Environmental Conservation

Painted Wolves of Africa

Painted Wolves of Africa

It’s a rare sight; the Wild Dog darts across open savanna, working with other pack members in a sort of choreographed frenzy. The hunt is synchronised, each dog takes its turn, chasing and taunting. Before long the pack has worn down their prey; where only moments ago excitement and loud calls could be heard across the landscape, now silence remains. “The lonely wolf dies, but the pack survives.”

How is it then, considering the skill and practised accomplishment of an event so well planned and executed, that the “painted wolves of Africa” could be facing extinction?


Reproduction

The African Wild Dog, or Lycaon pictus, is a social creature which lives in a pack of 10 to 40 members. These packs consist of an alpha male, an alpha female and several male and female subordinates, but the alpha female is the only bitch in the pack allowed to reproduce. All members of the pack provide and care for the young. 

Whelping can occur for the dominant female every 11 months, between April and September, with litters of approximately 11 pups. These pups reach sexual maturity at close to 2 years of age, but begin leaving the pack six months before that. Interesting to observe, Wild Dogs have a built-in characteristic to avoid inbreeding and will avoid opposite sex, biological family members even when in close proximity.

Threats

Considering that there are approximately 500 Wild Dogs in the Kruger National Park and a smaller pack in the Waterberg, and that they are considered to be the only viable breeding populations of Wild Dogs left in South Africa, these breeding habits make for poor population growth. Wild Dogs are also notoriously shy animals, who roam over large territories and rarely “claim” land to settle down. This means that habitat loss to farming and development of human infrastructure has largely affected migration patterns for the species; coupled with Lions and Hyenas as the Wild Dogs main enemies, who often kill pack members or steal their food sources and the future for these “painted wolves of Africa” begins to look rather bleak. The past 20 years have also seen their numbers drastically plummet as farmers continue to target and kill Wild Dog populations, out of a feeling of hate for their ruthless hunting methods, or concern for killing livestock. While the number of farmers killing Wild Dogs is on the decline, it is still a concern for the population. As highly sociable creatures, Wild Dogs are known to roam into developed areas and make contact with domestic dogs; this oft times results in illness, distemper and rabies within the susceptible species.

Conservation

It is estimated that less than 6 000 Wild Dogs remain in Africa, with approximately 1 500 mature individuals. Figures across sources fluctuate drastically, due to the difficulty in tracking the species as they roam across large territories. As a result of the declining number of Wild Dogs across Africa, many conservationists and conservation groups have banned together to find ways to re-populate the species and save our “painted wolves of Africa” from extinction.

Wildlife ACT is on a mission to preserve and re-establish the African Wild Dog population in Africa and, in 2017, assisted in sponsoring and releasing eight Wild Dogs into the Kruger National Park. Their projects include monitoring and studying small populations within various nature reserves.



The Endangered Wildlife Trust has sponsored a long-term project, which commenced in 1989, to study and understand these creatures and to use the knowledge gained to improve on strategies to manage the Wild Dog population. Along with this initiative, is their Waterberg Wild Dogs Conservation Project aimed at protecting this young population and landowners, game and the environment the pack calls home.


World Wildlife Fund for Nature is actively seeking ways to expand on Wild Dog’s territories to re-establish the habitat which was previously lost to them; this includes creating buffering zones between reserves and working with private game farms.






This incredible species represents yet another fragment of African heritage, slowly being eroded by human habitat disruption. The “painted wolves of Africa” are such a sight to behold and it would be tragic for their imprint to be lost to the world.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 0 comments
Mining: What’s the Impact?

Mining: What’s the Impact?

Mining in South Africa is old news; the African continent rests on some of the largest mineral deposits in the world and these deposits are where the country’s wealth lies. Economic studies show that South Africa’s mining activity has seen an incline in recent years and mining for minerals, such as coal, currently makes up over 10% of the economy’s exports. Ngwenya holds environmental conservation dear and all the recent mining-related activity got us to thinking; mining: what’s the impact?

To delve deeper into the industry and particularly to focus on the Ngwenya Lodge surrounding area, we first need to look into coal and its formation. Coal is formed over thousands of years, starting first as decomposable plant material, which is buried by sediment. The initial process results in peat; with the absence of oxygen, plant material cannot decompose completely and thus turns to a fibrous, watery substance. If peat is subjected to further pressure by being layered beneath sediments, lignite forms. Lignite is similar to peat in that traces of plants remain. The third stage of coal formation results in bituminous coal or “soft coal”. This form of coal is used across South Africa as a source of heat energy but is considered lower grade coal. Under extreme pressure and high temperatures, bituminous coal transforms into anthracite or “hard coal”. This form of coal is a high-grade source of heat energy and large deposits of it can be found in the area surrounding Ngwenya Lodge and the Kruger National Park.

It is estimated that approximately 77% of all South Africa’s energy is generated through coal, while 28% of all coal produced is exported.

WHILE AN ARGUMENT CAN BE MADE FOR THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF COAL MINING, THE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT, ESPECIALLY NEAR A HERITAGE SITE SUCH AS THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, FAR OUTWEIGHS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR SUCH A MINE


THE IMPACT

1.    Disruption

The formation of a mine so close to the Kruger National Park and in close proximity to farmland and communities will drastically affect the quality of life from the start. Mining machinery and equipment creates noise pollution and has an impact on the roads: increasing traffic, placing risk to other motorists and deteriorating the roads commonly used by tourists and locals. This disruption will affect the Kruger, as well. Wildlife is affected by the noise and air pollution, which could result in diminished numbers of some species that are reliant on the environment, while tourism may see a decline which affects the Park’s ability to maintain standards. Many of these effects last throughout the operation of the mine.

2.    Trauma

As the mine continues to operate the effects deepen. The quality of the air will continue to diminish, as potentially hazardous particles from the mines become airborne and affect the health of human and wildlife populations, alike. Physical destruction to the land can deteriorate the plant life in the area, causing a reduction in the ecosystems which give support to a number of species and which increases the risk of soil erosion. These disruptions not only affect the Park but could cause a collapse in infrastructure as ground movements’ increase.  Mines impact water as well; leaching of heavy metals into groundwater can affect human and animal water-sources, including irrigation for crops and the Crocodile River. Siltation can also occur; a process whereby soil erosion caused by mines loosens sediment, which then travels across water sources and settles on riverbeds. This smothers the riverbed and drastically affects species in the River and the quality of the water source for the species dependant thereon.

A major concern for an area such as the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park is acid mine drainage (or AMD). AMD occurs when exposed rock outcrops from mining activity leach highly acidic sulphur into water sources over prolonged periods of time. This poisonous water contaminates rivers and dams and has detrimental effects on marine life, as well as species making use of the water source. AMD is easily recognisable as coppery or red water.

3.    Scars

Once mining operations cease and the company has extracted the last of the coal, life in the immediate area may never recover. Habitat loss, as a direct result of the destruction to land, affects various species and could critically endanger, or completely eradicate, smaller populations dependent on the ecosystem. Many species are hyper-sensitive to changing environments, which puts them at risk.

These effects only explore what could happen on the surface, should a mine be constructed near Ngwenya Lodge and the Kruger National Park. The extent of the damage could be far worse.

We know, Ngwenya Lodge holds a special place in the hearts of our visitors, as they arrive, each year, to experience the wonders of the South African bush and as we await further news on the current mining application, we will continue to do the best we can to play our part in preserving this rich ecosystem through environmental conservation.

Click here for more information on the current mining application for Tenbosch Farms.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 2 comments