1 Tahrcountry Musings: May 2006

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Frozen Global Seed Vault Planned

A frozen global seed vault to ensure diversity of food plants in the event of a catastrophe has been planned in a mountainside on the island of Svalbard 1,000 km from the North Pole. Norwegian government is spearheading this prestigious move on behalf of the international community. It will have space for three million seed varieties including rice, wheat, barley as well as fruits and vegetables. Power failures, natural disasters, wars or simply a lack of money can affect present day Gene banks. This will be the bulwark against all those imponderables.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Grim Prospect For River Dolphins In Nepal

Six months of field research conducted by WWF along Nepal’s longer river, the Karnali, has shown that river dolphin populations are more endangered than ever. River dolphins are one of the most endangered of all the world's cetaceans and are extremely vulnerable to extinction. Once abundant, the overall population of Gangetic river dolphins (Platanista gangetica) has been reduced to probably fewer than 100 in Nepal. Dr Chandra Gurung, WWF Nepal’s Country Representative says” “Dolphins in the Karnali face the threat of local extinction unless conservation efforts are stepped up immediately”. Habitat loss and hunting by humans are the main causes for the decline.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Next World Conservation Congress to be in Barcelona

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Council today voted for Spain as the host country of the fourth World Conservation Congress in 2008. The Congress will be held in Barcelona in October 2008. Eleven countries had originally expressed interest in hosting the Congress. The finalists were Ethiopia and Spain.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Crackdown On Toxic Pesticides Help Endangered Bird Of Prey Bounce Back

Crackdown on toxic pesticides and concerted protection has helped a bird of prey to thrive throughout the UK, 35 years after it was on the brink of extinction. In 1971, just one pair of marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) remained at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' Minsmere reserve in Suffolk. By 2005, 360 breeding females were recorded in parts of eastern England, the Cambridgeshire Fens, Kent, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scotland. Protection and augmentation of wetlands was an integral part of the drive to protect the bird. The future looks bright and environmentalists are a happy lot.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Reappearance Of The 'Extinct' Frog

Professor Carlos Rocha and a team of researchers from the Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia (UPTC) in Boyac, have sighted a spectacular South American frog Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei which had been feared extinct for a decade. Conservation International supported the expedition. The discovery was made in a small remote region of Colombia. Red List of Threatened Species says of the painted frog that it "...has not been recorded since 1995, despite attempts to locate it. Fabio Arjona, executive director of Conservation International in Colombia says urgent measures are needed both in the wild and through captive breeding programmes.

4th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates,Sept 12to 15th,Munnar ,Kerala,India

The last date for receipt of abstrcts has been extended to 15th June.
See http://www.wmcu2006.org/callforpaper.htm for details.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

New study Reveals Apes can plan ahead

According to a study published in the latest issue of journal Science. Bonobos and orangutans are capable of future planning. Dr Josep Call, from the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology spearheaded the study.The study showed that individuals are able to pick up a tool, transport it to a different location, keep it there for at least an hour, and bring it back to solve a problem. Humans and bonobos evolved into separate lineages about five to seven million years ago and orangutans about 14 million years ago. The German team suggests such skills may have evolved about 14 million years ago, when bonobos, orangutans and humans shared a common ancestor.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bowhead whales re-surfaces in the Arctic

Several Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) have been observed near Svalbard Archipelago ( Norway) where they have been spotted only a few times in the last several decades. This gives fresh hope about this Endangered species. Bowhead whales are believed to live to be 200+ years old and are named after their enormous bow-shaped mouths. These whales live in Northern Hemisphere waters near the edge of the Arctic ice shelf.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reuniting panda populations in China

Chinese Forestry Department of Shaanxi Province and WWF'’s China Programme have launched a programme to build up an ecological corridor to reunite two isolated panda populations. The two Tianhuashan and Xinglongling panda sub-populations in the Qinling Mountains were separated 23 years ago by the construction of a National Road. In 1999, the completion of a tunnel led to the abandonment of a 13km section of the highway. This created an opportunity to form a corridor. The work was initiated in 2005. The green bamboo corridor is turning out to be a reality now. There is new hope for the Panda. According to a WWF-Chinese government survey, there are nearly 1,600 pandas in the wild.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Magnets To The Aid Of Sharks

Sharks are reportedly able to detect magnetic fields. Some are even repelled by magnetic fields. Michael Herrmann, a research associate at the US-based company Shark Defense has used this info for an innovation in fishing gear, which will help addresses, the problem of shark bycatch. Thousands of sharks could be saved from being caught and killed on fishing lines thanks to this innovation. An estimated 89 per cent of hammerhead sharks and 80 per cent of thresher and white sharks have disappeared from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean in the last 18 years, largely due to bycatch. Michael Herrmann will receive the US$25,000 grand prize to further develop and test his winning idea. The prize is sponsored by WWF.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Message From Chair Caprinae Specialist Group

Please note that the URL of CSG/SSC of IUCN has Changed.New address is

Also, please note that the deadline for submitting abstracts to the 4th World Congress on mountain ungulates is at the end of this month. See http://www.wmcu2006.org/callforpaper.htm for details.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Talking Dolphins

St Andrews University researchers studying in Florida have discovered that dolphins recognise each other by names. The dolphins were able to recognise themselves and other members of the same species as individuals with separate identities. Royal Society of London funded the research. The whistles of dolphins were synthesised on a computer to produce computer voice of dolphins. When it was played back to the dolphins they responded. This proved conclusively that the dolphins know each other's signature whistle instead of just the voice. It also meant that these animals have evolved the same abilities as humans. The findings are published in the latest issue of US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Important Blue Whale Colony Discovered

One of the world's most important blue whale colonies have discovered off the coast of Chile. This is rated, as is one of the biggest feeding and breeding sources of blue whale. 65 blue whales and 51 humpback whales were sighted. Blue whales were hunted to the brink of extinction during the first half of the 20th century until a ban in 1965. The International Whaling Commission estimates that only 400 to 1,400 remain.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Deep Ocean Trawl Brings Up New Species

A three-week voyage by scientists in the Atlantic has come up with tiny animals which appear new to science. The voyage is part of the ongoing Census of Marine Life (CoML), which aims to map ocean life throughout the world. One of the aims of the Census of Marine Zooplankton (CoMZ), is to provide a global inventory of these tiny organisms which will help scientists. By the time CoML ends in 2010, the scientists hope to have found and studied every zooplankton species in the ocean.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Booby Bird Makes A Comeback

Abbott's booby( Papasula abbotti) one of the world's rarest birds and a native of Australia's Christmas Island is making a comeback. The world's entire population of the bird, around 2,500 resides on this island. The most serious threat is the introduced yellow crazy ant(Anoplolepis gracilipes), which spread rapidly during the 1990s to cover 28% of the island's forest. Recent ant control efforts have proved successful. Booby has moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered status.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lost World Of Frogs

Laos is turning out to be the lost world of frogs. A study conducted by Wildlife Conservation Society over the past 2 years, assisted by the American Museum of Natural History and Russian Academy of Sciences, has thrown up six new frog species. Details about latest three species have been published in the recent issue of Copeia, the journal of the American Society of Herpetologists. In recent years Laos has thrown up surprises like Laotian rock rat, which is the lone living member of an ancient mammal family, to the Annamite striped rabbit and saola, a type of forest antelope. Nine new amphibians have also been discovered

New IUCN Redlist Released

2006 IUCN Redlist has been released. The total number of species declared officially Extinct is 784 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or cultivation. Of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, 16,119 are now listed as threatened with extinction. (Animals: 7,725 Plants and lichens: 8,394) Familiar species like the polar bear, hippopotamus and desert gazelles are facing extinction. A key addition to the 2006 Red List of Threatened Species is the first comprehensive regional assessment of selected marine groups. Thanks to conservation action, the status of certain species has improved: proof that conservation does work. The numbers of white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) doubled in the 1990s and it has been downlisted from Near Threatened to Least Concern. The seabird Abbott’s booby (Papasula abbotti) listed as Critically Endangered in 2004 is recovering thanks to conservation measures and has now moved down a category to Endangered. Swift action since the dramatic 97% population crash of the Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus), listed as Critically Endangered in 2002, means that the future for this and related species is more secure. The veterinary drug that unintentionally poisoned them, diclofenac, is now banned in India. A promising substitute has been found and captive breeding assurance colonies will be used for a re-introduction programme. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species acts as a wake up call to the world by focusing attention on the state of our natural environment.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cambodia – Good News For Bird Enthusiasts

A flock of white-shouldered ibis Pseudibis davisoni, one of the worlds' most endangered birds has been discovered in a remote province in Northeast Cambodia. Only 250 birds exist in the wild. This flock is believed to be between 20 and 30. The main causes for the decline in population are habitat loss through logging of lowland forest and drainage of wetlands for agriculture. The eggs are also poached by the local people.

Monday, May 01, 2006

First Captive Born Giant Panda Released Into the Wild

Xiang Xiang the panda today became the first captive-born giant panda to be released into the wild. Xiang Xiang was raised at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, or Panda Center, in the Wolong Nature Reserve. Only about 1,600 giant pandas are still left in the wild. If Xiang Xiang's release proves a success, other captive-bred panda releases will follow. Lack of genetic diversity in pandas in the wild is worrying the conservationists. These releases are expected to tackle this problem and pave way for increase in Panda population. Increased protection of habitat will have to go hand in hand with this.

It is good to see one of the world's best-loved endangered animals getting the conservation attention it deserves. Tahrcountry congratulate the Chinese authorities for these stps.