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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Entomology enthusiasts, this one’s for you – Insectopedia: The Secret World of Southern African Insects

Insectopedia

Insectopedia uncovers the fascinating and infinitely varied world of insects. It explores their intriguing behaviour and biology – from mating and breeding, metamorphosis and movement to sight, smell, hearing and their adaptations to heat and cold.

A chapter on superorganisms probes the curious phenomenon of social communities among insects; another covers the critical role that these creatures play in maintaining the fragile balance of life on our planet.

The book concludes with a 60-page illustrated field guide, describing most insect orders and their main families. Previously published as Insectlopedia of Southern Africa, this fully revised and redesigned edition includes up-to-date information throughout, an expanded ID section, and several hundred new photographs.

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Julian Rademeyer: Rhino poaching down in SA, but ‘up significantly in Zimbabwe and Namibia’

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer has responded to today’s government report that Rhino poaching levels in South Africa fell in 2015.

Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa and Justice Minister Michael Masutha held a press conference today on the Integrated Strategic Management Approach they have undertaken to tackle rhino poaching. The strategy involves compulsory interventions, managing rhino populations, long-term sustainability and national and international cooperation.

“The onslaught against our rhino has continued unabated, which has necessitated we step up our efforts,” Molewa said.

The number of rhinos killed in South Africa rose every year from 13 in 2007 to 1 215 in 2014, but stablised slightly in 2015, with 1 175 killed.

However, Rademeyer, an investigative journalist and the author of the award-winning Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, tweeted that the stabilisation in numbers should not be taken purely as a positive sign.

Rademeyer links to an article he wrote in 2013 for Africa Check, which states: “South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority routinely boasts remarkably high conviction rates. It uses them to reject criticism of its performance. But as it only prosecutes cases it is likely to win, they are unreliable measures of success in tackling crime.”

He also points out that while there may be a drop in South African numbers, bordering countries’ statistics indicate a “significant” rise in poaching:

More tweets:

 
Related stories:

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President Jacob Zuma Opens the Anti-rhino Poaching Joint Operations Centre at Kruger National Park (Video)

Operation Lock and the War on Rhino PoachingKilling for ProfitPresident Jacob Zuma recently gave a speech about rhino poaching at the Kruger National Park as part of government’s anti-poaching awareness campaign.

President Zuma, who donned a San Parks uniform for his speech, honoured rangers who have lost their lives working the country’s rhinos safe, and affirmed the importance of remaining steadfast the fight.

He calls the Kruger National Park “the epicentre of the poaching crisis” and commends “the brave men and women who stand between poachers and our rhino”.

SABC News has shared a video of the event:

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On the same occasion, Zuma officially opened the Joint Operations Centre at the Kruger National Park. The centre will be used the SAPS, the SANDF and San Parks officials to co-ordinate the fight against poaching:

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The Kruger National Park has released a statement on the event:

“We are pleased to announce that joint situational awareness through electronic means and live-streaming of information now informs in-time decision making, faster reaction and more often proactive operations,” said President Zuma. “This enables us to employ resources more intelligently and to be one step ahead of the poachers and their bosses.”

The President emphasised that battle against rhino poaching cannot be won without partnerships.

“The nature of this challenge requires our collective efforts as government working with the private sector, communities, civil society and the business sector to ensure the Integrated Strategic Management approach is successful, not only in South Africa, but also within Africa and in the rest of the world,” he said.

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At the Heart of The Seed Thief by Jacqui L'Ange: The Fight Against Corporate Control of Natural Resources

The Seed Thief“I am not a scientist, or an expert in agriculture. I am a concerned citizen with a voice. I wrote a work of fiction with seed banking at its heart, because I care about our natural world. And because I think seed banking is sexy. And exciting, and magical, and noble.”

So writes Jacqui L’Ange in an article on the blog dedicated to her new debut novel The Seed Thief. It tells the gripping story of botanist Maddy Bellani who is asked to travel to Brazil to collect rare seeds from a plant that could cure cancer. At the heart of this novel lies the issue of corporate control of natural resources – a much bigger and more threatening reality than most people would think.

Read L’Ange’s article for more on the South African context of this issue, an outline of genetically modified organisms and links to important organisations fighting the cause:

When a company tries to control something that has been free for citizens of this earth since its beginnings (and I include animals among those citizens), when they try to ‘own’ a genetic code they didn’t create, and try to stop others from sharing the earth’s generosity so that they can profit from those restrictions, I think we have a problem.

And when the ‘codes’ they are claiming are the ones that provide basic foods for the people who live closest to the ground, who have the least in terms of material goods but who have the most honest conversation with the earth, when that conversation is silenced, and people go hungry as a result, then we have a problem.

Is Monsanto the bad guy, or just a victim of bad press? The best way to answer this question is to get informed.
In the South African context, which is the one in which I live, the African Centre for Biosafety is an excellent starting point.

Also read:

 

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Inventors, Philosophers, Artists, Scientists … Not Homo Naledi – Tom Eaton Celebrates the Heritage that Matters

The Unauthorised History of South AfricaTom Eaton, the wit responsible for The Unauthorised History of South Africa by Stienie Dikderm and Herodotus Hlope, has written a column about Homo naledi, the human ancestor recently discovered in the Cradle of Humankind.

In the article, Eaton says, “I know I’m not going to celebrate Naledi as part of my human heritage”. He sidesteps the massive excitement about the fossil discovery, but not because of religious belief or paranoia about racism like many people making themselves heard on social media.

Eaton rejects the family connection with Homo naledi, while recognising the species’ place in his genetic make-up, because he cannot identify with ancestors who “passed on almost nothing to their children except their DNA and their fleas”. Instead, this heritage month, Eaton is celebrating the “inventors, philosophers, artists, even a few warriors” and “the scientists who try to drag us out of the muck despite our determination to return there”.

Read the article:

Homo naledi is a racist plot using pseudo-science to link Africans to sub-human, baboon-like creatures.

It sounded mad, and Mathole Motshekga and Zwelinzima Vavi were jeered on social media for expressing it. I joined the chorus, because gigantic ignorance should not be tolerated in our leaders. But

I can also understand where such paranoia comes from.

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"As Full of Life as the Ark" – Lauren Smith Reports on the Launch of Green Lion by Henrietta Rose-Innes


 
Green LionBlogger Lauren Smith attended the launch of Henrietta Rose-Innes’ latest novel, Green Lion, at The Book Lounge recently.

Drawn to the book by the beautiful cover, Smith was fascinated by the things that were said during the conversation between Hedley Twidle and Rose-Innes. The shout on the cover by Ivan Vladislavić, “Lyrical, deftly plotted, and as full of life as the Ark,” set the tone and directed the theme of the evening – the relationship between humans and animals.

“Animals are fetishised and idealised, symbolising what is beautiful, meaningful and lost, but these ideas are divorced from the reality of the animals themselves. We need to rethink our ideas of pristine nature, which often exists in isolation from nature,” Smith writes, reporting on what Rose-Innes said.

Read the article for more on what was said during the launch and to see photos of the book and author:

It’s also a novel about Table Mountain and Cape Town, but she sought to subvert the usual images and approach it from a fresh perspective. The wilderness she depicts is hybrid and corrupt, abutted by human construction. Having destroyed so much, people are now fenced off from nature in an attempt to save it. Rose-Innes describes it as the poignant human impulse to stop death, but emphasises that that cause is fraught with contradiction. We seek to preserve animals not for their own sake but because of the emotional and symbolic meaning they hold for us. Animals are fetishized and idealised, symbolising what is beautiful, meaningful and lost, but these ideas are divorced from the reality of the animals themselves. We need to rethink our ideas of pristine nature, which often exists in isolation from nature. I’m guessing then, that this is how a man gets mauled in the beginning of the novel – because his idea of the lion is a fantasy far-removed from the reality of a dangerous carnivore.

Related links:

Image courtesy of Violin in a Void

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Penguin Random House SA Launches New eBook Store Powered by Snapplify

 
Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) today announced the launch of their new eBook Store, in partnership with the digital publishing platform, Snapplify.

The eBook store will have a range of local titles on offer: fiction and non-fiction, lifestyle and nature, and much, much more. The official launch will take place at the South African Book Fair, which starts tomorrow.

Mark Seabrook, digital director of PRHSA, says the aim of the eBook store is to offer readers “ongoing value and a high quality digital reading experience across all platforms and devices”.

Wesley Lynch, CEO of Snapplify, says Snapplify is proud to be associated with PRHSA: “We look forward to our teams working together to innovate in the South African eBook market.”

To access the store, simply follow the link www.penguinbookssa.snapplify.com, and access your favourite titles today:

Low Carb is LekkerSasol Birds of Southern AfricaChallenging BeliefsArctic SummerKilling for Profit

 

This morning, Seabrook and Lynch participated in a panel discussion on the shift in eBook business models at the Footnote Summit in Johannesburg. Joining them on the panel was Ben Williams, Sunday Times Books Editor and founder of Books LIVE, and Melvin Kaabwe, Digital Manager of Van Schaik Bookstores.

Here are a few tweets from the discussion. Follow the hashtag #FootnoteSummit for more:

 

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Press release:

Penguin Random House South Africa (PRHSA), the largest trade publisher in the country, has just launched a new eBook store for the South African market, focused on local titles.

The eBook store offers the publisher’s full catalogue. Readers can choose from leading SA fiction, non-fiction, lifestyle and nature titles including: Low Carb is Lekker, Sasol Birds of Southern Africa, Challenging Beliefs, Arctic Summer and Killing for Profit.

Mark Seabrook, digital director of PRHSA, said: “We believe there is an opportunity within the eBook retailer landscape to focus on local titles. The Snapplify technology gives us the ability to engage directly with readers, offering them ongoing value and a high quality digital reading experience across all platforms and devices.”

The eBook store seamlessly integrates with a complete suite of eBook reader apps for mobile (iOS and Android), desktop (Mac and PC) and web. Purchases are automatically synced to your app library, and the reader app allows searching, notes, highlights and bookmarks. Reading progress is synced across devices, so readers can easily pick up where they left off.

“Snapplify is proud to be associated with Penguin Random House SA and their list of bestselling titles and authors. We look forward to our teams working together to innovate in the South African eBook market,” said Wesley Lynch, CEO of Snapplify.

The eBook store officially launches at the South African Book Fair taking place in Johannesburg from 31 July to 2 August 2015. Customers who register at the PRHSA stand during the Book Fair will get a free eBook to get their digital library started.

For more information, contact Luyanda Sibisi at LSibisi@penguinrandomhouse.co.za or 011 327-3550. For more information, visit www.penguinbooks.co.za.

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Julian Rademeyer: It's Difficult to Sugarcoat it; the Rhino Poaching Situation is Incredibly Dire (Podcast)

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer, journalist and author of Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, recently spoke to Sam Cowen on her Talk Radio 702 show about the plight of rhinos in South Africa.

Cowen begins by asking Rademeyer to sum up the rhino poaching situation at the moment. He says, “It’s difficult to sugarcoat it; the situation is incredibly dire.” Since 2008, Rademeyer says, South Africa has lost over 4 000 rhinos, which is about 15 times the number that was poached in the preceding 27 years.

Rademeyer goes on to explain what is being done to combat poaching, and some of the ways that anti-poaching measures could be improved.

Listen to the podcast:

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Try the New Sasol Young Explorer App, Available in English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa

Stuarts' Field Guide to Mammals of Southern AfricaStuarts se Veldgids tot Soogdiere van Suider-AfrikaPenguin Random House Struik is pleased to announce their new app Sasol Young Explorer – Mammals.

The app is in four languages – English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa. It introduces children to African mammals, teaches them calls and develops problem solving skills.

Read more about it:

Mammals come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny bats and mice to massive elephants and whales.

Sasol Young Explorer – Mammals is a beautiful, engaging and multilingual app that introduces young kids (3–8 years) to the wondrous world of southern Africa’s wild creatures.

Divided into ‘Learn’ and ‘Play’ sections, the app blends storytelling and game playing in a fun and educational way, and is packed with interactive features that will stimulate children’s development and broaden their knowledge.

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John Hanks: The Fight Against Poaching is Futile; We Need to Legalise the Trade in Rhino Horn

Operation Lock and the War on Rhino PoachingJohn Hanks, zoologist and author of Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching, is passionate about protecting rhinos and believes that the best way to do this is to legalise the trade in rhino horn.

In an article for DPA International, Kristin Palitza explains Hanks’ argument for his controversial opinion. Hanks points to the ineffectiveness the ban; the trade being made illegal has made no difference to the volume of trade in horn.

Hannks says, “We can’t win the battle by chasing poachers”. He illustrates that this approach is blind to reality, by telling the story of an impoverished Mozambican man named Albano Mapie:

Albano Mapie lives in a small village in southern Mozambique. He has been unemployed for years. Every day is a struggle for survival – until strangers offer him 1,500 dollars to kill a rhino in neighbouring Kruger National Park and saw off its horn.

A few days later, Mapie is dead. Rangers catch him red-handed and shoot him when he tries to escape.

When one poacher is caught, dozens of poverty-stricken others are ready to take his place, says South African zoologist John Hanks, using Mapie’s story to highlight the futility of the fight against poaching.

Related news:

 
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