In the Oori Game Reserve 3G has nothing to do with email. It's a male of a different sort altogether: George the previously-lonely Giraffe and two of his lovely young female companions, Georgina and Georgette, add up to 3Gs.
George's companions arrived a few weeks ago and were kept in a special boma, built to accommodate them until they had sussed out their new environment (and George, presumably...). They came out of the boma, surveyed the land and walked off with George as if they owned the place.
“The Oori is a flourishing reserve with 450 head of game on 1500 ha of mixed grassland and savannah,” says Steve Panos, one of the residents. “Game includes zebra, blue wildebeest, blesbok, kudu, waterbuck, ostrich, impala and our prize possessions, the three giraffe.
“The Oori needs to be managed carefully,” he emphasises. “That includes a co-ordinated burning programme to ensure that the grasslands maintain their nutrition and ability to act as water managers. It also means extensive alien plant removal and infrastructure management such as the road network. We need to check regularly for snares and potholes in game paths. We've recently lost some valuable animals through these.
“Overall game management is essential: introducing the right species, removing excess game through sales, veterinary care, regular game counts and patrols to prevent poaching.” www.oori.co.za.
On 14 April Northern Farm's 2 000 Bovelder cattle go under the hammer. The Bovelder breed has been developed over decades on Northern Farm and it has played a major role in the beef industry, providing thousands of top quality genetic breeding stock all over Southern Africa.
Joburg Water has given notice that all farming activities must be terminated within the next few months. That involves selling the entire Bovelder herd and all the farm equipment. Some 70 contract staff will be laid off. The reason given is that farming is not part of Joburg Water's core business.
Notice has also been posted for an application to deproclaim the Diepsloot Nature Reserve which was proclaimed in 1960. This nature reserve includes both Northern Farm and Northern Works, on both sides of the R114 and the N14. There is also an application for a major housing development south of the N14 highway. However, this application includes the portion between the R114 and the N14, where the core of Northern Farm's operations is located: offices, bull station, Paradise Bend School, staff quarters and community centre.
Apart from agriculture the farm's open spaces and trails are enjoyed over weekends by thousands of mountain bikers, birdwatchers, hikers and horse riders. About 300 birds have been identified on the reserve which is part of SA Birdlife's birding route. A full Olympic standard equestrian course is used for annual shows.
This year the spiders on Ladybird Hill in Hills and Dales not only had to contend with avid spider hunters, they faced an array of cameras (TV and other) and sound equipment as well. Professor Pink, presenter of the TV science programme, Knock Knock, and his team added extra pizzazz to the Conservancy's annual Spider Walk on 27 February. They were shooting footage for the Knock Knock programme which will be featured on SABC3 on Wednesday 14 April at 14:00 and repeated on Saturday 17 April at 07:00. www.knockknock.bz
Astri Leroy of the Spider Club of SA was the “leading lady”. Her knowledge of spiders is phenomenal and Prof Pink's knack for asking probing questions brought forth fascinating spider stories. “He knows exactly how to get me to tell people about spiders!” she commented later.
Astri demonstrated how to pick up rocks to look for spiders (and scorpions) and handed out small tubes and magnifying glasses. The hunt was on and soon the first “finds” were made. The kids were the quickest to spot a spider and catch it. Astri and her team, Peet van der Ark and Joan Faiola, identified each and described its habits, its habitat and the fascinating features which are often only visible under a magnifying glass or a microscope.
The scientific llist Astri gave to the Conservancy had added light comments such as: “Feather-legged spider: These are the funny little long-shaped spiders with lumpy abdomens that I said were going to take over the world because they outbreed any other spiders!” And then there were Wolf spiders, Velvet spiders, Jumping spiders, Gumfoot web spiders, and the Flatties or Wall Spider which was “under a stone but too fast and flat to catch!” according to Astri's final list. The spiders were released afterwards.
Oh yes – the Violin Spider horror story keeps circulating by email. “It's not true!” says Astri in exasperation! (See the details in VeldTalk no 46, January 2010.) www.spiderclub.co.za
“I should have brought my whole extended family!” said one visitor to the Rhenosterspruit / Magaliesberg Biosphere “Living Naturally Festival” held on 13 March at Alpha Conference Centre. “And all my friends,” added his wife as she sampled some of the delicious home-made jams and breads at Hana's Herbs. Her kids weren't interested in herbs – they were watching Experilab's Francois Germishuizen creating scientific magic.
Apart from stalls offering the “Best of the Biosphere” - visitors were treated to a range of shows and displays seldom found at one function. The Lesedi dancers' vigour and stamina had the audience spellbound and one tiny boy delighted the audience with his exuberant capers, mimicking the dancers.
Experilab's “explosive” science session should be part of every school's curriculum – bangs, fizzes, magic colour changes, rockets and even a lethal “potato gun”. Lots of appeal to the enquiring mind. The Snake Mythbuster's demonstration with snakes encouraged even the timid to stroke a large python which he had slithering around his neck. They kept a safe distance from the snouted cobra and puffadder, however.
Vincent Carruthers whisked his audience back more than a century to the Anglo Boer War's Battle of Kalkheuvel, made even more “real” because we were standing on the field where the actual battle raged, flanked by the two hills where the Boers were entrenched. Guns blazing, horses rearing and neighing, orders barked and screams echoing from the hills – it needed very little imagination to visualise the battle.
And then there were owls, and hairy spiders, and fresh veggies, and beautiful plants and even a tented massage parlour (no, not that type, a therapeutic one!). The Soweto Heritage Orchestra provided lively music and Gilroys Brewery provided the “spirit” - naturally brewed lager and ale from master brewer, Steve Gilroy.
Don't miss this annual event next time!
The Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy was privileged to host the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, and his wife Usha, during their two-week visit to South Africa. Prof Gandhi is the President of Initiatives of Change International (IofC) and he met and addressed a cross-section of South Africans in Gauteng, Durban and Cape Town.
He played a leading role in establishing Asia Plateau, the 35 ha IofC conference centre in the mountains of western India, recognised for its ecologically sensitive and sustainable approach.
“Our earth delights and surprises us with its charm and draws us close to it,” he said as he wrapped up his time in the RNC. “This is what the Conservancy has taught me.” Read more about him and his 14-nation tour on www.iofc.org.
Electric fences are highly effective at limiting the movement of game and predators and for security. However, their design has a deadly effect on many animals. The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Wits University commissioned a study to assess the impact of electric fences on small animals in South Africa. Just over half of the mortalities recorded were of reptiles, about 42% were mammals and a small number was amphibians.
Chameleons, genets and bushbabies tend to climb fences and have a greater chance of being killed. Tortoises react by withdrawing their head and limbs into the shell and remain part of the circuit. The regular pulses of electricity eventually kill it. Other species prone to electrocution include hedgehogs and monitor lizards. It is estimated that we lose more than 21 000 reptiles in this way each year.
Proposals to prevent these deaths include: