Gorillas eat nuts, unexpectedly

This 2010 video says about itself:

Gorilla mums

Two first-time mothers care for their babies in Limbe, Cameroon. Both were orphaned as infants when their parents were killed for bushmeat, then sold into the animal trade; fortunately they were then rescued and cared for by the dedicated staff of the Limbe Wildlife Centre. The first mum is called Brighter and her baby is Balinga (male); the second is Akiba with her female baby Atinbi.

From the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany:

Unexpected nut eating by gorillas

August 2, 2019

Scientists have observed a population of western lowland gorillas in Loango National Park, Gabon using their teeth to crack open the woody shells of Coula edulis nuts. The researchers combined direct feeding observations and mechanical tests of seed casings to show that gorillas may be taxing their teeth to their upper limits, year after year, to access this energy rich food source.

Despite their large body size, gorillas are known to have a vegetarian diet consisting almost exclusively of leafy vegetation and fruit. Their teeth are large and high crested when compared to other great apes which is traditionally seen as an adaptation to them spending a large amount of time chewing tough fibrous plant material. In contrast, their teeth are not well adapted to eating hard objects, such as nuts encased in a woody shell, because the high crests on their molar teeth would be at risk of damage. “I was amazed when we first observed the nut eating by the gorillas,” states Martha Robbins, senior author on the paper. “We can not only see it, but also hear it, as the shell gives way to the incredible strength of their bite. Gorillas obviously have large, powerful jaws, but we did not expect to see this because their teeth are not well-suited to such behavior.”

The nuts of Coula edulis are encased in a hard, woody shell that takes around 271 kg of force to crack. Yet for the three months the nuts are available, the gorillas of Loango National Park concentrate their feeding on the energy rich kernels, spending up to three hours a day chomping through nuts. This is surprising as animals that eat very hard food items tend to have strong, rounded molars that act like a pestle and mortar and are very efficient at cracking brittle foods. Like other foliage eaters, gorilla teeth have higher crests providing extra cutting edges for slicing tough material. Under the monumental bite force required to crack nuts, teeth with sharp edges are prone to break meaning they may be worn away quickly. The researchers were surprised to learn that the gorillas at Loango are regularly gambling with their teeth and taxing them close to their predicted mechanical limits. While some primates, like chimps, protect their teeth by using tools to crack open nuts, it appears that the gorillas at Loango National Park rely on brute strength to break through the woody shells of Coula edulis nuts. The fact they do this year after year indicates that gorilla teeth may be stronger than previously thought.

The research also implies that western lowland gorillas have much greater dietary breadth than previously believed. The absence of nut cracking behavior in other populations of western gorillas where the nuts are also present suggests the behavior may be cultural, if gorillas need to observe and learn the behavior from other group members. “The fact that this nut eating is observed in Loango but not in other forests in central Africa where the nut occurs stresses the importance of studying and conserving gorillas throughout the habitat where they are found,” says Robbins.

Discovering that some gorillas routinely partake in nut cracking with their teeth could also influence the way researchers interpret the fossil remains of human ancestors. Despite having teeth seemingly shaped for a leafy diet the study shows that western lowland gorillas are capable of routinely cracking nuts, which has important implications for the ways researchers predict the diet of human ancestors based on the shape of their teeth.

Two-billion-year old moving organisms discovery

This 2016 video says about itself:

The 10 Oldest Fossils, and What They Say About Evolution

Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to point at a fossil and know that it’s the first, say, plant? Well… yeah! But it’s not that easy! Scientists are always making new discoveries that throw all our old assumptions into question, but we’ve put together a list of the oldest fossils of their kind that we know of so far!

From the CNRS in France:

Discovery of the oldest evidence of mobility on Earth

February 11, 2019

An international and multi-disciplinary team coordinated by Abderrazak El Albani at the Institut de chimie des milieux et matériaux de Poitiers (CNRS/Université de Poitiers) has uncovered the oldest fossilised traces of motility. Whereas previous remnants were dated to 570 million years ago, this new evidence is 2.1 billion years old. They were discovered in a fossil deposit in Gabon, where the oldest multicellular organisms have already been found (1). These results appear in the 11 February 2019 edition of PNAS.

A few years ago, geologist Abderrazak El Albani and his team at the Institut de chimie des milieux et matériaux de Poitiers (CNRS/Université de Poitiers) discovered the oldest existing fossils of multicellular organisms in a deposit in Gabon. Located in the Franceville Basin, the deposit allowed scientists to re-date the appearance of multicellular life on Earth to 2.1 billion years — approximately 1.5 billion years earlier than previously thought (600 million). At the time, researchers showed that this rich biodiversity co-occurred with a peak in dioxygenation of the atmosphere (2), and developed in a calm and shallow marine environment.

In this same geological deposit, the team has now uncovered the existence of fossilised traces of motility. This shows that certain multicellular organisms in this primitive marine ecosystem were sophisticated enough to move through its mud, rich in organic matter.

The traces were analysed and reconstructed in 3D using X-ray computed micro-tomography, a non-destructive imaging technique. The more or less sinuous structures are tubular, of a generally consistent diameter of a few millimetres, and run through fine layers of sedimentary rock. Geometrical and chemical analysis reveals that they are biological in origin and appeared at the same time the sediment was deposited.

The traces are located next to fossilised microbial biofilms (3), which formed carpets between the superficial sedimentary layers. It is plausible that the organisms behind this phenomenon moved in search of nutritive elements and the dioxygen, both produced by cyanobacteria.

What did these living elements look like? Though difficult to know for certain, they may have been similar to colonial amoebae, which cluster together when resources become scarce, forming a type of slug, which moves in search of a more favourable environment.

Until now, the oldest traces of recognised movement were dated to 570 million years ago; an estimate that appeared to be confirmed by the molecular clock (4). Evidence of motility found in rock that is 2.1 billion years old raises new questions regarding the history of life: was this biological innovation the prelude to more perfected forms of movement, or an experiment cut short by the drastic drop in atmospheric oxygen rates which occurred approximately 2.083 billion years ago?


(1) Nature, 2010 and PLOS ONE, 2014.

(2) PNAS, 2013.

(3) Geobiology, 2018.

(4) The principle is to explore variations between two species observed in similar regions of their DNA in order to estimate the time lapse since the era in which their nearest common ancestor lived.

Gabon Total oil workers’ strike

This 13 July 2018 video is called Gabonese oil workers start strikes for 15 days at a total facility.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 21 December 2018:

Gabon Total oil workers strike over sacked colleagues

Total oil company workers in Gabon struck for three days beginning Tuesday last week to demand the reinstatement of sacked workers. The sackings followed a 15-day strike when negotiations failed to agree on a bonus and a wage increase.

The French oil company retrenched six workers, but only four were reinstated. The members of the National Organization of Petroleum Employees union demand the remaining two get their jobs back.

Largest colony of olive ridley turtles discovered in Gabon

This video says about itself:

28 July 2010

An Olive Ridley Turtle lays eggs on a moonlit night at Rushikuliya beach in Orissa, India. Feel privileged to view this rare insight into the private life of the Ridley Turtle!

The Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known as the Pacific Ridley, is one of the smallest species of sea turtle. It is named for the olive-green color of its heart-shaped shell. Costa Rica is the one of the most important nesting sites. Ostional Beach in Guanacaste Province has the highest monthly concentration of these turtles. The “arribadas”—mass arrival and nesting—occur every month. October and November features the highest nesting rates (approximately 200 turtles per hour).

‘This clip of professionally-shot broadcast stock footage belongs to the archive of Wilderness Films India Ltd., and has been filmed on either Digital Betacam or 1080i HD.

From Wildlife Extra:

The Atlantic’s largest turtle breeding colony has been discovered

The central African country Gabon is providing an invaluable nesting ground for a vulnerable species of sea turtle considered a regional conservation priority say scientists from the University of Exeter

The scientists surveyed almost 600 km of Gabon’s coastline and uncovered the largest breeding colony of olive ridley turtles in the Atlantic. The results suggest that Gabon hosts the most important rookery for this species in the Atlantic, with estimates indicating that there could be up to 9,800 turtle nests per year compared with around 3,300 in French Guiana and 3,000 in Brazil.

Olive ridley turtles are one of the smallest of the sea turtles and are named for the greenish colour of their shell and skin. Although considered the most abundant of the marine turtles, there has been a net decline in the global numbers of the species, such that they are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Although a considerable proportion of nesting occurs within protected areas in Gabon, a range of illegal activities and external pressures continue to exist highlighting the need for continued conservation efforts.

Dr Kristian Metcalfe, lead author from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (CEC) at the University of Exeter said: “Conservation efforts for sea turtles can be hampered by their migratory life cycles, which carry them across jurisdictional boundaries and international waters. That makes this first population assessment which covered extensive areas of Gabon’s coast outside of monitored regions all the more valuable and worthwhile, and demonstrates the importance of focusing beyond intensively monitored beaches”.

The data generated as part of this study was used to inform the development of a new network of marine protected areas covering nearly a quarter of Gabon’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Even after long years of nesting monitoring, there are still things that surprise us all. For the first time on Vamizi Island in Mozambique, on the turtle monitoring project that started over 10 years ago, four albino green turtle hatchlings were found on the island’s most successful nesting beach, two of which were still alive. What was even more interesting about these hatchlings, was their red eyes (lack of pigmentation), a common consequence of albinism: here.

‘Extinct’ lion seen in Gabon

This video says about itself:

Incredible new footage of lion, thought to be extinct in the Gabon

9 March 2015

Watch this incredible new footage of a lion, thought to be extinct, spotted in Plateaux Bateke National Park in Gabon, Africa.

The last observation of lions in the area were made in Odzala National Park in northern Congo in 1994 and in Plateaux Bateke National Park in south-east Gabon in 2004.

From Wildlife Extra:

Video proof of a lion in Gabon for the first time since the 1950s

New camera trap footage from southeast Gabon has revealed a male lion in a region of Africa where the species was believed by scientists to be “locally extinct.”

Two camera trap videos taken in the same fortnight depict a single male lion roaming along an elephant path in the Gabonese region of the Batéké Plateau.

This savannah landscape extends across southeast Gabon and into the Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where lions last roamed in any great number in the 1950s.

The footage was recorded as part of a chimpanzee study in Batéké Plateau National Park led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and The Aspinall Foundation, partners of big cat conservation organisation Panthera.

Immediately following the discovery, Panthera joined with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, The Aspinall Foundation and Gabon’s National Park Authority (ANPN) to mount a new, intensive lion survey in the Gabonese park.

Panthera’s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr Philipp Henschel, explains, “This footage is truly unexpected, and yet wonderful proof that life for the lions of Gabon and the region still remains a possibility.

“The videos demonstrate that the efforts of the Gabonese authorities to protect this landscape, starting with the designation of the Batéké Plateau National Park in 2002 after an initial lion survey in the area, have been successful.”

In 2001 and 2003, Dr Henschel led lion surveys on the Gabonese side of the Batéké landscape, walking several hundred kilometers in search of Africa’s biggest wild cat.

Henschel’s team found almost no wildlife during the expeditions, and camera traps set during the surveys produced more photos of Congolese poachers than of animals.

Habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and illegal hunting of the lion’s prey species contributed to the loss of lions in the region by the end of the last century.

Until recently, lions were known to be present on the DRC side of the Batéké Plateau. Dispersing male lions can also easily travel 300-400km from their natal area.

The new survey aims to determine if the male lion filmed in Gabon is a solitary individual which may have immigrated from a remnant population in the Malebo region of the DRC, or if it is part of a new, breeding lion population in Gabon.

Survey data confirming the number and location of lions remaining in the unique forest-savanna mosaics of the Batéké Landscape will allow Panthera and partners to devise a strategic conservation strategy and initiatives for this unique and isolated population.

Learn more about Panthera’s lion conservation efforts carried out through Project Leonardo.

African plant named after David Attenborough

This 2014 video from Britain is called Your Favourite Sir David Attenborough Moments! #AttenboroughWeek – BBC Earth.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Plant genus named after Sir David Attenborough

Key taxonomical classification of rare plant with fleshy flowers discovered in the rainforest of Gabon in central Africa is named after British naturalist

Adam Vaughan

Wednesday 4 February 2015 16.13 GMT

Grasshoppers, shrimps, spiders and other creatures have all been named after Sir David Attenborough, but now a whole genus of endangered plants will bear the naturalist’s name.

Identified by a team of researchers in Gabon, a renowned botanical hotspot, the Sirdavidia flowering plants are believed to be the first plant genus – a taxonomical ranking one step above a species – named after the broadcaster.

Four-fifths of the central Africa country are covered by rainforest, and researchers expressed surprise at finding a new endemic species and genus in a place considered well-known botanically.

Dr Thomas Couvreur, lead author of the scientific paper describing the plant, said he remembered watching Life on Earth as a boy and Attenborough had inspired him to pursue a career in botany. “Sir David Attenborough has been such a wonderful and important influence in my life and the life of so many. I was really surprised when I realised that no one has named a genus after him before, so I found this discovery an excellent opportunity to honour him with a genus name.”

In a statement, Attenborough said: “I know very well that such a decision is the greatest compliment that a biologist can pay to another and I am truly grateful.”

A 20-million-year old grasshopper trapped in amber was one of the most recent species to be named after Attenborough, following a species of tree in Ecuador (Blakea attenboroughii), a long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi) in New Guinea, and a ghost shrimp found in Madagascar (Ctenocheloides attenboroughi).

The newly-described plant species, Sirdavidia solannona, was found in the Kinguele dam in the Monts de Cristal national park, Mbé sector, and in the Ivindo national park. DNA analysis revealed it warranted its own genus within the custard apple family of plants, Annonaceae.

“It turns out its closest relative is another genus in Tanzania. Even though we have a gap of 1,000km, the east and west African rainforests used to be connected. This is another extreme example of how the two rainforests were connected,” said Couvreur.

He said that the national park where it was found is so well-explored by botanists that a colleague had quipped that he wondered why Couvreur was bothering to visit. “In the tropical rainforests, no species is well known. But in this case, the area is the place to go for botanists, it’s close to the capital, there are facilities for botanists. It just shows in a region that we think is well known you can still have very interesting discoveries.”

The plant has a distinct shape, with red petals and up to 19 bright yellow stamen forming a cone. Couvreur said colleagues who had seen photographs believed the plant could be buzz-pollinated – where the buzz of a bee’s wings causes pollen to move from the stamen to fall on a bee’s tummy, before being carried to pollinate other plants. While just a theory at the moment, the team hope to confirm the method of pollination, which he said would be unique in the Magnoliales order of plants, which includes magnolia.

There have been just three collections of the plant, leading scientists to rank it as on “endangered” using the IUCN Red List scale of threatened species. However, in the locations where the researchers found the plant they noted that “the forest seems to be well protected and thus it is hard to imagine [there being] an important threat [to the plant] in the near future.”

Good African gorilla news

This is a western lowland gorilla video from the Central African Republic.

From Wildlife Extra:

Gorillas reintroduced into Congo & Gabon are thriving

October 2013. The Aspinall Foundation’s reintroduction of western lowland gorillas to areas of Africa where they have been hunted to extinction appears to be working, according to a new scientific study.

Critically Endangered

Western lowland gorillas are classified by the World Conservation Union as Critically Endangered, based on a projected 80% decline in the wild over just three generations, ranking them alongside the most threatened species on the planet. Reintroduction of gorillas to protected areas from where they have previously been exterminated is still considered controversial, but a pioneering, long-term programme to do just that is starting to show it may be possible after all.

Congo & Gabon

Two gorilla populations are currently in the process of being re-established in the neighbouring African republics of Congo and Gabon, by the UK-based charity The Aspinall Foundation in collaboration with the respective governments.

Fifty-one gorillas were released between 1996 and 2006, 25 in the Lesio-Louna Reserve in Congo, and 26 in the Batéké Plateau National Park in Gabon. Most of the released gorillas are rehabilitated orphans of the illegal bush-meat trade, taken as young babies from their slaughtered mothers by opportunistic hunters. The majority of orphaned gorillas die of depression and mistreatment, but a few survive long-enough to be confiscated and handed over to long-term rehabilitation programmes.

In the Gabon project, in addition to the wild-born orphans the released gorillas also include seven captive-borns, sent back to Africa from The Aspinall Foundation’s successful captive-breeding population at Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks in the UK.

Good levels of survival, births and dispersal

Dedicated field staff have been monitoring the released gorillas for over ten years at both reintroduction sites. A previous analysis, published in 2012 in the International Journal of Primatology, illustrated that the reintroduction programme had been successful in terms of post-release survival, birth rates and dispersal, all of which were comparable with wild populations. The new study goes a step further, using this information to develop a computer simulation model of the growth of the two reintroduced gorilla populations over a 200-year period.

Lead author of the new study, The Aspinall Foundation’s Conservation and Reintroduction Co-ordinator Tony King, explained, “We have seen with our own eyes the remarkable ways in which the released gorillas adapt to their new homes, and have celebrated numerous successful births to orphaned gorillas who never had the chance of a normal upbringing in a gorilla family – but this is the first time that we have put all this together to help predict the future success of the reintroductions.”

3 more gorillas released

The results of the study suggest that the reintroduced gorilla populations have a good chance of sustaining themselves for 200 years and more, but illustrated that reinforcement of the populations by further releases could significantly improve probabilities of population persistence and retention of genetic diversity. Damian Aspinall, chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, said, “This is incredibly useful information. Only last week three more gorillas were released in Gabon, and we are currently preparing an entire family group for imminent release.”

Slow reproduction

Developing the model was a challenge. “Gorillas can live for over forty years, usually don’t reproduce until they are at least 10 years old, and females produce one surviving off-spring only every five years or so,” added co-author Christelle Chamberlan, who has worked with both reintroduced lowland gorilla populations and the wild mountain gorillas of Rwanda. “Even after a decade of monitoring our released gorillas, there are still many aspects of their life-history patterns that we don’t know. We tested our model to see which factors were most significant in changing the predicted success of the reintroduction. Relatively small changes to annual birth rates or to female survival rates made big changes to the predicted long-term growth of the populations. Good numbers of healthy, reproducing female gorillas are therefore critical to population persistence.”

“It is definitely an ambitious project,” King concluded. “Results so far have exceeded most expectations. The gorillas are still living on a knife-edge though. Small reintroduced populations are always susceptible to crashes due to random changes in any number of factors. We plan to release more gorillas at both sites, which will increase the chances that the populations will survive. In reality we are still only just beginning.”

The study was published in the international conservation journal Oryx.

Small mammals in Gabon, new research

This video, recorded in Malaysia, says about itself:

Hose’s Civet and Small Carnivore Project, Borneo: Covert Eyes, Part 1

27 Aug 2012

Video footage obtained by camera traps from a logging concession in the Upper Baram region of Sarawak, Borneo from May to July 2012. Includes rare footage of Bornean endemics: Hose’s Civet; Tufted Ground Squirrel; Crimson-headed Partridge.

And here are parts 2 and 3 of that series.

From Wildlife Extra:

First survey of the small mammal predators of Gabon

Mongooses, genets and civets

September 2013. Working in the rainforest of Central Africa-a region known for its diversity of wildlife-a team of researchers from Panthera, the Wildlife Conservation Society, University of Stirling, CENAREST, IRET and others has completed the first-ever survey in Gabon on a previously overlooked animal group: small mammal predators.

Camera traps, bushmeat and observations

The team compiled information from camera-trap surveys, direct observations and bushmeat studies, mapped the country-wide distribution of 12 carnivore species, including mongooses, genets, and civets, in the first comprehensive assessment of such animals in the country. The study appeared in the July edition of Small Carnivore Conservation, the journal of the IUCN small carnivore specialist group.

“Many previous studies have focused on the larger species of Gabon’s rainforests,” said Laila Bahaa-el-Din, lead author of the study. “None of these efforts have focused on the country-wide status and distribution of smaller predators, species that could be disappearing due to the bushmeat crisis sweeping through the region.”

The research team collected images and data from 33 wildlife surveys and 16 camera trap studies for the study. Other methods used in the research included bushmeat hunting records with information on specific locations, and fecal DNA records generated from research in Moukalaba-Doudou National Park.

First records for Gabon

Of the 12 small carnivores detected in the study, a few-specifically the Cameroon cusimanse and the common slender mongoose-were previously undocumented in Gabon. The study also produced a range-extension for the Egyptian mongoose. All 12 species are currently listed as “Least Concern” in the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

“This first comprehensive assessment of Gabon’s small predators is an important step in understanding the needs of these overlooked but important animals,” said WCS researcher Fiona Maisels, a co-author on the paper. “It appears that these species are widespread and not currently threatened, but the proximity of many small carnivores to human settlements and the growing bushmeat trade could potentially impact these populations. These new findings will help inform future management.”

The authors include: Laila Bahaa-el-Din of Panthera, Oxford University, and the University of Kwazulu-Natal; Philipp Henschel of Panthera; Rostand Abaa formerly of the Wildlife Conservation Society and now with the Gabon National Parks agency; Kate Abernethy of the University of Stirling and the Institut de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale; Torsten Bohm of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research; Nicholas Bout of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Aspinall Foundation; Lauren Coad of Oxford University; Josephine Head of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; Eiji Inoue of Kyoto University; Sally Lahm of the Institute de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale; Michelle E. Lee of Oxford University and the Institute de Recherche en Ecologie Tropicale; Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Stirling; Luisa Rabanal of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; Malcolm Starkey of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Gemma Taylor of Oxford University; Hadrien Vanthomme of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Yoshihiro Nakashima of Kyoto University; and Luke Hunter of Panthera.

Leatherback turtle migration discoveries

This video is called Leatherbacks: Litoghahira, Solomon Islands.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Epic journeys of turtles revealed

January 5, 2011 02:09 AM

The epic ocean-spanning journeys of the gigantic leatherback turtle in the South Atlantic have been revealed for the first time thanks to groundbreaking research using satellite tracking.

Experts at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (Cornwall) at the University of Exeter led a five-year study to find out more about these increasingly rare creatures and inform conservation efforts.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B today [5th January 2011], has shed new light on the little-known migration behaviour of these animals – following their movement from the world’s largest breeding colony in Gabon, Central Africa, as they returned to feeding grounds across the South Atlantic.

The research has been carried out with the help of Parcs Gabon, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), PTMG (Marine Turtle Partnership for Gabon), the Trans-Atlantic Leatherback Conservation Initiative (TALCIN) – a multi-partner effort coordinated by WWF, and SEATURTLE.org.

Out of 25 females studied in the new research, three migratory routes were identified – including one 7,563km (4,699 mile) journey straight across the South Atlantic from Africa to South America.

Other routes still involved large distances, as they moved from Gabon to food-rich habitats in the southwest and southeast Atlantic and off the coast of Central Africa. They will stay in these areas for 2-5 years to build up the reserves to reproduce, when they will return to Gabon once again.

Dr Matthew Witt said: “Despite extensive research carried out on leatherbacks, no-one has really been sure about the journeys they take in the South Atlantic until now. What we’ve shown is that there are three clear migration routes as they head back to feeding grounds after breeding in Gabon, although the numbers adopting each strategy varied each year. We don’t know what influences that choice yet, but we do know these are truly remarkable journeys – with one female tracked for thousands of miles travelling in a straight line right across the Atlantic.”

In the Pacific ocean, leatherback turtles have seen a precipitous decline over the past three decades – with one nesting colony in Mexico declining from 70,000 in 1982 to just 250 by 1998-9*. The exact cause of the dramatic fall-off in numbers is not clear, but turtle egg harvesting, coastal gillnet fishing, and longline fishing have been identified as potential factors.

In the Atlantic, population levels have been more robust but, due to variations in numbers at nesting sites each year, it’s not clear whether they are in decline. Conservationists are keen to take action now to avoid a repeat of the Pacific story.

Dr Brendan Godley said the new research would be vital for informing this conservation strategy: “All of the routes we’ve identified take the leatherbacks through areas of high risk from fisheries, so there’s a very real danger to the Atlantic population. Knowing the routes has also helped us identify at least 11 nations who should be involved in conservation efforts, as well as those with long-distance fishing fleets. There’s a concern that the turtles we tracked spent a long time on the High Seas, where it’s very difficult to implement and manage conservation efforts, but hopefully this research will help inform future efforts to safeguard these fantastic creatures.”

Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Program, said: “This important work shows that protecting leatherback turtles—the ancient mariners of our oceans—requires research and conservation on important nesting beaches, foraging areas and important areas of the high seas. Armed with a better understanding of migration patterns and preferences for particular areas of the ocean, the conservation community can now work toward protecting leatherbacks at sea, which has been previously difficult.”

See also here.

Tagging and tracking leatherback sea turtles has produced new insights into the turtles’ behavior in a part of the South Pacific Ocean long considered an oceanic desert. The new data will help researchers predict the turtles’ movements in the ever-changing environment of the open ocean, with the goal of reducing the impact of fishing on the endangered leatherback population: here.

Sea turtles hatching in the USA: here.

January 20, 2011 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) – Gulf of Mexico (GOM) – Two hundred forty-two cold-stunned sea turtles removed from St. Joseph Bay this winter were released Wednesday into the Gulf of Mexico off Cape San Blas in Gulf County. All were green turtles. Twenty-five Kemp’s ridleys, also rescued from the cold, will be released at a later date, along with green turtles that need additional rehabilitation: here.

The life and times of the Green Sea Turtle: here.

Sea turtle nesting in the U.S. is still a couple months away, but I just couldn’t wait to write something about my new RBFF (reptilian best friend forever) – the sea turtle: here.

After US Iraq embassy, Gabon embassy scandals

This video from the United States Congress says about itself:

The Oversight Committee holds a hearing, “Allegations of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse at the New U.S. Embassy in Iraq.”

By Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers, USA:

Company that bungled Baghdad embassy repeats in Gabon

WASHINGTON — A year after problems emerged in the construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, another State Department post being built largely by the same Kuwaiti-based company is engulfed by delays, recriminations, and an Inspector General’s probe, according to U.S. officials.

The embassy building, in the central African nation of Gabon, was supposed to be finished by April 2009.

Instead, according to U.S. officials and to documents obtained by McClatchy, the $55 million complex is only 7 percent complete. Workers are still excavating the construction site in the Gabonese capital of Libreville, and early 2010 is the new target date for completion. State Department officials confirmed that the department’s inspector general is actively examining the project, but declined to provide details.

Patrick Kennedy, the Under Secretary of State for Management, acknowledged serious problems with the facility.

“The department is always concerned about timely and efficient progress on all our construction contracts, and we are working with the contractor to correct deficiencies,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

The Gabon embassy and another project, a new U.S. consulate in Surabaya, Indonesia, have been “plagued with problems” that the State Department is working to remedy, said Joe Toussaint, a senior official in the department’s bureau of Overseas Building Operations.

While it is neither so large nor strategic as the Baghdad embassy, the post in Gabon is high on the State Department’s list for replacement under a seven-year-old program to move U.S. diplomats to secure, modern facilities worldwide.

It also illustrates how problems that emerged during the tenure of former State Department buildings chief retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Williams, who resigned late last year after a congressional outcry over the Baghdad embassy, are still being wrestled with. …

The embassy in Gabon is being built under a State Department contract with Aurora LLC, based in Rockville, Md.

According to officials and documents, however, the majority of the construction — almost everything but the embassy’s classified spaces — is being handled by Kuwait-based First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co.

First Kuwaiti built the new Baghdad embassy, the largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world. The project was plagued by delays, allegations of procurement irregularities and a fire safety system that was certified as operational even though it didn’t work properly. Two State Department audits of that project are under way.

In Baghdad, U.S. diplomats have moved into residential areas on the 104-acre embassy complex, and plan to fully transition to the new site by Dec. 31.

State Department officials and others involved in the projects say that the Indonesia consulate is also troubled. It is 35 percent complete and will be at least five months late.

This article does not mention the slave labour scandal of the US Baghdad embassy. Also it does not mention whether there are similar issues in Gabon and Surabaya (maybe to a lesser extent, because in Indonesia and Gabon there is no war which makes very few workers go to Baghdad voluntarily).

From USA Today:

The Pentagon spent about $600 million on more than 1,200 Iraq reconstruction contracts that were eventually canceled, nearly half of them for mismanagement or shoddy construction, government investigators say.

From the BBC:

Iraq war ‘violated rule of law’

Legal advice given to Tony Blair by the attorney general prior to the Iraq war was fundamentally “flawed,” a former law lord has claimed.

Lord Bingham said Lord Goldsmith had given Mr Blair “no hard evidence” that Iraq had defied UN resolutions “in a manner justifying resort to force”.

Therefore, the action by the UK and US was “a serious violation of international law,” Lord Bingham added.

Tens of thousands demonstrate in Baghdad: here.