The Central Karoo’s unique riverine rabbit has become the most highly endangered species in Southern Africa. Its conservation status is now listed as critical in the Red Data Book. This means the species is extremely close to extinction. “We believe there are now only about 500 to 600 animals left in the wild,” says Dr Vicky Ahlmann, an expert on the species. Vicky studied Veterinary Medicine in Germany and came to the Karoo in December 1998. She settled in Loxton where she studies the riverine rabbit on a voluntary basis for the Zoological Society for Conservation of Species and Populations. This international organisation is based in Germany. “Sadly, this special little creature, unique to the Central Karoo, is not yet protected in any national park or nature reserve, as is the case with most other endangered species. Its survival lies mainly in private hands on farms in Beaufort West and Victoria West districts. The riverine rabbit is considered a flagship and umbrella species. Conservation of this creature and its habitat will mean that many more plant and animal species will be protected in the Karoo. Every effort must be made to ensure it survival.”


Twee belangrike toerisme vergaderings word op 10 Junie in die Karoo gehou. Wes-Kaap Toerismeraad se e.Besigheids bestuurder Bronwen D’ Oliviera lê besoek af in Beaufort Wes, vanaf 11h00 tot 12 h00 en in Prins Albert vanaf 14h00 tot 15h00 om toerismeburo lede intelig oor voordele van die nuwe lidmaatskap- en e.besigheids stelsels vir hulle besighede. “Lede behoort to poog om die vergaderings by te woon om uit te vind hoe hierdie voorgestelde regulasies hulle besighede sal beinvloed,” sê Bronwen.


Two important tourism meetings will be held in the Karoo on June 10. Western Cape Tourism Board’s e.Business manager Bronwen D’ Oliviera will visit Beaufort West from 11h00 to 12h00 and Prince Albert from 14h00 to 15h00 to inform tourist bureau members of the advantages to their businesses of the new membership and e.Business systems. “Members should make every effort to attend these meetings to find out how these new regulations will affect their businesses,” said Bronwen.


Several Nelspoort residents recently attended a two-day workshop to learn the basics of an ancient San craft. Western Cape artist Peter van Zyl, accompanied by Durbanville-based art teacher Dilys Knox-Davis, were contracted by Casidra to teach the locals how to paint images and copy rock engravings done by hunter gatherers, who once lived in this area of the Karoo, and reproduce these on small saleable pieces of rock. “We did a great deal of preparation for this project,” said Dilys “We wanted participants to have a good background of San art. We also wanted to teach them a variety of techniques from engraving through to how these little artists introduced colour to their primitive paintings.” Recreating these drawings is not as easy as it sounds. Creating authentic looking reproductions requires patience and skill. “We were amazed at the high level of talent among participants,” said Peter. “The youngest was a teenager and the oldest, a man in his late fifties. All had great fun copying some of the wonderful images found in San rock art. A few of them showed a natural flair for applying the lovely rust and earthy colours used by the San and for picking out petroglyths with stone chisels and steel nails. At the end of two days everyone had a great deal more respect for the little primitive artists of the veld and some had produced magnificent artwork.” Nelspoort is the site of the largest collection of San, Khoi-khoi and historic rock art in the Western Cape Province. The site may only be visited by arrangement with the curator, Lawrence Rathenham, principal of Restvale Primary School.


A Scottish reader recently discovered two old “friends” in Round-up. Mrs Daphne Mackenzie of Dalmore, who lives in Invergordon, Scotland, actually met both “the lion hunter and mystery princess” mentioned in Round-up No110. “I met her through General Jan Smuts, who was my godfather, and a great friend of my father, Nestle James, who oddly enough was also a great friend of Harry Wolhuter. Harry often visited our farms on the Limpopo and entertained us with exciting stories around a campfire. At that time this splendid character, a thin, sun-browned man, with an enormous knowledge of animal behaviour, was a game ranger in the Kruger Park. His knowledge gave him the power to kill that lion as he did. The skin is on display at Skukuza camp. Harry’s fame and success in conservation circles was due to his great love of animals.”


‘n Bekende Wakkerstroom voëlkundige kon sy ore nie glo nie toe hy die roep van ‘n witkoluiltjie by Drie Susters hoor. John McAllister het ondersoek gaan instel en die uiltjie in ‘n bloekomboom in die tuin van Drie Susters Gasteplaas gesien. “Hy kon sy oë nie glo nie,” skryf Jaapie Claassen in Die Drawwertjie, die nuus- brief van Beaufort Wes se William Quinton Wildevoëlvereniging. “Dit is baie ver suid vir hierdie spesies. Hulle word aangeteken in die Oranjerivier gebied, naby Prieska. Beaufort-Westers kan gerus hul oë en ore oop hou naby redelike digte doringbosse. Dalk sal ander persone ook hierdie eienaardige toeris sien.”


A wellknown bird watcher from Wakkerstroom could not believe his ears when he heard the cry of a Pearl Spotted Own at Three Sisters. John McAllister went to investigate and found the little owl in a blue gum tree in the garden of Three Sisters Accommodation Guest Farm. “He could not believe his eyes,”reports Japie Claassen in Die Drawwertjie, the newsletter of the William Quinton Wild Bird Society. “This is quite far south for this species. They are normally found in the Orange River area, near Prieska. Beaufort Westers should keep their eyes and ears open near thorn tree thickets. Perhaps someone else will be lucky enough to see this unusual tourist.”


A Round-up story recently brought back a flood of memories to Mrs G Murrant of George. “The North End Mission School, mentioned in Round-up No 101, was started by Rev Baron-Moore of George. Its classes went up to Std 4. In 1925 Rev Baron-Moore asked Mrs Swemmer, the organist at Christ Church to be the school’s first principal. Mrs Nel became her assistant. Both were dedicated teachers. They cycled up New Street to the school in all kinds of weather for over 15 years. The Swemmers retired to George where she played the Anglican Church organ from 1941 to 1961. At Christ Church Mrs Swemmer played a “blow organ,” pumped by hand either by her husband or sons. She played in this way for three services every Sunday, until the congregation could afford an electric organ. Rev Outram, then Canon Sharples and later Canon King led the services. Miss Gladys Blyth succeeded Mrs Swemmer as principal of North End School. Bishop Sidwell died in 1936; shortly before he was due to conduct a confirmation service. Bishop Wilfrid was fortunately persuaded to break his journey to Pretoria to perform the service for us.”


Die ontdekking van diamante in 1866 het toerisme in die Karoo laat bloei. In daardie tyd was Matjiesfontein en Beaufort-Wes die gebruiklike plekke om te oornag in die Karoo. Kort na die ontdekking van diamante het koetse van Wellington se Inland Transport Company, in Beaufort-Wes begin aandoen om te oornag. Op hulle hakke was die Kaapstad-gebaseerde Cobb and Company en net daarna het drie Gibson broers ‘n groot aanspraak op die mark gemaak. John Alexander, Fred en James Gibson, se Red Line diens het die grootste en belangrikste op Die Diamantrweg geword. Hul koetse was almal na Britse kastele vernoem en hul drywers moes as “kaptein” aangespreek word. Nuwe besighede het in Beaufort-Wes soos paddastoele opgespring. Deurreisende passasiers het byvoorbeeld, dikwels meer as ‘n duisend brode ‘n week in Beaufort Wes gekoop. ‘n Enkelkaartjie op die koetse het £2/10/- gekos. Daar was ‘n goedkoper tarief vir diegene wat kans gesien het om buite bo-op die koets in die verstikkende stof en skroeiende hitte te sit. Bagasie was tot 30lb beperk.


The discovery of diamonds in 1866 led to a growth in tourism in the Karoo. In those days Matjiesfontein and Beaufort West were the preferred overnight stops in the Karoo. Shortly after diamonds were discovered coaches from the Wellington-based Inland Transport began arriving in Beaufort West seeking overnight accommodation for their passengers. On their heels was the Cape Town based Cobb and Company and just after that the three Gibson brothers began to make inroads in to the market. John Alexander, Fred and James Gibson’s ran the biggest and most important service along the Diamond Way. Their coaches were all named after British castles and their drivers had all to be addressed as “Captain.” New businesses mushroomed in Beaufort West to meet the needs of coach passengers. Passengers in transit, for instance, bought more than 1 000 loaves of bread a week in Beaufort West. A single ticket on the coaches cost £2/10/-. There was a cheaper tariff for those willing to sit outside in the dust and baking sun. Baggage was limited to 30lb per passenger.


A young man who became a friend and trusted private secretary of Cecil John Rhodes once worked in Beaufort West. Philip Jourdan started as a clerk in the records section of the House of Assembly. It was here that he first met Rhodes, then an ordinary member of the House. Jourdan later joined The Civil Service and was sent to Beaufort West to assist the magistrate. He enjoyed the vast, open, freshness of the Karoo and often walked for hours in the veld. Then a letter from Sir William Milton arrived inviting him to join the staff of Rhodes’s Prime Minister’s Department, which was being set up. Jourdan charged to Cape Town and within short was appointed private secretary to the man he admired most in the world.


In the late 1800s a British clergyman was captivated by the magic of the Karoo. W J Knox Little M A, Canon Residentiary of Worcester and Vicar of Hoar Cross in England, came to South Africa in search of better health. He recorded his experiences in Sketches and Studies in South Africa. “This country is one of the most interesting parts of the Empire. It is the theatre of many of the most energetic efforts of Englishmen, yet it affords examples of some of our gravest mistakes. I am convinced South Africa made such rapid strides towards civilisation, that it has a great future and will gives us lessons for a long time to come.” Knox Little travelled northwards via Natal and the Free State and back through the Diamond Fields and Karoo. “The scenery became bold and wild as we entered the Great Karoo. I cannot agree with those who see no beauty in this place. It is both rugged and grand. Around Beaufort West the air is especially bracing and exhilarating. Here one sees dawns and sunsets over wild weird mountains and strange desolate stretches that one will never forget. The silence, solitude, gracious atmosphere and splendid colours of the Karoo will dwell with me forever as a sweet, strange, happy memory. These far outshine Cape Town and its scimitar of shining sea. Few places can rival this matchless, yet wild, beauty.”


At the end of the Anglo-Boer War a British soldier found himself in Beaufort West facing a woman he’d thought never to see again across a dinner table. Major-General Sir George Younghusband tells this story in A Soldier’s Memories. Months earlier he had been part of a chain of columns, which under Sir John French, had been ordered to clear the Colony of Boers and rebels. “We were given lists of rebel farmers and told to sit heavily on them and clear their properties stock and supplies being used to support the enemy,” he writes. “Near Beaufort West, an Intelligence Officer, showed us a farm belonging to a man, who’d ridden off with his two brothers to join the Boers. His wife regularly sent them supplies and information. After we outspanned, we received a polite invitation to breakfast from our unwilling hostess. However, it is difficult to breakfast first with a lady and then lay her waste. So, we politely declined and set about clearing crops and cattle. Time was short, and we really inflicted no great loss, but she was highly annoyed. As we marched off, we saw this tall, bounteous woman, dressed in black dress and wearing a large opulent hat, standing on the veranda watching us. No doubt counting the exact number of men, guns and wagons in the column!” Later, in Beaufort West Younghusband was invited to dinner by the General. “Who should be seated opposite me? That same magnificent woman whose farm we’d harried. She recognised me at once and I her. I later heard later that during a lull in her activities she had come into town to make a bitter complaint against our column and to demand compensation. We got on well at dinner. I found her pleasant despite her perverted ideas as to what a subject of The King may do in times of war. Next morning, however, we went off duty bound to try to kill or capture her husband and his brothers. They, after all, were still enemies of His Most Excellent Majesty.”


A special exhibit at Beaufort West Museum honours a man who achieved much in his short life and who became the first Black Supreme Court judge. Kolekile Joseph Renene, attended St John’s Primary School and Bastiaanse High School, in Beaufort West, where he met Henry Brown, who became a lifelong friend. Both matriculated from Bastiaanse, both qualified as teachers and both returned to take up appointments at Bastiaanse. And, for a while both were happy there. Then the political climate of 1967 forced Joe to relinquish his post. As a Black man he could not teach in a school not meant for Blacks. Joe left and ere Hwent into business in the Transkei. He began studying privately as the business world was not for him. In 1971, he received an Award of Excellence from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries in London. He studied law at Fort Hare University and graduated with a B Juris in 1974 and LLB in 1976. In 1977, he began lecturing in the Faculty of Law at Fort Hare and, in 1979, was became a senior lecturer. In May 1982, Joe went to Harvard to study for a Masters Degree in Medical Jurisprudence. After receiving his LLM in 1983, he spent a year lecturing in law at the University of Oklahoma in the USA. Joe returned to South Africa in 1985 to take up a position as senior advocate in the Supreme Court of South Africa and Lesotho. He was later appointed Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of the Transkei, where he worked until 1993. In 1994 he became a member of a technical committee drafting special legislation. The same year he was appointed as a Supreme Court Judge. Joe lost his battle against diabetes and died on October 16, 1997.


Beaufort-Wes se middedorp skole het besluit om’n reuse uitgestorwe dier te gebruik om olyfolie te bemark. Die Pelorovis wat op die etiket van die bottel verskyn is ‘n primitiewe buffel wat eeue gelede in die Karoo voorgekom het. Eienaardig genoeg het dié reus uitgesterf omtrent 10 000 jaar voordat die San kunstenaars dit op die Nelspoort rotse gegrafeer het, sê kenners van Sanrotskuns. Tot verlede jaar, het Sentraal Hoërskool, Nico Brummer Primêr en die Voorbereidingskool, olywe van omtrent 500 bome elders verkoop vir verwerking. Vanjaar het die skole besluit om ‘n pers te koop en hulle eie olyfolie te maak en bemark Die eerste bome is in 1960 geplant. Die projek was so suksesvol dat die skole vanjaar nog 120 bome gaan plant.


Beaufort West’s mid-town schools have decided to use an extinct giant creature to a new product. The Pelorovis that appears on the label of their olive oil bottle shows a primitive buffalo that lived in the Karoo centuries ago. Oddly enough this giant had been extinct for almost 10 000 years by the time San artists carved its likeness on the rocks at Nelspoort, say rock art experts. Until last year Sentraal High School, Nico Brummer Primary and the Preparatory Schoo, sold olives picked from 500 trees to other producers for pressing and preserving. This year the schools decided to buy a press and produce their own cold-pressed virgin oil for sale. The first olive trees for this project were planted in 1960. The project has been so successful that the schools plan to plant another 120 trees this year.


In the late 1800s a French prospector, N J Gillet, stated there was gold on Table Mountain. This so excited Richard Rosenthal, a schoolboy at the time, that he “dashed up the slopes of Lions Head in search of treasure,” writes his nephew Eric Rosenthal in Shovel and Sieve. “Gold thrilled Uncle Richard, who later helped Professor Hahn extract unpayable quantities of gold from the sands of Woodstock beach. Later still he met Gillet, who’d just returned from Prince Albert. Gillet told him of a scheme ‘to drive a tunnel through Signal Hill to recover hidden wealth,’ but Uncle Richard was far more interested in his Karoo plans. Gillet mentioned gold had been discovered near Prince Albert and said he had ‘plans to build a city, complete with opera house, synagogue, Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedrals.’ He spoke of hundreds of plots available for sale and my uncle, the eternal optimist, bought one.” Sadly, like all Richard Rosenthal’s gold mining ventures this came to nothing. There was not sufficient gold to sustain a city, but a tiny town, called Gillitsville, mushroomed at the goldfields, existed briefly and then, like the gold, simply vanished.


Gold fever flared briefly in the Karoo in 1891when a nugget was discovered on Klein Waterval, near Prince Albert. Interest faded until an aardvark caused a gold rush 20 years later. Prospectors rushed to Lodewyk Bothma’s farm, Spreeufontein, after a nocturnal burrower unearthed a 2½oz water-worn nugget. Within four months 1 042 claims had been registered and 504 oz of gold found. Towns, named Kruidfontein, Gatsplaats and Zeekoegat were planned. Yet, by 1895 the dream was over and “most claims had fallen into the hands of a few poor Coloured men.” The Registrar of Claims even withdrew in 1896. Enthusiasm flared again in 1905. The Courier of February 16, quoting S A News, reported: “One of the largest public meetings ever held took place in Prince Albert courtroom at 4 pm on February 6. Its purpose was to discuss the discovery of gold near Zeekoegat, only five hours ride from town.” When Jac M Theunissen spoke of the “rich strike,” N C van der Hoeven said: “I fear Mostert and Du Plessis, on whose land the gold was found, aim to ignore us and float a company in Beaufort West.” Residents angrily muttered: “Prince Albert will be left in the lurch.” “We’ve slumbered long enough,” said F Fischer. “It’s time to be up and doing. We must mine the gold, if we don’t others will.” “We must not be duped and kept in the dark,” said S Koch. P K Neethling, pointing out the men were well within their licence rights, said: “The gold law allows three months for declarations.” But Van der Hoeven said: “Du Plessis searched for fossils for months before his licence was granted. He knows how much gold there is.” “We have had enough of waiting,” said J N Combrink. “It has not yet brought us a decent water supply.” This remark was met with cheers. Fischer and Garisch proposed that Mostert and Du Plessis be invited to enlighten the public. “So ended a dangerously fiery meeting,” reported The Courier.


Gamkaskloof, Die Hel, is onlangs in styl geopen. By die seremonie het Kaap Natuurbewaring se hoof, David Daitz, vir Die Burger vertel dat hy van ‘n hotel in Die Hel droom. “Niks sal gedoen kan word sonder’n ryk vennoot en geld van buite,” het hy gesê. “Een manier om die geldknelpunt uit die weg te ruim sal wees om ‘n luukse R5 000 per dag hotel te bou wat buitelandse toeriste na Die Hel sal lok, Daar is behoeftes aan die bopunt van die mark om die natuur vanaf luukse verblyf te besigtig.” Maar, Gamkasklowers vra: “Was hy ernstig?” Een liefhebber van die vallei, Arnold Hutchinson sê “So ‘n ontwikkeling sal rampspoedig wees en die uniekheid van die gebied beskadig.” ‘n Ander Jan van Heerden stem saam. “Die Hel moet behoue bly. ‘n Moontlike geskikte plek vir ‘n motel en wegspringplek vir dagtoere is waar die pasbouers se tronk was,” sê hy.


Gamkaskloof, The Hell, was recently opened in style. During the ceremony Cape Nature Conservation chief executive David Daitz told Die Burger he dreamed of a luxury hotel in The Hell. “Nothing will be able to be done here without a rich partner and money from outside,” he said. “One way of overcoming the financial problems would be to build a luxury hotel costing R5 000 per person per day to entice overseas visitors to The Hell. There is a need at the top end of the market to enjoy nature from the comfort of a luxurious resort.” But, the Gamakasklowers ask: “Was he serious?” One man who loves the valley, Arnold Hutchinson, said: “Such a development would be disasterous and would destroy this unique area.” Another, Jan van Heerden, agreed: “The Hell must be preserved,” he said. “Possibly a suitable place for a motel and hopping off place for day tours into Gamkaskloof would be near the little pine wood, where the road-builders’ jail was.”