The Riverine Rabbit is an indicator species for the riparian habitat fringing the rivers of the Nama (Upper and Central Karoo) and the Succulent Karoo. The Rabbit’s unique habitat is of economic importance to landowners in terms of cultivation and small stock grazing. Threats to the river ecosystems include overgrazing and anthropogenic land and river transformation, which leads to the degradation and fragmentation of Riverine Rabbit habitat.
Initiated in 2007, the Riparian Ecosystem Restoration Project works on restoring degraded riparian ecosystems in order to re-connect remaining Riverine Rabbit habitat fragments. Riparian ecosystems provide a suite of ecosystem functions, such as storing water, reducing floods, stabilizing river banks, improving water quality by trapping sediment and nutrients, and providing shelter and food for animals. Fully connected riparian ecosystems provide resilience to climate change shocks for both farmers and the environment, and they act as corridors for movement and migration of different species, including the Riverine Rabbit
The EWT-DCP has kickstarted recovery of degraded habitat by actively restoring over 350 ha of riverine ecosystems since 2007. The labour for the rehabilitation project is sourced locally, thereby creating employment and developing skills in poor rural communities with few other social upliftment opportunities. Through this approach a strong component of the Riparian Ecosystem Restoration Project lies in the conservation of water resources and regional biodiversity through community involvement.
The EWT-DCP established the indigenous Karoo Plant Nursery in Loxton (Northern Cape) to support the plant needs of the Riparian Ecosystem Restoration Project. Community members employed by the nursery are trained to propagate indigenous plants needed for the re-vegetation of riparian zones in the Karoo. Seed is produced on the production plot within the nursery grounds and are supplemented with seed harvested in the veld by community members. The nursery forms part of the Open Africa Karoo Highway route and is typically open to the public from 08h00 – 12h30 on weekdays.