Roodekrans Black eagle project

According to Gerald Draper, chairperson of this project, urbanisation has had a major influence on the survival of these eagles. Their diet consists mainly of rock rabbits (dassies), but as a result of declining dassie populations, they now mainly feast on guinea fowls. Because of housing developments in the area the eagles’ range for finding food has shrunk to such an extent that they have to fly vast distances to find food. Emoyeni, the female of the pair of eagles living on the cliffs of the waterfall at the Walter Sizulu Botanical Gardens, is already about 35 years of age, while research references estimate their average age at 30 years. In February each year, the eagles start tidying up their nests, and eggs are laid in April or May. Only two chicks hatch, of which only the strongest survives. The survival rate is only about 20% (Wes-Beeld, 13 March 2015).

Bats partnering your farming enterprise?

Bats’ contribution to controlling insect infestations is largely underestimated. Studies have shown that they are able to control insect infestations much better than chemical substances. According to research, each bat eats between 6 000 and 8 000 insects per night. There is much ignorance about bats, mainly based on misconceptions and superstition. Few of us know how intelligent bats are, and that they are related to primates (baboons and monkeys). As with primates, their eye nerves cross over on the way to the brain, which is not the case with other mammals. They become up to 35 years old, and, for their size, live longer than any other mammal species. Some studies show that they are able to recognise and identify a specific person for up to 10 years. It is also interesting to know that many insects are frightened off by just the echo-placing-sounds of bats, and that, if nature would be allowed to come into balance in a natural way, these little animals could control insect populations very effectively, which would otherwise have cost pecan nut and other fruit farmers a packet. For more information on bats and putting up “Bat Bungalows”, contact 083 303 7762 or via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (SA Pecan, Summer/Autumn 2015, vol 70).

On the horns of a game dilemma

The status of wild animals that leave their “owners” has been the subject of laws and rules since ancient times. In short, common law says that under such circumstances, the animals become creatures that belong to no one, and if they end up on your land, you could become their new owner as long as you intend to keep them and contain them so they can’t wander off somewhere else. It’s this part of the common law provincial officials want changed, so that wild animals are not regarded as owned by no one but as owned by an organ of the state – custodians fulfilling a public conservation function under the Constitution. Complicating the question is a relatively new law, the Game Theft Act of 1991. This provides that if you have a certificate issued by the provincial premier, saying your wild animals are properly contained you can claim them back even if they stray. Apart from ownership, there are related problems conservation authorities will surely have in mind. One major example would be the question of liability. If wild animals escape, damage property and are then reclaimed by their original owners, will those owners have to pay compensation for the damage? (Excerpts from comments on a court case between former Springbok centre, Hennie le Roux, owner of Crown River Safaris and the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (formerly the Provincial Parks Board). Source: The Star, 12 February 2015).

Phokeng platinum success story

The Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) mines are one of only a few successful examples of mining that have been able to help a community flourish. The Bafokeng tribal community are beneficiaries of a trust that was carefully built up from the returns on mineral rights, hard fought over for decades. This enables them to excel in service delivery and poverty relief, and creating a better life for the people of Phokeng, who have been living on the arid plains, to the north west of Rustenburg, for centuries. The Bafokeng is known as the world’s richest tribe, but members of the tribe are not rich at all. About 47% of the 49 000 households earns less than R500 per month and only 4% earns more than R6 000 per month. There are about 300 000 tribal members, of which only half live in the tribal area, Phokeng, about 1 400 km² in size. In years gone by, money was earned by letting the young men of the tribe work on the diamond mines of Kimberley, and then using part of their earnings to purchase the land. During the past decade, the tribal authority has spent R7 milliard on education, health care and social development. The mandate for the projects is simply to go find the best in the world and bring it there. They do, however, experience the same challenges as the rest of South Africa, such as sanitation problems, a lack of pre-school education and nutritional problems. Project managers must report on budgets, delays and other issues at regular tribal meetings, when, so it is told, they speak without mincing matters... (Jan de Lange, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015).

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may travel via feedlot dust

Researchers at Texas Tech University are suggesting that airborne dust could be a pathway for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to travel from feedlots to human environments. The effect this has on human health is not yet fully understood. These research findings could help characterize how pathogens could travel long distances to places inhabited by humans.