Asian fossil birds, new research


This video says about itself:

Two of Papua New Guinea‘s many birds of paradise – the Magificent and the King – put on an show of dancing and hanging upside down in spectacular courtship display.

By Hanneke J.M. Meijer:

The avian fossil record in Insular Southeast Asia and its implications for avian biogeography and palaeoecology

Abstract

Excavations and studies of existing collections during the last decades have significantly increased the abundance as well as the diversity of the avian fossil record for Insular Southeast Asia. The avian fossil record covers the Eocene through the Holocene, with the majority of bird fossils Pleistocene in age. Fossil bird skeletal remains represent at least 63 species in 54 genera and 27 families, and two ichnospecies are represented by fossil footprints. Birds of prey, owls and swiftlets are common elements.

Extinctions seem to have been few, suggesting continuity of avian lineages since at least the Late Pleistocene, although some shifts in species ranges have occurred in response to climatic change. Similarities between the Late Pleistocene avifaunas of Flores and Java suggest a dispersal route across southern Sundaland. Late Pleistocene assemblages of Niah Cave (Borneo) and Liang Bua (Flores) support the rainforest refugium hypothesis in Southeast Asia as they indicate the persistence of forest cover, at least locally, throughout the Late Pleistocene and Holocene.

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Migratory birds and Asian, African and European children


This video says about itself:

9 Jan 2014

Spring Alive has been spreading widely in Africa. Check how great they are doing in Nigeria where many children are enthusiastically engaged in birds oriented actions thanks to the Spring Alive project.

From BirdLife:

Spring Alive 2014 has arrived!

By Rebecca Langer, Thu, 06/03/2014 – 15:14

BirdLife and its Partners in 50 countries are proud to announce the launch of Spring Alive 2014. Now nine years old, Spring Alive brings together children, their teachers and families in Europe, Central Asia and Africa to observe and record the arrivals of five species of migrant birds:  Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Common Swift Apus apus, and European Bee-eater Merops apiaster.

Spring Alive 2013 broke all previous records. During Eurasian and African seasons, a total of over 286,000 observations of migratory birds were recorded on the Spring Alive website, and by the end of the year over 54,000 children, 900 teachers and supervisors and 500 volunteers from 49 countries had joined in a range of Spring Alive activities.

While the program began as a pan-European project to track the northward spread of spring migrants, now it involves many more indoor and outdoor events to engage children, schools and the wider community in the conservation of migratory birds. One example is the new pilot program Spring Twin, which matches schools in Europe and Asia with schools in Africa. Children will exchange letters, emails and diaries, and send one another videos they have shot before publishing them on the Spring Alive YouTube channel.

Spring Alive is coordinated by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland), with national coordinators in each participating country. This year, with the announcement that Azerbaijan will be joining in, at least 50 countries will be taking part.

“2014 is set to be an even bigger year for Spring Alive”, said Karolina Kalinowska, International Spring Alive Manager. “Now that we have accustomed children to recording their observations of the first spring migrants, we want to get them more involved in the conservation of migratory birds.”

Although it is still early in the year, in the southern Mediterranean early signs of spring are already popping up. Unfortunately, the joy of spring and the promise of some of the best birdwatching of the year is overshadowed in Malta by the Government’s intention to again allow spring hunting season, in violation of EU law. This translates into 10,000 hunters being allowed to legally shoot European Turtle-dove and Common Quail returning to Europe to breed. Experience suggests that too many of them will also be illegally targeting protected species, from songbirds to waders, herons and birds of prey: here.

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Flying snakes, new research


This video is called Flying Snakes – The Physics Of Snakes That Fly.

From Wildlife Extra:

Flying snakes intrigue scientists

They glide through the air with the greatest of ease…

March 2014: Forget Snakes on a Plane, there are some species of snakes in the world that are at home in the air. Three species of snake in the genus Chrysopelea are known to glide, and one, Chrysopelea paradisi, has even been seen turning in mid-air. They can travel as far as 100ft through the air, jumping off tree branches and rotating their ribs to flatten their bodies and move from side to side.

Animal flight behaviour is an exciting frontier for engineers to both apply knowledge of aerodynamics and to learn from nature’s solutions to operating in the air. Flying snakes are particularly intriguing to researchers because they lack wings or any other features that remotely resemble flight apparatus.

Before you envision flying snakes raining down from the sky, the ones involved in this study are small — about 1m in length and the width of your thumb — and live in the lowland tropical forests of Asia and Southeast Asia.

Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Jake Socha, renowned for his work with flying snakes, recently teamed with Boston University and George Washington University researchers to explore the snakes’ lift and wakes using computer simulations.

Previously, experiments in a wind tunnel had returned an unexpected finding: the snake’s shape is not only good at generating a force of lift, but it also gets an extra boost of lift when facing the air flow at a certain angle.

“After experiments uncovered this, we decided to use computer simulations to try to explain it,” says Lorena Barba, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the George Washington University.

So much of the aerodynamics of animal flight — especially that of flying snakes — remain a mystery. Scale is important, but also the manner in which flight is achieved.

“Rather than fixed wings, animal fliers have flapping wings,” explains Barba. “In the case of gliders, their small scale means they’re always in a flurry of whirling winds. By understanding how they can be graceful and efficient under these conditions, we can in turn use that knowledge to create small flying machines that are equally graceful.”

Whirls of wind can be particularly useful: these little vortices “can give flying snakes an extra lift,” notes Barba. “The shape of the snakes in flight — which is a flattened version of its shape at rest — gets help from little vortices around it.”

Next, the researchers would like to include more elements of the snake’s real gliding conditions into their computer simulations, such as its full body forming an S-shape, rather than working with just a section.

“This will be more difficult to do in a computer model, but it will probably reveal more about the complicated flow patterns snakes take advantage of to be such gifted gliders,” Barba says.

European Union threatens European vultures


This video says about itself:

Vanishing Vultures

31 May 2011

The Indian sub-continent had the highest density of vultures in the world – 85 million in total. However, over the past few years 99% have disappeared – mostly due to the use of the veterinary drug Diclofenac.

The loss of such an important scavenger has had devastating effects – putrefying decomposing carcasses are thought to be the cause of anthrax and rabies outbreaks. The extinction of this species would have global health consequences.

The films were premiered at the British Council in 2006, and have since been broadcast in 15 different languages on the national network – along with special screenings for the Prime Minister and other key politicians.

There has been an immediate reaction from the public and national press. The films also appeal to farmers – many, previously unaware of the problem, have now switched to a safer alternative to the drug.

Manufacture and sale of the drug Diclofenac has been banned with immediate effect nationwide – to give the remaining 1% of vultures a fighting chance for survival.

From BirdLife:

Vulture killing drug now available on EU market

By Rebecca Langer, Wed, 05/03/2014 – 10:09

Diclofenac is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that has wiped out vulture populations in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Now, a repeat of this ecological disaster is threatening Europe. Despite the fact that safe alternative drugs are readily available, Diclofenac has been authorised for use on domestic animals in Italy, and in Spain where 80% of European vultures live, and is now becoming widely available on the EU market. According to experts in SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), RSPB (BirdLife UK) and the Vulture Conservation Foundation, this may cause a European mass die off of endangered and ecologically valuable wildlife.

Vultures have long suffered from unfavourable public opinion in Europe, but as species that are built to do the dirty work of ecological recycling, they are essential to the health and well-being of ecosystems. In Europe, four rare vulture species exist and are continuing to face threats to their survival. Egyptian Vulture is listed as Endangered by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List of Species while Cinerous Vulture is listed as Near Threatened. Fortunately, thanks to decades of conservation efforts and millions of euros invested, vulture populations are recovering. The introduction of Diclofenac now puts these efforts and investments in jeopardy.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, Diclofenac was regularly used in the 1990’s to treat cattle. When the animals died, Diclofenac remained in the body and was eaten by vultures, causing their almost immediate death. In about 10 years, the vulture populations in these countries has declined by 99%, bringing some of the most common and iconic large birds of the Indian subcontinent to the verge of extinction. This also led to serious human health consequences as the availability of unconsumed carrions led to an increase in stray dogs and spread of diseases such as rabies. Thanks to joint campaign efforts from the RSPB and its partner SAVE, Diclofenac has been banned in India and we are beginning to see signs of recovery for the Indian vulture population.

The EU and its Member States have a legal obligation to conserve vultures under the EU Birds Directive and EU Veterinary Drugs legislation that require avoiding ecological damage. An immediate ban on veterinary Diclofenac is needed to protect our vultures from the fate of their Asian cousins, and would also send a crucial signal encouraging African countries to stop the spread of Diclofenac, which is already affecting the highly endangered populations of African vultures.

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Saving wetlands and their wildlife


This video from the USA says about itself:

(Recorded in 1989) A wacky and entertaining video featuring Bill Nye “The Science Guy” talking about the importance of wetlands. Produced by the Washington State Department of Ecology with funds from the National Oceanic Administration (NOAA) under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

From the University of Essex in England today:

Helping protect the world’s wetland landscapes

23 minutes ago

Action to help preserve some of the world’s most valuable ecosystems is behind a major international project, led by the University of Essex.

The culmination of the five-year project has been the development of an integrated action planning toolkit on wetland conservation and management, which can be adapted to help provide bespoke solutions to protect valuable ecosystems around the globe.

Launched today at events in China, India and Vietnam, the Wetland Resources Action Planning (WRAP) toolkit offers researchers, technical planners and policymakers a systematic approach to conserve and to sustainably manage wetland ecosystems and biodiversity. …

This major initiative focused on highlands in Asia as they often harbor endemic species not found elsewhere or species threatened with extinction globally, such as the marbled eel in China and the golden mahseer and snow trout in India. What is concerning environmentalists is that these valuable ecosystems are increasingly under pressure from deforestation, land-use change, overfishing, flooding and worsening climate change impacts.

Good snow leopard news


This video is called THE SNOW LEOPARD – the illegal trade /hidden cameras…www.wildlifefilm.com.

From Wildlife Extra:

Good news for snow leopard

Snow leopard to benefit from new global initiative

November 2013: In a bid to save the snow leopard officials representing 12 central and South Asian countries came together in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to endorse a global initiative to conserve critical ecosystems in high-mountain landscapes inhabited by this iconic, endangered cat.

The countries; Republic of Afghanistan, the Kingdom of Bhutan, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, worked with international and non-governmental environmental and conservation organizations, including the Snow Leopard Conservancy.

“I deeply appreciate the fact that our initiative to organize a Global Snow Leopard Forum in Bishkek was supported by the range countries as well as by international and non-governmental environmental organizations. By endorsing Bishkek Declaration on Snow Leopard Conservation and the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Recovery Program range countries are committing to scaling up joint snow leopard conservation efforts,” said Almazbek Atambayev, President of the Kyrgyz [Republic]. “If we do not take decisive measures to protect the snow leopard today, we will forever loose this priceless animal, a true gift of nature. I am confident that together we will be able to achieve the goal we set – to protect our beautiful nature and the symbol of our mountains, the snow leopard.”

The agreement is called the Bishkek Declaration and the 12 countries promise a multifaceted approach that will include engaging local communities in conservation, promote sustainable livelihoods and address human-wildlife conflict; combating poaching and illegal trade networks, seeking to manage habitats on a landscape level, working with industry and enterprises that operate in snow leopard habitats and establishing a core secretariat to coordinate conservation activities, monitor program implementation, and mobilize financial resources for the program.

It is hoped that by 2020 they would have identified and secured at least 20 healthy landscapes of snow leopards across the cat’s range.

Tanzania rhino update


This video is called Saving the Black Rhino.

From Wildlife Extra:

Tanzania’s rhinos – Edging back from the brink

Rhinos in Tanzania

September 2013. Tanzania is home to the Black Rhino. In Tanzania the IUCN estimate there are just 123 black rhino remaining in the wild. Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) is currently working in partnership with (Tanzanian National Parks) TANAPA and other Tanzania authorities to increase the security in Serengeti National Park and across the country. Resource protection and monitoring of rhinos (and elephants) is of top priority.

Rhino protection in Serengeti & Selous

The major threat continues to be poaching for rhino horn. FZS are convinced that with enough effort, patience, ingenuity, money and hope the rhinos of Tanzania will become a conservation success story. FZS is involved in supporting efforts to protect rhinos in Tanzania in the Serengeti National Park and Selous Game Reserve.

Serengeti

Black rhino were once numerous across the Serengeti. It is estimated that around 500 to 700 rhinos once roamed freely in the Serengeti Ecosystem. Poaching, however, reduced this number greatly in the 1970′s.

It was feared that none were left in Serengeti National Park, but in the 1980′s two females appeared again in the Moru area of Central Serengeti, one named Mama Serengeti.

Miraculously, one of the young bulls living in the Ngorongoro Crater left the Crater and made it over 100km to Moru where he was welcomed by the two lonely females. He has happily lived ever after in his own paradise looking after his new found harem. After his arrival four calves were born and the Serengeti National Park – Moru population now has between 25 and 30 individuals.

Mama Serengeti is still alive today and was spotted a year ago with a new calf. All three rhinos in this “starting population” are still alive today. The first five of the thirty-two rhinos scheduled to be brought from South Africa for reintroduction into the Serengeti arrived in May 2010.

The President of Tanzania, Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, remarked that they are a “stark reminder of what went wrong and the past and a lesson for what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again.”

Of these 5 rhinos, 1 died of natural causes, another sadly was poached, and another gave birth to a calf. It is estimated that there are 35 rhinos (approximately) in the Ngorongoro Crater, and possibly another 24 in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, a handful of which often cross the unmarked border into Serengeti. With these three remaining rhino populations in the Serengeti ecosystem – there is hope that in the future these remarkable animals will roam again all over the Serengeti, as they did before.

Selous rhinos – Clinging on

Rhinos in Selous Game Reserve (SGR) have suffered a very high level of poaching, particularly during the 1980s. Estimates put the population at 3,000 in 1981 which declined to 300-400 individuals by the end of the 1980s. It is thought that the rhino populations still exist, but the number is unknown. Over the last year there have been confirmed sightings of three individuals at ranger posts in the northern Selous Game Reserve. Additionally, in August 2012 two dung middens were found; one was under three months old and the other was over six months old. As there is no recent data of population numbers, it is critical timing to monitor these rhinos and ensure their continued protection.

FZS are hopeful that one day, visitors to Serengeti and Selous will again frequently spot these amazing animals.

Courtesy of Frankfurt Zoological Society.

Rhino conservation pioneer Clive Stockil from Zimbabwe believes community-based conservation is vital for the survival of African wildlife and has been at its forefront for four decades. He is the founding chairman of the Savé Valley Conservancy (which is now home to one of the country’s largest rhino populations), the chairman of the Lowveld Rhino Trust and a board member of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. Here he talks to Wild Travel about his life work and being the first-ever recipient of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa – a lifetime achievement award – at the 2013 Tusk Conservation Awards.

October 2013. At a meeting of the five Asian Rhino range states – Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal – a common action plan was agreed with the aim of increasing the populations of Asian Rhino species by at least 3% annually by 2020: here.

October 2013. According to a Nepali National Parks’ spokesman, Nepalese police have arrested 14 people involved in rhino poaching in Nepal and India, including the ringleader: here.