Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘stamps and stories’

The meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein.

The meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein.

“Beware of falling meteorites.” The warning on a sign next to the way to the meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein, is a joke of course. It is almost 80,000 years since a meteorite last fell from the sky and hit this spot. But there is a grain of truth in the banter: according to estimates earth is hit by approximately 500 meteorites per year. Most of them are rather small, however, their size ranging from that of a glass marble to that of a basketball, and for the most part they go unnoticed. The Hoba meteorite, on the other hand, is a chunky fragment weighing tons. It is likely to have caused a violent tremor when it crashed into the ground…. Click here to continue reading this story

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The black eagle or Verreaux’s eagle, as it’s officially called, is one of four large African eagle species – the others being the martial eagle, crowned eagle and our national bird, the African fish eagle – each specializing in a different ecosystem.

Black Eagle. Photo: Jutta Luft, Wikipedia

Black Eagle. Photo: Jutta Luft, Wikipedia

This king of the skies inhabits mountains, hills, cliffs and broken rocky habitats throughout southern and eastern Africa, from Table Mountain to Israel, excluding the Kalahari basin. There are about 500 to 1000 pairs of black eagles in Namibia, from the cliffs of the Orange and Fish rivers and the Karas Mountains in the south through the western escarpment belt, the Khomas Hochland, the Waterberg, Kaokoveld and to the Kunene River in the north.

Verreaux’s eagle, Aquila verreauxii, has a wingspan of about 2 m and like most birds of prey (‘raptors’) the female (±4.5 kg) is larger than the male (±3.7 kg). One of the reasons for this may be because smaller males are more agile and proficient hunters, while females need a good supply of body fat reserves to incubate eggs and brood small nestlings for long periods.

The eagle’s main prey is the rock hyrax or dassie. In some areas where hyrax are plentiful and readily accessible they may comprise 90% or more of the eagle’s diet while in other areas they comprise as little as 50%, with other medium sized mammals (e.g. hares, rabbits, small antelopes) and medium to large birds (e.g. guineafowl, francolin and bustards) making up the balance. Verreaux’s eagle will also scavenge. It sits imperiously on top of a carcass which, if it is a sheep, leads farmers to assume that the eagle killed the animal.

Seven such incidents were investigated with farmers and in six it was found that the sheep died of other causes, mainly predation by domestic dogs, birth problems or disease. In the 1970s and early 1980s farmers in the Karas Mountains, because of perceptions of small-stock predation, largely eliminated Verreaux’s eagles from the area. This resulted in an explosion of rock hyrax, which ventured out far from their rocky areas over the plains where they competed with small-stock for grazing. (Twelve hyrax eat the same amount of grass as one karakul sheep.) Once the Karas farmers understood this they started protecting Verreaux’s eagles and today the Karas Mountains once again supports a healthy population of this magnificent eagle.

Aquila verreauxii (Black Eagle), issued in 1975, artist: Dick Findlay

Aquila verreauxii (Black Eagle), issued in 1975, artist: Dick Findlay

The nest is a large stick platform lined with green leaves, usually built high on a ledge on a sheer cliff face, safe from baboons. Verreaux’s eagles are monogamous, forming lifelong pair bonds, and are territorial, defending their home range. Breeding starts in late April and May with spectacular courtship flights and displays. The peak egg-laying season in Namibia is June and most clutches comprise two eggs. The eggs usually hatch 2-3 days apart after an incubation period of 45 days.

On hatching, one of the most interesting biological events takes place. The first chick to hatch, which is larger and more developed, attacks the second in what has become known as the Cain and Abel struggle. Reasons suggested for this are that the second egg serves as a reserve in case the first is infertile and that one fit young eagle has a better chance of surviving and ultimately rearing offspring than two less fit young eagles. The fledgling leaves the nest for the first time at about 95 days after hatching, and is chased from the territory about 30 days later.

Verreaux’s Eagle is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the Namibian Red Data list because of persecution from small-stock farmers and because it is vulnerable to the use of poison, usually set to kill mammalian predators of small-stock. It is a sad fact that, for every target species killed in this way, over a hundred non-target scavengers are poisoned, most of them vultures and scavenging eagles. Fortunately, because of the remote mountainous terrain in which they live, the population of Verreaux’s eagle in Namibia is stable.

Read Full Post »

It’s surprising to think of penguins in the African heat rather than in colder climes, but the African penguinis endemic to the southern tip of Africa. An unusual flightless bird, ungainly on land, it is an agile master of the water world as it careens swiftly through the water powered by its webbed feet and small flipper-like ‘wings’.Because of its loud braying call, it was once referred to as the Jackass penguin. The tough 60-70 cm bird has an attractive black-and-white colouring that serves as camouflage; the white underbelly to disguise it from underwater predators below and the black back from predators above. Its disguise has not protected it, however, from its greatest competitor – man, and African penguin numbers have plummeted over the last century to a fraction of what they were. In 1956/57 the total population was estimated at 141 000 breeding pairs, a number which had decreased by 60% in 2009 to just over 25 000. The Namibian population comprised approximately 5 000 pairs in 2008/9 and the South African, 21 000.Historically, the decline in penguin numbers has been attributed to the harvesting of penguin eggs and the collection of guano. Without the guano layer, penguins are unable to dig their burrows, which protect them from predators and provide cover from the hot African sun.

Jackass Penguin, issued in 1997, artist: David Thorpe

Jackass Penguin, issued in 1997, artist: David Thorpe

The African penguin is now facing an even more severe crisis – food scarcity, being unable to compete with the commercial fisheries. Many penguin mortalities have also resulted from oil spills. Natural predators include seals and sharks in the ocean and the mongoose, gull and genet on land. The dramatic decline in numbers led to the African penguin being reclassified on the IUCN’s Red List in 2010 from Vulnerable to Endangered.The distribution of the African penguin Spheniscus demersuscoincides with the area influenced by the nutrient rich waters of the Benguela Current that runs up the coast of Africa and the availability of off-shore nesting sites. (Some mainland sites have been colonised in recent years. This has been attributed to an eastward shift of pelagic fish.) Its breeding range extends from Hollamsbird Island, off central Namibia, to Bird Island in Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape. In Namibia, Halifax Island, Mercury, Ichaboe and Possession islands account for approximately 96% of the Namibian penguin population. Sardines and anchovies, the penguins preferred diet, were overfished in the 1960s/70s making it difficult for penguins on islands like Halifax to find food. The guano layer covering the island was also removed for fertiliser during this period.Several distinctive behaviours are evident in the penguin colonies during the year, most noticeably the annual moult, where penguins fatten-up for weeks before their 20-day starvation period when they are unable to enter the ocean, and the breeding season. In Namibia most penguins moult in April and May, and in South Africa from November to January.

African penguin. Photo: Gondwana Collection

African penguin. Photo: Gondwana Collection

There are also regional differences of breeding season, with the peak of the breeding season occurring in Namibia in November and December and in South Africa from March to May. The African penguin is monogamous, the breeding pair sharing the 40-day incubation and feeding duties. About 60 days after hatching, the chicks’ down has already been replaced by blue-grey waterproof plumage, and from 60 to 130 days the ‘baby-blues’ are ready to leave their natal colony. They will return after 12 to 22 months, after journeys of up to 1 900 km, to moult into adult plumage.There are ‘happy feet’ and success stories these days as more protection is being granted to the species, nesting boxes supplied and organisations like SANCCOB (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) rehabilitating abandoned chicks and oiled birds. Over a hundred birds from Lüderitz were transported to Cape Town in a rescue mission in 2009 where the oiled penguins spent 4 weeks rehabilitating before their release and long swim back to Namibian waters. After 18 days, the first of the group were seen arriving home.

Read Full Post »

The previous issue discussed the futile efforts of the first Trek Boers to establish the Republic of Upingtonia around Grootfontein.
Although the Republic of Upingtonia, which was founded in 1885, was short-lived, it formed the basis for later Boer-settlements in the Grootfontein District. The German government also recognized the validity of the land purchase made by W.W. Jordan. The South West Africa Company, which was founded in 1892 in London, became the beneficiary of its concessions, which mainly included mining rights and the development of roads and railways, as well as the partition of land into settler farms.In 1891, some Transvaal-Boers, amongst them commandant Jean M. Lombard and B.D. Bouwer, who had occupied the farm Strydfontein during the time of the Republic of Upingtonia, requested the German Consul in Pretoria to settle in ‘Damaraland’. They also asked to return to their former farms in the Grootfontein District. The area however, had changed owner and now belonged to the South West Africa Company.

Dorslandtrek, issued in 1974, artist: Kobus Esterhuyzen

Dorslandtrek, issued in 1974, artist: Kobus Esterhuyzen

In March 1892, some one hundred Boer-families left Transvaal and trekked via Rietfontein, along the border of Hereroland and Otjituwo to Grootfontein. Most of them proceeded further to Angola. Forty families stayed behind and were subsequently settled there in 1893 by the representative of the South West Africa Company, Dr Georg Hartmann. The S.W.A. Company was most accommodating towards the Boers, as they wanted to keep them there. They were encouraged to purchase land, for which they were allowed to pay in the form of cash and/or farm products.According to Dr Hartmann, there were 98 Trek Boers living around Grootfontein in October 1894. J.M. Lombard, C. de Jager, G. Kriek, I. du Toit, D. Jordaan and M. Botha were living at the fountains of Grootfontein, while H. du Plooy, A., H. and B. Smith, G. Fourie, H. Joubert and J. Diderikzen occupied the farms Volstruisfontein, Gemsboklaagte, Kereefontein and Kalkfontein. As from 1895 more farms, some of which had already existed in the 1880s, were allocated to the Boers. Among them were Strydfontein, where commandant Lombard settled, Venterspost, Kransfontein, Spitskoppe, Jagersfontein, Uitkomst, Khusib, Okamambuti(fontein) and Olifantsfontein, where the German farmer Carl Heinrich Schulz settled in 1896. Other Boers, who arrived from Omaruru, included Dreyer, de la Porte, Nieuwenhuizen, Barnard, Siemens, Britz, Poolman and Prinsloo.

Signing of agreement between governor Leutwein, commandant Lombard (left), Dr Hartmann (2nd f.l.) and Samuel Maharero (right); standing translator Kleinschmidt; Grootfontein, 1895. Photo Collection: National Archives of Namibia

In August 1895, the German governor Leutwein visited Grootfontein and found a ‘friendly Boer settlement’there. During his visit the northern border of Hereroland was demarcated. Furthermore an agreement was signed with the Boers, which stipulated that 40 families, who had to become German citizens, would be allowed to settle on the land of the Company. They also had to commit themselves to permanent settlements and perform military services.In September 1895, Lieutenant Steinhausen was dispatched to Grootfontein to become the first District Head. 1896/97 brought some excessive rains, which was followed by a severe fever epidemic in Grootfontein. Although the Boers had erected 6 dwellings and a church already, many of them left the unhealthy place and settled at Omaruru. Meanwhile Dr Hartmann and Lieutenant Steinhausen had also left. Dr Philaletes Kuhn, who became Steinhausen’s successor as from 1897, laid dry the swamps and thereby improved the health situation in Grootfontein, which prompted the Boers to return. As they did not have a market for their products, many of them made a living by becoming transport drivers. In 1899, Grootfontein became an independent district from Outjo.

Commandant Lombard remained a renowned and leading personality in Grootfontein throughout his life. He was not only instrumental in founding the first school of the district in 1900 at his farm Strydfontein, but was also elected into the German ‘Landesrat’ in 1906 as representative of the Boer community in the country.

Read Full Post »

Today many people are not aware that the Trek Boers laid the foundations of the Grootfontein District and played an important role in the further development of this historical town.

In former times, Hai║om-Bushmen and Bergdamara inhabited the area around Grootfontein. Although the OvaHerero had also temporarily dwelled here in the past, they left and never returned out of fright of the Bushmen, who robbed their cattle and dug copper for the AaNdonga, who regarded the area as part of their country.

Between 1874 and 1881, the so-called Thirstland Trekkers moved from West Transvaal in three major treks through the Kalahari, along the southern banks of the Okavango, via Namutoni, Kaoko Otavi, Rusplaas and the Kunene River to Humpata in Angola. At the Okavango, the adventurer and trader Will Worthington Jordan joined them in 1878. He soon became their intimate friend.

Dorslandtrek, issued in 1974, artist: Kobus Esterhuyzen

Dorslandtrek, issued in 1974, artist: Kobus Esterhuyzen

Many of the Boers did not feel at home in Angola. Thus, in 1884, a number of them decided to either return to Transvaal or to settle in the Rehoboth area, which Jordan had purchased for them. However, the plan was shattered as the area had been allocated to the Basters.

Jordan thereupon bought the land around Grootfontein from the Ndonga-chief Kambonde Kampingana in April 1885. The area measured 957 square miles and stretched from Etosha Pan in the north, from Okaukuejo and Naidaus in the west and from there in a straight line across to the Omuramba uamatako in the east. For this tract of land Jordan paid 25 guns, a ‘salted horse’ and a casket of brandy. The Bushmen and Damara were not recognized in this transaction at all.

Shortly afterwards around 20 Trek Boer-families settled at the place called Otjivanda tjongue (leopard hill) or Gei-│ous, which they called ‘Grootfontein’. Their names were Labuschagne, Prinsloo, Bouwer, Venter, Van Vuuren, Du Plessis, Opperman, Botha, Robbertse, Jordaan, Du Toit, Lourens, Holsthuizen, Du Preez, Van den Berg, De Klerk and Van Wyk. In October 1885, they concluded a treaty with Jordan and founded the ‘Republic Upingtonia’; it was named after the Prime Minister of the Cape Province, Sir Thomas Upington. Upon Jordan’s initiative a council was elected, which consisted of 13 members. G.D.P. Prinsloo was president, C. Leen secretary, Louw du Plessis magistrate and D.P. Black ‘veldkornet’, while B.D. Bouwer was commandant.

Initially the Boers remained together and erected some rudimentary block huts around the fountains of Grootfontein. Later they built so-called hartebeest houses on their farms. In the lower lying areas they cultivated wheat, mealies and tobacco. The water from the fountains was used for irrigation.

The farmstead at Strydfontein, Grootfontein District. Photo Collection: National Archives of Namibia

The farmstead at Strydfontein, Grootfontein District. Photo Collection: National Archives of Namibia

Between 1885 and 1887, 43 farms, which measured around 3,000 acre, were allocated to the Boers. Amongst these were some of the still known farms, e.g. Strydfontein, Rietfontein, Tygerfontein and Bavejaansfontein. At the end of 1885 a number of Boers left and moved to Waterberg.

Meanwhile, Herero-chief Maharero had rejected the bill of sale as he maintained that the area belonged to him. Together with his agent R. Lewis he installed a trade embargo against the Boers. In addition, Kambonde’s brother Nehale murdered Jordan in June 1886 near the mission station Omandongo and near Grootfontein Bushmen killed the Boer Du Toit. Henceforth the Boers called Upingtonia ‘Lydensrust’. In April 1887, the Swiss scientist Hans Schinz visited Grootfontein and described the Boers in a favourable way. Although the German government had extended its protection over the Boer Republic at the end of 1886, they could not expect any protection, as there were no protection forces yet. Malaria, which took a large toll amongst the Boers, and continued attacks by Bushmen broke their strength and hope. In mid-1887 they left Grootfontein and returned to Transvaal and Angola. Some of them settled at Omaruru to become transport drivers.

Read further in the next issue on the second group of Trek Boers, who settled at Grootfontein.

Read Full Post »

The question that often crosses people’s minds is why the Caprivi Strip, which reaches far into the heart of the Southern African subcontinent and has its independent multi-facetted history, was demarcated in its present form and is part of Namibia.

The area known as the Caprivi Strip became part of German South West Africa as a result of the so-called Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty, which was signed between Germany and Great Britain on 1 July 1890. With this Germany was hoping to gain access to its land properties in East Africa via the Zambezi River. Although the main concern of the treaty was the exchange of the British island Helgoland and the German territorial claims on Zanzibar, Germany also insisted that it was allocated the land strip between the Okavango and Zambezi Rivers. The area was initially known as ‘German Barotseland’ or ‘German Zambezi Region’, but was later named ‘Caprivi’ Strip after the then German Imperial Chancellor Georg Leo Count von Caprivi. The borders of the area were demarcated according to geographical degrees of latitude and longitude or rivers without taking the local inhabitants into consideration. The exact demarcation of the various border sections was a long process and was only finalized in 1933.

Caprivi (map), series of four stamps, issued in 1986

Caprivi (map), series of four stamps, issued in 1986

The Caprivi Strip consists of the narrow piece between the Okavango and Kwando Rivers and the area of East-Caprivi situated east of the Kwando. Some Khwe and small groups of Mbukushu formerly occupied the mostly waterless West-Caprivi. In addition, it was an area of conflict between the BaLozi of Barotseland and the BaTawana of Ngamiland during the 19th century. Although some Khwe still occupy certain parts of it today, the area is a conservation area, which includes the Bwabwata National Park in the north.

The people of East-Caprivi, who form part of the Zambezi tribes, are not related to the other Bantu-speaking inhabitants of Namibia and comprise the BaLozi, BaSubiya, MaFwe, HaMbukushu, BaYeyi, MaTotela, MaMbalangwe and BaMashi, as well as some Khwe.

Since the 17th century the BaLozi, who were living in the Barotse Kingdom north of the Zambezi, dominated and enslaved these tribes. A temporary change was introduced by the terror regime of the Zulu chief Shaka in Natal in the early 1800s. As a result smaller tribes escaped to the north and as far as they proceeded, came into conflict with local groups. In 1830, a group of BaSotho origin, known as the MaKololo, settled under their chief Sebetwane in Old-Linyanti, which is the present Sangwali. They subjugated Barotseland and the area of East Caprivi and founded the Kololo kingdom. Under Sebetwane’s successor Sekeletu they gradually lost power and in 1864 the Lozi chief Sepopa defeated them decisively. The era of Sepopa and that of his successor Lewanika were characterized by cruel suppression and slavery. Only through the influence of the French missionaries 30,000 slaves were released in 1906. The language of the MaKololo, which stems from SeSotho, later became a mixed language, which took up many elements of SiLozi and is still used in the area today.

Border river between East Caprivi and Zambia: The Zambezi at Katima Mulilo. Photo: Archive of Allgemeine Zeitung

Border river between East Caprivi and Zambia: The Zambezi at Katima Mulilo. Photo: Archive of Allgemeine Zeitung

Although Germany had taken possession of the Caprivi Strip, it delayed the opening up and development of this remote area for a long time. Only in 1909 Captain Kurt Streitwolf was sent out as representative. On the banks of the Zambezi River he built a station, which he named Schuckmannsburg after the then German Governor Bruno von Schuckmann. Streitwolf immediately set out to create an administrative structure, which was based on the traditional political system of the local people. This effectively meant that the population was given the opportunity to rid themselves from slavery and dependence and to elect or reaffirm their own chiefs and representatives. During their five-and-half year stay in Caprivi, Streitwolf and his successors managed to gain the confidence of the population. The First World War ended the German era.

Continuation on further developments in the Caprivi in the next episode.

Read Full Post »

Tortoises have always held a special fascination and attraction for us. With their timeless appearance and ponderous way of life on top of it they epitomise ‘prudence’ and ‘longevity’ like no other creature. But despite these characteristics and their appeal tortoises have been, and still are, on the menu in numerous cultures around the world. In many cases this has resulted in a drastic decrease of various tortoise populations. Continue reading

One of the seven tortoise species found in Namibia: the Nama Padloper. Photo: Alfred Schleicher

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: