Cradle of Humankind listed as top tourist destination: National Geographic recently named this World Heritage site one of the 21 must-see places on the planet – one of their 2017 Best Trips choices. Michael Worsnip, MD of Maropeng, sees this as an exciting acknowledgement of the tourism potential of the whole region (Berg & Cradle, February 2017).

Important environmental date: Earth hour – 25 March 2017. Switch off all electrical appliances for one hour on this day.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire, next to a moon that moves the sea...and you dont’t believe in miracles?” (Unknown).

Bee-friendly plant book: This definitive book on plants that supply bees with their vital sources of nectar has been published by the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The book was written by MF Johannsmeier, author of the famous “Blue Book”, Beekeeping in South Africa, and is the latest in SANBI’s Strelitzia series of books on local plants. It can be ordered online or purchased at the SANBI bookshop in Pretoria.

DAFF gazettes protected tree list: The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) has published a revised list of protected tree species in terms of the National Forestry Act (no 48 of 1998). For details of the list see Government Notice 1602 of 23 December 2016, published in the Government Gazette (no 40521) of the same date. (Gauteng Smallholder, February 2017).

Armyworms wreaking havoc in southern Africa: According to a media release of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on 6 February 2017, it was confirmed that the Fall Armyworm (FAW) had been positively identified in maize crops in the majority of SA’s provinces. Kenneth Wilson (News24, 13 February 2017) said that this was a combination of native African armyworms (Spodoptera exempta) and FAWs from tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America (Spodoptera frugiperda). Little is known about how these pest catterpillars had entered southern Africa, but it most likely arrived via imported plants. A sequence of outbreaks began in mid-December 2016 in Zambia and have spread rapidly since. This is the worst outbreak ever in southern Africa and poses a serious threat to about 73% of South Africa’s maize crops. It is now also targeting other crops, such as wheat, cotton, soybeans, ptatoes, ground nuts and sorghum. (RSG news, 13 February 2017). Nine different types of pesticides are available currently, but none of these seem to make any inroads, which means that new pesitcides will have to be produced as soon as possible to combat the pest – otherwise it could have disastrous effects. More information available on

Shoes from the sea’s plastic: The World Economic Forum warns that if plastic waste ending up in the oceans continues at the current rate, there will be more plastic waste than fish in the oceans by 2050. Moreover, it takes between 500 and a 1 000 years for plastic bags to disintegrate. Sports gear manufacturer, Adidas, is of the opinion that sports shoes manufactured from plastic could partially solve the problem of plastic pollution of the oceans. The first 700 sports shoes, manufactured from 11 million bits and pieces of plastic waste from the oceans, are currently on sale for about $200 (R2 700) per pair in the USA. Adidas plans to manufacture a million of these shoes this year still.

South Africa’s contribution to plastic recycling is progressing slowly. According to Plastic SA’s most recent report, South Africans recycled about 292 917 tons of plastic in 2015, but manufactured 1 490 000 tons of plastic in the same year. Municipal water departments are struggling with the problem of solid waste – especially plastic – blocking sewers and causing processing problems at water treatment plants. (Hendrik Hancke, Rapport, 22 January 2017).

Three iconic animal species up-listed on the IUCN Red Data List for 2016:

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis): Habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and ecological changes have taken their toll. The combination of these threats have caused a decline in the global Giraffe population of 36 - 40% over the last 30 years. Now up-listed as vulnerable.

The Plains Zebra (Equus quagga): A population reduction in 10 out of its 17 range states since 1992, with the overall decline estimated at 25% during this period. Now up-listed as near-threatened.

African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus): Up-listed to endangered after analyses of wildlife trade patterns for this species revealed that over 1.3 million wild-caught individuals had entered international trade from 1982 – 2001.

(Chat e-newsletter, January 2017).

Our technological world: Albert Einstein once said: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. He might have been right, and this moment has probably already arrived. Wherever one goes, just about everybody one comes across, has their fingers on their cell phone screens. In stead of communicating verbally, we now do finger communication! Another new trend is that people from the technological world are now hired for posts that don’t even exist yet. There are, however, some sought after skills that a machine can never produce (in order of priority and degree of difficulty): Creativity and innovation; leadership; emotional intelligence; adaptability; and problem solving. (Rapport Beleef, 22 January 2017).

The importance of insects for a healthy ecology: We have often reported on the nutritious qualities of insects. They play a vital role in the food chain – think pollination, products like silk and honey, a food source for birds and other animals, and the fact that they break down organic waste, thereby promoting soil health. According to Pia Addison, entomologist of the University of Stellenbosch, insects are highly adaptable to to environmental change and have well-structured sensory systems. Because they have a short life span, they have to adapt more quickly than larger creatures. Insects are also well known for having intricate relationships with plants and other insects. As plants change, they adapt to the changes. So, when we consider our relationships with insects, it’s all a question of balance. Unless insects pose a serious threat to other living creatures on our property, or are causing structural damage, such as termites might do, we should live and let live.

Did you know? Just under one million insect species have been identified on the planet. It is estimated that the total insect biomass is 300 times greater than the total human biomass. Ants and termites alone are estimated to weigh more than all humans put together! (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).

Health benefits of eggs: Recent news reports have informed us that our country’s poultry industry is experiencing serious problems and that large numbers of employees have therefore had to be retrenched. According to experts, this was not the result of large amounts of sub-standard chicken being imported from especially the USA. Bad planning and management of the local poultry industry and exeptionally high poultry feed prices were to blame for the situation. It becomes increasingly more difficult to keep even a few chickens just to be able to collect fresh eggs.

Eggs are exeptionally good for you. They are a natural choice for a healthy, active lifestyle, and have been described as nature’s piece de resistance. With 6g of the highest quality protein and 14 key nutrients, eggs provide the energy to keep you going. They contain all nine essential amino acids, are high in iron, minerals and carotenoids. The myth spread by Swiss doctors that one should consume no more than two eggs per week because of their high cholesterol content has been revised. New dietary guidelines have given adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again.

Did you know? If you are collecting your own eggs, do not wash them. Unwashed eggs have a natural antibacterial coating called bloom – so try to clean the eggs without wetting them. (Gauteng Smallholder, November 2016).