1 Tahrcountry Musings: November 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Genealogy of scaly reptiles rewritten

Comprehensive analysis of the genetic relationships among all the major groups of snakes, lizards, and other scaly reptiles has resulted in a radical reorganisation of the family tree of these animals. The analysis was done by two biologists working at Penn State University: S. Blair Hedges, professor of biology, and Nicolas Vidal, a postdoctoral fellow in Hedges' research group (Now curator at the National Museum in Paris). The old tree is based primarily on morphology. The new tree is based exclusively on comparisons of the molecular structure of the animals' genes. Because the current tree has been widely accepted for nearly a century, there will be a delay of few years before the general scientific community gets used to the new tree. The research is reported in the current issue of the journal C. R. Biologies

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

IV World Congress on Mountain Ungulates,Guidelines for the Submission of Abstracts and Presentation of Posters

IV World Congress on Mountain Ungulates,
12-15 September, 2006, Munnar, Kerala, India

Guidelines to Authors for the Submission of Abstracts

The Conference Organizers wish to make the compilation and printing of Abstracts of the IV World Congress on Mountain Ungulates, a valuable substitute until the papers are published in Journals. Therefore, we request all the authors to submit abstracts (500 - 600 words) for the papers/posters that they wish to present at this Congress. The abstracts should be submitted by email to Dr. A.J.T.Johnsingh, ajtjohnsingh@ncf-india.org, Dr. S. Sathyakumar, ssk@wii.gov.in and Mr. Mohan Alembath, alembath@gmail.com

The following format be used for the abstract submission.

Font type: Times New Roman, Font size: 12 pt, Length: 500 – 600 words

Category: Oral Presentation / Poster Presentation

Title: Should be precise and not exceed 15 words (in UPPER CASE)

Name(s) of Author(s) & Affiliation including Email

Abstract: 500 - 600 words in 1.5 line spacing (to include a brief introduction to the study, species studied, study area and study period, methodology, results, discussion, conclusions, and a maximum of five key references).

Key words: 5 to 7.

Last Date for submission of Abstract: 31 May 2006

Also provide information on the following in a separate page

Name(s) of Author(s) & Affiliation including Email

Mountain Ungulate Species studied: (give Common & Scientific names)

Geographical coordinates of the study area: In Degrees, Minutes, Seconds (For example 12o 34’ 56” N 65 o, 43’, 21” E)

Geographical location/addresses of the author(s): City/Town, State, Country (also give geographical coordinates)

The above information are for the Congress data base / website to give all of us an idea on the Mountain Ungulate Species studied, study area coverage in the world, and the geographic location/addresses of mountain ungulate biologists and managers.

Guidelines to Authors for the Presentation of Posters

The authors are requested to kindly follow the format specified below for the presentation of posters to ensure uniformity and save space.

Poster Size: 35” X 55” Poster orientation: Portrait ; Lamination: optional

Title: Should be precise and not exceed 15 words (in UPPER CASE)

Name(s) of Author(s) & Affiliation including Email

Photographs of the Mountain Ungulate Species Studied and the Presenter(s): The photo of presenter(s) will be useful so that delegates could recognize and contact him/her regarding the poster during the time of congress.

Poster Content: Introduction to the study, species, study area and study period, methodology, results, discussion, conclusions, a maximum of five key references and acknowledgements. Please include a map of the study area, tables, figures and photos wherever necessary. Text Font Minimum Size 28 point, so that the poster is readable from a distance of at least 1.5 m from the panel.

Additional space that would be available below your poster on the panel could be used for displaying any exhibit (such as samples brought from the field, additional photographs, a folder containing the displayed poster in A4 size and business cards of authors for delegates to see/collect).

Time for putting up and removal of posters will be intimated to all delegates at the beginning of the Congress. Board Pins, Sticking Tapes, Scissors etc. will be provided at the venue by the Organizers.

UN General Assembly urges governments to protect endangered sea turtles and sea birds

A resolution adopted by consensus by the 191 nation General assembly on Monday, has urged governments to take urgent steps to protect endangered sea turtles and sea birds from an indiscriminate fishing technique. Large fishing vessels in the Pacific Ocean use a form of industrial fishing known as longline fishing, snaring millions of sea turtles and birds along with the fish they catch. One of the hardest-hit is the leatherback sea turtle. Scientists have issued warning that leatherback could disappear in the next five to 30 years unless fishing techniques are altered. The resolution also advocates closing some fishing areas on a seasonal or continuous basis

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rare snails successfully bred

London Zoo, in an attempt to save Bermudan land snail from extinction has successfully bred them in captivity. Less than 300 remain in free ranging state. A colony of 56 Bermudan land snails were flown to London Zoo in February after the native population fell to critically low levels. The programme was designed to establish a secure population away from their natural habitat.

Unravelling chemical signatures in Mammoth Tusks

Adam Rountrey, a graduate student in geology at the University of Michigan and his advisor, Daniel Fisherare are analysing the chemical signatures in mammoth tusks to understand the lives of the ancient elephant like creatures. Mammoths are related to African and Asian elephants and roamed vast stretches of North America and Eurasia until their extinction about 10,000 years ago. Mammoth tusks grow a little bit every day. Akin to using rings to reveal a tree's age, markings and chemical signatures in tusks help scientists to find out details like when a mammoth reached maturity and what it ate. The findings were presented recently at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Mesa, Arizona.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

'Life in the Undergrowth' - Sir David Attenbourough’s latest series

Sir David Attenbourough’s latest venture 'Life in the Undergrowth’ peeps in to the remarkable microscopic world of invertebrates. It is an incredible piece of cinematographic excellence. For every one of us, there are 200 million invertebrates. Microscopic world of butterflies, spiders, beetles, worms, and many other amazing creatures are presented in breathtaking details. Get to know fascinating facts like, how do insects fly? Why do cicadas spend so long underground? How do insects breathe underwater? and many more.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Boost for Central Asian Saiga Antelope Conservation

The 8th meeting of the conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which concluded yesterday, has approved a Memorandum of Understanding for the conservation and management of the Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica tatarica). The agreement and action plan were ratified by Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and formally signed byTurkmenistan’s Minister of Nature Protection, as well as by the Mongolian Minister of Environment, IUCN, the CMS Secretariat and WWF. Saiga antelope is now recognized as endangered by the IUCN (World Conservation Union). The MOU covers the Central Asian populations in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Saiga, which numbered over one million, as recently as the early 1990s, has now been reduced to around 40,000.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Escaped salmon threaten wild Atlantic stocks

Saboteurs have slashed five cages in a salmon farm in New Brunswick, Canada and released thousands of farm-bred fish. This villainous act can jeopardise the few remaining wild Atlantic salmon in North America. This is a nightmarish situation. Farmed fish are bred for fast growth, but have lost many key genetic characteristics and usually do not survive at sea. This is spawning time for local wild salmon. Salmon hatch in rivers and streams, then spend one or two years in the ocean, returning to their native streams to spawn. Unlike Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon do not die after spawning, but return annually for a number of years to spawn again.

Dolphin therapy for depression

University of Leicester researchers have found that Swimming with dolphins alleviate mild to moderate depression. All the volunteers who took part in the trial stopped taking antidepressant drugs or undergoing psychotherapy at least four weeks before the start of the experiment. The researchers say dolphins' aesthetic value, and the emotions raised by the interaction may be the factors inducing healing properties. Dolphin therapy is already used to help children undergoing rehabilitation for a range of conditions. This is a shot in the arm for pet assisted therapy. The study is published in the British Medical Journal.

Basking Shark, Henderson Petrel – Britain appeals for protection

Britain is pressing other Governments to give more protection to Basking Shark and Henderson Petrel listed as endangered by IUCN. Plankton-eating basking shark is the largest shark found in British waters. Meat and fins of Basking Shark are considered a delicacy in some countries. The fins of a single shark can fetch up to 20,000 pounds on the international market. Most of the world's Henderson petrels breed on the tiny, uninhabited Henderson Island, a British territory in the southern Pacific Ocean. Henderson petrel's decline is believed to be caused by predation by rats and overfishing. Britain believes only concerted action by international community can ensure the survival of these two species.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

China plans Green Tax

China is planning a consumption tax for disposable chopsticks, plastic bags, diapers and other environmentally harmful goods starting next year. Chinese authorities say the move is aimed at bringing about an “environmentally friendly society.” Levying the tax is also intended to discourage consumers. However Chinese scholars also warned that it was difficult to identify products as disposable. The move follows the step of New Zealand, which will tax the emission of smoke and dust, and Sweden, which will levy a traffic congestion tax starting 2006.

Palm oil production without threatening tropical forests

Consumers of Palm Oil can now partake it with a clean conscience following acceptance by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — a group of producers, buyers, retailers, financial institutions and NGOs — on a set of criteria for the responsible production of palm oil. Bad practices in parts of the industry have brought about high ecological and social costs. WWF has urged the companies to implement these criteria as soon as possible to ensure the conservation of tropical forests that are valuable for both people and endangered species, such as elephants, tigers, and orang-utans. As sustainable palm oil production gains momentum, it will stop further destruction and save some of the world’s most biodiversity rich forests. WWF initiated Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in co-operation with business partners in 2003.

Submarine sonars threatens Dolphin and Whale Survival

A new report brought out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) says the use of powerful submarine sonar is harming the ability of some 71 types of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises - to communicate, navigate and hunt. These low frequency sounds travel vast distances, hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from the source. Species like the Beluga whale, Blanville's beaked whale and the Goosebeak whale are seriously at risk

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wolf hunting – Environmentalists slam Swiss Government

The Swiss proposal to allow hunting of wolves has come in for criticism from environmentalists. Swiss officials argue that the wolf population presents a threat to local communities in mountain areas. The proposal was packaged as a measure for ameliorating the conflict with mountain farming. Taking up the cudgel, WWF said the proposal was "unacceptable and irresponsible, and any culling in the Alps would be a disaster for the wolf population there." Wolves were driven to extinction throughout most of Western Europe by the beginning of the last century. Dedicated conservation efforts have seen the animals returning to the European Alps from Italy’s Apennine Mountains. WWF does not agree that the wolf population in Switzerland constitutes a threat to local communities, and says there is no legitimate reason to decrease the wolf’s protected status.

Major Tiger Poaching Ring busted

Four poachers responsible for killing at least 10 tigers have been nabbed near Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan. The police are hot on the heels of those who received these tigers and those who smuggled them. Police officials said that it is quite possible that these arrested poachers were responsible for more killings. Detailed investigations are on.Environmentalists have urged the Government to carry forward the investigations on a war footing.

EU Tightens Rules to Protect Baltic Cod and Herring

Baltic Cod and Herring are under threat due to over fishing. On Tuesday EU fisheries ministers agreed to streamline rules for trawling in the Baltic. This move augurs well for the Cod and Herring. Cuts to annual fishing quotas are in the offing. Minimum sizes for catches will be stipulated. Driftnets will be outlawed across the Baltic from 2008.

France makes major commitment to international conservation

France and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has signed a four-year framework agreement on conservation. From 2005 to 2008, France will provide support to a shared programme of work totalling 8.3 million Euros, promoting conservation mainly in the francophone world. The agreement will strengthen IUCN’s work supporting the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. It will also support the development of the IUCN biodiversity conservation programmes in Oceania, the Caribbean and the European Overseas Territories.

UK calls for action to save rare birds of prey

At the eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species, which is taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, UK has urged world governments to sign up an agreement that would protect migratory birds of prey and owls. Many of these inter-continental migrants face major threats, such as shooting, poisoning, illegal trade or loss of habitat, somewhere in their migratory range within Africa / Eurasia. Research carried out by Nature Bureau published in September this year, found that more than half of the 60 species of migratory birds of prey found in Africa and Eurasia are threatened, with extinction. The UK has proposed an inter-governmental conference to carry forward the proposals.

A dozen West African countries to sign UN treaty on protection of elephants

A dozen West African countries are scheduled to sign a treaty on protection of elephants at a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. Elephant population in West Africa has plummeted to around 5,000 and 13,000 in recent years. Setting up wildlife "corridors" and many other measures, including cross-border co-operation better equipment for staff is on the agenda. Scientific activities in the elephants' migratory range will be co-ordinated closely. Benefits to local communities will also be ensured.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chile - Pulp mill devastates black-necked swan sanctuary

In what appears to be an environmental catastrophe, a recently opened pulp mill in Chile has devastated Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, one of South America’s most biologically rich wetlands, decimating its famed population of black-necked swans. Numerous other species are also threatened. Before the pulp mill, there were more than 5,000 black necked swans in Carlos Anwandter. A WWF team, which visited Carlos Anwandter recently, could find only four black-necked swans.

"Planète Mers" an IUCN co-production wins prestigious Palme d'Or

Planète Mers, a book about the beauty and fragility of the world’s seas co-produced by IUCN and Editions Lafon and l’Oeil d’Andromède, has been awarded the Palme d’Or (gold medal) at the 32nd Festival of Underwater Imagery. The book has stunning underwater photography by marine photographer Laurent Ballesta.

Islands engines of evolution?

Islands have generally been considered evolutionary dead ends. Christopher E. Filardi, and Robert Moyle biologists at the American Museum of Natural History have found evidence that islands can act as engines of evolution instead of dead ends. The results turn on its head present beliefs and suggest that conserving biodiversity on islands is vital for the evolution of new species in the future. Filardi and Moyle have published their results in the latest issue of Nature

Missing link in the evolution of extinct swimming reptiles identified

A study by Michael Polcyn, a paleontologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has identified the missing link in the evolution of extinct swimming reptiles. A lizard named Dallasaurus turneri whose fossilised bones were discovered near Dallas, Texas, 16 years ago has been identified as the missing link in the evolution of extinct swimming reptiles. Details appear in this month’s Netherlands Journal of Geosciences.

EU abetting destruction of forests of poor countries, WWF says

EU countries are abetting destruction of forests of poor countries through massive imports of illegal timber, WWF said today. WWF produced the report after studying the trade between EU nations and countries in the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Indonesia and Russia. Some of the trade is routed indirectly through China. Britain was the biggest defaulter followed by Finland, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands on the WWF list.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Forests flushed down the toilet

European tissue manufacturers are not offering enough recycled toilet paper, towels to consumers and must be more responsible when sourcing their wood, according to a new WWF report. The report analysed the practices of the five largest European tissue manufacturers – Procter and Gamble, SCA, Kimberly Clark, Metsa Tissue, and Georgia Pacific – which together supply about 70 per cent of the European market. According to WWF everyday about 270,000 trees are effectively flushed down the toilet or end up as garbage around the world.

Indonesia – What Do you want? Orangutans, Pygmy Elephants and Rhinos or Oil Palm?

The decision of the Indonesian Government to go in for large-scale oil palm plantations, in West and East Kalimantan, hacking down rainforests has enraged the conservationists. The area is popularly known as the Heart of Borneo, and is one of only two places on earth where endangered Orangutans, pygmy elephants and rhinos exist. Fourteen of 20 major rivers on the island originate from the region.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Greenpeace to go on anti-whaling expedition

Greenpeace has announced an expedition to oppose continued whaling in the Southern Ocean by Japan. In what the greenpeace described as the most ambitious ship expedition ever to defend our ocean 2 ships will leave Cape Town today. After the expedition is over one of the ships, MY Esperanza, will leave on a 14 month cruise across 4 of the globe’s 5 oceans to highlight their wonders and the threat they face.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to expand collaboration with IUCN

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed to expand collaboration with IUCN. Proposed joint projects are the development of a “Waqf Fund” and the “100 Arabic Books on Conservation”. Achim Steiner Director General of IUCN says, “The international community has so far paid little attention to some of the important conservation initiatives implemented in the Arab world during the past decade. Saudi Arabia is no exception and its commitment to protected areas, species reintroduction and marine conservation are noteworthy examples of this commitment”.

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Book Highlights transboundary protected areas

The new book Transboundary Conservation: A New Vision for Protected Areas provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive assessment of the world’s internationally-adjoining protected areas (IAPAs). The book represents the work of 50 conservationists, scientists, and professional photographers. It focuses on 29 transboundary parks around the world .The book also lists the world’s 188 transboundary parks,which cover about 17% of global protected areas and span 112 countries.

What is transboundary conservation?

IUCN defines a transboundary protected area as: “an area of land and/or sea that straddles one or more borders between states, sub-national units such as provinces and regions, autonomous areas and/or areas beyond the limit of national sovereignty or jurisdiction, whose constituent parts are especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed co-operatively through legal or other effective means”.

Never ending marvels of nature

An improved LED developed by scientists recently has striking similarities to what the nature has been using for 30 million years. African swallowtail butterflies have been attracting their mates with glowing splashes of colour on their wings with a technique quite analogous to the latest research breakthrough. The new breed of LEDs uses specialised mirrors and tiny structures called photonic crystals to generate more efficient light from the semiconductor materials. The butterfly has natural versions of these specialised mirrors and photonic crystals, which deliver glowing splashes that attract the mates. Pete Vukusic and Ian Hooper, physicists at the University of Exeter in the U.K report the findings in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Timid to daring – One gene away

Dr. Gleb Shumyatsky, an assistant professor of genetics at Rutgers, who led a team that included investigators from Columbia, Harvard, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says that by removing a single gene they can turn normally cautious animals into daring ones. The experiment was done on mice. The scientists found that a protein called stathmin, produced by the stathmin gene was responsible for producing fear like conditions. Using genetic engineering, the scientists removed the gene that produces fear from mice and bred a line of the animals, without this gene. When left alone on an unfamiliar whitesurface, the engineered mice spent about twice as long exploring as did the normal mice. In other response inducing experiments also genetically altered mice cane out winning. Scientists claim this discovery could revolutionise drug research in the coming years.The discovery has been reported in the latest issue of journal Cell.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

‘Early turtle’ fossil discovered

Scientists from University of Portsmouth say a 120-million-year-old fossil discovered in Brazil is in all likelihood the oldest known creature that resembles a modern turtle. The find is linked to present-day representatives by its heavily webbed, paddle-shaped foot. The researchers have enough of the specimen to determine it belongs to a new species, which they have named Araripemys arturi.The details are appearing in the latest issue of the journal Paleontology

Global warming and the danger of killer caterpillars

Lee Dyer a researcher at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, warn that with global warming, parasitism against caterpillars will decrease. This in turn will free the caterpillars to devour agricultural fields and forests. Dyer and his team point out that parasitism decreases as climate variability increases. The researchers are uncertain as to the exact mechanisms that cause parasitism in caterpillars to decrease as climate variability increases The details of the research are given in an upcoming edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mediterranean Sea – Threat to Bluefin Tuna

Blufefin Tuna is under threat in Mediterranean due to over fishing. According to WWF sources it is a real crisis for Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean. It is estimated that 45,000-50,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna were caught in 2004, well beyond the 32,000 tonne quota allowed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Current levels of fishing are 2.5 times higher than the Bluefin Tuna populations can sustain. WWF says unless something concrete is not done we will soon reach commercial extinction of Bluefin Tuna

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

175th Birthday Bash for Harriet the Tortoise

The Australia Zoo has celebrated the 175th birthday of Harriet, the Galapagos Tortoise (Geochelone nigra).The day was marked with a pink hibiscus flower cake. It is believed that British naturalist Charles Darwin studied Harriet The age was assessed by DNA testing. Harriet now weighs 150kg and is roughly the size of a dinner table.

US - Reprieve for California's Giant Sequoia

California's Giant Sequoia trees have got a reprieve from being hacked down. A federal judge has temporarily barred a logging project. The project had envisaged thinning trees across 535 hectares, a quarter of which are within the Giant Sequoia National Monument. US District Judge Charles Breyer granted the request for an injunction, saying the project's potential effect on wildlife had not been properly evaluated.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New Books For you - The Smaller Majority by Piotr Naskrecki

Most of Earth's inhabitants, including insects, amphibians, and crustaceans, are smaller than a human finger. In this fascinating book Naskrecki, an entomologist, brings these creatures into sharp focus with more than 400 full-colour photographs. The author vividly describes some of the fascinating small creatures, including scorpions that glow under ultraviolet light, butterflies that drink 600 times their own weight in water at a sitting, and geckos that slip out of their skins to evade predators. To top it the author describes photographic techniques also. Published by Belknap Press, 2005, 288 p., color photos, hardcover, $35.00.

Deforestation slowing down says FAO

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, presenting details from a new report says global deforestation is slowing down. This is attributed to planting new trees and restoring degraded lands as well as natural forest expansion in some regions. But the world's forests are still being destroyed at an alarming rate, says the report “Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005”. An average 7.3 million hectares was lost annually over the last five years. Deforestation, mainly conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at a rate of about 13 million hectares (32 million acres) per year. The full report will be released in January 2006.

UK - Greenpeace dumps coal outside the Prime Minister's residence

Greenpeace dumped five tonnes of coal outside the Prime Minister's London residence in protest at what they said was his tardiness in tackling global warming. The World Wide Fund for Nature UK, says the Prime Minister speaks one thing but does the opposite on climate change. Tony Blair had made global warming one of the key themes of Britain's G8 presidency. Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart and WWF-UK director Andrew Lee accused the Prime Minister of not practising what he preaches on Global Warming.

USA - New Bison preserve in the offing

The vision by conservationists for a new Bison Preserve will begin to take shape this week. The preserve is about 50 miles south of Malta in Montana.On Thursday, 16 buffalo(Bison) will be released from a holding pen onto a portion of the nearly 32,000 acres of land that has been purchased or leased as the start of Bison reserve. The bison being released on the preserve came from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The conservationists hope it will eventually grow to hundreds of thousands of acres. The Montana project began four years ago when the World Wildlife Fund found mostly pristine prairie in a patchwork of public and private land neighbouring the 1.1 million-acre Charles M. Russell Federal Wildlife Refuge. World Wildlife Fund has high hopes about this project.

A new guide to developing GEF project proposals on land degradation

A new guide entitled “Land Degradation and the GEF”
Intended for developing project proposals on land degradation
has just been launched by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the GlobalEnvironment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment Programme and other partners at the seventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification held in Nairobi. This guide is an excellent and very practical tool not only for NGOs, government agencies and other stakeholders to understand how GEF works, but also how to apply for projectfunding for sustainable land management. The guide is designed to avoid bureaucratic language and unnecessary detail.
For more information contact:
Joachim Gratzfeld, Programme Officer,
Ecosystem Management Programme, Tel. +41 22 999 0267; Fax: +41 22 364 9720;

Monday, November 14, 2005

To dam or not to dam? Five years on from the World Commission on Dams

WWF has made a fervent plea, in its report To dam or not to dam? Five years on from the World Commission on Dams, to have a rethink on big dams. The World Commission on Dams was established in 1998 as an independent, international, multi-stakeholder process to address what had become one of the most controversial areas of infrastructure development. The report shows that dams can damage drown or even dry out wetlands, an important source of water. They also destroy fisheries and threaten endangered species. WWF adds, “This is not the engineering heyday of the 1950s when dams were seen as the hallmark of development. We know dams can cause damage and we must put this knowledge to work," In Belize, the US$30 million Chalillo Dam was meant to reduce electricity imports and lower electricity prices. Yet since its recent completion, local people have seen an average increase of 12 per cent in electricity prices while the dam has also flooded 1,000ha of pristine rainforest.

Want to host Olympics? The Key - Care for the environment

Competence in tackling environmental issues is of paramount in the bidding process for Olympics. Pat Schmitt, chairman of the IOC Sport and Environment commission revealed this at the sixth World Conference on Sport and Environment at the United Nations Environmental Programme, which is based in Kenya. He was speaking to the representatives of future Olympics. He reiterated that athletes want clean air, clean water and healthy food to compete at the highest level. Sustainable development and peace are essential adjuncts.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hi Guys Next update will be on 14th

I am out in the field for 3 days where I have no access to Internet. So the next update will be on 14th. Bye for now.

Endangered lemur named after comedian John Cleese

The lemur Avahi cleesei was discovered in western Madagascar in 1990 by a team of scientists from Zurich University. The lemur has been now named after comedian John Cleese by the team of scientists, led by anthropologist Urs Thalmann and his colleague Thomas Geissman,in tribute to Cleese's promotion of the plight of the animal. Lemurs are considered the most endangered of all primates

Remains of 'Godzilla' crocodile discovered

A US-Argentine team of researchers have discovered fossilised remains of a crocodile that ruled the oceans 140 million years ago in Patagonia. Because of its dinosaur-like snout and jagged teeth scientists have nicknamed the creature Godzilla.The species is formally known as Dakosaurus andiniensis. It hunted large marine vertebrates such as the giant marine reptile, Ichthyosaurus, rather than small fish. Details have been published in the latest issue of journal Science.

Europeans descended from Hunters, not Farmers, new study reveals

A study by anthropologist Joachim Burger of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, in Mainz, Germany, based on DNA evidence has come to the conclusion that Europeans owe their ancestry mainly to Stone Age hunters, and not to migrants who brought farming to Europe from the Middle East. The immigrant farmers left a cultural legacy by introducing agriculture some 7,500 years ago, the researchers say. The findings are published in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

50 MEDITERRANEAN PLANTS THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION – World Conservation Union(IUCN) takes initiative to stem the tide.

Many of the close to 25,000 Mediterranean native plants that make the region one of the world’s 34 biodiversity ‘hotspots’ are disappearing. 50 species are on top of the list. A new conservation tool, The Top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants, launched yesterday by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) at the 14th meeting of the Barcelona Convention on Protection of the Mediterranean Sea, lays out a conservation strategy for species from the familiar hyacinth, carnation, and violet families, along with less known, plants such as moon trefoil, Lefkara milkvetch, Troodos rockcress, and Casey’s larkspur. The handbook aims to reverse the decline of these natural treasures by helping policy makers in the respective countries take appropriate decisions to protect their natural heritage.

Panda Wedding in Thai Zoo

Two pandas, 5-year-old male Chuang Chuang and 4-year-old female Lin Hui, were married in northern city of Chiang Mai Thailand, on Wednesday to mark the 28th birthday of their zoo in a traditional Chinese ceremony. Chiang Mai is Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's hometown. To avoid offending conservatives who think "marrying" animals is undignified, a proxy wedding by two proxies was arranged. The pandas live in a $1 million refrigerated cage. After the ceremony, the real pandas, which eat only bamboo, were showered with fruit. Their human proxies were sprinkled with water to fight the heat. Thailand's hot climate is expected to bring forward the pandas' mating season to November from the March-May period in their native China.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands- 9th Conference of Parties (CoP) on at Kampala,Uganda.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has started its 9th Conference of Parties (CoP) in Kampala,Uganda, against evidence of accelerating loss and degradation of wetlands around the world. The theme of this year’s conference is “Wetlands – supporting life, sustaining livelihoods”. This is shown by the Wetlands Synthesis Report of the Millennium EcosysteAssessment(MEA), which will be released at the CoP this week.

Achim Steiner,Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in his opening address said “The gap between the spirit and guidance of this Convention and the state of wetlands is becoming bigger. It is clear that such an assessment [the MEA] requires a clear response from the Contracting Parties and the organisations that work closely with them,”. Steiner urged participants to follow that example and integrate wetland conservation into otherPolicies and sectors. “The key principles of this convention must be integrated into Poverty Reduction Strategy papers, and be the basis for our engagement with the water sector, finance ministries and development agencies,” he suggested.

China – Rare butterfly disappearing

A rare butterfly in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, is disappearing because of the city's expansion. The butterfly, the Chinese Tiger Swallowtail, is found only in China and has been around for about 80 million years. The fast disappearance is attributed to Falling plant diversity. The Chinese Tiger Swallowtail butterfly likes eating wild ginger, a plant that has disappeared rapidly during the city's development. Chinese environmentalists have urged the Government to take appropriate measures before it is too late.

Seal Meat and California Condor conservation

With its total wild population currently standing at 130, California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) remains one of the world's most endangered birds. Writing this week in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Page Chamberlain, professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University in California, brings out interesting features about dietary preferences of Condors and how a change in diet can help their conservation. By comparing carbon and nitrogen traces in the birds' feathers and bones researchers were able to tell whether condors historically ate remains of land or marine mammals. The analysis of modern, historic (1800 to 1965), and prehistoric (up to 36,000 years ago) condor remains revealed major shifts in the bird's diet since the last ice age, which ended around 8,000 years ago. It switched from land to marine and back to land. The study team now recommends reacquainting California condors with marine-mammal meat as part of efforts to establish viable condor populations in the U.S. Loss of habitat for large mammals in the Central Valley and southern California would most certainly reduce the possible food sources for wild condors. The California sea lion population is increasing by 5 to 6 percent a year, with total numbers up to around 240,000, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Chamberlain says, “If condors can tap into this food source, the prospects of the birds spreading across their former West Coast range are excellent." Scientists aim to encourage the birds to eat seal carcasses by setting up holding and release sites near these rookeries. The initial results of the experiment is very encouraging.

England – Red Squirrel conservation strategy launched

Red Alert North England, which is made up of wildlife trusts, the Forestry Commission and landowners, has launched North England Red Squirrel Conservation Strategy. The effort is intended to save Britain's native red squirrels from extinction. The species has been declining since American grey squirrels were introduced in the 19th Century and outnumber reds by 66 to 1. The strategy will focus on carefully selected red squirrel reserves in forests in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Merseyside and Northumbria. Management strategies have been worked out which will cancel out the grey squirrel's natural competitive advantage.

Drunken elks

Two tipsy elks laid siege to an old people’s home in Sibbhult, southern Sweden.
The elks got drunk on some fermented apples outside the home. The female elk and her calf developed a taste for the tipsy stuff and refused to leave the premises. Police had to be called in. The exasperated police had to seek the services of a professional hunter with dog to chase the animals away.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fiji's Great Sea Reef to become marine protected area

Efforts are on to form one of the world's largest networks of underwater sanctuaries in Fiji. The local chiefs of Great Sea Reef have launched the first of a series of marine protected areas. Great Sea Reef, locally known as Cakaulevu, is globally important in view of its rich diversity. The islands of the Fiji archipelago, which number more than 300, are scattered over a 1.3 million square kilometer area. Fiji archipelago is often called the soft coral capital of the world.


Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew,Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS will step down in summer 2006 after seven years in the job. Prior to his appointment at Kew Sir Peter spent 17 years in Chicago as the Director of the Field Museum of Natural History. He will return to the USA to take up a new position at the University of Chicago. The post of Director Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the world's most prestigious botanical-horticultural posts..

Florida - Ingenious way of smuggling birds

A woman who tried to smuggle a rare green parrot by hiding it in her bra has landed in jail in Florida. Florid Fish and Wildlife officials say the offence is punishable by imprisonment for 5 years and/or $ 5000 in fine or both.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pilot tracks 4800 KM Monarch Butterfly migration

Vico Gutierrez a pilot flying his ultralight for 72 days has ended his 4,800-km odyssey of following the migration of Monarch butterfly. His journey from Canada ended near the Angangueo Sanctuary set aside for Monarchs in Mexico. Not one butterfly makes the round-trip journey. The offspring of those who start it head instinctively for a place they have never been. It takes three or four generations of monarch butterflies to reach their summer grounds in Canada and northern areas of the United States.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

There is a plus side to global warming for Norway

A study by Norwegian institute for water research indicates that global warming may benefit Salmon in the rivers of Norway. A problem with Salmon was the poisoning due to the nitrates. Nitrates have been acidifying the rivers of Norway caused by industrial gases blown in from other parts of Europe. The warming has induced more rains. This is benefiting Salmon smolt by diluting the nitrates. Even though immediate effects are rosy long term Global warming effects could bring catastrophe in the form of droughts, floods and inundations.

Mexico Coral Reef set back 100 years by Wilma

Mexico’s National protected area Commission says in its report that the delicate coral reefs off the coast of Yucatan province will take at least 100 years to recover from the damages inflicted by Wilma. Work is on to assess and repair the damage. The commission has requested help from outside agencies to repair the damage.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tri-Nation agreement in Pacific augurs well for leatherback conservation

Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have committed to a partnership for conserving the critically endangered western Pacific leatherback turtle within the Bismarck-Solomon Seas Ecoregion. The beaches of these three countries harbour the largest remaining leatherback turtle populations in the Pacific Ocean. Leatherback turtles are classified as critically endangered. Some populations in the region have declined by as much as 90 per cent in the last twenty years. The new initiative will also ensure protection of large number of species ranging from coral reefs to migratory species such as tuna and whales in the region.

Sydney – Robot to the rescue of bird

A robot meant for diffusing bombs has come to the rescue of a stranded cockatiel. The cockatiel was stranded for two days after a building partially collapsed, undermined by a new tunnel. No one was allowed near the precariously perched building. The owner Karen Bruce was running from pillar to post for the rescue of her pet when help came in the guise of robot. The robot emerged from the building carrying the bird in her cage. Karen was profuse in her thanks to the police force.

England - RSPB seeks help to find Hen Harrier

RSPB has sought the help of concerned citizens to track one of England's rarest birds of prey. Hen harriers.
Hen harriers have been described as 'the most endangered bird of prey in England'. The male hen harrier performs gravity-defying aerial food passes as part of courtship rites. In recent years, only a handful of hen harriers have nested in England, usually on moorland. Five chicks fledged from a nest near Geltsdale, the highest number in England this year. Three were fitted with wing tags and miniature radio transmitters. The young birds have now moved away from the nature reserve at Geltsdale. Two of the harriers have been tracked down. One of the harriers has disappeared off the radar and the RSPB is asking for help to locate it. The young birds can be recognized from the coloured and uniquely numbered wing-tags fitted on both wings. The tags are numbered 5, 6 and 7. The harrier that disappeared is a female bird and has a blue tag on the right wing and a yellow tag on the left - the tag is marked with the number 7. If you are a reader from England and if you come across this bird please email dave.ohara@rspb.org.uk. Others may please bring this to the kind attention of friends from England if they are not already aware of it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

International Day of Action on Climate Change -Demonstrations around the world planned for Dec 3

To coincide with the 'Meeting of Parties' Climate talks in Montreal, November 28th -December 9th , International Day of Action on Climate Change has been planned, endorsed by the Assembly of Movements of the World Social Forum in January 2005. Synchronized demonstrations are planned around the world - in as many places as possible - to press for urgent action on climate change. For more info email info@globalclimatecampaign.org

Honduras – Forests shrinking due to illegal logging

The Environmental Investigation Agency, a US -based environmental group says Illegal logging driven by an underground timber trade is destroying the forests of Honduras. The underground activities have links in Europe and United states. The report urges the United States, the European Union and other nations to ban imports of illegal timber. Honduran officials say they are hamstrung by lack of resources and personnel.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fiji – New species discovered in Great Sea Reef

A WWF survey of Great Barrier Reef of Fiji has come up with a bounty of new discoveries. 43 new hard coral species and a new damselfish( pomacentrus sp.) The Great Sea Reef is the world’s 3rd longest great barrier reef.

Bees can solve complex colour puzzles

University college London researchers Beau Lotto and Martina Wicklein have discovered that bees are capable of solving complex colour puzzles. The study will be of great help in robotics. Developing a visual system that deciphers information is an obstacle facing robotics. The study appears in the proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Manas National Park sprucing up for Centenary Celebrations

Manas National Park in Western Assam, contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan is bedecked to celebrate its 100 years of existence. Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Council (BTAC) authority and Assam Forest and Wildlife Department spearhead the celebrations. The yearlong centenary celebration of the national park would be kicked off with a four-day inaugural ceremony from December 12 to 15. The park has 60 species of mammals, 312 species of birds, 42 species of reptiles, 7 amphibians and 54 species of fish. The park is also a World Heritage Site.

Love songs by Mouse

A team from Washington University headed by Tim Holy and Zhongsheng Guo has discovered that male mouse sing ultrasonic love songs as part of the courtship rites.
Mice now joins the exclusive club of mammals that can sing, which has until now has been the preserve of only human beings, bats and cetaceans. The discovery was quite accidental. The scientists were dabbling with pheromones. When the males encountered a swab with pheromones they broke into song. The details have been published in the scientific journal PLoS Biology.

Greenpeace fined

Environmental organisation greenpeace has been fined $7,000 for damaging coral reef at a world heritage site in the southern Philippines. The organisation’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior II, hit the coral reef while negotiating, and damaged about 100 square metres of reef. Greenpeace blamed inaccurate charts supplied by Philippines for the mishap. The park authorities said they appreciate the good work being done by Greenpeace but the fine is mandatory for the damages.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Environmentalists protest against new Italian – French rail link

Environmentalists have expressed anguish at the proposed high-speed rail link between Turin in Italy and Lyon in France. LTF a consortium of French and Italian railway operators moot the project. According to environmentalists, the environmental impact of this new project is enormous. Italy’s green party has asked interior minister Gieusepe Pisano to intervene.