In the Presence of a Giant

On the R71 outside Gravelotte (Between Gravelotte & Tzaneen), Limpopo, South Africa, you will find the Leydsdorp Baobab. Advertized as being more than 2000 years old, this ancient giant is an impressive sight to behold.
R20 per person gets you into the embrace of this magnificent tree, after completing a simple attendance register.
You have to be quiet in the presence of greatness. The mere thought that this tree might have already been around at 1 A.D. is enough to leave you breathless. You are allowed to hug this tree, and you should, or take the wooden ladder and climb into the crown, and become part of that stillness for a while. Most humans love to destroy irreplaceable things. It is a sobering feeling to be perched in this tree and just value its ancient existence. You should do it.
Ivor Mathias is The Tree's human guardian. He whispers of the legends that surround this living statue. Should you pick a single flower, a lion will eat you. The gravestones in the cemetery of nearby gold-rush ghost-town Leydsdorp bear silent witness to that tale.
The flowers of a Baobab tree bloom only for one night, with their sweet fragrance attracting the bats pollinating the flowers.Baobabs are deciduous (they lose their leaves during the cooler months), and the juvenile leaves differ from those of the adult tree. This gave rise to the belief among some indigenous people that the trees just appear, fully grown, overnight.
Cream of Tartar used to be made from the seeds, but are now produced as a by-product of wine-making. Literally every part of a baobab tree is useful. Just like in The Lion King, it acts as a water reservoir and it can save the lives of animals during a drought, as they chew on the water-rich bark.
The fruits are nutrient-rich, the bark is handy for rope-making and a myriad other purposes.
Over the years the Leydsdorp Baobab had been used as a post office, mortuary, bar, fridge, kitchen and make-shift home. Naturally hollow inside, most baobabs feature a comfortable, constant 22 degrees Celsius interior.
Baobabs form an eco-system all of their own, with certain trees like the Sagole Baobab even hosting a rare colony of mottled spinetail swallows.
Adansonia digitata (Baobab) is one of eight species of Baobabs occurring around the world, also known as upside-down trees.
This giant is 25m tall, with a girth of +-22m, making it one of the biggest Baobabs in South Africa.
If you are anywhere close to the Northern Parts of the Limpopo Province, go and seek out the Baobabs on the list of Champion Trees (Protected Trees in South Africa), but don't forget to hug our Leydsdorp Baobab friend too.
Written by Carina Crayton (Co-Founder WHWF)

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New Gate for Kruger National Park

New gate for KNP raises eyebrows: The news that a new Entrance Gate and Entertainment Hub, named Shangoni, is to be built in the Kruger National Park, has been met with mixed responses. The gate is planned for the North-West of the KNP, between Giyani and Malulele. Shangoni is a Venda word meaning ‘of or for the earth’. But certain stakeholders seem to think that none of this would benefit the Earth in any way, despite the name connotation.
Grave Concern about Tourist Entertainment Hub:

Most people are gravely concerned about the ‘entertainment’ and ‘fun park’ aspect of the new development. This section of the KNP has always seen less traffic than the busy South of the Park, and is regarded as a peaceful haven for wildlife and humans enjoying solitude. There is considerably less poaching in this quiet North-Western section as well, with most of the Rhinos being killed for their horns in the South of the Park.

With the recent killing of a Cheetah by a speeding motorist, it follows that increased traffic without increased law enforcement would lead to an escalation in traffic accidents. Specifically, a surge in the number of collisions with animals as a result of speeding and increased traffic, would impact the Wildlife in the Park negatively.

Balancing Act:

"There always has to be a balance between tourism, (and opening up that niche market to locals, many who’ve never been able to afford going into the Park), and income from Tourism. In this instance, the intent is to involve local residents in the tourism industry, and provide much-needed employment. In short, looking after Wildlife costs money, and Tourism generates funding. But generating funding should never be done to the detriment of the Wildlife", says Paul Oxton (CEO/Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Elephants in the Kruger National Park Photo: Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

A long time coming:

The Limpopo Department of Economic Development and Tourism (LEDET) announced the plans to open the new gate and tourism activity hub at a recent tour of the Park with media outlets. The MEC Economic Development, Environment and Tourism in Limpopo, Thabo Mokone, said the two projects had long been on the books of the department and were now being implemented.

Arguably the most controversial statement of Mokone’s speech is the following phrase:
“We have taken a decision as government to claim the Kruger Park.”

Mokone said the activity hub would bolster the economy in Phalaborwa. “Phalaborwa town has been anchored by the mining industry so we want the tourism sector to be a secondary encore to develop the town into an epic tourism destination.”

“I’m particularly keen to kick-start these projects because they will create employment in the provincial economy. We can’t only rely on international tourists to come to visit us. We must also rely on ourselves to visit our own country. Charity begins at home.”

A squabble between the bordering communities over exactly where the gate would be opened has caused delays, but the engagement between LEDET, SANParks and the local Municipalities are now being fast-tracked, so that the matter can be resolved.

The aim is for this project to be completed by the end of 2022.

The Park currently has 11 entrance gates: Crocodile Bridge, Malelane, Numbi, Phabeni, Phabeni Border, Paul Kruger, Orpen, Phalaborwa, Punda Maria, Pafuri and Giriyondo.

The Kruger National Park is named after former president Paul Kruger. The Park is bigger than the country of Israel, and offers a wildlife experience ranked one of the best on the African continent. It boasts 19 623km² or nearly 2 million hectares of land that stretches for 352km, and contains hundreds of historical and archaeological sites.

 

Written by Carina Crayton (Co-Founder #WHWF)

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Rhino Numbers in Kruger National Park to dip below 3000

The Rapid Slide into Extinction:
The most devastating news, as we still reminisce about #WorldRhinoDay2021.
The Daily Maverick reports:
"The new CEO of South African National Parks, said there may be fewer than 3,000 rhinos in the Kruger Park for the first time – despite the park authority spending millions on rhino protection."
In January 2021, Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation reported about the devastating losses reflected by the (then) new statistics. The total figure of White Rhinos in KNP, was listed as 3549 in 2019.
Yesterday, on 22 September 2021, #WorldRhinoDay2021, the CEO of the Kruger National Park, Dr Luthando Dziba, confirmed: 'The rhino population has declined by almost 70% over the past 10 years. This is … because of relentless poaching. We have officially released the numbers up until the 2019/2020 reporting period where basically we had 3,500 rhino.”
He stated that the country’s rhino population has declined by nearly two-thirds over the past decade and highlighted that there may now be fewer than 3,000 in the Kruger National Park for the first time.
Don Pinnock from Daily Maverick said that South Africa created loopholes that were exploited by criminal syndicates through licensing of hunting and legalising internal trade, but only shutting down of all rhino horn trade, removing loopholes and stopping mixed messaging – backed up by initiatives like the Pelly Amendment – would bring down poaching.

Dziba said, “I think another way of looking at the alarming stats… is the fact that it is possible to actually do something to basically restore the species but I think it is important to know what needs to be done to basically protect rhino in the wild.”

“We might have created loopholes… in basically legalising hunting and giving permits to international hunters and it is possible, but I think right now within the context of national parks, for instance, there has never been hunting in national parks. We are experiencing the brunt of the scourge of poaching and if you look at Kruger for instance, where our largest white rhino population is at, we experience some of the most severe poaching.”

"The fact is that Rhino Poaching is not 'just the death of a Rhino', but it is a cog in the well-oiled machined which is organized crime. With corruption being rife, mixed messages with regards to legalization of trade, and the failure of effective prosecution and convictions thrown into the mix, this is a recipe for disaster, and most of us can just watch the rapid slide into extinction with frustration and deep sadness," said Paul Oxton, Founder/CEO of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

Carina Crayton (Co-Founder #WHWF)

With Thanks to Daily Maverick for the Webinar recording and original article.

#WHWF
#EthicalConservation
#StopPoaching

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Fun facts about Rhinos Learn about Rhinos here

Fun Facts about Rhinos by #WHWF

If you want to learn more about Rhinos, read on!
Did you know?
  • The name Rhino is the short form of ‘Rhinoceros, which means ‘Nose Horn
  • There are five different species of rhinoceros, three native to southern Asia and two native to Africa. They are the Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Indian Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros.
  • The only land animal bigger than a White Rhino, is an Elephant.
  • Rhino Horn is made from Keratin, just like your fingernails and hair. Their horns are what they get killed for (poached). And it doesn’t make any sense!
  • Crash is the term for a group of Rhinos, like this below:

A Crash (Family) of Rhinos

 

  • Although they have thick protective skin, it is still sensitive. Rhinos take mud baths to serve as sunscreen and protect them against parasites. Rhino skin can be up to 5cm in thickness!
  • They can run very fast, much faster than a human when they get scared or angry, and you don’t want to be in the path of one!
  • Both Black Rhinos and White Rhinos are actually grey in colour. ‘White’ actually stemmed from the word ‘wide’, meaning flat and wide. They’re sometimes called ‘square-lipped’ Rhinos. White Rhinos eat grass and they are called grazers. Black Rhinos have a hooked lip enabling them to catch onto shrubs and eat the juicy leaves. They are called browzers.
  • Rhinos communicate through noises and poo! Baby Rhinos sound like whales when they ask for milk. Rhinos sniff their toilets called ‘middens’ to gather information about who was there. Click the Video below to watch Rhino Babies asking for Milk!

Adorable Rhino Babies asking for Milk:

  • White Rhinos are much more passive and gentle than Black Rhinos. Black Rhinos are so dangerous that they are the cause for Rhinos being included in the Big 5. (The five big, dangerous African Animals).
  • Rhinos are the oldest group of mammals, and have been around for 10 to 20 million years. They are living fossils!
  • Rhino Moms are pregnant for 15 to 16 months before giving birth. At two months old, Rhino Babies start to get weaned off milk. At three years old, Rhino Babies are fully independent. They live to between 10 and 45 years, depending on the species. A newborn Rhino should be up and walking within one hour after birth, but will remain wobbly for a few days
  • The average birth weight in Black Rhinos is 35.5 kg and 62.7 kg in White Rhinos. 
    White Rhino Mum and Baby

    White Rhino Mum with newborn Rhino Baby

     

  • Rhino babies eat their mother’s dung to acquire critical bacteria for their digestive systems to work properly.
  • Rhino Mommies and Babies are very close. In the case of Orphaned Rhino Babies, where the mothers had been killed, the little ones often die from stomach and mouth ulcers as a result of stress.
  • The Baby of a Black Rhino walks behind the Mom, and the Baby of White Rhino, in front of the Mom.
  • Their Magnificent horns are not only for show, they use them to defend themselves, to steer their babies, to dig up roots for nutrient and to test the depth of mud-holes before they wallow. If the hole is too deep they might get stuck and die.
  • To learn more about the extent of Poaching of Rhinos in the Kruger National Park, click here.
  • Did you enjoy this article? Let us know! Do you want to Help Rhinos?

Written by Carina Crayton (Co-Founder #WHWF)

"No one in the world needs a Rhino horn but a Rhino"

Paul Oxton (Founder/CEO Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

 

 

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African Acacia Trees – Learn More!

Few trees are as iconic as the flat-topped Acacia on the plains of the African Savannah. On par with the Big 5, these trees instantly evoke nostalgia in those who know them, and will forever be associated with the African Safari.

What’s in a name?

The botanical names of African Acacia trees have been changed in the last decade, from ‘Acacia’ (such as Acacia karroo) to Vachellia (Vachellia karroo), and Senegalia. Despite wide-spread unhappiness in the world of Botany, the common name for these unique trees will always remain ‘Acacia’. As it should. Australian Acacias are still called Acacia spp. Collectively, these species (Acacia, Vachellia, and Senegalia) will still be known as Acacias as a common name. There are around 1000 species of Acacia worldwide, primarily in Australia and Africa.

The iconic, flat-topped African Acacia (Nyanga Flat - Top) is called Vachellia abyssinica.

The dome-shaped Vachellia erioloba, known as the Giraffe Thorn or Camel Thorn tree, is the most recognizable tree in the Kalahari desert, and occurs widely in the drier areas  in Southern Africa. It can grow up to grow up to 18 m tall and live up to 200 years. The tap root can grow up to 60 m, allowing it to access deep ground water sources and live in extremely dry climates.

A Deeper Meaning:

The Acacia is of spiritual significance in that it symbolizes regeneration, perseverance, and integrity. The evergreen nature of this tree denotes the immortality of the human spirit.

The ancient Egyptians made funeral wreathes of Acacia. They believe that Osiris was the first god to be born under the Acacia tree, and all others followed. The Hebrews planted a sprig of evergreen Acacia to mark the grave of a departed friend. Acacias are also mentioned in the Bible, with specific reference to the building of the tabernacle.

A Useful Tree:

Senegalia senegal (Gum Arabic Tree) found in Sudan and the northern Sahara, is the main source of gum arabic, which has been used for over 2,000 years in paints, watercolours, candy, medicines, calico printing, dyeing, and in the making of silk, paper, and cosmetics.

The various species of Acacia were used by early shipbuilders for its durable wood, and today many countries cultivate the trees. Along with the wood being used for furniture, flooring and even weapons and jewellery, the gum is used as an adhesive, for medicine, and even for chewing gum and desserts. Furthermore, the blossom can be used as flavouring, the seeds utilised in sauces and the tannin as a dye. And in Central America, the swollen thorns are made into beautiful necklaces.

In landscaping and gardening, Acacias are often used to control soil erosion in dry and damaged soils. They can be planted as protective hedges, creating shady areas for animals and to accommodate a variety of bird species for nest building areas. These hardy water-wise plants are perfect garden additions to areas where water may be scarce.

Sweet Thorn (Vachellia karroo): Edible gum seeping from cracks in the tree’s bark is important food for the Bushbaby’s winter diet. The tree is especially useful as food for domestic and wild animals, like goats. The flowers make a good source for honey bees, and honey from the Sweet Thorn has a pleasant taste.  The Sweet Thorn tree makes excellent firewood, and the wood is also used as fencing poles in making a kraal.  Traditionally the inside of the bark was used to make a tough rope with.

Masters of self-defence, employing bodyguards!

Almost all Acacia species have long, sharp thorns, which prevent (most) animals from eating their leaves. Some species grow thorns that are as long as 8-10cm, and sharp as a knife.

Stinging ants (bodyguards!) live inside hollowed-out thorns, which provide further discouragement. The trees have developed a symbiotic relationship with stinging ants who live in the thorns (which they hollow out and use as nesting sites) whilst feeding on the nectar of the tree’s flowers. If a big African mammal takes a bite of its leaves, the stinging ants see to it that the animal will certainly think twice before munching more!

Along with the production of thorns and the usual accompaniment of ants that nest in these trees, the African Acacia has developed an incredible early warning ‘alarm system’ to warn other trees when browsers such as the antelope are in the area. Wouter Van Hoven (a Zoologist from the University of Pretoria) has found that when the leaves of Acacias are nibbled, they produce high doses of tannin in their foliage, which may be lethal to browsers.

When the leaves begin to fill with poisonous tannins, they release ethylene gas, which drifts toward other acacias. In response, the nearby trees begin to manufacture poison themselves. Giraffes can eat as much as 29 kilograms of acacia leaves and twigs daily. Herds of three or more giraffes spend hours browsing in acacia thickets, so they pose a real threat to the survival of the trees if left to munch away. But all it takes is a few minutes for the neighbouring trees to step up their leaf tannin production to repel lurking browsers. The simultaneous tannin release by all nearby acacias essentially forces the giraffes to travel upwind to trees that have not yet received the panic alert.

There’s a reason they are dome-shaped or flat-topped:

Flat-topped crowns help trees to resist drying winds by allowing leaves to shelter each other, while the umbrella-dome shape of most African acacias enables the trees to capture the maximum amount of sunlight, with even the smallest of leaves. Because the African savannahs are regularly burnt, any tree that wants to survive fire has to cleverly adapt. Thick bark is a useful defense. Another sensible trait is to grow tall, quickly: trees that are above the 'fire trap' (2-3m tall) aren't burnt back to the roots by a fire and can re-sprout from the top. With limited resources and living in a place where fires are frequent, trees produce a single (or at most a few) stems and grow straight up, without branching out sideways. Once tall enough to escape the impact of fire, they’re free to branch sideways.

After branching out, even though moderately tall trees don't always escape giraffe browsing, a horizontal growth-form still protects the central branches. It's common to see Vachellia tortillis (Umbrella Thorn) that only grow large thorns on the outer tips of their branches, providing enough defence to protect inner branches. So, in a fire-dominated, browse-affected and unlimited light environment, the flat topped tree structure is perfectly designed!

It's so rare that a seedling survives both fire and being eaten, that mature trees tend to be at low density in savannahs. This explains why they are so memorable and often isolated on the sweeping landscapes and golden plains of grass. The next time you see one of these iconic trees, think back on what you’ve learnt here, how amazing Nature is, as you snap the perfect sunset photograph, with some giraffes strolling past a flat-topped Acacia!

Written by Carina Crayton BSc(Agric)HONS

Icon:
I stretch my arms wide
To catch the last of the light
Tomorrow the rains may come
another dry season will be done
If not, I’ll still be here
I’ll still allow majestic giraffes near
For a minute or two and then
My sweet poison will defend
For life, I will stand strong
on the golden plains where I belong
I’ll filter the dust
I must reach deep for water
Mother Earth and I – we’re one
Together we’ll fight the burning sun
In my shelter they’ll thrive
all that I keep alive
You will always remember me
I’m that African Acacia Tree
©Carina Crayton

 

 

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Fun Facts about Elephants

Did You Know?
#FunFacts about #Elephants!
🐘 A Baby Elephant weighs about 210 lbs (or 95kg) at birth.
🐘 Elephants are pregnant for almost two years! At 22 months, that is longer than any other animal.
🐘 Asian Elephants are bigger at birth, but African Elephants are bigger as Adults!
🐘 The typical lifespan of an Elephant is 70 years.
🐘 Up to 16 hours are spent foraging every day, but only 2-3 hours are spent sleeping.
🐘 With their trunks, they are able to determine the size, shape and even temperature of an object.
🐘 Elephants have an amazing sense of smell, but their eyesight isn’t that great. They can smell water from 12 miles away!
🐘 Ellies drink around 210 liters of water a day.
🐘 Have Mud, will Wallow! It's not just for playing - Elephants actually have very sensitive skin, so they use the mud and dust to protect it.
🐘 Some Scientists claim that besides humans, Elephants are the only mammals that have chins!
🐘 An Elephant has more than 100,000 muscles.
🐘 Elephants are afraid of bees, and bee-hive fences are successfully used to help protect human food crops from Ellies.
🐘 Elephant tusks are actually enlarged incisor teeth which first appear when elephants are around 2 years old. Tusks continue growing throughout their lives.
🐘 Their feet are sensitive underneath, and closely spaced pointed rocks are an excellent deterrent to protect vulnerable infrastructure and people against human wildlife conflict.
🐘 The ears of African Elephants are much larger than that of Indian Elephants and are shaped like the African continent.
🐘 Elephants communicate in several ways - including sounds like trumpet calls, body language, touch and scent. They can also communicate through seismic signals - sounds that create vibrations in the ground - which they may detect through their bones, and sensitive feet. Some of their sounds are too low in frequency for humans to hear.
🐘 No matter what size or shape, we absolutely LOVE Elephants, and believe that everyone should do their very best to protect them too!
🐾❤️🐾
Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is a registered Non-Profit Organization (147-339 NPO), and Public Benefit Organization (Reg. no. 930051372 , providing a Valuable Service as a support organization, rescuing wildlife where needed, and educating the public to foster a love for al things wild.
🐾❤️🐾
We LOVE what we do and how we do it, while we realize that we're in need of ongoing support from Corporate Sponsors, Monthly EFT donations, recurring PayPal, Payfast (Credit and Debit Cards accepted) and MySchool support (South Africa only).
Legacy bequeathments would make a world of difference too, and would enable us to expand and do even more good!
🐾❤️🐾

Written by Carina Crayton (Co-Founder WHWF)

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Draft Policy on Lion, Leopard, Rhino and Elephant Released

BREAKING NEWS - Draft Policy on Iconic Species Management Released

The South African Government (Minister Barbara Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment - DFFE) has released the Draft Policy Document for the Conservation and Management of Lion, Leopard, Rhino and Elephant. (Full PDF document available for Download here:  Iconic Species Management)
This Draft addresses the Government's critically important position on ending the Captive Breeding of Lions in South Africa, but also includes blanket proposals with regards to Wildlife Welfare, the hunting of Wild Leopards, the Captive breeding of Rhinos for Profit, as well as the export of the iconic (Big) 5 species for the purposes of captive displays.
The entire policy document has been compiled upon the recommendations of the recent findings of the HLP (High Level Panel) enquiry into these practices.
As an Organization, Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation supports, among others, the following aspects of the Policy:
1. The immediate ban on captive lion breeding, and the closure of these facilities.
2. The ban on the export of iconic species into a life of captivity.
3. Increased awareness and practical improvement of the welfare of all wildlife.
4. Focus on decreasing captive and unnatural breeding of all iconic species, including Rhino.
5. Measures to increasingly re-wild and naturalize areas to the benefit of all people living with wildlife, all citizens of South Africa, and all Wildlife contained within our borders.
6. The One Welfare approach (as encompassed in point 5).
Included in our formal response to this draft policy, #WHWF will include our concerns over the fate of the thousands of lions currently held in captive breeding facilities.
This document is open for public comment, and it is critically important that we submit as many comments as possible. Please comment by emailing your support or concerns through to:
Contact person: Dr Kiruben Naicker
Email: knaicker@environment.gov.za
Deadline: Tuesday 27th July 2021

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Duiker Rescue

Freedom for a Rescued Duiker

Illegal Wildlife Trade and Keeping - an injustice to our Wildlife:

The Illegal Wildlife Trade is carrying on right under our noses. In South Africa it is illegal to keep a wild animal without a permit. Especially in semi-urban areas (such as on small-holdings) it is becoming a real problem, because only a handful of these animals ever get the chance at freedom. Many plot (smallholding) owners think it is normal to have a wild animal like a Duiker, Tortoise or Meerkat as a pet. It normally results in tragedy for the animals, and is doing the greatest injustice to the Wild animals we are supposed to respect and protect. Dezzi was lucky. He got out.

Freedom is just beyond the crate!

*Dezzi was rescued from the illegal #WildlifeTrade on Social Media. He doesn't realize it yet, but his life is about to become magical - just like Nature intended. Read on for the story!
This is the unforgettable moment when we set #DezziTheDuiker free into his new #Wild #ForeverHome.

Releasing Dezzi The Duiker into his new forever free home ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

#DezziTheDuiker, Rescued & Released back to the Wild.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation was called in to confiscate a 2-year old Duiker Ram that was illegally kept and advertised for sale on Social Media.
The Duiker had become aggressive - as so often happens when wild animals outgrow their 'cuteness'.
Two site visits later, and many hundreds of kilometers driven, we finally arrived at the site to complete the rescue. Dezzi was darted (sedated) before loading. Dr. Van Niekerk, our vet, also administered antibiotics and a booster shot.
A couple of health stops later, we arrived at his new home.
He was released in the first camp; to be released into the rest of the 1500ha reserve once he could find adequate food. At first, he was uncomfortable with the long veld grass against his flanks - he had only ever walked on mowed lawn. He seemed entranced by the smell of shrubs and dust, and the rocky outcrop underneath his tiny, perfect hooves. It was fascinating to watch him explore the veld inside the holding camp. We hope he'll choose his new lady love soon, from two female Duikers here.
Instinct is a strong force, though, and it was activated only a few minutes after he left the crate. He surveyed his new domain carefully, taking in the smells and the feelings, checking out the boundaries of his camp. Then he bounded over the long grass, testing out his little hooves and legs built for just that.
Two weeks after the release, we have the following update: "Dezzi has been released into the main Reserve. Dezzi is truly at home. No longer needing the supplementary feed left out for him, he only returns like a phantom, to patrol his domain. He only leaves spoor (tracks) now, and is loving his new life."

Watch the Video here:

Dezzi is free, finally.
Go well, Dezzi, live your life free and wild.
Thank you to our kind donors who made this rescue possible.
*In South Africa it is illegal to keep a wild animal without a permit. Don't be that person.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If anyone is in a position to donate towards our continued mission to help wildlife in need, we would be sincerely grateful. We love to help animals whenever possible, but in order to continue our life-saving work, we need the support of the public.
There are several options for you to support us below:
❤ South Africans can also EFT here:
FNB / Cheque Account
Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
Account number - 62518554101
Branch Code - 250-655
❤ All donations, no matter the amount, are desperately needed and will be greatly appreciated ❤
WHWF is a registered NPO Reg:147-339 and
Public Beneficiary Organisation Reg: 930051372

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Southern Africa’s Ivory

The values of Zimbabwe’s and Namibia’s ivory stockpiles have been grossly overstated, and their proposed sale would lead to another poaching epidemic.

Last year the world reacted in shock when Namibia announced plans to auction off 170 live elephants to the highest bidder.

Despite criticism, the plans have continued to move forward — and that may just be the start. Tucked away in a Feb. 1 press release justifying the auction was a rehash of the country’s oft-repeated desire to also sell ivory. The Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism’s stated:

Namibia has major stockpiles of valuable wildlife products including ivory which it can produce sustainably and regulate properly, and which if traded internationally could support our elephant conservation and management for decades to come.”

Namibia is not alone in this desire to capitalize on its wildlife. In Zimbabwe’s national assembly last year, the minister of environment valued the country’s stockpile of 130 metric tonnes (143 tons) of ivory and 5 tonnes (5.5 tons) of rhino horn at $600 million in U.S. dollars. This figure, which would value ivory at more than $4,200 per kilogram, has since been seized upon by commentators seeking to justify the reintroduction of the ivory trade.

I’m an environmental accountant dedicated to ethical conservation, so I wanted to understand these numbers and how they motivate countries. In truth, I found not even full black-market value comes close to arriving at this figure.

Black-market values are, of course, often invisible to the general public, but the most recent data from criminal justice experts finds that unworked (or raw) elephant ivory sells for about $92/kg on the black market in Africa, while rhino horn is currently selling for $8,683/kg.

Therefore, a more realistic valuation of Zimbabwe’s ivory stockpiles, using an optimistic wholesale price of $150/kg, would give a potential income of only $19.5 million in U.S. dollars.

This is a 30th of Zimbabwe’s estimate.

And even then, those numbers fail to account for the disaster that would happen if ivory sales return — as we saw in the all-too-recent past.

The One-Off Sales

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, following a 10-year period in which African elephant numbers declined by 50%, from 1.3 million to 600,000. However, in 1999 and 2008 CITES allowed “one-off sales” of stockpiled ivory, to disastrous effect. The selling prices achieved then were only $100/kg and $157/kg, in U.S. dollars respectively, due to collusion by official Chinese and Japanese buyers.

Photo: Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The intention of CITES in approving the one-off ivory sales was to introduce a controlled and steady supply of stockpiled ivory into the market. The legal supply, coupled with effective systems of control, aimed to satisfy demand and reduce prices. This in turn should have reduced the profitability of (and the demand for) illegal ivory. Poaching should have followed suit and decreased.

Instead, the sales led to an increase in demand and, consequently, an increase in elephant poaching. The 2008 ivory sale was accompanied by a 66% increase in illegally traded ivory and a 71% increase in ivory smuggling. An investigation in 2010 by the Environmental Investigation Agency documented that 90% of the ivory being sold in China came from illegal sources.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comparison of elephant poaching figures for the five years preceding and five years following the sale showed an “abrupt, significant, permanent, robust and geographically widespread increase” in poaching.

The problem has not faded away. Most recently the two African elephant species (savanna and forest) were declared endangered and critically endangered due to their continued poaching threat.

Illegal ivory. Photo: Gavin Shire / USFWS

Still, some African nations look fondly at the 2008 sale and have long hoped to repeat it. The Zimbabwe Ministry’s 2020 statement follows yet another proposal to the 18th CITES Conference of the Parties (COP18) by Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to trade in live elephants and their body parts, including ivory. The proposal was not accepted by the parties.

Why Didn’t Ivory Sales Work?

The one-off sales of ivory removed the stigma associated with its purchase, stimulated the market demand, and increased prices.

The ivory that China purchased in 2008 for $157/kg was drip-fed by the authorities to traders at prices ranging between $800 and $1,500 per kilogram. This meant that the bulk of the profits went to filling Chinese government coffers — not to African nations — and in doing so, created a large illegal market which drove prices even higher.

Raw ivory prices in China increased from $750/kg in 2010 to $2,100/kg in 2014. The market had been stimulated, prices increased and the volume of legal ivory available was insufficient to meet demand as the Chinese government gradually fed its stockpile into the market.

Japan, the other participant in the one-off sales, has systematically failed to comply with CITES regulations, meaning that there were (and still are) no controls over ivory being sold,  allowing the illegal markets to function in parallel to the legal one.

In a very short space of time, criminals ramped up poaching and elephant numbers plummeted.

What Has Happened to the Price of Ivory Since Then?

With no recent legal international sales, combined with the significant U.S., Chinese and United Kingdom domestic ivory sales bans, the price for raw ivory paid by craftsmen in China fell from $2,100/kg in 2014 to $730/kg in 2017. That’s when China closed all of its official ivory carving outlets and theoretically stopped all official ivory trade.

The price currently paid for raw ivory in Asia, according to an investigation by the Wildlife Justice Commission, is currently between $597/kg and $689/kg, in U.S. dollars. Ivory sourced in Africa and sold in Asia has additional costs such as transportation, taxes and broker commissions. The prices paid for raw ivory in Africa have decreased correspondingly from $208/kg to $92/kg in 2020.

Those numbers pale in comparison to a living elephant. A 2014 study found that live elephants are each worth an estimated $1.6 million in ecotourism opportunities.

Funding Conservation

One half-truth is that the money earned from the legal sale will be used to effectively fund conservation.

One of the CITES conditions of the 2008 sale was that funds were to go to the conservation of elephants. South Africa placed a substantial portion of the income from its share of the pie in the Mpumalanga Problem Animal Fund — which, it turns out, was well-named. An internal investigation found the fund had “no proper controls” and that “tens of millions” of rand (the official currency of South Africa) had bypassed the normal procurement processes.

Ironically, proceeds were also partly used for the refurbishment of the Skukuza abattoir, where most of the 14,629 elephant carcasses from culling operations between 1967 and 1997 were processed.

All the while, Africa’s elephant populations continued to decline.

How to Stop Poaching

In light of these deficiencies — and in light of elephants’ recently declared endangered status — the very reverse of actual conservation can be expected if any nation is again allowed to sell its ivory stockpiles. The cost of increased anti-poaching efforts required from the consequent increase in poaching will outweigh the benefit of any income from the sale of ivory stockpiles.

To stop poaching, all international and local trade must be stopped.

Photo: Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Repeating this failed experiment will send a message that it is acceptable to trade in ivory. Ivory carving outlets in China will re-open and demand for ivory will be stimulated. The demand for ivory in an increasingly wealthy and better-connected Asia will quickly outstrip legal supply and poaching will increase.

Meanwhile, the management of a legal ivory trade requires strong systems of control at every point in the commodity chain to ensure that illegal ivory is not laundered into the legal market. With recalcitrant Japan continuing to ignore CITES, “untransparent” Namibia “losing tolerance” with CITES, and Zimbabwe ranking 157 out of 179 on the corruption perceptions index, not even the basics for controlled trade are in place.

Therefore, aside from the strong theoretical economic arguments against renewed one-off sales, the practical arguments are perhaps even stronger: If international ivory and rhino horn sales ever again become legal, the cost to protect elephants will skyrocket and these culturally valuable animals will plunge into decline — and possibly extinction.

By Charan Saunders (Conservation Action Trust)

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Captive Bred Lions

Breaking News: Captive Lion Breeding to be Cancelled

Landmark Move to End Captive Lion Breeding:

In an unprecedented move, Minister Barbara Creecy revealed that the Captive Lion Breeding Industry will be shut down. Minister Creecy's delivered her Statement in response to a 582-page High Level Report. This document originates from the work of a Panel of Experts. It scrutinizes the Wildlife Management of certain high-interest sectors, such as Lions, Leopards, Elephants and Rhinos.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation welcomes the move to phase out Captive Lion Breeding:

Habitat-loss and diminishing numbers continue to plague Wild Lions - one of South Africa's most iconic species. Despite widespread  greenwashing, the captive breeding industry does nothing to alleviate their plight. #WHWF welcomes the proposed phasing out of Captive Lion Breeding. We trust that as a result, better protection will be enforced for the Wild Lions. We need to protect the Wild Lions remaining in South Africa, at all costs.

"While we understand that it will take time to phase out the Industry, we are overjoyed at the prospect of Captive Lion Breeding being outlawed and cancelled completely" said Paul Oxton, Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

© Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The Captive Lion Breeding Industry has been the thorn in the side of many a Conservationist for at least 3 decades. An industry that generates so much money for the breeders and exploiters, that it seemed impossible to rectify from a purely economical standpoint.

"This shameful exploitative industry has been supplying never-ending streams of lion cubs to pet, feed, and walk - to unsuspecting Tourists falling into this deceitful trap of greed", Said Carina Crayton (aka CJ Carrington), Co-Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

Only in the past twelve years or so have people been awakened to the fact that these cute cubs they are petting, end up in a trophy hunt when their usefulness has expired. Their bones, teeth, claws and skin get sold as replacement for tiger parts in tiger bone wine in Asia.

With one lion being able to generate as much as ZAR 2 million for its owner over its lifetime, the math soon amounts to mind-boggling numbers.

Shocking numbers: Around 2300 Wild Lions remain in South Africa, and they do not benefit one iota from the vile breeding industry. An estimated 10 000 to 12 000 Captive-bred Lions are kept on around 800 Breeding Farms in South Africa. They will all be influenced by move to end captive breeding. It is simply not be possible to rescue, relocate or find homes in sanctuaries for even a small fraction of these lions. Captive bred Lions can never be released, so the phasing out of this practice comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas. When the owners can no longer make ridiculous amounts of money from these lions, they will have no incentive to care for them. These lions are often kept in the most appalling conditions, and merely used as cub-mills. This should not be our legacy, as South Africans. It should never have been allowed to get out of control.

©Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Minister Creecy stated: “The Panel identified that the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade. The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive-breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially. I have requested the department to action this accordingly and ensure that the necessary consultation in implementation is conducted.”

© Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Maybe, in the near future, this decision will restore the image of the magnificent Lion to what it should be - The King of the Savannah. Hopefully, as a nation, we will learn to once again respect, admire and protect this unique symbol of true Wilderness.

"Perhaps, once this stain has been removed from our Wildlife Industry, we will once again get goosebumps at hearing the roar of Wild Lions through the dense African bush" ~ #WHWF

© CJ Carrington (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The full 582 page report is available here: Lion et al Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling

Minister Creecy's Full Statement can be viewed here: Minister Creecy's Statement - Report from High-Level Panel

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