SANPARKS MEETS DOG OWNERS HALF WAY

SANParks is meeting dog owners half way concerning the walking of dogs in the Garden Route National Park. New areas for walking dogs on the beach in the Wilderness Park area (which includes Sedgefield) were rezoned after considering input from extensive research and surveys done. These zones are now simplified in a guideline (brochure & visible signage) published by the Park for walking dogs in designated areas of the Park. Signage will be erected by the end of this week with rezoned areas and brochures distributed first in Wilderness.

According to main Marine Ranger for Wilderness, Jonathan Britton, these zones are currently applicable for the Wilderness Beach but the colour-coded system will be rolled out in phases to Sedgefield as well. Various existing organised forums for stakeholders will be used.

The simplified version of the guideline is colour-coded:

Green zones: are dog friendly beaches, dogs still need to be under the command of their humans and dog ‘poo’ must picked up and binned. This is not a free-for-all zone, but the Code of Conduct for dog walking still applies.

Yellow Zones: Dogs are only permitted on leashes. The yellow zone was introduced after a survey was conducted for white fronted plovers and found some breeding pairs as well as likely habitat around the popular entry points for dog walking. There has been a significant drop nationally in the population numbers of white fronted plovers, and dogs walking on a leash toward a green dog friendly beach was the best comprise to improve the breeding potential and success of the local pairs of these birds.

Red Zone: No dogs are permitted as these are either known important bird breeding areas or recreational beaches where beach goers who prefer not to share their beach time with dogs have a place to visit as well.

‘We believe that these zones strike a balance between protecting coastal bird breeding and habitat areas, dog walking and other recreational users’ says Britton.

The onus is on those walking dogs to abide by guidelines regulating this activity. This can be done through checking signage regularly that is posted along the beach and forestry areas.

Why dogs are not allowed in other areas of the Park

  • This is primarily to protect dogs from wild animals as dogs may become prey to predators or get attacked by other wild animals such as baboons, especially in the forestry areas.
  • Dogs in the Park may harass or kill animals and plants protected by the Park. They may also disturb birds during breeding seasons.
  • Dogs also tend to enjoy digging up plants and which may be significant indigenous plants necessary for the survival of the ecosystem.
  • Dogs also spread diseases. Domestic dogs and cats may carry certain pathogens that pose a serious disease risk to wild canids, felids, viverids and mustelids.

Dogs threaten birds like the African Oystercatcher

  • Adults and chicks become separated and nests and youngsters become vulnerable to trampling and predation by gulls, dogs and man.
  • Their nests are often a shallow scrape in the sand on exposed beaches and vulnerable to roving and excitable dogs.
  • Incubation of eggs is about 29 days and youngsters take about 45 days to become independent. Breeding success rate is 20-40%.
  • Black Oystercatchers are threatened by disturbance and coastal development; the total population is less than 6500 individuals.

These new laws will also be available to share on the SANParks website: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/

Members of the public are encouraged to write to us about their concerns, queries and experience in the Park. All queries can be directed to: nandi.mgwadlamba@sanparks.org