30th Anniversay Season: Episode 2– 02 September 2013
As the demand for rhino horn soars, driven by buyers in Asia for its reputed medicinal properties and status symbolism, so too does the sophistication of the poachers. Faced with hunting gangs using helicopters, night-vision goggles and high-powered rifles, those protecting the rhinos are also being forced to up their game. As poaching incidents continue to rise, conservationists look to smart technologies to save the planet’s wildlife. Almost 600 rhinos have been poached this year. We need solutions that are as sophisticated as the threats we face. We keep hearing about the different tools in the toolbox being used to address the issue, and that there is not one single silver bullet to curbing the horrendous poaching tide. One of the latest buzzwords as far as anti-poaching tools go, is “drone”. While legislation around the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles is foggy, the technological trend seems to be taking off. So what is a drone and how are they potentially employed in fighting the anti-poaching battle? Bonne went on a little fact-finding mission where she found herself becoming the pursued. Although it is tempting to fit these flying devices with weapons that could blow up poachers, the main focus is surveillance and reaction. This kind of monitoring proves especially valuable in large areas, where there just isn’t enough manpower to keep an eye on everything. But it’s not just about launching things into the African night and hoping to find something, it’s doing it with a base of mathematics and sound science.
The Heaviside dolphin has never made a debut on television before, yet it spends its time frolicking in the waves off Sea Point, right under the noses of Capetonians. It is endemic to the Benguella system of the West coast of Southern Africa being found no where else in the world. It is listed as “data deficient” by the IUCN due to the extremely low levels of scientific research on this species. Published population sizes are estimated at 800-1000 but these are really only guesses. The lack of scientific research on this species is very concerning in terms of its conservation. Research teams, both from home and abroad, are focussing on the dolphin’s habitat ecology and behaviour and this information will go a long way to understanding the conservation status of the Heaviside dolphin. This is important because these dolphins do get caught in fishing nets and are affected by oceanic pollution. They are only listed under Appendix II of the Conservation on Migratory Species (CMS) which encourages international agreements in the conservation and management of the species. With this new ground-breaking research we can decide if stricter conservation agreements are necessary?
Johann takes us on a rock pool safari moving from the Eastern Cape to the East Coast to teach us about rocky shore ecology. Invertebrates take centre stage and even microscopic creatures don’t escape Johann’s keen sense of tracking! From nudibranchs squirting clouds of purple defences to upside down crustaceans (commonly known as barnacles) that filter feed on algae soup, we explore the fascinating adaptations of the rocky shores – a place of extremes: flooded when the tide is high, desiccated when the tide is low.
We look at how young cats learn to hunt and how spiders fish. A cheetah mother and her young take on a male impala and the female takes a back seat as the young learn the ropes. Young male lions become timid around a large female gemsbok. The extraordinary scene involves the gemsbok standing dead still in between the lions who begin to sleep instead of kill the prey. What could be the explanation? We see a video of the fishing spiders amazing fishing technique. Hanging over a floating leaf and use vibrations to locate prey, it grabs tiny fish that swim beneath it with lightning speed.