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April 2015

Autumn approaches and, unlike last year, it seems that March brought little in the way of welcome rain relief. With this in mind, we may well have a challenging fire season this year. Another good reason to limit unwanted vegetation, in the form of alien invader plants, is that they add to the fire fuel load. Many invaders such as Blackjacks and Khaki Weed are still growing actively and seeding in early autumn. If they are a problem in your domain, deal with them now and save yourself additional control in the new season. Remember the old adage: “One years’ seed produces seven years’ weeds!”
You may remember that the subject of January’s Green Scene article was the Pangolin. Recent articles in various conservation publications have highlighted the plight of these harmless, insect-eating mammals.

Sanparks Times featured an article entitled “Red flag raised for Pangolins”.  It stated that all eight species in the world are threatened and despite a commercial trade ban for wild-caught Pangolin in Asia, the illegal trade is thriving. As populations of the Asian species plummet, it is feared that the African species will now be targeted. Three loads of Pangolin scales, originating from Africa and totalling a massive 3.6 tons were seized by customs authorities in recent years.
Highlights from an article in the spring issue of “Environment” magazine are as follows:

  • As many as 100 000 pangolins may be being sold on black markets world-wide every year
  • Apparently all indigenous SA cultures use the pangolin in some form of traditional medicine
  • Individual pangolin scales may sell for as much as R80-100 each and are believed to confer invincibility and strength -  as well as treat low blood pressure
  • Thieves and rioters apparently think that they are bulletproof if they have a pangolin scale in their breast pocket
  • More than 1 000 pangolins might be being electrocuted annually on electrified game fences in SA
  • Pangolins face a dire future at the hand of man

Although there is no scientific evidence to support the mythical “healing properties” of pangolins (their scales are made of the same non-magical keratin as rhino horn or human fingernails), traditional beliefs are stubborn and have inertia that can take generations to dispel.

There is a legend that pangolins can create thunder by racing across the heavens rattling their scales. Unless future generations can be convinced that these scales do not cure cancer or deflect bullets and that vegetable soup is preferable to pangolin foetus soup, Africa is set to become a far drier and less interesting place to live.

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