How giraffes behave, new research


This 2017 video says about itself:

Giraffes – Wild Africa | Giraffe Behaviour and Lifestyle Habitat

Everyone loves giraffes, but what do we really know about them?

It’s ironic that the life of one of the world’s most identifiable and popular wild animals, the giraffe, is still something of a mystery. As these giants began to be studied it was revealed that they don’t need to drink in the desert because they can get enough water just eating leaves. Another important finding is the role giraffes play as pollinators and seed spreaders which is vital to maintaining healthy landscapes in many parts of Africa.

From Penn State university in the USA:

Crouching lion, hidden giraffe

Food, predators, and people influence giraffe social behavior

August 29, 2019

The behavior of giraffe groups with calves is influenced more strongly by the risk of predators than is the behavior of all-adult groups, which is mostly determined by the availability of food. An international team of researchers from Penn State and the University of Zürich studied giraffe behavior in a 2,000 square kilometer region of Africa and pinpointed some of the special requirements needed by mother giraffes to keep their babies safe. A paper describing the research, which can help land managers to protect the habitats most important for giraffes, appears online in the journal Oecologia.

“Like all herbivores, giraffes need to find quality food to survive, but also need to avoid lions, or at least see them coming,” said Monica Bond, PhD candidate from the University of Zürich and lead author of the paper. “Giraffes in our huge, unfenced study area can choose from among many different places to spend their time — places with different kinds of trees and bushes, places deep inside protected parks, or places closer to farming towns or ranchlands where people live. There are lots of options in this landscape, including fewer lions outside the parks versus inside. So, we wondered how do these options influence giraffe grouping behavior?”

The study found that groups composed of only adult giraffes were food-focused and not affected by predation risk. These adult groups formed the largest groups — up to 66 individuals — in the rainy season when food is plentiful, but formed smaller groups during the dry season when food is harder to find. In contrast, predation risk was a very important factor influencing groups of giraffes with calves.

“Giraffe calves are vulnerable to being killed by lions and other carnivores, while adults are typically large enough to escape predation,” said senior author Barbara König, professor at the University of Zürich. “We were testing hypotheses about mother and calf behavior to see if their strategy was for calves to hide in thick bushes to avoid predators, be in the open to see predators coming, or be in large groups for many eyes and lower individual risk.”

The researchers showed that in areas with the most lions, groups with calves were found more often in dense bushes than in open grasslands, and that those groups were smaller in size. This observation supports the idea that giraffe mothers and calves have a strategy of hiding in dense bushes, rather than staying in open areas to better see lions or gathering in large groups to dilute the predation risk. Dense bushlands are therefore important habitat for giraffe calves that the researchers suggest should be protected. Some cattle ranchers promote shrub removal to encourage grass for their livestock, but this thinning of brush could be detrimental to giraffes and other animals that share the rangelands.

The study also explored the influence of humans on giraffe grouping behaviors.

“Outside the parks, the human population has been rapidly expanding in recent years,” said Derek Lee, associate research professor of biology at Penn State and co-author of the study. “Therefore, we felt it was important to understand how human presence affected grouping behavior, as natural giraffe habitat is ever-more dominated by people.”

Interestingly, adult females with calves were more likely to be found closer to traditional pastoralist compounds called bomas, made by livestock-keeping, non-farming people.

“We suspect this is because the pastoralists may disrupt predator behaviors to protect their livestock and this benefits the giraffe calves,” said Lee.

Conversely, groups with calves avoided areas close to the larger towns of farming people, suggesting a difference between traditional bomas versus more densely populated human settlements for giraffe mothers seeking food and safety for themselves and their calves.

“We were happy to find that traditional human settlements by ranchers appear to be compatible with the persistence of giraffe populations,” said Bond. “But on the other hand, disturbances around towns likely represent a threat and should be limited in areas favored by giraffes. Masai giraffes are the world’s tallest herbivores and are beloved by people around the globe, but they were recently classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The data in this study can help us know what places are most important for these magnificent animals.”

The study was part of the world’s largest giraffe research project and used data from six years of systematic seasonal surveys across a 2,000 square kilometer area.

Darker male giraffes have been found to be more solitary and less social than their lighter-coloured counterparts, according to new research from The University of Queensland. A long-term study revealed that the colour of male giraffes’ spots more strongly relates to their patterns of social association, rather than their age, as previously thought: here.

Australians stop right-wing goverment’s refugee family deportation


Sri Lankan refugee family thanking supporters in Biloela, Australia (Credit: @HometoBilo)

By Oscar Grenfell in Australia:

Australian government seeks to deport Tamil refugee family to Sri Lanka

30 August 2019

In a major attack on democratic rights, Border Force agents, acting under instruction from the federal Coalition government, bundled a family of Tamil refugees onto a plane late last night to dispatch them to Sri Lanka.

The police-state style operation was only halted in the early hours of the morning after lawyers for the family secured a last-minute federal court injunction, temporarily blocking their deportation. A hearing of the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne today granted a further injunction until 4.00 p.m. next Wednesday. The order, however, reportedly only covers the youngest of the two children, meaning that the threat of the family’s imminent return to Sri Lanka, where they face state persecution, remains.

Lawyers for the family, and their supporters, outlined the brutal actions of immigration authorities in comments to the media.

On Thursday, the husband and wife, Nadesalingam and Priya, were reportedly given two “Notices of Intention to Remove from Australia” for themselves and their daughters, Kopika, who is just four-years-old, and Tharunicaa, who is only two.

In the evening, Border Force agents at the Melbourne detention centre where the family has been held since March 2018 forced them into a van that took them to Tullamarine Airport. The family was then bundled onto a non-commercial flight bound for Sri Lanka.

Priya’s arm was injured when she was forced onto the plane. She was then separated on the flight from her two infant children. They were only taken off the plane when it landed in Darwin to refuel after the injunction was secured last night.

The government’s attack on the family has provoked broad opposition. The attempted deportation was doubtless timed late at night, to prevent protests and other actions.

Despite this, some 50 supporters of the family gathered at the airport within hours of the news that they had been taken from the Melbourne detention centre. Australian Federal Police arrested two women, after they allegedly breached an airport perimeter fence in a desperate bid to block the flight.

This morning, four of the top five Australian hashtags on Twitter were in defence of the family. They included demands that they be allowed to remain in Australia and condemnations of the government.

The hashtag #hometobilo, calling for the family to be returned to the Queensland country town of Biloela, where they were snatched by immigration authorities last year, was the most popular in Australia throughout the morning.

Angela Fredericks, a Biloela resident and campaigner for the family’s freedom, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National this morning: “People in Biloela are in absolute disbelief at the cruelty that occurred last night. The messages I’m getting is people’s disgust at what Australia as a country is doing.”

The government has responded to the outrage by doubling-down on its plans to force the family to Sri Lanka. Speaking on Channel Nine’s “Today” program this morning, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton callously declared: “I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they’re not owed protection by our country.”

The government line is a continuation of its 18-month persecution of the family. On March 5, 2018, at around 5.00 a.m., Border Force officers, police and private Serco guards raided the family’s Biloela home. They dragged the infant children out of bed and gave their parents just 10 minutes to pack before they were taken to an airport and flown to a detention centre in Melbourne, over 1,600 kilometres away.

Residents of the town immediately began a campaign in defence of the family, launching petitions, holding demonstrations and winning mass public support. They noted that Nadesalingam and Priya were highly-respected members of the community, where they had lived and worked for years. The petition they initiated has been signed by more than 200,000 people.

The response was a damning refutation of the claims, incessantly peddled by the political establishment and sections of media, that the bipartisan assault on refugees is supported by workers in rural Australia. The sentiments in Biloela are mirrored in numerous country towns and regional centres, where Australian citizens and immigrants work side by side and confront escalating assaults on their jobs and social conditions.

Despite the widespread support for the family, they have been denied the most basic rights to health care. Last month, four of Tharunicaa’s teeth were surgically removed, and another four were treated, because they had become rotten.

Her mother Priya had complained for months that the two-year-old child was in pain and had been unable to eat solid foods due to her untreated dental conditions. Because of the neglect by the authorities, the baby will spend the next five years without any front teeth, until her adult set begins to grow.

At the same time, a succession of courts refused to uphold the family’s refugee status, claiming that it would be safe for them to return to Sri Lanka.

These assertions are transparently false. Nadesalingam and Priya fled Sri Lanka and came separately to Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013. They sought refuge in the wake of the Sri Lankan government’s almost three-decade communal war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The war concluded in 2009 with the mass murder of Tamil civilians and the imposition of military-rule in the country’s north. Tamil workers and youth continue to be threatened and imprisoned by the police and the security services.

In April the Sri Lankan government imposed a state of emergency that abrogated basic democratic rights following Islamist terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday. These police-state measures are continuing. Amid mounting social tensions, the Colombo political establishment is feverishly seeking to whip-up communal antagonisms.

Other Tamil asylum-seekers who have been returned by Australia to Sri Lanka have faced detention and state persecution, forcing many into hiding. Given the prominence of their case, moreover, Nadesalingam and Priya will inevitably be targeted if they are returned to Sri Lanka. There is every likelihood that the government will make an example of them to intimidate others who are considering applying for asylum. …

What is required is the development of a movement of the entire working class against the reactionary framework of “border protection”, which is used to divide workers along national lines and divert attention from the cause of the deepening social crisis: the capitalist system.

In a deliberately punitive move, immigration authorities transported the family from Darwin, where the flight bound for Sri Lanka had landed, to the offshore Christmas Island detention centre in the Indian Ocean, north of the Australian mainland. The facility was re-opened by the Coalition government earlier this year although there are no other refugees detained there: here.

Australia: Stop the deportation of the Biloela refugee family! Here.

23 new plant species discovered in China


This 2008 video says about itself:

China’s Amazing Flora | National Geographic

From deserts to lush tropical forests, one of China’s richest treasures is its plant life. Join leading botanist and NG Research and Exploration chairman Peter Raven on a tour of China’s regional flora.

From ScienceDaily:

Plant diversity and endemism in China: Unreachable locations and diverse microclimates

August 29, 2019

A new issue of the scholarly, open-access and peer-reviewed journal PhytoKeys focuses on the Chinese biodiversity hotspots and their substantial role in understanding the country’s unique flora. The special issue embarks on a treasure hunt into China’s biodiversity hotspots, including the descriptions of 23 species previously unknown to science and new insights into the ecological diversity of ferns based on their DNA sequences.

In China, biodiversity-rich landscapes vary from the dry Northwest region, through the surrounded by massive mountain ranges of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, to the tropical and subtropical southern China. The combination of remote and hard to reach mountain areas and diverse microclimates promises high levels of endemism.

“With extended collaboration among Chinese scientists and coordination of networks on plant conservation and taxonomy across China, we synthesize a special issue entitled “Revealing the plant diversity in China’s biodiversity hotspots”, to present the latest findings by Chinese botanists, and to update knowledge of the flora for China and adjacent countries,” explained De-Zhu Li, professor of botany at Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), in the editorial.

Among the newly described species, four new members of the African violet family were found from a subtropical forest in Yunnan province in southern China, discovered by researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, CAS and their collaborators. Half of them were found only from a sole population and require further botanical examinations to deploy the conservation priorities, remark the scientists.

In another paper, scientists Yun-Feng Huang and Li-Na Dong and Wei-Bin Xu, representatives of Guangxi Institute of Botany, revealed the discovery of a new species from the primrose family. Found nowhere outside the limestone areas in Liucheng county (Guangxi, China), this rare plant species is currently facing serious threats of extinction because of the fragility and sensitivity of its habitat to the environmental changes associated with the rapid economic development of China.

Another team from the Guizhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and KIB describes a new representative of the parachute flowers. Ceropegia jinshaensis, characterized by the shape and size of its leaves and flowers.

“More conservation efforts are needed in this region to counteract the increasing anthropogenic disturbance and destruction,” state the leading authors from KIB, who discovered a new species of orchid in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot.

The special issue features the description of additional two orchid species, discovered in Motuo, located at the Himalayan border between China, Myanmar and India. The region is well known for its vertical vegetation system, varying from tropical forest to permanent glaciers. Ji-Dong Ya and Cheng Liu from the KIB and Xiao-Hua Jin from the Institute of Botany, CAS underline that the difficult access to the area allows the thriving and diversification of plants.