Vietnam war killed pheasants, can they come back?

This is an Edwards’s pheasant video from Artis zoo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; April 2010.

From BirdLife:

16 June 2017

Can we bring back the pheasant that was wiped out by the war in Vietnam?

The Edwards’s Pheasant, a Vietnam endemic, has been all but wiped out in the wild in the aftermath of the war that once ravaged the land. But a prospering caged community brings hope that it could once again come home to roost

By Nicola Davies

Framed by mounds of white tuft, the ruddy faces of the Red-shanked Douc monkeys peer out from the forest canopies. In the distance, calls of White-cheeked Gibbons echo through the early morning stillness. Underneath, browsing in the shadows of the forest floor are myriad species of deer; among them forages one of the world’s rarest large mammals – the Saola, a bovine that lives in forests so wild and remote, that they were unknown to humans until researchers happened upon the remains of one during an expedition in 1992.

That is a measure of how deep into the wilderness we’ve had to come to get here. We’re in Khe Nuoc Trong, an evergreen-broadleaf forest situated in the Annamese lowlands, Vietnam. It feels like you couldn’t stretch your arms out to yawn without knocking three or four endangered species off their perch. The area is a jewel of biodiversity, but something’s missing. A very important part of the forest’s heritage, in fact. You could spend all morning listening out into the stillness without ever once hearing a guttural “uk-uk-uk-uk-uk” call, which once rang loud and clear through the canopies. A call that belongs, or perhaps once belonged, to the Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi (Critically Endangered) – an endemic species that has not been seen in the wild since 2000.

This beautiful bird, whose males are iridescent blue with a flash of red on the face and a white crest, was little known in the wild even prior to its disapperance; it was said to love the dark shadows of ever-wet lowland forests. It was discovered in 1896 and was recorded by French ornithologists during the early 20th Century, but then went unrecorded for almost 60 years. Suddenly, in 1996, it was rediscovered, but almost as soon as it was found, it vanished again. Extensive surveying of its favoured haunts has found no trace of it since.

This is perhaps not surprising, the one thing we do know about Edwards’s Pheasant is that it is a lowland rainforest specialist, and Vietnam’s rainforests had a tough time during the 20th Century, to say the least. The centre of the species’ historic range lay in Quang Tri province, the site of the demilitarised zone during the Vietnam War, and an area that suffered the fiercest fighting and the most aggressive use of herbicides. During the War, which raged from 1955 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, seventy-two million litres of herbicides, including the infamous Agent Orange, were sprayed on forests and fields by American troops to clear vegetation. The effects on the area’s biodiversity, including the beleaguered Edwards’s Pheasant, are easy to imagine.

Since the war, increasing human populations and their demand for land for agriculture have further reduced any habitat suitable for straggling Edwards’s Pheasant populations. Some areas of forest, although they may look intact with trees regrown or replanted, may be devoid of animals because they have been intensively hunted for food or for illegal trade. As a result of all these factors, populations of Edwards’s Pheasant have been reduced, fragmented and left fragile – if indeed there are any left at all. As the years roll by, it seems increasingly likely that snares set for bush-meat may have picked off the last individuals and although it’s impossible to confirm for sure until every last patch of forest has been examined, the species could well be extinct in the wild.

However, there is good news, of a sort. Sometime in the 1920s, at least 14 Edwards’s Pheasants were taken into captivity and sent to France. This small, exiled population has done well, and there are currently over 1,000 birds in collections across the world, including birds in Vietnam’s own Hanoi Zoo. Some may not be purebred Edwards’s (many are crossbred with Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera), but genetic analysis is currently underway to find the best genetic stock. The plan is to select the best and purest birds to breed viable offspring for future release to the wild – that means two or three generations of chicks raised by their own parents. It will take time – at least five to seven years – but if successful, these birds could be released back into the wild, to be the first of new populations of Edwards’s Pheasant or to help the recovery of any remaining wild populations that may exist, undiscovered.

Of course, the wild must be ready to receive them. Currently efforts are being made to locate any remaining populations of Edwards’s Pheasant in pockets of suitable habitat within larger blocks of forest. A range of measures will be implemented to restore and safeguard other potential pheasant habitats. One of the greatest threats to the success of a reintroduction programme would be hunting, so Viet Nature (BirdLife in Vietnam), together with their partners, are aiming to eradicate hunting at key sites such as Khe Nuoc Trong, Bac Huong Hoa, Đakrong, Phong Dien and Kẻ Gỗ Nature Reserve.

The first steps towards establishing an Edwards’s Pheasant breeding programme have already been taken. With the support of local partners, Viet Nature will build a breeding station and environmental education centre on five hectares of land in Quang Binh province (outside any reserve for biosecurity reasons). The support of a technically qualified and interested partner is being sought to help fund and manage the new station when it is up and running.

Right now the Edwards’s Pheasant ex-situ conservation community, including staff at Hanoi Zoo, and zoos and private breeders in Europe, are selecting the best birds for the breeding programme. Four birds were sent to Hanoi Zoo in 2015 to breed with descendants of the only wild male, caught in 1997. Viet Nature and Hanoi Zoo are collaborating on a plan to bring the first birds for the breeding station either from, or via, Hanoi Zoo. Establishing a viable breeding group of Edwards’s Pheasant is just the first step. Release into the wild will take still more time, trial and error, and naturally not all the birds released will survive. But Viet Nature and their partners are in this for the long haul. Right now, in this Year of the Rooster, the first aviaries with a few pairs of Edwards’s Pheasants will be built at the breeding station. They hope that by the next Year of the Rooster (2029) there will once again be sustainable populations of Edwards’s Pheasant in the wild in its homeland.

At the core of this effort to return one species of bird to its natural home is the restoration of Vietnam’s forests. Forests provide the basics of life, clean air and clean water and are a buffer against the threat of climate change. But for Vietnamese they are something more, they signify the survival of the unique beauty of Vietnamese landscapes and culture. What better symbol of that survival than a beautiful bird, its feathers flashing in the dappled light, rejoicing in the life-giving rain, once again piercing the silence with an “uk-uk-uk-uk”.


New elf frog species discovered in Vietnam

Adult male of Ophryophryne elfina sp. n. in calling position in Hon Ba N.R., Khanh Hoa Prov., Vietnam. Photo by L.T. Nguyen

From ScienceDaily:

Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam

May 19, 2017

Summary: Going under the common name of Elfin mountain toad, a new amphibian is recognized as one of the smallest representative of its group. The new species was identified from the highland wet forests of Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam. The discoverers gave it this name that derives from German and Celtic folklore because of the resemblance they found between the tiny delicate amphibians and elves – small magic creatures. Furthermore, their habitat is known as elfin forests.

Deep in the foggy, moss-covered forests of Southern Vietnam, herpetologists uncovered one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads.

The name of the new amphibian (Ophryophryne elfina) derives from European mythology and translates to “elfish eyebrow toad.” Despite being recently discovered, the new species is already considered to be endangered. Having remained hidden in the highlands of Langbian Plateau, it is now described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The unique species name “elfina” derives from the English word “elf.” In German and Celtic folklore, elves are described as small, supernatural creatures usually dwelling deep in the forests of magical hills. The frogs were named after them primarily because of their small size of around 3 cm, which makes them the smallest known species of the genus — as well as their fascinating appearance — they have small horn-like projections above their eyes.

The unique habitat of the amphibians also inspired their species name. The Elfin mountain toad lives in the highland wet subtropical evergreen forest. There it can only be found on mountain summits higher than 1800 m, or on the slopes of the eastern side of Langbian Plateau, where the rainfall is high because of the sea nearby. Both the rocks and the dwarf curbed trees are covered with a heavy layer of moss, whilst a thick misty fog is constantly lingering amongst the trees. This is why such wet mountain ecosystems are known as elfin forests.

The Elfin mountain toad is one of the three known species in the genus Ophryophryne that inhabit Langbian Plateau. Curiously, all three of them share the same habitat, but can be easily distinguished by their advertisement calls resembling whistling birds.

United States rainbow flag creator, RIP

This 2010 video from the USA is called History of the Rainbow Flag with Creator Gilbert Baker.

By Nicole Chavez, CNN in the USA:

Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker dies at 65

April 1, 2017

Gilbert Baker, the designer of the iconic rainbow flag, has died.

In 1978, Baker sewed a multicolored flag that became the symbol of the LGBT community across the world.

Baker, 65, died Thursday in his sleep, said Cleve Jones, an AIDS activist and Baker’s longtime friend. He died in New York City, the medical examiner’s office there said.

A vigil in Baker’s memory was planned Friday evening under the rainbow flag in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza. The banner could be seen flying half-staff from the balcony of Mayor Ed Lee.

“Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family. He will be missed,” Lee said in a statement.

Baker was born in Chanute, Kansas, and joined the US Army as a medic. He arrived in San Francisco about 1970 to work at an orthopedic hospital where Vietnam veterans underwent skin grafts and amputations.

The CNN article omits that Baker also designed flags for demonstrations against the Vietnam war. It is said that Gilbert Baker’s inspiration for the rainbow flag came from an earlier peace flag.

The Batman of Vietnam

This video, recorded in Vietnam, says about itself:

24 July 2016

In episode 21 of the Monday Morning Travel Vlog, “Boats and Bats”, we visit Ba Be National Park (aka Ba Be Lake) and take a trip on the lake.

Kayaking, a bat cave, and of course some more shuttle buses.

From BirdLife:

The Batman of Vietnam

30 Mar 2017

We interview Vu Dinh Thong, a man who fell in love with bat conservation only five years ago and is now one of Vietnam‘s leading bat experts.

In 2001, the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) funded a project led by Vu Dinh Thong to study the diversity and status of bats in Vietnam’s Bach Ma National Park. An award provided the spark that ignited his latent interest in conservation. Five years later, Thong received further support for his bat conservation work, this time in Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve. Today, he is an acknowledged expert on Vietnam’s bats and their conservation.

How did you first become interested in conservation?

I first started paying attention to wildlife in 1995 during a field excursion at the end of my second semester at Hanoi National University of Education. But, to be honest, until I received an award from the BP Conservation Programme (the former name of CLP) in 2001, I was focused on academic research and had very little interest in wildlife conservation. With support from CLP to attend the training workshop for project leaders in London, I got the chance to come to England.

I took the opportunity to visit the Harrison Institute in Sevenoaks to learn about bat taxonomy and systematics. As a result of what I learnt I became the first bat specialist in Vietnam, and came to understand more about the diversity of bats and their status in my country. Since then, I have carried on conducting research on bats and their conservation. To my mind, CLP was responsible for initiating my career and helped me to direct the trends in bat research and conservation in Vietnam.

Did you have a role model or someone who inspired you?

When I was a student at university, my supervisor Professor Tran Hong Viet announced that Vietnam lacked bat specialists, and encouraged me and my classmates to focus on bat research. My first boss, Professor Cao Van Sung [a specialist in small mammals] recognised my capabilities and passion in research. He was the one who passed me the announcement from the BP Conservation Programme inviting people to apply for a grant. This was just a few weeks before the deadline for submission of the pre-application form. Until that moment, I had never heard of CLP.

Why are you particularly interested in bats?

I’m fascinated by bat diversity and, in particular, by echolocation. Bats have diverse systematics and external features. Their echolocation capabilities are absolutely brilliant. To my knowledge, humans still know very little about this subject. Like other Vietnamese wildlife, some bats are extremely threatened by human activities, which include cave visiting by tourists, poaching and habitat loss.

Bats are very sensitive to disturbance and many may become extinct unless conservation actions are implemented in time. I came to appreciate that bats are vitally important in ecosystems and need consideration from humans.

What aspect of CLP support did you find most helpful?

It was CLP who actually launched my whole career by providing support for my projects in bat research and conservation. Both my CLP-funded projects attracted a lot of attention from PhD candidates, scientists and the public, so they gave me a great opportunity to raise my profile. I have stayed in contact with CLP ever since that first project in 2001, and I receive updates through emails, Facebook, Roots Up and meetings with other alumni.

The whole CLP team over the past 16 years has always been kind, thoughtful, friendly and willing to help, and encouraged me in both research and conservation. I am very grateful.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?

My work has led me to interesting findings, new to Vietnam and to science. I have also had the chance to help my colleagues in wildlife research and conservation, particularly in training and supervising followers and colleagues. I have also successfully supervised four MSc students in bat research and three PhD candidates, who will have finished their studies on bats by the end of 2017.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I have made new discoveries including a species of bat – Hipposideros khaokhouayensis – not previously known from Vietnam, and a species and subspecies – Hipposideros griffini and Hipposideros alongensis sungi respectively – that are both new to science. I created the first echolocation database in Vietnam and through my work I have raised awareness within the Vietnamese scientific community about bat research and conservation.

Prior to 2000, there were no Vietnamese bat specialists in the country. All material published in international journals used to be written by foreigners. That is no longer the case. One of the visible impacts from my CLP projects is that Vietnam now has at least three PhD students specialising in bat research.

What are Vietnam’s biggest conservation challenges?

Illegal hunting of wildlife and habitat loss or disturbance are both big problems, not only for bats, but also for other threatened wildlife.

What are the keys to success for conservationists in your country?

It needs a combination of communication skills and scientific research. Some conservationists are good at communication but have no personal background in research to convince the authorities or society about the need for conservation. On the other hand, some researchers are very good at research but not good at training or communication. Both communication skills and research capacity are equally important.

What are your plans for the next stage of your career?

I plan to carry on implementing research, conservation and training to help save the threatened species and their habitats; to understand more about bat diversity and echolocation behaviour; to increase conservation awareness within the scientific and public domain; and to build and strengthen a national network for bat research and general mammal research and conservation.

What advice do you have for the next generation of conservationists in Vietnam?

You should have a real passion for wildlife research and conservation. Everyone needs to be aware that there will be some difficulties at the beginning, but that is no reason to give up. Success never comes easily. It takes a lot of effort.

US peace activist Tom Hayden, RIP

This video from the USA says about itself:

25 May 2016

In this excerpt from Overheard with Evan Smith, political and anti-war activist Tom Hayden reflects back on the Vietnam War 50 years since the Port Huron Statement. Hayden was in Austin to speak at the LBJ Library’s Vietnam War Summit in April 2016.

From Reuters news agency in the USA:

Prominent Anti-War Activist And Member of ‘Chicago 7’ Tom Hayden Dead At 76

He was one of several protesters arrested and charged with incitement and conspiracy during the Democratic national convention in Chicago in 1968.

10/24/2016 02:35 am ET | Updated 4 hours ago

Veteran social activist and politician Tom Hayden, a stalwart of America’s New Left who served 18 years in California’s state legislature and gained a dash of Hollywood glamour by marrying actress Jane Fonda, has died aged 76, according to media reports.

Hayden died in Santa Monica, California, after a lengthy illness, The Los Angeles Times reported on its web site. …

Hayden, who forged his political activism as a founding member of Students for a Democratic Society, which stood at the core of the 1960s anti-war and civil rights movements, was principal author of the group’s revolutionary manifesto, the Port Huron Statement.

The University of Michigan student ventured into the Deep South, where he joined voter registration campaigns and was arrested and beaten while taking part in the “freedom rider” protests against racial segregation.

Hayden, however, became perhaps best known as one of the “Chicago Eight” activists tried on conspiracy and incitement charges following protests at the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

A New York Times book review of his 1988 memoir, “Reunion,” one of more than 20 books published under his name, called Hayden “the single greatest figure of the 1960s student movement.”

Outliving contemporaries Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton, Hayden remained active in left-wing politics well into the 21st century, posting on Twitter just a week ago.

Winning election himself to the California state Assembly in 1982, and then the state Senate a decade later, Hayden went on to serve a total of 18 years.

Later he became director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center, a nonprofit left-wing think tank devoted mainly to analysis of continued U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, drug policy and global poverty.

Hayden was married to actress Jane Fonda from 1973 to 1990, with whom he had two children. Midway through their marriage, the couple graced the cover of People Magazine.

In later years his writings were published in national publications including The New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Denver Post. He served on the editorial board and was a columnist for The Nation magazine, and was the author of more than 20 books.

Tributes poured in on social media.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Hayden visited Vietnam twice; the first time in 1965 without government permission. Later it turned out that the FBI had begun to spy on him in that year. In 1967 he returned to Hanoi. He came back with three prisoners of war, for which the government thanked him.

Contrary to some people who are pro-peace while young and become establishment warmongers later, Hayden kept opposing post-Vietnam ‘humanitarian’ wars (see his article on hawkish US foreign policy bigwig Samantha Power). Like he opposed the 1999 Yugoslavia war, though an administration of Hayden’s own Democratic Party waged that war. And like he opposed the US plans to join the war in Syria. And the Iraq, Afghanistan etc. wars.

Facebook censors Norwegian Prime Minster on Vietnam war

Kim Phuc with baby in 2005

This photo shows Ms Kim Phuc, who became well-known from a photograph, taken when, as a nine-year-old girl in Vietnam in 1972, napalm bombs injured her. As this 2005 photo of Kim Phuc shows, the napalm scars are still visible and still hurt.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Vietnam photo also deleted from Facebook page of Norwegian Prime Minister

Today, 15:14

The historical photo of the “napalm girl” from Vietnam has not only been removed from the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten‘s Facebook page, but also from the page of the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

She placed the picture, like many other Norwegians, on her page in protest of Facebook’s removal policy. The company believes that there is too much nudity in the photo.

Solberg has posted a new message in which she expresses the hope that Facebook will change its policy. She writes: “I want our children to grow up in a society where they can learn history as it really was.”

Ms Solberg is a member of the Norwegian conservative party.

But, apparently, not conservative enough for Facebook. Apparently, to Facebook one is only a ‘real’ conservative if, to quote George Orwell’s 1984, one believes that ‘War is peace‘. And if one censors the crimes of the Vietnam war and other wars out of ‘history as it really was’.

UPDATE: after many protests, Facebook gave in and restored the photo.