The Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area (SMA) is found within a biodiversity hotspot – the Agulhas Plain, at the southernmost tip of Africa.


We know the region is vital, because we buffer the Agulhas National Park (South African National Parks property).



How the SMA evolved


JUNE: Landowners met for the first time to seriously look at ways of protecting the habitat, consisting of ‘highly irreplaceable’ wetlands, threatened fynbos species and the highly threatened Renosterveld.


AUGUST: Landowners signed a Statement of Intent (initially 11 landowners joined). At the same time, the Nuwejaars River Nature Reserve was registered as a Section 21 company.


MARCH: A development framework for the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA was drafted between 2003 and 2007, and finally approved in March 2007. Through this lengthy process, all landowners had given the framework the green light.


DECEMBER: The Special Management Area’s Constitution was completed and signed by all SMA members. The Constitution set out that all members had to sign title deed restrictions on his or her land, to abide by the SMA’s goals. At this time, the Nuwejaars Wetland Land Owners’ Association (NWLOA) was established.


FEBRUARY. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, facilitated by SANParks and the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) offered a grant, to kick start a climate change adaptation project.

MARCH. The Table Mountain Fund (an associated Trust of WWF-SA) provided funding to employ a project coordinator to oversee the implementation of the project. The first game was re-introduced to the area. Hippos, buffalo and hartebeest, which became extinct in the Agulhas Plain in previous centuries, now roam within the Special Management Area. Eland, bontebok and ‘quagga’ were also released.

SEPTEMBER. The Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area started its alien clearing operations. Aliens around crucial wetlands were first removed. Wetlands were rehabilitated, and indigenous trees were planted along the rivers. Throughout this project, about 300 jobs were created on the Protected Environment. Including the dependents, this amounted to around five percent of those living in the Cape Agulhas Municipal area.


AUGUST: The United Nations Development Programme rated the climate change adaptation project, undertaken by the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area and funded by the German government, as ‘highly satisfactory’. This is the highest possible rating.


SEPTEMBER: The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Western Cape, Gerrit van Rensburg, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the NWSMA.

OCTOBER: The first buffalo is born on the Agulhas Plain in more than 200 years. The calf is named Kamkon – an Khoisan name meaning ‘the first lady is born’.


AUGUST: The first hippo is born on the Agulhas Plain in 150 years. The calf is born to one of the 5 hippos reintroduced to Waagschaalvlei.

SEPTEMBER: One of the Rau Quagga released on the NWSMA, Freddy, is selected as the best Quagga specimen in the country – thereby most resembling the Quagga that became extinct in the late 1800s.


APRIL: The NWSMA joined the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Programme. Through this programme, thousands of hectares were cleared of invasive species, creating jobs for around 80 project participants for the next 3 years.
APRIL: At the same time that the NWSMA joined the ABI Alien Clearing Project, the NWSMA secured funding from the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust. This Trust supported a project coordinator to oversee the invasive alien clearing operations, as well as an Ecosystem Services team, helping to ensure the ecosystems in the NWSMA function properly.


MARCH: The NWSMA and SANParks had our first joint vegetation and game management meeting – as part of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between us. The Agulhas National Park (a SANParks reserve) neighbours the NWSMA, so cooperation across the broader landscape benefits the biodiversity across the Plain.

JULY: The first buffalo sale took place on the Agulhas Plain – with 4 buffalo sold belonging to the NWSMA.
NOVEMBER: A snail new to science was discovered on the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area. The Chondrocyclus species lives in indigenous forests, and is no threat to crops.


FEBRUARY: We received funding support from the ABI Small Grants Fund (via the Table Mountain Fund). This small grant allowed an SMA staff member to receive Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA) accreditation to support tourism in the area.


APRIL: Protecting and supporting healthy-functioning ecosystems in the NWSMA is labeled a priority – and so the NWSMA secured funding support from the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust to support this function, including employing a Conservation Manager to oversee ecosystem support.


JANUARY: The NWSMA employed a Conservation Manager to support monitoring and planning on the Special Management Area – providing key new skills and capacity to monitor game, vegetation and wetlands in the area.

MAY: Following a trip around the wetlands of the NWSMA, the Overberg District Municipality and the Cape Agulhas Municipality both sign the Durban Commitment – committing themselves to protect the region’s biodiversity.

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