Last update08:00:00 PM GMT

Agri News

The Government of Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is sending 10 white rhinos to the Democratic Republic of Congo to enhance its rhino regional conservation program.

According to IUCN Rhino Specialist Group, 98% of the world`s white rhino population is in South AfricaNamibiaZimbabwe, and Kenya.

The move is adhering to local and international wildlife translocation protocols, particularly IUCN rhino pre-translocation guidelines and the African Rhino Range States’ African Rhino Conservation Plan.

The African Rhino Conservation Plan is designed to secure viable, growing, and valued rhino populations across the African landscape with a goal of ensuring that continental rhino numbers increase by the end of 2020.

Some of the reasons for the relocation of there rhinos include:

  • Contribution to African Rhino Range States’

  • African Rhino Conservation Plan through Expanding the Rhino Range Area.

  • The exercise is reportedly a deliberate effort to enhance the security and genetic proliferation of the species at a regional level.

  • Zimbabwe’s Rhino Conservation: Zimbabwe is one of the most important rhino range countries in the world and has seen steady population growth of both white and black rhinos. In the recent past, Zimbabwe has been instrumental in repopulating new and rehabilitated former range areas such as the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Eight black rhinos were sent to the Okavango Delta in 2016as part of the 20 country to country rhino donation to Botswana.

  • Poaching and Security Status of Rhinos In the DRC: The Zimbabwean Government is aware that the DRC lost its Northern white rhino population to extinction largely due to poaching. However, for this exercise, a management and scientific assessment of the security and law enforcement status and potential biological proliferation of the rhinos was done to inform the translocation requirements. Since the Northern white rhino went extinct in the DRC, there are no fears of gene dilution with the rhinos intended to be translocated from Zimbabwe which are Southern white rhinos. The Zimbabwean Government was confident that the pre and post-translocation conditions in the DRC met the requisite standards for a successful re-establishment of rhinos in that country.

  • Sources of the Rhinos: The 10 rhinos are being translocated from three different sources; Lake ChiveroKyle Recreational Parks and Matopo National Park. Rhinos at Lake Chivero and Kyle have reached near ecological carrying capacity and the translocation is approved through National Rhino Conservation and Management Strategy. But is this the most efficient way to protect the future of the rhino species? Zim

Did you know that there is an entire cluster of living things within you, which play a major role in the state of your physical and mental well-being? As a matter of fact, your gut is full of an entire colony, with more than 100 trillion tiny, yet mighty, bacteria. In simple words, your life literally depends on them. If you spend years taking rounds of antibiotics for every ill and ache, eat fast-food four days a week, and snack on heavily-processed junk all day, you are destroying the good bacteria within your microbiome. With widespread unhealthy diets, never-ending external…
Earlier this week, global news outlets reported that 90 carcasses of illegally killed elephants had been found around a famous wildlife sanctuary – the Okavango Delta – in Botswana. The elephants appeared to have been killed for their tusks a few weeks ago. Dr Mike Chase, a scientist who founded and directs Elephants Without Borders, a research and conservation organisation, made the finding while conducting an aerial survey of Botswana’s wildlife. The survey began on 10 July 2018. A statement by the Botswana government denies the finding, claiming that the number is only 53, with the majority of carcasses suggesting…
Wednesday, 12 September 2018 10:54

NCPB facing difficulties in selling imported maize

The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is currently struggling to sell imported maize. The maize in question was imported under the subsidy program meant to cushion consumers from high flour prices. Now the millers are reportedly reluctant to buy the maize being sold at US $22.85 (Sh2,300) per 90kg bag despite having been imported at US $39.74 (Sh4,000). According to media reports, the NCPB is holding 350,000 out of the 630,000 bags it released to millers last year at Sh2,300 before the end of the subsidy program on December 31, 2017. The board’s corporate affairs manager Mr. Titus Maiyo…

An outbreak of swine fever confirmed at a farm in Gifu over the weekend has led to the culling and burying of 546 hogs and the halt of pork exports across Japan, authorities said Monday.

The shipment ban is expected to be in place for at least three months until Japan is declared clear of the disease, which only affects pigs and wild boars and has an almost 100 percent fatality rate. Japan’s pork exports totaled ¥1 billion ($9 million) in 2017.



Around 140 pigs at the farm have died from the disease, also known as hog cholera, over the past week. The symptoms include motor difficulty and loss of appetite.

The disease does not affect humans even if meat from an infected animal is consumed.

All of the dead pigs had been buried at the farm by Monday morning, and the disinfection of the facility is expected to be completed by Tuesday.

Though hog cholera is endemic in Asia, it is the first time since 1992 an infection has been found in Japan. Tokyo declared the virus eradicated in 2007.

It is not yet clear how the outbreak started, and the central and prefectural governments will look into the cause. The Gifu Prefectural Government pointed to the possibility that inflected boars or pigs were brought in from outside.

The farm had been shipping pork until last Wednesday, two days after a pig suddenly died there. While the animal did not test positive during a preliminary screening by the local government, further tests by the central government found Sunday that the pig was infected with the virus.

At a task force meeting Sunday, farm minister Ken Saito pledged to contain the virus.

“First responses are crucial,” he said.

Pork exports can resume once countries that import Japanese pork products approve. JN

When Mike Canaday started renting goats in 2003, most of the calls he received were from landowners who wanted to clear dense brush on their properties. As word spread about the effectiveness of the four-legged lawnmowers, Canady started fielding questions from prospective customers about whether his herd of 150 goats could eat enough brush to create firebreaks in wildfire-prone areas. The answer was yes. Today, Canaday owns 3,500 Boer, Kiko, LaMancha, and Spanish breeds, and his company, Living Systems Land Management, is so busy that he has to maintain a waiting list for people to rent out his goats. He attributes the growth of his San Francisco Bay Area–based business to a single factor: wildfires.

“We are screaming busy from mid-April to mid-July because of the fires,” he says.

Across California and the West, goats are being dispatched to overgrown patches of land to chomp down vegetation and help create firebreaks to prevent fires from jumping from wildlands to homes and businesses. Thanks to their voracious appetites—goats can eat up to 10 pounds of vegetation per day—and ability to navigate difficult terrain, the ravenous ruminants are on the front lines of fire prevention.

“When we graze goats in an area, all of the fuel is removed before fire season and it doesn’t grow back until the following season—and it’s much safer to have goats graze difficult terrain,” says Kenneth VanWig, chief of the Ventura County Fire Department, one of Canaday’s clients. The fire department began using goats about a decade ago, and VanWig says the four-legged firefighters are the best fire prevention tools available. “We’ve had huge success.”

While there are no statistics on the number of acres goats are clearing or the number of goat rental businesses offering fire prevention services, there is solid data that climate change is increasing the likelihood that fires will become more intense while also lengthening the fire season. In 2018, 43,255 fires (and counting) have been reported nationwide, burning almost 6 million acres—the highest number of fires since 2012.

Scenes of wildfires destroying entire suburban neighborhoods have led to increased demand for goat-rental companies across the West. Companies like The Goat WorksCity Grazing, and We Rent Goats (which operates in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada) all market their herds as an ecofriendly method of fire prevention. One of the co-owners of California-based Ranchito Tivo told the LA Daily News that he now receives more calls for work than his goats can handle. The increased demand has even spawned goat franchises like Rent-A-Ruminant and Rent a Goat.

Most of the goats in Canaday’s herd are rented to large landowners like golf courses, government agencies, and utilities. He doesn’t take projects less than five acres in size, and some brush-clearing projects consist of hundreds of acres. Canaday and his crew of 14 herders erect portable fencing to contain the goats, fills water troughs, and set the herds loose on sites from Santa Rosa in Northern California to Orange County. Herders move the herds (which can include as many as 450 goats) almost daily, establishing a grid for targeted vegetation removal. Then the caprine cleaning crew noshes all the shrubbery in their path and, voila, the cleared area becomes a firebreak.

The Ventura County Fire Department budgets $935 per acre to have goats graze at two sites: The 29 acres near the Los Padres National Forest in Ojai and the 13-acre Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Fire chief VanWig would like to see the budget increase so the fire department can rent additional goats to create even more firebreaks; when that happens, he hopes local companies can keep up with the demand. “There’s a lot of interest in using goats for fire prevention,” he says. “We’re getting a lot more calls from homeowners who want referrals; we keep a list of contacts to give them because the requests are constant.”

Tony Gonzalez, owner of Gonzalez Brush Busters, is another goat herder who is hiring out more goats than ever before. Gonzalez rents his herd of Kiko goats to clear brush on plots of land ranging from half an acre to more than 50 acres around Lake County, California. About three-quarters of the calls Gonzales receives are from homeowners associations, businesses, and public agencies located near previous wildfires.

“Once fire season starts, the phone never stops ringing,” says Gonzalez, who plans to double the size of his 200-goat herd. His current herd is almost entirely booked for the 2019 fire season.

“Unless you pour concrete, the grasses will keep coming back; I call that job security.”

Goat herders like Canaday and Gonzalez say targeted grazing for fire prevention is a more environmental method than chemical brush removal and safer than controlled burns or mechanized abatement that could, during times of drought, spark an out-of-control fire. “Once people see what the goats can do, they want us to come back,” Gonzalez says.

Although goats are adorable and the demand for ruminant rental is on the rise, Canaday cautions that the business is far from a get-rich-quick scheme. In addition to upward of $100,000 in initial investment for grazing land, livestock trailers, portable fencing, and a herd of goats, the animals require constant oversight. The recent escape of 118 goats hired through We Rent Goats to clear public lands near a Boise neighborhood is an example of what can happen if herders leave the animals unattended.

Canaday believes the effort is worth the investment. “Goats are sustainable,” he says. “You can’t pour poisons on the ground for years to kill the weeds and think it’s sustainable. Goats, if properly managed, leave the earth better than they found it, and you know that your goats can help save people’s homes and, sometimes, people’s lives.”Sierra

Banks are worried that South Africa is taking a wrong turn with laws being considered by the nation’s parliament that could leave the economy worse off. “They do not seem to be the legislative underpinning of a comprehensive, implementable national economic recovery plan,” the Banking Association of South Africa said in a statement distributed in Johannesburg on Thursday. “Rather they seem ideologically motivated and do little to address the real needs of an economy desperately in need of jobs, effective transformation and empowerment programs, and inclusive growth.” The comments come as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress embraces calls…

For the first time, mainland extinctions eclipsed island extinctions, primarily due to rampant deforestation in South America, especially in Brazil, to make way for large-scale agriculture and industrial activities

Spix’s (little blue) macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), mounted specimen at Museum fur Naturkunde, Berlin. Spix’s macaw is extinct in the wild.
(Credit: Daderot / Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.)DADEROT VIA A CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE

In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances, it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence.”

— Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic (1953), p. 95

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Absence of evidence

Thanks to our best efforts to completely remake the world according to our standards, eight more species of birds are probably extinct, including three species of parrots, according to a new study by Birdlife International.

This new study, led by BirdLife International’s Chief Scientist, Stuart Butchart, and his collaborators tested six statistical methods to analyse 51 Critically Endangered birds, using a range of thresholds to assign species to the IUCN Red List Categories, and compared their results with the species’ current categories (ref). The methods simultaneously quantified three factors: intensity of threats, timing and reliability of records, and the timing and quantity of search efforts for the species. Based on their analysis, Dr. Butchart and his collaborators recommend that if both the probability that a species remains extant based on threats and the probability based on records and surveys falls below 0.5, it should qualify as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct), whereas if both probabilities fall below 0.1 it should qualify as Extinct. Their novel approach resulted in an 80% match with the current IUCN Red List classification of species.

Based on their analysis, Dr. Butchart and his collaborators recommend that eight birds be reclassified on the IUCN Red List, with three being reclassified as Extinct.

Historically, most avian extinctions resulted from the impacts of invasive alien species (46%) and hunting/trapping (26%) on islands. But surprisingly, Dr. Butchart and his collaborators found that five of the eight confirmed or suspected extinctions took place on the South American mainland, with four of them occurring in Brazil, a disturbing finding that reflects the devastating effects of habitat loss due to rampant deforestation in this part of the world.

“Ninety per cent of bird extinctions in recent centuries have been of species on islands,” Dr. Butchart said in email. “However, our results confirm that there is a growing wave of extinctions sweeping across the continents, driven mainly by habitat loss and degradation from unsustainable agriculture and logging.”

Chromolithograph of a pair of New Caledonian (diademed) lories (Charmosyna (Hypocharmosynadiadema). Plate LIV from A monograph of the lories, or brush-tongued parrots, composing the family Loriidae, by St. George Jackson Mivart (1827–1900). Artwork by John Gerard Keulemans (1842-1912), published by R. H. Porter (London) in 1896.
(Credit: John Gerard Keulemans / Public domain.)JOHN GERARD KEULEMANS

The extinct parrots include the elusive New Caledonian lorikeet, Charmosyna diadema (last spotted in 1987), an island species that nested in arboreal termite nests or epiphytic ferns in the forests of New Caledonia. Although it is not clear, this mysterious little parrot could have been driven extinct by one or more of a variety of threats: introduced rats, cats, or habitat fragmentation and destruction.

The extinct glaucous macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus) was a large blue South American parrot. This macaw was closely related to Lear’s macaw (A. leari) and the hyacinth macaw (A. hyacinthinus), both of which still exist, but are endangered. In its native home of Guaraní, the glaucous macaw was locally known as guaa-obi for its vocalizations.
(Credit: Bourjot Saint-Hilaire / Public domain.)BOURJOT SAINT-HILAIRE

Two of the four South American blue macaw species are also recommended to be classified as Extinct: the glaucous macaw, Anodorhynchus glaucus (last seen in 1998), and Spix’s (little blue) macaw, Cyanopsitta spixii, which Dr. Butchart and his collaborators recommended be treated as Extinct in the Wild, since there is a captive population estimated to number somewhere between 60-80 individuals. The disappearance of the glaucous macaw from its range in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil is linked to trapping for the wild bird trade (as is true for all the blue macaws), and to large-scale agriculture, which prompted uncontrolled clearing of the yatay palm, Butia yatay, whose nuts were its primary food.

The public first became aware of the plight of the Spix’s macaw after watching the 2011 animated film Rio, which tells the story of Blu, a captive-raised Spix’s macaw who travels to Brazil to mate with Jewel, the last-known wild member of the species. Later in 2016, the conservation and parrot worlds were briefly set aflame with hope when an individual was spotted and filmed flying over the small town of Curaçá, which is in this species’s historic range (more here). Sadly, that individual, which has never been seen again, is believed to have been an escaped cage-bird.

In addition to the two extinct macaws, two endemic Brazilian songbirds are also listed as Extinct -- the cinnamon-colored cryptic treehunter, Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti (last seen in 2007), and its doppelgänger, the Alagoas foliage-gleaner, Philydor novaesi. Both birds disappeared after the last remnants of their forest habitat were replaced with sugar cane plantations and pasture. The Alagoas foliage-gleaner actually managed to hang on until 2011, when it was last sighted and filmed. Recordings of both species’ songs and calls exist (for example, here and here), and serve as a haunting reminder of these lost species.

The Pernambuco pygmy owl, Glaucidium mooreorum, is a small insect-eating owl endemic to the state of Pernambuco in Brazil. Although it was last seen in 2001, it was only formally described as a species that was new to science in December 2002 after two study skins were examined (ref). Due to the almost complete destruction of its habitat by illegal logging, this owl species was recommended to be treated as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).

Pernambuco pygmy owl, (Glaucidium mooreorum) was only discovered when we killed it off.
(Credit: Carl Christian Tofte (watercolor) / José Maria Cardoso da Silva, Galileu Coelho and Luiz Pedreira Gonzaga (2002) Ararajuba 10(2):123-130, PDF)CARL CHRISTIAN TOFTE

Another island species, the po’o-uli, or black-faced honeycreeper, Melamprosops phaeosoma, was also recommended to be treated as Extinct. The po’o-uli was a snail-eating Hawaiian songbird that has not been seen in the wild since 2004, which is the same year that the last captive individual of the species died (you can read more in my review of the book detailing the heartrending conservation effort devoted to this species).

A wild po’o-uli (Melamprosops phaeosoma) in Hawaii.
(Credit: Paul E. Baker / USFWS / Public domain).PAUL E. BAKER

The Java lapwing, Vanellus macropterus, is another island species that was recommended to be listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). Large with extremely long legs and distinctive plumage markings, this wading bird was really difficult to miss, and it was last spotted in 1994. It inhabited marshes and river deltas of Java, and possibly Sumatra and Timor as well. This species succumbed to extensive habitat degradation and destruction of its marshy home, combined with relentless hunting.

Adult male Javanese lapwing, (Vanellus macropterus), was a large, long-legged wader that inhabited the marshes and river deltas of Java, and possibly Sumatra and Timor. It went extinct due to extensive habitat degradation and destruction, and because it was relentlessly hunted.
(Credit: Nicolas Huet / Public domain.)NICOLAS HUET

Evidence of absence?

As I read this study, I was concerned that the models predict higher than expected probabilities of survival based upon unsubstantiated observations. One such example is the ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, which is certainly extinct and likely has been since the early-to-mid 20th Century, despite the presumption by Dr. Butchart that it may have been alive in 2006, but may now have gone extinct (ref).

“The issue is, where do these ‘expectations’ come from?” said ecologist Mark Burgman, a professor at The University of Melbourne, who specializes in applying model-based risk assessments to problems in conservation biology, and who was not part of this study.

“All records are uncertain to some extent, even museum and herbarium records that ‘seem’ concrete,” Professor Burgman explained in email. “Scientists form opinions about the likelihood that a species is extinct from all kinds of sources. These papers are trying to assemble all the evidence, give each element appropriate weight, and then combine them rationally into an overall judgement.”

“The methods themselves are sound, but the contributing data may not be,” Professor Burgman added. “Thus, if we discover in hindsight, that the outputs of these analyses are consistently too optimistic, then the fault will lie in the fact that we have given too much credibility to some observations rather than others. But it’s very difficult to know a priori which the culprits might be. This is an empirical question, and only careful observation will resolve it. Hopefully, in time, we’ll learn enough to be able to assign weights to evidence correctly.”

Rare species are often elusive, and may live in terrain that makes it difficult to see them even under the best of conditions.

“Determining whether a species has gone extinct is challenging as it is often difficult to tell if the last few individuals have died, especially for poorly known species in remote locations,” Dr. Butchart explained in email. “While we need an accurate measure of extinction rates, giving up on a species prematurely risks committing the so-called ‘Romeo Error’, where conservation efforts are abandoned prematurely on the presumption that the species has disappeared.”

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that essential resources for conservation efforts are often in short supply.

“We’ve got limited conservation resources so we need to spend these wisely and effectively. If some of these species have gone we need to redirect these resources to those that remain,” Dr. Butchart said in email.

Recognizing that accurate assessments of the moment of extinction are difficult to make with many elusive species, the paper’s authors point out that the “possibly extinct” classification is an extremely cautious judgment which almost certainly means that the species has vanished.

This method could be applied to other taxa, such as mammals, amphibians, or even plants, according to Dr. Butchart, who said their methodology would increase the robustness of extinction rate estimates and species classifications on the IUCN Red List. There are plenty of “test candidates” available: currently, more than 26,000 species worldwide are now threatened with extinction according to the most recent Red List. Because humans are driving this, the Sixth Great Extinction Event, plenty more species are being added to the list.

Dr. Butchart and his colleagues’ statistical model estimates a revised total of 187 avian extinctions have occurred since 1500.

“The results show that the state of the world’s birds is significantly worse than previously estimated,” Dr. Butchart said in email. Yet, there is still hope. This analysis provides conservation biologists with vital information on where to focus their efforts.

A captive-bred Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation in Qatar.
(Credit: Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation.)AL WABRA WILDLIFE PRESERVATION

This brings us back to Spix’s macaw, which is Extinct in the Wild, but still exists in captivity. Has this species been saved? Considering that many species lose their wild culture after being taken into captivity, at least some people think a species hasn’t been “saved” at all if it only exists in a cage. Certainly, it would be a grave injustice to suggest that captive breeding alone is conservation: on one hand, aviculture is a wonderful tool for helping to preserve a species, but on the other hand, it does not and cannot solve ecological problems.

“While the results suggest that it is too late to help some iconic species, birds are better known than any other taxonomic class, so we know which species are at greatest risk and what actions and which locations are needed to save them,” Dr. Butchart said. “Our study should inspire a redoubling of efforts to prevent further human-induced extinctions in the coming years.”


Stuart H.M. Butchart, Stephen Lowe, Rob W. Martin, Andy Symes, James R.S. Westrip, and Hannah Wheatley (2018). Which bird species have gone extinct? A novel quantitative classification approachBiological Conservation227(4):9–18 | doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.08.014

The ANC and Agri SA and its members had a productive and fruitful discussion on various issues pertaining to the agricultural sector. More than 200 members, which included farmer representatives from Agri SA’s provincial, commodity and corporate chambers were present. Members had the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding the agricultural sector to the leadership of the ANC.“This engagement with the ANC is of immeasurable value, we are optimistic about the future of a sustainable agricultural sector in South Africa,” said Dan Kriek, Agri SA President. “I feel that the ANC heard our concerns and will take it into consideration…
Page 1 of 366