Stone tool found in East London

Warren Summers noticed an unusual looking stone object at his residence in Dorchester Heights. A closer inspection revealed one side to be ridged and the other almost flat. His instinct was right that it did not look natural and he presented it to the museum yesterday for identification by museum scientist Kevin Cole. It has been confirmed as an ancient stone tool, possibly a blade with percussion knapped sides (one side presenting with a very sharp edge). Judging by the size of the tool it is possibly Middle Stone Age (MSA) and the locality has been logged for further investigation.

Warren Summers holds the stone tool he found in Dorchester Heights, East London
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Aardwolf record for the East London Museum

On Tuesday 14 January 2020 a farmer in the Haga-Haga area contacted museum scientist Kevin Cole to report an aardwolf which had passed on due to injuries from domestic dogs. The specimen was collected yesterday and will be curated in the taxidermy department.

Reference: The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region by J D Skinner and R H N Smithers

These nocturnal species (sometimes foraging in the late afternoon) are found across most of South Africa but not in the forested southern coastal regions. They habituate disused aardvark or old porcupine burrows and they may excavate their own holes if need be (they are avid diggers). They are entirely solitary and only have accompaniment when young cubs are around.

The aardwolf’s diet is mostly the harvester termite. Termites forage in dense concentrations for most of the year (exposed on the soil surface) and are thus a reliable food source. Illustrated below is the area close to where the female specimen was collected for the museum collection. Note the plethora of termite mounds in the surrounds.

Aardwolf country – these farming areas between the Kei Mouth road and the coastal village of Haga-Haga provide a suitable food source and habitat for aardwolf’s

These mammals have a total length of 90 cm and weigh just under 9 kg’s. One of the skull adaptations for a termite diet is a broad palate and bowed out lower jaws.

More information will be updated on this species in due course.

Reference: The Mammals of the Southern African Sub-region by J Skinner and RHN Smithers

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Qinira Estuary dune forest destruction – a photo collage of the damage to trees, mostly protected coastal red milkwoods

The red arrows indicate the coastal dune forests which are being decimated by illegal activities. There is no authoritative control or management of these reasonably pristine coastal dune systems

Yesterday museum scientist Kevin Cole met with officials from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the Buffalo City Municipal Metro (BCMM) to discuss the action to be taken on the matter of the gross negligence on the part of BCMM allowing illegal camping on a sensitive coastal estuarine flood plain and in a coastal dune forest.

Below is correspondence sent to municipal officials in October 2019 in an attempt to circumvent the horrendous chopping of trees and removal of the same over this past festive season.

Trees which have been hacked, chopped and destroyed by illegal campers and other individuals sourcing wood for cooking meat. This traversity has been taking place for the past number of years with the most destruction caused this past festive season (2019/2020). Photos: Kevin Cole (all taken 15 January 2020)

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Sad to note the wanton destruction of a pristine dune forest, Qinira Estuary (Bonza Bay, East London)

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Age old fossils found along the East London Coast

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency Ranger James Mbodomo points to a fossil discovered recently by the museum along the coast in a section of the East London Coast Nature Reserves (illustrated below).

James Mbodomo indicates the position of the fossil find on the rocks. Photo: Kevin Cole

Close by another two smaller fossils were also discovered by museum scientist Kevin Cole.

Two smaller fossil specimens close by. Photo: Kevin Cole

These compressed fossil species (most likely reptilian) have yet to be identified. The geology of the substrate (rock) in which the fossils present has an age between 265 – 240 million years and is part of the Beaufort Group of rocks. These rocks are the third main subdivision of the Karoo Supergroup of South Africa.

Distribution of the subdivisions of the Karoo Supergroup

Our part of the world has a rich paleontology heritage and, in part, the evolution of reptiles (including the early origins of dinosaurs and tortoises) to mammals is locked in a fossil history of the mudstone, sandstone and shale of the Beaufort rocks . Something we can be very proud of. Loads more to discover for budding paleontologists out there!

Measurement of the fossil find. Photo: Kevin Cole

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A dead aardvark found in East London suburbia!

The museum was alerted to a dead aardvark earlier this morning lying on the side of a busy road in Southernwood, East London. The carcass looked fresh with only the tip of the tongue cut off. Museum scientist Kevin Cole and taxidermist Chris Bill rushed to the site to collect the specimen only to be told that a taxi driver had picked it up before their arrival.

Photo: Tinus Laubscher

These mammals have left evidence of their presence in the coastal dune forests of nearby Bonza Bay and the area to the east of the Qinira River. Kevin Cole has documented old burrows in the dunes. It is a mystery how the aardvark pictured landed up in Southernwood (see illustration below).

The aardvark is unlike any other mammal in Africa. Presenting with a pig-like snout, long tubular ears and a kangaroo like tail it is supported by stout powerful legs which have spade-like nails at the end. They occur in a variety of habitats with the availability of food being the only limiting factor. Most of the feeding activity on ants and termites takes place at night. They may occasionally also use their long sticky tongues to probe for insects , their larvae and eggs. They may travel a distance of up to 8 km’s searching for food.

It is unlikely this animal migrated through the green corridor from the coastal dune bush and unfortunately it could not be investigated to determine whether it had been snared. If it had moved up from the coastal dune bush a closer examination may have revealed if it was hit by a vehicle.

Adult body weight varies between 41-65 kg’s with a body profile which is arched. The coastal dune bush of the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve will be investigated for any recent aardvark activity.

Tinus Laubscher of Beacon Bay is thanked for alerting us to this record.

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Female Cape Fur Seal sighting at the Nahoon River, East London

On Wednesday (20 November 2019) a furry visitor hauled out at the Nahoon River for a bit of down time along the sandy banks. This adult female Cape Fur Seal is an endemic species along the South African coast and occasionally they venture east of their breeding area in Nelson Mandela Bay and take a break from rafting by coming ashore. Local resident Jenny Swartz contacted the museum and raised a concern about the safety of the seal. Visiting the site it was noted that the animal had no injuries and seemed in good health. Unfortunately if seals come ashore on bathing beaches the likelihood of being disturbed by dogs and people increases as was the case on Wednesday. An appeal is made to give the animal space and to leash dogs so as not to elicit the ‘fight or flight’ response from the seal. This sighting was reported on the Border Stranding network and seal expert Dr Greg Hofmeyr (Bayworld, Port Elizabeth) will log the stranding. He had previously stated that all coastal monitors should be on the look-out for seals coming ashore especially after inclement weather and rough sea conditions (as experienced last week).

Adult female Cape Fur Seal at the Nahoon River. Photo: Kevin Cole

Cape Fur Seals live along the coast from Port Elizabeth to the Angolan Border. Approximately 2 million seals live in this range. Males are larger than females. They can weigh up to 350 kg (females 90 kg) and reach a length of 2.3 m (females 1.6 m).  They feed primarily on shoaling fish and squid. We have had a number of records of the species hauling out over the years, mostly just to rest up before proceeding back to sea. At sea they like to raft at the surface, raising their flippers in the air. They have a porpoise action when travelling through the water and are sometimes referred to as ‘dogs of the sea’ with their notable bulbous nose and slightly upturned robust muzzles. They can dive to depths below 200 m and have a lifespan of up to 21 years. There may be more sightings in the coming months and members of the public are requested to contact the aquarium or the museum to report these.

The seal left the site at 7:15 pm swimming downstream through the river mouth and back out to sea.

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