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2019

Breaking news as new Riverine Rabbit population found in Baviaanskloof

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Drylands Conservation Programme was thrilled to confirm the presence of a population of Riverine Rabbits on the western side of the Baviaanskloof in late May 2019. This population represents a completely new distribution of the species not anticipated by any previous population modelling. According to Bonnie Schumann, EWT Nama Karoo Coordinator, this is an historic find with the closest confirmed sightings of the southern population having been more than 250 km to the west.

The discovery comes after ornithologist and well-known conservation scientist, Alan Lee from Blue Hills Escape Farm in the Western Cape, discovered a dead Riverine Rabbit on a gravel road in December 2018. Fortunately, he realised that the animal in front of him was not a hare or a Rock Rabbit but the Critically Endangered Riverine Rabbit.

EWT team members visited the area and set out 38 camera traps with the aim of capturing live images to confirm the presence of another population. Camera traps are placed in clusters and in such a manner that individuals are not likely to be observed twice by more than one cluster. After 50 days in the field, the cameras were collected by the team and processed.

According to Cobus Theron, EWT Drylands Conservation Programme Manager, “while we expected one or two clusters to capture images, we were astounded that eight of our 12 clusters had confirmed images of Riverine Rabbits on them!” This again demonstrates that this species is the true hide-and seek champion of the Karoo.

“This find is unexpected and redefines our understanding of the distribution of the species. It demonstrates that their elusiveness is part of their survival strategy,” continues Cobus.

CapeNature Executive Director: Biodiversity Capabilities, Coral Birss, added, “CapeNature is delighted about the recent discovery of Riverine Rabbits in the Baviaanskloof area in the Southern Cape. The species, which previously managed to go virtually undetected, has proven to effectively solidify its presence, supported by research on genetic connectivity and distribution in the last decade. This latest discovery is remarkable and bodes well for the future survival of this Critically Endangered species, particularly for its protection within the landscapes of the Western Cape surrounding our nature reserves. CapeNature commends the great work and research being done and facilitated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and looks forward to further collaboration and tracking the progress of this interesting species.”

The EWT has also obtained a genetic sample from the dead rabbit found by Alan Lee. This will be analysed to provide insights into the relationship between the Baviaanskloof Riverine Rabbits and Riverine Rabbits from the northern and southern populations.

The find shows the importance of sightings by members of the public and the value of social media in connecting people.

The EWT, along with CapeNature, will now incorporate the findings into their conservation strategy and engage landowners in the Baviaanskloof to ensure that the Riverine Rabbit receives the attention it deserves.

 

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2019

EYE of the PANGOLIN. The search for an animal on the edge. A definite must see!

A firestorm of poaching and illegal trade is raging around the African pangolin. Conservationists estimate that one pangolin is poached from the wild every five minutes due to the huge demand from the African and Asian traditional medicine markets. These shy, defenceless animals are being pushed to the edge of extinction, yet this curious little creature is one of the most elusive on the planet. Many people have never heard of it, very few have seen it in the wild and it does not survive in captivity.

We have partnered with award-winning South African filmmakers Bruce Young and Johan Vermeulen to produce a powerful, awareness raising film about the critical situation facing the African pangolin.

About the film

From the co-director of Blood Lions, this powerful documentary is the story of two men on a mission to get all four species of African pangolin on camera for the very first time. As they travel the continent to learn more about those caring for and studying pangolins they are captivated by these strange, secretive creatures and document the race to save them from being poached to extinction.

Our goal is to make Eye of the Pangolin the most widely watched wildlife documentary ever, that will be seen by millions of people around the world via free online platforms, through schools and other educational establishments, at wildlife film festivals, and at screenings supported other conservation organisations everywhere. By making the film open source we can reach the greatest possible number of viewers because we believe that if people come to know the African pangolin they will care enough to somehow help put a stop to the horrific trade.

To ensure the greatest possible impact we are launching an intensive screening campaign for Eye of the Pangolin, taking the film to rural schools in high poaching areas across the continent where poaching may be a livelihood for communities or traditional cultural practice.

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2019

You can help save the world’s most trafficked mammal!

The pangolin is the world’s most trafficked mammal.
As a result, this elusive little fellow is now threatened with extinction across its home range. Pangolin numbers are now so low that every animal counts and we cannot afford to lose even one more!

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s team in the Soutpansberg Mountains, led by Oldrich van Schalkwyk, received disturbing news last Saturday, 4 May, that a pangolin was being offered for sale in a neighbouring village. Working with rangers from the H12Leshiba Game Reserve and the South African Police Service, a sting operation was immediately launched to rescue this trafficking victim so that it could be safely returned to its wild habitat. 

The suspects had contacted the reserve to offer the pangolin to them for R80,000, but were exposed by a brave informant, who negotiated with the sellers while the team put the sting operation in place. At 15:00, we were advised that the pangolin would be sold to someone in Johannesburg if the R80,000 was not forthcoming in the next hour, and knew there was little time left to save this terrified animal.

Unfortunately, the suspects were tipped off, and fled the scene before an arrest was possible. However, the woman and children in the house lead the team to the room where the animal was being kept. Amongst the clutter, Oldrich found the distressed pangolin hiding under a cupboard. 

The priority was to get the stressed and extremely dehydrated male pangolin to safety, and EWT staff took him to the EWT’s Medike Nature Reserve, where he could forage, drink water, and de-stress. Normally, pangolins absorb water from their food, rather than through drinking, but this poor animal was so dehydrated that he drank deeply from the water hole, after enjoying a meal of ants.

The next morning, this brave little survivor was taken by the African Pangolin Working Group to a specialist rehabilitation centre in Johannesburg, where he will be treated and cared for before being released back into the wild in the Soutpansberg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, the vet found him to still be dehydrated, but in otherwise surprisingly good condition. It was extremely fortunate that we were able to rescue him after only a few days in captivity. Usually, these animals are only found after a much longer time in the trade, and often it is too late to save them.

A case has been opened against the suspects and the police are closing in, with an imminent arrest being on the cards. 

But the fight to save this brave pangolin is not over!
When he is ready to be released, he needs to be fitted with a tracking device so that we can ensure his safety and continued wellbeing. All pangolins, without exception, are compromised both physically and mentally when rescued from the illegal trade. During the hospitalisation and rehabilitation process, the aim is to attain ‘full and fit health’ before release. However, old injuries and illness picked up during capture often reoccur post-release. There have been instances where these trauamtised animals have deteriorated post-release and had to be readmitted to hospital, or worse, have succumbed to their illnesses. That’s the last thing we want to see happen, and we’re sure you feel the same way. To prevent this, we need to monitor him via the tracking device, to enable us to rush to the pangolin’s aid if necessary. These tracking data will also give us a better understanding of the behaviour of these elusive creatures, helping us to conserve not just this pangolin, but many more of them in the future.

Will you help to save our pangolins?
Your donation will help to cover his veterinary costs, buy a tracking device, monitor him in the field for at least three months, and keep him, and other pangolins out of the illegal wildlife trade. 

Costs:
Tracking device: R20,000
Monitor pangolins in the field per day: R200
Pangolin rehabilitation costs: R30,000

Your help could make the world of difference to this pangolin, and many more.

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2019

Inaugural African linear infrastructure and ecology conference

It is likely that many drivers have, at some point, accidently hit an animal on the road. The consequences? Not only an injured or dead animal, but probably an insurance claim, or a visit to the emergency room for various injuries. At the inaugural African Conference for Linear Infrastructure and Ecology (ACLIE) 2019, which was held this past week in the iconic Kruger National Park, and co-hosted by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Eskom, solutions to prevent wildlife roadkill and improve driver safety were addressed. Work undertaken in Canada, demonstrated in one of the many fascinating presentations at the conference, shows that building wildlife bridges over or under roads effectively helps many animals to cross over the road, while avoiding an interaction with a vehicle. Simple, but effective!
 

Similarly, the Eskom/EWT Strategic Partnership – an African first – excited international delegates who saw how this unique relationship is directly reducing wildlife interactions with electrical infrastructure and preventing disruption to our power supply. 
 

Centred around linear infrastructure, namely roads and rail, energy, canals, pipelines, and fences, and their impacts on the environment, ACLIE was the first of its kind, not only for Africa, but also in the framework of combining transportation and energy at one forum outlining multiple, common threats to the environment. ACLIE sought to move away from the current international conference framework, which usually focuses on each form of linear infrastructure in isolation (for example, roads only), and introduced a less siloed approach that combined all forms of transportation and energy, since these necessary modes usually co-exist and have multiple negative impacts on biodiversity. Examples include the loss of wildlife due to roadkill and electrocution on power lines. The EWT’s Wildlife and Transport and Wildlife and Energy programmes have been addressing these impacts and developing solutions for years and were the drivers behind this international gathering of experts, to expand the knowledge pool. The impacts are not unique to South Africa, however; they are a threat worldwide. 
 

ACLIE delegates

Presentations ranged from global perspectives to individual country case studies, covering current scientific research, policy, legislation and best practice, and all with the potential to enhance both the project development process and the ecological sustainability of all linear infrastructure modes. A common thread across many presentations was the threat posed by current and future development across Africa. Over the next decade, major developmental projects have been planned for Africa, which will see ‘development corridors’, comprising networks of power lines, roads, railways, pipelines, and ports being constructed to facilitate the movement of commodities. There are over 30 development corridors taking shape across Africa, spanning over 53,000 km in length, and potentially affecting protected areas with high conservation values and multiple threatened species. It is therefore timely that ACLIE was held, in order to better prepare ecologists and sustainability experts for this explosive development. The conference attracted many key players, including the World Bank and USAid (PowerAfrica), and was a golden opportunity to facilitate discussions and influence decision-makers around future developments on the continent.

The EWT’s Matt Pretorius presenting “A power line collision model for Lesser Flamingos in South
Africa.”

Case studies of how to prevent Martial Eagles being electrocuted on power lines, or Samango Monkeys being killed on roads in South Africa, to examples from North America on the design of bridges specially constructed over roads to assist wildlife in crossing, and prevent collisions on roads, were just some of the practical illustrations of the significance of this work. Keynote speakers included Yolan Friedmann, the EWT’s CEO, Deidre Herbst, the Environmental Manager from Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, and George Ledec, the lead ecologist with the World Bank.

Wendy Collinson-Jonker, EWT Wildlife and Transport Programme Manager, elaborated, “We were extremely proud to be able to showcase our projects to the rest of the world at ACLIE, as well as share potential solutions for the proposed linear infrastructure developments across the African continent. The challenge will be implementing many of these solutions, but the input and support from experts who attended ACLIE may well assist us in ensuring development that is more resilient and ultimately benefits the economy but conserves the environment.”
Feedback from the conference delegates supports the need for ACLIE to become a regular event on the global calendar – only through bringing together experts from around the world, will we truly address this very real threat to biodiversity. 

Rodney van der Ree, an associate professor from the University of Melbourne, said, “The conference was a fantastic opportunity to network and look at innovative solutions to the problems posed by linear infrastructure. It was particularly great to see so many African countries represented her, given the current programme of infrastructure development on the continent – this suggests recognition of the potential threats and ownership of the need to find ways to address them. The opportunities for building sustainable infrastructure in the long-term are an exciting outcome of ACLIE.”

Kishaylin Chetty, Senior Environmental Advisor at the Eskom Biodiversity Centre of Excellence, added, “The ACLIE 2019 conference brought industry and wildlife impacts to a discussion forum where all parties can work towards shared objectives, expanding knowledge, and understanding how to ultimately minimise the threat to wildlife. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity.”

 ACLIE 2019 was organised with the assistance of africaMASSIVE, and was supported by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, Road Ecology Center – UC Davies, TRAC N4, EcoKare International, SANPARKS, Balmoral Engineering, Painted Wolf Wines, and Arcus Foundation.
End
About the Endangered Wildlife Trust 
The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog, to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world.

The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion.

A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together. Find out more at www.ewt.org.za

Contacts
Wendy Collinson
Wildlife and Transport Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
wendyc@ewt.org.za

Lourens Leeuwner
Wildlife and Energy Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
lourensl@ewt.org.za

Belinda Glenn
Marketing and Communications Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 87 021 0398
belindag@ewt.org.za

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2019

Conserving Kruger’s Martial Eagles

Martial Eagles are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to suspected population declines across much of their African range. Locally within South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland the species is classified as Endangered owing to worrying population declines. In South Africa, it has been estimated that there could be up to 800 pairs of this magnificent eagle. However, recent findings by researchers at the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute of Ornithology have suggested that the species has declined by up to 60% over the last 20 years. This is also the case inside the Kruger National Park, the largest protected area in the country, where it has been estimated that the species has declined by as much as 54%. These declines are very concerning and highlight the need for larger landscape conservation efforts to mitigate threats to large raptors.

 

In response to these declines, in 2013 the FitzPatrick Institute of Ornithology established The Martial Eagle Project, which is now run in collaboration with the EWT’s Birds of Prey Programme and is a registered SANParks project. The project aims to improve our understanding of the threats faced by this species and how these threats could be driving population declines of Martial Eagles, with a particular focus on the declines that have been observed within Kruger, where species are usually expected to be most protected. This research is important to understand the role that protected areas have in conservation and to understand specific threats and habitat requirements for the conservation of Martial Eagles.

 

At the outset of the project, one hypothesis for the population declines was that immature Martial Eagles might be subject to increased mortality outside of protected areas, due to the tendency for inexperienced eagles to range into areas with increased human pressures. This would cause a reduction in the number adult birds that are able to recruit into the breeding population in Kruger. The good news is that contrary to this hypothesis, GPS tracking data collected since 2013 did not find evidence for low survival during these early life stages despite ranging widely beyond protected area boundaries.

 

However, through GPS tracking of adult birds and nest monitoring, two potential factors that may be contributing to the observed population declines have been detected: low adult survival and poor breeding productivity. Adult mortalities, including persecution and electrocution, during unexpected wide-ranging movements outside of the Kruger, might be a major factor contributing to population level declines.

 

The poor breeding productivity recorded by the project from 2013 to present comes in two forms: both a lower than average number of pairs making a breeding attempt and low success of those pairs which do try. To better understand the latter, the project has recently been installing time-lapse cameras at nests, which will record the actual causes of nest failure. Cameras are currently installed at active nests and at the end of the breeding season in November, they will be recovered so we can learn something more about this year’s nesting attempts. Alongside this, the project is continuing to investigate individual eagles’ movements and survival in the Kruger using GPS tracking.

 

In order to conserve a species we need to understand its requirements, how it interacts with the environment, and the threats that it faces. Thus, the information gathered by the Martial Eagle Project will all contribute to the goal of long-term conservation of this wide-ranging top predator.

 

Dr Gareth Tate, Manager, EWT Birds of Prey Programme

 

ewt

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2018

Civil society organisations welcome new Parliamentary report that calls for a ban on captive lion breeding

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust(EWT) have come out strongly in favour of a new Parliamentary report that calls for a ban on captive lion breeding in the country. Entitled Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting and Bone Trade in South Africa, the new report finds:

 

  1. Captive lion breeding holds no conservation value;
  2. There is no evidence to support the flawed, minority-held, argument that the captive-bred lion industry is “a well-regulated, manageable industry that contributes way more positively to South Africa than negatively”;
  3. The South African government should rethink its policy stance on the captive lion breeding industry, which runs the risk of making the country an “international pariah”;
  4. The increase in the lion bone export quote from 800 in 2017 to 1500 in 2018 is “highly problematic”;
  5. There are ethical, welfare* and brand concerns relating to the captive lion breeding and hunting industries;
  6. The use of lion parts in commercial trade is one of the major emerging threats to wild lions and could facilitate illegal trade;
  7. It is concerning that the current export quotas were not based on scientific evidence and that the 2017 quota was not been adequately managed, resulting in more than 800 skeletons being exported.

 

The 24-page report – adopted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs (PCEA) during a special meeting on 8 November – followed a PCEA colloquium held on 21 and 22 August 2018. It was, reportedly, the longest and best-attended Parliamentary colloquium held in recent years. During the special meeting last week, the PCEA resolved that:

 

  1. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) should urgently initiate a legislative and policy review of the captive lion breeding industry with a view to putting an end to this practice, and the Minister of Environmental Affairs should report quarterly to the PECA on progress in this regard.
  2. DEA should conduct an audit of captive lion and cheetah breeding facilities to assess legislative compliance.
  3. DEA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) should present a clear programme and timeframes to deal with welfare* and health issues relating to captive-bred lions.

 

“We hope that this is the beginning of a just and equitable system for the management of captive lions and other wild animals bred for commercial use in South Africa, and we look forward to participating in the policy and legislative review of the industry,” said CER attorney, Aadila Agjee.

 

EWT CEO, Yolan Friedman, concluded: “We welcome the PCEA’s resolutions and commend the Honourable Chair and Members for their close consideration of this important issue, and the hard work that went into the colloquium and its outcome. The EWT has actively fought against the torrid industry of captive lion breeding, shooting, and bone trade for over a decade. We welcome this report that acknowledges the widely held stance by most South Africans, and all lion biologists and experts, that this industry is nothing but a blight on the conservation pedigree that South Africa should otherwise be able to claim.”

 

*See the CER and EWT report Fair Game for a comprehensive set of recommendations on improving the legal and practical regulation of the well-being of wild animals. This report was funded by the Lewis Foundation.

 

Ends

 

Contacts:

Annette Gibbs

Communications Manager

Centre for Environmental Rights

082 467 1295

agibbs@cer.org.za

 

Yolan Friedmann

CEO

Endangered Wildlife Trust

011 372 3600

yolanf@ewt.org.za

 

Belinda Glenn

Marketing and Communications Manager

Endangered Wildlife Trust

011 372 3600

belindag@ewt.org.za

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2018

Youth tackle hot topics on World Rhino Day

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) recognises the critical role that young people have to play in conservation, as the guardians of our future. With this in mind, the EWT will be running its annual speech and poster contest for schools on World Rhino Day, 22 September 2018. South Africa’s rhinos are in crisis and the EWT believes that the youth can play a key role in helping to save them. This annual event, made possible by the MyPlanet Rhino Fund, invites Grade 10 learners from schools in areas that are high risk for poaching activities to prepare speeches and posters on a topic relevant to the rhino crisis. Now in its fourth year, the contest was initially held in Mpumalanga in 2015 and has subsequently taken place in the Waterberg region in Limpopo each year.

This year, participants have three options to choose from:

 Preparing a speech on the topic: “You are chosen to attend the 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties. You have been requested to give a speech to the CITES member countries on the value of rhino to you as a South African youth. What will you tell them? In your speech please tell us why rhinos are important to you and explain what CITES is and why you feel the international community should help South Africa save them from poaching.”
 Preparing a speech on the topic: “The Endangered Wildlife Trust Wildlife in Trade Programme has a project called ‘Kopanang’, meaning come together. This project aims to bring communities and nature reserves together – how would you achieve this goal? In your speech please set out the importance of wildlife, why wildlife crimes must be stopped, and what activities you will do or would like to do to help under this project.”
 Designing a poster on the topic: “What rhinos mean to you/why you love rhinos.” Twenty schools from the area are participating. Mashudu Makhokha, Director of Lapalala Wilderness School where the contest is hosted, says: “The contest has a huge impact on the participants, as it deals with the perception amongst local communities that biodiversity does not deliver tangible socio-economic benefits, particularly to the poor. It is through this competition that communities see social upliftment and empowerment of the younger generation to attain critical thinking skills and get involved in solving real issues like rhino poaching. The incentives are greatly appreciated by all participants since our province is one of the poorest provinces in the country, often with limited resources for teaching and learning. These opportunities close the gap of lack of proper uniforms, lack of study aid and lack of access to technological equipment.”

While the contest offers valuable prizes in the form of laptops for the winning speakers, enhancing their educational opportunities, the real prize is the engagement around these critical conservation topics. The participants go on to become ambassadors for rhinos in their local communities, speaking out against poaching, and acting as eyes and ears on the ground. The EWT has a long track record of tackling rhino poaching, and first established a targeted Rhino Conservation Project in 2010. The EWT has taken a multi-faceted approach with multiple interventions along the rhino poaching chain. These approaches include the provision of detection and antipoaching dogs to key locations, such as airports and reserves; community engagement and awareness raising; patrol optimisation technology to improve detection and enforcement; capacity building through training for law enforcement officials, rangers, and other stakeholders; and policy engagement.

About the Endangered Wildlife Trust The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has worked tirelessly for over 45 years to save wildlife and habitats, with our vision of being a world in which both humans and wildlife prosper in harmony with nature. From the smallest frog to the majestic rhino; from sweeping grasslands to arid drylands; from our shorelines to winding rivers: the EWT is working with you, to protect our world. The EWT’s team of field-based specialists is spread across southern and East Africa, where committed conservation action is needed the most. Working with our partners, including businesses and governments, the EWT is at the forefront of conducting applied research, supporting community conservation and livelihoods, training and building capacity, addressing human-wildlife conflict, monitoring threatened species and establishing safe spaces for wildlife range expansion. A beacon of hope for Africa’s wildlife, landscapes and communities, the EWT is protecting forever, together.

Find out more at www.ewt.org.za
Contacts Ashleigh Dore Wildlife in Trade Programme Manager
Endangered Wildlife Trust Tel: +27 87 021 0398

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2018

Position Statement on Single-use Plastic

The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) mission is to conserve threatened species and ecosystems in southern Africa to the benefit of all people. This statement advocates the EWT’s view on single-use plastic, with specific reference to the imprudent, large scale consumption of this material. Specifically developed for its durability, water resistance, flexibility, versatility and convenience, plastic has become an indispensable resource for modern human living. Plastic packaging is used extensively across a variety of markets, from food to clothing to electronics. Single-use plastic is created for only one use, its useful lifespan is commonly short, more often than not it is never reused, and it is either difficult or impossible to recycle. The degree of biological degradation exhibited by conventional plastics like these is fairly negligible over time1 , thus these products linger almost indefinitely as waste in landfills, or end up as terrestrial, riverine or marine pollution; contrasting significantly with their short functional lifespans. These products include soft plastics such as drinking straws, plastic packaging, plastic utensils, plastic bags, product bags and disposable cups.

The rapidly increasing consumption of single-use plastic is a substantial long-term global concern, both environmentally and economically. Non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals, such as oil, gas and coal are the base chemicals used to make plastic. Thus, the production of plastic is energy and resource intensive, which contributes to global climate change2 . Not only is plastic waste unsightly, this pollution also represents an environmental hazard, frequently leading to injury or death of wildlife, and has cascading negative impacts to ecosystems and humans alike. Terrestrial plastic litter has the potential to leach harmful contaminants into the soil and subsequently into agricultural crops, with potentially negative consequences to human health3 . Discarded plastic ending up as marine waste entangles marine animals, contaminates marine environments, and is often accidentally consumed by marine species, which can lead to asphyxiation, starvation and death4,5 .

There are at least seven important types of plastic in South Africa, and only a small number of these plastic types can be recycled adequately (Appendix 1). Generally, only certain types of plastics with a recycle logo and identification number are recycled in South Africa. Efficient recycling also depends on whether the area in question offers recycling services. Furthermore, even though certain plastics are recyclable, with the exceptions of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene (LDPE), there is very little demand within South Africa for recyclable plastic. Importantly, plastic items cannot be recycled back into their original form; they can only be converted into lower grade plastics, which thereafter are not easily recycled. The threats associated with two of the most commonly used single use plastic products are discussed below:

Plastic shopping bags
In South Africa, thin plastic bags were banned in 2003, and a tax on thicker plastic bags (of at least 30 microns) was enforced in order to reduce their consumption6 . The ban aimed to halve the use of plastic bags from 8-billion units per year, though recent research suggests that the current tax on plastic bags in South Africa is too small to effect consumer behaviour significantly7 . The lightweight properties of most plastic bags distributed by supermarkets and food outlets allows them to displace easily from landfill sites and garbage bins. This litter can be transported extensively – by wind or water – and causes multiple ecological problems. Issues include environmental degradation, wildlife entrapment, and damage to infrastructure. The blockage of storm water drains is especially a problem within South Africa’s townships. Drain blockage and stagnant surface water can attract rodents and help the spread of water-borne diseases 8 . Marine and riverine species are particularly susceptible to the threats associated with plastic bags, which together with plastic fragments, are frequently misidentified as food resources (e.g. they are mistaken for squid), and consumed accidentally. This hinders digestion of natural food resources, leading to gut-blockage, asphyxiation, starvation, strandings and death of marine mammals and turtles9,10

Microbeads
These solid, tiny plastic particles (typically < 1 mm in size) are used extensively in personal care and household cleaning products, such as toothpastes, exfoliating face and body scrubs, and washing powders. Microbeads have replaced traditional biodegradable exfoliating products, such as salt granules and ground nut shells. These plastic beads are washed down the drain and eventually make their way into rivers, lakes and, ultimately, the ocean. These tiny particles have the potential to adsorb persistent organic pollutants, and become incorporated into the food chain, as microplastics are consumed by various marine and riverine species11 . The ingestion of microplastics can demonstrably affect an organism’s reproductive success, feeding, growth and movement, as these particles can be taken up into body tissues and fluids12–14 . There is currently no legal requirement in South Africa for manufacturers to clearly identify products containing microbeads on their packaging. This makes it both difficult and time-consuming for consumers to make informed choices regarding products containing microbeads.

How can we reduce our consumption of single-use plastics?
The EWT advocates making the following small lifestyle changes which, when implemented routinely on a large-scale social basis, could significantly reduce South Africa’s single-use plastic consumption and the associated environmental threats of plastic waste and pollution:
a) Choose recyclable packaging: By buying products contained in recyclable packaging, you will send a powerful message to product manufacturers to distribute and package their products in an environmentally-friendly manner.
b) Buy in bulk: Buying products in bulk reduces the consumption of plastic packaging and also saves you money. You can easily decant products – including both food and household products – into smaller reusable containers at home.
c) Reduce consumption: Always avoid purchasing unnecessary single-use plastic products, and when necessary, replace them with environmentally-friendlier alternatives. For example, always make sure to take reusable shopping bags with you when shopping and never pay for single-use plastic carrier bags. See Appendix 2 for more examples of common single-use plastic products and possible substitutes you can use.
d) Reuse: When alternative products are unavailable, inconvenient or expensive, plastic products (designed for single-use) can be reused a number of times if washed out after use. These include plastic bags, bottles, cutlery, etc.
e) Choose wisely: Select products packaged using non-plastic materials – for example glass jars and bottles, paper bags, cardboard boxes. Avoid frozen foods, or fruits and vegetables which have been peeled, chopped and packaged, when fresh unpackaged produce is available. Although, you might perceive these products as more convenient and time-saving, they are generally more expensive and packaged using non-recyclable plastic. Choose biodegradable plastic products when available, for example biodegradable garbage bags.
f) Regenerate: Up-/down-cycle plastic products into something else, for example flower pots.
g) Bring your own container: Often restaurants have no problem serving take-away foods into your own personal containers as it saves them money on packaging. Additionally, if you take re-useable containers to food markets suppliers will often package your produce for you in the containers you bring.
h) Make your own: Products, such as juices, smoothies and even cleaning products, can be made at home, rather than bought, thus lowering the consumption of non-reusable or non-recyclable plastic bottles. Not only is this a healthier option, as you avoid excess sugar in drinks and harmful ingredients in cleaning products, but it is also cheaper. See http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm for more information.
i) Package cautiously: Think carefully about how you package your lunches – use re-useable containers as much as possible to limit the usage of cling wrap, plastic bags, etc.
j) Be aware: Find out which plastics can and cannot be recycled and what types of plastics your local recycling drop-off facility will accept.
k) Buy refills: The lids of plastic spray bottles and products with squeezable lids are unlikely to be recycled as they are made from a combination of plastics and other materials such as a metal spring. By buying the product’s refill option, you can reuse your spray and squeezable bottles and save some money too.
l) Read ingredient labels: Avoid body and face scrubs, shower gels, toothpastes, sunscreens, washing powders etc. containing microbeads (look for polyethylene, polypropylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyethylene terephthalate, or polystyrene in the list of ingredients). As an alternative to shower gels packaged in plastic bottles or tubes, rather choose soap bars packaged in wax paper or cardboard boxes.

How can we make it easy for ourselves?
a) Always keep reusable shopping bags in your car or handbag. Use sticky notes or smartphone apps, such as reminders or calendars, to remind you to take your shopping bags into the store with you. b) Be aware of the products you are using and always ask yourself whether your purchase is a necessary use of single-use plastic.
c) Spread awareness in your community and with family members of the dangers associated with single use plastic and advocate the possible alternatives.
d) Get involved in “green” schemes offered by retail outlets. These often include loyalty benefits as a bonus.

How can retailers and businesses assist in the reduction of single-use plastic consumption?
a) Erect notices at the entrance of supermarkets asking whether your customers have remembered to bring in their shopping bags from the car.
b) Offer discounts, rewards or “green points” to customers who bring their own re-useable bags or coffee cups.
c) Always ask first whether the customer has brought their own shopping bags before first offering them the option of purchasing reusable shopping bags. Single-use plastic bags should only be offered only as a last resort. Similarly, ask your customers whether they require a plastic straw or lid, instead of providing one as the default option.
d) Do not provide single-use products to customers that are going to “eat in” at restaurants or fast food outlets.
e) Ensure that re-useable shopping bags are conveniently available for sale at the checkout point in a supermarket.
f) Label products accordingly to assist consumers in the identification of recyclable products and packaging, as well as products that do not contain microbeads.

In conclusion, the EWT does not support the use of single-use plastic products, and instead encourages an active and committed attitude to recycling, and a thoughtful and conservative approach to the use of single use plastic materials. Policies and regulations should be established and enforced to ensure that products are adequately labeled in order for consumers to make informed, environmentally-friendly choices regarding plastic products. Producers, consumers, retailers and governments are all responsible for the products and resources in use and circulation, and we all need to work together to ensure a reduction in the consumption and pollution associated with single-use plastic.

For more information please contact:
Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert: Head of Conservation
Email: harrietd@ewt.org.za
Tel +27 11 372 3600 www.ewt.org.za

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2018

Department of Environmental Affairs Increase Captive Lion Bone Export Quota to 1,500

In 2017, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) announced an annual export quota of 800 skeletons (with or without the skull) for the international trade in lion bones. This has now been increased to 1,500 skeletons, effective from 7 June 2018.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and partner organisations raised several concerns regarding the quota published in 2017 in our Technical Response to the DEA’s Proposed Captive Lion Bone Export Quota.We note with concern that many of these have yet to be addressed and further:

  • There is still no evidence to show that the regulated trade in lion bones will not drive demand for wild lion projects, or evidence to show that it will alleviate pressure on wild lion populations.
  • Field observations indicate that wild lions in southern Africa, specifically Mozambique, have been under increasing threat for their parts. The Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme has recorded an escalation in the number of wild lions poached on the Mozambican side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, with a marked increase since 2015. They report that 26% of the lion population in this park has been lost due to poaching for their body parts.
  • In the year immediately preceding the quota (June 2016 to May 2017), 13 captive bred lions in South Africa were poached for their body parts. The EWT notes with concern that during the first year of the quota (June 2017 to May 2018) there were 12 poaching incidents, resulting in 31 lions being killed. These preliminary figures suggest that the poaching of captive lions in South Africa has more than doubled since the quota was established.
  • The mandate to regulate welfare of captive carnivores remains confused as both the DEA and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries maintain that the welfare mandate is not their responsibility. We continue to have serious concerns about the welfare of captive lions. For instance, in May 2018, over 70 lions awaiting slaughter at an abattoir on the Wag-‘n-Bietjie farm in the Free State were exposed to conditions that resulted in a case of animal cruelty being opened with the South African Police Service by the Bloemfontein Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This case is still under investigation. Unacceptable welfare conditions include lions being held in small crates and being held without food or water. This case clearly illustrates an absence of proper monitoring and compliance with the law by participants in this trade. It is clear that South Africa is unable to ensure the adequate welfare and husbandry of lions bred for their bones.
  • At the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congresses held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in September 2016, a formal motion was passed to stop the canned hunting and non-conservation based captive breeding of lion and other predators. The international position is clearly against the captive breeding of wild animals for their parts.
  • Finally, we are concerned for the reputational damage to Brand South Africa and the negative impact that lion bone farming and the related captive lion industry is having on South Africa’s world-class conservation reputation.

The EWT is not aware of any formal public participation process or consultation prior to the decision to increase the annual lion bone export quota, and we have no further information on how or why this decision was made.

The EWT supports the sustainable use of natural resources when it directly contributes to species and habitat conservation efforts, and where communities meaningfully and directly benefit. We do not believe that farming lions for their parts is sustainable use but rather economic exploitation to benefit a select few.

The EWT calls for more transparency in decision making and calls on DEA to review this decision after full consultation and public participation has been undertaken. The EWT further calls for the welfare concerns surrounding captive carnivores to be addressed before any further decisions around the lion bone trade are taken.

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2018

Help the EWT to win a share of R1 million!

This Endangered Species Day, please show your support for the work we do to bring wildlife and habitats back from the brink! Visit www.vote4charity.co.za and vote for us to win a share of R1 million. For every vote received, MySchool will donate R5 on your behalf. Voting opens at 12:00 on 18 May 2018 and runs until 18 June 2018, so please share and encourage your friends and family to vote too!

Registered MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet cardholders get one vote each. No card? New supporters can sign up instantly online or in the app. No card setup fees will be charged for any new cards issued during this campaign.
Protecting forever, together.