Renishaw Hills residents launch citizen science group that benefits environment

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The mid-KZN South Coast boasts incredible biodiversity, with the restoration of indigenous areas creating more space for local flora and fauna to thrive. As a way to track this trend, conserve biodiversity, and create a better connection with the natural world, a group of Renishaw Hills residents recently launched the Nature Action Group (NAG).

“Renishaw Hills has had its ‘Wildlife’ WhatsApp group for some time which is very popular with residents, providing a space for people to post images of various organisms for interest or identification,” explained Peter Small, NAG member and local nature enthusiast. “This indicated the level of enthusiasm for our biodiversity and, with the need for a hands-on approach to conserving our biodiversity, we established the Nature Action Group.”

Renishaw Hills is a coastal estate in Scottburgh that forms part of the 2.6-million-square-metre Renishaw Coastal Precinct. From the start, developers have been committed to the preservation of the natural environment. The team has partnered with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), guided by environmental consultants at SiVEST, to restore the natural wetlands within the Mpambanyoni Conservation Development.

This commitment to biodiversity is embraced by estate residents, with the Nature Action Group an extension of this passion. The group has been inspired by a book on butterflies that was compiled by Renishaw Hills resident, Erich Holm. The book was so well received that it was decided to expand on the concept and keep records of all life on the estate. This led to the establishment of Renishaw Rangers, where residents are encouraged to submit photographs of local fauna and flora on the iNaturalist platform.

“The whole idea of the project is to learn about our natural diversity, to become enthusiastic about the life around us, and to develop a reference library of life on our estate,” continued Small. “The major advantages of this citizen science project are that residents learn more about wildlife by having them identified by experts. They also gain insight into their distribution, seasonal movements and life cycles. We don’t need to be biologists or scientists to participate. We can simply collect observations in our normal day-to-day activities using our cellphones.”

Nature Action Group sightings and projects

The group has already made some 4 984 observations in the area, of a staggering 995 species. To date, some of the noteworthy recordings by NAG include a Bottletail Dragonfly on the Mpambanyoni River which is at least 500km south of any previous distribution record for this near-threatened species. Residents have also sighted the rare and vulnerable Peregrine Falcon breeding near the river. 

  • In terms of projects completed and still on the agenda, NAG keeps very busy. Examples include:
  • The first project for the group was the installation of owl boxes, kindly sponsored by residents, followed by the installation of a bat box;
  • NAG has provided expertise and assistance in the Mandawe wetland rehabilitation;
  • The team has been involved in tree labelling at the Butterfly Bend woodland on the estate;
  • They are also active in the rehabilitation of the Renishaw Heights Settlement Dam;
  • The group is responsible for the training of staff and residents regarding wildlife encounters; and
  • NAG has been called on to assist with human/wildlife conflict situations such as rats purportedly chewing internet fibre cables, snakes in houses and gardens, and birds soiling patios from their roosts.

NAG is currently arranging for Renishaw Rangers to participate in the Great Southern Bioblitz from 28 to 31 October. The event will highlight the immense biodiversity spread across the southern hemisphere in spring while engaging residents in science and nature by using the citizen science platform, iNaturalist.

Phil Barker of Renishaw Coastal Precinct said NAG reflected how the natural world was at the heart of the estate – and greater precinct: “The community is connected by a passion for conserving the natural world and embracing it through hiking, biking and nature excursions. As Renishaw Coastal Precinct unfolds, this nature-based focus will remain at the heart of this mixed-use development.”

Renishaw Hills has just launched Phase 6 in this mature lifestyle estate, a series of high-end maisonettes and houses boasting spectacular sea views and surrounded by coastal greenery. Start a new adventure by booking an in-person or virtual tour of phase 6 and other Renishaw Hills offerings, or attend any of the Open Days held every weekend, beginning 29 October 2022. Email or visit