Initial findings indicate that the iconic Knysna forests were not affected by the fire, with only some fynbos areas and a tourist site burnt.
SANParks spokesperson Nandi Mgwadlamba confirmed on Monday, June 19 that the areas from Goudveld to Diepwalle are accessible and were not at all affected by the fire.
The Knysna forests are South Africa’s largest portion of Southern Afrotemperate Forests, spanning some 60 500 hectares of land, from George to Tsitsikamma in the east.
SANParks scientists have recorded and documented in the state of knowledge report (2015) the presence of more than 30 terrestrial habitat types, representing more than 50 forest and fynbos communities within the boundaries of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP).
“The forest is a haven for 465 species occurring in the forest areas, over 22 species of amphibians, 24 reptile species, 305 species of birds and some 42% of South Africa’s 290 mammal species. At least 7.1% of the park’s mammals are listed as endangered (EN) and 14% as vulnerable (VU),” said Mgwadlamba.
Areas that suffered damage were the fynbos areas in the GRNP Harkerville, while the Kranshoek Viewpoint and picnic areas were gutted by the fires. The team in Harkerville are assessing the damage to see if that area will be ready for the town’s biggest event, the Oyster Festival, in July.
“We had an overwhelming response to a call for volunteers for geographic information system (GIS) mapping of lost infrastructure. The team is also getting ready to finalise findings and should hand over maps and a report to the joint organising committee. This exercise will provide adequate information pertaining to the loss of infrastructure as a result of the fires.
“The mystical Knysna forest is attractive to visitors for its indigenous trees, some over 600 years old: the King Edward Big Tree in Diepwalle, the Dalene Matthee Memorial, the Hoekwil Big Tree and the 1 000-year-old Tsitsikamma Big Tree.
Other activities in the forest include camping spots, cycling trails, hiking trails, forest excursions (Segways, Scootours and ziplining). There are also two museums in the Knysna forest.
* SANParks is happy to provide indigenous trees to residents who were affected by the fire. Please contact Rainer Lieske 076 456 6496.