Blue-throated macaws in Bolivia

This video from Bolivia says about itself:

Alternative feathers save macaws!

24 November 2016

Armonía’s educational program empowers the Moxeño native communities to protect the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaws by promoting the use of alternative feathers for the traditional Moxeño headdresses used in the machetero ritual dances. Since 2010, Armonía and Moxeño communities have saved over 6000 Macaw individuals of four macaw species and engaged thousands of local youth in the conservation of other Bolivian species while promoting their indigenous culture.

Armonía has been able to conduct alternative feather training workshops in the largest Moxeño towns, but the killing of macaws for headdresses continues in more rural areas.

Please consider supporting Armonía to organize additional training workshops in 2017 to save the lives of many more macaws.

At the following link you can make a tax deductibe donation to Armonía.

From BirdLife:

A new hope for the Blue-throated Macaw

By Irene Lorenzo, 13 Jan 2017

The discovery of a new roosting site for Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis coupled with an innovative and successful programme geared towards promoting the use of artificial feathers in ceremonial headdresses, gives renewed hope for the survival of this charismatic parrot.

The Blue-throated Macaw is one of South America’s rarest parrots, with a population estimated at around 250 individuals. In the last decade, Asociación Armonía (BirdLife Partner in Bolivia) has been tackling the main threats affecting it: habitat loss, the lack of breeding sites and ending illegal poaching. But their approach to ending the latter has been especially unique and very successful: to give locals an alternative to using real macaw feathers for their headdresses.

During their traditional celebrations, the inhabitants of the Moxeño plains in Bolivia’s Beni department perform with colourful headdresses as they move to the rhythm of bongos and flutes. The dancers, so-called macheteros, dedicate their movements and attire to the colours of nature. Unfortunately, those headdresses are made of macaw tail feathers from four different species, including the Blue-throated Macaw.

This is where Armonía’s Alternative Feather Programme comes in; it consists of an educational campaign promoting the use of artificial feathers made of organic materials among the macheteros through workshops held in local schools. …

Since the Moxeños consider themselves to be the guardians of nature and all of its creatures, they were quick to understand the importance of using substitutes.

“Each headdress is made of an average of 30 central tail feathers; that means that one headdress of artificial feathers saves at least 15 macaws,” explained Gustavo Sánchez Avila, Armonía’s Conservation Programme coordinator for the Blue-throated Macaw in Trinidad.

The programme, which started in 2010 with the support of Loro Parque Foundation, not only protects this critically endangered Macaw, but also empowers local craftsmen and women to preserve their natural heritage and their culture.

Furthermore, after seeing the mesmerising dances, many tourists buy the alternative headdresses as souvenirs, providing locals with much needed additional income.

Since 2010, the Moxeño people and Armonía have saved over 6000 individuals of four macaw species and engaged thousands of local people in the conservation of Bolivian nature. Most big Moxeño towns already host alternative feather training workshops, but rural areas still use real feathers.  If you wish to help, you can support Armonía so that they can organise additional training workshops this year and save even more macaws.

The new roosting site

While conserving the already established populations of the Blue-throated Macaw is essential to their survival, further research remains vital to make sure none of its habitat is left unprotected.

However, entering the Bolivian northern Department of Beni during the rainy season is a huge adventure. As seasonal rainfall merges with melt water from the Andes, the grasslands become extensively flooded, making it impossible for cars to travel around the area for three to five months every year.

The situation forces locals to revert to their old ways, using horses to get across a savannah that is speckled with pools of water, knee-deep mud and head-high grasses. As a result, conservation research becomes complicated and expensive.

But this was not going to stop our team of conservationists at Asociación Armonía, supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Loro Parque Foundation, when they set off last summer to search for more roosting grounds of the macaw in this remote region.

The truth is that the team had had many rough failed trips in the region to verify sites where owners swore they had seen the parrot, only to find they got the wrong bird. So, when they got a call from a local ranch owner who claimed to have seen the Blue-throated Macaw in his fields, the team reacted with some disbelief.

They had seen this happen a few times already: while many ranch owners proudly believe that they have seen the Blue-throated Macaw, to the untrained eye it is often confused with a more generalist species, the Blue-and-yellow Macaw Ara ararauna.

Surprisingly, when they arrived on site, it turned out that at least 15 Blue-throated Macaws had made a small forest island their home. This new roosting site was confirmed only forty kilometres north of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve: the largest concentration of macaws in the world live here, with yearly counts of over 100 individuals.

At one of Beni’s most important events of the year, the Chope Piesta, the macheteros are getting ready to start their traditional dance. Today, headdresses with alternative feathers outnumber natural ones nearly five to one. In the meantime, conservationists rejoice about the new discovery of a roosting site. Developments worth dancing about.

British-UAE dictatorship military cooperation

This video says about itself:

UAE secret prisons and torture revealed

13 October 2015

UAE torture survivors reveal cases of enforced kidnapping, arbitrary detention, secret prisons and torture.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Naval forces begin military exercises

Monday 16th January 2017

BRITISH and United Arab Emirates (UAE) naval forces began military exercises yesterday as threatening actions towards nearby Iran continued.

The UAE sits near the mouth of the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which passes nearly a third of all the oil traded by sea.

The current “Sea Dagger” exercises may be meant to intimidate Iran, which lies on the northern side of the Persian Gulf.

United States warships have recently fired warning shots at Iranian vessels.

Britain is massively expanding its military presence is the Gulf, establishing the £30 million HMS Jufair naval base in Bahrain.

This country is a strong backer of the repressive UAE, which was cobbled together in the 1970s when Britain couldn’t afford to keep troops in what was a “protectorate” designed to exert control over the oil-producing region.

UAE forces are equipped with British weapons and 4,000 Emirati troops are deployed as part of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s bloodbath in Yemen.

Eurasian birds 2016 highlights

This is a video series by BirdLife Europe and Central Asia.

From BirdLife:

Birds of a Feather: Our partners’ highlights from 2016

By Gui-Xi Young, 16 Jan 2017

From the wild North Atlantic to the Caspian Sea; from the fjords of Breiðafjörður to the Iron Gates on the Danube, from the high Pyrenees to the Kazakh Steppe – how better to bask in the spectacular natural beauty of Europe & Central Asia than with a bird’s eye view? Here are just some of our partners’ highlights from 2016!

2016 was a busy year for the BirdLife Europe & Central Asia family – a partnership of 48 national NGOs in 47 countries. As the old proverb goes, ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ and, together, our local to global approach to nature conservation shows just what the power of many can achieve for birds and people alike. We rounded-out the year with a stunning victory – the safeguarding of the EU’s Nature Directives. But there are so many other stories to tell.

Science: The BirdLife Gold Standard

At BirdLife, science is the Gold Standard; it’s the very foundation of our approach to nature conservation. Year on year, our partners raise the bar for ornithological knowledge and push forward the frontiers of learning – and 2016 was no exception. For example, our Kazakh partners, ACBK conducted their country’s most extensive census of rare geese species and other water birds to date, while over in Croatia, BIOM finished a benchmark three year study of national bird distribution, establishing a whole new baseline for future bird atlases. Meanwhile, many partners have been embracing innovative techniques for data-collection with some fantastic results, such as DOPPS (Slovenia) equipping a White-backed woodpecker with a telemetric logger for the first time in Europe. And in neighbouring Hungary, MME launched its Bird ID mobile app that has been downloaded by 50,000 users since April.

This commitment to evidence-based advocacy has earned world-wide recognition for our network of IBAs (Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas) which are sites of international significance for the conservation of threatened birds as well as other plant and animal species. Happily, thanks to our partners’ hard work, we made many welcome additions to this spectacular network: from Finland’s Baltic coast to the floodplain of Belarus’ River Iput to Lakes Mashankul and Khozhakul in Uzbekistan and more.

Taking Flight: Our Research in Action

In a bid to protect key natural habitats from man-made threats, our partners are actively engaged in long-term ecological restoration and sustainable management projects, working closely with local communities, other NGOs, government agencies and private businesses to find innovative ways for birds and people to peacefully coexist. Last year, SOS/BirdLife Slovakia completed work with local farmers in Medzibodrožie to pump water back into the drying wetlands of the region. Nature’s response was nothing short of amazing: Great bitterns began to return, several pairs of the very rare Ferruginous duck were spotted, and a whole new colony of waders – Purple heron, Great White egret, Black-crowned Night Heron – was established!

Their success will certainly be encouraging for those embarking on (or continuing) equally ambitious projects in 2017. In the … Mediterranean alone, BirdLife Cyprus will be working to restore the Akrotiri Marsh to the thriving mosaic of diverse habitats it once was, SPNI will endeavour to secure the future of Israel’s Sdom Saltmarsh – home to the only viable population of the endangered Tamarisk Nubian Nightjar – while BirdLife Malta will be writing the next chapter of the Salini Salt Pans’ 600 year history, having recently been awarded land-management responsibility for the marshlands that attract great flocks of flamingos during migration season. There are exciting times ahead further north as well: OTOP, for example, will be developing the eco-tourism potential of Poland’s Beka nature reserve, while neighbour BirdLife Belarus undertakes a huge project to recover over 1000 ha of peatlands in Białowieża Forest National Park, to the certain benefit of raptors, owls and woodpeckers.

Flights of Imagination: Engaging the Public

Of course, none of this could be achieved without widespread public support. Time and time again, across all our countries, young and old alike come out in full force to enjoy – and when necessary, defend – nature. Last year, our determined French partner LPO continued its tireless fight to strengthen France’s Biodiversity Law by collecting a staggering 669,102 signatures to give to Minister of the Environment, Ségolène Royal, against the use of neonicotinoids – a type of pesticide that has been killing off our bees.

Some fine-feathered fun has also been order of the day: great new events have popped up on the annual calendar, with the BirdLife Suomi’s ‘Finnish Bird Fair’ and SVS/BirdLife Switzerland’s ‘Festival of Nature’ joining more established events such as SPEA’s ‘Sagres Birdwatching Festival’ in Portugal and SOF/BirdLife Sweden’s national ‘Garden Bird Count’ – all attracting tens of thousands of visitors and participants. In Romania, SOR’s popular ‘Bucharest Got Wings’ project saw members of the public place home-made bird feeders and nest boxes all around the capital’s parks and squares – much to the delight of local blue tits and great tits. And, who says politics can’t be fun? APB BirdLife Belarus organized an election with a difference – ‘Bird of the District’, with the noble Kingfisher claiming a superb victory: long may he reign!

Some of our partners even managed to get their members to break a sweat: in Turkey, Doğa volunteers ran the Istanbul Marathon to raise funds for the threatened Imperial Eagle; in Belgium, our Flemish partner’s two-day challenge of hiking, biking and canoeing – ‘Expeditie Natuurpunt‘ raised €133,000 for nature conservation projects; and in Israel, SPNI’s fantastic ‘Champions of the Flyway’ competition – a real-time bird spotting ‘race’ live on Twitter – raised $80,000 for our Greek partner’s (HOS) efforts to tackle illegal bird killing.

Art has often taken inspiration from the natural world – Camille Saint-Saëns’ ‘The Carnival of the Animals’, Albrecht Dürer’s ‘Young Hare’, John Constable’s great rural landscapes…– and the BirdLife family is continuing this rich creative tradition in all sorts of imaginative ways. Both LOB in Latvia and BirdLife Cyprus held very successful drawing competitions, with both the former’s ‘Bird of the Year’ competition and the latter’s ‘153 Birds’ (i.e. the 153 species affected by illegal trapping in Cyprus) receiving hundreds of submissions.

Meanwhile, in the world of sound and vision, there were some quality contributions to film, television and radio. Gregor Subic’s poignant documentary ‘The Endangered Treasure of Ulcinj’ told the story of our Montenegrin partner’s (CZIP) efforts to save Ulcinj Salina, one of the most important bird wintering sites in Europe, from being turned into a luxury tourist resort. On Spanish television, SEO/BirdLife earned more than 5 million viewers for their stunning documentary series, ‘Red Natura 2000’. And BirdWatch Ireland filled the radio waves with birdsong, collaborating with presenter Derek Mooney’s on his ‘European Dawn Chorus’ broadcast, a much-deserved winner of a Rose d’Or (Europe’s most prestigious broadcasting award) for Radio Event of the Year.

Numerous activities have focused on inspiring the next generation of bird lovers and nature conservationists: the Caucasus are leading the way with both AOS’ ‘Bird Camp Besh’ in Azerbaijan, ASPB’s ‘Dsegh Eco-club’ combining birdwatching, outdoor training and classes for young students. And in Belgium, our Walloon partner Natagora has developed a video game about biodiversity that has been adopted by many schools. After all, if children these days can memorize the names of 500 different ‘species’ of Pokémon, then why not 500 species of birds?

Onwards & Upwards!

We can all agree that the finest moments come when we finally see species protection measures pay off and bird numbers rebound. 2016 has given us many fine examples to give us hope in 2017. BirdLife Austria celebrated its most successful breeding season for Imperial Eagles and in Georgia, an adult pair was spotted performing diving flights near an artificial nest recently built by SABUKO – a remarkable sighting in a country with no more than 40 breeding pairs. Over in Bulgaria, after years and years of active efforts from BSPB, a second colony of Dalmatian pelicans finally started breeding on Belene Island.

In Serbia, BPSSS advanced its decade long struggle to save the Red-listed Turtledove by securing a moratorium on its hunting for another year. SVS/BirdLife Switzerland has also observed a record – 153 breeding pairs of the endangered Little Owl. Going northwards to Norway, there is new hope for seabirds: after concerted efforts by NOF, the government will start its seabird Action Plan in 2017. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the RSPB is enjoying a ‘boom time’ for Bitterns – a thickset heron that has bounced back from local extinction at the turn of the 20th century to near full recovery!

On that positive note, we shall draw to a close. While this whistle-stop tour cannot possibly do justice to all our partners’ achievements and hard work, it does provide a lot of inspiration as we move onwards to 2017 and continue looking upwards to the skies. Just look at what we can achieve together – as we proclaimed during the Nature Alert campaign, ‘All for Nature, Nature for all!’

Gui Xi Young is a writer and editor with BirdLife Europe & Central Asia.

Bahrainis protest executions of tortured political prisoners

This video says about itself:

The Brutal Backlash Against Protest In Bahrain (2011)

Undercover Kingdom: With civil unrest in Bahrain worsening, protesters continue to suffer under a government determined to quell dissent by using brute force and manipulating the media’s message.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Bahrain protests after three tortured men are executed

Monday 16th January 2017

BAHRAINIS took to the streets in protest yesterday after the ruling monarchy executed three men whom its torturers had forced to confess to a deadly 2014 bombing.

Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace were found guilty in 2015 of killing two Bahraini policemen and an Emirati officer deployed to strengthen the island country’s security forces.

A court upheld their death sentences last Monday and they were executed yesterday by being shot in the heart.

The prisoners were the first to be executed since 2010 — the year before widespread pro-democracy demonstrations were put down by force with the help of Saudi and Emirati soldiers.

Clashes continued throughout yesterday, despite Bahrain’s rulers flooding the streets with riot police.

Images posted online showed Bahrainis blocking roads by burning tyres and other debris …

“It is nothing short of an outrage — and a disgraceful breach of international law — that Bahrain has gone ahead with these executions,” legal action charity Reprieve director Maya Foa said.

“The death sentences handed to Ali, Sami and Abbas were based on ‘confessions’ extracted through torture, and the trial was an utter sham.”

Mr Samea and Mr Mushaima were given electric shocks, beaten, burned with cigarettes, deprived of sleep and sexually assaulted while in custody, according to Reprieve.

Mr Singace’s mum said that her son had also been tortured.

The killing of the three comes amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in the kingdom backed and armed by Britain.

Leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab remains locked up for posting tweets about the Saudi-led war on Yemen and torture in Bahraini prisons.

The Gulf country is strongly supported by Britain, which is building a new £30 million naval base to extend its control over oil and gas supplies. The US navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

As well as [selling] weapons and military gear, Britain also trains Bahrain’s police and a British military officer is embedded in Bahrain’s Interior Ministry.

From 1966 to 1998, the country’s top torturer was British former colonial officer Ian Henderson.

All British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had to say about the executions was that the government is “opposed to the death penalty” and that “the Bahraini authorities are aware of our position.”

North Carolina, USA camera trap mammals

This video from North Carolina in the USA says about itself:

15 January 2017

One month time-lapse of animals triggering the Bushnell game camera in the Great Smoky Mountains. The creatures range in size from a field mouse to a large male Black Bear.

Donald Trump’s anti-China sabre-rattling

This video says about itself:

Australia should “cut the tag” with American foreign policy after Trump win says Keating

10 November 2016

Former prime minister Paul Keating says Australia should focus less on the alliance with the US and concentrate more on relationships within Asia. Read more here.

Paul Keating, Labor Party treasurer from 1983 to 1992, and prime minister of Australia from 1992–1996, has denounced the incoming Trump administration for threatening to “involve Australia in war with China.” While not advocating a break with the US-Australia military alliance, his intervention reflects the fears within Australian ruling circles of a catastrophic conflict: here.

Just days before his inauguration, US President-elect Donald Trump has provoked an angry reaction from China by again suggesting that his administration’s recognition of the One China policy would be contingent on Chinese concessions on economic issues: here.

Lesser whitethroat video

This is a lesser whitethroat video from the Netherlands.