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​City Nature Challenge 2021: Unleash your inner citizen scientist 


APR 28, 2021 | Written by Zoë Chapman Poulsen, photos by Zoë Chapman Poulsen, Lezelle Frank, Christiaan Viljoen, ‘scelotes’ and iNaturalist, City Nature Challenge.




Above: Honey protea (Protea repens) in flower in fynbos vegetation near George on the Garden Route. Photo: Lezelle Frank/iNaturalist.


Head into the botanical gardens, nature reserves and even your own garden this weekend (30 April to 3 May 2021), to unleash your inner citizen scientist. Record everything you see, and in so doing, help inform conservation action.


The 2021 City Nature Challenge kicks off this Friday.

Here 170 cities around the world join together in a friendly competition for citizen scientists to document our urban biodiversity. The challenge will run over four days to 3 May.

You need to be based in any of the following regions, with ten different areas across southern Africa set to participate, including Cape Town, Garden Route, Nelson Mandela Bay, eThekwini, Tshwane, Gaborone and SE Botswana, Botswana Central, Northern Botswana and Botswana South.

To join the fun, download the iNaturalist app on your smartphone or upload photos from your camera to the iNaturalist website along with GPS coordinates of your nature sightings.


Above: Counting down to the 2021 City Nature Challenge on the CNC homepage.


A fun activity the whole family can get involved in

Why not see how many different plant and wildlife species you can find and upload to the iNaturalist app?

The iNaturalist app and website are an online platform that allow citizen science volunteers to document and upload observations of any plant, animal, bird, insect, fungi or other life form that they have seen. iNaturalist is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.


Above: Community members learn about the biodiversity of Rondebosch Common during an event run by the Friends of Rondebosch Common. Photo: Zoë Chapman Poulsen.


Bioblitz events run by enthusiastic volunteers will be taking place across participating urban areas, with details available on each participating area’s Facebook pages. All necessary COVID protocols will be adhered to during these events.

Alternatively, you could plan your own adventure either at home by looking for plants and insects in your garden or outdoor space, or by visiting your local botanical garden, nature reserve or national park.


Above: Southern black sunbird photographed near the Sundays River, Eastern Cape. Photo: Christiaan Viljoen/iNaturalist.


Participants need not be expert scientists, with anyone with beginner to advanced nature knowledge able to get involved. Once all observations have been uploaded to iNaturalist, teams of local and international biodiversity experts will process and identify the nature observations.

With challenges such as habitat loss and global change impacting on the world’s ecosystems, harnessing the power of citizen science to document the biodiversity on our doorsteps is key. Data collected by everyone involved helps us grow our collective knowledge of biodiversity worldwide.


Above: iNaturalist is a powerful platform where citizen scientists can document biodiversity worldwide.


Information about what species occur where helps us to reach conservation goals by informing strategic conservation planning. In South Africa these data are already used, for example for updating the SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) Red List of South African Plants. This allows biodiversity professionals to prioritise conservation action using a data-based approach.

For more information about the City Nature Challenge, head on over to their website: www.citynaturechallenge.org

More information about the iNaturalist citizen science platform:

Southern Africa project which groups all:


BotSoc members who are registered iNaturalist users are encouraged to join the Botanical Society of South Africa Project on iNaturalist:


Bankenveld and Pretoria branches: Tshwane

KZN Coastal and KZN Inland branches: eThekwini

Algoa branch: Nelson Mandela Bay

Garden Route branch: Garden Route

Kirstenbosch, Kogelberg and West Coast branches: Cape Town www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2021-city-of-cape-town/journal


Above: Black-headed dwarf chameleon photographed near Hilldene, KwaZulu-Natal. Photo: ‘scelotes’/iNaturalist.


#CityNatureChallenge Instagram Takeover!

Join us as BotSoc’s Conservation Manager, Rupert Koopman, will visit a range of natural areas in and around the City of Cape Town this weekend, as well as share images from around the country, as part of the City Nature Challenge. If you’re participating, please tag us (@BotSocSA) in your instastories so we can share your special finds in the 5 participating regions.


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