Learning giant panda language in China

This video says about itself:

Giant panda bears in the forest – David AttenboroughBBC wildlife

4 April 2008

Giant panda bears are the only known bear to be active during the winter months. See rare footage of them in the wild with the help of spy-cam.

From Tech Times:

Scientists In China Decode ‘Language’ Of Giant Panda

By Katherine Derla

November 7, 1:12 AM

Chinese scientists who studied the language of giant pandas at a conservation center in the Sichuan province were able to decipher 13 different vocalizations. Researchers found that male giant pandas make ‘baa’ sounds like a sheep when wooing mate. The female giant pandas then respond by making bird-like sounds (chirping) when they’re interested.

Baby pandas (cubs) make ‘wow-wow’ sounds when they’re sad. When they’re hungry, the make ‘gee-gee’ sounds to prompt their mothers into action. Cubs also say ‘coo-coo’ which translate to ‘nice’ in human language.

The research team recorded the giant pandas‘ vocalizations in various scenarios which included nursing the cubs, fighting and eating to analyze the voiceprints.

“Trust me – our researchers were so confused when we began the project, they wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog, or a sheep,” said China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda head Zhang Hemin, who lead the study. The research team has been analyzing panda linguistics since 2010.

Panda cubs learn to bark, shout, chirp, and squeak to express what they want. The researchers found that adult giant pandas are typically unsocial animals, making their mothers the only language teacher they ever had. When a mother panda won’t stop making bird-like sounds (chirping), she could be worried about her cubs. Like a dog, she barks when a stranger goes near her babies. In general, barking can be translated as “get out of my place.”

Understanding how giant pandas communicate can be valuable in their conservation, especially in their natural habitat in the wild. Findings coupled with conservation efforts will benefit future generations. Looking forward, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda is looking into the creation of a “panda translator” using a voice-recognition software.

In the ocean, bottlenose dolphins and calves whistle to call each other when they’re out of visual contact: Mom calls Junior using his signature whistle, and he echoes it back in acknowledgement. In the Venezuelan jungle, when green-rumped parrotlets and their offspring get separated, they do the same thing as the dolphins: here.

Chinese lesbian student sues government about homophobic textbooks

This 11 November 2013 video is about the Hong Kong LGBT Pride parade.

From the BBC today:

China: Gay student sues ministry over textbooks

A university student is suing China’s education ministry over academic textbooks that describe homosexuality as a “disorder”, it’s reported.

Chen Qiuyan launched the legal action after she found the books in her university library, some of which suggested gay people could be “cured” with electroshock therapy, Xinhua news agency reports. A court in Beijing has accepted the case, which calls for the textbooks to be removed. “Homosexuals are already under great pressure,” says Ms Chen, who filed the case under an alias but has since spoken to US media using her real name. “Additional stigma from textbooks will cause direct harm. The ministry should bear the duty to monitor and supervise such content.”

Ms Chen, who studies at a public university in southern Guangdong province, had been consulting the library books after feeling confused over her own sexual orientation. “I thought textbooks must be authoritative,” she tells the New York Times in a telephone interview. “After reading them, I was terrified. I was even more afraid to admit that I’m gay.”

China stopped categorising homosexuality as a mental illness in 2001, but dozens of textbooks published after that time still describe it as a “disorder”, Xinhua says citing an investigation by a regional NGO. Last year, a Beijing court issued a landmark ruling against a clinic offering “gay conversion therapy”, the first case of its kind in the country.

Amur falcon, first ever in France

This video says about itself:

5 June 2012

Male Amur Falcon on temporary territory in Hebei, China. Filmed using a Swarovski Scope, 25x50WA Lens, DCA and Panasonic Lumix G2.

From the Tarsiger Twitter account today:

Amur Falcon, Falco amurensis 2[d] c[alendar] y[ear] male at Assais-les-Jumeaux, Deux-Sevres, W France – the 1st record for France and 12th for W[estern] P[alaearctic] if accepted

One would expect these birds, nesting in north Asia, to migrate to India and to South Africa rather than to France.

Good Chinese crested tern news

This 2014 video is called The Bird of Legend: Chinese Crested Tern.

From BirdLife:

Brave efforts pay off in doubly-successful project to restore colonies of Chinese Crested Tern

By Shaun Hurrell, Thu, 13/08/2015 – 10:39

The Chinese Crested Tern Thalasseus bernsteini is one of the rarest birds in the world. Only rediscovered 15 years ago, after its assumed extinction for six decades, this Critically Endangered seabird has a very small population size and only three breeding sites are known.

But the BirdLife International Partnership including the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife Partner), are proud to announce the wonderful news that the Chinese Crested Tern has had its most successful breeding season since its rediscovery, thanks to a project to restore a breeding colony on Tiedun Dao, in the Jiushan Islands – where over 70% the global population (at least 52 birds) were attracted and stayed to breed!

Also as part of this successful project, conservation groups and volunteers from mainland China, Hong Kong and USA successfully initiated the first ever tagging operation of Chinese Crested Tern and other seabirds on Jiushan Islands, where 31 birds were fitted with numbered bands on their legs so more can be learned about the species in order to continue to save them from extinction.

Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Officer of BirdLife Asia Division, braved a severe typhoon to ensure the colony’s breeding success: for the second year running he physically stayed on the island throughout the season to monitor and protect the birds, and dissuade illegal egg-collectors.

As a result, at least 25 breeding pairs of Chinese Crested Tern formed and at least 16 chicks hatched and successfully fledged. The >52 birds were attracted to this safe nesting site by the team’s decoys and sound playback system as in 2013 and 2014.

In addition, 2015 is the first year that birds have been attracted to all three known breeding sites: the Jiushan Islands and the Wuzhishan Islands of Zhejiang Province, and the Mazu Islands along the coast of Fujian Province each having successful breeding records, as compared to only the Jiushan Islands in 2014.

Chinese Crested Tern is listed as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International as the authority on birds for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, now has an estimated population of less than 100 individuals. Taking the figure of 13 (minimum estimation) chicks fledged from Tiedun Dao in 2014, within two to three years the number of breeding Chinese Crested Terns could have doubled from the original number when project was initiated in 2010 – when the global population was no more than 50 birds!

The thoughts of the colony were paramount in Simba Chan’s mind when a super-typhoon hit Tiedun Dao in the midst of the breeding season:

“Although the typhoon was very strong and hit us directly, less than 5% of the colony were casualties because we maintained vegetation to shelter the colony, and tried to discourage the chicks from moving down to the shore before the typhoon hit the island. This shows how we could apply our scientific observations from the previous year to improve the survival rate of the terns.”

A Partnership of hope for Chinese Crested Tern and more

Initiated by the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History and the Wild Bird Society of Zhejiang in 2010, the project shows the benefit of a team of partners working to secure the future of this species.

“The main reasons for the success of the project are sound scientific methodology, good planning, and commitment from all sides,” says Simba Chan.

The decoys and audio playback technology to attract the birds to the safe island were developed by Dr Stephen Kress of Cornell University and the National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the USA) and proved very effective from the outset.

Regarding follow-up work, Simba Chan added: “This year, we will work with Burung Indonesia (BirdLife in Indonesia) to promote awareness at potential wintering sites for the recovery of these birds. Suitable transmitters are being considered for tracking the migration of Chinese and Greater Crested Terns in the coming years to reveal their migratory route.”

“We also aim to encourage cooperation between China and other countries in Asia for joint actions in seabird study and conservation”, said Vivian Fu, Assistant Manager BirdLife/Hong Kong Bird Watching Society China Programme.

The regular monitoring and banding of terns was documented by China Central Television. The documentary will be shown throughout China on major television channels in late 2015 and will bring a greater awareness of bird conservation among the general public in China – important for all the depleted seabird populations along China’s coast.

“The restoration project is not only important to save Chinese Crested Terns from extinction, but also has significance to wildlife conservation in China,” said Simba Chan.

“It has clearly shown local communities have a strong wish to revert the dire situation of many endangered species.”

“With all this we are bringing a species that was believed to be extinct only 16 years ago back into recovery.”

The Chinese Crested Tern restoration project was initiated by the first international seabird symposium in China in 2010. After the abandonment of breeding colony of Chinese Crested Tern on the Jiushan Islands because of illegal egg-collection in 2007, the Wild Bird Society of Zhejiang and the Xiangshan Government worked with BirdLife on a public awareness programme to stop seabird egg collection and consumption. Ground work started using decoys and audio attraction in 2013 to bring the birds back and was very successful from the start.

The project consists of a team of partners working together to save the Chinese Crested Tern from extinction: the Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau, the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, the Wild Bird Society of Zhejiang, BirdLife International, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife Partner), and the tern restoration team from Oregon State University.

This project was only made possible with the generous support of the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, the Endangered Species Fund from the State Forestry Administration of China, and the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions Programme supporter Mark Constantine.

The Xiangshan Ocean and Fishery Bureau and the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History also provided significant logistical support which helped make the project such a resounding success.

Gibbon discovery in Hainan, China

This video says about itself:

30 October 2014

On today’s China View, we’ll go to a rainforest reserve in south China’s Hainan Province to meet endangered Hainan gibbons. As one of seven extant gibbon species, they are endemic to Hainan and are found nowhere else. It is recorded that about 23 of the animals remain in the world, making them extremely rare.

From Wildlife Extra:

World’s rarest ape: new family group found

The future of the world’s rarest apes look just a little bit brighter given the recent discovery of a new family group in Bawangling National Nature Reserve in China.

Until last month, it was thought that there were just 25 Hainan Gibbons (Nomascus hainanus) living in three social groups on an island off the Chinese mainland.

The discovery of a new fourth group, by a team led by international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), has increased the known population by almost 12 per cent.

The group consisted of a mating pair with a young baby, sighted within Bawangling National Nature Reserve, Hainan Province.

The existence of this fourth breeding group increases the reproductive potential of the population, which could be vital for the long term survival of the Critically Endangered gibbons.

ZSL researcher Dr Jessica Bryant, who led the expedition that made the discovery, says: “Finding a new Hainan Gibbon group is a fantastic boost for the population.

“We had hoped to locate at least one or two solitary gibbons, but discovering a whole new family group complete with a baby is beyond our wildest dreams.”

The new social group brings the estimate of the total population of Hainan Gibbons to around 28 individuals.

The ZSL-led project team, including international gibbon experts along with staff from Bawangling National Nature Reserve Management Office, set out to try and find any surviving lone gibbons in the reserve to gain a greater understanding of the total number of Hainan Gibbons that remain.

Gibbons are typically located by the sound of their daily song. Due to the low population density of the Hainan Gibbon, they are less likely to sing as there are few other gibbons to advertise their territory to, making detection of solitary individuals or groups extremely challenging.

By utilising new acoustic techniques that prompt gibbons to investigate and call, the team were able to locate this new group.

Dr Bryant adds: “The success of our discovery is really encouraging. We now want to learn more about this new group, and also hope to extend the investigation to perhaps even find additional solitary gibbons or other groups.

“Today is a great day for Hainan Gibbon conservation.”