the early mornings and late evening. Grysbok can fluff out the fur at their rear end to make themselves look bigger and more threatening...or cuter, depending on your perspective.
3. Euphorbia - Medusa’s Head: Okay, there are a whole lot of Euphorbia species (depending on whether you’re looking at the family, the sub-family, the tribe or the genus...but actually, there are lots in every category) - and South African euphorbia species are similar varied. One of those species: Euphorbia caput-medusae, the Medusa’s Head, so called because it looks a bit like the famous snake-haired mythological figure, and common around the Cape - but a bit of a contentious matter in the UWC Nature Reserve...
4. Protea - Snake-Stemmed Pincushion : Speaking of mythological figures...did you know that Proteas are named after Proteus, the shape-changing prophesying old man of the sea, and son of Poseidon? Or that the Proteaceae family is thought to hail from the time of the dinosaurs? Anyhoo, the snake-stemmed pincushion (Leucospermum hypophyllocarpodendron) is just what it sounds like: a prostrate shrub that has a head that looks a lot like a pincushion. It has narrow leaves covered with fine hairs (indumentum).
5. Small Grey Mongoose: As the name implies, this animal is small (about 50-60cm long), grey (dark grey, with a darker tail tip) and a mongoose (with the typical elongated body shape that implies). The small grey mongoose, also known as the Cape grey mongoose (Galerella pulverulenta) is diurnal, mostly solitary when not breeding, and feeds mostly on insects and small rodents - but will also eat small amphibians, birds, invertebrates and even fruit. Did you know? Cape grey mongoose are poor diggers, so they use bushes - or piles of rocks, crevices, deserted burrows and hollows in tree trunks - for cover.
Want to know more?
Well, why not visit the UWC Nature Reserve Facebook Page? Or better yet, visit the Reserve itself - join one of the UWC Nature Reserve PhotoWalks and see for yourself. Just grab a camera (or phone, if you prefer) and meet up at the Reserve building on a Thursday at lunchtime, and get the guided tour...and do your bit for citizen science.