Racecourse is a hub of biodiversity

A Microfrog at the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area (KRCA).

The Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area (KRCA) had an area as big as 52ha in 1882 which was encircled by the racecourse oval and to this day has remained virtually undisturbed.

Through the far-sightedness and passion of Dr Clive McDowell in 1989, the conservation value of the Oval was highlighted.

The KRCA is found to harbour well over 300 indigenous plant species, amongst them the delicate Erica margaritaceae, the flamboyant Erica verticillata and the endangered Diastella protioides. This spurred numerous nature enthusiasts to conserve its biodiversity.

There are also known amphibians, among them the iconic micro-frog and Cape platanna frog, at least 17 reptiles, over 90 birds sighted, a possible 14 mammals and undocumented innumerable invertebrate and micro-organism populations.

For more than 100 years the KRCA had not experienced fire, though in 2005 a controlled burn in a selected section was conducted, resulting in a wealth of fynbos seedlings popping up giving proof of the longevity of the natural seedbank and thus the need for ecological conservation.

One of the most exciting things that took place as a result of the controlled burns was the appearance of hundreds of the exquisitely beautiful Hessea cinnamomea, a delicate fire-dependent geophyte that had not been seen in that area for at least 70 years.

In 2007, the Friends of the KRCA was formed and over the years, these enthusiastic citizens together with the conservation management team have largely succeeded in rehabilitating the area to its original beauty, free from alien vegetation and where the fauna and flora are well documented and protected.

The prime and most rewarding objective of the Friends group is to assist the conservation manager in ensuring the ecological conservation of the area whilst at the same time providing educational and, as far as is possible, recreational opportunities for all.

Over the years, the Friends have been involved in alien vegetation clearing; in-situ plant propagation for disturbed areas’ restoration; planting; floral and faunal documentation; iSpot and iNaturalist bioblitzes; spring walks; frog and chameleon walks; evening talks; children’s fun days and environmental education.

It is with great appreciation that the Friends wish to acknowledge and thank the Tatler for its unstinting continued support of our conservation efforts by advertising our various events in the What’s On columns.

Through this assistance, we are able to reach and bring the joy of the area to the community at large.