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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' eva.mpg.de.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Canada failing badly at animal protection

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
-Mahatma Gandhi

I received this action alert from the WSPA today, regarding Canada's failure in making and upholding animal cruelty laws. This is not just about livestock. This is about puppy mills, dog fights, your angry neighbour beating his "pets" and the guy who "doesn't know he has to provide water to his horse". Less that 0.25% of people tried for animal cruelty are convicted; if a law is even in place to try them at all.

I have almost always been proud of the country that welcomed my Italian grandparents and East European father, treated them as equal citizens and allowed them to prosper. I loved that I grew up pretty much colourblind and with a strong sense of equality and human rights. I was always encouraged to speak up when I disagreed with the system and never feared that my voice would be silenced. These are the values that Canadian society instilled in me.

More and more though, Canada is garnering a poor international reputation for its wildlife and environmental policies (I am thinking the seal hunt and our attitude at the recent climate meetings off the top of my head). Since I live in Europe at the moment, i get to know pretty quickly how the world feels about my homeland, and I find myself defending, or feeling ashamed of, Canada more and more. Canada is so good at so many things and is a model for how a society should work. But everytime we take a step backward, in this case with regards to blatant animal cruelty, it becomes harder to highlight all the progress our nation has made and to lead other nations by example in the hopes that fairness prevails across the globe. In this video, you will see that Canada is behind all EU countries (plus Switzerland and Sweden) and even the US when it comes to animal rights. You will even hear Europeans speaking about Canada's good reputation and that they are astounded that we are treating our animals worse than they do. We can't rest on the laurels of past greatness, if we don't step up, Canada's good reputation will be lost.

I also think that unless we get our own national legislation in order regarding treating animals as sentient beings and not property, it will be difficult to convince other nations to take the first steps to do the same. This relates to the wild animal pet trade, the bushmeat crisis and other conservation issues.

One thing I have been thinking a lot about is banning pet stores from selling dogs and cats, yesterday it was revealed that San Francisco is putting forth legislation to do just that (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jul/10/san-francisco-hits-nerve-with-pet-sale-ban-idea/). In Germany, it is already illegal to sell cats and dogs in stores, as a consequence there are no puppy mills and their animal shelters are by and far, no kill. Banning the sale of animals in pet stores would not destroy pet stores either. more than 70% of North American homes have a dog or a cat and these people spend more and more on perchadise and pet care every year. A slight switch from pet sales to pet merch sales would not be a big deal for pet stores. Tax payers would also save money since less animals would need to be euthanized, spayed, neutered and housed at pounds too.

You don't have to be an animal lover to see how he way Canada is treating it's animals is wrong. Please watch the video and if you agree that animals should not be treated this way, go to the WSPA website that will generate a letter (which you can personalize) to contact the MP for your riding. Thank You-MA

From the WSPA:
On Wednesday, Global TV aired an investigative documentary called "Revealed: No Country for Animals" which provides more evidence that Canada falls behind other countries in protecting animals from cruelty and abuse. The documentary was heart-wrenching for me to watch, but I believe it provides us with a great opportunity. If we can get politicians to watch it, they won't be able to turn a blind eye - they will have to do something about the many issues facing Canada's animals.

As someone who is passionate about animal welfare, I'm asking for your help. Contact your MP now: ask them to watch the documentary and encourage them to stand up against animal cruelty. Visit our website http://www.wspa.ca/curbthecruelty to take action now.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

*updated* Are wildlife conservation projects doing more harm than good?

*update*: Boo M drew my attention to the following related paper:
Wittemyer, G., Elsen, P., Bean, W.T., Burton, A.C.O., Brashares, J.S., 2008. Accelerated human population growth at protected area edges. Science 321, 123-126.

Abstract
Protected areas (PAs) have long been criticized as creations of and f...or an elite few, where
associated costs, but few benefits, are borne by marginalized rural communities. Contrary to
predictions of this argument, we found that average human population growth rates on the borders of 306 PAs in 45 countries in Africa and Latin America were nearly double average rural growth, suggesting that PAs attract, rather than repel, human settlement. Higher population growth on PA edges is evident across ecoregions, countries, and continents and is correlated positively with international donor investment in national conservation programs and an index of park-related funding. These findings provide insight on the value of PAs for local people, but also highlight a looming threat to PA effectiveness and biodiversity conservation.


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original post (amended in light of above paper):
I have not yet read this book, but I am sure Ms. Duffy will be making a ton of new enemies with its release. If you can, try to take a step back and listen to what she is saying. I am not saying she is 100% correct but she makes some good points. Ecotourism won't work everywhere and in some places it is doing a lot of damage when people are under the assumption that they are contributing to the protection of our global resources. We need people to be brave and say that we are making mistakes. We then need people to learn from these mistakes and want to change and move forward. We need to think of alternatives to ecotourism and find new ways to make people care about the forests and the environment. -MA


From the Guardian
by AMELIA HILL
Wildlife conservation projects do more harm than good, says expert
New book claims western-style schemes to protect animals damage the environment and criminalise local people

Ecotourism and western-style conservation projects are harming wildlife, damaging the environment, and displacing and criminalising local people, according to a controversial new book.

The pristine beaches and wildlife tours demanded by overseas tourists has led to developments that do not benefit wildlife, such as beaches being built, mangroves stripped out, waterholes drilled and forests cleared, says Rosaleen Duffy, a world expert on the ethical dimensions of wildlife conservation and management.

These picture-perfect images all too often hide a "darker history", she adds. Her new book, Nature Crime: How We're Getting Conservation Wrong, which draws on 15 years of research, 300 interviews with conservation professionals, local communities, tour operators and government officials, is published today.

When wildlife reserves are established, Duffy says, local communities can suddenly find that their everyday subsistence activities, such as hunting and collecting wood, have been outlawed.

At the same time, well-intentioned attempts to protect the habitats of animal species on the edge of extinction lead to the creation of wild, "people-free" areas. This approach has led to the displacement of millions of people across the world.

"Conservation does not constitute neat win-win scenarios. Schemes come with rules and regulations that criminalise communities, dressed up in the language of partnership and participation, coupled with promises of new jobs in the tourism industry," claims Duffy, professor of international politics at Manchester University.

A key failure of the western-style conservation approach is the assumption that people are the enemies of wildlife conservation – that they are the illegal traders, the poachers, the hunters and the habitat destroyers. Equally flawed, she says, is the belief that those engaged in conservation are "wildlife saviours".

Such images, she argues, are oversimplifications. "The inability to negotiate these conflicts and work with people on the ground is where conservation often sows the seeds of its own doom," she adds.

"Why do some attempts to conserve wildlife end up pitting local communities against conservationists?" she asks. "It is because they are regarded as unjust impositions, despite their good intentions. This is vital because failing to tackle such injustices damages wildlife conservation in the long run."

Duffy stresses that her intention is not to persuade people to stop supporting conservation schemes. "Wildlife is under threat and we need to act urgently," she acknowledges. Instead, she says, she wants to encourage environmentalists to examine what the real costs and benefits of conservation are, so that better practices for people and for animals can be developed.

"The assumption that the ends justify the means results in a situation where the international conservation movement and their supporters around the world assume they are making ethical and environmentally sound decisions to save wildlife," she says. "In fact, they are supporting practices that have counterproductive, unethical and highly unjust outcomes."

Duffy focuses on what she says is the fallacious belief that ecotourism is a solution to the problem of delivering economic development in an environmentally sustainable way.

This is, she says, a "bewitchingly simple argument" but the assumption that such tourism necessarily translates into the kinds of development that benefits wildlife is far too simplistic.

"Holiday makers are mostly unaware of how their tourist paradises have been produced," she says. "They assume that the picture-perfect landscape or the silver Caribbean beach is a natural feature. This is very far from the truth. Tourist playgrounds are manufactured environments, usually cleared of people. Similarly, hotel construction in tropical areas can result in clearing ecologically important mangroves or beach building which harms coral reefs."

But the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, one of the four biggest environmental NGOs in the world, maintains that the loss of wildlife is one of the most important challenges facing our planet. As such, a powerful focus on conservation is necessary: "Conservation is essential so let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater," says a WWF-UK spokesman. "There are examples out there where ecotourism is working and has thrown a lifeline to communities in terms of economics and social benefits, as well as added biodiversity benefits.

"Let's have more of those projects that are working for everybody and everything," he adds. "There is no one

Rhino Miraculously Survives Chainsaw Attack by Poachers in South Africa



From bushwarriors


In a horrifying testament to the brutality of the illegal rhino horn trade, a vicious attack by poachers in a South African reserve has robbed a female rhino of her horns, her sense of smell, her one-month-old calf, and her ability to communicate with other rhinos.

Poachers reportedly used a chainsaw to brutally cut away the rhino’s horns after darting her with a tranquilizer in Tugela Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, between Ladysmith and Colenso.

The blades cut so deep into the rhino’s skull that her horns will never grow back, leaving her permanently disfigured and without her sense of smell, which is the rhino’s main method of communicating with one another.

Because she was unable to smell, the rhino could not locate her helpless one-month-old calf, who was later found dead.

Illegal rhino horn destined for China and Vietnam

A recent report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC revealed that most illegal rhino horn leaving southern Africa is destined for consumer markets in China and Vietnam, where traditional Chinese medicine containing rhino horn has been used for thousands of years to treat an assortment of ailments, from fevers to boils – and even devil possession.

However, overwhelming scientific evidence has confirmed that rhino horn actually contains no medicinal properties, as demonstrated by world-renowned rhino horn expert Dr. Raj Amin in the following video:

Breaking up is like detoxing (aka your love, your love, your love, is my drug)

From Science Daily
Anguish of Romantic Rejection May Be Linked to Stimulation of Areas of Brain Related to Motivation, Reward and Addiction

Breaking up really is hard to do, and a recent study conducted at Stony Brook University found evidence that it may be partly due to the areas of the brain that are active during this difficult time.

The team of researchers, which included Arthur Aron, Ph.D., professor of social and health psychology in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, and former graduate students Greg Strong and Debra Mashek looked at subjects who had a recent break-up and found that the pain and anguish they were experiencing may be linked to activation of parts of the brain associated with motivation, reward and addiction cravings. The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

"This brain imaging study of individuals who were still 'in love' with their rejecter supplies further evidence that the passion of 'romantic love' is a goal-oriented motivation state rather than a specific emotion" the researchers concluded, noting that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. "The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction."

The study also helps to explain "why feelings and behaviors related to romantic rejection are difficult to control" and why extreme behaviors associated with romantic rejection such as stalking, homicide, suicide, and clinical depression occur in cultures all over the world, the researchers wrote.

"Romantic rejection is a major cause of suicides and depression. We have known very little about it. Understanding the neural systems involved is extremely important both for advancing our basic knowledge of intense romantic love in general and of response to rejection in particular," said Dr. Aron. "The specific findings are significant because they tell us that the basic patterns seen in previous studies of happy love share key elements with love under these circumstances; they also tell us that what is unique to romantic rejection includes elements that are very much like craving for cocaine."

The study was headed by Helen Fisher, a research professor and member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick, N.J., and co-author Lucy L. Brown of the Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the Bronx, N.Y. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activity in 15 college-age, heterosexual men and women who had recently been rejected by their partners. All reported that they were still intensely "in love" with that former partner, spent the majority of their waking hours thinking of the person who rejected them, and yearned for the person to return. Participants were shown a photograph of their former partner, then completed a simple math exercise to distract them from their romantic thoughts. They then viewed a photograph of a familiar "neutral" person.

The researchers found that viewing photographs of their former partners stimulated several key areas of the participants' brains to a greater degree than when they looked at photos of neutral persons. The areas are:

* the ventral tegmental area in the mid-brain, which controls motivation and reward and is known to be involved in feelings of romantic love,
* the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, which are associated with craving and addiction, specifically the dopaminergic reward system evident in cocaine addiction, and
* the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate, which are associated with physical pain and distress.

"It shows that intense romantic love seems to function much like an addiction," Dr. Aron said. "But that does not tell us one way or the other whether the desire to be in love in general is an addiction." Dr. Aron noted that some of what has been learned over the years in this area may be useful in helping people attempting to recover from drug addiction.

The study also provided some evidence that "time heals all wounds." Researchers found that as time passed, an area of the brain associated with attachment -- the right ventral putamen/pallidum area -- showed less activity when the participants viewed photographs of their former partners.

---
Reference
Fisher HE, Brown LL, Aron A , Strong G, Mashek D (2010) Reward, Addiction and Emotion Regulation Systems Associated with Rejection in Love. Journal of Neurophysiology, 2010; DOI: 10.1152/jn.00784.2009

ABSTRACT
Romantic rejection causes a profound sense of loss and negative affect. It can induce clinical depression and in extreme cases lead to suicide and/or homicide. To begin to identify the neural systems associated with this natural loss state, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study 10 women and 5 men who had recently been rejected by a partner but reported they were still intensely "in love." Participants alternately viewed a photograph of their rejecting beloved and a photograph of a familiar, individual, interspersed with a distraction-attention task. Their responses while looking at their rejecter included love, despair, good, and bad memories, and wondering why this happened. Activation specific to the image of the beloved occurred in areas associated with gains and losses, craving and emotion regulation and included the ventral tegmental area (VTA) bilaterally, ventral striatum, medial and lateral orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, and cingulate gyrus. Compared with data from happily-in-love individuals, the regional VTA activation suggests that mesolimbic reward/survival systems are involved in romantic passion regardless of whether one is happily or unhappily in love. Forebrain activations associated with motivational relevance, gain/loss, cocaine craving, addiction, and emotion regulation suggest that higher-order systems subject to experience and learning also may mediate the rejection reaction. The results show activation of reward systems, previously identified by monetary stimuli, in a natural, endogenous, negative emotion state. Activation of areas involved in cocaine addiction may help explain the obsessive behaviors associated with rejection in love.

200 chimps are being put back in US lab testing - here's how you can help!


From Save the Chimps
STC's Statement on the APF's Chimpanzees

The National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), one of the components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that provides funding for federally owned or supported chimpanzees. recently announced plans to relocate over 200 chimpanzees living at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) on Holloman Air Force Base to The Southwest National Primate ResearchCenter (SNPRC) near San Antonio, TX, where they may be subject to invasive biomedical research. These chimpanzees should not be confused with the 266 chimpanzees STC rescued in 2002 from The Coulston Foundation. The STC chimps are safe and will never be returned to biomedical research. However, Save the Chimps believes that the APF chimps, who have not been used in biomedical research for nearly ten years, deserve permanent retirement. Taxpayer dollars being used to relocate the chimps, construct new housing at SNPRC, and provide for their daily care in the laboratory should instead be used to fund their lifetime care in a sanctuary. Save the Chimps encourages our supporters to contact their representatives on behalf of the APF chimpanzees, requesting that the chimps be retired permanently to a
sanctuary, with funding provided for their lifetime care.

Please visit Animal Protection of New Mexico or Project R & R for further information on how to help.

For more details on the difference between the Alamogordo Primate Facility chimps, and the chimpanzees rescued by Save the Chimps, click here.
For additional info go to the humanesociety.org and click here to send an online letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vigilante Justice: Game manager injecting poison into rhino horns to make rhino horn consumers sick


From mongabay.com
Already illegal, one man tests poisoning rhino horn too
JEREMY HANCE

Given the epidemic of rhino poaching across Africa and Asia, which has placed four out of five species in jeopardy of extinction, one fed-up game manager wants to take the fight beyond the poachers to the consumer. Ed Hern, owner of the Lion and Rhino Park near Johannesburg, told South Africa's The Times that he has begun working with a veterinarian on injecting poison into a rhino's horn to consumers. He told The Times that people who consumed poisoned rhino horn "would get very sick or die".

Unlike the consumer, the rhino likely wouldn't be hurt by the poison, since their was no blood flow from the horn into the rest of the animal. Still Hern was watching his test rhino to make sure it wasn't showing symptoms.

Hern has been warned by unnamed lawyers that he could get "into a lot of trouble" if someone is harmed by ingesting rhino harm that was poisoned.

Banned worldwide by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) rhino horn is used as a traditional curative in Chinese medicine. While scientific studies have shown that rhino horn has no medicinal properties, it remains in high demand fueling the violent and illegal trade of rhino poaching.

In the last six months, South Africa has lost 124 rhinos to poachers. Ed Hern—on the frontlines of the poaching battle—has taken in five rhino orphans whose mothers were killed. Hern pays private guards to protect his rhinos, but says they are no match against the hi-tech equipment, including helicopters, used by the wildlife trafficking mafia.

Rhino horn consumption recently made news after supermodel and host of Britain's Next Top Model, Elle Macpherson, said in an interview that she consumed powdered rhino horn, because "it works for me". She has since claimed that despite the statement, she had never knowingly taken a substance from an endangered species and her comments were "banter with an interviewer".

Have your say, vote in this poll: "should rhino horns be poisoned?"

FAIL: There are twice as many tigers in captivity in the U.S. as are left in the wild

Dear Mr. Yates (and other tiger owners), if you really love tigers, you should advocate that all captive tigers are put into sanctuaries, not be bred as pets (or at all) and start helping efforts to protect the remnants of their wild habitat.
This is a really great article from Newsweek highlighting the problem with keeping non-domesticated animals as pets-MA

From NEWSWEEK
The Trouble With Tigers

There are twice as many tigers in captivity in the U.S. as are left in the wild. They make deadly pets. So why do Americans love them so much?
by RAVI SOMAIYA

There are only 3,000 tigers left in the wild. There are at least 7,000 in the United States. A few hundred of America's tigers are in established zoos, but the rest live in suburban homes and urban apartments. They decorate Las Vegas casinos, prowl the estates of celebrities—glimpsed on MTV's "Cribs"—and perform in circuses, magic shows and animal parks. Some are even employed as guards or punishers. Police in Atlanta recently found a tiger (along with a lion and a bear) when they arrested a local drug dealer. Another was found patrolling a crystal meth lab in San Antonio.

They make bad pets. Americans die or are severely injured in tiger attacks almost every year. The biggest subspecies, the Siberian, can be almost four feet tall at the shoulders, nine feet long, weigh more than 650 pounds, and live longer than 20 years. In the wild they kill prey, including bears and leopards, by stalking through dense jungles. They target the head and neck, with jaws designed to macerate living bone. But, says Beth Preiss, who tracks the cats and other animals for the Humane Society of the United States, they are appealing precisely because they are so dangerous. "We want," she says, "what we can't have."

The American tiger has had some stellar endorsements too. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president (1837 to 1841), was given two cubs by the Sultan of Oman. In December 1960, the first white tiger in the U.S.—a tigress with ice-blue eyes named Mohini of Rewa—was presented to President Eisenhower on the White House lawn, a gift of Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation.

The market for pet tigers swelled between the 1980s and early 2000s, say those who work with big cats. Many cite the influence of the movie "Scarface," in which Al Pacino's drug baron Tony Montana keeps tigers, and of Michael Jackson who posed with a 6-week-old cub on the cover of his "Thriller" album. Jackson also kept two of the animals, Thriller and Sabu, on his Neverland ranch (they were later adopted by the actress Tippi Hedren). In the early 1990s, Mike Tyson claimed he sparred with his two white female Bengal tigers, Kenya and Storm, and a golden male named Boris, at his Texas home. A few years later Paris Hilton celebrated a $5,000 win in Las Vegas by buying her own tiger, which roamed her family's land in Nevada. Last year the rapper Akon unveiled his own white tiger, Simba, kept in a small glass cage, on the MTV show "Cribs."
And Antoine Yates kept a tiger in Apartment 5E of the Drew Hamilton Houses in uptown Manhattan. In early 2000 Yates climbed into his new Ford Explorer to begin the long drive to Bearcat Hollow animal park in Racine, Minn. Yates was excited. He was about to collect an 8-week old tiger cub named Ming. Wiry, in his early 30s, with a drawling voice, shaved head and a diamond stud in one ear, Yates had saved tens of thousands of dollars to buy and keep the cub. He would not say how he came by the money, "because that's a different part of my life. I'm a different person now." He was more eager to talk about the love for exotic animals that he had harbored since childhood. It began at 11, he says, with several capuchin and squirrel monkeys and two chimpanzees. Yates kept them, under the indulgent eye of his mother, Martha, in an apartment on Troy Avenue in Brooklyn. When a monkey escaped and caused havoc in the rental office, the family reluctantly shed their menagerie and moved.

By 2000, through contacts with exotic-animal dealers and breeders, Yates had accumulated a lion cub, two pythons and an alligator named Al. But he craved a tiger. "They are beautiful," he says, recalling his longing. "They are dangerous. They are mystical." He had bought land, he says, to start a sanctuary upstate. But until it was ready he had no qualms about keeping Ming in the projects. "It is not my fault I was born and raised in that environment," he says, before pausing. "I suppose things might have worked out better in the end if God hadn't put a person with a beautiful heart for animals in the middle of Harlem."

Ming, then a mewing, 20-pound ball of fur, rode back quietly in the Explorer and moved in with little fuss. His only bad habit was chewing shoes. Every night Yates lay in bed and watched movies on TV. Ming would slink in languidly next to him, and man and tiger would fall asleep together. "But real fast, before you know, it he's 200 pounds," says Yates, who fed Ming 15 to 20 pounds of meat, offal, bones and supplements daily, bought by the straining bagful from a local grocery store. The big cat soon grew to about 400 pounds—nine feet if he stood on his hind legs, which he could barely do in the apartment. Eventually, Yates had to load his now-grown lion and his Burmese and reticulated pythons into the Ford, and drive them thousands of miles to safe homes in Pennsylvania and Texas. "I just had to pray I didn't get stopped," he recalls.

By October 1, 2003, only Ming and Al the alligator remained, along with a stray black cat Yates had found on his doorstep. That morning, Ming watched the smaller cat carefully as it stretched in the apartment's cramped hallway. The tiger tensed and shifted, stalking. Then he leaped. Yates saw the attack out of the corner of his eye and moved to stop it, pulling at Ming's fur. The animal mauled his knee and right arm, leaving large gashes. The smaller cat was unscathed. Yates went to hospital, where he claimed he'd been attacked by a pit bull.

Days later, police were tipped off that a very large animal might have bitten someone in Harlem. Their investigations led them to Yates. A downstairs neighbor told them Yates was keeping a tiger, and even complained that urine had seeped through her ceiling. Cutting into Yates' door, they "saw the large tiger pass by the open hole," according to comments made at the time by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Officers rappelled down the building and shot Ming with a tranquilizer dart—the tiger broke a window charging at the dangling marksmen.

Ming and Al were sent to sanctuaries. Yates spent five months in jail for reckless endangerment. "Nothing any tiger could do compares to what the system done to me," he says. The owner of Bearcat Hollow, where Yates bought his big cats, pleaded guilty in 2005 to seven federal counts connected with illegal trading in wild animals.

Because moving tigers across state lines is now illegal much of the trade is underground, or at least conducted quietly. So it is difficult to obtain a precise figure for the number of tiger breeders in the U.S. Several alleged breeders contacted by NEWSWEEK refused to be interviewed. Those who rescue unwanted or mistreated tigers suggest the number must be in the hundreds. Until recently, the absence of strict federal and state laws meant "tigers were selling for thousands," says Emily McCormack, a zoologist at Turpentine Creek, a refuge in Arkansas which rescues big cats, "One breeder told me that if his tigers had two broods of three or four cubs a year, he was already earning more than the average American."
Among the most highly prized are perfect white tigers which reportedly sell for more than $20,000. White tigers are a genetic mutation of the Bengal subspecies that are almost non-existent in the wild. Those found in America are the results of extensive inbreeding, a laborious process. For every fluffy white cub, says a former breeder who did not want to be named discussing such a sensitive topic, several are born the wrong color, or deformed. Mating fathers with daughters and brothers with sisters can result in problems like shrunken hearts, shortened tendons, club feet, kidney ailments, malformed backbones and twisted necks. Turpentine Creek has rescued several malformed tigers.

Yates, who now lives in Las Vegas, has re-stocked his menagerie. He now has two white tigers, one tabby and one orange among 22 big cats. After he was released from jail his story came to the attention of Michael Jackson, Jackson's brother Jermaine, and former Kool and the Gang keyboardist Amir Bayyan who helped him financially. Yates' Facebook profile name is "Antoine Tigermann Yates." He sometimes wears tiger-eye contact lenses and says he is not afraid of being attacked again—he still plays with his tigers.

McCormack is more cautious, saying she would never enter a tiger cage, let alone cavort with one of the cats. "Their play is enough to kill you," she says. "It's instinct with them, even if they're hand-reared. If you turn your back they immediately go into stalking mode—they may not intend to eat you, but they can kill you by accident. Keeping a tiger in your house is like giving a child a loaded gun. At some point, unless you're very lucky, it will go off and someone will die or be severely injured."

Around lunchtime on August 4, 2008, 16-year-old Dakoda Wood, an employee at a roadside zoo called Predator World in Branson West, Mo., entered a tiger cage to take a picture for some tourists. He tripped, according to reports at the time, and three tigers set upon him. He was seized by the throat and dragged into a nearby pool of water. Colleagues pulled Wood from the cage, and he was airlifted to an area hospital.

"I hit a bump in the rode [sic] of life," Wood writes on his MySpace page, "u should know I am now paralized [sic] but, there is hope for full recovery." His version of events differs from the news reports. "I tripped while in with 3 tigers and hit my head knocked myself out fell with my head under water," he writes, "and one of the tigers saved my life by grabbing me by my neck and pulled me out of the water, but she broke my neck. I was very active and adventurous person, the main things I liked to do is scuba and ride my dirt bike."

The day before Wood was attacked, a tiger at nearby Wesa-A-Geh-Ya animal farm in Warrenton, Mo., leaped a 10-foot gate and mauled a 26-year-old volunteer who was trying to clean a cage. The farm's owners took the man to hospital for leg surgery. They claimed he had been bitten by a pit bull.

The two attacks, though unusually close together, were not rarities. The charity Big Cat Rescue estimates that since 1990 there have been 599 incidents of attacks by captive big cats in the U.S. Many involved tigers. The most high-profile incident came in 2003, when Roy Horn, one-half of the illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy, was mauled by a 7-year-old white tiger during a Las Vegas performance. The attack left him partially paralyzed, but Siegfried & Roy still keep dozens of tigers.

Other incidents do not make international headlines. At Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska last year a veterinarian, Dr. Doug Armstrong, was treating a Malaysian tiger he thought was tranquilized. When he brushed its whiskers the cat reared up and bit him three times before he could react, leaving him in critical condition. In Ingram, Texas, a 300-pound tiger escaped its cage and sprawled in the yard of 79-year-old Mildred Crenshaw. "That's a terrible feeling to wake up with police surrounding your house, with their lights on, and to look out your window and see a tiger standing there," she told the San Antonio Express-News.

But Americans continue to buy tigers. The law on exotic animals is mostly administered state-by-state, in a messy and unpredictable patchwork. Though many states have tightened their rules, tiger cubs can still be purchased at exotic-animal auctions and through breeders. Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma still have few regulations on exotic pets, according to the Humane Society. And the market has shifted so tigers can cost considerably less than people pay for some fancy rabbits. McCormack says she has seen prices as low as $175.

Scrutiny of conditions tigers are kept in is also lax, or poorly enforced. McCormack says she has rescued tigers from boxes they could barely stand up in and basements filled with feces and rotting meat. Tigers, she says, attract "the same type of people that go for the breeds of dog that are the most aggressive. Maybe some people think they will finally tame the tiger. But they won't."

Antoine Yates, whose tigers live in much better circumstances, will not discuss the morality behind keeping his deadly pets. "I can't address that," he says. "I just love them. That's all."

Read more about tiger breeding farms from this newsweek article

Dogs Automatically Imitate People

From Discovery News
Some dogs may look like their owners, but all dogs imitate their human companions.
By JENNIFER VIEGAS

THE GIST
  • For the first time, scientists have proven that dogs automatically imitate humans.
  • Dogs cannot easily curb this tendency to imitate us, even when the behavior is not in their best interest.
  • Humans, non-human primates and certain birds automatically imitate individuals within their own species too.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, dogs often shower us with praise. New research has just determined dogs automatically imitate us, even when it is not in their best interest to do so.

The study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provides the first evidence that dogs copy at least some of our body movements and behaviors in ways that are spontaneous and voluntary.

In other words, they can't really help themselves when it comes to copying people.

"This suggests that, like humans, dogs are subject to 'automatic imitation;' they cannot inhibit online, the tendency to imitate head use and/or paw use," lead author Friederike Range and her colleagues conclude.

It's long been known that humans do this, even when the tendency to copy interferes with efficiency.

"For example," according to the researchers, "if people are instructed to open their mouths as soon as they see the letters 'OM' appear on a screen, responses are slower when the letters are accompanied by an image of an opening hand than when they are accompanied by an image of an opening mouth."

In a scientific first, Range -- a University of Vienna researcher in the Department of Cognitive Biology -- and her team tested this phenomenon on dogs. Ten adult dogs of various breeds and their owners, from Austria, participated in the experiments.

All of the dogs received preliminary training to open a sliding door using their head or a paw. The dogs then watched their owners open the door by hand or by head. For the latter, the owner would get down on the floor and use his or her head to push up or down on the sliding door.

The dogs were next divided into two groups. Dogs in the first group received a food reward whenever they copied what the owner did. Dogs in the second group received a food reward when they did the opposite.

All of the dogs were inclined to copy what the owner did, even if it meant receiving no food reward.

"This finding suggests that the dogs brought with them to the experiment a tendency automatically to imitate hand use and/or paw use by their owner; to imitate these actions even when it was costly to do so," the authors report.

The scientists suggest owners would do well to match their own body movements, whenever possible, to tasks at hand during training sessions.

For example, if an owner is trying to teach a dog to shake "hands," the person might have more success if he stretched out his own hand to demonstrate. The observing dog would then be inclined to stretch out a paw, mirroring what the human did. At that point, a food reward could be offered to the dog, reinforcing the behavior.

The owner is reinforcing bonding and cooperation with the dog, too.

"Researchers have known that human beings prefer the behavior of other people who subtly imitate their gestures and other affects," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development.

Alexander worked on another study showing that non-human primates automatically imitate each other. Certain birds do this, too, but it may be very rare in the animal kingdom for one species to almost subconsciously imitate the behavior of a completely different species.

The dog-human bond may therefore have few, if any, parallels.

"Dogs are special animals, both in terms of their evolutionary history of domestication and the range and intensity of their developmental training by humans," Range and her team explain.

"Both of these factors may enhance the extent to which dogs attend to human activity," they added, "but the results of the present experiment suggest it is the latter -- training in the course of development -- which plays the more powerful and specific role in shaping their imitative behavior."

Thanks to Jessi J and Louwtjie dT for the link!

success! Catalonia FTW - bull fighting banned!!

Great News from Catalonia today, of course it is still legal in the rest of Spain where it is more popular...but still a great big step forward against animal cruelty. PETA has an online petition against the running of the bulls as they hope to capitalize on the momentum of the Catalonia bull fighting ban, consider signing it here - MA


From the Independant.co.uk
Catalonia votes to ban bullfighting
Bloodthirsty 'sport' is dying a slow death across Spain, as younger audiences turn away
By ALASDAIR FORTHERINHAM

Already faced with a rapidly ageing fanbase at home and widespread incomprehension and rejection abroad, Spanish bullfighting has suffered another major setback after the Catalan parliament voted to outlaw it completely across the region.

The decision was so controversial that some deputies hunched over their desks to hide their fingers from photographers as they punched in their votes. After a narrow initial victory for the abolitionists – 67 in favour and 59 against – the law could become effective as soon as May.

Spain's right-wing press was quick to attribute the result to Catalan separatists' desire to dissociate themselves from an activity often considered as typically Spanish as tapas, siestas and flamenco. Unofficially, though, even before Friday's decision, it seems bullfighting circles in the rest of Spain had given Catalonia up as a lost cause.

Over the past three decades, bullring after bullring has closed in major Catalan towns such as Gerona, Lloret de Mar and Tarragona, and in Barcelona only one of the original three rings remains. As far back as 1909, Barcelona hosted Spain's first anti-bullfighting protest, and by 2004 more than 80 per cent of Catalans were opposed to the practice. "Banning the bulls in Catalonia would be like drawing up a death certificate for a long-dead corpse," said Juan Ilian, a leading Spanish bullfighting correspondent for nearly five decades. "And even if they don't, it'll remain on its deathbed."

Animal rights groups amassed 180,000 signatures for a petition so that the vote could go ahead in Catalonia – more than three times the required minimum – but even the lobby's top activists are not sure how quickly the ban could extend to the rest of Spain. Antonio Moreno, president of Cacma, an animal rights association in the bullfighting heartland of Andalusia, said: "An overwhelming majority of Spaniards, 76 per cent according to Gallup surveys in 2009, are not in favour of bullfighting. However, only half that total want outright prohibition. The government promised six years ago to improve animal welfare laws, but it's been dragging its heels. It's only through legislation like in Catalonia that things are changing."

A lack of enthusiasm for bullfighting among younger generations is most likely to deliver the estocada – the killer blow, in bullfighting terminology. A recent survey showed bullfighting to be most popular among Spaniards in the 45-plus age group. And Spanish state television, TVE, has dropped it permanently from its schedule because, an inside source at TVE said, "it was considered too bloodthirsty for children to watch".

"It's not necessarily that younger Spaniards are more in favour of animal rights, they just don't care so much about bullfighting," Johanna Mayrhofer, an Austrian long-term Spanish resident and animal rights activist, said. "Bullfighting isn't part of their day-to-day culture, as it was for nearly all Spaniards a few decades back."

Long-term observers such as Mr Ilian recognise that while support for bullfighting remains healthy in strongholds such as Andalusia and Madrid, its mid-term prospects are grimmer. "There's a dedicated minority who follow it closely, and some bullfighters have a huge media presence, like rock or film stars, but the vast majority of spectators who go to a bullfight these days have no idea which fighter they're going to see," he said. "Instead, it's just become a show, and interest among the general public is dropping."

"It was banned in the Canary Islands in the mid-1990s, but there was already very little support there," Mr Moreno added. "This is the first big step on mainland Spain."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eco-tourism halted in Loango National Park, Gabon

From Africa's Eden via Africa Geographic
Africa’s Eden SA, the main tourism operator at Loango National Park – the park described as Gabon’s "jewel in the crown" – has announced today that it has been forced to abandon its ecotourism operations at the park as of September 1st 2010.

The decision has been taken despite Africa’s Eden’s shareholder having invested more than 15 million euros over the past nine years in aviation access and tourism infrastructure and nature conservation: building accommodation, eco-camps, training Gabonese staff and eco guides and supporting research and monitoring studies for the conservation of Loango’s exceptional wildlife and biodiversity wealth. It means that Loango Lodge, which since 2001 has welcomed thousands of international tourists to discover Gabon’s wildlife rich forests and unspoiled coastline, is closing its doors indefinitely.

The move is a result of the failure of negotiations following a dispute between the Gabonese civil aviation authorities (ANAC) and Africa’s Eden’s sister company SCD Aviation which ran a regional airline charter company to transport tourists from the capital Libreville to the park. Even active support of key members of Gabonese government could not prevent the severe consequence of a malfunctioning civil aviation authority (ANAC) that failed to create the conditions necessary for regular and safe aviation transportation: SCD Aviation was consistently refused the renewal of its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) even though all requirements were met.

Another consequence of this problematic situation is the fact that the European Union blacklisted all Gabonese airlines in 2008 when a large number of deficiencies were reported with regards to the capability of ANAC “to perform their air safety oversight responsibilities”, as states the Commission of the European Commission. “More than 93% of the ICAO standards were not implemented”. This was the lowest percentage of all audited countries, and makes ANAC in Gabon one of the poorest performing civil aviation authorities in the world.

“We have made numerous attempts to resolve this dispute amicably for over a year now,” said Rombout Swanborn, founder of Africa’s Eden and SCD Aviation. “The ongoing events and consequences of not being able to operate our aircraft have financially crippled our organisation, leaving us with no choice but to take this drastic measure.” He added: “We are highly disappointed as a solution would have benefited all parties involved. In the end, the Gabonese people. ”

Legal action against the aviation authorities in Gabon has been initiated to seek compensation for the financial losses SCD Aviation and Africa’s Eden have undergone.

The focus of the international investment group behind Africa’s Eden will now shift towards its investments in sustainable development on the island of Príncipe , a tropical island off the west African coast, and in the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve in the Central African Republic. A separate press release can be expected on August 15th 2010 on the 35 Million Euro sized project that aims to create sustainable economic development for the full island of Principe based an ecotourism. Investments are foreseen in the island logistical, tourism and national park infrastructure.

For much more information go to Africa's Eden website and click here for a recent posting on Africa's Eden and ecotourism

Ape Conservation: protection of refugia should be #1 priority


From the Kansas City Infozine via the GRASP-UNEP facebook page
Not Enough Hours in the Day for Endangered Apes
A study on the effects of global warming on African ape survival suggests that a warming climate may cause apes to run ‘out of time’.

The research, published in Journal of Biogeography, reveals that rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns have strong effects on ape behaviour, distribution and survival, pushing them even further to the brink of extinction.

The researchers, from Roehampton University, Bournemouth University and the University of Oxford used data from 20 natural populations to model the effects of climate change on ape behaviour and distribution. The results suggest that rising temperatures and shifts in rainfall patterns alone may cause chimpanzees to lose up to 50% and gorillas up to 75% of their remaining habitats.

This loss of habitat, according to the researchers, is caused by the fact that apes run out of time, as with increasing environmental temperatures apes will have to spend more time resting to avoid over-heating, making some habitats uninhabitable. The study further suggests that chimpanzees will also experience a shift in diet from containing predominantly fruits to leaves.

Lead author Julia Lehmann, from Life Sciences at Roehampton University, said: ‘In reality, the effects of climate change on African apes may be much worse, as our model does not take into account possible anthropogenic effects, such as habitat destruction by humans and the hunting of apes for bushmeat.’

‘Our results highlight that solving the direct local threats, such as hunting and habitat loss due to human activities, may not be sufficient to prevent the extinction of African apes. Ensuring safe havens in optimal habitat must be a critical component of any conservation strategy, lest all current conservation efforts prove to be in vain.’

Reference
Lehman J, Korstjens AH, Dunbar RI (2010) Apes in a changing world – the effects of global warming on the behaviour and distribution of African apes. Journal of Biogeography. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2010.02373.x

ABSTRACT
Aim
In this study we use a modelling approach to identify: (1) the factors responsible for the differences in ape biogeography, (2) the effects that global warming might have on distribution patterns of African apes, (3) the underlying mechanisms for these effects, and (4) the implications that behavioural flexibility might be expected to have for ape survival. All African apes are highly endangered, and the need for efficient conservation methods is a top priority. The expected changes in world climate are likely to further exacerbate the difficulties they face. Our study aims to further understand the mechanisms that link climatic conditions to the behaviour and biogeography of ape species.

Method
We use an existing validated time budgets model, derived from data on 20 natural populations of gorillas (Gorilla beringei and Gorilla gorilla) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus), which specifies the relationship between climate, group size, body weight and time available for various activities, to predict ape distribution across Africa under a uniform worst-case climate change scenario.

Results
We demonstrate that a worst-case global warming scenario is likely to alter the delicate balance between different time budget components. Our model points to the importance of annual temperature variation, which was found to have the strongest impact on ape biogeography. Our simulation indicates that rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns are likely to have strong effects on ape survival and distribution, particularly for gorillas. Even if they behaved with maximum flexibility, gorillas may not be able to survive in most of their present habitats if the climate was to undergo extreme changes. The survival of chimpanzees was found to be strongly dependent on the minimum viable group size required.

Main conclusions
Our model allows us to explore how climatic conditions, individual behaviour and morphological traits may interact to limit the biogeographical distributions of these species, thereby allowing us to predict the effects of climate change on African ape distributions under different climate change regimes. The model suggests that climate variability (i.e. seasonality) plays a more important role than the absolute magnitude of the change, but these data are not normally provided by climate models.

LOL: Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modelling


I love science that can hammer home an important point in a light hearted way -MA

Lozier JD, Aniello P, Hickerson MJ (2010) Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America: anything goes with ecological niche modelling. Jounanl of Biogeography 36 (9): 1623 - 1627

ABSTRACT
The availability of user-friendly software and publicly available biodiversity databases has led to a rapid increase in the use of ecological niche modelling to predict species distributions. A potential source of error in publicly available data that may affect the accuracy of ecological niche models (ENMs), and one that is difficult to correct for, is incorrect (or incomplete) taxonomy. Here we remind researchers of the need for careful evaluation of database records prior to use in modelling, especially when the presence of cryptic species is suspected or many records are based on indirect evidence. To draw attention to this potential problem, we construct ENMs for the North American Sasquatch (i.e. Bigfoot). Specifically, we use a large database of georeferenced putative sightings and footprints for Sasquatch in western North America, demonstrating how convincing environmentally predicted distributions of a taxon's potential range can be generated from questionable site-occurrence data. We compare the distribution of Bigfoot with an ENM for the black bear, Ursus americanus, and suggest that many sightings of this cryptozoid may be cases of mistaken identity.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chicago raid turns up loads of bushmeat (including chimp meat)


From Chicago Tribune
Monkey heads, rats trigger probe of West Side store
Federal agents investigating possible ties to bush-meat smuggling
by STEVE SCHMADEKE

Federal authorities are investigating a West Side store that received a shipment of monkey heads and two dozen dead cane rats in a rare criminal inquiry into what experts say is a robust but underground business: illegally smuggling meat to Chicago residents hungry for a taste from their African homelands.

Fish and Wildlife Service agents raided African Art and Objects in the Austin community last month, carting off animal carcasses, at least one chimpanzee head, ivory beads and computers.

Customers wishing to enter the store, which stocks African art, incense and soap, first must ring a doorbell. The store is registered to Doris Kuforiji, whose husband, Leroy, pleaded guilty in 2000 to charges of illegally importing elephant tusks, court records show. He was sentenced to six months of probation and fined $2,500.

No charges have been filed since the June 8 raid. The Kuforijis, of Rolling Meadows, could not be reached for comment though messages were left by phone and at their store.

On May 3, agents intercepted a container shipped by boat from Ghana and headed to the store. Inside, in a brown cardboard box labeled "Blue Brand Spread for Bread," agents found 14 cane rats impaled on sticks, six monkey heads, numerous impaled mice and a pit-viper skull, records show.

Experts say Chicago is one of the North American centers of the bush-meat trade, which conservationists say is partially responsible for the dwindling numbers of great apes and chimpanzees in the wild. There is some difference of opinion, however, on how much impact demand in the U.S. and Europe — where bush-meat prices are quite high — has on the widespread killing of primates in Africa.

The government has warned about the potential health dangers posed by monkey meat, which can contain diseases including the simian version of HIV. But other experts say there are no known cases of human transference and the disease risk is miniscule compared to risks associated with illegal U.S. imports of exotic pets.

Still, the amount of bush meat smuggled through international airports is "staggering," said Crawford Allan, director of the North American branch of TRAFFIC, an international group that monitors animal trafficking. A study published last month based on passenger searches at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris found that an estimated 273 tons of illegal bush meat is smuggled through that airport each year.

Thanks to Jen F for the link!

Perception, Evolution and the Brain

Loved the first 3/4 of this talk...but why do we want/need brain 2.0? i dont get why what we have needs to be improved/changed? i wish more people could fall in love with everything we already have! Then maybe they would want to explore and protect the biodiversity and evolutionary heritage of our planet instead of trying to get more and more lost in our own little worlds...
PS: The tetrachromatism section was my favorite, here is another great article on it with lots of good links:
Do women perceive color different than men? and for more optical illusions go to Optical Illusions powered by our evolution in a 3D world
-MA


From the youtube site:
David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist, Tom Slick Research Award in Consciousness recipient, and best-selling author of SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, shared his thoughts on "The Future of Reality." Dr. Eagleman gave compelling examples of how reality is a matter of individual perception and how Nature's adaptions function as "plug ins" for the brain.

About TEDx, x=independently organized event - In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Thanks to Cleve H and Vanessa VD for the link

Lionesses with manes!

Has anyone studied these lionesses? Although a genetic explanation would be interesting (it reminds me of of how a pseudo-penis has evolved in hyenas out of clitoral tissue, and whose society is female dominated, although what is cause and what is effect is not entirely clear...), I worry a little about environmental reasons that also may be playing havoc with the endocrine system or epigenetics of these lions. Pedigree/genetic information could help to tease these things apart. A quick google search shows at least one captive lioness (from the Philadelphia Zoo) also has a mane which for me at least, leans towards the latter explanation....would love more info/insights into this, post a reply to me if you know more please-MA

From the Africa Geographic blog (post 1, post 2)
by GRANT ATKINSON
post 1 - may 2010
There are many opportunities to make a fool of yourself when you’re a field guide. I was once leading a group on a game drive at Mombo [Botswana], when we came across a pride of lions. Mombo is well known for its healthy lion population. We spent some time with the lions, and I carefully described what we were seeing, estimating ages and talking about the pride structure, which included two slightly smallish-looking young males.

Much later that same day, as it was getting to the end of our drive, we swung by the lions once again. This time there was another vehicle from camp in the sighting. I pulled up nearby, and began quietly talking to my group again, aware that I needed to add some new information to what I had already shared with them in the morning. I was busy mentioning how it wouldn’t be too long before the two young males in the pride would be ready to move off on their own, when the guide in the vehicle alongside caught my attention. “They’re females,” he tried to whisper. I didn’t hear him well enough, so he said it again, louder this time. “Ah,” I responded, sheepishly. As I was not based at the camp, and was travelling with my guests from one to the next, I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t looking at young males, but rather a pair of young female lions that have grown manes. The Mombo guides had been seeing the very unusual lions for some months and I had heard the news, but during the excitement of the sighting, I had forgotten all about them.

I felt like a real idiot, but fortunately the lions were interacting with one another, and my blunder took second place. Back in the late 1980s there was another lioness with a mane, nicknamed Martina (after the tennis player) by the camp guides. She was seen regularly at Mombo until eventually her entire pride drifted toward the edges of the game-drive areas and the sightings stopped. There were no more sightings of lionesses with manes until 2008, when a pride new to the area began to be seen around camp. This pride had two young females with quite substantial manes.

Clearly Martina’s genes were still out there, *or* perhaps others that were just very similar to hers. Nowadays I take a careful look at the back end of lions before I begin to talk!

post 2 - july 2010
A few months ago I posted a story with pictures about female lions with manes. The lionesses I wrote of were all seen at Mombo, in the Okavango Delta.

Since then I have visited Mombo again, and was lucky enough to encounter the pride with the unusual lionesses. However, I only had one brief sighting of the lioness, so the images I have included with this text are not great pictures, but they illustrate her size and features.

Unfortunately there are no longer two of these maned lionesses in the pride. One of the females was killed, apparently in the course of hunting buffalo, which is a dangerous pastime for lions whether they are equipped with a mane *or* not.The remaining lioness has grown bigger, and much heavier than the last time I saw her, which was almost a year back. Her mane has grown too, which makes her look even more like a male. I was most interested to hear from the Mombo camp guides that the pride males for this group of females, a pair of males known as the Western Boys, no longer spend much time with them. We have assumed that the Western Boys fathered the two maned lionesses. The Western Boys are a fine-looking coalition pair of males, and they are now consorting with another female pride, still in the Mombo area.

There is a new male with the Western Boys former pride though. Unfortunately, he was not around whilst I was there. News from the Mombo guides is that this male has taken to attacking the maned lioness, and attempts to chase her away from her female pride mates. He is apparently viewing her as a potential rival for mating rights. I did notice a well-healed scar on her neck during the sighting, which may have come from such a clash.

If this lioness has a normally functioning reproductive system, perhaps powerful chemical cues will override the male’s objection to her as it is now. Time will tell.

For more pictures go here and here

Thursday, July 22, 2010

unFUCK the Gulf

...Not sure if i buy the message (a bit of misinfo...) but LOVE the delivery-MA

Oil Spill Charity "F-Bomb-A-Thon" from UnF--kTheGulf.com on Vimeo.

For more info go to the Huffington Post or unf--kthegulf.com

Thanks to Olaf T for the link!

Can facebook go green?

there is a new facebook group sponsored by Greenpeace for facebook to go to 100% renewable energy: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=311700724500 consider joining and pass on to your friends :)

better REDD than dead?

A REALLY great article on the pros and cons of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) aka Carbon Credits. But by far the best part is this quote from Dan Nepstad:
"We need to approach REDD as a skinny pack donkey upon which we are loading concerns for food security, biodiversity (in savannas and grasslands), land rights, and other issues. The risk is that we will overload the beast and keep it from making any progress or, worse, killing," he said. "REDD must be viewed not as the latest "silver bullet" for protecting tropical forests. Rather, REDD is the first component of a new rural development paradigm that is focused on the maintenance of forests, but that must eventually culminate in even greater biodiversity protection, increased agricultural output, and stronger control over forests and lands by their traditional and indigenous inhabitants."
-MA
from Mongabay.com via Sean Whyte's facebook page
Scientists sound warning on forest carbon payment scheme

Scientists convening in Bali expressed a range of concerns over a proposed mechanism for mitigating climate change through forest conservation, but some remained hopeful the idea could deliver long-term protection to forests, ease the transition to a low-carbon economy, and generate benefits to forest-dependent people.

Presenting at the annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, scientists and policy experts warned that the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) program outlined in international climate talks could fail to achieve the desired outcome of protecting forests, while having detrimental impacts on biodiversity and local livelihoods, if it isn't properly designed or excludes critical safeguards. Some researchers argued that the economics of REDD may fall short of competing with returns from other forms of land use, including logging and plantation development, while others said that a successful REDD program could undermine wildlife-friendly farming approaches, promote conversion of low carbon landscapes for industrial tree-planting projects, and shift conservation priorities toward carbon-dense ecosystems.

"REDD is a potentially excellent mechanism by which to address GHG emissions while incidentally contributing to biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of ecosystem services," said Jaboury Ghazoul, an ecologist at ETH Zurich, who discussed potential unrealized costs of REDD. "There are, however, challenges to overcome, ranging from the administrative and technical implementation of REDD, to the wider knock-on effects on downstream livelihoods and regional development. As scientists keen to see the successful implementation of REDD we must also recognize and grapple with its wider challenges."

Several presenters used the host country of Indonesia, which recently signed a one billion dollar deal with Norway to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, to provide context of the types of problems that could befall a poorly designed and implemented REDD mechanism.

Financial fraud

Christopher Barr, a former CIFOR researcher, pointed to financial mismanagement and outright fraud in Indonesia's Reforestation Fund as an example. He noted that during former Indonesian President Soeharto's reign the country’s Reforestation Fund suffered losses of more than $5.2 billion – much of it to corruption and fraud. Although the current administration has taken steps to improve financial controls, hHundreds of millions more have been misappropriated or wasted on poorly managed projects in recent years.

According to Barr, “Indonesia’s experience with the Reforestation Fund provides important insights into the government’s capacity to manage and allocate a large stream of funds in the country’s forestry sector. It demonstrates that existing administrative structures are ill-equipped to handle the influx of REDD+ funds and will need to be strengthened. Just as mechanisms are being developed to measure and verify changes in forest carbon emissions, effective systems are urgently needed for financial verification as well.”

Roger James of Conservation International echoed these concerns in a presentation on the REDD readiness of Papua New Guinea, a country that on the international stage has led the push for the payments for forest conservation mechanism, but done little at home to support the scheme at home. James highlighted examples of fraud revolving around the PNG forest carbon sector as well as the rise of a REDD "cargo cult", whereby the expectations for "sky money" have risen so high they can never be met. He mentioned that the fundamentals of REDD were poorly understood in many parts of the country, with some villagers talking of getting carbon money for their forests and then selling the trees to loggers. James said that given the uncertainty around REDD and lack of capacity within PNG, conservationists working in country should focus on making biodiversity conservation effective rather than waiting for carbon finance.

Knock-on effects
Jaboury Ghazoul said that policymakers supporting REDD may be greatly undervaluing the opportunity costs of forgoing logging and conversion of primary forests. Looking at Indonesia, he highlighted potential job losses, shifts in overseas development aid regimes linked to forestry, and impacts on downstream industries as examples. Ghazoul also said that by increasing the opportunity cost of land use, REDD could put pressure on "wildlife-friendly" farming approaches like organic agriculture.

"Two important challenges facing human society is reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the need to meet food demands for a growing population. REDD is a mechanism that can substantially contribute to the first challenge, but by doing so might constrain our ability to manage the second."

"An expanding population will need more food, which is likely to require more agricultural land at the expense of forests, something that would conflict with REDD. Resolving this conflict requires us to produce more food from less land - in other words the intensification of land use. While this may allow us to reconcile one conflict, it opens us up to another - that of maintaining diverse agricultural landscapes that support biodiversity. So, while promoting REDD to preserve forests we might inadvertently be driving agricultural intensification and the loss of biodiversity in human dominated landscape mosaics. REDD++, which accounts for carbon values of agricultural as well as forest landscapes, offers exciting possibilities to circumvent this second challenge."

Carbon conservation not necessarily aligned with biodiversity conservation

Stuart Pimm, a Duke University scientist, added that biodiversity hotspots not always aligned with the most carbon-dense regions of the world, leading to risk that REDD focus could shift priorities away from species conservation, a sentiment shared by Elizabeth Losos, president of the Organization for Tropical Studies Environmental Sciences & Policy.

Francis "Jack" Putz, an ecologist from the University of Florida, urged caution on what he termed the "arborealization" of conservation agendas. Putz fears that new emphasis on REDD will trigger afforestation of low-carbon ecosystems like savannas, jeopardizing biodiversity.

"We need to be careful not to undervalue low carbon landscapes," he said.

Still hope for REDD
Not all the news was negative however. Greg Asner discussed breakthroughs in remote monitoring of forests, including high resolution, 3-D mapping of forest cover using airplane-based LiDAR sensors and advanced processing of satellite imagery. The image processing technology, which is currently being used in the Amazon to detect both deforestation and small-scale forest disturbance caused by selective logging, will soon be available online for Southeast Asia and Africa. Asner said LiDAR is now allowing researchers to conduct biological inventories of tree species from thousands of feet above the canopy at a rate of more than 10,000 hectares per day.

Dan Nepstad, a researcher at the Woods Hole Research Center, was upbeat about the prospects of carbon finance for protecting rainforests. Nepstad detailed the sharp drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in recent years and said that REDD could play a key part to consolidating gains in the region, perhaps bringing an end to deforestation within a generation, while helping the world transition to a low carbon economy. He cautioned that REDD could be "messy" from the get-go, but the potential benefits are immense.

"We need to approach REDD as a skinny pack donkey upon which we are loading concerns for food security, biodiversity (in savannas and grasslands), land rights, and other issues. The risk is that we will overload the beast and keep it from making any progress or, worse, killing," he said. "REDD must be viewed not as the latest "silver bullet" for protecting tropical forests. Rather, REDD is the first component of a new rural development paradigm that is focused on the maintenance of forests, but that must eventually culminate in even greater biodiversity protection, increased agricultural output, and stronger control over forests and lands by their traditional and indigenous inhabitants."

Claudia Stickler, also a Woods Hole Research Center scientist, added that carbon finance could be a path to reconcile seemingly conflicting national targets for Brazil: a 30 increase in agricultural production by 2019 and a 70 percent reduction in deforestation by 2020. She said REDD payments could provide a key incentive covert the largest drivers of deforestation in the Amazon — ranchers and farmers — into forest protectors.

“It’s important to understand the true potential of REDD+. If done properly, it could represent a sea-change in the prevailing conservation and economic/social development paradigms, which have largely separated these two agendas and/or relegated their conception and execution to relatively small-scale projects and initiatives," she told mongabay.com.

"Clearly, there are a number of critical issues to deal with—not the least of which is the depth and breadth of social engagement that is necessary to make policies associated with REDD implementation stick—but the opportunity to achieve forest governance on a broad scale should not be jettisoned for fear that these obstacles will prove insurmountable.”

Making logging a part of the solution
Several ATBC presenters emphasized the importance of "sustainable forest management" or low-impact logging and reforestation under the REDD+ mechanism. Bronson Griscom of The Nature Conservancy, said that reduced impact logging would increase returns from carbon conservation, improving its economic performance and reducing the risk that landowners would abandon forest conservation commitments. Griscom argued that careful logging could help mitigate the issue of international leakage, since forests would continue to supply timber to meet global demand. Lex Hovani, also of The Nature Conservancy, added that low-impact logging could generate income for communities and forest managers once REDD payments are phased out sometime after 2030.

"We need to think not only about how REDD is going to start, but how REDD is going to end," he said.

Putz said that reduced impact logging (RIL) techniques can significantly reduce emissions relative to conventional logging. He estimated that RIL could cut global emissions in legal logging concessions alone by 160-360 million tons per year. Several other researchers reported that selectively logged forest retains 80-90 percent of the species found in primary forests, but cautioned that single-species plantations — like acacia, rubber, and oil palm plantations are biological deserts.

"Plantations aren't forests," said Putz.

The ATBC meeting wraps up tomorrow. A declaration on the billion dollar Norway-Indonesia forest partnership is expected at the conclusion of the conference.

double post: dolphins mysteriously not being killed by oil but turtles are being hit hard on several fronts

from WWLTV
by KATIE MOORE


To the surprise of some of the Gulf's best marine scientists, marine mammals, like dolphins, appear to have been spared the effects of the oil.

In fact, no dolphins have been cleaned or rehabilitated in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama since the oil spill began. It's one of the scientific mysteries of the spill.

Sea turtles are needing rehabilitation in much greater numbers.

“Mississippi had no oil for a long period of time, and these animals were coming in and coming closer to the coast line,” said Executive Director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Research Moby Solangi.

Solangi's Gulfport facility has cleaned hundreds of turtles and is rehabbing even more that were indirectly impacted by the spill.

“These big guys came from the Chandeleur Islands. That's where they're dredging. There are net boats in front of the hopper dredges and they're creating the sand berms,” he said about two turtles weighing hundreds of pounds.

The Audubon Research Institute in Louisiana has cared for 143 turtles so far.

But what you don't see much of, in either place, are dolphins.

“We expected to have debilitated animals showing up on the shoreline, or being seen out having trouble in the water. We haven't really seen that,” said Audubon’s Lead Veterinarian, Dr. Robert MacLean.

So far, in Mississippi and Alabama, Solagi has only dealt with 16 dead dolphins, a number just slightly above normal.

“We had predicted earlier that there would be larger numbers, but we have not seen it,” he said.

Solangi also said animal autopsies, called necropsies, performed here haven't shown any deaths directly related to the oil. So far, only two dead dolphins have washed ashore in Louisiana.

“It's difficult to know whether they floated through it after they died, or if the oil affected them directly. We're still waiting on necropsy results,” MacLean said.

But they know the dolphins are out swimming in it. In fact, WWL-TV caught these on tape in Barataria Bay (See video above).

“Are the susceptible? Can crude oil harm them? Yes. I'm positive it can,” MacLean said.

But the experts also said the dolphins swimming in the crude don't appear to be in distress. However, they don't know two things: what the long-term impact will be for dolphins breathing the crude fumes and eating oil-exposed fish, and they don't know whether more are washing up undetected in Louisiana's marshes.

“Louisiana, it's difficult to know because we don't have a lot of shoreline. We have a lot of marsh. It's possible, not unlikely, that we're having more mortality than we can document,” MacLean said.

“We don't know how many people are looking for them either,” Solangi said.

So for now, it will remain a marine mystery.


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From The Latin American Tribune

Dozens of Turtles Found Dead on Guatemala’s Southern Coast

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas, or CONAP, said Wednesday it found more than 30 dead sea turtles washed up on the country’s southern coast.

“This week alone, 30 dead turtles have been found mutilated and with signs of asphyxia on the beaches of Monterrico and Sipacate,” CONAP said in a statement.

The animals, which are dying because of fishermen’s incorrect use of Turtle Excluder Devices, become trapped in nets and suffocate, the organization said, adding that it also suspects that fishermen are using fish hooks in prohibited areas.

By law, fishing nets must be equipped with TEDs so that turtles who become ensnared are able to escape, the statement said.

CONAP’s wildlife director, Kurt Duchez, said his group has called a meeting to give fishermen and representatives of state institutions that enforce fishing laws training on the use of TEDs.

The appearance of dead turtles “is worrying” because the nesting season has just begun and efforts to protect sea turtles are already under threat, according to Jose Martinez, head of CONAP’s hydro-biological resources department.

According to CONAP, six sea turtle species nest in Guatemala and all are in danger of extinction due to poaching, over-harvesting of their eggs and pollution.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

500 dead starved penguins wash up on Brazilian shore.

From BBC.com via Treehugger
Hundreds of dead penguins washed up in Brazil

Hundreds of penguins have been washed up dead on the beaches of Brazil. Scientists are still investigating what could have caused the death of around 500 animals found on the shores of Sao Paulo state. They say autopsies carried out on some of the carcasses suggest they could have starved to death, as their stomachs were completely empty. They are now trying to establish if strong currents and colder temperatures may be to blame. Thiago do Nascimento of the Peruibe Aquarium says the cooler than usual temperatures off the coast could have driven away the fish and squid the penguins feed on. But he did not rule out that overfishing could have decimated the penguins' food sources.

Mr Nascimento said between 100 and 150 penguins showed up on the beaches every year, but that they were normally alive, with only around 10 washed up dead in an average year. "What worries us this year, is the absurdly high number of penguins that have appeared dead in a short period of time," he told the Associated Press news agency.