The Helderberg aliens are in retreat

Adelina van Niekerk and Dora Wolhuter hack long-leaf wattle with the Helderberg as a backdrop.

James Silberbauer runs the volunteer hacking programme at the Helderberg Nature Reserve, where he and his team play a vital role contributing to the management and maintenance of alien growth at the reserve. James recently completed his 100th hack since taking over the running of the hacks in July 2007.

As of August this year, they have had 110 monthly hacks, of which only six were cancelled due to bad weather, says James. “The combined effort of the past nine years comes to more than 12 months’ work. In all, 252 hackers were involved, with a total attendance of 1 204, an average of 10.95 a hack,” he says.

The Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve congratulate all the hackers – and James in particular, for this remarkable achievement, for his leadership, commitment and outstanding contribution to the reserve.

So why do hackers get involved?

“Unchecked invasive alien growth can reduce biodiversity and habitat for indigenous plants, insects, birds and animals,” says James.

“We are working in the lower parts of the reserve, and are concentrating on clearing the new growth in the areas under rehabilitation, following the recent harvesting of the pine plantations. Our work complements the City of Cape Town’s alien removals programme, which covers the rest of the reserve.”

Are you keen to join James?

No experience is required – just a love of the reserve and a pair of willing and able hands. The hack dates for the rest of the year are Saturdays September 10 and October 8, at 8am, and on Saturay November 12, at 7.30am.

The team meets behind the Mike Woods Environmental Education Centre. Dress for scratchy bush – tough clothing with long sleeves and long trousers is recommended. You will be provided with a pair of sturdy gloves.

Saws, loppers, tree poppers and herbicide are also provided. The hack usually lasts about two and a half hours, with a break and refreshments provided. For more information, contact James at, or 078 306 1660.

For regular updates on what’s happening at the reserve, and to get involved, visit