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What is hacking & why is it important?

The Cape Bird Club has a long history at Zandvlei, and has had monthly ‘hacks’ started by Alan Morris in 1978. He initiated the practice for the Cape Bird Club when he was Chairman. Alan grew up in Muizenberg and knew the area well. Bill Rudings took over as leader in 1985 and subsequently Gavin Lawson in 1991.

In 2006 the Wildwood Bird Sanctuary changed dramatically to be called the Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve. It is now a local authority nature reserve, whereas it had no legal status before. It has changed from 24 hectares to 96 hectares, and includes all the water surface of Zandvlei to the mouth and a number of terrestrial areas surrounding the vlei, including Bokmakierie Park in Bath Road and Old Boyes Drive. This process took about 6 years to achieve by the ‘local interest groups’ with the City.

We work in an adjacent Sandplain Fynbos area of the Reserve called Grysbok Park. We are clearing a remaining biodiversity corridor from Muizenberg to Zandvlei across Old Boyes Drive to help connect the coastal strip from the Table Mountain peninsula to the Koegelberg Biosphere. This area is made up of Table Mountain Granite Fynbos and Table Mountain Sandstone Fynbos which has introduced new plant and other species to the Reserve list.

The idea is to remove these invasive species, to promote the biodiversity of all the living species for these habitats including insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds etc, which make up or are part of these habitats and ecosystems.

The remaining natural vegetation areas within the City are under extreme pressure for development. These areas need to have linking corridors of local indigenous vegetation to remain viable for the free movement of the birds, insects, mammals, amphibians and the distribution of wind dispersed seed. The City of Cape Town has signed international treaties and has to conform to the National requirement to conserve at least 10% of it vegetation types. We know that the Fynbos Kingdom is the smallest biome, and has the largest plant species numbers per square metre, in places, on the planet.

Is this not an important reason to help conserve these remaining areas not only for us, but also for all the potential visitors to the Western Cape? In so doing promoting tourism to our City and Province. Our group helps the City staff to try and achieve this goal.

The invasive vegetation often dominates areas where it grows, and tends to suppress the indigenous plants. These exotic plants grow very quickly, removing large amounts of water from the soil and they also create a shade covering canopy in the process. This prevents the sunlight reaching the ground, where the low growing ground covers, bulbs and seedlings struggle to grow in the shade. The exotic plants can and some do alter the soil characteristic by adding nitrogen to it.

The fynbos vegetation usually grows in nitrogen poor soils. Another reason these invasive plants tend to dominate is that their host insects and parasites are not present.

The main species we remove are Port Jackson, Rooikrans, Long leaf Acacia, Manatoka, Brazilian Pepper, Lantana, Cestrum, Pampas, Australian Myrtle (on the mountain), Spanish Broom, Pattersons Curse, Wild Mustard, Prickly Pear and many others. A number of these species are garden escapees into the Reserve areas. We work an area to remove the large trees and shrubs to open up an area. Then at a later stage we have to revisit or follow-up in the same area, to remove the new seedlings, which were part of the seed bank deposited by the trees. Many invasive seeds are also bird dispersed.

The hacks takes place every, 2nd Saturday afternoon of the month at 14h00.

Contact Gavin Lawson on or 021 705 5224.

This is an opportunity to “give back” with some of your time and effort. You can also learn and see more of the surrounding Nature Reserve, where we as CBC members enjoy regular outings, and have done so for many years.

Hacking Wildwood Island 2004
Alan Morris, David Osborne & Una Hartley - Hack at Wildwood Island in Dec 2004

Alan Morris (who initiated the hacks at Zandvlei in the 1970s when he was Chairman of the CBC), David Osborne and Una Hartley serving tea for all – Wildwood Island 05/12/2004.

Una Hartley a non – CBC member, has hacked and cleared litter continuously for more than 25 years at Zandvlei. A BIG THANK YOU to Una for all the dedicated effort, time, enthusiasm, hard work and friendship you have given. For years Una supplied, carried the tea things, made the tea and her famous Herman – cake for every one who came to hack.

What are you doing to conserve the birding habitat at the Zandvlei Nature Reserve?
Would you like to help? Contact Gavin Lawson on or 021 705 5224.


This is a working relationship with the City of Cape Town and the Cape Bird Club. View some of our past hacks below, why not join us next time and see what it is all about?


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