Sunday, October 18, 2009

Looking at Climate Change.....and experiencing some of it in Cape Town

The first half of this week required a visit to Cape Town to attend a workshop on Climate Change hosted by the Climate Change Action Partnership (CAP), a partnership of 8 of the most prominent environmental NGO's in South Africa, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The workshop was held at the headquarters of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in the grounds of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, the programme didn't really allow much time to walk and explore this very picturesque setting!

If you have not been involved in any of the discussions on Climate Change before, it is quite a bewildering experience at first. Consistent with modern trends, this field of environmental study is wrought with what I call 'Acronymania" and the first few hours of presentations by learned colleagues were brim-full of a whole new range of acronyms which I've never heard of before. Examples of which are NCCCF, REDD, REDD+, SACCN, UNFCCC, PPRI, SANAS, NSSA, etc, etc. No wonder most people don't quite understand the very real impacts of global climate change and humanity's role in it! I think that one of the major challenges here is to clarify the message with regard to the causes, impact and changes brought about by this phenomenon for public consumption.

Fortunately, things improved during the first day when several projects focused on mitigating against climate change impacts across southern Africa provided feedback on the valuable work they were involved in. The most impressive presentation by far was by Ailsa Holloway from UCT who reviewed the major climatic events to affect the south-western Cape over the last 20 years and the extent and monetary losses suffered because of each. She made a very important point in saying that man needs to learn from the impacts of these events and adapt and plan the way we are doing things much better to reduce the risk of future losses and damage to infrastructure and even lives. The trend so far has been to replace and repair infrastructure as soon as possible after an event, but in exactly the same place it was before , just placing it in the path of the next flood, landslide, etc! Not great adaptive thinking and possibly also the recipe for even greater losses in future. This also means that people cannot just settle and build houses wherever they see fit. The regular flooding and washing away of housing establishments in up-market developments as well as informal housing in several areas of South Africa over the last few years also confirms the fact that people still do not realise the very real threats posed by the manner and rate of development and urbanisation that is currently prevalent in most large urban areas of the country.

Despite initial misgivings, it was certainly an informative workshop and there are quite a few options to include a climate change focus into the projects that I am involved in, especially with regard to migratory raptors and species frequenting habitats that are expected to be most adversely affected by this phenomenon.

There certainly was enough weather packed into the three-day visit to back-up the fact that we are living in interesting times as far as climate is concerned. From the turbulent flight down to Cape Town, wind and rain on day 1, a beautiful sunny day on day 2, low mist on the West Coast and gale-force winds by the time I left on Wednesday evening, the Cape certainly put everything on display, No wonder the weather's the most spoken about topic in that part of the world!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Leave Vultures to use their own Heads!

One of the outstanding characteristics of most Old World vultures is the fact that they possess extraordinary eyesight which, in species such as the Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres pictured below, is believed to be at least ten times stronger than that of Homo sapiens. These birds rely on this extraordinary sensory ability to locate their food in the habitats where they occur. Apart from trying to locate a carcass themselves, vultures also look out for large predators on the ground and watch each other and other scavenging birds should anyone on the wing be lucky enough to find the food first.

Should a feeding opportunity be found and the first birds go down to feed, it is quite incredible to witness how vultures seem to converge from every direction in a matter of minutes to literally fill the sky above a carcass or feeding site. This is possible because vultures continually watch each other and can pick up concentrations of birds circling above a carcass from several kilometres away.

Adult Cape Vulture showing yellow iris

Vulture eyesight is a quality that many cultures have come to admire and aspire to and this could have been one of the qualities that fascinated the ancient Egyptians to the extent that vultures were considered important enough to worship and honour as gods. However, it is also this same characteristic that, in modern times, is leading to an incredible negative impact on vultures in certain areas. Many cultures in Africa have developed the belief that vultures contain within them the gift of clairvoyancy or clear-sightedness, insight and the ability to predict certain future events. Many humans of course also aspire to obtain these qualities and believe that, by purchasing and consuming vulture body parts, in particular the heads of these birds, they will be able to acquire them.

This has led to a significant impact on populations of vultures in certain parts of Africa due to the fact that this need has created an opportunity to generate income from the killing and harvesting of vultures for the sale of their body parts at "muthi"-markets by traditional healers. A study done by Myles Mander and Steve McKean in KwaZulu-Natal over several years indicate that, should the current rate of harvest continue, species such as White-headed Vulture Aegypus occipitalis and Lappet-faced Vulture Aegyous tracheliotus could disappear within the next 10 years while African White-backed Vultures Gyps africanus could go extinct in that province of South Africa in the next 15-25 years. According to the study, the current trade in vulture parts is estimated to exceed R1,2m and it is estimated that as many as 160 vultures are killed for the trade in eastern South Africa annually.

The picture at the top is that of a poisoned African White-backed Vulture found in Botswana while that at
the bottom is of a batch of vulture heads confiscated during a raid on a poachers camp in Tanzania.

The most popular method of harvest used for vultures is undoubtedly the poisoning of carcasses or the placement of smaller poisoned baits in the veld which, if consumed, kill these birds quickly and can lead to the death of large numbers of birds in one attempt. A range of substances are used locally, but the most popular by far is aldicarb, known in the trade as Temmik or more generally referred to as "Two Step". The latter name refers to the fact that ingesting a small dose of it will kill any animal almost instantly or before it can take two steps. In South Africa, we have experienced poisoning incidents in the last few years where as many as 50 vultures have been killed in a single incident, but cases of over 200 birds being killed have also been recorded previously. Should such events occur at certain critical times of the year when breeding birds may have small chicks in the nest, the loss of a single bird from a breeding pair could be devastating and will inevitably lead to the failure of such a breeding attempt. Birds can also be acquired by setting traps or shooting them from the air with a shotgun, but this is far less common than the use of poison.

EKZNW and the EWT-BoPWG about two years ago convened an action group to discuss options and plan concerted action to reduce the impact of this phenomenon on vulture populations in South Africa. One of the major concerns we have, is that people who use vulture parts could possibly suffer and even get killed due to secondary poisoning if that was the means used to acquire the bird in the first place. Some of the other actions agreed on by the Traditional Medicine Task Force were:

  • Reducing the consumption and demand for vulture parts through an awareness campaign targeting consumers and other role-players in the trade

  • Changing and creating policy to regulate the trade where necessary

  • Improving policing and enforcement of relevant laws to regulate the trade

  • Improving the understanding of the vulture trade through monitoring and research, allowing more focused interventions
In the last 12 months, however, information received from elsewhere in Africa seems to indicate that the use of vultures in traditional medicine is not only restricted to South Africa, but that harvesting also occurs in countries such as Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania. Tanzania in particular seems to have suffered pretty severely with evidence of more than 300 birds that have been killed in this year alone being received. Some of this evidence was recovered from poacher camps in the Serengeti and Selous where bags filled with vulture heads from a range of species have been confiscated by law enforcement officials. Although there is some speculation that these birds are harvested for the trade in South Africa, the extent of availability of vulture parts in markets in these countries seem to indicate that it is also used locally. The substance carbofuran seems to be the main poisoning agent used in East Africa and is widely available despite a recent ban on the sale thereof being imposed in Kenya.

Concern have also been expressed from elsewhere in Africa in this regard and in some areas people have also started targeting vultures as a source of protein and have started to use them as food. At least part of the huge decline in vulture populations in West Africa over the last 20 years is ascribed to this.

Because of these and other threats impacting on vulture populations on the continent, partners in the African Raptor Network are planning a pan-African Vulture Conservation Symposium in 2010 during which we plan to device a working strategy to address all threats facing vultures in Africa through concerted and coordinated action and working together to effectively address them. We are aiming to let people in Africa respect and understand the cultural and ecosystem benefits of conserving vultures and to support the principle that the birds should rather use their own heads rather than us!

McKean, S. 2007. Vultures and Traditional Medicine. EWT-BoPWG Information Leaflet, Endengered Wildlife Trust

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Southern Kalahari excursion - IVAD Partners, Fieldworkers and a few thousand pink birds in trouble

Thursday and Friday this week required me to travel to Kimberley to attend a meeting of the Northern Cape Raptor Conservation Forum. This forum was the brainchild of Mark Anderson and Abrie Maritz almost 17 years ago and aims to provide a forum to discuss and plan relevant raptor conservation issues in the Northern Cape with input from the full spectrum of organisations and individuals concerned, including important tole-players such as Northern Cape NatCon, SANParks, EWT-BoPWG fieldworkers and utility companies such as Eskom whose operations impact on raptors in the province. The forum gathers twice a year and I attempt to attend at least one of these meetings if possible as it also allows an opportunity to catch up with both of the senior field staff of the EWT-BoPWG, Abrie Maritz and Ronelle Visagie who work in the Kalahari and eastern Karoo respectively. The meeting was held at one of the De Beers properties, Dronfield Farm, situated just outside Kimberley in the southern Kalahari Sandveld and one of several sites where good numbers of African White-backed Vultures breed in good numbers in the Camelthorn-trees occuriing on the site.

Sunset in the southern Kalahari, Dronfield Farm outside Kimberley

Ronelle came to collect me from the airport early on Thursday morning and I felt a lot better after a good breakfast, considering that only 2.5 hours of sleep was possible the night before when Thea and I attended a CATS show at Montecasino in support of BirdLife SA and only got home close to midnight! Fist stop was a meeting with Law Enforcement officials of NCape NC, but we managed to get any queries sorted in good time to the beenfit of all fieldworkers in the NCape. The rest of the day was spent waiting for vultures to oblige and be captured in the mass-capture facility kindly built by the Hawk Conservancy on Dronfield. When there was no action by about 3pm, I suggested to Ronelle that we go for a drive on the reserve. Needless to say, we found good numbers of birds at one of the waterholes on Dronfield, about 5kms from the capture site! We counted no less than 54 African White-backed-, 7 Lappet-faced- and 6 Cape Vultures at the site. No birds were kind enough to have themselves captured to be fitted with sarellite ptt's to follow their movements.

Cape- and African White-backed Vultures at waterhole, Dronfield.

That evening, we met up with some members of the Forum as well as staff and volunteers from The Hawk Conservancy in the UK who had travelled to Kimberley to participate in the annual ringing and tagging of vulture nestlings and who had also been sitting at the hide and monitoring activities at the mass-capture facility in the hope to catch some birds to with with satellite tracking devices to follow the movements of these birds as part of our studies of the movements of these birds, for the entire day!. At the time of writing this, the team, working with Mark Anderson and his team of local volunteers, would have completed the first day of ring and tagging nestlings on the property. Sadly, no birds were captured at Dronfield during my stay there, but there is good potential to do a sucessful capture there in the near future. To make up for the fruitless effort spent on the vulture capture, we had a great evening of socialising and talking raptor and vulture conservation. It still amazes me how people with common interests can get along like a house on fire without having met before and it was only lack of sleep that finally forced me to retreat to bed at about 10.30pm, totally knackered!

Socialising with members of The Hawk Conservancy Trust

On Friday morning, I left the guesthouse we were staying at early to visit Kamfersdam just outside Kimberley on the national road leading north to Johannesburg. This site is world-renowned for the establishment of the first man-made breeding island, established by friend and colleague Mark Anderson with the support of large business in Kimberley about 2 years ago. The site has been a great success and several thousand Lesser Flamingo pairs have bred successfully on the island since, making it the first substantial breeding site for this species in South Africa and the third most important breeding site for the species globally. This site is however under considerable pressure from sewage effluent and other developments which have received extensive coverage in the local and international media over the last 18 months. This resulted in Mark resigning as Ornithologist at NCape NC, but also contributed to him being offered the position as Chief Executive of BirdLife South Arica about a year ago. For more informatio about the site and any issues, have a look at

Lesser Flamingoes feeding at Kamfersdam with breeding
island in the background

The Forum met on Friday morning and our fieldworkers and SANParks were also able to discuss and sort out some challenges with regard to the two research projects we have initiated this year at the Kgalagadi TFCA and the recently established Mokala National Park, south of Kimberley. With the vulture still not obliging by about 3pm, Ronelle finally dropped me at the airport and I returned to Johannesburg late afternoon.

As usual, there were lots of other birds to be seen and recorded in and around Kimberley and I was able to confirm my first records of both Eurasian Bee-eater, African Cuckoo and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar at Dronfield for the summer. many of the resident birds were actively breeding and nests of Ashy Tit, Red-eyed Bulbul and Golden-tailed Woodpecker were easily located. I was also able to photograph a pair of Greater Striped Swallows collecting mud at a waterhole to build their nest.

Greater Stripe Swallow pair collecting nesting material

The co-operative work between the Hawk Conservancy Trust and Mark and his team form EWT-BoPWG/BLSA has already paid good dividends and I am sure that it will go from stregnth to strength. Here to hoping that there will be sufficient time for me to participate in the entire weekend of fieldwork at Dronfield next year!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Keeping a look-out for Feathered International Arrivals

This is the time of year when raptorphiles in Africa keep their eyes peeled for the arrival of the first over-wintering migratory raptors that arrive here from their breeding grounds in Europe and Asia. Of course, we here in southern Africa get to see some of these arrivals last and the spectacle of large flocks of migratory raptors that is fairly common further north on the continent are not often seen down here with the exception of the smaller migratory falcons (kestrels). A number of species such as Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga and Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus also do not migrate as far south and over-winter further north in Africa, seldom making an appearance down here. Palearctic migratory raptors that are however regularly recorded in southern Africa include Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis, Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Black Kite Milvus migrans and no less than three Harriers Circus spp. Western Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus (pic right) is another migrant that was previously considered rare in southern Africa, but have been regularly recorded in recent years. Then there are also a number of migratory Falcon species of which the Amur Falcon Falco amurensis, Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus and Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni are probably best known.

Not all migratory raptors recorded in southern Africa migrate to the Palearctic region, however. Wahlberg's Eagle Aquila wahlbergi for example is an intra-African migrant that arrives in the region from mid-August and starts breeding shortly after their arrival. I recorded quite a few active nests of this species during my 2-day visit to the southern Kruger National Park earlier this week.

Migratory raptors tend to mostly migrate by day and especially the larger species rely on the lift provided by thermals to soar to great heights before heading north or south, depending on their intended destination. Large concentrations of these birds are found in areas where migratory routes converge or where geographical features limit their options with regard to which routes to take. Although I have not yet been fortunate enough to witness these mass congregations of birds at areas such as Eilat in Israel or at a number of other spots on the Mediterranean, it certainly is on my list of things to do. Because of the lack of lift from thermals over large bodies of water such as the ocean, many raptors either avoid flying over such areas or depend on "island hopping" or making use of islands in the ocean as stop-overs before continuing their journey.
One exception to this rule is the Amur Falcon (male in flight pictured right) which is believed to cover the entire distance from the Indian sub-continent to the coast of East Africa in a non-stop flight of almost 6000km over the Indian Ocean, the longest unbroken migratory flight known by any raptor species! This is just part of their very long migratory route from Eastern China and Mongolia where they breed to their wintering grounds on the grasslands and savanna of southern Africa. Due to this very long route, they are often the last migratory raptors to arrive in southern Africa, often in the first days of December only.
Red-footed Falcons migrate south from their breeding grounds in central and eastern Europe and Asia and often cross the Mediterranean in a non-stop flight. Researchers from BirdLife Hungary are currently studying the migratory patterns of this species using satellite tracking and eight birds have been fitted with ptt's to follow their movements. You can now follow these birds on their southward migration clicking on this link: , just remember to scroll on the date at the bottom to look at the daily progress they are making. We here in southern Africa are very interested in finding out where the Red-footed Falcon over-winters as this species has to date been very poorly represented in our Annual Roost Counts and it would be great to get an idea of where most of these birds spend their time here.

All three the small migratory falcons that over-winter in southern Africa congregate in large numbers and hunt for insects and other prey over the African veld. At night, they roost in large, often exotic trees such as bluegums and tall pines and these roosts can in some cases contain thousands of birds. It is quite a spectacle, especially in late summer when they come in to roost after sunset, just before it gets really dark as they mill above the roost tree, giving their shrill calls which can at times be quite deafening! Then, as if someone gave a signal they will go down into the tree to jostle for a perch to sleep on. It is obviously better to find a spot fairly high up as you can imagine what happens at night with a thousand of your mates sleeping above you after a day of feeding!

This habit of roosting in such large numbers together, provides us in southern Africa with an ideal opportunity to get an estimate of the global population size of these three species. There is currently quite a network of volunteers, mostly based in South Africa, that participate in our Annual Roost Count at almost 90 known roost sites on the Highveld, the Free State, Karoo and elsewhere. If you want to know more about these counts or results from previous year's efforts, visit , a site managed by the coordinator of the EWT-Birds of Prey Working Group's Migratory Kestrel Project (MKP), Anthony van Zyl.

Many of these roosts are located in urban areas as the birds probably consider it a safer option to spend the night in an urban area where there are potentially fewer predators that may disturb or try to make a meal of them. This can cause problems however as the falcons tend to make quite a mess and the ground under these roosts often look as if its covered by snow at the end of summer. We have received quite a few complaints about this over the years, especially when the scare about avian influenza was at its peak. There is however no evidence that these little raptors play any role in the spread of the disease and the biggest issue is normally the mess caused by their droppings and, at times, the noise levels at the roosts which can sometimes continue well into the night.
We are aware of quite a few instances where roosting trees have been chopped down and removed because of this. To attempt to address this, the MKP has designed an attractive sign which can be erected at the various roosts informing people of the significance of such sites and also providing more information on the birds and their migratory routes. Communities, municipalities and bird clubs are encouraged to have these signs made and erected at roosts that occur in their area and we happily provide the proofs to those that are interested in doing so.
Apart from the loss of roosting sites for some, migratory raptors also face a range of other dangers during their travels. Inclement weather and severe storms could delay migration for several days, while some birds could easily be blown off course. For species such as Amur Falcon a storm at sea could result in the death of many birds if they cannot avoid it or find a place to land and rest. There are few records of these falcons descending on ships in large numbers and roosting on every available perch under such circumstances.
By far the most upsetting of these threats is the danger posed by "hunters" in certain areas of the Mediterranean that derive pleasure from shooting large numbers of migratory raptors and other birds out of the sky, often just for the fun of it. Although the EU has implemented strict legislation banning the shooting of these birds, many people still consider it their cultural right to do so and thousands of birds are lost annually during the north- and southward migrations. Bird conservationists, working with local police, often put their own lives at risk to try and apprehend illegal hunters and often camp at key sites to attempt these shootings from taking place. Despite this, many birds are still killed. Examples of these massacres can be seen on the following video-links:
Considering the long distance that these birds cover and the dangers they face during migration, they deserve special protection across their entire range. A number of migratory raptors are currently listed as globally threatened and protected under the International Convention on Migratory Species: Raptors to which South Africa became a signatory in 2008.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sponsors put up their hands to support Rhino conservation in South Africa

Rhino poaching in South Africa has escalated to alarming levels over the last 24 months with a high degree of sophistication that seems to characterise a lot of the incidents reported during this period. Although poaching in some incidents still happen in the familiar fashion of armed poachers moving into an area on foot, tracking and then shooting their quarry, modern-day poachers make use of equipment such as helicopters, night vision, silent weapons and veterinary drugs to kill rhino and harvest the horns. Horns that are removed are often rapidly transported to the nearest international airport and could be at their intended destination within 24 hours of removal. Most of these find their way to markets in the Far East where it is incorrectly reputed to be a powerful aphrodisiac and it is now also believed to cure cancer in certain countries.

Statistics reveal that more than 120 rhino were poached in South Africa during 2008. Considering the time of year and the tally so far, it is likely that the number of animals killed in the country in 2009 can equal or exceed that of 2008. Similar trends have been experienced in Zimbabwe where Black Rhino in certain areas currently face the threat of almost complete eradication despite brave efforts by rangers to stem the onslaught. A major area of concern that has been clearly illustrated with several successful poaching attempts on game farms and lodges in Gauteng, Northwest and the bushveld of Limpopo, is the vulnerability of the private sector to this threat. It is quite amazing that some private land-owners are prepared to pay in excess of R0.5m for a single White Rhino, but then often neglect to implement even the most basic of security measures to ensure that the animal is not poached.

Another loophole identified and used by rhino horn traders is that of the trophy hunting industry where they have inflated the going price for a trophy animal to the extent that the traditional trophy hunter from the US, Europe or elsewhere can no longer afford it. Traders are quite happy to pay more than R1m per trophy hunt, arrive in the country and shoot a rhino, only to lob off the horns, stuff them in a bag and exit the country with a permit that legally entitles them to do so. One can only imagine what the return on investment is on the sale of such horns. Fortunately, legislation has now been amended to address this and it will hopefully not recur during the next hunting season.

This is of course not the first time that rhino in South Africa have faced this threat. During the late 1980's and early 1990's a similar threat was impacting rhino and elephant populations in southern Africa on a similar, if not larger, scale. Timeous action and the implementation of effective measures to curb this threat at the time resulted in the effective eradication thereof to the extent where it was no longer considered a significant threat by 1997.

A vital part of this intervention was the improvement in the level of training of Field Rangers and equipping them with the appropriate skills and tools to take on armed poachers on an equal footing, but with the full backing of the legal system. This training was standardised and norms set for the entire sub-region through the establishment of the Game Rangers Training Co-ordination Group in 1990. This group enjoyed the full support of all southern African formal (national and provincial), private and NGO conservation bodies and also worked closely with the Endangered Species Protection Unit of the SAPS to effectively address this threat at all levels. I was fortunate to chair this group from 1997-1999 and am proud to say that the training curriculum developed at the time still forms the broad framework according to which Field Ranger training is conducted throughout the SADC-region and at the Southern African Wildlife College in particular.

I believe that we can once again effectively curb this new surge in rhino poaching by working together in partnership, sharing knowledge and expertise and adapting our training and operations to effectively address the new, more sophisticated approach of poachers. The Game Rangers Association of Africa (GRAA) is in the fortunate position to already be assisting in this regard through a fantastic sponsorship received from the Liberty Wildlife Foundation based in the Netherlands.

The Foundation has pledged a sponsorship in excess of R1m a year for the next few years for the training and recruitment of approximately 100 new Field Rangers per year to augment the current corps of rangers operating in national parks and provincial reserves in South Africa. It is also hoped to expand our training focus to address some of the needs in the private sector by training Field Rangers for these smaller establishments in due course. The GRAA, in partnership with the SAWC and AFRTS, are currently busy with training the first 60 of these new rangers who will be employed by SANParks once they complete their training on the 10th of October 2009. An additional 40 rangers will then be trained and deployed in the Ukuhlamba-Drakensberg and Lesotho before the end of 2009. Another vital component of this initiative is to also expand on the existing group of qualified training personnel through identifying and training up more trainers.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), GRAA and WESSA also initiated a Rhino Security Workshop which was hosted by SANParks at Skukuza in June 2009 during which a draft strategy to address the current threat of poaching was further discussed. This workshop also involved a range of other role-players from both the formal and private sectors and specific actions were agreed upon to take the process further.

One of the major stumbling blocks to implementing this strategy was securing sufficient funding to employ a project coordinator for the new initiative known as "Strengthening the Security of Rhino in South Africa". This initiative will focus on three main activities, namely:
  1. law enforcement through the recently initiated Poaching Investigators Crime Forum,
  2. tracking the trade in rhino horn through an existing project coordinated by TRAFFIC and
  3. working to ensure the in situ security of rhino, especially on private land.

Fortunately, the SA Mint has stepped up to the plate and pledged its support to this vitally important project through donating a significant portion of the proceeds from the sales of its latest series of gold coins, known as the Natura series which depicts the White Rhino in its design and are really very attractive. This series is apparently very popular with collectors worldwide and have won numerous international awards. It is believed that more than R0.5m can potentially be raised with this initiative which would be sufficient to launch the above project within the next few months. Anyone interested in finding out more about these coins can contact the SA Mint as Your support for this important cause will be appreciated.

I was fortunate to represent the GRAA and attend the minting of the first of these coins by the Minister of Water Affairs and the Environment, Ms. Byelwa Sonjica at the SA Mint on Wednesday and her very vocal support for this initiative and the improvement of rhino security in South Africa in general, was very encouraging. Substantive support from government and donors will go a long way to assist in mobilising an effective reaction to the current poaching threat facing rhino and other wildlife in the region. I look forward to seeing this challenge being successfully conquered for the second time in twenty years and to be able to contribute in some way.

It is also encouraging to note that both SANParks and KZN Wildlife have had recent successes in apprehending poachers in the Kruger National Park and Zululand reserves, an indication that the tide against rhino poaching is starting to turn.