50|50 Episode 37 – 25 Feb 2013

Islands of Hope: Floating Wetlands

The Hartebeespoort Dam is a leisure and water sport 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 has been in distress and 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 was needed if any kind of natural balance was to be restored to the dam. Scientists have been trying to restructure foodwebs and ecosystems and to do this, they have adopted a very innovative yet simple and effective method. The project is headed up by Paul Fairall and 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.


Secretary Birds on the Brink

The iconic secretary bird is disappearing. In recent years, their numbers have dwindled so substantially that they have been listed as vulnerable. While there is a fair amount known about the biology of the bird, little is known about their movements. We know their distribution broadly but where do these birds go after fledging and how do the 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 wild dogs. The idea of these ‘Bags for Good’ was to make them reusable shopping bags that would help raise awareness and funds to aid conservation efforts to help save Africa’s most endangered species. Each bag bought contributes R10 to conservation efforts by the Wildlife ACT Fund and the Endangered Wildlife Trust for these four species. But so often we buy things, thinking we are doing good, 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 cheetah.



This week, Johann delves into the world of animal senses. When we step into the bushveld, we can hear humming insects, the roar of a lion, we 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 to those animals that scratch around in dung. Not only do dung beetles thrive in smelly piles of elephant dung but also squirrels and pangolins. Maurice explains why.



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