Africa nature

Articles in ‘Africa nature’

What is that pink balloon on a marabou stork?

January 29th, 2012

Strikingly ugly and bald, with a thick powerful bill, the Marabou stork is unforgettable.  But what is that naked pink pouch that sometimes appears hanging under its bill?

This gular sac has two purposes: it helps keep the stork cool, as the skin has a dense concentration of blood vessels. It’s also a show-off device.  In the breeding season, the male Marabou stork inflates the sac to impress rivals and prospective partners.  The female will inflate hers in return.  They also have a second air sac, small and normally hidden by feathers at the back of the neck, which swells like a red bubble during a display.

The lowest point in Africa

February 11th, 2011

File:Lake Assal 1-Djibouti.jpg

Lake Assal in the bleak Afar Depression in Djibouti, is the lowest point in Africa,  at 155m below sea level, and is also considered the  most saline body of water in the world  outside Antarctica (note, the Dead Sea is not the saltiest), with a remarkable 34.8 percent salt concentration. The area is wild and desert-like, and thee is no wildlife  or flora in the lake’s soup-like waters. Image by Fishercd More from Wikipedia

See also:

Lake Assal – Djibouti”, BBC Science and Nature

Lake Assal sits at the top of the Great Rift Valley in the Danakil Desert where summer temperatures sometimes reach 52°C and are accompanied by strong drying winds. To the right of the lake is a glistening white plain which was once part of the lake floor. The lake has now evaporated to leave a vast expanse of salt. The Afar people of Sudan make their living by mining and trading this valuable commodity.

Why Africa’s Lake Assalis the Saltiest on Earth?

Elephant meat for dogs

February 5th, 2011

This old story refound on The Guardian from 1967 on the use of “surplus” elephant meat to feed pet dogs is bizzare. They had planned to resort to elephants, firstly from Kenya, with the depletion of the whale population, whose meat had long been used by the pet trade. How times have changed:

Dogs in Britain and America may soon be eating elephant meat — from tins. International pet food companies are hoping to arrange with East African Governments to take wild animal meat, mainly elephant, killed under the various “cropping” schemes designed to reduce surplus population.

Giraffes at Arusha, Tanzania

January 4th, 2011

Giraffes Arusha Tanzania

Photp of a group of giraffes at Arusha national park in Tanzania by Geir Kiste via Wikimedia Commons. More on Tanzanian wildlife

Tsavo lions only ate 35 people

November 2nd, 2009 New research claims to show that the infamous Tsavo lions only ate 35 people and not 135 as previously believed. The lions have become famous as the worst man eaters in history as they terrorized a railroad camp in Kenya for nine months in 1898. Now an examination of the lion’s stomachs has revealed they were less prolific. More here

Books about the Tsavo lions

The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa’s Notorious Man-Eaters
This book has received excellent reviews:
  • Deftly written …Patterson’s book must now be considered the definitive Tsavo lion study. Patterson’s research at Chicago’s Field Museum and Tsavo National Park – the most important wildlife preserve in East Africa – have established him as one of the world’s leading experts on lions as well as an important conservationist’ – “Publishers Weekly”.
  • ‘It was a great relief to find this wonderfully thorough, scientific, and hugely accurate tome …the thrill of so many new details (and newly found photos) put together in historical (Darwinian) biological and ecological perspective. – Peter Beard, Photographer, Naturalist, and Author of “The End of the Game”.’ More
And for a slightly lighter read there is Ghosts of Tsavo: Tracking the Mythic Lions of East Africa
From the bestselling Pulitzer Prize winner and National Book Award finalist, Phil Caputo, a riveting adventure travel narrative that tracks two scientists attempting to unlock the secrets of a unique breed of fierce, man-eating lions of eastern Africa. More

Discovery of giant web-spinning spider in Africa

October 21st, 2009

With a leg span of 12 cm and a body of 4 cm, the newly discovered Nephila komaci is the biggest orb spider in the world. It spins webs of up to 1 metre in diameter. The species has pronounced sexual size dimorphism, with particularly tiny males. Female spiders are thought to be larger in order to produce more young. The small size of the males might help them avoid being eaten by the females before mating. The Nephilia komaci is restricted to parts of Africa and Madagascar.  BBC

Lions being killed for Chinese medicine

October 20th, 2009 As wild tiger populations fall, poachers are turning to lions to feed the insatiable Chinese appetite for ‘potions’ made from big cat bones. Most at risk is the Asiatic lion found today only in the Gir Forest of India. Africa Conservation

Kenyan park becomes IBA

October 12th, 2009 Lake Nakuru National Park, famous for its population of as many as 1.5 million non-breeding Lesser Flamingos has become the first National Park in Africa to be designated as an Important Bird Area. Some 450 bird species have been recorded in and around Lake Nakuru. Birdwatch

Not all bad news from Congo

September 30th, 2009

WWF is fighting to protect Gabon's Minkébé National Park from a proposed iron-mining venture that could disturb this pristine haven for elephants, gorillas and eagles.

Not all bad news from Congo. The WWF reports here on the successs of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership  in saving the world’s second biggest rainforest. Some of its accomplishments:

  • 34 protected areas, 61 community based natural resource management areas, and 34 extractive resource zones have been zoned for conservation management, covering 126 million acres (51 million hectares) or more than a third of the Congo Basin forests.
  • More than 11.5 million acres of forest have been certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
  • Over 5,000 local men and women have been trained in conservation, land use planning and related conservation capacities.
  • Although logging and forest degradation remain serious problems, the overall rate of deforestation in the Congo Basin is estimated to be a relatively low 0.17% — a third of that of Brazil and a 10th of that of Indonesia.
  • Indicators for the survival of some endangered species are also improving. Despite years of conflict and poaching, the population of mountain gorillas in Virunga, between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, is up 17% over a previous census taken 20 years ago.
  • Studies of landscapes and wildlife have improved conservation planning, exemplified by the discovery of 125,000 previously unknown western lowland gorillas in Northern Congo.

More here

Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

September 29th, 2009 Rainforest Project: Deforestation in DRC Very interesting series of images and notes by Spanish photographer Daniel Beltrá on deforestation and other environmental issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Greenpeace has estimated that the DRC risks losing more than 40% of its forests. The Guardian See also Daniel Beltrá‘s site