So Cape Nature is at it again, threatening the life of a leopard. They are planning to remove a leopard for catching penguins in Betty’s Bay, Western Cape!

Please click on this link if you are not sure what or who CapeNature is….

This is again a disgraceful action by this conservation agency! What is a leopard suppose to do?

I urge you to please send in your objections to
You don’t even need to be a South African citizen to make a difference. Just simply the numbers are needed to illustrate to CapeNature what they are doing is not ethical.

We have been agitating since last week to prevent the demise or removal of a leopard in Betty’s Bay. A flurry of press releases by CapeNature have been aimed at damage control and to deny them wanting to remove the leopard. We had three people connected to CapeNature and 2 academics confirm that discussion are advanced to have the leopard removed and that their monitoring is merely trying to justify this seeming eventuality. Anticipating negative media, the organization has applied spin about how they are “monitoring” the situation. This has centered around demonizing the leopard (habitual penguin killer/ a juvenile dispersal cat/an incomer) and getting bird enthusiasts to agitate for the support of the protection of the penguins in preference to the leopard.

We must mobilize an outcry before CapeNature again threatens a leopard in the region. Please contact their CEO to object to the leopard being removed.

We have offered assistance to have the leopard GPS collared to enable mitigation of threats to the colony (which is imminently possible), but yet again we have been arrogantly dismissed.

1. It is not unusual to have leopard populate habited places likes Betty’s Bay. In fact we have demonstrated this through our leopard project where we have GPS 32 collared leopards, and hundreds of thousands of hours of camera trap surveyed coverage in the Western, Eastern and Northern Capes. Leopards live happily and undetected in these areas and in towns like Betty’s Bay, Hermanus, Greyton, McGregor, Riversdale, George, Wilderness, Knysna and PE where we have often seen them operating close to houses. The Bettys Bay area (Cape Hangklip, Rooiels, Pringle Bay, Gordon’s Bay, Somerset West) and all along the Boland chain this is common. They pose no threat to people in these settings. Only dense urbanization, habitat destruction and human wildlife conflict restrict their mobility.

2. We have just submitted for publication a paper where we analyzed the leopard densities in the Eastern and Western Cape having collected data from the 32 collared leopards and extensive camera trap surveys between PE and Cape Town and inland areas. It is shown that we reliably estimate the adult leopard population between 500 -750 in these two provinces. The problem being that this total is further isolated into smaller meta-populations that have (also through a peer reviewed study) demonstrated genetic bottle necking of these isolated populations. The isolation is caused by habitat destruction and human wildlife conflict. Based on this, the leopard populations are critically endangered in these provinces and continue to be hammered by human wildlife conflict. Only 2 weeks ago a leopard died in a gin trap in the Koo valley, at the hands of CapeNature!

3. Leopards are ultimate opportunists and if vulnerability and availability coincide they will take any food source. Thus they are known to take birds of all sorts, and though there are few land-based penguin colonies it is not inconceivable that they would prey on them when available. (Jackass penguins mostly nest on offshore islands.) The only unusual thing here is that we have a partially fenced colony which in itself is unnatural and thus we are not surprised that the leopard took some of these birds. It is bizarre beyond belief that this is now considered unusual behavior and termed a habitual penguin killer. We have now had 3 people connected with CapeNature whistle blowing to us that they want to remove the leopard for this natural behavior and that they are currently constructing the case to justify this. That is outrageous and completely unacceptable. This is completely natural behavior of the leopard and the fact that CapeNature is trying to remove this leopard from its natural habitat should cause public outrage. We will definitely, and have mounted a concerted effort to stop this crazy logic. In fact, it is lunacy, but not surprising from an organization that is known to be the most prolific killer of leopards in the province. We have repeatedly offered to assist them in trying to protect leopards in general and this one in particular, and advised them to rather protect the colony through fencing, guarding and deterrents. If they want unnatural penguin colonies (in effect a zoo) they need to protect them by building fences and deterring the cat, and not removing naturally occurring predators that are only doing what they are designed to do. This kind of attitude reflects the ingrained antithesis to carnivores by conservation entities such as CapeNature, that are completely unaccountable to their mandated actions.

4. Penguins evolved to nest on islands precisely due to the fact that they are not adapted to withstand land-based predators. Penguins landed at Betty’s Bay and Boulders in Simonstown in the 1980s and survived due to the effect of the human barrier protection offered by fences and development, and have made these colonies effectively zoo-like settings. It is inconceivable that CapeNature is resorting to retributive actions on this leopard who, in its natural environment, is doing what it has evolved to do.

4. The killing of 33 penguins is a known behavior by leopards (and Caracals) that we call “surplus killings”. It is exceedingly rare and the fact that it did so once does not mean, and has never been proven to, that it will do it again. It happens in unnatural settings when prey species are confined, defenseless and cause over stimulation of the cat. Jackass penguins do not naturally colonize mainland areas.

5. This is not a clash of threatened species priorities. This is a clash between people and their worldviews, it is largely a demonstration of a conservation organization rather at odds with its mandate.

Leopards are critically endangered in the region. The penguins are artificially being kept on a partially fenced areas due to their fish sources being over-fished. Manage the latter, and manage the zoo you have created! Don’t threaten completely natural behaving carnivores operating normally in its own natural habitat.

If CapeNature are so concerned, they should get guards and fence your area, and not just jump at removing leopards behaving normally.

Have we all gone mad?

Please send your objections to CapeNature CEO:
Dr Razeena Omar
CEO | CapeNature
tel +27 21 483 0001 | fax 086 532 8013 | cell +27 82 7707079
email | postal Private Bag x29 Gatesville 7766
physical PGWC Shared Services Centre cnr Bosduif & Volstruis Streets Bridgetown 7764

Photo credit: Van As van Graan: Pictures of the leopard being targeted.

I urge you to please send in your objections to
You don’t even need to be a South African citizen to make a difference. Just simply the numbers are needed to illustrate to CapeNature what they are doing is not ethical.


Eco Labels Explained …


Eco labelling refers to products /services that are environmentally friendly, and which are advertised as such. They are labelled in a way that informs the interested consumer (Barrow, 2006). The products generally have a reduced impact on the environment, relative to other products of the same kind.

Eco labelling needs to be certified by an independent organisation. Credible labels are awarded by an impartial, unbiased party for products, or services that have met the various environmental criteria (Network,2016). However, some manufacturers of products try to add their own “eco label” as it tends to increase sales within their specific target market. Common claims are that the product is “natural” , “recyclable”, “organically produced” and “energy efficient”. These are unproven and not recognised by the a registered  independent organisation. Thus these labels have been termed as “greenwash” (Allison & Carter, 2000).

The International Organisation for Standardisation known as ISO is an internationally recognised  organisation which has identified three main types of eco-labelling (Allison & Carter, 2000). Eco-labelling typically falls under Type 1 as explained below.

Type 1 – This label is based on multiple criteria that the product or service must adhere to. A third party organisation awards and issues a certification to the product or service that allows this product /service to use environmental label which illustrates to consumers that the product/service in question is preferred, due to it being environmentally aware and eco-friendly in comparison to other products/services within their particular category. This type of labelling is also known as ISO 14024 (Allison & Carter, 2000).

Type 2 –  These types of labels are self declared by the manufacturers or the retailers. Most commonly the consumer will see comments on the product such as “made from x amount of recycled material”. This type of labels falls within ISO 14021 (Allison & Carter, 2000).

Type 3 – Known as an environmental product declaration where the product or service information is based on complete life cycle processes, and the impact it has on the environment. This type of label is referred to as ISO 14025 (Allison & Carter, 2000).

Examples of Eco-labelling, Description and its Origin


Cape Coastal Honey – Eco Label being Badger Friendly

Country of Origin – South Africa
Description of Product – Cape coastal honey is produced with badgers in mind. It promotes badger friendly beehive management and protection in order to comply with the above eco label. The height of the bee hive needs to be altered and be kept out of reach from honey badgers. It is an initiative to conserve these endangered animals which play a vital role within their ecosystem (Van der Merwe, 2014). This eco label is placed on the front of the packaging in order to be visible to the conscious target market. The product is also recyclable which is indicated with the symbol on the back of the packaging.

Light meat Tuna shredded with vegetable oil added – Eco Label being Dolphin Friendly

Country of Origin – Thailand, caught  in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Description of Product – Tuna packaged in recyclable tin which is depicted by appropriate logo. As per the logo it is dolphin friendly (Inc,2016). It is managed by the Earth Island Institute which ensures all tuna companies adhere to catching methods that do not harm dolphins including being aware of all marine ecosystems. In order for it to be classified as dolphin friendly, companies need to ensure that no chasing or netting of dolphins takes place during their fishing trip. Companies must not use drift gill nets to catch their tuna, and lastly, no accidental killing or causing harm to the dolphins may occur when setting their nets (Inc,2016).


usda-organic-sealLayout E1


Organic Liquid Beef Stock – Eco label being Oregon Tilth & USDA Organic

Country of Origin – United States of America
Description of Product – Organic liquid beef stock produced in a cardboard recyclable container. The eco label Oregon Tilth and USDA Organic certifies  that the product complies with organic agriculture along with sustainable farming methods. Ensuring farmers and all who are involved in handling and processing of organic food is done so in a manner that complies with the organisation.  Farmers need to stick to set regulations, pass random inspection of farms, and maintain a binding contract between farmer and the buyer of the product in question.  Farms need to comply with the following process and restrictions as well (Tilth,2016).

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviours
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food


Organic Ground Coffee Blend – Eco label being AFRISCO

Country of Origin – South Africa
Description of Product – AFRISCO is the only internationally recognised and accredited South African certifier. It aims at improving the integrity of organic food processes in RSA, as well as other SADC countries. This organisation follows the product from start through to processing and on to distribution, ensuring that companies adhere to all criteria needed  in order to be AFRISCO approved. AFRISCO raises awareness and promotes to both local and global producers and consumers,  the benefit it has on the environment as well as personal heath choice among the consumers themselves. The coffee is packaged in a foil fresh carton which is recyclable and has a low carbon footprint.




Running Duck Organic White Wine – Eco label being Fair for Life

Country of Origin – South Africa
Description of Product – Fair for life is an unbiased third party certification organisation.  It ensures there is ongoing fair trade amongst agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. It promotes operators to have a responsible project in place which protects the environment, including trying to reduce the impact the company has on the surrounding environment.

As per their website  the certification process begins with applying to accredited by the organisation. The interested company would then prepare for auditing to see if they are legible for Fair for Life. Once they are audited, an overall evaluation is done on the company. If the company satisfies their requirements they will be issued their certification which would allow them to present the Fair for Life logo on their product.  In order to remain a Fair for Life ambassador, the company would need to continue their compliance of criteria. Should they for some reason they no longer comply, they will no longer be able to host their logo on their product.

The Euro leaf logo is also displayed on this particular bottle of wine.  It illustrates that the product has been certified as organic conforming to the regulations of organic farming. It is an internationally recognised logo. During processing of the product it also ensures that 95% of the ingredients are organic (COMM,2013). It is compulsory for all manufacturers who are aligned with the Euro Leaf to place the logo on their product should they continue to comply with their standards.

The Importance of Eco labels

Eco labels give the consumer the power of choice when buying a product. They tend to attract the health conscious, eco mind shopper, whilst allowing the manufacturer to become a “greener” and more environmentally aware company.

Eco labels generally increase the sustainability and environmental awareness. Consumers will tend to purchase products that have official logos and certification attached to the product (International, 2012). Eco labels have the ability to strengthen the brand including the additional promotion of the product.

They also increase the marketing competition between companies driving them towards a more environmentally sustainable products. This has a trickle-down effect which can include the harvesting/cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of products. This will also help weed out any unscrupulous manufacturers.

Hope you have learnt something from my post 🙂  – Fiona


Platypus – A True “Living Fossil”


Classification and Biodiversity of this Group

Phylum –   Chordata Bateson, 1885

Class – Mammalia Linnaeus, 1758

Subclass –  Prototheria Gill, 1872

Order – Monotremata Bonaparte, 1837

Family – Ornithorhynchidae Gray, 1825

Genus – Ornithorhynchus Blumenbach, 1800

Species – Ornithorhynchus anatinus Shaw, 1799

Common Name – Duck -Billed Platypus or Platypus

There are no other known living species of Platypus. So it is often referred to by its common name of Platypus. It is one of five extant species of the Monotremes, others being part of the Echidna.  (Nelson, 2014)

Characteristics of the Platypus

Platypus are homoeothermic, bilaterally symmetrical mammals (Ojo, 2014). Living primarily semi aquatic environments, their front feet have become completely webbed while their back feet are partially webbed. This is an adaptation to aid them in swimming in conjunction with being able to move easier on muddy ground. (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014).

This mammal lays eggs and doesn’t give birth to live young. It belongs to the species Monotremes. (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014).  Its young suckle for a few months, feeding on its mother’s milk.

The males are able to produce venom through spurs which are situated on their hind legs. There is not enough venom to kill a human, however is dangerous to smaller animals. This acts as a defence mechanism (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014).

Their highly adapted bills are extremely sensitive, containing electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors which help detect stimuli beneath the water when searching for food (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014). The platypus is able to navigate underwater using its bill without having to open its eyes, ears or mouth. As young they posses teeth, but lose them in adult hood when they adopt a keratinised pad which aids in grinding up t heir food (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1997).

Origins and Evolution

The oldest fossil dates back to 100,000 years ago, during the Quaternary period which makes the fossil approximately 110 million years. Platypus existed during the Cretaceous period. Other family members of Monotremes have since been discovered in Argentina which would have originated when Australia and South America were previously joined (Truth, 2016).

There is not much information on the origin of this species.  Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1992, state that Monotremes feature anatomy and development that is seen in the earliest of mammals. The platypus is an extremely unique animal, in both its looks and functions. It is a combination of many animals, including bird, reptile and mammal (Truth, 2016).  This animal has puzzled scientists ever since its discovery in the late 18th Century. Scientists did not initially believe that such a creature could exist (Weston, 2002). It seems to be in the middle of an evolutionary decision, as in some ways it shows evidence of being a mammal, while at the same time displays links to its non mammalian counterparts (Weston, 2002). It has since evolved over time and become well designed for its surrounding environments.

The platypus has adapted itself into having webbed feet helping it with swimming.  Its front feet are for swimming power while its back feet are used in steering. The webbing is able to fold away, exposing its claws when the Platypus exits the water which allows it to walk on land easily and aids in digging burrows.

Bill and Teeth
It originated on mainland Australia and is claimed to be endemic to Australia. Three platypus teeth fossils were found in South America  in the early 90’s, indicating to us that this species was not totally endemic to Australia (Weston, 2002). (This was during the period when it was known Gondwanaland).  Modern day platypus do not contain teeth in any form as they lose them at a young age. They have a tough plate which they use to grind their food (Truth, 2016).

Platypus have electroreceptors for orientation and navigation (Jones and Sati, 2011) on their bill, despite them having eyes, ears and nose which would is used for navigation on land they close them when in water.  Their bill is extremely sensitive and covered in nerve endings which  they use to find food when underwater.

Spur on Males
Male platypus have spurs on their hind legs. In females this is absent. It is a hollow spur which is connected to venom glands. The enzyme that is injected into a victim has shown similarity to the same enzyme which is found in snakes, yet not in any other mammals which suggest that there may be a possible link between the platypus and reptiles (Jones, K.E.J. and Safi, K. 2011),

Their skeleton is tough and durable which supports strong muscles effective for swimming and digging. Some of their bones are similar in function to those belonging to extinct reptiles, but possibly belonged to mammal ancestors. A platypus leg is very similar to those of mammal and reptile. The rotation and outward nature of their legs is very reptile-like, while the ability of rotating in a ball and socket joint resembles a similarity in mammals. Platypus contain rudimentary ribs in their neck which is indicative to those in reptiles.

Platypus are covered in a layer of fur and feeds it young with milk which is secreted through pores in their skin (Truth, 2016) which is a distinct feature of mammals.

Mammals tend to have two openings, one for excreting bodily waste and another opening through which reproduction can take place in (Noris, 2010). However, this is not the case in the platypus. It has one opening for all processes.

The Australian National University  discovered the Platypus contain ten sex chromosomes in comparison to mammals two XY chromosomes. At the same time the platypus chromosomes are very similar to those found in birds. Platypus also lack a sex determining chromosome, making the sex determination in the platypus unknown (Truth, 2016). An egg laying mammal that in itself is an evolutionary mystery (Gopalakrishnakone and Calvete, 2016).

They were initially seen as primitive creatures. However, its since been realised that they are exceptionally specialised creatures.

What is their ecological function and current conservation status?
Platypus are considered to be top predators within their freshwater environment. They are a vital component to their environment including species living within the ecosystem. They act as an indicator species indicating to us how productive / healthy their surrounding environment may be. Thus, if a platypus is remaining in its current environment, then it means conditions are favourable to other animals within the same ecosystem.

It is vital to protect and preserve the status of the platypus as it will naturally increase the biodiversity of other species within the surrounding environment.

In Australia it is an iconic wild animal which could be used advantageously to create more awareness about protecting our environment, and the animals in the surrounding ecosystem.

According to IUCN its conservation status is listed as “Least Concern”. This is because platypus are widely distributed which would suggest that there must be a fairly large population relative to the population distribution. This of course may not be the case, as there is insufficient data in order to predict the population numbers and their trend over a long period of time (Union, Nature, Resources, 2000).

Hope you enjoyed this post and can take something from it.

Fiona 🙂








Population growth and its effects

Population growth and distribution of said population are key factors in trying to implement global and local environmental management and sustainable living. There are many contributing factors to consider to ensure that environmental management will be successful in the future.

Ultimately, the success of how effective environmental management in conjunction with the sustainability of our resources comes down to the rate at which our population is growing.

Environmental Management with regards to Water Resources

Immediate and appropriate local and global management is required to ensure that our water supply is able to meet and keep up with the demand of a growing population.  “Nearly 2 billion cope daily with the problem of finding enough water and as many as 3.5 billion – almost half the worlds projected population – could face water shortages by 2025. Africa is at particular risk.” (Livernash, 2002)

Sustainable management of this critical resource needs to ensure that all people have access to clean and safe water. Concurrently, we need to sustain our natural water areas and implement environmental management in order to reduce/ prevent water pollution. “Worldwide 54% of the annual available fresh water is already being used. This is based on unequal consumption. Some 1.1 billion people do not have access to fresh water or consume less than the basic daily requirements of 50 litres” (Rosenberg, 2008).

Globally 70% of water is used for agricultural use, 22% industrial and 2% domestic use (UNESCO, 2003), whereas in Africa 85% of water is used in agriculture, 5% industrial sector and 10% used in domestic sector (Water, 2016).

The UN states that humans need a minimum of 50L of water per day for cooking, preparing of food, cleaning and reducing the spread of disease (Water, 2016). If we were to multiply this minimal amount by the number of people on Earth, it would be an extremely high figure which excludes industrial water consumption and agriculture. We are going to battle with keeping up with our water demands.

Food Production & Land Availability

Suitable land availability is declining, thus making basic food production difficult. “Long term gains in food production, especially in developing countries, are threatened by land degradation and by growing competition for water from industrial and municipal sources” (Livernash, 2002). Environmental management needs to ensure that we utilise our land space and resources efficiently. This will allow us to remain as close to sustainable as possible.”By 2030 the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water (High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, 2012). Sustainability is extremely hard to achieve when the population growth rate is exponential. According to (Outlook, 2014) in 2013, 23% of households did not have adequate access to food and 13% experienced hunger.

“In 1997 the world demand for meat was 208 million metric tons and in 2020 its projected to be 327 million metric tons” (IFPRI Impact Projections, 2011). Even on a basic linear scale it is not possible to sustain this growth. With our already limited supply of resources, it is virtually unachievable to produce this amount of meat to feed and maintain our population.

We consume more water than we realise. Professor Tony Allan conceptualised the notion of virtual water. It is the amount of water we consume that is not visible to us, which goes over and above our minimum daily intake of 50 litres. A major contributor to virtual water is food production and consumption.15 455 litres of water is required in order to produce 1kg of beef (Water, 2016).  Cacao requires 27 000 litres for ever kilogram produced (Water, 2016).


Fiona 🙂

You never know

In my short time on this planet I have noticed that my life has become a bit predictable.
It is no longer much fun watching television or movies as in the first few minutes, its not hard to work out the plot and story line.
Saddening as it is to say, even my daily commitments as well as my interactions with most people can be a bit of a predictable tiresome routine.

One thing that always seems to surprise me is Nature. No matter if I am swimming, hiking or any of the outdoor activities that I  do, I always seem to be learning something new.
I am very happy to live so close to nature and have it so accessible in South Africa.
I must admit I would find it difficult to get into ‘city life’ for any amount of time.
Its not always whopping huge shockers,it may be something very small and very easily overlooked but there always seems to be something to be seen when being surrounded by nature.

Fiona and I try take any opportunity we can to get out and make the most of what is right on our doorstep. I thought I would share a great example of the totally unexpected, from our weekend adventures. Whilst hiking or swimming I find it is so easy to get caught up into the rhythm of the exercise till something unexpected catches your eye and or peaks your senses.

A Sunny Saturday Afternoon:

A bit of bird behaviour and then a twig breaks. Total silence falls over us like a thick blanket.
Fiona quietly points to the direction of the noise and we stop. We look for signs and wait.
The breeze is on our back so whatever it is chances are it knows that we are here.
Not really thinking it’s a big deal we move silently as possible into the middle of the clearing towards a little mound. Waiting patiently we still can’t see anything as there is thick brush in that direction. “Na it’s probably a porky I say” (referring to a Porcupine or something like that as its late afternoon).
Moments later I can hardly believe my eyes.

IMG_1184 Touched

I am astounded to see what is slowly making its way almost directly towards us. A Rhino….Wow. How does an animal so big move so quietly through the bush?
I know that there are no black rhinos in this area and by the size of its head and its wide grazing mouth it has to be a Wijt or White rhino.
Black rhinos tend to be a bit moody, like my grandmothers old English bull terrier, they have bad eye sight and just tend to charge at  any movement.

The big male seems to be very relaxed after what looks to have been a great mud bath.
He does not seem to worried about us. Now he is just standing in the clearing. How odd!!!
Its a bit of a “pinch me” type of moment.
Just as we are getting accustomed to the sight of him, the rest of the group slowly emerge from the brush.

Its a whole social group!!

IMG_1105 Touched

IMG_1093 Touched


The moms were even kind enough to give us a glimpse of their little ones.

IMG_1092 Touched

How is it that five of these animals were standing just meters away in the bush and we were non the wiser.
Fully grown a White rhino can get up to 1.8m in height and weigh around the 2000kg mark. Its big on television but something to behold in the flesh.

IMG_1107 Touched
Just as quickly and silently as they arrived they soon disappeared into the bush on the other side of the clearing, leaving us both a little trail blazed as to what we had just seen.

As I said,   no matter what we choose to do outdoors its always a bit different with new exciting things to be discovered.
Big or small, it all adds to the experience that we call life.
That day shall not be forgotten any time soon.