New Australopithecus fossil discovery in Kenya


This video from the USA says about itself:

Walking With Lucy | California Academy of Sciences

19 September 2013

Appearing next to a full–scale recreation of the famous “Lucy” skeleton (Australopithecus afarensis) in Tusher African Hall, this computer animation compares the distinctive gaits of a chimpanzee, A. afarensis, and modern human, highlighting the trait of upright walking that the latter two share.

From Science Daily:

Australopithecus fossils found east of the Great Rift Valley

New remains demonstrate early hominid’s adaptability

March 24, 2016

Source: Kyoto University

Summary: New fossils from the outskirts of Nairobi reveal that Australopithecus afarensis lived far eastward beyond the Great Rift Valley, demonstrating how adaptable the early hominid species were to new environments.

New fossils from Kenya suggest that an early hominid species — Australopithecus afarensis — lived far eastward beyond the Great Rift Valley and much farther than previously thought. An international team of paleontologists led by Emma Mbua of Mount Kenya University and Masato Nakatsukasa of Kyoto University report findings of fossilized teeth and forearm bone from an adult male and two infant A. afarensis from an exposure eroded by the Kantis River in Ongata-Rongai, a settlement in the outskirts of Nairobi.

“So far, all other A. afarensis fossils had been identified from the center of the Rift Valley,” explains Nakatsukasa. “A previous Australopithecus bahrelghazali discovery in Chad confirmed that our hominid ancestor’s distribution covered central Africa, but this was the first time an Australopithecus fossil has been found east of the Rift Valley. This has important implications for what we understand about our ancestor’s distribution range, namely that Australopithecus could have covered a much greater area by this age.”

A. afarensis is believed to have lived 3,700,000-3,000,000 years ago, as characterized by fossils like “Lucy” from Ethiopia.

Stable isotope analysis revealed that the Kantis region was humid, but had a plain-like environment with fewer trees compared to other sites in the Great Rift Valley where A. afaransis fossils had previously appeared. “The hominid must have discovered suitable habitats in the Kenyan highlands. It seems that A. afaransis was good at adapting to varying environments,” notes Nakatsukasa.

The team’s survey also turned up masses of mammal fossils, including a few that probably belong to new species of bovids or baboons.

The authors write that the Kantis site was first noted in a 1991 geological survey. At that time, a farmer said that he and his family had come across fossilized bones from Kantis in the 1970s, although they did not recognize their importance. Following airing of Kenyan television programs on paleontological research, locals gradually started to appreciate the fossils. Since then, Kantis and other sites have been identified thanks to fossil notifications from the local population.

The team welcomes this achievement not only for its academic implications, but also for the benefits to the local community. “Kantis is in the vicinity of Nairobi, a major city,” said Nakatsukasa. “We hope that the discovery of the new site and the fossils will aid in increasing tourism, and in improving educational awareness of the local community.”

Saving rare hirola antelope in Kenya


This video says about itself:

A short fragment from The Ol Pejeta Diaries about the capture of 48 highly endangered hirola antelope in August 2012. These antelope were moved to a 3,000 hectare predator-proof sanctuary that is now managed by the local Somali community in Ishaqbini, northern Kenya. Read more here.

From Wildlife Extra:

World’s Rarest Antelope Flourishes Under Community Conservation

Most people have never heard of the hirola. The fawn coloured antelope is a shy animal, with a long thin face and spectacled eyes. And yet this unassuming creature is the centre of what may be one of the most successful conservation efforts in recent history. And the heroes – the equally unassuming Somali pastoralists who live alongside them on the East bank of the Tana River.

The Abdullah Somali community that run the Ishaqbini Conservancy in north-east Kenya have always had a fondness for the hirola, whose docile nature has earned it the nickname of ‘the stupid antelope’ in other communities. It is endemic to north-east Kenya and south-west Somalia, but populations have declined by over 80% since 1990. Numerous factors, including disease, hunting and loss of grasslands, have contributed to this.

Ishaqbini is part of a network of 33 community conservancies in northern Kenya, operating under the umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). Together they are managing over 44,000 km² of land, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Great Rift Valley. Not only are they conserving wildlife, but they are securing peace and building resilient livelihoods for rural communities on the back of it.

Sourcing the funding and support they needed through Northern Rangelands Trust, the Kenya Wildlife Service and others, the Ishaqbini community built a 3,000 hectare, predator-proof enclosure in an attempt to protect the last remaining hirola in their area. In August 2012, 48 hirola were herded up from surrounding areas and moved into the sanctuary. This was the first fenced sanctuary on community land in Kenya dedicated for the conservation of a critically endangered species.

The Ishaqbini Conservancy team raised awareness about the plight of the hirola amongst the local people, and dedicated conservancy rangers to anti-poaching patrols outside the sanctuary and full time monitoring of individual hirola herds in the sanctuary. Through NRT, they had access to expert scientific advice to help them shape their conservation and management strategies. But not even they could have predicted the impact these efforts would have.

In January 2016, an aerial and ground survey revealed just how much their hard work has paid off. An estimated 97 hirola were found within the Sanctuary, and several heavily pregnant females promise to bring this number into the hundreds very soon. From an initial population of just 48, hirola numbers have doubled in just three and a half years.

“The 50% increase in hirola numbers epitomises the opportunity and strength of the growing community conservation movement across Kenya,” says NRT’s Director of Conservation, Ian Craig. “The future of Kenya’s wildlife is inextricably linked with the development of the communities that live with wildlife. Kenya’s community conservancies are widely recognised across the world as one of the most innovative models in Africa empowering people to make informed decisions about management of their land whilst benefitting from wildlife and accessing new and alternative income.”

NRT member conservancies are managed by democratically elected boards and staffed by local people, often mixing ethnic groups that have historically fought with one another. Although the conservancies are still dependent on donor funds, they raise increasingly large sums from commercial activities related to conservation (through NRT Trading Ltd.), from County governments and from tourism. The profits are being channelled into education, health care and development activities.

The Northern Rangelands Trust is an umbrella organisation that aims to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. There are now 33 NRT-member community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya, home to over 300,000 people who are managing over 42,000 square kilometres of land and safeguarding a wide range of species and habitats. NRT is now widely seen as a model of how to support community conservancies, and its success has helped shape new government regulations on establishing, registering and managing community conservancies in Kenya.

Zebras in Masai Mara, Kenya


This video says about itself:

Masai Mara Documentary – Zebras at the wide plains of Masai Mara. During the great migration zebras gather to migrate from Serengeti to Masai Mara and vice versa. They migrate a circle of about 1000 kilometers.

Merry Christmas from the Rhino Dog Squad in Africa


This video from Kenya in Africa says about itself:

Merry Christmas from the Rhino Dog Squad

18 December 2015

This Christmas, brave rangers and dogs will be in the field protecting rhinos and other endangered wildlife.

Please give generously to support the #RhinoDogSquad by donating online.

Naked mole-rats, new study


This 2013 video is called True Facts About The Naked Mole Rat.

By Melissa Breyer:

Secrets of the naked mole-rat revealed

October 23, 2015

New research finds the naked mole-rat has been wildly misunderstood for decades.

So maybe the lack of fur, beady eyes and exuberant teeth don’t exactly make for “cute,” but in terms of nature’s design, the naked mole-rat is a splendid creature. Adapted to a life lived in tunnels beneath the hot African desert, their naked skin allows for excellent burrowing. They don’t need big cute eyes for their subterranean existence, and those teeth? Those teeth are so remarkable that they can not only chew through the tough underground roots that provide nutrition, but they can even chew through concrete when occasion calls for it.

Unlike most other mammals, naked mole-rats are eusocial, meaning that, like bees and ants, they live in a colony with a queen. A few lucky nude dudes get to mate with their depilated ruler, while the rest of the gang works on foraging and infrastructure. And, it has long been believed, they inbreed. (Which has kind of been the last straw for their reputation: They look like larva with teeth and they have sex with family members?)

According to a new study on the little darlings, evolutionary biologists have long been curious about their amorous behavior: “Why would this rodent have evolved to socialize and mate so differently from other mammals? From a natural selection standpoint – where advantageous traits are passed down to succeeding generations – what is gained by limiting genetic diversity by limiting the breeding pool?”

Now it turns out that maybe scientists have been wrong all along, according to the University of Virginia-led study published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

UVA biologist Colleen Ingram and a team of researchers looked at the genetics of different mole-rat populations from Africa, and analyzed them in comparison to the genetics of a mole-rat population that has been studied for decades. They discovered that the groups of the long-studied mole-rats are “inbred” only because they all initially came from a limited, genetically isolated group of naked mole-rats from south of Kenya‘s Athi River.

The team found that larger wild populations from other regions are genetically variable; although they are eusocial, they are not inbred.

“We now know, from looking at the big picture from a much larger geographic area than previously studied, that the naked mole-rat is not inbred at all,” Ingram said.

“What we thought we knew was based on early genetics studies of a small inbred sample from an otherwise genetically variable species. This shows that long-held assumptions, even from heavily studied model species, can and should always be questioned and further studied.”

So there you have it. The naked mole-rat may be bereft of cuddly fur … and bare teeth that are the stuff of cartoon nightmares, but inbred? No way. Proving that science can be fallible, one naked mole-rat at a time.

Saving vultures in Pakistan


This video says about itselF:

31 August 2011

Kenya celebrates the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) by showing the diversity of species, illustrating their critical role in the environment and focusing on their main cause for their widespread decline, poisoning with pesticides.

Dr Richard Leakey makes a personal statement regarding his own experience in witnessing the decline of vultures and highlights the need for governments to tackle poisoning issues seriously, otherwise the future of vultures is [certain. IVAD is a global event with awareness campaigns in the America’s, throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and the far East. Vultures have declined as much as 95% over South Asia and India because of the side-effect of diclophenac, a pharmaceutical drug meant to relieve pain in livestock.

Wind turbines and electricity lines are proving to be another serious hazard for vultures all over the world. Habitat removal and disturbance also play major roles in their declines.

Vultures are one of the most beneficial animals due to their “clean-up” work and removing carcasses that would otherwise rot and encourage disease. In Kenya vultures play a vital role in not only wildlife health but in the pastoral livestock rearing lands and in community public health. Join us in celebrating the vulture!

From Pakistan Today:

Plan for protection of fast-disappearing vultures

September 1, 2015 BY PPI

At the Baanhn Beli office in Nagarparkar, Tharparkar, Sindh, close to the Pakistan-India border, a new project was launched at a simple yet colourful, well-attended event to prepare a comprehensive national strategy to protect and conserve endangered vultures.

These birds have become a highly endangered species in Pakistan in recent years.

Serving as a unique scavenger bird for the past 50 million years which cleans the landscape from dead or rotting carcasses and is a vital link in the web of nature and ecosystems, the number of vultures in Pakistan has declined steeply over the past two decades. Nagarparkar Taluka is one of only two or three areas in the whole country where small colonies of vultures are still present.

A total of 224 residents of villages in Nagarparkar Taluka comprising 131 men and 93 women participated in the project launch ceremony. Volunteer-leaders of Baanhn Beli, a representative of IUCN, officials of the Departments of Wildlife, Forests, Local Administration of the Government of Sindh, leaders of other NGOs working in Tharparkar and village leaders addressed the gathering and gave relevant details.

Speakers highlighted the fact that the principal reason for the rapid and alarming reduction in the number of vultures is that a pain-killing drug known as “Diclofenac” normally administered to livestock to kill pain and increase weight and milk production proved to be catastrophically fatal for the internal organs of vultures. Similar rapid declines have been seen in India, Nepal and several countries in Africa. In 2006, the Government of Pakistan banned the production and use of veterinary medicines containing “Diclofenac” to save the rapidly declining vulture population.

However, unauthorised use of diclofenac continues and poses a threat to this remarkable species. Following the constitution of an Asia Regional Steering Committee on Vultures by IUCN in 2012, the Ministry of Climate Change has notified “National Vulture Recovery Committee” in 2012 to improve the coordination for conservation of vultures at the national level.

Several negative effects of the decline in the vulture population are already evident. These include contamination of the soil and water, infection of other species and human beings, increase in the number of feral dogs which feed on the dead or rotting carcasses and become dangerous animals for human settlements.

Concerted efforts on local, provincial, national and regional levels will be required to prepare and implement an effective strategy for the protection and conservation of vultures.

With this goal, the volunteer-led, community-based development organisation known as Baanhn Beli (a friend forever), now in its 31st year of public service in the Tharparkar arid region, in collaboration with IUCN-The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s largest environment organisation has launched the project for the formulation of the National Vulture Conservation Strategy. USAID is proving funding support to the project.

Over the next 10 months, a series of coordinated actions are planned with the active participation of village communities, local resource persons, relevant officials, technical international and national experts to identify specific measures at multiple levels that will conserve existing numbers and promote their safe breeding. Consultations will also be held with the national and international experts on similar initiatives taken in South Asia and Africa.

The launch ceremony in Nagarparkar is being followed up with an inception ceremony on September 7, 2015.

Kenya’s vultures on brink of extinction – especially after lion poisoning incident in Maasai Mara: here.

INTERNATIONAL VULTURE AWARENESS DAY ON ABACO: here.