Annual General Meeting
Date: Thursday 22 November 2012
Venue: Vaalwater Rivier Oord
(two km past the Spar on the old Ellisras Road, turn left)
Time: 3:00 pm
Note 3:00 pm start time!
This AGM will be a bit different from our normal meetings. You’ll hear the Conservancy Financial Report and the Chairman’s Annual Report, of course, but we will also
elect the 2013 Executive Committee,
announce our Waterberg Conservationist of the Year,
learn how you can contribute to Pompom Weed Day in January, and
see what we’re doing about other invasive and exotic vegetation.
After all that, a wide-open discussion, with guidance from John Wesson, about the future of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy.
John Wesson is the Chairman of the National Association of Conservancies/Stewardship South Africa (NACSSA) as well as Region Manager Conservation, Wildlife & Environment Society of SA (WESSA).
For this important issue alone, we urge you to attend the meeting.
We’ll conclude with a lekker dinner, most of which provided by the generosity of Marc Dieltjens: sushi, trout, wine and much more.
Non-members are invited to join us for the dinner at a charge of R75.
We absolutely need your RSVP to Heidi Carlton no later than
Monday 12 November 2012.
Call her at 082 336 8757.
Dampening some Rural Legends
by Richard Wadley
A popular statement, in these days filled with assertions about climate change and global warming, is that it doesn’t rain as much in the Waterberg as it used to. And who’s to deny that? The very name “Waterberg”, to say nothing of other names like “24 Rivers”, “Sterkstroom” etc., conjure up an image of this enormous spongy aquifer, saturated with limitless supplies of water.
The truth, of course, well known to most of us who have injected thousands of rands into this ‘sponge’ down dry boreholes, is that generally, our Waterberg is anything but a bounteous source of water. There are a few fortunate holes, drilled into one of the major fractures that transect the region, that do indeed have yields of tens of thousands of litres per hour; but for the most part, Waterberg aquifers are young, small, fracture-fill reservoirs, that empty fast and refill quickly during the rains. And as soon as they fill, they spill – resulting in numerous glistening seeps and springs that give the impression that there is much more water beneath the surface than is actually the case.
As to the legend that rains in historical times were heavier than today, the facts suggest otherwise: my analysis of rainfall records in our area, around Tafelkop and Sondagsloop, covering a continuous period from 1930, shows a distinct, if very slight upward trend in rainfall over that 80 year period, from an annual mean of about 580 mm in 1930 to around 610 mm today. Small, yes, but significant. Long may it continue.
And that’s not all: another popular rural legend is that if the rains should commence before Kruger Day (10 October), watch out – a dry season is looming!
I’m not able to extract rainfall prior to 10 October for all the years concerned, but certainly, the rainfall that is recorded in the period from July to end-October since 1930 provides no clue whatsoever as to the total that might be recorded for the season as a whole. There is just no trend evident (Chart 1). Oom Paul can rest in peace.
What does appear to be true, however (Chart 2), is that good early rains (i.e. before end-October) might lead to poorer rainfall in the second half of the season (January-July); in other words, good early rains could mean that the whole season could be earlier (though not necessarily poorer) than normal – although even here, the trend is weak. As we see this season, the veld seems to welcome the early rain, with many species flowering and fruiting more prolifically than usual; but it could also result in a long, dry winter, especially if followed by a late or poor season the following year.
The High Cost of Climate Change
by Alan Harman; Published in Farmer’s Weekly, 15 October 2012, reprinted by permission.
Some 100 million people worldwide will die in the next 18 years as a result of climate change, according to a report commissioned by 20 governments and prepared by the humanitarian organisation, DARA.
Global economic growth will be cut by 3,2% of gross domestic product by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change.
Doing little or nothing about climate change is already causing R9,9 trillion in losses around the world, and these costs will escalate rapidly.
The report links climate change and the carbon economy to 5 million deaths a year.
Of these, 400 000 are due to hunger and communicable diseases aggravated by climate change, while 4,5 million deaths are linked to air pollution, hazardous occupations and cancer.
The report said South Africa’s average annual economic costs due to climate change were R411 million in 2010. This would rise to R2,05 billion in 2030.
Launching the report during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina said a 1°C rise in temperature would lead to a 10% productivity loss in farming.
Virtually all of the costliest drought years have occurred in the past two decades and the impact is very widespread, with some 160 countries likely to experience high vulnerability to drought by 2030, said the report.
Exotic Game – Some Questions
by Ken Maud
When you keep on blowing up a balloon it will eventually burst. Throughout history there have been investment opportunities that have caught the imagination of the public and which, through greed and ingenuity, have caused prices to rise way beyond where they should be. It is usually the people who get drawn into the situation long after it has started that are left holding the balloon when it bursts. It is the insiders that get in early in the cycle who usually make the profits …unless they, too, get carried away and greed takes over.
Given the recent price escalations in so called “exotic game” or Crowned Game one must ask the question whether the balloon is being blown up much too quickly. Twenty one years ago in 1991 there were recorded sales of only 7 Sable antelope in auctions in the whole of South Africa. The price of those Sables was R25,285. By August 2012 the number of Sable auctioned (excluding Zambian, West Zambian and Tanzania bloodlines) had risen to 440 and we still have two months of sales to report! The average price for last year appears to be R177,966 with the latest record price being R12,200,000 paid for a Zambian bull and R525,000 for a Matetsi bull!
There are added factors that one has to give careful consideration to. What is the end game plan for the animals? Are they to be hunted? If so, who is going to pay the high prices to shoot them? There will always be a select few hunters who could afford them at the current high prices but for the average hunter it is surely out of the question.
Another question that should be asked is: will the breeder risk putting his R150,000 Sable out into the veld when there is a good chance that it may be taken by a leopard or be infected by ticks and now needs to fend for himself without special diets? It would certainly be an interesting exercise to see what would happen to these highly priced and pampered animals if they were to be set free in their natural environments. Has anyone tried? Is anyone prepared to take the chance? If not, why are they being bred?
Although we have used Sable as an example in this article surely the same arguments can be made for the other so called exotic species such as Buffalo, Roan, Nyala, etc? The question of colour variants is a whole different issue but I would expect the same logic must eventually apply?
More recently there have been a number of articles comparing the growth in prices in exotic game to the stock market indices, the price of gold and other measurables. Again history has shown when that begins to happen we are nearing the end of the cycle. In case we think we are immune I refer you to a wonderful book written by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841, and called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
The simple law of economics dictates that supply is soon going to exceed demand. If we take the high number of applications that only Limpopo Province receives this can happen very soon. What is then going to happen to the price? With the maturity of the game industry in South Africa we are already seeing the prices of regular plains game tailoring off.
Rhino Poaching in the Waterberg
by Victoria Crake
Dear Rhino Owners and Members of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy,
I work at Ant’s Nest for Ant and Tessa Baber. We were hit by rhino poachers in December 2011 and they killed one of our white rhino cows together with her eleven month old baby. Despite beefing up security, we were hit again at the end of July this year, when another of our cows was shot.
Pelham Jones has told us that history dictates that once one rhino has been poached, the poachers will return again and again until they have wiped out the entire population. For obvious reasons we are extremely keen that any plans to do this are thwarted as quickly as possible.
We decided to find a vehicle to raise funds to dedicate to protecting our rhinos from poaching. Our plight was recently publicised by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, who posted a message on his website. Following this we had offers of support from all over the world.
However, we do not just want to help ourselves; we want to help other rhino owners and landowners in the Waterberg area. We understand from personal experience that the necessary enhanced security comes at a massive cost to private rhino owners. We feel that there is a need for an area-wide initiative.
Rather than setting up our own charity, we decided to link up with OSCAP (www.oscap.co.za) and want to our initiative to benefit rhino owners all over the Waterberg area. We have called this initiative “Save the Waterberg Rhinos”.
OSCAP has set up a separate bank account for us to accept donations into, and we plan to make this completely transparent to donors in order that they know exactly where their money is going. Any funds raised through this initiative will be put towards securing rhinos in the Waterberg and perhaps eventually even further afield. Any initiative which aids rhino security will also assist in the general security of the area.
We very much hope that you would like to become involved in this initiative. You may be a rhino owner who has not yet been hit by poaching but sadly it is probably only a matter of time. We have movement all over our farm on a daily basis and thought it couldn’t happen to us, but it has – twice.
We are looking for people from the local community who would like to become involved in both overseeing the management of the initiative and rhino owners who we can assist. Additionally some lodges may be able to approach their client database for assistance in fundraising, specifically to help themselves.
We are researching, together with OSCAP, a number of high tech options for protecting rhinos, including CCTV cameras on fence lines and a camera system mounted in a balloon (originally developed by the Israeli military for use on their borders) which has both conventional and infra-red technology. We can see some of these applications working alongside the more traditional ‘feet on the ground.’
In addition to this OSCAP has donated a tracker dog to us. Please be aware that this dog is available to any landowners in the local area who notice that they have suffered an incursion on their land.
We would like to hold a meeting in November to get as many rhino owners in the area as possible together to agree on a way forward for this. Any local landowners and business owners who are interested in getting involved are also very welcome to attend. We would like to use this as a brainstorming session and feel the more people we can get together the better. This meeting will be held at Ant’s Nest on Friday 16th November at 10am. We will be providing lunch for those who wish to stay on after the meeting.
We obviously realise that this undertaking needs to be kept confidential, particularly for those of you who do not publicise that you have rhinos on your property.
Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is offering prizes for your snaps of Waterberg Leopards, African Wild Dogs, Cheetahs or Brown Hyaenas.
Any picture taken with a trail camera or hand-held camera in the last 5 years is eligible. Photos showing the side of the animal are particularly useful but all pictures are welcome, even if they only show part of the animal.
There are some great prizes on offer including:
- A 2 night stay for 2 people at the elegant and intimate Makweti Safari Lodge in the Waterberg’s Welgevonden Game Reserve, valued at up to R18 000 (includes meals and safaris)
- A CAMERA TRAPS cc Reconyx (HC-600 Hyperfire TM) trail camera valued at R7 000
- A 7 night self-catering stay for 4 people in a luxury cottage at the Waterberg’s Izintaba Private Game Reserve, valued at R10 400
- A 1-day digital photography course provided by Wild Eye Johannesburg, valued at R975
To submit your photos and enter the prize draw:
Post: Carnivore Conservation Programme,
Endangered Wildlife Trust, Private Bag X11, Modderfontein, 1645, Johannesburg
Alternatively, you can deposit CD/DVD’s of your photos in our drop boxes at Spar Vaalwater, Spar Modimolle and Pick n Pay Lephalale
Don’t forget to include:
- GPS location of the camera
- Which pictures were taken at each camera location
- Your contact details and registered farm name e.g. Buffelspoort 123
- If you are using a trail camera, don’t forget to set the correct date and time first
Further details of the photo contest and citizen science trail camera survey (including advice on camera placement) can be found at www.ewt.org.za
What Goes Around, Comes Around
Land grabs a hundred years ago
by Richard Wadley
After the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886, instantly wealthy entrepreneurs needed to find ways in which to make themselves even richer. One route was to create companies that would purchase agricultural land in new areas being formally surveyed for the first time. The rationale was that the development that would surely accompany the expected growth in mining would necessitate growth in agriculture in the region. And there was always the possibility of further mineral discoveries.
The Waterberg was a prime target for land acquisition: by 1899, according to a detailed map produced by Friedrich Jeppe, almost half the land (with its attendant mineral rights, of course) on the Waterberg Plateau had been ‘grabbed’ by only three land companies: the Transvaal Consolidated Land Co., which became Rand Mines; the Oceana (Transvaal) Land Co., which became absorbed into Goldfields; and the Anglo-French Land Co., which later bought control of Oceana. Others, like the Oslo Land Company, would follow.
The means by which these acquisitions were made were often unscrupulous: company agents would accompany the ZAR surveyors in the field and immediately rush back to Pretoria to stake their employer’s claim on the most promising properties (at a shilling an acre!); other agents would persuade struggling existing owners to sell their land in exchange for a tenuous right to remain on it as tenants. Johann Rissik, then the Surveyor-General of the ZAR and later to become Minister of Lands in the Botha government, was concurrently a director of the Transvaal Consolidated Land Co. – reminding us (if any were needed) that conflicts of interest among Government officials and opportunistic land acquisitions are not recent phenomena!
In the next few years, the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War - with its disruption of farming activity, the destruction of farmsteads, commandeering of cattle and horses, forced removal (and internment) of families and their subsequent impoverishment - aggravated by a prolonged drought, would provide further cheap acquisition opportunities for land companies.
Devastating though it undoubtedly was for the Waterberg community, not every aspect of this ruthlessly capitalistic process was negative, however. Oceana, for example, lobbied the Kruger government into the construction of the railway line from Pretoria to Pietersburg (Polokwane) and even contributed the bulk of its cost. It also tried, unsuccessfully, to have a branch line built to its newly-discovered tin mine at Rooiberg. And, far from sitting idly – or expectantly - on the land they had acquired so cheaply, the companies moved quickly to hire appropriate expertise and to develop its agricultural potential. This would turn the plateau into an important beef farming region for the next century, and provide the motivation for further investments, like the railway line from Modimolle (Nylstroom) to Vaalwater.
Revised, October 2012
Jeppe, Friedrich (1899): Jeppe’s Map of the Transvaal or South African Republic and Surrounding Territories (Sheet 2 of 6). ZAR, Pretoria.
Natrass, Gail (1989): The tin mines of the Waterberg (Transvaal), 1905-1914. Contree 26 / 1989 (5-12).
Trapido, Stanley (1978): Landlord and Tenant in a Colonial Economy: The Transvaal (1880-1910). Journal of Southern African Studies 5 (1) (26-58).
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Members of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy can now place adverts in our Newsletter for free. We’ll put your advert in the left hand column on the first page. Don’t make it too long. Sell goods, fill job vacancies, seek employment, etc. For non-members, there is a fee of R100 per issue.
The Newsletter is distributed all members at 126 addresses plus an additional 142 others who are interested in the Conservancy. That’s 268 people, and still growing.