Exotic pet trade talk at Crocworld Conservation Centre this weekend

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Crocworld Conservation Centre on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast welcomes two dynamic speakers to the programme for the November edition of the educational monthly talks.

On Saturday, 9 November, Ndivhuwo Shivambu (pictured) and Tinyiko Cavin Shivambu (both from PMB), PhD candidates in Zoology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), will each give a presentation on the impact of exotic pet species on the South African environment.

Martin Rodrigues, Manager of Crocworld Conservation Centre, said there was a big need to educate the public on the dangers of the exotic pet trade: “The animals themselves are put at great risk and they pose a huge threat to the country’s conservation and biodiversity. With the survival of the natural world a massive concern globally, it’s vital that people make informed decisions about animal purchases and realise the long-term repercussions. We are excited to welcome Ndivhuwo and Tinyiko, both of whom can give expert insights into what’s happening at a local level.”

After completing her Honours degree in Zoology at the University of Venda, Ndivhuwo went over to the University of Pretoria. It was here that she completed her MSc degree focusing on the influence of the pet trade and scientific laboratories on the potential spread of the invasive Rattus species in South Africa. She is enrolled for a PhD in Zoology at UKZN and will base her talk, ‘Assessing the potential impact of exotic small mammals in the south African pet trade’ on her current thesis.

“The sale of small, exotic mammals is increasing and most of these have become invasive through escape and release pathways in other parts of the world,” she explained. “In South Africa, several species of small mammals are sold and kept as companions, and this poses an invasion threat.”

In her presentation, Ndivhuwo will explain how the climatic match and Generic Impact Scoring System (GISS) are used to assess the potential impact exotic pets would have if they escaped from captivity, thereby working to prevent such an occurrence.

Tinyinko, who will be talking on ‘Aspects of the feeding biology of invasive rose-ringed parakeets in Durban’ has been fascinated by plants and animals as long as he can remember: “This led me to enrol for a BSc in Botany and Zoology and then BSc Honours degree in Zoology at the University of Venda,” he said, adding that his Honours project focused on the climatic suitability of three invasive spider species to South Africa.

He went on to compete his MSc in Zoology at the University of Pretoria, focussing on the risk assessment of tarantula species in the South African pet trade. For his PhD he is looking into avian invasive species, including the aforementioned rose-ringed parakeets.

“This is one of the world’s worst invasive pest species, negatively affecting crops of human importance such as mango, maize, sunflower and nuts,” explained Tinyiko. “The species was introduced to South Africa in the 1970s as part of the pet trade and now has an expanding population in several urban and peri-urban areas.”

By assessing the feeding biology of the species, it is hoped appropriate management can be implemented and the potential impacts addressed.

In addition to the talk, audiences will also be treated to tea, coffee, scones and other baked eats – inclusive of the price of the talk – which will be supplied by the onsite restaurant, Fish Eagle Café. The cost of the tickets is R50 per person. For more information or to make a booking, contact the Morne van Zyl at the Fish Eagle Café on 083 658 7073 or email mvanzyl@cbl.co.za. Alternatively, contact Martin Rodrigues on 078 484 1859 or Crocworld Conservation Centre on 039 976 1103.

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