A small population of critically endangered fresh water fish, the Heuningnes Redfin, has been found in fragmented river systems in the Overberg. The discovery was made recently by conservationists working on a watercourse restoration project in the area.

While conducting a water course restoration project in critically endangered Renosterveld vegetation, conservationist Keir Lynch discovered two fresh water fish species, Cape Kurper as well as a small population of the critically endangered Heuningnes Redfin was found in some of the Overberg Renosterveld rivers systems. These small fish are known in the upper reaches of Fynbos Rivers, but were unknown in the Renosterveld.

“This is a Cape Kurper which is also one of the endemic species that is only found in the Western Cape so it occurs nowhere else in the world except in our water systems. One of the fantastic things with these fish it’s an opportunity to measure the health of the river system and when we have a look at Renosterveld, which is the ecosystem which is found on the shale soils of the Overberg area, it’s the areas that have largely been converted into agricultural production land over the last 100 years which means that a lot of the natural ecosystems have unfortunately been lost. Of the original extend only 5% of that remains, most of that occurs along our watercourse areas very steep areas or wetland areas that were too rocky to plough. So the fact that these fish have managed to survive within in this type of environment, on the lowlands within an agricultural landscape which is quite incredible,” Lynch, Project Manager and Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust’s Keir Lynch said.

The Watercourse restoration project in the Overberg area focuses on building relationships with landowners, to assist with restoring the remaining natural Renosterveld vegetation on private and agricultural land.

Dr Odette Curtis-Scott, Director of the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust says the Overberg Renosterveld is considered one of the world’s richest Mediterranean ecosystems, but also the most threatened.

“It’s considered one of the world’s richest Mediterranean ecosystems, but also the most threatened. We are working very hard to partner with landowners across the Overberg wheat belt to get them to see the benefit of conserving Renosterveld and to appreciate the uniqueness as an ecosystem and as a habitat.”

By restoring these terrestrial ecosystems, they act as a critical buffer system to aquatic systems. They filter sediment and pesticides that flow from agricultural land and prevent the pollution of the watercourses and rivers. These small remaining pockets of Renosterveld are the lifeblood keeping these landscapes and indigenous fish species alive.