The history of Knysna will forever be defined by the Great Knysna Fire that engulfed our area of the Garden Route on the 7th June 2017 and in the days that followed. The fire, fanned by high berg winds, swept over drought-stricken plantations, jumped the lagoon and brought death and destruction to everything in its path. Over 800 homes were destroyed and the reeling inhabitants were left (and still are) counting the cost of South Africa’s worst fire in living memory. However, it wasn’t only the people who were affected. The habitats of birds and animals were greatly compromised and the townsfolk quickly stepped up to the plate (so to speak) to water and feed these poor displaced creatures.
Our house mercifully was spared, which is an absolute wonder because it is situated on the edge of a little forest that was also affected by the fire. We immediately set up four different feeding stations near our birdbath. It was amazing to see the numbers and varieties of thirsty and hungry birds that came to our garden. Species that we’d never seen here before. One bird that gives us enormous pleasure and delight when it visits us is the beautiful Knysna Turaco or Knysna Lourie (Tauraco corythaix).
These birds, whose habitat is cool forest areas, are by nature rather shy and reluctant to come out into the open to eat. Times were dire for them and after the fire they soon made themselves at home in our forest.
Now, four months after the fire, the Turacos are still daily visitors and we are happy to say that they aren’t so scared of us anymore. Many a morning I find them waiting on the fence or in nearby trees for me to feed them and they don’t fly away while I’m putting their food out.
I apologise for the poor quality of the above photo, but I put it in here to show the beautiful red underwings of the Turaco when it flies.
The Knysna Turaco is the emblem of our town and it wasn’t long after the fire that Dominic Morel designed a new logo for us – a Turaco with its wings up symbolising Knysna Rising from the ashes. This was to let the world know that far from being destroyed, Knysna would rise again and be open for business as usual.
Our town is slowly but surely being rebuilt, and like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes. And we’ve made some new feathered friends that we are privileged to see every day.