Protecting our Longnecks: According to dr Francois Deacon, game expert of the University of the Free State, giraffes like watching their own shadow. He fitted GoPro cameras to giraffe’s heads, so that he could study social interaction among giraffes, and to find out which leaves they like eating, and in which ones they’re not interested. The theory that giraffes close their nostrils to prevent ants from creeping in, was confirmed with use of the cameras. Together with dr Deacon, Discovery Channel is now shooting a documentary, The Last of the Longnecks, on declining giraffe populations worldwide, to emphasise the role of technology in conservation of this species. Although elephants are also fast becoming a threatened species, there are still six times more elephants than giraffes on the African continent. In 1999, there were more than 140 000 giraffes on the continent, but currently, only about 80 000 are left – 30 000 in South Africa. This is the only country where giraffe populations have doubled the past 15 years, as a result of excellent game conservation methods (Jaco Nel, Rapport, 6 December 2015).
African Greys are becoming extinct: Research indicates that African Greys are close to extinction. These birds’ intelligence is similar to that of a four year old child. According to Rowan Martin of the World Parrot Trust, the parrots are on the brink of extinction in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and the Cameroons, while countries such as Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are following suit. Large-scale, illegal parrot exports to South Africa (about 5 500 annually), where the birds are sold to breeders and collectors of exotic bird species worldwide, are the main problem. According to dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson of Birdlife Africa, the only way to stop the extinction of African Greys in nature will be to put a complete embargo on imports (Johan Eybers, Rapport, 29 November 2015).
Battling invasive species – across the world: A new manual on “Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Wildland Stewardship: Protecting Wildlife when using Herbicides for Invasive Plant Management” was published recently. The manual includes field techniques from experienced land managers as well as risk charts for commonly used herbicides. It can be downloaded for free from www.cal-ipc.org/ip/management/BMPs.
Human-wildlife conflict: A German Master’s degree student, Benjamin Ghassemi, is investigating the attitudes of various sectors of society in South Africa, and their tolerance to predators, especially the Black backed Jackal, Caracal and Cheetah. This has been a highly contentious and sensitive issue for livestock farmers and conservationists for a long time. It you would like to provide an input to this research, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JMPKHGX.
New floral wonders appear: According to Rupert Koopman, a botanist of Cape Nature, the optimal fire cycle for fynbos is between 10 and 14 years, and some of the veld that burned during the summer of 2014/15 was over 15 years old (Farmer’s Weekly, 17 April 2015). However, Johan October, a field guide in Cape Town and surrounds, says that new floral wonders are appearing on Table Mountain after the veld fires of 2015. Some of these species have not been observed for many years. At the moment, there are many species of orchids, and recently, the very rare yellow Disa, that was last sighted over seven years ago, was spotted. Green heather, usually only seen between Muizenberg and Kalkbaai, have now spread to other areas, as a result of the 2015 veld fires. It is widely believed that the fynbos in the area will be most spectacular during the 2016 season (Rapport, 6 December 2015).