A Haven of Nature in Gauteng City Limits

Covering an area of 275 hectares of land at Modderfontein in Gauteng, the Modderfontein reserve includes parts of the Modderfontein Spruit and a number of dams surrounded by hills and grassland. Operated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust on behalf of Heartland Properties, the reserve was opened to the public on 20 September 2012, providing a haven of nature in the heart of urban living. To meet the goal of protecting indigenous flora and fauna, the reserve has a number of ongoing projects to clear alien vegetation, plant trees and provide education and awareness regarding the environment and preservation of natural ecosystems.

Initially environmental studies revealed that the area earmarked for the reserve had been overrun by alien vegetation, which impacted negatively on birds and other wildlife in the area. As alien vegetation tends to smother indigenous vegetation, deplete water resources and cause a decline in biodiversity, the huge task of removing alien species was a top priority. As alien plants were removed from the area, they were replaced by indigenous shrubs and trees. In the initial clearing and planting phase, almost 300 indigenous trees from up to twenty species were planted, all of which have been labeled and numbered.

Fauna in the reserve include duiker, steenbok, reedbuck, black-backed jackals, hedgehogs, Cape clawless otter and four species of mongoose, as well as a healthy bat population. More than 250 bird species have been recorded on the Modderfontein Reserve, some of which an uncommon in urban areas, such as long-crested eagles, fish eagles, crimson-breasted shrikes and jackal buzzards. The dense vegetation on the reserve, along with the dams and stream, has resulted in this huge diversity of wildlife. The large bluegum and pine trees in particular are favoured by raptors, while grassland habitat attracts capped wheatears and orange-throated longclaws. A network of trails offers visitors the opportunity to explore the reserve, observe the wildlife, and enjoy the beauty of nature. Cycling is permitted on the bike trails, of which the shortest is 10 km and the longest 40 km.

The continued success of conservation efforts is often dependent on educating the public, particularly the younger generation, on the role each person plays in the health of our planet. The Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Modderfontein Conservation Society are working on a number of education programs for schools and various interest groups. Moreover, university students will have the opportunity to participate in field work and research in the Modderfontein Reserve. No doubt city-dwellers will appreciate this oasis of nature right on their doorstep.