Big chromosome discovery in larks

This video is about skylarks singing in Belarus.

From Lund University in Sweden:

Record-size sex chromosome found in two bird species

December 4, 2019

Researchers in Sweden and the UK have discovered the largest known avian sex chromosome. The giant chromosome was created when four chromosomes fused together into one, and has been found in two species of lark.

“This was an unexpected discovery, as birds are generally considered to have very stable genetic material with well-preserved chromosomes,” explains Bengt Hansson, professor at Lund University in Sweden.

In a new study, the researchers charted the genome of several species of lark, a songbird family in which all members have unusually large sex chromosomes. The record-size chromosome is found in both the Eurasian skylark, a species that is common in Europe, Asia and North Africa, and the Raso lark, a species only found on the small island of Raso in Cape Verde.

This 8 May 2018 video, in Portuguese with English subtitles, says about itself:

A new home for the Raso Lark

The Raso Lark (Alauda razae) is confined to the small Raso islet on Cape Verde and it is one of the most threatened birds in the world. Its small population was once reduced to less than 100 birds worldwide! To increase its chances of survival Biosfera 1 joined SPEA and DNA and, with the support of the MAVA Foundation, translocated 37 birds to the neighbour island of Santa Luzia.

The translocation was successful and now we wait for the first breeding signs of this new population.

The Lund University article continues:

“The genetic material in the larks’ sex chromosome has also been used to form sex chromosomes in mammals, fish, frogs, lizards and turtles. This indicates that certain parts of the genome have a greater tendency to develop into sex chromosomes than others,” says Bengt Hansson.

Why the two species have the largest sex chromosome of all birds is unclear, but the result could be disastrous lead to problems for female larks in the future. Studies of different sex chromosome systems have shown that the sex-limited chromosome, for example the Y chromosome in humans, usually breaks down over time and loses functional genes.

“Among birds, the females have a corresponding W chromosome in which we see the same breakdown pattern. As three times more genetic material is linked to the sex chromosomes of these larks compared to other birds, this could cause problems for many genes,” says Hanna Sigeman, doctoral student at the Department of Biology, Lund University.

Portugal’s fascist concentration camp, Lisbon exhibition

This 18 February 2019 video is called Cabo Verde Tarrafal Political Prison Camp.

Tarrafal (also known as Campo da Morte Lenta in Portuguese [“Camp of the Slow Death”]) was a prison camp in the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde. According to Wikipedia, the PVDE, Portuguese secret police, modeled its camp regime on the Nazi concentration camps.

By Charles Hixson and Paul Mitchell:

“Tarrafal Never Again!” exhibition in Lisbon exposes horrors of Portugal’s fascist concentration camp

9 April 2019

Tarrafal Never Again!—Exhibition at the Aljube Museum—Resistance and Freedom (Museu do Aljube Resistência e Liberdade) in Lisbon, Portugal, October 18, 2018—April 28, 2019

Visitors to the Aljube Museum—Resistance and Freedom (Museu do Aljube Resistência e Liberdade) in Lisbon will be shocked by what they learn about a period of Portuguese history whose brutalities have largely been suppressed.

Aljube Museum of Resistance and Freedom

Located across from the city’s Sé Cathedral, the old building served as a prison for centuries. It was where the feared PIDE (Polícia Internacional de Defesa do Estado) secret police incarcerated and tortured thousands of political opponents of the fascist regime that ruled Portugal from 1926 to 1974 until its overthrow in the Carnation Revolution.

Tarrafal Nunca Mais (Never Again)

A current exhibition “Tarrafal Never Again!” tells the story of the little-known concentration camp in the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, an island group in the central Atlantic Ocean. The exhibition includes stark photographs of the arid, isolated prison, coldly meticulous government dossiers detailing the lives and deaths of individual prisoners under the most wretched conditions, and moving testimony from survivors.

The Aljube Museum was established due to a campaign by the Civic Movement Don’t Erase Memories! (NAM)—primarily led by former Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) turned Socialist Party (PS) members—to combat the “complicit amnesia regarding the dictatorship that we faced between 1926 and 1974.”

Tarrafal concentration camp

… In 2013, then PS mayor of Lisbon and current Prime Minister António Costa gave the go-ahead for the Aljube prison to be converted into a museum (instead of luxury apartments), overseen by the Mário Soares Foundation. Soares, a leading figure in the liberal opposition to the dictatorship, founder of what was to become the PS, twice prime minister and then president of the Republic, opened it in 2015. The PCP abandoned its own plans for a museum.

Tarrafal prisoners

The museum’s mission is to promote “the history and memory of the fight against the dictatorship and the recognition of resistance in favour of freedom and democracy.” The possibility of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist society is expunged from the narrative.

It was the instability and weakness of Portugal’s First Republic, which saw eight presidents and 45 governments between 1910 and 1926, and the movement of the working class, inspired by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, that led to the right-wing coup of May 28, 1926.

In 1928, António de Oliveira Salazar, an economics lecturer, was appointed Portugal’s finance minister and then prime minister (1932-1968). In direct response to continuing working class struggles that peaked in a five-day insurrection in 1934, Salazar declared his clerical-fascist New State (Estado Novo) with its values of God, Fatherland, Authority, Family and Work. It was anti-communist and venerated a rural lifestyle uncorrupted by industrialisation.

The most important function of Salazar’s regime for Portugal’s ruling elite was its strangling of any struggle by the working class at home and opposition developing in the colonies. Independent trade unions and strikes were outlawed, and workers were forced into state company unions or “sindicatos”. The PCP leadership was imprisoned or driven into exile.

General strike and armed uprising January 1934

The exhibition includes the original 1936 letter authorising the construction of Tarrafal. That year, some 150 political prisoners arrived from the mainland, including those who had taken part in the 1934 insurrection, as well as sailors who had mutinied on two naval vessels in 1936.

They found themselves in a makeshift “camp”, a rectangle of 200 by 150 metres, bordered with a deep trench and surrounded with
barbed wire. For the first two years, the men were kept in canvas tents while work brigades built more-permanent structures. Guards took all their clothing and other personal effects.

Until its temporary closure in 1954 after national and international pressure, 360 men passed through the camp.

The desperate conditions took their toll, and the prison soon became known as the concentration camp of “slow death.” Edmundo Pedro recalled the maniacal raging of commandant Captain Manuel Martins dos Reis: “You have no rights here, you have only duties to fulfil. And do not be deceived—anyone who enters that gate will die. You will all drop like flies!”

At least 32 inmates did die between 1937 and 1948. Most were working class men in their twenties and thirties, and many were PCP members. Public pressure, including a huge demonstration in 1974, saw their remains eventually brought back to Portugal.

Demonstration during the repatriation of the Tarrafal dead, 1978

Gilberto de Oliveira recalls the punishment by isolation in the “frigideira”, or “frying pan”—depending on the season. “The feeding on alternating days meant bread and hot water on one day and bread and cold water on the other. … The punishment in the frying pan, therefore, consisted in isolation, starvation, slow asphyxiation, dehydration, sweltering heat during the day and abrupt cooling at night and, often, beatings.” Temperatures inside the concrete punishment cell reached 60 degrees Celsius [140 degrees Fahrenheit] and victims could spend days at a time there. One prisoner, Joaquim Faustino Campos, spent 108 days there.

The camp’s closing in 1954 was short-lived. In 1961, Tarrafal was reopened to imprison and torture a new set of political prisoners—those from the rebelling Portuguese colonies of Cape Verde, Angola and Guinea-Bissau. One recalled, “The disciplinary cell was a kind of tomb inside a warehouse. … At 3 p.m. it was already dark inside. Here I tamed sparrows.”

Through here passed thousands of political prisoners between 1926 and 1965

… [In the 1970s], compulsory military service in the colonial wars combined with low pay intensified grievances in the army and stimulated opposition, which developed into the Armed Forces Movement (MFA).

When the MFA launched a coup on April 25, 1974, it was intended to be merely a democratic renovação (renovation) or face-lift. But it inadvertently brought the masses onto the streets demanding more fundamental change. Workers began taking over factories, offices and shops, and peasants occupied farmlands. The revolutionary atmosphere spread among soldiers and sailors who marching alongside the workers, carrying banners demanding socialism. …

… The vast levels of social inequality and the ruling elite’s return to military rearmament and war can only be imposed through the suppression of “freedom and democracy” and by resorting to authoritarian forms of rule and fascism. The slogan “Never Again” runs the risk of ringing hollow, given the return of the fascist cancer throughout Europe—including Vox in neighbouring Spain. The Aljube Museum exhibition is evidence of the price the working class paid in the 20th century for the failure to overthrow capitalism.

A nostalgia for Salazar, a harsh line towards migrants, the ethnic Roma and the LGBT community are common traits for PNR and Chega. In its election manifesto, with the Trumpian slogan “make Portugal great again”, PNR promised to halt the construction of mosques and repeal the same-sex marriage law: here.

Cape Verde islands bird conservation

This video says about itself:

Biosfera: Protecting the desert islands (Cape Verde: Santa Luzia, Raso, Branco)

16 June 2016

Cape Verde: a volcanic archipelago, a developing nation. 600km off the coast of West Africa.

Santa Luzia, Raso, Branco: one remote desert island and its two rocky islets are a unique remnant piece of Cape Verdean wilderness, now threatened. They must be protected:

– Thousands of nesting endemic seabirds
Raso Lark (facing extinction)
Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Vulnerable)

A passionate and dedicated team is strengthening every day to save these species and restore their remote island homes.

Biosfera, with the support of SPEA (the Portuguese Society for the Protection of Birds; BirdLife Partner), have received conservation grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). This video shows the progress they have made for the conservation of the desert islands and in the building up of their organisation. And of course it shows the beautiful wildlife of the islands…


Cordas do Sol (used with permission):
Rebas (Instrumental)
Lume D’Lenha
Sho Pardal
Manhe Joana

Kevin MacLeod (CC):

At the Shore

© BirdLife International / CEPF 2016

From BirdLife:

Winning hearts and minds in Cape Verde

By Shaun Hurrell, 19 July 2016

Conservation work in these desert islands delivers heartening, long lasting, results: “Now the fishermen work with us, they help us count the birds instead of killing them. They even adopt turtle nests. It is a big, big change.”

Piercing sun, dry, rocky ground, and a solitary ex-military canvas tent ripped bare by strong Atlantic winds. Off the rocky shore, an osprey is seen diving for a fish. In the shade, dust sprays as sparrows can be seen scuffling for water dripping from the tent’s fresh water barrel tap. This is the scene on arrival on Raso, after six hours of a sea-sickening boat ride. Not the place you’d expect to find the entire population of a Critically Endangered lark, let alone a small passionate team of conservationists there to protect it and other unique endemic species from extinction.

A volcanic archipelago 600km off the coast of West Africa, Cape Verde is a developing nation. Surrounded by sharks and coral reefs, the desert island of Santa Luzia and its two rocky islets Raso and Branco are a unique remnant piece of Cape Verdean wilderness, too remote for permanent inhabitation.

However, thousands of nesting endemic seabirds, such as the Cape Verde Shearwater; the Endangered Giant Wall Gecko, and nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Vulnerable), also make these islands their homes. But it doesn’t mean they are safe from threats.

One of the most threatened birds in the world, the Raso Lark is suffering from climate change effects, whereby hurricanes and drought can wipe out a lot of the minimal grasses on which it feeds. On this 7 km2 islet in 2006, the population dropped to 70 birds. The dedicated conservationists are a local NGO, Biosfera, who is working with the support of SPEA (the Portuguese Society for the Protection of Birds; BirdLife Partner) and volunteers to restore nearby Santa Luzia (which has similar vegetation and is much larger) for a translocation of the Raso Lark to help it bounce back to its original numbers.

Poaching is another threat. Fishermen used to come to these islands to take ‘boatloads’ of Cape Verde Shearwaters and female Loggerhead Turtles that nest on the beaches.

In the past, Tommy Melo Melo, Co-Founder of Biosfera, has camped out on Branco to protect turtles from poachers, and when his food ran out, he risked shark-infested waters to freedive for fish.

“Now the fishermen work with us,” he says. “They help us to count the birds in the nests for example.” They now even adopt turtle nests. “It was a big, big change.”

Tommy has a vision: “A huge marine protected area in Cape Verde that includes the three islands.” To reach this has so far involved years of work: from walking along beaches kilometres every day to guard nesting turtles and relocate their eggs to a hatchery to increase their chances of survival, to building the organisation’s ornithological expertise and capacity to work with government and large international conservation projects.

Thanks to the support of SPEA through grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Biosfera has grown and grown.

“Biosfera is a fantastic organisation,” says Pedro Geraldes, Project Coordinator, SPEA. “They started just as father and son working together to protect these islands.”

“Before we were an NGO in the name. Now we are an NGO properly,” says Tommy.

Now, they aim to work in partnership with the government to manage the marine reserve.

“We are the link between the fishermen and the government,” says Patricia Rendall-Rocha, Coordinator, Biosfera.

Recorded on a field visit by CEPF, this video [top of this blog post] shows the progress Biosfera have made for the conservation of the desert islands and in the building up of their organisation. And of course it shows the island’s beautiful wildlife.

Since the field visit, Biosfera have been awarded a follow-up grant from CEPF to continue building their capacity in financial operations and communications. Now they are conducting further field research and investigating the impact of invasive fire ants which have ended up on Raso Islet, threatening the Raso Lark and other endemic species. Tommy, Patricia and Pedro say the major translocation of the Raso Lark is within their sights.

As part of the support to grantees, the CEPF Regional Implementation Team conduct field visits, like this one to Cape Verde. In this phase of the programme, Project Officers have been on supervision missions to Algeria, Morocco, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia.

“The CEPF support and the communication with the Regional Implementation Team was really good in terms of dealing with this project’s difficulties,” said Pedro Geraldes, SPEA. “Because it is remote, some plans have to be changed and altered.”

Saving Atlantic islands birds

This video from the Canary islands says about itself:

Three wild canaries eating birdseed in my garden in Tenerife.

From BirdLife:

Saving Macaronesia’s biodiversity, one species at a time

By Tânia Pipa, Mon, 12/10/2015 – 06:10

Macaronesia (no relation to the Micronesia archipelago in the Pacific Ocean), is a collection of four archipelagos in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa. They are the Azores and Madeira islands (Portugal), the Canary islands (Spain) and Cape Verde. BirdLife is one of the few international NGOs working at all these archipelagos, thanks to the work of SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), SEO (Birdlife in Spain) and Biosfera (Cape Verde).

All four island groups are incredibly rich in biodiversity; despite representing only 0.2% of EU territory, Macaronesia hosts over a quarter of the plant species listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive. But teeming plant and animal life comes with its own set of problems, from the threat of extinction to invasive alien species and habitat destruction. This is a summary of the work carried out there by SPEA, both on land and in the open seas.

Working in the Laurel Forest

The Laurissilva, also known as the laurel forest, is a subtropical and humid type of forest that only survives in the Maraconesian archipelagos. It is home to an incredible number of endemic species and subspecies, and hosts some of the least-known and more threatened birds in Europe.

SPEA’s work began there in 2002 with a small passerine: the Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), commonly known as Priolo. This bird, an endemic species which only lives in the Serra da Tronqueira (a Natura 2000 site on the eastern side of São Miguel Island) was Critically Endangered – only 200 breeding pairs existed. After years of conservation efforts and three LIFE Projects, the Bullfinch has been downlisted to Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The population is now estimated to be 1,300 individuals.

Today, SPEA’s work with laurel forest birds continues, and the latest example is the EU funded project LIFE Fura-bardos, which aims to study and protect the rarely seen Macaronesian Sparrowhawk subspecies (present only in Madeira and the Canaries). Using this species as an indicator for the forest’s wider biodiversity, SPEA will identify management measures that can be applied in similar forests.

Saving the seabirds

The Macaronesian islands are vital breeding areas for several species of seabirds, which are one of the most endangered groups of birds in the world. Seabirds are threatened by habitat destruction, invasive mammals, artificial lights, fisheries bycatch, overfishing and marine litter, among other things. In 2008, SPEA (together with SEO) was amongst the first in the EU to publish a detailed inventory of the marine IBA network, leading the way forward in marine conservation.

Both of Madeira’s threatened petrels, the Zino’s petrel (Pterodroma madeira) and the Desertas Petrel (Pterodoma deserta), have been a top priority for SPEA (in collaboration with the Madeiran Natural Park). SPEA has been working to control or eradicate invasive species such as cats, rabbits and mice, which has contributed decisively to the successful recovery of both species of petrel.

On the Azores’ smallest Island, Corvo, the LIFE project Safe Islands for Seabirds evaluated the impact of invasive rodents, feral cats, goats and sheep on one of the most emblematic seabird species in the Azores, Cory’s Shearwater (85% of the world population of Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris borealis breeds on the Azores and Madeira archipelagos).

This project found that cats caused the most harm, destroying 84% of all nests and eggs damaged by predators. Habitat restoration and the construction of Europe’s first predator-proof fence were among the measures used to mitigate the impact on seabirds.

Light pollution – a major threat to juvenile seabirds – is another area where SPEA is taking action in Macaronesia. Over the last 20 years in the Azores and 5 years in Madeira, a huge and successful campaign involving volunteers, local organisations, city halls and SPEA has helped regional governments rescue and release thousands of Cory’s Shearwater juveniles impacted by artificial lights.

This is proof that no conservation measure cannot be successful without local support: allowing local people to explore, be aware and participate in the preservation of natural heritage, which at the same time leads to sustainable development of their communities.

Protecting endangered loggerhead sea turtles

This 2014 video is about baby loggerhead turtles hatching on Kuriat island in Tunisia.

From BirdLife:

From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, turtle conservation overcoming similar challenges

By Shaun Hurrell, Thu, 12/02/2015 – 16:40

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is funding three projects that are protecting Endangered loggerhead sea turtles

An uninhabited island with beautiful beaches might seem like a safe place for a rare species of turtle to nest, but Kuriat Island of Tunisia is swamped every summer by thousands of tourists. Even the fishermen who frequent the island to rest can be unaware that the island is very important for the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta – the only place in Tunisia where this Endangered species buries its eggs in the sand. Sea turtle populations are devastated from bycatch in fishing nets so any hatchlings under the sand need all the help they can get to reach the sea.

This is why a local conservation group called ‘Association des Fans de la Chebba (AFC)’, partnered by Notre Grand Bleu (NGB) and funded by CEPF, is working to raise awareness of the plight of the turtles, and has successfully gathered support from fishermen in the Chebba region of Tunisia and visiting tourists.

Realising a daily presence was needed during nesting and tourist season, and having marked nests on the beach for their protection, AFC and NGB constructed a cabin providing information and flyers to best educate the two target audiences. By providing clear explanations and advice, the project has turned the unexpected emergence of turtles from the sand (prone to accidental destruction) into a wonderful wildlife spectacle for tourists – some of whom now voluntarily help hatchlings reach the sea. Watch their video [above]!

Over 100 artisanal fishermen have been introduced to measures to prevent the accidental capture of adult turtles. But if accidentally caught, they are being eaten. At a scale where a few hundred are caught each year here in nets, this educational project could eliminate turtle bycatch in Tunisia before a black market for their illegal meat grows.

In three months, over 4000 national and foreign tourists, plus around 100 artisanal fishermen visited the cabin. Over 500 children attended in a special organised visit, a great success for the project and great hope for the future of Kuriat Island as a protected area and location for sustainable tourism.

Following protected hatchling loggerhead sea turtles into the Mediterranean Sea, we head south-west into the Atlantic Ocean, where the islands of Cape Verde face very similar challenges for turtle conservation, albeit at a different scale. Within the remit of the CEPF Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot, there are two projects currently conserving turtles in Cape Verde – world famous for its many species of turtle, and for its tourists.

Same problem, different location and scale

BIOS.CV (Association for the Conservation of the Environment and Sustainable Development) are working on a project called Environmental Initiatives to Enhance Ecofriendly Tourism in Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde. Most tourists are directed to all-inclusive resorts and are blind to the island’s wildlife, way of life, and their impact on it. Identifying the country’s current lack of regulated and sustainable tourism, BIOS.CV are working hard to raise awareness of the islands importance for wildlife, and to enhance ecotourism that will benefit the local communities. As well as developing information on the beach, they have put up posters in Boa Vista airport and are working with hotels to ensure tourists reduced impacts of turtle and bird nesting, and on the island’s biodiversity.

Cape Verde has the world’s third largest loggerhead sea turtle nesting population with 90% of the nests on Boa Vista. Most recently, BIOS.CV prepared and promoted a map for cyclists and drivers to avoid turtle nests.

“We want to show to both the local population and the tourism sector that tourism is highly dependent on effective conservation of the environment and the welfare of the local communities – and this is only possible through eco-friendly and sustainable tourism practices,” said Elena Abella from BIOS.CV.

A short hop across to Cape Verde’s nearby island of Santa Luzia, and we find another example of a CEPF project conserving turtles. As part of a major CEPF project entitled Protecting Threatened and Endemic Species in Cape Verde: A Major Island Restoration Project run by SPEA (Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves; BirdLife in Portugal) and their local partner Biosfera1, like AFC in Tunisia, also have a daily presence at a nesting site to protect loggerhead sea turtles. Biosfera1 set up a camp in a National Park on the island of Santa Luzia to monitor nests, survey other biodiversity and to assess threats. All nests at risk (because they are located in flood-prone areas), are transferred into a hatchery near the camp where the eggs can complete their development.

But on Cape Verde, a further complication is that more than 500 female turtles are affected by illegal poaching and predation by feral cats each year. Again, awareness is key. Biosfera1 have set up a surveillance scheme that involves local fishermen and is monitored by staff and volunteers to prevent illegal activity.

The project has already recorded a decrease in turtle poaching during the surveillance period, but it is hoped that through Biosfera1’s work with fishermen to emphasise the value of wild turtles over those on the dinner plate, this trend will continue afterwards.

Saving Cape Verde shearwaters

This video says about itself:

Monitoring of Razo birds by Biosfera, Cape Verde

15 May 2012

The surveillance and monitoring campaigns conducted by our Cape Verde champions, Tommy & Jose, are creating a database to better understand the trends in the bird populations and the dangers that threaten them. As José explains, “we cannot change people’s habits from one day to the next. What we can do is conduct monitoring campaigns to protect wildlife, campaigns to identify the causes of fluctuations of species, and also awareness campaigns to re-establish the balance between man and nature”.

From BirdLife:

Plans to save the Near Threatened Cape Verde Shearwater

By Obaka Torto, Tue, 20/01/2015 – 07:58

About 20 participants from Cape Verde, Senegal, South Africa, Spain and Portugal participated in a workshop in Mindelo, Cape Verde, from 1st to 4th December 2014, aiming to develop the Cape Verde Shearwater Species Action Plan.

Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii is, as its name suggests, a breeding endemic to the Cape Verde islands. BirdLife International recently recognised it as a full species, after splitting it from Cory’s Shearwater C. diomedea (Hazevoet 1995). The species is classified as Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014. It is protected by law in Cape Verde (Law 79/III/90). Unauthorised entrance to the islets of Raso and Branco, where the largest known breeding colonies are situated, is officially illegal, but there are limited means of enforcement or control of that law. Uncontrolled high levels of harvesting, poaching at main nesting sites, light pollution, invasive species and accidental mortality due to fisheries are the main threats that continue to threaten the species.

The Ministry of Environment of Cape Verde, in collaboration with a local NGO, Associaçao para Defesa do Meio Ambiente (Biosfera I) and with the support of BirdLife International and International Foundation of Banc d’Arguin (FIBA), organised a four day workshop to identify conservation priorities.

The goal of the Cape Verde Shearwater Species Action Plan is to improve the Cape Verde Shearwater conservation status, by raising it from the Near Threatened to the Least Concern category. The following high level objectives were agreed upon at the workshop:

to reduce chick mortality due to hunting;
to improve knowledge of distribution, population size and demographic trends;
to restore and protect breeding sites from invasive species;
to reduce mortality linked to light pollution;
to improve knowledge on mortality in different fisheries; and
to reduce mortality of birds in Cape Verde fisheries.

Workshop participants visited the Sinagoga fishing community on Santo Antao Island. This gave everyone a chance to meet the former poachers of Cagarra (the local name for Cape Verde Shearwater) and to get an understanding of the socio-economics of fishing and poaching. The fishing group is now working with Biosfera by taking the lead in conservation of the species and participating in its monitoring.

The Species Action Plan is a contribution to the Cape Verde National Strategy for the Conservation of Seabirds and the workshop was developed under the framework for Conservation of Migratory Birds (CMB) in West Africa, coordinated by BirdLife and the Alcyon project of FIBA, funded by the MAVA Foundation.

The institutions and organisations participating in the workshop committed themselves to implementing some of the activities identified in the plan and also accepted responsibility for communicating it widely to other stakeholders.

Story by Geoffroy Citegetse, Tommy Melo, Ross Wanless and Justine Dossa

References: Hazevoet, C. J. 1995. The birds of the Cape Verde Islands. British Ornithologists’ Union, Tring, U.K.

Young Cape Verde sea turtles, new study

This 2012 video is called Sea Turtle Nesting Video.


Sea turtles’ first days of life: Scientists follow hatchlings from Cape Verde with tiny acoustic transmitters

Oct 23, 2014

With new nano-sized acoustic transmitters, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and Queen Mary University of London followed the pathways of loggerhead turtle hatchlings. According to the study, which was primarily funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence ‘The Future Ocean,’ local oceanic conditions are believed to drive the evolution of some unique swimming behaviors. The results are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from Cape Verde start their life with a swimming sprint and a ride on favourable ocean currents. In this way, they escape quickly from predator-rich coastal areas and make their way to the safer open ocean where they spend several years feeding and growing. In this study, tiny acoustic transmitters provided direct insight into these pathways for the first time. “Thanks to the new technology we can start to fill in key information gaps about the so-called ‘lost years’ Dr. Rebecca Scott states. Funded by the Kiel Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”, the marine biologist coordinated a joint study of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, the Turtle Foundation and the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London.

“Scientists call this early life phase the ‘lost years’, because they were not able to follow new-born sea turtle hatchlings very far. Hatchlings essentially disappear into the sea until many years later when the lucky survivors return to where they born to breed”, Dr. Scott says. But with new techniques like nano-tags and ocean models we are able to see where the tiny young animals go. This is important because the dispersal experiences of hatchlings drive the development of their behaviours into adulthood. The more we understand about the biological and physical determinants of their dispersal and swimming behaviours, the easier we can protect this endangered species.”

In cooperation with the Turtle Foundation at Boa Vista, Cape Verde, the scientists collected hatchlings from two beaches in the northwest and southern tip of the island. Acoustic transmitters with a five millimetres wide and twelve millimetres long streamlined shape that weigh 0,4 grams in water were glued onto the shell of eleven hatchlings. The turtles were then followed at sea using a boat and acoustic receiver for up to eight hours and 15 kilometres. In addition, the swimming behaviour of 16 hatchlings were monitored in “hatchling swimming pools” for several days using data loggers made by engineers at GEOMAR. The turtles swam continuously during their first 24 hours after hatching and then switched to a pattern of activity at daytime and inactivity at night.

Due to the close proximity of offshore currents in this region, it seems the Cape Verdean hatchlings can sleep more at night than hatchlings from other places. For example in America, different research groups have shown that they would have swim a lot more to reach offshore currents”, Dr. Scott explains. “Deep oceanic water and favourable currents, which then determined the travel directions and speeds of our Cape Verdean turtles are situated very near to their nests. Therefore, it is very beneficial for turtles if local oceanic conditions drive the evolution of swimming behaviours that are unique to different nesting locations to ensure their best survival outcomes. It seems that turtles are born with these unique locally adapted behaviours.”

Finally, because larger animals kept swimming for a longer time than smaller individuals, a larger body size is thought to be a good sign of fitness. “But there is some evidence emerging that higher nest temperatures may reduce the size of hatchlings. Therefore, it might be possible that global warming decreases the fitness of the sea turtles by threatening them in more subtle ways than just obvious dangers like the loss of nesting beaches”, Dr. Scott assumes.

It has been discovered sea turtles, like humans, can suffer from decompression sickness (DCS), also known as the bends: here.

Save Cape Verde shearwaters

This video says about itself:

Field work in Razo island, Cape Verde, late spring 2008.

Jacob Gonzales-Solis and Elena Gomez-Diaz equipping birds with GPS and geolocators: Cape Verde shearwaters, brown boobies, tropicbirds (Phaetons) and measuring other birds.

From BirdLife:

Biosfera I and conservation of the near threatened Cape Verde Shearwater

By Obaka Torto, Tue, 30/09/2014 – 11:26

Biosfera I, a national non-governmental organisation for the protection of the environment in Cape Verde is working hard to save the Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii.

Founded in 2006, the organisation started carrying out activities to stop the persecution of Cape Verde Shearwater, mainly the hunting of chicks for food. Killed in their thousands every year, the species has been harvested for a long time and is part of the traditional Cape Verdean gastronomy.  This harvesting has led to the decline of the species which is listed now as Near Threatened by BirdLife. To address this threat, Biosfera has been working with local communities (especially fishermen) at Raso and Branco Islets (where 75% of the population of shearwater nest) with the aim of conserving the species. The Cape Verde Shearwater takes between 6-7 years to reach sexual maturity and to help reach this stage of it life cycle, Biosfera has invested a lot of time and energy to protect the chicks which are now returning to nest in Raso. With the support from the CMB project (a BirdLife project funded by MAVA) and the Alcyon project (Supported by FIBA), a team is in place to monitor and track the species with the collaboration of local communities and former hunters to cover even the remote areas.

The result of this awareness raising of the threats to the shearwater, is helping the local communities and former hunters to gain a better understanding of the importance of the species. To boost the ongoing actions, a Species Action Plan (SAP) for the conservation of Cape Verde Shearwater is in preparation and a workshop for the SAP has been planned before the end of the year.

Story by Tommy Melo

Leach’s storm-petrel migration tracked using geolocators

This video is called Klykstjärtad stormsvala Leach’s Storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa).

From the Journal of Field ornithology:

Migratory movements and wintering areas of Leach’s Storm-Petrels tracked using geolocators

Volume 85, Issue 3, pages 321–328, September 2014


Accumulating evidence suggests that Atlantic populations of Leach’s Storm-Petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) are experiencing significant declines. To better understand possible causes of these declines, we used geolocators to document movements of these small (∼50-g) pelagic seabirds during migration and the non-breeding period. During 2012 and 2013, movement tracks were obtained from two birds that traveled in a clock-wise direction from two breeding colonies in eastern Canada (Bon Portage Island, Nova Scotia, and Gull Island, Newfoundland) to winter in tropical waters.

The bird from Bon Portage Island started its migration towards Cape Verde in October, arrived at its wintering area off the coast of eastern Brazil in January, and started migration back to Nova Scotia in April. The bird from Gull Island staged off Newfoundland in November and then again off Cape Verde in January before its geolocator stopped working. Movements of Leach’s Storm-Petrels in our study and those of several other procellariiforms during the non-breeding period are likely facilitated by the prevailing easterly trade winds and the Antilles and Gulf Stream currents. Although staging and wintering areas used by Leach’s Storm-Petrels in our study were characterized by low productivity, the West Africa and northeastern Brazilian waters are actively used by fisheries and discards can attract Leach’s Storm-Petrels.

Our results provide an initial step towards understanding movements of Leach’s Storm-Petrels during the non-breeding period, but further tracking is required to confirm generality of their migratory routes, staging areas, and wintering ranges.

Why Female Loggerhead Turtles Return to Their Place of Birth

This video from the USA is called Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatching, 8-7-10, Gulf Shores, Alabama.

From ScienceDaily:

Why Female Loggerhead Sea Turtles Always Return to Their Place of Birth

May 30, 2013 — Marine turtles are among the most endangered species of the world ocean. For a better protection of these fascinating animals, scientists try to understand why turtles return to their birthplace in order to reproduce after rather long distance migrations. Using molecular tools applied to turtles from the Cape Verde islands, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany) found that males and females adopt different strategies: while females are very faithful to their island of birth, males appear less selective and mate at multiple locations.

Furthermore, the study published now in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences demonstrates that females from different islands have different immune genes, suggesting that returning home to reproduce is linked to advantages in parasite resistance. This is the first evidence ever to explain why many migratory animals show this type of behavior.

Worldwide, over 15,000 species are threatened by extinction, and the loggerhead sea turtle is no exception. Once the mysteries surrounding some of the species behavior are resolved, more effective conservation programs can be developed to facilitate their protection. The case of the loggerhead sea turtle is particularly interesting: Why do they migrate for several thousands of kilometers to eventually come back to their place of birth for reproduction after roughly 25 years?

To address this question, a group of evolutionary biologists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel focused on the world’s third largest nesting population of the loggerhead sea turtle which is found in the archipelago of Cape Verde. Despite the fact that the species is protected, the number of nesting turtles has been decreasing rapidly due to the slaughter of turtles for their meat, marine pollution, coastal development in nesting areas and fisheries by-catch. Hence, the loggerhead turtle has the “endangered” status on the Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2012).

The archipelago of Cape Verde is composed of numerous islands where turtles can be observed. In this study, GEOMAR scientists collected tiny skin samples from turtles on four different islands of the archipelago for analysis. Using multiple genetic tools, the scientists found that Cape Verdean female loggerheads not only return to Cape Verde to breed but also that they show a remarkably accurate philopatric (returning to reproduce at the place of birth) behavior of a couple tens of kilometers: “It was fascinating to demonstrate that most female turtles actually return to the exact island where they were born,” said lead author Victor Stiebens.

This outstanding behavior has some advantages for the turtles. The study found that a certain region in the turtle’s genome is responsible for fighting parasites and diseases, the so-called major histocompatibility complex. “Indeed, the study shows that turtles nesting at the most distant islands of the archipelago have different sets of these genes, providing the right genetic make-up to pass to the offspring to fight off the local parasite fauna present in that specific place,” explains senior author Dr. Christophe Eizaguirre.

At the same time, always returning to the same island may have detrimental effects for species with small population sizes since it may lead to mating with relatives, i.e. inbreeding. However, it was rather interesting that in this study, the scientists were able to show that males counteract this inbreeding risk by being less selective in choosing their mating places. “Males seem to look for females over large regions of the archipelago, whereas females are more faithful to their place of birth to mate” reports Victor Stiebens. “These gender-specific behaviors assure genetic transfer between the nesting islands but also the existence of genes needed in these local environments” says Dr. Eizaguirre.

The conclusions of the study show that returning home to reproduce gives individuals an additional advantage to fight off parasites and diseases, and may thus add a piece to the puzzle of the intriguing journey of marine turtles. “From a conservation perspective, the results suggest that it is very important to not lose any of the nesting colonies as each singular location provides important genetic adaptation for the survival of the entire population in the case of major biotic/abiotic changes in a globally changing environment,” says Dr. Eizaguirre.

Nov. 26, 2013 — When a marine turtle is incidentally by-caught by a longliner, fishermen try to cut the line — without hauling it on board — and release the turtle into the sea. However, a research published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series alerts that about 40% of post-released turtles die some months later due to the impact of longline fishing. The study is signed by experts Lluís Cardona and Irene Álvarez de Quevedo, from the Department of Animal Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio), and Manu San Félix, from Vellmarí Formentera. It is the first scientific study based on satellite tracking of a group of loggerhead turtles released into the sea after being by-caught by Spanish longliners: here.

There’s a genetic explanation for why warmer nests turn turtles female. Scientists have ID’d a temperature-sensitive gene that controls young turtles’ sex fate: here.