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The City of Cape Town, in partnership with the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), has released endemic eland back into various nature reserves in the Cape Flats.

On Friday, 20 November, the City of Cape Town and the CTEET officially launched the three-year Gantouw Pilot Project to reintroduce eland, the world’s largest antelope, to the Cape Flats, which was historically part of their natural range lands.

The Gantouw Pilot Project involves moving five eland (two males and three females) between nature reserves and nature areas to replicate their historical natural migration patterns, which will also play a vital role in the conservation of species and ecosystems, the City of Cape Town says. The antelope will remain at each site for a few months to browse, before moving onto the next site.

The project will initially be trialled at the Rondevlei Section of the City’s False Bay Nature Reserve.

©City of Cape Town
©City of Cape Town

Some of the other larger mammal species that can be found at Rondevlei include the Cape grysbok, hippo, porcupine, caracal, scrub hare, Cape hare, otter, and genet.

The absence of eland from these and other landscapes over the past few hundred years has led to an increase in the shrub component of natural areas in Cape Town. This has changed what should have been an open habitat into a closed dense thicket, resulting in the shrinking of populations and disappearance of certain plant and animal species that are adapted to the open habitat.

As Cape Town has some of the highest concentrations of endangered plants on earth, the re-establishment of large herbivores in the remaining natural fragments is vital for the conservation of species and ecosystems.

Eland are present on the Cape Peninsula, at Cape Point, but they have been absent from the Cape Flats, as most of the remaining natural areas are too small or have complex social problems that preclude the reintroduction of eland.

“If the pilot project is successful,”says the City of Cape Town’s Johan van der Merwe, “It will be considered as an ongoing management tool in nature reserves on the Cape Flats, which will eventually see the natural areas being restored to their former glory”.

The project name comes from the Khoi name for the ancient migration route, the Gantouw Pass, that the eland and the Khoi took with their livestock across the Hottentot-Holland Mountains. It was the first wagon route into the interior from the early Cape Colony.

©City of Cape Town
©City of Cape Town
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