When Shamwari reintroduced larger game such as rhino, buffalo and antelope, they brought in oxpeckers to control the external parasites. Picture: Charl Durand/ Pexels
When Shamwari reintroduced larger game such as rhino, buffalo and antelope, they brought in oxpeckers to control the external parasites. Picture: Charl Durand/ Pexels

WATCH: Flightless dung beetle and humble oxpecker star in World Environment Day special

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

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The Addo flightless dung beetle and the oxpecker will feature in a short film about the impact of unsustainable human activity on fragile ecosystems and how these can be restored.

The short film will commemorate World Environment Day on June 5. The theme for #WorldEnvironmentDay2021 is “Ecosystem Restoration“.

The film, created for Shamwari TV, will showcase the Eastern Cape private game reserve and how interconnected ecosystems were destroyed and the complexity of rebuilding them.

According to Shamwari head ranger Andrew Kearney, Shamwari began buying farmland over 60 years ago. He explained how they took down the fences and reintroduced indigenous animals like elephant, white rhino and hippo. Other animals like black rhino and buffalo followed in 1993 and 1994, and cheetah, lion and brown hyena were brought in 2000. Serval and leopard were reintroduced in 2001.

Kearny explained how the extermination of large game, specifically elephant and buffalo, impacted smaller species such as the Addo flightless dung beetle. The beetle is dependent on the dung from these animals for food and nesting.

“An area like Shamwari has increased its range. Not only are we about the big animals, but we are also about the small stuff as it is all interconnected. It has to fit together to form a healthy ecosystem,” Kearny said in the video.

He said the Addo flightless dung beetle was reintroduced to Shamwari in 1997 to ensure a complete and healthy ecosystem.

He also explained that when Shamwari reintroduced larger game such as rhino, buffalo and antelope they realised they’d also need the oxpeckers to control the external parasites.

“Initially fifty birds from the Kruger National Park were released and the population has since increased exponentially.

“Like the dung beetles, the population of oxpeckers are an indicator of the health of the ecosystem.

“While reintroducing flora and fauna and restoring ecosystems is a massive and hugely expensive undertaking, it is the small decisions that all of us make which can and do have an impact on our environment,” he added.

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