There is evidence that a few of the animals listed in the survey done by Rhodes University in July 2001 still remain. The actual numbers are not known. (Find the lists under Kenton Nature Reserve)
No survey, nor census, has been conducted since then. Sightings are reported on social media and are used as a rough guide to gauge whether the town’s population of fauna is increasing or decreasing. Some evidence is also provided by a trail camera located in an area of natural bush in close proximity to the reserve, and since November 2019, hidden within the reserve itself.
IS THE POPULATION HOLDING ITS OWN?
From long-standing anecdotal reports, often repeated by residents who have been coming to Kenton since the 1950s, it is reasonable to believe that the decline in fauna has been as great, if not greater, than that established by WWF’s Living Planet Index, ie, 52% decline on average between the period 1970 to 2010. As with the world index, Kenton’s losses are mainly due to habitat destruction and poaching, with or without dogs. There is no official fauna protection policy to conserve what wildlife remains.
From reported sightings of tortoises, bush buck, tree hyraxes, francolin, and other smaller creatures, it is likely that the population has decreased since 2010 in spite of unofficial, voluntary efforts over these years to conserve the fauna that is left. (For more on these efforts see anti-poaching).
Some evidence is also provided by a trail camera hidden in an area of natural bush near the nature reserve since 2016. (See photos below.) In November 2019, the trail camera was hidden within the reserve itself. The photos submitted from the camera yielded a surprising and encouraging results: a pushbig, not picked up on camera since 2017, and two bushbuck ewes.
THE EFFECTS OF THE DROUGHT
As with the effects of climate change, there is evidence that the recent drought has also taken its toll, but to what extent it has affected the entire population of fauna and birds is unknown.
In January 2019 a holiday maker who was jogging along the Beach between Main Beach and Kariega mouth came across a dead blue duiker almost buried under the sand. Wildlife Watch, with permission from Ndlambe’s nature conservation officer, and with the help of an officer from the Kenton Police Station, took the body to vet, Trevor de Bruin, for an autopsy. His report is given below.
EVIDENCE OF POPULATION DECLINE
During 2018, the trail camera located in an area of natural bush close to the reserve regularly recorded movements of blue duiker, porcupine and a large spotted genet at dusk, dawn or during the night. Less frequently, movements from a yellow mongoose, large grey mongoose, woodland mouse, small bush pig and even a pair of Cape otters were picked up by the camera at night. As you will see from the trail cam pictures below, some of these recordings have stopped.
One of a pair of blue duiker have not been seen since August 2018. Since then another single duiker has appeared regularly, but it may not be from the same pair.
The otters, seen only once in 2017.
This little bushpig, seen only once in 2017.
The yellow mongoose, also a regular night time visitor, has also not been seen since February 2018. Has it been poached?
The genet is still sometimes caught on camera.
The porcupine used to appear on camera at night regularly. She or he has not been photographed since August 2018. Has it been poached?
None of these animals, except the genet, have been recorded in the same spot on the same trail camera since August 2018. The inescapable conclusion is that the porcupine has been poached, and perhaps even the duiker, mongooses and otters.
In the last quarter of 2018 there were confirmed reports of a bushbuck ram, a bushbuck ewe with baby, and a Kudu in and around the Nature Reserve.
In December visitors to Kenton reported to Wildlife Watch that they were concerned that the mother of this baby bushbuck had been killed. They reported that the bushbuck was alone and dangerously tame. There have been no reported sightings of this bushbuck family since then, although a single bushbuck ewe has been spotted in the reserve on one or two occasions.
OTHER PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY RESIDENTS
Bushbuck ewe in someone’s garden November 2018
In addition to these larger antelope, it appears that the smaller antelope such as blue duiker and grysbokke do manage to survive in pockets between residential properties, especially those that are unfenced, or fenced with palisade. However, the sightings of grysbokke often spotted in the same areas of natural bush around the town in the small hours of the night, have declined from six to two or three.
Blue duiker with guinea fowl. Photo taken by Rob Boyd
Grysbokke are particularly vulnerable as they are not shy creatures. They remain on the side of the road in the path of oncoming cars and are therefore easy targets for poachers with guns, probably air rifles, or even bows and arrows. The best protection we can offer these creatures and others is regular patrols and the careful placement of more cameras, which we do not have.
During the last two months of 2018 there were two sightings of tortoises, one was of a large tortoise while the second was a other of a small leopard tortoise (a protected species). Large tortoises used to be a common sight in Kenton.
Sometimes, in the early hours before dawn, the eerie call of the tree hyrax can still be heard, but even this has become less frequent.
Those who would like to assist are encouraged to go on a game drive somewhere between 1 am and 5 am. Drive slowly around the areas of natural bush. Do not stop. Stay in your car. Carry a cellphone and report to Hi Tec before you go, if you feel nervous.
REPORTS TO WILDLIFE PROTECTION HOTLINE
Reports to the Wildlife Protection Hotline, run through the Hi Tec control room 24/7, do provide information about the existence of wildlife, albeit under threat.
The ‘threat’ may be mistaken. For instance, at the end of July 2018 a caller to the hotline reported that a whale was in distress just off Main Beach. A phone call to Lana Cummings, who was in touch with Dr Greg Hofmeyr of Bay World in Port Elizabeth, informed us that the whale was probably going to give birth, which she did on 29 July 2018. Other sightings of this whale and others were reported to the Kenton 365 chatline on WhatsApp in the days that followed.