World Rhino Day 22 September 2018

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White or Square-lipped rhinoceros

Museum scientist Kevin Cole has just returned from a trip to the Kruger National Park. A number of magnificent rhino sightings highlighted the need for humankind (as custodians of the natural world) to respect and fight for the survival of rhino species worldwide.

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Homo sapiens are the only species that have the key to conserving the 50 million year evolutionary expression that are rhinos seen in the wild today. Both the white and black rhinoceros in southern Africa descended from the same species, the extinct Ceratotherium praecox which lived some 7 million years ago.

These creatures bring on a sense of awe to any visitor seeing them for the first time and play an ecological role in natural ecosystems that compliments other grazers and browsers living in protected areas.

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The white rhinoceros pictured above is the second largest African land mammal and can weigh up to 2.3 tons. They consume a large amount of grass each day (estimates are as much as 5% of body mass). From about 12 years of age the males will hold territories.

The black rhino pictured below can weigh up to 1.2 tons and is a browser. They are solitary and territorial and can live up to 45 years. The calf of the black rhino runs behind the mother when they flee unlike the white rhino where the calf runs in front of the mother.

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Note the hooked-lip on the black rhino as compared to the square lip on the white rhino

Spare a thought this Saturday (22 September) for rhino conservation and the rangers that protect these animals from poachers.

World Rhino Day is 22 September: 5 Rhino Species Forever

What is World Rhino Day?

World Rhino Day celebrates all five species of rhino: Black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

World Rhino Day is 22 September: 5 Rhino Species Forever!

When is World Rhino Day?

World Rhino Day is on September 22nd.

How did World Rhino Day get its start?

World Rhino Day was first announced by WWF-South Africa in 2010. The following year, World Rhino Day grew into an international success, encompassing both African and Asian rhino species, thanks to the efforts of two determined women …

What happened in 2011?

It all started with an email: In mid-2011, Lisa Jane of Chishakwe Ranch in Zimbabwe was planning ahead for World Rhino Day. She searched online for ideas and potential collaborators, and found Rhishja’s blog. Lisa Jane sent Rhishja an email, and the two found they shared a common goal of making World Rhino Day a day of celebration for all five rhino species. Meanwhile, the team at Rhino Africa prepared for their second World Rhino Day event in Cape Town, building on the success of South Africa’s popular 2010 campaign.

In the months that followed, the teams worked together to make World Rhino Day 2011 an international success, both online and offline. World Rhino Day has since grown into a global phenomenon, uniting NGOs, zoos, cause-related organizations, businesses, and concerned individuals from nearly every corner of the world!

Is there a theme for World Rhino Day?

Yes! “Five Rhino Species Forever” celebrates both the African and Asian rhino species. In addition, World Rhino Day is an opportunity to highlight efforts to debunk the myths and diminish the demand for rhino horn.

Is there more than one event on World Rhino Day?

Yes! It is believed that World Rhino Day is a success because it provides the opportunity for cause-related organizations, NGOs, zoos, and members of the public to celebrate World Rhino Day in their own unique ways. These activities varied from one participant to the next. Donors and partners are able to contribute to the organizations and initiatives of their choosing. Peaceful demonstrations, classroom projects, fundraising dinners, auctions and poster displays are just a few examples.

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Female humpback whale stranding at Cape Morgan

A 13 m female humpback whale was reported stranded yesterday at Cape Morgan (see attached map below).

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An investigation by museum scientist, Kevin Cole revealed that the animal had died out at sea before being lodged on the rocks below and slightly to the west of the Cape Morgan lighthouse. The skull, mandible and upper jaw had been dislodged from the main body (probably on impact with the rocks). There was no other visible trauma to the body except for some small shark bite marks to the upper jaw (it is assumed that there was some predation on the floating carcass).

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Skin and blubber samples were taken and will be sent to Bayworld in Port Elizabeth for analysis.

This is the second female humpback whale stranding along this coast in six weeks. The first was investigated at Cape Henderson on the 22 June 2018 (illustrated below).

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Kevin Cole investigates the Cape Henderson humpback whale stranding

Mr Bryan Church (Strandloper Tail manager) reported earlier today that a local Kei Mouth resident Mr Rob Nel had spotted the whale floating in the area last Thursday (2 August 2018). The advanced state of decomposition attests to this. Mr Church and Mr Richard Warren-Smith (Morgan Bay Hotel) are thanked for reporting the whale to the museum.

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Notes for the upcoming lunar eclipse in East London (27 July 2018)

If we have clear skies on Friday 27 July 2018 then we may be able to witness one of the longest lunar eclipse events for a while. A full moon is required for a lunar eclipse. The earth will begin to cast a shadow on the moon at approximately 19h14 (a penumbral eclipse will begin) and at 20h24 a partial eclipse will begin (the moon will start to get red). Light is filtered by the Earth’s gaseous atmosphere – the green to violet range of colours gets filtered out more than the red and folk on Earth will see the Moon presenting as a rusty,  red or dark grey (see the photographs below).

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These photos were taken in 2011 at Chintsa East. Photo: Kevin Cole

At 21h30 a total eclipse of the moon will begin and an almost completely red moon should be visible. The maximum eclipse (when the moon is closest to the center of the Earth’s shadow) will occur at 22h21.

The total eclipse will end at 23h13 and the partial eclispse will end at 00h19.

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Images captured in Beacon Bay September 2015: Photo Kevin Cole

This will be one of the longest total lunar eclipse events to be viewed from South Africa in a century. In billions of years from now lunar eclipses will not occur as the moon moves away from the Earth at approximately 4 cm a year.

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Unusual record of skipjack tuna

A local fisherman alerted the museum this week (10 July 2018) of some wild fish activity off the reef at the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve. Large bait balls of sardines were being pursued by hundreds of skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). Retired museum colleague, Greg Brett, confirmed the identity of the species and commented that it was a good record for the region.

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East London Museum display of the skipjack tuna. Photo: Kevin Cole ELM

Documenting the event it was noted that the ‘boiling’ water off the reef had large fish surfacing as they preyed upon the smaller sardines.

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Skipjack tuna working a sardine bait ball off the Nahoon Reef. Photo: Kevin Cole ELM

The skipjack tuna are spindle-shaped with a silver belly and 4-6 horizontal stripes. They can grow to 1 m and weigh up to 35 kg. They mostly occur off the east coast in summer, so this record for the winter months (so close inshore) is rare. They feed on pelagic fish and squid (and occasionally juvenile skipjack).

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A skipjack tuna breaking the surface of the bait ball. Photo: Kevin Cole ELM

They generally occur in large schools near the surface in offshore waters and can be associated with sharks, whales and other tuna species. There was a lot of whale activity in the area on the day they were documented at Nahoon. The genus of the scientific name Katsuwonus is derived from Katsuwo, the Japanese name for the fish and pelamis (white wax). A silvery wax-like pigment can be scraped from the chest region and is used in high quality paints by taxidermists.  The common name is in reference to its habit of ‘skipping’ along the surface (as illustrated below).

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The ‘skipping’ action of Katsuwonus pelamis. Photo: Kevin Cole ELM

This fish is able to maintain swimming speeds of about 40 km/h due to a specialized ‘warm-blooded’ vascular system which keeps the muscles well supplied with oxygen. They occur in water temperatures ranging from 19-30 degrees Celsius.

References:

A guide to the common sea fishes of southern Africa by Rudy van der Elst

Coastal fishes of southern Africa by Phil and Elaine Heemstra

Two oceans – a guide to the marine life of southern Africa by G Branch, C Griffiths, M Branch and L Beckley

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Museum scientist receives a Vocational Service Award from the Rotary Club of East London

The Rotary Club of East London is the oldest in the city and was founded in 1926 (Charter No. 2317 2-4-1926). It is 7th oldest on the African continent. One of the club members, Rotarian Luke Baisley, assisted the museum with the Nahoon Point Nature Reserve project by facilitating funding through the Small Projects Foundation to have the first wooden boardwalk constructed.  The East London Museum has had a long standing relationship with Rotary over the past 2 decades and in particular with Rotary Club of East London member Mr Graham Keppie.

Last night museum scientist Kevin Cole was very happily surprised and humbled to receive a Vocational Service Award from the club in ‘recognition of his personal qualities and his superlative contribution to the Eastern Cape as Principal Scientist at the East London Museum‘.

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President Pam Way of the Rotary Club of East London with Kevin Cole

Rotary International and the service clubs in East London have been very supportive of the museum projects directed by the natural history department. Gately Rotary Club has previously supplied funds for the Earth Stewardship program facilitated in previous years at the institution.

A turning point in Kevin’s career was the opportunity afforded by Rotary International and the sponsor club Beacon Bay Rotary to be part of a Group Study Exchange programme to Scotland in 1997. He was inspired by the vocational undertakings and was greatly enthused to contribute to his community on arriving back in East London.

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Thank you Marion Meyer for your kind comment  –

‘A very well deserved award. Congratulation to Kevin and thank you to Rotary for both of your dedications to the the environment’.

Marion

 

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Humpback whale stranding at Cape Henderson

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Country Life article on the wreck of the Grosvenor by Liz McKenzie

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The Story of the Wreck of the Grosvenor

In March 1782, The East Indiaman sailing ship, the Grosvenor, belonging to the British East India Company and captained by John Coxton, sailed from Madras, India, carrying both passengers and valuable cargo, bound for England. 150 men, woman and children were on board.

Words by Liz McKenzie. Images by Kevin Cole

Due to its late departure from India, the Grosvenor sailed alone. The voyage was rough and plagued by storms. Captain Coxton was in command on the night of 3rd August. The chief mate and ship’s navigator, Alexander Logie, was ill and not at his post.  At 1 am on the 4th August the lookout crew called a warning. Breakers could be heard and lights were seen, but the Captain, relying on his charts, believed they were approximately 450 kilometres away from land. However, due to a miscalculation in the charts, the lights seen were grass fires burning on the coastal hills of Pondoland, South Africa.

At 4.30 am the Grosvenor was swept up in a current and smashed against the rocks off Lambasi Bay.  Sailors were offered a reward to take ropes from the sinking ship, swim to shore and tie the ropes onto the shoreline rocks. Two made the attempt but one was drowned in the process. All the others on board were pulled safely to the shore, a dangerous procedure which took all day.  17 passengers and 91 crew members survived this initial ordeal.

The Mpondo people came down to the shore, initially offering no help but taking items from the wrecked ship, ropes, planks, sails and nails.  Captain John Coxton, declared they should “press south” towards the Cape believing that it was 400 km away, another dangerous miscalculation as the distance to the Cape was 600 km away.

The local people were promised gifts should they help the English castaways. They brought fruit, meat and milk but when the gifts were not produced they became angry, stripping the woman of their jewels and the silver buttons from the men’s uniforms, threatening them with spears and knives.

 

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A selection of treasures from the wreck.

A terrifying ordeal followed. The men, woman and six children struggled very slowly through rough difficult country, dense forests and wide rivers. The weak dropped behind. The survivors split up with the stronger men going ahead. Alexander Logie, his pregnant wife Lydia and the other woman and children could go no further. Captain Coxton abandoned these desperate people 2 days away from the Mzimvubu River. Going on alone he was never to be seen again.  It is known that Logie died and the abandoned woman and children were most likely to have been absorbed into the local tribe.

In some cases the survivors were helped by local people, but on other encounters they were attacked and men were killed.  In total 6 men survived that terrible journey, they were found by a farmer near Port Elizabeth 118 days after the ship was wrecked. A rescue team set off to find survivors. Some were found alive and were brought to safety.

For over 200 years fortune hunters have been searching for the fabulous treasures that were reputed to have been on the Grosvenor. In 1880 Sidney Turner, using dynamite, blasted the rocks in the area of the wreck site and retrieved coins and several cannons. News spread and the hunt for treasure lead to several bizarre schemes. A hypnotist was employed to guide treasure hunters to the spot in 1883. A salvage company, the Grosvenor Bullion Syndicate was launched in 1921- thousands of shares were sold in an attempt to recover the treasure. Efforts were made by tunnelling under the sea to reach the wreck. Dredgers, divers, breakwaters, cranes and modern scuba equipment have been used in an attempt to recover the legendary treasures.

In 1999 certain artefacts were brought to the surface which are now in the East London Museum, such as some gold and silver coins and personal effects. What became of the legendary treasure remains just that, a legend.

 

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