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April 4, 2014

Death of captive rhino halts propagation efforts in US

Death of captive rhino halts propagation efforts in US

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Dr. Terri Roth, director of CREW, with Suci.
Image: Cincinnati Zoo.

Dr Roth gave an overview of the Sumatran rhino project at USI less than a week after Suci’s death.
Video: Rfshipman1.

After the death of the Cincinnati Zoo’s female Sumatran rhinoceros last Sunday, Dr. Terri Roth, the director of the zoo’s research facility specializing in propagation, told Wikinews her organization remains committed to the Sumatran rhinos, an animal that is currently listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as critically endangered.

Suci (pictured left with Roth), the last female in captivity in the United States, died and was one of only two Sumatran rhinos in captivity in the United States.

The number of Sumatran rhinos worldwide is now around 100, according to Roth, who is the vice president of Conservation and Science and the director of Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio. She told Wikinews her research facility will continue to work with its partners abroad and focus on genetic diversity.

“Realistically, the odds are against us. This is going to be a tough one to save. It’s been a roller coaster experience and it’s been a challenge,” said Roth.

In the 1980s, Indonesia and the United States entered into a pact to save the animal. According to the plan, Indonesia would enclose captured rhinos in a secure wildlife habitat and provide United States zoos with additional captured rhinos, with the two working together to rebuild the population using the wildlife and captivity. The US program experienced a set back when four out of its seven rhinos died, while zoos were learning to feed them ficus rather than hay.

Roth is an expert on the propagation of the Sumatran rhino. Since the late 1990s, when the Cincinnati Zoo received the last three surviving captive rhinos in the United States, she has studied their mating and pregnancy. This led to the ability to detect pregnancy within sixteen days of conception by ultrasound. After five failed pregnancies, Roth tried hormone treatments of progesterone with success. In 2001, CREW and the Cincinnati Zoo celebrated the first rhino birth in captivity in 112 years, a male named Andalas. The previous Sumatran rhino birth in captivity occurred in 1889 in a zoo in Calcutta, India.

Roth’s work with Emi also produced Suci, a female born in 2004; and Harapan, a male born in 2007. Andalas was returned to Indonesia to sire Andatu, another success in the joint Indonesia-US project. Back in the US, the CREW facility would have to partner Suci with her brother Harapan once he reached sexual maturity between six to seven years age. Suci’s death on Sunday ended that plan.

“We were hoping to produce another calf, for a number of different reasons. One is that the females do lose fertility over time if they don’t get pregnant. So we thought even though were not doing a good genetic match, at least getting her pregnant would preserve her fertility. Although, we never got the opportunity to do that.” Roth said.

Indonesia will not be sending the US zoos any more Sumatran rhinos, Roth said, and for Indonesia it is a matter of national pride to rescue the Sumatran rhino.


SumatranRhino3 CincinnatiZoo.jpg

Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) at Cincinnati Zoo.
Image: Ltshears.

Dr Terri Roth.jpg

Dr. Terri Roth, director of Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife.
Image: Snbehnke.

Dr Terri Roth at USI.jpg

Dr. Terri Roth tells an audience at the annual Marlene V. Shaw Biology Lecture at the University of Southern Indiana about the work of Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW).
Image: Miharris.

Terri Roth's Presentation 2.JPG

Dr. Terri Roth giving her presentation on Sumatran Rhinos.
Image: Snbehnke.



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November 14, 2013

Endangered \’Asian unicorn\’ sighted

Endangered ‘Asian unicorn’ sighted – Wikinews, the free news source

Endangered ‘Asian unicorn’ sighted

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Environment
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File photo of Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, the Asian unicorn.
Image: Gió Đông.

On Tuesday, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) announced that a living saola, or “Asian unicorn”, has been photographed in Central Vietnam. The picture was recorded last September by a camera trap placed by the Vietnamese government and the WWF.

The saola, an antelope-like animal with long horns, had not been seen in Vietnam since 1998, said Quảng Nam Forest Protection Department Deputy Head Dang Dinh Nguyen. The saola is critically endangered, according to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. The WWF estimates only a few dozen saola, or at most a few hundred, survive in remote, dense upland forests along Vietnam’s border with Laos. They have never survived in captivity.

The WWF hopes to help save the saola from extinction by safeguarding its habitat from poachers. Their country director for Vietnam, Van Ngoc Thinh, said, “This is a breathtaking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species.”


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April 14, 2012

Wikinews Shorts: April 14, 2012

Wikinews Shorts: April 14, 2012 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: April 14, 2012

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A compilation of brief news reports for Saturday, April 14, 2012.

Yemen al-Qaeda attack leaves twelve dead

Twelve people were killed in an al-Qaeda militant attack on a security checkpoint yesterday in Aden, Yemen, according to the country’s Defense Ministry. Four Yemeni security force members and eight al-Qaeda militants are among the dead. Four additional people were wounded, including two al-Qaeda fighters and two members of the security force.

Al-Qaeda has been present in Yemen for several years, but gained traction last year when movements across the country called for the ouster of leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. Officials, who were unauthorized to speak to the press, spoke of the attack on the condition of anonymity.

Sources


Iran nuclear negotiations continue

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and six other nations continued yesterday and have made progress, according to diplomats. The meeting is the first time Iran has met with world powers in over a year. When the meeting broke for lunch, a diplomat warned of premature optimism, however. The diplomat also mentioned the possibility of reaching common ground in the future.

Iran continues to insist that the development of a nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened a preemptive strike, saying that his country would be threatened by Iran achieving nuclear capability. Although U.S. President Barack Obama has not eliminated the possibility of using military force against Iran, he has expressed desire for a diplomatic solution instead.

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US Secret Service agents relieved in light of alleged misconduct

Approximately twelve members of the United States Secret Service, including agents, were relieved from their duties after allegations of misconduct, reportedly involving prostitution. The agents were serving in Colombia preceding a visit by President Barack Obama. Despite the incident, however, the agency claims that security for the President was never compromised.

All questions directed to the White House pertaining to the matter have been redirected to the Secret Service. President Obama is visiting Colombia to participate in the Summit of the Americas, where he plans to discuss issues including trade policy.

Sources


Severe ‘life-threatening’ weather forecast for Midwestern US

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Storm Prediction Center issued a high risk warning on Friday for parts of several U.S. states, with Oklahoma and Kansas expected to be the most impacted by severe weather. Accuweather meteorologist Paul Walker told ABC News that the weekend “should be particularly dangerous” and that the issuance of a warning two days prior to severe weather is unusual.

Officials in Kansas and Oklahoma are urging residents to watch the situation and make emergency plans with their families.

Sources


Antarctic emperor penguin population approximated from space

Scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia used satellite imagery to approximate the Antarctic population of emperor penguins at approximately 600,000, nearly double that of previous estimates. The scientists used high resolution imagery to ensure the ability to distinguish between shadows, excrement and the penguins themselves. They also found approximately 238,000 breeding pairs of penguins in Antarctica. Two-decade-old studies estimated this number to be between 135,000 and 175,000.

Although the population estimate is higher than before, their numbers may decline in the coming years if current climate trends continue, according to researchers. Researcher Phil Trathan said “Current research suggests that emperor penguin colonies will be seriously affected by climate change.” The species, which only occupies Antarctica, is currently listed as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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February 22, 2009

Endangered Luzon Buttonquail photographed alive by Philippines documentary

Endangered Luzon Buttonquail photographed alive by Philippines documentary

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Buttonquail distribution map

According to ornithologists, a rare Philippines buttonquail feared to have gone extinct was recently documented alive by a cameraman inadvertently filming a local market, right before it was sold and headed for the cooking pot. Scientists had suspected the species—listed as “data deficient” on the 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List Category—was extinct.

Last month, native bird trappers snared and successfully caught the Luzon Buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri or Worcester’s buttonquail) in Dalton Pass, a cold and wind-swept bird passageway in the Caraballo Mountains, in Nueva Vizcaya, located between Cordillera Central and Sierra Madre mountain ranges, in Northern Luzon.

The rare species, previously known to birders only through drawings based on dead museum specimens collected several decades ago, was identified in a documentary filmed in the Philippines called Bye-Bye Birdie.

British birder and WBCP member Desmond Allen was watching a January 26 DVD-video of a documentary, Bye-Bye Birdie, when he recognized the bird in a still image of the credits that lasted less than a second. Allen created a screenshot, which was photographed by their birder-companion, Arnel Telesforo, also a WBCP member, in Nueva Vizcaya’s poultry market, before it was cooked and eaten.

i-Witness: The GMA Documentaries, a Philippine documentary news and public affairs television show aired by GMA Network, had incorporated Telesforo’s photographs and video footage of the live bird in the documentary, that was created by the TV crew led by Mr Howie Severino. The Philippine Network had not realized what they filmed until Allen had informed the crew of interesting discovery.

Mr Severino and the crew were at that time, in Dalton Pass to film “akik”, the traditional practice of trapping wild birds with nets by first attracting them with bright lights on moonless nights. “I’m shocked. I don’t know of any other photos of this. No bird watchers have ever given convincing reports that they have seen it at all… This is an exciting discovery,” said Allen.

In 2007, a specimen of the Luzon Buttonquail from the Mountain Province was photographed by the American Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

The Luzon Buttonquail was only known through an illustration in the authoritative book by Robert S. Kennedy, et al, A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. This birders “bible” includes a drawing based on the skins of dead specimens collected a century ago, whereas the otherwise comprehensive image bank of the Oriental Bird Club does not contain a single image of the Worcester’s Buttonquail.

“With the photograph and the promise of more sightings in the wild, we can see the living bill, the eye color, the feathers, rather than just the mushed-up museum skin,” exclaimed Allen, who has been birdwatching for fifty years, fifteen in the Philippines, and has an extensive collection of bird calls on his ipod. He has also spotted the Oriental (or Manchurian) Bush Warbler, another rare bird which he has not seen in the Philippines.

“We are ecstatic that this rarely seen species was photographed by accident. It may be the only photo of this poorly known bird. But I also feel sad that the locals do not value the biodiversity around them and that this bird was sold for only P10 and headed for the cooking pot,” Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) president Mike Lu said. “Much more has to be done in creating conservation awareness and local consciousness about our unique threatened bird fauna. This should be an easy task for the local governments assisted by the DENR. What if this was the last of its species?” Lu added.

“This is a very important finding. Once you don’t see a bird species in a generation, you start to wonder if it’s extinct, and for this bird species we simply do not know its status at all,” said Arne Jensen, a Danish ornithologist and biodiversity expert, and WBCP Records Committee head.

According to the WBCP, the Worcester’s buttonquail was first described based on specimens bought in Quinta Market in Quiapo, Manila in 1902, and was named after Dean Conant Worcester.

Since then just a few single specimens have been photographed and filmed from Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet, and lately, in 2007, from Mountain Province by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.

Dean Conant Worcester

Dean Conant Worcester, D.Sc., F.R.G.S. was an American zoologist, public official, and authority on the Philippines, born at Thetford, Vermont, and educated at the University of Michigan (A.B., 1889).

From 1899 to 1901 he was a member of the United States Philippine Commission; thenceforth until 1913 he served as secretary of the interior for the Philippine Insular Government. In 1910, he founded the Philippine General Hospital, which has become the hospital for the poor and the sick.

In October, 2004, at the request of Mr Moises Butic, Lamut CENR Officer, Mr Jon Hornbuckle, of Grove Road, Sheffield, has conducted a short investigation into bird-trapping in Ifugao, Mountain Province, Banaue Mount Polis, Sagada and Dalton Pass, in Nueva Vizcaya.

“Prices ranged from 100 pesos for a Fruit-Dove to 300 pesos for a Metallic Pigeon. Other species that are caught from time to time include Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove and Luzon Bleeding-heart; on one occasion, around 50 of the latter were trapped! All other trapped birds are eaten,” said Hornbuckle. “The main trapping season is November to February. Birds are caught at the lights using butterfly-catching type nets. Quails and Buttonquails were more often shot in the fields at this time, rather than caught, and occasionally included the rare Luzon (Worcester’s) Buttonquail, which is only known from dead specimens, and is a threatened bird species reported from Dalton Pass,” he added.

In August, 1929, Richard C. McGregor and Leon L. Gardner of the Cooper Ornithological Society compiled a book entitled Philippine Bird Traps. The authors described the Luzon Buttonquail as “very rare,” having only encountered it twice, once in August and once in September.

“They are caught with a scoop net from the back of a carabao. Filipino hunters snared them, baiting with branches of artificial red peppers made of sealing wax,” wrote McGregor and Leon L. Gardner. “The various ingenious and effectual devices used by Filipinos for bird-trapping include [the] ‘Teepee Trap’ which consists of a conical tepee, woven of split bamboo and rattan about 3 feet high and 3 feet across at the base, with a fairly narrow entrance. ‘Spring Snares‘ were also used, where a slip noose fastened to a strongly bent bamboo or other elastic branch, which is released by a trigger, which is usually the perch of the trap,” their book explained.

A passage from the bird-trap book, which explains why Filipinos had eaten these endangered bird species, goes as follows:

Thousands of birds appear annually in the markets of the Philippine Islands. Snipe, quails, wild ducks, silvereyes, weavers, rails, Java sparrows, parrakeets, doves, fruit pigeons, and many more are found commonly. Some of these are vended in the streets as cage birds; many are sold for food. Most of them are living; practically none has been shot. How are these birds obtained? The people possess almost no firearms, and most of them could ill afford the cost of shells alone. Nevertheless, birds are readily secured and abundantly exposed for sale. In a land which does not raise enough produce to support itself, where the quest for food is the main occupation of life, where the frog in the roadside puddle is angled, the minnow in the brook seined, and the all-consuming locust itself consumed, it is not surprising (though regrettable) that birds are considered largely in the light of dietary additions.
Philippine Bird Traps, by Richard C. McGregor and Leon L. Gardner, 1930 Cooper Ornithological Society

A global review of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates drastic decline of animal and plant life. This includes a quarter of all mammals, one out of eight birds, one out of three amphibians and 70 percent of plants.

The report, Red List of Threatened Species, is published by IUCN every year. Additionally, a global assessment of the health of the world’s species is released once in four years. The data is compiled by 1,700 experts from 130 countries. The key findings of the report were announced at the World Conservation Congress held in Barcelona, Spain.

The survey includes 44,838 species of wild fauna and flora, out of which 16,928 species are threatened with extinction. Among the threatened, 3,246 are tagged critically endangered, the highest category of threat. Another 4,770 species are endangered and 8,912 vulnerable to extinction.

Map of the Philippines showing the location of Nueva Vizcaya.

Environmental scientists say they have concrete evidence that the planet is undergoing the “largest mass extinction in 65 million years”. Leading environmental scientist Professor Norman Myers says the Earth is experiencing its “Sixth Extinction.”

Scientists forecast that up to five million species will be lost this century. “We are well into the opening phase of a mass extinction of species. There are about 10 million species on earth. If we carry on as we are, we could lose half of all those 10 million species,” Myers said.

Scientists are warning that by the end of this century, the planet could lose up to half its species, and that these extinctions will alter not only biological diversity but also the evolutionary processes itself. They state that human activities have brought our planet to the point of biotic crisis.

In 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that the planet is losing 30,000 species per year – around three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that the biodiversity crisis dubbed the “Sixth Extinction” is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had expected.

The Luzon Buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri) is a species of bird in the Turnicidae family. It is endemic to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, where it is known from just six localities thereof. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland, in the highlands of the Cordillera Central, although records are from 150-1,250 m, and the possibility that it frequents forested (non-grassland) habitats cannot be discounted.

The buttonquails or hemipodes are a small family of birds which resemble, but are unrelated to, the true quails. They inhabit warm grasslands in Asia, Africa, and Australia. They are assumed to be intra-island migrants, and breed somewhere in northern Luzon in April-June and that at least some birds disperse southwards in the period July-March.

Bird Trap by Bruegel d. Ä., Pieter

These Turnicidae are small, drab, running birds, which avoid flying. The female is the more brightly coloured of the sexes, and initiates courtship. Unusually, the buttonquails are polyandrous, with the females circulating among several males and expelling rival females from her territory. Both sexes cooperate in building a nest in the earth, but only the male incubates the eggs and tends the young.

Called “Pugo” (quail) by natives, these birds inhabit rice paddies and scrub lands near farm areas because of the abundance of seeds and insects that they feed on regularly. These birds are characterized by their black heads with white spots, a brown or fawn colored body and yellow legs on males and the females are brown with white and black spots.

These birds are very secretive, choosing to make small path ways through the rice fields, which unfortunately leads to their deaths as well, they are hunted by children and young men by means of setting spring traps along their usual path ways.

Buttonquails are a notoriously cryptic and unobtrusive family of birds, and the species could conceivably occur in reasonable numbers somewhere. They are included in the 2008 IUCN Red List Category (as evaluated by BirdLife International IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). They are also considered as Vulnerable species by IUCN and BirdLife International, since these species is judged to have a ten percent chance of going extinct in the next one hundred years.



Related news

  • “Report says disappearing life threatens biodiversity” — Wikinews, October 7, 2008
  • “Largest mass extinction in 65 million years underway, scientists say” — Wikinews, March 8, 2006

Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Luzon Buttonquail and Dean Conant Worcester on Wikipedia.
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October 7, 2008

Report says disappearing life threatens biodiversity

Report says disappearing life threatens biodiversity

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Golden Toad from Costa Rica, not seen since 1989, is declared extinct.

A global review of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates drastic decline of animal and plant life. This includes a quarter of all mammals, one out of eight birds, one out of three amphibians and 70 percent of plants.

The report, Red List of Threatened Species, is published by IUCN every year. Additionally a global assessment of the health of the world’s species is released once in four years. The data is compiled by 1,700 experts in 130 countries.

The key findings of the report were announced today at the World Conservation Congress being held in Barcelona, Spain. The congress, held every four years, will deliberate over the next 10 days actions required to slow the rate of species extinction.

The survey includes 44,838 species of wild fauna and flora, out of which 16,928 species are threatened with extinction. Among the threatened, 3,246 are tagged critically endangered, the highest category of threat. Another 4,770 species are endangered and 8,912 vulnerable to extinction.

Cquote1.svg Our results paint a bleak picture of the global status of mammals worldwide. We estimate that one in four species is threatened with extinction and that the population of one in two is declining. Cquote2.svg

—Jan Schipper and co-authors of the mammalian study.

The latest review includes a survey covering all 5,487 mammal species, out of which 1,141 are considered threatened with extinction. The study notes 79 percent of primate species in South and Southeast Asia are threatened with extinction. This companion study on mammals is being published this week in the journal Science.

“Our results paint a bleak picture of the global status of mammals worldwide,” Jan Schipper, lead author and his co-authors said in the mammalian study. “We estimate that one in four species is threatened with extinction and that the population of one in two is declining.”

However there is some cheer for the conservationists. It is revealed that 5% of the currently threatened species are recovering, including the European bison and black-footed ferret.

“We are now emerging from the Dark Ages of conservation knowledge, when we relied on data from a highly restricted subset of species,” says Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at the Zoological Society of London. “We will expand the scope further to include a far broader range of groups, thus informing and assisting policy-makers in a hugely more objective and representative manner.”



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May 10, 2008

Ignored warnings \’worsened\’ situation in Myanmar

Ignored warnings ‘worsened’ situation in Myanmar

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cyclone Nargis
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Nargis 01 may 2008 0440Z.jpg

Related links
  • Tropical cyclone on Wikipedia
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  • Background on Burma
  • Wiktionary’s definition of a cyclone

People studying the situation in Myanmar are claiming that an inadequate response of the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) to scientists’ warnings about the cyclone, coupled with large-scale destruction of protective mangroves along its coasts, aggravated the devastation wreaked by tropical Cyclone Nargis.

The cyclone has killed an estimated 22,980 people so far, with millions rendered homeless by the disaster, which struck the Irrawaddy Delta region of Myanmar last week (3 May).

Scientists at the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in New Delhi, the World Meteorological Organisation’s specialist centre for Asia, say they issued the first of the cyclone bulletins to Myanmar as early as 26 April.

Mrityunjay Mohapatra, director of IMD’s cyclone-warning centre, told SciDev.Net that Myanmar was warned of the impending cyclone at least 48 hours in advance. But there was no acknowledgement from Myanmar’s meteorological office, or any indication of a response.

Mohapatra says IMD’s first warning bulletin, issued on 1 May, indicated the land area likely to be hit by the cyclone. It warned that a cyclone with wind speeds of 180 kilometres per hour would cross the southwest coast of Myanmar sometime between 8pm and midnight on the night of the 2 May.

IMD’s bulletins contain information on the actual and predicted centre, intensity and movement of the cyclone, as well as sea conditions and maximum wind speeds around the cyclone centre.

Uma Charan Mohanty, from the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre in Thailand, said that, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s data, Asian cyclones are fewer and less intense than hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean or typhoons in the Pacific Ocean region, but they cause more death and destruction. In 2005, 25 hurricanes in the Atlantic caused 10 deaths, but cyclone Sidr, which hit Bangladesh in 2007, left 3,500 dead.

Mohanty says that the Atlantic coast has a good early-warning system and people have the means to drive to safer areas. In contrast, Asian coasts are densely populated, with many poor fishing and farming communities who cannot evacuate on their own, even if they have been warned.

News agencies quote Maung Swe, Myanmar’s minister for relief and resettlement, who told a press conference (6 May) that most deaths were caused by a 3.5-metre-high storm surge — a wall of water that develops when cyclonic winds churn up sea water.

Mohanty says that 85 per cent of cyclone deaths are due to storm surges and that predictions of the size and location of such surges are critical in disaster forecasting.

Asian coasts are also becoming increasingly vulnerable because of the loss of protective mangrove forests that serve as windbreaks and limit damage by storm and tidal surges.

In a 2006 report, the International Union for Conservation of Nature said that areas in Sri Lanka with mangrove forests suffered less damage in the 2004 Asian tsunami, compared with regions where forests had been destroyed.

And in January 2008, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned that Asia is fast losing its coastal mangroves, with more than 1.9 million hectares being destroyed each year.

The organisation’s report reviewed the world’s mangroves between 1980 and 2005. It found that the mangrove forests around Myanmar’s Irrawady Delta had degraded because of “overexploitation” and the conversion of land for rice fields — promoted by the government as a way to ensure self-sufficiency in food production.

Government officials in Myanmar have said that 22,464 people have been confirmed dead from Cyclone Nargis.

Only once rescue workers reached the hardest hit areas of the storm did they begin to realize the extent of damage that had occurred. At least 10,000 people died in one town alone, Bogalay in the Pyapon District of the country.

The United Nations has reported that one million people are homeless, or in need of help in some other way.



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January 18, 2006

Australians unite against whaling in Southern Ocean

Australians unite against whaling in Southern Ocean

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

File:Greenpeace Vessels Esperanza and Arctic Sun.jpg

Japanese whalers take on fuel – Greenpeace
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Anti-whaling protesters have joined forces across Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the U.S.A calling for an end to the killing of whales for meat by Japan. Greenpeace organised the international day of action as it continued its efforts to disrupt the hunting of minke whales by the Japanese whaling fleet currently in the Southern Ocean.

The day of action was being marked to protest the actions of the fleet which protesters believe violate the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) global ban on commercial whaling. Japan’s JARPA Japanese Whale Research Program was allowed to operate under a Special Permit in the Antarctic according to Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In its JARPA-2 plan, Japan plans to double its annual scientific research catch of Minke whales to 935, and to add 10 Fin whales to its quota. The International Fund for Animal Welfare states that over the next two years, Japan plans to kill 50 endangered Humpback whales and an additional 40 fin whales.

International Anti-Whaling Protesters’ Day of Action

Numerous reports of actions taken in Australia and New Zealand focused on public awareness of the Japanese whaling efforts and collecting signatures of people opposed to whaling.

Australia

At Sydney’s Bondi Beach, anti-whaling campaigners asked bathers to sign a dozen metre-high cardboard whale tails placed in the sand and called for an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean. Signatures from a Sydney petition would be added to tens of thousands collected elsewhere in the country. They will be handed to the Australian government and Japanese consulate in June.

Waverley mayor Mora Main urged Japanese tourists who enjoyed whale watching in Australia to pressure their government to end whaling.

In Melbourne, protesters collected hundreds of signatures on a seven metre long fabric whale to take to the Japanese consulate. Campaigner Simon Bradshaw said up to 300 people signed the whale within 15 minutes at Flinders Street station.

“Australia is pretty much unequivocally opposed to the whaling hunt on environmental grounds as well as animal rights grounds,” Mr Bradshaw said. “People have been rather disturbed and horrified (by the whaling), so I think they’re grateful to be given even a small thing they can do to express their opposition to it.”

Signatures were also collected in Brisbane and Hobart. In the Tasmanian capital, about 50 people were applauded by bystanders as they marched through the city centre, chanting slogans and waving placards against whaling. Protest organiser Jessica Sheldrick says it is part of a national day of action in four capital cities to educate people about whaling in Australia’s Southern Oceans.

“Basically, we’re here to support our activists that are down there endangering their lives, just to save our marine mammals,” Ms Sheldrick said. “People are, on the whole, totally in support of Greenpeace’s stance in whaling in the Southern Oceans. They don’t believe it should be happening.”

New Zealand

In New Zealand, whaling has been condemned at an Auckland beach protest. A mock graveyard of black minke whale tails, symbolic of those killed in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, was displayed on an Auckland beach.

Greenpeace New Zealand say the tails represent the more than 900 whales killed by Japan this season. More than 100 people turned up at Mission Bay beach to mark the International Day of Action against Whaling. Around 250 wooden whale tails were placed in the sand and a giant whale tail of sand was made on the beach by children and their parents.

The New Zealand Greens Party say diplomatic measures have failed to stop the whaling and the government should explore legal options, including the Antarctic Treaty which allows observers to inspect research ships.

Whaling conflict in the Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean Sanctuary was designated by the IWC as a sanctuary for whales in 1994.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986, in line with an international moratorium, yet resumed whaling the following year for what it says is “scientific research”. Japan’s whaling program includes fin and humpback whales, both of which are on the World Conservation Union‘s list of threatened species.

Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research says its whaling is legal and scientifically necessary for sustainable resource management.

International Whaling Commission rules permit the research hunt, but Australia and other anti-whaling countries say it is commercial whaling in disguise as the meat collected from the “research” is later sold in Japan. Critics say Japan is off-loading whale meat for consumption in restaurants and supermarkets.

International views of whaling today

Meanwhile, Australia, Britain, Brazil, France and Germany were among 17 countries calling on Japan this week, to halt to its Antarctic whaling program. “The fact that 17 countries supported this representation, shows how important this issue is, and the depth of feeling around the world,” British fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw said in a statement.

The statement calls on Japan to “cease all its lethal scientific research on whales,” and was delivered to Japan’s foreign and farm ministries.

“We urge Japan to reconsider its positions and end this unjustified and unnecessary slaughter which is regarded by many countries as a means to by-pass the IWC (International Whaling Commission) moratorium,” Bradshaw said.

Other signatories of the statement were Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Japans view of the issues

Japan opposes a ban on whaling, insisting it is part of the country’s traditional culture, and has continued to hunt whales for scientific research since the International Whaling Commission introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

More than 6,800 Antarctic Minke Whales have already been killed in Antarctic waters since Japan began its Whale Research Program 18 years ago. Meat from whales killed for research is later consumed at Japanese restaurants.

The Japanese government has defended its whaling activities, saying that whales are caught for research purposes only. They have also said that they are not breaking international law, in a statement issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

“I understand that Japan’s research whaling follows international rules and is done for the purpose of research on whales’ ecosystem,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the government spokesman, told reporters.

The Japanese whaling industry’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) claim serious violations of maritime laws during the recent anti-whaling actions. “Already, there are serious violations that provide reasons for concern in terms of safety and international maritime law,” ICR director-general Dr Hiroshi Hatanaka said in a statement.

The ICR said Greenpeace had not stopped the whaling fleet from conducting its research. “The issue of sound management and sustainability of whale stocks are far too important to be sidetracked by a D grade public relations campaign,” Dr Hatanaka said.

Gavin Carter, an adviser to the ICR, a nonprofit Japanese research organisation, said Japanese quotas for whale kills are well below the mammals’ reproductive rates.

“The purpose of this research,” said Mr Carter, “is to create a knowledge bank, which the government can then use to facilitate a regulated whaling industry.” Mr Carter urged critics of commercial whaling to be sensitive to other nations’ cultural differences, noting that Japanese have “used whales for centuries. They eat the whole thing. They use every part. Who are we to tell them what to eat, or what not to kill?” he asked.

Inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ships – the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza – hinder the transfer of a dead minke whale from the Japanese whaling fleet catcher ship Kyo Maru No.1 to the Nisshin Maru factory ship. (Image Credit:© Greenpeace / Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)

Green Peace’s actions

The Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise has been shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet for several weeks in a bid to disrupt Japan’s annual whale hunt, prompting many heated exchanges. Canadian activist Texas Constantine was thrown out of a small inflatable boat that had been manoeuvring between a harpooner and a minke whale. He spent several minutes in the icy waters before being hauled back on board.

The harpoon killed the minke whale and its tow rope threw into the water Greenpeace activist Joe Constantine, who was able to climb back aboard the boat to safety, the environmental watchdog said.

“We were out defending the whales. We had been out there for about an hour. I was driving our boat and we were in a good position and the whaler fired its harpoon,” Constantine said in a statement. “All of a sudden the harpoon line came down on us trapping us between the whale and the catcher,” he said. “The line came tight at that point and threw me from the boat into the water. It was a few minutes before our boat was able to come over and pick me up out of the water.”

The Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo accused Greenpeace of taking increasing risks in harassing the whaling fleet. “The fact that the rope fell onto their inflatable and one of the activists fell into the water is entirely their fault,” the institute’s director general Hiroshi Hatanaka said Sunday.

Related Wikinews

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Southern Ocean whaling season (2005-2006)
  • “Southern Ocean whale slaughter to resume” — Wikinews, January 3, 2006
  • “Greenpeace activists clash with Japanese whaling fleet in Southern Ocean” — Wikinews, December 22
  • “Japanese whaling ship to dock in Hobart” — Wikinews, December 22, 2005
  • “Japan to hunt 950 whales for “scientific research”” — Wikinews, November 21, 2005
  • International Whaling Commission adjourns for private talks” — Wikinews, June 21, 2005

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October 1, 2005

Researchers: Wild gorillas seen using tools

Researchers: Wild gorillas seen using tools

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

A female gorilla using trunk as a stabilizer during food processing at Mbeli Bai

Wild gorillas were seen using tools, researchers for the U.S. based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

Images show one female gorilla apparently using sticks to test the depth of water, another female made a bridge with a stump detached from a bush to help her cross muddy ground, and a female using a stump from a bush as support as she dug for herbs.

Thomas Breuer, of the WCS operating in the Republic of the Congo, called the discovery “truly astounding” and added that it was “quite surprising to me and my team to make this observation”. Only wild chimps, orangutans, and captive gorillas were previously known to use tools, meaning that now all of the four great apes were oberserved using tools, suggesting that the usage of tools might predate the evolution of modern humans.

But, tool usage seems to be infrequent among wild gorillas. They were observed for some ten years in the Mbeli Bai area before this discovery was made.

Nevertheless, Breuer is fascinated by what he calls a “similarity” between humans and gorillas: “If you or me want to cross a swamp, we use the same solutions as gorillas.”

Gorillas are an endangered species; they appear on the Red List of IUCN.

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