Rescuers are moving hundreds of dehydrated lesser flamingo chicks from their breeding ground at a drought-stricken South African dam to a bird sanctuary in Cape Town, to save them from death by starvation and lack of water.
Their birthplace, Kamfers Dam in the Northern Cape, is one of only three breeding grounds for the famously pink birds in southern Africa, the other two being in Namibia and Botswana, according to researcher Katta Ludynia.
The rescued chicks take three to four months to fledge, and it is not yet clear whether they will eventually be released back into the wild in Cape Town or transported back hundreds of kilometers to their home in Kimberley, she said.
“There are still several thousand birds breeding in the dam in areas that still have water,” said Katta Ludynia, research manager at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB). “It now depends on the water levels whether these birds will pull through.”
Ludynia said the sanctuary was caring for around 550 chicks, most of them dehydrated when they arrived Monday after having been abandoned by parents who went off in search of food.
The chicks are being moved to the sanctuary by plane and road.
SANCCOB is one of several centers across South Africa caring for around 2,000 chicks that were rescued from the dam.
Although it hosts the biggest population of lesser flamingoes in southern Africa, Kamfers Dam, north of Kimberley, is often dry and depends mainly on rainwater. It also gets some water from a sewerage works that releases water into its wetlands.
“The dam in Kimberley is so important because it is manageable, so we can secure the water level there. That might be the only site the flamingos can breed in southern Africa, if the drought continues in other areas,” Ludynia said. (VOA)
New research strengthens the case that people used the chocolate ingredient cacao in South America 5,400 years ago, underscoring the seed’s radical transformation into today’s Twix bars and M&M candies.
Tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from an archaeological site in Ecuador, according to a study published Monday. That’s about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America.
“It’s the earliest site now with domesticated cacao,” said Cameron McNeil of Lehman College in New York, who was not involved in the research.
The ancient South American civilization likely didn’t use cacao to make chocolate since there’s no established history of indigenous populations in the region using it that way, researchers led by the University of British Columbia in Canada said.
But the tests indicate the civilization used the cacao seed, not just the fruity pulp. The seeds are the part of the cacao pod used to make chocolate.
Indigenous populations in the upper Amazon region today use cacao for fermented drinks and juices, and it’s probably how it was used thousands of years ago as well, researchers said.
Scientists mostly agree that cacao was first domesticated in South America instead of Central America as previously believed. The study in Nature Ecology & Evolution provides fresh evidence.
Three types of tests were conducted using artifacts from the Santa Ana-La Florida site in Ecuador. One tested for the presence of theobromine, a key compound in cacao; another tested for preserved particles that help archeologists identify ancient plant use; a third used DNA testing to identify cacao.
Residue from one ceramic artifact estimated to be 5,310 to 5,440 years old tested positive for cacao by all three methods. Others tested positive for cacao traces as well, but were not as old.
How cacao’s use spread between South America and Central America is not clear. But by the time Spanish explorers arrived in Central America in the late 1400s, they found people were using it to make hot and cold chocolate drinks with spices, often with a foamy top.
“For most of the modern period, it was a beverage,” said Marcy Norton, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World.”
The chocolate drinks in Central America often contained maize and differ from the hot chocolate sold in the U.S. They did not contain milk, Norton said, and when they were sweetened, it was with honey.
By the 1580s, cacao was being regularly imported into Spain and spread to other European countries with milk being added along the way. It wasn’t until the 1800s that manufacturing advances in the Netherlands transformed chocolate into a solid product, Norton said.
Michael Laiskonis, who teaches chocolate classes the Institute of Culinary Education, said he’s seeing a growing interest in cacao flavors, indicating a return to a time when chocolate wasn’t just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.