I’d like to be….under the sea….

I could not resist posting this wonderful picture drawn by my son Tim today. If you look carefully, you will find anenomes, an octopus, an eel, an urchin, coral, jelly-fish, hermit crabs, starfish, a dolphin, sharks eating seals, plankton and a few other deep sea wonders. There is a small ship with a fairly innocuous looking net, thankfully 🙂 and a seagull hovering above it all…

Ocean biodiversity is alive and well – in my child’s imagination at least! Yay!

A chain reaction

I am ‘borrowing’ today’s post from one of my favourite bloggers ‘The Roaming Naturalist’ (see his link on the right). There is no harm in this kind of cross-pollination, methinks, particularly when it is such a vital message and one well worth spreading.

The original article appeared on Thuth-out.org….

In a nutshell: When authorities decided (in their wisdom), to exterminate wolves from Yellowstone in the early 1900s – they effectively set off a chain reaction that resulted in the ‘de-watering’ of the land. It’s a simple equation: no wolves = fewer streams, marshes and springs.

When the wolves were removed, the elk thrived and ended up crowding the green river banks. This flourishing population of herbivores (without any predator to keep numbers in check) gobbled up willow and aspen seedlings before they could mature. Willows are both food and building material for beavers. As the willows declined, so did the beaver populations. When beavers build dams and ponds, they create wetland habitats for countless invertebrates, amphibians, fish, birds, and plants. They also slow down the flow of water and help distribute it over broad areas.

As the land dried up, overgrazed riverbanks eroded, life-giving river water receded and spawning beds for fish were silted over. Amphibians lost precious shade where they could have sheltered and hidden.

The bottom line is this: The big charismatic carnivores are critical as they regulate ecosystems from the top down. Remove them and the whole pack of cards comes tumbling down. Simple biology lesson stuff you would think? Yet all over the world (including our very own doorstep) these apex predators are being persecuted, hunted, trapped or deliberately removed/culled en masse

And we are supposed to be such an intelligent species!

Source: http://theroamingnaturalist.wordpress.com
Original article: http://www.truth-out.org/the-big-bad-wolf-makes-good-the-yellowstone-success-story-and-those-who-want-kill-it63644

Last chance to see…?

The Liben Lark is Critically Endangered. Found only in one small area of open grassland in southern Ethiopia, this little-known bird has a tiny population, and could well become extinct within just a few years.

Its occurrence in a single small, unprotected area, the Liben Plain just outside Negele, makes the Liben Lark highly vulnerable to any threats. Currently, the greatest threat to the species is habitat loss, with an increasing number of livestock leading to problems with overgrazing and trampling, along with conversion of grassland to agriculture. Excessive grazing and fire suppression have also led to the rapid encroachment of shrubs.

Fieldwork carried out since 2007 to investigate the Liben Lark’s status and requirements has revealed the bird’s plight, and there is now a growing programme of conservation work led by the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society involving the local communities and focusing on reduction of grazing in some areas, clearance of invading scrub, and greater all-round awareness.
Source: IUCN

Giant Armadillo

Sorry for the brief lull. I was in the Overberg for a few days. They are really desperate for rain out that way, but despite this, the flowers are bursting out of the scorched, dry soil on the mountain slopes. We saw plenty of Blue Cranes on the way home too, which never fails to lift the spirits!

The Giant Armadillo is Vulnerable. This is the largest living armadillo species, and occurs east of the Andes in South America, from northern Venezuela and the Guianas south to Paraguay, southern Brazil and northern Argentina.

Although still widespread, the Giant Armadillo is patchily distributed and locally rare, and its population is undergoing a decline. The main threat to the species is hunting for its meat, which is compounded by habitat loss from deforestation. Giant Armadillos are also illegally caught to be sold to animal collectors on the black market, but usually die during transport or whilst in captivity.

The Giant Armadillo occurs in a number of protected areas, and international trade in the species is banned by its listing on Appendix I of CITES. However, illegal hunting continues throughout its range, and measures need to be taken both to decrease hunting pressure and to protect the habitat of this unique mammal.
Source: IUCN

Silver lining…

It is so easy to get terribly despondent about the state of our planet, but every now and again you come across a good news story that restores hope.

I got the October copy of Africa Geographic in my post box yesterday. Although one distressing article focuses on the rather precarious situation in the rainforests of Gabon, there was one that deserves a mention, just because it is overwhelmingly positive and it gives a refreshing perspective on conservation in Africa today.

It is not all bad out there!

The article entitled ‘life, death & resurrection’ by Dale Morris, talks about the remote Liuwa Plain in Zambia. This area, as he put it, ‘flatlined’ after poachers and hunters had their way for decades. This once glorious wilderness area in the western part of the country would have teemed with wildlife just a century ago.

In 2003, it was quite literally devoid of all life. This is when the African Parks Network took control. The Liuwa Plain National Park is, as Morris puts it, like the proverbial phoenix that has risen from the ashes.

Today poaching has come to a standstill and animal numbers are increasing steadily. Zebra and Tsessebe populations are healthy again and the population of Lechwe has stabilised. Wild dog, cheetah and leopards are also making a comeback and buffalo and lion have been brought in and are thriving. What a wonderful good news story to take you into the long weekend!

The African Parks Network is a private sector park management institution that manages parks in public-private partnerships with Governments on a long term basis. Continue reading

The eye of the rhino

Rhino poaching has reached unacceptable levels in South Africa this year with up to 20 animals a month being lost. Huge crime syndicates are involved with choppers and sophisticated weapons used to take out these extraordinary creatures.

Look into the eye of this beast. What do you see?

WWF has organised a worldwide Rhino Month campaign in support of the rhino warriors who are on the frontline in the fight against poaching,
culminating in Rhino Day on Wednesday 22 September.

At 1 pm today, people around the world are being asked to dust off their vuvuzelas and make some noise in a symbolic call for effective international action against rhino poaching – using one African horn to call for help for another. (You can also toot your car hooter or anything else that makes a big noise in support of rhinos).

Personally, the idea of making a great big random racket does not appeal one bit to me (!), so rather please focus your energy constructively into the following:
– Spread the word. Tell your friends and families about the crisis and get them fired up and proactive.
Raise money and make a donation to help save Africa’s rhinos. This will ensure that much-needed anti-poaching equipment and support can be secured for rangers across the region. (This includes binoculars, radios, night-vision gear, bullet-proof armour, rhino-tracking and camping equipment. It will also provide essential training for anti-poaching units and be used for emergency veterinary treatments for injured rhino.)
– Send pictures of your Rhino Day and Rhino Month activities to rhino@wwf.org.za.
– Ask friends from Asia to spread the word about how buying rhino horn is illegal and poaching for rhino horn is hurting a precious African resource and icon.

A forest jewel

Today’s species – Kaempfer’s Woodpecker – is Critically Endangered. It was feared extinct until it was rediscovered in 2006 in Central Brazil – 80 years after the only previous record. For a long time, it was considered a sub-species of another woodpecker from the Andes, but it is distinct in several ways, not least its very different habitat.

The greatest threat to Kaempfer’s Woodpecker is the destruction of its Cerrado habitat. Vast tracts of indigenous Cerrado are lost each year to make way for soya cultivation, beef production, the cellulose pulp industry and infrastructural developments. The birds’ habitat is also frequently degraded by criminal arsonism carried out to justify the expansion of cattle ranching.

Recent records suggest that Kaempfer’s Woodpecker may be more numerous than currently thought. It is now known to range discontinuously through some 280 000 square kilometres, showing a strong association with Gadua bamboo. With so little known about this elusive species, there is a pressing need for further surveys to determine the full extent of its range and to estimate its population size.
Source: http://www.iucnredlist.org/sotdfiles/celeus-obrieni.pdf

The Dark Ages…

This is a photo of a completely barbaric tool that is still being used today by many South African farmers to take out predators and protect their livestock. I have seen images of leopards, caracal, Black Eagle and even an Egyptian Goose trapped in these horrifying things. In 2006, four leopards were killed in 2006 by gin traps in the Baviaanskloof valley alone. One can only imagine the prolonged pain and unbearable suffering of an animal with a leg trapped in something like this. It is positively medieval. Continue reading

A rare visitor

My son came across this little creature this morning. We have not seen a Cape Dwarf Chameleon in our garden for several years, so this was a rare treat. We watched it for ages as it moved gracefully between the restios, using its tail and limbs like a spider monkey! While we were watching, we spotted a tiny mouse scurrying around at the base of the same plant…and a stick insect flirting above. So much life in one plant!

If provoked, this feisty little chap will inflate and hiss defiantly! Many locals believe that chameleons are deadly poisonous and these precious creatures are generally viewed with suspicion. Their colour changing wizardry, an uncanny ability to swivel both eyes all over the place and a lightning quick tongue (that is longer than its body) could well account for this.

This particular species is Endangered – thanks primarily to habitat loss and widespread pesticide use.

The Cape Dwarf Chameleon gives birth to almost perfect little replicas of herself, with the thinnest of membranes separating them from the outside world. Genius! Maternal devotion is not a strong point. Once she has ‘dropped’ her little brood (sometimes up to 13!), the mum will swagger off and leave them all to it. Sounds like a good plan to me!

I ran a race today, which essentially circumnavigated our very own, unique Table Mountain. It was breathtakingly beautiful out there (and up there), but I did not stop to enjoy the view too much.

As I am a little weary, I have cast about for a species for today and found one of the earliest ones posted by the IUCN in January this year…

Sadly, we all know about this one by now. This is the ‘poster child’ of climate change – yet it is just one of many species that is going to suffer the effects of the Great Inconvenient Truth.

The Polar Bear is classified as Vulnerable.

The polar bear is the largest living land carnivore in the world today and they live throughout the ice-covered waters of the circumpolar Arctic. Climate change has already had an impact on some polar bears and their sea-ice habitat, affecting access to their prey and to den areas. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are yet another (more sinister) threat to these beautiful bears. If accumulated at elevated levels, these compounds can cause neurological, reproductive and immunological changes. Hunting of polar bear is now controlled, although in some places over-harvesting is a concern that is being addressed.

A number of countries have signed the ‘International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears’ which identifies the right of local hunters to harvest polar bears sustainably, and to outlaw hunting from aircraft and large ships. The threats caused by climate change are now the main concern – the complexity of these issues will demand international cooperation if this species is to survive.
Source: IUCN