Giant panda news update


This video is called Life of Giant Pandas – Full Documentary.

From Associated Press today:

China’s latest survey finds increase in wild giant pandas

BEIJING — Wild giant pandas in China are doing well.

The latest census by China’s State Forestry Administration shows the panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in 2003.

Nearly three quarters of the pandas live in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The remaining pandas have been found in the neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

“The rise in the population of wild giant pandas is a victory for conservation and definitely one to celebrate,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation for World Wildlife Fund.

Hemley credited efforts by the Chinese government for the increase. The survey shows 1,246 wild giant pandas live within nature reserves. There are 67 panda reserves in China, an increase of 27 since the last survey.

“The survey result demonstrates the effectiveness of nature reserves in boosting wild giant panda numbers,” said Xiaohai Liu, executive program director for WWF-China.

But the survey also points to economic development as a main threat to the rare animal. It says 319 hydropower stations and 1,339 kilometers (832 miles) of roads have been built in the giant panda’s habitat.

WWF said it is the first time that large-scale infrastructure projects such as mining and railroads get referenced in the survey. Traditional threats such as poaching are on the decline, WWF noted.

China began surveying its giant pandas in the 1970s. The latest census began in 2011 and took three years to complete.

The number of giant pandas in captivity grew by 211, more than double the previous survey figure, according to the census released Saturday.

Rare ring-necked duck in Spain


This video from the USA says about itself:

10 March 2011

A flock of Ring-necked ducks hung around the Palace Lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

From Rare Birds in Spain, on Twitter:

27.2.2015 Aythya collaris. 1 male La Massona, PN AIguamolls Empordà, Girona.

Aythya collaris means ring-necked duck. They are rare in Europe, not so rare in their northern North American homeland.

British child abuser Sir Jimmy Savile and his political connections


This video from Britain says about itself:

Jimmy Savile & Margaret Thatcher

16 October 2012

Why were Savile and Thatcher, strange bedfellows however you look at it, so close?

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

End the culture of cover-ups

Friday 27th February 2015

HEALTH Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledges, in the wake of the Lampard report into the crimes of Jimmy Savile, that the power of celebrity or money must never again prevent people from exposing wrongdoing.

Savile was utterly brazen in daring NHS officials and police officers to take action against him.

He felt secure in his position as a major charity fundraiser for Stoke Mandeville, where he had a bedroom, a plush office and a master key with access to all areas despite having no qualifications or experience.

His wealth and political connections, not least with Margaret Thatcher at whose Downing Street New Year’s Eve parties he was a permanent fixture, persuaded people not to take him on.

However, Tory MP Dr Phillip Lee, who worked briefly at Stoke Mandeville, is surely correct in saying that, if junior staff were aware of what Savile was doing, senior managers and clinicians must also have done.

Turning a blind eye to abuse of patients, visitors, staff members and others for fear of losing the charity funds his activities generated was a gross betrayal of the victims’ right to personal security.

Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham’s call for a formal inquiry into accountability for failure to investigate this serial predator’s crimes must be supported.

Those in positions of influence who chose not to speak to the Lampard inquiry should be subpoenaed to give evidence and explain their roles.

Many people will be shocked to learn that there is no legal compulsion on NHS staff to blow the whistle on people suspected of abusing patients.

That legal loophole must be closed so that people in authority cannot encourage embarrassing suspicions to be swept under the carpet.

Above all, Savile’s reign of abuse and terror must not be seen as a one-off aberration.

Too many children and vulnerable adults have been disbelieved in a variety of institutions and forced to carry their torment with them.

That culture must end. Complaints must be recorded, investigated and taken as far as required.

Politicians should also consider whether our essential health services should be better funded through taxation rather than being dependent on celebrities organising charity drives for self-aggrandisement.

Bats of North Sea wind farms, new research


This video says about itself:

Male Nathusius’ Pipistrelle Bat singing

12 September 2014

At a large mixed maternity roost of Nathusius’ and Soprano pipistrelles in Northern Ireland, the males are busy trying to attract females with their songs. This boy had the cheek to sit right at the entrance to the roost so all the females had to go past him. He was a pretty loud and frantic singer so he probably got lucky.

You can see him opening his mouth as he makes each noise, but the camera could not pick up the very high-pitched sounds that he made.

Translated from Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands:

27 February 2015

You would not expect it, but bats also fly above the sea. Researchers have now shown that in the months of September and October they may even be found regularly in offshore wind farms. Probably the bats pass the windmills when they are migrating, but the researchers also conclude that they sometimes fly there from the continent to catch insects. Nathusius’ pipistrelle was most heard around the windmills, but signals were also heard from common noctule bats.

The study took place in two wind farms off the coast of Egmond.

Crows give gifts to little girl in Seattle, USA


This video, recorded in Seattle in the USA, says about itself:

The girl who gets gifts from birds

26 February 2015

Lots of people love the birds in their garden, but it’s rare for that affection to be reciprocated. One young girl in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden – and they bring her gifts in return.

Eight-year-old Gabi Mann sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection.

“You may take a few close looks,” she says, “but don’t touch.” It’s a warning she’s most likely practised on her younger brother. She laughs after saying it though. She is happy for the audience.

Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: “Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014.” Inside is a broken light bulb. Another bag contains small pieces of brown glass worn smooth by the sea. “Beer coloured glass,” as Gabi describes it.

Each item is individually wrapped and categorised. Gabi pulls a black zip out of a labelled bag and holds it up. “We keep it in as good condition as we can,” she says, before explaining this object is one of her favourites.

There’s a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.

Gabi's collection of crows' gifts

The BBC continues:

By Katy Sewall

She didn’t gather this collection. Each item was a gift – given to her by crows.

She holds up a pearl coloured heart. It is her most-prized present. “It’s showing me how much they love me.”

Gabi’s relationship with the neighbourhood crows began accidentally in 2011. She was four years old, and prone to dropping food. She’d get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite.

As she got older, she rewarded their attention, by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi’s bus, hoping for another feeding session.

Gabi’s mother Lisa didn’t mind that crows consumed most of the school lunches she packed. “I like that they love the animals and are willing to share,” she says, while admitting she never noticed crows until her daughter took an interest in them. “It was a kind of transformation. I never thought about birds.”

In 2013, Gabi and Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time.

Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

It was after they adopted this routine that the gifts started appearing.

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn’t a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically – anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow’s mouth.

One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word “best” printed on it. “I don’t know if they still have the part that says ‘friend’,” Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.

When you see Gabi’s collection, it’s hard not to wish for gift-giving crows of your own.

“If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them,” advises John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. He specialises in birds, particularly crows and ravens.

What food is best? “A few peanuts in the shell,” he says. “It’s a high-energy food… and it makes noise when you throw it on the ground, so they hear it and they quickly habituate to your routine.”

Marzluff, and his colleague Mark Miller, did a study of crows and the people who feed them. They found that crows and people form a very personal relationship. “There’s definitely a two-way communication going on there,” Marzluff says. “They understand each other’s signals.”

The birds communicate by how they fly, how close they walk, and where they sit. The human learns their language and the crows learn their feeder’s patterns and posture. They start to know and trust each other. Sometimes a crow leaves a gift.

But crow gifts are not guaranteed. “I can’t say they always will (give presents),” Marzluff admits, having never received any gifts personally, “but I have seen an awful lot of things crows have brought people.”

Not all crows deliver shiny objects either. Sometimes they give the kind of presents “they would give to their mate”, says Marzluff. “Courtship feeding, for example. So some people, their presents are dead baby birds that the crow brings in.”

Gabi has been given some icky objects. Her mother threw out a rotting crab claw, for example.

Gabi points out a heavily rusted screw she prefers not to touch. It’s labelled “Third Favorite.” Asking her why an untouchable object is in the favourites, she answers, “You don’t’ see a crow carrying around a screw that much. Unless it’s trying to build its house.”

Lisa, Gabi’s mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.

She didn’t even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.

Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. “You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap.”

“I’m sure that it was intentional,” she smiles. “They watch us all the time. I’m sure they knew I dropped it. I’m sure they decided they wanted to return it.”

British child abuser Sir Jimmy Savile and the Thatcher government


Jimmy Savile with the prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1980, the same year she appointed him as a fundraiser for Stoke Mandeville hospital, where he sexually abused people as young as eight. Photograph: PA

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Jimmy Savile given free rein to sexually abuse 60 people, report finds

Damning reports point finger at politicians, civil servants and senior NHS staff but stop short of holding anyone accountable

Sandra Laville and Josh Halliday

Thursday 26 February 2015 19.28 GMT

Politicians, civil servants and NHS managers gave Jimmy Savile free rein to sexually abuse 60 people, including children as young as eight, over two decades at Stoke Mandeville hospital, two damning reports have concluded.

Savile’s celebrity status, his connections with the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, and with royalty, and his role as a fundraiser allowed him unfettered access to patients, staff and visitors at the Buckinghamshire hospital. Over 20 years he brazenly used that power and access to rape, sexually abuse, harass, intimidate and silence his victims who ranged in age from eight and 40.

A report into Savile’s activities at Stoke Mandeville by Dr Androulla Johnstone and Christine Dent said the BBC celebrity’s reputation as a sexual predator was an “open secret” yet he was able to go about his business not only unchallenged but also with the perception of sanction from the senior hierarchy. The report stopped short, however, of holding senior managers accountable, saying there was no evidence they were aware of Savile’s behaviour, despite junior staff saying it was widely known.

On 10 occasions, vulnerable patients complained about his sexual abuse to staff, their parents and to teachers, but they were either not believed or ignored, the report said. A supervisor tried to raise concerns to higher management but was reprimanded, patients who complained to nurses were told to stay silent, and one victim who told his headteacher was laughed at.

Kate Lampard, who carried out an independent review of Savile’s activities across the NHS, said in her report, also published on Thursday: “Savile’s status and influence … was enhanced by the endorsement and encouragement he received from politicians, senior civil servants and NHS managers. His access within NHS hospitals gave Savile the opportunity to commit sexual abuses on a grand scale for nearly 50 years.”

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said in a statement to the Commons that the power of celebrity or money must never again blind people to repeated clear signs that vulnerable individuals were being abused.

He said people were “too dazzled or too intimidated by the nation’s favourite celebrity to confront the evil predator we now know he was”.

However, Liz Dux, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon who represents 44 of Savile’s victims, said the report had been met with “crushing disappointment” because it held no one accountable.

“It beggars belief that a report which has revealed Savile was widely known as a sex pest at Stoke Mandeville can find no evidence of management responsibility,” Dux said.

“Ten victims had reported their assaults to nursing staff on the ward, including one complaint being made to management, yet still his deviant and sickening behaviour continued.”

She said the revelation in the report that three other doctors had committed serious sexual offences at the hospital in the past four decades suggested “something seriously amiss”.

Savile abused victims as soon as he started frequenting Stoke Mandeville in 1968, the report said. He became a porter at the hospital, having been invited in by a fellow porter who had worked with Savile at Leeds General Infirmary, where the DJ had also abused patients.

“He was a nightmare … he was vile,” a staff nurse told the inquiry. Others described how, when he turned up in a ward, a “Jimmy Savile alert would go out and we’d all disappear”.

Savile’s victims at Stoke Mandeville included an eight-year-old boy, and a girl, also eight, who was raped at least 10 times by Savile when she visited relatives there. One victim was systematically abused in the chapel by Savile, who was often accompanied by another, unnamed man. “Every time I went in that room I just knew he would touch me wherever he wanted to touch me,” she said.

A 12-year-old girl was raped by Savile in the television room. She returned to her ward and told a nurse that a porter, Savile, had “hurt me, down there”. She was told not to say anything, otherwise the nurse would get into trouble. Later that night Savile appeared at the girl’s bedside and sexually assaulted her again. Alone in her room afterwards, the child tore a page from a Bible in the room and wrote two notes asking for her father.

She posted them into a red post box in a corridor outside the ward, hoping someone would contact him; no one did.

In 1980 a clinical supervisor tried to escalate the concerns of students who had told her of sexually inappropriate behaviour by Savile at their accommodation block. But the supervisor was “reprimanded for interfering”.

Between 1972 and 1985 nine informal verbal complaints and one formal report were made about Savile by his victims. Johnstone found that none of the complaints were “either taken seriously or escalated to senior management”.

The formal complaint in 1977 came from the father of an 11-year-old girl who was sexually abused by Savile in a treatment room. The girl screamed hysterically, and a senior nurse arrived but told her to be quiet, saying Savile would not do such a dreadful thing and he raised a great deal of money for the hospital.

The incident “was serious and should have led to Savile’s suspension from the hospital and a formal police report being made”, Johnstone said. “There can be no excuses made in relation to ‘what was acceptable at the time’ or ‘how children were perceived’. This was a serious allegation and should have been investigated fully as it was reported to a hospital manager.”

The report revealed how Savile’s charitable work and status within the hospital were boosted by Thatcher, who in 1980 sponsored him as the lead fundraiser and commissioning project manager for a £10m campaign to rebuild the spinal injuries unit (NSIC) – a move which gave him “virtually uncontested authority and control”. Savile flattered Thatcher during several meetings, including trips to Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence.

In one letter to Thatcher, he wrote: “Dear PM I waited a week before writing to thank you for my lunch invitation because I had such a superb time … My girl patients pretended to be madly jealous and wanted to know what you wore. All the paralysed lads called me Sir James, they all love you, me too!!”

He was also supported in his new position by Dr Gerard Vaughan, a health minister at the time, who rode roughshod over concerns and policies to give Savile free rein, the report said.

“No member of parliament or the Department of Health and Social Services, to our knowledge, knew about Savile’s sexual abuse activities,” but there were major consequences of their actions.

“First there was an ongoing dependence on Savile’s charitable funds which ensured his continued position of power and influence at the hospital which was often detrimental to service management,” she said. “Second, Savile was able to access a new cohort of victims for his sexual abuse in the guise of young charity fundraisers to the hospital.”

David Clay, who was made general manager of the NSIC in 1983, said Savile acted as if he was God. “It was Jimmy Savile’s kingdom.”

By the time Ken Cunningham was appointed in 1991 as unit general manager at the hospital he was shocked by the power wielded by Savile, who by then had a bedroom/office installed with a Berber carpet, a flip-down bed, a large leather sofa and a gold letter box.

“This was a man who had the ear of royalty, prime ministers … It worried me that there was someone who could buy the loyalty and friendship of senior staff,” he said.

In 1993, when Stoke Mandeville became an NHS trust, Savile’s rule began to be challenged and the inquiry said his sexual abuse stopped around 1992. But the patients he attacked were left to deal with abuse which was not believed and continues to scar their adult lives.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” said one victim. “I didn’t understand what had happened. I knew it felt wrong and I felt dirty and I wanted to clean myself and I just wanted to wash myself again and again … I did not understand … I could not even explain to myself what had happened.”

PROLIFIC sex offender Jimmy Savile was able to gain a “position of authority and power” at Stoke Mandeville Hospital due to the backing of Margaret Thatcher and her ministers, a damning new report found yesterday. Savile was “sponsored” in his role as lead fundraiser and project manager in the 1980 rebuilding of the hospital’s national spinal injuries centre by the Tory leader, report author Dr Androulla Johnstone said: here.