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14 May 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tsepo Moeketsi
Prof Ashafa
Prof Ashafa’s research documents plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments.

The Phytomedicine and Phytopharmacology Research Programme (PPRP) in the Department of Plant Sciences on the Qwaqwa Campus researches the biological effects of medicinal plants used in the folkloric medicine of the Eastern Free State, particularly to explore the values and contribution of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) towards broader scientific research. This is according to the programme’s principal investigator and researcher, NRF C2-rated researcher, Professor Anofi Ashafa. 

 “Our research is mainly aimed at documenting plants used by the Basotho in the management of different ailments and to further discover, isolate, and purify active phytoconstituents that are responsible for disease curation or amelioration, thereby assisting in the global promotion of accessible and affordable medication in developing countries,” said Prof Ashafa. 

Since 2012, the PPRP has worked extensively on Basotho medicinal plants (BMP) used as antimicrobials, antioxidants, antidiabetics, antitubercular, anticancer, anthelmintic, and antidiarrheal agents, starting from biological activities up to the  evaluation of the toxicity of these plants for the kidney, liver, and heart functions in order to establish safe dosage parameters. These activities have led to the discovery of four potent antidiabetic biomolecules that are awaiting the processes of patency and commercialisation. Additional outputs include 104 published peer-reviewed articles , 7 postdoctoral fellows, 6 PhDs, 9 master’s, and 16 honours graduates. 

“Our research informs teaching and the development of expertise in ethnobotany, 
phytomedicine, and phytopharmacology in order to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) through human capacity development, skills, and knowledge transfer.

The group is also investigating some medicinal plants on the endangered red list of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), through micropropagation and field trials as well as proposing conservation strategies to preserve these valuable species.

The PPRP consists of postdoctoral fellows, PhD, master’s, and honours students and research is done in collaboration with several local and international universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. 


News Archive

Study shows that even cheating monkeys alter their behaviour to avoid detection and punishment
2013-03-12

 

Dr Le Roux sharing a moment with the geladas (Theropithecus gelada).
Photo: Supplied
11 March 2013

A recent article headed by Dr Aliza le Roux from the University of the Free State Qwaqwa Campus’ Department of Zoology and Entomology, asserts that cheating and deception is not only a human phenomenon - it is also found in non-human animals.

“Our specific study investigated cheating and punishment in geladas. While human beings are known to deceive one another, and punish cheaters that get caught, it is actually very rare to find proof of this kind of behaviour in non-human animals,” said Dr Le Roux.

“We don't know if this is because humans are uniquely deceitful, or if it is just that animals deal with cheating differently. Our study was therefore the first to demonstrate that gelada males and females try to deceive their partners when they are cheating on them. This means they try to hide their unfaithful behaviour.” This is therefore the first investigation to document tactical deception in primates living in a natural environment.

“We also showed that the cuckolded males then punish the cheaters, but could not determine if the punishment actually caused cheaters to stop cheating,” said Dr Le Roux.

This on-going and long-term study continues to observe the population of wild geladas in the Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia. The study investigates primate hormones, cognition, genetics, social behaviour and conservation, and is done in collaboration with the Universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The full version of the article can be accessed on (http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n2/full/ncomms2468.html).


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