With the support of SANBI’s Rhodes University-based Eastern Cape co-ordintaor, Ms Vathiswa Zikishe, UCPP established a dedicated CREW group (Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers) in late 2018. CREW groups consist of volunteers, and are located in several parts of the country, especially in high biodiversity areas, with the aim of recording threatened and vulnerable indigenous plant species and contribuiting to their protection and improved consevation status .
This group was established to bridge the huge data gap in the endemic-rich southern Drakensberg region, and the Eastern Cape province as a whole, to afford the region a higher biodiversity status that could be more nationally recognised. This was also seen as a first step in establishing data for the stewardship biodiversity assessment of a 70 000 ha proposed watershed stewardship project fostered by a Green Trust investment and led by ECPTA with GEF-5 support. This also promoted awareness and education around the importance of bidiversity, engaging citizen scientists in plant monitoing activities, and supporting the battle against illegal harvesting of medicinal plants.
Despite the drought conditions due to late rains, outings in December 2018 and January 2019 in the proposed watershed park target area above the 1800m contour north of Matatiele still revealed a lot of endemic and two endangered species. A plant collection permit allowed samples to be gathered and pressed, and taken to the herbarium to be positively identified and recorded. This included two endangered species (Alepedia endemic to this richly diverse mountain area).