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WESSA Green Coast

WESSA Green Coast Award

We’re Officially in!

By Monica Maroun

A bit about WESSA

The Wildlife Society of South Africa (known as WESSA) is a South African environmental organisation which aims to initiate and support high impact environmental and conservation projects to promote participation in caring for the Earth. For over 90 years they have proactively engaged with the challenges and opportunities presented by our country’s unique natural heritage and the social and economic systems that depend on it.

WESSA is a membership organisation activating a wide range of local conservation initiatives through their membership network of branches and Friends groups.

WESSA is an integral part of the international environmental community: In addition to being the appointed operator in South Africa for five FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) programmes, they are a founder member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and, as a UNESCO partner, are supporting education for sustainable development across the southern African region.

WESSA has become a leading implementer of environmental initiatives Their work includes:

Tourism Green Coast

Developing youth tourism entrepreneurs along South Africa’s Wild Coast
South Africa’s Wild Coast

The Tourism Green Coast project was started in 2016 and focussed on a 300km stretch of coastline on South Africa’s Wild Coast. 

This project targeted 20 sensitive coastal sites that being utilized for low impact tourism and which include local community members into the tourism operations in the region. Through a partnership with the National Department of Tourism, WESSA placed over 100 previously disadvantaged youth from the region with 30 private tourism operators for a 2-year job placed mentorship. Each of the youth learners also received accredited training in Tourism Guiding and a range of additional entrepreneurship and professional development short courses. The intention of the Tourism Green Coast project was to “Train for Jobs” while supporting sustainable destination development along the Wild Coast. The Green Stewards recently graduated. The graduation for the 118 Green Stewards took place over four days at the end of July 2020.

Kei Mouth was well represented with 10 stewards being hosted by Kei Mouth Guesthouse, Kei Mouth Golf Course, Neptune’s Cove and Kei Mouth Revival.

  • The Green Coast Beach Stewards were required to:
    • Assist their tourism hosts with daily operations
    • Develop and uphold Green Key eco-label standards on site
    • Help establish the Green Coast eco-label at a nearby beach and conduct monitoring and data collection
    • Introduce the Eco-Schools programme at a nearby school, to increase coastal awareness and encourage environmental learning

Green Coast Award

The WESSA Green Coast award aims to actively promote “wild” beaches along our coastline. These beaches appeal to a specific sector of the tourism market who are looking for experiences in adventure, outdoor living and nature tourism along our coastline.

The Green Coast award has been developed to recognise those rural coastal sites which are managed according to standardised criteria and able to maintain a consistent improvement of conditions at the site.

Green Coast sites aim to protect one of three main coastal themes namely; sensitive habitats, species and cultural heritage. A Green Coast site is not just another stretch of protected coastline but rather a platform for collaboration, innovation and local public participation. 

The Green Coast award is an excellent opportunity for local citizens to act and become involved in efforts to improve and protect our incredible coastline. The objectives of Green Coast are two-fold. Firstly, it aims to provide a system for sustainable management of sensitive coastal spaces and secondly, to engage local citizens to become involved in management of these unique sites.

The award has been developed in a way that will allow for adequate monitoring and protection of the site, whilst also allowing for the development of low impact coastal tourism, should there be potential for this. The vision for the Green Coast award process is that a local organisation/s will partner with the local municipality in helping to apply for and sustain the award which will be made on an annual basis.

The Green Coast criteria include aspects of basic ecological monitoring which allow for the setup of exciting new citizen science initiatives. The Green Coast sites with their unique habitat, species and cultural heritage also provide ideal locations for outdoor learning and exemplary environmental education activities.

The Green Stewards had a number of requirements to meet during their two year mentorship programme, with one being to help establish the site where they were placed as a Green Coast stie. The Kei Mouth Stewards began this work and their groundwork has been invaluable in assisting Kei Mouth with applying for the Green Coast Award.

Kei Mouth Green Coast Award Application

To become a Green Coast Award site, Kei Mouth, and all sites had to go through and initial assessment phase where specified criteria needed to be met.

The application process included a number of steps, these being:

  1. Complete an application form
  2. Select a main site theme- either Habitat, species or Cultural Heritage
    • Kei Mouth chose to include two themes; Habitat and Species
    • The habitat to be monitored is the very unique mudstone shore near to the Great Kei River Mouth
    • The species to be monitored is the mangrove population on the southern bank of the Great Kei River
  3. We had to investigate and demarcate all potential places for waste discharge
  4. gathering information and creating a list of all tourism activities and accommodation providers in Kei Mouth
  5. Include a map of the site showing the above
  6. Create and submit a monitoring plan for the chosen themes
  7. With the assistance of WESSA- have a support letter signed by the municipality
Mudstone Shore monitoring sites

Kei Mouth Revival Group and Chrysalis Nature College have spear-headed the Kei mouth application.

Once all of the above was completed and the application submitted a site visit was conducted to assess the site. Thereafter our application went to the national jury to make the final decision.

We are very proud to announce that Kei Mouth has been awarded Green Coast Award status.

What next?

We will now have signage and a flag put up to identify Kei Mouth as a Green Coast Award site. There will be an official launch of Kei Mouth and four other Green Coast Award sites. We will have to re-apply for this status next year.

In order to keep our status we are required to meet the initial requirements and:

  • Monitor the site according to our monitoring plan- report on the data collected and monitoring conducted
  • Organise at least one beach clean-up and two environmental education programmes
  • Create an indigenous and invasive species list

The work has begun

Our monitoring plan states that we will conduct our monitoring surveys four times a year during the spring low tides of the solstices and the equinoxes. As September is an equinox month, we conducted our first official survey on the 16th and 17th of September 2020.

Collecting field data
Field Research & Monitoring Student, Danike Meyer collecting data
Dr Robertson-Andersson

In the same week on the 19th of September, opportunity presented itself once again. Saturday 19 September was international Coastal Cleanup day. We decided that it was a perfect opportunity to kickstart our Beach cleanups. We invited all Kei Mouth residents and extended a special invite to the children of iKwili Primary School. Our event was more successful than we could have imagined, with over 50 primary school children attending and another 20 Kei Mouth residents.

Dr Robertson-Andersson explaining about the plastic problem
Dr Robertson-Andersson explaining about the Plastic problem

Start a new hobby by staring out the window

Getting frustrated not being able to go anywhere? In South Africa it has now been nearly 5 weeks since lockdown started. I am sure that many or maybe even most of us are getting rather frustrated with being stuck at home.

Now is actually the perfect time to start a new hobby that will get you closer to nature and that you can carry on doing long after lockdown is over.

What is that you might ask? – Well the answer is staring out of the window and looking at the birds– more than 50 million people people worldwide can’t all be wrong.

So why look at birds?

They are fascinating creatures, that incidentally descended form dinosaurs. With more than 10 000 species and an estimated 40-60 individual birds per person.They are the only wild animals that are always around- and this makes them the most accessible animals to observe in nature.

Birds are a lot like people with a wide range of cultures, rituals and personalities. Just like us, ome like to stay near to home, while others are world travellers. Some are very specific about where they live and never venture further than the small territory that they make in your backyard.  Others, like to travel warmer climates in the winter, migrating to many different parts of the world . The Arctic tern holds the record for the longest ever migration. An individual flew a distance equal to twice around the world! Their average round trip is 90 000 km!

Arctic Tern holds the record for the longest journey ever taken!

Back to the birds in your backyard.  It is really easy to get to know these neighbours, with a little bit of close observation, you will get to know species and individuals really well. 

I heard it is expensive to do birdwatching

The birders will tell you that you need fancy equipment like a bird field guide and a good pair of binoculars- while this is true when you decide that birdwatching is the hobby for you.  It is quite possible to get started without these.

You could choose to merely observe behaviour and not worry about the bird’s name. But just as we like to know the names of those around us, you will at some point want to know the names of the birds that you are looking at.

Start with a free version of the Apps

For starters you could consider trying out the “lite” version of any number of birding apps. These apps usually have the more common birds on them, and will likely have information and the calls of birds in your garden.

You can upgrade to a paid version later if you want.  The great thing about the free versions is that you also get to try a few and decide which one ‘feels’ right for you.

So the big question is- “Where do I start?”

A good starting point, is to take your pen and notebook and write down everything that you know by looking at the bird.

If you have your phone or camera handy and the bird is not too far away, try taking a few photos of it- because it is not likely to hang around for very long. Photographs are more reliable than memory!

Then start going through the 8-step proven formula for identifying birds:

  1. Bird Family
  2. Size
  3. Bill
  4. Legs & Feet
  5. Plumage & Markings
  6. Eye colour
  7. Behaviour
  8. Habitat

Here are 8 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I know which family it belongs to?
  • Is it a crow, dove or sparrow??

2. How big is it?

  • Is it a small, medium or large bird?

3. What does it’s bill look like?

  • Is it short and stubby, is it long and slender?
  • Does it have a sharp point?
  • What could type of food would it be able to eat with that bill?

4. Now take a closer look at the legs and feet

Do they look powerful or dainty?

5. Now you can finally look at colour

By now you should have a pretty good idea of the make-up of your bird.

If you still don’t have enough information:

6. Try to get a closer look at the eyes

7. What is the bird doing?

8. Finally- where is it?

When you have all of this information gathered -it is best to write or dictate all of this before even trying to figure out what it is.

Now you can work out what it is- either using your field guide, or the app that you just downloaded, or if you managed to get a photograph a local birding group can help, or try i-spot.

Let us know if this has helped in the comments section

Once you have this one, try others.  Eventually it will be easy for you- and it is hard to describe the feeling of accomplishment when you finally figure out what that #$%^ bird is!

Below are some free and paid downloadable bird identification resources to get you started.

Click on the icon to go to each in the Google play store


The Sasol e.Birds of Southern Africa is an interactive version of the best-selling Sasol Birds of Southern Africa field guide. This application has specific features that will enhance your birding experience You can download a free sample version of the app to see how it works before you buy it

Roberts Bird Guide 2 The FIELD GUIDE displays the full pages of the book for instant comparison and identification. Search the family list or swipe the pages for a bird, play the sound, view the distribution, add to your list, view and compare similar birds, open the BIRD PAGE for text and photographs, or open the BIRD GUIDE list at the selected bird.

Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab. Free, instant bird ID help for 6,000+ birds for North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Answer the simple questions about a bird you are trying ot identify, and Merlin will come up with a lost of possible matches

The Audubon Bird Guide is a free and complete field guide to over 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket. Built for all experience levels, it will help you identify the birds around you, keep track of the birds you’ve seen, and get outside to find new birds near you.

NatureAi Bird ID: South African Garden Birds. They say”Birding has never been easier or more accessible for new and beginner birders. Through our Artificial Intelligence algorithms we take the frustration and confusion out of trying to identify bird species to ensure that your birding experience as a new birder is nothing but pure joy – as it was meant to be.”

GoBird- Guide to nearby birds. They say: “Discover and identify birds around you, for free, anywhere in the world

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