Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

Nature Ramble

A look at one of the world’s lesser known animals.

Looking more like a dragon from Harry Potter than a lizard.

Cordylus cataphractus

The armadillo lizard.

cordylus cataphractus

Found along the west coast of South Africa, from the Orange River in the north (Little Namaqualand, Northern Cape Province) to the Piketberg Mountains in the south, and as far inland as Matjiesfontein in the western Karoo Basin.
Armadillo lizards are named for their appearance when in a defensive position. When threatened, they curl up, grip the tail in their jaws, and form a tight, armored ball, resembling an armadillo. Rows of spiny osteodermate scales covering the neck, body, tail, and limbs deter predators from seizing or swallowing these lizards. – Animal Diversity Web
CC
cordylus-cataphractus

Monday Moaning

Man is the only beast that kills for sport!

‘Canned hunting’: the lions bred for slaughter

Canned hunting is a fast-growing business in South Africa, where thousands of lions are being bred on farms to be shot by wealthy foreign trophy-hunters

Lions bred to be shot in South Africa's 'canned hunting' industry - image The Guardian

Lions bred to be shot in South Africa’s ‘canned hunting’ industry – image The Guardian

They are adorably cute, with grubby brown fur so soft it seems to slip through my fingers like flour. It is only when one of the nine-week-old cubs playfully grabs my arm with its teeth and squeezes with an agonising grip that I remember – this is a lion, a wild animal. These four cubs are not wild, however. They are kept in a small pen behind the Lion’s Den, a pub on a ranch in desolate countryside 75 miles south of Johannesburg. Tourists stop to pet them but most visitors do not venture over the hill, where the ranch has pens holding nearly 50 juvenile and fully-grown lions, and two tigers.

Moreson ranch is one of more than 160 such farms legally breeding big cats in South Africa. There are now more lions held in captivity (upwards of 5,000) in the country than live wild (about 2,000). While the owners of this ranch insist they do not hunt and kill their lions, animal welfare groups say most breeders sell their stock to be shot dead by wealthy trophy-hunters from Europe and North America, or for traditional medicine in Asia. The easy slaughter of animals in fenced areas is called “canned hunting”, perhaps because it’s rather like shooting fish in a barrel. A fully-grown, captive-bred lion is taken from its pen to an enclosed area where it wanders listlessly for some hours before being shot dead by a man with a shotgun, hand-gun or even a crossbow, standing safely on the back of a truck. forHe pays anything from £5,000 to £25,000, and it is all completely legal.

Like other tourists and daytrippers from Jo’burg, I pay a more modest £3.50 to hug the lions at Moreson, a game ranch which on its website invites tourists to come and enjoy the canned hunting of everything from pretty blesbok and springbok – South Africa’s national symbol – to lions and crocodiles. After a cuddle with the cubs, I go on a “game drive” through the 2,000 hectare estate. Herds of blue wildebeest, red hartebeest and eland run from the truck, then stop and watch us, warily: according to the guides, the animals seem to know when visitors are not carrying guns. At the far end of the property is an abandoned farm, surrounded by pens of lethargic-looking big cats. One pair mate in front of us. Two healthy looking tigers tear at chicken carcasses rapidly rotting in the African sun.

The animals look well cared for. But Cathleen Benade, a ranch assistant who is studying wildlife photography and is devoted to the cubs, reveals that they were taken away from their mothers just an hour after birth and bottle-fed by humans for the first eight weeks of their life. After dark, as the lions roar in the cages below the pub veranda, Maryke Van Der Merwe, the manager of Lion’s Den and daughter of the ranch owner, explains that if the cubs weren’t separated from their mother – by blowing a horn to scare the adult lion away – the young lions would starve to death, because their mother had no milk. She says the mother is not distressed: “She’s looking for the cubs for a few hours but it’s not like she’s sad. After a day or two I don’t think she remembered that she had cubs.”

Read more

Read more

Opinion:

Nothing sickens me like this!

 

Nature Ramble

Sorry about the last couple of weeks, ran out of steam. In fact, I have been quite out of sorts.

But we’re pretty much back to normal now and should proceed.

This week we travel to Africa, the South African desert actually, and we’re talking about poop.

Dung beetles like to chill on top of balls of poop.

Dung beetles eat feces. Everyone knows this. But here’s something you didn’t know: newly published research reveals that dung beetles can use spheres of rollable poop-meals as portable AC units — and they’re damn effective ones, at that.

The sands of the South African desert can exceed temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius, or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s ridiculously hot. In fact, for a dung beetle like Scarabaeus lamarcki — which transports its meal by rolling it into a ball and pushing it across the scorching desert landscape with its hind legs — it’s too hot, as demonstrated in a study by functional zoologist Jochen Smolka in the latest issue of Current Biology. Using infrared thermography and behavioral experiments, Smolka and his colleagues have shown that dung beetles use their poo-ball as “a mobile thermal refuge” — a portable evaporative unit that cools the beetle slightly as it rolls, and dramatically when it clambers on top of it….

…So what’s the secret to ball-cooling? The big one is evaporation. Dung balls are moist. As that moisture evaporates it keeps the ball very cool — around 32 °C, even when it’s resting atop 60 °C soil. What’s more, note the researchers, “because beetles roll their ball rather than drag it, the ball, preceding the beetle, cools down the sand the beetle is about to step on” by around 1.5 °C.

All told, that means a beetle’s ball of crap helps keep it cool in three ways. First: as a platform, elevated above the scorching desert sand. Second: as a heat sink, drawing heat from the beetle’s forelimbs whenever they start to overheat. And third: as a mobile sand-cooling unit, paving a cooler path for the beetle as it pushes its prize ball of poo from one place to the next.

Source:  io9 There’s more tech stuff and a video clip there.

%d bloggers like this: