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).

All sorts of uses for hemp (cannabis): Although marijuana and hemp are related, hemp is not a drug. Hemp also contains the drug known as tetrahydrocannabinol (TLC) in a low concentration (less than 1%), and it therefore does not have any narcotic effect. Hemp contains more cannabidiol (CBD) in the leaves and seeds, which is used for various ailments such as infection, some types of cancer and cancerous growths, anxiety, epilepsy and nausea. The stem of the plant produces fibre, used for many products such as material for making clothes, denim, handbags and shoes, paper for printing or packaging, string, tarpaulins and canvas, carpets and car parts. Hemp seeds can be used as a health supplement and as an ingredient in animal and bird feed. The seeds can also be pressed to manufacture cooking oil, margarine, soap, bath products and make-up, oil paint and varnish, as well as fuel. Hemp leaves are used to manufacture building material such as hardboard, insulation material, cement and as a replacement for fibreglass. (Source: House of Hemp & Leaf Science, August 2015).

Brazilian forests: Brazil has the largest network of protected areas of any country on earth and strict logging rules, which require big landowners in the Amazon to maintain at least 50% of their holdings in native forest. There is, however, a widening gap between the stringent laws and the often non-existent enforcement. There is also a booming trade in contraband timber. Equally worrying is a recent spate of dam construction in order to tap the vast hydropower potential in the Amazon. And a relatively new threat, hydrocarbon development, is booming in the western Amazon, where oil and natural gas fields are being discovered every year (Richard Schiffman, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015).

 

SA farmers’ nut export problems: About half of South Africa’s annual macadamia nut harvest (more than 22 000 tons) does not have any buyers. This comes after China has clamped down on importers who smuggled huge amounts of these nuts into their country. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts, producing about 30% of the total stock. China is the biggest market for SA’s macadamia nuts, but up to now, Chinese buyers have avoided paying import tariffs. According to Derek Donkin, senior executive of the subtropical fruit growers’ association of South Africa, farmers who have worked with these Chinese traders will be forced to pay a 19% import tariff to China (Xolani Mbanjwa, Sake-Rapport, 26 July 2015). In addition, there are large quantities of almonds, walnuts and pecan nuts in transit from the US to Hong Kong, raising concerns that buyers may abandon these shipments at the port for fear of being caught (Mike Cordes, Farmer’s Weekly, 17 April 2015).

In the opinion of Daniel Zedan (chairman of Nature’s Finest Foods in America), the international market for pecan nuts is growing strongly. However, the Chinese market will have to be studied carefully, as they are not consumer driven, but trade driven. If the Chinese traders don’t make a profit, they will stop buying pecan nuts. Currently, Chinese farmers don’t pose any threat, as their cultivation techniques are old fashioned and their yield low. They do, however, invest a lot of money in research (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015).

The statement that electricity supply to people excluded before 1994 is the reason for load shedding is not true. Granted, 4,5 million households have been added to the grid, and homes with electricity increased from 44% to 85%. But household use is low, and it added only 5 % in demand while capacity went up by 11% (Prof Christo Viljoen, retired professional engineer and ex-member of the Eskom board and Electricity Control Board – now Nersa).

El Nino – another dry summer ahead? If current temperature developments in the southern Pacific Ocean persist, South Africans living on the Highveld can expect another dry summer at the end of this year, to follow on the already dry summer past. One should, however, be careful not to make a general rule for rainfall and temperature changes in El Nino years over southern Africa. The impact of El Nino is often reduced by the sufficient groundwater and soil moisture content carried over from previous seasons. This will, however, not be the case this year. The warm anomaly over the eastern equatorial Pacific – the typical indicator for an El Nino – has in recent weeks exceeded 1°C, and the sea temperature will probably continue increasing until December (Gauteng Smallholder, June 2015).

Rhino poaching in perspective: The exact number of Namibian black rhinos has always been kept a secret so as to not draw unwanted attention to them. However, this tradition has contributed to on-going poaching activities going unnoticed for much too long. According to the Namibian government, 62 black rhinos have been poached in the Etosha Game Reserve the past six months. However, sources within the park are of the opinion that about 80 have been poached. More than 400 of this critically endangered species were poached since 2005, with 70% of this number having been poached since 2012. Compared to the large numbers of white rhinos poached in South Africa, these numbers may seem insignificant, but they are significant: Namibia’s remaining 1 800 black rhinos represent 40% of the world population of about 4 500. One and a half centuries ago, there were 850 000 black rhinos (John Grobler, Rapport Weekliks, 9 August 2015).

 

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

Up to the late 1890s, herds of thousands of springboks migrated through the Karoo, Namaqualand and the Kalahari in a quest to find grazing. In a Farmer’s Weekly of 1915 it was reported that a huge springbuck migration had taken place from Namaqualand, over the mountains, to the western coast. Thousands of buck drowned in the sea, and carcasses could be found along 48km of the coast line!

According to the author, Lawrence Green, a typical hunter’s breakfast consisted of fried springbuck liver and kidneys, followed by leg of springbok, cold bustard, hot coffee with goat milk, coarse meal cookies, springbok biltong, wild honey, tomatoes and lettuce leaves – a whole buck mouthful!

Game is usually flavoured with coriander, mace, pimento, cloves, nutmeg, pepper corns, salt, sugar and vinegar. The meat is versatile, healthy, tasty, and one can change any cut into a juicy, tender and tasty dish. It is a good alternative to red meat, contains little fat, cholesterol and kilojoules and loads of good proteins (Anél Potgieter, Rapport Beleef, 3 May 2015)

Using goats to control Acacia Karoo as a weed in rangelands; forage in the winter and the benefits of goats milk.