CNC2019: Cape Town - Background and Results

CNC2019: Cape Town - Background and Results

City Nature Challenge Awards Ceremony
Dr Charmaine Oxtoby, Biodiversity Management Branch
10 June 2019, Cape Town City Hall, 18:00

Good evening Ald. Nieuwoudt, Councillors, fellow City staff, SANBI colleagues, CapeNature CEO Dr Razeena Omar, SANParks, winners and honoured guests. Thank you all for joining us tonight in this celebration of winning the City Nature Challenge 2019.

The City Nature Challenge is an international celebration of urban biodiversity. Each year, cities compete to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species and get the most people involved.

The competition is organised by the Citizen Science Teams at the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in the USA. It runs on the iNaturalist platform, supported by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic.

The competition started between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2016 (Los Angeles won). In 2017 it went national in the USA, and in 2018 it went international. Last year across 68 cities, 17 000 people made 441 000 observations of 18 000 species in four days.

This year was the first time any African cities participated, with three African cities signing up for the challenge; namely Cape Town, Nairobi in Kenya, and Port Harcourt in Nigeria. This was our opportunity to put the Mother City on the international biodiversity map and defend our claim that Cape Town is among the most biodiverse places on Earth.

So SANBI set targets for us Capetonians of 50 000 observations, 3 500 species and 2 000 observers. Game on! We had about two months to prepare, spread the word and get enough people on board.

This proved to be yet another successful collaboration between SANBI and the City’s Biodiversity Management Branch. The joint organising committee comprised Tony Rebelo, Gigi Laidler, Ismail Ebrahim and Megan Smith from SANBI, and Julia Wood, Leighan Mossop, Eleanor Hutchings, Aamirah Botha, Celeste Bergman and Charmaine Oxtoby from the Biodiversity Management Branch.

Various training workshops were held to get people familiar with using the iNaturalist app. There was lots of media and social media coverage leading up to the event.

We partnered with the City Libraries to help spread the message, and to have free internet and computer facilities available to participants across the city. Almost every library across Cape Town had a City Nature Challenge poster on display, with a map to the closest nature reserve or park.

Over 50 different events and bioblitzes were organised by various groups to target a wide geographical coverage of sites across the city, and to target all sorts of marine and terrestrial plants, animals and fungi.

The competition took place just after Easter, over four days and nights from 26 to 29 April, with a few days straight after for identifications. Can you remember the anticipation and nervous excitement? How many times a day did you check the leader board on the City Nature Challenge website? It was addictive! When last did you have so much fun?

Then came the identification parties, sleepless nights and herculean push to verify all the observations.

And finally, 9am on the following Monday morning, when the results were official… Cape Town is the 2019 WINNER in the most observations and the most species categories.
Congratulations! Please give yourselves a round of applause…

Globally, 159 cities participated in the City Nature Challenge this year. In four days, nearly a million observations were uploaded, documenting almost 32 000 species, with over 35 000 people participating! These numbers are just mind-boggling!

For the most observations, Cape Town exceeded our target and won with 53 775 observations, comfortably ahead of the surprising second city, La Paz in Bolivia, winning by over 6800 observations.

For the most species, Cape Town again exceeded our target and won with an incredible 4587 species. This was nearly 1000 species more than the city who came second, Hong Kong in China.

We also featured twice in the top 10 highlights from around the world on the City Nature Challenge website, with that unforgettable camera trap photo of a leopard, and the charismatic and endangered African Penguins who no doubt charmed the world.

Cape Town submitted over 100 000 photos during the event, from 1141 observers. That’s incredible.

I’d like to pause here, and ask you all to take a moment to reflect on what winning the City Nature Challenge means to you…

The positive publicity is powerful and priceless.

Furthermore, the incomparable data accumulated through this citizen science competition will greatly contribute towards understanding and conserving our city’s wealth of biodiversity.

For all nature reserves, parks, commons, green belts, arboretums and the botanic gardens, we have increased the species lists, by between 100 and 200% more species recorded on iNaturalist than before the challenge.

Over half of the observations made locally, i.e. 24 188 observations, were in protected areas. Of these, 70% were in Table Mountain National Park and the rest spread across over 20 City of Cape Town managed nature reserves, including Steenbras, Helderberg, Tygerberg, False Bay and Table Bay nature reserves.

This protected area network helps make our city sustainable and resilient, through the ecosystem services provided by nature. People need biodiversity, not only for survival as we rely on essential ecosystem services, but also for recreation, stress reduction, employment, income-generating opportunities and education. Our biodiversity gives us a sense of place.

Cape Town’s natural beauty and biodiversity are part of what makes this city a unique and desirable place to live and work. Cape Town is famous for the Fynbos and has irreplaceable biodiversity of international importance crammed into almost every open space and road verge.

So it’s pertinent that the City Nature Challenge also covered the other open spaces across the city, including parks, commons, greenbelts, arboretums and gardens. Of the 3 227 observations made in public open spaces, roughly half of these observations were made in Kirstenbosch and 20% on the Constantia Greenbelts.

Over 700 observations were made for Species of Special Conservation Concern, and new populations of species were discovered for the first time in the city, reminding us how unique and threatened our local biodiversity is.

This challenge wasn’t only about wild, indigenous plants and animals. Our homes and backyards support a surprising wealth of critters and weeds! Valuable data were collected on alien species, i.e. those species that do not occur here naturally, with 2 683 observations of alien species made, nearly half of which are listed under the Biodiversity Act. New distribution records have been gathered, including the first record of the naturalisation of a species found in Tokai Park. This is especially important for early detection and rapid response of invasive alien species.

Looking at the top 10 species observed, it reads as a ubiquitous description of our everyday lives in a beautiful, green city. The most observed species was Bietou, followed by Edible Sourfig, Wild Dagga, Common Sugarbush, Cape Honeysuckle, Western Honey Bee, King Protea, Common Sunshine Conebush, Rose-Scented Geranium and Pigs Ears.

This challenge was also not restricted to land. We have three oceans to choose from and live in one of the most species rich marine environments on earth! The coastal and marine environment yielded 3 215 observations, 522 species, with contributions from 155 observers.

Among the most heartening outcomes was the participation of our city’s youth – our scouts, cubs, girl guides and school children. Scouts South Africa contributed 4 480 observations, 1 052 species, and 142 observers. This equates to 8.3% of Cape Town’s data! 110 Scouts got 10+ observations earned the City Nature Challenge Event Badge. The Cape Town School Challenge contributed 947 observations, 378 species, and 45 observers. The top 10 schools included high schools, primary schools and even a pre-primary school!

We must never take for granted that we live in one of the most species rich places on earth for terrestrial plants and marine organisms. Of the 20 vegetation types that occur in Cape Town, 11 are Critically Endangered and 6 occur nowhere else but within Cape Town’s municipal boundary. We need to appreciate this to appreciate the full challenge of trying to conserve this wealth of biodiversity in a rapidly developing city.

The City of Cape Town, SANBI, SANParks, CapeNature and other key partners will continue to celebrate Cape Town as the most biodiverse city in the world.

We will continue to address the biodiversity conservation crisis in Cape Town. The only option for future sustainability and quality of life is to make sure that the built, cultural and natural environments are integrated.

And we will be back to defend our victory at the City Nature Challenge next year!


Organising Committee:
SANBI – Tony Rebelo, Gigi Laidler, Ismail Ebrahim and Megan Smith
BMB – Julia Wood, Leighan Mossop, Eleanor Hutchings, Celeste Bergman, Aamirah Botha and Charmaine Oxtoby
Marine teams – Georgina Jones

Well done and thank you to everyone who participated! Those who ran courses and workshops. Those who organized events, especially CREW and WESSA Friends Groups. Those who planned and arranged everything! Those who helped with identifications. Those who have made tonight possible.

• Ald. Marian Nieuwoudt and her office
• Cllr Joy McCarthy and Cllr Christiana Groenewoud
• CCT: Biodiversity Management Branch
• CCT: Library and Information Services Dept.
• CCT: Recreation and Parks Dept.
• WESSA Friends Groups
• False Bay Underwater Club
• Two Oceans Aquarium
• Scouts
• Schools

Prizes donated by
• CapeNature
• Biodiversity Management Branch, City of Cape Town
• Cape Town Big 6
• Save Our Seas
• Struik Nature, Penguin Random House South Africa
• Botanical Society of South Africa
• Learn to Dive Today
• Cape Town Dive Centre
• Two Oceans Aquarium

Posted on 11 June, 2019 14:42 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo


There was a Ceremony? Wow.

Posted by jwicht almost 5 years ago

Three Oceans? That seems a little optimistic.

Posted by pbsouthwood almost 5 years ago

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