This article discusses a personal visit to the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, in Pretoria, South Africa. The article describes my experience at the sanctuary, a reflection on what I discovered, a discussion of the fauna and flora of the area, the importance of the site for the community as well as any environmental concerns I had during the visit and how to address these.
The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary was established in Pretoria in 1956 and is home to many different native bird species. It also has also been declared a provincial heritage site. A restaurant called The Blue Crane is situated inside the reserve. I had first visited the restaurant a couple of months ago and really enjoyed the natural atmosphere of the sanctuary and therefore decided to explore the sanctuary further for this blog entry.
The sanctuary is 11.76 hectares large and houses many different types of plant species. It has a mixture of both indigenous and exotic trees and plants throughout although an effort seems to have been put in to make sure most of the flora in the reserve are indigenous. It also houses a variety of man-made and natural dams and wetland basins.
The fauna, however is the main purpose of the reserve. The sanctuary is home to many species of birdlife, from Hadedas to Mallard Ducks, Egyptian Geese, Kingfishers, Egrets, Crowned and Blue Cranes (Figure 4-6), amongst many others. I enjoyed the peacefulness throughout the reserve with the different calls of the birdlife echoing through the air every now and then, and was pleased with the respect shown by the public to keep the area quiet and calm. I also spotted many insects, lizards and even rabbits who have made the sanctuary their home.
The sanctuary, I feel, is of great importance to the community. Not only is it an educational area, teaching the public the value of protecting birdlife and the environments that house them, it also provides an area to relax, spend time with family and friends in nature and in the fresh air, a space to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city without actually leaving the city. While I was there I encountered families, couples and individuals alike from every culture and race and age. A senior couple walked their dogs through the reserve, a Muslim family settled under a tree for a picnic, children played nearby on the playground facilities, a young man rode along the dedicated bike paths, all observing and engaging with the birdlife and natural environment around them.
I enjoyed my visit to the reserve immensely, the area is well kept and great care is taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the wildlife the site houses (Figure 11). The only concerns I came across was on some sides of the reserve, areas have been slightly neglected, used mainly to dump building rubble and garden waste (Figure 12), or just left to overgrow. I also found at the back of the reserve people have tended to throw litter over the fence and into the reserve. The amount is not vast, only five or ten items from what I could see, but the fact that there is litter present in a sanctuary at all, is worrying. To fix these sort of concerns the reserve could hold clean-up/rehabilitation days which give the sanctuary more exposure, as well as provide more signage and available disposal bins to educate the general public of the hazards of littering.
Overall, the sanctuary has done a lot to ensure more public participation and exposure. With the addition of the restaurant, recreational and family areas, public bird hides, and many other facilities, the reserve has ensured it caters for everyone and provides many attractions to persuade the community to keep coming back to this little green spot of bird heaven. I highly recommend visiting Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary as it is a wonderful place to interact with the natural environment, a peaceful green space in the heart of Pretoria suburbia.
All images property of author.