Save Saudi teenager from death penalty


This video is about Ethiopian refugees, tortured in Saudi Arabia.

From the Bahrain Freedom Movement:

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action to highlight the plight of a Saudi national sentenced recently to death for an alleged crime that he had not committed. Ali Mohammad Baqir Al Nimr was seventeen when he allegedly committed these “crimes” including participating in a demonstration against the government, attacking security forces, possessing a machine-gun and armed robbery.

The court has based its decision on [a] signed “confessions” which had been extracted under torture. AI called for investigation into allegations of torture, to observe the rights of Mr Al Nimr who falls within the children category and establish immediately an official moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing death sentences.

Migratory fish in Ethiopia


This video says about itself:

21 January 2014

Thousands of birds that fly south during the European winter migrate to Lake Tana in Ethiopia. It’s the source of the Blue Nile and has a unique ecosystem. More than two thirds of its fish species are unique to the lake. Several of the lake’s islands are also home to ancient Coptic monasteries. But the region’s resources are under threat. A German conservation group is trying to alleviate the situation.

From BirdLife:

Migratory birds? What about migratory fish?

By nairobi.volunteer, Wed, 28/05/2014 – 08:00

Major ‘International Days for…’ play a strong role in supporting the work of conservation networks. There is the International Day for Biological Diversity, the World Environment Day, and of course World Migratory Bird Day. Now, there is also World Fish Migration Day!

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)under its Eastern Afromontane Hotspot programme is funding  is a project in Ethiopia, implemented by the  Addis Abeba University, to empower local fishing communities to sustainably utilize and conserve the (migratory) fish resources of Lake Tana. Lake Tana is an Afromontane Key Biodiversity Area as well as an Important Bird Area.

As part of that project, Addis Abeba University supported the first ever World Fish Migration Day which was celebrated colourfully at the city of Bahir Dar, near the Lake, on Saturday, 24 May 2014. Thousands of people marched on the streets of Bahir Dar voicing the conservation importance of the migratory fish and – specifically – the world’s only remaining Labeobarbus species flock of Lake Tana.

Abebe Getahun, Addis Abeba University’s manager of the Lake Tana project, described the day. “There were brief talks at the beginning of the march marking the day and its official opening, and there was a seminar with a discussion at the end, during which three papers relevant to fish biodiversity conservation were selected and presented. Thousands of leaflets were prepared in the local language and distributed to the public. Banners were also displayed at selected strategic sites in the city. The march was accompanied by the Police Marsh, which provided more visibility to the public and policy makers. Several local and international organizations were involved in sponsoring the event.”

Zewditu Tessema, the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Hotspot project officer in Ethiopia, based at the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS, BirdLife in Ethiopia) congratulated the organizers of the event by saying: “This is a good starting point which will have an immense contribution towards the creation of awareness on the conservation of fish species in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa University and the donors are pioneers for the celebration of World Fish Migration Day in Ethiopia.” She continued: “I also congratulate CEPF for creating a legacy for this event, the first of its kind in Ethiopia, and I hope the celebrations will continue, and be marked at a national level with many more awareness creation programmes such as EWNHS‘s own efforts during the celebration of World Environment Day.”

The Lake Tana project runs from January 2014 to June 2015. 

Story by Ato Abebe Getahun

BirdLife International, together with IUCN and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, form the Regional Implementation Team that supports CEPF with their investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot.

Read other Eastern Afromontane News

Follow the EAM Hotspot program on Facebook and Twitter

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Free Ethiopian bloggers and journalists


This video says about itself:

27 April 2014

The Ethiopian government has arrested six independent bloggers and a journalist in what human rights group Amnesty International has called a “suffocating grip on freedom of expression”.

Six members of independent blogger and activist group ‘Zone 9′ and a prominent Ethiopian journalist were arrested on Friday in the capital Addis Ababa.

These arrests appear to be yet another alarming round up of opposition or independent voices.

All six bloggers were arrested at night by armed security forces and taken from their homes to the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector ‘Maikelawi’, where political prisoners are alleged to be held in pre-trial, and sometimes arbitrary detention.

The Zone 9 group who are said to be very critical of government policy and have a strong following on social media had temporarily suspended their activities earlier this year after accusing the government of harassing their members.

Journalist Tesfalem Waldyes who writes independent commentary on political issues for a Ethiopian newspaper was also arrested.

According to Ethiopian journalist Simegnish Yekoye, Waldyes is being denied visitation by friends and family and it’s unclear what prompted his arrest and what charges he is being held under.

Simegnish Yekoye told Al Jazeera she was unaware of why the government had clamped down on journalists and their was growing fear on the future of a free press.

“I am very scared, I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she said.

Ranked 143 in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, media watchdogs say 49 journalists fled the country between 2007 and 2012 to evade government persecution.

Human rights group Amesty International criticised the arrests, saying “these arrests appear to be yet another alarming round up of opposition or independent voices”.

“The Ethiopian government is tightening its suffocating grip on freedom of expression in a major crackdown which has seen the arrest of numerous independent, critical and opposition voices over the last two days”, Claire Beston, Ethiopia researcher at Amnesty International, said.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reporting from Bahir Dar said it was unclear what will happen to the detained journalists.

“There are scores of journalists currently serving between 14 and 27 years in prison with some charged on terrorism offences.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday 28th April 2014

ETHIOPIA: Rights groups called on the government today to release six bloggers and three journalists who were arrested last week.

Human Rights Watch urged US Secretary of State John Kerry, who visits Ethiopia today, to add his voice to the call.

Amnesty International noted that 20 members of a political opposition group were also arrested last week.

The rights charity said Ethiopia was tightening “its suffocating grip on freedom of expression.”

This video says about itself:

Zone9 bloggers from Ethiopia (The Kojo Nnamdi Show)

31 January 2014

Conversations about Ethiopian politics are often complicated by internal and external factors. The country is a strong U.S. ally in a tumultuous region, but after what critics termed a “very tightly controlled” election in 2010, several opposition leaders and journalists have been jailed. Still, activists in Ethiopia feel it’s important for their voices to be heard at home and abroad. Kojo sat down with three pro-democracy bloggers during his recent visit to Ethiopia.

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Spears, already before humans?


The traditional theory used to be that Neanderthals, later than Homo heidelbergensis, did not have throwing spears, only spears for stabbing; and that Homo sapiens, the present human species, first used throwing spears. A more recent theory is that Homo heidelbergensis already had them about 400,000 years ago. And now …

From Student Science:

Human ancestors threw spears

Ancient spear tips suggest early humanlike species were throwing sharp spears long before people did

by Stephen Ornes

7:35am, December 12, 2013

The edge of this ancient obsidian stone point shows damage that suggests it was part of a spear thrown at animals from a short distance

Long before guns and arrows, spears were the tool of choice for ancient hunters. Topped with sharp, pointed rocks, spears at first made it possible to kill animals by stabbing them close-up. Later, spears were sturdy enough to be thrown at animals from a distance.

Until recently, the earliest known throwing spears dated back 80,000 years. But a recent discovery in East Africa now extends that type of spear hunting to a far earlier time, one that precedes humans. It suggests that at least 279,000 years ago, an earlier, humanlike species must have been hunting big game, like hippos and antelope.

Scientists dug up spear tips from that far back in time at a site in Ethiopia called Gademotta. Back then, during the Stone Age, tools were usually made from found materials like stone, wood or bone. Any early spear-throwers at that time weren’t people but early ancestors of humans called hominids. Hominids are a family of primates that includes humans and their extinct ancestors (known only from fossils).

The ancient hominid’s spears most likely were long wooden poles topped with sharp, hand-chipped (sharpened) tips made from glassy volcanic rock, explains Yonatan Sahle. He is an archaeologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been studying the ancient spear tips made from this rock, known as obsidian. Given the tips’ age, his team concludes that prehuman species must have spear-hunted too. His team reported its findings Nov. 13 in the journalPLOS ONE.

The new finding challenges previously held ideas about the earliest throwers of stone-tipped spears, says John Shea. An archeologist at Stony Brook University in New York, he did not work on the new study. Previous studies had suggested ancient peoples started attaching stones to spears capable of stabbing animals close-up no earlier than 100,000 years ago.

The new find shows that more complex throwing spears were made at Gademotta long before then. They probably belonged to a species “out of which the human species evolved in eastern Africa,” Shea told Science News. Which hominid left behind the points? No one knows. Scientists have unearthed no prehuman fossils at the site.

Sahle and his coworkers studied 141 stone spear tips from Gademotta. Viewed under a microscope, 12 tips showed damage to their edges. Previous experiments have shown this type of damage comes from throwing stone-tipped spears into an animal that’s a short distance away. The scientists also found tiny marks near the base of the points, where they had been tied onto their wooden spear shafts.

The scientists estimated the age of the spear tips by where they were found. Seven were discovered beneath a layer of volcanic ash that is 279,000 years old. The rest were found buried in upper layers that were at least 105,000 years old.

Power Words

archaeology  The study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains.

evolve  To change gradually over generations, or a long period of time. In living organisms, the evolution usually involves random changes to genes that will then be passed along to an individual’s offspring. These can lead to new traits, such as altered coloration, new susceptibility to disease or protection from it, or different shaped features (such as legs, antennae, toes or internal organs).

extinct  No longer in existence, as in a species or larger group of organisms.

hominid  A primate belonging to the family of animals that includes humans and their fossil ancestors.

obsidian  A hard, dark, glasslike volcanic rock.

primate  The order of mammals that includes humans, apes, monkeys and related animals (such as tarsiers, the Daubentonia and other lemurs).

Stone Age  A prehistoric period, lasting millions of years and ending thousands of years ago, when weapons and tools were made of stone or of materials such as bone, wood or horn.

Further Reading

B. Bower. “Human ancestors threw stone-tipped spears at prey.Science News. Nov. 19, 2013.

B. Bower. “Where do humans come from?Science News for Students. Nov. 5, 2013.

E. Sohn. “Ancient cave behavior.Science News for Students.

African, Middle East hunters against soaring bird poaching


This video says about itself:

Flyways by Paul Winter – Indiegogo Campaign

10 Nov 2013

Learn more here.

Migrating Birds Know No Borders” – Flyways is a musical journey inspired by the great bird migration from Africa through the Middle East to Eurasia. The album is intended to awaken awareness of this ancient and miraculous migration, and of the endangered indigenous cultures of the migration route.

Each spring, more than 500 million birds of 350 species follow the Great Rift Valley from southern Africa to Turkey, where they then diverge to Europe and Asia. This flyway is one of the most important bird migration corridors in the world. I first experienced the miracle of the migration when I flew in a motorized glider across Israel with the migrating storks as they soared on the thermal currents coming up from the Rift Valley below. From that unforgettable experience came the vision for this album: to create a musical chronicle of the birds’ long journey, incorporating music from each of the cultures over which they fly, and weaving the voices of the birds into the fabric of the music.

We began this musical odyssey seven years ago and to date we’ve gone to 16 countries of the flyway to learn of the musical traditions as well as people’s experience of the migrating birds. The Flyways double-CD album will feature this new ensemble that we call the Great Rift Valley Orchestra, comprised of indigenous musicians from these 16 countries, along with members of the Paul Winter Consort.

Migrating birds face many threats, including the destruction of key habitats along their routes of passage and, of course, climate change. And many of the indigenous traditions are undervalued and in decline.

The motto of the Flyways album is “migrating birds know no borders.” Beneath this overarching highway live millions of people of different races and religions. The flyway embraces all these cultures, and we feel that the timeless languages of birds and music have the potential to bring us together in common cause. The birds can guide us toward honoring the whole Earth as our home, and the music can awaken the universal heart of humanity. Read more about the project at www.flywaysmusic.org

From BirdLife:

Prominent hunters from Middle East and Africa sign declaration on responsible hunting

By Julien Jreissati, Thu, 05/12/2013 – 11:21

Hunters from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen and Ethiopia have signed a Regional Declaration on Responsible Hunting [1], at a ceremony organised by the BirdLife International and UNDP/GEF Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project.

Under the Patronage of H.E. Mr. Nazem El Khoury, Lebanese Minister of Environment, the ceremony celebrated the adoption of the “Code of Best Practices for Hunters and Hunting Groups for Responsible Hunting and the Full Protection of Migratory Soaring Birds”.

The ceremony was held on the 5th of December 2013 at the Coral Beach Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon. Guests included responsible hunters from the region, and observers from the Lebanese Higher Hunting Council, BirdLife International and BirdLife Partners from attending countries, the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, the European Federation of Associations for Hunting & Conservation (FACE), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The ceremony was part of a larger scheme that the MSB project discussed back in October 2011, during the MSB first regional hunting workshop in Beirut, when BirdLife Partners reviewed hunting practices in the region against the background of European experience. In Europe, BirdLife has signed a similar agreement with FACE.

Dr. Saleem Hamadeh, representative of H.E. Mr. Nazem El Khoury Lebanese Minister of Environment, presented the accomplishments of the Ministry of Environment in terms of birds conservation and the issuance of the necessary decrees for the implementation of the new hunting law. He reminded that migratory birds are protected under international laws and conventions. Finally he stated that “to achieve complete protection of migratory soaring birds we need regional collaboration for the organisation of responsible hunting”.

Signatories of the Responsible Hunting Declaration have committed to adopt the Code of Best Practices for Hunters and Hunting Groups for Responsible Hunting and the Full Protection of Migratory Soaring Birds as the founding principle of their hunting activities, and to implement measures to conserve migratory soaring birds and their habitats.

Many of the hunters present have expressed their aspiration to create national responsible hunting groups and societies with the Code of Best Practices for Responsible Hunting as their core value.

Mr. Osama Al Nouri, Regional MSB project coordinator, declared: “The MSB project aims to revive the hunter’s traditional sustainable hunting practices that do not threaten migratory soaring birds along the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway within the scope of the Code of Conduct, to establish national and regional mature responsible hunting groups that are working closely with BirdLife partners as allies against indiscriminate practices, and ensure firm government buy-in through effective regulations and efficient implementation of national laws”.

For more information on the Code of Best Practices for Responsible Hunting kindly visit the MSB project website: www.migratorysoaringbirds.undp.birdlife.org or contact the BirdLife’s Regional Flyway Facility at rff@birdlife.org

[1] Signatories to the Responsible Hunting Declaration are:

  • WILLING to work towards the revival of the region’s tradition heritage in hunting and to improve their role in hunting control and management systems, and promote the concept of responsible hunting principles and MSB protection within their surroundings and contacts within their territories along the Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway;
  • RESOLVING to enhance local and regional coordination and collaboration and to increase protection of Migratory Soaring Birds from threats arising from hunting; take necessary actions toward strict abstaining from Migratory Soaring Birds hunting (trapping, shooting, active taking and persecution) within their territories along the Rift Valley / Red Sea Flyway, most importantly at bottleneck sites during peak migration seasons;
  • ACCEPTING the adoption of the Code of Best Practices regarding responsible hunting of game species and protection of MSBs, and encouraging other fellow hunters in their clubs and associations to adopt it through dialogue and to join this declaration;
  • ACCEPTING to be a MSB envoy and role model to be followed by other fellow hunters in the area in order to pass the message to the broader community of hunters, including those who are not aware of the MSBs plight, considering themselves as leaders of change;
  • ENCOURAGING other parties concerned with MSBs to reduce threats induced by hunting and increase their efforts to the protection of MSBs along the flyway; and
  • WILLING to catalyze the formation of responsible hunting groups that will adopt the Code of Best Practices.

WCS plays significant role in largest-ever action in Jilin Province. December 2013: The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has congratulated authorities in China’s Jilin Province for the recent arrests of five poachers – the largest ever for the province: here.

February:  A new web tool that will help protect migratory soaring birds along the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway  has been launched by the BirdLife UNDP/GEF Migratory Soaring Birds project. The tool has been designed to provide developers, planning authorities and other interested stakeholders access to information on the distribution of soaring bird species along the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway: here.

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