Waste not, want not?

I have just spent 11 hours wading through other people’s trash. Yep! I am feeling a little jaded, I stink to high heaven, and am in dire need of a very tall glass of wine. I am also wondering why, why, why!??
I volunteered my services at our community fair. As the manager of the recycling depot based at our local farm village, I thought I should (for the third year running) ensure that our little annual fair does its best to reduce the volumes of waste sent to landfill. Every year, we try and get the system to work more efficiently.
I am not sure how many people passed through the gates today, but I would guess close on about 15 000? That is 15 000 bodies all producing cans, glass, food, plastic waste and other unmentionables.

And my word …did they produce it!

I have mixed feelings about how the day went. We managed to separate out about 20 large bags of drinks cans, 8 large bags of plastic bottles and general plastic, a large volume of cardboard and many kg’s of glass.

This, however, meant wading through pile after pile of mixed waste all day. As in, picking cans, plastic or glass bottles out from a veritable quagmire of potato peels, melted ice cream, soggy tissues, paper plates, disposable coffee cups and dirty nappies.
It was hideous.

I got stuck in. All day. I did so because I wanted to and because I needed to keep tabs on things at our little temporary depot. I could have left it for my team of Malawians to do it all, but there were times when I could see that things would have gone pear-shaped had I not been there to monitor the ‘processing’.

So I got my hands dirty…and in doing so, I got up close and personal with the really, truly, shitty side of humanity. I got a good sense of just how foul we are…and how much work needs to be done.

If I do this again, I will approach things so very differently.

In the past I have gone the route of separate bins with big fat labels for people to separate intelligently. Alas, this has never worked. This year, I chose to go for “General Waste” bins, glass bins and drums labelled “Cans”. All great on paper, but people still insist on dumping their half eaten hot dog in the drum labelled “Cans”….or shove a dripping nappy into the “Glass” bin. Hence the need to still wade through said mush.
I had many people comment on how I could do things better. Some rushed up to tell me how my team were doing it all wrong. All very helpful.
The solution? To have four waste management stations for the entire event. At each station, we have a human being and bins marked for each waste type. The human being assists/directs/polices all the dysfunctional folk who appear unable to separate their waste on their own. This is clearly THE ONLY WAY IT WILL WORK.

But in saying this, I feel a rising sense of despair. I worry that this is all wrapped up (pardon the pun) in where we are heading as a planet. If we cannot manage the most basic of basics….where we put our waste… and we fail to see the connection between tossing it all away and climate change/habitat loss/our kid’s bloody future!!!….then what hope is there for us all?
It is a really basic place to start.

I fear that I am suffering from ‘green fatigue’.

Time to whip up new energy within to go out and try and show people the connections. Such simple connections.

I hope to wake up tomorrow with this new energy and a whole bucket-load of hope for us all as a species!

R.I.P. little robins…

It’s a rather emotional morning in our household.
Yesterday our two little robin eggs hatched (about noon). We all watched the most gorgeous pink and purple little blobs wriggling around and being fed by two very attentive parents. Warren rigged up his tripod upstairs from the bathroom window and we had live coverage, BBC-style, of mummy bird feeding chicks yesterday evening. Here she is feeding …though you can’t see the chick!

Early this morning I popped my head in while they were both ‘out’ and ….the nest is empty!

Tim keeps saying ‘It’s nature Mum!’….but I am finding this one very hard to swallow.

It can only have been a snake or a domestic cat. There are no signs of disturbance around the nest, so I really can’t see how it could be the latter. We heard owls last night….I wonder?

I spoke to a birding expert/friend this morning and her sage words were: ‘Nest failure is common, Karoline….particularly in this part of the world….this is why birds live so long’.

Let’s hope our industrious pair will be able to wipe away their tears and move on…they are singing their little hearts out right now. And, the worst part is, mummy bird keeps instinctively popping back into the nest with a beakfull of fly…

R.I.P. little pink things…

All the birds of the air
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heard the bell toll
for poor Cock Robin.

A down-listing! Whoooohoooo!

I received an article this morning about the latest report entitled ‘Evolution Lost’ released by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) at the Biodiversity Conference (currently underway in Japan). It paints a very grim picture indeed.

I just couldn’t bring myself to read it to the end. I am so terribly tired of grim, depressing news about how spectacularly we are stuffing up and how many species are dropping off the shelf every day…

So I am going to share a good news conservation story instead…and today’s tongue-twister of a species looks to be just that!

Przewalski’s Horse is Critically Endangered. Przewalski’s Horse is now the last true species of wild horse, and in 1969 the last wild individual was recorded in southwest Mongolia. Previously classified as ‘Extinct in the Wild’, the release of captive-bred individuals and the survival of their offspring in the wild to maturity led to it being down-listed to ‘Critically Endangered’.

Hunting, human conflict, competition with domestic livestock, habitat degradation and capture expeditions were all thought to have caused the extinction of Przewalski’s Horse in the wild. Today, re-introduced populations are primarily threatened by severe winters, resource exploitation, and contact with domestic horses which can lead to hybridization and transfer of disease.

Przewalski’s Horse is legally protected in Mongolia where re-introductions began in the 1990s. There are now three re-introduction sites, including Hustai National Park, Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, and Seriin Nuruu.

For the past four years there have been more than 50 mature Przewalski’s Horses surviving in the wild. The re-introduction of this species, and the down-listing of its threatened status, is a true success story for conservation.
Source: IUCN

Hairy wombat on the brink…

The Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is Critically Endangered. This is one of the world’s rarest mammals and is now only found at a single location in Queensland, Australia. The total population numbers only around 115 individuals.

This species may have already been uncommon before European settlers arrived, but due to a combination of drought and competition with grazing livestock, the population decline accelerated. Its small colony is further threatened by unpredictable environmental effects, loss of genetic diversity and exotic buffel grass taking over its natural habitat.

The entire range of the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat is encompassed by the Epping Forest National Park. A recovery plan has been implemented and, as a result, a 20 km long Dingo and cattle exclusion fence has been built, its habitat is managed, and kangaroo numbers are monitored. A second colony in the wild has recently been established, with the transfer of a small number of wombats to a reserve in south-central Queensland, with promising results so far. There are also plans to develop a captive breeding programme.
Source: IUCN

Puffer money handover

Last night I handed over the cheque to the Toad NUTS. They now have R24 000 to blow! It is my hope that they put it to very good use and build a wetland for the toads once a good site has been identified.

People were incredibly generous, including one chap from Kommetjie (who wants to remain anonymous) who pledged R20 per kay! That’s a good solid R3 200 from one sponsor! I really hope my 2011 run will be as lucrative. I am plotting and scheming and dreaming up a great run…

In the pic: me, Dr John Measey, Alison Faraday and Suzie J’Kul.


Emperor Penguin breeding colonies occur on areas of stable sea-ice, which may be close to the coast or up to 18 kilometres offshore, and surround the Antarctic continent, the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands.

The status of the global population is currently unknown. Only a few colonies have been monitored in detail but, because of its wide-ranging population, the Emperor Penguin is not currently considered to be threatened. However, climate change models predict colossal reductions in the Antarctic sea-ice, and consequently the species breeding habitat. The Emperor Penguin, which appears to be very sensitive to shifts in climate, could therefore decline by as much as 95 percent by 2100. This species may also be negatively affected by increasing eco-tourism and by industrial fisheries which deplete its food supply.

Actions are being recommended to reduce disturbance caused by eco-tourists. In the face of climate change, the Emperor Penguin would need to adapt, migrate, or change the timing of its breeding season to survive. Therefore, its conservation depends upon climate change mitigation and careful management of its breeding habitat.

Source: IUCN

What’s the buzz?

Franklin’s Bumble Bee, or Bombus franklini (what a wonderful name!), is Critically Endangered.

Known only from southern Oregon and northern California, between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges in the USA, Franklin’s Bumble Bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world.

I found this wonderful pic of Einstein and his bee (ur, equation), and just had to include the following quote – the one we all like to throw about when the issue of bees and colony collapse comes up.

‘If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.’

Apparently he didn’t actually say that! Though of course this does not detract from the reality that the loss of bees would be very serious indeed for biodiversity and our quality of life…(Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/2782#ixzz12y2574CI)

Populations of Franklin’s Bumble Bee have declined rapidly since 1998, and this species is in imminent danger of extinction. Surveys carried out over more than a decade have illustrated how quickly this bumble bee has disappeared. In 1998, 94 individuals were found at eight sites, whereas in the past four years, only one individual has been observed during surveys.

Threats to this species include: exotic diseases, introduced via trafficking in commercial bumble bees for greenhouse pollination of tomatoes; habitat loss due to destruction, degradation and land conversion; and pesticides and pollution.

Sources: IUCN and thedailygreen.com

In search of mountain ghosts…

Home turf today. And it really couldn’t get any closer than this! We have lured my son up Skeleton Gorge on the pretense of finding one of these guys.
It certainly got him charging enthusiastically up the mountain (but of course we never found this elusive little frog!)

The Table Mountain Ghost Frog is Critically Endangered. This beautiful little frog with its clubbed fingertips and adhesive pads is restricted to swift-flowing streams on the slopes of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain. It is nocturnal, completely silent and very secretive…(but we didn’t tell Tim that!)

The Table Mountain Ghost Frog is subject to numerous threats, each with the potential to have a devastating impact given this species’ narrow range. The spread of alien vegetation has resulted in the clogging of streams, while the construction of dams has reduced water flow, creating areas of stagnant water. Other potential threats include frequent fires, climate change, and eco-tourism.

The whole of this species’ range lies within the Table Mountain National Park, a part of the Cape Floristic World Heritage Site. One of the main conservation priorities is to ensure the preservation of swift-flowing perennial streams on Table Mountain.

Source: IUCN

Bare-faced beauty

The Pied Tamarin or Brazilian Bare-faced Tamarin is classified as Endangered. This small monkey – endemic to the Brazilian Amazon – occurs largely within and around the city of Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon basin, and has one of the smallest ranges of any primate.

The expansion of Manaus has reduced much of the species’ habitat to mere fragments which are disappearing rapidly, destroyed by people in search of land and by land-use planning that fails to take environmental needs into account. Tamarins migrating from one tiny patch of forest to another are often electrocuted by power cables or are run over whilst crossing roads.

Translocation of these primates to safer patches of forest is now being implemented to help conserve this species. Seven potential conservation areas for Pied Tamarins have been identified. These areas require protection, as well as the creation of forest corridors to connect them, in order to secure the future of this species in the wild.

On 18-29 October, officials will gather at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10), in Nagoya, Japan, to agree how to tackle biodiversity loss.
Source: IUCN

Soup, anyone?

Apologies for the rather negative post yesterday. Enough to send us all over the edge really. I have had some interesting feedback on the WWF’s Living Planet Report and I will share it with you in the next couple of days.

For now, pop on your goggles, cos we’re off to the sea….

The Scalloped Hammerhead is Endangered. Named for the ‘scalloped’ front edge of its hammer-shaped head, this large shark is found worldwide in warm temperate and tropical waters.

Adult and juvenile Scalloped Hammerheads are taken as both a target species and bycatch in a range of fisheries, with the species’ habit of coming together in large schools making it particularly vulnerable to capture, and making it appear more abundant than it actually is. The fins of hammerhead sharks are highly valued, and exploitation in fisheries is largely unregulated. The life history of the Scalloped Hammerhead gives it relatively low resilience to exploitation, and significant population declines have been reported.

Management plans, monitoring programmes and fishing regulations are urgently needed throughout this shark’s range. The adoption of shark finning bans by some states, regions and fisheries organizations is accelerating, and it is hoped that this will increasingly prevent the capture of this and other shark species solely for their fins.
Source: IUCN