New ‘Star Wars’ ape species discovered in China


This video from India says about itself:

Conservation of the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon

6 June 2011

Now wouldn’t that call make just the perfect mobile ring tone?

In the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh‘s Mehao national park, Wilderness Films India sent a team to film the Hoolock Gibbon in its natural habitat.

The Hoolock gibbon or Uluk, belongs to the ape family. It is only found in the deciduous forests of China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India. The average lifespan of these gibbons is thirty years in captivity. A male Hoolock Gibbon is recognized by his black fur and a white strip above his eyes while the female gibbon is recognized by her pale fur with shades of tan.

The gibbons move around by using their arms. They are mostly found in trees and rarely come onto the ground. Hoolock gibbons are primarily omnivorous and consume various types of plants, insects and birds’ eggs. The various activities of the gibbon during the day include feeding, resting, foraging, travelling with the rest of the troupe. They indulge in other activities such as calling for territorial behavior and play. Territories are defended through disputes usually led by the group’s adult male.

Intergroup encounters occur often and usually consist off vocalisation and counter vocalization with the males chasing one another. Grooming is often seen during the group’s social activities and it serves in the maintenance of social bonds. Mating usually occurs during the summer season with births during the winter.

Gestation occurs for around 6-8 months followed by the birth of an offspring. For the first two months, the infants cling on to their mother’s belly. The infant starts showing signs of independence at the age of 6-8 months. However, the bond is so strong between the mother and child that the infant continues to sleep with the mother until the birth of a new infant. The infants emigrate from their group when they become mature adults.

Out of all the gibbons, the Hoolocks have the most haunting call. The calls of these Gibbons are not sex-specific, a fact that differs them from all other species of gibbons. Calls are usually uttered during long call outs or duels and occur mainly in the morning. Once calling commences, call outs are often responded to by other hoolock gibbons throughout the forest. Functions of calling include the maintenance of the pair bond, mate attractions, defense, mate solicitation, territorial reinforcement and the maintenance of social ties.

Some of the proposed steps for conservation of the gibbons are: restoration of degraded landscapes, combining efforts made by the government industry, NGOs and communities in Northeast India. Increasing and nationalizing existing protected area network and protected area management. It is important to ensure the enforcement of these goals for the protection of this incredible species and to prevent them from disappearing from the surface of the earth.

This video was researched by Saurabh Bhatia of The Shri Ram School, Gurgaon, during a summer internship with WFIL, in May-June 2011.

From the BBC:

‘Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species

By Rebecca Morelle, Science Correspondent, BBC News

4 hours ago

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

Dr Sam Turvey, from the Zoological Society of London, who was part of the team studying the apes, told BBC News: “In this area, so many species have declined or gone extinct because of habitat loss, hunting and general human overpopulation.

“So it’s an absolute privilege to see something as special and as rare as a gibbon in a canopy in a Chinese rainforest, and especially when it turns out that the gibbons are actually a new species previously unrecognised by science.”

Hoolock gibbons are found in Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar. They spend most of their time living in the treetops, swinging through the forests with their forelimbs, rarely spending any time on the ground.

But the research team – led by Fan Peng-Fei from Sun Yat-sen University in China – started to suspect that the animals they were studying in China’s Yunnan Province were unusual.

All hoolock gibbons have white eyebrows and some have white beards – but the Chinese primates’ markings differed in appearance.

Their songs, which they use to bond with other gibbons and to mark out their territory, also had an unusual ring.

So the team carried out a full physical and genetic comparison with other gibbons, which confirmed that the primates were indeed a different species.

They have been given the scientific name of Hoolock tianxing – but their common name is now the Skywalker hoolock gibbon, thanks to the scientists’ taste in films.

Dr Turvey said the team had been studying the animals in the Gaoligongshan nature reserve, but it was not easy.

“It’s difficult to get into the reserve. You have to hike up to above 2,500m to find the gibbons. That’s where the good quality forest usually starts – everywhere below there has been logged.

“Then you have to wake up really early in the morning and you listen out for the haunting song of the gibbons, which carries in the forest canopy.

“And when you hear it, you rush through the mud and the mist, and run for hundreds of metres to try and catch up with these gibbons.”

The researchers estimate that there are about 200 of the Skywalker gibbons living in China – and also some living in neighbouring Myanmar, although the population size there is currently unknown.

The team warns that the primates are at risk of extinction.

“The low number of surviving animals and the threat they face from habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and hunting means we think they should be classified as an endangered species,” said Dr Turvey.

In response to the news, actor Mark Hamill – the original Luke Skywalker – said on Twitter that he was so proud to have a new jungle Jedi named after his character.

Film parody of racist French National Front party


This 30 December 2016 French video is the trailer of the film Chez Nous, which will be in French cinemas on 22 February 2017.

The film is a parody of the racist French National Front party and its leader Marine Le Pen.

Cultural icons who died in 2016


This 28 December 2016 video is called The Cultural Icons Left Behind in 2016. About Prince, George Michael, Afeni Shakur, Leonard Cohen and others.

The death of actress Carrie Fisher on Tuesday at the relatively young age of 60, several days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles, has evoked expressions of grief from her many fans. The sadness over Fisher’s passing is compounded by the sudden death, just one day later, of her 84-year-old mother, the well-known actress Debbie Reynolds: here.

Seasons, new wildlife film


This video says about itself:

Directed by: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

Seasons: Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Documentary

On 26 December 2016, I went to see the wildlife film Seasons.

The film aims at showing the history of wildlife and its interactions with humans from the last ice age till today.

The film says that in the northern half of Europe during the last ice age, the Weichselian ice age, there were not really seasons. There was winter for 80,000 years.

The film shows that with footage of animals adapted to cold: a snowy owl, reindeer and muskoxen, which still live in Norway.

About 12,000 years ago, the film says, the ice age was over, and the golden age of forests started. Now, there were clearly seasons.

These seasons meant migration of animals. The film shows flying cranes, flying grey lag geese, and thousands of bramblings landing in trees.

That ‘golden age’ is the longest part of the film. It shows many beautiful images of forest animals: lynx, wolves, pine marten, red foxes, moose, red deer, European bison, wild boar, edible dormice, red squirrels, blackbirds, owls, fire salamander and frogs.

The ‘golden age’ ended with the start of Neolithic agriculture.

Some wolves became dogs; and other wolves were exterminated.

Gradually, much of the forests was cleared to make it suitable for hunting.

Roads, at first for horse-drawn carts, later for cars, divided biotopes for animals; creating new dangers for, eg, hedgehogs.

Many forests changed to open fields.

That meant new chances for some wildlife: jackdaws, hoopoes, roe deer, little bustards.

However, humans divided animals in so-called useful and ‘noxious’ species. That meant killing ‘noxious’ animals; and animals which according to superstition brought bad luck, like owls.

Then industry arose in the eighteenth century and later. With its pollution. And ‘industrial’ wars like World War I. The film shows footage of a soldier in a trench using a lull in the fighting to draw a thrush in front of him. However, then the shooting starts again, killing the thrush.

The film then shifts to bees, killed by or dying from pesticides.

Then, as conclusion, the filmmakers say humans should rectify what they have damaged to animals’ biotopes. ‘It is not too late for that’.

The movie was recorded for a big part in nature reserves in France. However, it was also filmed in Poland, Romania, Scotland, Oostvaardersplassen national park in the Netherlands, and Norway.

There are two more or less problematic sides to this beautiful film. Sides which it has in common with Océans, the earlier film by its makers.

First: The images are joined together by relatively few spoken comments. This may be a weak point as many viewers will not know all the animal species in the movie, and hardly one of them is introduced by name. It may be a strong point as well, as it enables the viewers to concentrate more on the imagery.

Second: sponsoring of this fine film by not necessarily fine sponsors (named in the beginning of the movie). One of them is the French Fondation Bettencourt Schueller. Founded by millionaire Ms Liliane Bettencourt who also financed crooked French politician Nicolas Sarkozy.

African American women at NASA


This video from the USA says about itself:

14 August 2016

Watch the new trailer for Hidden Figures, based on the incredible untold true story. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer & Janelle Monáe. In theaters this January.

HIDDEN FIGURES is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

In Theaters – January 6, 2017

From Science News:

Hidden Figures highlights three black women who were vital to the U.S. space program

Despite racism and sexism, female “computers” put John Glenn into orbit

By Emily Conover

6:00am, December 23, 2016

Hollywood space flicks typically feature one type of hero: astronauts who defy the odds to soar into space and back again. But now a group of behind-the-scenes heroes from the early days of the U.S. space program are getting their due. Black female mathematicians performed essential calculations to safely send astronauts to and from Earth’s surface — in defiance of flagrant racism and sexism.

These “computers” — as they were known before the electronic computer came into widespread use — are the subject of Hidden Figures. The film focuses on three black women — Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) — and their work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., during the run-up to John Glenn’s orbit of the Earth in 1962.

A mathematics virtuoso, Katherine Johnson calculated or verified the flight trajectories for many of the nation’s space milestones. The film showcases her work on two: the first American in space (Alan Shepard), and the first American to orbit the Earth (John Glenn). But Johnson also had a hand in sending the first men to the moon, during the Apollo 11 mission, and when the Apollo 13 astronauts ran into trouble, Johnson worked on the calculations that helped them get home safely.

Mary Jackson worked on wind tunnel experiments at Langley, where she tested how spacecraft performed under high winds. The film follows Jackson as she overcomes obstacles of the Jim Crow era to become NASA’s first black female engineer. Though the movie focuses on her triumphant rise, after decades in that role, Jackson grew frustrated with the remaining glass ceilings and moved into an administrative role, helping women and minorities to advance their careers at NASA.

Johnson and Jackson got their start under the leadership of Dorothy Vaughan, who led the segregated group of “colored computers,” assigning black women to assist with calculations in various departments. As electronic computers became more essential Vaughan recognized their importance and became an expert programmer. A scene where she surreptitiously takes a book from whites-only section of a public library — a guide to the computing language FORTRAN — is a nod to Vaughan’s prowess with the language.

Electronic computers were so unfamiliar in the 1960s that everyone from engineers to astronauts felt more confident when a human computer calculated the numbers. After a room-sized IBM mainframe spits out figures for his trajectory, John Glenn requests, “Get the girl to check the numbers” — meaning Johnson. In the film, that request culminates in Johnson running a frantic last-minute check of the numbers and sprinting across the Langley campus while Glenn waits. In reality, that process took a day and a half.

For spaceflight fans, Hidden Figures provides an opportunity to be immersed in a neglected perspective. The women’s stories are uplifting, their resilience impressive and their retorts in response to those who underestimate them, witty.

But viewers should be aware that, although the main facts underpinning the plot are correct, liberties have been taken. Some of the NASA higher-ups in the film — including Johnson’s supervisor Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) — are not real people. And presumably because number crunching tends to be a bit thin in the suspense department, the filmmakers have dramatized some scenes — Johnson is pictured in Mission Control during Glenn’s flight, but in reality she watched it on television — which seems a shame because the contributions of these women don’t need to be exaggerated to sound momentous.

Dutch wildlife film in Japan


This September 2016 video is the Japanese trailer for the Dutch wildlife film De Nieuwe Wildernis (The new wilderness), about Oostvaardersplassen national park in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dutch regional broadcasting organisation Omroep Flevoland:

New Wilderness in Japanese cinemas

December 20, 2016

Wildlife film “The New Wilderness” on the Oostvaardersplassen is popular abroad. After, eg, having been shown on TV in Germany and Belgium, the film is now in Japanese cinemas. So says producer Ton Okkerse.

In ten Japanese cities The New Wilderness recently started at the cinemas. A special event according to Okkerse. Not often European films are shown in Japanese cinemas. Certainly not wildlife films.

Japanese interest for the Oostvaardersplassen is according to Okkerse because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster five years ago. This disaster still causes much debate in the country. Thus, inter alia, ‘rewilding’, meaning returning areas to nature, is considered.

What the Japanese exactly think about De Nieuwe Wildernis is guesswork. Okkerse does get reviews and reports on visitors’ numbers, but he can not read them because of the language barrier and Japanese characters.