250,000 gazelles in Mongolia

This video from Russia says about itself:

Border guards have been working non-stop to help thousands of trapped gazelles cross into Russia from Mongolia. Severe drought has forced the animals to migrate north. Wildlife enthusiasts are hopeful the influx will be a boost to Russia’s dying Gazelle population.

From the BBC:

Largest herd of gazelles sighted

Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

A mega-herd of a quarter of a million Mongolian gazelles has been seen gathering on the country’s steppes, one of the world’s last great wildernesses.

The coming together on the grassy plains is the largest ever recorded.

The biologists who saw it estimate it contained perhaps a quarter of all Mongolian gazelles on the planet.

“It was stunning,” says Kirk Olson of the University of Massachusetts, US. “I don’t know if I was surprised or simply blown away by what we came across.”

Olson and colleagues based in the US and Mongolia have published details of the epic gathering in the journal Oryx.

In September 2007, Olson’s team were driving across the eastern Mongolian steppes studying the habitat of the Mongolian gazelle, one of the last nomadic ungulates to survive in large numbers.

Together with scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, they had been capturing gazelles and fitting them with GPS collars to track their movements, trying to work out where they travel and why.

As they drove east they began to encounter herds of a couple of thousand individuals.

“Groups of this size are impressive and beautiful to see,” describes Olson. Then the following day, at about midday, they drove to a hillside offering a great view of what appeared to be one such herd.

“But it was really one edge of a group that ended up being over 250,000 by one estimate.

“We were simply amazed at the sight. The image I have in my mind of seeing this massive aggregation of gazelles will always be etched into my memory.”

Mongolian gazelles are known to gather in large herds. Groups containing 10,000 animals or more are often reported, while the largest herd previously known numbered 80,000. …

Hunting has already decimated populations of the saiga antelope and the kulan, also known as the Mongolian wild ass. Olson hopes that conservationists will increase their efforts to protect the gazelles, before their huge herds are also reduced.

Mountains, roads and railways: a natural barrier to survival for Mongolia’s wild asses: here.

Critically endangered Saiga antelope vital for preservation of world’s largest grasslands: here.

Betty White fund helps rare saiga antelope suffering from 95% decline in 20 years: here.

Mass mortality among saiga antelopes in Kazakhstan: 12,000 dead: here.

Few species have fallen so far and so fast in the past 15 years as Central Asia’s antelope, the saiga. Its precipitous decline is reminiscent of the bison or the passenger pigeon in 19th Century America, but conservationists hopes it avoids the fate of the latter: here.

12,000 critically endangered Saiga antelope found dead in Kazakhstan: here.

Dead Afghan civilians and US public relations

Afghanistan bombing by US planes, cartoon by Mikhaela

From US cartoonist Mikhaela‘s blog:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The War in Afghanistan‘s REAL Victims

In the wake of a U.S. airstrike that killed more than 100 Afghan civilians, the mainstream media wonders: “How will those dead kids harm American PR?”

As FAIR puts it in their analysis of mainstream coverage: “One has to wonder about the values of a press where U.S. taxpayer-funded slaughter of civilians elicits journalists’ concern not about victims, but about the war’s popularity with the population having record numbers of bombs dropped on them and how that might hamper U.S. strategic goals.”

By the way, Obama’s top security adviser says he has no plans to halt the airstrikes because “we have to have a full complement of our offensive military power when we need it.”

For my previous cartoons on this subject, see “War Marketeers!” and “Milly Jones: America-Hating PR representative“.

Troodon eating baby dinosaurs discovered in Canada

From LiveScience:

Dinosaur Graveyard Suggests Feeding Frenzy

By Livescience Staff

posted: 12 May 2009 03:01 pm ET

Fossilized remains of a feeding frenzy show how a raptor-like dinosaur snacked on baby plant-eating dinosaurs some 73 million years ago in northwestern Alberta.

The discovery of the site took place near Grande Prairie, 280 miles (450 km) northwest of Edmonton, Canada.

Two paleontologists came across a nesting site and found the remains of baby, plant-eating dinosaurs and the teeth of a predator. The researchers matched the teeth to a Troodon, a raptor-like dinosaur about 6 feet (2 meters) in length. The finding could open new doors for dinosaur research on this part of the continent.

“It established that dinosaurs were nesting at this high latitude,” said Tetsuto Miyashita, a paleontology researcher at the University of Alberta. “It also shows for the first time a significant number of Troodons in the area [who] hunted hatchling dinosaurs.”

Over the course of two summers of field work, Miyashita and Frederico Fanti, a paleontology researcher from Italy, began building a theory that Grande Prairie is a “missing link” between known dinosaur species that existed much further to the north and south.

“Prior to this there were no localities with a variety of dinosaurs and other animals between Alaska and southern Alberta,” Myiashita said. The list of new finds for the area includes armoured and thick-headed plant eaters and fossilized freshwater fish and reptiles.

Miyashita noted that this small pocket of previously undiscovered life could have had interactions that lead to the evolution of new species.

“New dinosaurs weren’t created by interbreeding,” Miyashita said. “Having a variety of dinosaurs in one area creates new ecological interactions such as competition for food and predation.

“That can lead to the evolution of a new species.”

One Grande Prairie dinosaur the researchers suspect is a new species is the Duck bill. Miyashita said that, unlike the Duck bill found further north in Alaska, the Grande Prairie has a visible bump or crest on its forehead.

The pair of researchers will go back to Grande Prairie area in 2010 to focus on finding other dinosaur species in the area.

Xixiasaurus henanensis, New Troodontid from China. A new troodontid theropod from the Late Cretaceous of central China, and the radiation of Asian troodontids. 2010. Lü, J.−C., et al. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55 (3): 381–388: here.

Poetry night

This night, 12 May, six poets in a poetry slam.

First on stage, Robin Veen. With poems on silence, roses, and other plants.

Then, Ditmar Bakker, with sonnets.

Yours truly had poems on dogs, the Iraq war, and a ladybug.

Then, after a pause, the first round continued with Pom Wolff. Death and birds were among his subjects.

Then, Dick Keulemans; about children, and love.

Then, Sander Ritman, with one long poem, about love.

Then, four poets in the second round.

First, Robin on the month May. Then, Pom. Then Dick, about his work as a dentist. Then, Sander.

The jury decided that Pom and Robin would proceed to the final.

There, Pom won the jury prize. And Robin won the audience vote. Both will be in the slam poetry next round this fall.