Toyota SA, in collaboration with BirdLife South Africa, Rand Water’s Water Wise team and the Rare Finch Conservation Group, held the first-ever Flufftail Festival Educational Excursion at Toyota’s Atlas Road plant in Boksburg, Gauteng.
The excursion hosted Grade 6 pupils from MW De Wet Primary School with the aim of raising awareness about the conservation and preservation of water, wetlands and waterbirds. Wetlands are South Africa’s most threatened habitat, with more than 50% of the country’s wetlands having been transformed or damaged through land-use changes and human-related activities.The event took place outside, in the open fields of the plant, near Toyota’s very own conserved wetland – the Parkhaven Pan. Before diving into the outside activities lined up across four separate stations, the learners were given an insightful talk on wetlands and environmental operations at the Atlas Road plant by Dr Andries Botha, Toyota South Africa’s Senior Manager: BI and Production Administration.
Thereafter, they split up into groups to take part in several activities and games supervised by the Water Wise team, designed to teach people about water, wetlands and waterbirds. Through the various interactive games, posters and models the learners were exposed to, they learnt about how wetlands function and how they are destroyed. Additionally, they had an opportunity to see a real wetland and some of the waterbirds that live in it up close at the end of the activities, when they were shown the Parkhaven Pan adjacent to the Toyota plant.
Toyota South Africa was a proud sponsor of the Atlas Road Flufftail Festival, and many of the learners were inspired by the “Start your impossible” and “Small is BIG” message. Hopefully they will go on to grow their passions, and will remain mindful of their responsibility in helping to protect the environment.
Why Wetlands are so important
Wetlands provide important ecosystem services, including the cleaning of water through filtration, a reduction in flooding and the storage of large quantities of water, which is then released slowly into the river systems below the wetland. They are also an important habitat for highly specialised fauna and flora that, thanks to specially adapted biology, can only be found within this wet landscape. These include sedges (Carex), bulrushes (Typha) and reeds (Phragmites), which are only able to grow in the wetlands’ extremely wet soils.
Unique birds, such as the critically endangered White-winged Flufftail (a small, rare bird only found in high-altitude wetlands), the Wattled Crane and the Orange-breasted Waxbill are all associated with wetlands.
The festival was named after this particular species because it is possibly the rarest bird in Africa, with fewer than 250 individuals left in the world. Its biggest threat is the loss of its pristine, high-altitude wetland habitat through drainage of wetlands for mining and agriculture.
For more than 15 years, BirdLife South Africa has been working to understand more about this elusive bird, and has recently uncovered the previously unknown call of this species. Through events such as the Flufftail Festival, BirdLife South Africa and its partners are helping young South Africans understand the importance of various ecosystems, as well as how critical water conservation, wetlands and waterbirds are to our future.