Through #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO supports UNESCO designated sites in Africa. The Magaliesberg Biosphere SOS Project, funded by the German Commission for UNESCO and the German Federal Foreign Office, was implemented in response to the negative environmental impacts that plague the biosphere, more so while we have endured the economic turmoil associated with the Covid-19 lock-down.

Our biosphere faces a number of environmental challenges as a result of human pressure. These include poaching of wildlife and protected plants, indiscriminate felling of indigenous trees in our bushveld and forests, the use of off-road vehicles in sensitive eco-systems, littering and pollution in our pristine mountain streams and habitats, the incidence of uncontrolled wildfires as well as the spread of invasive alien plants. An added complication is that climate change impacts will make it more difficult for eco-systems to recover from these pressures over time.

The general objective of the SOS project aims to address and mitigate these threats to the environment, species and habitats of the biosphere by deploying intensive anti-poaching and other conservation patrols. The project will also contribute to research to establish the extent of poaching and environmental damage using the custom built SOS Field Survey App, developed for this project.


A number of conservation organizations already operate in the biosphere to tackle snaring and poaching of biosphere wildlife, as well as the protection of biodiversity and environment. The SOS Project has enabled these organizations to step-up their presence and vigil in the biosphere with intensive anti-poaching patrols and invasive plant hacks for the three month duration of the project, aided by student and citizen volunteers, and the SOS Eco-Rangers.


Tshwane University of Technology / Singatha / Kainav Conservation / Mountain Club of South Africa / WESSA Northern Areas


The programme  provided structured theoretical and practical environmental training to 7 candidates from various areas in the biosphere. The training was designed to equip the Eco-rangers with an understanding of environmental concepts and conservation techniques, in order for them to  identify, monitor and address some of the anthropogenic induced threats that are affecting the Magaliesberg Biosphere at this time.

The programme was made up of two components: Eco-Ranger Training and Eco-Ranger Fieldwork and Excursions. The training course modules included:

  • Biosphere Awareness –Our natural and cultural heritage, benefits of a biosphere, importance of communities and sustainable development.
  • Wilderness Survival Workshop – Preparedness, Components of Survival, Finding Direction.
  • First Aid Training – Level 1, Introduction, Secondary Survey, Medical Emergencies, Injury Emergencies, Environmental Emergencies.
  • Filming Course – How to take professional photos and video clips.
  • Conservation Ecology and Awareness – Environmental literacy, Basic Environmental Legislation in SA, Soil Ecology, Water quality monitoring.
  • Ecosystem Services – Free Services of Nature, Pollution management , ecological footprint, Zero Waste.
  • Indigenous Plants Identification, Invasive Alien Plants identification, management and control.
  • Anti-Poaching and Snaring techniques and how to identify and record snare-fields and poaching hot-spots.
  • Wildfire management and control techniques, and reporting structures.
  • Conservation Communication – Techniques to create community awareness around environmental education. Techniques to address the perpetrators of environmental crimes and reporting structures. 
  • Practical bush and conservation skills – Erosion control methods, use and care of chainsaws and tools, using alien wood biomass effectively.
  • Geo-location, GIS and the use of the SOS Survey app to record environmental incidents while on patrol in the biosphere.
Outdoor Classroom at Maretlwane Wilderness School
Training in fire management and control
Participatory Learning
Training in bush ranger skills

The Eco-rangers have undertaken many fieldwork excursions over the duration of the project, which enabled them to work alongside our project partners and volunteers experienced in conservation patrols and in the identification of hot-spots for poaching, fire incidents and snare fields, as well as partners experienced in the management of protected areas and control of invasive alien plants. The excursions created opportunities for networking and to foster collaboration with various land-owners and organizations working in the biosphere.

The Eco-Rangers graduated on the 11 December 2020. They have surpassed  all expectation and have proved to be passionate, willing and very able Biosphere Ambassadors and conservation Rangers. Everyone involved in the SOS Project – our project partners and Eco-Rangers have worked exceptionally hard to protect our natural heritage, and the biosphere community can be very proud of their achievements and dedication. 

We hope that the networking and relationships that have formed over the SOS Project period will cement collaboration in the future, ensuring the sustainability and continuation of SOS efforts in 2021.

Tlholego village

On the western slopes of the Magaliesberg, just outside Rustenburg is the Tlholego Eco-village and Learning Centre. The centre has been at it for over 25 years, and was the first learning centre in South Africa to offer training in Permaculture and ecologically sound land management practices.


Save Magaliesberg species snare project

In 2014, a leopard project of the Department Biodiversity Management of the North West Provincial Government (NWPG) and the Department Nature Conservation of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) uncovered the extent of the snaring problem within the biosphere. Brandy, a telemetry-collared leopard got caught in a snare (set for antelope and warthogs) and had to be darted and treated by veterinarians in order to save her life. A follow-up sweep for snares uncovered a large number of snare ‘hot-spots’. TUT, the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA) and NWPG launched a three-tiered programme to save the wildlife of the Magaliesberg. The first involved identifying the first snare hot-spots and removing the snares, the second identifying the ‘bush-meat’ traders and addressing the issues from a community perspective and thirdly, promoting community involvement in sustainably utilising and conserving one of the most unique areas on the continent, the Magaliesberg biosphere.

Snare removal operations continue in 2019 with just under 100 snares removed during 4 operations to date. The good news is that two of the previous snare ‘hot-spots’ have been clean over the last six months. Overall 2019 has seen a decrease in the snares recovered, however there is much area to cover and where the team will now focus on additional snare ‘hot-spots’.


Umsuka Project

The National Geographic “Umsuka” Public Palaeoanthropology Project (Nat Geo “Umsuka”), a public outreach programme of the African Digital Education Trust (ADET), is committed to the mission of increasing the accessibility of our common fossil hominin heritage for South Africans of diverse backgrounds in order to engage them with the past in ways that unite us in the present and help us to work towards a shared future.

Magaliesberg Blue Plaque Project

The Magaliesberg Association for Culture and Heritage are placing Blue Plaques at heritage sites throughout the Magaliesberg Biosphere.