About Us

“We aim to heal the relationship between plants, birds and people by restoring migration routes for nectar feeding birds across the city.”

The Ingcungcu Sunbird Restoration Project aims to link the Table Mountain National Park with the Boland Mountains via a series of pollinator gardens that will act as filling stations for migrating sunbirds and sugarbirds crossing the densely urbanized Cape Flats. This migration route is especially important when fires temporarily decimate the vegetation, forcing the birds to leave in search of nectar. We are reopening this route by planting gardens of carefully selected nectar-producing plants on strategically located school grounds where they act as “filling stations” for birds. The migration corridor crosses the suburbs of Cape Town were school children from diverse backgrounds are engaged in all aspects of the project, from planting to the collection of bird and plant data. For many this is their only contact with nature. 

Ingcungcu (plural Iingcungcu) is a Xhosa word meaning ‘long-billed bird’, and is also used to refer to royalty.

Ingcungcu Team

Prof. Anton Pauw – Project Leader
Prof. Anton Pauw has been teaching and conducting research in ecology at Stellenbosch University since 2004. The conservation of pollinators has been a focus throughout this time. His research has documented the loss of pollinators and their dependent plants from conservation areas in the city of Cape Town. In 2013, together with Sjirk Geerts and Bongani Mnisi, he started the Ingcungcu Sunbird Restoration Project.

Ceinwen SmithProject Manager 
Ceinwen Smith co-ordinates all aspects of the project, engaging with teachers, learners, research partners and collaborators. Ceinwen is a marine scientist by training, a curious explorer by nature and an educator at heart. Her interests in both both marine and terrestrial ecosystems focus on ecology, functional diversity, plant observation and phenomenology. In 2017, Ceinwen joined the Ingcungcu team and is passionate about working with teachers, artists and local medicinal healers to continue developing the gardens as living classrooms. 

Bongani Mnisi – Steering Committee
Bongani Mnisi has more than a decade of experience working in biodiversity and water resources management. He is the Head: Nature Conservation in the biodiversity management division of the City of Cape Town where he manages the largest part of the City’s Biodiversity Network including four nature reserves. Mnisi serves as chair of the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA), as well as the Board of Trustees of the Table Mountain Fund and its Conservation Committee. Mnisi completed his MSc thesis on the Ingcungcu project in 2017 under the supervision of Prof. Pauw and Dr. Geerts. He also holds a BPhil degree in Sustainable Development Planning and Management and a BTech degree in Nature Conservation. He presented his  work on Biodiversity and Climate Change at two international conferences both held in the United States, California, Los Angeles in 2012 and Long Beach in 2016.

Dr. Sjirk Geerts – Steering Committee
Dr. Sjirk Geerts is an ecologist by training. He completed his PhD thesis on sunbird pollination under Prof. Pauw. His research on sunbirds has been published in a number of top ecological journals. Since 2013 he has been a lecturer in the Department of Conservation and Marine Science at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Here he is instrumental in training the next generation of nature conservators. Dr. Geerts was one of the co-founders of the Ingcungcu Sunbird Restoration Project. He recently presented the ‘building biodiversity leadership’ aspect of the project at the 2nd People Development In Africa Conference held in Skukuza.

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