September 5th, 2009
I love this wild live 24h webcam on Pete’s pond in the Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana. During the day animals such as elephants, warthogs, impalas, baboons and crocodiles can be seen in and around the pond, along with lots of birdlife. At night, the pond is sometimes visited by various big cats, hunting dogs, hyenas, a variety of smaller carnivores, rodents and aardvarks to a chorus of African chirping insects and croaking frogs. The camera is usually operated by volunteers, who zoom in on the action, which makes it possibly the best webcam anywhere in the world. Warning: addictive.
The Mashatu Game Reserve also provide entertaining monthly reports on the sightings with the cam at the pond
Regular viewers of Pete’s Pond call themselves ‘Pondies’. National Geographic has a Facebook site to allow Pondies to communicate amongst themselves and on which blogs scientists from Mashatu contribute on a regular basis.
September 5th, 2009
One of the best and most interesting ways of seeing the Okavango Delta in Botswana is by taking a trip in a mokoro, a type of canoe. The mokoro is propelled like a punt by a poler standing in the stern as you lie back glide through the shallow waters of the delta and enjoy the scenery. You won’t see as much wildlife as on a conventional safari, though hippos and crocodiles are likely, and rather exciting as the boats are somewhat vulnerable to attack by hippopotamus, which are said to be able to overturn them with ease. They are reputed to have developed this behaviour after the use of makoros and other boats for hunting. I spent several exciting but tense hours on the return leg of a trip in a makoro some years ago, as we approached a pond where we had angered a male hippo on the way out. When we got there, it had thankfully gone.
Makoros are traditionally made by digging out the trunk of a large straight tree, such as an ebony tree or Kigelia tree. As these trees take many years to grow and only last for five years, these days makoros are often made of fibre-glass. Note, although Makoro safaris are a popular way for tourists to visit the delta, they are still a practical means of transport for the local BaYei people to move around the swamp.
These people (above photo) organise trips:
A mokoro poler will be introduced to you and will be your boatman and guide throughout the trip. Depending on the length of the trip, you can expect to spend a few hours poling on the mokoro, having lunch along the way, and doing game walks into the bush.
If you are over-nighting, the poler will find a nice campsite and help you collect some firewood for cooking. Hey, and remember, this is the bush and there are no facilities – back to basics, no showers, no toilets. While you are on the trip, remember to listen to your guide – he has grown up and lived in this area most of his life. He will not only show you many fascinating things, he will also keep you out of trouble and safe while you’re in the bush. At the end of your tour, an Audi Camp vehicle will pick you up at a prearranged time and bring you back to the camp.
September 3rd, 2009
I love this rock painting of an eland and a giraffe from the Tsodilo Hills in northwestern Botswana. Tsodilo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It contains over 4,500 rock paintings in an area of approximately 10 km² in the Kalahari Desert. A recent discovery of 70,000-year-old artifacts and a python’s head carved of stone may possibly represent the first known human ritual. These hills are still of great cultural and spiritual significance to the San peoples of the Kalahari. Visitors to the rock paintings must be accompanied by a local guides. This provides money to the local economy and helps protect the site.
For many thousands of years the rocky outcrops of Tsodilo in the harsh landscape of the Kalahari Desert have been visited and settled by humans, who have left rich traces of their presence in the form of outstanding rock art.
August 20th, 2009
African Penguins under threat. Photo: Salimfadhley (Wikimedia commons)
- The recent catastrophic decline in numbers of African penguins in the wild has raised alarm among conservationists. The bird are declining at all of their breeding sites. The penguins on Robben Island, South Africa, declined by 62 per cent between 2007 and 2008, leaving a mere 2,200 breeding pairs on the island, down from around 8,000 pairs in 2004
- African village dogs are not a mixture of modern breeds but directly descended from an ancestral pool of indigenous dogs, according to a new genetic study of hundreds of semi-feral dogs. This means that village dogs from most African regions are genetically distinct from non-native breeds and mixed-breed dogs.
- Pictures released by Conservation International depict a troubling development in Madagascar: the emergence of a commercial bushmeat market for lemurs
- Six Botswana bushmen found guilty of hunting without a permit on their ancestral land have been set free with a caution, a lobby group says. Survival International said the “attempt by the Botswana government to punish Bushmen for hunting to feed their families has backfired”. BBC
- 18 new invertebrate species have been described in South Africa, including spiders, snails, millipedes, earthworms and centipedes.
- Lions face extinction in Kenya within the next 20 years unless urgent action is taken to save them. Every year the country is losing an average of 100 of its 2,000 lions due to growing human settlements, increasing farming, climate change and disease, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.
- Eco-Tourism activities have been suspended in Loango National Park, Gabon In 2002, late President Omar Bongo Ondimba put Gabon firmly on the map as an important future eco-tourism destination by nominating more than 11% of the nation’s territory as National Park to protect its vital rainforest and wildlife like the gorilla, chimpanzee and forest elephant. Seven years later, following the death of the President, a disagreement between the current interim government of Gabon and Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD SA) now prevents the country’s main eco-tourism partner Africa’s Eden from continuing its conservation-enabling activities in Loango National Park.