Chimpanzee conservation also helps other animals


This 2015 video is about the Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal.

From Purdue University in the USA:

In developing nations, national parks could save endangered species

March 7, 2019

Summary: A new study of animal populations inside and outside a protected area in Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park, shows that protecting such an area from human interaction and development preserves not only chimps but many other mammal species.

The West African chimpanzee population has declined by nearly 80 percent in recent decades. Habitat loss is threatening their livelihoods across the continent, and especially in Senegal, where corporate mining has started eating up land in recent years.

The geographical distribution of West African chimps overlaps almost perfectly with gold and iron ore deposits, and unfortunately for the chimps, mining is a key piece of the country’s development strategy, said Stacy Lindshield, a biological anthropologist at Purdue University.

Extractive industries are already improving people’s livelihoods and promoting investment and infrastructure development, and researchers are trying to find a way to protect Senegal’s chimps without surrendering these benefits. Many of Earth’s animal species are now dying off at accelerated rates, but as human’s closest living relatives, they tend to tug at our heart strings. Chimps are scientifically important, too — because they participate in collective activities such as hunting and food-sharing, they’re often studied by social science researchers.

A new study of animal populations inside and outside a protected area in Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park, shows that protecting such an area from human interaction and development preserves not only chimps but many other mammal species. The findings were published in the journal Folia Primatologica.

“We saw the same number of chimpanzee species inside and outside the park, but more species of carnivores and ungulates in the protected area,” Lindshield said.

Although habitat loss is the biggest threat to West African chimps, they’re sometimes killed for meat. This is uncommon in Senegal, where eating chimpanzee meat is a taboo — people think chimps are too similar to humans to eat. But this isn’t the case in other West African countries, where researchers might see a bigger difference in chimp populations inside and outside protected areas. National parks could be especially effective at protecting chimps in these nations.

The difference in the number of species of carnivores and hooved animals (known as ungulates), inside and outside the park was stark — their populations were 14 and 42 percent higher in the park, respectively. This is in sharp contrast with what Lindshield was hearing on the ground in Senegal: There’s nothing in the park; all the animals are gone.

“There were qualitative and quantitative differences between what people were telling me and what I was seeing in the park,” she said. “Niokolo-Koba National Park is huge, and the area we study is nestled deeply in the interior where it’s difficult for humans to access. As a consequence, we see a lot of animals there.”

Hunting practices and human-carnivore conflict are two big reasons for ungulates thriving inside the park. These animals are frequently targeted by hunters, and some carnivore species turn to livestock as a food source when their prey species are dwindling, creating potential for conflict with humans. Because the two sites are relatively close geographically and have similar grassland, woodland and forest cover, the researchers think human activity is the root of differences between the two sites.

Lindshield’s team conducted basic field surveys by walking around the two sites and recording the animals they saw. They also installed camera traps at key water sources, gallery forests and caves to record more rare and nocturnal animals.

“We’re engaging in basic research, but it’s crucial in an area that’s rapidly developing and home to an endangered species,” Lindshield said. “This provides evidence that the protected area is effective, at least where we are working, counter to what I was hearing from the public. The management of protected areas is highly complex. Myriad challenges can make management goals nearly impossible, such as funding shortfalls or lack of buy-in from local communities, but I think it’s important for people to recognize that this park is not a lost cause; it’s working as it’s intended to at Assirik, especially for large ungulates and carnivores.”

Lindshield hopes her future studies will uncover not only which species exist in each site, but population sizes of each species. This metric, known as species evenness, is a key measure of biodiversity.

Data from the unprotected area in Senegal was collected by Jill Pruetz of Texas State University. Stephanie Bogart and Papa Ibnou Ndiaye of the University of Florida, and Mallé Gueye of Niokolo-Koba National Park, also contributed to this research. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Leakey Foundation, Rufford Foundation, Primate Conservation Inc., Jane Goodall Research Center at University of Southern California, Purdue and Iowa State University.

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Trump threatens to jail Chelsea Manning again


This 1 October 2018 British TV video says about itself:

Chelsea Manning interview on Trump, running for office, and prison life

Chelsea Manning gives her opinion that it’s time to “dismantle many of these authoritarian systems that we assume we need.” There’s no love lost between her and President Trump, who has called her an “ungrateful traitor”.

By Mike Head:

US government threatens to jail whistleblower Chelsea Manning for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks

8 March 2018

In a heroic and principled stand in defence of fundamental democratic rights, former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning yesterday refused to answer questions before a grand jury in Virginia. Manning stood firm and refused to incriminate WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange—or any other media organisation and individual—over her courageous 2010 disclosure of hundreds of thousands of documents that exposed US war crimes and diplomatic conspiracies.

For refusing to give evidence that prosecutors hope to use in their prosecution of Assange, Manning has been ordered to appear at a contempt hearing today. She could be jailed again, barely two years after being released from close to seven years’ incarceration on espionage-related charges.

Manning’s bravery underscores how much is at stake in defending Assange against the intensified operation by the Trump administration and the US Justice Department to railroad the WikiLeaks leader to jail, or onto death row, for broadcasting to the world’s people the truth—which was only brought into the light of day by Chelsea Manning—about US militarism and foreign policy.

The threat to jail Manning marks a further escalation of Washington’s drive to force Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was granted political asylum in 2012. The Trump administration is moving to publicly unveil charges against him and demand the Ecuadorian and British governments comply with a warrant to extradite him to the US on false allegations of espionage or conspiracy.

Joseph Kishore, the national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party in the US, has issued the following statement:

“The Socialist Equality Party unequivocally condemns the US government’s vindictive and criminal persecution of Chelsea Manning.

“Chelsea suffered solitary confinement, abuse and torture, and over six years of imprisonment for letting the American and world population know the truth. Yesterday, she once again stood firm to fundamental democratic principle and refused to assist the Trump administration in its vendetta to falsely incriminate WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. She is a heroic figure and she must be defended.

“Working people all over the world will never forget Chelsea’s courageous exposure, at vast personal cost, of the crimes of American imperialism. Amid a growing global strike wave, the Socialist Equality Party will do everything in its power to mobilize the working class to defend Chelsea, and free Julian Assange and all other class war prisoners.”

Although Manning was offered immunity in exchange for testimony—a device employed to entice witnesses to assist prosecutors—she refused to answer any of the Trump administration’s questions, citing her rights under the US Constitution.

Manning, in a press release issued after the hearing, stated:

“Yesterday, I appeared before a secret grand jury after being given immunity for my testimony. All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013. I responded to each question with the following statement: ‘I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.’

“On Friday, I will return to federal court in Alexandria, Virginia for a closed contempt hearing. A judge will consider the legal grounds for my refusal to answer questions in front of a grand jury. The court may find me in contempt, and order me to jail.

“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

A more principled and heroic statement could not be expected of anyone.

Judge Claude M. Hilton could now remand Chelsea Manning, after all she has suffered, into custody as a recalcitrant witness. She could be held in contempt and jailed for as long as 18 months, or until the end of the life of the grand jury.

Earlier this week, Hilton, who was appointed to the Federal District Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, rejected motions by Manning’s attorneys to quash the subpoena or make the full record of her testimony public.

Horrified by what she saw of US military and diplomatic crimes following her deployment to Baghdad in 2009, Manning leaked a vast array of “classified” documents to WikiLeaks. These included the Collateral Murder video showing US helicopter gunships shooting down civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists.

During her 13-week court-martial in 2013, Manning testified that she acted on her own, anonymously, to send documents to WikiLeaks. She refused to incriminate Assange or WikiLeaks, despite the brutal treatment she was forced to endure. This included prolonged solitary confinement and other abuses that were condemned internationally as torture.

Manning was convicted by the military court under the US Espionage Act for leaking portions of 227 documents. With Barack Obama in the White House, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison—more time than anyone has ever received for disclosing classified US government records.

In one of his last acts, Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in 2017, but refused to grant her a pardon, ensuring that her conviction remained on her record. A spokesman for Trump, who was about to take office, called the decision to release Manning “disappointing” and “troubling”.

The renewed persecution of Manning confirms that the vendetta against Assange has nothing to do with the fabricated claims that WikiLeaks colluded with the Russian government to secure Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Manning was subpoenaed by the same Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia that was convened in 2010 to decide whether to file charges against Assange over WikiLeaks’ publication of the Manning leaks.

Various sources have reported that the Grand Jury did charge Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act and sealed the indictment. A court document dated August 22, 2018, apparently mistakenly divulged in an unrelated case, specifically stated the case was sealed in order to “keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

Another judge, in the same court, this year declined a reporters’ group motion to unseal those charges. The federal prosecutor who tried that case, Gordon D. Kromberg, also requested the subpoena compelling Manning’s testimony.

David House, who reportedly befriended Manning in 2010, testified under immunity before the grand jury last July. He said he, too, was asked about the war logs Manning shared with WikiLeaks.

The Obama administration apparently pulled back from charging Assange over Manning’s disclosures because some of the material was published in partnership with leading corporate media organs, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Under Trump, the US authorities are seeking to overcome that problem by coercing Manning into saying that WikiLeaks conspired in the leaking of the documents.

The threat to Manning is part of a bipartisan offensive against freedom of speech, aimed at suppressing critical and independent journalism. She has taken an essential stand, in contrast to the corporate media outlets and pseudo-left groups that have turned cynically against Assange.

Manning’s plight underscores the importance of the Socialist Equality Party’s campaign to demand that the Australian government immediately intervene to secure the right of Assange—an Australian citizen—to leave the Ecuadorian embassy and return to his home country, with guaranteed protection from any US extradition request.

Support is growing. Hundreds of people participated in a demonstration in Sydney last Sunday to demand Assange’s freedom, which won the endorsement of a number of well-known intellectuals and artistic figures, including Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, journalist John Pilger, and civil rights activist Stuart Rees.

The working class must come to the defence of Manning and Assange. As the line-up in Washington against them demonstrates, essential democratic rights—including freedom of speech—can be defended only by the independent political mobilisation of the working class in opposition to the pro-capitalist political parties and capitalist state.

We appeal to our readers in Australia and the UK to take part in the demonstration called to free Assange and now, defend Chelsea Manning, this Sunday, March 10, at the State Library in Melbourne at 1:00 p.m. and in the vigil outside Ecuador’s London embassy on the same day, starting at 3:00 p.m. in London.

The author also recommends:

US court upholds subpoena of whistleblower Chelsea Manning
[6 March 2019]

The political lessons of the March 3 Free Assange rally
[5 March 2019]

Chelsea Manning jailed for refusal to testify against WikiLeaks: here. And here.

Free Saudi women’s rights activists


Jailed Saudi activists for the right of women to drive cars

From the Gulf Institute for Human Rights:

HRW: UN: A Call to Free Saudi Women Activists

March 07,2019

A joint statement by 36 countries on March 7, 2019 calling on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record was a landmark step toward justice and accountability, Human Rights Watch said today.

It was the first time ever that governments, members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, have criticized their fellow member, the Saudi government.

At least some of these governments are rather Johnny-come-latelies and may stand accused of hypocrisy. Eg, the governments of the United Kingdom and of Belgium helped the Saudi regime to get into the the United Nations Human Rights Council and into the United Nations Women’s Rights Commission. Both governments still help selling British weapons and Belgian weapons to the Saudi absolute monarchy and their partners in war crimes, the UAE absolute monarchy, to kill Yemeni civilians. Will they stop doing that now? And will the French Macron government, another co-signatory, now at last stop selling French weapons to the dictatorial kingdom?

The statement, delivered by Iceland at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, condemns the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, urges an end to Saudi Arabia’s use of counterterrorism regulations to target dissidents and human rights activists, and calls for the release of Saudi women’s rights activists detained beginning in May 2018.

Under the government that is effectively headed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi authorities have intensified a coordinated crackdown on dissidents, human rights activists, and independent clerics. Countries at the Human Rights Council should support the joint statement, which is a rare and significant opportunity to press Saudi Arabia over its human rights abuses. The statement remains open for further endorsement until at least the end of the session on March 22.

“The joint statement to Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council sends a strong message to Saudi authorities that it needs to end its abusive treatment of activists and dissidents,” said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch. “Council member states should stand in solidarity with detained Saudi activists, press for their immediate release and maintain scrutiny of Saudi Arabia until there is substantial improvement in its rights record and meaningful reform.”

The joint statement reflected concerns also raised by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who in her report to the council on March 6 noted that the persecution of peaceful activists clearly contradicts the spirit of Saudi Arabia’s proclaimed new reforms, and urged the release of the women’s rights defenders.

On May 15, 2018, just weeks before the Saudi authorities lifted the ban on women driving on June 24, authorities began arrests of prominent women’s rights activists

the activists for the right of women to drive cars, who had made the lifting of the ban possible

and accused several of them of grave crimes like treason that appear to be directly related to their activism.

On March 1, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecution agency announced that the women’s rights activists would face charges and be put on trial. Human rights organizations began reporting in November that Saudi interrogators tortured at least four of the women, including by administering electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, and sexually harassing and assaulting them.

Saudi Arabia came under intense criticism in 2018 following the October 2 murder of the prominent Saudi journalist Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents. After weeks of denials and obfuscations, Saudi Arabia admitted to Khashoggi’s murder and announced the arrest of 18 people

18 scapegoats, to avoid arresting the crown prince

and the firing of senior officials. The Public Prosecution eventually charged 11 people in connection with the murder, including five against whom it is seeking the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia should cooperate fully with Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, on her inquiry into the Khashoggi murder. Callamard will present the report on her inquiry to the council at its next session, in June.

“As a member of the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia is required to maintain the ‘highest standards of human rights’, yet there is a massive gap between the country’s dismal rights record and the international standards it is sworn to uphold,” Fisher said. “Council members should be subject to more scrutiny, not less, and we urge the council to keep Saudi Arabia on its agenda until we see an end to the brutal targeting of defenders and dissidents, and genuine reform.”

The following States supported the joint statement:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

103 new beetle species discovered in Indonesia


This 29 May 2016 video in German with English subtitles is about very big Dorcus titanus, aka giant stag beetles, from Sulawesi island in Indonesia. This male is 94 millimeter.

Now, to much smaller beetles from Sulawesi.

From ScienceDaily:

Star Wars and Asterix characters amongst 103 beetles new to science from Sulawesi, Indonesia

March 7, 2019

Summary: A total of 103 new species of weevils are added to the genus Trigonopterus from Sulawesi. Whereas prior to the study, there had only been a single species from this group documented on the Indonesian island. Having remained undercover due to their tiny size (2-3 mm) and close superficial resemblance, a team of scientists managed to identify the novel species thanks to modern DNA analyses.

The Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been long known for its enigmatic fauna, including the deer-pig (babirusa) and the midget buffalo. However, small insects inhabiting the tropical forests have remained largely unexplored.

Such is the case for the tiny weevils of the genus Trigonopterus of which only a single species had been known from the island since 1885. Nevertheless, a recent study conducted by a team of German and Indonesian scientists resulted in the discovery of a total of 103 new to science species, all identified as Trigonopterus. The beetles are described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

“We had found hundreds of species on the neighboring islands of New Guinea, Borneo and Java — why should Sulawesi with its lush habitats remain an empty space?” asked entomologist and lead author of the study Dr Alexander Riedel, Natural History Museum Karlsruhe (Germany).

In fact, Riedel knew better. Back in 1990, during a survey of the fauna living on rainforest foliage in Central Sulawesi, he encountered the first specimens that would become the subject of the present study. Over the next years, a series of additional fieldwork, carried out in collaboration with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), managed to successfully complete the picture.

“Our survey is not yet complete and possibly we have just scratched the surface. Sulawesi is geologically complex and many areas have never been searched for these small beetles,” said Raden Pramesa Narakusumo, curator of beetles at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), Indonesian Research Center for Biology.

Why have all these beetles remained overlooked for so long?

Unlike the all-time favourite stag beetles or jewel beetles, tiny beetles that measure no more than 2-3 millimeters seem to have been attracting little interest from entomologists. Their superficial resemblance does not help identification either.

In fact, the modern taxonomic approach of DNA sequencing seems to be the only efficient method to diagnose these beetles. However, the capacity for this kind of work in Indonesia is very limited. While substantial evidence points to thousands of undescribed species roaming the forests in the region, there is only one full-time position for a beetle researcher at the only Indonesian Zoological Museum near Jakarta. Therefore, international collaboration is crucial.

103 beetle names

Coming up with as many as 103 novel names for the newly described species was not a particularly easy task for the researchers either. While some of the weevils were best associated with their localities or characteristic morphology, others received quite curious names.

A small greenish and forest-dwelling species was aptly named after the Star Wars character Yoda, while a group of three species were named after Asterix, Obelix and Idefix — the main characters in the French comics series The Adventures of Asterix. Naturally, Trigonopterus obelix is larger and more roundish than his two ‘friends’.

Other curious names include T. artemis and T. satyrus, named after two Greek mythological characters: Artemis, the goddess of hunting and nature and Satyr, a male nature spirit inhabiting remote localities.

Additionally, the names of four of the newly described beetles pay tribute to renowned biologists, including Charles Darwin (father of the Theory of Evolution), Paul D. N. Hebert (implementer of DNA barcoding as a tool in species identification) and Francis H. C. Crick and James D. Watson (discoverers of the structure of DNA).

Six-legged déjà vu

Back in 2016, in another weevil discovery, Dr Alexander Riedel and colleagues described four new species from New Britain (Papua New Guinea), which were also placed in the genus Trigonopterus. Similarly, no weevils of the group had been known from the island prior to that study. Interestingly, one of the novel species was given the name of Star Wars’ Chewbacca in reference to the insect’s characteristically dense scales reminiscent of Chewie’s hairiness. Again, T. chewbacca and its three relatives were described in ZooKeys.

On the origin of Trigonopterus weevils

Sulawesi is at the heart of Wallacea, a biogeographic transition zone between the Australian and Asian regions. The researchers assume that Trigonopterus weevils originated in Australia and New Guinea and later reached Sulawesi. In fact, it was found that only a few populations would one day diversify into more than a hundred species. A more detailed study on the rapid evolution of Sulawesi Trigonopterus is currently in preparation.

Future research

To help future taxonomists in their work, in addition to their monograph paper in ZooKeys, the authors have uploaded high-resolution photographs of each species along with a short scientific description to the website Species ID.

“This provides a face to the species name, and this is an important prerequisite for future studies on their evolution,” explained the researchers.

“Studies investigating such evolutionary processes depend on names and clear diagnoses of the species. These are now available, at least for the fauna of Sulawesi.”