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January 2014

In this issue, we will once again put the series on weeds on hold to review the environmental issues of the past year. Regrettably, there are few positive issues to report on. The slaughter of rhino, elephant and vultures continues un-abated; our indigenous flora continues to dwindle due to historical threats such as permanent habitat loss, invasive alien plant species and habitat degradation and emerging threats such as global climate change and new diseases.

After Indonesia and Brazil, South Africa is the third-most biologically diverse country in the world. Occupying only 1% of the world’s terrestrial land area it is home to:

  • 10% of the world’s plants
  • 5% of the world’s reptiles
  • 8% of the world’s birds
  • 6% of the world’s mammals
  • 16% of the world’s known coastal marine species
  • 33% (astonishingly) of the world’s tortoise species

The subject of rhino poaching is well publicised but bears repetition. In the past year a rhino was poached every 11 hours in SA. More than 500 rhinos were poached in the Kruger National Park alone in 2013. “Peace Parks”, a hopeful name for Trans Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs), were founded with lofty ideals and principles. In practice they have failed in their purpose as poachers cross from Mozambique to kill rhino in ever-increasing numbers. The TFCA concept is a partnership between neighbouring sovereign states. When these states are of unequal status and wealth, fancy treaties between politicians cannot reverse these inequalities. Both rhinos and humans are being killed in the conflict - surely an un-intended outcome for a “Peace Park”? The issue is that rhinos are a natural resource and need to be managed for sustainability. We own the resource, yet currently, organised crime gains from this resource. We need to cut out this middle man, change policy, and meet the demand by supplying a renewable resource. Rhino horn can be harvested without killing the animal, surely this should be considered?

Interestingly, recent vulture killings by poisoning are directly linked to organised poaching. The recent huge loss of 600 vultures in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, when poachers shot an elephant and then poisoned the carcase was intended to eliminate vultures.The circling birds are efficient indicators of illegally killed animals to the wildlife authorities. This huge loss of White Backed Vultures also resulted in the loss of chicks and breeding stock at the height of the breeding season (also in neighbouring Botswana, where many of them were nesting.) The formerly abundant White Backed Vulture is now ranked as endangered on the IUCN red data list. Vultures are also targeted for the “muthi” trade and by “accidental” poisoning by farmers who thoughtlessly target problem predators in this manner.
More incidences of poisoning during 2013:

  • 48 Cape Vultures and one White Backed Vulture in the KZN Drakensberg when sheep carcasses were poisoned to control jackal predation on new-born lambs
  • 250 vultures killed in Botswana at a poisoned giraffe carcass
  • 184 vultures at a poisoned elephant carcass in Gonarezhou NP in SE Zimbabwe
  • 40 elephants poisoned with cyanide in Hwange NP in Zimbabwe

Southern African countries need to work together in banning poisons such as Carbofuran - manufactured in the USA but banned there and in EU countries. The manufacturer and the countries allowing export to Africa need to be held publicly and painfully accountable.

  • Environment magazine: Spring 2013 Issue 16
  • African Birdlife magazine: November/December 2013
  • Veld & Flora magazine: Volume 99 (4) December 2013

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  • April 2014
    No construction work will take place during the Easter weekend. Only standard maintenance work will be undertaken.
    Read more
  • April 2014
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

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January 2014

After Indonesia and Brazil, South Africa is the third-most biologically diverse country in the world. Occupying only 1% of the world’s terrestrial land area it is home to...

Read more


December 2013

Since 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Biological Control of IAP’s in South Africa, it is appropriate that we take a closer look at this programme in this, the last issue of 2013.



November 2013

This month, we describe the first two alien invaders that are currently quite evident in our area as they are early spring bloomers

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October 2013

One of the prime causes of habitat degradation - namely the introduction of alien plant species.

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September 2013

Biodiversity is the all-encompassing term to describe the variety of all life on Earth.

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February 2014

This month, we revert to our series on Alien Invader Plants (AIP’s) and how to identify and eradicate them.

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March 2014

As promised last month, our next “candidate” is the notorious weed Lantana camara.

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