Sustainable SA: Aliens (& Water Heroes) in our midst


For WWF’s Rodney February, alien spotting is an almost daily activity. We’re talking invasive alien vegetation that is now part of our skyline and landscapes.

South Africa is a water scarce country and so we need to protect our locally adapted plants that are able to prosper in sandy, drier soils in particular during times of drought. Alien trees, by contrast, consume vast quantities of water and have shallow root systems that cause soil erosion and upset the delicate natural balance.

The most water thirsty of these are pine trees, gums or eucalyptus, black wattle and Port Jackson. The latter two, in particular, have fast-sprouting saplings which crowd out indigenous plants and compete for natural resources – especially water!

WWF’s Rodney February tests a home-made raft while working on a stretch of river in the Riviersonderend area

A career in clearing

Raised in Wynberg, Rodney grew up exploring Table Mountain and the mountains of the Boland where he saw rivers in a natural and healthy state. Over time he has watched many rivers become infested with alien species – and his passion to do something about this has grown.

As implementation manager in the WWF’s Freshwater Programme, Rodney is among many water heroes in this country who are making a difference.

“We can’t have an alien plant monoculture – not only because it out competes fynbos but because alien plants steal water from our river systems and our society. By clearing alien vegetation we improve water quantity and quality for agriculture, industry and people. It is an investment and a priority,” he says with a sense of urgency.

For many years, Rodney and his freshwater colleagues at WWF have been working in partnership with committed corporates to clear affected river systems. More recently the focus has been on the Riviersonderend catchment – a 100km tributary of the Breede River in one of the Western Cape’s strategic water source areas, the Boland Water Source Area.

Across South Africa’s high rainfall areas there are 22 strategic water source areas. They cover only 10% of our land, yet they provide half of the water in our rivers and dams!

The Journey of Water 2019 in the Riviersonderend catchment area will look at sites where alien vegetation has been removed and indigenous palmiet (pictured here) has been re-established to improve river health


Follow the Journey of Water 2019

Learn more about aliens, water source areas and what is happening in a Cape river by following WWF’s fourth Journey of Water in the Riviersonderend catchment from 11 to 13 March 2019.

The journey will see a select group of celebrities and media go on a hiking, biking, paddling and ziplining adventure. Along the way they will meet the water heroes, like Rodney and a few residents of Genadendal, who are making a difference to increase the flow of water into our rivers.

Water takes a long and complex journey from mountain source to city or town tap. Besides water-thirsty aliens, threats to our water security include a changing climate, more frequent wildfires and human activities such as farming, mining and forestry. By clearing alien vegetation and restoring our natural environment, we keep our rivers healthy and ensure that more water is available for use downstream. Simple maths!

For more information, visit



Donate Voyager Miles to WWF and stand to win a rhino experience

By donating 50 000 of your Voyager Miles, you and a partner could win a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal and participate in the darting of a rhino for conservation purposes – be it for dehorning, transport or collaring (this will be a ground exercise and not an airlift). The prize for two includes return domestic flights to Durban from any major South African airport, two nights in luxury accommodation and return transfers. Follow WWF South Africa on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for competition news and the winner announcement. The competition closes on 31 March and the winner will be announced in mid-April.


Donating miles is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

  1. Log into your Voyager account at
  2. Choose “Voyager Shopping” and select “Donate Miles”
  3. Under “Target Account”, select WWF and make your donation



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