Friday, July 30, 2010
Because African buffalos are closely related to domestic livestock they can get infected with the same infectious diseases. Because wild animals do not need to produce 40 litres of milk a day or high quality beef, they are able to focus on the most natural goal in life: to stay healthy! Therefore they do not get ill from diseases what can make domestic cattle or goats very ill and sometimes even kill them. As we all know, most infectious diseases are devastating for a farmer. Because African buffalos can carry highly contagious and dangerous diseases without even showing a single symptom, it can be problematic to prevent them to transmit any diseases. Therefore the South African veterinary authorities decided to only allow African buffalos with the "disease free" status in areas where domestic livestock is kept. This is the complete country except the area of the Kruger NP, so the demand for these buffalos got so high that the price of these animals increased with the same speed. At a certain time a "disease free buffalo" was worth more than a white rhinoceroses, so it's worth the effort. Also it's important for the survival of the species to have enough disease free animals. Especially the long-term effects of e.g. Tuberculosis on the African buffalos in Kruger NP are worrying. To get the status 'disease free' an African buffalo has been tested negative 5 times for the following diseases: tuberculosis, brucellosis (both bacterials), Corridor's disease (a blood parasite) and fouth and mouth disease (a virus). For the Tuberculosis test each buffalo has to be darted twice: first to inject the tuberculin and second to measure the thickness of the skin (in a TB positive buffalo the skin swells up, the same as the Mantaux test in humans).
Monday, July 26, 2010
This is my friend Emilina from Mali. She is one of the strongest and creative woman I have ever met. For over 10 years she is working as an African buffalo keeper: physically heavy work, all day in the hot sun. Twelve days in a row, from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then 2 days off. She earns around 120 euros per month and lives in a shed next to the buffalos. She does not have children and does not know anybody in South Africa, except to her husband and 3 other colleagues. She never has time or money to do something next her work. Without social security and treated 'as a black woman in the conservative South African bush', which is far from good. That her life. When we see each other, she ALWAYS is charming, cheerful and truely interested. She manages to look like a lady with 'fashionable' old clothes, ear rings and many different hats. Of course I try to be there for her, but she is also there for me. Last week she gave me a bag full of avocados; I was not allowed to refuse. This woman has dignity! Lots of respect. The huge gap between our worlds (we don't even speak the same language) does not interfere with a connection from human to human, from heart to heart. We are friends!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
South Africa has a serious rhino poaching crisis! The numbers of rhinos poached this year, is the worst ever. It's absurd that there is almost no attention for this problem in the worldwide media. In 2010 only, over 80 white rhinos have been poached by professional gangs to meet a growing demand for horns. People in South Africa are poor and need quick pocket money. Rhino horn is still used in many Chinese traditional medicine products and in Yemen as handles for traditional swords. Both markets are continiously growing, because more and more people can afford these expensive products: very worrying!! The horrendous poachers use helicopters and even veterinary immobilization drugs to dart the free-ranging rhinos instead of shooting them, to prevent making a noise. For the same reason they often leave the poor animal bleeding to death. Last week a rhino without a face was found wandering around in a reserve. The poachers had cut off the horn and the complete face with an electric saw. The animal was breathing through a hole in between its eyes. Sickening!! Horrible suffering what could easily have been avoided by a few gunshots. These actions make these poachers not just criminals, but barbaric! Who are these 'people'?? These professionals do their homework well and possible have connections in the South African political system: they know which reserves have rhinos, how many and which anti-poaching control is in place. The fact that you undertake strong anti-poaching actions assist to reduce the likelyhood to become a target. In regarding to the rapid speed the poaching increased over the last year, quick actions are crucial. De-horning rhinos seems to solve the problem short-term. When we de-horn a rhino as an anti-poaching method, we cut off the horn 8 cm above the basis to make sure it does not bleed. In only 2 years the complete horn has grown back, so the animal does not experience any long-term effect by removing it. The fact that it's not permanent, is great. On top of that, the precious animals really are much more safe! It's almost impossible to protect the large areas they live in, so to not having a horn at all seems to be the most effective anti-poaching action. As far as we know, it does not influence their natural behaviour and the stump can still act as a defence weapon. Rhinos also break their horns naturally in the wild, which grow back the same as de-horned ones. Okay, of course it's much nicer to see them with a horn, but don't you agree their lifes are more important? The immobilizations to de-horn a rhino takes a maximum of 10 minutes and the total time from darting to a fully awake rhino is approximately 18 minutes. That's IT! After these 10 minutes of 'tripping' with a drugs 10.000 times stronger than Morphine (don't tell me that's suffering!), they are up in their feet and 100% awake as if nothing ever happened. Each time I de-horn a rhino, I am happy to be able to make a contribution to the safety of this ancient amazing animal. These species are soooo much longer on this planet than human beings and we MUST protect them from going extinct!