Help Argentina’s flamingos and shorebirds

This 2009 video is called Andean flamingo mating dance.

From BirdLife:

23 Feb 2018

2018 Birdfair project announced: a haven for Argentina’s Flamingos

This year’s British Birdwatching Fair will support the creation of Argentina’s largest national park, in the process providing a haven to nearly a million flamingos and shorebirds.

By James Lowen

A gargantuan pink candyfloss wisps over an immense lake in north-central Argentina before sugar-rushing upwards in a flurry of a hundred thousand wings. Mar Chiquita – South America’s second-largest waterbody, and the world’s fifth-biggest salt lake – harbours most of the planet’s Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis and nearly half its Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus. A lagoon with a legend, it is also an IBA In Danger, a national-park-in-waiting… and the focus of the British Birdwatching Fair 2018.

Mar Chiquita means ‘little sea’. This vast salina (salt lake) ranges 45 miles (70km) by 15 miles (24km). Mar Chiquita is a literal oasis – and its water, marshy fringes and surrounding grasslands throng with wildlife. Up to 318,000 Chilean Flamingos (Near Threatened) have been counted, their bubblegum-pink congregation boosted in winter with up to 18,000 Andean Flamingo (Vulnerable) and smaller numbers of Puna Flamingo Phoenicoparrus jamesi (Near Threatened).

Mar Chiquita’s shorebird gatherings challenge credulity. Tens of thousands of American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica, White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis and Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes migrate here from North America. Tens of thousands of each species, that is. But that’s small change.

Six hundred thousand Wilson’s Phalaropes Steganopus tricolor winter here. Six hundred thousand. Roughly one-third of the world population of these delicate, needle-billed shorebirds pirouettes hyperactively atop the water or darken the sky when clouding between invertebrate-rich shorelines. “Mar Chiquita is key to the future of shorebirds using three different intercontinental flyways”, says Rob Clay, Director, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network executive office.

This in itself might be world enough. Yet appreciating the full faunal richness of Mar Chiquita involves venturing away from water. In golden-dry grasslands, South America’s tallest bird, the flightless Greater Rhea Rhea americana (Near Threatened), canters past a diminutive Bearded Tachuri Polystictus pectoralis (Near Threatened). At night, a Maned Wolf Chrysocyon brachyurus (Near Threatened) – essentially, a fox on stilts – lopes along while the bizarre Sickle-winged Nightjar Eleothreptus anomalus (Near Threatened) glides overhead. Swampy areas host Dot-winged Crake Porzana spiloptera (Vulnerable) and Dinelli’s Doradito Pseudocolopteryx dinelliana (Near Threatened), while Crowned Solitary Eagles Buteogallus coronatus (Endangered) roam over dry, quebracho-stippled Chaco forest.

A haven for wildlife, unequivocally. But also a haven in peril, regrettably. Mar Chiquita may drip with official designations: “it’s a Ramsar Site, one of Argentina’s top Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA), a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve and a provincial reserve”, says Malena Srur of Aves Argentinas (BirdLife Partner). But these alone haven’t kept it safe. Ignominiously, Mar Chiquita features among Argentina’s handful of IBAs In Danger. It is this claim to infame that has spurred action by Aves Argentinas. Action that will now receive Birdfair funding.

The organisation has a full plate in front of them. Water is being extracted from Mar Chiquita at a rate that prompts talk of desiccation. The lake suffers pollution from local industry. The area’s integrity, Srur says, “is further threatened by agricultural intensification, an above-average deforestation rate and unregulated tourism”.

Water is being extracted from Mar Chiquita at a rate that risks desiccation

For several years, Srur explains, Aves Argentinas has surveyed birds, raised environmental awareness, improved management and clarified land ownership at Mar Chiquita. Then came its masterstroke: an ambitious plan, developed with provincial and national authorities, to create what should become the country’s largest national park. Anticipated to be officially designated this year following a concordat signed in 2017 by Argentina’s environment minister, National Parks Administration and the governor of Córdoba province, Ansenuza National Park will protect up to 700,000 hectares. “Being managed at the national rather than regional level guarantees greater protection”, enthuses Srur. This is mighty work – worthy of the gods, indeed.

Which brings us to the legend that seasons Mar Chiquita. The fable both explains the national park’s name and celebrates its flamingos. One day, Ansenuza – the beautiful yet cruel goddess of water – chanced upon a warrior dying in the sandy margins of her lagoon. Unexpectedly, she was entranced by his beauty. Moved by love for the first time, Ansenuza wept as the man’s life expired, her torrential tears turning the lake salty. Fellow gods took pity on Ansenuza and returned life to the warrior, transforming him into a beautiful, slender bird adorned with pink feathers. From that moment on, flamingos have inhabited the salina.

Boosting the local economy through nature-based tourism is fundamental to the project’s success

Enshrining the lake’s colloquial name in the national park title speaks volumes. Community engagement – participatory planning, empowering local stakeholders and establishing a network of ‘local conservation guardians’ – has been integral to Aves Argentinas’ strategy from the outset. Moreover, bolstering the local economy through nature-based tourism is fundamental to the project’s success. Having identified Mar Chiquita as a priority area in Argentina’s 2016 National Sustainable Tourism Strategic Plan, the Ministry for Tourism is delighted. “A vibrant ecotourism circuit at Ansenuza”, explains Srur, “will lengthen the tourist season and generate sustainable livelihoods over a wider area. Local communities will become strongly committed to Ansenuza’s long-term conservation.”

It is this inspiring future that British Birdwatching Fair funds will help create. But it’s not just about the money. “Birdfair recognition has already been a major boost for building domestic political awareness about why Mar Chiquita/Ansenuza needs to be protected,” says Srur. Isadora Angarita-Martínez (BirdLife International Biodiversity Conservation Manager) goes further. The Birdfair brand “will help gain birding-industry support, which is key to making Ansenuza a birding paradise”.

Competition to be the project supported by the annual Birdfair is intense. In deciding which of several worthy initiatives support each year, Birdfair decision-makers take into account how the project will strengthen the wider BirdLife Partnership. Angarita-Martínez welcomes Aves Argentinas’s intention to help “build capacity in policy development among BirdLife’s Americas Regional partnership”. And she praises how the organisation is “integrating the project across BirdLife programmes: from IBAs in Danger, through Flyways to the Southern Cone Grassland Alliance”.

Birdfair projects have always thought big. Last year’s theme, ‘Saving paradise in the Pacific’, aims to clear the French Polynesian island of Rapa Iti – one of the remotest islands in the world – of invasive predators. Today it was announced that the 2017 Birdfair raised an incredible £333,000 towards the work – the second highest total in Birdfair history.

And this year will be no less ambitious. A project to convert an IBA in Danger into a protected national park. An initiative to develop sustainable livelihoods through ecotourism. A design that will benefit BirdLife Partners across an entire continent. A worthy recipient of 2018 Birdfair support indeed. The goddess Ansenuza may still weep, but her tears are no longer those of sadness – rather those of joy.


Argentine activist Maldonado murdered, back to dictatorship?

This video from Argentina says about itself:

20 October 2017

After almost three months, the body of indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado has been found.

By Andrea Lobo:

Discovery of dead youth’s body raises specter of forced disappearances in Argentina

23 October 2017

The recovery of a body last Tuesday in the Chubut river in the southern Argentine province of the same name has sparked mass protests across the country and demonstrations internationally.

Eleven weeks after a crackdown by the Gendarmerie against the indigenous Mapuche community led to the disappearance of a young demonstrator, search operations in the area located remains carrying his ID. As the forensic tests began Friday morning, the country waits anxiously to know whether this is the 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado.

The case has created a sense of deep distrust towards the conservative government of President Mauricio Macri and all the official institutions of the capitalist state involved. Not only was the corpse found 1,000 feet upstream from where he was last seen, but three previous searches in the same area had not found the body, which could suggest it was dumped at a later date.

Amid growing social opposition and anticipation that social cuts, price hikes or tarifazos, and attacks against jobs and wages will escalate after Sunday’s mid-term elections, this case has raised the prospect of a return to the methods of brutal state repression when tens of thousands of workers and youth were disappeared during the US-backed military juntas of the 1970s and 1980s across Latin America.

In Cushamen, located in the northeast region of Chubut, the Mapuche Autonomous Movement of Puel Mapu had set up a “Pu Lof (community) of resistance” in May 2015, claiming ancestral lands in a section of the 900,000 hectares owned in Argentina by the billionaires of the Italian Benetton family. The Mapuches have established a small settlement, which has been raided violently several times and burned down by the national Gendarmerie and the Chubut Police.

This year, the efforts to intimidate and expel the Mapuches were escalated, using live ammunition against the tents and making arrests. On July 31, Santiago Maldonado arrived at the Lof to support a demonstration for the release of the Mapuche leader Joanes Huala. That same day, the chief of staff of the Ministry of Security, Pablo Noceti, held a meeting with local authorities to coordinate an operation to clear the Lof.

Early on August 1, the planned confrontation began with 137 gendarmes cracking down on a road block set up by the Mapuches, where Maldonado was present. The military police then entered into the Pu Lof without a warrant and illegally shot live rounds, according to witnesses, and charged violently against those present, including children.

According to a lawyer defending the Mapuches, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, that early morning Maldonado fled with several others as soon as shots were heard and hid near the Chubut river. Witnesses say that a group of officials caught up with them and, while some of the demonstrators were able to flee across the river, one person was arrested and placed in a van while several officials blocked its doors. Others detained were taken and imprisoned temporarily outside of the community, but Maldonado was unaccounted for.

The testimonies of the gendarmes and their superiors have contradicted each other, in terms of what happened at the river and whether a body was seen floating or not—downstream. According to Infobae, the family of Maldonado has denounced gaps in the video recording of the operation.

The court order to take evidence from the police precincts and the vehicles used by the state forces—as part of an illegal raid implicating the highest levels of the government—was not given until a week after the events, with the prosecutor acknowledging that evidence could have been tampered with by then.

However, audios were found in the messaging app Whatsapp of several cellphones taken from the gendarmes present at the August 1 operation that constitute perhaps the most chilling evidence not only of a kidnapping, but also of a deliberate cover-up and of the dictatorial attitude of the officials. “Apparently, he said that he had [Santiago] Maldonado in his pickup, the one of Sergeant Sartirana,” indicates an audio sent by a gendarme to a superior. Another recording mentions the hiding of the law enforcement vehicles.

Finally, another Whatsapp audio includes an incriminating statement demonstrating the fascistic and murderous mentality of the military police raiding the camp. “We shot them with live rounds (corchazos),” one official says, “for them to get some.”

During the proceeding weeks, government officials and the mainstream media sought to promote uncorroborated stories of “sightings” of Maldonado in nearby areas or versions that he crossed over to Chile. More recently, especially after Tuesday’s recovery of the body, the press has sought to lay responsibility on the Mapuches.

The first judge assigned to the case had previously upheld several of the previous crackdowns against the Mapuches and was reportedly being abusive in the interrogations, leading the family of Maldonado to request a change. Nonetheless, the new judge, Gustavo Lleral quickly ordered a new search operation for this week of the territory occupied by the Pu Lof, leading the Mapuche members to complain that they were again being targeted as suspects.

The case is being investigated by as a “forced disappearance,” but the assigned prosecutor stated in a report partially leaked by Clarín that the investigation was still inconclusive. Seeing ever larger demonstrations demanding the finding of Maldonado, church leaders as well as business chambers asked for a “solution” without “political party manipulations.”

In mid-September, the minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, explicitly made clear that the administration’s priority is to reassure the state forces that they will continue enjoying impunity in carrying out such crimes and repression. “We have to defend those who defend us,” she declared on a TV talk show. That same week, sources close to Macri indicated that the blame was going be pinned on the “performance” of one or two gendarmes.

For its part, the press of the leading party of FIT, the Socialist Workers Party (PTS) reported the finding of the remains on Wednesday, stressing that “everything that happened to Santiago Maldonado since his disappearance… is the sole and exclusive responsibility of Patricia Bullrich, Pablo Noceti and the Gendarmerie.” Moreover, Marcelo Ramal, a candidate for deputy of the FIT’s other major party, the Workers’ Party (PO), told the press at a demonstration Thursday afternoon: “It’s necessary for the [security] minister Bullrich to step down to dismantle the cover-up by the administration and this minister in particular.”

On the contrary, the disappearance of Maldonado is a confirmation to the entire working class in Argentina and internationally that, facing a stagnated economy, levels of social inequality incompatible with democratic rights, and geopolitical flashpoints across Eurasia threatening to erupt into a world war, the ruling classes are turning to increasingly authoritarian forms of government.

The Macri administration is preparing to aggressively escalate its social attacks after the elections, beyond the 250,000 job cuts since December 2015 and devastating price hikes it has already overseen. The defense of the social and democratic rights against the growth of social reaction requires the construction of an international and revolutionary movement of the working class against capital and its political representatives of all shades, and for socialism.

Argentine indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado missing

This video says about itself:

Huge March in Argentina Demands Santiago Maldonado’s Return

2 September 2017

Thousands descended upon Argentina’s famous Plaza de Mayo to ask the state to respond to the disappearance of indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado.

Associated Press reports:

Argentine protesters demand answers about missing activist


September 2 2017

Tens of thousands of Argentines demonstrated in cities across the country on Friday holding photos of a missing activist who was last seen when border police evicted a group of indigenous Mapuche from lands in Patagonia owned by Italian clothing company Benetton.

Demonstrators in the Argentine capital marched to the Plaza de Mayo square in front of the presidential palace to demand the government find 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado alive.

The march marked the one-month anniversary of Maldonado’s disappearance. Since then, everyone — from soccer great Diego Maradona to Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla to politicians from opposing political parties — have joined human rights activists in a social media campaign under the slogan: “Where is Santiago Maldonado?”

The disappearance has hit a raw nerve in Argentina, where human rights groups estimate that about 30,000 people died or were forcibly disappeared during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

“We’ve gone back in time 40 years. I can’t accept it,” said Rosa de Roisinblit, 98, the vice president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights groups. During the dictatorship years, she marched every week in the same square in Buenos Aires, fighting alongside other women in the group to recover their children and grandchildren.

“I can’t believe that this is happening in a constitutional, democratically-elected government,” she said. …

Maldonado‘s case has become problematic for the government of President Mauricio Macri as human rights groups accuse it of being part of a cover up and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has urged Argentina to find the missing artisan and tattoo artist.

Maldonado‘s family says border police detained him when he and others were blocking a road in Chubut province, in the southern region of Patagonia. Authorities deny wrongdoing.

Maldonado’s case is being investigated as a forced disappearance. …

Maldonado had joined the Mapuche cause while living in southern Argentina. The Aug. 1 protesters were demanding the release of Facundo Jones Huala, an imprisoned Mapuche leader who is wanted by Chile. The lands belong to Compania de Tierras Sud Argentino, a wool-producing company owned by Benetton. Mapuches claim the lands as their ancestral territory and have been occupying them since 2015.

Some members of the Mapuche indigenous community have told reporters on condition of anonymity that Maldonado was taken by border police. But they have yet to ratify the information to authorities.

“We want a serious and impartial investigation,” Santiago’s brother, Sergio Maldonado, told demonstrators on Friday. “How much more must we ask ourselves: Where is Santiago?”

Rare hooded grebes in love, video

This video says about itself:

Hooded Grebe courtship dance, rare footage from “Tango in the Wind”

6 July 2017

The Hooded Grebe is a Critically Endangered bird that breeds on a few basaltic lakes in the interior of Santa Cruz, extreme south-west Argentina.

Film by Michael and Paula Webster featuring the Hooded Grebe and its spectacular courting ritual. Full movie to be released soon. To save birds’ habitats and breeding grounds [and see a more extensive video], please visit here.

See also here.