‘Unique’ black flamingo in Cyprus


A black flamingo is seen in a salt lake at the Akrotiri Environmental Centre on the southern coast of Cyprus April 8, 2015. Reuters/Marinos Meletiou

From Reuters news agency:

Thu Apr 9, 2015 2:35am BST

Black flamingo, possibly unique, spotted in Cyprus

AKROTIRI, Cyprus | By Michele Kambas

An extremely rare black flamingo has been spotted on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, exciting nature lovers who said it may be the only bird of its type ever seen.

The flamingo, seen on the banks of a salt lake on Wednesday morning, is thought to have a genetic condition known as melanism, which causes it to generate more of the pigment melanin, turning it dark, rather than the usual pink color.

“From what have seen on the Internet, there was only one other sighting … in Israel, so maybe this is the second one,” said Pantelis Charilaou, head of the environmental department of the British Sovereign Bases, territory under the control of former colonial power where the bird was seen.

The flamingo, entirely black, save for a tuft of white feathers on its rear, was feeding with others on the banks of the lake on Wednesday afternoon. Experts said it may be the same one that was spotted in Israel in 2014.

This is a black flamingo video from Israel. From 2013; not 2014.

The sighting in Cyprus happened during a flamingo count at a sprawling salt lake at the Akrotiri environmental center on the southern coast of Cyprus.

“A melanistic individual is a very, very rare sighting … basically its the opposite of an albino when the individual produces more melanin than normal,” Charilaou told Reuters Television.

Up to 20,000 greater flamingos descend on Aktoriri salt lake each year.

Israel’s Netanyahu’s unholy alliance with European anti-Semites


This video from France says about itself:

Le Pen’s National Front accused of backing Holocaust denier for office in Paris

15 March 2014

France’s far-right National Front party has placed a Holocaust denier on its list of candidates for the municipal elections in Paris. The candidate, Pierre Panet, has said he “shares the analysis” of Roger Garaudy, a convicted Holocaust denier but that he doesn’t elaborate on his views because it is illegal in France.

Not only in the USA are there anti-Semitic preachers like John Hagee who pretend to be friends of Israel. Not only is there anti-Semitic warmonger and phone hacker Rupert Murdoch from Australia, pretending to be a friend of Israel.

There are anti-Semitic European fascists like that as well.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Netanyahu’s Unholy Alliance With Europe’s ‘Anti-Semitic’ Far Right

By Charles Hawley / March 24, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

“Fear has won the election,” wrote the Spanish paper El País last Wednesday after Israeli voters once again made the right-wing Likud the country’s strongest political party. “In Israel, fear is king and the one occupying the throne is called Netanyahu.” Other papers across the continent were equally disheartened. “Netanyahu’s victory pushes a dignified settlement of the Palestinian conflict far into the future,” wrote Le Monde. In Germany, Tagesspiegel wrote: “At the end of the tunnel, only a tunnel can be seen.”

But one growing faction in Europe is welcoming Benjamin Netanyahu and his re-election with open arms. On the ultra-conservative periphery, among the xenophobic, nativist fringe, right-wing populists are unabashedly rejoicing. For them, Europe is engaged in a battle against encroaching Islam – and the hardliner Netanyahu, they believe, is doing yeoman’s work on the front lines. “Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory is a good thing for several reasons,” Geert Wilders, the vociferous anti-Islam incendiary from the Netherlands, said in an emailed statement. “We share his criticism of Iran . . . and his opposition to a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.”

“We are very happy,” agrees Filip Dewinter, a leading member of Belgian right-wing party Vlaams Belang. “It is a good thing for Israel, but also good for right-wing parties in Europe because he understands that the first danger for Europe is Islamisation.” David Lasar, a foreign policy co-ordinator for the Austrian Freedom Party, echoed that sentiment. “For sure, I am very happy,” says Lasar, who has worked hard in recent years to develop ties with staunchly conservative parties overseas. “It is a very important step that Netanyahu has won the election.”

From the perspective of a European chauvinistic periphery that has increasingly been striving for mainstream legitimacy in the recent past, the enthusiasm is understandable. As groups like the Austrian Freedom Party, France’s Front National and the Swedish Democrats have long histories of anti-Semitism, recent years have seen them attempting to refocus their enmity on Islam and Islamists. With that shift has come a recognition that Israeli conservatives, with their rejection of a Palestinian state and hardline approach to Islamism, are their natural allies.

The Likud party has been cautiously returning the admiration. …

Sentiments like that are music to the ears of European right-wing parties. “For me, Netanyahu is quite a positive choice,” says Aymeric Chauprade, a member of European Parliament for Front National. “He is very strong against terror and against Islamists.” Kent Ekeroth, a Swedish parliamentarian with the right-wing Swedish Democrats, agrees: “It is far better that Likud won,” he says. “The Left doesn’t take the security situation seriously and, because of that, they are far more likely to appease the Arabs.”

Ekeroth was careful to insist that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of his party. But his message chimes with the increasing number of right-wing populist pilgrims heading to Israel for talks with West Bank settlers, Likud parliamentarians and other conservative leaders. Ekeroth, Dewinter and Lasar have all made the trip, as have Austrian Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Wilders. Even Front National leader Marine Le Pen, whose father and party founder Jean-Marie was considered vehemently anti-Semitic, has expressed interest in visiting the country. …

The Swedish Democrats and the Austrian Freedom Party have very questionable pasts. They are still perceived as racists and anti-Semitic by many,” says Yehuda Ben-Hur Levy, a visiting fellow at the Centre for European Reform and a long-time observer of the European far Right. “This is to some extent a way to legitimate themselves – saying, ‘If we go to Israel, you can’t really claim that we are anti-Semitic’.”

Thus far, the right wingers’ visits to Israel have not been given the official stamp of approval. While delegates have often been received by parliamentarians acting independently, they have never been received by a Foreign Ministry delegation or given an official government welcome. But there is some hope on the right that Netanyahu’s re-election may change that. “The understanding between right-wing parties and Israel can only get better under Netanyahu,” says Dewinter of Vlaams Belang. The Austrian press even speculated in December that Strache might soon receive an official invitation.

Israeli daily Haaretz wrote about Herr Strache:

The honor of lighting the torch goes to the brightest jewel in this racist crown – Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party. If Jorg Haider was “Hitler’s spiritual grandson,” then Strache is his extremely illegitimate great-grandson. His grandfather was in the Waffen-SS, and his father served in the Wehrmacht. As a university student, Strache belonged to an extremist organization from which Jews were banned, hung out with neo-Nazis and participated in paramilitary exercises with them. Commentators in Austria say that Strache is trying to copy Haider but that he is less sophisticated and ultimately more extreme than his role model. (A selection of Strache’s brilliant comments were published in his interview with Haaretz in March.)

The Newsweek article continues:

Such optimism may not be misplaced. Many conservatives in Israel now see the European right wing as being the only reliable partner on a continent where, they say, anti-Semitism has become rooted in the political mainstream. Right-wing parties, says Kleiner of Likud, “are better at recognising the real danger that Europe is facing from the Muslims . . . . They are less naive than the Left.”

Traditionally, Israeli governments (often secular, or at least not fanatically religious) used to define the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a political conflict about land; not as a religious conflict. When a fanatical Islamophobic Australian Christian tried to burn down the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem in 1969, Israeli police stopped that terrorist. As recently as 2014, Israeli police stopped a Christian fundamentalist terrorist from Texas from blowing up Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Defining the Israeli-Palestinian issue as political made that conflict difficult to resolve, but not insoluble.

However, defining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a religious conflict, as Netanyahu’s Likud party tends to do, pro-or anti-Islam, leads to a conflict where each side claims to have ‘God on its side'; to an insoluble conflict, where Israeli and Palestinian civilians are doomed to live in permanent war. European fascists, hating both Jews and Arabs, love to see both killing each other endlessly.

Such comments endear Netanyahu to the Right. “I am quite happy,” says Fiorello Provera, a senior member of the Italian right-wing party Lega Nord and a former European parliamentarian. “I think that Netanyahu is the right man for the difficult situation.”

French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen is attempting to win the favor of Israel lobby groups for her far-right Front National party: here.

Uri Avnery: The Israeli Salvation Front. The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us: here.

Save migratory birds by birdwatching


This video says about itself:

Champions of the Flyway – Birding Extreme!

17 August 2014

Extreme Birding in full power!

A major new international bird race has been taking place in Eilat, Israelone of the world’s most spectacular migration hot spots and rewarding birding destinations.

2015

The next Eilat Birds Festival will take place on the 15-22 March 2015, we are already taking bookings so don’t hesitate and migrate south to Eilat for a birding vacation of a lifetime!

See you in the field!

Jonathan Meyrav on behalf of the festival staff

From BirdLife:

The 2015 Champions of the Flyway race will take place 25th March 2015 – THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO GET INVOLVED!

By BirdLife Europe, Fri, 27/02/2015 – 09:22

In 2014, the Israel Ornithological Center (SPNI; BirdLife in Israel) and BirdLife International launched a new and exciting project – Champions of the Flyway. This annual race aims to raise funds to tackle the illegal killing of birds in Europe. This race is anything but common: teams from around the world come together and compete to observe and register as many bird species as possible within a 24 hour period.

Each year, the funds gathered by sponsors, participants and supporters will be used to support a different Conservation NGO’s work on illegal killing of birds. Last year, $30,000 was raised and given to Bird Conservation Georgia (SABUKO), which used the money for the Batumi bottleneck project. This project saw the creation of a feature length documentary about the incredible annual migration of nearly 1 million raptors over Western Georgia. This project also supported educational programs for children and work with local communities on the implications of illegal trapping and hunting.

Birders taking part in the inaugural 2014 event were of many different nationalities and represented many different businesses, conservation organisations and bird clubs. The 2014 winners were the Palestine Sunbirders, a joint Israeli-Palestinian team that recorded an impressive 169 species. Aware of their advantage in the field, they shared the coveted “Champions of the Flyway” title with the first place international team from the U.S., the Cornell Ebirders.

The next race for the Champions of the Flyway is taking place in Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city on the Red Sea, and one of the world’s most spectacular migratory hot spots. Donations raised from this event will go to BirdLife Cyprus, to help them tackle the overwhelming scale of illegal bird killing and trapping that occurs on this small Mediterranean island. See below how to participate.

BirdLife Cyprus plans to use the funds to tackle the illegal killing problem through a range of activities: continuing the systematic monitoring of birds that has been undertaken every spring and autumn since 2002; developing strategic action plans at a national level to deter illegal hunting and raise awareness at a social level; creating an awareness-raising campaign inspired by their 152 species affected by illegal trapping; and creation of a banding station for birds in Cape Greco to teach communities about birds and their habitats.

You can easily take part in the Champions of the Flyway in one of the following ways:

Create a Team – To take part in the race, please come to Eilat in spring 2015. All you need is to enlist 2 friends and create a team. Please feel free to contact us for more details.

Sponsor a team – You can sponsor any team to help cover their participation costs.

Donate on behalf of your team – All teams are competing against each other to raise the most funds and be awarded with the Protectors of the Flyway prize. You can choose a team and pledge a donation on their behalf through their Just Giving page.

Support our work against the illegal killing of birds – All donations will be processed through BirdLife International.

Please join us in the Champions of the Flyway campaign, spread the word and donate. This is a chance for birders and nature lovers to actually make a difference, to directly take part in bird conservation. Together we can stop the illegal killing and allow birds to fly safely through the sky.

You can keep informed and follow the race at Twitter “Champs of the Flyway” @Flywaychampions

Wolves helped by Syria-Israel conflict


This 2009 video says about itself:

The demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea has become an accidental paradise for wildlife.

Bloody wars and other deplorable human conflicts usually have bad consequences for the environment and for wildlife. However, in some cases they may have unexpected positive side effects for wildlife. Like for wildlife in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. For leopards in minefields left from the Iran-Iraq war. For Nubian nightjars in minefields in the Israel-Jordan border area.

Or, sometimes, for wolves.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Living in a minefield: the wolves of the Golan Heights

In the Golan Heights, a dangerous minefield provides an unlikely wildlife reserve where wolves are thriving

Arian D Wallach, Churchill Fellow, Dingo for Biodiversity Project, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Friday 6 February 2015 11.51 GMT

Sitting in the cold of an open jeep, we are waiting for dawn. The thick snow provides some reflective light and we strain our eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wolf pack as they return home from their night’s hunt. This family of wolves holds one of the safest territories a large predator could possibly hope for: a minefield in the Golan Heights, near the Israel-Syria border.

One step outside the barbed-wire fence, however, and the wolves must be very careful. Although wolves are provided with substantial legal protection from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) – enabling one of the greatest wolf recoveries in the world – they are hunted, culled and poached across the region. In an effort to appease ranchers who fear for their livestock while simultaneously conserving this growing wolf population, three management zones were delineated.

In the southern Golan Heights, ranchers can legally shoot wolves, and may even be rewarded with a generous bounty. Further north, wolves can also be hunted, but only by special permit issued by the INPA. Hunting wolves is forbidden inside national parks, and carries a heavy penalty, but poaching does occur occasionally, and can be difficult to enforce. Throughout the Golan, the INPA kills wolves, in a controversial effort to limit their population.

Itamar Yairi, a photographer who has been closely observing the Golan wolves for the past two years, witnessed the potentially dire consequences for those who venture out of the minefields.

The pack Itamar follows, led by a distinctly large and beautiful matriarch, chose to conceal their pups in a den just a few meters outside the minefield’s perimeter. “They were living like royalty, completely relaxed,” Itamar tells me. “Lying in the sun all day, playing and resting, watching over their pups, and then going out under the cover of darkness to hunt.” But one morning Itamar arrived to find a tragedy. The wolves were gone, and inside the pup’s den he found a box of meat laced with poison.

Poisoning wolves is strictly illegal in Israel, but occasionally it does happen, causing extensive deaths of wolves and other wildlife including jackals, foxes, wild boar and raptors. The death of wolves is bound to ripple through every facet of the Golan ecosystem, from the gazelles and wild boar that they hunt, and the jackals that they dominate, to the entire fabric of the remnant oak woodlands.

For several months Itamar could not find his wolf pack, but slowly, one by one, some of them reappeared: the matriarch and her mate and their two adult daughters returned, but their adult son is gone, and so are the pups. “I don’t want to know what happened to them,” he says.

Wolves live in extended family units, in which only one pair reproduces and the entire pack cooperate in raising and educating the young. They hunt together, patrol their territory together, and are deeply bonded to one another. Some wolves stay with their parents well into adulthood. It is these social ties that make wolves such powerful ecological players. It is the pack – not the individual wolf – that is the apex predator.

The loss of pack members is therefore a terrible blow, both to the wolves and the ecosystem. “They haven’t fully recovered from the loss,” Itamar tells me. “I only hope that they keep their next litter of pups deep inside the minefield.”

In 2010, 11-year-old Daniel Yuval was badly injured when he accidentally wandered into a snow-covered minefield, detonating a land mine during a family hike near the village of Merom Golan. Daniel lost his leg, and his sister sustained serious injuries. The incident sparked a global campaign to clear land mines, and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) responded by improving the visibility of warning signs and fence maintenance. Landmines remain common and deadly however, and in 2013, Roi Alphi, a Combat Engineering Corps soldier, was killed during an accident in an operation to clear anti-tank mines in the southern Golan.

The landmines and the tensely patrolled militarised zone make it a dangerous and forbidding place for humans, but a sanctuary for the wolves. “I have watched the wolves running towards the minefields, only to slow down to an easy trot when they pass the fence,” Itamar explains. “If the mines go, so will the wildlife.”

As the day breaks, the sun lights the massive fence running along the Israel-Syria border. Beyond the fence we watch the sleeping Syrian town of Quneitra. There is no sign of electricity, nor is there smoke rising from a chimney. I wonder how they warm their homes on this bitterly cold morning. We can hear occasional gunfire, but Amir Drori, jeep tour guide and local resident, tells me that this is a relatively quiet day. “Its too cold to fight. We have in a way gotten used to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions from our neighbours on the other side of the fence.”

We did not see Itamar’s pack that morning, but we did find their tracks crossing in and out of the minefield a short distance away.