Endangered Mediterranean monk seals in Lebanon

This 2015 video from Greece is called Mediterranean monk seal in Cyclades.

From BirdLife:

Emergency conservation for Mediterranean Monk Seal in Lebanon

By Shaun Hurrell, Thu, 11/02/2016 – 16:43

Once thought locally extinct in Lebanon, immediate action was taken by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon for the conservation of this Endangered species when a pregnant female was found dead.

In March 2015, a seal was found dead trapped in fishing nets on the coast of Beirut, Lebanon. When post-mortem confirmed that seal was pregnant, this was a saddening event on its own. But a group of conservationists were further compelled to action when they realised this was a Mediterranean Monk Seal – believed to be the world’s rarest species of pinniped (seals, sealions and walruses).

With an estimated population of less than 450 mature individuals, this Endangered species was once thought to be locally extinct in Lebanon – for the last five decades there have been only occasional sightings, including those as deaths or bycatch.

For conservationists in Lebanon, this was as exciting news as it was sad, as Monk Seal could still be breeding in a coastal cave, and providing an opportunity to protect the species and its remaining habitats. The fact that this female was pregnant suggested that another seal might be still present along the coast, and this was confirmed few days later sighted by few fishermen.

On hearing the recent tragic news, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean quickly granted emergency funding to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL; BirdLife Partner) to carry out a thorough identification of the remaining Mediterranean Monk Seal habitat in Lebanon, to investigate new threats and to work with local communities including fishermen to protect them.

The Mediterranean Monk Seal was formerly found throughout the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and northwest African coast, but its population has declined rapidly since the 1970s most probably due to disturbance, degradation of habitat, hunting, killing by fishermen who see them as pests, bycatch, plus a lack of awareness and other causes that need to be explored and identified.

The first step in the project: to fully understand the status of Monk Seals in Lebanon. SPNL has started talking to fishermen and divers whilst building a bank of data to compensate for the current absence of surveys and scientific studies to find out where they are, how many, and what threatens them.

SPNL have identified that there may be new threats such as the consumption of alien invasive poisonous fish Lagocephalus sceleratus, illegal fish blasting near caves and repetitive oil spill incidents.

Next, a conservation action plan for the species is crucial. SPNL is developing a Mediterranean working group for the Monk Seal including key range states and stakeholders where seal conservation lessons from other countries have already been learnt and can be shared.

Finally, understanding and raising awareness is key. Interviews have been initiated with the fishing community and divers to communicate the importance of Monk Seal conservation.

Due to fisherman-seal conflict, whereby fishermen accuse seals of ‘eating their fish and destroying their fishing gear’, the prohibition of fishing in sensitive areas for Monk Seals is one early response – but not a last resort.

For the last decade, SPNL have been reviving an ancient tradition of sustainable protected area management that rings well with local people: the Hima revival. So SPNL hopes that once coastal sites and islands important for the seals are officially identified, they can ensure their protection through designation as Marine Hima which will be supported and cared for by local people.

In the future, CEPF and SPNL wants to ensure the sustainability of Monk Seals and their conservation in Lebanon.

“The presence of this animal alive along the coast of Lebanon constitutes a unique natural heritage, and could be very interesting from a sustainable tourism point of view,” says Bassima Khatib, SPNL.

“Similarly to how we reduced the persecution of owls which were perceived to bring bad luck, we want fishermen to understand that Monk Seals are a good omen on the coast.”

Mediterranean Monk Seals were listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List from 1996 until last year. However, there have been some signs of recovery in certain areas such as the Aegean Sea near Greece meaning they are now listed as Endangered (more data is still needed from Lebanon though).

The Ancient Greeks revered Monk Seals as they saw them as a good omen, so perhaps this is a good sign for the future of the species in Lebanon.

With lack of data though, and still a very small population, there is still a long way to go for saving this species.

More about the Mediterranean’s most endangered marine mammal

Mediterranean Monk Seals Monachus monachus used to inhabit open sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, but ancient hunting pressure forced the intelligent animals to seek refuge in remote accessible caves with underwater entrances. Over two metres long and weighing 250-300kg, they are called ‘monk’ seals because from behind the head and shoulders resemble a hooded monk wearing flowing black robes.

The seal is an ‘EDGE’ species (Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered): one of only two surviving monk seal species from an ancient pinniped lineage.

‘Solidarity with Lebanese ISIS victims, like with Paris’

Hanna Nijenhuis, photo by Hans Nijenhuis

Translated from Dutch site De Correspondent today:

While everyone on Facebook hoisted the French flag, Hanna (18 years old) coloured her profile picture with the flag of Syria. It led to a lively WhatsApp conversation with her father, who gradually found it more and more difficult to reply. An eighteen-year-old proves to have insight many government leaders still have a lot to learn about.

WhatsApp after Paris: how Hanna (18) teaches her father a lesson

Hanna Nijenhuis (18)’s school essay was about why the United States did win two world wars, but not smaller wars. Now she learns German in Berlin. Hans Nijenhuis (53) is her father and works at NRC Handelsblad daily. This is their WhatsApp conservation on Monday night.

Hanna: Are you tired of all those French flags on Facebook as well? And of all that #prayforparis? The whole internet is red, white and blue.

Hans: What do you mean? That is a mark of solidarity, that is good?

Hanna: Solidarity is good, but why only #prayforparis? In Beirut, two days before Paris there were also [ISIS] attacks with many deaths. And I see no Lebanese flags. I think you do not even know how a Lebanese flag looks while you put the French victims with their portraits in the newspapers. And heroic tales of the survivors. I have never read an account of a Lebanese.

Lebanese flag

Hans: Paris for us is simply closer. That city stands for values ​​that we share. For our way of life. Remember when we were there together, a few years ago, how much you liked it? All those cafés, lively everywhere.

Hanna: Yeah okay, I know what you mean. But in Lebanon they want to live as well. The way they live is not important, right? Do you know at all what values ​​they stand for there? In Lebanon fathers and daughters live too, shouldn’t you feel compassion for them? The Western media have a Western viewpoint. And you pretend that’s the whole truth. As if the West is the only thing that matters. I’ve changed my profile picture to the Syrian flag. I do not only support France.

Solidarity with both France and Lebanon against terrorism

This is a ‘twibbon’ expressing solidarity with both the French and Lebanese victims and survivors of ISIS violence. You can put it on your Facebook or Twitter account here.

Hans: But we also support Syria! We receive tens of thousands of refugees. And we bomb Islamic State (ISIS). Roger Cohen, an influential columnist, says that we should seize the international outrage to destroy ISIS once and for all. ‘To Save Paris, Defeat ISIS’, Cohen wrote in The New York Times. Francois Hollande and Mark Rutte speak of a “war”.

Hanna: You read columnists, I have my school essay. I will pick it up in a moment, wait. And meanwhile, you can explain what you mean by war.

Hans: More air strikes, possibly ground troops. ISIS mainly consists of crooks with weapons. It should be possible to take them out.

Hanna: So, bombs. That means collateral damage in the form of innocent lives, I wrote in that paper. Fathers and daughters who have nothing to do with ISIS and do not want to.

Hans: That’s annoying, but ISIS also causes the loss of innocent lives!

Hanna: And that is exactly why we hate ISIS so much. But with all that bombing we do the same. We do not want to be better than them? And even if you did not see it as a matter of principle, do all these military actions make sense? In Afghanistan and Iraq, we went after the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, but the people there saw something else. They saw Western soldiers in their streets who did not belong there. And that drove them increasingly towards the terrorists. I get that. Honestly, would you like it if the Iraqis suddenly would come marching through our streets? The terrorists make use of that feeling. They then pretend to be the good guys. …

It is classic Al Qaeda, Dad: provoke the Western world, so that those countries will venture into Muslim territory, and support for terrorists will increase. It is in one of the books I have used, The accidental guerrilla by David Kilcullen. You should read it.

Hans: In Afghanistan, girls now go to school. …

So says the war propaganda. It practice, it turns out that invasion by foreign troops did not bring any change in the low numbers of Afghan girls going to school.

Hanna: Wake up, Dad! America’s war on terror after 9/11 did much more damage to the USA than the attack itself. Detention without trial in Guantanamo, water-boarding, drone attacks with civilian casualties, an unstable Iraq where ISIS could establish itself. And especially for you because you like to think economically: the attacks on the Twin Towers by terrorists cost an estimated $ 500,000. In the war on terror, America has spent more than $ 700 billion.

An extremely conservative estimate.

They drain you, Dad.

Hans: What do you suggest?

Hanna: Get the guilty people. Put them on trial and punish them. But do not declare war on countries, nations or believers who have not committed the attacks.

Hans: The French do their best. The border is controlled tightly, the Molenbeek district of Brussels [in Belgium] is searched thoroughly.

Hanna: I see it all. White men in Audis are waved through, everyone with a dark complexion is a suspect and is searched. And such a ‘thorough search’ – not everyone living there is an accomplice, huh. The way the search happens will lead to new enemies, frustration, exclusion. All of these are sources of radicalization. …

Hollande wants to extend the state of emergency by three months. Then they will be able to do so searches and arrest people anywhere. The borders are closed again. More police on the streets. And again, people like you and me will not notice much of it. But anyone with an ‘oriental’ appearance will. A few more attacks and we will no longer have va rule of law but a police state.

Hans: Okay, but how are things with you in Berlin?

Hanna: Everyone is afraid of Muslims attacking. I’m afraid of Westerners who still massively hate Islam. I read this reaction to a report about the French bombing of Raqqa: “A carpet of bombs like in Dresden should be effective: demoralize the population.” How could anyone want to let that happen again? That’s what I consider scary.

Just as innocent – comparing Beirut and Paris. A Lebanese journalist asks why we categorise Lebanese victims as we mourn French ones: here.

PRESIDENT OBAMA GOES AFTER ANTI-REFUGEE SENTIMENT “I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate,” he said. And here’s what Americans thought of Jewish refugees on the eve of WWII. [AP]

SUSPECTED BOKO HARAM MARKET BOMB KILLS 32 IN NIGERIA Eighty more people were injured in the blast, which took place in the northeastern city of Yola. [Reuters]

British Muslims condemn Paris murders

This music video from Britain is called Yusuf Islam – Peace Train (Peace Train lyrics on screen).

By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Not in our name

Monday 16th November 2015

Muslim communities condemn atrocity

MUSLIMS in Britain united in solidarity over the weekend with victims of the atrocious shooting and bombing spree in Paris that left 129 people dead.

The world recoiled in horror on Friday night after gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a concert hall, restaurants and the vicinity of Stade de France in seven near-simultaneous bloody attacks.

The so-called Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which have also left more than 350 people injured, with 99 in a critical state.

As many as 89 of the dead victims were shot with Kalashnikov rifles in the Bataclan Hall while watching Californian band Eagles of Death Metal.

Nick Alexander, a 36-year-old from Essex, was gunned down while selling band merchandise.

British singer and musician Cat Stevens — who changed his name to Yusuf Islam after becoming a Muslim in the 1970s — paid tribute to Mr Alexander.

He said: “Just read Nick Alexander was killed in Paris. He was our tour merchandiser on last year’s tour. Sending love and condolences to his family.

“We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives or were injured by violence and terror around the world.”

At least seven suspects — the first of whom was named as 29-year-old French citizen Ismael Omar Mostefai, whose six relatives were detained on Sunday for questioning — are believed to be dead.

An eighth man was reported to have been “on the loose.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said there was “no justification for such carnage whatsoever” and that the “remaining people responsible” should be “brought to justice and face the full force of the law.”

Muslim Women UK has warned of increased intimidation and violence against innocent Muslims in the wake of the second terrorist shoot-out in Paris this year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

The feminist charity said: “Everyone regardless of faith or no faith, even with an ounce of morality, would condemn the Paris attacks.”

Members of British Islamic organisations carried flowers, candles and French flags in a Trafalgar Square vigil on Saturday night to show solidarity with those affected by the massacre.

Representatives from the Christian-Muslim Forum, Muslim British Youth and the Muslim Association of Britain also attended.

MCB secretary-general Dr Shuja Shafi also said: “The attacks once again in Paris are horrific and abhorrent and we condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms.

“My thoughts and prayers for the families of those killed and injured and for the people of France, our neighbours.

“This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves Islamic State. There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith.”

Christian-Muslim Forum director Catriona Robertson said: “Terrorism has no religion. We are all united in our prayers for those killed and injured.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned against “feeding a cycle of violence” with hateful and divisive responses against the Muslim community after the “horrific and immoral” event.

He added: “We are proud to live in a multicultural and multifaith society and we stand for the unity of all communities.”

Also by Lamiat Sabin in Britain:

Labour warns against Syria panic attack

Monday 16th November 2015

Dropping bombs is not the solution, says Benn

THE Labour Party warned Britain against resorting to “dropping bombs” on Syria after the so-called Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for massacring 129 people in Paris.

Only a “diplomatic solution” to the Syrian civil war should be considered in countering threats made against Britain, shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn said.

This is good news, and a bit surprising, as Hilary Benn is a right-winger within Labour; closer to Tony Blair than to his father Tony Benn.

Shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott also told Sky News that a solution was now “even more urgent” following the second spate of tragedies in the French capital in less than a year.

On Friday night, seven suicide bombers stormed restaurants, a football stadium and a concert hall with machine guns before setting off explosives to kill themselves. More than 350 people were injured.

Mr Benn said: “If the government wants to bring [a comprehensive plan] forward, then we would look at it. But I’m afraid you are not going to defeat Isis/Daesh in Syria just by dropping bombs.”

Tory PM David Cameron has decided to withhold proposals to extend the RAF mission to Syria for votes in the Commons unless there was a “consensus” backing them, including from Labour MPs.

Home Secretary Theresa May reiterated this standpoint yesterday, while stating that refugees would be “vetted” for any signs that they could somehow harbour terrorist tendencies.

However Labour would only consider military action in Syria if there are enough resources to cope with refugees who would seek safety in Britain as a result of war, according to Ms Abbott.

The Stop the War Coalition also rejected bombing as a viable solution.

It said: “There is absolutely no evidence that this will do anything but make the situation worse. The only solution can lie in political and negotiated solutions.”

“There can be absolutely no justification for the horrific shooting and bombing of very large numbers of innocent people, in concerts, bars and cafes.

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” it added.

Meanwhile the horrific incident has been used as an opportunity to call for Ms May’s Investigatory Powers Bill — also known as the Snoopers’ Charter — to be rushed through Parliament within a month.

The Bill — which Mr Cameron described as “absolutely vital” — would allow police and intelligence agents access to the browsing history, emails and messages of everyone in the country.

LEBANESE authorities have arrested seven Syrians and two Lebanese suspected of involvement in the weekend of terror attacks. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk announced the arrests yesterday, three days after a double suicide attack — claimed by islamic State (Isis) — in the southern Beirut district of Burj al-Barajneh killed 43 people and wounded more than 230: here.

Britain: There is an unequivocal connection between Western foreign policy and terror. And already Theresa May is hinting that this attack on Paris may need to be followed up by a fresh round of attacks on civil liberties, renewed strengthening of powers for the security services and tighter immigration controls. Opposing the rising tide of racism, anti-immigrant hysteria and ensuring that this tragic loss of life isn’t used by those who wish to pour more petrol on the flames will, as always, fall to the labour and progressive movement: here.

After Paris attacks, French government steps up police state measures: here.

The terrorist atrocity carried out in Paris by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been seized upon by the United States, France and the other imperialist powers to intensify the policies of war and plunder that destroyed entire societies in the Middle East and created the conditions for the growth of reactionary forces such as those that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds more last Friday night: here.

The G-20 summit of world political leaders being held in Turkey to discuss the economic issues impacting on the world economy has been turned into a council of war. The major imperialist powers are moving rapidly to escalate their military intervention in Syria in the wake of Friday night’s terror attack in Paris: here.

Jeremy Corbyn says a military response in Syria could cause ‘yet more mayhem and loss’. The Labour leader says the West needs to ask difficult questions about Saudi Arabia and arms sales: here.

Sky News takes down article which referred to Jeremy Corbyn as ‘Jihadi Jez’ after petition: here.

HEAVILY ARMED special SAS forces were ordered onto the streets of the UK, yesterday and told to ‘shoot on sight’ suspected terrorists as the UK hires 1,900 more spies: here.

Humans from Africa to Lebanon to Europe, snail research says

This video is called Introduction to Archaeology – Lecture 2a. ‘Palaeolithic Europe‘.

From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

New chronology for Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) supports Levantine route of modern human dispersal into Europe

June 1, 2015


Bayesian modeling of AMS radiocarbon dates on the marine mollusk Phorcus turbinatus from Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon) indicates that the earliest presence of Upper Paleolithic (UP) modern humans in the Levant predates 45,900 cal B.P.

Similarities in early UP lithic technology and material culture suggest population dispersals between the Levant and Europe around 50,000–40,000 cal B.P. Our data confirm the presence of modern humans carrying a UP toolkit in the Levant prior to any known European modern human fossils and allow rejection of recent claims that European UP modern humans predate those in the Levant. This result, in turn, suggests the Levant served as a corridor for the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and into Eurasia.


Modern human dispersal into Europe is thought to have occurred with the start of the Upper Paleolithic around 50,000–40,000 y ago. The Levantine corridor hypothesis suggests that modern humans from Africa spread into Europe via the Levant. Ksâr ‘Akil (Lebanon), with its deeply stratified Initial (IUP) and Early (EUP) Upper Paleolithic sequence containing modern human remains, has played an important part in the debate.

The latest chronology for the site, based on AMS radiocarbon dates of shell ornaments, suggests that the appearance of the Levantine IUP is later than the start of the first Upper Paleolithic in Europe, thus questioning the Levantine corridor hypothesis. Here we report a series of AMS radiocarbon dates on the marine gastropod Phorcus turbinatus associated with modern human remains and IUP and EUP stone tools from Ksâr ‘Akil. Our results, supported by an evaluation of individual sample integrity, place the EUP layer containing the skeleton known as “Egbert” between 43,200 and 42,900 cal B.P. and the IUP-associated modern human maxilla known as “Ethelruda” before ∼45,900 cal B.P.

This chronology is in line with those of other Levantine IUP and EUP sites and demonstrates that the presence of modern humans associated with Upper Paleolithic toolkits in the Levant predates all modern human fossils from Europe. The age of the IUP-associated Ethelruda fossil is significant for the spread of modern humans carrying the IUP into Europe and suggests a rapid initial colonization of Europe by our species.

NatureWatch, new app launched

This video says about itself:

7 mei 2015

NatureWatch is a new iPhone application from BirdLife International which allows you to plan your wildlife adventures, share your experiences, and help conserve some of the best sites for wildlife in the world.

NatureWatch is available in the App Store and covers 533 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa.

Download the App from here.

From BirdLife:

NatureWatch App Launched! Watch nature, share moments, conserve sites

By Nick Askew, Mon, 11/05/2015 – 12:10

NatureWatch is a new iPhone App from BirdLife International which allows you to plan your wildlife adventures, share your experiences, and help conserve some of the best sites for wildlife in the world.

“Covering 533 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa, NatureWatch gives people who care about these sites a global voice”, said Patricia Zurita – BirdLife’s Chief Executive.

By downloading NatureWatch from the App Store, you can easily find all the information you need to enjoy your next adventure through accessing the latest maps, information sheets and sightings from each site.

The new App also allows you to share your magical moments with nature as they happen with your family, friends, colleagues and other NatureWatch users.

NatureWatch users can view lists of key bird species at each site, share their latest sightings and report any threats to the sites in real time.

“With NatureWatch in your pocket, you’re helping BirdLife and our Partners to monitor each site, plan the best actions, and respond to threats”, added Zurita.

“As you leave behind the smells of the forest and the sounds of the birds, with NatureWatch you can also give something back for the conservation of the site you have visited.”

NatureWatch has been generously supported by the IBAT Alliance (BirdLife International, Conservation International, IUCN and UNEP-WCMC), the Aage V. Jensen Foundation and UK Darwin Initiative, and has been developed in Partnership with BirdLife Partners in Australia, Cyprus, Fiji, Lebanon, Malaysia and South Africa.

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