Letters to the Editor
Cellphone coverage in the Park
To The Editor:
In response to the letter from Mrs C Nienaber ('Emergency Number', page 13, Issue 23), I would like to say that I feel the exact opposite way. The best thing that can happen regarding cellphone coverage in Kruger, according to me, is for all existing coverage to be removed. There is nothing more irritating that sitting at a wonderful game sighting (trying to record it on video) and having a cellphone ring in the vehicle next to you and the lady conveying her experiences to whoever is in the other side of the line at the top of her voice. I had this experience a while back close to Skukuza and, to be quite honest, if I have a breakdown I'd rather wait for the next vehicle to come past (which will eventually happen if you stick to legal roads) than have the experience ruined throughout the entire park. Nowadays I will not even stay in any of the camps that do offer coverage!
Johan Kruger, Pretoria
Dry wood conservation
I have lately noticed a weekend exodus out of Hoedspruit and trailers loaded with dry leadwood (Combretum imberbe). The wood I assume is carried away for beautifying Gauteng gardens and for braais on leadwood fires. More and more dead trees are harvested for the building/upgrading of lodges and bushveld weekend homes. The dramatic increase of dead tree harvesting and exporting out of this area is alarming. But why conserve dead trees you ask?
Dead trees play a very important role; removing dead trees from an ecological system has the same effect as removing a link from a chain. Dry wood provides shelter to many smaller animals such as rodents, reptiles, and insects. It is the staple diet of the wood-eating termites. Removal of dead wood deprives the termites of this food resource and so termites move into living trees. Dry wood acts as important erosion control. Branches provide shelter for grass seeds from where the seeds can disperse into surrounding topsoil. The dry wood breaks the speed of water flowing over exposed topsoil and thereby helps combat erosion.
Dead leadwood trees have been carbon dated to have remained standing for several hundreds of years after they died. Leadwoods have very hard wood and predators find it almost impossible to enter nesting sites in these trees, providing almost impenetrable fortresses for more vulnerable animals. Large leadwood trees provide ideal perches for generations of our larger bird species such as vultures and raptors. The heavy branches can support their weight with enough height and space to get their large wingspan operational.
At night they are safe from nocturnal predation and have early morning vantage points to spot other bird activity. These silent giants seem to have a life of their own and I cannot imagine a bushveld landscape without these beautiful trees. Agriculture forms an important aspect of our local economy. Bush clearing in these areas is therefore a reality. A number of landowners on game farms and smaller reserves however allow the removal of leadwood stumps. Dry wood is also indiscriminately harvested for nightly boma fires.
Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) is an invader species in many areas and removed for that reason. As a hard wood it makes equally authentic braai /boma firewood. I think it is time that we review our utilisation of dry wood and start to incorporate this into conservation thinking. Conservation goes beyond the obvious and I hope that greater discretion might stop these quiet giants' disappearance from our landscape.
Hennie van Deventer