Archive for the ‘Educating You’ Category

Dodge the Dung!

December 15th, 2011, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Educating You

I’m driving on the game reserve, slowly looking at the bright new colours of the leaves in the bush, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bird. I take my time, the road is gravel and we’re not in a rush anyway – Pieter and Joshua are on the back and all of a sudden I hear “Dodge the Dung!”

I look at the road and swerve – missing the elephant dung by an inch or two.  Not very responsible for a nature conservationist!  Alas, I had been too busy admiring the environment, rather than concentrating on where I was driving!  Thus the blog about dodging the dung!

After good rains in South Africa (end October/November), the dung beetles arrive in full force – collecting fresh dung as food and/or as nurseries!

You’ll find a variety of dung beetles hard at work rolling dung balls – if you are driving and watching where you drive :-) you’ll see them on the road – both tar and gravel, if you’re on a game path – you’ll see them along the path and if you are staying on a game reserve – then they’ll be wherever there is a fresh pile of dung! 

Dung beetles play an important role in the ecosystem – cleaning up animal waste and converting it into a ball that sustains their life!

Dung beetles are of the Family Scarabaeidae. This family of beetles are easily recognised by their antennae, which have an apical club of 3-7 flat, expanded, moveable plates that can open out fanwise.

Unlike their cousins (the Chafer’s), Dung beetles are all highly beneficial to their environment!  My son welcomes these busy creatures each season when his chore of “poop-scooping” is taken away by the dung beetles. They don’t seem to mind using doggy-doo either, as long as it’s dung, it gets rolled up in ball and rolled away!

Checking direction before continuing to roll the ball of dung

Large copper dung beetle

Anthrax – nature’s lethal weapon

September 23rd, 2011, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Educating You, Wildlife

The word anthrax sounds scary and for some it is. Understanding anthrax appeals to few, but the hype that is created around anthrax is amusing!

Why do people get so upset when animals die? Animals die every day in the wild in the struggle for survival and what is ironic is, that many tourists will pay a fortune to see a predator make a kill whilst they’re on the back of a game-viewing vehicle!  Is it beacuse so many animals die at once? Is it the side effects of the disease?

Recently in Zambia, anthrax killed a number of hippo and buffalo,  although initially there were conflicting reports from the “powers-that-be” anthrax was confirmed and the situation became SERIOUS!

Herewith part of an e-mail from a caring member of the community who tried to people at rest at the beginning of September…

Dear All

   As most of you are aware about the hippos that are keeling over and dieing …, I would just like to inform you that we are waiting for the test results to come back so that we have a definite answer about what is happening. So far we are just speculating that it is Anthrax due to the signs of bleeding from Anus and Nose. It is effecting the hippos most, however there have been a few dead buffalos in the park and GMA.

  There is no reason to panic though even if it is Anthrax, it is a naturally occurring disease which bares its head every few years due to climatic conditions. The spores are able to lie dormant for many years in the soil.

I have attached two links to very helpful sites which deal with Anthrax in Humans and in Wildlife. We as humans are not at major risk, unless we ingest an animals meat that has died from Anthrax. A form of anthrax which effects the skin and can cause blistering can be contracted if handling the carcases of dead beasts. This can be treated simply with a course of Anti-biotics…

Please if you do see any fresh carcases report them … and if possible take a GPS reading to pass on to us. As you have seen some carcases have been covered with Lime. This is to dissuade scavengers from opening the carcases and spreading the spores. It is just a preventative measure which we were advised to take …

 I will let everyone know the results of tests as soon as we have them, but in the meantime please report fresh carcases, don’t touch the carcases without gloves, drive to close, or eat the meat!!!  

Anthrax in Wildlife           http://www.iucn-vsg.org/documents/anthrax.pdf

Anthrax and Humans:     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002301/

Of course their are many, many hippopotamus pods and large herds of buffalo and both species share a liking for shallow pools – the hippo like the pools because they like to take a rest from the might Zambezi river current and the buffalo enjoy the mud at the edge of the pools, they are also both grazers.  It would be interesting to find the source of the spores that can lie dormant for many years and if there is a connection between man-made channels leading inland from the Zambezi River or if this is pureply nature’s way of decreasing the populations.

Now for the Serious stuff…

Another letter, but this time,  two weeks later, it is a PLEA…

Greetings all

Thanks to … we have been informed today of some lions showing signs of swelling around the mouth and face as well as drooling thick white mucous. As a result … went down to photograph them and check for ourselves. Indeed it was a scary sight! The poor beasts are suffering from obvious signs of Anthrax, obviously from gorging themselves on infected carcasses. At first we didn’t think they could be affected but unfortunately that is obviously not the case.

The warden has been notified as to has the government vet and Dr … Doc  is on his way down with the government vet and hope they will be here tomorrow. At the moment our aim is to treat these lions as soon as possible with penicillin as well as inoculate them and possibly all the lions in the area.

We will need everyones co-operation on this please and request that any lion sightings be reported immediately … We also ask that the guides take notice of any swelling around the mouths or head and neck region or signs of drooling excessively. At the same time though we will need space and privacy to work on the lions so will ask that all game drives stay away if they see us busy with lions. We might be out all day and night tomorrow so will need everyones co-operation and if needed we will call for assistance.

Thank you all in advance.

As it stands at the moment we have lost over 40 hippo, 15 buffalo, 4 Civets and possibly 2 elephants to this outbreak. All are unconfirmed as they haven’t been tested and there may be more which we have missed.

The first reported cases were this time last month.

If anyone has had contact with the carcases or handled them in anyway please take a course of Ampicillin for precautions.

Thanks and hopefully with everyones help we can save our lions. According to Dr … if we treat them soon then they will bounce back fast.

So there we have it from DONT PANIC to PLEASE HELP.  This is what humans are all about, we want nature to take it course but we’ll do anything we can to prevent animals from dying due to natural diseases because at the end of the day, it’s not nice to see dead animals but it certainly is great to see lions feeding off their own kill!

:-)

On a more serious note, if you ever see grazers bleeding from the nose or anus or lots of saliva dripping from the mouths of predators, please report it to the local authorities, park rangers and wardens do need all the help they can get to manage their parks and reserves!

Herewith the sad pictures of the infected lions:

World Ranger Day

July 26th, 2011, posted in Educating You

31 July 2011 is World Ranger Day and we’ll be taking time to honour our Field Rangers on the reserve.

Rangers have pledged their lives to their environment, rangers spend days and nights learning from nature and many choose to share their findings with the world. Rangers also put their lives on the line when they choose to protect animals, plants and soil.

Every month we read reports of rangers who have died in their struggle against poachers, plant collectors, witchdoctors, loggers and other harvesters of marine life.

Our rangers on Grietjie have done a great job of finding snares which has resulted in the arrest of two suspects within a month. We salute all the rangers of the world and thank you all for dedicating your time to looking after our wildlife and their homes!

A career as a game ranger

April 26th, 2010, posted in Educating You, Uncategorized

Would you like to become a game ranger? Do you know what it takes to be a field guide? Do you have the confidence to lead people into the wild as a Trails guide? Do you simply want to study to become a game ranger, or do you want to learn more about wild animals and the environment for a month, 6 months or year?

I could give you a thousand reasons why you should become a game ranger, a hundred more reasons to become a field guide and a few others to become a Trails guide; however you have chosen this site because this is where your interest lies and I have selected some of the best places to fulfil your dream.

Bhejane Nature Training
– KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Nature Guide Training – Limpopo, South Africa

EcoTraining

Limpopo Field Guiding Academy

What is FGASA – The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa
FGASA represents individual Tourist Guides, Nature, Culture and Adventure guides, Trackers and organisations involved in offering professional guiding services to members of the public.

FGASA is an accredited provider with the Tourism Hospitality and Sport, Education and Training Authority (THETA). The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa has set guiding standards for many years and continues to maintain the highest standards within the guiding industry. In conjunction with THETA within the new National Qualifications Framework, FGASA promotes the standards for guiding throughout Southern Africa in the form of:
• A standard outcomes-based training syllabus
• A code of ethics and a set of guiding principles
• An assessment system based on high standards of competence
• A effective training course endorsement system
• A valid recognised First Aid Certificate requirement
FGASA aims to promote a culture of professional guiding based on a strong ethical well-informed, safety conscious approach to provide the visitor to the African bush and environs with a pleasant and memorable experience.
FGASA is fully committed to the development and implementation of the national qualifications, promoting the development of all tourist guides, including previously disadvantaged individuals as guides, trackers, trainers and assessors as part of the South Africa’s transformation process.
FGASA promotes the training of guides through the endorsement of training providers who conform to the FGASA and National training standards. The Association also promotes the highest standards of guide assessment by appointing and registering fully qualified and experienced assessors to carry out practical evaluations at all levels for all the guiding qualifications.
FGASA’s philosophy is one of promoting the guide and tracker on the ground in terms of skills development, recognition of existing skills and creation of job opportunities within the tourism industry.

take note

February 5th, 2010, posted in Educating You

I’m more of a wilderness lover than a birder, but being married to a game ranger means that you get to see and take note of every living creature that contributes to the complex ecosystems into which we venture on holiday, whilst taking a walk at home or out on a game, bird or bush walk with guests.

Taking note of tracks left on the path tells a tale of its own, looking into and through the bush when you hear a rustle can prove to become a valuable sighting of a leopard, bushbuck or scrub hare. Hearing a crack of branches and then waiting patiently can reward you with a sighting of elephant on foot!
So we live and learn from the bush taking in its secrets, admiring the intricate way all the organisms work together and add to our experience of being in the African Bush. Sometimes the tiniest creatures produce the greatest wildlife sightings, but it takes knowledge and understanding of the surroundings to see into this world.

My journey to gain knowledge about the bush means I need to become a birder and take interest in my sons’ arthropod studies. It has also has made me realize that visitors to Africa can have a safari that is more meaningful than just seeing the lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo, they can become a part of the habitat in which these wonderful animals live, even if it is only for a short time, what they will take back home will remain with them forever!

creepy crawling creatures

January 27th, 2010, posted in Educating You

Taking delight in creepy crawling creatures

I encourage you to take your children outdoors to explore what is around them. Going on a nature walk with Joshua usually means I must take the insect book with.  He is fascinated with creepy crawling creatures and will spend as much time as I allow staring at the insect and asking questions about its habitat, food preferences, predators, colouring, defence mechanisms and asking what sound it makes!

It is quite humbling. I’m the parent, right?  So I have all the answers, right? Wrong, oh so very wrong! The more we live in this wonderful outdoor world of arthropods, the more I have to learn because I know so little.

So it’s back to searching for them on the ground and researching them back home! It makes for wonderful hone-schooling projects too, we count the legs and appendages and classify them, then together (child and adult) we learn all about our subject!

Are we as adults too tall to bend down and look at the little things in life?  Is that why we miss them? My dear friends, there is a reason for us to take time to smell the roses – when we bend down, we may see the ladybird eating the aphid on the stalk of the rose and the camouflaged spider on its petal and the butterfly on the rose next to it.

What a wonderful world we live in. Take delight in the creepy crawling creatures – you will learn a thing or too from them!

Dinosaurs, Dodos, Quagga & Frogs?

January 22nd, 2010, posted in Educating You

Do our frogs face a future of extinction like the Quagga, Dodo and Dinosaurs? Will future generations pick up fossils, bones and photos of this amphibian species and wonder how we allowed them to die out?

We know a third of  the amphibian species are on the edge of becoming extinct, those trying to make a difference in the frogs survival say about 120 species are already gone!  Yes, yes, many species are still being discovered today, but how many will become extinct before they are found?

painted reed-frog

Frogs play an important part of the food chain, both as predator and prey. Climate change, pollution and the use of harmful pesticides are all contributing factors, but habitat loss and a parasitic fungus (amphibian chytrid ) are the biggest threats.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park has the highest number of frog species in southern Africa. Protected areas like this park are important for the survival of many species.  Urban and rural developments, forestry and agricultural practices are causing rapid losses of habitat.

My challenge to the readers of this blog is to ask people in the tourism industry on game reserves, game farms and game parks what they are doing to conserve the frog species on their property. To those people thinking about setting up a golf course or housing development in a wetland area, stop thinking and change your plans. Take a frogging safari and learn more about them, they are not all gruesome and perhaps we will all contribute to the life of a frog.

Reconciliation and Travel

December 16th, 2009, posted in Educating You

I am amused by the public holiday in South Africa, called Day of Reconciliation. Whenever visitors to our country want to find out more about South African culture, it opens the door to truly travel our land. It is difficult to fit the full cultural experience into one visit as this country has so many tribes, all rich in culture!

So how do South Africans partake in the Day of Reconciliation at heart, what do they tell their children? We live a life very different to those that lived here over 100 years ago and in history terms, 100 years is not that long ago!

Today’s post is my version of how I see Reconciliation related to Travel. War stories are gruesome and cruel but they are a part of history and something we should not ignore, only because I do not want history to repeat itself. If we can openly discuss what happened, no matter where you are from or what your beliefs, only then, can we truly experience Reconciliation.

How can we reconcile with the San or “Bushmen”? Nearly every African tribe and European settler had something to do with the annihilation of their race. Do I thank the Dutch East Indian Company for bringing my husbands’ ancestors to this country and applaud the Voortrekkers for taking on Die Groot Trek, fighting the Zulu’s and British and establishing the Boers so that I could meet my husband, a descendant of theirs? Shall I thank the English for their Colonialism and ships that brought my descendants from Scotland and England to South Africa? Shall I thank Shaka Zulu for establishing such a proud and hard-working culture, from whom descendants now live and taught me their language, and is there a way for me to understand why Dingaan would kill him? What happened to blood being thicker than water? My life is now touched by the Pedi and Sesotho tribes who tell me of the medicinal plants that grow freely for our benefit and they tell stories of how they made San children their slaves, how their children became slaves on settlers farms and how they became a part of life and death in the concentration camps alongside their employers.

We need to reconcile everyday of our lives and travel opens your eyes to see each culture for who they really are, why they are there and what their dreams are for their future. Travel by tribes and settlers is how South Africa came to be. We need to take reconciliation to the next level and acknowledge travel to be the reason for everything – explorers, messengers, battles, rallies, marches, travel is how word gets out whether it be in person, by note or even via cyberspace.

In closing, my request to each foreigner that visits this Southern country on the African continent, is not to blame anyone for anything done in the past, but rather to examine today and realise the hope tomorrow holds if we do the best for our land, its plants, animals and people so that the history we become is in our descendants best interest.

Bush eyes? How Game Rangers spot animals:

November 25th, 2009, posted in Educating You

Visitors to the bush know it takes a while before you start spotting wild animals through thick bush, in long grass or across the valley on the opposite hill.  Somehow spotting animals in the wild come naturally to game rangers and I can only think it’s because they must have Bush eyes!

Take this simple test for example: Look at picture 1 what do you see?  Now look at picture 2 and see if that was more difficult or not?

leopard-mfs

leopard-mfs2

When I asked Pieter how he spots these animals at such a far distance he simply says,” …when it twitched its ear, my eye caught the movement and I looked more carefully.” or “Did you see that flick of a tail?” Ok, so the flick of the tail can be seen, because I saw it, but the twitch of an ear? I was looking in the same direction and I knew what I was looking for and still, I could not see it!!  He also said, “… that wasn’t a rock, a log or leaves, it ‘s an animal”.

Pieter finds small creatures like caterpillars and chameleons at night with ease so it’s not just the larger creatures!  I’m convinced he has a sixth sense when it comes to seeing things in the wild!

The following pictures were taken after the initial sighting, proving that patience can deliver!

leopard, Zululand

leopard, Zululand

leopard, AmaZulu Game Reserve

leopard, AmaZulu Game Reserve

young leopard sighting

young leopard sighting

Conservation Foundation History

October 23rd, 2009, posted in Educating You

The IUCN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources was established in 1948
The IUCN is now sometimes called the World Conservation Union.
The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) was created in 1961.
CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora was created in 1975.
Although all 3 are independent of one another, their joint belief is in the WCS
World Conservation Strategy: (The guiding principle for modern wildlife management policies)

The 3 objectives of what the WCS described as ‘living resource conservation’ (sic) are:-

1. To maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems (such as soil regeneration and protection, the recycling of nutrients, and the cleansing of waters) on which human survival depend;
2. To preserve genetic diversity (the range of genetic material found in the world’s organisms) on which depend many of the above processes and life-support systems, the breeding programmes necessary for the protection and improvement of cultivated plants, domesticated animals and micro-organisms, as well as much scientific and medical advance, technical innovation, and the security of the many industries that use living resources; and
3. To ensure the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems (notable fish and other wildlife, forests and grazing lands) which support millions of rural communities as well as major industries.

The WCS does not deal JUST with WILD renewable natural resources. It is concerned with the management of ALL renewable natural resources – both those that are domesticated or cultivated, AND those that are wild.

 
 
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