The Toyota Enviro Outreach is an innovative programme in which Toyota and various partners work together to document, protect and preserve South Africa’s rich natural heritage.
Over the past two years, the programme has supported the International Barcode of Life Initiative, where local and international scientists work to collect, catalogue and list the DNA coding of plants and insects in order to ensure their survival.
For 2011, the Toyota Enviro Outreach will be focusing its efforts on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (meaning miracle and wonder), as part of the 2011 “International Year of Forests”.
The project officially kicks off from Toyota’s outdoor 4×4 stand at the Johannesburg International Motor Show on Saturday, October 8. The event begins with a procession around the Expo Centre at 11:00 with the fleet of Toyota Hilux and Fortuner 4x4s, while the official send-off is planned for 12:00.
Although the Toyota Enviro Outreach is part of a broader ongoing environmental initiative, the focus of the 12-day iSimangaliso project is to collect specimens from a broad range of species and sub-species from this sensitive area, and to produce DNA barcodes for each one of them.
These specimens and their sequences will become part of the growing reference library of DNA barcodes for South African plants and animals, and is intended for open access and use by the broader scientific and amateur naturalist communities.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in December 1999, and is SA’s third largest park (at 332 000 hectares), extending from Maphelane (Cape St Lucia) in the south through Lake Sibaya and on to Kosi Bay in the north.
The area contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking eco systems, 700-year-old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, and 25 000-year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world.
In support of the International Barcode of Life, the project features some of the most experienced and respected local and international scientists and researchers in the field, including fish and mollusc specialists Herman van der Bank, Richard Greenfield and Andrew Deacon.
Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman will be focusing on spiders, while insect research falls under Paul Herbert, Erik Holm, Christian Deschodt, Vincent Savolainen and Brigitte Braschler. Olivier Maurin and Michelle van der Bank will be documenting the various plant species.
Renowned 4×4 specialist and eco-warrior Gerhard Groenewald, from the Klipbokkop 4×4 Academy, will also be lending an experienced hand, along with representatives from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, various media and journalists, and personnel from Toyota South Africa.
All of the specially branded Hilux and Fortuner 4x4s are sponsored by Toyota South Africa, with additional sponsorship from 4×4 Mega World, Campworld, Total, Goodyear, the Cross Country X-Club, National Luna and Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve.