New ‘Star Wars’ ape species discovered in China


This video from India says about itself:

Conservation of the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon

6 June 2011

Now wouldn’t that call make just the perfect mobile ring tone?

In the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh‘s Mehao national park, Wilderness Films India sent a team to film the Hoolock Gibbon in its natural habitat.

The Hoolock gibbon or Uluk, belongs to the ape family. It is only found in the deciduous forests of China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India. The average lifespan of these gibbons is thirty years in captivity. A male Hoolock Gibbon is recognized by his black fur and a white strip above his eyes while the female gibbon is recognized by her pale fur with shades of tan.

The gibbons move around by using their arms. They are mostly found in trees and rarely come onto the ground. Hoolock gibbons are primarily omnivorous and consume various types of plants, insects and birds’ eggs. The various activities of the gibbon during the day include feeding, resting, foraging, travelling with the rest of the troupe. They indulge in other activities such as calling for territorial behavior and play. Territories are defended through disputes usually led by the group’s adult male.

Intergroup encounters occur often and usually consist off vocalisation and counter vocalization with the males chasing one another. Grooming is often seen during the group’s social activities and it serves in the maintenance of social bonds. Mating usually occurs during the summer season with births during the winter.

Gestation occurs for around 6-8 months followed by the birth of an offspring. For the first two months, the infants cling on to their mother’s belly. The infant starts showing signs of independence at the age of 6-8 months. However, the bond is so strong between the mother and child that the infant continues to sleep with the mother until the birth of a new infant. The infants emigrate from their group when they become mature adults.

Out of all the gibbons, the Hoolocks have the most haunting call. The calls of these Gibbons are not sex-specific, a fact that differs them from all other species of gibbons. Calls are usually uttered during long call outs or duels and occur mainly in the morning. Once calling commences, call outs are often responded to by other hoolock gibbons throughout the forest. Functions of calling include the maintenance of the pair bond, mate attractions, defense, mate solicitation, territorial reinforcement and the maintenance of social ties.

Some of the proposed steps for conservation of the gibbons are: restoration of degraded landscapes, combining efforts made by the government industry, NGOs and communities in Northeast India. Increasing and nationalizing existing protected area network and protected area management. It is important to ensure the enforcement of these goals for the protection of this incredible species and to prevent them from disappearing from the surface of the earth.

This video was researched by Saurabh Bhatia of The Shri Ram School, Gurgaon, during a summer internship with WFIL, in May-June 2011.

From the BBC:

‘Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species

By Rebecca Morelle, Science Correspondent, BBC News

4 hours ago

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

Dr Sam Turvey, from the Zoological Society of London, who was part of the team studying the apes, told BBC News: “In this area, so many species have declined or gone extinct because of habitat loss, hunting and general human overpopulation.

“So it’s an absolute privilege to see something as special and as rare as a gibbon in a canopy in a Chinese rainforest, and especially when it turns out that the gibbons are actually a new species previously unrecognised by science.”

Hoolock gibbons are found in Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar. They spend most of their time living in the treetops, swinging through the forests with their forelimbs, rarely spending any time on the ground.

But the research team – led by Fan Peng-Fei from Sun Yat-sen University in China – started to suspect that the animals they were studying in China’s Yunnan Province were unusual.

All hoolock gibbons have white eyebrows and some have white beards – but the Chinese primates’ markings differed in appearance.

Their songs, which they use to bond with other gibbons and to mark out their territory, also had an unusual ring.

So the team carried out a full physical and genetic comparison with other gibbons, which confirmed that the primates were indeed a different species.

They have been given the scientific name of Hoolock tianxing – but their common name is now the Skywalker hoolock gibbon, thanks to the scientists’ taste in films.

Dr Turvey said the team had been studying the animals in the Gaoligongshan nature reserve, but it was not easy.

“It’s difficult to get into the reserve. You have to hike up to above 2,500m to find the gibbons. That’s where the good quality forest usually starts – everywhere below there has been logged.

“Then you have to wake up really early in the morning and you listen out for the haunting song of the gibbons, which carries in the forest canopy.

“And when you hear it, you rush through the mud and the mist, and run for hundreds of metres to try and catch up with these gibbons.”

The researchers estimate that there are about 200 of the Skywalker gibbons living in China – and also some living in neighbouring Myanmar, although the population size there is currently unknown.

The team warns that the primates are at risk of extinction.

“The low number of surviving animals and the threat they face from habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and hunting means we think they should be classified as an endangered species,” said Dr Turvey.

In response to the news, actor Mark Hamill – the original Luke Skywalker – said on Twitter that he was so proud to have a new jungle Jedi named after his character.

Pangolin criminals caught in China


This video says about itself:

15 October 2015

They’ve been called the world’s most trafficked animal you’ve never heard of. Pangolins are notoriously difficult to rehabilitate and release, but one woman in Namibia is getting it right, thanks to lessons learned from one of these scaly anteaters. Meet Katiti!

By Nick Visser:

Literal Tons Of The World’s Most Trafficked Mammal Seized In China

Pangolins simply can’t catch a break.

12/28/2016 05:30 pm ET

Chinese authorities seized more than 3 tons of animal parts taken from the bodies of dead pangolins earlier this month in one of the country’s largest smuggling busts involving the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Customs officials found 101 bags of pangolin scales hidden in a shipment of timber during a routine inspection in Shanghai, according to reports from local media. Estimates say the scales came from 5,000 to 7,500 different animals and could have had a street value of more than $2 million.

Pangolins have quickly become a striking face in the fight against wildlife crime, with almost a million trafficked over the past decade. All eight species are now listed as “vulnerable,” “endangered” or “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

The creatures, also known as scaly anteaters, are hunted primarily for their scales, which are used in traditional medicine in China and Vietnam in attempts to cure everything from cancer to asthma. However, there is no scientific basis to those claims. The scales are made from the same material as human fingernails.

Authorities have busted several massive pangolin smuggling rings over the past few years, many of which traffic thousands of animals at a time. A raid in Indonesia netted some 4,000 animals last year and more than 4 tons were discovered in Hong Kong, labeled as plastic, in June.

Delegates from nearly every nation voted to ban the international sale of pangolins and their parts in September during this year’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as CITES. All species of pangolins were given the strictest protection afforded to threatened animals, but the bust in China shows a rampant market still exists for contraband wildlife.

Shanghai customs officials arrested three people who have been accused of smuggling the parts this month. They’re suspected of importing illicit pangolin scales from Africa into China since at least 2015, Agence France Presse reports.

Despite recent protections, it’s estimated more than 10,000 pangolins are poached every year.

Chinese Officials Investigated For Allegedly Serving Endangered Pangolin At Banquet. The world’s most trafficked mammal is protected in China. Eating pangolin carries a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars: here.

China Arrests ‘Pangolin Princess’ Who Loves Eating Endangered Animals: here.

Chinese ancient paintings undervalued


Mountains, Chinese export painting

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Chinese export paintings undervalued

16 November 2016

Chinese export paintings have a much greater cultural-historical and artistic value than was previously thought in the Netherlands, according to external PhD candidate Rosalien van der Poel. She advocates making these works accessible to the general public. PhD defence 30 November.

Not amateuristic artworks

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Chinese artists produced so-called export paintings: works that were specifically intended for Dutch clients. These clients were mainly traders, Jesuits, captains and officers visiting China, who wanted souvenirs to take home with them. These paintings showed people at home what life in the Far East was like. The paintings predominantly featured harbours (often with the client’s ship in the foreground), traditional dress, flora and fauna, and landscapes. These were not amateuristic artworks; they were expensive and some of the harbour scenes were up to two metres across.

Never previously exhibited

Many export paintings were passed on within Dutch families from generation to generation or found their way into private collections, finally ending up in museum depots. In the Netherlands there are around 4,000 such paintings in storage, most of which have never been exhibited. The reason is that to date the paintings were not thought to have any great artistic or cultural-historical value. Which is quite wrong, Van der Poel concludes, having made an inventory and a detailed examination of the works, and having spoken with family members of some of the original owners of these export paintings.

Unusual perspectives and bright colours

Van der Poel points out the cultural-historical value of these works. ‘Many of the paintings represent a specific time and place, about which the images give a wealth of information. The paintings also say something about Chinese and Western art conventions of the time. They had some distinctive traits, such as unusual perspectives, that buyers admired. In the course of the nineteenth century the colours – particularly of flora and fauna – became ever brighter and more unnatural. And, make no mistake, the works were not only produced by minor local artists, but also in the workshops of Chinese master painters.’ Van der Poel also concluded that the paintings are part of the Dutch heritage. ‘Many works have been handed on within families from generation to generation; there are some highly interesting stories behind them that come to light when a cultural biography of the works is being written. These stor[i]es need to be preserved.’

Plea from the heart

Van der Poel regards her dissertation as a plea from the heart to museums: put these works on display so that the public can view them! This could be by actually exhibiting them in museums and galleries, or it could equally mean making them accessible online. She is more than willing to act as torch bearer for export artworks in the Netherlands. ‘I could carry on with this subject until my dying day. A lot more research could be done on the original owners of the paintings: who were they, what role did the paintings play in their lives, and how were the paintings valued over the course of their lives?’ Van der Poel also hopes, depending on available subsidies, to start a restoration project shortly and to organise an exhibition of several paintings. Developing a user-friendly digital image bank is also high on her wish list.

Rosalien van der Poel studied art history in Leiden between 2001 and 2008. She carried out her PhD research in parallel with her regular job as Head of Cabinet at Leiden University. She is also coordinator of the Leiden Asia Year that will be taking place throughout 2017.

Dutch ship, Chinese export painting

Chinese elephants saved from reservoir


This video says about itself:

Wild elephants rescued from reservoir in SW China

12 October 2016

Three wild Asian elephants, two adults and a baby, were trapped in a reservoir in southwest China’s Yunnan Province for more than two days, which may cause them to choke on the water and die from hunger.

Rescuers tried many ways and finally managed to save these endangered animals on Tuesday by digging out a path from one side of the pond.

Dutch NOS TV writes today about this (translated):

Over two days, they were stuck in a five-meter deep tank: two wild adult elephants and a baby elephant. Foresters found the animals in south[western] China after getting information from locals, but could not immediately launch a rescue operation because of heavy rains.

Probably the baby elephant first fell in a tank full of water and its parents then fell in a rescue attempt. Images on Chinese state TV show how other elephants ran around the edge of the reservoir. In order to save the trapped animals, the other elephants first had to be driven away with firecrackers.

Eventually, rescue workers with a backhoe demolished the wall of the tank, and the elephants could get out.

23 baby giant pandas, video


This video from China says about itself:

23 Baby Pandas Make Debut at southwest China Breeding Base

29 sep. 2016

Twenty-three giant panda cubs made their public debut at a panda base in southwest China’s Chengdu City on Thursday, offering the cutest scene one can imagine.

The baby pandas, aged one to four months, were all born at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding this year.

“I think this is just about the cutest thing in the entire world. I never imagine there will be so many baby pandas in one place,” said a U.S. tourist named Aaron.

“I thought they were toys because they were lying there motionless. Then I realized they were cute baby pandas,” said Zheng Shuo, a tourist from central China’s Hunan Province.

This year, experts from the base also witnessed the birth of another four pandas overseas, raising the total number of the base’s newborn pandas to 27, a rare record since the establishment of the base.

The number of this year’s newborn pandas at the base has almost doubled that last year. Experts attribute this to the improvement in breeding technology.

“We used to mate the pandas by observing their behaviors to decide the timing for mating. But now we combine behavior observation with endocrine analysis to get more accurate timing, thus ensuring a fairly high breeding rate,” said Wu Kongju, animal management director at the base.

What’s more, among the 27 newborn pandas there are 10 pairs of twins, accounting for 74 percent of the total.

Since its establishment nearly 30 years ago, the base has bred 176 giant pandas, the world’s largest artificially-bred giant panda population.

Read more here.