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SAFARINEWS WITH COMPLIMENTS

SUMMER EDITION 2019/2020 – ISSUE 07

WHALE NUMBERS PLUMMETING along our shores

Creating a future for the

GROUND HORNBILL

RHINO HORN A breeder’s fight to survive

IN PROUD PARTNERSHIP WITH

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SAFARINEWSCONTENTS LIVING WORLD 6–55

News from the world of conservation WILD EARTH MZCPE and its tourism advantages

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Taking care of orphan elephants

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Protecting ground-hornbill populations

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The only hairy heath population

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Buzzing world of bees at Cape Point

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Milking venomous snakes in the Lowveld

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Historic springbok migrations no more

Saving South Africa’s survivors 44

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SPOTLIGHT

Bush telegraph

Lower Zambezi mining threats 5 Trading in rhino horn the solution?

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Future of animal interactions

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Where are all the whales?

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by René de Klerk

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Africa’s donkey disaster 46 LESS TRAVELLED On foot in North Luangwa 18 NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS

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HOTSPOTS Our pick of destinations worth travelling for

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FOCUS Zooming in Zimanga 41 WANDER Relaxing next to the Great Fish

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ADOPTIONS Do your bit for conservation 49 REGULARS Columns and letters 4 Africa’s palette 26 Little safarians: Fun for the little ones By the book

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Food: Dig in 47 A day in the life 50 Last Word: Otch Otto on the bush 51

Editor René de Klerk +27 78 275 5978 / +27 11 340 3352 renedk@safarinews.org General manager Advertising and Marketing Subscriptions Janet Gordon +27 83 454 2564 / +27 11 340 3230 janetg@safarinews.org

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We’d love to hear from you. Write to us at office@safarinews.org and share your adventures, sightings, photos and stories.

Cover image by Graham Kearney

Safari News 07 Page 01_Final.indd 2

12/12/2019 22:07

s I was typing this, rain was pouring down in Johannesburg. It was the sixth day of grey skies without any trace of sunshine. Some parts of the country are not as fortunate and are in a state of drought, with no relief predicted anytime soon. The extreme weather has also affected the world’s largest rhino breeder – John Hume is providing supplementary feed to keep his rhino herd alive during the ongoing drought. This is unfortunately racking up the bills, and his calls for assistance have fallen on deaf ears. What will happen to the largest and safest captive bred rhino herd when funding dries up, while some of the largest protected areas cannot keep their rhino safe from poachers? Read the story on p7. Talking about rhino, another organisation is doing brilliant work creating hope from hurt. Saving the Survivors is giving those rhino with severe facial injuries due to poaching incidents another chance, ensuring a future for rhino in a world with a shrinking population (p44). Have you heard about the mining operations planned for the Lower Zambezi National Park – it is not good news for this natural heritage (p5). Kenya’s donkeys are being slaughtered by the thousands and by 2023 this work horse might be extinct in Kenya (p46). But let’s focus on the positive – travel. If you’re not relaxing in your favourite nature spot as you read this, you are probably planning your ideal 2020 break. We have uncovered a few destinations to add to your bucket list. Explore the remote North Luangwa National Park on foot (p18), sleep under the stars in Samara (p38), unwind next to the Great Fish River (p48), or take your photography to the next level in Zimanga (p41). Wherever you plan on going this summer, remember to do it in style, and thank you for making Safari News part of your journey! Enjoy 2020 and remember to share your memories with us!

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 3


Letters

Your thoughts

Have you recently travelled to exciting destinations or done something quite different and headed off the beaten track? Or are you simply loving Safari News? Share your thoughts at office@safarinews.org

QUESTIONING HUNTING VS TOURISM AND MINING Rodney Drew writes: Congrats on another excellent edition of Safari News. Not many newspapers keep my interest. In the spring issue your article on hunting caught my attention. There are no forums where those who abhor the killing of animals and those who love the thrill of hunting get together to see if there is room to work together. Your article opens up our minds to the important concepts of compromise and cooperation. I have to ask you about one point that you made: “Mining and tourism have a bigger impact on the environment than hunting”. The point made was that because tourists go out on game drives and stay in luxury lodges they impact on the land more than hunters.

This point brings mining and tourism into the same camp, and pitches hunters and tourists against each other. This introduces an element of desperation and weakens the argument. The hunting industry has brought the worst out in human beings in South Africa in the form of canned lion breeding and hunting, so they should clean up their act and reputation. This will give hunters a better image, which may then help their detractors see that there is a place for hunting in wildlife conservation. While the ‘canned’ industry is alive and thriving they are fighting a losing battle. * Letter edited and shortened for publication

Safari News editor responds: Thank you for your letter and feedback. This statement was never intended as a comparison between mining and tourism, but rather an observation that they both have an impact on the environment. I have been in groups where guides put a lot of focus on the Big Five, so much so that they will drive off-road,

breaking young trees and creating new tracks in sensitive environments, just for the sake of showing tourists what they want to see. Why not share knowledge of ‘lesser species’ when sightings are few? Our intention was to highlight some of the activities taking place with regards to hunting and to invite debate.

A FAN OF SAFARI NEWS AND WILDLIFE

The Safari News team recently caught up with former springbok rugby player Victor Matfield. He is involved in the wildlife auction industry and is the CEO of Wildswinkel. The company is leading the way in the field by hosting online and catalogue auctions, a method that is much less stressful on animals. Boma auctions require the darting, capture and transport of wildlife to the auction house and then on to their new destination in addition. Matfield says things have changed over the last few years, and this has influenced pricing. The poaching of Page 4 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

rhino for their horn has devalued rhino, as people no longer want to own them. “We have not been able to sell a single rhino on auction this year. In the past, they sold for a million, now they are only worth R250 000,” he says. Their biggest turnover is from the sale of buffalo, while the most frequently bought animals are kudu. They have sold various animals such as sable and roan. Matfield and his team mainly work with private wildlife owners, but have dealt with a few reserves too. Learn more about Wildswinkel by visiting www.wildswinkel.co.za

CAPTURED ON CAMERA E

veryone loves to capture milestones on camera, and there’s nothing cuter than baby photos, right? Riverine rabbit baby photos! My colleagues at the Endangered Wildlife Trust are as excited as proud parents to have captured the first ever photographic evidence of riverine rabbit babies, known as kits, with their mother. This unbelievable image was captured on a camera trap near Loxton in the Northern Cape, and showed a mother riverine rabbit and two kits. What’s really interesting is, this is in line with previous research that has suggested these elusive rabbits, rather than breeding like the proverbial bunnies, tend to have only one or two kits. To make this news even more exciting, the area where this image was captured was previously data deficient. No sightings of riverine rabbit were previously recorded on this farm. The discovery takes us one step closer to closing the knowledge gaps of the complete distribution range for the species and provides us with more information on their ecology. The team in our Drylands Conservation Programme significantly increased their camera trapping activities in 2019, in both the northern and southern populations of riverine rabbits. This has paid off, because it has led to several exciting developments, such

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WIN!

as the confirmation of the new Baviaanskloof population, and a far greater understanding of the species and their use of habitat. We’re very grateful to our funders, Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) and the Zoologischen Gesellschaft für Arten und Populationsschutz (ZGAP), for providing ongoing support for our innovative endeavours to uncover the secrets of the iconic riverine rabbit. Watch this space for more! ‘Til next time Mwitu

Hi! My name is Mwitu

Top: Camera trap footage shows a mother with her two kits, a moment captured on camera for the very first time.

A wild weekend at Sun City p2

Safari News travels p30 Struik Nature book giveaway p40 Polkadraai Sauvignon Blanc Brut p47 GlemenGold Gin hampers p47


Spotlight

MINING THREATENS

Lower Zambezi National Park

Timeline 2003: Zambia’s political party Movement for Multi-party Democracy was in power, and panicking after the withdrawal of Anglo American Corporation from largescale copper mining. They were looking for anyone who would invest in mining. Australian company Zambezi Resources Ltd applied for and was granted an exploration licence for an area of 240km2 in the Lower Zambezi Game Park. They registered a subsidiary called Mwembeshi Resources Ltd. 2008: The project gained momentum, despite a fatally flawed environmental impact assessment. The application was supported by the required environmental impact study (EIS) that rapidly became the subject of intense scrutiny by lodge owners, tour operators, conservation groups and concerned citizens. Flaws were found not only through an in-depth assessment undertaken by an independent scientist on behalf of the Lower Zambezi Tourism Association (LZTA), but also by the Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).

Safari News looks into the controversial open-cast copper mine project that was approved in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park (LZNP). An appeal is planned, but what does this move mean for conservation in the area?

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ews of Zambia’s High Court ruling to give the go-ahead for an open-cast mine has sent shockwaves through the tourism community. The Lower Zambezi National Park is one of the country’s major economic contributors. The lodges in and around the park employ over 700 locals and support thousands more in the communities living on its boundary. The mine threatens this thriving tourist economy and the livelihoods of everyone involved in tourism in the Lower Zambezi Valley. The risk of pollution and collateral damage to the environment is high, as is the impact the mine will have on the wildlife. “The proposed mining operation poses the biggest threat in history to the wildlife and pristine wilderness that has survived so many centuries of challenges, and supported generations of Zambians,” says Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president, and founder of the LZNP. The mine also threatens to derail Zambia’s recently unveiled tourism

growth strategy, which hinges on the country’s commitment to protecting its wilderness areas. An appeal is planned, but in the meantime the future of the park hangs in the balance. “The mine sets a dangerous precedent for Zambia’s wealth of protected areas, as it will damage the integrity of the LZNP in favour of short-term gain. Wildlife and tourism sectors, if they are protected and managed properly, will last for generations into the future. They will bring in significantly more wealth to Zambia,” says Ian Stevenson, CEO of Conservation Lower Zambezi. The 4 092km² park lies on the northern bank of the Zambezi River in south-eastern Zambia. It is a picturesque riverine landscape of ebonies, leadwoods and fig trees. Natal mahoganies, Ilala palms, winter thorns and battle-scarred baobabs stand tall. The area is known for its abundant wildlife, from herds of elephant to soaring fish eagles and everything in between. Leopards abound and

the elusive wild dog is found in the area. The LZNP also sits directly opposite Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The site of the mine is between two seasonal rivers that flow directly into the Zambezi River. Its tailings dams, used to store byproducts of mining operations, will be located just a few hundred metres above the valley floor, next to these rivers. The content of these dams is generally toxic. Betty Mumba Chabala of the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) says tourism is the fastest-growing sector of the Zambian economy, contributing US$1,8 billion to Zambia’s coffers last year. “The vision is for Zambia to rank among the most-visited holiday destinations in Africa,” she says.

Top: The Lower Zambezi National Park is known for its pristine wilderness and wildlife sightings, including lion. Photo: Sarah Kingdom

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2011: The project was rejected by ZEMA as the proposed site was “not suitable for the nature of the project because it is located in the middle of a national park. This intends to compromise the ecological value of the park as well as the ecosystem.” Everything went quiet. January 2014: Harry Kalaba, then Zambia’s minister of land, natural resources and environmental protection, overturned ZEMA’s ruling and issued Mwembeshi/Zambezi with a mining permit. Six environmental organisations appealed the decision and took the government to court, stating the open cast mine posed a danger to wildlife, humans and the environment. 4 April 2014: Judge Mubanga Kondolo granted a stay of execution, temporarily stopping the mining, saying “the damage to the environment that the project would cause was a matter of public concern and interest which affects all people born and unborn”. Plans ground to a halt. 2019: Zambezi Resources Ltd, now called Trek Meta, sold the Kangaluwi Copper Project to a Dubai-registered company called Grand Resources, suspected to be either a front for a Chinese company or owned outright by Chinese nationals. Grand Resources filed a secondary affidavit to revive proceedings. The stay of execution was overturned on a legal technicality. Currently: Unless an appeal is lodged quickly or the government comes to its senses and intervenes, the mining company will move onto the site and begin clearing it.

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Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 5


Living World

Missing plant

REDISCOVERED

F

or 200 years, it was thought that a certain plant had disappeared from the face of the planet. This spring, Psoralea cataracta was rediscovered right next to a footpath in the Tulbagh area of the Western Cape – after officially being declared extinct in 2008. While the discovery was accidental, Brian du Preez, a PhD student in botany at the University of Cape Town immediately recognised the plant, a type of fountain bush in the legume family. It was hiding in plain sight, but so easy to miss. “It is only 5–6mm long and when not in flower, the plants look like grass,” du Preez explains. It was flowering when he found it. Psoralea cataracta has tiny flowers on the end of long thread-like flower stalks, which is a very unique and distinctive character, and aided in making an immediate identification of the species in the field. The only previous record of the species in 1804 stated Tulbagh waterfall as the location. “Tulbagh Waterfall is a nature reserve south of Tulbagh and where most previous searches for this species took place.

“I found Psoralea cataracta growing in shale derived soils, near a stream north of Tulbagh. Soil preference therefore seems to be important for this species, as most previous searches would have been in areas with sandstone derived soils, typical habitat for Psoralea in the Cape,” he says. This species was discovered on private property in an area largely transformed for fruit farming. Du Preez was able to easily identify the plant because of previous outings with the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW), looking for this plant. However, on this occasion he was busy with field work, revising plants in the legume family, of which there are approximately 800 species in the Cape Floral Kingdom. Certainly not new to discovering new and lost species, du Preez previously found two presumedextinct species in the pea family in 2016, Polhillia ignota and Aspalathus cordicarpa, last seen in 1928 and the 1950s respectively. The species was confirmed by Prof Charles Stirton, a British-based specialist on the genus Psoralea,

and CREW immediately shared the news. Du Preez joined the team as a volunteer at the end of his first year at university as he knew very few plants at the time. The CREW programme connects the general public with scientists to bridge data and communication gaps – citizen science at its best. The CREW programme started in 2003 in the Western Cape and two other nodes were subsequently established in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Today CREW operates in seven of the nine provinces in South Africa. Kaveesha Naicker, a coordinator for the KwaZulu-Natal node says there are currently just under 1 000 volunteers nationally. South Africa

is home to more than 21 000 plant species, of which one in four are considered to be of conservation concern. CREW has leveraged the collection of accurate, reliable and recent plant species data across vast geographical regions of South Africa. Naicker confirmed CREW volunteers have found 30 newly described species and contributed 19 437 additional new specimens to the South African National Biodiversity Institute Biosystematics Division since its inception. – René de Klerk

Middle: Psoralea cataracta was discovered in flower, despite being declared extinct in 2008. Photo: Brian du Preez

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Europcar Safari News ad Sept 2019 178x275 FA.indd 1

2019/09/19 10:05


Spotlight

HORN

of contention With the largest white rhino population in the world and no funding to continue his project over the long term, John Hume’s situation is desperate. René de Klerk visited the rhino breeder to find out about his battle to support his herd

I

t was a hot day and the sun beat down on Hume’s captive breeding facility near Klerksdorp. Many of the rhino were seeking shade to escape the midday heat. We spotted a number of wildlife species, including exotics like lechwe and llama. But we visited for the rhino, and they were not difficult to find. Hume is the world’s largest breeder of southern white rhino. He trims their horn for safety reasons and has amassed a stockpile of six tonnes. His 8 400-hectare project is home to more than 1 730 rhino and he has been involved in rhino breeding for 27 years. However, he has faced an uphill battle and reports receiving little support despite protecting more rhino than some of the largest protected areas in South Africa. Hume is seen as controversial, known for challenging the South African government’s moratorium on the domestic rhino horn trade and winning, as a result legalising local sales, and holding the world’s first rhino horn auction. Despite this, he is on the verge of no longer being able to feed his rhino. To date, Hume says he has not sold substantial amounts of horn on the local market, simply because there is no demand. One of his largest sales failed. “We had all the permits in place, but those buying the horn contravened the permit conditions by driving in the wrong province.” Hume says the authorities tend to liken anyone interested in buying horn to a criminal and the buyer then loses interest. “The government

has killed all the demand.” Hume says four permits are required per transaction and even then, rhino horn cannot be sold legally outside South Africa’s borders. Questions remain over why anyone would want to buy or own rhino horn in South Africa. Those with horn could keep it in the hope that international trade could become legal. Figures differ, but some sources indicate prices of up to $60 000 per kilogram on the black market – more expensive than gold or cocaine. A fully grown horn can weigh anything between one and three kilograms.

Shortage of funding Hume made his money from real estate and is a self-proclaimed capitalist. He fell in love with rhino and decided to start breeding them. According to statistics provided by the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA), he is one of just over 300 private rhino owners in South Africa. Although he is allowed to sell horn locally, the bulk of consumers are in Asia, and international trade has been banned since 1977. He points out that wild rhino in protected areas are dying for their horn, which is sold illegally. The Kruger National Park, the largest protected area in South Africa, is a poaching hotspot where up to five rhino per day are brutally slaughtered. Although not official, sources indicate there may be less than 200 black rhino and 1 800 white rhino remaining in the Kruger. Hume says he has spent his life savings on this project, but has little

funding left and lacks support in this respect. His expenses amount to a whopping R5 million per month, of which half is spent on security, and includes permits and the safe storage of his horn stockpile for possible future trading. “Nobody has joined me in this noble cause,” he says. “I have had a few small donations. At this stage I am just trying to avoid day zero.” Despite being asked, Hume did not confirm the deadline for ‘day zero’. To stay afloat, Hume sold a large number of his buffalo and sold his entire black rhino population to eSwatini. He also received export permits for 10 rhino to two safari parks in Vietnam. This move secured additional funding, but whether the rhino will be safe in Vietnam (a known destination and consumer for poached rhino horn) and eSwatini, is questionable. The latter has a shoot to kill policy for poachers, which can be seen as a deterrent. When day zero arrives, Hume will be unable to care for his rhino, which currently require supplementary feeding due to the ongoing drought, and he will be unable to pay his staff. “I will have no choice but to sell the entire project, despite low demand for rhino in South Africa,” he says. “If I do not find a buyer and or

a partner for the project, it will be an ecological and animal welfare disaster,” he says. “Day zero will be a catastrophe for the world as it will lose the best breeding and protected > Continue reading on next page

Fact file •9  8: Hume’s rhino originate from 98 locations, making them one of the most genetically diverse groups in the world. •4  : The viable rhino populations on the African continent are found in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. •8  400: Buffalo Dream Ranch operates its captive breeding operation on an 8 400ha ranch. •1  80: The original size of the rhino herd brought from Hume’s Mpumalanga farm 11 years ago. •3  2: The number of rhino poached on Buffalo Dream Ranch before security was upgraded. •1  285: The number of rhino bred on the project, of which 1 056 are still alive.

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 7


Spotlight

> from page 7

rhino population in the world.” Hume’s rhino herd grows by 200 calves every year. Their mortality rate is much lower than rhino in the wild. Hume did not push for legal international trade from the start, but realised it might be the only way to support the project. “The idea grew slowly. I made the mistake of thinking it would pay for itself.” Hume argues that if he were able to sell his horn internationally, the project would not be in jeopardy.

says from 2009 to date, 28 tonnes of rhino horn have been stolen in South Africa. “The price of rhino has devalued by 67%,” he says.

Ban on international trade

Supporting the wrong cause? Hume alleges that the poaching crisis has led to a new industry – NGOs making money from the poaching crisis by raising funds for rhino conservation. This funding, he alleges, does not always go where it is needed, with some taking large percentages to cover admin costs. Estimates place numbers at more than 1 000 organisations raising funds for rhino, but Hume receives no support and rhino continue to be poached. Hume has become a controversial figure in conservation circles because he trims his rhinos’ horn and fights for international trade. His rhino continue to increase in numbers. He complains that organisations are unwilling to assist him in securing a future for his rhino. He wonders what will happen to his rhino if he is forced by circumstances to part with them and asks: “what will happen to them when a place like the Kruger cannot keep poachers at bay?” He argues that money-collecting NGOs are fearful of losing their income stream, and speculates that they would rather keep the current situation in place. “This is why they all stand together against the trade of rhino horn,” he says. Page 8 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

a libido enhancer. It is also a status symbol among some of the rich. One of the biggest challenges Hume’s rhinos are probably the for private owners is the lack of most protected in the world. “We government support to private rhino have not had a poaching incident breeders. Security costs are huge in 33 months,” he says. After losing a due to the increase in poaching, but total of 32 rhino to poaching, Hume owners have to fight this battle alone. replaced all his private foot soldiers Rhino poaching came to public with camera and attention in South radar equipment, Africa in 2006 and increasing his created a massive Security costs are security expenses. predicament. According to The animals huge, but rhino PROA founder were no longer owners have to fight Pelham Jones, safe. Security there were over costs spiralled this battle alone 400 private rhino and the risk of owners in South keeping rhino Africa before the far outweighed increase in rhino poaching. Today their value. Suddenly, rhino became there are just over 300, caring for more valuable dead than alive, more than 50% of the South African as thousands of rhino died for a white rhino population. “This is a piece of horn, made from the same huge conservation burden on our material as finger nails. Some Asian shoulders,” says Jones. consumers believe that rhino horn Nobody wants to own rhino due to can cure anything from hangovers to the massive expenses and risk. Jones cancer, and some allegedly use it as

Lack of support

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of species. Rhino is on Appendix I, which means the species is threatened with extinction and international trade is not allowed, unless it is an exceptional case. Rhino horn cannot be traded. In the PROA community there is a great deal of opposition to CITES. “The elephant in the room is CITES. Their draconian legislation and lack of support is a disgrace,” says Jones. He argues that the ban on trading rhino horn has not achieved much. “In 1977 when the ban was implemented, there were 33 rhino range states in Africa. Today, 23 of those have no rhino left,” says Jones. Of those with rhino, some now have less than 100 animals. “Despite this, they continue to force something that cannot work. Those who vote for it do not own any rhino,” he explains. Jones says 90% of private rhino owners agree with the principal of trading horn. The rest are reserves with sponsors on board who choose not to support the notion. Hume says the current regulations guard the illegal sale of rhino horn. “They are not stopping the illegal trade, but only the legal trade. All trade is in the hands of illegals with dead rhino,” he says. Jones says the ban has already


Spotlight

networks used as illicit supply chains. Hume believes this is tantamount to fiddling while Rome burns. “The slaughter of rhino in the Kruger and other parks and private reserves continues. If we carry on down this path there will be no rhinos left in Kruger in five years’ time. Why do we want to wait and let the slaughter continue, why not replace the poached illegal horn with a legal product that comes from live rhinos which continue to live and breed?”

failed the rhino. “Legal sale of horn will save the life of wild rhino. If supply is regulated there is no reason to kill rhino,” says Jones. Hume says free market principles would then apply. “If there is too little horn for demand, the prices go up. It works with all the products in the world, so why can’t it work with rhino horn?” Hume argues. Every legal horn carries a unique identity number, so it can be tracked.

Too many grey areas

The trade of rhino horn is an emotional and complex issue. Many NGOs making a living from the crisis are against trade, while other organisations agree with legal trade in principal, but argue that there is a lot of work to be done before trade could become a reality. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), an international organisation working in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment, is against the idea. “The contention that legal trade would lead to a reduction in rhino poaching and illegal trade in rhino horn hinges upon assumptions,” says WWF SA media manager Andrea Weiss. “WWF does not believe that a well-managed legal trade is feasible without negative impacts for wild rhinos at this time given the unacceptable levels of rhino poaching, the scale of illicit activity and the extent of illegal domestic markets in Asia.” The WWF says it “requires a greater understanding of the demand for rhino horn as a status symbol and for its perceived medicinal value to be confident that any future trade could have positive consequences for rhino conservation”. It also requires more information about the criminal

Reducing the demand

Many argue that reducing the demand for rhino horn is the answer. Richard Thomas, global communications coordinator for TRAFFIC, a leading nongovernmental organisation working on trade in wild animals and plants, says legal trade might stimulate an increase in demand. “Rhino horn use can be curtailed. At various times in the past 60 years or so, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Yemen were all major horn consumers, but attitudes towards consumption have changed

over time,” says Thomas. The debate will continue to generate heat, and without testing legal trade it would be difficult to say what the impact would be. However, with rhino being killed at an alarming rate, increasing security costs, a depreciating asset and solutions slow to come to the fore, one can simply ask how long can debate continue with little action before rhino disappear from the planet completely. If you are keen to find out more about Hume’s project and assist, email johnhume@ platinumrhinocbo.co.za

Pitter patter of little feet

The Little Rhino Orphanage supports the rhino calves from Buffalo Dream Ranch that cannot be raised by their mothers. Some mothers are unable to provide milk, die or even abandon their young. This happens in the wild too, but it is not as closely monitored, with most of the abandoned calves being killed by predators, says Claudia Adrione, manager at the facility. At the time of our visit, the

orphanage cared for a total of 50 rhino calves. Of those, 15 babies relied on milk, and 35 were weaned. The babies are all accompanied by rhino their own age, or a sheep when very young. As the calves age, they receive less and less human interaction and are moved further from human activity. Eventually, the youngsters are reunited with the wild rhino on the ranch.

Rhino calf sketch (p7): Graham Kearney Left top: Wild rhino roam freely at the captive breeding facility at Buffalo Dream Ranch. Left middle: A rhino killed for its horn somewhere in a protected area in South Africa. Scenes like this have become commonplace. Above left: Rows of feeding bowls in an area demarcated for supplementary feeding during the drought conditions on Buffalo Dream Ranch. Top right: Rhino calves are cared for at the Little Rhino Orphanage. Below: Some of the calves at the orphanage are very young. They are always placed with a companion and never on their own. Photos: René de Klerk and Petro Kotzé

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 9


Living World

African manatees are

omnivorous T

he African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) is unique among sirenians as it is the only omnivore among the species. It occurs across 21 countries in Western and Central Africa, and has adapted to living in both freshwater ecosystems and marine environments. The African Aquatic Conservation Fund (AACF) has conducted the first dietary studies on the African manatee in Gabon and Senegal and found some unexpected results. It turns out they are what they eat. By studying the carbon and nitrogen signatures in different foods and comparing them to dead manatees’ ear bones, Lucy Keith-Diagne, executive director of the AACF, was able to determine the percentages of different foods consumed during their average lifetime.

Page 10 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

In Senegal, up to 50% of the manatee’s diet is protein derived from fish, clams and mussels. Comparatively, in Gabon only 10% of the manatee’s diet is molluscs. “During the West African dry season there are very few aquatic or emergent plants in places like the Senegal River,” Keith-Diagne explains. “We think the manatees rely more on molluscs and fish during this time.” Further south in Central African waters, plant and aquatic species are available all year round and the manatees feed on both. “This suggests the nutrients acquired from protein are important components of their diet,” she adds. “African manatees feed on more than 90 species of freshwater and shoreline plants, from seagrasses and mangroves to freshwater plants and

shoreline grasses,” Keith-Diagne says. “Because they live in freshwater rivers, estuaries, lagoons and nearshore oceans, their diet can vary based on their surroundings.” Ocean-dwelling manatees are known to consume heavy African ark, a species of saltwater clam. In a freshwater environment, they feed on freshwater molluscs, sucking the shellfish out of the mud. “For fish, they seem to prefer catfish or fish without scales. So far we have recorded 17 fish species in their diet,” she adds. During the rainy season, African manatees that live 2 500km inland feed on fruits and tree leaves – in some areas tall trees are completely submerged in flood water. It’s amazing that a forest elephant and a manatee can eat fruit off

the same tree. Manatees eat the fruit during the wet season while elephants can reach the fruit during the dry season, Keith-Diagne says. In Cameroon, riverside farmers have reported manatees raiding their crops. Marine and freshwater fish stocks are declining across Africa and as a result manatees can come into conflict with fishermen. “Again, this is regionally specific,” she says. “In some places, manatees are killed in retaliation for damaging nets, while in other areas, like the Ivory Coast and parts of Senegal, the fishermen share their catch with the manatees.” – Georgina Lockwood

Sketch: Graham Kearney


LONG LIVE THE KING

The lion. The true undisputed King of the Jungle. This regal species is the second coin struck in fine silver in the exciting new ‘Big Five’ coin series from the South African Mint. The lion is a legendary creature. It has a roar that can be heard up to eight kilometres away, and is the only big cat to have a mane. It also symbolises the height of royalty in some African cultures. As a celebration of Africa’s unique natural heritage, strength and beauty, the new Big 5 coin series will introduce a new member every six months. Enquire instore or online for more on this exciting series, plus additional metal variations, such as gold, platinum and full sets.

PRIDE OF AFRICA

Start collecting Africa’s legendary Big 5 today!

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Wild Earth

Conservation through collaboration A success story involving community and conservation is unfolding on the farmlands of the Eastern Cape Karoo, where the Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment project is pioneering eco-tourism. Louzel Lombard Steyn explains

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estoration, conservation, collaboration and sustainable tourism. These terms are not often associated with intensive commercial farming. However, in the heart of the Eastern Cape, a success story involving community and conservation is unfolding as more and more farmers join forces with South African National Parks (SANParks) to protect and restore the environment. A welcome ‘side effect’ of the collaboration has seen the rise of eco-tourism in this part of the Karoo. It has opened the region to eco-travel opportunities, offering guests the chance to immerse themselves in one of the most remote and unique landscapes in South Africa. “The protected environment has a two-pronged approach to tourism,” says Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment (MZCPE) project coordinator Bronwyn Botha. “Firstly, to promote private tourism on the farms and reserves in the region, and secondly, to create collaborative tourism events that help generate funds for work done in the area.” The Roof de Karoo endurance ride is a case in point. This three-day, 190km mountain biking adventure

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is the only cycle event in South Africa that starts and finishes in two national parks – a proud product of the MZCPE. According to event organiser Annette Kingwell, entry numbers are limited. “At this stage our maximum is 100 riders, due to the sensitive landscape they travel through.” For the past three years it has drawn interest from the toughest of riders. More importantly, it has provided additional income, job opportunities and an incentive for good tourism practices in the Karoo. Overnight accommodation spots are springing up on working farms, providing an additional income. Jaco Loots from Pienaarsbaken Farm between Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg offers accommodation in a 200-year-old original farmhouse. “Many of the farmers in the area are generating income through agritourism, especially during this ongoing drought. The partnership with the MZCPE gives us a more consolidated platform in terms of branding and best practice.” The association with national parks is beneficial to both parties. When SANParks accommodation is full, the outlying landowners and

entrepreneurs can offer alternative options that are validated under the MZCPE umbrella. “There is value in siding with SANParks as the organisation is already a global platform, recognised worldwide. “The shared objective is to make this part of the Karoo a destination for travellers, not just a sleepover or drive-through destination,” Loots says. The aim of the responsible tourism programme is to provide a platform for new and existing tourism ventures to be recognised under the protected environment banner. “Camping infrastructure has also been procured to assist landowners in collaborative ventures,” Botha says. The new wave of eco-tourism means better opportunities for travellers to experience rare and endemic creatures of the Karoo. Species like secretarybirds, red-billed oxpeckers and the African blackfooted cat are included in a Species of Special Concern Programme. Safe zones for the possible reintroduction of Cape vultures into the area are also being scheduled. The MZCPE was initiated in 2012 in an attempt to secure critical buffer zone areas for the Mountain Zebra and Camdeboo national parks.

Five facts • The MZCPE was declared a protected environment in 2016. •F  our towns: It is situated between Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda, Cradock and Pearston. •F  our biomes: The protected environment is located in a transitional area between the grassland, Nama Karoo, thicket and savannah biomes. All of the major vegetation types are currently poorly conserved elsewhere in South Africa. • The next MZCPE Roof de Karoo Mountain Bike Challenge takes place from 2–5 April 2020. •6  4: The number of landowners that have secured 275 000 hectares of private land as part of the protected environment. Should the second phase be approved by the ministry, the project hopes to include over 700 000 hectares of land, with 150 farmers on board.

Main: The Roof de Karoo route includes plateaus grazed by herds of antelope and desolate stretches of dramatic Karoo landscape with panoramic views. Photo: Roof de Karoo


Wild Earth

Five facts • 37: The number of African countries elephants wander through. • 2004: The year when elephants were first listed Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. • 415 000: The approximate number of elephants in the wild. • 2  5 000: The estimated number of elephants killed in Africa annually. This equates to one every 15 minutes. • 2  years: The majority of elephants under this age will not survive without their mother’s care and her nutrient-rich milk.

Caring for elephant orphans African elephants are under threat due to poaching and human-elephant conflict. As a result, babies are left without the support of their mothers. Sarah Kingdom visits the Lilayi Elephant Nursery and Kafue Release Facility in Zambia to learn more

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ame Rangers International (GRI) is a non-profit organisation in Zambia working in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to empower rangers and local communities to conserve nature. GRI’s Wildlife Rescue Department began with the establishment of the Elephant Orphanage Project in 2007. It includes the Elephant Nursery just outside Lusaka, where orphans are cared for after being rescued. Older orphans are gradually reintegrated back into the wild at the release facility in Kafue National Park. At the Lilayi Elephant Nursery baby elephants are looked after 24 hours a day. A milk-dependent orphan requires milk every three hours. Trained keepers take orphans for walks, feed them and stay close at hand to provide reassurance at night. The keepers play a vital role in the emotional and social recovery of the young elephants, and become a ‘mother figure’. When weaned at approximately three years of age, they are moved to the release facility with at least one social playmate, where they join older orphaned elephants. Here they learn to live more independently and spend much of their time wandering freely through the bush.

GRI have rescued 48 elephant calves to date, most of which were found wandering around alone, starving and distressed. The elephant orphanage was started in 2007 when a one and a half year old calf was discovered alone and helpless after losing her mother to poachers. The orphaned calf was taken to what is now the Game Rangers International Kafue National Park Release Facility. Healthy but traumatised, Chamilandu (as she was named) struggled to come to terms with the loss of her mother and her family. It took a great deal of love and

attention from the keepers to give her the reassurance to adjust. Chamilandu is now the matriarch of the orphan herd, mothering and comforting the younger orphans. She has been free-roaming in Kafue for the past four years and interacts with wild elephants. She recently returned to the boma for the birth of her own calf – Zambia’s first wild-born calf from an orphaned elephant. It is significant that she returned to the boma to give birth. Lacking the support network of older females, her calf would have been vulnerable to predators. By returning to the boma the keepers could provide

her with critical support. During this time of stress, excitement and raging hormones, the relationship between the keepers and the elephants was put to the test. Elephant and facilities manager, Theo Olivier says, “In wild elephant herds, females are involved in the births, whereas males are kept away by older females. Being an orphan herd of younger, inexperienced and a majority of male elephants, it was essential that we supported her. We needed to manage the situation very carefully to ensure the best outcome and safety for the mother, her calf and the rest of the herd.” The new mother is supporting her calf as he makes his first forays into Kafue National Park. Initially she rarely moved from the boma, staying close and returning for rests and to sleep. She is starting to venture further afield with her baby. According to Rachael Murton, head of GRI’s Wildlife Rescue Programme, it is crucial that she returns to the boma in the evenings, especially without the support of older females. “There are many predators in the park that would take such a small calf, and as a lone elephant Chamilandu is not adequately equipped to defend him. It is incredible to think that we have come so far with Chamilandu’s rehabilitation and re-wilding, and yet sadly due to the herd gender dynamics she does not have the elephant support she needs.” Costs average around US$2 500 per rescue, but the expenses continue to mount – each orphan being cared for costs approximately $35 000 a year. For more information about the orphanage and organisation, visit www.gamerangersinternational.org

Top: One of the carers at the orphanage feeding an elephant calf with milk. Left: Keepers provide critical support for the orphaned calves at the centre. Photos: Game Rangers international Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 13


Wild Earth

Caring for the endangered

THUNDERBIRD

The southern ground-hornbill is the fastest-declining bird species in South Africa. Lucy Kemp, who manages the country’s ground-hornbill metapopulation, talks to Safari News about the survival of this bird beyond the borders of its protected areas

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round-hornbills are seen so often in the Greater Kruger National Park that many people might not be aware of the plight of this iconic savannah and grassland species. Within the borders of our greatest protected areas they are doing well. The groups are at capacity, with an average density of one family group every 80–100km2. They still face a few natural threats in these areas, such as predation by leopards, caracal, martial eagles or crowned eagles, and the trees they nest in may be lost to

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elephant impacts or floods, fires and strong winds, but the population remains viable. Outside protected areas, however, the ground-hornbill population lacks this protection and faces a myriad of human-induced threats. These include electrocution from landing on a transformer box, injury from broken glass when they attack their own reflections in windows, and even lethal responses from angry landowners. Simply being a charismatic bird may lead to capture for the avifauna trade, and some farmers continue to use indiscriminate poisoned baits to target ‘pest’ species. Shooting with lead ammunition and leaving offal in the veld for scavengers, or injuring animals, places species like the ground-hornbill at risk. The smallest amount of lead can prove fatal for these birds. These are only a handful of threats, but for a slow-breeding, long-lived bird, it is enough to drive them to extinction. At this critical stage, every group counts. There is only one breeding female per group, and the males protect her, her nest and territory,


Wild Earth

Five facts •2  500: The estimated number of ground-hornbills in South Africa. •2  00: The estimated number of ground-hornbill family groups in Kruger National Park. •T  hunder or rain bird: Their nickname, as they are associated with the first good rains of summer. •S  ocial hierarchy: There is an alpha breeding pair and the remaining group members are all subordinates, much like the African wild dog. •9  0%: The success rate with raising redundant chicks (the second egg) that would naturally die.

and feed her and the chicks. Fortunately, in some regions of South Africa there is a strong cultural association with the species. It is seen as the bringer or predictor of good rain and the thunder- or rain bird, as it is known, enjoys protection. There is concern that this protected status may disappear. Ground-hornbills are resident in their territory, so many communities have a known and locally accepted family group of them in their region. This local-level conservation will keep the species from declining further. If each ground-hornbill group can have a cohort of people who share their habitat and protect their nest, and try to remove as many of the threats as possible, ground-hornbill groups will be much safer. One of the conservation ideas is the reintroduction of groundhornbills into areas where they have become locally extinct. The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project harvests the second egg from wild populations. These birds are hand-reared with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. Introductions are now taking place in many parts of the Limpopo province and northern Zululand. One of the key focus points is growing a core population in the southern Waterberg district of the Limpopo province. This population will

ultimately join up with the remaining population in Botswana. Three fully functional groups have already been established, with another two scheduled for early 2020. Two bush schools have been established at Loskop Dam Nature Reserve where the hand-reared chicks learn their bush skills. One of them is breeding successfully. A specialised centre, called The Baobab, opened in October 2018, and will be capable of rearing up to 15 new birds per year from 2020. This will allow the reintroduction programme to grow rapidly and to release three functional groups. These groups, released to form cores of at least 10 groups, will secure the long-term sustainability of the populations. It is a monumental task and to safeguard the 10 000km2 of habitat required to support these cores from known threats is no mean feat. A team of conservation collaborators work tirelessly to support, protect and grow groundhornbill populations, beyond the protected areas. For more information, visit www.groundhornbill.org.za

Secure a future for southern ground-hornbills Apart from helping to hand-rear chicks, conduct research, undertake reintroductions and conduct a nationwide education campaign, the team at the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project also focuses on constructing artificial nest boxes due to loss of suitable nesting trees. You can assist by adopting a ground-hornbill today! Funds raised through the Safari News virtual adoptions portal support this project. Visit www.safarinews.org/adoptions for more details.

Main: Juvenile ground-hornbills have yellow facial colouring, but this changes to red as they age. Top: A ground-hornbill in flight. Top right: Ground-hornbills lay two eggs, but will care for one baby. Right: A ground-hornbill hatched at The Baobab from a harvested egg. Below: Ground-hornbills have powerful beaks, and are top predators in the wild. Photos: Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 15


Living World

The hidden lives

OF PENGUINS

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enguins are hardly secretive – in addition to their loud bray, they are poorly camouflaged on land, and stumble around haphazardly with their clumsy waddling gait. Publicly accessible breeding colonies allow visitors to watch the birds raise their young from egg to fledgling. Many fawn over the fluffy adolescents and tour guides offer facts about how parents take turns to incubate and fish for their offspring. However, once the adults have reared their chicks, they leave the colony and nobody knows where they go or what they do. Studying penguins outside of the breeding season is difficult and expensive. Breeding birds are central-place foragers, meaning they return regularly to the same point after each trip, in this case their hungry chicks. Collecting data is fairly easy during this period. Non-breeding birds spend

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the majority of their time at sea, making them harder to observe. Until recently, technology to power tracking devices for long periods was unavailable. The non-breeding season is important in the life cycle of penguins as they are termed catastrophic moulters – replacing all their feathers at once. Because they rely on their feathers for waterproofing and insulation, they have to remain out of the water while they grow a new set. Penguins undergo a three to four week fast each year during this period. In preparation, some birds come close to doubling their body weight before coming ashore. At the other end of the cycle, the newly feathered hungry birds need to find food quickly to replenish those resources lost during the fast. BirdLife South Africa began a long-term project looking into these pre- and post-moult phases in 2012

in partnership with the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. They have tracked birds from Dassen Island 55km north of Cape Town, Bird Island in Algoa Bay and Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay to see where the birds go during these important periods. The study uses solar-powered GPS trackers, allowing scientists to remotely monitor the progress of the birds. The results have been surprising. While penguins from Bird Island continue with the central-place foraging strategy and rely on areas near the island, birds from Dassen Island and Stony Point behave differently. Pre-moult birds from Dassen Island adopt one of three strategies. The least common strategy is to remain nearby. Penguins tend to venture northwards or eastwards to find food, and the proportion of birds adopting each strategy seems to be changing over time. In the early years of the project, most birds chose to head north, some getting as far as halfway to Namibia. This area was historically rich in fish like sardine and anchovy, but climate change and fishing pressure has led to stocks shifting towards

the Agulhas Bank in the southeast, turning these previously bountiful areas into blue deserts. Birds heading north risk taking longer to fatten up before moulting, or have to head back to moult at a sub-optimal body condition. More birds from both Dassen Island and Stony Point head southeast, rounding Cape Agulhas and spending four to six weeks off De Hoop Nature Reserve and Stilbaai before returning westwards to moult. This is a return journey of more than 1 000 kilometres and has revolutionised the way scientists think about the spatial protection of penguins. Conserving penguin breeding sites is a priority, but protecting areas far removed from colonies has emerged as a key strategy in fighting the decline of this iconic species. The project is sponsored by the Charl van der Merwe Trust. – Andrew de Blocq, coastal seabird conservation project officer at BirdLife South Africa

Main: When penguins are not feeding chicks, nobody knows where they go. Inset: A penguin on a nest. Left: A tracking device on the back of a penguin monitors movement. Photos: Andrew de Blocq and René de Klerk


Wild Earth

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t is difficult to explain the feeling of standing in the middle of the last stronghold of a critically endangered plant species. Filled with awe and trepidation, at the same time you have the privilege of seeing a species that occurs nowhere else on earth. Should anything happen to this population, it will be lost forever. There are roughly 400 critically endangered plant species in the Western Cape. The Ericaceae family is one of the biggest plant families in the Cape Floristic Region, with 46 erica species listed as critically endangered. The hairy heath (Erica xeranthemifolia) only occurs on Shaw’s Mountain in the Kleinrivier range between Caledon and Hermanus in the Western Cape. We found them on a rocky quartz plateau during the height of their flowering season. This is quite a peculiar erica. It is covered in dense hairs, a phenomenon called tomentose, which serves as a natural protection against the effect of environmental conditions. The total area of occupancy and extent of occurrence for this species is roughly 3km². It grows in an ecotone (a transition area between

Five facts

One species, one mountain, one population Alouise Lynch from Bionerds discusses conserving a single population of critically endangered hairy heath on top of a mountain in the Western Cape two ecosystems) of Overberg Sandstone Fynbos and Elim Ferricrete Fynbos, the prior being listed as a threatened ecosystem due to the high level of natural plant rarity and endemism. As if occurring in low numbers in a

threatened ecosystem is not enough of a challenge for this species, they also face a constant decline in sub-populations due to the loss of habitat to forestry development and crop cultivation. Alien invasive vegetation puts

• 740: The approximate number of erica species in South Africa. • 46: The hairy heath is one of 46 critically endangered erica species. • 1: There is only one population of this species in the wild. • Threats: Agricultural development, too frequent fires and alien vegetation. • Private landowners: The biggest conservationists of this subpopulation.

further pressure on this beautiful heath, slowly taking over and outcompeting the natural vegetation. The encroachment of alien invasive vegetation brings the risk of frequent and intense wildfires that could severely impact on the various ecosystems along this mountain range. Frequent fires mean that plants will not have enough time to germinate, regrow and set seed – leading to a further decline in the hairy heath population. Over the long term, this can lead to regional or total extinction of a species. But it is not all bad news. The biggest sub-population of this species occurs on private property, and most landowners are conservation-minded and nature-loving. They have taken custodianship of their natural environment seriously, clearing invasive alien vegetation and putting management protocols in place that will hopefully secure this sub-population and its habitat in perpetuity.

Top and left: The hairy heath in flower. Photos: Bionerds, www.bionerds.co.za

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 17


Less Travelled

A walk on the

WILD SIDE

The North Luangwa National Park is an area of pristine wilderness, home to Zambia’s only black rhino, an elephant stronghold and high lion densities. Sarah Kingdom visited the Mwaleshi and Takwela camps to explore the park on foot

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alking out from Mwaleshi Camp, we were given some final instructions – single file, no loud noise, no bright clothing. We were asked to stay behind the guide, pay attention and not to wander off. We walked through long grass, crossed rivers, ducked under branches and stopped occasionally to untangle ourselves from thorn bushes. The bush is different when experienced on foot. You’re aware of every noise and rustle and every twig cracking underfoot. The distant roar of a lion or not-so-distant trumpet of an elephant makes you aware of your surroundings, and your mortality. Our first afternoon walk lasted three hours. We saw things normally missed from the back of a safari vehicle, like flight displays of lilac breasted rollers, insect-catching antics of bee-eaters, ungainly flight patterns of hornbills, as well as a close-up look at various nest styles of some of the 12 different weaver species found in North Luangwa. The river turned orange and scarlet at sunset as we walked along the

riverbank. The smell of the potato bush hung in the air, as did the trademark popcorn smell of a genet cat’s scent markings. Back in camp that night we ate dinner by lantern light, overlooking the darkened river, while the noises of the bush carried on around us.

We could hear lions roaring and the occasional trumpet of a young elephant across the water. A typical day’s walking safari in North Luangwa starts at about 5am. After coffee and breakfast around the campfire on the riverbank, we set off for what would be a five-hour walk.

North Luangwa National Park is in Zambia, the northernmost park in the valley of the Luangwa River. Mwaleshi Camp is a 45-minute flight from Mfuwe Airport. The park is approximately 770km from Lusaka.

Taking off our shoes, we crossed the shallow Mwaleshi River. We walked on through sand, over river pebbles,

Help save Africa’s wildlife! Visit www.safarinews.org/adoptions for more information.

Pangolin West African chimpanzee

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Okapi

Ring-tailed lemur Rhino

Southern ground-hornbill


Less Travelled

past woodland and grassland, watching as the world woke up around us. The occasional nocturnal creature rustled in the undergrowth, while birds and other daytime creatures started to wake up. A couple of Cookson’s wildebeest crossed our path and then a lone bull elephant, walking along the top of the riverbank. He’d found a tree laden with fruit and paused for a leisurely meal. Continuing our walk, Ilala palms marked the ancient trails taken by elephants that had eaten the ginger-chocolate-tasting palm fruit and deposited the seeds as they walked. Takwela Camp is a three-hour walk (or one-hour drive) downstream from Mwaleshi, in the game management area opposite the national park, at the confluence of the Mwaleshi and Luangwa rivers. A pod of 40 or 50 hippos stretched across the river, grunting and squabbling, or just resting their chins on a sandbank in the shallow water. The camp is surrounded by groves of African ebony, mahogany,

winterthorns and sausage trees, with the occasional Ilala palm. Perched 3 metres above the river, it offers the perfect vantage point to watch fish eagles hunting and white fronted and little bee-eaters swooping out over the water. The next morning we crossed the river in canoes before setting off on foot into the park, while kudu and waterbuck gazed on passively. We followed the tracks of leopard, hyena, genet and aardvark, and made a tactical retreat when we found ourselves surrounded by elephants. Our final evening was spent enjoying sundowners on the riverbank, overlooking a large pod

of hippos rumbling and fighting over territory. As we headed back to civilisation the following day, crossing the river with our vehicle, we found a pair of lions resting on the cool sand in the shade of a mahogany tree. And as we rounded the corner to leave the park, we came face to face with hundreds of buffalo – the perfect end to our safari.

Main: Enjoying the scenic beauty of the North Luangwa National Park. Left; Passing a pod of hippo in the Mwaleshi River. Top and below: Mwaleshi Camp and the en-suite bedrooms. Photos: Sarah Kingdom and Remote Africa Safaris

Know before you go Africa’s Great Rift Valley extends down into north-eastern Zambia, and it is here where the Luangwa River has carved a uniquely beautiful landscape. Remote and wild, it is only accessible by flight or with good bush-driving skills. Walking in North Luangwa National Park is the ultimate way to explore the park – totally isolated, it’s an intimate, personal experience. There are few roads and even fewer people; you are unlikely to see anyone else for the duration of your safari.

Good to know North Luangwa is only open in the dry season, from June to October, and camps are rebuilt every year to have minimal impact on the ecosystem. Access to the park in the wet season is virtually impossible. We stayed at Mwaleshi and Takwela camps in North Luangwa, which are owned and operated by Remote Africa Safaris. Chalets are simple yet comfortable, rebuilt annually from natural materials. These semi-permanent structures have comfortable beds and offer en-suite bathrooms under the stars. Bookings: reservations@ remoteafrica.com or www. remoteafrica.com/mwaleshi-camp/

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 19


Wild Earth

Buzzing research at Cape Point Table Mountain National Park is well known for lighthouses, spectacular views, sheer cliffs and wind. It is also an important base for wild honeybee research. Karin Sternberg from Ujubee shares some of their Cape honeybee findings

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ery little research has been carried out on indigenous bees in the wild, with many entomologists believing that Cape Point in particular, with its windy challenges and supposed lack of natural nesting sites, would have few colonies. Now into their sixth year of mostly self-funded research, the team at Ujubee has had incredible interactions with honeybees at the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park. The Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis) is unique. Laying workers can lay fertilised eggs without being mated, essentially producing pseudo clones. The colony is also able to re-queen itself should it lose its queen. This would presuppose the regular loss of queens on mating flights – and such losses have been regularly recorded in high winds. Cape honeybee colonies vary considerably in their ‘capensisness’, which is measured by the number of ovarioles of laying workers. Those with the highest number of ovarioles are located in

Fact file • 93: The amount of wild nesting sites found at Cape Point to date. • More than 85: The percentage of fynbos pollinated by the Cape honeybee.

• Cape Floral Kingdom: The smallest plant kingdom on earth, but the richest in plant species. • Erica: The largest of the fynbos plant families, with some species flowering all year round.

areas of the highest average wind speeds and sudden changes in weather. This core capensis area correlates with that of the greatest speciation of erica plants. At Ujubee, curiosity and our love for bees found us questioning how bees live when humans do nothing to them – when we are not boxing them in unnaturally large hives, and where bees are not inclined to use an abundance of propolis; when we are not removing drone comb or clipping the queen’s wings; when we

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are not medicating them, taking their honey, feeding them sugar water and pollen patties, or exploiting them for pollination services, transporting them over vast distances, and exposing them to pesticides and monoculture. These stresses frequently lead to disease and colony collapse. Until we study bees in the wild, we cannot know what we are undoing by hiving and managing them. From a distance, fynbos vegetation may look barren, but up close it is a mosaic

of flowery jewels. Within this floral diversity we could not ignore the tiny, indigenous sub-social and solitary bees, many of which are specialist pollinators. We are currently looking for the elusive oil-collecting bees of the genus Rediviva (Melittidae), which pollinate some of the ground orchids prolific in corners of the reserve, particularly after a fire. Our minds are reeling at the adaptation of the bees to this environment. We are amazed by how the honeybees choose their nesting sites and by their prolific use of propolis to survive fire, a natural feature of the fynbos vegetation. We have also been impressed by how they choose resins from particular plants, rich

in essential oils, for selfmedication in the nest, and how so many other creatures – birds, lizards, bees, beetles – have adapted to the largely groundnesting behaviour of the Cape honeybee in the fynbos biome. Our research highlights the importance of protecting wild honeybees in their natural habitats to foster species biodiversity, a biological diversity alive with a variety of living organisms and natural processes. This is particularly important in light of the Western Cape government’s push to bring artificial beehives into nature reserves and to introduce a programme of bee breeding. These are nature reserves where nature does its thing far better than any human. We hope through our research to better understand bees in the wild and share our findings so as to inspire an awareness and admiration for bees, with mindfulness at its core. Main: A female carpenter bee on an erica species in Cape Point. Left: Ujubee research team Jenny Cullinan and Karin Sternberg in the field. Photos: Karin Sternberg and Fiona Anderson


Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 21


Heritage

Five facts • 1870: The year of South Africa’s first gold rush. • 2005: Pilgrim’s Rest hosted the World Gold Panning Championships – a first for South Africa and Africa. • TGME: Transvaal Gold Mining Estates was the name of the company that mined gold in the area. • 89: The number of historical buildings or sites along the Pilgrim’s Rest Main Road.

PILGRIM’S REST regains its lustre

• The Gold News: The first  newspaper published on the Pilgrim’s Rest Goldfields in 1874.

A few years ago the historical town of Pilgrim’s Rest on the eastern escarpment of Mpumalanga had lost its appeal as a result of severe mismanagement. But just as the sun always breaks through the mist, the town has recently regained its position as a popular tourist attraction. Mariana Balt went visiting

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eeing the historical town of Pilgrim’s Rest rising from the ashes of neglect to once again enjoy the clicking of tourist camera shutters is a special experience. Tourism brings economic revival, which is important to a community suffering high unemployment due to the lack of other industries in the area. The Mpumalanga Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport is responsible for the management of the museum town and decided in 2012 that business operators should reapply for the right to occupy and trade on the premises. Years of court cases and uncertainty saw operators leaving, resulting in deteriorating economic conditions and a visible decline. Mpumalanga Heritage, a registered civics organisation for the conservation of all aspects of heritage and history in the province, was just one of the supporting parties in the fight that led

to 10-year contracts being allocated in 2018. Business owners have since revived their enterprises and with the help of the (now keen) government department, the mining company active in the area, and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, maintenance and businesses are starting to flourish. The museum remains the custodian of the town and René Reinders, who manages the museum

information services, makes sure work that is carried out is historically correct. While the entire town is a museum, specific venues such as the transport museum, printing museum, house museum, general dealer museum and history museum, are located in different buildings. Visitors can find information and maps at the information centre. Hawkers previously regarded as a nuisance are now housed in neat stalls

Buy memorabilia and gifts, fill up with fuel from authentic pumps or remember yesterday’s vehicles

Page 22 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

at the Central Garage Transport Museum

erected by the mine and government department. The regional curios are popular among tour bus travellers who stop for lunch at the Royal Hotel. One of the town’s main attractions is the Alanglade House Museum, built in 1915 by the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates as the official residence for its mine managers. Surrounded by mountains, forests and some of the original gardens, it is decorated with furniture and objects from the period. Heading through the front door is like stepping back in time. The Pilgrim’s Rest Golf Course offers much more than just the opportunity for a game of golf. Players can indulge in a blast from the past at a 19th hole in the historic clubhouse that is straight out of a turn of the century magazine or movie. Businesses throughout the town offer opportunities to buy memorabilia and gifts, fill up with fuel from authentic pumps or remember yesterday’s vehicles at the Central

Garage Transport Museum. They can also make family memories with an oldfashioned diggers’ photo at Kuzzulo’s Emporium and watch a black and white silent movie at Belvedere. The historic cemetery pays tribute to the pioneers who lost their lives at the outset of the great South African gold rush and includes The Robber’s Grave. Legend has it that an unknown man who was caught, convicted and banished from the diggings returned to the town and was then shot. He was buried ‘facing the wrong way’ to brand him as a thief forever. Those not interested in history can eat or drink in old-fashioned style, listen to stories at The Vine Restaurant and Pub or enjoy coffee and pancakes at several venues. Overnight guests can find accommodation at the iconic Royal Hotel, or selfcatering guesthouses like Mona Cottage offers visitors even more time to enjoy the nostalgia of the area. Guided tours to the village museums and the historical digging site can be booked at the information centre.

Top: The historic town is once again attracting tourists. Inset: The Royal Hotel. Left: Dress up and take home authentic memories. Photos: John Gale, Mariana Balt, and Jenny Swanepoel.


Living World

Gorongosa, home of the waterbuck T

he waterbuck has one of the most celebrated rear ends in the safari world. It’s a constant source of amusement as rangers tell their guests how the buck acquired the white ring on its rump from sitting on a freshly painted toilet seat. Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique is ideal waterbuck habitat, making it one of the best places in the world to see these animals. “It is likely Gorongosa is home to the single largest population of the common waterbuck in Africa,” says Dr Marc Stalmans, director of scientific services at Gorongosa National Park. The waterbuck population has increased by 25–30% annually in recent years. An aerial game census at the end of 2018 surveyed 193 500ha of the park and counted over 100 000 herbivores. Of the impala, kudu, sable, wildebeest, nyala and other wildlife counted, the common waterbuck was by far the most populous, with

57 016 animals recorded. A good place to find waterbuck is around Lake Urema. The sheer density and numbers of waterbuck around the lake made it nearly impossible to count them individually. The team had to use photographs taken from a helicopter, which were subsequently georeferenced using satellite imagery. Lake Urema is a high rainfall area with fertile alluvial clay soils, which results in excellent forage. “It is in the area of the Great African Rift, which historically supported high densities of wildlife in Gorongosa,” Stalmans explains. There is no secret to the waterbuck’s success in Gorongosa. “The floodplain grasslands and woodland margins in Gorongosa are the ideal habitats for waterbuck,” he adds. Waterbuck are bulk grazers and feed on a number of grass species, inside and outside of the floodplain. These include jungle rice (Echinochloa colona), black soil

bristle grass (Setaria incrassata), small buffalo grass (Panicum coloratum), Guinea grass (Panicum maximum), bushveld signal grass (Urochloa mosambicensis), couch grass (Cynodon dactylon), common finger grass (Digitaria eriantha), and Swaziland finger grass (Digitaria didactyla). The waterbuck’s preference for open habitats helped it survive the Mozambican Civil War in relatively higher numbers. “It is a lot harder to approach game unseen or set up snares in open grasslands,” Stalmans says. During the war waterbuck populations decreased by 90%, however the small population that survived enabled the rapid recovery and expansion of the species. It is erroneously believed that lions and other predators avoid hunting waterbuck because they have a pungent odour to them produced from oil glands in their skin. The oil helps with waterproofing the hair and has a musky smell that gives the antelope its nickname, the greasy

kob. “Lions and wild dogs have been recorded taking down waterbuck in Gorongosa,” Stalmans says. “Again, the waterbuck’s preference for open floodplains makes it more difficult for lions to hunt them.” Waterbuck from Gorongosa have been relocated to Maputo Special Reserve and Zinave National Park, with further translocations in the pipeline. “It’s important to note that not only waterbuck thrive in the park, buffalo and other wildlife are doing very well too,” he adds. “The waterbuck just had a head start.” The waterbuck’s grey and brown shaggy coat is what prompted Ernest Hemingway to call it the most “ruggedly handsome” antelope in Africa. – Georgina Lockwood

Main: Gorongosa is known for the masses of waterbuck occurring in the park, ideal for photographers. Photo: Michael dos Santos

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 23


Spotlight

Can a leopard change its spots? W

ildlife interaction policies in South Africa are changing for the better to phase out all interactions with infant wildlife, walking with predators or elephants, interacting with predators or riding on wild animals. In October this year, the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) released the Guide for Evaluating Captive Animal Attractions & Activities in South Africa, aimed at helping operators and tourists make good travel choices with a “locally born ethical framework”. The radical policy changes contain strict disqualifying criteria for facilities involved in any hands-on interactions, performing wildlife and any facilities with possible links to the illegal trade, trading in body parts, canned hunting, breeding of lions and tigers, misleading advertising, deceptive behaviour and any lack of transparency. It has been heralded as a major win for responsible tourism in South Africa. For the first time, a guideline exists to separate authentic sanctuaries and centres from those operating under the veil of ‘conservation’. The guide will help the South African animal interaction industry navigate new territory, says SATSA spokesperson Hannelie du Toit. “Captive wildlife attractions and interactions remain a complex, contentious and emotionally charged issue. But there is an increasing movement against tourism experiences that potentially harm animals.” According to Keira Powers, SATSA Animal Interaction Committee chairperson, there has been a shift in tourists’ expectations of South Africa. “To keep up with the market, businesses and organisations offering animal interaction/captive wildlife attractions need to learn about and adopt practices and activities that are in line, or else they may see their revenue streams drying up.” “If the bad practices improve, it’s a win for the animals in their care, a win for their businesses and a win for South Africa’s tourism reputation as a destination,” she adds.

Captive wildlife policy changes are forcing this highly controversial industry to adapt. As many big cat facilities end human contact for the sake of conservation, Louzel Lombard Steyn looks at what it takes to keep up with best practice in South Africa’s wildlife tourism industry

What it takes

The newly restructured Zululand Cat Conservation (ZCC) Project outside Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the organisations that has ended all interactions at their facility, despite criticism from local and international visitors. “About two years ago, after two cheetah interaction incidents, we re-evaluated and changed our entire approach to tourism to end all interactions. Visitor numbers

Page 24 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

dropped immensely, but we made the stance and pushed forward,” say owners Louis and Cecillie Nel. They inherited what was previously called Emdoneni Lodge Cheetah Project

from Louis’ mother, who first homed four cheetahs from Namibia in 1994. “It was borne of a genuine need for conservation. Over the years, the project has successfully released over

30 cats back into the wild. These include four cheetahs, 13 caracals, 22 servals and four African wildcats. However, for a long time we let social pressure and tourist demand for ‘up


Spotlight

organisation has always been rooted in rehabilitating big cats like cheetah, serval and caracal. The project has a 25-year transparent track record of release programmes for rehabilitated cats. We couldn’t jeopardise that, and looking back now on the recent SATSA changes, we know we are on the right side of history.” Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary in Stanford in the Western Cape is another example of progress within the captive wildlife industry. In fact, says one of the founder-owners Lizaene Cornwall-Nyquist, “if it wasn’t for the bad stuff, much of the good work and progress wouldn’t have happened either. It would have a destination that attracts tourists far remained covered up.” into the future because of our unique Before starting Panthera Africa for wildlife,” she says. big cat rescues, Lizaene had firstThe SATSA policy changes will be hand experiences with the darker implemented with full effect by the side of wildlife tourism. Working at a end of July 2020, after the SATSA South African wildlife ‘sanctuary’, she annual general meeting. As SATSA is started to recognise links between a member-driven association, it will the facility and the canned hunting “first collaborate industry, as well as with its members unethical breeding and the broader and abuse – all “Only the true tourism industry hidden from the to translate the public eye behind rehabilitation centres comprehensive the encounters research findings and petting and sanctuaries into practice”, du experiences offered will prevail” Toit says. to visitors. SATSA’s overall “I found out stance is clear, tigers were sold however: the facilities that choose and killed for the tiger bone trade,” to continue any prohibited activities Lizaene recalls. outlined in the guidelines will not Breaking all ties with the facility, be recommended to international Lizaene and her partner Catherine Cornwall-Nyquist, a former volunteer at the same facility, started the Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary. Their wildlife refuge pioneered big cat rescue and conservation in South Africa and operates under the strictest ethical guidelines, offering educational tours focusing on the captive big cat industry.

tourism services by SA’s largest inbound tourism association. Until the guide comes into full effect, facilities, as well as tourists and operators, can use the comprehensive SATSA ‘decision tree’ to align themselves with industry best practice.

Main: New SATSA guidelines tolerate zero interaction from visitors. Top left and above: A successful release for Dew, one of the Zululand project’s cheetahs. At true rehabilitation centres, human contact and interference is kept to a minimum to ensure the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation and release. Below: Galaxy the white lion arrives safely at his new home after a life of exploitation in the film industry. Photos: Zululand Cat Conservation and Panthera Africa

Looking ahead

close’ interactions overshadow our good conservation foundation. This led us down a dark road in terms of wildlife interactions,” they add. “In the background, our

Both Zululand and Panthera Africa have welcomed the SATSA policy changes, and say they hope to be an example for other facilities of how change is possible within the industry. For the facilities within the industry falling outside of the new SATSA criteria, Powers predicts a very difficult road ahead. “However, it will separate the wheat from the chaff, and the true rehabilitation centres and sanctuaries will prevail. We have to focus on the long-term vision – of Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 25


Africa’s Palette

Get your creative juices flowing! Art from our fans Owen Tattersall is from the United Kingdom and uses a combination of watercolour and pen to create animal artworks. He loves it because of the vast variety of animals and species out there. “This always keeps me inspired to draw as well as open my eyes to many different species I would have never seen,” Tattersall explains.

SEND US YOUR MASTERPIECE!

STEP 02

STEP 01

Don’t keep your work to yourself, share your masterpieces with us and get a chance to be featured in the next issue. We look forward to receiving your masterpieces. Email artwork to office@safarinews.org.

STEP 03 Step 1: Initial sketch Start off with a pencil sketch of your hornbill, ensuring proportions and scale are correct and that the drawing will fit into the allocated area. Don’t cram your subject into your workspace. Step 2: Foundation stage This stage introduces the basic colours (blacks, reds and charcoals) of your ground-hornbill, done predominantly with soft pastel sticks. This is where you establish contrasts. Keep to mid-range colour tones where possible. Make any necessary corrections to proportion/scale etc. Blending can be included here.

STEP 04 Step 3: Adding detail Using both pastel sticks and pastel pencils, this stage includes adding and building up of detail. Intensifying tonal ranges, introducing life into eyes, detail into feathers, etc happens in this stage. Step 4: The final stage This stage introduces the strongest tones done with both pastel sticks and pastel pencils. Add lashes, final shadows and highlights, etc. Use pastel pencils as a ‘finer’ medium to add finer detail to your ground-hornbill. Look at the cracks in the beak and that detail in the red skin!

Page 26 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

Buy an artwork! Visit www.safarinews.org/africas-palette/ and pick your favourite art piece by our very own Graham Kearney. High-quality digital prints make beautiful gifts and a focal point in any room or office.

Materials used by Graham Kearney in the drawings • Clairefontaine Pastelmat Paper • Rembrandt Soft Pastels • Stabilo Carbothello Pastel Pencils


Living World

THE SNAKE WHISPERER T

heir relative rarity and sheer says, “so much of the Gaboon beauty, combined with a placid adder’s range in South Africa temperament, makes the Gaboon became protected too.” While the adder an iconic snake species. land invasions couldn’t be reversed, While many people might question forestry and mining activity stopped. his words and run at the sight of Although the establishment of a snake, Toy Bodbijl, consulting the park has benefitted wildlife, ecologist for ECO-ED Environmental the increase in tourism has had Education and Training does not a few negative effects on these shy away. snakes. Increased traffic along Bodbijl rescues and rehabilitates roads to coastal resorts means injured Gaboon adders before slow-moving Gaboon adders often releasing them become roadkill. back into the Breeding males wild. He started looking for mates studying Gaboon are particularly Damage to their adders during vulnerable from respiratory tract is the 1980s when March to May. relatively little was “Gaboon adders far more serious and known about are lethargic often overlooked their ecology. ambush predators At the time, that specialise in their South relatively large African habitat rodents, like red was severely threatened by dune veld rats,” Bodbijl explains. mining, land invasions and forestry “The consumption of extremely plantations. Much of KwaZulularge prey can prove fatal.” Natal’s moist grasslands have Snakes with full bellies been turned into sugarcane and move slowly and as a timber plantations, and Bodbijl result can become has his work cut out for him during fire victims or the burns associated with these roadkill. A 2 activities. “Managed burns of sugar 075g female cane and timber plantations are adder designed to burn large tracts of consumed land with a high fuel load,” Bodbijl explains. The rescued snakes often have skin burns. “Far more serious, and often overlooked, is damage to their respiratory tract from heat inhalation,” he says. “This can cause pneumonia and death.” Much of the snake’s range in South Africa is now protected. “The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was proclaimed a World Heritage Site after the 1994 democratic elections,” Bodbijl

a 2 139g large-spotted genet before being run over, he says. Listed as Near Threatened, the snake’s colouring offers perfect camouflage among leaf litter and the moist grasslands it inhabits. Gaboon adders have a wide range, occurring in 21 African countries from Benin to Mozambique. They naturally occur in relatively low numbers across their distribution, with strongholds in Gabon. A Gaboon adder bite is extremely rare due to their reserved nature. Their venom is predominately cytotoxic, so it affects living cells. – Georgina Lockwood

The facts • 90-120cm: The size of this snake in South Africa. They get much larger elsewhere in Africa. • 5cm: The record for the longest fangs recorded in a Gaboon adder. • Hissing: When threatened, the snake raises the upper part of its body and hisses before striking. • Live young: Baby Gaboon adders do not hatch from eggs, but are live-born.

Sketch: Graham Kearney

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 27


Image courtesy andBeyond

Image courtesy andBeyond

Image courtesy andBeyond

Image courtesy Paul Changuion

JNB

Image courtesy Azura Quilalea

Image courtesy andBeyond

Image courtesy andBeyond

Image courtesy andBeyond

Ndola

Lusaka Tete

St Helena Kasane

Hoedspruit

Nelspruit Sikhupe

Sishen

Image courtesy Mike and Carlinn


47253

Pemba

Nosy Be

Discover southern Africa

Nampula

Endless possibilities

Antananarivo

Airlink is a Regional Feeder airline connecting the major cities of Southern Africa with the smaller towns and eco-leisure destinations in the sub-region. Using our unique combination of flights it is possible to travel for example from Johannesburg (or Cape Town) to Nelspruit KMIA to enjoy a lowveld bush safari, then travel to the majestic Victoria Falls in Livingstone (Zambia), then onwards from Victoria Falls to Cape Town. Alternatively, a road transfer connects you to Kasane in Botswana to experience an African river safari on the Chobe River. From Kasane you have the option to travel beyond to the Okavango Delta and then from Maun to Johannesburg (or Cape Town) to connect with your international flight. Alternatively, for a shorter itinerary fly direct from Kasane to Johannesburg.

Image courtesy Helene Ramackers

Image courtesy Jon Meinking

Image courtesy andBeyond

For travellers looking to experience a bush and beach combination, connect on Airlink from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Skukuza Airport, gateway to the Kruger Park and the adjacent Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Thereafter fly direct from Nelspruit KMIA to Vilanculos, Mozambique, to experience the exotic Bazaruto and Bengerra islands, Vilanculos is also serviced daily out of Johannesburg. When planning an unforgettable safari and wanting to maximize time spent at your luxury high end private lodge, take advantage of Airlink’s Lodge Link service which will connect you to more than 25 exclusive and luxurious Big 5 private lodges located in the world-renowned private game reserves in the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve and the Phinda Private Game Reserve in Kwa Zulu Natal. These lodges are accessed via the Ulusaba, Arathusa, Londozi, Ngala and Phinda airstrips which are a short game drive transfer to the doorstep of your lodge. Airlink is a privately owned airline business operating as a franchisee of South African Airways. As a Regional Feeder airline it connects travellers to the widest network comprising more than 55 routes with a wide choice of flights within Southern Africa and St Helena island. Seamless connections with SAA and their airline partners make it easy for travellers to connect onward to multiple destinations using a single ticket itinerary, giving travellers peace of mind. Spread your wings, fly Airlink - Freedom of the African sky. For more information, connect to flyairlink.com


Wild Earth

REPTILE RECOVERY taken to the next level

The establishment of a venom centre in Hazyview stemmed from an urgent need to find homes for ‘problem snakes’ removed from residences, writes Mariana Balt

C

hris Hobkirk, founder and director of Lowveld Venom Suppliers in Hazyview has trained scores of people to safely handle and remove unwanted mambas, cobras and puff adders from homes in the region. The snakes they remove are not just released further into the Lowveld bush, they provide clean dried venom for the production of anti-venom in South Africa. The snakes are taken to the centre in Hazyview, which is currently one of the larger suppliers of venom products in South Africa. The idea resulted after Hobkirk analysed 12 years’ worth of data gathered from relocating venomous snakes removed from residences in Nelspruit, White River, Malelane, Hazyview and Barberton. Approximately 80% of Mozambique spitting cobras in any season were male and released to four sites. As approximately 60 of these spitting

Environment and Tourism (DEAT) cobras were removed per season, carry out regular inspections. The their relocation could have created Alien Invasive Unit of DEAT also visits, an imbalance over the 12 years. looking for dangerous and invasive With euthanaising venomous species on the snakes or new Threatened or convincing people Protected Species to live with them (TOPS) restriction ruled out, a venom Approximately 80% list in South Africa. centre where they of Mozambique Extracting could be kept in venom from more pristine captive spitting cobras in any than 500 snakes is environments and season were male a mammoth task. ‘milked’ for lifeFor most species, saving anti-venom the centre uses the seemed like the standard method perfect solution. of letting the snake bite through a The centre, situated at the Perry’s film into a glass. The liquid venom is Bridge tourism centre in Hazyview, dried, packaged and transported to adheres to strict biosecurity the laboratories at the South African regulations. Staff members are Vaccine Producers. professionally trained and all legal Anti-venoms were first produced requirements in dealing with product more than a century ago when it was and permits are in place. The NSPCA, discovered that an animal could be the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks ‘hyper-immunised’ against snakebites Agency and the Department of

Five Facts • September to March: The time of year when snake activity level is at its highest. • 12 years: The amount of year’s worth of data analysed about snake capture and release in the area. • Immunoglobulins: The basis of anti-venom serum. • 60: The number of spitting cobras removed on average from homes in the Lowveld during one season. • 500: The number of reptiles from which venom are extracted at the centre each month.

by gradually increasing a dosage of venom. The animal could be saved if the serum of an immunised creature was injected into it. Today anti-venom is still produced along the same principles, albeit with minor modifications like neutralising the venom with formaldehyde to reduce suffering. Blood is drawn then the serum is removed and passed through various testing and refinement processes until it can be used in humans with the same results. The serum basis contains immunoglobulins, which are digested by pepsin (digestive enzymes) to isolate the antigen (toxin) that in turn neutralises the venom. In South Africa anti-venom production was first limited to the venom of the puff adder and the Cape cobra, but bivalent anti-venoms were later produced against venoms of both snakes. Trivalent anti-venoms were also produced for the three mamba species of Southern Africa. During the 1970s all the anti-venoms (bivalent, trivalent and monovalent) were integrated to form polyvalent anti-venoms effective against most venom, excluding the boomslang and the saw-scaled viper. The centre offers venomous reptile capture and handling courses. Living in the Lowveld guarantees encounters with snakes and the courses provide participants with the confidence to manage surprise meetings. Contact Chris Hobkirk on +27 82 372 3350 and Anneke van Schoor on +27 79 931 8744 or info@lowveldvs.co.za

Main: A Gabon adder is ‘milked’ for its venom at Lowveld Venom Suppliers.

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Living World

Effective elephant contraceptive E

lephants are intelligent and empathetic creatures, capable of expressing a wide range of human-like emotions. But their complex nature contributes towards the difficulty of their management, particularly when it comes to population control. While elephants are a keystone species – they transform the savannah habitat and influence ecosystem function – their impact on vegetation can become destructive if population size is left unchecked, often eliminating certain species from the ecosystem. For this reason elephant populations have to be managed intensively, especially where conserving for high levels of biodiversity. Historically, culling was the predominant method used to regulate elephant populations, but an increase in public pressure resulted in elephant culling being officially banned in 1995. Although this was a step in the right direction, elephant numbers started to climb out of control. The porcine zona pellucida (pZP) vaccine

is a versatile molecule that provokes an immune reaction in cows, causing them to produce antibodies that bind to the surface of their eggs. This prevents sperm binding and fertilisation. In 1999, researchers confirmed that the vaccine could be used to stop elephant cows from conceiving. In contrast to hormonal contraceptives, pZP is efficient, reversible, safe, remotely deliverable, and has minimal impact on elephant social behaviour. Application was tested in 2005 at seven private reserves, including Welgevonden Game Reserve in Limpopo, where it was incorporated into

The vaccine does not halt population growth immediately the wildlife management strategy. Over nine years, 108 cows were treated and monitored, and research showed the vaccine was highly effective as a birth control mechanism. It is 100% safe at any stage of development, remotely deliverable, and does not require animal immobilisation. It is 100% effective and sufficient in achieving a population

growth rate of 0%. Since its initiation, elephant contraception with the vaccine has become an integral component of Welgevonden’s elephant management. “The use of pZP has provided small- to medium-sized reserves with the opportunity to maintain a viable population of elephants with minimal impact on reserve biodiversity without sacrificing game-viewing opportunities,” says Matthew Thorp, Welgevonden elephant monitor. The vaccine is aerially administered, with each individual cow being darted with a biodegradable dart that falls out once the immune-contraceptive

has injected into the bloodstream. The intelligent dart ensures that no cows receive a double dose by spraying a coloured dye onto the rump of the elephant. The vaccine does not halt population growth immediately and populations can take up to three years to stabilise. While it would be possible to inhibit births from this point onwards, calves are integral to herd cohesion and certain individuals are ‘skipped’ during contraception to ensure that herd dynamics remain as natural as possible. Currently, 22 protected areas ranging from 2 000 to 96 000ha make use of pZP, including Addo National Elephant Park. pZP has proven to be a realistic alternative management tool in controlling elephant populations, particularly where it is used as part of a long-term management strategy. – Jessica Oosthuyse

Top: An elephant in Welgevonden. Left: Getting ready to vaccinate. Photos: Jessica Oosthuyse

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 31


Living World

PROTECTING OUR RARE SAND FORESTS T

he sand forests of northern KwaZulu-Natal are the most critically endangered vegetation type in South Africa. At the same time, these forests offer refuge to the regionally endangered suni antelope. The remaining sand forests are highly fragmented and threatened by pineapple farming and eucalyptus plantations as well as deforestation for building materials, curios and traditional medicine. Historically, much of the land in the region consisted of sand forest. The Wild Tomorrow Fund is one of the role players being proactive by acquiring land to protect the diversity of the area. This acquisition of land encourages the idea of connecting the Phinda Game Reserve and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Aerial maps of Maputaland show that this unique vegetation type is decreasing rapidly. As a result, a conservation action plan is required to preserve the remaining virgin sand forests. Many of the plant species within this vegetation type are listed on the Red Data List for rare and endangered plants. Perhaps the most iconic of these plants is the slow-growing hardwood, the lebombo wattle (Newtonia hildebrandtii). Some of them are believed to be over 1 000 years old. They are often covered in lichens, mosses and orchids that get their water from dew and lowhanging mist. The canopy is mostly evergreen but can be deciduous in times of drought. Sand forests are very dense with a closed canopy that reaches five to 13m in height, and occur in areas with a relatively low annual rainfall. Sand forests occur naturally from Greater St Lucia Wetland Park into southern Mozambique. Of the 3 540 hectares of sand forests remaining Page 32 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

in South Africa, an estimated 42% is protected in Tembe Elephant Park, Sileza Nature Reserve, Ndumo Game Reserve, Mkhuze Game Reserve, Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, Kruger National Park and Phinda Private Reserve. The majority situated outside protected areas and is subject to exploitation. Soils largely determine vegetation: sand forests grow in sandy soils with good drainage and are more acidic than other soils found in KwaZulu-Natal. Sand forest thickets are characterised by sharp forest margins and are surrounded by narrow areas of sparsely growing grasses or bare

soil. The bare fringes of sand forests act as a firebreak as they struggle to recover after severe fires. The Maputaland sand forest is characterised by rare and endemic plants as well as unique bird and wildlife species. Birdlife commonly found includes the rosythroated longclaw, Woodward’s batis, pink-throated twinspot, eastern nicator, African broadbill and squaretailed drongo. In comparison, very few mammal species are found in sand forests. Apart from the suni, nyala also occur here, with the two antelope species competing for browsing.

Additional wildlife native to sand forests are the four-toed elephant shrew, red bush squirrel and the yellow golden mole. The recently discovered Phinda button spider also calls the sand forests home. Information provided by Francois du Randt, author of The sand forest of Maputaland. – Georgina Lockwood

Main: Sand forests are abundant in KwaZulu-Natal. Bottom left: The shy suni antelope hides in this special vegetation. They are small and difficult to see. Below: Vegetation in the forest in flower. Photos: Wildlife Tomorrow Fund

Five facts • Vulnerable: Suni are under pressure in South Africa as they occur in a very limited area. They are found in northern parts of the Kruger National Park and north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal. • 30–43cm: The size of a suni antelope. •  1  –4: The number of females a male  suni associates with. • P  reorbital glands: These are found on the suni’s head and used to secrete a pungent odour. Suni antelope use this for communication and territorial markings. • 6  months: The average gestation period of this little antelope.


Turning waste into energy

P

oliticians are not usually known for getting their hands dirty, but Ken Robertson’s track record has seen him roll up his sleeves regularly to get services to rural communities. Robertson has succeeded in another dirty task too – the production of braai briquettes. He and his wife Brigitte have produced briquettes that don’t leave your hands grubby. Free of chemical additives, this byproduct of a growing agricultural sector is produced from macadamia shells. The Robertsons recently saw the fruit of many years’ labour, research and development when they delivered their first load of Mc Nuts Briquettes. Ken is familiar with macadamia farming and aware of the tonnes of excess shells left behind after processing the nuts. He was worried about general deforestation, so about eight years ago he started to investigate the possibilities

of turning the shells into a usable product. Charcoal soon came to mind, as he reasoned that being organic but very hard to crack, the shells should burn long enough to fuel a decent fire and produce perfect coals for a braai. Lots of research and development, capital, and experimenting with different ingredients followed as he was determined to keep the product’s green and chemical-free status. After finding the best ‘recipe’ they imported machines to produce the product and arranged to purchase shells from local farmers. Robertson also sees it as a way of educating people on reusable and sustainable energy, and the importance of curbing deforestation. It takes 5kg of shells to produce 5kg of charcoal. The briquettes produce a flame of about 40cm before forming coals and stay hot for a long time. No nasty

Living World

chemical smell is emitted while burning. Robertson is satisfied that his product provides the ambience for a social gathering and the coals last long enough for any decent South African braai. The Robertsons left nothing to chance – they designed the packaging themselves. A marketing trial on Facebook resulted in hundreds of offers to market Mc Nuts Briquettes. Costs compare favourably with similar products on the market. Currently they’re available in select shops in the Lowveld towns of Hazyview and White River, and some of the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger area. For more information, mail info.mcnuts@gmail.com – Mariana Balt

Right: Macadamia charcoal makes a perfect braai and does not contribute to deforestation. Photo: Ken Robertson

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Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 33 2019/12/06

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Spotlight

Where have all the whales gone? Annual whale season – a time when large numbers of southern right whales descend on parts of the South African coastline. But this year saw a sharp decline in the numbers, marking the second lowest number of these mammals along our shores since 1995. René de Klerk investigates...

T

he University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute (MRI) Whale Unit conducted an aerial survey of southern right whales between September 30 and October 5. This annual survey takes place between Muizenberg and Nature’s Valley not only to monitor population numbers, but to build a database of southern right whales. This year the numbers were significantly lower, with only 190 females with calves (95 pairs) counted. The number of unaccompanied adults also plummeted and only 10 were counted. Adults usually mate in South Africa’s warmer waters, while pregnant females seek spots in calm bays to give birth. Numbers of females with calves were very low from 2015–2017 and then peaked in 2018 when 536 cowcalf pairs were counted along the same stretch of coastline. Numbers have however been generally low for unaccompanied adults (males and females not calving that year) after 2009. In 2009, there were more than 300 unaccompanied adults. “I am concerned over this,” says Dr Els Vermeulen, research manager and post-doctoral research fellow at the MRI Whale Unit. “We are seeing extreme fluctuations, with numbers of unaccompanied adults staying low,” she adds. Females could be failing to fall pregnant, migration routes could be altered or migration

Page 34 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

determined. “We are looking at could have stopped. the feeding grounds and took skin From trends it seems that females samples this year,” she says. Skin now give birth every four to five years samples will reveal more about their instead of every three years. There diet. Preliminary results indicate is also an apparent shift in the peak a correlation between climatic presence of cow-calf pairs from conditions in the Southern Ocean, October to earlier in the year. This fluctuations in food, and energy could mean females give birth earlier reserves. Future plans include and leave South Africa earlier, or that satellite tagging the whales and female right whales leave the South looking at the hormonal profile African breeding ground quicker, of females. possibly with a calf that is not ready Although similar trends are to migrate. recorded in South America and According to Vermeulen, “They Australia, the fluctuations are used to stay for about three months, extreme in South Africa. but it seems they are leaving sooner. The long-term statistics and It may be that they are hungry photo-identification records provide and do not have the energy while insight into the life nursing their calf.” of these whales Southern right and form part of whales feed on an international krill and copepods Similar trends are project of the (crustaceans), recorded in International a food source Whaling found in the South America Commission, Southern Ocean. co-led by the MRI Vermeulen and Australia Whale Unit. The says that even if total population the whales are estimate is 6 116 not migrating to animals based on resighting history. South Africa, they can still mate and Adult survival rate is high, and 85% conceive. She is concerned, however, of calves survive the first year. The as calves learn migration routes from current whale population is only their mothers and they then return at 20% of what it used to be one day to where they were born. If before whaling. the route is altered, calves will learn Fewer southern right whales can this route instead. also affect the tourism industry. “It Whether these trends are affected our sightings in Gansbaai temporary or not remains to be

Fact file •S  outhern Ocean: Where southern right whales feed and live. They migrate to warmer water to mate and give birth. •1  969: The first aerial survey counting southern right whales along the South African coastline. •N  ame: Its name came from the belief that it was the right whale to hunt, as they swim slowly and float when dead. •D  e Hoop Nature Reserve: One of the best places in South Africa to spot southern right whales in season. Large numbers of whales congregate in this bay. •1  50 000: Estimated number hunted between the 17th and 19th centuries. Numbers are still recovering. •J  une to October: The period when mating and calving takes place.

and although we did have some, it was very slow. They seemed to have left a bit earlier in the season,” says Brenda du Toit, public relations for Dyer Island Cruises. “Females with calves can’t be approached by boats as it puts extra pressure on females with already low energy levels,” Vermeulen explains.

Top: Southern right whales photographed from the helicopter during the annual aerial whale survey. Photo: Mammal Research Institute


News From Our Partners

Supporting conservation projects As a fundraiser and grantgiving organisation, Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA) is constantly searching for ways to raise funds to support the community projects they have identified and support on the African continent. For this reason, CCFA will host an international event at the Royal Geographical Society in London, hosting master South African storyteller Michael Charton. This Capetonian’s enthusiasm for the story of South Africa lured him away from his corporate career. He is known to have a passion for South Africa’s history and portrays a balanced view through providing a fresh new perspective on notoriously complex topics. This acclaimed storyteller also aims to make South Africa’s incredible history more accessible. Charton tells the human story through the eyes of historic figures and protagonists like Mzilikazi Khumalo, Paul Kruger, Cecil John Rhodes, Jan Smuts and Nelson Mandela. He has an ability to invite his audiences into the shoes of his characters, highlighting the biases prevalent to South Africa’s history. After the talk, titled My Father’s Coat, guests can take part in an art auction. Everyone attending the event will be included in a lucky draw to win a gorilla tracking experience in Rwanda. CCFA will use the funding to support a number of projects. In addition to the new partnership supporting the Indalo Nursery, CCFA supports projects in Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Rwanda. These projects are all aimed at empowering local communities, enabling them to become leaders in driving sustainable wildlife management systems on the ground. Keen to attend and do your bit for conservation? The event takes place on 29 January 2020 at the Royal Geographical Society in London. For more information, visit www. ccfa.africa

Putting green into the community T

he Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA) has recently joined forces with the Indalo Nursery in the Eastern Cape to empower the community owned business to reach even greater heights in the future. Based in KwaNobuhle in Uitenhage, the business was started by a group of residents who are passionate about nature. As a fundraiser and grant-giving organisation, CCFA has identified the integral role that the diverse communities adjacent to protected areas play in maintaining a cohesive ecosystem between man and his natural environment. As a result, they focus their attention on educating and empowering local communities, which can then play a role in preserving nature and wildlife. This is the reason why CCFA has joined forces with Indalo Nursery. The partnership was the perfect match for both partners. According to Di Luden from CCFA, the organisation decided to help the nursery grow their business. “We see this eventually growing into something whereby we can get the community members involved. For now we help them with their business plan, mentor, and currently sell their pot plants in our hotels,” Luden says. Indalo was borne of a passion by its founders to see the Xhosa culture and conservation of the Eastern Cape become a unified space where land and culture are conserved and retained for future generations. While the business is small and still

developing, there are lots of plans to grow and expand in the future. Apart from the establishment of the indigenous and medicinal nursery, a Xhosa cultural education centre focusing on medicinal plants and healing will be created. Long-term plans to start a Xhosa traditional eatery and coffee shop will be perfect for families and friends from the local community looking for a bite to eat, or simply seeking a place to unwind. The nursery aspires to produce plants for sale not only to the public, but also to traditional healers, and to provide stock for the landscaping industry.

The founding members and directors of Indalo share many years of experience between them. They are all employed by the Hopewell Conservation Estate by Mantis. This 3 100ha nature reserve and estate is situated to the south of KwaNobuhle on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth and is home to a variety of wildlife, including giraffe, eland and Cape mountain zebra. Because of their mixed vegetation types, ranging from grassy fynbos plains to subtropical thicket and deep riverine valleys, more than 160 bird species occur on the estate. Indalo will also be able to use the estate as a base for guided educational walks and tours. To raise funds to assist Indalo Nursery, CCFA is planting spekboom (Portulacaria afra) trees. For every R120 raised, CCFA will plant a tree. Spekboom is abundant in the Eastern Cape and the Sundays River Valley, and is known as a carbon sponge. It is said that a single spekboom can remove up to 100 times more carbon from the atmosphere than a pine tree of a similar size. CCFA is a project partner with the Wilderness Foundation Africa, the TUSK Trust and African Parks. For more information, visit www. ccfa.africa or www.ccfa.africa/ support/plant-a-tree /

Main and inset: The Indalo nursery team and CCFA team member Tania Plakonouris with some of the propagated plants. Photo: Provided

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 35


Kids’ Corner

A buzzing project!

Gather your materials and tackle these fun projects

Bee penholder

Attention young bush lovers and adventurers! Are you a nature buff? Grab your crayons and pens and you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a conservation pro!

A bee produces a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime.

COLOUR ME IN

What you need: • An empty toilet roll • Yellow, black and white paper • Pipe cleaners • ‘Googly’ eyes • Scissors • Glue •C  ut out a large rectangular strip of yellow paper (get mom or dad to help with the sizing). Cut black strips for the stripes and stick them on the yellow body. • Cut a set of wings out of white paper (draw two circles right next to each other, one smaller than the other – fold the paper double before you cut out your circles – this will give you both wings in one) and staple them onto one side of the bee body. • Draw a mouth onto your bee and stick ‘googly’ eyes on. • Wrap your bee body around the toilet roll, glueing the body in place. • Use the pipe cleaners to create ‘feelers’ – sticking them onto the inside of the toilet roll. • Now you can store pencils in your bee!

Caterpillars in the garden What you need: • An empty egg carton • Pipe cleaners • ‘Googly’ eyes • Paint • Scissors • Glue • Paint your egg carton (or leave natural if you prefer). • Cut pipe cleaners for legs (long enough to stretch from one side of each body section to the other). Make small holes on the sides of your caterpillar (ask mom or dad to help with making the holes). • Thread a pipe cleaner through from one side to the other with the ends ‘sticking out’ to form the legs. • Now decorate the face of the caterpillar with ‘googly’ eyes, draw a mouth and insert two pipe cleaners into the top for antennae.

create a butterfly What you need: • A washing peg • Paper cupcake cases • Pipe cleaners • ‘Googly’ eyes • Glue • Scissors

Get creative with collective nouns – try making up your own too! A of butterflies A of birds A of ferrets A of flamingos A of frogs A of turtles

• Fold two cupcake cases in half and in half again. • Add glue to their tips and clip them in the middle of your washing peg. • Attach your ‘googly eyes’ to the washing peg. • Snip two pieces of pipe cleaner for the antennae and secure them into the tip of the peg with glue. • Add a magnet to the back of your butterfly for a fun fridge decoration.

Answers: Collective nouns: A swarm of butterflies; a flight of birds; a business of ferrets; a stand of flamingos; an army of frogs; a bale of turtles

Page 36 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News


Living World

Strengthening international ties in

conservation

A

chance meeting four years ago between a Chinese visitor with a deep commitment to nature and the managing director of EcoTraining has resulted in a positive relationship that sees international students learning more about conservation. EcoTraining aims to create a generation of environmentally conscious travellers and now trains between eight and ten groups of travellers from China each year. Managing director Anton Lategan travels regularly to China to promote the programme. The EcoTraining EcoQuest sevenday course is designed to immerse its participants in the wilderness, concentrating on reconnecting with nature, ecology and conservation initiatives. Activities are tailored around topics such as symbiotic relationships, the ecosystem, poaching issues, and the interrelationships between all aspects of

the ecosystem, including the role of humans. EcoTraining aims to introduce visitors to the extraordinary environment and its wildlife. “We hope that when they return to their country, the experiences and knowledge gained will percolate through their social and business circles like a snowball rolling down a mountain,” says Lategan. Feedback from those who have attended the course has been positive. “What I experienced and learnt is priceless and inspiring. I wish more people in every corner of the world would come to know EcoTraining and the concepts and beliefs it holds,” says Mirar Jan, one of the Chinese visitors who attended a course in South Africa. The initiative between EcoTraining and China has grown substantially and by the end of 2019, 677 Chinese students will have received training

in Southern Africa and Kenya. This relationship and the increase in attendees are not by chance. Lategan has travelled to China four times in the last five years. He has spoken at universities, schools, tourism events and international conservation conferences, including the Shanghai Nature Conservation Festival. He also took part in a roundtable discussion about rebuilding nature in the city alongside international environmental stakeholders. In 2018, the Chinese government committed to the rehabilitation of the Yangtze River estuary, the Yangtze River bank and biodiversity corridors in the city. Lategan says his message is simple: “The world is connected as one natural system. There is ecological interrelatedness from the formation of rocks, soils and plants, to the herbivores and carnivores, through

decomposition and back to the soil. This relationship applies throughout the world,” he says. “Once we realise how interdependent we are we simply need to empower the nearly eight billion people of the world to make wise choices in favour of the environment,” he adds. “It is imperative that we inspire sustainable behaviour in the most populous countries in the world. “If you mobilise an entire population you can achieve incredible things. The process is simple: plants absorb noxious gases and give us free oxygen, which improves health. Flowers attract birds and butterflies, which pollinate more plants and improve quality of life.”

Main: Chinese visitors travel to Kenya with EcoTraining. Photo: Tigris Zang

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Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 37


Hotspots

GEMS WORTH TRAVELLING FOR Sleep in style under the Camdeboo Karoo stars Milky Way Star Bed, Samara Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape

Perched on a riverbed a few kilometres from the main dwelling, the Samara Private Game Reserve Milky Way Star Bed is a simple wooden structure that offers a wildly sensory perspective into the Eastern Cape Karoo landscape and ecosystem. The Star Bed has only the starlit night sky as a roof, and Karoo-cold air keeps your champagne perfectly chilled. A few cosy blankets, the basic

bio-loo and an antique ceramic washbasin are all you need. And good company, of course... As dusk settles, calls of black-backed jackal, rowdy chacma baboons and even a spotted eagle-owl usher in the Milky Way extravaganza. The four-poster beautifully frames the changing night sky. It’s no wonder it was recently included in the Top 10 Sexiest Hotels in the World by Cosmopolitan USA.

Good to know: The Milky Way Star Bed experience is only available in the hotter months between October and April and is always weather dependent. There is no cellphone reception. Guests are equipped with a satellite radio for emergencies and pick-up arrangements. Cost: The Star Bed experience is available for Samara guests at a R2 000 surcharge, applicable to one or two guests. Guests must be booked into one of Samara’s lodges for a minimum of two nights and reservations are made on a first come, first served basis. Book: Email reservations@samara.co.za – Louzel Lombard Steyn

A tranquil country escape Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate, Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Whether you want a romantic breakaway or a family getaway, Dunkeld Country & Equestrian Estate near Dullstroom in Mpumalanga is a good option. Located about three hours from Johannesburg, Dunkeld offers lots of opportunity to unwind. Dad can practise his fly-fishing at several trout dams, while mom

Action-packed privacy Talamati Bushveld Camp, Kruger National Park

The surrounding camp ambience is a typical mix of chattering crickets, serenading scops owls and an outof-tune fruit bat. Suddenly, a violent screech erupts in front of the camp. Two thirsty herds of elephants have got their trunks in a twist over waterhole decorum. The chaos continues late into the night, much to the dissatisfaction of the local baboon troop. On day two, wild dogs made quick work of a bushbuck at the fence. Other delights from the camp included a leopard, a hyena with an impala in its jaws, and the sound of lions during our last night. This is the essence of Talamati. Each evening lulls you into bushveld meditation. Then, as you sink into Page 38 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

Good to know: With just 15 family units, Talamati is an intimate bush experience that doesn’t break the bank. Only wood and ice are available at camp, but Orpen is just 30 minutes away should you require more. Cost: Cottages start at R1 355 for two people. The kitchen/ dining room is an open veranda and has a two-plate gas stove, sink, fridge, cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery. There is a ceiling fan in the room. Book: www.sanparks.org/parks/ kruger/camps/talamati/ – Andy Wassung

your camping chair, an exciting altercation – usually visible from the hide in front of camp – interrupts your evening.

enjoys time out around the heated pool or at the spa. The kids can keep busy at the entertainment centre’s games room, pool table, tennis court or mini golf course. Activities include horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, abseiling and rock climbing. Two restaurants offer scrumptious menus.

Good to know: Dullstroom is 2 100m above sea level and often covered by a blanket of mist, making it one of the coldest villages in South Africa. Cost: From R1 552 for a hotel room for two, to R3 233 for a villa that sleeps six adults and two children. The Country Manor sleeps 10 and costs R4 720. Prices are charged per night. Book: www.dunkeldestate.co.za – Mariana Balt


Wild Earth

H

istoric references of large herds of springbok migrating across the South African landscape are abundant, with stories of herds migrating past towns for days at a time, and hunters taking advantage of the situation, often shooting more than one antelope with a single shot. It is no wonder that this iconic species is the national animal of South Africa, and also the icon of the country’s rugby team. While these migrations no longer take place on such a grand scale due to overhunting, fencing and disease, you can’t blame farmers for trying to control their numbers. Nobody really knew about the damage they were causing at the time. Droves of springbok ran through the streets of towns and consumed gardens and flower beds, leaving absolute devastation in their wake. Sheep farmers often had to give up after a herd of trekbokke moved through, as they would leave nothing behind for grazing sheep. Farmers tried to balance their losses by hunting springbok on a huge scale. By the late 19th century, farmers started putting up barbed wire fencing to prevent the antelope from decimating their property, with little success. The increase in the human population and destruction of family livelihoods called for renewed action. This resulted in the last great migration in 1896. These massive movements stopped before scientists were able to study them, but it is believed that the movement was based on the availability of grazing influenced by drought. Numbers dating back to 2013 estimate there are approximately 2–2,5 million springboks in South Africa with the majority protected on privately owned land. Springbok are the most abundantly occurring plains antelope in the arid parts of South Africa and were previously found in large numbers in dry grasslands and shrublands of

Five facts • Trekbokke: The nickname given to the springboks migrating across the Karoo landscape. • 1848: A year with one of the largest migrations on record – a single herd of springbok took three days to pass Beaufort West. • 1896–1897: The last time the great migration took place. •M  ixed feeders: Springbok browse, but they also eat young succulent grass before it becomes woody. • Rinderpest: An outbreak of the disease in 1896 caused large numbers of springbok to die. • Reading: Trekbokke of the Cape Colony by SC Cronwright Shreiner.

History of massive

springbok herds Migrations are usually synonymous with the great wildebeest migration of the Masai Mara. However, massive springbok migrations were synonymous with South Africa’s history. René de Klerk investigates south-western and southern Africa. They are found in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, with reduced numbers surviving in Angola. Springbok do not occur in eSwatini and went extinct in Lesotho due to overhunting. There are still spots where limited

migration is possible today. There is dispersal across the South African, Namibian and Botswana borders within the Kgalagadi and Richtersveld Transfrontier Parks. In parts of the Karoo, long-term plans include restoring animal migration routes.

Numbers in the Karoo are increasing, with private reserves such as Tiger Canyon including large populations on their property. Samara Private Game Reserve hahas recently reintroduced a few hundred springbok to its property and with the establishment of the Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment creating a corridor between Mountain Zebra and Camdeboo national parks, springbok and other wildlife might once again move freely over private land between protected areas, albeit in much smaller numbers.

Main: Springbok are able to survive on very little water, especially in the arid parts of the country. The Karoo, including Tiger Canyon Private Game Reserve, is perfect for them. Below: Herds of springbok still occur in South Africa. This photo of a springbok herd was taken at Tiger Canyon. Photos: Lorna Drew

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 39


Books

On the bookshelf

The Talking Dictionary (Briza Publications) This audio visual language reference tool links key words and phrases to full-colour illustrations, with a Callfinder R350 device that allows readers to listen to the pronunciation of terms and phrases in different languages. It also teaches youngsters the sound effects of the different animals. Children will build their vocabulary and confidence as they see, hear and learn at the

Broaden your wildlife knowledge and add to your bush bookshelf collection with the latest conservation and travel books

same time. The dictionary is available in six South African languages, as well as Mandarin. A lovely way to learn about the world.

The Photographer’s Guide to the Greater Kruger National Park eBook Mario Fazekas, Jenny Fazekas and Trevor Barnett (self-published)

Mario and Jenny Fazekas are South African wildlife enthusiasts and photographers who, since 1995, have spent more than 1 000 days on self-drive and guided safaris in African national parks. More than 500 of these were spent in the Kruger National Park and immediate surroundings. In this 700-page book, they reveal how to get the

$27

most out of game drives, recommended roads, insight into the rest camps and more. Get the most out of your next trip to the Kruger National Park.

100 Bushveld Trees (Struik Nature) Megan Emmett Parker

If you have ever found yourself in the bushveld wondering about the trees around you, this is the book for you. It makes identification a R310 breeze by introducing readers to the 100 most memorable trees found in the Lowveld and Highveld has authored a range of regions of South Africa. The books, including Game book is well illustrated to aid Ranger in your Backpack. identification and includes The book is ideal for nature photos of the bark, leaves, lovers looking to learn flowers and fruit. Parker has more about trees. a degree in conservation and

Win your own copy!

Safari News and Struik Nature are giving away a copy each to some lucky readers! To be entered into the draw, email office@safarinews.org and tell us about your favourite tree. Entries close on 31 January 2020.

Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life (HPH Publishing) Nicholas Dyer and Peter Blinston

The incredibly social African wild dog is one R995 of the continent’s most successful predators, yet their numbers have been on the decrease. A century ago, numbers were estimated environment. All money generated from sales goes at 500 000 animals. directly to the Painted Wolf Today, only 6 500 painted Foundation. Read about wolves remain. This beautiful Nick Dyer’s experiences book is illustrated with more photographing these than 220 images and tells colourful dogs at the bottom a captivating story about of the page. the painted wolf and its

Field Guide to Insects of South Africa (Struik Nature) Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths and Alan Weaving

Do you love macro photography or are R390 you simply looking for assistance to help you identify insects in the great outdoors? Or perhaps you are looking for a gift for a budding entomologist? species in the region, This guide features complete with accounts of over 1 500 clear photographs. species and insect groups. It A reference guide inside includes the most common, the cover makes quick most ecologically important, identification easy. interesting and attractive

Loving painted wolves

I

t is incredible to witness the joyful persuaded to go to Mana Pools in play among African wild dog 2013. “It felt like paradise. Camps packs, but their numbers are a small are unfenced and you are allowed to percentage of what they used to be. walk on foot – at your own risk,” he After 30 years in the corporate world says. As a result, animals are slightly in London, Nicholas Dyer returned more tolerant of humans here to Africa. Safari News attended the than elsewhere. This park offered him the opportunity to get to know the launch of Painted Wolves: A Wild African wild dog, Dog’s Life to find and he tracked out more about and photographed his connection Animals are slightly them for six years. with this “As a endangered more tolerant photographer this species. of humans here really fascinated Dyer’s journey me. You have to started in 2011, than elsewhere show incredible shortly after he respect to the packed up his life animals, but in London and you are rewarded with emotional headed back to Kenya, where he photos,” he says. grew up. He wanted to get back to His first experience with the wild his roots, and practise photography, dogs on foot was with another group, and decided to travel through where they spent time watching southern and east Africa. them hunt. “It was exciting and “I visited as many national parks exhilarating as the dogs were all as I could find, and spoke to over the place. conservationists to learn as “As far as the dogs were concerned, much as possible. I spent time I didn’t exist. I fell in love.” Dyer soon with communities to get an got to know all the packs. understanding of how people lived He also met Peter Blinston, the alongside wildlife.” head of Painted Wolf Conservation. Dyer avoided Zimbabwe because Dyer knew he wanted to help ease of the political climate, but was

Page 40 | Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News

the plight of the species and his efforts resulted in the book. Just 100 years ago, there were 500 000 painted wolves on the African continent. Today there are around 6 500. Apart from natural threats such as lion and hyena, human-wildlife conflict, snaring and roadkill play a major role in their decline. Up until 1978, wild dogs were seen as vermin and money was offered for their body parts.

Dyer hopes to create awareness of the African wild dog through his photography and book. “Nobody outside Africa knows they exist, so lots of work still needs to be done,” he says. All proceeds from book sales go towards Painted Wolf Conservation. – René de Klerk

Above: Nicholas Dyer behind his trusted camera. Photo: Provided


Focus

Hiding out in Zimanga Georgina Lockwood zooms around Zimanga’s photographic hides in pursuit of the picture-perfect photograph

F

rom professional photographers and Instagram influencers to amateur camera enthusiasts, everyone is attracted to Zululand’s Zimanga Private Game Reserve, where they have the opportunity to capture the perfect wildlife image. Moving away from the traditional safari model, Zimanga owner Charl Senekal has focused on building a series of photographic hides, each one a feat of engineering that illustrates an acute understanding of animal behaviour. When you’re in the hides, nature comes to you. Leopards that usually stay well out of a photographer’s focal length can be captured drinking at Tamboti or Umgodi Overnight Hides. At Zimanga Lagoon Hide pied kingfishers photobomb your sandpiper snaps. Jackals, vultures and tawny eagles squabble over meat at Scavenger’s Hill Hide. And the only thing between you and your subject matter is a spotless one-way glass screen.

fully functioning kitchen, bathroom and bunk beds. For 12 hours it’s just you, your camera and nature. And if you are not a pro with the camera, guides like Hendri Venter are more than happy to help with your camera settings. You have the opportunity to mingle with family and friends too, as a soft beep alarm goes off when an animal arrives at the waterhole. And arrive they did – from nyala and jackal to safariviewing heavyweights like buffalo and rhino. Around 11 pm the alarm signalled new visitors, and red-eyed and disorientated, I made my way to my tripod. A group of buffalo were drinking when a herd of rhino crashed the party, and at a minute to midnight I witnessed a buffalo and

white rhino touch noses. Other hides include the mobile Bee-eater Hide, which is dedicated to photographing birdlife. Bhejane and Mkhombe are reflective birdbath hides set up to capture camera-shy birds like pink-throated twinspots. Forest Hide is set up in the shades and hues of Zimanga’s fever tree forest. The hides of Zimanga have guests saying, “Say cheese” to the most camera-shy of safari animals.

Main: A herd of antelope visit one of the hides in Zimanga. Right: Spend the night in a hide, without giving up the luxury. Below: The reserve is a haven for a variety of wildlife, including raptors.

Tamboti Overnight Hide I recently spent a night in the Tamboti Overnight Hide. On first sight the hide appears to be a floating door in the middle of the bushveld. Open the door and you arrive in a dark tunnel leading down to a hide that is equipped with a

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www.thecradle.co.za Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 41


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*Terms & Conditions Assuming investor is on a 45% marginal tax rate. Section 12J investment administered on behalf of the St Francis Links Hotel by Mantis, Pearl Valley Hotel by Mantis and Simbithi Hotel & Suites by Mantis by Futureneers Capital (Pty) Ltd, a registered Financial Services Provider (FSP46996). Loan funding of up to 80% (minimum investment of R1m) is available to qualifying investors. This is not an offer to the public to subscribe for shares and investment is by invitation only to qualifying investors. Interested parties may contact Mantis and Futureneers Capital will present them with a comprehensive investment pack and private placement memorandum to further consider and evaluate the investment proposal. After considering the investment information, should interested parties elect to apply for finance, such parties will be referred to a registered National Credit Provider to potentially assist with funding, which process will be administered in accordance with the provisions of the National Credit Act. Investors are also advised to obtain external legal, financial and tax advice before considering any section 12J investment opportunity.

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 43


Wild Earth

A NEW DAWN

for endangered wildlife When animals fall victim to poaching and survive, there are one of two options. They can either be euthanaised and their genes lost forever, or given a second chance. René de Klerk finds out how Saving the Survivors is creating hope from hurt

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ith the increase in rhino poaching in recent years, gory scenes of mutilated animals often greet those working on the ground. In addition, elephant poaching has always been an problem, but has moved closer to home. Subsistence poachers set snares to target small antelope, but larger species are often captured unintentionally. Those behind the attacks are not necessarily skilled and shots fired can easily miss the vital organs. While these animals frequently survive, the consequences are often dire. For this reason, veterinarian Dr Johan Marais started Saving the

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Survivors (STS) in 2012. The nonprofit organisation treats endangered wild animals affected by poaching. Much of their work takes place in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa, an area that is home to the Kruger National Park and a number of private game reserves. STS treats a variety of endangered species, including lion, elephant, African wild dog, pangolin and cheetah, but in more recent years, most of their work has been directed towards rhino. Rhino are at the heart of the poaching crisis and are often treated for facial injuries and gunshot wounds, while other species

animals respond to treatment. are injured as a result of snares. STS Some of the biggest success stories launched when rhino poaching was include a rhino cow named Thandi on the increase. whose horn was poached in 2012 in “We received numerous calls in the Eastern Cape. She was treated relation to injured and poached with the help of veterinarian Dr rhino at the time,” Marais explains. William Fowlds. Since the treatment, As a qualified veterinary surgeon which included a skin graft, she has he spent many years working with had three calves. horses, and in 2007 he acquired an Another success story is that of MSc wildlife degree. Seha, a severely injured bull that The organisation is the only one would not have in the world made it due to doing this kind of the severity of work. Marais says his injuries. STS most vets would In recent years, most rescued and rather euthanaise of their work has treated the animal animals in and he made a full similar situations, been directed recovery. Poachers although he does towards rhino took both his not agree with it. horns, leaving a “We will save the gaping wound animal and spend extending into his time and money nasal cavities. He was treated and on it. The animal will go back into bred with another survivor, resulting the wild and breed again. This proves in a calf. While an iconic rhino cow the concept of STS.” survivor named Hope died from an Over the years, they have done intestinal related disease six months pioneering work and developed after her surgeries, she taught the unique procedures, including facial team a lot about the treatment of treatment on rhino that have lost facial injuries. their horns to poaching. The success The injured animals are mostly rate of the procedure is quite high. treated in their natural environment “Initially we thought it was heroic and released immediately to prevent to try and save these animals, and additional stress. “Initially we thought we did not know what was possible. it was a good idea to build a facility However, the animal has no chance and transport injured animals there, if we do not try, and if we do not try, but it would have been logistically we will never know what is possible.” complicated due to different permit Marais says the team has learned systems in different provinces,” a lot over the last seven years and explains Marais. “If it requires ongoing they have been amazed at how the


Wild Earth

Five facts • 200: The team has dealt with more than 200 rhino cases since 2012. • 3–4 months: The amount of time it takes for less severe facial injuries to heal. They require between three and five treatments. •2  years: The amount of time (often longer) taken for severe rhino face injuries to close up by 70–80%. • Fibreglass: Material used to close the wounds, combined with orthopaedic screws. It is sometimes reinforced with aluminium. • Elephant  or buffalo skin: The material used to cover the large wounds.

treatment, we get a small camp system going where the animal is housed, just to cut down on the cost of a helicopter.” Marais says poaching is a huge problem on the African continent. “I was born in 1968 and there were 70 000 black rhino in Africa then. Now there are not even 5 000. We have gone down from 23 000 white rhino to 12 000,” he says. “We are 11 years into this poaching problem. People still don’t know about the massive issue we have with elephant poaching. The pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world – it is on the verge of extinction and many people still don’t even know what a pangolin is,” he says. There are numerous challenges in the field, he adds. “One is the difficulty of dealing with an animal three times the size of our domesticated large animals. Their mere size poses great challenges with regards to any kind of ongoing treatment, like wounds, fractures and infections,” he says. “Also, most of the time a wild animal can only be immobilised (and therefore treated) maybe every three to four weeks,” he explains. STS is has also expanded into neighbouring Mozambique. As one of the most untouched and remote regions on the African continent, the country started investing heavily in wildlife conservation. Marais says they were called in twice to assist with poached rhino in the country and saw the need for another vet to support their current veterinarian Dr Joao Almeida. “He attends to a number of poached and injured animals, as well as responding to human-wildlife conflict cases,” says Marais. While there are two wildlife veterinarians in Mozambique, one is permanently stationed in Gorongosa National Park, leaving Almeida as the only person to give input on veterinary problems in the country.

Do your bit and save the survivors Would you like to make a contribution towards the cause? Adopt a rhino through our virtual adoptions programme. Safari News is assisting credible organisations with their fundraising needs. Visit www. safarinews.org/adoptions for details.

When working on the ground it is easy to lose focus and become depressed, Marais says. “It is quite hard sometimes. Many vets, owners, rangers and antipoaching units feel the same.” Despite the ongoing slaughter of these species, Marais believes the crisis can be stopped. “It is surely our duty towards future generations and this planet to keep on fighting,” he says. For more information and details

on how you can help, visit www. savingthesurvivors.org

Main: An African wild dog gets treatment after an injury. Left bottom: The team assists a wild lion. Top: A procedure is done on an elephant. Middle: A rhino receives facial treatment after a poaching incident. Right: A variety of treatments are done in the field on elephant and rhino, and can include the mending of broken bones. Photos: Dr Johan Marais

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 45


Spotlight

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amu, Kenya, also known as Donkey Island, is a bougainvillea, donkey and dhow utopia. These largeeared equids with their forlorn faces are an intricate part of island life and rural Kenya. But the illegal slaughter and theft of these animals has become a huge problem for the country’s subsistence farmers. Approximately 4,8 million donkeys are killed every year to sustain traditional medicine markets in the Far East. A traditional Chinese medicine called ejiao is made from a gelatine-like substance extracted from boiled donkey skin. In the Far East it is believed to have anti-ageing properties and enhance libido. As a result, China’s donkey population has decreased by 76% since 1992. To keep up with demand China is now importing donkey skins from other parts of the world, with serious implications for Africa. Kenya has become a focal point of the donkey skin trade with the opening of four government-licensed slaughterhouses. “While slaughterhouses in Kenya are on record as being Kenyan-owned, the directors and owners are Chinese,” says Megan Sheraton, communications officer at Brooke, a nonprofit organisation that aims to protect working horses, mules and donkeys in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Brooke believes that by improving the lives of working livestock you can better the lives of the people who depend on them. In 2018, approximately 160 000 donkeys were killed in Kenyan slaughterhouses, translating to 8,1% of their numbers. “Between 2016 and 2018, 16 544 tons of donkey skin and meat were exported,” says Lyne Iyadi, information

DONKEY DISASTER on the African continent

Donkeys are the backbone of many agrarian economies, but Kenya has become a hotbed for the illegal donkey skin trade. Georgina Lockwood tells us more and communication officer at Brooke East Africa. A report compiled by the Kenya Agriculture and Research Organisation suggests that at the current rate of slaughter donkeys will be extinct in Kenya by 2023. Illegal trade is now spilling over the borders. Donkeys are smuggled into Kenya from neighbouring Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia where regulations and local outcry prevented governments setting up donkey slaughterhouses. Ethiopia has the largest donkey population in Africa with about 8,8 million animals. Unable to trade the donkeys here, Abyssinian smugglers herd the animals into the desert along the 250km Moyale Cross Border

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route into Kenya. Kenya’s latest abattoir is located on the Ethiopian border, adding fuel to the trade. “These slaughterhouses are graphic and gory and the welfare of the donkeys is not observed,” Iyadi reports. Donkey smuggling across

Donkeys will effectively be extinct in Kenya by 2023 borders has additional consequences. It resulted in an outbreak of equine flu in West Africa with Niger losing 60 000 donkeys in 2019.

Subsequently, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal have banned the export of donkey products and also shut down all their donkey slaughterhouses. “The donkey skin trade crisis in Kenya escalated in 2016 when communities started reporting donkey theft and bush slaughters at an alarming rate,” Iyadi says. If the donkeys aren’t killed or stolen they are sold to pay school fees and medical bills, resolving short-term financial issues. Prices for a mule have increased from R1 485 in 2016 to R2 970 in 2019. While poverty is a driving force behind donkey sales many people do not want the risk of owning a donkey. “The fear of waking up to a

skinned donkey has pushed owners to sell rather than lose their donkeys with no financial compensation,” Iyadi explains. For those living on the poverty line, a donkey is a lifeline. Almost 60% of Kenyan households own just two donkeys, so the loss of one is a serious blow. The donkeys are important to family livelihoods, providing a vital form of transport for food, water and access to markets. Those hardest hit by the illegal donkey trade are society’s most vulnerable – women, children, the elderly and the disabled, who rely heavily on the animals for transport. Donkeys have been domesticated for over 5 000 years and evolved from the critically endangered African wild ass (Equus africanus). “Donkey traders will go to great lengths, the question is what next? Will the rare African wild ass become a target?” Iyadi asks. Lamu is a safe haven for donkeys due to the animal’s cultural significance on the island, but questions remain about how long this will last.

Five facts •1  000: Donkeys killed per day for their skins. •3  8 000: Households implicated in donkey theft. •3  01 977: The number of donkeys slaughtered from 2016 to 2018. •6  0: Number of donkeys stolen per week in 2017. •1  ,8 million: Kenya’s donkey population according to a 2009 census.

Main: A woman and her donkey in Kenya. Photo: Alex McBride


DIG IN Your guide to eating in the great outdoors

Food

Wine pairing is such fun Stellenbosch Hills has taken the pretence out of wine tasting by creating the ultimate fun experience. What could be better than enjoying handfuls of popcorn while sipping on Polkadraai wines and bubblies? Think Sauvignon Blanc Brut paired with coconut and chia seeds popcorn, Chenin Blanc/ Sauvignon Blanc with salted caramel, Rosé matched with cinnamon and pretzel flavours, and a Pinotage/Merlot complemented by dark chocolate popcorn. Available until 30 April 2020 at only R30 per person for a 30-minute session. Book by emailing info@stellenbosch-hills.co.za or phone +27 21 881 3828. Bookings are limited.

Stellenbosch Hills is giving away six bottles of Polkadraai Sauvignon Blanc Brut to six lucky Safari News readers. Keep an eye on our social media pages from Monday 6 January 2020 to start your year on a high.

South African delicacies 101: Boerewors

Solving the soggy straw problem If you find it difficult to drink your milkshakes, cocktails and icy drinks without a straw and can’t be bothered with soggy paper straws, there’s an alternative. Bonnie Bio products are made from natural corn and vegetable ingredients, and are free from toxins. They are as sturdy as traditional plastic, and completely compostable and biodegradable. Apart from straws, they also produce refuse bags, single use shopping carriers and even cling wrap. Visit www.bonniebio.co.za for a range of stockists or to purchase online. R44.95 for 100 6mm straws.

Win with Polkadraai

In South Africa, a braai (barbecue) is not complete without boerewors, a type of sausage made from minced meat. Boerewors is easy to identify as it generally forms a spiral. When preparing boerewors, do not prick the casing as this dries out the boerewors while it’s cooking. Boerewors can be enjoyed with various side dishes, or placed on a hotdog roll and served with tomato, chilli or onion relish. Photo: Glenn Batterley

White chocolate & ClemenGold gimlet – pure indulgence Ingredients

Refreshes like no other Summer is all about enjoying the perfect weather, lying on the beach, and sipping cocktails. It is not always easy to hydrate without the guilt, especially when you have to buy water on the move. Don’t feel guilty about plastic bottles – buy an Aquabox instead. Still water is sold in 500ml paperboard carton boxes that are 100% recyclable and easy to transport due to their shape. Best of all, a percentage of sales is donated to the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Visit www.aquabox.co.za to purchase online.

EXCLUSIVE OFFER Use ‘Safarinews’ as a discount coupon and receive 10% off when purchasing online.

• • • • •

35ml ClemenGold gin 35ml white cacao 50ml cream 10ml lemon juice 4 dashes orange bitters

Method Combine all ingredients in a shaker, and fill with ice. Shake vigorously. Fine strain into a coupe glass and garnish with white chocolate and fresh citrus shavings. SHARE YOUR COCKTAILS AND WIN Share pictures of your very own gin cocktails with us on Facebook (SafariNews) and you stand a chance to win one of three ClemenGold gin hampers to the value of R600. The competition runs from 18–31 December 2019. Look for the pinned post.

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 47


Wander

Relaxing

next to the Great Fish

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had expectations, but when the view finally appeared in front of me, my jaw dropped. Down in the valley below, the Great Fish River made a horseshoe bend, the lush green vegetation contrasting the scene. Somewhere in the distance, a fish eagle called. Through our binoculars we spotted a herd of buffalo grazing next to the river. It was almost impossible to turn around and leave, but after the hundredth photo of exactly the same view, I pulled myself away. The Adam’s Krantz viewpoint is definitely one of the highlights when visiting the Great Fish River Nature Reserve. Asking people whether they have ever visited this reserve will probably yield more questions than affirmative answers. Being so close to Makahanda (formerly Grahamstown), you would expect crowds. However, this is a hidden gem without hordes of tourists, ideal for those trying to escape the rat race. What they lack in crowds, they make up for in hospitality. I received a personal welcome from reserve manager Sizwe Mkhulise, along with the local chief of the area. They would later share stories of community ownership of the land, and a game reserve that was initiated to benefit the local community. Whether you visit for the day or spend a few nights, the reserve will not disappoint. Arrange for a guided drive to show you the reserve, or

go with a high clearance vehicle to explore on your own. While a small vehicle might get you around the reserve if you drive with care, you won’t be able to cross the Great Fish River. There is wildlife to see, including buffalo, rhino, hippo, zebra and kudu, but if it is animal sightings you are after, it might not be the best place for those Kodak moments. At 45 000 hectares, this nature reserve protects one of the largest intact sections of sub-tropical thicket in South Africa. This can make sightings of wildlife rather difficult. There are plenty of accommodation options, including the rustic Mvubu Chalets with their beautiful river

René de Klerk visited the Great Fish River Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape and believes the reserve should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list

views. The chalets can accommodate four guests each. The kitchen comes with a gas stove and fridge and there is a braai area outside, but meals can also be arranged in advance at the lodge. The chalets do not make provision for the charging of electronics, but solar energy powers the lights and fridge. And the lack of cellphone reception in much of the reserve also means no unexpected interruptions and more time to relax. There is lots to do. Birders can spend their time at the Kentucky Bird Hide where a variety of bird species and wildlife frequent the waterhole. The hippo walk at the Mvubu Chalets is great for wandering next to the river, but caution is

advised. There are also cultural heritage sites, which include the Double Drift Fort dating back to the late 1830s and the Frontier Wars. Whether you prefer a quiet getaway, scenic views or simply a spot to unwind, the Great Fish River Nature Reserve will definitely tick all the boxes.

The Great Fish River Nature Reserve Double Drift Office is situated approximately 73km from Makahanda (formerly Grahamstown). Port Elizabeth is 200km away and has an international airport.

Main: The Great Fish River runs past the Mvubu Chalets and Lodge. It is the ideal spot to relax. Left: The Double Drift Fort is just one of the cultural heritage sites in the reserve. Photos: René de Klerk

Visitor’s guide

est. 1958

KRUGER National Park

MAPS

CONTACT INFO

CAMPS & LODGES

ANIMALS

BIRDS

DETAILED MAPS | GPS POINTS | GATE TIMES | CHECK LISTS | FAUNA & FLORA ILLUSTRATIONS

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2019/07/26 10:29 AM


Adoptions

Give back to wildlife this summer W

ith fundraising initiatives around every corner, it is no wonder members of the public are unsure of who they can trust. It is said there are more than 1 000 organisations raising funds for rhino conservation alone, so at times it is difficult to know whether fundraisers really put the money where their mouths are. Is your hard-earned cash really going where intended, or is it absorbed by astronomical admin costs? It is for this reason that Safari News decided to jump in and help credible organisations raise funds to support the work they do on an ongoing basis. We do not take admin fees away from organisations that need funding – all of your money goes towards making a difference in the work of these conservationists. Pick your cause below, visit www.safarinews.org/adoptions and make your donation. It is the season of giving, so give back to the animals that need it most!

Help save Africa’s wildlife!

Ready to make a difference? Identified the cause you want to support? Simply visit www.safarinews.org/adoptions to get the process started. Choose to make a monthly contribution, or make a once-off payment.

African Pangolin Working Group

Saving the Survivors

International poaching syndicates are targeting pangolins on the African continent for use in Asian markets, where scales are used in traditional medicine and their meat is eaten. Approximately 300 000 pangolins were killed between January and October.

Read our article on p44 about the work done by the organisation. They create hope from hurt by giving rhino affected by poaching a second chance. Other endangered species treated include the African wild dog, elephant, lion and pangolin.

Funding required for: Sting operations, travelling to court cases, tracking devices and working with the Johannesburg Wildlife Vet who treats pangolins.

Funding required for: Facial surgery on rhino affected by poaching, and surgery on animals caught in snares.

Okapi Conservation Project

Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

Funding required for: Research, protecting the species, and community education and development programmes.

Funding required for: Hand-rearing ground-hornbill chicks and building artificial nests to supplement a shortage of nesting trees in the wild.

Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection

Lemur Love

Funding required for: Caring for the orphans. They arrive suffering from medical conditions, depression and emotional trauma.

Funding required for: Lemur research, creating employment, conservation promotion and micro loans for local start-up businesses.

These endangered animals occur in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. It is not easy working with and studying these animals in such tough conditions. There could be between 10 000 and 35 000 okapi left, but numbers could even be as high as 50 000.

The critically endangered West African chimpanzee has already disappeared in Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso. Liberia, where they are still found, has improved its law enforcement, so this has led to an influx of confiscated chimpanzees and orphans.

These endangered birds are slow breeders, live in communal groups and raise a single chick every six years. One chick reaches adulthood every nine years. The project manages the metapopulation in South Africa by harvesting the second egg from wild nests.

There are approximately 5 000 of these endangered primates left in the wild in Madagascar. Since 2000, populations have decreased by 95% because of illegal logging, slash and burn agriculture, poaching for bush meat and the pet trade.

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 49


A Day in the Life

CONSERVATION CHAMPIONS of the future

Johannes Monyeki, an educator at the Lapalala Wilderness School discusses the importance of educating youngsters about conservation, hoping to create future leaders with a passion for our natural heritage

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outh Africa’s conservation challenges are daunting: the country is faced with rapid human population growth, and expanding agriculture, infrastructure and globalisation all place demands on its natural resources. To make things worse, climate change may already be responsible for extreme weather events globally. Given all these challenges, the Lapalala Wilderness School (LWS), located in the Waterberg region in the northwestern part of South Africa, has a crucial role to play. Some prefer to call it a school of life. We devote our time and energy to identifying and nurturing future conservation leaders – young people who will drive the agenda and spearhead innovative approaches in the field of conservation and wildlife management. The school is one of the greatest sources of potential conservation leaders, with around 3 000 children attending environmental education courses annually, and an additional 7 500 participating in the EcoSchools Programme. A vital quality

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for a conservation leader is a passion for the environment, coupled with an enthusiasm for becoming involved in applied environmental activities. The work of the school is made possible by the dedicated team led by director Mashudu Makhokha, who has built up a well-deserved reputation for running an excellent environmental education programme over many years. Environmental education programmes emphasise the need to protect the biodiversity and ecosystems involved in supporting life – especially to the very poorest children from our rural communities. The majority of local communities in the Waterberg are directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. The key resources include grazing for animals, wood, water, and access to productive land, all of which are under pressure and threatened by increasing human populations. Other threats include widespread poverty, global inequality, inappropriate economic frameworks, and inadequate education and training facilities.

As the guardians of our future, young people have a critical role to play in conservation. South Africa’s rhinos pangolin, cycads and many other animal and plant species are under threat. We believe that the youth can play a key role in helping to save them. It is for this reason that we host a public speaking competition, in conjunction with the My Planet Rhino Fund on World Rhino Day each year. Grade 10 learners from schools in areas at risk to poaching prepare speeches on a topic relevant to the rhino crisis. Sarah Seroke, an educator from EDL Rampola Secondary School in Limpopo says, “The competition has a huge impact on the participants, as it deals with the perception among local communities that biodiversity does not deliver tangible socioeconomic benefits, particularly to the poor. It is through this competition that communities see social upliftment and empowerment of the younger generation to attain critical thinking skills and get involved in solving real issues like rhino poaching.”

Main and inset: Youngsters learn valuable information about nature and wildlife, and also take part in teambuilding at the Lapalala Wilderness School. Photos: Johannes Monyeki and Mashaka Sadiki


Last Word

Off the beaten track Which reserve is further away than the traditional Timbuktu? Is it Garamba, Zakouma or Odzala, or maybe Pendjari? Otch Otto tells us more about some of the most remote reserves on the African continent

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hen I consulted in the area earlier this year, I thought the most remote reserve was W National Park in Benin. But then I went to Zakouma for work. While there I brushed the growth of Siniaka Minia Wildlife Reserve and was carted off to Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve to understand the remoteness after a visit to Aouk National Park. I’m aware that I’m forcing you to research and read, and encourage Safari News readers to do so, as lovers of nature, bold bush travellers and those concerned with conservation. It is absolutely amazing to witness what is out there – relatively unseen and unexperienced. I serviced over 50 parks and reserves during my counter-poaching consultancy career. But allow me to present some inspiring material…

Zakouma National Park (Chad)

Having had access to Kruger National Park since grade three, being the chief of security in the early 1990s and the mission area manager for three years until 2016, I have had access to Kruger in all its glory. I found Zakouma to be heaven, even after the magnificence of Kruger. The indescribable masses of game and birds, the seasonal explosion and the pristineness are humbling.

Aouk National Park (Chad)

This massive strip of Sahel, with its rich grazing that serves millions of nomadic cattle for a few months a year, was the prize hunting concession in Africa. It produced the two heaviest tuskers every year during the 1980s. The brave initiative of the European Union and African Parks to recover this magnificence is remarkable, especially after a recent overflight confirmed that the base population required for recovery was absent. A google search will bring little or no insight into Aouk – and you thought Timbuktu was remote.

Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve (Chad) The Ennedi Massif is a massive experience, the most humbling and the best to have on your bucket list after you’ve tried everything else. It is a place where you can hear

Illustration by Annalene Lindeque

your hair grow while being taken in by the art of God. I never thought these features could have so much impact on someone who has practically owned every access road, day and night in the majestic Kruger Park. The Kruger is a quarter of the size of Ennedi – and Kruger is two million hectares! The dire truth in conservation is that passionate funding (in the right place) is survival for these parks. Understandably, substantial donors seek to participate more and more in how funds are spent these days. Lesser donors need not be insignificant or blind contributors.

There are places that desperately need donations and allow you to see your results. Visit Pendjari, Zakouma, Ennedi, Chinko, Garamba,

You can hear your hair grow while being taken in by the art of God Karingani, or explore W, Aouk or Odzala. Experience remoteness and see how far a little bit of funding

can go. Go and see the success in Akagera (Rwanda), Garamba (DRC) or Liwonde (Malawi) and find your pioneering space. All these places are long haul trips, which is why they are pristine and worth a visit. You won’t queue for a wildebeest crossing, supper, or a photograph of a kill, or hear anything other than the chirp and flutter of millions of red-billed quelea streaming to the grasslands as the sun rises over the buffalo, geese, cranes and reedbuck in the floodplain. And if you seek silence and isolation, try to capture a sighting of Barbary sheep on a precipice in the Ennedi Massif. Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 51


Living World

WHERE ARE OUR SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL PARKS?

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South African National Parks (SANParks) is responsible for managing all of the country’s national parks. The organisation was formed in 1926 and protects approximately 3% of the total area of South Africa. Safari News regularly includes exciting news from within these parks. Apart from their headquarters at Groenkloof National Park in Pretoria, let’s take a look at where these parks are situated.

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3 13

15

Addo Elephant National Park 1

Agulhas National Park 2

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5

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19 Situated near Port Elizabeth, this park was proclaimed to protect the last 11 elephants in the area. It is the third largest park and home to the Big Seven (the original Big Five, plus the southern right whale and great white shark).

Situated near Struisbaai, the park is home to the southernmost tip of Africa, the meeting spot for the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the iconic Agulhas Lighthouse.

Augrabies Falls National Park

Bontebok National Park

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2

3

4

This gem lies near the small town of Kakamas, approximately 120km from Upington in the Northern Cape. Its most famous feature is the Orange River’s thundering 56m drop into the gorge below.

The smallest national park is located 5km from Swellendam and plays a large role in conservation. In the early 1800s, the bontebok antelope was close to extinction and this park played a major role in securing its future.

Camdeboo National Park

Garden Route National Park

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Golden Gate Highlands National Park

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Karoo National Park 8

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Gigantic dolerite pillars up to 120m in height stretch upwards from the floor of the Valley of Desolation near Graaff-Reinet. Around 100 000 people experience their splendour every year.

Along the south coast of South Africa lies one of the most beautiful stretches of land, consisting of the Tsitsikamma, Knysna lakes and the Wilderness sections. This park protects large tracts of indigenous forest and has a number of giant trees.

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Situated near Clarens in the Free State, the park is known for its spectacular scenery at the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. Its name is derived from the shades reflecting from the sandstone cliffs as the sun hits them.

Vast open plains and lofty mountains are accentuated by pastel colours of pink and blue as dusk falls. This park right on Beaufort West’s doorstep is worth more than a quick visit. There is even a fossil display dating back to the days when dinosaurs roamed the area.

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Living World

12 10

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

Kruger National Park 10

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7 It’s a place where the king of the jungle, or rather the Kalahari, finds solace under the shade of a camel thorn tree and raptors soar in the sky in search of their next snack. Large herds of gemsbok, springbok and other antelope are found here. The park is approximately 250km from Upington.

The largest national park in South Africa stretches from Malelane in the south to Pafuri in the far north at the Zimbabwe border, covering nearly 2 million hectares. There is a diverse number of species, including 147 different mammals, 336 tree species, 114 reptiles and a variety of birds.

Mapungubwe National Park

Marakele National Park

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The landscape scattered with baobab trees is home to the famous Mapungubwe Hill, the burial site of an ancient kingdom that once ruled the area and proof of the first African civilisation. It is also home to the famous golden rhino, and a proclaimed World Heritage Site.

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Mokala National Park 13

Where endangered species roam, and camel thorn trees silhouette blood red sunsets. This park, approximately 70km from Kimberley, protects species such as tsessebe, roan, sable and disease-free buffalo.

/Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Table Mountain National Park 17

Marakele means ‘place of sanctuary’ in Tswana and from the spectacular Lenong Viewpoint it is not difficult to see why. One of the world’s largest colonies of Cape vulture breeds in the area. The park is situated near Thabazimbi.

Mountain Zebra National Park 14

Namaqua National Park 15

Just a stone’s throw from Cradock lies a park synonymous with crystal clear skies and breathtaking scenery. One of the reasons for its establishment was to protect the Cape mountain zebra. The park is also rich in cultural heritage dating back to the Anglo Boer War.

For approximately two months every year, the arid landscape transforms into carpets of colour when the wildflowers put on their display. Outside flower season the coastal section with its glistening blue waters offers welcome relief from the sweltering weather.

Tankwa Karoo National Park

West Coast National Park

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From the rugged kloofs, high mountains and dramatic landscapes to the world’s richest desert fauna, this park is a photographer’s dream. Quiver trees and halfmens are two of the most prolific plants in the park. The park is situated near Alexander Bay.

It’s a World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. While the mountain is prominent in the Mother City, the park consists of much more. Most of the park is easily accessible, creating nature spots in the middle of the city.

You will be met by silence and can easily lose yourself in the isolation of this park, just four hours from Cape Town near Calvinia. After sunset, thousands of stars cover the night sky. Enjoy the scenic views from the top of the Gannaga Pass to get the full extent of the Tankwa Karoo.

The crystal blue waters of the Langebaan Lagoon form the focal point of this park. Think endless beaches, salt marshes, migrant waders and carpets of flowers during spring.

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 53


Central Reservations Tel: 012 428 9111

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Addo Elephant National Park • Agulhas National Park • Augrabies Falls National Park • Bontebok National Park Camdeboo National Park • Garden Route National Park • Golden Gate Highlands National Park • Karoo National Park Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park • Kruger National Park • Mapungubwe National Park • Marakele National Park Mokala National Park • Mountain Zebra National Park • Namaqua National Park • Table Mountain National Park Tankwa Karoo National Park • West Coast National Park • Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park Photography by Adriaan van Jaarsveld Designed by CaravanParks.com

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Living World

Keeping count of leopard populations T

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Dr Victoria Gibbon says Madawas was buried in a tightly flexed position on her back with her knees to her chin. Her sex was determined once the pelvis was excavated. “The pelvis is the most accurate bone in the human body due to the birth canal, so once we had the pelvis, we could confirm that she was female,”

She would have lived around 1436–1622 and is of Khoisan ancestry Gibbon explains. Radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis using a small piece of rib bone determined that she would have lived around 1436–1622 and is of Khoisan ancestry. The skeleton represented a person of around 1,52m, between 35 and 55 years of age at the time of death. “San and Khoi people are known to be small bodied, so the short stature is not surprising,”

Gibbon says. The analysis also revealed more about her diet and Gibbon says she also had early signs of osteoarthritis, especially in the ankles, knees and lower back, indicative of an active lifestyle. “There is no evidence of physiological stress on the bones, suggesting she was able to maintain a relatively healthy balance and regular intake of nutrition,” says Gibbon. “The life history of this individual confirms a long history of peopling in the Tankwa area, and that these early people were living well, were healthy and well adapted to their environment,” Gibbon adds. The reburial constituted a traditional San ceremony led by the Northern Cape San and Nama leaders Petrus Vaalbooi and Willem Damarah. Madawas was wrapped in a kudu skin and buried in the same position. – René de Klerk

Below: Camera trap footage of a leopard captured in the Augrabies Falls National Park.

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ate in October, the skeletal remains of a Khoisan woman were laid to rest in the Tankwa Karoo National Park near Calvinia, following the discovery in 2007. Now known as ‘Madawas’, Nama for ‘bring back’ or ‘return’, she was laid to rest near the Perdekloof campsite, not far from the gorge where she was discovered. “This marks the beginning of an era in which visitors can pay their respects and learn more about their ancestors of the region,” says Tankwa park manager Kennet Makondo. In 2007, then park ranger Letsie Coetzee informed the local police about the discovery near the Perdekloof campsite. As the skeleton was archaeological, independent archaeologist Dr Ryan Gibbon and Dr Victoria Gibbon from the Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town applied for a permit from Heritage Western Cape to excavate and investigate the remains. Part of the condition was that the remains would be reburied in the park.

within a section of the park. These stations remained in place for three months. A station is made up of two camera traps, automatically triggered when any animal walks between them. Both sides of any triggering leopards are photographed simultaneously. The team returned in February 2019 to download the data and to move the cameras into the more remote western section of the park. Of the 2 450 unique trigger events from all stations, 35 species were identified. Most importantly, 29 of these capture events were of leopards. The team identified four individual leopards – two females, a male and what appears to be a large subadult cub with its mother. This is a typical population structure for a region where a single male’s territory overlaps that of several females. However, a number of images were difficult to identify as one of these four, so the total number may change over time as more photographs become available from the study. If you see a leopard in the park you are urged to email matthew@ landmarkfoundation.org. za – Matthew Schurch, Landmark Foundation

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Madawas reburied and finally at peace

he Augrabies Falls National Park (AFNP) is best known for its thunderous waterfall where the Orange River cascades down the deep gorge, but few visitors to the region realise that leopards roam the rocky hills and gullies in the area. These secretive animals are rarely seen, but you can pick up evidence of their presence through spoor and the occasional feeding site. Sometimes they come into conflict with local farmers, often with disastrous consequences. In April 2019, a farmer shot a leopard after it was caught in a trap just 20km from the western boundary of the park. Landmark Foundation, an NGO with a focus on human-leopard conflict, has been studying the leopards in the region since 2012. Their project recently expanded into the AFNP with an ambitious camera trap survey designed to plot the entire section of the park south of the Orange River. The aim of the project was to establish the size of the leopard population and its demographics, and to evaluate the extent to which the area acts as a source for the leopards in the region. The first deployment of cameras took place in November 2018 over an area close to the main rest camp and game viewing roads. Each deployment involved setting up around 25 camera stations in an approximately uniform grid

Top: A number of stakeholders attended Madawas’s burial ceremony in the Tankwa Karoo. Photo: Ryan Gibbon

Summer Issue 2019/2020 | Safari News | Page 55


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Safari News  

Safari News is a quarterly conservation and travel publication, packed with travel ideas, environmental news and the best of Africa’s natura...

Safari News  

Safari News is a quarterly conservation and travel publication, packed with travel ideas, environmental news and the best of Africa’s natura...

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