South African seabirds and climate change

This 2011 video says about itself:

You’ve never seen so many seabirds in one place! A tiny island off the South African coast is the location of one of the biggest gannet colonies on earth.

From Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution:

A changing distribution of seabirds in South Africa—the possible impact of climate and its consequences

In the southern Benguela ecosystem off South Africa, there were recent shifts to the south and east in the distributions of three forage resources (anchovy, sardine, rock lobster), which probably were influenced by environmental change although fishing too may have played a part.

In this study, we review information on trends in distributions and numbers of eight seabirds breeding in South Africa. For five species that feed predominantly on anchovy, sardine or rock lobster, their populations off northwest South Africa decreased markedly. For three of these species, which exhibit behavioral inertia and have restricted foraging ranges when breeding (African penguin, Cape cormorant, bank cormorant), there were large decreases in their overall populations in South Africa.

Conversely, for two showing more plasticity and able to range over wide areas or move between breeding localities (Cape gannet, swift tern) there were increases. It is thought that movement of forage resources away from the northern islands led to a mismatch in the distributions of breeding localities and prey of dependent seabirds off western South Africa and to attempts by several species to establish colonies on the southern mainland closer to food resources.

There also were shifts to the south and east in the distributions of three seabirds that do not compete with fisheries for prey (crowned cormorant, white-breasted cormorant, kelp gull), suggesting some environmental forcing, but decreases of these species off northwest South Africa were less severe and populations in South Africa remained stable or increased in the long term.

It is likely, because many fishing plants are located in the northwest, that there was increased competition between seabirds and fisheries for prey as forage resources moved south and east. Potential interventions to mitigate the adverse impacts of distributional changes for seabirds include allocations of allowable catches of shared forage resources at regional levels, closures to fishing around impacted seabird colonies and establishment of new colonies nearer to the present location of food.

Orphan baby rhino rescued in South Africa

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Two rhino bulls chased around a pride of six hungry lions at the waterhole Renosterpan in Kruger park, great fun to watch. Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Happened in 2009. Rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate; please help to protect these amazing animals by donating to the wildlife funds fighting rhino poaching.

From daily The Independent in South Africa:

Orphan baby rhino rescued

July 27 2015 at 08:33am

By Leanne Jansen

Durban – A baby rhino that lost its mother to poachers in the Kruger National Park has been rescued by rangers, and is settling into its new home at the Care for Wild Africa rehabilitation centre in Mpumalanga.

The rhino, not older than two months, wandered on to a road and cosied up to a tourist’s car. The tourists alerted park staff, and rangers Don English and Craig Williams helped to have it tranquillised, and flown to the rehabilitation centre.

But that was not the end of the little creature’s ordeal – it stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated along the way.

By Friday afternoon, it had recovered and was doing well, said park spokesperson William Mabasa.

Sadly, the carcass of its mother was found on Saturday, its horns removed.

Mabasa extended his gratitude to the tourists who had told rangers about the orphaned rhino and also urged the public to play an active role in conservation efforts.

“These people (poachers) live in our communities. Somebody somewhere knows who they are and where they are,” Mabasa said.

Last month the Kruger Park, which is South Africa’s largest rhino reserve, announced that it was installing boom gates along three popular tourist roads to control people entering the new Intensive Protection Zone for rhinos after nightfall.

The booms are manned by armed rangers from sunset to sunrise every day.

As part of a long-term plan, fencing will also be improved on the western and eastern borders of the park.

Earlier this year The Mercury reported on how poaching had soared to a record level of 1 215 killings countrywide last year, mostly in the Kruger Park, where the poaching rate has climbed every year since 2008.

Care for Wild Africa is home to infant, injured and orphaned animals.

Its animal hospital tends to the animals until they can be rehabilitated into the wild, and the centre welcomes volunteers to help care for distressed creatures.

Young African elephant, video

This February 2015 video is about a baby African elephant, having fun at Renosterkoppies Dam, Kruger park, South Africa.

See also here.

Genet ‘cat’ rides black rhino, video

This video says about itself:

World-first: A genet rides a black rhino

21 July 2015

This amazing never-before-seen footage captured by Wildlife ACT reveals a genet riding on a critically endangered black rhino.

In 2014, this genet, nicknamed Genet Jackson, was photographed hitch-hiking on a buffalo as well as a white rhino. Now, it has been filmed riding on a critically endangered black rhino.

Wildlife ACT assists Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with monitoring endangered species and captured this groundbreaking footage in the process.

Rhino Africa donated their awesome multimedia team’s time to put this video together.

See also here.

Genets are often called ‘genet cats’, but are actually in the civet family.

For those interested in the mechanics of the proposed RAPID rhino-cam to photo rhino poachers, see this paper.

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.

KILLER OF CECIL THE LION IDENTIFIED “An American dentist with an affinity for killing rare wildlife using a bow and arrow has been identified as the man who shot and killed Zimbabwe’s most famous lion earlier this month, local officials claim.” The Internet backlash has been swift. [HuffPost]

WHAT JANE GOODALL THINKS OF CECIL THE LION’S DEATH “Only one good thing comes out of this — thousands of people have read the story and have also been shocked. Their eyes opened to the dark side of human nature. Surely they will now be more prepared to fight for the protection of wild animals and the wild places where they live.” [The Dodo]

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

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.

One-third of the 112 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) of South Africa are facing imminent danger of irreversible damage, according to a new report published today by BirdLife South Africa. The most prevalent threats are invasive alien plant species which push out indigenous species, the modification of habitats through incorrect burning practices, agricultural expansion and mismanagement. Habitats in unprotected IBAs in particular are deteriorating at a concerning rate, most especially in grasslands, wetlands and fynbos but protected IBAs are also facing a diverse set of threats. The 42 IBAs with the highest threats will be included in BirdLife International´s list of IBAs in Danger, the global list of priority sites identified for urgent action: here.