Scientists discover new gecko hanging-on in single forest fragment
February 17, 2014
Scientists have identified a new species of day gecko that is the largest in its genus (Cnemaspis) to be found in Sri Lanka. To date, it has been observed only within the Rammalakanda Reserve in southern Sri Lanka, an area spanning just 1,700 hectares, raising questions about the viability of this population and hence the species’ long-term prospects.
The gecko belongs to the enigmatic genus of Cnemaspis, which in 2003 contained only four representative species within Sri Lanka. Since then, scientists have discovered 18 further species in the island country, but none as large in size as this most recent discovery. Known locally as the ‘Rammale day gecko’ (Rammale pahalpalli in Tamil, and Rammale diva huna in Sinhalese), the new gecko measures around 53 millimeters from snout to vent—a small reptile to us, but a giant in comparison to other gecko species in the area.
Its most distinctive features are its large size and numerous scales on the ventral side or belly. In fact, the Rammale day gecko possesses nearly 22 percent more scales than the next closest species, Cnemaspis alwesi, while approaching the size of Cnemaspis sisparensis, the largest gecko recorded to date on the entire Indian peninsula.
Scientist Dulan Ranga Vidanapathirana, and his colleagues from the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka and the Center for applied Biodiversity Research and Education in Kandy, reported this discovery in the journal Zootaxa.
“The occurrence of such a large species in a small forest patch at the edge of the wet zone is unexpected,” they write.
Rammalakanda Forest Reserve spans the border between Hambanthota and Matara districts in southern Sri Lanka, and supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including 99 species that can be found only within the reserve and nowhere else. The National Conservation Review recognizes it as one of the top 70 forests requiring conservation action within Sri Lanka.
Despite the Reserve receiving some protection from the government, concerns are high for the future of this rare and cryptic species that has eluded discovery until today.
“Illegal tree felling to cultivate tea has become a major threat in the area, ” write the authors. “Tea plantations and human settlements in the surrounding areas are slowly expanding, and are encroaching towards the forest, slowly destroying the habitat of this species.”
It is unfortunate that the celebration of a newly discovered species must immediately be tempered by anxiety for its future, but this is the increasing reality for scientists and conservationists working in the world’s tropical forests. As for this gecko, in honor of the place in which it was discovered, it has been named Cnemaspis rammalensis.
D. L. Vidanapathirana, M. D. G. Rajeev, N. Wickramasinghe, S. S. Fernando and L. J. M. Wickramasinghe. (2014) Cnemaspis rammalensis sp. nov., Sri Lanka’s largest day-gecko (Sauria: Gekkonidae: Cnemaspis) from Rammalakanda Man and Biosphere Reserve in southern Sri Lanka. Zootaxa 3755 (3): 273-286.
This video from Australia says about itself:
Australia deports Tamil torture victim back to Sri Lanka
2 Aug 2012
On July 26, Tamil refugee Dayan Anthony (formerly known as “Mr X” in Australia in an attempt to protect his identity from Sri Lankan authorities), was deported from Australia. He was handed over to the Sri Lankan intelligence forces – who had held Mr Anthony in custody for years, and had tortured him.
After 16 hours in custody, paraded in front of the media by his captors, he recanted all allegations of torture – despite suffering in Australia from post-traumtic stress found to be from torture, and having suffered a broken back as a result of torture.
Melbourne refugee activists and the Tamil community outline the horror of the Australian government sending a torture victim back to their oppressor – and the battle against such deportations. Get involved with http://rac-vic.org or the refugee action group in your state.
By Mike Head in Australia:
Witch-hunt against Australian ABC escalates over refugee torture allegations
8 February 2014
As evidence continues to emerge indicating that the Australian navy may have assaulted refugees, deliberately causing burns, during operations to force them back to Indonesia, the government is intensifying its witch-hunt of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for reporting the accusations.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday demanded that the ABC apologise for broadcasting video footage of the refugees’ badly burned hands and for suggesting that the injuries supported the allegations initially made by asylum seekers to Indonesian police last month. Abbott accused the ABC for its reporting “in ways that were extremely damaging to the professionalism of our military personnel.”
Defence Minister David Johnston went further yesterday, saying he was “absolutely sick to the stomach that this iconic Australian news agency would attack the navy in the way that it has.” Describing naval personnel as “heroes,” he called for an inquiry into the ABC. At the same time he reiterated the government’s refusal to investigate the mounting evidence. In an extraordinary outburst pointing to the xenophobic nature of the government’s campaign, Johnston told the Australian newspaper that the refugees making the complaints were not “even Australian” and were “desperate people.”
The government’s campaign is aimed at defending its “Operation Sovereign Borders” policy, which is in blatant violation of refugees’ right under international law to flee persecution and oppression. More broadly, Abbott and his colleagues are attempting to bully and threaten anyone who dares call into question the use of the military to trample over fundamental legal and democratic rights.
According to the Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, the Abbott government has “internalised several lessons” from the October 2001 “children overboard” scandal, in which the previous Liberal-National government of John Howard was exposed, by leaks from sailors themselves, after it falsely claimed that refugees had thrown children into the ocean to force the navy to rescue them. The truth was that the navy, under the government’s order, had fired shots toward their boat, which sank the following day, throwing its passengers into the water (see: “Australian navy opens fire on refugee boat”).
The “children overboard” accusations, which were fully backed by the Labor Party, became a turning point in the demonisation of refugees in the lead-up to the 2001 federal election. However the lies unravelled after the election, severely discrediting Howard’s government. Sheridan said the main political lesson drawn by the Liberal Party was that “everybody started leaking” to the media—a practice that had to stop.
Backed by the corporate media, the government is creating an atmosphere of wartime-like censorship in which any criticism of the military is to be forbidden.
The government’s threats to the ABC have been directly facilitated by figures within the broadcaster itself, most notably Paul Barry, the presenter of ABC TV’s “Media Watch” program. On Monday night, Barry proclaimed that the ABC had “got it wrong” and “over-reached” by “essentially endorsing the allegations of Navy mistreatment.”
Barry’s pronouncement reflects the rightward evolution of a layer of erstwhile liberals, who previously opposed the harsh treatment of refugees. They fell into line with the previous former Gillard Labor government which cynically justified its ramped-up “border protection” regime as a humanitarian policy to prevent people dying while trying to reach Australia’s shores. Now these elements are lurching further to the right.
Barry previously acquired something of a reputation for exposing the machinations of the corporate media, writing books on former media proprietors, Alan Bond and James Packer. Now he has aligned himself with a witch-hunt orchestrated by the same forces.
Fairfax Media, a traditional small “l” liberal platform, also weighed in. A Sydney Morning Herald editorial on January 30 declared that “the ABC’s handling of the ‘burnt hands’ claims was at times boosterish” and “damaged Australia’s reputation in the region.”
Likewise, opposition leader Bill Shorten rushed to declare that the Labor Party supports the military, while criticising the government for making the navy’s job “tougher” by keeping its operations secret. Greens spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young took a similar line, complaining that the government’s secrecy was “tarnishing the navy’s reputation.”
The ABC already functions as a reliable conduit for the Australian corporate and political establishment. It initially declined to report the complaints of burns and torture, which first surfaced on Indonesian news sites on January 7, and were published by Agence France Presse the next day. It was only then that the ABC felt compelled to report them—accompanied by vehement denials by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison of any wrongdoing.
The ABC’s supposed “overreach” occurred on January 22, when it published video footage that it noted “appears to back asylum seekers’ claims of mistreatment by the Australian Navy.”
Following Barry’s “Media Watch” verdict, ABC managing director Mark Scott issued a grovelling statement, saying: “We regret if our reporting led anyone to mistakenly assume that the ABC supported the asylum seekers’ claims.” Head of ABC news content Gaven Morris issued an edict to staff, warning them not to “embellish” or add “any flourish” to claims of mistreatment by “Australian border protection forces.”
None of this satisfied the government or the Murdoch press, which want nothing less than the reduction of the ABC to a pure propaganda outfit, giving unquestioned backing to the military. When Abbott was asked whether the controversy had been ended with the ABC’s statement, he replied: “I wonder why sorry seems to be the hardest word for them.”
The government’s opposition to any investigation of the alleged crimes carried out by the Australian military underscores its readiness to abrogate the most basic democratic and legal rights. Behind a blanket of secrecy, what is happening in the waters off the Australian coast is that some of the most vulnerable members of the international working class are being subjected to military detention, physically abused and dumped at sea in flimsy craft.
This is a warning of the kind of reactionary political atmosphere and methods that the government and the entire media and political establishment are preparing against the working class as a whole. There is not one rule for asylum seekers and another for working people at home.
It is no accident that the other supposed “crime” committed by the ABC was to publish former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s documents. They reveal not just US-backed spying on the people and governments throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but also the police-state surveillance being carried out domestically, with the US and Australian intelligence networks monitoring the phones and social media activity of millions of people.
The Abbott government is drawing up far-reaching budget cuts to social spending and supporting sweeping attacks on jobs, wages and conditions. The brutal treatment of refugees is a warning of the methods that will be used in the future against the resistance of workers and youth to these attacks on living standards.
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Australian government joins international witch-hunt of Edward Snowden
[3 February 2014]
In an interview with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Bachelard published yesterday, Sudanese refugee Yousif Ibrahim Fasher provided a further eye-witness account detailing Australian naval personnel physically assaulting and punishing asylum seekers who were attempting to reach Australia by boat: here.
This video says about itself:
22 Aug 2010
From Wildlife Extra:
Researchers discover rare new species of deep-diving whale
Based on the study of seven animals stranded on remote tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over the past 50 years, researchers have identified a new species of the mysterious family of beaked whales.
Beaked whales, a widespread but little-known type of toothed whale, distantly related to sperm whales, are found in deep ocean waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf throughout the world’s oceans.
“They are rarely seen at sea due to their elusive habits, long dive capacity and the apparent low abundance of some species,” said Dr Merel Dalebout, the international team leader. “Understandably, most people have never heard of them.”
The first specimen of the new species was a female found on a Sri Lankan beach more than 50 years ago. On 26 January 1963, a 4.5m long, blue-grey beaked whale washed up at Ratmalana near Colombo. The then director of the National Museums of Ceylon, P.E.P (Paulus) Deraniyagala, described it as a new species, and named it Mesoplodon hotaula, after the local Singhala words for ‘pointed beak’.
However, two years later, other researchers reclassified this specimen as an existing species, Mesoplodon ginkgodens, named for the tusk-like teeth of the adult males that are shaped like the leaves of a ginkgo tree.
“Now it turns out that Deraniyagala was right regarding the uniqueness of the whale he identified. While it is closely related to the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, it is definitely not the same species,” said Dr Dalebout. “The ginkgo-toothed beaked whale is only known from about 30 strandings and has never been seen alive at sea with any certainty. It’s always incredible to me to realise how little we really do know about life in the oceans. There’s so much out there to discover. “
The researchers used a combination of DNA analysis and physical characteristics to identify the new species from seven specimens found stranded in Sri Lanka, the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Line Islands near Hawaii, the Maldives, and the Seychelles.
With the re-discovery of Mesoplodon hotaula, there are now 22 recognised species of beaked whales.
The scientific description of the re-discovered species is here.
A total of 93 whales have become stranded on Florida beaches in the past two months, almost three times the average, reports the local news agency, the Sun Sentinel. These large numbers have baffling marine biologists, making them wonder if a deadly common denominator is at play, such as a series of cold fronts affecting Florida in the past month: here.
This video says about itself:
21 Oct 2013
Bahrain has seen protests, arrests and crackdowns on the opposition. Does stability necessarily mean political oppression in the Middle East? Why is Bahrain‘s trouble off international media’s radar? We talk to human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja, daughter of Bahrain‘s renowned dissident, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is now in jail.
By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:
Saturday 16th November 2013
It’s a funny old world isn’t it? And I don’t mean “ha ha” funny.
Britain has announced it is sending £10 million in aid and dispatching warships the Daring and Illustrious to the scene of the disaster.
Now when most people, especially this week, think “typhoon” they think elemental forces of nature and horrific destruction but apparently not David Cameron, who obviously thought multibillion-pound fighter jet deal.
It’s nice to know that the great and not so good have their minds firmly on higher matters.
The deal was drafted months ago but Cameron obviously felt that now would be a good time to dot the Is and cross the Ts.
Just think of the ongoing human disaster as a … mnemonic of sorts.
“Thousands dead you say? That reminds me, better get around to suring up that deal for weapons of mass destruction.”
But returning to his controversial jaunt to Sri Lanka. Despite calls from human rights organisations around the world to boycott the junket Cameron was there yesterday to chum up with the regime which has slaughtered tens of thousands of Tamils during the bloody civil war and is continuing its anti-democratic onslaught with seeming total impunity.
Come to think of it, maybe he was thinking about human misery this week after all – except he was working out how much cash he could make out of it.
And what about the much boasted of £10m in aid that Britain has said it is sending to the Philippines? Last year we shelled out an estimated £1.3 billion to celebrate the fact a notorious benefit scrounger had failed to get a proper job for 60 years. While this year we were forced to shell out over £3m just to put that old bag Thatcher in the ground.
Which I think you will agree puts Britain’s alleged largesse into perspective.
More than a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines, towns and villages in remote areas are only starting to receive assistance. According to Philippine authorities, the death toll yesterday reached 3,974. At least 11 million people have been affected, the number of homeless has climbed to four million and 2 million need food: here.
Clueless of Clever? Bahrain’s Disregard for the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry: here.
- British Typhoon warplanes to Bahraini dictatorship (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- David Cameron: being prime minister is like standing in asteroid shower (theguardian.com)
- David Cameron: Philippines typhoon ‘could be linked to climate change’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- British government helps corrupt BAE selling weapons to dictators (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
This video from Queensland, Australia says about itself:
Unique biodiversity of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve
2 July 2013
Sign the petition to help us Save Steve’s Place here.
This amazing footage features some of the unique biodiversity on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.
The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is a conservation property and a tribute to Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.
The 135,000 ha property, in Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, is home to a set of important spring fed wetlands which provide a critical water source to threatened habitat, provide permanent flow of water to the Wenlock River, and is home to rare and vulnerable plants and wildlife.
Currently the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve is being threatened by strip mining.
UPDATE: Campbell Newman, the Premier of Queensland, Australia, has promised the Steve Irwin Reserve on Cape York will be protected forever from mining under new legislation: here.
Australia’s ‘lost world’ dazzles with new species
October 28, 2013 12:57
A remote mountain range in northern Australia just gave the world three new species after sitting in isolation for millions of years – including a ‘primitive-looking’ gecko. The scientists are excited for a return, hopeful of uncovering more new species.
We now know of a peculiar leaf-tailed gecko, a golden skink lizard and a brown-spotted yellow frog – none of them previously seen.
The expedition carried out by Conrad Hoskin from James Cook University and a film crew from National Geographic was to a difficult-to-reach and previously unexplored part of the Cape York Peninsula, which previously had only been subjected to lowland studies of impassable boulder fields.
The area is covered with tons of giant black granite boulders extending vertically for hundreds of meters and the result of nature’s furious prehistoric natural processes. But atop the mountain range, recently captured by satellites, sits a rainforest previously only explored by satellites.
Mere days upon arrival, Hoskin and his crew stumbled upon not one – but three new species at the same time. “The top of Cape Melville is a lost world. Finding these new species up there is the discovery of a lifetime — I’m still amazed and buzzing from it,” Hoskin, a tropical biologist by trade, told AFP.
“Finding three new, obviously distinct vertebrates would be surprising enough in somewhere poorly explored like New Guinea, let alone in Australia, a country we think we’ve explored pretty well,” he continued, adding that a few other interesting things were uncovered that may be new to science – but declined to comment further.
Of the three new species the gecko fascinated the team the most. It was described as a “primitive-looking”, 20cm creature that is a nod to an era when rainforests were far more widespread in Australia. The pre-historic reptile also has huge eyes, with a long slender body, but all in all a very different animal to its relatives.
“The second I saw the gecko I knew it was a new species. Everything about it was obviously distinct,” he said.
The newfound Leaf-tailed Gecko names Saltuarius eximius by Hoskin as the findings were publicized in the international journal Zootoxa.
As far as differences with close relatives go, the skink is also very notable, as it displays very distinct characteristics from its geographical neighbor in the rainforests to the south.
The newly-discovered frog is creative in its use of the surrounding terrain. Because frogs require water for eggs to develop, the frog leaves them in between the moist areas of the giant boulders, far from ideal – but it works: in the absence of water, the tadpole develops fully within the egg, before hatching.
Also on the research team was a National Geographic photographer and Harvard University researcher Tim Laman, who relayed his amazement at how such discoveries are still taking place.
“What’s really exciting about this expedition is that in a place like Australia, which people think is fairly well explored, there are still places like Cape Melville where there are all these species to discover,” Laman said, adding that “there’s still a big world out there to explore.”
The team is happy at the prospect of discovering even more new species as they plan to return in a matter of months. They mentioned the possibility of new species of snails, spiders and, surprisingly enough – small mammals.
“All the animals from Cape Melville are incredible just for their ability to persist for millions of years in the same area and not go extinct. It’s just mind-blowing,” Hoskin concluded.
Rare Horned Lizards of Sri Lanka Revealed: here.
For those who discover new species, the prospect of their science being used to poach the species is a strange one: here.
- New species found in ‘lost world’ (cnn.com)
- ‘Lost World’ Discovered In Remote Australia (phys.org)
- ‘Lost World’ Species Discovered in Remote Australian Wilderness (dailygalaxy.com)
- 3 species discovered in Australian rainforest (wyff4.com)
- 3 species discovered in Australian rainforest (wdsu.com)
- Scientists discover species in untrod Australian rainforest (edition.cnn.com)
- Three days, three wild finds (news.harvard.edu)
This video from Sri Lanka is called Weliweriya residents explain how calls for water ended in cries for life.
By Rohantha De Silva in Sri Lanka:
Sri Lankan government bans protests over clean water
17 October 2013
Sri Lankan police obtained a court order last Sunday banning demonstrations, processions and public gatherings of more than five people in Weliweriya and Malwathu-Hiripitiya, north of Colombo. This blatant attack on democratic rights represents a bid by the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse to prevent protests by local people demanding the removal of a glove-making factory that is suspected of contaminating water in the area.
The immediate reason for the court order was to stop a vehicle procession organised last Sunday against the planned re-opening of the Venigros Dipped Products facility in Weliweriya. The plant has remained closed since early August due to strong opposition by residents, who say its emissions pollute the ground water, affecting their health and their crops.
On August 1st, the government deployed an army contingent that attacked about 5,000 protesters, killing three youth and injuring about 30 people. Despite this violent repression, the government has failed to contain local opposition.
Sunday’s protest was called by the Siyane Water Protection Organisation against a government-backed deal struck on October 10 between the Dipped Products management and a Buddhist monk, Theripehe Siridhamma, who led some of the earlier agitations against the factory. The agreement was to allow the plant to operate for six months until it was relocated to another area, and to provide villagers with piped water.
Local residents regarded the deal as a ruse to re-open the factory. As anger mounted, Siridhamma fled the area. At a press conference in the remote town of Gampola last week, the monk insisted that he was not a “traitor” and would keep silent for the time being.
The government’s backing for the agreement was not a genuine effort to resolve the lack of a clean water supply, but was aimed at defusing protests for six months. The government wanted to pacify residents in the lead-up to planned western provincial council elections early next year.
Assistant Police Superintendent Chandana Kodithuwakku told the protesters gathered on Sunday that the court wanted to implement the agreement. He threatened to arrest any protester and broke up the crowd. He also dispersed hundreds of people gathered outside the factory to prevent it operating. The previous night, unidentified people visited the area and warned villagers not to attend the protest.
In a related incident, police arrested residents who protested in front of a local temple, called the Sabhawa Temple, after seeing an exorcism being performed. The residents thought the ritual, involving factory officials, was seeking to protect the plant. Police arrested 17 people, including women, who were later bailed out after receiving police warnings.
The government has made it clear it will stop at nothing to protect the factory and suppress local opposition. Dipped Products is run by Hayleys, one of the country’s biggest companies. Its chief owner, Dammika Perera, is the wealthiest billionaire in Sri Lanka and personally close to President Rajapakse.
The Weliweriya facility is a major glove manufacturing plant. Dipped Products exports 5 percent of the world’s non-medical gloves, and the Weliweriya factory constituted 45 percent of the company’s production. The company’s pre-tax profits increased by 41 percent during the first quarter of 2013.
In an October 6 editorial, the Island newspaper warned the government not to accede to the protesters’ demands. Dipped Product companies, it declared, “have reached standards of excellence and achieved global recognition.” The Island called on the government to reconsider even agreeing to the factory’s eventual re-location, because that would send the wrong message to investors. The sole concern of the political and media establishment is to protect corporate profit interests.
The government earlier tried several times to reopen the factory but failed. The continued protests express not only widespread anger over the contaminated water but also the depth of hostility toward the brutal military attack on August 1. The killings and maimings shocked people, triggering open denunciations of the government and comments that drew parallels with the ruthless military operations in the island’s north and east against Tamils.
Reluctantly, the government asked the state-owned Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), one of the country’s premier research bodies, to investigate whether Weliweriya’s water was contaminated. On August 12, ITI chairman W. Abewickrama told the media that high acidity was found in 41 water samples taken within a one-kilometre radius from the factory. He promised to hand a full report to the government within days. However, the report has not yet been published, pointing to a cover-up.
In another bid to deflect discontent, Rajapakse offered financial compensation to the families of the two killed students, Akila Dinesh and Ravishan Perera, and to the wife of Nilantha Pushpakumara, a young worker shot dead by troops.
Moves are also underway to make individual officers the scapegoats for the August 1st atrocity. Two weeks ago, the Army commander, Lieutenant General Daya Ratnayake, told a Court of Inquiry that the army “exceeded its legal duties” during the “shooting incidents.” He said evidence was being gathered to frame court martial charges against “responsible officers.” Several senior officers who led the army operation have been relieved of their duties.
Initially, the military and the government accused the August 1st protesters of acting as saboteurs and provoking the conflict. The military also claimed that its officers had to shoot unarmed people as a matter of self defence. Now the government is trying to wash its hands of the crime.
In reality, the government is fully responsible for what occurred on August 1st. It ordered the army mobilisation for the purpose of violently suppressing the demonstration. Rajapakse is extremely conscious that the protests against the Weliweriya factory are a sign of a much broader social explosion building up against his government’s austerity measures.
On July 3, just a month before the Weliweriya military operation, Rajapakse issued an order calling on the armed forces “to maintain public order” in all districts throughout the country. The government’s latest bans on protests are yet another warning to the working class it will stop at nothing to suppress rising social discontent.
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is launching a workers’ inquiry into the pollution of the local water supply by the Venigros Dipped Products Company in Sri Lanka’s Western Province: here.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has extended uncritical support to the violent rule of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa: here.
- UK Worked With Sri Lankan Security Forces During The Final Stages Of The War – Report (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
- Storm over UUP peer’s praise for Sri Lankan president and alleged war criminal Mahinda Rajapaksa (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Govt should refuse Sri Lanka chair (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
- UNHRC threatens international probe of Sri Lankan war crimes (rinf.com)
- UK ‘timid’ over Commonwealth summit (bbc.co.uk)
- Top PSNI men advised forces of bloody Sri Lankan regime (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- DNA links Sri Lankan politician to scene of Rochdale aid worker’s murder (manchestereveningnews.co.uk)
- Canada says Sri Lankan Tamils remain fearful, after Tory MP visits region (vancouverdesi.com)
- ‘Assault on democracy’ in Sri Lanka (connecttheworld.blogs.cnn.com)
- Abbott craven and irresponsible (smh.com.au)
Sri Lankan army fires on protesters, killing 17-year-old youth
3 August 2013
Dinesh died from gun shots to his abdomen. Another wounded youth has been transferred to the Colombo National Hospital in a serious condition. More than 20 people, including journalists, are being treated at two hospitals in the area, some for bullet wounds.
The demonstrators—unarmed men, women and children from several villages including Galloluwa, Nadungama, Rathupaswela, Uruwela, Katuruwatta, Kirikiththa and Ambaraluwa—were protesting against the contamination of local drinking water by Vinogros Dip Products, a rubber-glove manufacturing plant. Villagers had been rallying for several days before the army attack, refusing to halt their protests without an immediate resolution to the problem.
On Thursday, the demonstrators gathered at the main junctions on the Colombo-Kandy highway at Weliweriya, Belummahara and Rathupaswela, blocking the road and rejecting police orders to disperse. They carried placards with slogans such as: “We don’t want acid water. Peace will come, if clean water is given to us.”
The vicious attack, which follows last year’s murderous assault on protesting Sri Lankan fishermen, is another example of the Rajapakse government’s increasing use of the military to crush any resistance by workers and peasants. According to media reports, a government security council meeting that involved defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse ordered the military mobilisation against the Gampaha protests.
About 1,000 soldiers wearing flak jackets and armed with T-56 assault rifles were deployed to the area. Members of the army’s motorcycle brigade arrived in Belummahara at about 2 p.m. and immediately began harassing demonstrators, demanding they disperse.
About two hours later another group of soldiers were mobilised to Weliweriya to break up the demonstration. While the protestors eventually agreed to a directive from an army brigadier to disperse within five minutes, in the ensuing commotion, commandoes suddenly started firing live rounds. Protestors were also attacked with long batons, tear gas and water cannon.
The assault continued into the night, with the town’s electricity and communications cut by the military. Soldiers raided homes and other buildings. People fled in all directions seeking protection, including inside a nearby church, but the army entered the church and opened fire. World Socialist Web Site reporters saw patches of blood and bullet marks on the floor and walls of the church.
Weliweriya was like an army occupation zone yesterday, with shops closed. Armoured cars, soldiers and police officers were patrolling the area. Sandals and other footwear left by people fleeing Thursday’s attack were scattered along the road, together with broken barriers that demonstrators had erected in an effort to protect themselves. WSWS reporters saw several bullets on the ground, and people with bruised bodies and blood-soaked clothing.
While an uneasy calm prevails, there is seething anger against the government and the military. One woman showed the WSWS the damage to her house. She was at home with her two children on Thursday when about 15 people rushed inside, looking for protection. She hid her children under the bed before the army stormed inside, breaking doors and damaging furniture and bathroom fittings.
One child told us: “We were asked to love war heroes at the school. In fact, we loved them. We held bodhi puja (a Buddhist ceremony) for soldiers. Now our love has vanished. We were attacked without any reason. We hate them.”
The child’s mother said: “If this is the way the army treats us, we can imagine how they would have treated Tamils [during the country’s civil war]. They said it was a ‘humanitarian operation’ but now we understand how the operation would have been carried out. We thought the army was to protect us. For them [the government], the rubber glove factory was the big thing—not its impact on thousands of us.”
Another resident told the WSWS: “The government is responsible for this attack—President Mahinda Rajapakse, Basil Rajapakse [the president’s brother and Sri Lanka’s economic development minister]. Basil [Rajapakse] is from this area. We will not vote for him in future.”
“The media, the police, the army and the courts are against us,” another said. “The media has not reported our true story.” He asked why a court magistrate had postponed an inquiry into the toxic poisoning of local drinking water until August 12. This was an urgent issue, he explained, and one of the reasons why the demonstrators had been so angry.
A 60-year-old said: “They [the soldiers] put a baton to my chest and said: ‘We are from the Sri Lankan army. Can you people challenge us?’”
An angry youth explained that about 40 young men were taken from the church, ordered to lie down, and then beaten. “They blamed us for blocking the road but they have closed it down since yesterday.”
A former Vinogros Dip Products worker said that the factory did not have a proper system to treat the chemically-mixed water it released. He claimed that up to 15,000 gallons of waste water was being released every day onto open ground, which could mix with ground water and then seep into wells. The factory is owned by Hayleys, one of Sri Lanka’s major industrial groups, and controlled by a local billionaire who is very close to the ruling Rajapakse cabal.
A Nadungamuwa resident explained that local water could not be used for drinking and was so polluted that even bathing was difficult. He said some people had suffered from rashes and other complaints after bathing in the water. Several local paddy fields were barren and residents suspect that many deaths may have been caused by polluted water.
Army spokesman Ruwan Wanigasuriya falsely claimed that protestors on Thursday had petrol bombs and bottles and declared that the military had used “minimal force”.
The brutal repression of protestors underscores the government’s nervousness over developing opposition among workers, poor and youth. Over the past weeks there have been strikes by railway and other workers, as well as protests by university students and demonstrations by the rural poor against government cuts to fertiliser subsidies. Battered by economic and political crisis, the Rajapakse government is using military methods and turning to police-state forms of rule to crush unrest.
See also here.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim leaders closed down a new mosque in Colombo today after attacks by a Buddhist mob revived simmering religious tensions: here.
Sinhala extremists led by several Buddhist monks attacked a mosque at Grandpass in Colombo on Saturday during the evening prayers at about 6.30 pm. According to local residents, more than 150 people came armed with wooden poles, stones and glass bottles. The mob has also attacked several homes belonging to Muslim people. At least 12 people were injured, three of whom remain in hospital, one in a critical condition: here.
- Sri Lankan Army killing innocent people on Road (ireport.cnn.com)
- Sri Lankan protestor shot dead at tainted water demo (terradaily.com)
- Sri Lankan protester shot dead at tainted water demo (nation.com.pk)
- Thanks but no thanks: Sri Lankan army turns down Indian offer of training (terminalx.org)
- Sri Lankan government appoints a committee to probe ground water contamination (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
- 3 environmental protestors killed in clashes with the Sri Lankan Army (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
- SRI LANKA – All Sri Lankan religions condemn army attack in Weliweriya (asianews.it)
- Sri Lanka: Investigators of alleged army killings of protesters should be truly independent (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
- Three killed as Sri Lankan Army clamps down on protesters (thehindu.com)
- Journalists Harassed and Attacked as Army Cracks Down on Peaceful Protesters (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
This video is called Cuvier’s Beaked Whales.
From the BBC:
3 July 2013 Last updated at 00:38 GMT
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News
Blue and beaked whales‘ behaviour is disturbed by simulated navy sonar, according to two published studies.
In two experiments, teams of researchers managed to attach tracking and sound-recording tags to 17 blue whales and two beaked whales.
They then played simulated sonar sound through an underwater speaker and measured the animals’ responses.
Researchers have previously linked mass strandings and deaths of beaked whales around the world to military exercises using what is known as mid-frequency sonar. So scientists have been keen to understand if the sound harmed the animals.
The new study does not explain those strandings – the chain of events that leads to these remains unclear.
But marine mammal expert Patrick Miller, from the University of St Andrews’ Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), who was not involved with the new study, said the results showed it would be wise for naval exercises to “avoid critical habitat areas”.
The beaked whale study was led by scientists also from the SMRU.
It revealed what researchers had long suspected, that man-made sound had a negative effect on these deep-diving whales. Beaked whales use sound to hunt as well as to communicate. They produce echolocation clicks as they dive up to 1.5km (1mi) in depth, picking up echoes that bounce off the bodies of the squid they are hunting.
When the scientists played the sonar sounds during their experiments, both of the tagged Cuvier’s beaked whales stopped hunting and “swam rapidly, silently away”.
Perhaps more surprising was that, in the other study, led by Jeremy Goldbogen from the Cascadia Research Collective in the US state of Washington, several blue whales also responded to the sound.
Blue whales communicate with very low-frequency sound – far below that of naval sonar. And because they do not use sound to hunt, the scientists thought they would not be affected.
Yet the whales’ responses did vary.
Animals that were feeding close to the surface showed almost no response, but animals that were diving for krill – rather than sifting the surface waters – reacted very differently.
“One animal was diving and feeding repeatedly all throughout the day,” recalled Dr Goldbogen.
“And as soon as the sound started, the animal stopped feeding and maintained a directed heading and moved away from the sound source.”
These vast animals can scoop up half a million calories’ worth of krill in one gulp as they dive, so disturbing their feeding deprives them of large amounts of energy.
“I calculated that in that time, the animal lost a metric tonne of krill,” said Dr Goldbogen.
“So if this happens a lot in these feeding hotspots, that could have real consequences.”
And currently, naval exercises are carried out in these hotspots.
The blue whales in this study, for example, were feeding in the in-shore waters of California during the summer and autumn of 2010. The study area is where the US Navy carries out regular exercises and where the whales come to build up fat stores for the long migration to their breeding grounds.
Even subtle disturbance to this vital pre-migration gorge, said Dr Goldbogen, “could have real consequences for the population health”.
“These are the biggest animals that have ever lived, so they need a huge amount of food,” he added.
The detailed examination of the whales’ behaviour was made possible by the technology contained within the tracking tags.
“A lot of the same sensors that are in our smartphones are in the tags we attached to these whales,” said Dr Goldbogen.
“When you rotate your phone and the screen moves with you, that’s because there are these sensors called accelerometers and magnetometers.
“That’s how we get the information about the position of the whale.”
This resulted in detailed animations of each whale’s position, speed and movement.
But to actually put a tag onto one of these giant mammals involved a chase.
The tags are attached using suction cups, so the researchers had to use a small boat to move alongside each whale, while one member of the team used a long carbon fibre pole to “tap” the tag onto the animal’s back.
“It’s a lot easier in blue whales than some other whales, because they’re so big,” said Dr Goldbogen.
“We can programme the tag to release, so we find the tag and download the data.”
The researchers draw alongside the blue whale to “tap” the tag onto its back
This is a far trickier exercise with beaked whales, which are smaller and dive for an hour at a time.
“If you see a beaked whale and if you don’t get the tag on it, you might never see it again,” said Dr Goldbogen.
Although both studies provide clear evidence that sonar affects these rare marine mammals, the scientists say much more research is needed into the specific impacts of human activity on their environment.
Dr Miller commented: “Further research on the possible long-term impacts of these effects is needed, to evaluate whether more protection measures are required.”
Dr Goldbogen concluded: “We didn’t expect blue whales to have a strong response, so there’s clearly a dearth of basic data on how animals respond to man-made sound.
“These animals have evolved in a very different environment to the one they’re living in today.”
See also here.
Court Rules that Federal Agency Failed to Protect Thousands of Whales and Dolphins from Navy Sonar: here.
- Whales flee from military sonar leading to mass strandings, research shows (guardian.co.uk)
- Rare beaked whales off South Australia (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Blue whales are disturbed by military sonar (telegraph.co.uk)
- Military sonar can alter blue whale behavior (eurekalert.org)
- Even sonar within ‘safe’ limits may be harming endangered whales (nbcnews.com)
- Stealthy underwater sonar systems used by the military can make the world’s largest whale miss meals (dailymail.co.uk)
- Navy Sonars Make Whales and Dolphins Go Hungry (news.softpedia.com)
- Sonar shown to deeply worry whales (bigpondnews.com)
From Wildlife Extra:
New spiders grow up to 8 inches across
April 2013. A large new species of tarantula has been discovered in Sri Lanka. At 8 inches across, the new tarantula isn’t as large as the Goliath bird eating tarantula of South America, which can grow up to 12 inches. Poecilotheria rajaei (as the new spider has been named) would still be as long as an ipad screen. It is also quite fast for a spider, and venomous.
The tarantula was discovered back in 2009 when a villager in Mankulam, up in the northern part of Sri Lanka, provided Ranil Nanayakkara (Co-founder of the Biodiversity Education And Research (BEAR) organisation) with a dead male specimen. Further live specimens were then found in the village’s former doctor’s living quarters. It was quickly established that it was different to any species known from Sri Lanka at that time.
This group of tarantulas are commonly referred to variously as the Indian and Sri Lankan Ornamental Tarantulas, Parachute Spiders, Tiger Spiders, etc. but the scientific name is Poecilotheria rajaei (named after Inspector Michael Rajakumar Purajah – who was instrumental in allowing Ranil and his team access to the areas they needed to get to). It is an arboreal tarantula, so in its natural habitat it prefers to live in holes in trees or similar such crevices.
It belongs to a group of brightly coloured tarantulas from India and Sri Lanka which we can differentiate from one another by the pattern of black bands on the underside of their legs and, in this particular species and one other, a pale, ventral abdominal band.
Adapted to living in houses!
It is the first of what we believe are several new species of tarantula that have been located in this previously inaccessible region of Sri Lanka. Although this species is scarce as a consequence of its natural habitat having been destroyed, it has been able to adapt and has started to encroach on the ‘artificial trees’ that human habitation provides.
Our thanks to The British Tarantula Society & Ranil Nanayakkara.
- Massive tarantula discovered… (news.sky.com)
- Giant new kind of tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka (independent.co.uk)
- New Species of Tarantula: Tiger Spider: What a Beauty! (spiritandanimal.wordpress.com)
- Meet the Poecilotheria rajaei: The gigantic, newly discovered tarantula researchers found in Sri Lanka (news.nationalpost.com)
- New Giant Tarantula Discovered in Sri Lanka (wired.com)
- Face-Sized Tarantula Spider Discovered In Sri Lanka, Already Threatened With Extinction From Deforestation (planetsave.com)
This video says about itself:
Crocodile Hunter – Island of Snakes
Feb 12, 2012
Steve Irwin travels to Sri Lanka to help laborers contend with some of the most venomous snakes in the world. And, for the first time in his life, he goes head-to-head with a man-eating Mugger crocodile.
All rights belong to Discovery Communications, Inc.
This video says about itself:
Thailand Blind Snake Not Poisonous. Smallest Snake in World?
These are super small snakes from Thailand. I found 2 in my restroom. They climb up through the drain from outside. I lost one of these small black snakes in the house – don’t tell “da wife”.
The name of this snake: Brahminy Blind Snake
Very common in Thailand. In just about every potted plant we have it seems like, as well as climbing up through our drains. They eat termite and ant eggs primarily. They can’t bite you – their mouths are too small. They live in the dark – inside the soil – just like a worm, but not worms.
From Wildlife Extra:
New genus of snake recognised on Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a much bigger hotspot for biodiversity than previously known
March 2013. An assistant biology professor from George Washington University has discovered a new genus of the blindsnake in Sri Lanka.
Using DNA sequencing to determine its relationship to other snakes, Dr. Pyron thought the blindsnake -found right in the yard of an environmental agency office-would be a new species. Amazingly it turned out to be a complete new genus.
“When we sequenced the snake’s DNA, we discovered that it was an entirely new lineage of blindsnake,” Dr. Pyron said. “It’s still a blindsnake, but a new genus, a group of blindsnakes that had never been described.”
60 known species of snakes in Sri Lanka
Along with the discovery of the new group, Dr. Pyron and researchers confirmed the identity of 60 known species of snakes in Sri Lanka, using DNA sequencing technology on 40 of them to help researchers understand how various snakes are related to each other and their evolutionary relationship to other species around the world.
“We found that Sri Lanka has been colonized by snakes at least five times by totally different snake groups, which have each diversified heavily within the island,” said Dr. Pyron, a Robert F. Griggs Assistant Professor of Biology.
That means that even though researchers know a lot about the snakes on the island, there’s still more to be discovered-and previous research to be corrected.
Sri Lanka is a much bigger hotspot for biodiversity than previously known
“The DNA data are telling us new stories about how they are related, completely contradicting what we thought we knew,” he said. “It tells us that Sri Lanka is a much bigger hotspot for biodiversity than previously known, and harbours massive richness.”
Researchers can also use the findings to draw conclusions about evolutionary biology and species diversity more broadly.
Their findings, which appear in the March edition of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, show just how rich snake biodiversity is on the island.