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South Africa in “Severe” Drought: To relieve impact Rangers kill 350 Hippos, Buffalos in Wildlife Park

South Africa's parks service stopped killing elephants to reduce overpopulation in 1994, partly because of public opposition

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a herd of buffalo pass by in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, Aug. 7, 2016. Rangers are killing about 350 hippos and buffalo in an attempt to relieve the impact of a severe drought. VOA
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Rangers in South Africa’s biggest wildlife park are killing about 350 hippos and buffalos in an attempt to relieve the impact of the region’s most severe drought in more than three decades.

The numbers of hippos and buffalos in Kruger National Park, about 7,500 and 47,000 respectively, are at their highest level ever, according to the national parks service. Officials plan to distribute meat from the killed animals to poor communities on the park’s perimeter.

The drought has left millions of people across several countries in need of food aid.

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Hippos and buffalos consume large amounts of vegetation, and many animals are expected to die anyway because of the drought, said Ike Phaahla, a parks service spokesman. A drought in the early 1990s reduced Kruger park’s buffalo population by more than half to about 14,000, but the population rebounded.

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Rangers are targeting hippos in “small natural pools where they have concentrated in unnatural high densities, defecate in the water, making it unusable to other animals,” Phaahla wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Parks officials have described drought as a natural way of regulating wildlife populations. Earlier this year, they said they didn’t plan any major intervention to try to save wild species in Kruger park, but the drought’s impact intensified. Hippos are in particular trouble because they can’t feed as widely as other animals, returning to water by day after grazing by night.

South Africa’s parks service stopped killing elephants to reduce overpopulation in 1994, partly because of public opposition.

Around 1900, hunting had cleared out elephants in the area that became Kruger park. Today, there are an estimated 20,000 elephants there. Poachers killed 36 elephants this year in the park, raising concerns that the Africa-wide slaughter of elephants for their ivory is finally affecting South Africa.

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Poachers have already killed large numbers of rhinos in the park, which borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique and is almost the size of Israel.

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Generations ago, an estimated 15,000 people lived in the area that was officially proclaimed as Kruger park in 1926. Some communities were removed from the wildlife reserve under white minority rule at that time.

“These people were pure hunter-gatherers and we greatly underestimate their role in shaping this ecosystem,” Phaahla said. “We have removed this important driver from the Kruger ecosystem and we are researching ways to simulate the return of their role again and the removals or offtakes (of some animals) aim to do just that.” (VOA)

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  • Anubhuti Gupta

    This just goes to show overpopulation is a menace in each and every kind of community. Such a large scale killing breaks my heart

  • Manthra koliyer

    The animals should not be attacked due to droughts. I wonder what is the BLUE CROSS doing?

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Chocolate Ingredient Cacao Dates Back To 5,400 yrs Ago

A growing interest in cacao flavors, indicates a return to a time when chocolate wasn't just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.

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A worker holds dried cacao seeds at a plantation in Cano Rico, Venezuela. 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.

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-A cacao pod hangs from a tree at the Agropampatar chocolate farm co-op in El Clavo, Venezuela. VOA

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.

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A light almond cream candy carries the initials for Russell Stover Candies in Kansas City, Kansas. VOA

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.

 

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A worker holds cocoa beans at SAF CACAO, a export firm in San-Pedro, Ivory Coast, Jan. 29, 2016. VOA

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.

Also Read: Consuming Cacao May Improve Vitamin D Intake, Says Study

He said he tries to incorporate chocolate’s past into his classes, including a 1644 recipe that combines Mayan and Aztec versions of drinks with European influences.

“It’s something that’s always been transforming,” he said. (VOA)