Minister Edna Molewa publishes Draft Biodiversity Management Plan for the Bontebok for public comment

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has published the draft Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for the Bontebok (damaliscus pygargus pygargus) in Government Gazette No. 41249 on 14 November 2017 for public comment.

The Draft BMP for bontebok has been published in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Act No. 10 of 2004).

Bontebok is endemic to the East Coast Renosterveld bioregion within the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) of the Western Cape. Evidence from fossil records indicates that past climatic and habitat change promoted the splitting of the species into the two separately classified subspecies known today as the blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) and bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus pygargus). Each subspecies exhibits different behavioural and morphological traits including body markings and hide colours. Historically, the natural ranges of the two subspecies did not overlap, with blesbok occurring widely on the grasslands of Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State and bontebok restricted to the coastal plains in the southern CFR.

Conservation of the species within the natural distribution range and extended distribution range in the Western Cape has resulted in about 1650 individuals. A further 7500 individuals survive on properties outside the native range of the species throughout South Africa. Bontebok are tolerant of human activities and adapt to changes in the landscape and readily utilise transformed landscapes with old fields of short grass areas.

The Draft Bontebok BMP focusses on strategies to strengthen the effective implementation of conservation actions aimed at ensuring populations are genetically diverse and that overall population fitness and resilience within the natural distribution range is enhanced and maintained in the long-term.

Bontebok occur in a number of small isolated populations across the country and are threatened by low genetic diversity, population fragmentation, habitat fragmentation and hybridisation with blesbok.

In order to mitigate the historic and current threats to bontebok and conserve this species, an integrated management strategy, applied through collaborative partnerships between stakeholders, is urgently required. This would encourage public support, ensure genetic diversity within the metapopulation and sustainable utilisation of the species by the private sector.

Amongst the anticipated outcomes of the BMP-S are:

The management of the bontebok population in the natural distribution range to ensure the long term survival of this species;

A co-ordinated national approach to bontebok conservation in and outside of the natural distribution range in terms of management, monitoring and research;

Halting the loss of habitat and ultimately ensuring a steady increase in conserved habitat and rehabilitation of degraded areas for re-introduction of bontebok within the natural distribution range;

Highlighting research and communication priorities;

A national database of population distribution and national testing and profiling protocols for bontebok;

The identification and gradual elimination of hybrids of this species and maintained economic and conservation value; and

Promotion of bontebok as a flagship conservation species.

Source: Government of South Africa