Today is Saturday! Hooray!
So, since the last episode of my life, I havn't really gotten up to all that much.
Yesterday was the day of a protest march against seal clubbing in Namibia. I was horrified to learn that in Namibia they still club seals for their pelts! There are practically no measures in place to control the seal hunting there and as a result, the government keeps the activity of their seal pelt industry under wraps. Here is some facts about it that were e-mailed to me by my friend Kathleen:
Harvests of 7 to 9 month old baby nursing seal pups (which are protected in South Africa) takes places at Cape Cross Marine reserve and Wolf/Atlas Bay in the De Beers controlled diamond restricted area in Namibia. Seals were banned from islands in South Africa and forced to bred in Namibia on the mainland to make their killing easier. Baby nursing seals are rounded up and herded in-land away from the sea. Held in groups they await their slaughter. Panic is high. Released in small groups with their mothers, these pups try to reach the safety of the sea, as they are forced to run between a guantlett of men with clubs. Most of the time, they are not killed with the first blow to the head, and lie there suffering until clubbed or stabbed in the heart, some time later. Harvest quotas are supposed to be set as high as 30% of the pups born. Cape fur seals, a completely different species to the harp seals, suffer natural mortality in first weeks from birth of 25-32% to this Namibian adds a sealing quota. Namibia has stated that the seal pup production is 73% pre-1993 population. Which means in 13 years there has been no growth and the population is 27% lower than 1993. The harvest for 1993 was set at 30% or 50 850 pups on 164 000. The harvest for 2006, with a population 27% lower, has been increased by 68% to 85 000 on a population of 119 000. Taking into account the natural mortality of 25-32% these pups suffer - the 2006 sealing quota of 85 000 will kill all the pups on the colony from 1st July - a seal pup genocide. Namibia bans seals from most islands larger than 3 ha, and forced these seals to bred on the mainland. Numerous former island seal colonies off Namibia are now extinct. Current sealing practices are not humane or sustainable - simple because if practiced on seals in their natural breeding habitat - islands, from which they are banned will directly lead to extinction of that seal colony. Sealers in Namibia, of which there are only 3 concession holders who employ less than 150 workers, use a common garden pic-axe handle as a club and are migrant, part-time workers who are un-trained. No fisherman are employed in sealing industry and therefore if sealing ends, none with lose their jobs or income. Seals on islands that have not been disturbed, culled or harvested - have shown no growth in the population since population surveys started in 1971. Seals currently only breed on 2% of the over 1000 ha protected for them, they are banned from the rest. Since 1988, seals have suffered 3 mass die-off's from starvation from over-fishing, in 1988, 1994 and 2000. Where one third to one half died of starvation. The population has still not recovered, as is still down 27% on 13 years ago. There is no profitable market for seal skins, which receive US $3 per pelt. 63% of the seal pups weight is discarded as waste. Namibia claims seals are a threat to fisheries, yet all breeding cows have been exempted from killing for 100 years. Sealing disrupts the population male-female ratio - because females are exempt, and mostly only the larger male pups are harvested, creating an unnatural female surviving pup population.
I was really sorry about not being able to attend. I think that it is disgusting that a practice that is so barbaric is still happening just next-door! I really wish I could have been there for it...
On the flip side, I am really glad that I didn't actually end up going because I attended a talk about infering animal behaviour from fossilized termite mounds. I realise just how nerdy I sound, but it was really interesting and it resulted in me meeting up with someone that may be my ticket to a free holiday in December!
About a year ago, I went with Helen to help one of the post-doc students with her field work. Her name was Lydia Du Toit and she was trapping mole-rats. We had such a jol and it I got invaluable experience from the whole thing. Unfortunately, Lydia left to live in Germany soon thereafter. She was a joint student of Wits and Pretoria University.
Ironically enough, yesterdays talk was by a guy from Pretoria Univeristy and he had brought one of his students along as well. It turns out that this student of his was the 'replacement student' for Lydia, and is German! And ironically enough, she is also working on mole-rats. She has absolutely no experience with trapping them and so, was looking for field assistants to go on her trip. So Helen and I volunteered ourselves for it and she said that she'll let us know when she's going to go!
I also went to the zoo yesterday to see one of the zoo vets for Helen. I was basically acting as driver seeing as she wrecked her car. We got to see a baby Margay (type of wild cat) that had been born moments before that! We also were shown the zoo's new frog breeding project! It was amazing!
I then came home and had dinner with some family friends who are out here from the US. They live in Laguna Beach. It was so nice to see them again! You never really notice just how much you miss people until you see them again...
That's all for today yo'al!