On the 10th June 2015, the CREW team, as we like to call ourselves, set off on a two week trip across South Africa. Well just about. This very important trip would include planning meetings with three volunteer groups in George, St Francis and Port Elizabeth, fieldtrips with these volunteer groups, an environmental education programme with a group of children in St Francis and then ending off in Durban for our Annual CREW Strategic Planning Session.
What is CREW?
CREW, the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers, is a programme that involves volunteers from the public in the monitoring and conservation of South Africa’s threatened plants. In doing so, CREW aims to capacitate a network of volunteers from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. The programme links volunteers with their local conservation agencies and particularly with local land stewardship initiatives to ensure the conservation of key sites for threatened plant species.
Why is CREW so important?
South Africa has a significant number of the world’s plant species and is the only country with its own plant kingdom and 3 of the world’s Biodiversity Hotspots. Of the 20 456 plant species in South Africa, 2577 (13%) are threatened with extinction and a further 2232 (11%) are considered near threatened, data deficient or rare endemics.
This means that 1 in 4 of South Africa’s plants is rare or threatened. For most of these species there is no recent information about how the populations are doing in the wild. As a country we urgently need to keep track of our plants so that we know how to conserve the unique diversity that we have. Information collected by CREW volunteers helps prioritise which species are in need of conservation attention. CREW data is also used during the EIA process to influence development decisions and is used in fine scale conservation plans which help municipalities determine which areas should be allocated to conservation in their integrated and spatial development frameworks.
Our trip started off on a high note as we discovered 8 special species all with a red list status and endemic to ONE locality in the WORLD. Some of these species have one or two populations left in the wild and it is of utmost importance that we try our best to ensure their existence. Extinction is occurring at an alarming rate all over the world as we lose species to land degradation, habitat loss, climate change, deforestation, agriculture and the list goes on. Some of the important work we do with CREW includes: Surveying remaining patches of natural area for threatened plant populations, actively adopting key sites for conservation of threatened plants, working with landowners, demographic monitoring of certain populations on an annual basis and conducting awareness activities with the youth in different areas or communities.
I feel privileged to be part of such a dynamic and passionate team, that is CREW. We are all working towards the same goal and that being the preservation of our natural environment. Conservation is just one aspect of this goal and it is something that is very close to my heart. Having studied a BTECH in Nature Conservation, I have made it my life goal to protect and conserve our remaining biodiversity in whichever way I can as well as creating awareness through being a role model to the people around me. I feel it is so important for us as Miss Earth SA Ambassadors to integrate our work with our MESA green journey and to form partnerships with organisations striving towards the same goal. Working in the conservation field I aim to shed light on conservation issues that really matter by using the Miss Earth South Africa programme as a platform to do so. My CREW team has been so supportive of my green journey thus far and I want to thank them for their continued support.