Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Sunday, June 27, 2010

AT LEAST 783 birds, 355 sea turtles and 41 mammals dead due to oil spill so far. Others displaying odd behaviours...

Sometimes I fell so powerless against issues like this oil spill in the gulf that I can't really read too much about it which is why I haven't been posting all that much on the subject. It's just such a tragedy. Even if you aren't an "animal lover" or "tree hugger" you have to find the fact that these animals are behaving so oddly tragic and heartbreaking. -MA

From via the facebook page

Dolphins and other aquatic life are coming to shorelines to escape spill

Dolphins and sharks are appearing in large numbers in the shallow waters of Florida beaches. Crabs Stingrays, and fish have shown up by the thousands along the Alabama Pier. Marine scientists believe this strange behavior is caused by the aquatic life seeking refuge from the danger of the BP oil spill.

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange phenomena.

Scientists believe the wildlife is fleeing oil infested water and searching out cleaner waters along the coast. Their gathering in shallow shore waters is proof that their natural habitat is polluted. However their congregating in shallow water could result in mass deaths as they run out of oxygen.

Marine life is just beginning to display odd behavior as they struggle against a nemesis that they cannot understand or defeat. As each day passes scientists are finding dead birds, sea turtles and other marine life in heartbreaking numbers. The latest numbers are: 783 birds, 355 sea turtles and 41 mammals. However, because of the size of the spill they are only finding a small portion of the dead animals out there. For instance many birds are taking refuge deep in the Louisiana marshes seeking shelter from the spill and die there.

As for the fish, researchers are still trying to determine where exactly they are migrating to understand the full scope of the disaster, and no scientific consensus has emerged about the trend. It is difficult to tally up the fish deaths as often they are eaten by larger predators.

Fish are gathering along shores in massive groups because their natural waters are tainted with oil and being depleted of oxygen. Sadly their instincts for survival could prove to be deadly as more oil washes ashore and overwhelms the fish. By moving to the shoreline they have literally trapped themselves. As more life comes to the shorelines the more competition for oxygen. Sadly in the end their instinct to survive may bring about their deaths.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

1 goal uses FIFA world cup exposure to promote education for children across Africa

watch this hysterical video (which really makes me wish i was in S Africa right now) and then go to to add your name to the list in support of using the exposure of FIFA's world cup to ensure education for African children! great video and great cause! -MA

interspecies cuddling gallery

click here to see a gallery from on interspecies cuddling

When boycotts work and when they don't at all. The best article I've read about the BP oil spill.

This is the greatest article I have read on the oil spill. Boycotting BP is useless, all big oil is bad for our environment, but worse still is all our independent dependencies on oil. Big oil is supplying to our demand. Let's first turn to ourselves (and acknowledge that when we fly across the world for conferences, workshops, etc, that we too are also contributing to the problem, never mind what we do in our daily lives) and then turn to our governments to mandate that the environment and our future existence should be prioritized. Until then, blaming specific oil companies is an exercise in hypocrisy. -MA

From via the Newsweek facebook page
Boycott BP!

Because it’s much better to give your money to Exxon.

Go ahead, boycott BP. Not only do you get to send a message to the company that has proved incapable of stopping the undersea gusher unleashed on April 20, but (unless you live in a one-gas-station town) you can do it without much pain to yourself.

Drive right on by the BP station and pull up to the pumps from Exxon, the company responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 and, more recently, one of the biggest corporate funders of the movement to tar the science of climate change. Exxon also managed to reduce the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by an Anchorage jury for the Valdez disaster to $507.5 million; the Valdez fishermen and other victims have still not been made whole. (Fun fact: to protect itself in case the original judgment was affirmed, Exxon got a line of credit from JP Morgan, which the bank then parlayed into the first credit default swap, as recounted in the 2009 book Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett. These are the exotic financial instruments that helped trigger the Great Recession of 2008–09.)

Or roll into the Texaco or Chevron station (Chevron bought Texaco in 2001). Texaco is being sued by people in Ecuador for contaminating their groundwater, causing hundreds of residents to develop fatal cancers and causing other environmental damage near the Lago Agrio oilfield, where Texaco dumped oil-production waste (18.5 billion gallons into open, unlined pits) for almost 20 years. (For those of you moved by First Amendment issues, Chevron has also gone to court to force filmmaker Joe Berlinger to turn over more than 600 hours of outtake footage he shot for his documentary on the case, titled Crude.) Chevron counters that dumping sludge was standard operating procedure at the time.

Or roll up to the Citgo pumps. Citgo is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state oil company of Venezuela, which is ruled by the always-entertaining (except to political opponents he has silenced) Hugo Chávez. A 2009 fire at Citgo’s refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, sent toxic fumes into nearby neighborhoods for two days.

Uncomfortable giving your money to a petrodictator? There’s a Shell station up ahead. Too bad Shell has been accused of human-rights violations in Nigeria, through its collaboration with the country’s former military rulers who executed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in 1995, committed crimes against humanity, and tortured opponents. (Shell settled the case for $15.5 million last year.) Shell has also been accused of despoiling the Niger Delta through its oil operations there: a ruptured oil pipeline that killed 100 people in 2008; polluted drinking wells; fields and farmland poisoned by leaked oil.

In other words, pick which malefactor or criminal—environmental or human—you’d like to support when you gas up. And the list above doesn’t even include the fact that what the oil companies sell is one of the major contributors to catastrophic climate change. So unless your boycott of BP extends to all oil companies—oh, and throw in coal companies and natural-gas utilities—you get points for symbolism and self-righteousness but not much else.

It’s understandable that consumers are furious and frustrated by the gulf catastrophe and want to punish those responsible. Protesters have shown up at BP stations in Europe and the United States, and Facebook’s Boycott BP group has 431,000 fans as of this morning. Demonstrators wield banners proclaiming, “We won’t pay for BP’s mess. Take it from your bonus chest.” But to find the ultimate culprits, look in the mirror.

BP and the 32 other operators of deepwater wells in the gulf are there not because they find it technologically interesting to see how deep they can drill, or because their roustabouts like the view from the rigs. They’re drilling because of America’s—and the world’s—insatiable lust for oil. The U.S. consumes 800 million gallons of petroleum per week, according to the Energy Information Agency. The only way to make this the last oil spill in the gulf is to make oil obsolete. Shall we all hop on our bicycles, charge our plug-in hybrids with wind-generated electricity, swap out the heating oil or natural gas warming our homes for geothermal wells and passive solar?

Didn’t think so.

Just as buying green products is better for our eco-esteem than it is an effective way to save the planet, so consumer boycotts of the latest oil company to run afoul of public opinion are emotionally satisfying but ultimately futile. To be sure, there have been some great, and effective, consumer boycotts in the past, and you don’t even have to go back to the American colonists’ refusal to buy British goods as a protest against taxation without representation to find examples. The 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott ignited the modern civil-rights movement. The 1965–70 consumer boycott of California grapes to show solidarity with Cesar Chavez’s farmworkers brought the growers to their knees, forcing them to recognize Chavez’s union and sign a contract with it guaranteeing workers’ rights. The consumer boycott of canned tuna in the 1980s led the industry to adopt dolphin-safe fishing.

For a boycott to achieve its aims, there has to be a clear issue. “Don’t kill dolphins when you catch what I need for my tuna sandwich” is specific and clear; “don’t despoil the environment when you get what I need to drive” isn’t. (See Ecuador and Nigeria examples above.) A boycott must also give consumers alternatives; you can eat strawberries instead of grapes, but trading in your gasoline-powered car for a Tesla or Volt or other electric isn’t nearly so simple. And a boycott must be organized so that violations are visible. Co-workers could see if you brought grapes for lunch, and anyone in Montgomery could see if you were riding the bus. Unless someone figures out how to make gasoline bought from BP produce exhaust that forms a big “BP” when it spews out your tailpipe, no one knows where you gassed up.

All of the above likely explains why BP station owners—for it is they, not the corporation, who own stations—say the boycott has had no noticeable effect.

It’s out of fashion to point out that the solution to the problem of oil harming the environment has to come from the government. Yes, the Minerals Management Service did not exactly cover itself with glory in requiring oil companies to have workable plans in case of an accident in the gulf. The culture of corruption at the MMS—letting oil companies write their own environmental-impact statements, accepting expensive gifts, sleeping with company officials—didn’t help. But just because government did not prevent the Deepwater Horizon disaster does not mean we can give up on government policies to avert future ones. Only by weaning ourselves off oil and other fossil fuels do we have a prayer of preventing future oil spills and all the other environmental calamities of petroleum production and use.

President Obama has seized on that argument to call for Senate passage of the energy and climate bill introduced by Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. Like the climate bill passed by the House last year, this version would put a price on the greenhouse-gas pollution from oil and other fossil fuels, which would more accurately reflect their true costs and spur people to adopt alternatives. The bills also provide support for developing cleaner alternatives, including nuclear. In an ironic sop to Republicans more concerned about the country’s dependence on foreign oil than about climate change, the Senate bill still calls for more offshore oil-and-gas drilling. Which shows just how hard it is to wean ourselves off, let alone boycott, the stuff that powers society.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

success! Whaling Ban Stays! Pro-whalers Fail To Get Commercial Whaling Condoned

From the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) webpage via the Africa Geographic facebook page

WDCS Press Statement:

Moratorium remains intact: Pro-whaling advocates fail to get commercial whaling condoned

two days of closed-door discussions delegates to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) were unable to reach consensus on a proposal (the 'deal') that would see the legitimization of commercial whaling. The moratorium (ban) still stands and Japan, Iceland and Norway continue to whale outside of the sanction of the IWC. It was clear that, despite many presentations by the pro-whaling advocates, the majority of nations were not convinced by the arguments that any whales being killed under commercial whaling was acceptable. Nations also rejected the view that quotas could be given whilst the moratorium still stood. It became obvious to delegates that the moratorium was fundamental to any allocation of quotas, be they in the thousands or the hundreds, or even tens. The Latin American countries and Australia were clear on their opposition to the proposed deal. After weeks of uncertainty, even the EU took a strong position and rejected the proposed version while continuing to still be willing to negotiate. It appears that the pro-deal advocates decided that it was too risky to push their proposal to a vote, and so risk it being publicly rejected in a devastating vote. WDCS anticipates there will be further discussions in the coming year, but we now call on the nations of the world to realize that the old world view of whaling is over.

"We now call on governments to work together to ensure the moratorium is implemented fully and effectively ending commercial, and so-called scientific whaling, which have no place in the 21st century. WDCS believes that the IWC has a strong future, but not one that legitimizes this cruel, unmanageable and unnecessary industry," says Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson of WDCS in Agadir. The 62nd meeting of the IWC whilst not taking forward the 'deal' will now look at a number of important agenda items. One important item still to be debated is the demand by Demark that Greenland should be allowed to expand its hunt to include 10 humpback whales per year.

Full briefings on the Greenland issue available from WDCS

Support this crazy Mofo :) Dude is cycling from north to south africa (!!!) to raise money for mosquito nets

via the Africa Geographic facebook page

Peter Gostelow is cycling across Africa (from north to south) to raise money and awareness for anti-malaria mosquito nets. He has a great blog at and you can follow him on facebook and twitter as well and then go here to support him on his donation page. Nets are 5$ (USD) each or you can just donate whatever amount you like and you can pay by almost every method possible, its very easy and for a great cause! -MA
From his facebook page:

On August 16th 2009 I began a solo and unsupported expedition, by bicycle, from the UK-CapeTown. My route will take me through France, Spain and Portugal, before continuing to west, central and southern Africa - over 25 countries and 20,000km.
This is my second major bicycle expedition, having cycled 50,000km from Japan-UK(

As Malaria kills more people in Africa than any other disease, I'm raising money along the way to buy mosquito nets.This is the cheapest and most effective way of preventing the disease. 100% of the money raised will go on nets and a donation of just £3 guarantees that someone receives a net. It is me, with the help of the Against Malaria Foundation charity, who will be distributing the nets. My target is to raise £1 for every kilometre cycled. Help keep me motivated on the road by pledging a donation to The Big Africa Cycle.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Did you know: Plastic bags have been banned in Rwanda since 2006!

This is from 2006 (!) but is still being heavily enforced as I just found out from a friend headed to Rwanda (thanks Chrissie E!) - amazing and progressive! I think it reflects how strong of a role the environment plays in Rwanda's GDP as the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes national park attracts tourists to the small country (there are four habituated groups open to tourists, allowing for a total of 32 permits per day, each permit is $500 USD, plus travel,food and accommodations). Would be great if this attitude of environmental protection spread across other areas of Africa, I just hope we don't have to habituate many more great apes or disturb other wildlife populations for people to see how wonderful Africa's wilderness truly is. -MA

Trader wrapping cakes in plastic bags.
Some traders continue to use the banned plastic bags

From the BBC
Rwanda gets tough on plastic bags

Rwanda is cracking down on the use of plastic bags by shoppers, the environment minister has told the BBC. Drocella Mugorewera said that anyone using plastic bags is breaking a recent law on environmental protection aimed at cleaning up cities. She says that people must use paper bags instead. Some shoppers, however, prefer cheaper reusable plastic bags. Some Rwandans accuse government militias of using the law to steal goods being carried in plastic bags. One woman told the BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in the capital, Kigali, that local defence staff had thrown the glasses she was carrying in a plastic bag onto the ground.

Some market traders complain that products such as fish and meat cannot be carried in paper bags. Our correspondent says paper bags are up to five times more expensive than plastic ones.
He says that despite the ban, some hawkers continue to secretly sell plastic bags, hiding them in their pockets.

The environment minister admits that it will be impossible to completely end the use of plastic bags but she believes the measure to stop traders from importing and selling them will go a long way to protecting the environment. "In Rwanda we have not yet reached the same level of development with other some countries which use plastic bags," she said. "They have factories that recycle used bags. Even their citizens understand that it's wrong to throw rubbish anywhere. In our case we are still teaching our citizens."

In 2004, thousands of people were encouraged to take the day off work to help pick up some of the plastic bags which littered the country. Thousands of Rwandans have taken the day off work to pick up plastic bags as part of a government attempt to clean up the environment. Shops have been banned from giving plastic bags to their customers and police are reportedly stopping plastic-bag users in the street. Some supermarkets have been closed down for flouting the ban, said environment minister Drocella Mugorewera. "We want people to use traditional baskets instead," she said.

The government has always been keen to keep Rwanda clean and correspondents say the capital, Kigali, is much cleaner than other African cities, where thin blue plastic bags can been seen in fields and on trees fluttering in the wind. "We have a real problem with plastic and we are linking this with our efforts to protect our rivers and lakes," Ms Mugorewera told Reuters news agency.

But some shop-owners feel the government is being too heavy-handed. "The government is being unfair to small business owners, some of us cannot afford expensive packing materials, our clients are running away," said one kiosk owner.

Monday, June 21, 2010

computer generated chimp ad looks pretty good.

via the Primate Patrol facebook page
OK, its still a bit in uncanny valley but i would easily watch a movie with chimps like these in it and not find it SUPER fake. Makes me so happy to see progress on moving away from wild animals in entertainment (also check out this previous post on a short with a CG elephant) -MA

Hooked for her vengeance: Anti-rape female condom

South African doctor invents female condoms with 'teeth' to fight rape

South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse. "She looked at me and said, 'If only I had teeth down there,'" recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. "I promised her I'd do something to help people like her one day/

Forty years later, Rape-aXe was born.

Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place. The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man's penis during penetration, Ehlers said. Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it -- a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest. "It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on," she said. "If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter... however, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid exposure."

Ehlers said she sold her house and car to launch the project, and she planned to distribute 30,000 free devices under supervision during the World Cup period. "I consulted engineers, gynecologists and psychologists to help in the design and make sure it was safe," she said.

After the trial period, they'll be available for about $2 a piece. She hopes the women will report back to her. "The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she's going out on some kind of blind date ... or to an area she's not comfortable with," she said. The mother of two daughters said she visited prisons and talked to convicted rapists to find out whether such a device would have made them rethink their actions.

Some said it would have, Ehlers said.

Critics say the female condom is not a long-term solution and makes women vulnerable to more violence from men trapped by the device. It's also a form of "enslavement," said Victoria Kajja, a fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the east African country of Uganda. "The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to." Kajja said the device constantly reminds women of their vulnerability. "It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma," she added. "It also does not help with the psychological problems that manifest after assaults."

However, its one advantage is it allows justice to be served, she said.

Various rights organizations that work in South Africa declined to comment, including Human Rights Watch and Care International.

South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, Human Rights Watch says on its website. A 2009 report by the nation's Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, with one in 20 saying they had raped in the past year, according to Human Rights Watch. In most African countries, rape convictions are not common. Affected women don't get immediate access to medical care, and DNA tests to provide evidence are unaffordable. "Women and girls who experience these violations are denied justice, factors that contribute to the normalization of rape and violence in South African society," Human Rights Watch says.

Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some wearing extra tight biker shorts and others inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts.

Critics have accused her of developing a medieval device to fight rape.

"Yes, my device may be a medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades," she said. "I believe something's got to be done ... and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."

Rape-aXe official website

Thanks to Tina B for the link!

Using doggie poop to light park lamps

This is fabulous - I have had this big moral dilemma recently about picking up my dog's poop when he poops somewhere where there is no risk of anyone stepping in it: like in the bushes on the side of a street. It smells so i should pick it up, right? but even if i use biodegradable bags, I generally throw these in the trash at the first garbage can i see, so really im just filling landfills with dog poop that is totally biodegradable. This seems like a GREAT solution to me! Only problem i see is how to make people not throw other stuff in there or just poop directly into it, cuz folks can be nutty like that- MA

from via the Tree Hugger facebook page
New Design Turns Dog Poop into Gold- Well, Methane.

Scenario A: You're in the park walking your dog. He sniffs around, finds the perfect spot, squats and poops. You, being the responsible owner, break out the biodegradable plastic bag you brought and pick it up, then throw the bag in the nearest trash can.

Scenario B: You're in the park walking your dog. He sniffs around, finds the perfect spot, squats and poops. You, being the responsible owner, break out the biodegradable plastic bag you brought and pick it up, and throw it the Park Spark Methane Digester. The methane in Fido's poop is then piped to another location, where it is burned for energy to light the lamps in the very park your dog just pooped in.

The Park Spark is the brainchild of Matthew Mazzotta, the creator of the TreeHugger approved Buscyle. The idea of the human and animal waste digester is hardly new, but Mazzotta's design takes it to an interesting new place, seeking to make it part of our everyday lives, not just a love of Ed Begley Jr.'s. Digesters work using the natural process of anaerobic decomposition. Organic matter sealed in an air-tight container produces methane, which can then be separated from the rest of the matter and used as fuel.

The goal of the Park Spark is to make people rethink the idea of waste- epitomized by bags of dog poop- by turning it into something useful. Mazzotta imagines that upon installation, the methane produced by the Park Spark will burn as a sort of "eternal flame" for everyone to see. The idea is that once everyone sees the energy that comes from dog waste, someone will be bound to propose a more practical use for it.

It's an idea that's a bit of a long shot to catch on nationally or internationally, but that's not saying we're pessimistic. Even one Park Spark will go a long way towards changing common perceptions of waste and energy, which is a great start.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Siberian tiger epidemic blocks their ability to hunt, could decimate entire population.

This is seriously disturbing and then to add salt to the wound is the statement at the end: "The only consolation in this grisly process is that, for once, a serious threat is not originating from human actions, although even that, for now, is open to debate." Please PLEASE don't be due to the radio collars, although I do think they are generally overused, it would be awful if this was a side-effect. In any case, how awful for the species -MA

From The guardian
Siberian tiger threatened by mystery disease
Conservationists say an epidemic is destroying the big cats' ability to hunt and turning them into potential man-eaters

A mystery disease is driving the Siberian tiger to the edge of extinction and has led to the last animal tagged by conservationists being shot dead in the far east of Russia because of the danger it posed to people.

The 10-year-old tigress, known to researchers as Galya, is the fourth animal that has had a radio collar attached to it for tracking to die in the past 10 months. All had been in contact with a male tiger suspected of carrying an unidentified disease that impaired the ability to hunt. "We may be witnessing an epidemic in the Amur tiger population," said Dr Dale Miquelle, the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Russia director.

Galya had recently abandoned a three-week-old litter of cubs and come into the town of Terney looking for an easy meal. Following a series of all-night vigils by researchers, attempts to scare the tigress away failed. She was reported to the Primorsky State Wildlife Department as an official "conflict tiger", and a state wildlife inspector was called in to destroy her earlier this month.

"This tiger had lost its fear of humans – typically Amur tigers will never expose themselves for observation. It was like seeing someone you know turn into a vampire," Miquelle said.

Scientists are attempting to understand what compromised the tigress's ability to capture wild prey, which she had lived upon almost exclusively since birth. Her cubs, which were subsequently found dead at the den, are likely to have had their mother's disease transmitted to them through the placenta. "Initial necropsy results show an empty digestive tract, which is highly unusual. We're still waiting for results of further tests, but the abnormal behaviour suggests disease, possibly neurological," said Miquelle. "We are extremely concerned about the possibility of an epidemic that could be sweeping through this region. Animals we have studied extensively, and known well, have demonstrated radically changed behaviour, which is extremely disconcerting."

Weighing only 91kg at death – down from an estimated 140kg at full health – the tigress's death represents the end of an 11-year lineage of related "study" tigers, and leaves the WCS's Siberian Tiger Project with no radio-collared animals for the first time in 18 years. WCS Russia has tracked more than 60 tigers since inception in 1992.

In March this year, Miquelle raised the prospect of disease as a potential threat to an already endangered Siberian tiger population. WCS Russia reported in October 2009 that there had been a 40% decline in numbers since the last full survey in 2005, from 428 to as little as 252 adult tigers. The tiger's range has been reduced to a small pocket in the corner of the country within the region of Primorsky Krai.

Speaking at a conference in Vladivostok, Miquelle said that anything above a 15% mortality rate in adult females could kill off all Amur tigers. With around 150 adult females in the population, any more than 22 deaths of adult females per year may wipe out the species. Poaching accounts for about 75% of all Amur tiger deaths, with 12 to 16 adult females killed annually. "We're in a new era where disease could seriously affect the Amur tiger."

The Russian draft federal tiger conservation strategy has recently been amended to take account of disease, including a section on vaccination against canine distemper, a viral disease which is common in the Russian far east in domestic dogs and cats.

"The addition of disease-related deaths to existing sources of mortality could push this population over a tipping point," said Miquelle.

The federal strategy, which is being designed by a number of scientific groups including WCS Russia, is being prepared for the first global Tiger Summit due to take place in St Petersburg this September. Along with World Bank president Robert Zoellick, Vladimir Putin is due to preside over the conference.

WCS Russia hopes to recommence the capture of study tigers in September. "We aim to change the focus of why we study tigers, with a new emphasis on disease," said Miquelle. "The only consolation in this grisly process is that, for once, a serious threat is not originating from human actions, although even that, for now, is open to debate."

Thanks to Emma S for the link.

European Bushmeat, where it's going and how to stop it.

More on the European Bushmeat trade, including where the markets are in Paris, and some solutions to curbing the problem. Also am thinking DNA analysis could help with species ID and/or these seizures could be useful for doing poaching pressure analyses on certain areas as has been done with whales and other species - MA

Is That an Alligator in Your Suitcase?
by SHARON BEGLEY (June 18, 2010)
To the dismay of environmentalists, European tourists delight in smuggling black-market bushmeat.

Scientists estimate nearly 12,000 pounds of illegal bushmeat are smuggled into France from Africa every week, and the threat to endangered species is only getting worse.

An undeclared bottle of whiskey, a string of pearls bought on vacation and hidden inside a bra in the suitcase—sure, customs inspectors see that every day. But a nice haunch of crested porcupine? Some fresh cane rat or long-tailed pangolin? Red-river hog or Nile crocodile? Not so much.

But maybe customs agents at international airports should start looking more often. When Anne-Lise Chaber of the Zoological Society of London spent two and a half weeks with customs inspectors assigned to flights originating in sub-Saharan Africa and landing at Paris’s Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in June 2008, she found that bushmeat—the meat of wild animals—was being illegally brought in at an astonishing rate. Inspecting just 134 passengers arriving on 29 Air France flights (out of about 180 flights in all during the 18 days of the study, with a capacity of about 17,000 passengers per week), agents found 414 pounds of bushmeat and 288 pounds of livestock—including a nicely wrapped whole sheep and calves nestled in carryalls.

Conservation biologists have previously sounded the alarm about illegal sales of bushmeat by and to Africans living in Europe and the United States—Africans living abroad apparently want a taste of home just as Americans living overseas need their pizza fix—but the scope of the problem on a daily basis had never before been documented.

Chaber and her ZSL colleagues therefore decided to watch over the shoulders of the customs agents as they performed random inspections on passengers arriving from Africa. (To be precise, the inspections were random except in the case of passengers carrying ice chests, who were all chosen for scrutiny.) It was a grisly picture, and not only because among the contraband were the aforementioned sheep and calves. Based on this sample, the scientists estimate that 5 metric tons (11,550 pounds) of bushmeat is being smuggled into Paris from Africa every week, with Cameroon (8,000 pounds), the Central African Republic (2,100 pounds), and the Republic of Congo (1,300 pounds) the chief offenders. “We were surprised by the estimated volumes—5 tonnes” [11,000 pounds] per week, Marcus Rowcliffe of the ZSL told me by e-mail. And with one passenger “carrying 51 kg [112 pounds] of bushmeat and no other luggage, strongly suggesting a link with trade rather than personal use,” it is clear that supplying bushmeat to the African diaspora is a thriving concern.

It also poses a serious threat to endangered species. After years in which conservationists focused on the loss of habitat as a chief reason for the disappearance of species, it has become clear that illegal hunting is taking a horrific toll on tropical wildlife populations. (NEWSWEEK described this growing threat in a 2007 cover story on the poaching of mountain gorillas in Congo, and in a 2008 story on “the extinction trade.” “While there is anecdotal evidence of international trade in bushmeat, including seizures of African bushmeat at airports, and the occasional prosecution of traders in European cities, it is a neglected aspect of the issue,” Rowcliffe and his collaborators write in the current issue of the journal Conservation Letters.

It is also against the law. The European Union prohibits passengers arriving in Europe from carrying any meat or meat products, partly because they may harbor pathogens but also because of the threat it poses to endangered wildlife. Yet despite this ban, the ZSL scientists could have opened their own butcher shop with what the customs agents found. (As it was, much of the bushmeat carried for sale rather than personal use was apparently destined for the market near Château Rouge station on Rue des Poissonniers in Paris, where middle-aged bushmeat is sold in the open. Prices: €20 and €30 per kilogram—or $11 to $13.50 per pound—for primate, crocodile, cane rat, and porcupine.)

The bushmeat arrived dressed and often smoked, which made identification a challenge. Although the pangolins, porcupines, and cane rats were obvious, the monkeys had to be identified by skeletal analysis. “But even then we were only able to identify the monkeys to genus level,” says Rowcliffe: guenons (Cercopithecus sp.) or mangabeys (Cercocebus sp.). All species in these genera are listed as endangered or threatened by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that international trade in these creatures is banned or highly restricted—and in any case, illegal for individual airline passengers. Trade in the Nile croc and slender-snouted croc is also banned, while trade in the blue duiker and pangolins is restricted, yet there they all were. All told, 39 percent of the bushmeat carcasses passengers were carrying represent species whose continued existence is sufficiently threatened as to make it illegal to bring them into Europe.

Although the estimated amount of bushmeat imported from Africa to France is a tiny proportion of the total estimated kill (upward of 2.2 million tons per year in the Congo basin, say the ZSL scientists), “the volume and nature of import and trade suggests the emergence of a luxury market for African bushmeat in Europe,” they write in their paper. “Imports are supplying an organized system of trade and are not solely being brought for personal consumption. . . . The development of a luxury market, linked to increasing affluence of the consumer population, is of particular concern because of the potential for demand to remain high even as supply dwindles and prices rise, potentially driving the extinction of even relatively resilient species.”

And don’t look for it to stop any time soon. Detecting and seizing bushmeat, or other forms of vanishing species, is not a priority for customs officials, who find it time-consuming, unpleasant, and potentially dangerous. Unlike seizures of illegal drugs, intercepting the bodies of animals whose species is on the brink of extinction does not qualify for bonuses. To make matters worse, “most of the passengers carrying illegal meat were angry and outraged while the meat got confiscated,” Chaber (who is now the animal care supervisor at Al Ain Wildlife Park in theUnited Arab Emirates) told me by e-mail. “These bad reactions made customs uneasy about implementing fines as they felt confiscation was already a strong punishment for the guilty passengers.”

But even if European governments don’t care enough about vanishing species to change their airport policies, there might be one easy fix. One third of the passengers carrying bushmeat were flying on discounted Air France tickets, which go to family members of employees. If the airline imposed penalties, including the threat of dismissal, on the staff members through whom the tickets were obtained, that nice Nile croc might not seem like such a tempting carry-on in the future.

Click the image above to view a photo gallery of the exotic animal trafficking industry.(
(this seems to be of mostly Asian seizures though the article is about African bushmeat-MA

Saturday, June 19, 2010

LOL!!! Geekologie post on Tsintaosaurus (aka Dildino)

This really made me laugh, i had to share-MA

Tsintaosaurus: The Sexiest Dino I Ever Saw

"Tsintaosaurus was like the unicorn of the Cretaceous Period. Except, instead of corns, they had penises growing out of their heads. Thanks, God!

Tsintaosaurus was a duck-billed dinosaur, or Hadrosaur, that lived in China about 84 to 71 million years ago. Like many Lambeosaurs, Tsintaosaurus is believed to have sported a fancy crest on its head. In this case, the crest is a skinny rod that stuck out above of the dinosaur's face much like a mythical unicorn's horn. A while back it was believed that this crest is actually just a piece of the animal's top jaw that had broken and become bent upwards. Then another specimen was found with the exact same feature, thus leading most people once again to believe that this animal indeed sported a unicorn crest.

Listen: unicorn horn, rod, crest -- I don't care what you call it, I just want it inside me.

CLICK HERE for a couple more shots of sexiest thing I've ever seen, including a close-up."

Optical Illusions powered by our evolution in a 3D world

i LOVE optical illusions - check out this gallery with explanations as to why our brain perceives as it does. Below - these two tables have the same dimensions, really! - MA

From Discover magazine via Neatorama

Neuroscientists usually explain color illusions in mechanistic terms: They arise because of the way cells in the retina and the brain respond to certain wavelengths of light. Those explanations miss the larger point, says Beau Lotto, a brain research at University College London. We misperceive colors and shapes because our visual sense has been molded by evolutionary history.

Go to the Discover magazine slideshow for more info on how are brain is tricked by optical illusions!

Nicholas D Kristof OpEd on African parents prioritizing boozing over their children's education

A plea for microfinance in subsaharan Africa: Although its uncomfortable to admit, this is happening in some of the poorest parts of Africa, parents (predominantly fathers) prioritize booze/cigs/petits nanas over their children's education. A really great NYtime OpEd report by Nicholas D Kristof.

I can't embed the vid so you can go to Nicholas D Kristof's facebook page to view the video (or the DNApes facebook page) or watch it on the NYTimes Website

Friday, June 18, 2010

5 TONNES of bushmeat brought to Europe each week through CdG alone!

From the BBC
Illegal bushmeat 'rife in Europe'

About 270 tonnes of illegal bushmeat could be passing through one of Europe's busiest airports each year, the first study of its kind estimates. A team of researchers says the illicit trade could pose a risk to human or animal health and increase the demand for meat from threatened species. The figure is based on seizures from searches carried out over 17 days at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The findings appear in the journal Conservation Letters.

A team of researchers from France, Cambodia and the UK said it was the "first systematic study of the scale and nature of this international trade". "We estimate that about five tonnes of bushmeat per week is smuggled in personal baggage through Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport," they wrote.

During the 17-day study, a total of 134 passengers arriving on 29 flights from 14 African nations were searched. Nine people were found to be carrying bushmeat, which had a combined mass of 188kg. In total, 11 species were found - including two types of primates, two kinds of crocodiles and three rodent species - four of which were listed as protected species.
'Lucrative trade'

Co-author Marcus Rowcliffe from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) explained why the international team of researchers decided to carry out the research.

"As no study like this had been carried out before, we really had no idea as to the volume of bushmeat coming into airports," he told BBC News. "It was a surprise when we saw how much was arriving."

The products were not only imported for personal consumption, but were part of a lucrative organised trade with high prices indicating luxury status, Dr Rowcliffe added. "A 4kg monkey will cost around 100 euros (£84), compared with just five euros in Cameroon," he said.

Based on the data gathered from the 29 flights covered by the study, the researchers then calculated the weekly and annual inward flow of bushmeat. "Assuming that (the study's) rates are representative of the average weekly rate over the year, this equates to... 273 tonnes of bushmeat," they calculated.

The team suggested that there were likely to be a number of factors behind the large volume of bushmeat being imported.

"First, detecting and seizing these products is not a priority," they explained.

"Second, penalties for importing illegal meat or fish are low and rarely imposed. Third, the rewards for transporting bushmeat are potentially high."

The researchers acknowledged that the study had a short time scale and limited geographical coverage, and said that a longer and large scale survey was now required to build on the findings.
However, they added that their study did allow them to consider ways to control the trade. They suggest offering incentives to customs officers, increasing the penalties for illegally importing the products and raising awareness among passengers that bringing such products into the EU was prohibited.

The team concluded: "The large scale of current imports makes it important to consider all options for reducing the flow of illegal meat and fish, and of bushmeat in particular."

Thanks to Genevieve C and Linn G for the link

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More great things about poop: Whale poop creates massive carbon sinks

Whale Poop Cleans the Environment
Whale waste is rich in iron so it stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, which then serve as carbon traps that remove some 400,000 estimated tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

  • New research shows that sperm whale waste stimulates carbon removal from the environment.
  • Since carbon has been linked to greenhouse gases, sperm whales likely reduce global warming.
  • Other marine mammals probably also help to remove carbon from the environment.
Sperm whale waste isn't much to look at -- a diarrhea-like substance with a few squid beaks floating around -- but new research has found it removes carbon from the atmosphere, helping to offset greenhouse gases that have been tied to global warming.

Sperm whales in the Southern Ocean release 220,462 tons of carbon when they exhale carbon dioxide at the water's surface, but their poo stimulates the drawdown of 440,925 tons of carbon, according to the research, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

These ocean giants and certain other marine mammals may therefore be among the most environmentally beneficial animals on the planet.

"If Southern Ocean sperm whales were at their historic levels, meaning their population size before whaling, we would have an extra 2 million tonnes (2,204,623 tons) of carbon being removed from our atmosphere each and every year," lead author Trisha Lavery Told Discovery News.

Lavery, a marine biologist at Flinders University of South Australia, and her colleagues explained how the cleaning process works.

It begins with sperm whales feeding on squid and fish, their favorite prey, deep in the ocean. The whales then return to the water's surface to relieve themselves.

"They do this because they shut down their non-crucial biological functions when they dive," Lavery said. "So it's only when they come to the surface to rest that they defecate."

Their waste comes out as a giant liquid plume (save for the undigested squid beaks) that showers over minute aquatic plant "seed stocks," which she said are "just floating around waiting for nutrients so they can use them to grow and reproduce." The whale poo provides these nutrients, functioning as a natural fertilizer.

The plants -- phytoplankton -- take up carbon from the ocean as they grow. Through the entire life and death cycle of these plants, the carbon then stays "trapped" for centuries to millennium.

Published estimates suggest that 12,000 sperm whales currently inhabit the Southern Ocean. Lavery and her team estimated the amount of prey consumed by each whale, along with the iron content of that prey. Iron is a critical phytoplankton fertilizer component.

Assuming that 75 percent of defecated iron persists in the photic -- or light receiving zone -- of the ocean, Southern Ocean sperm whales contribute 40 tons of iron to this region each year.

Humans driving cars, burning coal and engaging in other activities pump enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, something that whales could never entirely offset.

"However, most whales are currently at 1 to 10 percent of their historical population sizes, so in the past, whales may have made a substantial contribution to carbon drawdown," Lavery said, adding that other marine mammals probably beneficially redistribute carbon just as whales do. These may include seals, sea lions and other types of whales, such as fin whales.

Unfortunately, some of these species wind up on sushi plates in restaurants here and abroad. A recent covert operation conducted by Scott Baker, associate director of Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, determined that sashimi purchased at prominent sushi restaurants consisted of fin whale flesh, along with that of Antarctic minke whales, sei whales and a Risso's dolphin.

Lavery hopes all of the new research will help fuel efforts to conserve whales and other marine mammals.

"It is sometimes thought that conservationists try to 'save the whales' only because they are cute, however my work and the research of others is increasingly showing that whales play a crucial role in marine ecosystems," she said. "We must protect whales in order to have healthy, well-functioning marine ecosystems."

Lavery TJ, Roudnew B, Seymour J, Seuront L, Johnson G, Mitchell JG, Smetacek V (2010) Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0863

The iron-limited Southern Ocean plays an important role in regulating atmospheric CO2 levels. Marine mammal respiration has been proposed to decrease the efficiency of the Southern Ocean biological pump by returning photosynthetically fixed carbon to the atmosphere. Here, we show that by consuming prey at depth and defecating iron-rich liquid faeces into the photic zone, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) instead stimulate new primary production and carbon export to the deep ocean. We estimate that Southern Ocean sperm whales defecate 50 tonnes of iron into the photic zone each year. Molar ratios of Cexport ∶Feadded determined during natural ocean fertilization events are used to estimate the amount of carbon exported to the deep ocean in response to the iron defecated by sperm whales. We find that Southern Ocean sperm whales stimulate the export of 4 × 105 tonnes of carbon per year to the deep ocean and respire only 2 × 105 tonnes of carbon per year. By enhancing new primary production, the populations of 12 000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean act as a carbon sink, removing 2 × 105 tonnes more carbon from the atmosphere than they add during respiration. The ability of the Southern Ocean to act as a carbon sink may have been diminished by large-scale removal of sperm whales during industrial whaling.

I had no idea a doe could kick so much ass! (read spoiler before watching)

This video probably requires an introductory spoiler, because the content will upset some viewers.

A fawn is discovered on a suburban street, where it is investigated (uneventfully) by a housecat. The doe arrives to guide the fawn away, but then sees a neighborhood dog, and her protective instincts kick into high gear: she ruthlessly pummels the dog with her front hooves. The cat eventually gets in a final slap and then beats a hasty retreat.

The deer’s attack on the dog will distress dog owners, but it serves as a reminder that from a deer’s point of view a dog is just a well-groomed coyote threatening her offspring.

(The person who posted the video left a followup comment that the dog appeared to recover from the beating.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clever critters: Bonobos that share, brainy bugs and social dogs

Dr. Brian Hare and Tassie doing some serious science
From Scientific American

When it comes to brain power, we humans like to think we're the animal kingdom's undisputed champions. But in the past few decades we've had to make a lot of room on our mantle place for shared trophies. Problem-solving? Sorry, but crows and octopuses do that too. Tool use? Primates, birds and even fish have learned that trick. It turns out our human cognitive abilities are just not as unique as we once thought.

The collapsing divisions between animal and human minds is exactly what a group of scientists gathered to discuss on Saturday, June 5, at a World Science Festival panel, "All Creatures Great and Smart." WNYC radio host Jad Abumrad mediated the talk.

The first topic of conversation was a behavior known as altruism: selflessly helping a stranger. Brian Hare, who studies ape psychology at Duke University, described a recent experiment on this kind of cooperation in bonobos—primates that are in the same genus as chimpanzees.

"We wanted to challenge that notion that humans are unique and test whether one of our closest relatives is capable of voluntarily sharing," Hare said. In the study, published earlier this year in Current Biology, researchers showed a bonobo into a room with some food inside. Instead of hogging all the grub, the bonobo consistently chose to unlock the door of an adjacent room and share the food with an unfamiliar bonobo.

The exact intentions behind this altruistic behavior remain unclear. Bonobos could expect a stranger to return the favor in the future, or "they could just be saying, 'You know what? I just want to go on a blind date,'" said Hare.

But "the smartest thing about bonobos is that they live in a society with very little violence," said Vanessa Woods, a science communicator and researcher at Duke, who is married to Hare. Woods explained how close-knit groups of females work together to keep the peace in bonobo societies, recounting an incident in which five unrelated female bonobos chased down a male bonobo who slapped another female for no reason. "One male can be stronger than one female, but no male is stronger than five females," Woods said.

"I try to stay good friends with all her girlfriends," Hare said of his wife, in a joking aside.

Altruism, sharing and cooperation aren't the only sophisticated behaviors animals demonstrate, the panelists explained. Klaus Zuberbühler, who studies the cognitive abilities of non-human primates, has found the rudiments of language in certain monkeys. Vervet and Diana monkeys, for example, have different alarm calls for different predators, reacting in the most appropriate way to signs of a leopard, eagle or snake. What recently astonished researchers is that monkeys aren't the only ones eavesdropping on each other—birds listen for the distinct calls as well.

Yellow-casqued hornbills—tropical birds that sport dusty orange mohawks—always perk up when Diana monkeys sound the eagle alarm, since eagles are a common enemy. But hornbills don't react to the Diana’s leopard alarm calls, because leopards usually can't catch the high-flying birds.

After so much talk about clever monkeys and apes, the panel switched their focus to a group of critters most people don't associate with intelligence: bugs.

"Insects can accomplish some very sophisticated things without big brains," said Jeremy Niven, an insect neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge. "It kind of makes you wonder why you need an extra billion neurons to be able to do something that a human does."

A slow-motion video of locusts traversing a horizontal ladder made of cocktail sticks played behind the panel. Niven explained how his recent studies show that locusts, despite their tiny brains, use their vision to control their swift leg movements with incredible precision, never missing a rung of the ladder even when the gaps between rungs are inconsistent between trial runs.

For a laugh, Niven also highlighted footage from an experiment designed to shed light on whether bees have aesthetic sensibilities. In the end, all the study showed is that bees prefer Van Gogh's Sunflowers to more classical flower portraits and to other colorful but flowerless paintings. "It's not really science," Niven said, chuckling, "but it's interesting nonetheless."

The panel discussion concluded with a dog show—a mini-parade of canine intelligence.

To set up the show, Hare explained that although many animals can think and make decisions, questions remain about whether animals can interpret the thoughts of others—an ability called "theory of mind" that humans develop by age three or four. One way to test this is to ask whether animals understand the same kinds of social cues human infants learn to recognize—like voice, gesture and gaze.

Sammy, a small white dog reminiscent of Toto from The Wizard of Oz, trotted on stage with his helper. Hare hid a piece of cheese in one of two tall bowls and pointed to the bowl containing the tempting morsel. Sammy immediately followed his direction.

"Are we sure Sammy isn't smelling the food?" Abumrad asked.

Hare tried the experiment again, but didn't point at any bowl this time. Sammy tried the wrong bowl and then wandered the stage. "When he doesn't have a social cue, he goes to the wrong place," Hare said. "We've found that dogs are incredibly good at this. They don't use olfactory cues—they would much prefer that you help them."

It's especially interesting that dogs are so good at taking social direction because chimpanzees, in contrast, rarely understand the same cues in the same kind of test. The chimps just don't get it.

In some ways, neither do we. As the panel demonstrated, animal minds are wrapped in many mysterious layers that we're only beginning to unravel.

Interpsecies cuddling or possibly a confused leopard playing with its food...

Thanks to Claudio T for the link

Red squirrels adopt young of relatives

From Africa Geographic via their facebook page

Red squirrels found adopting young of relatives

At first glance, this picture of a red squirrel tenderly cradling a baby seem incredibly touching, but according to research in Canada this is more about survival than altruism.

University of Alberta’s Jamieson Gorrell had been watching a red squirrel population in Yukon when he came across a female that had adopted a newborn squirrel abandoned by its biological mother.

The adoptive mother had taken the baby from its nest back to another in a nearby tree where she then cared for it.

Squirrels are among the most solitary animals, having little to do with one another, so the adoption of a foundling struck Gorrell as an anomaly. But while checking through nearly 20 years of research gathered by the university on the squirrel population, he made a breatkthrough discovery.

On four other occasions, over the life of the study, female red squirrels had adopted abandoned baby squirrels and, in every case, Gorrell found that the foundling was related to its adoptive mother.

Unlike social animals such as chimpanzees, the solitary, anti-social squirrels were able to identify kinship without making contact with one another.

The researchers think that before the biological mother disappeared the adoptive mother to be, recognized a genetic link between them. Gorrell’s team theorized that the constant vocalizing *or* chattering a squirrel uses to mark its territory and ward of intruders contains signals describing its genetic history. The adopting mother knew the biological mother was family and after it disappeared she recognized her genetic connection to the abandoned baby.

This research is significant because it proves a long-accepted theory of evolutionary biology is correct for a solitary, non-social animal. Hamilton’s Rule, dating back to 1963, explains that despite the so-called law of the jungle and survival of the fittest, altruistic behavior can exist. But this altruism is restricted to family members only.

Female red squirrels will only adopt an abandoned baby it shares common genes with and will pick only one lucky squirrel from an entire litter.

Gorrell says that having an extra family member helps the adopting mother ensure a continuation of the gene pool. But adopting more than one would be out of the question because the costs to the adoptive mother and her own biological offspring outweights any potential benefit.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The majority of rehabilitated oiled birds survive. 1% survival rate debunked.

From the International Bird Rescue Research Center via the Association of Zoos and Aquariums facebook page
by JAY HOLCOMB, IBRRC's Executive Director:

Hi everyone. We are very busy here in Louisiana at the gulf oil spill, but doing well. We are washing the very oiled pelicans and other birds that you have seen on TV and most of them are doing very well. More on that aspect of our work later. I want to address a few issues that have come up in the media recently. First of all, let me say that this is the time during an oil spill that the skeptics come out. These “experts” are quoted and their opinions, no matter how ill researched or biased they are, become controversial and newsworthy. I spent much time during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 21 years ago, and in every other oil spill since then addressing them and I now just consider this a part of the politics of an oil spill.

For those who are concerned about the survival rates of oiled birds, based on recent news coverage (or the outdated studies they cite), I’d like to address the topic head-on. I am writing from personal experience, as a veteran of more than 200 oil spills, and as a representative of one of the foremost oiled bird rescue and research organizations in the world. IBRRC and Tri-State Bird Rescue--who is leading the Gulf response effort--host a bi-annual conference on the Effects of Oil on Wildlife, and, as such, are well versed in the latest science. The “experts” that I am referring to rarely, if ever, attend this global forum for oiled wildlife professionals, nor do they attempt to learn about advancements and successes in oiled wildlife rehabilitation.

How well do birds survive in the wild when they have been oiled and rehabilitated?

Recent studies (a few of which are listed below) indicate that birds can be successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild, where many survive for years and breed.

The papers cited by opponents of oiled bird rehabilitation—like Oregon’s biologist Brian Sharp’s infamous 1996 report "Post Release Survival of Oiled, Cleaned Seabirds in North America" Ibis. Vol. 138:222-228—tend to rely on anecdotal band returns (meaning there is no daily tracking method for individuals released and no control groups observed.) These surveys are misleading because they fail to consider some important variables: the protocols used to care for the birds in question, the experience of the organization caring for the oiled birds and basic things like how the bird’s health and water proofing were assessed prior to release.

Simply put, one would not lump together the survival rates of human patients receiving emergency trauma care between two hospitals like Mogadishu's Madina Hospital and New York's Bellevue Hospital. Yet surveys like Sharp's do just that, they lump together released birds treated at various centers, under different conditions, with different resources and experience levels.

Studies support oiled, properly treated sea birds

A growing number of studies using radio telemetry, satellite tracking and long-term breeding colony observations are more accurately illustrating the post oiling survival of sea birds:

Wolfaardt, A.C. and D.C. Nel. 2003, Breeding Productivity and Annual cycle of Rehabilitated African Penguin Following Oiling. Rehabilitation of oiled African Penguins: A Conservation Success Story.

Newman, S.H., Golightly, R.T., H.R. Carter, E.N. Craig, and J.K. Mazet 2001, Post-Release Survival of Common Murres (Uria aalge) Following the Stuyvesant Oil Spill.

Golightly. R.T., S.H. Newman, E.N. Craig, H.R. Carter and J.K. Mazet. 2002, Survival and Behavior of Western Gulls Following Exposure to Oil and Rehabilitation.

Anderson, D.W., F. Gress, and D.M. Fry 1996, Survival and dispersal of oiled Brown Pelicans after rehabilitation and release.

These studies indicate that many seabirds do survive the oiling and rehabilitation process successfully returning to their wild condition. And in some cases (when birds are located and observed in breeding colonies) have been shown to breed successfully for many years following their oiling, rehabilitation and release. These studies show that a bird’s survival is often based on how a specific species can cope with the stress of the entire process from oiling to rehabilitation, and that their overall survivorship across species is far greater than Sharp’s assertions. As survivorship may be correlated to individual species it is irresponsible to draw conclusions of survivability from one species to another, rather, in depth studies must be conducted for each species considered if we are to begin to answer this question with any measure of reliability.

Pelicans handle stress better than most birds

In regards to pelicans specifically, IBRRC works year-round with brown pelicans at our two rescue centers in California, treating, on average, 500 injured, sick and oiled pelicans every year. Our release rate on these animals is 80% or higher for general rehabilitation. Pelicans, like penguins, can tolerate the stress of rehabilitation much better than birds like loons and murres for example. All of our birds (including pelicans) are federally tagged upon release. Sightings and band recoveries indicate that a high percentage of them survive. One recent example was a brown pelican, oiled and rehabilitated, during the American Trader spill in 1990 in Southern California. This bird was sighted still alive in Newport Beach earlier this year, 20 years on, and is considered one of the oldest brown pelicans ever recorded.

While this is just one bird it is a good example of the type of band returns we see from oiled and non-oiled pelicans. Of course it’s important to also remember that it is these individual birds that make up populations. At the ‘New Carissa’ oil spill in Oregon in 1999, the snowy plover population in Coos Bay was 30-45 birds. We captured 31 and rehabilitated all of them. They are an intensely studied bird and each one is considered valuable to the species. Studies of the birds showed that there was no difference in the mortality of these previously oiled birds to those never oiled.

What gives IBRRC, and Tri-State Bird Rescue, the best chance to make a difference to threatened species during oil spills is the year-round dedication to saving individual lives that has been at the heart of our mission for nearly 40 years. This approach has helped us to develop teams of trained animal care and oiled wildlife professionals that understand the intricacies of this specific field of rehabilitation and continually strive to improve our techniques as well as build a more comprehensive scientific picture of our work over time.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation announces decision not to award 2010 Ibrahim Prize

from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation website via the Mo Ibrahim facebook page
(to read/download the full press release go here)

The Prize Committee met yesterday to discuss the award of the 2010 Mo Ibrahim Prize. Following its deliberations, the Prize Committee informed the Board of the Foundation that it had not selected a winner.

Last year the Prize Committee announced that it had considered some credible candidates, but after in depth review could not select a winner. This year the Prize Committee told the Board that there had been no new candidates or new developments and that therefore no selection of a winner had been made.

The Ibrahim Prize recognises and celebrates excellence in African leadership. The prize is awarded to a democratically elected former African Executive Head of State or Government who has served their term in office within the limits set by the country's constitution and has left office in the last three years.

The first winner of the Prize was Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique in 2007,
followed by Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana in 2008. In addition Nelson Mandela was made an Honorary Laureate in 2007.

Responding to the Prize Committee’s decision, Mo Ibrahim, the founder and Chairman of the Mo
Ibrahim Foundation, said: “The Board respects the decision of the Prize Committee not to select a winner for the 2010 prize."

The Prize Committee, which is independent from the Board, is a unique repository of experience and expertise.

“Whether there is a winner or not, the purpose of the Foundation is to challenge those in Africa and across the world to debate what constitutes excellence in leadership.

“The standards set for the Prize winner are high, and the number of potential candidates each year is small. So it is likely that there will be years when no Prize is awarded. In the current year, no new candidates emerged.

“Many African countries are making great strides not just economically, but also in terms of their
governance. The Ibrahim Index, which measures the performance of African countries across around 80 governance criteria, indicates that the overall standard of governance is improving.

“Nevertheless, the Foundation is anything but complacent about the standards of governance in
Africa. Its mission is to improve governance and nurture leadership in Africa. It is clear that much more needs to be done. It is for that reason that the Foundation has decided to promote
complementary initiatives.

“For example, the Foundation will shortly be launching the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships, a
selective programme designed to identify and prepare the next generation of outstanding African leaders by providing them with mentoring opportunities in key multilateral institutions. The programme will seek to attract a number of highly qualified and talented professionals each year to serve in leading institutions whose core objective to improve the prospects of the people of Africa.

“The Foundation is currently working with pan-African organisations to design the fellowships. It will announce further details of them at the Foundation’s annual celebration and forum on governance to be held in Mauritius in November. Applications will open shortly afterwards and we expect the first Leadership Fellows to begin their Fellowships early next year.

“The task of promoting good African leadership is more important than ever. Good governance is
crucial if African people are to share in the strong economic growth that many are predicting for
Africa. There are many ways to support great leadership. The prize is one such way, the fellowships will be another.”

1. The decision of the 2010 Ibrahim prize was determined by the Prize Committee of seven
eminent individuals. The Prize Committee assesses democratically elected former Executive
Heads of State or Government from sub-Saharan African countries who have served their
term in office within the limits set by their country’s constitution, and have left office within
the last three years

2. The Ibrahim Prize consists of US$5million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life
thereafter. The Foundation will consider granting a further $200,000 per year, for 10 years,
towards public interest activities and good causes espoused by the winner.

3. The Prize Committee is chaired by former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel
Laureate Kofi Annan and comprised of Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and
Nobel Laureate; Aïcha Bah Diallo, former Minister of Education in Guinea and Deputy
Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO; Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director
General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Laureate; Graça Machel,
Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, and former Minister of Education and Culture in
Mozambique; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights (and Board member of the Foundation); Salim Ahmed
Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and former Prime
Minister of Tanzania (and Board member of the Foundation)

4. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was launched in October 2006 and is committed to supporting
excellence in African leadership. It was founded by Mo Ibrahim, one of Africa’s most
successful business entrepreneurs, and has the support of a number of global figures,
including Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela and Amartya Sen. The Foundation aims to stimulate
debate around, and improve the quality of, governance in Africa

5. The previous winners of the Ibrahim Prize are Festus Mogae, the former President of
Botswana, Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique and Nelson Mandela,
who was made an Honorary Laureate in recognition of his extraordinary leadership qualities
and achievements

6. The full data of the 2009 Ibrahim Index of African Governance has been published on the
Foundation’s website:
The 2010 Index will be released in October