Last year we featured a story on the plight of Ukrainian brown bears living in harsh and cruel conditions. Bears that would normally walk hundreds of kilometres daily are being kept in tiny cages on restaurant properties for their entire lives, subdued with alcohol or used as targets for dog-hunting. While animal welfare organization, Four Paws International, was assisting the Ukranian authorities with securing freedom for these captives, we came across the heart-breaking story of Nastia, a brown bear cub in a zoo that was forcibly removed from her mother at only a few weeks old. After being sold, ruthlessly stuffed into a box and taken away for a life of petting by zoo visitors at another zoo, Four Paws International launched a rescue effort campaigning worldwide for such practises to be condemned. Our last instalment of this story we showed a traumatised Nastia being brought back to her mother after beaurocratic battles had been fought. But the reunion was not a happy one. Now we once again visit the Ukraine to see if bonds between mother and cub have been restored and whether Nastia will indeed secure her freedom once and for all.
It turns out that rhinos are particularly susceptible to being put under. In comparison to other large mammals, rhinos go into severe respiratory depression when they are anaesthetised. In South Africa, wildlife managers have been immobilizing rhinos for years so there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about which method works the best but little scientific test work has been done. The only way to scientifically test the best way to minimize the animals’ risk during immobilization is to replicate conditions, test the different methods and then compare the results. A team of the very best that modern veterinary science has to offer, made up of vets, ecologists and rangers, is conducting this vital science right in the middle of the Kruger National Park with wild Rhinos. The team has 8 individual rhinos they’re working with and every two weeks all 8 rhinos are darted and anesthetized with a different combination of drugs and support procedures. Their condition is monitored throughout the immobilization so that at the end of the trial, all the results can be compared to find the optimal method. There are a lot of people interested in these results; the project is a massive collaboration between SANParks, University of Witwatersrand and Pretoria as well as international organizations. SA have always been world leaders in wild animal transportation and relocation so, as our rhino poaching crisis escalates, it’s fitting that we get to test for the least traumatic method to move our iconic mammal out of danger. The aim of the trials is to find the best possible method to immobilize white rhinos by comparing the rhinos’ real-time physiological responses to different methods.
Gusts of Trash
Alldays is little more than a one-horse town in the Northern Limpopo. Near one of the border posts of South Africa, its claim to fame is a little more than a last outpost for tourists travelling to Botswana or those visiting the game farms in the area. But small town or not, even Alldays needs proper dumping grounds. The wind blows the loose rubbish into the east of the town and into the bush. Blouberg Municipality doesn’t formally employ the two workers that ‘tidy’ the dumpsite and do not process the rubbish at all leaving it to potentially taint the water supply or blow into game farms for consumption by the animals. This little town in due to expand with imminent mining developments but what hope is there for environmental best practises if the municipality do not even have functioning dumping grounds now?
A lilac breasted roller tenderizes its meal while a squirrel and a snake try to make a meal out of other feathered friends.