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All queries should be channelled through the call centre, Joburg Connect, which can be contacted 24 hours, seven days a week, on 0860 56 28 74 or 011 375 5555 For each query, you will get a reference number. Make sure you keep this number so that you can follow up your query. Email: Facebook Youtube

There are aliens in our midst and they must be annihilated – invasive alien plant species, that is, and City Parks is targeting them for removal.

Lantana's are one of the common alien plants found in South AfricaLantana's are one of the common alien plants found in South AfricaINVASIVE alien plants are in the sights of City Parks, and the organisation is asking residents to help it in its quest to rid Joburg of the pests by reporting any sightings in its Spot the Alien initiative.

Alien invasives refers to plants that are not indigenous to a region and adversely affect the natural vegetation. Common alien plants found in South Africa are bugweed, lantana and wattle trees.

City Parks has encountered these resilient beasts consistently over the years, and has run many programmes and initiatives – often in association with national and provincial departments – in an attempt to stamp out these plants. "Alien plant removal in Joburg began in 1999 with the Working for Water project," explains Ursula Naidoo, who is in charge of special projects at City Parks. "[City Parks] began their own programme in 2007."

Spot the Alien is the latest weapon in its arsenal and was established to increase awareness of invasive species and to encourage reporting of them. "Reporting sightings of invasive species can help us understand the level of invasion, distribution, spread and ecology of a species," she says.

There are three categories of alien invasive plants in the country, according to the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act of 1983.

Category one refers to species that must be removed and destroyed immediately. Examples of this category of plant are several species of the wattle tree, including long-leaved wattle and kangaroo wattle.

Category two plants may be grown only under controlled conditions, and includes green and black wattle.

Category three plant species refer to those that may no longer be planted; examples are pepper tree wattle and pearl acacia.

A number of these plants are being targeted in the Spot the Alien initiative, but City Parks has four particular invasives it is hoping to tackle through the programme. These are: bugweed, black wattle, lantana and grey poplars. This is due to their "strong competitiveness to oust our indigenous vegetation and are often found along watercourses and in sensitive habitats", says Naidoo.

It is hoped that this course of action will contribute to protecting Joburg's water resources and biodiversity, as well as create jobs and training for disadvantaged people.

Spot the Alien
Spot the Alien is not intended to be a short-term campaign; City Parks is hoping it will be an ongoing initiative run through the website, which will operate alongside other initiatives and campaigns in place. "City Parks is in the process of developing an alien plant strategy which follows on the City of Johannesburg's biodiversity strategy," she explains.

People will be able to report alien plants to the Joburg Connect call centre on 0860 562 874 or to John Kruger from City Parks on 011 202 5936 or After the report has been logged, it will be sent to City Parks' conservation unit.

"If the request is not on a large scale – one or two plants – we try to accommodate it with depot-allocated staff. If the request is on a large scale – hectares in size – it needs to be budgeted for. There is liaison between the client and City Parks."

Depending on the size of the job, it could take between a few days or weeks and months. It also depends on budget allocation, seasons and weather conditions.

"Joburg is well aware of the alien plant problem and continues to work closely with the Gauteng province and the national departments of Agriculture and Fisheries and Water Affairs in addressing the issue," she concludes.

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