Scientists in South Africa discover 18 new spider, snail and worm species
By David Smith in Johannesburg
Tuesday 18 August 2009
Scientists surveying a nature reserve in South Africa have discovered 18 previously unrecorded species of invertebrates, including spiders, snails, millipedes, earthworms and centipedes.
The trove of creatures was uncovered in eight days by researchers and volunteers working for the environmental charity Earthwatch at the Mkhambathi nature reserve on the spectacular Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape.
However, scientists warned that planned developments in the area could threaten the ecosystem and deny them the chance to identify further species.
Jan Venter, an ecologist working for Eastern Cape Parks, which manages the reserve, said that the 29 square mile area had previously attracted only ad hoc surveys and butterfly collectors.
"To get so many species in one survey shows the importance of the reserve. It's a very special area, conservation-wise. If we do another survey, we'll find just as many." The team suspects that another 18 species might be discovered.
August 16 2009 at 06:51PM
The dispute over community consent for Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project is hotting up as Minerals and Energy Minister Susan Shabangu considers granting the final go-ahead.
The plans are to excavate 346 million tons of titanium and other heavy minerals along a 22m stretch of the Wild Coast below Port Edward.
Mining it will generate R560-million yearly, with R42m to be spent on local salaries each year and R2,9-billion going to the government.
But conservationists are protesting because the mineral area lies in a vast, unspoilt wilderness region that offers considerable ecotourism potential.
This article was originally published on page 6 of Cape Argus on August 16, 2009
Important to note that not just environmentalists, but hundreds of members of the community attended the protest march last year, including many elders, the headman, and other prominent community leaders. As if more proof was needed, even King Mpondomise and the Royal House are against the proposed strip mining.
The SS Waratah, sometimes referred to as "Australia's Titanic", was a 500 foot steamer. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. The disappearance of the ship remains one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time. To this day no trace of the ship has ever been found.
According to Dispatch archives, the 10 000 ton ship passed along the Transkei coast on July 28, 1909 after stopping off in Durban the previous day.
It was heading to London and would have stopped over in Cape Town before setting sail on the high seas. A Dispatch report from July 1971 said: “Two people had disembarked in Durban – one to find a job and the other after he dreamt that the ship would sink – and after being spotted by two other ships along the Transkei coast, the Waratah disappeared in what was to become ‘one of the most baffling nautical mysteries of all time’.”
Standing at the mouth of the Mpako River, the cliff consists of dark-blue shales, mudstones and sandstones of the Ecca Group, dating back some 260 million years. These rocks were subsequently intruded by a dolerite sheet, and the ‘hole’ was created over millions of years by the buffeting waves, which eroded away the softer rocks underneath the dolerite to form an arch. The same process also eventually separated the cliff from the mainland.
Hole-in-the-Wall was named by Captain Vidal of the vessel Barracouta, sent by the British Admiralty in 1823 to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). Vidal took his ship to within 800m of the coast, and described in his log "where two ponderous black rocks above the water’s edge, upwards of 80 feet above its surface, exhibiting through the phenomenon of a natural archway", prompting him to name it the Hole-in-the-Wall. The local Bomvana people named the formation ‘EsiKhaleni’, or the Place of the Sound.
Local legend has it that the river running through the Hole-in-the-Wall (Mpako River) once formed a landlocked lagoon as its access to the sea was blocked by a cliff. A beautiful girl lived in a village near the lagoon cut off from the sea by the mighty cliff. One day she was seen by one of the sea people - semi deities who look like humans but have supple wrists and ankles and flipperlike hands and feet - who became overwhelmed by her beauty and tried to woo her. When the girl’s father found out he forbade her to see her lover. So at high tide one night, the sea people came to the cliff and, with the help of a huge fish, rammed a hole through the centre of the cliff. As they swam into the lagoon they shouted and sang, causing the villagers to hide in fear. In the commotion the girl and her lover were reunited and disappeared into the sea. At certain times of the year, it is said, the music and singing of the sea people can be heard.
Xhosa legend holds that this is the gateway to the world of their ancestors. The local Xhosa call this place "esiKhaleni", which means "place of thunder" or "place of sound." During certain seasons and water conditions the waves clap in such a fashion that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.
Hole-in-the-Wall and the tragedy of the prophetess:
A young girl called Nongqawuse had seen a messenger from the realm of the ancestors at a waterhole. She told her uncle Mhlakaza about her vision. As he was an important Xhosa priest, his social rank granted a great impact to the prophecy he derived from his niece's vision. He announced that soldiers who were incarnations of the souls of dead Xhosa warriors, would arrive on the 18th of February over the sea, come onto land through the "Hole in the Wall" and defeat the hated British. But, he continued, the Xhosa had to make a sacrifice to help the warriors by destroying all their cereals and killing all their cattle. After the victory, there would be food in abundance for everybody. The Xhosa followed the instructions in his prophecy and killed their whole stock of cattle. The catastrophe took its course and thousands of Xhosa perished from famine. (http://www.wildcoast.com/nongqawuse)
When you're in Coffee Bay, a great way to spend some time is visiting Jah Drums.
You can make your own drum at Jah Drums Drum Factory; or simply buy one of their professional instruments.
Also visit the restaurant and enjoy some Ital food prepared by Isham.
You'll find them right next to Afritude where you can buy original Afritude T-shirts. The funkiest clothing line in South Africa.
The Lorax was written and illustrated by Theodore (Dr. Seuss) Giesel in 1971 as a colorful childrens book, with a biting satirical message - for adults and children alike - about man's tendency to invade and destroy his natural environment. It is a pointed commentary on the expansion of the logging industry in the early 70s that is even more relevant today than it was 38 years ago when he created it.
The Best way to experience the beauty of the Wild Coast is to take the 5 day hiking trail run by Jimmy and Mbuyi. Please visit their site for more information, rates and details at www.wildcoasthikes.com.
The Port St. Johns to Coffee Bay Hiking Trail goes through some of the most beautiful hiking landscape in South Africa. The trail hugs a stretch of coastline along the former Transkei homeland, and is unspoilt and barely touched by development. You will walk along rolling grassy hills dotted with colourful huts, idyllic beaches, estuaries flanked by thick coastal forest and cliffs with stunning sea views. Hikers sleep in hikers’ huts and village accommodation. You will also learn a little bit of Xhosa Language and experience the Xhosa food. If you’re hiking at the right time of the year, you will most likely see dolphins and whales.
The duration of the hiking trail is five days with four overnight stops.
Your guides are Dreadlock Jimmy Selani, and Mbuyi Mangala:
Check their site for some reviews on the hike. www.wildcoasthikes.com
Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
By Hilary Venables
Radio reports that the controversial Wild Coast toll road has been approved are not only premature, but part of a deliberate campaign of disinformation by certain members of government, according to opponents of the scheme.
The SABC carried the claim in a succession of both English and Xhosa bulletins last Sunday, basing it on comments made by the Minister of Co-Operative Governance, Sicelo Shiceka. It’s the second time in a month that the national broadcaster has reported Shiceka as saying the toll road has been given the official go-ahead.
In fact, no decision has yet been made. A spokesperson for the Department of Water and the Environment, which has yet to consider the application, confirmed that they were still waiting for the report on the Environmental Impact Assessment.
Social worker John Clarke, a spokesperson for Sustain the Wild Coast and the Amadiba Crisis Committee, said certain politicians were deliberately spreading misinformation.
“They use radio because they know most of the people are illiterate. They are abusing the customary respect which traditional people show to their leaders. This is an act of desperation – they are breaking a bond of trust.”
Media liaison officer for the Shiceka’s department, Vuyelwa Vika, insists her boss was misquoted.
“When he said the road would go ahead, he was saying that it must go ahead, because it’s an opportunity we can’t miss … it’s important for development in the area,” she said.
The road, and the proposed titanium mine which it is being built primarily to serve, are the subjects of a well-documented and long-running dispute that has pitted the mining company and sympathetic politicians against the local community, environmentalists, social workers and the KwazuluNatal provincial government.
Opponents want economic development in the area to be oriented towards tourism, small farming and “green” jobs which they say will provide sustainable livelihoods, while the mine will destroy nearby farms and natural habitat and leave a toxic wasteland when it closes down in a couple of decades.
But Vika claimed that the road now had the approval of the community, including AmaMpondo King Mpondombini Sigcau and Queen MaSobhuza Sigcau, who have long been staunch opponents of both the mine and the proposed route of the road.
“The minister was in the area two weeks ago, and he invited the King and Queen to a private function at his homestead,” Vika said.
“They discussed the toll road and the King and Queen said they want the project to go ahead.”
This is not how Queen Sicgau remembers it.
“We did attend the function, but we hardly spoke to the minister. We arrived late and had to leave soon after so we only spent five minutes talking to him. We didn’t discuss the toll road with him,” she told me.
“We have never been approached by the minister regarding the toll road.”
She also said that the royal couple’s position had not changed on either the road or the mine.
Community activist Nontshiza Pasika was adamant that the community was as opposed to the road as ever.
“If this road was meant for the people, it would connect villages to clinics and schools and farmers to the market. But we can see it’s being built for the mine.
“The mine is a spectre hanging over us. Until they separate the road from the mine, we will oppose the road.’ – enviromedianews.co.za
What Shiceko really said
The transcript of the news bulletin shows that the SABC was indeed liberal in its translation of Shiceka’s words.
According to the news as read: “Government has given the green light for the controversial N2 toll road stretching through the Wild Coast to go ahead. This, despite objections from Non Governmental Organisations, environmentalists, local communities and the KwaZulu/Natal government.”
This is followed by actuality of Shiceka speaking: “We are saying the N2 Road is going ahead , we are going to ensure that those who are opposed to it must engage with us, but we must make sure that this thing is going ahead, We have heard that the municipal manager of eThekwini in KwaZulu Natal is opposed to it, we will engage him, or any other person. The NGOs if they are opposed to it they must provide jobs for the people, but we believe the traditional leaders and traditional communities they are supporting and behind this thing. It is going to go ahead.”
Which is not quite the same thing, but given the scale of the opposition, it certainly reveal a remarkable level of confidence on Siceka’s part. – enviromedianews.co.za
GOVERNMENT has approved plans for the construction of a toll route through the Wild Coast in the face of fierce opposition from environmentalists and the royal house of AmaMpondo.
The project, initially intended to take off some 10 years ago, has been stalled by objections from Pondoland communities whose homes the road will cut through, and from environmentalists who fear the ecological impact.
Environmentalists are also concerned a portion of the road between Lusikisiki and Port Edward will bisect the Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE) sections of the proposed Wild Coast/Pondoland National Park.
The approval of the project, by Minister for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka, was justified by the economic spin-offs in an area of severe poverty and disease.
Departmental spokesperson Vuyelwa Vika said the toll road, which will start from Buffalo City and go through Transkei to Isipingo south of Durban, had strong business appeal, and constant delays were detrimental only to communities along the proposed route.
“After visiting the area and witnessing for himself the poverty and disease that exists in that area, the minister felt that the people had suffered great neglect since there has been no significant development in the past 15 years,” she said.
Vika said people could not continue living in hope after repeated promises of development.
“There will be a consultation process, to be complete within the next three months, during which stakeholders, including communities, environmentalists and everyone who has ever raised issues about the development, will be consulted,” she said .
She added that all legal actions brought against government for the project also would be sorted out by then.
During construction the road is expected to generate about 6800 direct and up to 21300 indirect jobs, with 900 of them permanent.
About 18000 indirect jobs are expected to exist after the road was built.
Kings in the area have voiced their unhappiness over the construction , calling it an invasion of natural land lush with natural flora, fauna and the site of the graves of their forefathers.
They had also vigorously resisted the mining of a 23km strip of land in Xolobeni, with threats to go to court to stop it with a human rights body joining in the fray.
The road was regarded as paving the way for the mining project.
Attempts to get their comment on the pending construction were unfruitful yesterday.
“By the end of the year a decision on the mining project would have been reached, so that if it does not continue alternative developmental projects must be put in place,” Vika said.
Yesterday the Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) initiative vigorously opposed to the construction of the road, said the three months consultation process was not only impractical but a recipe for disaster.
Land rights activist and SWC community co-ordinator Pasika Nontshiza said: “This is ridiculous, they would not have completed consultation for a project which will erode 85km of endemic species, from where people get their plants and herbs.”
He said the community they claimed to be concerned about had received no responses to their concerns on the future of the existing projects, from which they derived an income.
“They are not against development, but they do not know what they gain from this,” he said.
He added that by announcing his decision through the media, the minister was violating the “code of consultation”, and repeating mistakes that had led to the opposition of the project.
He said that the promise of jobs was a tool used by the authorities to bolster their position.
“We have jobs that are in harmony with nature – why can’t they be boosted?”
The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), under whom the project falls, yesterday said safeguarding and protecting endemic species formed part of their plan, as did alleviating poverty and empowering communities.
“The process has taken too long, but we had to follow all legal processes,” Sanral CEO Nazir Ali said.
He said the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which they had been asked to re-do, was almost ready, they were just processing public and community input.
“In the meantime poverty levels have deepened,” he added.
Agreeing that the project was lucrative, and would provide much needed jobs, the Democratic Alliance’s national transport spokesperson, Stuart Farrow, said it should not be undertaken at the expense of the people and environment.
“Consultation with the communities should be extensive … and the EIA should be taken into consideration to ensure that no vegetation is wiped out,” he said.
He added that although the project meant a new and improved road, a single trip could cost drivers R250 from East London to Durban, although regular travellers could apply for an exemption.
The road would also bypass a number of small towns, including Bizana, Flagstaff and Kokstad.
“Will they survive the economic impact of this or will they die?” Farrow asked. - By NTANDO MAKHUBU
Simon Max Bannister has compiled a brilliant photo essay of his hike around Mzamba and Xolobeni.
Do yourself a favor and follow this link: simontothemax.blogspot.com and see for yourself the unspoilt beauty of the threatened area.
Better yet, contact Benny Mbotho on 079-1985 975 / or through Sonya on 074-336 7862 - for a guided day-trip, or longer hike.
Also do check the rest of Simon's Blog which features some of his fascinating "recycled" artwork.
Step 1: Create your page by clicking on "Web Page" below the "Create Content" menu.
Step 2: Add a relevant subject/title for your page (E.g. your business name).
Step 3: Select your town or area from the drop down menu (E.g. Port St Johns). This step ensures that your page will appear on top of the relevant page. It's last come first served, so newest additions will always appear at the top of the page.
Step 4: Select the relevant categories from the Tourism entry box (E.g. Accommodation, Cottages, Self catered). You can select multiple categories by holding down the [Ctrl] key on your keyboard.
Step 5: Optionally enter additional (comma separated keyword tags. (E.g. surf, horse riding, adventure).
I commented recently about the cabinet ministry changes, and made a similar comment about Buyelwa Sonjica (who is now Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs) and her obvious pro-industrialization inclinations, so I think it's fairly appropriate to post Tonie Carnie's article published in The Mercury on 13 May 2009.
Gamekeepers versus poachers in new cabinet May 13, 2009 Edition 1 By Tony Carnie
President Jacob Zuma's decision to separate some of the "poacher" and "gamekeeper" cabinet ministries seems to make a lot of sense at the structural level, but the proof of the pudding remains in the eating.
It can be argued that environmental affairs and tourism belong in one ministry because they are closely linked, but there has always been inherent tension between regulating and protecting the environment on one hand and the simultaneous promotion of the commercial imperatives of the tourism sector.
The same goes for the former union between water affairs and forestry. Protecting our precious water resources also sits uncomfortably with promoting commercial timber plantations, which suck up scarce water and land.
A somewhat similar scenario of lumping poachers and gamekeepers in one ministry was also apparent in the traditional union between minerals and energy affairs - now separated into two ministries.
For too long, the minerals sector (often representing the interests of mining giants such as Anglo American, Kumba and BHP Billiton, or the powerful oil and fossil fuel lobby) has been the senior partner in the incestuous marriage with energy affairs.
Hopefully, the separation will open up the space for the development of cleaner, renewable energy options such as wind, solar and wave energy in the new era of global climate change - though it is unlikely that the "poachers" will fail to guard their strategic turf any less assiduously under the new alignment of cabinet ministries.
Yet it seems rather ominous that water seems to have assumed senior partner status in the new Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs.
It may be a matter of semantics as to which function gets top billing in the title, but elevating "water" above "environment" seems to be an indication that the protection of the environment continues to play second fiddle to economic growth and the utilitarian value of water. Clean water, clean air and unpolluted soil are all children of the broader environmental parent - not the other way around. It's a bit like creating a ministry of catholic and religious Affairs, which deliberately assumes dominance by the Catholics and relegates the Islamic, Hindu or Anglican faith branches into positions of subservience.
And what, if anything, can be read into the choice of personalities to head the realigned ministries and departments?
Marthinus van Schalkwyk certainly seems to have been booted into the sidelines with his appointment as tourism minister. No longer will he enjoy centre stage at the forthcoming world climate change talks in Copenhagen, despite exceeding the expectations of several observers during his tenure as environment minister.
In his place, Buyelwa Sonjica has been named Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. Some observers have commented disparagingly about Sonjica's previous position as minerals and energy minister, particularly in relation to the Wild Coast dune mining saga. Sonjica blotted her copybook in the eyes of several environmentalists with her vocal support for the Xolobeni dune mining venture, and worsened this with her crass, racial attack on human rights and labour attorney Richard Spoor, who has acted on behalf of several (black) Xolobeni residents opposed to the mining plan.
Racial identity should not play any role in raising awareness about the crucial need to protect our deteriorating life-support system - but hopefully Sonjica will now contribute to breaking down some of the abiding perceptions that environmental protection remains the domain of "rich whiteys".
More to the point, however, it remains to be seen whether Zuma's cabinet will elevate the profile of environmental custodianship or continue to deepen the ruts in the narrow and well-trodden pathway towards economic "progress".
Buccaneers, along with the rest of the Wild Coast backpackers, make for what must be the best backpacking experience in SA.
Wild Ocean is in an uplifting, giant screen cinema experience capturing one of nature's greatest migration spectacles. Plunge into an underwater feeding frenzy, amidst the dolphins, sharks, whales, gannets, seals and billions of fish. Filmed off the Wild Coast of South Africa, Wild Ocean is a timely documentary that celebrates the animals that now depend on us to survive and the efforts by the local people to protect this invaluable ecological resource. Hope is alive on the Wild Coast, where Africa meets the sea.
Wild Ocean has been Selected as 2009 Earthwatch Film of the Year
Wild Ocean 3D highlights one of nature’s greatest migration spectacles, plunging viewers into an underwater feeding frenzy, an epic struggle for survival where whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, gannets and billions of fish collide with the most voracious sea predator, mankind.
Filmed off the Wild Coast of South Africa and set to the rhythm of the local people, Wild Ocean 3D reveals the economic and cultural impact of the ocean while celebrating the communal efforts to protect our invaluable marine resources.
The film chronicles a massive annual feeding frenzy; billions of sardines travel up the Wild Coast and to the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. For the people living along the African shore, this migration has provided a food source for countless generations while farther out at sea ocean predators come from great distances to feast.
Bottlenose dolphins create superpods, thousands strong, to track down the huge shoals using sonar. Sharks sense blood in the water and join the hunt. Seals and common dolphins chase the fish from cooler currents up the coast into the warmer tropical waters. Diving birds, Cape Gannets, join the battle with aerial attacks from the sky.
All of these animals are drawn to the scene, enmeshed in one of the most incredible mass feeding melees in the natural world.
Unfortunately, such a richness of life is now rare in our seas. For centuries the ocean was considered a vast limitless resource. As fishing practices grew more industrialized and efficient throughout the 20th century, entire fish stocks around North America, Europe, and Asia began to collapse.
The fish, hauled onto boats by the ton, were an integral part of a complex marine ecosystem, a link in a great food chain on which many predators depend.
Eventually, entire fish species were decimated and the ocean predator populations went into a steep decline. Now a new threat, global climate change, threatens to further damage the fragile ocean ecology.
While Wild Ocean 3D explores the causes and effects of man’s impact, it is an inspirational film looking toward a bright future, taking audiences to a rare unspoiled marine wilderness to glimpse what the oceans of the world once looked like. The film champions the creation of marine reserves necessary to bring our oceans back to life. South Africa leads the way. It is a film about the people that come together to protect our world. Hope is alive on the Wild Coast, where Africa meets the sea.
WHAT has to be one of the most beautiful settings of any ultra-marathon this country has to offer, can be seen right here on the Wild Coast.
With the rise in popularity of extreme endurance sports, the Wild Coast Ultra over 270km which started yesterday is set to become one of the most popular extreme marathons on the running calendar. East London is growing in popularity with all forms of sports and is home to many extreme athletes.
Among them are Kate and Bill Godfrey (of Atlantic Rowing and the Trans 555km Sahara Run), Donovan Sims (multi-day adventure racer), John Woods (PE to East London surf-ski hero) and the list goes on.
The Wild Coast Ultra-marathon starts at beautiful Cremorne Estate on the eastern bank of the Mzimvubu River, winds its way through to Port St Johns, Ben Dekker’s Second Beach and Silaka Nature Reserve.
January 29, 2009 press statement by SWC. For immediate release.
Flood of Objections to Wild Coast Toll Road
An unprecedented flood of thousands of objections has poured in to the consultants tasked with writing the final Report on the Wild Coast Toll Road EIA, despite holiday season timing for public comment.
The submissions have come from individuals, communities, businesses,
environmental organisations and civil society groups, while in Durban, where road users are protesting extra toll booths, local government have joined the chorus.
Many of the comments have described the EIAR as ‘fatally flawed” in many ways, but particularly in its lack of compliance with required legal standards and adherence to public participation norms.
The deadline for public comments on the new N2 Wild Coast Toll road EIA is 22 January.
Please send your comments to:
NMA Effective Social Strategists (Pty) Ltd.
Fax: 086 601 0381
A number of requests were received from people who wished to send in comments against the N2 toll road proposal and in support of SWC (Sustaining the Wild Coast - www.swc.org.za) principles. Val Payn compiled the following (below) for general use. Please feel free to adapt or adjust it however you see fit. You can delete anything you don't personally agree with, or feel free to add any of your own comments that you feel it does not cover, or are more suitable for your own circumstances. You're also welcome to 'personalize' the wording in whatever way you like. However, if you would like to send it exactly as it is, then it is recommended that you include a 'provisio' along the lines of:-