Weekend nature walk

Rondebosch Common with Table Mountain in the background

Rondebosch Common with Table Mountain in the background

I decided, a few weeks back, to make a point to walk on the weekends. Other than that I don’t really get a huge amount of exercise. Luckily, I’m not too far away from a large open area, Rondebosch Common. Many people in the surrounding area go there to walk, with or without their dogs, and it is one of the few places where you can still find Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, which only occurs in Cape Town. According to Wikipedia, 85% of its range has been lost and only 1% of what remains is protected. Rondebosch Common is one of those areas. It’s also interesting to note that South Africa’s Fynbos is one of the most diverse types of vegetation. Continue reading

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Animals and death

Last week, when I was driving to university, I passed what appeared to be a dead guinea fowl on the side of the road with a live one investigating the corpse. The guinea fowl incident reminded me of the links I’d been storing up relating to whether animals understand death and mourn when those they know die. This was a topic I found first in a BBC story and then later when it was also mentioned on WEIT. Continue reading

Do non-human animals have culture and morality?

Dolphins (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Obviously if you’ve read some of earlier posts you’ll now I think some of them do. Not all animals of course but some of them. I tried to convince you with my post on animal intelligence, specifically focussed on intelligence in animals other than primates, but I’ve since heard some more stories which I think are useful for expanding on some of the points I made there. This time I will be using some primate examples, since hopefully you’re convinced there is intelligence in other animals, as well as expanding on dolphins. Continue reading

Animal Intelligence

In my recent post on plant ethics I said that animals were of ethical concern because we have good reasons to believe that, like us, they are capable of thinking and feeling and so are able to suffer. In this post I want to share some of those reasons and hopefully convince you, if you aren’t already convinced, that animals are far more than just unthinking, unfeeling machines. Since we are so closely related to other primates I’m going to ignore those examples and rather focus on two other animal groups, dolphins and corvids (ravens and crows). Continue reading

Don’t blame animals for human behaviour

Just over a week ago a Scottish woman visitng South Africa was injured while in a Cheetah enclosure. Then another woman claimed that she had also been attacked by the same cheetahs a few years earlier. The manager of the facility then admitted there had been other minor incidents. I’ve petted a tame cheetah before and it really is a great experience because it’s the sort of animal that you admire because of it’s physical attributes. At the same time you need to realise that those same attributes make it a dangerous creature that is probably physically superior to you. Continue reading

Spiders to Spider-man

A few weeks back I had a lecture on photography and, to practice what we learned, we were sent outside to go and take some photographs. During that time I found a rather large and imposing spider, with a suitably large and imposing web, in one of the trees in the quad. It turned out to be quite a challenge to photograph a spider as it was in an awkward position, I only had the camera on my phone which wouldn’t auto-foucs on the spider, and I was a bit nervous about getting too close. I didn’t get a picture of it that day but I didn’t stop trying.

The spider was in the same quad where I went to eat my lunch so I got into the habit of keeping an eye on it and, occasionally, trying to take it’s photograph. Eventually I learned that my phone would actually hold it’s auto focus without taking the picture if you held down the camera button, which was a tip we were taught. That let me try a couple more times to get a picture and I did have a bit more success then, although I still didn’t know what kind of spider it was. Continue reading

Field Trip: Acacia stricta

A. stricta

This past week I have been on a field trip up in the George/Sedgefield area. I was part of a small team studying and removing Acacia stricta (hop wattle) plants, which are alien to South Africa. Overall I’d consider the trip a success. We removed a population of almost 1 000 trees over two days, mapped a few other populations and delivered fliers detailing the Early Detection and Rapid Response programme and to help identify various aliens. Outside of our official duties we also bought a few plants of our own, I will share mine shortly, and had some unexpected vehicle problems. Continue reading