Search and Rescue of plants that face habitat destruction

Case Study: Sean Altern – Consultant: Biodiversity Conservation Services

Many essential developments have a downside in that they often cause habitat and associated species loss. In order to mitigate and reduce this impact, a botanical search and rescue may be required. What this entails is the careful planning, systematic searching, careful exhumation and specialised relocation of species into appropriate receptor habitats.

Whether it is in utilising specific tools based on site conditions or focussing on known species habitats within the projects construction footprint, thorough planning and research always precedes site work. NCC makes use of specialist technicians, years of experience and modern technology including the latest GPS devices and overlays to ensure excellent results and reporting.


At the onset of each project NCC will, armed with the sites biodiversity studies, apply for the necessary permits to relocate listed species such as geophytes (bulbs) that are able survive relocation. Prior to arriving on site a close study of the listed species specific habitat requirements in relation to the site characterises allows the teams to identify and map out target areas which can be more closely scrutinized. This results in more effective and efficient relocations.

An NCC project technician carefully exhumes a Brunsvigia from a windfarm in the Northern Cape.

Sites are systematically traversed on foot and any species found are GPS recorded, photographed, carefully exhumed and then relocated into appropriate receptor sites before being re-GPS marked and recorded. Site managers receive daily updates on progress and at the end of the project all information is collated into neat and informative report (with accompanying KMZ files) for the client and licensing department. The relocation co-ordinates are provided in map, table and KMZ point format in order to be useable for follow-up monitoring.

Botanical Search and rescue is not a case of simply digging up and moving species away or ‘off’ the development footprint. All species moved by NCC are carefully exhumed before being gently relocated into specifically chosen positions in order to mirror the micro-climatic and niche factors required by these species. This ensures the greatest chance of survival and minimal disruption.

NCC teams work under full health and safety regulations, project specific rules and with all safety measures identified through risk assessments and associated preparation.

NCC search and rescue team traverse a soon- to-be cleared construction road on a Western Cape site.

Search and rescue must be done the right way

Search and rescue if not done properly can be more damaging to the receptor environment than good, cause long costly delays and result in low rates of plant survivability. To prevent this botanical search and rescue must be undertaken by competent and experienced specialised teams with proven track records.

When done properly it can greatly assist projects to not only speed up operations and enable better post-construction rehabilitation efforts but also mitigate against the often unavoidable effects of developments such as:

  • Powerlines,
  • Windfarms,
  • Solar Pv farms,
  • Roadworks,
  • Housing Developments,
  • Infrastructure Upgrades,
  • Pipelines,
  • Dam construction,
  • Sub-stations,
  • Site clearance.
Geophytes such as the Boophone are often the primary prize of botanical operations as they transplant very well.

Achieving real growth

Development and preserving the environment requires to walk hand in hand on certain projects. Implementing mitigation measures, inclusive of professional botanical search and rescue, is a service that NCC Environmental Services has a long and proven track record of excellence in and which it enables real growth for people, planet and business.

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