Archive for Vele

Why mining at Mapungubwe must be stopped…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

This is the first time on my blog that I have used another person’s photography but those of you who have visited this site before will know how strongly I feel about plans to mine coal near to the wonderfully unique Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site. This female leopard was found on the main road outside Mapungubwe National Park by carnivore researcher Wendy Collinson. Wendy is currently monitoring wildlife casualties on the road network surrounding Mapungubwe National Park and the De Beers Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve. The road network cuts through the proposed Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area and serves border posts with both Botswana and Zimbabwe, and so an increase in disturbance by non tourism or conservation related traffic to and from the proposed Vele colliery would be hugely detrimental to the region’s sensitive wildlife.

Wendy has yet to confirm whether the leopard hit on the R572 road is a beautiful female known to researchers as Leila. Leila was fitted with a GPS collar so that her movements could be monitored in an area where predator conflicts with farmers are common but the carcass found had no tracking collar.

South Africa’s self-governing environmental guardians the Green Scorpions swooped on the colliery site recently, gathering evidence that mining company Coal of Africa Ltd had acted outside of the legal permissions granted earlier this year. It’s hoped that current investigations by the environmental department will provide a lifeline for this awe inspiring and culturally significant landscape.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

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Making money, not sense

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

I mentioned in a previous thread that South Africa’s Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is under threat from a coal mining application. This week, the fight intensified to stop construction of an opencast and underground mine just six kilometres from the boundary of the Mapungubwe National Park with a host of non-governmental organisations appealing against developments in the process, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Birdlife, the Peace Parks Foundation, the Association of South African Professional Archaeologists, the Mapungubwe Action Group and the Wilderness Foundation South Africa.

Australian-based Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL) was recently granted the go-ahead to commence with the construction of the coal mine yet serious questions are being asked about the integrity and validity of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) submitted by CoAL. The appeal details many specific concerns with the EMP, particularly how it misrepresents the consequences of mining in the area. Take a look for yourself, even to an untrained eye it is clear to see which side of the EMP’s bread is buttered.

I hope that I am wrong but I can’t help but feel this is all too little too late however. The load shedding which has afflicted South Africa in recent years has been due to a serious shortage in the country’s electricity supply. Desperate to avoid a repeat of such a ridiculous, embarrassing and shambolic situation in the future, the government was never likely to turn down a coal mining application with stocks running so low. The crippling transport strike which has damaged South Africa’s industries recently has also affected coal exports, mainly to India and China. With the government struggling to hit its coal export targets and pay for the country’s pre-world cup face-lift, the promise of a shiny new coal mine was never likely to be ignored.

The moral of the story? Never forget where you’ve come from. Mapungubwe is rightly celebrated as a great Southern African civilisation, the very place where kingdomship started in Southern Africa and a state that had vast trading links to East Africa and the Arab world. How ironic that it is the country’s modern day trade links that threaten to destroy and devalue that legacy.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Land of giants

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

The recent storms in South Africa’s northern Limpopo Province may have been big but they measure up against the region’s landscapes and wildlife. From its trees to its birds, mammals and the river itself, the valley of the great Limpopo River is a land of giants!

The vast landscapes of this place near where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet are dominated by baobabs. These colossal trees support a whole community of wildlife – elephants eat the bark, bats feed on the nectar of the flowers (and in turn pollinate them) and barn owls roost and nest in holes in their large boughs. Many particularly large trees still bear the pegs that allowed humans to climb up and collect rain water collected in troughs in the boughs. In such a hot climate in a place where ground water will have been shared with wild animals, this would have been a vital source of fresh water…if you can reach it.

During the dry winter months, large herds of elephants move into the valley from dryer areas over the river in Botswana. The riverine forest comes alive with a mass of grey bodies shepherding their youngsters and hoovering-up vegetation and the remaining water.

Herds of eland, Africa’s largest antelope, also roam the plains of the valley. Like in much of their range, black rhino’s are here but they are hard to see. The larger and more common white rhino has become synonymous with the Limpopo valley since the discovery in 1932 of a little golden rhino at the World Heritage Site at Mapungubwe.

Even the birds here are big enough to make small children and dog owners feel wary. Black eagles rule by day, surveying the land for their quarry from a perch high up on a sandstone cliff or by soaring the thermals on huge wings. The floodplains are home to marauding secretarybirds, storks, ground hornbills and kori bustards, the heaviest flying bird in the world, while the night is owned by owls. The elusive and sought-after Pel’s fishing owl uses the large trees lining the river to roost in by day and hunt from by night. Also in the riverine bush, hunting silently on a two-metre wingspan in almost complete darkness, the giant (or Verreaux’s) eagle owl hawks for birds and small mammals.

But as rich in wildlife and archaeology as this valley is, it is a landscape under threat. If proposed coal mining in the area is allowed to go ahead, pollution is not only likely to threaten the local ecosystem but important sites further down the Limpopo River system in the Kruger National Park and Mozambique as well.

Plans for the mine at Vele, just six kilometres east of the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site, also threaten to derail proposals for a major transfrontier conservation area between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, a scheme committed to by the government. The Endangered Wildlife Trust and BirdLife South Africa are just two of the many organisations fighting the mining application. And while no-one can be certain what either the short-term or lasting affects of the mine will be on this overlooked and sacred corner of South Africa, with so much to experience in this land of giants, my advice is to go there and to go there now!

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com