City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town's Journal

12 June, 2019

And we feature again!!! Cape Town in the forefront ...

Just what we dont want!!!

World’s largest plant survey reveals alarming extinction rate
Since 1900, nearly 3 species of seed-bearing plants have disappeared per year ― 500 times faster than they would naturally.

At least we only came second this time!!!

Posted on 12 June, 2019 09:48 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 1 comment | Leave a comment

11 June, 2019

CNC2019: Cape Town - Thanks

CNC2019: Cape Town - Thanks

City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town Awards Ceremony
Dr Tony Rebelo, South African National Biodiversity Institute
10 June 2019, Cape Town City Hall, 18:30

Well done Cape Town!

It is my pleasure to give thanks to everyone who took part in our challenge. To some degree Charmaine has said everything already in her synthesis talk, and the prize-giving has already awarded many of the participants.

Anyone else could have given thanks, but let me bring in a background angle to the thanks.

Late last year I was not sure that Cape Town should participate. But everyone I spoke to about it was enthusiastic. However, how on earth could we - a relatively new group to iNaturalist - be able to avoid embarrassment. But with everyone keen, I needed to see if the the main potential players felt the same way. As it was already past the deadline, so I approached the organizers and asked for an extension. But Julia Wood of the City of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Management Branch, Environmental Management Department and Gavin Bell of Table Mountain National Park were on leave, so I needed to get a further extension to after school holidays.

At the January meeting with Julia were Cliff Dorse and Leighan Mossop. As I was firing up my computer, Julia told me to put it away. "We dont need that. We are doing this - where do we start!"
And that is how Julia never found out that we were going to attempt was impossible: - to achieve in four days what Cape Town had not managed in five years. To be among the winners we would need 50 000 observations. Not a chance!
Two issues were resolved at that meeting. Firstly, all City staff would take part and all cities reserves will be open to everyone for the Challenge. And secondly, due to data costs and line speeds, Julia would try and get the City Libraries to allow use of their Wifi for people to upload.
There was one catch though. The two staff who would be available to run the challenge would only start work in February and would need two weeks induction, but then it would be all systems go.

So I registered us for the City Nature Challenge ...

And that is how Charmaine Oxtoby and Eleanor Hutchings were thrown in the deep end. And they were magnificent. With their interns Aamirah and Celeste they organized the libraries, made sure that librarians knew what to expect, and organized posters advertizing the challenge, and primed CTEET, designed posters, got permissions and a myriad other things, including social media. Leighan trained reserve managers and rangers in using iNat, organized and planned camera traps and bat recorders and other things. Julia convinced other city departments to participate, including the City Planning Department, and Alderman Nieuwoudt decided that the challenge would be a great team-building opportunity for her section (what an inspirational idea!), despite the fact that it was the week before the election. The Library and Information Services and Recreation and Parks Departments deserve special mention for embracing the challenge.
And that is how the dream team pulled it off. I still dont know how they did it. But in a few weeks they had the entire City excited and active with the challenge.
Three cheers to the dream team!
(obviously, organizing City Nature Challenges is hazardous to one's health, and we hope Eleanor gets well soon.)

The other team was Ismail Ebrahim, Gigi Laidler and Megan Smith of CREW. The Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers were our secret weapon. For the past 16 years they have been mapping, monitoring, tracking down and identifying the threatened and common plants within the cities nature reserves, natural places and open spaces. They can find and identify plants without flowers, and even without leaves: just what we need for a competition at the wrong time of the year. They are worth 2000 species at least (at night in a thunderstorm: twice as much under ideal conditions). Gigi gave dozens of iNaturalist courses, aimed at basics - even for those CREW members who had never used a cell phone, or knew where the on button on their computers was. Megan, who only started in April, coordinated and publicised the events and put them on Facebook and the media. And with Ismail they organized, motivated, encouraged and did whatever it took to get CREW going.

And going they went. Not only did they hunt down all the rare and devious species, but they did a marvellous job and identifying them after they were loaded. We could not have got half our species without them. Well done CREW

The weekend after meeting with Julia, was the WESSA (Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa) Friends of Nature Reserves biannual meeting. I requested a five minute slot to promote the event. At the meeting I was quite good and invited everyone to participate, and set out our goals - 50 000 observations, 3500 species and 2000 observers, in just over four minutes. But then the chair got quite excited and spoke about it for over 10 minutes, and that was followed by much discussion and suggestions which saw my five minute slot exceed half an hour. And that was when I first wondered if we might perhaps be able to actually do it: that we might even have a fighting chance. Could we pull it off?
And of course WESSA were fantastic. With reserves managers (and CREW) they organized bioblitzes, events, activities, hunts and parties in most of our nature reserves. Over 50 events across the city. One of the highlights of the CNC was the Constantia Greenbelt Picnic organized by Snotrosie (Caitlin von Witt - appropriately her iNat name means Sundew) at the Mandala, which contributed over 700 observations.

Other organizations entered the fray: Two Oceans organized a Waterfront hunt, and the Herpetological Society set up traps and organized excursions to try and track down many of our still dormant frogs and snakes. The Cape Bird Club - like our migratory birds - had organized an event to the north in the Cedarberg for the weekend and vowed to make up for it on the weekdays. The Mountain Club, Kaput, Two Oceans, Kirstenbosch and CTEET all encouraged schools to participate.

Thank you everyone for being so enthusiastic!

I must make special mention of the Scouts. Trying to figure out how to get our observer numbers up, I approached Nigel Forshaw about getting the Scouts involved. He approached the powers that make such decisions and nothing happened for a few weeks. Then out of the blue came the response that it was a fantastic opportunity and snugly in line with Scout programme, and they would roll it out across the country. Whoa! I had to point out that the Challenge was just Cape Town, so we could not do it nationally. No problem came the almost instant reply: we will trial it in Cape Town in 2019, but then do it nationally in 2020! So there is the challenge. I hope Joberg and Durbs (and Bloem) are paying attention: you better be there in 2020.
And the Scouts were amazing. They collected 8.3% - lets just round it up - almost 10% of all our data. What a magnificent achievement. Let us have a round of applause for Scouts South Africa.
Some 110 Scouts contributed over 10 observations and thus get the City Nature Challenge activity badge.

The third committee was Georgina Jones (Seastung). I should have remembered about the sea. But it is so long since I was at university, I had forgotten. It was only while exploring how to get our species numbers up, and I looked at the species previously recorded (see here!) that I discovered that a Seaslug (the Gasflame Nudibranch) was the second most recorded organism on iNaturlist in Cape Town. But far more than that - out of the top 15 plants and animals on iNaturalist in Cape Town, two were Seaslugs, three were fish, three were Starfish, and two were corals. With the Penguin, this meant that 11 out of the top 15 species were marine! Not surprizing with the warm Agulhas Current clashing with the cold Benguella off Cape Point, and a third player - the temperate relicts from when Africa was further south - meaning that we have three marine realms meeting in Cape Town. So like the Cape Flora, our marine area is also exceptionally diverse and exciting. Just for example, have a look at our Seaslugs - - what an amazing group of animals - right under our noses!
But what was surprizing was just how active our merpeople had been in Cape Town - they were really showing us landubbers up. I asked Georgina if the divers might be interested in the challenge, and she replied - "Dont worry, leave it to me - we will be there. All the diving and underwater clubs - False Bay Underwater Club, Learn to Dive Today, Cape Town Dive Centre and others. We will organize dives and events and prizes. And dont worry about species. With over 1000 marine species in False Bay, we will get you your species."
And they did. With over 500 marine species contributing to our species tally.
A big round of applause for our merpeople please.

I must just take a moment here to especially mention Margo and George Branch. They organized a beach hunt at Dalebrook on the last day of the challenge (let us hope next year it will be a spring, rather than neap, tide), and participated in the identification parties held at Kirstenbosch. Their enthusiasm, willingness to share, energy and dedication are awe inspiraing. No wonder our local marine fauna is so well understood.

We tried to provide a bit of focus for the challenge with some projects.

Thanks to all the schools who took part in the Schools Challenge. Very well done. Our school grounds provide an opportunity to help preserve our biodiversity and it is fantastic to see schools participating in the adventure.
The Ant Atlas was fun too and well supported. With Peter Slingsby giving immediate identifications it was particularly rewarding. Please dont stop contributing - just the other day Flippie recorded an epic battle involving the invasive Argentinian Ants in Welgemoed. The Amazons might be at war in your garden - why not document it?
The Polyphagous Shothole Borer Project was a disappointment. This beetle has invaded Cape Town - and was recorded in Somerset West the week before the City Nature Challenge. Perhaps people did not appreciate that the absence of the beetle is good news and should be documented - and can be on iNaturalist. Under the worst-case scenario this beetle will wipe out our Cities trees within 10 years. Not all, but all our Oaks, Planes, Poplars, Liquidambers and many other susceptible trees. This is just nature redressing an imbalance. But by slowing down the Beetle invasion we can plant PSHB-resistant trees and let them grow, and not have to be treeless for a decade or two. This is a serious problem, and ignoring it is not a solution. So dont be part of the problem, help us by reporting the spread of this beetle. So check your trees every quarter, and submit in the records of the healthy trees. Report any attacks the moment you notice them! That is how we will solve the problem and keep our green lungs by allowing replacement trees to grow and continue their role of greening the mother city.
The National Freshwater Group also played around with getting Citizen Scientists to help with our wetland evaluations. They are excited by the results and hope to pursue it further soon.

Thank you too to all those who spent sleepless nights helping to identify our animals, plants and fungi. It was magnificent. CREW featured prominently, and it was amazing to see people active who one would never have imagined on a computer. And many people unable to get out to photograph, helped extensively with IDs. But not just Capetonians joined in: our beetles were identified in from Gaberone, Pretoria and Northwest, our bugs from Bloemfontein and Lichens from Europe. Whereas only people in Cape Town could contribute data to the Challenge, anyone could help with IDs. And they did!
A special thanks to staff of the Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch who spent their Friday helping especially with the daisy identifications.
A million thanks - I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

We did not intend to have prizes. The CIty decided to have small prizes to incentivise some staff. There were even some fun bets being placed on who would be on the leaderboard at the end. But it soon got out of hand. Everyone wanted to contribute and did so generously. CapeNature and City of Cape Town each contributed a weekend away in one of their nature reserves. The Cape Town Big Six tourism contributed tours to Robbin Island, the Cable Car, Cape Point (and the Funicular), and lunch at Groot Constantia. Struik Books, Botanical Society of South Africa and others contributed numerous book prizes. The diving prizes (free launches, guiding and air) were particularly notable.

And of course we need to thank the weather. It was perfect! Just one day of rain and we could not have achieved this! Although with our drought and severe water restrictions, many would have preferred the rain!

Thank you Cape Town. We won!

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.

Thank you Cape Town.
We showed the world that we are the Mother City for Biodiversity, the Capital City for BIodiversity, the most Biodiverse City on Earth.
Yes we beat our nearest rivals by 7000 observations - come on: clap!
But the really amazing thing is that we beat our nearest rivals by 1000 species. I hope you have given sufficient thought to what this means! Not only are we the most diverse city, but we are far more diverse than we ever guessed. Only 45 out of the 150 cities participating even got to 1000 species! And we outperformed our nearest rivals by 1000 species. That is a quarter more species than anyone else! This spectacular diversity, comes with a spectacular responsibility: only we can preserve these species. We are the custodians of this diversity. It is our job to look after it!
Yes we won the challenge. But we need to appreciate the responsibility that comes with being the most biodiverse city on earth.

There are two last groups that I would like to thank!

Firstly. the organizers of the event. Alison Young and Lila Higgins supported by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the California Academy of Sciences, for organizing the event. It is the coolest event on earth!

And the iNaturalist team at the California Academy of Sciences (sponsored by National Geographic) who kept the show on the road, without any serious glitches, and with hardly even a dip when America woke up. Did you know that at peak periods up to 7 people were uploading several megabytes per second?! Can you imagine that in South Africa? SARS or Home Affairs handling that many? -- let us not even go there.
Thank you guys: you rock!

And the cell phone app! It is the coolest thing ever! Imagine trying to participate in an event like this without it!
Three cheers for iNaturalist!

And lastly, I should like to thank the other participants in the 2019 City Nature Challenge.

It was amazing throughout the event to know that there were thousands of other citizens throughout the world going around exploring and celebrating their biodiversity. The day before we started (while we were chewing our nails and wondering if we should have got involved) we watched as the event started and Christchurch jumped onto the leaderboard. (lucky buggers: at least they can say that for a time they were the leading city in the City Nature Challenge). And then Hong Kong came on stream and raised the bar several notches (can we match that?). And then it was our turn. Except we had no time to monitor progress: we were all running around finding, recording, organizing, explaining and coordinating. And then uploading. A lo and behold, we got to the top of the leaderboard!!! After midnight when America started to come online we were still well on top (but one has to go to bed: there are still three more days of the challenge ahead). And in the morning when only Hawaii was still active, we were still on top. We can do it!! Who is the competition? Where on earth is La Paz? (here - their challenge and wiki)
And I think that did it. Once we were on top, we were inspired to stay there and everything came together! And when the observations were over. Did the other cities have lots of data to still upload? Would we be usurped? But we also had observations still to upload, so it made no difference. We were clearly in front!
And through the identifications parties, would we maintain our species lead. We had to weed out all the wrong IDs made by the artificial intelligence to American species: would that mean that we would lose our lead, and our species numbers go down? But it turned out that the misIDs were not that drastic, and our lead increased as the harder to identify and rarer species recorded were detected and identified.
And we won. But the winning was only significant because of everyone worldwide participating. The buzz of the challenge was seeing what other citizens were recording in their cities. For four days we were united worldwide in an exhilarating adventure - discovering and recording the biodiversity in our cities. Over 35000 people celebrating life in our cities.

So it is official. We are the Mother City of Biodiversity. The most biodiverse city on the planet. What is astounding is just how much richer than anyone else. I dont think we quite yet appreciate this. I dont think the rest of the world has recovered from the surprize.
So the issue is simple. To everyone who participated in the City Nature Challenge you now have a quest. You owe it to yourself to visit the Mother City and come and see our biodiversity for yourself. You are most welcome.
Only please do not even contemplate coming in our late autumn. It is the worst possible time of the year to see biodiversity. Darwin visited the Cape during this season and was singularly unimpressed: everything was bleak and burned. Had Charles visited in spring, he would not have become a recluse to The Downs: assuming he ever went home, he would have returned to the Cape year after year. And the Galapagos would probably have been a footnote in history.

In spring, there is nothing else like it on Earth! You should not need an invitation - you owe it to yourself to visit the Mother City and see it firsthand for yourself.

And to everyone else on Earth: we know you are interested, even though you did not participate directly in the Challenge. When Bacardi - the alpha male of the Helderberg Valley - joined the challenge, we heard the world gasp. You are welcome to visit Cape Town too.
Did you know that DNA data is suggesting that humankind went through a major bottleneck 70 000 years ago? That mankind was reduced to a small population of perhaps less than 1000 individuals? It is hard to believe that in this overpopulated world, a little while ago we were staring extinction in the face. And what saved us? Who rescued humanity? Archeological evidence suggests that we survived along the southern coast of Africa: in a small area of the Agulhas coast from Cape Town to the Garden Route. And we survived because of the biodiversity, biodiversity, biodiversity. The rich flora with its bulb and food plants. The large animals that roamed the now submerged plains in numbers rivalling Serengeti. And the rich marine resources along the shores. During the time when Africa became inhospitable, it was the biodiversity of Cape Town that mothered us through the hard times. And when the climate warmed up, we recovered and spread throughout the world. From the Indians of Patagonia, to the Amerindians, the Asians who rule the world, the Europeans who used to rule the world, and the Americans who think they rule the world, and Africa with its diverse tribes, we are all brothers and sisters, at most 2000 times removed. Archaeologist also have the first records of make up and jewellery - was Cape Town also the dawn of our civilization - of our humanity?
So you owe it to yourself. At least once in your lifetime you should make the pilgrimage to your Mother City. Our Mother City. Humanity's Mother City. To come back to your very roots and visit the city that succoured our survival.
We need you! We need your help in conserving our biodiversity. It saved us! Now it is your turn to return the favour and help us to save our biodiversity! We are also the. Global Hotspot for Biodiversity: we have more species threatened with extinction than any other city on Earth. Come and see it for yourself and help us preserve this extraordinary corner of our world.

Cape Town: we rocked them!

Yes we will be there in 2020!! Save the dates: it will either be the April 24-27 or May 1-4 - to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of Earth Day. So start practising and see you there!!

Posted on 11 June, 2019 14:42 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 12 comments | Leave a comment

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 | 3 comments | Leave a comment

21 May, 2019

What did the City Nature Challenge Achieve?

What did the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town Achieve?

Please forward your thoughts below. I will summarize the more quantifiable hard data here. But personal and emotive achievements are also cool.

New Taxa

None known - yet.

New Records

First ever record of the Oyster Bay Cypress-Pine as an invasive in Africa!

Indigenous (on iNat):
First record of the Monster Gnashing Cricket on iNat
First record of the Tropical Mexican Clover as an invasive in Cape Town!

New populations of threatened species

Critically Endangered
Fascicled Autumnaster -

New Records for iNaturalist in Cape Town

(Compared to the last 10 years. Subject to verification - this is also a priority list for checking and will be amended from time to time! Note that the ID image tool suggested North American species, and these are probably still to be checked: any cases will be removed below when discovered.)

1 White Stork Ciconia ciconia (10)
2 African Stonechat Saxicola torquatus (8)
3 Red-billed Oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus (2)
4 Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus (2)
1 Domestic Cattle Bos taurus (4)
2 Banana Pipistrelle Neoromicia nana (3)
3 Long-tailed Shrews Tribe Soricini (2)
1 Purcell's Ghost Frog Heleophryne purcelli (2)
2 Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas

1 Nosestripe Klipfish Muraenoclinus dorsalis (3)
2 Amur Carp Cyprinus rubrofuscus (3)
3 Nile Tilapia Oreochromis niloticus (3)
4 Fivebar Flagtail Kuhlia mugil (2)
5 Rainbow Trout Oncorhynchus mykiss (2)
6 Silver Trevally Pseudocaranx dentex (2)
7 Arabian Monocle Bream Scolopsis ghanam (2)

1 Vegetable Weevil Listroderes costirostris (2)
2 Genus Platychelus (2)
3 Genus Notiophygus (2)
1 Torynesis hawequas (4)
2 Silk Moths Family Bombycidae
3 Greater Wax Moth Galleria mellonella
4 African Migrant Catopsilia florella
5 Mountain Sandman Spialia spio
6 Mediterranean Brocade Spodoptera littoralis
7 Scopula lactaria
8 Genus Mentaxya
9 Coastal Brown-tail Moth Orvasca semifusca
10 Chiasmia turbulentata
11 Larentia diplocampa

1 Stridulating Slant-faced Grasshoppers Subfamily Gomphocerinae (6)
2 Scantius forsteri (3)
3 Cape Carpenter Bee Xylocopa capensis (3)
4 Oxycarenus annulipes (3)
1 Tunnel Spiders Family Segestriidae (2)
2 Long-bodied Cellar Spider Pholcus phalangioides (2)
3 West Coast Button Spider Latrodectus indistinctus (2)
4 Brown House Spider Steatoda capensis (2)
5 Sheetweb Spiders Family Stiphidiidae (2)
6 Nurseryweb Spider Dolomedes minor (2)
7 Foliage-webbing Spiders Genus Phryganoporus (2)
8 Gallieniellid Spiders Family Gallieniellidae (2)
9 Hippasa australis (2)

1 Portuguese Millipede Ommatoiulus moreleti (13)
2 Tooth Barnacle Chthamalus dentatus (12)
3 Tubulipora pulcherrima (7)
4 Biemna anisotoxa (6)
5 Chaperiopsis multifida (6)
6 Actinia mandelae (4)
7 Sargassum Sea Mat Jellyella tuberculata (4)
8 Euphrosine capensis (3)
9 Botryllus gregalis (3)
10 Southern African Sea Nettle Chrysaora africana (3)
11 Common Bluebottle Physalia utriculus (3)

1 Goat Eye Limpet Cymbula oculus (37)
2 Talochlamys multistriata (10)
3 Giraffe-Spot Nudibranch Ancula sp-a (6)
4 Aulacomya ater (4)
5 Gibbula zonata (4)
1 Common Greenshield Lichen Flavoparmelia caperata (7)
2 Common Ink Cap Coprinopsis atramentaria (2)
3 Smokey-eyed Boulder Lichen Porpidia albocaerulescens (2)
4 Hollyhock Rust Puccinia malvacearum (2)
5 Genus Laschia (2)
6 Tubaria confragosa (2)

Improvements to Nature Reserve data

Based on published reserve lists (other data undoubtedly exist). All species, incl. alien invasive.

Reserve - New Total Species - % increase
Bothasig 108 220%
Durbanville 135 205%
Zandvlei 170 175%
Uitkamp 96 175%
Table Bay 329 158%
Rondevlei 400 155%
Helderberg 704 143%
Tygerberg 396 139%
Edith Stevens 30 136%
Steenbras 1029 136%
Bracken 134 128%
Harmony Flats 129 122%
Botterblom 104 116%
Blaauwberg 609 113%
Wolfgat (not visited)

Ardern Arboretum 88 244%
Tokai Arboretum 213 201%
Kirstenbosch NBG 1166 125%

Jack Miller Park 155 187%
Strandfontein Sewerage Works 173 180%
Meadowridge Commonnage 144 132%
Constantia Green Belts 516 123%
Kenilworth 444 117%
Rondebosch Commonage 250 123%

(Table Mountain NP) 3688 116%
Signal Hill 519 121%
Silvermine 1161 112%
Tokai Park 1025 110%
Tokai Park Lower 592 105%


Any ideas for other?

Posted on 21 May, 2019 11:49 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 2 comments | Leave a comment

Observation of the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town

The winning observation of the CNC2019 for Cape Town is:

Panthera pardus ssp. pardus (African Leopard)
by @evan81 seen at Western Cape, ZA (Obscured) on Apr 29, 2019 · 8:42 PM SAST (yes: he kept us waiting!)

African Leopard

Very well done!

Runners up are:

Aonyx capensis ssp. capensis (Cape Clawless Otter)
by @gigilaidler seen at Western Cape, ZA(Obscured) on Apr 28, 2019 · 6:32 PM SAST

Cape Clawless Otter


Aphis nerii (Milkweed Aphid)
by @magrietb seen at Helderberg Rural, Sir Lowry's Pass on Apr 27, 2019 · 1:18 PM SAST

Milkweed Aphid

Honorable mentions:

Naja nivea (Cape Cobra)
by @willemvzyl seen at Bloubergstrand on Apr 26, 2019 · 8:40 AM SAST

Cape Cobra


Homopus areolatus (Parrot-beaked Tortoise)
by @christo9 seen at Brackenfell on Apr 27, 2019 · 10:24 AM SAST

Parrot-beaked Tortoise

As per votes at 12:00 21 May 2019 SAST
Nominations can be viewed here: Nominations for City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town

Posted on 21 May, 2019 10:30 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 1 comment | Leave a comment

07 May, 2019

A last request ...

You know very well it wont be the last, but please - we need your help now!

As you go through the mopping up of our City Nature Challenge observations
these ones still need identification
these ones still need identification down to species level
these ones still need confirmation of their species level IDs

Please look out for any outstanding observations that can be used for promotion of the event or our site, or that just need to be acknowledged and shared.
If you see any, then please add them to the project
(if you have not yet joined the project, you will need to in order to help us)
and click on the fave star (just below the map on the observation).

The winner for the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town will be the observation with the most faves, or in the event of a draw, other additional criteria as outlined in the Nominations project. There will be two categories and they will be different observations:
• Observation of the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town will be based on all categories.
• Photograph of the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town will be confined to the categories "image" and "composition" and shall be in addition to the Observation of the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town .

You can see the most faved nominations for the event here:
Nominations for observation of the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town
and the most faved for the event here:
Faves from the City Nature Challenge 2019: Cape Town

A decision will be made on or round about 19 May - no correspondence on the decision will be entertained.

(Note that not all observations for winner of the City Nature Challenge will be eligible for Observation of the Month for April, because that is determined by date of posting and not date of observation: so some observations will be part of the Observation of the Month for May competition). This is strictly for the event - those observed during the challenge whenever posted

Posted on 07 May, 2019 08:49 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 4 comments | Leave a comment

Congratulations: Cape Town

Congratulations CAPE TOWN !!

Winner in categories MOST OBSERVATIONS and MOST SPECIES in the international City Nature Challenge organized by the Citizen/Community Science Teams at the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Country.

Well done to everyone who participated! Those who took part! Those who organized events!. Those who planned and arranged everything! Those who helped with identifications. Those that ran courses and workshops. An especial thanks to the City of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Management Branch, Environmental Management Department who drove the entire show, and brought the entire City on board. To the Cape Town groups of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) Friends Groups, who - with reserve managers and staff - organized events in our reserves, and outside, and who targeted species in the worst possible time of the year for recording species and went out and made it all happen! And a special mention to Scouts South Africa for contributing almost 10% of our observations and the merpeople whose spectacular marine observations and identifications gave us the cutting edge.
Well done! Give ourselves a great pat on our backs! We did it.

There will be an official thank you from the organizers for those who contributed the most. We did not expect this and have not budgeted for it, so it will be a discreet affair. But we will make plans with social media to share the event with everyone.

And yes, we will be back. But we will be strongly motivating to be allowed to compete in our spring when we can really do justice to our biodiversity in the Mother City!

Posted on 07 May, 2019 05:28 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 83 comments | Leave a comment

06 May, 2019


The Challenge is over. The results will be made known at our local time at around midnight.

If you are wandering around dazed and wondering what you are going to do with the rest of your life, then dont worry, there is still lots to be done. iNaturalist is still there for uploading, identifying and connecting with your new and old biodiversity friends.

While waiting (and even later), why not let us hear some of your insights, highlights and problems. How did you enjoy the Challenge? What would you like included? Did anyone go the extra mile for you?

Please tell us about your experiences on the Challenge!

Posted on 06 May, 2019 17:08 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 4 comments | Leave a comment

01 May, 2019

UPDATE: please finish uploading and help us ID ...

We have totally underestimated the backlog of observations. Please continue uploading and get them done soonest. Now is not the time to give up: we are almost there.
So we will continue uploading today, and start the serious identification parties tomorrow afternoon.

The Kirstenbosch Research Centre will be open this holiday if you want to upload your last few data. Please come join us. (please RSVP @gigilaidler in advance if you want to use facilities on Saturday or Sunday)

For those interested, here is a breakdown by group:

Category No. of observations (No. of taxa) No. of observers
Birds 2454 (175) 390
Amphibians 82 (14) 57
Reptiles 397 (37) 190
Mammals 390 (52) 196
Fish 234 (40) 46
Molluscs 902 (163) 170
Arachnids 266 (63) 200
Insects 1900 (279) 409
Plants 18 665 (2 225) 808
Fungi 678 (115) 197
Protozoans 8 (2) 4

Unknown 12 230 observations still to process to one of the above: Please help!

You can start here: Just taking it to family or genus will be a very big help!

Posted on 01 May, 2019 06:06 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 13 comments | Leave a comment

30 April, 2019


A huge thanks to everyone who took part and helped in the City Nature Challenge.

We are done, but parts of the world are still busy for a few more hours.

We have set the target for the number of observations and number of species, and these towns will be gunning for our target. Let us see if we have done enough!

To all of you who still need to load up observations. You have until 6 May to do so, but please do it now. Election madness is upon us, so please use today and tomorrow to get cracking. Plus we have the Kirstenbosch Garden Fair for this weekend: insane timing - all our Kirstenbosch specialists are going to be busy there! Anything not uploaded by the end of May 1, is going to be difficult to identify, so please try and upload everything soonest!

Time for the IDs parties.

The First ID party will be 10am at the Kirstenbosch Research Center at 10am today.
Tomorrow 1st May will be a special ID PARTY at 10am to 1pm. Please pop in to find out the tools to make this most efficient.
We will be continuing with the ID parties until Saturday.

Please rope in everybody and any body!
There are two goals.

  1. Get identifications of "plants" to the family or genus
  2. Get the families and genera to species.

Our strategy is to cherry pick. Focus on those species not yet identified, and then sweep up the duplicates.

That should work for plants. For other groups the work load should be less onerous and we can just tackle them all!
We have 4,100 observations only identified as plants or animals. We have 6,600 more observations identified only to family or genus. We have 31,000 observations that need ID. And we should just check some of the rarer species to make sure that they have been properly IDed. So we have a huge task ahead of us. Please get cracking.

Please help. If you see someone has not been busy - please try and contact them.
Right now please: we need especially Doug E-B, Botaneek, and our daisy specialists! Please get them going!
CREW and Botanical Society A-team: this is your goldenhour - the hard work is done, just the IDs are needed!.

Posted on 30 April, 2019 05:40 by tonyrebelo tonyrebelo | 0 comments | Leave a comment