Thursday, August 20, 2009

The shocking slaughter of Africa's wildlife

The shocking slaughter of Africa's wild life

THE wild life of eastern Africa is the wonder and envy of the rest of the world. Unique in abundance and variety, it has been gravely diminished in the past and is seriously threatened in the immediate future. Its natural habitats and wild lands cover more than half of its immense area, and are of tremendous potential importance if properly used. But they too have been reduced in extent, their value has been sadly reduced by improper use and they are threatened with drastic misdevelopment in the immediate future.

The future of African wild life is bound up with that of the conservation of natural resources. Both are now in the balance. The next five or at most ten years will be decisive in determining whether they are headed downhill towards a point of no return, or set on the upward path of beneficial development.

Let me state the African situation in ecological terms. The ecological problem is fundamentally one of balancing resources against human needs, both in the short and in the long term. It thus must be related to a proper evaluation of human needs, and it must be based on resource conservation and resource use, including optimum land use and conservation of the habitat.

Over the whole of south-eastern Africa, the wild life resource has been shoclingly reduced from its astonishing past abundance. In spite of this, the wild life of this region is still a resource of unique value. It must be preserved both as an object of study and as a spectacle to be enjoyed. Its scientific study is a necessary basis for proper land use policies, and an increasing number of people from all over the world are finding unique satisfaction and interest in it as a spectacle.

Proper management of wild lands can yield a large crop of meat as well as numerous ancillary animal and plant products. The meat-crop could in particular areas be commercially profitable, but of more general importance is the fact that it would go a long way to satisfying the Africans' meat-hunger, which springs from the region's marked protein deficiency.

This in turn would help in reducing the threat of poaching to African wild life. "Poaching' today is in reality a large-scale illegal trade in slaughtered wild animals. It is by no means confined to killing for meat; all too often it takes the horrible and wasteful form of merely taking the valuable trophies, such as rhino horn, wildebeest tails, or elephant ivory, and leaving the slaughtered carcasses to rot.

The poacher's methods are not only wasteful, but extremely cruel. It is bad enough when gangs of bowmen with poisoned arrows wait near a waterhole or at a gap in a prepared barrier, and shoot large numbers of animals, which then die an agonizing death. However, pitfalls are worse; in the Serengeti, for instance, whole series of carefully-sited pitfalls have been laboriously dug, providing proof of the value of the proceeds.

What is needed is a comprehensive and conservationist land use policy for the region, based on a proper survey, to decide which land should be allocated primarily for agriculture and for commercial or industrial development; which allocated for game-cropping, watershed protection, forests, National Parks and Nature Reserves, or merely kept undeveloped in reserve until its best use can be determined; and which could be best developed by establishing a fruitful symbiosis between wild life and domestic stock.

Wild life in Africa as a resource may be summed up in the phrase Profit, Protein, Pride and Prestige, with enjoyment and scientific interest thrown in. It can yield Profit from tourist revenue, sales of meat and trophies, and Protein from game-cropping schemes; it can be a source of local Pride and international Prestige; while its importance as a source of scientific knowledge is very great.

To let the wild life die or be destroyed would be to allow a precious element in that rich variety to be submerged forever in the drab monotonous flood of uniformity that is threatening to engulf our mass-produced technological civilization. Unesco has roused world opinion to save the threatened monuments of Nubia: it should take on the responsibility of rousing world opinion for the equally worthy task of saving the threatened wild life of Africa.

Read More

African Holiday Destinations Wildlife Africa

Monday, July 20, 2009

South Africa's wildlife wonders

Cities have grown, much land has been given over to farming, hunting has wiped out entire herds, and the times when a herd of springbok could take days to pass through a Karoo town are long past.

Yet, thanks to the foresight of conservationists past and present, South Africa remains blessed with abundant wildlife.

The Big Five

Best known are the mammals, and the best known of these are the famous Big Five: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Not that giraffe, hippo or whale are small ...

South Africa's bushveld and savannah regions are still home to large numbers of the mammals universally associated with Africa.

The Kruger National Park alone has well over 10 000 elephants and 20 000 buffaloes - in 1920 there were an estimated 120 elephants left in the whole of South Africa.

The white rhino has also been brought back from the brink of extinction and now flourishes both in the Kruger National Park and the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Attention now is on protecting the black rhino.

Both these parks are home to all of the Big Five, as are other major reserves in South Africa – such as Pilanesberg in North West province – and numerous smaller reserves and private game lodges.

The big cats

Aside from occupying the top rung of the predation ladder, the lion also tops the glamour stakes. Sadly, it does have one formidable enemy in humankind, which has expelled it from most of the country so that it now remains almost exclusively in conservation areas.

The beautiful leopard survives in a larger area, including much of the southern Cape and far north of the country, although numbers are small in some places.

The cheetah is the speed champ, capable of dashes of almost 100 kilometres an hour. Its population is comparatively small and confined mostly to the far north (including the Kruger National Park), the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape, and reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and North West province.

Lesser known wildlife

Other quintessentially African large animals are the hippo, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest (the famous gnu) and zebra, all frequently seen in South Africa's conservation areas.

Heightened awareness, however, has created an increased appreciation of lesser known animals. A sighting of the rare tsessebe (a relative of the wildebeest) may cause as much excitement as the sight of a pride of lion. And while one can hardly miss a nearby elephant, spotting the shy little forest-dwelling suni (Livingstone's antelope) is cause for self-congratulation.

On the really small scale, one could tackle the challenge of ticking off each of South Africa's seven species of elephant shrew - a task that would take one all over the country and, probably, a long time to accomplish.

Over 200 mammal species

With well over 200 species, a short survey of South Africa's indigenous mammals is a contradiction in terms. A few examples will help to indicate the range.

In terms of appeal, primates rate highly. In South Africa they include the nocturnal bushbabies, vervet and samango monkeys, and chacma baboons which - encouraged by irresponsible feeding and under pressure through loss of habitat - have become unpopular as raiders of homes on the Cape Peninsula.

Dassies (hyraxes, residents of rocky habitats) and meerkats (suricates, familiar from their alert upright stance) have tremendous charm, although the dassie can be an agricultural problem.

The secretive nocturnal aardvark (which eats ants and is the only member of the order Tubulidentata) and the aardwolf (which eats termites and is related to the hyaena) are two more appealing creatures, and both are found over virtually the whole country.

And for those who like their terrestrial mammals damp, there is the widely distributed Cape clawless otter, which swims in both fresh and sea water. The spotted-necked otter has a more limited territory. Both are rare, however, and difficult to spot.

One mammal whose charm is recently acquired is the wild dog or Cape hunting dog, one of Africa's most endangered mammals. Once erroneously reviled as indiscriminate killers but now appreciated both for their ecological value and their remarkably caring family behaviour, wild dog packs require vast territories.

They are found in small numbers in the Kruger National Park and environs, northern KwaZulu-Natal (including the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park), the Kalahari, and the Madikwe reserve in North West province.

More common canine carnivores are the hyaena, jackal and bat-eared fox. Feline carnivores - besides the big cats mentioned above - include the caracal with its characteristic tufted ears, the African wild cat and the rare black-footed cat. Other flesh eaters include the civet, genet and several kinds of mongoose.

The plant eaters are well represented by various antelope, from the little duiker to the large kudu and superbly handsome sable antelope, which is found only in the most northerly regions.

Mammals take to the air, too: South Africa is well endowed with bat species.

Article Source

Friday, June 12, 2009

SA: world's 2nd cheapest holiday

South Africa is one of the most affordable holiday destinations in the world. This emerged from the latest annual American Express Foreign Exchange Holiday Cost of Living Index, which compares prices in the world's top 12 holiday resort areas.

Even with the current strength of the rand, South Africa offered significant value for British holidaymakers, finishing second overall to Thailand.

South Africa was ranked the cheapest on five of the 14 shopping items surveyed - comparing prices of items such as drinks, meals, camera film, sunscreen, postcards and car hire - making it the country with the highest number of cheapest items.

SA was the cheapest country for a lager (65p), a bottle of Coca-Cola (46p), suncream factor 15 (£1.16), 24-shot camera film (74p), and a three-course dinner for two including wine (£26.03).

Italy, previously thought to be one of Europe's more expensive resort areas, proved cheapest of the six euro zone countries surveyed and the only one where costs fell compared with 2004.

Using information researched by national tourist boards for each of the 12 countries surveyed, American Express found that prices varied by around £90 for the same items.

The cheapest, with a combined shopping bill for all 14 items of just £65.70 (R795), was Thailand, 6% down on 2004. South Africa was next cheapest with a shopping bill of £67.68 (R820).

The study also showed that the cost of holidaying in both Australia and America had dropped by about 20% in the past 12 months, assisted by a strong exchange rate for sterling. Prices in Australia dropped by around 20%, while in the US costs were down by 9% in addition to the previous year's drop of 24%.

Italy's shopping basket total dropped by 9% to £73.96 (R895), while costs rose in Spain, Portugal, Greece, France and Ireland - most noticeably in Spain and Ireland, where the bill grew by around 26% each over 2004.

The survey also looked at the cost of hiring a car for three days as part of the holiday experience, asking car-hire firm Hertz to quote rates for all 12 countries. At just under £37 for three days' hire, Spain proved the cheapest, while Norway cost £139.62 - almost four times as much.

"As was the case last year, the 2005 cost of living chart demonstrates clearly that one currency does not mean one price," said American Express' Brandon Welsh.

"The costs vary significantly for every item that we surveyed - by £2.03 for a bottle of Coke bought in a cafĂ© and £1.41 for a large bottle of supermarket mineral water, for example," Welsh said. "Overall, the cost in Italy was virtually half that in Ireland for the same 13 items."

Articles Source

African Holiday Destinations and Safari Tours