Archive for the ‘African World’ Category

Strange Species of SA

Monday, September 29th, 2014

South Africa’s diversity is not only evident in the many people, languages, cultures and customs that make up this Rainbow Nation. The fauna and flora is equally varied and exciting. Some of our animal species can be classified as being a little more than varied, though.

In fact, they may be considered to be downright strange. These include:

1. The Pangolin

sa1 Anton-Renate Kruger

This insectivore is identified by the scaly armor that covers his entire body. While this was designed as a protection against predators (who cannot easily penetrate the scales), it has also made pangolins the victims of hunting, as their covering makes for sought-after leather products. A pangolin can measure up to a meter in length and can weigh a hefty 18 kilograms. Its incredible sense of smell enables it to find ants and termites hiding under the soil.

2. The Aardvark

sa2 Rudi van den Heever

This nocturnal mammal is the last remaining one of its prehistoric class. Its name is Afrikaans, and means “earth pig”. Its body has some coarse hair covering it, but it is rather sparse. The legs of the aardvark are relatively long, ears large and pig-like snout long and tubular. It is a rather large animal, with a body length of up to 1.3 meters and a weight of between 40 and 60 kilograms. Aardvarks can be found anywhere south of the Sahara Desert.

3. The Dung Beetle


This little guy’s entire life centers on the feces of other animals. This is because its diet consists exclusively of feces, which is often rich in minerals and roughage that has passed through its original host undigested. There are three broad categories of dung beetles, which are all from the Scarabaeoidea family. These are DWELLERS, which live in the dung, TUNNELERS, which bury their stash of dung, and ROLLERS, which roll the dung into neat balls in order to transport it to their nests. These beetles play an important role in the recycling of nutrients and the maintenance of a healthy soil structure. The rare Flightless Dung Beetle can be found in the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth.

4. The Bushbaby


This strange little critter is also incredibly cute, as its name implies. Also known as the Galago and the nagapie (“night monkey” in Afrikaans), these nocturnal primates are known for their massive eyes, which assist with their night vision. They feed on insects, other small animals, and fruits. While small, a bushbaby is able to cover an impressive distance as it jumps between trees.

5. The Elephant Shrew

sa5 Steve Garvie

These mouse-like mammals get their name from their snout, which is distinctly trunk-shaped, giving them a rather comical appearance. Their long legs seem disproportionate to their small bodies (which can range between 10 centimeters and 30 centimeters in length), but allow them to cover longer distances as they jump, rather than run. They are elusive and difficult to trap, making them even more mysterious.

The wonders of South Africa are unending, delighting visitors and luring them back for more.

Story & Photos Courtesy of National Geographic

World Rhino Day!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

September 22nd was world rhino day! Massive fundraising, conservation and awareness efforts where made around the globe. Here are the top 10 finalists, as selected by Africa Geographic, in there World Rhino Day photography competition! While rhino week saw a lot of forward movement in the fight to save one of Africa’s giants, help is still needed to secure the future of these amazing animals.

rhino1 A crash of white rhinos by Ralph Winter

rhino2 An icon in monochrome by Linda Lindissima

rhino3 Golden lighting on a beautiful beast by Krzysztof Drelczuk

rhino4 Jumping for joy by Theuns Germishuys

rhino5 A horn worth protecting by Mphela Kelatu

rhino6 An upside down angle by Avi Dvilansky

rhino7 Pretty in pink by Fred von Winckelmann

rhino8 A black rhino stare down by Corlette Wessels

rhino9 Moving forward by Chris Boden

And without further ado, the winner of our World Rhino Day competition, as selected by Bushnell SA, is:

rhino10 An adorable, bouncing bundle of joy by Mike Pepe

Story & Photos Courtesy of Africa Geographic

Kicking Goals For Wildlife!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Football, oryx and warriors! It’s an unusual combination but this is how Melako Community Conservancy in Northern Kenya, and Zoos Victoria in Australia are helping to secure the future of wildlife and communities in the northern range lands of Africa’s eastern country of Kenya with the Melako Conservation Cup.

Melako Conservancy covers 380 000 hectares of arid range lands and is home to approximately 40 000 Rendille people, whose main livelihood revolves around nomadic pastoralism. Melako is one of 26 community conservation areas operating under the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) banner. NRT’s mission is to develop resilient communities in the northern Kenyan range lands, through innovative conservation and community development initiatives. Zoos Victoria (ZV) is made up of three properties in and around Melbourne, Australia. ZV is working with Melako Conservancy to protect and increase wildlife populations, particularly the Beisa oryx while also focusing on conservation education and sustainable development.


In traditional Rendille culture, men between the ages of 13 and 25 undergo initiation to become a warrior. The role of the warrior is to protect the community, acquire livestock and develop skills to become wise and strong leaders of the future. But the role of the warrior is changing. These young men have more time on their hands. Melako warriors are engaging in conflict with rival groups, harming wildlife to pass the time, to prove leadership skills, to have fun and to obtain or protect resources. The key species under threat from this process are the Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, giraffe and gerenuk.


When the community raised the issue of the warriors as a concern, we wondered if there was an alternative to harming wildlife that could still be engaging, fun and prove leadership skills. So we asked the warriors “what would you like to do with your idle time instead of activities that involve conflict or harming wildlife?” The answer was clear, “We’d like to play football! We’ve never played it but we know it’s addictive”.


So we organised some footballs, using a dry river bed as a football field and elephant dung or branches for goals, we suddenly realized this might actually work – as long as the players leave their spears off the field!


One year on Melako has 320 warriors in 16 teams. The teams are named after the very wildlife they were previously driving threats towards. Each team selected its own wildlife mascot, printed on the team shirt. The team tries to embody the quality of that animal in their game. Team giraffe are tall and graceful, team oryx are strong and proud, and team dik-dik are quick and loyal. Using this simple tool we were able to observe a very quick reinforcement of values or positive attitudes towards the wildlife selected as mascots.


To help wildlife in Melako is not just a matter of engaging the warriors in a new action, it is also about understanding the warriors attitude towards wildlife and the conservancy and their ecological knowledge of wildlife. We conduct surveys to look at the influence of traditional stories on attitudes towards wildlife, ecological knowledge and the attitude towards Melako Conservancy as well as the attitude towards the football program.


We are working with the Melako Rangers to measure the direct impact of the program on key wildlife such as Grevy’s zebra, oryx, gerenuk, and giraffe by measuring changes in flight distance. When wildlife is being harassed it is more difficult to get close to them; large flight distance. When wildlife feel relaxed it is easier to get closer to them therefore a small flight distance.


Most of the warriors in the program have never had the opportunity to go to school, therefore we developed communications tools to deliver key messages that were very visual and appealed to the warriors.


The logo for the program is a visual representation of “Love Soccer, Love an Oryx”, the oryx is part of the conservancy logo.


Delivering messages around conflict and conservation in an engaging way is also an important aspect of the football program. Warriors know best how to talk to warriors, therefore we created Warrior Conservation Theater Groups to deliver conservation messages to their fellow warriors in a culturally appropriate and effective manner. The football program is also a platform to engage the warriors in programs that allow them access to education, business and enterprise programs and micro credit schemes. In the future this will allow warriors better opportunities to diversify their livelihoods beyond pastoralism.


Now our biggest challenge is keeping the goats of the pitch!

melako11 Story & photos courtesy of African Geographic Written by: Brooke Squires, Conservation Officer, Wildlife Conservation and Science at Zoos Victoria

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