Sochi Olympics, homophobia and snow


Democracy Now! in the USA says about this video today:

“Celebration Capitalism & the Olympics”: Global Protests Mark Opening of Sochi Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent more than $50 billion on the Winter Games in Sochi, making this the most expensive Olympics in history. In the lead-up to the games, Russia has faced worldwide criticism and calls for boycotts, especially after it passed a law in June banning the spread of so-called “gay propaganda” to children. With the games just two days away, we host a roundtable with four guests: Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and author of “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down”; Samantha Retrosi, a luge athlete who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics; historian and former U.S. Olympic soccer player, Jules Boykoff, who is author of “Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games“; and Helen Lenskyj, author of several books on the Olympics, including “Gender Politics and the Olympic Industry” and the forthcoming book, “Sexual Diversity and the Sochi 2014 Olympics: No More Rainbows.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

DAVE ZIRIN: Second, I had a flashback this morning to getting a call from Amy in 2010, when she was detained at the Canadian border, going across for a different event, and the Vancouver Olympics were happening. Do you remember that?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I do.

DAVE ZIRIN: And they said to Amy, they said, “Are you here to talk about the Olympics?” And Amy said, “I am now.” And it’s just to point out that these issues we’re talking about are at every Olympics, and there’s no doubt that they’re getting amplified in Russia, partially because of the conflicts between the United States and Russia, but it’s also true that what’s happening in Russia is particularly bad, even by Olympic standards.

And that leads, really, to your question. I mean, the U.S. delegation involves three openly LGBT athletes—Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, Brian Boitano—and then gold medalist Bonnie Blair. Now, what’s so interesting about this is that this is the first time since 2000 that nobody from the president or the vice president’s family has been part of the delegation. This is very clearly a thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin by President Barack Obama. And I’m sure there a lot of people in the LGBT community and amongst allies who are happy that this is happening. It’s a strong stance for LGBT rights.

But I think people should also be very wary of it, for two reasons. First of all, we have a lot of problems in this country with regards to LGBT rights. I mean, for example, there are 29 states in this country you can still fire someone on the basis of their sexuality, and in eight states in this country there are what are called “no promo homo” laws, which are very similar to the Russian laws, where you cannot propagate homosexuality or anything of the sort. So, that’s the first thing. So it’s like we have to clean our own house.

The second thing, which is really important, is the only question that matters is: Will LGBT athletes in Russia be better or worse off after the cameras have gone home? And by sending over the delegation, one of the things that does is that it allows the IOC—and, by the way, they’re already doing this—and Putin to present the LGBT movement in Russia as a tool of the United States, and it actually opens them up for further repression.

AMY GOODMAN: Legendary tennis star Billie Jean King recently appeared on CBS This Morning and talked about going to Russia as a member of the official U.S. delegation, about the origins of Olympic Rule number 50, which bars athletes from engaging in any type of political demonstration at the games.

BILLIE JEAN KING: It probably came from the fact when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their arms about civil rights, human rights, back in ’68, I think the rule [inaudible] was written after that, Rule 50.

VINITA NAIR: Because it bans all political demonstration.

BILLIE JEAN KING: It bans—they’re not supposed to protest or demonstrate. And if they do, they can have their medals stripped, and they can be sent home. But I also think people—some of the athletes will probably have their say.

The full transcript is here.

Winter Olympics 2014: Norway’s Health Minister to take his husband to Paralympics: here.

A People’s History of LGBTI Olympians: here.

The President of the Sochi Olympic Committee has just confirmed that the two wild orcas captured by White Sphere will not be displayed during the Sochi Olympics: here.

Everything you wanted to know about that hideously anti-gay law passed in Arizona last night: here.

Former Bush strategist equates Arizona’s anti-gay Christians to Islamic terrorists: here.

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Roadrunner feeds chick, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

Roadrunner feeding chick

1 April 2013

One of the parents brings in a zebra-tailed lizard, jumps into the nest, and before the other parent leaves, a chick is fed. The chick isn’t much bigger than the lizard, but it is swallowed. The time taken is about twice the length of this edited video. Tucson, Arizona.

From the NestWatch eNewsletter in the USA, December 2013, about this:

Elusive Roadrunner Captured on Film

Earlier this month, Doris Evans of Tucson, Arizona, submitted a photo of a Greater Roadrunner at the nest, with five chicks. This was the first photo of a roadrunner nest to have been submitted to NestWatch, so we thought we’d share! Doris says that to observe and photograph a pair of nesting Greater Roadrunners from her own yard “was an amazing experience.” She watched the pair building the nest, incubating the eggs, and raising five young.

Roadrunners often situate their nest in a thorny bush, small tree, or cactus 3–10′ high. The nest is usually located near the center of the thorny plant, and is well concealed. Among the more typical nest materials you might expect (twigs, grasses, feathers, and mesquite pods), you might also find snakeskin or dried cow manure.

Old nests are sometimes reused for a winter roost, something most cup-nesting birds don’t do. Another unusual thing about roadrunners is that both parents incubate the eggs. Males and females both develop a brood patch (a wrinkly patch of bare skin on the abdomen) that is used to transfer heat to eggs. The male takes the night shift because, unlike the female, his body temperature will remain constant all night, rather than drop to conserve precious energy.

Speaking of energy, the roadrunner diet is truly cosmopolitan. A startling variety of foods are taken, including some venomous species. Lizards (including horned lizards), snakes (even rattlesnakes), insects, spiders, scorpions, birds, bird eggs, and pet food are all fair game. To fully appreciate their dietary gusto, watch the video that Doris captured of the parents feeding a zebra-tailed lizard to a nestling that is scarcely bigger than the prey.

If you live in the southwestern United States, you might find a roadrunner nest by looking carefully in your thorny shrubs and cacti this winter. Occasionally, they will reuse a nest the next breeding season. Check out more of Doris’ photos to get your “search image,” and then go out and see what you find!

Emus dance tango, video


This video from the USA says about itself:

3 Dec 2013

The Emus and Sexy Sexy Sniper the Ostrich dance the tango against their greatest enemy: The weasel ball. Who will prevail?

By Sarah Laskow in the USA:

We can’t stop watching these emus freak out about a ball

The makers of this video seem to think they needed to improve on reality by intimating that the emu was dancing the tango with this battery-powered ball. But it’s not necessary to pretend that. It’s amusing enough to watch the emus go: Ball. Ball? Ball! Ball? OMG ball!

These emus are part of the crew at Camels & Friends, farm animals who live in Arizona.

California condors and lead ammunition


This is a California condor video from the USA.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lead ammunition banned in California and reduced in Arizona to protect condors

Arizona hunters reduce lead ammunition voluntarily

October 2013. Hunters in Arizona have proved their commitment to wildlife conservation by voluntarily working to reduce the amount of lead exposure to endangered California condors, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department is encouraging all hunters to join the effort this fall.

85-90% of hunters using non-lead ammunition

In the last six years, 85 to 90 percent of hunters in Arizona’s condor range have voluntarily either used non-lead ammunition during their hunts or, if they used lead ammunition, they removed the gut piles from the field.

California bans lead ammunition

California just chose a different approach to help conserve that state’s condor population. California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Oct. 11 mandating that hunters statewide must use non-lead ammunition.

“Every state needs to take an approach that takes into consideration its own unique needs. In Arizona, we feel strongly that a voluntary approach works better than a mandated measure while still upholding the agreements that were originally promised when the condor reintroduction program was established,” says Allen Zufelt, Arizona Game and Fish’s condor program coordinator. “Achieving between 85 and 90 percent voluntary participation is a clear demonstration of hunters’ commitment to condor management, and they deserve to be recognized.”

Utah

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which coordinates condor management with Arizona Game and Fish, has also recently implemented a lead reduction program in southern Utah. As the condor population has become more established, the birds have increased their foraging area and now use southern Utah heavily during the fall hunting season. These two complimentary programs should greatly benefit condors.

Lead poisoning a key factor in condor mortality

Lead poisoning has been identified as the leading cause of diagnosed death in endangered condors and the main obstacle to a self-sustaining population in Arizona and southern Utah. Studies suggest that lead shot and bullet fragments found in animal carcasses and gut piles are the most likely source of lead exposure. Many hunters do not realize that the carcass or gut pile they leave in the field usually contains lead bullet fragments. Gut piles from animals harvested with non-lead ammunition provide an important food source for the condors and should be left in the field.

The deaths of two California condors found last month in water tanks used by Kern County firefighters have state wildlife officials working on a way to keep the large, endangered birds out of the tanks: here.

It may not have a huge impact on hunting, but ‘green’ bullets could help reduce the rates of lead poisoning in groundwater and animals: here.

California condors threatened by lead poisoning


This video from the USA is called California Condors in Grand Canyon National Park.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lead poisoning responsible for 50% of California condor deaths last winter

Winter results for Arizona-Utah condor program: preventable deaths remain focus of recovery effort

May 2013. Half of the California condor deaths that occurred over the winter in the Arizona-Utah population were caused by lead poisoning, a rate consistent with the entire condor population in California, Arizona, and Utah, according to The Peregrine Fund, an Idaho-based conservation organization.

Of the eight condors that died between December 2012 and February 2013:

Four died of lead poisoning
Two died of trauma possibly caused by a predator
Two were unrecoverable

6 active nests

“It’s been a tough season for condors,” said Chris Parish, director of The Peregrine Fund’s condor reintroduction project. “The good news is that we currently have as many as a half-dozen active nests and 72 birds flying free in the wild in Arizona and southern Utah, a true testament to the species’ resilience.”

Lead poisoning responsible for 50% of deaths since 1996

Of the 54 necropsies performed since The Peregrine Fund began releasing condors to the wild in 1996, lead poisoning accounted for 50% of deaths, followed by predation at 30%, Parish said. This year, The Peregrine Fund’s field crew captured nearly all the condors in Arizona and Utah and discovered that 39% had toxic levels of lead in their blood. The birds were treated with chelation therapy, the same process used to eliminate lead from humans.

“Fortunately, we were able to capture, test, and treat most of the birds,” Parish said. “Our biologists had to sit and wait patiently while the majority of the flock returned from the feeding grounds in southern Utah where lead-reduction programs are just getting under way.”

Lead most common in Utah and Northern Arizona

Based on more than 10 years of data, the birds are most likely to encounter lead during and after the hunting seasons in northern Arizona and southern Utah, Parish said. The most recent necropsy, conducted on Condor #210, showed acute lead poisoning, with extremely high levels of lead and 10 fragments in her digestive tract. Further analysis showed that her last meal consisted of deer.

Condors encounter lead when eating animals that have been shot with lead bullets, which can fragment into dozens of tiny pieces, some too small to be seen, and disperse widely in the animal’s body.

Non lead options

“We expect predators and other natural factors to claim the lives of condors,” Parish said. “But anyone who kills an animal, including those dispatching livestock and hunting varmints, can make a significant impact by simply switching to non-lead ammunition like solid copper bullets, which rarely fragment.”

Hunters helping with conservation efforts

Since 2005, hunters on the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona have voluntarily assisted efforts to protect condors from lead, with more than 80% of hunters participating in the Arizona Game and Fish Department‘s lead reduction program. That rate has climbed to as much as 90% over the past six years. Last year, 88% either used non-lead ammunition or removed the remains of shot animals from the field.

Utah

In response to the shifting pattern of condors now feeding extensively in southern Utah, the Southwest Condor Workgroup supports efforts by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to ramp up education and outreach efforts there. The Utah program resulted in nearly 50% voluntary hunter participation in the 2012-13 season — similar to the first year of Arizona’s effort in 2005 — but efforts are under way to increase awareness and participation in hopes of reducing the threat to condors of lead poisoning.

“We have come a long way since identifying lead poisoning as the primary cause of death for this reintroduced population,” Parish said. “If we are to achieve our goal of a self-sustaining population, we’re going to need more help. It has been my experience that when hunters find out what is happening, they are more than willing to join the effort.”

The recovery effort is a cooperative program by federal, state, and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Strip Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests.

California condors

Prior to reintroduction, the last wild condor in Arizona was sighted just south of the Grand Canyon in 1924.
Condors reach maturity at about six years of age. They usually produce one egg every other year.
The condor is the largest land bird in North America. The birds can weigh up to 26 pounds and have a wingspan up to 9½ feet.
Condors were added to the federal Endangered Species List in 1967.

California inches closer to becoming the 1st state to ban lead ammunition: here.

More than 460 children have died in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara due to the effects of lead poisoning since 2009. Thousands of people have suffered from lead poisoning, with many facing long-term and serious medical conditions such as paralysis, deafness and brain damage: here.

Mexican wolves in Arizona, New Mexico


This video from the USA says about itself:

Mexican Wolf – Canis lupus baileyi

May 12, 2013

After being wiped out in the United States, Mexican wolves were bred in captivity and reintroduced to the wild in Arizona beginning in 1998. They are still very rare in the wild. The Mexican wolf is the most endangered type of wolf in the world.

From Wildlife Extra:

Two pairs of wolves released in Arizona and New Mexico

Wolves released into Gila Wilderness & Apache National Forest

May 2013. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) have released a pair of Mexican wolves into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of Arizona.

Second pair

In a separate action, the Service also released a second pair of Mexican wolves into the wolf recovery area in New Mexico. Both pairs, selected to increase genetic diversity of the wild wolf population, were previously held at the Service’s Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility where they had undergone an acclimation process to determine their suitability for release.

“We continue to be committed to strategic releases that improve genetic diversity, increase the number of breeding wolves, and offset illegal mortalities in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Regional Director.

“The strategically-planned release of the wolf pair into Arizona is to improve the genetic integrity of the wolf population. The release approaches being used are tailored to encourage these wolves to acclimate and behave as wild wolves. Our experience shows that wild-born, wild-raised wolves have a much better chance at success,” says Director Larry Voyles, AGFD.

Soft release

In Arizona, the Interagency Field Team (IFT) conducted a “soft release” of Mexican wolves F1126 and M1051 (F indicates female and M indicates male) near the Corduroy Creek release site on the Alpine Ranger District in the Apache National Forest.

“We considered several factors in the selection of the release site, including appropriate prey density, distance from occupied residences, seasonal absence of livestock grazing, and occurrence of established wolf packs in the area,” says Chris Bagnoli, the AGFD’s IFT leader. “This particular site was also chosen in close coordination with the public and with approval from the Forest Service.”

The Arizona pair was placed into an enclosure and will be held for a time to acclimate them to their surroundings. They will be released into the primary recovery zone because F1126 does not have previous wild experience. This will be an initial release of F1126 and a translocation of M1051.

Gila wilderness

The Service, in cooperation with the IFT, also conducted a “modified soft release” of Mexican wolves F1108 and M1133 into New Mexico. These wolves will be translocated to an enclosure in the Gila Wilderness. The enclosure is designed so that the wolves can chew through and self-release any time after being placed there. Both F1108 and M1133 have previous wild experience, and so are able to be translocated into the secondary recovery zone in compliance with the existing federal 10(j) rule covering the reintroduction project.

Supplementary feeding

For both the Arizona and New Mexico wolf pairs, the IFT anticipates the wolves will begin utilizing the area around the release sites. The IFT will provide supplemental food while the wolves learn to catch and kill native prey, such as deer and elk, on their own. The supplemental feeding will assist in anchoring the wolves to the area.

75 wolves in the wild

The IFT estimates the population of Mexican wolves in the wild to be a minimum of 75 animals, as determined by their most recent annual survey conducted in January 2013, up from a count of 58 last year.

The Reintroduction Project partners are AGFD, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services, several participating counties in Arizona, the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization, and the Service.

At last count, only 83 Mexican gray wolves persisted in the wild. The wild population is at tremendous risk due to its small size and genetics. In spite of all your phone calls and emails, on Feb. 3, the Arizona Legislature’s Committee on Government and Environment passed legislation and a resolution to push this tiny, critically endangered population of wolves even closer to extinction: here.

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Good California condor news


This video from the USA says about itself:

Wild California Condors Made Here

Sep 28, 2012

By 1982, fewer than two dozen California condors lived in the wild. By 1985, only one wild breeding pair was known to exist. That’s when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service decided to capture any remaining condors and bring them to live–and breed–in captivity. The Peregrine Fund, in Boise, Id., houses the largest California condor breeding center in the U.S.–with nearly sixty California condors living on site. Bill Heinrich and Taiana Carvalho take us “behind the enclosure” for a tour of the condor compound.

From Wildlife Extra:

California condor recovery reaches landmark

200th California condor chick hatches at The Peregrine Fund‘s captive breeding facility

May 2013. A tiny California condor chick marked a major milestone for The Peregrine Fund. It was the 200th chick to hatch in the conservation group’s captive breeding facility since joining the effort to breed endangered condors in 1993.

20 eggs this year

The captive breeding facility at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey is home to 62 condors, the world’s largest flock of captive condors. This year, 18 pairs produced a total of 20 eggs. When the chicks are about 9 months old, they are transferred to The Peregrine Fund’s release site near the Grand Canyon in Arizona, where they join the wild flock, which currently numbers 72 birds.

“We are thrilled to reach the 200 mark,” said Marti Jenkins, who oversees the condor propagation program. “Every chick takes us one step closer to saving this magnificent species from extinction.”

Wild foster parents

The Peregrine Fund works closely with three other facilities – Los Angeles Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and Oregon Zoo — that raise California Condors. This year, two of the eggs produced in Boise were placed in the nests of wild condors in California to replace eggs that were not viable. Both eggs hatched and are being reared by their wild foster parents. A third egg was transferred to the Oregon Zoo and also hatched successfully.

“We will be sending at least one more egg out to replace one from a wild nest in California,” Jenkins said. “Such swaps promote genetic diversity in a small population and enable this program to be as successful as possible.”

The captive breeding process bolsters wild breeding numbers, Jenkins said. This year, Peregrine Fund biologists have observed six wild condor pairs exhibiting incubating behaviours in the rugged canyon lands of northern Arizona.

An intensive condor recovery program began in the early 1980s when the continuing decline of the condor population required drastic measures. By 1982, only 22 condors remained on Earth. The last birds were brought into captivity to launch a breeding program. The first releases to the wild occurred in California in 1992. The Peregrine Fund began raising condors in 1993 and releasing them to the wild in 1996.

Today, there are more than 400 California Condors, with more than half of them flying free in the wild in Arizona, California and Baja, Mexico.

For more information about The Peregrine Fund’s condor recovery program, visit our Facebook pages.

California condors

Prior to reintroduction, the last wild condor in Arizona was sighted just south of the Grand Canyon in 1924.

Condors reach maturity at about six years of age. They usually produce one egg every other year.

The condor is the largest land bird in North America. The birds can weigh up to 26 pounds and have a wingspan up to 9½ feet.

Condors were added to the federal Endangered Species List in 1967.

Lead poisoning is the leading cause of death for California Condors in Arizona, with 26 deaths confirmed since 2000.

A comment on this at the Wildlife Extra site:

The California condor almost became extinct, but captive breeding has brought back their numbers. But they are being threatened again by lead poisoning. An alternative source has to be discovered for ammunition, or they could end up becoming on the verge of extinction again.

Posted by: Tim Upham | 04 May 2013 04:18:29

New scorpion species discovered in Arizona


Vaejovis brysoni

From Wildlife Extra:

New scorpion species found near city of Tucson in USA

6 new species found in Arizona since 2006

March 2013. A new species of scorpion, named Vaejovis brysoni, has been found in the Santa Catalina Mountains in southern Arizona. Another scorpion of the same group also inhabits this mountain range, making this the first documented case of two vorhiesi group species distributed on the same mountain.

These mountains overlook the city of Tucson, Arizona. Amazingly, in the 21st century, there are still new species to be discovered right here in the United States. What is even more surprising is that the new species was found within sight of a large metropolitan area.

Recently Dr. Rob Bryson Jr. discovered this new species while looking for a completely different animal. Many important discoveries are made this way by scientists who start out working on something completely different. He sent specimens to the authors, who determined that they were indeed a new scorpion species. At that point, the team was assembled and the rest is history.

6 new species found in Arizona since 2006

For more than 50 years only four species of mountain scorpions were known from the state of Arizona. That number has more than doubled over the past six years, with a total of 10 species now known, all belonging to the same group. Arizona is known for isolated mountain habitats in the desert known as Sky Islands. These Sky Islands are where the new species are being discovered.

“This latest new scorpion is a prime example of the amazing diversity of life still to be discovered, right here in 21st century America” adds Richard F. Ayrey, one of the co-author of the original article.

The study was published in the open access, peer-reviewed journal Zookeys.