ULTIMATE AFRICA SAFARIS
Ultimate Africa travel and wildlife news archive
Kruger Park Authorities Battle New Poacher, February 3 2002
South Africa's Kruger National Park is battling a new kind of rhino poacher - one who steals the fluid inside the animal's horn, rather than the horn itself.
Skukuza police station spokesman Inspector Johannes "Oubaas" Coetzer reportedly said six rhinos were poached last year and their horns drained of the fluid. "We know they're not interested in the horns, because we've either found the horn at the scene, or later arrested suspected poachers who said they found old horns lying in the veld," Inspector Coetzer is quoted as saying. He said those who poached the animals for the fluid in the horns did not sneak into the park, but drove through its gates as visitors.
"Agents drive into the park with a team of people who are paid about R50 (US $5) each to go into the bush once they've spotted a rhino," he said. The poachers kill, dehorn and sap the horn's fluid and are collected and exit the park through its gates again. "It's virtually impossible to catch them," said Inspector Coetzer. "If they stole the horns, it might be easier, because the horns are large and heavy and difficult to carry or hide easily."
Coetzer said that like the horns, the fluid is destined for the east, where some men believe it can boost their sexual potency.
Christina Pretorius of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was unaware there was a market for the fluid in rhino horns, but said it was known that rhinos were also poached for their gall bladder for medicinal purposes.
Kruger National Park spokesman William Mabasa confirmed the spate of poaching last year and said he could not deny or confirm that the rhinos were killed for the fluid in their horns. "Most of the time we can't find the horns," he said. "This also makes it difficult for police to convict people." So far, no one has been arrested in connection with last year's incidents.
Kenya Wildlife Service Moves Rogue Elephants, February 3 2002
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) started a major operation on January 25 to drive more than 1,000 elephants which have invaded parts of the Voi division, back to Tsavo West National Park. The elephants have destroyed crops, causing damage worth millions of shillings. The operation was conducted with the help of a helicopter sent from the KWS headquarters in Nairobi.
The elephants, which have been moving in groups of up to 300, have destroyed maize and cow peas which were nearing harvest. The elephant menace had even led to closure of some schools.
Bushmen Fight to Maintain Traditional Lifestyle, February 3 2002
In Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve 75 San, armed only with bows and arrows, prepare to defend their traditional way of life. The struggle is over their only water supply and they are at loggerheads with the Botswanan government, which is determined to turn off the water and force them to Westernize. The move by the authorities is part of a bid to force the San (or Basarwa as they are known in Botswana), from their ancestral home where they still adhere to their traditional lifestyle, hunting food with bows and arrows.
The government had set January 31 as the date when workers would enter the Mothomelo settlement to cut off water supplies. It is one of six settlements in the Kalahari where a total of 750 San and their close cousins, the Bakgalagadi, have defied government attempts to "resettle" the indigenous peoples in the camps of Xade and Kaudwane outside the reserve.
The San people claim the government is trying to remove them from their homes to exploit diamonds. The government, on the other hand, contends that it is too expensive to provide the San with services like water, education and health care in their remote settlements in the game reserve.
Attorneys acting for the San are currently petitioning the government and have applied for an urgent interdict to prevent them from cutting off the water.
Xigera Camp Update, February 10 2002
Xigera Camp is set in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Here is their late December / January report:
Late December saw Jan Broekhuis, head of Wildlife, and his family in camp. We dined under the stars, exchanged treasure baskets, and drummed and danced till we met the New Year. Jan had a guest from Norway join his family. She is most paranoid non-bush person we have ever had in camp and naturally nature was out to "haunt" her. Every spotted bush snake this side of Maun rose to the occasion, and she identified a few new species, we never even heard of. She was also our first emergency horn blower of the year. At 1:30 AM we woke up armed with our ABC's. At the room we came upon a very hysterical Helen, horn still blowing pointing towards a tiny, wide eyed acacia tree mouse.
January was a very busy month with lots of last minute bookings and walk-in German tourists that had enough of driving themselves around, braving the breeding elephant herds of Chobe. We also enjoyed all the South African guests, many of them avid birders.
The lions in the area have been very vocal and we had the privilege of seeing them cross the bridge 4 times. Guests also saw a female trying to cross a channel with 3 cubs. She was spotted on the island the following day. A bull elephant graced us with his presence. We also bore witness to a fish eagle hunting in the lagoon, it landed and fed next to one of the tents. Hyenas got very vocal one night when they had a bit of a misunderstanding as to exactly where the boundary lies. The one clan pasted themselves right in the middle of the bridge to camp just to reconfirm that they are the guardians of the island.
Chikwenya Camp January Report, February 10 2002
Chikwenya Camp is located on the eastern boundary of Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. Here is an update for late December and January:
2001 was seen out with dinner on the pool deck under a brilliantly clear African sky. It was the night after full moon, so the moon was still very bright and we had an excellent view of the surrounding floodplain and up the Sapi riverbed, shadows of various animals drifted across periodically, including hippos, elephants, buffalo, hyenas and of course Tyke (the resident white-tailed mongoose). Everyone partook in a game of Safari Quest - a Zimbabwe version of trivial pursuit, very entertaining, especially when one team had to sing a very pertinent modified song as a forfeit -"It's a long way to Chikwenya, in a 4 wheel drive". The creators of the game had obviously had the privilege of the drive. No hidden talent amongst the singers, sorry!
The New Year was brought in with champagne and a swim in the pool (involuntarily for some), then everyone made their way to bed at about two thirty with threats to anyone intending to wake them before breakfast. After breakfast a couple from the UK who were very keen birders decided to go on a walk (what is the saying about "... going out in the midday sun"!), but it soon proved very rewarding and not only in the avifauna. We walked across the Sapi riverbed to investigate the incessant chattering of a troop of monkeys and were standing under a large wild mango looking around when a large female leopard walked past within about 40 meters of us. She never saw us either, which is phenomenal for a leopard, but looking at her aggressively flicking tail and flattened ears I think she just wanted to get away from the irritation of the monkeys. Having people who know how to move in the bush helped a lot as well. We also found tracks of a cub in the area.
There has been the normal fantastic bird life, with one very notable exception - the Angola Pitta. Probably due to the erratic and late rains it never called as much as normal (if it even bred?). However there were sightings of other birds such as Shelley's sunbird, Narina Trogon, Livingstone's's flycatcher and large flocks of red winged Pratincoles.
Two of Lake Kariba's floodgates have been opened (each only half way) and this has raised the level of the river fairly substantially, which has also opened a few channels through Chikwenya Island making for great pontoon cruises and canoeing trips. The Zambezi River Authority said they might close one of the gates in February, as inflow into Lake Kariba has not been as much as anticipated. Indeed, we have had very little of the rains that we normally have to date. A two-week dry spell in the middle of the month caused a lot of elephants, buffalo etc to move back to the river for water. A few fairly heavy rains towards the end of the month caused the Sapi to flow.
Lastly, and I feel most importantly, the staff. Chris and Aloma Walker came in on the 19th January to take over the reigns of Chikwenya. Chris and Aloma have had many years of experience in the safari industry and I am sure they will be a very valuable management team. Sacha Toronyi passed his final guides license with a full pass, while Humphrey Gumpo and Paul Grobelar passed with minor restrictions; Humphrey has already managed to have his restriction lifted. Congratulations to them all!
Zimbabwe Tourism Industry Recovery to Continue, February 10 2002
According to top players in the Zimbabwe tourism, the industry is now firmly on the road to recovery and this year expects to see major growth, particularly in the second half of the year.
Rainbow Tourism Group chief executive Mr Herbert Nkala expressed optimism that good times lie ahead for the sector. In a recent interview Mr Nkala said the recovery experienced in the second half of last year would be consolidated this year. "We started experiencing improved performance from June last year and indications are that this year will be even better. A peaceful environment and abundant fuel supplies will see the industry realize its full potential in generating employment and earning the country the much-needed foreign exchange," said Mr Nkala.
Representative bodies such as the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism are also confident that this year will be brighter for tourism. Figures from the Central Statistics office indicate that about 1.8 million tourists visited Zimbabwe between January and September last year, up from one million during the same period the previous year.
An improvement in fuel supplies since last June, the anticipated December 2002 solar eclipse, continued aggressive marketing and a peaceful environment are some of the factors expected to drive the sector this year.
Mr Nkala noted that not much activity would be experienced during the first quarter because traditionally, it's a tough period as most tourists come to Zimbabwe between July and September.
Next month's presidential elections would also result in little activity. "Throughout the world the tourism trade stays away from destinations during election periods. This pattern has repeatedly been demonstrated during elections in neighboring countries over the past five years," said Mr Nkala.
Factors that have been driving tourists away, such as the negative publicity and the perceived political and social instability were expected to be washed away after the elections.
Direct London - Dar es Salaam Flight, February 10 2002
Kenyan customers of British Airways are expected to benefit from increased capacity following the carrier's decision to launch a direct flight from Dar es Salaam to London. The airline estimates that some 500 extra seats will be available weekly on the Nairobi to London route, when the new service to Dar starts at the end of March.
A sizeable component of the human traffic from Nairobi to London presently consists of travelers from the Tanzanian city on their way to London.
BA currently runs daily flights between Nairobi and London, using Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
Concerns about Fish Deaths off Kenyan Coast, February 10 2002
The World Wildlife Fund announced that it is deeply concerned about massive fish deaths off the northern shore of Kenya. The conservation organization suspects it is due to a freak off-season bloom of naturally occurring toxic algae. The fish die-off is reported to have started a few days ago off the coast of Kiunga, near the Somali border, causing concern among the local Bajuni fishing communities and hoteliers. Huge numbers of fish, including manta rays, sharks and tuna have been washed ashore, and anglers have stopped fishing because they are scared they could be poisoned by whatever is killing the fish. Several green and hawksbill turtles have also been found dead.
WWF and marine scientists in the region are highly suspicious that the local waters are experiencing an unusually big "red tide" episode. "We are seeing ocean bottom dwellers like octopus and eels dying, as well as offshore fish," said Julie Church, WWF's leader for the Kiunga Marine National Reserve project. "Nothing as large as this has ever been mapped in Eastern Africa."
WWF, together with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, the Fisheries Department in Lamu, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the University of Nairobi are investigating the cause of the current die-off. Samples of dead fish, and water taken from different depths of the ocean have been collected and taken to Nairobi for analysis
Lake Malawi may Reveal Earth's Past Climate, February 10 2002
Scientists are planning to drill into what could be the longest and richest archive of Earth's past climate. It could provide a year-by-year continuous record going back millions of years in a part of the world where it is thought humans first evolved. Using a newly developed drilling system, researchers will, for the first time, obtain sediments from the bottom of Lake Malawi. Situated at the southern end of the East African rift valley, Lake Malawi, is 750 meters (2,460 feet) deep and possibly seven million years old.
Researchers say that the data they could obtain about past climatic variations might provide the environmental background needed to understand human origins and evolution. "Our goal is to get something on the order of a half-million to a million-year record on past climate and environment, taking advantage of the fact that these lake sediments are frequently annually layered," said Professor Andrew Cohen of the University of Arizona, US.
From previous studies, scientists know that each annual layer of Lake Malawi sediment consists of a black zone - the sediment runoff from land deposited during the rainy season - and a light-colored layer of single-celled algae that grow in abundance each dry season. The composition and variation in the layers can be used to infer climatic conditions - temperature, precipitation, etc - in the distant past. Because this information is not a direct record of climate behavior, scientists refer to it as proxy data.
Andrew Cohen said: "A big question has always been whether the global climate engine has been driven by the advance and retreat of glaciers at high latitudes or by circulation patterns at the tropics. "It has long been assumed that Earth's climate engine was driven by the ice sheets themselves. But there is good reason to believe the tropics may be driving the global climate system. So, one of the first things we want to address is the question of whether the climate history of the tropics leads or lags behind the climate of the polar regions."
Preparations for Lake Malawi drilling will take place during the summer, with the actual drilling starting in December 2002 or January 2003. The project will take 70 days. "This is a risky scientific expedition, to be sure," said David Verardo, of the US National Science Foundation's Earth System History program. "We are moving a new drilling system into a technologically challenging environment." This is because Lake Malawi is deep and the weather window for drilling operations is short and unforgiving.
Scientists say that their ultimate goal is to obtain sediment cores at Lake Tanganyika. Andrew Cohen said: "At Tanganyika, there is potential for getting much longer records than from Malawi. Lake Malawi is 750 meters deep. Tanganyika is around 1,500 meters deep. We suspect that Lake Malawi dried up sometime during the Pleistocene, whereas Lake Tanganyika held water."
Electric Fence between South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique to Come Down, February 10 2002
The electric fence between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique will start coming down next month, immediately after the three countries sign a treaty on joint border controls and security as part of the new Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA&T) spokesperson, Blessing Manale, said the date for the signing of the accord, which will formally launch the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, was not yet known.
Two young elephant bulls that were relocated to Mozambique form the Kruger National Park in October last year, have returned to the South African reserve. Kruger Park spokesperson William Mabasa reportedly said the bulls, which were part of the first batch of 27 elephants relocated to Mozambique, had broken through the electrical fence.
Blessing Manale explained that the next group of the expected 1,000 elephants scheduled for transfer to Mozambique over the next three years were expected to be relocated in March this year.
South African Woman Killed by Hippo in Kruger, February 10 2002
A South African woman was fatally trampled by a raging female hippo when she tried to photograph the animal's calf. Annatjie Mienie and her family were on vacation at the Kruger Park Lodge in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, when the incident took place. Mrs Mienie had apparently been standing near the dam at the lodge, videotaping a small crocodile, when she turned her camera on a hippo calf. It was then that the calf's enraged mother attacked her.
Mrs Mienie was rushed to a doctor, who performed emergency first aid. She was then taken to the Nelspruit MediClinic, but died on the way to the hospital.
NOTE: Ultimate Africa would like to note that the accommodations mentioned in this story are self catering facilities and therefore the guests were not in the company of a professional guide as they would be at the lodges and camps suggested by Ultimate Africa.
Hippo to be Spared, February 10 2002
The Mpumalanga Parks Board (MPB) will spare the life of the hippo cow that killed a Gauteng woman over the weekend as it was still nursing a young calf.
Head of conservation Andre Coetzee said that while the incident was tragic the cow would not be put down. "It is a tragic incident which we wish had never happened, but we must reiterate that the hippo remains one of the most dangerous animals on the African continent and must be treated with the utmost caution and respect," explained Coetzee. "This is particularly true of an animal that is caring for a calf," he added.
The MPB has sent a team of its senior officers to the scene of the tragedy to evaluate the situation and recommend a future plan of action. The lodge has also erected a temporary electric fence around the dam to contain the cow and its calf. "It's our intention to drop the fence in a few days to allow the mother and calf to move on to one of the larger dams in the lodge," said Coetzee.
A hippo capture unit will be deployed to remove some of the hippos that have taken residence in dams on the lodge in order to ease population pressure, Coetzee said.
The Kruger Park Lodge has been advised to erect an electric fence along the Sabie River's edge to discourage more hippos from moving onto the property. This is the second hippo attack in the area in the last seven months.
NOTE: Ultimate Africa would like to note that the accommodations mentioned in this story are self catering and therefore the guests were not in the company of a professional guide as they would be at the lodges and camps suggested by Ultimate Africa.
Bank Donates Money to Study Black Leopards, February 10 2002
South Africa's extremely rare black leopards will finally be studied after the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) donated R150,000 (US $130,000) to track and conserve the elusive predators.
The black leopards, known scientifically as panthera pardus, sparked widespread excitement after they were spotted seven times near the historic town of Lydenburg. Black leopards have only been spotted once before in Africa, on the slopes of Mount Kenya in east Africa in 1960. "These are the only other confirmed sightings in sub-Saharan Africa, and are therefore extremely important both for conservation and for tourism," said Mpumalanga Parks Board (MPB) scientist Gerrie Comacho.
Comacho's initial efforts to track and radio collar the animals last year where hampered by the MPB's ongoing budget crisis. "The R150,000 donation by DBSA will finally allow us to study the animals and work out a way to protect them," said Comacho. "We have, however, now learnt that locals have spotted black leopards off and on for up to 15 years. That would indicate a fairly large breeding population - which would be unique."
Black leopards are an extremely rare but natural mutation that is believed to help the predators hunt at night. The MPB has to date received reports from seven 'reputable' people who claim to have seen black leopards within a 30km radius of Lydenburg. Rangers intend baiting non-lethal traps for the leopards, so that they can be examined and radio collared. The information will be used to determine the leopard's hunting range, which is believed to cover at least 5,000 hectares each.
Comacho has urged local farmers and other residents to immediately alert rangers if they spot the rare animal in their vicinity.
Robin Pope's Nkwali Camp January Report, February 10 2002
Robin Pope's Nkwali Camp is set in Luangwa, Zambia. During January Nkwali recorded the highest one month rainfall total since February 1997 with 304mm falling. Staff decided to move the 13 Land Cruisers to higher ground at Mfuwe Airport. Robin Pope, ever prepared, had discussed this option with the Airport Manager last October. Having said that, these things cannot necessarily be rushed and the arrangements still needed to be finalized. Security at airports in Zambia is taken very seriously indeed and amidst many furrowed brows, a mini conference was thus held on site with ourselves, the Airport Authorities, Zambia Police and even the Airport Fire Brigade in attendance!!! Questions of liability were addressed, provisions for fire extinguishers made, letters of comfort hastily drafted (in quadruplicate mind you), the Robin Pope Safaris watchmen assigned to the vehicles duly introduced, interrogated and vetted and the whole exercise from first vehicle out to last back lasted a 9 hours!
On a recent Saturday morning staff enjoyed a birding excursion which included several unusual sightings. Amongst the many shrikes, prinias, apalis and cisticolas was the uncommon moustached warbler and an enormous flock of maybe 1,500 European storks circling a few kilometers away. It was felt that maybe they had been forced down by bad weather the day before and were catching thermals to gain altitude before continuing their journey south. Within 10 minutes, they had reset their gyros, got their bearings and tally -ho'ed.
Rumors Fly Regarding Conservation Corporation Bankruptcy, February 17 2002
At Ultimate Africa we have been hearing rumors in both east and southern Africa about tour operator Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA) going bankrupt in the near future.
CCA has already sold Siana Springs Tented Camp in the Masai Mara and Kitchwa Tembo Tented Camp, also in the Mara, is up for sale. Most shocking is that CCA has recently pulled out from their flagship property in South Africa, Londolozi...
Ultimate Africa will now hesitate to recommend Conservation Corporation's safaris and stays at their lodges and camps.
Cyber-age Animal Tracking, February 17 2002
Louis Liebenberg, a South African scientist turned expert tracker, has over the past five years begun to revolutionize conservation and wildlife management techniques with the aid of a hand-held computer.
At a time when the bow-and-arrow is dying out, the device is enabling southern Africa's legendary Bushmen to preserve their vanishing tracking skills and turn their unrivalled knowledge of nature's vast biodiversity into a tool for conserving species.
Liebenberg's objectives are threefold: to empower the dwindling and socially marginalized Bushmen by creating employment opportunities; to revive the dying art of tracking by developing it into a modern science; and, most importantly, to create a tool for nature conservation.
"To cope with unpredictable changes in various ecosystems, new innovative ways to monitor the environment are needed", explains Liebenberg. "The Cyber-Tracker field computer system integrates traditional knowledge with state-of-the-art computer and satellite science, yielding important benefits for conservation and anti-poaching programs as well as tourism".
World Heritage Site Status for Botswana's Tsodilo Hills, February 17 2002
Botswana's Tsodilo Hills has been given the status of a World Heritage Site along with world famous landmarks like Robben Island in South Africa.
Ticky Pule, director of the Botswana National Museum, describes this development as "a success story, unique, since it is the first time in history of this nation that we have had a heritage site recognized internationally".
No Plans to Fence Roads in Kgalagadi, February 17 2002
Despite wild and domestic animals causing numerous accidents in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, major roads in the area will not be fenced in the near future.
Addressing a Kgalagadi council meeting, Molebedi Khuduego said due to environmental and other factors the roads will not be fenced. He said that some of the roads are on the migratory path of wild animals and fencing them will cut off the animals from their historic migratory routes.
Botswana Government Rejects Criticism of Bushmen Removals, February 17 2002
The government of Botswana has insisted that relocating nomadic Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is essential in order for them to have access to state services such as healthcare.
The relocation of the Basarwa, a tribe of Bushmen that had lived within the reserve for years, has come under fire from human rights NGOs, both locally and internationally.
However, Clifford Maribe, information officer with the Botswana ministry of foreign affairs noted that the relocation of the tribe did not amount to forced removal, even though essential services to the community in the reserve had been cut. Maribe said "This program has been on-going from as far back as 1985".
Consultations started around that period for the voluntary movement of the Basarwa from the reserve. This was for purpose of sustainable service provision. Outside the reserve they can be provided with services, as well as empowerment and development.
While reports had said some 560 Basarwa were still in the reserve, Maribe said his information was that there were "less than 30" now remaining. "For those who are willing to relocate there is first of all a registration process and then their property is assessed. After that they are given compensation and when they get to the places they are moving to they are allocated a piece of land with certificate of land ownership," Maribe said.
The Bushmen are assisted in settling their new land and are provided with food and some temporary shelter. Maribe said: "NGO's are also assisting them in income generating activities and mentoring them, they are also given cattle and goats. The park is a wildlife reserve and there are some services such as clinics and water that cannot be provided to them in the reserve. No permanent structures can be developed in the reserve and the tribe is scattered. Whereas outside, for example, a borehole has been drilled in new area they will be relocated to. They can now join the mainstream of society and enjoy the benefits of the services government is providing."
However, the Botswana Center for Human Rights, Ditshwanelo, has condemned the move. "The termination of services (in the reserve) by the government effectively forces people out of the reserve, as they will have no access to basic resources," the group said in a recent press release. "The relocation of the residents ... is unnecessary and it is in breach of the constitution and human rights of the residents."
According to Ditshwanelo, the reserve was created in 1961 "specifically" for the Basarwa to practice their hunter-gatherer way of life. Recently the Botswana department of wildlife and national parks said that it would no longer issue hunting permits to the Basarwa for use within the reserve.
South African Airways to Upgrade Fleet, February 17 2002
A special South African Airways (SAA) board meeting will be held to consider a recommendation to upgrade the airline's long-haul fleet.
SAA chief financial officer Richard Forson said the airline would buy 13 to 15 new or used aircraft. .The upgrade is expected to cost roughly US $1 billion. Key bidders include Boeing, Airbus and International Lease.
New Malaria Drug Launched in South Africa, February 17 2002
A new drug, partly derived from a herb used to treat malaria in the Far East for nearly 2000 years, has been officially launched in South Africa.
The anti-malaria drug known as Coartemether is made from two active ingredients, namely artemether and lumefantrine, which target the malaria parasite at different stages in its life-cycle.
You Can't Push a Hippo Around, February 17 2002
A growing Swazi population combined with a reduction of indigenous animal habitats have led to the extermination of many local animal species, though one seems intent on standing its ground
"You can't push a hippopotamus around, and not expect to be pushed back" says nature conservationist Danny Dlamini.
A woman in rural Mpaka, near the eastern town Siteki close to the Mozambique border, where a near tropical climate and ample wetlands are home for herds of hippopotami, was recently mauled by one of the large beasts. Police representative Assistant Superintendent Vusi Masuku relates, "She was rushed to the hospital with a leg wound, but everyone agrees she is lucky to be alive."
Says conservationist Dlamini, "Just how lucky the woman is can be gauged by a fact most people do not know: Of all the big game animals in Africa, hippos kill more people each year than any other, including crocodiles and lions." The reason, Dlamini says, is that hippos and people share a common space and have a common need: lakes and rivers for water. Hippos are also nocturnal animals, and accidental encounters with people at night are often fatal.
Hippos are native to the warmer climes of all the contiguous African nations, and are found in lakes, rivers and fresh-water swamps. They are formidable adversaries for anyone who disturbs them, due to their great size, weighing more than a ton, and speed, able to achieve short bursts in excess of 30 kilometers an hour.
But like all denizens of the African menagerie, the hippopotamus, a name that has remained unchanged in the 3,000 years since the ancient Greeks combined the words hippo (horse) and potamos (river) to name the "river horse", is today facing a loss of living area that threatens the species.
Urbanization and agriculture continue to devour wilderness areas, while fertilizers, insecticides and other pollutants poison waters where hippos live.
"The reason the Mpaka hippo attacked the unfortunate woman is that it had been abused," says Ted Reilly, executive director of Big Game Parks of Swaziland. According to conservationists, the hippo, which had been stoned by villagers for several days in an effort to chase it away, reacted in fear to defend itself when the woman stumbled across it one night after a drinking party. The hippo had strayed from its usual habitat.
"When animals are faced with a choice of green, lush, well-fertilized crops on one hand and dry grass on the other, this is a recipe for conflict," says Reilly. The Big Game Parks of Swaziland has urged the Ministry of Agriculture to inaugurate a crop protection plan, providing grants or low-cost loans to fence agricultural land.
Planes to be Sprayed before Departure, February 17 2002
All planes passing through Uganda are to be sprayed with insecticides according to an Ugandan health ministry official. Dr. Sam Okware said spraying eliminates the risk of exporting or importing diseases like malaria and yellow fever, transmitted by insects.
Many countries in Africa currently spray aircraft with insecticides.
Catastrophic Decline of Lake Victoria, February 17 2002
Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world, is in disastrous decline, mainly because of a population explosion and farming practices that can be traced back to the 1930s, biologists say
From being a pristine body of water a century ago, Lake Victoria is being starved of oxygen and overrun by inedible blue-green algae, and faces the probable extinction of half of its more than 500 native species of fish, they warn.
The conclusions are drawn in an international study led by Dirk Verschuren of Ghent University, Belgium, based on cores of sediment drilled from the bottom of the great East African lake. The sediment gives a timeline of environmental changes in the lake over 180 years, before the moment when it was seen by the first European, the British explorer John Speke, in 1858.
There was little change in the sediment until the 1930s, when the cores suddenly became rich with the bony remains of diatoms - single-celled algae that form one of the first links on the food chain. For the following 40 or 50 years, according to this evidence, the diatoms thrived. They then dramatically fell in population, yielding to the blue-green algae, called cyanobacteria, that are shunned as food by bigger creatures up the chain.
Verschuren, whose study is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the organ of Britain's prestigious scientific association, says the diatoms initially did well because of a human influx to the banks of Lake Victoria. Previously remote, the lake became accessible by train, causing a population build-up. Trees were cut down for farming, which caused a runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil, thus providing nutrients for the diatoms. The diatoms then died off because they had exhausted all the sources of silica, an element vital for their survival, in the water.
That made the cyanobacteria the lake's unchallenged top bug, and their ascension was helped by the introduction of chemical fertilizers about two decades ago, which also brought runoff nutrients into the lake.
The findings are important because they are the first scientific evidence of the timetable for the lake's decline, said Verschuren. "Prior to the 1980s, there was hardly any environmental monitoring of Lake Victoria," said Verschuren. "We hope to correct the perception that the crisis in Lake Victoria is a biodiversity crisis, rather an environment crisis."
He explained that many people blamed Lake Victoria's problems on the introduction of the Nile perch in 1954. This notoriously voracious predator chomped its way through the lake's stocks of native fish. As a result, according to this thinking, there were no small fry left to eat the blue-green algae, which thus proliferated out of control.
The deep truth, though, is that poor land management prompted a change in the lake's ecological balance, tilting it in favor of the cyanobacteria, he said. Native fish then faced a double threat, from the loss of food and from the Nile perch.
Verschuren held out only dim hopes for resolving Lake Victoria's problems, given that an answer would have to be jointly found and financed by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, which are among the poorest countries in the world. He said there was a parallel with the industrial pollution of the Great Lakes in North America, but the problem was successfully tackled because the two bordering countries, Canada and the United States, were wealthy.
The human population around Lake Victoria grew from 4.6 million in 1932 to 27.7 million in 1995 and, according to UN estimates, should reach 53 million by 2020.
The lake covers 69,490 square kilometers making it the second biggest freshwater body in the world.
"Further degradation of the Lake Victoria ecosystem can be countered only if land-management strategies that severely restrict nutrient input to the lake and its tributaries are implemented on a multinational, basin-wide scale," the authors say.
Kenya Alarmed at Low Tourist Arrivals, February 24 2002
Alarmed at low tourist arrivals, stakeholders in Kenya's tourism industry are teaming up to resuscitate an industry that was once Kenya's top foreign exchange earner.
The effort, spearheaded by the Kenya Tourist Federation and the Kenya Tourist Board, aims at boosting tourist arrivals by 20%, or an increase of about 70,000 on last year's 375,000 total. With each visitor spending over $400 this would mean much needed additional revenue to Kenya.
In comparison over 6.1 million tourists visited South Africa in 2001!
As other African country's experience tremendous growth in tourism Kenya has struggled with declining wildlife, poor infrastructure, the implementation of an entry visa, and continued violent robberies of tourists.
The decline of international flights into Kenya has further compounded the issue. Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia no longer fly to Kenya "yet Germany, France and Italy are key markets for the country", says Mr Jake Grieves-Cook, chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation. "Our tourism is now entirely dependent on charters but while these are useful they are at the bottom end of the market."
Oryx Calf Flown to Nairobi for Treatment, February 24 2002
The oryx calf which was befriended by a lioness at the Samburu National Reserve last week has been flown to Nairobi. The oryx, christened Valentine, arrived aboard a private aircraft and was immediately driven to the Animal Orphanage at the Nairobi National Park.
The Kenya Wildlife Service decided to cut the relationship between the oryx and the lioness to avoid a repeat of the incident that occurred after another lion ate an oryx adopted by the lioness. The director said the lioness will, however, remain in the park.
A controversy has emerged between the KWS and Samburu County Council over the translocation of the oryx calf to Nairobi. The move by KWS to transfer the calf to Nairobi's Animal Orphanage from the Lewa Downs wildlife clinic in Isiolo was met with protests.
Indiscriminate Hunting Worries Kenya, February 24 2002
Kenya has raised the issue of indiscriminate killing of animals in Tanzania's Loliondo Game Protected Area in the East Africa Community's Tourism and Wildlife Management forum.
Hunting in the area, which is part of the Masai Mara and Serengeti ecosystem, has been reducing the number of animals that participate in the spectacular annual migration of wildebeest, zebras and accompanying predators.
However, wildlife experts and hunting companies think Kenya is unduly worried.
Rains Hit Serengeti, February 24 2002
The concern for the delay in the rains appearing in Tanzania's Serengeti this year has been well and truly quashed with deluges recorded across the Serengeti from Moru to Kirawira and all the way north to Lobo and Kleins Camps.
Historically this is the time for the short rains, which bring life to the parched grasslands across the Serengeti in short sharp relatively light bursts however this year we are witnessing an increased amount of rain falling during the short storms.
Despite the wetness of the plains wildlife viewing has been little affected with great sightings across the board!
Tanzanian Environmentalist Wins Award, February 24 2002
Sebastian Chuwa, a Tanzanian environmentalist who has long been active in implementing educational and tree-planting programs for sustainable development on Mt. Kilimanjaro, has received the "Spirit of the Land" award during Olympic ceremonies in Salt Lake City, USA.
This award, presented by the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, was given to 10 US and 5 international recipients for their work in promoting environmental educational efforts during the year 2001.
Export of Live Animals from Uganda Authorized, February 24 2002
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has authorized the export of live animals from Uganda. The UWA has set a quota for the export of a quarter of a million animals in 2002. However, UWA has admitted that it does not have the capacity to monitor the export of live animals. The tariff payable to UWA per animal exported rarely exceeds a few dollars and raises the possibility of massive windfall profits for the animal traders.
The presence of animals on the UWA quota that are not found in Uganda has raised suspicion of organized animal smuggling, while Ugandan traders who claim to be breeders are in fact capturing animals in the wild and exporting them immediately. One conservationist was quoted as saying: "There has been heavy underhand political pressure on this matter."
New Cape Town Airport Hotel Planned, February 24 2002
City Lodge Hotels is planning to develop a 13 million Rand (US $1.1 million), 90-room hotel adjacent to South Africa's Cape Town International Airport. Construction will begin next month.
The hotel, the first at South Africa's second largest airport, is scheduled to open in September.
Bizarre Dinosaur Unearthed, February 24 2002
A dinosaur with 1,000 teeth has been unearthed by scientists in a Niger desert. The dinosaur, a vegetarian, lived between 90 and 100 million years ago. Paul Sereno, a paleontologist from Chicago University described the findings as the most bizarre dinosaur he has ever tried to classify.
Dr. Sereno described the dinosaur as being "about 14 meters long from head to tail, with hips rising to about 3 meters high". Most surprising to the scientists was the dinosaurs teeth which were "narrow, needle-shaped, not bigger than a few millimeters in width and packed into an open groove in the jaw such that they were all supporting each other and growing out of unison". The long-necked dinosaur with a hammer-head shaped skull is being referred to as Nigersaurus.
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