Saving reptiles and amphibians


This video from the USA is called What’s the difference between an amphibian and a reptile? Find out in this World Book Explains video.

From Wildlife Extra:

Zoos stave off extinction for many reptiles and amphibians

A frog that doesn’t croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top 10 reptiles and amphibians benefitting from the aid of its members in the UK and Ireland.

Dr Andrew Marshall from BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee co-ordinated the compilation of the list with input from conservation experts based at BIAZA collections.

He said: “Zoos are part of a global conservation community. Last year, BIAZA published a report on the top 10 mammals most reliant on zoos, which highlighted the work being done to help safeguard their future. This year, we have focused on 10 prevailing examples of reptiles and amphibians.

“The list includes some fantastic species, many of which are facing a dramatic decline and are in a desperate situation in the wild.”

Strict criteria were used for the list. All the reptiles and amphibians proposed had to be associated with current field initiatives by zoos and/or essential conservation breeding in zoos.

Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role in the species’ conservation, rather than just providing funds. Priority was also given to species listed as threatened on the international IUCN Red List of threatened species.

“The top 10 list demonstrates the importance of zoos and aquariums not only for conservation breeding of safety-net populations, but also for their contribution to funding and management of conservation projects in the field,” said Dr Marshall, “including research, education and support for local communities, as well as protection of crucial wildlife habitats.”

TV presenter and naturalist, Nick Baker, who is supporting the top 10 campaign this year said: “Zoos and aquariums have a very important role in this whole thing … at the scariest level they are the Ark. They are where the insurance populations of these animals can be looked after and understood and studied.

“As much as BIAZA is very important in holding the Ark population, it is also very important in being that interface between these animals and the public.

“The problem with these animals is they are not furry, they do not have an instant appeal to the masses. As a consequence they can be forgotten.

“The reality is, when the zoos show them to the world they are reaching people and spreading that word and getting people to appreciate what these animals are about.”

BIAZA’s top 10 reptiles and amphibians most reliant on zoos are:

Axolotl – this Critically Endangered amphibian retains a tadpole-like appearance even as an adult and has the extraordinary ability to regenerate limbs, but it is vulnerable to water-quality changes and is Critically Endangered mainly due to high levels of pollution in its last remaining stronghold in Mexico.

This video is called Axolotl salamanders continue to intrigue researchers.

Golden mantella – These Critically Endangered frogs don’t croak! Instead males attract females by a series of clicking noises. This bright yellow frog is known for attempting to eat anything that can fit in their mouth, even if the taste is repulsive.

This video is called Golden mantella chorus.

Komodo dragon – there are fewer than 1,000 left in the wild, living on a small island off Indonesia. They are the largest living lizard with males growing up to 3m in length and weighing up to 90kg.

This video is called Massive Lizards : Documentary on Giant Komodo Dragons.

Lemur leaf frog – Due to massive habitat loss and the effects of chytrid fungus, this species’ range and its population has declined by over 80 per cent in recent years. An adult lemur frog is only 3cm to 4cm long, it could fit on the end of your finger.

This video from England is called Andrew Gray, Curator of Herpetology at Manchester Museum talking about Lemur Leaf Frog conservation.

Morelet’s leaf frog – these striking lime-green frogs with a pink or orange underbelly are rapidly disappearing as their forest habitat is destroyed. They have incredible jet-black eyes with no discernable iris, and wide webbing between their toes which allows them to parachute between trees.

This video is called Morelet’s Tree Frog.

Mountain chicken – One of the largest frogs in the world, this Critically Endangered species came by the name because it is commonly hunted for food on the islands of Dominica and Monserrat in the Caribbean. Despite its name, it lives mainly in the lowlands.

This video is called Mountain Chicken.

Orange-tailed skink – These beautiful and highly endangered skinks were discovered on Flat Island in Mauritius in 1995 where they were being preyed upon by non-native introductions such as the Indian musk shrew. The species would now be extinct if it weren’t for the help of zoos.

Ploughshare tortoise – one of the rarest land tortoises in the world and a most sought after reptile in the illegal pet trade. This Critically Endangered tortoise is endemic to Madagascar and can live up to 100 years.

This video is called Ploughshare Tortoises, Madagascar.

Round island boa – the only snake in its genus, found only on one small island off Mauritius, where it is suffereing from loss of habitat. It is one of the very few snake species that can change its colour over a 24-hour period, being darker during the day and lighter at night.

This video is called Round Island Boa.

Sand lizard – although common in other parts of the world, this is one of the UK’s rarest lizards, protected here by law, as it is in most of Europe. It is restricted to sand dunes and lowland heaths in southern England.

This video is called Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) – Life on the tree – Animalia Kingdom Show.

Bahrain human rights activist’s years in jail for tweets


This video says about itself:

8 May 2012

In the fourth episode of The World Tomorrow Julian Assange speaks with two leading Arab revolutionaries in the middle of conflict, Alaa Abd El-Fattah from Egypt and Nabeel Rajab from Bahrain. Alaa Abd El-Fattah is a long time Egyptian blogger, programmer and political activist. His parents were human rights campaigners under Anwar Sadat; his sister Mona Seif became a Twitter star during the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and is a founder of the No Military Trials for Civilians group formed under the post-Mubarak military junta.

El-Fattah was imprisoned for 45 days in 2006 for protesting under the Mubarak regime, and released after “Free Alaa” solidarity protests in Egypt and around the world. In 2011, from abroad, El-Fattah helped route around Mubarak’s internet blockade.

Nabeel Rajab is a lifelong Bahraini activist and critic of the Al Khalifa regime. A member of a staunch pro-regime family, Rajab has agitated for reform in Bahrain since his return from university in 1988. Along with the Bahraini-Danish human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, he helped establish the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in 2002. Rajab is reasonably new to the limelight — becoming a face for the Bahrain uprising of February 14 2011, after the sit-in at Pearl Roundabout.

Since then, he has been a public face for the revolution, waging a social media war on Twitter with PR companies working for the regime. After al-Khawaja was imprisoned, he led protests for his release. He has endured beatings, arrests and legal harrassment for engaging in pro-democracy demonstrations. On Saturday 5th of May, he was arrested at Manama airport , and charged the next day with encouraging and engaging in “illegal protests.” Nabeel Rajab remains in detention at the time of broadcast.

From the Irish Times:

Bahrain human rights activist spent two years in jail for tweets

Nabeel Rajab urges Ireland ‘to fight for democracy around the world’

Erin McGuire

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 01:00

A Bahraini human rights activist who spent two years in prison for using Twitter to call for peaceful protests has urged Irish people to “fight for democracy around the world”.

Speaking yesterday in Dublin, Nabeel Rajab said the human rights situation in Bahrain was deteriorating, with increasing numbers of people being jailed or forced into hiding.

Rajab was released from prison in May after serving two years of a three-year term. He was arrested several times for his involvement in pro-democracy protests during the 2011 Arab Spring. All of his arrests were related to tweets criticising the government or encouraging people to demonstrate.

During the Arab Spring, activists in Bahrain were required by law to ask for permission to protest. Protests in the capital Manama have since been banned.

Social media use

Rajab, who is president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and co-founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, is known for using social media in his human rights work.

He has 234,000 Twitter followers, more than anyone else in Bahrain, a country smaller than Co Dublin with a population of 1.3 million. “The government hates [my social media presence] because of the influence I have. When they put me in jail they thought the Twitter account would stop, but it continued – my Facebook and Twitter accounts kept working.”

The Bahraini government’s violent crackdown on protesters motivated him to transfer his contracting business to his family. “When I realised I would be targeted and could get killed, I transferred everything to my family, my wife . . . I’m a fighter for human rights. Fears about my personal life were not an issue. I was prepared for anything.”

Many of his friends were also arrested during the Arab Spr- ing. He estimates 50,000 people were in and out of Bahraini jails in the past three years.

While in prison, he was isolated from other political prisoners and kept in a cell with people who spoke different languages so he could not communicate with them.

Rajab is on a two-day visit to Dublin as a guest of Front Line Defenders, a non-governmental organisation that protects human rights defenders. He is briefing Government officials and rights organisations on the clampdown in Bahrain.

Rajab believes there are similarities between Bahrain and Ireland in their shared struggles for democracy, justice and equality. “You were ruled by the British; we are ruled by a family who invaded the country 200 years ago and treated the indigenous population badly. [The government] marginalised people, put them in jail.”

He says that because Ireland achieved democracy, the Irish people “have an obligation to fight for democracy around the world . . . and to play a more active role in human rights struggles in the Middle East”.

This is especially important to Rajab now, as he believes the situation in Bahrain has deteriorated. “There are more people in jail, in exile, in hiding. There are more human rights violations. The Shia people are being marginalised more . . . The government’s efforts to contain the media have been successful.”

Rajab will return to Bahrain even though he does not feel safe there. He plans to dedicate the rest of his life to human rights work, despite the fact it could land him back in jail.

“Prison made me much more determined. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else . . . I’m going to continue tweeting, raising human rights issues, empowering people and criticising dictators of repressive regimes. I don’t want to end up in jail, but I’m not afraid . . . The situation has to change and I’m willing to pay the price for those changes.”

US Rep Jim McGovern Issues Statement on Refusal of Bahraini Government to Grant Him Access to Bahrain: here.

Save Irish Rathlin island golden hares, petition


This video says about itself:

Rathlin’s Golden Hare, Ireland

22 June 2008

Join Wyllie O Hagan in an evening encounter with Ireland’s Award Winning Wildlife Photographer Tom Mc Donnell.

See Rathlin Island from a photographer’s viewpoint. You will have seen Rathlin Island‘s seals, puffins and bird sanctuary before. Here we share with Youtubers the first video recorded sighting of the Island’s famous “Golden Hare”. Wyllie O Hagan filmed this footage of the hare on Rathlin Island in May 2008.

It was an extraordinary event, and this is the inspiration for O Hagan’s next relief print which will accompany “The Wild Swans at Coole“.

See the artist make the print here.

From the 38 Degrees site, this petition:

Save Rathlin Island Hares

To: Minister Mark Durkan, DOE

Make Rathlin Island into a hare reserve and reintroduce special protection for hares in Northern Ireland.

Why is this important?

This is important because the hare is being hunted out of existence on Rathlin, with a shooter being brought in by local farmers – apparently hares eat too much grass and are considered a pest. This beautiful animal is an integral part of our wildlife and heritage. Rathlin used to be one of its strongholds in Northern Ireland and people still come from all over the world to see these animals, including the rare genetic variant – the Golden Hare. Surely these amazing animals have a right to survival on their island home, where we can enjoy them for years to come. Once they are gone, like in so many other places in Northern Ireland, they are gone. Please help us protect them before it’s too late.

Good Irish whale news again


This video is called Filming humpback whales off Ireland’s south coast with Cork Whale Watch.

From Wildlife Extra:

Whale numbers unusually high in the seas around Ireland to the delight of whalewatchers

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports upwards of 30 fin whales along a 50km stretch of the West Cork coastline in southern Ireland, between the Old Head of Kinsale and the Kedge area, which is unusual for this time of year.

Colin Barnes from Cork Whale Watch, who has spent several weeks observing the build-up of this activity confirms there are huge ‘fish clouds’ comprising small sprat or larval herring in the area and these are likely to be what is attracting the fin whales in such numbers.

Combined estimates from land and boat based sightings suggest there could also be 20 or more fin whales in the waters between Seven Heads and Galley Head, County Cork.

This gathering is certainly the largest validated aggregation of this species so far this year and although not without precedent, it is unusual for so many fin whales to be inshore this early in the season.

This sort of activity is generally associated with a later peak between October and December each year.

Whale watchers are encouraged by IDWG to view the whales from land-based vantage points – elevated sites such as Cloghna Head, Galley Head, Sandscove/Ardfield, Dunworley and Sevens Heads.

There is a lot of wind out there at the moment so it is important to pick a moment when there is a lull in the breeze and the sea calms down.

The bonus is that this activity is not in isolation, as County Kerry has enjoyed a run of humpback whales in recent weeks and minke whales are appearing in the Irish Sea.

All this bodes well for this year’s All-Ireland Whale Watch Day taking place on headlands around the coast on Sunday 24 August between 2:00pm and 5:00pm.

For the latest information on this and other validated cetacean sightings, go to www.iwdg.ie.

Irish ‘pro-life’ government threatens women’s lives


This 15 November 2012 video from Ireland is called UTV coverage – Vigil and Protest in Memory of Savita Halappanavar- Belfast.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Pregnant women face abortion ban in Ireland even if they’re a suicide risk

Guidelines allow pro-life medics to stop vulnerable women from terminating pregnancies at all costs, pro-choice experts warn

Henry McDonald in Dublin

Thursday 7 August 2014 18.27 BST

Pregnant women in Ireland could be blocked from having an abortion even if they are at risk of suicide after conceiving as a result of rape or incest, under new guidelines issued to Irish doctors.

Experts warned that the Guidance Document for Health Professionals, which has yet to be made public but has been obtained by the Guardian, will give power to doctors, obstetricians and psychiatrists to prevent vulnerable women from terminating their pregnancies.

Some clinicians, including one of the Irish Republic’s leading psychiatrists, said the rules would leave women “at the mercy of a local, moral and political lottery”. Veronica O’Keane, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, said a woman could potentially have to see up to seven medical experts before getting a decision on her right to an abortion.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which has also been shown the document, has described the guidance on dealing with women contemplating suicide as “an excessive degree of scrutiny by medical professionals”.

The guidelines were drawn up after the Irish government introduced legislation last year to allow for abortion in extremely limited circumstances. The law followed the death of Savita Halappanavar, 31, who was denied an emergency termination that could have saved her life.

Pro-choice campaigners are concerned that conservative attitudes among health professionals will put more women’s lives at risk. More than 100 Irish psychiatrists – nearly one in three in the country – signed a statement last year opposing any kind of abortion reform, including those cases of women at risk of suicide.

The 108-page guide does not include provisions for an independent committee to make decisions on treating those with “suicidal intent”, which was a key demand among campaigners for reform. They argue an independent committee would be more objective than local medics and allow women more privacy.

Pro-choice doctors are also concerned that the language in the first few pages of the guidelines is more stridently anti-abortion than last year’s law. In its introduction, the document states that “the purpose of this act is to restate the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland“. Medical professionals are also advised on the first page that the act provides “a clear criminal prohibition on abortion”.

On page 10, a diagram explaining the procedure for applying for a termination makes clear to Irish doctors that the initial referral for women including those with “suicidal intent” begins with her own GP.

If the GP agrees, he or she will refer the woman to three doctors – including one obstetrician and two psychiatrists – who will decide whether there is a real risk to the woman’s life through suicide. If her request is rejected, she will go through an appeal system involving another two psychiatrists and another obstetrician.

The guidance states that the first psychiatrist to assess the woman has the right to “seek a second psychiatric assessment” or appoint a psychiatrist of their own choice. Critics say this will allow anti-abortion psychiatrists to recommend a colleague sharing the same views.

On the same page it advises that any of three medical experts, including an obstetrician, can assess a woman with suicidal intent and certify whether or not the woman should be allowed an abortion – although obstetricians have no mental health training.

O’Keane, a consultant psychiatrist for more than 21 years, said because there was no national body to rule on these cases vulnerable women were left “at the mercy of a local, moral and political lottery. They could come up against anti-choice physicians who in effect become conscientious obstructors to abortion.”

She added: “The repeated examination of a woman’s mental state by at least four doctors, and possibly seven, the repeated questioning specifically about suicidal ideation and intent, will not only be overly invasive, confusing and distressing emotionally, it will also be time-consuming in a period of crisis when a suicidal woman needs access to a termination as soon as possible.”

She called the guidelines “completely inappropriate”. “I would have preferred a national review panel to make these decisions because Ireland is a small country,” she said. “It would have been better in terms of privacy and access to mental health professionals who are committed to enacting the spirit of the legislation. We have a very strong anti-choice lobby in psychiatry and there should have been procedures put in place to allow women to bypass them and their moral, political, theocratic obstacles.”

O’Keane pointed out that the section called “Risk to life from Suicidal Intent” means pregnant women have to state explicitly that they are going to kill themselves before being considered for a termination.

“This is very bad practice because if psychiatrists are practising within these guidelines then that will be the stipulation, that the woman in question must state that. Yet in the majority of cases of suicide that psychiatrists deal with there is no stated intention of killing themselves.

“The terms of reference are too narrow and dangerous, and we in Ireland have very high rates of suicide and even a government drive to reduce suicide numbers. In these guidelines, what we are actually doing is saying to Irish women, ‘You have to actually tell us that you’re going to kill yourself or you won’t get that abortion.’ It is completely contrary to good psychiatric practice.”

Northern Ireland child abuse covered up?


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Ian Paisley involved in Kincora Boy’s Home cover-up scandal

7 December 2012

Ian Paisley admits he knew of the abuse at Kincora Boy’s home in Belfast and did nothing.

By Paddy McGuffin:

Kincora child abuse allegations: Amnesty demands Official Secrets Act suspension to allow ex-spies to give evidence

Saturday 2nd August 2014

Ex-soldier claims he was ordered to shelve investigation into Northern Ireland boys’ home

Amnesty International called for the suspension of the Official Secrets Act yesterday to enable former intelligence officers to give evidence during the government’s child abuse inquiry.

The call follows claims by an ex-soldier involved in military intelligence that he was told to shelve an investigation into sexual abuse at a boys’ home in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

Home Secretary Theresa May has faced widespread calls from politicians and lobbyists to include the Kincora Boys’ Home in the child abuse inquiry following revelations about serial sex offenders including Jimmy Savile.

The inquiry was set up to examine how public bodies handled their duty of care to protect children from predatory paedophiles.

Brian Gemmell said he was ordered to halt his probe into Kincora by a senior MI5 officer in 1975 after presenting a report on the allegations.

Mr Gemmell said he found out about the abuse through two sources, including an agent called Royal Flush, while he was gathering information about loyalist paramilitaries.

“I was summoned to go and see him (the MI5 officer). I went up thinking he was going to be pleased with me,” he said.

“He bawled me out. He was rude and offensive and hostile. He told me not just to stop any investigation into Kincora, but to drop Royal Flush.”

Another former army officer Colin Wallace has previously said any new investigation of Kincora must have access to information from intelligence agencies.

In 1981 three senior care staff at the east Belfast boys’ home were jailed for abusing 11 children and it has been claimed that people of the “highest profile” were connected.

Amnesty International Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: “The focus must be the protection of children, rather than officials and their dirty secrets.”

Mr Corrigan added: “The Home Secretary must announce the inclusion of Kincora in the inquiry and an exemption so that army officers and others bound by the Official Secrets Act can finally speak freely.”

A public inquiry in Northern Ireland into institutional child abuse between 1922 and 1995, which is sitting in Banbridge, faced possible suspension last month due to a lack of funds.

The Kincora scandal: ‘MI5 tried to blackmail Belfast homosexual,’ says whistleblower: here.