Big harvestman discovery in Laos


This video is about wildlife in Laos.

From ScienceDaily:

Giant Harvestman Yet to Be Named: Arachnologist Discovers Another Giant of the Animal World in Laos

(Oct. 16, 2012) — A scientist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt has discovered a harvestman with a leg span of more than 33 centimetres. The creature found during a research trip to Laos is one of the largest representatives of the entire order worldwide. Experts have so far failed to properly identify it to species level.

The reason Dr. Peter Jäger from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt (Germany) originally flew to Laos in April was to film a major TV production. “In between takes I collected spiders from the caves in the southern province of Khammouan,” the Frankfurt arachnologist explains. In doing so, he made a sensational discovery. “In one of the caves I discovered a harvestman that was absolutely huge.” The leg span of the gigantic male harvestman was more than 33 centimetres and therefore one of the world’s largest. The current record is just over 34 centimetres leg span for a species from South America.

Initially the discovery lay hidden among other organisms and was only recognised as unique when sorted and labelled. “In attempting to categorise the creature properly, however, and give it a scientific name, I soon reached my limits,” says Jäger. The Frankfurt scientist deals mainly with huntsman spiders — harvestmen are not his particular field. Even the specialist he consulted, Ana Lucia Tourinho from the National Institute for Research of the Amazon (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil, who is currently a visiting academic at the Senckenberg Arachnology lab, could only conclude that it is probably the genus Gagrella in the Sclerosomatidae family.

“It’s a shame we can’t identify such an exceptional discovery correctly, i.e. its species,” says Jäger, “we haven’t dealt with these and related genera from China and neighbouring South East Asia before. Specialists are also unavailable due to the fact that descriptive taxonomy is no longer the main focus of research funding”.

As such, the harvestmen of the Sclerosomatidae family have invaluable potential. Specimens can be found in virtually every habitat and they constitute an ecologically very important predator group in the natural food chain.

They could serve as an indicator of the ecological state of the natural and cultural scenery. These long-legged creatures are also of interest to behavioural scientists and evolutionary biologists. For example, during courtship the male presents a nuptial gift to the female, which is intended to demonstrate his fitness. Only when the female accepts it do they mate.

The Senckenberg arachnologist would now like to investigate the Sclerosomatidae family in a detailed case study using conventional and molecular methods along with his Brazilian colleague and in collaboration with other scientists in Germany, China and Japan. The findings should then be applicable to other groups and regions. “We want to avoid a situation in future where we again lack the experts to classify such unique creatures,” says Jäger.

Meanwhile, Laos has turned out to be a veritable land of giants. Other arthropods with similar huge dimensions have been found in the same region — the Laotian huntsman spider Heteropoda maxima with a leg span of up to 30 centimetres, the whip scorpion Typopeltis magnificus with a span of 26 centimetres and the predatory centipede Thereuopoda longicornis with a total span of almost 40 centimetres.

All these organisms are more or less closely linked to caves in these karst areas. “What mechanisms or factors are responsible for this frequency of gigantism is still unclear,” says Jäger. One possible explanation is the potentially slower rate of growth in the caves. But the only thing that seems certain is that there is a limit to growth — either due to the lack of oxygen supply to the long appendages or because when fleeing or catching prey long legs can no longer be moved quickly enough.

Whatever the case, Laos offers enough potential to discover great things!

South African huntsman spider: here.

New Asian snake species discovery


This April 2019 video says about itself:

Russell’s Kukri Snake | Oligodon taeniolatus | Streaked Kukri Snake

Russell’s kukri is the second most widespread Oligodon (genus of kukri snakes) found in the whole of peninsular India and north India. Not found in the Himalayas and north-east states after West Bengal. With a number of patterns, it gives great confusion in identification especially the populations of south India where the maximum number of peninsular Indian Oligodons is found.

From Wildlife Extra:

A new species of snake found in northern Vietnam, southern China and central Laos

Nagao Kukri snake

October 2012. A new species of snake, Oligodon nagao or the Nagao Kukri Snake, has been discovered in in South East Asia. With about 75 currently recognized species the genus, Oligodon remains one of the largest genera of Asiatic snakes. It is widespread throughout tropical Asia but is especially speciose in the large area known as the Indochinese Peninsula.

Laos, Vietnam & China

Three specimens recently collected in Lang Son and Cao Bang provinces, extreme northern Vietnam, one specimen found in Khammouane Province, central Laos, and the fifth one from extreme southwest Guangxi Autonomous Region, southern China, proved to be morphologically distinct from all other species known from this region. Especially noteworthy is the fact that all these specimens were collected in karst hills. Oligodon nagao is currently known from a small area straddling over Vietnam and China, and from central Laos.

Karst scenery

This species has been found only in karst environment. The Vietnamese and Chinese specimens were all collected at night in karst forests. The specimen from Cao Bang was found at night near the limestone cliff surrounded by secondary forest made of short hardwood, shrubs and vines. No water was observed in the vicinity. The Laotian specimen was collected in a large cave of a karst massif located in the corridor connecting Phou Hin Boun National Park to Nakai Nam Theu National Park. The Oligodon specimen did not attempt to bite when it was collected but it showed the usual behaviour of many species of the genus Oligodon when they feel threatened, i.e. showing the bright colour of the ventral side of its tail curled in a spiral.

The paper was published in Zootaxa.

Hillary Clinton in still bomb-sick Laos


This video is called Children and cluster bombs: Laos.

Laos calls to Intensify Destruction of Warlike Explosives: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Clinton’s Laos visit makes history

Wednesday 11 July 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Hillary Clinton became the first US secretary of state to visit Laos in more than five decades when she arrived there today.

Ms Clinton met the Communist government’s prime minister and foreign minister in the capital Vientiane today as part of a week-long diplomatic tour of south-east Asia.

In her meetings Clinton discussed environmental concerns over a proposed dam on the Mekong River and efforts to clean up the tens of millions of unexploded bombs the US dropped on Laos during the Vietnam war.

Laos is the latest test case of the Obama administration’s efforts to “pivot” US foreign policy away from the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But Ms Clinton had her work cut out and many fences to mend.

The US dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on the impoverished country during its “secret war” between 1964 and 1973 – about a ton of ordnance for each Laotian man, woman and child.

That exceeded the amount dropped on Germany and Japan together in World War II, making Laos the most heavily bombed nation per person in history.

Four decades later US weapons are still claiming lives.

When the war ended about a third of some 270 million cluster bombs dropped on Laos had failed to detonate, leaving the country awash with unexploded munitions.

More than 20,000 people have been killed by ordnance in post-war Laos and contamination is a major barrier to agricultural development.

The US is spending $9 million (£5.7m) this year on clean-up operations for unexploded ordnance in Laos, but it is likely to offer more in the coming days.

Gibbon conservation in Laos


This video is on wildlife in Laos.

From Fauna & Flora International:

National Gibbon Conservation Action Plan launched in Lao People’s Democratic Republic

18th July 2011

Lao PDR further commits to protecting globally important biodiversity by launching a national action plan

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have been coordinating preparation of a national action plan with the Division of Forest Resource Conservation within the Department of Forestry for the conservation of gibbons in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).

Paul Insua-Cao, FFI’s China – Indochina Primate Programme Manager said, “Native to the forests of Southeast Asia, gibbons are considered to be among nature’s greatest acrobats. Throughout their range gibbons are under considerable threat, often restricted to isolated patches of forest within a region with some of the highest human population densities in the world.”

Altogether six species of gibbon are known from Lao PDR, among 18 species globally. Of particular conservation significance are crested gibbons, of which there are four species in Lao PDR. This is the most endangered genus of gibbons and they are found almost exclusively east of the Mekong River, also in Cambodia, China and Vietnam.

Fate of Vietnam’s Gibbons Hangs in the Balance: here.

Gibbons effortlessly use the same techniques as professional opera singers when calling out to other animals, scientists found by listening to the squeaky songs of one of the apes on helium: here.

Environment-threatening Mekong dam deferred


This National Geographic video is about the Mekong giant catfish.

Another National Geographic video says about itself:

Wild populations of the iconic Mekong giant catfish will be driven to extinction if hydropower dams planned for the Mekong River go ahead, says a report released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today.

Fortunately, respite for the Mekong giant catfish and other wildlife threatened by the World Bank-supported dam plans … It is to be hoped these plans will go to the scrapheap forever.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Mekong dam plans on hold

LAOS: The government announced yesterday that it would defer a decision on erecting the first dam on the lower Mekong River.

The decision came in the face of opposition from its closest ally Vietnam after reports of the project beginning.

Vietnam has urged at least a 10-year moratorium on all mainstream dams on the river.

A meeting of officials from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in Vientiane decided that the issue would be sent for consideration at the ministerial level.

See also here.

May 2011: A series of successful restaurant raids by Vietnamese enforcement teams have been carried in Da Lat, the latest action in Vietnam’s ongoing effort to eradicate the illegal sale of wildlife within its borders: here.

October 2011: Burma’s President Thein Sein has announced that the controversial Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River would be halted. In a groundbreaking move, he says he has made the landmark decision to ‘to respect the will of the people’: here.

A Mekong Giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) was captured by fishermen in Champassak province in southern Laos last Wednesday and successfully released back into the Mekong river by Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department officials: here.

March 2013. In the WWF report, “Seven Sins of Dam Building,” numerous dam projects under construction or planned are given a failing review by the conservation organization. Aside from the internationally controversial Belo Monte (Brazil) and Xayaburi (Laos) dams, European projects, such as in Austria and Turkey, are also on the list: here.

February 2014: The Laos government’s decision to forge ahead with the Don Sahong hydropower project in southern Laos, could be dire for the population of Mekong dolphins living in the Mekong River, warns a WWF report: here.

Joy as China shelves plans to dam ‘angry river’. Environmentalists celebrate as Beijing appears to abandon plans to build giant hydroelectric dams on 1,750-mile Nujiang: here.

Giant Mekong catfish threatened by dam plans


This video says about itself:

Mekong giant catfish caught in the Mekong River at Chang Rai, northern Thailand, in 2008. The Lao and Thai governments have now declared a ban on fishing this critically endangered wild population of catfish that can weigh up to 350kgs and 3metres in length.

From Wildlife Extra:

Giant Mekong catfish survival threatened by new dams

14/04/2011 11:25:08

Substandard dam assessment opens way for fisheries destruction on Mekong

April 2011. Disruptions to fish migration and food supplies for millions in the Mekong basin are likely if the first mainstream dam on the lower Mekong is allowed to go ahead, according to analysis released by WWF. WWF claim that the dam feasibility study and environmental impact assessment failed to address key environmental risks.

The WWF commissioned review – coordinated by the WorldFish Centre with participation from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed Xayaburi dam in Laos and assessment were woefully inadequate and fell well below international standards for such studies. Xayaburi is the first of 11 dams proposed for the lower Mekong mainstem.

Lower Mekong countries are scheduled to decide on whether the dam project can move ahead on April 22.

Key studies ignored

The review found that the EIA ignored published studies and relied heavily on “a very light field sampling” that captured “less than a third” of the biodiversity in the impact area.

Just five migratory species from a list compiled in 1994 were mentioned and just three of more than 28 studies of Mekong fish migration were referenced. In contrast, current studies show that 229 fish species exploit habitats upstream of the dam site for spawning or dry season refuges, with 70 classified as migratory. The review finds the proposed fish passes for the dam ignore design guidelines, lack critical detail including any specification of target species and have a slope and steps which would be challenging even for salmon – not a Mekong species.

Giant catfish

Among the species threatened is the Mekong’s famed giant catfish with only known spawning areas in the upper Mekong between Chiang Rai province (Thailand) and Bokeo (Laos). While the Mekong Giant Catfish is symbolic and culturally important, smaller fish like the Pa Soi are important food sources for villagers in the Mekong River.

“How can you devise mitigation measures for fish passage without addressing the biology and the needs of target species, which in this case range from a small Siamese Mud Carp or Pa Soi to a 3 metre long giant catfish,” said Dr Jian-hua Meng, WWF International Sustainable Hydropower Specialist.

“Fish ladders of the design proposed have had some success in Europe and North America, but this is where only a handful of species are migratory, and many of those are of the salmon family, that are much stronger swimmers and jumpers than most Mekong migratory species.”

The review noted other studies that concluded that fish passes are not a realistic mitigation option for Mekong mainstream dams, and “that the Mekong should never be used as a test case” for proving or improving fish passages technologies.

April 2011. A new study by WWF on aquatic ecosystem connectivity reveals that the Mekong region could have equivalent power but dramatically less damage to river functioning by opting for tributary rather than main channel dams: here.

June 2013. Damming the mainstream of the lower Mekong River would represent a significant new threat to the survival of the Mekong giant catfish, one of the world’s largest and rarest freshwater fish, according to a new study commissioned by WWF: here.

Vietnamese scientists worried that the controversial Xayabury hydro-power project in Laos will make harmful impacts on Vietnam’s Mekong Delta: here.

Giant Catfish Caught in Thailand Sets New Record: here.

Bendable teeth seen for first time in suckermouth catfish: here.

Study finds 40 [Mediterranean] fish species could vanish: here. And here.

Frankenfish foiled? A setback for genetically modified salmon approval: here.

US cluster bombs still killing Lao people


This video is called Cluster Bombs in Laos.

From DPA news agency in Germany, by Christiane Oelrich:

Thu, 04 Nov 2010 07:02:04 GMT

Vientiane, Laos – Latsamy Voralath these days wears his hair fashionably long in front, with a fringe covering an empty eye socket. One of Laos’s tens of thousands of victims of cluster munitions, he lost one arm, two fingers on the other hand as well as an eye.

Over 80 million unexploded bomblets litter the Laotian countryside, killing and maiming dozens every year, four decades after the end of the war in 1975 in neighbouring Vietnam, which spilled over the border.

An international ban on cluster munitions came into force in August. Laos, which is to host the first conference of the signatories on November 9 to 12, is pushing for financial support for clearing its territory.

Growing up in the small town of Sepone in the south of the country, Latsamy used to live a fairly normal life. His family were poor, like all the others, but he went to school, hung out with his friends and hoped to become a farmer like his father.

To earn a bit of pocket money, Latsamy and his friends would collect some of the tons of scrap metal that litter the countryside, left over from the conflict between the United States and Vietnam.

One September day in 2004, when he was 14 years old, he dug a piece of unexploded ordnance out of the ground. Not recognizing it for what it was, he was knocking the mud off it when it exploded, the now-20-year-old explained with a barely audible voice.

Phongsavath Manithong, 19, spins on his head at dizzying speed, honing his impressive breakdancing skills. He does not put out his hands to keep balance – he lost them to a cluster bomblet he found outside his school.

“It was my 16th birthday, I was on my way to school with some friends to pick up our exam results,” he said. “One of us found this thing by the side of the road. We didn’t know what it was.”

Phongsavath, the most curious of the bunch, tried to open the canister-shaped object, losing both hands and his eyesight when it exploded.

A cluster bomb ejects up to 300 smaller submunitions or bomblets, designed to halt advancing enemy troups, or kill, maim and demoralize civilian populations. But their impact is felt long after the end of a conflict.

Laos remains the world’s most heavily contaminated by cluster munitions.

The US, as part of its so-called “secret war” in Laos, dropped millions of bombs and mines on the country’s eastern provinces, flying as many as 500,000 bombing sorties over the country in a nine-year period during the Indochina War in the 1960s and 70s.

The objective was to destroy the jungle bases of Lao and Vietnamese communist forces and disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was the main logistical passage from North to South Vietnam.

Around 270 million bomblets fell on the country, up to 30 per cent failed which to explode on impact, according to Eva-Maria Fischer, a spokeswoman for the aid organization Handicap International.

According to the first survey of unexploded ordnance released by the government’s National Regulatory Authority, about 30,000 Lao fell victim to the bombs and mines from 1964 to 1973 and another 20,000 thereafter, the Vientiane Times said earlier this week.

Last year, of the 100 confirmed casualties of cluster munitions worldwide, 33 were in Laos, according to the Cluster Munitions Monitor campaign group.

Cluster bombs are not just a hangover from last century’s conflicts; they are still produced by 17 countries, and stockpiled by a total of 73 countries.

The campaign against the weapons is gaining momentum, with the Convention on Cluster Munitions that went into effect on August 1.

But the United States, China and Russia, thought to be the leading producers, as well as Israel, India and Pakistan, have refused to join the treaty, which some critics have called a “feel good” exercise.

Seven of the convention’s signatories have, however, destroyed stockpiles of 13.8 million of the devices, and 11 more were starting similar procedures, the Cluster Munitions Monitor said in a report published Monday.

In total 38 former users, producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions have so far joined the treaty.

LAOS: World Bank-backed Dam Powers Ahead, Despite Social Cost: here.

CAMBODIA: Cluster Bombs Cloud Prospects for Peace: here.

Laos still suffering from US bombs


By Parvathi Menon in India:

Laos still grappling with war legacy

Thirty-five years after the end of U.S. military intervention in Indo-China and the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the country still grapples with the terrible and continuing legacy of the war. It has the unwanted status of being the most bombed nation in the world, and one that is most affected by cluster munitions and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO). Large swathes of the country – over 87,000 sqare miles spread over 15 provinces – still contain the deadly remnants of UXO contamination that continues to maim and kill people.

The so-called ‘Secret War’ in Laos, a war the U.S. administration denied existed, was one of the more sordid chapters of U.S. military intervention in Indo-China. Between 1963 and 1974, the U.S. subjected Laos, through which passed the supply line for North Vietnamese troops called the Ho Chi Minh trail, to a relentless bombing campaign.

More bombs were dropped on Laos than what the U.S. dropped in Japan and Germany during World War II, according to the Lao UXO Programme. Over two million tonnes of explosives were dropped on the country, with more than half a million U.S. bombing missions carried out between these years. This included more than 266 million anti-personal submunitions, called “bombies” – the small deadly bombs released from cluster bombs. It is estimated that 30 per cent of ordnance dropped on Laos remained unexploded.

“The UXOs are concentrated in nine provinces of Laos, in remote forests and agricultural fields,” said Alexang Hongkeo, an official in the administrative unit of the Laos National UXO Programmes headquartered in Vientiane.

The Lao UXO Programme, set up in February 1996, has a mandate to reduce the number of casualties caused by UXO through risk education, and to increase the amount of land available for food production and other socio-economic development activities through UXO clearance activity. This is an integral part of the country’s poverty eradication programme as the communities affected by UXO contamination are among the poorest in the country.

“Thanks to our efforts, adults now know about the dangers of UXO. Children however don’t, and often think that a bombie they find is a ball to play with,” said Mr. Hongkeo.

The Lao UXO Programme estimates that 50,000 people have been killed or injured from UXO accidents between 1968 and 2008. But the numbers are steadily falling. In 2009, for example, there was a total of 50 such accidents reported from the nine most affected provinces. And since 1996, UXO Laos has made 17,800 hectares available for agriculture and related activities by its clean up programme.

The high costs that Laos has had to bear from a grim history of U.S. aggression explains the active role the country has assumed in the Cluster Munitions Convention that came into force on August 1, 2010. The treaty has been ratified by 37 of the 107 countries that signed it. In November this year, Laos will host the first meeting of State parties to the Cluster Munitions Convention and assume the presidency of the Convention for a year.

Large-antlered muntjac photographed for the first time in Laos


This video is called Asian & African Elephants – Endangered Species.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society in the USA:

Camera-shy deer caught for first time

NEW YORK (July 24, 2007) — A little-known species of deer called a large-antlered muntjac has been photographed for the first time in the wild, according to a survey team from the Nam Theun 2 Watershed Management and Protection Authority (WMPA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The deer, previously known only from specimens collected by hunters and a few fleeting glimpses by biologists, stands approximately 25-30 inches tall (65-80 cm) and weighs up to 110 pounds (50 kilograms). Its namesake antlers are significantly larger than other muntjac species found in Indochina.

The photographs were taken using “camera traps” set in LaosNakai Nam Theun National Protected Area (NNT NPA), in the Annamite Mountains. This densely forested mountain chain straddles the Laos-Vietnam border and is considered one the world’s biodiversity ‘hotspots.’ The cameras were set by staff of the WMPA, a new institution established by the Lao government to manage the more than 1,500 square miles of (4,000 square kilometer) protected area, using revenues from the nearby Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric dam, currently under construction. The protected area forms most of the dam’s watershed, and is the largest protected area in Laos or Vietnam. The camera traps were set and monitored by teams (including local villagers) trained by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been contracted by the WMPA to help establish a biodiversity monitoring program to evaluate the effectiveness of its conservation efforts.

Mr. Sangthong Southammakoth, Executive Director of the WMPA, said “We are very excited about these photos. They show the global significance of the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, and reinforce the importance of our work.”

Along with several photographs of large-antlered muntjacs was a single photograph of the Annamite striped rabbit, one of the world’s rarest and least-known members of the rabbit/hare family. Both species are found only in the Annamites. The large-antlered muntjac was discovered in the early 1990s, when researchers in Laos and Vietnam simultaneously noted its distinctive antlers in the homes of local hunters. Researchers first discovered the rabbit in a fresh food market in Laos, in a small town near Nakai-Nam Theun, by a biologist working for WCS, Robert Timmins (Timmins was also involved in the discovery of the muntjac). The rabbit was subsequently photographed a few times in Vietnam, but this is the first wild photograph from Laos. …

Nakai-Nam Theun is home to several other endangered animals, such as the extremely rare saola [see also here] – an antelope-like animal, also discovered in the 1990s and known only from the Annamites – plus tigers, Asian elephants, and what is considered one of the world’s most beautiful monkeys, the red-shanked douc. Recent surveys identified what are thought to be more new species of animals and plants, but this awaits verification.

September 2010. For the first time in more than ten years, there has been a confirmed sighting of one of the rarest and most enigmatic animals in the world, the Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) from the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam. The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (also known as Laos) has announced that in late August villagers in the central province of Bolikhamxay captured a live Saola and brought it back to their village: here.

Animal species back from the dead


This is video of the ivory-billed woodpecker of the USA.

From the Independent article about the rediscovered Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna:

Back from the dead

* SIAMESE CROCODILE

Hunting and habitat loss were thought to have killed off this freshwater crocodile in the 1980s, but one was photographed near Thailand’s border with Burma in 2001.

* IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER

This spectacular bird was thought to have died out in the 1920s because of forest clearances. When it was seen alive in Arkansas in 2004, some ornithologists compared the discovery to finding the dodo.

* LAONASTES AENIGMAMUS

Scientists noticed a dead squirrel-like rodent on sale at a market in Laos in 2005. It was a relative of the Diatomyidae family, believed extinct for 11 million years.

* GILBERT’S POTOROO

Zoology student Elizabeth Sinclair rediscovered this Australian marsupial, thought to have died out in the 1870s, when she trapped two specimens while looking for other species near Perth in 1994.

[A severe outbreak of syphilis is threatening Australia’s most endangered marsupial, the Gilbert’s potoroo, a long-term study has found: here]

* BAVARIAN PINE VOLE

They were last sighted in 1962, and considered extinct. But in 2000, one turned up in a scientist’s trap in the Austrian Tyrol.

* COELACANTH

Having existed for at least 360 million years, the coelacanth was thought to have died out 70 million years ago, until a fisherman caught one off South Africa in 1938.

Coelacanth in Zanzibar: here.

And in Indonesia: here.

Siamese crocodile nest survey unearths hope: here.

February 2012. 19 critically endangered baby Siamese crocodiles have been successfully released into a local wetland in Lao PDR, where they will be repatriated into the wild according to The Wildlife Conservation Society: here.