Explainer: What’s behind the rabies outbreak in SA?

In the last four months five cases of rabies in humans have been reported in South Africa, and an additional two cases are probable. The country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases warns that steps need to be taken to curb the trend. The Conversation Africa’s health and medicine editor Candice Bailey spoke to the institute’s Jacqueline Weyer…

Whiskers tell what’s on a lion’s menu

World Wildlife Day is celebrated on 3 March. This year the spotlight falls on the world’s big cats. New research by South African researchers have shown that the details trapped in a lion’s whiskers provide minute detail about the type of animal that has been on its menu. They were also able to tell at what…

Picking a rhino’s brain

Is a black rhino’s brain similar to that of a white rhino? Not quite, according to researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand. They say that the subtle differences seem to be because of the animals’ diet and the size of their respective home ranges. The research was conducted by Adhil Bhagwandin and Paul Manger…

The Case of the Drinking Aardvark

Scientists do not always get their aha moments when they implicitly set out to find one. Serendipity often comes into play, which then warrants further investigation and eventual discovery. Sometimes these discoveries put pay to hearsay, and provide much clearer facts. Such is the Case of the Drinking Aardvark. Prof Graham Kerley of the Centre…

New puff adder behaviour uncovered: it uses two ways to entice its prey

Puff adders display diverse predatory strategies. This shows they have higher cognitive abilities than previously though. This is according to University of the Witwatersrand researchers Xavier Glaudas and Graham Alexander, via The Conversation Africa. Predators use a variety of strategies to increase the odds of capturing prey. An amazing example involves the use of luring behaviours, which are…

A rethink about giraffes

If you thought that all giraffes were created equal, think again. Yes, based on their looks they all seem pretty much the same, but their genes tell a totally different story. The ones you’ll see in the Kruger National Park or elsewhere in South Africa are genetically very different from the ones in Ethiopia and…

In tough times young mice take things slow

When the going gets tough, the young slow down and the old keep going. That’s what happens to African striped mice (Rhabdomys pumilio) in times of drought, according to researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand. Their findings are published in the journal Ethology. These highlight the influence of different seasons and the use of…