My name is Johannes van Rooyen. I am from Johannesburg, South Africa. The aim of this campaign is to raise funds to restore a unique habitat which lies within a densely developed area. This is the only available habitat for a relic population of lizards which is far removed from any other population. I became aware of this population about three years ago, and with some input from a herpetologist and my own research into published scientific papers on this kind of lizard it became clear that this piece of habitat is a tiny patch of subtropical area within an otherwise temperate zone. This explained the lizards' natural presence. These lizards might also not be the only species that are unique to this area and therefore this habitat needs to be looked after for the benefit of other undiscovered biological treasures too. Neither the exact species nor the precise location can be disclosed due to the ever threatening illegal trade in reptiles.
Unfortunately, this habitat is restricted to a stretch of wasteland which is neither under private ownership nor under the control of a parks board. The funds are needed to remove invasive foreign plant species and to nurse indigenous species of plants to repopulate the habitat. There are several invasive species, but the worst ones are the red-eye wattle (Acacia cyclops), lantana (Lantana camara) and the bugweed (Solanum mauritianum). These plants form dense stands that take over the rock faces where the lizards are found, making it uninhabitable. The stands of plants also severely inhibits the dispersal abilities of the lizards in order to mate and reproduce. Eradication of the plants requires among other things the environmentally safe application of poison to prevent regrowth, careful removal of plants as not to disturb the underlying rocks and also the transport away from the site. The fact that there are several hectares of affected habitat makes this a mammoth task. The germination and replanting of the native plants is also no easy task and will take substantial effort.
The fight against the encroachment of the invasive plants is really a race against time. Each year that passes might be a year too late, and I would like to have made a substantial improvement by this time next year. I have started the massive eradication task, but I can't continue without the financial backing. The funds are needed before the end of 2020. By then a lot of seeds of indigenous species will be ripe already and I would like to have a nursery setup by then to start growing more plants. The ideal would be to have the area declared a park, but this takes a lot of time which the lizards don't have. Until such time arrives, the area needs urgent restoration.
My path in discovering and documenting this imperiled population means a lot to me on a personal level. My heart will break if I have to be witness to the disappearance of this population. Your support will enable me to fulfill my dream to do something very tangible to improve my environment to the benefit of both nature and people.
I will be forever grateful if you can help me in this endeavor, and by helping me you can be part of a substantial conservation effort that has a great chance of succeeding.