Africa
4 Jan 2018

Nature’s Hero award for work to save Verlorenvlei Estuary

Felicity Strange—nominated by BirdLife South Africa as a Nature's Hero for 2017— has worked to conserve the Verlorenvlei Estuary Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) for over ten years.

Felicity Strange receives he Nature's Heroes Award from BirdLife South Africa
Felicity Strange receives he Nature's Heroes Award for tireless efforts to save her local IBA (image BLSA)
By Nick Langley

Felicity Strange, nominated by BirdLife South Africa as a Nature's Hero for 2017, has worked to conserve the Verlorenvlei Estuary Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) for over ten years. 

“Felicity is a very dedicated and committed activist who has worked to protect Verlorenvlei Estuary and its upper catchment”, explained BirdLife South Africa's Samantha Schroder.

“Felicity has never faltered in her resolve to protect the wonderful biodiversity of this area.”

Verlorenvlei Estuary is one of the largest natural wetlands on South Africa's Atlantic coast, connected to the sea via a shallow, narrow, channel, but closed by a sand-covered rocky bar at its mouth. During winter the lake fills and overflows into the sea near Eland’s Bay, and in summer it gradually dries out, reaching its lowest levels at the end of the dry season.

189 bird species have been recorded, of which 75 are waterbirds. The estuary regularly supports over 5,000 birds, and occasionally over 20,000, including more than 1,000 waders of at least 11 species. Most importantly, it is a moulting ground and summer refuge for ducks, and regularly supports extremely large numbers of Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata, Cape Shoveller Spatula smithii and South African Shelduck Tadorna cana. But despite its importance -it is also listed as a Ramsar site- it has no formal protection.

When Felicity escaped the bustle of Cape Town to live alongside the Verlorenvlei Estuary little did she know how much the tranquillity and beauty of the site would etch itself onto her heart, and how much effort she would give to promoting its conservation.

International Coastal Clean-up days have been organised by Felicity (BLSA)

For the past four years Felicity has acted as the Chairman of the Verlorenvlei Estuary Management Forum, where she works tirelessly to promote the sustainable use and conservation of the site. Felicity, a designer by trade, has rapidly expanded her skill set from designer to facilitator, environmental lawyer, biodiversity scientist and activist. She has also worked with the social welfare department, examining various options to create sustainable livelihoods.

Felicity has done extensive work over the years to raise awareness of a variety of conservation issues relating to Verlorenvlei, reporting illegal development and activity in and around the estuary, and holding community clean-up days with local youth.

Felicity has organised the International Coastal Clean-up days for the past few years, and arranged outings for the local school to highlight environmental issues.

She attends a variety of stakeholder meetings in the area, where she promotes and highlights environmental concerns related to the estuary. She works closely with CapeNature, which manages the site, both locally and with the regional office in Porterville, and has extensively assisted the Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project Manager with advice and information.

Children from Engelbrecht School get to experience the estuary through an organised outings (BLSA)