Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category



Restoring iSimangaliso Wetland Park!

Monday, August 11th, 2014


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“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.


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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.


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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.


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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.”


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Story courtesy of African Geographic

July Is Crane Spotting Month!

Monday, July 7th, 2014


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The Cape winters are famous for the wind-free, sunny days that are common between the periods of rain. This is the Cape’s green season, and a drive though the farmlands is a favorite pastime of many.


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Winter is also the time that South Africa’s national bird, the blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), are most likely to be seen in flocks. It is during the winter months that the families come together and the chicks are integrated into the flocks before the adults return to their nesting sites in the spring.


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An estimated 50% of the blue cranes in the world – about 25 000 birds – are found in the Western Cape. That may sound like a healthy population, but the species is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red Data List of Species for Southern Africa.


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Over 10% of the Western Cape’s blue crane population is killed by flying into power lines each year and Fair Cape Dairies has decided to join forces with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) to do something to change this figure.


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“July is blue crane month, so we are encouraging the general public to join us on the crane spotting campaign,” said Louis Loubser, Marketing Director of Fair Cape Dairies.The EWT has shown that putting markers on the lines can help, but they need to know more about the cranes’ movements so that they know which lines to mark.

The organization is fitting 15 blue cranes with radio tracking devices in order to get a greater understanding of their movements, and employing a PhD student to help to develop a conservation strategy for the birds. “But that is just 15 birds,” Loubser said. “We want people to help by recording where and when they see blue cranes and posting pictures and GPS coordinates, if they have them, to our Facebook page. The more we know about our magnificent national bird, the more likely it will be gracing our farmlands for generations to come,” he said.


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Story Courtesy of African Geographic

Life in a Prickly Skin: The Southern African Hedgehog!

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Cute … kind of ugly … spiny… delightful … adorable – I find it hard not to love hedgehogs! So here’s a bit more about these too oft-ignored little creatures…


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The Southern African hedgehog’s most distinguished feature is the sharp-tipped spines that cover its body like armor. An adult has about 5,000 of these prickly needles, which are actually modified hairs – especially designed to protect the little creature from the attacks of larger predators.


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Each spine has a flexible base which acts as shock absorber and is attached to a tiny muscle, which allows it to erect as a reflex to danger. The only body part not covered in sharp needles is the hedgehog’s soft and furry under parts, so that they don’t hurt themselves when curling into a ball.


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Hedgehogs lick themselves to keep clean. Yet grooming between those spiny needles is no easy task for these little creatures! This makes them vulnerable to parasites – one hedgehog may carry as many as 1000 fleas. Southern African hedgehogs have a varied diet of mostly small vertebrates – beetles, earthworms, termites, grasshoppers, frogs, lizards and even fallen fruit. Their powerful front claws help to dig these out of the ground and bush.

Hedgehogs have 4 or 5 babies born at one time. At birth they are about 7cm long and weigh 10-25 grams. To protect the mum’s birth canal during the birthing process, a hoglet’s spines lie just under their skin. These prickly needles start emerging just a few hours later. The piglets are born deaf and blind but mature quickly and are weaned at six weeks old.


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Southern African hedgehogs are nocturnal. At night they leave their leafy daytime hide-outs, and venture into the open, relying on their good sense of smell and hearing.



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