JOHANNESBURG – A South African court on Sunday ordered the government to allow the owner of the world’s biggest private rhino herd to hold an online sale of rhino horn, which he aims to hold this week, his lawyer said.
John Hume has about 1,500 rhinos on his sprawling farm southeast of Johannesburg, where he breeds the animals.
White rhinos nearly went extinct last century but South African conservation efforts and private game farms have swelled their numbers in recent decades though poachers are again putting them in danger.
Hume regularly cuts his rhinos’ horns, which then grow back, and has built a large stockpile, some 500 kg of which he plans to auction after he successfully challenged government rules banning their sale.
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Dragons are among the most powerful creatures of legend and fantasy, yet even they can’t seem to escape the threat of extinction. In the fictional realm of Westeros, the iconic beasts are nearly extinct; Smaug “the strong and wicked wyrm” of The Hobbit, was the last great dragon of Middle-earth; and many more such cases of fictional endlings exist. Over in this world, meanwhile, South African conservationists are trying to save a real-life draconic lizard from the same fate.
The armour-plated reptile is the largest of a group called the girdled lizards, and like any good dragon, the species goes by many titles: the giant dragon lizard, giant zonure and sungazer, to name a few. Scientifically, it was originally grouped under the name Cordylus with other girdled lizards, but a reassessment in 2011 produced its current name, Smaug giganteus – after J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional fire-breathing villain. The architect of Middle-earth was born in the same area of South Africa where this lizard is found.
The sungazers are impressive but greatly imperilled. Their large size – up to 40cm (16in) long – and fascinating appearance make them popular in the pet trade. What’s more, they have a history of being accidentally targeted by pest-control measures meant for other local animals like mongooses, and the small area of central South Africa they call home has been heavily modified by their human neighbours.
“The rich and arable Highveld grasslands that the sungazers inhabit is, unfortunately for the species, also the perfect soil for crop production,” notes Shivan Parusnath of the University of the Witwatersrand in a press release. “This leaves the species prone to danger when humans plough the land for crops.”
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The last census of the African elephants revealed a bittersweet story of conservation.
It is the typical glass half-full or half-empty scenario punctuated by bright spots where the population is healthy and growing, as well as red zones where the elephant existence is endangered.
The African Elephant Status Report 2016 published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature showed Kenya had Africa’s fourth-largest population, estimated at 22,809. The population is stable, with some saying the number is higher but certainly less than 30,000.
TAMPA – The Florida Aquarium and Lowry Park Zoo are collaborating to save the critically endangered African penguin in cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the S.A.F.E. (Saving Animals from Extinction) program.
Rocky the 8-year-old penguin was matched with Tampa Lowry Park Zoo’s African penguin, Thumbelina, and transported to the zoo.
Zoo staff is monitoring the interactions between the two to see if they will bond and mate.
According to the zoo, after a male African penguin reaches the age of sexually maturity, usually about four years old, it will court the female penguin it has bonded with. If the female accepts, they will continue to mate for life. After the female produces one to two eggs, the male and female take turns during the 40 days of incubation.
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