African toad pretends to be a snake

This 21 October 2019 video says about itself:

It is well known that some harmless animals mimic dangerous animals to ward off predators.

Eg, the Brazilian galliwasp lizard poses like a toxic millipede. And the zebra shark can mimic a highly poisonous banded sea snake.

Such posing is called Batesian mimicry. But the Congolese giant toad takes Batesian mimicry to a new level. According to a paper in the Journal of Natural History, the toad not only transform into a very good copy of a Gaboon Viper. It also tries to mimic the hiss the deadly snake make before an attack. The toad also postures so that its front limbs aren’t visible — making it look more snake-like. The Congolese giant toad are found in locations inhabited by the Gaboon viper. The Gaboon viper has the longest fangs and carries the most venom.

From ScienceDaily:

Toad disguises itself as deadly viper to avoid attack

Decades of fieldwork uncover hissing and strike-warning impersonations by toad

October 21, 2019

The first study of a toad mimicking a venomous snake reveals that it likely imitates one of Africa’s largest vipers in both appearance and behaviour, according to results published in the Journal of Natural History.

The Congolese giant toad, a triple cheeseburger-sized prize for any predator, may use its ability to mimic the highly venomous Gaboon viper to escape being eaten. The viper has the longest snake fangs in the world and produces more venom than any other snake.

“Our study is based on ten years of fieldwork and on direct observation by researchers lucky enough to see the toad’s behaviour first-hand. We’re convinced that this is an example of Batesian mimicry, where a harmless species avoids predators by pretending to be a dangerous or toxic one,” says Dr Eli Greenbaum from the University of Texas at El Paso. “To fully test our hypothesis, we’d have to demonstrate that predators are successfully duped, but this would be very difficult in the wild, where the toads are only encountered rarely. However, based on multiple sources of evidence provided in our study, we are confident that our mimicry hypothesis is well-supported.”

The researchers made comparisons between the appearance of the toad, found in central African rainforests, and the viper, which is more widespread in central, eastern and southern Africa. Using live wild-caught and captive specimens, as well as preserved museum ones, they found that the colour pattern and shape of the toad’s body is similar to that of the viper’s head. Most striking are two dark brown spots and a dark brown stripe that extends down the toad’s back, the triangular shape of the body, a sharp demarcation between the tan back and dark brown flanks, and the species’ extraordinarily smooth skin for a toad. Because the Gaboon viper is capable of causing deadly bites, would-be predators likely avoid the similar-looking toads to ensure they don’t make a lethal mistake.

Some mimics are exclusively visual, but for the Congolese giant toad, getting the look right is only part of the impersonation. If a Gaboon viper feels threatened, it will often incline its head and emit a long, loud warning hiss before it actually makes a strike. Similarly, Congolese herpetologist Chifundera Kusamba observed the toad emitting a hissing noise resembling the sound of air being slowly released from a balloon. Over a century ago, American biologist James Chapin observed a bow display by the toad, where the front limbs no longer prop up the viperine-shaped body, which looks similar to the cocked head of a snake threatening to strike.

The final part of the impersonation is getting the location right. Even the best impression will only work if predators of the harmless species are familiar with the venomous one. The researchers compared the geographical range of the toad and viper in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and found that the Congolese giant toad does not seem to occur in areas where the Gaboon viper is absent. The researchers identified 11 locations in the eastern rainforests where the range of both species overlaps.

Based on speciation dating estimates from genetic data, the Congolese giant toad and Gaboon viper first evolved at about the same time in the early Pliocene about 4-5 million years ago. Considered with their similar appearance, behaviour, and overlapping geographic distribution, the toads and vipers likely coevolved together, further supporting the mimicry hypothesis.

“Given the relatively large size and therefore calorific value of this toad compared to other species, it would make tempting prey to a large variety of generalist predators, including primates and other mammals, lizards, snakes and birds,” says Kusamba, from the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, DRC. “Many of these predators use vision to find their prey, and because the viper is deadly venomous, they probably recognise the distinctive, contrasting markings from a considerable distance and avoid the toad because of them, receiving a threatening hiss if the appearance doesn’t put them off.”

Perhaps the best-known examples of Batesian mimicry are in butterflies, where around a quarter of over 200 Papilio swallowtail butterfly species are non-toxic impersonators of toxic ones. Other examples from the animal kingdom include comet fish that fool predators into thinking their tail is a moray eel‘s head, the Brazilian galliwasp lizard that mimics a toxic millipede, and zebra sharks that take on the coloration and undulating movements of venomous sea snakes. Many harmless snakes mimic venomous ones, and some caterpillars, legless lizards, and even birds are able to do so. However, the current study is the first to identify an amphibian mimicking a venomous snake.


African pro-climate strikers, video

This 20 September 2019 video says about itself:

‘I Want my Kids to Know What a Rhino and Turtle Are’ – Climate Strike Kids Say

From Nigeria to Kenya to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to South Africa, thousands of African climate campaigners have taken to the streets joining millions globally for the global Climate Strike ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019, which starts in New York next week.

In Cape Town, learners from around 50 schools across the city mobilised by the African Climate Alliance made their voices heard. Over the past year, young people from around the world have been taking Friday off from school in protest of the inaction by decision makers when it comes to climate change.

IPS correspondent Crystal Orderson joined the strike and filed this report.

Canadian government bans African students

This 20 September 2019 video says about itself:

A shocking report has revealed that 75% of African students applying for study visas in Canada have been denied, between January and May, 2019 alone. The sadder thing for me is that so many of our young great minds still believe that the only place they can get a good education and “escape poverty” is in the West.

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.

‘Leftist’ Achcar advising British neo-colonial warriors

This 9 July 2018 video says about itself:

France’s Macron Tells Africans to Just ‘Move on’ After a Century of Murderous Colonialism (Pt. 1/3)

France’s neoliberal President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly told people in Nigeria, Algeria, and beyond to just “move on” after a century of murderous colonialism. Activist Baba Aye speaks with TRNN’s Ben Norton about the ongoing harms of imperialism and neo-colonialism in Africa.

This 9 July 2018 video says about itself:

Neo-Colonialism Still Binds and Exploits Africa for Corporate Profits (Pt. 2/3)

Activist Baba Aye continues his discussion with TRNN’s Ben Norton about French President Emmanuel Macron and the ongoing harms of colonialism and imperialism in Africa and the Global South.

This 9 July 2018 video says about itself:

How the Capitalist System Survives on Neo-Colonial and Imperial Exploitation (Pt. 3/3)

Activist Baba Aye concludes his interview with TRNN’s Ben Norton, discussing the ongoing harms of colonialism and imperialism in Africa and the Global South, and how they are an integral part of the capitalist system.

By Thomas Scripps in Britain:

Leading Pabloite Gilbert Achcar provided counter-insurgency advice to British Army

6 August 2019

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has paid London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at least £400,000 since 2016 to provide “cultural advice” for its operations abroad. Lectures were delivered by eleven members of SOAS staff, including Gilbert Achcar, a leading representative of the Pabloite United Secretariat.

One of many organisations claiming to base themselves on Russian Leon Trotsky.

According to Freedom of Information requests obtained by SOAS students, the university designed Regional Study Weeks on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Sessions were attended by members of the military’s Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU).

See also here.

See also, more extensively, here.

The DCSU is a secretive formation, established in 2010 “in the spirit of counter-insurgency operations”, to provide support for British military deployments internationally. A 2013 Doctrine Note issued by the MoD explained the “need to develop and exploit specialists … who have a deep understanding of the language, customs, values and narratives of that culture” in order “to plan and execute military operations” and “identify threats and opportunities.”

By 2016, the DCSU had deployed 90 regular and reserve Cultural Advisors in at least 22 countries, including Chad, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Chile. The unit’s trained advisors are described as having a “unique position” with a “central contribution” to Britain’s military footprint.

The topic of one of the sessions delivered at SOAS this February was “the war in the Sahel”, the region of Africa just south of the Sahara Desert. In 2018, Sir Richard Ottaway, former chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, wrote that he had warned in 2014 of “a ‘worrying pattern of unsightedness’ on the part of the UK in relation to events in the Sahel region, and called for the urgent expansion of our presence and knowledge about the whole region.” He continued, “Most pressing in Africa, the UK must increase its diplomatic and security footprint on the ground …”

Last July, the British military deployed three helicopters and 120 soldiers to Northern Mali as part of a “pivot to the Sahel” strategic shift in Africa. This February, another 250 troops were deployed to the region.

SOAS’s deal with the MoD is further proof of the integration of the armed forces and the academy underway in the world’s major imperialist powers. Significant resources in higher education are being put at the service of the military and security apparatus. Above all, this process relies upon the co-option of a layer of academics into direct service to the state. Representatives of the various pseudo-left groups in this privileged petty-bourgeois milieu play a crucial role.

Achcar’s response to his exposure is unapologetic. He has defended his actions in an open letter, claiming that the SOAS lectures “are essentially about the history, politics and socio-economics of the region, provided by critical scholars to lower-ranking military personnel.” He continues, “it is important to let critical voices be heard, even among the military … Should we prefer that the military and security personnel of this country be solely exposed to right-wing education?”

References to “lower-ranking military personnel” and letting “critical voices be heard” are a transparent fraud. Achcar and his fellows are not giving insurgent lectures to privates in the infantry. They are offering advice to a highly specialised unit offering unique support to military operations in crucial geo-strategic theatres. DSCU training includes a course for one- and two-star

According to Wikipedia:

An officer of two-star rank is a senior commander in many of the armed services holding a rank described by the NATO code of OF-7. The term is also used by some armed forces which are not NATO members. Typically, two-star officers hold the rank of rear admiral, counter admiral, major general, or in the case of those air forces with a separate rank structure, air vice-marshal.

The Thomas Scripps article continues:

and brigade headquarters staff. The unit’s cultural advisors consult with senior military commanders. The DCSU is identical in all essentials to the US Army’s Human Terrain System (2007-2014), criticised by the American Anthropological Association for being an “unacceptable application of anthropological expertise.”

The true explanation for Achcar’s intimate relationship with the state is rooted in his political tendency’s history. …

The anti-socialist politics of the Pabloites, coupled with extensive state infiltration, paved the way to ever-closer integration into the political structures of imperialist rule—including the state apparatus. This process finds consummate expression in Achcar, whose writings on the Middle East and Africa dovetail perfectly with the strategy of British and US imperialism and who has now been exposed as a paid adviser.

In 2011, Achcar supported UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorising an imperialist war of plunder against Libya, writing, “Here is a case where a population is truly in danger, and where there is no plausible alternative that could protect it … You can’t in the name of anti-imperialist principles oppose an action that will prevent the massacre of civilians.”

He went on to chide the imperialist powers for not dropping enough bombs on the Libyan population, describing airstrikes which killed tens of thousands as “low-key.” He demanded that more weapons be funneled to the anti-Gaddafi opposition, as “consistently and insistently requested” by them. This US-backed opposition, to which the United Secretariat extended “full solidarity,” was led by a reactionary collection of former government officials and Islamic fundamentalist tribal leaders.

Achcar was equally hawkish in support of imperialist intervention in Syria, participating in a 2011 meeting of the Syrian National Council, a collection of US and French intelligence assets. He advised the Syrian opposition to Bashar al-Assad—led by a collection of CIA-linked Islamic fundamentalist militias—to seek indirect assistance rather than direct intervention from Washington.

In 2013, he described analyses of imperialist interests and involvement in the region as a “kind of conspiracy theory among those that call themselves anti-imperialist and tend to see the hand of imperialism behind everything.” He lyingly claimed that America “refuses to deliver weapons to the insurgency despite insistent requests.”

In March 2018, with the regime-change operation failing, he joined demands for full-scale military intervention by the US and other imperialist powers via an open letter in the New York Review of Books, “Why the World Must Act Now on Syria.”

Over the bodies of hundreds of thousands of dead and two destroyed societies, Achcar continues his relentless advocating for imperialist wars. In July 2018, he hosted an “Inconsistent Anti-Imperialism and Selective Solidarity” event at SOAS to launch Rohini Hensman’s, Indefensible: Democracy, Counterrevolution, and the Rhetoric of Anti-Imperialism. Hensman’s book supports virtually every war or overseas operation launched by the Democratic Party since the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It is a vitriolic attack on all serious opponents of imperialism, denouncing journalists John Pilger and Seymour Hersh, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the World Socialist Web Site.

How closely Achcar’s writings align with the strategy of world imperialism is indicated by his recent prescriptions for Sudan, where he advocates a policy of orientation to the military for protesting workers and youth.

Achcar has claimed, “The main strength of the Sudanese revolutionaries is their great influence over the soldiers and the officials, some of which even used their weapons to defend the demonstrators … This factor will determine the fate of the Sudanese revolution.”

In an article for Jacobin magazine, he writes that the military has been “dissuaded” from “attempting to drown the revolution in blood.” And further, “The troops’ sympathizing with the popular movement was determining in leading the generals to get rid of Bashir. The most important thing now is for the movement to consolidate its support among the rank and file and lower-ranking officers of the armed forces.”

This is a thoroughly anti-Marxist position which seeks to replace the organisation of the working class into an independent revolutionary party with moral appeals to the armed guardians of the capitalist state. Given the experience of workers in Egypt in 2013, it is criminal advice. The same line was advanced by the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) in that country, to whose “Socialist Days” conference in 2011 Achcar was invited. RS helped to hand power to the butcher of the Egyptian revolution, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, even as he massacred protestors in the streets. Backed by the world’s imperialist powers, General el-Sisi established a bloody dictatorship which routinely executes political opponents.

Britain’s “pivot to the Sahel” will no doubt be accompanied by discussions on an equally bloody military crackdown in Sudan. The greatest obstacle to the predatory ambitions of the UK and the rest of the world’s imperialist powers is Africa’s increasingly militant working class. But as Egypt demonstrated in the negative, this immense social force can only triumph if it acquires and acts upon an international socialist perspective. Achcar works publicly against such a perspective to politically disarm the working class, while discussing with the forces of military repression in closed-door meetings organised by SOAS.

Any genuine socialist or even progressive organisation would have expelled Achcar immediately upon hearing of his dealings with the MoD. But the United Secretariat will not bat an eyelid at his giving paid advice to the military, which simply formalises a longstanding political relationship. … They have for years provided Achcar with a platform to strategise on behalf of the US government.

SOAS was founded in 1916 to promote the long-term interests of British imperialism in Africa and Asia by training a cadre of colonial administrators. Alumni include countless heads of state, diplomats and civil servants in the former colonial countries. Today, the same training is provided by leaders of the pseudo-left tendencies who are mortal enemies of the international working class.