Klapmutskop, South Africa — a conservancy in the Stellenbosch winelands shared by wine farms Delheim, Warwick, Elsenburg, Le Bonheur and East Hill – was ravaged by fires on Wednesday last week. Years of work have gone into protecting the renosterveld and into a massive seed propagation project to protect rare species, a media release states.
In 2000, a process involving the clearing of alien trees from the slopes of Klapmutskop revealed a rare 300 year-old yellowwood forest at the top. Wednesday’s blaze has burnt the renosterveld and fynbos on the Klapmutskop slopes but, although the yellowwood forest was damaged it has not been destroyed.
At one stage there were three helicopters water-bombing the fire, focusing their effort on the forest, while a team from Delheim tried to avert damage to vines. Warwick, on the east side of the koppie, also prevented the fire from entering their vineyards. Says Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick, “A major tragedy was averted through an amazing partnership between the wine estates threatened and the South African Air Force. Pictures and video cannot convey the immense scale or the intense heat of the fire.”
Speaking on behalf of the conservancy, Delheim’s Victor Sperling said: “We are deeply saddened by this. The fact that so much of our dedication and hard work to protect the area can be lost in an afternoon is very disappointing. We just hope that some of the rare renosterveld species will re-grow soon so that our work with the Millennium Seed Bank may continue.”
The exact cause of the blaze is not yet known but the conservancy members are meeting early next week to discuss the matter.