1 Tahrcountry Musings: February 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Frogs Gives Key to New Drugs

A University of Adelaide team has discovered that the secretions of the dumpy tree frog are very effective at warding off mosquitoes. Mice given the secretions remained bite-free for four times longer. The secretions can also act as powerful painkillers and hallucinogens. The researchers say "The discovery highlights the potential of the unsung properties of amphibian skin. Details appear in the latest issue of Biology Letters journal

Monday, February 27, 2006

Seychelles Bans Shark Finning

The Seychelles has banned the cutting off of sharks' fins by foreign fishermen. 100 million sharks are killed every year worldwide, mostly for their fins. Shark finning often involves slicing off the highly valuable fins, often from living sharks, and dumping the rest of the creatures back into the sea. Owing to the shark finning trade 65 out of 373 known shark species are globally threatened.

I am back in Cochin

I am back in Kochi.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

No Update for A Week

I am out of station for a week, mostly travelling. During this period I won't be having access to the internet. Consequently the next update will be on 27th. Sorry guys.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Convention On Biological Biodiversity Needs Your Input

The Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference, launched almost a month ago is asking for more contributions. Join the Conference and express your opinion on how to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target. Log on to (http://2010.biodiv.org). Click on "Join the conference" to create your user account. Click on "Go to the discussions" to start posting your views by answering one of the 4 questions or to complement a previous comment posted by someone else.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Two New National Parks Created in Amazon

Brazil has created two new national parks in the Amazon. Total area of the parks is 1.5 million hectares .The Brazilian Amazon sprawling over 4.1 million square kilometers has seen lot of controversial logging operations in the recent past. Last year the forest lost 26,130 square kilometers to logging, development works and farming. The creation of 2 new National Parks brings fresh hopes for the environmentalists of Brazil.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Fish and Seaweeds Discovered

Scientists of Netherlands Antilles government, the US Smithsonian Institution and Conservation International have discovered new species of fish and seaweed in a two-week study of the Saba Bank Atoll in the Dutch Windward Islands, 250 kilometres southeast of Puerto Rico. 165 new species of fish has been discovered. Saba Bank now leaves far behind places such as the Straits of Florida and the northern coast of Venezuela. The mighty ocean still remains a vast unexplored territory. According to scientists of conservation international an average of 6-7 new species of marine fish was discovered every month last year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kenya's Worst Drought Threatens Wildlife

Kenya's worst drought in years is threatening Tsavo West National Park. Maasai who have trekked long distances to escape drought are driving cattle into Tsavo West National Park in search of water and pasture. Cattle would harm natural habitats, and spread disease. Maasai, who depend on cattle and often live on just milk and fresh blood, say they have no choice but to feed their starving cows wherever they can. It is a tricky situation out there.

Monday, February 13, 2006

UK Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology urges research on marine sounds

With speculation running rife that that the whale found in the Thames last month had been disorientated by sounds, UK’s Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology has urged that research into the effect of sound in the oceans on marine mammals should be commissioned by the UK Government post-haste. The committee says mammals are affected by many sounds, including sonar, oil exploration and ship. The report points accusing fingers at 13 cases of strandings of whales and dolphins which appear to have been linked to specific sources of noise by naval vessels. The committee has suggested inter alia that it would be a good idea to expose marine mammals to sound mimicking the noise of sonar, oil drilling and other activities to get first hand confirmation of these speculations.

UK Government should forthwith initiate research in to this very serious isssue. This path breaking reserch will help dispel forever the denials by Navys and oil exploration firms.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Whale Meat Ends Up as Dog Food

The shocking news that meat from Japanese “Whaling for scientific reasons” ends up as dog food has been brought to the attention of international community by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). Ads describe whale meat as "organic" and fished "freshly out of the water”. Mark Simmonds, director of science at WDCS, said: "Whaling is a cruel activity and the fact that Japan is killing these amazing animals to produce dog food is shocking. A global moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since the 1980s, but hunting for scientific research is permitted under the rules of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Friday, February 10, 2006

Animals Freeze to Death in Macedonia Zoo

A 25-year-old lion and a baby llama died of cold in a zoo in the southern city of Bitola, Macedonia, near the border with Greece. Temperature had plummeted overnight to minus 28 degree celcius. Both animals lived in open bar cages with no heating. Macedonia gives very low priority to animal welfare.
This tragic case should make us rethink about the welfare of caged animals. Macedonia is not a rich country but that is not an excuse for treating animals like this. Poor creatures must have gone through agonizing moments. Imagine the plight of lion coming from a warm country. This should not happen again. Wake up animal lovers in and around Macedonia.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oldest Tyrannosaurus rex relative unveiled

The fossil remains of the oldest Tyrannosaurus rex relative has been uncovered in the Junggar Basin, an area rich in dinosaur fossils, in the far north-west corner of China. The fossil is estimated to be 160 million year-old. The international team under Professor James Clark, a paleontologist at George Washington University, US, has named the dinosaur, which hails from the Late Jurassic period, Guanlong wucaii. Details appear in the latest issue of journal Nature

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Alternative drug won't kill India's vultures

The drug Diclofenac has accidentally poisoned a majority of the critically endangered vultures in India and neighbouring countries and has been found to be the chief culprit in the decline of Vulture population. Vultures are exposed to Diclofenac when scavenging on livestock treated with it. Diclofenac causes kidney damage. Scientist have discovered that the drug Meloxicam, equally effective as Diclofenac in cattle, does not cause any harm to Vultures. Use of Meloxicam would definitely reduce vulture mortality in the Indian subcontinent. Meloxicam is already available for veterinary use in India.
Details of the research are available at
Swan, G., et al. 2006. Removing the threat of diclofenac to critically endangered Asian vultures. PLoS Biology 4(March):e66. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040066.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Direct Human Link to Orangutan Decline

A three year study by Sumatran Orangutan Society shows that a drastic reduction of population of Orangutans has occurred within the past century and it coincides with massive deforestation of orangutan habitat. Professor Michael Bruford of the Cardiff School of Biosciences, led the study. Professor Bruford believes that the animals still possess enough genetic diversity to stabilize if immediate action is taken. DNA information was used to simulate population history and to detect evidence of a population decline. Details appear in the journal "PLoS Biology.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

International Policy to Fight Biopiracy

Misappropriation of genetic resources is a serious issue confronting many nations. Even though treaties and conventions do exist implementation has faced roadblocks. Now IUCN the world Conservation Union is taking imitative to address this serious issue. At the request of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) secretariat the union’s Canada office in conjunction with its Environmental Law center has published results of an investigation in to claims of misappropriation of genetic resources. It will attempt to provide concrete info about what kinds of international policy decisions are needed to eliminate biopiracy.
Full info can be had from

Friday, February 03, 2006

Pigeons with Backpacks for Pollution Monitoring

An idea mooted by researcher Beatriz da Costa, of the University of California at Irvine, and two of her students to use pigeons for monitoring air quality is taking shape in real life. 20 pigeons fitted with GPS satellite tracking receiver, air pollution sensors and a basic mobile phone are be used to monitor air pollution, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday. The release will be into the skies over San Jose, California. A special pigeon "blog", a journal accessible on the Internet will host text messages on air quality beamed back in real time. An interactive map also will be in place.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Indonesian Turtle On The Brink of Extinction

Roti Island snake-necked turtles, found only in the wetlands of eastern Indonesia is on the brink of extinction. According to a report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, the species is often exported illegally under a similar species, the New Guinea snake-necked turtle. Government controls have been very lax. In 2000, the IUCN Red List categorized the Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) as “critically endangered’. The species is also listed in Appendix II of CITES, which requires any international trade to be carried out under a permit system. The continuing international demand for the turtle from collectors in Europe, North America and East Asia is pushing this endemic species towards extinction. TRAFFIC — a joint programme of WWF and IUCN is organising awareness building workshops for local enforcement agencies in an effort to stem the tide.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Australian Wollemi Pine Trees Endangered

The Australian Wollemi pine, a species dating back to Jurassic times has been endangered by a deadly disease probably introduced by an unauthorized hiker. The Wollemi pine, described as a living fossil, was thought to be extinct until 1994, when a park ranger stumbled upon a stand in a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park. Entry was very restricted to this place. Those authorized to visit had to undergo strict infection control procedures that involve sterilizing their footwear and equipment. A fungus-like disease has now endangered the wild stand. Despite the threat, the species is not at risk of extinction. Australian authorities had propagated thousands of trees in plantations from the wild stand.

Trapped Dolphin is Finally Free

A dolphin which had been trapped in Maryport Marina,England for almost a month has been freed by rescuers. Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group spearheaded the rescue. The Dolphin that usually lives in saltwater was suffering in the freshwater of the marina, which was bleaching its skin due to lack of salt. Immediately after the release it met up with another dolphin and they swam away together.