Episode 18 – 7 September Clean-up South Africa month and more…

September is “Clean-Up South Africa month” and the 16th to the 21st of September is “National Clean-up Week”  launched in  2007, to encourage everyone in the country to work together for a cleaner and safer South Africa and as part of this Clean-up week, Plastics SA and the packaging industry have initiated an annual RECYCLING DAY on 20 September, just as an additional reminder that part of keeping  our country clean – is knowing how to recycle. So basically, now we have a special month, a week and a day to be mindful of litter! I have to tell you, I  am quite impressed because on Plastics SA’s website they have a very informative breakdown of all the different categories of plastics and locations for where you can drop off your recycling. And if you’re anything like me –  the “P.E.T.”, “P.V.C”, “P.P” codes are impossible to keep track of – so it’s nice to have a handy “go-to” place when you need a little reminder!

Now with Spring firmly on its way, Plastics SA is encouraging the public to start their annual spring-cleaning by looking at the environment first. They want South Africans of all ages and backgrounds to do their share to keep our country beautiful during the entire month of September. “The Clean-up month” wants to highlight the importance of individual efforts. And that’s what I like about it, it’s all about individual efforts. Regardless of your age, background or income, each of us, has a responsibility to help rid our country of litter and recycle waste whether they are at school, in an office block or even an old aged home. Every paper you pick up and every plastic wrapper you throw into the recycling bin makes a huge difference in the collective end.

Obama unleashes climate change Twitter rampage

Obama is using his second term in office to take a hard line on climate change and recently he began using Twitter as a way to get his message across. Now we all know it’s not really Obama pressing those buttons. In fact, his account is run by staff at Organising For Action, an NGO which promotes Obama’s policy, and has been used in election campaigns and during his time in office to highlight the Democrat’s priorities.

But on Monday the 12 thAugust his 35 million followers were bombarded with a series of tweets reinforcing Obama’s belief in climate change, which he said was as conclusive as gravity, “Gravity exists. The Earth is round. Climate change is happening. “ – a pretty powerful message, I would say, from the leader of the Free World! One of the tweets was a link to the Organizing For Action page where a battle strategy was outlined.And the four key steps for fighting climate change included spreading the word, helping your community to switch to clean energy, hosting a house party – and a call for further twitter action. All the tweets were hashtagged with #Science.Says.

But even though the actual president was on holiday when this climate frenzy was initiated he couldn’t have anticipated clashing with singing sensation, Lady Gaga! It just so happened that his outburst coincided with the release of her new single, Applause. With almost 40 million followers, her online popularity surpasses that of Obama, and many people were torn between supporting the national climate change agenda and listening to the singer’s latest offering. Perhaps it’s a cue for Lady Gaga to write an environmental song so that Politics and Pop Music clash for a good cause!

In case YOU want to re-visit the conversation, the twitter handle is @BarackObama  – look for  August 12, 2013

… if you’re after Lady Gaga’s song, well, it’s  #Applause!

Zoo under fire for disguising dog as lion

And now a story about how Twitter helped to expose a wildlife fraud. Users of China’s Twitter-like network Sina Weibo mocked the People’s Park of Luohe zoo when their  “African lion” started barking like a dog! A customer named Liu wanted to show her son the different sounds animals made – but then he pointed out that the animal in the cage labelled “African lion” was barking.

The beast was in fact  a mastiff – a large breed of dog.

“The zoo is absolutely cheating us,” the paper quoted Liu, who was charged $2.45 for the ticket.”

But believe it or not three other species were also housed incorrectly: two rodents in a snake’s cage, a white fox in a leopard’s den, and another dog in a wolf pen.
The chief of the park’s animal department told the paper that while it does have a lion, it had been taken to a breeding facility and the dog – which belonged to an employee – had been housed in the zoo for the time being, over safety concerns.

Well, Sina Weibo – China’s Twitter service  -thank goodness, didn’t let him get away with that excuse!

Adorable new mammal species found

Now when I hear that scientists have “discovered a new species” I always imagine something tiny – you know, like a beetle they might have found in an obscure rain forest somewhere – but this, this discovery is the size of a cat!

Researchers announced a rare discovery of a new species of mammal called the “Olinguito”. It belongs to a grouping of large creatures that include dogs, cats and bears. Imagine a raccoon with a teddy bear face  – it’s extremely cute. But I want to understand how a cat-sized mammal was overlooked for so long?

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The Olinguito – picture courtesy of the Huffington Post

The “Olinguito” leaps through the trees of mountainous forests of Ecuador and Colombia at night, according to a Smithsonian researcher who has spent the past decade tracking them.

But the individual that suddenly popped onto everyone’s radar actually lives much closer  – in  the Smithsonian-run National Zoo in Washington – a classic case of mistaken identity.

The zoo’s little critter, named Ringerl, was mistaken for a sister species, the olingo. Ringerl had been shipped from zoo to zoo in the US for 10 years now to try get it to breed with other olingos.

As you can imagine, It wouldn’t. It turns out she wasn’t fussy, she wasn’t the right species! Olinguitos are smaller, have shorter tails, a rounder face, tinier ears and darker bushier fur.

They eat fruit, weigh about 1kg and have one baby at a time. Experts are excited about the Olinguito because this is not merely renaming something, but a genuine new species and a significant find, the type that has not happened for about 35 years.

Well, I hope that this discovery helps poor little Ringerl have a more successful love life!

Harbour growth takes its toll on water birds

We can’t stop progress but we should be mindful of the price we sometimes pay.

Durban can be proud of its flourishing and busy harbour, but environmentally, the number of visiting and breeding water birds is declining and the sight of large flocks of flamingos and large beautiful herons is now a distant memory. These are some of the disturbing conclusions of Durban bird expert David Allan after 14 years of regular bird-counting surveys, in an area once regarded as a globally important refuge for waterbirds.

The reason is predictable – “rampant habitat loss” – dating back to the steady infilling of the harbour between 1902 and 1999, leading to a 57 percent reduction in total living space for water-dependent species.

I agree with David Allan – that we should keep these diminishing numbers in mind right now as even further commercial development of the harbour is planned. But I’ll stay on top of this development and keep you posted.

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167 Rhino poachers arrested this year

Let’s end with a Rhino update – bad news I’m afraid:

  • The number of rhinos poached since January 2013 – 618
  • Number of rhino poachers arrested – 167

And these are all stats from the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit, having lost 381 rhino to poachers so far this year.

The Department said government would intensify its efforts in the fight against rhino poaching with stronger international relations. It has drawn up a number of international memorandums of understanding and was in negotiations with countries like Mozambique.

High on the agenda with Mozambique are the measures regarding common areas of action to be taken jointly by the two countries – and possibly other parties – with regards to the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This is aimed at combating poaching and the illegal trafficking of rhino horn, elephant tusks and other wildlife related products. And the final meeting is expected to culminate in a binding agreement between the two countries.

Are we winning the war against rhino poaching? What  are your thoughts?

And remember take care of the earth, and she will take care of you.