Subscriber #750 at this blog, welcome Latoya!


Today, the 750th person subscribed to my blog since I moved to WordPress in December 2011.

It is Latoya, of Mental Notes blog.

Of course, all subscribers are very welcome here.

But 750 being a special number, a special welcome for Latoya: the video of these flowers growing (time lapse)!

Wild yaks surviving in Tibet


This video is called Rare Tibetan Wild Yak 1.

And here is Part 2.

From Wildlife Extra:

Very remote, high altitude haven proving a saviour for wild yak

Once decimated by hunting, wild yaks may be returning

January 2013. A team of American and Chinese conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Montana recently counted nearly 1,000 wild yaks in a remote area of the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau. The finding may indicate a comeback for this species, which was decimated by overhunting in the mid-20th century.

990 yaks in Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve

The team counted 990 yaks in a rugged area called Hoh Xil – a national nature reserve nearly the size of West Virginia but devoid of people. The remote region lies in the mid-eastern Tibetan-Himalayan highlands, home to some 17,000 glaciers – an area sometimes called the “3rd pole” due to its Arctic-like conditions.

Third largest mammal in Asia

Wild yaks are the third largest mammal in Asia, second only to elephants and rhinos. Adults are estimated to be the size of bison, but – because the area where they occur is so isolated – wild yaks have never been officially weighed. Fifty years ago, the Tibetan steppe was dotted with wild yak much in the way that bison once stretched across vast North American prairies. Like bison, wild yaks were slaughtered. Yak skulls still litter high elevation haunts up to 17,500 feet.

Wild yak population estimates across the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau are unknown, though conservationists believe they may be making a comeback due to conservation efforts by Chinese park officials and provincial governments. Recently, the Qinghai provincial government has launched several conservation related policies and regional projects in order to develop a sound basis for wildlife and environmental conservation in this region.

“Wild yaks are icons for the remote, untamed, high-elevation roof of the world,” said Joel Berger who led the expedition for WCS and the University of Montana. “While polar bears represent a sad disclaimer for a warming Arctic, the recent count of almost 1000 wild yaks offers hope for the persistence of free-roaming large animals at the virtual limits of high-altitude wildlife.”

Hybridization

Berger and his colleagues found greater yak densities near glaciers, which often support adjacent food-rich alpine meadow habitats. Less than one percent of the yaks observed showed colour variation, a good indication that hybridization with their more colourful domestic yak cousins is less frequent here than in more peopled regions on the Tibetan Plateau.

Very little is known about wild yak biology, including how often they reproduce, infant mortality rates, and the role wolves may play on population dynamics.

The team’s next steps will be to process data to understand more about climate change impacts on this high elevation ecosystem, and to unravel more about human-wildlife conflict in this fragile and little-known part of the world.

Joe Walston WCS Executive Director of Asia Programs, said: “For millennia, yaks have sustained human life in this part of Asia, it would be a cruel irony if their reward is extinction in the wild. Thankfully, we have a chance now to secure their future and give back a little of what they have provided us.”

The expedition was sponsored by the National Geographic Society, WCS, and the University of Montana. Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve and Qinghai Provincial Forestry Bureau of China provided invaluable support to make it happen.

California condor dies, killed by lead?


This video is called Flying giants–rare California condors return to Utah skies.

From Wildlife Extra:

Dead condor found in Zion National Park in Utah

Lead poisoning suspected

January 2013. The Peregrine Fund, a driving force behind the conservation of Californian condors, had been hopeful that a pair of condors in Zion National Park would produce the first offspring in the state for many years.

A Peregrine Fund spokesman said “Our hopeful pairing of adult condors 299 and 343 to be the first successful Utah pair has been hampered over the past few years by us having to treat one of them for lead poisoning during breeding season. Sadly, we have now found the adult 9-year-old female (Condor 343) dead in Zion National Park in Utah. This is a major step back from Utah’s first breeding.”

Official necropsy results are pending to determine cause of death, but this year’s trapping results show a very high rate of lead poisoning in almost all of the Utah foraging birds.

Condor population

There are just 400 Californian condors alive today, of which around 175 are in captivity. The California condor has recovered from only 22 birds left in the world in 1982 to around 400 today. The original 22 birds were captured in an effort to breed and save the species. Condors bred and raised in captivity are now periodically released at sites in California, Mexico and at the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona.

Thais jailed for free speech


This video is about lèse majesté persecution in Thailand.

In Thailand, people get long jail sentences for free speech about the king; even if it is not about the king.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Thai Court Gives 10-Year Sentence for Insult to King

By THOMAS FULLER

Published: January 23, 2013

BANGKOK — A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced a labor activist and former magazine editor to 10 years in prison for insulting Thailand’s king, the latest in a string of convictions under the country’s strict lese majeste law.

The case of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, 51, was different from previous lese majeste cases because Mr. Somyot directly challenged the law itself, saying it violated the right to free expression.

Thailand’s constitutional court swept aside that challenge last month and laid out the justification for the law, saying the king deserves “special protection” under the law because he is the “center of the nation.”

“The king holds the position of head of state and is the main institution of the country,” the court ruled. Insulting the king, the court said, “is considered an act that wounds the feelings of Thais who respect and worship the king and the monarchy.”

Mr. Somyot was not the author of the two articles that the court said violated the law – the writer, Jakrapob Penkair, a former government spokesman, has fled to Cambodia. But as the editor of the magazine, which was called The Voice of Taksin and is now defunct, Mr. Somyot was responsible for its content, the court said.

Similar to a decision last week, where an anti-government protester was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the king, the articles never mentioned the king’s name.

The first article is a jumbled tale about a family that plots to kill millions of people to maintain its power and quash democracy. The court ruled on Wednesday that the writer was describing the Chakri dynasty of Thailand’s current King, Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The second article is a fictional tale about a ghost who haunts Thailand and plots massacres. The court ruled that the author was comparing the ghost to King Bhumibol.

“There is no content identifying an individual,” the court said. “But the writing conveyed connection to historical events.”

International human rights groups immediately criticized the verdict. Human Rights Watch said it would “further chill freedom of expression in Thailand.”

Amnesty International called the verdict a “regressive decision – Somyot has been found guilty simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and should be released immediately.”

The European Union issued a statement saying the ruling undercuts “Thailand’s image as a free and democratic society.”

The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, criticized the “extremely harsh” jail sentence as a setback for protection of human rights in Thailand and expressed her support for moves to amend Thailand’s lese majeste laws.

Mr. Somyot’s sentence “sends the wrong signals on freedom of expression in Thailand. The court’s decision is the latest indication of a disturbing trend in which lese-majesty charges are used for political purposes,” Ms. Pillay said in a statement released in Geneva on Wednesday.

Thailand’s lese majeste law calls for prison sentences of three to 15 years in jail for “whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the regent.”

The court added one year to Mr. Somyot’s 10 year-sentence for a separate case where Mr. Somyot was accused of libeling a general involved in the 2006 coup.

Mr. Somyot, who has been denied bail since being arrested in 2011, was brought to the courtroom in shackles. His lawyers said he would appeal the verdict.

Ms. Pillay also criticized Mr. Somyot’s lengthy pre-trial detention, repeated denial of bail and his appearance in court wearing shackles. “People exercising freedom of expression should not be punished in the first place,” Ms. Pillay said.

His wife, Sukanya Pruksakasemsuk, said she was concerned about her husband’s health because he suffers from high blood pressure and gout.

“Is it reasonable to send someone to 11 years in jail for expressing something?” she said. “I don’t think so.”

Amid a continued standoff between the Thai government and anti-government protesters, Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha yesterday refused to rule out a military coup, warning that the army was at “a difficult crossroad”: here.

African elephant using tool, video


This video says about itself:

Elephant using a stick to clean beneath its toe nails

RealAfricaVideos

Jan 22, 2013

This video was taken in Amboseli National Park in Kenya by one of our UK based consultants Lily. The elephants had been feeding in the marshes – you can see that the elephant is wet and in some of the distant shots has a waterline running along her body. When she got out, she noticed this stick and took some time using her foot and trunk to get it in exactly the correct position.

Once she had, she anchored it with her full weight on her left foot and used its sharp end to clean between the toes and under the nails of her right foot. Whether she had mud or maybe a small stone wedged there from the bottom of the marsh it was impossible to see, but she certainly knew exactly what she was trying to do, and succeeded in doing it.

Elephants have been recorded using sticks before, to scratch themselves with or using foliage to swat insects. We’ve never seen one clean their toe nails before. If you have, let us know.

February 2013. The BBC was criticized in some (short-sighted) quarters recently for showing the death of a baby elephant during a drought in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. New research has shown that this is not an uncommon event as young elephants are twice as likely to die during a hot dry spell as normal: here.

March 2013. At least 89 elephants have been killed by poachers in Chad, according to local officials, in one of the region’s worst poaching incidents since the massacre of more than 300 elephants in Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park in February 2012: here.

Baby elephant rescued after anti-poaching flight in Kenya: here.