TREC 1000 – Tintswalo Rhino Extreme Campaign

IMG_0307 (1280x960)It’s a 1000 km walk through the African bush around Kruger National Park and Manyeleti Game Reserve to raise awareness and funds to fight rhino poaching.  Click here to visit their website and follow their day by day experiences.  Click here for, “What is TREK“.  Click here to go to their Facebook page.  Today is day 23 of their journey.  They completed 100 km. on May 22.
May 30 rhino update especially for Kruger Park, click here for report in allAfrica.com

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Rhinos – 188 killed so far this year, 135 in Kruger Park

Smilebox_3311257579Reports from South Africa indicate the ongoing scope and sophistication of unrelenting rhino poaching.  The remaining population is estimated to be 18,000 white rhinos and 5000 black rhinos.  Rangers shot and killed 3 suspected poachers this week.  The South African military assists in anti-poaching patrols.  It is not without risk.  5 air force members were killed in a helicopter patrol of Kruger Park this past week.  The cause of the crash is under investigation.  Poaching is not limited to Africa.  Check out this story about potential rhino poaching in…  England!

Update, April 3, 2013.  Poaching has now exceeded 200 rhinos in South Africa this year.  Meanwhile, Sabi Sand Game Reserve is injecting rhino horns with pink dye and non lethal chemicals that will make rhino horn powder users sick.

Elephants – globally, illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007

2012-11-11 newcam2 045 (1280x960)A report released this month states that the global illegal ivory trade is now 3 times larger than it was in 1998.  It indicates the involvement of criminal networks operating with impunity to collect and transfer the ivory from east African nations, and that the main destination is China.  This report contrasts with our experience in Hluhluwe, Kruger and Chobe Parks where protected elephants are now so numerous that they are destroying vegetation faster than it can rejuvenate, threatening the parks’ function and biodiversity.  In Zimbabwe, elephant consumption and destruction of trees and shrubs in some locations has progressed  to the point where elephants are starving  – where water holes are now too distant from the food supplies.  To be sure, once ivory supplies in east and central Africa decline, organized poaching networks will not just call it a day and go home – they will move south.  For more information, here is the United Nations Environment Program news release.  More on this – African forest elephants decline by 62% in 10 years reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society at the CITES conference in Bangkok.  This is not attributed to habitat reduction.  Instead, forestry has provided road networks which improve access for poachers.

Kathy’s Smilebox, Wild Africa – Durban to Kruger Park

Smilebox_3311257602Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 found the tour group flying to Durban on the Indian Ocean, then driving to KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and then back into South Africa to Kruger National Park.  Game drives were enjoyed at Hluhluwe and Kruger Parks.  Kathy’s Smilebox slide and video show includes her front seat video of a spectacular elephant crossing in Kruger Park.  A copy of the video was requested by the safari guide and has also been published on Youtube.  Kathy shares her pictures and videos of drum and dance performances, crafts, food, scenery and many many animals.

How about the hippos?

IMG_0748 (1280x960)I knew there were anthrax outbreaks in hippos in some parts of Africa, I just wasn’t sure where.  So imagine my surprise when I Googled it and found out there was an anthrax outbreak in hippos in Kruger Park at the time we were visiting there last November!  But anthrax outbreaks in hippos are not uncommon, and not man induced.  Since 1960 there have been 8 major anthrax outbreaks in KNP, Kruger National Park.  For more information visit the SANParks media release or see the  Nov. 5 2012 media report by the Examiner.  I haven’t seen anything to suggest that hippos are endangered.

Where have they all gone? – crocs in Kruger

IMG_0726 (1280x960)There’s 2 things going on here.  First is that the crocodiles in Kruger Park’s Olifants and Letaba Rivers started dying off in the winter of 2008 – 170 of them found dead from May to November that year, an unknown additional number dead and washed away or eaten by their colleagues.  Pansteatitis, an inflammation of fatty tissue and conversion to a form that cannot be metabolized was the problem.  But what caused the pansteatitis or created the internal stress that allowed the disease to take hold? Retrospective analysis of 2007 samples from live crocs showed the first signs of the disease in the population.  Investigators began contemplating upstream influences; pollution from upstream industrial and agricultural sources. This caught my interest as a former water quality fisheries biologist responsible for investigating “spills, kills and thrills” on Vancouver Island.  Also, neighbouring Mozambique had activated a downstream dam that backed up water settling large quantities of silt.

The second thing that is going on, is that new reports of crocodile mortality have disappeared from the web and media and largely from public attention.  A Google News search at this time (Feb. 2013) turns up no new references.  A broader Google search for web sites turns up mostly old news from 2008 and 2009.  For example, there is the South African National Parks official website archived news media release from June 2009 indicating that deaths had resumed that year.  Searching the SanParks website turns up a scientific presentation at the 8th Annual Savanna Science Network Meeting of 2010 confirming that the mortality cycle was repeated in 2009.  Also see the article in the Scientific American, Oct. 2009.  But where are the media updates and news releases since then?  Noticeably absent.  The exception is a private web article What is killing South Africas crocs by HopeOnline dated June 2012 although it is difficult to determine what period the information in that article refers to.

Has the mortality cycle stopped?  Or has the national parks service bureaucracy muzzled the researchers?  After all, it reflects poorly if one of their park’s major predators is dying off in large numbers – one estimate was that 60% were “missing” from some areas of the park.  Reports like that could affect tourism or draw unwelcome attention from conservation groups.  Or maybe the government itself finds the topic of the potential impacts of a dam in a neighbouring allied country, or of possible unmanageable sources of pollution from upstream industrial and agricultural interests to be too sensitive to discuss in public?  If you have links to more recent information about crododile deaths in Kruger Park, please pass them back this way.  I’m still looking for it.

Found another item: CSIR Researchspace reference to a publication attributing the crocodile deaths to dam enhanced populations of an unidentified fish species that is somehow encouraging pansteatitis development in crocs and piscivorous fishes.  On the other hand, a crocodile husbandry publication indicates on page 219 that steatitis fat necrosis may result from vitamin E deficiency.

“Where have they all gone?” – rhinos

white rhinos, Hluhluwe

white rhinos, Hluhluwe

Rhinos.  Will rhinos be gone from Kruger Park by 2020?.  This IOL News Jan. 6 article by Simon Bloch and Ivor Powell reviews a journal publication by Dr Sam Ferreira, large mammal ecologist for SANParks at Kruger National Park.  From previous posts you know that I am aware of the rhino poaching problem in southern Africa, more than 600 last year.  Poaching rates have increased, 48% higher in Kruger Park in 2012 than 2011.  The Western Black Rhinocerus subspecies, officially declared in 2011 to be extinct.  The last known specimen of the Asian rhinocerus, killed in Viet Nam in 2010.  Only 4 rhinos may still survive in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, alleged to be collateral damage from Chinese mining concessions and the influx of Asian immigrants in that country.  Read about the poaching links to “The Crocodile” Emmerson Mnangagwa also referred to as “The Butcher of Matabeleland”.  The architect of Zimbabwe’s state security and creator of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Office – possible in line for president after Robert Mugabe.  I stumbled across this article accidentally when I was looking for an update about pollution related Kruger Park crocodile deaths in 2010 and 2011 and thinking of anthrax killing off hippos – posts for another day.  I post this here, hoping that the article will not be lost in the tsunami of daily news and that the data will not remain buried in scientific journals.