HELP OUR AILING OCEANS
Saturday, 16 September is International Coastal Clean-up Day and a number of Trans Africa Safaris’ staff are lending a hand on Cape Town beaches. Events are planned in Hout Bay (Cape Town), Plettenberg Bay and a number of other coastal towns in effort to spread awareness of marine pollution, and assist in beach clean-up operations.
This is a chance for us to reflect on the impact that our species has on the marine environment and hopefully an opportunity to do something, no matter how small, to relieve the pressure on the re st of the species with whom we share this space.
Propelled by the wind and ocean currents, litter – which is highly persistent in the environment – travels very long distances and becomes widely dispersed throughout the oceans. With this pollution increasingly in the form of tiny plastic bits, picking up a few bottles left on the beach can feel far removed from the massive problem of miniscule plastic bits (known as microplastics) floating out at sea. Plastic starts breaking down, or degrading, when exposed to light and high temperatures from the sun. This process known as photo-oxidation happens much faster on land than in the comparatively cool waters of the ocean.
On a sunny, warm beach, a plastic water bottle starts to show the effects of photo-oxidation. Its surface becomes brittle and tiny cracks start forming. Those larger shards of plastic break apart into smaller and smaller pieces. A brisk wind or child playing on the beach may cause this brittle outer layer of plastic to crumble. The tide washes these now tiny pieces of plastic into the ocean.
Once in the ocean, the process of degrading slows down for the remains of this plastic bottle. It can sink below the water surface, where less light and heat penetrate and less oxygen is available. In addition, plastics can quickly become covered in a thin film of marine life, which further blocks light from reaching the plastic and breaking it down. And so these microplastics can exist for many decades in our oceans.
Some of the devastating effects of marine pollution are:
• One million seabirds are killed by marine pollution every year
• 100,000 turtles and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and seals, are killed by plastic marine litter every year around the world
• Plastics are the most common man-made objects sighted at sea, with 18,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square kilometre of the world’s oceans!
• Six million tonnes of debris enters the world’s oceans every year, weighing about the same as a million elephants!
• More than 260 animal species worldwide have become entangled in or consumed fishing line, nets, ropes and other discarded equipment
• An astounding 86 per cent of all marine turtles are affected by marine debris
• Every day ships throughout the world discard 5.5 million pieces of rubbish into our oceans
• Carbon emissions into our atmosphere are killing our coral reefs! Our oceans are absorbing the excess carbon dioxide and becoming more acidic. The acid is literally ‘eating away’ the skeleton of the corals
The iconic BIG FIVE – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard – have long dominated the list of must-sees on an African safari.
It is, however, also important to acknowledge the smaller creatures, and in particular, five small animals called the ‘LITTLE FIVE.’ Certainly nowhere near as popular as the Big Five, or other terrestrial and marine mammals, they nonetheless have an important role to play in nature and an effort is being made to draw attention these ‘Little Five.’
The list comprises:
The ant lion
The ant lion is an odd member of the bushveld, but one you’re quite likely to recognise. These creatures dig conical depressions in dry, soft sand and use these as a trap to catch ants.
Ant lions sometimes develop wings and resemble dragonflies, although they are not particularly well-adapted for flight.
The buffalo weaver
Red-billed buffalo weavers are known to be social birds that build their nests in the forked branches of tall trees. They nest in open, noisy colonies and their nests are easily recognised by their messy construction.
The rhinoceros beetle
One of the largest beetles in Africa, the rhino beetle has horns on its head that resemble a rhino’s. Both males and females are horned, but only the males are known to use their horns when fighting rivals. Other uses for the horns include digging, climbing and mating.
The leopard tortoise
Getting its name from the colour of its shell, the leopard tortoise is one of the largest breeds of tortoise in southern Africa. A mature leopard tortoise can weigh over 23 kilograms, with a shell circumference of up to one metre. Leopard tortoises live in savannah and grassland areas and like to be close to water.
The elephant shrew
This tiny insectivore is named because of its long, trunk-like snout. These shrews are found in grasslands and rocky outcrops and only grow to a length of about 250mm, with an average weight of 60 grams. Due to their speed and size, the chance of spotting one of these in the wild is slim, so seeing one before you see an actual elephant is something to be proud of!
These are three words you will undoubtedly come across when planning your safari adventure through Africa: The Big Five. The photographic safari industry borrowed the term from the game hunting industry and adapted it for their own marketing efforts. The term Big Five was given to the five mammals that were the most dangerous to hunt because of their unpredictable behaviour.
Today, for safari enthusiasts, photographing the Big Five, is very sought after and ticking these off your list, is highly regarded in game viewing circles.
So, who are The Big Five?
The African Elephant
The Cape Buffalo
The African Leopard
The African Lion
The African Rhino
The AFRICAN ELEPHANT is the largest of the Big Five and also the largest land animal in the world.
Fascinating facts about the African elephant:
- An adult elephant eats up to 375 lbs of plant material a day
- Baby elephants are breastfed up to the age of four or five years. This is also the time when their tusks start to grow
- At aged ten to twelve, a young elephant will leave its family
- Elephants are very communicative and sociable. They use a wide range of sounds to communicate with each other, sounds which can be heard up to six miles away
- Elephants live in herds of up to 100
The name CAPE BUFFALO covers four species of the African Buffalo. It’s one of Africa’s most dangerous animals and a formidable adversary for lion – Africa’s supreme predator.
Fascinating facts about the Cape Buffalo:
- Cape Buffalo live in large herds – up to 1 000 animals
- They need to drink daily, so you will find them near water holes, lakes and rivers
- Buffalo protect their calves by placing them in the middle of the herd so that they are protected by all the adults
- The Ox-Pecker is a bird who is the Cape Buffalo’s personal cleaner. The Ox-Pecker will sit on the Cape Buffalo’s back, eating all the parasites and making the buffalo much more comfortable
The LEOPARD is common in many of the African national parks. It is master of disguise and can be elusive.
Fascinating facts about the African leopard:
- Its coat provides perfect camouflage
- Leopards are roaming loners: they’re solitary and won’t stay in one place for more than a few days
- Leopards will pull their kill into trees so that lions and hyenas can’t get to it
- Leopards are extremely dexterous – excellent swimmers and capable jumping ten feet high from a standing postion
THE AFRICAN LION. For thousands of years we’ve been fascinated by this beautiful, elegant and robust member of the cat family. Lions are impressive and excellent hunters, although you will more likely find them resting in the shade.
Fascinating facts about the lion:
- A lion can sleep for up to 20 hours a day
- Female lions support each other in rearing their cubs
- Female lions are responsible for most of the hunting, whilst the males are quick to arrive at mealtime!
- A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles (8 km) away
There are two types of RHINO in Africa: the black and the white rhino. The black rhino is highly endangered with their population currently estimated to be only 4,000 animals throughout Africa. There are larger numbers of the white rhino – about 17,000 animals. Most of these occur in South Africa, but are in recent years are under serious threat of poaching.
Fascinating facts about the African rhino:
- An adult white rhino is big, weighing in at an impressive 6000 lbs
- Rhinos are short-sighted and short-tempered
- A rhino’s gestation period is 15- 16 months
- A rhino horn weighs up to 6 to 8 lbs
- Although bulky, rhino are surprisingly fast, capable of speeds of 35 mph
Information courtsey of African Geographic
Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is widely regarded as one of Africa’s finest wildlife sanctuaries. You can see why by clicking on the arrow to view new video footage of the park’s many highlights. Video courtesy of the Bushcamp Company
TAS TEAM IN LOVE WITH VENICE!
To celebrate a fantastic year, the Trans Africa Safaris team travelled to Venice last week on an incentive trip. For some in the office, this was their first time abroad, and, WOW, did we all have fun, or what …?!
The sights, the food (gelato is food too, right?!), the excursions and the shopping – what is there not to love in this beautiful city?!
We’re back home now and working hard towards our next target.
A special thanks to the IC Bellagio team for all their assistance in making this such a wonderful visit.
TRANS AFRICA SAFARIS PARTNERS WITH FROST ATTORNEYS FOR CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY
Lesley Botha and Jennifer Paterson are Rotarians with Kirstenbosch Rotary Club and through Rotary were introduced to John Muir of Frost Attorneys. John has been involved with Eldene Primary School in Elsie River, Cape Town for the past four years and formed the Kidz Club to help these pupils. Many of these children come from impoverished and/or abusive backgrounds and are facilitated every alternate Saturday by the Cape Town Church of Christ.
Approximately 200 leaners from the school are supported through this psychosocial intervention. Interventions are required for children who are made vulnerable at an early age as a result of various social factors
John comments “a successful transition into adulthood depends heavily on these types of interventions as well as consistent support through all key developmental stages. Services offered to the children also include nutritional support. Key to this is ensuring that nutritional support programmes continue during the holidays when the school is closed.”
John adds that it has been said “IT IS EASIER TO RAISE STRONG CHILDREN THAN TO REPAIR BROKEN MEN.” Sage words indeed …!
Through John, Trans Africa Safaris, organized a snake show for the children and gave each of the 200 children a Christmas hamper comprising various sweets, chocolates, drinks and a toy. TAS is not sending Christmas cards this year and decided to support this school in lieu of cards.