Pacific island wildlife comeback

This video says about itself:

May 26, 2009

Senior Scientist and Cultural Advisor for the Nature Conservancy Hawai’i, Sam Ohu Gon, shares why Palmyra is so special and why Hōkūle’a was allowed to visit this protected atoll.

The Hōkūle’a just completed a sail to Palmyra Atoll, 1,000 miles south of Hawai’i, as training for the Hōkūle’a Wolrdwide Voyage in which the traditional Hawaiian canoe will circumnavigate the Earth using ancient Polynesian navigation techniques. The crew carry with them the idea that we are all crew members on Canoe Earth and, just as on Hōkūle’a, we need to care for one another an our resources.

From Wildlife Extra:

Wildlife boom expected after eradication of 30,000 rats on Pacific island

Unexpected positive results already being recorded

January 2013. Wildlife numbers are expected to rebound at Palmyra Atoll, a 580-acre collection of islets located about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, that has been given a rat-free bill of health one year after about 30,000 rats were eradicated as part of a major effort to remove these invasive predators, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Island Conservation (IC) announced.

Removing non-native rats was the top priority for the Palmyra Atoll Restoration Project, a multi-year effort to protect 10 nesting seabird species, migratory shorebirds, coconut crabs, and one of the largest, last remaining native Pisonia grandis forests (a rare flowering tree in the Bougainvillea family) in the tropical Pacific.

“The collaborators did an outstanding job. The science on these efforts has been evolving, and while there have been some learning experiences along the way, the Palmyra effort stands out as a great example of how to do it right and get rid of destructive invasive species while still protecting the native wildlife,” said Dr. George Wallace, Vice President for Oceans and Islands at American Bird Conservancy.

Palmyra Atoll is cooperatively managed by US Federal Wildlife Society and The Nature Conservancy as a National Wildlife Refuge and a scientific research station. In 2009, the refuge and waters surrounding it, which include thousands of acres of healthy coral reefs, were designated as a part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

Black rats arrived during WWII

Non-native black rats were likely introduced to the atoll during World War II, and the population grew to as many 30,000 rats. The invasive rodents eat eggs and chicks of ground and tree-nesting birds, particularly sooty and white terns. Rats also eat land crabs and the seeds and seedlings of native tree species.

To reverse this trend, in June 2011, FWS, TNC and IC carefully and strategically implemented the removal of the destructive, non-native rats from Palmyra Atoll, using brodificoum, a rodenticide that has been successfully used in similar projects on other islands. The Palmyra project was the result of more than seven years of planning and research to ensure that native species were not harmed during the removal, and was the first step in a longer-term effort to restore the atoll’s ecological balance.

Crab population explosion

“This wonderful atoll is again able to thrive the way nature intended-without rats. Palmyra has been infested with rats for so long, there will be benefits to wildlife we didn’t even fully anticipate-such as the explosion of the fiddler crab population that we’re seeing,” said Susan White, Monument Superintendent/Refuge Project Leader, Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge and Monuments Complex, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Palmyra’s crucial role in sustaining the Pacific oceanscape is solidified because of this remarkable team of exceptionally talented people.”

Rat free

Using the same proven methods that were used years before to detect the extent of the rat problem on Palmyra, scientists conducted surveys over a month-long period this summer and confirmed that the entire atoll is currently rat-free. In the tropical climate at Palmyra, rats reproduce approximately once every 3-4 months, so conducting surveys one year after the removal effort is sufficient time to detect rats remaining on the atoll. During the summer, the project partners established a network of 286 rat monitoring stations that covered the entire atoll. Each station was checked four times during the course of one month. Aside from the detection stations, team members spent hundreds of hours scouring the atoll for indicators of rat presence. In accordance with observations of the recovery of native species over the past year that suggested that the project was successful, the recent monitoring found no rats after one year.

“Millions of seabirds, trees, crabs and other native species can now thrive in their home without the threat of being eaten by rats. Staff and visitors to the atoll have seen a large increase in the numbers of crabs, insects, seedlings and seabirds. Our collective efforts to bring balance back to Palmyra are working. The scientific rigor, attention to detail, and collaboration is a testament to the integrity and cooperative nature of our partnership,” said Suzanne Case, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Hawai’i program.

Dramatic increases already observed

The University of California Santa Cruz Coastal Conservation Action Lab (UCSC-CCAL) is monitoring the response of Palmyra’s terrestrial ecosystem by comparing measures of seabird, shorebird, and plant populations taken before and after rat removal. In the summer of 2012 they found dramatic increases, including:

Over 130% increase in native tree seedlings (Palmyra has ten locally rare native tree species), and the first record of Pisonia seedlings (no seedlings were observed in 2007 prior to rat removal);
A 367% increase in arthropods (such as insects, spiders, and crabs); and
No change in Bristle-thighed Curlews found at Palmyra (special care was taken to ensure this imperilled species was not negatively impacted by the rat removal project)

“With the atoll free of rats, we are already seeing a dramatic increase in many things that rats preyed upon: nesting seabirds, migratory shorebirds, native tree seedlings, and small invertebrates like fiddler crabs. The island is truly rebounding,” said Gregg Howald, North America Regional Director, Island Conservation.

Although Palmyra is rat-free today, the threat of re-introducing rats or other invasive species is present anytime a boat or airplane travels to the atoll. A detailed biosecurity plan is in place to minimize the threat of non-native species being introduced to the atoll.

The removal of introduced species, such as black rats, is a proven, effective conservation tool that has been successful on numerous islands across the globe, including the Galapagos archipelago, a multitude of islands in New Zealand, the Channel Islands off the coast of California, and Hawadax Island (formerly ‘Rat Island’) of the Aleutian Island chain in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Good New Zealand kiwi news

This video says about itself:

Oct 29, 2010

Scientists in New Zealand are making huge efforts to ensure the survival of a rare bird. Aided by a homing device, conservationists attempt to track down the rowi, a critically endangered species of kiwi.

Al Jazeera’s Gerald Tan reports from Okarito.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rarest kiwis released into the wild as numbers double in 15 years

Rowi now big enough to defend themselves from stoats

January 2013. A successful project to save New Zealand’s rarest kiwi species-the rowi-from extinction, has enabled New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) to return another 9 young birds to Ōkārito forest.

One of New Zealand’s species recovery success stories, the rowi has been brought back from a population low of fewer than 200 birds in 1998 to nearly 400 birds today.

“The doubling of the population has been thanks to a blend of old-fashioned hard work and new techniques and technology-including a ground-breaking aerial tracking system called Sky Ranger.” says Cornelia Vervoorn, community relations ranger with DOC.

Stoat problem

“If these birds had been left in the wild, there is a 95% chance that they would have been killed by stoats soon after hatching. However, as part of BNZ Operation Nest Egg, DOC rangers rescued the eggs before they hatched and took them to the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef. They were incubated and hatched in the centre’s husbandry unit before being taken to predator-free Motuara Island in the Marlborough Sounds. Now that the chicks have grown up and are strong enough to repel stoat attacks, they are completing their journey and being released back into the Ōkārito Kiwi Sanctuary.”

Community support

Cornelia is grateful that the communities surrounding the kiwi sanctuary-Franz Josef, Ōkārito and Whataroa-are extremely supportive of the rowi recovery project, with local businesses providing funding for the recovery work and staff hours for conservation projects in the area. The Scenic Group, who own six hotels on the West Coast, have developed the Adopt-a-Rowi initiative (where guests can “adopt” a toy kiwi placed in their rooms, and the profits go towards saving the rowi).

“There’s still a long way to go,” says Michelle Impey of Kiwis for Kiwi.

“Eventually we would like to see rowi able to sustain and grow their population without any human intervention, but until we can keep rats and stoats at bay we’ll keep working with DOC and the local community to protect rowi.”

Guatemalan ex-dictator Montt on trial

This video is called Guatemala – An American Genocide – September 1999.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Court charges ex-dictator Montt with war crimes

Tuesday 29 January 2013

by Our Foreign Desk

A Guatemalan court ruled on Monday that former US-backed dictator Jose Rios Montt will stand trial for the murder, torture and displacement of thousands of Mayan Indians.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ruled that Rios Montt could be tried on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the killing of 1,771 indigenous Ixiles in 1982 and ’83, when he was president.

Human rights activists said the prosecution would be an important symbolic victory for the victims of the horrific conflict.

“It’s the beginning of a new phase of the struggle,” said International Centre for Transitional Justice vice-president Paul Seils.

It was “a good step forward” but he expected the prosecution to be resisted by those who want to ensure government-allied forces go unpunished.

“The fact that a judge has ordered the trial of a former head of state is a remarkable development in a country where impunity has long been the norm,” said Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco.

Guatemala‘s leaders have been criticised for years for their unwillingness to prosecute government forces and paramilitaries accused of marching into Mayan villages, raping, torturing, slaughtering women, children and unarmed men in a scorched-earth campaign aimed at eliminating support for a left-wing guerilla movement.

Despite several international inquiries finding him responsible for war crimes, Rios Montt served as a congressman for 15 years until he lost an election last year.

He was immune from prosecution while in congress.

Trial for Genocide in Guatemala to Continue, Says High Court: here.

Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt spent the weekend in prison after receiving an 80-year sentence for genocide and crimes against humanity: here. See also here.

Guatemala’s highest court overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on Monday: here.

Bringing back British water voles

This video from Britain is called Wildwood Water Vole Rescue Centre.

From Wildlife Extra:

Plan to return water voles to Kielder Forest underway

Experts bid to pave the way for Ratty‘s return

January 2013. Conservationists in Northumberland are working on a plan which could result in water voles being returned to 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Wiped out by mink

The endangered species was once a familiar sight in the Northumberland Forest until predatory mink invaded its stronghold and wiped out the population. The last local sightings of water vole go back to the 1970s.

Now the Forestry Commission has linked up with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Tyne Rivers Trust to devise a two year project to survey the forest to see if mink remain and to look for traces of lingering water vole populations. Initial discussions have been held with the Heritage Fund about potentially funding the work.

Mink disappearing – Probably due to otters return

Mink numbers at Kielder are now thought to be very low with few being spotted by rangers in recent years. One reason for their decline may be the expanding otter population as the two species do not co-exist, although no one knows the mechanics of the frosty relationship.

Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, explained: “Areas like Kielder Burn and the North Tyne are good water vole habitats so we have a two part plan which will hopefully see them return to former haunts. First we need to establish whether any mink remain as this was the reason for their previous decline. That is what this initial project is all about. Then we can look to a future scheme which would see wild water voles relocated to Kielder as part of a wider North East reintroduction project. Kielder offers suitable havens for a huge range of wildlife, from ospreys to wild goats. Water voles have suffered big declines across England, so returning them to the forest is something we are extremely keen to see happen.”

If the projects gains funding the survey will search for mink through sightings, droppings and using floating rafts which mink climb aboard to investigate, leaving behind tell-tale footprints.

Steve Lowe, from the Northumberland Wildlife Trust, added: “It’s also vital we work with landowners so we can collate signs of mink in the wider area and so we can survey as far downstream as possible. We have set the scene by doing botanical surveys and landscape modelling and we know that the area still offers suitable habitat with good water quality and grassy riverside edges where voles can feed. A similar project has been undertaken in the Cairngorms, which like Kielder saw its water voles decimated by mink. Here the creature has made an impressive come-back so that is very encouraging. If we do get to the release stage we know from tests on North East water voles that they share similar DNA to past populations so animals relocated to Kielder will be the same genetic strain has those driven out by mink.”

The water vole is a step nearer being reintroduced back into the Kielder Forest in Northumberland thanks to a £40,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund: here.

United States cats kill billions of birds

This video is called Garden Maintenance: How to Repel House Cats From Outdoor Bird Feeders.

From Wildlife Extra:

Cats kill 2.4 billion birds and 12 billion mammals every year in US alone

A new peer-reviewed study published and authored by scientists from two of the world’s leading science and wildlife organizations – the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – has found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than has been widely reported, with annual bird mortality now
estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 – 20.7 billion individuals in the US alone.

Outdoor cats: Single greatest source of human-caused mortality for birds and mammals, says new study

January 2013. A new peer-reviewed study published and authored by scientists from two of the world’s leading science and wildlife organizations – the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – has found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than has been widely reported, with annual bird mortality now estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 – 20.7 billion individuals in the US alone.

The study, which offers the most comprehensive analysis of information on the issue of outdoor cat predation, was published in the online research journal Nature Communications and is based on a review of 90 previous studies. The study was authored by Dr. Peter Marra and Scott Loss, research scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and by Tom Will from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Birds.

Propblem is even worse than previously suspected

According to Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, one of the leading bird conservation organizations in the U.S. and a group that has called for action on this issue for many years, “This study, which employed scientifically rigorous standards for data inclusion, demonstrates that the issue of cat predation on birds and mammals is an even bigger environmental and ecological threat than we thought. No estimates of any other anthropogenic [human-caused] mortality source approach the bird mortality this study calculated for cat predation.”

“To maintain the integrity of our ecosystems, we have to conserve the animals that play integral roles in those ecosystems. Every time we lose another bird species or suppress their population numbers, we’re altering the very ecosystems that we depend on as humans. This issue clearly needs immediate conservation attention,” he said further.


“The very high credibility of this study should finally put to rest the misguided notions that outdoor cats represent some harmless, new component to the natural environment. The carnage that outdoor cats inflict is staggering and can no longer be ignored or dismissed. This is a wake-up call for cat owners and communities to get serious about this problem before even more ecological damage occurs,” Fenwick said.

The study’s estimate of bird mortality far exceeds any previously estimated U.S. figure for cats. In fact, this magnitude of mortality may exceed all other direct sources of anthropogenic bird and mammal mortality combined. Other bird mortality sources would include collisions with windows, buildings, communication towers, vehicles, and pesticide poisoning.

2.4 billion birds and 12 billion mammals killed by cats

The study estimated that the median number of birds killed by cats annually is 2.4 billion and the median number of mammals killed is 12.3 billion. About 69 percent of the bird mortality from cat predation and 89 percent of the mammal mortality was from un-owned cats. Un-owned cats are defined to include farm/barn cats, strays that are fed but not granted access to human habitations, cats in subsidized colonies, and cats that are completely feral.

Extinction cause

Free-ranging cats on islands have caused or contributed to 33 (14 percent) of the modern bird, mammal, and reptile extinctions recorded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened animals and plant species.

Native species make up the majority of the birds preyed upon by cats. On average, only 33 percent of bird prey items identified to species were non-native species in 10 studies. Studies of mammals in suburban and rural areas found that 75-100 percent of mammalian prey were native mice, shrews, voles, squirrels, and rabbits, all of which serve as food sources for birds of prey such as hawks, owls, and eagles.

The study charges that, “Despite these harmful effects, policies for management of free-ranging cat populations and regulation of pet ownership behaviours are dictated by animal welfare issues rather than ecological impacts.

Projects to manage free-ranging cats, such as Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) colonies, are potentially harmful to wildlife populations, but are implemented across the United States without widespread public knowledge, consideration of scientific evidence, or the environmental review processes typically required for actions with harmful environmental consequences.”

Change your cat’s bell to save birds: here.

April 2013. A study by British scientists has documented for the first time significant new impacts to birds from outdoor cats, reporting that even brief appearances of cats near avian nest sites leads to at least a doubling in lethal nest predation of eggs and young birds by third-party animals, as well as behavioural changes in parent birds that lead to an approximately 33 percent reduction in the amount of food brought to nestlings following a predation threat: here.

British torture in Iraq

This video is called New Iraq abuse allegations against UK troops.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Iraqis killed, abused and tortured by British troops

Scores of Iraqis were at the High Court in London yesterday demanding an Independent Public Inquiry into allegations that British interrogators abused, killed and tortured civilians in Iraq.

Lawyers representing 192 Iraqis told the court that British troops carried out ‘terrifying acts of brutality’.

As well as unlawful killings, there are claims of beatings, hooding, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation including being made to watch pornography.

Women, the elderly and children were among the victims, according to an 82-page document presented in court.

Lawyers said they were still collecting allegations of abuse almost a decade after the invasion of Iraq, and had hundreds of further claims in the pipeline.

Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), acting on behalf of 180 of the claimants, allege unlawful killings and incidents of torture from March 2003 to December 2008 in British-controlled detention facilities.

Two judges sitting in London are hearing accusations that civilians were subjected to a number of techniques to disorientate and debilitate them, including deprivation of sleep, food and water.

Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Silber are hearing evidence of hooding, forced nudity, sexual humiliation and repeated and lengthy interrogations.

The three-day application is the second legal challenge in a case in which PIL say there was systemic abuse, as opposed to ill treatment by ‘a few bad apples’.

Speaking outside the High Court before the start of the hearing yesterday, Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said: ‘Hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis have complained of the most troubling torture techniques all designed to leave no marks, so you leave with your fingernails, but you might not have your minds.

‘And all of this we say has got to stop.

‘The Ministry of Defence have got to stop trying to sweep it under the carpet, it needs to be subject to public scrutiny in London.’

Shiner is representing Iraqi civilians who have been abused and tortured and seen family members killed by members of the British military.

Defence Secretary Hammond plans to investigate the claims through the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which includes members of the Royal Navy Police (RNP).

But PIL are seeking judicial review on the grounds that the RNP lack independence, because numerous Royal Navy officers were involved in interrogations with the UK Joint Forward Interrogation Team

See also here.
in Iraq.