1 Tahrcountry Musings: June 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Danger List of World Heritage Sites Needs Radical Change – IUCN

IUCN considers that the Danger List of World Heritage Sites needs radical change if it is to remain an effective conservation tool. Many nations do not realize the fact that it is intended to be a constructive conservation tool, which mobilizes the international community to support national efforts.

Putting a site on the danger list is often seen by Governments as criticism and opposition follows from the unenlightened quarters.Taking umbrage shows a poor understanding of the whole concept. IUCN strongly opines that the list of World Heritage in Danger needs to be re-established as a way to ensure and maintain credible standards for protecting the world’s natural and cultural treasures.

According to Tim Badman,IUCN's Special Advisor on World Heritage,the World Heritage List in Danger is not working as it was intended and it needs an overhaul. The danger list is intended to turn international concern in to real conservation results. The World Heritage Committee which met in Seville last week added two natural sites to the danger list; Los Katios National Park and the Belize Barrier Reef. A third threatened site was not included.

The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra was not added to the List of World Heritage in Danger, despite IUCN’s recommendation.Road construction, illegal logging, poaching, uncontrolled tourism, as well as insufficient support from the government, are among the threats facing the site. Survival of key species, such as the Sumatran tiger, rhino, orangutan and elephant is hanging in balance.

Posted with inputs from IUCN

To read the full report, please click here

For more information please contact:

* Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations Officer, m +41 79 857 4072, e
* Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations Officer, m +41 79 528 3486, e

Photos and audio material available here

Friday, June 26, 2009

Extinction crisis Looms Large Over Open Ocean (pelagic) Sharks and Rays

Overfishing and bycatch of Open Ocean (pelagic) Sharks and Rays is driving them to the brink of extinction. A recent study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, has set the alarm bells ringing. The study found that 32 percent of the species are threatened with extinction. They are now more threatened than birds (12 percent), mammals (20 percent), and even amphibians (31 percent).

The demand for shark meat and fins are on the rise. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in many areas. In finning the crudely is abhorrent. The fins are sliced off the shark and the body tossed overboard. Sharks take many years to mature and have relatively few young. So the effect of overfishing is profound.

IUCN has requested all countries to strictly enforce laws and protect the species considered Critically Endangered and Endangered. 24 percent of the species are Near Threatened and 25 percent Data Deficient.

Here is a list of the shark species.

Endangered, 4 species

Ornate eagle ray Aetomylaeus vespertilio; Giant devilray Mobula mobular ; Scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini ; Great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran.

Vulnerable, 16 species

Whale shark Rhincodon typus; Smalltooth sand tiger Odontaspis ferox; Pelagic thresher Alopias pelagicus; Bigeye thresher Alopias superciliosus; Thresher shark Alopias vulpinus; Basking shark Cetorhinus maximus; Great white Carcharodon carcharias; Shortfin mako Isurus oxyrinchus; Longfin mako Isurus paucus; Porbeagle shark Lamna nasus; Tope shark Galeorhinus galeus; Oceanic whitetip shark Carcharhinus longimanus; Dusky shark Carcharhinus obscurus; Sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus; Night shark Carcharhinus signatus; Smooth hammerhead Sphyrna zygaena.

Near threatened, 15 species

Frilled shark Chlamydoselachus anguineus; Bluntnose sixgill shark Hexanchus griseus; Spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari; Manta Oceanic Manta birostris; Spinetail devilray Mobula japanica; Crocodile shark Pseudocarcharias kamoharai; Silvertip shark Carcharhinus albimarginatus; Bronze whaler Carcharhinus brachyurus; Spinner shark Carcharhinus brevipinna; Silky shark Oceanic Carcharhinus falciformis; Galapagos shark Carcharhinus galapagensis; Bull shark Carcharhinus leucas; Blacktip shark Carcharhinus limbatus; Tiger shark Semipelagic Galeocerdo cuvier; Blue shark Prionace glauca.

For more information please contact:
• Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0127, m +41 79 528 3486, e sarah.horsley@iucn.org
• Rob McNeil, International Media Director, Conservation International, t +1 703 341 2561, e rmcneil@conservation.org
• Mona Samari, Shark Alliance, t +44 (0) 7515 828 939, e mona@communicationsinc.co.uk

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sweden Plumbs for Climate-friendly Food Choices

Swedish authorities have devised guidelines entitled 'Environmentally-smart Food Choices', for climate-friendly food choices. The authorities have recommended to the citizens to reduce their meat and rice consumption to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report meat is the food group that has the greatest impact on the environment.

Meat consumption in Sweden has grown by an average ten kilos per person over the past ten years and now totals 65 kilos

One kilo of beef contributes up to 15-25 kilos of greenhouse gases. This is ten times more than the carbon footprint of the equivalent amount of chicken.

The authorities recommend that eating less meat, and making careful choices about what is eaten, is the smartest environmental choice the citizens can make.

Further recommendations include eating seasonal, locally-produced fruits, vegetables and berries, avoiding bottled water, soda and palm oil and limiting rice consumption as its cultivation produces methane.

The Swedish authorities are the first in Europe to develop such recommendations. They will be sent out to other EU countries for a broader discussion before it is implemented in Sweden.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tracking Animals-Combining Indigenous Skills and Modern DNA Analysis

Inuits of Canada have the uncanny ability to identify a Polar Bear's sex, age and size from its foot prints in the snow. Hunters have been utilizing these skills for a long time. Now scientists are utilizing the skills along with modern technology to survey Polar Bears that are becoming scarce.

Polar bears across the Arctic are imperiled due to overharvesting and climate change. Reproductive and survival rates have declined due to changes in the sea ice. There are currently 19 populations of polar bears in the Arctic, in Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland. Thirteen of these populations live wholly or partially in Canada.

The new project is headed by Biologists Peter V.C. de Groot and Peter Boag. In the new method a number of "hair traps," (fenced enclosures baited with meat) will be set up about 15 kilometers apart across a 600 kilometer stretch of wilderness. Bits of hair left behind by the bears as they attempt to grab the meat are sent to Dr. Boag's lab, where the number and sex of the animals are determined using DNA markers. As adjunct to the experiment samples of bear feces are collected and genetically screened at the Laboratory of Wildlife Diseases at the San Diego Zoo for the presence of pathogens that may infect polar bears. Analysis of Polar bear footprints is part of Dr. de Groot's tracking method where Inuits’ skills come in handy. The new method is cheaper and much easier than the current tracking practice, in which the bears are spotted from helicopters, tranquilized and marked.

The efforts of Canadian scientists are laudable. The skills of indigenous communities are utilized in the research and management of wildlife. The communities stand to benefit economically also. It is worthy of emulation by other nations.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Humans are Much Closer to Orangutans than Chimpanzees – New Evidences

Path breaking research by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and the Buffalo Museum of Science, headed by Dr Jeffrey H. Schwartz and Dr John R. Grehan, based on DNA analysis, indicates that humans are much closer to orangutans than chimpanzees. Till now the belief was that humans are closely related to chimpanzees. But this has never been supported by fossil evidence.

The new report says humans, orangutans, and early apes belong to a group separate from chimpanzees and gorillas. Schwartz and Grehan analysed hundreds of physical characteristics cited as evidence of evolutionary relationships among humans and other great apes, the chimps, gorillas, and orangutan. They selected 63 that could be verified as unique within this group. The rider was that they should not appear in other primates. Analysis of these features found that humans shared 28 unique physical characteristics with orangutans, compared to only two features with chimpanzees.

Schwartz and Grehan then examined 56 features uniquely shared among modern humans, fossil hominid and fossil apes. They found that orangutans shared eight features with early humans. Chimpanzees and gorillas were found to share only those features found in all great apes. Schwartz and Grehan have classified humans, orangutans, and the fossil apes into a new group called "dental hominoids," named after their similarly thick-enameled teeth.

One conundrum in the midst of all these evidences was that early human and ape fossils are largely found in Africa, whereas modern orangutans are found only in Southeast Asia. As an explanation they propose that the last common human-orangutan ancestor migrated between Africa, Europe, and Asia at some point that ended 12 million to 13 million years ago. Plant fossils indicate that forests once extended from southern Europe, through Central Asia, and into China prior to the formation of the Himalayas. Schwartz and Grehan say the ancestral dental hominoid lived and roamed throughout this vast area. As the Earth's surface and local ecosystems changed, descendants of dental hominoids became geographically isolated from one another.

The fascinating details of the study appears in the latest issue of Journal of Biogeography

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Whisky and wildlife Conservation

Whisky and wildlife conservation sounds a wee bit awry. But Scotland’s Famous Grouse Whisky and RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have a fantastic ongoing programme worthy of emulation by others.

Money donated by Famous Grouse Whisky is utilized for conservation of endangered iconic bird of Scotland the Grouse. This partnership was recently given the ‘Best Partnership’ award at the Scottish Charity Awards (hosted by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations - SCVO). Famous Grouse is launching a new whisky which will benefit the threatened black grouse. 50p per bottle will be donated from sales to the RSPB.

RSPB's uses the money for habitat restoration work for the threatened species. The deal has raised £30 000 so far. Gregg Wilkie, Senior Marketing Officer with RSPB Scotland, who initiated the Partnership, says “What better excuse is there to enjoy a dram of Scotland's national drink?"

Tahrcountry exhorts other business houses to follow this wonderful example.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nature’s Delicate Tightrope Walk

We still have not fully understood the intricacies of working of nature. We fiddle with it sometimes with good intentions but end up getting counterproductive results. Here is an example of how overzealous conservation efforts drove a species of butterfly, Large Blue Butterflies’ (Maculinea arion), to extinction in UK but was brought back from the brink after careful study and understanding of the ecosystem processes. The whole scenario was the culmination of 40-year research effort by Dr Jeremy Thomas of the University of Oxford in Oxford, UK.

The butterflies disappeared from Britain in 1979. Butterfly collectors were generally blamed for the decline of this butterfly. This was far from the truth. The study throws light on how the large blue butterflies’ dependence on a single species of ant led to the butterflies' disappearance.

Adult females of Large Blue butterflies lay their eggs on Thyme flowers in the summer. The caterpillars secrete chemicals that attract red ants and fool them into thinking the caterpillars are ant grubs. The ants carry the caterpillars into their underground nests. Caterpillars that have been taken to the nest of one particular ant species, Myrmica sabuleti, will survive to adulthood. The caterpillars' secretions are a close match to those of M. sabuleti grubs. Ants never discover that they have been fooled, and continue to protect the caterpillars for 10 months even though they feed on the ants' own brood. In early June, the caterpillars form a chrysalis and crawl above ground. Two weeks later they become full-fledged butterflies.

In their overzealous attitude to conservation the authorities initially fenced off the habitat of the butterflies to prevent entry and give total protection to the butterflies. The scientists soon realized that the grass in the butterflies' habitat had grown too long, as grazing had been completely stopped with the formation of fences. The soil characteristics also changed. It was now too cool to support adequate numbers of M. sabuleti ants. Without enough ants to raise their young, the large blue butterflies dwindled.

In the late 1970s, after 40 years of trying to save the large blue by preventing entry of butterfly collectors, conservationists followed Dr Thomas' recommendations, They restored the butterfly' habitat by clearing scrub and reintroducing grazing animals. Grazing was intimately associated with the ecological processes.

Starting in 1983, Thomas and his colleagues began introducing large blue butterflies imported from Sweden, into the restored habitat. The butterflies started establishing. The butterflies now occupy 30 percent more colonies than they had in the 1950s. The large blue is now one of three butterflies on course to meet the Convention of Biological Diversity's target to reverse species' declines by 2010. In the 1970s, the International Union for Conservation of Nature selected three butterflies, the Large Blue, Queen Alexandra's Birdwing of Papua New Guinea and the monarch butterfly of North America as global flagships for the cause of lepidopteran conservation.

The research paper is entitled, "Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly." It is slated to appear in Science, at the Science Express website, on 18 June 2009.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Bird that is faster than Jets

A bird that outpaces a Jet sounds unbelievable and has the feel of a leaf out of science fiction. But it is true. During courtship flights, male Anna's hummingbirds sustain accelerations that would put to shame a fighter pilot.

Chris Clark, a biologist at the University of California used high-speed video footage to study the bird’s flight. His cameras were able to capture 500 frames per second. He has shown that, relative to their body size, Anna's hummingbirds are the fastest moving vertebrates.

And why does the bird push itself to such acrobatic displays? It is to impress the females during courtship. To impress the females, the males drop out of the sky in U-shaped flights and as they dive they travel nearly 400 times their body length each second. It is greater than the top speed of a fighter jet with its afterburners on, 885 metres per second, or the space shuttle during atmospheric re-entry, 7,700metres per second. . Centripetal accelerations reach 10 g, a force equivalent to 10 times the gravitational pull of Earth. Fighter jet pilots can pass out at accelerations above 7 g.

Clark used decoy stuffed models of female birds for his experiment. The males readily responded to the decoys.

Personally I am humbled by these mysteries of nature that is surfacing. We know so little about nature and still we are going all out to damage our environment. We have only scratched the surface.

The details of the amazing findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Science behind the Taming of Animals

All of us have at some time or other wondered why some animals are easy to tame while others are difficult if not impossible to tame. Here come answers to the riddle from the scientists.

In a path breaking research a team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Sweden have discovered a set of genetic regions responsible for animal tameness. Most delighted would be animal breeders, farmers, zoologists, and anyone else who handles and raises animals. For them this will be a blessing indeed. This can also be used as a way to produce tame animals.

Frank Albert, a scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and the first author of the research is all excited about the prospects the new research offers. He says "Maybe we would be able to domesticate a few of those species where humans have historically not been successful like the wild African Buffalo." The study will lead to a detailed understanding of the genetics and biology of tameness.

The roots of this study date back to 1972 when researchers in Novosibirsk, USSR (now Russia) caught a group of rats in the wilderness around the city. Some of the rats were aggressive while others were tame. The scientists mated the tame with the aggressive rats and identified regions in the rat genome that cause a rat to be tamer or more aggressive.

End result of this research is that it offers clues about how genomes can be manipulated to breed tame animals of species once believed to be untamable.

The details are published in the June 2009 issue of the journal Genetics


1. Albert et al. Genetic Architecture of Tameness in a Rat Model of Animal Domestication. Genetics, 2009; 182 (2): 541 DOI: 10.1534/genetics.109.102186

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

WILD9 - The 9th World Wilderness Congress

Registration is now open for the 9th World Wilderness Congress

For the first time ever, the WWC will convene in Latin America from 6-13 November, in the city of Merida, Yucatan, in the heart of the Mayan world. Many of the world’s leading conservation experts, politicians, academics, corporations, artists, native peoples, students and many others will gather in Merida, Mexico to debate and act upon the most urgent environmental issues of our time.

With Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón as the Honorary Host of WILD9, the schedule is already filled with leading names in conservation today. Wilderness and Climate Change is a central theme - driving the message that protecting wild nature eliminates at least 1/4 of the carbon threat.

Other topics such as Freshwater and Underground Wilderness, Climate Change and Biodiversity, Fire in Nature, Transboundary Conservation and Connectivity, Marine and Oceanic Wilderness, and the Role of Human Communities in Nature will guide the trainings, plenary sessions, local excursions, working and poster sessions, cultural events and celebrations. In one of many associated sessions, the world’s best conservation photographers will participate in the first RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) of Mexico’s unique Yucatan Peninsula.

WILD9 is a project of The WILD Foundation, Unidos para la Conservacion, and many collaborating organizations, institutions and government agencies from Latin America and around the world.

For the most up-to-date information, Subscribe to the WILD9 newsletter and visit the WILD 9 website regularly!

Wildlife and Environment in Afghanistan- More Encouraging News

The war has taken a heavy toll of Afghanistan’s wildlife. Ecosystem in many areas has been devastated by more than 30 years of conflict. By 2002, 52 percent of the forest cover had been lost. The new threats that follow the war are contractors and the development agenda. Habitat degradation has affected both the wildlife and the people. In spite of all these problems Afghanistan still has lot of wildlife. It still has 9 felid species compared to 11 for the African continent. Afghanistan has sizable populations of snow leopards, Persian leopards and the charismatic Marco Polo Sheep, the world's largest sheep

The prophets of doom have been proved wrong. Amidst all the cacophony in Afghanistan, things are looking up for the wildlife. Recently Afghanistan had designated its first National Park in Band-e-Amir. Close on the heels of this comes another exciting news.

Afghanistan’s first-ever listing of protected wildlife list has been released by the Afghanistan Wildlife Exectivbe Committee (AWEC) coming under Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA). Thirty-three species twenty mammals, seven birds, four plants, one amphibian, and one insect finds place in the list. Protected species include Snow Leopard, Wolves, Brown Bears, Goitered gazelle and paghman salamander. The list also includes the Himalayan elm tree.

Afghanistan is also looking at the possibility of creating a network of parks. Conservation is very critical in a country where so many people directly depend on local natural resources for their survival. One man who has championed the cause of wildlife relentlessly is the legendary wildlife biologist Dr. George B Schaller. Schaller's dream is to bring the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and China together in an effort to develop a four-country transboundary park in the Pamirs to give a boost to the protection of this unique mountain ecosystem.

Monday, June 08, 2009

World Oceans Day

Today the world is celebrating the World Oceans Day. This annual event serves to remind all of us our responsibility to protect the world's living ocean and conserve its resources for present and future generations.

The world's ocean covers 70% of our planet, yet less than 1% of our ocean habitat is protected. Beneath the surface of the ocean there is a mind boggling diversity of life. It is estimated that more than one million species live on coral reefs alone. Scientists estimate that at least ten million species live in the deep seas.

Ocean acidification and the warming of seawater temperature as a sequel to global warming is a looming threat that needs to be addressed immediately. The impacts of ocean warming and acidification associated with greenhouse gas emissions threaten the livelihoods and food security of millions of people round the world and in many cases it affects severely the most vulnerable people. The reduction of human induced stresses like overfishing, pollution and unsustainable coastal development needs to be tackled on a war footing.

June 8th is now officially designated as World Oceans Day by the United Nations.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Bats Can Recognize the Voices of Others of their Genre

According to a new study by researchers from the University of Tuebingen, Germany and the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz, Germany, bats have the ability to recognize each other using voice cues.

The experiments were done on greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis). The researchers first tested the ability of bats to distinguish between the echolocation calls of other bats. Next in line was development of a computer model that reproduces the recognition behaviour of the bats. The researchers after extensive trials and observations concluded that signals contains individual-specific information that allows one bat to recognize another. The analysis showed that each bat has a typical distribution in the frequencies it emits, probably a result of the differences in each animal's vocal chords.

According to the researchers the ability to use these continuously emitted calls for recognition might facilitate many of the social behaviours observed in bats. The comparison of the bats with the model strongly implies that the bats are using a prototype classification approach: they learn the average call characteristics of individuals and use them as a reference for classification.

The bats required 15–24 days before they were able to correctly recognize the individuals in more than 75% of the trials.

Details of the research appear in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.


The Voice of Bats: How Greater Mouse-eared Bats Recognize Individuals Based on Their Echolocation Calls Yossi Yovel1, Mariana Laura Melcon1, Matthias O. Franz2, Annette Denzinger1, Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler1
1 Animal Physiology, Institute for Neurobiology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany, 2 University of Applied Sciences, Konstanz, Germany

Friday, June 05, 2009

England - The Return of the Great Bustard

When there is heartwarming events regarding wildlife in any country it is celebration time for conservationists across the globe. Here is some excellent news from England.

My British contacts tell me that the globally-threatened Great Bustard (Otis tarda) has bred successfully in Britain for the first time since 1832. The last female with a chick was observed in Suffolk 177 years ago.The reintroduction programme was started 5 years back. Young birds from southern Russia were brought in for the programme. A female produced two chicks last week. The authorities are very secretive about the site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire for obvious reasons.

The bird is very charismatic. It finds a place on the coats of arms of Wiltshire and Cambridgeshire county councils and is on the badge of the Royal School of Artillery on Salisbury Plain.

Great Bustard Fact Sheet

The Great Bustard is the only member of the genus Otis and is in the bustard family. Even though the species is extinct in England Sizeable populations exist in Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Russia and Spain. It may look like a rosy picture but the species is declining due to habitat loss throughout its range. It is the national bird of Hungary. So Hungary is taking special interest for its conservation.
An adult male bird is 90-110 cm in length and weighs around10 to 15 kg. The heaviest recorded was 21 kg. The female is 30% smaller, 80 cm in length and weighs around 3.5-5 kg. Despite their large size the birds can fly at a high velocity (around 60 kilometer/hour)

The bird prefers open grassy lands and feeds on seeds, insects and other small creatures, including frogs.

Great Bustards usually live for around 10 years, but some have been known to live up to 15 years.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Galapagos Islands – Alien Mosquito Threat to Wildlife

Mosquitoes brought to Galapagos by tourists by way of ships and aircrafts is posing a serious threat to the wildlife there.

The endemic black salt marsh mosquito of Galapagos has lived on the Islands for thousands of years. It is part of the ecosystem there and does not create any problem. Scientists fear the endemic insect could pick up diseases from other mainland mosquitoes brought to the Galapagos by tourists and then transmit the infections to the rare wildlife on the islands which includes the giant tortoise, the marine iguana and the flightless cormorant. Diseases such as West Nile fever are the conservationists’ bugbear.

Unlike other species of mosquitoes the black salt marsh mosquito distributed throughout the island can feed on the blood of reptiles as well as mammals and birds.
The scientists believe that rather than controlling the islands' own mosquito, there should be a concerted effort to stop mainland mosquitoes from hitching a ride on ships and planes.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Migration Pattern of Wild Animals Altered Worldwide.

Migration of millions of Wildebeest across Serengeti Plains is familiar to anyone who watches Discovery or National Geographic channel. It is an amazing phenomenon that keeps us glued to the screen. People who have seen it first have been spell bound by the spectacle. This magnificent natural phenomenon is in danger of disappearing from the face of earth due to man’s avarice.

According to a new study by Dr Grant Harris from Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and associates published in the journal Endangered Species Research, all of the world's large-scale terrestrial migrations have been severely reduced and a quarter of the migrating species are believed to no longer migrate.

D r Grant Harris says “Conservation science has done a poor job in understanding how migrations work, and as a result many migrations have gone extinct”

Migration occurs when animals search for higher quality habitat or more abundant food. Ecologically, there are two reasons attributed to food availability and subsequent migration. In temperate regions of the world, higher-quality food shifts as the seasons change, and animals respond by moving along well-established routes. In the case of savannah ecosystems, rain and fire allow higher-quality food to grow. To track this animals sometimes have to move across expansive landscapes.

Human activity has severely affected the landscape and this prevents large groups of ungulates from tracking their food. Fencing, farming, and water restrictions have contributed to the change. Over-harvesting of the animals themselves has played a role in reducing the number of migrants.

Harris and his co-authors gathered information on all 24 species of large (over 20 kilograms) ungulates known for their mass migrations. The study covered Arctic tundra (Caribou), Eurasian steppes and plateaus (Chiru and Saiga), North American plains (bison and elk), and African savannahs (zebra and wildebeests).

All the 24 species in the current study lost migration routes and were reduced in number of individuals. In North America, bison are still considered migratory, but their range is now restricted to two small sites in Yellowstone and Alberta. Similar changes are found on other continents where human activity has affected the ability of species to move to new patches of food.

For six species in particular the situation is alarming. The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou), the blesbok (Damaliscus dorcas), and quagga (Equus quagga) of southern Africa; the kulan (Equus hemionus) of central Asia; and scimitar horned oryx (Oryx dammah) of northern Africa either no longer migrate or are impossible to be considered as migratory animals.

We are paying a heavy price for “development’ without any forethought about impact on environment

Posted with inputs from American Museum of Natural History

Monday, June 01, 2009

Here is a Surprise – Plants Can Recognize Self from Non-Self

Here is an amazing piece of information from a recent research on plants done by Dr Richard Karban from Department of Entomology, University of California and Dr Kaori Shiojiri from Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University.

The scientists have gathered enough proof to come to the conclusion that Plants can recognize self from non-Self. The Experiments were done on sagebrush plant (Artemisia tridentate) and they have proved that the plants can recognize a genetically identical cutting growing nearby. The two clones communicate and cooperate with one another, to avoid damage by herbivores.
Identical experiments have shown that if a plant's roots grow near an unrelated plant, the two will try to compete for nutrients and water. On the contrary if the roots grow close to another plant from the same parent plant, the two do not compete.

Dr Karban says the plants are capable of more sophisticated behaviour than we have imagined.

The scientists placed the cuttings near its genetic parent, or near unrelated sagebrush, and let the plants grow wild in the University of California Sagehen Creek Natural Reserve. The researchers clipped each clone they planted, inducing the same kind of damage that might be caused by natural herbivores such as grasshoppers. After one year, they found that plants growing alongside their damaged clones suffered 42% less herbivore damage than those growing alongside damaged plants that were unrelated. The clipped plants appeared to be warning their genetically identical neighbours that an attack was round the corner. But clipped plants didn't appear to warn unrelated neighbours.

The findings are sure to alter the way we look at plants and have much wider ramifications when we think about it.

The details of the research are published in the journal Ecology Letters. (Volume 12 Issue 6, Pages 502 – 506)

Environment – Individuals Can Make Big Difference

Magnificent Example from Canada

In the pursuit of protecting the environment individuals can make a big difference. We need not depend on Government initiatives or doles. Here is a magnificent example of what one man can do for the welfare of the environment, from Mount Douglas Park, Saanich, Canada.

Dick Battles has been awarded Saanich Environmental Award for his selfless work in protecting the environment of Mount Douglas Park. Since 2001, Dick Battles has spent well over 2000 hours in Mt. Douglas Park removing English ivy and other invasive species. The effort was purely voluntary. He has singlehandedly removed ivy from large areas. He has been striving relentlessly to increase public understanding and appreciation for the value of native plants and natural areas. According to Saanich's Environmental Advisory Committee he is an exemplary ambassador for the park and richly deserves recognition for his many years of environmental stewardship in Saanich.

Tahrcountry salutes this magnificent ambassador for Mount Douglas Park. His actions speak louder than words and should be an inspiration for citizens round the world.