Early Detection and Rapid Response Spotter Network is launched

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To further extend the effectiveness of Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) programme, the Cape Town Invasive Species Unit is now appealing to hikers, interested gardeners and the public to help them with early detection of target plant species.

The aim is to develop a voluntary network of ‘spotters and experts’ covering the Cape Town Metropolitan area and who will upload any sightings of EDRR Cape Town target species to the Cape Town Invasives website. The EDRR programme aims to eradicate target species in the Cape Town Metropolitan area. Eradication is only possible if every single target plant is located and completely removed.

The purpose of the website is to assist the EDRR programme in locating 100% of the individual target species. The spotter network increases the programme’s ability to locate the species by having more ‘eyes on the ground’. The target species reporting website allows the spotters to view their own contributions and to track the EDRR team’s response to their sightings. The website is a management tool that assists with deployment of the teams to the required areas, as well as with monitoring the efficacy of control efforts.

The website has three levels of access:

General public: View species distribution and stage (verified, controlled, monitoring). Learn more about the species and have the ability to register as a spotter.

Spotters: Upload sightings view their contributions and everything the general public can do.

Administrators: Verify observations, change statuses, make changes to species information, schedule interventions and manage the website content. Administrators are drawn from the EDRR team and experts.

Target species

A list of target species was compiled with input from the National EDRR programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and experts such as Dr Tony Rebelo, who has extensive knowledge of plant invasions especially on and around Table Mountain National Park. The list is not static, but gets updated as information becomes available. Some species may be removed from the list or additional species may be added in time.

The species selection process

The selection of target species were based on the 2nd draft of the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations of the NEMBA Act No 10 of 2004 and observations of emerging weeds (plants that suddenly appear on various sites around the city such as on road verges or in public open spaces, rivers and nature reserves).

Selecting target species consists of the following three steps:

Step 1:
Category 1a species were listed by default and sent to experts for input and confirmation.

Step 2:
List category 1b species not yet established within the boundaries of the City were listed. Records were obtained from available GIS data and verified with experts.

Step 3 - ongoing:
As species locality information becomes available through spotters, monitoring or through surveys, the target species list is updated. New invader species might become problematic or evidence may become available that some target species are already widely distributed. The new species will be added to the list and widely established species will be removed from the target list and placed on the regular control programme.

Research and expert input underpin the decisions on which species to target and which methods are the most effective for controlling target species.

The EDRR target species are not yet widely established in the Cape Metropole. There is still a chance to get the species, on the list, under control and even remove them completely on certain sites. These species are popular garden plants and are therefore found in people’s backyards or just over the garden fence.

To get them under control or completely remove them we need to know where they are. Because of them being in gardens or areas often visited by hikers, friends, gardeners or nature lovers, the general public, they can play an active part in finding “spotting” reporting and removing the plants before they become established and start spreading. The public become our eyes and ears on the ground.

What happens to plants that were removed from the target list?

Species that were removed from the target list will not be ignored, but controlled under the city-wide long term invasive plant control programme.

What will cause a plant to be removed from the list?

The extent of the invasion will soon become evident with more spotters looking out for the target plants. The team of experts and National EDRR programme may decide that a particular target plant is already established and widespread and it should rather be controlled under the general control programme.

How to use the Spotter Network

The map on the www.capetowninvasives.org.za site provides a view of the target plant species localities and enables the public and spotters to track progress. It also keeps the project team on their toes!

Clearing invasives

The different stages of identification through to clearance are colour coded:

Red: verified. Sighting confirmed as target plant.

Yellow: control underway. It remains yellow through the entire control programme to indicate the team responded to the sighting and the plant(s) are now being controlled.

Green: under control. The sighting turns green when the target plants are regarded as under control. No re-sprouting or reoccurrence. The sighting is still monitored.

The process

Figure 1 below explains how the process works. What happens after a sighting was reported.



  • The EDRR target species list is available on the website and provides a picture and short description of the plant. More information is available on invasives.org. The link is provided for further reading. Only EDRR target species can be reported.
  • To register as a spotter follow the link, complete and submit the spotter application form. You will receive an electronic notification that you are registered as a spotter. Spotter’s personal details are confidential and only the administrators have access to the information.
  • Report sightings of target species on the spotter reporting form; then upload a clear picture of the plant showing distinctive characteristics such as leaves, leave arrangement, the entire plant, flowers, seeds (if present). The clearer the picture, the easier it is to identify.
  • An expert will identify the plant.
  • Confirmed. As soon as the plant is positively identified and the exact locality has been confirmed, the sighting will show on the map as verified and the spotter receives a notification that the species is confirmed. It might also be that the species reported, is not a target species, the spotter will then be notified that it is not a target species, but an established species or even that it is not a species of concern.
  • Control starts. The plant is displayed as yellow (control underway).
  • Under control: When reoccurrence is not detected through the ongoing monitoring of the site, the display turns green, indicating the plant is now under control on the site.
  • Ongoing monitoring to detect re-occurrence of the specimen.

If you have feedback or questions please contact Louise Stafford or Mfundo Tafeni on 021 712 1434/1944 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..