Biodiversity is a handful of dried poo. Mossie Basson is the Director of Conservation at Graham Beck and he’s handing me different droppings. From Kudu and Eland to various Boks. Each dropping tells a story. About how far the animal grazes, what it eats and what eats it. Mossie loves it. This is his “office”. A vast area of unspoiled hillsides with hidden valleys and thriving wildlife. An area packed with rare and sometimes unique species. Including Esterhuysenia Grahambeckii, a pointy leafed succulent, named in honour of the man who set all this up.
Mossie explains all about the balance of nature. And the particular challenge of maintaining that balance next to a vineyard. Graham Beck is in the Cape Floral Kingdom, including the Succulent Karoo Biome. It’s an area rich in plant and geological diversity. But vineyards are monocultures. A single species – vines – grows in rows to the exclusion of everything else. So Graham Beck maintains this complex nature reserve to preserve the karoo whilst making wine next door.
It doesn’t make life easy for winemakers. It means Graham Beck has its own Baboon Patroller. Yep, you read that right. From dawn to dusk, Gerswin van Rooy cycles the perimeter of Graham Beck vineyards carrying a white flag, flapping a warning at hungry baboons to steer clear. Gerswin plays a vital part maintaining the delicate relationship between nature and winemaking. Baboons can strip tonnes of grapes from vineyards in minutes. Yet, Graham Beck encourage the baboons. And zebra, honey badgers, even leopards to live and thrive in the game reserve next to the vineyards. So each morning Gerswin hops on his bike and sets off on a 40km bike ride in the sun. Mostly the baboons stay out of his way. ‘But there is one called Jackson’, Gerswin says with a smile; ‘he is a clever, old male, who lives on his own. He tries to think what I am going to do next – to beat me’. And with that Gerswin is back on his bike and off into the distance. Pitting his wits against a wily old baboon and playing a unique role in balancing wine production with nature.
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