You can't fool VeldTalk readers. The photo of a bright green snake in the September VeldTalk, purportedly a Boomslang, brought immediate response from several people who know their slithery friends.
Anthony Paton, Cradle of Humankind & Dinokeng Special Projects
Although slightly similar in appearance, the Spotted Bush Snake is no Boomslang! When I was a Drifters guide, one of my clients was bitten by a Spotted Bush Snake in fairly freaky circumstances. I captured the snake and checked its identity - very carefully - and then treated my client with Savlon and a plaster. I assured her that there was no need to rush her to hospital and she did not start bleeding later that day, so I was correct. Spotted Bush Snakes seem not to mind living in or near human habitation, and are regrettably often killed when they are mistaken for Boomslangs. That’s a pity because they are actually friendly snakes and bites from them are unusual.
James Stroud, Pretoria
The Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) has a flat-bottomed belly with flat sides. The body is green and turns to a golden brown towards the tail with black spots on the front of its body.
It's a very good climber and can clamber up a brick wall like lightning. It catches lizards and small reptiles whilst climbing through trees and thick bush. This snake is quick to bite but the bite is harmless.
Gavin Masterson, Herpetologist, GDARD
There were two mentions of snakes in the September VeldTalk.
The photograph of the Boomslang is a mis-identification of the Spotted Bush Snake, which is harmless. It is commonly mis-identified, especially by people who find them living in close proximity to or even along the walls of houses (as in this case). A Boomslang that is one metre in length would be about as thick as a human wrist, whereas the Spotted Bush Snake of the same length would be about as thick as a human finger.
Elaine’s story about the snake curled up in a colddrink can is probably a case of the right tin at the right time. The snake probably used the tin as a temporary refuge and was surprised by Elaine. Snakes have a remarkable ability to fit into small spaces and so the snake was probably neither trapped nor staying there a long time. Snakes don’t grow rapidly enough to get stuck in a tight space. (Editor's Note: I wonder who was most surprised – the snake or Elaine!)
Douwe van der Zee, Swellendam
Dankie weereens vir die laaste nuus! Die “boomslang” was ‘n gespikkelde bosslang. Heeltemal onskadelik en skynbaar nogal heel volop daar in julle kontrei.
But then, to prove some of us do know our snakes - Dave Muller of Hills and Dales got a quick pic of a Boomslang. “We have this gorgeous female Boomslang living in the trees around our pool,” he said. “She has been there for quite some time now but she's very elusive. She's about two metres long.”
Boomslang - beware!
Spotted Bush Snake - harmless "cousin"
That's close enough!
The case of Wraypex (developers of the Blair Atholl Golf Estate next to Lanseria Airport) against four Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy members, starts on 1 November. The case, which has been postponed three times since 2005, will take place in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Wraypex originally sued five members of the RNC for R210 million for defamation and damages which it claimed were incurred by their holding up the development. Wraypex withdrew its case against former RNC committee member, Lynne Clarke, (sued for R40m) in 2009 and had to pay her costs.
Some of the earlier media comment on the case included the Financial Mail (10 April 2009). Wrote Property Editor, Ian Fife: “...it's difficult to argue that the quantum demanded was anything but intimidating. No SA court would award a fraction of such a claim.”
“This turned out to be a PR disaster,” the article continued. “It was labelled a Slapp (strategic litigation against public participants) suit that developers had started using in America to silence opponents of their projects.” The RNC members claimed that the developer had not complied with the requirements of the legal process.
The four defendants facing trial on 1 November are Arthur Barnes (Riverside Estates), Mervyn Gaylard and Lise Essberger (Vlakfontein) and Helen Duigan (Hills and Dales).
The annual History Tour of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy focused on the western side of the Conservancy this time around. “It was time for a change,” said organiser Dalene van der Merwe. “We started at Alpha Conference Centre, in the area where the Battle of Kalkheuvel took place on 3 June 1900. Boer and Brit clashed in this narrow valley where the R512 now runs to Broederstroom. What intrigued me was the response from some of the kids on the tour. It seemed to awaken an avid interest in our heritage and I had to answer questions from an eight year-old, such as 'Who was on our team?'!
“On our trip through the Oori Game Reserve the famous giraffe trio, George, Georgette and Georgina, were browsing contentedly near the road, to the delight of the visitors.”
First stop in the Oori was at Jimmy and Helga Eshelby's “castle” on the banks of the Crocodile River. “Creative genes run strongly in the Eshelby family,” says Dalene “For a quarter of a century Jimmy and Helga and their sons, Ray and Déon, have expressed their artistic talents in a variety of art forms. Déon is a fifth-generation piano restorer. His great-great-great-grandfather, Edwin, was a director of Steinway in London in the 1800s and Déon learnt the craft from Jimmy. Restoration is painstaking work because a piano can have about 12 000 bits to put together. His workshop contains an amazing collection of grand pianos, uprights, ancient and modern pianos in various stages of repair. Some date back to 1817.
“In the main house Jimmy’s artistry is evident everywhere. Carved wooden arches over doorways, pelmets skilfully created from decorative pieces salvaged from old pianos, dressers, tables - all have Jimmy’s stamp on them. The house and tiny chapel feature Helga’s stained glass windows and abound with Ray’s wrought-iron creations - chandeliers, shelves, plant holders, furniture - many with a musical theme.”
After lunch at the SOS Training Village the tour continued to the site of the first discovery of gold in the old Transvaal. A special plaque to commemorate this event has been erected on the banks of the Jukskei River, near the old Wagon Crossing on the Gaylard family's property in Vlakfontein.
“I have to thank Daryl Smith of Rhino Tours Safaris, our intrepid bus driver,” says Dalene. “He is prepared to drive where many others would balk!”
They save the farming industry millions of rands each year, help sustain the world's forests and, in some countries, are a major tourist attraction. We're talking bats, the world's only flying mammals and one of the planet's most misunderstood and persecuted creatures.
So far 1 100 bat species have been identified, half of them facing extinction. Their problem is they've generally had a lousy press, with silly stories abounding of bats getting tangled in one's hair or carrying lice and rabies.
A talk on bats, presented by Nigel Fernsby of Hennops River, past chairman of the North Gauteng Bat Interest Group, is part of the Conservancy's annual Conservation Calendar. This year it took place on 10 October at the Fourwheel Drive Club of SA's Base 4 in Doornrandje. Nigel's knowledge of and enthusiasm for these little creatures can barely be contained in one talk.
“I had no idea there is such a variety of bats,” said Niko Knigge of Doornrandje afterwards. “Nor how sophisticated they are and how important their role is in insect control and plant pollination. Nigel also was able to put real rand and dollar values to the savings that healthy bat populations can bring to commercial farming, driving a strong business case for education and conservation.” Bat populations in large urban areas can consume up to 14 000 kgs of insects in a single night.
After impressing the adults with detailed information about the value bats add to life, Nigel wowed the kids with the “guests” he brings with him - tiny, cuddly little Yellow House Bats*. When he switches on the “bat detector”, which makes the bat's call audible to human ears so all can hear her “talking”, this little mammal has made fans for life.
The frequency of the echolocution sounds that bats produce is outside the range of human hearing. While we can only hear sounds made in the 0 to 16 kilohertz range the call frequency of bats range from 20 to 210 kilohertz. Each bat species also has its unique call.
*The Yellow House Bats are returned to their roosts after the talk.
The “'Year of the Bat”' was launched on 2 September to promote bat conservation, research and education. There will be a special focus on the ecological benefits that bats provide, such as pest control and seed dispersal. For more info go to: http://www.cms.int/news/PRESS/nwPR2010/09_sep/Press_Release_Year_of_the_Bat.pdf
A special thank you to the Fourwheel Drive Club of SA for making their function venue available.
Judd Kirkel's presentation of Wildflowers and Succulents of the Magaliesberg and Gauteng on 9 October at Alpha Conference Centre was a challenge to “look differently” at what we tend to miss.
While all of us who attended the talk appreciate the amazing variety of plants in our veld, Judd's eye for detail and his photographic skills opened up a new world. A closer look at some of the minute flowers that one often walks past, showed the most exquisite patterns, shapes and colours.
“We have 10% of the world’s diversity of flora on the 2% of the globe's land space that South Africa occupies,” he says. “What this means is if there were only 100 species of plants left on planet earth and these were shared amongst all the other countries on the globe, you would find some countries don’t get any species of the original 100 plants, other countries just get one species. South Africa would have 10 out of those 100 species.”
Judd is passionate about the wealth of South Africa’s plants. This passion extends to his love of photographing our flora in its natural habitat. In the past decade he has travelled in his own capacity more than 100 000 kilometres to document and photograph a huge portion of Southern Africa’s flora. More details on www.wildsucculent.co.za.
The talk was given on behalf of the Magaliesberg Biosphere and Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy. Thank you also to Alpha Conference Centre for making the venue and refreshments available for free.
The ‘global extinction crisis’ has been in the news for a while, showing the overwhelming scale of biodiversity loss: 21% of all known mammals, 29% of amphibians, 12% of birds, 35 % of conifers and cycads, 17% of sharks and 27% of reef-building corals are threatened with extinction. Although overwhelming, such information is extremely important to anyone who isn’t indifferent to nature.
Why? It awakens awareness, which can lead to concern and thus to action. That's where you and I come in.
Members of conservancies in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Buffer met for a workshop to address mutual concerns and opportunities, catch up on the latest legislation affecting conservancies and to look at ways of closer cooperation in future. The workshop, sponsored by the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, took place on 16 October in the RNC. A follow-up is planned in 2011.
Flower Walk - Sunday 13 November
Led by Prof George Bredenkamp and the Botanical Society of SA
Cost: R50 pp, R40 for RNC and Associate Members, kids free.
HillDilly Country Market - Sunday 31 October
Fresh produce, organic veggies, milk, cream, eggs, honey, fudge, home-made
cakes...and lots more, including an Art Exhibition. See below!
Venue: Waaigras, Hills and Dales
Time: 09:00 until 13:00
Art Exhibition - Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 October
Oil and Watercolours by Jeanette Horn. She has had two solo exhibitions plus two together with renowned artist, Ulrich Schwaneke, and several combined exhibitions as a member of the Watercolour Society.
Venue: Waaigras, Hills and Dales
Times: 09:00 until 18:00
Sustainable and Holistic Building Design and Retro-fit Courses
13 November - Green home design
20 November - Renewable energy
27 November - Cob building
4 December - Natural paint and plaster
Insynch Training Centre, Hills and Dales, RNC
Acid Mine Drainage - 20 November
Talk by Dr. Francois Durand, University of Johannesburg
Is our borehole water safe for use? The origin of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), how it affects water quality, the ecology, structural stability of the region and the threat it poses to the health of animals and people who are exposed to it.
Time: 09:30 for 10:00
Venue: Valverde, Lammermoor Conservancy
R50 per person; R25 for pensioners; kids under 18 free.
Please book: 072 587 0361
Tea and cake will be served afterwards.
In the August VeldTalk (no 52) we asked for advice on recycling styrofoam. Douw Steyn, Environmental Director of the Plastics Federation of SA responded: “Regarding your question about where to recycle styrofoam (Polystyrene) - go to the Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC) website for info and drop-off centres: www.polystyrenepackaging.co.za.”
Thanks, Douw! A quick visit to the PSPC website produced useful information and a list of some of the drop-off centres.
Polystyrene is produced from naphtha, a product remaining after the transformation process of petroleum in refineries and represents only 0.2% of the quantity of crude oil used in Europe. The average shopper uses more oil driving to the supermarket than is used in all the polystyrene packaging that protects their goods!
A polystyrene hot beverage cup requires about 50% less energy to produce than a similar coated paperboard cup with a corrugated cup sleeve. The shelf life of a salad is enhanced by up to 10 days when packaged in high impact polystyrene.
When recycling make sure your polystyrene is clean and free of plastic film, loose parts or glued-on cardboard. Start collecting your polystyrene and happy recycling!