Extinct vultures returning to Thailand?


This video says about itself:

Mongolian vulture, four other birds to be released back into the wild

Bangkok, 9 May 2007

1. Wide of Royal Thai air-force C-130 cargo plane
2. Cage with cinereous vultureAnakin Skywalker‘ being loaded onto plane
3. Close-up of Himalayan griffon vulture inside cage and under green net
Doi Lang, 9 May 2007
4. Wide of vulture release team at Doi Lan mountain
5. Close-up of Anakin’s beak being measured
6. Various of satellite tag being placed on Anakin’s wing
7. Media
8. Anakin being placed inside mesh cage
9. SOUNDBITE: (English) Nyambayar Batbayar, Director of the Mongolia Wildlife Science and Conservation Centre:
“By using the satellite tracking device you can learn about migration behaviour, and also foraging patterns, and also you can learn about what areas are being used by vultures.
10. Wide of British ornithologist Philip Round having photo taken beside cage of cinereous vulture
11. Close-up of Anakin
12. SOUNDBITE: (English) Philip Round, Member of the British Ornithologists and Bird Conservation Society of Thailand:
“Anakin has been almost an ambassador for vultures, you know, because historically vultures don’t have a very good reputation in Thailand. But the arrival of Anakin has really promoted a lot of interest in the fate and the conservation of vultures.
13. Close-up of Anakin
Doi Lang, 10 May 2007
14. Wide of road where vultures are being released
15. Anakin steps out of cage and joins other Himalayan griffons
16. Media taking photos
17. Anakin spreading wings
18. Media watching
19. Himalayan griffon flying away
20. SOUNDBITE: (English) Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua, Assistant Professor of Veterinary Pathology at Kasetsart University:
“When we release them in a flock, that would be easier for them to find food, because the vulture is a flocking species, so they help each other to find the food.”
21. Chaiyan releasing Anakin
22. Chaiyan watching Anakin flying through binoculars
23. Anakin flying

STORYLINE:

A rare vulture was released into the wilds of Thailand on Thursday, after bird flu fears thwarted plans to send the young bird to nesting grounds in Mongolia.

The rare cinereous vulture, nicknamed ‘Anakin Skywalker’ after a popular character in the ‘Star Wars’ movies, was released from a cage along with four Himalayan Griffon Vultures in the mountainous area in northern Thailand near the Myanmar border.

After an hour, the four brown and white Himalayan Griffons flew off, leaving the black, cinereous vulture standing alone stretching its wings.

Veterinarian Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua then picked up the cinereous vulture and threw it into the air, forcing it to fly off toward a ridge, and ending a high-level bid to return the bird to Mongolia.

Chaiyan said they released the vultures together to make it easier for them to find food.

“When we release them in a flock, that would be easier for them to find food, because vulture is a flocking species, so they help each other to find the food,” said Chaiyan.

Thursday’s release was the final attempt to send the cinereous vulture back to the wild, after plans by Thailand’s national carrier to send the bird back to Mongolia via China or South Korea were cancelled over fears of bird flu.

Anakin and the other vultures were transported from Bangkok to Chiang Rai in northern Thailand on Wednesday onboard a Thai Royal Air Force C-130 cargo plane along with a team of veterinarians, government representatives and bird enthusiasts.

From Chiang Rai, the vultures were brought directly to the mountain area of Doi Lan in Chiang Mai to get acclimatised prior to their release on Thursday.

A satellite telemetry was attached to the cinereous vulture’s wing to monitor its whereabouts.

From BirdLife:

Can we bring vultures back to Thailand?

By Dr. Boripat Siriaroonrat and Kaset Sutasha, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, 8 Feb 2017

It’s the most dramatic bird decline ever recorded – faster even than those that robbed our planet of the Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius or the Dodo Raphus cucullatus. Since the 1990s, a staggering 99% of the vulture population in Asia have disappeared – a drop from several million to just a few thousand.

As a result of these steep declines, four species of Asian vulture – White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus, Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris and Indian Vulture Gyps indicus – are now assessed as being Critically Endangered – the highest threat category of all, and a status that indicates that if we do not continue to act, they will disappear from Asia’s skies within our lifetimes.

The main driver for the decline of vultures on the Indian subcontinent is well-publicised – the use of the veterinary drug Diclofenac to control pain and muscle fatigue in sick and aging cattle. Unfortunately, the drug proved lethal to vultures, who were unwittingly killed in large numbers in South Asia when they feasted on the poisoned carcasses of cattle who were left out in the open to die by herders.

Fortunately, the use of Diclofenac is now banned in India, Nepal and Pakistan, and thanks to the introduction of initiatives such as Safe Zones (areas in which threats are controlled within a 100kn radius, allowing viable populations to develop), vulture numbers are now finally stabilising on the Indian subcontinent. But why have vultures all but disappeared from other parts of Asia where Diclofenac isn’t an issue – as just as importantly, can we bring them back?

In Thailand, as in other parts of South-East Asia, Diclofenac isn’t an issue for vultures. Although the drug is widely available in pharmacies, it comes in cream and tablet forms, and is intended for human use – not for cattle. Despite this, the situation for vultures is even worse than it is in India – although two migratory species Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus and Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis, can still be spotted every winter, all three of the species that were once resident in the country (Red-headed Vulture White-rumped Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture) are now extinct in Thailand.

Of the three, the Red-headed Vulture was the most abundant and could be found right in the center of Bangkok until the late 1960s-early 1970s, when burials were not widely practiced and dead bodies were left in the open waiting to be burned.  A cholera outbreak in Bangkok in the 19th Century is immortalised by sculptures of vultures feeding on corpses at the Golden Mountain (Wat Saket), which are still standing for us to see today even if the birds themselves are not. Vultures took advantage of the dead bodies until the modernization of the country in the 20th century.  With cemeteries now becoming normal practice, vultures have struggled in the face of the reduced food availability.

Hunting, poaching and habitat destruction are also major issues for vultures in this part of the world. Red-headed vultures were last seen in Thailand’s Huay Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary 25 years ago, coinciding with a new tiger hunting method deployed by hunters which used pesticides to poison the Sambar Deer carcass – a method developed so they could obtain tiger skins without tarnishing them with bullet holes. Sadly, the very last group of about 12 red-headed vultures scavenged on one such carcass and all of them died as a result. No sightings of wild vultures in the country had been reported since. Hunting and poisoning delivered the final blow to a vulture population that struggled to adapt in the face of the vast improvements that have been made to Thailand’s health, sanitation and cattle slaughterhouse networks.

Yet, these majestic birds of prey could yet circle over Thailand once more. In June 2016, The Zoological Park Organization of Thailand (ZPO) started the formal discussion to establish a Red-headed Vulture re-introduction program at Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, in conjunction with Kasetsart University (KU), Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and Bird Conservation Society of Thailand (BCST). It is aimed at re-wilding the very last group of captive Red-headed Vultures from zoos, with the hope of releasing captive-bred individuals of this Critically Endangered species back to nature in 2018. But although 2018 is close, there is a long way to go to make this a reality.

ZPO are very experienced in captive breeding and re-introduction programs, having worked for several decades on re-introducing mammal and avian species such as Eld’s Deer (Cervus eldi thamin), Eastern Sarus Crane (Grus antigone antigone), Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) and more besides. But the Red-headed Vulture poses a challenge because it is very hard to breed, nest and hatch chicks in captivity.

ZPO has chosen Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO world heritage site that stretches over more than 600,000 ha along the Myanmar border, as the perfect place to reintroduce the species because of its biodiversity. The sanctuary, which is relatively intact, contain examples of almost all the forest types of continental South-East Asia. They are home to a very diverse array of animals, including 77% of the large mammals (especially elephants and tigers), 50% of the large birds and 33% of the land vertebrates to be found in this region. All of which should mean plenty of food to sustain small groups of this struggling scavenger.

According to Dr. Saksit Simcharoen, a tiger expert from DNP, there are currently 150 – 200 wild Indochinese Tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) and Indochinese Leopards (Panthera pardus delacouri) within the sanctuary. That mean there are more than 150 carcasses per week because tigers and leopards hunt at least once a week. Simcharoen believes that numbers of carcasses found in the sanctuary will be enough to support future vulture populations. It will be a long-term commitment, but the team is passionate about bringing Red-headed Vulture back to Thailand. And achieving this goal could ultimately save the bird from global extinction: when your species’ population trends are being mentioned in the same breath as the Dodo, you need every viable population you can get.

If you want to help BirdLife save vultures, please visit: www.birdlife.org/savevultures.

Thailand dictatorship humiliates woman for free speech


This video from Thailand says about itself:

17 October 2016

Thai woman made to kneel before king’s portrait over royal insult

In this image made from video taken on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, Umaporn Sarasat, 43, kneels before King Bhumibol Adulyadej‘s portrait after she is accused of insulting the royal institution. Pic: AP.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Thai woman made to kneel down as punishment for insulting Bhumibol

Today, 14:14

After the death of King Bhumibol last Thursday Thailand is in deep mourning. … but that is not true for everyone. As for Umaporn Sarasat who posted critical comments on social media about the royals.

She was arrested immediately and afterwards a mob of angry [monarchists] went to the police station on the island Koh Samui. The woman had to prostrate herself in public before a photo of the king, while the crowd screamed abuse at her. She will be prosecuted for lèse majesté.

A conviction for lèse majesté may mean fifteen years in jail in Thailand.

An award-winning Thai film director has told the BBC he does not want his latest film shown in Thailand as he would be required to self-censor: here.

A cleaning lady in Thailand is being charged by the government for posting the words “I see” on Facebook. She is accused of insulting the monarchy – a charge that can lead to jail sentences of up to 15 years. However, she says she is being punished because her son is an activist, as the BBC’s Jonathan Head reports: here.

After the announcement of the King’s death Thursday evening, all television channels including foreign networks such as the BBC were replaced with government-produced footage eulogizing the king. BBC correspondent Jonathan Head confirmed their coverage about Thailand had been blocked in the country several times ever since. “Whenever reporting on Thailand comes up our transmissions are blocked. Just now when I was reporting live,” Head told Khaosod English Sunday: here.

The autocratic record of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej: here.

King of Thailand dies


This video from the USA says about itself:

Don’t Mess with Thailand King’s Dog

16 December 2015

James Corden looks at a few stories about animals, including a man facing a harsh sentence for insulting the first dog of Thailand and a painting seal.

On the same day that Italian Nobel Prize winning playwright Dario Fo has died, another man has died: King Bhumibol of Thailand.

These two men were both well-known persons. They died at nearly the same age: Dario Fo was 90; King Bhumibol was 88.

However, for the rest there were big differences. Dario Fo mocked oppressive authority. King Bhumibol allowed himself to be used as a symbol for oppressive authority, often wielded by cruel military dictators.

The dictatorship in Thailand meted out draconian penalties for supposed lèse majesté against the king; though the criticisms for which people were punished harshly were often not against the king, but, eg, against the king’s dog or against the military dictators.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Thai King Bhumibol is dead. This was announced by the Thai court. King Bhumibol (88), also known as Rama IX, struggled for years with poor health. …

His son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (63), is the intended successor. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Bhumibol appointed him in 2002. …

Prayuth further said that the government will observe a mourning period of one year and for thirty days flags will hang at half-mast. …

The Thai king was the longest reigning monarch in the world. He ascended the Thai throne in 1946 after his brother had died from a gunshot wound. Who fired the bullet was never cleared up completely. Two members of the royal household got the death penalty for it. Bhumibol was crowned king in 1950.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (90) is now the longest reigning monarch. She has today been on the throne for 64 years and 250 days.

The death of the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej yesterday afternoon at the age of 88 has provoked fears in ruling circles in Thailand and internationally that the country’s protracted political crisis will worsen. The king had close ties to the armed forces and was the linchpin of the state apparatus, currently presided over by a military junta: here.

Monarchist mob threatens Thai who, long before the king’s death, had written that ‘everyone will die at some time’.

KENNY COYLE writes on the strangeness and waning support of Thailand’s King Rama X, a monarch with very few friends: here.

Torturing Thai tyrants threaten arrest of Amnesty International


This video says about itself:

Amnesty International Cancels Talk on Torture in Thailand

28 September 2016

Amnesty International cancels their conference on torture in Thailand after officials threaten to arrest the organization’s speakers

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Amnesty reps banned from conference

Thursday 29th September 2016

Thai police accused of torture in Amnesty report

by Our Foreign Desk

AMNESTY International was forced to abandon a news conference in the Thai capital Bangkok yesterday after the authorities threatened to arrest its speakers.

The human rights group was due to a release a report at the conference that accuses Thai soldiers and police of carrying out torture and abuse including beatings, suffocation by plastic bags and electric shocks to the genitals.

However, just before the news conference was to begin, Ministry of Labour officials warned Amnesty that the two speakers set to talk about the damming report did not possess work permits and were at risk of being arrested if they spoke on stage.

“We know that the current government does not accept criticism very well,” said Amnesty legal adviser Yuval Ginbar, who had been due to address the press conference.

“But what is happening in the unofficial places of detention — people being beaten up, people being suffocated, people being waterboarded — this is more important than what we’re facing here.”

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd defended the Ministry of Labour’s actions by saying that, no matter which organisation the speakers were from, they must comply with the law.

“Our laws don’t have multiple standards, we have only one standard. We all have to follow these laws. Even if we are criticised, the law is the law,” Mr Sansern explained.

Without mentioning the Amnesty report directly, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha defended military detention of “so-called political prisoners,” saying that they are given good housing and food but sometimes complain about things like the quality of air conditioning.

“We’ve released so many of these so-called political prisoners, but some are charged so we have to hold them,” Mr Prayuth said.

“I hope you understand, I’ve been very forgiving. Only a few people suffer because they want to violate things all the time.”

Dictatorship’s referendum in Thailand


This video says about itself:

Thai prime minister threatens to ‘execute’ journalists

25 March 2015

Thailand’s military leader has lashed out at journalists saying he would “probably just execute” those who did “not report the truth”, in the latest outburst aimed at Thailand‘s media.

“We’ll probably just execute them,” Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday, when asked by reporters how the government would deal with those that do not adhere to the official line.

“You don’t have to support the government, but you should report the truth,” the former army chief said, telling reporters to write in a way that bolsters national reconciliation in the kingdom.

Prayuth, who is also prime minister, heads the ruling military junta or National Council for Peace and Order. He toppled the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a coup last May, that followed months of protests aimed at ousting Yingluck.

Prayuth launched a crackdown on dissenters after seizing power in May. He has said Thailand is not ready to lift martial law, which gives the army sweeping powers, including for arrest and detention.

‘Notoriously hot-headed’

Bob Dietz, coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists‘ Asia Programme, condemned Prayuth’s statement saying, the Thai leader “is being more than just gruff here, it’s a threat”.

“He is notoriously hot-headed, and prone to outbursts like this,” Dietz said in a comment to Al Jazeera.

“Last September he announced a one-year plan to overcome the deep political fault lines in Thailand. So far the plan seems to just be to tell everyone to just be quiet and stop being critical of the government and each other.”

In January the junta forced a German foundation to cancel a forum on press freedom saying Thailand was at a sensitive juncture. Since taking power, the junta has made full use of martial law, which also bans all political gatherings.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thailand: Junta asks voters to back negation of democracy

Saturday 6th August 2016

THAILAND’S voters will be asked to decide tomorrow on a new constitution, along with an accompanying measure to keep the military government in control for several years.

A Yes vote would also enshrine the vesting of a great deal of power in appointed rather than elected officials.

Despite the importance of tomorrow’s decision, there have been no political rallies, no independent campaigns and virtually no debates by order of the ruling military junta.

Over 100 people who tried to campaign against the referendum on social media have been jailed, while open criticism has been made punishable by up to 10 years behind bars.

“The lack of open campaigning is effectively a one-sided campaign,” said Chulalongkorn University political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak in Bangkok.

“The intention is to have campaigns for the constitution, not against the constitution, because a lot of credibility is on the line for the junta.”

He suggested, however, that the political repression “has boomeranged because the other side has gathered some steam and we are seeing more anti-charter movement rising.”

The junta, which took power in a May 2014 coup, claims that the new constitution will usher in a new era of clean politics and stable democracy in a country chronically short of both in recent years.

Critics note that, for at least a five-year “transition” period, the senate will be a 250-strong chamber whose members would be appointed by the junta and include the commanders of the army and other security services.

Thai constitutional referendum entrenches military dictatorship: here.