Newsletter #76


With deep regret: One of our members and dear friend, Dawn Jack, passed away unexpectedly from complications after an operation on 24 June 2015. Our heartfelt condolences go to her husband, Ronnie, children, next of kin, family and friends.

Once again, many thanks for all the positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers/members found the articles on our feathered friends and Sweden's recycling programme fascinating. Below are some of the emails in response to the articles.
One of our members, Carol van der Linde wrote via email on 8 June: "What a coincidence, in your latest newsletter. We were sitting on our veranda on Saturday 6 June, at about midday, when we spotted a Secretary bird wandering about on our field. About a week before that we saw a Gymnogene in a Eucalyptus tree near to the house. We feel so privileged to have seen these birds". 


Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager of SA Birdlife: Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State, drew our attention to the fact that our Conservancy falls into the Magaliesberg Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA)


One of our readers, Gerrie Jacobs, forwarded an interesting article of Trevor Hardaker, wildlife enthusiast and photographer on 16 June: "Bird migration is a really fascinating subject and I am constantly amazed at the distances that some birds travel each year. A female European Honey Buzzard was fitted with a satellite tracking system in Finland recently and was of particular interest to locals because it spent the most recent austral summer around the town of Reitz in the Free State in South Africa. She left Reitz to start heading north on 20 April 2015 and, yesterday morning, 2 June, she finally reached Finland where she will probably spend the boreal summer before probably returning again next season to visit us here in South Africa. In just 42 days, she covered over 10 000km at an average of more than 230 km every single day! Isn't that just amazing?"


Pauline Kaufmann's (GCSA) point of view via email on 8 June: "Always an enjoyable and interesting read. Pity our government can't implement Sweden's recycling programme, or even better, why don't we send our garbage there?"


On 17 June 2015, two of our members, Mike & Cilla Crewe-Brown were honoured as this year's Food Heroes by the Johannesburg Slow Food Convivium for their contribution to the "development of rare breeds and education on sustainable food and farming". Congratulations!

Breaking news about the Magaliesberg Biosphere

On 9 June 2015, the International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) announced in Paris that the Magaliesberg has been declared as a World Biosphere Reserve.

This announcement is the culmination of a campaign to have this mountain, which is about a 100 times older than Mount Everest (about half the age of the earth), declared as a World Biosphere. The Magaliesberg is under severe pressure from urbanisation and has lacked the support of a strong regulatory framework to back its status as a protected area. The Reserve covers almost 358 000ha – 58 000ha making up the core area (in which our Conservancy falls), 110 000ha the buffer area and 190 000ha the transition area. Besides the area's unique biomes – Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah – it has a very rich biodiversity. The plant species, Aloe Peglerae and Frithia pulchra, are unique to the area, and it is also home to 443 bird species – almost half the total bird species of southern Africa. In a report of the International Advisory Committee for Biospheres it is noted that "The area is endowed with scenic beauty, unique natural features, rich cultural heritage value and archaeological interest with the Cradle of Humankind, which is part of the World Heritage Site, with four million years of history".
The Magaliesberg now joins 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries worldwide. There are now eight UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in South Africa, namely: Kogelberg (Western Cape), the Cape West Coast, Kruger to Canyons (Limpopo & Mpumalanga), the Waterberg (Limpopo), the Cape Wine Lands, Vhembe (Limpopo), the Gouritz cluster (Western and Eastern Cape), and the Magaliesberg. The Magaliesberg Biosphere will be formally registered by UNESCO and the Department of Environmental Affairs as a World Biosphere Reserve in October 2015.
In the words of Vincent Carruthers, well-known author of the book, The Magaliesberg, "...the real challenge is to learn how to use and enjoy all that the mountain has to offer and allow that enjoyment to be sustained in perpetuity".

Amendments to NEMBA AIS Regulations

We have reported in detail on the NEMBA AIS Regulations, published in the Government Gazette of 1 August 2014 in previous newsletters.

On 29 May 2015, amendments to these Regulations (Notice 493 of 2015) were posted for public comment. A few important highlights include:

Invasive animals
* Removal of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus) from the invasive species lists;
* Listing of Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) as a Category 2 invader;
* Listing of ALL American red slider turtles (Trachemys species) as Category 3 invaders;
* Listing of the European shore crab/Green crab (Carcinus maenas) as a Category 1b invader;
* Removal of the Common Boa and Green Iguana from being listed as Category 2 invaders in Gauteng. Restrictions in other provinces remain.
* Dispensation for the official parakeet and pigeon racing associations to issue Category 2 permits to their members; and
* Detailed confirmation of the status of carp.

Invasive plants

* Confirmation of the sword fern (Nephrolepis) as a Category 1b invader in KwaZulu-Natal.
* Detailed confirmation of the status of Pinus pinaster and Pinus radiata.


Visit for more information.


The NEMBA Alien and Invasive Species regulations, published on 1 August 2014, list 8 species of pines as invasive, with provisions on where and how they are to be managed.  Image from




Further training opportunities for Invasives Consultants:
To date, 410 consultants have been trained (during April & May 2015). Further training workshops will be taking place during July. Contact Margie Vonk on 011 723 9000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.


On dirt roads and cyclists

aloeWinter's dust and smoke is with us once again, which means that people suffering from sinusitis are doing good business with our local doctor and pharmacist.

Local residents find it impossible to keep their homes clean and must dust and sweep constantly. As soon as the next vehicle speeds down the road, the whole process starts again. Not all residents in the area realise that by slowing down there will be much less dust to deal with.


Generally, visitors passing through our area drive too fast, not realising that braking and negotiating corners needs extra driving skills on gravel. They tend to hog the middle of the road and show little consideration for pedestrians, cyclists or other road users, forcing them to give way to what often resembles an approaching tornado. Heaven forbid if you have to stop next to the road for some or other reason!

This is frustrating for farmers, as these drivers cover sheep, cattle and goats grazing in camps and hot houses next to the road in dust. If an oncoming car is spotted, slow down and move as far left as possible to ensure a wide enough gap between the vehicles. This reduces the risk of damage to windscreens and bodywork from flying stones and limits the clouds of dust kicked up behind you.

One wonders about the health risk to groups of cyclists who frequent our dirt roads over weekends. In addition, these cyclists also have the same problem as many other South Africans who don't remove their route indicators, placed everywhere on the road and fastened to trees along the way. Long after elections, auctions and the like, advertising boards still appear along roads. Local residents must then clean up afterwards.

Winter is, however, not just ugly and dusty. If you take time, you'll notice the most beautiful aloes in flower everywhere. Our members/readers are welcome to send us photos of flowering aloes. Winter is also soup time. Soup makes you warm and comforts you. So, chop up some veggies, and you'll have a tasty bowl of soup in two ticks. Get your grater, pour a glass of good wine and make your very own aromatic comfort food this winter! (Ed).


African Harrier Hawk

Information for this article was kindly provided by Willie Froneman, birding expert of the Xanadu Nature Estate, and the beautiful photo of the bird in flight was taken by his son, well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman.


african Harrier Hawk

On 23 June, Willie wrote via email: "The names of South African bird species were internationalised in 2004, when many of the old names disappeared. Gymnogene was one of these. The name comes from an old Hindu sect who wore very little or no clothes (nudists or Gymnosophists), therefore the Afrikaans name "Kaalwangvalk". This species falls under the group, Harrier Hawks, also including the "goshawks" (Singing falcons).

The African Harrier Hawk (Polyboroides typus) is a large, broad-winged hawk with a small head, long legs, black bill and loose floppy flight action. It is grey above with large black spots on the wing coverts, finely barred black and white below, long bare yellow legs and feet. In flight, the broad floppy wings display a broad black trailing edge and tip. A distinctive feature is its fairly long black tail with a single central white bar, and narrow white tip. The neck feathers are elongated, and can be raised to form ruff. The feature that it shares with no other raptor is its un-feathered bright yellow face, that extends to around and beyond the eyes (or literally 'bare cheeks').The African Harrier Hawk is fairly widely distributed in South Africa, avoiding the dry western parts. They are common to scarce residents, favouring indigenous forests, riverine forest and open broad-leaved woodlands, also rocky hills and mountains. They are usually solitary, unobtrusive when perched, and are often seen flying fairly high. Their hunting technique is to fly from tree to tree, inspecting trunks and branches for prey, and their favourite feeding habit is robbing nests of weavers, swallows and swifts. They also often invade nesting colonies of water birds. Their call is a plaintive whistled "suuu-eeee-ooo". The favourite diet of these birds consists of birds, reptiles, mammals and frogs. In South Africa, the breeding season is from August to November, laying a clutch of two buff or cream, washed reddish, heavily blotched with mahogany red, eggs. Incubation is 35 days and nestling 55 days.

The birds occur in many well-wooded towns and villages, and are often seen in and around Hartbeespoort.

Environmental snippets

Planetary boundaries: In a paper published in Science in January 2015, Johan Rockström argues that we've already screwed up with regards to the first four planetary boundaries, and we're cutting it fine with the other five. The nine planetary boundaries are:
1. Climate change
2. Lost biodiversity as species become extinct
3. The addition of phosphorus, nitrogen (and other elements) to the world's crops and ecosystems
4. Deforestation and other land use changes
5. Emission of aerosols (microscopic particles) that affects climate and living organisms
6. Stratospheric ozone depletion
7. Ocean acidification
8. Freshwater use
9. Dumping of organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nano materials, micro-plastics and other novel man-made substances into the world's environments.

(Our Fragile Planet, no 16, April 2015).


Salt cells store heat: Construction of the Saudi-Arabian water and energy developer, ACWA Power's new Bokpoort solar power installation at Bokpoort, near Groblershoop in the Northern Cape is nearing completion and will probably start providing power in the fourth quarter of this year. This technology is the only renewable power generating method that is able to continue providing power from 17:00 to 21:00, just when Eskom needs it most to avoid load shedding. A sea of concave mirrors encapsulates the sun's heat during the day, and this energy is then used to power steam turbines. The heat that is encapsulated during the day is stored in salt cells and can be used during the night to keep the steam turbines going. The specially purified salt that is used in the installation's tanks comes from the Atacama Desert in Chile. This industrial salt is essentially similar to table salt but not fit for human consumption. The salt cells are able to store about 1 300MWh energy, which is sufficient to keep the installation going for just over nine hours

(Mari Blumenthal & Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 7 June 2015).


Stop freaking out – bugs are full of proteins: One's first response to finding crickets or grasshoppers in the home is to grab the Doom. However, before you kill them, take a moment to think about all the proteins you are destroying. At a recent "Pestaurant" in the Cresta Shopping Centre, one could see and taste dishes made from crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms, mopani worms and scorpions. The dried insects are disguised in popular food versions, such as brownies, canapés, wraps and lollies. At first, the dishes don't have any taste, but when you start chewing, they taste like wood, or like old Weet-Bix. According to Lemay Rogers, marketing manager of Rentokil, insects are very healthy. They contain lots of protein and iron and very little fat. People should stop thinking of insects as pests and realise that they are good for their bodies (Nuus-Rapport, 7 June 2015).


Did you know?

International Ocean day was celebrated on 8 June 2015. About half of the world's oxygen comes from the oceans. South Africa's oceans are unique, because the warm and cool oceans that meet each other on our south coast create a rich biodiversity. South Africans don't do enough to protect our oceans, and up to 40% of our oceans are over exploited (RSG & DSTV Insig, 8 June 2015).


Recent research indicates that large-scale bribery among government officials who monitor fishing along the SA coast contributes to over exploitation of fishing resources. These incidents of bribery prevent implementation of the regulations that are intended to keep fishing at sustainable levels. Some of these officials act as informants and warn poachers against joint policing actions in advance, while others are also involved in illegal fishing activities (Anna-Karin Lundell, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015).


For the first time in history, in 2015, there were more people without jobs in the 20-24 age group than people who were actually employed. A huge 44% of the population has no income, including 5,5 million people without jobs still looking for employment and 2,4 million who have stopped looking for employment. A perfect storm is brewing (Herman Gillomee, Rapport Weekliks, 31 May & 7 June 2015).


What is LPG? Liquid petroleum gas (butane and propane) is a by-product in the oil refining process and in the process where natural gas (methane) is converted into fuel. It is heavier than air and has a higher energy content than natural gas (Sake-Rapport, 14 June 2015).


What is a 'leap' second (Afr skrikkelsekonde)? When sensitive time systems crashed in 1972, it was noticed that there was a 10 second deficit between earth rotation and time mechanisms (sun and watch time). From then on, a 'leap' second was added at intervals during specific years, just after midnight on 30 June. Six months ago, the international earth rotation service announced that a 'leap' second would be added on 30 June 2015, for the first time since 2012 (RSG, 30 June 2015).


Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of stroke, a large global study in the British Medical Journal suggests. (Source:


Although mampoer is synonymous with the Boere culture, it actually comes from the Pedis. It was named after the Pedi chief, Mampuru, who made punch with a 'kick' from peaches (Rondrits Rapport, 31 May 2015). More information: 012 736 2035/6.


According to Prof Salomé Kruger of the Faculty of Health Sciences at NWU (Rapport Beleef, 17 May 2015), one can cure one's sweet tooth by following a few simple steps: Gradually use less sugar in your coffee. If you normally use three teaspoons of sugar, decrease this to two teaspoons for two weeks, then one teaspoon for two weeks, and eventually none. Drink water when you become thirsty. Put cucumber pieces or mint leaves in your glass of water to give it a better taste, or have some flavoured tea – it has a sweet taste without you having to add sugar.

Food for thought...

"I am now in the land of olives, wine, oil and sunshine. What more can a man ask of heaven?"

(Thomas Jefferson, In Aix-en-Provence 1787).

"Common sense is not a gift, it's a punishment because you still have to deal with everyone who doesn't have it"


"The hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray"


"When you remember a past event, you're actually remembering the last time you remembered it, not the event itself"


"No matter how little money and how few possesions you own, having a dog makes you rich"

(Louis Sabin).


And finally...


After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holiday away from school. One child wrote the following absolutely priceless piece:
"We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live in a big brick house but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to the sea where everyone lives in nice little houses, and so they don't have to mow the grass anymore! They ride around on their bicycles and scooters and wear name tags because they don't know who they are anymore. They go to a building called a wreck centre, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now. They do exercises there, but they don't do them very well. There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in it with hats on. At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape. Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts! Nobody there cooks, they just eat out, and they eat the same thing every night --- early birds. Some of the people can't get out past the man in the doll house. The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked centre for pot luck. My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and that I should work hard so I can be retarded someday too. When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house. Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren".