Argentinian geese in trouble


This 2011 video is about ruddy-headed geese.

From BirdLife:

New study reveals alarming decline of Patagonian geese

By Irene Lorenzo, 22 Nov 2016

In the early 20th century, tens of thousands of Ruddy-headed Geese crowded the deserts of Patagonia. Today, they have become a rare sight. However, they still inhabit the Malvinas/Falkland Islands in large numbers and some argue that these island-dwellers could be the key to one day repopulating the continent. However, in a blow for the future of this species, a new study reveals reintroduction might not be possible.

When one thinks of Patagonia, majestic glaciers and barren landscapes spring to mind. However, despite the Patagonian steppe being the fourth largest desert in the world, it has a very varied topography. From magnificent mountains to shrublands, from cold temperate forests to glacial lakes, this region is composed of rich landscapes home to numerous species of birds such as the Hooded Grebe Podiceps gallardoi, Austral rail Rallus antarcticus and, of course, Ruddy-headed Goose Chloephaga rubidiceps.

Spring welcomes the arrival of migrant Ruddy-headed Geese to Southern Patagonia. Feeding on stems and leaves in the grasslands, their proximity to agricultural lands landed them into trouble in the 1930s, when the Argentinian government assumed they competed with sheep and cattle stocks for grassland resources. As a result, they were considered a pest, and intense persecution resulted in steep declines in the mainland population. In the meantime, the non-migrant population inhabiting the Malvinas/Falklands Islands was also being removed – but unlike their migrant continental equivalents, they were able to recover.

While the continental geese numbers were still dwindling from intense persecution, a new problem arose in their breeding grounds. The Chilean government started introducing Patagonian grey foxes in Tierra del Fuego in an attempt to control the previously introduced European rabbit populations. Coupled with the increasing habitat loss, mainland populations of Ruddy-headed Geese were unable to reconquer their lost territory.

According to a new study supported by Aves Argentinas (BirdLife Partner), the Ruddy-headed Goose has gone from being described as the most abundant goose in the Patagonian steppe to having a population of around 800 individuals, a 90% decrease since the early 20th century. The continental populations face now an uncertain future as the species struggles to make a comeback because their reproductive activity has diminished significantly.  Their first successful nesting in Argentinean part of Tierra del Fuego was recorded just last year, after a period of 20 years with no recorded egg-laying.

More direct conservation needed

The study also analyses the measures that have been taken to ensure their conservation in the last few decades. The authors took a look at what has been achieved ever since the species was listed as critically endangered in the national Red List of Argentina, and compared the suggested measures to those that were actually implemented. The authors then grouped the measures into three groups: research, management and education.

The measures carried out in their wintering grounds focused on the individual breeding birds, while those carried out in their breeding grounds focused on regaining their reproductive success, mainly through habitat restoration and invasive species management.

The study found that the majority of the suggested actions that have been implemented were mostly those related to research and education, while those related to direct conservation action on the birds or their environment had not been carried out.

The authors concluded that if direct conservation measures are not implemented soon, the survival of the continental population of Ruddy-headed Goose will depend exclusively on the survival of the current adult population.

“Direct measures to favour and increase their reproductive success need to be implemented as soon as possible to ensure the recovery of the continental populations”, said Lali Fassola, Patagonia Programme Coordinator at Aves Argentinas.

Could the island population rescue their continental counterparts?

Some scientists have argued that the mainland population could be “rescued” by the tens of thousands of Ruddy-headed Geese inhabiting the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. Unfortunately, another study suggests that there would be a low probability of recovering continental populations by transferring island individuals to the mainland.

Making use of molecular tools, the study proved that at some point in the late Pleistocene (colloquially known as “Ice Age”), populations of insular and continental Ruddy-headed Geese diverged. As a result, no reproduction seems to have happened between the two in the last million years – despite the short 450km distance between them.

The differences in genetic material coincide with what experts had observed in the wild: while the continental populations are migratory, the islanders are resident, which means it’s unlikely that new individuals will migrate from the islands to the mainland. However, more convincing data may be needed before it can be considered a separate species altogether.

In the meantime Aves Argentinas has been pushing for greater protection of the continental geese in their country, regardless of whether they’re different species.

‘’Will the government let mainland populations disappear while we discuss whether the two populations are genetically distinct?’’, argues Fassola.

In this particular case, the conservation status at regional level shows us a different level of urgency to the global situation. It’s a reminder of why the global Red List is a measure of extinction risk at the species level and should not be used as the sole measure of conservation priority. It also demonstrates the value of national and regional Red Lists to help guide conservation priority-setting at the sub-global level, regardless of the taxonomic debate. For the continental Ruddy-headed Geese, conservation measures can’t come fast enough.

Argentinian hooded grebes threatened by dam


This isd a 2015 hooded grebe video.

From BirdLife:

Hooded Grebe threatened by dam construction

By Shaun Hurrell, 10 Sep 2016

International scientific community urges Argentina to reconsider dam construction

[PRESS RELEASE]

Honolulu, Hawaii, 10 September 2016

An emergency motion passed today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress appeals to Argentinian Government to save Critically Endangered bird from badly-planned hydroelectric dams

The Hooded Grebe Podiceps gallardoi, a species already under pressure from the spread of invasive species and with less than 500 breeding pairs remaining, is facing a new and imminent threat from the proposed construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Santa Cruz River, Argentina, warns conservation organisation Aves Argentinas. An international commitment made today gives fresh hope for this bird, which was only discovered 42 years ago.

Found only on remote lakes of the Patagonian wilderness during the breeding season, the Hooded Grebe (Macá Tobiano in Spanish) was thought to be largely isolated from human threats. However, in winter it searches for food in only three areas – one being the estuary of the Santa Cruz River, now threatened by the proposed dams.

Houses have already been built along the river banks to house construction workers, but no damage to the river has begun yet. However, on 9 September, it was made public to the Argentinian media that President Macri will be relaunching the dam proposal next week.

“The time to act is now,” said Patricia Zurita, Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “We cannot afford to lose the habitat of Argentina’s beloved Macá Tobiano (Hooded Grebe)”.

The development is currently moving forward without a proper Environmental Impact Assessment or Strategic Environmental Assessment conducted by the Santa Cruz government. The river named after this region is Argentina’s only glacial river and following new information compiled by Aves Argentinas (national Partner of BirdLife International), the area downstream was recently declared an Important Bird & Biodiversity Area3 and global Key Biodiversity Area4 due to its ecological importance.

The river carries a huge amount of fertile sediment downstream to the estuary. With two dams blocking this natural process, there will be a complete change to the river flow and aquatic ecosystems of the area, resulting in the loss of wintering habitat and changes in food availability. In addition to the Hooded Grebe, the estuary harbours three other species listed as Near Threatened: Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus, Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis, and Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis; as well as many others like the endangered subspecies of Red Knot Calidris canutus rufa.

Today Aves Argentinas warned the conservation community with an announcement at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, currently underway in Hawaii. An emergency motion was proposed by Ana Di Pangracio (Deputy Executive Director, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN)6) that called for a suspension of dam construction until both suitable and updated Environmental Impact and Strategic Environmental Assessments hvae been completed, and was immediately passed.

Speaking earlier at the Congress, Sergio Bergman, Argentinian Minister for Environment, said that Argentina has “returned” to the international conservation stage, and insisted that Argentina remains committed to the goal of “zero extinction”. The action resulting from this new motion will be the first test of this commitment for the Hooded Grebe.

In Argentina, a coalition of NGOs, including Aves Argentinas and FARN, has formed to discuss the issues presented by the impact of the dams planned for the Santa Cruz River, and to analyse in depth the necessity and feasibility of the project before it is too late.5

The dams proposed by the government are linked to foreign investment, and would be constructed by a consortium of companies: Argentinian-based Electroingeniería and Hidrocuyo, alongside the Chinese Gezhouba Group Corporation.

The possibility of building the hydroelectric dams was originally investigated in 1950, but scrapped because of their cost and high environmental impact. The dams are still considered low priority in Argentina’s future energy mix.

A new report launched this week by Río Santa Cruz Sin Represas clearly shows that for the same price as the proposed dams, a modern renewable energy combination that includes the use of well-placed wind energy would yield a 55% greater power output per year, without threatening Argentina’s endangered birds. Also a 2014 Oxford University study found that large-scale dams are uneconomic.

“The campaign of the current Argentinian government remarked the importance of sustainability and the promotion of renewable energy”, says Hernán Casañas, Chief Executive of Aves Argentinas. “The serious impact of these hydroelectric projects should be considered contrary to other conservation activities that government itself has promoted, including the protection of the Hooded Grebe.”

The Hooded Grebe is already in severe trouble, having declined by over 80% in the last 25 years due to the introduction of the American Mink, which decimates the Patagonian breeding colonies. Aves Argentinas, working with local NGO Ambiente Sur have set up teams of volunteer ‘Colony Guardians’ who watch over the breeding sites.

Aves Argentinas has been working for more than 7 years on the conservation of the species, developing an intensive invasive predator control programme, and has invested nearly US$ 500,000. In 2013, the Argentinian Government declared a new 52,000 hectare protected area: the Patagonian National Park, in part to protect the breeding colonies of the Hooded Grebe.

“The Patagonia National Park will be a centre for the economic development (eco-tourism) of four locations in Santa Cruz”, says Hernán Casañas. “These proposed dams are jeopardising the flagship species of the Park, a species which the people of Santa Cruz love as a symbol of conservation in Patagonia.”

Argentine dictatorship torture general sentenced


This video says about itself:

Argentine General Sentenced to Life

26 August 2016

The ruling [about] former Argentine General Menendez brought thousands to the streets. A general during the horrific US-backed Dirty War, Menendez has been sentenced to life in prison after being charged with 600 cases of torture and over 300 murders.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Menendez gets life for dirty war role

Saturday 27th August 2016

ARGENTINA: Former General Luciano Benjamin Menendez was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for crimes committed at secret dirty war-era detention centres.

Thousands gathered outside the Cordoba court to await the judgement.

Gen Menendez stood trial with 42 other defendants, set to be sentenced yesterday after a nearly four-year so-called “mega-trial,” for more than 300 murders and 600 cases of torture between 1976 and 1978.

Bird conservation in Argentina, 100 years


This video is about birds and other animals in Argentina.

By Aves Argentinas, 28 July 2016:

The early days of Aves Argentinas

Today Aves Argentinas turns 100 years old. Where does the organization come from? What was the vision of its founders? And, given the colourful variety of birds living in the country, how did the dull-looking Rufous Hornero become the national emblem of the country? We take a look back in time.

1916 THE FOUNDATION

28 July: With the Great War raging across continents, a group of 21 scientists and naturalists meet in the Montserrat neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. They discuss a future where people are aware of the importance of conserving biodiversity.

They imagine a world where people, thanks to information, education and research, come to fully understand that birds are indicators of the health of our environment and that by conserving birds’ habitats, we secure the planet for generations to come.

On that day Aves Argentinas is founded: it will become a pioneer in bird conservation in the Americas.

1917 HERE COMES EL HORNERO (OVENBIRD)

One year after its foundation, Aves Argentinas chooses the Hornero as the ambassador for their mission, with the first issue of their scientific journal El Hornero. What started as a few articles defining the character and aims of the organisation is now considered a benchmark in the area of neotropical ornithology in Latin America. Why choose the hornero as the name of their magazine?

The Rufous Hornero Furnarius rufus is not your regular brown bird. Its seemingly dull plumage hides a fascinating behaviour. This tiny bird builds mud nests that resemble old wood-fired ovens (the Spanish word horno, means “oven”, giving rise to the English name Ovenbird).

This unique chambered construction is built in many stages, allowing the materials to dry and form a highly weather resistant home that will eventually survive storms and winds. Since their nests are so sturdy, horneros happily build them in the strangest of locations: rooftops, powerlines, street lamps or statues.

Inevitably, their omnipresent visibility has fuelled people’s imagination. Ovenbirds are the harbingers of good luck. Their unique sound announces upcoming times of prosperity. As a South American proverb goes “No thunder ever fell where horneros have nested”.

1917 MESSAGES FROM THE PAST

The first issue of El Hornero opens with an article that might well be written today. Attributed to the founder and former president Roberto Dabbene, the following commentary is published:

“Nobody can debate that the study of birds constitutes one of the most rich chapters in the history of the natural sciences. Once we know the name of the species, we must discover their behaviour, nesting habits, migrations, diet. Few animals provide, in this respect, so much charm to discover.

”The beauty of their forms and colourful exterior blends with their impressive instinct and intelligence. From their songs, expressions of love, to the artistic appearance of their nests, they are not only a study subject but also worthy of admiration.

”But the interest for birds does not end there. There’s also the practical aspect. It’s proven that birds provide indirect services to people. Many feed themselves off insects and small mammals that could wreak havoc in our crops.

“Ornithological societies build a bridge between science and education. Aves Argentinas aims to gather support from all over the country and with the collaboration of members hopes to bring about, in time, a cause that is meaningful and useful for society.”

1922 THE MIRACLE YEAR

The year has been described as a mirabilis for many reasons: literary, political and technological. Perhaps most importantly, it was the year that public radio hit the global airwaves. Suddenly, it became possible to reach vast audiences with new ideas and information, and for people to take an active interest in the world beyond their provincial and national borders.

However, sharing ideas on new global perspectives can change the world only if people act on them. That’s exactly what happened at midday on 20 June, 1922, when a group of people from different countries met at the London home of the then UK Minister of Finance to found the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP).

This was the world’s first international conservation organisation, as renowned Swedish zoologist Professor Kai Curry-Lindahl described decades later. It’s where the BirdLife International Partnership has its roots. The group, united by their passion for birds, decided that co-ordinated international action was the answer to the various threats birds faced.

In words very similar to those BirdLife still uses 90 years later, their declaration of principles stated: “…by united action, we should be able to accomplish more than organisations working individually in combating dangers to birdlife.”

1928 FROM PROVERBIAL BIRD TO NATIONAL EMBLEM

In April national newspaper La Razón surveys primary schools, asking which could be the most representative bird of Argentina, to become the National Emblem. The hugely successful survey initially seems to show that the majestic Andean Condor Vultur gryphus will be the winner. At the last minute, however, it is the dull-looking Rufous Hornero who becomes the National Emblem.

This is thanks in great part to the efforts of Aves Argentinas: taking interest in the survey, the then president Roberto Dabbene writes to the newspaper, explaining the reason why as the Hornero’s name had been chosen for their scientific journal. More letters follow. The author Leopoldo Lugones writes a poem dedicated to this singular bird, declaring it to be the true symbol of the country.

In the end, the Rufous Hornero is chosen as the National Bird of Argentina.

1936 AVES ARGENTINAS JOINS BIRDLIFE (TO BE)

Former Audubon founder, Gilbert Pearson, finally invites Aves Argentinas to join the ICBP, which years later would become BirdLife International. It takes them one year to become an official member of the BirdLife family, expanding its impact beyond Argentinian borders.

2016 LOOKING FORWARD

A century later, Aves Argentinas has grown from two dozen founders to a nationwide project, with citizens and scientists alike coming together to save biodiversity. It is important to look back to see what we have achieved, to inspire us to continue tackling the threats with renewed energy.

In 1916 the Sociedad Ornitológica del Plata was founded by a small group of visionaries. Today it counts 3,000 members and works on over 1,000 species. Hernan Casañas, CEO of the organization, reflects on a century of conservation work. A century ago, on July 28 1916, the Sociedad Ornitológica del Plata was born. Leading researchers and naturalists of the time, including the great writer and ornithologist William Hudson, founded the first environmental NGO of Latin America. Today, its name is Aves Argentinas, Latin America’s oldest environmental organisation and BirdLife Partner: here.

10 stunning portraits of Argentinian birds [PHOTOS]: here.

Unusual carnivorous dinosaur described


This video says about itself:

13 July 2016

A newly discovered meat-eating dinosaur that prowled Argentina 90 million years ago would have had a hard time using strong-arm tactics against its prey. That’s because the beast, though a fearsome hunter, possessed a pitifully puny pair of arms.

Scientists said on Wednesday they have unearthed fossils in northern Patagonia of a two-legged, up to 26-foot-long (8-meters-long) predator called Gualicho shinyae with arms only about 2 feet (60 cm) long, akin to a human child’s.

The fossils of Gualicho, named after an evil spirit feared by Patagonia’s indigenous Tehuelche people, were discovered in Argentina’s Rio Negro Province.

Gualicho and other carnivorous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex are part of a group called theropods that included Earth’s largest-ever land predators. But a curious thing happened during their many millions of years of evolution. For some, as they acquired huge body size and massive skulls, their arms and their number of fingers shrank.

From the Christian Science Monitor in the USA:

T. rex wasn’t the only one with those strange little arms

Paleontologists discover a new dinosaur with T. rex-like arms, but it’s not a tyrannosaur.

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer

July 13, 2016

Quick! Make like a T. rex.

What is the first step to mimicking the famous, fearsome dinosaur? After roaring, a person probably pulls both arms in, contorting them to make them tiny relative to the rest of the body, mashing the five fingers together to have just two digits on each hand. One of the most characteristic features of the iconic tyrant lizard dinosaur is its strange, seemingly uselessly small forelimbs.

But Tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t the only two-legged carnivorous dinosaur to sport such teeny, two-fingered arms.

“Theropods in general do this quite often,” Lindsay Zanno, head of the Paleontology Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. “There are a lot of different groups of theropods that tend to reduce the size of their hands and their arms or change the way that they’re used.”

And another one is joining the bunch.

Gualicho shinyae, discovered in Argentina in 2007, is named and described in a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

This new dinosaur’s “arms are short – about 2 ft long – which is less than the length of the thigh bone, and they have weak muscle attachments and poorly developed articulations indicating they had little strength,” Peter Makovicky, associate curator of dinosaurs at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago who co-led the team that discovered Gualicho, describes in an email to the Monitor.

The fingers on the 90-million-year-old fossil are similar to those of tyrannosaurs. The thumb has a large claw while the second finger is more slender. A third finger has become so reduced that it is just a tiny bone in the flesh of the animal’s hand. …

Gualicho has weak little arms with just two functional fingers like T. rex, but the similarities pretty much stop there.

“This animal has a kind of mosaic of features. There are aspects of its skeleton that show some affinities with some groups of dinosaurs and some affinities with other groups of dinosaurs, although none of those are really tyrannosaurs,” study co-author Nathan Smith, associate curator in the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, tells the Monitor in a phone interview.

But the “oddball” dinosaur, as Dr. Smith describes it, could help researchers figure out why so many diverse theropod dinosaurs have evolved similar, reduced forelimbs. …

Some scientists have suggested that humongous predatory dinosaurs would have evolved smaller arms because their skulls were used more readily to wrangle prey, she says.

There seems to be a pattern among tyrannosaurs, for example, in which the arms became shorter and the fingers fewer as the animals’ skulls and bodies became larger over generations, says Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh who was not part of the study, in an email to the Monitor. This would suggest that “the head was taking over many of the duties that the arms once had, like procuring and processing food.”

“Most theropods with reduced forelimbs, like tyrannosaurs, ceratosaurs, and carcharodontosaurs are clearly macropredators that rely on their massive skulls for hunting, so it seems likely that the same was true of Gualicho,” Makovicky says.

These diverse dinosaurs were likely under similar evolutionary pressures that lead to similarly reduced forelimbs. The feature would have evolved independently in the different groups, in a process called convergent evolution. …

The mosaic features of Gualicho “makes figuring out the evolutionary placement of this animal a little difficult,” Smith says.

Weighing an estimated 1,000 pounds, Gualicho appears to fit into the family neovenatoridae, a large-bodied branch of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs, Smith says, but it also seems to bear the closest resemblance to Deltadromeus, a large theropod from Africa.

But could a South American dinosaur be closely related to an African one?

Possibly. Scientists have previously noted a lot of similarities between dinosaurs unearthed in the Kem Kem Beds on the border of Morocco and Algeria, where Deltadromeus has been found, and the Huincul Formation in Argentina, where Guialicho was discovered, Smith says. “So it may not be surprising that these two carnivorous dinosaurs are close relatives.”

And at the time when Guialicho roamed the Earth, the two continents had only recently, geologically speaking, begun to separate as the supercontinent Gondwana broke up.