Monday, 29 April 2013

Rats! We Have Mice!

Quite recently, the Ladies of 8 Herschel made a horrendous discovery: creatures of the night were living among them. A few claimed to see rats skittering across the kitchen counter, while others saw mouse tails disappearing into small holes. Regardless, the screams could be heard halfway across the Western Cape. After the exterminator was called, traps were laid, and heart attacks averted, a calm settled over the house. However, it wasn't too long before the next squeak was heard.

The Ladies of 8 Herschel have no idea how fortunate they are to have only a minor mouse problem.

Quite recently, a rat the size of a cat was found in a South African township after small children were attacked, with some babies found dead. This rat, called the Gambian pouched rat, is native to Sub-Saharan Africa and can grow up to 3 feet long. It has poor eyesight but an acute sense of hearing and smelling.

Read more about the Gambian pouched rat and the recent attacks:

- PB

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Baboons on the Street!

While on the Peninsula Tour with the Stanford in Cape Town program, I saw close to 30 baboons in a grassy area in the Cape Point National Park. These baboons were on the side of the road, and they were freely roaming and crossing the street even though there were tons of cars driving around. This made me want to do some research about these baboons, and how they interact with humans in this national park.

After a bit of research, I found a Research Unit, specifically focused on the study of these baboons in this area. Humans tend to keep feeding these animals, and it is lowering their natural drive to find food. Is it necessary to cut all human interaction with these creatures for their own well-being? This research foundation is looking into the answers to these questions.

The research made me question the ethics of human interactions with wildlife. Is research a form of detrimental human interaction? I don't know if it is possible for animals to have a natural upbringing if humans are involved. Even if the people have good research intentions, laboratory conditions are providing a place to which animals must acclimate. This means that animals are becoming more comfortable with human interactions, which could be detrimental to their survival in the wild

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Want to know how a species is faring? Head to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List The Red List is the product of the world’s largest network of scientists and NGOs working on conservation issues. It collects and analyzes data on over 45,000 species from almost every country. The Red List uses a categorization and criteria process to determine biodiversity of an area and status of a species. They decide which species are endangered, extinct, and doing just fine.

To me, the coolest feature of the IUCN Red List database is the geographic range maps. The scientists use data from the field to assemble maps that show the most up-to-date range of the species they follow. You can even download spatial data to use in programs like GIS. Neat stuff! Want to know where the African Wild Dog lives? Check it out here: (also pasted below). See how fragmented its habitat is? No wonder its numbers are dwindling and is listed as endangered! Not only does this data help students like us give cool presentations; it is instrumental in species conservation efforts.

- Morgan

Friday, 26 April 2013

A big dog, a little girl and The Lion King

i had a cute lion king-related encounter this week at linawo children's home (my service-learning placement). the kids got really excited because this huge white dog named doogle came to visit—this thing was enormous, i think its shoulders were about as high as my waist. doogle was kind of an imposing doggie but really really friendly; all he wanted to do was play with the kids and get his ears scritched a little.

one little girl (i think she's about 4 years old) named lebo was super excited to see doogle, and ran out into the yard as soon as he arrived, but quickly got scared and hid behind me for a while. she would occasionally venture out and wave for the dog to come over, and he'd come bounding toward her, and then she'd shriek and hide behind me again. at one point doogle got around me and licked her face—lebo burst into tears and the dog started whining.

i took her inside to see heather, one of linawo's administrators, who calmed her down by playing her clips from the lion king. her favorite scene was the one where they're dancing and singing "i just can't wait to be king." not the most wildlife-related thing ever, but thought i'd share since it involved both an animal and the lion king!


Monday, 22 April 2013

Welcome to "" - the class blog for The Biology and Ecology of the Lion King.  The purpose of the blog is to have the students document their explorations of the class material.  Feel free to include useful resources, personal observations, animal sightings, surprising or important facts, etc.  

As a starting point, I offer this:
In appreciating the importance of wildlife to the national psyche of South Africa, one needs to look no further than the money.  Every rand coin or note depicts indigenous wildlife.  On many of the bills, animals appear on the front and the back.

In bills where Nelson Mandela appears, he is typically gazing at large game.  On many bills, groups of animals appear, sometimes pursed by hunters.  On the R100 bill with Table Mountain, there are 3 Cape buffalo on one side and a dozen or so kwagga or Cape mountain zebra wondering in front of the mountain.

To illustrate these points, I have posted a number of photos below.

As in the US, the national emblem includes a raptor which also appears prominently on the currency.

Happy explorations.