Facts on the environment in Namibia #1

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Compiled by Hu Berry & Marita van Rooyen

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DELIGHTFUL DOLPHINS

Gracing Namibia’s ocean, three species of dolphin glide through the swells, enchanting thousands of pleasure-boat tourists. Bottle-nosed, dusky and our endemic Heaviside’s dolphins (only occurring in the Benguela ecosystem) constantly cruise alongside catamarans or power boats, often clearing the surface in amazing feats of ele­gance.

Take a look at The Namibian Dolphin Project site to learn more about these species and the research projects currently being conducted on them www.namibiandolphinproject.com

CITES LISTED NAMIBIAN SPECIES

No less than 25 terrestrial mammal, 37 marine mammal, 89 bird, 28 reptile and 100 plant species in Namibia are protected by CITES (Convention on Trade in Endangered Species). They include those regarded as endangered, threatened with extinction, or potentially threatened if existing trends continue. Roughly 5 600 species of animals and 30 000 species of plants are protected by CITES worldwide against over-exploitation through international trade.

HUMAN-LION CONFLICTS

A lion incident might be perceived as a wildlife intrusion into the human environment, whereas a crocodile incident might be viewed as a human intrusion into the crocodile environment. The result is that the lion might be regarded as more at fault than the crocodile, even though the consequences are the same. Lion conservation is now a topical concer­n, because our ancestors, the hunted humans of the past who were chased by predators, have become hunting humans and predators themselves.

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Namibia is the only country in the world

  • that is translocating large numbers of rare, endangered and high-value wildlife (including black rhino) out of national parks into open communal areas;
  • where both the range and the numbers of free-roaming black rhino outside national parks are increasing;
  • where the number of free-roaming ‘desert lions’ has increased five-fold since 1995, re-establishing former ranges across communal areas;
  • where the largest road-based game count in the world
    (the North-West Game Count) is conducted on an annual basis; and
  • which has over 19% of the country managed by communal conservancies, bringing the total area under some form of natural-resource management to around 42% (state-protected areas 17%, freehold conservancies and private reserves 6%, concessions and community forests 0.8%).
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Namibia’s HOTSPOT

As one of 35 recognised biodiversity hotspots in the world, the Succulent Karoo biome along Namibia’s Atlantic coast boasts the world’s richest variety of succulent flora and is home to 6356 plant species, 40% of which are found nowhere else on earth. More than 900 of these species are threatened with extinction.

Hotspots DECREASE

The 35 recognised biodiversity hotspots worldwide now cover only 2.3% of the earth’s land surface, down by 70% from their original vegetation coverage. Despite the decreasing size of these hotspots, they are still home to 50% of the world’s endemic plant species.

The fastest LAND MAMMAL

The black tear marks on cheetahs are believed to keep the sun out of their eyes and aid in hunting and seeing objects at a distance. The fastest land mammal, the cheetah, is capable of reaching speeds of 110–120 km/h in full sprint, but cannot maintain it for long. Unlike many other predators, these cats hunt primarily during the day and, unlike lion and hyaena, very seldom scavenge. Cheetah cubs exhibit a survival strategy known as mimicry, by possessing a coat of hair on their back that looks remarkably similar to the markings of a honey badger. The latter’s respected reputation of being fearless and not-to-be-tampered-with may aid cheetah cubs to survive.

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Salt pan SALINITY

Walvis Bay has one of the largest salt works in Africa. The seawater is fed into large ponds, which gradually dry out through natural evaporation. The colour indicates the salinity of the ponds. Micro-organisms change their hues as the salinity of the pond increases. In low to mid-salinity ponds, green algae are predominant. In mid­dle to high salinity ponds, an algae called Dunaliella salina shifts the colour to red. The salt fields of Walvis Bay cover an area of 3 500 hectares and annually produce 400 000 tons of high-quality salt. This successful commercial enterprise also provides an ideal habitat for many species of marine birds.

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Myth, marula and ELEPHANTS

A much-loved tree found in the bushveld of Africa, the marula, has long produced a dietary mainstay in its yellow fleshy fruit with high vitamin C content. The myth that elephants become intoxicated by eating the marula fruit—originated by Jamie Uys in his film Beau­t­i­­­­ful People and perpetuated by the tourism industry and popular press—is just that, a myth. In South Africa the pulp of the marula fruit is mixed with sugar and cream to produce the liqueur, Amarula.

The elusive DESERT TRUFFLE

The Bushman delicacy—the Kalahari truffle or !nabba (Terfezia pfeilii)—is a relative of the French truffle species. While arguably not as aromatic as its counterpart, it is nevertheless delicious, and even has a market in Germany. Efforts have been made to cultivate desert truffles in Turkey, Israel, Saudi-Arabia, Namibia and other places within their growing areas, but so far with only modest success.

A fight FOR THE RHINO

Both square-lipped (white) rhinos and hook-lipped (black) rhinos have continued to increase in the wild, with white rhino up to about 20 000 and the black rhino up to about 5000. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya collectively conserve most black (96%) and white (99%) rhino. New populations have been created and rhino numbers have increased in all of these countries except Zimbabwe, where both species are now declining. The white rhino is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the black rhino is still listed as Critically Endangered.

This article was compiled from Flamingo June, July & August 2010. Information has been updated accordingly.

Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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