Save Pot Plant Owls Wetland

Pot Plant Owl is the name of a wild Spotted Eagle Owl that nests in a potted plant on the balcony of a house in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is currently raising her chicks there for the third consecutive year. 

Close by is a 30 hectare greenbelt (open land) with a protected wetland running through it. This is where Pot Plant Owl and her mate hunt for food. They live mostly on insects, rodents and small birds. The wetland has also been home to, amongst other things, the African Giant Bull Frog - an endangered species.

In January 2010, a developer brought in a bulldozer and began clearing the trees. The developer is requesting permission to build houses on this protected wetland. In South Africa, as in most of the world, developers have a habit of winning.  

This is one of the last wetlands in a large area. According to South African law, wetlands are supposed to be protected, but the Goverment department in charge of enforcing this law appears to be in favour of the development. 

 

If the development goes ahead, the wetland will be destroyed, along with all the inhabitants of the wetland.  Our family of owls will not survive without this wetland area. Please help us save our owls and the wetland!

To Nandi Mayathula-Khoza
MEC GDARD

Thank you for taking the time to understand our plea.

In June 2011 you issued a negative Record of Decision regarding a proposed development on a wetland in Radiokop / Strubens Valley. For this we thank you. The developer has since appealed this decision. The appeal indicates that he intends to show that he can develop on the wetland without affecting the biodiversity or water run-off negatively.

This is not the case. Any new research that is undertaken at this time, is done so on a wetland that the developer has severly degraded with the use of the bulldozer and the chain saws that cut down most of the trees on the property. I have provided you with photographic evidence of this destruction.  The wetland was badly damaged from the felling of trees both near and right within the wetland, so much so, that a Directive was issued to prevent the developer from doing anything further on site. The developer did not rehabilitate the wetland as called for in this Directive.

The developer's own wetland specialist has been quoted as saying:

"There should be a procedure for the removal of wattles to avoid exposing the soils to erosion. In my opinion it is environmentally irresponsible to clear fell, there should rather be progressive removal and replacement with indigenous trees"

In my opinion, given the importance of exotics in providing breeding and roosting habitat for raptors, including owls, the removal of exotics from a site should be considered after a thorough assessment of the role that they play in biodiversity support, where they appear to play a pivotal role in providing both shelter and breeding sites for raptors. This is in my opinion particularly important in urban areas where there is an abundance of prey including doves, and rodents, and where raptor populations are limited by breeding habitat."

"What sometimes happens in these cases is that the developer declares himself insolvent and then leaves only to found another company that buys the land in the degraded state and in the light of that gets approval to develop".

The comments above from the developer's wetland specialist prior to the developer employing him, further outline the concern around a now degraded wetland, thanks to the actions of the tree felling in the wetland by the developer. Please see the original BAR document for the comments from A&IPs, as well as Government Departments, where outrage is expressed at the damage to the wetland caused by the Developer.

The Radiokop wetland is the only section of the tributary that flows into the Wilgespruit, which remains free of development. Residents downstream suffer severe flooding during storms as a result of the canalisation of the tributaries. 

Furthermore, the wetland is host to the African Bullfrog, bats and reptiles. The grassland is the ideal habitat for the endangered Grass Owl, and numerous bird species are dependent on the greenbelt. Your own offices have acknowledged the existence of Red Listed Data species in this wetland.

Pot Plant Owl, a Spotted Eagle Owl, has adapted to nesting on the balcony of a house as a result of human encroachment on indigenous land. This greenbelt is where she hunts. Development on it will result in the Spotted Eagle Owls being forced to move out.

Please stop developments on wetlands, and turn down the appeal for this proposed development on our wetland. Thank you.

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