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Waterberg Nature Conservancy Newsletter 

 

 

 

Occasionally issued news of interest to WNC members and others in the Waterberg                        Number 24   May 2013
 
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Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meeting

Date: Thursday, 14 November 2013
Time: 2:00 pm
Note New Venue: NG Kerk Vaalwater
from 4-way stop in town toward Melkrivier
turn left at third street (small sign on right says N.G. Kerk)
go one block; church is on the corner

Guest Speaker: David Johnson
Too Much Consumption, Too Many People.
Why environmentalists must change their approach to population.

 

When practicing law in the UK, Hong Kong, Ireland and South Africa, David’s work focussed on securing planning permission for large infrastructure projects and their environmental issues.  He was always fascinated by some of the less obvious impacts of the developments he worked on.  In June 2012 he closed his successful Cape Town legal practice and began research on the project he launched in April 2013: Too Much Too Many.

Human population and consumption growth are having profound and dramatic impacts on South African people, landscapes, wildlife and culture, but the topic is largely taboo.  This need not be the case, if only we’d change the way we discuss it. Environmentalists need to change what they say and do - fast.

Population writing is often divided between those who think we should worry most about population growth (generally in poor countries), and those who think consumption growth in the wealthy nations is a bigger concern.  Through using diverse example impacts from across the nation, I hope to set out a new way of looking at this controversial topic and how we need to update our thinking.  From elephant contraception in the Waterberg to agriculture in the Cape, mining in Mapungubwe, rape in rural Venda and the rubbish dump where the human scavengers all have iPhones, I hope to convince you of why this topic needs to be looked at afresh.

plus
Chairman’s Report and Financial Report
plus
Waterberg Conservationist of the Year
Vaalwater Community Champion
and more.

Extra Special Food and Refreshments Available

RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Tuesday 12 November 2013

 

THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL SERIOUS FIRES RECENTLY.  WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THOSE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING, BUT AT LEAST TWO FIRES WERE CAUSED BY MAN – SPARKS FROM A SLASHER HITTING A ROCK AND SPARKS FROM A WELDING MACHINE.  IT IS NOT WISE TO SLASH AND WELD IN THE BUSH AT THIS TIME OF YEAR

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Nomination for Executive Committee

We are open for nominations for membership of the Executive Committee for 2014.  Nominations must be in writing and must be received by the Secretary at least thirty days prior to the Annual General Meeting, which means no later than Monday 14 October.  Nominations must be signed by one of the members entitled to vote, as well as by the nominee confirming his acceptance of the nomination. Emails accepted

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The Fire Season Warms Up

by Richard Wadley

 

For many of us north of Vaalwater, the first weekend in October will be remembered for the recurrent fire that occupied our time and prevented those for whom rugby is important from suffering the humiliation of witnessing the Springboks suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of the All Blacks.

The fire started on the Friday morning (4 October) as a result of a spark from a grass slasher. Driven by a strong SE wind, it quickly crossed the road (Tarentaalstraat) and headed for a rocky ridge that made access difficult, both because of the terrain and the several farm boundary fences that converged on the highest point. Community response was, as usual, excellent; by 8pm, all the various fire fronts that had started up had been extinguished, with just a few spots burning away inside otherwise burnt-out ground. The wind had died down.

 

Fire in the Waterberg

Early Saturday afternoon (the curtain-raisers were in progress at Ellis Park), a dry hot wind sprang up from the East, found a few lurking embers among the rocks and in no time, the fire was raging across the western edge of the ridge and down onto the grassy slopes of the upper Melk River valley. Remarkably, the response to the radio-ed and sms-ed call for help was both prompt and strong. Maybe people had a premonition about the rugby result. But the wind was now stronger, the terrain tricky and a frontal attack on the flames impossible. Judicious back-burns eventually brought the fires under control by midnight and the fire fighters went home for some much-needed sleep.

But not for long. By 5am, a resurgent wind, now swinging around to the SE, stirred the coals (which had been neglected by the landowner) and the fire took off once again, more fiercely than before. A series of back burns, some good, others inappropriate, either only temporarily impeded the advance of the fires, now on several finger-like fronts, or contributed to the chaos. Yet the response for help again yielded many helpers, some from over 50 km away, several having had only a couple of hours’ sleep. Camps stocking valuable game lay in the fire’s path, as well as several homes and lodges. The growing number of separated fires and the area over which they were spread, made co-ordination and effective control increasingly difficult.

Some owners were panicky; some tired tempers were frayed; water re-supply was not always quick or easy. But the community spirit held; and great work was being done on several fronts simultaneously.  Wisely, a decision was made to call in Working on Fire (WoF). A team arrived from Mookgophong (Naboom) at about 5pm and was immediately deployed in combatting the principal advancing front head-on, accompanied where possible by vehicle-borne units (“bakkie-sakkies”).

The professionalism of the WoF team was inspirational. Well-clad, well-equipped, highly trained, motivated and co-ordinated, they set off in single file along the fire front with their backpack sprayers, beaters and head torches, methodically, systematically tackling the flames that were out of reach of the fire hoses. An effort was made to re-group the various (up to 30) fire units in the area, several of which had been doing ‘their own thing’ which, while commendable, added to the risk that someone might be caught literally, in the cross-fire.

 


In This Issue:

•    Annual General Meeting

•    Nomination for Executive Committee

•    The Fire Season Warms Up

•    Action to be taken when there is a fire

•    Accentuating the Positive

•    Travelling Wild Dogs

•    World Bank Abandons the Waterberg

•    Mammal Distribution Maps

•    Photo Contest Winners: Large Carnivores in the Waterberg

•    Waterberg Rhino Black Tie Evening

•    Information Sheets about Alien and Invasive Plants in the Waterberg

•    Member Profiles

Contact the Waterberg Nature Conservancy through
Heidi Carlton
PO Box 1224; Vaalwater 0530
082 336 8757

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

www.waterbergnatureconservancy.org.za

John Miller, Chair
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

!FOR SALE!

Share Blocks for Sale

There are a number of shares for sale in Hermanusdoorns Share Block.  As all shares have been issued, these shares are offered by individual members. There is a central website created with all current opportunities listed:
www.hdoorns.co.za

Farm for Sale

951 hectares of Waterberg bushveld. Spectacular escarpment views, mountains and valleys. Private nature reserve suitable for tourism, game ranching or equestrian uses, lifestyle living. Two lovely homes. Three guest chalets. Pool. Abundant water. Varied and plentiful birdlife and game. Remote, secluded.  014 721 0063.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Table/Chairs For Sale

Dining Room Set, Handmade Solid Teak 8-Seater suitable for a big lodge dining room.  The "Big Five" are hand-carved into the table top (underneath glass). The chairs depict the "Big Five" on the backrests. It sits eight people with ease.  R24 000 neg.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
082 870 8686; 012 542 1026.

Conservancy for Sale


    Annual General Meeting

Date: Thursday, 14 November 2013
Time: 2:00 pm
Note New Venue: NG Kerk Vaalwater
from 4-way stop in town toward Melkrivier
turn left at third street (small sign on right says N.G. Kerk)
go one block; church is on the corner

Guest Speaker: David Johnson
Too Much Consumption, Too Many People.
Why environmentalists must change their approach to population.

When practicing law in the UK, Hong Kong, Ireland and South Africa, David’s work focussed on securing planning permission for large infrastructure projects and their environmental issues.  He was always fascinated by some of the less obvious impacts of the developments he worked on.  In June 2012 he closed his successful Cape Town legal practice and began research on the project he launched in April 2013: Too Much Too Many.

Human population and consumption growth are having profound and dramatic impacts on South African people, landscapes, wildlife and culture, but the topic is largely taboo.  This need not be the case, if only we’d change the way we discuss it. Environmentalists need to change what they say and do - fast.

Population writing is often divided between those who think we should worry most about population growth (generally in poor countries), and those who think consumption growth in the wealthy nations is a bigger concern.  Through using diverse example impacts from across the nation, I hope to set out a new way of looking at this controversial topic and how we need to update our thinking.  From elephant contraception in the Waterberg to agriculture in the Cape, mining in Mapungubwe, rape in rural Venda and the rubbish dump where the human scavengers all have iPhones, I hope to convince you of why this topic needs to be looked at afresh.

plus
Chairman’s Report and Financial Report
plus
Waterberg Conservationist of the Year
Vaalwater Community Champion
and more.

Extra Special Food and Refreshments Available

RSVP to Heidi Carlton by Tuesday 12 November 2013

THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL SERIOUS FIRES RECENTLY.  WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THOSE CAUSED BY LIGHTNING, BUT AT LEAST TWO FIRES WERE CAUSED BY MAN – SPARKS FROM A SLASHER HITTING A ROCK AND SPARKS FROM A WELDING MACHINE.  IT IS NOT WISE TO SLASH AND WELD IN THE BUSH AT THIS TIME OF YEAR
Nomination for Executive Committee

We are open for nominations for membership of the Executive Committee for 2014.  Nominations must be in writing and must be received by the Secretary at least thirty days prior to the Annual General Meeting, which means no later than Monday 14 October.  Nominations must be signed by one of the members entitled to vote, as well as by the nominee confirming his acceptance of the nomination. Emails accepted.

The Fire Season Warms Up
by Richard Wadley

For many of us north of Vaalwater, the first weekend in October will be remembered for the recurrent fire that occupied our time and prevented those for whom rugby is important from suffering the humiliation of witnessing the Springboks suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of the All Blacks.

The fire started on the Friday morning (4 October) as a result of a spark from a grass slasher. Driven by a strong SE wind, it quickly crossed the road (Tarentaalstraat) and headed for a rocky ridge that made access difficult, both because of the terrain and the several farm boundary fences that converged on the highest point. Community response was, as usual, excellent; by 8pm, all the various fire fronts that had started up had been extinguished, with just a few spots burning away inside otherwise burnt-out ground. The wind had died down.

Early Saturday afternoon (the curtain-raisers were in progress at Ellis Park), a dry hot wind sprang up from the East, found a few lurking embers among the rocks and in no time, the fire was raging across the western edge of the ridge and down onto the grassy slopes of the upper Melk River valley. Remarkably, the response to the radio-ed and sms-ed call for help was both prompt and strong. Maybe people had a premonition about the rugby result. But the wind was now stronger, the terrain tricky and a frontal attack on the flames impossible. Judicious back-burns eventually brought the fires under control by midnight and the fire fighters went home for some much-needed sleep.

But not for long. By 5am, a resurgent wind, now swinging around to the SE, stirred the coals (which had been neglected by the landowner) and the fire took off once again, more fiercely than before. A series of back burns, some good, others inappropriate, either only temporarily impeded the advance of the fires, now on several finger-like fronts, or contributed to the chaos. Yet the response for help again yielded many helpers, some from over 50 km away, several having had only a couple of hours’ sleep. Camps stocking valuable game lay in the fire’s path, as well as several homes and lodges. The growing number of separated fires and the area over which they were spread, made co-ordination and effective control increasingly difficult.

Some owners were panicky; some tired tempers were frayed; water re-supply was not always quick or easy. But the community spirit held; and great work was being done on several fronts simultaneously.  Wisely, a decision was made to call in Working on Fire. A team arrived from Mookgophong (Naboom) at about 5pm and was immediately deployed in combatting the principal advancing front head-on, accompanied where possible by vehicle-borne units (“bakkie-sakkies”).

The professionalism of the WoF team was inspirational. Well-clad, well-equipped, highly trained, motivated and co-ordinated, they set off in single file along the fire front with their backpack sprayers, beaters and head torches, methodically, systematically tackling the flames that were out of reach of the fire hoses. An effort was made to re-group the various (up to 30) fire units in the area, several of which had been doing ‘their own thing’ which, while commendable, added to the risk that someone might be caught literally, in the cross-fire.

By 8pm, the principal front was extinguished and attention was focused on a long (5km plus), eastward-moving fire that was advancing slowly into the wind up a rocky slope. The WoF team, accompanied by a squadron of at least 15 vehicles negotiated its way slowly up the slope in the dark, over rocks and stumps and holes, until it reached the front. Once more, the WoF members, now brightly visible in their reflective overalls and headlamps, set off across the ridge systematically
extinguishing the flames as they went, with a subordinate group following behind to kill off the embers. Fortuitously (the owner being nowhere to be seen), someone found a track that paralleled the fire front; and soon, the vehicles were roaring along it, eventually able to use it as a line from which to run a back-burn. By 10pm, it was all over. The WoF team would remain – all night if need be – to ensure that any re-ignition was quashed immediately and that the edge of the fire was truly extinguished. The rest of us drove gratefully home, some to beds (and families) that had not seen much of them the last three days.

I’d like to pay tribute to two people in particular for their efforts that weekend: Quintus Enslin, on whose farm the fire had started (and to which it almost returned two days later having described a full circle); and Thupa Seegers, farmer and Chair of the local Farmers’ Association. Their calm, reasoned leadership, willingness to take calls and ability to direct fighters to where help was most needed, was exceptional They must have had the least sleep of anyone involved, yet they managed to keep their cool throughout. Thanks guys.

And then there was the WoF team. These men and women are quite outstanding and I’ve no doubt provided an inspiration to everyone present. They knew exactly what to do and wasted no time in getting on with it: a well-trained and –equipped unit of almost military quality, yet good-humoured and without a hint of arrogance. I was reminded of the enormous benefit of being a member of the local Fire Protection Association, which entitles one to make use of WoF. Membership costs R1 per hectare per annum (up to a maximum of R1000; or R1500 if there are commercial lodges); and the only additional cost of bringing in a WoF team is that of transport. If enough people around Vaalwater were to join an FPA, WoF would find it worthwhile to station a team in Vaalwater itself, which would result in faster response times and lower transport costs. To me, it’s a no-brainer: the cheapest insurance on the market, courtesy of the taxpayer.

 

 

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Action To Be Taken When There is a Fire

by Richard Wadley

 

1.    Determine the direction in which the wind is blowing.
2.    Alert landowners and other residents downwind first (in the path of the oncoming fire).
3.    Then alert all your neighbours that there is a fire on your property.
4.    Determine whether or not the fire can definitely be brought under control by you and your staff alone.

 

 

If not, or you are unsure, GET HELP promptly! Contact:
•    By radio – everyone on the system, using Emergency Channel 9
•    The Conservancy’s free sms service:  Richard Wadley on 083 609 1425 or Lyn Wadley on 083 609 1464. They will send out a free bulk sms to people in your area, requesting assistance at the fire, provided you give them the information requested below.
•    Your local Fire Protection Association, if you are a member. And at a subscription of R1 per hectare per annum (maximum R1000), membership is a no-brainer: anyone who has seen a Working on Fire team in action on the ground will know that. You pay only their transport costs.

DON’T BE TOO PROUD TO CALL FOR HELP!

It is better to get assistance early, while the fire is still small enough to be brought under control easily.

 

5.    Ensure that all the entrance gates are unlocked.

 

INFORMATION THAT WILL BE REQUIRED BY HELPERS

1.    The precise location – farm or lodge name, owner/manager’s name – of the fire.
2.    Where fire fighters should go – which road to take, which gate to enter.
3.    A cell number or radio call sign people can use to obtain information and directions.

FIRE CO-ORDINATOR

4.    If possible, someone should be available at the number quoted above to answer phone / radio calls and answer questions.
5.    Have information available about water-filling sites – tanks, cement reservoirs, dams etc.
6.    If the fire becomes too big and / or dangerous for you and community fighters to manage, you may need to call in the FPA and Working on Fire – at your cost. This is another reason why it makes sense to call for neighbourhood assistance early.

INFORMATION ALL FARM OWNERS / MANAGERS MUST HAVE.

1.    Contact phone numbers of all your neighbours.
2.    Duplicate keys for your neighbours’ gates – and they should have your keys.

OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUES

1.    Ensure your firefighting equipment is in working order – and that you have sufficient petrol to refuel the pump(s). If you don’t have a ‘bakkie-sakkie” unit, then at least invest in some backpack sprayers, a drip torch (for back-burning) and wire cutters (to cut the fence for access or release of animals if necessary).
2.    Ensure that your firefighting equipment is stored together and is easily accessible.
3.    Mark your equipment to make sure it can be returned after a fire.
4.    Ensure that your contact cell number(s) are on the Conservancy’s sms database. (Call/sms Richard on 083 609 1425 or e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to check). This will enable him to contact you if there is a fire in your area; to call for help on your behalf; and to send you fire risk warnings. This is a free service to the community provided courtesy of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy.
5.    If you have more than one entrance gate, number them in order to simplify directing assistance to the fire.
6.    Make sure you have enough water to enable fire units to refill quickly while they are fighting your fire. An ordinary garden hosepipe is not good enough!  The best is to have a large, self-refilling Jo-Jo tank (2000 litres or more) on a stand, with a large diameter hose fitted to it, at a place that is easily found. A full, clean reservoir or an earth dam is also good, as long as it is reasonably accessible. But these require fire units to have suction hoses – and many do not.
7.    Remember: when the fire is ‘out’ or fully under control and everyone else has left, it remains your responsibility alone to make sure it stays out and does not re-ignite when the wind changes or increases. It is essential that you and your staff continue to patrol the edges of the burnt area for several hours, even overnight if necessary, putting out smouldering embers, knocking down and moving any burning trees, moving pieces of dung or piles of leaves well into the burnt area etc., until you are quite, quite sure there is no risk of re-ignition. No-one will be pleased about being called out again just because you neglected this essential duty – and they may not be prepared to come to your assistance a second time.
8.    The law requires that you have cleared firebreaks around your boundary. These can never stop a fast-moving fire, but they – and other roads on the property – are very useful as lines along which to control a fire or from which to start a controlled back-burn. Keep your boundaries and other roads clear and scraped or cut.
9.    There is a legitimate role for controlled fires in veld management; but uncontrolled fires can be hugely destructive and life-threatening events. As a landowner, manager or resident in the Waterberg, you have an obligation to your community to take reasonable precautions to prevent such fires; to educate your staff in fire prevention; to be adequately equipped to fight fires on your property; and to be prepared to assist your neighbours when asked to do so.

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Accentuating the Positive

(and dealing with the Negative)

by Richard Wadley

With an eye towards the fast-approaching year-end, I thought there might be merit in looking back over the last six years, as reflected in the pages of the Conservancy’s newsletters so diligently compiled by our Chairman, to identify the issues that have bugged our members during this time; and to see how they have turned out.

Firstly, John Miller, whose idea it was to create a newsletter for our association, must be thanked for having been so conscientious in ensuring that at least four newsletters per annum have been published over the period, albeit not without a great deal of cajoling, threatening, incentivising and arm-twisting in his efforts to source the material he’s needed to fill the pages. This (unsolicited) note occurs in newsletter No. 26. All past newsletters can be accessed on the Conservancy’s website: www.waterbergnatureconservancy.org.za .

Many thanks John, for a remarkable job done – SO FAR!

In 2008, in the days before the global financial crisis was born - of the greed of (mainly) US Banks and the unrealistic expectations of over-mortgaged homeowners - the biggest threat facing Waterberg conservation was that of residential property development. This menace was not at all unrelated to the global crisis gathering momentum over the horizon: it too was the product of greed (on the part of unscrupulous property developers) and unrealistic expectations (on the part of middle income urban dwellers believing they could afford the exciting second-home bush lifestyles promoted every weekend in northern suburbs shopping malls). At one time in that year, new estates amounting to over 4 000 beds were being promoted via 12 different developments within 50km of Vaalwater!

Conservancy and Biosphere representatives were kept fully occupied in registering as Interested & Affected Parties, attending hearings and writing detailed letters of objection. It was a dark time indeed, with the prospect of every hillside being reduced to suburbia.

So, one good aspect of the GFC was that it brought an abrupt end to this madness; developers disappeared into their holes like snakes and starry-eyed buyers were given a much-needed wake-up call. No doubt the charismatic, slick-speaking promoters of residential property estates will emerge once again in due course, to find a fresh crop of naive victims, but not, I suspect, for a few years.

2008 also brought down upon the rural community the realisation that we were all members of one or other Local Municipality and liable for municipal rates, even though no one could identify any services provided by the Municipality to us: no roads, no refuse removal, no fire protection, no nothing. Undaunted, the Municipalities sent out Valuers to establish the value of each rural property, in order to determine the rates that should be levied on each of us.

The community, led by the Distriks Landbou-Unie with strong support from the Conservancy, lobbied the municipalities and made submissions – and in the end, reason and sanity prevailed. Although we do now pay municipal rates, in return for no services, at least the quantum of the amount levied is tolerable. For now. And at least we all now have the right, as municipal ratepayers, to join our town-based friends in demanding better facilities for our town of Vaalwater.

The R33 route between Modimolle (formerly Nylstroom) and Vaalwater, never the best-laid tar road in the country, began to deteriorate quickly once coal trucks started hauling thousands of tonnes of the stuff from Lephalale to Mpumalanga and KZN; and as work on the new Medupi power station commenced. In April 2009, representations to the provincial roads department received the response that renovation of the road was scheduled, but would take place in stages over the next two to three years.

Many were the rumours that did the rounds of the Vaalwater skinder-sirkel: a new road was to be built from Bela Bela that would join the R33 at the Spar, by-passing the town; the renovated road would follow the old railway line through Zandrivierspoort, so as to avoid the Nek; the work was to be allocated to different contractors in 10 km sections; and so on.

Somewhat to everyone’s surprise, a contract was actually awarded and, only a year later than scheduled, work commenced. We all complained bitterly about the time-consuming stop/goes; about the quality of every other driver; and about the loss of business.

But, in December 2012, more or less three years after we started complaining loudly, the road was completed – and even more surprisingly, it was quite well-built too (apart from some of the narrow bridges, the upgrading of which was somehow left out of the budget). Already, less than a year later, we take the road for granted, and hear of people making it to Modimolle from Vaalwater in under 20 minutes! Traffic department, please take note.

Frequent power failures were another source of great frustration in 2009. At a Conservancy meeting, we were told by Eskom that the main problem was the length of individual power distribution lines: the VS line, for example, at 726km, was thought to be the longest line in the southern hemisphere. What Eskom needed were two new substations, at Bulgerivier and Dorset. But the acquisition of the land needed for the stations was proving a major obstacle.

Once again, the Conservancy joined forces with the DLU, to lobby landowners and negotiate with Eskom. Today, the Dorset substation is up and running and the VS line is much less of a problem than in the past. The Bulgerivier sub-station is under construction and should be operational next year.

2010, the year of the damp squib known as the World Cup, brought a new series of threats: prospecting rights applications. A rash of applications by unknown “mining” companies sought suites of incompatible minerals in the most inappropriate places, both geologically and environmentally. Iron, andalusite and manganese, for example, were the targets of an application in the Mokolo Nature Reserve. As I wrote to the applicant, there was a greater chance of discovering a whale in the Mokolo Dam!

Platinum and chrome were alleged to be present in parts of Welgevonden; limestone (changed, on being challenged, to iron) at Rankins Pass; and a Pandora’s Box of other minerals elsewhere. We countered each and every one; and all have sensibly (and inevitably) gone away, hastened by the end of the resources boom.

Recently, like recurring shingles, we’ve been irritated by new applications in the Bela Bela and Modimolle areas, also by companies that probably struggle even to spell the minerals they claim to be searching for; and in terrains where there’s more mineral content in the farmers’ back yards than in the ground. Here we’ve been working with the indefatigable Chris Wagner of the Waterberg Bewarings Forum and local communities, and have had several successes so far.

Briefly, members of the Vaalwater community were stirred, either to anger or to visions of untold wealth, by the possibility that Exxaro would build a new railway line from the existing siding at Matlabas to Modimolle via Vaalwater itself, using the route of the abandoned old Nylstroom-Vaalwater line. This was of course just a ‘scenario,’ no doubt created by Exxaro management to demonstrate how much cheaper would be the alternative of electrifying and expanding the capacity of the existing line from Lephalale to Thabazimbi – which is what is currently happening.

Since 2010, the focus has shifted to rhino poaching, rhino poaching and rhino poaching. And with good reason. By mid-September 2013, around 620 rhinos had been killed nationally in the year to date, compared with 568 in the whole of 2012 and 448 in 2011. Of those killed this year, no less than 30 have been shot in the Waterberg – a truly disgusting statistic. Fortunately, the community has risen strongly to the challenge and a dynamic organisation, Save the Waterberg Rhino, is putting together resources and procedures that should help to contain the scourge.

Our community still battles with numerous issues: the poor condition of our gravel roads; the lack of service delivery in Vaalwater and Leseding; the hazards posed by the absence of controls on the R33 near the Spar; the health and pollution issues associated with the new piggery; the invasion of alien plant species; and others. And there is no doubt that further issues will materialise to challenge and threaten us in the future. But in looking back over the last six years, I think we can be pleased by what has been achieved by the community of which the Conservancy is an active and vocal member. Had we not stood up for our rights and lobbied forcefully for their realisation, the Waterberg plateau would be a lesser place today. The future will demand a similar commitment.

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More onTravelling Wild Dogs

Following up on the tracking of wild dogs by the EWT, and our story in the last Newsletter, by 3 October, the three wild dogs have now travelled 1,103 kilometres since they were released on 6 July from Marakele Pty Ltd.

As shown on the map below, they have made their way around Ben Alberts Nature Reserve, Madikwe Nature Reserve, over to Mafikeng in the North West Province, across the Limpopo River and into Botswana, back into the North West Province, moving around near Botsaland Game Park, Ottoshoop, and Lekubu.

wild-dog-movement

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The World Bank Abandons the People of the Waterberg District

by Tristen Taylor (Earthlife Africa Jhb) and Rico Euripidou (groundWork). Reprinted from allAfrica.com by permission of the authors. 16 September 2013

 

In 2010, The World Bank lent Eskom 3.75 billion dollars to build the Medupi power station. Some of the material conditions under which the loan was granted were that Medupi would install Flu-gas Desulfurization (FGD) and that Eskom would meet South Africa's air quality emissions standards and legislation.

Both conditions were touted as being some of the advantages of Medupi: it would be a "cleaner", supercritical coal-fired power station different from Eskom's dirty plants in the Witbank region and a central condition to The World Bank's loan to Eskom.

However, over the past three months and with approval from The World Bank, Eskom has been seeking to exempt itself for most of its fleet of coal-fired power stations from South African air quality regulations and is delaying FGD at Medupi for several years.

The overall effect of Eskom's machinations is that Medupi will not be bound to limits in terms of the amounts of particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, other heavy metals, acid gases, and hydrocarbons that can be emitted. The primary reason Eskom gives is that obeying South Africa's environmental regulations will be too costly.

Earthlife Africa Jhb's Project Coordinator, Tristen Taylor, states, "Neither The World Bank nor Eskom seem to be particularly concerned about the health impacts of Medupi being exempted from air quality standards or from FGD being so delayed that the likelihood of it ever being installed enters the realm of miracles.

This violates the contract the Bank and Eskom made with the people of Lephalale: they promised to prevent dangerous and possibly lethal pollution, but now prefer excessive profits instead. In effect, The World Bank and Eskom lied to us all."

groundWork and Earthlife Africa Jhb have attempted to have The World Bank, Eskom and the Department for Environmental Affairs institute and implement the laws of South Africa in terms of emissions from Medupi.

This has been unsuccessful to date. Both organisations call on the Department for Environmental Affairs and The World Bank to stop Eskom from going ahead with its plan to make Medupi an uncontrolled and unregulated source of preventable pollution.

By not instituting known and commercially viable pollution abatement measures, The World Bank and Eskom are passing on the real costs of generating energy from coal to local communities, agriculture and business who will have to endure the damage caused.

The real tragedy is not only that these negative impacts are preventable but Medupi was designed to incorporate FGD and to meet air quality standards.

Eskom simply wants to increase its profits, and The World Bank seems to be content for its money not to be used for pollution abatement. One might surmise, at this stage, that The World Bank's overriding concern is profiting from the loan no matter the cost to people's health or the environment.

groundWork's Environmental Campaigner, Rico Euripidou, states, "Not meeting SA's weak air quality emissions and ambient air quality standards-which are generally lower than globally accepted standards-will have profound health impacts on local communities already over-burdened with HIV/AIDS, TB and sub-standard services."

The pollutants that Medupi will generate will have negative impacts on people's lives and health. Particulate matter emitted during coal combustion generates small particles less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) which travel deep into the airways.

This leads to asthma, decrements in lung function, emergency department visits and hospital admissions for infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Inhalation of PM2.5 has also been linked to cardiovascular disease and death.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted by coal burning power plants leads to inflammation and hyper responsiveness of the airways, aggravates bronchitis, decreases lung function, and increases hospitalizations for asthma and other respiratory conditions, and asthma emergency department visits in susceptible individuals, particularly among children and adults over 65.

Oxides of nitrogen are by-products of fossil fuel combustion and react with chemicals in the atmosphere to create ozone (smog) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO2 exposure among asthmatic children can increase wheezing, cough, and decrements in lung function. Exposure to air pollution (containing SO2, PM, NO2, and ozone) during pregnancy can cause low birth weight.

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Mammal Distribution Maps

The national Department of Environmental Affairs is trying to establish the natural (therefore historical) distribution of various indigenous species of game across Southern Africa. 

The intent is to bring some consistency and formality to the basis on which game translocations are permitted.  It’s an impressive initiative, professionally carried out.  The due date for comments from the public has passed, but take a look at the website and you’ll see the historical territory of the following:
Black wildebeest, Blesbok, Blue Wildebeest, Bontebok, Burchell zebra, Cape buffalo, Cape mountain buffalo, Cape mountain zebra, Eland, Gemsbok, Giraffe, Hartmann zebra, Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Red hartebeest, Roan, Sable, Springbok, Tsessebe, Waterbuck, White rhino.

www.environment.gov.za/distributionmaps_mammals_southafrica

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Large Carnivores Win in the Waterberg Photographic Competition

by Kelly Marnewick
Manager: Carnivore Conservation Programme, EWT

 

The results are in for the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Carnivore Conservation Programme (EWT-CCP) Waterberg photographic competition! The aim of the competition was to gather data on the numbers, distribution and habits of large carnivores living in the Waterberg area; and, as a result, to reduce conflict between people in the region and these charismatic predators.

 

We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the competition. Photographs were submitted by land owners, hunters, tourists and reserve managers and they are all valuable as they will help us to learn more about the Leopards, Cheetahs, Hyaenas and Wild Dogs of this valuable conservation area.

Leopards, Brown Hyaenas, Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs are found throughout the Waterberg in farmland as well as in protected areas and while some people consider them a rare and important component of the ecosystem, others view them as a danger to their livestock and livelihood. Very little is known about how large carnivores function outside protected areas including breeding, intra-specific interactions and population sizes. In order to make sound decisions about conserving, managing or utilising carnivore populations, it is critical to first have an understanding where they occur and in what numbers they occur in.

The Waterberg is an extremely important region as it is the only unprotected area where the large carnivore guild is mostly in-tact, with the exception of Lions, and the only unprotected population of African Wild Dogs occurs in the area.

60 entries were received and comprised 24 Leopard entries, 11 Cheetah entries, eight Brown Hyaena, 12 African Wild Dogs, two Lions (in protected areas), one Serval and one Jackal.

First prize in the competition goes to Scott van Zyl of SS Pro Safaris. Scott submitted camera trap video footage of a Brown Hyaena and a treed Leopard having a bit of a stand-off at a bait. (See EWT Website http://www.ewt.org.za  for the video.) This is very interesting as we don't know much about dietary niche partitioning and inter-specific interactions between large carnivores in areas where there is no facilitation by Lions and Spotted Hyaenas. It was fascinating to see the direct competition over a carcass.

The second prize belongs to Wimpie Pretorius of Nungu Private Game Reserve. Wimpie entered a camera trap photo of three Leopards. Leopards are seldom observed in groups and this is likely a female with her two, sub-adult cubs. The sighting is highly unusual and was made even more delightful by the playful behaviour of one of the Leopards chewing  the others tail.

 

leopard-family-drinking

Third Prize goes to Dean van Heerdon from Koshari Game Lodge. Dean sent us several camera trap photos of young Brown Hyaenas at their den. There are very few records of these animals breeding outside protected areas and this entry adds to our knowledge of the species.

 

brown-hyena-den

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