30th Anniversary Season: Episode 6 – 30 September 2013
Science of Fire
Fires are a natural part of the savannah ecosystem as they maintain the balance between trees and grasses and the animals that survive off them. In a place like the Kruger Park, fire management is a hot topic as fires need to be managed carefully to achieve the desired outcome of high levels of biodiversity. Bonne visits the Kruger to see how the science of fire management is studied and practiced. With the increase in CO2 levels in our atmosphere, woody plants such as trees and shrubs have been outcompeting grasses. This is threatening to disrupt the savannah ecosystem by displacing species like cheetah, tsessebe, roan antelope and wild dog that prefer wide-open areas. To prevent the Kruger from becoming a monoculture of thick bush, management have been testing a high intensity burn technique, which will hopefully kill off woody plants and other alien invasive species by creating very hot fires but under less dangerous conditions than in the past. The new technique is causing sparks amongst scientists and management alike.
How would you feel if your dog got caught in an illegal snare? But, how would you feel if using snaring and hunting was the only way you could survive? Illegal hunting and snaring in the Greater Kyalami Conservancy between Johannesburg and Pretoria is a serious problem that is growing every year. It is believed that animals are being trapped for food, for their fur (hides) and in some cases to be used for the muthi market. A local resident discovered his family cat had been caught in a snare. On the 24th of August this year, 50|50 joined GECKO, the Greater Kyalami Conservancy, on a massive clean-up effort to remove snares from the area. We look at why snares are being used to catch animals, the threat they pose for vulnerable and endangered wildlife in the area and what possible solutions can be put in place to prevent snares from being used in the conservancy.
With the White-winged Flufftail, South African Bird of the Year, a bird in the hand is definitely worth two in the bush! This enigmatic species is listed as one of the five Critically Endangered bird species in South Africa and is only known to occur in high altitude wetlands in South Africa and Ethiopia. We don’t even really know what its call sounds like! The population size in South Africa is estimated at 50 non breeding individuals. BirdLife South Africa along with the Middlepunt Wetland Trust took a group of researchers to Ethiopia to try and gain some insight into the ecology of this poorly known bird. Every year the birds disappear from the Ethiopian wetlands during the dry season and no one knows why. Do they migrate? The research team aimed to catch a few birds and take blood and feather samples for DNA and isotopic analysis in order to establish whether the Ethiopian population is related to the South African population.
This week there are some very strange entries on VeldFokus: a fish-eating cow, 50|50 flowers, alien sounds, powerful insects and awesome thunder storms.