1 Tahrcountry Musings: October 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tourism affecting Loggerhead turtles in Cape Verde

Beaches of Cape Verde (Republic of Cape Verde, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal) are famous tourist destinations. They are equally famous for Loggerhead turtles that flock its white beaches to lay their eggs. Unbridled tourism has started affecting the welfare turtles and other indigenous species. In the last decade, visitors increased seven-fold to more than 180,000 a year. The government plans to increase it further in an effort to boost economy. In a report called "Paradise on the Brink", the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said plans to increase tourist arrivals were not supported by coherent environmental studies or infrastructure projects. Cape Verde's coral reefs are among the world's most important and most threatened, and the islands' waters are also a feeding ground for humpback whales. WWF has urged the Government to take more pragmatic steps in terms of conserving wildlife while devising tourism plans.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

England - Tony Blair pushes for biofuel

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a plea for mixing biofuel with petrol and diesel in an effort to cut down pollution and global warming. The initiative will be in place by2010. Although the biofuel mix will be only 5%, it will cut down Britain’s carbon dioxide emission by more than 1%. The move is a sequel to warnings by Prince Charles that climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity.

Complex topography disorients whales?

The death of 110 whales last week following beaching in the Marion Bay area, Tasmania, Australia, has again brought up the question of why it happens. Initial figures were 60 but casualty went up as another incident followed suit. Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service officials say the most likely reason for the stranding was the complex topography of the area, which disoriented the whales. Treacherous frequently changing water depths, sandy spits and rocky outcrops, as well as a narrow opening to the ocean could have upset the navigation prowess of whales. Environmentalists have long held that use of sonar by navy cause whale and dolphin stranding. Oil industries’ seismic testing has also been blamed for stranding.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

US suspend import of Caviar, Sturgeon from Caspian Sea area

US has suspended import of Caviar and Sturgeon from Bulgaria, Romania, Russian Federation, Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey. Sturgeon is a threatened species. The ban is intended to prod the Governments concerned to initiate appropriate conservation measures. Sturgeon is one of the oldest type of living vertebrates on earth. They can grow up to 3M in length and can weigh up to 100Kg. Caviar is made from sturgeon eggs. A full grown female can yield up to 6Kg of Caviar. Sturgeon population has been on the decline since the 70s. Caspian sturgeon used to live up to 45+ years. Now with unfettered fishing average has dropped to below 30.

New breeding grounds for Short Tailed Albatross suggested

Almost the entire world's remaining short-tailed albatrosses breeds on a steep slope of the Japanese volcanic island, Torishima Island. About 2,000 short-tailed albatrosses left in the world spend their winters on the remote Japanese island but spend their summers in Alaska's southern coastline. The island is subject to eruptions, mudslides and erosion. Other threats include entanglements with fishing gear, oil spills and ingestion of plastic debris. US Fish and Wildlife Service has come up with a relocation idea. The ides is to lure the birds using decoys and recorded birdcalls to safer islands. Changing breeding sites of the albatrosses, which mate for life and are fiercely loyal to their places of birth, is not going to be easy. The plan focuses on chicks, which might form attachments to new places if moved at the correct time.

Friday, October 28, 2005

England – Beaver reintroduction on way

Beavers became extinct in England 500 years back. Hunters wiped it out. Six Beavers from Bavaria have been released at the Cotswold Water Park on Thursday in an attempt to restore the species in its former habitat. If successful the programme will be extended. Conservationists are hoping for the day, when the Beaver will be freely roaming about in the countryside of England.

Congo - Local Chief honoured for Lowland Gorilla conservation

Local Chief Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya has been awarded the prestigious Cond Nast Traveler Environmental Steward award, for his invaluable contribution to Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) Conservation, during the war torn years. Pierre Kakule Vwirasihikya organized other chiefs to protect Lowland Gorilla and other wildlife. It is a pointer to the fact community run endeavour can succeed in conservation. The award is a shot in the arm for conservationists of Democratic Republic of Congo

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Australian Government gets highest accolade from WWF

WWF has presented the Australian Government With a" Gift to the Earth," the organisations' highest accolade, for design and implementation of the Great Barrier Marine Park zoning plan. The zoning sets the benchmark for marine protectd area network in Autralia and around the world. The award ceremony took place at the opening of the inaugural Internationl Marine Protected area Network Congress(IMPAC) at Geelong Australia.

12 more protected areas for Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is adding 12 more protected areas. Papua New Guinea currently has one of the lowest coverage of protected area in the world. The 12 additions will bring the current protectd area land total to around 4 per cent. The proposed protected areas are in Madang, the Sepik River, Mount Bosavi (Southern Highlands and Western Provinces), and the TransFly (Western Province), which together will add a further 771,451ha to Papua New Guinea’s protected area, an increase by almost 50 per cent. Local communities own all the protected areas, and the management practices will be developed and run by the communities themselves. Papua New Guinea has the largest block of tropical rainforest in the Asia Pacific, the largest and healthiest wetlands in the region and some of the richest coral reefs on earth.

Scientists complete first phase of Hap Mapping

The Human Gnome Project mapped the three billion letters that make up the human genetic code.It showed that any two people are 99.9%the same. Now a group of scientists drawn from Britan,US,Canada,Japan,Nigeria and China has completed a detailed chart,showing markers of genetic variation,or single nucleotide polymorphisms(SNPs) to explain the 0.1 diffrence. The first phase contains more than 1 million SNPs. The second phase will add another 2 million. The first phase of the Hapmap has been published in the science journal Nature. The Hapmap provides scientist with indicators, with which they can focus on looking for genes involved in common diseases.

Wildlife Tourism -Tanzania goes for high yield, low volume tourism

Huge number of visitors, is causing wildlife reserves in Tanzania, to resemble refugee camps. Waste and litter have become big problems. In a bid to preserve the environment and curb the human impact of mass tourism Tanzania is hiking entry fees. From first January 2006 Mount Kilimanjaro climbers will have to pay US$60, up from $30. Visitors to Serengeti National Park will be charged US$50 a day, instead of $30. Efforts will be made to redistribute visitors to the low season also.

60 Long finned pilot whales dead after stranding in Southern Australia

60 Long Finned Pilot Whales died after stranding in a remote beach near Marion Bay in Southern Australia. Around 80 volunteers and wildlife officials are desperately trying to drive back the 10 surviving whales back in to high ocean. Long Finned Pilot Whales are medium sized whales reaching up to 20 feet in length. Whales are known to beach themselves in large numbers. The scientists are yet to unravel the mystery behind this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

First conference on marine protected areas

The first conference on marine protected areas,is now on at Geelong, a Southern Australian city. Autralia established the world heritage listed, Great Barrier Marine Park, in 1975 over an area of 35 million hectares. 700 scientists from 70 countries are attending this trailblazing conference. The scientists are drawing up a plan for a network of marine parks to save the world's ocean from fish stock depletion and pollution. Half of the world's coral reefs might be lost in the next 40 years unless urgent measures are taken to protect them against climate change and other threats. A conservation plan for the unregulated high seas would be produced by 2008 for adoption by world Governments by 2012. This move is spearheaded by IUCN the World Conservation Union.

Otters set to return to Thames- Spin off from Olympics

The Otters are set to return to Thames in London. The massive clean up of Thames planned in conjunction with olympics is bringing cheer to conservationists. London Development Agency(LDA) and London Wildlife Trust(LWT) in association with Olympic authorities, sees return of Otters to Thames as a symbolic gesture.Otters were brought to near extinction in the years immediately following 2nd world war due to widespread use of Organo-Chlorine pesticides which contaminated the fish they eat. After the massive clean up of Thames wildlife authorities hope that the otters would return to Stratford,East London first, and gradually spread their range.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Biodiversity, Eco-tourism and Shrinking Wetlands - SSARC experts meet in Sunderbans

Thirtfive wildlife and environmental experts from seven SSARC countries and US, are meeting at a four day international workshop at the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve starting today. The experts would discuss problems and issues relating to the growing threats to the country's wetlands and their extremly fragile ecosystem and how to support a diverse variety of flora and fauna. The experts would also exchange views on all the 19 Ramsar sites in India. Detailed interactive sessions with the local people of Sunderbans delta will be held to know their problems and try to solve it. The workshop entitled "Ecotourism and Biodiversity: Shrinking wetlands"is organised by United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) in association with Department of Forests, Government of West Bengal.

Molten lava flowing through Galapagos National Park

Galapagos islands are famous for its giant tortoises. These giant tortoises helped inspire what became the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin. A volacanic eruption on the Galapagos islands is sending hot molten lava through Galapagos National Park. A press note issued by Park authorities says the giant tortoises are safe. Slow moving lava is edging down the mountain side and could reach the sea in a week's time.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Now Protein Music

Mary Anne Clark, a biologist at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth has come up with an ingenious way of looking at building blocks of life. All living things are made up of proteins. Each protein is a string of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, and each protein has thousands of them. Mary Anne Clark first wrote down these amino acid sequences as series of text letters. Clark and her colleagues then assigned musical notes to the different values of the amino acids in each sequence, and presto you have music in the form of "protein songs."

Gangetic Dolphin facing threat

The Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista Gangetica) is found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river system in seven states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, MP, Rajasthan, UP and West Bengal in India. Unbridled commercial fishing Habitat degradation, and sand mining are threatening the very existence of the species. Large number of barrages in the upper stretches of Ganges has isolated the river dolphin population leading to inbreeding. Latest surveys show the population, which swam freely in India's sprawling Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems, had fallen to just 1500 from the already moderate 5000 from the 1980s.The situation is very grave in UP. UP have around 687 dolphins in Ganga, Ghagra and Chambal rivers. The Uttar Pradesh government is seeking urgent help of the Central Government in an effort to reverse these dangerous portents for the endangered species.

Panama declares Sanctuary for Migrating Shorebirds

Panama became the first country in Central America, to create a wildlife reserve that will provide a crucial resting-place for migrating shorebirds. The Upper Bay area was declared a Sanctuary. The Upper Bay of Panama provides a rare feeding and resting ground for 2 million shorebirds that travel annually from North America through the Isthmus of Panama to South America, and back again. The site is used by more than 30 percent of the world's female population of western sandpipers, and is important for at least six other species of shorebirds globally.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Przewalski's horse – Good tidings from Mangolia

In the 1960's, hunting and habitat destruction drove Przewalski's horse (Equus verus przewalskii) to the brink of extinction. The horse disappeared from its natural range throughout Mongolia and Central Asia and survived only in captivity mainly in Europe. Wildlife biologists led by a Dutch preservation group organised a breeding program and, in 1992, started reintroducing Przewalski'sHorse in Mongolia. Now after years of careful management at least 300 of the horses roam the mountainous terrain. About 170 live in Hustai National Park. The rest are in two remote parks in the western Gobi.
Now, after reintroduction of Przewalski's horse to its former habitat and years of careful management, the growing numbers of Przewalski’s horses that now roam the mountainous terrains of their ancestors encourages conservationists.

Boost for Black Rhino Conservation

21 endangered Black Rhinos (Dicers bicornis) were recently released in Soth Africa’s Zululand Rhino Reserve as part of the WWF Ezemvelo Rhino Range Expansion Project. The reserve is made up of 20 neighboring properties whose owners have removed their internal boundaries to make one compact block of 24000 Ha for the endangered animal. This is the second Rhino initiative. The first population released last year in Munyawana Game Reserve has settled well. The Black Rhino was once the most prolific of the Rhinos. But poaching drove them to the verge of extinction.Authorities in South Africa views Range Expansion programme as the bulwark against the extinction.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Parrot succumbs to Avian Flu In UK

A parrot imported from South America, which was in quarantine in UK, has died of Avian Flu.UK’s chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds said: "The confirmed case does not affect the UK's official disease free status because the disease has been identified in imported birds during quarantine”. All the birds in the quarantine unit are now being culled. It was not immediately known whether the pathogenic strain is H5N1 variant which killed 60 people in Asia.

Flaws in Florida Panther research

Scientists have identified serious flaws in the research done on Florida Panthers (Puma concolor coryi) in the US. The flaws have adversely affected the conservation of these endangered animals. Fewer than 100 Florida panthers roam the National and State Parks and adjoining lands. A prominent researcher had taken in to account only the daytime activity and failed to take in to account the nocturnal nature of the animal. This led to serious miscalculation of the range activity of the animal. Land use patterns were based on this research which was taken as gospel. The implications of the flaws are discussed in a paper slated to appear in the Journal of Wildlife Management in January 2006.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Brazil's Amazon forest shrinking fast

Latest satellite images reveal that Amazon forest is disappearing twice as fast as scientists previously estimated. Ecologist Gregory Asner and his colleagues arrived at this conclusion after developing a new way to analyse satellite images to track logging there. Additional loss is due to illegal selective logging, which removes trees piecemeal. Asner plans to use the technique developed by him to look at other tropical rainforests such as those in Peru and Bolivia.

Anti-freeze from Snowfleas

Researchers from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario have discovered that the bodies of the six-legged snow fleas also known as springtails, contain proteins that limit the growth of ice by lowering the freezing point of fluids by 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit). The findings could help protect plants or animals from frost, or allow donated transplant organs to be stored and transported at lower temperatures. The report is published in the latest edition of Science

Chimp Talk

Primate experts at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland say they have the first evidence that chimpanzees speak to each other. According to them the chimps utter high-pitched noises or low-pitched grunts to tell each other about objects in their environment. The findings have been published in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology.

Avian Flu - Threat to Rare Birds

Avian Flu carrying deadly H5N1 virus is threatening to push some of the world's rarest birds towards extinction. Birds such as the aquatic warbler, the Dalmatian pelican, the marbled teal, the slender-billed curlew and the spoon-billed sandpiper are particularly susceptible. 10 percent of the world’s population of wild bar-headed goose died in a recent bird flu outbreak in China.

Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) warned that any attempts to cull wildfowl suspected of carrying the disease could simply scatter the virus more widely by driving flocks away from their normal routes, doing more harm than good.

Pere David's deer – A reintroduction success story from China

Pere David's deer was reintroduced in China 20 years back. They have established well in Central Yangtze region. A recent count put the number at 2,500 individuals at the three national nature reserves. The Pere David's deer was once found only in China along the central and lower Yangtze River basin. Hunting and habitat depredation led to the extinction of the species in the wild in the early 20th century. 39 animals from the Woburn Abbey Wildlife Park outside of London were re-introduced to the Central Yangtze in 1985 and 86. To mark the 20th anniversary of the species re-introduction, a celebration was held on Wednesday at Yangtze Tian’ezhou Oxbow Wetland Reserve, home to the species' largest population (600 deer).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Italian amateur photographer wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year award

Manuel Presti, an Italian amateur photographer has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award with a black and white image of a flock of birds trying to flee from a falcon.
The annual competition, staged jointly by Britain's Natural History Museum and the British Broadcasting Corporation, is one of the most prestigious wildlife photography awards in the world. The winning pictures and many others go on show at London's Natural History Museum from Saturday until April next year

Congo goes for private conservationists to save endangered northern white rhinos

Government of Democratic Republic of Congo has sought the help of the African Parks Foundation (APF), set up by South African conservationists and a Dutch businessman, to manage Garamba National Park in an effort to preserve the rare White rhino. Poachers, including Sudanese gunmen on horseback pose serious threat to the endangered animal believed to be the most endangered large mammal on earth. Garamba is a United Nations World Heritage Site. APF would spend roughly 1 million euros ($1.2 million) a year reorganising and equipping anti-poaching teams.

Canada's Cruel and Senseless Seal Hunt enrages conservationists

Conservationists are aghast at what is happening to baby seals across the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada. Over the next 3 years nearly million baby seals will be clubbed or shot to death in Canada. Every winter, Northwest Atlantic harp seals migrate to Eastern Canada to give birth and mate. The pups remain helpless and vulnerable on the ice until they can swim and catch their own food. It is at this time that baby seals will be clubbed or shot to death. About 96% of the seals killed will be less than three months old. The operation benefits a small minority of boat captains armed with big ships and snowmobiles. Killing for profit.

African Quiver Tree threatened by Climate Change.

The African quiver tree (Aloe pilanssi) is facing threat. The famed desert tree has an iconic status. The tree has been used by generations of African Bushmen to fashion quivers for their arrows. Wendy Foden, a researcher at the South African National Biodiversity Institute said observations at over 50 sites throughout the trees' range in Namibia and South Africa highlighted two disturbing trends, which could clearly be linked to climate change.
1) For populations found on slopes, mortality was much higher at lower elevations than at higher ones -- that is, where it would be warmer on a slope.
2) Higher mortality rates in the north of its range, towards the equator, than those found in the south.
The models worked out by the researcher forecast a 76 percent reduction in its population over the next 100 years,

Yellowstone Bison (wild buffalo a la Americans) in deep trouble

Yellowstone bison, an icon of the American West, is facing a new threat. Animals, which wander on to public grazing lands used by cattle ranchers are being butchered. The thin veil of justification used for this atrocity is that the buffalo present a disease threat to domesticated cattle
50 million buffalo once roamed the Great Plains. Millions were slaughtered and at the end of the 19th century only 23 wild bison remained. The survivors, who found refuge in Yellowstone National Park, are the ancestors of America's only remaining wild herd.
Environmentalists have appealed to the US Government for more humane, science-based programs to manage Yellowstone buffalo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New Zombie Worm discovered

The UK-Swedish team, Adrian Glover and Thomas Dahlgren affiliated to Goteborg University,
have discovered new species of marine worm that lives off whale bones on the sea floor. The new species has been named Osedax mucofloris. The findings have been reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Yellowstone – Wolf reintroduction brings Spectacular results - New book tells it all

Wolf reintroduction has brought in its wake spectacular changes in the ecology of Yellowstone.
The remarkable changes have been recounted in the recently released book "Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone," by Mr. Smith and Gary Ferguson. In 1995, 14 wolves from Canada were brought into the park by truck and sleigh, held in a cage for 10 weeks and released. Seventeen were added in 1996.10 years after wolves were introduced to Yellowstone, the park has 130 wolves dispersed across 13 packs.

Cameroon trying to get back smuggled Apes from South Africa Zoo

Cameroon is negotiating the return of four endangered Western Lowland gorillas,
smuggled via Malaysia to a South African zoo. The primate is classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The gorillas were smuggled via Nigeria to Malaysia's Taipeng Zoo in July 2002, then shipped to South Africa's Pretoria National Zoological Gardens two years later. South Africa is bound by CITES, to return smuggled animals to their country of origin

Mauritius - Prime Minister stops the construction of road in ecologically sensitive area

Mauritius Prime MinisterNavin Ramgoolam has stopped the construction of a road aimed at speeding up journeys to Ferney Valley, primarily to service the island's lucrative tourism industry. Ferney Valley has flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Environmentalists have been crying hoarse from the beginning. The Prime Minister made an on the spot evaluation before taking this decision.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Former Chairman of Greenpeace passes away.

Former Chairman of Greenpeace Matti Wuori has died. Wuori died in Helsinki on Saturday of lung cancer. He was 60. Wuori was chairman of Greenpeace International from 1991 to 1993

Surprising facts about Plesiosaurs

A team of researchers led by Dr Steve Roe from the University of Sidney has come up with surprising facts about the feeding habits of Plesiosaurs. Analysis of fossilized remains of 2 elasmosaurids,the most extreme form of Plesiosaurs have revealed that they were eating lot of bottom dwelling(benthic) animals. Traditionally it was assumed that Plesiosaurs, which existed in Dinosaur times, were fish and squid eating animals. The results of the study have been detailed in latest issue of Science magazine.

Hawaiian Monk Seals to get more protection

In an effort to give more protection to Hawaiian endangered monk seals and turtles, Government of Hawaii has formed North Western Hawaiian Marine refuge. Fishing in the tiny islands and atolls has been banned. Public access has also been regulated

Whose gene is it now?

A study reported in the latest issue of journal Science, reveals that more than 4,000 genes, or 20 percent of the almost 24,000 human genes, have been claimed in U.S. patents. 63 percent of patents are assigned to private firms and 28 percent to universities. In the U.S. patent system, human DNA is treated like other natural chemical products. Genes are valuable research tools, useful in diagnostic tests or to discover and produce new drugs.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Brought back from dead

Botanists at Kew’s country garden in Wakehurst Place, West Sussex have resurrected Bromus bromoideus, a Belgian grass not seen in its native habitat for the last 70 years. Only a quarter of the stored seeds found in Belgium were viable, so the National Botanic Garden of Belgium,
sent some to the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place to increase their chances of germination. Belgium grass success has shown that modern seed banking is a vital conservation tool.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

England – Frogs in a mess

Britain’s common frog (Rana temporaria) is threatened by Chytridiomycosis and ranavirus. A third of species is facing extinction.

The charity Froglife is now asking Brits to count common frogs in an effort to find out how serious is the effect of the diseases. Charity says to provide a scientifically sound report they need at least a 1000 responses. Froflife has appealed to all concerned citizens to chip in with their efforts.

Orangutans’ survival threatened

Orangutans, Asia's only great ape could be wiped out within 12 years, says environmentalists. Orangutans are found only on Borneo, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Destruction of jungles has caused a decline in orangutan numbers. Wildlife centers in Indonesia had plenty of orphaned baby orangutans this year that had been rescued from forests cleared to make way for new palm oil plantations. Representatives from Fauna and Flora International (FFI) World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the UN's Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP), and UNESCO gathered on Wednesday in Pontianak to try and pool their expertise to save the orangutan, and come up with firm proposals for their welfare.

Combating Poaching- Kerala goes in for modern techniques

Alarmed by the recent spurt in poaching of tigers, the Kerala Forest and Wildlife department has decided to go in for genetic finger printing of animals. A start will be made with tigers and leopards. The collaborating agency is Thiruvananthapuramm based Rajiv Gandhi center for Biotechnology. The center is already at work, developing primers and probes.

Bonobo Peace Forest formed

At the just concluded 8th Wilderness congress one of the highlights, was the formation of Bonobo peace forest in the Congo Basin rainforest, for the protection of endangered ape Bonobos (Pan paniscus). It covers 20000 square kilometers of bonobo habitat. Genetically very close to human, the little known bonobos lives in the rainforests of Republic of Congo only. The initiative will benefit the bonobos and the interests of the local communities. The interests of the local community will not be prejudiced in any way.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

International League of Conservation Photographers

International League of Conservation Photographers was launched at the 8th Wilderness congress by 40 of the world’s finest conservation photographers. The photographers will work on global campaigns to highlight current issues. They will contribute their mite in the conservation communities’ efforts in protecting wilderness areas and endangered species around the world.

Hurricane Katrina – Wildlife returns to New Orleans

The hurricane Katrina had brought in its wake extensive damage to wildlife in New Orleans. The wildlife is slowly limping back. In the lake Pontchartrain 8 dolphins were seen gamboling this week. The Manatees have not been seen so far. Flocks of Pelicans were also seen which is an indication that fish is also bouncing back

Rethink on bird evolution

Discovery of fossil remains of a small birdlike dinosaur, Buitreraptor gonzalezorum, with wing-like forelimbs, from the Nequén Basin in central Argentina has the scientific community in a huddle. This latest find could imply that flight evolved twice, once in birds and once among this group of Gondwanan dromaeosaurs. The lineage can be traced back to the Jurassic (206 to 144 million years ago). Details of the discovery appear in the journal Nature

Friday, October 14, 2005

Oil spills, climate change spell doom for British birds

Research led by Professor Tim Birkhead of the University of Sheffield shows for the first time that major oil spills double the mortality rate of adult guillemots in Britain. Surprising fact is that pollution occurs, hundreds of kilometres from the birds` breeding grounds. The researchers also found a direct link between a warmer North Atlantic climate and a higher mortality rate among British guillemots. November issue of the journal Ecology Letters carries the details of this study.

Trans-frontier conservation initiative in Africa

At the summit held by central Africa leaders in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, in February 2005, TRIDOM accord was signed, which set up the institutional framework to facilitate implementation of a trans-boundary conservation programme in Cameroon, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo. Now following that initiative Cameroon has set up two new national parks.Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks, both located in southeast Cameroon, cover an area of more than 600,000ha. The area has rich population of elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, forest antelopes, Nile crocodiles and bongos, as well as 283 bird species such as the rare Dja warbler, Nkulengu rail, and Bate’s night jar and 300 species of fish.

Dragon flies with radio tags

Very little is known about dragonfly migration. Now a study is underway in USA, which is being led by Martin Wikelski, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University .The first radio tags were attached in September. The transmitters, which weigh .0.3 gram and are about 1 centimetre long, are glued to the insects' undersides Wikelski puts the receiver in his plane and follow the insects. Uncertainties exist on how dragonflies navigate. Do they use their big eyes as an aid in navigation? Or do they have an internal compass? Scientists are intrigued.

Now a third species of elephants

Genetic fingerprinting shows that Africa's forest and savanna elephants are two genetically distinct species.Till now elephants have been divided into two species—Asian and African.The DNA evidence, reported in the journal Science, provides a definitive answer to the long-debated controversy. The differences between the two have long been noted, says F.V. "Loki" Osborn, an elephant researcher based in Zimbabwe. Using the old classification yardsticks, the forest elephant was merely a subspecies of the savanna elephant. The study was funded by the National Geographic Society, European Union, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Largest ever translocation on way in Africa

In what has been described as the largest ever translocation,20 elephants have been airlifted from Botswana to Angola's Kissama National Park which was devastated by more than 25 years of civil war. Kissma had 4000 elephants before the war. Today few,if any,elephants are in the park.This is the the second leg of a project christened "Operation Noah's Ark". If the translocation goes well, the organizers hope to move 300 to 500 more elephants next year. The move was also prompted by an urgent need to cull or remove elephants from northern Botswana, which has a population of about 120,000—about 70,000 more than the land can sustain.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Speckles on bird eggs - Another myth shattered

The general belief is that the markings on the birds’ eggs are for camouflage, useful in concealing eggs from predators. Now British ornithologist Gosler and his team have shown that the function is to strengthen unusually fragile shells. The study shows that pigment chemicals that create the speckles may act as a kind of glue, supporting thin areas of shell and protecting them from breakage. The findings have been published in science journal Ecology Letters.

Hey, the Condors are returning to San Diego

Here is good tiding for the followers of California Condors (Gymnogyps californianus) recovery programme. Scientists say condors released in Mexico three years ago have made exploratory flights within 15 miles of the United States. The day is not far off when they will hover over the Skies of San Diego. The last reported sighting of a free flying Condor in San Diego was in 1910. California Condors are the largest flying birds in USA. They can weigh up to 26 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 9 feet. Hunting, pesticides and advance of civilization drove the bird nearly to extinction. The Condor recovery programme was started to stem this alarming situation. The species has been listed as endangered since 1967. Condors are being bred in captivity and are frequently released The death of the first condor chick hatched in the wild in Arizona in more than 80 years on 26th March this year had saddened the scientific committee. The chick was just under two years old, having hatched on May 3, 2003 in a nest cave near the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Greenpeace - New Executive Director for Southeast Asia

Greenpeace has named Indonesian Emmy Hafild, a seasoned environmentalist and former director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, as the new Executive Director of Southeast Asia. "Mrs. Hafild will lead Greenpeace Southeast Asia through its mission to protect Southeast Asia's abundant ecosystems," greenpeace said in a press statement. Emmy will be based in Bangkok and Bogor, West Java.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vampire Spiders

Scientists have discovered that a species of spider, Evarcha culicivora, found around Lake Victoria in Uganda and Kenya has a propensity for human blood. The spider deliberately feeds on blood by eating mosquitoes. The findings have been published this week in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Endangered species conservation and Viagra

A paper in the journal Environmental Conservation by Bill von Hippel from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Frank Von Hippel from University of Alaska, Anchorage, indicates that Chinese men are switching from traditional Chinese medicine remedies to the drug Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction. Chinese traditional medicines use products from endangered animals. The study was based on men attending a large traditional Chinese medicine clinic in Hong Kong. Von Heppel says, “ Despite their history of using traditional medicines and their alleged suspicions of Western medicine, the men we interviewed chose the product that works best”. The Hippel brothers contend that this switch to modern medicine is helping endangered species, as the demand for animal products are going down. But conservationists are not convinced. Glenn Sant, Director TRAFFIC Oceana is of the opinion that endangered animal products are utilized for a wide range of medicines apart from treatment of impotence. So this interpolation cannot stand the scrutiny.

Kansas Professor discovers new lizard.

The precincts of Avila University in Kansas is agog about the discovery of a new lizard in South Caribbean, by the University’s Professor Robert Powell and Robert Henderson, a curator at the Milwaukee Public Museum. The details of the yet to be named lizard will appear in the December issue of Caribbean journal of science. A specimen has been preserved at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.

Wyoming – Gas development affecting mule deer

Natural gas development in western is forcing mule deer into less suitable winter range, in Pinedale Anticline. The drop of animals using the area was 46 percent from 2002 to 2005. Authorities are weighing the possibilities of using alternative technologies like directional drilling to ease the disturbance of wintering mule deer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Chinese and Russian students join hands for conservation.

Under the aegis of WWF, Chinese and Russian college students are working together to protect and create peoples’awareness of Heilongjiang River Basin, which is shared by the two neighboring countries. The programme has been christened "Heilongjiang Green Belt Protection Forum". The border lake is famous for its rich bio-diversity

Pollution Disrupts Trout Mating Cycle - Korean Story

A research team team from Daegu Science College (N.Korea) headed by Professor Oh Han-taek has documented aberrations in mating behaviour of indigenous trout due to effects of pollution. The population of trout is dwindling

New Book - OUR INNER APE By Frans de Waal. Published by Riverhead Books

Leading Primatologist Frans de Waal in his latest book OUR INNER APE, gives a fascinating account of behaviour of chimpanzees and bonobos, and juxtaposes them with human behaviour. Despite their physical similarities, the two species behave very differently. Bonobos live in peaceful matriarchy. When conflicts arise they defuse the aggression with friendly physical contact. Chimp society is a male-dominated hierarchy. Chimps will hunt for meat and even kill members of rival groups. In this fascinating book,Frans de Waal writes inside us we have "not one but two inner apes," A great read.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Myths about the extinction of Britain’s Lynx dispelled

Experts had believed that lynx became extinct in the UK 4,000 years ago when the climate cooled and became wetter. But the latest carbon dating of bones found in a cave in North Yorkshire 100 years ago, has revealed that the bones were only 1,500 years old. Now it is apparent that the lynx was hunted to extinction or lost their territory when farming intensified.
The new findings also underscores importance of keeping archaeological collections safe for future research using more advanced technology.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Tiger Poaching-Threat looms large over Kerala

Kerala, home to India’s best managed Wildlife reserve (Periyar Tiger Reserve), is being targeted by tiger poachers. Poachers killed 4 tigers this year in Kerala, and this has sent alarm bells ringing. Authorities are leaving no stone unturned to nip this threat. Detailed investigations are going on to unravel the nexus of the arrested poachers.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Australia rejects Crocodile Safari - Hunting plan

The Federal Government of Australia has turned down the proposal from Northern Territory Government to allow crocodile hunting. Government of Northern Territory mooted the proposal as an antidote to increasing attacks on human beings by crocs.600 problem animals were identified. The provincial government had argued that hunting would help keep down crocodile numbers and consequently lessen the chances of people being killed or injured. Financial return was touted as another incentive. Environment groups were opposed to the plan right from the beginning.

Black-Footed Ferrets on the prowl in Colorado

Black footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) listed as North America’s most endangered mammal by US Fish and Wildlife Service, is limping back from the brink in Colorado. A recent midnight survey had 10 sightings including a lactating female. Ferrets have been released in Colorado since 2001 as part of National reintroduction programme. The ferret population had plummeted following extensive use of fertilizers during 1920s and 30s and they were even considered extinct for some time.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Great white shark sets fastest return migration record for marine animals

A female great white shark has travelled from Africa to Australia and back, a total of more than 20,000 kilometres, in nine months. New York-based shark researcher Ramón Bonfil of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) conducted the study. The tracking was done with an electronic tag that had been attached on November 7, 2003.

10 Most endangered Wildlife Reserves of US

The list of 10 most endangered Wildlife Reserves of US has been announced by the environmental organisation, Defenders of Wildlife.The list includes:The Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Theodore Roosevelt's summer White House; Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Browns Park in Colorado; Buenos Aires refuge in Arizona; Sonny Bono Salton Sea refuge in California,include;Florida Panther refuge; McFaddin refuge in Texas; Missouri's Mingo refuge; Nevada's Moapa refuge; and North Carolina's Pocosin Lakes refuge. Defenders of Wildlife blamed air and water pollution, over development and government neglect for the problems afflicting refuges across the country.

Sir David Attenborough to the rescue of Albatross

The latest to join save Alabtross campaign is Sir David Attenborough
Albatross is facing a grim situation. An estimated 100,000 albatrosses die each year on hooks of longline fishing boats. 19 of the 21 albatross species are facing extinction.
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife International has an ongoing project for training fishermen in albatross- friendly fishing techniques.Sir David has given his backing tothis project. Supporters of the project include Prince Charles and trailblazing yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Spanish Fishing posing danger for Sharks

Wasteful and unregulated methods of fishing employed by Spanish fishermen are posing serious risk to Sharks. Irish, Norwegian and British marine experts revealed this in an investigation. They estimate that the practice may have wiped out four-fifths of two threatened species: the leafscale gulper shark and the siki shark, also known as the Portuguese dogfish.

Flying Reptiles - Chinese Connection

Palaeontologists have uncovered remains of 2 flying reptiles that lived 120 million years ago. The reptiles belonged to species Pterosaur.The finding was made in the North East region of China. The North East region is very rich in fossil remains. Scientists are hopeful of making further discoveries akin to the one recovered.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Conservation groups call for moratorium on bottom trawling

Rémi Parmentier from the Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition, an umbrella organisation of conservation groups, is spearheading a movement for moratorium enforced by UN on bottom trawling. Bottom trawling is highly deleterious for coral and quite a number of other organisms and is likely to pose significant risks to the biodiversity,including the risk of species extinction.Fisheries negotiations begin Wednesday at the UN in New York, and will continue to the end of November.

Canada's environment commissioner slams bad environmental management

The latest reports by Johanne Gelinas, Canada's environment commissioner has slammed the Liberal government for what she terms its patchy environmental record. The government is already under fire for its tardy environmental management. The environmental action plans rarely, if ever, reaches the finish line," she wrote. Gelinas blamed government mismanagement for serious problems with water quality, especially among aboriginals living on reserves where living conditions are poor. The government is not working hard enough to protect Canadians from unsafe drinking water," she said. She also said inadequate planning for increased number of visitors to wildlife reserves pointed to the fact "the health of Canada's national parks is also in danger"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Potatoes – Roots in Peru

A team of scientists, led by Dr David Spooner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has discovered that all modern cultivated varieties of potatoes can be traced back to a single source. Potatoes grown in Peru,7000 years ago. This discovery was facilitated by DNA analysis of about 360 potatoes. Potatoes were brought back to Spain by the conquistadors around 1570, and spread throughout Europe.

Threat to elephants from Europe

Shocking facts about rampant,clandestine trade in ivory in Europe have surfaced following detailed investigations by the conservation organizations Care for wild and Save the Elephants. In UK, France, Italy and Spain 27000 ivory artifacts are on display for sale. These sad additions to the already notorious markets in China and Japan have the conservationists worried. Dr Douglas Hamilton of save the elephants says these unsavoury incidents are fuelling a “Poaching Holocaust”

Loggerhead turtles being pushed towards extinction

Unbridled tourist inflow in to Greece’s National Marine Park of Zakynthos, is pushing the Mediterranean’s largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles(Caretta caretta) towards extinction. The National Marine Park of Zakynthos normally hosts between 800 and 1,100 nests from the end of May to the end of July. Local businessmen installed hundreds of umbrellas and sun beds above the authorised limit on the beaches. It is a free for all on the beaches with unauthorised cafes, bars and parking areas springing up. Vehicles zip past quite unconcerned about this highly endangered animal. WWF wants the EU to urgently enforce European laws protecting endangered species. Marine turtles are very sensitive to human disturbances.

Chinese sturgeons with micro chips

1,512 endangered Chinese sturgeons implanted with microchips were released into the Yangtze River a few days back as part of a project to study their migration habits. Main intention is to ascertain where the fish live and spawn. Information gathered could be used to devise more effective conservation plans.
Dam construction on the river is believed to have decimated numbers of sturgeon, which gather at the mouth of the Yangtze each spring to swim to spawning grounds upstream
The prehistoric fish are believed to be on the verge of extinction. Xie Yumin, Director of the Shanghai Wildlife Conservation Administration Office, is heading the project. Each fish carries a tag with a phone number to call in the event it is caught or trapped

Monday, October 03, 2005

Drought hits Amazon

In what is believed to be the worst drought, rivers and lakes are drying up in Amazon. It is the worst in 60 years. Navigation is becoming increasingly difficult. Large parts of the rain forests are at their driest. Scientists attribute this climate change to the severe hurricane season off the US Gulf Coast.

Solar output and Global Warming

Studies by two Duke University researchers, Nicola Scafetta and Bruce West, indicate that at least 10 percent to 30 percent of global warming measured during the past two decades may be due to increased solar output. Solar output has been rising slightly for about 100 years.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Zoological Society of London Setting up Hi Tech Frog Centre

Zoological society of London is setting up a brand new frog center. This will be the world’s first amphibian center to combine public awareness, lab science, field research and captive breeding. One of the key components will be captive breeding both here and abroad. Amphibians are threatened by human interference, poaching, shrinking habitat and climate change. They are perhaps the most threatened animals in the world.

Did you know that mountain chicken frog is the national dish of Dominica and it is under threat from hunting?

Zoological society of London is organizing awareness programmes and captive breeding in association with Dominican Government.

Geology and Placental Reproduction

Oceanographer Paul Falkowski of Rutgers University in New Jersey and his colleagues have come up with the idea that amount of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere was responsible for the appearance of large placental mammals, around 50 million years ago. They have found that the amount of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere 200 million years ago was only about half what it is today. And the appearance of large placental mammals, around 50 million years ago, happened at the same time as the oxygen level more or less doubled. The Atlantic Ocean opened up and a super continent split into the Americas, Africa and Eurasia, creating the ocean between them. This created thousands of kilometers of coastline that helped to wash organic carbon into the sea, locking it away from the process of decay. Such carbon escapes chemical processes that would turn it into carbon dioxide. As carbon is washed away, more oxygen remains in the atmosphere. The work highlights the intimate connections between geology and biological evolution.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

T.B Outbreaks spell danger for Krugar Lions

Dewald Keet Chief veterinarian of Krugar National Park is a worried man. T.B is spreading among the lions. Prevalence of disease in lions is 48% to 78%. The disease is believed to have been introduced by European settlers through domestic cattle. Lions first contracted disease by eating infected buffalo carcass. Now lions are infecting each other and about 25 lions die of TB every year. The death of lions is impacting their social behaviour also.