50/50 Episode 15 Season 6: March 1 2015

VeldfocusElectricity from Bacteria: A true lightbulb moment

With the critical eye of the world’s environmentalists focused sharply on the issue of fossil fuels and other environmentally unsustainable power sources, clean energy has been the topic of conversation on many platforms – from government to environmental groups. Alternative energy is now on the up and up, and we are able to keep the lights on by harnessing the power of the sun, the wind and water. But one South African learner has caused quite a buzz in the scientific community lately, by patenting a way to create energy from fresh water bacteria! Although invisible to the human eye, the mass of all microbes on the planet is twenty-five times more than the mass of all other animals combined making it a readily available commodity. If our own homegrown Bernard Smit succeeds in this groundbreaking project on a large enough scale, we could be looking at the new hero of sustainability! We couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass us by, so Samir gathered up his microscope and dashed off to get a chance to meet this inspiring young scientist in the flesh!

Urban Critters: Mongoose

With a shake of a bush, a chirping and chattering from the long grass – revealing the end of a bushy tail or a whiskered nose – a business of mongoose moving through the undergrowth is one of the most entertaining family outings to witness in the wild. As they dash about enthusiastically, digging for grubs and beetles, covering nearby troop members in soil, they keep up a constant flow of vocal gibberish to keep in contact with troop members along the way. The discovery of an egg is a valuable prize, and it is hurled vigorously against a rock from between the mongoose’s back legs until it cracks open where it is devoured with appreciative squeaking. Sentries keep watch every few feet by rising onto their back legs, with sharp eyes scrutinising the tree-line for lurking danger. In this week’s instalment of Urban Critters, we take a trip to Hilcrest where a busy family of these banded ‘bandits’ have taken a shine to urban living, with fantastically humorous results.

Veld Focus:

In Veld Focus this week, we see a forlorn monkey that cannot seem to keep its hair on, and a baby elephant that sticks out like… well a pink elephant… A cobra interrupts a beach party, and a rhino tries to give a helping horn.

Wildlife Wonder: The right tools for the job

From the muscular trunk of an elephant, to the razor sharp claws of a lion – in this week’s instalment of Wildlife Wonders we take a look at the ingenious ways animals have adapted perfectly to their environment. Armed with the exact tools for their specific survival strategies, creatures great and small are able to seamlessly fill their specific niches in the natural world.

Rhino Brief: Drug trials

With rhino preservation at the front and centre of conservation in South Africa at the moment, researchers from all over the world are moving as fast as they can to come up with a feasible strategy to save this iconic species from going the way of the dodo. In many cases, it involves moving these 2 ton behemoths to different areas where they can be properly managed. But how do you get am animal that size, armed with a 2 foot long spike on the end of its face and a skin as tough as concrete into a crate to transport it half way across the country? The scientific world of rhino tranquilisation is fascinating and complicated, and in this week’s Rhino Brief Bonne heads to the KNP to find out more about what is developing on the front lines. Our dedicated research teams are constantly improving the difficult and often dangerous procedures, and this cutting edge science is something that we as South Africans should all be proud of.

Killer Kitties: Kitty Cams

Anyone who has ever been ‘owned by a cat’ can agree that a few of the things that make them so special is their independence, their agility and their wild instinct, making them ‘king of the couch or windowsill’. They still have a loving nature, but unlike dogs, they can disappear for days on end, and are more capable of looking after themselves than we can imagine. In short, they are perfect little predators. Even your cute and cuddly kitty that ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly… This week on 50/50 we attempt to spy into the secret lives of domestic cats, and with the help of some clever technology, we catch a glimpse of what they get up to when our backs are turned. With so many of these little hunters silently stalking the suburbs, we attempt to find out how much of an impact domestic cats are having on biodiversity in South Africa.

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