Launch of African Marine Waste Network

On July 25th, the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), Plastics SA and other partners will launch the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

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The growing amount of debris and other waste that enters the seas of Africa, mainly from the land, is costing many millions of dollars each year. This debris is negatively affecting human health, degrading terrestrial and aquatic environments and is killing marine animals. While plastics and other debris are valuable resources, the reuse of this plastic is largely being lost in Africa.

The two day event will highlight this problem and explore ways of combatting this plight. It will allow for national and international experts to participate in a planning workshop, the celebration of the official launch, public lectures and the first meeting of the Network’s Advisory Panel. The purpose of this initiative is to look at ways in which organisations and individuals can work together at creating healthier and cleaner oceans for future generations.

The primary role of this Network is to bring people from around the African continent together to define, develop and implement a waste strategy. The Network aims to solve problems locally, but will also serve to help other countries strive towards waste free oceans. In working together, this strategy will encourage the people of Africa to reduce their negative footprint and promote their positive handprints in their own environment. This waste strategy will be the first ripple effect of what is intended to become a wave of change in Africa.

A central role for the Network is to bring people of Africa together to develop and implement the strategy, ultimately setting their own local, national and regional targets and monitoring their success. To be effective, the strategy must provide clear plans on what needs to be done to reach the set targets.

The keynote speaker at the launch will be Mr Kristian Teleki, currently the Senior Marine Advisor to the Prince of Wale’s International Sustainability Unit and the Director of Engagement for the Global Ocean Commission. His talk will focus on how valuable plastic is to our society and economies, but he will also discuss the massive impact that plastic has on our environment. The purpose of his talk is to look at ways in which we can co-exist with plastic, until other alternatives are found.

Other speakers at the event are Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson, Prof Derrick Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University (NNMU) who is a Patron of the SST, Mr Anton Hanekom, the Executive Director of Plastics SA, Mr Kevin Hustler CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, and Councillor Rory Riordan will welcome the visitors to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Launching the Network in Port Elizabeth is appropriate, as Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth is one of South Africa’s six Hope Spots. Although the launch is in South Africa, the African Marine Waste Network will be the first dedicated approach to address marine waste at a Pan-African level. The Network and its strategy will incorporate 38 coastal and island states of Africa, which makes the facilitation of this project in South Africa, a huge coup.

The problem is so great that no single organisation, town or country can meet the challenges alone. There must be a cross-border approach with all affected countries working together to solve the problem.

The official launch of this initiative is open to the public and will take place on Monday 25 July, at 18:30 at the NMMU South Campus Auditorium.
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Source: rnews

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South Africa’s drought is bad for hippos, great for lions

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, South Africa — At South Africa’s biggest national park, wildlife officials are warning of difficult weeks ahead: unless significant rains come, animals will start dying.

This is the harsh reality of life in a country suffering its worst drought in decades. Cattle are already dying, and crops have been destroyed. Many South Africans are dealing with drinking water shortages, and volunteers have been delivering emergency water supplies to communities in dire need.

William Mabasa, spokesman for the Kruger National Park, says that visitors to the park may be upset to see wildlife suffering, but drought is a natural cycle like fire and floods.

“Those with strong genes will survive,” he said.

Hippos will be among the first animals affected. They typically stay cool in rivers and water pools during the heat of the day, going to graze at night — but are now spending more time grazing during daytime as they struggle find enough food.

Kruger is a vast park in South Africa’s northeast, bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Animals here rely largely on rivers, though water holes are supplied by park management in some places.

Park officials say they are working with communities and farms outside Kruger’s boundaries to manage water usage in the five major rivers that flow through the park.

But rangers say they won’t be making any major changes to save plants and animals from the drought, seeing it as a natural process.

According to Mabasa, in the 1990s a drought reduced the park’s population of Cape buffalos by more than half, to around 14,000. The number of buffalos has since recovered and now stands at more than 40,000.

While hippos along with buffalo will suffer, larger predators including lions and leopards are expected to benefit from the drought, by giving them an advantage on weaker prey.

According to the South African Weather Service, 2015 was the country’s driest year since 1904 when record-keeping began.

The drought, during what is normally the summer rainy season in most of South Africa, has been exacerbated by a strong El Niño. The weather phenomenon brings drier conditions to southern Africa.

Source: usatoday

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No, South Africa hasn’t turned the tide on its rhino poaching crisis

2015 may have seen a small dip in the number of rhino poached in South Africa, but the level of killing is still double natural reproduction rates

The announcement that South African rhino poaching deaths fell slightly in 2015 adds a misleading gloss to another devastating year in which criminal gangs expanded their operations into new, even more delicate rhinoceros populations.

South Africa’s environment minister Edna Molewa said on Thursday that 1,175 dead rhinos were discovered during the country’s annual census of poaching activities – 40 less than the 2014 record of 1,215.

“I am today pleased to announce that for the first time in a decade – the poaching situation has stabilised,” said Molewa. Since 2007, when just 13 rhinos were taken for their horns, poaching has spiralled into a crisis that now threatens the last stronghold of southern white rhinos an has grown so bad that the government has enlisted the armed forces to assist park rangers.

The South African government was keen to tie the “stabilisation” to an increase in poaching-related arrests and firearms seizures, beefed-up security around Kruger National Park (where the majority of animals are killed) and the translocation of 124 rhinos to more secure areas.

Wildlife advocates, while praising South Africa’s renewed efforts to combat poachers, were quick to point out that stable numbers did not equate to a stable situation.

“It’s still catastrophic,” said Dan Stiles, an expert on the illegal wildlife trade. Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief advisor on species, said the current level of poaching was “totally absurd”.

“In the 17 years preceding the sudden escalation in 2008, fewer than 36 rhinos used to be killed by poachers in South Africa each year,” she said.

Tom Milliken, a rhino expert from wildlife trade watchdog Traffic, warned about misinterpretation of the South African census numbers. He said the real number of deaths could be considerably higher given that not all poached rhino carcasses are found. With this uncertainty taken into account, he said, the results of the 2014 and 2015 censuses were “virtually the same”.

He said the loss of more than 800 animals from Kruger alone – roughly 10% of the park’s remaining animals in one year – was double the natural rate of reproduction.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if numbers [of rhino] were starting to go down,” he said, although the government said the population remained stable.

Milliken said the “stabilisation” may have more to do with the total number of rhinos that poachers are able to take on their smash and grab missions across the border from Mozambique.

“The low-hanging fruit are rhino populations that are pushed up against a border for one reason or another. They are possibly the easiest animals to get. If you have to walk in and penetrate the park deeper and deeper, that could be an impediment,” said Milliken.

The pyrrhic victory in South Africa was outweighed by a dramatic increase in poaching of the critically endangered black rhino in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

“The overall situation for Africa has not changed at all, this year is really going to show record levels of rhino poaching,” said Milliken. The South African announcement brought the total number of rhinos poached in Africa to 1,305 – six more than 2014 and the worst year in decades.

In Namibia the number lost to poachers jumped from 24 in 2014 to 80 last year. At the same time, Zimbabwe reported an increase from 11 to more than 50. Together the three countries (including South Africa) house 95% of remaining African rhino.

The rapid explosion of South Africa’s poaching crisis shows how quickly criminal gangs are able to scale up operations once they set up in a country. Milliken called the rise of poaching in Namibia, which has the largest remnant population of black rhino, as “horrifyingly worrying”.

“What we are seeing is the conflagration is spreading to other rhino populations,” said Milliken. “What’s happening [in Namibia] is the same kind of poaching brand that South Africa has represented. There’s the presence of the Asian syndicates, there’s some degree of corruption in the private sector and there’s other evidence of government officials being corrupted and involved.”

Millken said many Chinese nationals, working as development officials with legitimate jobs, had been implicated in the growing trade. As China’s influence in the continent grew, he said, so too would the influence of the international gangs that drive the trade.

Shaw said the developments should prompt national governments and their international law enforcement partners to enrol local communities in the fight against poachers.

“The infiltration of these communities by sophisticated criminal gangs not only threatens rhinos, it also compromises the safety and sustainable development of the people living in these communities,” said Shaw.

“Local communities can help tackle wildlife crime, but only if they see themselves as active partners in conservation with a real stake in protecting wildlife, not just as pawns in a fight between law enforcement officers and international criminal syndicates.”

Source: theguardian

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Farmers producing grass-fed beef must pay heavily for certification – expert

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Although only 5% of South Africa’s beef is produced away from feedlots, getting official “grass-fed” certification for small holder farmers is a struggle with the Department of Agriculture. So says Mpumelelo Ncwadi, co-founder of the Indwe Trust; an organisation working to strengthen smallholder farmers in South Africa.

According to Ncwadi, 95% of South Africa’s beef is produced on feedlots where animals are fattened with maize-based food (unnatural to cows whose natural diets should be grass-only) and antibiotics.

Here’s why gaining a “grass-fed” certification from the Department of Agriculture is a struggle for small holder farmers.

Source: news24

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The Vertical Zoo: A wild greenery-wrapped tower that provides refuge for animalia

We’ve seen tons of vertical farms, but what about vertical zoos? Why not take the same theories and technologies used to grow organic produce and raise animals and apply them to build more compact, more sustainable zoos? Proposed by Mexico City-based BuBa Arquitectos, the Vertical Zoo is a balanced and sustainable space where people and animals can coexist in harmony. Wrapped in lush vegetation, the star-shaped building makes use of green building strategies to reduce heat gain, encourage natural ventilation and soak up rainwater. Totally self-sufficient, the tower’s aim is to be a sustainable refuge for all animal kingdom species.

Vertical Zoo, BuBa Arquitectos, vertical garden, eco zoo, self-sufficient, zoo

The zoo is built from a six armed star-shaped level designed to maximize space, views and circulation. It is based on a nucleus or a tree trunk from which emerges six branches, each 20 sq meters in size which all serve different programmatic needs. These program blocks provide space for zoo activities, visitor needs, administration, circulation and ventilation, and spaces for sustainability. Modular by design, more star-shaped levels can be added on top as needed or as funding becomes available for new facilities.

Lush foliage surrounds the tower and protects its inhabitants from the elements, creating an overall picture of harmony. Totally self-sufficient, the vertical zoo is capable of providing its own water and energy through rainwater collection and solar power. Arrangement of the star-shaped levels encourages natural ventilation and improves views. Multiple towers can be built together to create a larger interconnected complex.

The Vertical Zoo is designed to be as much about the animals as it is about the people who visit and encourages meeting and cohabitation as a way to promote equanimity between the species. Although zoos are not always the most humane place for animals, there may come a time when we need to protect species from total extinction. This vertical zoo attempts to find a sustainable solution.