Why African bearded vultures die, new study


This video is about adult and young bearded vultures (and ravens), in the Pyrenees in Spain.

From Wildlife Extra:

Technology solves disappearance mystery of one of Africa’s famous birds

The mystery of the gradual disappearance of the Bearded Vulture, one of Africa’s most famous birds, has been solved using the technology of satellite tracking.

Once widespread throughout much of Southern Africa, the Bearded Vulture is now critically endangered, with a decline in nesting sites of nearly 50 per cent since the 1960s.

The remaining population is now restricted to the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho and South Africa. But even in these isolated mountains they continue to decline.

Satellite trackers attached to 18 Bearded Vultures have confirmed conservationists’ worst fears: humans are largely to blame with collisions with power lines and poisoning being the two major vulture hazards that killed half of the birds in the satellite tracking survey.

These are key findings contained in two new research projects published this month. The studies paint the most detailed picture to date of the challenges facing the Bearded Vulture, also known as the ‘bone breaker’ due to its habit of dropping bones from a height to feed from the marrow inside.

The first paper, published in the international ornithological journal The Condor by scientists from EKZN Wildlife and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town, found that human-related factors were the common denominator in differences between abandoned and occupied Bearded Vulture territories.

Lead author on the study Dr Sonja Krueger says: “We explored where the biggest difference lay between abandoned and occupied territories and found that human related factors such as human settlement density and powerlines were consistently different between these sites.”

Power line density and human settlement density were more than twice as high within abandoned vulture territories compared to occupied territories, the study found.

Results also suggested that food abundance may influence the bird’s overall distribution, and that supplementary vulture feeding schemes may be beneficial.

By contrast climate change was not found to be a major contributing factor in nest abandonment.

“Though not definitive, the results strongly suggest that we humans are our own worst enemies when it comes to conserving one of Africa’s iconic birds,” Krueger says.

The study recommended a new approach to vulture conservation management: “Based on the identified threats and mechanisms of abandonment, we recommend that conservation management focus on actions that will limit increased human densities and associated developments and influence the attitudes of people living within the territories of (vulture) breeding pairs,” the study concluded.

“We recommend that mitigation of existing power lines, stricter scrutiny of development proposals, and proactive engagement with developers to influence the placement of structures is essential within the home range of a territorial pair.”

The study’s findings are backed up by a second paper published in open access journal PLOS ONE, which relied on data from satellite trackers attached to 18 Bearded Vultures.

The trackers not only showed the exact location of the tagged birds every hour, they also provided critical information on movement patterns and mortality.

Tagging enabled dead birds to be quickly recovered and their cause of death determined.

The study confirmed that, in addition to power lines, poisoning was considered the main threat to vultures across Africa and was contributing to the so-called “African Vulture Crisis”– a large decline of many vulture species across the continent.

The tracking data also provided new information about the birds’ ranging behaviour. It revealed that non-breeding birds traveled significantly further than breeding birds and were therefore more vulnerable to human impact.

Some young non-breeding birds patroled an area the size of Denmark. The average adult bird had a home range of about 286 sq km, but the range was much smaller for breeding adults at just 95 sq km.

Dr Arjun Amar from UCT said detailed knowledge about Bearded Vulture home ranges could be hugely beneficial to vulture conservation: “We knew the species was likely to have large home ranges, but our results show just how far these birds travel – and therefore how exposed they are. The more they travel, the more they risk colliding with power lines or falling prey to poisoning.”

Extended beard of Bearded Vulture – incredible effect of drug revealed: here.

South African author André Brink dies


This video is called André Brink on Writing #1.

And these two videos are the sequels.

From the Mail & Guardian in South Africa:

Literary giant André Brink dies

07 Feb 2015 11:05

Celebrated South African author, André P. Brink, has passed away at the age of 79.

Renowned South African novelist and playwright, André Brink has died.

According to Books Live, Brink passed away while returning from Amsterdam on Friday, where he had received an honorary doctorate from the Belgian Francophone Université catholique de Louvain (UCL).

Brink was born on 29 May 1935, in Vrede, a small town in the Free State.

He was 79 years old and a literature professor at the University of Cape Town at the time of his death.

Brink wrote in both English and Afrikaans, and was a key figure in the Afrikaans literary movement Die Sestigers in the 1960s – along with Ingrid Jonker and Breyten Breytenbach. The movement sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid government.

In 1973 his novel Looking on Darkness was banned, this was followed by the banning of another book Kennis van die Aand the following year.

His 1982 novel, A Dry White Season, was turned into a film in 1989 and starred actors such as Marlon Brando, Donald Sutherland, Zakes Mokae and Susan Sarandon.

The novel, set in South Africa in 1976 and focused on the death in detention of a black activist, was also banned by the apartheid government.

Nelson Mandela remembered


This is a music video of the song “Nelson Mandela” from the album “In the Studio” by British band Special AKA (the Specials).

Lyrics are here.

By Peter Frost from Britain, about South Africa:

In the footsteps of the great liberator

Thursday 5th February 2015

Peter Frost visits the former Victor Verster prison where Nelson Mandela took some very important steps on his long march to freedom

It was something of a pilgrimage. My wife Ann and I had pitched the rented camper van in which were exploring South Africa on a pretty campsite among the vineyards near Paarl the handsome capital of the Cape Winelands.

An early start the next morning saw us driving along the spectacular valley of the Dwars River. Our destination was the far from romantically named Drakenstein Correctional Centre.

It was a journey we had been hoping to make for many years. The prison is still in use and outside were a cluster of worried-looking families joining the queue to visit incarcerated loved ones.

We were beginning to have doubts about the wisdom of our visit when a young smiling prison officer in a smart brown uniform knocked on our window.

“Hi,” she said with a smile. “Tourists? Are you from England? No doubt you are here to see where our beloved Madiba took his famous steps to freedom. Follow me,” she said.

So there we were just inside the gates of the former Victor Verster Prison where Nelson Mandela spent the last part of his 27 years of imprisonment.

The prison officer told us that the cottage where Mandela spent the last few months of his long sentence is now a South African national heritage site. Just outside the prison gate she showed us the fine statue of the great man himself.

Back in 1964, Nelson Mandela was one of eight men accused of conspiracy and sabotage in the notorious Rivonia trial, named after a suburb of Johannesburg where African National Congress (ANC) leaders had their secret headquarters in a farmhouse.

In an electrifying speech from the dock at the beginning of his defence, Mandela told the court: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live, and to see realised. But my lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Passing sentence, apartheid judge Justice de Wet compared the convicted men’s crime to high treason but said that after careful consideration he had decided not to impose “the supreme penalty.” Mandela was sent to prison for life.

Margaret Thatcher and many British Tories thought the judge had been too lenient. They called for Mandela to be hanged. Present House of Commons’s Speaker John Bercow led a Tory student campaign under the slogan “Hang Nelson Mandela.”

Mandela served the first 18 years of his sentence in the notorious maximum-security prison on Robben Island. When they first landed on the island a warder greeted Mandela and his ANC comrades with these words, “This is the island. This is where you will die.”

The prisoners faced a harsh regime in a new cell block specially constructed for political prisoners. Each had a single cell just 7ft square around a concrete courtyard, with a slop bucket. No books or reading materials were allowed, although this rule would eventually be relaxed a little.

Hard labour in the baking hot quarry on the island was hell. The white-hot sun reflecting of the bleached limestone nearly blinded Mandela.

In his prison cell he secretly worked on the first part of what would become his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. ANC comrades helped him hide draft pages from the guards.

In 1982 he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, Cape Town.

From there, on December 9 1988, Mandela was moved to the Victor Verster Prison, now renamed the Drakenstein Correctional Centre.

Already the apartheid government, running scared and aware that their time was up, needed to hold negotiations with the man who, despite having spent the last 27 years in prison, was clearly the leader of the South African people.

For those negotiations Mandela lived in a small cottage inside the prison’s farm compound. President FW De Klerk sent high-ranking ministers and civil servants to talk with Mandela.

He was incarcerated there for another 14 months until finally he was taken to meet and talk with De Klerk himself. The two discussed arrangements for Mandela’s release.

Just after 4pm on February 11 1990 the date set by De Klerk, Mandela, then aged 71, walked free. One hand held the hand of his wife Winnie. The other was raised in the clenched fist of an ANC victory salute.

At that moment, as the camera flashes went off to record the moment, Mandela switched from being a symbol of the oppressed to the global symbol of courage and freedom that would define the rest of his life.

After his release Mandela would live for almost another quarter-century. He became president of a new South Africa, his beloved rainbow nation.

It was a long journey from imprisoned freedom fighter branded as a terrorist to one of the world’s greatest ever leaders.

Like so many important journeys this one started with a single step and a short walk through the gates of Victor Verster Prison 25 years ago this weekend.

FW de Klerk’s legacy in question on anniversary of Mandela’s release. South Africa’s last white president has been praised for his role in ending apartheid but questions linger over atrocities committed on his watch: here.

South African cheetah’s survivor story


This 2014 video is called National Geographic Wild – Cheetah: Fatal Instinct (Documentary).

From Samara Private Game Reserve in South Africa, with photos there:

A cheetah’s story: From tortured to treasured

Privileged to be home to the highly endangered cheetah, Samara also hosts a remarkable individual. Her story embodies not only the plight of these incredible cats, but also the immense potential for successful conservation of a species on the precipice of extinction.

Born a wild cheetah in South Africa’s North West province, Sibella’s life nearly ended at the hands of hunters. After being set upon by hunting dogs who tore away all the flesh on her hind legs, a rope was forced roughly into her mouth, and she was savagely beaten and locked in a cage. Lying at death’s door, fear and mistrust haunting her eyes, she was fortunate enough to be rescued by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust. She owes her life to the five-hour surgery and dedicated rehabilitation that ensued.

In December 2003, Sibella began a new chapter when she was introduced onto Samara along with two male cheetah. From the moment of her release, all those involved in her rehabilitation waited anxiously to see whether she would be able to fend for herself. But we needn’t have worried. Eleven years on, Sibella has outlived most cheetah in the wild, proving herself to be a capable hunter despite the occasional twinge from her previous injuries.

Successfully rearing an astonishing 20 cubs in four litters since her release, she has also been an exemplary mother – giving birth on steep mountain slopes to avoid potential predators and eating only after her young have had their fill.

The unspoken bond she now shares with the humans in her new home is extraordinary – with the birth of each new litter, when the cubs are old enough to leave their den, this wild cat dutifully presents to her human guardians her latest bundles of fur, the very reason for her existence. The degree of trust she vests in human beings, walking to within just a few metres of them, is simply astounding – her past suffering at the hands of her tormentors all but forgotten.

This exceptional cat has done more than merely touch our hearts and allow us to marvel at her beauty. She is also a record-breaker of note, being the first cheetah back in the Karoo in 125 years, contributing 3% to the wild cheetah population in South Africa through her various litters, and featuring in dozens of magazines, newspapers and television programmes across the globe.

Sibella, Sultaness of Samara, is a true ambassador for Samara’s ongoing conservation efforts and objectives.

Circus lionesses recovering in South African game reserve


This video from South Africa says about itself:

Two rescued female lions find new home in Africa

22 January 2015

Following years of abuse in a circus in Germany, two rescued female lions put their paws onto African soil. Sisters Maggie and Sonja were rescued by the Born Free Foundation and its partners, their new home Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

From Wildlife Extra:

Two lionesses born to circus life get first taste of freedom

Maggie and Sonja have spent their eight years of life performing in a German circus

After eight years in captivity in a German circus, two rescued lionesses are settling into their new home at the Born Free Foundation’s Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre at Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa.

Maggie and Sonja spent the first eight years of their lives making regular appearances in the circus, performing for the crowds and living in a circus trailer in appalling conditions.

When the animals were confiscated by the German authorities in 2013, the Natuurhulpcentrum, a wild animal rescue and rehabilitation centre in Belgium, stepped in and offered them temporary accommodation.

There, they underwent rehabilitation and treatment for wounds acquired while living in the circus, before being declared fit to travel to a permanent new home in Africa.

Organised by the Born Free Foundation, they travelled from Natuurhulpcentrum to London’s Heathrow airport on January 20, from where they made the 6,000 mile journey across two continents, flying on the inaugural Kenya Airways Dreamliner flight to Johannesburg via Nairobi, and sponsored by the airline.

After touching down in Johannesburg on Wednesday, January 21, they were taken by land on the last leg of the journey to their new home at the award winning Shamwari Game Reserve in Port Elizabeth.

The overland journey was in specially arranged trailers, towed by Land Rover Discovery vehicles, which also sponsored the trip.

At the reserve they were released into a large natural enclosure, where they could begin to experience and get used to the sights and sounds of Africa for the first time.

Shamwari Wildlife Director and vet, Dr Johan Joubert, and Born Free’s big cat expert Tony Wiles, were present at every step of the journey.

Joubert says, “I am very satisfied with the rescue and translocation of the lionesses from Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium to Shamwari Game Reserve.

“Although it was a long journey for them, they travelled well. It was snowing when they left, two days ago, and now they are adapting to a hot African summer’s day.

“They experienced natural grass and trees today for the first time in their life. I am sure they have a good life ahead of them here.”

Wiles, who has more than 20 years of experience working with big cats, is pleased that the lionesses are already growing in confidence in their new environment.

He adds, “These are relatively young cats, and so despite being a bit tired from the journey, they should adapt quickly to their new surroundings.

“Already they are exploring the enclosure’s natural features and taking the opportunity to stretch their legs and bask in the southern hemisphere’s summer sunshine.

“After spending most of their lives in cramped and squalid conditions, it feels great to be able to offer these girls a safe, happy and natural place to live out the rest of their lives. That’s what it’s all about.”

To find out more about Maggie and Sonja’s new life, meet some of Born Free’s other rescued animals, or make a donation to enable the Foundation to continue its work with some of the world’s most vulnerable animals, visit: www.bornfree.org.uk.

Playing drums for rhinos


This music video says about itself:

Rhino Revolution Desert Drumming

On the 9th of January [2015], Rhino Revolution Dubai held their third fund-raising event in order to raise funds to contribute towards the work done by Rhino Revolution in South Africa to aid the conservation efforts regarding the rhinos.