NUST biodiversity researchers reach for the skies

NUST led an eight-day expedition to three mountain tops in the Kaokoveld area, through the European Union (EU) funded SCIONA project. The SCIONA project, established in 2018, aims to assess biodiversity in the Kaokoveld, as it is regarded as a hotspot where new species are continuously found.

The focus of the research was to assess the biodiversity on the three mountain-tops via helicopter, since the area, located in northern Namibia and southern Angola, is not reachable by any other means.

The team that was part of this expedition, consisted of experts in the field of botany, avifauna, herpetology, forestry, and mammals.

Prof Morgan Hauptfleisch, an Associate Professor, and Dr Vera De Cauwer, a Senior Lecturer, from the Faculty of Natural Resources and Spatial Sciences represented NUST. The team was dropped off by air at the Otjihipa mountains of Namibia Serra Tchamalinde and Serra Cafema in Angola. “The survey was an incredible success. We found an interesting and pristine dolomite cave on the Otjihipa mountains. The species and a variety of plants records exceeded all our expectations. The data we collected will keep us busy for many years,” Dr De Cauwer said.

In addition, the team also found a previously unknown girdled lizard on both the Otjihipa and Serra Cafema mountains; a fruit- bearing Marula trees growing at a height of 1 600 metres in the Otjihipa mountains; and strategically placed camera traps recorded a caracal at the Tchamalinde mountains. “Many species that were considered endemic to Namibia, were found on the Angolan mountains,” Dr De Cauwer elaborated. Despite logistical complexities affecting the organisation of the expedition, the excursion was a major success.

“We would like to give special thanks to the assistance of the SCIONA Project Coordinator, Ansie Bosman; our Dean, Prof Rolf Becker; our partners, the Institute of Higher Educational Sciences of Huíla; the Angolan Principal Investigator, Prof Fernanda Lages; and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism,” Dr De Cauwer said.

Date: 
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
for Month: 
June, 2021

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