Islands of Hope: Floating Wetlands
The Hartebeespoort Dam is a leisure and watersport location in Gauteng and many stately private homes overlook the water. But while the scene may be tranquil at first glance, the waterscape has been severely tainted by pollution over the years. From plastic bottles amongst invasive hyacinths to exotic fish species and algal blooms, the ecosystem is in distress and is also possibly the smelliest in the province. Since 2007, Rand Water and the Department of Water Affairs have been trying to sort out the mess but more help was needed if any kind of natural balance was to be restored. Scientists have been trying to restructure food-webs and ecosystems and, to do this, they have adopted an innovative yet simple and effective method – wetlands. The project is headed up by Paul Fairall and the wetlands are being employed to do what wetlands to best … filter pollution out of the water. The Hartebeespoort Dam now contains hundreds of floating wetlands, islands of hope in the sludgy mess.
Secretarybirds on the brink
The iconic secretarybird is disappearing. In recent years, its numbers have dwindled so substantially that the bird has been listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. While a fair amount is known about secretarybird biology, little is known about the birds’ movements. We know their general distribution, but where do they go after fledging and how do they end up hundreds of kilometres away from where they started? BirdLife South Africa has tagged a fledgling with a satellite transmitter to find out just this information. Faye tagged along to see how the process went.
Acting for wildlife
We have all seen those limited-edition shopping bags that Woolworths sells: the bags with the vultures, the rhinos, cheetahs and African wild dogs. The idea behind these ‘Bags for Good’ was to create reusable shopping carriers that would help raise awareness of and funds to aid conservation efforts to help save Africa’s most endangered species. For each bag bought, R10 is contributed to the conservation work done by the Wildlife ACT Fund and the Endangered Wildlife Trust for these four species. We often buy products in the belief that we are doing good, but are we really? We catch up with the folks from Wildlife ACT to see what kind of work they do, collecting data on the critically endangered animals like wild dogs and cheetahs.
This week, Johann delves into the world of animal senses. When we step into the bushveld, we can hear humming insects and the roar of a lion, and we can smell wet earth. Just imagine the assault on a wild animal’s senses, which are its finely tuned weapons for survival?
The lens is turned on those animals that scratch around in dung. It’s not only dung beetles that thrive in smelly piles of elephant poo; Squirrels and pangolins do too. Maurice explains why.