Gorillas eat nuts, unexpectedly


This 2010 video says about itself:

Gorilla mums

Two first-time mothers care for their babies in Limbe, Cameroon. Both were orphaned as infants when their parents were killed for bushmeat, then sold into the animal trade; fortunately they were then rescued and cared for by the dedicated staff of the Limbe Wildlife Centre. The first mum is called Brighter and her baby is Balinga (male); the second is Akiba with her female baby Atinbi.

From the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany:

Unexpected nut eating by gorillas

August 2, 2019

Scientists have observed a population of western lowland gorillas in Loango National Park, Gabon using their teeth to crack open the woody shells of Coula edulis nuts. The researchers combined direct feeding observations and mechanical tests of seed casings to show that gorillas may be taxing their teeth to their upper limits, year after year, to access this energy rich food source.

Despite their large body size, gorillas are known to have a vegetarian diet consisting almost exclusively of leafy vegetation and fruit. Their teeth are large and high crested when compared to other great apes which is traditionally seen as an adaptation to them spending a large amount of time chewing tough fibrous plant material. In contrast, their teeth are not well adapted to eating hard objects, such as nuts encased in a woody shell, because the high crests on their molar teeth would be at risk of damage. “I was amazed when we first observed the nut eating by the gorillas,” states Martha Robbins, senior author on the paper. “We can not only see it, but also hear it, as the shell gives way to the incredible strength of their bite. Gorillas obviously have large, powerful jaws, but we did not expect to see this because their teeth are not well-suited to such behavior.”

The nuts of Coula edulis are encased in a hard, woody shell that takes around 271 kg of force to crack. Yet for the three months the nuts are available, the gorillas of Loango National Park concentrate their feeding on the energy rich kernels, spending up to three hours a day chomping through nuts. This is surprising as animals that eat very hard food items tend to have strong, rounded molars that act like a pestle and mortar and are very efficient at cracking brittle foods. Like other foliage eaters, gorilla teeth have higher crests providing extra cutting edges for slicing tough material. Under the monumental bite force required to crack nuts, teeth with sharp edges are prone to break meaning they may be worn away quickly. The researchers were surprised to learn that the gorillas at Loango are regularly gambling with their teeth and taxing them close to their predicted mechanical limits. While some primates, like chimps, protect their teeth by using tools to crack open nuts, it appears that the gorillas at Loango National Park rely on brute strength to break through the woody shells of Coula edulis nuts. The fact they do this year after year indicates that gorilla teeth may be stronger than previously thought.

The research also implies that western lowland gorillas have much greater dietary breadth than previously believed. The absence of nut cracking behavior in other populations of western gorillas where the nuts are also present suggests the behavior may be cultural, if gorillas need to observe and learn the behavior from other group members. “The fact that this nut eating is observed in Loango but not in other forests in central Africa where the nut occurs stresses the importance of studying and conserving gorillas throughout the habitat where they are found,” says Robbins.

Discovering that some gorillas routinely partake in nut cracking with their teeth could also influence the way researchers interpret the fossil remains of human ancestors. Despite having teeth seemingly shaped for a leafy diet the study shows that western lowland gorillas are capable of routinely cracking nuts, which has important implications for the ways researchers predict the diet of human ancestors based on the shape of their teeth.

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French Macron bans protests against police brutality


This 3 August 2019 from Nantes in France is about a rally to honour Steve Maia Caniço, killed by police brutality.

Police have arrested scores of protesters.

Police arrest Nantes demonstrator, AFP photo

By Will Morrow:

French government bans protests against police killing of Steve Caniço

3 August 2019

Amid growing outrage across France at the police killing of 24-year-old after-school carer Steve Maia Caniço during a Nantes music festival in June, the Macron administration is banning protests planned for today and branding opposition to police violence as illegitimate.

Yesterday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner endorsed the decision by the Nantes police prefect, Claude d’Harcourt, to ban today’s protest in Nantes against Canico’s death and the ensuing state cover-up of the police’s role. “I understand perfectly the wish to pay tribute, but I don’t know of any hommages that take place through violence”, he said. “They don’t exist. If some people wish to come and sow violence, and … exploit this event, that’s unacceptable.”

On Thursday, the Nantes prefect placed a ban on protests across large areas of the city. D’Harcourt’s statement noted that a “call for a rally” was “circulating on social media”, and declared without any evidence that the event would be “boosted by the presence of ultra-protesters and extremely radical individuals, of the ‘black block’ type”. These unspecified groups’ “illegal actions exceed the framework of the freedom of protest and the characteristics of a movement advancing demands”, it said.

In other words, the vague assertion that “radical” individuals “of the black block type” are attending a demonstration suffices to declare the protest illegal and brand as criminals all those participating. D’Harcourt threatened a police crackdown, telling a press conference Friday that the “government and the interior ministry have given us everything we required.”

Protests have already taken place in multiple cities across the country. In Lille, between 250 and 500 protested against police violence on Friday evening. In Dijon, 200 people marched carrying white balloons. “What happened to Steve moved me a lot”, one marcher in Dijon said. “That could have been anyone, one of my brothers, a friend. We wanted to pay him tribute.”

Steve Caniço’s badly decomposed body was recovered in the Loire river on Tuesday afternoon. He had not been heard from and been presumed drowned since police carried out a military-style raid on a peaceful techno music festival in the early hours of Saturday, June 22. As the panicked crowd of 200 young people fled the police rubber bullets, tasers, attack dogs and truncheons through a haze of tear gas, at least 14 fell seven meters down into the Loire river, located closely adjacent to the festival on the Wilson quay. Caniço, who did not know how to swim, never resurfaced.

'Where is Steve?' flyers at the Place Royale of Nantes in July 2019 (Photo Credit: GrandCelinien)

The Macron administration is giving the police forces vast powers. On one hand, it is brazenly rejecting the widely-known evidence, including video footage, of the police’s culpability for Caniço’s death; on the other, it is taking the event as an opportunity to threaten workers and youth that the police have a green light to kill those who oppose the government’s policies with impunity.

Thus, Macron justified the police’s attack in Nantes on July 20, telling reporters that “one must not forget the context of the violence that our country has been living through”, concluding, “Calm must be restored in the country.”

Immediately following the discovery of Steve’s body on Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gave a press conference to whitewash the police’s role, citing an internal “investigation” conducted by the police themselves, via the General Inspection of the National Police [IGPN], into their own actions. The IGPN report, which had been ordered by the interior ministry as part of its cover-up strategy, was dated July 16, but the government had said nothing of it for two weeks until the discovery of the body.

Steve Caniço

Philippe cited the report’s declaration that there was no proof to “establish a direct link between the intervention of police and the disappearance of Steve Maia Canico.” The report denied that there had been a police “charge” or “offensive leap” against the concert goers. Instead, Philippe sought to blame the organization of the festival itself, which had taken place peacefully until its conclusion, when police attacked. He stated that there were “questions as to the preparation for this event.”

These lies are believed by no one and had been exposed well before they were uttered. One of those who fell in the river after being hit by tear gas, 24-year-old Jeremy, told Mediapart: “My eyes were burning, I felt my foot go into empty space. I couldn’t see anything. I tried to swim, I tread water I held onto a cordon the side, I couldn’t see the others fall but I heard them.”

Eighty-nine people at the concert joined a legal suit against the police following the raid. None of these eye-witnesses were interviewed by the IGPN, which relied exclusively on the testimony of security agents.

One of those who filed charges, Romain, a 33-year-old photographer, testified on Wednesday that he had spent hours in the police headquarters and navigated contradictory “instructions and counter-instructions” from the police in order to file testimony with the IGPN. The police have since claimed they could not include his comments, supposedly because they requested another statement from him via email, which Romain says he never received.

Romain was at the event with his girlfriend and her younger sister. “I didn’t even see the police uniforms at the beginning,” he said. What he originally thought was a smoke bomb as part of the concert display “landed at my feet. All of a sudden, we suffocated, and we knew it was tear gas. When I could see again, everyone was running everywhere. I looked for my friend and saw her green dress running toward the Loire. I ran after her and caught her arm 50 cm from the Loire. We turned to get to cover. It’s horrible but at that moment, we crossed people running toward the river. I cried, ‘Don’t go, the Loire is there.’ We couldn’t do anything. I heard the sound of the bodies falling into the water.” The two of them eventually found the woman’s younger sister lying in a state of shock on the ground.

Cell phone footage of the event, compiled in a video by Liberation, shows that the police tear gassing and charge continued as young people screamed that the river was behind and that people had already fallen in. …

The Socialist Party’s Martine Aubry declared that “we cannot be in a country where we doubt the police, it is not possible. It’s truly horrible that in our country, we must wait so many days to find a body and that today there are so many questions to which the official investigations don’t respond.”

Protesters marched in cities across France against police violence and to commemorate Steve Maia Caniço, who drowned in the Loire River in Nantes amid a violent police crackdown on a music festival. Anger is erupting against the government’s unabashed defense of the deadly, unprovoked violence of the police: here.

Wolves, cougars, elk in Yellowstone, USA


This video says about itself:

Fearless predator – Cougar attack bears, deer and jaguar

Puma (mountain lion, cougar) is a predator of the Puma [genus] of the cat family. It lives in North and South America.

From the S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University in the USA:

Fearing cougars more than wolves, Yellowstone elk manage threats from both predators

August 2, 2019

Wolves are charismatic, conspicuous, and easy to single out as the top predator affecting populations of elk, deer, and other prey animals. However, a new study has found that the secretive cougar is actually the main predator influencing the movement of elk across the winter range of northern Yellowstone National Park.

The study highlights that where prey live with more than one predator species, attention to one predator that ignores the role of another may lead to misunderstandings about the impact of predators on prey populations and ecosystems. It also offers new insight into how prey can use differences in hunting behavior among predators to maintain safety from all predators simultaneously.

Utah State University researchers Michel Kohl and Dan MacNulty co-led the study, published in Ecology Letters, with Toni Ruth (Hornocker Wildlife Institute and Wildlife Conservation Society), Matt Metz (University of Montana), Dan Stahler, Doug Smith, and P.J. White (Yellowstone National Park). Their work was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Utah State University as part of Kohl’s doctoral research. The study was based on long-term data from the Park’s wolf and elk monitoring programs and Ruth’s cougar research, which is detailed in a forthcoming book from the University Press of Colorado.

The team revisited global positioning system (GPS) data from 27 radio-collared elk that had been collected in 2001-2004 when numbers of wolves and cougars were highest. Kohl and MacNulty combined the elk GPS data with information on the daily activity patterns of GPS-collared cougars and wolves and the locations of cougar- and wolf-killed elk to test if elk avoided these predators by selecting for ‘vacant hunting domains’, places and times where and when neither predator was likely to kill elk.

“Cougars hunted mainly in forested, rugged areas at night, whereas wolves hunted mainly in grassy, flat areas during morning and at dusk” said Kohl, lead author of the paper and now an assistant professor at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia in Athens. “Elk sidestepped both cougars and wolves by selecting for areas outside these high-risk domains, namely forested, rugged areas during daylight when cougars were resting, and grassy, flat areas at night when wolves were snoozing.”

Recognizing that cougars and wolves hunted in different places and at different times allowed the researchers to see how elk could simultaneously minimize threats from both predators. “Had we ignored the fact that these predators were on different schedules, we would have concluded, incorrectly, that avoiding one predator necessarily increased exposure to the other,” said MacNulty, who is an associate professor in USU’s Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center. “Movement out of the grassy, flat areas and into the forested, rugged areas to avoid wolves did not result in greater risk from cougars and vice versa because these predators were active at different times of the day.”

Despite the compatibility of elk spatial responses to cougars and wolves, Ruth, who is now executive director of the Salmon Valley Stewardship in Salmon, Idaho, cautioned that “some adult elk still end up on the cougar and wolf menu, with those in poor condition during winter being most at risk.”

Nevertheless, “the findings help explain why we observe wolves, cougars, and elk all coexisting and thriving on the Yellowstone landscape” said Stahler, who leads the current study of cougars in the Park. He notes that the ability of elk to coexist with wolves and cougars is consistent with their “long, shared evolutionary history”.

More surprising, however, was that cougars, not wolves, exerted the most pressure on elk habitat selection. “Wolves are often the presumed or blamed predator for any change in a prey population, numerical or behavioral,” said Smith, who leads the Park’s wolf program. “Our research shows that this is not necessarily true, and that other large predators in addition to wolves need to be considered.”

“Despite the fact that most prey species live in habitats with multiple predators, the majority of research on predator-prey interactions focuses on a single predator species,” added Betsy von Holle, program director for the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology. “The novelty of this research is the simultaneous study of multiple predator species, revealing the complexity of predator avoidance behavior by the prey.”

Good northern wheatear nesting news


This is a 2015 northern wheatear video.

This week, Dutch site waarneming.nl reports that the 2019 nesting season was good for wheatears in the Netherlands.

After many years of decline, the number of northern wheatear nesting couples rose from 28 in 2018 to 42 in this year in the Aekingerzand nature reserve in Drenthe province.

In the coastal sand dunes near Den Helder, the number went from 25 to 42.

In the dunes in the northern part of Texel island, from 29 to 37.

Also the numbers of eggs per nest increased. So did the numbers of second broods. There was few predation. About two hundred young northern wheatears fledged in 2019, double the usual number.

Probable causes of these good result are conservation measures. And drought killing much grass, as wheatears don’t like dense grass.