Lions back to Rwanda after fifteen years


This video is called Wild Botswana: Lion Brotherhood HD Documentary.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lions to be reintroduced to Rwanda after 15-year absence following genocide

Seven big cats will be taken from South Africa to Akagera national park, where lion population was wiped out, in major conservation project

David Smith in Johannesburg

Sunday 28 June 2015 16.00 BST

Seven lions in South Africa are to be tranquillised, placed in steel crates and loaded on to a charter flight to Rwanda on Monday, restoring the predator to the east African country after a 15-year absence.

Cattle herders poisoned Rwanda’s last remaining lions after parks were left unmanaged and occupied by displaced people in the wake of the 1994 genocide, according to the conservation group African Parks, which is organising the repopulation drive.

It said two parks in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province with “relatively small, confined reserves where it is necessary to remove surplus lions” are donating the big cats to Rwanda. The seven – five females and two males – were chosen based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion, including a mix of ages and genetic makeup.

From Monday they will be transferred to Akagera national park in north-east Rwanda by truck and plane in a journey lasting about 26 hours. African Parks said: “They will be continually monitored by a veterinary team with experience in translocations. They will be kept tranquillised to reduce any stress and will have access to fresh water throughout their journey.”

Upon arrival at the 112,000-hectare park, which borders Tanzania, the lions will be kept in quarantine in a specially-erected 1,000m² enclosure with an electrified fence for at least two weeks before they are released into the wild.

The park is fenced, but the lions will be equipped with satellite collars to reduce the risk of them straying into inhabited areas. African Parks said: “The collars have a two-year life, by which time the park team will have evaluated the pride dynamics and only the dominant individuals in each pride will be re-collared.”

As a wildlife tourist destination, Rwanda is best known for its gorilla tracking safaris. But Akagera, a two-hour drive from the capital, Kigali, is home to various antelope species, buffaloes, giraffes and zebras, as well as elephants and leopards. It attracted 28,000 visitors in 2014.

Last year, as part of the preparations for the reintroduction, the Akagera team ran a sensitisation programme in communities surrounding the park to promote harmonious co-existence with lions.

Yamina Karitanyi, the head of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board, said: “It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park … Their return will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the lion as vulnerable in an update this month of its red list of species facing survival threats. It noted lion conservation successes in southern Africa, but said lions in west Africa were critically endangered and rapid population declines were also being recorded in east Africa.

African Parks cited human encroachment on lion habitats and a decline in lion prey as reasons for the population drop. It identified a trade in lion bones and other body parts for traditional medicine in Africa, as well as Asia, as a growing threat.

Peter Fearnhead, the chief executive of African Parks, which manages Akagera and seven other national parks on the continent, said: “The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country.”

See also here.

Apparently Rwanda plans to reintroduce black rhino as well as lions to Akagera NP this year, to have the “big five”: here.

Native birds and non-native plants in South Africa


This is a Knysna turaco video from South Africa.

From the British Ornithologists’ Union blog:

Range expansion of non-native Acacia species: Acacia cyclops and birds

8th June 2015

Are native bird species responsible for dispersing non-native plant seeds?

Thabiso Mokotjomela
University of Cape Town

LINKED PAPER
The potential for birds to disperse the seeds of Acacia cyclops, an invasive non-native plant in South Africa. Thabiso M. Mokotjomela, John H. Hoffmann & Colleen T. Downs. 2015.
IBIS. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12260.

For the first time, seed-eating doves are proven to be implicated in dispersal of invasive non-native plants in South Africa.

Our recent study published in IBIS demonstrated with field exclosure experiments set up on selected branches in the tree canopy, and with feeding trials using caged birds that a limited number of the remaining seeds of A. cyclops are removed and dispersed by birds.

The expansive spatial extent (i.e. ~ 643 000 ha) of invasions by Australian acacias including Acacia cyclops in South Africa is a reliable pointer to the availability of effective seed dispersal services. Long distance seed dispersal by birds is often implicated in range expansions of invasive non-native plants yet little is known about bird-mediated seed dispersal. Among other methods for managing invasive plants in South Africa (A), biological control agents (i.e. introduced natural enemies) are used. Two biological control agents, a Seed Weevil Melanterius servulus and a Flower-galling Midge Dasineura dielsi (B), were released on A. cyclops in 1991 and 2002, respectively. The biological control agents have substantially suppressed seed production in A. cyclops, i.e. turning seed pods into galls (C), with possible consequences for levels of seed dispersal by birds.

The amount of A. cyclops seeds taken by birds was measured by comparing branches covered in bird netting and branches available to birds. Mature seeds were harvested (D & E), and fed to caged birds. Only two frugivorous species (Knysna Turaco Turaco corythaix and Red-winged Starling Onychognathus morio,) and two granivorous species (Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata and Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis) ate the seeds in the feeding trials (F, G, H & I). The germination rate of the seeds ingested by the birds was measured.

Seeds ingested by the granivorous Red-eyed Dove had highest germination rates thereby demystifying a long-standing misconception that the ubiquitous dove species cannot effectively disperse seeds. Two frugivore bird species: the Knysna Turaco and the Red-winged Starling also improved germination rates of ingested seeds but the granivorous Laughing Dove did not.

No clear relationship was established between birds’ body size and length of time for which seeds are retained in the gut, probably because of the laxative compounds present in many non-native fruits/seeds. This finding confounded the models for estimating seed dispersal distances using a vector’s body size as a predictor for length of seed retention time in the gut and thus the distance seeds might be dispersed.

I am now working on the use of miniaturised GPS – cellular transmitters to monitor movement patterns of the foraging birds to fill the gap of unknown spatial distributions of dispersed A. cyclops seeds. This knowledge will provide an important guide for designing spatially-explicit management strategies for many invasive plant species with seeds dispersed by birds.

Further reading

Dennis, A.J. & Westcott, D.A. (2006) Reducing complexity when studying seed dispersal at community scales: a functional classification of vertebrate seed dispersers in tropical forests. Oecologia, 149, 620–634.

Mokotjomela, T., Musil, C. & Esler, K. (2013) Potential seed dispersal distances of native and non-native fleshy fruiting shrubs in the South African Mediterranean climate region. Plant Ecol. 214: 1127–1137.

Schurr, F.M., Spiegel, O., Steinitz, O., Trakhtenbrot, A., Tsoar, A. & Nathan, N. (2009) Long-distance seed dispersal. Ann. Plant Rev., 38: 204–237.

NatureWatch, new app launched


This video says about itself:

7 mei 2015

NatureWatch is a new iPhone application from BirdLife International which allows you to plan your wildlife adventures, share your experiences, and help conserve some of the best sites for wildlife in the world.

NatureWatch is available in the App Store and covers 533 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa.

Download the App from here.

From BirdLife:

NatureWatch App Launched! Watch nature, share moments, conserve sites

By Nick Askew, Mon, 11/05/2015 – 12:10

NatureWatch is a new iPhone App from BirdLife International which allows you to plan your wildlife adventures, share your experiences, and help conserve some of the best sites for wildlife in the world.

“Covering 533 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa, NatureWatch gives people who care about these sites a global voice”, said Patricia Zurita – BirdLife’s Chief Executive.

By downloading NatureWatch from the App Store, you can easily find all the information you need to enjoy your next adventure through accessing the latest maps, information sheets and sightings from each site.

The new App also allows you to share your magical moments with nature as they happen with your family, friends, colleagues and other NatureWatch users.

NatureWatch users can view lists of key bird species at each site, share their latest sightings and report any threats to the sites in real time.

“With NatureWatch in your pocket, you’re helping BirdLife and our Partners to monitor each site, plan the best actions, and respond to threats”, added Zurita.

“As you leave behind the smells of the forest and the sounds of the birds, with NatureWatch you can also give something back for the conservation of the site you have visited.”

NatureWatch has been generously supported by the IBAT Alliance (BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN and UNEP-WCMC), the Aage V. Jensen Foundation and UK Darwin Initiative, and has been developed in Partnership with BirdLife Partners in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa.

BirdLife logos

Entangled humpback whale saved in South Africa


This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

From the Cape Times in South Africa:

Rescue team disentangles whale

April 23 2015 at 10:46am

A WHALE has been rescued near Oyster Bay in the Eastern Cape after it was entangled in rope.

South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) spokesman Craig Lambinon said that the incident happened on Tuesday afternoon.

Oyster Bay is located between Humansdorp and St Francis Bay on the east coast.

“At 4.40pm on Tuesday, the network was activated to approximately one nautical mile offshore of Oyster Bay on reports from Nick Bournman, from the Oyster Bay Beach Lodge, of a whale appearing to be entangled in rope and buoys,” said Lambinon.

“The NSRI St Francis Bay sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II responded, carrying trained volunteer members of the network.

“On arrival on the scene at 5.15pm, two humpback whales were located swimming together, possibly a mother and child, and the smaller of the two whales was the one entangled in rope and three floatation buoys, with the rope entangled around the peduncle.”

Lambinon explained that an extensive operation then took place to release the whale using specialised disentanglement equipment.

“In an operation, lasting just under 30 minutes, all rope and floatation buoys were successfully removed from the whale and recovered,” |he said.

“The whale appears to not be injured from the ordeal and appeared to be swimming confidently following the disentanglement, and SAWDN is confident that the operation has been successful.”

Amur falcon spring migration starts in South Africa


This video from India says about itself:

26 July 2014

THE VIDEO IS SHOT IN NAGALAND INDIA. THE CONSERVATION OF AMUR FALCON. NAGALAND HAS BEEN DECLARED AS “FALCON CAPITAL OF WORLD”. COMMUNITIES, NGOS FOREST DEPARTMENT HAVE PARTICIPATED IN CONSERVATION OF AMUR FALCON. THE FILM IS SHOT BY NATURAL NAGAS AND DEPARTMENT OF FORESTS, ECOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE.

From daily The Independent in South Africa:

When birds of a feather flock together

March 30 2015 at 05:30pm

By Tony Carnie

Most of us know that summer is coming to an end and winter will soon be upon us.

But what was the peculiar “telepathic” signal from nature that seems to have echoed through the bush of southern Africa last Thursday.

That’s the question bird watchers are asking after seeing thousands of tiny falcons beginning to flock together in preparation for a remarkable journey to the other side of the world.

Just after 7.20am on Thursday, Ian Macdonald of Kube Yini Private Game Reserve near Mkuze took careful note as a group of nine Amur Falcons took off from a power line and flew off towards the west. As they gained altitude they changed direction sharply to the north.

Later that same afternoon, hundreds of the species were noticed by Annette Gerber gathered on power lines along the eastern shores of Lake St Lucia. “There were so many of them that I stopped my car to watch. And then, whoosh… they suddenly took off as one – as if a switch had been flicked. The air was full of falcons flying northwards,” she said.

Gerber said a group of visitors from Cape Vidal stopped next to her and reported they had also seen a group of about 300 Amur falcons flying north.

What they were witnessing was the start of one of the longest migrations in the world by a raptor species – an amazing 15 000km journey from Africa to northern China and south-eastern Siberia.

David Allan, the curator of birds at the Durban Natural Science Museum, said there were quite a few bird species that gathered in large numbers, often quite vocally, before migration.

While the precise triggering mechanisms remained a mystery, Allan said there seemed to be a social element of group decision-making before migration.

“You don’t want to be the first to leave in case you get your timing wrong. So maybe they think it is better to ‘follow the herd’.”

Allan said one of the critical cues seemed to be the shorter hours of daylight as [southern hemisphere] winter approached, rather than a sudden change in temperature.

However, weather conditions were also likely to play a part as the birds would try to avoid flying into strong headwinds. After leaving South Africa, the falcons fly northwards along the east coast of Africa to Somalia. From there they turn sharply east to cross the ocean between Africa and India. On this stage they have to fly non-stop for two to three days without rest.

Allan said some researchers had suggested that their migration coincided with a similar migration by dragonflies – allowing the falcons to snatch a bit of “padkos” en route.

Allan said Belgian bird expert Marc Herrimans had studied red-backed shrikes in Botswana several years ago and noticed that more than 90% of these birds departed on one particular night, a remarkable observation as shrikes were not a social species.

While the journey from South Africa to China can take two to three weeks, with short feeding stops along the way, German bird researcher Prof Bernd Meyburg has also reported the case of a satellite-tagged Amur falcon female that flew non-stop from Somalia to Mongolia in five days.

South African apartheid regime’s Sharpeville massacre


This video about South Africa is called The Sharpeville Massacre: Archbishop Tutu discusses events surrounding the massacre.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Mass murder at Sharpeville

Saturday 21st March 2015

PETER FROST looks back 55 years to one of the most heinous crimes committed by the Apartheid government in South Africa

In March 21 1960 South African police opened fire on a few hundred peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the cruel and racist pass laws.

When the smoke and dust had settled, 69 people lay dead and another 300 were injured. Thirty-one of the dead were women and 19 children. Many were shot in the back as they turned to flee.

That day the name of the small township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging in the Transvaal, echoed round the globe and changed the future of the entire African continent forever.

The Sharpeville massacre signalled the start of armed resistance in South Africa and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa’s apartheid policies.

After the second world war, in 1948, the hugely racist Herstigte Nasionale Party came into power.

Within a year the Mixed Marriages Act — it should have been called the banning of Mixed Marriages Act — was passed.

It would be the first of many segregationist and racist laws devised to separate privileged white South Africans from the black African majority.

By 1958, with the election of Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa was completely committed to the obscene philosophy of apartheid.

The African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) were the main opposition to the government’s policies.

The Communist Party was banned in 1950 and could only work underground.

In 1956 the ANC had committed itself to a South Africa which “belongs to all.” Its peaceful demonstrations were met with police and army brutality. Both were well equipped by British arms manufacturers.

In June 1956 the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups approved the Freedom Charter. The apartheid state’s response was the arrest of 156 anti-apartheid leaders and a treason trial which would last until 1961.

At the beginning of April 1960 the ANC launched a campaign of demonstration against the hated pass laws, cruel and unjust regulations designed to control the movement of Africans.

The laws were the direct descendents of regulations imposed by the Dutch and British in the 18th and 19th-century slave economy of the Cape Colony.

Later pass laws were put in place to ensure a reliable supply of cheap, docile African workers for the hugely profitable gold and diamond mines.

In 1952 the apartheid government passed an even more rigid law that required all African males over the age of 16 to carry a reference book, just another name for the long-hated passbook.

This pass, which had to be carried at all times, contained personal information and employment history.

Africans often were compelled to violate the pass laws to find work to support their families, so harassment, fines and arrests under the pass laws were a constant threat.

By the time the laws were repealed in 1986, more than 17 million Africans had been arrested.

Protest against these humiliating laws fuelled the anti-apartheid struggle — key actions included the Defiance Campaign of 1952-54 and the massive women’s protest in Pretoria in 1956.

Africans found in violation of pass laws were stripped of citizenship and deported to poverty-stricken rural so-called homelands (Bantustans).

Between 1960 and 1985, approximately three and a half million Africans were forcibly removed to these rural dumping grounds.

White employers used the homelands as reservoirs of cheap black labour. The apartheid regime hoped these invented independent territories would ensure the denial of South African citizenship to millions of Africans.

Then on March 21 1960, a group of people converged on the local police station in the little-known township of Sharpeville. They offered themselves up for arrest for not carrying their passbooks.

By the end of the day the whole world would know the name Sharpeville.

As the crowd grew, about 140 police reinforcements were rushed to the scene. They bought with them four Coventry-built Saracen armoured personnel carriers.

All the police were armed, including submachine guns as well as Lee-Enfield rifles. The protesters had no arms except a few stones.

F-86 Sabre jets and Harvard Trainers were hurriedly scrambled and flew just a hundred feet over the crowd in an attempt to scatter it.

Police fired tear gas canisters with little effect. Then they advanced with riot sticks.

Finally, as the crowd thronged forward to protect one of their leaders from arrest, the police opened fire.

Police claimed that young and inexperienced police officers panicked and started to shoot. None had received any public order training.

The police attitude is best demonstrated by Lieutenant Colonel Pienaar, the commanding officer of the police reinforcements at Sharpeville.

He stated that “the native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them, to gather means violence.”

The angry reaction among South Africa’s black population was immediate and the week after the massacre saw demonstrations, protest marches, strikes and riots around the country.

On March 30 1960, the government declared a state of emergency, detaining more than 18,000 people, including prominent anti-apartheid activists.

A storm of international protest followed the Sharpeville massacre. There were huge and angry demonstrations in many countries.

On April 1 1960, the United Nations security council passed Resolution 134. The resolution recognised that the situation was brought about by the policies of the government of the Union of South Africa and that if these policies continued they could endanger international peace and security.

The resolution voiced the council’s anger at the policies and actions of the government, offered its sympathies to the families of the victims, called upon the government to initiate measures aimed at bringing about racial harmony based on equality and called upon it to abandon apartheid.

To its shame Britain abstained. Nonetheless Sharpeville marked a turning point in South Africa’s history — the country found itself increasingly isolated.

In South Africa the Sharpeville massacre led to the banning of the ANC as an illegal organisation, but the massacre proved to be one of the catalysts for a shift from passive resistance to armed resistance by these organisations.

The ANC founded a military wing — Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.

On the December 10 1996 president Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site to sign into law his new constitution of South Africa.

The 69 martyrs of Sharpeville had not died in vain.