British author Doris Lessing spied on by secret police

This video is called Re-Reading Doris Lessing‘s ‘The Golden Notebook’: Ten Years Later.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

MI5 spied on Doris Lessing for 20 years, declassified documents reveal

Newly released and redacted British intelligence files refer to author from early 1940s to long after her break from communist party in 1956

Richard Norton-Taylor

Friday 21 August 2015 00.01 BST

MI5 targeted the Nobel prize-winning author Doris Lessing for 20 years, listening to her phone conversations, opening her mail and closely monitoring her movements, previously top secret files reveal. The files show the extent to which MI5, helped by the Met police special branch, spied on the writer, her friends and associates, long after she abandoned communism, disgusted by the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

MI5 was concerned about her continuing fierce opposition to colonialism, the files, released at the National Archives on Friday, make clear.

Lessing first came to MI5’s notice in the early 1940s in Southern Rhodesia when, as Doris Tayler, she married Gottfried Lessing, a communist activist and leading figure in the Left Book Club. …

From British daily The Independent, quoting MI5:

One memo to London said: “The general tone of the club is reported to be very left, and it is stated that most topics of discussion there usually end up in anti-British, anti-capital and anti-imperialist vapourings.”

The BBC quotes MI5 that it was ‘a club “patronised by persons with foreign accents”‘ Gottfried Lessing, Doris’ husband, was a refugee from nazi Germany of Jewish ancestry, so probably spoke English with a German accent.

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

She kept his surname when the marriage ended and she left Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where she was brought up, and moved to Britain in 1949.

MI5 stepped up its spying on her when, in the course of its permanent bugging of the British Communist party’s headquarters in King Street, Covent Garden, her name (initially misheard as Lacey) came up in a conversation.

From British daily The Independent, quoting MI5:

One 1951 report in her Security Service personal file said: “Doris Lessing has been described as certainly pro-Communist although it is doubtful if she is a party member. Her Rhodesian background has brought out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar which has now reached the point of fanaticism. In this way her Communist sympathies have been increased.”

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

In 1952, MI6 passed to MI5 what it called “character sketches” of members of a visit to Moscow by a number of British authors, the files released on Friday reveal. Under the name Miss Doris Lessing, it wrote: “Her communist sympathies have been fanned almost to the point of fanaticism owing to her upbringing in Rhodesia, which has brought out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar.”

MI6 added: “Colonial exploitation is her pet theme and she has now nearly become as irresponsible in her statements as … saying that everything black is wonderful and that all men and all things white are vicious.”

… In 1956, Special Branch informed MI5 that Lessing, whom it described as “of plump build”, had moved into a flat in Warwick Road, London SW5. “Her flat is frequently visited by persons of various nationality,” it reported, “including Americans, Indians, Chinese and Negroes.” The report added: “It is possible that the flat is being used for immoral purposes.”

But 1956 proved tumultuous for Lessing. She was banned from South Africa and Rhodesia.

From British daily The Independent:

Lessing, who was expelled from South Africa during the trip after an alert to the apartheid country’s police force from London, was also followed onto a flight back to Britain and observed to be writing in a large black notebook which her tail considered suspicious because the author covered what she had written each time someone came past.

An attempt to find the notebook in her luggage upon her return to London airport was abandoned because of fears it would alert Lessing to MI5’s scrutiny.

While the author, who died in 2013 aged 94, maintained her radical politics throughout her life, her MI5 file reveals nothing to suggest she was an active threat to national security.

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

Then came Moscow’s violent suppression of the Hungarian uprising. MI5 reported a fraught meeting at the communist party headquarters where Lessing agreed to sign a letter exposing “the grave crimes and abuses of the USSR and the recent revolt of workers and intellectuals against the pseudo Communist bureaucracies and police systems”. …

Lessing, an MI5 file notes, resigned from the Communist party and rejected an appeal from party officials to change her mind.

Early the following year, 1957, an MI5 source described Lessing as “disgusted with the Russian action in Hungary”, and attacking the attitude of the British communist party as “hopeless and gutless”. The same source described her as “an attractive, forceful, dangerous, woman, ruthless if need be”. …

MI5 continued to monitor Lessing’s movements, speeches and writing, and eagerly passed titbits on to the South African police. MI5 officers make clear they chose not to believe that she had “broken completely” with the Communist party, as one file puts it. In 1960, a Special Branch officer told MI5 she attended an “inaugural discussion” of the anti-war group, the Committee of 100, at Friends’ House on the Euston Road, London.

In November 1962, six years after she left the Communist party, an MI5 officer wrote, in a file stamped “secret and personal”: “She is known to have retained extreme leftwing views and she takes an interest in African affairs as an avowed opponent of racial discrimination. In more recent years, she has associated herself with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

This is the last entry in the intelligence files on her released on Friday, two years after her death. Official weeders have taken out some pages and passages, partly to protect the name of informants. They may be released at a later date.

In 2007, aged 88, Lessing, who made no secret of her political views, became the oldest winner of the Nobel prize for literature. She died in November 2013, aged 94.

The files released on Friday reveal that MI5 also kept a close watch on prominent figures of the left who were never members of the Communist party. They include the brothers David and Martin Ennals: the former became social services secretary in Callaghan’s 1976 Labour government and was later ennobled, the latter became general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties, a founder member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and secretary general of Amnesty International.

An anxious Foreign Office diplomat wrote shortly after the end of the second world war to Roger Hollis, who later became head of MI5, asking about the pair. MI5 replied that its files on the Ennals brothers had been “in great demand recently”. MI5 was concerned that UN groups, in which it said both brothers were involved, might be infiltrated by the Communist party. MI5 noted that Martin was “well known to Special Branch for his activities in the Anti-Apartheid Movement”.

The MI5 files contain extracts of Harold Laski’s private correspondence that were intercepted because it was worried about his alleged communist connections. His private communications were intercepted, though MI5 reported to the Home Office in 1933 that he was “not a Communist”. Laski was chairman of the Labour party at the time of its landslide victory in the 1945 general election.

Baby elephant drives away swallows, video

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Baby Elephant Calf vs Birds [swallows] – Latest Wildlife Sightings

28 July 2015

With this week being so sad after the loss of a great animal, Cecil the lion, we thought we would cheer everyone up with a video that will make you cry of happiness, rather than sadness.

Baby rhino saved from snare in Malawi

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Black Rhino Cow Tries To Revive Dead Calf

8 February 2013

Black Rhino grieves over her dead calf and tries to revive it after it was struck by lightning.

From LILONGWE NEWS blog in Malawi:


14 August 2015

Today we received this update from our partners at the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust in Malawi.

A poor little [black] rhino calf was caught in a snare in Liwonde National Park in Malawi, but luckily Lilongwe Wildlife Trust’s wildlife emergency response unit (WERU) were on hand to help.

Kate Moore tells us more about the operation:

After four days of tracking the team finally had the opportunity to dart the mother, Namatunu, allowing the team to sedate the calf, believed to be just a few months old, and work on removing the snare. The snare had become embedded around the baby’s foot.

WERU’s lead vet Amanda Salb cleaned up the wound, which was very deep, and gave antibiotics to avoid infection. The team also found out that the calf was a ‘she’…nice to know! A VHF transmitter was then attached to her tail so that she can be monitored to make sure the injury heals properly and she experiences no further problems as a result. Once awake, both mother and daughter were seen leaving the area together and have been spotted doing well since then.

Wire snares are set by poachers to catch buffalo and antelope so they can sell the meat, but other wildlife such as elephant, rhino and lions are regularly caught accidentally as snaring is indiscriminate in their action.

The operation took a lot of teamwork from Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, Department of National Parks and Wildlife, CAWS, Cluny Wildlife Trust and African Parks, as well as the Born Free sponsored vehicle, so congratulations to everyone involved!

South African seabirds and climate change

This 2011 video says about itself:

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.

From Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution:

A changing distribution of seabirds in South Africa—the possible impact of climate and its consequences

In the southern Benguela ecosystem off South Africa, there were recent shifts to the south and east in the distributions of three forage resources (anchovy, sardine, rock lobster), which probably were influenced by environmental change although fishing too may have played a part.

In this study, we review information on trends in distributions and numbers of eight seabirds breeding in South Africa. For five species that feed predominantly on anchovy, sardine or rock lobster, their populations off northwest South Africa decreased markedly. For three of these species, which exhibit behavioral inertia and have restricted foraging ranges when breeding (African penguin, Cape cormorant, bank cormorant), there were large decreases in their overall populations in South Africa.

Conversely, for two showing more plasticity and able to range over wide areas or move between breeding localities (Cape gannet, swift tern) there were increases. It is thought that movement of forage resources away from the northern islands led to a mismatch in the distributions of breeding localities and prey of dependent seabirds off western South Africa and to attempts by several species to establish colonies on the southern mainland closer to food resources.

There also were shifts to the south and east in the distributions of three seabirds that do not compete with fisheries for prey (crowned cormorant, white-breasted cormorant, kelp gull), suggesting some environmental forcing, but decreases of these species off northwest South Africa were less severe and populations in South Africa remained stable or increased in the long term.

It is likely, because many fishing plants are located in the northwest, that there was increased competition between seabirds and fisheries for prey as forage resources moved south and east. Potential interventions to mitigate the adverse impacts of distributional changes for seabirds include allocations of allowable catches of shared forage resources at regional levels, closures to fishing around impacted seabird colonies and establishment of new colonies nearer to the present location of food.

Orphan baby rhino rescued in South Africa

This video from South Africa says about itself:

Two rhino bulls chased around a pride of six hungry lions at the waterhole Renosterpan in Kruger park, great fun to watch. Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). Happened in 2009. Rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate; please help to protect these amazing animals by donating to the wildlife funds fighting rhino poaching.

From daily The Independent in South Africa:

Orphan baby rhino rescued

July 27 2015 at 08:33am

By Leanne Jansen

Durban – A baby rhino that lost its mother to poachers in the Kruger National Park has been rescued by rangers, and is settling into its new home at the Care for Wild Africa rehabilitation centre in Mpumalanga.

The rhino, not older than two months, wandered on to a road and cosied up to a tourist’s car. The tourists alerted park staff, and rangers Don English and Craig Williams helped to have it tranquillised, and flown to the rehabilitation centre.

But that was not the end of the little creature’s ordeal – it stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated along the way.

By Friday afternoon, it had recovered and was doing well, said park spokesperson William Mabasa.

Sadly, the carcass of its mother was found on Saturday, its horns removed.

Mabasa extended his gratitude to the tourists who had told rangers about the orphaned rhino and also urged the public to play an active role in conservation efforts.

“These people (poachers) live in our communities. Somebody somewhere knows who they are and where they are,” Mabasa said.

Last month the Kruger Park, which is South Africa’s largest rhino reserve, announced that it was installing boom gates along three popular tourist roads to control people entering the new Intensive Protection Zone for rhinos after nightfall.

The booms are manned by armed rangers from sunset to sunrise every day.

As part of a long-term plan, fencing will also be improved on the western and eastern borders of the park.

Earlier this year The Mercury reported on how poaching had soared to a record level of 1 215 killings countrywide last year, mostly in the Kruger Park, where the poaching rate has climbed every year since 2008.

Care for Wild Africa is home to infant, injured and orphaned animals.

Its animal hospital tends to the animals until they can be rehabilitated into the wild, and the centre welcomes volunteers to help care for distressed creatures.

Young African elephant, video

This February 2015 video is about a baby African elephant, having fun at Renosterkoppies Dam, Kruger park, South Africa.

See also here.