An innovative conservation venture in the Agulhas Plain, at the southernmost tip of Africa, has reintroduced animals that became extinct in the area in the 1800s. And a number of wine farms in the Elim Wine Ward form a central part of this initiative.

Black Oystercatcher Wines founder and owner, Dirk Human, is also one of the founders of the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area (SMA). This Special Management Area today encompasses 46,000 hectares of land on the Agulhas Plain – much of it containing extremely rare and threatened fynbos vegetation. It also includes the Nuwejaars wetland ecosystem – a system described as ‘highly irreplaceable’.

According to Human, through the SMA, farmers, including wine farmers, are protecting the ecosystem, by creating a sustainable ecology in the region. “The goal of the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area is really to use the agricultural land sustainably, and protect the very important biodiversity found in the area at the same time.

“We’ve managed to bring 25 landowners and a local community together to achieve this. And these landowners have committed their land to conservation, by agreeing to title deed restrictions to ensure conservation principles are practiced on the land.”

Since landowners first signed a statement of intent to protect this vast stretch of the Agulhas Plain in 2003, the SMA has achieved much in its conservation efforts. With funding secured from the German government, buffalo and hippo have been reintroduced to the Agulhas Plain. Both became extinct here in the 1800s. The SMA has also reintroduced hartebeest, while increasing the number of eland, and the number bontebok to 120. The Agulhas Plain region is the home of the bontebok – which became critically endangered in the 1900s, with fewer than 20 animals left in the wild.

Human, who is the Chair of the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area, planted his vineyards in 1998. The Black Oystercatcher Wines brand was officially launched in 2005. Today the wine farm remains a priority for conservation action, with the farm housing a portion of the wetland system. It is also the home of the hippos. Invasive alien clearing activities are also taking place across the SMA, including on the wine farm.

Human says, “We believe strongly in protecting this special corner of the earth. As farmers, we’ve been committed to conservation all our lives. We’re therefore committed to the SMA’s vision to conserve our natural and cultural heritage, and encourage lifestyles compatible with our environment.”

Proceeds from events hosted by the Black Oystercatcher Wines are allocated to the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA’s Section 21 company.

The Black Oystercatcher Wines will join exhibitors at Cape Wine 2015.

To see Dirk’s involvement in the Nuwejaars Wetland SMA, visit:

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