Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fracking the Karoo

Hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) is a mining technique that results in the creation of fractures in rocks for the extraction of gas. Considerable controversy surrounds the current implementation of fracking in the United States as it is partly exempt from environmental auditing. Environmental safety and health concerns have emerged and are causing a high degree of concern – see . Now Shell and other companies want to Frack the Karoo – where we have no legistlation, information or experience with this technique.

Here are my ten reasons for why Fracking the Karoo is a very bad idea:

1. Its the extraction of a non-renewable resource
2. It involves the use of questionable / exploratory techniques with unforeseeable environmental consequences
3. Commissioning companies have questionable or self-serving track records (Shell, Bundu, Falcon)
4. Use of HUGE quantities of water – a limited resource in a semi-desert environment
5. Use of UNDISCLOSED chemicals and other potential pollutants to important underground aquifers
6. Extraction of this gas may sideline sustainable energy resources for the area for which the Karoo is perfect – wind and solar.
7. Aesthetically and environmental consequences of any mining include erection of drilling rigs, noise, traffic, light, dust and general pollution
8. If economically viable, companies will undoubtedly solicite permission for go-ahead by presssuring government to declare the gas a 'Nationally Strategic Energy Resource', which will effectively shortcut procedures and rights associated with the mineral act. This is apartheid era legislature that was enacted by the Apartheid government as a consequence of energy sanctions.
9. There is potential ozone pollution
10. Land devaluation of an ecologically sensitive area

Luckily these companies are up against South African environmentalists, and a Dutch princess. Legal counter action is being planned.

Add your vote to the protest here:

For more information regarding the environmental concerns regarding the fracking process visit 

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Nature's Valley via Addo - for a Chorister Robin and Cinnamon Dove

Thursday last week Anja and I drove to Addo via the Grootrivier valley (northern side of Baviaanskloof and Baviaans tourism's 'T3' route. We did a pentad (South African Bird Atlasing monitoring) on an unsurveyed section of the road close to the railway siding of Fullerton. It was eventful enough – flushing Sombre Greenbuls from the thickets, trying to sneak up on Grey-backed Finch-Larks and Namaqua Warbler, flushing off Booted Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Steppe Buzzard and a Fish Eagle.

Rock Kestrel in flight

Our ultimate destination for the day was the Rosedale Guest House just outside Addo town. Rosedale is an organic citrus farm, run by a charismatic and entertaining pair - Keith and Nondumiso. He is from Port Elizabeth and she from the old Transkei. In order to get married some 30 years ago under the apartheid regime, he was classified black at one stage, and she was classified 'honorary white'. After leaving in the pharmaceutical industry and starting citrus, they have now added hospitality to their list of achievements and their place is very nice. You can tell straight away its organic due to the large number of butterflies in the garden. Overall, very pleasant and highly recommended (not like the 'Reptile and Raptor' centre down the road at Lenmore – don't go there if you are into Reptiles or Raptors, but its okay if you're not).

After a tour of the organic orchard on the Friday morning we started our drive to Nature's Valley to meet up with the Lakes Bird Club for a bit of forest birding. Within minutes of arriving we were being shat on by Knysna Turacos – a token of good luck (so I told Anja anyway!). We had arrived early enough to do the Groot Rivier loop. By the way, this is a completely different Groot Rivier from the one we had driven along the previous day. The walk goes through one of the best preserved patches of South Africa's rainforest, with massive Yellow-wood trees.

The aim of the birding outing was to see Lemon (or Cinnamon) Dove and Chorister Robin. On arriving back to the campsite, we were greeted by both – the tame campsite Chorister Robin at one stage perching on my head while I tried to photo the slightly more wary Dove.

Immature Chorister Robin-Chat (Cossypha dichroa)

Lemon (Cinnamon) Dove (Aplopelia larvata)
The Saturday morning proved quite eventful. A pre-meet walk turned up some nice posing birds (see below). The group of about 15 of us were given an introductory walk by Geoff McIlleron, who was just launching his book 'Basic Bird ID' with club member Peter Ginn.

African Dusky Flycatcher (Muscicapa adusta)

Bar-throated Apalis (Apalis thoracica)

Green Wood Hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus)

Knysna Turaco (Tauraco corythaix)
Knysna Woodpecker (Campethera notata)
Olive Bush-Shrike (Telphorus olivaceus)

Black-backed Puffback (Dryoscopus cubla)

Sombre Greenbul (Andropadus importunus)

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