Dung Beetle In The Battle Against Global Warming

August 18th, 2014

Dung beetles can be found on almost every continent including Africa, where it is almost impossible to set out on a safari without rolling past one of these scarabs hard at work! Though it may seem the most unlikely of environmental heroes, the dung beetle might just be a weapon in the battle against global warming.


Agriculture, you see, is a gassy business. The 1.3 billion large ruminants—dairy cows and beef cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats—that burp, pass gas, and and fertilize grounds around the world emit more greenhouse gases than does the transportation industry, according to the UN.

These animals are responsible for about a third of global emissions of methane, a gas that makes up half of farming’s contribution and is even more potent than the much-maligned CO2. (The other big methane offenders: the natural gas/petroleum industries and landfills.)

So any animal helping to quell gas release invites investigation. In a paper published August 7 in the journal PLOS ONE, Atte Penttilä and colleagues from the University of Helsinki report on experiments designed to see whether dung beetles affect how much methane is released from cow patties, the dung heaps that dot farm pastures. Dung beetles, by the way, dig burrows into pasture feces and feed on the droppings of cows and other ruminants. They also deposit their eggs in the excrement, and their hatchlings feed on the same stuff.


The answer to the methane question was yes. The scientists found that cow patties with beetles, specifically Aphodius species, rummaging around in them released nearly 40 percent less methane over a summer period than beetle-free cowpats did.

The beetles’ good work happens mainly as they dig around in the dung. Methane is born under anaerobic, or oxygen-free, conditions. So as the insects tunnel through the dung, they aerate it, changing the conditions so that less methane is produced within the pats. This translates to less methane gas released into the atmosphere.

“In terms of the net effect on global warming, I’d say the jury is still out,” said study co-author Tomas Roslin. “Much of the methane emission from cattle escapes from the gases emitted from the animal; less escapes from the dung pats. But the beetles’ actions should be weighed into any calculations of net effects, so we don’t miss the mark,” he said.

Story courtesy of National Geographic

Meet Murit & Ndotto – Two Orphaned Ellies

August 14th, 2014

Meet Murit!


Rescued from a well on 11th July in Kenya, tiny Murit was spotted by a herder, who reported him to the Kenya Wildlife Service. They rescued him from the well at 6pm, too late for our rescue teams to get to him and he spent the night at Namunyak Conservancy.


Having not drank anything during the night, he downed two bottles when the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescue team arrived. He had lots of bruises from the well and a lot of dirt in his eyes, and a bacterial infection which we are treating. Blood tests reveal the infection has now reduced, which is encouraging. Murit is spending his days out with the other nursery babies in the bush, which is lovely to witness.


Meet the latest rescue, Ndotto!

Peeking out from underneath blankets, is Ndotto, a new born elephant so young he thought a herd of cows were his family.


Rescued from the remote Ndoto Mountains in Northern Kenya on Thursday 7th August, the tiny new born and his herd had become entangled in a group of livestock belonging to Samburu community, which caused the herd to panic. Left behind, the youngster (who was just hours old) followed the herders and cows home, thinking they were his family, he was too young to know any different.

With a fresh umbilical cord and ears still pink and having not yet mastered how to walk, the Samburu community cared for him overnight and the following morning set off on a 24 hour journey by foot down the mountainside to find help.

Due to the remoteness of the location, a helicopter was chartered to get Ndotto to the safe haven of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant nursery (DSWT) which specialises in caring for orphaned baby elephants. “Ndotto is one of only four elephant orphans to be transported via helicopter directly to the DSWT’s nursery, upon arrival he was carried off the aircraft. At no more than 50kg, the keepers could easily carry him in their outstretched arms before they laid him in blankets in the stockades providing special formula milk and a glucose drip.” says Rob Brandford, director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.


Named ‘Ndotto’ after the place of his rescue, he will be given elephant plasma which is vital to trigger his immune system, especially if he did not have a chance to ingest his mother’s milk.


Says Rob Brandford: “Unfortunately, whilst he was cared for by Samburu community, he was fed cow’s milk – potentially life threatening for elephants, who cannot tolerate this type of milk. We’ll do all we can to remedy any side effects and be by his side all the way through the weeks, months and hopefully years to come.”


A rescue mission like this is a huge financial cost, and until his reintegration little Ndotto will require full time care and support. To donate to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Emergency Appeal for funds to support his care, and others who need rescuing, please go to www.sheldrickwildifetrust.org

Story & Photos courtesy of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Restoring iSimangaliso Wetland Park!

August 11th, 2014


“Within the year, iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa intends to realize our conservation vision of restoring all historically occurring game back into the world heritage site. With the introduction of eland, the next and final species will be brought back,” says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.

Eland, one of the largest and most majestic antelopes, once trod their ancient migratory routes from the heights of the Lebombo Mountains to the coastal plains. With iSimangaliso’s bold vision to reintroduce all historically occurring species, they will soon be seen again in the world heritage site.


In December 2013, iSimangaliso Wetland Park introduced lions after an absence of 44 years to the uMkhuze section. A phased introduction was undertaken with an initial lioness and three cubs followed by two males several months later. The third and final complement was that of three lionesses trans-located from Tembe Elephant Park in June 2014. From this founder population of nine will grow the new generation of felines in iSimangaliso.

But not too quickly – due to the high breeding rate of lions, and in order to avoid the future challenge of over-population in a fenced conservation area, the final three lionesses recently underwent an innovative contraceptive procedure in line with the park’s conservation management strategy. Referred to as a unilateral hysterectomy, this fairly new veterinary procedure was done by Dr Mike Toft, who has previously done similar operations in lions and other mammal species. The expected result is that half of the usual number of offspring will be born to each mother. Dr Toft reports that the technique has shown good results, including lionesses operated on two years ago that have produced 1-2 cubs as opposed to 4-5 cubs per litter.


Once operated on, the lionesses were released into the holding bomas for a recovery period of a couple of weeks. Prior to release, one of the females was fitted with a satellite collar enabling constant tracking in order to monitor their movements and interaction with the other lions. Conservation Manager Eduard Goosen reported that according to the early satellite tracks it appeared as if the lionesses had joined up with the younger group of lions.


To date, iSimangaliso has introduced numerous species into various sections of the park, including black and white rhino, wild dog, cheetah, lion, buffalo, oribi, tsessebe, giraffe, elephant and waterbuck. Says Andrew Zaloumis, “The uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso is the oldest proclaimed conservation area within iSimangaliso, having been in existence for over a century. We look forward with great excitement to finally seeing this area realize its full potential with a complete complement of world-class visitor attractions and all of the historically occurring animal species.”


Story courtesy of African Geographic

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