Entangled humpback whale saved in South Africa


This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

From the Cape Times in South Africa:

Rescue team disentangles whale

April 23 2015 at 10:46am

A WHALE has been rescued near Oyster Bay in the Eastern Cape after it was entangled in rope.

South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) spokesman Craig Lambinon said that the incident happened on Tuesday afternoon.

Oyster Bay is located between Humansdorp and St Francis Bay on the east coast.

“At 4.40pm on Tuesday, the network was activated to approximately one nautical mile offshore of Oyster Bay on reports from Nick Bournman, from the Oyster Bay Beach Lodge, of a whale appearing to be entangled in rope and buoys,” said Lambinon.

“The NSRI St Francis Bay sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II responded, carrying trained volunteer members of the network.

“On arrival on the scene at 5.15pm, two humpback whales were located swimming together, possibly a mother and child, and the smaller of the two whales was the one entangled in rope and three floatation buoys, with the rope entangled around the peduncle.”

Lambinon explained that an extensive operation then took place to release the whale using specialised disentanglement equipment.

“In an operation, lasting just under 30 minutes, all rope and floatation buoys were successfully removed from the whale and recovered,” |he said.

“The whale appears to not be injured from the ordeal and appeared to be swimming confidently following the disentanglement, and SAWDN is confident that the operation has been successful.”

Amur falcon spring migration starts in South Africa


This video from India says about itself:

26 July 2014

THE VIDEO IS SHOT IN NAGALAND INDIA. THE CONSERVATION OF AMUR FALCON. NAGALAND HAS BEEN DECLARED AS “FALCON CAPITAL OF WORLD”. COMMUNITIES, NGOS FOREST DEPARTMENT HAVE PARTICIPATED IN CONSERVATION OF AMUR FALCON. THE FILM IS SHOT BY NATURAL NAGAS AND DEPARTMENT OF FORESTS, ECOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE.

From daily The Independent in South Africa:

When birds of a feather flock together

March 30 2015 at 05:30pm

By Tony Carnie

Most of us know that summer is coming to an end and winter will soon be upon us.

But what was the peculiar “telepathic” signal from nature that seems to have echoed through the bush of southern Africa last Thursday.

That’s the question bird watchers are asking after seeing thousands of tiny falcons beginning to flock together in preparation for a remarkable journey to the other side of the world.

Just after 7.20am on Thursday, Ian Macdonald of Kube Yini Private Game Reserve near Mkuze took careful note as a group of nine Amur Falcons took off from a power line and flew off towards the west. As they gained altitude they changed direction sharply to the north.

Later that same afternoon, hundreds of the species were noticed by Annette Gerber gathered on power lines along the eastern shores of Lake St Lucia. “There were so many of them that I stopped my car to watch. And then, whoosh… they suddenly took off as one – as if a switch had been flicked. The air was full of falcons flying northwards,” she said.

Gerber said a group of visitors from Cape Vidal stopped next to her and reported they had also seen a group of about 300 Amur falcons flying north.

What they were witnessing was the start of one of the longest migrations in the world by a raptor species – an amazing 15 000km journey from Africa to northern China and south-eastern Siberia.

David Allan, the curator of birds at the Durban Natural Science Museum, said there were quite a few bird species that gathered in large numbers, often quite vocally, before migration.

While the precise triggering mechanisms remained a mystery, Allan said there seemed to be a social element of group decision-making before migration.

“You don’t want to be the first to leave in case you get your timing wrong. So maybe they think it is better to ‘follow the herd’.”

Allan said one of the critical cues seemed to be the shorter hours of daylight as [southern hemisphere] winter approached, rather than a sudden change in temperature.

However, weather conditions were also likely to play a part as the birds would try to avoid flying into strong headwinds. After leaving South Africa, the falcons fly northwards along the east coast of Africa to Somalia. From there they turn sharply east to cross the ocean between Africa and India. On this stage they have to fly non-stop for two to three days without rest.

Allan said some researchers had suggested that their migration coincided with a similar migration by dragonflies – allowing the falcons to snatch a bit of “padkos” en route.

Allan said Belgian bird expert Marc Herrimans had studied red-backed shrikes in Botswana several years ago and noticed that more than 90% of these birds departed on one particular night, a remarkable observation as shrikes were not a social species.

While the journey from South Africa to China can take two to three weeks, with short feeding stops along the way, German bird researcher Prof Bernd Meyburg has also reported the case of a satellite-tagged Amur falcon female that flew non-stop from Somalia to Mongolia in five days.

South African apartheid regime’s Sharpeville massacre


This video about South Africa is called The Sharpeville Massacre: Archbishop Tutu discusses events surrounding the massacre.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Mass murder at Sharpeville

Saturday 21st March 2015

PETER FROST looks back 55 years to one of the most heinous crimes committed by the Apartheid government in South Africa

In March 21 1960 South African police opened fire on a few hundred peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the cruel and racist pass laws.

When the smoke and dust had settled, 69 people lay dead and another 300 were injured. Thirty-one of the dead were women and 19 children. Many were shot in the back as they turned to flee.

That day the name of the small township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging in the Transvaal, echoed round the globe and changed the future of the entire African continent forever.

The Sharpeville massacre signalled the start of armed resistance in South Africa and prompted worldwide condemnation of South Africa’s apartheid policies.

After the second world war, in 1948, the hugely racist Herstigte Nasionale Party came into power.

Within a year the Mixed Marriages Act — it should have been called the banning of Mixed Marriages Act — was passed.

It would be the first of many segregationist and racist laws devised to separate privileged white South Africans from the black African majority.

By 1958, with the election of Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa was completely committed to the obscene philosophy of apartheid.

The African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) were the main opposition to the government’s policies.

The Communist Party was banned in 1950 and could only work underground.

In 1956 the ANC had committed itself to a South Africa which “belongs to all.” Its peaceful demonstrations were met with police and army brutality. Both were well equipped by British arms manufacturers.

In June 1956 the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups approved the Freedom Charter. The apartheid state’s response was the arrest of 156 anti-apartheid leaders and a treason trial which would last until 1961.

At the beginning of April 1960 the ANC launched a campaign of demonstration against the hated pass laws, cruel and unjust regulations designed to control the movement of Africans.

The laws were the direct descendents of regulations imposed by the Dutch and British in the 18th and 19th-century slave economy of the Cape Colony.

Later pass laws were put in place to ensure a reliable supply of cheap, docile African workers for the hugely profitable gold and diamond mines.

In 1952 the apartheid government passed an even more rigid law that required all African males over the age of 16 to carry a reference book, just another name for the long-hated passbook.

This pass, which had to be carried at all times, contained personal information and employment history.

Africans often were compelled to violate the pass laws to find work to support their families, so harassment, fines and arrests under the pass laws were a constant threat.

By the time the laws were repealed in 1986, more than 17 million Africans had been arrested.

Protest against these humiliating laws fuelled the anti-apartheid struggle — key actions included the Defiance Campaign of 1952-54 and the massive women’s protest in Pretoria in 1956.

Africans found in violation of pass laws were stripped of citizenship and deported to poverty-stricken rural so-called homelands (Bantustans).

Between 1960 and 1985, approximately three and a half million Africans were forcibly removed to these rural dumping grounds.

White employers used the homelands as reservoirs of cheap black labour. The apartheid regime hoped these invented independent territories would ensure the denial of South African citizenship to millions of Africans.

Then on March 21 1960, a group of people converged on the local police station in the little-known township of Sharpeville. They offered themselves up for arrest for not carrying their passbooks.

By the end of the day the whole world would know the name Sharpeville.

As the crowd grew, about 140 police reinforcements were rushed to the scene. They bought with them four Coventry-built Saracen armoured personnel carriers.

All the police were armed, including submachine guns as well as Lee-Enfield rifles. The protesters had no arms except a few stones.

F-86 Sabre jets and Harvard Trainers were hurriedly scrambled and flew just a hundred feet over the crowd in an attempt to scatter it.

Police fired tear gas canisters with little effect. Then they advanced with riot sticks.

Finally, as the crowd thronged forward to protect one of their leaders from arrest, the police opened fire.

Police claimed that young and inexperienced police officers panicked and started to shoot. None had received any public order training.

The police attitude is best demonstrated by Lieutenant Colonel Pienaar, the commanding officer of the police reinforcements at Sharpeville.

He stated that “the native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them, to gather means violence.”

The angry reaction among South Africa’s black population was immediate and the week after the massacre saw demonstrations, protest marches, strikes and riots around the country.

On March 30 1960, the government declared a state of emergency, detaining more than 18,000 people, including prominent anti-apartheid activists.

A storm of international protest followed the Sharpeville massacre. There were huge and angry demonstrations in many countries.

On April 1 1960, the United Nations security council passed Resolution 134. The resolution recognised that the situation was brought about by the policies of the government of the Union of South Africa and that if these policies continued they could endanger international peace and security.

The resolution voiced the council’s anger at the policies and actions of the government, offered its sympathies to the families of the victims, called upon the government to initiate measures aimed at bringing about racial harmony based on equality and called upon it to abandon apartheid.

To its shame Britain abstained. Nonetheless Sharpeville marked a turning point in South Africa’s history — the country found itself increasingly isolated.

In South Africa the Sharpeville massacre led to the banning of the ANC as an illegal organisation, but the massacre proved to be one of the catalysts for a shift from passive resistance to armed resistance by these organisations.

The ANC founded a military wing — Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.

On the December 10 1996 president Nelson Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site to sign into law his new constitution of South Africa.

The 69 martyrs of Sharpeville had not died in vain.

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.