Made in China

The gorgeous Red Panda is Vulnerable.

Bottom line? Once again – too many of us. WE need wood, food, fuel….so move aside little guy, there are more of US, and you’re powerless!

The taxonomic position of the Red Panda has sparked significant debate, but it is now assigned to a family of its own – Ailuridae. Red Pandas have no close living relatives, and their nearest fossil ancestors, Parailurus, lived 3-4 million years ago. This arboreal mammal has a scattered distribution across the Himalayas and mountainous regions of northern Myanmar and southern China.

The principle threat to the Red Panda is the loss of its high-altitude forest habitat, due to logging, agriculture and firewood collection, to meet the demands of the rapidly increasing human population. It may also be hunted for its meat or fur which may be used in traditional dress. Hunting is a particularly significant problem in China.

The Red Panda is protected by law in most range states and occurs in a number of protected areas. However, outside of reserves, hunting of this species continues largely unabated and its habitat is dwindling. Improved protection of its remaining habitat and better law enforcement are crucial for the survival of this species.
Source: IUCN

50 left

I received yet another email with hideous pictures of butchered rhino the other day. I get quite a few like this. I have reached the point where I can no longer bring myself to open the attachments. One hacked at, bloated and bloodied rhino looks much like the next…

It got me thinking…isn’t it peculiar how we are able to get so emotional and vociferous when it comes to rhino poaching, yet we remain so quiet about all the smaller stuff (like today’s species). Birds, salamandars, snakes, dragonflies and moles. Species that face extinction (at the hand of man) every day in every corner of the planet, yet we hardly flinch. I guess it is the fact that rhinos are big and charismatic. And perhaps we just cannot bear the brutality …

But, is wiping out a species habitat any less brutal?

The Cherry-throated Tanager is listed as Critically Endangered. Previously feared to be extinct, this Atlantic Forest endemic was rediscovered in Espírito Santo State, Brazil, in 1998, a lapse of 47 years after the previous sighting.
Centuries of forest clearance for cattle ranches, plantations and timber have drastically reduced the indigenous Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Today, the Cherry-throated Tanager survives in isolated forest fragments at elevations greater than 850 metres above sea level, and what little remains of its habitat is under further threat from agricultural and urban encroachment and timber extraction.
With potentially fewer than 50 individuals remaining, the Cherry-throated Tanager is in drastic need of major conservation measures. Surveys have been conducted in recent years, the results of which demonstrate how rare the species is, along with a study of its ecology. Several privately owned forest tracts now need to be established as reserves in order to safeguard the long-term future of this enigmatic and elusive bird.

Juliana’s Golden Mole

Today’s enchanting looking creature is sadly not doing terribly well. There is probably not much hope for the little guy, given the isolation factor mentioned below.

Juliana’s Golden Mole is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. This blind, subterranean mammal is endemic to South Africa, where it is only known from three isolated localities in the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The restricted savannah habitat of this species is under significant threat from human development, with intensive urbanisation, mining operations, and agriculture being the greatest concerns. In particular, the subpopulation found on the slopes of the Bronberg Ridge in Tshwane (Pretoria), Gauteng, is at an extremely high risk of being lost in this area due to intensive urbanisation and quarrying activities and, as a result, is listed separately on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.
Two of the subpopulations occur within protected areas; the Bronberg Ridge subpopulation is now protected by national and provincial legislation requiring detailed environmental impact assessments and mitigations before any developments may begin. The small area of remaining suitable habitat in the Bronberg, however, makes extinction risk for the subpopulation extremely high.
Source: IUCN

Seeing spots…

The Leopard Toadlets are here! I had a phone call this afternoon from one of the Head NUTS and Warren and I headed out into the drizzle to see what all the fuss was about. They are MINISCULE little things and quite difficult to spot. We rescued about 50 in total – all incredibly vulnerable to birds, swimming pools and, of course, the trusty car tyre. They are exquisite little things – perfect replicas of the adults, about the size of one’s fingernail. I am sure there will be several callouts to come. The email from the NUTS is as follows: Please check your swimming pools, gutters and driveways for toadlets. Put a stone at the step of your pool, remove your toad skimmer and check your pool every morning after rain. Install a toadsaver when the rain dries up, don’t mow your grass for the next month especially on rainy days.
This applies to anyone living in the Peninsula really, so apologies to my overseas readers!

So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending…(Tolkien)

My son (when younger) used to call this chap the “Tomato Dragon”. He is now older and wiser, and having watched the ‘Reptiles’ episode on the latest BBC Life series a few times, he now sees these magnificent beasts in a whole new light. We all do! There is an incredible scene with a group of Komodo’s take down a massive water buffalo. The process takes a few days as they bite it initially to inject it with venom. Gruesome, but fascinating. The cameramen on the ground really battled as the scene played out and they had come to ‘know’ the buffalo…..watching it die slowly was a tough call!

The Komodo Dragon is listed as Vulnerable. It is the largest living species of lizard, growing to an average length of 2 to 3 metres and weighing upwards of 70 kg, typically found in dry open grasslands, savannah and tropical forest habitats at low elevations.

It is estimated that there are between 3,000 and 5,000 Komodo Dragons left on earth, although populations are heavily fragmented and spread between five small Indonesia islands. Habitat fragmentation significantly increases the risk posed by natural chance events, such as volcanoes, wildfires, tsunamis, etc. However, burning of grasslands by humans and subsequent predation on prey species such as Rusa Deer, Rusa timorensis, is probably the major threat to this species at present.

The Komodo National Park was established in 1980 to conserve the Komodo Dragon and the ecosystem in which it lives. Smaller reserves also help give some degree of protection, although, as in the Park, law enforcement is often lacking and human/dragon conflicts continue to exist.

Source: IUCN

If you go down to the woods today…

The Andean Bear is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The only bear species in South America, it occurs in the Andes Mountains, from western Venezuela to southern Bolivia, occupying habitats ranging from desert-scrub to forests and high altitude grasslands. Most individuals have white, spectacle-like markings around the eyes, giving rise to the alternative name Spectacled Bear.

The main threat to the Andean Bear is from habitat loss as a result of agricultural expansion, grazing, mining, oil exploration, and road development. Due to the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Andean Bears increasingly raid crops and kill livestock, resulting in more retaliatory killing and illegal hunting.
The Andean Bear occurs in a number of protected areas, but many do not provide adequate protection or are too small and isolated to support viable bear populations. Although it is protected by national laws in all five range States, and through its listing on Appendix I of CITES, stricter enforcement is needed. Further research is required to better manage human-bear conflict.

Source: IUCN

Out of the ashes…

To start the weekend off on a positive note, I thought I would share a wonderful story I found this morning. It really shows the spectacular resilience of nature.

‘When the City of Cape Town made the decision to demolish the two Athlone Cooling Towers due to safety reasons early this year, many residents were concerned about what would happen to the pair of Peregrine Falcons that had made the towers their home. Now, almost three months after the demolition, these fears have been allayed with the successful hatching of three chicks in the new nest boxes that have been installed on the chimney stacks.

Peregrine Falcons (Falco Peregrinus) have inhabited the City’s Athlone Power Station property for 20 years. The Peregrine is a rare and threatened bird species that occurs sparsely in South Africa, but is relatively common around Cape Town. The Peregine’s natural habitat includes gorges and cliffs, but they have moved into the urban area over the last two decades, and are nesting on various buildings across the city.

Dr. Andrew Jenkins, a consultant ornithologist (Avisense Consulting) and research associate at UCT’s Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithhology, installed three nesting boxes on the Athlone Cooling Towers as part of his doctorial studies in 1989 to provide them with a safe place to breed. Peregrine Falcons have inhabited the nest boxes ever since, and a breeding pair was still occupying the one remaining nest box when the decision was made to demolish the towers.

Jenkins identified two new nesting box locations as potentially suitable to the falcons’ needs, to replace the nest box that was soon to be demolished. It was decided that one new nest box was to be placed on the western chimney stack, and another on the eastern end of the power station building.

Specially designed platforms were erected on both the chimney stack and the building with the help of rope access specialists. The nesting boxes were placed on the platforms, which would also allow sufficient space for falcon chicks to exercise before their first flight.

The installation of the new nesting boxes was completed in mid-June this year. According to Jenkins, the Peregrines started to explore the new nest boxes as possible nest sites for the 2010 season soon after they were placed. Their adoption of the replacement accommodation was so complete that by the time the demolition actually took place on 22 August, the falcons had become largely based on the stacks, and they were actually seen mating on top of the western chimney only eight minutes after the destruction of the towers.

By the middle of September the behaviour of the birds suggested that they were incubating a clutch of eggs at the stack’s nest box. Successful breeding was confirmed when Jenkins and rope access expert Jacques Maree (Toprope) visited the site on 05 November. Jenkins and Maree found three healthy chicks in the box, just over three weeks old.

The chicks were fitted with numbered and colour rings as part of Jenkins’ research on the greater Cape Town population of this spectacular and resilient species.’

Source: Martin Pollack.

Hanging in there

The Eastern Sucker-footed Bat is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. It has suckers on its wrists and hands which work by wet adhesion and give the bat its name. The Eastern Sucker-footed Bat is one of only two species of bat endemic to Madagascar. Until 2008, this species was listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. However, following the discovery of a population in the south-east of the country in 2008, it was down-listed.

Up to 50 individuals roost in the partially unfurled central leaf of the Traveller’s Tree, Ravenala madagascariensis, but they move roosts every few days as the leaf unfurls. Unlike most mammals endemic to Madagascar, the Eastern Sucker-footed Bat is not threatened by deforestation, although harvesting of Ravenala leaves for building materials may cause the loss of roosts.

Only a few protected areas occur within the range of this species, including Parc National de Marojejy and Tampolo littoral forest. Additional studies are needed to increase understanding of local population densities and precise habitat requirements.
Source: IUCN

Into the mind of a 7 year old

The news on the radio this morning was full of stories of a world gone mad, so I thought I would throw out something light-hearted…

Tim has been producing sketches like there is no tomorrow. Mostly of whacky creatures with big toothy grins and impressive underbites. They’re all full of personality – and none feature on the Red Data List, which is a huge relief.

Meet a family of porcupine and a lucky anteater who has stumbled upon a tasty termite mound with termites all yelling ‘pick me, pick me!’

What a day!

It has been one of those perfect Sundays with all my favourite things thrown in. It started with a 6.30 run with Linda (famous trail runner person – see her blog on the right of this page). We did an out and back 22km trot along the contour path from Constantia Nek to the Blockhouse and back. An easy paced 2 1/2 hours through beautiful mountain forest and fynbos…

Then home to pack a lunch and zip off to Cape Point to one of my family’s favourite spots – Venus Pool. Certainly one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets. A little pocket of paradise with a beautiful mountain backdrop, rockpools big enough to swim in and a big wide open ocean constantly heaving, sighing and crashing.
We swam, slothed about on hot rocks and gazed into pools to watch star fish and urchin tentacles waving about.

The reserve always has wild treats in store and we were not disappointed today! Bontebok, a tortoise, fat blue headed lizards, heaps of mongoose, otter and owl evidence, a lone male ostrich, cormorants and a southern right whale! The rockpools were a riot of blue, pink and orange – and all so pristine and full of treasures.

All this in one day, and right on our doorstep. This is definitely one of the better places to live in the world.