Issue 13 ~ April 2019

The monthly newsletter of the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust

How your membership

can help the Breede

All estuaries in South Africa are under severe pressure resulting from over-exploitation of natural resources, habitat destruction and deterioration of water quality.

If you take an active interest in, or use, the Breede River Estuary we hope that we can persuade you to become a member of the LBRCT and to support our endeavours on your behalf by way of your contribution to these efforts.

The authorities who are ultimately responsible for ensuring protection of our valuable natural resources are contributing, however, they simply cannot afford to allocate sufficient of their available funds to meet the estuary’s conservation needs.

Your membership contribution supplements the funds obtained from the licence fees paid by users of boats; the municipalities by way of supplementary grants constrained by their many other social upliftment and development imperatives, and grants from those government agencies to whom we are contracted.

There are 62 estuaries in the Western Cape and all need support. The Breede is one of the two largest and most important and we all need to play a role in preserving it. 100% of your membership subscriptions are put to the best possible use to help maintain the conservation infrastructure that has taken many years to put in place and initiate new projects such as:

• Turtle and penguin rescue transport

• Environmental education programmes

• Holiday activity programmes

• Funding conservation interns

• Printing brochures, pamphlets, posters and information packs

• Producing and erecting signage

• Materials and equipment for monitoring projects

For R 100 a year, you can assist us with all of the above and add your voice that is so important to ensure that your opinions and concerns are heard. The LBRCT can speak more authoritatively when dealing with the vast number of threats, regulations and legislation that already affect the estuary with the backing of a sizeable member base.

Please think about the future of the estuary and the importance of maintaining its good health for you and your children’s benefit through supporting our effort.

The Milkwood


Sideroxylon inerme (white milkwood, Afrikaans: wit-melkhout) is an indigenous coastal tree, with dense foliage, black berries and small, greenish flowers. The tree's generic name means "Iron-wood" in Greek, referring to its very hard timber. It has been used as a general purpose timber for building boats, bridges and mills.

It is one of South Africa's Protected Trees and several specimens are provincial heritage sites. This is the only member of the genus Sideroxylon in southern Africa.

A special feature of this tree is that it makes an excellent firebreak. In the Veld & Flora of June 2006, Andrea Durrheim describes in a letter to the Editor how a row of milkwood trees stopped a fire dead in its tracks behind her cottage. A similar situation was observed during the 2006 fires around Grootbos Nature Reserve. People with beach or holiday houses situated where fires frequently occur, should consider planting a row of milkwoods as a firebreak.


The Sideroxylon inerme trees are scattered through the coastal woodlands and littoral (a region lying along a shore) forests of South Africa as far as Zimbabwe. Historically, dense forests of large milkwood trees used to exist along the coast and bays of Cape Town, especially at Noordhoek, Macassar and Gordons Bay. The milkwood is not endangered but it is one of South Africa's protected trees, and thus it is illegal to damage, move or destroy them.

They are semi-coastal sturdy broadleaf evergreen trees with dense foliage, displays of white bisexual flowers and edible purplish-black berries. It boasts leathery, spiral leaves, which, like the berries, contain milky latex. Young branches and new leaves are always covered with fine hairs. The tree can reach 15 m.

The milkwood has considerable value in traditional medicine and attracts birds and other animals to its flowers and fruits : Speckled mousebirds eat the flowers ; birds, bats, monkeys and bush pigs eat the fruit. It is also an effective firebreak and is cultivated for that purpose.

Protection status:

White milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme) and the red milkwood (Mimusops caffra) are dominant keystone species on the coast and are protected because of their aesthetic and ecological role.

A list of 47 tree species have been declared as protected under the National Forests Act of 1998, (Act No. 84 of 1998). No such trees may be cut without a licence under section 15 of this Act. Trees such as white or red milkwood are forest species that sometimes occur outside forests and are listed as protected tree species. Cutting or pruning also requires a licence, except if less than 25% of the crown is pruned, but not for the topping of such trees, and not for new development or redevelopment (exemptions published in Government Gazette no. 773 of 27 August 2007). No topping or excessive pruning for sea views are allowed.

Historical significance:

The white milkwood has great significance in South Africa's heritage, with three specimens proclaimed as provincial heritage sites:

  • The Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay is believed to be 600 years old. The Post Office tree, which still stands at Santos Beach, is considered the first (unofficial) post office in South Africa. It was declared a provincial heritage site in 1938 and is marked with a plaque reading: “This post office tree stands near the fountains where the Portuguese navigators regularly drew water at Aguada de São Bras (now Mossel Bay) from 1488 onwards. In May 1500 Pêro de Ataíde, captain of a homeward bound ship of Pedro Cabral’s fleet, left a message here which was found on 7 July 1507 by the outward bound ships of João da Nova. According to tradition the message was placed in an old shoe and tied to a tree”. The seven-year-old letter described the loss at sea of four ships from the expedition of Bartolomeu Dias, and warned of hostilities encountered on the Indian coast. In 1962 SAPO, the South African postal service, erected a mailbox at the tree in the shape of a shoe, and items posted from there are cancelled with a special stamp.

  • The Treaty Tree in Woodstock, Cape Town stood next to the house where in 1806 the Batavian Republic (the modern Netherlands) surrendered Cape Town to the British after the battle of Blaauwberg.

  • The Fingo Milkwood near Peddie in the Eastern Cape was the location where in 1835 the Fengu people signed a treaty of alliance with the British king and the Cape Colony.

April bird count

Despite many of the summer migrant species that visit the Breede River Estuary over summer having left for the Northern Hemisphere, we were still able to record 692 birds and 32 species.

The most abundant birds were two South African resident waterfowl species: Egyptian geese (188 birds) and Yellow-billed ducks (119 birds). These two duck species and South African shelducks (66 birds) were most abundant on the mudflats.

Kelp gulls (86 birds) were most abundant on the sandbanks near the Breede mouth.

We were still lucky enough to find seven species of summer migrants still using the Breede River Estuary. This included two species of tern: common and sandwich terns.

Other interesting birds seen were Jackal buzzards and African spoonbills.

African Darter2
African Oystercatcher6
African Spoonbill14
Blacksmith Lapwing21
Cape Cormorant9
Cape Teal1
Cape wagtail1
Caspian Tern2
Common Greenshank11
Common Tern1
Common-ringed Plover22
Egyptian Goose188
Fork-tailed Drongo1
Grey Heron5
Grey Plover27
Hadeda Ibis3
Jackal Buzzard2
Kelp Gull86
Laughing Dove2
Little Egret8
Pied kingfisher1
Red-eyed dove1
Reed Cormorant8
Sacred Ibis28
Sandwich tern1
South African Shelduck66
Spur-winged Goose36
Terek Sandpipers5
White-breasted Cormorant1
White-necked Raven2
Yellow-billed Duck119
Grand Total692

April marine debris

During the Oysterbeds litter survey, 236 pieces of litter were recorded, with 33% being fishing line. This accounted for 78 metres of fishing line. As with other months, cigarette butts are still an important litter category and they accounted for 13.1% of all litter collected. Other important litter categories found were glass pieces and food wrappers. Further odds and ends found during the survey include glowsticks, shoes and a t-shirt.

6-pack holders40.54%
Beverage Bottles (Glass)101.35%
Beverage Bottles (Plastic)527.00%
Beverage Cans20.27%
Bottle Caps (Metal)50.67%
Bottle Caps (Plastic)527.00%
Cigarette Butts334.44%
Construction Materials10.13%
Fishing bouys, pots and traps70.94%
Fishing Line18224.50%
Fishing nets91.21%
Foam piece10.13%
Foam pieces70.94%
Food wrappers354.71%
Forks, Knives10.13%
Glass Pieces263.50%
Glasses strap10.13%
Grocery bags70.94%
Other plastic bags233.10%
Other plastic/foam packaging729.69%
Paper cups and plates20.27%
Plastic cups and plates50.67%
Plastic Pieces364.85%
Strapping bands233.10%
T-shirt piece10.13%
Take Away Containers (Plastic)30.40%
Take out containers (plastic)30.40%
Tobacco Wrap70.94%
Other Plastic bottles233.10%
Grand Total743100.00%

Thank you for reading

We hope you enjoyed this months' issue. Should you have any feedback, questions, or matters you would like us to cover in a future issue, please do not hesitate to write to us at news@breede-river.org. 


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