South African Invertebrate Art Exhibition

On Thursday, 11 March 2008, a function in Johannesburg is to be hosted by Nicky Oppenheimer, Chairman of EO & Son and De Beers, and Strilli Oppenheimer. The launch is the opening of the South African Invertebrate Exhibition to be held at Little Brenthurst, home of Nicky and Strilli Oppenheimer.

This unique and interesting art exhibition will be running over two months, March and April 2008, and is hoped to highlight the importance of invertebrates in South Africa. Several specialist talks will be given by high profile invertebrate researchers and conservationists over this period to highlight the ecological importance of invertebrates and build support for the XXIII International Congress of Entomology in Durban, 6th 12th July 2008.

This exhibition aims to promote interest in invertebrate science, conservation and awareness through art. Invertebrates are declining in number and diversity in South Africa because of loss of habitat, use of insecticides, pollution, light and possibly electromagnetic devices. The effects of electromagnetic fields on invertebrate life is especially interesting and has long been Mrs Strilli Oppenheimer's (and many others) concern, who, through her keen interest in conservation, has observed that there appear to be fewer insects around nowadays than there were 20 or more years ago.

She has noticed this both in her garden at Brenthurst in Johannesburg, and at Telperion on the east of Gauteng. "I started asking these questions ten years ago when a 95% decrease in the sparrow population occurred in London, which appeared parallel with the massive growth in the usage of cell phones. It is possible this decrease could be a result of a decrease in insects and therefore there not being enough insects to feed their young", said Mrs Oppenheimer.

The passion displayed in many fields for nature conservation by the Oppenheimer family and in De Beers resulted in numerous invertebrate projects being sanctioned, including research into dung beetles, lace wings, bugs, butterflies and moths, spiders as well as investigating the affects on invertebrate diversity and abundance.

The International Congress of Entomology has a long record of activity and has been held every four years over the last eighty years. It has been hosted in many parts of the world from Brazil to Beijing but this will be the first time that it will be held in Africa. It will take place in Durban from the 6th - 12th July 2008.

The Entomological Society of Southern Africa is very proud to have been entrusted with the organisation of this meeting. Entomologists from more than 45 countries will be presenting their research. There will be 18 parallel sessions with more than 150 symposia being organised by South African entomologists and their overseas counterparts covering subjects that range widely from ecology, biological control to education and conservation.

This meeting will present a wonderful opportunity for South African and African entomologists to display their excellent research and to meet and mix with world class entomologists. Many institutions have little in the way of resources to send more than one or two of their staff to the Congress. If this is true for South Africa it is even more of a problem for many countries in Africa. The congress organisers have made it one of their specific aims to raise funds to assist young scientists from Africa to attend the Congress.

The South African Invertebrate Art Exhibition will be moved to the Congress venue in Durban where it will be on display for delegates. There will also be a live interactive exhibition of arthropods in Durban called Kwanunu, designed specifically to attract school children and encourage them to learn about insects and other arthropods. It is being held at the Durban Natural Science Museum and is a joint project of the Museum and the School of Biological Sciences of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

According to Nicky Oppenheimer "Diamonds are demonstrating that they can contribute in new ways to development in Africa, beyond those associated with the purely traditional economic benefits. Conservation is as much about people as it is about conserving our heritage for generations to come. We have through research into a variety of invertebrate group discovered a number of new species and records, including a new jewel beetle, large eyed bug and ant".

Strilli Oppenheimer feels "Changes in the environment caused directly and indirectly by humans are affecting a variety of invertebrate species. The exhibition hopes to engage the average person and hopefully creates an interest and appreciation in these wonderful creatures and highlights the beauty and uniqueness of invertebrates. We need to build a growing unity in appreciating what we have, and doing what we can together, to ensure we do not continue to loose species on a daily basis, as each loses impacts on everyone and everything in some way."

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