Bird conservation news from Bhutan

Tghis 2016 video is called Birding in Bhutan.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partnership stretches its wings to Bhutan

By Rosa Gleave, 9 Dec 2016

BirdLife International, the world’s largest conservation Partnership, has taken a new Partner under its wing: the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in the fascinating and richly biodiverse nation of Bhutan.

Known in the local language as Druk Yul (meaning ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’), this diminutive country, nestled in the mountains which separate China and India, is famous for its fortress-like monasteries, ancient traditions and dramatic landscape. Bhutan is deeply protective of its natural heritage: long-standing traditions protect the landscape, where the constitution demands that a minimum of 60% of the land must remain forested for all future generations; this currently stands at over 70%.

Thanks to its forest cover, it is the world’s only carbon negative country – meaning its forests absorb more carbon dioxide per year than its pollutants emit. … Bhutan is still home to some globally-threatened species, and RSPN performs vital work to protect them.

Established in 1987, RSPN in Bhutan becomes the 122nd BirdLife Partner organisation. As the largest conservation NGO in Bhutan, it dedicates itself to pioneering biodiversity safeguards, the environment and sustainable development. Boasting strong credibility and enjoying popularity and recognition, both locally and across borders, RSPN were awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award in 2010 for its conservation work and impacts in the country.

With over 600 members in a country of less than a million people, RSPN easily stands its ground across the wider BirdLife Partnership. RSPN has established field offices across the country to cover programme implementation and support its conservation, education, livelihoods and research.

RSPN was approved as a full BirdLife Partner at November’s Global Council of BirdLife International meeting in Sri Lanka. “The BirdLife Asia Partnership is excited to work closely with RSPN for nature and people across Asia.” said Prof Sarath Kotagama, Chair of BirdLife Asia Council.

“[The Bhutanese people’s] natural way of living with their environment actually contributes to conservation, however that doesn’t mean there are no threats to wildlife; that’s why BirdLife needs a Partner there” adds Dr Hazell Thompson, Director of Partnership & Regions at BirdLife International. “Welcome and well done to Bhutan.”

Bhutan is a small, landlocked country with an area of 38,394 km2 situated on the southern slopes of the Eastern Himalayas in South Asia situated between the world’s two most populated countries; China to its north and India to its east, west and south. It is part of the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot.

“It was indeed a great joy for RSPN to finally become member of the BirdLife International”, said Dr Kinley Tenzin, Executive Director of RSPN. “There is much more we need to do and now I am sure RSPN is in safe hands. Time has called on all of us to come together and work together for a greater cause.”

Bhutan contains 23 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), eight eco-regions, and a number of Important Plant Areas and wetlands, including three Ramsar Sites with a surface area of 1,226 hectares. The diverse ecosystems and eco-floristic zones have made Bhutan home to a wide array of flora and fauna, including the snow leopard Panthera uncia and Pallas’ Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus.

While overall biodiversity conservation is ensured through the protected area network, species-specific conservation plans are limited to a couple of threatened species like the White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis, and Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis.

RSPN is actively involved in the conservation of these species due to their significance both nationally and globally. Bhutan ranks in the top ten percent of countries with the highest species density on earth, and it has the highest fraction of land in protected areas as well as the highest proportion of forest cover of any Asian nation. Thus, it is one of a very few countries that have an opportunity to maintain its biodiversity largely intact.

Congratulations and welcome to RSPN as the latest BirdLife family member.

Dinosaur sculpture lessons for children

Tyrannosaurus rex with gypsum head and paw prints

In Leiden in the Netherlands, there is the exhibition of their newly acquired Tyrannosaurus rex Trix; before Trix will go abroad and come back forever in 2018.

Also in Leiden; from sculptor Simone van Olst (translated):

T.rex in town! Make this Christmas your own T.rex in plaster (stone). Come to the sculpture workshop on 21 or 28 December in the pop-up store in Leiden and go home with a tough dinosaur head or paw print. After the workshop you will get a nice goodie bag and an extra sculpture set to take home.

The workshop is in the Pop-up store (old V & D building), Aalmarkt 21 in Leiden. The workshops will be on Wednesday 21 and 28 December between 13.00 and 17.00. Every hour you can join. The rounds last for between a half hour and one hour. The cost is 10.00 euros per child, including material, a nice goodie bag and an extra sculpture set to make another dinosaur at home.

The workshop is suitable for children from 4 years on. It is desirable for the youngest children to be accompanied by an adult.

Not a dinosaur fan? Then it is also possible to create a nice Christmas pendant in gypsum.

Save the elephants

This video says about itself:

26 May 2015

Amazing and touching video of a herd of elephants helping an elephant calf that has collapsed in the road.

Taken in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Video sent in by: Juanita.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The elephant in the room

9 December 2016

Together with a rapidly growing number of zoologists and environmentalists, PETER FROST is increasingly exasperated at the advancing, but preventable, extinction of the world’s elephants

The spa town of Leamington has many fine Victorian features but few as impressive as the Jephson Gardens first laid out in 1831 as informal riverside walks along the River Leam and then developed into formal Victorian gardens after 1846.

It was named in honour of Dr Henry Jephson, the famous doctor who had first promoted the town as a spa and encouraged his patients to drink and bathe in the health-giving mineral-rich spring waters in the town.

Among Jephson Gardens’ most unusual features is an elephant wash — a large paved ramp leading down to the river. The first elephant trainer in England was Sam Lockhart, born to a circus family in Leamington in 1850.

Lockhart brought three elephants to the town and taught them tricks. They were taken down to bathe in the river in the centre of town but when their trumpeting disturbed worshippers in the parish church it was decided to construct a purpose-built elephant wash in Jephson Gardens. It is still there but today, sadly, rarely used by elephants.

All over the gardens and indeed all over the town you will find statues, fountains, plaques and illustrations featuring the towns favourite animal.

The elephant is the world’s largest land animal. The biggest can be up to 7.5m long, 3.3m high at the shoulder, and 6 tonnes in weight.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to South Africa to help the new ANC ministry of tourism attract visitors to that beautiful country.

One of the most exciting places I visited was Addo Elephant Park in Nelson Mandela Bay — it is the third-largest national park in South Africa with spectacular wildlife including hundreds of wild elephants. It was wonderful to live alongside the huge beasts.

There are two subspecies of African elephants — Addo’s are the larger savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana), which roams grassy plains and woodlands.

The other is the smaller forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), which lives in the equatorial forests of central and western Africa.

Since 1979, African elephants have lost over half of their habitat and this, along with massive ivory poaching, has seen the population drop significantly.

Back in the early part of the 20th century, there were between three and five million elephants in Africa. Now the total population is well under half a million and that number is dropping fast, perhaps reaching just 400,000.

Unless we halt the decline and stop the murderous slaughter for ivory, unless we learn to live with the elephant, they may become totally extinct.

Can we really tolerate a situation where our great-grandchildren will never see a live elephant? Elephants live in a complex social structure of herds composed of related females and their calves. Males usually live alone but sometimes form small groups with other males.

After mating and a 22-month gestation a single calf is born — it will be nursed for over six years. Elephants can live up to around 70 years.

Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory they are still being poached in large numbers. Their tusks are the most sought after but their meat and skin are also traded. Tens of thousands of elephants are killed every year and poaching is increasing.

The ivory is often carved into ornaments and jewellery — China is the biggest consumer market for such products.

Another threat to this proud beast comes from the expanding human population as more land is being converted to agriculture. The elephant habitat is shrinking and becoming more fragmented, which severs their ancient migration routes.

The result is elephants and people don’t mix easily as elephants will, during those seasonal migrations, sometimes cross farmers’ fields damaging crops which affects the farmers’ livelihoods — and elephants have been known to kill people and been killed in retaliation.

The elephants I saw at Addo have small or no tusks. Over the years this made them less attractive to poachers who tended to hunt down the bigger tuskers. The result was that small tusked animals become dominant. This isn’t natural selection but selection by illegal slaughter.

Today poaching is much better controlled and elephant numbers in Addo are increasing but this is only one location.

The elephants that Lockhart brought to Leamington more than 150 years ago were Indian elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) from what was then Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

Indian elephant populations are just as threatened as their African cousins. Since 1986 the population has declined by at least half but they are threatened by habitat loss rather than poaching. Only male Asian elephants have tusks, meaning that females are safe from ivory poachers.

All elephants need our protection. Yet if the decline in all species continues at its present rate then in between 20 and 40 years there will be no elephants anywhere in the wild.

It is unthinkable that our great-grandchildren will never have the chance to see one in the wild.

Dutch tyrannosaur to Spain, France, Macau

This 15 November 2016 video is called TRIX: Tyrannosaurus Rex at Naturalis in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Translated from Unity TV in the Netherlands:

December 2, 2016

LEAD – T. rex Trix will also seen after the end of the exhibition T. rex in Town in Leiden in Barcelona, Paris and Macau before finally getting a place of honour in the renovated Naturalis museum in February 2018.

Trix can be visited until June 5 next year in the Pesthuis building in Leiden. After that, Trix, and parts of the exhibition, will be on tour in Europe and China. From November 8, 2017 to February 26, 2018 she will be on display at the Science Museum Cosmo Caixa in Barcelona. From June 11, 2018 to September 15, 2018 the skeleton will be in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. The 66 million year old skeleton will also travel to Macau, China, where it will be exhibited at the Macao Science Center.

The exhibition T. rex in Town is very well attended. Therefore Naturalis will seize the opportunity to introduce even more people to this particular fossil. Att the end of 2018 Trix will be back home in Leiden.