New Zealand hunters kill critically endangered takahe birds


This video says about itself:

12 February 2012

Takahe, Notornis (Porphyrio mantelli) [foreground] and [much smaller, background] Pukeko, Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio); New Zealand, Tiritiri Matangi Island, August 8, 2010.

After Dick Cheney in the USA who did not know the difference between a quail and a fellow hunter … and after the hunter who did not know the difference between a female cyclist and a hare

From the BBC today:

New Zealand: Rare birds shot as cull goes wrong

Hunters in New Zealand have accidentally shot dead four critically endangered takahe birds after mistaking them for another species, it’s reported.

The incident occurred when members of the Deerstalkers’ Association were permitted to cull up to 600 of the abundant pukeko at a sanctuary on Motutapu Island, off the coast of the country’s North Island, the New Zealand Herald reports. The Department of Conservation confirmed that hunters had made the “deeply disappointing” mistake, despite being briefed on the differences between the two species. The highly aggressive pukeko is half the size of the flightless takahe, and is described in bird-watching handbooks as “widespread and easily recognisable”. Deerstalkers’ Association president Bill O’Leary has apologised “to the department and to the country at large”.

There are only about 300 takahe birds left in the world, and the species was thought to be extinct as late as 1948, Radio New Zealand reports. The killings have angered Maori groups who agreed to allow the rare birds to be moved from their native South Island to Motutapu for conservation purposes. Rino Tirakatene, a member of New Zealand’s parliament, says there are now calls for the birds to be returned. “There’s no way that they would send their treasured takahe to a sanctuary for it to be slaughtered,” he says.

Fossil bat discovery in New Zealand


This video says about itself:

27 June 2012

On Little Barrier Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf you can get a small glimpse of how New Zealand would have looked before humans arrived around 1000 years ago. Short-tailed bats (Mystacina tuberculata) are a threatened species of bat found only in NZ that are uniquely adapted for crawling on the ground… which makes them ideal pollinators for flowers that are arranged in large clusters.

From Business Insider Australia:

Scientists have discovered a giant dinosaur bat that walked on four legs

Chris Pash

17 June 2015

Fossils of a bat species which walked on four limbs and was three times larger than today’s average bat have been discovered in New Zealand.

The remains were found near Central Otago in sediment left over from a prehistoric body of water known as Lake Manuherikia which was part of warmer subtropical rainforest during the early Miocene era between 16 million and 19 million years ago

The species, Mystacina miocenalis, described in the journal PLOS ONE, is related to another bat, Mystacina tuberculata, which still lives in New Zealand’s old growth forests.

“Our discovery shows for the first time that Mystacina bats have been present in New Zealand for upwards of 16 million years, residing in habitats with very similar plant life and food sources,” says lead author and vertebrate palaeontologist, Suzanne Hand from the University of New South Wales.

New Zealand’s only native terrestrial mammals are three species of bat, including two belonging to the Mystacina genus – one of which was last sighted in the 1960s.

They are known as burrowing bats because they forage on the ground under leaf-litter and snow, as well as in the air, scuttling on their wrists and backward-facing feet, while keeping their wings tightly furled.

“This helps us understand the capacity of bats to establish populations on islands and the climatic conditions required for this to happen,” says Associate Professor Hand.

Bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers that keep forests healthy. Understanding the connectivity between the bat faunas of different landmasses is important for evaluating biosecurity threats and conservation priorities for fragile island ecosystems.”

The new species has similar teeth to its contemporary relative, suggesting a broad diet that included nectar, pollen and fruit, as well as insects and spiders.

At an estimated 40 grams, the fossil bat is roughly three times heavier than its living cousin.

Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand schoolboys and World War I


This video says about itself:

World News: Somalia‘s Child Soldiers | The New York Times

14 June 2010

More and more children are being recruited to become soldiers by Somalia’s transitional government, which is partially funded by the U.S. taxpayer. Some of them are as young as nine years old.

By Margaret Rees and Linda Levin:

The role of Australian schools in World War I

25 April 2015

Soldier Boys: The Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand Schools for World War I by Maxwell N. Waugh, Melbourne Books, 2014

During the past year—and until November 11, 2018, the centenary of the end of the mass slaughter that was World War I—Australian involvement in the war is being celebrated by an outpouring of propaganda and myth-making, reaching frenzied proportions in the lead up to Anzac Day, April 25, the centenary of the Allied landing at Gallipoli. No section of the population is being spared, including, or, more accurately, especially school children. They are being bombarded with curriculum material and activities all serving to glorify war.

Soldier Boys book

Soldier Boys: The Militarisation of Australian and New Zealand Schools for World War I, published in 2014, demonstrates that the precedent for the indoctrination and priming of a generation of youth for war was initially established by the forebears of the current Australian political establishment in the years prior to World War I.

Written by Dr Maxwell Waugh, a retired former teacher, school principal, and lecturer in the History of Education at Deakin and Monash Universities, Soldier Boys is a valuable book that punctures the prevailing myths. It demonstrates that, by 1911, Australia had become a veritable military training camp for the British Empire. It corrects the conception, long promoted by government, media and the film industry, that the boys and young men who enlisted to fight, did so spontaneously and voluntarily as raw, untrained recruits.

In reality, the vast majority who joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), including the “Anzacs,” were the product of a harsh and punitive system of compulsory military training, in both public and private schools, and in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), aimed at preparing young boys “to be used as ‘cannon fodder’ in the killing fields of Gallipoli and on the Western Front, where 60,000 were killed in action or died of wounds, 150,000 were wounded, and countless survivors of the horrors of trench warfare were left to wrestle with their ‘personal demons’ for the rest of their lives.”

Reviewing his motivations for researching and writing the book, Waugh recalls in the introduction his sense of shock as a teenager in Melbourne upon seeing the powerful 1930 anti-war movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, and then reading the book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Most of all, he recalls “the repugnance I felt that the German education system had been used so blatantly to recruit the cream of their youth to fight in such a needless war.”

Later, as a teacher, Waugh writes, “I would discover that many thousands of Australian and New Zealand lads had been coerced into enlisting in this brutal conflict, through the respective state education departments and the private school system, in much the same way as their German counterparts.”

“It’s no wonder,” Waugh continues, “that many thousands of young Australian recruits responded so readily to ‘Mother England’s call’, for here was a ready-made army in waiting. They were an army of fit and disciplined patriots, thanks largely to the schools that helped prepare them for the terrifying, bloody and mindless conflict that was the Great War.” No such system of compulsory military training existed in Britain or any other countries of the British Empire, except New Zealand, in the period leading up to or during the war.

Pulteney Grammar School, South Australia, cadet unit training, circa 1911

Soldier Boys’ author explains that the major force behind the establishment of the mandatory cadet system was the Australian Labor Party. Prominent Laborite William Morris (Billy) Hughes, who was to become wartime prime minister, had been agitating for a form of military conscription as early as 1901, and members of the Labor Party were prime movers in an unsuccessful attempt in 1903 to establish the compulsory military training of all boys aged 14 to 17.

Following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War, elements from both Labor and the conservative parties joined together to form the Australian National Defence League, in order “to demand stronger defence alliances with Britain and closer co-operation with other British Empire colonies, such as New Zealand.” While Japanese warships had rapidly become the most powerful fleet in the Pacific, regarded by the burgeoning Australian ruling elite as a potential existential threat, Britain was preoccupied with the growing industrial and military challenge posed by Germany.

In September 1905, as a founding member of the League, Hughes seconded a motion establishing its charter, which called for “Universal compulsory training (military or naval) of the boyhood and manhood of Australia for the purposes of National Defence …” He continued to agitate for a compulsory cadet service in Australian schools, and in 1908 the federal Labor Party adopted this as party policy.

In 1909, the short-lived first Labor government of Prime Minister Andrew (November 1908–June 1909) demanded “the 10 to 18 year old component of the Swiss model” of compulsory military training. Later that year, the Labor Party gave its full support to the conservative Deakin government’s enactment of the 1909 Defence Act, which, for the first time in an English-speaking country, required the compulsory military training of all boys between 12 and 18 years of age.

The Australian government had invited the British field marshal, Lord Kitchener, to “advise” on the country’s military preparedness and unsurprisingly, after a two month tour, Kitchener’s report declared that Australia was “inadequate in numbers, training, organisation and the munitions in war.” He came to a similar conclusion about the situation in New Zealand.

The Defence Act, which came into operation in July 1911, mandated military training of Junior Cadets (12–14 years old) and Senior Cadets (14–18 years old) in every state. It also required compulsory membership for all 18–25 year olds in the CMF. Under the New Zealand Defence Amendment Act of 1910, (amending the 1909 Act following Kitchener’s tour of New Zealand in March 1910 and his subsequent recommendations) nearly identical conditions applied. In the first year, 92,000 boys had commenced training in Australia. In New Zealand, the numbers in 1911 were around 30,000 Senior Cadets and 22,000 “Territorials” (aged 18–25).

Beechworth State School cadets. Photo courtesy Beechworth Primary School and Max Waugh

Waugh explains that the second Fisher Labor government (April 1910–June 1913) decided to escalate its war preparations following a briefing by Britain’s foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, in the wake of the 1911 Imperial Conference in London. The Labor government delegation, comprising Prime Minister Fisher and his defence and external Affairs ministers, concluded that by 1915 Europe would be at war with Germany.

Waugh describes the ideological campaign developed throughout the school system to promote the British Empire and militarism as compulsory military training was being introduced. “Perhaps the most effective means of inspiring a sense of pride in the Empire to school children,” he writes, “was through the monthly school magazines, such as The School Paper in Victoria, the Children’s Hour in South Australia and New Zealand’s the School Journal, among others.”

As well as “patriotic narratives, poems and songs,” included in the “Empire Day” edition of The School Paper in May 1910, was “An Empire Catechism,” which children had to learn by rote, with questions and answers including:

Query: What do you mean by the British Empire?

Answer: That portion of the earth’s land surface, which is under the authority of King Edward the Seventh.

Query: What proportion of the earth’s surface does the British Empire cover?

Answer: About one-fifth or 21 percent.

Query: What proportion of the inhabitants of the earth are the subjects of King Edward?

Answer: About one-fifth, or about 22 percent.

Central to mandatory training was the disciplining of Australian youth. To become a cadet, a boy had to be at least 4 feet 6 inches in height and undergo a compulsory military examination. Junior cadets had to undergo 96 hours of training each year for two years and senior cadets, 90 hours per year, for four years, followed by another seven years in the CMF. Training included physical training on each school day, and marching drill.

Boys over 14 who had left school, or those unable to attend a school with authorised prescribed cadet training, “were required to attend training under military instructors at designated places and times” including during evenings, weekends and holidays.

Schools were granted allowances to establish miniature rifle ranges, and cadets were required to become proficient at loading and shooting their rifles. Senior cadets had to wear supplied uniforms on parade and were “subjected to an Annual Inspection by a regular army officer.” Each boy was allotted to a military district upon leaving school, or encouraged to apply to join the naval training scheme, for which the minimum height was 5 feet 2 inches.

Volunteer senior cadets in camp Langwarrin, Victoria, 1910. Photo Australian War Memorial (P00151.011)

Penalties for evading service could range between £5 and £100 (a huge amount, equivalent to between three weeks and more than a year’s wage) or imprisonment.

One of the strengths of Soldier Boys is the emphasis Waugh places on the extent of non-compliance with the system of mandatory military training for youth. Even before the outbreak of the war, 27,749 prosecutions were handed down under the Act, resulting in the detention or imprisonment of 5,732 boys. In 1912–13, 265 per week were prosecuted, rising to 269 per week in 1913–14.

One of the reasons, as Soldier Boys points out, was the far more onerous requirements imposed by the system on working-class boys, who had to work and then attend training and drills, whereas their counterparts in the elite private schools could simply extend their school day.

Waugh cites the court transcript of one typically heart-rending case in Chatswood, Sydney in 1912 before the Police Court magistrate. Charles Osborne, a Senior Cadet, pleaded for exemption:

Osborne: I would sooner go to jail than do the drills.

Magistrate: It is very unwise to speak like that.

O: I mean it. I have a good character from my employer. I do my work faithfully, and I have long hours. My father is dead. My mother died only four months ago. I and my brother are the sole support of the family… I have eight brothers and sisters, all under 16, to look after.

M: It may be hard but I have to administer the Act.

O: I am trying to better myself, and I wouldn’t be able to carry out my studies if I had to drill. If the court orders me to do the drills, I won’t do so. I will put up with the consequences.

M: That is a matter for yourself. You are ordered to make up the 28 hours deficiency, and I will give you three months to do it. You will also have 24 hours in which to pay the 6/- costs.

O: I can’t pay them.

M: I won’t discuss the matter.

Another critical aspect of the book is its sympathetic treatment of the various individuals, groups and organisations that opposed compulsory military training on the basis of their hostility to militarism and war. These included religious groups, but the majority were secular and socialist organisations.

By the time war was declared in August 1914, for example, the anti-conscription Australian Freedom League, founded by two Quakers in South Australia in 1910, had some 55,000 members.

Opposition was particularly strong among left-wing opponents of the Labor Party, including the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was to win growing support in the working class against Laborism, militarism and conscription during the war, before being brutally repressed by the Hughes Labor government.

Waugh quotes the Socialist, the newspaper of the Victorian Socialist Party, which denounced the training of boys so that “they may know how to fight as soldiers, and shoot down or bayonet the lads of other countries… Now is the time to protest against the folly of this compulsory training in organised murder. Now is the time to make up your minds NEVER TO TAKE THE MILITARY OATH which deprives you of your will and conscience.”

As the prosecutions intensified, the Socialist began supporting individuals and groups of defaulters. Broken Hill, the mining town with long-standing militant union traditions, became a centre of much opposition to the Defence Act. The father of one boy, Alfred Giles, was prosecuted for refusing to let his son register as a cadet. Alfred was imprisoned for two weeks. On his release, the Amalgamated Miners Association presented the boy with a gold medal to commemorate his principled stand.

In New Zealand, opposition among the youth themselves was even more vocal. A number of young men of military age formed a group calling itself the “We Won’ts,” which became known as the “Passive Resisters Union.” With a membership of socialist leanings, it published Repeal, a monthly paper, and so widespread became the opposition, that, according to Waugh, only the outbreak of World War I saved the mandatory military training system from abolition.

In the 1914 federal election campaign, held as the war began, Australian Labor Party leader Fisher campaigned for the defence of the British Empire “to the last man and the last shilling.” When war broke out, a contingent of over 20,000 was offered up as the first cannon fodder.

Waugh makes clear just how central the schools were in propagating the avalanche of political propaganda that was manufactured by the government in support of World War I. The school syllabus was modified for the duration of the war, with teachers placed under relentless pressure to inculcate the pro-imperialist, pro-war message.

Every issue of Victoria’s monthly The School Paper for senior grades was devoted to war material designed to indoctrinate students in patriotism and the glories of the British Empire. It became “a major source of war articles, stories, poems and patriotic songs, all designed to brainwash young minds and encourage recruitment into the armed forces.”

The September 1914 issue, the first after the war had broken out, began with a banner headline “Britain at War,” followed by an extract from King George V’s speech declaring war on Germany.

In the following editions, the ongoing reports on military confrontations listed German losses, but make no mention of any of the Allied casualties. Soldier Boys carries photographs of some of the pages of the magazine, with illustrated articles such as “Brave Deeds at Gallipoli”, “How a Victorian won the Victoria Cross”, “Simpson and his Donkey at Gallipoli” and others. The New Zealand School Journal featured similar material.

Many of the boys who “voluntarily” enlisted, were products of this compulsory military training scheme and the propaganda that went with it. Groups of private school students featured prominently, and, while there were still very few public secondary schools, those that did exist matched the private schools in enlistments and, subsequently, in the growing number of casualties.

Military recruitment in Melbourne

Given the level of pro-war indoctrination in the schools, it is unsurprising that hundreds of under-aged Australian boys enlisted illegally in the AIF, some of them as young as 14.

Nevertheless, by 1916 the euphoria had dissipated as the reality of the extent of the catastrophes at Gallipoli and on the Western Front had begun to emerge. Opposition to both the war and the Hughes Labor government started to grow, expressed in the defeat of two referenda on conscription—one in October 1916 and the other in December 1917—promoted by Prime Minister Billy Hughes.

In an important section on the destruction of democratic rights during the war, Soldier Boys details the victimisation of German-Australians and their schools, especially in South Australia, where many families of ethnic German background lived and their children often attended Lutheran schools. South Australian legislation requiring the closing down of these schools was passed in late 1916. All the teachers and principals were dismissed, and found it impossible to obtain other employment. And there were many cases of internment. The Queensland state government also closed down its Lutheran schools, as did the government of New Zealand. Like all other schools in Australia, however, the Lutherans had been obligated to conduct compulsory cadet training.

Soldier Boys dispels the myth that it was the spontaneous rapture for adventure that led so many young Australians to sign up in 1914. It irrefutably demonstrates how Australian and New Zealand governments in the lead up to the war consciously worked to prepare through the schools, a compliant, trained and indoctrinated young population and then assemble the military force pledged by Labor leader Fisher in his notorious election commitment to Britain.

On the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli disaster, today’s powers-that-be are utilising similar methods, centred once again in the school system, to prepare and condition a new generation of Australian youth to sign up for war.

Author Maxwell Waugh is not a Marxist, and his deeply felt opposition to World War I remains at the level of moral outrage and indignation at the terrible waste of young lives. But his historical research provides a significant and compelling addition to the historical record of Australia’s role in the war, providing information that has not been readily available before. Soldier Boys is a book well worth reading.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Australian sports reporter Scott McIntyre sacked by SBS over ‘despicable’ Anzac Day tweets …

Australian broadcaster Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) have dismissed sports reporter Scott McIntyre after he made “despicable” comments about Anzac Day on Twitter.

Marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War, the day commemorates those who lost their lives in the conflict.

McIntyre greeted the centenary of the Gallipoli landings by criticising what he said was the ‘cultification [sic] of an imperialist invasion’.

In a flagrant attack on freedom of speech, the state-owned Special Broadcasting Corporation (SBS) has sacked sports journalist Scott McIntyre for making twitter comments critical of the April 25 Anzac Day commemorations. McIntyre is a respected reporter on international football and has covered two Fifa World Cups and four Asian Cups. His tweets are followed by some 33,000 people: here.

Important layers of workers and young people attended the Socialist Equality Party’s anti-war meetings yesterday in Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington in New Zealand in defiance of the barrage of militarist propaganda throughout the media and political establishment surrounding Anzac Day: here.

Further evidence has emerged of the role played by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the chain of events leading to Sunday’s sacking of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) sport commentator Scott McIntyre for posting tweets critical of the glorification of the April 25 Anzac Day centenary. Despite a growing volume of letters and petitions condemning its decision, SBS has refused to reinstate McIntyre, who has worked for the state-owned corporation for 10 years and is considering legal action: here.

Baleen whale evolution, new research in New Zealand


This video is called Humpback whales feeding on krill – Deep into the Wild – BBC. It says about itselF:

26 July 2010

Nick Baker crosses some of the world’s most treacherous seas as his mission to get close to some of the wildest animals on Earth takes him to Antarctica. Despite the cold, these oceans are rich with marine life as the mighty humpback whale demonstrates as it gorges itself on krill.

From the University of Otago in New Zealand:

Otago research details 40 million-year-old family tree

Wednesday, 15 April 2015, 3:11 pm

Otago research details 40 million-year-old family tree of baleen whales

New University of Otago research is providing the most comprehensive picture of the evolutionary history of baleen whales, which are not only the largest animals ever to live on earth, but also among the most unusual.

Most other mammals feed on plants or grab a single prey animal at a time, but baleen whales are famous for their gigantic mouths and their ability to gulp and filter an enormous volume of water and food.

In a paper appearing in the UK journal Royal Society Open Science, Otago Geology PhD graduate Dr Felix Marx and Professor Ewan Fordyce present a comprehensive family tree of living and extinct baleen whales stretching back nearly 40 million years.

The pair says that similar family trees have been constructed before, but theirs is by far the largest and, crucially, the first to be directly calibrated using many dated fossils.

The research shows which whales are related and exactly how long ago every branch of the tree—whether extinct or still alive—first arose.

This new family tree allows the researchers to estimate: (1) how many species of baleen whale have existed, (2) similarities and differences between different lineages in terms of overall body shape, and (3) how fast baleen whales evolved at any chosen time over the last 40 million years.

“We find that the earliest baleen whales underwent an adaptive radiation, or sudden ‘evolutionary burst’, similar to that of ‘Darwin’s finches’ on the Galapagos Islands,” says Professor Fordyce.

Dr Marx adds that this early phase of whale evolution coincided with a period of global cooling. At the same time, the Southern Ocean opened, and gave rise to a strong, circum-Antarctic current that today provides many of the nutrients sustaining the modern global ocean.

The researchers found that during their early history, whales branched out into many different lineages, each with a unique body shape and feeding strategy.

“Rather surprisingly, many of these early whales were quite unlike their modern descendants: Although some had baleen, others had well-developed teeth and actively hunted for much bigger prey than is taken by modern species,” says Professor Fordyce.

Yet, after a few million years of co-existence, the toothed ‘baleen’ whales disappeared, leaving behind only their filter-feeding cousins, he says.

That extinction occurred between 30 and 23 million years ago and was about the time that the circum-Antarctic current reached its full strength, providing more nutrients that made filter feeding a more viable option.

The researchers say that the toothed ‘baleen’ whales disappeared perhaps because of increasing competition from other newly evolved toothed marine mammals, such as dolphins and seals.

They found that filter-feeding whales remained successful and diverse until about 3 million years ago, when the number of lineages suddenly crashed.

“This decline was driven mainly by the disappearance of small species of baleen whale, which left behind only the giants—ranging from 6 to as much as 30 metres—that plough the ocean today,” says Dr Marx.

He says the disappearance of small whales likely resulted from the onset of the ice ages, which altered the distribution of available food, caused shallow water habitats to shift or sometimes disappear, and created a need for long-distance migration between polar feeding grounds and equatorial breeding grounds.

“This behaviour—long distance-migration—is still one of the hallmarks of all baleen whales alive today,” notes Professor Fordyce.

See also here. And here.