Each day at least three rhino die for two reasons: the belief that horn cures medical ailments, and as a status symbol in Vietnamese high society. But, attention rhino horn users: the vast majority of the horn you purchase is fake, according to an Oxpeckers report.
Karl Ammann from Natural History Magazine stated “probably up to 90 percent of end consumers (of rhino horn) unknowingly purchase products made of water buffalo or other bovine horn.”
The myth of rhino horn having medicinal value has survived for centuries.
Now a Seattle-based company, Pembient, is adding to the market of “faux horn”. They are using biotechnology to fabricate rhino horn at prices below the level of poached horns. Their goal is to use this substitution to meet the demand. According to the company, you can’t physically tell the difference.
According to one of Pembient’s founders, many wildlife traders would be happy to use a genetically…
So at some point in this year it was January, the next thing I know a cycle has flown by and February came to an end. Admittedly February is a short month but it seems to have flown past. We still have had no rain and the bush is prematurely turning the beautiful blonde colour that suggests the rain might not come this season. The last few years have seen really plentiful with rain and when I drove in a drainage line a few days ago the ruts filled with water. So the crests have this golden colour and in the valleys it is still largely green. There are no almost no pans of water left, so all the animals have been spending more and more time along the river. This is really good news as Inyati is perfectly positioned to have excellent game viewing all day long.
So in this last month we have seen Hlaba Nkunzi a few times and had the privilege of seeing her new cub who is around three months or so. She crosses into our neighbouring property and so we don’t see her as much as we used to so it’s nice to see little cubs. Tlangisa is still thriving in the North and it is quite difficult to tell at a glance between her and her cubs. They are fast approaching a year old and are so big. They must surely be thinking about starting to learn to hunt. Dewane has now officially displaced Nyeleti and has been seen far east of our traverse which has historically been Nyeleti’s territory. Nyeleti has moved east out of our traverse and south, so we don’t see him all too often anymore. Xhikavi, Schotia,Ravenscourt and Torchwood have all put on cameo displays for us but they are not seen all that regularly.
Leopards like Boulders haven’t been seen in a few months. Dewane has been around a lot and we have seen him patrolling his territory and feeding on kills and generally posing like the rock star he is! The Ximungwe’s are still at a composition of six and doing pretty well, they are a clever bunch of lions and I’m sure the Majingies don’t even know they exist. The sub-adults are looking really big at the moment and should be in the clear. The two Othawa sub-adults have not been seen with the adults in weeks, yet they are doing well and by all accounts have started hunting for themselves as the few times I’ve seen them they have both been full and looking happy.
There have been hundreds of buffalo and elephants all over the property, they have taken it upon themselves to redecorate the reserve for us and we are constantly having to clear the roads of big trees they keep pushing over.
So I have saved the best for last, only for the few people who read on to the end of the blogs. I’ll let you into the secret… One of the Othawa’s has cubs. She has been seen in the north/eastern part of the territory but I haven’t seen them yet. I cant wait to get my first glimpse of the Majingilanes hard earned reward.
That’s all from Matt for this month. We thank you for spending few moments with us in the wilderness, sharing our experiences and joining our adventures. We are committed to keep you updated. Please follow our Facebook page for daily updates.
Regards, THE INYATI TEAM
Keith & Francis – Managers George (Head Guide) & Solly (Tracker) Khimbini (Senior Guide) & Rodger (Tracker) Matthew (Senior Guide) & Nelson (Tracker)
This month’s sightings report compiled by Matthew Brennan. Photographs by Khimbini, Keith and Matthew
Africa is a huge continent, containing 47 different countries (not counting the surrounding island nations). It is over 7000km from north to south. “We’re going to Africa” is therefore a very vague description of destination. It’s like saying we’re going to Asia. A good first step is to pull out a map of Africa and look at where the current outbreak of Ebola is found:
The countries affected at the moment are all in West Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria has had one case that was identified on an inbound flight. Subsequently, all flights from affected areas have been cancelled and all countries in the region (including South Africa) are on high alert and have stepped up measures to screen travellers and identify possible victims.
We are certainly not downplaying the crisis and this is without doubt the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with over 700 deaths so far since February. But cancelling a trip to South Africa makes just as much sense as cancelling a trip to Spain because of Ebola. In fact, Spain is closer to the epicentre of the outbreak than South Africa is. All the popular safari destinations in Southern and East Africa remain unaffected by the Ebola outbreak. There is absolutely no reason to cancel your safari trip now. The biggest risk as a traveller right now is that you might have an elevated temperature due to the common flu or cold, and are then quarantined at the airport as a precaution.
How is Ebola spread?
This is an important question to help asses the risk. Thankfully and significantly, Ebola is not an airborne virus. It is spread through direct person-to-person contact, and contact with body fluids of infected persons – blood, saliva and other secretions. The WHO has a helpful factsheet about Ebola, which is worth a read. This means that the risk for ordinary travellers remains low, even in high risk areas, as long as you take basic precautions and avoid intimate contact with others.
South Africa is not only an interesting mix of cultures, but also of third world and first world conditions. While many people unfortunately still live in third world conditions, the infrastructure in South Africa is very much first world, and the public health system is good. The department of health is very conservative when it comes to public health policy and disease prevention. For example, South Africa was the first country to require yellow fever vaccines for travellers arriving from Zambia, after a part of western Zambia was reclassified from “vaccine not recommended” to “vaccine generally not recommended” a few years ago. A minor change by the WHO, but the health department responded swiftly and firmly with new regulations (considered unnecessary by many). South Africa also has world class airports with excellent screening, medical and quarantine facilities.
So these are the facts. There is no Ebola in South Africa or any of its neighbouring countries. Unfortunately, when panic sets in the facts are not always considered in the decision making. During 2012-2013, we had cancellations for trips to South Africa because of the political protests and unrest in Egypt, 7000km away at the opposite end of the content. A major fail of geographical comprehension, and a pity for that family that they cancelled a fantastic trip for a completely unnecessary reason. Let’s hope the same does not happen with this Ebola outbreak.
“There is another menacing storm heading south through Africa and the first ominous drops of blood fell on SA soil this week. ” -Will Fowlds
With poaching taking its toll on 383 rhinos so far this year, South Africa is not new to the epidemic. But with rhino horn worth twenty times more than ivory, elephants haven’t been poached in the country for a decade… until now.
In 2012 there were 16,700 elephants in Kruger National Park.
On Thursday, rangers found the dead bull elephant with missing tusks. They noted four sets of footprints leaving the park headed toward Mozambique.
Unfortunately this would be just “one more elephant” if it were Zimbabwe or Mozambique. But with the start of it in SA, this is devastating news. Proof of things to come.
“We have been alarmed about the elephant poaching happening in Central Africa and its more recent spread and escalation into East…
Book of Job (39:26) – Doth the hawk fly by Thy wisdom and stretch her wings toward the south?”
Early ornithologists noted changes in the birds based on the different seasons, references to migration date back to 3000 years ago when Aristotle postulated the phenomenon of birds disappearing and reappearing every year at the same time. He noted cranes travelled from the steppes of Scythia to the marshes at the headwaters of the Nile, and pelicans, geese, swans, rails, doves, and many other birds likewise passed to warmer regions to spend the winter. Aristotle can also lay claim to many of the superstitions that surround bird migration, as he concluded that birds hibernate during the cold months as well as what he termed transmutation, the theory of transmutation is the seasonal change of one species into another. Frequently one species would arrive from the north just as another species departed for more southerly latitudes. From this he reasoned the two different species were actually one and assumed different plumages to correspond to the summer and winter seasons.
We have come a long way from the days of Aristotle and research these days mainly focus on the way birds navigate their way around, they are able to fly in a particular constant direction, regardless of the position of the release point with respect to the bird’s home area. It has also been shown that birds are capable of relating the release point to their home area and of determining which direction to take, then maintaining that direction in flight. The navigational ability of birds has long been understood in terms of a presumed sensitivity to both the intensity and the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field. It has also been suggested that birds are sensitive to forces produced by the rotation of the Earth (Coriolis Effect); however, no sense organ or physiological process sensitive to such forces has yet been demonstrated to support this hypothesis.
Experiments have shown that the orientation of birds is based on celestial bearings. The Sun is the point of orientation during the day, and birds are able to compensate for the movement of the Sun throughout the day. A so-called internal clock mechanism in birds involves the ability to gauge the angle of the Sun above the horizon. Similar mechanisms are known in many animals and are closely related to the rhythm of daylight, or photoperiodism. When the internal rhythm of birds is disturbed by subjecting them first to several days of irregular light/dark sequences, then to an artificial rhythm that is delayed or advanced in relation to the normal rhythm, corresponding anomalies occur in the homing behaviour. Two theories have been formulated to explain how birds use the Sun for orientation. Neither, however, has so far been substantiated with proof. One theory holds that birds find the right direction by determining the horizontal angle measured on the horizon from the Sun’s projection. They correct for the Sun’s movement by compensating for the changing angle and thus are able to maintain the same direction. According to this theory, the Sun is a compass that enables the birds to find and maintain their direction. This theory does not explain, however, the manner in which a bird, transported and released in an experimental situation, determines the relationship between the point at which it is released and its goal.
The second theory, proposed by British ornithologist G.V.T. Matthews, is based on other aspects of the Sun’s position, the most important of which is the arc of the Sun, for example the angle made by the plane through which the Sun is moving in relation to the horizontal. Each day in the Northern Hemisphere, the highest point reached by the Sun lies in the south, thus indicating direction; the highest point is reached at noon, thus indicating time. In its native area a bird is familiar with the characteristics of the Sun’s movement. Placed in different surroundings, the bird can project the curve of the Sun’s movement after watching only a small segment of its course. By measuring maximum altitude (the Sun’s angle in relation to the horizontal) and comparing it with circumstances in the usual habitat, the bird obtains a sense of latitude. Details of longitude are provided by the Sun’s position in relation to both the highest point and position it will reach as revealed by a precise internal clock.
Migrant birds that travel at night are also capable of directional orientation. Studies have shown that these birds use the stars to determine their bearings. In clear weather, captive migrants head immediately in the right direction using only the stars. They are even able to orient themselves correctly to the arrangement of night skies projected on the dome of a planetarium; true celestial navigation is involved because the birds determine their latitude and longitude by the position of the stars. In a planetarium in Germany, blackcaps and garden warblers, under an artificial autumn sky, headed southwest toward their normal direction; lesser whitethroats headed southeast, their normal direction of migration in that season.
It is known, then, that birds are able to navigate by two types of orientation. One, simple and directional, is compass orientation; the second, complex and directed to a point, is true navigation, or goal orientation. Both types apparently are based on celestial bearings, which provide a navigational grid.
The types of migrants here in South Africa are known as; Palearctic migrants (species that migrate between Europe/Asia and southern Africa) Intra ‐ African migrants (species that migrate within Africa) Altitudinal migrants– Species that tend to follow rainfall patterns up the varying altitudes.
An example of one of our migratory species is the European Roller (Coracias garrulus) is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East and Central Asia and Morocco.
There are two subspecies: the nominate garrulus, which breeds from north Africa from Morocco east to Tunisia, southwest and south-central Europe and Asia Minor east through northwest Iran to southwest Siberia; and semenowi, which breeds in Iraq and Iran (except northwest) east to Kashmir and north to Turkmenistan, south Kazakhstan and northwest China (west Xinjiang). The European Roller is a long-distance migrant, wintering in southern Africa in two distinct regions, from Senegal east to Cameroon and from Ethiopia west to Congo and south to South Africa.
It is a bird of warm, dry, open country with scattered trees, preferring lowland open countryside with patches of oak Quercus forest, mature pine Pinus woodland with heathery clearings, orchards, mixed farmland, river valleys, and plains with scattered thorny or leafy trees. It winters primarily in dry wooded savanna and bushy plains, where it typically nests in tree holes.
The European Roller is a stocky bird, the size of a Jackdaw at 29–32 cm in length with a 52–58 cm wingspan; it is mainly blue with an orange-brown back. Rollers often perch prominently on trees, posts or overhead wires, like giant shrikes, whilst watching for the large insects, small reptiles, rodents and frogs that they eat.
This species is striking in its strong direct flight, with the brilliant blue contrasting with black flight feathers. Sexes are similar, but the juvenile is a drabber version of the adult.
The display of this bird is a lapwing-like display, with the twists and turns that give this species its English name. It nests in an unlined tree or cliff hole, and lays up to six eggs.
The European Roller (Coracias garrulus) is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East and Central Asia and Morocco.
The call is a harsh crow-like sound. It gives a raucous series of calls when nervous.
To be continued………..
The word migration comes from the Latin migratus that means “to change” and refers to how birds change their geographic locations seasonally.
Walking is my favourite activity on offer in the bush, I feel that you get a much more personal experience and that the special moments come thick and fast. I recently took a walk that holds out for me as one of the most exciting walks I’ve ever been on in a long while. I think I need to give you a bit of background first. Walks tend to be less big animals and more an opportunity to walk in the bush and get a feeling for the environment on a very personal level. So most guided walks tend to be in slightly more open areas and they concentrate on the smaller aspects of the bush that would escape you in a game viewer, like the tracks, tree’s and flowers. On this particular morning I had quite a large group on the walk with me and I had decided to walk from hippo dam, which is to the west of the lodge and south of the Sand River. Inyati’s position on the river means that pretty much anywhere we walk is very thick. So as a trails guide we use other mechanisms to identify that there are animals around us on the walks. Things we like to identify are tracks and signs, Red-Billed Oxpeckers and any noise that might give away an animal.
On this particular morning I was slowly navigating my way through the drainage line and the confluence of the sand river close to the lodge, when I noticed a single set of buffalo tracks. I then got the guests around me and got them down on their knees as we were going through the steps of trying to identify what it was. While I was pointing out its features I realised just how fresh the track was, aging can be a tricky process but let me assure you when I say that if the track is still crisp on a blustering day then it is fresh. I then rapidly concluded what I was telling the guests and added that the track was very fresh, I pointed out that in the area we were in the buffalo would have the upper hand and so I turned 90 degrees away from the track and was preparing to loop around it. The buffalo had other ideas though and had cut back on itself right into our pathway. So as I was moving down into the Madje Mbhirri drainage line, I noticed about a hundred meters in front of the group, the distinct shape and curve of the dagga boy’s horns whose tracks we had moments before been inspecting. The situation could not have been more perfect for us. There was a giant termite hill that would give us the best view and safest options and so I moved the group onto the mound and got them all seated. The buffalo was exhibiting beautiful behaviour that gives them their reputation for being dangerous; He was lying up on the bank of the river in the shade of a tree. He had no idea we were there watching him. While he gently ruminated in the cool of the shade I explained as much as I could remember on buffalo as the moment had got me excited which tends to cause me to babble a lot. After half an hour we slowly got up and snuck out of the area and around him and continued back towards the lodge.
The excitement wasn’t over though because the pan just west of the lodge always attracts animals and as we came to the edge of the treeline we noticed a big bull elephant wallowing in the mud and spraying himself. He was there for at least 20 minutes and we enjoyed his antics. He made it clear that, that was to be his morning activity and so when I started to hear the guest’s stomach grumbling for a well-earned brunch I got the group moving and we moved down onto the river and walked past the hippos lazing in the water and finally crossed onto the lawns of the lodge.
The reason why I loved this walk so much is that we engaged with these animals and they were unaware of our presence, we viewed them in exactly the manner they would be acting if we weren’t there and so got to see a truth, a perfect moment in those animals behaviour. It is why walking has become my firm favourite thing to do in the bush with guests.
If the current rate of poaching continues, rhinos in the wild will be extinct by 2020. That is just 6 years away!
There are only 5,000 black rhinos (L) and 20,000 white rhinos (R) remaining in the wild. (photo by Ryan Hillier)
According to Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation,
“There will probably be no free-living rhinos as the remaining numbers will be fenced off in military-style compounds which are alarmed and heavily guarded by armed patrols.”
Are we prepared to let this happen? How will the world look without them?
Rhinos are an umbrella species. This means their survival or demise directly impacts the survival or demise of other species of mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants. They play a big role in their ecosystem.
When they browse, they keep the areas trimmed, making paths and more accessible areas for smaller mammals. They also enrich…