It's over - we won!

Over the past several days, 1 141 Capetonians have been clambering our mountainsides, probing our coasts, diving our reefs and exploring our reserves to observe and record as many living species as possible for the City Nature Challenge. And the results are in - Cape Town is the winner in the categories of "Most Observations" and "Most Species", setting new records in both categories and being the first ever non-American city to claim the prestigious top spot. Well done!


CIty Nature Challenge 2019

2019 was the first year that Cape Town got to compete in the City Nature Challenge, a competition of 159 international cities for everyday citizens to use the iNaturalist app to observe, record and identify as many living things in their city as possible. Plants, animals, fungi and fish - nothing was off limits in this scramble to reveal every one of Cape Town's living treasures.

In the Aquarium's vicinity, in the heart of Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, hundreds of observations were made. These included a huge variety of life from Cape gulls and fur seals to dusky dolphins and bird-of-paradise flowers. Not a bad assortment of wildlife for the middle of a city!

Over four days, from 26 to 28 April 2019, Capetonians made 53 763 observations - setting a new City Nature Challenge record and claiming first place in the "Most Observations" category and identified 4 588 species - nearly 1 000 species more than Hong Kong who claimed second place in the "Most Species" category! Credit must also be given to the huge team of naturalists who spend the next week sifting through the tens of thousands of observations you submitted to identify all of Cape Town's unique fauna and flora - this truly was a gargantuan effort!

SANBI scientist and iNaturalist custodian Tony Rebelo, who was one of the key people driving Cape Town's efforts in the City Nature Challenge had this to say: "We beat our nearest rival Hong Kong by 1000 species. Out of 4500. That is a quarter more!!  And we did this in our off season.

One of our major considerations for taking part or not was the fact that this is the very worst time of the year for recording species [in Cape Town]: Everything is still dormant: the frogs are still aestivating (the late rains are not helping), the bulbs are only just putting out leaves and totally unidentifiable, and the annuals are still just a few leaves. We estimated that almost half our flora would still be below ground for the event.

To have so resoundingly outperformed the competition, just belies the fact that we take our extra-ordinary biodiversity for granted. We think it is the norm, whereas in fact we are living on one of the most species rich (for both plants and marine organisms) places on earth. We need to appreciate this, to appreciate the full challenge of trying to conserve it in this rapidly developing city."

The Two Oceans Aquarium is proud to call beautiful Cape Town home, we truly are blessed to live in the hub of such biodiversity - even winter can't stop us from beating the Northern Hemisphere's spring! We'd like to thank the incredible staff at SANBI who were the driving force behind the Cape Town competition as well as the numerous local organisations that supported the Challenge. Of course, we much give thanks to the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles who organised this global City Nature Challenge - thanks for inviting the rest of the world to enjoy the fun! And last but certainly not least that you to all the people that supported Cape Town - next year we'll do even better!


Want to see how Cape Town fared? Take a look at the official results:

Our 10 favourite Cape Town sightings

It's difficult to choose favourites from the more than 50 000 observations made in Cape Town over the four-day period, but these top ten really stood out for us:

This very unusual parrot-beaked tortoise (Homopus areolatus) seen near Melkbosstrand by nicolehart.
This Cape zebra cockroach (Temnopteryx phalerata), proving that even roaches can be beautiful. Observed by magrietb.
A stunningly beautiful fiery nudibranch (Okenia amoenula) spotted off the Simon's Town coast by helenwalne.
This majestic peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) seen picking its nose by wingate in Goodwood.
The gorgeous scarlet of this knobbly anemone (Bunodosoma capense), observed by muisvogel near Gordon's Bay.
This night-light jelly (Pelagia noctiluca) spotted by mpfaff in False Bay.
These magnificent sea squirts (Botrylloides magnicoecum) seen off the Peninsula by seastung.
A Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) spotted (or should we say striped) by callumevans on Cape Point.
The flower of this unnamed stone plant (Lampranthus spiniformis) seen by petrabroddle near Philadelphia.
This African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) observed by evan81 near Somerset West.

What now?

While we all prepare to take the top spot in the City Nature Challenge again in 2020 - the iNaturalist platform is still of incredible value to our local nature scientists. We would like to encourage you to download the iNaturalist app and continue adding photos of the interesting living things to discover. And - encourage your friends to do so too (after all, Cape Town can still improve when it comes to number of participants). 


If we are going to conserve the rich diversity of life in Cape Town, we need to know what we have - and this is an amazing way for us all to be active citizen scientists (and have fun in the process)!

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