Extreme drought is threatening South Africa’s wildlife industry. Farmers are keeping fewer animals and vacationers are visiting in smaller numbers.
Parts of the country have been affected by repeated years of hotter than normal weather and below average rainfall. The conditions have burned feeding grasses and dried up watering holes. In 2015, the area saw the driest year on record.
The agency Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) collects data on more than 9,000 wildlife ranches in the nation. It estimates that the Northern Cape province has lost more than two-thirds of its game over the last three years. WRSA is talking to ranchers around the country to gather information on animal loss and the financial impact the drought is having.
WRSA chief Adri Kitshoff-Botha told Reuters News Agency the drought has continued for some time. “In some areas we’ve seen it has been going now for six years,” she said.
The wildlife industry brings money to South Africa’s economy through tourism, hunting, breeding and meat production. Trophy hunting – the shooting of carefully chosen animals – made $140 million in 2016. That information comes from research by the environment ministry.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at two times the world’s average rate. And in much of South Africa, the level of water in manmade lakes is decreasing.
Burger Schoeman supervises the Thuru Lodge in the Northern Cape. There, the dying plants and dry grounds are a serious concern.
In the past, the lodge was home to around 4,500 wild animals – including 35 different species, from antelope to rhino. But it has lost around 1,000 animals because of the drought. Now, dead animals sit in old, unused mines on the edge of the property.
Schoeman told reporters from the Reuters news agency, “At this stage we are quite stretched. All the money you get from selling the animals, the meat and all of that, gets put straight back into the property to look after the rest of the animals.”
The lodge has seen its spending rise as it buys more feed for the animals. At the same time, hunters are paying less, and fewer tourists are visiting because the animals are in poor condition.
At the 48,000-hectare Karreekloof Safari Lodge in the same province, game rangers find dead animals every week.
Gideon Watts is the ranch supervisor there. “Nobody wants to buy the game, because they also (are experiencing) ... the same drought,” he said. He added that his farm got only one-fourth of its usual rainfall this year.
The industry has seen a decrease of around 20 percent in tourists over the past year, said WRSA’s Kitshoff-Botha.
The drought has also hit other parts of Southern Africa. In Botswana, more than 100 elephants died in two months in 2019. Botswana is home to almost one-third of Africa’s elephants.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Tanisha Heiberg reported this story for Reuters News Agency. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
ranch – n. a large farm where animals are raised
province – n. any of the large parts that some countries are divided into
game – n. animals that are hunted
tourism – n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure
breeding – n. the process by which young animals are produced by their parents
species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants
ranger – n. a person in charge of managing and protecting part of a national park or wildlife lodge
NASA Observer Discovers Earth-sized World in ‘Habitable Zone’
A NASA satellite has discovered an Earth-sized world within its star’s “habitable” area -- where liquid water could possibly exist.
The world is known as an exoplanet. This term is used for planets that orbit a star outside of our own solar system.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, made the discovery. TESS was launched in 2018 to expand on the work of earlier exoplanets that space telescopes had discovered. Exoplanets are hard for telescopes to identify; the bright lights of the stars they orbit can hide them.
TESS contains four individual cameras that search for drops in light levels. This may be linked to planetary movements. Scientists then attempt to confirm the presence of worlds and try to estimate the size and orbit of the planets.
The newly found planet, called "TOI 700 d," is about 100 light years away from Earth, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. It is about 20 percent larger than Earth. TOI 700 d is one of three planets orbiting a star known as TOI 700.
The discovery was announced during a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Being in a star’s habitable area means that a planet has temperatures that could permit liquid water to exist on the surface. Since water is necessary for life as we know it, the presence of liquid means it could possibly support life.
Astronomers have not yet been able to measure TOI 700 d’s mass. Such measurements will be necessary to estimate whether it is a rocky planet like Earth, or a gassy one like Neptune.
Elisa Quintana is an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She told Nature magazine that few Earth-sized planets have been discovered in habitable areas. She says this makes the latest find “exciting.”
Scientists say they confirmed the planet information using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They have modeled the planet’s possible environments to help support future observation activities.
The modeling team for TOI 700 d is led by Gabrielle Engelmann-Suissa. She is a visiting research assistant at Goddard. She said in a statement that the modeling process is very important to help learn more about conditions on TOI 700 d as more data is collected.
“It’s exciting because no matter what we find out about the planet, it’s going to look completely different from what we have here on Earth,” Engelmann-Suissa said.
Another exoplanet discovery was also discussed at the Astronomical Society meeting. Scientists announced that TESS had found its first exoplanet orbiting two stars instead of one.
The planet is called TOI 1338 b, which lies about 1,300 light years away from Earth, NASA said. It is about seven times larger than Earth. That makes it between the sizes of Neptune and Saturn.
Astronomers have estimated that one of the planet’s stars is about 10 percent more massive than our sun. The other star is cooler, less bright and only one-third of our sun’s mass. The two stars orbit each other every 15 days.
These kinds of planets, called circumbinaries, are difficult to identify. So far, scientists have confirmed about 24 of them. The first such discovery came in 1993.
Overall, more than 3,500 exoplanets have been discovered over the past 20 years.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA, Agence France-Presse and Nature. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
habitable – n. able to be lived in
PM2.5 in two Bangkok areas at unsafe levels
By The Nation
Particulate matter less than 2.5 micrograms per cubic metre (PM2.5) in the air averaged 31-54mcg per cubic metre, exceeding the 50mcg per cubic metre air quality standard in two areas -- Pra Nakorn and Wang Thong Lang.
Most of the areas in Bangkok had moderate air pollution while the pollution levels in the two areas were harmful for health.
Taal Volcano erupts, Philippine govt orders evacuation
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the danger level to 4 late on Sunday, meaning a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours or days.
Earlier in the afternoon the volcano, which draws many tourists to the province of Batangas, blasted steam and ash up to 1 kilometer into the sky amid signs of its restiveness in recent months.
Phivolcs also recorded a swarm of earthquakes, some of them felt and with rumbling sounds, on Volcano Island and in villages at Agoncillo town in Batangas.
The southwest part ofthe island was showered with ashfall, Phivolcs said in a statement.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or tourists being stranded in affected villages frequented by foreign and local visitors.
Heavy ashfall in outlying areas prompted authorities to advise residents to wear masks.
Gov’t orders evacuation
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte had given orders for the evacuation of residents of villages near the volcano.
In a statement, Panelo gave assurance that government agencies “are now working closely with the provincial government of Batangas to ensure the safety ofthe residents, including their evacuation.”
As of 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, the evacuation, on boats and water ambulances, of close to 6,000 people from Volcano Island to the mainland towns of San Nicolas, Talisay, Agoncillo and Laurel was still going on, Alex Masiglat, spokesperson for the Batangas disaster council, reported.
Later, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that 6,000 people had been evacuated in Batangas, mostly from the towns of San Nicolas, Balete and Talisay.
Local authorities had yet to evacuate residents in the lakeside towns of Batangas and in Tagaytay City in Cavite province, famous for its scenic views of Taal Volcano.
In a statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat asked tourists to leave the Tagaytay-Batangas-Cavite area for their safety. Local visitors began to leave under open umbrellas in the afternoon as ashfall came down on Tagaytay Ridge.
“The skies turned sepia and you could actually hear the fine ash falling on the roof like termites,” said Lawrence Ramos, a resident of Dasmariñas City, Cavite, 30 km from the volcano.
Ashfall also showered in Silang and Amadeo, in Cavite, and in Calamba, Santa Rosa and San Pedro City in Laguna province.
Classes in school at all levels for Monday were called off in the entire Calabarzon Region, Central Luzon, and Metro Manila.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Phivolcs raised the danger level around Taal two notches to level 3, indicating “magmatic intrusion that is likely driving the current activity.”
Level 5, the highest, indicates an ongoing eruption.
If increasing unrest continues, Phivolcs said, eruption is possible “within day to weeks.”
Phivolcs warned the public to stay away from Volcano Island, in the middle of the lake where the volcano lies, and asked nearby coastal communities “to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest.”
Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said the volcano had been showing moderate to high level of seismic activity since March last year.
On Sunday, Phivolcs recorded three earthquakes,the first at 7:35 a.m. followed by two more at 10:43 a.m. and 2 p.m.
A seismic swarm, or a sequence of seismic events in the area in a short period of time, began around 11 a.m. and went on for a couple hours.
At 1 p.m. a phreatic explosion caused by hydrothermal activity began at Taal’s main crater, spewing ash and steam that rose as high as 100 meters.
Allan Loza, a science research specialist at Phivolcs, said that historically phreatic explosions happen before major eruptions.
“But there were instances when they did not. That’s why we’ll have to keep on monitoring,” he said.
Phivolcs said it also observed a slight inflation of the volcano edifice.
Flights over Taal were suspended following Solidum’s advice to airlines that smoke from the volcano posed danger to airplanes.
The Manila International Airport Authority issued the advice of flight suspension after 6 p.m., affecting both outgoing and incoming flights.
Solidum also advised the public that Taal’s main crater is strictly off-limits, as sudden steam explosions may take place and high concentrations of toxic gases can be released from the volcano.
Taal is the Philippines’ second most active volcano, with 34 recorded eruptions, the last one in 1977, which caused no casualties or damage.
Two of Taal’s most destructive eruptions happened in 1911, killing 1,335 people, and in 1965, killing about 200 in nearby villages.
One of the world’s smallest volcanoes, Taal is among about two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active region of the earth that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.—With reports from Julie M. Aurelio, Jeannette I. Andrade, Meg Adonis, Maricar Cinco, Dexter Cabalza, AP and Inquirer Research
January 13, 2020