Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction. Destruction on this scale poses a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival. This is the conclusion of a sweeping new United Nations assessment.

In other words, humans must stop the pace of wildlife extinctions — or face extinction themselves.

But why exactly is biodiversity so important to humanity?

Naturally biodiverse wildlife supports healthy ecosystems that we rely on. Conservation researchers Paul and Anne Ehrlich explain that species are to ecosystems what rivets are to a plane’s wing. Losing one might not be a disaster, but each loss adds to the likelihood of a serious problem.

Biodiversity is good for the economy. Biodiversity is an integral part of culture and identity and it is an essential part of the solution to climate change.

Here in the Overstrand, we are right at the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom where plant diversity is the highest in the world. We therefore have the responsibility – no, the obligation – to protect our wild places.

The truth is, we are doing fairly well. The Overstrand has a large number of protected areas, from the internationally recognised Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, Provincial reserves such as Walker Bay Nature Reserve, Maanschynkop and de Mond, to municipal reserves such as Fernkloof, Kleinmond and Rooiels. There are also magnificent private nature reserves – Grootbos and Vogelgat come immediately to mind. Furthermore many landowners have formed joint conservancies to protect the biodiversity on their land.

Each new nature reserve or protected place is therefore a reason to rejoice. One such lesser-known reserve is Phillipskop Private Nature Reserve near Stanford.

Each month Whale Coast Conservation tries to find interesting adventures for our members. This month we are visiting Phillipskop. On Wednesday 22 May we will take you on a walk in the reserve, guided by owners Chris and Anna Whitehouse.

You will walk about 2 km through pristine fynbos, stopping to examine special species. At the cave you will learn more about the ancient Khoe (Khoi) and San paintings discovered there in 2016.

Phillipskop rock art site is special. It is currently the only recorded rock art on the Cape Whale Coast. The paintings, which depict a group of men, an antelope, and various decorated hand-prints and finger dots, represent both the San hunter-gatherer and the Khoe herder traditions which began thousands of years ago and persisted into early colonial times.

Although there are many thousands of rock art sites in the Western Cape, the majority of these are clustered in areas such as the Cederberg. Rock paintings in the Overberg are very rare. The rock art at Phillipskop extends the known geographical range of Khoe-San paintings.

Phillipskop Cave was recently added to the Cradle of Human Culture Route as a subsidiary site. Heritage Western Cape has designated the site as a Grade IIIA Heritage Site (High Local Significance). Anna Whitehouse will be our archaeology guide to explain the significance of the rock art in the cave.

Participants should meet at Phillipskop at 14h30. We will consolidate transport before we go. Our plan is to finish at about 16h30, but it could be later depending on the level of interest. Bring your own refreshments to enjoy under the picnic tree.

Participants should be walking-fit and good shoes, a walking stick and steady feet are advised. This adventure is weather-dependent.

The cost is R120 for adults and R60 for children. All proceeds go to environmental education at both Phillipskop and WCC.

Booking is essential. Please email or WhatsApp 083 242 3295.

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