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The Mesquite Menace

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, 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 a...
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Another sad note on the hunting front!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Tuesday, 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

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Saturday, 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

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, 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

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Monday, 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?

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Monday, 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

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, 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?

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, 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)

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, 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

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Saturday, 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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Back to our pet hate - feral & domestic cats

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Saturday, January 14, 2017,
On a recent visit to the Neusiedler See in eastern Austria, on the Hungarian border, we encountered feral cats - lots of them. This is a national park and one of the most important bird conservation areas in Austria/Hungary. 

No information is available on the impact these cats are having on the bird and other vertebrate, and invertebrate life. Going on information from England, Sweden and Germany the impact is probably considerable. So, why is nothing being done to control or eradicate this f...
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The Feral Horse Dilemma!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, November 9, 2016,
We recently read about the feeding of the feral horses in the vicinity of Aus in southern Namibia. Mathilde and I first encountered these horses in 2003 and we were impressed by how they had survived against all the odds from the early 20th century. But they are not part of the natural system of things and if they survive so be it but man should not intervene and feed them.

We both are horse people but where feral horses enter a natural ecosystem they should be removed or controlled. In Austra...

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CITES and Elephants

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, September 25, 2016,
We are watching the CITES gathering in South Africa with interest (let us not consider the carbon footprint of the over 2,000 delegates from all over the world shall we!). 
Elephant poaching has escalated massively despite regulations and regular 'talk shops'. The move to put all Elephant populations on Appendix 1 - if it happens, will inevitably be a disaster for the pachyderms. The trade will continue but just be driven further underground. One just has to think of the rhino horn trade. 
If y...
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The value of game

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, September 25, 2016,
The only reason game ranching survives and grows is because of good financial returns - and we feel that is how it should be. We don't like the trend of breeding and marketing morphs - 'golden wildebeest', etc and feel it should be outlawed!
Now along comes the Savanna Buffalo bull Inala, that sold recently for R 168 million. We admit the market is obviously there but at this sort of pricing something is not right in the world of game ranching. Profits yes, these prices are becoming an obsceni...
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The Kruger drought and cull!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, September 25, 2016,
Outrage over the announcement that SANParks in Kruger National Park is to cull 4,700 Savanna Buffalo and 750 Common Hippopotamus, because of the ongoing drought. Why?
Kruger is a fenced reserve, apart from some dropped sections of the international boundary with Mozambique; and as such despite exceeding 20,000 square kilometres it has to be managed. For decades there have been controlled burns, closure and opening of waterpoints, in the past culls of Elephant and Buffalo. The proposed cull wi...
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Uranium mining and fracking in the South African Karoo

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, August 12, 2016,
We have noted the claims of 'victory' on the uranium mining front in the Karoo. This is not a victory, as it is the normal practice of mining companies to lay claim to vast tracts of land, followed by more intensive prospecting, that brings them closer to the 'mother lode'. The disruption, pollution and water extraction levels will still be there! How much of this depends on the 8 questionable nuclear power stations our government hopes to have built? An open question!

The same goes for fracki...
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The Feral/Domestic Cat Saga continued - nothing has changed

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, May 11, 2016,
This article although published in 1991 is still relevant today. We raise the issue again because in our home village of Loxton, domestic and feral cats have reached pest proportions. Most are free-ranging and have no owner (does any cat?), a few have homes. Our feelings remain the same, in that domestic cats should be fitted with collars and bells to warn small potential prey animals (it really works) and feral cats should be trapped and euthanised. 
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Lions from South American captivity

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Tuesday, May 10, 2016,
Recently, more than 30 circus and zoo Lions were flown from South America to a facility in the north of South Africa. this has, in some quarters, been hailed as a great success for Lion conservation. Really?

These Lions have been held over several generations in captivity, and as a result are not good specimens, nor can they ever be released into the wild. Perhaps, yes, they will have more comfortable quarters, be better fed but in the long run would it not have been better to euthanize these ...
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Kenyan Ivory & Rhino Horn Burn! Will it help?

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Tuesday, May 10, 2016,
There have been several well publicized ivory and rhino horn burns in recent years, with the most massive in Nairobi NP, Kenya not long ago! These symbolic bonfires are spectacular and popular in some quarters but do they really help slow down poaching of Elephant and the two rhino species? We think not!

Until the demand is staunched in Asia and other parts of the world the poaching will continue. The wildlife trade is one of the largest illicit outlets and sources of income for the internatio...
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Conservation

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, January 22, 2016,
Over the last few days we went through our scientific papers, scanning those still only in old paper format to keep and to put them all onto our webpage (you may have noticed already?). We came across a paper Chris read at the South African Museums Association Conference for Education Officers in Grahamstown in 1983 - some 33 years ago! We would like to share the first section of this paper with you - as nothing has changed (and not much has been achieved) in those 33 years. 

"Conservation Edu...

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Will the bubble burst? (Gambling with game!)

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Tuesday, January 19, 2016,

Up to 2014 game prices in South Africa soared, driven by a small number of wealthy buyers. Some game species saw prices at auctions soar by 5 times over the course of six years. In that year game ranching was valued at over 12 billion Rand. One saw the likes of billionaires Anton Rupert paying the obscene price of R 40 million for a single Buffalo bull, Cyril Ramaphosa joined the fray paying similar prices. Then along came the mutant colour forms, the ‘Golden Wildebeest’ (we have blogged ...


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Balance of Scale

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Saturday, October 31, 2015,
It is already a while ago that Cecil the Lion was shot by an American dentist in Zimbabwe. The outcry, for a while, dominated the news, even rising to the level of the migrant crisis in Europe. Then a large Savanna Elephant tusker was shot by a trophy hunter in the south-east of the same country. Again, an outcry, because the Elephant had a name - a massive outcry against hunters, hunting outfitters and what they stand for. For a short time it pushed Nigeria's Boko Haram off the news headline...
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The Mining Plague

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Monday, March 9, 2015,

The recent surge in the number of mining operations in and on the fringes of Southern African conservation areas is disturbing. This was hammered home to us on our recent trip to the Namib-Naukluft Park in the central Namib Desert. The area has experienced mining since German colonial times, with small mines exploiting deposits of mica and copper, amongst others, but this was long before the park was proclaimed.

 

Then in the 1970’s the Rossing Mine was opened on the park’s north-wester...


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Grass on the high Karoo Plateau!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, September 28, 2014,

We have lived in the village of Loxton for 20 years, although interspersed with long absences, and during that time have noted the increase in grass cover on many of the farms. No doubt this can be ascribed to a combination of factors, including changes in rainfall regime, climate change, farming practices and better controls over stock numbers. There are probably other factors at play that we are not aware of.  Our observations are of a subjective nature as we have not had the time to delve ...


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The Demise of the windpump in the Karoo

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, September 28, 2014,

Part of the scenery of the Karoo is that scaffold-pyramid with its turning wheel drawing water up from underground aquifers. What would this semi-arid landscape be without these man-made “temples” to survival?  In recent years, and increasingly, Karoo farmers are moving to the use of solar panels and pumps, with the water being stored in non-leaking plastic tanks. On the positive side this saves water, reduces costs for the farmer in the long run, as it saves on labour and maintenance exp...


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“Golden” Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Sunday, September 28, 2014,

Yesterday, for the first time, we saw two “golden” wildebeest in the flesh, free-ranging with a herd of normally coloured Blue Wildebeest, on a game farm close to our Karoo home. Although we still are against the commercial breeding of these colour morphs we have to admit, for the first time, that if, then the “golden” wildebeest does get a few plus points.  Unlike the white Springbok and Blesbok they look robust and yes, they are handsome. But we still wonder when the insane prices b...


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ANTELOPE COLOUR MORPHS

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, July 23, 2014,
It seems that the modern trend in game farming in South Africa is to specialise in the breeding of colour morphs of a range of antelope species. It started some years ago with the Springbok, white, black and copper coloured morphs but this has now drawn in the Blue Wildebeest (golden), Gemsbok/Oryx (golden), white Blesbok, black Impala, and one shudders to think what next. 
The motivation of course is financial as many of these morphs bring tens and even hundreds of thousands of Rand at game a...

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Illegal Trade in Animal Parts

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, July 23, 2014,
With the high prices being paid for animal parts in the illicit wildlife trade the criminal gangs are scenting big profits!  This trade is now the fifth biggest illicit business on earth, following drugs, armaments and the like, and estimated to rake in around $10 billion each year and growing.

Periodically countries, their representative organisations, or NGO’s, gather to pontificate, pass recommendations and even the occasional law, to stem the illegal trade but it continues and in many ca...

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Frack the Karoo!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, July 16, 2014,

Many folk, including ourselves, are concerned about the impact the proposed gas fracking in the Karoo will have on this semi-arid environment.  Having seen the “fracking fields” of the Dakotas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico at first hand we have become even more alarmed. Definitely not a pretty sight but when it comes to financial returns on this scale these developments (destruction) have a habit of going ahead!  ‘In the national interest’ becomes a battle-cry for governme...


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Large Predator Reintroductions- for what purpose?

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Wednesday, July 16, 2014,

Apart from private game reserves, the SANParks have now got into the act of reintroducing large predators to many of their conservation areas. These include Lion into Karoo, Addo and Mountain Zebra national parks. Numbers are small and will have to remain so but new genetic flow will have to be maintained.  What purpose do these reintroductions serve?  It certainly will do little for overall conservation of the species, especially Lion, Cheetah and Spotted Hyaena

It is argued that these l...


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To cull, or not to cull…..

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, June 27, 2014,

On a recent visit to the Greater Addo Elephant Park, now South Africa’s third largest national park, we wondered as to how long it will be before measures have to be taken to reduce the burgeoning elephant population. The latest population estimate is some 600 individuals and judging by the number of youngsters in the herds it is growing rapidly, at least in elephant terms.

The dropping of the fence between the original game area and the Colchester sector to the south has doubled the ar...


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Follow up to "The Menace of the Domestic Cat"

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Thursday, December 12, 2013,

We photographed the above sign in Naples Zoo, Collier County, about 100 kms south-west of LaBelle (Hendry County). Very wise law! 
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A WALK AROUND CLEARWATER, BC

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, May 17, 2013,

Our time in Clearwater, British Columbia, is rapidly drawing to a close and by the end of May we will be heading towards the Canadian Arctic.

During our 23 months on the edge of the wilderness we have experienced a wealth of wildlife and botanical experiences.  The discovery of a Common Garter Snake hibernaculum at the edge of the North Thompson River just below the hospital was one of them. This year the snakes started to emerge in late April but at the moment just a few can be found, some...


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THE WILDLIFE CORRIDOR

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, May 17, 2013,

We have often discussed the problem of small conservation areas (“pocket handkerchief”) and that in the long-term they and their biota are doomed to decline.  Often surrounded by man-made development, whether urban, agricultural or recreational, there is little, or no, chance that new genetic material will be introduced through natural means. This is especially the case for mammals, other than perhaps bats!

The concept of greenbelts, or wildlife corridors, holds out some hope even for hi...


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CITES meets organized crime

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, March 15, 2013,

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), also known as the Washington Convention, evolved from an IUCN resolution in 1963.  It is without doubt the largest and longest standing conservation and sustainable use agreement on this blighted planet of ours but has it really been of help to the fauna and flora it was set up to protect? Its latest meeting is taking place in Bangkok, Thailand now (3-15 March 2013), amongst much acrimony, horse-trading and business as usual. Ve...


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Author of the month!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Thursday, March 14, 2013,
Struik Nature (www.randomstruik.co.za/struiknature) has chosen us as the authors of the month of March. And - our new compact guide ON TRACK is chosen as the pick of the month of March.
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New e-book!

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Saturday, February 23, 2013,
Good news! The title 'National Parks and Nature Reserves - a South African fieldguide' is now also available as e-book in pdf file, with kalahari.net and Amazon. 
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The Menace of the Domestic Cat

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Tuesday, February 19, 2013,
Some years ago we wrote an article on the threat domestic and feral cats (Felis catus) pose to the smaller wildlife of Southern Africa. But this is not the only problem, they also readily interbreed with the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), and because of this in some areas few pure wildcat remain. At the time we advocated limits on the numbers of domestic cats, including licencing as required for dogs, and control in the numbers of feral cats. This resulted in an outcry from so-cal...
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Up and running...

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Saturday, January 19, 2013,
Although almost a year has gone by since we started our webpage and posted our first short blog, much to our shame nothing was added since. The webpage though has been constantly updated with new books, travel news and nature notes.

Now it is time that we post regular blogs on issues that interest and concern us.

On our home continent of Africa there are a number of conservation issues of grave concern:
  • The highest level of rhino and elephant poaching since the 1980s,
  • growing degredatio...

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Environment

Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Thursday, March 8, 2012,
Tar sands of Alberta - Fracking in Montana, Wyoming or the Great Karoo - Pipelines through the domain of the Spirit Bear in Northern BC - there is no getting away from the demand for more energy.
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