Category Archives: Commentary

Green Point Urban Park Cape Town


I have just completed my second walk around Green Point Park, which is situated right next to the new Cape Town Stadium.

One of the many types of simple exercise apparatus available for all to use

Natural grassland at the entrance to the park

This place is well worth a visit. Not only are there 3 well laid out paths to follow but there are also some well thought out themes.

As you enter the west gate near the light house, (entrance is free!) the area on the right is left as natural grass land with the grass at this time starting to go to seed. This area is home to small rodents and birds, who obviously enjoy feeding off the grass seed. On the left of this is an area with many simply exercise  machine suitable for the whole family.

Travel further along the path and you arrive at a building housing really spacious  public conveniences at one side, and a future restaurant or shop at the other.

Two children’s play areas are currently being completed, one for the younger folk and one for the older children, resplendent with very natural looking play equipment. The ground around the swings and climbing apparatus has been paved with a kind of cork silicone mixture in the interests of safety.

Older children's play ground

Soon to be completed children's play centre

In the centre of the park adjoining the golf course is wonderful stretch of water that brings back a bit of Cape Town history.  In the 1800s, there was a large lake covering a wide area which was eventually filled in for health and sanitary reasons. Around the rim of which are areas subdivided into: a biodiversity area, a natural food area, and a natural plant medicine area. Also on show is a area illustrating how nature is being destroyed by farming, housing and fires.

All the plants are very well marked and details of their uses are giving, very educational in a friendly and informative way.

I particularly liked the metal statues depicting various animals to be found naturally.

Metal tortoise

In the lake were Canada Geese and Coots both with very young chicks, they obviously feel safe in these surroundings as there are plenty of reeds for them to nest in.

Canada Goose and family in the very large pond

Walking further towards the City, one crosses the Stepping Stone Bridge. On the left hand side is a big metal water wheel which works when a pump is switched on by an electronic timer.

An auditorium with grass seating is situated at the top end of the park, complete with stage lighting. Presumably concerts will be arranged there, in a similar way to those held at Kirstenbosch.

The whole park has been very well planned and laid out and should become a valuable asset to the residents of Green Point and Cape Town.

An ideal place to come and relax in the sun or to jog around the many paths.

Security appears to be good, the park closes at 7pm and all the gates are locked so no vagrants will make their home there!

I hope the folk in Cape Town treasure their park and avoid any vandalism or littering.

Well done to Cape Town City Council making good use of some of the revenue they received from the Football World Cup.

More images from the park

Colour in the park

Colour In the park

C

Destruction of natural lands by farming

Waterlilies

Well laid out signage

Beaded fish

Information by way of signage  
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Eco-bulbs ‘a health hazard’


Energy-saving light bulbs were at the centre of a fresh health scare after researchers claimed they can release potentially harmful amounts of mercury if broken.

Levels of toxic vapour around smashed eco-bulbs were up to 20 times higher than the safe guideline limit for an indoor area, the study said.

It added that broken bulbs posed a potential health risk to pregnant women, babies and small children.

Eco Bulbs

The concerns surround “compact fluorescent lamps” (CFLs), the most common type of eco-bulb in Britain, which are mini-versions of the strip lights found in offices. 

The European Union is phasing out the traditional “incandescent bulbs” used for more than 120 years and is forcing people to switch to low-energy alternatives to meet its climate change targets.

A CFL uses a fifth of the energy of a conventional bulb and can save £7 a year in bills. However, critics complain that CFLs’ light is harsh and flickery. Medical charities say they can trigger epileptic fits, migraines and skin rashes and have called for an “opt out” for vulnerable people.

Incandescent bulbs do not contain mercury, along with other variants of energy-saving lights, such as LEDs and halogen bulbs. The study, for Germany’s Federal Environment Agency, tested a “worst case” scenario using two CFLs, one containing 2 milligrams of mercury and the other 5 milligrams. Neither lamp had a protective casing and both were broken when hot.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute found that they released around 7 micrograms (there are 1 000 micrograms in a milligram) per cubic metre of air.The official guideline limit is 0.35 micrograms per cubic metre.

Federal Environment Agency president Jochen Flasbarth said: “The presence of mercury is the downside to energy-saving lamps. We need a lamp technology that can prevent mercury pollution soon.

“The positive and necessary energy savings of up to 80 percent as compared with light bulbs must go hand in hand with a safe product that poses no risks to health.”
During tests the German government agency’s researchers were alarmed to discover that some bulbs had no protective cover and broke when hot.

High levels of mercury were measured at floor level up to five hours after the bulbs failed.

A spokesman for the agency said: “Children and expectant mothers should keep away from burst energy-saving lamps.

“For children’’s rooms and other areas at higher risk of lamp breakage, we recommend the use of energy-saving lamps that are protected against breakage.”

However, the UK Government insisted the CFL bulbs were safe – and that the risk from a one-off exposure was minimal.

The Health Protection Agency says a broken CFL is unlikely to cause health problems.
However, it advises people to ventilate a room where a light has smashed and evacuate it for 15 minutes.

Householders are also advised to wear protective gloves while wiping the area of the break with a damp cloth and picking up fragments of glass. The cloth and glass should be placed in a plastic bag and sealed.

CFLs are not supposed to be put in the dustbin, whether broken or intact, but taken as hazardous waste to a recycling centre.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The mercury contained in low-energy bulbs does not pose a health risk to anyone immediately exposed, should one be broken.”

Friends of the Earth said the switch to low-energy bulbs would reduce exposure to mercury from coal-fired power stations.

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Poisoned Rhino Horns to Stop Poaching?


People who ingest the horn, a common practice among some Asians who believe it to have medicinal properties, could fall ill, as a result of the horn being treated with the toxic ectoparasitacide, used to control parasites. But the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve says the horns will also be treated with an indelible dye to discourage ingestion.

Rhino Horn

The owners of the reserve insist they are not vigilantes and don’t want to make anyone ill. “The treatment of the horn benefits both the animal and efforts to stop poaching,” explains Lorinda Hern, the reserve’s spokeswoman. “Our greatest desire is that no person ever touches a rhino horn again. Failing that, however, we do want to strike fear in their hearts, so they know we mean business.”

Several months ago, Hern’s father, Ed Hern, the reserve’s founder, drew fierce criticism when he announced he was experimenting with cyanide to inject into rhino horns, after poachers struck his reserve. “We wanted to inflict the same kind of suffering our animals had to endure on anyone involved in the vile activity of poaching,” the reserve explained in a statement. “We began researching the possibility of poisoning our rhinos’ horns, so any individual who knowingly handled or consumed the horn would either become seriously ill, or even face the risk of death.”

The idea was motivated by the need to treat the horn, and thus the animal, against parasites such as ticks, instead using conventional pesticides. “Such substances are not intended for human consumption and although not lethal in small quantities, remain extremely toxic,” the reserve states.

Hern says her father’s initial response was driven by emotion. “Once we reconsidered and got the necessary legal advice, we decided we weren’t going to right a wrong by doing another wrong,” she told the Saturday Star. “We have found a way to still get our point across, but without doing anything illegal or maliciously trying to hurt someone.”

In the past two months, all the reserve’s rhino have been treated with the ectoparasitacides and are in “excellent health” and carefully monitored.
Unlike parasite treatment, which typically involves the rhino being dipped, the rhino are darted and a hole is drilled into their horn to inject the pesticide, which also contains the indelible red dye.

“We have reason to believe that, if other rhino owners followed sui, the perception that rhino horn is no longer beneficial to humans, but potentially dangerous instead, could very well be the impetus needed to eradicate poaching entirely,” says the statement. Conventional methods to fight poaching, including dehorning, microchips and tracking devices have failed and a rhino has been slaughtered roughly every 30 hours in South Africa this year.

Faan Coetzee, of the Rhino Security Project of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, questions the ethics motivating the reserve. “It’s still a poison. The problem is these guys (poachers) are going to kill the rhino anyway and hopefully someone gets sick. But is that a way to think? Let’s not dabble in these things,” he said, pointing out that tranquilising carried a risk to the rhino’s health and was expensive.

But the reserve stands firm. “We’re not interested in causing anyone’s death; we merely want the killing of these gentle, majestic creatures to stop. If we have to cause a few individuals some discomfort to accomplish this, we’re willing to take our chances. Although we in no way intend to enforce vigilante justice on innocent people, we want to send the message that poaching has dire consequences.”

Wildlife vet Dr Charles van Niekerk, who is involved in the research, says this is one “arrow in the quiver” in the fight against rhino poaching. Other private rhino owners are on board, he says but won’t divulge more. The research is still in the initial stages. “People have asked how we can treat all the rhino in South Africa. We’re not deterred by number. And people must not be blinded by the cost – all the money in the world won’t bring the rhino back once it is gone.”

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Hotels in the KNP and the culling of elephants


Herewith  letter written by 
 Dr Salomon Joubert, a
previous director of the Kruger national Park, who spent his whole
career there, on the building of hotels and the culling of elephants
in the KNP. This letter are intended to be made public, so please
forward them as you see fit.

Mr Glenn Phillips,

Managing Executive: Tourism Development and Marketing,

South African National Parks.

 

By email: glennp@sanparks.org

Dear Glenn,

Please allow me to share a few thoughts with you.

 

The intention of SANParks to build a hotel at Malelane, and the possibility of another at Skukuza, has (is) causing some rather serious concern. This is a dramatic deviation from the established norms and ethos for the Kruger National Park and is bound to illicit opposition.

 

I have already expressed my opposition to the idea of an hotel. Unfortunately and unnecessarily this has resulted in some personal spats but I would like to believe that they are now done and buried. The fact that I differ from SANParks on this issue, and possibly in future on some other issues, does not influence my personal relationships with friends and (ex)colleagues, it does not change my attitude towards SANParks and, least of all, it does not in any way impact on the pride and joy I nurture for our national parks, in particular the KNP. The views I express are sincere and honest.

 

The fact that there are opposing views can only be to the benefit of the decision-making process. In a matter as serious as the development of hotels the more involvement there is in the mix of viewpoints the greater the chances of a rational approach being adopted. It is in this spirit that I would like to submit a short overview of the philosophical development of tourism facilities in the KNP that could possibly play a role in guiding decisions to be taken.

 

Tourism to the KNP started in 1923 with the institution of the “Round-in nine” railway tours to the Lowveld by the South African Railways. This tour included an overnight stop at Skukuza which proved immensely popular and resulted in a close working relationship with the SAR.

 

When the KNP was proclaimed in 1926 there were no facilities for tourists. At one of its earliest meetings, in 1927, the newly appointed National Parks Board rejected a proposal by the SAR to erect an hotel at Skukuza. After some experimentation accommodation in the early rest camps was provided in the form of rondavels and squaredavels. At the end of his illustrious career as Warden of the KNP, in 1946, Col Stevenson-Hamilton accepted that most of the rest camps were incorrectly placed and argued that “… any hotels and in future new camps should be sited outside the Park’s western boundary …. the enlargement and/or increase of rest camps in the midst of the Park should in future be avoided.” On his retirement he summarised his basic philosophy, typed in capitals, as flows:

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE, KEEP IT WILD

 

During the Second World War tourism largely ground to a halt. Soon after, however, rest camps were renovated and opened to the public. It was also a time that considerable attention was given to the harmonizing of the roles of conservation and tourism. In this respect Stevenson-Hamilton’s successor, Col Sandenburgh, expressed the view that “the primary object of the KNP is that it shall provide a sanctuary wherein nature will be left undisturbed” but lamented that “there seems a deplorable lack of the real conception of what the word ‘sanctuary’ really means and that there is a need for public instruction. Our object should be to create an atmosphere wherein the people will feel that the KNP is not only a Sanctuary for wildlife but also a Sanctuary for them from the hustle and bustle, the cares and tribulations, and the squalors of civilised life.”

 

To gain some clarity on this issue the Board appointed Prof F Hoek as a one-man commission in 1953 to advise it on the best way forward in developing the KNP’s tourism facilities. The ‘Hoek Commission’ recommended, inter alia, that the Provincial Administration be requested to build a major road along the length of the western boundary, outside the KNP; that several rest camps be demolished and new one’s be built on the western boundary; that the KNP be divided into five sections (on the basis of ecological divides) and that tourists not be allowed to travel from one section to the next within the Park. Travel from one section to the next would only be possible along the public road along the western boundary.

 

The Hoek Commission strongly recommended that control over tourist numbers be exercised and was of the opinion that the Southern District had already reached its maximum. It was emphatic that “a standpoint must now be taken: must the KNP become simply a holiday resort or must it be a sanctuary in the true sense?”

 

In 1955 the Fifth International Congress on Tourism resolved that “all authorities charged with the administration of national parks and nature reserves be requested to undertake detailed scientific research into the effects of tourism on wildlife and, based on the findings of such research, to determine the development of tourism in the parks .” In this regard the KNP’s biologist, Dr Nel, quoted from The paradox of National Parks (Boyle) that “the spirit and force behind the National Park idea has, in all countries, been the demand for the preservation of nature; so that something shall remain as it used to be, unspoilt by the advance of civilisation. There has, of course, also been a demand for places of recreation, but that quite different demand can be satisfied in quite a different way, by the development of holiday resorts of many different kinds. …. There is in humanity a very deep-seated love of wild nature, which National Parks must satisfy, or else degenerate to become merely ‘playgrounds’ for the people”.

 

Dr Nel cautioned that the pursuit of commercial gains was rapidly eroding away the primary objective of nature conservation and warned that the unchecked growth in tourist numbers resulted in the Board “… being forced to provide more and better amenities … which in turn draw more ‘popularity’ and ‘money’ … The result in the long run is the debasement of the higher and lasting values of wildlife conservation, that is the cultural values which call for sacrifices and not reward, and which endanger the purpose of a national park.”

 

During the early 1960’s the then Director of the National Parks Board, Dr R Knobel, expressed the following sentiments regarding tourist facilities: “Visitor accommodation should in no way detract from nature and should certainly not try to compete with nature as a draw card to any national park or reserve. Visitor accommodation should be simple and not luxurious and it should be such that it does not, in what it offers, attract visitors to the area who do not primarily wish to visit the area, to be recreated through their experience by their contact with nature … I hold the view that when visitors start demanding entertainment in accommodation areas it is a sure sign that the concentration is too large and that city-like conditions have been created. Such conditions call for entertainment to allow an escape from reality.” Knobel also warned that “… we must never try to combine national parks … with pleasure resorts. Both would be the loser.”

 

In 1981 the Government made a substantial grant available for the expansion of tourism facilities in our national parks, with the purpose of making them more self-sufficient (and less dependent on Government subsidies). A large percentage of this grant was allocated to the KNP for the purpose of renovating existing facilities and creating new ones. Noting the negative effects of overcrowding the Park Warden, Dr Pienaar, warned that, “in the absence of exact criteria (to determine optimal tourist numbers) one must inevitably fall back on more abstract parameters to determine the balance between a unique national park experience … and the feeling of disappointment and exploitation of visitors in an over-saturated area which has the same urgency, restlessness and tension from which the average tourist tries to escape. (One must assess this) … in the South African context as opposed to, for example, the American approach.” A large number of tourist facilities were proposed, including new rest camps, ‘private’ camps, picnic spots and roads.

 

The Research Section objected to some of the proposals but supported others subject to the following:

§       The preservation of the pristine qualities of the ecosystems receive precedence over any conflicting tourist facilities.

§       The provision of tourist facilities should be subject to a zoning system, based on ecological sensitivities. Proposed zones were high, intermediate and low development areas, and semi-wilderness and wilderness areas.

§       Development on the peripheries of the Park should take precedence.

§       Roads with accompanying gravel pits should be limited and consideration be given to single lane one-way traffic roads and four-wheel drive tracks.

§       That no artificial water resources would be created for the purpose of increasing animal population densities for the sake of tourists.

 

To address the above issues the Research Section proposed that the existing management plan for the KNP be revised by a Planning Committee, with representation by all sections of the administration of the KNP. The objective of the Planning Committee would be to compile an all-embracing management plan to include all issues relevant to the management of the Park, and to continuously update such issues as the need arose and/or more information became available.

 

During the 1980’s and early 1990’s three independent assessments of the attitudes of tourists to the KNP were made. In a qualitative, rather than merely quantitative, survey the major results obtained by Dr Odendaal (University of Pretoria) included the following:

§       The natural environment was the major interest of visitors, especially the tranquility and solitude it offered.

§       There was a strong need for more trails and opportunities to make closer contact with nature.

§       There was a strong need for more environmental education.

§       Visitors were averse to recreational facilities (with the exception of swimming pools) and expected an “… introspective experience in which they could find peace of mind and tranquility’.

§       Most visitors were of the opinion that rest camps could be “… even smaller and more primitive”.

§       There was a general feeling that camping areas were being neglected.

 

In a survey by Du Toit and Van Aswegen a positive correlation was found between the responses of visitors to matters such as service delivery, tariffs, etc. and the quality of the ‘nature experience’. The higher the rating of the ‘nature experience’ the higher the ratings (acceptance) of other services and tariffs!

 

In two separate follow-up surveys Ms Willemse and Prof Puth, both of the University of Pretoria, reported that visitors were satisfied that the Park complied with nature conservation expectations, that they felt that the Park should, first and foremost, be a national park with conservation objectives and that recreational and entertainment facilities do not belong in the Park.

 

TV sets in chalets have consistently been rejected in KNP attitude surveys.

 

Throughout the past 86 years that tourists have had access to the KNP the emphasis by the Park authorities and the demands by tourists for a quality experience have consistently been to promote an intimate engagement with nature, both in terms of the facilities provided and the experiences offered. Recreational facilities and ‘modernisation’ have been strongly rejected in favour of the tranquility, serenity and wilderness ambience of the natural surroundings.

 

Around 2000 SANParks allocated a number of concessions to private operators in the KNP. Luxury lodges were built and exclusive traversing rights were awarded to the concessionaires. This development was criticised on the grounds that it violated national parks principles and policies. However, the then CEO, Mr Mavuso Msimang, personally conveyed to me that the justification for the concessions was to make SANParks financially more self-sufficient as government grants were likely to be withdrawn. At the same time outlets, such as the restaurants and shops, were also made available to private entrepreneurs, ostensibly for the same reason.

 

It is difficult to imagine how the proposed hotel will differ from the series of concession lodges run in the KNP. These lodges offer exclusivity, full board and lodging and have their own road networks. The concession lodges, as a matter of principle, are already difficult, if not impossible, to come to terms with (private enterprise operating in our flagship national park!). The proposed hotel at Malelane, in the busiest and already overcrowded region of the Park, can hardly be regarded as anything but bizarre!

 

Against the background outlined above, the very concept of an up-market hotel, with all associated mod-cons, flies in the face of every value the Board (SANParks) has ever stood for in the provision of tourist accommodation.

 

It would appear that the major motivations for the hotel are to strengthen constituency building, in particular to create opportunities to attract the higher income segment of the Black market and to make provision for income generation to achieve financial self-sufficiency for SANParks. As far as the first priority is concerned the network of concessions is already available, which provides for the exclusivity and services SANParks wishes to provide with the hotel [these lodges are running at an annual occupancy rate of something below 35% (KNP Tourism Management Plan)]. As far as the second is concerned the government is holding the pistol to SANPark’s head with the threat that it cannot afford to subsidise our national parks to the tune of some R153 million over the next three years (say, R60 million/year).

 

In recent months the following has been aired in the media:

  • In a speech by our Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, he castigated his cabinet colleagues for irresponsible over-spending on projects (e.g. building schools for R40 million when they should cost no more than R25 million);
  • The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, released a report in which it was stated that the government has incurred expenditure of some R1.5 billion on non-essential items, such as motor cars, hotel expenses and the likes since President Zuma has taken office, and
  • In the 2008 / 2009 financial year a sum of R100 million was stolen from the State by civil servants, and of those found guilty around 90% are still in office (Public Service Commission report).

 

And this government cannot afford to subsidise its national parks with something like R60 million per annum? I find this totally unacceptable and personally I think it is time for the public to be consulted on this issue. In the same vein, it is also time for the government to clearly inform the public regarding its commitment (or otherwise) regarding our national parks. The government cannot continue threatening the withdrawal of grants to our national parks without clearly stating its case.

 

No-one in his right frame of mind will doubt the priority given to the pressing issues of the day, such as health care, education, housing, service provision, etc., and the huge amounts of expenditure they will incur. But many will seriously question the sincerity of this government’s commitment towards its national parks by threatening to withdraw a mere R60 million per year for the maintenance and perpetuation of the most precious assets of all the people of South Africa!

 

Since the early 1980’s several developments have been undertaken in the name of achieving independence from government grants. The KNP Tourism Management Plan 2007 – 2011 also clearly states that since 1994 “the new democratic government granted less Government subsidies to the KNP and the financial situation deteriorated.”

 

So far, however, all attempts to reach financial self sufficiency have been unsuccessful and are likely to continue that way. This is primarily due to the fact that if the preservation of the natural, unspoilt attributes of our national parks (wilderness atmosphere, tranquility, serenity, sense of place, etc.) are to continue to be the primary objective underpinning the values offered to tourists trendy commercial ventures, resort activities and mod-cons (such as TV’s) will be shunned as they do not comply with the established ethos of national parks. This is clearly reflected in all the attitude surveys conducted in the KNP in the past. This was also borne out in the SWOT analysis undertaken by the KNP and in which stakeholders across the board participated. Priorities highlighted were a call for an

▫      “appreciation of peace and tranquility or ‘sense of place’;

▫      a demand for “more camping and caravan sites”;

▫      “more roads and tourist infrastructure (picnic sites, hides, stop-over points with toilets, etc.) built in a ‘close to nature’ rustic style”;

▫      “… reduced crowding at view sites and congestion on the roads”;

▫      “provision of heritage guides in camps”,

▫      “cell-phone free zones”, etc. (KNP Tourism Management Plan 2007 – 2011).

 

The KNP Tourism Management Plan also repeatedly refers to “nature based tourism”, sense of place, dangers of overcrowding, etc.

 

From the statistics provided by the Management Plan it is clear that the level of overcrowding in the Marula region has already reached, possibly even exceeded, its limits.

 

In line with the above the following from the same document is profoundly relevant: “the concept of overcrowding in a national park leads directly to the very relevant debate around the merits of ‘more visitors, more revenue’, against the opposing view that ‘high wilderness values guarantee quality visitor experiences’. Also see the conclusions reached by Du Toit and Van Aswegen, referred to above, which indicated that a high quality nature experience resulted in more appreciation for other services. In this respect, please refer to the Management Plan for the comments of stakeholders on aspects such as service and maintenance standards and staff attitudes in the KNP – something that you can hardly be proud of!

 

Furthermore, under the caption of Tourism Thresholds for the KNP the following, amongst others, are listed as negatives:

▫      “vehicles on the roads (especially in the Marula region)”;

▫      “noise levels in some camps”;

▫      “number of visitors in some camps”;

▫      “exposure of visitors to Park non-core personnel (stakeholders find some staff behaviour in the Park unacceptable, e.g. speeding)” and

▫      “standards of service delivery”.

 

In the light of the above I believe the concept of high-income (4-star) hotels with breakfast and guided drives are totally alien to the spirit and ethos of the KNP. That these kind of developments may be a priority in the emerging tourism markets elsewhere in South Africa is quite acceptable but entirely out of place in the KNP! As in the case of government grants I believe that the general public should be consulted on this issue if SANParks decides to persevere with the Malelane hotel.

 

On the issue of state funding the following enters one’s mind: what if the proposed hotel (and any others that may be in the pipeline) do not succeed in achieving financial sustainability – what are the next gimmicks that will be enforced upon our national parks? Where is this going to end? Either we have national parks, in the true and proud sense of national parks, or we have a conglomerate of business / recreational resorts. And, in the case of the latter, accept that the heart and soul of our national parks have been shamelessly sacrificed!!

 

Thank you for bearing with me and I am grateful for the opportunity of putting these thoughts on paper.

 

Kind regards,

Salomon Joubert

 

 

Letter copied to:

Dr David Mabunda

Mr Joep Stevens

 

Minister of Environmental Affairs

Minister of Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

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London To Cape Town Driving Record Smashed


A three man British driving team in a Land Rover Discovery, led by adventurer Mac Mackenney, has smashed the London to Cape Town overland driving record by nearly two days. The 10,000 miles across 20 countries was achieved in 11 days and 14 hours and 11 minutes. The previous record had stood for almost 50 years.

10 Year old Discovery 11 THE car

The rear end of the Land Rover

The London to Cape Town event was one of the last great driving challenges taking the team through some of the most inhospitable areas and difficult road conditions to be found anywhere in the world. The overland attempt was dedicated to raising funds and generating awareness for Help for Heroes and was supported by Chevron Lubricants, with the company’s Havoline products being used throughout the drive to protect and lubricate the engine.

The Land Rover

The three man team of Mac Mackenney, his brother Steve Mackenney and Chris Rawlings, started from the RAC Club in London’s Pall Mall on Saturday, 16thOctober and arrived at the AA building in the centre of Cape Town at 11.29 BST on Thursday, 28th October.

Sleeping Quarters !

The attempt was also supported by two patrons, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, OBE and Sir Stirling Moss OBE. Sir Stirling said, “Congratulations to Mac, Steve and Chris for breaking the 47 year old London to Cape Town record, an outstanding achievement by three adventurers who pushed the boundaries of driving endurance and won.”

The original 1963 record was set by Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers in a Ford Cortina GT and Eric, who is now retired, said, “I know how difficult the trip is and I have great admiration for Mac and the team and whilst I’d like to have kept the record for a lot longer I am delighted for Mac, Steve and Chris.”

Marketing Manager, Chevron Lubricants Europe, James Welchman, said, “Congratulations to the team on their success. Chevron is extremely proud to have been closely involved in this successful record attempt and to have supplied our Havoline products in what is probably the most arduous and demanding conditions for a vehicle.”

Mac, Steve and Chris the three gladiators

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Google Forest search results in a new chameleon discovery!


A recently published article describes  a new chameleon found in the “Google Forest” in Mozambique.

 

The Austral late autumn is not the best time to hunt for a new species of chameleon, but defying all odds, Prof. Bill Branch did. Prof. Branch undertook the chameleon chase in May 2009. He was motivated by photographs of unusual chameleons taken during earlier surveys by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) in the forests of Mount Mabu in central Mozambique.

 

The forest is known as the “Google Forest” because Dr. Julian Bayliss of the MMCT originally identified it as an area of interest using imagery from Google Earth.

Nadzikambia baylissi (photo Bill Branch)

 

Because chameleons are cryptic by day, night-time is the easiest time to find them because they stand out under a strong spotlight. Prof. Branch explained their expedition saying “four exhausting nights chasing shadows by spotlight in the mid-altitude temperate forest eventually uncovered four individuals which didn’t look like any known species”.

 

The species was confirmed by Krystal Tolley of the South African National Biodiversity Institute through genetic analysis of DNA samples taken by Branch. Dr. Tolley said “The DNA patterns revealed that the Mount Mabu chameleon is distinctive enough to be considered a new species, and is related to the Mount Mulanje chameleon, from southern Malawi.” This new chameleon is unusual because it is only the second species known in the genus Nadzikambia. It is only found on the forested slopes of Mount Mabu suggesting it is extremely isolated, and is confined to one small patch of forest habitat.

The chameleon is named in honour of Dr. Julian Bayliss, the organiser of a number of expeditions to Mount Mabu which have ultimately led to the discovery of this new chameleon. “It’s thrilling to have a new species named after you.” said Bayliss, “You feel honoured for the recognition, but also humbled by the fact that there is so much still unknown about our own planet, that we can still be finding new species.”

 

 

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Water in crisis


Water!

Inconvenient truth – privatising water is expensive

Water is our most precious natural resource. With only three percent of the world’s water existing as fresh water, nearly every continent is feeling the effects of the global water crisis as the world’s fresh-water resources are running out.

Not long ago a remark like this would most probably have elicited little reaction and most likely have been laughed off as another typical doomsday prediction.

But not anymore.

Water a critical commodity

Today it would be difficult to find a person willing to argue against the view that water has become a critical commodity without which mankind cannot survive.

The world’s fresh-water resources are running out fast and, although varied, the reasons are not difficult to identify.

Global warming, climate change, droughts, pollution and, most importantly, the world’s growing population are exerting unprecedented pressure on all the fresh-water resources around the globe.

Tension between states over access to fresh water is on the increase. The diversion of water and the building of dams in rivers that feed more that one country have become controversial issues. Confrontation looms between Jordan and Syria and India and China while Pakistan is not happy with India for diverting too much water from rivers running off the Himalayas.

In Africa a number of countries are in dispute with Egypt and Sudan while trying to peacefully negotiate the future use of the water of the Nile.

In Southern Africa talks are underway to guarantee that the water of the Zambezi is not lost to those countries that hold that their survival is linked to uninterrupted access to the river.

In recent months Botswana has approached both Lesotho and South Africa to secure a safe water supply for its future needs. Survival is paramount and not even the fact that South Africa is a water-scarce country prevented Botswana from register its need to discuss sharing the water of the Gariep (Orange) River.

Investors Interest

Approximately a year ago an investor website that identifies and advises clients on potential high-yield shares singled out investing in or buying shares in farm land as an opportunity second to none.

With the global food shortages experienced in 2008 and rocketing food prices the recommendation made a lot of sense.

Many responded and today governments, international companies, financial institutions, and individual investors are competing for available arable land, mostly in Africa.

The interest is so huge that it is said that the second “scramble for Africa” is underway.

A few weeks ago the same website wrote about “water as the business opportunity of a lifetime”.

Watershed

An increased participation by the private sector in the water industry is imminent and it might prove to be the proverbial watershed.

It is estimated that globally private investment in the water industry is set to double in the next five years with the private sector becoming a major service provider.

Nobody can question the right of any participating entrepreneur to profit from involvement in the water industry.

In many countries, including South Africa, there are those who will be prepared to pay more if uninterrupted clean water can be guaranteed. People are already paying exorbitant prices for bottled water although it is sometimes of doubtful quality.

Sourcing, treating, storing and providing water to industry and millions of people and households is highly technical, specialised, and expensive while the demand is relentless.

It is not only in South Africa where the authorities find it financially challenging to meet the growing demand for water. It is a global challenge.

In Melbourne, Australia, a desalination plant planned to make the city drought-proof will cost US$24 billion and the city of Denver in the US recently forked out $650 million for a water treatment facility.

New opportunities and challenges

The United Nations expects the demand for fresh water to outstrip supply by more than 30% by 2040 and, when demand overtakes or begins to challenge supply, it is to be expected that interest will be aroused.

The growing demand for a dwindling commodity that was always considered to be in bountiful supply creates more than just socio-economic and political challenges.

The involvement of the private sector is not only unavoidable it is greatly needed. It will however pose a new set of challenges.

One of the most challenging is going to be to calibrate and manage from any government’s perspective the dichotomy between profit and social responsibility.

Without guidelines and strict price control water can become a seriously expensive commodity out of reach of large segments of society.

Water is essential to life.

It is imperative that water stays affordable to all. Access to water is after all a basic human right. The UN General Assembly voted unanimously in July this year to affirm it as such.

Water is not like other commodities — it is not something people can substitute or choose to forgo. With other commodities there is a choice. With energy, or food, customers have options: they can switch from oil to natural gas, or eat more chicken and less beef. But there is no substitute for water.

An attorney who specialises in water cautions that water has been a public resource under public domain for more than 2,000 years and to concede it to private entities seems to be morally wrong and dangerous.

This view is perhaps over the top but the message is clear.

With shrinking fresh-water reserves it is inevitable that the consumer will have to pay more for one of life’s essentials and facts and figures indicate that any form of privatised water guarantees an increase in water tariffs.

Hopefully this inconvenient truth that water is to become a scarce, strategic and expensive commodity will force consumers, large and small, to use it more sparingly.

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