The practices of bear baiting and dancing bears were outlawed in Eastern Europe almost 12 years ago and we thought we’d seen the end of cruelty to bears… Not so. Deeper into Eastern Europe in the Ukraine, brown bears are living under harsh, cruel conditions. Bears that would normally walk hundreds of kilometres daily, are being kept in tiny cages on restaurant properties for their entire lives. In order to subdue the bears, they are fed alcohol. These are called the vodka bears. Since it was announced that Ukraine will be hosting the EUFA EURO 2012 soccer tournament (beginning this month, June) the Ukrainians have come under the cosh from animal rights activists to clean the cities up in time for the competition. Four Paws International has been given permission to assist the Ukranian authorities to release captured and tortured bears. During their investigations, Four Paws have come across make-shift zoos on the side of a highway where animals are kept in dreadful conditions; been alerted to an abused bear named Potab and through his wounds learnt about husky bear-baiting competitions as well as many other atrocities. This insert sheds light on the ‘modern day’ cruelty to bears and helps to point out the way forward to make a positive change.
In the Blouberg Mountains in Limpopo, a breeding colony of Cape vultures comes into contact regularly with the community that lives below them when birds that become grounded are picked up by passers by. Vultures fetch a good price from Sangomas who use them for muthi to predict the future or cure schizophrenia. But gradually, the community is learning that the conservation of these birds has value too and now birds that are found are being returned to the authorities for treatment and release. The Cape Vulture is southern Africa’s only endemic vulture species. South Africa has the largest population of breeding Cape Vultures however, they are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN (2000) with only about 2000-odd breeding pairs left in the wild. Vulture species across the globe are facing similar threats, with the Cape Vulture being no exception, resulting in a continuous downward spiral throughout much of their range. Human activities have had the largest impact on vultures throughout the world. In more ground-breaking attempts at bolstering the endangered birds’ population, a unique breeding programme sees artificially-hatched chicks introduced to vulture nests via dummy egg cases which results in the parent birds easily adopting the already hatched chick. This technique allows conservationists to produce parent reared ‘wild’ chicks that are suitable for release into their natural environment, as opposed to hand raised chicks which can be human imprinted, while eliminating many of the dangers of natural incubation and hatching. Cape Vultures are colonial birds, but will mate for life, carefully choosing their ‘soul-mate’ from a large group. In captivity, they may not meet a suitable mate, thus for successful breeding, several birds need to be housed together to allow them to make their own partner selection.
This season we have a new slot called Sekgweng which is Tswana for “In the Bush”. Sekgweng is an up-close look at nature through the eyes of passionate and dynamic guide Johan Lombard. After more than 20 years in the field, few people have as much knowledge of nature subjects. In this segment, Johan brings the bush alive for our viewers, covering a diversity of nature topics from tracking to animals both big and small. As well as fascinating facts about plants and ecology, in our first episode we get up close with a praying mantis, look at the tracks of a jackal to recreate its nocturnal activities and sneak up on a rhino.
In our first episode, we take a look at some slippery, speedy, swimming snakes as well as some killer birds.