Staff at Vergelegen Wine Estate in Somerset West were treated to a rare sighting this month as nature continues to flourish amid the nationwide lockdown.
A family of Cape foxes were spotted frolicking right on the estate’s doorstep. While Cape foxes have a stable population in many areas across Southern Africa it is very rare to see these shy creatures out and about, especially in urban areas.
Two adults and three pups were seen enjoying the lockdown and the absence of human activity on the estate.
Vergelegen environment manager Eben Olderwagen says staff had previously sighted individual animals, but it was only when the resident horticulturist, Richard Arm, spotted the entire group together ‒ they have a burrow near his home on the estate ‒ was it realised that they form a family unit.
“They are delightful, with large floppy ears, and proof of how local species are thriving since hundreds of hectares of alien vegetation were cleared from the farm from 2004 to 2018,” says Olderwagen.
Vergelegen completed South Africa’s largest privately funded alien vegetation clearing project 18 months ago, clearing a vast area of 2200 hectares of densely packed pine, acacia and eucalyptus.
The 3000 hectare estate is now home to burgeoning fynbos. Rare and endangered plants and grasslands have regrown and numerous birds and mammals have returned to the estate. Species such as Cape leopard, caracal, honey badger, grey rhebok and spotted genet are regularly reported.
As the lockdown continues, the estate has also welcomed the birth of 11 bontebok, bringing the number of the rare breed on the estate to 50, as well as a rare set of Nguni cattle twins.
“This hardy breed normally bears only one calf, and on the rare occasion that they have twins, they generally select the stronger calf and reject the second. This was indeed the case when we welcomed our first ever set of twins,” says Olderwagen.
“We named the rejected calf Nina, and hand-reared her with a bottle until we could introduce her to one of the smaller herds on the estate. She is now thriving,” he adds.