Articles of ecological interest submitted by members of the Friends of Nylsvley

Private Jackie ‘the  Baboon’  of the 3rd South African Infantry

 by Vincent Carruthers
May 2020
An interesting article from the Magaliesberg Association for Culture & Heritage: MACH

The Birds our Teachers
by Gordon Hay


An article of current interest by Yolan Friedmann 

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has brought to the forefront new challenges and, therefore, opportunities in our lifetime. While we often feel invincible with our advanced technology, it is times like these that remind us we are powerless against nature. Millions of people around the world, working from home and watching the news, are stuck inside and feel disconnected from their environment. But the reality is the opposite – our impact on this planet over the past generations has a direct connection to the spread of this disease.

Deforestation and habitat reduction have driven wild animals out of their natural homes and into areas of human habitation. Continued demand for wildlife products means people encroach further into protected areas to extract wildlife and natural resources. The illegal wildlife trade, which is driven by human consumption, sees people (especially the poor and vulnerable at the lowest level of this supply chain) risking their health and safety to make a living.

As we expose ourselves to animals and plants in the wild and bring wildlife into urban areas as part of the wildlife trade, we increase the ways zoonotic diseases can hop from animals to humans. In our crowded world, viruses with high mutation rates can (relatively) quickly switch hosts in new ecosystems. In particular, the unregulated nature of illegal wildlife trade provides easy opportunities for pathogens to spread.

In 2012, journalist Jim Robbins wrote a prophetic piece in the New York Times. Disease, he observed, “is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic – they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.”

Was the decision by the United Nations to call 2020 a “super year for nature and biodiversity” also prophetic? Perhaps amongst the devastation caused by COVID-19, we will find the time and energy to consider our impact on this planet and its biodiversity. While the pandemic has delayed important international meetings on the environment and biodiversity, an increased focus on public-awareness and campaigning could bring positive impacts overall.

In February, COVID-19 drove the Chinese government to take drastic measures to stem illegal markets and ban wildlife consumption. Yes, there are loopholes that will continue to negatively impact wildlife. No, this was not a simple solution to the problems posed by illegal and unregulated wildlife trade. What remains to be seen is if consumer behaviour will change as a result of these regulations, and if pressure will reduce on some of the world’s most threatened and protected species.

Beyond the many lessons we will learn about public health and safety, we must keep in mind the impact we have on our environment. This too shall pass – and one day soon we will look back on COVID-19 as part of history. Will our attitude towards wildlife have changed? Will we have learned our lesson, and slowed exploitation of our planet’s biodiversity? Let us not take this lesson for granted and use this time to re-evaluate our actions on this planet and make sustainable choices now.

I am an ornithologist

Dedicated to Warwick and Michele Tarboton for 21 years of their support and leadership
of the Nylsvley Woodland Bird Census.

I am an ornithologist.
I love and study birds.
A lifelong dedication is
summed up in those 5 words. 


I am an ornithologist.
I know them all by name.
Especially the LBJ’s
which mostly look the same.

I am an ornithologist.
There’s nothing I don’t know
about our winged and feathered friends.
At least, I tell you so.

I am an ornithologist.
My office is outside:
the vlei, the wetland and the bush,
where all these blighters hide.

I am an ornithologist.
My calling is my trade.
I dedicate my time to serve,
with far too little paid.

I am an ornithologist.
It started long ago,
when way back we still had wild space
and rivers would still flow.
Today mankind has made its mark,
transformed our precious land,
and nature’s creatures big and small
are suffering by our hand.

I am an ornithologist.
I have a role to play
to keep the mines and greedy hands
from our natural sites away.
The battle can be hard and tough.
The pressure just too great.
But if we care and do enough
we change our wildlife’s fate.

I am an ornithologist.
I also like to shoot
at them, but with a lens.
The moorhen and the coot

are what I have my focus on.
Or better still, the rail.
But usually this creature shows
at most a tip of tail. 


I am an ornithologist.
A tweet to me is NOT
the kind of things that teens
(and statesmen) do a lot.
No no, it is the sound, the best,
which indicates to my delight
a new chick in the nest
before it fledges and takes flight.

I am an ornithologist.
But here I must admit
I tend to overstep the line
of taxa just a bit.
I also study dragonflies
and other things that flit
before my camera’s big lens
while at the hide I sit.

I am an ornithologist.
I’ve done my bit in life
to stem the tide of ignorance.
Together with my wife
we’ve written books and pamphlet guides
on things that fly and chirp and sing
to help each person get to know
the joy that these can bring.

I am an ornithologist.
I will not fail to share
the beauty and the miracle
and our duty that we care
for our feathered friends and others too.
We speak because they can’t:
Each tree, each bug, each fish and frog,
each animal and plant.

I am an ornithologist.
I pray that my legacy still rings
until one day in heaven when
I too will grow my wings.

Beate Hölscher January 2020