BDInsight – July 2019

It has been an exciting few months at the BDI. From our first bird ringing expedition to the birth of PanGoPod Alpha, and everything in between. We are grateful to the awesome citizen scientist community in South Africa, and the rest of Africa, for continuing to be ambassadors for biodiversity.

Upcoming event: Winter Warmer BioMAP Record Refresher July 2019. Oh the weather outside might be frightful, but biomapping makes it all very delightful! Please help us to refresh the records in the Virtual Museum by revisiting your regular stomping grounds or favourite patches and snapping and mapping any and all critters that you might come across. Up to date data and species distribution maps are the key ingredients to successful biodiversity monitoring and conservation!

Bird Ringing Expedition

Fynbos Estate, a very special place, lies tucked away in the Paardeberg. It is just an hour’s drive north of Cape Town and it is a nature lover’s paradise! A tranquil and beautiful spot, it really feels like a home away from home. We are extremely thankful to the team at Fynbos Estate for welcoming us on their farm and for providing us with the first field testing site of PanGoPod Alpha (more on this later).

Earlier this year we had our first bird ringing expedition on the farm. We were five bird ringers on this pioneer expedition. From the perspective of the bird ringer, Fynbos Estate is paradise. There are lots and lots of distinct ringing sites, in a variety of habitats, providing a nice diversity of bird species.

The Fynbos Estate property has two sections. The lower section is agricultural, and they produce fantastic organic wines under the label Dragonridge. The winery is artisanal, and the wines are made using traditional and time-honoured methods. The farm uses no chemicals, which means the birdlife in the area is amazing. The upper section of the property is the Simson-Simons Nature Reserve, and consists of marvellous fynbos on the slopes and summit of the Paardeberg.

We also ringed at some other sites. During the pioneering expedition we teamed up with the ringers of the Tygerberg Ringing Group. On one of these joint events, we ringed at the confluence of the Diep and Mosselbank Rivers, on the farm Goedeontmoeting.

In total, the pioneering expedition processed a total of 375 birds of 27 species at Fynbos Estate itself. 136 birds were ringed at the two satellite ringing sites and we collected lots of valuable data on moult. For more information on how you can join in on one of these awesome bird ringing expeditions see

Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve

The Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve lies almost exactly halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town along the N1. New Holme Guest Farm lies in the reserve, 7 km off the N1. This is the perfect spot to break the long journey between the cities. The food is amazing, the biodiversity is awesome and the hospitality of PC Ferreira and his family is world-class.

So we are very excited to welcome PC to the BDI family. PC has a passion for nature conservation and wants to share his love for the Karoo with the world. We have started a project at New Holme to renovate accommodation within the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve. This is planned to be available for travellers in summer, starting this coming summer (2019), and after that it will be used by BDI researchers through the remainder of the year. Watch BDInsight for exciting unfolding information.

PanGoPod – Just Roll Up

In June this year we celebrated the launch of PanGoPod Alpha, our first eco-friendly, off-grid, mobile home! From its infant stage as a steel structure to a fully-fledged eco-home, the PanGoPod was incubated over a few months at our premises in Unit 4, Gunner’s Park in Epping, Cape Town. Pete Laver and Hendrik Louwrens hand raised PanGoPod Alpha, putting in many long hours, blood, sweat and some tears to produce an absolutely stunning and high-quality eco-home.

The PanGoPod is an attempt to prototype alternative housing that meets people’s basic needs, is healthy to live in, and has a relatively low impact on the environment. We also think that the PanGoPod will help us get researchers into remote locations where biodiversity research is needed.

We are so grateful to a long list of people, without whom this dream project would not have been possible. We would like to give a big thank you to our handful of private investors who have taken a chance on us as we try to blaze a tiny home trail in South Africa. Elbie Pretorius from Alexander Forbes has been instrumental in the initial stages of the process.

We want to thank Mano Caldis from CIA Property Specialists, who persuaded the owners of Gunner’s Park that it was a good idea to rent this space to us – a brand-new non-profit company. Mitchell Walker from Futurecon construction has been incredibly supportive throughout this process, from supplying the PanGoPod’s light steel frame to helping with some of the structural design elements. Mitchell has also gone out of his way to provide advice on almost every aspect of the build.

Robert Burger and Dennis Leeds from InTempo Trailers have gone above and beyond in manufacturing a beast of a trailer for us to transport PanGoPod Alpha. They also helped with additional associated engineering projects. Keith Watkins from Brights Hardware Store has been a massive help in sourcing materials and tools for the build. Keith even delivered items personally when we needed a rush order.

The team from Inov8 have been awesome neighbours at Gunner’s Park, dropping in to check on our progress and provide advice on a regular basis. They also created some super cool BDI and PanGoPod insignias for us (see the photo below). Caroline Wright of Caroline Wright Interiors gave us amazing advice on the interior design of the space. She also made up fabulous cushions for us (Romo and Hertex fabrics) which tie the space together, making it feel like a home.

Diana and Johan from Fynbos Estate have been ever supportive – they have provided a wonderful base for our bird ringing expeditions, and now they are providing a beautiful site for PanGoPod Alpha’s field testing. It has been so great to meet people like them who have a real passion for conserving the environment and promoting biodiversity research.

Lesego Gaotshetse helped paint and spruce up the pod in the lead up to the mini launch. Many people gave invaluable advice along the way, including Seppie Geldenhuys, Andrew and Tania Hood from Crafteeze, Dominic van Schouwen, Peter Rose, Eugene Moll, and Leal Wright. It is the collective effort of all these awesome folks mentioned (and the many who have gone unmentioned) that makes this exciting venture both possible and worthwhile.

Namaqua BioBASH

A group of enthusiastic citizen scientists went on a biomapping adventure to the Namaqualand region in the Northern Cape. On Wednesday, June 12th, a team of six citizen scientists (Jerome Ainsley, Chris Cheetham, Tino Herselman, Salome Willemse, Les Underhill, and Karis Daniel) gathered in Handvol Gruis guesthouse near Calvinia for a 5-day BioBash. The aim of a BioBash is to gather as much biodiversity data as possible for areas that we have no species distribution data.

Gathering biodiversity data in far flung places like this would not be possible without the incredible help from citizen scientists! The dedication and love that goes into BioBASH events like these are awesome to see. Biodiversity conservation relies on the efforts of caring citizens, aka ambassadors for biodiversity, across the country. Every record counts. Thank you!

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Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.

1 Comment

  1. Great read of so many positive activities – wish I had time to get out and contribute to Virtual Museum. Will strive to do so. Keep up the wonderful work and top notch reporting!

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