1 Tahrcountry Musings: July 2008

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.