Sunday, September 28, 2008

For the birds


September 26, 2008



For the birds

Zululand bird guide - Michael Blose explains the Zululand birding routes to an interested birder at the British Bird Fair

BirdLife SA's stall at the British Bird Fair was usually swamped - a good indicator of the huge number of foreign birders interested in what South Africa offered

Tanya Waterworth

LOCAL Zululand bird guides got a taste of the international avi-tourism market when they visited two overseas birding fairs.
Making his first trip overseas, Zululand Birding Route's Manager, Michael Blose, said the trip was unforgettable as they met birders from around the world at the famous British Bird Fair and the Dutch Bird Fair.
Held in Rutland Water, the British Bird Fair is recognised as the biggest gathering of birders in the world.
With Zululand boasting a high concentration of sought-after sightings and a wide diversity in habitats, Blose said there was a 'noticeable interest' in birding destinations in South Africa by visitors to both birding fairs.
'South Africa is definitely high on the radar screen when it comes to avi-tourism, competing against destinations such as Kenya and Uganda,' he said.
He added that the Dutch Bird Fair attracted a lot of family groups and younger birders.
This was a move away from the traditional perception that avi-tourism only attracts the 50-plus age group market.

Unique experience
And the guides also thoroughly enjoyed their first experience of the United Kingdom and Europe.
'The transport system in Amsterdam is excellent and there were lots of people everywhere.
'It was also nice to see places that are relatively crime-free.
'Cars just park on the side of the road as there is no real need for garages and we saw kids cycling around Amsterdam late at night,' he said.
But the biggest highlight was meeting up with international birders who had visited Zululand.
'It was great to bump into some of our clients who greeted us like old friends. Birding is all about connecting with nature and meeting people -it was an amazing experience,' he said.


Water project splashes out


September 26, 2008



Water project splashes out

Tanya Waterworth

DONDOTHA community members danced with joy when taps were turned on for the first time following the official commissioning of a multi-million rand bulk pipeline project undertaken by uThungulu District Municipality in Mbonambi Municipality.
Following months of anticipation, the taps were opened on the R11-million water project, which will benefit close to 130 000 people, at an average of eight people per 15 874 households.
This 12km, 450mm diameter bulk pipeline will serve as a main artery leading from the Nseleni Water Works all the way to the Nomavovo area, which in effect means the pipeline will provide capacity for water to flow into Mbonambi and further to Ntambanana.
Speaking at the launch held at Dondotha Community Hall, uThungulu District Mayor, Stan Larkan, said it was indeed a cause for celebration as this was one of the major projects on the district's budget.
'This project has been a long journey for us and I wish to thank our community and the Mbonambi Municipality for their patience and support, as well as our councillors and officials for their untiring efforts to get this project running,' said Larkan.
The Upper Nseleni Project did experience some problems, resulting in a delay in the delivery of water to the community, which according to the uThungulu technical team, was with regard to ensuring that the water supply was clean.
'We want to make sure that if we provide service delivery to the community, it must be of the best quality,' said Executive Director Technical Services, Zwe Msomi.
'The reason for the delay at Dondotha and Pathane was because the pipes had to be cleaned first to avoid health hazards,' he added.
Msomi further assured the Mbonambi community that by November, all areas around Dondotha would have access to water with the Sabhuza Reservoir open and about 470 taps working.
GB Bhengu, a member of the KZN Legislature, said it was 'unfortunate' that since 1994, communities from Dondotha and Nseleni were still facing problems of access to clean water and good toilets.
'These are not the only areas affected, but many rural communities across KZN are still affected. About 61% of rural communities still do not have clean water and good toilets,' he said.





September 26, 2008



Larry Bentley

RESIDENTS in the fire-stricken areas of Zululand have welcomed the rains which have fallen over the weekend, mostly on Saturday.
In the Melmoth area, which was worst hit by fires a few weeks ago, the farms south of the town received 50mm, while Melmoth itself recorded 42mm and north of Melmoth 22mm.
Another area recently in the news due to the dire water shortage, Gingindlovu, received 61mm, but unfortunately this is not enough to relieve the situation and residents are urged to still conserve water.
eShowe and Ntumeni received between 80-60mm, mostly as a continuous drizzle which was welcomed in the burnt areas since it prevented soil erosion.
As figures from further north came in, the rainfall dropped dramatically, with only 20mm being measured in the Hluhluwe area.
Richards Bay measured 100mm over Friday and Saturday, while Mtunzini recorded 85mm and Empangeni and Heatonville averaged 90mm.
Farmers are hopeful that, although late, this will ease the dangerous fire conditions which have been prevalent over the last few weeks and will usher in the rainy season.
KwaMbonambi, Port Durnford and Mtubatuba recorded 75mm, 95mm and 52mm respectively.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

National Heritage Day - St. Lucia

24 September 2008
A somber windy day in the drought stricken Wetlands. St. Lucia Estuary where buzzing last knight, but this morning everything is grave quite. The streets are empty and the in the shops staff are chittering away about the changes in South African politics. Zuma, the Zulu, will bring much change tot his region once he is President. That is the general feeling of all the people here at grass roots level.
With water restrictions running into dry tap the future of this coastal World Heritage looks bleak. A large water resovoir, pre or post treatment are badly needed. Maybe even a dam in the iMfolozi River or other management schemes are seriously needed attention. If The CEO being demoted KZN Wildlife are facing a batle for funding and this will even increase the burden futher on local comunities and the Wildlife assets of the province.
Mkuze Game Reserve closed:
Water shortage as a severe impact on the tourist destinations of Zululand and serious infra structure development and resource management are needed for this region. Dune mining at Richardsbay could be more detramental to the environment than Global warming, yet the people in charge of infrastracture development and tourist marketing are sitting on their hands.
St. Lucia Mouth:
Water water Every where?
With not enough fresh water flowing into the Lake System, the opening of the mouth is not going to happen during the drought. iMfolozi was rechanelled into the Estuary system, but with the river bying dry bed at the moment, now in flow of fresh water are experienced. Everything is now depended on Mother nature. Good rainfalls in the upper Ulundi area and even as far west as Vryheid will help the system. With Cyclone season aprroaching we can expect a breaching of the Moth again in Early November 2008.
Cape Vidal:
Experiencing Eskom power supply due to stormy winds over the last week. Roads have been upgraded and much of the park have been opened up to the public, even small cars can access all the roads easily and four of the big 5 are to be viewed along these routs.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

From: KZN Wildlife News Desk

Hippo Management

July 23, 2008;

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) is the provincial agency mandated to manage nature/biodiversity conservation within the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is an agency that has a proud record of dedication to this purpose stretching back more than fifty years. The organization and its staff have come to realize that this mandate can produce situations that call for hard decisions and drastic action - usually with regard to situations involving actual or potential conflict between large and potentially dangerous game and humans.

EKZNW has a very clear policy for dealing with problem animals and in particularly large and potentially dangerous game such as hippos. If such an animal cannot be driven back to its home range or captured it is destroyed before it becomes a threat to human life. From the very early days of this saga our staff monitored "the Verulam hippo" and its movements. It did not once present a safe opportunity either to catch or destroy it. There is also no explanation as to why hippos roam in this way - although a likely reason is that the animal had been evicted from its home range by a stronger herd bull. There is currently no viable way of preventing this sort of movement by hippos seeing as they usually move along waterways which are almost impossible to fence.

Our experience with roaming hippos is such that we know it is wise to leave the animal alone as much as possible until it chooses a direction of travel. This animal, after being harassed at Ballito sought refuge north of Tinley Manor in very dense bush so thick that it was not safe to track it. We did in fact state at the time that we hoped that it would carry on northwards and return to its place of origin.

EKZNW staff monitored the animal's movements constantly and had our game capture staff evaluating the situation both from the air and on the ground. These are men who are arguably amongst the most experienced in the game capture field in Africa if not globally –– and have an internationally acclaimed track record. Our experience in dealing with hippos goes back a long way indeed and over many years a great many methods of catching hippos have been tried with indifferent success. Using dart-injected drugs is seldom successful because the moment the dart hits the animal it flees to water which is its natural refuge. There the drug takes effect, the animal lapses into unconsciousness and drowns before it can be hauled out. In addition, there is, at this time, no safe, tried and tested immobilising drug combination that is effective on hippos. Using the drug combinations that makes rhino capture extremely successful places the life of the hippo at risk through its physical reaction to these drugs.

The other, more successful method is by passive capture which only works for animals already settled in an enclosed body of water like a small pan or dam. This involves erecting an electrified fence around the pan, and putting up a massively built steel enclosure with a trap door at the entrance. Lucern and hay is placed inside the trap and as the animals consume the natural fodder around the pan they begin to feed into the trap. It can take weeks before the animals venture into the trap and the door can be triggered. This does not work for a roaming single animal and certainly was not appropriate in the situation involving the ""Verulam hippo" that was in a river impossible to seal off.

A hippo is not an animal to be trifled with and of all the big game animals of Africa it has the reputation for causing the most human deaths. It must also be understood that this animal was in a very stressful and foreign environment. Hippos do enter the sea occasionally but not willingly and at Ballito this animal certainly was not surfing as many media reports indicated, and which gave the impression that the animal was having fun. This animal was being harassed by people, dogs, vehicles and aircraft, disturbances which ( in their protected area environment) they are normally not exposed to. Under these conditions hippos become very unpredictable, irritable and extremely dangerous. It is also highly unlikely that anyone who has no experience in hippo capture nor has access to heavy enough and appropriate equipment will succeed in catching one. An amateur capture operation will not only place at risk the lives of those directly involved but also those of innocent people in the vicinity. Such an attempt is also quite likely to have a seriously negative environmental impact on the area in which the capture is attempted. We are, after all, talking about an animal that weighs up to one and half tonnes, is immensely powerful, fast, very aggressive and is armed with a fearful array of tusks which it has no compunction about using.
At no stage was capture a viable option in the case of the ""Verulam hippo", and EKZNW took the decision some time ago to destroy the animal before human lives were further threatened. It moved into a settled area at Verulam before this decision could be implemented. When the animal moved onto eThekweni Municipality land management of the situation passed to the eThekweni Municipality although EKZNW did agree to advise and support them where necessary. The eThekweni Municipality appointed a professional hunter to destroy the hippo and was also responsible for disposing of the carcase which was buried in one of the municipal dumps.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife sent two experienced members of staff as observers and as a back-up. Three shots from heavy calibre rifles were fired at the hippo which ran about 40 metres and disappeared into the river. A search using spotlights showed no sign of the animal which in itself was an indication that the animal was dead. Had it been wounded it would have been visible. At dawn the carcase of the animal was found at the same spot at which it had entered the river. This indicated that it had died within minutes of being shot. It was later found that one bullet had hit the animal in the heart. It is not uncommon for large animals to run a short distance after being heart-shot.
Critics might well say that EKZNW did not explore enough options but it must be understood that to begin experimenting with capture techniques when a large, powerful and aggressive animal is in the midst of a human settlement is not wise practice. It is also necessary to evaluate the physical impact of these operations on the immediate environment. The EKZNW Game Capture Unit has a long history of innovation with regard to animal capture and has been experimenting with various methods of catching hippos for many years. To date the most successful method has been passive capture with its attendant limitations.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has received numerous emails and other messages from concerned citizens about this incident, and many opinions have been expressed in the various media. While the organisation appreciates the concern felt by the public, and respects people's right to express opinion, it must be emphasized that decisions taken in such situations are backed by knowledge, experience and understanding gained from similar occasions over time. EKZNW regrets that it was necessary to destroy this animal but does remind people that the organisation has a responsibility to the broader community in such circumstances.

Drought closes Mantuma Camp

September 16, 2008; Ron Physick

Due to the extreme drought being experienced in Northern Zululand, the boreholes that supply water to Mantuma Camp in Mkhuze Game Reserve have dried up. With immediate effect the camp is being closed until further notice. All visitors that have bookings are being contacted to cancel their visit and, where possible, to be offered an alternative venue. Mshopi Campsite near the main gate in Mkhuze Game Reserve has also been affected and will also be closed until further notice.

The public will be kept informed about the situation through this website. Please contact Central Reservations on 033 8451000 for further information.

Water Water Every Where

With the "dry spell" the Zululand coast is experiencing the Northern Section has been so dry that the town of St. Lucia Estuary has been with daily dry tap for weeks. This is not helped by the aggressive development and expansion of the little town. Guest Houses seems to be the most favourable choice for developers. This is all and all very scary since the Water Supply is not the only problem the town is facing.

Eskom lines running through very sensitive wetlands and with the town only having one entrance, huge Eskom Pylons following the road leading to this world heritage site is not ideal. Further the problem of power extends to Eskom not being able to supply the countries power grid with sufficient power. St. Lucia Estuary also has major waste disposal problem and the sewerage works was last updated in the early 1990's.

The sewerage pond system where designed with South African tourist target market. The evaporating pond system worked fine under the pressure of a hundred annual school holidays and the 250 days slow period. With World Heritage Status the market change and the tourist season is from August to February. Thus leaving almost no time for the evaporation system to function.

Since the town is build on a very small piece of land between the Estuary and the ocean and considering the sandy soil it will not be easy solving the problem of Water, Sewerage and waste disposal. Water supply is about 30 km away and ideally waste disposal will have to be run to Mtubatuba also 30 km away. Sewerage works will have to be moved there as well and this will lead to a pipe line running through the same sensitive wetlands system as the Eskom power lines. Leakage on such a line is unstoppable.

Development for St. Lucia Estuary is very bleak at the moment and the problems will prevail as long as nature is respected. Ironically the very thing that made this town famous are now threatened by the success the was born from it.