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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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
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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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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Captive Lion Breeding Damages SA’s Tourism Reputation

SA’s government is ignoring red flags that the captive Lion industry is damaging the country’s reputation

Despite overwhelming worldwide opposition, including a parliamentary resolution to close down the captive lion breeding industry, SA’s government is ignoring red flags that the industry is damaging the country’s reputation and deliberating a 2020 annual trade quota for the export of lion bones.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) said in April that the decision for a lion bone quota has been deferred to later this year. It claims that public opposition and a 2019 court case between the minister and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), who say breeding and trade in captive bred lion parts raises significant welfare issues, delayed determining last year’s export quota.

Wildlife trade experts say the legal trade in lion bones which is used for medicinal purposes in Southeast Asia, is fuelling an illegal market.

They say that the permit system is weak and creates loopholes for illegal wildlife trafficking, which is further impacting on wildlife conservation. An estimated 12000 captive lions exist in South Africa, while no more than 10 000 wild lions roam the continent. More than 6000 lion skeletons have been exported from South Africa since 2008.

©Paul Oxton / Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

According to department, the decision will be based on the recommendations by a panel, mandated to review policies, legislation and practices on matters related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of four iconic species, including lions.

The panel is required to provide recommendations to the minister by the end of this month. But this comes after a 2018 parliamentary committee recommended that the captive lion breeding and lion bone trade industry be closed and a High Court judgement that previous annual export lion skeleton quotas were illegal because they ignored animal welfare.

“Should DEFF issue a lion bone quota now, no matter the stockpiles that are accumulating on lion breeding farms, it will send a very clear signal that the voice of public opinion, scientific reason, and of legal judgement has been ignored and that only money and no doubt corruption matters on the issue of lion bones and captive breeding,” says Paul Funston, lion species director at Panthera, an organisation exclusively devoted  to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their landscapes.

With international criticism, reports highlighting animal cruelty and the lack of conservation value, conservationists are questioning the minister’s motivation in considering a trade in lion bones which supports the continuation of the captive lion industry.

They say she is wasting resources when the writing is on the wall that the industry should be closed down.

“The lion breeding industry is making a few lion breeders a lot of money, but is costing Brand South Africa billions,” says Colin Bell, wildlife conservationists and founder of Wilderness Safaris.

“Not only is this industry barbaric, it is terrible for Brand South Africa and has cost South Africa many millions – even billions in lost tourist arrivals, revenues and jobs when tourists elect to rather travel elsewhere.”

©Paul Oxton / Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, over R400bn is generated by South Africa’s travel and tourism industry. This is compared to the captive lion breeding industry which supports little more than 1000 jobs.

The department claims welfare will be considered in determining this year’s quota with the engagement of welfare experts. But there are no welfare authorities sitting on the panel HLP.

The only welfare specialist on the panel, Karen Trendler, resigned and the NSPCA which received a late invite, declined membership, for reasons it won’t divulge.

Others, including the Humane Society Africa and environmental lawyer, Cormac Cullinan, also declined membership stating the panel was weighted with parties invested in the commercial use of wildlife and wildlife body parts and had no interest in welfare.

Despite the existence of animal welfare legislation in South Africa, it lacks adequate representation and enforcement. While the department is mandated to oversee biodiversity conservation, animal welfare falls under the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which in turn routinely passes the buck to the NSPCA, a non-government body tasked with enforcing the Animal Protection Act, but which receives no state funding.

With limited welfare enforcement, over 450 breeding facilities capitalise, unhindered, on breeding lions for hunting and trade. Many of these facilities pose as lion conservation centres or sanctuaries but on closer inspection are more akin to lion factories.

Lion conservation experts say breeding lions in captivity has no conservation value. In a statement, the Endangered Wildlife Trust says: “The captive keeping and breeding of large carnivores does not contribute to carnivore conservation in South Africa.

“There are nationally and internationally recognised conservation plans for cheetahs, lions, wild dogs and leopards and none of them identify captive breeding as a required conservation action.”

Recently, studies have shown that lion breeding farms are a “hotbed” for zoonotic diseases.

report says captive lions carry a range of harmful pathogens, including Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

With many lion farms offering cub petting and walking, these facilities are posing a real threat to tourists and staff.

By Melissa Reitz 

Vanishing Giants – KNP Rhinos headed for Extinction

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New Gate for Kruger National Park

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Rhino Numbers in Kruger National Park to dip below 3000

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Fun facts about Rhinos Learn about Rhinos here

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Southern Africa’s Ivory

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