News / Africa

    South Africa Monitors Impact of Toxic Spill

    FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa. FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.
    x
    FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.
    FILE - Two elephants in the Kruger National Park near Nelspruit, South Africa.
    A key tributary for a major river in South Africa's Kruger National Park has been contaminated by a toxic spill from a fertilizer company.  Officials with the National Parks Service say the spill has been stopped but contributed to a massive fish kill and could have ramifications for animals who drink from and live in the river.

    On December 30, fishermen on the Selati River, near the western entrance to Kruger National Park, found large numbers of dead fish in the river.

    Within hours, officials with the South Africa National Parks Service discovered that highly acidic water from Bosveld Phosphates, a fertilizer manufacturer run out of a former mine, had spilled into the river. 

    Storm water drains running through the operation's land were contaminated with water used in the fertilizer operation because of a pipe break.

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge
    The Selati is the last major tributary for the Olifants River, which is one of five major rivers running through Kruger.

    Officials don't know the volume of contaminated water, but the spillage was going into the river for at least a week, and was finally stopped Tuesday.

    Stefanie Freitag-Ronaldson, general manager of scientific services for the parks system, said the water was highly acidic, with a pH value well below the normal level of 7.

    "The pH were incredibly low.  It was very acidic water that moved into the system.  In the immediate vicinity of the spillage there was very, very low pH's and that's where we got the biggest fish kill, obviously," she explained.

    The parks service is using water reserves to supply clean water to tourist camps in the park.

    As for the animals, rangers can't keep them all away from the Olifants River.  Eddie Riddell, the manager for water resources in the park, notes that larger animals can drink from watering holes and streams filled up by recent rainfall.

    "From the perspective of maintaining water supply to the larger animals in the terrestrial ecosystem, it's not an issue at the moment.  If it was winter, in our dry winter period, then we'd have more of an issue to deal with," he said.

    But Freitag-Ronaldson says that for animals who are dependent on or live in the river, the impact is yet unknown.

    "Of course we are concerned about those animals that live in the river itself, such as hippos and crocodiles, and a whole host of small biota," she said. "We are also not sure when the effects of a pollution event of this nature will be manifested in those animals.  So it's basically, at this point, a monitoring game."

    She says birds who feed on the dead fish might be the first sign of possible effects on other animals.

    The South African parks service is awaiting numbers on how much contaminated water leaked into the river, and is starting in-depth investigations on the long-term environmental impact of the spill.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora