Hartebeestfontein Conservancy


Where every footprint counts

The Conservancy - established in 2002 - is situated in Gauteng Province. The Conservancy falls in the valley between the top of the Magaliesberg and the top of the Witwatersberg, and borders the core zone of the Cradle of Humankind, and is in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve, The fertile valley between the two ranges is both productive farm land and conservation areas.
Spanning approximately 5 000 hectares, it is zoned primarily for agriculture with the Magaliesberg Mountain enjoying the conservation status of "protected environment" under National legislation.
Action taken by the committee is guided by the memberships’ needs and the Conservancy Constitution. The Conservancy slogan, ”Where every footprint counts”, is indicative of the mission to embrace the heritage embedded in the area and to protect the biodiversity that will ensure a sustainable future.
Inevitably, every action, good or bad, in the past and future, will eventually become part of the recorded history of this area. The Conservancy forms part of this history, and therefore wants to make a positive contribution towards this heritage.

Wildflower of the Month

Pineapple flower

April’s Wild flower of the Month is Eucomis autumnalis, commonly known as the Pineapple flower/Wildepynappel.

2016-03-21

Tree of the Month

Bladder-Nut

Diospyros whyteana Bladder-Nut / Swartbas, Bostolbas N.Sotho: Mohlatsane (SA National Tree number 611)

2009-05-26

Bird of the Month

Cape Vulture

August's bird of the month is the Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres)

2015-08-30

Tree of the Month

Common Wild Pear

Dombeya rotundifolia Common Wild Pear, Bushveld Bride/Gewone Drolpeer, Bruid-van-die-Bosveld Tswana: Motubane, Mokgofa (SA National Tree number 471)

2009-09-12

Tree of the Month

Wild Medlar

Vangueria infausta Wild Medlar / Wildemispel Tswana: Mmilo or Mothwanye (SA National Tree number 702)

2009-10-04

Bird of the Month

Cattle Egret

May’s Bird of the Month is the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) or umLinda-nkomo (Zulu). Photographed by Eric Stockenstroom

2015-08-30

Newsletters

April 2016

  Newsletter #84 April 2016     Editorial Autumn is definitely upon us – mild days and cool nights. We are already down to single figures at night! Hopefully, we are going to experience a real cold winter this year – not like the mild winters of the past two years. Although we are all hoping for more rain, it is widely believed in this area that it is a bad sign if we still receive rain until July, as then our next rainy season is postponed for a few months, and our fire season is also extended for some time. When one talks to people nowadays, conversations mostly include the current drought, bad service delivery, levels of corruption and near junk status of our country. The general frame of mind is that of despondency, tiredness and frustration. It is probably easier said than done to encourage people to keep up one’s spirits under such circumstances. Personally, times like these always remind me of what Winston Churchill once said: “A positive attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference”. A positive attitude is contagious – it helps one to survive in difficult circumstances, and it attracts positive things to you.     Important events to remember Talk on rare water birds: By Willie Froneman at Wickedfood Earth (± 7km from Hekpoort on theR560, towards Skeerpoort, on the left – from Skeerpoort, on the right) on 7 May 2016 at 12:00. You are also invited to visit the market on the same day, from 09:30 – 11:30. The talk will be followed by a light lunch at ±13:30, provided by attendees/visitors themselves. Please bring something to eat and drink (e.g. a salad dish, cold meats, cheese, interesting breads or bread rolls, and maybe also some desert – preferably home-made).We hope that as many members/readers as possible will be able to attend the talk and visit the market. Please diarise the date and RSVP to Liz Greyling (082 880 9297 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by the beginning of May. National Alpaca day and organic market: As part of National Alpaca day, Alliepad Alpakkas in Magaliesburg is hosting an open day and organic market on 30 April 2016, from 09:00 to 16:00. Please see event link:www.facebook.com/events/1044857875570899/ or call Louisa Stade on 083 651 9005 for more information.   Seas of colour after recent rain After the recent rain, the Barberton daisies on our farm are something to behold. Whenever I am looking for some inspiration, all I have to do is look out my kitchen window! Those of you who are not so lucky to view their own Namaqualand when looking for inspiration, will have to be satisfied with the pink and white seas of cosmos along our roads. Unfortunately, the dreaded pink Pompom also appeared in spots everywhere, after having been kept under control by the drought. We appeal to our members/readers to get rid of these invaders, preferably before they can spread their seed.     Crime Prevention We can expect crime levels in the country, as well as in our area, to increase as a result of the current difficult economic situation and increasing unemployment figures. Continued vigilance and crime prevention measures must be applied by all residents and should not be neglected. Residents who do not form part of the Safety and Security WhatsApp group have probably wondered about the helicopter flying in our area at night. This is a crime prevention initiative of Oostermoed Security Services, who make use of sophisticated equipment in an attempt to spot suspect people moving across landowners’ properties and committing crime. The Conservancy is relatively free of serious crime. This is made possible by continuous cooperation and communication among all role players involved in crime prevention. When less serious crime is addressed properly, serious crime cannot make inroads and is restricted to the minimum. We would like to thank Oostermoed Security Services, as well as all members of the community who dedicate time and render help with crime prevention in the area. Deon Greyling   Encroaching bush, grass threaten SA farming Warming can now be detected in temperature recrods from across South Africa.  This is according to prof William Bond, chief scientist at the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).  There are not yet widespread detectable trends in rainfall. What is also changing is atmospheric carbon dioxide, the invisible hand in global climate change. Since the early 20th century, this major greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming, has increased from about 300 parts per million (ppm) to 400ppm, mostly due to fossil fuel use. These are higher concentrations than have been experienced by plants for at least a million years. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has direct and indirect effects on plant growth. Plants use less water as carbon dioxide increases, so for the same rainfall, plants should grow more or have longer growing seasons. Plants are also capturing more carbon through photosynthesis than before. Glasshouse studies on savanna trees have shown striking responses from some of our most common tree species contributing to large-scale woody thickening. Seedlings today produce larger root systems, packed with starch reserves, and produce larger thorns and more chemical defenses as carbon dioxide increases. Trees establish as seedlings more readily, survive fire and browsing as saplings, and grow more readily than in the past. So, we have a new global change driver, particularly important in open ecosystems that have the potential to form forests, but have been prevented from doing so by fire, herbivory and the people managing the land. In this new, high-level carbon dioxide world, it will be far harder to maintain open grassy systems than in the past. With regard to projecting future ecosystem changes, climate-based projections will get it wrong. In this part of the world, one has to factor in land management and the direct and indirect effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide. (For a full report, see “Change is in the air. Ecological trends and their drivers in South Africa” by Nicola Stevens, William Bond, Timm Hoffman and Guy Midgley or visit www.saeon.ac.za).     Undesirable plant species Dodder (genus Cuscuta, Afr duiwelsnaaigaring) is a parasite that has a devastating effect on forage yield. Prof Charlie Reinhardt and dr Wayne Truter of the University of Pretoria published an article on dodder in 2012, entitled “Dodder, the plant killer”. It feeds on most legume pastures, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions and sugar bean but does not parasitise grasses or grains. After germination, dodder entwines itself around the host plant with long, string-like, yellowish tentacles that suck nutrients out of the host within ten days. Once it has attached itself, the base and start-up roots of the dodder die off, and it then becomes dependent on the host for all of its food. Dodder spreads rapidly and its hard seeds can lie in the soil for ten years or longer before germinating (John Fair, Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014). The photo by John Fair, appeared with the article. Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens, previously known as Datura suaveolens, Afr Maanblom), a popular shrub in South African gardens, can be purchased at most nurseries. According to prof Kobus Eloff, biologist at the University of Pretoria, it contains alkaloids, specifically high consentrates of artopin and scopolamine. It also forms part of the poisonous Datura stramonium weed species known as thorn apple. Young people are currently using this flower as a drug. They either eat it or make a concoction known as “black tea”, which causes hallucinations. It also causes aggressive, psychotic behaviour, disturbed vision, palpitatiions and epileptic fits. In extreme cases it can be deadly (Sonja Carstens, Rapport, 10 April 2016). Photo from Wikipedia.   Environmental snippets Mycotoxin risk in developing countries: The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that mycotoxins cause not only acute poisoning and cancer, but may result in high levels of stunting in children. According to the IARC, mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi that commonly grow on dietary staples, such as maize and peanuts. Since poor agricultural practices are mostly to blame for human exposure to mycotoxins, affected areas are more likely to be limited to developing countries, where the poor are exposed to mycotoxins by eating staples such as maize, on a daily basis. Bio-control measures and a diverse diet could reduce the prevalence of mycotoxins (Gerhard Uys, Farmer’s Weekly, 18 March 2016). Botulism basics: Also called lamsiekte, this disease causes paralysis. Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum, bacteria living in the upper layers of the soil. From here they spread to dead animals, standing pools of water containing rotting plants or animals, and mouldy hay or silage, where they produce a powerful toxin. In winter, animals do not always get enough green forage. If they lack phosphorus, they chew anything from wire to stones, but especially bones. If they eat bones (or carcasses) containing the toxin, they may become infected with botulism (Source: Directorate Communication Services, Department of Agriculture). Bush encroachment: One of the main causes of bush encroachment is long-term veld management that over-exploits the ecological potential of rangelands. Extensive bush encroachment of mainly Acacia species inhibits biodiversity, making the environment vulnerable to erosion and widespread dieback of less dominant and vigorous plant species. On very densely encroached areas, nothing grows under the bush. Many browsers cannot enter bush thickets. “We should not think that what has grown over decades can be undone in a few years” (Dagmar Honsbein, general manager of Agra Limited’s ProVision). The best approach to deal with bush encroachment is to harvest the bush population per annum – then ‘farming with wood’ could become the most important sub-sector in primary agriculture. Farmers will engage in activities that control bush encroachment as long as benefits are greater than the costs involved – the daily operational and technical management, labour management and marketing the wood products (Annelie Coleman, Farmer’s Weekly, 3 October 2014). Sustainable veld management systems: At one stage, farming dealt only with the number of animals/ha. Nowadays, it’s also about biomass/ha (vegetation and crops) that is produced, and how this translates into profit. In simple terms, a veld management system combines rest and grazing periods into which the principles and goals of veld and livestock management are built. The level of management is probably more important than the system itself. Damaging veld practices include: Overstocking; continuous grazing; extended grazing periods; grazing the same camps at the same time every year; breeds or game species that are not adapted to the veld type; and injudicious lick supplementation (For more information, email Prof Hennie Snyman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him on 051 401 2221). A Dutch company, working in cooperation with the Western Cape’s department of agriculture, eLeaf, measured biomass production in the Free State, Northern Cape and the Kruger National Park during March 2016. According to the company’s report, the production of biomass in the Free State decreased with 50% from August 2015, natural vegetation in the Kruger National Park with 37%, and crops in Vaalharts irrigation system with 20%. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a combination of very little rain and continuous warm, dry circumstances may cause a crop failure in many areas. This will have a devastating effect on the economy (Ruben Goudriaan, project manager of eLeaf, 10 April 2016).     Tips on bananas, gardening and more Stop blackening of banana peels by opening the plastic bag and by keeping them in the fridge drawer with tomatoes. (Marie Jonker, Mookgopong). One can also cover the top part of a bunch of bananas with plastic wrap or pull them apart, to increase their shelf life (www.buzzfeed.com). Take a piece of the inside of a banana peel and gently rub around your teeth for about two minutes. Minerals in the peel like potassium, magnesium and manganese absorb into your teeth and whiten them (email, 19 May 2015). Sweat marks on shirts: Grind one or two aspirins and make a paste with some water, lemon juice or vinegar. Apply the paste to marks and leave for an hour before washing (www.realfarmacy.com). More innovative ideas: Freeze grapes to chill white wine without watering it down. Frozen grapes are great, even without the wine. Use cupcake cases to cover drinks glasses in summer (like an umbrella with the straw through it) and prevent flies from dropping in. To prevent your eyes from watering while chopping onions, wipe the chopping board with vinegar (which won’t affect the taste of the onions). Prevent soil from escaping through the holes in the base of flowerpots by lining with large coffee filters. Create a thrifty watering can by punching holes in the top of a used plastic bottle of if you have a vegetable garden in containers, water the plants with plastic bottles, placed upside down in the container, without their lids. A mixture of dishwashing liquid, garlic and water gets rid of most garden insects, and a mixture of water for fungi. Interesting articles to read: “Laat jou vullis blom”, under “Tuinmaak” at www.rooirose.co.za or get a copy of Jane Griffith’s Jane’s Delicious Garden for more information on food forests and jungle planting. Garden tip: Bird boxes, feeding stations, roosting pouches and insect hotels will help bring your garden to life with bird and insect activity. They can thrive even in the smallest gardens, so make space for wildlife in your garden design. Attract more wildlife by planting their favourite flowers, which will please bees and butterflies and give you lots of colour. It will soon be a hive of activity! Want to know what to do in the garden now that it’s autumn? Visit www.joburgwest.getitonline.co.za   Did you know? All about tail bandages: The herringbone tail bandage is often used by professional horse riders. It has several applications: It can be used to prevent a horse from rubbing its tail hairs off on the crossbar in a float; it will keep the horse’s tail clean in muddy conditions; and it will help to keep a plaited tail tidy at a show. Although effective, the bandage has to be applied correctly. The herringbone pattern prevents excess pressure on the blood vessels in the dock of the tail, but, if attached too tightly, it can lead to damage or even loss of the tail. (For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1Rzlonl or email Dr Mac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject line: Horse Talk). 70 000 new computer viruses are found every day by antivirus companies (People Magazine, 19 September 2014). Internet connection in Africa: A survey for a report entitled eLearning Africa, showed that lap tops were used by most African farmers (28%), followed by computers, smart phones and basic cell phones (each 15%). (Carien Kruger, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). In 2014, an Eskom study showed that the farming sector was responsible for 48% of all stolen electricity. This has probably increased since then. Syndicates work on a large scale across the country, and they entice farmers to tamper with their electricity installations (Farmer’s Weekly, 5 September 2014). In 2014, the average South African consumes almost 38kg of chicken per year making it the most consumed protein in the country at that time (Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014).   Have you ever come across these words? Elysian (adj.) – beautiful or creative; divinely inspired; peaceful and perfectAbditory (n.) – a place into which you can disappear; hiding placeSolastalgia (n.) – the distress that is produced by environmental change   Food for thoughts “The process of planning the future of your business is more important than the plan itself” (Peter Hughes). “There is a major difference between intelligence and stupidity; intelligence has its limits” (Albert Einstein). Memorable quotes by Gavin Sharples: “The only way to succeed is to have the enthusiasm of a child”.“There are only two reasons for being late – an act of God or you wanted to be late”.“Live life on purpose and on your terms – set goals”.“If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”.   And finally – amazing nature... The eggs of a canary hatch in 14 days, those of a barnyard hen in 21 days, eggs of ducks and geese in 28 days, those of the mallard in 35 days, and the eggs of the parrot and the ostrich in 42 days. All are divisible by seven – the number of days in a week! The waves of the sea roll in on shore 26 to the minute in all kinds of weather – amazing! Each water melon has an even number of stripes on the rind. Each orange has an even number of segments. All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks. Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so that one row has an even number and the next row an odd number.(received via email on 17 March 2016).            

March 2016

  Newsletter #83 March 2016   Editorial We received many positive comments on our last newsletter. Our readers/members found the articles on global warming and Ria and Gert Smit’s owls very interesting. Good news – we have had lovely rain thus far during March! The Magalies River is also flowing again, although not as well as we are accustomed to this time of year. We are also experiencing much cooler, cloudy weather, and hope that this bodes well for further rain – otherwise we can expect a nightmare fire season. Birding expert, Willie Froneman, of the Xanadu Nature Estate near Hartbeespoort Dam, identified the Smit’s owls as White-faced owls (Otus leucotis). According to Willie, the Conservancy and surrounds are on the border of these owls’ range of distribution. Willie has the saying: “Birds have wings and can fly where they like – so they can be located anywhere” (email received on 24 February). Willie sent us one of his son Albert’s (well-known bird photographer) beautiful photos. See the invitation to a talk by Willie on rare water birds below. Something worth knowing (received via email on 17 March 2016): Very few people know how a rain guage works. 1mm of rain is 1 litre of water per 1 square metre. If you measure 25mm of rain on 1 hectare, it is 250 tons of water. Therefore, if you own a farm of 1 000 hectares, and you measure 80mm of rain, it is 800 tons x 1 000 hectares. That is 800 000 tons of water. If you now calculate 800 000/10/10/365 days, it means that if you transport 10 loads of water in a 10 ton water truck each day of the year, it will take you 21.9 years to transport all this water! Pete Bower (Gauteng Smallholder, February 2016) writes about global warming:“We need to look for ways to change our behaviour. Obviously that means living as unwastefully as possible, switching off lights when one leaves the room, not wasting food by cooking too much, fixing dripping taps, etc. But it also means looking for new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking. From seemingly obvious little behavioural changes such as fixing broken appliances rather than replacing them, looking at the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar, growing one’s own food, using recycled inputs such as home-made compost and filtered grey water, redesigning one’s garden to include more edible species and water-wise indigenous plants, setting up barter and sharing networks with one’s neighbours, consciously seeking to cut down on food miles travelled by bought produce, i.e., only buying foods that are locally in-season, and so on, to major lifestyle changes using techniques and machinery that might not yet even been dreamed of. Think of the cellphone and the change it has brought to life on earth. That’s small compared to the sort of fundamental shift we need to turn climate change around”. Footprint Limited Magazine: Interested in reading more about the environment, recycling, sustainability, biodiversity, global warming, etc? Visit www.footprintlim.com Would you like to learn more about butterflies? Attend a talk on butterflies at Buffelsdrift (Imbabala venue) on 2 April 2016 at 09:00. Contact Johan Rademan (082 375 4717 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information and directions. While we are talking about climate change, did you know the following about Antarctica?90% of the world’s fresh water is in Antarctica.The highest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica is 14.5°C.Ice melting in Antarctica has caused a small shift in gravity in the region.Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on earth(email received on 2 March 2016).   Important environmental dates Earth hour: This year, celebrated on 19 March 2016. As always on this particular day, people were requested to switch off all electricity from 19:30 – 20:30 on that night.National Water Week: 14-22 March 2016 – this is a national awareness campaign aiming at encouraging all South Africans to take care of our precious waters. Talk on rare water birds Where? Wickedfood Earth (± 7km from Hekpoort on theR560, towards Skeerpoort, on the left – from Skeerpoort, on the right).Programme for the day? The market will be from 09:30 – 11:30, with lots of local produce on sale. Wickedfood Earth will be selling fresh free-range pork, sausage, cured meats and preserves, Goat Peter will be selling their award winning cheese, and Liz will be selling her preserves. Anyone else interested in selling food items, please contact Mike (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 060 761 0885). The talk starts at 12:00 and will last until about 13:30 (time for questions included). This will be followed by a light lunch provided by attendees/visitors themselves. Please bring something to eat and drink (e.g. a salad dish, cold meats, cheese, interesting breads or bread rolls, and maybe also some desert – preferably home-made).We hope that as many members/readers as possible will be able to attend the talk and visit the market. Please diarise the date and RSVP to Liz Greyling (082 880 9297 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). International alliance for the protection of vultures This is no easy task and often proves to be heartbreaking for vulture champions. Vultures in southern and greater Africa are in dire straits with several species recently being up-listed by the IUCN (2015). The most common vulture species in Africa – the African White-backed vulture – is now listed as critically endangered, and the Cape Vulture has been up-listed to endangered. This puts them one small step away from extinction! Africa’s wildlife is one of our greatest treasures. Extinction is permanent, and in the case of vultures this will have irrevocable consequences for humankind. Vultures are capable of combating horrific diseases (e.g. anthrax, botulism, and foot-and-mouth), and in doing so, prevent the spread of epidemics that are capable of wiping out entire populations of people and animals. Vultures don’t need us, we need vultures!For more information about the alliance and what you can do to help, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also visit https://www.facebook.com/VulProAfrica/ or https://twitter.com/WeLoveVultures Board of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Elected members for specific interest groups:Hermien van Schalkwyk – Tourism and recreation/Commerce and industryThabo L Molamu – HeritageTshepo Modise – Education/Sustainable developmentPaul Fatti – Natural resource conservationMerriam Modisakeng – CultureAndrew Murray – LandownersElna van Niekerk – BenefactorsGerry Comninos – Conservancies/Municipal planningHein van der Walt – Marketing/Legal and other servicesPaul Bartels – Research.No nominations were received for three of the interest groups, namely: Mines, Land occupiers and Cradle of Humankind.We will keep members posted on further developments. Nuts about coconuts It’s an easily digestible energy source, an anti-microbial skin treatment, and an insulin regulator. It is also stable and does not go rancid easily, which makes it easy to store preferably in a warm area. It yields twice the energy of starch or protein. With so many anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, it’s right at home in the stable. Horses love the taste of coconut oil. Medium chain triglycerides (MSTs), which are found in coconut oil, create a ‘super fuel’ which behaves like glucose, providing easily available energy. MCTs have also been reported to assist with ulcers, acidosis, colic and dysbiosis, as well as reduce yeast infections. Feeding your horse coconut oil can also help it recover faster after strenuous work. It is ideal for skin problems, and can be applied liberally on cuts to help fight infection and minimise proud flesh. Dry skin bites and stings heal faster with coconut oil, as do skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin. The anti-microbial effects are ideal for treating mud fever and helping to prevent reinfection. Coconut oil also helps to prevent dry, brittle hooves. (For more information, email Kim Dyson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject line: Horse Therapy).The beautiful photo was provided by Evarné van Niekerk, our valley’s very own horse whisperer. Environmental snippets   Cherish friendly insects in pecan nut orchards: There are environmentally friendly ways to combat pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards, such as insects and diseases that kill harmful insects. This way, less chemicals will also be used. The Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is currently conducting research on developing an integrated programme for combating pests and diseases in pecan nut orchards. Biological combating procedures are vitally important for the export market, especially the European Union and Asia, where chemical residue in nuts is problematic. Up to 71% of insects on a tree can be classified as beneficiary. Some of these are ladybirds, ant lions, praying mantis, wasps, spiders and assassin bugs. Harmful insects include stink bugs, stem borers and snout beetles. There are also neutral insects, which don’t necessarily kill harmful insects, and which don’t cause any damage, such as a variety of beetles, ants, crickets, gnats and flies (Enquiries: Dr Justin Hatting, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The other side of the (elephant) coin: In 2013, there were 207 000 elephants in Botswana’s wildlife sanctuaries. The elephants had been doubling their numbers every 10 to 15 years, and had eaten themselves out of house and home. They have progressively eaten all the edible grasses and woody plants for a distance of 25km² from all dry-season water, creating desert conditions within that zone. Those grasses and woody plants are the same the game reserve’s other animal species eat too. But these can’t walk the 25km that the elephants walk every day during the six-month-long dry season. They’re now forced to live within that desert zone where there is nothing left for them to eat. As a result, several of these species have declined by up to 90% in recent years. The average overall decline is said to be 60% - and the end is not yet in sight (Ron Thomson, Famer’s Weekly letters, 12 September 2014). Combating perishable food spoilage: Massive quantities of food, especially perishable products such as fruit and vegetables, go to waste every year. Losses occur throughout the food chain. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that one-third of all food produced is not consumed due to spoilage, amounting to 1,3 billion tons annually. Most of this occurs in industrial/developed countries, where the per capita annual food wastage is 95kg to 115kg. In developing economies it is less: 6kg to 11kg. Common sense measures that should be taken at home include: eating perishable food first, planning meals carefully and buying only the quantities needed (Wynand van der Walt, Farmer’s Weekly Bio Monitor, 12 September 2014). Green tips With herbs Clean with sage: A combination of herbs, vinegar and water works! Sage has several antibacterial characteristics Crush some sage until it has a strong odour. Put in a glass container, mix with two cups white vinegar and leave standing for three weeks. Then mix the solution with an equal amount of water in a spray bottle, spray on a surface and wipe with a clean cloth (www.naturallymindful.com).Freeze fresh herbs in olive oil in small plastic containers. You can also freeze the herbs in small amounts of water (www.buzzfeed.com).Dark circles under the eye: Chop and crush a sprig of mint leaves. Apply to dark circles under the eyes, leave on for 20 minutes and then rinse. Do this twice a week (email, 19 May 2015).Wash your hair in apple juice to get rid of dandruff (www.realfarmacy.com) Natural skin cures Lavender works for all skin types – also sensitive skin. It is antibacterial, regulates the excretion of sebum (which causes skin rashes) and decreases inflammation and signs of blemishes.Lemons help to soften blemishes and also act as an exfoliator.Honey is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, soothing, decreases scars and moisturises the skin.Tea tree oil is antibacterial and regulates the excretion of sebum (Chanté Daries, Rapport Beleef, 12 July 2015). Did you know? The amount of energy generated by plants from sunlight per day, is equivalent to six times the total daily power usage of all of humankind (Factslides.com). Nuclear and renewable power prevented 1.8 million deaths between 1971-2009 as a result of lower air pollution from reduced coal usage (Staggering Statistics, 4 March 2016). Clem Sunter (co-author of Mind of a Fox), March 2015: National health services are under pressure because of large numbers of senior citizens needing services. As the demographic ageing process increases across South Africa the situation will become much worse. Good news is that larger numbers of entrepreneurs will enter active economic lives during their seventies and eighties. Many pensioners are forced to keep on earning a living, as a result of their pension money not being sufficient to maintain their lifestyle. Although staff expenditure will probably increase employers are in favour of appointing older employees, as they are more satisfied with their circumstances, don’t make unreasonable demands, are more patient, diligent, organised, consistent and punctual, and have years of experience - making them excellent mentors. The whole concept of pension and retirement will have to be revised. So, put your retirement plans on hold – nowadays people reach an age of 90 without a problem, and the 120-year olds have been born already! “The development of the “global village” with its instant communication, modern logistics, and fast transport connections has made the “just in time” economy possible, and brought down prices of many items to the benefit of consumers. But is the resultant death of the manufacturing sector a good thing, or a consequence we can live with? No, and it’s going to come back to bite us!” (Comment by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, September 2015). More intelligent mobiles: In 1990, one million people worldwide owned a mobile phone. Today, there are between five and six billion in circulation. Smart phones have conquered the world – these devices already replace your money and house keys, and can even give instructions to your car (via a virtual car key that works via your cell phone). No wonder we are addicted! Smart phones are becoming more intelligent (with built-in Wi-Fi, etc.) – and the more adept we become, the more we become addicted … In 2013 already, Tomi Ahonen, an expert on cell phone habits, predicted that we would soon reach the so-called “mobile moment”. This means a sim card for every living being on earth, regardless of their age. In 2020, you’ll pay only R100 for the cheapest touch screen phone in Africa! (Huisgenoot, 13 September 2013). What is fracking? It is pumping a liquid solution from a sealed section in a borehole to cause the surrounding layer of rock to crack in tiny hair’s-breadth cracks. The solution consists of water, sand and chemical additives (Jan-Willem Eggink of Shell). Canned tomatoes are healthier than fresh tomatoes, as they contain more powerful anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in your body. This can be linked to a lesser risk of getting cancer. They also contain more vitamin B than fresh tomatoes (Carla van der Spuy, Vrouekeur, 16 June 2014). Quotes “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” (John F Kennedy). “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking a things” (Henry Miller). “Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul” (Pythagoras). “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else” (John Burroughs). “A belief is not an idea held by the mind; it is an idea that holds the mind” (Elly Roselle). “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about” (Wayne Dyer). “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. Once we truly see this truth, we transcend it” (From M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled). On digital burnout… Kovert, an international company that focuses on research on technology and how it changes one’s conduct and posture, took 35 executive directors on a break-away to a Maroccan desert in June 2015. The group was completely cut off from technology. Neuro scientists monitored their conduct constantly. After three days, the following changes became obvious: Better posture: All participants were looking up and keeping their heads in line with their spines – no longer bent forward. Quality friendships: They were approachable and more inclined to make conversation. More interesting conversations: The lack of being able to quickly google something made conversations last longer. Improved memory: They were inclined to remember more details, as their attention was more focused during conversations. More restful sleep: Although the group slept less, they felt more rested. This is because they had to do without the blue cell phone screens, which inhibit the production of melatonine (that makes you sleep better). New perspective: When people haven’t been online for some time, they are inclined to reflect more on important aspects of their lives and to make important decisions concerning relationships, health and quality of life. The group felt that the digital detox was a life-changing opportunity, and that they would make a habit of it in future.(Sources: fastcompany.com; atthatpoint.co.za; lifehacker.com; forbes.com; today.com; huffingtonpost.com).            

February 2016

  Newsletter #82 February 2016   Editorial We received many positive comments on articles in our previous newsletter, especially the articles on water scarcity and our feathered friends. The drought and its effect will still be with us for quite a while. Welcome rain during January and February brought temporary relief to our valley. As a result of extreme heat, it is, however, very dry once again, and the Magalies River is still not flowing. Currently, our country’s dam reserves are 55%, compared to 82% at the end of January 2014. R56 million has already been collected for Operation Hydrate, but according to John Weaver, a hydro geologist of the South African National Association for Bottled Water (SANBWA), the collection of water for towns and people that have to make do without water, cannot be seen as a long term solution. The drought pointed the finger at weak spots in the water infrastructure – 75% of the current water crisis is not as a result of the drought (Herman Scholtz, Rapport Nuus, 31 January 2016). Also see the article on global warming below. When it rains, we usually experience power cuts. As we know all too well, we can never have both rain and thunder and power at the same time – it’s either one or the other! One also quickly learns that it is a good idea to unplug pumps and other electrical appliances as soon as the first peal of thunder sounds. Membership fees: Membership fees for 2015/16 are now payable. Invoices were issued to all with outstanding membership fees during January. Please feel free to contact Liz or Deon Greyling (contact details in the letterhead) for any queries or more information.   Increase in snares There has been an alarming increase in the number of snares found in and around the Conservancy. Game, birds, livestock and even domestic animals are being caught in these snares. We would like to urgently appeal to members to be aware of this trend, and to report it to us. From September to December 2015, 44 cable snares were collected in the area to the east of Steynshoop. (The photo of some of the skulls found there was provided by Tracy Robb).   Strange fungus species As a result of the recent rain and the mostly cloudy weather, a strange fungus species appeared in grass cuttings near our outbuildings, and disappeared after three days. We have never seen this fungus anywhere on our property before. Hundreds of minute (what looks like) toad stools are grouped together to form one large fungus. Did you know? More than 100 000 different fungus species (including mushrooms and toad stools) have been identified worldwide. The South African Association of Mushroom Farmers (SAMFA) has conducted a successful study on weight loss in males to prove that by replacing red meat by mushrooms, weight loss is promoted as a result of the low calorie count of mushrooms.Remember: Never regard all mushrooms or toad stools as edible – some are highly toxic. “There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters. Know your mushrooms!” (from: A Field Guide to the Mushrooms in South Africa by Hilda Levin, Margo Branch, Simon Rappoport & Derek Mitchell, Struik Publishers, 1985).   A family of owls make a home One of our members, Ria Smit, reports that a family of owls have started nesting in the trees close to their house. The farm workers believe that the owls bring bad luck and chased away. However, Ria and husband Gert are very pleased that all rodents in the area seem to have disappeared. (The photo was provided by Ria). Labour: Farming, forestry minimum wage increased On 3 February 2016, the Department of Labour announced an increase in the minimum wage for workers in the farming and forestry sectors, notes a Cape Times report. The department said it applied consumer price index (CPI), excluding owner’s equivalent rent – which is lower than what the department used to apply – to calculate minimum wage increases. The department said as of 1 March, the minimum wage increases will be adjusted to:* An hourly rate of R14.25, up from R13.37 in 2015/16;* A weekly rate of R641.32, up from R601.61;* A monthly rate of R2 778.83, up from R2 606.78.* A daily wage for a farm worker who works nine hours per day will now be R128.26 – up from R120.32 in the 2015/16 financial year (email received on 4 February 2016).   Climate change trends in South Africa: Can we afford to ignore global warming any longer? Three professors from Wits University (Robert Scholes, Mary Scholes and Mike Lucas), predict difficult times ahead for the country in their new book, Climate Change: Briefings from South Africa. (News24 reports 2015-11-23). A warming trend is already apparent, and it is much higher than the global average rate. Temperatures in the interior of the country could rise by about 3°C by the end of the century if the world greatly and urgently reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, but by up to 6°C if it does not. The global average air temperature measured near the surface in 2010 has risen by 0.8°C since 1870, when accurate records began and, measured over multi-decade periods, the rate of warming has been accelerating. The rise in air temperature has been unsteady: there is a general upward trend interspersed by some long periods of no change, or even cooling. For instance, in the decade after 2000, there was little overall rise, just as there was little rise in the period 1945 to 1968, but in between were periods of rapid rise. Over the period of accurate records, the annual average temperature in South Africa has risen by around 1.2°C. In the medium term, global warming in the northern hemisphere will generally exceed that in the southern hemisphere because oceans, which dominate the southern hemisphere, warm more slowly than the land. Despite this, the rate of warming in South Africa is nearly twice the average rate recorded worldwide so far. This is partly because inland regions of South Africa are distant from cooling oceanic influences. It is also because much of South Africa falls within a dry belt. Projections of future warming in southern Africa are a further 3°C to 6°C within the 21st century, but perhaps more later if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations remain high. Greatest warming is projected for the western interior from the Northern Cape to southern Angola, particularly in the Kalahari, where temperatures could rise by 5°C to 6°C. Coastal areas will eventually warm by 3°C to 5°C. A global mean temperature rise of 3°C would be highly damaging (reaching 6°C for parts of South Africa), but probably within the bounds of adaptation. Above this global mean temperature rise, there are serious questions regarding our ability to cope. Life on earth has experienced hotter temperatures in the distant past, and will survive in some form, but complex human societies have never faced a climate challenge of that magnitude. What about our water resources? In South Africa, the water that people use for drinking, agriculture and industry ultimately comes from rivers and underground aquifers. How much is available there depends not only on the amount of rainfall, but also on what fraction evaporates and runs off the soil surface. To provide the same water supply, places that are sunny, hot, dry and windy need more rainfall than places that are cloudy, cool, humid and calm. Evaporation rates throughout southern Africa are projected to increase over the next century as the land warms due to climate change. Increased evaporation results in increased cloud formation and subsequent rainfall – but that rain may not occur where the evaporation occurred. So, a modest increase in rainfall could be completely offset by a larger accompanying increase in losses due to evaporation. Another complicating factor is the effect of future higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on the amount of water used by plants, which in turn affects the amount of water that reaches the rivers. (Source: GDARD Weekly Brief (Issue 4), November 2015). Read more  on www.news24.com   Labour: Farming, forestry minimum wage increased On 3 February 2016, the Department of Labour announced an increase in the minimum wage for workers in the farming and forestry sectors, notes a Cape Times report. The department said it applied consumer price index (CPI), excluding owner’s equivalent rent – which is lower than what the department used to apply – to calculate minimum wage increases. The department said as of 1 March, the minimum wage increases will be adjusted to:* An hourly rate of R14.25, up from R13.37 in 2015/16;* A weekly rate of R641.32, up from R601.61;* A monthly rate of R2 778.83, up from R2 606.78.* A daily wage for a farm worker who works nine hours per day will now be R128.26 – up from R120.32 in the 2015/16 financial year (email received on 4 February 2016).   Green tips The wonder of lemons! Cut a lemon in half, squeeze out the juice in a small container with water, add the lemon halves, and microwave for five minutes. The fresh odour eliminates food smells and dislodges any old food rests in the microwave. Wipe away with a clean, damp cloth (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014). Mix one cup of olive oil with half a cup of lemon juice to clean your furniture. It works even better than furniture polish! (www.simple-ways-to.com). Cure for taps: Rub your taps with a cut lemon and leave for a few minutes before rinsing. They will shine like never before! (www.simple-ways-to.com). Best natural deodorant: Slice a lime and apply to the underarm – it’s simple, and it works great! (email, 19 May 2015). Bathroom tips: Ban aerosol fresheners. Light a perfumed candle or put a container with potpourri somewhere in the bathroom. Plants in the bathroom will serve to filter the air. (Die groen strook, Michelle & Riaan Garforth-Venter). For the rubbish bin: Recycle newspapers by covering the bottom of your rubbish bin with it. It will absorb bad smells and wetness (www.allyou.com)   Did you know? According to Plastic Recycling South Africa, South Africans buy millions of plastic bottles of cooldrink and water annually. About 77% of these bottles are not recycled. According to a United Nations report, four out of five of these bottles end up in landfills, where they take more than a century to biodegenerate (Rapport Beleef, 31 January 2016). Invader trees: While individual invader trees are extremely valuable for their shade, shelter and nutritious pods, extensive invasions, especially in arid and riparian areas, are detrimental to water resources and compete with and replace indigenous plant communities. They need to be controlled and/or eradicated wherever possible (received via email on 22 January 2016). GCSA Facebook page: Please visit the Gauteng Conservancies & Stewardship Association (GCSA) Facebook page.   South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC) 2016 Invasive Species Training: One day invasive species module courses – Module 1: Introduction to NEMBA legislation, including: Landowner duty of care, Organs of state, Permitting and compliance & Invasive species list. Module 2 – Developing and implementing control plans, including: Work load assessments, Control methods, Compiling & Implementing a control plan.Gauteng training dates, Johannesburg: 2 March (Module 1) & 3 March (Module 2).For more info, contact Hazel or Kay at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 011 723 9000. The Zika-virus: This virus is carried by mosquitoes and causes an acute infection – fever, headache, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and rash, along with joint and muscle pain. When pregnant women are infected, the virus may be transmitted via the placenta to the fetus and cause microchepaly, a condition where a baby is born with an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development. Zika is spreading rapidly as a result of movement between affected countries, since many people do not experience symptoms, and travel while infected. There are no specific drugs for treating the virus, so most patients drink plenty of water and get lots of rest. Mosquitoes that spread the Xika virus bite mostly during the daytime. According to dr Albert Icksang Ko, Yale School of Public Health, “this is a very rare disease, and we’re learning a lot about it in a very short time”. (Susan Scutti, email 28 January 2016). Too much salt: All salt intake is linked to hypertension, and eventually to heart disease and strokes. More South Africans die as a result of this than all types of cancer together (Salomé Delport, Sarie, February 2016).   Environmental snippets World Wetlands Day and Leap Day for Frogs: The 2nd of February was World Wetlands Day. The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) fourth annual Leap Day for Frogs, a national day of awareness and celebration of frogs, will occur on the 27th of February. Amphibians are among the most endangered species on earth, with 43% of the species populations declining globally. Around 120 species of frogs call South Africa home, of which many are endangered. South Africa’s smallest frog is also one of its most threatened. The appropriately named Micro Frog, which will only grow to a maximum length of 18 mm, is critically endangered, and our largest species, the Giant Bullfrog, which reaches 25 cm and weighs in at 1.4 kg, has already lost up to 80% of its habitat, particularly in urban areas of Gauteng. Visit www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za for more froggy facts. You don’t have to be a scientist to save frogs! Leap Day for Frogs is an opportunity to increase awareness around the importance of frogs, and to remove the negative stigma and superstitions that have unfortunately surrounded these fascinating creatures for many decades. Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Manager of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme highlights the importance of this initiative. "Understanding why many South Africans fear or dislike frogs is essential to changing the attitudes towards these animals, and ultimately protecting them. There is a genuine growing interest in ‘frogging’ and Leap Day for Frogs also encourages learning more about, and celebrating, the amazing diversity of frogs in South Africa, especially amongst our youth". Frogs are crucial in our ecosystems through their role as both predator and prey. They are also important bio-indicators of the health of the environment, and the fact that almost half of all species are declining should be a clear warning that our global ecosystem is under strain (email received on 3 February 2016). Urban carnivores: South Africa’s urbanites are getting used to baboons and monkeys, attracted by food, in their backyards. Predators, too, are getting closer. In September 2013, a young brown hyena had to be captured in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg. A small pack of them is reported to live in the green belt spanning the west of the city. A wide variety of carnivores appears to be surviving – despite a lack of conservation efforts – on the fringe (within 20km) of one of the largest human populations in SA, according to Dr Brian Kuhn of the Paleosciences Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand. Brown hyenas, black-backed jackals, servals, caracals, mongooses, honey badgers and a leopard have been spotted in and around the Cradle of Humankind (Roelof Bezuidenhout, Farmer’s Weekly, 3 October 2014). Indigenous veld goat types: Indigenous goats arrived in South Africa with migrating tribes and are found in the specific areas where the different ethnic groups settled. The general appearance of these goats tends to support theories that they originated in different ecosystems. The Boer Goat is famous throughout the world as a hardy meat goat, with a high resistance to disease and an ability to adapt well to hot, dry, semi desert conditions. However, this breed is the result of selective breeding which drew on a variety of goats found locally, particularly in the Eastern Cape. There are four distinct eco types of indigenous goat (excluding the Boer Goat):Nguni type goats (Mbuzi) – multi-coloured with semi pendulous earsEastern Cape Xhosa – multi-coloured with lob earsNorthern Cape, Lob Eared, Speckled (Skilder) GoatsQ Kunene Type (Kaokoland) – multi-coloured with lob ears(For more information: 083 383 2737 or 051 445 2010 or go to www.indigenousveldgoats.co.za). Growing snails can be profitable: For most people, they’re just a garden pest which, like moles and aphids, one seeks to get rid of – but, for those in the know, garden snails (Fr gourmet escargots) are a prized resource that can, with a little care and preparation, be turned into a gourmet snack. Snails spend nine months from hatching to harvest. One of the features of snail production is that no waste is generated (apart from wash-down water in an indoor growing system), as every part of the harvested snail is usable. Snail meat that is unsuitable for use whole is minced and made into pâté. Snail slime finds a ready market among cosmetic manufacturers, particularly as a skin tightening preparation. Cracked or damaged shells are ground up as a chicken-feed additive. (For more information, contact Stanley Micallef at Stanley’s Snails, 011 849 6430 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) When the veld turns toxic: One of the greatest risks to livestock in South Africa is plant toxicity. Toxic plants are usually the first green plants to sprout after a dry season or a veld fire. A number of these are at their most toxic in the young stage when they are most attractive to livestock. Similarly, some are highly resistant to drought and may be the only green plants available during drought.What to look out for: Toxic plants are often found as weeds in harvested lands and along the roadside (areas frequently used for grazing in times of scarcity). Certain poisonings occur after a sudden change in the weather, usually after an unseasonable frost or when wet, cool conditions are suddenly followed by a warm, dry spell. Wind or hail can knock poisonous acorns or pods to the ground, making them available to animals. Fodder such as hay, silage, stover or concentrates may contain toxic plants, fungi or chemicals.Plants to watch out for: About 600 indigenous toxic plant species occur in South Africa. Different parts of these (e.g. leaves or seeds) may be poisonous. For cattle, the most common poisonous plants include those producing cardiac glycosides (tulp and slangkop, e.g. gifblaar (Dichapetalum cymosum); Fadogia homblei (causing gousiekte); and Lantana. Dangerous plants for sheep and goats include plants causing geeldikkop, Vermeersiekte, gousiekte and diplodiosis; sceneciosis; and plants producing cardiac glycosides.(Source: ‘Poisonous plants’, Animal Health for Developing Farmers Programme, ARC-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute).   Have you ever come across this word? Acyrologia: An incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds familiar but has a different meaning – possibly feulled by a deep-seeded desire to sound more educated.   Food for thought... “You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” (James Baldwin).  “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other” (Audrey Hepburn). “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” (Mahatma Ghandi).   “Children are the keys of paradise” (Eric Hoffer).   “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you” (Khalil Gibran’s words from The Prophet). “Aim high. What’s the worst that could happen?” (QuotesIdeas.com).   “Confidence is allowing luck to happen” (Anonymous).   “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia!” (Charles Schulz, creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip).   And finally...The Charles Schulz philosophy: “The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. There are no second-rate achievers – they are the best in their fields. But the applause dies ... Awards tarnish ... Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners”.        

Jan 2016

Newsletter #81 January 2016 This is our first newsletter of 2016. We hope that our members and readers experienced a wonderful holiday season, and are ready to tackle 2016’s challenges: “Whatever is beautiful, whatever is meaningful, whatever brings you happiness ... May it be yours throughout this coming year”. Comments on our previous newsletter: Our readers seemed to have found the articles on the scarcity of water, the beautiful moth species and the owl chick interesting. One of our members, Linton Raaff, identified the moth species as an Emperor moth. They observe this species in their area quite often. The moths are sometimes much bigger than the one who visited us. The colourful spots on the wings resemble eyes, and serve to scare off predators. White Stork and Black Eagle found White Stork: During November, a balloon pilot in our area, Tracy Robb, came across a seriously dehydrated White stork (Ciconia ciconia) during one of her flights. She took the bird to one of our members, Lourie Laatz, where it drank a lot of water, but wouldn’t touch the food presented to it. This is because storks prefer catching their food (grasshoppers, frogs, small reptiles and mammals) themselves. After two days, the stork was set free, and quite happily marched off towards the river. These storks are relatively common in the whole of South Africa and Namibia. However, their numbers are declining sharply, mainly as a result of collisions with power lines, thunder storms and pesticides used to get rid of locusts. (Photo by Tracy Robb). Black Eagle: On 16 December, an injured Black Eagle (Verreaux’s Eagle, or Aquila verreauxii) was found by a hiker on one of the Rustig hiking routes. The bird was fetched by Kerri Wolter of VulPro (Vulture Rehabilitation Centre). When enquiring about the progress of the bird on 21 December and once again on 30 December, we were informed that the bird’s condition had stabilised and that she was somewhat better, but that she still couldn’t walk, in spite of all their efforts, and that the prognosis was guarded. Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending – the eagle died on 10 January. These eagles are quite common in rocky mountain areas and kloofs in large parts of South Africa, where they can find rock rabbits (their main diet). Urbanisation and deforestation have limited their habitat, and they sometimes have to fly great distances to find food, which has resulted in their numbers declining sharply. (Photo by Elmar Steenkamp). A dry, hot season In many of our country’s provinces, the arid landscape reminds us of the seas of sand of the Namib desert rather than of South Africa’s fertile bread basket (Leon Schreiber, Rapport Weekliks, 6 December 2015). Large parts of our country are suffering from the worst drought in three decades, with five of the northern provinces having been declared as disaster areas. Water levels of all the largest dams are critically low, while the taps in some towns have long since run dry. The Department of Water and Sanitation’s Weekly State of Reservoirs released in October 2015 said the average reservoir level of dams was 11% lower than at the same time in 2014. Dam levels decrease with an average of 2% per week. While the immediate cause of the current drought can be ascribed to an exceptionally strong El Niño, scientists agree that human-made climate change is the actual reason for the severity of climate disasters. Yes, there have been devastating droughts in the past, but the effect of the current drought is that much worse, because many more people are now dependent on available water resources.We can all identify with Annemarie Bremner’s editorial letter in ProAgri of November 2015 (translated from Afrikaans): “Statistics on when last it was this dry are communicated daily. The price of maize is averaging around R3 000 per ton at this stage. Planting equipment remains unused. El Niño is having a ball in the ocean, and large parts of the country have had less than 25% of its normal rainfall up to now. It is a struggle to keep livestock herds/flocks going. Nevertheless, we complain loudly about the price of meat. Lettuces, apples and potatoes with little marks are tossed aside, because we are used to only the best and freshest in the shops every day. The reality of food production in South Africa will only be experienced when the price of imported maize products eat away the monthly food budget, and when taps run dry. And then it will be much too late to pray for rain… In the meantime, I turn off the hose when walking from tree to tree on our plot, because those nine metres of wasted water on the ground can save the life of a tomato plant, a cabbage or a mealie. Rain forecasts for 2016 are not promising. Good luck to every farmer who has to make difficult decisions at this time. We can only hope and trust that relief will come”. Most city dwellers are unaware of the severity of the current drought. Those of us living close to the soil are experiencing the oppressive drought first hand. Many boreholes are running dry, and the Magalies River, as well as the Zwartspruit in Hekpoort, Hartebeestfontein and further down to Skeerpoort, stopped flowing in October already. At only a few places in the river bed, pools of water can still be found. This has a devastating effect on the environment. Lucerne and crops that were planted along the river have perished as nothing can be irrigated. Pecan nut farmers are expecting a small harvest (if any) next season as the flowers on the trees have shrivelled up because of the dry, hot air, even if the trees are being watered. Lawns have died, and even indigenous trees are dying, which also resulted in the fire season being extended until end December. Plans are being made to supply those whose water resources have dried up with water from tankers (with the help of well-wishers who still have strong water), and to move fish species and otters to deeper pools in the river. (See the article on a very rare fish species in the Magalies River). In the midst of all this, an illegal wall was built in the river and sluices broken down to get hold of water, while some farmers higher up along the river have claimed all available water for themselves. The Department of Water Affairs have known about this state of affairs since 18 October 2015, but has up to now not lifted a finger to rectify the situation. The Steenkoppies Aquifer near Magaliesburg, which supplies water to most of the West Rand, is under severe pressure, and has not supplied water to the Magalies River since 31 December. Therefore, there is a serious shortage of water for sewage purification, resulting in pollution of the remaining water in the river. The Farmer’s Weekly of 30 October 2015 reported that The National Water Act (Act no 36 of 1998) provides an extremely good basis for managing water availability, but unfortunately the Act has never been implemented. Deon Greyling’s opinion: The current drought is probably the worst that can be remembered. When an oak tree of more than seventy years old, that had grown well and was healthy before the drought, is now perishing, I realise that previous droughts could not have been this severe. The drought won’t be over soon, and the winter season is lying ahead. The time has come to give serious thought to weather experts’ and researchers’ forecasts. Months ahead, we knew that we were facing a serious drought. Nevertheless, crops were planted, the Magalies River was pumped dry, and the Steenkoppies Aquifer that supplies water to the river was put under such stress that no water could be supplied to the river by Maloney’s Eye. The natural environment in and along the river is now being destroyed. The crops that were planted are now perishing, and even the pools of water that give life to the fish and help to replenish the underground water, are being pumped dry. Farmers’ boreholes are running dry, with a number being forced to decrease or stop water use, but nevertheless borehole water is being used by some to irrigate lawns with rows of sprayers on the heat of the day, when more than half of that water is lost due to evaporation. We can agree with the statement that city dwellers are usually not aware of the country’s serious water shortage or that they can’t be bothered by it, but it is sad when people in the rural areas who should know better, cannot exercise control, and can waste water like this. Until such time when the Department of Water Affairs and the municipalities will enforce the Law and also ensure the clean-up of more than half of the country’s severely polluted rivers, and all water users realise the value of clean water and strive towards applying their own water saving measures, the situation won’t normalise. Most probably, we will be unable to survive another drought without famine and starvation. With available, drinkable water decreasing at an alarming rate and the population growing unsustainably, our water resources will simply not be sufficient. Endangered fish species in the Magalies River Our members/readers might be aware that the Magalies River is an important conservation area, and has been identified as a sensitive catchment area in the Gauteng Nature Conservation Plan. A very rare fish species, the Marico Barb (Barbus motebensis - Afr Ghieliemientjie), can be found in this water system. This tiny little fish (maximum length about 8cm) can only be found in South Africa, and is indicated as endangered on the IUCN Red Data List. The photo was taken by Roger Bills of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB). Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information and/or visit the most interesting website: www.saiab.ac.za/ Dogs to make wind farms safer for birds and other wildlife In a press release on 13 November 2015, it was announced that Eskom, in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Bioinsight South Africa, has deployed two carcass detection dogs, Aston and Wanda, in an attempt to increase the safety of wind farms for birds and other wildlife in the long run. The detection dogs will use their keen senses of smell to improve the estimations of wildlife fatalities during operational monitoring, and is a measure that goes above and beyond the industry minimum standard. This is the first project of its kind in South Africa, and will be carried out according to a rigorous protocol in order to deliver scientifically justifiable results. The two Belgian Malinois selected for the work, have been specifically conditioned to detect birds and bats and have been on site since early November. They will work alongside human carcass searchers to assist in areas where vegetation is particularly dense, and at the same time measure efficiency of the current search methodology. Unlike humans, a dog’s detection ability is independent of carcass visibility, and carcasses can be detected in various states of decomposition. “Similar work in Europe has illustrated that sniffer dogs can increase detection rates from 30% to over 90%, and they may also decrease the time it takes to search each turbine. No such study has, however, been conducted in South Africa and we look forward to having local results to which specialists and developers can refer”, said Constant Hoogstad, Manager of EWT’s Wildlife and Energy Programme. This work presents massive challenges as search plot size, vegetation, substrate, fences, weather, searcher efficiency and carcass removal rates are all variables and limitations that must be considered during the final mortality estimate. Human searchers have a carcass detection accuracy of 3/10 on average while most carcasses disappear completely from the veld within five to seven days. This often results in questionable mortality estimations and crucial data not being recorded such as species, age, sex and nature of injury. The Eskom/EWT partnership hopes to replicate this work across different habitats in the future which may assist other projects in designing operational protocols of their own where habitat provides a challenge to conventional carcass detection methods. Please visit www.ewt.org.za or contact EWT Manager, Constant Hoogstad (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), for more information about the Eskom/EWT Partnership and the Wildlife and Energy Programme. SA Reptile Rescue List Many of our members have had encounters with snakes recently, mainly with Rinkhals (Hamachtu haemachatus) and Mozambique Spitting Cobras (Naja mossambica). Both these species are very dangerous and are quite common to our area. A summary of contact details of snake handlers in our area follows below (a complete list was emailed to all our members during December). At all times, please be aware that snakes play an important role in our ecosystems, and that they should not be killed regardless, especially if no one’s life is in danger. Gary & Rex Strydom (Hartbeespoort & Brits): 082 469 2979Lee Jovanovic (Hartbeespoortdam & surrounds): 072 638 9250Louis Trichard (Brits, Mooinooi & Hartbeespoort): 076 588 1082Hartbeespoort Snake and Animal Park: 012 253 1162Chameleon Village Reptile Park: 082 469 2979/012 253 5119Bertus van Jaarsveld (Hartbeespoort & surrounds): 071 541 8206Clinton Braun (Krugersdorp/Roodepoort): 083 556 1664 Environmental snippets Protecting our Longnecks: According to dr Francois Deacon, game expert of the University of the Free State, giraffes like watching their own shadow. He fitted GoPro cameras to giraffe’s heads, so that he could study social interaction among giraffes, and to find out which leaves they like eating, and in which ones they’re not interested. The theory that giraffes close their nostrils to prevent ants from creeping in, was confirmed with use of the cameras. Together with dr Deacon, Discovery Channel is now shooting a documentary, The Last of the Longnecks, on declining giraffe populations worldwide, to emphasise the role of technology in conservation of this species. Although elephants are also fast becoming a threatened species, there are still six times more elephants than giraffes on the African continent. In 1999, there were more than 140 000 giraffes on the continent, but currently, only about 80 000 are left – 30 000 in South Africa. This is the only country where giraffe populations have doubled the past 15 years, as a result of excellent game conservation methods (Jaco Nel, Rapport, 6 December 2015). African Greys are becoming extinct: Research indicates that African Greys are close to extinction. These birds’ intelligence is similar to that of a four year old child. According to Rowan Martin of the World Parrot Trust, the parrots are on the brink of extinction in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and the Cameroons, while countries such as Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are following suit. Large-scale, illegal parrot exports to South Africa (about 5 500 annually), where the birds are sold to breeders and collectors of exotic bird species worldwide, are the main problem. According to dr Hanneline Smit-Robinson of Birdlife Africa, the only way to stop the extinction of African Greys in nature will be to put a complete embargo on imports (Johan Eybers, Rapport, 29 November 2015). Battling invasive species – across the world: A new manual on “Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Wildland Stewardship: Protecting Wildlife when using Herbicides for Invasive Plant Management” was published recently. The manual includes field techniques from experienced land managers as well as risk charts for commonly used herbicides. It can be downloaded for free from www.cal-ipc.org/ip/management/BMPs. Human-wildlife conflict: A German Master’s degree student, Benjamin Ghassemi, is investigating the attitudes of various sectors of society in South Africa, and their tolerance to predators, especially the Black backed Jackal, Caracal and Cheetah. This has been a highly contentious and sensitive issue for livestock farmers and conservationists for a long time. It you would like to provide an input to this research, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JMPKHGX. New floral wonders appear: According to Rupert Koopman, a botanist of Cape Nature, the optimal fire cycle for fynbos is between 10 and 14 years, and some of the veld that burned during the summer of 2014/15 was over 15 years old (Farmer’s Weekly, 17 April 2015). However, Johan October, a field guide in Cape Town and surrounds, says that new floral wonders are appearing on Table Mountain after the veld fires of 2015. Some of these species have not been observed for many years. At the moment, there are many species of orchids, and recently, the very rare yellow Disa, that was last sighted over seven years ago, was spotted. Green heather, usually only seen between Muizenberg and Kalkbaai, have now spread to other areas, as a result of the 2015 veld fires. It is widely believed that the fynbos in the area will be most spectacular during the 2016 season (Rapport, 6 December 2015). Did you know? Interconnectedness: We often don’t realise that everything, but everything, on this little ball of slowly-cooling lava we call Earth is interconnected. It is worth reflecting on just how our actions – and inactions – affect what happens around us, now and in the future. And also to reflect on how big, and yet how small, the issue of environmental change, degradation and management really is. When you decide to fell a tree that has been growing for decades, because you wish to grade a new road, plough the field in which it grows or do anything similar in the name of “progress”, be aware that you are destroying a habitat for creatures of all sizes and varieties, many of which will simply die as a result. If you cut down enough trees, like in destroying a forest in the name of progress, you risk driving entire species to extinction. There is no quick fix for climate change and/or global warming. To a great degree, ordinary humans are going to have to adapt to a new reality which will include a hotter environment and more violent weather patterns (Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2015/Jan 2016). The green light: Arguments in favour of a green light on legislation to reduce carbon emission are growing stronger by the day. There is no Planet B if the world turns into a microwave oven. (Clem Sunter, co-author of Mind of a Fox, March 2015). Sweet, sweet basil: Basil is one of the most versatile, delicious and easy herbs to grow. You can never have too many sweet basil plants growing in your garden. Sweet basil is used extensively in aromatherapy for ailments such as stress, migraine, colds and hay fever. It is also quite effective for tension headaches, exhaustion and digestive upsets such as stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhoea and enteritis. Make an infusion by adding two teaspoons of freshly chopped leaves to half a cup of boiling water. Steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink hot, three times a day. Traditionally, the dried leaves were pounded and, taken as snuff, used as a remedy for colds. Sweet basil is a most beneficial companion for your other plants. It is a good insect repellent for white fly, aphids and fruit fly (Get It, Joburg West, Dec 2015/Jan 2016). Quivering forest: The kokerboom or quiver tree is indigenous to the semi-arid northern Bushman Land and southern Kalahari regions of the Northern Cape. Although called a tree, the plant, Aloe dichotoma, is a member of the succulent family. A well-known quiver forest is located about 4km south of Kenhardt on the Brandvlei road. One quiver tree – on the Keetmanshoop-Koës road in Namibia – has even been declared a national monument! (Jaco Visser, Farmer’s Weekly Perspective, 12 September 2014). Know your alternative agriculture terminology:Sustainable agriculture is the efficient production of safe, high quality agricultural products, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.Organic farming refers to the type of farming that is done without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilisers, fungicides and insecticides, or genetically modified seeds.Permaculture is an approach towards designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationship found in natural ecologies.Biological farming focuses particularly on the soil: It is a system that uses both nature and science to build the quality of soil, with the understanding that healthy soil will be able to support healthy crops and livestock.(Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2015/Jan 2016).        

Nov/Dec 2015

Newsletter #80 November 2015 There is good reason why families everywhere gather around Christmas trees during this festive time of year: It holds the promise of intimacy, warmth and companionship, recalls old memories and creates new ones, thereby making this time of year a special time of togetherness.This will be 2015’s last newsletter. The next newsletter will be posted end January/beginning February. We wish all our members and readers a wonderful holiday and festive season. Those of you who are fortunate enough to drive on far roads and to go and relax somewhere, please drive safely and come back safely. We wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2015: “Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and can receive without forgetting” (Elizabeth Bibesco). Comments on our previous newsletter: Our members/readers seemed to have enjoyed the article on the Blue gum debate. One of our readers, Tallies Taljaard, wrote via email on 30 September (translated from Afrikaans): “When I read the newsletter, I had to leave everything, and share my love for Blue gums with someone. I have always thought of Blue gums as mystical, majestic, special – more than just a tree… Have you ever travelled through the Free State flats with kilometres of grassland and maize crops? Everywhere, a blue gum or even a blue gum plantation can be seen – large, not only in height, but also in bulkiness and splendour … like a shepherd watching over God’s creation, farm houses, kraals, the ‘perkeerplek’ of farm implements, by old farm houses and ruins. Can you think of any farm without a Blue gum? It not only catches your attention because it overshadows all other trees, but because it forms part of the big and perfect diversity and entirety. This is the Blue gum, my favourite tree… I attach some photos that I took myself – to share it with all, because I enjoyed the article on the Blue gum so much, and because it made me think back to days long gone”.We would like our readers/members to do as Tallies did and send us some photos of Blue gums on their properties – Ed.   Feathered friends An unusual garden visitor: In spite of the drought, our day lilies are in flower at the moment. While sitting on the veranda on 8 November, a beautiful Black Sunbird (Nectarinia amesthystina) flew from day lily to day lily, feasting on the nectar. What a beautiful little bird! Members from a neighbouring farm have a breeding pair on their property. They are apparently quite common in our area (Liz Greyling). The photo was taken by well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman. An owl chick found: On 1 November, a hiker on a hiking route at Shelter Rock found an exceptionally large bird chick. He took it to the Bothas (owners of Shelter Rock), who gave it some water and contacted Kerri Wolter of the Vulture Rehabilitation Centre (VulPro) in Rietfontein. She fetched the chick, and identified it as an owl chick. (Read the article on the vulture fledgling season below). Important Bird Areas (IBA) update: Bird Life South Africa has now published a revised Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) directory. This revision was published after more than four years of research and interviewing many experts and conservation role players, and includes a change in boundaries of many IBAs, delisting of some, a few new IBAs, and also an amalgamation of a number of IBAs. The IBAs are available on http://bgis.sanbi.org/IBA/IBA.asp. If you have any queries about the BGIS website, please direct these to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Visit from a beautiful moth species On 19 October, we spotted a beautiful moth on the floor in our TV room. Unfortunately, it died after two days. The moth was particularly colourful and very large, with a 14cm wingspan. South Africa is home to more than 7 000 moth species. Hopefully, there will be a lepidopterist (moth and butterfly expert) among our readers/members, who can help us identify this moth species. Road cleaning project Our members would have noticed lots of rubbish along our Conservancy roads, as well as roads leading into the Conservancy (mostly polystyrene food containers, empty chips packets, water and soft drink bottles), left behind by weekend visitors. It seems that, except for locals dropping their rubbish at taxi ranks, weekend visitors (cyclists, bikers and motorists) are also guilty of this. In 2007, one of our Conservancy members, Shelley Bownass, decided to put an end to this. She organised four unemployed ladies of Hekpoort Informal Settlement to pick up rubbish along the Conservancy roads twice per month. The AFM church in Magaliesburg, where Shelley is a member, took responsibility for this job creation project, and it became known as the Barnabas Road Project. The church donated bags, safety clothing, overalls, backpacks and shoes donated to the church, and Mogale City Local Municipality also provided bags. Another Conservancy member, Linton Raaff, collects the bags and drops them off at the collection point, at his own cost. Currently, only two ladies are picking up rubbish along our roads. The Conservancy contributes towards their salaries. We would like to thank Shelley and Linton from the bottom of our hearts for their much-needed help with this project. Vulture fledgling season Once again, it is vulture fledgling season (September/October to early next year). During this time, young inexperienced vultures get themselves into potentially fatal situations as they start to experience the freedom of the skies. Young vultures have not yet learned of the threats that civilisation and modern developments create for them. Power lines and poisonings contribute to the greatest number of fatalities and injuries. Such collisions often result in various broken bones and permanent disabilities. Other threats that these young vultures face are small high-fenced or walled gardens, swimming pools and reservoirs, dogs, unsafe food sources and ignorance or a lack of empathy from people. Vultures are large, heavy birds that require significant space in order to be able to take off and fly. Small gardens often prevent them from being able to take off again, once on the ground. Dogs may worry or kill a grounded vulture if it is trapped inside their garden, and electric fencing creates the threat of electrocution, wire cut injuries and even death as the vulture attempts to escape. Heavy rains and swimming pools can end up water-logging a vulture's plumage. With the added weight and the lack of functionality of their wet feathers, they are unable to fly. Young vultures may also not yet have sufficient body weight and condition to enable them to survive cold and wet for a sustained period. Kerri Wolter, founder of VulPro, appeals to the public to remain observant and aware of vultures in trouble. Assistance and advice is a phone call away, as Kerri is always available to assist members of the public with advice or guidance on how to handle injured and grounded vultures, until VulPro staff is able to come through and collect birds for rehabilitation. It is not recommend that members of the public attempt to handle grounded or injured vultures without advice from experienced handlers, as both the frightened vulture and the good Samaritan are at risk of injury. While vultures are not aggressive and intentionally dangerous, they are powerful and will react if cornered, threatened or in pain. Understanding how to handle them in the correct way, may be the first step in saving their lives.VulPro emergency numbers: Kerry Wolter 082 808 5113 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Threat status of vultures: In an email message of 29 October 2015, Dr Julius Arinaitwe, Bird Life International’s Programme Director for Africa, warns that this continent’s vulture populations are under threat of extinction. Six of the continent’s 11 vulture species have had their global threat status upgraded to a higher level, meaning that they face a very real danger of extinction. The main causes of the drop in African vulture populations are thought to be indiscriminate poisonings, where the birds are drawn to poisoned baits, use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine, and deliberate targeting by poachers, as the presence of vultures can alert authorities to illegally killed big game carcasses. According to dr Arinaitwe: “As well as robbing the African skies of one of their most iconic and spectacular groups of birds, the rapid decline of the continent’s vultures has profound consequences for its people, as vultures help stop the spread of diseases by cleaning up rotting carcasses. However, now we are becoming aware of the sheer scale of the declines involved, there is still just enough time for conservationists to work with law-makers, faith-based organisations, government agencies and local people, to make sure there is a future for these magnificent scavengers.” Worldwide, 40 more bird species are now classified as having a higher risk of extinction in the 2015 Red List.South African vultures are all endangered, and every single bird is vital to the stability and survival of the species. Even one death, is one death too many. The threat status of three of our vulture species have been upgraded to critically endangered, namely the Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus, that is more common in the northern parts), White-backed Vulture (Gyps Africanus), and White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis). The status of five other vulture species is indicated as vulnerable, namely the Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres), Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos trecehliotus) and Palm nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). National Invasive Species Week National Invasive Species Week took place together with the annual national Weed buster Week, from 10 – 17 October 2015. Invasive species week aims to create awareness and increase public understanding about invasive species and NEMBA regulations. Do you have a regulated plant on your land? Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act no. 10 of 2004) – Alien and Invasive Species Regulations (AIS) which became law on 1 October 2014. NEMBA is divided into four categories of species management, namely: Category 1a, which are species that require immediate compulsory control; Category 1b that includes species that are most widespread and troublesome, and which require control, where landowners must comply with species management; Category 2 species, which include commercial plantation species, where permits are required for growing, and which require control outside areas of growth; and Category 3 which includes species that need to be controlled in water catchments. Some of the worst invaders in South Africa include famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus, which up to now has mostly invaded large parts of Kwazulu-Natal, but is now also invading Gauteng), pompom weed (Campuloclinium macrocephalum), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and house crow (Corvus splendens). In our area, the Category 1b invader, Queen of the night (Cereus jamacaru) and Pompom weed can also be found in specific spots. Older people used to believe that rain is on the way, once the Queen of the night starts flowering. This year, this belief does not ring true, as the plants flowered, but we had no rain. The drought also seems to have prevented the spread of the Pompom. Learn more about invasive species at www.invasives.org.za and read more about National invasive species week at http://bit.ly/1L3shwM‪#‎InvasiveSpecies Serious water problems In our area we haven’t experienced petrichor – the smell of earth after rain, often during the current rainy season. We are experiencing a severe drought, like in the 1960s and 1980s, according to people who have lived here for a long time. Rain forecasts do not look promising, and long periods of heat wave conditions make it worse. Some landowners in the Conservancy are already experiencing problems with boreholes drying up, and the Magalies River has stopped flowing. Many discussions are taking place, and accusations are the order of the day, about who is responsible for the shortage of water and what should have been done to not have ended up in such a situation. Such discussions and accusations are not going to solve the immediate problem, and should be left for later, to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Fact is that we are facing a disaster, and that not a drop of water can be wasted. As a community, we should now focus, prepare and plan to provide water where boreholes run dry. Unemployment is increasing, and food prices are skyrocketing (e.g. dairy products) as a result of the drought. The drought is also resulting in an escalation of crime. We therefore also have to prepare to prevent and control crime better (Deon Greyling). In our previous newsletter we reported on ever increasing sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean, resulting in an active El Niño. At a recent conference in Sweden, it was forecast that Africa could expect severe droughts during the upcoming three years. South Africa is classified as a water-stressed country, due to the amount of rainfall we have. If we do not monitor, manage and conserve our current water resources, the population will be under tremendous stress in the very near future. South Africa has a number of key ‘water factories’, one of which is the Steenkoppies aquifer near Magaliesburg. Many of these ‘water factories’ are under threat, and some have been severely degraded. The questions we should be asking are: How important is fresh water really? Do we do enough to conserve our water resources? Do we need to sacrifice our key ‘water factories’ in the name of unsustainable short-term development? Water restrictions have been instituted in the majority of our provinces. The country’s honey production has declined sharply, as well as the production and quality of wood for the paper industry (RSG news, 12 November). Against this background, water use pressure on SA farmers is increasing.According to prof Kobus van der Walt of the Faculty of Science of the Northwest University, government regards water provision to industries and municipalities as more important than food production. The demand for water is already 50% higher than what our water resources can deliver. According to government calculations, agriculture uses 62,7% of SA’s water, municipalities 31,2% , and industries only 6,1%. Water will become scarcer and more expensive, farmers will be forced to farm more water effectively, and stricter water quality measures for feedlots are underway. There will be more pressure on farmers to make ‘un-effective’ water available for other uses. Each drop of water falling on a farm should be managed in such a way that it won’t be wasted. Biomass on farms must be conserved, and farmers must prevent veld fires. A healthy biodiversity should also exist on farms. Farmers cannot continue to farm as they did before. They need a mind shift to be able to use the ‘ecological tools’ they have, scientifically (Theuns Botha, Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). Worldwide, water sources are under severe pressure – a water crisis is looming: 25 million refugees were displaced by contaminated rivers last year; according to the UN, a child dies from a water-related disease every 15 seconds; it’s been said, we’re going to run out of water before we run out of oil; and our water problem is fast becoming a hunger problem. It’s time to give water a second thought. (Source: www.apolloideas.com/thirst).Join conservations about water across the social media platforms: Facebook: www.facebook.com/EndangeredWildlifeTrustTwitter: www.twitter.com/TheEWTYou Tube: www.youtube.com/EWTSouthAfrica Did you know?Water makes up 60% of your body, 70% of your brain, 80% of your blood – your body can’t survive a single week without water.The same water that existed on earth billions of years ago still exists today. It covers most of the planet, but just 3% is fresh water (and most of that is ice). Less than 1% (0.007%) of all fresh water on earth is readily accessible for human use. Garden Tips Summer is here, and that means that your garden should burst with colour! Some tips on how to achieve this, while using water sparingly, follow below. An indigenous summer garden: Indigenous plants can survive on very little water. Nothing beats the impact of a yellow and blue border. The easiest way to achieve this is to combine blue agapanthus with yellow daisies (Euryops spp). A more adventurous idea would be to plant yellow red-hot pokers (Kniphofia spp) and gazanias (‘lemon shades’). Plant indigenous yellow and orange cat’s tail (Bulbine frutescens) or Barberton daisies (Gerbera Jamesonii) in dry spots.Your herb garden: Just like you, your herbs need a ‘haircut’ every now and then. By cutting out dry leaves and flowers regularly, you encourage lush, healthy plants that will grow faster. Fast growing plants should be pruned more regularly, as they absorb space and vitamins of other plants in the container or bed. Mint is one such a boisterous grower – plant it separately (Vrouekeur, March 2014).Bulbs: Like other bulbs, hardy irises should be watered for forty minutes every fourth day (Hadeco: www.hadeco.co.za).Attract birds to your garden: Diane Ward (Cooking for birds: Fun Recipes to Entice Birds into your Garden, Struik 2004) provides a nice recipe to keep our feathered friends happy. Many birds enjoy young, green sprouts or leaves. Fill egg shells, small pots or coconut halves with good potting soil. Pack egg shells in an egg box or put pots or shells next to each other on the kitchen window sill. Sow bird seed in these and water regularly till the seeds germinate. Put outside and let the birds enjoy the young, fresh shoots. Water regularly until all the seeds have germinated. Substitute the potting soil and repeat the process.In praise of Epsom Salts: Just as many people add a little salt to their food, we should be adding a little Epsom Salts to our garden. Completely one of a kind with a chemical structure unlike any other, Epsom Salts, or Magnesium Sulphate, is also a wonderful facilitator to your garden, helping it reach its fullest potential and creating a lush and vibrant outdoor space. Unlike common fertilisers, Epsom Salts does not build up in the soil over time, so it is very safe to use. Before planting, sprinkle some Epsom Salts and mix well into the soil. During the growing season, sprinkle about a tablespoon around the base of plants and water. Epsom Salts can be used with all fruits, vegetables and herbs, except for sage. It is a natural, pesticide-free remedy for slugs, and because it is non-toxic, it is also child-friendly (Gauteng Smallholder, April 2015). Our environment "Countries rise or fall on the state of their agriculture” (Iain Hulley, Nottingham Road). The world’s population, growing by more than 200 000 per day, will increase to nine billion by 2050. More than 50% of people now live in cities, compared to just 5% at the turn of the 20th century. These factors, combined with climate change and declining natural resources, are reshaping the world we live in. Global warming is the ultimate game changer, as even small increases in the average temperature will have a very significant effect on pest and disease populations. In addition to this, associated changes in climate such as rainfall patterns will affect ecosystems. One of the greatest emerging challenges is a threat to global food security. Real food security depends not only on a thriving farmer but also on a thriving consumer. You cannot have the one without the other. To adequately feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. And to achieve this, farmers will have to produce more with fewer resources. It is also crucial to improve worker productivity (Denene Erasmus, Farmer’s Weekly, 27 June 2014). South Africa has a total labour force of 13 million. The informal sector employs 3,6 million people (out of a population of more than 45 million) and contributes 8% to 10% to the GDP (Nan Smith, Farmer’s Weekly, 10 October 2014). Some comparisons:The US population is 318,9 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 1,1%.The Indian population is 1,23 billion, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 17,4%.The Vietnamese population is 93,4 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 19,3%.The Rwandan population is 12,3 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 13,9%.The Brazilian population is 202,7 million, and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 5,5%.The Philippine population is 107 million and their agriculture’s contribution to GDP is 11,2%. Food for thought.... Definitions by Rudy Francisco:“Envy is when someone walks around with a pocket full of “that shoud’ve been me”.“Truth is everything you tell yourself when you realise that no one is looking”.“Failure is when you talk yourself out of becoming something amazing”. “You’ll know the people who feed your soul... because you’ll feel good after spending time with them...” (Fb/Latika Teotia). A blind person asked St Anthony: “Is there anything worse than the loss of sight?” He replied: “Yes, losing perspective!” (Unknown). George Orwell once remarked: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool”. “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” (Albert Einstein). “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness” (Seneca). “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem” (Captain Jack Sparrow). “We are all a little weird, and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love” (Dr Seuss).      

October 2015

Newsletter #78 October 2015 Summer arrived quickly this year. This means that sinusitis and flu are hopefully something of the past. Many people in our area believe that it doesn’t normally rain before Oom Paul’s birthday (10 October), but we had lovely rain (and hopefully the last cold snap) during the second week of September, for which we are grateful. Unfortunately, summer brings the usual pests and diseases for us to endure, like spiders, moths, flies, and after the first rain, fleas, mozzies, ticks and midges (muggies). Then, “’n boer maak ‘n plan” with a “boereraat” or two (see below). Tip to get rid of mosquitos: Put a container with vinegar in your children’s rooms to prevent mosquito bites (Tanya de Vente-Bijker). Or crush some mint leaves, put it in a small bag and hang it in the bedroom. Mosquitos hate this smell. If you and your family do get bitten, rub some toothpaste on for quick relief. Why do mosquito bites itch? Mosquito saliva produces histamine, which makes the skin around the bite itch. With salt or white pepper: Sprinkle salt or white pepper in window sills and at doors or on ant paths to keep them away (www.thecountrychicottage.net). Fleas in your home? Sprinkle borax or salt on carpets, floors, along skirting boards, on your animals’ bedding, underneath beds, furniture and matrasses. Seal the vacuum cleaner properly or you’ll spread more fleas. If there are fleas on your lawn, spot spray some diatomite. Also plant Pennyroyals, gladioli and stinking weed (wurmkruid) in your garden. Cook without flies: Put a slice of bread on the lid when cooking cabbage to keep flies away (Maretha Coetzee, Britanniabaai). Comments on our previous newsletter: It seems that our members/readers found the articles on the fire season not being over yet, the trees of the year, Sylvester (the Karoo lion), and the Glyphosate debate interesting. Nice words from one of our readers, Tallies Taljaard: “The newsletter is like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day – interesting, informative and well researched”. One of our readers, Lynne Harrison, of Clarens in the eastern Free State wrote via email on 30 August: “We have many parsley trees on our farm. They are hardy and also endemic to the area. Having been to the Karoo National Park earlier this year (just before Sylvester escaped), we followed his exploits keenly.   A balanced outlook on conservation? “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it is attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir).  Do we have a balanced outlook on protecting our natural resources in Hartebeestfontein – or not? When I see and hear how people react to events in our environment I often ask myself this question. Often, opinions are expressed that clearly indicate ignorance, assumptions and self-interest, with the latter mostly given preference. It is often said that humans will be responsible for their own downfall, and sometimes, one cannot but wholly agree with this and relate it to events in one’s own environment.   This past week, much was said about our country’s looming water crisis and that water consumption will be strictly regulated, similar to load shedding. Fact is that we do not have sufficient clean water, and that we cannot generate more water as with electricity, while the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Then there are people who tell me “This doesn’t concern me, I have lots of water, a strong borehole, and I’ll pump as much as I want and do what I want on my property, because I’m making good money”. They are oblivious of the fact that the water is not only on their property, not knowing where it comes from, or that their careless attitude can result in a water shortage for them and others, and that the plug may be pulled on their financial resources. They also don’t take into account that more people with more new boreholes use more water every year, and that available water resources have decreased alarmingly over the past two decades. They are also unaware of the fact that many boreholes that always had strong water have now dried up or are producing much less water. Furthermore, groundwater quality is decreasing as a result of salinisation and pollution, sometimes quite a distance from where it is pumped. This is probably indicative of the over utilisation of our water resources. Few people realize that the mountains, and in particular, the Magaliesberg, is a reservoir of clean water in our area. Nearly all our groundwater comes from the mountains where it is stored and protected by the vegetation on the mountains and their slopes. So, if we don’t protect our mountains, we won’t have water. Some say we should not destroy any indigenous bush and vegetation, while others are of the opinion that deforestation must take place in certain areas for fire breaks, as prescribed by Law. We will thus prevent those veld fires, which are difficult or impossible to control in the mountains. (See the photo of such a fire break that was recently made at the foot of the Magaliesberg). Admirers of vervet monkeys complain when bird lovers complain that the monkeys raid birds’ nests and fruit and vegetable farmers suffer huge losses and want to cull some of these monkeys. When a leopard is seen attacking baboons or monkeys in the mountain, some say leopards shouldn’t be there, and it also poses a threat to their livestock, while others are of the opinion that it is dangerous for hikers frequenting the various hiking routes on the mountain. If game is culled in order to protect the remaining game against starvation and death, there are numerous complaints. Although various measures to curb crime with an effective communication system, for those who are interested to make use of it, in place, and although crime prevention has been relatively successful, excessive measures are taken with impenetrable fences and lights, etc., keeping everything in or out in order to ward off the “onslaught”. Protecting the environment or its flora and fauna becomes unimportant when people develop a fear of crime. We can cite many examples, and each point of view will probably have merit from own conviction. I urgently request people to cultivate a balanced outlook in respect of protecting our natural resources and environment. Short-sightedness and self-interest in this regard will lead to your own downfall and that of many others. We cannot always point the finger at other people, while our own actions leave much to be desired. We should all do some soul searching and ask ourselves, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to make a contribution in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment? This is not to say that one shouldn’t rebuild what has fallen into disrepair, but excessive revamping may just do more harm than good, especially if we keep on tugging at nature. Will we in Hartebeestfontein be able to keep our perspective and maintain a balanced approach in respect of protecting our natural resources? This will depend on everyone’s personal motivation and willingness to adapt and cooperate, as well as how we manage external influences that we’re all exposed to. Time will tell, and when we look back after some years, we’ll know whether we have succeeded or not. Deon Greyling Bird of the month: Cape Robin One of our members, Lourie Laatz, sent us a beautiful photo of a Cape Robin (Afr Gewone Janfrederik, or Cossypha caffra) that has come to fetch a worm from her every day, for a while now. This cute little fellow will therefore be our bird of the month. The colourful Cape Robin is greyish brown above, with an orange rump, conspicuous white eyebrow, black face and bill, brownish pink legs and feet, light orange breast and throat, greyish white belly and orange tail with black centre. When disturbed, they make a harsh 3-syllabled alarm note, WA-deda, and their call can be likened to someone reading off a shopping list – teeu teetoo, teeu tiddly-too, teeu teetoo teetoo. They are common throughout South Africa, except in much of the Northern Cape. Their favourite habitat is forest edges, wooded kloofs, riverine bush, gardens, parks, farmyards, wattle and Eucalyptus plantations. They like feeding on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs, lizards and fruit. The breeding season lasts from June to December, when they usually lay 2-3 pale pinkish or greenish, spotted eggs. Incubation and nestling usually takes about 18 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, sixth edition, 1993). Rose-ringed Parakeet Project The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is native to sub-Saharan Africa, but in SA they were introduced, where after they became naturalised as they spread to new areas. According to Wits researchers, Craig Symes and Elize Fourie (School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), most of these populations are derived from escaped birds, and probably originate from aviculture.   This is an invasive parrot species, which inhabits urban areas of South Africa, and which is currently listed as a Category 2 invasive species in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). The impact of the species on local biodiversity and the environment is, however, not known. The Wits researchers are launching the Rose-ringed Parakeet Project to firstly, locate parakeet roosting/breeding sites and secondly, investigate the size and distribution range of the parakeet population in Gauteng. This will be complemented by parallel studies (in association with European researchers and ParrotNet), focused on the behaviour of these birds in Gauteng. It will improve understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the species in South African urban environments and ensure that informed decisions are made by policy makers regarding the status and management of this parrot. All birders, citizen scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of the public are invited to assist with and collaborate on the project by submitting sightings of these parakeets to the project database. Particularly needed is information on the exact location of permanent roosting and breeding sites as well as the number of parakeets seen.To diarise: Spot-a-parakeet day, Saturday 22 August. Best time: 06:00 – 08:00 or 16:00 – 18:00. Please join the Facebook group (The Rose-ringed Parakeet Project) for more information and updates. If you have any photos of parakeets, or any questions or need further information please contact the Wits researchers and send photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Data can be submitted to the project in the following ways: 1. Using Google Forms. Please follow this link to the data form, fill it in, and submit. You may submit more than one form for the project. Please fill in all required fields as completely as possible: http://goo.gl/forms/E9giDg3hZh OR2. Via Birdlasser, the technological partner of this project. All data of Rose-ringed Parakeets logged on Birdlasser will be shared with the Wits researchers. This application is available for download on Apple and Android devices. More info at www.birdlasser.com. Birds; Bats; insects; load shedding On feathered friends: A young Secretary bird was recently found in the middle of Pietermaritzburg – definitely not normal habitat or a safe area either! The bird was emaciated when found, proving that it had been battling to find food. FreeMe in Gauteng reported similar incidents of these birds ending up in urban areas, their desperation for food forcing them closer to human habitation in an effort to find it (Raptor Rescue Newsletter, June 2015). To read the full newsletter, go to www.africanraptor.co.za Only 250 Bearded vultures (Afr Lammergier, or Gypaetus barbatus), are left in South Africa. This species has now been added to the ICUN Red Data List of critically endangered birds (Rapport, 12 June 2015). Interesting facts about insects From the Gauteng Smallholder (July 2015) and Huisgenoot (12 February 2015): Ladybirds (Afr. Liewenheersbesies) are a farmer’s best allies, as they eat scale insects and aphids that cause damage to crops. They act as a natural pest control and are far more effective than commercial pesticides. In its lifetime of three to six weeks, a ladybird can consume up to 5 000 aphids. Dragon flies have exceptional aerodynamic abilities. They can fly in reverse, change direction in flight and glide-hang at one spot for longer than a minute. The silverfish or silver moth is one of the most primitive species of wingless insects. Ctenolepisma longicaudata is the most common silverfish species in South Africa. There are about 370 silverfish species in the world. During the summer season, a queen bee can lay about 2 000 eggs per day – much more than her own body weight.  Bats: Bats play an important role in ecosystems: There are at least 19 species of bat in Gauteng, with 56 in total throughout South Africa. Of the 75 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 insectivorous bats and two species of fruit-eating bats are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red Data List of threatened animals. Bat populations are decreasing nationwide. Human encroachment and chemicals used on the insects and plants they eat has led to loss of habitat. There are four species of fruit-eating bats that typically occur in South Africa, but only two of these species occur in Gauteng, namely the African straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg’s epauletted bat (Gauteng Smallholder, July 2015).  River pollution: Tests found that the Hennops River contained more than one million units of E.coli per 100ml of water. The current level of E.coli puts the content in the same category as raw sewage.Each kilometre of the Jukskei River in Gauteng contains up to a 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra, and about 300 tons per kilometre elsewhere. Visit http://wet-africa.co.za to read about efforts to clean up the river (VeldTalk, no 76, July 2015). Load shedding: Load shedding has become part of our lives, like traffic jams, crime and heartburn. In many cases it is just an irritation, like when the food is half-cooked, and the soapy on TV remains without an ending, but when the milking machine stops working, the cooling system in the warehouse switches off, and the mixer in the feedlot comes to a standstill, it becomes a crisis. Then you should have your Plan B ready to roll. All of us want to be able to function without Eskom, but it is expensive to switch over, and the technology, especially with regard to storing energy in battery systems, has just not advanced as far as it should have yet (opinion expressed in ProAgri, no 184, June 2015). The Springboks have been playing load shedding rugby for a while now – one half on, one half off – Ed. Cholestrol and the sandwich generation World renowned heart surgeon, Dr Dwight Lundell, with 25 years’ experience (having performed 5 000 open-heart operations) and author of the book “The great cholesterol lie” says that diets to lower cholesterol and severely restrict fat intake are not helping to cure or stop heart disease. Inflammation in the artery walls is the real cause of heart disease. This discovery is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated in future. Mainstream diets are low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, thus causing repeated injury to blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation, leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and eventually even Alzheimer’s. Excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and sunflower, found in many processed foods, causes an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3. One should eat natural (unprocessed) food – more protein, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and butter made from grass-fed animal milk (received via email on 6 January 2015). The “sandwich generation” is people who are sandwiched between the demands – also financial demands – of their children on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other hand. About 40,5% of retired people find themselves in this difficult position. Grandchildren (44%), children (43,6%), extended family members (20,2%), parents (12,8%) and spouses (11,1%) have all become dependent on retired people. In the words of tax expert, Matthew Lester, “Don’t expect to inherit from your parents; you are going to inherit your parents” (Huisgenoot Leefstyl, 12 February 2015). Food for thought... “I’d rather look back at my life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of saying ‘I wish I did that’” (Unknown). “Faith is doing what you love for a living and watching the bills pay themselves” (Rudy Francisco). “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things” (Leonardo da Vinci). And finally…These ten things will disappear in our lifetime!1. The Post Office: Worldwide, Post Offices are so deeply in financial trouble there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email and cell phone communication (immediate, direct communication) have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.2. The Cheque: Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. Cash? In Norway, only 5% of financial transactions use cash, and the country could be cash free by 2020.3. The Newspaper: The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.4. The Book: You say you will never give up the physical book you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes, but I quickly changed my mind when I discovered I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books.5. The Land Line Telephone: You don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for the extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.6. Music, as we know it: The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music the public is familiar with, older established artists. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."7. Television: Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. Cable rates are skyrocketing, and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Highly irritating!8. The "Things" You Own: Many of the very possessions we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud" Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of this is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." It means when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.9. Joined handwriting: Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type.10. Privacy: If there ever was a concept we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. It's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure 24/7, "they" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. All we will have left with, and can't be changed, are "Memories" (email received on 8 June 2015).  

September 2015

Newsletter #78 Fire Season not over yet! We are now in the midst of the danger time for veld fires. Until good rain has fallen, we must therefore do everything in our power to prevent veld fires. Up to now, members of the Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association (FPA) have successfully kept fires out of the Hartebeestfontein area and have controlled a number of small fires before they could become runaway fires that could have caused much damage. Except for a few incidents where there is no control on government property or properties of landowners who don’t belong to the FPA, not much damage was caused. Two veld fires that burned out of control in the Steynshoop area occurred because landowners in that area are not members of either the Conservancy or the FPA, and there is therefore no communication between those landowners and the Hartebeestfontein community. In both instances, the fires were not reported by the community, and if FPA members had not noticed the fires and offered their assistance, the damage would probably have been much worse. It has to be emphasised once again that nobody should believe that he or she will be able to stop or control a veld fire burning out of control. Such a fire can only be stopped or controlled in an organised way, with the correct equipment, proper communication and control among land owners, the fire fighters and the control point. All involved have specific functions, and if these functions are not coordinated the damage may be much worse and people can suffer serious injuries or even be killed. In rural areas all should be aware that it will take emergency services (fire brigade, paramedics and ambulance) more than an hour before they’ll be able to render assistance. A strong wind can cause a fire to spread over kilometres in a few minutes. Thatched roofs that are up to 100m or further away from a fire can still catch fire from sparks blown by the wind. Such roofs should be kept wet in cases where veld fires are burning towards it. (Photographs are of the veld fire at Steynshoop on 5 August 2015). Deon Greyling   Arbor week The first week of September is Arbor week.  This year’s common tree of the year is the Forest bushwillow (Combretum krausii), which is common in all the northern provinces, Kwazulu-Natal, Swaziland and Mpumalanga, and the eastern parts of Gauteng, and the rather uncommon Parsley tree (Heteromorpha arborescens (trifoliata)), which occurs in the Free State northwards, large areas of Gauteng, as well as the eastern parts of the Karoo and the western Cape. The Forest bushwillow occurs in evergreen forest and in thick bushy habitats where rainfall is good or groundwater abundant. It is an upright tree of 6 – 8m, with a dense canopy, and much less deciduous than its relatives, the leafless period being only about a month. The changes in foliage colour are interesting. In spring, some or all of the new leaves are white, turning to pale green as the season advances. Mature leaves are dark green, interspersed with the occasional bright red leaf. Fruiting can be spectacular too, a fiery pink blush diffusing throughout the canopy in middle to late summer. This tree is a great success in the garden. Growth is rapid, about 80cm per year, and it can tolerate moderate frost. Young stems are pliable and are used in basket-making. Sawdust can cause skin irritation. (The photo was taken by JMK, on 7 June 2012, at Louwsburg, Kwazulu-Natal). Source: https://commons.wikimedia,org/wiki. The Parsley tree occurs in many habitats and climates, ranging from moist evergreen forest to hot dry woodland and montane grassland. It is a slender, multi-stemmed tree of about 7m with greenish yellow flowers. The bark is unique and most attractive, shiny and copper-coloured, regularly marked with horizontal bands. The tree has a variable deciduous period, its length depending on the severity of winter. It grows easily from seed, and the growth rate is rapid, often 2m and more per year initially. It tolerates considerable drought and can withstand severe frost. The leaves and roots, and the smoke from burning wood, are used medicinally. (The photo was taken by JMK, on 14 October 2012, at Schanskop, Pretoria). Source: https://commons.wikimedia,org/wiki. (Sources: Field guide to trees of Southern Africa by Braam & Piet van Wyk (1997) & Gardening with indigenous trees and shrubs, by David & Sally Johnson (1993). Trees, shrubs, perennials and creepers can all be given a dressing of fertilizer, followed by a thorough watering. Enrich the soil by digging in compost as deeply as possible. Increase watering to once a week. (JoburgWest Get-it, August 2015). Remember: Know, grow and protect SA’s indigenous flora! Vultures and aviation  Vultures evoke strong emotions from many different individuals and walks of life, including those of enthusiastic pilots from large fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters to motorised and non-motorised gliders. Vultures are seen as the masters of the skies and have adapted to make use of hot air currents also known as thermals to soar and glide as they forage, commute and play in our blue skies. Pilots flying non-motorised gliders make use of thermals for flying as well and thus use vultures, if and where possible, to locate thermals for successful and enjoyable flights. Generally, this is not a problem, but it does become a massive problem when pilots over step their mark and fly too close to vulture breeding, roosting and feeding sites, causing disturbance, chick fatalities from chicks jumping too early and parents abandoning their nests, egg or chicks due to fear and anguish. The same happens for fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters when flying too low and too close to these selected and very specific sites which are easy to avoid. There is ample space away from these selected sites, and therefore there is no excuse or need to fly in close proximity or even at these sites whatsoever. Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) colonies are found scattered around SA on suitable cliff faces such as that of the Magaliesberg (e.g. at Rietfontein). South Africa is the stronghold for the species, and they also breed in Lesotho and Botswana. They are now extinct as a breeding species in Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. There are under 4 000 breeding pairs left globally, and the species has now been up-listed to regionally endangered and globally vulnerable. It is a battle to stabilize populations, and even one lost egg or chick is one too many. Breeding season is from May through to and including December. Each and every pilot should respect our vultures and their habitat, and appreciate these magnificent birds in flight by keeping them safe and around to continue being the masters in flight. (Received via email, 5 August 2015). For more information on breeding, roosting and feeding sites, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that these areas can be made no-fly zones. The magnificent photos were taken by Walter Neser.   The glyphosate debate Research findings indicate that Glyphosate 2, 4-D and Dicamba (active ingredients in Roundup and other herbicides) were found to affect bacteria in ways that could promote resistance to common antibiotics. This is one of the most pressing public health crises of our time. Pesticide-included antibiotic resistance could also affect honeybees, since many commercial hives are now being treated with antibiotics (Elizabeth Grossman, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015). The Glyphosate Carcinogenicity Report, published by the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer, is clearly written and provides a useful document in support of individuals and groups campaigning against glyphosate herbicide spraying. The report concluded that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, is a Class 2A carcinogen. It causes cancer in animals and probably also in people. (Read the full report: monographs.iarc.fr) Because Roundup has long been described as the world’s safest pesticide, we decided to do some more research on the issue after having read the above quotations. It is used so widely that traces of it have been found in human breast milk and urine, as well as in bread and other food products. Following on the findings of experts of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that this pesticide was “probably” carcinogenic, an almighty row erupted involving multinational corporations, scientists, bakers, brewers and farmers – leaving consumers struggling to find out if they are in danger. Many countries have already banned or restricted the use of glyphosate. Amongst others, however, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (the EU’s leader in research about this issue) has reacted with scepticism to the IARC’s findings and warns that more than 30 studies had concluded there was “no validated or significant relationship” between glyphosate and cancer among humans. Dr Kurt Straif of the IARC also added that “it could not clearly be said that it (glyphosate) is causing cancer in humans.” There were, however “strong evidence” that glyphosate is ‘genotoxic’, meaning that it damages DNA. Independent regulatory and safety assessments of glyphosate conducted by scientists at organisations like the National Institute of Health, the German Agency for Risk Assessment and the Georgetown University School of Medicine have found no consistent effects of glyphosate exposure on reproductive health and developing offspring. A study by prof Michelle McGuire, a scientist of the Washington State University, also found that glyphosate does not accumulate in mothers’ breast milk. (Read more about the findings of this study: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/0723133120.htm). Other well -known ‘carcinogens’: Toast: Contains acrylamide, a genotoxic carcinogen produced as a result of cooking starch-rich food at high temperatures. Coffee: A by-product of roasting coffee beans is acrylamide. PVC-plastic: Emits a carcinogenic gas called vinyl chloride, better known as that not so lovely ‘new-car smell’. Broccoli, onions and strawberries: Natural foods containing acetalhedyde, a carcinogen. (Source: Glyphosate: Scientists urge caution over experts’ claims pesticide is ‘probably’ carcinogenic – www.independent.co.uk/news/science) Environmental snippets SA farmers’ nut export problems: About half of South Africa’s annual macadamia nut harvest (more than 22 000 tons) does not have any buyers. This comes after China has clamped down on importers who smuggled huge amounts of these nuts into their country. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of macadamia nuts, producing about 30% of the total stock. China is the biggest market for SA’s macadamia nuts, but up to now, Chinese buyers have avoided paying import tariffs. According to Derek Donkin, senior executive of the subtropical fruit growers’ association of South Africa, farmers who have worked with these Chinese traders will be forced to pay a 19% import tariff to China (Xolani Mbanjwa, Sake-Rapport, 26 July 2015). In addition, there are large quantities of almonds, walnuts and pecan nuts in transit from the US to Hong Kong, raising concerns that buyers may abandon these shipments at the port for fear of being caught (Mike Cordes, Farmer’s Weekly, 17 April 2015). In the opinion of Daniel Zedan (chairman of Nature’s Finest Foods in America), the international market for pecan nuts is growing strongly. However, the Chinese market will have to be studied carefully, as they are not consumer driven, but trade driven. If the Chinese traders don’t make a profit, they will stop buying pecan nuts. Currently, Chinese farmers don’t pose any threat, as their cultivation techniques are old fashioned and their yield low. They do, however, invest a lot of money in research (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). The statement that electricity supply to people excluded before 1994 is the reason for load shedding is not true. Granted, 4,5 million households have been added to the grid, and homes with electricity increased from 44% to 85%. But household use is low, and it added only 5 % in demand while capacity went up by 11% (Prof Christo Viljoen, retired professional engineer and ex-member of the Eskom board and Electricity Control Board – now Nersa). El Nino – another dry summer ahead? If current temperature developments in the southern Pacific Ocean persist, South Africans living on the Highveld can expect another dry summer at the end of this year, to follow on the already dry summer past. One should, however, be careful not to make a general rule for rainfall and temperature changes in El Nino years over southern Africa. The impact of El Nino is often reduced by the sufficient groundwater and soil moisture content carried over from previous seasons. This will, however, not be the case this year. The warm anomaly over the eastern equatorial Pacific – the typical indicator for an El Nino – has in recent weeks exceeded 1°C, and the sea temperature will probably continue increasing until December (Gauteng Smallholder, June 2015). Rhino poaching in perspective: The exact number of Namibian black rhinos has always been kept a secret so as to not draw unwanted attention to them. However, this tradition has contributed to on-going poaching activities going unnoticed for much too long. According to the Namibian government, 62 black rhinos have been poached in the Etosha Game Reserve the past six months. However, sources within the park are of the opinion that about 80 have been poached. More than 400 of this critically endangered species were poached since 2005, with 70% of this number having been poached since 2012. Compared to the large numbers of white rhinos poached in South Africa, these numbers may seem insignificant, but they are significant: Namibia’s remaining 1 800 black rhinos represent 40% of the world population of about 4 500. One and a half centuries ago, there were 850 000 black rhinos (John Grobler, Rapport Weekliks, 9 August 2015).   Biggest health problem, fungi and obesity Our oceans: Each and every day, 250 000 sharks are killed – mainly for making shark fin soup in the Far East.  Only 2% of the world’s oceans is protected by legislation (Rapport Weekliks, 26 July 2015). During the 24 days before Sylvester, the runaway Karoo lion, was eventually caught in the Nuweveld mountain range, he had killed 19 sheep, one donkey and a kudu. Although the lion had caused great consternation, there were considerably fewer livestock thieves in the area (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). Korea has the world’s most flowering cherry trees, also known as beotkkot namu. The trees don’t bear any fruit, and were planted purely for their annual, rather short-lived splendour of colour (Vrouekeur, 4 April 2014). Citrus represents about 50% of all perishable South African export products (Landbouweekblad, 10 July 2015). According to experts, obesity will soon surpass HIV as South Africa’s biggest health problem, and it will eventually cause the collapse of the country’s rather shaky health system. During the past nine years, government has spent more R23 milliard on treating and preventing life style related diseases associated with obesity. About 7 million people suffer from hypertension, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks, while 3,5 million people suffer from diabetes. Obesity is linked to half of all cases of diabetes and hypertension, and statistics show that specific types of cancer can also be associated with obesity. In addition, this is becoming a major problem among young people - 5% of all boys and 25% of all girls in South Africa are overweight or obese. According to prof Andre Kengne, director of the research unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC), indications are that non-infectious diseases will surpass infectious diseases as the main cause of death in developing countries such as South Africa, in the coming decades (Rapport, 12 July 2015). Every year, more than a 1 000 South African mine workers are diagnosed with silicosis. This disease is caused by breathing in silica dust, thereby increasing mine workers’ vulnerability for contacting tuberculosis. In 2014, 1 063 cases of silicosis were reported by South African mines (Sake-Rapport, 28 June 2015). The number of discouraged job seekers (people who want to work, but who have stopped looking for a job) increased with 37 000 to 2,4 million during the second quarter of 2015 (Rapport, 2 August 2015). Fascinating fungi: More than a 100 000 different species of fungi have been identified worldwide. These include mushrooms, toadstools, mildew, ferment and mould. About 20% of people suffer from fungi infections, especially under their toe nails. A normal person’s skin is covered by fungi, which can be found on all parts of the skin. Most of these fungi don’t pose any threat at all, while some are necessary and valuable, and others can cause damage. Scientists of the National Research Institute for Human Genomes in Bethesda, Maryland, have found that about 80 different fungi species can be found on human heels, while about 60 different fungi species can be found under toe nails and 40 between the toes. Only about 10 fungi species can be found on a human’s head (Huisgenoot, 4 September 2014).   Laugh a little – Church ladies with typewriters The sentences below actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services.   The Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals. Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bLaugh a little – Church ladies with typewriters The sentences below actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services. The Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals. Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.  Bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help. For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs. Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered. Food for thought... “You can only be who ‘you’ are. The moment you try to be something (or someone) you’re not, you lose your power” (Nicolas Schwartz). “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” (JoburgWest Get-it, August 2015). “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek to teaching Remedial English in college” (Joseph Sobran). And finally...on stargazing On a clear, dark night far away from light and air pollution, the human naked eye can see up to 3 500 individual stars. I wonder – do we gaze at stars because we are human, or are we human because we gaze at stars? (Vincent Nettman, Maropeng local astronomer). “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars” (Og Mandino).  

August 2015

  Newsletter #77 Editorial This year, we’re not experiencing an exceptionally cold winter. Because of the air being so dry, we have also had very little frost, which probably means that we’re going to have an outbreak of pests and diseases this coming spring and summer. We can still remember black frost on 27 August one year, though. Nevertheless, we have much to be thankful for, even if heaps of dry leaves and the blue, blue winter skies will still be with us for quite a while.The announcement about the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve was welcomed by our members and readers. We have received communication about nominations for a management committee, and we will keep you all posted about future events. However, not all of us are equally aware of the importance of protecting our beautiful environment.   A balanced outlook on conservation? “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it is attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir).  Do we have a balanced outlook on protecting our natural resources in Hartebeestfontein – or not? When I see and hear how people react to events in our environment I often ask myself this question. Often, opinions are expressed that clearly indicate ignorance, assumptions and self-interest, with the latter mostly given preference. It is often said that humans will be responsible for their own downfall, and sometimes, one cannot but wholly agree with this and relate it to events in one’s own environment. This past week, much was said about our country’s looming water crisis and that water consumption will be strictly regulated, similar to load shedding. Fact is that we do not have sufficient clean water, and that we cannot generate more water as with electricity, while the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Then there are people who tell me “This doesn’t concern me, I have lots of water, a strong borehole, and I’ll pump as much as I want and do what I want on my property, because I’m making good money”. They are oblivious of the fact that the water is not only on their property, not knowing where it comes from, or that their careless attitude can result in a water shortage for them and others, and that the plug may be pulled on their financial resources. They also don’t take into account that more people with more new boreholes use more water every year, and that available water resources have decreased alarmingly over the past two decades. They are also unaware of the fact that many boreholes that always had strong water have now dried up or are producing much less water. Furthermore, groundwater quality is decreasing as a result of salinisation and pollution, sometimes quite a distance from where it is pumped. This is probably indicative of the over utilisation of our water resources. Few people realize that the mountains, and in particular, the Magaliesberg, is a reservoir of clean water in our area. Nearly all our groundwater comes from the mountains where it is stored and protected by the vegetation on the mountains and their slopes. So, if we don’t protect our mountains, we won’t have water. Some say we should not destroy any indigenous bush and vegetation, while others are of the opinion that deforestation must take place in certain areas for fire breaks, as prescribed by Law. We will thus prevent those veld fires, which are difficult or impossible to control in the mountains. (See the photo of such a fire break that was recently made at the foot of the Magaliesberg). Admirers of vervet monkeys complain when bird lovers complain that the monkeys raid birds’ nests and fruit and vegetable farmers suffer huge losses and want to cull some of these monkeys. When a leopard is seen attacking baboons or monkeys in the mountain, some say leopards shouldn’t be there, and it also poses a threat to their livestock, while others are of the opinion that it is dangerous for hikers frequenting the various hiking routes on the mountain. If game is culled in order to protect the remaining game against starvation and death, there are numerous complaints. Although various measures to curb crime with an effective communication system, for those who are interested to make use of it, in place, and although crime prevention has been relatively successful, excessive measures are taken with impenetrable fences and lights, etc., keeping everything in or out in order to ward off the “onslaught”. Protecting the environment or its flora and fauna becomes unimportant when people develop a fear of crime. We can cite many examples, and each point of view will probably have merit from own conviction. I urgently request people to cultivate a balanced outlook in respect of protecting our natural resources and environment. Short-sightedness and self-interest in this regard will lead to your own downfall and that of many others. We cannot always point the finger at other people, while our own actions leave much to be desired. We should all do some soul searching and ask ourselves, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to make a contribution in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment? This is not to say that one shouldn’t rebuild what has fallen into disrepair, but excessive revamping may just do more harm than good, especially if we keep on tugging at nature. Will we in Hartebeestfontein be able to keep our perspective and maintain a balanced approach in respect of protecting our natural resources? This will depend on everyone’s personal motivation and willingness to adapt and cooperate, as well as how we manage external influences that we’re all exposed to. Time will tell, and when we look back after some years, we’ll know whether we have succeeded or not. Deon Greyling   Bird of the month: Cape Robin One of our members, Lourie Laatz, sent us a beautiful photo of a Cape Robin (Afr Gewone Janfrederik, or Cossypha caffra) that has come to fetch a worm from her every day, for a while now. This cute little fellow will therefore be our bird of the month.   The colourful Cape Robin is greyish brown above, with an orange rump, conspicuous white eyebrow, black face and bill, brownish pink legs and feet, light orange breast and throat, greyish white belly and orange tail with black centre. When disturbed, they make a harsh 3-syllabled alarm note, WA-deda, and their call can be likened to someone reading off a shopping list – teeu teetoo, teeu tiddly-too, teeu teetoo teetoo. They are common throughout South Africa, except in much of the Northern Cape. Their favourite habitat is forest edges, wooded kloofs, riverine bush, gardens, parks, farmyards, wattle and Eucalyptus plantations. They like feeding on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs, lizards and fruit. The breeding season lasts from June to December, when they usually lay 2-3 pale pinkish or greenish, spotted eggs. Incubation and nestling usually takes about 18 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, sixth edition, 1993).   Rose-ringed Parakeet Project A male (black ring) and female (no black ring) Rose-ringed Parakeet inspecting a nest cavity. Dainfern, Johannesburg, photographed by Patrick Bell  The Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is native to sub-Saharan Africa, but in SA they were introduced, where after they became naturalised as they spread to new areas. According to Wits researchers, Craig Symes and Elize Fourie (School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences), most of these populations are derived from escaped birds, and probably originate from aviculture. This is an invasive parrot species, which inhabits urban areas of South Africa, and which is currently listed as a Category 2 invasive species in the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). The impact of the species on local biodiversity and the environment is, however, not known. The Wits researchers are launching the Rose-ringed Parakeet Project to firstly, locate parakeet roosting/breeding sites and secondly, investigate the size and distribution range of the parakeet population in Gauteng. This will be complemented by parallel studies (in association with European researchers and ParrotNet), focused on the behaviour of these birds in Gauteng. It will improve understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the species in South African urban environments and ensure that informed decisions are made by policy makers regarding the status and management of this parrot. All birders, citizen scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and members of the public are invited to assist with and collaborate on the project by submitting sightings of these parakeets to the project database. Particularly needed is information on the exact location of permanent roosting and breeding sites as well as the number of parakeets seen.To diarise: Spot-a-parakeet day, Saturday 22 August. Best time: 06:00 – 08:00 or 16:00 – 18:00. Please join the Facebook group (The Rose-ringed Parakeet Project) for more information and updates. If you have any photos of parakeets, or any questions or need further information please contact the Wits researchers and send photos to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Data can be submitted to the project in the following ways:1. Using Google Forms. Please follow this link to the data form, fill it in, and submit. You may submit more than one form for the project. Please fill in all required fields as completely as possible: http://goo.gl/forms/E9giDg3hZh OR2. Via Birdlasser, the technological partner of this project. All data of Rose-ringed Parakeets logged on Birdlasser will be shared with the Wits researchers. This application is available for download on Apple and Android devices. More info at www.birdlasser.com.   Environmental snippets On feathered friends: Only 250 Bearded vultures (Afr Lammergier, or Gypaetus barbatus), are left in South Africa. This species has now been added to the ICUN Red Data List of critically endangered birds (Rapport, 12 June 2015).A young Secretary bird was recently found in the middle of Pietermaritzburg – definitely not normal habitat or a safe area either! The bird was emaciated when found, proving that it had been battling to find food. FreeMe in Gauteng reported similar incidents of these birds ending up in urban areas, their desperation for food forcing them closer to human habitation in an effort to find it (Raptor Rescue Newsletter, June 2015). To read the full newsletter, go to www.africanraptor.co.za.   Interesting facts about insects From the Gauteng Smallholder (July 2015) and Huisgenoot (12 February 2015): Ladybirds (Afr. Liewenheersbesies) are a farmer’s best allies, as they eat scale insects and aphids that cause damage to crops. They act as a natural pest control and are far more effective than commercial pesticides. In its lifetime of three to six weeks, a ladybird can consume up to 5 000 aphids. Dragon flies have exceptional aerodynamic abilities. They can fly in reverse, change direction in flight and glide-hang at one spot for longer than a minute. The silverfish or silver moth is one of the most primitive species of wingless insects. Ctenolepisma longicaudata is the most common silverfish species in South Africa. There are about 370 silverfish species in the world. During the summer season, a queen bee can lay about 2 000 eggs per day – much more than her own body weight.   Bats:   Bats play an important role in ecosystems: There are at least 19 species of bat in Gauteng, with 56 in total throughout South Africa. Of the 75 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 insectivorous bats and two species of fruit-eating bats are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red Data List of threatened animals. Bat populations are decreasing nationwide. Human encroachment and chemicals used on the insects and plants they eat has led to loss of habitat. There are four species of fruit-eating bats that typically occur in South Africa, but only two of these species occur in Gauteng, namely the African straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg’s epauletted bat (Gauteng Smallholder, July 2015).   River pollution:   Tests found that the Hennops River contained more than one million units of E.coli per 100ml of water. The current level of E.coli puts the content in the same category as raw sewage.Each kilometre of the Jukskei River in Gauteng contains up to a 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra, and about 300 tons per kilometre elsewhere. Visit http://wet-africa.co.za to read about efforts to clean up the river (VeldTalk, no 76, July 2015).   Load shedding: Load shedding has become part of our lives, like traffic jams, crime and heartburn. In many cases it is just an irritation, like when the food is half-cooked, and the soapy on TV remains without an ending, but when the milking machine stops working, the cooling system in the warehouse switches off, and the mixer in the feedlot comes to a standstill, it becomes a crisis. Then you should have your Plan B ready to roll. All of us want to be able to function without Eskom, but it is expensive to switch over, and the technology, especially with regard to storing energy in battery systems, has just not advanced as far as it should have yet (opinion expressed in ProAgri, no 184, June 2015). The Springboks have been playing load shedding rugby for a while now – one half on, one half off – Ed.   Did you know? World renowned heart surgeon, Dr Dwight Lundell, with 25 years’ experience (having performed 5 000 open-heart operations) and author of the book “The great cholesterol lie” says that diets to lower cholesterol and severely restrict fat intake are not helping to cure or stop heart disease. Inflammation in the artery walls is the real cause of heart disease. This discovery is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated in future. Mainstream diets are low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates, thus causing repeated injury to blood vessels. This repeated injury creates chronic inflammation, leading to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and eventually even Alzheimer’s. Excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and sunflower, found in many processed foods, causes an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3. One should eat natural (unprocessed) food – more protein, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and butter made from grass-fed animal milk (received via email on 6 January 2015). The “sandwich generation” is people who are sandwiched between the demands – also financial demands – of their children on the one hand and their elderly parents on the other hand. About 40,5% of retired people find themselves in this difficult position. Grandchildren (44%), children (43,6%), extended family members (20,2%), parents (12,8%) and spouses (11,1%) have all become dependent on retired people. In the words of tax expert, Matthew Lester, “Don’t expect to inherit from your parents; you are going to inherit your parents” (Huisgenoot Leefstyl, 12 February 2015).   Food for thought... Food for thought...“I’d rather look back at my life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ instead of saying ‘I wish I did that’” (Unknown). “Faith is doing what you love for a living and watching the bills pay themselves” (Rudy Francisco). “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things” (Leonardo da Vinci). And finally…These ten things will disappear in our lifetime!1. The Post Office: Worldwide, Post Offices are so deeply in financial trouble there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email and cell phone communication (immediate, direct communication) have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.2. The Cheque: Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with cheque by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process cheques. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the cheque. Cash? In Norway, only 5% of financial transactions use cash, and the country could be cash free by 2020.3. The Newspaper: The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.4. The Book: You say you will never give up the physical book you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes, but I quickly changed my mind when I discovered I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books.5. The Land Line Telephone: You don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for the extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.6. Music, as we know it: The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalogue items," meaning traditional music the public is familiar with, older established artists. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."7. Television: Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. Cable rates are skyrocketing, and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Highly irritating!8. The "Things" You Own: Many of the very possessions we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud" Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of this is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." It means when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider.9. Joined handwriting: Already gone in some schools who no longer teach "joined handwriting" because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type.10. Privacy: If there ever was a concept we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. It's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure 24/7, "they" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. All we will have left with, and can't be changed, are "Memories" (email received on 8 June 2015).      

July 2015

  Newsletter #76 Editorial With deep regret: One of our members and dear friend, Dawn Jack, passed away unexpectedly from complications after an operation on 24 June 2015. Our heartfelt condolences go to her husband, Ronnie, children, next of kin, family and friends. Once again, many thanks for all the positive comments on our previous newsletter. Our readers/members found the articles on our feathered friends and Sweden's recycling programme fascinating. Below are some of the emails in response to the articles.One of our members, Carol van der Linde wrote via email on 8 June: "What a coincidence, in your latest newsletter. We were sitting on our veranda on Saturday 6 June, at about midday, when we spotted a Secretary bird wandering about on our field. About a week before that we saw a Gymnogene in a Eucalyptus tree near to the house. We feel so privileged to have seen these birds".    Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager of SA Birdlife: Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State, drew our attention to the fact that our Conservancy falls into the Magaliesberg Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).    One of our readers, Gerrie Jacobs, forwarded an interesting article of Trevor Hardaker, wildlife enthusiast and photographer on 16 June: "Bird migration is a really fascinating subject and I am constantly amazed at the distances that some birds travel each year. A female European Honey Buzzard was fitted with a satellite tracking system in Finland recently and was of particular interest to locals because it spent the most recent austral summer around the town of Reitz in the Free State in South Africa. She left Reitz to start heading north on 20 April 2015 and, yesterday morning, 2 June, she finally reached Finland where she will probably spend the boreal summer before probably returning again next season to visit us here in South Africa. In just 42 days, she covered over 10 000km at an average of more than 230 km every single day! Isn't that just amazing?"   Pauline Kaufmann's (GCSA) point of view via email on 8 June: "Always an enjoyable and interesting read. Pity our government can't implement Sweden's recycling programme, or even better, why don't we send our garbage there?"   On 17 June 2015, two of our members, Mike & Cilla Crewe-Brown were honoured as this year's Food Heroes by the Johannesburg Slow Food Convivium for their contribution to the "development of rare breeds and education on sustainable food and farming". Congratulations! Breaking news about the Magaliesberg Biosphere On 9 June 2015, the International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB) announced in Paris that the Magaliesberg has been declared as a World Biosphere Reserve. This announcement is the culmination of a campaign to have this mountain, which is about a 100 times older than Mount Everest (about half the age of the earth), declared as a World Biosphere. The Magaliesberg is under severe pressure from urbanisation and has lacked the support of a strong regulatory framework to back its status as a protected area. The Reserve covers almost 358 000ha – 58 000ha making up the core area (in which our Conservancy falls), 110 000ha the buffer area and 190 000ha the transition area. Besides the area's unique biomes – Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah – it has a very rich biodiversity. The plant species, Aloe Peglerae and Frithia pulchra, are unique to the area, and it is also home to 443 bird species – almost half the total bird species of southern Africa. In a report of the International Advisory Committee for Biospheres it is noted that "The area is endowed with scenic beauty, unique natural features, rich cultural heritage value and archaeological interest with the Cradle of Humankind, which is part of the World Heritage Site, with four million years of history".The Magaliesberg now joins 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries worldwide. There are now eight UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in South Africa, namely: Kogelberg (Western Cape), the Cape West Coast, Kruger to Canyons (Limpopo & Mpumalanga), the Waterberg (Limpopo), the Cape Wine Lands, Vhembe (Limpopo), the Gouritz cluster (Western and Eastern Cape), and the Magaliesberg. The Magaliesberg Biosphere will be formally registered by UNESCO and the Department of Environmental Affairs as a World Biosphere Reserve in October 2015.In the words of Vincent Carruthers, well-known author of the book, The Magaliesberg, "...the real challenge is to learn how to use and enjoy all that the mountain has to offer and allow that enjoyment to be sustained in perpetuity". Amendments to NEMBA AIS Regulations We have reported in detail on the NEMBA AIS Regulations, published in the Government Gazette of 1 August 2014 in previous newsletters. On 29 May 2015, amendments to these Regulations (Notice 493 of 2015) were posted for public comment. A few important highlights include: Invasive animals* Removal of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus guttatus) from the invasive species lists;* Listing of Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) as a Category 2 invader;* Listing of ALL American red slider turtles (Trachemys species) as Category 3 invaders;* Listing of the European shore crab/Green crab (Carcinus maenas) as a Category 1b invader;* Removal of the Common Boa and Green Iguana from being listed as Category 2 invaders in Gauteng. Restrictions in other provinces remain.* Dispensation for the official parakeet and pigeon racing associations to issue Category 2 permits to their members; and* Detailed confirmation of the status of carp. Invasive plants * Confirmation of the sword fern (Nephrolepis) as a Category 1b invader in KwaZulu-Natal.* Detailed confirmation of the status of Pinus pinaster and Pinus radiata.   Visit www.invasives.org.za for more information.   The NEMBA Alien and Invasive Species regulations, published on 1 August 2014, list 8 species of pines as invasive, with provisions on where and how they are to be managed.  Image from www.invasives.org.za     Further training opportunities for Invasives Consultants:To date, 410 consultants have been trained (during April & May 2015). Further training workshops will be taking place during July. Contact Margie Vonk on 011 723 9000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.   On dirt roads and cyclists Winter's dust and smoke is with us once again, which means that people suffering from sinusitis are doing good business with our local doctor and pharmacist. Local residents find it impossible to keep their homes clean and must dust and sweep constantly. As soon as the next vehicle speeds down the road, the whole process starts again. Not all residents in the area realise that by slowing down there will be much less dust to deal with.   Generally, visitors passing through our area drive too fast, not realising that braking and negotiating corners needs extra driving skills on gravel. They tend to hog the middle of the road and show little consideration for pedestrians, cyclists or other road users, forcing them to give way to what often resembles an approaching tornado. Heaven forbid if you have to stop next to the road for some or other reason! This is frustrating for farmers, as these drivers cover sheep, cattle and goats grazing in camps and hot houses next to the road in dust. If an oncoming car is spotted, slow down and move as far left as possible to ensure a wide enough gap between the vehicles. This reduces the risk of damage to windscreens and bodywork from flying stones and limits the clouds of dust kicked up behind you. One wonders about the health risk to groups of cyclists who frequent our dirt roads over weekends. In addition, these cyclists also have the same problem as many other South Africans who don't remove their route indicators, placed everywhere on the road and fastened to trees along the way. Long after elections, auctions and the like, advertising boards still appear along roads. Local residents must then clean up afterwards. Winter is, however, not just ugly and dusty. If you take time, you'll notice the most beautiful aloes in flower everywhere. Our members/readers are welcome to send us photos of flowering aloes. Winter is also soup time. Soup makes you warm and comforts you. So, chop up some veggies, and you'll have a tasty bowl of soup in two ticks. Get your grater, pour a glass of good wine and make your very own aromatic comfort food this winter! (Ed).   African Harrier Hawk Information for this article was kindly provided by Willie Froneman, birding expert of the Xanadu Nature Estate, and the beautiful photo of the bird in flight was taken by his son, well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman.   On 23 June, Willie wrote via email: "The names of South African bird species were internationalised in 2004, when many of the old names disappeared. Gymnogene was one of these. The name comes from an old Hindu sect who wore very little or no clothes (nudists or Gymnosophists), therefore the Afrikaans name "Kaalwangvalk". This species falls under the group, Harrier Hawks, also including the "goshawks" (Singing falcons). The African Harrier Hawk (Polyboroides typus) is a large, broad-winged hawk with a small head, long legs, black bill and loose floppy flight action. It is grey above with large black spots on the wing coverts, finely barred black and white below, long bare yellow legs and feet. In flight, the broad floppy wings display a broad black trailing edge and tip. A distinctive feature is its fairly long black tail with a single central white bar, and narrow white tip. The neck feathers are elongated, and can be raised to form ruff. The feature that it shares with no other raptor is its un-feathered bright yellow face, that extends to around and beyond the eyes (or literally 'bare cheeks').The African Harrier Hawk is fairly widely distributed in South Africa, avoiding the dry western parts. They are common to scarce residents, favouring indigenous forests, riverine forest and open broad-leaved woodlands, also rocky hills and mountains. They are usually solitary, unobtrusive when perched, and are often seen flying fairly high. Their hunting technique is to fly from tree to tree, inspecting trunks and branches for prey, and their favourite feeding habit is robbing nests of weavers, swallows and swifts. They also often invade nesting colonies of water birds. Their call is a plaintive whistled "suuu-eeee-ooo". The favourite diet of these birds consists of birds, reptiles, mammals and frogs. In South Africa, the breeding season is from August to November, laying a clutch of two buff or cream, washed reddish, heavily blotched with mahogany red, eggs. Incubation is 35 days and nestling 55 days. The birds occur in many well-wooded towns and villages, and are often seen in and around Hartbeespoort. Environmental snippets Planetary boundaries: In a paper published in Science in January 2015, Johan Rockström argues that we've already screwed up with regards to the first four planetary boundaries, and we're cutting it fine with the other five. The nine planetary boundaries are:1. Climate change2. Lost biodiversity as species become extinct3. The addition of phosphorus, nitrogen (and other elements) to the world's crops and ecosystems4. Deforestation and other land use changes5. Emission of aerosols (microscopic particles) that affects climate and living organisms6. Stratospheric ozone depletion7. Ocean acidification8. Freshwater use9. Dumping of organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nano materials, micro-plastics and other novel man-made substances into the world's environments. (Our Fragile Planet, no 16, April 2015).   Salt cells store heat: Construction of the Saudi-Arabian water and energy developer, ACWA Power's new Bokpoort solar power installation at Bokpoort, near Groblershoop in the Northern Cape is nearing completion and will probably start providing power in the fourth quarter of this year. This technology is the only renewable power generating method that is able to continue providing power from 17:00 to 21:00, just when Eskom needs it most to avoid load shedding. A sea of concave mirrors encapsulates the sun's heat during the day, and this energy is then used to power steam turbines. The heat that is encapsulated during the day is stored in salt cells and can be used during the night to keep the steam turbines going. The specially purified salt that is used in the installation's tanks comes from the Atacama Desert in Chile. This industrial salt is essentially similar to table salt but not fit for human consumption. The salt cells are able to store about 1 300MWh energy, which is sufficient to keep the installation going for just over nine hours (Mari Blumenthal & Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 7 June 2015).   Stop freaking out – bugs are full of proteins: One's first response to finding crickets or grasshoppers in the home is to grab the Doom. However, before you kill them, take a moment to think about all the proteins you are destroying. At a recent "Pestaurant" in the Cresta Shopping Centre, one could see and taste dishes made from crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms, mopani worms and scorpions. The dried insects are disguised in popular food versions, such as brownies, canapés, wraps and lollies. At first, the dishes don't have any taste, but when you start chewing, they taste like wood, or like old Weet-Bix. According to Lemay Rogers, marketing manager of Rentokil, insects are very healthy. They contain lots of protein and iron and very little fat. People should stop thinking of insects as pests and realise that they are good for their bodies (Nuus-Rapport, 7 June 2015).   Did you know? International Ocean day was celebrated on 8 June 2015. About half of the world's oxygen comes from the oceans. South Africa's oceans are unique, because the warm and cool oceans that meet each other on our south coast create a rich biodiversity. South Africans don't do enough to protect our oceans, and up to 40% of our oceans are over exploited (RSG & DSTV Insig, 8 June 2015).   Recent research indicates that large-scale bribery among government officials who monitor fishing along the SA coast contributes to over exploitation of fishing resources. These incidents of bribery prevent implementation of the regulations that are intended to keep fishing at sustainable levels. Some of these officials act as informants and warn poachers against joint policing actions in advance, while others are also involved in illegal fishing activities (Anna-Karin Lundell, Our Fragile Planet, no 17, May 2015).   For the first time in history, in 2015, there were more people without jobs in the 20-24 age group than people who were actually employed. A huge 44% of the population has no income, including 5,5 million people without jobs still looking for employment and 2,4 million who have stopped looking for employment. A perfect storm is brewing (Herman Gillomee, Rapport Weekliks, 31 May & 7 June 2015).   What is LPG? Liquid petroleum gas (butane and propane) is a by-product in the oil refining process and in the process where natural gas (methane) is converted into fuel. It is heavier than air and has a higher energy content than natural gas (Sake-Rapport, 14 June 2015).   What is a 'leap' second (Afr skrikkelsekonde)? When sensitive time systems crashed in 1972, it was noticed that there was a 10 second deficit between earth rotation and time mechanisms (sun and watch time). From then on, a 'leap' second was added at intervals during specific years, just after midnight on 30 June. Six months ago, the international earth rotation service announced that a 'leap' second would be added on 30 June 2015, for the first time since 2012 (RSG, 30 June 2015).   Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of stroke, a large global study in the British Medical Journal suggests. (Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32024727).   Although mampoer is synonymous with the Boere culture, it actually comes from the Pedis. It was named after the Pedi chief, Mampuru, who made punch with a 'kick' from peaches (Rondrits Rapport, 31 May 2015). More information: 012 736 2035/6.   According to Prof Salomé Kruger of the Faculty of Health Sciences at NWU (Rapport Beleef, 17 May 2015), one can cure one's sweet tooth by following a few simple steps: Gradually use less sugar in your coffee. If you normally use three teaspoons of sugar, decrease this to two teaspoons for two weeks, then one teaspoon for two weeks, and eventually none. Drink water when you become thirsty. Put cucumber pieces or mint leaves in your glass of water to give it a better taste, or have some flavoured tea – it has a sweet taste without you having to add sugar. Food for thought... "I am now in the land of olives, wine, oil and sunshine. What more can a man ask of heaven?" (Thomas Jefferson, In Aix-en-Provence 1787). "Common sense is not a gift, it's a punishment because you still have to deal with everyone who doesn't have it" (Anonymous). "The hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray" (Unknown). "When you remember a past event, you're actually remembering the last time you remembered it, not the event itself" (Unknown). "No matter how little money and how few possesions you own, having a dog makes you rich" (Louis Sabin).   And finally...   After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holiday away from school. One child wrote the following absolutely priceless piece:"We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live in a big brick house but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to the sea where everyone lives in nice little houses, and so they don't have to mow the grass anymore! They ride around on their bicycles and scooters and wear name tags because they don't know who they are anymore. They go to a building called a wreck centre, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now. They do exercises there, but they don't do them very well. There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in it with hats on. At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape. Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts! Nobody there cooks, they just eat out, and they eat the same thing every night --- early birds. Some of the people can't get out past the man in the doll house. The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked centre for pot luck. My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and that I should work hard so I can be retarded someday too. When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house. Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren".    

June 2015

  Newsletter #75 Editorial We would like to express our heartfelt thanks for all the positive comments received for last month’s newsletter. It seems that our members/readers found the articles on the water crisis and termites most interesting. Fact is: Our population growth is alarmingly high. And these new people don’t substitute those who pass away – they are added! It also doesn’t concern only the birth rate – people live longer and enjoy living longer more than before. This means that not only are there more people consuming food, water and energy – each one is also consuming more than his/her predecessor. Worse – if governments really started caring for our earth, the whole political power balance will be derailed! Another fact: We can live without electricity but not without water. If our natural fresh water resources are depleted our water is finished. We can always make some other plan to generate more electricity, but we cannot make more water!A warmer than usual winter is forecast for the northern parts of our country and a wetter than usual winter for the Cape. Whatever the case, winter time is time for baked sago pudding. But what is sago? It is a carbohydrate that comes from the inside of the stem of the sago palm. It is then processed into small, round granules that we know as sago. Tapioca (with the bigger granules) can be used as a substitute for sago. Mouth-watering!Important:Please make a note of the new contact numbers for SAPS Hekpoort: 014 576 9108 or 014 576 9109.   Our heritage One of our committee members, Annette Raaff, read interesting information about Damhoek in the recent Heritage Portal newsletter and shares it with us.Castle Gorge and Damhoek Pass saw significant Boer and British activity during various periods of the Anglo-Boer War. The Damhoek Pass was an important route over the Magaliesberg, and for this reason, in August 1901, the British Army fortified the area with no less than seven "Rice Pattern" blockhouses [and] various other smaller fortifications. The remains of these structures can still be seen today. Castle Gorge was the probable site of several hidden Boer industries, including a grain mill powered by the stream, a blacksmith, and a shoemaker. Unfortunately, no physicial evidence of these Boer industries has yet been found. A hike of this area to explore its history and structures, and to admire the beautiful scenery will be taking place on 2 June 2015. This is a strenuous hike of about 10km, and is only suitable for the fit! For more information, visit http://www.heritageportal.co.za/event/hiking-tour-damhoek-and-castle. Won’t it be exciting if the participants find some of the hidden Boer industries? – Ed.Go to http://www.heritageportalc.za/article/corrugated-irony-short-history-tin-roof and read the section on Paul Kruger and “boer maak ‘n plan”. A porcupine in the pool! Our members/readers will remember that we reported on Werner Fiel and Esther Müller’s horse that had somehow landed in their pool and could not get out, towards the end of last year. It took a concerted effort from a number of people to get the horse out of the pool uninjured. The pool was so badly damaged that it had to be remade. Now the newly made pool has had an animal visitor once again – this time a porcupine! Fortunately, the pool was still empty. Thanks to Esther who sent us the photo.     On Secretary birds A recent press release of BirdLife, SA (16 April 2015) reports on their research project to study the Secretary bird, launched in 2011 – the same year that the threatened status of the Secretary bird was changed to vulnerable. The report describes the vast distances these birds travel after leaving the nest and the numerous threats they face. The movements of one specific Secretary bird, called Taemane (meaning ‘diamond’ in Setswane- and Sotho), were tracked. He was fitted with a tracking device on a farm near Warden in the Free State on 5 April 2013, when he was about 49 days old. Taemane remained in the area of the nest until he was about 114 days old and then visited various parts of the Free State before moving south to the Kwazulu-Natal south coast, then moving inland, and settled on a farm near Ixopo for a few months. From there he moved back to the Free State where he then continued to spend time in the grasslands south of Memel. For more information on this project, please contact Ernst Retief at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 072 223 2160.   Although Secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius) can be found across South Africa (therefore also in our area), we cannot remember when last we saw one of these birds, and I thought that I should write an article about them. It will be interesting to know if any of our members/readers have spotted any of the birds in our area. The photo of the Secretary bird was kindly provided by well-known bird photographer, Albert Froneman – Ed.At a distance, the peculiar shape and long legs render this bird to be confused with a crane. Its unusualness has captured public imagination, and it is incorporated into the South African coat of arms. The body of the Secretary bird is mainly pale grey, belly and upper legs black, tibial feathering, tail bands, rump and crest feathers black. The irises are hazel, bill and cere pale blue-grey, facial skin yellowish orange, legs and feet greyish pink. They are very conspicuous in semi desert, grassland, savannah, open woodland, farmland and on mountain slopes. Usually in pairs or solitary. They breed from August to December. The clutch is normally 2 white or pale bluish-green eggs. Incubation is 45 days and nestling 85 days. Most immature birds move long distances from their nest site and then return to their natal areas after a few months. Their food consists of insects (mainly grasshoppers), rodents, lizards, young birds, eggs, snakes and rabbits.Sources: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Gordon Lindsay Maclean, sixth edition, 1993 and information provided by Willie Froneman, Xanadu Nature Estate. About birding Blue crane massacre The Blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) is SA’s national bird as well as the 2015 bird of the year, classified as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List categories. Tests have confirmed that poison (Diazinon, widely used as blowfly remedy for wool-producing sheep in the Karoo) was responsible for the recent deaths of between 200 and 1 000 Blue cranes near Richmond in the Karoo, an incident described as “the worst of its kind to date” (‘Blue crane massacre’ by Norma Wildenboer. Source: IOL News and Diamond Fields Advertiser, Kimberley). Proposed wind farm on the Sneeuberg in the Karoo: A 93 000ha wind energy facility (WEF) has been planned for the Sneeuberg mountain range near Victoria West in the Karoo. According to Marina Beal of the Nama Karoo Foundation (NKF), this development will imperil the iconic endangered Blue crane, many bird species and the entire local ecosystem: “The project makes no provision for the long-term sustainability of the environment, nor has any lasting benefit for those living in the vicinity. The environmental harm of the proposed WEF is not restricted to birds flying into blades, or the ugliness of turbines in a wilderness setting” (Farmer’s Weekly, 19 September 2014).   Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project South Africa is home to a wealth of bird species and other unique biodiversity. The rapid spread of urbanisation, mining, pollution, agriculture and a host of other human-induced factors have caused the current precarious state of many of our birds and their habitats. Sadly, we could permanently lose a large portion of our natural heritage if we do not change the situation. The Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme seeks to protect habitats and sites identified as critical to the survival of the species found there. These IBAs are also of the utmost importance in securing our water and food production. The overall health of these ecosystems impacts our households directly. The majority of these habitats, and the birds and other biodiversity they house, are found outside of state-owned protected areas. It is therefore essential that private landowners are engaged to steward their land in such a way that our environmental health and the beauty of our country are preserved for the future.(For more information on the Biodiversity Stewardship Fiscal Benefits Project, contact the Project Manager, Candice Stevens: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).   Note from a bird lover: “I do love the fact that the more you watch the birds in your garden going about their daily business, the more questions you can ponder and discuss with like-minded friends. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but the winter flowering aloes make it all worthwhile. I am slowly collecting different aloes and hope to soon have flowers throughout the year. Our water-short country makes succulents the obvious choice for a bird garden, and the nectar-lovers of the bird world would really appreciate this” (Sally Johnson).   Did you know? When migrating, birds fly thousands of kilometres, sometimes days on end, while crossing oceans. Scientists have found that birds survive these marathon flights by taking forty winks for new energy. These power naps usually last only about 9 seconds. Birds close one of their eyes, while keeping the other one open so that they can still keep their brain active and spot danger (Huisgenoot Nuus, 11 December 2014).   Make a note in your diary: Sasol Bird Fair, 5 & 6 September 2015, at the Walter Sizulu Botanical Garden, Ruimsig. For more info, contact Nikki McCartney, Events & Marketing Manager: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. World heritage sites Our members/readers will be aware that a previous attempt to have the Magaliesberg Biosphere registered as a world heritage site, was unsuccessful some years ago (we reported about this process in our newsletters). Currently, new attempts are being made to have this historical and biodiversity-rich area registered as a world heritage site. Like Table Mountain, the Magaliesberg (and its surrounding zones) is one of oldest mountain ranges in the world.South Africa has eight world heritage sites Robben Island: Jail for political apartheid inmates and home to 32 bird species and 23 mammal species. The Cradle of Humankind: Close to Krugersdorp, world renowned for about 500 fossil discoveries. Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo: Home of Africa’s most advanced tribes, since the time of the Iron Age (900 AD). Ais-Ais-Richtersveld Cross-border Park: In the Northern Cape, on the South African/Namibian border, home to the famous Elephant’s trunk (Afr. “halfmens”) trees, San paintings (dating back up to 10 000 years) and black dolomite. The Free State Vredefort Dome: Site where a giant meteorite hit the earth about 2 023 years ago and formed a crater of 300km in diameter. iSimangaliso Wetland Park in Kwazulu-Natal: The park covers 332 000 hectares, has many lakes and ecosystems and is home to South Africa’s largest river estuary, 526 bird species and 25 000 year old coastal dunes. Cape floral region: Stretches from Table Mountain to the Swartberge and Baviaanskloof, and is home to 20% of Africa’s flora. Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world at 360 million years. uKhahlamba- Drakensberg Park: The park covers 243 000 hectares and is home to many caves and rock paintings, some dating back about 4 000 years (Rapport Beleef, 10 May 2015). Environmental snippets Springbuck migrations Up to the late 1890s, herds of thousands of springbucks migrated through the Karoo, Namaqualand and the Kalahari in a quest to find grazing. In a Farmer’s Weekly of 1915 it was reported that a huge springbuck migration had taken place from Namaqualand, over the mountains, to the western coast. Thousands of buck drowned in the sea, and carcasses could be found along 48km of the coast line!According to the author, Lawrence Green, a typical hunter’s breakfast consisted of fried springbuck liver and kidneys, followed by leg of springbuck, cold bustard, hot coffee with goat milk, coarse meal cookies, springbuck biltong, wild honey, tomatoes and lettuce leaves – a whole buck mouthful!Game is usually flavoured with coriander, mace, pimento, cloves, nutmeg, pepper corns, salt, sugar and vinegar. The meat is versatile, healthy, tasty, and one can change any cut into a juicy, tender and tasty dish. It is a good alternative to red meat, contains little fat, cholesterol and kilojoules and loads of good proteins (Anél Potgieter, Rapport Beleef, 3 May 2015).   Biodiversity The International Day for Biological Diversity was celebrated on 22 May 2015. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), globally about one third of all known species are threatened with extinction. That includes 29% of all amphibians, 21% of all mammals and 12% of all birds. If we do not address the threats to biodiversity, we could be facing another mass extinction with dire consequences to the environment, economy, human health and our livelihoods.Despite the declining rate of our biodiversity, South Africa remains one of the countries with high levels of biodiversity. South Africa occupies only 2% of the world’s land surface area and yet is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of its reptile-, bird and mammal species. Our oceans are home to 10 000 life forms, representing 16% of the world’s marine wildlife. Our country ranks as one of the top birding destinations in the world and is a sanctuary to more than 9 000 plant species, and home to the magnificent Big Five (email, 22 May 2015).   Bokoni Region Recent archaeological and historical research on the terraced settlements of the Bokoni region on the Mpumalanga escarpment has for the first time shed light on the area’s unique pre-colonial agricultural system. A summary of research on Bokoni is available in Peter Delius, Tim Maggs and Alex Schoeman’s book Forgotten World: The stone-walled settlements of the Mpumalanga escarpment (Wits University Press, 2014).Visit the website https://farminginafrica.wordpress.com/bokoni/ for more information. Did you know? Fuel cell vehicles: According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), fuel cell vehicles have many more advantages than electrical or conventional petrol or diesel vehicles. Fuel cells generate direct power from natural gas, different to batteries that must be charged from an external source. With fuel cell vehicles you won’t have a fear of distance like with battery-powered electrical vehicles, as it will produce 650km on a tank, and a hydrogen tank can be filled in three minutes (Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015). Sweden is so good at recycling, it has run out of garbage and must now import garbage from Norway to fuel its energy programmes (email received during May 2015). About 17 000 trees are processed into toilet paper daily (Huisgenoot Nuus, 11 December 2014). International Whiskey day was celebrated on 16 May 2015. The first recipe for making whiskey dates back to 1497. How do you know you’re drinking real Scotch? If the bottle’s label says Whisky, it is the real thing. All other producers must spell whiskey with an ‘e’, i.e. Whiskey (RSG, 15 May 2015). The human brain can store about 100 terra bytes, or 93 000 giga bytes. This is equal to 100 000 movies. New test for cocaine abuse: A new drug test will be able to detect cocaine abuse by means of finger prints, according to a report in The Independent. Cocaine excretes chemicals, somewhat like sweat, and this test is more effective than blood tests or body fluids, as those can be exchanged with fake samples. And, of course, your finger print will also disclose your identity (Rapport Nuus, 17 May 2015). Payment for having a sweet tooth: According to a 2013 research report published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, “Sugar: Consumption at a Cross-roads”, South Africans are 15th on the list of the most obese nations worldwide. The average South African consumes about 25 teaspoons of sugar daily, compared to the worldwide average sugar consumption of 17 teaspoons daily. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one should not consume more than the equivalent of ten teaspoons of sugar (40g) per day (4g of sugar is about one teaspoon). Sugar has all the criteria of potentially addictive substances (Rapport Beleef, 17 May 2015). Interesting words Have you ever come across these words/expressions?Trouvaille (n.) – something lovely discovered by chance; a windfall.Dérive (n.) lit. – “drift”; a spontaneous journey where the traveller leaves their life behind for a time to let the spirit of the landscape and architecture attract and move them.Scintilla (n.) – a tiny, brilliant flash or spark; a small thing, a barely visible trace.“Yes, English can be weird. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though”(David Burge@iowahawkblog). Food for thought... “A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest – but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move” (Richard Luv – Last Child in the Woods). “Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend that hugs you” (Payong Kalbigan fb). “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones” (Julius Ceasar). “Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here, we should dance” (Anonymous). “We have one of the largest and costliest governments in the world. Sadly, it is grossly ineffectual. In fact, it is a very expensive bunch of amateur firefighters trying to douse a multitude of flames” (Mosiuoa “Terror” Lekota). And finally...“Don’t worry about what I’m doing, worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing” (Anonymous).  Forward this e-mail to a friend Not interested any more? {unsubscribe}Unsubscribe{/unsubscribe}

May 2015

  Newsletter #74 Editorial Welcome: We would like to welcome Marlise Kurth as a new Conservancy member. May she experience much joy from her association with us.Important announcement: At the Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association’s (FPA) AGM on 9 May 2015, it was decided that the cut-off date for burning fire breaks will be 30 June 2015.   A looming water crisis and old beliefs about rain Since very long ago, water rights has resulted in all kinds of fights, even mini wars. There are still many remainders of storage and irrigation dams, irrigation ditches and weirs in the river, all examples of water management systems from long ago. One can just imagine how many family fights and general disagreement this had resulted in!It has always been a fact that neither human beings nor animals are able to survive without water, and that our country has a finite amount of arable land and fresh water. Lack of water has always been a major economic restraint in South Africa, and alarm bells are now ringing about future water shortages. According to Theo de Jager (deputy president of AgriSA), current problems of land reform and transformation experienced by the agricultural sector will pale in comparison with the looming problems of water scarcity and unreliable supply. There are 18 million hectares of potentially arable land in South Africa. Of this, 1,5 – 1,6 million hectares of land are under irrigation, and these account for 57% of the country’s fresh water consumption, giving agriculture the largest share of fresh water. Surface water supplies about 76% of the irrigated area’s needs, with groundwater supplying the remaining 24%. Land use planning and the stability of aquatic systems is strongly connected to the relationship between surface water and groundwater, with wetlands, rivers, run off and underground aquifers (such as the well-known Steenkoppies compartment near Magaliesburg) being important components of the system.South Africa could soon face a water crisis where demand outstrips supply, as 98% of its water resources are already allocated for consumption .Worldwide, demand will outstrip supply by 55% by 2050. A recently released report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has found that of the 223 river ecosystems in South Africa, 60% are threatened and 25% of these are critically endangered. The situation with the 792 wetland ecosystems is even worse. The degradation was attributed to acid mine drainage and other forms of pollution, as well as human activities within freshwater catchments. (Read the full ISS report on www.farmersweekly.co.za).The impact of mining in sensitive areas is irreversible: heritage sites, protected areas and water catchment areas are destroyed while we sell off our clean water, arable soil and biodiversity. Deteriorating and insufficient water storage and supply infrastructure, together with householders’ demand for water, were also cited as major problems. The average per capita water consumption in South Africa is currently 235 litres per day (much higher than that of other water-scarce countries), and the National Water Resource Strategy has calculated that non-revenue water losses in the irrigation sector were currently between 35% and 45. Water shortages could lead to widespread food shortages for livestock, among other challenges, while water pollution could lead to unprecedented health epidemics from water-borne diseases. At a Durban conference of the South African Agricultural Union 33 years ago (in 1981), concern was expressed about the effect pollution could have on agricultural resources. It was decided “…to urge government to announce a strategy for encouraging soil and environmental conservation” (Farmer’s Weekly, 10 October 2014).The looming water crisis deepens with the latest South Africa Survey by the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) which states that an additional 22,2 million South Africans gained access to piped water between 1996 and 2013. This brought the total number of people who had access to piped water to 47,5 million in 2013. The bad news is that there is evidence of gross neglect of the maintenance of water infrastructure. In addition, the Department of Water affairs is short on civil engineers – this time last year the department had a 70% vacancy rate, and there was little hope that the situation would improve.Climate change and its effect on rainfall patterns also threaten to deepen the water crisis dramatically. Droughts affect everyone, not only farmers. Agriculture is now in competition for water with urbanisation and industry. And in South Africa most staple foods, including red meat, depend solely on rainfall. From now on, bad droughts can be expected to upset the whole economy. Hope lies not in waiting for the development of drought-tolerant crops but in cutting wastage and pollution, recycling, groundwater recharge, and building a few more big dams. Whether the ecologists like it or not, it has just been announced that six new dams will be built in the next 10 years (RSG, 8 May 2015).An intriguing question: Will climate change affect indigenous rain forecasting methods in the same way it seems to be scrambling scientific metereological data? What worked in the past may not necessarily work tomorrow. Most districts have farmers who still believe in signs that indicate possible changes in the weather, even before the TV station reports these. They use home-grown information to help them make important farming decisions. Signs include alien cacti that flower profusely a day or two before rain, and mist lying lower down in mountain kloofs than usual. Insect, bird and animal behaviour are also indicators of coming weather change. For example, grunting pigs could mean low humidity and increased temperatures. Some birds become noisier when there is more wind in the air. Rain is expected by some when a month starts on a Sunday or the moon’s crescent faces down, getting into position to release rain within a few days. The best results are probably when these signs are in agreement with the weather station.It will be interesting to know if some of the older folk in our valley also still have some old beliefs of when it is going to rain. Maybe some of our readers/members still remember stories about fights over water rights that they would like to share with us – Ed.Information for the above article was gained from the opinions of various experts (Luyolo Mkentane, Roelof Bezuidenhout, Lloyd Phillips & Nan Smith) in the Farmer’s Weekly of 19 September 2014, 3 October 2014 & 17 April 2015. Nut-in-shell (NIS) theft At the moment, pecan nut farmers in the valley are harvesting. As was reported in our previous newsletter, these farmers suffer losses because of the large troops of Vervet monkeys that cause widespread damage. The annual harvesting season is also accompanied by large scale NIS theft, and you can be sure that those packets of nuts for sale along the roads, had been stolen somewhere. As Rudi Snyman reports in the article below, there has been a dramatic increase of NIS theft in other parts of our country over the past few years, mainly as a result of a demand from China.This rise in popularity has resulted in thieves operating for Chinese buyers infiltrating South African nut farms (mainly macadamias) and allegedly stealing NIS macadamias to sell to their clients in China. Walter Giuricich, a farmer who has been affected by this theft, says that as an industry, it affects the South African brand, as the nuts, after they are stolen, are not subjected to the correct curing, sorting and grading regimes. As a result, the product is marketed as South African, and as it will be poor quality, the whole South African brand, not just individual handlers and processors, is labelled as a poor quality product. According to the chairperson of the Southern African Macadamia Growers’ Association (SAMAC), Carl Henning, thieves make contact with employees who then steal the nuts, and collect them after hours. They then export the nuts in containers through regular export channels directly to clients in Asia, and China specifically. SAMAC has received many reports from disappointed Chinese customers regarding bad quality nuts arriving from our country. In some cases 30% to 40% of the kernel is not edible. What is also of concern is the safety of farmers and farm workers and their respective families. The alleged NIS syndicates are difficult to apprehend, as they are transient and often work out of the back of a bakkie. With farmers, and their produce, being a “soft target” for these criminals, there are fears that the theft of macadamias could spill over into violence (Farmer’s Weekly, 12 & 26 September 2014). Alien invasive species: What does the Law say? Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA, Act 10 of 2014) and the Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations which became law on 1 October 2014. In short, this implies the following:“NEMBA (2004): Chapter 5, Part 2, page 60, 73 (2): A person who is the owner of land on which a listed invasive species occurs must notify any relevant competent authority in writing of the listed invasive species occurring on that land.NEMBA Alien and Invasive Species Regulations (2014): Chapter 7, Section 29, (1), (2), (3): The seller of any immovable property must, prior to the conclusion of the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of that property in writing of the presence of listed invasive species on that property”.The AIS Regulations list four different categories of invasive species that must be managed, controlled or eradicated from areas where they may cause harm to the environment, or that are prohibited to be brought into South Africa. The number of individual invasive species must be recorded on a Declaration of Invasive Species Form, signed off by invasive plant experts, for properties smaller than 1 hectare (10 000 square metres) or estimated area invaded on properties larger than 1 hectare. (This information was communicated to our readers/members in Newsletter 72, with an attachment providing the contact details for submission of the forms, as well as all the different categories of invasives).The South African Green Industries Council (SAGIC) is currently conducting nationwide training programmes (Invasive Species Certification Training) for horticulturists, landscape architects, conservationists, invasive species professionals, botanists, zoologists and passionate gardeners with a superb knowledge and interest in flora and fauna. The names of all trained experts will be listed in the SAGIC database of invasive species consultants (www.sagic.co.za), and they will receive a certificate to indicate that they are SAGIC invasive species consultants. As such, they will be able to work with estate agents and sellers of properties and sign off on the Declaration of Invasive Species Form.   About termite mounds These mounds, often called 'ant hills', are one of the outstanding features of many of the African savannah areas. They occur around the world in warm areas and vary in size, up to several metres in height. In sandy regions, nutrients are leached out of the soil by water and carried down to levels out of reach of grass and other plants. The only things that can retrieve these nutrients to the surface are deep working termite mounds and deep rooted trees. Many of the early prospectors analysed the soil in large termite mounds to indicate the minerals deep down in the area.Termites – often referred to as 'white ants' – are not related to ants. They are more closely related to cockroaches and are one of the most primitive forms of animal life. Termites (Isoptera) are divided into various families. They each have differing methods of operation: large mounds, small mounds, 'workings' up trees and walls, 'workings' across the surface of the ground, 'nests' inside old logs and timber structures, and clipping of grass and other vegetation. Termites – excepting one family – are blind and vulnerable to desiccation and predation so they need to create a clay-covered environment – dark, humid tunnels and shelter along which to travel and within which to work.You will often observe a healthy tree growing out of a living termite mound where it has been used to help support the mound. It is important to understand that termites 'eat' only dead vegetation; they will not destroy living trees (although they may 'eat' dead bark), apart from one family, the Hodotermitidae, or 'harvester termites', which will clip grass and small vegetation that they bury underground as a food supply.There are only a few species of termites that are a real nuisance to wooden construction and need to be controlled. These are of the family Kalotermitidae –the 'dry wood' and 'house' termites. The 'dry wood' termites help recycle the nutrients locked up in old wood in the veld. The real threat comes from the imported, alien termite Cryptotermes, or 'house termite', which now occurs around the southern hemisphere and was accidentally brought in from the Caribbean. Like most aliens, they need eradication as they have few natural controls, but be sure you have the right culprit. In any case, be very careful when using residual poisons as you could easily kill all the birds and other animals that might feed on the dead termites. Plain diesel is a good non-toxic treatment, where practical.Each of the hundreds of species of termites has an important role to play in nature. They are a prime source of food to other animals; they all recycle nutrients that would otherwise remain locked up; and they create 'islands' of nutrients that support many other plants and animals that benefit from the fertile, moist conditions. Next time you consider destroying a termite mound for any reason remember that you are also destroying one of nature's valuable deep mineral pumps.The above article was written by Dave Rushworth. One of our committee members, Annette Raaff, read the article on the old web page of Ferdie Muller, an accredited field guide instructor (his web page has since changed).Arid or semi-arid savannahs and grasslands make up less than 40% of the earth’s land area but support more than 38% of the world’s population. Recent research on termites shows the potential of mound-building termites in Africa that aerate the soil, thereby helping to buffer grasslands from the regional effects of climate change (global warming). The landscape above the colonies could well serve as the centre of action for rebuilding vegetation following drought. By aerating the soil, rainwater is allowed to reach deep into the mounds. Termites change the soil’s texture, and are loading it with nutrients. This turns the mounds into hot spots for plant growth. (Article by Pete Spotts in Our Fragile Planet, no 16, April 2015).   Environmental snippets Sufficient winter forage for herbivores on game farms: Just like humans, herbivorous animals have food preferences; certain groups of plants and plant species are chosen before others. Browser game species, such as kudu and bushbuck feed mostly on leaves and shoots of trees and shrubs. Mixed feeders, such as impala, nyala and springbuck browse during winter and graze in summer, depending on the availability of grasses and forbs. Fallen leaf litter, especially of buffalo thorn, provide important winter forage reserves. According to Dr Beanélri Janecke, wildlife researcher at the University of the Free State, on a game ranch, animal numbers must match available browse during winter, not summer browse capacity. Browsing game species have such preference for certain plant species that some palatable trees may eventually be wiped out. Generally, this happens when stocking densities are too high, resulting in over-browsing (i.e. where all browse material has been removed up to a reachable height, and trees have taken on strange shapes). Animals are always searching for the best food items to meet their requirements, and deciduous trees usually form the main component in a browsing animal’s diet. This means that during winter, the browser’s main food source is leafless, and a period of browse shortage (usually form the end of July to mid-September) might occur if other food sources, such as palatable evergreen plants and semi-deciduous shrubs are not available. Other factors that influence availability of browse are: A tree’s growth form that results in certain parts of the canopy being out of reach; bush thickening and encroachment that renders the inside of such a dense stand of trees inaccessible to browsers; thorns that limit access to leaves and shoots; and competition between animals. A good rule of thumb is to stock fewer animals than the total browse capacity calculated for a ranch (Farmer’s Weekly, 19 September 2014). For more information, contact Dr Janecke on 051 401 9030 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Benefits of goat milk: In 2014, total global production of goat milk amounted to two billion litres, while the average annual production figures were 840 litres of milk per goat. According to Ward Watzeels, from the Dutch goat milk company, Bettinehoeve, goat milk is tasty, healthy, and thanks to small fat particles making it similar to breast milk, easy to digest. It is an alternative for people who are intolerant of cow’s milk, and is a source of magnesium, iron and vitamins A and D. Consumer demand is driven by taste, reported health benefits, a green image and an alternative protein source.Locally, quite a large range of goat milk beauty products are available, such as body butter, which the manufacturers claim to penetrate deeply into the skin, to maintain moisture, nourish and hydrate the skin. The story is also told that in ancient times, Egyptian princesses bathed in goat milk to boost longevity. Acacia karroo a boost for goat nutrition: Acacia karroo is included in the National Weed List and regarded as an invader of natural rangeland, competing for space, light, water and nutrients. Several methods have been devised to eradicate encroaching, with little or no success. If seen as a source of protein supplement for indigenous goats, especially in communal areas, this can assist in controlling encroachment. Goats supplemented with A. karroo leaf have higher growth rates and lower meat pH than non-supplemented groups. A. karroo supplementation also significantly affects meat tenderness and juiciness. Recent studies indicate that tannin-rich plants such as A. karroo might present a promising option to reduce nematode infections in small ruminants (David Brown, Farmer’s Weekly, 6 February 2015).   Did you know? Did you know?Neuro-morphological technology: These are computer chips that copy the human brain. Even the most advanced super computers are not yet as sophisticated as the human brain, and only move data in linear mode between memory discs and a central computer. In the brain, logic and memory are fully integrated, making the brain’s density a milliard times better than that of a modern computer. Neuro-morphological computer chips aim to process information in a completely different way than traditional computers, thereby copying the brain’s architecture. These chips will be much more energy effective and powerful than previous designs. In August 2014, IBM introduced a prototype TrueNorth chip that is hundreds of times more effective than a conventional central processor. This will enable computers to anticipate and to learn, rather than just reacting to pre-programmed commands (Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015). Johannesburg – Unlimited free Internet connectivity is now available in taxis across Johannesburg., enabling commuters to download digital content and earn points via a mobile app, which can be translated into data. The app is accessible on any Blackberry or Android device. It allows commuters to browse the Internet and download content onto their devices, such as music, articles and podcasts, without consuming any of their own data. Although Wi-Taxi has been offering 50MB per month free in taxis across the country since 2013, the new Moovah! WiFi offering is uncapped and operates at download speeds of approximately 100 megabytes per second (received via email on 23 April 2015). Answers to health questions:Does olive oil prevent heart disease? Yes. The health benefits of olive oil come from the presence of polyphenols, antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.Do cough syrups work? No. The majority of over-the-counter cough medicines typically contain doses of codeine and dextromethorphan that are too small to be effective.Does sugar cause hyperactivity? No. Sugar does not affect the behaviour or cognitive performance of children. Kids will, however, be more wound-up at birthday parties when sweet treats tend to flow freely.Do sugary drinks lead to diabetes? Yes. One or more sugary drinks per day increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 83%.Does one need sunscreen with more than 30 SPF? No. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 block out about 97% of ultraviolet rays, while those with a higher sunscreen block out 97% - 98%. South African trivia:The world’s biggest hospital is the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto.Pretoria has the second largest number of embassies in the world, after Washington, D.C.The University of South Africa (UNISA) is believed to be the largest correspondence university in the world with 250 000 students.South Africa has the largest hydro-electric tunnel system in the world at the Orange Fish River Tunnel.South African electricity costs are the second lowest in the world. The country also generates two thirds of Africa’s electricity. Eskom is the world’s fourth largest electricity utility in terms of both sales volume and normal capacity.Officially, the youngest language in the world is Afrikaans. The language celebrated its 90th birthday as an official language on 8 May 2015. It is the second most spoken language in South Africa. Zulu is the most spoken, the Zulu people being the largest ethnic group. Of those who speak Afrikaans as a home language, 50% are coloured, 40% white, 9% black and 1% Indian. Food for thought Clem Sunter (co-author of Mind of a Fox) on the changing world of work (March 2015):“Schools and universities are still preparing their students for the market that prevailed 50 years ago. They have not woken up to the changing reality of business and the concept of on-demand employment (where you are hired for a specific time to do a specific job), and the fact that technology has disrupted all of their cherished academic assumptions about what you should be taught to be a success in life. The only way to create 5 million SA jobs by 2020 and 11 million jobs by 2030 is to open the flood gates of entrepreneurship in this country” (received via email on 19 March 2015). “An education is at the heart of a civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching” (Bartlett Giamatti).“Remain positive, believe in what you do, and always make a plan” (Marco Seefeldt, Namibia’s 2013 Young Farmer of the Year).“What really matters in life is not what you own or control but what you can do. Your skill (your ability to do something of value) is your safety net and is never lost” (Peter Hughes).“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man – the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports” (Chief Seattle). And finally... Some anonymous aphorisms to ponder about: It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you place the blame.A fool and his money can throw one heck of a party.Money isn’t everything but it sure keeps the kids in touch.If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.The latest survey shows that three out of four people make up 75% of the population.The reason politicians try so hard to get re-elected is that they would hate to make a living under the laws they’ve passed.    

April 2015

  Newsletter #73 Editorial Our neighbouring Rhenosterspruit Conservancy (VeldTalk no 74 of March 2015) reports an increase of snake activity in their area during February. These were mostly very dangerous snakes, such as the Snouted cobra (Naja annulifera) and the Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica, Zulu M’fezi), as well as the mildly venomous Night adder (Causus rhombeatus). In our area, Mozambique spitting cobras and Boomslange (Disphollidus typus) were spotted by some of our members. Please let us know whether you also experienced an increase of snake activity on your property during February. Useful information available from www.snakebiteassist.co.za We welcome interesting photos and news of unusual creatures and plants spotted where you live. Send your pics and stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Huge problems with Vervet monkeys For quite a while, many of our landowners (especially along the Magalies River) have been experiencing problems with huge groups of Vervet monkeys (sometimes as many as 150 per group), causing much damage on their properties. During the past two years, the monkeys have multiplied alarmingly, mainly because they have no natural enemies any longer, and because they are protected animals. By night they sleep in huge gum trees, and when the sun comes up, they begin with their destruction. They love taking one bite from each pumpkin in a land (so that none can be marketed) or one bite from the tip of each cabbage (so they can’t continue growing), and they cause havoc in a maize field. One finds eaten off mealie stalks everywhere they’ve been. All of them also climb onto a single pecan nut or fruit tree’s branch, so the branches break. They bite all the pecan nuts in half and leave them under the trees. Bird populations have also declined extensively, because they take all the eggs from the nests. Many plans have been made to get rid of them, but they can outsmart you and your pack of dogs long before you’re able to put any chase into action.According to Stephan du Toit (Biodiversity Environment Inspector or Green Scorpion), there are a number of options to address the problem. (For more information or ways of getting rid of the monkeys, please contact Stephan on 083 306 3441 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Annual fly-in of classic aircraft   Over the weekend of the 21st March, we looked up to the sky and were mesmerised by the beautiful old classic airplanes flying around our valley. John Sayers held his annual private fly-in at Blue Mountain Valley Airfield in Hekpoort. Amongst the activities was a formation flight which included a Boeing Stearman, Whaco, Tigermoths, Harvard, a North American Navion, a Fairchild and De Haviland Chipmunks. Most of these aircraft were built in the early 1940s. (Photos kindly provided by Lourie Laatz). The highlight of the weekend was the display by the Mustang.     Disastrous veld fires State to crack down on invasive aliens – landowners could face legal claims: In the wake of the recent destructive fires in the Cape Peninsula, government is to crack down on landowners who have failed to clear invasive alien vegetation on their properties along the urban fringe. As reported in Newsletter 72, landowners are obliged to control or clear all four categories of alien invaders from their properties and to make proper firebreaks (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004). Landowners could face legal claims if fires that started on their properties spread to and cause damage on other people’s property (Melanie Gosling, Cape Times, 19 March 2015).During the 2014 fire season in the eastern Free State, about 200 000ha grazing had been destroyed by August already, and the whole area had to be declared a disaster area. By September 2014, Free State livestock farmers had lost 285 000ha in 77 veld fires. As the rainy season only starts there in October, many farmers did not have sufficient grazing for their animals, while feed costs were soaring. Even if it rains well after such fires, the burnt areas sometimes need to rest for about two seasons before coming into production again. Whatever the cause of these fires, it becomes virtually impossible to fight them in wind speeds of 60 and 70km/h. Winds were even stronger in the wake of a number of cold fronts, which caused problems for helicopter fire fighting. According to Thinus Steenkamp, general manager of the Free State Umbrella Fire Association, damage to grazing was estimated at about R200 million, with fire fighting costs amounting to about R450 000. For the 2015 fire season, an additional 29 skid units and 73 trained fire fighters will be needed to meet the basic standards for disaster management in the area. (Farmer’s Weekly, 12, 19 & 26 September 2014).In our area we thankfully experienced very few veld fires during the 2014 fire season, and we should all strive to keep it like that and/or improve our fire fighting efforts.  The need for community organisations and communication Massive urbanisation is taking place all over South Africa, putting National Government, Provincial and Municipal structures under severe pressure to provide effective services in these areas. Rural populations have no choice but to manage the situation and fend for themselves. Community organisations with strong communication systems in place, and supported by the majority of landowners in rural areas, have become of utmost importance. We have to protect our natural resources and provide a safe and secure environment to live and work in. There has to be structure and guidelines for such organisations. In Hartebeestfontein we find this in the constitutions of the Hartebeestfontein Conservancy and Hartebeestfontein Fire Protection Association. In addition to these constitutions, we have numerous pieces of existing legislation to guide us. My personal opinion is that there is no need for an additional community organisation to represent the landowners in this area, provided these two non-profitable organisations are well supported by the community and properly managed. We have to continuously seek and maintain co-operation with all other community organisations outside our borders, without being dictated to.The Conservancy and Fire Protection Association, both officially registered non-profitable organisations, share the same boundaries, namely Hartebeestfontein 472JQ (Gauteng), Fouriesrus 474JQ, Quinlands 582JQ, and Hartebeestfontein 473JQ (Northwest Province). This area covers ± 7500 hectares with more or less 270 landowners. More than 80% of the area is actively farmed. Membership of both these organisations is voluntary, and the present annual membership fees are affordable to each and every landowner or resident.The Conservancy’s focus areas are the following:• Preventing unsustainable developments;• Improving and supporting farming practices;• Supporting sustainable tourist activities;• Controlling and preventing pollution in every form;• Sustainable water management; and• Protecting and managing the natural fauna and flora.Individual actions by members, realizing the objectives proclaimed in the Conservancy Constitution, are actively supported by Conservancy management. Actions which are in contradiction to these objectives are opposed collectively by the membership.The Fire Protection Association’s main objective is to prevent rather than fight veld fires. Membership of the FPA ensures assistance from fellow members when a veld fire does occur. The extensive veld fire prevention strategy adopted by the FPA during the 2014 veld fire season was very successful. (See table below)     2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Veld fires reported 31 27 13 23 20 12 9 Hectares burnt 1 687 1 119 443 1 791 880 731 37 Man hours lost 686 667 316 934 921 349 93 Estimated damage R250 000 R514 000 R76 500 R642 750 R360 100 R473 800 R55 000   It is common knowledge that crime levels in South Africa are alarmingly high. Over the years, the Conservancy and FPA have been active in advocating crime prevention in this area. We have managed to keep Hartebeestfontein free of violent crime for a number of years, but we now have to step up our efforts because of a definite increase in crime in the valley between Skeerpoort and Maanhaarrand. We took note of the call by Government for rural communities to become active in crime prevention. It is also clear that the SAPS is not able to institute effective crime prevention strategies in our area. Intervention by some landowners the past few months, as well as improved security on properties proved to be fairly successful in preventing crime. A cell phone security whats app. group was recently started, whereby landowners can report crime and take note of crime incidents. We receive no timely and accurate crime statistics for the area from the SAPS, and we therefore rely on and need this information from landowners and residents in order to plan crime prevention actions. For further information on this whats app. group, please contact Deon Greyling at 082 856 3183. The FPA also has a radio system in place mainly for veld fire prevention and fire fighting operational use but also for communication in crime prevention operations. The extensive use of technical equipment in crime prevention is currently under investigation. We have a close working relationship with Oostermoed Security Services in the area. Jointly, we strive for a crime-free Hartebeestfontein.Deon Greyling Environmental Snippets Roodekrans Black eagle project According to Gerald Draper, chairperson of this project, urbanisation has had a major influence on the survival of these eagles. Their diet consists mainly of rock rabbits (dassies), but as a result of declining dassie populations, they now mainly feast on guinea fowls. Because of housing developments in the area the eagles’ range for finding food has shrunk to such an extent that they have to fly vast distances to find food. Emoyeni, the female of the pair of eagles living on the cliffs of the waterfall at the Walter Sizulu Botanical Gardens, is already about 35 years of age, while research references estimate their average age at 30 years. In February each year, the eagles start tidying up their nests, and eggs are laid in April or May. Only two chicks hatch, of which only the strongest survives. The survival rate is only about 20% (Wes-Beeld, 13 March 2015).   Bats partnering your farming enterprise? Bats’ contribution to controlling insect infestations is largely underestimated. Studies have shown that they are able to control insect infestations much better than chemical substances. According to research, each bat eats between 6 000 and 8 000 insects per night. There is much ignorance about bats, mainly based on misconceptions and superstition. Few of us know how intelligent bats are, and that they are related to primates (baboons and monkeys). As with primates, their eye nerves cross over on the way to the brain, which is not the case with other mammals. They become up to 35 years old, and, for their size, live longer than any other mammal species. Some studies show that they are able to recognise and identify a specific person for up to 10 years. It is also interesting to know that many insects are frightened off by just the echo-placing-sounds of bats, and that, if nature would be allowed to come into balance in a natural way, these little animals could control insect populations very effectively, which would otherwise have cost pecan nut and other fruit farmers a packet. For more information on bats and putting up “Bat Bungalows”, contact 083 303 7762 or via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (SA Pecan, Summer/Autumn 2015, vol 70).   On the horns of a game dilemma The status of wild animals that leave their “owners” has been the subject of laws and rules since ancient times. In short, common law says that under such circumstances, the animals become creatures that belong to no one, and if they end up on your land, you could become their new owner as long as you intend to keep them and contain them so they can’t wander off somewhere else. It’s this part of the common law provincial officials want changed, so that wild animals are not regarded as owned by no one but as owned by an organ of the state – custodians fulfilling a public conservation function under the Constitution. Complicating the question is a relatively new law, the Game Theft Act of 1991. This provides that if you have a certificate issued by the provincial premier, saying your wild animals are properly contained you can claim them back even if they stray. Apart from ownership, there are related problems conservation authorities will surely have in mind. One major example would be the question of liability. If wild animals escape, damage property and are then reclaimed by their original owners, will those owners have to pay compensation for the damage? (Excerpts from comments on a court case between former Springbok centre, Hennie le Roux, owner of Crown River Safaris and the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (formerly the Provincial Parks Board). Source: The Star, 12 February 2015).   Phokeng platinum success story The Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) mines are one of only a few successful examples of mining that have been able to help a community flourish. The Bafokeng tribal community are beneficiaries of a trust that was carefully built up from the returns on mineral rights, hard fought over for decades. This enables them to excel in service delivery and poverty relief, and creating a better life for the people of Phokeng, who have been living on the arid plains, to the north west of Rustenburg, for centuries. The Bafokeng is known as the world’s richest tribe, but members of the tribe are not rich at all. About 47% of the 49 000 households earns less than R500 per month and only 4% earns more than R6 000 per month. There are about 300 000 tribal members, of which only half live in the tribal area, Phokeng, about 1 400 km² in size. In years gone by, money was earned by letting the young men of the tribe work on the diamond mines of Kimberley, and then using part of their earnings to purchase the land. During the past decade, the tribal authority has spent R7 milliard on education, health care and social development. The mandate for the projects is simply to go find the best in the world and bring it there. They do, however, experience the same challenges as the rest of South Africa, such as sanitation problems, a lack of pre-school education and nutritional problems. Project managers must report on budgets, delays and other issues at regular tribal meetings, when, so it is told, they speak without mincing matters... (Jan de Lange, Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015).   Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may travel via feedlot dust Researchers at Texas Tech University are suggesting that airborne dust could be a pathway for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to travel from feedlots to human environments. The effect this has on human health is not yet fully understood. These research findings could help characterize how pathogens could travel long distances to places inhabited by humans.(Source: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/01antibiotic-resistance-travels-on-dust-from-feedlots/#VMb2xuF3PVN) Did you know? There are more than 800 species of dung beetles in South Africa (email, 19 March 2015). There are more than 800 species of dung beetles in South Africa (email, 19 March 2015).     In many US states the highway patrol carries at least two gallons of Coke in the trunk to remove blood from the highway after a car accident. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid (received via email on 8 March 2015). Legal use of marijuana? Uruguay and North Korea are the only countries in the world where possession, use and production of marijuana are legal. In Bangladesh, use of marijuana forms part of their culture, and people are not punished for smoking it, although this is technically illegal, according to the International Opium Treaty of 1925. The Netherlands are famous for its “coffee shops” where marijuana can be smoked, and in Prague in in the Czech Republic, one can purchase marijuana chocolates. Many countries don’t punish personal use of small quantities of marijuana. In Jamaica and some Australian federal states and cantons in Switzerland it is legal to grow small quantities of marijuana for personal use. Some federal states in America allow use of marijuana for medical purposes, while Washington and Colorado now also allow use of marijuana for recreation purposes (Sake-Rapport, 15 March 2015). Dr André Hugo (orthodontist) on health matters: Carbohydrates are addictive – they attach to the same receptors in the brain as cocaine and heroin. Like all addictions often the best way of recovering from them is to go “cold turkey’ – so no carbs at all while losing weight (except minor amounts in green, leafy vegetables, i.e. those growing above ground (received via email on 19 March 2015). Recyclable thermoset plastic: There are two types of plastic: thermo plastic (such as water bottles, children’s toys or toilet seats) can be reheated and remoulded and is recyclable, while thermoset plastic (found in cell phones, electric circuits and aircraft), can only be reheated and remoulded once. Most thermoset polymers therefore end up in landfills and cannot be recycled. In 2014, important progress was made to produce recyclable thermoset plastic. This can replace non-recyclable thermoset plastic completely and can even be used generally in newly manufactured products this year still (Sake-Rapport, 8 March 2015). Children in Tokyo to be seen as well as heard soon: After years of being silent, small children in Tokyo (according to a report in The Independent of 7 March 2015), will maybe be allowed to speak a little louder than usual. Noise pollution was so bad in this super strict Japan capital that authorities had to restrict its citizens to 45 decibels 15 years ago (about as loud as the chirping of a small bird). A proposal has now been tabled to exclude children’s voices from this noise restriction, especially in parks and on playgrounds. Not everybody approves of the efforts of the authorities to create a more “child-friendly” environment. It is felt that children should be taught to speak and sing at suitable noise levels, and that four-year olds are old enough to understand this (Rapport, 8 March 2015). Food for Thought “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils” (Hector Berlioz)   “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea” (Robert A Heinlein).   “I hate that awkward moment when I spell a word correctly, but it looks so wrong that I stare at it forever – questioning its existence” (Anonymous).   “I enjoy a glass of wine each night for its health benefits. The other glasses are for my witty comebacks and flawless dance moves” (Whisper).   And finally... (about dogs and people) “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person” (Andy Rooney). “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man” (Mark Twain). “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face” (Ben Williams). “Scratch a dog, and you’ll find a permanent job” (Franklin P Jones). “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful” (Ann Landers). “Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend” (Corey Ford). “I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult” (Rita Rudner). “Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog” (Franklin P Jones). “The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog” (Ambrose Pierce). “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate” (Sigmund Freud).         

March 2015

  Newsletter #71 Editorial On Newsletter 71: Our members and readers enjoyed the articles on Andrie’s owls, the ticks and the invader plant species. Thank you for all the positive feedback! Welcome: We would like to welcome Neels & Sarie Nothnagel as new Conservancy members. We hope that their association with us will bring them much fulfilment. A special request: Many people in our area go to bed hungry at night and will probably also go to bed cold at night during winter. If any of our members/readers have any excess products (vegetables, eggs, etc.) or old blankets and clothes that they want to get rid of, please contact Shelley Bownass (082 491 5912 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). She will see to it that your donations go to deserving people). Feathered friends We have a rich variety of indigenous bird species in our Conservancy. Recently, large numbers of African Green Pigeons (Treron calva) frequented one of our Bergkarees, about 30m from our house. The tree had lots of seed this year, and what a sight it was to watch the pigeons enjoying it! (Photos and an article on these colourful birds appeared in Newsletter 60 of March 2014). About a fortnight ago, one of our members from the Damhoek area, Denise Carlin, was very excited when she spotted Redbilled Oxpeckers (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) on eland during a game drive. She hadn’t seen the birds for quite a while. Unfortunately, she didn’t have her binoculars or camera with her and could not take a photograph. She mentioned that they also often see storks in the Damhoek area. The photo was taken by Callie de Wet (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Visit his websites for beautiful photos of birds and mammals at www.flickr.com or www.pbase.com. Further information and more lovely photos of Redbilled Oxpeckers can be found at www.biodiversityexplorer.org/birds/stumidae/buphagus In Xhosa Redbilled Oxpeckers are called Ihlalanyathi, in Zulu iHlalankomo and in Tswana Ndzandza or Yanda. They have yellow to red irises, scarlet bills and dark brown legs and feet, a somewhat pointed tail, creamy buff on under parts and brown on upper parts. The birds have a sharp hissing voice - kssss, kssss, and staccato tsk tsk. They are quite common in the north eastern parts of South Africa, from Zululand to the Northern Province, usually in and around game reserves, mainly in savannah and bush veld areas. Usually, groups of two to six birds can be found on giraffes, eland, kudu, as well as hippopotamus, Nyala and rhinos, and on large domestic stock, such as cattle, horses and donkeys. Their flight is typically fast, direct and slightly undulating, and their diet mainly consists of ticks, horse flies, invertebrates and also wound tissue and dry skin flakes of their hosts. They usually lay 2-3 pink-white eggs, finely and heavily speckled with red-brown, purple and lilac, during the breeding season from October to March. The chicks hatch after about 13 days and are fed by both parents for about 30 days. (Source: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa by Gordon Lindsay Maclean, sixth edition, 1993).   Obligations of landowners under the new NEMBA regulations It has become very expensive for landowners to sell their properties. Before putting up your property for sale, you must ensurefirstly, that you don’t owe any rates or taxes to your local municipality. A letter of approval for the sale of your property will otherwise not be issued by the municipality. You will, however, be able to declare a dispute with the municipality, which may result in court action.Secondly, according to law, you need a certificate from an electrician. Electricians typically find many electrical faults that you must have repaired at your cost.Thirdly, banks nowadays require that your borehole water must be sufficient and safe for human use, before bank loans will be approved. Water quality must be tested at your cost and can amount to about R20 000.Fourthly, you have a number of obligations, according to the new NEMBA regulations (National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004). Why should you be interested? Because the National Invasive Species List comprises 559 invasive species in four categories;invasive species are now regarded as a liability and must be identified before the sale of any property;the NEMBA Regulations state that a seller of property must, prior to the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of the property in writing, of the presence of listed invasive species on that property. A copy of a seller's ‘Declaration of Invasive Species’ must be lodged with the Compliance Officer, Biosecurity Services, Department of Environmental Affairs;estate agents will not be able to sell a property without completing a ‘Declaration of Invasive Species’ certificate;horticultural and fauna experts can sign up to become invasive species consultants capable of identifying invasive species on a property and signing off on a 'Declaration of Invasive Species' certificate;permits are now required for 118 Category 2 invasive species; andall municipalities and large landowners must, by law, develop an Invasive Species Management Plan within three years of the NEMBA law being promulgated (1 August 2014).   Question: Will it not put off prospective buyers if there are too many invasive species on a seller’s property? To what extent will it affect the value of your property?We have reported on the NEMBA legislation in many of our previous newsletters and have also provided information on landowners’ obligations regarding the various categories of invader plant species. In short, it boils down to the following:Category 1a invasive species are those that require compulsory eradication.Category 1b invasive species must be controlled and, wherever possible, removed and destroyed.Category 2 invasive species are deemed to be potentially invasive, and a permit is required to carry out restricted activities.Category 3 invasive species are referred to as exemptions, as they may be exempted from permit requirements in relation to restricted activities. These plants must be eradicated if they occur in a riparian area. Further planting, propagation or trade is prohibited.Please note: The NEMBA regulations, as well as complete lists and categories of invasive plants are available at http://invasives.org.za/legislation.html or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Declared Weeds & Invader Plants).If you want to form part of the ‘Invasives’ Google group for further news and information on this issue, please contact Kay Montgomery at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Problems with eradicating Pompom (Campuloclinium macrocephalum) Many of our members, readers and visitors to the area have noticed that there was a huge increase of this Category 1a declared weed in and around the Conservancy during the past year. Although the stem-deforming thrips, Liothrips tractabilis, which also decrease the number of flowers, thereby inhibiting seed dispersal, were released in the Damhoek and Mohales Gate areas in February 2014, it cannot be said that this lengthy and very expensive biological control process has shown any great successes up to the present stage. On the contrary, it seems that the spread of Pompom in especially the Damhoek area has increased. The thrips were also released in 45 other parts of provinces (Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northwest Province). According to Liamé van der Westhuizen of ARC-PPRI, one should, however, remember that “…pompom has been invading our grasslands for many years prior to the introduction of the biocontrol agent. Therefore it is likely that the sea of pink will continue to dominate our grasslands for a number of years to come, before we will be able to see their numbers declining” (SAPIA News no 35).As reported in some of our previous newsletters (among others, Newsletter 60 of March 2014), some of the biggest problems in combatting the Pompom are: the recommended herbicides are very expensive and not always available; and the plants should be sprayed before they flower, and if already flowering, there is a window period of only two weeks before the wind starts dispersing the seeds. All landowners don’t seem to be aware of or concerned about the Pompom on their properties, which means that seed keep on being carried or blown onto your property. The flowers can also be cut, placed in bags and burned. Never try to pull out or cut the plants (as done by municipal workers along our roads) as this will stimulate growth of the rhizomes that are left behind. Labour costs are the single most expensive component in Pompom eradication and must be managed effectively. With the fire season on our doorstep, one should also remember that invasive plants burn at a much higher temperature (about 10 times hotter and fiercer) than indigenous plants and that, although fire stimulates regrowth of a variety of grass species (and for example, also fynbos), some of the indigenous species can be destroyed completely as a result of the intense heat produced by the burning of invasive species. In areas where regular fire breaks are burned, there is a drastic decrease of Pompom. This invader prevents and restricts the growth of indigenous grass species, and has already resulted in winter grazing having decreased alarmingly. We would like to once again request our members to eradicate this highly noxious weed during the coming growth season (September/October) on their properties.A warning or two:Read the labels of herbicides carefully, so that you’ll come to know which active ingredients will enable you to possibly eradicate the Pompom effectively at a lower cost. Don’t spray on the heat of the day or when there is a possibility of rain.Be very careful when purchasing grass feed for livestock and game. You may unknowingly spread the pompom on your property, if the grass feed is contaminated with Pompom seed.For more information on the biological control project, please contact Almie van den Berg (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Liamé van der Westhuizen (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). General guidelines on Pompom eradication are available at http://www.arc.agric.za/arc-ppri/Pages/Pompom%20weed/Pompom-Weed.aspx. Rest in peace: The occupiers’ right to bury on farmland (Below follows an abbreviated version of an article by Thabiso Mbhense (advocate in the Legal Resource Centre, Johannesburg) that appeared in the February 2015 edition of De Rebus, a monthly publication for attorneys. We thought that it would be of interest to our members/readers).This has long been one of the thorny issues between the owners of farms and occupiers of farms in South Africa. Landowners feel that as owners of land they have a right to enjoy undisturbed use and ownership of their land. On the other hand, occupiers feel that as occupiers of land they have a right of security of tenure, including the right to bury their deceased on land where they reside. Both groups are protected by s 25(9) of the Constitution, an Extension of the Security of Tenure Act 62 of 1997 (ESTA), which was promulgated in order to specify and regulate the duties and rights of both occupiers and landowners. In order for an ‘occupier’ to enjoy protection under s 6(2)(dA) of the ESTA, he or she must establish on the balance of probabilities that – he or she is an ‘occupier’ on the farm where he or she intends burying the deceased; the deceased was a member of his or her family; the burial sought would be in accordance with his or her religious and/or cultural beliefs; the deceased was residing on land, on which the occupier resided at the time of death of the deceased; and an established practice on land exists to bury deceased family members. There is also a special category of occupiers who enjoy special protection in terms of s 6(5) of ESTA, namely: “An occupier who has been on the land for ten years or more and has reached the age of 60 years or was employed by the landowner or person in charge of the farm, but was unable to work due to ill health is entitled to be buried on land where he or she was residing at the time of his or her death”.Contradictory to the above, the Mogale City Local Municipality has apparently issued regulations to the effect that deceased may only be buried in officially registered cemeteries.   Climate and weather issues (The information below comes from Our Fragile Planet, a Save-our-Planet network publication, no 14, February 2015).Its official: Worldwide, 2014 has taken the title of hottest year on record. This ranking comes courtesy of data released by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) recently. All 10 of the hottest years have come since 1998. According to JMA’s data, the average temperature was 1.1°F above the 20th century average. Last winter was the only season not to set a record, and even that was still the sixth warmest winter. And some scientists think it could get even hotter sooner. Strong trade winds in the Pacific have likely had a dampening effect on the global average temperature by essentially allowing the ocean to store more heat, but those winds are expected to weaken in the near future as part of a natural fluctuation. (Full article by Brian Kahn available at: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/record-2014-hottest-year-18502).     What does ‘going green’ mean? ‘Going green’ does not only involve recycling. Basically, it means to live life, as an individual as well as a community, in a way that is friendly to the natural environment and is sustainable for the earth. It also means contributing towards maintaining the natural ecological balance in the environment, and preserving the planet and its natural systems and resources. It also means taking steps, whether big or small, to minimize the harm you do to the environment (including the carbon footprints you leave behind), as a result of inhabiting this planet.   In practice, ’going green’ means adopting five basic principles in your daily life: reduce pollution; conserve resources; conserve energy; reduce consumption and waste; and protect the earth’s ecological balance. All five principles are important in protecting the environment from harm, as well as helping to ensure that living (for humans and other creatures) on earth is sustainable. So, in your daily life, do adopt green practices to make a difference. The Going Green section of Our Fragile Planet (http://www.fragileplanet-earth.com) will be providing you with tips, ideas and advice on how you can transform your life for the benefit of the planet, your family and yourself. ‘Going green’ can also be of benefit for your pocket! (Our Fragile Planet, no 14, February 2015).   Environmental snippets Be kind to bees by knowing which alien trees to axe: Gum trees provide nectar and pollen for swarms of commercial bees – and bees in turn pollinate about 50 food crops. The ‘service’ bees provide is worth about R10.3 billion per year. Nectar provides carbohydrate in the bees’ diet, and pollen, the protein. Because healthy bee populations depend on gum trees, if they were all removed, it would mean a serious shortage of food for bees. Only six gum species (e.g. Eucalyptus grandis, or Saligna gum and Eucalyptus sideroxylon, or Iron bark gum) are listed on the NEMBA list of invasive plants. These should go, especially from areas that are at risk of fire. According to Guy Preston, Deputy Director-general in the Alien and Invasives Department, “Blue gums are one of the invasives that are a problem, but it depends on where they are. A group of blue gums around a Free State farmhouse surrounded by wheatfields have nothing to invade to” (The Star, 20 February 2015). Remember - The NEMBA Regulations and lists of alien and invasive species are available at http://invasives.org.za/legislation.html or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Declared Weeds & Invader Plants).   Six giant nettle trees (Celtis sinensis) axed in Potchefstroom: In the opinion of Prof Sarel Cilliers, ecologist at the Northwest University’s Potchefstroom campus, it is silly to think that such trees can simply be replaced by new trees, and everything will be right again: “It speaks of a disregard of the ecosystem services provided by one grown tree”. It is estimated that one tree, whether indigenous or alien, provides sufficient oxygen for ten people. A seedling provides 3 000 times less oxygen than a grown tree. A tree of about 10m high does the work of five air conditioners. Trees can also rid the air of up to 50% dust, and one tree can carry up to a 100kg of dust (Susan Cilliers, Rapport Nuus. 22 February 2015).   Snippets from KZNCA News, Issue 5, February 2015:The “Big 6” birds in SA are the Lappetfaced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus), the Saddlebilled Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus), the Crowned Hornbill (Tockus alboterminatus), the Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori) and Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli). All these bird species can be found in our area, but the latter three are more common in the northern parts of Gauteng and further north.Ecosystems and their services: Some examples of ecosystems are wetlands, forests, plantations, grasslands, rivers and estuaries. These are natural assets, and they ‘provide’ services to us. Scientists are now wondering how to value these services. Ecosystem services to humans include support of the food chain, harvesting of animals and plants, clean air, clean water, fertile soil – even scenic views. So, how much would it cost us humans to provide the services that, say a wetland, provides in a particular area? Clean water, flood control, drainage management, wildlife habitat, erosion control, sustainable source of nutrition… That would cost a lot – and the time will come, soon, when these natural assets will be valued accordingly and have a place on your balance sheet. Hang on to them!   Natural grasslands: In the heart of the north eastern Free State, not far from the Kwazulu-Natal border, you’ll find several thousands of hectares of undulating grasslands. This area is known as the Sneeuwberg, which is in close proximity of the small town of Memel and the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve. The Sneeuwberg is home to some of the most sensitive and unique biodiversity in the area, including vulnerable and endangered grasslands as well as wetland habitats which house various endemic plant and bird species. Being a high water yield area, with several important river systems traversing it, these grasslands are also of high value to our freshwater systems. Conservation authorities in the Free State are planning to declare 17 456ha of these grasslands as a Protected Environment – the first of its kind in the Free State (received via email on 12 February 2015). Did you know? The Cape floral kingdom has 9 600 species, 70% of which are found nowhere else in the world.   The Tugela Falls in Natal is the second highest waterfall in the world – second only to the Angel Falls in Venezuela.   Crazy facts about Japan:Japan has more than 50 000 people who are over 100 years old.It has only two gun-related homicides per year.There are more pets than children in Japan.Japan’s literacy rate is almost 100%.Japan’s unemployment rate is less than 4%.   Smalls There are several positions available through SANBI's Invasive Species Programme:Taxon-Specific Researchers (3 positions) http://www.sanbi.org.za/jobs/taxon-specific-researchers-3-positionsRisk Assessment Research Assistant (2 positions) http://www.sanbi.org.za/jobs/risk-assessment-research-assistant-2-positionsData Manager (1 position) http://www.sanbi.org.za/jobs/data-manager-contract-position-%E2%80%93-ending-31-march-2017   Scorpion Walk: Join the Scorpion Walk with the famous Mr Scorpion, Jonathan Leeming. He will show you which scorpion is more bluff than sting. Get up close to a scorpion and hold it in your hands – if you dare! (Actually scorpions love a warm, dark place, so it would welcome hiding in your hands!).Sunday, 19 April, 08:00 at The Sheds at Birdsong, Gemstone Road (directions from Google Maps). Adults R60; children R30. Light refreshments included. Bring a hat, walking shoes and camera. Info and bookings: Jenny Cornish (email please): The This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Special book offer: “African Wild Dogs – On the front line” by Brendon Whittington Jones, published by Jacana Media. Special offer at R225 per copy, available until the end of March. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   New Pet Food Shop now open in the valley - HAPPY FEEDWe have been operating in Johannesburg for the past 12 years and have decided to branch out to our farm in Hekpoort: BH34 on the R540 – next to WickedFood. We would like to be able to supply the residents of the valley with their required dog/cat food and other accessories. This will hopefully save to you time and petrol. We currently stock the following labels but we will definitely investigate stocking other brands if you require them: Warrior, York, Enerdog, Ideal, Top Dog, Montego, and Propac. If you are interested in us supplying you or you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact either Lance or Amy (082 561 0013). We look forward to seeing you in our shop. Visit our website – www.happyfeed.co.za or our Facebook page   Wickedfood Workshop: Sunday, 29 March 2015 at 09:30am: Fresh tastes of Vietnam workshop. The Wickedfood team will teach you how to make a variety of easy Vietnamese dishes for a casual dinner party. For more information or to book: Contact Cilla on 076 236 2345 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .    Forward this e-mail to a friend Not interested any more? {unsubscribe}Unsubscribe{/unsubscribe}

February 2015

  Newsletter #71 Editorial Membership fees: Conservancy membership fees for 2014/15 are due now. Please contact Deon Greyling (082 856 3183 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Liz Greyling (082 880 9297 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) in this regard. Accounts were sent out during January. It is Tick time! When the winter wasn't really cold and if good spring rains fall, ticks can occur on any farm, almost overnight.   An outbreak of blue ticks (Asian blue tick (Rhipicephalus microplus), and African blue tick (Rhipicehalus decoloratus), as well as the smooth bont-legged tick (Hyalomma truncatum) and the bont tick (Amblyomma hebraeum) are all indigenous to South Africa.     Bont ticks are somewhat rare, but will be present among other tick species. Temperature can, however, not always be a gauge, as 2014’s winter was relatively cold. Tick-borne diseases include cattle fever, gall sickness and heart water. Other farm animals such as cats and dogs that are bitten by especially bont ticks and bont-legged ticks, will not necessarily contract tick fever, but will suffer from all kinds of other infections, mostly underneath the skin and on spots of old injuries. Some of our members have reported that dogs bitten by bont-legged ticks have become seriously ill, running high temperatures, with pieces of skin coming off, where they were infected ("Are you farming with ticks". Conservancy Newsletter 57, October/November 2013). Photo of bont-legged tick courtesy of Afrivip. Members are advised to visit http://www.afrivip.org/education/arthropod-vectors/ticks for more information and photos of the various tick species common in our area.     Owl chicks visit One of our members, Andrie van den Berg, wrote via email on 8 January 2015: “During the past few days we have noticed four owls which have made a home in the karee close by our kitchen window. It looks like a mother/father and two young chicks. According to the literature I researched, they are African Scops owls (Otus senegalensis)”. Every evening, Andrie and his wife listen to the owls’ soft pirrr sounds, and every morning they check if the owls are still there, as the chicks will probably fledge shortly. “I think, when one becomes older you start appreciating the things you knew as a child and took for granted then, all over again”. Andrie provided the photos and sent us the article below (translated from Afrikaans). Our owl chicks!     “After having looked at a number of websites and having made some inquiries, I gathered some very interesting information on this owl species.These owls are found in almost any woodland area in South Africa. They are about 14 to 18cm in height, and their diet consists mainly of invertebrates and insects such as spiders, scorpions, moths and worms. Remains of small birds, lizards and of course, mice have also been found in the owls’ hair balls. The owl swallows its prey, and after having digested the digestible parts, it vomits out the rest in the form of a so-called hair ball. Underneath the tree where the owls hide by day, one can see their white manure and these hair balls. The hair balls will give an indication of the owls’ diet in a specific area. The owls have been found looking for prey on the ground and scratching for larvae and other insects in game manure. They forage during the hours of dusk, and one can then hear their soft pirrr sound, similar to that of a cat. They usually nest in holes in old tree trunks and lay 2 to 4 white eggs. Breeding season is from about September to December. The female sits on the eggs (incubation about 22 days), while the male hunts and brings the female food. The chicks stay in the nest for 30 days and afterwards in close vicinity for another 30 days, while being fed by the parents and taught how to hunt on their own”.According to Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa (Gordon Lindsay Mclean, sixth edition), the Tsonga name for these owls is ‘Xokotlwa’ or ‘Xikotlani’. Identification: Irises orange-yellow, bill blackish and feet brownish-greenish, tail short, long ear tufts. Above grey with two rows of white spots on back; below grey, streaked with black. Habits: Solitary or in pairs. Roosts by day against tree trunk; well camouflaged and easily overlooked; when disturbed, elongates body, closes eyes almost completely. Dangerous invaders   Cestrum aurantiacum Also known as Yellow cestrum or as Chenaam araa in Kenya (translated as ‘uneaten by livestock’), Environmentalists have raised the alarm over this invasive weed species that is threatening the survival of forests in especially Kenya’s Elgeyo Marakwet province as well as its environmental impact in general. It has already invaded over 4 000 acres of the indigenous Cherangany forest (one of the country’s main water sources). Further invasion by this plant could cause desert-like conditions. The seeds of this fast-growing, highly toxic plant are dispersed by the wind to great distances. It is distinguished by lush evergreen leaves, yellow flowers and a pungent, choking smell. The plant grows in clusters, with each bunch producing over a thousand seedlings, while absorbing moisture at a high rate. Hundreds of livestock have died after having consumed the plant, which also traps and kills bees that suck its nectar. According to Lesley Henderson of SANBI, these plants, originally used as ornamental plants, is already a bad invader in Pretoria (article from the Rift Valley News, sent by Arne Witt from Kenya, January 2015). Please visit the Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasivespecies) for more information and photos of this dangerous invader.   Parthenium hysterophorus of the Aster-species   During the 2014 planning process for National Strategy and Implementation Plan for this Category 1 declared weed, it was decided to use “Famine weed” as the preferred common name for this invasive plant in South Africa, as is also done in Europe. The agreed Zulu/Xhosa common name is Umbulalazwe. According to Kay Montgomery (email on14 January 2015), “This is not a trivial matter – it is important that the affected elements within our society all become aware of this very dangerous invasive weed. If we persist in using a range of different common names in each of our languages, then we will make our common experts’ task doubly difficult”. For more information, contact Kay Montgomery on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..     Warning – cactus invasion   Hundreds of species of cactus have been introduced into South Africa as ornamentals. Approximately 40 species have been recorded as spreading from cultivation, and 34 species are currently declared invaders under NEMBA. NEMBA prohibits the introduction of any new cactus species on the list of invader plants. Further invasions of cacti can be prevented by not growing, cultivating or spreading any NEMBA-listed species. All landowners must control invasive cacti on their properties. Farmers often cause their own problems with invasive plants by cultivating them at the entrances to their farms and around their homesteads. Municipalities should not allow the dumping of plants on the urban boundary or on vacant land, or unwanted plants thrown over fences. Cactus invasions start from the irresponsible dumping of plants. Beware of buying cacti from uninformed nurseries and backyard sellers who illegally sell declared invaders.NEMBA legislation is available at http://www.invasives.org.za/legislation.html, and a guide to invasive cacti in South Africa is available in SAPIA News No 25 (http://www.arc.agric.za/Pages/Newsletters.aspx). (SAPIA News No 35, January 2015).   Green tips Chicken lice: Next time when you want to get rid of your braai ashes, think twice! Rather put it in your fowl run. Chickens love to role and scratch around in the ash, and the chicken lice hate it.   How to keep birds off your fruit: Normally, we are happy to share our ripe tomatoes, peaches, plums, figs, mulberries and apricots with mouse birds and other fruit eaters, but when you only have one tree of a particular variety, and it is shy bearing, you might want to put up some deterrents that will send the birds elsewhere. Something that will keep the children and grandchildren busy is making a scarecrow and then attaching it to a broomstick so you can move it around in the vegetable patch and orchard, and so that the birds don’t get used to where it is and lose their fear for it. You could also hang different sized aluminium pie pans, strips of aluminium foil and old CDs at different heights, preferably using fishing line. It also works better to move these around. Another project could be to make a spinner or wind chimes out of aluminium cans. Not only will it flash in the sunlight, but it will also whistle as it spins. Alternatively, you could paint faces on balloons and tie them to branches. Some people swear by draping a rubber snake in a tree. A combination of these ideas might just do the thing! (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2014/Jan2015).   Rid your property of rodents: Using poisons for this purpose is problematic for domestic pets, owls and other natural predators. However, making a home-made repellent for mice and rats is simple and inexpensive. Rodents cannot stand the aroma of mint. Using pure peppermint and spearmint essential oils should eliminate rodent problems safely and effectively. Be sure to use real, natural essential oils. Synthetic fragrances are not going to work. Pour about 15 drops of oil into a spray bottle and add a few drops of milk. Shake until the oil is emulsified, and then add three or four cups of water. Spray outside buildings such as feed storage rooms or poultry houses. Inside your home, a few drops of the mixture can be put on cotton balls and then left in the cupboards. Old cotton towels can be soaked in the mixture and placed anywhere that rodents may be entering the home, or spending time. Plant mint outside the home and near stables, feed rooms, livestock pens and chicken houses. Mint grows quickly and profusely, and you’ll have an almost endless supply of fresh mint to use indoors as a deterrent (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2014/Jan2015).   How to deal with common garden pests: Anybody who has lovingly created a vegetable garden knows the heartbreak when pests strike. Intercropping, companion planting and poly culture are all different terms for planting different plants together in the same space at the same time. The different shapes, colours and scents confuse insects. Pests will stay away from plants with spicy/bitter scents, such as camphor, mint, lavender, rosemary and sage. Leaves could be spread around newly planted seedlings or strong scented herb stems can be pushed into the soil next to the seedling to protect it from cutworm. Marigolds and garlic chives are also insect repellents. Nasturtiums, however, attract aphids, which can be a real menace to a number of vegetables. Use colour in your attack. Paint yellow cardboard with sticky oil or petroleum jelly, attach to a stick and place near vulnerable vegetables, or place pans of water coloured with yellow food colouring at strategic spots among seedlings – insects are attracted by colour and will fall in and drown. Onion and garlic spray, citrus and khaki bos mixtures will also get rid of many pests. Healthy plants are less vulnerable to insect feeding pressure than weak, sickly ones, so maintaining soil fertility helps plants outgrow insect damage (Gauteng Smallholder, Dec 2014/Jan2015).     For our horse owners: On tendonitis This condition is common in horses that have to gallop frequently. As the name indicates, tendonitis is an injury to the tendons. On the forelegs, this injury normally occurs to the superficial flexor tendon, and the resulting condition is known as ‘bowed tendon’. On the hind legs, the deep flexor tendon is more commonly injured. Flexor tendons are long strips of fibrous tissue enclosed in a tendon sheath that run down the back of each leg. Their main function is to flex the joints during movement. Horses with long pasterns and flat hooves are more likely to get tendonitis, as this conformation tends to overstretch the tendons. Rapid or uneven movement, such as galloping and turning at speed, can tear the fibres inside the tendon sheath, causing inflammation, swelling and pain. The swelling can bring about further damage to collagen fibres of the tendon by preventing blood circulation in the area.Treatment: The leg should be hosed down and cold compresses applied to reduce the inflammation and swelling as soon as possible. Liniment can be rubbed in gently and a supportive bandage applied. Do not wind the bandage too tightly, as this can further damage the ligament. The tendons can take up to six months to heal. Stall rest is important, and hand walking is usually the only form of exercise allowed for four to six weeks. Although 80% of horses go back to work and can even do show jumping, complete cure is unlikely. A racehorse that has a bowed tendon is never allowed to race again, as the tendon could snap during fast work such as galloping. (Email Dr Mac for more information at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject line: Horse talk).   Environmental snippets Bamboo presents an eco-friendly solution to the deforestation of the earth and the depletion of our natural resources. Bamboo grass plants are a completely sustainable resource because they are naturally anti-bacterial and grown without pesticides or fertilisers. The plants grow in both wetlands and arid conditions, utilising less water and rejuvenating up to 35% more oxygen than the equivalent tree forest land. (Beautiful Bamboo-products, January 2015).   Of mites and round worms:Mites (arachnids) are distantly related to spiders and scorpions. Some mites feed off plants, while others are ecto-parasites on the skins of both humans and animals. Except for mite species such as ticks that can bite you en spread diseases such as scabies, there are also spider mites (smaller than 1mm) that can cause damage to crops. Dust mites are smaller than 0,5mm and moult as they grow bigger. Their old skin and excretions cause allergies and asthma. There can be thousands of mites in 1g of dust.   There are about 25 000 known species of the nematode or round worm. One handful of garden soil contains thousands of round worms. They are probably the most plentiful animals on earth and represent at least 90% of all life on the ocean bed. These parasites can attack both humans and animals. (Huisgenoot, 22 January 2015).   Snippets from KZNCA News, January 2015: On our planet there are about 10 000 species of birds, 5 500 species of mammals and up to 2 000 000 species of insects. Our official rhino figure of 25 000 is wrong – there are only about 20 000 rhino left in SA. The amazing Welwitschia mirabilis in Namibia’s Kaokoveld can live over a 1 000 years and, in spite of its tangled appearance, it only has two leaves. Amphibians are currently the most rapidly declining group of vertebrates on earth, with over a third of all species listed as threatened. The causes of declines are many and varied, often working together to create the perfect storm for extinction. Habitat destruction is responsible for the majority of declines by a factor of four over the next major threat, pollution. In South Africa, 30% of our frog species are red listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable (email received on 6 January from Thorntree Conservancy).Request from GECKO: Please report any sightings of bullfrogs to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GECKOwildlifecorridorproject. A bullfrog information booklet is also available (GEKCO Newsletter, 26 January 2015).   Cost-effective deforestation: The main purpose of deforestation programmes is to develop new agricultural land. There is, however, a close and very important relationship between deforestation and its negative impact if deforested land is not managed properly. Indications of primary soil deterioration such as soil structure changes and an increase in soil-related plant diseases, as well as secondary indications of veld deterioration, such as bush encroachment and an increase in invader plant species will decrease soil capacity to an even larger extent. Deforestation projects linked to bad management of agricultural projects are often viewed as the main reason for the decline of the biosphere, with a loss of biodiversity and extreme weather conditions as an indication thereof. Effective utilisation of deforested material with market value (e.g. firewood and charcoal, as well as rests that are left to degrade), and to convert marketable deforested wood into valuable serrated/sawn wood, are good examples of cost-effective deforestation. Serrated wood can also be used on the farm itself and can be sold at a much higher profit than firewood (ProAgri, no 175, September 2014).   Where we stand… (from commentary by Pete Bower, Gauteng Smallholder, December 2014/January 2015):“We stand for the use of natural pest control methods rather than the use of chemicals, for the use of organic growth rather than chemically fertilised growth, and for the active conservation of the fellow creatures who share our land, such as insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.We stand for the experimentation with and adoption of technology that makes the home self-sufficient, not because we are pot-smoking bunny hugging greeny-beanies, and not because we are overly concerned with the deterioration in the quality and delivery of services by our municipalities, but rather simply because taking advantage of the natural resources bestowed upon us, in a sustainable way, seems infinitely preferable to destroying non-renewable resources just because we, probably the most innovative bunch of self-taught mechanics, engineers and ”maak-‘n-planners” around, are too lazy to try something different”.   Food for thought... ‘Lexophile’ is a word used to describe those that have a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish”, or “to write with a broken pencil is pointless”.   Some more:A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.A will is a dead giveaway.When you’ve seen one shopping centre, you’ve seen a mall.A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye. “Tact is the art of getting your point accross without stabbing someone with it” (Anonymous) I miss being a kid. My only responsibilities were running around and laughing a lot. And someone else was in charge of my hair” (Anonymous). “When odds are one in a million, be that one!” (fb/the idealist). “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness” (St Thérèse). “Books are a uniquely portable magic” (Stephen King). “Remember when phones were stupid, and people were smart?” (Anonymous). “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it” (Robin Williams).   And finally...Cat film clips, status updates and online shopping – we all know the internet is a serial procastinator’s dream. But wasting time on the internet can earn you a degree from next year. The University of Pennsylvania wants students to mess about online for a creative writing study (from a Scottish daily).  

January 2015

  Newsletter #70 Editorial New Year’s resolutions: 2015 and all its challenges have arrived! We hope that all our members and readers have had some time to rest and are ready to tackle the New Year and all its many challenges. Most people’s resolutions and wishes will probably focus on weight loss, good health, more money, less corruption, etc., all ‘human’ resolutions. Let us make a new year’s wish for conservation! Welcome: We would like to welcome new Conservancy members, Heinz & Cecile Hächler and Werner Fiel & Ester Müller. May their stay in our beautiful valley bring them much happiness and fulfilment. Tale of a horse In the early hours, one day in November, we were woken by an emergency radio call. A horse belonging to two of our members, Werner Fiel and Esther Müller, had somehow landed in their swimming pool! The gate in the fence around the swimming pool had been left open, and the horse presumably got a fright and landed in the pool. One of our other members who is also a horse owner, Pete Laatz, offered to help and went there immediately. He suggested that the pool should be emptied – a process that took quite a while. As the pool had no steps, they planned to stagger bales of hay like steps, so that the horse could get out, as its hoofs were very soft because of having been in the pool for so long. However, the horse wanted to know nothing about this, and plan B had to be implemented. A truck load of sand was ordered to fill up the pool. Easier said than done, as the truck got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out with a neighbour’s big tractor. Plan C would have been to sedate the horse and lift it out of the pool with a back acter, but fortunately the horse used the sand to get out. The story has a happy ending – the horse is fine, and Werner and Esther are going to get a brand new swimming pool. And among ourselves we have decided that the Afrikaans expression “die kalf is in die put” (when immediate action is needed) is no longer applicable. From now on, it will be “die perd is in die swembad!” (photo provided by Pete Laatz).     Our feathered friends One of our readers (Jill Brunner of Seekoehoek) and one of our members (Charmaine Leygonie) sent us beautiful photos of our feathered friends. On 28 November 2014, Jill wrote via email: “We had the misfortune/fortune to meet this little guy (Woodlands Kingfisher) this morning after he flew into our lounge window. After a bit of cuddle, some TLC and a few drops of rescue, he was off again. We have two pairs that frequent our garden and give us a great acrobatic show every morning”. Many thanks to Charmaine who sent us a photo of their swallows. History of our environment: The Ras canons In 1851, two of Hermanus Nikolas Ras’s sons, Hermanus Nikolas and Willem Adriaan, arrived at Bokfontein, near Wolhuterskop, on the northern side of the Magaliesberg. They started building thatch-roofed pioneer houses with walls made of clay. This signalled the wish (of probably the women!) to start living a more established life and to stop roaming around. They recognised the agricultural potential of this water-rich area with fertile soil and favourable climate immediately. The oldest son, also called “Kanonmaker Ras”, planted large fruit orchards and brought citrus to the attention of the mountain farmers. All the excess fruit that could not be marketed, was used to distil brandy on a large scale.The First Boer War broke out in 1881. “Kanonmaker Ras” offered to make a large canon, after General Piet Cronjé had given permission for this. Wagon wheels were purchased, and blacksmith’s fires were stoked. After two weeks the first canon was ready. It was 1,5m in length with a barrel of 89mm, made from four welded wagon wheel hoops in the centre and strengthened with a number of heated wagon wheel hoops forged around it. Cmdt. Sarel Eloff fetched this canon, afterwards named “Martienie”, and started firing at the English in the fort, from a distance of 2 000m. The distance was, however, too great, and the canon was brought closer to a distance of 600m. The shots were not sufficient to make the English surrender, and the canon became hot after a few shots – then it had to cool down before it could fire again. The Ras brothers then decided to build an even bigger and better canon, later named “Ras”. This canon was a real master piece: 2m in length with oblong shaped bullets, 50mm in diameter and 100mm in length. However, the canon was only completed after the battle of Amajuba and was therefore never used during the war. After the war, the Ras brothers received £100 in compensation, with which, after having deducted their costs, they could buy themselves each a pair of velvet trousers!A small replica of the first canon was erected on the farm as a monument. There are also remainders of the old buildings, among others, part of the forge furnace and the distillery. Both canons have been preserved. “Martienie’s” resting places is at Denel in Erasmuskloof, and “Ras” is on exhibition at Fort Klapperkop, Pretoria. From an article in Kormorant, 6-13 November 2014   Annie Erickson’s letter In a letter written to Maroela Media, Annie Erickson, an American lady who has been living in South Africa for the past seven years, explains how Afrikaans speaking people have influenced her thoughts on the situation in South Africa during this time. Her letter was published in English, so that the essence of her message could be communicated the way she intended to. Currently, Annie is learning to speak Afrikaans, and she informed the editor of Maroela Media that she was learning the words of one Afrikaans Christmas hymn every day during December, so that she would be able to sing along in Afrikaans on Christmas day. She is currently doing research on Afrikaner history. Her study field and field of interest focus on marginalised ways of mourning and spiritual accompaniment, specialising in creating an environment for people to mourn their losses in societies that don’t see any point in doing this.An English speaking friend forwarded Annie’s letter to us. Although Annie specifically writes about the influence Afrikaners have had on her life, she does not exclude other language groups in our country. In fact, she speaks to the whole South African population. Her words touched our hearts, and we would like to share it with all our members and readers. Annie’s letter follows – Ed.   Environmental snippets Elephants suffer from stress: Recent research by Prof. Rob Slotow, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school for life sciences on how elephants handle stress has shown that it sometimes takes decades for elephants to process stressful incidents. According to Prof. Slotow, who is also the director of the Amarula Elephant Research Programme (AERP), stress scares elephants and often causes loneliness as they then hold to themselves. Elephants have highly complicated and refined social structures, and stress results in the disintegration of these structures. Elephant populations are often disrupted by poaching and culling incidents and the fragmentation of their habitat. Tourists also cause stressful situations for elephants. With the increasing pressure on the natural environment and climate change, stress in elephants will also increase in future. Rapport Nuus, 30 November 2014 Dogs are sometimes to blame: We have published newsletter articles on stray dogs in our area before, requesting land owners to inform us if ever they come across such dogs, so as to prevent them from causing damage to sheep, cattle, horses or other farm animals. On a number of occasions, we were notified of stray dogs, and by means of our SMS system, we could locate most of these dogs’ owners. “Remember, however, that neglected dogs and/or dogs that are allowed to leave the property, even the most faithful and innocent farm dogs, can sometimes turn into efficient hunters if mixing with the wrong ‘friends.’” Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, Agrieco, Western Cape, November 2014 Grass seeds in the soil aids sustainable grazing land production: Research has shown that the longevity of especially climax grasses (e.g. red grass, or Themeda triandra) decreases alarmingly after three years of seed removal as all the seeds have then disappeared from the seed banks. If climax grasses are unable to produce seeds in the dry grass veld biomes, there is a linear decline in the seed bank’s potential, until it is completely exhausted after three years. Climax grasses prefer a stabile habitat for optimal germination and survival. Landowners should therefore attempt not to over utilise grazing land by over grazing, over stocking or incorrect management. If the grazing ecosystem is to be utilised sustainably, there should be sufficient resting periods for seed. Prof Hennie Snyman, Departement Vee-, Wild- en Weidingskunde, University of the Free State: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Did you know? A tall story: Assuming that Father Christmas would not deliver gifts to some religious groupings, and assuming that there were 3.5 children in every household (i.e. at least one good child in every household!), he would have to visit 91,8 million dwellings. If he flew from east to west, he would have about 31 hours to his disposal (not only 24) to deliver his gifts because of the earth’s rotation. And his deer would have to know their story. The sleigh would have to travel at 1 050km per second – 3 000 times the speed of sound or 0,35% of the speed of light (Sources: Daily Mail/ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The digital footprint we are creating for our children can influence their admission to university or even their career opportunities. Our children are much more documented than in previous generations, and we still have to learn a lot about this (Natheer Brown, Director of ISC Africa’s Internet security campaign, in Beeld Sakenuus, 15 December 2014). What are the world’s most pressing environmental issues? How are we going to manage the conflict between the human footprint and nature? How are we going to utilise science to give direction to policy? And how are we going to manage, improve and make ecological infrastructure relevant for economic development? (Fundisile Mketeni, new official executive director of SANParks, in conversation with Herman Jansen, Rapport Weekliks, 30 November 2014). A quick tongue makes for a quick brain: People who can speak more than one language process information quicker and easier than those who can only speak one language. Moreover, according to Dr Ruan van der Walt, a neuropsychologist from Centurion, it seems that bilingual or multi-lingual speakers use the various sections of the brain better, as it forces them to focus more when speaking (Rapport Nuus, 30 November 2014). The scientific study of sound is known as acoustics. Sound is generated by vibrations that form sound waves. The waves travel via water or air before reaching the ear. Sound travels four times faster via water than air. Animals hear at higher sound frequencies than people and use sound to become aware of danger before it hits them. The speed of sound is about 1 230km per hour (WesBeeld, 28 November 2014). The capital cost of diesel generators amounts to about one tenth of that of solar power for the same power generation capacity, but the operational cost is much higher, because sunshine is for free, and diesel costs about R12 per litre (Francois Williams, Sake-Rapport, 30 November 2014). Amazing, huh? “I listen. I love. And I live. Your body knows what to do. Your mind gets in the way” (Phyllis Sues, 91-year old dancer, writer, singer,musician, and trapeze artist).“I quit drinking at 90 but I have a couple of shots of whiskey twice a week for medicinal purposes” (Jack Weol, 107 years old and the oldest CEO in America).“It’s better than sitting around. I meet lovely people” (Dolly Saville, 100, the world’s oldest barmaid).“I’ve reached the age where I’m seriously thinking about what I’ll be when I come back” (Lynn Ruth Miller, 80-year old comedian). Food for thought Some anonymous words of wisdom:“Don’t you miss the days when everything worked with just an “ON” and “OFF” switch?“Chivalry: to always say the girl is right and you’re wrong”.“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been , yet the youngest you will ever be. So, enjoy the day while it lasts”.“My determination to succeed, outweighs any excuse to fail. Nothing will stand in my way, not even me”.   “They kill good trees to put out bad newspapers” (James G. Watt)A person’s succes can be judged by the number of enemies he’s made” (Ian Player).“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it” (J.K. Rowling). “Afrikaners, I see you and I value you” I confess that when I first moved to South Africa, I thought Afrikaners were the “bad guys”. Because I was never required to study African history in school, I knew only what the American media had taught me, which was that Afrikaners were responsible for Apartheid and therefore the bad guys. Six months after moving here, I realised how incorrect my initial assumptions were. Everyone in South Africa is both a “bad guy” and a “good guy”, and so it is with the rest of the world (for such is human nature).The following two years were spent reading every book I could get my hands on regarding South Africa. If one wants to understand a culture, I reasoned, one must study their art, music, literature, cuisine, and history. And so I did just that – not only for the Afrikaans culture, but for other South African cultures as well.At the end of those two years, I felt a keen remorse for having been so arrogant in the beginning. I now knew enough to understand that I knew very little, if anything. I enrolled in university (again) to study pastoral counselling, with the intent of learning how to listen and ask better questions. After I finished my studies, I enrolled in another three-year programme to study spiritual accompaniment, which teaches one how to journey with people on a spiritual level as they wrestle with issues of faith. I have two years left of this course, which brings me to the present moment.Having lived in South Africa for seven years now, my desire is to walk humbly and respectfully with the people here, to forever be a student of the land, languages and cultures, and to serve where I can to help build this nation. This nation, however, will never reach its potential so long as any one people group is being marginalised or oppressed. The point of this letter is to share with you what I have observed among the Afrikaners, as well as my hopes and dreams for them.I see a people group who are being slowly squeezed out. I see a people group with no political representation. I see a people group whose younger generations are forced to carry the weight of the mistakes of their forefathers (which begs the question: how long does one punish a people group for the sins of the past?), whose older generations are frustrated, disillusioned and often angry with current situations, and whose middle generations struggle to find work and bridge the gap between the old and new South Africa, though they are desperately trying. I see a people group who are surviving at best, barely coping at worst, yet rarely thriving as they should be. I see a people group emigrating in large numbers. In short, I see a cultural crisis among the Afrikaners, as well as a great struggle to belong and be accepted in their own country. And this grieves me.In the seven years I have had the privilege to live in South Africa, I have come to love the Afrikaners. I love all of the cultures here – truly I do – but there is a soft spot in my heart for the Afrikaners. Not because I am also white, certainly not because I am racist, but because I see the strengths of their culture, and I believe those strengths should be celebrated. Afrikaners have an amazing ability to persevere despite the odds. Afrikaners have a strong work ethic. They also have a unique ability to improvise, make do, and find a way around their obstacles (‘n Boer maak ‘n plan!).I have learned much from the Afrikaans culture. One thing that especially touches me is the way Afrikaners pray. In the seven years that I have been here, nearly every prayer I have heard begins with “Dankie, Here”. To begin a prayer with heartfelt thanks despite present challenges is something that moves me deeply. In my own culture people nearly always being prayers with, “Dear God, would You please do such and such…?” I no longer pray that way, and I have the Afrikaners to thank for that.Another thing that I admire is the concept of a “lekker kuier”. It is more than a visit, more than a quick cup of tea, and can often interrupt schedules or to-do lists. In a kuier I am welcomed, heard, given priority over time’s looming deadlines, and valued. It doesn’t matter if my house is messy, my hair is not perfect, or what my plan for the day was. I thought I knew what hospitality was before I moved to South Africa, but I was wrong. I learned about hospitality from many a kuier, and I have the Afrikaners to thank for that.One of my favourite things about Afrikaners is the Afrikaans language itself. I studied German and American Sign Language in school, but I confess that learning another language as a middle-aged woman was a bit daunting. Even so, as an immigrant I believe it is respectful to learn the language of one’s host country. I chose Afrikaans to begin with because my children have to learn it in school, and I wanted to be able to help them with their homework. And what a delightfully descriptive language! With words like “spookasem”, “stofsuier” and “trapsuutjies”, how can one not love Afrikaans? It is a young language, it does not have a large vocabulary, but it is marvellously expressive and inventive. I came to appreciate the Bible all over again after I began to read it in Afrikaans, and I have the Afrikaners to thank for that.I long for the day when Afrikaners can hold their heads high and be proud of their culture and their heritage. I long for future generations to be in awe of their ancestors who fought bravely in the Anglo-Boer war or contributed toward the many inventions that are uniquely South African. I long for the Afrikaans language to persevere and continue to be relevant. And yes, while I long for Afrikaners to learn from the mistakes of their fathers and grandfathers (as I must learn from the mistakes of mine), I also long for the day when they no longer have to apologise for being Afrikaans but can celebrate their contribution to this great nation. No one should have to be ashamed of their culture or ethnicity, no matter what happened in the past.I would like to end this letter by saying the following to the Afrikaans people: I see you. I value you. And I would like to respectfully journey with you in helping this nation to reach its great potential.  

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