15 August 2003
The Northern Cape department of agriculture, land reform, environment and conservation has selected eight candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds to be trained as bird guides.
The eight will undergo an intensive three-week course at BirdLife South Africa’s facilities in Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga next month. The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund is funding the venture, which is a joint initiative between the department and BirdLife South Africa.
The aspirant guides, who come from Galeshewe, Plafontein and Schmidt Drift in the Northern Cape, will be based in Kimberley after completing their training. With Kimberly rated as a bird watching hotspot by tourists, the guides will provide an important service to a growing industry.
The guides will be stationed at some of the popular bird watching spots in Kimberley, including Road Lodge, the San community’s Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre, and Kamfers Dam, which is home to more than 38 000 flamingos as well as numerous other bird species.
Departmental spokesperson Thabo Mothibi called the flamingos the “jam” of Kimberley. “Local people here often refer to [the flamingos] as the pink stuff in the dam. If only they knew it is an important part of eco-tourism in South Africa”, Mothibi said.
Kimberley boasts a great number of bird species that are restricted to southern Africa’s arid areas. The recently described Kimberley pipits and the long-tailed pipits are much sought after by professional and amateur ornithologists. In addition, about 300 pairs of white-backed vultures breed on the city’s doorstep.
Diamond mining giant De Beers and other landowners have agreed to allow the guides to bring tourists to their properties for bird viewing.