Save West African seabirds


This video says about itself:

Thousands of seabirds take to the sky

You’ve never seen so many seabirds in one place! A tiny island off the South African coast is the location of one of the biggest gannet colonies on earth! Watch the birds take flight in this HD video.

From BirdLife:

Conservation plug-in charges efforts to save West Africa’s seabirds

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 20/02/2015 – 09:44

Efforts to save West Africa’s disappearing seabirds are to be given a boost thanks to an ambitious monitoring initiative which will help identify and protect the areas in which they forage and overwinter.

The Alycon Project, a collaborative conservation initiative first taken on by The FIBA Foundation, aims to identify critical sites for seabirds, including a host of threatened albatross and petrel species. Though the project began in 2013, the day-to-day running of the project will now be taken on by BirdLife.

West Africa’s seabirds face a familiar problem. Though they spend much of their time on shore protected within Marine Protected Areas, the areas in which they forage are largely unknown, often existing outside of protected waters. Palaearctic migrants are an additional concern, given that so many are known to overwinter in unprotected coastal wetlands. Identifying the sites of value to West Africa’s seabirds is a vital first step in their conservation.

By taking on management of the project, BirdLife will channel its existing expertise in monitoring seabirds and designating Marine and Important Bird Areas – a wise use of vital conservation resources. Extra staff will join BirdLife to ensure that new sites identified receive the protection they deserve, plugging into BirdLife’s existing Global Marine Programme.

Possible threats to West African seabirds from local fisheries

And how about threats to West African seabirds from non-local non-African corporate fisheries?

Adult and juvenile European seabirds at risk from marine plundering off West Africa ocean: here.

will also be investigated, with an opportunity for further African countries to work in a way that is modelled on BirdLife’s Albatross Task Force.

BirdLife International would like to thank the MAVA Foundation, and in particular the former FIBA staff members who have supported our efforts and collaborated so openly, to effect a seamless transition for Alcyon to BirdLife International”, said Dr Ross Wanless of BirdLife South Africa. “We look forward to continuing a productive relationship and working towards the improved conservation of the marine biodiversity of the West African waters.”

Namibia on-board with BirdLife to end seabird bycatch in world’s worst fishery: here.

Japanese conservative praises South African apartheid


Pictures from Japanese neo-Nazi Kazunari Yamada’s website show him posing with Shinzo Abe’s internal affairs minister, Sanae Takaichi, and his party’s policy chief, Tomomi Inada. Photograph: Guardian

This photo shows prominent politicians of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s ruling party smile happily at a photo op with the fuehrer of Japan’s neo-nazi movement.

From The Economist:

Japan and immigration: Bad timing

February 21 2015

The Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese daily, has a reputation for illiberal commentary. Last week it outdid itself by running a column that lauded the segregation of races in apartheid-era South Africa-and urged Japan to do the same.

Ayako Sono, a conservative columnist, said that if her country had to lower its drawbridge to immigrants, then they should be made to live apart. “It is next to impossible to attain an understanding of foreigners by living alongside them”, she wrote.

Ms Sono’s views got an airing as the government of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, appears set to promote immigration in all but name. They caused a stir in South Africa, whose ambassador to Japan called them “scandalous”. In Japan, however, the reaction has been oddly muted. The media scarcely picked up on the ambassador’s letter. The Sankei initially greeted criticism with bemusement. It then issued a pro-forma reply defending its right to run different opinions.

Japan’s government is considering allowing 200,000 foreigners a year to come to Japan to help to solve a deepening demographic crisis and shortage of workers. The population fell by nearly a quarter of a million in 2013. An advisory body to Mr Abe says that immigrants could help stabilise the population at around 100m, from a current 127m. Not since the ancestors of Japan’s current inhabitants arrived in the islands from Korea two millennia ago has there been an example of immigration on the scale of that proposed. In this largely homogeneous country, just 2% of the population is of foreign origin-and that includes large numbers of residents with roots in Korea, a former Japanese colony, whose families have lived in Japan for generations.

Ms Sono is hardly a fringe figure. A bestselling author and conservative activist, she recently sat on a government panel on education reform; she is quoted in a textbook on morals for secondary school students, alongside Mother Theresa.

White sharks grow more slowly than thought


This video is called White Shark Cage Diving – Mossel Bay, South Africa.

From NOAA Headquarters in the USA:

February 18, 2015

White sharks grow more slowly and mature much later than previously thought

6 minutes ago

A new study on white sharks in the western North Atlantic indicates they grow more slowly and mature much later than previously thought.

The findings, published online in Marine and Freshwater Research, present the first reliable growth curve for this species in the western North Atlantic. The results: males are sexually mature around age 26 and females around age 33, much later than currently accepted estimates of 4 to 10 years for males and 7-13 years for females.

“Using the longevity data obtained from our first study, we are now able to describe not just how long white sharks live, but also the growth rate for this species, which is remarkably slower than anybody thought,” said Lisa Natanson, a fisheries biologist and shark researcher at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the study.

To construct the growth curve, researchers combined recently published information on white shark longevity with a further look at band pair counting on vertebral samples from 77 white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), 41 male and 36 female. Band pairs, counted like tree rings, are alternating opaque and translucent deposits laid in sequence in shark vertebrae as the animal grows. Since the deposition rate may change over time, researchers must determine or validate the actual rate that the bands are deposited.

The research on longevity demonstrated that band pair counts were reliable up to 44 years of age, after which band pair counts underestimated ages that could exceed 73 years. The estimated age at maturity reported here could lead to new estimates of population replacement rates that are much slower than those used in the past.

Natanson and co-author Gregory Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries examined the banding patterns on vertebrae from white sharks collected between 1963 and 2010 by the NOAA Fisheries Apex Predators Program. These samples came from white sharks caught on research cruises, taken by commercial and recreational fishing vessels, or landed at recreational fishing tournaments. Sampling took place between Prince Edward Island, Canada, and New Jersey.

The distribution of white sharks in the western North Atlantic is well documented, although the species is considered rare and much of what we know about it comes from distribution records, a handful of observations, and dead specimens.

This study adds to other recent publications about white sharks. For example, a 2014 study used records compiled over 200 years, from 1800 to 2010, to look at the seasonal distribution and historic trends in abundance of white sharks in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

Increased numbers of white sharks off Cape Cod in recent years has provided Skomal and others with opportunities for satellite tagging, another way information is being gathered on shark movements. However, scientists still know little about the natural history of this species, including its reproductive biology and feeding ecology.

Sharks are slow-growing, long-lived animals with low reproduction rates. They are fished commercially throughout the world. Wise conservation requires life history information, including age and growth data, for sustainable management. While vertebral band-pair counts can provide age estimates for many species of sharks, it is critically important to validate how often the band pairs are formed in order to obtain accurate age estimates.

The shark vertebral samples for this study were provided by Natanson from the Apex Predators Program, which maintains one of the largest collections of North Atlantic white shark vertebrae. The Apex Predators Program, located at the NEFSC’s Narragansett Laboratory in Rhode Island, collects basic demographic information about sharks and their life histories by conducting research on their distribution and migration patterns, age and growth, reproductive biology, and feeding ecology.

With lifespan estimates of 70 years and more, white sharks may be among the longest-lived fishes. Sharks that mature late, have long life spans and produce small litters have the lowest population growth rates and the longest generation times. Increased age at maturity would make white sharks more sensitive to fishing pressure than previously thought, given the longer time needed to rebuild white shark populations.

Tiger sharks make long migrations, dive deep into cold waters: here.

Why African bearded vultures die, new study


This video is about adult and young bearded vultures (and ravens), in the Pyrenees in Spain.

From Wildlife Extra:

Technology solves disappearance mystery of one of Africa’s famous birds

The mystery of the gradual disappearance of the Bearded Vulture, one of Africa’s most famous birds, has been solved using the technology of satellite tracking.

Once widespread throughout much of Southern Africa, the Bearded Vulture is now critically endangered, with a decline in nesting sites of nearly 50 per cent since the 1960s.

The remaining population is now restricted to the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho and South Africa. But even in these isolated mountains they continue to decline.

Satellite trackers attached to 18 Bearded Vultures have confirmed conservationists’ worst fears: humans are largely to blame with collisions with power lines and poisoning being the two major vulture hazards that killed half of the birds in the satellite tracking survey.

These are key findings contained in two new research projects published this month. The studies paint the most detailed picture to date of the challenges facing the Bearded Vulture, also known as the ‘bone breaker’ due to its habit of dropping bones from a height to feed from the marrow inside.

The first paper, published in the international ornithological journal The Condor by scientists from EKZN Wildlife and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town, found that human-related factors were the common denominator in differences between abandoned and occupied Bearded Vulture territories.

Lead author on the study Dr Sonja Krueger says: “We explored where the biggest difference lay between abandoned and occupied territories and found that human related factors such as human settlement density and powerlines were consistently different between these sites.”

Power line density and human settlement density were more than twice as high within abandoned vulture territories compared to occupied territories, the study found.

Results also suggested that food abundance may influence the bird’s overall distribution, and that supplementary vulture feeding schemes may be beneficial.

By contrast climate change was not found to be a major contributing factor in nest abandonment.

“Though not definitive, the results strongly suggest that we humans are our own worst enemies when it comes to conserving one of Africa’s iconic birds,” Krueger says.

The study recommended a new approach to vulture conservation management: “Based on the identified threats and mechanisms of abandonment, we recommend that conservation management focus on actions that will limit increased human densities and associated developments and influence the attitudes of people living within the territories of (vulture) breeding pairs,” the study concluded.

“We recommend that mitigation of existing power lines, stricter scrutiny of development proposals, and proactive engagement with developers to influence the placement of structures is essential within the home range of a territorial pair.”

The study’s findings are backed up by a second paper published in open access journal PLOS ONE, which relied on data from satellite trackers attached to 18 Bearded Vultures.

The trackers not only showed the exact location of the tagged birds every hour, they also provided critical information on movement patterns and mortality.

Tagging enabled dead birds to be quickly recovered and their cause of death determined.

The study confirmed that, in addition to power lines, poisoning was considered the main threat to vultures across Africa and was contributing to the so-called “African Vulture Crisis”– a large decline of many vulture species across the continent.

The tracking data also provided new information about the birds’ ranging behaviour. It revealed that non-breeding birds traveled significantly further than breeding birds and were therefore more vulnerable to human impact.

Some young non-breeding birds patroled an area the size of Denmark. The average adult bird had a home range of about 286 sq km, but the range was much smaller for breeding adults at just 95 sq km.

Dr Arjun Amar from UCT said detailed knowledge about Bearded Vulture home ranges could be hugely beneficial to vulture conservation: “We knew the species was likely to have large home ranges, but our results show just how far these birds travel – and therefore how exposed they are. The more they travel, the more they risk colliding with power lines or falling prey to poisoning.”

Extended beard of Bearded Vulture – incredible effect of drug revealed: here.

In a report published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, scientists from across Africa, Europe, and North America have published the first continent-wide estimates of decline rates in African vultures: and find that many national parks and game reserves appear to offer vulture species in Africa little effective protection: here.

South African author André Brink dies


This video is called André Brink on Writing #1.

And these two videos are the sequels.

From the Mail & Guardian in South Africa:

Literary giant André Brink dies

07 Feb 2015 11:05

Celebrated South African author, André P. Brink, has passed away at the age of 79.

Renowned South African novelist and playwright, André Brink has died.

According to Books Live, Brink passed away while returning from Amsterdam on Friday, where he had received an honorary doctorate from the Belgian Francophone Université catholique de Louvain (UCL).

Brink was born on 29 May 1935, in Vrede, a small town in the Free State.

He was 79 years old and a literature professor at the University of Cape Town at the time of his death.

Brink wrote in both English and Afrikaans, and was a key figure in the Afrikaans literary movement Die Sestigers in the 1960s – along with Ingrid Jonker and Breyten Breytenbach. The movement sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid government.

In 1973 his novel Looking on Darkness was banned, this was followed by the banning of another book Kennis van die Aand the following year.

His 1982 novel, A Dry White Season, was turned into a film in 1989 and starred actors such as Marlon Brando, Donald Sutherland, Zakes Mokae and Susan Sarandon.

The novel, set in South Africa in 1976 and focused on the death in detention of a black activist, was also banned by the apartheid government.