BDInsight – August 2020

Another month has flown by! We are heading into Spring here in the southern Hemisphere, although today feels more like Winter. It is rather chilly all over South Africa this week. It even snowed on Table Mountain!! But things are starting to heat up on the biodiversity front….

BestAugust for the Virtual Museum

The Virtual Museum had another record breaking month, with BioMAPpers uploading 8,173 records to the VM for the month.

The Virtual Museum is helping us build distribution maps, and keeping them up-to-date by refreshing old records as they get long-in-the-tooth. Ideally, it would be nice to refresh all records on an annual basis; in an era of rapid change, the fact that a species was recorded in a place a decade ago is not really good evidence that it STILL occurs there. We need to refresh records frequently (and this is especially true in the urban and suburban areas which appear to have lots of data).

West African Citizen Scientist Hour

On 27 August, we held the 6th Citizen Scientist Hour, with a focus on West Africa.
There was an awesome line up of talks for the evening:

Talatu is a Lecturer and Research Fellow at A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Jos, Nigeria ( APLORI is the only field station dedicated to ornithological research and conservation training in West Africa. The Institute contributes directly to the knowledge infrastructure, especially in West African countries, while also providing a unique base from which to set up long-term ecological research projects.

Sam is also a Research Associate at APLORI and plays a big role in the success of the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project.

Ringim has a big passion for citizen science and nature conservation. He has been a major help starting a culture of citizen science in Nigeria and contributes to the Virtual Museum and Nigerian Bird Atlas Project on a regular basis.

You can catch up on all our previous Citizen Scientist Hours and BioBashes on our YouTube Channel.

Bringing hippos back to the Karoo

In the heart of the Karoo something wonderful is happening. Nature has been given a chance to come back to an area which used to be home to wild herds of springbok and wildebeest and even hippos and rhinos. Former farmland has been set aside and formally proclaimed as a nature reserve, the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve.

On 23 September 1775, colonial explorers Robert Jacob Gordon and Baron Joachim Ammena van Plettenberg from Netherlands shot and killed as many as 26 hippo in one day on the Seekoei River (meaning Hippo River) that runs through the semi desert Karoo region of the Northern Cape of South Africa. A 1777 painting by RJ Gordon portrays one such hunting party in full flagrant sway. French explorer François le Vaillant writes at the end of the 18th century about how he fashioned a plate from the foot of a hapless hippo. 

230 years later, PC Ferreira, a passionate sheep farmer and the heart behind the KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, realized the immense loss to the environment and conservation, suffered generations ago, when the last Seekoei River hippos were shot and killed in the late 1700’s. These were the last remaining hippos in the Karoo and the Northern Cape. PC decided to take action and initiated a hippo reintroduction project in 2000. It would eventually take 6 years for this project to bear fruit, but in 2006 a small breeding group of hippos were released on the then recently established Karoo Gariep Conservancy (est. 2005). Now known as KhoiSan Karoo Conservancy, which includes the formally proclaimed Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve (est 2015) and Hanover Aardvark Nature Reserve. 

For his contribution to conservation PC was awarded the SANParks Kudu Award in 2008. Over the next 14 years five hippos were born from the original group, but sadly the old bull killed all of them. The old bull died in 2017 and in 2019 we lost the cow. Only one strong and healthy, but very lonely, young bull remains and he is in desperate need of a family. We are raising funds to introduce three hippo cows and reestablish a healthy hippo family in the Seekoei River in the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve. This hippo family will be the only hippo family in the Northern Cape. In time our goal is to establish a viable wild hippo population all along the Seekoei River, which is 300 km in length and can accommodate at least 80 hippos. Our goal is to restore the Seekoei River valley to its pristine, wild and natural state so that wildlife and humans can thrive together and prosper. Please help us by donating to this amazing cause:

Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.