Loves and life on the Garden Route in South Africa

Through the eyes of volunteer coordinator and crazy cat lady, Sharon

Cat’s Christmas present December 28, 2013

Filed under: animals,Cats,Persian cat,Pets — shadreyer @ 11:31 am
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Yesterday my fur boys Christmas present that I ordered finally arrived in the mail. I got so excited, I’m dying to see how they attack this you, only to realize I need batteries for it!!!
So this morning it was off to the shops to get batteries. BUT my boyfriend begged me not to let them play with it until he got home from work. So now their Christmas present has been put off till 6.30 pm and hopefully I’ll get some great photos! So excited!

Video to follow later after 6.30 pm ☺️

So now we have put the batteries in the toy sand the boys have been having fun with their new toy, which looks like a yellow UFO!

Follow up: I’m having problems uploading the video in it’s format but here’s a photo for now

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Dereck And Beverly Joubert; Explorers On The Front Lines Of Lion Conservation December 3, 2013

Filed under: animals,Cats,conservation,lion,Nature,wildlife — shadreyer @ 4:56 am
 

Lions in the cross hairs November 19, 2013

Filed under: animals,Cats,conservation,lion,wildlife — shadreyer @ 8:30 am
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Lions in the cross hairs

Lions were shot out of the vast majority of South Africa by the early twentieth century. A species that once ranged across virtually the entire country was reduced to the areas now known as Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Since that low point, lions have returned to 47 South African reserves. Lions re-established themselves in two national parks, most recently in 2000 when they recolonised Mapungubwe National Park after crossing from Botswana, and man has reintroduced them to 45 other reserves. Even so, today South Africa has just 3,000 wild lions, twenty times fewer big cats than the spectator capacity of Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium, home of the Lions rugby team.

That is a startlingly low number, given how prominently the species features in the public imagination of the South African bush. With numbers so low, conservation efforts must be concentrated where they are needed most. I wondered, does this include captive breeding?

Captive breeding

There are currently more lions living in captivity in South Africa than there are in the wild. Captive breeders frequently claim to operate in the interests of lion conservation, with the “lion encounter” industry charging tourists to view, walk with and even pet lion cubs. With so much publicity raised by these encounters, there is good reason to believe that the captive breeding industry attracts considerable funds intended for lion conservation. But in reality, the lion encounter industry has more to do with the business of tourism than with conservation.

The Lion Park, located a short drive from Johannesburg, describes itself as “an eco-tourism destination that focuses on the well-being and regeneration of the various species [of predator]. We are neither a game reserve or a Zoo, but rather a breeding ground and sanctuary for important species”.

The Lion Park. Captive lions viewed by captive tourists.

The Lion Park. Captive lions viewed by captive tourists.

I asked volunteer, Ursula Lorentz, why she volunteered to work at the Lion Park, “I’m passionate about conservation. I love lions. I thought this was the best way to help them” she told me. If Ursula’s sole motivation was to help lion conservation, I couldn’t help feeling she’d been duped. She paid €1 295 (around R18,000, US$1,750 or £1,100) for her two week experience, as well as the cost of her international flight.

Put bluntly, lion breeding programmes do not assist conservation. Here’s why: Many reserves in South Africa are currently forced to cull wild lions because they have too many lions for the size of their protected area. There is absolutely no demand for “rehabilitated” captive bred lions. Indeed, every one of the 46 reserves in South Africa where lions have been reintroduced to the wild have been stocked with lion originating from Kruger, the Kgalagadi, or Etosha National Park in Namibia. No captive bred lion has ever been reintroduced to a South Africa reserve.

Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera, the world’s leading wild cat conservation organisation told me “Even though lions are declining and some populations are in trouble, captive breeding for reintroduction is simply not useful or necessary. […] Saving the lion hinges on protecting large, wilderness areas.”

So the real problem is a lack of space.

Space, the real frontier

Other than the lions in Kruger and the Kgalagadi, the lions in the other South African reserves are, and need to be, intensively managed to ensure their long term survival. The reason is that these reserves, which by any ordinary measurement are massive, are still small in lion conservation terms where reserves under 1,000km2 are considered “smaller reserves”. South Africa’s “smaller reserves” are home to some 700 or so lions and because of their size they face an array of management issues as human intervention is required to simulate natural processes.

Unlike other countries on the continent, every South African lion lives behind fencing. This limits the chances of conflict with humans but has negative impacts too. For instance, the fencing prevents sub-adults from dispersing between reserves and is a factor increasing the risk of inbreeding.

So-called smaller reserves also have fewer prides and fewer large nomadic males, meaning reduced or absent competition between males for pride primacy. The reign of males in smaller reserves is substantially longer than in Kruger and the Kgalagadi, where frequent change of pride leader ends with the death of cubs sired by the previous male chief. The population growth rate of lions in smaller reserves is therefore unnaturally and unsustainably higher. If lion numbers are allowed to grow beyond ecological limits, there are obvious impacts for prey species and the long term biodiversity of entire reserves.

A lion being translocated. Copyright Susan Miller 

A lion being translocated. Copyright Susan Miller

Not enough land in South Africa is dedicated to lion conservation to enable a wild population much above the 3,000 we already have. In recent years few new reserves have been established, causing a collapse in the market for lion translocations between reserves. While this remains the case, culling wild lions that exceed the carrying capacity of the reserve is a sad necessity.  In such a case, it is often sub-adults that are culled, simulating emigration that would have occurred naturally if lions had space to migrate away from their pride.

A far more controversial but conservation-appropriate method of controlling lion numbers is culling part of a litter of cubs. In smaller reserves, cubs have an unnaturally high survival rate. This form of culling could therefore simulate natural levels of cub mortality. There would also be a positive knock-on effect that the lioness will not come back into oestrus whilst at least one cub survives, thereby further slowing birth rates. Culling cubs would be a shocking and ethically challenging intervention, but given the limited space dedicated to conservation, drastic interventions such as this are being considered.

South African lions, outside Kruger and the Kgalagadi, live a kind of Truman Show existence. Like Jim Carrey’s character in the famous film, the lions (and most people watching them on game drives) are unaware that their lives in the wild are partially contrived. Each reserve manager knows how many lion the reserve can support, females may be on contraception, and when populations reach certain thresholds individuals will be earmarked for removal.

A lion translocation. Copyright Susan Miller.

A lion translocation. Copyright Susan Miller.

Around 200 wild lions were culled in South Africa between 2010 and 2012. These were not lions bred for hunting but lions on reserves known for photographic tourism. In 2011, at one reserve in the North West, 70 lions were culled. The reserve is over 700km2, but even so it lacked the carrying capacity for the number of lions which had bred.

Real conservation

There is much talk about large scale expansion of reserves and the establishment of wildlife corridors suitable for lions to migrate between reserves. The designation of a third reserve the size of Kruger or the Kgalagadi, which would not require the kind of interventions I’ve discussed above, would be the ideal. But it is exceptionally unlikely to happen. Human population numbers are rising and the demand for land for agriculture and housing is ever increasing, not to mention physical human barriers such as roads. So what other options are there?

Susan Miller, of the Tshwane University of Technology, researches the growth factors and genetics of lion in smaller reserves. She spoke to me about what she regards as the only realistic short to medium term intervention to aid lion conservation. Susan believes the next step is to properly regulate the management of lions outside Kruger and the Kgalagadi as one single population – a metapopulation. Individual reserves would not make lion management decisions alone but as part of a coordinated national scheme for the 47 smaller reserves. As Susan explained, part of the metapopulation approach would be, for instance, to “have four or five regional nodes within which translocations occur more regularly, with less frequent translocation between the nodes.” It would aid the genetic integrity of the metapopulation and also be closer what would happen naturally, with lions migrating to neighbouring areas rather than randomly across the country. The plan is not merely an academic idea; it is being developed by the Lion Management Forum, comprised of both managers of the smaller reserves and scientists. This approach therefore benefits from the input of those with practical on the ground conservation knowledge as well as academics.

While this does not take away the need for intense human intervention, the metapopulation approach advocated by Susan and the Lion Management Forum would assist with lion conservation far better than any captive breeding program.

The extent to which South Africa’s wild lion population is managed might be surprising but it is the only option whilst human land uses mean land set aside for conservation is so limited and fragmented. Anyone uneasy with the extent to which we must manage our lion populations should be clear about the real issue in South African lion conservation: we certainly do not need to breed more lions, we need to monopolise less land.

 

Canned hunting in a nutshell by Chris Mercier

Filed under: animals,Cats,conservation,lion,Nature,South Africa,wildlife — shadreyer @ 8:28 am
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Canned hunting in a nutshell by Chris Mercier

Canned Lion Hunting in a Nutshell

AFRICAN LION DATA

1.      50 years ago an estimated 100,000 lions roamed across Africa.

2.     Lion habitat has declined by 75% since then and lion numbers have dropped to less than 20,000

3.     Only 9 countries in Africa have more than 1000 lions, while Tanzania alone now has 40% of the whole lion population

4.     The African lion is heading for extinction.

5.     Main driver for lion destruction is the reckless breeding habits of Africa’s human population.  For instance, Kenya had a small population of 5 million people at the end of WW2, but that population has exploded to over 30 million.

6.     Human over- population in rural areas means lions are killed routinely to protect livestock.

7.     Trophy hunting is also a major cause of lion numbers declining, especially since the trophy hunter always wants the magnificent pride male, and once he has been removed, pride cohesion breaks down, with competing males killing all the cubs.  It has been estimated that it can take 7 years before that pride can recover fully from the killing of the pride male.

8.     Because hunters have wiped out so many wild lions there is a demand for a constant supply of living targets and lion farming has increased dramatically in South Africa.

9.     In the last fifteen years the number of captive lions in S.A. has increased from almost zero to over 8000.  That is twice as many as there are wild  lions (4000)

10.                      Lion farmers grow out lions for at least three years before they reach huntable size.   To help pay the cost of rearing lions, lion farmers rent out their cubs to be played with by tourists.   And they take in volunteers who pay to be allowed to work at a lion farm (deceitfully described usually as a lion sanctuary)

11.                      What you can do to help the African lion:-

a.     Cub petting.  Do not patronise any tourist resort where cub-petting is allowed.

b.      Volunteers.  Do not volunteer at any facility where breeding of lions takes place.   If there are cubs then it is a lion farm breeding centre.

c.      Write to your MEP.  And ask her to ban the import of African lion/leopard trophies in to Europe.

 

Caramel Caracals November 12, 2013

This is so worth the read. Fiona also lives on the Garden Route although not in my town. I hope these cute babies grow up and get to live in the wild again in a safe enviroment but as they are so young they might need to stay in an animal sanctuary until older and rehabilitated

Fiona Ayerst's Blog

On Saturday I had a chance encounter with three lovely angels. Three wild; caramel coloured; woolly; orphaned caracal kittens of about 4-5 weeks old popped into my life. Their location will remain a secret, as this announcement will most likely not be popular with farmers.

 

The word caracal is derived from the Turkish words kara kulak, which means, “black ear”.The caracal is the largest African lesser cat and an exceptional climber and jumper. It is slender with long legs and a short, sharply tapered tail. The Caracal resembles a cross between a leopard and a lynx. Its coat is reddish-brown with long and very distinctive tufted ears and white markings around its eyes and on its throat, chin, and belly.In South Africa the caracal is often named (Afrikaans) Rooikat- translated to red cat. The belly and the undersides of the legs and chest are whitish and spotted or blotched…

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Animal affairs July 5, 2013

I work for an international volunteer organization that has numerous volunteer placements in disadvantaged communities, schools and NPO’s in my area. One of our newest placements is with our local animal welfare. I have my first volunteer there for 4 weeks from America. She is studying Veterinary Science with 7 years of studying under her belt already.

This has given me a chance to get a glimpse into the world of an animal welfare. I’ve always known how well run and above board our local animal welfare is but I’ve never realized the extent of the sadness they must be faced with daily. Just this morning on dropping my volunteer off I witnessed a man who had brought in his sick 7 month old Greyhound. They will now diagnose her and see what is wrong with her. I hope it’s not serious as the love this man had for his pup was clear to see.

2 minutes after that I spoke to a local chap that I know. He was there to see his pit bull puppy that had been attacked twice in the space of a week by neighbors dogs. Despite a fence around his property other dogs had got to her. He had brought her in yesterday and came in to see her this morning before work. She jumped all over him with excitement but unfortunately she is scared of strangers especially in this strange surroundings. She still bares stitches across a huge scar on her jaw where the other dogs ripped her open and now has fresh wounds to be treated. Poor chap is going to need to speak to his neighbors about making the fence higher and securing his property more as they will undoubtably kill her otherwise. In actual fact these neighboring dogs should be off the streets as they are far too vicious but in poor communities its a lot harder to afford to do home improvements if not possible at all due to lack of funds.

Plenty of cats sitting in their cattery either lost or looking for homes. The cattery is great, plenty of soft bedding, scratch posts, fresh food and water and clean litter trays. Not to mention lots of stimulation in the form of climbing apparatus and toys. But there is a lack of volunteers looking to come and spend an hour playing with the cats. They have plenty of volunteers that come into walk the dogs but sadly not for the feline friends. As a lover of cats with 3 of my own I think I must look into volunteering an hour of my time once a week to sit and play with these gorgeous creatures.

And talking to my volunteer has been really interesting. Apart from the number of dogs that have been hit by cars that they have needed to treat there is also a total lack of preventative care which comes down to education on caring for your animals.

It’s been quite an eye opener to me and has only made me more appreciative of the people that work in this heart breaking industry

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Over a year June 4, 2013

Filed under: Cats,knysna,Persian cat,Pets — shadreyer @ 3:39 pm

It’s been over a year since my three fury boys came to stay and I think it’s time I showed a few more recent photos. Harley , the older rescue, has more or less stayed the same weight but the two little brothers , Mac and Stormer, who were 9 months when I got them, have grown into big solid fur balls. They easily outweigh Harley now and spend most of their time either loving each other or fighting

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