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.
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.
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.
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.
"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)
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.
The Rapid Slide into Extinction:
"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."
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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)
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
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
Written by Carina Crayton (Co-Founder WHWF)
BREAKING NEWS - Draft Policy on Iconic Species Management Released
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
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!
#DezziTheDuiker, Rescued & Released back to the Wild.
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.
Watch the Video here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)