For the past 6 months, some members of the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area team have spent every spare moment trying to capture the wetlands life on camera.
Why? Because while we’ve already discovered so much biodiversity in the wetlands, there’s so much more to discover.
In fact, a recent visit from an aquatic scientist estimated that up to 75% of the critters and creatures living here could be completely new to science.
The Nuwejaars wetlands have already proven to be a stronghold for the Critically Endangered Micro Frog (Microbatrachella capensis) – since their discovery here two years ago. The wetlands are home to other endangered aquatic species such as the Cape Platanna (Xenopus gilli). And we know that a number of freshwater fish species also hide in these dark waters – including Cape galaxias (Galaxias zebratus), Heuningnes galaxias (Galaxias sp. “zebratus Heuningnes”), Cape Kurpers (Sandelia capensis) and Heuningnes Redfins (Pseudobarbus sp. “burchelli Heuningnes”).
Why are we discovering these species now?
These discoveries have gone hand-in-hand with the ecological restoration work taking place in the wetlands and along the Nuwejaars River. More than 7kms of riparian areas have been cleared of invasive plants, and erosion and rehabilitation activities are also underway, in a major project funded by WWF South Africa and co-funded by the Overberg District Municipality.
This project is aimed at bringing back wetland birds that would flourish here under normal circumstances, but have been heavily impacted by degraded ecosystems. But thanks to this restoration work, it’s clear that more than the birds have responded positively.
And this Aquatic Animal Day, this video aims to capture this.
Aside from filming above the water, many hours were spent filming IN the water. Armed with a snorkel, wetsuit and underwater camera, the team sought to capture the action in the dark, acidic waters of the Nuwejaars River and its many tributaries. Unfortunately, because of the murky nature of these waters, this was not always successful. But this work is ongoing. And perhaps by 2024’s Aquatic Animal Day, we’ll have a little more to show.
Why do these wetlands, and the animals that live here, matter?
The Nuwejaars wetlands are considered to be high-value ‘ecological infrastructure’, given that they not only provide habitat for plants and animals, but also provide critical ecosystems services to the area – including clean drinking water. The river and wetlands are National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas, and are also considered a fish sanctuary for Critically Endangered and Endangered species, a key reason for the focus on the Nuwejaars region, and for the work taking place here.