07 December 2017 Read: 351
FRoHG (Friends of the Haenertsburg Grasslands) celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Village Hall on Saturday. A group of locals started HEMAG (Haenertsburg Environmental Monitoring and Action Group), working together with Mike Gardner of HADEF, and this pave the way to FRoHG as it has the benefits of a formal constitution. FRoHG was officially launched on the 24th September 2007. Its aim was and is to preserve the Woodbush Granite Grassland, one of the most threatened vegetation types in the country.
The Woodbush Granite Grassland was eventually gazetted as a protected vegetation type in 2011 and made a Nature Reserve in June 2016.
A century ago there was more grassland than indigenous forest. The grassland stretched all the way down the Magoebaskloof. Now only 5% of the original grassland remains. The largest piece, about 190 ha, is called the Haenertsburg Townlands. FRoHG also focuses on the smaller pockets of Woodbush Granite Grassland on government ground, private property and communal land. It can’t be rehabilitated as it evolved over thousands of years. It plays an important role in a highly water stressed region and has fauna and flora that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world.
Peter Moreroa, the MC, introduced the speakers. Vincent Egan, a herpetologist with LEDET, highlighted the reptiles and amphibians found only in the grasslands.
Jen Newenham from K2C (Kruger to Canyons) and Jessica Letsoalo from KPI, involved in the clearing of alien invasive flora, gave insight into their contribution towards the grasslands. Mike Strever, who has spent decades in the grasslands capturing its unique fauna and flora, ended the afternoon with a slide show of his magnificent photographs.
Special mention was made of the work achieved by FRoHG’s first Chairman, Ian Burman and the invaluable contributions of former Haenertsburg residents Pieter Winter and Cathy Dzerefos. Pieter Winter, a botanist, who was in charge of the herbarium at the University of Limpopo, identified 633 grassland species. Prior to his Woodbush Granite Grassland identification Pieter had managed the Melville Koppies in Johannesburg.
Cathy Dzerefos worked with traditional healers who harvest many medicinal plants in the grasslands and others who harvest grasses to make brooms. The late Googoo Thompson (1895-1991) fought for the preservation of the Woodbush Granite Grassland. A species of lizard was named after her, using her maiden name, and is called Eastwood’s long tailed seps. After Googoo died, her grandson Nipper Thompson and his wife Sylvia from Wegraakbosch continued the fight to preserve the grasslands.