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South African environmentalist wins award


This video is called BirdLife South Africa‘s Important Bird Areas.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife South Africa’s Dr Ross Wanless wins Environmentalist of the Year award

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 24/10/2014 – 11:15

Dr Ross Wanless, from BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Conservation Programme and the BirdLife Marine Programme, has been awarded the prestigious SAB Environmentalist of the Year Award.

Dr Wanless has overseen a number of impressive conservation achievements over the past six years at BirdLife South Africa, building on a career of seabird science and conservation work that started in 1997.

The SAB award recognises not just a lot of hard work over many years, but an individual who has been instrumental in delivering significant, lasting conservation outcomes. Very few conservation programmes can actually demonstrate tangible benefits for species they seek to conserve. It is still more exceptional for a programme to bring benefits to a suite of threatened species.

BirdLife South Africa’s extraordinary work through the BirdLife Marine Programme to prevent the extinction of albatrosses and petrels is one such example. Under the leadership of Dr Ross Wanless, the programme has used science, advocacy, persistence and win-win solutions to turn the tide against fisheries impacts on iconic seabirds. Earlier this year his team announced that their efforts in the South African hake trawl fishery had caused a reduction in seabird mortality of up to 90%. Dr Wanless is currently in South Korea, running a workshop with the Korean tuna longline fleet to assist that fleet to adopt best practice measures for avoiding accidental seabird catches.

Dr Wanless has recreated the African Seabird Group and oversaw a successful bid for the group to host the second World Seabird Conference, to be in Cape Town in October next year; he is chair of the local organising committee and sits on the World Seabird Unions’ conference executive committee. He also created and oversees the annual Celebrate Our Seas festival which kicked off in the beginning of October as part of National Marine Week. He maintains strong links to the University of Cape Town, and is currently supervising a Masters and a PhD student.

“It’s a real honour to receive this sort of recognition, but I do need to acknowledge that I have an amazing team at BirdLife South Africa, and this award is theirs as much as mine”, said Dr Wanless.

Find out more about the BirdLife Marine Programme.

Saving hen harriers in Britain


This video from Britain is called Hen Harrier Facing Extinction; BBC Inside Out.

From Wildlife Extra:

RSPB take action to protect Hen Harriers

Hen Harriers continue to be under threat in the UK

In a European Union-supported project, the RSPB are working toward creating a safe and sustainable future for the endangered Hen Harrier in the UK.

The organisation’s five-year programme, named the Hen Harrier Life+ Project, will focus on direct conservation action as well as community engagement and raising awareness among the public about the plight of the bird of prey.

The project will focus on seven sites in northern England, and southern and eastern Scotland that have been designated as Hen Harrier nesting sites under the European Union Birds Directive.

These are areas where the birds frequently come into conflict with humans. In northern England, and in southern, central and eastern Scotland where land is managed for Red Grouse hunting, Hen Harriers are frequently shot in spite of being legally protected.

Their persecution by humans is a long-running story, and in 1900 the birds became extinct on the British mainland. Although they have been making a comeback in the British Isles, their population still has a long road to recovery.

Between 2004 and 2010, the National Hen Harrier Survey recorded an 18 per cent decline in the UK Hen Harrier population. By 2013 the birds had experienced their worst breeding season in England for decades, failing to rear chicks anywhere in the country. But in 2014 things began to look up for the birds in Britain; at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, 46 young fledged from 12 nests. However the birds fared less well in England where there were four Hen Harrier nests, but due to natural deaths and unexplained disappearances of three birds that were satellite-tagged, only nine of the 16 chicks that fledged are thought to still be alive.

Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project will be working with landowners and the shooting community to raise awareness about the birds in order to ensure their future. It will also link up with and support the work of PAWS Raptor Group ‘Heads Up for Hen Harriers’ project, which includes the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, and conservation and landowning interests.

Blánaid Denman, Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project manager, explains: “The project is not about RSPB fixing things on our own but about bringing together a whole conservation community, from organisations to individuals, working together to secure a future for hen harriers in our uplands.”

As well as working with volunteers and other organisations in order to actively monitor the birds in the wild, the project is also working with gamekeeping students, professional gamekeepers, and landowners.

Defra, the RSPB and other stakeholders are currently working on drafting an emergency recovery plan for Hen Harriers in England. Although the final plan is still to be agreed, the initial draft received widespread support from the shooting community.

Chimpanzees adapting to humans, new study


This BBC video is called How to Speak Chimpanzee.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chimps found to be adapting to human neighbours

Wild chimpanzees could be learning to coexist with their human neighbours a new study suggests. Expanding land use for agriculture and other activities are increasingly encroaching on wild chimpanzee habitat and there are signs the chimps are adjusting to these habitat changes.

Researchers from Muséum national d’histoire naturelle have used camera-traps to observe chimpanzee behaviour during incursions out of the forest into maize fields in Kibale National Park, Uganda. During the 20 days of the study, a total of 14 crop-raiding events were recorded by the activation of the video-trap.

The researchers observed large parties of eight chimpanzees which also included vulnerable individuals such as females with clinging infants. This is the first record of frequent and repeated activities at night, in the darkness. Habitat destruction may have prompted the chimpanzees to adjust their normal behaviour to include innovative behaviours exploiting open croplands at night.

The study concluded: ”Even though the chimpanzees’ home range has been seriously damaged and disturbed by both logging activities and significant human demographic pressure, chimpanzees have shown great behavioural flexibility including unexpected nocturnal behaviour, in order to take advantage of the proximity of domestic nutritive food.

“The new findings of chimpanzee nocturnal raids can aid to formulate recommendations to local farmers and Park authorities in addition to those already listed as “best practice guidelines” from IUCN in terms of human-wildlife conflicts.”

Michael Brown smeared in United States media


This video from Ferguson, Missori in the USA is about Michael Brown having his hands up when police officer Darren Wilson killed him, as witnesses confirm.

By Andre Damon in the USA:

US media campaign to exonerate cop who killed Michael Brown

23 October 2014

On Wednesday, the Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch joined the ongoing media campaign to vilify Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager gunned down by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9.

The media reports are part of a coordinated campaign to prepare the public for the possibility that a grand jury will fail to charge the officer, Darren Wilson. The grand jury is expected to decide whether to charge Wilson early next month.

On Wednesday morning the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published what it claimed to be “the most detailed account of Wilson’s version of the Aug. 9 event to be made public,” in an article entitled: “Source: Darren Wilson says Michael Brown kept charging at him.”

The publication of Wilson’s account was coordinated with the release by the newspaper of the St. Louis medical examiner’s autopsy of Brown, which had been provided to the newspaper by an unnamed source.

The Post-Dispatch sought to present the autopsy report as confirming Wilson’s version of events, claiming that a grazed bullet wound on Brown’s hand indicated that the young man was reaching for Wilson’s gun. It quoted Judy Melinek, a former medical examiner, saying that the autopsy definitively supports claims that Brown was shot at least once at close range and had reached for Wilson’s gun. She told the Post-Dispatch, “If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he’s going for the officer’s gun.”

This interpretation is entirely speculative and groundless. Witnesses have said that Wilson attempted to choke Brown through the window of his car, and that he was attempting to get free when Wilson shot him the first time. If the circumstances described by witnesses is true, it is not at all implausible for Brown’s hand to have been near Wilson’s gun when it went off.

Melinek is not an impartial expert. In an August 20 column on CNN.com, months before she saw the official autopsy, Melinek sought to cast doubt on witnesses’ accounts that Brown was surrendering when he was killed. She also sought to discredit the second autopsy performed by former New York City medical examiner Michael Baden, claiming that “releasing preliminary information when the investigation is still ongoing is premature and potentially inflammatory.”

In fact, the report does not even unambiguously indicate that Brown was shot in the hand at close range. The report notes the absence of powder burns around the edge of the gunshot wound, which would be expected if the wound had in fact been inflicted within the car.

The real story revealed in the autopsy is one of a young man who was apparently brutalized and then shot multiple times by a police officer. The autopsy shows two gunshot wounds to the head, including one to the crown of the head in a downward direction and another to the forehead, also aimed downward. That is in addition to multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and arms, as well as abrasions on the face.

The autopsy report should in any case be treated with a high degree of skepticism, as the police had hours to tamper with the scene before the medical examiner even arrived. The medical examiner was only contacted an hour and a half after the shooting, and by the time he arrived “the deceased was cool to the touch,” and “rigor mortis was slightly felt in his extremities,” according to the autopsy.

Brown’s lawyers pointed out that what happened inside Wilson’s police vehicle had no bearing on Wilson’s decision to shoot Brown as he was running away. “We are not surprised by the information leaked last night by the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s office,” said Benjamin Crump, the lead attorney for the family, in an email to the World Socialist Web Site. “Several independent witnesses indicated there was a brief altercation between Michael Brown and Officer Wilson at the patrol car.”

He concluded, “What we want to know is why Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown multiple times and killed him even though he was more than 20 feet away from his patrol car; this is the crux of the matter!”

“Keep in mind there are two separate and distinct events occurring on this day: one at the vehicle, the other one, outside of the vehicle,” said Anthony D. Gray, a lawyer for the family of Michael Brown, also in an email to the WSWS. According to the account allegedly given by Wilson to the grand jury, Brown, after having been shot twice, began to run away from the police car, then turned around and “began running toward” the officer, was shot twice more, then resumed charging at Wilson.

Mr. Gray called this version of events “absurd.” He added, “That version of events is not supported by anyone that witnessed this shooting.” Wilson “can’t concur with what the majority of the witnesses saw outside of the vehicle because if he does, he would be confessing to cold-blooded murder.”

While none of the witnesses who have spoken to the press agreed with Wilson’s claims, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, based on unnamed sources, that unnamed individuals have testified before the grand jury backing up Wilson’s account of the shooting. “Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none of them have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Washington Post’s sources said.”

Here, again, nothing can be taken at face value. In all likelihood the Post’s sources for the grand jury proceeding are elements within the state that have a vested interest in seeing Wilson go free. Instead of treating the sources with requisite skepticism, the Post and other newspapers are taking these unnamed sources entirely at their word and passing on their claims to the public as good coin.

The Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch did not reply to voicemails requesting more information on what level of fact-checking had been conducted on their sources’ claims.

Wednesday’s leaks follow the publication of an article Friday by the New York Times, based on unnamed sources in the federal government, claiming that evidence presented to the grand jury pointed to Wilson’s innocence. The Times also indicated that the federal government is not planning on filing civil rights charges against Wilson.

The coordinated leaks, presented uncritically by major newspapers and used as the basis for sweeping and groundless claims, are made possible by the decision of St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch to present evidence in the shooting before a grand jury.

The decision to even go before a grand jury is entirely voluntary on the part of McCulloch. Those suspected of murder in Missouri usually have a hearing where evidence is reviewed by a judge who decides whether there is a basis to proceed with a prosecution.

McCulloch has a record of using grand jury proceedings. Despite more than a dozen police killings in St. Louis County since he became prosecutor, McCulloch has never filed criminal charges against any of the officers. He did present four such cases to a grand jury, but he obtained no indictments.

Contrary to the usual procedure, McCulloch has not made any recommendation to the grand jury as to whether to indict Wilson. Instead, he is presenting a voluminous amount of evidence to the grand jury, including testimony by Wilson himself, in an unusually long procedure.

By using this method, McCulloch is creating the illusion of a fair procedure, while in fact stacking the deck in favor of Wilson. The entire proceeding is being kept secret. At the same time, this procedure allows state authorities to selectively leak information to the press that will be favorable to Wilson’s case.

In this charade, the press—including the Washington Post, New York Times, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch—is functioning as a pliant tool of the state in order to condition public opinion for what is looking increasingly likely: the failure to bring charges against the killer of Michael Brown.