New Mekong region animal discoveries


This video is called New Species Thrive in Mekong.

From Wildlife Extra:

126 new species identified in Mekong region in 2011 – Including Beelzebub bat

Extraordinary new species discoveries in the Greater Mekong
December 2012. A new bat named after its devilish appearance, a subterranean blind fish, a ruby-eyed pit viper, and a frog that sings like a bird are among the 126 species newly identified by scientists in the Greater Mekong region in 2011, and described in a new WWF report, Extra Terrestrial.

Bats

Among the ten species highlighted in the report is the aptly named Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, a diminutive but demonic-looking creature known only from Vietnam. Beelzebub’s bat, like two other tube-nosed bats discovered in 2011, depends on tropical forest for its survival and is especially vulnerable to deforestation. In just four decades, 30 per cent of the Greater Mekong’s forests have disappeared.

“While the 2011 discoveries affirm the Mekong as a region of astonishing biodiversity, many new species are already struggling to survive in shrinking habitats,” said Nick Cox, Manager of WWF-Greater Mekong’s Species Programme. “Only by investing in nature conservation, especially protected areas, and developing greener economies, will we see these new species protected and keep alive the hope of finding other intriguing species in years to come.”

Walking fish

A new ‘walking’ catfish species (Clarias gracilentus), discovered in freshwater streams on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, can move across land using its pectoral fins to stay upright while it wiggles forward with snake-like movements. And a dazzling miniature fish (Boraras naevus), just 2cm in length, was found in southern Thailand and named after the large dark blotch on its golden body (naevus is Latin for blemish).

A pearly, rose-tinted fish from the carp family was found in the Xe Bangfai catchment, a Mekong River tributary in Central Laos that runs 7km underground through limestone karst. The cave-dwelling Bangana musaei is totally blind and was immediately assessed as vulnerable due to its restricted range.

The Mekong River supports around 850 fish species and the world’s most intensive inland fishery. Laos’ determination to construct the Xayaburi dam on the mainstream of the Mekong River is a significant threat to the Mekong’s extraordinary biodiversity and the productivity of this lifeline through Southeast Asia that supports the livelihoods of over 60 million people.

“The Mekong River supports levels of aquatic biodiversity second only to the Amazon River,” added Cox. “The Xayaburi dam would prove an impassable barrier for many fish species, signalling the demise for wildlife already known and as yet undiscovered.”

Frogs

A new species of tree frog discovered in the high-altitude forests of northern Vietnam has a complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. While most male frogs attract females with repetitive croaks, Quang’s tree frog spins a new tune each time. No two calls are the same, and each individual mixes clicks, whistles and chirps in a unique order.

When it comes to frogs in the genus Leptobrachium, the eyes have it. Among its more than 20 species, there is a remarkable variety of eye colouration. Leptobrachium leucops, discovered in 2011 in the wet evergreen and cloud forest in Southern Vietnam, is distinguished by its striking black and white eyes.

21 reptiles

A staggering array of 21 reptiles was also newly discovered in 2011, including the ruby-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus rubeus) in forests near Ho Chi Minh City. This new jewel of the jungle also winds its way along the low hills of southern Vietnam and through eastern Cambodia’s Lang Bian Plateau.

Pygmy python

A short-tailed python species was found in a streambed in the Kyaiktiyo Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar. The elusive pygmy python (Python kyaiktiyo) has not been found again despite repeated surveys, so little is known of its ecology, distribution or threats. However, the 1.5 metre-long python is likely at risk from threats faced by other pythons, including habitat loss, and illegal hunting for meat, skins, and the exotic pet trade.

Poaching

“Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade poses one of the greatest threats to the existence of many species across Southeast Asia,” added Cox. “To tackle this threat, WWF and TRAFFIC launched a global campaign this year to increase law enforcement, impose strict deterrents and reduce demand for endangered species products.”

1,710 new species since 1997!

Extra Terrestrial spotlights 10 species newly identified by science, among the 82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals all discovered in 2011 within the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia that spans Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan. Since 1997, an incredible 1,710 new species were newly described by science in the Greater Mekong.

Winter butterflies in Britain


Peacock butterfly seen in Herefordshire on 18th December 2012

From Wildlife Extra, about England:

Butterflies in December

Peacock butterfly in December

December 2012. Was driving along today (December 18th), a nice sunny day with temperatures hovering around 7-8 degrees, when something fluttered across my bows. Unfortunately, I was armed with only a mobile phone camera, so my apologies for the quality, but the image does show a peacock butterfly.

Unusual

Although it is quite unusual, several butterflies can sometimes be seen flying in the UK, even in mid-winter. Peacock and Red admiral are probably the most common, and small tortoiseshell can be found sheltering in houses and other buildings.

Read more about wintering and hibernating butterflies and moths with Butterfly Conservation.

Dutch butterflies in winter: here.

Greece, nazi massacre and jazz music


This video from Greece says about itself:

Kyriacos Charitou singing Andonis Vardis song “To tsigaro to Kommeno“.

By Chris Searle in Britain:

Gunter Baby Sommer, Savina Yannatou, Floros Floridis, Spilios Kastanis and Evgenios Voulgaris

Songs for Kommeno (Intakt CD190)

Tuesday 18 December 2012

“We shall make Kommeno a village of music, a grove of peace and culture.”

So declared Christos Kosmas, the mayor of Kommeno – the Greek village where in August 1943 soldiers of the occupying German Wehrmacht massacred 317 villagers including 97 children and 13 babies-in-arms.

The album Songs for Kommeno emerged from a project led by the German free jazz drummer Gunter Baby Sommer, born in Dresden also in 1943, whose long experience began as a pioneer improviser in the days of the German Democratic Republic and who has subsequently played with some of the great free jazz giants like Cecil Taylor and Wadada Leo Smith from the US and fellow Europeans such as Irene Schweizer, Evan Parker and Peter Brotzmann.

He affirms: “What I can give is music. This is why I decided to develop a music project which puts the focus on the name of the village Kommeno and the memory of the suffering of the victims.

“What I have taken in from my ties with jazz since its beginnings is that we have to position ourselves in regards to the events taking place in our world.”

In the album Sommer joins with four Greek musicians to create a brilliant and moving sequence of evocations of the 1943 events. Savina Yannatou is an Athens-born singer of theatre and dance who has sung with free improvisers like bassists Peter Kowald and Barry Guy for two decades. The oud virtuoso is Evgenios Voulgaris from Patras and the soprano saxophone and clarinet master is Floros Floridis from Thessaloniki. Spilios Kastanis, who plays in a trio with Sommer and Floridis, is the bassist from a village in Arcadia near Patras.

In 2008 Sommer played a concert in Kommeno, beginning with a piece struck entirely on tubular bells “without realising what kind of associations this would trigger … people rose from their seats, some of them started to cry, some of them clasped their necklaces with the cross. That moment was the starting point of a close relationship between the people of the village and me.

“I postponed my departure for a few days and I was asked to go to visit them in their houses. They talked about their experiences, spoke about the massacre, of their families, fathers, grandmothers. They gave me food and drink and I didn’t leave a single house without receiving a small gift.”

All this gave birth to Songs for Kommeno and the opening track, Tears, where the Greek strings of Kastanis and Voulgaris make sounds close to the blues which their German confrere said “describes the love and suffering in life … the resignation, and awakening grief and joy.” It is all there certainly and stroked with beauty and memory with Sommer’s rustling percussion.

As Floridis’s clarinet enters over Kastinis’s pulsating bowed bass these sonic tears could be shed in Louisiana, Cape Town, Gaza or Dhaka, so cosmic is their resonance.

Of the track called Andartes Sommer writes: “The Greek partisans called themselves Andartes. The introductory drum solo could stand for the situation of the hard-pressed Greek people.” Then and now, perhaps, as Sommer booms, crackles and crashes and Yannatou’s wordless voice wails over the strings.

The 18 minutes of Mirias Miroloi includes the voice of Maria Labri, one of the survivors of the massacre, and is begun by Kastanis’s howling bowed bass and Floridis’s mournful clarinet.

Sommer’s drumming is astonishing. He resorts to gong chimes as Maria’s chanting begins, along with Tibetan cymbals, metal sheets and bass drum until the free improvisation explodes from all musicians and Maria tells the story of the brave priest who was cut down by nazi guns as he tried to prevent the slaughter.

Arachthos has Sommer striking what sounds like a steel pan, and suddenly the sound of Trinidad travels to Greece, while Lullaby has Yannatou’s voice like that of a child falling towards sleep. It prefaces Children Song, where Yannatou and Floridis’s clarinet find a floating amalgam of sound over Kastanis’s plucked infant heartbeats.

The final track is Kommeno Today where the past is a springboard to now-times youth, dancing, grooving, setting their village beyond the horror of history.

“Jazz is also liberation from everything which unnaturally restricts and limits us” is Sommer’s dictum and it applies here in earfuls as it does all through this extraordinary album.

Full of the past and full of the future. And how many more people will remember Kommeno and its people?

Dutch humpback whale was female


The humpback whale on a Noorderhaaks island sandbar

Translated from Dutch news agency ANP:

December 18, 2012 5:04 p.m.

Humpback ‘Johannes’ is a female

TEXEL – The humpback whale which stranded and died on a sandbank near Texel was a female.

A spokeswoman for Naturalis Biodiversity Center, which investigates the animal, said so.

The beached whale was at one point called ‘Johannes’. This happened when it was alive and the sex could not yet be determined.

The investigation into the cause of death has not yet come to a conclusion. ”On the outside of the body no damage was found, for example, signs of a collision with a ship. Also, our first examination of the intestines has not established a cause yet” said the spokeswoman.

Samples of the animal will be subjected to microscopic examination.

The whale is called Johanna now, instead of Johannes (John in English).

A photo series is here.

This is a Dutch video about the investigation of the dead humpback whale.

In parliament, Minister Kamp has admitted that the government made mistakes after this whale beached; and that there should be improvements.

Mammals threatened by climate change


Mammals and storms, climate map

Mammals and drouight, climate map

From Wildlife Extra:

Disaster map predicts bleak future for mammals

Mammals are in for a stormy ride as cyclones and droughts caused by climate change could threaten populations

December 2012. Mammals could be at a greater risk of extinction due to predicted increases in extreme weather conditions according to some new research. Scientists have mapped out land mammal populations, and overlapped this with information of where droughts and cyclones are most likely to occur. This allowed them to identify species at high risk of exposure to extreme weather. The paper describes the results of assessing almost six thousand species of land mammals in this way.

Cyclones & droughts

Lead author of the paper, ZSL’s Eric Ameca y Juárez says: “Approximately a third of the species assessed have at least a quarter of their range exposed to cyclones, droughts or a combination of both. If these species are found to be highly susceptible to these conditions, it will lead to a substantial increase in the number of mammals classified as threatened by the IUCN under the category ‘climate change and severe weather’.”

Primates in particular are in danger

In particular, primates – already among the most endangered mammals in the world – are highlighted as being especially at risk. Over 90 per cent of black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) and Yucatan spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) known habitats have been damaged by cyclones in the past, and studies have documented ways they are able to adapt to the detrimental effects of these natural disasters.

Madagascar

In contrast, very little is known about the impacts of these climatic extremes on other species. In Madagascar, entire known distributions of the western woolly lemur (Avahi occidentalis) and the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) have been exposed to both cyclones and drought. These endangered species are also amongst the world’s most evolutionary distinct, yet remain highly understudied.

ZSL’s research fellow Dr Nathalie Pettorelli says: “This is the first study of its kind to look at which species are at risk from extreme climatic events. There are a number of factors which influence how an animal copes with exposure to natural disasters. It is essential we identify species at greatest risk so that we can better inform conservation management in the face of global environmental change.”

The study was published by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in the journal Conservation Letters.