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Monday, 23 July 2012

Good and Bad News:

First the good news:
Yesterday saw the debut of the new, improved RonaldCam! One of the first sightings that Ron used the camera on was of the Ximhungwe pride on a wildebeest kill. On the morning drive we had seen the three lionesses on the very fresh kill and by the afternoon only one of the pride was feeding. Soon a report came in that one of the lionesses was approaching the kill with a tiny cub in her mouth! The cub is 3-4 weeks old and it was a surprise to hear that the lioness was bringing such a small youngster to meat. Ronald was able to capture some footage of the tiny ball of fluff as it sat in the grass watching the adults feed. Unfortunately I cannot post the footage yet as our internet connection is not good enough to upload video with.
Now for the bad news...
The mother of the little cub is showing no signs of the cub suckling and it may be that she brought the cub to the kill in the hope of getting it to eat. The cub seems weak and could hardly move this morning. It was also heard wailing as it tried to move and the mother was basically ignoring the distress calls. It seems that the new addition to the Ximhungwe pride may not last much longer. Hopefully with all the mating activity between the Selati males and the other two Ximhungwe lionesses there will be more cubs arriving soon.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Sun Is Setting On Africa’s Rhino Population

The poaching of Africa’s rhinoceros population continues to make headline news. We are only halfway through 2012 and already the number of rhino killed illegally is pushing close to the 300 mark. Rhino horn is estimated to reach up to $80,000/Kg on the black market at the moment making poaching an extremely profitable pastime. Rhino horns are even being stolen from museums! The horn is sent to countries such as Vietnam and China where it is prized as an important ingredient in traditional medicines, the increase in poaching in recent years seems to be linked to a claim that rhino horn can cure cancer. Other traditional medicinal uses include treating fever, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders. According to the 16th century Chinese pharmacist Li Shi Chen, the horn could also cure snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession.” (However, it is not, as commonly believed, prescribed as an aphrodisiac).

Unlike the horns of most animals, which have a bony core covered by a relatively thin layer of keratin, rhino horns are keratin all the way through — although the precise chemical composition of the keratin will vary depending on a rhino’s diet and geographic location. Rhino horns are not, as once believed, made simply from a clump of compressed or modified hair. Recent studies have shown that the horns are, in fact, similar in structure to horses’ hooves, turtle beaks, and cockatoo bills. The studies also revealed that the centres of the horns have dense mineral deposits of calcium and melanin — a finding that may explain the curve and sharp tip of the horns. The calcium would strengthen the horn while the melanin would protect the core from being degraded by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. As the softer outer portion was worn away over time by the sun and typical rhino activities (bashing horns with other animals, or rubbing it on the ground), the inner core would be sharpened into a point (much like a wooden pencil).

As far as actual scientific proof of any medicinal value to the horn goes, there is nothing, in fact even the government of China have gone as far as signing the CITES treaty banning the sale of rhino horn, and removing rhinoceros horn from the Chinese medicine pharmacopeia, administered by the Ministry of Health, in 1993. In 2011 in the UK, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine issued a formal statement condemning the use of rhinoceros horn.A growing number of Traditional Chinese Medicine educators have also spoken out against the practice.

Despite all this the demand for horn remains high, fuelling the poaching crisis we are experiencing. 2012 has seen a large number of arrests in South Africa, yet the crisis continues…

Monday, 2 July 2012

Idube Safari Highlights #148: 09–12 June 2012

In this Highlights Video:

The title clip is the sunset over the Drakensberg mountains.

Metsi female leopard joined up with the Dewane male leopard with intent to mate.

Part of the big buffalo herd in the south-western section of the reserve

The Ximhungwe pride of lions (3 females, 3 youngsters) resting after feeding on a young member of the buffalo herd.

Another part of the buffalo herd on the south-eastern side of the reserve come down to drink at Lion Pan.

Some elephants close to the lodge

A huge crocodile on a sand bank in the Sand river.

Metsi female leopard, still together with the Dewane male.

Responding to a reoprt that the Selati male lions may have come back into the western sector we spent most of the morning trying to track them down. Eventually we found them sleeping off a meal of buffalo bull.

Crocodiles at the causeway in the Sand river.

A hippo in the deep channel of the Sand river.

The Selati males, still on site with the buffalo kill.

The Shangwa 3:3 young male leopard, we saw him hunt and catch a porcupine.

Hlab’nkunzi female leopard watching impala outside the lodge. She had been in the lodge grounds overnight.

The Selati males finishing off the remains of their buffalo kill. Hooded vultures surround the kill picking up scraps.

A huge bull elephant feeding on the side of the road.