Rare baboons in Zambia, Africa, new research


This 7 December 2017 video from Zambia says about itself:

An American biologist sets out to study the little-known Kinda baboon species – and this involves getting close to them in their natural habitat. Everything is of interest, from their fur patterns to their mannerisms.

Good wildlife news from Malawi, Africa


This 2 December 2019 video about Malawi says about itself:

How Wildlife Is Bouncing Back In This African Park | National Geographic

When Tizola Moyo started as a ranger in 1993, Majete Wildlife Reserve was devoid of any wildlife. Now, with the help of the park’s rangers and community collaboration, it’s flourishing.

HG Wells, Attenborough, Martians and Tasmanian genocide


BRITISH MADE GENOCIDE: The last four Tasmanian Aborigines of solely Aboriginal descent c1860s. Truganini, the last to survive, is seated at far right

This photo shows the last four Tasmanian Aborigines of solely Aboriginal descent c1860s. Truganini, the last to survive, is seated at far right.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, December 6, 2019

Alien invasions and meetings with Stalin

The BBC TV adaptation of HG Wells’s War of the Worlds has finished. PETER FROST reminds us what a great socialist the author was

LAST SUNDAY saw the screening of the third and final episode of the BBC’s magnificent, if controversial, adaptation of HG Wells’s War of the Worlds.

Wells’s classic tale of Martians invading Earth has long been a favourite of mine. It is a beautifully ironic analogy of British imperialism’s invasions of foreign lands. Gun in one hand, a bible in the other the British invaded so many places in order to colour the globe pink.

Soldiers and missionaries carried a whole arsenal of fatal secret weapons. Viruses and bacteria of diseases like influenza and even the common cold. These were endemic back home but unknown and deadly among folk who had never built up immunities to them.

By coincidence before I watched the first episode of War of the Worlds I watched David Attenborough’s Seven Worlds, One Planet documentary on the animals of Australia.

Attenborough focussed on two Tasmanian species. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial. Once widespread, today it is fighting hard in just a few Tasmanian locations to avoid total extinction.

He also showed amazing black and white footage of the very last Tasmanian tiger, or Tasmanian wolf. The Thylacine, (Thylacinus cynocephalus), was a marsupial wolf and the largest carnivorous marsupial of recent times. That film showed the very last survivor in a private Hobart zoo before the species became totally extinct in 1936.

The documentary however didn’t mention another Tasmanian species that was wiped out by the arrival of the white man. They were the indigenous people of the island — the Tasmanians — a population of Aboriginal people known as the Palawa.

It was the tragic fate of the Palawa that inspired HG Wells to write War of the Worlds. Wells told his brother Frank about the catastrophic effect of the British invasion on indigenous Tasmanians. What would happen, he wondered, if Martians did to Britain what the British had done to the Tasmanians?

So what of the BBC adaptation? I’ll leave most of that to TV reviewers more erudite than me. One widespread complaint was that the BBC adapters had added — horror of horrors — a woman hero.

The series opened with a hero, a journalist called George having left his wife, his cousin, to live with a woman called Amy in a small cottage called Lyndon near Woking, Surrey. Not one fact of the above can be found anywhere in the original book.

However H George Wells, a journalist, did marry his cousin and left her to live with a woman called Amy in a cottage called Lynton in Woking, Surrey.

It was at Lynton that Wells wrote the book and set the start of the Martian invasion in the countryside around the cottage.

What I want to do here is to remind readers what an incredible man HG Wells was. He always described himself as a committed socialist and wrote a wide variety of political writings — pamphlets, political books, newspaper and magazine articles — as well as novels and stories.

He was never afraid to use his novels and stories to advance his political opinions. Wells saw that socialism would abolish class barriers and foster equality of opportunity. Other writers such as Virginia Woolf berated him for using the novel as a vehicle for delivering his political ideas.

His novels took up diverse individual political issues. For instance The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) examined the fierce debates over vivisection. Ann Veronica (1909) deals with the struggle of the suffragettes for the vote for women.

In his Experiment in Autobiography (1934), he explained his political thinking was motivated by an awareness of the “incompatibility of the great world order foreshadowed by scientific and industrial progress with the existing political and social structures.”

For him the question was: how could politics and society catch up with the advances of science and technology? How could social and political institutions become more scientific, more efficient, more ordered?

As early as 1905 he described his ideal socialist society in his book A Modern Utopia. In it he paints a picture of a highly regulated world state where all property is state-owned, and where sexes are equal.

The Fabian Society were keen to have Wells on board. Despite some earlier differences with George Bernard Shaw and Beatrice and Sidney Webb he accepted an invitation to join the Fabians in 1903.

It would not be a happy time for the Fabians. They quickly realised that Wells could be a loose cannon. Openly criticising the Fabians from the beginning, in 1906 he shocked them with a paper called, unambiguously, The Faults of the Fabian.

In the paper Wells called the Fabian Society a talking shop for middle-class socialists, which lacked the appetite for real change. He argued Fabians should aim for mass membership and more radical reforms.

Wells’s love life and his reputed advocacy of free love didn’t go down well either. When In 1908 he advocated a wage for all mothers and the Fabians refused to adopt this as a policy, he left.

What Wells wanted was a single, socialist world state, a great world order, and it was no doubt to study this kind of development that he visited and championed the young Soviet Union repeatedly.

Wells visited Russia in 1914, 1920 and 1934. During his second visit his old friend and fellow writer Maxim Gorky arranged for him to meet and talk with Vladimir Lenin.

In July 1934, on his third visit to what had become the Soviet Union, he interviewed Joseph Stalin for the New Statesman. The interview lasted three hours.

He told Stalin how he had seen “the happy faces of healthy people” in contrast with his previous visit to Moscow in 1920 but he also raised some serious criticisms. Stalin, we are told, enjoyed the conversation.

During the second world war, Wells drafted a Universal Rights of Man that was published in the Times. This document and the advocacy he did around it led to the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times but never won.

He suffered for much of his life from diabetes and in 1934 co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association known today as Diabetes UK.

Winston Churchill was an avid reader of his books, and after they first met in 1902 they kept in touch until Wells died in 1946. Prime minister Churchill famously described the rise of Nazi Germany as “the gathering storm”. He actually took the phrase from War of the Worlds.

War of the Worlds has never been out of print since its original publication in 1897. Films, radio dramas, comic-books, video games, and many television series have been based on it.

The most famous, or infamous, adaptation is the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles. Presented as a live, realistic set of news bulletins interrupting normal programming, supposedly terrified listeners had heart attacks and even committed suicide, though recent scholarship has suggested this is an urban myth.

Perhaps the greatest and most surprising tribute to the author and the book is that of Robert Goddard, the father of American rocketry. Goddard says his interest in rockets and space travel was first inspired by reading War of the Worlds aged sixteen.

Goddard would invent both liquid fuelled and multi-stage rockets that put men on the Moon and sent robotic probes to Mars — HG Wells would have wanted no finer tribute.

Trump’s border xenophobia threatens wildlife


This April 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

How Trump’s border wall would disrupt nature

The environmental impact of border walls, explained.

Read more about the border wall’s effect on wildlife here.

When we talk about the consequences of the proposed wall at the border of the US and Mexico, we usually think in terms of people. But along the political divide are rich pockets of biodiversity, with dwindling populations of species that rely on the ability to move back and forth across the border.

Under the 2005 REAL ID act, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have to comply with various environmental laws that might otherwise slow or halt construction in a sensitive area. Laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — none of those apply to border wall construction.

Several parcels of land, including the National Butterfly Center, a state park, and other areas in the federal wildlife refuge system — are still threatened by wall construction. It could still be years before construction starts in some of these areas — but there’s still a lot we don’t know about the full impact of barriers on biodiversity.

From Washington State University in the USA:

Protected habitats near US borders

December 4, 2019

Summary: The clustering of protected habitats in the Americas near international borders makes many iconic, wide-ranging animals physically dependent on good relations between neighboring countries and wildlife-friendly borders.

Resembling an overgrown house cat with black-tipped ears and a stubby tail, the Canada lynx, a native of North America, teeters on the brink of extinction in the U.S. The few lynx that now roam parts of Washington and the mountainous Northwest survive largely because of a network of protected landscapes that crosses the U.S.-Canada border.

Washington State University environmental researchers believe this transboundary landscape provides not only essential habitat for the wild cats but likely also vital connections with larger lynx populations in Canada.

Wildlife cameras set by WSU researchers recently photographed lynx in the Kettle Mountains of far northeast Washington, close to the Canadian border, and more big cats have been spotted in Glacier National Park near the Montana-Canada line.

Lynx, like their forest-dwelling neighbor the grizzly bear, require many miles of connected, undeveloped terrain to survive. According to new research led by Daniel Thornton, assistant professor in WSU’s School of the Environment, such terrain occurs most frequently throughout the Americas near international borders.

This clustering of protected habitats, including national parks and conservation areas, makes many iconic, wide-ranging animals — lynx, grizzlies, jaguars, tapirs and scarlet macaws among them — physically dependent on good relations between neighboring countries and wildlife-friendly borders.

“Because protected areas are more common near international boundaries, cooperation across borders will be key to maintaining large, connected, resilient protected areas for biodiversity conservation,” Thornton said. “And because border regions are so important in this regard, anything that negatively impacts transboundary cooperation between countries or the ability of animals to move across borders — such as increased security and border structures — could be very problematic for species conservation.”

Cross-border cooperation needed to mitigate climate change, other threats

In addition to politically charged border security measures, climate change and other large-scale landscape alterations pose serious threats to wildlife and habitat preservation throughout the Americas.

Writing in Ecological Applications, Thornton and his research collaborators at the University of Florida and Trent University in Ontario, Canada, said their study results indicate “efforts to conserve species and mitigate effects of long-term stressors, like climate change, will be most successful when planning includes neighboring countries.”

The scientists examined the distribution, connectivity, and integrity of protected areas near the borders of 23 countries across North, South and Central America. They found clustering of these primary habitat areas extending approximately 78 miles from the borderlines.

Connectivity of protected areas is especially important for animals to be able to adjust to habitat loss and fragmentation or to shift their ranges as climate changes, the researchers said. Maintaining these landscape networks will grow increasingly critical where forest depletion is taking a toll.

For example, a cross-boundary approach to managing protected areas could be especially beneficial in the highly-threatened Dry/Wet Chaco ecoregion bordering Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. Rapid deforestation there is dividing habitats, causing negative impacts on numerous species.

Although international conservation efforts are relatively rare in the Americas, transboundary protected areas are expanding globally, leading to more integrated and large-scale conservation projects among neighboring countries, the researchers said. They noted additional benefits from these projects include promoting climate change resilience, sustainable development across borders, cooperative resource management and peace.

Video exposes US Custom and Border Protection’s lies in death of teenage immigrant. By Adam Mclean, 7 December 2019. The gross and criminal negligence shown in the video is not an accident but is in line with the anti-immigrant policy of the Trump administration: here.

Fishing net lights save turtles and dolphins


This June 2019 video from the USA says about itsfelf:

Reducing Bycatch Helps Restore Sea Turtle Populations

Bycatch—when animals are accidentally caught while people are fishing for other species—is the biggest threat to sea turtles in the ocean. This project is helping reduce sea turtle bycatch and restoring their populations after the Deepwater Horizon [BP] disaster.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Lights on fishing nets save turtles and dolphins

December 5, 2019

Placing lights on fishing nets reduces the chances of sea turtles and dolphins being caught by accident, new research shows.

LED lights along the top of floating gillnets cut accidental “bycatch” of sea turtles by more than 70%, and that of small cetaceans (including dolphins and porpoises) by more than 66%.

The study, by the University of Exeter and Peruvian conservation organisation ProDelphinus, looked at small-scale vessels departing from three Peruvian ports between 2015 and 2018, and found the lights didn’t reduce the amount of fish caught from “target species” (ie what the fishers wanted to catch).

The findings support previous research which suggested LED lights reduce bycatch of seabirds in gillnets by about 85%. Gillnets, which can be either anchored or move with the ocean currents, are designed to entangle or snare fish by the gills, and are the largest component of small-scale fisheries in many countries.

“Gillnet fisheries often have high bycatch rates of threatened marine species such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds,” said lead author Alessandra Bielli, who carried out analyses as part of her master’s research at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“This could lead to declines in the populations of these non-target species — yet few solutions to reduce gillnet bycatch have been developed.

“Sensory cues — in this case LED lights — are one way we might alert such species to the presence of fishing gear in the water.”

The researchers placed lights every 10m along the float line of 864 gillnets, pairing each with an unlit net to compare the results.

“The dramatic reduction in bycatch of sea turtles and cetaceans in illuminated nets shows how this simple, relatively low-cost technique could help these species and allow fishers to fish more sustainably. Given the success we have had, we hope other fisheries with bycatch problems will also try illuminating their fishing nets,” said Exeter PhD graduate Dr Jeffrey Mangel, of Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus.

Most of the turtles caught in the study were green turtles (86%), though loggerhead and olive ridley turtles were also caught.

Among the small cetaceans captured, 47% were long-beaked common dolphins, 26% were dusky dolphins and 24% were Burmeister’s porpoises.

“This work has further shown the usefulness of lights on nets to save wildlife. We now need lights that are ever more robust and affordable,” said Professor Brendan Godley, of the University of Exeter.

Rare brown hyenas in Namibian ghost town


This 5 December 2019 video from Namibia says about itself:

This Ghost Town Is Home To Africa’s Rarest Predator | BBC Earth

This elusive brown hyena has made a home in the ruins in the Namib Desert. She’s raised nine generations of cubs, can she provide for her current brood in the most hostile country on the planet?

Golden jackal, first time in Drenthe province


This July 2019 video from Israel is about a golden jackal, a red fox, Egyptian vultures and other birds.

Golden jackals are traditionally an Asian and east European species.

However, they are expanding to the west. They have been spotted in Germany and Denmark.

Dutch daily De Volkskrant reports today that for the first time ever, a golden jackal was seen on a camera trap in Drenthe province.

The species had been seen twice before in the Netherlands, in Gelderland province.