Conservation Biology

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Van Zyl’s golden moles (Cryptochloris zyli) are ancient mammals which live under the ground. They have shiny dense fur coat which protect them against cold. Their ears and eyes are not visible, in fact they are blind. Their eyes are covered with hairy skins and their ears are small and are hidden in the animal’s fur [1].

A picture of Van Zyl’s golden mole [5]

The Van Zyl’s golden mole lives in the coastal dure belt. It weighs about 20-30 grams and it is also 80-90 millimetres long. The Van Zyl’s golden mole eats various invertebrates such as legless lizards, which can grow to a length of about 200 millimetres. The offsprings of Van Zyl’s golden mole are born in a grass-lined cavity in the ground. The adult golden moles usually dig tunnels under the ground for shelter [1].

The golden moles are known to be native to Compagnies Drift, which is 16 kilometres inland from Lambert’s bay, north-western Cape Province, South Africa. The Van Zyl’s golden moles are threatened by the continued loss of diversity. What is causing the loss of biodiversity or habitat of the Van Zyl’s golden mole? One of the causes is the mining of coastal dunes for the alluvial diamond could lead to the loss of Van Zyl’s golden mole habitat. The destruction of habitat is associated with tourism development along the west coast. There are about 21 species of Van Zyl’s golden mole which are known. In South Africa there are 18 species which are already known. A. carriae is a Van Zyl’s golden mole which is found at fynbos and it is called the fynbos golden mole. The cape golden mole (C. asiatica) is found at Stellenbosch. Both the fynbos and cape mole live under the soil but they prefer different soil types. At Wakkerstroom the golden mole (Amblysomus septentrionalis) is found only in grass land [2].

When the Van Zyl’s golden mole is awake it is always busy digging or on the move so that it can maintain its body temperature normal. If the Van Zyl’s golden mole stay for too long without doing anything, its temperature will drop dramatically. What happens to the Van Zyl’s golden mole when they are sleeping or they don’t sleep at all since their temperature drops drastically? Luckily the Van Zyl’s golden mole have a muscles twitch when they are sleeping which protect them from dying of cold. The muscle twitch produces energy while they are sleeping to help maintain their body temperature [1].

According the IUCN the Van Zyl’s golden mole is an endangered. When they did there study in 1994 they found that the status of Van Zyl’s golden mole was indeterminate, which means they were lot of them. When the same study was repeated in 1996-2004 they found that that the Van Zyl’s golden mole was critically endangered, which means they have declined dramatically in their number. In 2006 they found that they were still endangered. The Van Zyl’s golden mole is currently found in South Africa [3].

Why the Van Zyl’s golden mole needs to be conserved? According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species includes 10 species of golden mole species which are endangered and most of them are facing extinction [4]. All the 10 species are found in South Africa. The Van Zyl’s golden mole are declining in number or facing extinction because of the increase in the habitat degradation which is caused by human activities. Human destroy the habitat of Van Zyl’s golden moles mostly by mining, urbanisation, agriculture and the poor management of indigenous forests.


[1]. Massicot, P. Animal Info - Van Zyl's Golden Mole. [Internet] Last modified: 2006 Jun 4. [cited 2007 Mar 25]. Available from:

[2]. Bronner, G. Golden moles. [Internet]. [cited 2007 Mar 25]. Available from:

[3]. Massicot, P. Animal Info - Notes on the IUCN Red List Categories. [Internet]. Last modified: 2004 Jul 28. [Cited 2007 Mar 25]. Available from:

[4]. Bronner, G. 2006. Cryptochloris zyli. In: IUCN 2006. (Afrotheria Specialist Group). 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [Internet]. Available from:

Image credits:

[5].Van Zyl’s golden mole
Lethabo Mosomane
Tel: 27 12 841 2133
Fax: 27 12 842 3676

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

African Wild dog are facing a threat of Extinction in Africa.

The African wild dog (Lycaona pictus) is facing threat in the African continent. It has been listed in the world conservation union (IUCN) as a red list of endangered species. It is regarded to be the most endangered carnivores in the African continent.[1] The African wild dog is a mammal of the cinadae family and is the only species in canid family that lack dewclaws. The African wild dog is related to the domesticated dog. [2]

The African wild dog is only found in Africa as the name is indicated. It mostly found in the savanna and woodland biomes. It has different coat patterns and this differentiate it to other animals. It has black, yellow, and white colour patterns. The wild dog preys, on medium size animal such as impala and antelope. They hunt in packs and they prefer to hunt in open space where they can chase instead of stealth like cheetahs. [1][2]

African wild dog are facing threat of extinctions due to habitant fragmentation by human. The threats are influenced by increase of human population that lead to the increase of forest clearing. The majority of African population depend on agriculture for their lively woods. They have livestock and small scale agriculture, which are encroaching on wild dog habitant. These encroachments are tending to limit the size of wild dog habitant it forces them to mix up with top carnivores (such as Lions, cheetahs and Hynes). This made it difficult for them to find prey; as a result, they have to move around to find food. [1][3]

These factors force them onto human dominated land. This is because the space for them to roam around is limited due to the encroachment by human. Farmers are encountering wild dog in their farms. They tend to defend the wild dog on preying on their livestock by killing the wild dog. These tend to be a threat that African wild dog face due to habitant and environment that they live in are destroyed. It also influenced by deforestation of the wild forest for agricultural practise. These problems have to be solved with better management strategies that can help to conserve the African wild dog. [1][4]

There is a need of conserving the land and wildlife environment for the future of wild species as a whole including African wild dog. There land that inhibit wild animal need to be conserved. For the conservation of African wild dog, they have to be moved to area that is protected in order to maintain the number of wild dog. [1]

The law enforced to monitor the protection of wild dog need to be broaden in order to conserve that population of wild dog and maintain the genetic variation. This can be done by zoning of lands to reduce the risk of crossbreeding of wild dog and domesticated dog. There must be monitoring programs that tracks the movement of the wild dog’s pack. This can be done by identifying the areas that there is large population of wild dog. This may also help to reduce the risk of human conflict by reducing husbandry practise and compensation for livestock losses due to wild dog predation. [1]


1. African Wild Dog Conservation: Internet [cited 2007 Mar 24]. Available

2. African Wild Dog: Wikipedia contributors. African Wild Dog [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2007 Mar 24, 09:54 UTC [cited 2007 Mar 24. Available from:

3. African Wild Dog Status Survey and Action Plan. (1997). Research and Monitoring: Information for Wild Dog Conservation: Internet [cited 2007 Mar 24]. Available from:

4. African Wild Dog Conservation: 2006 Internet [cited 2007 Mar 24]. Available from:
Mr Elelwani Muanalo
CSIR Pretoria
NISL- Ecological Informatics
P.O. Box 395
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: +27 12 841 2133

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it"

Friday, March 23, 2007


The great apes (bonobos, gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutants) will be extinct if their killing is not stopped in the year 2035 (1). The loss of the great apes is caused by two major factors: forest destruction and their use as bushmeat. Bushmeat is defined as the meat obtained from wild animals (1). Destruction of forest is defined as clearing of the indigenous forest without reforestation. The demand for the bushmeat is growing.

Gorillas and chimpanzees are killed everyday in the central and Western Congo basin and in the central Africa for bushmeat (1). It is estimated that in Congo basin 5million tonnes of meat of the great apes is consumed per annum amounting to the value between 100million and 10million pounds (2). The great apes were hunted and eaten illegally in the past decade but the trade of the bushmeat is still operating underground. I was not aware that the meat of gorilla in the Congo basin worth five times the price of the beef.

Trading in bushmeat is operated by the people from both rich and poor countries (2). Several companies from rich countries are involved in the hunting of the great apes, because they help local people in the trading of the meat, recruit people to sell and buy the bushmeat, provide transportation, ammunitions and machine guns to the local people (4). The international trade of the meat of the great apes which is illegal is on the increase (4).

Many people from Africa now have migrated to the bigger cities around the world such as New York and London and left their grandmothers and other families in Africa. When there is an occasion back home in Africa, the meat which is often eaten is that of one of the great apes (2). In Africa, poverty is cited as the main reason for trading of the bushmeat. The money generated in the trading of the bushmeat is used to buy the basic daily needs which include: fuel, salt and medicine (2). People who are rich and restaurants know exactly where to buy the bushmeat.

Although there is no exact number of how many great apes left around the world, but very few animals left. It is estimated that in central Africa the number of gorillas is low and in Borneo and Sumatra the number of the orangutans is 15000 (1). The chimpanzees are also threatened with extinction and it is difficult to find the population of bonobos as they are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is dominated by the ethnic war but the number is also down at approximately 15000 (1).

Deforestation is also a major threat which can lead to the extinction of the great apes. People are creating the space to live and for development by clearing the forests. As the great apes are dependent on the forest for food especially the fruits and their movement from one tree to another, they now find it difficult because of the scarcity of their food and the habitat which is now shrinking at an alarming rate.
Conservation biologists must advise logging companies from Europe to construct roads that lead to the forest which were previously not penetrated and stop their trucks from transporting the meat of the great apes to the major cities around the world (3).


1. Gould, A. B. 1999. Gorilla on a plate. [Online]. Available from:

2. Douala, C. R. 2004. Great apes face extinction. [Online]. Available from:,13369,1340363,00.html

3. Strieker, G. 1999. Growing demand for bushmeat threatens great apes. [Online]. Available from:

4. Streiker, G. 1998. Poachers killing gorillas, chimps for bushmeat delicacy. [Online]. Available from:

Peter Muvhali
Tell no 012 8142133
Fax 012 8423676