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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

Researchers reach out across continents in giraffe research
2015-09-18

Dr Francois Deacon and Prof Fred Bercovitch
busy with field work.

Researcher Dr Francois Deacon from the Department of Animal, Wildlife, and Grassland Sciences at the University of the Free State is conducting research with renowned wildlife scientist, Prof Fred Bercovitch, from the Center for International Collaboration and Advanced Studies in Primatology, Kyoto University Primate Research Institute in Japan.

Dr Deacon’s ground-breaking research has attracted international media attention. Together with Prof Nico Smit, he equipped giraffes with GPS collars, and conducted research based on this initiative. “Satellite tracking is proving to be extremely valuable in the wildlife environment. The unit is based on a mobile global two-way communication platform, utilising two-way data satellite communication, complete with GPS systems.”

Prof Bercovitch was involved with GPS tracking from elephants to koala bears.

Some of the highlights of the joint research on giraffes by Dr Deacon and Prof Bercovitch focus on:
 
• How much time do certain giraffes spend with, and away from, one another
• How do the home ranges of herds and individual giraffe overlap
• Do genetically-related animals spend more time together than non-genetically-related animals
• How much time do the young bulls, adult bulls, and dominant bulls spend with cow herds
• Herd interactions and social behaviours of giraffe
• The role of the veld and diet on animal behaviour and distribution

 

Their research article, “Gazing at a giraffe gyroscope: Where are we going?”, which was published in the African Journal of Ecology, assesses recent research by exploring five primary questions:

- How many (sub) species of giraffe exist?
- What are the dynamics of giraffe herds?
- How do giraffe communicate?
- What is the role of sexual selection in giraffe reproduction?
- How many giraffe reside in Africa?

They conclude this article by emphasising that the most essential issue is to develop conservation management plans that will save a wonderful species from extinction, and which will also enable scientists to conduct additional research aimed at answering their five questions.

In addition, they are working together on a grand proposal to get National Geographic to cover their work.

 

 

 

 

 

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