Kea parrot intelligence, new research

This 3 March 2020 video says about itself:

The parrots that understand probabilities

Kea, a type of parrot from New Zealand, have been surprising scientists with their smart predictions. Researchers set them a series of intelligence tests based around probabilities and social cues. They found that kea can perform better than monkeys, showing abilities only previously seen in great apes such as humans and chimpanzees.

Read the paper here.

Sperm whales disturbed by earthquakes

This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

At 598 meters (1,962 ft) below the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, ROV Hercules encountered a magnificent sperm whale. The whale circled Hercules several times and gave our cameras the chance to capture some incredible footage of this beautiful creature. Encounters between sperm whales and ROVs are incredibly rare.

From the University of Otago in New Zealand:

Earthquakes disrupt sperm whales’ ability to find food

February 20, 2020

Otago scientists studying sperm whales off the coast of Kaikōura discovered earthquakes affect their ability to find food for at least a year.

The University of Otago-led research is the first to examine the impact of a large earthquake on a population of marine mammals, and offers new insight into how top predators such as sperm whales react and adapt to a large-scale natural disturbance.

Changes in habitat use by a deep-diving predator in response to a coastal earthquake, has recently been published in Deep Sea Research Part I.

Earthquakes and aftershocks can affect sperm whales in several ways, the study explains.

The whales depend on sound for communication, detection of prey and navigation and are also highly sensitive to noise.

Earthquakes produce among the loudest underwater sounds which can induce injuries, hearing damage, displacement and behavioural modifications.

While earthquakes and other extreme natural events are rare occurrences, they can really shift the state of ecosystems by wiping out animals and plants, lead author and Marine Sciences Teaching Fellow Dr Marta Guerra says.

“Understanding how wild populations respond to earthquakes helps us figure out their level of resilience, and whether we need to adjust management of these populations while they are more vulnerable.”

The fatal 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura earthquake on November 14, 2016 produced strong ground shaking which triggered widespread underwater mudslides in the underwater canyon off the coastline.

This caused what’s known as ‘canyon flushing’, which in the case of the Kaikōura earthquake, involved high-energy currents flushing 850 tonnes of sediment from the underwater canyon into the ocean.

The Kaikōura canyon is an important year-round foraging ground for sperm whales, which have an important ecological role as top predators and are a key attraction for the local tourism industry — the main driver of the town’s economy.

Just why the canyon is important to sperm whales is “a piece of the puzzle we are still trying to nut out,” says Dr Guerra.

“But it’s likely related to the immense productivity of the canyon’s seabed, and a combination of how the currents interact with the steep topography of the submarine canyon.”

Scientists examined data collected on the behaviour of 54 sperm whales between January 2014 and January 2018 — a timeframe which allowed an opportunity to determine any significant changes in pre and post-earthquake whale foraging behaviour.

“We really didn’t know what to expect, as there is so little known about how marine animals react to earthquakes,” Dr Guerra says.

The researchers found clear changes in the whales’ behaviour in the year following the earthquake: most noticeably whales spent about 25 per cent more time at the surface — which potentially meant they needed to spend more effort searching for prey, either by diving deeper or for longer times

There are two main reasons the whales may have expanded their search effort, the study explains.

Firstly, benthic invertebrate communities which lived in the upper canyon may have been removed by the canyon flushing event, resulting in sparser prey and reduced foraging abilities.

Secondly, sediment deposition and erosion may have required sperm whales to ‘re-familiarise’ with a modified habitat, increasing the effort to navigate and locate prey whose location may have changed.

“The flushing of almost 40,000 tonnes of biomass from the canyon’s seabed probably meant that the animals that normally fed on the seabed had a short supply of food, possibly moving away,” Dr Guerra says.

“This would have indirectly affected the prey of sperm whales (deep-water fish and squid), becoming scarce and making it harder for the whales to find food.”

Scientists were particularly surprised by how clear the changes were, especially in terms of where the sperm whales were feeding.

“The head of the Kaikōura canyon, where we used to frequently find sperm whales foraging, was quiet as a desert,” Dr Guerra says.

Although earthquakes happen relatively frequently in areas where marine mammals live, this study was the first to document the impact on a population, thanks to a long-term monitoring programme which has been in place since 1990.

Globally, there have been punctual observations, such as a fin whale displaying an ‘escape response’ after an earthquake on the Gulf of California, or particularly low sightings of humpback whales coinciding with the months following an earthquake off Alaska, Dr Guerra says.

“Deep-sea systems are so out of sight that we rarely consider the consequences of them being disturbed, whether by natural of human impacts.

“I think our results emphasise how far-reaching the impacts to the sea bed can be, affecting even animals at the top of the food chain such as sperm whales.”

The study found the whales’ behavioural changes lasted about a year after the 2016 earthquake and returned to normal levels in the summer of 2017-18.

Dr Guerra believes this study also highlights the importance of long-term monitoring of marine wildlife and ecosystems, without which scientists wouldn’t be able to detect changes that occur after marine mammals are exposed to disturbance.

A better pregnancy test for whales. New measurements will help biologists understand a changing ocean: here.

Extinct moa birds of New Zealand

This 16 February 2020 video says about itself:

Moa were a fascinating and diverse group of birds that possess numerous anatomical and biological characteristics that are not found in any other bird species. Coming in many different shapes and sizes, from the agile Upland moa to the hulking Heavy-footed moa. With this video, I hope you learn something new about this remarkable group and gain a greater appreciation for New Zealand’s endemic fauna.

Royal albatross born and fed, video

This 31 January 2020 video from New Zealand says about itself:

First Look! Royal Albatross Hatchling Wakes Up To A Meal From Dad #RoyalCam | NZ DOC | Cornell Lab

After being transported back to the nest the evening before, the Northern Royal Albatross chick wakes up to receive breakfast from the male, OGK. Viewers will witness heaps of feeding events like these over the next eight months as they watch the chick slowly grow to the size of an adult and develop the flight equipment that’s required to fledge come September.

RoyalCam was set up in January 2016 by the Department of Conservation. For the 2019/2020 season we have collaborated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. To learn more while watching, view the cam here.

New Zealand nazis’ anti-Chinese racism

This 18 June 2019 video says about itself:

New Zealand Neo-Nazi Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison

Gizmodo reports Philip Arps was sentenced in a New Zealand court today for sharing video of the Christchurch massacre, a terrorist attack on two mosques that killed 51 people on March 15. Arps, who has compared himself favorably to Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess, pleaded guilty to two counts of sharing the video and received a sentence of 21 months in prison for sending it to roughly 30 people.

By Tom Peters in New Zealand:

New Zealand fascist group targets Chinese-born MP

16 January 2020

On January 10, the fascist group Action Zealandia (AZ)

Zealandia is the name of a wildlife sanctuary in New Zealand. So, an area where only non-human animals are supposed to live.

The wildlife sanctuary is named after the ancient continent Zealandia, which formed in the age of dinosaurs, and where hardly any mammals, let alone humans, used to live.

Fascists usually want to violently turn the clock back to earlier times, to when they falsely claim everything was better. By the choice of their name, the ‘Zealandia’ fascists give the impression of not only wanting to kill all non-white people but also all white people.

posted pictures on Facebook of posters it stuck outside the office of Jian Yang, a Chinese-born member of parliament in the opposition National Party, in Auckland. One poster declared, “Don’t let them steal our country”, with a picture of the Chinese flag being painted over New Zealand’s flag. Another bore the slogan “honour your heritage”.

AZ said it had “sent a message directly to the traitors in parliament. The office of National MP and known Chinese Communist Spy, Jian Yang, was postered by our Auckland Members.”

AZ was founded in mid-2019. Its website echoes the white supremacist manifesto of Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two mosques on March 15, 2019, and injured 49. Like Tarrant, AZ rails against corporations “importing cheap foreign labour… at the expense of the European community” and calls on “NZ Europeans” to “halt this ongoing replacement”.

The group received widespread media attention last October after placing posters around the University of Auckland, prompting anti-racist protests. The attack on Yang’s office, however, was reported only by Newshub in a brief article.

The incident reveals how the extreme right in New Zealand has been emboldened by the anti-Chinese campaign of the Labour Party-NZ First-Greens government, along with much of the corporate media and academia. Labour and NZ First attacked the 2008–2017 National Party government for its links with Chinese businesses, while scapegoating Chinese people for the lack of affordable housing and other problems caused by capitalism.

Denunciations of Chinese “interference” escalated as the United States, New Zealand’s main ally, ramped up its economic war and military build-up against China, which threatens to unleash a war involving nuclear-armed powers.

A key turning point was the 2017 election, which resulted in the right-wing nationalist NZ First Party, which has repeatedly demonised Muslim and Asian immigrants, forming a coalition government with the Labour Party in exchange for key ministerial posts. NZ First leader Winston Peters became deputy prime minister and foreign minister, while NZ First’s Ron Mark was made defence minister.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government has strengthened the alliance with the US and labelled Russia and China the main “threats” to the global order. It has also restricted the rights of immigrants to live and work in New Zealand. The coalition … helped create the atmosphere of racism and xenophobia in which the Christchurch massacre took place and fascist groups have become emboldened.

Claims that Yang is a “spy” were first made by academic Anne-Marie Brady just before the 2017 election and repeated by NZ First and much of the media. There is no evidence for the claim, which is based on the fact that, decades ago before immigrating, Yang taught English to Chinese military and intelligence cadets.

Brady’s so-called research, which echoes US propaganda against Beijing, is funded by the NATO military alliance and has been praised by members of the Trump administration and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On January 5, former Labour Party Prime Minister Helen Clark joined the chorus against Yang. On Twitter, she said she was “surprised” by Yang’s involvement in organising an official visit to Beijing by National Party leader Simon Bridges last year. Bridges was denounced by Brady and numerous media commentators for advocating closer ties with China, highlighting divisions within New Zealand’s ruling elite. …

The Financial Times noted that “China is New Zealand’s biggest export destination” and suggested this was why Ardern’s government had so far avoided acting against Yang. In contrast, the newspaper praised Australia’s spy agency ASIO, which has made lurid claims that Chinese agents are seeking to infiltrate its parliament. Australia has introduced draconian legislation against “foreign interference” which can be used against organisations with international connections and presages major attacks on the democratic rights of the working class. …

Amid the most severe crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression, the ruling class and its political parties are reviving this chauvinist filth in an attempt to derail the growing struggles by workers against social inequality and to justify preparations for war against China.

The promotion of nationalism is directed against a resurgence of working-class struggle around the world. Increasingly, workers recognise that they are part of an international class that confronts the same enemies and has the same fundamental interests.

As in the 1930s, the ruling elites are fostering extreme right-wing and fascist tendencies to be used as a weapon against the efforts to unite working people based on an international, socialist program.

Sooty shearwater visits royal albatross nest

This 7 January 2020 video from New Zealand says about itself:

Sooty Shearwater visits Royal Albatross Nest

Sooty Shearwaters (known as tītī or muttonbirds) have been spotted at night visiting the cam site this season via the new infrared light. In this clip, a shearwater lands near the incubating albatross, stays for a few minutes, then flies off again.