The Mesquite Menace

December 10, 2017


Mesquite (Prosopis spp.), a group of about 40 small leguminous trees are native to the south-western USA and Mexico. Several species, especially Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), were introduced into South Africa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as both a shade tree and as a source of fodder for domestic livestock. It was cultivated and planted out in many arid areas of central, northern and western parts of South Africa. It forms dense thickets that even goats cannot penetrate and its spread is now largely unchecked. In parts of the Northern Cape there are stands that extend over thousands of hectares and as such become useless to livestock husbandry. 

What we find most alarming is that many farmers are allowing Mesquite to spread on their properties. In the early stages of invasion physical control would be relatively easy but once established along water courses it spreads rapidly away from them. 

The worst affected areas lie in the Karoo, Kalahari, Namaqualand and Bushmanland. The danger lies in that these small trees are highly adapted to surviving even the most severe droughts. Once established they completely out compete the endemic flora. The highly palatable pods are eaten by game and stock but many seeds are dispersed in their droppings. Complicating things further the hardy seeds can remain dormant in the soil for up to 10 years. 

Cutting the trees is also problematic as they will regrow from dormant buds below the ground surface, necessitating regular follow ups. Many farmers say that they cannot afford chemical control, nor the labour for physical removal. But by 'ignoring' the problem they are losing many thousands of hectares that would have sustained their livestock. 

Drive around Van Wyks Vlei, Kenhardt, Upington, Poffadder and Carnarvon, amongst others, and the dense stands of bushes that you see, with intertwined branches, are of no use to man nor beast. 
 

Another sad note on the hunting front!

November 14, 2017

It seems as if many in the South African hunting fraternity are hell bent on driving another nail into the coffin of ethical hunting.

Firstly we had the using of dogs in leopard hunting, then came the infamous 'canned' lion saga, an issue still ongoing. Next the breeding of numerous colour mutant antelope species, which has angered many hunting organisations in Europe especially but also in the USA. In fact in our view it has reached ridiculous levels but the 'bubble' at least on this has b...


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Hunting Ethics

August 19, 2017

Guest blog: A letter from Gerhard von Hasseln to a disillusioned fellow hunter!

For introduction I mention that I have read your articles in the Man Magazine for which over the years I have also written some articles which were published. I arrived in South Africa in 1957 starting as a learner wool buyer. As a farewell present my father gave me a 9.3 x 62 rifle with which I shot my first bushbuck ram on a farm near Kei Road. I have hunted in six African countries though nowhere near as exten...


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The Anthropocene-age of Man or: Out of Africa - the Obsession

August 4, 2017
Current thinking is that the human lineage split from the apes around 7 million years before present in Central Africa, remaining on the continent for at least the next 5 million years.

However, the recent discovery of remains of what has been called 'El Graeco', or Graecopithecus freybergi, indicates that the 'Out of Africa' hypothesis should be re-examined. 'El Graeco' shows that human ancestors were starting to evolve at least 200,000 years before the earliest known African hominid. Is this...
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Short post script to previous blog

June 5, 2017
A few figures from North America:
  • Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds each year. 
  • Up to 6.8 million bird deaths are attributed to collisions with cell and radio towers.
  • Feral and domestic cats are estimated to kill 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds each year. (By far the worst!)
This makes the wind turbines positively 'bird friendly'. 

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Are Wind Farms so Environmentally Friendly?

June 5, 2017
For the past few months numerous 'Abnormal Load' lorries have trundled past our home village of Loxton. They have been, and still are, carrying the various sections of wind turbines to the new 'wind farm' near Loeriesfontein. 

Many say, that 'wind farms' are amongst the most environmentally friendly of sources of energy. Once they are erected and producing power that is probably the case but....

Firstly, one has to ask how much energy and pollution was used and created in the manufacture of the...
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Lions in the smaller parks

May 7, 2017
On our recent stay in Karoo National Park we encountered small Lion prides, one with two cubs, another with four of almost nine months. We have to ask the questions, how many Lion can a park such as Karoo National Park carry, and when carrying capacity is reached what will be done with the surplus? 
One certainly needs to introduce new genetic stock from time to time in these 'closed' parks but demand for Lions for introduction or reintroduction is limited. Perhaps it is time that SANParks was...
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4x4 Rallies in National Parks?

May 7, 2017
On a recent stay at the isolated Afsaal Cottage in Karoo National Park our peace and quiet was spoiled by a 4x4 "rally". More than 30 Landrovers and Range Rovers in tight convoy roared past, creating clouds of dust. We feel that our national parks are no place for these 4x4 meetings! How tightly do SANParks scrutinize these events, or do the participants not declare their intention to have these gatherings? We would be interested to know what SANParks' policy is on this.



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The Scale of Things! Or: the Madness of Man (&Woman)

March 22, 2017
Consider this - the 2016/2017 budget for South African National Parks is roughly R 1.86 billion, for Cape Nature approximately R 304 million (2014/2015). We are well aware that not all of these budgets go into what we call “real conservation” but one has to measure this against the cost of a single F117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft - R 1.4 billion, or a South African produced Rooivalk attack helicopter at a mere R 500 million. We could go further but there is no point - governments and man ...
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SKA - Meerkat and conservation

January 14, 2017
There has been a lot of negativity surrounding the large tracts of land that have been bought up as part of the SKA-Meerkat astronomical observatory. It lies to the north of the Karoo town of Carnarvon, just 60 km from our home village!

In the general area we are 'threatened' by fracking for gas and open-cast mining for uranium but SKA does put a positive spin on things.

Most complaints against the large land holdings of SKA revolve around the loss of sheep farming country but many of the bough...
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