From Lovebirds to Elephants

”…if our apparent environment-conscious objectors (to the Lovebirds) really want to do “something of value” for South Africa’s wildlife resource, they need to start questioning SANParks for not ‘managing’ the elephant population of Kruger National Park.”
Dear Elma,
Thank you for your report on the Kruinsig Lovebirds – and the attitude towards them expressed by one of the Kruinsig’s residents. Here is my science-based contribution towards the debate. But, I must say, it is ‘nice’ to see that people – ordinary people – are conscious of our natural resources.
I have seen these lovebirds – about 15 to 20 of them – of which ten or a dozen are golden colour-variants. Most certainly, therefore, they emanate from some aviary in the Faerie Glen locality.
They are Rosey-faced Lovebirds which are indigenous to Namibia (where they are very common) and to adjacent hot, dry habitats adjoining thereto. They are technically “indigenous’ to southern Africa, therefore, but not to the Pretoria area. We have some 20 or 30 of these lovebirds flying free in my neck of the woods (Bushman’s River Mouth), too, in various colour variations. They have been flying around here, wild, for the past several years. And they breed and roost in the eaves of human residences – as does the common European House Sparrow ebverywhere. The house sparrow is a non-indigenous bird that was released out of an aviary in East London (so I believe) many years ago – and it has spread far and wide in city environments throughout Africa. The European House Sparrow is now extant in Africa in cities and towns from Cape to Cairo. And we have to also consider that “brick-and-cement houses with tiled or corrugated iron roofs” are also “non-indigenous” to South Africa. So the environment in which both the house sparrows and the lovebirds roost and breed is ‘false’ and man-made.
It is true to say that non-indigenous birds have the propensity for competing with indigenous birds for roosting and breeding sites – to the detriment of our indigenous birds – but this does not always happen. In the case of these lovebirds, they ONLY compete for nesting and roosting sites with non-indigenous birds (such as the house sparrow and Indian Mina). So the argument that they will compete with indigenous birds for nesting and food resources in our city environments, in this case, is (I would say) invalid.
There are many feral birds (non-indigenous birds living wild) in South Africa’s urban environments. There are, for example, several flocks of Indian Ring-necked Parrots living wild in Gauteng and in Natal. Indian Minas and European House Sparrows now inhabit all corners of South Africa. In certain areas there are large numbers of European Starlings; and Indian House Crows, European chaffinches and, in our built-up areas (everywhere) there is a proliferation of domesticated feral pigeons which compete for breeding and roosting spaces in our cities with our indigenous Rock Pigeons. And there are now feral (released by man) mallard ducks mixing with our indigenous wild ducks in the Cape. The worst of them all, in my opinion, are the Indian Minas which have reached pest proportions in the cities of Zulu-Natal. The Minas also – so I have been told – seeks out, kill and eat our indigenous chameleons. By comparison to the minas, therefore, the Rosey-faced Lovebirds at Kruinsig are a pleasure to have around. Certainly, if anyone is looking for a crusade to eliminate feral non-indigenous birds and animals the lovebirds should be far down the list of priorities.
One should also consider that the peoples of southern Africa – white, black and brown – are ALL non-indigenous, too. The only truly South African people – who have the right to call South Africa their ‘home country’ – are the Koi-san. Even the Hottentots are ‘invaders’. So, if we are going to be pedantic about getting rid of invading (non-indigenous) species in South Africa, we must not exclude the human species.
And, if our apparent environment-conscious objectors (to the Lovebirds) really want to do “something of value” for South Africa’s wildlife resource, they need to start questioning SANParks for not ‘managing’ the elephant population of Kruger National Park. There are now said to be 34 000 elephants in Kruger when there should have never been any more than 3 500; and this massively excessive population has totally destroyed the once ubiquitous deciduous woodlands of the park. And THAT fact – destroying all manner of habitats – is destroying the entire biological diversity of this, South Africa’s most treasured wildlife heritage. South African nature lovers, in my opinion, should be taking SANParks to court for not properly looking after our biological treasures.
Everything has a place on our conservation priority list. And the lovebirds of Kruinsig are way down that list.
I hope this adds some credibility to the argument.
With kind regards
Ron Thomson

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