Here is the line-up for the South African TV show 50 | 50, Anniversary Season, Episode 20 on 13 January 2014. Please note that 50 | 50 will be broadcasting on SABC 3 temporarily during January 2014. This week discover how seismic survey ships are killing whales, farm the sun in the Northern Cape and meet the first hand-reared cheetah to be successfully re-introduced into the wild.
In light of our heavily coal-based energy system, government plans to increase the future role of natural gas from the 3% in 2010 to a projected 11% in 2030. Large fields of natural gas are thought to lie under the ocean’s surface off the coast of South Africa. Seismic survey ships chartered by energy exploration companies use air guns that detonate high-decibel explosive sound-waves to map the sea floor by measuring the echoes caused by the sonic booms. The catch is that these sonic booms are known to damage the hearing, balance and internal organs of sea mammals and fish. Whales and dolphins use sonar to locate food, each other and to navigate. Should their hearing and balance be damaged by the seismic booms, mammals and fish can no longer navigate, find food, or each other leading to death by beaching, starvation, or even rupture of inner organs. In repeated cases, there have been reports of mammal beachings in areas directly after surveys have been conducted. Maurice has a whale of a time investigating this issue and sees how scientists must balance wildlife and renewable energy in yet another interesting clash.
Still on the energy theme. South Africa has an energy system notorious for its heavy reliance on coal-based electricity. This does nothing in the way of preventing greenhouse gas emissions and subsequent climate change. The good news is that government have launched a programme to invest in independent renewable energy providers over the next 20 years. They have already awarded 47 solar, wind and hydro projects with 20 year contracts. We visited the first solar power plant (Kalkbult) built by global energy provider Scatec Solar and local partners, which has become the first utility-scale renewable energy facility to supply electricity to Eskom. The solar farm provides enough energy to supply 33000 households with electricity for a year. It is located in the sun-drenched Northern Cape on a property that is being leased from a sheep farmer who is now essentially ‘farming the sun’.
Pride is the name of the first hand-reared cheetah to be successfully re-introduced into the wild and to breed with a wild male. She was a product of illegal breeding and was brought to the Harnas Wildlife Foundation – a foundation which looks after around 300 injured, abandoned or ‘problem’ animals and aims to re-introduce them back into the wild. The correct procedure was to put her down, however the head of the foundation, Marieta van der Merwe, disobeyed her own protocol and raised Pride in secret. She began slowly rehabilitating Pride’s natural behaviours with novel techniques like dragging bottles behind cars to induce hunting. Over the past two years she has been successfully re-introduced into the wild, even mating with a wild cheetah and giving birth to two healthy cubs! Bonne visits Pride and finds out how she has played a vital role in new cheetah research using bio-logging science along with video loggers to track cheetah movements and monitor their behaviours. Some interesting new discoveries are emerging about cheetah behaviour which have previously been a secret to science. Join us to find out!
For some of us the holidays are over and it is back to work! But we’re not the only ones. This VeldFokus shows some hard-working animals which have to climb, crawl, duck and dive to survive in the wild.