South Africa — A rescue mission has been launched to save critically endangered geometric tortoises following the huge four-day veld fire in Tulbagh.
About 100 geometric tortoises had been rescued by yesterday, as well as another 100 common parrot-beaked tortoises and a few angulate tortoises.
CapeNature senior manager Dr Ernst Baard said the rescue was launched to save as many as possible of geometric tortoises, which had lost most of their habitat.
Many of the tortoises survive the fire, but then die due to their injuries, trauma and the lack of food, water or shelter after the fire. This search-and-rescue mission aims to locate as many as possible of the surviving tortoises to hydrate and provide them with care, so that they can be released back into the area when the veld recovers from the fire, he said.
While fire is detrimental to the geometric tortoise, endangered plant species may need fire for their survival, CapeNature spokeswoman Marietjie Engelbrecht said.
She said the Elandsberg Nature Reserve conserves two endangered vegetation types Swartland Alluvium Fynbos and Swartland Shale Renosterveld.
They wanted to save from the fire numerous endemic plant species, including the Elandsberg Brunsvigia (brunsvigia elandmontana), the Dagger-leaf Protea (protea mucronifolia) and the Elandsberg Peacock Moraea (moraea villosa).
CapeNature staff, UWC scientists, staff members of the Elandsberg Nature Reserve and several volunteers are scouring the area.
The fire crossed over the Elandskloof Mountains, raged through the Elandsberg Nature Reserve and destroyed most of the low-lying areas where geometric tortoises live.
The Tulbagh fire was put out after it spread across the Waterval mountains, burning down about 60 percent of a government-owned pine plantation.