On feathered friends:

A young Secretary bird was recently found in the middle of Pietermaritzburg – definitely not normal habitat or a safe area either! The bird was emaciated when found, proving that it had been battling to find food. FreeMe in Gauteng reported similar incidents of these birds ending up in urban areas, their desperation for food forcing them closer to human habitation in an effort to find it (Raptor Rescue Newsletter, June 2015). To read the full newsletter, go to www.africanraptor.co.za

Only 250 Bearded vultures (Afr Lammergier, or Gypaetus barbatus), are left in South Africa. This species has now been added to the ICUN Red Data List of critically endangered birds (Rapport, 12 June 2015).

Interesting facts about insects

From the Gauteng Smallholder (July 2015) and Huisgenoot (12 February 2015):

Ladybirds (Afr. Liewenheersbesies) are a farmer’s best allies, as they eat scale insects and aphids that cause damage to crops. They act as a natural pest control and are far more effective than commercial pesticides. In its lifetime of three to six weeks, a ladybird can consume up to 5 000 aphids.

Dragon flies have exceptional aerodynamic abilities. They can fly in reverse, change direction in flight and glide-hang at one spot for longer than a minute.

The silverfish or silver moth is one of the most primitive species of wingless insects. Ctenolepisma longicaudata is the most common silverfish species in South Africa. There are about 370 silverfish species in the world.

During the summer season, a queen bee can lay about 2 000 eggs per day – much more than her own body weight. 

Bats:

Bats play an important role in ecosystems: There are at least 19 species of bat in Gauteng, with 56 in total throughout South Africa. Of the 75 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 insectivorous bats and two species of fruit-eating bats are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red Data List of threatened animals. Bat populations are decreasing nationwide. Human encroachment and chemicals used on the insects and plants they eat has led to loss of habitat. There are four species of fruit-eating bats that typically occur in South Africa, but only two of these species occur in Gauteng, namely the African straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg’s epauletted bat (Gauteng Smallholder, July 2015). 

River pollution:

Tests found that the Hennops River contained more than one million units of E.coli per 100ml of water. The current level of E.coli puts the content in the same category as raw sewage.
Each kilometre of the Jukskei River in Gauteng contains up to a 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra, and about 300 tons per kilometre elsewhere. Visit http://wet-africa.co.za to read about efforts to clean up the river (VeldTalk, no 76, July 2015).

Load shedding:

Load shedding has become part of our lives, like traffic jams, crime and heartburn. In many cases it is just an irritation, like when the food is half-cooked, and the soapy on TV remains without an ending, but when the milking machine stops working, the cooling system in the warehouse switches off, and the mixer in the feedlot comes to a standstill, it becomes a crisis. Then you should have your Plan B ready to roll. All of us want to be able to function without Eskom, but it is expensive to switch over, and the technology, especially with regard to storing energy in battery systems, has just not advanced as far as it should have yet (opinion expressed in ProAgri, no 184, June 2015).

The Springboks have been playing load shedding rugby for a while now – one half on, one half off – Ed.