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Peace in Suburbia – Struben Dam, Pretoria
The dam and bird sanctuary
There is a little spot in Pretoria where birds are free from fear, where water reflects the beauty of the sky and the surrounding trees and a few fishermen try their luck, hoping to catch a bass or a carp. This little spot is like a rural island in the middle of the surrounding suburbia of the eastern parts of Pretoria, about a 10 minute drive from my home.
The place is called Struben Dam and is actually part of the flood control system of the Waterkloof Spruit (a spruit is a small stream). This area around the dam, about 12 hectares in size, is a bird and wildlife sanctuary, home to nagapies (bush babies or galagos), mongoose, otters, water rats and a lot of birds. Within the park are a large number of indigenous tress (also a lot of alien invader plants) and about 22 grass species.
It is a lovely, peaceful escape from the hubbub of the city, a place where one can relax and recharge with the sounds of running water and bird calls.
The park is part of the green belt running through the eastern suburbs of Pretoria along the Moreleta Spruit and its tributaries. It is managed by the city's Department of Agriculture and Environmental Management and the dam, which was developed by the city's engineers, is still supervised by them as part of the flood control system.
Most of the time the dam is very peaceful, but there have been times when I have seen it doing its flood control thing! In January 2009 we had a very high rate of precipitation in Pretoria which caused the level of the dam to rise above 100% and so there was a dramatic flow into the spillway.
The Friends of Struben Dam
The park is under threat from pollution which comes down the Waterkloof Spruit into the dam, as well as encroaching urban development. The alien plant species which have established themselves in the park are also a threat to the indigenous vegetation.
To help protect the area and keep it as pristine as possible an organisation of local residents called the Friends of Struben Dam has been formed.
The stated mission of the Friends of Struben Dam is to “assist in the upgrading and maintenance of Struben Dam Bird Sanctuary in conjunction with the City of Tshwane (Pretoria is a local municipality within the Metropolitan Municipality of Tshwane) Department of Agriculture and Environmental Management and with the support of the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa.”
The lesser galagos or bush babies (nagapies – meaning “night monkeys”) which are resident in the Struben Dam Bird Sanctuary are nocturnal primates about the size of a squirrel, making the one of the smallest primates. These little creatures are extremely cute-looking with very large eyes to give them better night vision. Their cuteness makes them popular pets, though this is being actively discouraged, as they are thought to be likely sources of zoonoses, diseases that can cross species boundaries.
The name “bush baby” was possibly given them because they are very vocal and make a sound very like the cry of a very young human infant.
The diet of these cute little primates is made up of leaves, insects and fruit, basically anything that is available in the particular season.
The bush baby has extremely powerful back legs which can propel it into prodigious jumps of up to 20 feet. Quite a feet for a little guy!
The birds I have seen in this wonderful place are red bishops, masked weavers, Cape sparrows, hadeda ibises and reed cormorants.
There are also a number of duck frequenting the water. I think I have identified a couple of southern pochards.
I am sure there are many other birds there but I have never been there at the right time to see them. Maybe next time!
A slide show of Struben Dam photosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Picasa gallery of photos of Struben Dam
I have many more photos of this lovely place on Picasa which you may view here.
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2010
The access to Struben Dam is off Innes Road