Local pilot to steer Korsmans

Jane Trembath is pictured in the Korsman Bird Sanctuary, of which she is now the chairwoman.

Not only is Jane Trembath able to keep a plane in the sky, but she is also passionate about sky-life.

Jane, the first woman pilot in South Africa to command long-range international flights, took the reins as chairwoman of the Korsmans Bird Sanctuary for the new year.

She lives in Westdene and is the captain on the Airbus A340 and A330, doing international flights at South African Airways.

When the City Times asked if she felt excited about her new position, the lively pilot said that although she did not realise the amount of work that would be involved, she felt a sense of duty to the environment.

Her responsibility towards the sanctuary is to work in partnership with the Ekurhuleni municipality, which owns the sanctuary, by keeping them informed of the problems and working together with them on the solutions.

She added that ward councillor Mary Goby helped the committee a lot by communicating with the municipality.

The challenges the sanctuary are currently facing include invasive vegetation — “ranging from invasive trees to reeds and bulrushes, weeds and kikuyu grass,” according to Trembath.

“Our water level is critically high following the March rains and we desperately need Ekurhuleni to pump it out,”

The water quality is also an issue: “Until the sewerage pumps are replaced, we have regular sewerage spills,” she explained.

She added that some visitors who disrespect this environment also causes stumbling block.

“Our volunteers are always clearing litter inside and outside the fence, and one could write an essay on the weird things we have picked up, ranging from a broken washing machine, to a ceramic chicken, to a pair of boots, to many disgusting, smelly packets of unspeakable things.”

Trembath said she would like to restore the indigenous vegetation and increase the biodiversity in the sanctuary.

“I also hope to develop a solid working relationship with Ekurhuleni, so that we can restore and maintain the area with a good understanding between us.”

Trembath said a few renovations at Korsman can be looked forward to.

“There are some exterior enhancements in the pipeline, which will be enjoyed by all nature lovers, photographers and birdwatchers, so watch this space,” she said.

Former plans to provide a pedestrian walkway around the sanctuary and close off the road at Aubrey Ritz Park, to have a safer environment for walkers and children, has not been implemented.

“Sadly, it seems as if the funds are no longer available,” said Trembath.

The City Times asked how she manages to balance her career and her duty to the sanctuary.

“The conservancy work consumes all of my time off between flying trips, so now I look forward to my ‘job’ as ‘rest’!” she responded.

“Actually, I have found that my job has complemented my work on the conservancy, because of the skills we are taught in airlines (crew resource management), for example utilising crew members’ strengths, delegating and prioritising — I’ve adapted to ‘committee resource management’.

“I also use the tenacity I have developed through my challenges as a woman pilot not to become discouraged and to keep on sending those emails.”

Trembath said she has developed a passionate interest in invasive vegetation and would like to learn the best practice in managing it.

“Beforehand, I worried about keeping up with weeding my own garden, now I have 49 hectares of weeds to deal with,” she added.

“I believe it is important to have a good relationship with the local community; to keep them informed, answer their queries and, hopefully, have their support, in turn, when we hold litter pick-ups and invasive vegetation work parties.”

Locals can find beautiful photos of bird-life at the sanctuary on the Korsman facebook page.

Tanya Bester

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