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Saving Black Harriers – an Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust campaign

Personal message

Black Harriers are in deep trouble. They are now one of southern Africa’s most Endangered raptors. If nothing is done, they face a possible extinction in less than 75 years. We need to find out more about this incredible species. Help us buy additional satellite (GPS/GSM) tags to fit on the birds, to better understand – and therefore better protect – this iconic species.

It’s a magical experience watching a Black Harrier swoop gracefully over the Overberg landscapes. But fewer than 1 300 mature individuals remain on earth and models suggest the population is still declining by 2.3% annually.

In 2021, we experienced first-hand the threats and the loss – when two of our six tagged Black Harriers were killed in the Overberg, close to each other, in the space of a single day. One was killed in a collision with a wind turbine, the other with a grain-cutter. Other threats are loss of habitat – especially lowland Renosterveld, which we know provides some of the most important Black Harrier breeding grounds within their incredibly limited range.

The Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT) recently came across what could be one of the largest Black Harrier breeding colonies, found in a fragment of Renosterveld. The discovery was exciting. But the colony is very close to a wind farm that was recently established. 

The entire wheatbelt (i.e. renosterveld region) of the Overberg has been identified by government as a Renewable Energy Development Zone: great for climate change mitigation, not so great for harriers who have already experienced high mortality rates on windfarms elsewhere in the country. Because the species has already suffered severe levels of loss in its preferred breeding grounds (over 90% in Renosterveld), it cannot cope with the additional threat of turbine collisions. We need to be able to predict which areas need to be protected from windfarm developments in future and satellite/GPS tags give us vital data on how far foraging adults hunt from their nests and the altitudes at which they fly.

We’re now working with world-renowned harrier expert, Dr Rob Simmons (University of Cape Town), as well as BirdLife South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust to learn more about Black Harriers. We’re focusing on two major approaches: the first is to secure Black Harrier breeding grounds in Renosterveld through conservation. The second is to carry out research on how the species uses the landscape for foraging, by fitting breeding adults with satellite tags. If we know this, we can put conservation measures in place to protect them. Already six birds have been tagged with satellite trackers, which tracks all their movements.

Now we need to track four more birds, so that we can follow at least 10 birds within the Overberg wheat-belt, to gather vital conservation data. The Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation sponsored an additional tracker before this crowdfunder started and we initially started this fundraiser to secure another three trackers. We reached our initial target of three trackers within a month and we now seek to go beyond this target so that we can expend the project to track Black Harriers breeding in other areas (i.e. outside of the Overberg wheat-belt), where new or existing windfarms pose a potentially significant threat to the birds. 

For me personally, Black Harriers paved the way to the creation of the ORCT.  From a very young age, I was drawn to birds of prey, which introduced me to what is arguably South Africa’s most charismatic raptor. Since 2000, I have been involved with studying Black Harriers and the Renosterveld habitats on which they depend, yet there is still so much that we need to understand about the species and its relationship with its preferred Fynbos and Renosterveld habitats. Given the fact that over 95% of Renosterveld has been lost to agriculture over the last century, there is grave concern about how this has impacted species such as the Black Harrier which rely on it, particularly when there are additional threats (such as windfarm and vehicle collisions, fluctuations in prey numbers and high levels of pesticide residues in the landscape) acting in concert to threaten their future.   

HOW CAN YOU HELP:

We now need YOUR help to buy ADDITIONAL satellite trackers. Each tracker costs R25 000 (including import tariffs & data downloading). We have to raise the funds and buy the trackers by the end of July, so that we can fit the tags on the birds during their breeding season.

That’s why we’re working to raise a minimum of R125 000 over the next two months (up to end July).

Your help will enable us to reach our goal to tag and track a total of at least 10 Black Harriers in Renosterveld and additional individuals in other parts of their breeding range where windfarms pose an existing or future threat to the species.

WHAT YOU GET:

 

DONORS CAN RECEIVE 18A CERTIFICATES ON REQUEST

Donations

  • Aug 05, 2022 - USD $ 60.21
  • "Really hope this is the start of their expansion" - Mike Ash

  • Jul 05, 2022 - R 2 000.00
  • "Such stunning birds. Great to have this initiative. " - Roger

  • Jul 01, 2022 - USD $ 3 537.60
  • "2 tags in the bag for the Black Harriers" - Ames & Mesa

  • Jun 29, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "May your project be a huge success!" - Anonymous

  • Jun 28, 2022 - R 1 500.00
  • "Keep up the good work" - Amanda N Richard

  • Jun 28, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Good luck, keep on tracking" - Ted van der Meulen

  • Jun 28, 2022 - USD $ 107.18
  • "I saw your fantastic talk on birdlife international 2022-06-28. Keep the good work going!" - Lara Gross

  • Jun 28, 2022 - R 2 000.00
  • "For Odette's Conservation fund to secure SA's rarest resident raptor " - Birds & Bats Unlimited

  • Jun 24, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Living in the Overberg as I do, I see these beautiful birds often. I am so happy to be an part of this. Thank you to ORCT" - Dee Froud Reid

  • Jun 22, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Thanks for the work you’re doing; a worthy cause!" - Jen Seggie

  • Jun 20, 2022 - R 2 000.00
  • "Watching Black Harriers hunt at Langebaan is an unforgettable experience" - Derek Wilcocks

  • Jun 14, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Such a worthwhile cause" - Barbara

  • Jun 14, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Thank you for your efforts at saving our Black Harriers" - Gina & Adrian Good

  • Jun 13, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "awesome work. thanks to all involved" - Holden Marshall

  • Jun 12, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "." - Graeme Hatley

  • Jun 10, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Great work, I hope this helps." - Charles Britz

  • Jun 10, 2022 - R 1 000.00
  • "

    What a worthy cause!

    " - Marietjie Visser

  • Jun 09, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Every effort to protect our wildlife is a worthy cause to support. Thank you for your work and brining this to our attention. " - Johan Olivier

  • Jun 09, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "

    For the great work being done by the ORCT

    " - Lesley Richardson

  • Jun 08, 2022 - R 5 000.00
  • "Best wishes to all involved in this important project" - Anonymous

  • Jun 08, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Good luck with this fundraiser " - Di Parker

  • Jun 08, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Good luck with this project. I look forward to updates on the behaviour of these birds." - Johanna

  • Jun 08, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "If they were no longer around life would be much impoverished !" - LR & SK

  • Jun 08, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Good luck with the project" - Pat Rebelo

  • Jun 08, 2022 - USD $ 13.00
  • "I am very grateful to people like yourselves, dedicating your time to preserve our graceful beautiful birds." - Leonie Ash

  • Jun 07, 2022 - R 1 000.00
  • "Thanks for championing the Black Harrier and the Overberg Renosterveld" - John and Liz

  • Jun 07, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Keep up the good work Odette" - Susan Wright

  • Jun 07, 2022 - USD $ 32.34
  • "Keep up the hard work on such an essential cause!" - Kelli

  • Jun 03, 2022 - R 1 000.00
  • "Thank you for the important work you do." - Cheryl Tonkin

  • May 27, 2022 - R 500.00
  • "Black Harriers are so close to our hearts; as is the incredible work that the Trust is doing. So here's a small contribution to say - thank you! " - LoveGreen

  • May 27, 2022 - R 5 000.00
  • "

    This is a wonderful project. Thank you for your important work. Rupert and Michelle from Wild Restoration

    " - Wild Restoration

  • May 23, 2022 - R 5 000.00
  • "Brilliant and critical cause" - Marc Solomon

  • May 23, 2022 - USD $ 315.10
  • "For Odette" - Don Evans

  • May 23, 2022 - R 5 000.00
  • "

    Thank you for your amazing work!

    " - Anonymous

  • May 20, 2022 - R 1 000.00
  • "This is such an important project. I wish I could donate more" - Carolyn Zeeman

Donate to this charity

Statistics

Donations to date

R 157 963.68

Fundraising target

R 155 000.00

Funds raised offline

R 55 500.00
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Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust

Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust Logo

There is quite simply something so magical about watching a Black Harrier swoop gracefully over the landscape. But Black Harriers are in deep trouble, with fewer than 1 300 mature individuals remaining on Earth. If nothing is done, they’re facing a likely extinction. 

My name is Odette Curtis-Scott. The NPO that I established in 2012 is known as the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust. We focus on conserving the remainder of one of the world’s most threatened habitats: Renosterveld. We are now working with our partners at BirdLife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the University of Cape Town to protect Black Harriers.

We recently discovered one of the largest-known breeding colonies of Black Harriers – situated in a fragment of Renosterveld in the Overberg, right next to a wind farm. The threats to these birds are immense. In 2021, we experienced this first-hand when two of six satellite-tagged Black Harriers were killed in the Overberg, in the space of a single day. One was killed in a collision with a wind turbine, the other with a grain-cutter at night. If a mortality rate of over 30% is representative of what is happening to the species’ population, then this beautiful and charismatic bird is in even deeper trouble than what we had originally thought. 

Now we urgently need to fit satellite tags on more Black Harriers, to track their movements, so that we can understand how they move and forage, and can mitigate for threats against them. 

We have tagged six birds to date. In this campaign, we’re asking for help to buy three satellite tags. We need to buy the tags by August, so that we can fit the tags on the harriers during their breeding season in late spring. The Black Harriers are looking to us to help find solutions to these man-made threats, to help prevent an otherwise likely extinction. 

Please help us to protect these birds within one of their most important breeding hotspots.