Thursday, 3 September 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Nyala antelope

Male nyala
Male Nyala. 
These cautious and characteristic antelopes can live up to 19 years in the wild if not caught by predators or succumbing to illness. Their natural predators being lions, leopards and wild dogs while baboons and birds of prey hunt their young.

Both have a vertical white stripe running along their back, several white stripes along their sides and a white mark between their eyes. Males are much larger than females and have a distinctive pair of spirally horns with no pigment on the tips. They have a longish mane of hair running down the back of their necks, down their throats and chest area. The males are grey in colour and have bright yellowish legs while females and juveniles are reddish brown.


These antelopes are native to southern Africa, found not only in South Africa but in other countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

Nyala’s live in the dense bush or on the borders of forests close to water. They are not territorial animals often sharing the same water source or grazing in the same area.


Nyala’s are attentive and wary antelopes, who make a sharp, high, bark-like sound to alert others in the group to danger approaching. They will also react to the alert calls of other animals such as impalas, baboons and kudus. These antelopes have a white under tail marking which they display as a warning sign to others.  

Females form groups often with related members whereas adult males prefer to live alone. Herds usually browse and drink water together in their groups for safety. Their groups may range in size from two to ten antelopes, sometimes breaking up and forming again.


These antelopes have a herbivore diet munching on a variety of foliage, fruits, flowers and twigs and grazing on fresh grass during the rainy season. The males use their impressive spiralled horns for digging, while both sexes use their hooves to dig up their food. They prefer to eat in the cooler parts of the day; early mornings or late afternoons. Nyalas’ are never far from a water source as they need a daily drinking session.

Female nyala and offspring
Female Nyala with offspring. 

Females reach sexual maturity at a year old and males at 18 months of age. They breed throughout the year but mating takes place mostly in spring and autumn. Males compete for dominance using their horns in fights. They may also thrash bushes with their horns before or after fighting to demonstrate strength.

The mother gives birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 7 months and keeps them in hiding for 18 days. The calf will stay by their mother’s side only leaving when the next calf is born, but often never straying far.  

Did you know?

They are shy animals

Have large ears with great hearing but poor eyesight

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

All about South Africa's Casual Day

Casual Day 2015
Casual Day is the country’s leading fundraiser for persons with disabilities. The day has been celebrated on the first Friday of each September since the year 1995. This year it falls on Friday the 4th in the spring month of September. You too can partake in this worthy cause by buying a sticker from participating stores or NGO’S for only R10. There are 5 different stickers to buy this year, making a colourful collection. The theme for 2015 are all things spring – so dress up and think flowers, butterflies, bugs, Hawaiian t-shirts and more! Spring into Action.

Vanessa du Plessis leads the pack as project leader of Casual Day and happily gave some information about the yearly fundraiser.

What inspired the concept of Casual Day?

The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in SA, launched Casual Day along with a group of national organisations representing various disabilities with a view to becoming financially sustainable. The list of partners have grown to an exciting variety of 12 organisations - South African National Council for the Blind, South African Federation for Mental Health, Deaf Federation of South Africa, Autism South Africa, Down Syndrome South Africa, National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy, South African National Deaf Association, National Institute for the Deaf, Alzheimer’s South Africa, QuadPara Association of South Africa and the South African Disability Alliance.

The concept revolves around choosing a theme for the year and raising donations via a sticker. The idea is to devise a campaign where the public can dress up, but that also carries a deeper message of the project, hence Spring into Action – for persons with disabilities. By allowing donors to create their own interpretation of the theme ensures passion from all participants. The concept is also broad enough to appeal to children and adults from all walks of life.

Last year the project raised R28 million for persons with disabilities, bringing the total over 20 years to R222 million!

How are the Casual Day ambassadors chosen?

Casual Day ambassadors are all volunteers who have expressed an interest in self-advocacy. Goodwill Ambassadors are chosen because they:

- Demonstrate an active commitment to the promotion of disability awareness.
- Exemplify good citizenship and are passionate, courageous, inspiring, caring, principled,  credible and capable of acting as influential advocates for disability.
- Demonstrate leadership in their professions and a willingness to use their professional prestige and networks to promote the cause of disability.
- Represent positive role models for young people in particular.
- Are articulate and genuinely interested in the issues and willing to learn more through briefings and field visits, sometimes those involving difficult circumstances.
- Ability to reach specific audiences, including young people. Factors such as age, current following and previous work are considered.
- Reputation and integrity. Casual Day looks for individuals who share the same goals and ideals.

Are there any plans for the future of Casual Day?

Casual Day is in its 21st year and I have recently come on board to devise new and exciting ways to ensure the projects sustainability into the future. Without letting go of what was successful in the past – the sticker, the theme and the raising of donations directly from the public – we will be looking at extending the brand into other areas. Watch this space for exciting developments!

How did you get involved with the Casual Day project?

I was recruited by the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in SA, the owner of Casual Day. As the Public Relations Officer and later Deputy Executive Director of the National Council for the Blind, I was involved in the project as one of the national beneficiaries during the projects’ inception in the 90s. It was natural fit for me to come full circle to take on a major fundraising project for the disability sector.

What feelings does being project leader bring out in you?

While working with South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB), I was fortunate to participate in Project Renewal identifying the ‘poorest of the poor’ of blind citizens to ensure SANCB was meeting their needs. This was a pivotal life changing experience.

With over 20 years’ experience in the fundraising space, I relish this opportunity to ensure the sustainability of one of the best-loved brands in South Africa. It is a challenge for me because its funding model is unique. It does not fit within the traditional fundraising model where, for example, the donor pool includes only big corporate, government departments and high net worth individuals who bequeath money to organisations. Casual Day raises funds from the general public and has become one of the most established and well-loved brands in South Africa, raising donations from around 2.5 million South Africans.

In your own words how would you describe Casual Day and what the project entails?

It is a massive undertaking as we market and dispatch millions of items each year from our warehouse in Edenvale – sometimes 2000 parcels go to our participants. Our task is much more than selling stickers and merchandise.

At the core of the organisation is creating awareness of the human rights of persons with disabilities – 365 days a week. With the world economy in turmoil, there is a decline in funding for public benefit organisations from corporations and government departments. We must apply our minds to enterprise development and job creation for persons with disabilities and promote their independence from the need for funding. We can only do this by ensuring education and economic upliftment for persons with disabilities.

It is very important that we communicate the social impact of the funds. Each of the national beneficiaries and the 300 schools for learners with disabilities that raise funds through Casual Day have their own story to tell.

Casual Day 2015
The National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in SA runs a range of projects and programmes, including the Children’s Programme, which has wrapped up a major research project to identify the status quo of children with disabilities. Results show that the majority of children with disabilities are outside of the school system. Another programme focuses on the provision of specialised wheelchairs to children as there is a huge need for wheelchairs for children with multi-disabilities, meaning children with more than one disability as would be the case in a child with cerebral palsy. A major focus of NCPPDSA is also the accessibility of public buildings and transport.

Casual Day is a fun concept but its underlying concept is a very serious one.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Short-eared trident bat

With an impressive 1 240 breeds of bats worldwide they make up to 20% of all classified mammal species around the globe. 

Short-eared trident bat
Short-eared trident bat. 
In South Africa alone there are 56 different kinds of bats found. Bats break up into two distinctive groups, fruits bats and insect bats, with insect bats being higher in numbers of species.

Bats are small, shy mammals that take to the skies under the cover of the night in search of food. They are gentle wild animals with fur and forelimbs that form webbed wings.
These unique animals are not blind despite the myth surrounding them. They can all see with their small, black eyes and some even see extremely well.

The short-eared trident bat, also known as a Percival trident bat, is 7 cm in length with a wingspan reaching 15 cm and weighing a mere 5 grams. These small bats have a 3 prolonged trident nose between their beady eyes and small roundish ears sometimes hidden by long fur. Their faces are a whitish-yellow colour with a white to pale yellow underneath and wings dark in colour.
Lesser horseshoe bats roosting. 


Bats live in groups together called colonies. They roost in tight clusters hanging from the ceiling of caves or mine shafts. These winged animals live together ranging in small numbers to numbers in the hundreds.

Short-eared trident bats are found in the North east of vibrant South Africa in the provinces of North West, Gauteng and Mmpulanga. They are also found elsewhere in Zaire, Kenya, Botswana and other southern and central African countries.


They are very clean animals, grooming themselves thoroughly when not eating, sleeping or
attending to pups.  


Short-eared trident bats fall into the group of insect eating bats. Some bats can eat up to 600 bugs in just one hour!

A bat in flight. 
Bats have excellent hearing and use sonar calls referred to as echolocation. The short-eared trident bat uses their sonar calls to locate their bug meals and have the highest recorded echolocation frequency of all bats at 210 kHz. An average human hears a frequency of up to 20 kHz.


Female bats give birth to live bat babies called pups usually once a year. Pups are born pink and hairless with tiny wings. Mothers take care of their pups feeding them milk, teaching them skills to survive and giving them rides on their backs while in flight. Baby bats start learning to fly from 3 weeks of age and by 6 weeks old are able to take flight searching for food like the adult bats.

Short-eared trident bat
Short-eared trident bat.
Mother bats arrange a maternity colony together, finding a safe cave or mine shaft, where they can safely care for their pups. The mother will remember exactly where she left her pup amongst all the other bat babies.

Did you know?

Bats have been known to live up to 40 years.