Moroccan bald ibis update


This 3 August 2018 video, recorded in Morocco, says about itself:

Join Birdspot (Catherine Hamilton) retracing the historical footsteps of the Northern Bald Ibis in the Atlas Mountains and follow her visiting the ibises breeding places in Souss Massa National Park where, under careful management, the colonies have been growing steadily for several years and now, new breakaway colonies are forming

Northern Bald Ibis: To highlight both this bird’s long-term decline and its recent hopeful increase, Zeiss ambassador and artist Catherine Hamilton visited Morocco to paint the birds at their ocean-cliff nests.

I was privileged to see these beautiful threatened birds in Morocco.

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Moroccan Eocene mammal discovery


This video says about itself:

8 PREHISTORIC ANIMALS FACTS for kids – SURPRISE TOYS Amebelodon Arsinoitherium Megacerops

23 jul. 2016

Hi guys, I’m Dan and today I will show you 8 PREHISTORIC ANIMALS for kids. I will also tell you some interesting facts about them. These animals include strange looking Deinotherium and Daeodon. There are also the terrifying Andrewsarchus and Arsinoitherium.

From ScienceDaily:

Ancient Moroccan dental remains elucidate history of long-lost African fauna

June 28, 2018

Long before rhinoceros, giraffes, hippos, and antelopes roamed the African savannah, a group of large and highly specialized mammals known as embrithopods inhabited the continent. The most well known is Arsinoitherium, an animal that looked much like a rhinoceros but was in fact more closely related to elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on June 28 offer a glimpse into this ancient past with the discovery of the earliest and most ancient embrithopod yet described.

The approximately 55-million-year-old fossilized dental remains found in the first lower Eocene levels of the Ouled Abdoun phosphate basin in Morocco represent two new species in the genus Stylolophus, the researchers report. The earliest embrithopods were previously known from 48-million-year-old fossils collected in Africa and Turkey.

“The embrithopods were large and strange extinct mammals that belonged, together with hyraxes and elephants, to the early megaherbivorous mammalian fauna that inhabited the island Africa, well before the arrival about 23 million years ago of the Eurasian ungulate lineages such as the artiodactyls, including giraffes, buffalos, hippopotamus, and antelopes, and the perissodactyls, including zebras and rhinoceros“, says Emmanuel Gheerbrant of CNRS-MNHN in Paris, France. “They belong to the old endemic African fauna.”

Gheerbrant said that the origins of embrithopods had been uncertain, with two known co-existing families: one in Africa and the other in Turkey and Romania. It’s been unclear what the exact relationships of the embrithopods were with respect to sea cows and elephants.

The new phylogenetic study of the two species of Stylolophus found in Morocco confirms that they are basal embrithopods. It also shows that the extinct Embrithopod order is ancient, predating the divergence of the sea cows and elephants.

“Comparative anatomy of the new Moroccan species shows that the highly specialized embrithopod teeth derived from the ancestral dental morphology of all paenungulates, a clade including elephants, sea cows, and hyraxes, with the W-crested molars seen in some of the oldest hyracoids”, the group including hyraxes, Gheerbrant says. “The specialized design of the teeth with two transverse ridges, known in the most advanced forms such as Arsinoitherium, is a convergence of the embrithopods and the extant group of tethytheres, including manatees and elephants, towards leaf eating, which was favored by the ancient herbivorous niches available on the African island.”

The new species S. minor — which was unusually small at about the size of a sheep — is also the first to show the presence in embrithopods of enlarged and anteriorly inclined incisors, in the form of incipient tusks, as seen in the early ancestors of the group including elephants.

The early age and primitive state of Stylolophus, together with the high-level relationships (paenungulate and afrotherian), all support an African origin of the order Embrithopoda, the researchers say. The findings suggest that the Paleoamasiidae family found in Turkey arrived on the Eurasian shores of the Tethys Ocean (an ocean during much of the Mesozoic Era and the Paleogene period located between the ancient continents of Gondwana and Laurasia), after an early dispersal of an African ancestor resembling Stylolophus across the sea.

The researchers say that they’ll continue to search for paleontological evidence elucidating the evolutionary history and relationships of African ungulate-like mammals and insectivore-like afrotherian mammals, including golden moles, elephant shrews, tenrecs, aardvarks, and hyraxes. They’ll also continue the search for the enigmatic early roots of all placental mammals in Africa, going back even further in time to the Cretaceous Period.

Moroccan football fans arrived in Russia


This 11 June 2018 video is called The first CRAZY Moroccan-fans in Russia😂😂😂😂😍🇲🇦 for the 2018 football world cup.

This 10 June 2018 video says about itself:

Moroccans back the Atlas Lions to success in Russia

10 June 2018

The Moroccan football team is returning to the World Cup for the first time since 1998. CGTN’s Saddique Shaban spoke to the Atlas Lions fans and now reports.

Moroccan supporters T shirt with lion

Thirty-two nations under a groove. Will the World Cup be an orgy of petty-minded nationalism? Philosophy Football’s Mark Perryman doesn’t seem to think so: here.

Rare snow in southern Morocco


This 29 January 2018 video shows snow in Ouarzazate in southern Morocco.

There had been no snow in southern Morocco for thirty years.

I fondly remember Ouarzazate and the birds in and around it from a much warmer winter.

Good bald ibis news from Morocco


This 2016 video is called The World of the Bald Ibis – Birds of Morocco.

From BirdLife:

24 Nov 2017

Important new breeding sites of mythical ibis discovered

It has had a dramatic history and was almost lost to extinction. Now this Critically Endangered bird is bouncing back with record breeding success in Morocco in 2017.

By Shaun Hurrell

As the day drew to a close, the orange light reflecting from the Atlantic seemed to soften the texture of the sun-baked Moroccan cliffs so much so they looked like they could crumble in an instant. There the birds were: perched on a couple of sloping, sandstone ledges, an entire colony of about 20 settling in for the night, low squawks and rustles heard above the scouring waves only a few metres below. Birds often nest in precarious places, and despite the cliffs in Tamri, southwest Morocco, actually being pretty strong, by knowing this species’ Critically Endangered status, you cannot help but feel a little worried for these large, iridescent-black creatures.

Throughout history, Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita has had a turbulent relationship with humans. This mythical bald bird with a punkish crest once had an extensive range that spread across North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and has been idolised by humans as symbols of fertility and virtue, even mummified to accompany Ancient Egyptian royalty.

Today, almost all remaining wild birds are restricted to Morocco

Yet it has lost its feeding areas to land-use changes, its nest sites have been built on or disturbed, and it has also been poisoned by pesticides, hunted, persecuted, collected in a gold rush for museums, and a dramatic range-reduction resulted in an all-time population low at the end of the 20th century with only 59 breeding pairs remaining in 1997. Today, almost all remaining wild birds are restricted to Morocco.

A local man approaches with a GREPOM (BirdLife in Morocco) cap to watch the colony, having arrived on a motorbike at the exact time the flock landed in the area. He’s a warden, coordinated by Souss-Massa National Park, and trained to prevent disturbance of the ibises at the colony and surrounding fields where they feed on lizards, scorpions and beetles. He also provides safe drinking water and sees off any threats.

They’re social birds, easily spooked, so this work has really boosted the global population of wild Northern Bald Ibis in recent years, bringing it up to 600 birds for the first time in modern history — thanks to long-lasting commitment from BirdLife, and recently, to GREPOM and the Moroccan government protecting colonies at Souss-Massa National Park, and this smaller site at Tamri. GREPOM have also undertaken public awareness work to help raise the profile of such an important species.

“With great cooperation between BirdLife and the Moroccan government, the colonies started to look crowded”, says Chris Bowden, AEWA Coordinator for the species on behalf of BirdLife. “Perhaps along the coast a new colony would form.” Something every conservationist would delight in saying. But don’t count your colonies until your ibises have hatched: with better official protection still needed for the colony at Tamri, for example, nothing could be certain for a species that has been listed in the highest category of threat on the Red List for over 30 years.

A few tentative reports came in. Then: “We found what we’d been waiting for: a new colony!” said Halima Bousadik, GREPOM, who co-authored the paper heralding the welcome news. During the 2017 reproductive season, two new breeding sites were discovered on two distinct coastal cliffs north of Tamri, with adults incubating at least three confirmed active nests, and totaling a new record of 122 wild breeding pairs.

“The importance of this news is that, with a steady population increase, Northern Bald Ibis are now exiting their ‘comfort zone’ of the guarded sites, giving us a lot of hope for more similar discoveries”, said Jorge F. Orueta, SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), who has worked on the species since 2000. “We now need to check all suitable sites in the region, and implement a GPS tracking programme to learn their movements.”

Leaving the cliffs of Tamri, it strikes you that those who wish to call the Northern Bald Ibis “ugly” haven’t seen healthy birds up close in their natural habitat; haven’t seen how the light shimmers green against their magnificent black flanks. With news of new colonies, and a new phase in ibis conservation, perhaps history will repeat itself and the Northern Bald Ibis will once again be idolised throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

This 2013 video is called Northern Bald Ibis. Part of a flock of over 90 in the Sous Massa National Park .

Catalan Moroccans commemorate Barcelona attack victims


Ripoll town Moroccans commemorate Barcelona attack victims

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Moroccan community of Ripoll silent to commemorate victims

Yesterday, 22:09

Ripoll, a small sleepy Spanish town with 11,000 inhabitants, at the foot of the Pyrenees. Everyone knows each other, at least faces. No one from the town expected seven of the at least eight suspects involved in the Barcelona attack to be from Ripoll.

The Moroccan community in Ripoll wanted to show tonight that they do not support the actions of the Moroccan boys. With about fifty people, a minute’s silence was held on a square in the city. The Moroccan Spaniards stood with signs in their hands that said “Not in my name”.

The mothers and aunts of the suspects also stood there. “They said they went on holiday,” they told. “We received some SMS from them until Thursday.” With this action, they hoped to show everyone that the attack was not committed by their sons as they used to know them.

Also, 22-year-old Hamza, who was at school with some of the boys and played with them, never expected this. “They were very normal, always together, ate together,” he says. “They were boys who did everything together, friends for life.” Hamza can still not imagine they were killed. “We were together at school, they are young people.”

The Spanish government is preparing a massive deployment of police and security forces, even as questions rise about how last week’s horrific terror attack in Barcelona was allowed to proceed. As evidence emerges that the terror cell was well known to intelligence services, Madrid is both downplaying the investigation and demanding more police-state measures: here.

CIA tried to use ex-Guantanamo prisoners as spies


Guantanamo Bay

Here, another old blog post by me which I thought was lost.

CIA tried to use ex-Guantanamo prisoners as spies

30 June 2005

Mood: Thinking Playing: War, by Edwin Starr

Dutch TV program NOVA of today is about an attempt by the United States CIA to use ex-prisoners of Guantanamo Bay camp as spies in The Netherlands and other countries.

They tried with five men of Moroccan ancestry. NOVA interviewed three of them.

Two of them declared that the CIA promised them the right to stay in The Netherlands.

Their lawyer, Mr Mohamed Hilal, said that for that they were supposed to spy within the Moroccan Dutch community.

Experts say the story of these three Moroccans is credible.

The five Moroccans were imprisoned in August 2001 in Afghanistan. Then, they went to Guantanamo Bay camp.

Last August, they were released without charges and sent to Morocco.

In NOVA, Mohamed Ouzar, Mohamed Mazouz, and Brahim Benchekroun said that the CIA in Guantanamo offered them to spy in five countries, including The Netherlands, Canada, and Switzerland.

There was heavy pressure on them not to return to Morocco. The CIA said they’d probably be tortured there.

In spite of the bad circumstances in Guantanamo, where prisoners were isolated in their cells and one said he had been ill most of the time, the prisoners refused the offers; as they said, they had committed no crimes and owed their captors nothing.

A Moroccan court released them after their return to Morocco.

NOVA showed the report on the three Moroccans to Martin Dillon. He wrote much on British intelligence in Northern Ireland.

Today, this intelligence expert studies mainly the CIA. Dillon says the ex-prisoners’ testimony fits into US tactics in Guantanamo Bay.

Also Dutch intelligence expert Wil van der Schans says the ex-prisoners’ story is credible. He suspects Dutch secret service AIVD were also implicated in this case.

Guantanamo Bay military judge arrests military defense lawyer: here.

Guantanamo Bay inmate refused access to book on non-violence written by bereaved 9/11 relatives. Exclusive: The book discusses the teachings of Martin Luther King: here.

The Pentagon faces renewed outrage this month over human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, after reports that the prison will prevent the release of, and possibly incinerate, detainees’ artwork. While previously the prison allowed rigorously pre-screened artwork to leave with released detainees and to be given to lawyers and aid workers, Department of Defense officials have ordered Guantanamo to stop releasing cellblock art altogether, declaring it “property of the U.S. government”: here.

Guantánamo inmates claim Trump’s ‘anti-Muslim bias’ fuels their detention. Eleven prisoners are petitioning a federal court in Washington to end their indefinite incarceration and are citing the president’s campaign comments: here.