Kenyan 9-year-old boy saves cattle, lions’ lives


This 2013 video, in English with Dutch subtitles, says about itself:

Richard Turere: My invention that made peace with lions

In the Masai community where 13-year-old Richard Turere lives, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.

By Taco van der Eb, in Mare, weekly of Leiden university in the Netherlands:

The Return of the King

Thursday 20 June 2019

Kenya’s lion population is on the rise, thanks to very close colla­boration with the local people. Mare joins Leiden biologists on a field trip to fit these creatures with collars and transmitters. “Oops… there goes my camera.”

Richard Turere was a nine-year-old Maasai boy when he was put in charge of his family’s cattle on the edge of Nairobi National Park in Kenya. At night, after he had herded the animals together into the boma, the fold, they seemed safe. But the lions jumped over the fence and took them.

He tried different things. Fire will scare them, he thought, but the light made it easier for the lions to see inside the fence. They lost their fear of scarecrows within a day. Then he had an idea: using an old car battery, a switch from a scrapped motor bike and a few bulbs from some broken torches, he rigged up a system of flashing lights. When he hung it round the kraal, it looked as if a cowherd was making his rounds with a torch.

It worked: the lions stayed away. This system of flashing lights is now used in large parts of Kenya and Richard Turere gives TED Talks on his invention called “My invention that made peace with lions.”

That peace was desperately needed. The number of wild lions in Africa dropped to very worrying levels in recent decades; a century ago, there were more than 200,000 – now there are about 32,000. At the turn of the century, there were about 2,700 in Kenya, of which only 2,000 are left. They could be completely extinct within twenty years, and they are already gone from large parts of West, Central and Northern Africa.

Nairobi National Park borders on the southern edge of the Kenyan capital, from which it is separated by a fence. A narrow river marks the other side of the park and wild animals can wade through the shallow, narrow stream, in and out of the park. Small Maasai communities live along that rim and graze their cattle, sheep and goats on the plains during the day.

Now and then, the border is the scene of trouble. If the lions attack the cattle here, the cowherds sometimes take revenge. The Maasai are not afraid of killing the predators with their spears. “Cows are valuable assets”, Hans de Iongh, Professor at Leiden University’s Centre for Environmental Studies (CML), explains. “I can understand the call for revenge if a lion steals one. The battle between man and beast continues, but with less damage nowadays.”

In contrast to other African countries, killing wild animals and selling bush meat is against the law in Kenya. “The traditional rite of passage, when a Maasai warrior must prove his courage by killing a lion, is not allowed any more, and that’s made a huge difference”, De Iongh continues. “Because some of the Maasai have switched to wildlife management, the lion population has grown considerably.”

De Iongh, Kenyan PhD student Francis Lesilau from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and CML PhD student Kevin Groen are doing research in four national parks. “We hope our work will help protect the species. By the late nineties, lions were completely extinct in Amboseli National Par – killed by the Maasai. Gradually, they are returning from the surrounding areas.”

In 2007, Leiden University and Stichting Leo (an organisation for the protection of large carnivores in Africa) and KWS began fitting the lions in Nairobi National Park with transmitters. “In recent years, we have put collars with transmitters on at least twelve. The satellite shows us where the lions regularly leave the park at night and run in to trouble with the locals.”

The programme Living with Lions was launched at the same time; its aim is to train locals, mainly Maasai warriors, as lion rangers. “KWS runs educational programmes too: children learn how valuable this wilderness is, which builds support for management”, says De Iongh.

Evening falls over Nairobi National Park as Nickson Parmisa, chair of the local Maasai committee, herds his sheep and goats safely into the boma. “We’ve installed flashing lights here too. We still lose cattle, but now it’s more often during the day. Our animals drink over there, at the river; the lions are on the other side of the water. If a cowherd does not look out, they’ll seize a sheep or a goat. That’s why we’re glad with the transmitters; it means we know where the lions are, and we can avoid that area.”

It’s still dark when De Iongh, a group of students and PhD student Luka Narisha enter the Meru National Park. Circling vultures give away the presence of a kill. Narisha investigates on foot, disappearing into the undergrowth. It’s not without risk: a lion could be close, guarding its prey. The carcass of a buffalo has already almost been cleared of its flesh. Narisha estimates that it’s been there for a day or two. The students have found what they came for: scat, i.e. lion shit, and start collecting samples.

Two male lions are asleep in the shadow of a small tree in Lake Nakuru National Park. KWS vet Titus Kaitho drives over carefully, takes aim and shoots. The lions jump up, surprised. There’s a feather sticking out of one male’s leg. He manages to draw out the bright pink dart with his mouth, but it’s too late. The tranquillizer is already taking effect and the creature starts to fall asleep.

Everyone rushes out of the cars. A ranger lifts the slumbering animal’s massive head so that Francis Lesilau can fit the collar round its neck. Hans De Iongh and KWS’ Monica Chege fasten the transmitter with nuts and bolts.

It’s already dusk by the time the vet administers the antidote, but the lion is in no hurry to wake up. I want to capture the moment as well as I can and set up a camera on a tripod so I can take pictures via remote control. It’s dark before the lion finally gets up. He heads straight towards my camera and oops…he starts to chew it. Then he runs off with my camera and tripod in his mouth. Three Land Cruisers race after him through the ink-black bush. We can catch glimpses of the speeding creature now and then in the headlights. He only drops the camera and flees once we have him surrounded, following a rowdy chase. A ranger, grinning from ear to ear, picks the device out of the undergrowth.

“I had three today. One scat was really fresh, disgusting, like trying to grab custard.” Messages from Leiden biology students Iris Noordermeer and Dionne Jacobs flood in on the phones via WhatsApp. Nine students, supervised by Kevin Groen, have been collecting data for three months. Groen shares his results with the researchers from Kenya Wildlife Service, Monica Chege, Luka Narisha and Francis Lesilau, who is also associated with Leiden University.

“We count the different kinds of prey, too”, Groen says. “If we don’t want lions snacking outside the park, we must make sure that there is enough prey to keep them happy. We can adapt our strategy to that.” He knows that fences, on the other hand, aren’t always the solution. “In enclosed parks, grazers run into lions and other predators more often, so they are more alert and graze less, which can create a kind of landscape of fear. If there’s less grazing, more trees grow, which certain animals don’t like and that, in turn, affects the population.”

That evening, the researchers hold a “calling station” in the Amboseli National Park. They use an amplifier to play the sound of a prey. As soon as the whimpers of a distressed wildebeest sound across the plain, the first lions prick up their ears. Then more and more join them. The large group gets up quietly and starts walking towards the noise. There are thirteen of them: females, young adults and some young animals that still have spots on their fur. As soon as it’s dark, the researchers return, hoping to find scat here tomorrow. I get a few hours sleep before the alarm goes off at five o’clock.

The next morning, the coast is clear: the lions have been spotted further away. The students fervently fill ampoules and plastic grab bags with the first samples from Amboseli National Park: tell the world on WhatsApp! On the way back, a musty smell starts to fill the car.

Great tits and oak processionary caterpillars, cartoon


Great tits cartoon

This cartoon, from today’s Dutch Metro daily, is by René Lensink.

The caption says, translated: number of oak processionary caterpillars tripled.

In the cartoon, a young great tit says to its mother: Mum, I don’t want these foul caterpillars! I prefer a fat fast food snack!

Great tits are one of few bird species eating caterpillars of oak processionary moths; which can be a nuisance in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Today in the Netherlands, primary schools have been closed and hockey matches postponed because of oak processionary caterpillar trouble.

To be 100% biologically corect, the young great tit‘s belly in the cartoon should have been a paler yellow than the adult’s.

Great tits, blue tits, bats, parasitic wasps, other predators help against oak processionary caterpillars: here.

German nazi, Lübcke murderer, no ‘lone wolf’


This 26 Juni video, from the regional parliament of Bavaria in Germany, by (right-wing) daily Bild, says that during a speech in commemoration of murdered politician Walter Lübcke, most MPs stood up; but not Ralph Müller, representative of the far-right AfD party.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

New arrests in Lübcke murder case, gun storage discovered

In the investigation into the murder of CDU politician Walter Lübcke, two more men were arrested, German media report. The police tracked them down thanks to information from the main suspect in the case, the neo-nazi Stephan E. (45).

One man who has now been arrested is said to have supplied the murder weapon, the other one is said to have brought the murder suspect and the arms dealer in contact with each other.

Stephan E. made a confession after his arrest and then claimed that he had no accomplices. …

It is not known whether they [the recently arrested men] also have links with right-wing extremist circles. There is a clue about this: according to German media, [Hitler age] nazi relics have been seized in the home of one of them.

Weapons storage

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, an underground weapons store was discovered after the confession by E. The newspaper writes that at least five weapons were found there, including an Uzi, and also ammunition. Whether the murder weapon has also been found is not clear. E. did not want to say in the interrogations so far where he had left the weapon.

The newspaper further writes that E. already purchased part of his weaponry in 2014. He was said to have acquired the murder weapon three years ago. The police are now investigating whether the weapons have been used in previous crimes.

Lübcke was killed in early June in the garden of his home near Kassel. The police tracked the suspect through DNA testing. The German Public Prosecution Service treats the case as a political murder with a right-wing extremist background.

E. has stated that he killed Lübcke because of his advocacy of generous reception of refugees. The CDU politician had been threatened for a few years.

Especially in 2015, after LÜbcke had criticized the racist Pegida organisation. Then, this year, the witch hunt started again, especially by ex-MP and AfD supporter Erika Steinbach.

FAR-RIGHT EXTREMIST CONFESSES TO POLITICIAN’S MURDER Close to 10,000 people gathered in central Germany to protest far-right extremism after an avowed neo-Nazi confessed to murdering pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke. [HuffPost]

Woodland restoration helps North American birds


This 2018 video from Maryland in the USA says about itself:

Red-headed Woodpeckers call and drum in the loblolly pines at Blackwater NWR.

From the University of Missouri-Columbia in the USA:

Pine woodland restoration creates haven for birds in Midwest

June 25, 2019

Millions of acres of pine woodlands once covered a large portion of the Midwest. But as humans logged these trees and suppressed natural fires, the woodlands gave way to dense forests with thick leaf litter and tree species that were less fire-resistant, leading to more intense and unpredictable fires as well as the loss of native bird habitats.

Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have shown in a new study that restoration of pine woodlands, through the combined use of intentional, managed fires and strategic thinning of tree density, has a strikingly beneficial effect on a diverse array of birds, some of which are facing sharp declines from human-driven impacts like climate change and habitat loss.

“Some people might hear the words ‘fire’ and ‘thinning’ and immediately imagine charred, flattened wastelands, but that isn’t the reality,” said Melissa Roach, now a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Lab who carried out the study while completing her master’s degree at MU. “Researchers are using these management techniques to restore beautiful open woodlands. In this study, we found that birds that have been struggling elsewhere are positively thriving in these restored areas.”

Frank Thompson, a wildlife biologist with the USDA Forest Service and cooperative professor at MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources with more than two decades of experience studying Midwestern bird populations, worked with Roach to survey 16 bird species in varying degrees of pine woodland density. These woodlands were located in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in the Ozark-Ouachita Mountain Complex. Unlike most studies, Roach returned to the same locations three years in a row to monitor the bird populations over time.

The researchers found that the restored pine woodland created an open canopy and a lush ground layer, and was ideal for allowing a balance between species that prefer less tree density and canopy cover with those that prefer more. Several of the birds that were observed thriving in this habitat are in decline elsewhere, including the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Prairie Warbler. Only five species were impacted negatively by restoration, but these remain abundant in the untreated forests that still dominate the Midwest.

Researchers also isolated two management practices–controlled fires and tree thinning–to determine their individual effects on bird abundance. Eight of the 16 species of birds, including the Red-headed Woodpecker, were more numerous in areas with a history of fires, while four species benefitted from thinning. Taken together, Thompson said the results suggest that restoring pine woodlands in conjunction with prescribed fires and tree thinning can create suitable habitats for a wide range of birds.

“Our study shows that restoration using fire and tree-thinning leaves large, widely-spaced trees for canopy-nesting species while allowing the development of grasses and shrubs for ground or shrub-nesting species,” Thompson said. “Given that we took care to survey birds with diverse breeding requirements, we can see that restored pine woodlands can support many different birds with different needs, whether they nest on the ground, in shrubs or high in the canopies of mature trees. This is a powerful testament to the need to continue restoring these woodlands, which are also rich in plant diversity and likely more sustainable in many cases than closed forests under climate change.”

Anthropogenic noise pollution (ANP) is a globally invasive phenomenon impacting natural systems, but most research has occurred at local scales with few species. Researchers in this study investigated continental-scale breeding season associations with ANP for 322 bird species to test whether local-scale predictions are consistent at broad spatial extents for an extensive group of North American bird species in the continental United States: here.

Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds: here.

Trump wants Dutch cannon fodder in Syria


This 27 June 2019 video by congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, from the first Democratic party candidates’ debate in the USA, says about itself:

Trump‘s chickenhawk cabinet has led us to the brink of war with Iran

This president and his #ChickenhawkCabinet have led us to the brink of war with Iran. I served at the height of the war in Iraq in 2005, a war that took over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniforms’ lives. The American people need to understand that this war with Iran would be far more devastating and costly than the war in Iraq.

The Pentagon in the USA does not really care about US soldiers getting injured or killed.

However, the Trump administration also wants cannon fodder from other countries to fight their wars. Like more British cannon fodder to Afghanistan.

And now, more Dutch cannon fodder.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

US wants military support by the Netherlands ‘on the ground’ in Syria

The United States wants the Netherlands to provide military support for the new mission in Syria. The US American ambassador in The Hague Pete Hoekstra tells the Volkskrant daily that the Netherlands is being asked for “military means on the ground”.

President Trump announced at the end of last year to withdraw the US military from Syria. “We have defeated ISIS, the only reason for me to be there”, he explained. The decision caused much criticism [by even worse warmongers than Trump] of the Trump government, at home and abroad, including from [the right-wing government in] the Netherlands.

A month later, John Bolton, Trump’s security adviser, said that the US will not leave Syria until ISIS is fully defeated and Turkey can guarantee the security of Kurdish YPG militias.

ISIS, a product of George W Bush’s and Tony Blair’s Iraq war, and of the Saudi absolute monarchy, a key ally of the Pentagon, is a pretext for NATO governments to invade the oil-rich Middle East.

As for Bolton‘s condition for leaving Syria: the Turkish government of autocrat Erdogan will not guarantee the safety of Kurdish militias. It fights bloody battles against them, with support by NATO. They consider the Kurds to be ‘terrorists’. And so do the other NATO governments, Erdogan being their NATO ally.

So, there will not be that Turkish guarantee of safety for Kurds. Certainly not as long as there will be the Erdogan regime in Turkey. And even if Erdogan would fall, and a new Turkish government would stop seeing the Kurds as ‘terrorists’, then Bolton, being Bolton, would find a new pretext to keep war in Syria continuing.

Hoekstra emphasizes that military support is necessary for this. “It is not a reconstruction mission.” …

According to Hoekstra, no new UN mandate is needed for the mission.