Save yellow-breasted buntings


This is a yellow-breasted bunting video.

From BirdLife:

17 Oct 2017

Is the Yellow-breasted Bunting the next Passenger Pigeon?

Wide-scale, unchecked hunting has, in the space of just three decades, driven frightening declines in two widespread bunting species, on both sides of the Eurasian landmass. Armed with our scientific findings, the BirdLife Partnership is now working to help buntings recover.

By Simba Chan

We are all familiar with the cautionary tale of the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius — once the most abundant species in North America, and possibly the entire world. Numbering well into the billions at the peak of its existence, flocks of Passenger Pigeons flying overhead were likened to deafening hurricanes. It seemed unthinkable that this superabundant bird could go extinct.

Yet, it did. Unchecked hunting and the widespread clearance of hardwood trees, which provided the bulk of its diet, drove a steep decline in numbers in the late 19th century. By the time we realised what was happening, it was too late to reverse the decline, and Martha, the last known Passenger Pigeon, died in captivity in 1914. This sorry tale serves to remind us that although many birds are classified as Least Concern by BirdLife on behalf of the IUCN Red List, if we ignore the warning signs, no species is immune from the threat of extinction.

In the mid-1990s, the observed decline of the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola in Hokkaido, Japan alerted conservationists that another super-abundant species might be in trouble. Now we know it has suffered a huge decline, possibly as much as 95 percent of its population, in the span of just two to three decades. Prior to 2004 the Yellow-breasted Bunting was not regarded as of conservation concern, but since 2013 it has been listed as Endangered, and this year the discussion on BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Birds Forum concerned a potential further uplisting to Critically Endangered.

The main reason for its decline is also comparable to that of the Passenger Pigeon: the species migrates in huge flocks, which are hunted in massive numbers. Again paralleling the Passenger Pigeon, the Yellow-breasted Bunting’s plight has been worsened by improvements in communication and transportation. The species gathers in large numbers at night to roost, making the birds easy to trap in high numbers.

The species is known as the “rice bird” in China, where it is hunted for food — a practice that has been illegal since 1997, but continues on the black market to this day. Such unsustainable and mostly illegal hunting on migratory passerines in Asia has pushed not only the Yellow-breasted Bunting to the edge of extinction; according to preliminary monitoring projects performed in Amur Region (Russia) and Hong Kong SAR (China), all migratory bunting species in eastern Asia are declining.

In order to address and confront this little-known crisis, BirdLife International co-organised an international workshop on conservation of the Yellow-breasted Bunting with the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife in China (Hong Kong)) and the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China in November 2016. The purpose of the workshop was to collect information and opinion for drafting an International Conservation Action Plan on the Yellow-breasted Bunting, and to form an international conservation network on this and other migratory passerines.

More than 50 experts from almost all major range countries attended the workshop. The main recommendations from the workshop were that the Yellow-breasted Bunting should be officially protected in all range countries, that its migration patterns should be managed using colour banding and geolocators, and that its breeding, migration and wintering sites need to be identified, surveyed, protected, and managed. It is also imperative to study the effect of agrochemicals on migratory passerines that use farmlands, and promote wildlife-friendly farming practices. International cooperation on the research and conservation of this species and other migratory passerines is necessary if we are to stabilise the numbers of Asia’s vanishing migrants.

The International Conservation Action Plan of the Yellow-breasted Bunting is expected to be published by 2019, as good consultation with different countries and stakeholders, including some regional and national workshops, are needed. However, important actions are already underway. In the breeding season of 2016, BirdLife International and Birds Russia conducted a preliminary study on the Yellow-breasted Bunting in Sakhalin, Russia. The result was alarming: it has seemingly disappeared completely from southern Sakhalin, and could only be found at a few localities in northern and central parts of the island.

The next year, a joint team from BirdLife International, Wild Bird Society of Japan (BirdLife Partner) and Birds Russia visited northern Sakhalin and colour-banded eighteen Yellow-breasted Buntings so we could study its migration. Geolocators will be used in the breeding season of 2018 if the banded birds have proven they are returning to the same breeding sites.

This year, China has made a very positive move in saving the Yellow-breasted Bunting and other migratory passerine by enforcing a revised Wildlife Conservation Law. It outlaws the eating of protected species, which includes the Yellow-breasted Bunting. The key to success is higher awareness among the general public so they will refuse to buy the birds and report any illegal activities seen.

BirdLife International and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society have produced a poster to support implementation of the new conservation law. BirdLife Partners will also support an education programme on prevention of hunting and wildlife consumption in all other range countries as the fight continues to ensure that the Yellow-breasted Bunting doesn’t become another cautionary tale for future generations.

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No fruit bats, no durian fruit


This video says about itself:

14 May 2015

A Cave Nectar Bat is pollinating durian flowers in Thailand. The durian is the king of South East Asian fruits, selling for billions of dollars annually. However, every flower must be pollinated by a bat in order to set fruit, even when grown in orchards.

From the University of Nottingham in England:

Durian industry could suffer without the endangered fruit bat

October 3, 2017

Scientists have discovered that Southeast Asia’s endangered fruit bats — commonly known as flying foxes — play an important part in the pollination of the iconic and economically important durian tree.

Using camera traps, researchers collected video evidence showing the island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) pollinating durian flowers, leading to the production of healthy durian fruit. Their study — Pollination by the locally endangered island flying fox (Pteropus hypomelanus) enhances fruit production of the economically important durian (Durio zibethinus) — has been published in the Journal of Ecology and Evolution.

The video footage was captured on Tioman Island by a team led by Dr Sheema Abdul Aziz as part of her PhD at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (France) in collaboration with the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Dr Sheema said: “These are very important findings because they shed more light on the crucial ecosystem services provided by flying foxes. Previously it was known that the smaller, nectar-feeding bats are pollinators for durian — but many people believed that flying foxes were too large and destructive to play such a role. Our study shows the exact opposite: that these giant fruit bats are actually very effective in pollinating durian trees.”

The spikey tropical durian fruit, with its spikey skin and distinctive odour, is highly prized throughout Malaysia and Thailand. A ubiquitous icon of Southeast Asian culture, it is also a lucrative industry, generating millions of US dollars in local and international trade. The new findings suggest these economic profits owe a huge debt to large fruit bats such as flying foxes — as they were previously believed to be destructive rather than beneficial.

Dr Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, from the School of Environment and Geographical Sciences of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and one of the coauthors of the study, said: “The durian is a fascinating plant that, with its flowers pollinated by bats and its seeds dispersed by large animals like elephants, beautifully exemplifies the importance of plant animal interactions. The durian fruit is particularly famous for its pungent smell and unique taste, adored by most people in Southeast Asia and so often misunderstood — abhorred? — by westerners. We hope this study brings attention to the urgency of conserving flying foxes in Southeast Asia.”

Flying fox populations in severe decline

The island flying fox is already classified as ‘endangered’ on Malaysia’s National Red List.

Large fruit bats of the genus Pteropus are severely threatened by hunting and deforestation. They are often sold and eaten as exotic meat due to an unsubstantiated belief that consuming them can help cure asthma and other respiratory problems. They are also persecuted and killed as agricultural pests, as some people claim that the bats cause damage and economic loss by feeding on cultivated fruits.

Consequently, these factors have led to a severe decline in flying fox populations worldwide.

Repercussions for tropical ecosystems

This study shows that these bats play important roles as seed dispersers and pollinators in rainforests, especially on islands. Their disappearance could therefore have repercussions for tropical ecosystems.

This international team of researchers from Malaysia, France, India, and Thailand, in collaboration with Tree Climbers Malaysia, has found that Southeast Asia’s durian supply could be affected too.

Dr Sheema said: “If people end up hunting flying foxes to extinction, it’s not hard to see that there could be serious implications for Southeast Asia’s beloved ‘King of Fruits‘”.

Green peacock video


This is a green peacock video.

These birds live in north-east India, south-east Asia and Java in Indonesia.

Flood disaster in South Asia


This video from the USA says about itself:

15 September 2017

We turn to the devastating floods in South Asia, where more than 41 million people have been battling floods and displacement. More than 1,300 people have died in Bangladesh, India and Nepal in recent months, after the region was hit by the worst flooding in at least 40 years.

Some 40 million more people have seen their homes, businesses or crops destroyed. In the coming decade, devastating floods are expected to increase as changing weather patterns worsen risks in the region, climate researchers say. Flooding accounted for 47 percent of all weather-related global disasters between 1995 and 2015, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said in a report.

Of the 2.3 billion people affected, 95 percent were in Asia. We speak with David Molden, the director general of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu, Nepal. The group works in eight countries across South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

Greater sand plover video


This is a greater sand plover video.

This Asian species is a rare vagrant in western Europe.

European birds, and Asian plants exhibition


This video is about the exhibition Crown Jewels from Asia, which is at present in the botanical garden in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The exhibition celebrates the bicentenary of the botanical garden in Bogor, Indonesia, the Kebun Raya.

We went to that exhibition on 25 June.

As we walked to the botanical garden, two great spotted woodpeckers, a youngster and its mother. Sometimes they sat on the trees along the canal; sometimes on a home’s balcony.

A bit further in that canal, a great crested grebe couple building their nest. A few meters further, a coot nest with a youngster and its parents. Still about fifty meters further, another coot nest; in the part of the canal inside the botanical garden.

Near the garden entrance, information signs on the Crown Jewels from Asia exhibition. Especially about seventeenth century naturalist Rumphius, who wrote the first book on plants in Indonesia (more specifically Ambon island); work which inspired the later Bogor botanical garden.

In a hothouse, another sign about Rumphius at Nepenthes carnivorous plants. Rumphius knew that insects die in Nepenthes pitchers; he did not know yet that the plants digest them as food. Even to Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century, discovering carnivory in plants was surprising.

In the hothouse, the big Australian stick insects were still present.

In the Victoria amazonica hothouse, there was a Crown Jewels from Asia sign as well. Though these giant water lilies are from South America, not Asia. That was because in the nineteenth century there were experiments in cultivating Victoria plants in the Bogor garden before they arrived in the Leiden garden.

Outside, greenfinch and ring-necked parakeet sounds.