Thursday, December 29, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - CAS to look into white-flag dolphins in Yangtze River

The China View website Xinhua has news on a new investigation that will begin in 2006 looking for any remaining Baiji or white-flag dolphins that may remain in the river Yangtze.
China will launch a thorough investigation into white-flag dolphins in the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River in 2006, according to a researcher with Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

'We will carry out the investigation using the fund offered by White-flag Dolphin Foundation based in Switzerland,' said Wang Li,a researcher from the CAS's Institute of Hydrobiology.

With close observations on the dolphins, experts will find and catch the animals to divert them into the old course of the Yangtze River section at central China's Hubei, according to Wang.

KAKAPO PARROTS - Back on the kakapo trail

New Zealand's Stuff.co.nz with a story on kakapo researcher Chris Smuts-Kennedy, who's hunting Kakapo parrots once again...
More than 30 years after ecologist Chris Smuts-Kennedy tramped through Fiordland searching for kakapo, he is returning to see if any remain.

The Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust employee says he'll know when he hears one because their unusual cry makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

Mr Smuts-Kennedy was part of an early expedition in the mid-1970s to find kakapo.

BLOG OF THE WEEK - Blogs Are For Wimps

Please spend a moment to check out our Of The Week, Blogs Are For Wimps (see sidebar for thumbnail), which has a rounded mixture of news, sport, humour and politics from its contributors. I'll be keeping an eye on their World Cup preview. Come on England!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Rwanda honours mountain gorilla researcher Fossey

Reuters AlertNet has an article on the Rwandan commemoration of the life and work of Dian Fossey which was held this week. Fossey was murdered on December 26, 1985 after living in the jungles of Rwanda for some 18 years with the primates.
Rwandan officials commemorated the life and the 20th anniversary of the death of famed primate researcher Dian Fossey with dances and speeches in the rural highlands where she studied the mountain gorillas she loved.

Government officials and locals held traditional dances, gave speeches and laid wreaths at the site where Fossey, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in 1985, was buried.

Fossey's work inspired the 1988 Hollywood film Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver and has provided Rwanda's economy with an enduring lure for tourist dollars.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

AMAZONIAN MANATEES - Manatee-biting catfish invade Florida

The Daytona Beach News has an article on the threat to Floridean Manatees from a species of catfish which originally threatened the Brazilian Manatees...
As the manatees return to Blue Spring State Park this winter, they're being greeted by the invasive catfish that love them -- or the algae on their skin, anyway.

In recent years a species of catfish native to Brazil has expanded into the park's waters, and thrived.

The first few were spotted in 1999, and now they are estimated in the thousands. With their shark-like movements and manatee-biting habits, they're among the park's least popular denizens.

Rumor has it that the fish -- known as suckermouth sailfin catfish, or more commonly, armored catfish -- are descendants of aquarium escapees. They are often seen grazing on the manatees, which toss and twirl to try and throw them off.

Friday, December 23, 2005

DODOS - Scientists find 'mass dodo grave'

Exciting news from the BBC.
Scientists have discovered the "beautifully preserved" bones of about 20 dodos at a dig site in Mauritius.

Little is known about the dodo, a famous flightless bird thought to have become extinct in the 17th century.

No complete skeleton has ever been found in Mauritius, and the last full set of bones was destroyed in a fire at a museum in Oxford, England, in 1755.

Researchers believe the bones are at least 2,000-years-old, and hope to learn more about how dodos lived.
Click here for the full article.

Some other BBC articles on the dodo are:
Scientists pinpoint dodo's demise
Bringing the dodo back to life
DNA yields dodo family secrets

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project Employees Travel from Africa to U.S. for Special Program

The Baltimore Times with an article on a six week visit to Baltimore Zoo by African vets.
Thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Kim Hammond of the Falls Road Animal Hospital, MGVP veterinarians from Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are getting the chance to come to Baltimore to observe how North American veterinarians work. The MGVP participants will be learning from veterinarians at The Maryland Zoo and Falls Road Animal Hospital, as well as pathologists at the Johns Hopkins Comparative Medicine Department. It's an opportunity for the MGVP employees to see veterinary medicine at a level that, unfortunately, doesn't exist in their home countries.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Finless porpoise endangered

Shanghai Daily with a status report on one of the other marine mammals found in the Yangtze.
Finless porpoises are decreasing by 7.3 percent annually in the Yangtze River, China's longest, according to the Institute of Hydrobiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences. About 1,000 are left.

'We do research on porpoises' situation every year at key reaches of the Yangtze since the early 1980s, and have found that the number of Yangtze finless porpoises has decreased rapidly in the past two decades,' said Wei Zhuo, an institute scientist.
[...]
'We need quick actions; or it probably will become like the endangered white-flag dolphin,' said Wei.

Friday, December 16, 2005

MAURITIUS KESTRELS - Mauritius highway plans shelved

Superb news from Birdlife International. The planned Mauritius South-Eastern Highway has been cancelled. The building of this road would have devastated the habitat of the Mauritius Kestrel.
In an important victory for conservation, plans for a road that would have devastated part of the forest heartland of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus, one of the world’s flagship conservation success stories, have been shelved.

The historic decision was announced in October following national elections when the Prime Minister of Mauritius was elected with promises to change the country within 100 days.
[...]
Numbering just four wild birds in 1974, the Mauritius Kestrel was once the world’s rarest bird. Today its population has grown to between 800 and 1,000 individuals, thanks to a captive breeding and reintroduction programme run by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Government of Mauritius

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Gentle king of the jungle needs help

Scotsman.com has a feature on David Cowdrey, "WWF-UK's head of press, when he got first-hand experience of the terror that gorillas can inspire when he met a rather cheesed-off male in Rwanda in 2003".
David says: "I was filming a family group, a mother and her baby, when a big male exploded out of the bushes and charged towards me. I was petrified, but thankfully had the presence of mind to get down on the ground in the most submissive position I could.

"He stomped up to me and walked around a few times grunting, but once he had realised I didn't pose any threat to his authority he wandered off and left me unharmed, and with a very surprising video."
[...]
There are two species of gorilla in Africa. The most well known is also the most threatened. Only about 700 mountain gorillas - which live in the highlands of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo - survive in the wild, while about up to 100,000 lowland gorillas are still thought to survive across central Africa. But one sub species of the lowland gorilla, the cross river gorilla, is in dire straits, with just 250 left.

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Court hears how tourists were hacked to death at reserve

The Guardian has the story on a trial taking place in Kampala for the 1999 atoricty in which a mountain gorilla tourism group were brutally murdered.
Nine people, including three British tourists, sustained horrific injuries when they were killed at a Ugandan gorilla reserve in 1999, according to testimony yesterday at the trial, in Kampala, of one of the accused.

Jean-Paul Bizimana is one of the Rwandan rebels accused of hacking and bludgeoning to death the nine people, who included a Ugandan guide, at the reserve in western Uganda, near the borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr Bizimana, 30, denies nine counts of murder. He could face execution if convicted. The killings caused a dramatic reduction in tourists to Uganda's famed Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

ECHO PARAKEETS - Jason Malham

l'express.mu here with a profile of Jason Malham, coordinator of the Echo parakeet - the Grosse cateau verte- recovery programme on the island of Mauritius.
Jason was brought up on a diet of sports and nature. New Zealand is a land of mountains and valleys, an outdoor paradise, where one can practise hiking, climbing… So the young boy would accompany his father on hunting and fishing parties (not endangered species) and developed a strong link with nature.
[...]
Then his destiny met that of the Kakapo, a flightless nocturnal parrot, which could have known the dodo’s fate without a preservation programme. It was a huge job to get the Kakapo out of the red. Like the Echo Parakeet here, each member of a family is carefully (and sometimes comically!) identified.
[...]
[Now], coordinator of the Echo parakeet - the Grosse cateau verte- recovery programme in the island, Jason Malham came here four years ago. “I actually work on a seasonal basis for eight months, obviously during this bird’s breeding season.” The recovery programme, which started in1988, when the birds’ population had fallen to 12 and threatened to disappear completely, has proved one of the world’s most successful : there are about 270 now.
Full Profile here

Monday, December 12, 2005

DOCTOR WHO - Shada

"Shada", a serial from 1979 starring Tom Baker, was written by the late great Douglas Adams. A strike at the BBC meant that the recording was never completed, so for the best part of 25 years it remained unfinished. In the intervening time, Douglas Adams borrowed several elements from the serial and wove them into his novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", which sees the eponymous hero and Professor Chronotis go back in time and meet the Dodo. Adams also refers to the history of the Dodo in his book "Last Chance To See" of course.

A few years ago, the Big Finish company remade "Shada" as a BBC webcast (audio plus animation) starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, with K9 and Lalla Ward as Romana. Incidentally, Douglas Adams introduced Lalla to her future husband (the scientist Richard Dawkins) at his 40th birthday party in 1992.

The story was then released on CD by Big Finish, and for this week only, the BBC's digital radio station BBC7 is broadcasting a compilation of the 6 part adventure.

You can LISTEN FOR FREE until Friday 16th December. The full BBC7 Saturday schedule can be seen here.

The broadcast features a rather nice prologue, in the style of a famous paragraph from "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy".

KAKAPO PARROTS - Injured kakapo chick ready to go home

Good news from New Zealand's Stuff. Pounamu, the female kakapo chick that was savagely attacked in her pen by an older male was given the all-clear to return home today.
The Department of Conservation said the chick, named Pounamu, was attacked in her pen just days before she was due for release in September.

Pounamu, one of only 86(sic*) kakapo in the world, sustained serious injuries to her neck and beak, and had to be flown to Massey University's wildlife ward to be treated for her injuries.
* There's actually 87. We had 86 in 2004 before 3 died of an infection. 4 were successfully reared in 2005, bringing us up to 87.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - New Zealand birdlife under threat

New Zealand's Scoop with the news that even more needs to be done to save New Zealand's native birdlife such as Kakapo, Kiwi and Taiko.
An overview of the state of New Zealand native birds says that while seriously endangered bird species are being successfully managed, there are many less-endangered species that are not being managed and are in severe decline.

Compiler of the State of New Zealand's Birds 2005 and a senior lecturer at Lincoln University, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, said today that the Conservation Department had been very successful at saving critically endangered species from extinction with, arguably, a better record of success than any other agency any where in the world.

"Almost all bird species that are being actively managed are increasing, albeit slowly in the case of very difficult species such as the Taiko and Kakapo."

BAIJI DOLPHINS - Nets killing 800 whales and dolphins every day

DIVE Magazine with an article on the threat of fishing nets to dolphins, whales and porpoises.
Fishing nets are killing up to 800 whales, dolphins and porpoises every day, according to latest research. A team of marine experts from universities and conservation in the UK and US said bycatch was the biggest danger cetaceans faced.
[...]
WWF said the most endangered species included the European harbour porpoise, baiji dolphins in China, Maui’s dolphin in New Zealand and Irrawaddy dolphins in the Philippines.

Monday, December 05, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - Powerful quake rocks East Africa

BBC News with initial reports of a significant earthqukae that has struck DR Congo and Rwanda.
A powerful earthquake has hit eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near Lake Tanganyika.

There are no reports of any casualties. Hundreds of people fled in panic from offices in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The quake was also felt on the Indian Ocean coast, Burundi and Rwanda. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8, reports the US Geological Survey.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

MOUNTAIN GORILLAS - How to keep a gorilla, and other stories

New Zealand's Stuff with an interesting article on the current deluge of gorilla related material, mainly because of the release of Peter Jackson's King Kong remake.
As ape-obsessed publishers disgorge an avalanche of Kong-related dross, Iain Sharp tells the true history of gorilla lit.
[...]
King Kong? Not quite. In the original 1933 movie, King Kong was five to eight times taller (the models varied in scale from scene to scene). But Merian C Cooper, the driving force behind the film as chief scriptwriter, co-producer and co-director, had loved Du Chaillu's book since boyhood.

Cooper was probably also familiar with The Gorilla Hunters, a novel by Scottish writer RM Ballantyne, who specialised in ripping yarns for boys. Ballantyne's 1858 book The Coral Island - a tale of three young castaways in the South Seas - was a huge bestseller. Written in rapid, enthusiastic response to Du Chaillu's pioneering work and completed by the end of 1861, The Gorilla Hunters is a sequel in which the youthful trio (Ralph Rover, Jack Martin and Peterkin Gay) reunite, sail to Africa and lay waste to great apes.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

KAKAPO PARROTS - Hunt for kakapo to resume

The New Zealand Herald has news on a hunt for two Kakapo Parrots, Tawbert and Biscuit.
The last hunt for Fiordland's lost kakapo will be launched next month, 20 years after the birds were last known to be alive.

Don Merton, 65, now retired but who played a key role in the rescue of kakapo more than 30 years ago, and Department of Conservation kakapo team leader Paul Jansen, will lead the search from January 17 over some of the most rugged and remote country to find two males, Tawbert and Biscuit.
Full Story

MADAGASCAR - Preserving the Magic, MP3

This week's Living On Earth has a 30 minute segment on entitled Preserving The Magic. The segment is available as streaming audio or as an MP3 file for download to your MP3 player of choice.
PART 1: This week we present a special two- part report on Madagascar. This island nation off the southeast coast of Africa possesses the most numerous and rarest of animal and plant species on the planet. Producer Daniel Grossman visited the island to assess the conservation efforts underway to preserve Madagascar's unique ecosystem which is under intense pressure from deforestation.

PART 2: Our story on efforts to protect Madagascar's rich flora and fauna continues with a look at how scientists and farmers are working to develop new agricultural methods that allow farmers to make a living without cutting down any more of the island's forests. Daniel Grossman reports.
Thanks to George for this information.