Good grey crowned crane news from Uganda

This short video captured the courtship display of grey crowned cranes in Murchison Falls National Park (Uganda) in August 2012.

From the International Crane Foundation:

Uganda Finalizes Grey Crowned Crane Species Action Plan

October 2, 2015

Editor’s Note: We received an email from Jimmy Muheebwa, Uganda Crane and Wetland Conservation Program Manager, about a recent milestone in his country for the protection of the Endangered Grey Crowned Crane. By working together, the government and conservationists in Uganda are committing to reducing threats to the species, with the ultimate goal of preserving Grey Crowned Cranes for generations to come. Following is Jimmy’s report, which – we think you will agree – gives us all hope for the future!

Ugandan coat of arms

This picture shows the coat of arms of Uganda, with a grey crowned crane on the right.

A national symbol, the Grey Crowned Crane represents the independence of modern Uganda, and continues to play an important role in traditional Ugandan culture and folklore. These iconic cranes are also indicators of environmental health, choosing less disturbed wetland habitats for breeding, and contribute to valuable birding tourism in Uganda.

More than three-quarters of the world’s Grey Crowned Cranes live in Uganda and Kenya in East Africa, but despite the cultural, ecological, and economic importance of this species, its population has plummeted over the last 3 to 4 decades from over 60,000 to an estimated 13,000. As a result, Grey Crowned Cranes are now categorized as Endangered, meaning that the species is likely to become extinct if no serious mitigation measures are taken.

Uganda is one of the few African countries to initiate a Species Action Plan to save our remaining Grey Crowned Cranes and reverse the declining population trend. The process began in 2009 with funding from the Whitley Fund for Nature through the International Crane Foundation/ Endangered Wildlife Trust partnership. Delegates from Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa met in Entebbe, Uganda to design a process to address threats to Grey Crowned Cranes. My appointment in February 2015 by the government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, as the Uganda Crane and Wetland Conservation Program Manager launched the conservation effort in Uganda. The Species Action Planning process for Uganda both followed and incorporated the actions outlined in the draft International Grey Crowned Crane Single Species Action Plan developed under the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA):

First, we categorized information about biology, taxonomy, threats and their causes, and information gaps and actions to address them into the following threats:

• Threats directly causing reduced adult and juvenile survival;

• Threats causing a high degree of habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation;

• Threats causing reduced breeding success and reproductive rates.

Second, we designed four strategic actions for the Uganda Species Action Plan:

• Implement activities that enhance active conservation of cranes and their habitats by reducing adult and juvenile mortality of Grey Crowned Cranes;

• Enhance conservation of Grey Crowned Cranes through reduced loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitats;

• Fill knowledge gaps about the ecology of the Grey Crowned Cranes;

• Support the conservation of Grey Crowned Cranes through implementation of alternative livelihoods.

Third, we identified priority actions for immediate action against:

• Wetland degradation;

• Crane capture/hunting/trapping for home use, sale and or traditional use;

Collision with power lines and communication lines;

• Unnecessary human disturbance and proximity to breeding sites.

The planning team advanced a strong need to have a National Crane/Species Working Group to coordinate and catalyze the plan’s implementation and monitor its implementation and effectiveness. A full-time coordinator, based in a research institution or conservation organization, would take charge of the day-to-day operations of the Species Working Group and act in close cooperation with the government and the AEWA office. The Species Action Plan was submitted in July 2015 to the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage for approval, and we are awaiting their decision.

Uganda Women Birders

This video is about a shoebill, and other birds in Uganda.

From Herbert Byaruhanga in Uganda today:

Join me to support women birding this Saturday 13th, at Forest Resort Beach-Kasenge. Kasenge is one of the nearest forest reserves rich in a variety of different species of birds.

Special [birds] include African Finfoot, Tit Hylia, Giant Kingfisher, Scaly Francolin, Grey Woodpecker, Grey Parrot, Ross’s Turaco, Great Blue Turaco, and many others. Transport will be provided at 10,000 per person.

Starting at Uganda House (Total) at 6:30am. Come with a snack, or you can purchase from the restaurant.

Uganda Women Birders is a young group of dedicated women in birding and bird habitat conservation. Confirm your participation by registering your name with the chairperson 0784060168, 0706504574.

Muslim girl expelled from French high school for maxiskirt

This video from Uganda says about itself:

14 April 2014

Kilifi county assembly speaker Jimmy Kahindi has dismissed a motion set to be tabled at the county assembly that seeks to ban the wearing of miniskirts in the county. The motion has elicited mixed reactions among religious leaders and the general public. The mover of the motion, Marafa ward representative Renson Kambi has come out to defend his bill which seeks to ban the wearing of miniskirts among women and sagging of trousers, by men.

After the banning miniskirts in Hungary and elsewhere … it might look like a safe option to wear a maxiskirt? Forget it. Long or short, repressive authorities will always find stupid ways to punish women for their clothes.

By Anthony Torres in France:

Muslim girl expelled from French high school for wearing long skirt

4 May 2015

A high school girl from northeastern France was expelled for wearing a skirt that school authorities considered too long and an ostentatious sign of her religious beliefs. The affair points to the anti-Muslim atmosphere that now predominates in official circles in France.

The teenager was expelled from her high school for nine days by the principal. The ministry of education defended the decision: “In this case, it was considered that the student was carrying out religious propaganda. It is not an expulsion that was put in place, but a dialogue that has been opened up with her family. And it is noteworthy that her mother made a statement to ask for the situation to be handled calmly.”

The absurd and reactionary treatment meted out to the student reflects the sharp rightward evolution of the French political establishment over the last decade. The school expelled the student based on the 2004 law outlawing all “ostentatious” religious symbols, even though the young woman was not wearing any visible religious sign.

The high school student’s case is not isolated. Last year, 130 similar cases took place and 20 this year, according to the Collective against Islamophobia in France. The number of anti-Muslim actions has sharply risen this year, moreover, since the Kouachi brothers’ terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo.

The goal of such Islamophobic laws is to divide the working class, attack democratic rights, encourage racist and anti-immigrant sentiment, and to push through unpopular policies of austerity and war in France and across Europe. The young high school student is the victim of a sharp turn to the right that has developed over decades in Europe.

The 2004 law was voted amid rising social anger with the anti-working class policies of French President Jacques Chirac. It was part of a strategy to divert working class opposition to the social crisis and a governmental agenda of cutting pensions, attacking social services, and intensifying police repression. The law was initially put forward as teachers were on strike to defend their pensions and public education spending more broadly.

This attack against Muslims in France encouraged a series of Islamophobic attacks across Europe. Several years ago, a law was voted in Switzerland to ban the construction of minarets. Over the last year in Germany, marches were organized over several weeks by the far-right Pegida movement to oppose Islam in Europe.

For years, the ruling elite in France has encouraged collective hysteria against Islam in order to attack the working class.

In 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a debate on “national identity” and a law against wearing the burqa. This law was part of Sarkozy’s strategy of appealing to neo-fascist voters who had voted for Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential elections.

The law against the burqa and the “national identity” debate provided political cover for the French ruling elite to legitimize the neo-fascist National Front over the ensuing years, as well as an escalating series of imperialist wars against Muslim countries. The anti-burqa law in particular encouraged hostility to resistance to NATO’s imperialist occupation of Afghanistan, which was cynically presented as a struggle to defend women’s rights.

The entire political establishment bears responsibility for Islamophobic laws in France. The law against the burqa obtained the support of Manuel Valls, the current Socialist Party (PS) prime minister …

By supporting laws targeting Muslims, these parties of the affluent middle class demonstrate their hostility to democratic rights and to the struggle to unify the working class.

The 2004 law against the veil has encouraged employers to victimize Muslim workers, such as when a Muslim worker was fired for wearing a veil at the Baby-Loup day care center.

As for the 2009 anti-burqa law, it has escalated social tensions and police repression in immigrant suburbs across France. A riot broke out in Trappes in 2013, after police violently arrested a woman wearing the veil and then beat and insulted her husband.

It is in this atrocious political atmosphere that a high school student can be expelled for no other reason than claims that her skirt is too long.

African golden cat hunting monkeys, video

This video says about itself:

First known footage of elusive African golden cat in daylight

28 January 2015

Extremely elusive African golden cat shown hunting red colobus monkeys.

Wildlife Extra writes about this:

Film footage of the very rare and elusive African golden cat has been captured in Uganda by scientists from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

A camera trap recorded the wild cat hunting red colobus monkeys gathered around and feeding on the dead wood of a tree stump during daylight in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

The African golden cat is found only in the forests of Central and West Africa, and grows to the size of a bobcat, weighing between 5-16 kilograms. Very few western scientists have observed the living animal in the wild and almost all records of the African golden cat consist of photographs taken by remote camera traps, or of dead animals.

This is the first photo ever taken of Bouvier’s red colobus monkey, a rare primate native to the forests of the Republic of Congo. A pair of independent researchers, primatologists Lieven Devreese and Gaël Elie Gnondo Gobolo, took the image in Ntokou-Pikounda National Park: here.

Wild gorilla using tools, new discovery

This video from Uganda is called Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla (HD Version).

From the BBC:

Wild gorilla creates a food tool in ‘eureka’ moment

For the first time, a wild gorilla is seen using a tool to eat food

It’s a scene that would grace the opening of any Planet of the Apes movie.

But rather than being fiction, this is fact, and one that is new to science.

For the first time, a gorilla in the wild has been seen using a tool to acquire and eat food.

The young female gorilla watched another older male attempt to collect ants from a hole in the ground, only to see the ants bite his arm, scaring him away.

The female gorilla tried to put her own arm in the hole, and she too was bitten.

But instead of giving up, the young ape then had her very own ‘eureka’ moment.

She looked around for a suitable implement, and selected a piece of wood approximately 20 cm long, tapering from 2 cm wide at one end to 1 cm long at the other.

She then inserted the stick into the hole, withdrew it, and licked off ants clambering over it, avoiding being stung.

Other great apes have been seen to use tools in the wild, and captive gorillas have been known to fashion and use a range of tools in their enclosures.

But the incident is surprising because wild gorillas were, until now, rarely known to have created and used tools.

The only known examples are when a western lowland gorilla was documented using a stick to gauge the depth of water before crossing a waterway. Another was been seen using bamboo as a ladder for her young infant to climb up.

But until now wild gorillas have never been seen using implements to eat with.

Lisanga, a very clever ape

The use of the stick was witnessed by Dr Jean-Felix Kinani, the head veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, an organisation of vets that works with wildlife authorities to monitor the health of wild gorillas.

He and colleagues were observing one of eight mountain gorilla groups habituated to humans in the Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda.

Within the group live 23 gorillas, including three silverback males, a younger male, and seven adult females, as well as juvenile gorillas and infants.

The veterinarians saw a gorilla named Kigoma, the second ranking silverback in the group, insert his left hand in to a hole in the ground, attempting to catch driver ants to eat.

He quickly withdrew it, and ran from the hole, shaking his arm, presumably remove the biting ants, report Dr Felix and colleague Dr Dawn Zimmerman, who are both affiliated to the University of California, US.

All the time, a younger female, Lisanga, watched his actions, they report in the American Journal of Primatology.

She approached the hole and for approximately two minutes watched the ants enter and leave it.

She then put her own hand in the whole, suffering Kigoma’s fate.

Undeterred however, she found her tool, a broken branch lying some 2 m from the hole, and preceded to use it to dine on the ants.

Chimpanzees are well known to use tools in the wild, with different groups using different implements; some use sticks to dig out termites or to fish or dip for ants. They have even been seen using spears to hunt monkeys.

Wild orang-utans in Asia have spontaneously created hammers, probes and scrapers made of sticks.

And in captivity, gorillas have been seen using sticks as weapons, using coconut fibres as sponges, and logs as ladders.

Which begs the question, why don’t they in the wild?

One answer is that they do, but it goes unnoticed.

Another is that gorillas are observed more in captivity, making it more likely that scientists spot novel behaviours.

But it could also be that captive gorillas have less to do than their wild counterparts, so are more inclined to experiment to fill the time, Mike Cranfield, Director of Gorilla Doctors told BBC Earth.

Captive gorillas often have new objects placed in their enclosures to enrich their environments, providing more opportunity for them to be turned into tools.

“Lisanga is a curious gorilla,” explained Dr Kinani. “She is known to have an investigative personality.”

For example, one anecdotal report details her showing more than casual interest in a researcher’s bag, quietly approaching behind the researcher and attempting to take the bag away.

“This looks to be an idiosyncratic behaviour,” he adds, referring to her use of the stick to catch and eat ants.

No other gorillas witnessed Lisanga’s actions, so it is unlikely that they too will learn the same trick, developing a culture of stick use.

This time, at least.