Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Australian Marine Debris Initiative

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The Australian Marine Debris Initiative is a way that everyone can become involved in both the removal of marine debris and finding solutions to stop the flow of rubbish into our oceans.

Tangaroa Blue Foundation is an Australian registered charity focused on the health of our marine environment, and coordinates the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, an on-ground network of volunteers, communities, organisations and agencies around the country monitoring the impacts of marine debris along their stretch of coastline.

Since the program started in 2004, more than 1.2 million pieces of marine debris have been removed from the Australian coastline and data on this debris collated and inputted into the Australian Marine Debris Database.

The database is used to firstly identify what is impacting different sections of the coast, and then to track wherever possible where those items are coming from. Lastly stakeholders are then brought together to work on practical solutions and create source reduction plans to stop marine debris from entering our oceans in the first place. The database has open access to all contributors who are also recognised when data is used, and has been used by the CSIRO, James Cook University, all levels of government and communities.

While an estimated 18,000 pieces of plastic float in every square kilometre of ocean, it is only when it washes ashore that most people get an idea of how much rubbish must actually be out in our oceans and the impacts that this has on marine life and seabirds. This is also our best opportunity to remove it from the environment before the next tide washes it back out to sea again.

Volunteers, organisations and communities from around the country are invited to join forces in the Australian Marine Debris Initiative to find practical solutions in reducing ocean pollution.

The AMDI CyberTracker Sequence was designed using the CyberTracker software and a handheld PDA device to collect data in the field.

Audubon Magazine: Off the Beaten Track

ImageBY VICTORIA SCHLESINGER

Wildlife tracking is making a comeback, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and biologists alike. For some it’s an engrossing hobby; for others it’s a critical contribution to conservation.

Even as tracking has captured the public’s interest, there has been a decline in natural history courses offered at universities. Across the country, schools have eliminated classes in basic taxonomy, ornithology, mammalogy, herpetology–the list goes on–causing a flurry of journal papers expressing concern about the future of organismal science and the next generation. “It is not trendy, it doesn’t bring in the big grants, or those kinds of subjects are considered to be old fashioned,” says Reed Noss, an ecologist at the University of Central Florida and author of essays on the decline. (Today many conservation biology students devote themselves to statistical modeling and DNA analysis.) “So very few people are coming out of graduate school even trained and able to teach those kinds of courses.”

“We lose a basic connection to nature when we don’t immerse ourselves in natural history and only deal with mathematical abstractions and theory,” says Noss, who laments changes in environmental education since the 1970s. “There was already a shift away from classification and toward experiential education where basically you played games with the kid. No one ever wanted to name anything because ‘No, that’ll turn kids off to nature if they make it hard work.’ ” The danger of these two extremes is that by “losing specialists equipped to identify organisms, we’re not able to track the extinction crisis nearly as adequately as in the past.”

Read the full article here…

Profile of an Icon: Master Tracker Karel Benadie

ImageFrom: 21 Icons – South Africa

by Michael Hathorn

A boy, slight and quick on his feet, runs up a hill close to his house in the jagged Karoo landscape. The hill is steep, and the days are hot, but he does this every morning. His daily routine: running tracking, and looking for the caracals that prey on sheep. He is Karel Benadie, and today, forty years after those morning runs up the hill, that young boy has become a master tracker – a rare distinction.

He has paid the price now for those early escapades, and all the subsequent years moving across the Karoo on foot. His back is stiff, and his knees struggle to bend. His eyes are as keen as ever though, and his ability to track remains unchanged. He is always alert to the bush and the creatures moving through it, making a rare boast: “I could track a spider.”

Benadie, in addition to having earned the title of master tracker, is active in passing on his knowledge. He works now at a game reserve in the Eastern Cape, training young people from disadvantaged communities in the art of tracking. He spends 1500 hours in the field with his students over the course of a year, working with them during the first half of the day.

In the afternoons, they are taught theory by his wife, Janetta, also a member of the academy. It is important work, and successful. The knowledge that Benadie possesses is vital to conservation, as efforts to protect and reintroduce endangered species would fall flat without the work of trackers on the ground monitoring the animals and protecting them from poachers.

Through his teaching, Benadie is ensuring that his skills are not lost, with immediate benefits to his students as well as the conservation community: over 90 percent of the tracker academy’s graduates find permanent employment in the industry.

At the age of fifteen, he was recruited by South African National Parks when the farm that he lived on was absorbed into a protected area. Initially employed as a fence-checker, his knowledge and skill was soon recognised. He was moved to game ranging, and his budding expertise was honed into mastery of the ancient craft of tracking. Working at such a young age meant that he was not given a formal education: he is one of the most highly-skilled individuals in South Africa, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of medicinal plants and wildlife patterns, and he has not completed school. His knowledge has been earned through long, tiring work that can become dangerous in an instant.

Rhinos are enormous, and capable of serious destruction when threatened and moved to anger. Benadie, while with two students, once stood up to one as it charged towards him; using only twigs and leaves, he created enough confusion to allow himself and the students to get away. “After that I was so scared. I was shaking – not outside, but inside I was shaking,” he says.

The Karoo is an inhospitable place. It is hot during the day and freezing at night. The landscape is full of rocks and the terrain is, one would think, nightmarish for a tracker. There is precious little sand, and the plant life is dry and brittle. Instead of following paw prints and scratched leaves, Benadie has learnt to follow disturbed stones and broken twigs, to look for signs in the land that point to the possibility of a trail, rather than a trail itself.

A large part of this art is abstraction, and takes place in his mind – Benadie prides himself on being able to think like the animals he follows, to anticipate their movements when physical evidence is lacking.

When he talks about this, his hands are as animated as his face, mimicking the soft, light padding of a leopard or the sharp hooves of a kudu. He struggles to express himself when speaking in English – it is his second language– but comes into his own when talking about his craft or pointing out the signs of a trail. This is where it becomes obvious why he has earned the title ‘master tracker’: his mind is fast, certain, and filled with knowledge of the bush.

The day that he was born, 24 July 1963, was freezing – the coldest in Beaufort West’s recorded history. The nearby mountain peaks were covered in snow, and a derivative of the Afrikaans word for it, ‘Kapok’, became Benadie’s nickname, Pokkie. That’s the name that he has gone by for his entire life, preferring it to Karel.

At the age of 27 he met the man who would become his mentor, Louis Liebenberg. A scientist who specialises in monitoring wildlife, Liebenberg is part of the tracking community, and identified Benadie as an individual with immense skill and knowledge. They formed a partnership centred on Benadie’s abilities and Liebenberg’s scientific background, and began to work on research projects together.

Karel Benadie has worked for years with very little recognition outside of the tracking community, acquiring knowledge that is growing increasingly rare as the years pass. His ability to acquire and retain information is up there with the world’s most celebrated intellects, but because of its unusual nature receives minimal attention. Another factor in Benadie’s lack of acclaim is his own personality: his skill as a tracker is matched by the depths of his humility. His value to South Africa and the world is unquestionable, and his contributions as a tracker and an educator to the field of conservation have been enormous. He has never asked to be celebrated, and prefers to let his work speak for him, but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked: his story is one that everyone should hear.

As a part of this, Benadie spent fifteen years following black rhino after they were reintroduced to the Karoo National Park, recording their movements every day in order to better understand their needs for the purposes of conservation. Benadie would spend long stretches of time travelling across very difficult terrain on foot tracing the movements of the rhino. Together with another tracker, James Minye – one of the only other master trackers in the country – Benadie’s data was published in the scientific journal Pachyderm, going a long way towards proving the value of his work as scientific endeavour.

http://www.21icons.com/twentyone-icons/essays/karel-benadie

On Endurance Running, the Development of Scientific Thinking and Creating Greater Environmental Awareness

On-Endurance-Runningby Markus Kittner

Probably over 2 million years old and likely the most ancient form of hunting (before the domestication of dogs and the invention of weapons), persistence hunting is/was done without weapons. This was mainly possible because of the unique human physical ability to outrun an animal to exhaustion. Strange as it sounds humans are the best adapted creatures on earth to run long distances in hot conditions. Because unlike most animals our upright bodies aren’t so close to the hot ground, we sweat to cool down, don’t need to drink as frequently as other animals and our breathing is independent from our stride.

But besides endurance running, another important factor contributing to our persistence hunting success was our unique ability for scientific thinking. Humans had to be able to deduce, predict and theorize where the prey might be or run to (more on this in the videos to follow).

Back in the early 1980′s, 22 year old Louis Liebenberg was majoring in Maths and Physics at Cape Town University. There he had begun challenging the traditional view that the human brain could not be the product of natural selection because of it’s appreciation for art and science (which meant that it far exceeded the capacity of all other animals). However Louis had a hunch that scientific thinking was indeed evolutionary and had developed as a necessity for the survival of modern hunter-gatherer societies, especially from the practice of animal tracking in hunting. So on deciding he would rather research his evolutionary intuition than finish his studies, to prove his evolution theory Louis dropped out of college.

Read the full article here…

Betting on Black Swans: The Potential Implications of New Energy Solutions for Climate Change and Biodiversity

Image14 January 2014

Revolutionary new energy sources may result in the most disruptive changes in human history. Any one of these potential energy sources may become a Black Swan event. This may have both positive as well as unintended consequences for climate change and biodiversity conservation. While the implications for climate change would be positive, severe disruptions in land-use patterns will require intensive monitoring of biodiversity and proactive conservation management.

Accelerated fossil fuel use could conceivably push the Earth’s climate past a dangerous tipping point resulting in runaway global warming. James Hansen warns that we are on the verge of crossing a tipping point into catastrophic climate change. More and more evidence suggest that we could potentially face runaway climate change at a much faster rate than anticipated. While we need to actively pursue all alternative energy options, including energy conservation, novel energy solutions may be essential. We need to provide the growing energy needs of a growing world economy, both in terms of population growth as well as increasing consumption due to growing wealth required to eliminate poverty of the growing population.

Fusion Energy

Since the German physicist Hans Bethe first explained how nuclear fusion powers the stars in 1939, there have been many attempts to harness fusion on Earth with mixed success.

The largest government-sponsored fusion projects include ITER in France and the NIF in the USA. In 2007 construction work started on ITER in Cadarache, France. And in 2009 the US National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, opened. NIF uses powerful lasers to compress and heat hydrogen fuel and so initiate fusion for military and astrophysical research. These large research programmes, however, may take decades to become economically viable.

An interesting potential Black Swan is the independent, privately funded project that was initiated in 2002 when Dr. Michel Laberge founded General Fusion to develop economically viable fusion energy. His key insight was realizing that Magnetized Target Fusion, with the aid of modern electronics, materials, and advances in plasma physics, could provide a faster, lower cost, and more practical path to fusion power.

General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion system uses a sphere, filled with molten lead-lithium that is pumped to form a vortex.  On each pulse, magnetically-confined plasma is injected into the vortex. Around the sphere, an array of pistons impact and drive a pressure wave into the centre of the sphere, compressing the plasma to fusion conditions.

Novel Forms of Energy

Perhaps the most surprising Black Swans may come in the form of novel solutions that may be found in nuclear processes that have not yet been harnessed, which could result in an unexpected energy revolution.

As a student in 1984 at the University of Cape Town I studied physics under Prof Jan Rafelski (now at The University of Arizona). At the time one of his fields of research was the physics of table top Muon-catalyzed fusion (Rafelski and Jones, 1987). Since then I had a life-long interest in the possibility of clean fusion energy.

One of the most exciting recent developments in physics is in the field of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR). At present it is not clear when LENR could replace fossil fuels. But if successful, LENR may result in the most disruptive energy revolution in history. It provides the potential for limitless, cheap, safe, distributed, clean energy that can be used on a small scale to provide energy for a single home or scaled up for industrial uses.

In a video released on January 16, 2014 at Serious Science, MIT Associate Prof. Peter Hagelstein talks about the Problem of Cold Fusion and the Fleischmann and Pons experiment, condensed matter physics, and the laws of conservation of energy in momentum.

In 2009 Scott Pelley of the CBS News TV programme “60 Minutes” did a story on “Cold Fusion Hot Again.” A video was released by Joe Zawodny (2012) of NASA and in 2013 Forbes reported on research conducted by NASA on LENR. An “Overview of Theoretical and Experimental Progress in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions” was presented by Francesco Celani (2012) and Yogendra Srivastava (2012) at a CERN Colloquium in March 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. Robert Godes (2012) maintains that Brillion Energy Corporation will be able to generate power at a fourth of the cost of coal or natural gas power.

Two physicists, Giuliano Preparata (Univ. Statute di Milano) and Allan Widom (Northeastern University, Boston), have proposed a theoretical model of the physics of LENR (Srivastava, 2012). While various chemical elements may be involved, one version of LENR involves Nickel (one of the most abundant elements on Earth) and Hydrogen, which would provide a limitless supply of cheap energy. The by-products would be the transmutation of Nickel into Copper, with no radioactive waste, greenhouse gases or any other form of dangerous pollution (Srivastava, Widom and Larsen, 2010).

In May 2013 an independent report has been published on the “Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder” (Levi, et. Al. 2013). The authors report that: “Even by the most conservative assumptions as to the errors in the measurements, the result is still one order of magnitude greater than conventional energy sources.” News reports have been featured in Forbes (Gibbs, 2013) and Wired (Hambling, 2013).

The inventor Andrea Rossi aims to bring a commercial product to the market within the next few years. On January 24, 2014, it was announced that Industrial Heat has acquired Rossi’s E-Cat Technology. “The world needs a new, clean and efficient energy source. Such a technology would raise the standard of living in developing countries and reduce the environmental impact of producing energy… Even by the most conservative assumptions as to the errors in the measurements, the result is still one order of magnitude greater than conventional energy sources”

In competition with Rossi, companies like Defklaion Green Technologies, Nichenergy, Brillouin Energy Corporation, Lattice Energy LLC as well as high-profile companies like Mitsubishi and Toyota are also working on commercializing energy generation based on LENR.

An update in Wired magazine, “Cold fusion continues to progress stealthily into the mainstream,” suggests that 2014 is set to be a very interesting year for Low Energy Nuclear Reactions.

Implications for Climate Change and Biodiversity

If any one of these potential energy solutions can successfully be brought to the market, it will be a true Black Swan event that may have profound implications for climate change and the conservation of biodiversity.

Climate Change: It may completely replace fossil fuels, halting the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Furthermore, inexpensive clean energy may make it possible to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to bring it back to pre-industrial levels, thereby stabilizing the climate. However, even if we stopped using fossil fuels, we may still experience disruptive climate over the next 100 years.

Water and Food Production: It may become viable to desalinate sea water on a large scale, minimizing the need to extract fresh water from rivers. Vertical farming (Despommier, 2009) may become more efficient than conventional farming. Large areas of farm land may revert back to wilderness. While this may increase the area of land available for biodiversity, it is not clear what the unintended impacts may be of the uncontrolled spread of alien species on abandoned farmland.

Social and Economic Disruptions: Accelerated urbanization and depopulation of rural areas. Inexpensive energy may accelerate the automation of industry resulting in large-scale unemployment. This may require a fundamental restructuring of the economy.

Biodiversity: An irregular climate and the disruptive impacts on land-use patterns may require intensive monitoring of biodiversity to manage the spread of alien species and the influx of indigenous species onto abandoned farm land.

CyberTracker’s Vision: In the future millions of citizen scientists worldwide may use their smartphones to monitor the entire global ecosystem in real time. Large-scale unemployment may provide an opportunity to create “Green jobs” to stimulate the economy and provide the manpower needed for conservation management. Intensive monitoring may reveal new data on the complexities of ecosystems evolving over time in response to disruptions in land-use patterns. Intelligent computers may be used to analyse huge quantities of complex data and predict future trends.

References

Celani, F. 2012. “Overview of Theoretical and Experimental Progress in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR).” CERN Colloquium Thursday March 22, 2012, Geneva, Switzerland.

Despommier, D. 2009. “The Rise of Vertical Farms.” Scientific American, Vol. 301. No. 5.

Gibs, M. 2013. “Finally! Independent Testing Of Rossi’s E-Cat Cold Fusion Device: Maybe The World Will Change After All.” Forbes.

Godes, R. 2012. Interview with Robert Godes, inventor of the controlled electron capture reaction (CECR) being commercialized by Brillion Energy Corporation of Berkeley.

Hambling, D. 2013. “Cold Fusion gets red hot and aims for EU” Wired.

Hansen, J. 2009. Storms of my Grandchildren. The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save humanity. London: Bloomsbury

Levi, G, E. Foschi, T. Hartman, B. Hӧistad, R. Pettersson, L. Tegnér and H. Essén. 2013. Indication of anomalous heat energy production in a reactor device containing hydrogen loaded nickel powder.

Pelley, S. 2009. “Cold Fusion Hot Again.” CBS News TV programme “60 Minutes.”

Rafelski, J. and S. E. Jones. 1987. “Cold Nuclear Fusion.” Scientific American, Vol. 257, No. 7.

Srivastava, Y. N., A. Widom and L. Larsen. 2010. “A primer for electroweak induced low-energy nuclear reactions.”

Srivastava, Y. N. 2012. “Overview of LENT Theory Low Energy Nuclear Transmutations.” CERN Colloquium Thursday March 22, 2012, Geneva, Switzerland.

Zawodny, J. 2012. “Method for Enhancement of Surface Plasmon Polaritons to Initiate & Sustain LENR.”  

The Race between Runaway Climate and Runaway Science

Climate-ChangeMore and more evidence suggest that we could potentially face runaway climate change at a much faster rate than anticipated. The videos Arctic Methane: Why the Sea Ice Matters and Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb presents a sobering analysis of the latest data on disappearing Arctic sea ice. James Hansen warns in a new paper that we are on the verge of crossing a tipping point into catastrophic climate change. Accelerating warming may release methane from permafrost and the ocean floor, creating a positive feedback cycle of increasing warming and increasing release of methane, resulting in potential catastrophic runaway global warming.

While the evidence suggesting potential runaway climate change is cause for concern, I believe the outcome will be determined by a race between climate change and change brought about by science and technology. It is clear that political change and social change will not provide solutions to climate change. Only rapid innovation in science and technology will be able to provide solutions that can deal with the rapidly increasing problems we face. We need runaway science – we need scientific innovation that can outpace the threats posed by runaway climate change.

Over the last 100 000 years science has grown at an accelerating rate. The next ten to twenty years may see innovation in science and technology orders of magnitude greater than what we have witnessed in the last 100 years. Much of this acceleration may come from citizen science, from self-educated independent scientists. The greater the number of people who get involved in science, the greater the chance of a Black Swan solution not anticipated at present. We cannot depend on politicians to increase science budgets to solve the problems we face. Rather, young people need to take the initiative and follow their passion for science.

The Kudu Chase

ImageLone Tree, Central Kalahari, August 29, 1990.

We had been hunting for two weeks with no luck. It was at the end of the dry season and the dry grass made it difficult to stalk close enough to animals to get a good shot with a bow and arrow. That morning we were tracking a healthy kudu bull. By midday we caught up with it, but again it ran away. This was when !Nate (photo), Kayate and Boroh//xao decided to run it down. It was an extremely hot day and conditions were ideal for persistence hunting. !Nam!kabe, who was too old to run far, went back to our camp with all our unnecessary weight – bows and arrows, digging sticks, clubs and my camera equipment. They told me to go back with !Nam!kabe, because no white man can run down a kudu in such heat. But I insisted that I had to run with them so that I can see how they do it.

So we drank our fill, emptying the water bottles before setting off at a stiff pace. Even at the outset my boots felt heavy and I found it difficult to keep up the pace in the sandy terrain. At times they would run away from me, but when they lost the spoor and were delayed in looking for the spoor I managed to catch up with them. At times they would fan out, each hunter making a prediction of where he thought the kudu was heading, so that if the kudu followed a curved path, one of them would gain an advantage by taking a short cut. The others would then cut back to catch up with the one who picked up the spoor.

Boroh//xao was the first to drop out and start walking. I managed to keep up with !Nate while Kayate had increased his pace and was pulling away from us. When we got to some thick bush, however, I lost sight of !Nate who was about a hundred meters ahead of me. The terrain was difficult in places and several times I lost the trail. In the process Boroh//xao had caught up with me again, and since I was quite exhausted by that time, decided to follow the trail with him at a fast walking pace.

As we followed the tracks I could visualise the whole event unfolding in front of me. The kudu started to show signs of hyperthermia. It was kicking up sand and its stride was getting shorter. As it ran from shade to shade, the distances between its resting periods became shorter and shorter. In visualising the kudu I projected myself into its situation. Concentrating on the spoor I was so caught up in the event that I was completely unaware of my own state of exhaustion. As if in an almost trance-like state I could not only see how the kudu was leaping from one set of tracks to the next, but in my body I could actually feel how the kudu was moving. In a sense it felt as if I myself actually became the kudu, as if I myself was leaping from one set of tracks to the next.

Every time Kayate and !Nate caught up with it, it would run away, leaving them behind. But while it accelerated from its resting position and stop to rest again, the hunters were running at a constant pace. The distinctively human sweating apparatus and relative hairlessness give the hunters an advantage by keeping their bodies cool in the midday heat. But in the process they risk becoming dehydrated. The hunters therefore have to know their bodies and measure their own condition against that of the kudu. If they run too fast, they will exhaust themselves or overheat, but if they do not run fast enough, they will never exhaust or overheat the kudu. They must run fast enough not to allow the kudu too much time to rest, which is when the kudu cools down, restoring core body temperature.

We could see from the spoor that Kayate had dropped out and that only !Nate was chasing it. Boroh//xao pointed to the moon and said that the kudu will get away, because the moon was out in daylight. But by this time the kudu seemed to be so exhausted that I insisted that we should carry on. At one point a cold shiver went through my whole body and for the first time I realised that I was dragging my feet in the sand. Some times my legs buckled under me and I would stumble over branches, but through intense concentration on the spoor it was as if though my mind was simply dragging my body along.

!Nate had picked up his pace and was closing in on the kudu. With the kudu showing signs of severe exhaustion or overheating, !Nate broke into a sprint, running in front of the kudu and keeping it from getting into the shade. At the same time he tried to cut in front of it to chase it back to Kayate.

When we finally caught up with !Nate and Kayate, they were on their way back to the camp. When I asked !Nate where the kudu was, he told me that it got away. When he saw the disappointment on my face he laughed at me, telling me that the kudu was not very far. I asked if I could drink the stomach water of the kudu to quench my thirst. I had drunk the stomach water of gemsbok on a previous hunt, and although it tasted like rotting grass soup, it was not too bad. At this stage I was so thirsty that taste was not much of a concern. But !Nate said that I would die if I drank it, because the kudu was feeding on a leaf that is poisonous to humans.

As we started to walk back to our camp, my mind relaxed and I was suddenly overcome by a sense of total exhaustion. My legs were weak and shaky and my mouth was dry. I asked !Nate if there were any succulent roots I could dig up, but he replied that it did not rain in that part of the Kalahari for a long time and that there were no water.

Half way back to the camp I realised that my armpits were bone dry. I had stopped sweating – the first symptoms of heat stroke. As the implications of my situation dawned upon me, I experienced an overwhelming sinking sensation – as if the vast dry Kalahari was like an endless ocean and I was sinking down deeper and deeper.

I found myself in a desperate situation. I had to get into the shade to cool down my body, but at the same time I had to get water as soon as possible. If I dehydrated any further and my body overheated because I no longer produced sweat to cool down, I could die very rapidly. !Nate, who had been watching me closely, realised that I was in serious trouble. He told me that he will run back to our camp and ask !Nam!kabe to bring me water.

After resting in the shade for a while, Kayate urged me to walk further, because the camp was still very far and the sun was going down. Once it got dark, !Nam!kabe will not be able to follow !Nate’s tracks back to find us. Walking very slowly, I experienced the ultimate sense of helplessness. My life depended totally on !Nate. If I tried to walk too fast I could kill myself, yet I had to try and make as much progress as possible because if I did not get water soon I could also die. Every now and then I would rest in the shade, and after a while Kayate would urge me on again.

After what seemed to be an eternity the sight of !Nam!kabe carrying several water bottles created an incredible sense of relief. But I still had a long way to go. !Nam!kabe explained that I must not drink a lot of water, because if I drank too much water too quickly I could die. I first had to wash my face and wet my hair to cool down my head. When you suffer from heat stroke you will die if your brain overheats. Only after cooling my head could I take small sips of water, slowly taking in water over an extended period of time.

Later !Nate told me that he also stopped sweating by the time he reached the camp. When he chased the kudu, after everyone else had dropped out, his timing was so fine that had he chased the kudu just a short distance further, he could have killed himself. He risked his own life to save my life.

It took a while for the significance of this single event to sink in. Apart from the fact that I almost lost my life in the process, my spontaneous spur-of-the-moment decision to run with them resulted in something quite unique. For more than fifty years, the Kalahari Bushmen were amongst the most intensively studied population group. Yet, as far as we know, not a single anthropologist had witnessed the persistence hunt. There have been several anecdotal accounts of persistence hunting, but no one (apart from the Bushmen themselves) had actually witnessed it.

One reason may be that, unlike the bow-and-arrow which draws attention to itself, the persistence hunt requires no weapons. There is therefore no specific weapon or artifact that would prompt an anthropologist to ask hunters about it – and no direct evidence of it in the archaeological record. Unless you already knew about it, it would not occur to you that you should ask hunters about it. /Ui /Ukxa of //Auru village was a young hunter when the Marshall family first arrived in the 1950’s at Nyae Nyae in Namibia. I asked him if anybody have ever asked him about the persistence hunt. He replied: “No, people only asked me about the bow and arrow.” Since nobody asked them, hunters simply never told anthropologists about it.

Persistence hunting was probably one of the first forms of human hunting, yet a tradition that lasted perhaps as long as two million years was only witnessed in the very last decade before it died out. In this book I will show that persistence hunting may have played a critical role in the origin of science.

In 2001 I worked with the BBC to film Karoha Langwane running the persistence hunt for The Life of Mammals, presented by David Attenborough.

Video: The Persistence Hunt

From The Origin of Science (2013) by Louis Liebenberg