Wetland conservation for water birds and people

This video says about itself:

Conserving wetlands for water birds & people

13 November 2015

Why are wetlands so important for water birds and people? In order to ensure the survival of millions of water birds migrating between Europe and Africa every year, and sustain the health of local communities, we are identifying and protecting a critical network of wetlands that are increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate and unsustainable activities.

European Union bigwigs’ cruel plan to deport refugees to Africa

This video from the USA says about itself:

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Europe’s Secret Plan for Military Force on Refugee Boats from Libya

27 May 2015

WikiLeaks has just revealed secret details of a European Union plan to use military force to curb the influx of migrants from Libya. “The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure,” WikiLeaks says. “It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the EU’s plan from his place of refuge inside Ecuador’s London embassy.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Plan to send refugees back to Africa considered by EU

Thursday 12th November 2015

EUROPEAN Union leaders cooked up a “desperate” plot yesterday to slash the number of refugees in the bloc by giving them EU travel papers and shipping them off to Africa.

An appalled African Union official said the idea was “unheard of” and migration experts were dismayed at its callousness.

The EU-Africa migration summit in Valletta, Malta, began yesterday and ends today.

The shocking scheme would see EU officials decide whether refugees who lack travel papers and whose asylum claims have been rejected have come from Africa.

Where the decision is that they have, the migrants will then be given EU papers just so that they can be quickly booted out of Europe.

Amnesty International acting EU director Iverna McGowan said it was yet more corner-cutting by the EU.

“People returned to countries of transit risk being faced with arbitrary detention and having their rights to asylum and to work violated,” she warned.

EU states are pressing African leaders to take in thousands of refugees whose asylum applications they have rejected.

Particularly under pressure are countries near Libya, which was torn apart with the help of a bombing campaign by Nato — made up mostly of EU states.

Many refugees, fleeing conflicts stirred up by or directly involving the West, set off on their perilous Mediterranean journey to Europe from the wrecked country’s coast.

Meanwhile, Slovenia has copied nearby states by building its own 400-mile razor-wire border fence, which it claims is only intended to funnel refugees, not close off the country entirely.

• Turkish coastguards said yesterday that 14 refugees, including seven children, had drowned when their boat sank off the country’s coast. Sailors rescued 27.

It looks like European Union bigwigs kowtow to racists like Katie Hopkins in the British Murdoch media. Or to Portuguese racists. Or to British 1980s nazi band Skrewdriver with their song When The Boat Comes In, advocating forced deportation of people of African ancestry. Or to 1960s United States nazi fuehrer George Lincoln Rockwell, whose Hatenanny record label included a song called Ship those n…ers back, by Odis Cochran and the three bigots.

EU Summit in Malta strikes dirty deal to keep refugees out of Europe: here.

The Australian government is reportedly considering the poor Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan as a dumping ground for the some of the 1,500 refugees imprisoned in its “off-shore” detention facilities: here.

‘Get Oxford, England colonialist Cecil Rhodes statue away’

This 2015 video series from Oxford University in England is called Why must Rhodes fall?

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Students call for end of statue to imperialist

Friday 6th November 2015

OXFORD students will demand today the removal of a statue of the Victorian arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes from the university after 1,500 signed a Rhodes Must Fall petition.

Campaigners will gather at Oriel College, where the statue of its imperialist benefactor Cecil Rhodes stands, after being being inspired by a similar movement in South Africa.

Mr Rhodes carved out colonies all across southern Africa and the large territory now split between Zambia and Zimbabwe was named Rhodesia in 1895 in his honour.

Students have called the statue “a veneration not only of the crimes of the man himself, but of the racist imperial legacy on which Oxford University has thrived.”

Student and organising member of Rhodes Must Fall Oxford Charlotte Ezaz told the Star: “Unless we condemn this iconographic veneration we become complicit in perpetuating colonial narratives.”

Rhodes statue in Oxford

This photo shows the Rhodes statue in Oxford at an Oriel College building. That building is called the Rhodes Building. The statue’s caption underneath it, in Latin, praises the ‘munificence’ of Cecil Rhodes.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes at an Oxford college is to remain in place despite student protests after donors threatened to withdraw millions of pounds in funding if it was removed: here.

Save African vultures

Pro-vulture information by BirdLife South Africa

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partners commit to saving Africa’s vultures

By Shaun Hurrell, Thu, 22/10/2015 – 13:11

“I can’t imagine Africa’s skies devoid of vultures,” said BirdLife South Africa’s Chief Executive, Mark Anderson, when he chaired a crucial meeting last week to take action against this currently ill-fated family of birds.

And it is not just the skies – you do not want to imagine how the land will look (and smell) if Africa is devoid of vultures, nature’s unique and thorough waste and carcass ‘clean-up crew’ that halts the spread of disease for free.

You see, vultures are in drastic decline in Africa and it is high-time the world fully-appreciated the severity of this problem for not only the birds themselves, but the health of the people of the continent (and their livelihoods – given the economic value of carcass removal by vultures).

“Africans, who derive direct benefits from having their vultures in their skies, must take the lead in mitigating threats to African vultures,”

said Dr Kabelo Senyatso, Director of BirdLife Botswana and current Chairman of the BirdLife Council for African Partnership.

A coordinated response is urgently needed that does justice to the scale of this imminent crisis.

As such, BirdLife Partner NGOs across Africa join forces and commit to playing a leading role in efforts to save the continent’s vultures. This is the conclusion of a workshop on African vultures held at the BirdLife Council for Africa Partnership Meeting in Senchi, Ghana, on 13 October 2015. The energy and warm air in that meeting room gave a real uplift towards getting vulture populations soaring once again in Africa.

Not having the best cultural reputation, Africa’s vultures need all the support they can get at the moment. As South Asia’s vulture populations have collapsed since the mid-1990s, those of Africa have also been declining, less steeply but over a longer period. This has led in many areas to a similar loss, for example around 98% of West Africa’s vultures outside protected areas have disappeared over the last 30 years. In South Africa, Cape Vulture have declined by 60-70% in the last 20-30 years. The causes of the declines in Africa are more varied and complex than those in Asia, which were driven mainly by the use in cattle of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac.

Africa holds 11 species of vulture, 6 of which are not found elsewhere.

They face threats from poisoning – both accidental and deliberate – related to human-carnivore conflict and the poaching of large mammals. In much of southern Africa, locals call the poison used “two-step” because an animal takes only two steps before it drops down dead.

Persecution of vultures for their body parts for use in cultural practices and divination is also a headline threat – for example contributing majorly to an 80% decline in Hooded Vulture in Nigeria. Other threats include collisions with powerlines and wind energy infrastructure, habitat loss, declines in food availability and disturbance at breeding sites.

Stopping and reversing the declines, by tackling these difficult issues, is one of the greatest challenges facing bird conservation in Africa. Though we need to continue to learn more about the threats and their relative importance in different parts of Africa, we cannot afford to wait to begin to take action. Large-scale initiatives are needed, engaging strongly on political and cultural as well as socio-economic levels.

“Rather than counselling despair,” says Roger Safford, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager, “Conservationists need to show the world that we can make a difference starting now.”

At the Senchi meeting, BirdLife Partners and contacts representing or working in 25 vulture range states in Africa identified such activities.

Most Partners committed to changing people’s perceptions about vultures. We have new materials and momentum with which to educate, advocate and raise awareness of their value and the consequences of their disappearance. Other commitments included focus on regulating the use of agrochemicals in East and Southern Africa, and focus on tackling traditional practices and the market for it in both South Africa and West Africa. Through local achievements, combined with the results of ongoing research, we can join forces to build up to tackle the most intractable threats such as poaching and human-wildlife conflict at source.

The future of a family of birds depends on what happens next.

Some Partners, such as BirdLife South Africa, have already started ground-breaking communications campaigns to get people listening.

The BirdLife Partners also recognised the crucial need to work together, with not only other bird conservation organisations active in Africa, such as the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Vulture Specialist Group, The Peregrine Fund and Endangered Wildlife Trust; but also those concerned with other species, such as elephants, hyenas and lions, that are also affected by many of the same threats.

“The threats facing these magnificent birds should compel all of us – not just conservation agencies – to take an interest and have an active role in saving them,” commented Dr Senyatso.

Patricia Zurita, with Bradnee Chambers (Executive Secretary of the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)) recently made a commitment to ensure that the plight of these essential creatures is made known to a global audience.

Beyond this, the health, sanitation, tourism, agriculture and other sectors all experience the consequences of the loss of ‘nature’s clean-up crew’ (for example the decline in vultures had an estimated annual cost of $1.5 billion to human health in India), and will all gain from solutions to the crisis. This brings in Governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies (including regional trade blocs), scientific bodies and many others. Religious leaders, too, have a key role to play in spreading the concern for vultures, and showing that trade in and use of vulture body parts for cultural and divination practices needs to stop.

With the support of the BirdLife International Partnership, lessons will be learned, and shared, with Europe and Asia, where much progress has been made but threats remain such as the licensing of veterinary diclofenac in Europe. The recent ban on veterinary diclofenac announced by the Government of Iran is a very welcome step to be emulated elsewhere.

A few days before the Senchi meeting, countries across Eurasia and Africa had agreed to list twelve vulture species, including all the highly threatened African species, as priorities for action under the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey (Raptors MOU) – a subsidiary agreement under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – as a response to the African vulture crisis. This brings new opportunities to strengthen and link Government and civil society commitments to national and regional initiatives such as the Pan‐African Vulture Strategy, through the development of a Multi-species Action Plan covering all the vultures of the Old World.

Dr Senyatso directs his words to the people of Africa:

“If you pause for a minute to think about what an African sky without vultures means to your own personal life, you will realise that you need to actively participate in their conservation.”

To conclude, watch this space… We’re not just going to sit around and watch vultures fall out of the sky.

“We can turn this generation around to understanding that vultures are most important when they are alive and fulfilling their unique role in the ecosystem,”

says BirdLife’s Chief Executive, Patricia Zurita.

“Let’s save nature’s clean-up crew.”

How European rollers migrate to Africa and back

This is an Europeanh roller video from Azerbaijan.

From Science Daily:

Uncovered: European roller‘s route between Africa, Europe

October 20, 2015


Its blue and brown-colored plumage is undoubtedly the most distinctive feature of the European roller, a threatened migratory bird. Up until now, little was known about this bird’s migration patterns and wintering. For the first time, scientists from nine countries reveal the routes between the southern part of Africa and Europe taken by a considerable part of this species which is currently in a fragile state of conservation. Researchers have been able to uncover this information with the help of geolocators and satellite transmissions.

It breeds in Europe, crosses the Mediterranean via different routes, rests in Sub-Saharan Africa and winters in the southern part of Africa. Each year, the European roller (Coracias garrulus) covers close to ten thousand kilometres to breed and to winter over a route that was practically unknown up until now.

A team of scientists from nine countries (Spain, United Kingdom, Portugal, France, Austria, Switzerland, Montenegro, Lithuania and Cyprus) utilised data obtained from geolocators, satellite transmissions and bird ringing to examine the migration and wintering of this bird throughout a large part of the area where it is located. The results are published in the ‘Diversity and Distributions’ journal.

Thanks to this research, scientists have been able to ”uncover migration routes, resting areas and wintering grounds in addition to the degree of migratory connectivity in different populations of this species,” explains Deseada Parejo, a researcher for the department of Anatomy, Cellular Biology and Zoology at the University of Extremadura (Spain) and co-author of the study.

Identifying key areas

Migration poses a significant challenge to the European roller seeing as these birds are presented with diverse threats from their breeding grounds in Europe to their wintering ones in the southern part of Africa. For this reason, the investigation ”has allowed for the identification of key areas and an improved understanding of the species,” indicates Parejo, who adds that this is an important factor to consider given this specie’s fragile state of conservation.

As a result of the 34 specimens that were tracked, scientists were able to detect a high degree of migratory connectivity in the rollers that reproduce in Eastern Europe and low connectivity in the rollers that reproduce in the western part of the continent.

”Migratory connectivity represents the degree to which specimens from the same breeding population winter together. Thus, a high connectivity indicates that specimens from different breeding populations practically do not mix together at wintering grounds,” emphasises the researcher.

Scientists consider the low connectivity of rollers from the west to be a ”positive” factor since it reduces the sensitivity of different breeding populations to local habitat losses at wintering grounds. This is the opposite of what happens with rollers from Eastern Europe that show a greater sensitivity to changes in the local habitat during the winter.

This investigation is considered to be a benchmark for animal migration studies and migratory connectivity given the large spatial area it has covered.. It reveals the importance of the northern parts of the Sudanian and Sahel Savannas where these birds stop to rest. In the springtime, a return route that stands out is the one covered by the rollers that breed more towards the east around the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Giraffes’ nightly humming to each other, new research

This video says about itself:

17 September 2015

Nocturnal “humming” vocalizations: adding a piece to the puzzle of giraffe vocal communication. Anton Baotic et al (2015), BMC Research Notes


Recent research reveals that giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis sp.) exhibit a socially structured, fission–fusion system. In other species possessing this kind of society, information exchange is important and vocal communication is usually well developed. But is this true for giraffes? Giraffes are known to produce sounds, but there is no evidence that they use vocalizations for communication. Reports on giraffe vocalizations are mainly anecdotal and the missing acoustic descriptions make it difficult to establish a call nomenclature. Despite inconclusive evidence to date, it is widely assumed that giraffes produce infrasonic vocalizations similar to elephants. In order to initiate a more detailed investigation of the vocal communication in giraffes, we collected data of captive individuals during day and night. We particularly focussed on detecting tonal, infrasonic or sustained vocalizations.


We collected over 947 h of audio material in three European zoos and quantified the spectral and temporal components of acoustic signals to obtain an accurate set of acoustic parameters. Besides the known burst, snorts and grunts, we detected harmonic, sustained and frequency-modulated “humming” vocalizations during night recordings. None of the recorded vocalizations were within the infrasonic range.


These results show that giraffes do produce vocalizations, which, based on their acoustic structure, might have the potential to function as communicative signals to convey information about the physical and motivational attributes of the caller. The data further reveal that the assumption of infrasonic communication in giraffes needs to be considered with caution and requires further investigations in future studies.

See also here.

New huntsman spider species discoveries in Africa

This 2013 video is called World’s Biggest Spider: Giant Huntsman Spider.

From the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Germany:

Four new species of huntsman spiders have been discovered in southern Africa

September 16, 2015

The arachnologist Dr Peter Jäger of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered a new genus from the family of huntsman spiders. He was able to describe a total of four new species within this genus, which occurs in South Africa and Namibia. Besides special setae at the tips of their feet, which likely prevent the animals from sinking into the sand, the eight-legged creatures are characterized by their interesting mating behaviour. The study was recently published in the scientific journal “African Invertebrates“.

To discover a living in the South African deserts is a difficult feat; to study the spider in detail is almost impossible. The eight-legged animals are quick, nocturnal, and dwell in inconspicuous tunnels in the sand. “Fortunately, we have our collection that we can fall back on,” says Dr Peter Jäger, arachnologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt. In his lab, Jäger was now able to identify a new genus with four associated of huntsman spiders (Sparassidae). “The spiders of one species were collected in the year 2004 by my doctoral student at the time, Dirk Kunz, and I now described them together scientifically as May bruno.” The name was assigned in the context of the bio-sponsorship program (www.biopat.de); a daughter uses it to honour her father. Molecular-genetic studies of Jäger’s colleague Henrik Krehenwinkel confirmed that the animals belong to a .

The tips of the feet of these newly discovered desert dwellers with a leg span of 8 to 10 centimetres are particularly conspicuous. They contain unique tufts of setae with feathered tips. “They likely serve to prevent the animals from sinking into the sand and help them remain on the surface,” speculates the spider researcher from Frankfurt. Jäger is well aware of the huntsman spiders’ ingenuity when it comes to moving across the hot desert sand, at the latest since his discovery of a spider in this family that moves by means of flic-flacs or somersaults.

In addition, Jäger found yet another special trait in these spiders. All four females he inspected showed paired bite marks on their cephalothorax. “It is quite possible that these injuries were sustained during mating,” explains Jäger, and he adds, “We were unable to find these marks on the males of the ‘Love Bite Spider'”. Jäger refuses to speculate about the meaning of such behaviour and hopes that his colleagues will be able to observe the copulation in the field. However, since only 6 out of 45,000 spider species worldwide have males injuring conspecific females during courtship or mating, it is a very interesting finding.