For Frogs’ Sake!

Leap Day 2017-36

Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Threatened Amphibian Programme Manager, and Esté Matthew, Drylands Conservation Programme Field Officer

JeanneT@ewt.org.za and EstherM@ewt.org.za

Friday 24th February saw the EWT attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog. This event formed part of the 4th national Leap Day for Frogs – an awareness day to bring attention to the plight of frogs, but also to celebrate the diversity of frogs we have in South Africa. The day encourages everyone in South Africa – schools, companies and individuals – to take part and do something to highlight frogs, be it frog art, dressing in green or building a pond. This year we literally leapt for frogs to bring attention to these amazing animals. The current record for the most number of people playing leapfrog is held by New Zealand with 1,348 participants, so we were hoping for 1,500. In the end, we had 770 participants taking part simultaneously. Unfortunately, our transport brought the remainder of learners too far past the designated start time, so we were forced to do the jumping with those present. A further 300 learners arrived late but did do some jumping of their own, bringing the total number of attendees at the event to over 1,000.

Despite not leaping into the record books this year, we are really pleased with the outcomes. No doubt it’s a first for South Africa! Counting the learners that arrived late, we had over 1,000 people jumping for frogs on the Durban beachfront and, more importantly, raising awareness for frogs, which are among the most threatened animals in the world. Most participants were school groups, and they received educational packs sponsored by Struik Nature, so we certainly achieved our aim of educating more people about frogs. The atmosphere was great, and lots of fun was had by all! The news of the attempt travelled far and wide, reaching even Afghanistan and Australia!

Not to be outdone, the EWT’s Drylands Conservation Programme staff temporarily traded in their hiking boots for gumboots, in support of Leap Day for Frogs. On 24 February, staff introduced Grade 3 and 4 learners from the JJ Booysen Primary School in Loxton to the fascinating world of amphibians at the EWT’s Karoo Indigenous Plant Nursery. Altogether 78 learners, many of whom had never seen frogs before, enthusiastically took part in a variety of fun educational activities aimed at teaching them about amphibians in the arid Karoo environment. Activities included a frog long-jump, “frog egg” run, building puzzles and colouring-in.

Three intrepid volunteers from Loxton helped staff to collect frogs in preparation for this event. These frogs, used to show children the different species, were safely released back into their ponds afterwards.

Other Leap Day for Frogs events were held at various schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape, and at a Back-to-Nature Event with Kloof Conservancy on 18 February at Tanglewood Nature Reserve.

Leap Day for Frogs is celebrated annually in the last week of February, so be sure to get involved next year! You can find out more at www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za

This work is supported by Rand Merchant Bank, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Fund, eThekwini Parks and Recreation, uShaka Marine World, Struik Nature, Kloof Conservancy, and Capri-Sun. Many thanks to the volunteers from uShaka Marine World and DUCT who helped us during the leapfrog event.

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Celebrating World Wetlands Day

Steven

Nduduza Khoza, EWT Eco Ranger; Steven Segang, African Crane Conservation Programme Highveld Community Projects Officer; Naledi Hlatswayo, Urban Conservation Programme Eco Schools Intern; and Nkosinathi Nama, Source to Sea Programme Amathole Fresh Water Species Project Coordinator

nduduzoecoranger@gmail.com, StevenS@ewt.org.za, NalediH@ewt.org.za, and NkosinathiN@ewt.org.za

World Wetlands Day is officially celebrated on 2 February, and this year’s theme was “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction.” The EWT celebrated South Africa’s special and vulnerable wetlands with a number of events and activities throughout the month of February.

Celebrations kicked off on World Wetlands Day itself, when team members from the African Crane Conservation Programme and Threatened Amphibian Programme hosted a stand at an event at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland. Despite the 35 °C heat, the day was a huge success, with 300 learners from 10 schools discovering the value of our wetlands! The EWT’s stand was biodiversity-focused, and covered the links between the species that live in the wetlands, and others that use the wetland for different activities. The learners were very enthusiastic and keen to learn more, and were given information packs about wetlands to take home with them.

Members of the African Crane Conservation Programme also hosted Laerskool Chrissie on 15 February for a special outing to celebrate our wetlands. Seventeen grade 6 learners were taken on a field trip on one of the farms in the area, and Steven Segang, Highveld Community Projects Officer, highlighted the importance of celebrating wetlands as well as securing and protecting them, as they are vital in providing clean water. The group also did miniSASS with the learners and they enjoyed identifying invertebrates and seeing fish in the river system. miniSASS is a simple tool which can be used by anyone to monitor the health of a river. A sample of macroinvertebrates (small animals) is collected from the water, and depending on which groups are found, this gives a measure of the general river health and water quality in that river.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, hosted a World Wetlands Day Celebration on 17 February 2017 in Esselen Park Pan, Tembisa. The purpose of this event was to increase awareness around the importance of wetlands amongst the communities surrounding the Esselen Park wetland. The EWT was invited to showcase the work we do to conserve wetlands, and the species dependent on them, across South Africa. Visitors from local communities, schools, and partner institutions enjoyed presentations and entertainment by cultural dancers and drummers. School children were also invited to share the importance of wetlands through story telling.

Nathi 2

On 24 February, the EWT, Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA), Amathole Forestry Company PTY (LTD) (AFC) and Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) hosted an event for learners aimed at promoting awareness about the importance of wetlands to society and healthy, functioning ecosystems. Forty learners from Phandulwazi Agricultural School, Siyabonga Secondary School, Gcato Secondary School and Crab Bush Primary School were invited to spend the day outside, in an actual wetland, situated high up in the Amathole Mountains on AFC land. Learners ranged from grade 5 to grade 9, and this event offered them a chance to experience firsthand what they had been taught in their curricula in school. In addition to the 40 learners, six students who have been trained in environmental practices by the Nkonkobe Economic Development Agency (NEDA) were given practical experience in environmental education by assisting with the day’s activities and contributing to the education of the learners.

The programme was developed by WESSA’s Kerry Mclean and Ntosh Tsheyi, with contributions from the other partners. The day’s activities highlighted four main topics, namely Wetland Ecology, Wetland Soils, Impacts on Wetlands and Functions of a Wetland. A station was set up for each of these themes, and manned by an expert from one of the organisations and either one or two NEDA students. Learners attended each station in a mixed group of ten learners per group. The day was concluded with lunch kindly donated by AFC and an informal debriefing session where learners had to give feedback about what they’d learnt and how they would apply it in future within their communities.

This was the first such event hosted by the four organisations, and the hope is that it becomes an annual event that can be grown and spread throughout the rest of the catchment. The main objective for the EWT’s Source to Sea Programme is promoting healthy catchments for increased water security to benefit all, and such an event plays a critical role in educating future custodians of the catchment about the important role they play.

Thank you to RMB, EU Aid, European Union, Nedbank Green Trust, N3 Toll Concession, Greater Edendale Mall, DEA, GDARD, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, WESSA, AFC, DAFF and NEDA for their support.

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Saying no to single-use plastic

 

plastic

Claire Relton, ACCP Intern
ClaireR@ewt.org.za

During March we celebrate a number of water-related environmental days, including International Day of Action for Rivers (14 March), National Water Week (20–24 March), and World Water Day (22 March). Water has recently been a very topical subject in South Africa, with the country feeling the effects of drought through water restrictions, increased food prices and frightening visuals of empty dams.

One impact on this essential resource that is not often given as much consideration by consumers as it should be is the use of single-use plastic. These products include soft plastics such as drinking straws, plastic packaging, plastic utensils, plastic bags, product bags and disposable cups. Single-use plastic is typically created for only one use, has a short useful lifespan, is unlikely to be reused, and is either difficult or impossible to recycle. This means that while we may only use these products once, they linger almost indefinitely as waste in landfills, or end up as pollution, not only on land but in our rivers and oceans too.

Species that live in rivers or oceans are particularly susceptible to the threats associated with plastic bags, which, together with plastic fragments, are frequently misidentified as food resources (for example, they are mistaken by turtles for jellyfish), and consumed accidentally. This hinders digestion of natural food resources, leading to gut-blockage, asphyxiation, starvation, strandings and death of marine mammals and turtles. Plastic drinking straws similarly tend to end up in rivers and oceans, where they can injure or kill wildlife. So serious is their potential impact, that global movements such as the OneLessStraw campaign have been developed to encourage consumers to give up their plastic drinking straws. Microbeads are also of serious concern. These solid, tiny plastic particles (typically < 1 mm in size) are used extensively in personal care and household cleaning products, such as toothpastes, exfoliating face and body scrubs, and washing powders. Microbeads have replaced traditional biodegradable exfoliating products, such as salt granules and ground nut shells. These plastic beads are washed down the drain and eventually make their way into rivers, lakes and, ultimately, the ocean. These tiny particles have the potential to absorb persistent organic pollutants, and become incorporated into the food chain, as microplastics are consumed by various marine and riverine animals. The ingestion of microplastics can demonstrably affect an organism’s reproductive success, feeding, growth and movement, as these particles can be taken up into body tissues and fluids.

So what can you do to make a difference? The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) advocates making the following small lifestyle changes which, when implemented routinely on a large-scale societal basis, could significantly reduce South Africa’s single-use plastic consumption and the associated environmental threats of plastic waste and pollution:

  1. Reduce consumption by avoiding purchasing unnecessary single-use plastic products, and when necessary, replace them with environmentally-friendlier alternatives. For example, always make sure to take reusable shopping bags with you when shopping and never pay for single-use plastic carrier bags.
  2. Choose recyclable packaging.
  3. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
  4. When alternative products are unavailable, inconvenient or expensive, plastic products (designed for single-use) can be reused a number of times if washed out after use. These include plastic bags, bottles, cutlery, etc.
  5. Select products packaged using non-plastic materials.
  6. Up-/down-cycle plastic products into something else, for example flower pots.
  7. Bring your own container to restaurants and markets.
  8. Make your own products, such as juices, smoothies and even cleaning products.
  9. Think carefully about how you package your lunches – use re-useable containers as much as possible to limit the usage of cling wrap, plastic bags, etc.
  10. Find out which plastics can and cannot be recycled and what types of plastics your local recycling drop-off facility will accept.
  11. Buy refills.
  12. Avoid body and face scrubs, shower gels, toothpastes, sunscreens and washing powders that contain microbeads (look for polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyethylene terephthalate, or polystyrene in the list of ingredients). As an alternative to shower gels packaged in plastic bottles or tubes, rather choose soap bars packaged in wax paper or cardboard boxes.

For more information, take a look at our position statement on single-use plastic.

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This World Wildlife Day, the Endangered Wildlife Trust is asking you to help keep the wild in wildlife.

world-wildlife-day

 

World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on 3 March, but with ever-increasing human expansion into previously wild habitats, what chance does our wildlife have to stay wild? The EWT is inviting members of the public to join us in keeping the wild in our wildlife by making ethical choices and respecting nature for what it is.

Keeping wild animals as pets

As much as we all love wild animals, the EWT discourages keeping them as pets. There are serious welfare issues to consider, such as whether you can provide the correct diet, proper exercise, socialisation and as natural as possible way of life for a wild animal. Of equal concern is the threat that the illicit trade in wild animals as pets poses to wild populations. Every year thousands of chameleons, snakes, iguanas and other reptiles are illegally removed from their natural habitats and smuggled between countries all over the world. For instance, Sungazers, a species of lizard found only in South Africa, are under increasing threat due to illegal capture for the pet trade. These special lizards do not breed in captivity, and sadly also fail to thrive if removed and then returned to the wild. Other iconic species which are at risk due to illegal trade are our cranes, which are being taken from the wild and turned into domestic pets in many parts of Africa, including here in South Africa.

The lack of successful and strict regulation of the trade in some wild animals means that South Africa may very well be assisting the decimation of biodiversity in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Madagascar. The current legal import into South Africa of thousands of African Grey Parrots; chameleons and mammals from the island of Madagascar; Abyssinian Ground Hornbills; Southern Ground Hornbills and Grey Crowned Cranes from East African countries (all wild-caught species) are examples of how poor regulation assists with the decimation of wild populations of animals in other countries.

It is important to bear in mind that wild animals generally do not make suitable pets, and often end up dumped when they become unmanageable, which is a further act of cruelty. In most instances wild animals are incapable of expressing their emotions or discomforts and thus pet owners are blissfully unaware of the suffering of these animals, particularly the reptiles, amphibians and birds kept in small tanks or cages.

Irresponsible wild animal experiences

In this era of social media, wild animals are also falling prey to the selfie generation, with more and more stories arising of animals being removed from their natural environments so that they can be photographed – often with tragic consequences for the animals. Tourists also desire a one of a kind experience and instead of appreciating the natural wild state of our environment, many look for quick bucket list ticks – petting a lion cub, walking with a cheetah, riding an elephant, swimming with dolphins, or even just guaranteed Big 5 sightings. The EWT encourages responsible tourism and is opposed to wild animal interactions.

Petting zoos and “walking with” experiences are especially popular, particularly with large carnivores such as Lions and Cheetahs. While these experiences may seem remarkable, they are fraught with problems. Cubs are often removed from their mothers for hand-rearing and use in petting zoos. This is unethical and stressful for both the mother and her cubs. Carnivores are generally good mothers and there is no biological need to deliberately and routinely remove cubs from their mothers. Cubs can be handled by numerous people in one day, which is stressful for the cub as it should spend a large part of its day sleeping. It is reported that cubs are sometimes drugged to keep them placid for petting. Especially concerning is the fact that there are links between Lion breeding facilities and canned hunting of Lions. When cubs get too old and boisterous for petting they are removed from the touch programmes and many enter into the supply chain for canned hunting. Other welfare concerns include a lack of regard for social structures and a lack of enrichment for these animals in captive facilities, leading to boredom and stereotypical behaviour.

Other wildlife interactions, such as elephant-back riding and baited shark diving, also raise serious welfare and ethical considerations, as the animals are not engaging in natural behaviour.

What should you do?

Unlike the majority of developed countries and many less developed nations, we are fortunate in South Africa to still have many wild spaces, and to be able to enjoy nature on our doorstep, even in many of our urban centres. Let’s appreciate the wild in wildlife, rather than trying to tame it for our own enjoyment. Make ethical choices when it comes to visiting wildlife facilities and say no to wild animal interactions. Let’s also accept that in most instances wild animals are best appreciated from afar, and choose not to keep them as pets. With a little respect for our natural environment, we can all help to keep the wild in wildlife this World Wildlife Day, and beyond!

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Contact

Belinda Glenn

Communication and Brand Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 87 021 0398

belindag@ewt.org.za

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust and Rainforest Trust join forces to save South Africa’s rarest snake

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), in partnership with Rainforest Trust, has embarked on its first ever snake conservation initiative, and confirmed the continued existence of the diminutive Albany Adder, which, through human-induced habitat destruction and poaching, has possibly become the rarest snake species on the entire planet.

Albany Adders are endemic to a very small region in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. Since their initial discovery in the 1990s, only 12 individuals have ever been officially recorded. The snake species which was previously declared as the rarest in the world is the St. Lucia Racer from the Caribbean, with only 18–100 individuals estimated to still exist. Based on the current numbers then, the Albany Adder could quite easily have the dubious honour of being the world’s rarest and most threatened snake!

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The Albany Adder’s natural habitat continues to be destroyed due to human activities such as cultivation, plantation forestry, urbanisation, and sand-mining for the cement industry. Albany Adders are also highly sought after by smugglers and poachers, who illegally remove them from the wild to feed the demand in the international pet trade. These factors have not only lead to the Albany Adder being listed as Critically Endangered, but to the species being considered extinct in a number of areas where it used to occur.

It was due to these severe threats to the species that the EWT and the Rainforest Trust developed a pilot project with the primary aim of discovering whether or not the species was still in existence. The last official record of an Albany Adder being discovered was in 2007, so the possibility that it may already be too late to save these snakes existed when the team took to the field in the Eastern Cape to look for them. Happily, after six full days of searching for these tiny and exceptionally camouflaged snakes, a single female Albany Adder was found as she crossed the road. Later that evening, a young male snake was also discovered.

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Due to the exciting discovery of these two individual Albany Adders, the team is now working on ways of securing additional funding in order to protect habitat to save this iconic reptile from extinction, and are hoping to develop a declared nature reserve for these snakes. If this were to happen, it would be the first protected area in Africa, if not the world, to be dedicated to the protection of a Critically Endangered snake.

In most provinces in South Africa it is illegal to capture, possess or transport any South African reptile species without a permit. Snakes such as these small adders are very difficult to keep in captivity and most will die within a few months of being removed from the wild. Reptile poachers who are caught face up to ten years jail time and/or a fine of up to R1.5 million. Anyone with information about any illegal reptile poaching activity should contact the EWT.

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Contacts
Michael Adams
Field Officer: Wildlife in Trade Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
michaela@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

James Lewis
Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Officer
Rainforest Trust
james@rainforesttrust.org
www.RainforestTrust.org

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Newly developed camera system to aid the EWT in the prevention of power line collisions

The EWT recently took another important step towards minimising the impact of power lines on birds. As part of a long-term strategic partnership with Eskom, two specially designed cameras were fitted to a stretch of power line in De Aar located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, with the aim of better understanding, and therefore minimising the threats to birds from energy infrastructure.
eskom-camer

The Bird Detection System (BDS) is a South African-designed concept that uses a high-resolution camera with image processing capabilities to detect movement, including birds, in the frame. It was designed when the EWT expressed a need for an affordable, versatile product that would assist in the research of bird collisions. After three years of hard work, dedication and testing, the product was ready to be trialled out in the field. The BDS, which is solar powered, is the first real-time system to transmit data such as video clips or photos directly to a user’s cell phone or data bank, with information uploaded straight to a cloud server for easy retrieval. This enables team members to count birds, identify species, and observe behaviour. The software and settings can also be configured remotely, eliminating the need for field maintenance, while the camera has an hourly self-check system and reboots every 24 hours. The BDS is fully adaptable to user requirements, and can also be used during Environmental Impact Assessments as a tool for specialists conducting surveys.

Eight years of research have shown that the installation location in De Aar is the most impacted by bird mortalities, making it an ideal site for this trial. The EWT Wildlife and Energy Programme Manager, Constant Hoogstad, says, “This device will enable us to gather information about the time of day or night these collisions occur, what the weather conditions are like at the time, and the behaviour of the bird right before colliding with a power line. This will give us far greater insight into what causes these collisions and allow us to find more effective ways to reduce them.”

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Contacts
Constant Hoogstad
Manager: Wildlife and Energy Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
constanth@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

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Join us in creating history and celebrating our froggy friends: the EWT’s Official Guinness World Record Attempt for the largest game of Leapfrog

leap-day-for-frogs-logo

13 February 2017

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This February, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is inviting you to leap into action for frogs – literally –  and stand the chance to make history by breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog!

Leap Day for Frogs is held annually in the last weekend of February to raise awareness of the plight of these special amphibians and to celebrate the amazing diversity of South African frogs. Frogs are often met with negative reactions and mixed attitudes, and Leap Day for Frogs aims to help to dispel some of these connotations and educate people about the importance of frogs to our environment. The day calls on ordinary South Africans to leap into action and do something to celebrate and protect one of the most threatened group of animals on Earth: frogs! These important creatures, which are critical indicators of our freshwater health, are disappearing all over the planet, largely because of habitat destruction and pollution. Leap Day for Frogs is a national event and we invite everyone, wherever you are, to take part. We would love to hear what you are doing so please register your event and take a look at our website for ideas: http://www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za/help.html.
Frogs are famous for leaping across long distances and can manage up to 20 times their own body length in a single leap! The South African Cape River Frog holds the world record for Frog Jumping – the longest distance covered in three consecutive jumps – at 10.3 m…not bad for a 5 cm frog! So it seems only fitting that on Friday, 24 February 2017, as part of the overall Leap Day for Frogs, the EWT will be attempting to break the world record for the largest game of leapfrog. The record is currently held by New Zealand with 1,348 participants, so we are aiming for 1,500 participants. This exciting event will be held on the Durban beachfront promenade (near uShaka Marine World), in the process bringing people, especially school learners, to this wonderful area. We will be strictly adhering to Guinness World Record rules, including crowd management, counting systems, and health and safety. Event partners include eThekwini Parks and Recreation, and uShaka Marine World. Participants will receive a sponsored educational pack (per school class) as well as a refreshment. Spot prizes will also be awarded.
There are 125 frog species in South Africa, of which a third are threatened by habitat destruction, increasing levels of pollution in freshwater systems, disease and climate change. The EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme is working hard to secure populations of some of South Africa’s most threatened amphibian species (including the Critically Endangered Amathole Toad, the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog, and the Endangered Western Leopard Toad); protect key habitats for threatened amphibians; and raise awareness about frogs and their importance, making Leap Day for Frogs a very important day. It’s also a day to have fun, so round up your friends, family or school group on Friday, 24 February, and hop on over!
AGENDA
9:30 – Participants arrive
9:30-10:00 – Participants are allocated positions
10:00-10:10 – Participants take part in the leapfrog game
10:15-10:45 – Refreshments, spot prizes and educational packs (per school class attending) are handed out
11:00 – Departure
In keeping with Guinness World Record requirements, the event will be marshalled for safety and independently verified.
For more information on this frog-tastic event, please contact Dr Jeanne Tarrant at JeanneT@ewt.org.za or visit www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za
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Contacts
Dr Jeanne Tarrant
Manager: Threatened Amphibian Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 83 254 9563
jeannet@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

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CELEBRATING WORLD WETLANDS DAY

wetland

1 February
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World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on 2 February, provides an opportunity to celebrate a natural resource that is critical for people, the environment, and biodiversity. Wetlands come in all shapes and forms, from estuaries along our beautiful coastlines and high altitude inland wetlands within the grasslands of Mpumalanga, to the hard working wetlands within our urban landscapes. Much of our conservation effort within the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is centred around the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands and the catchments that feed them, and we encourage you to celebrate World Wetlands Day with us.

Two of South Africa’s three crane species, the Grey Crowned and Wattled Crane, are completely dependent on wetlands for their survival – yet both are threatened with extinction. Their threatened status mirrors the loss of wetlands in our country, with an estimated 50% of wetlands completely transformed in South Africa. The African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP), a partnership between the EWT and the International Crane Foundation, has used these charismatic, long-lived birds as flagships for wetland protection, restoration and management.

The ACCP’s South Africa Regional Manager, Tanya Smith, confirms that the efforts of the ACCP team and its partners have ensured the protection of nearly 100,000 ha of grasslands, wetlands and associated rivers in important catchments for people and cranes in South Africa over the past five years. The protection of the key water resources contributes to the long-term security of our water supply for millions of people in South Africa.

From large charismatic cranes to the small and slippery, wetlands are home to many. Globally, amphibians are the most threatened class of vertebrate with 32.5% of species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Approximately 800 species of amphibians make exclusive use of wetland habitats. Here in South Africa, a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail is found only in 25 wetlands along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Therefore, a key focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP), is the Endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frog. These coastal wetlands are unique in their structure and are themselves classified as Critically Endangered. “The presence of flagship species that depend on wetlands for their survival really helps leverage support for the protection and restoration of wetlands,” says Dr Jeanne Tarrant, TAP Programme Manager. The EWT embarked on an ambitious journey to restore four of these wetlands in the Durban area through alien plant control, re-establishment of indigenous plants and assessing wetland rehabilitation needs and this year will be working towards formal protection of two of these wetlands through community stewardship models.

This year’s World Wetland Day theme is “Wetlands for disaster risk reduction” and this theme truly celebrates the services wetlands provide for us free of charge. Wetlands greatly reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, and reduce the impacts of droughts by slowly releasing water to our streams and rivers. In the current drought gripping much of South Africa, the role and protection of healthy wetlands has never been more important.

The EWT is involved with several World Wetlands Day celebratory events around the country. In KwaZulu-Natal, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at the Greater Edendale Mall wetland in Pietermaritzburg on 2 February from 10am. This is a collaboration of all partners of the KwaZulu-Natal Wetland Forum and will see over 300 children learning about and experiencing the value of wetlands. In the Eastern Cape, the EWT and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa have partnered to get our future generation’s hands dirty experiencing the wetlands of the Amathole area, where the EWT has been implementing catchment restoration work for the past three years. Lastly, in Gauteng, World Wetlands Day will be celebrated on 17 February at Tembisa Esselen Park Pan. A fun day of activities is planned, so be on the lookout for the EWT stand.

Later on in the month, you can get involved in raising awareness for our special wetland dwellers, the frogs, by joining in on a number of Leap Day for Frogs activities, including the EWT’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog on Friday, 24 February. This exciting event gets underway at 10am on the Durban beachfront promenade near uShaka Marine World. Find out more by visiting www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za or emailing JeanneT@ewt.org.za

You can make a difference to our wetlands all year round in a number of different ways, including:
  1. Planning a wetland clean up in your community with local schools and parents.
  2. Reducing your waste, reusing bottles and containers you would normally throw away, use reusable shopping bags and recycle! Our water resources like rivers and wetlands are heavily impacted on by litter and waste, so these small actions can make a huge difference.
  3. Reporting any illegal dumping in wetlands and rivers to your local municipality or police station.
  4. Supporting the efforts of organisations like the EWT in protecting wetlands on your behalf.
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Contacts
Tanya Smith
South Africa Regional Manager: African Cranes Conservation Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
tanyas@ewt.org.za

Dr Jeanne Tarrant
Manager: Threatened Amphibian Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
jeannet@ewt.org.za

Bridget Corrigan
Manager: Source to Sea Programme
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
bridgetc@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Communication and Brand Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
belindag@ewt.org.za

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Public Response to the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Proposed Captive Lion Bone Export Quota

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Endangered Wildlife Trust, Centre for Environmental Rights, Wildlands Conservation Trust, National Association of Conservancies / Stewardship SA

At the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), convened in Johannesburg in September 2016, the South African government undertook to CITES to set a “annual export quotas for trade in bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth for commercial purposes derived from captive bred (lion) operations in South Africa”. At a meeting in Pretoria on 18th January 2017, the national Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Scientific Authority convened a stakeholder consultation meeting where they proposed that this quota be set at 800 skeletons (with or without the skull) per year for the international trade in lion bones, and that no trade will be allowed in bone products, fragments, teeth, etc. These skeletons can be sourced from captive animals that were hunted, euthanised or died naturally.

The undersigned organisations recognise that captive-origin lion bones have been traded from South Africa for several years and that trade volumes have increased annually since 2007. We firmly believe that trade quotas should be evidence-driven, and should only be set after robust scientific research has shown that there is no undue risk to wild populations. However, we also recognise that, given the historic precedent of South African lion bone exports, there could be unpredictable and unintended consequences for wild lion conservation (e.g. the poaching of wild lions to supply the demand), should the trade be summarily suspended through a zero quota (although these risks are purely speculative and not currently supported by any data).

In principle, the undersigned organisations:

  • Do not support the commercial captive breeding of carnivores because it does not contribute to the sustainable, responsible use of our wildlife resources and, in some cases, may have negative impacts on the conservation of these species in the wild.
  • Are concerned for the welfare of captive animals and about the current legislative loopholes that make policing and prosecution of welfare offences difficult.
  • Support the conservation of wild carnivores, such as lions, in their natural habitat, where they contribute to biodiversity conservation as keystone and flagship species, and where their health and welfare are not compromised.
  • Are concerned that promoting the captive breeding of wild animals for their parts is contrary to modern global trends and opinion. For example, at the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congresses held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in September 2016, a formal motion was passed to stop the canned hunting and non-conservation based captive breeding of lion and other predators. Additionally, at the CITES CoP in Johannesburg a decision was made that tigers should no longer be bred for their parts or derivatives and only the minimum number of captive tigers should be kept to meet conservation requirements.

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We recognise that the South African government is in a challenging position and needs to balance the demands of the industry with the urgent need for effective wild lion conservation. We thus applaud DEA for taking positive steps towards better regulation of the captive lion industry and its related activities. We understand that the quota of 800 skeletons per year is not evidence-based, but that DEA and the Scientific Authority will also be undertaking a three-year study in order to better understand the industry, investigate impacts of the bone trade on wild lion populations and provide data for annual quota reviews. We understand that this process follows the principles of adaptive management, which are widely used in systems that are poorly understood.

We are mindful that this study will put South Africa in a better position to evaluate the impact of captive lion bone trade, however, in order to do this effectively, we urge DEA and the Scientific Authority to ensure that the study incorporates a range of broader questions including, but not limited to:

  • Does the government have the capacity to effectively monitor and enforce trade regulations including permitting, inspections and export controls?
  • Can effective traceability systems be implemented to track lion bones across the entire trade chain?
  • How will the quota be allocated by province and by breeder, and what systems need to be in place to avoid corruption and bribery?
  • How can lion bones from captive lions be distinguished from those of wild lions and what processes need to be in place to prevent leakage from illegal sources to legal ones?
  • How will the legal trade out of South Africa affect the illegal trade in the rest of Africa?
  • What are the current and predicted future dynamics of consumer markets and what impact will they will have on the future demand for, and prices of, lion bones?
  • What are the potential impacts of lion bone trade on wild lion populations?
  • What are the possible impacts on wild tiger populations through increased demand for tiger bone (as lion bone is a substitute product)?
  • To what degree do South African captive lion breeding facilities conform to or comply with internationally accepted animal welfare standards, and how will these be enforced?
  • How can legislative loopholes regarding captive wildlife welfare be addressed?
  • Does captive trade adequately adhere to the spirit of sustainable utilisation, where both wildlife and communities benefit from the utilisation of natural resources?
  • What is the potential damage to “brand South Africa” as a result of increased national and international public pressure to end captive carnivore operations, and which may have a detrimental impact on South Africa’s tourism industry?

If these questions cannot be adequately investigated and addressed, then it is evident that the practice of captive breeding for lion bone trade should not be considered a viable component of South Africa’s wildlife economy.

The undersigned organisations are prepared to, wherever possible, collaborate with and assist DEA and the Scientific Authority in the carrying-out of the CITES-recommended study, in order to achieve the best possible result for DEA, South Africa and its lion population.

The DEA has called for public input into this process. All documents and presentations from the stakeholder engagement workshop are available here. All comments to be directed to Mr Mpho Tjiane, Deputy Director: CITES Policy Development and Implementation, Biodiversity and Conservation mtjiane@environment.gov.za before 2 February 2017.

CONTACT:

Dr Kelly Marnewick

Manager: Carnivore Conservation Programme

kellym@ewt.org.za

082 477 4470

011 372 3600

 

Belinda Glenn

Communication and Brand Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 11 372 3600

belindag@ewt.org.za

 

Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert

Head of Conservation

harrietd@ewt.org.za

082 507 9223

011 372 3600

 

The Centre for Environmental Rights

www.cer.org.za

Aadila Agjee

Attorney

aagjee@cer.org.za

084 673 4442

 

Wildlands Conservation Trust

www.wildlands.co.za

Dr Andrew Venter

Chief Executive Officer

AndrewV@wildlands.co.za

083 324 7487

033 343 6380

 

National Association of Conservancies / Stewardship SA

www.nacdnet.org

John Wesson

Chairman

jjwesson674@gmail.com

083 444 7649

012 504 1408

 

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2016 Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

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The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) launched the 2016 Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland in December 2016. Each week, we’ll be bringing you new species assessments, and introducing you to our Mammal of the Week, based on this updated Red List.

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Four-toed Sengi (Petrodromus tetradactylus)

Our Mammal of the Week is the Four-toed Sengi. This little mammal, possibly the cutest and largest of the African sengi species, is the second most widespread sengi in Africa. Within the assessment region (South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland) they are limited to the northern region of the Kruger National Park and the eastern area of KwaZulu-Natal (specifically around iSimangaliso Wetland Park). When alarmed the Four-toed Sengi rapidly stamps its hind feet on the ground, which can be heard many metres away. Threats to the species include loss of habitat and the intentional use for bushmeat. Previously listed as Endangered, the Four-toed Sengi has been downlisted in the 2016 Regional Red List Assessment to Near Threatened as a result of new information gleaned over the past decade. READ MORE ON OUR WEBSITE – https://www.ewt.org.za/Reddata/reddata.html

The 2016 Red List of Mammals of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland was funded via the South African National Biodiversity Institute (through a grant by the Norwegian Government that aims to build capacity in the southern Africa region for undertaking assessments), the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Department of Environmental Affairs, E Oppenheimer & Son and De Beers Group of Companies.

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