Category Archives: Environment and Nature

Plans finalised ahead of COP17


With less than 3 weeks to go ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) climate talks begin in Durban, government and stakeholders are confident the plans carried out for the summit are on track.

Edna Molewa, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, hosted the final Stakeholder Engagement Summit aimed towards bringing up-to-date all stakeholders on the country’s state of preparedness to participate in COP17, in addition to sharing with stakeholders progress on key areas of South Africa’s responsibility at COP17.

A number of events have already been organised throughout the country as part of the build up towards the conference.

Participants happen to be positive that all was in place for the summit, and that a fair, credible and balanced final result could well be achieved.

“We are going to Durban without any illusion that it will be a walk in the park, but we are ready to fight,” said Environmental Affairs Chief Negotiator Alf Wills.

He explained South Africa’s position was affected by the changing world for the industrial countries. He explained that SA would attempt to seek out a balance over and above successful implementation.



He stated the true secret to Durban will be what Cancun failed to agree on, like the commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, adequate ambition to prevent long term global emissions together with a fair allocation of burden cost.

Molewa pointed out for Durban to achieve success, there would have to be resolutions and a second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Other success factors included finance, mitigation and adaptation, which would be key concern for developing countries.

SA has produced a White Paper on Climate Change, which places the country on higher ground and will make certain that government will address the challenge of climate change, and that country transitions into a low carbon economy.

Molewa explained the policy would embody government’s commitment to a fair contribution to stabilising global greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, protect the country and its people from the effects of unavoidable climate change and present government’s climate response and long term transition into climate resilience.

She pointed out that her department would carry on and further engage stakeholders on the implementation process of the policy.

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Source: BuaNews


Public invited to comment on rhino law


Members of the public are invited to comment on the newly proposed amendments to the norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn and hunting of white rhinoceros for trophy hunting purposes.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa published the proposed amendments in Gazette No. 34650, General Notice No. 685 published on the 30 September 2011.

The suggested amendments state that the horns have to be transported from the the location where the hunt took place to the taxidermist or similar facility to be processed and prepared for exportation.

At present, the provincial conservation authorities issue permits for sport hunting of rhino and a regrettable challenge being encountered with regards to the permitting of rhino hunting, is the abuse of the system by unethical individuals.

“The proposed amendments are meant to address the abuse of the permit system,” said Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise.

“Despite the fact that illegal hunting is the main threat that could impact on the survival of rhinoceros in the wild in the future, more stringent provisions pertaining to hunting is necessary to ensure processes are standardised and to reduce possible abuse of the system,” he said.

He explained the Department views this in a very serious light and is dedicated to combating rhino poaching and abuse of the permit system. This is evident from the many interventions that have been initiated to this end.

Rhino horns acquired as a consequence of dehorning of the rhino, which were not micro-chipped, will now have to be micro-chipped by the permit issuing authority.


Provincial authorities will have to retain the information relating to rhino horns on the TRAFFIC rhino horn stockpile database and the Department of Environmental Affairs must maintain the national database.

On the management of the hunting of white rhino, all rhino hunts must be strictly controlled by way of an individual Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) hunting permit issued by the issuing authority to make certain that all rhino horns can be traced to the property where the hunt took place.

In the event the rhino horns were not already micro-chipped, they would need to be micro-chipped on the property where the hunt took place, immediately after the hunt.

It is also proposed that rhino hunts must take place under the supervision of a conservation official, preferably an environmental management inspector (EMI) from the province concerned, subject to a permit being issued in the name of the hunter.

The official or EMI who attended the hunt must immediately after the hunt provide the Department of Environmental Affairs with information relating to the hunt and the relevant micro-chip numbers.

The CITES export permit for the white rhino trophy, which must be accompanied by a duplicate of the TOPS hunting permit, has to be endorsed by an EMI ahead of the export of the trophy.

DNA samples of rhino horns are a proposed new section in the norms and standards. This section states that DNA samples of horns must be collected when live rhino are darted for translocation, treatment and any other management purposes.



DNA samples also have to be obtained from detached horns acquired through amongst others natural mortalities, dehorning, or rhino horn trophies, when such horns have to be micro-chipped.

The results of the DNA samples seek to assist enforcement officials to achieve successful prosecutions during criminal proceedings.

DNA samples has to be collected by a registered veterinarian in charge of darting a live rhino, an official from the issuing authority responsible for the micro-chipping, or the conservation official or EMI who supervises the hunt and who has been properly trained in DNA collection.

The DNA samples have to be sent to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at Onderstepoort without delay.

Any person who wishes to submit representations or comments in connection with the proposed amendments to the norms and standards is invited to do so within 30 days of the date of the publication of the notice in the Gazette.

Comments must be sent to:

By Post to: The Director-General: Environmental Affairs, Attention: Ms Magdel Boshoff, Private Bag X447, Pretoria, 0001

By Fax to : (012) 320 7026

By email to:

Source: BuaNews


Rhinos to get retribution on poachers

South Africa lost no less than 19 rhinos inside the first half of 2010. The state of affairs are so critical that the South African National Defence  has been deployed in a number of national parks in an attempt to prevent poaching.

At this point, rhinos have been armed with the method to fight back. Ed Hern, owner of the Rhino and Lion Reserve in Kromdraai, near Krugersdorp in Gauteng, has developed a scheme to make the much-coveted horn less palatable.

Hern created controversy last year when he was quoted as saying: “We need to try poisoning the horns with something like cyanide so when someone uses it for medicine they will die. I have started testing with a vet.”


Reluctant to be held accountable for murder, as well as on the recommendations of conservation body Endangered Wildlife Trust, Hern moderated his position. Since that time he has been testing with non-lethal, but disagreeable ingredients to inject into the rhino horn in a desperate effort to halt the butchering.

The toxic combination has been fine-tuned and tested in animals which had been injected over 12 months ago and have exhibited zero side effects – only humans suffer.

On 7 September the reserve’s Rhino Rescue Project declared that it is going to proceed with injecting its chemical mixture into a lot more horns. The news has been applauded in advance of World Rhino Day today.


The formula is made up of a number of ectoparasitacides, that is, drugs that are meant to eliminate parasites that reside on the outside of of the host.

Even though the formulation is not lethal – which has caused yet another storm of online comments from angered rhino supporters who desire nothing more than to see culprits slain – it will bring about side effects such as convulsions and severe headaches.

Add to that a neon pink dye, impossible to get rid of or alter, intended to make the horn visible on airport x-ray scanners, and enable authorities to make arrests then and there.


Hern said in a statement: “A permanent remedy would be to eradicate demand for rhino horn completely.”

He added that education and learning is vital in persuading consumers – who come for the most part from the Far East – that rhino horn is made up of no nutritional or medicinal value.

But with 90% of rhino figures decimated in recent times, an extreme and instant approach is required, and Hern is convinced his methodology can provide this solution. The procedure, which generally lasts 3 to 4 years, will in addition keep parasites away.

Although some people might consider that the tactic will not work on big reserves with large numbers of animals, like the Kruger Park, it could be successful in private reserves which may have only a handful of rhinos.


Rhinos in crisis

By the end of 2010, in excess of 330 rhinos ended up being poached in South Africa alone. This is actually the highest number of deaths ever documented.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature observed during 2009 that approximately 12 rhinos were poached in South Africa and Zimbabwe on a monthly basis. By comparison, statistics revealed that in other rhino territories such as India and Nepal, the toll in 6 months was 10 and 7 respectively.


Despite the fact that gains have been made as a consequence of dedicated conservation efforts, particularly in South Africa, the rhino population is not large, with three of the species listed as critically endangered.

The global population, at the end of 2010, was in fact estimated at 25 045 in Africa and merely 3 100 in Asia. South Africa’s count is approximately 18 800 white rhino and 2 200 black rhino.

The spectacular animals have to deal with a very real prospect of extinction as levels of poaching increase.


Killed for their horns

The rhino, from the Rhinocerotidae family, occurs as five species. Two of these – the white and black rhino – are native to Africa, while the Indian rhino, Sumatran Rhino and Javan Rhino are native to Asia. The latter animal, one of the most engandered in the world, has the lowest population count of all the species, with just 50 individuals still alive.

The much-prized horns are simply just compressed keratin, a protein also present in hair and fingernails, and have absolutely zero medical value. Unfortunately this has not halted people over the centuries from seeking it for ornamental or medicinal purposes.


The ornamental use of rhino horn goes back to at least the seventh century AD, and today is commonly used for this purpose mostly in Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, where it is carved into elaborately designed knife handles.

Many Asian countries are convinced that rhino horn not only cures ailments, but at the same time acts as an aphrodisiac. This has never been scientifically proven.

It is because of these flawed beliefs that hundreds of rhinos are poached each and every year, and the quantity is climbing. Rhino horn has been acknowledged to fetch up to R430 200 ($60 000), per kilogram.




New alternatives for water conservation

It is now a “moral imperative” for big businesses operating in South Africa to consider water saving strategies for their buildings, and in so doing assisting the country preserve the declining resource.

CEO of car rental company Avis, Wayne Duvenage, did not mince his words at the Sustainable Water Resource Conference and Exhibition. The event, was attended by reputable water specialists and business people and supported by the International Marketing Council of South Africa – among a range of sponsors.

Recycling water for reuse in buildings was the experts’ principal unbiased and professional recommendation. Homeowners are also encouraged to choose recycling technologies.


Avis saved 75-million litres of water in 2010 within its major centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

The Avis scheme started in 2008 with a R1.9-million (US$264 000) investment, and started paying off in 2009 the moment the company saved 4.2-million litres.

Avis has injected an additional R1.5-million ($208 000) into the building of underground water filtration and recycling facilities at its three main depots. The objective is to save a minimum of 95-million litres of water on an annual basis.

“We made a decision to recycle water for the reason that it was the right thing to do,” said Duvenage. “We’re recycling water that was going down the drain.”


The company reprocesses grey water from washing machines and baths, which is then utilized to wash the vast majority of its fleet of 20 000 rental cars, at the same time potable water from public sources continues to be accessible to employees for hygienic use.

Harvesting rainwater is a focus of Avis’ recycling endeavours. “You know how much it rains in Cape Town, consequently it’s nice to switch off municipal water and make use of rainwater,” suggested Duvenage.

It’s always encouraged for entities to examine the impact of their business on the environment, he mentioned.


Conserving a irreplaceable resource


South Africa is water-stressed, industry professionals at the conference disclosed. Reports have pointed out that the country runs the potential risk of facing critical shortages by 2020.

“South Africa is stressed both in the quantity and quantity of water that we have,” Duvenage said.

Alison Groves, a sustainability consultant at WSP Green by Design, stated: “In South Africa we need to get beyond the concept that water is always going to be readily available.”

New solutions are required to sustain potable water availability, Groves added.

Her consultancy group has established itself as a leader in the industry in the greening of major buildings, having made it easier for big companies such as Absa, Nedbank and Woolworths introduce water-saving and eco-friendly schemes in their properties.


Banking group Absa’s headquarters in in the downtown area Johannesburg have already been fitted with recycling and rainwater harvesting technology which enables it to save no less than 43 000 litres of water on a daily basis.

Retailer Woolworths’ distribution centre in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, is yet another facility with a large grey water reclamation system. Groves remarked that the centre has “irrigation ensured for 10 months per year without making use of potable water”.

Woolworths saves R1-million ($139 000) in municipal water bills per year as a result of its recycling initiatives.

Various other organizations, which includes South African Breweries, are rolling out major water-saving schemes in an attempt to help safeguard the precious resource.

Duvenage remarked that “business is beginning to alter its behaviour” in accordance with the green revolution, however, there is room for improvement. “We believe business needs to act considerably quicker,” he said.


Residences can reduce consumption


It’s not merely businesses and public entities that ought to assume the responsibility of saving water, but homeowners can play a major role at the same time.

The grey water technology of Cape Town-based Water Rhapsody, a specialist water conservation company, has demonstrated its efficiency in recent times.

Its founder Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor stated that water recycled and harvested as a result of its system is well suited for irrigation, toilet flushing, cleaning and washing.

Homes can help reduce consumption from 280 litres to “as little as 100 litres per day” and save up to 90% of their municipal water bill by utilizing the system.


“But it’s designed in such a way that you don’t change your lifestyle. You simply take control of your own supply,” said Westgarth-Taylor.

Water Rhapsody won the WWF Green Trust award in 1998 for product innovation. It’s aided the the University of Cape Town reduce potable water consumption by over 90%.

The late Kader Asmal, former Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, told Water Rhapsody, in a 2010 letter to the company, that its water recycling system helped nourish grass and shrubs in the garden of his Cape Town home.



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