African wildlife restoration

Wouter van Hoven speaks to a class at Rice Creek
Taken by Cheryl Sandrow | The Oswegonian

Scientists have taken measures to protect and maintain the wildlife in Angola and South Africa, as much of the wildlife is eaten for food, big cats are in danger of extinction and rhinos are killed for their horns.

Wouter van Hoven, director of wildlife management at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, spoke to over 100 students in the Campus Center auditorium Monday about the status of wildlife management in South Africa.

Wildlife numbers have dropped in Angola since the end of its 30 year long Civil War and residents are turning to animals for their food source.

Today groups of scientists are fixing this problem by transporting a variety of different wildlife animals from all over Africa over to Angola in order to increase the population in a project known as Noah’s Arc.

Van Hoven explained that much of the wildlife in South Africa is in danger due to poachers. 93 percent of rhinos live in South Africa yet most are killed for their horns. According to van Hoven, people will pay up to $50,000 for a kilogram of rhino horn.

China and Vietnam frequently purchase rhino horns for medicinal and aphrodisiac purposes, which according to van Hoven are not proven to be effective.

A USA Today article presented by van Hoven, stated that wildlife cats are declining in number and are reported to become extinct in the next 20 years.

Yet van Hoven explains scientists are combating declining numbers through various conservation efforts.

Conservationists are starting to inject jungle cats with GPS tracking devices, which will allow them to study the behavior of the cats and prevent extinction.

Field cameras allow scientists to see that no two cats have the same spot pattern on their fur.

These conservation methods are allowing scientists to see how the animal moves and where it is going, along with figuring out the population density of the cats.

“Promoting wildlife conservation outside of protected areas in Africa has been achieved by the authority to manage and utilize wildlife which has been devoted to the landholder level,” van Hoven said.

Parts of Africa are now rewarding land owners who protect the wildlife that lives on their land.

Cheetahs are another endangered cat that Van Hoven spoke about.

“They chase my students on motorcycles,” he said, laughing. And when showing a picture of a mother cheetah hugging its young the crowd was cracking when van Hoven said “well that’s a bit embarrassing for a predator.”

The students awed at the vast array of wildlife pictures van Hoven brought with him. From the cuddly pictures of the silver fox and cheetahs to the hippopotamus which van Hoven said “is a remembrance of my mother-in-law.” Students were able to see pictures of the half zebra-half donkey, which van Hoven referred to as a zonkey.

Though some parts of South Africa lack a sustainable wildlife population, other parts of are seeing the harsh result of an increased number of wildlife.

According to van Hoven, the overpopulation of elephants is destroying forests by striping bark from 100-year-old trees, causing it to die.

Van Hoven spoke to students about the Ecolife Expedition Program for college students, which he runs at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Students are taught wildlife ecology and animal capture techniques. They also explore the wildlife situation of Africa while coming in contact with the native people.

“You must learn something while having fun,” van Hoven said.

The Oswego ecology club organized Van Hoven’s attendance to Oswego State. Julibeth Saez, vice president for the club, said that this was the first time the club was able to get a speaker.

“We were very excited and happy to have him come,” Saez said.

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