Creating Chameleon and honey bee friendly gardens

Creating Chameleon

Cape Dwarf Chameleon: Photo: Krystal Tolley, provided by Hippo Communications

How to create a chameleon-friendly garden:

In the greater Cape Town area there are three species of chameleon to be found, the most common being the Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum).  The survival of chameleons is at risk because of urbanisation. Gardeners can help chameleons by turning their gardens into suitable habitats to sustain them. Chameleons need a fairly large area in which to roam, which is a problem if yours is the only chameleon-friendly garden in the neighbourhood. However, if you can persuade enough of your neighbours to go chameleon friendly too, you can create a series of linked gardens giving them enough of a habitat to maintain a healthy wild population.  (Please note that indigenous chameleons are protected and buying or selling them, or keeping them as pets, is illegal.)

Chameleons need good vegetation cover and a mix of plants of different sizes to provide perches for juveniles and adults.  Small shrubs with thin branches, like the Kluitjieskraal False Buchu (Agathosma ovata ‘Kluitjieskraal’, the Tygerberg Spiderhead (Serruria aemula var. congesta), the Ninepin Heath (Erica mammosa), the Pink Sage Bush (Ocimum labiatum until recently known as Orthosiphon amabilis) or restios such as the Namaqua Thatching Reed (Thamnochortus bachmannii) will provide small perches for the youngsters.  Larger shrubs such as the Box-leaf Phylica (Phylica buxifolia), Golden Pagoda (Mimetes chrysanthus) and Dune Crowberry (Searsia crenata until recently known as Rhus crenata) will provide more sturdy perches for the bigger chameleons.

A garden with many large or mature trees with no undergrowth or low-hanging branches is not good for chameleons.  Overcome this problem by thinning the trees and planting an understorey of shade-loving perennials and shrubs, such as the Silver Spurflower (Plectranthus oertendahlii), Cwebe Asparagus Fern, (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Cwebe’), Fireball Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. katharinae) and Cape Stock-rose (Sparrmannia africana).  Bad news is that the lawn will have to go, or be drastically reduced – but that’s actually good news for your water bill. To a chameleon a large lawn is like a desert, without food, protective cover or perches, that they have to cross. Replace it with more garden beds or groundcovers and low-growing shrubs such as the Lilac Carpet Geranium (Geranium multisectum), Wild Violet (Monopsis unidentata) and Tyson’s Euryops (Euryops tysonii).

The final vital ingredient is food. Chameleons eat small insects, including flies, fruitflies, moths, butterflies and small grasshoppers. This means that to provide food for chameleons you have to make your garden friendly to insects too.  Stop using insecticides and allow your garden to achieve a natural balance between predators and prey.  Lay down biodegradable mulch, such as woodchips, leaves, or partially decomposed compost, and keep a compost heap, both of which provide food and breeding places for insects.  And grow indigenous plants that have flowers or fruits that attract insects.  By making these changes, in addition to providing a home and food for chameleons, you are increasing local biodiversity, and aiding beneficial insects, such as honeybees, by providing them with food.

Plants to feed honeybees in the garden

Honeybees are also facing threats to their survival. The amount of land available to them to forage for pollen and nectar is continually reducing, mainly due to the expansion of cities and towns, with the result that they cannot find enough food to sustain their colonies. Bees are also attacked by pests and diseases, and killed by pesticides.  Honeybees are pollinators of thousands of wild plants, as well as many of our food crops.  Without them, many indigenous plants would be unable to set seed and survive into the next generation, and we’d have to go without many fruits, nuts and vegetables, and of course there would be no honey.

Gardeners can help honeybees by planting more plants with flowers rich in nectar and/or pollen that provide food for them.  Bees visit and feed on a wide variety of flowers, so there are hundreds of plants to choose from.  Next time you walk through Kirstenbosch, or on the mountain, take note of which flowers they visit and add them to your garden.  Also try to choose plants that flower at different times to spread the availability of food throughout the year.

Bees love most Buchus (Agathosma species), and they feed on many Cape Heaths (Erica species).  Many members of the protea family are excellent bee plants, particularly the Spiderheads such as (Serruria aemula.), Golden Pagoda (Mimetes chrysanthus) and Conebushes, such as the Spicy Conebush (Leucadendron tinctum), as well as most Proteas (Protea spp.) and Pincushions (Leucospermum species).

Restios, such as the Thatching Reeds (Thamnochortus spp.), are wind pollinated and the male flowerheads produce masses of pollen that is busily collected by the bees.  Bees also feed on the flowers of Asparagus species, White Ironwood (Vepris lanceolata), Sour Fig (Carpobrotus deliciosus) and many Vygies (Lampranthus, Drosanthemum, Ruschia), many daisies including Dune Daisy (Felicia echinata), Silver Lace-leaf Ursinia (Ursinia sericea) . . . the list goes on and will be available at the BotSoc Kirstenbosch Plant Fair.

Source: The Scenic South

South Africa announces 20 new marine protected areas

South Africa

A curious Hottentot seabream swims by a rocky reef in Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, part of South Africa’s existing MPA network that was revised and updated yesterday. Photo © Joris Van Alphen | Save Our Seas Foundation

The South African Minister of Environmental Affairs announced twenty new marine protected areas (MPAs) – a move that increases the oceans protected around the country’s mainland territory from 0.4% to 5%. The MPAs were formally gazetted yesterday and will take effect on 1 August this year. Designed to pack a punch, this 5% protects 87% of the different marine ecosystem types found in the country’s waters, to ensure that the network is representative of South Africa’s important diversity.

South Africa

South Africa

Updated map and list of South Africa’s designated Marine Protected Area network. Image © SANBI

The additions build on and revise the existing network of 25 MPAs (one of which lies in the country’s territorial waters in the Southern Ocean), bringing the country’s total number of mainland territory MPAs to 41. Each is designed with a particular protection goal in mind and secures a portion of the ocean that represents the country’s bewildering array of marine life and habitats. A representative network of protected spaces is based on years of scientific research by researchers across the coastline, careful planning to identify which ecosystems were previously lacking any protection, and proposed with a view to bolstering the sustainability of the country’s emerging ocean-based economy.

South Africa

A typical coral reef scene at the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area. The rocky reef is inhabited by many kinds of hard and soft corals, as well as a variety of tropical and subtropical fish species, including sharks. The abundance of marine life makes this MPA, along with several new MPAs like Protea Banks, very popular diving destinations that contribute to the tourism industry of the region. Photo © Wildestanimal | Shutterstock

South Africa

Roman are abundant in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. Although South Africa’s fishing regulations are far from trouble-free, marine protected areas are proving to be the light at the end of the tunnel for the future of the country’s iconic reef fishes and its growing group of fishermen. Photo © Joris Van Alphen | Save Our Seas Foundation

With a coastline that meanders 2850 km from its border with Namibia in the west, to where it meets Mozambique in the east, South Africa boasts a diversity of coastal ecosystems. Wedged in between three oceans (the Atlantic, the Indian and the Southern), South Africa’s is an oceanscape that underpins food security, jobs, climate resilience and the cultural and spiritual ties that bind its people to a dynamic sea full of history and significance. A combination of coastal and offshore MPAs dive deeper into safeguarding the resources provided by the ocean for long-term sustainable development. South Africa also already protects 30% of its territory in the Southern Ocean around the Prince Edward Islands, which is the 42nd MPA in the extended network.

A priority of the new MPA design process was to address the country’s relative lack of offshore protection. Emerging pressures on deepwater habitats, from offshore oil exploration, proposed drilling and seabed mining, fishing and pollution, threaten to alter even these furthest reaches of the ocean. In South Africa’s case, an Offshore MPA project led by Dr Kerry Sink of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) identified priority areas to include in the revised MPA network.

South Africa

The imposing figure of a blacktip shark is silhouetted against the blue at Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area. Photo © Izen Kai | Shutterstock

The gazetted increase to 5% mainland ocean protection is a step closer to the 10% outlined by the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to which South Africa is a signatory nation.  According to Target 11, countries should aim for: “By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes”. The CBD was proposed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and adopted in 1993 after receiving 168 signatures. Its adoption marked a symbolic commitment by nations to sustainable development through the conservation of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of its benefits.

You can explore South Africa’s MPA network and the science behind it on a brans new, interactive website.

Source: Save our Seas


How Unsanitary Is It to Kiss Your Pet on the Mouth?


In your mind, allowing your dog, cat, or other pet to kiss—OK, lick—you on the mouth may seem like a natural expression of affection. Your furry baby fills your life with love and joy; what’s a little slobber? Or maybe you’re absolutely repulsed by the thought but have a determined pet who always lunges for your mouth, ready to lick to their heart’s content. Either way, should you be concerned for your health if your pet is basically always trying to make out with you?

We were curious about where science stood on this behavior, so we consulted experts in both human and animal health to find out how bad it really is to let your pet kiss you on the mouth. Throughout this piece, we’ll generally keep the conversation to cats and dogs, since they’re the typical pets that come to mind in this scenario. But even if you have a pet of the more exotic variety (go you), a lot of the takeaways here will still be pretty applicable to life with your bud.

The germ factor

“On just an overall level of cleanliness, [kissing your pet’s mouth is] not good,” Omai Garner, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and associate director of clinical microbiology in the UCLA Health System, tells SELF.

Let’s start with the uncomfortable but obvious truth: Your pet’s mouth is filthy. Cats and dogs use their mouths for a lot of less-than-sterile activities, like mopping up that spill on the kitchen floor, checking out dead birds on the sidewalk, and, of course, licking excess poop from their butts. As a result, your pet’s mouth is coated in all sorts of unsavory specimens that it’s kind of gross to imagine squirming around in your mouth. But can these germs actually harm you? Let’s take a look.

Your oral health

There is some concern among human and veterinary dentists that pet kisses could compromise humans’ oral health, although the likelihood of this isn’t super clear. What experts do know is that the oral microbiomes of cats, dogs, and humans, look very similar in some ways and different in others, Lenin Arturo Villamizar-Martinez, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor in dentistry and oral surgery at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, tells SELF.

Research demonstrates that cats, dogs, and humans share some of the same types of bacteria that cause periodontal (gum) disease. However, there is no scientifically sound evidence showing that contact with pets transmits this bacteria in a way that actually leads to periodontal disease in pet-owners, Dr. Villamizar-Martinez says. It seems like humans may have some defenses against this happening, both built in and not.

For instance, a tiny 2015 PLOS One study that did DNA sequencing on the oral microbiome of four dogs and their owners (along with two people who didn’t have dogs) pointed out that canine oral bacteria may not survive in the lower-pH, more acidic human mouth. Cats appear to have a similar oral pH as dogs, for what it’s worth.

The PLOS One study also suggested that frequent tooth brushing would likely remove most pet bacteria that got transferred into human mouths anyway. But let’s say some stubborn germs stuck around. Could they make you sick? Unfortunately, it’s not impossible.

The risk of infection

Zoonotic diseases are here to rain on your pet-kissing parade. These illnesses can be transmitted through viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi that pass between animals and humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the major modes of transmission is coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal, which in some cases could be a dog or cat. Lovely.

Many headline-making zoonotic diseases, like avian flu, are transmitted through animals that humans are less likely to keep as pets (although if you’re lucky enough to have a coop of chickens, we’re intrigued). However, cats and dogs, including ones that appear perfectly healthy, can also carry germs that may spread to people and make them sick.

This is generally rare, according to the CDC, partly because when you touch your pet, it’s usually with intact skin such as the palm of your hand. Most of the germs found in our pets’ mouths are unlikely to cause any problems this way, Leni K. Kaplan, D.V.M., a professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, tells SELF.

Contact with your mouth, nose, and eyes is of greater concern. The permeable mucous membranes in these areas are more vulnerable to absorbing germs from your pet, Mia L. Geisinger, D.D.S., associate professor and director of the Advanced Education Program in Periodontology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry, tells SELF.

This type of contact can happen indirectly, like if your sweet dog licks poop off its butt then licks your hand, and you use that hand to rub your eye. Hence why the CDC advises thorough handwashing after coming into contact with cats and dogs, as well as their bodily fluids like their saliva and poop.

This kind of contact can also happen directly, like when you kiss your cat or dog on the mouth because come on, look at that face! “Outside of being a little bit gross, you can definitely see disease transmission,” Garner says.

What you could (theoretically) catch

There is a wide variety of illnesses you could possibly get from kissing a cat or dog on the mouth. But if you were to catch anything—which, again, is rare—it would probably be an unpleasant (but usually not too severe) gastrointestinal illness, Garner says.

For instance, the CDC notes that campylobacteriosis is one of the most common infections humans can get from cats and dogs. The offending bacteria, Campylobacter, can be transmitted via the stool of an infected animal who may or may not appear sick. (And, as we discussed, cats and dogs are quite devoted to licking their own butts, so they tend to have feces particles in their saliva.) Campylobacteriosis can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever in humans, the CDC says.

Another possible GI infection you can catch from a pet happens due to giardia, a microscopic intestinal parasite that can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, gas, and vomiting in cats, dogs, and humans, according to the CDC. It is spread by swallowing fecal particles containing the parasite. Again, the risk of infection if you have a cat or dog is low. Humans usually get a different type of giardia than cats and dogs, the CDC explains. However, the CDC notes, other types of pets, such as rodents, are more likely to carry strains of the parasite that infect humans.

There are also non-GI illnesses you could theoretically get from your pet, like cat-scratch disease. This happens when a cat infected with the bacteria Bartonella bites or scratches you hard enough to cut your skin—or when infected cat saliva touches mucous membranes like the ones in your mouth, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Cats with this bacteria often don’t show signs. In humans, this bacteria can lead to flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headache, decreased appetite, and fatigue, according to the CDC. If you get cat-scratch fever through an actual scrape, the cut could also become swollen, warm, painful, and possibly weep fluids.

Even if you get one of these illnesses from your pet, it typically won’t be serious. The major exception to this rule is people with weak immune systems, like the young, elderly, and those who are immunocompromised due to health conditions. People in these groups may be at higher risk of getting these illnesses (and of resulting complications), according to the CDC.

Pregnant people, in particular, should be especially aware of toxoplasmosis, an illness caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasmosis can spread through coming into contact with cat poop, and it can cause birth defects even if a pregnant person shows no symptoms. (It’s rare for most people to show signs of toxoplasmosis, but when they do, it can present as a mild case of the flu, the CDC says.) Here are the CDC’s tips on how pregnant cat-owners can avoid toxoplasmosis.

The pet-kissing verdict

At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that you’ll get really sick from smooching your pet. But if you want to take those slim odds down a few notches, all the experts we spoke to agree that it’s probably better to show your affection in other ways. As Dr. Villamizar-Martinez puts it, “We love our pets, but we need to have some limits.”

Source: Self

Rat poison a growing threat to peri-urban wildlife in Cape Town – UCT study

Rat poison

Caracals living in or near vineyards had the highest exposure to rat poisons but the route to exposure is unclear. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

Cape Town – Urban rat poisons are spilling over into Cape Town’s natural environment, threatening species such as caracal, mongoose, otter and owl, a team of University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers in the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild) has discovered.

In their recent paper, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the researchers found that anticoagulant rat poisons are infiltrating Cape Town’s peri-urban wildlife food chains. The study, believed to be the first of its kind, was conducted within and around Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park.

These animals already face challenges that include increasing habitat loss, vehicle collisions, poachers and fire, says lead author Dr Laurel Serieys, a postdoctoral research fellow at the iCWild.

They identified six predator species at risk: caracal, Cape clawless otter, Cape Eagle Owl, large spotted genet, honey badger and water mongoose. Others are likely affected as well.

The study measured the presence and concentration of rat poison compounds in liver and blood samples from 41 animals, with a special focus on caracal as part of the Urban Caracal Project (UCP). 

At 92%, exposure to rat poisons was highest for caracal. Overall, they found 81% exposure across seven species tested. The predators aren’t eating the poisons directly. Rather, the poisons are designed to work slowly in their target species, rats, who become sick over a period of days and end up as easy prey for predators.

“We detected at least one of the four most toxic rat poison compounds, all available in over-the-counter products, in six of the seven species tested,” says Dr Jacqueline Bishop, lead supervisor on the project. 

Caracals living in or near vineyards had the highest exposure to rat poisons but the route to exposure is unclear.

“Vineyards in Cape Town don’t use rat poisons to protect their vines, but they do host restaurants, spas and hotels and occur adjacent to dense residential areas where rat poisons are widely used. 

“Caracals regularly hunt in vineyards and it is here that they are likely to be exposed to poisoned rats, in and around urban structures,” she says.

The researchers focused their poison testing on caracal but were also able to opportunistically test several other species that had died after being hit by cars. The fact that these species use different habitats shows that rat poisons may profoundly impact many different species. 

“It also suggests, in the case of otters, that polluted water run-off from urban areas could transport the poisons into Cape Town’s waterways and the aquatic food chain,” says collaborator Dr Nicola Okes.

“There is mounting evidence globally that rat poisons are a critical threat to wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. 

“To really understand this problem locally has taken support from the public, from SANParks and the City of Cape Town in reporting the locations of animals hit by cars so they could be included in our study,” says Okes.

One of the most significant findings of the study is that exposure occurs at all ages. Several lactating female caracals were sampled in the study and found to be exposed to rat poisons, suggesting that kittens may be exposed through their mother’s milk. 

The UCP has grown into a large-scale research programme that sparks a lot of community interest. Members of the community can interface directly with the researchers and contribute to their work by reporting caracal sightings and learning about the project’s development through its Facebook page.

The project has also garnered international interest from researchers wanting to contribute to the research team’s efforts to identify the many threats to Cape Town’s caracals and strategise effective conservation of these elusive cats.

The researchers hope that their study’s findings will stimulate a dialogue on how to reduce environmental contamination by rat poisons and other toxins and help pinpoint directions for targeted mitigation.

“As consumers, we need more eco-friendly alternatives to rat poison and the simplest solution is well within everyone’s reach – improve the management of waste which attracts rats in the first place.”

Source: IOL


Whiskas urges South Africans to get their pets microchipped this ‘chip your pet’ month


May is Chip your Pet Month and Whiskas urges pet owners to get their furry friends microchipped to increase their chances of being found if they wander off.

Whiskas senior brand manager Nivashnee Moodley says some pets are natural wanderers, but others will only wander if the opportunity arises, like when a gate is left open. “Other pets wander when they become stressed by incidents such as fireworks. This is why is it so important to make sure they can be identified in the event they are picked up by a caring citizen.”

Consider the case of Skabenga, the resident feline at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal, who has shot to fame with his own Facebook page and a book describing his various adventures.  

A nomad at heart, Skabenga, which is slang for hooligan or vagabond in Zulu, wandered onto The Oyster Box property many years ago and decided to make it his mostly-permanent home – largely due to the incredibly delicious tidbits of food and loving attention he was getting from the venue’s employees and patrons.

Every now and then, however, his wanderlust takes over and he heads off in pursuit of adventure. The first time it happened, he disappeared for several days, to the dismay of his ardent fans. Fortunately, he re-appeared a few days later, in good health, thanks to the contact details on the brass name-tag around his neck.

As an additional precaution, Skabenga was microchipped in July 2009, in case he loses his collar on future adventures.

Moodley says Skabenga’s story is a familiar one to many pet-owners. “It is devastating when a pet goes missing. By putting collars with identity tags and microchipping our furry companions, we stand a much better chance of celebrating a happy reunion.”

To create awareness during Chip your Pet Month, WHISKAS and Skabenga have decided to share some FAQs around micro-chipping:

What is a micro-chip?

A micro-chip is a tiny electronic chip that is the size of a grain of rice. This is implanted just under pets’ skin between their shoulder blades. The microchip is read by a scanner which will display an identification number.

What information is in the microchip?

Microchips store your pet’s identification number, your name, contact number and address. It does not contain a GPS tracker to help find your pet. It has to be scanned at a vet or animal shelter to find out who the owner is and how to get a hold of them.

How do I find my pet’s microchip identification number?

When you adopted your pet, you should have received documentation for your microchip from your vet or the animal shelter if they were previously microchipped. If you don’t have these documents, ask your vet to scan your pet to see if they have a microchip or to get the number and keep it somewhere safe so that you can update the details when you need to.

How do I change my details on the microchip?

If your address, email or phone number have changed, it’s important that you update this information at the company holding your cat’s microchip details. Firstly, check Identipet, Five Star and BackHome to find out which company has your cat’s microchip records. Then contact them and fill in the online form to update your cat’s details.

Is a microchip a replacement for a collar and ID tags?

No. Collars and ID tags (with a name and phone number) are still a good idea for pets, especially for adventurous pets like Skabenga, as they are at much greater risk of going missing. Collars can be removed and some pets are skilled at escaping from them, unlike a microchip which is a permanent ID tag.

Visit us on the Whiskas Facebook page, tell us about your cat’s greatest adventure, and stand a chance to win a Whiskas hamper, as well as a voucher to get your furry friend microchipped. Now that’s something to ‘meow’ about!

Source: WHISKAS®

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Last-minute reprieve for Khayelitsha dogs looking for homes

Last - minute

Thabisa Makhaphela has been volunteering at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic for three months. She focuses on finding adoptions for the stray dogs. Photo: Kristine Liao

Mdzananda Animal Clinic’s appeal for help gets positive response across city.

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha was at double its capacity for stray dogs on Tuesday morning, and would have had to resort to euthanasia if people had not come forward to adopt or foster the dogs. But within hours of the clinic calling for help on Facebook, people offered the animals a safe place to stay.

“After yesterday’s post, we have got quite a few responses from people who are going to foster, so I am expecting to have 20 dogs move out of our shelter before end of next week,” said Marcelle du Plessis, the clinic’s fundraising and communications manager. “The amazing thing is, every time we get to a point of desperation, people do step in.”

When GroundUp visited the clinic Wednesday morning, three dogs had already been adopted that day, in addition to the six dogs that found new homes the day before. People have come from Mitchells Plain, Pinelands, Mowbray, and Sea Point.

Oscars Arc and AtFrits Pet Hotel & Daycare Centre, both of which act as adoption centres, have also agreed to bring dogs into their facilities. Oscars Arc is set to take six, and AtFrits to take 16.

AtFrits is primarily a creche for dogs, but since it is able to take in 276 animals, it dedicates space for animals that are in need. The dogs from Mdzananda Animal Clinic will receive the exact same care as customers’ dogs. They will have access to the dog park and be fed three times a day.

“For me, now, the only thing is to get the animals adopted,” said AtFrits owner Yanic Klue. “Money can’t buy the life of a dog so I don’t even think about that. The most important thing now is to get the animals in a safe environment and to get them adopted.”

The clinic has never euthanised an animal due to overcapacity, but it had never been as desperate to find adoptions and foster homes. It had 37 dogs on Tuesday morning, but only has the capacity to care for 15.

“It has been very quiet in the past month,” said Lisa Godana, the clinic’s administration assistant. In April, only eight dogs were adopted, compared to nine dogs in just the past two days as a result of the Facebook post.

Du Plessis said people handed over their pet if they were moving away or could no longer afford to take care of it anymore. People also tended to give up their dog when it was no longer a puppy. Du Plessis said a two-year-old dog was once handed in just because it was not young any more.

“Lately we find animals in our yard in the morning, so a lot of people are throwing animals over gates overnight,” du Plessis said. “People do come over and hand over pets physically, so we can still talk to them. But it’s quite hard to track people’s reasoning for abandoning pets.”

Since Mdzananda Animal Clinic is primarily a veterinary clinic, taking strays is not a service it intended to provide. However, the clinic has decided that it will not to take in any new strays until its numbers are stable again, du Plessis said.

“People who come with strays, we’re going to have to talk to them and try to get them to take responsibility for their own pets, or give them the option to put their animal to sleep,” du Plessis said.

As for the pets that continue to be thrown over the gates overnight, however, du Plessis said the clinic will have no other option than to take care of them.

Last - minute

Tiger, one of the clinic’s three pitbulls, is still waiting to be adopted after three weeks in the clinic. Photo: Kristine Liao

The clinic’s finance assistant Tashmin May is especially worried for the three pitbulls that are currently staying at the clinic, since they have to stay in their own kennels. Obama has been here since the beginning of April, and Lady and Tiger have been here for about three weeks.

“They are getting very depressed in the kennels and they need more space,” May said. “There’s the stigma that pitbulls are very aggressive, but they’re not really. It’s just the way that they’ve been brought up.”

May said one of the difficulties for finding a family for pitbulls is that it has to be a one-dog home. Another issue is that the clinic does not allow people living in the Cape Flats to adopt pitbulls, due to the prevalence of dog fighting in the area. She said people will steal pitbulls to enter them into fighting competitions, which people bet on.

Strays at Mdzananda on average stay at the clinic for two to three months before adoption, but have stayed as long as eight months, according to du Plessis.

Source: The Citizen

What Are the Alternatives to Animal Testing?

Animal Testing

Will animal research ever be replaced by other methods? Credit: Shutterstock

In 1980, The New York Times featured a full-page ad from an animal rights group, which lambasted a prominent cosmetics company for testing its products on the eyes of rabbits. The campaign was so effective, it led to several beauty companies pledging hundreds of thousands of dollars toward research to find alternative testing methods that didn’t involve animals.

Almost 40 years later, what are some of these alternatives, and how much progress have we made?

Before we delve into the answer, there’s one important distinction to make: although “animal testing” usually conjures up the image of defenseless rabbits being prodded and poked in the name of beauty, the use of animals in research — and the search for alternatives — stretches far beyond the cosmetics industry. Animals like mice and rats are widely used in toxicology, the study of chemicals and their effects on us. Animals are also a crucial to drug discovery and testing. In biomedical research, animal models are the foundation of many experiments that help researchers investigate everything from the functioning of circuits in the brain to the progression of disease in cells.

Despite their importance in these fields, there are now efforts to reduce the number of animals used in testing. That’s due, in part, to ethical concerns that are driving new legislation in different countries. But it also comes down to money and time.

“In theory, non-animal tests could be much cheaper and much faster,” said Warren Casey, the director of the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, which analyzes alternatives to animal use for chemical- safety testing.

Another concern is that in some types of research, animals are too different from humans to successfully predict the effects that certain products will have on our bodies. “So we’ve got ethics, efficiency and human relevance,” Casey told Live Science, the three main factors driving the hunt for alternatives.

So, what are the most promising options so far?

One approach is to replace animals with algorithms. Researchers are developing computational models that crunch huge quantities of research data to predict the effects of certain products on an organism.

“This is a very applicable approach. It’s very cheap,” said Hao Zhu, an associate professor of chemistry at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Zhu is part of a research team that has developed a high-speed algorithm that extracts reams of information from online chemical databases, to compare thousands of tested chemical compounds with new, untested ones by identifying structural similarities between them. Then, it uses what we know about the toxicity of the tested compounds to make reliable predictions about the toxicity of the untested varieties with a similar structure (assuming that this shared structure means the compound will have similar effects).

Typically, identifying the effects of a new compound would require scores of expensive, time-consuming animal tests. But computational predictions like this could help to lessen the amount of animal research required. “If we can show that the compound we want to put onto the market is safe, then I think these kinds of studies could be a replacement for current animal studies,” Zhu said. A similar study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland showed that algorithms could even be better than animal tests at predicting toxicity in various compounds. 

In recent years, scientists have started growing cultured human cells on scaffolds embedded on plastic chips, forming tiny structures that mimic the functioning of our heart, liver, kidneys and lungs. Known as organs-on-a-chip, these could provide a novel way to test the effects of new compounds or drugs on human cells.

Testing on these simplified, miniaturized versions of our physiology could deliver more human-relevant results than animal experiments. Crucially, the tests could also replace the use of whole animals in the exploratory stages of early research, when scientists don’t necessarily need to test on whole systems. Organs-on-a-chip “for the most part address a single output or endpoint,” Casey said — because all that may be required at this early stage is to test the behavior of one cell type in response to a drug or a disease, as a way to guide future research.

This could “help in most cases to reduce the amount of animal tests researchers are planning within ongoing projects,” said Florian Schmieder, a researcher who is working on that goal by developing miniature kidney and heart models at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology, in Germany. As well as lungs, livers and hearts, some companies are developing artificial 3D structures that replicate human skin. That’s particularly important in toxicology, where animal skin tests have long been a baseline for understanding the effects of new, untested compounds.

Replacing this with a harm-free model is now a reality, Casey said: “Skin tissue models have really proven to be pretty effective. They can provide insight on the acute changes — whether something’s going to be corrosive and damage skin.”

One idea that’s frequently raised as a counter to animal testing is that if humans want to benefit from new treatments, drugs and research, we should instead offer ourselves as the test subjects. That’s quite a simplified and extreme view — and in most countries animal tests are required by law before drugs are given to humans, for instance. So it isn’t necessarily practical, either.

But, there are carefully controlled forms of human testing that do have the potential to reduce animal use, without endangering human health. One such method is microdosing, where humans receive a new drug in such tiny quantities that it doesn’t have broad physiological impacts, yet there’s just enough circulating in the system to measure its impact on individual cells.

The idea is that this cautious approach could help eliminate nonviable drugs at an early stage, instead of using thousands of animals in studies that may only establish that a drug doesn’t work. The approach has proved safe and effective enough that many major pharmaceutical companies now use microdosing to streamline drug development.

“There will of course be ethical concerns, but these could easily be outweighed by the potential gains in bringing safer and more effective medicines to market more efficiently,” Casey said.

So, what do these alternatives mean for the future of animal testing? In some areas of research like cosmetics testing — where so many existing products have already been proved safe through animal studies — there’s a growing recognition that testing new products is something we really don’t need to advance this industry. That’s borne out by regulations like the one put forward by the European Union, which now bans animal testing on any cosmetic products that are produced and sold within the EU.

We’re also seeing advances in toxicology research. Toxicologists have long relied on six core animal-based tests that screen new products for acute toxicity — checking whether a product causes skin irritation, eye damage or death if consumed. But in the next two years, these baseline tests will likely be replaced with non-animal alternatives in the United States, Casey said. The reason for this progress is that the “biology underlying these types of toxicity is much simpler than other safety concerns that can arise after [an animal is] exposed to a chemical for an extended period of time, such as cancer or reproductive toxicity,” Casey said.

But in other areas of research, where the questions being investigated are more complex, animal models still provide the only way we currently have of fully understanding the varied, widespread, long-term effects of a compound, drug or disease. “Physiology is really, really complex and we still don’t have a handle on it” — nor anything that legitimately mimics it aside from animal models, Casey said.

Even despite the most promising advances like the development of organs-on-a-chip, that’s still a long way from anything representing a connected human body. “The major problem in developing artificial organ systems is to gain the whole complexity of a living organism in vitro,” Schmieder said. “The problem here is to emulate the kinetics and dynamics of the human body in a really predictive way.”

While organs-on-a-chip and other inventions might help answer simpler questions, right now whole-animal models are the only way to study more complex effects — such as how circuit functions in the brain are linked to visible behaviors. These are the types of questions that help us understand human disease, and ultimately lead to lifesaving treatments and therapies. So, the animal experiments that underlie those discoveries remain crucial.

It’s also worth noting that some of the most promising non-animal tests we have today — like algorithms — work only because they can draw on decades of animal research. And to advance in the future, we will need to continue this research, Zhu said.

“We can’t use computers to totally replace animal testing. We still need some low-level animal testing to generate the necessary data,” Zhu said. “If you asked me to vote for a promising approach, I would vote for a combination of computational and experimental methods.”

So, are there alternatives to animal testing? The short answer is yes — and no. While we have several options, for now they’re not sophisticated enough to eradicate animal testing. Crucially, however, they can reduce the number of animals we use in research. And with new regulations, and ever-smarter alternatives, we can at least be hopeful that in the future, the number of animals will continue to decline.

Source: Live Science

Get that Perfect Pic with your Pooch Using a Dentastix Selfie-STIX

Perfect Pic

Want to get that perfect selfie with your pooch? The problem is your furry friend tried to bite your phone, constantly squirms out of your arms or has decided that chewing your hair is more fun.

Now, there’s fun solution for getting your dog to focus on your mobile screen and strike the perfect pose – the Dentastix Selfie-STIX.

Pedigree created the cool phone accessory – a clip that attaches a Pedigree Dentastix to your cell phone – to help you and your pooch master the selfie and capture your most memorable moments.

All you have to do is use the clip to attach a Dentastix to your phone. Your dog will be so interested in the Dentastix that you will be able to get the perfect shot of the two of you gazing lovingly at your screen (or the Dentastix, if you’re a dog).

To make sure you and doggie are picture perfect, beauty blogger Siobhan Yeatman, more commonly known as Sugar and Spice, suggests “knowing your angles! You should always take a selfie from slightly above the level of you and your pet’s faces.  Not only does this prevent the dreaded human double-chin, but you’ll ensure you get your pet’s loving eyes head on. Make sure your pooch is clean!  Nobody wants to see a selfie of a dirty, straggly-haired hound.  Unless you’ve just done a Muddy Puppy event with Pedigree.”

TV presenter and actor, Chris Jaftha, says mastering the perfect adventure selfie with your dog requires safety first. “Besides the perfect lighting for an adventure selfie, knowing your limits and ensure you are always safe – Once the safety aspect is in place, anything goes, “says Chris. “You don’t have to be in an extreme environment or situation to take an adventure selfie, it’s all up to you and how you can make the moment adventurous. If you feel like your life is an adventure, any selfie with you in it will be an adventure selfie

And just when you thought there was nothing else to know about taking human/doggie selfies, blogger Anja Wintour (Glitz and Grammar), says “every Instagram-worthy selfie comes down to good lighting, and it’s no different for pets. Keep it glam for the gram by making sure there is adequate lighting to make your fur child’s coat shine!”

Once your pooch has mastered the selfie, it may be time to explore Pedigree’s Selfie-STIX filters.

Pedigree Senior Brand Manager, Ashleigh Sanderson, says the app is like Snapchat for dogs. “The app uses unique dog facial recognition technology to hone in on the faces of different dog breeds, allowing users to create fun looks with their prized pets.”

The Selfie-STIX clip will be available with every Dentastix pack at select Pick n Pay outlets nationwide from 15 May 2019. The promotion runs for a limited period, so hotfoot it to your nearest Pick n Pay and get your Selfie-STIX now, while stocks last.

Source: Pedigree


54 lions killed at a farm in two days: Horrified animal inspector reveals carnage she found in slaughterhouse

54 lions

It was the overpowering stench and the thick swarm of flies that told Reinet Meyer she had stumbled upon something truly horrific.

Ms Meyer, a senior inspector at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, had been tipped off that lions were being left in tiny cages at the Wag-’n-Bietjie farm, 20 miles outside Bloemfontein in South Africa’s Free State Province.

Knowing that her country’s controversial lion breeding industry supplies the appalling international trade in lion bones meant she was expecting the worst. 

But nothing could prepare her for the grotesque and macabre scene she found inside an anonymous-looking farm shed.

The building was being used as a lion slaughterhouse, and a supervisor and eight workers were stripping the skin and flesh from the fresh carcasses of a group of recently killed lions.

Dead lions, some skinned and others waiting to be skinned, littered the blood-stained floor. A pile of innards and skeletons lay elsewhere inside, while discarded internal body parts were piled high in overflowing black plastic bags on a trailer outside.

Photographs taken by investigators showed a squalid scene of gore. Many are too horrific to be shown in a family newspaper.

‘It was shocking,’ Ms Meyer said. ‘We couldn’t believe what was happening. You could smell the blood. The lions got shot in the camp and then were all brought into this one room. The flies were terrible.

‘For me, a lion is a stately animal, a kingly animal. Here he is butchered for people just to make money, it’s absolutely disgusting.’

About 200 yards from the abattoir, two lions were housed in steel transport crates that were too small for them to stand up or turn around in. Ms Meyer said they had been left in the crates without food or water for three days.

She initially thought that one of them was dead because it was not moving. ‘The lion was so depressed that it did not move at all.

‘It was totally disgusting that they were kept like this.

‘A lion is a wild animal, it wants its freedom but now it’s kept in a small cage for three days. It’s absolutely deplorable.’

A total of 54 lions had been killed at the farm in just two days. They were first shot with tranquiliser darts before being shot dead with a .22-calibre rifle. It is understood the bullets were shot through the ear and directly into the brains because overseas buyers will not pay for damaged skulls.

Some of the lions are believed to have been trucked about 250 miles to the farm from a ‘safari park’ near Johannesburg.

Remarkably, the workers at Wag-’n-Bietjie are allowed to kill lions. The site, owned by lion breeder Andre Steyn, is one of a series of licensed lion slaughterhouses in South Africa which supply the huge demand for lion bones from South East Asia. 

South Africa allows 800 captive-bred lion skeletons to be exported each year, but campaigners believe many more are illegally slaughtered to feed the disgusting, but lucrative, trade.

Wag-’n-Bietjie, which calls itself an ‘eco-farm’ that puts ‘nature first’, appears to have been issued the relevant permits by the Free State.

Steyn, who is a former council member of the South African Predator Association, a trade organisation for the captive breeding industry, gave Meyer unfettered access to his property.

But along with his foreman Johan van Dyke, he now faces animal welfare charges related to the two lions kept in small cages, and may face further charges related to the way lions were being killed and the squalid condition of the abattoir.

What will happen to the 246 lions found at the farm remains unclear. About 100 were reportedly marked for slaughter, but the farm’s permits have been revoked. Their fate will not be decided until Steyn and Van Dyke’s court case concludes.

Hybrid cats defy nature in lust for profit

Lions and tigers are being crossbred in captivity in a sickening bid to squeeze even greater profits from South Africa’s barbaric bone trade, conservationists claim.

My undercover investigators have learned that bizarre hybrid animals are being created that are even bigger and more imposing than the big cats found naturally in the wild.

This makes them even more valuable when they are slaughtered and their skeletons sold to South East Asia and China to satisfy the huge demand for medicines made from lion and tiger bones.54 lions
Remarkably, a three-year-old liger or tigon can be the same size of a nine-year-old lion, thereby producing more bone weight – and greater profits – once slaughtered

Ligers have the greatest financial value: they weigh an average of 71 stone and would stand nearly 12ft tall on their hind legs.

Experts say the abusive breeding process often results in birth defects and the early death of cubs, as well as complications for mothers because they have to give birth to super-sized cubs.

A report four years ago estimated that there were 280 tigers in South Africa at 44 sites. My investigation, however, suggests this is a dramatic underestimate, with around 50 tigers believed to be at just one location.

At another wildlife facility in Free State Province, my investigators made a disturbing discovery. In a fenced enclosure a group of three tigers and five lions were laying down together in the shade. In the same enclosure, another lion and tiger were found together near the perimeter fence.

One of the investigators described the experience as ‘unsettling’, adding: ‘It’s not something you expect to see. We were thinking, “what are they here for, where are they going to go?”’

Staff at the park told my investigators that the lions and tigers were only kept together until they reached breeding age at around two years old. The park last week did not respond when asked whether it was cross-breeding.

At another wildlife park near Johannesburg, one of my team found a large tiger that was pregnant and expecting a litter of cubs.

Without carrying out DNA tests, my investigators were unable to prove cross-breeding at any individual centre but conservationists believe inbreeding in South Africa is ‘rampant’. Meanwhile, tourists are unwittingly fuelling both the bone trade and trophy hunting by paying to either pet lion cubs or for ‘walking with lions’ experiences.

Ukutula game reserve, about 50 miles north-west of Pretoria, charges visitors £46 for a one hour ‘enrichment walk’ with lions. Visitors must sign an agreement that any photographs taken there are for ‘private use only’.

Spokesman Willi Jacobs said: ‘Ukutula conducts these walks to enrich the lives of animals who would otherwise be confined to their enclosures. The revenue generated allows us to support research projects that contribute meaningfully to conservation.’   

Why won’t Britain ban import of lion trophies?

Britain has failed to slap an import ban on lion skins – despite public outcry and the demands of campaigners.

There was international outrage four years ago when American dentist Walter Palmer tracked and killed a 13-year-old lion called Cecil with a bow and arrow in Zimbabwe.

Australia, France and the Netherlands have all banned the importation of any lion trophies amid growing public fury, while America banned hunters bringing in trophies from captive-bred lions. 

Britain, however, has continued to offer permits to hunters to import lion skins and heads as long as the trophy has been obtained from a ‘sustainable’ hunting operation.

Last December, this newspaper revealed how the number of lion body parts shipped into Britain had soared. 

And today I can reveal how this loophole can be exploited by hunters determined to flout the US ban. 

One of my undercover investigators recorded Adrian Sailor, a UK representative for Settlers Safaris in South Africa, explaining how a lion skin could be smuggled into the US via Britain by hiding it in a deer skin.

Sailor admitted the issue was ‘so hot, in the press and everything else,’ adding: ‘They want all the stuff done right.’

But to sidestep the US controls, Sailor suggested legally importing the skin via the UK, shooting a red stag in Scotland, then ‘you stick the lion skin inside the bloody stag… you just roll it all up, and just export it as a red stag. 

It’s a bit dodgy, but you know. It’s all folded over, rock hard, you can’t open it. It’s all salted and rock hard. I mean a lion’s a big thing, to get inside, but the [only] thing you can’t get in there is a skull.’

When confronted by The Mail on Sunday, Sailor did not deny making the suggestion but stressed that ‘no crime has been committed’ and that ‘everything is done legally’.

He said that he does not deal with anyone in the US, adding: ‘How will a lion fit inside a deer skin? Major size difference.’

Source: MSN News


More South African animal feed and pet food now contain insect larvae – thanks in part to Bill Gates

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AgriProtein founder and CEO Jason Drew (supplied)

Insect larvae are becoming an increasingly important source of protein in South African animal feed and pet food products.

Cape Town-based AgriProtein has been producing insect material to add to these foods for more than a decade, and are now processing 40 tonnes of food waste per day for the larvae, says its CEO Jason Drew.

The food waste – which is secured from restaurants and retailers – was destined for public landfill sites.

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Organic waste being delivered at the Philippi factory (supplied)

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The black soldier flies larvae inside the factory (supplied)

AgriProtein uses larvae from black soldier flies. The flies feed on a substance made from the organic waste sourced from local restaurants, factories and farms. 

Once their eggs reach their optimal size, the larvae are processed into feed for animals and a fertiliser for organic soil.

Drew says that by using food that was destined for landfills, the company is helping to reduce the 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is wasted worldwide every year. The larvae can also help to substitute fishmeal. Much of the fishmeal used in South Africa still comes from sea-caught fish, which is contributing to the continued decline of fish stocks globally, Drew explained.

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The facilities at AgriProtein’s Philippi factory where the black soldier flies are allowed to mate (supplied)

“What is most appealing about what we do is the fact that Mother Nature has been doing it for over 240 million years,” Drew told Business Insider South Africa.

“By mimicking nature, we are providing a cost-effective and more sustainable protein alternative that reduces the environmental costs associated with existing protein production systems and landfill use.”

AgriProtein was founded in 2008 in a tractor shed in Cape Town by Drew, shortly after he retired as CEO of Dialogue, one of the largest call centre groups in South Africa. A keen environmentalist, he started to explore “green” food sources in retirement.

In 2010, he partnered with the University of Stellenbosch and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to open a pilot facility, and in 2014 they opened the first commercial-scale factory in Philippi, Cape Town.

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AgriProtein’s final product (supplied)

AgriProtein plans to build five new factories in 2019 with an output of 15 tonnes of protein per day, following a roughly R140 million ($10 million) investment from the German company Christof Industries in 2018. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also invested in the company. 

The company hopes to build a total of 100 waste-to-nutrient factories by 2024 and a further 100 by 2027. 

“Interestingly, despite insects forming a part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people worldwide, talk of insects for human consumption is now a growing topic in the West too,” Drew said.

“First-hand experiences have demonstrated the severe effects of climate change on food production and underscored the need to find viable alternatives that contribute to repairing our environment.”

In South Africa, it would likely be described as ‘insect protein’ on the ingredient list of a product, depending on a manufacturer’s labelling preferences, Drew said.

Source: Business Insider