Libmonster ID: KZ-1564
Author(s) of the publication: Roman YAKOVLEV

by Roman YAKOVLEV, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), Research Assistant of the Southern Siberian Botanical Gardens of Altai State University (Barnaul)

Studies of the subtropical and tropical regions are an important task for all contemporary biologists in the whole world, since many insect species are still unknown to science. Thus, in April 2011, I as a research assistant of the Botanical Gardens of Altai State University was lucky to take part in an exciting and cognitive (both for scientists and general public) trip to some countries of South-East Africa as a member of the Russian Entomological Expedition and register some important observations.


It must be mentioned that my colleagues--biologists from Moscow, Saratov, Ulyanovsk, and Novosibirsk have already visited various African countries 6 times (South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Congo and Ghana) to study local biological diversity. As a result of these trips, the scientists published over thirty articles in the leading zoological journals of the world. Two years ago 1 also accepted an invitation to participate in a similar scientific expedition headed by Vasily Kovtunovich, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), from Moscow, and Pyotr Ustyuzhanin, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), from Novosibirsk.

Now it is time to tell you briefly about our scientific plans. We planned to make a trip to national parks of the north-western part of South Africa, then move to Zim-

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babwe and Mozambique and finally to Malawi, where we intended to survey rain forests along the Nyasa Lake, third by area and southernmost of all lakes of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa, covering a deep hollow in the earth crust between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. The lake is spread from north to south for 560 km and is 706 m deep. The lake ranks third in area and ninth in depth (after Baikal and Tanganyika) among fresh water lakes of the world. It contains 7 percent of the global fresh water reserves and creates the most diverse lake ecosystem by the number of species, most of which are endemic.

We were inspired by the fact that we had to cross the world-famous rivers Limpopo and Zambezi. Besides, we

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understood well enough that the Black Africa was still poorly explored and studied (it is an undeniable fact!).


So, three days after our arrival in South Africa, we collected all necessary documents-permits and went on our expedition. In our preparations we were assisted by the Russian entomologist Mikhail Mostovsky, an employee of the museum in the province of Natal. First, we all went to the northern province of Limpopo: its territory is fenced, you cannot go down from the road even for 10 m, you meet barbed wire, often charged, everywhere. All lands in the province are private, we had to negotiate with a majority of local farmers to work on their fields. It was not a problem, since guests from Russia are rather rare and attract much interest. Huge pastures, tableland*,

*Tableland--a mountain with a truncated plane peak and steep, almost vertical slopes. As a rule, such rocks are composed of sedimentary rocks.--Ed.

lakes, mountain ridges covered with snow--a remarkable landscape not far from the Kingdom of Lesotho. On our way we made several overnight stops in different national parks and small camping sites. This area is a territory of preferential protection, consisting of national parks, forests, simple parks and reserves... They differ in area-- from a hundred or two hundred hectares to the enormous Krtiger National Park*. The territory is well developed: there are residential houses surrounded by wild nature... Thus, during our first stop at the private natural reserve Cumberland, 1 saw two giraffes only 500 m away from our camp. To say nothing about zebras, numerous species of antelopes, elephants, and ostriches. Before reaching the Zimbabwe border, we visited some more reserves in the provinces Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

* Krtiger National Park--the oldest national park in the Republic of South Africa. It is located in the northeast of the country and makes part of the biosphere reserve Kriiger-to-Canyons established in 2001.--Ed.

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Here I cannot help telling you about my impressions about South Africa not like an entomologist, but like a common tourist. The population of the country is split into two parts--white and black people. The black population is mostly represented by descendants of Zulu and Bushman tribes, who inhabited Africa from ancient times. Zulu people are tall and thin, Bushmen are, on the contrary, short and solid. White people can also be divided into two groups: Anglo-Saxons and Boers (descendants of Dutch and German colonists). Hence two national languages: English and Afrikaans (old Dutch). For example, in the province of Limpopo inhabited by Boers no one understood us speaking English. Colonial traditions and lifestyle are also alive there. Comfortable climate, volcanic soils, interesting grape species make this territory famous for its high-quality and inexpensive wines.


On April 10, 2011, we crossed the border of Limpopo and found ourselves in Zimbabwe (former name-Southern Rhodesia). It is there that a "real Africa" begins--mud, awful living conditions, etc.--all these things are real... Local roads are relatively good; as for the nature it is badly damaged by man: vast fields, erosion of soils, deforested territories, except for border areas along Mozambique. The same day, we reached Harare*. There, we met our friend and colleague German entomologist Jurgen Lenz who joined our expedition. The artist, owner of several galleries of African sculpture in Europe and Britain, today Lenz is studying a big group of cankerworms: in the African jungles we discovered some species unknown to the scientific community.

We spent a few days in savannas and miombo (open woodland forests represented by many tree species; dry savanna forests) of Zimbabwe. We gathered an extensive scientific material and, upon arrival, made a decision to publish a series of articles dedicated to Zimbabwe fauna. We were impressed by the mountain range Bvumbe near the border with Mozambique, where we made a stop. There we were staggered by mountain rain forests: lianas hanging all around, giant trees, numerous interesting insects....


Then we set off to Mozambique: incredible heat (34-36 °C at night plus 100 percent humidity!) in the Zambezi valley; very unhealthy climate; population suffering from extreme poverty and the Civil War lasting for more than 20 years. Not a single car on the roads, and a densely populated territory! Local nature is almost com-

*Harare--the capital of Zimbabwe and administrative center of the province of the same name.--Ed.

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pletely devastated--the population is engaged in agriculture, lands are used to plant cassava (edible manioc, a tropical plant) and sweet corn. The overpopulation is horrifying: we crossed a 40 km long settlement not indicated on the map. You can see a difference between former colonies of Great Britain and Portugal. The Englishmen built a rather good infrastructure and enforced law and order. The Portuguese impoverished the colonies taking away all valuable reserves, including slaves-- that is why Mozambique and Angola are the poorest countries in Africa.


Our next stop was in Malawi: there we once again found good roads, asphalt, etc. The forest again, though rather chopped down. In Malawi we planned to study the Nyasa lake--a huge fresh water basin making part of the Great African Lakes (including, in particular, Victoria, Albert and Edward lakes running into the White Nile.--Ed.). Nyasa is a unique natural complex, a habitat for a million of rare and endemic fish species living only in Nyasa. We believed that we could find interesting species of insects in littoral jungles and settled on the southern side of the lake. The area around us in was really amazing: we found some very rare and unknown species of insects. We spent some great days in the national park Uzuzu Hill, then we worked in other reserves in Malawi. In one of them--Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve--I was lucky to see a small group of hippopotami peacefully swimming in the lake.

In the Malawian town of Mzuzu, famous for its extremely unhealthy climate, we got acquainted with the Englishman Ray Murphy, who had been living in Malawi for over 40 years. He is an enthusiastic researcher of his second homeland: by this time, he had discovered many new species of insects, he studied birds and plants. This year Ray turns 80, but his passion for the African nature makes him travel to remote areas of Malawi. Murphy is actively communicating and cooperating with many professional zoologists, including scientists from Russia. By the way, it is worth mentioning here that we are working on a series of scientific articles dedicated to the fauna of Malawian butterflies in cooperation with him. Recently, the Zootaxa magazine published an article prepared jointly by us on Malawian carpenter moths, including two new for science species. Unfortunately, the forests in Malawi are chopped down for agricultural purposes, to plant tea and hevea*. The Malawian tea, almost unknown in our country, is of high quality and has unique taste properties.

It must be pointed out that environment management in most African counties is in a catastrophic state. Most people are engaged in extensive farming. The rapid growth of the population turns into chaotic.

However, our journey was almost completed. We returned to the Republic of South Africa with night stops in national parks. Thus, the overall length of our entomological expedition made up 8,900 km. We visited 4 countries in the southeastern part of the African continent and wrote almost 10 articles based on the materials collected during the trip and provided by scientists from the Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We hope that the Russian expedition group headed by Vasily Kovtunovich will still make many exciting discoveries.

*Hevea brasiliensis Müll--an evergreen monoecious tree of the Euphorbiaceae family.--Ed.


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