Harry Roberts, British colonial war soldier and cop killer


This video from Britain says about itself:

24 March 2008

Harry Roberts shot dead three policemen in London on 12 August 1966. He was eventually caught after a manhunt lasting several weeks and was convicted. 42 years later and well into his 70’s he still remains behind bars and is refused parole.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Harry Roberts: He Kills Coppers

Saturday 25th october 2014

Harry Roberts, who killed three policemen in 1966, is to be released on parole. PETER FROST looks back at the life of this colonial soldier turned murderer

Harry Roberts, now aged 78, is Britain’s longest-serving incarcerated murderer. He is due to be released on parole this week. Roberts, a professional gangster, was sentenced to life in 1966.

He has served nearly half a century in prison.

I well remember the long hot summer of 1966. Ann and I were planning our wedding. England beat Germany in the World Cup, Harold Wilson was having beers and sandwiches while talking to the TUC about a wage freeze. Groovy Kinda Love was the most popular choice on the jukebox.

On a sunny afternoon in quiet residential Braybrook Street in Shepherd’s Bush, not far from Wormwood Scrubs prison, and not far from where I was living at the time, three gun-toting London gangsters shot down three unarmed police officers.

The incident started when plain-clothes officers approached the van in which Roberts, Jack Witney and John Duddy were sitting planning the final details of an armed robbery nearby.

Roberts opened fire shooting dead two of the officers, while one of his accomplices fatally shot the third.

The shots would reverberate around the nation. Britain had finally abolished hanging just eight months before and the shooting reopened all the old arguments.

Harry Maurice Roberts was born in 1936 in Wanstead, Essex, where his parents ran The George public house.

His was a criminal family. Mother sold stolen and black market goods and fake ration books. Later the bent family business would move to a café in north London.

In his late teens, Roberts was jailed after using an iron bar to attack a shopkeeper during a robbery. He served a 19-month borstal sentence and was released in January 1956.

Just a week after leaving borstal, Roberts was called up for national service. He loved it. They gave him a gun and taught him how to kill Britain’s enemies in both Kenya and Malaya.

Later in life and in many prison interviews Roberts would boast of how many Mau Mau Kenyan freedom fighters and Malayan communists he had shot and killed. This was at a time of the worst excesses of British imperialism.

The freedom fighters of the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army were branded as Mau Mau terrorists and jailed, hanged and shot in their thousands.

In Malaya it was communists that Roberts and his fellow soldiers were encouraged to murder. This was the time when the Daily Worker published pictures of British soldiers holding up the severed heads of murdered Malayan communists.

Journalist and former armed robber John McVicar met Roberts in prison. Roberts gloated about his killings, telling McVicar that he had acquired a taste for killing prisoners of war on the orders of his officers.

Back in civvies Roberts returned to his criminal career. Often with Witney and Duddy he carried out scores of armed robberies, targeting bookmakers, post offices and banks.

In 1959 Roberts and an accomplice posed as tax inspectors to gain entry into the home of an elderly man. Once inside the man was tied up and beaten about the head with a glass decanter.

Roberts was captured and tried for the savage crime. Mr Justice Maude said as he passed sentence: “You are a brutal thug. You came very near the rope this time.”

Roberts was given seven years. The victim, who never recovered from his injuries, died one year and three days after the attack. Had he died two days earlier, Roberts could have been tried for his murder under the year and a day rule.

The victims of the Shepherd’s Bush shooting were 41-year-old police constable Geoffrey Fox, detective sergeant Christopher Head, aged 30, and 25-year-old temporary detective constable David Wombwell.

Roberts went on the run with a £1,000 reward on his head. He hid in woods in Hertfordshire to avoid capture. He knew the woods from games as a child and, using his army survival skills, he evaded capture for 96 days. Roberts was finally captured by police while sleeping rough in a barn.

He was convicted of all three police murders and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum term of 30 years.
While in prison he showed no remorse. On the contrary he made macabre apple pies decorated with pastry cut-outs of policemen being shot. Numerous appeals for release on parole were turned down over the years.

The trial judge at the time of sentencing told him that it was unlikely that any future Home Secretary would “ever think fit to show mercy by releasing you on licence… This is one of those cases in which the sentence of imprisonment for life may well be treated as meaning exactly what it says.”

Theresa May, always keen to upset the police it seems, has decided otherwise.

Peter Frost blogs at www.frostysramblings.wordpress.com/

Gangs of more extreme football hooligans, some of whom would go on to form the fascist English Defence League, used Roberts’s name to antagonise the police. They chanted “Harry Roberts is our friend, is our friend, is our friend. Harry Roberts is our friend, he kills coppers.”

More Kenyan, Tanzanian rare wildlife than thought


This video from Tanzania is called Eastern Arc Mountains Refuge.

From BirdLife:

Many more threatened species in an East African biodiversity hotspot than previously thought

By Obaka Torto, Fri, 19/09/2014 – 10:05

The Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya (EACF) are currently understood to host over 750 globally threatened species of plants and animals, more than double the 333 species listed in an assessment undertaken in 2003. This is according the newly released 2008-2013 biodiversity status and trends report for the EACF, a region that now forms parts of both the ”Eastern Afromontane” and ”Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa” global biodiversity hotspots.

In addition to 26 species now listed as more threatened than 10 years ago, the increase is mostly attributed to a comprehensive assessment of plants, which was not available in the previous assessment. New species descriptions for the region are also highlighted, including 20 amphibians and reptiles, one mammal and one plant species. The report recommends consideration of a further 17 sites for recognition as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), owing to the presence of globally threatened taxa within them.

Threats that are reported as facing biodiversity in the EACF include unsustainable charcoal production, which is a major driver of the decline in forest cover and habitat fragmentation in Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya, important for the endangered Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi and Sokoke Scops-owl Otus ireneae. Other threats include conversion of forest for agriculture, human population increase and forest fires. Invasive species are underscored as probably a more serious problem in the region than had previously been realised. At least 22 invasive plant species are considered problematic, with Maesopsis eminii, Rubus sp. and Cedrela odorata being probably the most serious. In Kenya, Prosopsis juliflora is reported to have invaded the Tana River Delta.

On a positive note, improved forest management resulting from improved protection status is observed at some sites. Among these are three forest blocks in Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania, which changed from private to state tenure. Evidence also continues to emerge supporting the effectiveness of a Participatory Forest Management (PFM) approach; this is demonstrated by increased populations of wild game species in some sites, such as West Usambara, where PFM is implemented.

Further good news for the region follows implementation of new Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects, especially in Tanzania: for example, Piloting REDD in Zanzibar through community forest management project and Making REDD work for communities and forest conservation in Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania project”. These projects are designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to improve livelihoods in local communities by making them beneficiaries of REDD financing. However, the report recommends that successful REDD projects must have a strong focus on strengthening village institutions to ensure high levels of compliance and enforcement of forest user rules within project boundaries.

The report finally highlights some recent positive policy developments. Among these is the development of the conservation strategy for the Eastern Arc Mountain Forests in Tanzania. Also highlighted is the development of an action plan for conservation in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest which emphasizes enhancement of connectivity and quality of habitat and security of elephants while safeguarding against human-wildlife conflict. The enactment of the Kenya Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, as well as the Tourism Act and policy in Tanzania are also highlighted.

The EACF runs 900 km along the Kenya-Tanzania coasts and includes Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands off the Tanzanian mainland. The region is very important for its biological diversity and richness. It is characterized by a high level of species endemism, exceptional diversity of its plant and animal communities and a severe degree of threat. This report is a result of a recently concluded BirdLife project that aimed at consolidating and presenting biodiversity data for the region in order, among other objectives, to increase leverage of REDD+ and REDD Readiness for the EACF. The report mostly relies on collating published information from a variety of sources, including direct contributions by the researchers in the region.

The project was implemented by the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat and Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner). It was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), which is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Dévelopement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure that civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.

A copy of this and previous reports for the region can be downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/EAMHome.

Story by: Mercy Kariuki and Kariuki Ndang’ang’a

International Vulture Awareness Day, 6 September


This video says about itself:

International Vulture Awareness Day, 2011, Kenya

Kenya celebrates the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) by showing the diversity of species, illustrating their critical role in the environment and focusing on their main cause for their widespread decline, poisoning with pesticides.

Dr Richard Leakey makes a personal statement regarding his own experience in witnessing the decline of vultures and highlights the need for governments to tackle poisoning issues seriously, otherwise the future of vultures is certain. IVAD is a global event with awareness campaigns in the Americas, throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and the far East. Vultures have declined as much as 95% over South Asia and India because of the side-effect of diclophenac, a pharmaceutical drug meant to relieve pain in livestock.

Wind turbines and electricity lines are proving to be another serious hazard for vultures all over the world. Habitat removal and disturbance also play major roles in their declines. Vultures are one of the most beneficial animals due to their “clean-up” work and removing carcasses that would otherwise rot and encourage disease. In Kenya vultures play a vital role in not only wildlife health but in the pastoral livestock rearing lands and in community public health. Join us in celebrating the vulture!

Saturday 6 September is not only World Shorebirds Day. It is also International Vulture Awareness Day.

From North African Birds blog today:

Looking at the International Vulture Awareness Day website, we can see that two regional organisations are celebrating the event this weekend (open the link and search, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia and see for yourself):

- The Association “Les Amis des Oiseaux” (AAO) – BirdLife in Tunisia, and

- GREPOM BirdLife Morocco

The country with more vultures than the others, Algeria, is not participating (so far).

Vultures in Africa and Europe could face extinction within our lifetime warn conservationists: here.

Taita Hills, Kenya, new natural history guidebook


This video is called Taita Hills, Kilimanjaro, Kenya.

From BirdLife:

Welcome to Taita Hills, Kenya – a guide is now available!

By Obaka Torto, Wed, 20/08/2014 – 11:15

A guide to Taita Hills’ unique natural history has just been released. This book, authored by Lawrence Wagura, a naturalist and fieldworker based at the National Museums of Kenya is the first published guide for this important site. In simple language, backed up by colourful pictures, Lawrence comprehensively describes the site: he includes, among other topics, its history, geography, value, indigenous culture, and various types of plants and animals found there.

A Guide to Taita Hills Unique Natural History book cover
A Guide to Taita Hills Unique Natural History book cover

The book is not only useful for visitors and researchers; Lawrence also intends to use it as a tool for educating the youth and other residents of the Taita Hills on the value of conserving the site.

“With support from teachers, I have already been giving talks in schools in the area and I often take students for educational trips to the forests. I will now distribute free copies of the book to the schools, and in future use them for my educational talks”, says Lawrence. “With the initial support I got, only 400 copies of the book were printed. Although a good start, these copies are not enough. Some of the copies will therefore be sold to those who can afford to pay and the proceeds used to print even more copies that can be freely distributed to schools and communities”, he adds. Lawrence hopes that the book will also encourage tourists who venture into the lower Tsavo plains and other areas to include a visit to the Taita Hills, thus bringing income to the communities.

Located in south-eastern Kenya, the Taita Hills forests form part of the Eastern Arc Mountains and are part of the Eastern Afromontane global biodiversity hotspot. The hills rise from the Tsavo plains at 600 to 2200 metres above sea level. They have patches of rain forest at the hill tops, which act as water towers feeding the lowlands. They also support 34 globally threatened species. They are therefore categorised as an Important Bird Area (IBA), a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site. They host over 200 bird species including the two rare, endemic and Critically Endangered birds: the Taita Apalis Apalis fuscigularis and Taita Thrush Turdus helleri.

Lawrence is excited about this initiative and thanks all who supported him in collecting information, editing the book and its printing. He is happy to see the fruits of over five years spent undertaking field observations in the Taita Hills. Printing of the initial copies of the books was supported by BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat and Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner) as part of a project funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

Story by Mercy Kariuki – BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat

Serengeti wildebeest, zebra migration, new research


This video is called Serengeti – The Adventure (Full Documentary, HD).

From Wildlife Extra:

New findings on what drives the great annual migration across the Serengeti

Across the Serengeti-Mara, millions of wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra are making their annual migration in one of the most spectacular sights of the natural world.

Six of these animals are currently wearing high-tech GPS collars, equipped with mobile phone technology – and over the past 10 years, a total of 40 have done so.

Scientists involved in this unique tracking programme analyse how these animals make decisions during their migration and use this information to devise effective mitigation strategies to ensure their survival.

The research, led by Dr Grant Hopcraft of the University of Glasgow’s Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health, sheds new light on the drivers behind the animals’ migratory decision-making.

The group’s findings suggest that although wildebeest and zebra migrate together, they move for very different reasons: wildebeest are constantly looking for fresh grazing, whereas zebra balance their need to access good food against the relative risk of being killed by a predator.

However, the results also show that both species are driven, above all else, by the need to avoid the threat of humans and human development.

“The impact of humans trumps everything else,” said Dr Hopcraft.

“This provides critical insights as to why other migrations are collapsing,” he added, pointing elsewhere, to the dwindling numbers of saiga (small antelopes) found on the Mongolian Steppes, the Mongolian gazelle, a horse-like animal called the kulan, the pronghorn antelope in the US state of Montana, and caribou and bison in North America.

The findings on the impact of human behaviour come at a time when the Tanzanian government has been considering a national highway through the Serengeti to create a trade route from Dar es Salaam and other Indian Ocean ports to Lake Victoria, offering access to countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda.

If built, the road is likely to carry as many as 3,000 vehicles across the Serengeti every day.

“A road would have catastrophic effects on how these animals migrate,” said Dr Hopcraft. “It would separate their dry season refuge from their wet season calving grounds.

“All 1.3 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra would have to cross that road in order to access the Mara River which is the only source of water during the dry season.”

Another threat to wildebeest and zebra is poaching. Evidence suggests there are about 80,000 wildebeest hunted illegally every year for the bushmeat trade.

“When these animals encounter areas of high poaching, both species attempt to exit the area as soon as possible by moving a long way and in straight lines, regardless of the food.

It appears as though these animals can detect risky areas and respond accordingly, which means if we want to protect migrations we need to focus on managing humans and not the animals.”

The lightweight tracking collars, which weigh 1kg and contain a GPS device, mobile phone engine and battery pack, can last up to two years and give the scientists real-time information about how the animals respond to the landscape around them.

The scientists select female animals which are reproductively active as they are most responsive to migratory decision-making.

Dr Hopcraft also reports a puzzling and previously unremarked phenomenon of migrations: when wildebeest and zebra encounter prime habitats with very good grazing, they move faster than when they are in areas with poor grazing.

“Moving fast when resources are good, rather than settling down in one spot and enjoying the feast, is counter-intuitive. Why move if you’re in a good spot? Every other species does exactly the opposite.

“We believe the difference in the wildebeest and zebra’s behaviour is down to the sheer density of the herds. It’s a numbers game,” he said.

When the grazing is at its peak, the prime grass is eaten almost immediately and individuals are then forced to find the next hotspot before everyone else does. In other words, the competition for food drives the race.

This unique eat-and-run feature of mass migrations suggests that we might be losing key ecosystem processes, without even realising it.

If animals such as bison behaved like wildebeest when they were in super-high concentrations, then the distribution and cycling of nutrients such as dung and urine was probably very different in these eco-systems historically, compared to today.

“These intact ecosystems where natural process such as migrations have occurred for thousands of years serve as a critical benchmark against which we can measure our own impact,” said Dr Hopcraft.

British politician’s domestic abuse


This video from Kenya says about itself:

Activists demonstrate in support of law against domestic abuse

24 July 2014

Civil society workers sent a petition to parliament seeking to protect the Protection against domestic violence bill which they did not want amended.

They wanted appropriate mechanisms for stopping or preventing domestic violence as well as providing effective sanctions and enforcement.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Domestic abuse MP David Ruffley should face sanction

Friday 25th July 2014

A TORY MP who assaulted his partner should “face strong disciplinary sanction,” women’s rights campaigners said yesterday.

David Ruffley announced last week that his now former partner had accepted an apology for the assault in March.

The Bury St Edmunds MP was let off with a police caution and a Conservative Party spokesman said he believed the case was closed after having been “dealt with at the time by the police.”

But feminist organisation Women’s Aid expressed concern over the whole procedure.

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate argued that “physical violence in relationships is almost always accompanied by ongoing psychological control and abuse.”

Ms Neate added that she was surprised with the sluggishness of the Conservative Party to address the issue.

“We would expect that a parliamentarian who admitted committing a violent crime would face strong disciplinary sanction,” she said.

Mr Ruffley said he hoped the episode would “remain private” as a sign of respect for his ex-partner.

However Ms Neate pointed out that “domestic violence is a criminal, not a private matter” and that authorities should “take action accordingly.”

In Mr Ruffley’s constituency many have also come out with complaints about the MPs actions arguing his position is now “untenable.”

St Edmundsbury cathedral dean the Reverend Dr Frances Ward sent a letter to Mr Ruffley urging him to step down and arguing that he had “lost the confidence” of his constituents.

She sent copies of the letter dated July 18 to several several Tory frontbenchers — including new Chief Whip Michael Gove.

“It is my belief that you have lost the confidence of a significant proportion of your former supporters,” she wrote.

Dr Ward added that she “received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that [Mr Ruffley’s] position is untenable.”

When contacted by the Star, the Conservative Women’s Organisation declined to make an extensive comment, but national chairwoman Niki Molnar labeled the case an “unfortunate incident.”

Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association has brought its annual meeting forward from September to next week given Mr Ruffley’s behaviour.

David Ruffley to stand down at the next election after assault on ex-girlfriend. MP has been under pressure to resign and will face constituents at local party meeting on Thursday to discuss his future: here.

New humpback dolphin sanctuary in Taiwan


This video says about itself:

First Film of Rare Humpback Dolphins with Bottlenose Dolphins in Watamu, Kenya

Thanks to Alex Simpson who edited the original footage with dolphin research photos to produce this video. Watamu Marine Association c/o Lynne Elson took this first ever footage of rare and elusive humpback dolphins on 10th April 2012. This family pod of 6-7 were associating with a pod of Bottlenose dolphins more commonly seen in Watamu Marine Reserve.

From Wildlife Extra:

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin sanctuary set up in Taiwan

A dwindling population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins will be protected with the creation of Taiwan’s first marine wildlife sanctuary. Dolphin numbers have dropped by around 50 per cent according to local conservation groups, because of habitat degradation, industrial expansion and pollution.

Tsai Chia-yang, head of the Chuanghua Environmental Protection Union, said: “Indo-Pacific dolphin population is a key index to measure the health of the maritime environment.”

The Council of Agriculture confirmed the sanctuary, which will be off the west coast of the country, will cover a large area of 76,300 hectare (188,461 acres).

Normal fishing in the area will be unaffected, as the government said a total ban was not feasible as the success of the sanctuary depends on the cooperation of local fishermen, but guidelines have been tightened for operators in the region and there will be tough punishments for illegal fishing of the endangered species. Dredge fishing has also been banned.

In a further step, officials announced that any development projects in the area will require government approval.

Anyone caught poaching the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin could face up to two years in jail and will be fined Tw$500,000 (US$16,530), and anyone caught seriously damaging the habitat could end up with a five years’ prison sentence.

“Illegal fishing has seriously ruined the coastal ecological environment, threatening the endangered dolphins,” said Kuan, referring to the fact that the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins eat mullet among other fish.

In 2011, President Ma Ying-jeou ruled an end to a controversial plan to build a massive oil refinery and more than 20 related petrochemical plants in western Taiwan. This was in reaction to a series of protests for the endangered humpback dolphins.

He said there was a need for Taiwan to balance economic development with environmental protection. The setting up of this sanctuary for Indo-pacific humpback dolphins is a big step forward for the species.

Scientists name new species of cetacean: The Australian humpback dolphin: here.

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