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03 April 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Vhugala Nthakheni
Uhuru Qwaqwa Arrival
The #UFSWalkToUhuru team arrives at the UFS Qwaqwa Campus on Friday 22 March.

The University of the Free State (UFS) Division of Student Affairs, in collaboration with the UFS Office for International Affairs, have joined hands to drive a fundraising and student-accessibility initiative dubbed, ‘The Walk to Uhuru’ (#UFSWalktoUhuru), which is aimed at raising funds and advocating for the educational rights of the less privileged. 

The project aims to raise funds in excess of R2 million from the public and stakeholders affiliated with the UFS (Kovsie staff and students). The project derives from the 2018/2019 UFS Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC) mandate ‘Students Must Graduate’. The ISRC mandate aims to source funding opportunities for UFS students to register, and to complete their studies across all three campuses in 2020 and beyond.

The first leg of the project, a 350 km walk from the Bloemfontein to the Qwaqwa Campus, has already taken place and concluded on Friday, 22 March 2019 as planned. The #UFSWalkToUhuru team successfully completed the first leg of their journey to academic freedom for financially disadvantaged students at the UFS. The Uhuru team is now focusing its attention on the second leg and is determined to take on Mount Kilimanjaro (Uhuru) from 20 June to 20 July 2019.

The team sat down for a debriefing session to unpack the overall experience and result of the first half of the initiative, and they all agreed that the walk to Qwaqwa was an enlightening experience. It was a walk that comprised learning opportunities, team building, and goal crushing.

According to Rethabile Motseki, member of the #UFSWalkToUhuru team, the walk to Qwaqwa made a significant impact on the project, as the university community is now aware of the significant goals that the team is trying to accomplish. The team has also resumed their fitness-training programme to ensure that they are ready to take on the Uhuru climb in June.

A media briefing will take place shortly (date to be confirmed) to detail the ongoing fundraising initiatives rolled out by the #UFSWalkToUhuru team.  We implore you, and the nation as a whole, to help establish a better future for disadvantaged UFS students by donating to the initiative.

Students, staff, and the public can support the cause and make contributions/donations to the initiative by visiting the UFS Walk to Uhuru #givengain account page.

For more information, contact UFS SRC President, Sonwabile Dwaba, on DwabaSJ@ufs.ac.za  or Rethabile Motseki on MotsekiR@ufs.ac.za  

News Archive

Studies to reveal correlation between terrain, energy use, and giraffe locomotion
2016-11-18



More than half of giraffes in captivity in Europe are afflicted by lameness. This high prevalence represents an important welfare issue, similar to other large zoo animals.

According to Dr Chris Basu, a veterinarian at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, giraffes in captivity are often afflicted by overgrown hooves, laminitis and joint problems. Diagnosis and treatment is limited by our understanding of anatomy and function, more specifically the locomotion of these animals. Although the giraffe is such a well-known and iconic animal, relatively little has been studied about their locomotor behaviour.

Dr Basu recently visited South Africa to do fieldwork on the locomotion of giraffes as part of his PhD studies under the mentorship of world-renowned Professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics, Prof John Hutchinson. This project is a joint venture between Dr Basu and Dr Francois Deacon, researcher in the Department of Animal, Wildlife, and Grassland Sciences at the UFS. Dr Deacon is a specialist in giraffe habitat-related research. 

Together Prof Hutchinson and Drs Deacon and Basu form a research group, working on studies about giraffe locomotion.

Wild giraffe population decrease by 40% in past decade

“Locomotion is one of the most common animal behaviours and comes with a significant daily energetic cost. Studying locomotion of wild animals aids us in making estimates of this energetic cost. Such estimates are useful in understanding how giraffes fit into ecosystems. Future conservation efforts will be influenced by knowledge of the energy demands in giraffes.

“Understanding aspects of giraffe locomotion also helps us to understand the relationships between anatomy, function and evolution. This is relevant to our basic understanding of the natural world, as well as to conservation and veterinary issues,” said Dr Deacon.

Locomotion study brings strategy for specialist foot care

On face value it seems as if foot disease pathologies are more common in zoo giraffes than in wild giraffes. “However, we need a good sample of data from both populations to prove this assumption,” said Dr Basu. 

This phenomenon is not well understood at the moment, but it’s thought that diet, substrate (e.g. concrete, straw, sand and grass) and genetics play a part in foot disease in giraffes. “Understanding how the feet are mechanically loaded during common activities (standing, walking, running) gives our research group ideas of where the highest strains occur, and later how these can be reduced through corrective foot trimming,” said Dr Basu.

Through the studies on giraffe locomotion, the research group plans to devise strategies for corrective foot trimming. At the moment, foot trimming is done with the best evidence available, which is extrapolation from closely related animals such as cattle. “But we know that giraffes’ specialist anatomy will likely demand specialist foot care,” Dr Basu said.

Studying giraffes in smaller versus larger spaces

The research group has begun to study the biomechanics of giraffe walking by looking at the kinematics (the movement) and the kinetics (the forces involved in movement) during walking strides. For this he studied adult giraffes at three zoological parks in the UK. 

However, due to the close proximity of fencing and buildings, it is not practical to study fast speeds in a zoo setting. 

A setting such as the Willem Pretorius Nature Reserve, near Ventersburg in the Free State, Kwaggafontein Nature Reserve, near Colesberg in the Karoo, and the Woodland Hills Wildlife Estate in Bloemfontein are all ideal for studying crucial aspects such as “faster than walking” speeds and gaits to measure key parameters (such as stride length, step frequency and stride duration). These studies are important to understand how giraffe form and function are adapted to their full range of locomotor behaviours. It also helps to comprehend the limits on athletic capacity in giraffes and how these compare to other animals. 

Drones open up unique opportunities for studying giraffes

The increasing availability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/drones opens up unique opportunities for studying locomotion in animals like giraffes. Cameras mounted onto remotely controlled UAVs are a straightforward way to obtain high-quality video footage of giraffes while they run at different speeds.

“Using two UAVs, we have collected high definition slow motion video footage of galloping giraffes from three locations in the Free State. We have also collected detailed information about the terrain that the giraffes walked and ran across. From this we have created 3D maps of the ground. These maps will be used to examine the preferred terrain types for giraffes, and to see how different terrains affect their locomotion and energy use,” said Dr Deacon.

“The raw data (videos) will be digitised to obtain the stride parameters and limb angles of the animals. Later this will be combined with anatomical data and an estimation of limb forces to estimate the power output of the limbs and how that changes between different terrains,” said Dr Basu.


Related articles:

23 August 2016: Research on locomotion of giraffes valuable for conservation of this species
9 March 2016:Giraffe research broadcast on National Geographic channel
18 Sept 2015 Researchers reach out across continents in giraffe research
29 May 2015: Researchers international leaders in satellite tracking in the wildlife environment

 

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