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Friday 31 October 2014

Dr Livingstone's Lost Beetle Collection Discovered



LONDON: The curator of the Natural History Museum has stumbled upon an unparalleled treasure - a unique collection of insects gathered by Dr David Livingstone, one of Britain's legendary explorers of Africa, which has remained hidden for over 150 years.

It is the only known collection of beetle specimens belonging to the explorer which he brought back from Africa. The 20 specimens date back to Dr Livingstone's expedition along Africa's Zambezi River, which ran from 1858 to 1864.
Experts were unaware that the renowned British explorer had collected beetles until now. The specimens were unearthed by curators cataloguing and photographing the Museum's collection for its online database. They came across an unusual box and when they opened it they discovered that Dr Livingstone's name and the name of the Zambezi expedition were written on the specimens' labels.

Max Barclay, the museum's beetle curator, found the box among thousands of others containing uncategorised material as he sought to catalogue parts of the collection online. Inside was a label that said "Zambezi coll. by Dr. Livingstone". The insects were donated to the Museum by a private collector, Edward Young Western, in 1924. He is thought to have bought them directly from a member of the Zambezi expedition. In the days before digital records, they got lost among the Museum's 10 million beetle specimens and sat unnoticed for 90 years.

Museum beetle curator Max Barclay, who made the discovery, said it was a complete surprise and one of great historical and scientific importance. "We have 22,000 drawers of beetles and every drawer is like a treasure chest waiting to be opened. You can never imagine what you will find inside," he said. "Historically, it is very exciting that these specimens have been preserved. No biographers mention Dr Livingstone collecting beetles - it is an aspect of the well-known explorer that was previously unknown".

There are 12 different beetle species in the box including the giant predatory ground beetle, Termophilum alternatum, the variegated golden longhorn beetle, Tragocephala variegata, and the flightless spiny longhorn beetle, Phantasis avernica.

Barclay said that the specimens are already shedding light on the effects of environmental change in the Zambezi region.

Museum entomologist Hitoshi Takano recently led a number of expeditions retracing Dr Livingstone's footsteps across Africa's interior. During his travels he came across many of the same beetle species that Dr Livingstone spotted 150 years before. Barclay said "The fact that most of the same species can still be found in Zambezi today means that the environments in the area might have changed less than we expected. Or, against all odds, many species from Dr Livingstone's day still remain despite 150 years of habitat destruction and deforestation".

But one species of beetle collected from Zambezi by Dr Livingstone was not found in the region during Takano's expeditions. This could be evidence of the effect of environmental changes, said Barclay: "It is possible that this species has declined or been lost from the region. Insects are often like the canary in the mine - their decline warns us about environmental changes that we may not have easily noticed". Barclay said that before digital records were introduced knowledge was often lost between generations, but Dr Livingstone's beetles will be valuable sources of information for scientists for years to come.

"We can learn so much from them. Old specimens are a little bit like a fossil record of the environment at a past time. We are discovering things that our great-grandparents' generation may have known, but the information was never passed down. Nowadays we record this information on databases and online, so it will be preserved for future generations".

Dr Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and one of the first European explorers of Africa, died in Zambia in 1873, aged 60.

Source: Dr Livingstone's Collection Discovered (Oct 2014)

Thursday 30 October 2014

Vic Falls in tourism boom but...

Zimbabwe's prime tourist resort, Victoria Falls, has registered tremendous growth in arrivals from Asia this year, but expenditure by visitors from the source market remains markedly low.

Employers Association of Tourism Operators president Mr Clement Mkwasi said in an interview that while the resort had registered huge growth in volumes from Asia, revenue from the visitors remained subdued compared to other markets.

Government regards tourism, which it targets to grow into a $5 billion industry by 2020, critical to spurring short to medium term growth due to low hanging fruits abundant in the sector. Mr Mkwasi said the average spend by Asians in Zimbabwe was considerably low compared to visitors from lucrative traditional source markets such as the United States and Europe.

“Most of the elderly visitors from Asia spend more on food, they are not adrenalin junkies, they are not too adventurous, they have an anti-adrenalin approach to activities,” Mr Mkwasi said.

Mr Mkwasi said just like domestic tourists, the Asians preferred laid back activities such as game drive, helicopter rides and boat cruises as opposed to high adrenalin activities such as bungi jumping.

“A hotel may have good numbers (in terms of bookings), but expenditure (in adventure) is low, which means high input and low output,” he said. Mr Mkwasi said that domestic tourists also tend to shy away from seemingly risky activities, especially adventures associated with water and height.

However, despite this scenario Victoria Falls has in recent months registered massive growth in occupancies and revenue, largely driven by the successful co-hosting by Zimbabwe and Zambia of the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation held in the resort last year.
Africa Albida Tourism, which operates the magnificent Victoria Falls Lodge, chief executive Mr Ross Kennedy told a recent Zimbabwe Council for Tourism congress in Harare that the resort had shattered the record books in terms occupancies and revenue, especially since the beginning of this year.

Due to the abundant turnkey opportunities in tourism and the potential to use them to drive growth in the short to medium term, Government also plans to grow arrivals to 5 million annually by 2020 and their contribution to GDP to 15 percent.

According to the UNWTO barometer, tourism is the world’s fastest growing industry at 6 percent growth rate annually, generating over $1,2 billion in revenue over the same period.

In light of the huge potential economic benefits from the tourism industry, Government recently unveiled a new tourism policy to provide enablers key to growth of the sector.

As such, the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism said the policy adequately captured deficiencies in key pillars and travel competitiveness, which it will seek to ensure are implemented.

Zimbabwe, with one of the world’s top attractions, Victoria Falls; a United Nations recognised world heritage site, received 867 163 tourists in the first half of 2014, a 1 percent from 860 995 recorded during the same period last year. The ZTA attributed the slight increase to increased arrivals from the Americas, Europe, Middle East and the Oceania.

Visitors from Asia during the period declined by 38 percent to 16 370 from 26 420 recorded during the same period last year

Source: Vic Falls in tourism boom but... (29/10/14)

Monday 27 October 2014

Luxury villa development for Vic Falls

Yet another development proposed for the outskirts of Victoria Falls Town, on a virgin piece of land adjoining the Zambezi National Park. Let's hope they minimise the environmental footprint and impact of this development - but no mention of an eco or environmental policy on their website...

Bonamanzi ("See the Water" in the local siNdebele tongue) is a development of private holidays homes set on 17 400sqm of land situated just 4kms from the world renowned Victoria Falls. This gorgeous piece of virgin land borders the Zambezi National Park where the game roams freely and unhindered views over the National Park and the Zambezi River beyond are exquisite.

Read more on their website here.

ATT Mulls U.S $18 Million Park in Vic Falls

Hospitality group, Africa Albida Tourism, is working on construction of an $18 million education and entertainment park in Victoria Falls, expected to boost occupancies by 40 percent.

The park will be constructed on an 80 hectare land adjacent to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and is touted to become the biggest commercial investment in the resort in over 10 years.

It is also expected that over 1 500 jobs will be created from the investment, which was approved by Victoria Falls Town council. Victoria Falls is a United Nations recognized heritage site.

AAT chairman Dave Glynn said the park, Santonga, will tell the story of Victoria Falls in all its aspects; culture, history, flora and fauna. There will be shows throughout the day and a glut of interactions with captive wildlife and hi-tech facilities.

AAT is a hospitality group with hotels, lodges and restaurants in Southern Africa's foremost tourist destinations, with the magnificent Victoria Falls Safari Lodge its flagship property.

"Four post graduate paleontology students have researched the entire recorded history of Victoria Falls and its surrounds," Mr Glynn said.

"We have the greatest historical collection of information on the area probably ever compiled," he said.

Mr Glynn said they had selected snap shots, which are to be turned into film sets to immerse visitors in highly interactive and visually powerful way, which will keep visitors longer in the resort.

Visitors to Santonga will be taken on a journey from the formation of earth and the geology of the region, through the dinosaur periods to post dinosaur mammals era, formation of the falls and hominids known to have inhabited the area. They will learn about the lives of the San, the Bantu migrations, the Great Zimbabwe trading zones and the arrival of white explorers while time will be rolled back to cultural practices from both sides of the might Zambezi River.

"And you can't tell the story of Victoria Falls without telling the story of its flora and fauna," Mr Glyn said, adding water barriers would be used to separate the public from big game.

"Some game and bird life will be needed for shows and for close encounter interactions, but we will use captive bread or injured animals for these," Mr Glynn said.

"There will be shows throughout the day, animal, reptile, bird and fossil shows, daily vulture lunch, a big lion king type extravaganza every evening and a night animals show," the ATT chairman added.

It is hoped that Santonga's six hour experience, would boost the average 2.3 night stay for tourists in Victoria Falls.

"If we get people to stay just one day longer, occupancies will go up by over 40 percent, and 20 percent, if half a day longer," he said.

Food providers, curio sellers and adrenalin activity providers would have people to sell to for longer periods.

Mr Glynn said there was a lot of adrenalin activities in Victoria Falls, but not much to keep visitors who do not enjoy such activities.

"We believe the area is badly in need of a major attraction that will hold people for longer. Santonga will appeal everybody from age 1-100 and will provide an attraction for older arrivals, families and those not keen on adrenalin activities."

Source: ATT Mulls U.S $18 Million Park in Vic Falls - The Herald (23/10/14)

Thursday 23 October 2014

Zimbabwe, Zambia to launch pilot uni-visa by month end

The government will launch a pilot uni-visa agreement with Zambia at the end of this month to enable t joint marketing as the two countries make initiatives to boost tourist arrivals.

The Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi, said the launch of the pilot Zimbabwe-Zambia uni-visa will open up the country's borders and offer an opportunity to market shared national heritage which is expected to boost tourist arrivals for both countries.

"Tourism is measured by arrivals and I am pleased to announce that we will be launching a uni-visa pilot project by the end of this month to ensure that there are increased tourist arrivals.

"For the SADC region we have not launched it owing to security concerns being raised by some countries but those in the eastern part of the continent have benefitted immensely form the uni-visa regime," he said.

The proposal for a uni-visa regime has been on the cards for a long time and the coming to fruition of the pilot project is set to compel other countries in the region to come on board.

Source: Zimbabwe, Zambia to launch pilot uni-visa - Bulawayo News 24 (20/10/14)

Saturday 11 October 2014

'No oil deposits in Zimbabwe'

Zimbabwe has no proven oil deposits, deputy Mines minister Fred Moyo has said.
His remarks come on the back of media reports that the land-locked country could be having oil and gas reserves, according to an exploration exercise performed about two decades ago.
However, Moyo - a former managing director of two Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed mining firms - told Business Live that "…from a technical bias point of view ie. try to zero on scientific facts and less perceptions… from a ministry's point of view, there has been no announcement of an oil find and we have not found any oil".
He said while geologically, Zimbabwe has the Karoo sedimentary basins capable of hosting gas and oil, the basins have not been adequately explored.
Moyo said the Mines and Minerals Development department was interrogating the issue and as such, it will be part of the forthcoming Zimbabwe Mining Indaba agenda.
Oil and natural gas are produced by the same geological process, anaerobic decay of organic matter deep under the earth's surface.
As a consequence, oil and natural gas are often found together.
Moyo said noted that, with oil deposits being discovered in most countries on the continent, and more importantly, considering that sub-Saharan Africa is currently receiving the bulk of the world's gas and oil exploration capital funds, there could be hope for Zimbabwe.
"Countries around us have been and are busy on exploration efforts towards gas and oil registering encouraging results so far," said the seasoned miner.
In the past few years, oil has been discovered in Uganda and Kenya by Tullow Oil while gas deposits found off Tanzania and Mozambique have turned Africa into a frontier for hydrocarbon exploration.
Moyo confirmed that there were coal bed methane gas reserves in Zimbabwe, adding that "the future looks good in this regard".
According to reports, coal bed methane gas mining exploration activities in the country date back more than 10 years.
To date, exploration work done indicates extensive deposits of the resource.
It is estimated that the Hwange and Lupane basins have over 23 billion cubic feet per square mile - equivalent to 27 trillion cubic feet of sulphur-free methane gas.
Source: 'No oil deposits in Zimbabwe' (Bulawayo News24 - 06/10/14)

Tourists in mid-air helicopter scare

A Victoria Falls helicopter carrying six Japanese tourists had to make a hasty landing at Baobab Primary School in the resort town yesterday afternoon after danger-warning signs started flashing on the aircraft.

All tourists on board were evacuated without any injuries from the primary school grounds and taken to their various hotels. A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the pilot engaged emergency procedures and looked for the nearest open space to land.

“The pilot was cautious in this case and had to find somewhere to land immediately after noticing an instrument light on the dashboard,” the source said.

Employers’ Association for the Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO) president Clement Mukwasi confirmed the incident and applauded the pilot for taking a quick decision that averted possible danger to the tourists.

“I can confirm that an aircraft incident occurred at about 1545hours yesterday here in Victoria Falls, but all tourists were removed from the scene of the landing uninjured,” he said.

Meanwhile, aviation experts said precautionary landings are very common with helicopters in circumstances where pilots get warning lights or any sign associated with an emergence.

Source: Tourists in Vic Falls mid-air scare (NewsdzeZimbabwe 10/10/14)

Monday 6 October 2014

Vic Falls Lodge burns to ground

Fire gutted a Victoria Falls lodge... on Wednesday night.

Tatenda Safari Lodge... is owned by Rangarirai Tatenda Gunda (61), the widow of late One Brigade commander Brigadier-General Paul Armstrong Gunda.

Gunda yesterday told Southern Eye that she was still puzzled by the fire when she and her workers cleared the charred remains of furniture and other goods destroyed by the inferno.

“Unfortunately, I don’t even know what exactly happened as I was helping with the cooking in the kitchen for the schoolchildren who were booked here. What I know is I was called and told that my house and reception were on fire,” said Gunda.

“I quickly rushed there and the whole building was engulfed in flames. We tried to put out the fire by pouring water, but the taps were dry. We later had guys from the police and fire brigade who helped us put out the fire. The fire brigade team did quite a number of trips to fetch water,” she said.

Gunda said there had been no one at the reception and her house which is attached to the reception when the fire broke out, so it was difficult for her to even speculate what could have been the cause.

“It could have been an electrical fault; who knows, because I don’t have any suspects. The kids were booked at the back lodge and were not affected; they are all quite safe,” she said.

Gunda said she had lost a lot of property to the inferno, but was determined to rebuild her lodge in a few days’ time.

“I lost quite a lot of property like laptops, generators, refrigerators, ice-makers and my entire late husband’s photos, certificates, clothing, groceries and bedding for the lodge.

“What hurt me the most was that one of the rooms was more like a museum where I had kept pictures of my late husband, in his memory. I know out there some people will be wishing that I don’t recover again, but give me three to four days, everything will be under repair. I have many clients that are coming in the next few weeks and all will be put in place very soon,” she said.

The lodge was established in 1993 as a small establishment and grew to become a self-sustaining project with 50 rooms that can accommodate more than 200 guests.

Source: 200 Kids escape death as lodge burns (NewsdzeZimbabwe (03/10/14)

Thursday 2 October 2014

Vic Falls cricket stadium on course

Plans by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) to construct a 10 000-seater cricket stadium in Victoria Falls have gathered momentum with a ground breaking ceremony set for November.

ZC top management toured the piece of land that has been allocated by council for the purposes of that stadium and a plan has already been drawn up.

The cricket governing body expects to complete the project before the end of next year and plan to host some matches there.

ZC board chairman Wilson Manase told reporters in Victoria Falls that they have drawn up a plan on how to raise the funds.

“We cannot divulge many details on where exactly the funds will come from at this stage, but we are hoping to get some help from sponsors and other partners,” said Manase.

“This is a big project that will help our game grow and we can spread it to other parts of the country. We have major sporting events happening here like the marathon and we have had sevens rugby here so we want to have cricket in this town. With so many tourists frequenting the area, we can also sell our game.”

The stadium will be constructed in a basin with grand stands set to be erected on the walls of that basin close to the railway line.

Victoria Falls has already been earmarked to host an International Cricket Council meeting in 2022.

The Victoria Falls ground would become one of three major cricket grounds with the Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.

ZC will move to complete the project to erect flood lights at Harare Sports Club with the project having stalled due to logistical problems.

Manase revealed that they would soon complete the project so that the team can host day and night cricket.

“We have had problems to do with payment of duty on sports equipment and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sport has been helping us to have the equipment cleared by Zimra. We hope that soon we can finish up that project and our team can start benefitting.”

Source: Vic Falls cricket stadium on course - News Daily (01/10/14)