Good wildlife news from Mozambique

This 17 December 2018 video about Mozambique says about itself:

How Wildlife Bounced Back After Civil War [in which the South African then apartheid government sponsored right-wing violence] | National Geographic

The most recent census shows that wildlife populations in Gorongosa National Park have rebounded dramatically in the last few years.

Large herbivore populations can substantially recover after war-induced declines, given that protected area management is provided, according to a study published March 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Marc Stalmans of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, and colleagues. But the community structure may take longer to restore, as the rate of recovery varies for different populations: here.

War wrecked an African ecosystem. Ecologists are trying to restore it. Predators and prey roam Gorongosa in Mozambique once again, but there’s still a long way to go. By Jeremy Rehm, 8:00am, May 5, 2019.

Mozambique killifish, live fast, die young

This video says about itself:

Rain puddles provide an impromptu spot for killifish breeding | Science News

6 August 2018

Frantic, doomed turquoise killifish race to get the next generation going before their temporary puddle dries up. Eggs just a millimeter in diameter can survive long dry spells in a state of arrested development encased in dry mud before rains fill puddles again and the frenzy starts over.

Read more here.

Video: M. Reichard

From ScienceDaily:

African killifish becomes fastest maturing vertebrate on record

August 6, 2018

Summary: For most of the year, annual killifish persist as diapausing embryos buried in sediments across the African savannah. When rainwater fills small depressions across the landscape, the fish must hatch, grow, mature, and produce the next generation before the pool dries up. Researchers have found that these small fish condense their life cycle even more in the wild than expected based on studies in the lab.

Annual killifish are known to live their lives at one of two speeds: “pause” or “fast-forward”. For most of the year, the tiny freshwater fish persist as diapausing embryos buried in sediments across the African savannah, much like plant seeds. When rainwater fills small depressions across the landscape, the fish must hatch, grow, mature, and produce the next generation before the pool dries up.

Now, researchers reporting on August 6 in Current Biology have found that these small fish in the wild persist by condensing their life cycle even more than expected based on studies in the lab. The new studies show that, after hatching from a tiny egg just one millimeter in size, the fish grow to their full body size (four or five centimeters) and begin reproducing in just two weeks. The researchers report that this is, to their knowledge, “the fastest rate of sexual maturation recorded for a vertebrate.”

“We guessed that some populations of this species could achieve very rapid growth and sexual maturation under particular conditions”, says Martin Reichard of the Institute of Vertebrate Biology, The Czech Academy of Sciences. “But we have found that this rapid maturation is the norm rather than a rare exception.”

The findings also show that the fishes’ lifespan is quite flexible. Reichard says that the typical rate in the lab is three or four weeks under optimal conditions. However, some studies have reported that the fish reach sexual maturity in up to 10 weeks — five times longer than what the researchers have now observed in the wild.

Reichard’s lab is primarily interested in the aging process in wild populations. In most vertebrates, aging happens gradually, taking years to achieve. By studying the killifish, they’re able to capture the whole process, following several populations over the course of their whole life in a matter of months. In that short time, the fish show all the signs expected with normal aging, including marked functional declines.

Reichard’s team made their discoveries by surveying natural populations of the killifish (Nothobranchius furzeri) across its range in southern Mozambique between January and May 2016. They collected the fish from eight separate pools within a period of three weeks after the pools first filled with rainwater. By comparing the timing of the pools’ filling and the estimated age of the fish, they determined that the fish hatched within three days of rain. Careful analysis of male and female gonads found that individuals of both sexes were fully mature within 14 or 15 days.

The findings are yet another reminder of how little we know about the diversity of life histories in the wild, Reichard says. His team will continue to analyze the aging patterns in these ephemeral populations. They also hope to explore differences seen within populations, including the reasons why killifish males tend to die sooner than females.

Largest colony of olive ridley turtles discovered in Gabon

This video says about itself:

28 July 2010

An Olive Ridley Turtle lays eggs on a moonlit night at Rushikuliya beach in Orissa, India. Feel privileged to view this rare insight into the private life of the Ridley Turtle!

The Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific Ridley, is one of the smallest species of sea turtle. It is named for the olive-green color of its heart-shaped shell. Costa Rica is the one of the most important nesting sites. Ostional Beach in Guanacaste Province has the highest monthly concentration of these turtles. The “arribadas”—mass arrival and nesting—occur every month. October and November features the highest nesting rates (approximately 200 turtles per hour).

‘This clip of professionally-shot broadcast stock footage belongs to the archive of Wilderness Films India Ltd., and has been filmed on either Digital Betacam or 1080i HD.

From Wildlife Extra:

The Atlantic’s largest turtle breeding colony has been discovered

The central African country Gabon is providing an invaluable nesting ground for a vulnerable species of sea turtle considered a regional conservation priority say scientists from the University of Exeter

The scientists surveyed almost 600 km of Gabon’s coastline and uncovered the largest breeding colony of olive ridley turtles in the Atlantic. The results suggest that Gabon hosts the most important rookery for this species in the Atlantic, with estimates indicating that there could be up to 9,800 turtle nests per year compared with around 3,300 in French Guiana and 3,000 in Brazil.

Olive ridley turtles are one of the smallest of the sea turtles and are named for the greenish colour of their shell and skin. Although considered the most abundant of the marine turtles, there has been a net decline in the global numbers of the species, such that they are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Although a considerable proportion of nesting occurs within protected areas in Gabon, a range of illegal activities and external pressures continue to exist highlighting the need for continued conservation efforts.

Dr Kristian Metcalfe, lead author from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) at the University of Exeter said: “Conservation efforts for sea turtles can be hampered by their migratory life cycles, which carry them across jurisdictional boundaries and international waters. That makes this first population assessment which covered extensive areas of Gabon’s coast outside of monitored regions all the more valuable and worthwhile, and demonstrates the importance of focusing beyond intensively monitored beaches”.

The data generated as part of this study was used to inform the development of a new network of marine protected areas covering nearly a quarter of Gabon’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Even after long years of nesting monitoring, there are still things that surprise us all. For the first time on Vamizi Island in Mozambique, on the turtle monitoring project that started over 10 years ago, four albino green turtle hatchlings were found on the island’s most successful nesting beach, two of which were still alive. What was even more interesting about these hatchlings, was their red eyes (lack of pigmentation), a common consequence of albinism: here.

Drowned Mozambican slaves honoured in South Africa

This video from the USA says about itself:

Smithsonian Museum Set to Receive Sunken Slave Ship Artifacts

31 May 2015

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will display objects from a slave ship that sank off the coast of Cape Town in 1794.

The artifacts were retrieved this year from the wreck site of a Portuguese slave ship that sank on its way to Brazil while carrying more than 400 enslaved Africans from Mozambique.

Objects recovered from the ship, called the São José-Paquete de Africa, include iron ballasts used to weigh the ship down and copper fastenings that held the structure of the ship together.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the director of the African American history museum, said in a statement that the ship “represents one of the earliest attempts to bring East Africans into the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is currently under construction in Washington and scheduled to be completed in the fall.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

South Africa beach service to honour slaves drowned in 1794 shipwreck

Ceremony to be held on Clifton beach, Cape Town, near recently discovered wreck site of Portuguese ship that sank, leading to the loss of 212 slaves’ lives

David Smith, Africa correspondent

Monday 1 June 2015 18.03 BST

A small, solemn memorial service will be held on one of South Africa’s most popular beaches on Tuesday, close to a recently discovered shipwreck where more than 200 African slaves drowned at the bottom of the sea.

The Portuguese ship, the São José-Paquete de Africa, was sailing from Mozambique to Brazil when it sank in turbulent waters near Cape Town in December 1794. Researchers say it is the first time that the remains of a slavers’ ship that went down with its human cargo on board has been identified.

Albie Sachs, a former constitutional court judge, will give a speech welcoming diplomats, activists and community leaders at the ceremony on Clifton beach, near the wreck site. “It’s profound and terrible to feel this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world and within such a short distance lie the bodies of 200 slaves who died there,” the 80-year-old said on Monday.

“Presumably they were still in shackles or they could have swum to shore. This has been an untold story that has repercussions and reverberations for us today. Somehow their memories survive even though they’re not in the history books.”

The São José was making one of the earliest voyages of the transatlantic slave trade from east Africa to the Americas, which persisted well into the 19th century. More than 400,000 east Africans, shackled in ships’ holds, are estimated to have made the four-month, 7,000-mile journey from Mozambique to the sugar plantations of Brazil between 1800 and 1865.

The São José had only been sailing for 24 days when, tossed by strong winds in view of Lion’s Head mountain, it was smashed on submerged rocks 100 metres from shore. An estimated 212 slaves perished. About 300 survived and were resold into slavery in the Cape. The Portuguese captain, Manuel João, and his crew were also rescued.

The wreck lay undisturbed for nearly 200 years but was found in the mid-1980s by local amateur treasure-hunters who misidentified it as the remains of an earlier Dutch vessel. But in 2011 Jaco Boshoff, a maritime archaeologist, discovered the captain’s account of the wrecking of the São José in local archives. Those on board “made ropes and baskets and continuing like this were able to save some men and slaves until five in the evening, when the ship broke to pieces”, it recorded.

Evidence steadily built. Copper fastenings and copper sheathing indicated a wreck of a later period, and there was also iron ballast – often found on slave ships as a means of counterbalancing the variable weights of their human cargo. The Slave Wrecks Project, an international collaboration, found an archival document in Portugal stating that the Saõ José had loaded 1,500 iron bars as ballast before she departed for Mozambique.

Further research located a document in which a slave was noted as sold by a local sheikh to the captain of the Saõ José prior to its departure, definitively identifying Mozambique Island as the port of departure for the slaving voyage.

Objects retrieved from the ship this year include fragile remnants of shackles, iron ballast to weigh down the ship and its human cargo, copper fastenings and a wooden pulley block. There has been no trace of human remains.

Boshoff, co-originator of the Slave Wrecks Project and principal archaeological investigator on the Saõ José excavation, said: “The more information we get the better. The memorial service will be a bit more emotional, but when we start work again we’ll have to dial back the emotion.”

He added: “Every day there are discoveries made but, in the history of the slave trade, this one is important. It’s the first time we’ve been able to look at a ship that sank with slaves still on board.”

The wreck site is located between two reefs and is prone to strong swells, making conditions difficult for archaeologists. So far only a small percentage has been excavated. “There is a lot to do,” Boshoff said. “We haven’t scratched the surface. It’s a wide-ranging project and I’m fortunate it’s on my doorstep.”

A public symposium, called Bringing the São José Into Memory, will be held in Cape Town on Wednesday. Some of the recovered objects are to be displayed on long-term loan at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum, who is due to attend Tuesday’s event, said: “Perhaps the single greatest symbol of the transatlantic slave trade is the ships that carried millions of captive Africans across the Atlantic never to return.

“This discovery is significant because there has never been archaeological documentation of a vessel that foundered and was lost while carrying a cargo of enslaved persons. The São José is all the more significant because it represents one of the earliest attempts to bring east Africans into the transatlantic slave trade – a shift that played a major role in prolonging that tragic trade for decades.

“Locating, documenting and preserving this cultural heritage through the São José has the potential to reshape our understandings of a part of history that has been considered unknowable.”

Plans for divers from Mozambique, South Africa and the US to deposit soil from Mozambique Island, the site of the Saõ José’s embarkation, on the wreck site has been abandoned due to Cape Town’s volatile winter weather and high tides.

For Sachs, an anti-apartheid activist who lost an arm and the sight in one eye in a bombing in Mozambique while in exile in the 1980s, the international flavour of the day will be important. “There is a wonderful cooperation between the Smithsonian and the Iziko Museums of South Africa. People are diving together and compiling the information together. This is a beautiful example of present-day globalisation recovering an example of terrible globalisation from the 18th century.

“It’s a healing to have people getting together to memorialise the dead. I was nearly killed by a car bomb planted by South African agents in Mozambique. Mozambicans saved my life. Here South Africans are honouring colleagues from Mozambique for this commemoration.”

Mozambique reef sharks, new research

This video says about itself:

23 May 2014

In this new Shark Academy, Jonathan Bird explores the Gray Reef Shark, a small feisty shark that is one of the most common in the tropical Pacific. It’s also the species most well known for agonistic displays.

From Wildlife Extra:

New tagging scheme in Mozambique to study endangered grey reef sharks

Grey reef sharks appear to congregate around Vamizi Island to reproduce

Vamizi Island in Mozambique is launching a shark-tagging project to learn more about grey reef sharks.

This endangered species on the IUCN Red List is often seen on Vamizi’s reefs and is an important indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.

In September 2014, a group of scientists will travel to Vamizi to assist freediving world record holder and IUCN Oceans Ambassador, William Winram, as he dives to fit satellite tags to 10 sharks.

Photographer and film-maker Mattias Klum will capture footage of the event to feature in a film he is producing on the marine eco-system that surrounds Vamizi.

In October, a further 20 sharks will be fitted with acoustic tags by marine scientists. The object of the project is to understand the sharks’ movements and breeding habits, providing invaluable information in the bid to protect them.

The grey reef shark tagging project is one of the first initiatives to be launched under a new partnership between Vamizi and the IUCN.

Large aggregations of up to 30 grey reef sharks have been witnessed between July and November at sites such as the Neptune’s Arm dive site.

All the sharks are mature females, suggesting that these aggregations may have something to do with reproduction.

This Vamizi aggregation is one of the very few known along the East Africa Coast, where shark populations are severely threatened.

By collecting data from tags fitted, the Vamizi-IUCN team will begin gathering the knowledge about their patterns of behaviour, feeding and reproduction that is needed to develop a strategy to protect them.

Known as the Vamizi ‘Big Five’ on the island, the grey reef shark, green turtle, giant grouper, bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse, all feature on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered species, and take refuge in Vamizi’s waters to feed and reproduce.

From early 2015, the project will be rolled out across several more of the most endangered species, including the populations of marine … hawksbill turtles that are frequent visitors to Vamizi’s reefs.

Four new chameleon species discovered in Mozambique

This video is called BBC World news documentary on the discovery of new species of chameleon on Mount Mabu – northern Mozambique.

From Wildlife Extra:

Four new species of chameleon discovered in Mozambique

Four new species of pygmy chameleon have been discovered in Mozambique’s sky islands. These are isolated mountains found in the north of the country that all feature pockets of rainforest, which have been separated for many thousands of years.

The researchers focused on four mountains and found a different species of chameleon at each; Rhampholeon nebulauctor (Mt Chiperone) , Rhampholeon tilburyi (Mt Namuli), Rhampholeon bruessoworum (Mt Inago) and Rampholeon maspictus (Mt Mabu).

Rhampholeon is a genus of small chameleons, commonly known as pygmy chameleons or African leaf chameleons, found in central East Africa. They are found in forests, woodlands, thickets, and savanna, and most species are restricted to highlands.

Expedition organiser Dr Julian Bayliss, from Fauna & Flora International said: “The biodiversity of the high altitude mountains of northern Mozambique is only starting to be explored and we are finding many new species from most taxonomic groups. This is just the start, and we expect many more new discoveries in the future.”

Chameleon crisis: extinction threatens 36% of world’s chameleons: here.

Why chameleons change colour: here.

One of Africa’s last remaining wilderness areas is in good shape and could potentially support 50,000 elephants and 1000 lions, a study has found. Niassa National Reserve is Mozambique’s largest protected area and has large populations of threatened species, but it’s one of the least biologically explored places on Earth: here.

Dutch king destroying Greek environment?

The Dutch king's mansion in Greece

Translated from Dutch NOS TV in Greece:

Greek party criticizes king’s villa

Friday 20 May 2014, 13:47 (Update: 20-06-14, 13:59)

By our correspondent Conny Keessen

The radical left-wing opposition party SYRIZA contests the legality of the construction of a jetty and other activities on the beach in front of the summer residence of [Dutch] King Willem-Alexander. MPs of the party have questioned five Greek ministers about this.

The ministers have put their names to a document, in which Willem-Alexander was granted permission to build. According to the government’s decision, the work is in the public interest and helps public safety.

Do not build

The MPs of SYRIZA ask what public interest is involved, since the villa of the king is private property. According to the Greek Constitution, everyone should have access to beaches and people cannot just build on them.

Already a local action group has protested against the construction work at the beach, which is under the rock on which the summer residence of the royal couple stands.

Sell ​​beaches

The issue is particularly sensitive in Greece due to a government plan to start exploiting beaches. The Athens government already has prepared a bill making it possible to build hotels, villas and restaurants on beaches. Some beaches also could be sold.

When this plan was announced, there were many protests; more than 130,000 people from Greece and abroad put their signatures to petitions against the bill. Environmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace say the plan will cause irreparable damage to the coast and the beaches.

With all the commotion the debate on the bill was postponed, two weeks before the European elections. Opposition party SYRIZA thinks that the bill, with some modifications, will be presented again this summer, It is still unknown when that will happen.

The villa is in Kranidi.

This is not the first time King Willem Alexander is involved in such a case. About five years ago, when still crown prince, he had a similar issue with his mansion in Mozambique.

From the (Conservative) Daily Telegraph in Britain in 2009:

Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange and the future Dutch King, has been accused of “behaving like a spoiled child” over plans to build a luxury villa in impoverished Mozambique

From the (conservative) Daily Mail in Britain, 21 June 2014:

Your bill to refurbish Kate’s palace is now £4MILLION: New kitchen, nursery and several bathrooms quadruples the cost

Cost of Kensington Palace refurbishment soared by £3million in past year
Vast project has seen Princess Margaret’s former home transformed
Includes new kitchen, bathrooms and nursery for Prince George

Protect beautiful Mozambique rainforest

This video says about itself:

Discovering Mount Mabu

3 March 2011

Earth Focus: Scientists discover new species of wildlife in Mt. Mabu, a remote forest region in Mozambique that was, until recently, one of the few unexplored places left on Earth. Correspondent Jeffrey Barbee follows a research team to Mt. Mabu reporting on their new finds and explaining why this lost Eden is important for conservation.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Protect the Mozambique forest found on Google Earth, scientists say

Mount Mabu rainforest teeming with new and unique species including pygmy chameleons and bronze-colour snakes

Josh Davies

Friday 3 January 2014 07.00 GMT

A remote rainforest in Mozambique discovered using Google Earth has so many new and unique species that it should be declared a protected area, scientists say.

Pygmy chameleons, a bronzed bush viper and butterflies with shimmering yellow wings are among the species in the forests covering Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique.

Discovered in 2005 by scientists using satellite images, the forests, previously only known to local villagers, have proven to be a rich ecosystem teeming with new species of mammals, butterflies, reptiles, insects and plants. The mountain forests have been isolated from a much larger forest block for millennia, meaning there has been no migration between this site and the next mountain for tens of thousands of years, allowing unique species to evolve in isolation.

One such species is a golden-eyed bush viper with bronze-edged scales (Atheris mabuensis) which Julian Bayliss, a conservation scientist for Kew Gardens, found by stepping on during a survey. His team is also waiting to describe a further two species of snake. A new species of chameleon (Nadzikambia baylissi) has already been described from the site, and the researchers are also describing another. The size of a human palm, with a warm yellow chest, green eyes and a spiky crest along its back, Rhampholeon sp. are commonly known as pygmy chameleons.

Bayliss’s team has identified 126 different species of birds within the forest block, including seven that are globally threatened, such as the endangered spotted ground thrush (Zoothera guttata). There are an estimated 250 species of butterfly, including five which are awaiting to be described, like Baliochila sp., a vibrant specimen which has shimmering yellow wings dusted with black. New species of bats, shrews, rodents, frogs, fish and plants are also waiting to be described.

“The finding of the new species was really creating an evidence base to justify its protection,” explained Dr Bayliss, “and now we’ve got enough to declare a site of extreme biological importance that needs to be a protected area and needs to be managed for conservation.”

In first step to making the forest an internationally recognised protected area – such as a national park – the team have submitted an application to have its importance officially recognised . This “gazetting” application has been accepted on a provincial and national level, but is currently waiting to be signed by the government.

If the application is successful, then the forest will be protected from logging concessions seeking valuable hardwoods currently threatening the mountain.

“The people who threaten Mabu are already there, and really what we’re trying to do now is a race against time towards its conservation. It’s getting there early enough to get the wheels in motion to make it a protected area before it’s too late,” said Bayliss.

Along the shores of Lake Niassa/Nyassa, Mozambique, the Manda Wilderness Agricultural Project (MWAP) is training community members from 15 villages in biodiversity-friendly agricultural and agroforestry methods, to increase the provision of habitat for endemic species that are crucial to the success and sustainability of ecological agriculture in the region. This is a small grant project supported by CEPF in the Eastern Afromontane hotspot through the Regional Implementation Team (RIT): here.

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Tackling wildlife crime in Mozambique

This video is called Mozambique revives its wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Mozambique commits to tackling wildlife crime

International attempt to reduce wildlife poaching in and from Mozambique

July 2013-Under increasing pressure from CITES, neighbouring South Africa and the international conservation community, Mozambican government officials have vowed to escalate their responses towards tackling wildlife crime, particularly elephant and rhino poaching.

Mozambique recognises the economic and security threats from trans-boundary criminal networks undertaking these activities, and the country is committed to finding solutions to these problems”, said Marcelino Foloma, Head of Mozambique’s Wildlife Department at the Ministry of Agriculture.

Hosted by TRAFFIC and the Mozambican National Directorate of Land and Forestry, the three-day workshop was attended by representatives from several ministries, including Agriculture, Tourism, Customs, Finance, Home Affairs and Environmental Co-ordination. The event afforded a key opportunity to improve communication and collaboration between governmental institutions and civil society, to address serious defects in current wildlife legislation and to establish formal mechanisms for sharing information about illegal wildlife trade and taking law enforcement actions.

TRAFFIC also rolled out a series of species identification materials in the Portuguese language to assist Mozambique’s law enforcement community to identify contraband wildlife products, including elephant ivory, rhino horn, lion bone, pangolins and several protected timber species.

“This is the first time Mozambique’s law enforcement community is equipped with species identification materials in their own language”, said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC elephant and rhino coordinator who attended the workshop. “It’s critical that these valuable tools are available to fight increasing wildlife crime.”

Discussions also focussed on how Mozambique can meet conditions imposed upon it at the recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that took place in Thailand in March 2013. To avoid CITES trade sanctions, Mozambique must amend its legislation and make the illegal killing of elephants and rhino and possession of ivory and rhino horn criminal offences with significant judicial penalties. The country also needs beefed up law enforcement actions to control the illicit movement of wildlife products in the country and at its borders. Mozambique is due to submit a detailed progress report to the Convention’s Secretariat by January 2014.

Undermine national security

“Aside from the direct threat to Mozambique’s wildlife, criminal networks operating with impunity in southern Africa are also threatening to undermine national security and the region’s vital tourism industry,” said Anabela Rodrigues, WWF Mozambique Country Director.

Rhino massacres in Kruger National Park

This meeting coincided with an announcement from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs that 514 rhinos have been illegally killed so far this year in South Africa. The majority of these incidents (321) occurred in Kruger National Park, which is adjacent to Mozambique and are believed to involve Mozambican nationals.

“These concerning statistics emphasise the need for countries to collaborate in addressing the threat to wildlife from organised criminal networks,” said WWF-SA’s Rhino Coordinator, Dr Jo Shaw.

3 elephants killed every day

Meanwhile, figures in Mozambique indicate that the country lost more than 2,500 elephants between 2009 and 2012, most of them poached inside the protected areas of Niassa and Cabo Delgado. Recent data indicate that about three elephants are killed every day in these two provinces. High poaching activity is also being reported in Limpopo National Park and Tchuma Tchato area in Tete Province.

“Those involved in wildlife crime do not recognise international boundaries”, says Rod Potter of the KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Crime Working Group. “Hence we welcome the opportunity for collaboration as we can achieve far more working together than working in isolation”.

This workshop and the Portuguese language wildlife product identification materials were generously funded by New York-based Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation to address Africa’s elephant crisis.

New Mozambique snake discovery

Thelotornis usambaricus, photo by Philip Shirk

From the Mozambique News Agency:

Mozambique: New Venomous Snake Discovered in Cabo Delgado

15 January 2013

Maputo — A researcher at Lurio University, based in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, has discovered a species of highly venomous snake not previously known in the country.

The species is Thelotornis usambaricus, which belongs to a group of snakes commonly known as twig snakes. Previously, this species was only known from Tanzania, but the researcher, Harith Farooq, discovered it when he was undertaking a survey of terrestrial wild life on Vamizi island, in the Quirimbas archipelago, off the coast of Cabo Delgado province.

Farooq caught two of the snakes, which he could not immediately identify.

He sent one of the animals to the Natural History Museum in Zimbabwe to ascertain its taxonomic classification. This work was done by the zoologist Donald G. Broadley, who discovered the species in Tanzania in 2001.

The second of the snakes is now in the reptile collection kept in the branch of Lurio University in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba.

Thelotornis Usambaricus is a member of the Thelotornis genus of back-fanged snakes. Its venom is hemotoxic – which means that it destroys red blood cells. This type of venom can disrupt blood clotting, and cause generalized tissue damage.

It is much slower acting than the neurotoxic venom (poison that affects the nervous system) of snakes such as the black mamba. However, no anti-venom has yet been developed for Thelotornis poison, and although bites are rare, fatalities have been recorded in Tanzania.

This snake usually conceals itself in trees, from which it strikes at its favoured prey – lizards, frogs and sometimes birds.

With this discovery, the number of snake species known to exist in Mozambique has risen to 96.

The black mamba has quite a reputation. It is one of the world’s deadliest snakes; it is the fastest land snake in the world; and it is Africa’s biggest poisonous snake. This snake’s potential danger has been the subject of many African myths and it has been blamed for thousands of human deaths: here.