Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm announced a conservation initiative to safeguard the endangered Black Harrier raptor, one of Southern Africa's scarcest endemic birds of prey. With a global population of about 1,000 mature breeding birds, the Black Harrier has faced a decline in recent years. The wind farm, in collaboration with well-known ornithologists and conservation partners, is committed to reversing this trajectory and ensuring the survival of this magnificent species, for which it has recently received an industry accolade.
Over the past two years, Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm has pioneered avifauna mitigation measures by fitting tracking devices to Black Harriers, allowing researchers to gain valuable insights into their movements and habits. Four Black Harriers have been fitted with trackers, with two installed by ornithologist Dr Rob Simmons in the previous year and an additional two by Dr Megan Murgatroyd this year. These trackers enable the wind farm to identify the key areas frequented by the raptors, allowing for precise mitigation and offset efforts to protect these majestic birds.
Furthermore, the wind farm undertakes nest inspections during the breeding season to oversee breeding outcomes, protect nests from human disruptions, and minimise fatalities. This approach aligns with the overarching goal of achieving positive population growth for the species.
Marli Schoeman, ESG and Biodiversity Manager at Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm emphasised the importance of collaborating with specialists, stating, "We've committed to avoiding any further fatalities of Black Harriers on site and further to achieve net gains for the species. Ultimately, we want to achieve a reduced population decline for the species."
Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm's transparent approach and regular engagement with specialists and BirdLife South Africa, through Samantha Ralston-Paton, has garnered support for their extensive conservation and mitigation measures. This collaborative spirit has also allowed academic researchers like Robin Colyn to build predictive models, including collision-risk and flight-path modelling, which can be applied to new wind farms, benefiting bird conservation efforts nationwide.
Despite the urgency of these conservation efforts, the wind farm remains the sole Independent Power Producer in South Africa that has funded the fitting of tracking devices on Black Harriers, demonstrating a commitment to the species' preservation.
Note: SAWEA Industry Awards: Environmental Stewardship – the award honours a company that demonstrates a commitment to sustainable energy and exemplify and role model environmental stewardship.
The winner has shown a commitment to sustainable energy and protection of the environment through their mitigation measures such as Observer Led Shut Down on Demand, partnering with Avian specialists for research and monitoring, and upcoming innovations such as automated detection using cameras and machine learning to protect endangered bird species and minimise the potential for bird strikes.