Free Bahraini political prisoners, petition for Obama

This video from the USA says about itself:

Nabeel Rajab of Bahrain Center for Human Rights on His Possible Military Trial for Publishing Photo.

By Brian Dooley, Human Rights Defenders Program:

Tell President Obama: Demand Bahrain to Free Jailed Dissidents [Petition]


In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, a government crackdown on dissent and increasingly violent protests have led to mounting civilian and police casualties. Bahrain desperately needs an end to this crisis.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama told the Bahraini government “the only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.”

The regime restarted its dialogue with some opposition groups last week. This is an encouraging step, but real progress will only happen if the regime releases its prominent dissidents in jail and allows them to join the dialogue.

Urge President Obama to demand that the Bahraini Kingdom release dissidents jailed on politically motivated charges.

As the dialogue continues, medics who were detained after treating wounded protesters and telling the international media the truth about the abuses remain in jail. Opposition and human rights leaders who called for democratic reforms remain in jail. And human rights defenders and civil society leaders continue to face threats, arrests, and prosecutions for peaceful human rights activities.

Two years after the democracy movement filled the streets of Bahrain, human rights defenders continue to look to the United States for support—despite its muted criticisms of the violations committed by the ruling family. It’s past time that the United States supports—through word and deed—human rights and civil society groups fighting for democratic reforms in the country.

Urge President Obama to demand that the Bahraini Kingdom release dissidents jailed on politically motivated charges.

VOICES: Forced into Hiding in Bahrain But Speaking Out: here.

Humpback whales, new research

This video is called Humpback Whale Song.

From Wildlife Extra:

How many Humpback whales were there before whaling?

How many Humpbacks are “enough” for the North Atlantic?

February 2013. Building on previous genetic analyses to estimate the pre-whaling population of North Atlantic Humpback whales, a research team has found that Humpbacks used to exist in numbers of more than 100,000 individuals. The new, more accurate estimate is lower than previously calculated but still two to three times higher than pre-whaling estimates based on catch data from whaling records.

Humpbacks are widespread across the world

Known for its distinctively long pectoral fins, acrobatics, and haunting songs, the Humpback whale occurs in all the world’s oceans. Current estimates for Humpback whale numbers are widely debated, but some have called for the level of their international protection to be dropped.

“We’re certain that Humpback whales in the North Atlantic have significantly recovered from commercial whaling over the past several decades of protection, but without an accurate size estimate of the pre-whaling population, the threshold of recovery remains unknown,” said Dr. Kristen Ruegg of Stanford University and the lead author of the study. “We now have a solid, genetically generated estimate upon which future work on this important issue can be based.”

“Our current challenge is to explain the remaining discrepancy between the historical catch data and the population estimate generated by genetic analyses,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, study co-author and Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s Ocean Giants Program. “The gap highlights the need for continued evaluations of whale populations, and how this latest information could be considered in management objectives.”

“We have spent a great deal of effort refining the techniques and approaches that give us this pre-whaling number,” said Dr. Steve Palumbi of Stanford. “It’s worth the trouble because genetic tools give one of the only glimpses into the past we have for whales.”

Humpbacks reduced to just a few hundred animals in North Atlantic

Reaching some 50 feet in length, the Humpback whale was hunted for centuries by commercial whaling fleets in all the world’s oceans. Humpbacks had predictable migration routes and were reduced to several hundred whales in the North Atlantic. The global population was reduced by possibly 90 percent of its original size. The species received protection from the International Whaling Commission in North Atlantic waters in 1955 due to the severity of its decline.

Remarkable comeback

Since that time, the Humpback whales of the North Atlantic have made a remarkable comeback; experts estimate the current size of the North Atlantic’s Humpback whale population to be more than 17,000 animals. North Atlantic Humpback whales are now one of the best-studied populations of great whales in the world and the mainstay of a multi-million dollar whale-watching industry.

Pre-whaling esimates

But estimating the number of whales that existed prior to commercial whaling is a far more difficult problem, critical in determining when the total population has recovered. Historical catch data from the logs of whaling vessels suggest a population size between 20,000-46,000 whales, but the current genetic analysis indicates a much larger pre-whaling population. The results of the genetic analysis indicate that the North Atlantic once held between 45,000-235,000 Humpback whales (with an average estimate of 112,000 animals).

A previous study using the mitochondrial DNA of Humpbacks in the North Atlantic suggested a higher pre-whaling population size; an average of 240,000 individuals. To increase the accuracy of the current analysis, the team measured nine segments in the DNA sequences throughout the genome (as opposed to just one DNA segment used in the previous study).

Palumbi, who participated in the first Humpback genetic analysis, added: “The International Whaling Commission reviewed the results of the first study and recommended we improve the method in six specific ways. We’ve done that now and have the best-ever estimate of ancient Humpback populations.”

Scott Baker, Associate Director of Oregon State University‘s Marine Mammal Institute and a co-author said: “These genetic estimates greatly improve our understanding of the genetic diversity of Humpback whales, something we need to understand the impact of past hunting and to manage whales in the uncertain future.”

Genetic analysis

The research team analyzed genetic samples from whales in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Hemisphere. Southern Atlantic whales were used to answer one of the six IWC questions: was there intermixing of whale populations across the equator? The samples were analyzed by sequencing specific regions of DNA in known genes. By comparing the genetic diversity of today’s population to the genetic mutation rate, Ruegg and colleagues could estimate the long-term population size of Humpbacks. They also showed no substantial migration of Humpbacks whales across the Equator between the Southern and Northern Atlantic, and no movement from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The team recently used the same techniques to estimate pre-whaling numbers for the Pacific Gray whale and the Antarctic Minke whale. A difference of two to three times also was recorded between the genetic and catch estimates for the grey whale population, but were exactly on target for the Antarctic Minke whale, which has not been extensively hunted.

Scientists from Stanford University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and others worked on the study: How many Humpbacks are “enough” for the North Atlantic?

The study appears in the recently published edition of Conservation Genetics. The authors include: Kristen Ruegg and Stephen Palumbi of Stanford University; Howard C. Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History; Eric C. Anderson of the National Marine Fisheries Service and University of California-Santa Cruz; Marcia Engel of the Instituto Baleia Jubarte/Humpback Whale Institute, Brazil; Anna Rothschild of AMNH’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics; and C. Scott Baker of Oregon State University.

Whales benefit from action on ocean noise: here.

Courageous pro-democracy demonstrator in Bahrain, video

From France 24 about this video:

Video showing protester standing against police stuns Bahrain

The second anniversary of Bahrain’s popular uprising was marked by renewed violence, resulting in the death of a 16-year old boy. In the video, filmed right after the teenager’s death, a desperate protester can be seen risking his life to stand up to the police.

The victim’s name was Hussein al-Jaziri. According to opposition websites, the teenager was killed by fragmentary bullets.

Overwhelmed by this death, which he had just witnessed, a protester walked up to police and screamed at them. The policemen tried to intimidate him, but seemed thrown off balance by the protester’s daring.

“You criminals! You murderers! You hope to escape God’s wrath? God will avenge us! Go on, shoot me! Shoot me if you dare, I won’t leave!” the man in the video says.

Californian fossil whale discovery

This vide is called Whales evolution.

By Sarah Laskow in the USA:

New whale species discovered under highway

In California, a road crew — which, according to state law, must for real include an on-site paleontologist and an archaeologist — dug up a boneyard of hundreds of marine mammals, ScienceNOW reports. Among those bones, they came up 30 whale skulls. And four of those skulls belong to “four newly identified species of toothed baleen whale — a type of whale that scientists thought had gone extinct 5 million years earlier.”

ScienceNOW explains:

“The new fossils date to 17 to 19 million years ago, or the early-mid Miocene epoch, making them the youngest known toothed [baleen] whales. Three of the fossils belong to the genus Morawanocetus, which is familiar to paleontologists studying whale fossils from Japan, but hadn’t been seen before in California.”

The fourth new species was a different genus and was bigger than whales this old are expected to be. And, like a boss, it ate sharks.

Meredith Rivin, the paleontologist who’s been analyzing these fossils, is still working on an official paper presenting her findings, but we’re already pretty sure this is the best possible result of digging a new highway.

15 million-year-old whale skull found on banks of Potomac River: here.

Talking about whales: harbour porpoises in the Netherlands: here.

Worm species discovery, new for Europe

Limnodrilus tortilipenis

Limnodrilus tortilipenis is a segmented worm species from North America.

In 2006, this freshwater worm was found for the first time in Europe: in the Netherlands. In 2011, three more individuals were discovered, also in the Netherlands.

There has been a publication on this: Munts, R. & D.M. Soes, 2012. Limnodrilus tortilipenis Wetzel, 1987 (Oligochaeta), a new alien species for the Netherlands. Lauterbornia 75: 43-47.

Goodbye godwits, hello oystercatchers and buzzard

This video is about the “Baillon’s crake reserve”.

On 19 February 2013, again to the “Baillon’s crake reserve”, to see what had changed there from the day before.

In the canal near the entrance, male and female gadwall ducks. And many gray lag geese. Two coots grazing on the bank.

To the left, a moorhen swimming.

In the canal more to the east, about ten male and female tufted ducks.

Canada geese.

In the southern lake, shovelers and teal.

In the northern lake, shelducks.

I don’t see the eight black-tailed godwits and the lone redshank of yesterday. Have they continued their spring migration to the northern Netherlands? Or to Iceland? I expect thee will be more godwits and redshanks here soon.

On the northern bank of the northern lake, about ten oystercatchers. I did not see them yesterday.

On the big muddy island, great cormorants drying their wings. And many more northern lapwings than yesterday. And a lone starling.

In the northern meadow some fifty gadwall ducks, yet more coots, three Egyptian geese, scores of lapwings, and two hares.

A buzzard flies slowly over the northern canal. Then, it gradually disappears behind the trees on the northern bank.

Before I leave: two common pochards diving and a great crested grebe swimming in the northern lake.

New Zealand shore plovers in trouble

This video is called Rare shore plover birds in flight at Plimmerton, near Wellington, New Zealand.

From Wildlife Extra:

Tragedy strikes Critically Endangered New Zealand shore plover population

Unknown cause for disappearance of Critically Endangered birds

February 2013. The critically endangered New Zealand shore plover population on Waikawa (Portland Island) has been dealt a harsh blow.

World population of just 200 birds

When Helen Jonas, New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) team leader for the shore plover recovery on Portland Island visited late last year, she discovered the island population had been reduced to a quarter of what it was, and now just 20 birds remain. The total world population has been reduced to about 200 birds. “This has a huge impact on the viability of the species” said Ms Jonas, as Waikawa was considered to be a safe and stable population.

The privately owned island has been a safe sanctuary to the shore plover for the past thirteen years. The numbers had built up to a point where the population was contributing eggs to other predator free islands. This season’s planned egg translocation turned into a rescue attempt.

Unknown cause

We didn’t know what the issue was and unfortunately we still don’t know Ms Jonas said. It could have been disease, predation by gulls or hawks, mustelid, rat, cat or even a dog that’s come over with a visitor to the island. As a precaution 12 Shore plover eggs were removed from the island and taken to Mount Bruce Pukaha in Wairarapa and Isaac’s Wildlife Centre in Christchurch for incubation. The juveniles are planned to be released on Mana Island next month.

“We are throwing everything we possibly can at the island to ensure this does not happen again” she said. We’ve undertaken disease screening, and have sent dead birds over for autopsy and DNA testing. We have had specialised stoat tracking and rat tracking dogs and have put cameras in place. Nothing has turned up so far.

Just 1 chick fledged

The remaining birds on Waikawa, including the sole fledged chick from this season, are now being protected by more regular pest monitoring and control efforts by Onenui Station owners. It is hoped that the island will be safe for shore plover again soon Ms Jonas said.

The remaining shore plover on the island appear stable and are still nesting and successfully producing chicks. Visitors to the island are reminded to check their loads to ensure they haven’t got any unwanted travellers with them.

Vietnamese LGBTQ photos win award

Nguyen Than Hai

From Prensa Latina news agency:

Vietnamese Wins World Press Photo Award for First Time Ever

Hanoi, Feb 19. Nguyen Than Hai became the first Vietnamese woman to win an award from the world famous World Press Photo organization, for her collection of images titled “The Pink Choice,” in the category of contemporary storytelling.

The Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Organization’s Tuoi Tre website is highlighting the award today, displaying numerous photos from her collection that show an unbiased and respectful approach towards diversity in sexual relations.

The author dedicated 18 months to getting to know homosexual couples in order to put together a photographic collection about relations that are gaining greater acceptance and understanding in Vietnamese society.

Using the pseudonym Maika Elan, the Vietnamese photographer, 26, graduated from Hanoi’s Social Sciences University and has participated in numerous workshops and festivals in Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh.