By the Midlands Conservancies Forum
Carolyn Goble served as the Chairlady of the Karkloof Conservancy for 16 years, and she has played an enormous role in Conservation in the KZN Midlands earning her a great amount of respect in the region.
Ian and Ann Player are great admirers. “All of us who live in the valley are deeply indebted to Carolyn for the many years of hard work, innovation and inspiration she put into the Conservancy. The Karkloof Conservation Centre is a model of what can be done with the minimum of resources, but maximum amount of enthusiasm to honour the wildlife and the spirit of the land. Thank you Carolyn for your dedication, courage, your integrity, but particularly for your wonderful enthusiasm which infects everyone who comes into contact with you.”
Carolyn tells her story “I have been a farmer’s wife for 42 years and my husband and I began farming in the Greytown district in 1968. We started dairy farming in 1975 and I managed our dairy herd for 30 years, whilst my husband did all the cropping. During our time in Greytown I was on the committee of the local branch of the Wildlife Society and also worked as a volunteer for the Umvoti Child Welfare Society for over 20 years. In 1995 we took the decision to leave Greytown and look for a farm with more water. We bought a beautiful dairy farm in the Karkloof and brought all our cows, machinery and farm family to an area with a higher rainfall and the most amazing biodiversity.
After 2 years I mentioned to my husband that I really missed not doing the annual game counts that we had always done with the Greytown Conservancy. He encouraged me to organise the first Game Count in the Karkloof in July 1997. This was very well received by the local farmers and their families and I was then encouraged by some really good people, who were involved in conservation, to re-establish the Karkloof Conservancy and in 1998 I was elected Chairperson.”
Over the years Karkloof Conservancy has tackled various conservation issues, organised interesting speakers, done annual game and bird counts, hosted frogging evenings and also created awareness about the endangered species which occur in the region e.g. the wattled cranes, the Cape parrots, the Southern Ground Hornbill, the Karkloof Blue butterfly, Oribi and the black stinkwood tree which is virtually extinct.
Anita Turvey is very appreciative of Carolyn’s efforts: “Thank you Carolyn for all that you do for the Conservancy – I know that no-one will ever be able to match what you have done – starting the Conservancy many, many years ago and building it up to the beautiful and informative centre that it now is!!”
Carolyn trained as a teacher, so it didn’t take much persuasion for her to start an environmental education programme at 6 local farm schools. “I must say that working with children has always been my big love and it is so rewarding to see the response that one gets from these children who are so keen and eager to learn. The farmers are very supportive, as they believe that it was an extremely good idea to introduce the children to conservation.”
Florence Buthelezi principal of Triandra school: “Carolyn is our Gogo. Triandra is in her heart. The staff and learners are part of her family and her grandchildren visit our school and socialise with the learners. We call her “our school engine” because she helps us so much. No one can take the love of nature from her and she has instilled a love of nature in both learners and educators.”
Karkloof schools have all earned their Eco-Schools status, with Hawkstone Primary achieving International Green Flag status. Bheki Lipheyana, Principal of Hawkstone adds “Carolyn will be remembered for her organisational skills and love of children. When entering each classroom, she would greet the children in isiZulu and admire their artwork with appreciation. She wouldn’t leave without going into the garden and making comment or two. That made her very special to me.”
Every year a theme, relevant to the area, is chosen. This might be grasslands, water, cranes or mountains. Learners produce art which is displayed at the Conservancy AGM so members can vote for their favourite. The school with the best work is rewarded with an educational excursion and picnic.
The Karkloof Conservation Centre is the pride of Karkloof. The Karkloof Conservancy, led by Carolyn, raised funding for this Conservation Centre and Bird Hides from the SAPPI Tree Routes Partnership, and the funding was administered by the Wildlands Conservation Trust. Situated 15 kms outside Howick, the Centre consists of a Conservation and Tourism Office, The Nick Steele picnic site, as well as two world class bird hides. This Centre was opened by Dr Ian Player in October 2007. Since then many visitors have spent time admiring the amazing biodiversity of the area.
Carolyn has encouraged landowners to become involved in the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. The Mount Gilboa Nature Reserve in the Karkloof, which is approximately 725ha, has now been formally proclaimed and Mondi is the first forestry company to enter into a Biodiversity Agreement with KZN Wildlife. Dartmoor Farm, which adjoins the Karkloof Nature Reserve, has been purchased by Wildlands and will be managed by KZN Wildlife and the Mbona Private Nature Reserve has also been registered under the new Biodiversity Act. This brings a total of approximately 4000ha in the Karkloof already under formal conservation. Recently other farmers, who are all Conservancy members, have joined the Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. If all these properties are successful in their proclamation, a further 1800 ha will be added to the 4000ha and conserved for future generations. Charlie MacGillivray comments “On behalf of the whole of the Karkloof Conservancy, our heartfelt gratitude for all your timeless efforts since you came to the Karkloof and breathed new, vibrant and enduring life into what we now are proud of as being a functional, happy, committed and enthusiastic membership and associate participants, working towards ensuring our beautiful area remains pristine and where possible, improves.”
Andrew Ferendinos (Chairman of the KZN Crane Foundation): “Sixteen years ago the Karkloof Conservancy was established by Carolyn Goble and others. Thanks to their efforts today the Karkloof remains a living jewel. A jewel the local community has industriously polished: with bird hides; thriving populations of wildlife; environmental education work in local schools; ecotourism businesses (from canopy tours to forest lodges) and pioneering work in no till farming and other environmentally friendly farming practices. Carolyn Goble has been part of the glue that has held all of this together. Carolyn Goble has also (somehow) found the time to extend support and encouragement to many younger conservationists, she will be missed and remembered with gratitude.”
Carolyn concludes: “This area of Mist Belt Mixed Podocarpus Forest and Mist Belt Grasslands, as well as the wetland at our Conservation Centre, are rare and threatened in South Africa and need to be protected at all costs. As I have a deep love of nature and greatly appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the Karkloof, I will continue to do all that I can to see that this protection is granted. Looking back, I can see that my experiences in Greytown with the Greytown Conservancy, the Wildlife Society and the Umvoti Child Welfare Society have stood me in good stead!”