The objective of this workshop, held at the University of Venda (UNIVEN) in late 2011, was to determine biodiversity hotspots in the VBR based on species richness and occurrence of rare and endangered species. It also served to collate existing information on ecosystems and the drivers of biodiversity loss. Species richness and rarity information are incomplete so this will have to be refined as more data becomes available. However, the results of the workshop provide a good starting point for prioritization of areas in future biodiversity conservation planning.
Local professionals share time and expertise
A number of local professionals gave up their time and expertise to present available data and assist with the analysis including the following UNIVEN academics: Chipo Kaseke (indigenous conservation), Rod Baxter (small mammals), Stefan Foord (spiders, dragonflies), Paul Fouche (aquatic ecosystems), Birthe Linden (primates), Caswell Munyai (ants) and Peter Taylor (bats). Local agricultural consultant Dries Alberts presented on eco-agriculture, Ben van der Waal (retired from UNIVEN but active on the VBR Committee) presented on fish diversity and Jabu Linden (VBR Committee) presented on amphibian and reptile diversity. Sarah Venter of the Soutpansberg – Limpopo Bird Route provided data on bird diversity and bird 'specials'. The workshop was convened by Ian Gaigher (Lajuma Research Centre/VBR Conservation Committee) who gave an overview of terrestrial ecosystems, plant diversity and drivers of biodiversity loss in the region.
Next Step: Drawing up a conservation plan
The workshop agreed that the next step required is to draw up a conservation management plan for the VBR. It was also agreed that staff and students of the University of Venda, particularly those doing modules in Conservation Biology, could play an important role in filling the gaps in the knowledge.