New Madagascar lizard species discovery


Sirenoscincus mobydick. Image courtesy of France's National Centre for Scientific Research

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of unique burrowing lizard discovered in Madagascar

Limbless and nearly eyeless lizard

January 2013. A new species of burrowing lizard has been discovered in Madagascar by an international team led by French researchers. Named Sirenoscincus mobydick in reference to the famous albino sperm whale from Herman Melville’s novel, this species has a combination of unique anatomical features that make it stand out amongst terrestrial vertebrates. At the origin of the diversity of life forms, evolution is a modification of the genetic and morphological characters of species over generations. It means that a species will adapt to the environment in which it lives in order to increase and measure its chances of survival in this environment.

The “Moby Dick” lizard discovered in the dry forests of Northwestern Madagascar is very different from other species of legless lizards. In addition to a lack of skin pigment, as it spends its whole life burrowing underground, it has almost completely lost its eyes. This new species of lizard, which spends most of its life burrowing in sand, also lost its legs.

These works were published late December 2012 in the Journal Zoosystema.

Bahraini photographer tortured


Demonstrators against jailing Bahraini photographer Ahmed Humaidan

From the Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

Bahrain: Renowned Photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan Psychologically Tortured During Interrogation and Denied Access to His Lawyer

Bahrain: Renowned Photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan Psychologically Tortured During Interrogation and Denied Access to His Lawyer

Date: January 19th, 2013

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern over the escalated use of torture against journalists by the authorities in Bahrain. The BCHR received concerning reports on the well-being of Ahmed Humaidan (25 years old) who was kidnapped by fifteen security officers, in civilian clothing, on the 29th of December, 2012. [1]

Humaidan’s family stated that Ahmed was subjected to psychological torture, which is believed to have caused him to mentally break-down. According to his family, Humaidan was forced to stand up for hours while being handcuffed and blindfolded in a very cold room. He informed his family that while he was blindfolded and handcuffed at the CID “Criminal Investigation Department” they forced him to hold an unknown object and interrogators told him that its was a timed bomb set to explode. The unknown object was in his hands for hours. He was constantly monitored during this time, and was screamed at if he moved so much as a finger.

Furthermore, Humaidan informed his family that while being interrogated and forced to confess to a crime that he claims he did not commit, interrogators threatened that they will accuse his brothers of crimes if he did not confess. The interrogators named his brothers and randomly selected charges that they would arbitrarily bring against them.

The BICI report from November 2011 documented similar death threats and psychological torture were widely employed during interrogation sessions. This is a clear indication that the authorities have failed to reform their methods of interrogation. Another example of such psychological torture documented in the BICI report states that:

“On 8 May, the detainee went to court and was cursed and sexually harassed in the car on the way there. He was taken to the side of the court for “executions”. A guard told him, “It is a long time since we executed anyone.” – [5]

Prior to Humaidan’s arrest, he was in hiding since April 2012 after he received news that he was a target for charges that he claims he is innocent of. Some of those charges include “demonstrating illegally” and “using violence to assault police and damage public properties” during the demonstrations in the Sitra province. [4]

His family responded by stating: “Ahmed is a well-known photographer and a member of a number of societies, he doesn’t wear a mask or hide his identity while taking photos because he believes he has the right to practice his work of documenting and his passion for photography”.

Ahmed’s family described the 9 months that he was targeted by the authorities as a nightmare. Masked policemen raided his family home on five separate occasions, mostly between midnight and dawn. Then police also began raiding his relatives’ homes, such as his grandfather and his uncles, in their search for him. For weeks, Ahmed’s family did not hear any news from him and did not know where he slept or lived. Subsequently, he was fired from his job.

Humaidan was denied access to his lawyer, although as of January 19th his lawyer is now present during interrogation. He was scheduled to meet with his lawyer in court on the 17th of January 2012, but the prison authorities did not transport him to this meeting.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the arbitrary arrest of Ahmed Humaidan is solely related to his legitimate work as a photographer and his activity in documenting protests and police attacks, which has led to exposing the severe human rights violations by the authorities in Bahrain.

The BCHR demands:

• The immediate intervention of the international community, human rights groups and the United Nations to put an end to the arbitrary arrests and brutal torture practices employed by Bahrain’s Security Forces.
• For the Bahraini authorities to release photographer Ahmed Humaidan, and other detainees imprisoned for their views and their peaceful work as observers of demonstrations, immediately and unconditionally.
• We demand the Bahraini government to allow the practice of freedom of expression without being targeted for physical and judicial harassment.

Dutch war crimes in Sulawesi, Indonesia


Some of the Indonesian prisoners of Dutch soldiers

By Batara R. Hutagalung, Founder and Chairman of the Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts:

THE COMMITTEE OF DUTCH HONORARY DEBTS

PRESS  RELEASE

The Galung Lombok Massacre. Commemoration 2013

On February 1, 1947, the Dutch special troops, Depot Speciale Troepen massacred more than 700 villagers in the village of Galung Lombok, District of  Polewali Mandar, West Sulawesi. The victims were from the surrounding villages of Galung Lombok, from the District of Polewali Mandar and the District of Majene.

(List of the names of the victims from booth districts, see: http://batarahutagalung.blogspot.com/2012/06/galung-lombok-massacre-list-of.html)

In connection with this horrific humanitarian tragedy, the people of the West Sulawesi Province will hold the 2nd Congress of the People of Mandar on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Assammalewuang Building, Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto, Majene – West Sulawesi.

The Governor of the Province of West Sulawesi, H. Anwar Adnan Shaleh will open the Congress.

Keynote speaker: Salim Mengga, Chairman of the Organisation of the People of Mandar, West Sulawesi

Speakers: 1. Drs. H. Hamzah H. Hasan, Chairman of the Parliament of West Sulawesi.
2. Brig. Gen. (ret.) H. Jawas Jusuf, son of a victim of the massacre.
3. Prof. DR. Edward   L. Poelinggomang, Historian at the Hassanuddin University, Makassar.
4. Mulyo Wibisono, SH., MSc, Chairman of the Advisory Board of The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts.
5. H. Zainuddin, eye witness.
6. Batara R. Hutagalung, Founder and Chairman of The Committee of Dutch Honorary Debts.

To commemorate the killings of more than 700 villagers, on Sunday, February 3, 2013 a commemoration will be held at the Monument of Galung Lombok.

For the first time, a reconstruction of the massacre will be held in a theatrical performance.

More than one thousand people of the Province of West Sulawesi and the Province of South Sulawesi will attend the commemoration.

The Dutch Ambassador to Indonesia, HE Tjeerd de Zwan is also invited to  attend the congress and the commemoration.

Some Dutch sources about the massacre in Galung Lombok, see:

http://indonesiadutch.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-massacre-in-galung-lombok-bloedbad.html

To see the pictures, please click:

http://indonesiadutch.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-galung-lombok-massacre.html

Weblog: http://indonesiadutch.blogspot.com

Dutch apologise for Indonesian executions: here.

Spectacular spider discovery in London Highgate tombs


Meta bourneti spider

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare and spectacular spider find in 150 year-old tombs in London!

First record of orb weaver spider in London

January 2013. A large, rare spider has been recorded for the first time in London – deep in tombs at Highgate Cemetery.

As part of the Wild London Inclusive London project, staff at London Wildlife Trust have been working with the staff and local community of Highgate Cemetery since last summer. During a bat survey in December, Trust staff came across a population of large spiders in the vaults of the Egyptian Avenue at the Cemetery.

Britain’s largest orb weavers

Interestingly, these orb weavers are the species Meta bourneti, the rarer of two species of Meta (Britain’s largest orb weavers). The identity of the spider was confirmed by Edward Milner, Spider Recorder at the London Natural History Society – and it is the very first record of the species in London!

Meta bourneti is particularly fascinating because, due to its origins as a cave-dweller (also known as a cave spider), it requires total darkness. Even an outdoor night time environment is too bright for it, so the spiders never leave the tombs.

A sealed vault provides a perfect breeding ground. Most of these vaults – walk-in tombs designed to house around four coffins – have not been opened for several years. And, because the structures date from the late 1830s, it’s quite possible the spiders discovered have lived in the tombs for at least 150 years without being detected. Meta spiders are amongst the largest spiders found in Britain. They prey on small insects and woodlice. The females produce teardrop-shaped eggsacs, which hang suspended on a silk thread from the roof of their dwelling. When the spiderlings first emerge they are attracted to light, unlike the adults which are strongly repelled by light. This helps the spiderlings find new areas to colonise. Meta bourneti also need constant temperatures and high levels of humidity. Elsewhere in the UK, these spiders can be found in sewers, old cellars and abandoned railway tunnels.

30mm in diameter

The find is made even more exciting by the spider’s large size. Most new spider records are for tiny species, but Meta bourneti measures over 30mm in diameter with leg-span included.

100 adult spiders

In addition, the size of the population at Highgate Cemetery is substantial: A very rough initial estimate puts the number of adults at as many as a hundred. More research will now be carried out.

Tony Canning, London Wildlife Trust Community Outreach Officer for Camden and lead on the project, commented: “The discovery of this important spider population in the heart of London shows just how valuable cemeteries such as Highgate can be in providing refuges for wildlife.”