WEENEN HO GROUP
The Weenen Nature Reserve Honorary Officers (HO) group is a small group consisting of only 12 members and work directly under the Officer in charge (OIC) Mr. Frik Lemmer. Our role is to support the OIC and staff on the reserve with various projects as determined by the OIC. Our group is very dynamic as it consists of members with vast age differences and skill sets and therefore able to offer a lot of support and expertize. All group members live far from the Reserve and therefore we need to co-ordinate all our efforts by arranging work day`s and weekends to get work done. We have a very good working relationship with the OIC and staff and share the same passion and goals.
After the completion of the Enviro loo installation at uMthombe picnic site, water tank and tap installations at Sanctuary picnic site, screens at Impofu Hide and new auto trail signs on the reserve the OIC requested that we focus all our resources and energy on the revamp of the Nyandu Environmental camp. Knowing that this was a large project we decided to break the project down into smaller projects and to complete each project before moving onto the next. Although we had funding from external funders, we knew that we still needed to raise funds for the shortfall. We would have to rely on donations and negotiate discounts to purchase the necessary material. By doing a lot of the work ourselves we would save money and ensure that the work is done to a high standard.
Nyandu`s kitchen was an old army tent; erected approximately 30years ago when the original camp was built by the Weenen HO`s. Wear and tear had taken its toll and was not suitable or functional anymore. We managed to secure a sponsor from Bracken Timbers in Greytown to sponsor all the timber required to build the roof trusses ourselves. Roofing screws were sponsored by Aheers and with the guidance of a professional builder (one of the group members’ father). Once all 11 trusses were completed, the trusses were stored in the Weenen Nature Reserve workshop until it was time to erect them. The OIC meanwhile erected the support poles, built the walls and replaced the floor. We hosted our first and successful birding weekend in November 2017 which made it possible to purchase brand new chromadek for the kitchen roof. The OIC put in a new stove, fridge, freezer and a solar system for lighting. All the old tables and cupboards were refurbished by Weenen staff. The kitchen worktop was sponsored and fitted by two of the group members to round it all off. The kitchen was not enclosed completely, therefore all parties were concerned that the equipment would damage over time and inclement weather could make it uncomfortable for guests. With the funds raised at our 2018 Birding weekend and the consent of our guests we decided to install roll-up blinds.
The tents were our next project as the old the tents supplied by the Weenen HO`s years ago had fallen into a state of disrepair. The Weenen HO`s purchased 6 brand new tents a few years ago and were kept in storage until the revamp started. The old tents were taken down and a decision was made to donate the best of them to a rural school in the area, which they needed for field trips and school excursions. We are sure they will be put to good use. The new tents were supplied with aluminium poles and nylon guide ropes, past experience taught us that the tents could not withstand the weather elements as they started to sag and ultimately cause the tents to damage and tear. A quotation was obtained to make up metal poles but R26 000 was far too expensive and this was only the labour part. The decision was taken to purchase the material and to do the work ourselves. Triple-T Transport was willing to accommodate us with their workshop to do the necessary fabrication. All the poles were made up from steel and galvanized to protect them from rust. The plastic bobbins on top of the poles were replaced with turned metal bobbins for extra strength. All nylon guide ropes were replaced with chain and metal cable that were made up by the HO`s. We felt that the tent pegs that came with the tents were too small and would not keep the guide ropes at the correct tension, new much larger pegs were purchased. We were now sure that the frame construction was solid and the tents were ready to be erected on the foot pieces the OIC had already upgraded with concrete stepping blocks.
Showers & Toilets:
The original showers were made from a double layer of reeds, unfortunately rodents had made nests between the reed walls and it was no longer hygienic to use as ablutions. New chromadek was used and the HO`s replaced all the internal walls, some of the wooden structure was replaced as water damage caused it to rot. The roof was replaced by the HO`s as uniformity was important to match the new kitchen roof. The OIC installed lights and two new gas geysers to get the showers fully functional. We still need to raise funds to replace the shower curtains, basins, taps and shower heads.
The HO group replaced the roofs with new chromadek and replaced the walls in the same way as the showers.
The old wooden signs were damaged and did not look good, we sanded them down and re-varnished them. We still need to make four new signs to complete the sign project.
Other functions during the year:
The OIC requested our presence at the local Weenen festival as it would be good to promote the Reserve. We set up a stand with promotional material obtained from Di Martin and hosted kids club activities. Various game drives were done during the day by the HO`s to raised funds in our game viewing vehicle belonging to one of our members. We will be attending the 2019 festival again.
Our first Birding weekend was hosted in 2017; we set-up camp for our eight guests and specialist birder in tents in the Weenen camp site due to Nyandu not being up to standard. We were very fortunate to host our 2018 weekend at the newly refurbished Nyandu camp. We had a lot of repeat guests and it was a pleasure to show them that their funds had paid for the new kitchen roof. Our birding weekend had grown in popularity and the group had now grown to thirteen guests and two specialist birders. One hundred and thirty-six birds were identified in the two days.
Game Drive vehicle:
It is imperative for a good and reliable game viewing vehicle to do our fundraising projects on the reserve. One of our members was kind enough to make his land cruiser permanently available to us. A few of the group members assisted him to remove the roof and build a frame over the viewing seats, a canvas roof now covers the vehicle and guests are now comfortably seated in the shade. The vehicle was repainted and branded with the necessary Honorary Officer branding.
Weenen Nature Reserve needed their rhinos to be de-horned again and we were very fortunate to be part of this exercise funded by ERP. The HO group assisted with taking measurements and documenting all the necessary records.
The Nyandu camp revamp has been a very large but extremely rewarding project, we are very proud to have been an integral part of it. We still need to do a few of the finishing touches and continue in the future to take care and maintain the camp as it is valuable asset on the reserve. We will handle our list of new projects for 2019 with the same level of enthusiasm and continue our support to the Weenen Nature Reserve OIC, staff and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.