• Post category:2021 / News
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20 January 2021 | By Sarah Davies, John Measey and John Wilson

Understanding and managing biological invasions requires a whole range of different skills, but often scientists and managers can feel that they are working in isolation. This is where communities of practice have been found to be useful in closing the gap between invasive species researchers and practitioners. The CAPE Invasive Alien Animal Working Group (CAPE IAAWG) is one such community of practice made up of a range of managers and scientists working on the management or control of invasive alien animals and provides a forum for them to cooperate and learn from one another and discuss issues that present difficulties or challenges. The C·I·B was a founder member of the group and several members of staff as well as core team members and students regularly attend the forum. Sarah Davies, Johns Measey and Wilson, Sabrina Kumschick, Elrike Marais and numerous postgraduate students have attended regularly over the years. Today the forum is a very successful community of practice that is accessible to all those who are involved in managing invasive alien animal populations within the Cape Floral Region.

There are many organisations in South Africa that have invasive alien species management as one of their responsibilities (or ‘mandates’), such as provincial nature conservation authorities (CapeNature), protected area managers (SANParks), biosecurity authorities (DEFF) and NGOs such as the National Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which is charged with ensuring that animals are not mistreated. In addition, many universities and research organisations conduct research on invasive alien animals. The working group brings these role-players together two to three times a year to discuss ongoing projects and emerging issues. The geographical scope of the group is largely defined by the Cape Floral Region, which includes most of the Western Cape and the western part of the Eastern Cape. In addition to being a forum for learning and discussion, the group aims to enhance cooperation among stakeholders such as implementing agencies and researchers, and thereby improve the management of invasive animals in the Greater Cape Floristic Region.

Our recent paper sets out the achievements and challenges faced by the forum from its establishment in 2008 to 2018, as a ten-year review; a free-to-access book chapter also sets out experience and lessons from the group.

The working group was regularly attended by 19 organisations at national, provincial and local municipality level. The group discussed and advised on 35 animal groups or species from earthworms to mallards to feral pigs (see Fig. 1). Our discussions led to the establishment or supported eight fully-fledged projects that address research on management and control methods in House Crows, Guttural Toads, Mallard Ducks, Feral Pigs, invasive freshwater fishes, marine invasions, including European Shore Crabs, Wasps and Earthworms. In addition to assisting decision makers, the forum also supports the work of post-graduate students, for example the PhD project of Dr Giovanni Vimercati on the invasion of Guttural Toads in the Western Cape (this species is native to the summer rainfall parts of SA), Kirstin Stephens’ MSc project on the effects of the Mallard Duck (native to north America and Eurasia) on our native ducks (through hybridisation with native yellow-billed ducks) and Clova Mabin’s PhD study on feasibility of marine eradications using European Shore Crabs as a case study. See below for all links related to these projects.

For researchers in the working group, the discussions provide valuable material for identifying research projects and anchoring them in real-world needs and priorities. When students working on invasive alien animal projects attend CAPE IAAWG meetings, they receive input, feedback and suggestions on the applied aspects of their work, as well as exposure to real world issues and insight into policy and management. Students also realise the importance of practical issues that need to be considered when research results are implemented. Their perspective on their work is broadened to include issues that many researchers do not become aware of until much later in their careers. These projects were supervised by working group members and the students participated in the working group for the duration of their projects.

The forum members feel that the group has played a vital role in linking researchers, managers, and policy-makers and contributed to better communication with the public, smoother contract efficiency and logistics, and helped to address conflicts between role players. The group members have collectively learnt about the importance of including ethical and rights considerations in the decision-making processes for invasive alien animal management.

The CAPE IAAWG requires little in the way of funding and relatively few hours are spent in meetings, making it an efficient tool for improving invasive alien species management in SA provinces and cities. We have found the CAPE IAAWG to be highly productive and thank our organisations for providing the time (and the joint secretariat of Cape Nature and City of Cape Town). There are several other such working groups operating within South Africa and we’d encourage other groups to establish and maintain similar such groups.

Species and topics discussed over time at the CAPE Invasive Alien Animals Working Group meetings
Figure 1. Species and topics discussed over time at the CAPE Invasive Alien Animals Working Group meetings. The bars span the period over which a species appeared on the agenda for discussion. Ticks on the x-axis represent the dates that meetings took place.

Links to paper and book chapters

Davies SJ, Bell JA, Impson D, Mabin C, Meyer M, Rhoda C, Stafford L, Stephens K, Tafeni M, Turner AA, Van Wilgen NJ, Wilson JRU, Wood J and Measey J 2020. Coordinating invasive alien species management in a biodiversity hotspot: The CAPE Invasive Alien Animals Working Group. Bothalia-African Biodiversity & Conservation ISSN: (Online) 2311-9284, (Print) 0006-8241 https://doi.org/10.38201/btha.abc.v50.i1.10

Davies, S.J., Jordaan, M.S., Karsten, M., Terblanche, J.S., Turner, A.A., Van Wilgen, N.J., Veldtman, R., Zengeya, T. & Measey, J. 2020, ‘Experience and lessons from alien and invasive animal control projects carried out in South Africa’, in B.W. van Wilgen, J. Measey, D.M. Richardson, J.R. Wilson, & T. Zengeya (eds.), Biological Invasions in South Africa, pp. 629-664, Springer, Berlin. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_22

Byrne MJ, Davies SJ, du Plessis D, Ivey PJ, Measey J, Robertson MP, Robinson TB, Weaver KN (2020) Education, training and capacity building in the field of biological invasions in South Africa. In: van Wilgen BW, Measey J, Richardson DM, Wilson JR, Zengeya TA (Eds) Biological invasions in South Africa, pp. 731-755. Springer, Berlin. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_25

Links to post-graduate student papers