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October 2012
Contents / home
Volunteers at the zoo
Let's stop hawkers
Vital role of our oceans
Holiday fun in the sun!
On the horns of a dilemma
Walkthrough aviary to open
Cape vulture chick born
Getting flamingo nests ready
Innovative magnetic sweeper
Bear necessities
ZooClub updates
Horned baboon spider
Conservation Grapevine

Conservation Grapevine

SOUTH AFRICA - Did you know that a pair of majestic Verreaux's eagles live and breed in Pretoria? On Friday 16 November 2012 Pieter and Natasja Saunders will be giving a public lecture on these magnificent birds at the National Zoo. This husband-and-wife team coordinate the Wonderboom Urban Verreaux's Eagle Project. They will share their experiences with the audience, and give insight into the fascinating facts discovered about the adult pair and their offspring.

The lecture will start promptly at 18:30, followed by a bring-and-braai in the NZG's Reptile Park. For bookings, contact Ulrich Oberprieler on Tel: 012 339 2743 or Email:

SOUTH AFRICA - Conservation staff at the National Zoo undertook a controlled release of its white tiger, Winston, and his female companion, Leia, into their shared enclosure this month. The introduction was a roaring success - Leia and Winston sniffed each other, vocalised a great deal and even became quite playful with each other in the enclosure.

Although staff members were ready to deal with any issue that may have arisen, like aggression towards each other, both tigers seemed to have taken to the idea of sharing an enclosure very well. The pair will be on display to the public daily.

FLORIDA - A giant eyeball from a mysterious sea creature was found by a man walking on the beach in Pompano Beach, Florida, earlier this month. According to reports, no one knows what species the huge blue eyeball came from. The eyeball was sent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St Petersburg to identify the mystery sea creature to which it belongs. The institute has shared the photo on its Facebook page, where followers are suggesting everything from a giant squid to Bigfoot. Source: IOL

RUSSIA - Scientists who found well-preserved woolly mammoth remains in a remote part of Russia hope they might contain the necessary material to clone the long extinct beast. The Russian-led international team found the remains, including fur and bone marrow, with some cell nuclei intact, on Russia's Arctic coast. The next step will be to search for living cells among the material which was preserved in the Siberian permafrost, said Semyon Grigoryev, the Russian scientist who led the expedition with members from the United States, Canada, South Korea, Sweden and Great Britain.

To determine whether the cells are living, they will be examined by a South Korean scientist whose Biotech company has done several animal clonings, including the world's first commercial dog cloning.

However, Grigoryev said that media reports that the scientists were close to making a "Jurassic Park"-style breakthrough by bringing the giant mammal back to life after thousands of years of extinction, were exaggerated. A previous find, discovered in the same region two years ago, yielded the remains of a 40 000-year-old female baby woolly mammoth (pictured), named Yuka by scientists, as well as those of an ancient bison and horse. Those finds lacked living cells. Source: Reuters

USA - Researchers have been amazed to discover a beluga whale whose vocalisations were remarkably close to human speech. While dolphins have been taught to mimic the pattern and durations of sounds in human speech, no animal has spontaneously tried such mimicry.

The first mystery was figuring out where the sound was coming from. The whales are known as "canaries of the sea" for their high-pitched chirps, and while there has been a number of anecdotal reports of whales making human-like speech, none had ever been recorded. When a diver at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California surfaced saying, "Who told me to get out?" the researchers there knew they had another example on their hands. Once they identified NOC, a nine-year-old whale as the culprit, they made the first-ever recordings of the behaviour.

They found that vocal bursts averaged about three per second, with pauses reminiscent of human speech. Analysis of the recordings showed that the frequencies within them were spread out into "harmonics" in a way very unlike whales' normal vocalisations and more like those of humans. "The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale," said Sam Ridgway, president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Source: Sapa-AFP

RUSSIA - The world's deepest lake is Russia's Lake Baikal. The water's average depth is more than 700 metres - almost half a mile. In some places, Lake Baikal is more than twice as deep as that. Lake Baikal is also the oldest lake in world. It began forming when a fissure in the Eurasian continent opened, more than 25 million years ago.

If one excludes polar ice caps and glaciers, Lake Baikal holds over one-fifth of all surface fresh water on Earth. Unlike other deep lakes, it contains dissolved oxygen right down to the lake floor. That means creatures thrive at all depths in the lake.

Most of Lake Baikal's 2000-plus species of plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world. Scientists believe up to 40 per cent of the lake's species have not been described yet. Species endemic to Lake Baikal have evolved over tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of years. They occupy ecological niches that were undisturbed - until the last few decades. Source: EarthSky

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