City Nature Challenge

City Nature Challenge

The City of Cape Town will be participating in the City Nature Challenge for 2019 run by iNaturalist, from 26-29 April. We hope that you will play a major role in helping us win this challenge. We invite you to participate, to help plan and execute this event and put the City of Cape Town where it belongs on the biodiversity map: the very top!

The competition is worldwide, and over 150 cities are competing in 2019. All will be trying to showcase their nature and encouraging citizen scientists (that is you!) to participate in this endeavour.

For four days after Easter people all around the world, interested in nature, will be putting their biodiversity onto the map.

The competition started between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2016 (Los Angeles won!). In 2017 it went national in the USA, in 2018 it went international and in 2019 Cape Town is participating. Last year in 68 cities, 17,000 people made 441,000 observations of 18,000 species on those four days (see details).

The City Nature Challenge is organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles county and the California Academy of Sciences, and run on iNaturalist which is supported by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic.

The competition will run just after Easter, from 26-29 April 2019. Please diarize these dates now, and start planning your involvement.

The City of Cape Town Biodiversity Branch are fully on board. The aim is to open and showcase our nature reserves to schools and the public for the four days. We will need to organise bioblitzes and family days in our mountains, nature reserves and open spaces. For this we will need your help. Our reserve managers and staff will also be fully participating in the project, but your participation in planning and execution on the day is essential – they will be very busy dealing with issues: it will be up to us to make sure that everything goes smoothly. This is an opportunity to recruit new members, to reach out to the public and to get everyone excited about our fauna, flora and fungi. At the same time we will collect data for monitoring and documenting species in our reserves, open spaces and city. The data will be used by reserve managers to plan and run the reserves more efficiently, and by Red List staff at SANBI to evaluate the conservation status of our species.

Among the groups involved thus far are the CREW Groups, Wessa Friends Groups, Table Mountain National Park Honorary Rangers, Scouts South Africa, Girl Guides and Diving groups. We also want to involve the schools and universities, so if you know of any way of doing so, please contact Eleanor ( urgently.)

To be involved in this project, all you need do is register as a User on iNaturalist and then post as many biodiversity observations made within the Cape Town Metropole over the four-day period, as possible. If you are not signed up yet, then do so at ( Then, load the iNaturalist app onto your cellphone. The app will handle all the things needed for an observation. You merely have to find something living, and take a picture or two, and upload.

Please join our project to receive news and updates:

Your observations do not only have to be from mountain tops or nature reserves – beaches, urban parks, trails, waterways, gardens, school grounds – anywhere will do, where there is something exciting to photograph (as long as they are from the Cape Town Metropole). The focus is on the wild plants, animals and moulds, but we can also record any alien invasives and park scape inhabitants across the city. Please tag animals or plants that are captive or planted as such.

Some rules (there are not many):
● No people please – definitely no selfies. Your domestic dogs and cats do not count either (but feral ones do!). Ideally wild animals and plants please, but if in doubt, snap it.
● Use your zoom to take a close-up photo – to qualify we will have to identify your observation (we do that the week afterward the Challenge weekend) and small images are impossible to ID. Please zoom in as much as possible and take the clearest possible pictures. This applies to goggos as much as birds (and small flowers)
● Only one species per observation. Don’t lump them – we need as many different observations as possible.
● Please only post one observation for a species at a place at a time – several photographs are needed for many plants and insects as you need different angles and aspects for ID purposes (eg. many plants need leaves, back of flowers, details of hairiness, indication of size etc.) so keep them on one observation. But if you are going to several venues during the day it is OK to photograph the same species of animals or plants again each time.
● Only observations made within the city limits between midnight at the start of 26 April and midnight at the end of 29 of April 2019 will count.

Phase 2 of the Challenge, and equally as important as capturing observations involves identifying observations.
So please diarize 30 April – 5 May for helping with doing identifications. We will be organizing identification parties to help with this. There is a special curation tool for this to make the task easy. Training will be provided. We need both the experts and specialists to make species level IDs, but also people to help put the observations to genus or family to help the experts. Please help if you can. Note that anyone can help – if there is anyone outside of Cape Town who would like to participate: then this is the ideal way to help out!

As we approach the event, we will post more information and material about the City of Cape Town Nature Challenge 2019.
Please tell us ( or what you are planning; any media releases and any publications or air-time, and we will post it at You are welcome and encouraged to put lots of articles in your local newspapers leading up to the event: please just note, all media releases must contain the two logos below, and you can add your own as appropriate.

We will be running a number of iNaturalist User training sessions in the run-up to the event, so keep an eye on your emails.
Reserve managers will be requested to do a few dry runs leading up to the event to try and anticipate potential problems. If you can help with planning and running these it will really appreciated. You will after all be enlightening some kids and collecting useful data, even though it is not the event itself.

Please contact Tony (, Gigi ( or Eleanor ( if you have any queries or suggestions. Contact your reserve manager or Leighan ( if you would like to organize special activities (such as night searches, bat hunts, stream surveys, high altitude species or other fun activities) that your reserve is especially suitable for, and your team skilled at.

Looking forward to an exciting and fun Challenge!

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