1 Tahrcountry Musings: 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Climate change plays havoc with wildlife in UK

The National Trust of UK has come up with a study, which shows the impact of climate change on UK’s wildlife. According to the trust UK wildlife is struggling to cope with erratic and unseasonal weather, which has taken its toll for a second consecutive year. Species under threat include puffins, marsh fritillary butterflies and lesser horseshoe bats.

The unusual seasonal patterns include the following.
•Snowdrops and red admiral butterflies were first spotted in January, earlier than normal.
• Bees were hit hard in April by frost and snow
• Rain in late May caused many birds' nests to fail, including those of the blue and great tits, because of the lack of insect food
• It was a poor summer for migrant insects - butterflies, moths, hoverflies, ladybirds and dragonflies - because of the wet and cold June
• In July, puffin numbers on the Farne Islands were down 35% on what they had been five years earlier
• The common autumn cranefly, usually in best proportions in September, was all but absent.

The trust concludes that climate change is not some future prediction of what might happen, it's happening now.

I feel that this piece of information from UK calls for an immediate study of the impact of climate change on India’s wildlife also. A pointer is the erratic birth of Nilgiri Tahr in Eravikulam National Park, Munnar, Kerala. It used to occur with clockwork precision in the first week of January. This is now getting delayed by more than one month. The distribution pattern of the animal inside park is also showing drastic changes. It is time to act.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Anamigo Pet Photo contest

Are you keen about of pets and their welfare? Then have a look at Anamigo.com a new online community for pet lovers and their pets. You have oodles of info about pets there. Anamigo is sponsoring a contest for pet lovers. Enter the Anamigo Pet Photo contest and you stand to gain up to $300 a week. There's a daily prize of $25 and a weekly prize of $125, totaling $300-a-week for the cutest pet photos (voted by users). Get your camera out and email your friends. Your furry friend could bring you in cash.

Anamigo.com, an online pet community is dedicated to giving our pets their own place online. Relax during a short break from the day-to-day and browse the cutest dog, puppy, kitten and cat pictures from pet people just like you. Create your pet's profile and upload as many photos as you like. Or dig in and participate in their forums, blogs and groups. If you are keen about joining log on to http://anamigo.smnr.us

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WWF releases list of threatened species

World Wildlife Fund has released its annual list of some of the most threatened species of the world. The list includes polar bears, tigers, gorillas, pandas, elephants, whales and rhinos, black-footed ferret and vaquita. WWF attributes poaching, habitat loss and climate change-related threats as the primary reasons for the decline of populations.

Here is WWF’s “9 to Watch in 2009” list:
1. Javan Rhinoceros
Population: Less than 60. Location: Indonesia and Vietnam.
This is probably the rarest of the large mammal species in the world and is critically endangered. Poaching and pressure from a growing human population pose greatest risk to the two protected areas where they live. WWF teams actively monitor these rhinos and protect them from poachers.
2. Vaquita
Population: 150. Location: Upper Gulf of California, Mexico.
The world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, this tiny porpoise is often killed in gillnets and could soon be extinct. WWF is working with local fishermen, local and international non-profits, and private sector and government officials on an unprecedented effort to save the vaquita. This includes establishing a vaquita refuge, buying out gillnet fisheries and developing vaquita-friendly fishing gear and other economic alternatives for the fishermen and their families.
3. Cross River Gorilla
Population: 300. Location: Nigeria and Cameroon.
The few remaining forest patches of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon are home to the recently discovered Cross River gorilla, a subspecies of the western gorilla. But as timber companies open up its forests, hunters move in. Conservation measures are urgently needed for this beleaguered animal, which is probably the world’s rarest great ape. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, a WWF Affiliate, is working with communities in the Cross River National Park to help save the Cross River gorilla.
4. Sumatran Tiger
Population: 400-500. Location: Sumatra, Indonesia.
Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push the Sumatran tiger to the same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Indonesia. Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, while skins are also highly prized. WWF is researching the Sumatran tiger population with camera traps, supports anti-poaching patrols and works to reduce human-tiger conflict as the cats’ habitat shrinks. Through the efforts of WWF and its partners, the Indonesian government in 2008 doubled the size of Tesso Nilo National Park, a critical tiger habitat.
5. North Pacific Right Whale
Population: Unknown, but less than 500. Location: Northern Pacific, U.S., Russia and Japan.
The North Pacific right whale is one of the world’s rarest cetaceans, almost hunted to extinction until the 1960s. It is rarely sighted and has a poor prognosis for survival due to collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing nets and the prospect of offshore oil and gas development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. WWF is working to improve shipping safety to avoid collisions and trying to prevent oil and gas development in Bristol Bay, the whale’s primary summer feeding ground.
6. Black-Footed Ferret
Population: 500 breeding adults. Location: Northern Great Plains, U.S. and Canada.
Found only in the Great Plains, it is one of the most endangered mammals in North America because its primary prey, the prairie dog, has been nearly exterminated by ranchers who consider it a nuisance. Few species have edged so close to extinction as the black-footed ferret and recovered, but through captive breeding and reintroduction, there are signs the species is slowly recovering. WWF has been working to save the black-footed ferret and the prairie dog population upon which the ferrets depend.
7. Borneo Pygmy Elephant
Population: Perhaps fewer than 1,000. Location: Borneo, Malaysia.
These smallest of all elephants must compete with logging and agriculture for space in the lowland forests of Borneo. WWF is working to ensure protection of the “Heart of Borneo” and tracks the elephants through the use of satellite collars to learn more about these little-understood elephants.
8. Giant Panda
Population: 1,600. Location: China.
An international symbol of conservation since WWF’s founding in 1961, the giant panda faces an uncertain future. Its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China has become fragmented, creating small and isolated populations. WWF has been active in giant panda conservation for nearly three decades, conducting field studies, working to protect habitats and, most recently, by providing assistance to the Chinese government in establishing a program to protect the panda and its habitat through the creation of reserves.
9. Polar Bear
Population: 20,000-25,000. Location: Arctic.
The greatest risk to their survival today is climate change. Designated a threatened species by the U.S., if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace, polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century. WWF is supporting field research to understand how climate change will affect polar bears and to develop adaptation strategies. WWF also works to protect critical polar bear habitat by working with government and industry to reduce threats from shipping and oil and gas development in the region.

Posted with inputs from WWF

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A new font that saves on ink

The prints that we use regularly use paper and lots of ink. Sprang creative communications, (Utrecht, The Netherlands) has developed a new font that is good for the environment. The new font reduce the amount of printer ink used by up to 20%. The idea came when Colin Willems thought of how much of a letter can be removed and made into white space while maintaining readability? After lot of trials with different kinds of shapes, the best results were achieved using small circles. This resulted in a font that uses up to 20% less ink.The font is pretty good for your personal needs. Here is what the company says, "After the Dutch holey cheese, there now is a Dutch font with holes as well."

Ecofont is an open source font based on Vera Sans. Even though Ecofont will help you reduce your ink consumption and paper remember that the best way to save printer ink and paper is not to print things you don’t need. If you are keen about this font and wish to download it click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sweden cleanest, S. Arabia dirtiest

According to a report published on Wednesday by watchdogs at the UN climate change talks, the NGOs Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Sweden does the most for tackling of greenhouse gas emissions, while Saudi Arabia does the least. The annual "Climate Change Performance Index" placed Sweden only fourth on its list. No positions were allotted for the top three places. The Climate Change Performance Index compares 57 states that together emit more than 90 percent of the world's annual output of carbon dioxide. Sweden's fourth place was followed by Germany, France, India, Brazil, Britain and Denmark. The bottom 10 in descending order are Greece, Malaysia, Cyprus, Russia, Australia, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, the United States, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Last year’s index rating allotted first three places to Sweden, Germany and Iceland and the bottom three to Australia, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Are we overestimating wildlife habitat?

Changwan Seo of the University of Seoul, South Korea, and his colleagues think that we are overestimating the wildlife habitat. They attribute the reasons for this overestimation to the present models that we are using. Present models divide the world into 50-kilometre grid squares, which gives a very coarse resolution. Changwan Seo and colleagues tested four models at a variety of spatial scales. The team found that larger the grid size, the more the chances of overestimating the amount of habitat available to a species. This could be in the range of two or three times the actual range available. The solution is to run models with smaller grid sizes, even though this costs more. Full details of the study can be accessed at (Biology Letters,DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0476).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Guide to low-carbon lifestyle

WWF has come out with an excellent guide that will help you to reduce your carbon footprint, The WWF Pocket Guide to a One Planet Lifestyle. Essential tips on how to be more environment friendly at home, the workplace and when planning a holiday is lucidly explained. The report is a sequel to recent launch by WWF of their “Living Planet Report” which warned that humanity was heading towards an “ecological credit crunch”. We currently use 30 per cent more resources than the planet’s ecosystems can naturally replenish. Americans have a “five planet lifestyle” and the Europeans a “three planet lifestyle”. With the aid of this eBook you can easily calculate your personal footprint, measure the positive effects of your lifestyle changes, find low-carbon alternatives to travel, and get help on how to find energy-efficient appliances or a green electricity supplier. The report is primarily available as an online e-book, The printed version is produced digitally on-demand on FSC certified paper and bound by screw rivets which enables the readers to easily unbind the book and insert updates, Paper wastage is virtually zero, and non-hazardous inks has been used. If you want to access the guide click here

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Showing off your research through dance

Dancing your PhD may sound a wee bit zany and bonkers. This happened recently in a contest sponsored by the magazine science. Science challenge to researchers was to interpret their Ph.D. research in dance form, film the dance, and share it with the world on YouTube. 36 entries came up for the competition. The panel of judges consisted of the three winners of the first "Dance Your Ph.D." contest, three scientists from Harvard University, and three artistic directors of the dance company Pilobolus. On 20 November Science announced the winners of the 2009 AAAS Science Dance Contest in four categories: Graduate Students, Postdocs, Professors, and Popular choice.

The winners were

Graduate students: Sue Lynn Lau, Garvan Institute of Medical Research / University of Sydney, Australia.
Sue Lynn Lau chose classical ballet and highly kinetic party dancing as the way to interpret her Ph.D. thesis, "The role of vitamin D in beta-cell function."

Post doc: Miriam Sach, University of Duesseldorf, Germany
The research of Miriam Sach was to find out whether different types of verbs are processed by different regions of the brain. Sach, embodied this difference by dancing in the various styles of processing: awkward and hunched for the irregular verbs and graceful and limber for the regular verbs.

Professors: Vince LiCata, Johns Hopkins University
Vince LiCata and three associates danced a slow and graceful double pas de deux, representing the interaction of pairs of hemoglobin molecules from his 1990 Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. thesis, "Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids."

Popular Choice: Markita Landry, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
The winner of the Popular Choice category was determined by the number of views accumulated by each YouTube video between the time it went online and the contest deadline. Landry was the winner with 14,138 views. Landry used a tango to convey her thesis, "Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA Complexes."

Each winner will be paired with a professional choreographer, and together they will attempt to translate a scientific paper the researcher has authored into a proper dance. Then the four choreographers will create a single four-part performance based on the papers. In February 2009, the winning scientists will be guests of honor at the AAAS Annual meeting in Chicago. They will have front-row seats to the world debut of THIS IS SCIENCE, a professional dance interpretation of their published research.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mosques to the Support Sea Turtle Conservation in Malaysia

Would you believe this? Mosques coming to the rescue of Turtle Conservation? Yes, it is happening. This week 482 mosques in the Malaysian state of Terengganu on the north-eastern side of Peninsular Malaysia will give sermons on turtle conservation. Four species of endangered marine turtles nest on the beaches of Terengganu. This includes the critically endangered Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles.

New Strait Times reports that the state religious administrators of Terengganu have prepared a khutbah focused specifically on turtle conservation. The sermon would include threats to the environment and the importance of preserving it in line with Islamic teachings. WWF Terengganu Turtle Programme team leader Rahayu Zulkifli said many Muslims were not aware that Islam preaches conservation of natural resources and hoped it would remind people on the matter. If Mosques around the world take the same passion for conservation the wildlife is sure to benefit. Tahrcountry congratulates the people behind this magnificent venture in Malaysia.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Renewable energy product that helps wildlife – Award for Cheetah conservationist

Simple solutions can sometimes cascade in to big benefits. This is exactly what happened with a small innovative thinking from Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) based in Nambia. Dr Marker has been awarded $50,000 by the Tech Museum of Innovation for her Bushblok program. Tech Awards are given for applying technology to benefit humanity and spark global change.

Bushblok programme uses a high-pressure extrusion process to convert invasive, habitat-destroying bush into a clean-burning fuel. This helps cut down use of firewood, coal, lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes which are costly and result in environmental problems.

Clearing invasive bush helps restore millions of acres of Namibian savannah to revert back to its original state and improve the habitat of both the cheetah and its prey. Namibia has last of the largest remaining wild cheetah population. The global population of cheetah remaining in the wild is around 10,000.
Here is a shining example of innovative thinking coming to the rescue of wildlife. We need more such level headed thinking to solve some of our festering wildlife related problems.

As a spin off of Dr Marker’s Bushblok program Namibia is considering the use of Bushblok as biomass to power electric plants.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Environmental depredations of palm oil industry: The way out

It is a known fact that palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia are destroying rainforests and threatening the very existence of endangered wildlife there. Millions of tons of oil is produced yearly which has a great bearing on the economy of these two countries. Is there a way to balance the needs of economy and conservation? There is. The option is to go in for palm oil produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way certified as compliant with the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria,

RSPO was formally established under Article 60 of the Swiss Civil Code. The initiative was taken by WWF. The association is based in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is based in Kuala Lumpur.

The RSPO brings together oil palm growers, oil processors, food companies, retailers, NGOs and investors. The target is to ensure that no rainforest areas are sacrificed for new palm oil plantations. Plantations have to minimize their environmental impacts and the basic rights of local peoples and plantation workers have to be respected.

The first shipment of 100% certified palm oil has recently gone to Europe. If buyers worldwide decide to buy only certified palm oil it will be a big boost for the conservation. Creation of awareness worldwide is the need of the hour. You can write to the importers of your country requesting them to buy only certified palm oil. Your small action is bound to have an impact. The beneficiary will be the rainforests and denizens of the wild like tigers and orangutans.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Songbirds and 'hymn sheet'

The mysteries of nature are myriad. Some makes you wonder with its complexities and nuances. A bird song might seem ordinary at first glance. Look at it from a scientist’s perspective and there is more in it than meets the eye.

Researchers studying bird songs have arrived at fascinating conclusions. Professor Richard Hahnloser and his team of researchers from the University of Zurich after extensive studies on Zebra Finch have come up with the conclusion that Songbirds learn to sing from a hymn sheet in their head. They believe that the birds have an internal recording that helps the birds to perfect singing. A separate region seems to enable the birds to identify mistakes in their songs. To arrive at the conclusions the researchers monitored the electrical activity of cells in the zebra finches brains. While some neurons were constantly active, other cells became active only when the birds made mistakes. It is these cells that enable the birds to learn from their errors. The researchers believe that their research could unravel the complexities of how humans learn to speak.

The details of research appears in the journal Science

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Greenpeace indicts Indonesia as a big greenhouse gas emitter

Indonesia stands as the world's third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the United States and China. How come this happens when Indonesia is not industrialised like United States and China. The answer is conversion of forests and peatlands for palm oil and pulp plantations. This is bothering the environmentalists in Indonesia and they have sought the help from environmentalists worldwide as the implications of forest destruction are not exclusive to Indonesia. It has worldwide ramifications. Greenpeace is in the forefront of spearheading the campaign against this rampant destruction. On Monday Greenpeace stopped several palm oil shipments meant for Europe from leaving Indonesia’s main oil export port Dumai. The activists painted the words 'Forest crime' and 'Climate Crime' on the hull of three palm oil tankers and a barge full of rainforest timber, A Greenpeace activist also chained himself onto the anchor of a ship as a token protest. Papua region is seeing heavy stripping of tropical forests. Peatland forests of Riau are another recent casualty.

So next time you partake palm oil, remember everything is not hunky-dory. Think of the rainforests that are being hacked down to feed the demands of oil palm industry. The existence Orang-utans is also threatened by this massive destruction of rainforest of Indonesia and Malaysia. The palm oil lobby is very powerful in Indonesia and Malaysia. Action from concerned people all over the world is required.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The need to listen to local wisdom

The innovative ways in which local populace comes up with ways to solve some of their problems never ceases to amaze me. Here is yet another example from Thai villagers who have come up with cost effective ways to solve the problem of crop raiding by elephants.

Stringing up unwanted CDs is helping to keep elephants away from farmers' crops. CDs act as light reflectors to deter the elephants. CDs twisted and shone, mimicking a person with a torch and Works best during full moon. A very innovative and practical solution from the local people. The scientists working in the area were intrigued. Impressed scientists from The Elephant Conservation Network (ECN), and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), are propagating the idea in Thailand.

Elephants are intelligent animals and it remains to be seen whether it will work on a long term basis, but for the time being it seems to work

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama and nature conservation

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has been hailed by environmentalists worldwide. He has always been concerned about environment. As a student at Columbia University, Obama worked for three months as an environmental activist to promote recycling in Harlem. He cosponsored a bill which requires that 10% of electricity in the state come from renewable sources by 2012. He has introduced multiple pieces of legislation to reduce mercury and lead poisoning. Obama fought efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and voted to prohibit the use of funds to construct new roads in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. He led a spirited campaign to remove asbestos. He wants Detroit to design and build more fuel efficient cars.

In election speeches Obama had promised progressive environmental policies if elected. Policies with accent on reducing greenhouse emission and dealing with the perils of climate change. Obama had said “if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily”. He had emphasized the need for being good stewards of the land and said we've got to be less wasteful both as a society and in our own individual lives. Obama's Environmental Protection Agency will strictly regulate pollution and believes in the credo the polluter pays. His words "Environmentalism is not an upper-income issue, it's not a black issue, it's not a South or a North or an East or a West issue, it's an issue that all of us have a stake in." has been widely welcomed.

Yes, environmentalists’ world wide has something to cheer about. We wish him Godspeed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

International Agreement to protect migratory birds

Migratory birds flying across nations are facing increasing threats worldwide. The war in Afghanistan is a grim reminder. Siberian Crane which flies in to India from Siberia is a victim. Bird like Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) and Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) are doomed in the East Asian - Australasian Flyway. Against this background the latest agreement to protect migratory birds is most welcome.
The countries which have signed up to Ramsar Convention on Wetlands have agreed on a resolution to protect migratory birds on their long journeys across the world. The resolution was passed on 3rd November 2008 in South Korea at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. 2,000 people from 165 nations attended the meeting. The new agreement has been named “The Ramsar Resolution on Flyways”. The theme of the International conference was ‘Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People’.

No country can act alone to protect migratory waterbirds. The need of the hour is international cooperation. If you want to read the resolutions click here

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

In praise of a “Green” Prince

Prince Charles has always been a green man practicing what he preaches. He has been promoting environmental ideas for most of his adult life. The prince has replaced carbon-heavy private jets and helicopters with scheduled flights and train services. His Jaguar is adapted to run on biodiesel fuel. Residences such as Highgrove in Gloucestershire have switched to green electricity.

A few years back when he said he talks to plants at his country house, Highgrove, to stimulate their growth he was branded a crank. But the prince was not bothered about this criticism from unenlightened quarters.

The activism of the prince is not restricted to England alone. Wherever he travels he espouses the cause of conservation. The latest initiative has come during his tour of Indonesia.

He has now appealed to rich countries to pay an annual "utility bill" for the benefits accrued to the world from rainforests, benefits like the forests acting as air conditioner, storing of fresh water and providing work. Rainforest also play a great role in carbon sequestration. It was the developed nations that trigger rain forest destruction through a demand for products like beef, palm oil, soya and logs. So they have to start paying for it, just as we do for water, gas and electricity, the prince feels. The prince was speaking to the Indonesian President, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his cabinet in Jakarta. Earlier he had visited the Harapan Rainforest conservation project on the island of Sumatra.

The prince suggested that initially the funding could be provided by the private sector by subscribing to long-term bonds issued by an international agency.
This is a suggestion worth serious consideration by the international community. We salute you Prince Charles for your sagacity.

Monday, November 03, 2008

African ivory sale – The imponderables bother conservationists

The recent sale of 108 tonnes of African ivory is still bothering the conservationists worldwide even though the sale was done under proper mandate. They say the façade of using the money for conservation is just a ruse. This was Succumbing to the massive Chinese demand for ivory carvings and trinkets. United States was not far behind in this charade.
Allan Thornton of the Environment Investigations Agency says, "In a country of 1.3 billion people, demand for ivory from just a fraction of one per cent of the population is colossal. If these new legal imports go ahead, they will provide a gigantic cover for illegal ivory to be sucked in."
Here is what Dr Easa the noted elephants conservationist say “Though the sale of ivory with the permission of CITES was expected, this will definitely have a long term effect on the conservation ofelephants the world over. The impact will be not just on the African elephant, it will have impact on Asian elephant also. This is especially true in the wake of absence or dormancy of all the monitoring systems as planned by CITES earlier. There should be a long term elephant conservation friendly plan on the fate of all the ivory stock the world over. It is not good to go for short term resolutions, which are also being taken in every meeting favouring the sale”.
The majority of conservationists feel that this was no way to find money for conservation. The protagonists could have easily tapped some corporate giants.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pesticides, fertilizers, the villain behind the frog Decline

A field survey led by Jason Rohr of the University of South Florida has come up with the finding that chemical Atrazine in fertilizers is the villain behind the decline of frogs in US. Atrazine harms the amphibians' immune defenses against infection. The effects of this chemical is boosted in the wild by phosphate fertilizers. Runoff from fertilizers into ponds encourages the proliferation of snails which acts as a natural host to the flatworm parasite. The flatworms, called trematodes, cause limb malformations, kidney damage and sometimes death in several species of frog. Atrazine is manufactured by a Swiss-based company, Syngenta

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wildlife photographer of the year

Photo credits:BBC

A picture of elusive snow leopard((Uncia uncia) on a night prowl taken by photographer Steve Winter has won this years prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 award. The competition is run by BBC Wildlife magazine and London's Natural History Museum. The work involved incredible patience, working in temperatures below -40C and use of 14 remote cameras in 45 locations in the Ladakh region of India for 13 months.
It was tough task for the jury to select the winner. They had to sift through 32,350 entries.

This is the specifications used by Steve Winter
Canon EOS Rebel XT + 10-22mm lens at 16mm; 1/200 sec at f16; ISO 100; waterproof camera box + Plexiglass tubes for flashes; Trailmaster 1550-PS remote trigger

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World facing ecological "credit crunch"

The Living Planet Report produced by WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network warns that the world is headed for an ecological "credit crunch”. We are living beyond what the earth can sustain, making us "ecological debtors". Up to $4.5 trillion worth of resources are destroyed forever each year. World’s future prosperity, is in danger with clear cut impacts on costs for food, water and energy. United States and China leaves the biggest impact. They account for nearly some 40% of the global footprint. Per person United Arab Emirates have the largest ecological footprint, While Malawi and Afghanistan have the smallest. According to WWF International if our demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles. It is high time we gave serious thought to our profligate ways. Right now we are embroiled in economic meltdown and in the process tend to forget the grave danger posed by ecological "credit crunch". The report is a timely reminder.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deutsche Bank says climate change and economic slump has portents of green opportunities

I was reading the latest report from Deutsche Bank entitled 'Investing in Climate Change 2009 – Necessity and Opportunity in Turbulent Times'. I found it very interesting. The report says economic slump need not be a complete damper. It has portents of green opportunities which have to be tapped. Mark Fulton, head of climate change investment research at Deutsche Bank opines that "The current economic downturn presents governments with an historic opportunity to 'climate proof' their economies as they upgrade infrastructure as a core response to the economic downturn," He goes on to add “climate change is shifting away from costs and risk towards the question of how to capitalize on exciting opportunities," Climate change industries present a vast new field for creation of new technologies and jobs. In the energy sector alone 45 trillion dollars would be required between now and 2050 to develop clean technologies. According to Deutsche Bank this presents a low carbon industrial revolution scenario. For investors the regulated market holds promise of enormous secular growth. Projects supported by Government policies are more trustworthy according to Deutsche Bank.

The report provides a compendium of analytical framework that investors can utilize to get a grasp of climate change opportunity. Log on to Deutsche Bank site if you want to read the full report. For an executive summary click here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Indonesia reneges on promises to international community

Indonesia had assured the recently concluded World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, its commitment to protect the natural forests and ecosystems of Sumatra in deference to the wishes of the international conservation community. But the words ring hollow now. Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has built a 45-kilometre, logging highway through prime Sumatran tiger habitat. The road passes protected areas, proposed protected areas and deep peat areas. Draining or disturbance of the deep peat soils under forests results in massive emissions which has global significance. The clearing in the past has disturbed wildlife and resulted in increased human – wildlife conflicts.
If Indonesia waits for some more time there is a golden opportunity coming up. The financial mechanisms for avoided deforestation which is on the anvil could result in countries like Indonesia getting more from investors for forest preservation than forest destruction. Indonesian environmentalists have appealed to current and future buyers and investors of APP not to have any business with APP. Staples Inc of United States, Ricoh and Fuji Xerox Groups of Japan, Metro Group of Germany and Woolworths of Australia have already heeded to their call.

Friday, October 24, 2008

EBay ban on ivory trade

EBay announcement of worldwide ban on the sale of ivory has been welcomed by conservationists worldwide. The new policy will be effective from December, and will be enforced from January with diligence. The EBay announcement came just hours after the release of the report "Killing with Keystrokes“by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). IFAW had found over 49000 elephant ivory listings on the auction site. Over 70 percent of all endangered species products listed for sale on the Internet occur in the United States. The volume of trade in endangered species products in the U.S. is around 10 times the trade from U.K. and China, the next two leading countries. Interpol page on wildlife crime indicates that illegal wildlife products are worth billions of dollars every year worldwide. Even though elephants are protected under the International Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), death rate of elephants from poaching is on the rise. More than 20,000 elephants are mercilessly slaughtered every year in Africa and Asia.
I was talking to prominent elephant conservationist Dr Easa the other day. According to him this is positive step, but much more needs to be done. Those who are determined to sell and buy will try and find ways to bypass the ban. So a close watch has to be continuously maintained.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Electric eels study inspires invention of new biomedical devices.

Here is yet another example of how study of wildlife can benefit man. Benefits from study of wildlife are a cornucopia waiting to be tapped in future. Scientists who have studied electric eels feel that the cells electric eels use to shock predators and prey can be mimicked and engineered to power implanted biomedical equipments. The researchers are from Yale University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Electric eels channel the output of thousands of specialized cells called electrocytes to generate electricity. The scientists have deciphered the mechanism of how natural electric eel cells work. Electric eel produces electric charges powerful enough to stun a person or kill small fish.The artificial cells deliver better performance than the real ones and can generate electric potentials of up to 600 volts.
You would be surprised to know that an electric eel is not an eel at all. It belongs to a family of bony fish known as knifefish. The scientific name is Electrophorus electricus. It is the only member of the family Electrophoridae.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Madagascar community leader gets Paul Getty conservation award

Here is something that is sure to fire your enthusiasm about nature conservation. You need not have degrees in conservation to espouse the cause of nature conservation. Ordinary folks can very well do it. What is needed is will and commitment. The prestigious Paul Getty award for 2008 has gone to dedicated Madagascar community leader Roger Samba, with no formal training in conservation. The award honours outstanding contributions to international conservation and carries a $200,000 prize. The award recognizes today's leaders in conservation and also helps develop conservation leadership for tomorrow by establishing graduate fellowships in the name of the winner and J. Paul Getty. Samba was responsible for organizing the world's first community run no-take zone for octopus, a local species of critical economic importance to the community.
For generations, the indigenous semi-nomadic Vezo people of Andavadoaka, Madagascar (Samba's hometown) have depended on artisanal fishing activities for their livelihoods. Their culture and tradition was intimately interwoven with it. In recent years unsustainable tourism and an increase in international fishing vessels and burgeoning population was creating a resource crunch.
Samba created a plan for empowering local communities to take up management of coral reefs and the region's fragile marine biodiversity. Alternative livelihood and environmental education initiatives were simultaneously launched. The project was so successful that eight neighbouring villages formed their own protected areas for octopus in order to reap similar benefits. Here is a shining example of how economic development can inspire and benefit from the conservation of natural resources.
Samba will use his award to establish fellowships for students pursuing masters, doctoral, and post-doctoral degrees in conservation-related fields at a university of his choice in Madagascar.
Well done Samba. You are indeed a shining example for the whole world.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sound pollution affecting wildlife

I was disturbed to read some of the latest findings on how sound pollution is threatening the existence of wildlife.
Have you tried to hail someone amidst the cacophony of blaring sounds? It is pretty tough on your vocal cord. Exactly the same thing is happening to birds calling out for its mates. Biologist Henrik Brumm of the Free University of Berlin has found that male territorial nightingales in Berlin had to sing five times as loud in an area of heavy traffic. Henrik is sure that this could be affecting their vocal musculature and he wonders what is going to happen in future if the noise levels keep going up.
Bernie Krause, a bioacoustics expert has collected over 3,500 hours of sound recordings from the wild. Bernie calls it Soundscapes. In the early recordings each animal had its own niche, its own acoustic territory, akin to an orchestra. Noise from airplanes, automobiles and other blaring sounds produced by man has affected this perfect scenario. At least 40 percent of those natural symphonies have become radically altered.
Extraneous sounds can mask some of the quieter yet important sounds of nature like footfalls and breathing. It is these sounds that that predators latch on to, to catch prey. The prey uses it to escape predators.
So the whole equation of nature is undergoing changes due to man’s inexorable drive for progress. We have the danger signals. It is time to do something about it at least in areas near wildlife reserves.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Indigenous people demand say in conservation schemes.

Gone are the days when you could ride roughshod over the indigenous people. They are slowly becoming vociferous.
Indigenous rights groups are meeting in Oslo this week to voice their demands. They say discussions on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is doomed for failure unless they are based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities. In places where indigenous land rights have not been clearly defined, the whole process could be used to evict forest people from lands upon which they have been living for generations. The apprehension is that this would open floodgates of land grabs and evictions by parties seeking to capitalize on carbon payments. Indigenous peoples are concerned about how these new investments could affect their access to the forests, but here is an opportunity to create sustainable livelihoods for forest people and safeguarding biodiversity if the whole process is handled with sang-froid.
The meeting in Oslo will come up with ideas of how the rights of indigenous people can be respected under "forest carbon" schemes. The choice of Oslo for the meeting is deliberate. Norwegian government has pledged to spend up to 3 billion Norwegian kroner ($500 million) annually to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries. Participants of Oslo conference have proposed the formation of independent bodies to advise and monitor the UN Convention on Climate Change to ensure that the rights forest people are put in place. They demand that Indigenous peoples must be accepted as full and fair participants in all parleys.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Internet use good for the brain of the elderly

This blog usually concentrates on matters relating to wildlife and environment affairs. Here is something of great interest that goes beyond my usual realm. I thought this piece of news about the good effects of use of internet on elderly persons is a germane bit of information. It is sure to bring cheer to senior citizens.

A University of California team led by Professor Gary Small has found that searching the web stimulated centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning. Professor Gary Small says that browsing the internet may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults improving brain function. This also enhances brain circuitry in older adults. The study was based on volunteers aged between 55 and 76. The study appears in the latest issue of American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Happy surfing senior citizens.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sumatran Muntjac rediscovered

When a lost species is rediscovered it sends waves of joy to the conservationists. Here is a piece of news from Indonesia that will warm the cockles of your heart. Sumatran muntjac (Muntiacus montanus) a species thought to have been extinct and not seen in the wild since 1930 has been rediscovered. A team working for Fauna & Flora International and the Kerinci-Seblat National Park Tiger Protection rescued it from a hunter's snare on an anti-poaching patrol in Sumatra's Kerinci-Seblat National Park.The team also managed to take photographic proof of the rescued deer; the first ever photographs of a live specimen. The species was first discovered in 1914. IUCN has listed the species in its Red List as "data deficient".

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mammal species are at risk of extinction

World’s denizens of the wild are disappearing at a faster rate than previously calculated. Nearly a quarter of the world's land mammal species are at risk of extinction according to an extensive survey of global wildlife, conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 1,700 experts in 130 countries took part in this massive exercise. At least 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of mammal are threatened. 188 have been listed in the "critically endangered" category. Among the critically endangered species is the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), with only 84 to 143 adults remaining. One in three marine mammals is also threatened. The survey, has been published by the journal Science

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Critical health risks from plastic

Latest research is throwing fresh light on Critical health risks from plastic. A special section in the October 2008 issue of Environmental Research, "A Plastic World" provides startling new information. Plastic has "endocrine disrupting chemicals" that can block the production of the male sex hormone testosterone (The villain is phthalates used in PVC plastic), mimic the action of the sex hormone estrogen (Here the villain is bisphenol A or BPA used in polycarbonate plastic), and interfere with thyroid hormone (The villain brominated flame retardants or PBDEs used in many types of plastic). The chemicals are also contaminating the oceans and causing considerable harm to aquatic wildlife. It is now imperative that new products with less impact on environment and human health have to be developed. The dangers signals have been broadcast.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Brazilian Air force comes to the rescue of penguins

I was fascinated to hear the news about Brazilian Air force coming to the rescue of stranded penguins.
Every year penguins fly towards north from the colder waters near Patagonia in search of food. This year they have traversed distances hitherto unreported. The birds are thought to have made a journey of more than 3,000km. Hundreds of birds have been washed up on the coast of Brazil. This has puzzled the scientists. Penguin migration is closely linked to their need for food, and the altered pattern of journey suggests that something has gone awry with their normal fish supply. There has also been evidence that they are eating fish that are not part of their usual diet. Reasons could be changes in water temperatures and ocean currents or man-made pollution. Scientists are raking their brains to find out the exact cause.
Hundreds of birds were completely exhausted by their long journey. It is here that the air force came to the rescue. They were flown this week in a Hercules plane down to the southern tip of Brazil, where they are being released into the ocean

Thursday, October 02, 2008

All is not lost for Amphibians

All recent reports about amphibians worldwide had projected a bleak future for them. One in three amphibians worldwide are threatened with extinction.200 species have already been lost since the 1980s.Last week Zoological Society of London stated that 50 percent of Europe’s amphibians will go extinct by 2050. Against this backdrop discovery of three new frog species and the rediscovery of one thought to be extinct provide a whiff of respite. Conservationists worldwide are elated.
The new species were discovered in the Upper Pastaza Watershed in Ecuador. The region harbours 28 orchids and 190 plant species that are found no-where else. Other rare inhabitants include mountain tapir, the red-brocket deer, and the spectacled bear.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Suicidal defense by Ants

The mysterious ways in which nature operates leaves me spellbound at times. New researches makes me realize that we have only touched the tip of the ice-berg. Here is another piece of news that makes you wonder. Ants are well-known for their willingness to die for their colonies. This usually occurs when enemies are present. New research by Adam Tofilski of the Agricultural University of Krakow, Poland, et al shows that the Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus goes for self-sacrifice to defend the colony. This is the first known example of a suicidal defense that is preemptive rather than a response to danger posed. At sunset the ants seal off entrances with sand, and a few ants remain outside to complete the job. These ants that remain outside are unable to reenter the colony. They die by the next morning. A short report appears in the latest issue of science magazine and the full paper appears in the in the November issue of the journal American Naturalist.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prehistoric ant discovered in Amazon rainforest

An ancient ancestor of ants has been discovered living in the Amazon rainforest. The discovery was made by evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling of the University of Texas at Austin, USA. The new ant is named Martialis heureka, which translates in to "ant from Mars," .This is to highlight the ant’s characteristics never before recorded. Ants evolved 120m years ago from wasp-like ancestors and quickly adapted to living in soil, trees and leaf litter. This is the first time that a new subfamily of ants with living species has been discovered since 1923. The discovery will help biologists better understand the biodiversity and evolution of ants. Tabeling says "This discovery hints at a wealth of species, possibly of great evolutionary importance, still hidden in the soils of the remaining rainforests,” The study appears in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Live and let live - Predator species help each other while competing for a single prey

All of us are familiar with apportionment and rationing when there is a resource crunch. Nature resorting to this ploy might sound a wee bit farfetched. But this is exactly what scientists from Sweden and Netherlands have found out in their pursuit of intricacies of predator prey relationships. I was fascinated to read the paper “Stage-specific predator species help each other to persist while competing for a single prey” by A. M. De Roos et al. It gave me insights in to the myriad and mysterious ways in which nature works. In the wild state prey are usually shared by many predator species. One of the fundamental questions in ecology is how predators coexist while competing for the same prey. De Roos and associates with their research show that competing predator species may not only coexist on a single prey but even help each other to persist if they specialize on different life history stages of the prey. The research comes up with the finding that a predator may not be able to persist at all unless its competitor is also present. Net result is asymmetric increases in the rate of prey maturation and reproduction when predation relaxes competition among prey. This interdependence suggests that the network of feeding interactions in a community is, in fact, an emergent property of the system, which to a large extent arises through self-organization. Part and parcel of this self-organized character of the food web is an inherent fragility whereby the loss of a facilitating predator species may lead to subsequent extinction of some of its guild members, making the community collapse like a house of cards.

Stage-specific predator species help each other to persist while competing for a single prey
A. M. De Roos,T. Schellekens, T. Van Kooten and L. Persson
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 94084, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

DNA bar-coding hitches

The ambitious project to DNA barcode all species (International Barcode of Life) has run in to a bit of rough weather. Scientists use a portion of the gene found in an organism's mitochondria for bar-coding. A new study by Brigham Young University has shown that the current techniques can mistakenly record the "broken" copy of the gene found in the nucleus of the organism's cells. This lapse will make present bar-coding technique to call it another unique species by mistake. This could lead to overestimating the number of species. To overcome this hitch, Brigham Young University has recommended specific quality control procedures to ensure that correct genes are captured. The day is not far off when a handheld device like a supermarket scanner is used to identify species. All that needs to be done is to compare the DNA marker from an organism with the known encyclopedia of life and immediately come out the species' name. 400,000 species have already been bar-coded to date. Exciting times are ahead for field biology scientists.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why flies are so hard to swat? Caltech scientists unravel the mystery.

I have been at times flabbergasted by the alacrity with which the flies avoid the swat. If you have tried to swat flies you know how difficult it is to get a proper swat that delivers. You must have wondered why flies are so hard to swat. Here is the answer for that. Scientists of Caltech in US have come up with an explanation for the riddle. Using high-resolution, high-speed digital imaging of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) Professor Michael Dickinson and graduate student Gwyneth Card of Caltech (California Institute of Technology) have unravelled the secret to a fly's evasive maneuvering. Long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat and comes up with an escape plan. It places its legs in an optimal position to hop out in the opposite direction. All of this takes place in less than100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the swatter. The rapidity with which the fly's brain processes sensory information into an appropriate motor response is incredible. This means that the fly must integrate visual information from its eyes with mechanosensory information from its legs at an amazing speed. Here is a piece of advice from the researchers. Dickinson says "It is best not to swat at the fly's starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter,” The study has been published in the journal Current Biology dated August 28.

Friday, August 29, 2008

From poachers to protectors: IUCN honours young Rwandan conservationist

It has become a routine to hear news about depredation of nature from developing countries. Any news that runs counter to this trend is welcome relief. Here is a whiff of fresh air from Africa brought in by the dedicated effort of a young conservationist. Edwin Sabuhoro, 35, from Rwanda has been selected as the winner of the 2008 Young Conservationist Award, by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and the International Ranger Federation. The award is bestowed for outstanding achievements by young people in protected areas.
Rwanda was resigned to a bleak future for Gorillas with the poachers ruling the roost in forest areas. One of the main contributing factors for poaching was poverty. To wean away poachers from their nefarious activities Edwin developed incentives for local people by founding the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, a community-based tourism initiative. Proceeds from tourism have acted as an incentive for communities to protect gorillas and develop small-scale businesses. Living standards have showna marked improvement.The project is 100% of owned by Local people. Tourist arrivals have been shooting up as news about the community initiative in conservation is spreading abroad. Conservationists around the world are delighted with this effort from a young conservationist to protect nature. Edwin Sabuhoro will be presented with the award at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona this October. To cap the honour Edwin has been be invited to become a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and its Young Professionals Working Group.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Earth's magnetic fields and animal behavior

Mysteries of nature are a source of constant wonder for me. Here is something that shows that our behavior is influenced by heavenly bodies. Dr Sabine Begall, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany using Google earth map has come to the firm conclusion that earth’s magnetic fields have profound influence on animal’s behavior. Cattle and Wild deer tend to align their bodies in a north-south direction. In Africa and South America, the cattle were shifted slightly to a more north-eastern-south-western direction. The researchers recorded the body positions of 2,974 wild deer in 277 locations across the Czech Republic and 8,510 grazing and resting cattle in 308 pasture plains across the globe before coming to firm conclusions. The details appear in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Surprise - Magpies recognise their own reflections

I have seen Magpies preening before my motorbike mirror and pecking at their images several times. I had never given it any serious thought. Today I was surprised to read in the journal Plos Biology that the latest research indicates the ability of Magpies to recognize themselves in the mirror. Till recently only humans were thought to have this ability. Then came chimps and orangutans. and a host of other mammals. The research was led by German psychologist Dr Helmut Prior, from the Goethe University in Frankfurt. The researchers placed yellow and red stickers on the birds in positions where they could only be seen in a mirror. The magpies focused on the marks and tried to reach the stickers with their beaks and claws. On a number of occasions they succeeded in scratching the stickers’ off. This put an end to their mark-orientated behavior. When no mirror was present, the birds took no notice of the coloured marks. The scientist say magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body. If you are keen to read the entire paper click here

Monday, August 18, 2008

Environmental pollutant has sex-skewing effect

I was reading this paper “A cohort study of in utero polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposures in relation to secondary sex ratio” in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health, and it disturbed me. The article clearly depicts that women exposed to high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls – a group of banned environmental pollutants) are less likely to have male children. PCBs are persistent organic pollutants identified worldwide as human blood and breast milk contaminants. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the lead author of the study says "The women most exposed to PCBs were 33% less likely to give birth to male children than the women least exposed". Even though PCBs were banned in the 1970s it is believed that they find their way in developing and underdeveloped countries. Chemicals with a similar structure to PCBs, such as the flame-retardants PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), are still widely used in plastic casings and foam products.People consuming fish from contaminated lakes and those who live near former manufacturing facilities face high risk. The risk is not restricted to human beings alone. Wildlife also face a threat of equal magnitude.
Environmental Health 2008, 7:37 (15 July 2008)
If you want to read the full article click here

Sunday, August 17, 2008

BlogCamp Kerala a runaway success

The first ever blog camp held in Kerala on 16th in a house boat cruising along the placid backwaters of Alappuzha, was a smashing success. The attendees got a chance to get to know the fellow bloggers from across the country. The presence of Guillaume Marceau from Quebec, Canada gave the proceedings an international flavor. The lively discussion centered on the future of blogging with the experts chipping in with their dose of distilled wisdom. For the budding bloggers it was a dream come true. The typical Kerala style non vegetarian lunch tickled the palate. The breathtaking scenery added that extra punch to the lunch. Full marks to the organizers of the conference. I eagerly look forward to the second edition of the meet next year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Red Alert – African elephants facing uncertain future

According to a new paper by Dr Samuel Wasser and associates, which has appeared in August Issue of Conservation Biology the elephants in Africa are being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate. If things go at this rate Elephants in wild state in Africa will be wiped out by 2020. What a shame!!
The death rate from poaching throughout Africa is about 8 percent a year. This is higher than the 7.4 percent annual death rate that led to the international ivory trade ban nearly 20 years ago. The poaching death rate in the late 1980s was based on a population that numbered more than 1 million. Today’s population is less than 470,000. The ban is not in force today.
Dr Wasser says "The elephants keep habitats open so other species that depend on such ecosystems can use them. Without elephants, there will be major habitat changes, with negative effects on the many species"
The major threat comes from growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in demand for carvings and signature stamps called hankos. Surprisingly Unites States is fast emerging as a major consumer of ivory where it is used to make knife handles and gun grips.
According to Dr Wasser public support stopped the illegal ivory trade back in 1989 and we need to do it again to save the species. Guys wake up and do your mite to save the African elephants. Use your blog posts to pressurize US, China and Japan to stop this senseless massacre of the elephants.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

US decision on wildlife draws flak from conservationists

Environmentalists world wide hold the view that the Bush administration is not a green administration. Moves like going for oil in Alaska threatening the wildlife of the area have been very severely opposed by conservationists. The administration is now planning a back door method to by pass some of the imbroglios that have been created. Till now all decisions had to be endorsed by independent scientists. The administration has decided to give this practice a short shrift. The environmentalists have condemned the move by Bush administration to do away with the practice of consulting independent scientists before decisions are taken about projects such as highways, dams or mines that might harm endangered animals and plants. Federal agencies have been given full powers to decide for themselves. The administration is not required to consult with Congress before approving the changes. Environmentalists apprehend that political appointees will do irreparable damage to the ecosystem if this practice is not nipped in the bud itself.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

USA – California Condor reintroduction programme running in to rough weather

The reintroduction of California Condors is one of the most ambitious reintroduction programme attempted in USA. The project is running in to rough weather after initial success. The culprit behind the decline is lead. The birds ingest the lead while feeding on wild pigs and other animals killed by hunters. According to scientists commissioned by American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), removing the poisonous metal from bullets and shotgun pellets is the only way to save the highly endangered California Condor.
Condors are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere. Condors belong to the family Cathartidae, and are closely related to Eagles. There are two monotypic c genuses. The Andeann Condor (Vultur gryphus) and California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). The California Condor inhabits only the Grand Canyon area and western coastal mountains of California and northern Baja California. The California Condor is one of the world's rarest bird species. They usually live up to 50 years, and mate for life. California Condors finds a place in many Native American cultures. The condor is a scavenger and eats large amounts of carrion. Condor numbers started declining in the 19th century due to poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. When the population came down to 22 birds conservation plan was put in place by the United States government that led to the capture of all the remaining wild condors in 1987. These 22 birds were bred at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. The numbers rose through captive breeding and from 1991 condors, have been reintroduced into the wild. The project is the most expensive species conservation project ever undertaken in the United States. As on May 2008, there were 332 condors known to be living, including 152 in the wild.
The scientific community is working overtime to overcome the setback and put the project on an even keel
For more information on California Condor click here

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The power of blogging in Conservation – An African Ranger shows the way

Masai Mara is one Kenya’s best known wildlife reserves. People used to throng the park to have a glimpse of its magnificent wildlife. But continuing violence after the election changed all that. Tourists stopped coming to Masai Mara. Mara Conservancy a not-for-profit organization which manages the North-Western part of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, on behalf of the Trans-Mara County Council was in dire straights. Conservation of the Mara Triangle was completely dependent upon tourism revenue. There was no money to pay the salaries of the protection staff and poaching was taking a heavy toll of the animals. It was at this juncture that Mr Joseph Kimojino, a Ranger in the park hit up on the ides of starting a blog and let the whole world know about what is happening. Till last November he had never used a computer. A determined Kimojino was not willing to be deterred. He learned the ropes of using a computer and grappled with nuances of internet. He started his blog in January with the help of Wildlifedirect, a British-registered charity set up by Richard Leakey, Kenya's leading paleontologist and the former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service. ( http://maratriangle.wildlifedirect.org). It struck an immediate chord of empathy. Surfers who saw the frenetic appeal from Kimojino started chipping in with help. He is receiving 100s of hits a day.
Harnessing the soaring popularity of blogging and social networking sites is indeed a great way to spread the message of conservation. Oxford university researchers Alison Ashlin and Richard Ladle in an article in science magazine says “blogs provide a communication platform of incredible power and they should be used to engage the public, even to the extent of including blogging as part of a researcher's job specification."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Good news about Western lowland Gorillas

A census of critically endangered western lowland gorillas by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has come up with good news for conservationists. The census found 125,000 of the apes in two adjacent areas in the northern part of the Republic of Congo covering 47,000 sq km. A total of 73,000 came from the Ntokou-Pikounda region and another 52,000 from the Ndoki-Likouala area. Even though 1980s census had estimated a population of about 100,000 hunting and the ebola virus was thought to have slashed the population by half. So this is indeed good news. Gorillas build nests each night from leaves and branches for sleeping. Western lowland gorillas are one of four recognized gorilla sub-species. The others are mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and Cross River gorillas. For more information about western lowland gorillas click here

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Orangutans facing uncertain future

The adorable Orangutans (Pongo spp.) are facing an uncertain future. According to new findings published this month by Great Ape Trust of Iowa scientist Dr. Serge Wich and associates in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation, Orangutan populations have fallen sharply on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The revised estimates put the number of Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii) around 6,600 in 2004. This is lower than previous estimates of 7,501. "It is clear that the Sumatran orangutan is in rapid decline and unless extraordinary efforts are made soon, it could become the first great ape species to go extinct," Wich et al. wrote. The authors blamed logging and the expansion of oil palm plantations for the drop. The 2004 estimate of about 54,000 Bornean orangutans (P. pygmaeus) is probably also higher than the actual number today as there has been a 10 percent orangutan habitat loss in the Indonesian part of Borneo during that period. 75 percent of all orangutans live outside of national parks, which have been severely degraded by illegal logging, mining, and encroachment by palm oil plantations. So the the future conservation efforts will need to be focused beyond the boundaries of protected areas. The authors have made some sweeping recommendations for future conservation initiatives.

Wich et al. (2008). Distribution and conservation status of the orangutan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: How many remain?. Oryx
Click here for more details about orangutans from Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bloggers camp Kerala

The first bloggers camp on a houseboat will be held on 16th August at Alappuzha in Kerala. The brain behind the meet is Kenny Jacob, a software engineer from Trivandrum. Tourism department of Kerala will be the main sponsor of the meet For details click here

Extinction threat for mankind’s closest relatives

50 percent of man’s close relatives (monkeys, apes and other primates) are in danger of extinction according to a report of IUCN issued at the 22nd International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. The comprehensive list covers world’s 634 kinds of primates. The report is part of an examination of the state of the world’s mammals to be released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in October. In Asia, more than 70 percent of primates are classified on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Habitat destruction is the major threat to primates. Other threats include the hunting of primates for food and an illegal wildlife trade.
For a list of the assessments of all primate species and subspecies as they will appear on the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (www.iucnredlist.org) in October, please visit the website of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (www.primate-sg.org)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

5th World Congress on Mounatin Ungulates - 1st announcement full text

The Caprinae are a Subfamily that mainly consist of wild sheep and goats. This group of mammals has a very high economical and biological value. From a zoological point of view they achieve their adaptive peak in mountainous environments and are part of the diverse MAMMAL FAUNA in various ecosystems. From an economical point of view they are considered very appealing in sport hunting, as a resource for medicine and safari wildlife photography.
Mostly found in mountainous areas, they are also present in steppes. Their natural geographic distribution covers the 3 continents of the Northern Hemisphere as well as some tropical forests, deserts, Alpine and Artic tundra of over 70 countries.
Over 71% of the members of this group which are found in the previously mentioned regions are exposed to a variety of risks (loss of habitat, diseases from domestic livestock, genetic isolation and tourism). Considering their whole population, 8% are listed as being critically endangered, 23% as endangered, 40% vulnerable, 28% are of less concern while there is not enough data concerning the remaining 1%.
The main reason for such a wide distribution of the previously mentioned figures lies within the general lack of information there is concerning the members of this group. In order to gather all the available information there is about these species, several international conferences have been organised. The first one was held in Camerino (Italy) in 1989 and it is where the groundwork was set, by the UICN, for developing a World Capreine Action Plan. The second conference was held in 1997, in San Vicente d'Aosta (Italy), and it is when all the information concerning this mammal group was put together. The third and fourth conferences, 2002 in Zaragoza (Spain) and 2006 in Munar (India), both focused on relevant aspects concerning the biology and ecology of these species as well as conservation and management proposals.
The fifth World Conference of Mountain Ungulates will be held in Andalusia during autumn 2009. Andalusia is a Spanish region which accounts for more than 50% of the wild goat species in the world. The Andalusian Government had banked on its conservation and organised the first and second European International Capra Genus Congress in 1992 and 2007 and has implemented ambitious management programmes for the Andalusian Wild Goat populations.
We believe it is a great opportunity in confronting the impact global change has on the Mountain Ungulate population and on ecosystems which are highly sensitive to climate change conditions, all of which are responsibility of man.
The commitment between the Andalusian Environmental Administration and the UICN has been very positive, supporting the organisation of this Fifth World meeting. This Congress aims to encourage participants to share and put in common scientific and technical advances which have been achieved in the conservation and management of Mountain Ungulates. It will allow for an update on all the information concerning taxonomic, demographic and health management programmes and methods (capture, tracking, etc.)
This event will take place in Granada, a cosmopolitan city with a fascinating cultural and artistic heritage. It is a landmark famous for it's Arab, Jewish and Christian legacy.
In order to contribute to the existing knowledge on Mountain Ungulates, Granada will share it's historical legacy contextualising it within the Mountains of Sierra Nevada. Sierra Nevada was declared Natural Park 20 years ago and has also been a National Park for the past 10 years.
This Congress will account for five working sessions, four of which will take place at the "Palacio de Congresos de Granada" and a fifth which will be carried out in Sierra Nevada.
The programme will mainly consist in oral presentations, posters and workshops. Some key topics and subjects to be dealt are: Abundant Estimation Methods, Capture and Tracking Methods, Healthcare situation, Genetics, Reproduction, Phisiology, Conservation.
Working sessions:
•Population management: population estimation, capture methods, tracking, etc.
•Healthcare status: parasites, contagious diseases, epidemiology, treatments, etc.
•Conservation, management and hunting promotion: management experiences, etc.
•Biology and Ecology: Taxonomy, reproduction, physiology, genetics, etc.
•Global change and Caprine Populations
•Density estimations
•Caprines and the CIC
•New Diseases emerging from changes on a global scale
•Caprine Management Strategy in Protected Areas

Provisional Timetable

First week of July'08 1st Circular and website publication: information on conference objective, call for symposium proposal, information about price, date, place, etc.
First week of November ‘08 2nd Circular: Draft program, opening period to registration, communications, symposium proposal, workshop or communications and posters. Rest of the information.
30/03/09 Ending of symposium and workshop proposals
30/06/09 Communication and posters presentations and Registration for the Scientific Committee’s analysis
30/08/09 Ending of communications and posters approval deadline.
11/09/09 Program's ultimate publication
10 -14 November 2009 V World Conference of Mountain Ungulates

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big time boozer tree shrew

The latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences features interesting things about Malaysia's pen-tailed tree-shrew’s (Ptilocercus lowii) heavy drinking. The researchers are Frank Wiens, and his colleagues from the University of Bayreuth in Germany.The tree shrew feeds on fermented nectar from the Bertam Palm (Eugeissona tristis) daily at nightfall. The nectar is fermented by yeast community into a frothy beer-like beverage. The animals' high alcohol consumption was verified by analysing their hair. Surprisingly they do not seem to get drunk.This suggests its body must have an effective mechanism for breaking down alcohol.The researchers’ hypothesise that the humans may even preserve a relic of the shrews' love of alcohol through millions of years of evolution and that moderate to high alcohol intake was present early on in the evolution of these closely related lineages. The scientists hope to get insights into how humans' alcohol tolerance first evolved.

Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild treeshrews” by Frank Wiens, Annette Zitzmann, Marc-André Lachance, Michel Yegles, Fritz Pragst, Friedrich M. Wurst, Dietrich von Holst, Saw Leng Guan, and Rainer Spanagel (see pages 10426–10431)

Monday, July 28, 2008

UK scientists’ call to put plants in the garden that are of beneficial to bees

Weird things are happening to the bumblebees of UK. Scientists have apprehensions that a lack of suitable flowers may be forcing bumblebees to seek out aphids in search of their sugary secretions. The secretions offer a substitute for nectar, but do not contain the protein the insects need. The assumption is that that there are fewer of the right sorts of flowers in gardens and countryside. As bees are important pollinators of flowers and crops the scientists have urged the people to put more plants in the garden that are beneficial to bees. According to the scientists flowers from the pea and mint families seem to be particularly beneficial. The relationship between ants and aphids is well known. Ants protect the aphids from other predators such as ladybirds and in return they take the honey secreted by the aphids. The fine balance of nature seems to have been put in disarray by humanity.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reuse of water bottles- Venice shows the way

A used plastic water bottle thrown away carelessly is a big headache in tourist centres. I came across this new scheme launched in Italy recently. It impressed me with its simplicity and inherent great potential. If implemented properly it is going to be blessing.
Italy has the largest consumption of bottled water in the world. For tourist centers like Venice discarded water bottles is a big bother. Venice has come out with this innovative scheme called 100%public whereby tourists are given an empty water bottle and a map showing 122 fountains that have been installed in the city. The authorities hope that this will solve a major problem for them
Tahrcountry congratulates the civic authorities of Venice for this innovative scheme.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

World Bank criticized for environmental goofs

Environmental campaigners had always criticized the way World Bank doled out aid to developing countries. They have been consistently arguing that it has led to deforestation in the tropics. Here is proof that they were right in voicing their concern. World banks bank’s Independent Evaluation Group has criticized the bank for failures to grasp fully the environmental impacts of its programmes in poor countries. The 181-page report is a severe indictment. The group examined some of the $400 billion in investments spanning 7,000 projects from 1990 to 2007. The report says when dollars were turned into dams, pipelines, and palm plantations it led to deforestation in the tropics and environmental sustainability took a back seat. Environmentalists are hoping that this report will put some sense in the thinking of the higher ups in the world Bank

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Population of critically endangered Greater Bamboo Lemurs discovered in Madagascar

A team of researchers led by Edward Louis of Henry Doorly Zoo, have discovered a new Population of critically endangered greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus), in Torotorofotsy wetlands of east central Madagascar, an area more than 400 kilometers away from its only known habitat in Ranomafana. Scientists have estimated a population of 30-40 in the area. Greater bamboo lemur is considered to be the most endangered primate genus in the world. The greater bamboo lemur is one of three species of bamboo lemur in Madagascar the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) and the gentle bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus) are the others. All the three species feeds mainly on bamboos.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Restoring lost mangroves – Lessons from Philippines

One of the world's most intensive efforts to restore coastal mangrove forests was in Philippines where extensive tracts of mangroves were converted to fish farms. The restoration efforts are failing in many places. Biologists Maricar Samson and Rene Rollon of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City have come out with a paper titled “Growth Performance of Planted Mangroves in the Philippines: Revisiting Forest Management Strategies” in the latest issue of journal Ambio, outlining the reasons for this failure. It has relevance for other areas also. According to the researchers there was a widespread tendency to plant mangroves in areas that are not the natural habitat of mangroves, converting mudflats, sandflats, and seagrass meadows into often monospecific Rhizophora mangrove forests. Of the few that survived, the young Rhizophora individuals planted in these nonmangroves and often in low intertidal zones had dismally stunted growth relative to the corresponding growth performance of individuals thriving at the high intertidal position and natural mangrove sites. Unsound practices in some areas disturbed or damaged otherwise healthy habitats. The researchers argue that a more rational focus of the restoration effort should be the replanting of mangroves in the brackish-water aquaculture pond environments, the original habitat of mangroves preferably in gently sloping hill bottoms that are above mean sea level and flooded by the tides less than one-third of the time. The paper underscores the need for understanding the ecological needs and biology of the mangrove trees before plunging in to extensive planting activities.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Primate Species Discovered in Madagascar

A previously unknown species of mouse lemur has been discovered on the island of Madagascar. It was a joint effort of Senior Lecturer Dr. Ute Radespiel from the Institute of Zoology of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo), and Malagasy scientists and students of the GERP organisation (Groupe d`Étude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar). The discovery was made in the tropical rainforests of Makira, a newly protected area in Northwestern Madagascar. The lemur has been named Microcebus macarthurii, after the MacArthur Foundation, which provided funding for the research. The new species not only differs genetically but also in its body size from the sister species, the Mittermeier`s mouse lemur. Madagascar is home to more than 100 types of lemurs, all of which are endemic to the island. Madagascar lost its largest lemur species when humans arrived some 1500 years ago. The results of the study have been published on the internet page of the American Journal of Primatology. (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/ajp).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

6 of 7 hornbill species wiped out in Malaysia's Lambir Hills National Park

Conversion of forests for oil palm, Logging, and hunting has spelled doom for 6 of 7 species of hornbills in Malaysia's Lambir Hills National Park. 11 mammal species and 23 bird species have been lost from Lambir so far. The main reason is the ecological impacts of tree felling affecting the reproductive capacities of trees dependent on animal dispersal of their seeds, particularly figs. The disclosure came from Dr Rhett Harrison, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) associate researcher and Secretary for the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) speaking at the 53rd Annual Scientific meeting held at the Torarica Hotel, Paramaribo, Suriname.

Friday, July 11, 2008

5th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates

The world congress on Mountain Ungulates is an event eagerly awaited by Caprinae wildlife biologists and wildlife mangers. Here is good news. The 1st announcement regarding the 5th conference is out. It will be held in Andalucia, Spain, from November 10th to 13th 2009, with a full-day excursion on the 14th.Details will be posted on CSG website soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New National Park for Reunion Island

Reunion Island’s first National Park, which covers nearly 50 per cent of the islands interior was formally declared open yesterday. Set amidst awe inspiring craters of now dormant volcanoes the scenic beauty is unparallel. The area is currently under consideration to become a World Heritage Site. Around 300 participants attending top level summit on Strategies to Counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss in EU Overseas Entities and Small Island States had a first hand experience of the Park . They joined local guides to walk through the magnificent forests that lie between 800 and 1300 meters above sea level.
Réunion is an island located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, about 200 km south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Grassland ecosystems resistant to climate change?

According to a new study by scientists from Syracuse University and the University of Sheffield published online in the July 7 issue of the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), grasslands in Western Europe may be resistant to climate change. This is in sharp contrast to research in North America that suggests mountain wildflowers will all but disappear in a warming world. The experiment is one of the longest-running studies of climate change impacts on natural vegetation and may give new pointers into the effects of global warming on plant ecosystems. 13 years of data collected at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) in the United Kingdom by Emeritus Professor J. Philip Grime and colleagues at the University of Sheffield went in to the analysis. 30 small grassland plots of 9-square-meter with microclimate manipulation were used. Each plot was trimmed to simulate continued grazing but was kept 3 degrees Celsius warmer than nearby outside temperatures. Droughts and deluges were also mimicked. New questions that are now being asked are why are some plants resistant to climate change, while others die, become extinct or migrate to other places?.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Eight new natural sites added to the World Heritage List

Eight new natural sites have been added to the World Heritage List. This follows IUCN’s recommendations. The new sites are Socotra Archipelago in Yemen, Canada’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs, the French Lagoons of New Caledonia, Saryarka in Northern Kazakhstan, Mount Sanqingshan National Park in China, Surtsey in Iceland, the Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.
The Socotra Archipelago is rich in flora and fauna. 37 percent of Socotra’s plant species, 90 percent of its reptile species and 95 percent of its land snail species cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Canada’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs have been termed the “coal age Galápagos” and are the world reference site for the Coal Age. The site bears witness to the first reptiles in Earth’s history, which are the earliest representatives of the amniotes, a group of animals that includes reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals. The tropical lagoons and coral reefs of New Caledonia form one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world. Saryarka is a largely undisturbed area of Central Asian steppe and lakes in the Korgalzhyn and Naurzum State Nature Reserves. Mount Sanqingshan National Park was recommended for its outstanding natural beauty. Surtsey is a new island and was formed by volcanic eruptions in 1963-67. The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, which includes the Glarus Overthrust, shows how mountains were formed through continental collisions. The three core zones of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve protect eight overwintering colonies of the monarch butterfly in the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico.
Posted with inputs from IUCN
Photos on each site are available Here
Fact sheets on each site are available here

Friday, July 04, 2008

New Study – Funding by Global Environment Facility (GEF) for conservation brings benefit to local people but hurts biodiversity conservation.

The latest issue of journal science has some important info for the park managers. An analysis of 306 protected areas in 45 countries in Africa and Latin America by George Wittemyer and colleagues came up with the finding that the rate of human population growth along the borders of reserves was nearly twice that of neighboring rural areas. If the protected areas are a detriment to local livelihoods, we should see little or negative population growth at their borders. Instead the study found that people consistently moved closer to them. This runs counter to the criticism that protected areas cause misery to the people and creates a class of conservation refugees. The authors report a correlation between population growth near protected areas and the amount of funding countries received from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for conservation-related projects. This study highlights that conservation activities can and do have positive impacts for the local communities where they take place. The study suggests that parks today are perceived by local people as areas of opportunity. But paradoxically the research also suggests that the success of conservation areas in attracting human settlers may be detrimental to the biodiversity the reserves aim to protect. The pressure on wildlife, agricultural land, and timber and other forest products goes up exponentially. The direct conclusion is that deforestation rates were higher near protected areas where human population growth was the highest. It is time for wildlife reserve mangers to take stock of the situation and come up with newer models of growth.

G. Wittemyer, J.S. Brashares, P. Elsen, W.T. Bean, A. Coleman and O. Burton (2008). Accelerated Human Population Growth at Protected Area Edges. 4 JULY 2008 VOL 321 journal Science.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Tiger population plummets in Nepal

The news about tigers is not at all rosy in India. Conservationists are worried about the decline in population and are working overtime to reverse this trend. Now comes a shocker from Nepal. The census of tiger using camera trap in Suklaphanta Wildlife Conservation Park in western Nepal, has come out with disturbing results. Present estimate is 14 tigers, down from 25 during the 2004-2005 survey. The worst scenario estimates it at 5 tigers. It is feared that Chitwan National Park in south Nepal and in Bardiya National Park in the west will also show a similar decline. WWF says declining tiger population is due to rising demand for tiger products from China. WWF estimate is fewer than 150 tigers in Nepal, down from 360-370 in 2000.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Amazing diversity of life – Discoveries and extinctions

We are still in the process of making an inventory of the species of the earth .Innumerable species are lost for ever without going through our scanner as civilization advances. Roughly 1.8 million Species have been described to date, but scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth. I was startled to hear the number of species discovered per year. 16,969 species were discovered in 2006 according to a report published by Arizona State University's International Institute for Species Exploration, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the International Plant Names Index, and Thompson Scientific. An average of nearly 50 species per day. But as species are discovered, others are lost to extinction.
The report is titled State of Observed Species. Scientists warn that the rate of extinction is likely to increase as climate change intensifies. Earth is presently in the midst of a sixth great extinction, the Holocene. The previous mass extinctions in the past were the Ordovician, the Devonian, the Permian, the Triassic and the Cretaceous. Holocene is driven by human activities like habitat destruction, overexploitation, and the introduction of alien species. A revamp of Conservation efforts world wide is needed

Friday, June 27, 2008

Climate change and plant distribution

Climate change is a hotly debated topic round the globe. We have already started feeling its effect in our daily life. Worse is yet to come warns scientist. Here comes solid evidence that it is affecting the plant community. According to researchers climate change is changing the distribution pattern of plants. They are increasingly going up hill in a search for cooler conditions. A study of 171 forest species in mountain ranges of Western Europe revealed startling fact that many plants had climbed on an average of 29 metres each decade. Smaller species such as ferns, with shorter reproduction cycles, were the quickest to move. Prof: Jonathan Lenoir an ecologist at AgroParisTech, France led the research. The research team compared the distribution of forest species between 1905 and 1985 with their distribution between 1986 and 2005 to arrive at their conclusions. The findings have been published in the latest issue of Science journal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

‘whales-eat-fish’ claims debunked

Whales are fascinating animals. The acrobatics of the amiable whales in the sea have always fascinated me. Every time the whaling nations go out on merciless killing of whales I am deeply pained. I share my agony with millions around the world. One of the reasons touted by whaling nations is the argument “whales-eat-fish”. Well, this argument has been totally debunked by scientists. Humane Society International, WWF and the Lenfest Ocean Program have come out with three new reports debunking the science behind the ‘whales-eat-fish’ claims of Japan, Norway and Iceland. The reports conclusively prove that it is over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries. Marine mammals consume mainly smaller fish and organisms. It is high time international community woke up to the facts and come out with measures for regulating untrammeled fisheries operations. The major chunk of the catch goes to developed countries and they have a moral responsibility to do something. Do not blame the whales. Protect the whales please