Tahrcountry Musings


Tahrcountry Musings

Wildlife and Environment news from around the world

Dedicated to aficionados of wildlife and environment news

everywhere. This is the first part of a blogger’s journey through the

wonderful world wildlife and environment news.




Happy New Year


USA – Species Rediscovered in Protected Areas and Wildlife



UN launches International Year of Deserts and Desertification


“Bigfoot” Fever Grips Malaysia


New Mammal Named After Chocolate Giant Cadbury


International caviar trade banned


Forest Fires Threaten Rare Species in New Caledonia


Carpathian Mountain Protection Plan off the block


Brazil Honours British Botanist


DNA Analysis Offers New Insight In To Cat Evolution


Return Of The Predator Fish and the Effect On The Coral Reef


Five Species of Deepwater Fishes Assessed as Critically



Madagascar on way to Triple its Nature Reserves


Africa Lions in Peril


2008 declared as International Year of Planet Earth


Finland Develops New Fully Recyclable Paper


Surprising – In Bacterial Diversity, Amazon is a ‘Desert’; Desert



Pain killer endangering the survival of vultures


Ants Offer First Example of Formal Teaching in Non-human



China – New Clues to the Evolution of Mammals


New Caledonia – Forest Fires Ravaging endangered forests and




Out of Station


Periyar Tiger Reserve


World’s biggest fish getting smaller


Kenya – British environmentalist shot dead in Rift Valley


Drought – Kenya’s Wildlife at Risk


Canada Forges Ahead to Protect its Rich Natural Heritage


New Animal Species Found in California Caves


Greenpeace Leaves Dead Whale At Embassy


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment publishes full technical



Whale spotted in central London


Sad News – Thames Whale Does Not Survive Rescue Attempt


UK- Massive Culling of Grey Squirrels Planned


Decline of Orangutan populations linked to human activity


World’s Smallest Fish


Benefits of Coral Reef Protection


Environmental performance – New Zealand Ranks First


Ethiopian Red Fox in Trouble


Nations with wild populations of Asian elephants back elephant



Chimp Antibodies For Fight Against Smallpox


WWF and Honda join forces to save Sumatran rhinos


World Experts Adcocates Judicious Utilization of Groundwater


Trapped Dolphin is Finally Free


Australian Wollemi Pine Trees Endangered


Indonesian Turtle On The Brink of Extinction


Pigeons with Backpacks for Pollution Monitoring



International Policy to Fight Biopiracy


Direct Human Link to Orangutan Decline


Alternative drug won’t kill India’s vultures


Oldest Tyrannosaurus rex relative unveiled


Animals Freeze to Death in Macedonia Zoo


Whale Meat Ends Up as Dog Food


UK Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology


urges re…

Kenya’s Worst Drought Threatens Wildlife


New Fish and Seaweeds Discovered


Two New National Parks Created in Amazon


Convention On Biological Biodiversity Needs Your Input


No Update for A Week


I am back in Cochin


Seychelles Bans Shark Finning


Frogs Gives Key to New Drugs


International Year Of The Turtle 2006


Sumatra Rhino Population Reduced by 50 Percent


New Paraguay reserve for giant otters, armadillos and anteaters


Chimps As Team Players


New Shark Species Discovered in Mexico


World’s most endangered cat species threatened by EU funds


India and US sign wildlife agreement


BBC Unveils Spectacular New Series – “Planet Earth”


TRAFFIC receives Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime



Dalai Lama’s Appeal Brings About Exciting Turn Of Events



123 Taxa of East Africa Threatened


Germany Pledges €5 Million For Caucasus Transboundary


Nature Conser…

Rat Squirrel Rediscovered


Leatherback Turtle Project Begins In Gabon


Environmentalist Opposes Elephant Capture In Sumatra


Brazil’s Plans To Dam Two Rivers Angers Environmentalists


Chinese Frog and Ultrasonic Communication


Achim Steiner Nominated as Executive Director of the United



Poaching reduces Borneo’s population of Sumatran rhinos


Protecting endangered species improves the lives of local



Bleak future for global biodiversity.


Italian Celebrities Join Hands With WWF To Protect Biodiversity


Prince of Wales Receives British Environmental Award


Greenpeace slams Australia for promoting GMO seeds


Malaysia – Good News For Orangutans




I am back in Cochin


Loch Ness Elephant?


Belgian Scientists Discover African fish That Leaps For Land



Search Underway For New Director General Of IUCN


New Species Of Freshwater Stingray Discovered In Thailand


Rare Tigers Born In Siberia


Santa Cruz Island Is All Agog



4th World Congress On Mountain Ungulates-Reminder


Hope for Ecuadorian Sharks


Portugal’s Wildlife Under Threat


WWF opposes Shell’s Sakhalin II project


European countries care less about illegal logging issues


Ukrainian lawyer wins environmental prize for efforts to protect



130 Million Year Old Rainforest In Malaysia Under Threat


130 Million Year Old Rainforest In Malaysia Under Threat


France Releases Slovenian Bear in Pyrenees


China Cracks Down On Wildlife Smugglers


WWF Indicts Shell


First Captive Born Giant Panda Released Into the Wild


Cambodia – Good News For Bird Enthusiasts


New IUCN Redlist Released


Lost World Of Frogs


Booby Bird Makes A Comeback


Deep Ocean Trawl Brings Up New Species


Important Blue Whale Colony Discovered


Talking Dolphins


Message From Chair Caprinae Specialist Group


Magnets To The Aid Of Sharks


Reuniting panda populations in China


Bowhead whales re-surfaces in the Arctic


New study Reveals Apes can plan ahead


4th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates,Sept 12to


15th,Munnar ,Ker…


Reappearance Of The ‘Extinct’ Frog


Crackdown On Toxic Pesticides Help Endangered Bird Of Prey


Bounce Back

Next World Conservation Congress to be in Barcelona


Grim Prospect For River Dolphins In Nepal


Frozen Global Seed Vault Planned


Ibrahim Thiaw Takes Over As Acting Director General of the


World Co…

Poaching On The Increase In Nepal


Albatrosses Being Pushed To The Brink Of Extinction


Trigger for locust swarming identified


Rare Species Of Millipede Thought To Be Extinct Makes



Herring Threatened In North Sea


New Species of Hammerhead Shark Discovered


New Protected Areas Formed In Brazil


World’s largest marine sanctuary


Japan defeated in new whaling bid


Sad day for the whales


Three New Lemurs Discovered In Madagascar


Exciting Bird Rediscovery In Manas National Park


New National Park Established In Georgia


Efforts on To Rescue Yangtze River dolphin From The Brink


New Discoveries In Juruena National Park, Brazil


World Conservation Union Recommends Three New World


Heritage Sites

Scientists Unravel Mammoth Coat Colour



West African black rhino feared extinct


Taiwanese authorities seize Illegal ivory


Chinese Panda Sanctuary Gets World Heritage Status


Tiger Habitat Down By 40%


Scientists Solve Flying Reptile Mystery


Environmental Crisis in Lebanon


Single Fish Species Controls Health Of Tropical River


Hi guys I am back on the net


Extinction Threat For Congo hippos


North Sea Cod Fish At Alarmingly Low Level


Reuters-IUCN Environmental Media Awards Announce


Regional Winners

Rare bats discovered in gold mine


Breeding success for rare lizards


Maligned Dingo Has Vital Ecosystem Role


Balkan lynx Needs Urgent Attention


Orangutans In Dire Straits After Indonesian Bush Fires


2006 Reuters-IUCN Media Award Presented


World’s Rarest Big Cat Captured


Indonesia To Curb Illegal Logging –Good News For Orangutans


Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel Makes Headway


Return Of Dormice Brings Cheer To Conservationists


SARS-Civet Cat Link Proved


Threat For Barn Swallows.


Shocking-Zoo Poisons Lions


Snow leopard fitted with GPS tag



Big Boost For The Protection Of Rare Song Bird


US Supreme Court To Hear Global Warming Case


New Discoveries In Venezuela


Good Initiatives For Migratory Birds


River Salmon Bounces Back


Rainforest Protection-Good News From Brazil


City Birds Trying Out Music Variations


Provisions of CITES Not Adequately Utilized In Combating


Illegal Lo…

Indonesia – Greenpeace Activists Dump Logging Waste At The


Door Of …

International Mountain Day And IUCN


Mongolian Wildlife In Peril


Albatrosses And Weather Research


220-Million Year Old Microbes


Fish That Dance On Molten Sulpher Ponds


Cornucopia Of New Species




Happy Christmas Eve News


Fur Seals Threatening Whales And Penguins?


Happy New Year


IUCN – New Director General Takes Over


White-Tailed Eagle Reintroduction Trials in Ireland


Threat To Grenada Dove


The Whale And The Sailing Boat – A Sweet Story


All Set For Capture Of Rhino Birth On Webcam


Madagascar Pochard Rediscovered



Beavers Helping To Check Decline in Frog Population


Protection Of Edge Animals Set To Get A Boost


Rhino Poaching In Nepal- IUCN Members Call For Urgent



Montgomeryshire Declared Best Wildlife Area In Wales


Scientists Fascinated By Brilliant White SE Asian Insect


Biplane Design Of Flying Dinosaurs


Barrow Island, Australia Needs Your Help


Radio Frequency Identification Tags Snoops In To Wasp



World’s First Artificially Inseminated Rhino Gives Birth


Indonesia Promises To Stop Illegal Coffee Growing In Sensitive



Plunder Of Tuna Goes On Unabated


UK- National Survey Of Garden Birds Begin


Lights Out On February 1St


UK – Saving The Red Barbed Ants


Global Mercury Ban Urged


Check Out This Blog


Butterflies- Bacteria's Powerful Effect On Mating


Nilgiri Tahr Births On In Eravikulam National Park


SOS from Indonesia – Orangutans In Peril


President Chirac Expresses Support For The 4th IUCN World



Moth And Gyroscope


Got The Best Idea To Remove Carbon Dioxide From


Atmosphere? -Here I...

Church Suggests Green Weddings



EU To Crack Down On Environmental Criminals


Giant Squid That Uses Light To Disorient Victims


Heart of Borneo conservation initiative launched


Peruvian Rain Forest In Peril


Bukhara deer reintroduced in Kazakhstan


Robot Ornithologists Looking Out For Rare Bird


Army To The Rescue Of Malawi Forests


UK – Rare Fish Saved From Extinction


First Colossal Squid Landed In New Zealand


Chimpanzees Fashion Spears


Beaver Sighted In Bronx River After A Gap Of 200Years


Hi Guys I am back on the net


EU Imports Threatens Widlife


Spain Abandons Motorway Plan To Save Lynx


Virgin To Fund Elephant Corridor In Kenya


Hope For Threatened Eels


US – A Thriving Market For Illegal Ivory


Good News – Japan’s Bid To Reopen Trade In Whale Products



CITES Support For Coral


Algeria – Threat To Wetland


Europe – Brown Bears Facing Extinction


Albino Mountain Goat Sighted


Pipedreams? Interbasin transfers and water shortages


US – Shipping Lanes Changed To Save Whales


Vietnam – New Hope For Endangered Monkey



Rare Mountain Gorillas Shot Dead in Congo


Massive Animal Relocation On In Meru National Park, Kenya


Unusual Fossilized Cypress Trees discovered in Hungary


Large-antlered muntjac Photographed in Laos


Pygmy Elephants Threatened In Borneo


France - Sad News- Freed Brown Bear Killed In Road Accident


IUCN & UNESCO sends mission to investigate gorilla shootings



“The 11th Hour” from DiCaprio


Migrate And Get Lucky In Love – The Hyena Story


Campaign Against illegal wildlife Trade Items Being Brought to


the …

Ireland – The Return Of The White-Tailed Eagle


Peace Parks – A New Book


Cambodia – DNA Tests on Elephant Dungs To Determine


Elephant Numbers

Austria – Rare Birth – Panda Born in Zoo


Argentina – Huge New Marine National Park To Be Created


Brazil – Manatees reintroduction Programme


UK – Hedgehogs House Sparrows and starlings Included In List


of Spe…

11th Hour – Message From Leonardo DiCaprio


“Our green accountability” from World Conservation Union


Rare dolphin sighted in China


Scotland – Wildlife Crimes – Environment Minister Promises


Tough M…

Spain – Virus Threat to Dolphins


Colombia – New national park created



Italy – Pope Leads Catholic Church’s First Eco-Friendly Rally


Beware of That Pigeon Droppings


WWF Advocates Bluefin Tuna Sanctuary


Congo – Endangered Gorillas Caught In The Crossfire


Global Environmental Flows Network Launched


Vietnam – Shocking – Frozen Tigers Recovered From Fridge


New Findings – Asian Catfish Migrates Hundreds of Kilometers


Alert – Indian Bull Frogs Being Smuggled Out


Why bears rub trees? – British Ecologist Get To The Bottom Of


The …

Crimes against wild birds Go Up In UK


UK – Efforts On For Grass Roofs


Threat of Extinction At The Door For Many Species


Virunga National Park – WWF Chips In With Help


Australia – Call to protect Coral Sea


Bluefin Tuna – Good News


Global Warming – World Leaders To Meet In New York


Vietnam – New Discoveries


New Wildlife Reserves In Vietnam


New protected Areas In Papua New Guinea


Tragedy- 10000 Wildebeest Drowned


Indonesia – Plan To Plant 79 Million Trees in One Day


Crow Facts


UNEP and Google On Clean Up Drive


The world moves into “ecological overdraft”


Kouprey Is Real



Wanna Make Elephants Run? Turn To Bees


Wildlife – Use Of Human Shield


Blog Action Day: One issue, thousands of voices


China – Rare South China Tiger Observed In The Wild


Blog Action Day


Ancient reptile tracks unearthed


Mediterranean Monk Seal To Get More Protection


Succour To The Birds Of Prey


New lynx population discovered in Spain


Warning – From International Primatological Society


Ecological Vandalism In Cyprus


Iguanas Listen To Birds To Avoid Predation


Ancestor Of All Primates.


Angela Cropper of Trinidad and Tobago Named New UNEP


Deputy Executi…

Extinction Stares In The Face Of Seventy-five Percent of Bear



Grooming Reciprocation Among Female Primates: A Meta-



Queen Bees Control Sex of Young


Fake Snakes to Scare Australian Birds


You Can Cut Down Your CO2 Emission by up to 80%


Aggressive Sexual Pursuit of Males by Female Topi Antelope in



Photographic Memory of Chimps


Building of Mental Maps by Elephants


Long-Eared Jerboa caught on Film



Kicking the CO2 Habit


Apes and Facial Mimicry


New National Park for Russian Tigers


Merry Christmas


The Return of the Beaver


Driving Out Large Mammals – The Human Angle


New Frontiers For Tigers In Thailand


Monday, December 31, 2007


The Ants and The Butterflies – Fascinating Facts


IUCN launches initiatives for sustainable water use in Asia



Sumatra – Highways Threatening Tribes and Wildlife


New Hope For Biofuels


Chimps’ Ways Of Warding Off Malaria


Trees That Hire Bodyguards


New Hope For Northern Bald Ibises


New Gigantic Palm Tree Discovered in Madagascar


Poor prospects for Captive-bred carnivores released in the wild


Elusive Arctic wolves Caught In Camera


World’s second largest wetlands reserve formed in Congo


Salmon Facts


DNA barcoding developed for plants


Aerospace engineers look at birds, bats and insects for


improved mi…

Jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem



Dolphins and Whales 3D



Encyclopedia of Life.


Tunisia – Scimitar Horned Oryx to be reintroduced


Trigger for bird songs discovered


Amazing Elephant Facts on BBC


Love rites of Amazon River Dolphin


Saving the Snow Leopard


New facts about Bats


Amazing compass sense of Moths


Lynx making a comeback in Italian Alps


Competition – Wildlife poet of the year


New technique to pinpoint key biodiversity hotspots


Systems that save biodiversity


Interesting facts about ancestor of Elephants unearthed


Wild Talk – Exciting new monthly podcast from IUCN and WWF


The mystery of the Borneo pygmy elephants solved


Now a botanical art gallery


Caged Tigers are not mongrels


Biodiversity loss and its implications


Spider sex using ultraviolet B (UVB) rays


Here is reason to save ponds


Good news about the Amur Leopard


Microbes capable of sophisticated reasoning?


The world’s oldest recorded tree – Interesting press release from



Dogs help in conserving endangered animals


Indian Forest Rights Act – An interesting observation



Emergency aid for Pandas


Courtship and mating sequence of Giant Panda filmed in the



Shocking news about Tigers


I will be away from my desk


The wonder of bird songs


‘whales-eat-fish’ claims debunked


Climate change and plant distribution


Amazing diversity of life – Discoveries and extinctions


Tiger population plummets in Nepal


New Study – Funding by Global Environment Facility (GEF) for



Eight new natural sites added to the World Heritage List


Grassland ecosystems resistant to climate change?


New National Park for Reunion Island


5th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates


6 of 7 hornbill species wiped out in Malaysia’s Lambir Hills



New Primate Species Discovered in Madagascar


Restoring lost mangroves – Lessons from Philippines


New Population of critically endangered Greater Bamboo


Lemurs disco…

World Bank criticized for environmental goofs


Reuse of water bottles- Venice shows the way


UK scientists’ call to put plants in the garden that are of



Big time boozer tree shrew


5th World Congress on Mounatin Ungulates – 1st announcement 163

full text


Extinction threat for mankind’s closest relatives


Bloggers camp Kerala


Orangutans facing uncertain future


Good news about Western lowland Gorillas


The power of blogging in Conservation – An African Ranger


shows the…

USA – California Condor reintroduction programme running in to



US decision on wildlife draws flak from conservationists


Red Alert – African elephants facing uncertain future


BlogCamp Kerala a runaway success


Environmental pollutant has sex-skewing effect


Surprise – Magpies recognise their own reflections


Earth’s magnetic fields and animal behavior


From poachers to protectors: IUCN honours young Rwandan



Why flies are so hard to swat? Caltech scientists unravel the



DNA bar-coding hitches


Live and let live – Predator species help each other while



Prehistoric ant discovered in Amazon rainforest


Suicidal defense by Ants


All is not lost for Amphibians


Brazilian Air force comes to the rescue of penguins


Critical health risks from plastic


Mammal species are at risk of extinction


Sumatran Muntjac rediscovered



Internet use good for the brain of the elderly


Indigenous people demand say in conservation schemes.


Sound pollution affecting wildlife


Madagascar community leader gets Paul Getty conservation



Electric eels study inspires invention of new biomedical devices.


EBay ban on ivory trade


Indonesia reneges on promises to international community


Deutsche Bank says climate change and economic slump has


portents o…

World facing ecological “credit crunch”


Wildlife photographer of the year


Pesticides, fertilizers, the villain behind the frog Decline


African ivory sale – The imponderables bother conservationists


In praise of a “Green” Prince


International Agreement to protect migratory birds


Obama and nature conservation


The need to listen to local wisdom


Greenpeace indicts Indonesia as a big greenhouse gas emitter


Songbirds and ‘hymn sheet’


Environmental depredations of palm oil industry: The way out


Renewable energy product that helps wildlife – Award for


Cheetah co…

Mosques to the Support Sea Turtle Conservation in Malaysia


Showing off your research through dance


Guide to low-carbon lifestyle


Are we overestimating wildlife habitat?



Sweden cleanest, S. Arabia dirtiest


A new font that saves on ink


WWF releases list of threatened species


Anamigo Pet Photo contest


Season’s greetings


Climate change plays havoc with wildlife in UK


Alarming news from Canada- Canadian forests are now


pumping out mor…

Effectiveness of underpass- A recent US success story


A clearinghouse for conservation banking launched


Ecological indicators to forecast environmental disasters- A new



Human-made light sources acting as ‘Ecological Traps’


World’s tropical forests – A look in to what future holds


Local residents reclaim forest


Use of Vicks VapoRub – Be wary


Mans’ avarice jeopardizing the behavioral patterns of wildlife


5th world congress on mountain ungulates – 2nd circular


Emperor Penguins facing uncertain future


Amazing – Bees can count


Address your cows by name and get more milk


Earth Hour 2009


Here is yet another reason to protect the rainforests


Fishermen come to the rescue of Dolphins


Australian Bushfires- Threat to wildlife


Asian Elephants – Threat from Vietnam


Tropical rainforests: New study reveals tropical rainforests




Reducing the world's mercury- Hope in the horizon


Alarm Bell Rings for Asian Box Turtles


Reptile Smuggling Attempt Foiled in Australia – A Guest Post


Excellent Example of Public and Private Sector Participation in



Bottled water Guzzles Energy-Think Twice Before You Buy One


Want to marry? Plant trees


Tropical Forests’ Carbon Sink Function Affected by Drought.


5th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates- Online Registration 208

Plastic Trash in the Oceans and the Plight of the Turtles


Chemical Warfare by Plants


Two New Greenhouse Gases Accumulating in the Atmosphere


Now a Contraceptive Pill for Desert Rats


Leaf-Cutting Ants Help Develop New Drugs


Virus Powered Batteries are On Its Way


Kenyan Inventor Develops Cheap Efficient Solar Cooker and


Wins an A…

The Tale of the elephant from the Tail


Newly Discovered Lichen Named after President Obama


Sidamo Lark on the Way to Oblivion?


Imminent Danger- Forests as Sources of Greenhouse Gases


Good News from Afghanistan on the Environment Front


Grey Whale conservation -Sakhalin Energy consortium heeds to


the ca…

Arabian Tahr gets Increased Protection


The Sunning Chameleons- What are they really up to?


V World Conference on Mountain Ungulates – Photography


Contest on M…


Book Recommendation- He Knew He Was Right: The


Irrepressible Life…

Penguin Kidnaps Chick of Mortal Enemy


Good News – World’s Largest Leatherback Turtle Population



The humble flour beetle is about to play a major role in the



Video by Kazakhstan Animal Rescue and Education Centre


Top 10 New Species Described in 2008


Plants as Building Blocks for Plastics and Fuels


Birds that Use Tools


Reproduction cycle of the Spanish Lynx Defined from Faeces


Whales – Good News from USA


Environment – Individuals Can Make Big Difference


Here is a Surprise – Plants Can Recognize Self from Non-Self


Migration Pattern of Wild Animals Altered Worldwide.


Galapagos Islands – Alien Mosquito Threat to Wildlife


England – The Return of the Great Bustard


Bats Can Recognize the Voices of Others of their Genre


World Oceans Day


Wildlife and Environment in Afghanistan- More Encouraging



WILD9 – The 9th World Wilderness Congress


The Science behind the Taming of Animals


A Bird that is faster than Jets


Nature’s Delicate Tightrope Walk


Whisky and wildlife Conservation



Humans are Much Closer to Orangutans than Chimpanzees –


New Evidences

Tracking Animals-Combining Indigenous Skills and Modern


DNA Analysis

Sweden Plumbs for Climate-friendly Food Choices


Extinction crisis Looms Large Over Open Ocean (pelagic)


Sharks and …

Danger List of World Heritage Sites Needs Radical Change –



No Upadates for 2 Weeks


Back on the Net


Rhinos- WWF Rings Alarm Bells


Environmentally Responsible Traps for Pest Hornets are Round


the Co…

Dogs are Smarter than We Thought


New standards for Graphically Representing Biological



Excellent Use for Throwaway Mango Seeds Discovered


Birds that have a Penchant for Aromatherapy


Giant Panda Update – China Celebrates 140th Anniversary of


the Disc…

Why flamingos stand on one leg


Bugs and the Art of Fooling The Ants


A Little Known Fact about Carl Linnaeus


Chimpanzees that have developed multiple tool kits


Saola the Rare Asian Animal Facing Extinction


Out in the Wilderness


National Moth Night in UK



Coming- Micro aircrafts Inspired by locusts


Uncertain Future for Grizzly Bears in Canada


V World Conference on Mountain Ungulates- Preparations Right 246

on Sch…

Fresh Hope for Critically Endangered Giant Sable Antelope of



Blog Action Day 09


Twitter Posts


The Plight of Romania’s Wildlife


Serious Hikers and Backpackers tend to become Supporters of



Plants can Recognize Their Siblings


Watch out- Drinking water from plastic bottles made with the


toxic …

The Dilemma of GM Foods. Is it Hobson’s choice?


The Plight of The African Elephants


Logged Rainforests Can be Made Productive with Imaginative



Good Read – Endangered species for every country in the world


Fascinating Paper on Predator-Prey relationships


Eyes of Mantis Shrimp Could Inspire Design of Sophisticated


DVD and…

Tiger Moth Uses Ultrasonic Clicks to Jam Bat’s Sonar and


Escape Death.

Light as an Aid for Bird Migration


Pesticides: Easier Detection of Pollution and Impact in Rivers



Fascinating Mating Habits of Seahorses


Back in Kochi



New Method for Counting Birds Developed


Smallest Orchid in the World Discovered


Gift Ideas from Nature Conservancy


Leading Climate Change Scientist Arraigns the Copenhagen


Summit on …

A Window that Washes Itself


Biodiversity Loss Can Put You at Greater Risk of Catching



EcoCradle- Green alternative to polystyrene packaging made


from far…

Out of Station


Best Wishes


Cross-border conservation efforts can yield better results than



Evidence of Culture in Wild Chimpanzees


Heroic behaviour among animals is far more common than


previously t…

Safe and Ecologically Sound Pesticide from Scorpion Venom


Grasshoppers and their relatives that pollinates plants


Breeding area of the Large-billed reed warbler, the world’s least



Ecuador Throw Up New Surprises


Establishment of ‘knots’ by Mice While Exploring a New



Race to Save One of the Rarest Plant Species in the World


The Bornean Orangutan that Acted as a Peacemaker





Mangrove Regeneration – More Pictures from Uthaman



Prairie dogs- The Chatterbox of Animal Kingdom


Some More Mangrove Pictures from Uthaman


Gecko inspired microelectronics


Cambridge University’s compilation of top 50 books on



Wildlife and Habitat Conservation News:


The Retaliation of the Fig Trees When Fig Wasps Don’t Service



My Friend Rajiv and Carnivorous Plants


Eat Your Greens – Grandmas Advice is Very Relevant


Well-designed plantations Can Provide the Same Ecosystem


Services a…

Mimicry in butterflies and the Riddle of the wing Colour and



Hilly Areas with a Mix of Habitats Such as Woodland and


Grassland a…

Environmentally Safe Biological Weapon to Counter Tree-eating


Bark …

The First Ever Footage of the Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis



Beer, Old Age and Osteoporosis


Wildlife Management- Lessons from Indigenous Community


Spanish Woman Bequeaths 3m Euros to Iberian lynx


Decoding the secret Language of the Elephants


Wasps Discovered Antibiotics Millions of Years Ago


Very Effective Anti-Fungal Drug Developed from Carnivorous



King Cobra Charms Researchers


The Fresh Air Fund



In Praise of Moringa Tree


Now You Can Identify People Based on the Bacteria They


Leave Behind

Fascinating Information about Octopuses.


CITES Needs New Direction


Butterflies are Declining Worldwide


Predator – Prey Relationships – New Findings


SOS Blog Post from Uthaman – Help protect this tree to


conserve mos…

Toads and Precognition


All plantations Need Not Necessarily be ‘Biological Desserts’


The Eel Mystery


The Lemur that Came Back from Oblivion


The State of World’s Mangroves


Birds making a comeback thanks to farmers


The Science Behind the Raising of the Hood by Cobras.


New Caledonian Crows put up an Amazing Display


New Genetic Evidence Supporting the Theory there are Several



A Conservation Therapy Programme from Scotland


Hermit Crabs and their Social Networking


Prickly pear Cactus, the Amazing Water Purifier


Snails to the Rescue of Gorillas


The Role of Isolation in Speciation: New findings


Mammoths and their Anti-freeze Blood


Bee Research- Amazing Serendipity


Cleaning Sewage and Generating Power Using Bacteria



Wonder Dam Built by Beavers


New Family of Jellyfish Discovered off the Coast of Tasmania


Biological Infrastructure that Supports Life in Jeopardy Says the



Bad News for the Promoters of GM Crops – New Study confirms



Increasing Human Noise is Affecting Corals


Poachers Using Satellite Pictures to Localize Groups of


Elephants i…

iPhone Application to the Rescue of DR Congo mountain



Back From the Brink- World’ Smallest Water-Lily


Mystery – Garden Birds Prefer Non-Organic Food to Organic,


New Stud…

The Tongue that Helps Musk Turtle to Breathe Underwater and


Stay Su…

The Role of Urban Forests in Bird Migration


Scientists Choose Top 10 List of Newly Discovered Species of



Can Bacteria Increase Learning Behavior?


Little Things Have Tremendous Influence in the Functioning Of



Conservation Credit Scheme for Builders Launched in UK


This week’s Best Wildlife Images


Book Recommendation – Seasons of Life by Russell Foster and


Leon …

Whales – Why are there so many whale species?


An Integrated Method to Create Habitat Suitability Models for




Preventing Bank and credit cards Fraud – Butterflies Comes to


the …

Britain: The Return of the Blue Butterfly


Squirrels and Adoption


Modeling Preferred Habitat of Birds with Laser


Arabian Tahr in Dire Straits Reports Muscat Daily


Cockroaches Make Collective Decision


Mongooses Can Pass on Traditions


Anthill: Fiction from EO Wilson


Breakthrough Cisgenics Study Heralds New Exciting Vistas for



Evidences of Mathematical Strategies Followed by Marine


Animals Whi…

Blindfolded Seals Can Track Passing Fish with Their Whiskers


This Week’s Best Wildlife Pictures from Guardian


Fungi Can Speed Up Growth Rate of Rice by Two to Five Times


Humpback Whales Discovered to Form Lasting Bonds


Small Carnivores Play Important Role in Helping Fruiting Plants


to …

Whales Help Offset Carbon Emission


Crayfish Comes As an Excellent, Practical Model for Insight into



Research on Wild Potato Germplasm Points to the Urgent Need


to Cons…

Unconventional Natural Gas


This Week’s Wildlife Photos from Guardian


Scientists Crack the Biomechanics of Ant’s Balancing Act Using




Orangutans Communicate Intelligently Using Gestures,


Researchers Ha…

BBC Guide to Whales


Experts Bemoan Decline in UK’s Scientific Study of Insects


Birdsong Learning is Very Similar to The Way That Children


Learn Ho…

Chimpanzees kill Their Rivals to Acquire Land


A Conservation Initiative Worthy of Emulation


This week’s Widlife Images from the Guardian


Why Are Tropical Forests Biologically Rich?


The Plant that was Brought Back from Oblivion


Distance affects the Survival Rates of Rare Species in Tropical



Whither Carbon Sequestration?


New Study – Asian Elephants Living in a Combination of


Fragmented F…

Bees Observe a Strict Working Day


Unraveling the Mystery of Menopause Though Killer Whales


This Week’s Magnificent Wildlife Images from The Guardian


Article in Guardian – Conservation can be a weapon against



Hydroelectric Power is not as clean as it is made out to be


Reducing Global Warming with Coriander Turmeric and Cumin


Vocal Mimicry at its Best


Termite Queens Use Specific Chemicals to Prevent Other


Termites fro…

Sea Otters and Carbon Sequestration


Antibacterial Properties’ of Honey – Scientists Crack the Riddle



Mammals Decline in Africa’s National Parks


One in Four of All Flowering Plants are Under Threat of



Common Names for Endangered Species


Wildlife Images


The Return of the World’s Least Known Bird


Sad News – Poachers Kill Last Female Rhino in South Africa’s



Back from the Oblivian – Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains Slender loris


Fungal Disease Threatens to Wipe Out Amphibians before they


are dis…

A Map Showing the Height of the World’s Forests


Coffee and Genetic Diversity in Tropical Forests


Pain Killer from Sea Snail Saliva


This week’s stunning wildlife pictures from Guardian


Busted – The belief that monoculture plantations would capture



The Riddle Cracked – Why in Some Species of Spiders the


Males are m…

No update for 10 days


Like Human Beings Bees like a warm Drink on a Cold Day


Stealth Hunters of Dusk


This Week’s Best Flora and Fauna Images from Around the



Unravelled – The Anti-freeze Mechanism of Arctic Fish


Banana to the rescue of Crohn’s disease patients


Bugs and the art of using bifocals


Malaysia fast becoming a transit point for illegal wildlife trade



Hunting for ‘Conservation’ comes a cropper


Ant tree-guards that Deter the Elephants


Smashing wildlife images from Guardian


Bacteria and the Art of Purifying Gold


New Face of Cockroaches – Guardians of Health


Cleaning up Polluted Rivers – A Lesson from England


Freshwater Turtles on a Downswing


This week’s wildlife images from Guardian


Scoop by BBC Team – Highest Living Tigers Located


Scientists Crack Cuckoo Mystery


German conservation photographer Florian Schulz is CIWEM



This week’s Stunning Wildlife Images


UK’s Most Wildlife Friendly Farmers


World DNA Barcode Library


Mountain coati the Least Studied Carnivore in the World




Forestry and Climate Change – The portents


One-fifth of the World’s Plants are Under Threat of Extinction


Surprise- A Fish that Suckles its Young


This week’s Wildlife Images


Book Recommendation


This Year’s Ig Nobels – a Rip-roaring, Rib Tickling Lighter Look



England – Policeman Gets Award for Wildlife Protection


Biodiversity Underpins not only Ecosystems, but Medicine


Pictures of New Ocean Species Discovered



Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade – Good News from UK


Family Ties in Lizards


Good Book on Ecological Restoration


It is Not Too Late to Save Our Declining Coral Reefs


The Fresh Air Fund


This Week’s Wildlife Images


International Year of the Bats


Slideshow of Hundreds of New Species Found in Papua New


Guinea Prov…

Listen to Live Feed of Whale Songs


Ireland – Golden eagles to the rescue of sheep


Unbelievable but true – Monarch butterflies have evolved the



Colonization of Land by Plants Pushed Back by 10 Million Years


The Horse is a Dog says a Vet


Blog Action Day 2010


Earth’s temperature is controlled by Carbon dioxide – Results of


a …

This week’s wildlife images


Hot News about Coral reefs and Rainforests


Smashing close-up photographs of insects and spiders by John



Good News from South Africa – Black wildebeest Reintroduced


to the …

No Updates for the Next 3 days


South Africa Fits GPS on Rhinos in an Effort to Stem Poaching


This Week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


Chemistry is the Winner of ‘Dance Your Ph.D. 2010’ Award






Elephants in the Garb of Ecological Engineers: They Can


Create More…

Book Recommendation – Butterflies – Messages from Psyche


Amazing Discovery about Bees


‘Gender-Bending’ Chemicals Affecting Reproduction in Fish –


First S…

Cycads under Treat of Extinction


This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


This Monkey sneezes when it Rains


Hop on for a Virtual Tour of the World’s Wildlife Refuges and



Britain sets Up the World’s Largest Marine Reserve


The Deal to Protect the World’s Wild Species and Places – We


have b…

Colombia’s Indigenous Wayuu People Skip Eating Turtle Meat


to Save …

This Week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


Scientists Develop a New Statistical Model that Predict Where


Big C…

England – Crash of Eel Population Worries Conservationists


Predator Prey Relationship – Similarities between Marine and



Cracked – The Puzzle of How Cats Lap up Liquid so Elegantly


This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


The Tricks of Kalahari Drongos


Europe is heading towards ‘environmental catastrophe’ warns


Dr He…


The Shark that Lost its Bearings while Visiting South Africa


Environmental Justice Foundation EJF: Call to ban Endosulfan


Can the abundance of tigers be assessed from their Signs? A


New Paper

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


England- The Return of the “Extinct” Spider


Mark Ryan Darmarai from Malaysia wins the BBC Wildlife


Magazine cam…

Climate Change Report was a Copy and Paste Affair?


Obesity levels are increasing dramatically in research animals


and …

The Yasuní Dilemma


This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


Shifting Diving Geometry in Whale Sharks


Whale Inspired Under Water Turbines


The stronger the water flow in an area, the greater the



Book Recommendation


Parthenium Threat to Serengeti


This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


One of the world’s rarest birds sighted in Peru


Oriental Hornets and the Art of Tapping Solar Energy


Rise in Population of Endangered Mountain gorillas – Spin off


from …

UK – Woodcocks losing sense of direction?


Using Habitat and Landscape Models to Focus Conservation



New Drugs from the Sea



An amazing facet of the sociobiology of leaf-cutter ants


This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


Taking a Break


A Must Read Paper for Wildlife Managers.


New Study demonstrates that Dogs have Clear Mental



Kew’s Botanical Discoveries of 2010


It is Finally Resolved – African Savannah and Forest Elephants


are …

Did adapted Nursing Pattern Contribute to the Prehistoric



Seasons Greetings


Happy New Year


Secrets Lives of Beavers Filmed


Post-normal science and the art of nature conservation


New firefly species discovered in southern Taiwan


This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian


Selecting focal species in ecological network planning following



Translocation of stock-raiding leopards into a protected area


with …

Why we have discontinued Species of the Day


Conservation and Social Psychology


Pandas and Old Forest


Solution to a fundamental distributed computing problem from



Eating blueberries can guard against high blood pressure


Climate change and change of rutting behavior in Red deer



Sudan – The Plight of wildlife


Reintroduced beavers construct ideal habitats for bats, new



Genetic principles as practical management tools of large-


mammal co…

Indirect evidence of the existence of botanical diversity provided


Excellent Conservation Biology textbook available for free



Population decline assessment, historical baselines, and



Poor service by BSNL


Recognizing Gibbons from their Regional Accents




Conspecifics and Habitat Models


The Scent of Love


100 Newly Discovered Species in a Single Scholarly Paper


Prey Vulnerability can Influence Habitat Use


Nature Education and Protected Area Management


Flagship Species – providing targeted background information in



Species Introduction in Grassland Restoration


Alarming Increase of Phosphorous in World’s freshwaters


Re-introductions and the Use of simulation program VORTEX


Turtles around the World in Distress


More on Wildlife Corridors


Flowering Plants and Pollination by Animals


Migrants’ role in Conservation and Management



Importance of Social Science in Conservation


Amur tigers teetering on the brink?


Reducing Wildlife–Vehicle Collisions


Landscape level monitoring of species abundance and



Sharks and “mental maps”


The reversal of genetic decline


Good Taxonomists – An endangered lot


My internet connection is down again





Interdisciplinary approaches for the management of existing and



Inexpensive and biodegradable thermoplastics from chicken



Effects of patterns of mating success and juvenile survival



More on disappearance of good taxonomists


Economic Importance of Bats


Planning, implementing, and monitoring multiple-species habitat



Habitat fragmentation, percolation theory and the conservation


of a…

An assessment of the reliability of ground counts of ungulate



Mangrove forests and carbon sequestration


A new index to assess mammal species that are most likely to



A new look at predator prey relationships



Predator-driven component Allee effects may exacerbate the


risk of …

Putting Allee effects to good use


No update for one week


Wildlife management – A game-theoretic approach


Biological arms race between the cuckoo finch and its host


Population variables – A rapid assessment system


First empirical evidence to show that rewilding can work


Behavioral ecology is fast becoming a threatened discipline


says sc…

Protected area impacts on a global scale


Traffic noise and its effect on the foraging efficiency in



Ecosystem collapse- The importance of regular monitoring


An insight in to wallowing in pigs


Biodiversity conservation and human welfare – Attempts for



Risk perception associated with roads


Rapid assessment of historical small-mammal community


baselines usi…

Elephants – Age and enhanced ability to make crucial decisions


Reliable tiger counts


Eco-tourism tips from IUCN


Estimating body mass of pumas


Taking a break


Monitoring carnivore populations at the landscape scale:


occupancy …

Population regulation of territorial species and the complexity of



A grain of hope in the desert – News story about the latest red



Effectiveness of camera trapping Vis-à-vis live trapping for



Smart-phones and wildlife conservation


End of the road


Fresh lease of life for the blog


Light at the end of the tunnel for Dr Ullas Karanth


Understanding the effect of human-driven changes on


population perf…

Circumventing limitations of GIS technology


Do solitary foraging nocturnal small mammals plan their routes?


First insights into Sumatran tiger–prey temporal interactions


Sexual segregation in Giant Pandas


The importance of survey design in distance sampling


Conservation success story – Grand Cayman blue iguana is


back from …

Snap-buckling observed in vertebrates for the first time


Connectivity, patch based graphs, and conservation


Long-term preventive conservation is preferable to short term



Marco Polo Sheep is an international traveller


Book Recommendation


Spatially balanced acoustic surveys for bats


The first “true mammal” to sense prey by their electric fields


All is not well with protected area networks says researchers


Leaves that act like neon signs in restaurants


The significance of visual ‘nectar guides’



Biological process of dispersal – When it comes to urban fox the



The IUCN Annual Lake Swim


Science as a tool to guide conservation prioritization


Improving the reliability of Individual animal identification based


What’s environmentally good for one area may be an


environmental di…

Ramesh and his request for a suggestion on a good book on


“Remote S…

Trouble in Lemur Land


Invasive plant species can negatively alter soil communities.


Book Recommendation


Four months left to save Yasuní national park, Ecuador


Restoration ecology – New direction needed


Invertebrate conservation – impediments and imponderables


Reindeer has unusual ability to see UV light


New discovery may bring in small revision of biology textbooks


Sports and nature conservation


Studies should be wary when pooling male and female data


New Zealand – Flushing down the rainforests


Genes not responsible for the decline of Iberian Lynx


Research-Prioritization Exercises and Conservation Policies


Incorporating imperfect detection methods for estimating


abundance …

Exciting news from UK


Combinations of inexpensive methods can reduce monitoring


costs sub…


Better indicators of persistence in gap-analysis frameworks



Scientists it is time to dance


Protecting wild species may require growing more food on less



New Shark Species Found on way to dinner table


A rapid assessment tool for locating habitat extension areas in a



Depredations caused by human nitrogen additions


Effects of human disturbance on the diet composition of free



More on human disturbance to wildlife


Mountain goats are constrained to give birth in a short birth



Presence and absence of some species can be easily assessed


using f…

Eavesdropping to learn to hunt


New vistas in monitoring and evaluating large-scale, ‘open-


ended’ h…

Duplication of hereditary information and its consequences


Perils of deep-sea fisheries – A rethink urgently needed


Book Recommendation


When it comes to maintaining tropical biodiversity, there is no



Understanding encounters data, based on the interactions that



Developer builds new home for bats


The crocodiles that swam the Atlantic


New sparrow on the block



Appropriately managing above-ground vegetation carbon stores


in a d…

Excellent article from IUCN site – Conservation is not about



Functional diversity should be incorporated into conservation


and r…

Residential yards and conservation


A plant that “bends down” to deposit its seeds


News from IUCN


World Rivers Day


Ants that build wind turrets


Resource selection studies should be coupled with mechanistic



Hector’s dolphins teetering on the edge


A new method for counting woodland birds.


World’s Most Threatened Sea Turtle Populations – International



International Year of Forests bibliography


In elephants age does matter in leadership


Book Recommendation


Another book recommendation


World’s largest shark sanctuary


Social dominance in bank voles depends on the size of their



Determining and analyzing multiple ecosystem services across


a give…

Six ways to never get lost in a city again – A nice BBC article


New Discovery – Jungle crows can identify symbols



Unexpected ecological impacts of alien species


‘Chivalrous’ behavior is not exclusive of humans or closely



Otter fecal genotyping studies and population estimation –



UK is moving up a notch with landscape level conservation


Wildlife Management – Well-meaning management strategies


not based …

How to clean an oil-slicked penguin


Loss and fragmentation of natural areas and its effect on



Amur leopard captured on camera in China


Estimating age when multiple sources of data are available and



Theory and practice of conservation – Importance of quantitative 460


Ecological limits to human disturbances – A case study involving 460


Overcoming Impediments to invertebrate conservation


The two remaining wild populations of the endangered Indian



Wildlife award for farmer – Shining example from UK


Transgenic seeds and biodiversity – Alarm bells from Mexico


Sad news from Vietnam


Are we biased in locating our Protected Areas?


The dilemma of alternative land uses in conservation



The Kingfisher that flew from Poland to England


Applying eigenvalue perturbation theory (EPT) to select


optimum net…


Breaking new ground in Quantitative training for students of



The mystery of how woodpeckers avoid head injuries cracked


During breeding time Antarctic fur seals have uncanny ability to



Conservation biology and wildlife management – Beyond


classrooms an…

How does birds avoid collisions with objects and each other?


A Q-method study that explores ecologists’ thought processes


as the…

Conservation planning: using only one habitat model (even if



IUCN – arborvitae Issue 44 – Forests: a legal challenge


New UNEP report tracks the changing global environment over


the pas…

Noninvasive sampling – Optimized protocols designed to reduce



Interpol launches new Tiger conservation initiatives


For a rapidly declining population simultaneously tackling



Green Websites


No update for one week


Time taken by Loggerhead turtles to reach maturity


Provisional results of ‘Seven new natural wonders’ of the world


Photographic capture–recapture sampling in elephants


Great news from Ireland – Eurasian Cranes sighted 300 years


after p…

Bridging the gap between biology and engineering.


Landscape level conservation – Need for multispecies




Carnivores and the relevance of food quality


A never-before-seen footage of protected marine life caught as



Book Recommendation


A right to grow up in a wildlife-rich environment


Attempts to forge an artificial consensus among conservationists 479


New Discovery – The only orchid known to consistently flower at



Fine-tuning preparations of ecological connectivity maps


The battle for survival goes mobile


People’s attitudes towards parks, wildlife tourism and park



For all those wanna be conservationists who did not make it


Solving the climate change crisis naturally


Frogs hold promise of new drugs against antibiotic-resistant



A wasp that recognises facial features


Instant Wild – Images of wild animals are sent to you directly



IUCN Youtube link


Royal Society is offering a special theme issue of its



The impact of the 2008–2009 global financial crisis (GFC) on



If the forestry sector ignores gender issues it will miss a huge



Culturally defined dialect that sperm whales use.


Modelling patterns of habitat selection at multiple scales



Perceived predation risk and its effect on population


Sustainable practices create added value for businesses and



International Mountain Day


The importance of quantifying inbreeding costs relative to



Path breaking research on savanna chimpanzees at Fongoli,



The importance of tree hollows


Simplified criteria for selecting the best wildlife satellite track…


Scientists hope to develop natural insecticides from Dufour


gland s…

World’s tiniest frogs


IUCN SSC News – New IUCN Red List map browser: visualize


and explore

Sound as a way to understand the ecological characteristics of a 495


Taking a break



Happy New Year

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Tahrcountry Wishes All Readers A Very Happy 2006

USA – Species Rediscovered in Protected Areas

and Wildlife Refuges

Monday, January 02, 2006

Seven species thought to have been extinct or extirpated in the United States were

rediscovered in Protected Areas and Wildlife Refuges in 2005. The most prominent of

these was the ivory-billed woodpecker, sighted for the first time in 60 years in Arkansas’

Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. Others in the list are The least Bell’s vireo, The

Cahaba pebblesnail, cobble elimia and Nodulose Coosa River snail, The Mount Diablo

buckwheat, and The California dissanthelium.

UN launches International Year of Deserts and


Monday, January 02, 2006

The United Nations has launched its International Year of Deserts and desertification

programme.The aim of this programme is to raise global public awareness of the

advancing deserts, of ways to safeguard the biological diversity of arid lands covering

one-third of the planet and protecting the knowledge and traditions of the 2 billion people

affected by the phenomenon. Launching the programme UN Secretary-General Kofi

Annan said: “I look forward to working with Governments, civil society, the private sector,

international organizations and others to focus attention on this crucial issue, and to

make every day one on which we work to reverse the trend of desertification and set the

world on a safer, more sustainable path of development.”

“Bigfoot” Fever Grips Malaysia

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The whole of Malaysia is agog with news of “Bigfoot” the mysterious ape in Johar. An

indigenous man claimed he saw a 10-feet-tall ape standing on two legs beside a river in

the heavy rainforest in Johor State. One newspaper has published a picture of a large but

vague impression of a big footprint in mud. Park Rangers are scouting the area to spot

the mystery creature.Sceptics however say it is a publicity stunt meant to lure more

visitors to the area. The latest remake of the movie “King Kong” has added fuel to the

news circulating Malaysia.

Tahrcountry Musings


New Mammal Named After Chocolate Giant


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tom Rich, now curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum Victoria in Melbourne,

Australia, led a dig at Dinosaur Cove from 1984 to 1994 in an effort to find dino fossils.

Rich promised a Kilo of chocolate for every dino jaw dug up. Lot of chocolate was

distributed. Quite certain that a mammal bone wouldn’t be found, Rich promised a cubic

meter of chocolate to anyone who came up with a specimen. By 1994 Dinosaur Cove the

work was over. But there remained lot of specimens to be identified. One of the fossils

turned out to be a mammal bone, from an early echidna. This was a specimen new to

science. Tom Rich had to make good his promise. A cubic meter is lot of

chocolate.Cadbury factory in Melbourne came to his rescue. Because there was no way

of knowing who had actually found the bone, Rich invited all of the volunteers who had

participated in the Dinosaur Cove dig to the presentation of chocolate. It was a chocolate

galore. Naming a newfound animal species is largely the prerogative of the scientist who

discovered the creature. Presto the species was named Kryoryctes cadburyi . Details

appear in the December issue of the Journal of Mammalian Evolution.

International caviar trade banned

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

CITES the convention for trade in endangered species, which represents 169 countries,

has banned International caviar trade. The ban was imposed for scientific reasons and to

stop poaching in Caspian Sea. Sturgeon is suffering serious population decline.

Forest Fires Threaten Rare Species in New


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Forest fires raging through rainforests in New Caledonia are wiping out rare plant

species. Several plant species are being wiped out. A species of palm exclusive to New

Caledonia is under threat. The damage to the rainforests also brings danger to the fauna.

cagou, a bird native to New Caledonia is under threat.

Carpathian Mountain Protection Plan off the block

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The seven-nation environmental plan to protect the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern

Europe came into force on Wednesday. The plan aim to protect wildlife in the

Carpathians from Romania to the Czech Republic, preserve the cultures of about 18

million people in the region and promote forestry, mining and tourism without spoiling the

environment. The Carpathian region is a refuge for brown bears, wolves, bison, lynx,

eagles and some 200 unique plant species. Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Poland,

Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro are the participant states.


Tahrcountry Musings

Brazil Honours British Botanist

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jimmy Ratter who has worked with Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden for more than 45

years, has been awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Brazil.The award

is in recognition of the work he has done to preserve the Brazilian Cerrado. He is the first

from the UK to be awarded this prestigious title. The Cerrado is a type of tree savanna

with more than 5000 species of plants, many of which are unique to Brazil. Mr Ratter has

published more than 80 works, half of them about the Brazilian Cerrado

DNA Analysis Offers New Insight In To Cat


Friday, January 06, 2006

The latest issue of journal Science has interesting info about cat evolution. The study by

Warren E. Johnson and Stephen J. O’Brien is based on DNA analysis of the 37 living

species. Their new family tree is based solely on changes in DNA, with the fossil record.

Johnson-O’Brien team has been able to reconstruct a series of at least 10

intercontinental migrations by which cats colonised the world. Chris Wozencraft, an

authority on the classification of carnivorous mammals, says the new cat family tree

generally agreed with one that he had just published in Mammal Species of the World.

Return Of The Predator Fish and the Effect On

The Coral Reef

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The return of a top predator in a Bahamas marine reserve is proving beneficial to coral

reefs there. The finding is the result of a study by Peter Mumby, a marine biologist and

Dan Brumbaugh, a senior conservation scientist with the American Museum of Natural

History in New York.The study area was the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park..

They found that while the reserve has allowed Nassau grouper to flourish, large species

of parrotfish have thrived as well. Parrotfish are crucial to the health of coral reefs,

because they are one of the few creatures that graze on seaweed. Left uneaten, the

seaweed suffocates the corals and prevents reef growth. The sea urchins were the only

other species known to eat the seaweed

Five Species of Deepwater Fishes Assessed as

Critically Endangered

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Using the criteria of the World Conservation Union’s Red List, Jennifer A. Devine of

Memorial University Newfoundland in Canada, has assessed the status of the roundnose

grenadier ( Coryphaenoides rupestris); the onion-eye grenadier ( Macrourus berglax); the

blue hake ( Antimora rostrata), the spiny eel ( Notacanthus chemnitzi) and the spinytail

skate ( Bathyraja spinicauda) as critically endangered. The relative abundance has

Tahrcountry Musings


plummeted. Over fishing and highly destructive fishing methods, particularly bottom

trawling, have been the main cause of this decline. Human use of the high and deep seas

will be on the political agenda at the United Nations from 13-17 February and at the

Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

(CBD COP8) in Curitiba, Brazil from March 20-31.

Madagascar on way to Triple its Nature Reserves

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Madagascar, world’s fourth largest island, is known to have at least 10,000 plant species,

316 reptiles and 109 bird species. Three quarters of Madagascar’s plant and animal

species are found nowhere else. At a World Parks Congress in South Africa, September

2003, President Marc Ravalomanana had pledged to boost the island’s protected forests

and wetlands to 6.0 million hectares from its then 1.7 million hectares. The plans are

cruising along promised lines. The newly established Makira Protected Area – one of the

country’s five new protected areas,now forms along with existing Masoala National Park

the largest contiguous tract of rain forest under protection on the island. Involvement of

local communities is a key feature in all the newly established protected areas.

Africa Lions in Peril

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

African Lions are in dire straits. Lions have lost 80 percent of their historic range in the

last century. Threatened everywhere in Africa, they are in real bad situation in the

densely populated west. The predator is doing far better in the east and south of the

continent than elsewhere. The estimates are that there are between 23,000 to 40,000

lions in Africa. Of that, only 2,000 to 4,000 are in west and central Africa and the rest in

East and Southern Africa. In West most of the lion populations were small and isolated.

Small numbers meant that the populations were vulnerable to disease outbreaks and

other sudden impacts.

2008 declared as International Year of Planet


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The United Nations General Assembly, meeting in New York, has proclaimed the year

2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth. The activities will span


Thrust areas will be

• Reduce risks for society caused by natural and human-induced hazards

• Reduce health problems by improving understanding of the medical aspects of Earth


• Discover new natural resources and make them available in a sustainable manner

• Build safer structures and expand urban areas, utilizing natural subsurface conditions

• Determine the non-human factor in climatic change

• Enhance understanding of the occurrence of natural resources so as to contribute to

efforts to reduce political tension

• Detect deep and poorly accessible groundwater resources


Tahrcountry Musings

• Improve understanding of the evolution of life

• Increase interest in the Earth sciences in society at large

• Encourage more young people to study Earth science in university

Finland Develops New Fully Recyclable Paper

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland and the universities of Helsinki and Joensuu

have developed a new fully recyclable paper from potato starch. The paper is 20 to 30

per cent lighter. The new process will reduce the environmental impacts of paper

products. However, the production costs of the new raw materials are high at the


Surprising – In Bacterial Diversity, Amazon is a

‘Desert’; Desert i…

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The first ever-continental scale genetic survey of soil bacteria has come up with

surprising results. The diversity of soil bacteria in the otherwise species-rich Amazon is a

more like a desert, while the arid desert is teeming with bacteria. The reason for this is

the fact that the primary factor that seems to govern the diversity of soil bacteria is soil

pH. Thus, the acidic soils of topical forests harbour fewer bacterial species than the

neutral soils of deserts. The reserchers are Noah Fierer from the University of Colorado,

and Robert Jackson from the Duke University. According to the researchers “The number

of bacterial species in a spoonful of soil is likely to exceed the total number of plant

species in all of the United States.”. The findings appear in the Early Online Edition of the

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pain killer endangering the survival of vultures

Thursday, January 12, 2006

There is disturbing news for vultures in India. A study, led by Dr Deborah Pain on behalf

of the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, published in Biology Letters, is

pointing accusing finger at the drug Diclofenac. Diclofenac used to treat inflammation in

cattle has been blamed, for the rapid decline of Indian vulture populations. The drug is

destroying the kidneys of birds feeding off carcasses of dead, treated animals. The

researchers fear that more distantly related birds may be equally endangered, and that

substitutes for diclofenac might be similarly toxic. Disappearance of vultures, the

scavengers, could damage the quality of the environment.

Tahrcountry Musings


Ants Offer First Example of Formal Teaching in

Non-human Animals

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Professor Nigel Franks and Tom Richardson from Bristol University have come up with

the first proof of teaching in non-human animals – ants showing each other the way to

food. The findings appear in the latest issue journal Nature. According to the researchers

the ant leaders slowed down if the follower got too far behind. If the gap got smaller, they

then speeded up. Professor Frank added, “teaching involves the teacher modifying its

behaviour in the presence of a naive observer at some initial cost to itself. This is to our

knowledge the first example of formal teaching in non-human animals”

China – New Clues to the Evolution of Mammals

Friday, January 13, 2006

Discovery of a small fossilised animal that walked like a platypus but looked like a shrew

is providing important new clues to the evolution of early mammals. The discovery was

made by paleontologists Gang Li and Zhe-Xi Luo in the province of Liaoning in northeast

China. The insect-eating mammal lived alongside dinosaurs some 125 million years ago.

Measuring 10 to12 centimetres long and weighing 15 to 20 grams, the shrew like

creature had a thick coat of fur. The animal has been given the name Akidolestes.

Akidolestes strengthens the case of Asia being the place where the main mammal

groups first originated. Details appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

New Caledonia – Forest Fires Ravaging

endangered forests and wildlife

Friday, January 13, 2006

Forest fires, which have been blazing for nearly two weeks, have engulfed more than

4000 ha in New Caledonia. Several rare plant species have been wiped out. New

Caledonia represents a fragment of the ancient super-continent Gondwana. Isolated for

approximately 80 million of years, New Caledonian’s tropical forest ecosystems are

among the most unique on earth. 80 per cent of the 3000 plant species are found

nowhere else. French disaster teams had to be rushed in to quell the fire.

Out of Station

Friday, January 13, 2006

I will be out in the field in Periyar Tiger Reserve from 14th to 16th where I have no access

to the internet. Consequently the next update will be on 17th.


Tahrcountry Musings

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I had a wonderful time in Periyar Tiger Reserve. Park – people interface through

Ecodevelopment Committees is working wonders for the overall development of the Park.

People residing on the periphery who once used to view the park authorities with

Suspicions are now partners in the management of the Park. Periyar Foundation the

apex body of the Ecodevelopment Committees is taking deep roots after the initial

hiccups. The entire scenario is emerging as a worthwhile model worth emulating for other

parks in India.

World’s biggest fish getting smaller

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), the world’s largest fish are getting smaller according to

researchers of Australian Institute of Marine Science. Whale sharks are caught for food in

some East Asian countries and Australian researchers suspect the unbridled fishing is

causing a decline. In the last decade the average size of shark is down from seven

metres to five metres. Under the IUCN Red List of threatened species, Whale sharks are

categorised as “vulnerable” to extinction and they have been added to CITES list of

species threatened by international trade. Efforts are on to ensure better protection to this

threatened species.

Kenya – British environmentalist shot dead in Rift


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Well-known British environmentalist and wildlife photographer Joan Wenn Root was shot

and killed on Friday at her home in Kenya’s central Rift Valley.Nothing has been stolen

and the motive for the killing is not yet known. She made several acclaimed films in the

1960s, 70s and 80s documenting Kenya’s stunning wildlife and landscape. She was also

very active in trying to preserve Lake Naivasha, the Rift Valley’s only freshwater lake.

Drought – Kenya’s Wildlife at Risk

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A severe drought is threatening Kenya’s wildlife, which is straying out of protected areas

in search of water, risking conflict with villagers. Kenya has 59 sanctuaries, reserves and

national parks. The worst affected parks were Tsavo National Park in the southeast and

the popular Maasai Mara National Reserve in the southwest. According to the United

Nations lack of rains in many parts of East Africa, including Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia

has left around 6 million people on the brink of starvation.

Tahrcountry Musings


Canada Forges Ahead to Protect its Rich Natural


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Canada’s protected area agenda had three major achievements this past three months.

The protection of the world’s largest freshwater lake, the doubling in size of Canada’s

smallest national park, and the creation of a new national park, supported by the Inuit

people. Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, will be the first

area protected under Canada’s 2002 National Marine Conservation Areas Act. St.

Lawrence Island National Park, Canada’s smallest national park will be doubling in size,

through the acquisition of new lands. The third major achievement is the creation of

Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve. – The first national park to be established in

Labrador (Eastern Canada).

New Animal Species Found in California Caves

Friday, January 20, 2006

Twenty-seven new species of spiders, centipedes and scorpion-like creatures have been

discovered in the dark, damp Cavesin Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks of

California. The species are yet to be named. While it is extremely rare to find new

mammal or bird species on the surface, caves still have a bonanza for the scientists.

Jean Krejca, a consulting biologist with Austin, Texas-based Zara Environmental led the

three-year exploration. Park officials are framing appropriate conservation policies.

Greenpeace Leaves Dead Whale At Embassy

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Japanese embassy in Berlin has received a 20-ton dead fin whale, compliments of

Greenpeace. Greenpeace was protesting against whale hunting by Japan in the name of

animal research. “We want to show Japan how nonsensical whale-hunting is, and show

them they must stop killing whales”, said a Greenpeace spokesman. Environmentalists

have been blocking Japanese whale hunters in the Antarctic since December.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment publishes full

technical reports

Friday, January 20, 2006

The four “foundation” reports of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) have been

released. These 500-800 page reports examine Current State and Trends; Scenarios;

Policy Responses; and Multi-Scale Assessments. A summary report was also released.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was a four-year long global assessment of

the consequences of ecosystem change for human well being and the options for

responding to those changes, which involved 1,300 leading international scientists from

95 nations.


Tahrcountry Musings

Whale spotted in central London

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Northern Bottle-nosed Whale(Hyperoodon ampullatus),which is usually found in deep-

sea waters, has been seen in upstream Thames. The Whale has crashed into an empty

boat causing slight bleeding. Rescuers have been trying to keep the seven-tonne whale

away from the riverbanks. Specialist equipments like inflatable tubes are in place to help

the stranded animal. All efforts are concentrated on to persuade it to swim back in to the


Sad News – Thames Whale Does Not Survive

Rescue Attempt

Monday, January 23, 2006

All attempts to save the Thames whale failed. It died as marine specialists escorted it on

a barge down the Thames toward the sea. The mammal suffered breathing problems and

muscle spasms when it convulsed and died. Tony Woodley, a director of the British

Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) group said that despite the sad outcome, the

decision to move the whale – costing the group about £100,000 – was correct and they

had given it their “best shot”.

UK- Massive Culling of Grey Squirrels Planned

Monday, January 23, 2006

A massive cull of grey squirrels has been planned across Britain in an attempt to halt

declining numbers of the endangered native red population. Grey squirrels were

introduced to Britain from North America in the 19th Century. Grey squirrels seriously

threaten woodland management through damage to trees and by squeezing out red

squirrels. Biodiversity minister Jim Knight said the aim was not to completely eradicate

the greys, which have a population estimated at more than two million – outnumbering red

squirrels by 66 to one, but to reduce numbers over the next three years.

Decline of Orangutan populations linked to

human activity

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New genetic evidence indicates that the collapse of Orangutan populations is linked to

human activity. The crash during the past 200 years, coincides with deforestation in the

area. The study was conducted in the forests of Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in

Malaysia. By collecting the Orangutans’ hair and faeces, the researchers were able to

extract DNA to create genetic profiles.Professor Bruford a conservation biologist at

Cardiff University says it may even be necessary to move Orangutans around to prevent


Tahrcountry Musings


World’s Smallest Fish

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Maurice Kottelat and Tan Heok Hui, who are researchers at the Raffles Museum of

Biodiversity Research at the National University of Singapore, have discovered the

world’s tiniest fish. The fish lives in peat wetlands on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra

and in the Malaysian part of Borneo.When fully grown, it is the size of a large mosquito.

The fish distant cousin of the carp has been given the name Paedocypris progenetica.

The previous record holder was a marine fish of the Western Pacific called the dwarf

goby (Trimmatom nanus), which comes in at 8mm at sexual maturity. The habitat of this

fish is disappearing very fast, and the fate of the species hangs in balance.

Benefits of Coral Reef Protection

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A report, produced by UNEP with the International Coral Reef Action Network and the

World Conservation Union says costs of safeguarding the world’s fast-disappearing coral

reefs and mangroves are small compared to the benefits they provide to humanity. The

report estimated that intact coral reefs were worth $100,000-$600,000 per sq km a year

and a sq km of mangroves $200,000-$900,000 a year. Benefits from coral reefs and

mangroves arise from fisheries, timber and fuelwood, tourism and shore protection. By

contrast, the cost of protecting a sq km of coral reef or mangroves in a marine park was

just $775 a year. The survey indicated that costs of building a concrete breakwater in the

Maldives to replace a damaged reef had been $10 million per km. Time to think about

coral reef and mangrove conservation seriously.

Environmental performance – New Zealand

Ranks First

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Zealand ranks first in the world in environmental performance according to the pilot

2006 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by a team of environmental

experts at the environment school at Yale University and the Earth Institute at Columbia

University. The 16 indicators used to rank nations are: child mortality, indoor air pollution,

drinking water, adequate sanitation, urban particulates, regional ozone, nitrogen loading,

water consumption, wilderness protection, ecoregion protection, timber harvest rate,

agricultural subsidies, overfishing, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and CO2 per

Gross Domestic Product. Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom are

ranked two to five respectively. The lowest-ranked countries are Ethiopia, Mali,

Mauritania, Chad and Niger. Full report is available at http://www.yale.edu/epi


Tahrcountry Musings

Ethiopian Red Fox in Trouble

Friday, January 27, 2006

An endangered species of red fox found only in Ethiopia is in trouble. Dogs

accompanying livestock are bringing rabies which is endangering the Fox. Over the past

two months five out of a population of 200 red foxes have died in Bale Mountains

National Park. There are fewer than 500 red foxes left in Ethipia.

Nations with wild populations of Asian elephants

back elephant acti…

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The three-day gathering of Nations with wild populations of Asian elephants convened by

the Malaysian government, and facilitated by IUCN, the World Conservation Union, has

come up with agreement on the best way to protect the remaining elephant populations.

The consensus was that transboundary cooperation was necessary to protect the

creatures’ dwindling habitat. It is the first time that all the 13 countries are coming

together. Elephants are found in 13 countries, from Bangladesh to Vietnam.The wild

population of Asian elephants is estimated at 30,000 to 50,000.There are about 100 in

Vietnam and more than 20,000 in India. The need of the hour is to strike a balance

between the needs of elephants and burgeoning human population.

Chimp Antibodies For Fight Against Smallpox

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chimps are helping human beings in the development of new vaccines against small pox.

The current vaccine against smallpox blocks infection by the smallpox virus variola by

targeting it with another virus, vaccinia. vaccinia can produce severe side effects in a

small minority of people and couls even be fatal. A team led by Dr Robert Purcell, at the

US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been working on those taken

from the bone marrow of chimpanzees because of their close similarity to human forms.

Chimps produced particularly powerful antibodies in response. A hybrid human/chimp

version that is powerful has been developed. These potent antibodies can also provide

instant protection after exposure to the virus. This vaccine also carried a lower risk of


Protecting wildlife has myriad spin-offs, which we are frittering away by failing to protect

wildlife and its habitat. We are foreclosing the future benefits in our mad race for


Tahrcountry Musings


WWF and Honda join forces to save Sumatran


Monday, January 30, 2006

WWF and Honda Motors have decided to work together to protect the endangered

Sumatran rhino, the most endangered of all the rhino species found only in Malaysia and

Indonesia. Fewer than 300 Sumatran rhinos exist in the world. The project will focus

mainly on increasing efforts to protect the Sumatran rhino’s habitat and reduce poaching

through close cooperation with local communities and organizations. Honda Malaysia has

pledged to contribute about US$1 million to the Rhino Rescue project. The other partners

in this noble venture are Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Perak

State Park Corporation, the Sabah Wildlife Department.

World Experts Adcocates Judicious Utilization of


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The International Symposium on Groundwater Sustainability, which has just been

concluded in Alicante, Spain has advocated greater care of groundwater reserves,

increasingly threatened by overconsumption. Underground water constitutes about 94%

of all accessible fresh water. Two billion people depend directly upon water stored

underground for drinking water. Overuse is having detrimental impacts for people,

livelihoods and ecosystems. Ground water also provides a critical supply for many

ecosystems,ecosystems dependent on groundwater. The upcoming 4th World Water

Forum (Mexico, March 2006), will be a forum to discuss the modalities for judicious

utilization of groundwater.

Trapped Dolphin is Finally Free

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A dolphin which had been trapped in Maryport Marina,England for almost a month has

been freed by rescuers. Tony Woodley, of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group

spearheaded the rescue. The Dolphin that usually lives in saltwater was suffering in the

freshwater of the marina, which was bleaching its skin due to lack of salt. Immediately

after the release it met up with another dolphin and they swam away together.

Australian Wollemi Pine Trees Endangered

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Australian Wollemi pine, a species dating back to Jurassic times has been

endangered by a deadly disease probably introduced by an unauthorized hiker. The

Wollemi pine, described as a living fossil, was thought to be extinct until 1994, when a

park ranger stumbled upon a stand in a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park. Entry

was very restricted to this place. Those authorized to visit had to undergo strict infection

control procedures that involve sterilizing their footwear and equipment. A fungus-like

disease has now endangered the wild stand. Despite the threat, the species is not at risk


Tahrcountry Musings

of extinction. Australian authorities had propagated thousands of trees in plantations from

the wild stand.

Indonesian Turtle On The Brink of Extinction

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Roti Island snake-necked turtles, found only in the wetlands of eastern Indonesia is on

the brink of extinction. According to a report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring

network, the species is often exported illegally under a similar species, the New Guinea

snake-necked turtle. Government controls have been very lax. In 2000, the IUCN Red

List categorized the Roti Island snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi) as “critically

endangered’. The species is also listed in Appendix II of CITES, which requires any

international trade to be carried out under a permit system. The continuing international

demand for the turtle from collectors in Europe, North America and East Asia is pushing

this endemic species towards extinction. TRAFFIC — a joint programme of WWF and

IUCN is organising awareness building workshops for local enforcement agencies in an

effort to stem the tide.

Pigeons with Backpacks for Pollution Monitoring

Friday, February 03, 2006

An idea mooted by researcher Beatriz da Costa, of the University of California at Irvine,

and two of her students to use pigeons for monitoring air quality is taking shape in real

life. 20 pigeons fitted with GPS satellite tracking receiver, air pollution sensors and a

basic mobile phone are be used to monitor air pollution, New Scientist magazine reported

on Wednesday. The release will be into the skies over San Jose, California. A special

pigeon “blog”, a journal accessible on the Internet will host text messages on air quality

beamed back in real time. An interactive map also will be in place.

International Policy to Fight Biopiracy

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Misappropriation of genetic resources is a serious issue confronting many nations. Even

though treaties and conventions do exist implementation has faced roadblocks. Now

IUCN the world Conservation Union is taking imitative to address this serious issue. At

the request of Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) secretariat the union’s Canada

office in conjunction with its Environmental Law center has published results of an

investigation in to claims of misappropriation of genetic resources. It will attempt to

provide concrete info about what kinds of international policy decisions are needed to

eliminate biopiracy.

Full info can be had from


Tahrcountry Musings


Direct Human Link to Orangutan Decline

Monday, February 06, 2006

A three year study by Sumatran Orangutan Society shows that a drastic reduction of

population of Orangutans has occurred within the past century and it coincides with

massive deforestation of orangutan habitat. Professor Michael Bruford of the Cardiff

School of Biosciences, led the study. Professor Bruford believes that the animals still

possess enough genetic diversity to stabilize if immediate action is taken. DNA

information was used to simulate population history and to detect evidence of a

population decline. Details appear in the journal “PLoS Biology.

Alternative drug won’t kill India’s vultures

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The drug Diclofenac has accidentally poisoned a majority of the critically endangered

vultures in India and neighbouring countries and has been found to be the chief culprit in

the decline of Vulture population. Vultures are exposed to Diclofenac when scavenging

on livestock treated with it. Diclofenac causes kidney damage. Scientist have discovered

that the drug Meloxicam, equally effective as Diclofenac in cattle, does not cause any

harm to Vultures. Use of Meloxicam would definitely reduce vulture mortality in the Indian

subcontinent. Meloxicam is already available for veterinary use in India.

Details of the research are available at

Swan, G., et al. 2006. Removing the threat of diclofenac to critically endangered Asian

v u l t u r e s .

P L o S

B i o l o g y

4 ( M a r c h ) : e 6 6 .

A v a i l a b l e

a t

h t t p : / / d x . d o i . o r g / 1 0 . 1 3 7 1 / j o u r n a l . p b i o . 0 0 4 0 0 6 6 .

Oldest Tyrannosaurus rex relative unveiled

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The fossil remains of the oldest Tyrannosaurus rex relative has been uncovered in the

Junggar Basin, an area rich in dinosaur fossils, in the far north-west corner of China. The

fossil is estimated to be 160 million year-old. The international team under Professor

James Clark, a paleontologist at George Washington University, US, has named the

dinosaur, which hails from the Late Jurassic period, Guanlong wucaii. Details appear in

the latest issue of journal Nature

Animals Freeze to Death in Macedonia Zoo

Friday, February 10, 2006

A 25-year-old lion and a baby llama died of cold in a zoo in the southern city of Bitola,

Macedonia, near the border with Greece. Temperature had plummeted overnight to

minus 28 degree celcius. Both animals lived in open bar cages with no heating.

Macedonia gives very low priority to animal welfare.

This tragic case should make us rethink about the welfare of caged animals. Macedonia

is not a rich country but that is not an excuse for treating animals like this. Poor creatures

must have gone through agonizing moments. Imagine the plight of lion coming from a

warm country. This should not happen again. Wake up animal lovers in and around


Tahrcountry Musings


Whale Meat Ends Up as Dog Food

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The shocking news that meat from Japanese “Whaling for scientific reasons” ends up as

dog food has been brought to the attention of international community by the Whale and

Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). Ads describe whale meat as “organic” and fished

“freshly out of the water”. Mark Simmonds, director of science at WDCS, said: “Whaling is

a cruel activity and the fact that Japan is killing these amazing animals to produce dog

food is shocking. A global moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since the

1980s, but hunting for scientific research is permitted under the rules of the International

Whaling Commission (IWC).

UK Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science

and Technology urges re…

Monday, February 13, 2006

With speculation running rife that that the whale found in the Thames last month had

been disorientated by sounds, UK’s Inter-agency Committee on Marine Science and

Technology has urged that research into the effect of sound in the oceans on marine

mammals should be commissioned by the UK Government post-haste. The committee

says mammals are affected by many sounds, including sonar, oil exploration and ship.

The report points accusing fingers at 13 cases of strandings of whales and dolphins

which appear to have been linked to specific sources of noise by naval vessels. The

committee has suggested inter alia that it would be a good idea to expose marine

mammals to sound mimicking the noise of sonar, oil drilling and other activities to get first

hand confirmation of these speculations.

UK Government should forthwith initiate research in to this very serious isssue. This path

breaking reserch will help dispel forever the denials by Navys and oil exploration firms.

Kenya’s Worst Drought Threatens Wildlife

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kenya’s worst drought in years is threatening Tsavo West National Park. Maasai who

have trekked long distances to escape drought are driving cattle into Tsavo West

National Park in search of water and pasture. Cattle would harm natural habitats, and

spread disease. Maasai, who depend on cattle and often live on just milk and fresh blood,

say they have no choice but to feed their starving cows wherever they can. It is a tricky

situation out there.

Tahrcountry Musings


New Fish and Seaweeds Discovered

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Scientists of Netherlands Antilles government, the US Smithsonian Institution and

Conservation International have discovered new species of fish and seaweed in a two-

week study of the Saba Bank Atoll in the Dutch Windward Islands, 250 kilometres

southeast of Puerto Rico. 165 new species of fish has been discovered. Saba Bank now

leaves far behind places such as the Straits of Florida and the northern coast of

Venezuela. The mighty ocean still remains a vast unexplored territory. According to

scientists of conservation international an average of 6-7 new species of marine fish was

discovered every month last year.

Two New National Parks Created in Amazon

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Brazil has created two new national parks in the Amazon. Total area of the parks is 1.5

million hectares .The Brazilian Amazon sprawling over 4.1 million square kilometers has

seen lot of controversial logging operations in the recent past. Last year the forest lost

26,130 square kilometers to logging, development works and farming. The creation of 2

new National Parks brings fresh hopes for the environmentalists of Brazil.

Convention On Biological Biodiversity Needs

Your Input

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Virtual Curitiba Biodiversity Conference, launched almost a month ago is asking for

more contributions. Join the Conference and express your opinion on how to achieve the

2010 biodiversity target. Log on to (http://2010.biodiv.org). Click on “Join the conference”

to create your user account. Click on “Go to the discussions” to start posting your views

by answering one of the 4 questions or to complement a previous comment posted by

someone else.

No Update for A Week

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I am out of station for a week, mostly travelling. During this period I won’t be having

access to the internet. Consequently the next update will be on 27th. Sorry guys.

I am back in Cochin

Monday, February 27, 2006

I am back in Kochi.


Tahrcountry Musings

Seychelles Bans Shark Finning

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Seychelles has banned the cutting off of sharks’ fins by foreign fishermen. 100

million sharks are killed every year worldwide, mostly for their fins. Shark finning often

involves slicing off the highly valuable fins, often from living sharks, and dumping the rest

of the creatures back into the sea. Owing to the shark finning trade 65 out of 373 known

shark species are globally threatened.

Frogs Gives Key to New Drugs

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A University of Adelaide team has discovered that the secretions of the dumpy tree frog

are very effective at warding off mosquitoes. Mice given the secretions remained bite-free

for four times longer. The secretions can also act as powerful painkillers and

hallucinogens. The researchers say “The discovery highlights the potential of the unsung

properties of amphibian skin. Details appear in the latest issue of Biology Letters journal

International Year Of The Turtle 2006

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2006 is the Year of the Marine Turtle. March 1 marks the official start of the Year of the

Marine Turtle within the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian region. Six of the seven

species of marine turtle — Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback,

Loggerhead and Green — are classified as “Endangered” or “Critically Endangered”.

Many species migrate for thousands of kilometers between feeding and nesting grounds.

Regional cooperation is absolutely essential to ensure that turtles are protected at

different stages in their life cycles. They suffer from poaching and over-exploitation, as

well as from capture in fishing gear and habitat loss. International Year of the Turtles will

pool international effort and expertise to ensure the well being of this magnificent

creatures of the ocean.

Sumatra Rhino Population Reduced by 50


Thursday, March 02, 2006

The population of the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) ,the most

endangered of all rhinoceros species in the world, has dropped by around 50 percent

over the last 10 years due poaching and deforestation. Sumatran Rhino, the only two-

horned rhino in the Asian region, is found in Leuser, Kerinci Seblat, South Bukit Barisan

and Way Kambas National Parks. In the past, their habitats were connected to each

other. But now, they are totally fragmented due to the opening of forest areas for

plantations and human settlements, he said. Environmentalists are desperately seeking

ways to stem the tide.

Tahrcountry Musings


New Paraguay reserve for giant otters, armadillos

and anteaters

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A new nature reserve in Paraguay will protect some of the world’s rarest mammals,the

Giant Otter, Giant Anteater and Giant Armadillo. The new reserve is being set up by the

legacy in memory of Sid Templar a British Businessman based in Halesworth. The

acquisition is handled by England’s Suffolk-based conservation organisation World Land

Trust (WLT) and the reserve will be owned and managed by Guyra Paraguay, a non-

government organisation working in partnership with the World Land Trust. The reserve

will also protect a healthy numbers of jaguars, which feed mostly on capybaras (a giant

aquatic relative of the Guinea Pig) and caiman (South American crocodiles). There is

also spectacular array of birds including the Hyacinth Macaw.

Great stuff. Here is an example for other corporate houses to follow. Many developing

countries are strapped for cash when it comes to conservation of wildlife.

Chimps As Team Players

Friday, March 03, 2006

Till now altruism has been considered to be a human trait. But latest research on Chimps

is turning this view topsy-turvy. In a controlled experiment chimps were seen helping

each other. In the experiment there was no reward, and they still helped. Researchers

from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany

conducted the study. Researchers also found that chimpanzees recognised when

collaboration was necessary and chose effective partners. Details appear in latest issue

of journal Science

New Shark Species Discovered in Mexico

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mexican marine biologist Juan Carlos Perez has discovered a new shark species in

Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Perez and his team have named the new shark “Mustelus

hacat,” after the word for shark in a local Indian dialect. Worldwide, marine biologists tend

to discover two or three new shark species in any given year. But Perez’s discovery is the

first shark discovery in the Sea of Cortez since the tiny Mexican Horn Shark

(Heterodontus mexicanus) was identified in 1972.

World’s most endangered cat species threatened

by EU funds

Friday, March 03, 2006

Despite the EU’s commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, vast sums of European

Union money are being spent on roads, dams and irrigation schemes which threaten

critically endangered species and key habitats in Europe. Habitat of the Iberian lynx(lynx

pardinus) the world’s most endangered cat species is being destroyed in the process. In


Tahrcountry Musings

Spain, the remaining Iberian lynx population,with around 100 individuals left, including

just 25 breeding females is under major threat due to loss and fragmentation of habitat.

EU funds are used here for infrastructure, such as 20 dams and 16 roads, including the

new highway Toledo-Ciudad Real-Puertollano-Cordoba, which will have a detrimental

impact on lynx habitat.Other major threats to the Iberian lynx’s survival include

plummeting numbers of wild rabbits (the lynx’s principal prey), and illegal hunting.

India and US sign wildlife agreement

Saturday, March 04, 2006

India is the newest member of the US-led Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a

coalition that collaborates in the fight against illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts.

India and the US also agreed to exchanges of park and customs officials for better

implementation of the agreement. Launched in September 2005, the Coalition against

Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) focuses political and public attention on growing threats to

wildlife from poaching and illegal trade. The agreement is a sequel to the increased

poaching of tigers and concerted efforts to stem the tide.

BBC Unveils Spectacular New Series – “Planet


Monday, March 06, 2006

BBC ‘s new series “Planet Earth”, promises to be a veritable feast for the eyes. Planet

Earth, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, took four years to make. New technology has

helped the producers in depicting what would have been unthinkable 5 years back.

The series includes

• A complete hunt by wolves filmed from the air.

• Grizzly bears in the Rockies tending newborn cubs and feeding on moths.

• Displaying birds of paradise captured with a low light camera, including the blue bird

of paradise which has never been filmed in the wild before.

• Footage of a new species of blind cave fish in Thailand.

• Pink river dolphins presenting stones as gifts during courtship – the only known use

of tools by wild dolphins.

TRAFFIC receives Partnership for Action Against

Wildlife Crime Award

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This years’ Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime award has gone to TRAFFIC,

the wildlife trade monitoring agency. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of IUCN, the world

conservation union and WWF. UK’s Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight presented the Award

to Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC International at a function held in

London Zoo on Tuesday. TRAFFIC’s focus is both local as well as global. The

Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) was set up ten years ago to bring

together policymakers, enforcers and non-government organisations with an interest in

this field.

Tahrcountry Musings


Dalai Lama’s Appeal Brings About Exciting Turn

Of Events

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In January this year at a prayer meeting, Dalai Lama had appealed to his people to do

away with animal skins and artifacts. The Supremo had said he was “ashamed” to see

images of Tibetans decorating themselves with skins and furs. Now reports are pouring in

from Tibet that people have started burning wild animal furs. India’s dwindling tiger

population is an immediate beneficiary. There has been a sharp rise in the poaching of

tigers and leopards in India in recent years to feed demand from Tibet. Since December,

1999, 18 out of 19 major seizures of wildlife parts or skins in India either involved

Tibetans or were strongly linked to Tibet.

123 Taxa of East Africa Threatened

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Plant Red Listing Workshop for the Eastern Arc mountains and Coastal Forests of

Kenya and Tanzania has assessed 123 taxa as Threatened, and an additional 12 as

Near Threatened. The region hold at least 1,800 endemic or near endemic plant species.

Among the Threatened taxa are a number of spectacular Annonaceae including

Sanrafaelia ruffonammari Verd., a recently described genus and species endemic to the

foothills of the East Usambara Mts., assessed as Critically Endangered. Another

Usambara endemic Annonaceae, Anonidium usambarense R.E. Fr., has not been seen

since the Type collection in 1910 despite extensive searches, and was therefore

assessed as Extinct. Organized and led by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the

Workshop was supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)

Germany Pledges €5 Million For Caucasus

Transboundary Nature Conser…

Friday, March 10, 2006

Germany has pledged €5 million to support the establishment of a transboundary nature

conservation fund in the southern Caucasus region. The Caucasus region, covering

some 50 million hectares belongs to the 200 most important ecoregions on this planet. Its

most prominent species are the Caucasus leopard, lynx and the brown bear. The

conservation fund aims to cover half the operational costs for the most important

conservation areas in this biodiversity-rich region. The governments of Armenia,

Azerbaijan and Georgia are expected to cover the other half. Only the interest will be

used for project work, leaving the capital stock intact.


Tahrcountry Musings

Rat Squirrel Rediscovered

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Researchers of the New York-based conservation society were intrigued last year by the

bodies of one animal brought for sale at a meat market in Laos. They thought this was a

new species to science. It had the face of a rat and the tail of a skinny squirrel. Careful

analysis has thrown up the fact that it’s a species believed to have been extinct for 11

million years. a member of a family until now known only from fossils. The species is

called Diatomyidae. Details appear in the latest issue of journal Science

Leatherback Turtle Project Begins In Gabon

Monday, March 13, 2006

Leatherback Turtle is an endangered species. Gabon, West Africa, is believed to be the

species last major ‘stronghold’. A conservation project designed to help protect the

endangered leatherback turtle has just been launched in Gabon. In order to understand

their migratory habits the turtles will be tagged and tracked. Dr. Brendan Godley of the

University of Exeter leads the study. The leatherback is the largest living turtle and is so

distinctive that it is placed in its own separate family, Dermochelys. It travels the farthest

and dives the deepest The largest leatherback on record was a male stranded on the

West Coast of Wales in 1988. He weighed 916 kg.

Environmentalist Opposes Elephant Capture In


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Environmentalists are opposing Elephant Capture and translocation in Riau Province of

Sumatra. The Government has initiated this move in an effort to put an end to elephant –

man conflict. Sumatran elephants are highly endangered. Many of the endangered

Sumatran elephants die during and immediately after the capture process.

Environmentalists accuse that the Government is not dealing with the underlying

problem, which is the uncontrolled conversion of forests that are home to some of

Sumatra’s last wildlife populations. Riau has lost 57 per cent of its forests over the past

23 years. Half of the elephant population has been lost in the last seven years, with the

remaining population numbering only about 350.

Brazil’s Plans To Dam Two Rivers Angers


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Brazil’s plans to dam two rivers in the Amazon basin are threatening some of the rarest

wildlife Environmentalists say. World Commission on Dams (WCD had advised that dams

should be avoided in areas rich in species. Thirty-three endangered mammal species live

in the region to be flooded. Several species of large catfish that migrate some 4,500 km

to breed in the upper Madeira will disappear with the dam.

Tahrcountry Musings


Chinese Frog and Ultrasonic Communication

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The first non-mammalian species known to use the ultra-high frequencies that humans

cannot hear has been discovered. The pride of place goes to a rare Chinese frog,

Amolops tormotus. In the mammalian world Bats, whales and dolphins use it to

communicate. Kraig Adler, a biologist at Cornell University in New York, first noticed the

frog with no external eardrums while surveying amphibians in China. Detailed study and

confirmation regarding use of ultrasonic waves was done by Professor Albert Feng of the

University of Illinois

Achim Steiner Nominated as Executive Director

of the United Nations…

Thursday, March 16, 2006

UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has Nominated Achim Steiner as Executive Director

of the United Nations Environment Programme. He will succeed Klaus Töpfer, who

finishes his second term on 31 March 2006. Achim Steiner is currently the Director

General of IUCN – The World Conservation Union. Mr. Steiner serves on a number of

international advisory boards including the China Council for International Cooperation on

Environment and Development (CCICED) and the Environmental Advisory Council

(ENVAC) of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Poaching reduces Borneo’s population of

Sumatran rhinos

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A field survey in the Malaysian State of Sabah and analysis of data on historical rhino

habitat has come up with disturbing news that poaching has significantly reduced

Borneo’s population of Sumatran rhinos. Field staff from WWF ,Sabah Wildlife

Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Parks, the Sabah Foundation,the

Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Project, SOS Rhino, Universiti Malaysia Sabah

and Operation Raleigh participated in the survey. Evidence of at least 13 rhinos in the

interior of Sabah is the only silver lining. Populations on the Indonesian side of the island

and in the Malaysian State of Sarawak are believed to be extinct. There are believed to

be fewer than 300 Sumatran rhinos left in the world.

Protecting endangered species improves the

lives of local communities

Monday, March 20, 2006

A new WWF report based on studies in Nepal, Uganda, India, Namibia, Costa Rica and

China indicates that protecting endangered species improves the lives of local

communities. Conservation and sustainable management of species and their habitats

means better protection of forests, freshwater and marine areas. As a result, the rural


Tahrcountry Musings

poor who depend on these areas will have more access to goods and services they

provide. This not only increases incomes, but access to freshwater, health, education and

women’s rights often also improves. Ecotourism projects based on the observation of

species in the wild generate significant amounts of money to communities. A prime

example, is Tortuguero (Costa Rica), where live turtles are worth more to the local

economy than turtle meat and eggs ever were. The community strongly supports

conservation measures to promote ecotourism, and both turtle and tourist numbers have

been climbing over the past 30 years.

Bleak future for global biodiversity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The just published Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) holds bleak future for the

biodiversity. The GBO says “unprecedented efforts” will be needed to achieve to slow the

decline in the richness of living systems. Forests continue to be lost at a rate of six million

hectares a year and similar trends are noted for marine and coastal ecosystems such as

coral reefs, kelp beds and mangrove forests. The report stresses that despite the gloomy

trends, the target set by the Convention – involving a stabilisation, not a reversal of these

losses is still within reach.

Italian Celebrities Join Hands With WWF To

Protect Biodiversity

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Italian football star Gianfranco Zola has teamed up with WWF-Italy to promote

environmental education programmes in Italian schools. Zola is one of several celebrities

being recruited by WWF to help spread the message of biodiversity protection in Italy.

“We have asked celebrities to come back to their primary schools and explain to young

children the importance of protecting nature and biodiversity,” said Alessandra Vivarelli,

WWF-Italy’s Head of Public Relations. Other celebrities include the singer Elisa Toffoli,

television presenter Paola Saluzzi, and soap opera Actor Marzio Honorato.

This is wonderful. Tahrcountry call up on celebreties, particularly sports celebreties all

over the world to emulate this wonderful experiment. You can ceratainly play a great role

here. Our children are our future.

Prince of Wales Receives British Environmental


Friday, March 24, 2006

WWF has presented His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales with an Awareness Award.

The award is given in recognition of achieving an outstanding impact on public

consciousness on the subject on the environment. “ The determination of the prince not

only to highlight the issues threatening the environment as well as proposing possible

solutions, but also to act as a catalyst for change” was highlighted by the WWF. The

prince said, “What we need now is a set of positive actions that will really engage human

ingenuity and determination and create some solutions, matched by the political and

Tahrcountry Musings


personal will to carry them through.”

Greenpeace slams Australia for promoting GMO


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Greenpeace criticized Australia on Friday for promoting the experimental use of highly

controversial “terminator seeds”.Greenpeace says the GMO seeds undermines biological

diversity and creates dependence among poor farmers. A very bad dependence on

multinational companies to supply them with the seeds. Terminator seeds could spread

their genes into conventional crops and make them sterile. Australia has been lobbying

hard at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, in the Brazilian city of Curitiba, to lift

the ban on GMO seeds saying it impedes scientific research.

Kudos to Greenpeace.

Malaysia – Good News For Orangutans

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Consistent campaigns and pleas by environmental groups to protect the habitats of

orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo is bringing in results. The Sabah state

government has announced that it would cease all commercial activities in the Ulu

Segama and Malau forests by December 2007. The area covers more than 200,000

hectares of forest and is home to a third of the wild orangutan population in Malaysia


This comes as a whiff of fresh air amidst all the bad news about Orangutans that we have

been getting these past few months. Kudos to the environmentalists who have been

working ceaselessly, and to Malaysian Government for heeding to their pleas.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Till 15th April I have only limited access to internet,that too very erratic. I will be travelling

a lot to areas where internet is only a dream. The updates will resume their normal

schedule from 15th onwards. I will try my level best to post very important news when I

get a chance. Bye for now.

I am back in Cochin

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I am back in Cochin. The updates will be resumed.


Tahrcountry Musings

Loch Ness Elephant?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Paleontologist and painter Neil Clark has suggested that the Loch Ness monster was

perhaps a paddling elephant. Neil Clark has suggested that the silhouette of the Loch

Ness monster, with its long slender neck and characteristic humps resembles silhouette

of swimming Indian elephant Clark suggests that a circus caravan could have stopped to

allow its elephants a rest and have a swim. Circuses used to go along the road to

Inverness Unsuspecting onlookers could have mistaken the submerged pachyderm for a

strange beast. Clark’s theory is published in the current edition of the journal of the Open

University Geological Society.

Belgian Scientists Discover African fish That

Leaps For Land Bugs

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Belgian scientists have discovered an African fish that leaps for land bugs.The eel

catfish, Channallabes apus, was found in the muddy swamps of the tropics of western

Africa. The fish is able to propel itself out of the water and bend its head downwards to

capture insects in its jaws. This discovery will help to explain how fish moved from sea to

land millions of years ago. Details appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature

Search Underway For New Director General Of


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Achim Steiner will be stepping down as World Conservation Union (IUCN) Director

General on 31 May in order to take up his appointment as Executive Director of the

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) from 15 June 2006. A Search

Committee has been constituted to find a successor and a process launched to fill this

key position of Chief Executive of the World Conservation Union. Advertisement has

been placed in several major publications and it is now being widely distributed through

electronic networks and on websites. Spread the message around. For more information,

please visit www.iucn.org/dgsearch.

New Species Of Freshwater Stingray Discovered

In Thailand

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A new species of freshwater stingray has been discovered in a river in western Thailand.

The species was first observed two years ago but has only now been confirmed as a new

species by researchers from Smithsonian Institute. The Stingray has been named

Himantura kittipongi.

Tahrcountry Musings


Rare Tigers Born In Siberia

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The first birth of Amur tiger cubs in over a century has been reported in southeast Siberia.

Scientists found traces of cubs they said were about six months old and their mother in

the snow-covered taiga. The tiger cubs were first spotted in the Zeiskii Nature Reserve by

a driver. The WWF said tigers found in the Amur Region may have migrated there from

the neighbouring Primorye and Khabarovsk Territories in Russia’s Far East, home to a

population of some 450 Amur tigers.

Santa Cruz Island Is All Agog

Monday, April 17, 2006

In what is described as a Blessed event for wildlife biologists a pair of bald eagles

hatched a chick on Santa Cruz Island for the first time in 50 years. The successful

breeding marked a significant milestone in the four-year effort to reintroduce the eagles to

the island. Bald Eagles disappeared off the coast of California the 1960s as DDT polluted

their food chain.

This indeed is heartwarming news for wildlife enthusiasists

4th World Congress On Mountain Ungulates-


Monday, April 17, 2006

The last date for submission of Abstract is 31 May 2006. For details log on to


Hope for Ecuadorian Sharks

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ecuadorian Sharks have been recently threatened by overfishing. But there is new hope

on the horizon. Ecuador has made a major step forward in the conservation of its sharks

by agreeing on a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of

Sharks. The Plan of Action is the result of joint discussions between the Ministry of Trade,

Industry and Fisheries of Ecuador, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and all

stakeholders. It falls under the FAO International Plan of Action for Sharks, part of the

code of Practice for Responsible Fisheries.


Tahrcountry Musings

Portugal’s Wildlife Under Threat

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A study by Portugal’s Institute for the Conservation of Nature has found that more than

half of Portugal’s bird, animal and fish species face some degree of threat, mostly from

human action. Species critically endangered include the Iberian lynx, the mountain goat,

the monk seal, the black vulture and the Saramuga, a freshwater fish found in the

Guadiana River basin. Forest fires, dams, hunting, timber planting for the pulp and paper

industry, abandonment of farmland and draining of wetlands are the main culprit.

WWF opposes Shell’s Sakhalin II project

Friday, April 21, 2006

WWF has jumped in to the fray against Shell’s Sakhalin II project. WWf has demanded

that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) should not fund

Shell’s proposed construction of the largest hydrocarbon construction project in the world

in Russia’s Far East without improved mitigation measures. Shell’s Sakhalin II oil and gas

project had earned the wrath of environmentalists right from the word go. They maintain

that Shell has provided no convincing evidence that the project is not harming the 100

remaining western grey whales. At the recent meeting in Vancouver, Canada, scientists

confirmed that just one extra female death per year would be likely to result in their

extinction. More emaciated whales were seen last year than any year since 2001 as it

suggests disruption of feeding.

Here is another example where a multinationl’s avarice is endangering the wildlife.

European countries care less about illegal

logging issues

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A new WWF survey of 22 European Union governments and Switzerland has come up

with the surprising fact that they care less about illegal logging issues now. This is in stark

contrast to the previously conducted surveys. According to the survey, the best

performing countries are the UK followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, Latvia and

Belgium. WWF has urged national governments to stop paying lip service on illegal

logging issues and to better support responsibly acting companies and governments

inside and outside the EU through their national policies.

Ukrainian lawyer wins environmental prize for

efforts to protect th…

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ukrainian lawyer Olya Melen has won this year’s prestigious Goldman Environmental

prize for her work in the Danube Delta. The prize went to Olya Melen for successfully

using her legal skills to temporarily halt construction of a massive canal that would have

cut through the heart of the Danube Delta. This delta is one of Europe’s most valuable

Tahrcountry Musings


wetlands, home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including the 300 species of birds,

including the globally threatened Dalmatian pelican, and 45 freshwater fish species.

130 Million Year Old Rainforest In Malaysia

Under Threat

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A 130 million-year-old tropical rainforest in Malaysia is under threat from logging.

300,000-hectare Belum-Temengor Forest complex in northern Perak state is a major

catchment area and supports 274 species of birds and more than 100 types of mammals,

including 14 globally threatened species such as the Malayan tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros

and the Plain-pouched hornbill. Environmentalists are increasing the pace of protest to

save this piece of land, which is also a corridor for wildlife from Thailand. The local

administration is adamant saying logging provides jobs and is essential for the local


130 Million Year Old Rainforest In Malaysia

Under Threat

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A 130 million-year-old tropical rainforest in Malaysia is under threat from logging.

300,000-hectare Belum-Temengor Forest complex in northern Perak state is a major

catchment area and supports 274 species of birds and more than 100 types of mammals,

including 14 globally threatened species such as the Malayan tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros

and the Plain-pouched hornbill. Environmentalists are increasing the pace of protest to

save this piece of land, which is also a corridor for wildlife from Thailand. The local

administration is adamant saying logging provides jobs and is essential for the local


It is really sad that the Malaysian Government does not realise the folly it is commiting.

This valuable 130 million year forest is something which man cannot replicate if it is lost.

Please try and save it for the posterity. Environmentalists from around the world are

exhorted to write to nearest Malaysian embassy.

France Releases Slovenian Bear in Pyrenees

Thursday, April 27, 2006

only about 18 brown bears are thought to be left in the Pyrenees and there is a shortage

of females. In an effort to boost the population France has imported a female from

Slovenia and released it into the Pyrenees. It was the first of five bears due to be set free

before June 15 in the mountains that divide France and Spain. Eventhough farmers are

worried the bears will attack their animals ecology Minister Nelly Olin said their fears are

unfounded and will be addresed properly when the time comes.


Tahrcountry Musings

China Cracks Down On Wildlife Smugglers

Friday, April 28, 2006

Chinese authorities in Yunnan have seized 278 bear paws and 416 pangolins from a 20-

member gang engaged in smuggling endangered animals. The perpetrators are behind

the bars. Bear’s paw is a Chinese delicacy. Pangolin meat is believed to cure asthma. A

recent survey conducted jointly by the China Wildlife Conservation Association and US

non-governmental organisation Wildaid showed that those who eat wildlife fell

dramatically compared with a 1999 survey. This is due to the fear of contracting diseases

such as SARS. SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which broke out in

China’s southern province of Guangdong in 2002 killed 774 people and infected more

than 8,000 people.

It is good to see Chinese authorities cracking down on smugglers. Chinese propensity to

eat wildlife has been a cause of worry for environmentalists around the world. Creating

awareness is our best bet for the future.

WWF Indicts Shell

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A new report by WWF — Offshore Oil Spill Response in Dynamic Ice Conditions —

concludes that the highly dynamic sea ice conditions around Shell’s Sakhalin operation,

which can last for more than six months of the year, would mean that the company would

not be able to respond to an oil spill for half of the year or longer. WWF has demanded

that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) should demand

effective environmental protection measures for oil spills from Shell or decline funding.

“Shell continues to gamble with the environment,” said Paul Steele, WWF International’s

Chief Operating Officer. Any unrecovered oil would contaminate the feeding ground of

the last known population of western gray whales. Endangered Steller’s sea eagle will

also be affected.

First Captive Born Giant Panda Released Into the


Monday, May 01, 2006

Xiang Xiang the panda today became the first captive-born giant panda to be released

into the wild. Xiang Xiang was raised at the China Conservation and Research Center for

the Giant Panda, or Panda Center, in the Wolong Nature Reserve. Only about 1,600

giant pandas are still left in the wild. If Xiang Xiang’s release proves a success, other

captive-bred panda releases will follow. Lack of genetic diversity in pandas in the wild is

worrying the conservationists. These releases are expected to tackle this problem and

pave way for increase in Panda population. Increased protection of habitat will have to go

hand in hand with this.

It is good to see one of the world’s best-loved endangered animals getting the

conservation attention it deserves. Tahrcountry congratulate the Chinese authorities for

these stps.

Tahrcountry Musings


Cambodia – Good News For Bird Enthusiasts

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A flock of white-shouldered ibis Pseudibis davisoni, one of the worlds’ most endangered

birds has been discovered in a remote province in Northeast Cambodia. Only 250 birds

exist in the wild. This flock is believed to be between 20 and 30. The main causes for the

decline in population are habitat loss through logging of lowland forest and drainage of

wetlands for agriculture. The eggs are also poached by the local people.

New IUCN Redlist Released

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

2006 IUCN Redlist has been released. The total number of species declared officially

Extinct is 784 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or cultivation. Of the 40,177

species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, 16,119 are now listed as threatened

with extinction. (Animals: 7,725 Plants and lichens: 8,394) Familiar species like the polar

bear, hippopotamus and desert gazelles are facing extinction. A key addition to the 2006

Red List of Threatened Species is the first comprehensive regional assessment of

selected marine groups. Thanks to conservation action, the status of certain species has

improved: proof that conservation does work. The numbers of white-tailed eagles

(Haliaeetus albicilla) doubled in the 1990s and it has been downlisted from Near

Threatened to Least Concern. The seabird Abbott’s booby (Papasula abbotti) listed as

Critically Endangered in 2004 is recovering thanks to conservation measures and has

now moved down a category to Endangered. Swift action since the dramatic 97%

population crash of the Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus), listed as Critically Endangered in

2002, means that the future for this and related species is more secure. The veterinary

drug that unintentionally poisoned them, diclofenac, is now banned in India. A promising

substitute has been found and captive breeding assurance colonies will be used for a re-

introduction programme. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species acts as a wake up

call to the world by focusing attention on the state of our natural environment.

Lost World Of Frogs

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Laos is turning out to be the lost world of frogs. A study conducted by Wildlife

Conservation Society over the past 2 years, assisted by the American Museum of Natural

History and Russian Academy of Sciences, has thrown up six new frog species. Details

about latest three species have been published in the recent issue of Copeia, the journal

of the American Society of Herpetologists. In recent years Laos has thrown up surprises

like Laotian rock rat, which is the lone living member of an ancient mammal family, to the

Annamite striped rabbit and saola, a type of forest antelope. Nine new amphibians have

also been discovered


Tahrcountry Musings

Booby Bird Makes A Comeback

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Abbott’s booby( Papasula abbotti) one of the world’s rarest birds and a native of

Australia’s Christmas Island is making a comeback. The world’s entire population of the

bird, around 2,500 resides on this island. The most serious threat is the introduced yellow

crazy ant(Anoplolepis gracilipes), which spread rapidly during the 1990s to cover 28% of

the island’s forest. Recent ant control efforts have proved successful. Booby has moved

from Critically Endangered to Endangered status.

Deep Ocean Trawl Brings Up New Species

Friday, May 05, 2006

A three-week voyage by scientists in the Atlantic has come up with tiny animals which

appear new to science. The voyage is part of the ongoing Census of Marine Life (CoML),

which aims to map ocean life throughout the world. One of the aims of the Census of

Marine Zooplankton (CoMZ), is to provide a global inventory of these tiny organisms

which will help scientists. By the time CoML ends in 2010, the scientists hope to have

found and studied every zooplankton species in the ocean.

Important Blue Whale Colony Discovered

Sunday, May 07, 2006

One of the world’s most important blue whale colonies have discovered off the coast of

Chile. This is rated, as is one of the biggest feeding and breeding sources of blue whale.

65 blue whales and 51 humpback whales were sighted. Blue whales were hunted to the

brink of extinction during the first half of the 20th century until a ban in 1965. The

International Whaling Commission estimates that only 400 to 1,400 remain.

Talking Dolphins

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

St Andrews University researchers studying in Florida have discovered that dolphins

recognise each other by names. The dolphins were able to recognise themselves and

other members of the same species as individuals with separate identities. Royal Society

of London funded the research. The whistles of dolphins were synthesised on a computer

to produce computer voice of dolphins. When it was played back to the dolphins they

responded. This proved conclusively that the dolphins know each other’s signature

whistle instead of just the voice. It also meant that these animals have evolved the same

abilities as humans. The findings are published in the latest issue of US journal the

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tahrcountry Musings


Message From Chair Caprinae Specialist Group

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Please note that the URL of CSG/SSC of IUCN has Changed.New address is


Also, please note that the deadline for submitting abstracts to the 4th World Congress on

m o u n t a i n u n g u l a t e s i s a t t h e e n d o f t h i s m o n t h . S e e

h t t p : / / w w w . w m c u 2 0 0 6 . o r g / c a l l f o r p a p e r . h t m f o r d e t a i l s .

Magnets To The Aid Of Sharks

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sharks are reportedly able to detect magnetic fields. Some are even repelled by

magnetic fields. Michael Herrmann, a research associate at the US-based company

Shark Defense has used this info for an innovation in fishing gear, which will help

addresses, the problem of shark bycatch. Thousands of sharks could be saved from

being caught and killed on fishing lines thanks to this innovation. An estimated 89 per

cent of hammerhead sharks and 80 per cent of thresher and white sharks have

disappeared from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean in the last 18 years, largely due to

bycatch. Michael Herrmann will receive the US$25,000 grand prize to further develop and

test his winning idea. The prize is sponsored by WWF.

Reuniting panda populations in China

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Chinese Forestry Department of Shaanxi Province and WWF’’s China Programme have

launched a programme to build up an ecological corridor to reunite two isolated panda

populations. The two Tianhuashan and Xinglongling panda sub-populations in the Qinling

Mountains were separated 23 years ago by the construction of a National Road. In 1999,

the completion of a tunnel led to the abandonment of a 13km section of the highway. This

created an opportunity to form a corridor. The work was initiated in 2005. The green

bamboo corridor is turning out to be a reality now. There is new hope for the Panda.

According to a WWF-Chinese government survey, there are nearly 1,600 pandas in the


Bowhead whales re-surfaces in the Arctic

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Several Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) have been observed near Svalbard

Archipelago ( Norway) where they have been spotted only a few times in the last several

decades. This gives fresh hope about this Endangered species. Bowhead whales are

believed to live to be 200+ years old and are named after their enormous bow-shaped

mouths. These whales live in Northern Hemisphere waters near the edge of the Arctic ice



Tahrcountry Musings

New study Reveals Apes can plan ahead

Saturday, May 20, 2006

According to a study published in the latest issue of journal Science. Bonobos and

orangutans are capable of future planning. Dr Josep Call, from the Max Plank Institute for

Evolutionary Anthropology spearheaded the study.The study showed that individuals are

able to pick up a tool, transport it to a different location, keep it there for at least an hour,

and bring it back to solve a problem. Humans and bonobos evolved into separate

lineages about five to seven million years ago and orangutans about 14 million years

ago. The German team suggests such skills may have evolved about 14 million years

ago, when bonobos, orangutans and humans shared a common ancestor.

4th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates,Sept

12to 15th,Munnar ,Ker…

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The last date for receipt of abstrcts has been extended to 15th June.

See http://www.wmcu2006.org/callforpaper.htm for details.

Reappearance Of The ‘Extinct’ Frog

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Professor Carlos Rocha and a team of researchers from the Pedagogical and

Technological University of Colombia (UPTC) in Boyac, have sighted a spectacular South

American frog Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei which had been feared extinct for a

decade. Conservation International supported the expedition. The discovery was made in

a small remote region of Colombia. Red List of Threatened Species says of the painted

frog that it “…has not been recorded since 1995, despite attempts to locate it. Fabio

Arjona, executive director of Conservation International in Colombia says urgent

measures are needed both in the wild and through captive breeding programmes.

Crackdown On Toxic Pesticides Help

Endangered Bird Of Prey Bounce Back

Monday, May 22, 2006

Crackdown on toxic pesticides and concerted protection has helped a bird of prey to

thrive throughout the UK, 35 years after it was on the brink of extinction. In 1971, just one

pair of marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) remained at the Royal Society for the

Protection of Birds’ Minsmere reserve in Suffolk. By 2005, 360 breeding females were

recorded in parts of eastern England, the Cambridgeshire Fens, Kent, Yorkshire,

Lancashire and Scotland. Protection and augmentation of wetlands was an integral part

of the drive to protect the bird. The future looks bright and environmentalists are a happy


Tahrcountry Musings


Next World Conservation Congress to be in


Thursday, May 25, 2006

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Council today voted for Spain as the host country

of the fourth World Conservation Congress in 2008. The Congress will be held in

Barcelona in October 2008. Eleven countries had originally expressed interest in hosting

the Congress. The finalists were Ethiopia and Spain.

Grim Prospect For River Dolphins In Nepal

Monday, May 29, 2006

Six months of field research conducted by WWF along Nepal’s longer river, the Karnali,

has shown that river dolphin populations are more endangered than ever. River dolphins

are one of the most endangered of all the world’s cetaceans and are extremely

vulnerable to extinction. Once abundant, the overall population of Gangetic river dolphins

(Platanista gangetica) has been reduced to probably fewer than 100 in Nepal. Dr

Chandra Gurung, WWF Nepal’s Country Representative says” “Dolphins in the Karnali

face the threat of local extinction unless conservation efforts are stepped up

immediately”. Habitat loss and hunting by humans are the main causes for the decline.

Frozen Global Seed Vault Planned

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A frozen global seed vault to ensure diversity of food plants in the event of a catastrophe

has been planned in a mountainside on the island of Svalbard 1,000 km from the North

Pole. Norwegian government is spearheading this prestigious move on behalf of the

international community. It will have space for three million seed varieties including rice,

wheat, barley as well as fruits and vegetables. Power failures, natural disasters, wars or

simply a lack of money can affect present day Gene banks. This will be the bulwark

against all those imponderables.

Ibrahim Thiaw Takes Over As Acting Director

General of the World Co…

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ibrahim Thiaw, the Director of the Union’s West Africa Office has been appointed as

acting Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) after the departure of

Achim Steiner on 31 May 2006. Achim Steiner stepped down from the position of Director

General to take up the post of Executive Director of the United Nations Environment

Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya on 15 June 2006.


Tahrcountry Musings

Poaching On The Increase In Nepal

Friday, June 02, 2006

The strife in Nepal has taken a heavy toll of wildlife. Field visits by WWF Nepal and park

staff to sites inside the Bardia National Park found evidence of only three rhinos in the

area, despite the translocation of more than 70 to the area since 1986. During the rhino

survey, the team apprehended two armed poachers. The survey team confirmed the

presence of three tigers in the Babai Valley, down from an estimate of 13 in 2001. Good

news is that the ecosystem is still intact and if strong protection is given the wildlife will

bounce back. Urgent protection strategies with emphasis on community involvement in

protection is on the anvil

Albatrosses Being Pushed To The Brink Of


Monday, June 05, 2006

Research by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife

International has come up with the alarming finding that three species of Albatrosses on

islands in the South Atlantic are being pushed to the brink of extinction. The species are

the wandering, or great albatross, the black-browed albatross and the grey-headed

albatross. The islands are critically important – for the wandering albatross. The main

cause is mortality due to longline fishing on waters off South Africa and South America

where the birds travel to feed. Up to 100,000 albatrosses a year drown on longline fishing

hooks. RSPB and Birdlife International has called for urgent international intervention.

Trigger for locust swarming identified

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Researchers have identified the trigger that turns a motley assembly of locusts into a

coordinated army capable of devastating vast expanses of crops and natural vegetation.

The study by James Buhl and colleagues appear in the latest issue of Science Today.

The crucial factor is a particular population density at which the insects fall into line with

each other and begin to walk in the same direction. The researchers are now expanding

their computer models to simulate the environments that the locusts live in and predict

the behaviour of much larger swarms. This could help in predicting future attacks.

Rare Species Of Millipede Thought To Be Extinct

Makes Reappearance

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The animal that has the most number of legs (Nearly1,000 legs) of any animal on the

planet, thought to be extinct has made a comeback. This is the millipede Illacme

plenipes. The species had not been seen since it was first spotted in a biodiversity

hotspot in California in 1926. Paul Marek and Professor Jason Bond of East Carolina

University in Greenville, North Carolina made the rediscovery. Full details can be

accessed in the latest issue of Journal Nature

Tahrcountry Musings


Herring Threatened In North Sea

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Due to over fishing by Europe’s trawler men, juvenile herring are not maturing properly in

North Sea. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) said serious

reductions were needed in next year’s catch. Herring populations form a continuous chain

extending from the North Sea to the northernmost parts of the Baltic Sea.

New Species of Hammerhead Shark Discovered

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A new type of hammerhead shark has been discovered in US waters off the South

Carolina coast. The shark has not yet been classified or named. Dr Joe Quattro, a

biology professor at the University of South Carolina, discovered the shark. With only 454

recorded species of shark in the wild, this is an exciting discovery.

New Protected Areas Formed In Brazil

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Brazilian government has announced the creation of new protected areas in the Amazon

region totaling approximately 2.5 million ha. Amazon has the world’s highest diversity of

birds and freshwater fish, as well as the planet’s largest rainforest, which is home to more

than one third of all species. For an area that is severely threatened by illegal logging,

slash-and-burn agriculture and other human activities this is a great boon.

Environmentalist are rejoiced

World’s largest marine sanctuary

Sunday, June 18, 2006

On the 15th of this month a chain of Hawaiian Islands became the largest marine

sanctuary in the world. Total extent is 362,580-square-kilometer. The move follows a long

campaign by Hawaiians and conservation groups. The area is home to Hawaiian monk

seal, one of the world’s rarest marine mammals. About 7,000 marine species live here, a

quarter of which are found nowhere else.

Japan defeated in new whaling bid

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Japan was narrowly defeated in its attempt to lift the whaling ban. The tabled resolution

at the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting in St Kitts was defeated by

one vote. Certain delegates could not reach the site in time. There is a widespread view

that the future of whales and dolphins should not be a political game of numbers.


Tahrcountry Musings

Sad day for the whales

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

20 Jun 2006

St Kitts and Nevis – Japan’s recruitment drive to bring pro-whaling, anti-conservation

countries into the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has finally succeeded.

Pro-whaling countries obtained a narrow majority — 33 to 32, with one abstention from

China — showing an abdication of responsibility by the global community, WWF said

today at the 58th IWC meeting.

The vote for the so called “St Kitts and Nevis Declaration”, a non-legally binding

statement asks for a “normalization” of the IWC — which according to Japan and its

supporters — means it should return to its original 1946 mandate to regulate whaling,

rather than concentrate also on conservation issues.

The St Kitts and Nevis Declaration also attempts to bring into question the scientific

rationale for the global ban on whale hunting in 1986 and also slams non-governmental

organizations. It also purports to give legitimacy to the scientifically invalid claim that

whale populations are responsible for the decline of the world’s fisheries.

“We are saddened and disappointed that instead of building consensus on difficult

issues, this declaration has brought both sides to the brink of open conflict,” said Dr

Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

WWF agrees that the IWC has serious deficiencies and needs modernization and

reform, but this declaration takes the IWC in the wrong direction.”

This is the first time in decades that there has been a pro-whaling majority at the IWC.

“This is a shallow political victory for the whaling countries and their allies, and we hope

this will be a wake up call to conservation-minded countries and peoples of the world, “

added Dr Lieberman.

“At a critical juncture in conservation globally, when whales and other marine species are

threatened by a range of threats, including climate change, bycatch, ship strikes, and

other threats, it is sad to see the IWC moving backwards. We hope this is only


Many of the countries that opposed the resolution stated for the record that they

disassociated themselves from the declaration. Of the 17 European Union members to

the IWC, only Denmark voted for the proposal.

There is no guarantee that other critical votes will be lost. The moratorium on whaling will

stay in place as it needs a three-quarter majority to be overturned.

“Despite the moratorium staying in place for the time being, the IWC is poised on a knife

edge between conserving whales and dolphins and returning to becoming a whalers’

club,” Lieberman said.

For further information:

Tahrcountry Musings


Joanna Benn, Communications Manager

WWF Global Species Programme

Tel: +39 348 726 7313

©WWF – the environmental conservation organisation

Three New Lemurs Discovered In Madagascar

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Madagascar is famous for its well over 70 species of lemurs, primitive primates which are

distant relations to humanity. The formal announcement regarding the discovery of the

three new species was made at a conservation conference on Wednesday in the

Malagasy capital. The species have been named Microcebus mittermeieri, after Russell

A. Mittermeier, the president of green group Conservation International and a renowned

field primatologist, Microcebus jollyae, after Alison Jolly, a pioneering lemur researcher

from Princeton University, and Microcebus simmonsi, after Dr. Lee Simmons, director of

the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska.

Exciting Bird Rediscovery In Manas National Park

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Manipur Bush- Quail last sighted 99 years ago has been rediscovered in Manas

National Park,Assam,India.The rediscovery was made ornithologist Anwaruddin

Chaudhary and the Park Dy Director Ritesh Bhattacharjee. The authentic reords of the

last sighting was from Morni, Assam in 1905.An intensive survey has ben planned to

obtain more details

New National Park Established In Georgia

Monday, June 26, 2006

A new National Park named Mtirala National Park, covering 15,806 ha, has been

established in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.The area harbours important species

like lynx brown bear, Caucasian salamander, golden eagle, black vulture and falcon.

Efforts on To Rescue Yangtze River dolphin

From The Brink

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Yangtze River dolphin ( Lipotes vexillifer) in China is probably the world’s most

endangered mammal. Recent surveys found only 17 living individuals.Efforts are on to

rescue this dolphin from the brink. It’s been suggested that the only way to save them

from dying out is to set up a closely monitored breeding population under semi-natural

breeding conditions. A reserve will be set up in oxbow lake. Zoological Society of London

(ZSL) has mooted the plan. It is going to be a very expensive proposition. ZSL and its

collaborating organisations anticipate the endorsement of their plan, and have started to

look for funds. The rescue plan speaks of conducting five dolphin capture operations in

the Yangtze within the next three years. Once enough stock has been established the

Yangtze River will be restocked.


Tahrcountry Musings

New Discoveries In Juruena National Park, Brazil

Friday, June 30, 2006

Scientists from Brazil’s National Institute for Amazon Research and the Amazonas

Secretariat for the Environment and Sustainable Development have discovered two new

frogs, fish and bird species, one tree species and one primate. Covering 1.9 million

hectares, the establishment of the Juruena National Park is part of ongoing efforts by the

Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) Programme, a large-scale conservation

programme aimed at creating and supporting a system of well-managed protected areas

and sustainable natural resource management reserves in the Amazon.

World Conservation Union Recommends Three

New World Heritage Sites

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Based on a rigorous yearlong evaluation process, World Conservation Union has

recommended for inscription on the World Heritage List 3 new sites. The sites are China

’s Giant Panda Sanctuaries, the species rich Pacific waters surrounding Colombia ’s

Malpelo Island, and the uplifting Kvarken Archipelago of Finland. World Heritage

Committee will take decisions next week at its 30th session in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Scientists Unravel Mammoth Coat Colour

Friday, July 07, 2006

Scientists have determined the coat colour of mammoths that roamed the Earth

thousands of years ago. The information came from a 43,000-year-old woolly mammoth

bone from Siberia using the latest genetic techniques. The animals would have sported

dark brown coats. Dr Michael Hofreiter from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary

Anthropology, Germany, led the study. Details of the study appear in the latest issue of

journal Science.

West African black rhino feared extinct

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The West African black (Diceros bicornis longipes) is now feared extinct. This is

according to new estimates announced by the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) of

the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. An intensive survey earlier this year of the

West African black rhino has failed to locate any sign of their continued presence in their

last refuges in northern Cameroon. AfRSG chairman Dr Martin Brooks said “this

subspecies has been tentatively declared as extinct”

Tahrcountry Musings


Taiwanese authorities seize Illegal ivory

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Taiwanese authorities have confiscated more than five tonnes of ivory in the southern

port city of Kaohsiung Harbour. The seizure weighed a total of 3,026kg. The illegal

consignment originated from Tanzania and was destined for Manila, the Philippines.

Asian and African elephants are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International

Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which prohibits all

commercial trade in these species. Environmentalists have urged Taiwanese authorities

to link up with the ASEAN-WEN( Association of South-east Asian nations Wildlife

Enforcement Network), as well as at the source in Tanzania, to ensure follow-up


Chinese Panda Sanctuary Gets World Heritage


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries in southwestern China has been named a World

Heritage site by the United Nations. Out of the 1,600 Giant Pandas that are left in the

wild,30% lives here. The move brings cheer to the conservationists who have been

clamouring for this for many years.

Tiger Habitat Down By 40%

Friday, July 21, 2006

According to a comprehensive study just concluded, Tiger habitat is down by 40% from

what they were a decade ago. WWF, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Smithsonian

society, National Zoological Park and Save The Tiger Fund did the study. The study has

identified 76 “tiger conservation landscapes”, places that have the best chance of

supporting viable tiger populations into the future. The largest tiger landscapes exist in

the Russian Far East and India. The conservation groups warn that it is critical to also

address poaching of tigers along with the efforts at preserving tiger habitats.

Scientists Solve Flying Reptile Mystery

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The crest on the head of prehistoric flying reptiles was a puzzle for the scientists. Now UK

scientists say they have resolved the mystery. A rare skull specimen found in Brazil

shows the crest appeared at puberty, suggesting it was used to attract attention from the

opposite sex. Dr Naish and colleague Dr David Martill who led the study examined the

skull and found that the crest was different in the juvenile.Dr Naish said This is a

significant find as it links the growth of the crest to physical maturity and therefore

presumably to sex. The findings are published in the journal Palaeontology


Tahrcountry Musings

Environmental Crisis in Lebanon

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Oil pollution in Lebanese coastal waters following Israel bombing has created an

environmental crisis in Lebanon. International organisations are assisting the Lebanese

government as it attempts to contain thousands of tonnes of oil believed to be on a scale

during the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker incident in Alaska. The spill could be well over

35,000 tonnes endangering marine wildlife and posing a threat to the livelihood of

thousands of people.

Single Fish Species Controls Health Of Tropical


Monday, August 14, 2006

Scientists have discovered that removing just one fish species from a tropical river can

have deleterious effects. This contradicts the till now held belief that the greater

abundance and diversity of other species would compensate for the loss. Researchers

removed the flannelmouth fish (Prochilodus mariae) from a stretch of Venezuela’s

Orinoco River and measured how this affected the level of carbon in the ecosystem. The

researchers found that the river’s carbon cycle was disrupted within 48 hours of them

removing the fish. The effect lasted for at least 40 days. The amount of organic carbon on

the riverbed rose by 450 per cent. Full details appear in Science today (11 August).

Hi guys I am back on the net

Sunday, October 22, 2006

For the past couple of months I was virtually on my toes as one of the organisers of the

4th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates held at Munnar,Kerala,India. The event was

well attended and was a huge success. After the event I was in to the wrap up.Now I am

a free bird and expect to resume my regular postings.

Extinction Threat For Congo hippos

Sunday, October 22, 2006

According to researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), poaching has

brought the hippopotamus population in Democratic Republic of Congo to within a few

months of extinction. Mai Mai militia, which has set up camp in Virunga National Park, is

catching the animals for meat and ivory. The numbers now are below 400. Twenty years

ago there were about 22,000 hippos in Virunga Park.

Tahrcountry Musings


North Sea Cod Fish At Alarmingly Low Level

Monday, October 23, 2006

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) has said in its latest report

that stocks of cod remained below sustainable limits in North Sea. Stocks have been

reduced to a stage where productivity has been impaired. ICES have recommended that

a total ban should be in force till 2007. The minimum desired level is 70000 thousand

Tons. Ideally it should be 1500000 Tons.

Reuters-IUCN Environmental Media Awards

Announce Regional Winners

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reuters Foundation and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) have announced the

regional winners of the 2006 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in

Environmental Reporting. The six regional winners will receive a trophy at the ceremony

co-hosted by Reuters and IUCN on 14 November 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya.The recipients

will vie for the global prize of US$ 5,000.

This year’s regional winners competing for the global prize are:

Asia: Richard Stone and Hawk Jia of Science Magazine

English-speaking Africa and the Middle East: Anjam Sundaram of Associated Press

Europe: John Bohannon of Science Magazine

Francophone Africa: Dalia Abdel-Salam of Al Ahram Hebdo

Latin America: Marina Walker of Revista GatoPardo

North America, Oceania & the Caribbean: Sara Philips of Cosmos Magazine

Rare bats discovered in gold mine

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The greater horseshoe bat, a very rare bat facing extinction threat has been discovered

at the National Trust’s Dolaucothi Gold Mines in Carmarthenshire, south Wales,England.

The name horseshoe bat comes from the distinctive horseshoe-shaped plate of skin

around the nostrils of this bat. It is in a highly endangered state in Britain and the rest of

northern Europe. The discovery in a new site is encouraging according to

Carmarthenshire Bat Group, which regularly monitors the birds.


Tahrcountry Musings

Breeding success for rare lizards

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cayman blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is one of the critically endangered species in the

world. The wild population of blue iguanas is expected to be extinct within 10 years.

There is however new hope on the horizon. Three eggs laid by a Grand Cayman blue

iguana that had been released into a nature reserve on the Caribbean island have

successfully hatched. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. UK Is heading this successful

captive breeding and release programme

Maligned Dingo Has Vital Ecosystem Role

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) is a much-maligned animal in Australia particularly in

sheep rearing areas. Sheep farmers attempt to completely eliminate them as they prey

on sheep. Poison is the most common method of controlling dingo populations. Now

research carried out by Professor Chris Johnson of James Cook University in

Queensland shows that Australia’s last native “top predator” perform an essential role in

maintaining biodiversity He has found that marsupial populations have a much better

chance in areas that also have stable populations of dingoes. In cattle country, by and

large, dingoes will hunt kangaroos or rabbits. They also keep fox and feral cat numbers in

check, say researchers. The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal

Proceedings of the Royal Society

Balkan lynx Needs Urgent Attention

Sunday, November 05, 2006

According to conservationists, urgent attention is needed to save the reclusive Balkan

lynx. Only around 100 of the big cats are thought to remain in existence. The largest

numbers are found in the remote hills of western FYR Macedonia, where they are

considered a national symbol. They are also found in Albania, Serbia and Greece. The

main problem according to conservationists is that major chunk of Albania’s formerly

dense forests, the lynx’s preferred habitat, had been cut down for firewood and were now

used for grazing. Efforts are on to reverse this trend.

Orangutans In Dire Straits After Indonesian Bush


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fires on the island of Borneo have killed up to 1,000 orangutans. The fires have been

raging across central Borneo for months. There has been severe erosion of Orangutans

habitat in recent years for making oil palm plantations. This means there are few places

for them to go to avoid the fires. Local people have killed several animal that entered oil

palm plantations. This is a Very sorry state of affairs for one of the world’s most adorable

animal. Environmentalists have blamed farmers and logging companies clearing land for

oil palm plantations for this predicament

Tahrcountry Musings


2006 Reuters-IUCN Media Award Presented

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The 2006 Reuters-IUCN Media Award for Excellence in Environmental Reporting goes to

Marina Walker Guevara of Argentina for her story “The children of lead” (Los ni?os del

plomo). The Awards Ceremony was held at the United Nations Climate Change

Conference in Nairobi; Kenya.Walker Guevara was presented with the USD 5,000 prize.

The reporting brings to life the moving story of Mischell Barzola, a six year-old girl from

La Oroya, Peru, who has stopped growing because of lead contamination. “Los Niños del

Plomo” also highlights the dilemma of the 4,000 families whose livelihoods depend on the

lead industry, even though it threatens the health of their own children. Walker Guevara

currently works as a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative reporting

organization in Washington, DC.

World’s Rarest Big Cat Captured

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Scientists have captured what is believed to be the rarest big cat on Earth, the Far

Eastern leopard(Panthera pardus orientalis) in the remote forests of southeastern Russia.

The bonanza occurred while the scientists of the New York based Wildlife Conservation

Society were studying Siberian Tigers. Only 30 animals are thought to survive in the wild.

The scientists did a thorough series of tests on the leopard, from studying its teeth to

collecting sperm samples, before releasing the animal back into the wild. Scientists hope

that the information gained will help them to devise appropriate conservation measures.

Indonesia To Curb Illegal Logging –Good News

For Orangutans

Monday, November 20, 2006

Indonesia and United States has signed a pact to help stop illegal logging in Indonesia,

habitat for most of the world’s orangutans and many other endangered species. About 70

to 80 percent of logging in Indonesia is done illegally. United States has committed an

initial US$1 million to fund supporting projects to stop illegal timber harvests. The projects

include remote sensing of illegal logging activities and working with conservation groups.

An estimated 7,000 to 7,500 orangutans living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have

been identified as critically endangered by IUCN the World Conservation Union. The

island of Borneo, which is shared by Indonesia and Malaysia, is home to more than

three-quarters of the world’s remaining 50,000 to 60,000 orangutan


Tahrcountry Musings

Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel Makes


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The first meeting of the new Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel and Sakhalin Energy

Investment Company, which was convened by IUCN the World Conservation Union,

recently, has come up with some firm proposals. Decisions on how to tackle oil spill

prevention and response and the way ahead with a photographic identification

programme for the Western Gray Whale are amongst the outcomes of the first meeting.

In addition to the panel members, IUCN representatives, and officials from Sakhalin

Energy, observers from financial institutions and environmental NGOs attended the


Return Of Dormice Brings Cheer To


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The loss of habitat had led to steep drop of Dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) in

Britain. The efforts to stem this tide are coming to fruition. Reintroduction trials in

Linconshire are on way to success. Dormice are good indicators of the environment’s

health. Common dormice may spend up to three quarters of their life asleep. They

hibernate to conserve energy when food is scarce. . Dormice breed once or twice a year,

with four being the typical size of a litter. They can live for as long as five years. Little is

known about their social behaviour.

SARS-Civet Cat Link Proved

Friday, November 24, 2006

A joint China-Hong Kong research team has discovered a genetic link between SARS in

civet cats and humans. The research project was jointly conducted by the Chinese

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control

and Prevention, and Hong Kong University. The research has conclusively proved that

SARS coronavirus found in human victims is the same as the SARS coronavirus found in

civet cats. The civet cat is a delicacy in Southern China.

Threat For Barn Swallows.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Three million barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are under threat of losing valuable roosting

habitat in South Africa. The numbers represent more than 1% of the global population of

Barn Swallows. A proposed airport development in South Africa is threatening the winter

roosting sites of three million Barn Swallows that journey there after spending breeding

months in countries across Europe and other parts of the world. The developments are

meant to meet the demands of hosting World Cup 2010. Bird Life South Africa is

objecting to the development and propose that the site be turned into a protected area.

Tahrcountry Musings


Shocking-Zoo Poisons Lions

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ethiopia’s Lion Zoo is poisoning lion cubs and selling the corpses to be stuffed because it

cannot afford to feed them. The dead cubs are sold to taxidermists for $175 each. The

zoo costs about $4000 a month to run, but receives only $3500 as total revenues from

entrance fees. Ethiopia’s lions, which are smaller than other lions, are famous for their

black manes. Less than 1000 are believed to exist in the wild now. Kenya-based

International Fund for Animal Welfare said this is cruel and the zoo should prevent the

animals from breeding if it could not care for them.

Snow leopard fitted with GPS tag

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

For the first time, a team 0f scientist from the Snow Leopard Trust, the Northwest Frontier

Province Wildlife Department of Pakistan and WWF-Pakistan has fitted a snow leopard

with a Global Positioning System (GPS) collar to track the secretive creature’s

movements. The 35kg (75lb) female was captured on the Purdum Mali ridge in Pakistan

in the Chitral Gol National Park in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The collar will stay

attached to the animal for 14 months. The best spin off from this project is that it will tell

us how much space a snow leopard needs. This will aid in devising suitable conservation

strategies. The scientists hope to to tag more animals in the days to come.

Big Boost For The Protection Of Rare Song Bird

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Protection strategies for Europe’s rarest songbird, the aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus

paludicola), is getting a shot in the arm following a deal to protect a key breeding site.

UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) part-funded the purchase of land in

Poland's Biebrza Marshes which support 80% of the European Union's population. It is

the first time in the society’s 117-year history that it has secured land outside of the UK.

US Supreme Court To Hear Global Warming


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Even though the US, with 5 per cent of the world’s population, is responsible for 25 per

cent of greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for 37 per cent of the world’s vehicles

the administration has repeatedly refused to agree to limits on emissions, saying it would

damage the economy. Now resorting to a piece of legislation enacted during the Nixon

years, twelve states led by Massachusetts and 13 campaign groups have brought a case

against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the supreme court. The EPA

says the 1970 Act does not give it the powers to impose limits because CO2 is not

deemed to be a pollutant. Industry groups go with the view of EPA that hat CO2 is a

naturally occurring gas, thereby falling outside the purview of the law. The Supreme

Court is expected to rule on the case, known as Massachusetts verses EPA, in June



Tahrcountry Musings

New Discoveries In Venezuela

Friday, December 01, 2006

13 new species of freshwater fishes previously unknown to science have been

discovered at the confluence of the Orinoco and Ventuari rivers in Venezuela. The

discovery includes a Ray, a miniature Catfish and a type of meat-eating Piranha. The

area is notorious for illegal gold mining, which is a threat to the ecosystem here.

Scientists from Conservation International, Fundacion La Salle and Fundacion Cisneros

participated in the survey. The scientists have appealed for immediate conservation


Good Initiatives For Migratory Birds

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The recently launched a project to protect the migratory flyways of water birds throughout

Africa and Eurasia under the aegis of UN is the best thing that could have happened to

migratory birds. The project christened Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) is the largest

international wetland and water bird conservation initiative ever to take place in the

African-Eurasian region. The USD 12 million project is designed to cover the entire

African-Eurasian area, including Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Greenland

and the Canadian Archipelago. The project will help foster international collaboration

along the entire flyways, build capacity for monitoring and conservation, and demonstrate

best practice in the conservation and wise use of wetlands in 12 selected countries.

River Salmon Bounces Back

Monday, December 04, 2006

20 years back acid rains had completely wiped out River Salmon in Wye River in mid

Wales. Now they are returning owing to the successful conservation measures. Lime was

added to water in the upper reaches of the river to help neutralise the chemical’s impact

and this has encouraged fish to breed again. The process has been going on since 2003

but it was only recently that fishes started breeding again. The partners in this venture

are Wye and Usk Foundation, the European Union, Welsh Assembly Government,

Environment Agency and Countryside Council for Wales.

Rainforest Protection-Good News From Brazil

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

15 million hectares (57,915 sq miles) of Rain Forests in the northern Para state, Brazil, is

getting the status of protected area bringing cheer to conservationists the world over. The

decline in Amazon forest area has been a worrying feature.A host of wild denizens

inhabit the proposeed conservation reserve including the Jaguars, anteaters, Giant Otters

and Black Spider Monkey. Conservationists are hailing this visionary decision by Para

Governor Simao Jatene.

Tahrcountry Musings


City Birds Trying Out Music Variations

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A team of researchers from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands has found that

urban species of birds sing short, fast songs rather than the slower melodies of

countryside birds. This is an adaptation to counter background noise and increase their

chances of finding a mate. The researchers targeted great tits in ten major European

cities, including London, Paris, Amsterdam and Prague, and compared them to forest-

dwellers. Urban tits consistently experimented with between one and five note calls, while

those in forests close to the cities stuck to more normal combinations of two, three and

four note tunes. One Rotterdam great tit attempted a 16-note song, which the

researchers believe could have been copied from a blue tit. The findings are published in

the current issue of journal Current Biology

Provisions of CITES Not Adequately Utilized In

Combating Illegal Lo…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A new report published by TRAFFIC says, CITES, the Convention on the International

Trade on Endangered Species is not being used to its full potential in combating illegal

logging. The report gives several recommendations that could help combat illegal logging

and promote international co-operation. To download your personal copy of the full

TRAFFIC International report titled ‘The Role of CITES in Combating Illegal Logging –

Current and Potential’ click here

Indonesia – Greenpeace Activists Dump Logging

Waste At The Door Of …

Friday, December 08, 2006

Greenpeace activists have poured a truckload of logging waste at the office of Kayu

Lapis Indonesia (KLI) one of the country’s largest logging companies. This was in protest

against destroying large parts of the last ancient forest in Papua and Kalimantan. Green

Peace says deforestation rates in Indonesia were among the highest in the world and in

the past five years the archipelago nation had lost an average area equivalent to six

football fields a minute. 40 percent of its forests have been completely destroyed.

International Mountain Day And IUCN

Monday, December 11, 2006

December 11th is International Mountain Day, a day to reflect on the people who are

directly affected by ecosystem degradation and climate change: mountain communities.

IUCN is undertaking several initiatives for mountain peoples and ecosystems to adapt to

global change. IUCN is also promoting Integrated Water Resource Management that

entails democratic water governance from the watershed up to the regional level. For

example, in Quito, Ecuador, part of the household water bill pays for conservation and

compensates farmers in the Páramo – the highland natural grasslands that are important


Tahrcountry Musings

to water regulation. IUCN is also working in the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya region

to integrate ecosystem management in regional development and conservation

processes. The whole idea is to give communities some control over their natural

resources, and receive direct and indirect benefits from their conservation, so as to

improve their living conditions and ensure the long-term delivery of ecosystem services.

For more info log onto www.iucn.org/themes/cem/ecosystems/mountains/

Mongolian Wildlife In Peril

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

According to a report by Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Illegal hunting and trade is

pushing some Mongolian animals like the snow leopard, Saiga antelope, wild camel, and

Gobi bear to the brink of extinction. The report is part of the preparation of the first

comprehensive Red List for Mongolian mammals. Unprecedented international trade in

species is another reason attributed to the decline. Unlike other areas where loss of

habitat has led to declines in species, the threat in Mongolia is hunting. ZSL has called

for immediate legislation and other protection measures to stem this tide.

Albatrosses And Weather Research

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A team of scientists at the University of California-Santa Cruz headed by Dr Scott

Schaffer is using Albatrosses to gather huge numbers of sea-surface temperature

readings in the North Pacific. The birds are equipped with small data loggers that track

their movements and record water conditions. According to Dr Scott Schaffer the project

will bring in details missed by satellites, and in the process give important new insights

into the behaviour of Albatrosses. Nineteen of the 21 albatross species are threatened

with extinction. The Albatross conservation initiatives are sure to get boost as a spin-off of

this project.

220-Million Year Old Microbes

Friday, December 15, 2006

Scientists have discovered in tiny drops of ancient amber, 220-million-year-old

microscopic organisms. The amber was found near Cortina d’Ampezzo, a village in the

Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy.The find has been described in this week’s

edition of the journal Nature by Alexander Schmidt and colleagues from the Humboldt


Fish That Dance On Molten Sulpher Ponds

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Researchers from the University of Victoria, Canada, have come across tonguefish that

like to skip across pools of molten sulphur of undersea volcanoes in the western Pacific.

The measured temperature is more than 180C (355F). The fish live on the edge of the

pools, and in a couple of cases the scientists saw them out on the surface of a pool. The

Tahrcountry Musings


fish have been studied with remotely operated submersibles. The phenomenon has

amazed the scientists and they are trying to work out how the creatures survive in such a

hostile environment.

Cornucopia Of New Species

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Scientists have discovered 52 new species of plants and animals in Borneo. The find

includes catfish glyptothorax exodon with protruding teeth and suction cups on its belly,

which help it, stick to rocks in fast flowing streams. Since 1994, 361 new species have

been found in Borneo. The island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and the sultanate of

Brunei, is emerging as one of the most important biodiversity centers of the world but

unfortunately the rain forest continues to be threatened with large areas of forest being

destroyed for rubber, oil palm and pulp production.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tahrcountry Wishes All Readers A Joyous Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve News

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Giant Panda in a Japanese zoo (Adventure World in Wakayama) has given birth to

twins bringing cheer to conservationists around the world. This brings the no of ex situ

births this year to 30. The sex of the cubs is yet to be confirmed. Mei Mei, the mother, 12,

and her breeding partner Eimei, 14, are both on loan from China. An estimated 1,590

Giant Pandas live in the wild in China

Fur Seals Threatening Whales And Penguins?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Fur seals were once hunted almost to extinction. Careful conservation measures have

helped the species to rebound. They have reached record levels – an estimated

fourmillion worldwide. This has however led to fears that soon there may be too little food

in the Southern Ocean to enable the area’s other wildlife – whales and penguins – to

survive. The key is Krill. It is feared that the spurt in the population of Seals is denying

other wildlife proper access to Krill. Conservationists believe that if the present trend

continues we may have to think of culling Fur Seals in the immediate future.

Happy New Year

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tahrcountry Wishes All Readers A Very Happy New Year


Tahrcountry Musings

IUCN – New Director General Takes Over

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The new Director General of IUCN the World Conservation, Ms Julia Marton-Lefèvre has

assumed office. Before joining IUCN, Ms Marton-Lefèvre was the Rector of the University

of Peace in Costa Rica. She has worked as Executive Director of LEAD (Leadership for

Environment and Development) International), Executive Director of the International

Council for Science (ICSU), and Vice Chair of the World Resources Institute. She is a

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of the United Kingdom. Born in Hungary, Julia

moved to the United States when she was eleven years old with her parents who were

political refugees. She spent most of her adult life in France, where she continued her


White-Tailed Eagle Reintroduction Trials in


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service is planning reintroduction of White-Tailed

Eagle(Haliaeetus albicilla), one of the world’s largest birds of prey in Ireland in an

ambitious 5-year project. The birds became extinct in Ireland the early 1900s. Unbridled

egg collection and shooting were the causes of the diappearance.15 chicks will be

brought into the region annually from Norway and released into Killarney National Park.

The authorities hope that the chicks will start breeding after four to five years.

Threat To Grenada Dove

Monday, January 08, 2007

Unbridled tourism development plans are posing serious threat to Grenada dove

(Leptotila wellsi). Government of Grenada is planning to sell off Mount Hartman National

Park to the Four Seasons hotel group, which has ambitious plans to build hotels and

resorts. Ironically Grenada dove is the national bird of Grenada and a quarter of the

worldwide population of Greneda dove lives in Mount Hartman National Park.

Environmentalists are up in arms against this suicidal policy of the government.

This is indeed disaster and shameful. The total population of Grenada dove around 180

and the species is crtically endagered. This shows utter disregard for the

environment.We exhort environmentalists worldwide to throw their weight behind the

environmentalists of Grenada

The Whale And The Sailing Boat – A Sweet Story

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Whale has accidentally hit a sailing vessel about 80 nautical miles off the west coast of

North Island, New Zealand and damaged it. Lindsay Wright, the owner, was sleeping

when he was awoken by a loud noise and rushed up on to the deck to find himself staring

at a whale. Lindsay said he could pick up the vibes from the animal saying “ Sorry mate,

that was unintentional”. Emergency services were rushed to Lindsay on receipt of

Tahrcountry Musings


distress signal and a helicopter rescued him.

I am delighted by the attitude of Lindsay. Picking up vibes from the whale – that is real

groovy. How sweet

All Set For Capture Of Rhino Birth On Webcam

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In what is believed to be the first of it kind in the world, birth of a Rhino will be captured on

a BBC run webcam. The historic event will take place in Paignton Zoo, in Devon, where

cameras are trained on one tonne Black Female Rhino Sita. Sita is expected to give birth

at the end of January or early February. Scientists around the world are eagerly looking

forward to this event.

Madagascar Pochard Rediscovered

Monday, January 15, 2007

Madagascar pochard(Aythya innotata) last seen alive in 1991 has been rediscovered in

the wild after a search of 18 years. Scientists of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust made

the discovery. The bird is extremely secretive and little is known about its life cycle and

behaviour. Scientists had all along believed that the bird preferred marshy lakes with lots

of reeds and emergent vegetation and had concentrated on these areas but the newly

discovered population was found in a steep-sided volcanic lake with little shoreline marsh

and reeds. The scientific world is agog with this discovery

Beavers Helping To Check Decline in Frog


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Researchers from University of Alberta Canada, surveying streams in the forests of

Alberta, believe that Beavers are helping to check decline in frog population. They

believe the beaver dams may be providing favourable conditions for developing tadpoles.

The scientists recorded large numbers (approximately 5,000) of male frogs and toads on

streams that had beaver dams, but didn’t record any on the free-flowing unobstructed

streams. The beavers create an environment that seems to allow tadpoles to develop

and grow. The findings have been published in the latest issue of journal Biological


Protection Of Edge Animals Set To Get A Boost

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Edge Animals are those having few close relatives, genetically distinct, and require

immediate action to save them from extinction. Now under a scheme titled “Evolutionary

distinct globally endangered project” Zoological Society of London is on to a unique

conservation initiative. Species like Bumblebee Bat, Pygmy Hippo, Slender Loris will get

special protection. Scientists have identified a total of 564 species that fall within the

definition of edge species and the Zoological Society of London will focus on the top 100


Tahrcountry Musings


Rhino Poaching In Nepal- IUCN Members Call

For Urgent Action

Thursday, January 18, 2007

From a population of 612 individuals in 2000, the Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis)

population in Nepal has come down to 405 today. The main reason for this drop is

poaching. Concerned about this decline, the commission members of the World

Conservation Union (IUCN) in Nepal, has submitted a petition to the Environment

Conservation Committee of the Nepalese House of Representatives requesting

immediate action to save Rhinos. The members have also come up with a set of

germane recommendations. IUCN Nepal has also handed over the much needed field

gears and equipment to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation to

give a boost to the conservation efforts of Rhinos. For more info log on to


Montgomeryshire Declared Best Wildlife Area In


Friday, January 19, 2007

A survey conducted by BBC Wildlife Magazine has selected Montgomeryshire as the

best wildlife area in Wales. What impressed BBC team were the enormous areas of

protected land, Stunning well protected Lake Vyrnwy reserve and the tranquil unpolluted

countryside where wildlife lives without human interference.

Scientists Fascinated By Brilliant White SE Asian


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Incredibly white scales whiter than the enamel on human tooth and 10 times thinner than

human hair on a SE Asian Cyphochilus beetle has fascinated the scientists and is

providing fodder for lot of experiments. According to lead scientist Dr Pete Vukusic of

Exeter University such pure whiteness is quite uncommon and mimicking it could lead to

an array of industrial applications like papers, plastics, paints or white-light displays. The

scientists have done detailed analysis of the phenomenon. The finding has been reported

in the latest issue of Science Magazine.

Biplane Design Of Flying Dinosaurs

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The latest issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Science Journal has interesting

info about flying Dinos. It postulates that the flying Dinos dropped its hind legs with

feathers below its body adopting a biplane configuration. This contrasts with earlier belief

that the Dinos maintained their wings in a tandem pattern. The result is extensive

Tahrcountry Musings


research done on Microraptor gui fossils obtained from China. Microraptor lived 125

million years ago. The researchers are Sankar Chatterji and Jack Templin

Barrow Island, Australia Needs Your Help

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Barrow Island described as Australia’s ‘Galapagos’ because of its rare and endangered

species, is the second largest island in Western Australia, and is one of Australia’s oldest

nature reserves. It is famous for marsupials like the burrowing bettong, the golden

bandicoot and many other threatened and endemic species. The Australian Government

is going ahead with the development of a huge gas plant by the energy companies,

Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil against the advice of its own Environmental Protection

Authority. The environmentalists of Australia need help from people worldwide to stop

this atrocity. Please send mails to Australian Government and energy companies,

Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil requesting them to stop this suicidal project. To make

things easier you can go to WWF site and sign a petition there.

Radio Frequency Identification Tags Snoops In

To Wasp Behaviour

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A study of wasp behaviour using radio frequency identification tags, in the tropics of

Panama, by Zoological Society of London is throwing new lights on the behaviour of

wasps. The target species of wasp was Polistes Canadensis. The worker wasps were

observed tending nearby relative holding nests also, helping to raise the young ones. The

researchers believe that this is an effort at boosting their chances of propagating the

genes. Details appear in the latest issue of Current Biology

World’s First Artificially Inseminated Rhino Gives


Thursday, January 25, 2007

The World’s first Rhinoceros Conceived By Artificial Insemination has been born in

Budapest zoo. The vets at Budapest zoo decided to do artificial insemination as the

female rhino failed to conceive normally. The gestation period lasted 16 months and 15

days. The 58kg baby is in very healthy state and stood on its leg within an hour of being

born. The baby needs to be fed artificially till the mother is ready to nurse.


Tahrcountry Musings

Indonesia Promises To Stop Illegal Coffee

Growing In Sensitive Wild…

Friday, January 26, 2007

Last week WWF had alleged that coffee growers had cleared land in Bukti Barisan

Sewlatan National Park and this is posing serious threat to endangered wildlife. WWf had

expressed the apprehension that if the trend continues like this, elephants and tigers will

disappear from the area in 10 years time. The local Government of Lampung has come

out with the statement that the allegation is not entirely true. Even though the data

released by WWF for the period 2004-05 is with the substance the Government has

taken steps to stop this trend. Part of the forest was indeed cut down during 2004-05.The

Government has promised serious action to curb malpractices in future. Government of

Lampung has also issued instructions to Indonesian Coffee Exporters association to stop

buying coffee suspected to be grown in encroached wildlife areas.

Plunder Of Tuna Goes On Unabated

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The plunder of Tuna has been bothering the environmentalists for some time now. Global

tuna stocks are critically depleted and some species, such as blue fin tuna, used for high-

end sushi and sashimi, are at high risk of collapse. It was hoped that the latest round of

talks by members of the five regional management organizations in Japan, would yield

some results. But the expectations have been belied. Talks regarding the concrete action

to reduce fishing capacity to sustainable levels, ensuring legally caught supplies of tuna

to markets did not reach any consensus. The failure will bring about further erosion in

Tuna stocks and loss of livelihood for lot of fishermen across the globe. The only

outcome of this much-touted conference was an agreement to meet again to resolve the

issue. The recourse now is for responsible fishing industry, responsible retail sector and

responsible consumers to chip in with their efforts to save the Tuna. Officialdom seems to

have failed in their duty.

UK- National Survey Of Garden Birds Begin

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Big Garden Bird Watch, a national survey of garden birds, organized by RSPB in

Britain is a unique event. The event was kick started in 1969 as an activity for children

who are members of the Young Ornithologists Club. It caught on and became a national

event in which people of all shades started participating with gusto. Thousands of

enthusiastic birdwatchers across Britain will spend time in their garden this weekend

taking part in this national survey to assess the visitors to home gardens. Last year

470,000 people took part and counted 8 million birds in 270,000 gardens. A severe drop

in Starlings and House sparrows has been observed over the years according to RSPB.

On the plus side Greenfinch and Wren have shown an increase.

Tahrcountry Musings


Lights Out On February 1St

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The “Alliance pour la Planète” (A national grouping of environmental

associations) has appealed to all citizens to give the planet 5 minutes respite on 1st Of



GMT (+1) – i.e. Spain, France and central europe – 7.55pm

GMT – Portugal & UK – 6.55pm

GMT (-5) – Eastern USA – 1.55pm

GMT (-8) – Western USA – 10.55am

India – GMT (+5.30) India February 2, 2007 at 12:25:00 AM

The purpose is not just to save electricity for 5 minutes that day, but also to draw the

attention of citizens, the media and the authorities to the waste of energy and the need to

initiate action! 5 minutes respite for the planet:that’s not long; it costs nothing and will

show our politicians that climate change is something, which should figure, prominently in

political debates.

February 1st has been chosen because that is the day on which the latest report of the

United Nations Panel of Experts is to be released in Paris. Although this event is

scheduled to take place in France, we should not miss this opportunity of drawing

attention to the global climatic situation.

If all of us participate our actions will have great public and political resonance, at an

important moment in our life.

Please make this appeal as widely known as possible in your own circles andnetworks.

Please also publish it on your websites and in your newsletters.

UK – Saving The Red Barbed Ants

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Red Barbed Ants (Formica rubibarbis) one of the rarest native species in UK, is on the

decline due to habitat loss. It is now found only in one site in Surrey and a few colonies in

the isle of Scilly. The ants are unique in the sense that, they form only all female colonies,

or all male colonies. The one nest in Surry is producing all females only. So males have

to be introduced there on a war footing if the species is to survive. Scientists will take

females from the nest in Surrey, and males from colonies found on the Isles of Scilly in an

effort to form breeding colonies needed to spread the species to new areas. Threat from

rapidly spreading “slave maker ants” also needs to be obviated to conserve the species.

Slave maker ants take away pupae, carry it to their nest and bring them up as slave ants.

Scientist from Zoological Society of London(ZSL) are spearheading the whole operation.


Tahrcountry Musings

Global Mercury Ban Urged

Friday, February 02, 2007

A consortium of NGOs from around the globe “Zero Mercury Coalition”, has called for

immediate action by governments worldwide to phase out mercury and export of the toxic

metal. The case will be forcefully argued at the next week’s meeting of UNEP to be held

in Nairobi. Mercury poisons the brain and is a threat to future generations. 5 years back

UNEP came up with a “Global Mercury Assessment Report” but no firm action has been

initiated so far. Even though use of mercury has come down in developed countries its

use is shooting up alarmingly in developing countries. The environmentalist wants the

governments to set firm reduction goals and put legal obligations on the companies.

Check Out This Blog

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hi guys,check out this blog. I find it very captivating


Butterflies- Bacteria's Powerful Effect On Mating

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The latest issue of Current Biology has some interesting news about butterfly

promiscuity. A study of the species Hypolimnas bolina, common in SE Asia revealed that

bacteria Wolbachia that kill off male butterflies increases promiscuity in females. As male

population fell females mated more frequently. Wolbachia bacteria is passed from mother

to son and kill the emryo before it hatches.The study was headed by Dr Sylvain Charlat

of the University College London.

Nilgiri Tahr Births On In Eravikulam National Park

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

This year’s birth season for the highly endangered Nilgiri Tahr has started in Eravikulam

National Park near Munnar,Kerala,India.The park will remain closed to visitors till March

15th to minimise disturbances.Core areas are absolutely taboo to even forest officials.

Nearly half the world’s wild population of Nilgiri Tahr lives in Eravikulam. The Forest and

Wildlife Department of Kerala which takes great pride in protecting the animal is

bestowing extra care to look after the welfare of this endangered denizen of Eravikulam

SOS from Indonesia – Orangutans In Peril

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The latest United Nations Environment Programme report does not bode well for the

Orangutans. Orangutans are the only great apes outside Africa. The report says the

orangutan population has dropped below twenty seven thousand and human activities

have taken away up to fifty percent of the orangutan’s environment. The rate of loss has

been accelerated during the course of last five years. Female orangutans are usually

Tahrcountry Musings


killed to steal their babies for sale as pets. If no action is action is taken 98% of forests on

the island of Sumatra and Borneo will be gone by 2022. Smuggled timber finds it way to

the West. Illegal logging is ravaging 37 of Indonesia’s 41 National Parks. Indonesian

Government has made a fervent plea to the western countries to help check the menace.

President Chirac Expresses Support For The 4th

IUCN World Conservat…

Thursday, February 08, 2007

At the just concluded Paris Conference for Global Ecological Governance President

Chirac has expressed strong support for the 4th IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Paris Conference for Global Ecological Governance was organized at the initiative of

President Chirac. The conference brought together government ministers, scientists,

company heads, NGOs and public figures from over sixty countries around the world.

President Chirac emphasized the need to create a new powerful United Nations

Environment Organisation(UNEO). Mr Chirac said “We must build world environmental

governance. In this area as in others, unilateralism leads nowhere. Just as multilateralism

is the prerequisite for peace, it is the key to sustainable development. The United Nations

Environment Programme is outstanding, and I want to pay tribute to it. But it does not

have adequate powers or institutional clout. We must aim to transform it into a fully-

fledged United Nations agency. This UNEO will act as the world’s ecological conscience.

It will carry out impartial and scientific assessment of environmental dangers. It will have

policy-making terms of reference giving it the legitimacy to implement action jointly

decided. It will lend greater weight and greater cohesion to our collective endeavours.”

Moth And Gyroscope

Friday, February 09, 2007

Scientists studying the moth Manduca Sexta, have come up with the finding that moths

control their flight by tiny gyroscope like sensors in its antennae. This has helped unravel

the mystery of moths’ flight in crepuscular conditions where visual clues are absent. The

researchers have found that a structure called Johnston’s organ holds the clue. A spin-off

from this finding could be the development of robotic flying insects. Dr Sanjay Sane of

University of Washington, Seattle, headed the study. The details appear in the latest

issue of Journal science. Dr Sanjay is the lead author.

Got The Best Idea To Remove Carbon Dioxide

From Atmosphere? -Here I...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson has offered a prize of $ 25 million for the guy who comes

up with the best idea to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The winner will

have to come up with an idea that will remove at least one billion tones of carbon from

the atmosphere per year. Former US Vice President Al Gore was present on the

occasion of the announcement in London. NASA scientist James Hanson, Gaia theory

man James Lovelock, environmentalist Sir Crispin Tickell and Australian Mammologist


Tahrcountry Musings

Tim Flannery heads the panel, which will decide the winner.

Church Suggests Green Weddings

Monday, February 12, 2007

Appalled by the phenomenal expenditures involved in marriages the Church of England

has appealed for moderation and adoption of environment friendly practices. The new

church guide called “making the most of weddings” advocates travel in a taxi, hitch a ride,

wear fair trade dress, invitation on recycled paper and use of rings handed down through

family. It appeals to the people planning to get married to go for the words environment

friendly attitudes. To top these things why not ask the guests to contribute to the charity

asks the church.

EU To Crack Down On Environmental Criminals

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

EU Commission has called for stricter norms to deal with environmental crimes and

recommended a minimum term of five years jail and fines of at least 750,000 euros for

offences done intentionally or with serious negligence. The member states would be

required to make activities such as the illegal shipment of waste and unlawful trade in

endangered species or ozone-depleting substances criminal offences. The new

proposals will be subject to a vote by qualified majority from the member states and

approval from the European Parliament.

Giant Squid That Uses Light To Disorient Victims

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Japanese scientists have come across a giant squid, Taningia danae that throws blinding

light to disorient victims. The action has been captured on Video. This use of

bioluminescence in hunting is a new info. The researchers say the light emission is used

also as a courtship display. The video was taken in deep waters off Chichijima Island in

North Pacific. Dr Sunemi Kubodera from the National Science Museum, Tokyo led the

research. The details appear in the proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Heart of Borneo conservation initiative launched

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia have signed the Heart of Borneo

Declaration, to conserve and sustainably manage the Heart of Borneo that spans the

three countries’ common borders. This large chunk of rainforest is one of only two places

on the planet where elephants, rhinos and orangutans co-exist. It is also a place where

new species have been found at a rate of three per month for the last ten years. UK will

provide practical support to implementing the Declaration, through working in association

with WWF.

Tahrcountry Musings


Peruvian Rain Forest In Peril

Friday, February 16, 2007

Peruvian rainforest is home to exotic animals like Jaguar, harpy eagle, and giant river

otter. But unsustainable harvesting of timber is posing a threat to the very existence of

these denizens of the rain forest. Big-leaf mahogany, a threatened species is being

extracted flouting all acceptable norms. Peru is the world’s largest exporter of big-leaf

mahogany, with over 90% going to the North American market. Peru's system of annual

export quotas for mahogany does not comply with the requirements of the Convention on

International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Environmentalist have demanded a Big-Leaf Mahogany Action Plan that ensure full

compliance with CITES.

Bukhara deer reintroduced in Kazakhstan

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The endangered Bukhara deer has been reintroduced to its former habitat on the right

bank of Kazakhstan’s Ili River. This was the result of joint efforts by WWF and the Altyn

Emel National Park Service in Kazakhstan. Two bucks and seven does were

reintroduced. The Bukhara deer population throughout Central Asia had dropped due to

habitat loss and poaching. By the end of the 1990s there were only 350 deer left. Since

WWF started its Bukhara deer conservation project in Central Asia in 1999, the

population has increased to 1,000 deer.

Robot Ornithologists Looking Out For Rare Bird

Monday, February 19, 2007

An automated ornithologist installed in Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas,

USA is looking out for elusive Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The bird was thought to be

extinct but reported sightings in 2004 renewed the interest of ornithologists, with

University of Cornell leading the way. The wetland and forest region of the lower

Mississippi river valley is 250 sq km and observations are tricky. Human presence can

also affect the behaviour of the bird. These aspects prompted the scientists to install the

automated device. The device consists of two high-resolution video cameras connected

to a hard disc. Any shot that it believes does not contain a bird is discarded. No picture of

the bird has been obtained so far.

Army To The Rescue Of Malawi Forests

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Government of Malawi has brought in the intervention of army to save its forests from

depredation. Forests have been hacked down for charcoal and firewood, and this has

made the deforestation rate one of the most pathetic in African continent. 50,000

hectares are lost every year for charcoal alone. Another culprit is the tobacco industry

that uses huge quantities for its curing needs. The Government says the forest areas

used by the army for its training purposes are absolutely intact, and it was this that

prompted the Government to think in terms of roping in the army.


Tahrcountry Musings

UK – Rare Fish Saved From Extinction

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gwyniad, (Coregonus pennantii), a fish akin to herring has been saved from the jaws of

extinction. The fish dates back to the ice age. The fish native only to one lake in

Gwynedd was facing extinction due to poor water quality, and lack of oxygen. A small fish

called Ruffe introduced in the lake, which ate the eggs and young fish of Gwyniad,

compounded the danger. Now fertilized eggs have been successfully relocated to Llyn

Arenig as part of a two-year project. The fish is expected to thrive in the new

environment. The relocation project is a joint effort of Countyside Council for Wales and

Snowdonis National Park authority.

First Colossal Squid Landed In New Zealand

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The first intact adult colossal squid (Masonychoteuthis hamiltonii) has been landed in

New Zealand. New Zealand fishermen landed the fish while they were trying to fish

Patagonian tooth fish in deep Antarctic waters. The species was first identified in 1935. It

took 2 hours to haul in the 250 kg squid.

Chimpanzees Fashion Spears

Friday, February 23, 2007

The journal current biology has some astonishing information about Chimpanzees.

Researchers Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani from the center of evolutionary studies,

Cambridge, UK, reports that Chimpanzees in Senegal were observed making and using

wooden spears to hunt other primates. The chimps adopted four to five steps to fashion

the spear. They also trimmed the edge of fashioned spear. Females’ particularly

adolescent females were seen to pick up this habit more frequently. Young chimps pick

up the habit easily from their mothers. The adult males were lax in this respect. The

authors say that this finding also support the theory that females may have played a

significant role in the evolution of use of tool in early humans.

Beaver Sighted In Bronx River After A Gap Of


Monday, February 26, 2007

Scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society have photographed a Beaver in Bronx

River. This is exciting news because Beavers have not been sighted in New York for

more than 200 years. This is the result of care taken to clean up the mess in Bronx River.

It was US Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx who spearheaded the whole operation.

Scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society have named the beaver Jose in Serrano’s


Tahrcountry Musings


Hi Guys I am back on the net

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hi Guys,

Due to some personal constraints I have not been able to update for some time now.I

have got several emails from regular readers. I will try to update regularly now.

EU Imports Threatens Widlife

Saturday, June 02, 2007

EU happens to be the world’s biggest importer of wildlife. This has been highlighted in a

report by TRAFFIC titled Opportunity or threat: The role of the European Union in the

global wildlife trade.The legal trade of wildlife products into the EU was worth an

estimated €93 billion in 2005. Between 2003 and 2004, EU enforcement authorities made

over 7,000 seizures of shipments without legal permits, totaling over 3.5 million

specimens listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of

Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).Conservationists fear that under the guise of legal imports

several attempts at smuggling also happens. Conservationists are demanding that EU

should provide external assistance to countries where wildlife products originate and

ensure that their trade is sustainable. A carefully drafted policy can bring in benefits on

sustainable basis.For example, the EU imports 95 per cent of vicuña wool, providing

significant income for 700,000 people in impoverished Andean communities.

Spain Abandons Motorway Plan To Save Lynx

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Heeding to the views of environmentalists, Spain has decided to abandon a motorway

plan linking the ancient capital of Toledo with the southern city of Cordoba, passing

through Sierra Morena mountains,.the last refuge of the endangered Iberian Lynx.250 to

350 Iberian lynxes remain in the world, all of them in Spain.

Virgin To Fund Elephant Corridor In Kenya

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chairman of the Virgin, Richard Branson has promised aid for construction of a corridor

that will allow about 2,000 elephants follow their natural migratory path north of Mount

Kenya. Small farms that have come up in innumerable numbers around Mount Kenya,

has cut off centuries-old migratory routes threatening lives, damaging crops and

antagonizing people. Mr. Branson made his offer on the occasion of the launch of London

Nairobi flight of Virgin Atlantic


Tahrcountry Musings

Hope For Threatened Eels

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

There is fresh hope for the threatened Eels in Europe. EU governments have reached an

agreement imposing strict limits on catching eels to prevent the species from becoming

extinct. The agreement stipulates to reserve a percentage of catch to restock Europe’s

rivers. Till now the stumbling block was restocking percentage, which prevented

exporting much of the juvenile eel catch called glass eels to Asian markets, where it

fetches fabulous prices. The spawning of Eels in European waters is still a mystery.

US – A Thriving Market For Illegal Ivory

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Care for the Wild International, which surveyed thousands of retail outlets in 14 cities in

US last year and this year has come out with shocking details. US is indeed a thriving

market for worked ivory next only to Hong Kong. The findings were presented at The

Hague meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

(CITES), The poaching of elephants have reached unprecedented levels in Africa.

Good News – Japan’s Bid To Reopen Trade In

Whale Products Rebuffed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has refused the

request by Japan to reopen trade in whale products. CITES delegates meeting in The

Hague from June 3 to 15 have rejected Japan’s proposal by an overwhelming majority.

Conservation groups worldwide have hailed the decision.

CITES Support For Coral

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In an effort to augment conservation initiatives for Red, pink and other coral species in

the genus Corallium, delegates attending a meeting of the Convention on International

Trade in Endangered Species (CITES ) at The Hague have adopted a US proposal to list

the genus in Appendix II of the convention. Appendix II allows trade in a species under

strict conditions. Red and pink corals are found throughout the world’s tropical and

temperate seas and are used mainly for the manufacture of jewellery. Corallium

populations off parts of the Italian, French and Spanish coasts are no longer

commercially viable, while in the Western Pacific they have been depleted alarmingly.

Tahrcountry Musings


Algeria – Threat To Wetland

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Environmentalists are worried about the imminent threat to ecologically significant El Kala

coastal park of marshes and forests in Algeria. The proposed 1,200 km road intended to

link Algeria to Tunisia and Morocco poses the threat. The alignment passes through the

park. The park is home of, fox, lynx, tortoise wildcat and many species of predator birds.

The park contains one site that Algeria has undertaken to protect under the 1971 Ramsar

Convention. When the park was formed under the Algerian laws the government had

made a firm commitment to protect the area from environmental damage.

Environmentalists worldwide are crying foul.

Europe – Brown Bears Facing Extinction

Friday, June 22, 2007

Brown Bears are facing extinction in European Alps. Environmentalists assess only 38

animals in the entire Alps, and Germany does not have even one. The small size makes

them critically endangered. Unless efforts at conservation move on a war footing the days

of the Brown Bears are numbered.

Albino Mountain Goat Sighted

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Italian Wildlife Rangers have finally manged to take photos of the elusive Albino

Mountain Goat(capra ibex). in the the Les Laures valley in the northwestern Val d’Aosta

region. Hikers had been reporting seeing a white animal at higher elevations for

months.This is the only case of Albinism ever documented.among the capra ibex.

Pipedreams? Interbasin transfers and water


Thursday, June 28, 2007

A new WWF report titled Pipedreams? Interbasin transfers and water shortages shows

that water transfers between rivers damage the natural environment, interrupting flows

between rivers compromising their ability to provide food and water. It also involves cost

overruns, insufficient transparency, irreversible damage to rivers, lack of stakeholder

consultation, displacement of communities, planned benefits falling short, and a lack of

exploration of alternative sustainable options. Less than 40 per cent of the world’s rivers

over 1,000km long remain free flowing WWF advocates a commitment to healthy rivers

and wetlands as the first step to water conservation, complemented by other methods as

sustainable as possible and only if necessary. The reports conclude that Basin transfers

must be the last resort after all other sustainable approaches have been explored.


Tahrcountry Musings

US – Shipping Lanes Changed To Save Whales

Monday, July 02, 2007

Shipping lanes have been changed to save Whales in Boston. Boston is a busy port with

vessels coming in laden with oil or liquid natural gas as the prime cargo. The large

vessels will travel roughly6.5 km north of their old path to avoid parts of the only whale

sanctuary in the United States, Hitting whales is a recurrent feature here. Two whales

have been hit in the last six weeks. The new lanes reduce the chance of whales being hit

by vessels by up to 80 percent,

Vietnam – New Hope For Endangered Monkey

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hope abounds for one of the world’s most endangered monkey. The Tree-Dwelling Grey-

Shanked Doucs of Vietnam is one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates. Surveys

by WWF and Conservation International have recorded at least 116 of the species in

central Vietnam infusing new hope about its survival. Until this discovery only one other

population with more than 100 animals was known.

Rare Mountain Gorillas Shot Dead in Congo

Friday, July 27, 2007

Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which is one of the last

bastions of highly endangered Mountain Gorillas had a shocker yesterday. In a gruesome

incident one silverback male and three female mountain gorillas have been shot dead.

Total world population is around 700. Of these 1/5th is inside Virunga National Park.

Congolese wildlife authorities are stepping up patrols.

Massive Animal Relocation On In Meru National

Park, Kenya

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Meru National Park in Kenya was once famous for its magnificent wildlife and visitors

thronged there. But incessant poaching has reduced the park to a mere shadow of its

past. Efforts are now on to bring back past glory by translocation. Animals will be taken

from better-stocked reserves in Naivasha, Nakuru and Laikipia and Translocated to Meru

in a massive operation. Kenyan Widlife authorities have started moving about 2,000

animals. On top of the list are Zebras, Impalas, Hartebeests and Beisa Oryx.

Tahrcountry Musings


Unusual Fossilized Cypress Trees discovered in


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hungarian scientists have discovered a group of fossilized swamp cypress trees

estimated to be 8 million years old, in the Northeastern village of Bukkabrany. Many trees

have been preserved in their original position in this place. Instead of petrifying the

original wood has been preserved. This is a rarity. The find is expected to provide clues

about the climate of pre-historic times

Large-antlered muntjac Photographed in Laos

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My friends in Laos inform me that recently the Large-antlered Muntjac has been

photographed for the first time using camera traps set in Nakai Nam Theun National

Protected Area (NNT NPA), in the Annamite Mountains. Previous records were from

specimens collected by hunters and a few fleeting glimpses by biologists. Another rare

species found in the area is Annamite striped rabbit, one of the world’s rarest and least-

known rabbit.

Pygmy Elephants Threatened In Borneo

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Asia’s largest project for the satellite tracking of elephants initiated by WWF has come up

with disturbing news about pygmy elephants. Habitat destruction is driving them to the

brink of extinction. There are fewer than 1,500 pygmy elephants left in Borneo their sole

habitat. WWF has urged for immediate counter measures to be put in place, to stop

destruction of habitat and preservation of corridors.

France - Sad News- Freed Brown Bear Killed In

Road Accident

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My French contacts inform me that the female bear, named Franska, one of a group of

brown bears released in the mountain ranges between France and Spain last year has

been killed in a road accident near the southern French town of Lourdes. The release of

the bears was under a European programme to help species in danger of extinction.

Franska had run in to controversy recently with local farmers alleging that she was

responsible for many sheep deaths in the area.


Tahrcountry Musings

IUCN & UNESCO sends mission to investigate

gorilla shootings in…

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

IUCN The World Conservation Union and UNESCO are sending a mission to investigate

shooting of four critically endangered Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park, in

Democratic Republic of Congo, last week. The joint IUCN and UNESCO mission

departed on August 11. The team will spend 10 days in Congo and will have meetings

with Government representatives in Kinshasa, the United Nations Mission in the

Democratic Republic of Congo, the park’s guards and political and military leaders. The

mission will suggest measures to protect the animals and improve the conservation of the

national park, which has been on the list of World Heritage sites in danger since 1994.

Virunga National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 for its aesthetic

and geological importance and for being a biodiversity hotspot. It was added to the

danger list 15 years later amid concerns of poaching, deforestation and the effects of

armed militia.

“The 11th Hour” from DiCaprio

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The documentary “The 11th Hour”from DiCaprio is set for release on August 17th.It is a

compilation of interviews with leading scientists, designers, experts, historians and

thinker and highlights the threat of global warming and consumption. DiCaprio thinks this

is bound to galvanize people in thinking green. For his part he tries to do everything

possible except walking to work. He has maintained a hybrid car for almost six years and

his house is built “green”.

Migrate And Get Lucky In Love – The Hyena


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The latest research on Spotted Hyenas by Dr. Oliver Honer from the Liebniz Institute for

Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin has come up with some fascinating facts about

Spotted Hyenas. Female Spotted Hyenas prefer an outsider when it comes to mating,

males that have immigrated from another group after the female was born. This in turn

prevents inbreeding. The research was done in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Read the

details in the latest issue of Journal Nature

Tahrcountry Musings


Campaign Against illegal wildlife Trade Items

Being Brought to the …

Friday, August 17, 2007

A WWF initiated campaign is on, to educate and prevent British holidaymakers from

bringing back illegal wildlife Trade Items. Last year, British customs officials’ confiscated

more than 163,000 illegal wildlife trade items, many made from highly endangered

species. This included: 158,000 illegal plants such as orchids and cycads; 221 elephant

ivory and skin products; and 959 live reptiles such as snakes, chameleons, tortoises and

terrapins. The unintentional act of holidaymakers is pushing some species to the brink of

extinction. Under the CITES agreement, 827 species of animals and plants are banned

from international trade and a further 32,840 is strictly controlled.

Tahrcountry congratulates WWF UK for this initiative. This needs to be duplicated in other

countries also.

Ireland – The Return Of The White-Tailed Eagle

Sunday, August 19, 2007

White-Tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla ) which disappeared from Ireland about 100

years ago has made a comeback. On 16th August Mr. John Gormley, Minister for the

Environment released six White Tailed Eagles into the wild in Killarney National Park as

part of the programme to reintroduce this native bird of prey in Ireland. These birds had

pride of place in the cultural and natural heritage of Ireland for hundreds of years but due

to trapping and shooting in the 19th and early 20th centuries they became extinct. The

eagle chicks came from Norway. The project will operate over a five-year period with

about 15 birds being released on each occasion. It is expected that most of the eagles

released will disperse to the coastline after a few months

Peace Parks – A New Book

Monday, August 20, 2007

Peace Parks, a new book from the IUCN stable, with a foreword by the World

Conservation Union’s Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, explores how peace parks

can help resolve political and territorial disputes. Real-life examples, such as the Selous-

Niassa Wildlife Corridor in Africa and the Emerald Triangle conservation zone in

Indochina are highlighted. IUCN the World Conservation Union describes the book as not

only a groundbreaking book in international relations, but also a valuable resource for

policy makers and environmentalists.

If you are interested in details about the book please contact

Sarah Halls, Global Media Relations Officer, The World Conservation Union (IUCN), Tel:

+41 22 999 0127, e-mail: [email protected],


Tahrcountry Musings

Cambodia – DNA Tests on Elephant Dungs To

Determine Elephant Numbers

Thursday, August 23, 2007

600 elephant dung samples collected from Cambodia will be sent to Australia to

determine the actual numbers of elephants. They will be analyzed at the Wantirna

laboratory DNA Solutions in Melbourne. Mr Heffernan, from conservation group Fauna &

Flora, is leading the project. Because each animal has a unique DNA profile, the

scientists can use genetic testing to work out numbers. The size of the droppings

provides clues about age, while the DNA fingerprinting will reveal details about sex ratios.

The current estimate of elephants in Cambodia is only a guesstimate.

Austria – Rare Birth – Panda Born in Zoo

Friday, August 24, 2007

Natural birth of birth of Pandas in zoos is a rare occurrence. The standard practice in zoo

is artificial insemination. Viennaa’s Tiergarten Schoenbrunn zoo on Thursday celebrated

the natural birth of a panda cub. The mother Yang Yang and mate Long Hui are on

extended loan from China. The gestation period was 127 days. The last panda born in a

zoo in Europe was in 1982 in Madrid.

Argentina – Huge New Marine National Park To

Be Created

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Argentina will create a new National Park along the Patagonia coast to safeguard more

than half a million penguins and other rare seabirds like endangered Olrog’s gull and the

white-headed steamer duck. The new park serves as a nesting and feeding ground for

around 250,000 pairs of Magellanic penguin, estimated to represent 20 percent of the

world’s population and the only colonies of Southern American fur seals. The area is also

one of the most productive marine ecosystems on the planet.

Brazil – Manatees reintroduction Programme

Monday, August 27, 2007

Manatees (Trichechus inungis) of Amazon, which plays a vital role in the river ecosystem,

are declining at an alarming rate. Habitat loss,hunting and slow rate of reproduction are

the main causes of decline. Alarmed at this rapid decline scientists are planning

reintroduction possibilities. National Amazon Research Institute (INPA) plans to introduce

two male manatees into the Rio Cuieiras , a tributary of the Rio Negro. The scientists

hope they will seek out females and begin repopulating the area. INPA has 36 manatees

in captivity. They hope to utilise 18 of them for reintroduction trials. INPA is also planning

an awareness programme to educate people living in the area about the manatee’s

importance to the environment.

Tahrcountry Musings


UK – Hedgehogs House Sparrows and starlings

Included In List of Spe…

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The new Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) of UK has included Hedgehogs, House Sparrows

and starlings in the list of 1,149 species in need of conservation and greater protection.

The plan includes 65 habitats as being in need of better conservation and protection.

Other animals added to the list for the first time include the grass snake and the garden

tiger moth. The BAP list considered to be one of the most authoritative reference sources

for the state of the UK’s wildlife is expected to give greater thrust to conservation

measures in UK. BAP also contributes to global conservation commitments, outlined in

the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

11th Hour – Message From Leonardo DiCaprio

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Here is a message from Leonardo DiCaprio. Have alook at it. Spread it around

I’m writing to tell you about my new environmental film,The 11th Hour. The film

documents the environmental crises we face and the solutions we must begin to


Please click here to take a look at the trailer.

With help from over fifty of the world’s most prominent thinkers and activists, including

reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, physicist Stephen Hawking, and Nobel Prize winner

Wangari Maathai, The 11th Hour documents the grave problems facing the planet’s life

systems. Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the

oceans’ habitats are all addressed. However, the most powerful element ofThe 11th

Houris not that it portrays a planet in crisis, but that it offers hope and solutions. The film

ends with a call for restorative action through reshaping human activity.

Check out the website for more information on the film.

>> www.11thhouraction.com

The 11th Hour opened on August 17th in New York and Los Angeles. It will open in other

cities across the country in the upcoming weeks. It would be great if you could go see it

and bring a friend. You can go to our website to get more information on the movie and

when it will play near you.

We need the message of this movie to hit as far and wide as possible.

The hope is us. Let’s begin.

Thank you,

Leonardo DiCaprio


Tahrcountry Musings

“ O u r g r e e n a c c o u n t a b i l i t y ” f r o m W o r l d

C o n s e r v a t i o n U n i o n

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has released its first Environmental Indicators

report entitled “Our green accountability” to show its operational environmental impact.

The report analyses the environmental sustainability of IUCN’s operations in 2006. The

report analyzes trends in the use of paper, electricity, gas, water and carbon emissions

from flight travel and looks at staff commuting patterns.

The main recommendations made in the report include

• Improving training and awareness-raising of staff,

• Establishing economic incentives for environmental gain and

• Institutionalizing this report and the collection and analysis of data for it.

IUCN will use their experiences obtained over the last 18 months to contribute to the

Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) dialogue.

For further information, please contact GOGG @iucn.org.

Rare dolphin sighted in China

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chinese scientists had recently declared that Yangtze River dolphin(Lipotes vexillifer) or

baiji was probably extinct. But baiji has been was spotted and filmed by a local man in

Anhui Province, eastern China. Scientists of the Institute of Hydrobiology at the Chinese

Academy of Social Sciences have confirmed that the footage was of a baiji. Scientists will

now try to capture the dolphins and move them to a reserve where they would try to

breed them. The last sighting of a wild baiji was in 2004. The sighting has brought cheer

to the environmentalists of China.

Scotland – Wildlife Crimes – Environment Minister

Promises Tough M…

Friday, August 31, 2007

My UK contacts inform me that Environment Minister Mike Russell has promised tough

crackdown on wildlife offenders. Bird poisoning is troubling the environmentalists. The

killing of a golden eagle in Peeblesshire recently had come in for wide spread

condemnation. New measures planned could result in the removal of firearms licences

and cutting farm aid payments.

Tahrcountry Musings


Spain – Virus Threat to Dolphins

Friday, August 31, 2007

Spain’s environment ministry has issued warning about the outbreak of Morbilli virus

threatening dolphins and has sought the help of experts around the Mediterranean and

adjoining seas for help in monitoring the infection. The virus had produced a massive

epidemic in the 1990s. The newspaper El Mundo on Wednesday reported that several

dolphins had been killed. Several dolphin corpses have been recovered from the coast in

Murcia and Velancia. Javier Pantoja, head of marine conservation in Spain’s environment

ministry, says his department has arranged a mid-September meeting in which the

affected regions and experts would discuss how best to confront the crisis.

Colombia – New national park created

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Colombian government has created a new national park, Serranía de los

Churumbelos Auka Wasi National Park, covering 97,180 ha, which will give a boost to the

conservation of Andean and Amazon ecosystems. The area harbours abundant wildlife,

including the Andean bear, jaguar, tapir and puma, 30 species of amphibians, 16 species

of reptiles, more than 140 species of butterflies, 825 species of plants and 461 species of

birds. Sacred areas of several indigenous communities such as the Inga and Yanaconas,

will also be protected.

Italy – Pope Leads Catholic Church’s First Eco-

Friendly Rally

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Pope Benedict on Saturday led the Catholic Church’s first eco-friendly youth rally. Pope

exhorted the estimated 300,000 young people to shun love for the disposable. The rally

was held in central Adriatic shrine city of Loreto. Recycled paper, backpacks made of

recyclable material, a flashlight operated by a crank instead of batteries and

biodegradable plates were the highlights of the camp. The main piece of advice was

“Discover the beauty of love, but not disposable love, that is here today and gone


Beware of That Pigeon Droppings

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pigeons are beautiful to behold. But acidic pigeon droppings may cause lot of problems

to iron structures. Pigeon droppings contain ammonia and acids. Experts investigating

the recent bridge mishap in Mississippi think that continued build up of pigeon droppings

may have contributed to faster build up of rust, and this in turn may have contributed to

the causes of collapse of the bridge.


Tahrcountry Musings

WWF Advocates Bluefin Tuna Sanctuary

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Concerned about plummeting Bluefin tuna population, WWF is advocating immediate

establishment of a sanctuary for the bluefin tuna around the Balearic Islands in the

western Mediterranean . The proposal is based on research by Spanish marine biologists

, which has established that the area is of outstanding importance for the breeding of the

species. WWF is also working on scientifically based recovery plan , which will be

discussed in the next meeting of ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation

of Atlantic Tunas) in Turkey this November.

Congo – Endangered Gorillas Caught In The


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken control of large tracts of the

Virunga National Park, home of the endangered mountain gorillas. Conservationists the

world over are worried about the fate of the animals. Only 700 mountain gorillas remain in

the wild. Half of them are in Virunga National Park.

Global Environmental Flows Network Launched

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Global Environmental Flows Network was officially launched during the 10th

International River Symposium Conference currently on in Brisbane, Australia.

‘Environmental Flows’ refers to water provided within a river, wetland or coastal zone to

maintain ecosystems, and their benefits where there is competing use and demand. The

network was crated by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Delft Hydraulics, DHI

Water and Environment, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Centre for Ecology and

Hydrology (CEH), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Stockholm

International Water Institute (SIWI), Swedish Water House, and the Global Water for

Sustainability Program (GLOWS). Water managers, NGOs, local communities, scientists

and researchers, as well as governmental and intergovernmental agencies that are

interested in sharing knowledge or experiences on environmental flows can utilize the


For more information log on to www.riversymposium.com

Vietnam – Shocking – Frozen Tigers Recovered

From Fridge

Friday, September 07, 2007

It is hard to believe. But it happened. Vietnamese police have recovered two frozen tigers

from an apartment, along with two soup kettles filled with animal bones. A 40-year-old

woman has been taken in to custody. The woman confessed that she was making

traditional medicines. The conjecture is that the tigers were brought from Myanmar or

Tahrcountry Musings


Laos. While the wildlife enforcement laws in Vietnam are strong Myanmar and Laos pays

only lip service.

New Findings – Asian Catfish Migrates Hundreds

of Kilometers

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The latest issue of the Journal of Fish Biology has some interesting facts about

Southeast Asian catfish. A new study by Zeb Hogan, Ian Baird, Richard Radtke and Jake

Vander Zanden shows that the Catfish (Pangasius krempfi) travels thousands of

kilometers from the South China Sea up the Mekong River to spawn. This is similar to

many salmon species that spend the first part of their lives at sea and then migrate

thousands of kilometers up coastal rivers to spawn. This turns topsy-turvy the present

belief that Catfish does not travel much. The new findings also suggest that related

catfish species all over the world may be more migratory than previously thought.

For more information, see the paper: Hogan, Z, IG Baird, R Radtke and MJ Vander

Zanden (2007) Long distance migration and marine habitation in the tropical Asian

catfish, Pangasius krempfi. Journal of Fish Biology 71, 818–832.

Alert – Indian Bull Frogs Being Smuggled Out

Sunday, September 09, 2007

There exists a thriving smuggling racket in Indian Bull Frogs (Hoplobatrachus Tigerinus).

Wildlife authorities in Assam have seized an estimated 3,000 frogs near the Kaziranga

National Park. According to local authorities the frogs were destined for France via

Bangladesh. The frogs are killed in Bangladesh and their legs dismembered and frozen

before they are smuggled to France. The seized frogs were later released in to


Why bears rub trees? – British Ecologist Get To

The Bottom Of The …

Monday, September 10, 2007

Many theories have been advanced as to why bears rub trees. One school of thought

was: female bears might rub trees as they came into oestrous. Others were of the view

that bears might be giving their backs a scratch to get rid of parasites. Dr Owen Nevin of

the University of Cumbria has finally solved the riddle. Adult male grizzly bears use so-

called “rub trees” as a way to communicate with each other while looking for breeding

females. This behaviour also helps to reduce battles between the bears. Big male bears

can seriously injure and even kill each other when they get into a fight. Over the past two

years, Dr Nevin used four digital cameras with infra-red trips set up opposite rub trees to

collect data on which bears used the trees and when. Satellite telemetry equipment were

used to track individual bears’ movements. The research findings will also help improve

bear conservation by affording an insight into the behaviour of secretive male bears.

If you are keen about more information contact Dr Owen Nevin, University of Cumbria,

tel: 0176 889 3551, email: [email protected]


Tahrcountry Musings

Crimes against wild birds Go Up In UK

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Crimes against birds have taken a 50% jump in UK. The latest Bird crime report by the

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says there were 1,109 incidents in 2006,

up from 726 in 2005. Killing of raptors was the most worrying factor. Birds like Red kite,

Goshawk and Hen Harrier are struggling to recover from many years of deliberate

persecution. Counties Derbyshire, North Yorkshire and Northumberland were the worst


UK – Efforts On For Grass Roofs

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The English county Coventry is contemplating an innovative idea to combat climate

change. The idea is to lay grass roofs across Coventry building. Grass roofs can provide

insulation, encourage wildlife, and help purify the air by filtering out pollution. This will

also make Coventry one of the greenest places in UK.

Threat of Extinction At The Door For Many


Friday, September 14, 2007

2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is an indicator of the alarming rate at which

some species are being pushed to the brink. There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN

Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year. The

total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in

captivity or in cultivation. There are now 12,043 plants on the IUCN Red List, with 8,447

listed as threatened. Some of the highlights of the latest reports are, Yangtze River

Dolphin listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct), first appearance of corals on

the IUCN Red List, the decline of the great apes, Vulture crisis, and addition of North

American reptiles to IUCN Red List

For more info log on towww.iucn.org/redlistandhttp://www.iucnredlist.org/

Virunga National Park – WWF Chips In With Help

Friday, September 14, 2007

Created in 1925, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo is the oldest

national park in Africa and also the richest in biodiversity, with over 700 species of birds

and 200 species of mammals. It is also World Heritage-listed. The Park is passing

through difficult times due to civil unrest in the area. WWF is working closely with

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, to prevent encroachment into Virunga National Park

by people displaced by civil unrest in the area. About 35,000 people have been affected.

Three camps have been set up by the displaced people in Mugunga, a small town next to

Virunga National Park. One of them,the Lac Vert Camp,is partly located within the park.

The main challenge is to avert a fuel wood crisis that will erode Virunga National Park.

WWF is working closely with UNHCR and ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation

de la Nature) to find solutions to the problem, under a programme funded by the

Tahrcountry Musings


European Union. UNHCR is urging the displaced people to move from the Lac Vert

Camp to a new camp that could accommodate up to 5,000 families.

Australia – Call to protect Coral Sea

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Conservationists around the world are urging the Australian government to protect

the Coral Sea, which has abundant shark populations. The area is a “predator diversity

hotspot” and one of Australia’s last tropical marine wildernesses area, comprising an area

of 780,000sq km. Environmentalists want the government to give the area full-scale

protection by giving legal status of protected area. If the proposal is accepted this would

be the world’s largest marine park. Illegal fishing for sharks for their fin is posing a serious

threat to the area and the threat is increasing.

Bluefin Tuna – Good News

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In a move to conserve endangered Bluefin Tuna the European Commission has banned

the fishing of Bluefin Tuna in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean for the rest of the

year. The ban is in force in Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain. Italy and France.

EU and international rules have provisions to punish the offenders.

Global Warming – World Leaders To Meet In

New York

Monday, September 24, 2007

150 countries are expected to attend a special UN meeting convened by United Nations

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on 24th September to discuss the effects of

global warming and the ways to combat it. The highlight is the presence of 80 heads of

state. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former US Vice President Al Gore

will attend the meeting.The secretary general will deliver the keynote address at

Monday’s summit, entitled “The Future in Our Hands: Addressing the Leadership

Challenge of Climate Change.” According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Change, if no action is taken on greenhouse gases, the Earth’s temperature could rise by

4.50°C (8.1°F) or more. Climate change will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the


Vietnam – New Discoveries

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scientists have discovered 11 new species of animals and plants in the Thua Thien Hue

Province of Vietnam, a region known as the Green Corridor . The discovery includes

three plants , five orchids two butterflies and a snake . Ten other plant species, including

four orchids, are still under examination but also appear to be new species. All these

species are at risk from illegal logging, hunting, unsustainable extraction of natural

resources and conflicting development interests. The area is also home to Vietnam’s

greatest number of white-cheeked crested gibbons, one of the world’s most endangered


Tahrcountry Musings


If you are keen about more information please contact

Dr Chris Dickinson, Chief Technical Adviser

WWF Vietnam

Tel: +84 54 887 341

E-mail: [email protected]

Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Press Officer

WWF International

Tel: + 41 22 364 9554

E-mail: [email protected]

New Wildlife Reserves In Vietnam

Friday, September 28, 2007

In an effort to protect critically endangered wild ox saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), the

central Vietnamese provinces of Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam will create two new

wildlife reserves. The extent of each reserve will be 121km2.The reserves will link up with

the Bach Ma National Park to cover a continuous protected landscape covering

approximately 2,920km2 . Saola is found only in the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and

Laos. Very little is known about the species. The total population is thought to be no more

than 250 individuals

New protected Areas In Papua New Guinea

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three new protected areas have been created in Papua New Guinea. The new wildlife

reserves are the new Aramba, Tonda extension and Weriaver areas covering about

710,000 hectares in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province . The area is home to

unique wildlife like marsupial cats, endemic flying possums and birds of paradise. Local

community leaders, politicians and wildlife officials form the synergy for this new venture.

Local landowner committees will manage the areas with assistance from wildlife officials

and agencies like WWF.

Tragedy- 10000 Wildebeest Drowned

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

10,000 Wildebeest have drowned while attempting to cross Kenya’s Mara River. They

were swept away by the current at a deep crossing and drowned. Wildebeest make their

annual migration from Serengeti Plain of Tanzania to greener pastures in Kenya covering

a distance of 3,200 kilometers. One percent of the total species population has been

wiped out in this tragedy.

Tahrcountry Musings


Indonesia – Plan To Plant 79 Million Trees in One


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Indonesia, which is facing flak from world community for deforestation at alarming rate,

has decided to bow to the demands from environmentalists or at least it seems to be so.

Indonesia will plant 79 million trees in a single day on November 28th ahead of the U.N.

climate change summit in Bali in December. This is part of a global campaign to plant

one billion trees launched at U.N. climate change talks in Nairobi last year. Palm oil

plantations have done irreparable damage to rain forests and the endangered

Orangutans in Indonesia and this has earned the ire of the environmentalists.

Crow Facts

Friday, October 05, 2007

The latest issue of journal science has some interesting facts about crows, to be specific,

about New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides). New Caledonian crows are found

on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. The birds are renowned for their

sophisticated tool using ability, but until now, observing them in their natural habitat has

not been successful. This species of crow is the only non-primate animal known to create

and use new tools. Now scientists using miniature cameras have unraveled intricacies of

how New Caledonian crows behave in the wild. They can use their bills to whittle twigs

and leaves into bug-grabbing implements. The crows were also observed to be using

grass stems on the forest floor for probing the leaf litter. Dr Christian Rutz, lead author of

the paper is from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, UK.

UNEP and Google On Clean Up Drive

Saturday, October 06, 2007

People across the planet will be cleaning up their area and sharing the result with millions

of people on the Internet in an innovative programme launched by Google and the United

Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). During International Cleanup Weekend on 13

and 14 October, community groups and individuals on every continent will be heading out

in small groups with friends and family to clean up their local parks, beaches, streets and

neighbourhoods. Under this new initiative, their activities and results will make history by

being posted as photos and videos onto Google Map. This will give a global platform to

every local initiative. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP’s Executive

Director, said: “The power of local community action is being matched by the power of

the World Wide Web. This should make a formidable partnership uniting and empowering

groups from Bangalore to Bermuda and Berlin to Beijing in common cause.” UNEP and

Google encourage everyone to plan their own cleanup close to home, wherever they

t h i n k t h e r e i s t h e b i g g e s t n e e d f o r i t . T o g e t s t a r t e d , g o t o :

h t t p : / / m a p s . g o o g l e . c o m / h e l p / m a p s / c l e a n u p /

The inputs for this entry has comwe from UNEP


Tahrcountry Musings

The world moves into “ecological overdraft”

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Economic Foundation UK says that the world as a whole is going into ecological debt

driven by over-consumption. ‘Ecological debt day’ is the date when, in effect, humanity

uses-up the resources the earth has available for the year, and begins eating into its

stock of natural resources. Ecological Debt Day this year is three days earlier than in

2006 which itself was three days earlier than in 2005. This is just one of the findings of a

new report from nef,Chinadependence: the second UK Interdependence report,

published in association with the Open University. The report says the world’s biggest

carbon polluter is the United States. If everyone in the world had the same consumption

rates as in the United States it would take 5.3 planet earths to support them. The figure

was 3.1 for France and Britain, 3.0 for Spain, 2.5 for Germany and 2.4 for Japan. Green

house emissions of Burgeoning economies like China and India are a fraction of those in

Europe and the United States

Kouprey Is Real

Monday, October 08, 2007

The general belief to this day is that Kouprey, Cambodia’s national animal is a hybrid

between Banteng and Zebu. Alexandre Hassanin and Anne Ropiquet from the National

Museum of Natural History in Paris, France have turned this belief topsy turvy. Their DNA

analysis has conclusively proved that kouprey is a real wild species, different from all

other wild oxen. November issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. will

carry the full details.

Wanna Make Elephants Run? Turn To Bees

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

African elephants are wary of bees. They have instinctive fear of the stings. The insects

are able to inflict painful stings inside the animals’ trunks. Researchers are using this

information to drive away marauding elephants. Oxford University researchers found that

elephants would quickly vacate a spot after hearing recordings of bees. The Oxford team

set up concealed loudspeakers in trees where elephants regularly came. Ninety-four

percent of the elephant families left the tree within 80 seconds of hearing bee sounds.

More information can be accessed from the journal Current Biology.

Wildlife – Use Of Human Shield

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New research findings indicate that mammals use humans to shield against carnivores.

This raise the possibility that redistribution has occurred in other mammalian taxa due to

anthropogenic influences in ways we are yet to determine. This calls for new look at

indirect anthropogenic effects on species distributions and behaviour. The new study was

based in Yellowstone and demonstrated a substantive change in how Moose avoid

predator brown bears, shifts birth sites shift away from traffic-averse brown bears and

towards paved roads.If you are keen about more details look below.

Tahrcountry Musings


• Content Type Journal Article

• Category Animal behaviour

DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0415

• Authors Joel Berger, North America Program, Wildlife Conservation Society,

Teton Valley, ID 83455, USA

• Journal Biology Letters

• Online ISSN 1744-957X

• Print ISSN 1744-9561

Blog Action Day: One issue, thousands of voices

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thousands of voices will speak out for the environment for the first-ever Blog Action Day

on 15 October. This non-profit event, partnered by the United Nations Environment

Programme (UNEP), is an unprecedented call for bloggers around the planet to write

about environmental issues on the same day.

China – Rare South China Tiger Observed In The


Saturday, October 13, 2007

China’s official Xinhua news agency reports that a rare South China tiger has been seen

in the wild for the first time in decades. Chinese scientists had thought the tiger was

extinct. It was a Chinese farmer in Shaanxi province who took the photograph and

scientists had a close look at it before they confirmed it. The tiger is critically endangered

and was last sighted in the wild in 1964. South China tiger is the smallest tiger


Blog Action Day

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today is blog action day.Bloggers world wide will be writing about environmental issues.

Here is a small piece from me.

One thing that bothers me as a wildlifer is the increasing rate of human-wildlife conflict.

This is bound to happen where the population is burgeoning. But the time has come to

plan and put in to place schemes that take care of the needs of the people in and around

wildlife reserves. There have been attempts in some areas. One of the finest examples is

the scheme being implemented in Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala. Eco development

committees of the local stakeholders have a say in running the affairs of the Park. Eco

tourism related ventures bring in money to .the local community. It is truly a participatory

approach in conservation. Other reserves also have to emulate this. One thing that puts

off people is the delay in getting compensation for damages caused by wildlife attacks.

This is one area that needs to be spruced up Compensation has to be adequate and it

needs to be dispensed immediately. Delay brings in bad blood. The future of

conservation in thickly populated countries lie in participatory approach. The local people

have to be sensitized and brought in as partners of conservation.


Tahrcountry Musings

Ancient reptile tracks unearthed

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

315 million-year-old fossilised tracks of a reptile have been unearthed in Canada. The

most likely track-maker was the Hylonomus lyelli reptile according to scientists. The

footprints suggest reptiles evolved between one and three million years earlier than

previously thought. Dr Falcon-Lang,University of Bristol, Professor Mike Benton,

University of Bristol and colleagues from Britain and Canada were behind this path

breaking discovery. Scientists believe that the reptiles gathering around a watering hole

left the tracks preserved in sandstone. Look up the details in Journal of the Geological

Society of London.

Mediterranean Monk Seal To Get More


Thursday, October 18, 2007

A new Memorandum of Understanding for the protection of the Eastern Atlantic

Populations of the Mediterranean Monk Seal has been inked. The Islamic Republic of

Mauritania, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Republic of Portugal and the Kingdom of Spain

are the signatories. Monk Seal is classified as critically endangered by IUCN the World

Conservation Union. No more than 500 seals remain in the Mediterranean and along the

Eastern Atlantic coastline The Mediterranean Monk Seal plays an important role in

coastal and marine ecosystems and is one of the most threatened marine mammals in

the world. The MOU will help to stop the decline and promote recovery.

Succour To The Birds Of Prey

Monday, October 22, 2007

Experts from 60 countries will gather for a conference at Loch Lomond , Scotland, United

Kingdom from 22-25 October 2007, devising ways to save rare birds of prey. It is hoped

that funds will be raised for future conservation activity. UK has chipped in with an initial

£10,000 for conservation works. An agreement that will give teeth to the conservation

initiatives will be finalised at a meeting in the United Arab Emirates in 2008 as a follow up

to the present meeting.

New lynx population discovered in Spain

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A previously unknown population of Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus ) has been discovered in

Spain.Iberian lynx is considered to be the world’s most endangered cat species. The new

population was discovered in previously unsurveyed estates in the Castilla-La Mancha

region in central Spain. Conservationists are keen to find out whether this population is

genetically distinct from the larger and more stable population of lynx found in Andujar in

the south. The main threats faced by Iberian lynx are a lack of prey, accidental deaths

from cars and trucks on Spanish roads, and new construction work destroying habitats.

Tahrcountry Musings


Warning – From International Primatological


Friday, October 26, 2007

The International Primatological Society is ringing the alarm bell for primates. The report

says Almost a third of the world’s primates are in danger of extinction because of

destruction of their habitat. 60 experts in the field led by the World Conservation Union

prepared this report. Fate of Hainan gibbon from China and Miss Waldron’s red colobus

monkey from Ivory Coast hangs in balance. Scientist say as the primates are the closest

living relatives of humans much more attention need to be paid to them.

Ecological Vandalism In Cyprus

Monday, October 29, 2007

In what could be termed only as ecological vandalism Fifty-eight endangered Red footed

Falcons (Falco vespertinus) have been shot dead in Cyprus. The red-footed falcon, nests

in Europe and winters in Africa. Environmentalists the world over have condemned this

irresponsible act and called for greater vigil.Cyprus is an important migratory route for


Iguanas Listen To Birds To Avoid Predation

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Iguana the world’s only sea-feeding lizard has come up with a surprise for researchers.

Scientists have noted that Iguanas recognizes and utilizes the alarm call of the

Galapagos Mockingbird. This is the first instance of a non-vocal species utilizing the calls

of another species. Galapagos Hawk prey on both Iguanas and Mocking Bird. Scientists

are trying to ascertain whether the eavesdropping on mockingbirds is a learned behavior

or ingrained.

For more details refer to Maren N. Vitousek, James S. Adelman, Nathan C. Gregory, and

James J. H. St Clair (2007).

Biology Letters, Heterospecific alarm call recognition in a non-vocal reptile.

Ancestor Of All Primates.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A new comprehensive genetic analysis shows that flying lemurs known as colugos is our

closest nonprimate cousin. This is the result of a two-pronged molecular study by Jan

Janecka, a postdoctoral fellow working with evolutionary genomicist William Murphy at

Texas A&M University. Both analyses brought flying lemurs closer to primates than they

had ever been before. The new study shows that the ancestors of tree shrews split off

first, and then the primate and colugo lineages diverged. The new evolutionary study also

shows that the pentail tree shrew is the sole survivor of an ancient lineage long separated

from other tree shrew species.

For more details refer to

Molecular and Genomic Data Identify the Closest Living Relative of Primates

Jan E. Janecka,Webb Miller,Thomas H. Pringle,Frank Wiens, Annette Zitzmann, Kristofer


Tahrcountry Musings

M. Helgen,Mark S. Springer,William J. Murphy

Science 2 November 2007:

Vol. 318. no. 5851, pp. 792 – 794

DOI: 10.1126/science.1147555

Angela Cropper of Trinidad and Tobago Named

New UNEP Deputy Executi…

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ms Angela Cropper of Trinidad and Tobago has been named as the Assistant Secretary-

General and Deputy Executive Director for the United Nations Environment Programme

(UNEP). The announcement was made by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General. Ms

Cropper will succeed Mr Shafqat Kakakhel who in December steps down after nine years

of distinguished service.

Extinction Stares In The Face Of Seventy-five

Percent of Bear Species

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

According to recent assessments by the IUCN Bear Specialist Groupswhich has

concluded a meeting in Monterrey, Mexico, on November 10, six out of the world’s eight

species of bearsare threatened with extinction. Serous concern has been expressed

about the world’s smallest species of bear, the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), which

has been classed as Vulnerable. It has been estimated that sun bears have declined by

at least 30% over the past 30 years. Vulnerable species include Asiatic black bears and

sloth bears, both inhabitants of Asia, and Andean bears from the Andes Mountains of

South America. The IUCN Bear Specialist Group indicated that Sloth Bears might have

disappeared entirely from Bangladesh during the past decade. Brown bears, the most

widespread Ursid, are not listed as threatened globally because large numbers still

inhabit Russia, Canada, Alaska and some parts of Europe. At 900,000 strong, only the

American black bear is secure throughout its range, which encompasses Canada, the

United States and Mexico.

Grooming Reciprocation Among Female

Primates: A Meta-Analysis

Friday, November 16, 2007

Among primates, grooming is one of the most common altruistic behaviours. Interesting

facts have come put of a recent study regarding grooming.The results of this meta-

analysis showed that female primates groom preferentially those group mates that groom

them most. T

For more details refer to

• Journal Biology Letters

• Online ISSN 1744-957X

Tahrcountry Musings


• Print ISSN 1744-9561

• Content Type Journal Article

• Category Animal behaviour

DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0506

• Authors

• Gabriele Schino, Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione, Consiglio

Nazionale delle Ricerche, 00197 Roma, Italy

• Filippo Aureli, Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology,

School of Biological and Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University,

Liverpool L3 3AF, UK

Queen Bees Control Sex of Young

Friday, November 16, 2007

A new study shows that queen honey bees can choose the sex

of their offspring. The young queen goes on a flight spree and

stores the sperm she collects from multiple mating for the rest

of her life. She uses it up bit by bit as she lays eggs. It has been

shown that if the queen adds sperm to an egg, it will produce a

female and if she withholds sperm, the egg will produce a male.

But the workers control the type of eggs the queen lays. The

queen lays eggs in a particular cell only if the cell is big enough

to accommodate a male larva, which is bigger than a female

one. So depending on the cells they build of each size, the

workers can limit how many male offspring the queen produces.

Katie Wharton and her team of entomologists at Michigan State

University in East Lansing says that in spite of this drawback

the queen can still tip the balance of the sex.If you are keen

about details please refer to November/December issue of

behavioural ecology.

Fake Snakes to Scare Australian Birds

Friday, November 23, 2007

Plastic snakes are being deployed in an effort to scare away tens of thousands of

starlings that have descended on Tamworth in Australia. Pungent droppings of birds have

created lot of problems for the authoritities. Pink, orange, green and black plastic snakes,

will be tied to branches of trees. This is a desperate attempt by the Tamworth council

even though there is no firm scientific basis for the operation.


Tahrcountry Musings

You Can Cut Down Your CO2 Emission by up to


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A study by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute has indicated that carbon

emissions from UK homes could be reduced by up to 80% by 2050. Financial incentives

for home owners and tighter energy efficiency standards were among the study’s

recommendations. Cavity wall insulation, double glazing,more efficient boilers and

lighting, solar panels and ground source heat pumps are in the scheme of things. One

technology that could deliver sizeable saving is micro combined heat and power (CHP).

Micro CHP systems generate both heat and electricity locally, and reduce costs and

emissions A new legislation that will be tabled shortly will require CO2 to be cut by 60%

from 1990 levels by 2050.

Aggressive Sexual Pursuit of Males by Female

Topi Antelope in Kenya.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sexual attitude of Topi Antelope( Damaliscus lunatus jimela) in Kenya is a reversal from

our usual idea about sexuality. Here aggressive females pursue the males. Lead scientist

Dr Jakob Bro-Jorgensen who did the research says “some pushy females were so

aggressive in their pursuit of the male that he actually had to physically to attack them to

rebuff their advances.” Most males refuse the advances of previous partners. This

increases the chances of fatherhood with the widest possible number of partners. Each

female would mate, on average, with four males, while some reached 12 different

partners. These findings are contrary to conventional sexual selection theory. The

research was undertaken in the Masai Mara area of Kenya. Full details appear in the

journal Current Biology.

Photographic Memory of Chimps

Monday, December 03, 2007

Researchers of Kyoto University have come up with some amazing facts. In memory

tests devised by Japanese scientists, young chimps outperformed university students. Dr

Matsuzawa the lead scientist and colleagues tested three pairs of mother and baby

chimpanzees against university students in a memory task involving numbers. Each

subject was presented with various numerals from one to nine on a touch screen monitor.

The numbers were then replaced with blank squares and the subjects had to remember

which number appeared in which location, then touch the appropriate square. Young

chimps outsmarted University students. The research is published in Current Biology.

Tahrcountry Musings


Building of Mental Maps by Elephants

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Royal Society journal, Biology Letters has some interesting facts about elephants in the

latest issue. Accounts of how Elephants build mental map of absent relatives by sniffing

out their scent are fascinating. Elephants keep track on up to 30 absent relatives. The

research was undertaken by the University of St Andrews. They studied 36 family groups

of elephants living in Amboseli National Park. One of the ploys used was to collect

samples of female elephant urine from the ground and present it to relatives to trick them

into believing that the elephant had recently passed by. Elephants showed surprise when

they encountered the scent. This and a host of other details will keep you riveted to the


Long-Eared Jerboa caught on Film

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The mysterious long-eared jerboa (Euchoreutes naso ) which hops like a kangaroo,has

been caught on camera for the first time.The animal was flmed in the Gobi desert during

an expedition led by Dr Jonathan Baillie of Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The

distribution of this rare animal is restricted to deserts of China (Inner Mongolia and

Xinjiang) and South of Mangolia(Trans-Altai Gobi). The species is classified as

endangered on the IUCN Red list

Kicking the CO2 Habit

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The United Nations is chipping in with its mite for worldwide effort to become climate

neutral. Members of the UN attending the crucial climate convention meeting in Bali

announced that they are offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions linked with travel to

and from the event. The move also includes the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and his

team. This is around 3,370 tonnes of carbon dioxide worth approximately $100,000 at

current carbon prices. UN bodies have jointly agreed to invest in credits accumulating in

the adaptation fund of the Kyoto Protocol. Norway, one of four countries that have

pledged to go climate neutral nationally, reconfirmed that it is backing the UN system-

wide work towards climate neutrality with an initial investment of $820,000 for the UNEP-

hosted Environmental Management Group.

Apes and Facial Mimicry

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another ability once thought to be exclusively human,mimicking expressions of others,

has been breached. Research by behavioural scientist Marina Davila Ross and

colleagues from University of veterinary medicine, Hanover,Germany has proved that

Apes share this ability with us. In Apes mimicry was more prevalent in juveniles and

adolescents. The findings suggests that this ability precedes the origin of our species.

Full details appear in the latest issue of Biology letters.


Tahrcountry Musings

New National Park for Russian Tigers

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Here is some happy news from Russia. The Russian Government is constitituting a new

national park for the endangered Amur Tigers. Christened Anyuiskii national park this is

in Khabarovsk province, located in the Russian Far East. The formal declaration came on

December 15. Anyuiskii Park serves as an ecological corridor in the region and will

become a link in the chain of ‘the tiger econet’, a network of protected areas, which is

now being created. Tiger enthusiasists all over the world are elated at this initiative by

Russian Government. Hats off to the conservationists who have worked hard to bring this

dream to fruition.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wish You A Merry Christmas

The Return of the Beaver

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Returning of locally extinct wildlife back to original habitat is music to the ears of

conservationists. Here is some music from Scotland. Beavers were hunted to extinction

in Scotland in the 16th Century. Now the the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal

Zoological Society of Scotland are planning to release beavers into the Scottish wild for

the first time in 500 years. The first beavers could be reintroduced to Mid-Argyll in

Scotland in spring 2009. Beavers play an important role in aquatic and wetland eco-

systems. In Scotland it is expected to give a boost to tourism also.

Driving Out Large Mammals – The Human Angle

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The fact that human beings, in their inexorable desire for development, drive out large

mammals from their habitat is an accepted fact. Now scientist have come out with facts

and figures. The research was carried out by a team of scientists from Princeton

University and WWF-US. Researchers found that at least 35% of mammals over 20kg

had seen their range cut by more than half. The researchers compared the current

ranges of the world’s largest 263 land mammals with their distribution 500 years ago.

Tigers, leopards, lions, American bison, elk and wolves have suffered the most. The

details appear in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Tahrcountry Musings


New Frontiers For Tigers In Thailand

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thailand right now has a population of 720 tigers. Wildlife experts say this could go up to

2000 with sagacious planning. The basis for this enthusiastic forecast is based on a study

by Thailand’s Department of National Park, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation and the New

York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. The authors of the study conducted intensive

surveys of tigers in Huai Kha Khaeng reserve, using camera traps. According to the

scientists the primary thrust should be curtailing of habitat loss and strict enforcement of

antipoaching activities. Thailand has some of the most notorious poachers in South East

Asia. Another stumbling bock was the fact that until now the courts have refused to jail

tiger traffickers, choosing instead to hand down small fines. December issue of the

journal Oryx has all the details of this fascinating study which opens the door of hope for

the Tiger enthusiasists against a global decline in population. The global estmate right

now is around 500 tigers.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

The Ants and The Butterflies – Fascinating Facts

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The latest issue of science has some interesting facts about relationship between

butterflies and ants in Denmark. In parts of Denmark, the Alcon blue butterfly caterpillars

feed within ant colonies. The caterpillar, which later develops into a large blue butterfly,

mimics the surface hydrocarbons, the surface chemicals that the ants have on their own

brood. The caterpillars first start developing on a food plant, but after they reach a certain

stage they leave the food plant and wait on the ground to be discovered by these ants.

Adult ants think the caterpillar is one of their young. The authors believe that the butterfly

and ants are engaged in a kind of coevolutionary arms race. This parasitism by

caterpillars sometimes wipes out entire ant colony. But other times, ants are able to

recognize the caterpillars as invaders and kill them. If you are keen about details look it

up in Science

A Mosaic of Chemical Coevolution in a Large Blue Butterfly

David R. Nash,1* Thomas D. Als,2Roland Maile,3Graeme R. Jones,3 Jacobus J.


1 Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100

Copenhagen, Denmark.

2 Department of Genetics and Ecology, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Århus C,


3 School of Chemistry, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK.

Science 4 January 2008:

Vol. 319. no. 5859, pp. 88 – 90

DOI: 10.1126/science.1149180


Tahrcountry Musings

IUCN launches initiatives for sustainable water

use in Asia Pacific

Monday, January 07, 2008

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in association with the Food

and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched initiatives to achieve more sustainable

management of precious water resources in the Asia Pacific region. The initiatives were

launched at the Asia Pacific Water Summit, held in Beppu, Japan. The fact that water is

to be managed in a way that provides both environmental and development was

stressed.IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre said that in order to realise

environmental flows there needs to be more integrated thinking to recognise the

environment as a stakeholder in water-related decisions. Environmental flows refer to

water within a river, wetland or coastal zone which maintain ecosystems and their

benefits where there are competing users. The conference also highlighted the need to

invest in ecosystems as development infrastructure which must be maintained, restored,

monitored and managed.

For more information contact

IUCN: Kate Lazarus, [email protected], +66 81 371 3062, www.iucn.org

Sumatra – Highways Threatening Tribes and


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Construction of a highway in Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape, for logging trucks

servicing one of the world’s largest paper companies (Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is

threatening two tribes of indigenous people and endangered species like elephants,

tigers and orangutans. The forest is one of the prime forests in Sumatra, with amazing

biodiversity. It is also the location of a successful conservation project to reintroduce

orangutans. After careful studies 90 Sumatran orangutans were recently introduced into

the area for the first time in more than 150 years. One of the tribes threatened by APP-

linked activities is wholly dependent on the Bukit Tigapuluh forests for survival. APP

partners have already cleared an estimated 20,000 hectares of natural forest.

Conservationists the world over are appalled by this desecration of nature.

For more information contact

Desmarita Murni, WWF-Indonesia: +62 811793458) [email protected]

Tahrcountry Musings


New Hope For Biofuels

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A team of US researchers has discovered that ethanol derived from switchgrass

(Panicum virgatum ) delivers vast savings of carbon dioxide emissions compared with

petrol. Production and consumption of switchgrass-derived ethanol cut CO2 emissions by

about 94% when compared with an equivalent volume of petrol. GHG emissions were

88% less. The researchers also found that switchgrass-derived ethanol produced 540%

more energy than was required to manufacture the fuel. Switchgrass Produces an

average of 320 barrels of bioethanol per hectare. Although the process to produce

ethanol from switchgrass was more complex than using food crops such as wheat or

corn, biofuel from switchgrass could produce much higher energy yields per tonne

because it utilised the whole plant rather than just the seeds. As switchgrass can be

grown on marginal cropland it would not be in competition with food crops. The research

paper appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chimps’ Ways Of Warding Off Malaria

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The journal Naturwissenschaften has come out with some amazing facts about behaviour

of chimps. The researchers at Kibale National Park in Uganda have discovered that

geophagy(Soil ingestion) is helping chimps to ward off malaria by bestowing ingested

plants with anti-malarial properties. Digested leaves of Trichilia rubescens showed no

significant anti-malarial activity when eaten alone. When the leaves and soil were

digested together, the combination acquired anti-malarial properties.

Full details can be accessed at

Krief S, Klein N & Fröhlich F (2008). Geophagy: soil consumption enhances the

bioactivities of plants eaten by chimpanzees. Naturwissenschaften (DOI 10.1007/s00114-


Trees That Hire Bodyguards

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The latest issue of journal Science has fascinating facts about intricate web of life in

Africa. Scientists report how elephants, giraffes and other large herbivorous spur Acacias

to “hire” and support ants as bodyguards. The whistling thorn tree (Acacia

drepanolobium) and the biting ant (Crematogaster) that lives on it form a relationship,

evolved over many millennia, in which both species co-operate and in turn benefit from

each other. Acacia trees provide ants with swollen thorns, which serve as nesting sites,

and nectar, which the ants collect from the bases of Acacia leaves. In return for this

investment, ants protect the tree from browsing mammals by aggressively swarming

against anything that disturbs the tree. Healthy trees have hundreds of the thorns, often

containing more than 100,000 ants per tree. When the threat from these mammals stops

or decreases, the trees slash their investment in ants, opening both to other attackers.

Fewer colonies of weakened ants become less able to defend their territory from another

species of ant that moves in which does not have a mutually beneficial relationship with


Tahrcountry Musings

Acacias. This new ant species feeds away from the tree and does not protect it from

attackers. It actually encourages a destructive, wood-boring beetle whose cavities then

serve as this ant’s home. The trees untouched by browsing mammals are infested with

more of the beetles gradually weakening the trees. The trees wind up actually needing

the mammals. Getting rid of the mammals causes individual trees to grow more slowly

and die younger. The research has important implications for conservation. The

cautionary note is that because many of the mammals are threatened, human activities

like population growth, habitat fragmentation, over-hunting, can influence the ecosystem

with unexpected consequences.

New Hope For Northern Bald Ibises

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Northern Bald Ibis is considered to be Middle East’s rarest bird. The bird was thought to

be extinct in the Middle East in the 1990s. Fortunately in 2002 a colony of six birds was

discovered in Palmyra, Syria. RSPB and BirdLife Middle East swung in to action

immediately. Adult and young birds were fitted with satellite tags to try to discover and

protect their migration routes and wintering sites. Conservationists were delighted to hear

the news that Northern bald ibises were seen last month in the Jordan Valley for the first

time in 13 years, and in Djibouti, east Africa, for the first time ever. These two sightings of

the species 1,500 miles apart have given a boost to the conservation efforts. Scientists

now think that that the number of birds could be more than estimated. It also deepens the

mystery of where the birds go on migration. Tracking adult birds was successful in 2006.

Three birds flew a total of 3,700 miles to the Ethiopian highlands and back last spring.

Scientists hope to tag more young birds in Syria this summer. Conservationists fear lots

of birds are being shot down on migration. Tracking the birds will help protect them

throughout their range.

New Gigantic Palm Tree Discovered in


Friday, January 18, 2008

A new genus of gigantic palm tree has been discovered in the Analalava district of

Madagacar. The trunk of the tree towers over 18m high. The leaves are 5m in diameter.

The palm is so massive that it can even be seen in Google Earth. The palm grows to big

size and bursts into branches of hundreds of tiny flowers. This terminal flowering

exhausts the tree completely and it soon dies. Swarming insects and birds surrounds the

flowers. Each flower is capable of developing in to a seed. The confirmation that this is a

new genus came from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. There are only three other known

genera in this tribe, scattered across Arabia, Thailand and China. Madagascar is home to

more than 10,000 plant species and 90% of Madagascar's plants occur nowhere else in

the world. Full details of the discovery appear in the latest issue of Botanical Journal of

the Linnean Society.

Tahrcountry Musings


Poor prospects for Captive-bred carnivores

released in the wild

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A study on reintroduction of captive-bred carnivores, which reviewed 45 cases involving

17 carnivore species, has come up with the finding that only 30 percent of captive

animals released survived. The main drawback stems from the fact that reintroduced

animals’ lacks the natural behaviour prowess needed for survival. The results of the study

have important implications for conservation programs involving reintroduction. The

advice is thorough study if conditions before attempting reintroductions. The research

also emphasized the need for long-term monitoring of released animals. In spite of these

adverse findings the researchers believe that reintroduction projects are vital to

conservation efforts. The findings appear in the latest issue of journal Biological

Conservation. Kristen Jule from University of Exeter of the lead author.

Elusive Arctic wolves Caught In Camera

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The BBC natural history team following Artic wolves (Canis lupus arctos) has hit pay dirt

after months of arduous work. The team has managed to film the Artic wolves taking to

the water to hunt waterfowl, a behaviour that has never been reported before. Even

observing the animal is difficult in the extreme conditions of Canadian Arctic and northern

parts of Greenland. Wolves usually eat large hoofed animals like Caribou and musk

oxen. Hats off to the intrepid BBC team for this magnificent achievement.

World’s second largest wetlands reserve formed

in Congo

Saturday, February 02, 2008

World’s second largest wetlands reserve has been declared in Congo. This declaration is

in tune with Ramsar convention. Named Grand Affluents wetland reserve, it comprises an

area of 6 million hectares. This will help secure water and livelihoods for millions of

people. Wild animals like elephants, hippopotamuses buffalos and many species of

migratory bird stands benefited by this. Convention on Wetlands was first signed in the

Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea on 2 February 1971.

Salmon Facts

Sunday, February 03, 2008

An upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters has very interesting observations

about Salmon. Led by geomorphologist Marwan Hassan of the University of British

Columbia in Vancouver,Canada, the research opens up new info about various facets of

Salmon migration unknown to us till now. The researchers found that the salmon account

for up to 50% of the annual amount of sediment migration in a given stream. People have

known for a long time that salmon dig up the stream bottoms. But it is the first time that

details about how they do it are coming out. Sediment traps were used to track the


Tahrcountry Musings

movement of preplaced magnetized particles to study the effect of salmon digging up in

four mountain streams in British Columbia. Oxygenation of the river is improved by this

activity of Salmon. Multiplied by millions of salmon, and repeated year after year the

shape of streambeds and the health of stream ecosystems are directly affected. The

researchers feel that the fish could be shaping larger-scale valley features and even

influencing landscape evolution.

The inputs for this post have come from ScienceNOW Daily News.

DNA barcoding developed for plants

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Scientists have developed a barcode that can distinguish majority of the plant species. A

small gene, gene matK located in the chloroplast of the plant, is the key to the bardode.

DNA barcoding is already a well-established technique in animals. This may not work

properly in hybrids as hybrids have their genome rearranged, which may confuse the

information provided by matK. In future as sequencing technology gets faster and

cheaper, hand held devices at ports and airports could check if illegal species are being

transported. Currently, there are only a few experts that could accurately identity the plant

composition of biodiversity hotspots in the world. This certainly would come as a big

boost for conservation. This path breaking work is reported in the Proceedings of the

National Academy of Sciences journal


Aerospace engineers look at birds, bats and

insects for improved mi…

Monday, February 11, 2008

University of Michigan engineers are studying birds, bats and insects as a step toward

designing flapping-wing planes with small wingspans. Scientists say a Blackbird jet flying

nearly 2,000 miles per hour covers 32 body lengths per second. But a common pigeon

flying at 50 miles per hour covers 75. The roll rate of the aerobatic A-4 Skyhawk plane is

about 720 degrees per second. The roll rate of a barn swallow exceeds 5,000 degrees

per second. While military aircraft can withstand gravitational forces of 8-10 G, birds

routinely experience positive G-forces up to 14 G. The birds also have outstanding

capabilities to remain airborne through wind gusts, rain, and snow. Exciting prospects are

in store for the future of military aviation.

Jack rabbits living in the Greater Yellowstone

Ecosystem disappear

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A new study by Wildlife Conservation Society has found that jack rabbits living in the

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have disappeared. According to the study’s lead author,

Dr. Joel Berger, a Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist, and professor at the

University of Montana, no one knows what caused the rabbits to disappear. Dr. Berger

Tahrcountry Musings


believes that the absence of jack rabbits may be causing elevated predation by coyotes

on juvenile elk, pronghorn and other ungulates. Dr Berger recommends reintroduction

and believes reintroduction may result in the establishment of dynamic ecological

processes that were intact before rabbits vanished from the ecosystem. The details of the

study appears in the journal Oryx

Dolphins and Whales 3D

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The secret world of bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, and 10 other cetacean species

have been graphically described in the new IMAX film “Dolphins and Whales 3D”.

Produced by François Mantello. The film has some stunning underwater footage.

Narrator Daryl Hannah does a terrific job. All the sequences were shot under water. None

of the animals shown in the film were trained or captive. The wonderful film inspires

people to take action to conserve the ocean.

Encyclopedia of Life.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The path-breaking project “Encyclopedia of Life” has just added the first 30,000 species

pages (1/60th of the total recorded species), including 25 pages that are examples of

what the site will include in the future. The project aims at gathering accurate and

detailed information on the earth’s known 1.8 million species and each will have its own

web page. Macarthur Foundation provided the grant to start the project and the site was

initially launched in May 2007. Experts in the field will evaluate all the information before

publication. This will be a comprehensive database. Jim Edwards is the Executive

Director of Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) the most ambitious project ever undertaken.

Tunisia – Scimitar Horned Oryx to be reintroduced

Friday, March 07, 2008

Scimitar Horned Oryx (Oryx dammah) have been extinct in Tunisia since the late 1970s.

Efforts are on to release Oryx from American and European zoos back to the wild in

Tunisia. The Oryx are currently being held in a 20,000-acre fenced area in Dghoumes

National Park. Once a sustainable population has been established, possibly ten years

from now they will be released in to the wild. The efforts were initiated at the request of

Tunisia to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the European Association of Zoos and

Aquariums, and the Secretariat for the Convention on Migratory Species. For more

information about this animal click here

Trigger for bird songs discovered

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Scientists from the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh and Nagoya University in Japan have

identified the trigger for bird songs prior to mating. They have unravelled how part of a

bird’s brain is affected by seasons. They have discovered that genes in cells on the

surface of the brain were switched on when the birds received more light. Pituitary gland


Tahrcountry Musings

releases a hormone in the spring in readiness for mating. This is fantastic research

output unthinkable till a few years back. Researchers used a genome chip, known as a

microarray, to scan 28,000 genes from the Japanese quail to arrive at the fascinating

findings. As science advances, the peek in to the mysteries of nature is becoming

increasingly easier.

Amazing Elephant Facts on BBC

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Did you know that elephants could store water for an emergency? For me it was new

info. Amazing. Now read on.

A BBC team has filmed elephants spraying themselves with water that they had stored in

a reservoir in their throats several hours earlier, to escape extreme heat. The reservoir is

the pharyngeal pouch just behind the tongue. They sprayed it on to the outside of the ear

that was facing the wind to cool down. The footage was recorded in Namibia. Martyn

Colbeck is the cameraman. The desert elephant has adapted to go up to five days

without drinking.

Love rites of Amazon River Dolphin

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Now this is awesome. Just when we thought we knew everything out come surprises. A

group of British and Brazilian researchers have found out that South American river

dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) uses branches, weeds and lumps of clay to woo the opposite

sex and frighten off rivals. They would slowly come up above the surface of water in a

vertical posture holding this stuff in their mouths. Details appear in the journal Biology


The Amazon River dolphin can be found in the Amazon River system as well as the

Orinoco River system flowing throughout South America, mainly in the countries of Brazil,

Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana and Peru. Adults grow to 2.5 metres and

weigh 150 kilos. The dolphin eats crabs, shrimps, and sometimes even turtles and


Saving the Snow Leopard

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Representatives from 12 Asian nations, China, Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan,

the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, met

in Beijing from March 9 – 11 to frame a multinational conservation plan to save the highly

endangered snow leopard. The conference was hosted by the Chinese Institute of

Zoology in partnership with Panthera Foundation, and co-sponsored by the Snow

Leopard Trust and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). It has been described as a

watershed event in the effort to save snow leopards. Several work sessions that sought

specific results, which would be immediately applicable to preserving snow leopards

across their central Asian range were organised. An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow

leopards live in the rugged mountaintops of central Asia. Dr George Schaller who did

Tahrcountry Musings


seminal studies on snow leopard made a fervent plea for their conservation. The

conference drafted a vision statement for the next century.

The conference vision for Snow Leopards over the next century:

A world where snow leopards and their wild prey thrive in healthy mountain ecosystems

across all major ecological settings of their entire range, and where snow leopards are

revered as unique ecological, economic, and spiritual assets.

New facts about Bats

Friday, April 04, 2008

New facts about bats are coming to light. A study by Margareta B Kalka, Adam R. Smit

and Elisabeth K. V. Kalko has come up with the finding that bats have dramatic

ecological effects that were previously overlooked. The experiment was done in a

lowland tropical forest in Panama and concluded that bats eat as many insects at night

as birds do during the day and disappearance of insect-eating bats in agricultural

landscapes could have negative effects on crop cultivation. Kalka recommends “bats

should be included in future conservation plans aimed at preserving the integrity of

tropical forests and also considered in agricultural management strategies based on

natural pest control”. Margareta B. Kalka and Adam R. Smith are from the Smithsonian

Tropical Research Institute Panama. Elisabeth K. V. Kalko is from Institute of

Experimental Ecology, University of Ulm, Germany.

Details of the work appear in the journal Science.

M.B. Kalka et al (2008). “Bats Limit Arthropods and Herbivory in a Tropical Forest” and K.

Williams-Guillen et al (2008) “Bats Limit Insects in a Neotropical Agroforestry System.”

Science 4 April 2008.

Amazing compass sense of Moths

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Migrating moths have always puzzled scientists. They had no clue about how the moths

avoid being blown away from their seasonal breeding grounds by gusty winds. Recently

an international team led by entomologist Jason Chapman of Rothamsted Research in

Harpenden, U.K., tracked swarms of silver Y moths (Autographa gamma) leaving the

United Kingdom for their winter breeding site in the Mediterranean. The insects have a

penchant for cruising on faster, high-altitude air currents that mainly occur at night. The

scientists found that during most of the mass migrations, a significant proportion of the

moths pointed their bodies in the same direction. When the wind direction was off by

more than 20 degrees, the moths changed their flight angle to stay on course. This

clearly demonstrates a compass sense in the nocturnal migrating insects. Dragonflies

and butterflies were already known to change their flight paths to compensate for wind

drift. Full report appears in the latest issue of Current Biology. Amazing facts. The

findings have unexpected spin-offs. The scientists say understanding the moths’ sense of

direction could help in predicting future insect migrations, which are likely to increase as

global warming makes northern countries more hospitable to pests.


Tahrcountry Musings

Lynx making a comeback in Italian Alps

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

After a gap of nearly 100 years a Lynx (Lynx lynx) has appeared in Italian Alps.

According to Italian authorities the Lynx has crossed over from Switzerland. Lynx were

reintroduced in Switzerland in the 1970s after being wiped out in the early 20th Century.

There are about 100 lynx in Switzerland, in two main areas, the north-western Alps,

which includes Interlaken, and the Jura Mountains near Lake Geneva. There are an

estimated 8,000 lynx throughout Europe. It is the third largest predator in Europe after the

brown bear and the wolf. There are three other species of lynx. The Iberian lynx (Lynx

pardinus), is close to extinction with only 100 left in the wild. The other two species are

the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and the bobcat (Lynx rufus), which is native to North


Competition – Wildlife poet of the year

Thursday, April 10, 2008

If you have a way with words and love nature here is an announcement from BBC you

should read. Go through it and enter the competition

Does the natural world inspire you to write poetry? If so, enter our competition and you

could win a fabulous wild week on the Isle of Skye, plus your poem will be published in

BBC Wildlife and broadcast on Radio 4’s Poetry Please.

Do you have a way with words? If so, why not share your thoughts and feelings about

wildlife and nature (no domestic plants or animals please) through verse? This is an

intense and intimate writing style, and so the best poetry starts with your own lived

experiences. Call upon your senses to create fresh images (avoid clichés), and don’t feel

you have to write about significant issues.

You can choose any form of poetry that suits you – from free verse to formal rhyme – just

keep it to fewer than 50 lines. The poems are judged anonymously; so don’t put your

name on your entry. Simply fill out the entry form that can be found in the April issue of

BBC Wildlife and tape it to the back of your entry.

The Prizes – Adults

The winning poem will be published in the October issue of BBC Wildlife (on sale 25

September) and broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please in October.

The winner will also be awarded a wonderful week-long wildlife break on the lovely Isle of

Skye and neighbouring Lochalsh, courtesy of Skye and Lochalsh Marketing Ltd. To see

the full list of excursions available as part of the 1st prize, please visit


Three runners-up, and the poet whose verse most amuses the judges, will each receive a

copy of Nature’s Top 40: Britain’s best wildlife – the country’s finest nature spots as voted

for by viewers of BBC 2 – and Collins British Wildlife, the definitive photographic guide to

Britain’s plants and animals, both courtesy of Collins.

Tahrcountry Musings


The Prizes – Young Poets

There is a prize for the best poem in each of the following age categories:

a) 7 and under

b) 8 to 11

c) 12 to 14

d) 15 to 17

Each young winner will receive a copy of Nature’s Top 40 and Collins British Wildlife.

Their poems will be published in the October issue of BBC Wildlife and may also be

selected for broadcast on Poetry Please.

How to Enter

Your entry must arrive by 23 May 2008. Send it to: BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008,

14th Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN. Young poets please remember

to write your category letter on the outside of the envelope. Fax (for overseas entries

only): 0044 117 933 8032.

13 Winners will be notified by 12 Sept 2008. The results will be published in the October

issue of BBC Wildlife (on sale 25 Sept 08) and the winning poems may be published on

Skye & Lochalsh Marketing Ltd’s website, www.skye.co.uk.

New technique to pinpoint key biodiversity


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Scientists have developed a new technique that pinpoints key biodiversity hotspots. The

methodology identifies exact areas that support a wide variety of organisms. Scientists

tested the new system to identify vital habitats in Madagascar. Claire Kremen, a

conservation biologist from the University of California, Berkeley, US headed the project.

Scientists gathered existing data from Madagascan scientists on more than 2,300

species. Once they gathered the data they put it through an optimisation analysis. Data

was added on habitat suitability from remote sensing images from satellites, and several

layers of climatic information including average monthly temperature and rainfall. What

they were looking for was 10% of the country that could include all of those species. A

computer programme was developed which allows scientists to find a solution that not

only includes all the species, but also includes as much as possible of the habitats that

they need. The program was also able to pinpoint what species were at a greater risk of

extinction. Even though the programme was developed for Madagascar it could be put to

use in other areas also. This is expected to give a new impetus to conservation especially

in rain forest areas rich in biodiversity. Details appear in Science magazine.

Systems that save biodiversity

Monday, April 14, 2008

A new EU-funded research project GEM-CON-BIO (Governance and Ecosystems

Management for the Conservation of Biodiversity) shows how governance patterns

impact biodiversity. The study comes out with the finding that most successful

governance patterns for biodiversity conservation are a mix of financial incentives,

regulations and voluntary engagement. Thirty case studies were analysed in the project.


Tahrcountry Musings

GEM-CON-BIO compared governance structures of the following areas

Europe (such as in Biosphere reserves in Germany and in the Danube Delta, public and

private forests and wetlands across Europe, the North Sea Fisheries, etc.);

USA (such as the Habitat Programme of Maine where towns have to develop credible

habitat management plans before they receive public funds for other needs); and

Other parts of the world (such as Mongolia or Ethiopia where traditional institutions and

community management seem to regain credibility as effective biodiversity management

and conservation practices).

GEM-CON-BIO is funded through the EU’s sixth Framework Programme for Research

and Technological Development. The project falls under Priority 7 – Citizens and

Governance in a knowledge-based society. It runs until the end of April 2008, and brings

together 9 partners from 7 European countries, plus partners from Iran, Indonesia, and

Bolivia. The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece leads the project. IUCN is a full

partner in the project, and is coordinating the organization of the policy conference.

Posted with inputs from IUCN

Interesting facts about ancestor of Elephants


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Analysis of chemical signatures preserved in fossil teeth of ancient ancestor of the

elephants, which lived 37 million years ago, has come up with interesting findings. These

ancestors lived in water and had a lifestyle similar to a hippo but had the appearance of a

Tapir. The animals were related to seagoing manatees and dugongs. Study of fossil teeth

has indicated that the animal grazed on plants in rivers and swamps.

Experts from Oxford University and Stony Brook University, New York did the analysis.

The scientists were investigating the lifestyle of the two early elephants called

proboscideans – Moeritherium and Barytherium, which looked like a slender version of

today’s Asian elephant, when they came up with new findings. These animals lived over

37 million years ago in Egypt’s Fayum Desert. At the time sub-tropical rainforest and

swamps covered the deserts of northern Egypt.

Full report is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Wild Talk – Exciting new monthly podcast from


Thursday, April 17, 2008

IUCN and WWF have launched an exciting new monthly podcast called Wild Talk. This

will usher in the latest news and features from the world of conservation.

In the first episode in the series IUCN marine expert Imène Meliane gave a graphic view

of how invasive species catch a free ride across the world’s oceans on ships and the

Tahrcountry Musings


problems they cause by doing so.

The other highlights were

On climate change – how indigenous people are affected and the solutions they already

have to cope with it by interviewing IUCN’s Gonzalo Oviedo.

Marc Languy, head of mountain gorillas programme pf WWF in the Great Lakes region of

Africa talked about the human qualities of the gorillas and what we can do to save their

remaining population which stands at just 720.

In the final interview, Hubert von Goisem explains to WWF why he took to a barge to

bring his music and environmental message to the people who live along the Danube.

The next edition we will have news from the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn

and other exciting fare.

The mystery of the Borneo pygmy elephants


Saturday, April 19, 2008

The origins of the pygmy elephants of Borneo, found in a range extending from the

northeast of the island into the Heart of Borneo, have been a mystery. A new paper

published in peer reviewed Sarawak Museum Journal has added a new twist to the whole

story. I found this paper very interesting. According to the authors the population could be

the last survivors of the Javan elephant race, accidentally saved from extinction by the

Sultan of Sulu centuries ago. The looks and behaviour of Borneo elephants differ from

other Asian elephants. The authors propound the theory that the elephants were brought

to Borneo centuries ago by the Sultan of Sulu, and later abandoned in the jungle. It now

transpires that this translocation in history that has survived to modern times could

provide scientists with critical data from a centuries-long experiment. The detailed study

is bound to throw up lot of possibilities for future conservation initiatives.


Earl of Cranbrook1, J. Payne2 and Charles M.U. Leh3

If you are keen to read the entire paper click here

Now a botanical art gallery

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The world’s first art gallery dedicated to botanical art works will be opened in London’s

Kew Gardens today. Collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and from collector

Dr Shirley Sherwood will be on exhibit. Dr Shirley Sherwood, after whom the gallery has

been named, has been collecting contemporary botanical art since 1990. Her collection

includes work by more than 200 artists living in 30 different countries. Till now only

experts and researchers were permitted to access the collection. Now Kew’s collections

are more accessible and are expected to give conservation a big boost. Some of the

depictions have never been seen by the public before and are thought to be the only


Tahrcountry Musings

surviving record of some extinct species.

Caged Tigers are not mongrels

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Caged tigers are often associated with dubious ancestry. They are treated like mongrels.

But the latest analysis has come out with the fact that a significant number of them bear

the genetic imprint of a single subspecies. It was Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist at the

National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, Maryland and colleagues who analysed 20

years’ collection of DNA samples from 105 captive tigers around the world. Almost half

the tigers could be assigned to one subspecies, whereas the rest were of mixed lineage.

The team also found new mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite features not yet recorded

in wild tigers. This points to the fact the captive population harbours genetic diversity that

may have been lost in the wild.

With an estimated 3000 tigers left in the wild this finding has great portent for

conservation. The tigers in captivity have continued to multiply, numbering 15,000 to

20,000 at last count.

Biodiversity loss and its implications

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Earth’s biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming rate. For people concerned about

biodiversity here is something that is going to interest you. The new book, ‘Sustaining

Life” is a great eye opener. It deals with biodiversity and fills a major gap in the

arguments made to conserve nature. Sustaining Life is the first book to examine the full

range of potential threats that diminishing biodiversity poses to human health. At the

heart of the book is a chapter dedicated to exploring seven threatened groups of

organisms valuable to medicine, including amphibians, bears, cone snails, sharks,

nonhuman primates, gymnosperms, and horseshoe crabs that underscore what may be

lost to human health when species go extinct.

The story of southern gastric brooding frog (Rheobatrachus), which was discovered in

undisturbed rainforests of Australia in the 1980, makes interesting reading. The frogs

raise their young in the female’s stomach where they would, in other animals, be digested

by enzymes and acid. The baby frogs produced a substance, or perhaps a variety of

substances, that inhibited acid and enzyme secretions and prevented the mother from

emptying her stomach into her intestines while the young were developing. The authors

point out that the research on gastric brooding frogs could have led to new insights into

preventing and treating human peptic ulcers which affect some 25 million people in the

United States alone. The bad news is that the frogs have become extinct

Other interesting stories include.

Pumiliotoxins, like those made by the Panamanian Poison Frog that may lead to

medicines that strengthen the contractions of the heart and thus prove useful in treating

heart disease.

Alkaloids made by species like the Ecuadorian Poison Frog, which could be the source of

Tahrcountry Musings


a new and novel generation of painkillers.

Bradykinins and maximakinins, made in the skin glands of species like the Chinese

Large-Webbed Bell Toad; Mexican Leaf Frog, and North American Pickerel Frog that

dilate the smooth muscle of blood vessels in mammals and therefore offer promising

avenues for treating high blood pressure.

Several medical benefits have already arisen from the study of bears, including the

development of rsodeoxycholic acid, found in the gall bladders of some bear species

such as polar and black bears, into a medicine.

Some bear species, known as “denning” bears because they enter into a largely dormant

state when food is scarce, are of tremendous value to medicine as they are able to

recycle a wide variety of their body’s substances.

Bears appear to produce a substance that inhibits cells that break down bone and

promote substances that encourage bone and cartilage-making cells. Currently, 740,000

deaths a year are the result of hip fractures worldwide, a large number of which are

caused by osteoporosis. By 2050 there will be an estimated six million osteoporosis-

linked hip fractures globally.

Several pharmaceuticals, including decongestants and the anti-cancer drug taxol, have

already been isolated from gymnosperms. The researchers believe many more are yet to

be discovered and may be lost if species of Gymnosperms become extinct.

Substances from one Gymnosperm, the Ginkgo tree may reduce the production of

receptors in the human nervous system linked with memory loss. Thus they may play a

role in countering Alzheimer’s disease. They may also help in the treatment of epilepsy

and depression.

One compound, known as ziconotide extracted from snails is thought to be 1000 times

more potent than morphine and has been shown in clinical trials to provide significant

pain relief for advanced cancer and AIDS patients. Another cone snail compound has

been shown in animal models to protect brain cells from death during times of inadequate

blood flow.

‘Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity’ is published by Oxford

University Press priced $34.95

ISBN13: 9780195175097ISBN10: 0195175093 hardback, 568 pages

About the Author(s)

Eric Chivian , M.D., is the Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at

Harvard Medical School. He shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the lead editor

and author of Last Aid: The Medical Dimensions of Nuclear War and Critical Condition:

Human Health and the Environment .

Aaron Bernstein , M.D., is a Research Associate at the Center for Health and the Global

Environment at Harvard Medical School, and Resident, Boston Combined Residency in

Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School/Boston University School of Medicine.

Posted with inputs from IUCN


Tahrcountry Musings

Spider sex using ultraviolet B (UVB) rays

Monday, May 05, 2008

Professor Daiqin Li, from the National University of Singapore and his team have

discovered that male jumping spiders (Phintella vittata) are using ultraviolet B (UVB) rays

to communicate with females. The researchers found that females were more likely to

mate with males that could “talk” to them with UVB compared with spiders sitting in

chambers. The full details appear in Current science

Li, J., Z. Zhang, F. Liu, Q. Liu, W. Gan, J. Chen, Matthew L.M. Lim, Daiqin Li, 2008. UVB-

Based Mate-Choice Cues Used by Females of the Jumping Spider Phintella vittata.

Current Biology, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.04.020

Here is reason to save ponds

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Professor John Downing, the lake scientist from US has come up with interesting facts

about lakes. His research has established that ponds around the globe could absorb as

much carbon as the world’s oceans. Professor Downing found that constructed ponds

and lakes on farmland in the United States bury carbon at 20-50 times the rate at which

trees trap carbon. Ponds also take up carbon at a higher rate than larger lakes. In US 90

percent of these water bodies are one hectare or less in area.

Ponds are fast disappearing in many parts if the world as development advances. This

new research gives a clear-cut reason for conserving ponds. With deleterious effects of

global warming at our doorsteps here is a definite reason to conserve ponds. So go

ahead spread the news around. Full details appear in Feb. 15 issue of the journal Global

Biogeochemical Cycles in a paper titled, “Sediment organic carbon burial in agriculturally

eutrophic impoundments over the last century.”

Good news about the Amur Leopard

Saturday, May 10, 2008

There is good news about Amur Leopard. 8 photos taken in Kedrovaya Pad reserve in

the Primorisky Region of Russia by a camera trap during a census operation has brought

cheer to the conservationists. Amur leopards, considered critically endangered by the

IUCN, have been brought to the brink by habitat loss and poaching. An estimated twenty-

five to forty Amur leopards survive in the wild in the northern forests, the taiga, of Russia.

Only six have been identified as females. Hunters shot dead a female in April 2007.

Curbing habitat loss, forest fires and poaching is of paramount importance in the

conservation plans of this critically endangered animal.

Tahrcountry Musings


Microbes capable of sophisticated reasoning?

Monday, May 12, 2008

It is a known fact that microbes can come up with simple responses to changes in their

environment, such as acidity fluctuations, by altering their internal workings. But

sophisticated reasoning? Systems biologist Saeed Tavazoie of Princeton University

wanted to know if microbes were capable of more sophisticated reasoning. He along with

his colleagues created an environment inhabited by evolving virtual bugs. The organisms

“learnd” that certain signals preceded the arrival of food and came up with pre-emptive

metabolic responses. Even when the signal combinations grew more complex, the

population was able to evolve the correct responses. Extensive work was done on

bacterium Escherichia coli. When the researchers turned up the heat in a dish of E. coli,

the bugs narrowed down activity in genes that normally operate in high-oxygen

conditions. The true test came when the team reversed the normal association, growing

the bacteria in conditions in which high oxygen levels followed temperature increases.

Less than 100 generations later, the bacteria stopped turning on their low-oxygen

response after exposure to high temperatures, giving a clue that they had evolved to

break the association. The work opens up exciting possibilities to explain puzzling

behaviour of microbial pathogens, which could be using predictive signals to change their

cell surfaces and avoid a host’s impending immune attack.

More details can be had from the latest issue of Science magazine

Predictive Behavior Within Microbial Genetic Networks

Ilias Tagkopoulos 1, Yir-Chung Liu 2, Saeed Tavazoie 2*

1 Department of Electrical Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.;

Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

08544, USA.

2 Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

08544, USA.; Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

08544, USA.

The world’s oldest recorded tree – Interesting

press release from U…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Here is an interesting press release that I came across while surfing.

Umeå University

Press Release

The world’s oldest recorded tree is a 9,550-year-old spruce in the Dalarna province of

Sweden. The spruce tree has shown to be a tenacious survivor that has endured by

growing between erect trees and smaller bushes in pace with the dramatic climate

changes over time.

For many years the spruce tree has been regarded as a relative newcomer in the


Tahrcountry Musings

Swedish mountain region. ”Our results have shown the complete opposite, that the

spruce is one of the oldest known trees in the mountain range,” says Leif Kullman,

Professor of Physical Geography at Umeå University.

A fascinating discovery was made under the crown of a spruce in Fulu Mountain in

Dalarna. Scientists found four “generations” of spruce remains in the form of cones and

wood produced from the highest grounds. The discovery showed trees of 375, 5,660,

9,000 and 9,550 years old and everything displayed clear signs that they have the same

genetic makeup as the trees above them. Since spruce trees can multiply with root

penetrating braches, they can produce exact copies, or clones. The tree now growing

above the finding place and the wood pieces dating 9,550 years have the same genetic

material. The actual has been tested by carbon-14 dating at a laboratory in Miami,

Florida, USA. Previously, pine trees in North America have been cited as the oldest at

4,000 to 5,000 years old.

In the Swedish mountains, from Lapland in the North to Dalarna in the South, scientists

have found a cluster of around 20 spruces that are over 8,000 years old. Although

summers have been colder over the past 10,000 years, these trees have survived harsh

weather conditions due to their ability to push out another trunk as the other one died.

”The average increase in temperature during the summers over the past hundred years

has risen one degree in the mountain areas,” explains Leif Kullman. Therefore, we can

now see that these spruces have begun to straighten themselves out. There is also

evidence that spruces are the species that can best give us insight about climate change.

The ability of spruces to survive harsh conditions also presents other questions for

researchers. Have the spruces actually migrated here during the Ice Age as seeds from

the east 1,000 kilometres over the inland ice that that then covered Scandinavia? Do they

really originate from the east, as taught in schools? “My research indicates that spruces

have spent winters in places west or southwest of Norway where the climate was not as

harsh in order to later quickly spread northerly along the ice-free coastal strip,” says Leif

Kullman. “In some way they have also successfully found their way to the Swedish


The study has been carried out in cooperation with the County Administrative Boards in

Jämtland and Dalarna.

For more information contact:

Leif Kullman, Professor of Physical Geography at Umeå University

Phone: +46 90-786 68 93, 070-5641848

E-mail: [email protected]

Dogs help in conserving endangered animals

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dogs have always been man’s best friends from time immemorial. They have been used

in hunting. But now they are chipping in with help in wildlife conservation

Dogs trained to detect animal faeces by scent are helping researchers monitor rare and

threatened wildlife in and around Emas National Park, in Brazil. When the dogs find the

faeces, the accompanying researcher marks the location with a GPS and collects the

samples. With the aid of satellite images, the sample data are correlated to the local

environments where the samples were found. This helps the researchers to identify

Tahrcountry Musings


numbers, range, diet, hormonal stress, parasites and genetic identity without resorting to

any sophisticated equipments. Identifying and establishing key areas for corridors has

been made easier. The levels of stress hormones in the animals’ faeces are important

indicators in the evaluation of their capacity to reproduce in a given environment. Carly

Vynne of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington leads the


Indian Forest Rights Act – An interesting


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The recently passed Indian forest rights act is mired in controversy with protagonists of

wildlife and tribals taking diametrically opposite stands in their respective fields. This

benefits neither the wildlife nor the tribals. What is needed is pragmatism. I found the

following piece from Mr P.N Unnikrishnan very interesting. Browse through this piece. It is

food for thought

The Forest Rights Act is often misinterpreted as an Act for the tribals to counter the over

emphasis on wildlife. This is an illusion. The Act must be understood as a document

emphasizing the point that the forest belongs to primarily the wildlife and then to the

tribal. It is an Act to refute the interests of the mainstream society on forestland.

The Act says that the right holders have the fundamental duty and authority to protect

and conserve the forest and its biodiversity. The right of people over forests can be

withdrawn if it is irrefutably (scientifically) proved that an area is critical to the existence of

wildlife and cohabitation is positively harmful to wildlife interests. The Act does not speak

of sacrificing wildlife interests to favour tribal interests. It is but against forceful relocation

(eviction) without necessary compensation and that too before verifying whether an area

is critical for wildlife

Many a P A has been declared, not based on the criticality of that area for wildlife. There

have been other considerations such as that of catchment area of dams, for instance.

The Act says that the primary lookout in this regard must be the significance of the area

for survival of wildlife.

The Act does not say that all important wildlife areas have been covered by PAs. More

PAs can be constituted, provided they are critically important for wildlife, but relocation

from there needs to be actively pursued only if cohabitation is found to be positively

harmful to wildlife.

The Act is a statement expressing solidarity of tribal and wildlife interests and stiffly

opposes the intrusion of mainstream people on forestland. See it in the right spirit and the

confusion will disappear.


Tahrcountry Musings

Emergency aid for Pandas

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wolong Nature Reserve in China which harbours Pandas was devastated in the recent

earthquake. Five staff at the reserve were killed and several pandas have been reported

missing Conservationists the world over are a worried lot. The Royal Zoological Society

of Scotland, which owns Edinburgh Zoo, is sending emergency aid to help Chinese

authorities. The society is sending money and satellite communications equipment.

Edinburgh Zoo is slated to get breeding-aged Pandas from Wolong Nature Reserve and

has a special interest in its welfare. Offers of help are coming from other sources also.

Courtship and mating sequence of Giant Panda

filmed in the wild

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I have always been fascinated by Giant Pandas. An adorable animal, that strikes a chord

in your heart. They seem such gentle creatures. I was surprised to hear that their love life

is full of loud throaty calls and aggression.

A BBC Natural History team has recorded in the wild, the courtship and mating

sequences of giant panda. The recording was done in the bamboo forests of Qinling

Mountains in China. Even though mating of pandas has been filmed earlier this is the

most complete courtship sequences ever caught on camera. The mating is preceded by

loud calls and fending off of other males. Pandas which are solitary animals come

together during mating season. Months of research and careful location reconnaissance

was needed to film these exclusive shots. The film Land of the Panda is broadcast by

BBC on Sunday 8 June at 2100 BST. It is a co-production with Chinese state television.

Shocking news about Tigers

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) has come out with some shocking news about

tigers in China. I nearly puked when I heard about it.EIA investigators were offered tiger

bone wine in two Chinese Tiger farms. Chinese farms are believed to house about 5,000

captive tigers. The wine was made from carcasses soaked in rice wine. The wine

advertised as a sure fire treatment for arthritis and rheumatism was being openly sold in

the farms. The staff claimed that wine was made from tigers that had died after fighting

with other big cats at the farms. Debbie Banks, head of the EIA’s tiger campaign has

made a fervent plea to Chinese authorities to stop this barbaric practice. With just 2,500

breeding adults left in the wild things are not rosy for this wonderful animal. Chinese have

all along campaigned for farming of tigers saying it would satisfy the demand from

traditional medicine practitioners without threatening the wild tiger population. But

according to EIA It would be far too easy to launder poached skins, bones and parts

among those from legalized tiger farms. This would open the flood gates of poaching.

Tahrcountry Musings


I will be away from my desk

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hi guys,

Till June 19th I am out in the wilderness with no access to internet. There won’t be any

updates during this period. The New York times science headlines and animal of the day

will get updated automatically.

The wonder of bird songs

Monday, June 23, 2008

‘whales-eat-fish’ claims debunked

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Whales are fascinating animals. The acrobatics of the amiable whales in the sea have

always fascinated me. Every time the whaling nations go out on merciless killing of

whales I am deeply pained. I share my agony with millions around the world. One of the

reasons touted by whaling nations is the argument “whales-eat-fish”. Well, this argument

has been totally debunked by scientists. Humane Society International, WWF and the

Lenfest Ocean Program have come out with three new reports debunking the science

behind the ‘whales-eat-fish’ claims of Japan, Norway and Iceland. The reports

conclusively prove that it is over-fishing and excess fishing capacity that are responsible

for diminishing supplies of fish in developing countries. Marine mammals consume mainly

smaller fish and organisms. It is high time international community woke up to the facts

and come out with measures for regulating untrammeled fisheries operations. The major

chunk of the catch goes to developed countries and they have a moral responsibility to

do something. Do not blame the whales. Protect the whales please

Climate change and plant distribution

Friday, June 27, 2008

Climate change is a hotly debated topic round the globe. We have already started feeling

its effect in our daily life. Worse is yet to come warns scientist. Here comes solid

evidence that it is affecting the plant community. According to researchers climate

change is changing the distribution pattern of plants. They are increasingly going up hill in

a search for cooler conditions. A study of 171 forest species in mountain ranges of

Western Europe revealed startling fact that many plants had climbed on an average of 29

metres each decade. Smaller species such as ferns, with shorter reproduction cycles,

were the quickest to move. Prof: Jonathan Lenoir an ecologist at AgroParisTech, France

led the research. The research team compared the distribution of forest species between

1905 and 1985 with their distribution between 1986 and 2005 to arrive at their

conclusions. The findings have been published in the latest issue of Science journal.


Tahrcountry Musings

Amazing diversity of life – Discoveries and


Saturday, June 28, 2008

We are still in the process of making an inventory of the species of the earth

.Innumerable species are lost for ever without going through our scanner as civilization

advances. Roughly 1.8 million Species have been described to date, but scientists

estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth. I was startled to

hear the number of species discovered per year. 16,969 species were discovered in 2006

according to a report published by Arizona State University’s International Institute for

Species Exploration, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the

International Plant Names Index, and Thompson Scientific. An average of nearly 50

species per day. But as species are discovered, others are lost to extinction.

The report is titled State of Observed Species. Scientists warn that the rate of extinction

is likely to increase as climate change intensifies. Earth is presently in the midst of a sixth

great extinction, the Holocene. The previous mass extinctions in the past were the

Ordovician, the Devonian, the Permian, the Triassic and the Cretaceous. Holocene is

driven by human activities like habitat destruction, overexploitation, and the introduction

of alien species. A revamp of Conservation efforts world wide is needed

Tiger population plummets in Nepal

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The news about tigers is not at all rosy in India. Conservationists are worried about the

decline in population and are working overtime to reverse this trend. Now comes a

shocker from Nepal. The census of tiger using camera trap in Suklaphanta Wildlife

Conservation Park in western Nepal, has come out with disturbing results. Present

estimate is 14 tigers, down from 25 during the 2004-2005 survey. The worst scenario

estimates it at 5 tigers. It is feared that Chitwan National Park in south Nepal and in

Bardiya National Park in the west will also show a similar decline. WWF says declining

tiger population is due to rising demand for tiger products from China. WWF estimate is

fewer than 150 tigers in Nepal, down from 360-370 in 2000.

New Study – Funding by Global Environment

Facility (GEF) for conser…

Friday, July 04, 2008

The latest issue of journal science has some important info for the park managers. An

analysis of 306 protected areas in 45 countries in Africa and Latin America by George

Wittemyer and colleagues came up with the finding that the rate of human population

growth along the borders of reserves was nearly twice that of neighboring rural areas. If

the protected areas are a detriment to local livelihoods, we should see little or negative

population growth at their borders. Instead the study found that people consistently

moved closer to them. This runs counter to the criticism that protected areas cause

misery to the people and creates a class of conservation refugees. The authors report a

correlation between population growth near protected areas and the amount of funding

countries received from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for conservation-related

Tahrcountry Musings


projects. This study highlights that conservation activities can and do have positive

impacts for the local communities where they take place. The study suggests that parks

today are perceived by local people as areas of opportunity. But paradoxically the

research also suggests that the success of conservation areas in attracting human

settlers may be detrimental to the biodiversity the reserves aim to protect. The pressure

on wildlife, agricultural land, and timber and other forest products goes up exponentially.

The direct conclusion is that deforestation rates were higher near protected areas where

human population growth was the highest. It is time for wildlife reserve mangers to take

stock of the situation and come up with newer models of growth.

G. Wittemyer, J.S. Brashares, P. Elsen, W.T. Bean, A. Coleman and O. Burton (2008).

Accelerated Human Population Growth at Protected Area Edges. 4 JULY 2008 VOL 321

journal Science.

Eight new natural sites added to the World

Heritage List

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Eight new natural sites have been added to the World Heritage List. This follows IUCN’s

recommendations. The new sites are Socotra Archipelago in Yemen, Canada’s Joggins

Fossil Cliffs, the French Lagoons of New Caledonia, Saryarka in Northern Kazakhstan,

Mount Sanqingshan National Park in China, Surtsey in Iceland, the Swiss Tectonic Arena

Sardona, and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.

The Socotra Archipelago is rich in flora and fauna. 37 percent of Socotra’s plant species,

90 percent of its reptile species and 95 percent of its land snail species cannot be found

anywhere else in the world. Canada’s Joggins Fossil Cliffs have been termed the “coal

age Galápagos” and are the world reference site for the Coal Age. The site bears witness

to the first reptiles in Earth’s history, which are the earliest representatives of the

amniotes, a group of animals that includes reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals. The

tropical lagoons and coral reefs of New Caledonia form one of the three most extensive

reef systems in the world. Saryarka is a largely undisturbed area of Central Asian steppe

and lakes in the Korgalzhyn and Naurzum State Nature Reserves. Mount Sanqingshan

National Park was recommended for its outstanding natural beauty. Surtsey is a new

island and was formed by volcanic eruptions in 1963-67. The Swiss Tectonic Arena

Sardona, which includes the Glarus Overthrust, shows how mountains were formed

through continental collisions. The three core zones of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere

Reserve protect eight overwintering colonies of the monarch butterfly in the oyamel fir

forests of central Mexico.

Posted with inputs from IUCN

Photos on each site are available Here

Fact sheets on each site are available here


Tahrcountry Musings

Grassland ecosystems resistant to climate


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

According to a new study by scientists from Syracuse University and the University of

Sheffield published online in the July 7 issue of the Early Edition of the Proceedings of

the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), grasslands in Western Europe may be

resistant to climate change. This is in sharp contrast to research in North America that

suggests mountain wildflowers will all but disappear in a warming world. The experiment

is one of the longest-running studies of climate change impacts on natural vegetation and

may give new pointers into the effects of global warming on plant ecosystems. 13 years

of data collected at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) in the United

Kingdom by Emeritus Professor J. Philip Grime and colleagues at the University of

Sheffield went in to the analysis. 30 small grassland plots of 9-square-meter with

microclimate manipulation were used. Each plot was trimmed to simulate continued

grazing but was kept 3 degrees Celsius warmer than nearby outside temperatures.

Droughts and deluges were also mimicked. New questions that are now being asked are

why are some plants resistant to climate change, while others die, become extinct or

migrate to other places?.

New National Park for Reunion Island

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reunion Island’s first National Park, which covers nearly 50 per cent of the islands

interior was formally declared open yesterday. Set amidst awe inspiring craters of now

dormant volcanoes the scenic beauty is unparallel. The area is currently under

consideration to become a World Heritage Site. Around 300 participants attending top

level summit on Strategies to Counter Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss in EU

Overseas Entities and Small Island States had a first hand experience of the Park . They

joined local guides to walk through the magnificent forests that lie between 800 and 1300

meters above sea level.

Réunion is an island located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, about 200 km

south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.

5th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates

Friday, July 11, 2008

The world congress on Mountain Ungulates is an event eagerly awaited by Caprinae

wildlife biologists and wildlife mangers. Here is good news. The 1st announcement

regarding the 5th conference is out. It will be held in Andalucia, Spain, from November

10th to 13th 2009, with a full-day excursion on the 14th.Details will be posted on CSG

website soon.

Tahrcountry Musings


6 of 7 hornbill species wiped out in Malaysia’s

Lambir Hills Nation…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Conversion of forests for oil palm, Logging, and hunting has spelled doom for 6 of 7

species of hornbills in Malaysia’s Lambir Hills National Park. 11 mammal species and 23

bird species have been lost from Lambir so far. The main reason is the ecological

impacts of tree felling affecting the reproductive capacities of trees dependent on animal

dispersal of their seeds, particularly figs. The disclosure came from Dr Rhett Harrison, a

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) associate researcher and Secretary for

the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)

speaking at the 53rd Annual Scientific meeting held at the Torarica Hotel, Paramaribo,


New Primate Species Discovered in Madagascar

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A previously unknown species of mouse lemur has been discovered on the island of

Madagascar. It was a joint effort of Senior Lecturer Dr. Ute Radespiel from the Institute of

Zoology of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo), and

Malagasy scientists and students of the GERP organisation (Groupe d`Étude et de

Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar). The discovery was made in the tropical

rainforests of Makira, a newly protected area in Northwestern Madagascar. The lemur

has been named Microcebus macarthurii, after the MacArthur Foundation, which

provided funding for the research. The new species not only differs genetically but also in

its body size from the sister species, the Mittermeier`s mouse lemur. Madagascar is

home to more than 100 types of lemurs, all of which are endemic to the island.

Madagascar lost its largest lemur species when humans arrived some 1500 years ago.

The results of the study have been published on the internet page of the American

Journal of Primatology. (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/ajp).

Restoring lost mangroves – Lessons from


Sunday, July 20, 2008

One of the world’s most intensive efforts to restore coastal mangrove forests was in

Philippines where extensive tracts of mangroves were converted to fish farms. The

restoration efforts are failing in many places. Biologists Maricar Samson and Rene Rollon

of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City have come out with a paper titled

“Growth Performance of Planted Mangroves in the Philippines: Revisiting Forest

Management Strategies” in the latest issue of journal Ambio, outlining the reasons for this

failure. It has relevance for other areas also. According to the researchers there was a

widespread tendency to plant mangroves in areas that are not the natural habitat of

mangroves, converting mudflats, sandflats, and seagrass meadows into often

monospecific Rhizophora mangrove forests. Of the few that survived, the young

Rhizophora individuals planted in these nonmangroves and often in low intertidal zones

had dismally stunted growth relative to the corresponding growth performance of


Tahrcountry Musings

individuals thriving at the high intertidal position and natural mangrove sites. Unsound

practices in some areas disturbed or damaged otherwise healthy habitats. The

researchers argue that a more rational focus of the restoration effort should be the

replanting of mangroves in the brackish-water aquaculture pond environments, the

original habitat of mangroves preferably in gently sloping hill bottoms that are above

mean sea level and flooded by the tides less than one-third of the time. The paper

underscores the need for understanding the ecological needs and biology of the

mangrove trees before plunging in to extensive planting activities.

New Population of critically endangered Greater

Bamboo Lemurs disco…

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A team of researchers led by Edward Louis of Henry Doorly Zoo, have discovered a new

Population of critically endangered greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus), in

Torotorofotsy wetlands of east central Madagascar, an area more than 400 kilometers

away from its only known habitat in Ranomafana. Scientists have estimated a population

of 30-40 in the area. Greater bamboo lemur is considered to be the most endangered

primate genus in the world. The greater bamboo lemur is one of three species of bamboo

lemur in Madagascar the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus) and the gentle

bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus) are the others. All the three species feeds mainly on


World Bank criticized for environmental goofs

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Environmental campaigners had always criticized the way World Bank doled out aid to

developing countries. They have been consistently arguing that it has led to deforestation

in the tropics. Here is proof that they were right in voicing their concern. World banks

bank’s Independent Evaluation Group has criticized the bank for failures to grasp fully the

environmental impacts of its programmes in poor countries. The 181-page report is a

severe indictment. The group examined some of the $400 billion in investments spanning

7,000 projects from 1990 to 2007. The report says when dollars were turned into dams,

pipelines, and palm plantations it led to deforestation in the tropics and environmental

sustainability took a back seat. Environmentalists are hoping that this report will put some

sense in the thinking of the higher ups in the world Bank

Reuse of water bottles- Venice shows the way

Friday, July 25, 2008

A used plastic water bottle thrown away carelessly is a big headache in tourist centres. I

came across this new scheme launched in Italy recently. It impressed me with its

simplicity and inherent great potential. If implemented properly it is going to be blessing.

Italy has the largest consumption of bottled water in the world. For tourist centers like

Venice discarded water bottles is a big bother. Venice has come out with this innovative

scheme called 100%public whereby tourists are given an empty water bottle and a map

showing 122 fountains that have been installed in the city. The authorities hope that this

will solve a major problem for them

Tahrcountry Musings


Tahrcountry congratulates the civic authorities of Venice

for this innovative scheme.

UK scientists’ call to put plants in the garden that

are of benefic…

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weird things are happening to the bumblebees of UK. Scientists have apprehensions that

a lack of suitable flowers may be forcing bumblebees to seek out aphids in search of their

sugary secretions. The secretions offer a substitute for nectar, but do not contain the

protein the insects need. The assumption is that that there are fewer of the right sorts of

flowers in gardens and countryside. As bees are important pollinators of flowers and

crops the scientists have urged the people to put more plants in the garden that are

beneficial to bees. According to the scientists flowers from the pea and mint families

seem to be particularly beneficial. The relationship between ants and aphids is well

known. Ants protect the aphids from other predators such as ladybirds and in return they

take the honey secreted by the aphids. The fine balance of nature seems to have been

put in disarray by humanity.


Tahrcountry Musings

Big time boozer tree shrew

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences features interesting

things about Malaysia’s pen-tailed tree-shrew’s (Ptilocercus lowii) heavy drinking. The

researchers are Frank Wiens, and his colleagues from the University of Bayreuth in

Germany.The tree shrew feeds on fermented nectar from the Bertam Palm (Eugeissona

tristis) daily at nightfall. The nectar is fermented by yeast community into a frothy beer-

like beverage. The animals’ high alcohol consumption was verified by analysing their hair.

Surprisingly they do not seem to get drunk.This suggests its body must have an effective

mechanism for breaking down alcohol.The researchers’ hypothesise that the humans

may even preserve a relic of the shrews’ love of alcohol through millions of years of

evolution and that moderate to high alcohol intake was present early on in the evolution

of these closely related lineages. The scientists hope to get insights into how humans’

alcohol tolerance first evolved.

“Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild treeshrews” by Frank Wiens, Annette

Zitzmann, Marc-André Lachance, Michel Yegles, Fritz Pragst, Friedrich M. Wurst, Dietrich

von Holst, Saw Leng Guan, and Rainer Spanagel (see pages 10426–10431)

5th World Congress on Mounatin Ungulates – 1st

announcement full text

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Caprinae are a Subfamily that mainly

consist of wild sheep and goats. This group

of mammals has a very high economical

and biological value. From a zoological

point of view they achieve their adaptive

peak in mountainous environments and are

part of the diverse MAMMAL FAUNA in

various ecosystems. From an economical

point of view they are considered very

appealing in sport hunting, as a resource for

medicine and safari wildlife photography.

Mostly found in mountainous areas, they are also

present in steppes. Their natural geographic

distribution covers the 3 continents of the Northern

Hemisphere as well as some tropical forests,

deserts, Alpine and Artic tundra of over 70


Over 71% of the members of this group which are

found in the previously mentioned regions are

exposed to a variety of risks (loss of habitat,

diseases from domestic livestock, genetic isolation

and tourism). Considering their whole population,

8% are listed as being critically endangered, 23%

as endangered, 40% vulnerable, 28% are of less

concern while there is not enough data concerning

Tahrcountry Musings


the remaining 1%.

T h e m a i n r e a s o n f o r s u c h a w i d e

distribution of the previously mentioned

figures lies within the general lack of

information there is concerning the

members of this group. In order to gather

all the available information there is about

these species, several international

conferences have been organised. The first

one was held in Camerino (Italy) in 1989

and it is where the groundwork was set, by

the UICN, for developing a World Capreine

Action Plan. The second conference was

held in 1997, in San Vicente d’Aosta (Italy),

and it is when all the information concerning this mammal group was put together. The

third and fourth conferences, 2002 in Zaragoza (Spain) and 2006 in Munar (India), both

focused on relevant aspects concerning the biology and ecology of these species as well

as conservation and management proposals.

The fifth World Conference of Mountain Ungulates will be held in Andalusia during

autumn 2009. Andalusia is a Spanish region which accounts for more than 50% of the

wild goat species in the world. The Andalusian Government had banked on its

conservation and organised the first and second European International Capra Genus

Congress in 1992 and 2007 and has implemented ambitious management programmes

for the Andalusian Wild Goat populations.

We believe it is a great opportunity in confronting the impact global change has on the

Mountain Ungulate population and on ecosystems which are highly sensitive to climate

change conditions, all of which are responsibility of man.

The commitment between the Andalusian Environmental Administration and the UICN

has been very positive, supporting the organisation of this Fifth World meeting. This

Congress aims to encourage participants to share and put in common scientific and

technical advances which have been achieved in the conservation and management of

Mountain Ungulates. It will allow for an update on all the information concerning

taxonomic, demographic and health management programmes and methods (capture,

tracking, etc.)

This event will take place in Granada, a cosmopolitan city with a fascinating cultural and

artistic heritage. It is a landmark famous for it’s Arab, Jewish and Christian legacy.

In order to contribute to the existing knowledge on Mountain Ungulates, Granada will

share it’s historical legacy contextualising it within the Mountains of Sierra Nevada. Sierra

Nevada was declared Natural Park 20 years ago and has also been a National Park for

the past 10 years.

This Congress will account for five working sessions, four of which will take place at the

“Palacio de Congresos de Granada” and a fifth which will be carried out in Sierra Nevada.

The programme will mainly consist in oral presentations, posters and workshops. Some

key topics and subjects to be dealt are: Abundant Estimation Methods, Capture and

Tracking Methods, Healthcare situation, Genetics, Reproduction, Phisiology,


Working sessions:

•Population management: population estimation, capture methods, tracking, etc.

•Healthcare status: parasites, contagious diseases, epidemiology, treatments, etc.

•Conservation, management and hunting promotion: management experiences, etc.

•Biology and Ecology: Taxonomy, reproduction, physiology, genetics, etc.



Tahrcountry Musings

•Global change and Caprine Populations

•Density estimations

•Caprines and the CIC

•New Diseases emerging from changes on a global scale

•Caprine Management Strategy in Protected Areas

Provisional Timetable

First week of July’08 1st Circular and website publication: information on conference

objective, call for symposium proposal, information about price, date, place, etc.

First week of November ‘08 2nd Circular: Draft program, opening period to registration,

communications, symposium proposal, workshop or communications and posters. Rest

of the information.

30/03/09 Ending of symposium and workshop proposals

30/06/09 Communication and posters presentations and Registration for the Scientific

Committee’s analysis

30/08/09 Ending of communications and posters approval deadline.

11/09/09 Program’s ultimate publication

10 -14 November 2009 V World Conference of Mountain Ungulates

Extinction threat for mankind’s closest relatives

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

50 percent of man’s close relatives (monkeys, apes and other primates) are in danger of

extinction according to a report of IUCN issued at the 22nd International Primatological

Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. The comprehensive list covers world’s 634

kinds of primates. The report is part of an examination of the state of the world’s

mammals to be released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in

October. In Asia, more than 70 percent of primates are classified on the IUCN Red List as

Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Habitat destruction is the major threat

to primates. Other threats include the hunting of primates for food and an illegal wildlife


For a list of the assessments of all primate species and subspecies as they will appear on

the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (www.iucnredlist.org) in October, please

visit the website of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group (www.primate-sg.org)

Bloggers camp Kerala

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The first bloggers camp on a houseboat will be held on 16th August at Alappuzha in

Kerala. The brain behind the meet is Kenny Jacob, a software engineer from Trivandrum.

Tourism department of Kerala will be the main sponsor of the meet For details click here

Tahrcountry Musings


Orangutans facing uncertain future

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The adorable Orangutans (Pongo spp.) are facing an uncertain future. According to new

findings published this month by Great Ape Trust of Iowa scientist Dr. Serge Wich and

associates in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation, Orangutan populations

have fallen sharply on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The revised estimates put the

number of Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii) around 6,600 in 2004. This is lower than

previous estimates of 7,501. “It is clear that the Sumatran orangutan is in rapid decline

and unless extraordinary efforts are made soon, it could become the first great ape

species to go extinct,” Wich et al. wrote. The authors blamed logging and the expansion

of oil palm plantations for the drop. The 2004 estimate of about 54,000 Bornean

orangutans (P. pygmaeus) is probably also higher than the actual number today as there

has been a 10 percent orangutan habitat loss in the Indonesian part of Borneo during that

period. 75 percent of all orangutans live outside of national parks, which have been

severely degraded by illegal logging, mining, and encroachment by palm oil plantations.

So the the future conservation efforts will need to be focused beyond the boundaries of

protected areas. The authors have made some sweeping recommendations for future

conservation initiatives.

Wich et al. (2008). Distribution and conservation status of the orangutan (Pongo spp.) on

Borneo and Sumatra: How many remain?. Oryx

Click here for more details about orangutans from Wikipedia

Good news about Western lowland Gorillas

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A census of critically endangered western lowland gorillas by the Wildlife Conservation

Society (WCS) has come up with good news for conservationists. The census found

125,000 of the apes in two adjacent areas in the northern part of the Republic of Congo

covering 47,000 sq km. A total of 73,000 came from the Ntokou-Pikounda region and

another 52,000 from the Ndoki-Likouala area. Even though 1980s census had estimated

a population of about 100,000 hunting and the ebola virus was thought to have slashed

the population by half. So this is indeed good news. Gorillas build nests each night from

leaves and branches for sleeping. Western lowland gorillas are one of four recognized


Tahrcountry Musings

gorilla sub-species. The others are mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and Cross

River gorillas. For more information about western lowland gorillas click here

The power of blogging in Conservation – An

African Ranger shows the…

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Masai Mara is one Kenya’s best known wildlife reserves. People used to throng the park

to have a glimpse of its magnificent wildlife. But continuing violence after the election

changed all that. Tourists stopped coming to Masai Mara. Mara Conservancy a not-for-

profit organization which manages the North-Western part of the Masai Mara Game

Reserve, on behalf of the Trans-Mara County Council was in dire straights. Conservation

of the Mara Triangle was completely dependent upon tourism revenue. There was no

money to pay the salaries of the protection staff and poaching was taking a heavy toll of

the animals. It was at this juncture that Mr Joseph Kimojino, a Ranger in the park hit up

on the ides of starting a blog and let the whole world know about what is happening. Till

last November he had never used a computer. A determined Kimojino was not willing to

be deterred. He learned the ropes of using a computer and grappled with nuances of

internet. He started his blog in January with the help of Wildlifedirect, a British-registered

charity set up by Richard Leakey, Kenya’s leading paleontologist and the former head of

the Kenya Wildlife Service. ( http://maratriangle.wildlifedirect.org). It struck an immediate chord of empathy. Surfers who saw the frenetic appeal from Kimojino started chipping in

with help. He is receiving 100s of hits a day.

Harnessing the soaring popularity of blogging and social networking sites is indeed a

great way to spread the message of conservation. Oxford university researchers Alison

Ashlin and Richard Ladle in an article in science magazine says “blogs provide a

communication platform of incredible power and they should be used to engage the

public, even to the extent of including blogging as part of a researcher’s job specification.”

USA – California Condor reintroduction

programme running in to roug…

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The reintroduction of California Condors is one of the most ambitious reintroduction

programme attempted in USA. The project is running in to rough weather after initial

success. The culprit behind the decline is lead. The birds ingest the lead while feeding on

wild pigs and other animals killed by hunters. According to scientists commissioned by

American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU), removing the poisonous metal from bullets and

shotgun pellets is the only way to save the highly endangered California Condor.

Condors are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere. Condors belong to

the family Cathartidae, and are closely related to Eagles. There are two monotypic c

genuses. The Andeann Condor (Vultur gryphus) and California Condor (Gymnogyps

californianus). The California Condor inhabits only the Grand Canyon area and western

coastal mountains of California and northern Baja California. The California Condor is

one of the world’s rarest bird species. They usually live up to 50 years, and mate for life.

California Condors finds a place in many Native American cultures. The condor is a

scavenger and eats large amounts of carrion. Condor numbers started declining in the

19th century due to poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. When the

population came down to 22 birds conservation plan was put in place by the United

Tahrcountry Musings


States government that led to the capture of all the remaining wild condors in 1987.

These 22 birds were bred at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.

The numbers rose through captive breeding and from 1991 condors, have been

reintroduced into the wild. The project is the most expensive species conservation project

ever undertaken in the United States. As on May 2008, there were 332 condors known to

be living, including 152 in the wild.

The scientific community is working overtime to overcome the setback and put the project

on an even keel

For more information on California Condor click here

US decision on wildlife draws flak from


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Environmentalists world wide hold the view that the Bush administration is not a green

administration. Moves like going for oil in Alaska threatening the wildlife of the area have

been very severely opposed by conservationists. The administration is now planning a

back door method to by pass some of the imbroglios that have been created. Till now all

decisions had to be endorsed by independent scientists. The administration has decided

to give this practice a short shrift. The environmentalists have condemned the move by

Bush administration to do away with the practice of consulting independent scientists

before decisions are taken about projects such as highways, dams or mines that might

harm endangered animals and plants. Federal agencies have been given full powers to

decide for themselves. The administration is not required to consult with Congress before

approving the changes. Environmentalists apprehend that political appointees will do

irreparable damage to the ecosystem if this practice is not nipped in the bud itself.

Red Alert – African elephants facing uncertain


Thursday, August 14, 2008


According to a new paper by Dr Samuel Wasser and associates, which has appeared in

August Issue of Conservation Biology the elephants in Africa are being slaughtered at an

unprecedented rate. If things go at this rate Elephants in wild state in Africa will be wiped

out by 2020. What a shame!!

The death rate from poaching throughout Africa is about 8 percent a year. This is higher

than the 7.4 percent annual death rate that led to the international ivory trade ban nearly

20 years ago. The poaching death rate in the late 1980s was based on a population that

numbered more than 1 million. Today’s population is less than 470,000. The ban is not in

force today.

Dr Wasser says “The elephants keep habitats open so other species that depend on

such ecosystems can use them. Without elephants, there will be major habitat changes,

with negative effects on the many species”

The major threat comes from growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in

demand for carvings and signature stamps called hankos. Surprisingly Unites States is

fast emerging as a major consumer of ivory where it is used to make knife handles and

gun grips.

According to Dr Wasser public support stopped the illegal ivory trade back in 1989 and


Tahrcountry Musings

we need to do it again to save the species. Guys wake up and do your mite to save the

African elephants. Use your blog posts to pressurize US, China and Japan to stop this

senseless massacre of the elephants.

BlogCamp Kerala a runaway success

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The first ever blog camp held in Kerala on 16th in a house boat cruising along the placid

backwaters of Alappuzha, was a smashing success. The attendees got a chance to get

to know the fellow bloggers from across the country. The presence of Guillaume Marceau

from Quebec, Canada gave the proceedings an international flavor. The lively discussion

centered on the future of blogging with the experts chipping in with their dose of distilled

wisdom. For the budding bloggers it was a dream come true. The typical Kerala style non

vegetarian lunch tickled the palate. The breathtaking scenery added that extra punch to

the lunch. Full marks to the organizers of the conference. I eagerly look forward to the

second edition of the meet next year.

Environmental pollutant has sex-skewing effect

Monday, August 18, 2008

I was reading this paper “A cohort study of in utero polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)

exposures in relation to secondary sex ratio” in BioMed Central’s open access journal

Environmental Health, and it disturbed me. The article clearly depicts that women

exposed to high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls – a group of banned

environmental pollutants) are less likely to have male children. PCBs are persistent

organic pollutants identified worldwide as human blood and breast milk contaminants.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the lead author of the study says “The women most exposed to

PCBs were 33% less likely to give birth to male children than the women least exposed".

Even though PCBs were banned in the 1970s it is believed that they find their way in

developing and underdeveloped countries. Chemicals with a similar structure to PCBs,

such as the flame-retardants PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), are still widely

used in plastic casings and foam products.People consuming fish from contaminated

lakes and those who live near former manufacturing facilities face high risk. The risk is

not restricted to human beings alone. Wildlife also face a threat of equal magnitude.

Environmental Health 2008, 7:37 (15 July 2008)

If you want to read the full article click here

Surprise – Magpies recognise their own


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I have seen Magpies preening before my motorbike mirror and pecking at their images

several times. I had never given it any serious thought. Today I was surprised to read in

the journal Plos Biology that the latest research indicates the ability of Magpies to

recognize themselves in the mirror. Till recently only humans were thought to have this

ability. Then came chimps and orangutans. and a host of other mammals. The research

was led by German psychologist Dr Helmut Prior, from the Goethe University in Frankfurt.

The researchers placed yellow and red stickers on the birds in positions where they could

Tahrcountry Musings


only be seen in a mirror. The magpies focused on the marks and tried to reach the

stickers with their beaks and claws. On a number of occasions they succeeded in

scratching the stickers’ off. This put an end to their mark-orientated behavior. When no

mirror was present, the birds took no notice of the coloured marks. The scientist say

magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body. If

you are keen to read the entire paper click here

Earth’s magnetic fields and animal behavior

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mysteries of nature are a source of constant wonder for me. Here is something that

shows that our behavior is influenced by heavenly bodies. Dr Sabine Begall, from the

University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany using Google earth map has come to the firm

conclusion that earth’s magnetic fields have profound influence on animal’s behavior.

Cattle and Wild deer tend to align their bodies in a north-south direction. In Africa and

South America, the cattle were shifted slightly to a more north-eastern-south-western

direction. The researchers recorded the body positions of 2,974 wild deer in 277 locations

across the Czech Republic and 8,510 grazing and resting cattle in 308 pasture plains

across the globe before coming to firm conclusions. The details appear in the

Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences.

From poachers to protectors: IUCN honours

young Rwandan conservatio…

Friday, August 29, 2008

It has become a routine to hear news about depredation of nature from developing

countries. Any news that runs counter to this trend is welcome relief. Here is a whiff of

fresh air from Africa brought in by the dedicated effort of a young conservationist. Edwin

Sabuhoro, 35, from Rwanda has been selected as the winner of the 2008 Young

Conservationist Award, by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and the

International Ranger Federation. The award is bestowed for outstanding achievements

by young people in protected areas.

Rwanda was resigned to a bleak future for Gorillas with the poachers ruling the roost in

forest areas. One of the main contributing factors for poaching was poverty. To wean

away poachers from their nefarious activities Edwin developed incentives for local people

by founding the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, a community-based tourism initiative.

Proceeds from tourism have acted as an incentive for communities to protect gorillas and

d e v e l o p s m a l l - s c a l e b u s i n e s s e s . L i v i n g s t a n d a r d s h a v e s h o w n a m a r k e d improvement.The project is 100% of owned by Local people. Tourist arrivals have been

shooting up as news about the community initiative in conservation is spreading abroad.

Conservationists around the world are delighted with this effort from a young

conservationist to protect nature. Edwin Sabuhoro will be presented with the award at the

IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona this October. To cap the honour Edwin

has been be invited to become a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected

Areas and its Young Professionals Working Group.


Tahrcountry Musings

Why flies are so hard to swat? Caltech scientists

unravel the mystery.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I have been at times flabbergasted by the alacrity with which the flies avoid the swat. If

you have tried to swat flies you know how difficult it is to get a proper swat that delivers.

You must have wondered why flies are so hard to swat. Here is the answer for that.

Scientists of Caltech in US have come up with an explanation for the riddle. Using high-

resolution, high-speed digital imaging of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) Professor

Michael Dickinson and graduate student Gwyneth Card of Caltech (California Institute of

Technology) have unravelled the secret to a fly’s evasive maneuvering. Long before the

fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat and comes up with

an escape plan. It places its legs in an optimal position to hop out in the opposite

direction. All of this takes place in less than100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the

swatter. The rapidity with which the fly’s brain processes sensory information into an

appropriate motor response is incredible. This means that the fly must integrate visual

information from its eyes with mechanosensory information from its legs at an amazing

speed. Here is a piece of advice from the researchers. Dickinson says “It is best not to

swat at the fly’s starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where

the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter,” The study has been published in

the journal Current Biology dated August 28.

DNA bar-coding hitches

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The ambitious project to DNA barcode all species (International Barcode of Life) has run

in to a bit of rough weather. Scientists use a portion of the gene found in an organism’s

mitochondria for bar-coding. A new study by Brigham Young University has shown that

the current techniques can mistakenly record the “broken” copy of the gene found in the

nucleus of the organism’s cells. This lapse will make present bar-coding technique to call

it another unique species by mistake. This could lead to overestimating the number of

species. To overcome this hitch, Brigham Young University has recommended specific

quality control procedures to ensure that correct genes are captured. The day is not far

off when a handheld device like a supermarket scanner is used to identify species. All

that needs to be done is to compare the DNA marker from an organism with the known

encyclopedia of life and immediately come out the species’ name. 400,000 species have

already been bar-coded to date. Exciting times are ahead for field biology scientists.

Live and let live – Predator species help each

other while competin…

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All of us are familiar with apportionment and rationing when there is a resource crunch.

Nature resorting to this ploy might sound a wee bit farfetched. But this is exactly what

scientists from Sweden and Netherlands have found out in their pursuit of intricacies of

predator prey relationships. I was fascinated to read the paper “Stage-specific predator

species help each other to persist while competing for a single prey” by A. M. De Roos et

Tahrcountry Musings


al. It gave me insights in to the myriad and mysterious ways in which nature works. In the

wild state prey are usually shared by many predator species. One of the fundamental

questions in ecology is how predators coexist while competing for the same prey. De

Roos and associates with their research show that competing predator species may not

only coexist on a single prey but even help each other to persist if they specialize on

different life history stages of the prey. The research comes up with the finding that a

predator may not be able to persist at all unless its competitor is also present. Net result

is asymmetric increases in the rate of prey maturation and reproduction when predation

relaxes competition among prey. This interdependence suggests that the network of

feeding interactions in a community is, in fact, an emergent property of the system, which

to a large extent arises through self-organization. Part and parcel of this self-organized

character of the food web is an inherent fragility whereby the loss of a facilitating predator

species may lead to subsequent extinction of some of its guild members, making the

community collapse like a house of cards.

Stage-specific predator species help each other to persist while competing for a single


A. M. De Roos,T. Schellekens, T. Van Kooten and L. Persson

Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box

94084, 1090 GB Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Department of Ecology and

Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden

Prehistoric ant discovered in Amazon rainforest

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An ancient ancestor of ants has been discovered living in the Amazon rainforest. The

discovery was made by evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling of the University of

Texas at Austin, USA. The new ant is named Martialis heureka, which translates in to

“ant from Mars,” .This is to highlight the ant’s characteristics never before recorded. Ants

evolved 120m years ago from wasp-like ancestors and quickly adapted to living in soil,

trees and leaf litter. This is the first time that a new subfamily of ants with living species

has been discovered since 1923. The discovery will help biologists better understand the

biodiversity and evolution of ants. Tabeling says “This discovery hints at a wealth of

species, possibly of great evolutionary importance, still hidden in the soils of the

remaining rainforests,” The study appears in this week’s Proceedings of the National

Academy of Sciences.

Suicidal defense by Ants

Monday, September 29, 2008

The mysterious ways in which nature operates leaves me spellbound at times. New

researches makes me realize that we have only touched the tip of the ice-berg. Here is

another piece of news that makes you wonder. Ants are well-known for their willingness

to die for their colonies. This usually occurs when enemies are present. New research by

Adam Tofilski of the Agricultural University of Krakow, Poland, et al shows that the

Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus goes for self-sacrifice to defend the colony. This is the first

known example of a suicidal defense that is preemptive rather than a response to danger

posed. At sunset the ants seal off entrances with sand, and a few ants remain outside to

complete the job. These ants that remain outside are unable to reenter the colony. They

die by the next morning. A short report appears in the latest issue of science magazine


Tahrcountry Musings

and the full paper appears in the in the November issue of the journal American


All is not lost for Amphibians

Thursday, October 02, 2008

All recent reports about amphibians worldwide had projected a bleak future for them. One

in three amphibians worldwide are threatened with extinction.200 species have already

been lost since the 1980s.Last week Zoological Society of London stated that 50 percent

of Europe’s amphibians will go extinct by 2050. Against this backdrop discovery of three

new frog species and the rediscovery of one thought to be extinct provide a whiff of

respite. Conservationists worldwide are elated.

The new species were discovered in the Upper Pastaza Watershed in Ecuador. The

region harbours 28 orchids and 190 plant species that are found no-where else. Other

rare inhabitants include mountain tapir, the red-brocket deer, and the spectacled bear.

Brazilian Air force comes to the rescue of


Saturday, October 04, 2008

I was fascinated to hear the news about Brazilian Air force coming to the rescue of

stranded penguins.

Every year penguins fly towards north from the colder waters near Patagonia in search of

food. This year they have traversed distances hitherto unreported. The birds are thought

to have made a journey of more than 3,000km. Hundreds of birds have been washed up

on the coast of Brazil. This has puzzled the scientists. Penguin migration is closely linked

to their need for food, and the altered pattern of journey suggests that something has

gone awry with their normal fish supply. There has also been evidence that they are

eating fish that are not part of their usual diet. Reasons could be changes in water

temperatures and ocean currents or man-made pollution. Scientists are raking their

brains to find out the exact cause.

Hundreds of birds were completely exhausted by their long journey. It is here that the air

force came to the rescue. They were flown this week in a Hercules plane down to the

southern tip of Brazil, where they are being released into the ocean

Critical health risks from plastic

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Latest research is throwing fresh light on Critical health risks from plastic. A special

section in the October 2008 issue of Environmental Research, “A Plastic World” provides

startling new information. Plastic has “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that can block the

production of the male sex hormone testosterone (The villain is phthalates used in PVC

plastic), mimic the action of the sex hormone estrogen (Here the villain is bisphenol A or

BPA used in polycarbonate plastic), and interfere with thyroid hormone (The villain

brominated flame retardants or PBDEs used in many types of plastic). The chemicals are

also contaminating the oceans and causing considerable harm to aquatic wildlife. It is

now imperative that new products with less impact on environment and human health

have to be developed. The dangers signals have been broadcast.

Tahrcountry Musings


Mammal species are at risk of extinction

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

World’s denizens of the wild are disappearing at a faster rate than previously calculated.

Nearly a quarter of the world’s land mammal species are at risk of extinction according to

an extensive survey of global wildlife, conducted by the International Union for the

Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 1,700 experts in 130 countries took part in this massive

exercise. At least 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of mammal are threatened. 188 have

been listed in the “critically endangered” category. Among the critically endangered

species is the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), with only 84 to 143 adults remaining. One in

three marine mammals is also threatened. The survey, has been published by the journal


Sumatran Muntjac rediscovered

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When a lost species is rediscovered it sends waves of joy to the conservationists. Here is

a piece of news from Indonesia that will warm the cockles of your heart. Sumatran

muntjac (Muntiacus montanus) a species thought to have been extinct and not seen in

the wild since 1930 has been rediscovered. A team working for Fauna & Flora

International and the Kerinci-Seblat National Park Tiger Protection rescued it from a

hunter’s snare on an anti-poaching patrol in Sumatra’s Kerinci-Seblat National Park.The

team also managed to take photographic proof of the rescued deer; the first ever

photographs of a live specimen. The species was first discovered in 1914. IUCN has

listed the species in its Red List as “data deficient”.

Internet use good for the brain of the elderly

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This blog usually concentrates on matters relating to wildlife and environment affairs.

Here is something of great interest that goes beyond my usual realm. I thought this piece

of news about the good effects of use of internet on elderly persons is a germane bit of

information. It is sure to bring cheer to senior citizens.

A University of California team led by Professor Gary Small has found that searching the

web stimulated centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex

reasoning. Professor Gary Small says that browsing the internet may have physiological

effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults improving brain function.

This also enhances brain circuitry in older adults. The study was based on volunteers

aged between 55 and 76. The study appears in the latest issue of American Journal of

Geriatric Psychiatry. Happy surfing senior citizens.


Tahrcountry Musings

Indigenous people demand say in conservation


Friday, October 17, 2008

Gone are the days when you could ride roughshod over the indigenous people. They are

slowly becoming vociferous.

Indigenous rights groups are meeting in Oslo this week to voice their demands. They say

discussions on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)

is doomed for failure unless they are based on respect for the rights of indigenous

peoples and forest communities. In places where indigenous land rights have not been

clearly defined, the whole process could be used to evict forest people from lands upon

which they have been living for generations. The apprehension is that this would open

floodgates of land grabs and evictions by parties seeking to capitalize on carbon

payments. Indigenous peoples are concerned about how these new investments could

affect their access to the forests, but here is an opportunity to create sustainable

livelihoods for forest people and safeguarding biodiversity if the whole process is handled

with sang-froid.

The meeting in Oslo will come up with ideas of how the rights of indigenous people can

be respected under “forest carbon” schemes. The choice of Oslo for the meeting is

deliberate. Norwegian government has pledged to spend up to 3 billion Norwegian kroner

($500 million) annually to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in

tropical countries. Participants of Oslo conference have proposed the formation of

independent bodies to advise and monitor the UN Convention on Climate Change to

ensure that the rights forest people are put in place. They demand that Indigenous

peoples must be accepted as full and fair participants in all parleys.

Sound pollution affecting wildlife

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I was disturbed to read some of the latest findings on how sound pollution is threatening

the existence of wildlife.

Have you tried to hail someone amidst the cacophony of blaring sounds? It is pretty

tough on your vocal cord. Exactly the same thing is happening to birds calling out for its

mates. Biologist Henrik Brumm of the Free University of Berlin has found that male

territorial nightingales in Berlin had to sing five times as loud in an area of heavy traffic.

Henrik is sure that this could be affecting their vocal musculature and he wonders what is

going to happen in future if the noise levels keep going up.

Bernie Krause, a bioacoustics expert has collected over 3,500 hours of sound recordings

from the wild. Bernie calls it Soundscapes. In the early recordings each animal had its

own niche, its own acoustic territory, akin to an orchestra. Noise from airplanes,

automobiles and other blaring sounds produced by man has affected this perfect

scenario. At least 40 percent of those natural symphonies have become radically altered.

Extraneous sounds can mask some of the quieter yet important sounds of nature like

footfalls and breathing. It is these sounds that that predators latch on to, to catch prey.

The prey uses it to escape predators.

So the whole equation of nature is undergoing changes due to man’s inexorable drive for

progress. We have the danger signals. It is time to do something about it at least in areas

near wildlife reserves.

Tahrcountry Musings


Madagascar community leader gets Paul Getty

conservation award

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here is something that is sure to fire your enthusiasm about nature conservation. You

need not have degrees in conservation to espouse the cause of nature conservation.

Ordinary folks can very well do it. What is needed is will and commitment. The prestigious

Paul Getty award for 2008 has gone to dedicated Madagascar community leader Roger

Samba, with no formal training in conservation. The award honours outstanding

contributions to international conservation and carries a $200,000 prize. The award

recognizes today’s leaders in conservation and also helps develop conservation

leadership for tomorrow by establishing graduate fellowships in the name of the winner

and J. Paul Getty. Samba was responsible for organizing the world’s first community run

no-take zone for octopus, a local species of critical economic importance to the


For generations, the indigenous semi-nomadic Vezo people of Andavadoaka,

Madagascar (Samba’s hometown) have depended on artisanal fishing activities for their

livelihoods. Their culture and tradition was intimately interwoven with it. In recent years

unsustainable tourism and an increase in international fishing vessels and burgeoning

population was creating a resource crunch.

Samba created a plan for empowering local communities to take up management of coral

reefs and the region’s fragile marine biodiversity. Alternative livelihood and environmental

education initiatives were simultaneously launched. The project was so successful that

eight neighbouring villages formed their own protected areas for octopus in order to reap

similar benefits. Here is a shining example of how economic development can inspire and

benefit from the conservation of natural resources.

Samba will use his award to establish fellowships for students pursuing masters,

doctoral, and post-doctoral degrees in conservation-related fields at a university of his

choice in Madagascar.

Well done Samba. You are indeed a shining example for the whole world.

Electric eels study inspires invention of new

biomedical devices.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Here is yet another example of how study of wildlife can benefit man. Benefits from study

of wildlife are a cornucopia waiting to be tapped in future. Scientists who have studied

electric eels feel that the cells electric eels use to shock predators and prey can be

mimicked and engineered to power implanted biomedical equipments. The researchers

are from Yale University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Electric eels channel the output of thousands of specialized cells called electrocytes to

generate electricity. The scientists have deciphered the mechanism of how natural

electric eel cells work. Electric eel produces electric charges powerful enough to stun a

person or kill small fish.The artificial cells deliver better performance than the real ones

and can generate electric potentials of up to 600 volts.

You would be surprised to know that an electric eel is not an eel at all. It belongs to a

family of bony fish known as knifefish. The scientific name is Electrophorus electricus. It

is the only member of the family Electrophoridae.


Tahrcountry Musings

EBay ban on ivory trade

Friday, October 24, 2008

EBay announcement of worldwide ban on the sale of ivory has been welcomed by

conservationists worldwide. The new policy will be effective from December, and will be

enforced from January with diligence. The EBay announcement came just hours after the

release of the report “Killing with Keystrokes“by the International Fund for Animal Welfare

(IFAW). IFAW had found over 49000 elephant ivory listings on the auction site. Over 70

percent of all endangered species products listed for sale on the Internet occur in the

United States. The volume of trade in endangered species products in the U.S. is around

10 times the trade from U.K. and China, the next two leading countries. Interpol page on

wildlife crime indicates that illegal wildlife products are worth billions of dollars every year

worldwide. Even though elephants are protected under the International Convention on

the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), death rate of elephants from

poaching is on the rise. More than 20,000 elephants are mercilessly slaughtered every

year in Africa and Asia.

I was talking to prominent elephant conservationist Dr Easa the other day. According to

him this is positive step, but much more needs to be done. Those who are determined to

sell and buy will try and find ways to bypass the ban. So a close watch has to be

continuously maintained.

Indonesia reneges on promises to international


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Indonesia had assured the recently concluded World Conservation Congress in

Barcelona, its commitment to protect the natural forests and ecosystems of Sumatra in

deference to the wishes of the international conservation community. But the words ring

hollow now. Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has built a 45-kilometre, logging highway through

prime Sumatran tiger habitat. The road passes protected areas, proposed protected

areas and deep peat areas. Draining or disturbance of the deep peat soils under forests

results in massive emissions which has global significance. The clearing in the past has

disturbed wildlife and resulted in increased human – wildlife conflicts.

If Indonesia waits for some more time there is a golden opportunity coming up. The

financial mechanisms for avoided deforestation which is on the anvil could result in

countries like Indonesia getting more from investors for forest preservation than forest

destruction. Indonesian environmentalists have appealed to current and future buyers

and investors of APP not to have any business with APP. Staples Inc of United States,

Ricoh and Fuji Xerox Groups of Japan, Metro Group of Germany and Woolworths of

Australia have already heeded to their call.

Tahrcountry Musings


Deutsche Bank says climate change and

economic slump has portents o…

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I was reading the latest report from Deutsche Bank entitled ‘Investing in Climate Change

2009 – Necessity and Opportunity in Turbulent Times’. I found it very interesting. The

report says economic slump need not be a complete damper. It has portents of green

opportunities which have to be tapped. Mark Fulton, head of climate change investment

research at Deutsche Bank opines that “The current economic downturn presents

governments with an historic opportunity to ‘climate proof’ their economies as they

upgrade infrastructure as a core response to the economic downturn,” He goes on to add

“climate change is shifting away from costs and risk towards the question of how to

capitalize on exciting opportunities,” Climate change industries present a vast new field

for creation of new technologies and jobs. In the energy sector alone 45 trillion dollars

would be required between now and 2050 to develop clean technologies. According to

Deutsche Bank this presents a low carbon industrial revolution scenario. For investors

the regulated market holds promise of enormous secular growth. Projects supported by

Government policies are more trustworthy according to Deutsche Bank.

The report provides a compendium of analytical framework that investors can utilize to

get a grasp of climate change opportunity. Log on to Deutsche Bank site if you want to

read the full report. For an executive summary click here.

World facing ecological “credit crunch”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Living Planet Report produced by

WWF, the Zoological Society of London

and the Global Footprint Network warns

that the world is headed for an ecological

“credit crunch”. We are living beyond what

t h e e a r t h c a n s u s t a i n , m a k i n g u s

“ecological debtors”. Up to $4.5 trillion

worth of resources are destroyed forever

each year. World’s future prosperity, is in

danger with clear cut impacts on costs for

food, water and energy. United States and

China leaves the biggest impact. They account for nearly some 40% of the global

footprint. Per person United Arab Emirates have the largest ecological footprint, While

Malawi and Afghanistan have the smallest. According to WWF International if our

demands on the planet continue to increase at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we would

need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles. It is high time we gave

serious thought to our profligate ways. Right now we are embroiled in economic

meltdown and in the process tend to forget the grave danger posed by ecological “credit

crunch”. The report is a timely reminder.


Tahrcountry Musings

Wildlife photographer of the year

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photo credits:BBC

A picture of elusive snow leopard((Uncia

u n c i a ) o n a n i g h t p r o w l t a k e n b y

photographer Steve Winter has won this

years prestigious Wildlife Photographer of

the Year 2008 award. The competition is

r u n b y B B C W i l d l i f e m a g a z i n e a n d

London’s Natural History Museum. The work involved incredible patience, working in

temperatures below -40C and use of 14 remote cameras in 45 locations in the Ladakh

region of India for 13 months.

It was tough task for the jury to select the winner. They had to sift through 32,350 entries.

This is the specifications used by Steve Winter

Canon EOS Rebel XT + 10-22mm lens at 16mm; 1/200 sec at f16; ISO 100; waterproof

camera box + Plexiglass tubes for flashes; Trailmaster 1550-PS remote trigger

Pesticides, fertilizers, the villain behind the frog


Friday, October 31, 2008

A field survey led by Jason Rohr of the University of South Florida has come up with the

finding that chemical Atrazine in fertilizers is the villain behind the decline of frogs in US.

Atrazine harms the amphibians’ immune defenses against infection. The effects of this

chemical is boosted in the wild by phosphate fertilizers. Runoff from fertilizers into ponds

encourages the proliferation of snails which acts as a natural host to the flatworm

parasite. The flatworms, called trematodes, cause limb malformations, kidney damage

and sometimes death in several species of frog. Atrazine is manufactured by a Swiss-

based company, Syngenta

African ivory sale – The imponderables bother


Monday, November 03, 2008

The recent sale of 108 tonnes of African ivory is still bothering the conservationists

worldwide even though the sale was done under proper mandate. They say the façade of

using the money for conservation is just a ruse. This was Succumbing to the massive

Chinese demand for ivory carvings and trinkets. United States was not far behind in this


Allan Thornton of the Environment Investigations Agency says, “In a country of 1.3 billion

people, demand for ivory from just a fraction of one per cent of the population is colossal.

If these new legal imports go ahead, they will provide a gigantic cover for illegal ivory to

be sucked in.”

Tahrcountry Musings


Here is what Dr Easa the noted elephants conservationist say “Though the sale of ivory

with the permission of CITES was expected, this will definitely have a long term effect on

the conservation ofelephants the world over. The impact will be not just on the African

elephant, it will have impact on Asian elephant also. This is especially true in the wake of

absence or dormancy of all the monitoring systems as planned by CITES earlier. There

should be a long term elephant conservation friendly plan on the fate of all the ivory stock

the world over. It is not good to go for short term resolutions, which are also being taken

in every meeting favouring the sale”.

The majority of conservationists feel that this was no way to find money for conservation.

The protagonists could have easily tapped some corporate giants.

In praise of a “Green” Prince

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Prince Charles has always been a green man practicing what he preaches. He has been

promoting environmental ideas for most of his adult life. The prince has replaced carbon-

heavy private jets and helicopters with scheduled flights and train services. His Jaguar is

adapted to run on biodiesel fuel. Residences such as Highgrove in Gloucestershire have

switched to green electricity.

A few years back when he said he talks to plants at his country house, Highgrove, to

stimulate their growth he was branded a crank. But the prince was not bothered about

this criticism from unenlightened quarters.

The activism of the prince is not restricted to England alone. Wherever he travels he

espouses the cause of conservation. The latest initiative has come during his tour of


He has now appealed to rich countries to pay an annual “utility bill” for the benefits

accrued to the world from rainforests, benefits like the forests acting as air conditioner,

storing of fresh water and providing work. Rainforest also play a great role in carbon

sequestration. It was the developed nations that trigger rain forest destruction through a

demand for products like beef, palm oil, soya and logs. So they have to start paying for it,

just as we do for water, gas and electricity, the prince feels. The prince was speaking to

the Indonesian President, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his cabinet in Jakarta.

Earlier he had visited the Harapan Rainforest conservation project on the island of


The prince suggested that initially the funding could be provided by the private sector by

subscribing to long-term bonds issued by an international agency.

This is a suggestion worth serious consideration by the international community. We

salute you Prince Charles for your sagacity.

International Agreement to protect migratory birds

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Migratory birds flying across nations are facing increasing threats worldwide. The war in

Afghanistan is a grim reminder. Siberian Crane which flies in to India from Siberia is a

victim. Bird like Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) and Great Knot

(Calidris tenuirostris) are doomed in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. Against this


Tahrcountry Musings

background the latest agreement to protect migratory birds is most welcome.

The countries which have signed up to Ramsar Convention on Wetlands have agreed on

a resolution to protect migratory birds on their long journeys across the world. The

resolution was passed on 3rd November 2008 in South Korea at the 10th meeting of the

Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. 2,000 people from

165 nations attended the meeting. The new agreement has been named “The Ramsar

Resolution on Flyways”. The theme of the International conference was ‘Healthy

Wetlands, Healthy People’.

No country can act alone to protect migratory waterbirds. The need of the hour is

international cooperation. If you want to read the resolutions click here

Obama and nature conservation

Friday, November 07, 2008

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States has been hailed by

environmentalists worldwide. He has always been concerned about environment. As a

student at Columbia University, Obama worked for three months as an environmental

activist to promote recycling in Harlem. He cosponsored a bill which requires that 10% of

electricity in the state come from renewable sources by 2012. He has introduced multiple

pieces of legislation to reduce mercury and lead poisoning. Obama fought efforts to drill

in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and voted to prohibit the use of funds to construct

new roads in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. He led a spirited campaign to remove

asbestos. He wants Detroit to design and build more fuel efficient cars.

In election speeches Obama had promised progressive environmental policies if elected.

Policies with accent on reducing greenhouse emission and dealing with the perils of

climate change. Obama had said “if we create a new energy economy, we can create five

million new jobs, easily”. He had emphasized the need for being good stewards of the

land and said we’ve got to be less wasteful both as a society and in our own individual

lives. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency will strictly regulate pollution and

believes in the credo the polluter pays. His words “Environmentalism is not an upper-

income issue, it’s not a black issue, it’s not a South or a North or an East or a West issue,

it’s an issue that all of us have a stake in.” has been widely welcomed.

Yes, environmentalists’ world wide has something to cheer about. We wish him


The need to listen to local wisdom

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The innovative ways in which local populace comes up with ways to solve some of their

problems never ceases to amaze me. Here is yet another example from Thai villagers

who have come up with cost effective ways to solve the problem of crop raiding by


Stringing up unwanted CDs is helping to keep elephants away from farmers’ crops. CDs

act as light reflectors to deter the elephants. CDs twisted and shone, mimicking a person

with a torch and Works best during full moon. A very innovative and practical solution

from the local people. The scientists working in the area were intrigued. Impressed

Tahrcountry Musings


scientists from The Elephant Conservation Network (ECN), and the Zoological Society of

London (ZSL), are propagating the idea in Thailand.

Elephants are intelligent animals and it remains to be seen whether it will work on a long

term basis, but for the time being it seems to work

Greenpeace indicts Indonesia as a big

greenhouse gas emitter

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Indonesia stands as the world’s third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the United

States and China. How come this happens when Indonesia is not industrialised like

United States and China. The answer is conversion of forests and peatlands for palm oil

and pulp plantations. This is bothering the environmentalists in Indonesia and they have

sought the help from environmentalists worldwide as the implications of forest destruction

are not exclusive to Indonesia. It has worldwide ramifications. Greenpeace is in the

forefront of spearheading the campaign against this rampant destruction. On Monday

Greenpeace stopped several palm oil shipments meant for Europe from leaving

Indonesia’s main oil export port Dumai. The activists painted the words ‘Forest crime’ and

‘Climate Crime’ on the hull of three palm oil tankers and a barge full of rainforest timber, A

Greenpeace activist also chained himself onto the anchor of a ship as a token protest.

Papua region is seeing heavy stripping of tropical forests. Peatland forests of Riau are

another recent casualty.

So next time you partake palm oil, remember everything is not hunky-dory. Think of the

rainforests that are being hacked down to feed the demands of oil palm industry. The

existence Orang-utans is also threatened by this massive destruction of rainforest of

Indonesia and Malaysia. The palm oil lobby is very powerful in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Action from concerned people all over the world is required.

Songbirds and ‘hymn sheet’

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The mysteries of nature are myriad. Some makes you wonder with its complexities and

nuances. A bird song might seem ordinary at first glance. Look at it from a scientist’s

perspective and there is more in it than meets the eye.

Researchers studying bird songs have arrived at fascinating conclusions. Professor

Richard Hahnloser and his team of researchers from the University of Zurich after

extensive studies on Zebra Finch have come up with the conclusion that Songbirds learn

to sing from a hymn sheet in their head. They believe that the birds have an internal

recording that helps the birds to perfect singing. A separate region seems to enable the

birds to identify mistakes in their songs. To arrive at the conclusions the researchers

monitored the electrical activity of cells in the zebra finches brains. While some neurons

were constantly active, other cells became active only when the birds made mistakes. It

is these cells that enable the birds to learn from their errors. The researchers believe that

their research could unravel the complexities of how humans learn to speak.

The details of research appears in the journal Science


Tahrcountry Musings

Environmental depredations of palm oil industry:

The way out

Friday, November 14, 2008

It is a known fact that palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia are destroying

rainforests and threatening the very existence of endangered wildlife there. Millions of

tons of oil is produced yearly which has a great bearing on the economy of these two

countries. Is there a way to balance the needs of economy and conservation? There is.

The option is to go in for palm oil produced in a socially and environmentally responsible

way certified as compliant with the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

Principles and Criteria,

RSPO was formally established under Article 60 of the Swiss Civil Code. The initiative

was taken by WWF. The association is based in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat

is based in Kuala Lumpur.

The RSPO brings together oil palm growers, oil processors, food companies, retailers,

NGOs and investors. The target is to ensure that no rainforest areas are sacrificed for

new palm oil plantations. Plantations have to minimize their environmental impacts and

the basic rights of local peoples and plantation workers have to be respected.

The first shipment of 100% certified palm oil has recently gone to Europe. If buyers

worldwide decide to buy only certified palm oil it will be a big boost for the conservation.

Creation of awareness worldwide is the need of the hour. You can write to the importers

of your country requesting them to buy only certified palm oil. Your small action is bound

to have an impact. The beneficiary will be the rainforests and denizens of the wild like

tigers and orangutans.

Renewable energy product that helps wildlife –

Award for Cheetah co…

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Simple solutions can sometimes cascade in to big benefits. This is exactly what

happened with a small innovative thinking from Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and

Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) based in Nambia. Dr Marker

has been awarded $50,000 by the Tech Museum of Innovation for her Bushblok program.

Tech Awards are given for applying technology to benefit humanity and spark global


Bushblok programme uses a high-pressure extrusion process to convert invasive,

habitat-destroying bush into a clean-burning fuel. This helps cut down use of firewood,

coal, lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes which are costly and result in environmental


Clearing invasive bush helps restore millions of acres of Namibian savannah to revert

back to its original state and improve the habitat of both the cheetah and its prey.

Namibia has last of the largest remaining wild cheetah population. The global population

of cheetah remaining in the wild is around 10,000.

Here is a shining example of innovative thinking coming to the rescue of wildlife. We

Tahrcountry Musings


need more such level headed thinking to solve some of our festering wildlife related


As a spin off of Dr Marker’s Bushblok program Namibia is considering the use of

Bushblok as biomass to power electric plants.

Mosques to the Support Sea Turtle Conservation

in Malaysia

Monday, November 17, 2008

Would you believe this? Mosques coming to the rescue of Turtle Conservation? Yes, it is

happening. This week 482 mosques in the Malaysian state of Terengganu on the north-

eastern side of Peninsular Malaysia will give sermons on turtle conservation. Four

species of endangered marine turtles nest on the beaches of Terengganu. This includes

the critically endangered Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles.

New Strait Times reports that the state religious administrators of Terengganu have

prepared a khutbah focused specifically on turtle conservation. The sermon would

include threats to the environment and the importance of preserving it in line with Islamic

teachings. WWF Terengganu Turtle Programme team leader Rahayu Zulkifli said many

Muslims were not aware that Islam preaches conservation of natural resources and

hoped it would remind people on the matter. If Mosques around the world take the same

passion for conservation the wildlife is sure to benefit. Tahrcountry congratulates the

people behind this magnificent venture in Malaysia.

Showing off your research through dance

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dancing your PhD may sound a wee bit zany and bonkers. This happened recently in a

contest sponsored by the magazine science. Science challenge to researchers was to

interpret their Ph.D. research in dance form, film the dance, and share it with the world on

YouTube. 36 entries came up for the competition. The panel of judges consisted of the

three winners of the first “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest, three scientists from Harvard

University, and three artistic directors of the dance company Pilobolus. On 20 November

Science announced the winners of the 2009 AAAS Science Dance Contest in four

categories: Graduate Students, Postdocs, Professors, and Popular choice.

The winners were

Graduate students: Sue Lynn Lau, Garvan Institute of Medical Research / University of

Sydney, Australia.

Sue Lynn Lau chose classical ballet and highly kinetic party dancing as the way to

interpret her Ph.D. thesis, “The role of vitamin D in beta-cell function.”

Post doc: Miriam Sach, University of Duesseldorf, Germany

The research of Miriam Sach was to find out whether different types of verbs are

processed by different regions of the brain. Sach, embodied this difference by dancing in

the various styles of processing: awkward and hunched for the irregular verbs and

graceful and limber for the regular verbs.


Tahrcountry Musings

Professors: Vince LiCata, Johns Hopkins University

Vince LiCata and three associates danced a slow and graceful double pas de deux,

representing the interaction of pairs of hemoglobin molecules from his 1990 Johns

Hopkins University Ph.D. thesis, “Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human

Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric

Mutant Hybrids.”

Popular Choice: Markita Landry, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

The winner of the Popular Choice category was determined by the number of views

accumulated by each YouTube video between the time it went online and the contest

deadline. Landry was the winner with 14,138 views. Landry used a tango to convey her

thesis, “Single Molecule Measurements of Protelomerase TelK-DNA Complexes.”

Each winner will be paired with a professional choreographer, and together they will

attempt to translate a scientific paper the researcher has authored into a proper dance.

Then the four choreographers will create a single four-part performance based on the

papers. In February 2009, the winning scientists will be guests of honor at the AAAS

Annual meeting in Chicago. They will have front-row seats to the world debut of THIS IS

SCIENCE, a professional dance interpretation of their published research.

Guide to low-carbon lifestyle

Monday, December 01, 2008

WWF has come out with an excellent guide that will help you to reduce your carbon

footprint, The WWF Pocket Guide to a One Planet Lifestyle. Essential tips on how to be

more environment friendly at home, the workplace and when planning a holiday is lucidly

explained. The report is a sequel to recent launch by WWF of their “Living Planet Report”

which warned that humanity was heading towards an “ecological credit crunch”. We

currently use 30 per cent more resources than the planet’s ecosystems can naturally

replenish. Americans have a “five planet lifestyle” and the Europeans a “three planet

lifestyle”. With the aid of this eBook you can easily calculate your personal footprint,

measure the positive effects of your lifestyle changes, find low-carbon alternatives to

travel, and get help on how to find energy-efficient appliances or a green electricity

supplier. The report is primarily available as an online e-book, The printed version is

produced digitally on-demand on FSC certified paper and bound by screw rivets which

enables the readers to easily unbind the book and insert updates, Paper wastage is

virtually zero, and non-hazardous inks has been used. If you want to access the guide

click here

Are we overestimating wildlife habitat?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Changwan Seo of the University of Seoul, South Korea, and his colleagues think that we

are overestimating the wildlife habitat. They attribute the reasons for this overestimation

to the present models that we are using. Present models divide the world into 50-

kilometre grid squares, which gives a very coarse resolution. Changwan Seo and

colleagues tested four models at a variety of spatial scales. The team found that larger

the grid size, the more the chances of overestimating the amount of habitat available to a

species. This could be in the range of two or three times the actual range available. The

Tahrcountry Musings


solution is to run models with smaller grid sizes, even though this costs more. Full details

of the study can be accessed at (Biology Letters,DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0476).

Sweden cleanest, S. Arabia dirtiest

Thursday, December 11, 2008

According to a report published on Wednesday by watchdogs at the UN climate change

talks, the NGOs Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Sweden does

the most for tackling of greenhouse gas emissions, while Saudi Arabia does the least.

The annual “Climate Change Performance Index” placed Sweden only fourth on its list.

No positions were allotted for the top three places. The Climate Change Performance

Index compares 57 states that together emit more than 90 percent of the world’s annual

output of carbon dioxide. Sweden’s fourth place was followed by Germany, France, India,

Brazil, Britain and Denmark. The bottom 10 in descending order are Greece, Malaysia,

Cyprus, Russia, Australia, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, the United States, Canada and

Saudi Arabia. Last year’s index rating allotted first three places to Sweden, Germany and

Iceland and the bottom three to Australia, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

A new font that saves on ink

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The prints that we use regularly use paper and lots of ink. Sprang creative

communications, (Utrecht, The Netherlands) has developed a new font that is good for

the environment. The new font reduce the amount of printer ink used by up to 20%. The

idea came when Colin Willems thought of how much of a letter can be removed and

made into white space while maintaining readability? After lot of trials with different kinds

of shapes, the best results were achieved using small circles. This resulted in a font that

uses up to 20% less ink.The font is pretty good for your personal needs. Here is what the

company says, “After the Dutch holey cheese, there now is a Dutch font with holes as


Ecofont is an open source font based on Vera Sans. Even though Ecofont will help you

reduce your ink consumption and paper remember that the best way to save printer ink

and paper is not to print things you don’t need. If you are keen about this font and wish to

download it click here.

WWF releases list of threatened species

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

World Wildlife Fund has released its annual list of some of the most threatened species of

the world. The list includes polar bears, tigers, gorillas, pandas, elephants, whales and

rhinos, black-footed ferret and vaquita. WWF attributes poaching, habitat loss and climate

change-related threats as the primary reasons for the decline of populations.

Here is WWF’s “9 to Watch in 2009” list:

1. Javan Rhinoceros

Population: Less than 60. Location: Indonesia and Vietnam.

This is probably the rarest of the large mammal species in the world and is critically


Tahrcountry Musings

endangered. Poaching and pressure from a growing human population pose greatest risk

to the two protected areas where they live. WWF teams actively monitor these rhinos and

protect them from poachers.

2. Vaquita

Population: 150. Location: Upper Gulf of California, Mexico.

The world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean, this tiny porpoise is often killed in

gillnets and could soon be extinct. WWF is working with local fishermen, local and

international non-profits, and private sector and government officials on an

unprecedented effort to save the vaquita. This includes establishing a vaquita refuge,

buying out gillnet fisheries and developing vaquita-friendly fishing gear and other

economic alternatives for the fishermen and their families.

3. Cross River Gorilla

Population: 300. Location: Nigeria and Cameroon.

The few remaining forest patches of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon are

home to the recently discovered Cross River gorilla, a subspecies of the western gorilla.

But as timber companies open up its forests, hunters move in. Conservation measures

are urgently needed for this beleaguered animal, which is probably the world’s rarest

great ape. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, a WWF Affiliate, is working

with communities in the Cross River National Park to help save the Cross River gorilla.

4. Sumatran Tiger

Population: 400-500. Location: Sumatra, Indonesia.

Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push the Sumatran tiger to the

same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Indonesia.

Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine,

while skins are also highly prized. WWF is researching the Sumatran tiger population with

camera traps, supports anti-poaching patrols and works to reduce human-tiger conflict as

the cats’ habitat shrinks. Through the efforts of WWF and its partners, the Indonesian

government in 2008 doubled the size of Tesso Nilo National Park, a critical tiger habitat.

5. North Pacific Right Whale

Population: Unknown, but less than 500. Location: Northern Pacific, U.S., Russia and


The North Pacific right whale is one of the world’s rarest cetaceans, almost hunted to

extinction until the 1960s. It is rarely sighted and has a poor prognosis for survival due to

collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing nets and the prospect of offshore oil and gas

development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. WWF is working to improve shipping safety to avoid

collisions and trying to prevent oil and gas development in Bristol Bay, the whale’s

primary summer feeding ground.

6. Black-Footed Ferret

Population: 500 breeding adults. Location: Northern Great Plains, U.S. and Canada.

Found only in the Great Plains, it is one of the most endangered mammals in North

America because its primary prey, the prairie dog, has been nearly exterminated by

ranchers who consider it a nuisance. Few species have edged so close to extinction as

the black-footed ferret and recovered, but through captive breeding and reintroduction,

there are signs the species is slowly recovering. WWF has been working to save the

black-footed ferret and the prairie dog population upon which the ferrets depend.

7. Borneo Pygmy Elephant

Population: Perhaps fewer than 1,000. Location: Borneo, Malaysia.

These smallest of all elephants must compete with logging and agriculture for space in

the lowland forests of Borneo. WWF is working to ensure protection of the “Heart of

Borneo” and tracks the elephants through the use of satellite collars to learn more about

these little-understood elephants.

8. Giant Panda

Tahrcountry Musings


Population: 1,600. Location: China.

An international symbol of conservation since WWF’s founding in 1961, the giant panda

faces an uncertain future. Its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China

has become fragmented, creating small and isolated populations. WWF has been active

in giant panda conservation for nearly three decades, conducting field studies, working to

protect habitats and, most recently, by providing assistance to the Chinese government in

establishing a program to protect the panda and its habitat through the creation of


9. Polar Bear

Population: 20,000-25,000. Location: Arctic.

The greatest risk to their survival today is climate change. Designated a threatened

species by the U.S., if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace, polar

bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century. WWF is supporting field

research to understand how climate change will affect polar bears and to develop

adaptation strategies. WWF also works to protect critical polar bear habitat by working

with government and industry to reduce threats from shipping and oil and gas

development in the region.

Posted with inputs from WWF

Anamigo Pet Photo contest

Friday, December 19, 2008

Are you keen about of pets and their welfare? Then have a look at Anamigo.com a new

online community for pet lovers and their pets. You have oodles of info about pets there.

Anamigo is sponsoring a contest for pet lovers. Enter the Anamigo Pet Photo contest and

you stand to gain up to $300 a week. There’s a daily prize of $25 and a weekly prize of

$125, totaling $300-a-week for the cutest pet photos (voted by users). Get your camera

out and email your friends. Your furry friend could bring you in cash.

Anamigo.com, an online pet community is dedicated to giving our pets their own place

online. Relax during a short break from the day-to-day and browse the cutest dog, puppy,

kitten and cat pictures from pet people just like you. Create your pet’s profile and upload

as many photos as you like. Or dig in and participate in their forums, blogs and groups. If

you are keen about joining log on to http://anamigo.smnr.us

Season’s greetings

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tahrcountry wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Climate change plays havoc with wildlife in UK

Monday, December 29, 2008

The National Trust of UK has come up with a study, which shows the impact of climate

change on UK’s wildlife. According to the trust UK wildlife is struggling to cope with erratic

and unseasonal weather, which has taken its toll for a second consecutive year. Species

under threat include puffins, marsh fritillary butterflies and lesser horseshoe bats.


Tahrcountry Musings

The unusual seasonal patterns include the following.

•Snowdrops and red admiral butterflies were first spotted in January, earlier than normal.

• Bees were hit hard in April by frost and snow

• Rain in late May caused many birds’ nests to fail, including those of the blue and great

tits, because of the lack of insect food

• It was a poor summer for migrant insects – butterflies, moths, hoverflies, ladybirds and

dragonflies – because of the wet and cold June

• In July, puffin numbers on the Farne Islands were down 35% on what they had been

five years earlier

• The common autumn cranefly, usually in best proportions in September, was all but


The trust concludes that climate change is not some future prediction of what might

happen, it’s happening now.

I feel that this piece of information from UK calls for an immediate study of the impact of

climate change on India’s wildlife also. A pointer is the erratic birth of Nilgiri Tahr in

Eravikulam National Park, Munnar, Kerala. It used to occur with clockwork precision in

the first week of January. This is now getting delayed by more than one month. The

distribution pattern of the animal inside park is also showing drastic changes. It is time to


Alarming news from Canada- Canadian forests

are now pumping out mor…

Friday, January 02, 2009

I was reading this disturbing news in Chicago Tribune about Canadian forests now

pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering and

thought it would be a good idea to share it with you.

Canadian forests impacted by damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and

persistent fires have crossed the Rubicon at least for the present. Scientists do not see

any redemption at least till 2020. The shift from being a carbon sink to a carbon source

has saddened the environmentalists.

The spread of deadly pest known as the mountain pine beetle, directly attributed to

climate change, has devastated pine forests across Canda. Pervasive fires are another

source of worry.

Environmentalists feel that logging ought to be sharply curtailed to preserve the

remaining trees and make them sequester more carbon. The counter argument is that

essential wood products for construction, furniture and other uses would have to be

replaced with other man-made materials, such as plastic, steel or concrete, which entails

burning of more fossil fuels. Well it is vicious circle.

Moral of the story: Take good care of your forests with a long-term perspective.

Otherwise the whole thing will turn topsy-turvy.

Tahrcountry Musings


Effectiveness of underpass- A recent US success


Saturday, January 03, 2009

The proof of the pudding lies in eating it. The effectiveness of underpass to help

migrating wildlife was proved recently in Wyoming US. The state had erected six deer

underpasses this summer along U.S. Highway 30 in Nugget Canyon. This was to

facilitate migrating mule deer cross the busy highway and protect motorists from

collisions with big game animals.

To monitor animal movement the authorities also installed deer underpass webcams. It

was found that about 800 deer, a few antelope and a lone bull elk had used the

underpass in the first week itself. The authorities are elated at this result. The highway is

in the middle of one of the state’s largest big game winter ranges used by about 30,000

mule deer herd.

The proper way to place the underpass is to put them in areas that animals use regularly

and where they actually do cross. This means that they don’t have to learn a new

migration route. Here is another tip. If the deer cannot see open space on the other end,

they’re not going to use the underpass.

A clearinghouse for conservation banking


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Species banking is a comparatively new initiative meant for species credit trading as an

effective tool for the conservation of threatened and endangered species and their

habitat. A conservation bank is like a financial bank. Here instead of money the bank

protects natural resources. I would like to call it a biological bank account. When a project

comes up that impacts wildlife, the pronotors can buy credits in a conservation bank.

Ecosystem Marketplace has launched a clearinghouse for conservation banking aimed at

the species credit trading industry. Speciesbanking.com will provide a marketplace for the

emerging conservation banking scenario. Initially intended for US markets, the agency

plans to develop it in to a resource centere for nations across the world. At species.com

you can publicize your credit availability and buyers can look out for solutions to their

mitigation needs.

Ecological indicators to forecast environmental

disasters- A new study

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

All of us are familiar with leading indicators used by economists to asses economy.

Geologists use seismic indicators to try to predict earthquakes. Taking a cue from this

scientists have taken a page from the social science handbook and are trying to use it as

leading indicators of the environment to forecast potential collapse of ecosystems.


Tahrcountry Musings

The interesting study has been published on January 5th in the Proceedings of the

National Academy of Sciences. In the new study, Carpenter, Reinette Biggs of Stockholm

University and William A. Brock, an economist at UW-Madison, used northern

Wisconsin’s sport fishery as a laboratory to see if leading indicators of ecological collapse

can be detected in advance to avert disaster. The results were positive.

The authors says, “Ecosystems worldwide, lakes, ocean fisheries, coral reefs, forests,

wetlands and rangelands, are under constant and escalating pressure from humans and

many are on the brink of collapse and it is possible to sense impending ecosystem

regime shifts by carefully monitoring the changing variables”.

The authors warn” “We really need to be monitoring and analyzing the data from these

ecosystems as a way to keep them healthy. Otherwise, by the time the problem surfaces

it is too late.”

This is a very good study worth a read. With refinements the study can come in handy as

a very useful tool for environmentalists.

Human-made light sources acting as ‘Ecological


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Human-made light sources are altering the natural light cycles impacting wildlife.

Polarized light has been found to trigger animal behaviors leading to injury and often

death. Gabor Horvath, Robertson and colleagues, in the latest issue of the journal

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, have unveiled this disturbing information.

Light pollution can cause increased predation, migrating in the wrong direction, choosing

bad nest sites or mates, collisions with artificial structures and reduced time available to

spend looking for food. To cite an example baby sea turtles use the direction of star and

moonlight reflected off the water surface to help them find the ocean when they emerge

from their beach nests. Under the influence of light pollution particularly from urban

sources, many turtles turn the wrong way and migrate toward the brighter lights of

buildings or streetlamps.

Polarized light reflected from asphalt roads, windows and plastic sheets and oil spills

often mimics the surface of the water. Dragonflies laying its eggs on a shiny black

highway may become paralyzed by attraction to the pavement after laying its eggs. This

could cause populations to decline and even extinction. One of the remedies suggested

for asphalt is white hatch mark. White hatch marks on roads can prevent insects from

mistaking them for bodies of water. The addition of white curtains to shiny black buildings

deters insects, bats and birds.

I found this study very interesting and alarming. Robertson signs off saying. “Aquatic

insects are the foundation of the food web, and what’s harmful to them is harmful to entire

ecosystems and the services they provide.”

Tahrcountry Musings


World’s tropical forests – A look in to what future


Saturday, January 17, 2009

The recent Smithsonian’s Symposium: “Will the rainforests survive? New Threats and

Realities in the Tropical Extinction Crisis” had some interesting observations. It brought

together the world’s foremost authorities on different aspects of rainforest science.

One of the main arguments put forward was that the extinction crisis might not be as bad

as predicted due to the significance of secondary forests and other degraded landscapes,

which may allow the preservation of certain species. Robin Chazdon, a professor at the

University of Conneticut who has studied secondary forests for twenty-five years, stated

that secondary forests and other non-primary growth landscapes has great relevance for

biodiversity conservation. According to him these are the areas that needs focused

attention in order to conserve most of our biodiversity. A study in Veracruzm Mexico

came up with the finding that bird biodiversity was actually greater in shade grown coffee

farms than in the forest. In the Western Ghats of India, where cultivation has been

practiced for 2,000 years, arecanut agriculture retains 90 percent of the bird biodiversity

of the forest. In the largely degraded and devastated Atlantic Forest of Brazil chocolate

grown under the canopy provides homes for 70 percent of many species, including birds,

bats, butterflies, mammals, ferns, lizards and frogs. In Costa Rica, scientists discovered

that a forest less than twenty years old had 90 percent of forest tree species either

already growing or as seedlings. On the other hand soybean fields have been found to be

devoid of biodiversity. Biodiversity is abysmally poor in palm oil plantations. Palm oil

plantations have been shown to retain only 15 percent of species from the lost forest.

Entomologist Nigel Stork from the University of Melbourne argued that the scientists who

predicted extinction rates of 50-75 percent did not take into account that certain groups of

species, such as birds and mammals, are more prone to extinction than other groups like

insects. Large body size, small restricted range, low number of young, top of the food

chain, high specificity to another organism, and low physiological adaptation make a

species more vulnerable to extinction.

One place where the scientists at the Symposium largely agreed was the threat posed by

climate change to the tropics and the inability to know how it would affect biodiversity in

the region. All the participants believe that this is a much greater threat to biodiversity in

the tropics than habitat destruction. Tropical species are much more sensitive to small

increases in temperature than temperate species. Tropical species would have to travel

much greater distances than temperate species to find habitat within their normal range

of temperatures.

According to Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution, deforestation is still the dominant

pattern in tropical forests worldwide. To be precise it is on the rise. With the globalization

of trade, deforestation mainly occurs for industrialized agriculture, such as soy and palm

oil, and for logging to produce wood products meant for export to the West. Consumption

by wealthy nations, and not local needs, is largely driving contemporary deforestation.

At the end of the symposium all the speakers foresaw mass extinction in the future of the

tropics, unless drastic ameliorative actions are taken on a war footing. While the

extinction may not reach 50-75 percent, since insects dominate the world, it would

certainly have a devastating effect on the world’s vertebrates. Robin Chazdon argued

that in order to ensure enough habitats, secondary forests and agroforestry should be

supported. A conservation action plan for such areas is the need of the hour.


Tahrcountry Musings

Local residents reclaim forest

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Australian contacts have sent me this inspiring story from Tasmania. Tasmania’s

Upper Florentine Valley saw some dramatic events yesterday. About 400 protesters

invaded the Forestry Tasmania working area during their protest against the construction

of a logging road. The protesters forced the eight forest contractors currently working on

the construction of the new road to cease operations. This was done caring two hoots for

prohibitory police orders. The police and forestry officials repeatedly warned the men that

they would be prosecuted. This fell on deaf ears. People have realized that there is more

value in these forests left standing than bulldozed down.

I was delighted with this piece of information. When the politicians work hand in glove

with the greedy contractors this is the only avenue open to local populace. Tahrcountry

salutes the brave men.

Use of Vicks VapoRub – Be wary

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This blog usually confines itself to wildlife and environmental affairs. But I thought this

piece of information about Vicks VapoRub passed on to me by Roger my friend from US

is worth a mention here.

According to a study appearing in this month’s issue of Chest, the peer-reviewed journal

of the American College of Chest Physicians Vicks VapoRub has some deleterious

effects on infants and young children. Vicks VapoRub may stimulate mucus production

and airway inflammation, which can have serious negative effects. The ingredients in

Vicks can be irritants, causing the body to produce more mucus to protect the airway.

Some of the ingredients in Vicks, particulary menthol, trick the brain into thinking that it is

easier to breathe by triggering a cold sensation, Dr. Bruce Rubin from the department of

pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston Salem, N.C., led the


Dr Rubin recommends never putting Vicks in or under the nose of anyone, regardless of

age. The best treatments for congestion are saline nasal spray, warm drinks,herbal teas,

soups and plenty of rest

Mans’ avarice jeopardizing the behavioral

patterns of wildlife

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Alarm bells are ringing about the unscientific ways of harvesting wildlife including fish and

plants. According to a new study by evolutionary biologist Chris Darimont of the

University of Victoria in Canada, and colleagues, the rate at which hunted and harvested

species are changing their size and breeding schedules is cause for concern. Rapid

changes have been noted in heavily exploited fish and other species since the 1970s. For

example Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) have decreased 20% in size over the past 30

years, and females now reproduce a year earlier than they used to. The studies included

Tahrcountry Musings


29 species, mostly fish but also a few invertebrates, mammals, and plants. The team

compared these studies with two databases: one for species such as Galápagos finches

that had changed through natural selection and one for nonhunted species exposed to

other human influences such as pollution. Exploited species transformed on average

three times faster than those in natural systems and 50% faster than species subject to

other human interference and were shrinking, breeding earlier, or both.

The practice of taking a large percentage of the prey population and targeting the largest

individuals favors small individuals, which in turn breed before reaching exploitable size.

Smaller sizes and altered breeding schedules could decrease species’ abundance, and

severely affect their ability to recover from exploitation. Interactions with predators and

competitors also get upset.

Man’s avarice is tipping the apple cart of nature’s food web. Animals and plants are

getting affected. Time to put a brake to this senseless carnage and act is now. It is not

too late to start the ameliorative process.

Full report can be accessed online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of


5th world congress on mountain ungulates – 2nd


Friday, January 23, 2009

Many people have requested me to put the second circular of the 5th world congress on

mountain ungulates here. In deference to their views I am giving below the full text of the

second circular.

Second Circular of V World Conference on Mountain Ungulates

The subfamily, Caprinae, consisting of wild sheeps and goats, is a group of mammals of

great biological and economical value. From a zoological point of view, the group

represents maximum adaptability to mountainous environments and forms part of the

mammalian fauna of various ecosystems. In addition, and from an economic point of

view, they are an excellent prize for game hunters, subsistence hunters, on photo safaris

or for use in medicinal products.

Principally associated with mountainous areas, although they are also found in other

habitats, including tropical forests and deserts, alpine tundra or arctic steppes, they are

naturally distributed across the Northern hemisphere over 3 continents (America, Asia

and Europe) and more than 70 countries from the Arctic to the Equator.

In this extensive area, more than 71% of the goat species are endangered in some way

(loss of habitat, overexploitation, competition and transmission of disease [domestic

livestock], hybridisation, tourism and genetic isolation). 8% of the population are listed as

critically endangered, 23% as endangered, 40% are vulnerable, 28% are threatened,

while no information is available about the remaining 1% (IUCN 1997).

There is a determining factor, applicable to all the broadly distributed species, which in

part, lies in the lack of information available about the species. In order to pool available

knowledge about this species, a number of different international conferences have been

held. At the first of these held in 1989 in Camerino (Italy), the groundwork was

established for the preparation of the World Action Plan for goats by the IUCN. In 1997,


Tahrcountry Musings

the second conference took place in Italy (Saint Vincent, Aosta), and all the available

information regarding this group of mammals was collected together. The third (2002)

and fourth conferences (2006), in Zaragoza (Spain) and Munar (India) respectively,

focussed on relevant aspects of the biology and ecology of these species, together with

proposals for their handling and conservation.

Now, as mentioned in the previous circular, from 10 to 14 November 2009, the 5th World

Congress on Mountain Ungulates is to take place at the Conference Centre (Palacio de

Congresos) of Granada and will discuss the research, conservation and management of

the ungulate populations in the world.

The more specific objectives of the conference will include:

·- Knowledge, condition and conservation of the wild mountain ungulate populations.

·- Threatening factors.

·- Genetic isolation.

·- Hybridisation, tourism.

·- Infectious contagious disease.

·- Working methodologies.

·- Management models.

For further information, please visit the Web site www.vworldconferenceungulates.org, or

contact the Technical Secretary for the Congress at:

[email protected]

The official Congress languages are Spanish and English.


Registrations may be made from 28 November 2008 to 30 June 2009 (price: €300), and

subsequently, from 1 July 2009 to 1 November 2009 (price: €400). Students are charged


Registrations must be made in either of the two formats available on the Congress Web

site: on-line or by printing off the registration form in pdf format. The registration should, in

all cases, be sent and the fee must be paid.


Work can be presented in the format of Posters or as an Oral Presentation.

Abstracts and Papers for the different scientific participations at the congress should be

prepared in line with the following:


A b s t r a c t s s h o u l d b e s e n t t o t h e f o l l o w i n g e l e c t r o n i c m a i l a d d r e s s : [email protected] between 28 November 2008 and 15

June 2009.

The following subject areas and workshops are proposed:

·- Condition and conservation of mountain ungulate populations.

·- Taxonomy and genetics of mountain ungulate populations.

·- Biology and Ecology: reproduction, physiology, etc.

·- Population management: Methods, capture and marking, management experience.

·- Healthcare status: Parasitic and infectious contagious diseases, epidemiology,

treatments, epidemiological monitoring, etc.

·- Hunting and Conservation: hunting management and promotion (workshop).

·- Techniques for estimating populations (workshop).

·- Ungulates and Climate Change (workshop).

The title, (in Spanish and English), authors and address should be included.

The text shall have a maximum of 400 words, 5 key words, in one of the two official

Congress languages, and the subject area to which it corresponds should be specified.

The text shall be written in Times New Roman 12, with interlineal 1.5 spacing, A4 paging,

and with margins not less than 2.5cm, and shall cover no more than one A4 page.

Documents shall be submitted in Word format.

Tahrcountry Musings


Scientific genus and species names shall be in Italics. Common species names shall be

in lower-case and the first time they are used in the text, accompanied by the scientific

name. Decimal figures are expressed using a comma, not a full-stop. All units used shall

be as listed in the International System.


Papers may be of any length, although we recommend a maximum of 25 pages,

including tables, pictures and attachments.

The following layout is recommended:

Title, authors (initials followed by surname(s), in small capitals; for example: J.M. PÉREZ

and P. FANDOS), authors� address, key words (to a maximum of 5 and in alphabetical

order), abstract (between 200 and 300 words), introduction, area of study, material and

methods, results, discussion, acknowledgements, bibliography, table and picture

footnotes, tables, pictures and attachments.

Should the authors consider it appropriate, some of these sections may be united or

subdivided. Section headings should be in small capitals, bold print and centrally aligned.

The text should be justified on both sides. Tables should be given on separate pages

together with the relevant footnotes. All picture footnotes should be included on the same

page; each figure is given on a separate page. Attachments shall use the same format as

tables.Tables, pictures and attachments are ordered with Arabic numerals.

The font type is Times New Roman 12, interlineal 1.5 spacing, A4 page size, margins not

less than 2.5cm, and pages numbered consecutively (centre bottom of page).

Scientific genus and species names shall be in Italics. Common species names shall be

in lower-case and the first time they are used in the text, accompanied by the scientific

name. Decimal figures are expressed using a comma, not a full-stop. All units used shall

be as listed in the International System.

Pictures shall be submitted in jpg or tiff. format Pictures are only accepted in black and

white. Bibliographic references in the text are quoted as follows, for example: Navarro

(1991), Pérez y Belmonte (2000), Granados et al. (2001), (Fandos, 1991; Pérez y

Cadenas, 2000; Granados et al., 2001). In the bibliography, quotations are given in

alphabetic order according to the surname of the first author and date (using a, b, c…

where necessary) as shown below:

· – For articles:

FANDOS, P. and VIGAL, C.R. 1988. Body weight and horn length in relation to age of the

Spanish wild goat. Acta Theriologica, 33: 239-242.

· – For books:

SCHALLER, G. 1977. Mountain monarchs. Wild sheep and goats of the Himalaya.

University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 425 pp.

· – For chapters of a book:

FANDOS, P. 1994. Los ungulados de montaña. In: Argali, Cacerías de Alta montaña. Ed.

Agualarga, Madrid, 261-314 pp.

· – For doctoral theses:

GRANADOS, J.E. 2001. Distribución y estatus de la cabra montés (Capra pyrenaica,

Schinz 1838) en Andalucía. Doctoral Thesis, University of Jaen, 567 pp.

For articles, the name of the journal should be given in full. If the quoted information is not

published, use ‘pers. obs.’, ‘pers. com.’, ‘in prep.’ or ‘in press’, as appropriate.


For papers to be accepted, authors must be registered at the Congress and have

completed payment of the corresponding fee.

The Scientific Committee will select papers in a minimum of approximately 30 days, from

the closing date for submission of work. Authors will be notified of the acceptance or not

of the paper and the subject area in which it has been included.


Tahrcountry Musings


November 10th, 2009

18.00 h. – 22.00 h. Receipt of Documentation and Information. Placement of panels.

Granada Conference Centre.

November 11th, 2009

9.30 h. Official Opening.

10.30 h. – 11.30 h. Opening Conference.

11.30 h. – 12.00 h. Coffee Break

12.00 h. – 14.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

14.00 h. – 16.00 h. Lunch

16.00 h. – 18.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

18.00 h. – 18.30 h. Coffee Break

18.30 h. – 20.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

November 12th, 2009

9.00 h. – 11.30 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

11.30 h. – 12.00 h. Coffee Break

12.00 h. – 14.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

14.00 h. – 16.00 h. Lunch

16.00 h. – 18.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

18.00 h. – 18.30 h. Coffee Break

18.30 h. – 20.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

November 13th, 2009

9.00 h. – 11.30 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

11.30 h. – 12.00 h. Coffee Break

12.00 h. – 14.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

14.00 h. – 16.00 h. Lunch

16.00 h. – 18.00 h. Workshops. Sala Andalucía and Salón Plenario simultaneously.

18.00 h. – 18.30 h. Coffee Break

18.30 h. Conclusions

19.30 h. Closing Ceremony


November 11th, 2009

20.00 h. Night-time visit to the Alhambra. Cocktail dinner at the Campo de Los Mártires

November 12th, 2009

20.00 h. Flamenco Show at the Sacromonte

November 13th, 2009

20.00 h. Gala dinner

November 14th, 2009

9.30 h. Visit to the Sierra Nevada Natural Space. Lunch in the country and visit to the

Installations at the Mountain Goat Reference Station

Tahrcountry Musings


Emperor Penguins facing uncertain future

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mathematical modeling of Antarctic by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) has

brought to light the grave danger posed to Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) by

climate change. Emperor penguins are to Antarctica what the polar bear is to the Arctic

and made famous by Hollywood. The species was immortalized in the 2005 film March of

the Penguins.

The modeling was based on projections of sea ice coverage from the Intergovernmental

Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) last report. A population dynamics model describing

the mating patterns and breeding success of emperor penguins was used in conjunction.

The study also used data collected by French scientists working in Terre Adelie, from

1960s onwards. The results suggest that by the year 2100, emperor penguins in the

region are likely to experience a reduction in their numbers by 95% or more. Emperor

penguins are the only penguins that breed during the harsh Antarctic winters. Warming of

sea has other implications. Sea ice plays a critical role in the Antarctic ecosystem. They

act as a platform for penguins to breed and feed. It is also a grazing ground for krill, tiny

crustaceans that thrive on algae on the underside of the ice. Krill is a food source for fish,

seals, whales, and penguins. Net results could be catastrophic.

The study’s lead author is Stephanie Jenouvrier. Hal Caswell is the co-author. The study

appears in the latest issue of journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Amazing – Bees can count

Friday, January 30, 2009

Nature throws up amazing things in the process of man’s pursuit of ecological mysteries.

It never ceases to surprise me. I am overawed and humbled. Here is another one to tickle

you. Scientists have discovered that the honeybee can count up to three. Using dots and

other abstract symbols, scientists from the Vision Centre in Australia went about finding

whether the honeybees had the ability to count items in their environment. Results were


Here is how they went about it. Scientists used a Y-shaped bee maze to test their

subjects. At the front entrance the bees can see a number of symbols, such as dots. A

wee bit further they were presented with two different pathways. One has the same

number of symbols as the first while the other shows a different number. If the bees

choose the one that matches the entrance they would be rewarded with sugary water.

The bees invariably plumbed for the sugary path. Even when the pattern, shape or the

color of the dots was changed the bees were bang on target. At the outset the bees spent

a lot of time reading the dots, but once they understood the pattern they quickly scanned

the number and then zoomed in on the target. According to the scientists this is a

process known as ‘subitizing’ i.e. means responding rapidly to a small number of items.

The scientists also believe that this ability to count helps the bees in their travel of several

kilometers from a hive in search of food. They are presumed to count landmarks and

guide themselves back home.

Dr. Shaowu Zhang, Chief Investigator of The Vision Centre and Australian National

University, led the study. The details appear in the latest issue of online journal PLoS


Tahrcountry Musings


Address your cows by name and get more milk

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Scientists have discovered that if you call your cow by name lovingly she will give you

more milk. Dairy farmers who address their cows by name reported 258 litre higher milk

yields over those who didn’t over a10-month lactation period. This is no fiction material.

The details appear in the latest issue of British journal Anthrozzos a journal dedicated to

interactions between animals and people.

Study coordinator Catherine Douglas of Newcastle University is all excited about the

results. Catherine says that it is pure science and no hocus-pocus. if cows are slightly

fearful of humans, they could produce the hormone Cortisol that suppresses milk

production. Calling names have a soothing effect on the animals, which in turn could

have an effect on milk yield.

So guys go ahead and call your cow by name if you own one. She is bound to give you

more milk.

Earth Hour 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Earth Hour is a global WWF climate change initiative intended to drive home the

implications of climate change. Individuals, businesses, governments and communities

around the globe have been invited to turn out their lights for one hour on Saturday

March 28, 2009 at 8:30 PM to show their support for action on climate change. The event

began in Sydney in 2007, when 2 million people switched off their lights. In 2008, more

than 50 million people around the globe participated. In 2009, Earth Hour aims to reach

out to 1 billion people in 1,000 cities. The message is this – The only way to truly reduce

greenhouse gas emissions, to take the pressure off climate change, is through an

international treaty on climate pollution and the only way that will happen is if politicians

around the world become convinced that climate change is an issue that concerns

people, one that will make them change the way they live, spend and vote.

For Earth Hour 2009 the lights will be turned off for one hour at 8.30pm on 28 March. 377

cities around the globe have already committed. This is double the number of countries

that participated in 2008. More countries will follow suit in the days to come. Earth Hour

2009 will also see the lights go out on some of the most recognized landmarks on the

planet, including Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Table Mountain in Cape Town,

Merlion in Singapore, Sydney Opera House, CN Tower in Toronto, Millennium Stadium in

Cardiff and the world’s tallest constructed building Taipei 101. 2009 is a critical year for

action on climate change, with the world’s leaders due to meet at the UN Climate Change

Conference in Copenhagen in December to sign a new deal to supersede the Kyoto


The organizers are planning to make the event the greatest voluntary action the world

has ever witnessed.

India will join in Earth Hour 2009 in the global fight against climate change. As one of the

most pressing challenges facing mankind today, climate change is in no way less

alarming than the evident threat of terrorism that the nation is currently reeling under.

Tahrcountry Musings


Lights will be dimmed on buildings and pivotal landmarks and monuments throughout the

city centres on 28th March 2009 and thousands of people in several cities of India will be

coming together to celebrate, in candlelight, the Earth Hour campaign

For more information please contact:

Andrew Sedger

Earth Hour Global

T: +61 2 8202 1224 / M: +61 (0) 438 387 792

E: [email protected]

Billy Gentle

Earth Hour Global

T: +61 2 8202 1243/ M: +61 (0) 410 161 789

E: [email protected]

Go ahead and join the global initiative.

Posted with inputs from WWF

Here is yet another reason to protect the


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Scientists have isolated Isolongifolenone, a natural compound found in the Tauroniro tree

(Humiria balsamifera) of South America, which has been found to be an amazingly

effective deterrent of mosquitoes and ticks. The product has been found to be as

effective or even more than DEET, a potent and widely used synthetic insect repellent

that works by blocking the aroma of human sweat. Isolongifolenone can be easily

synthesized from inexpensive turpentine oil feedstock. Aijun Zhang of the USDA’s

Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory led the research

Tauroniro is found in rainforests in the Guianas, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Brazilian

Amazon. This brings in sharp focus the need to protect the rainforests, which is getting a

shabby treatment worldwide.

Although rainforests make up only about six percent of the Earth’s surface, they account

for at least 50 percent of all the species of organisms on our planet. Rainforests are

referred to as the Earth’s lungs. Our lungs take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide

while the plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Rainforests once covered

14% of the earth's land surface but now they cover a mere 6% and are fast disappearing

at an alarming rate. More than 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day. One

hectare may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of higher plants. We are

losing 137 plants, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest

deforestation. This works out to 50,000 species a year. Estimates of species in the

rainforests are only a guestimate. It varies from 2 million to 100 million species. Others

put it at somewhere near 10 million. Against this backdrop only 1.4 million of these

species have actually been named.

121 prescription drugs sold worldwide are derived from plant sources. You must be

familiar with Vincristine, extracted from the rainforest plant, periwinkle. This is one of the

world's most powerful anticancer drugs. Scientists have tested less than 1% of the

tropical trees and plants for medicinal properties. A goldmine is waiting to be tapped.


Tahrcountry Musings

The rich bounty includes the wild relatives of, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas,

sugar cane, tumeric, coffee, potatoes, rice, guavas, pineapples, mangoes, tomatoes,

corn, avocados, and coconuts. This is only a short list.

Rainforest destruction spells doom for the indigenous people also. An estimated ten

million Indians lived in the Amazonian Rainforest five centuries ago. Today there are less

than 200,000. It is estimated that in Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed

more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900’s. Rich tradition nurtured over thousand of

years has gone down the drain.

The other day Barry my ecologist friend from UK was pointing out to me that a single

pond in Brazil can sustain a greater variety of fish than is found in all of Europe’s rivers.

He also spoke about the recent discovery of 10 new frogs from the Western Ghats of

India, one of the 35-biodiversity hotspots of the world. Yes, we are losing forests before

we get a chance to study them properly. They hold enormous promise for our future well-

being. The possible benefits are mind-boggling. Before signing off I would like to put here

a small example. Harvard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward O. Wilson over a

decade ago put it like this. “Rainforest land converted to cattle operations yields the

landowner $60 per acre; if timber is harvested, the land is worth $400 per acre. However,

if medicinal plants, fruits, nuts, rubber, chocolate, and other renewable and sustainable

resources are harvested, the land will yield the landowner $2,400 per acre”. Let us hope

that wiser counsel would prevail over short-term gains advocated by our politicians in

their scramble for “development”

Fishermen come to the rescue of Dolphins

Thursday, February 12, 2009

This happened in Philippines and is sure to warm the cockles of the heart of wildlife

enthusiasts. Fishermen have rescued about 200 dolphins, which became stranded in

shallow waters near Manila.

Surprisingly this species of dolphins are called melon-headed whales. They travel in large

pods of several hundred. Fishermen used their boats to guide the mammals out to

deeper waters. The townspeople lend a hand clapping, hooting and splashing to frighten

the dolphins away. Three dolphins were found dead. Two of the three dead dolphins had

damaged eardrums One of the reasons for the mass beaching could be major

underwater earthquake. In such a contingency eardrums are damaged and they become

disorientated and float to the surface.

The Melon-headed Whale (Peponocephala electra) also called many-toothed blackfish

and electra dolphin), is closely related to the Pygmy Killer Whale and Pilot Whale. It has a

body shaped like a torpedo. The Melon-head weighs about 10-15 kilograms. An adult

grows up to 3 meters long and weighs in excess of 200 kilograms. Lifespan is 20 to 30


Tahrcountry Musings


Australian Bushfires- Threat to wildlife

Saturday, February 14, 2009

International media has written volumes about the human suffering following the

devastating bushfires of Australia. But the plight of wildlife seems to have been

overlooked by many of them. The loss of wildlife and their suffering is staggering and

indescribably horrid.

According to my contacts in Australia over a million wild animals have lost their life. To

compound the loss many of them happen to highly endangered, found nowhere else in

the world. According to wildlife experts of Australia some of the endangered animals are

highly specialized, living in a small geographical area. They apprehend that bushfires

may have completely destroyed some of these habitats, with the result that some species

could have been completely wiped out. Helmeted Honeyeater has been given as an

example. Less than 50 individuals were though to be alive. Endangered plant species

also have been at the receiving end of the fury of fires.

Sure, human suffering should get first hand treatment, but the suffering of the denizens of

the wild also needs to be addressed. Australia alone may not be able to do the needful,

given the magnitude of the problem. Organizations like WWF should come forward and

mobilize international support for the ailing denizens of the wild.

Asian Elephants – Threat from Vietnam

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Illegal wildlife trade has always been a threat to wildlife. Here comes some alarming

news for Asian elephants. Booming illegal ivory prices in Vietnam is posing a serous

threat to elephants across South East Asia, according to a new market analysis report by

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade-monitoring network. Vietnam is emerging as a conduit and

transit point for illegal ivory. Establishments dealing in carved ivory are dime a dozen

there. Worked ivory is increasingly being sold directly to buyers through middlemen or on

the Internet. TRAFFIC also found evidence of widespread smuggling of live Asian

Elephants and their ivory from Myanmar. Most of the products find their way to China and

Hong Kong. Not more than 1,000 elephants are believed to survive in Lao PDR, while in

Viet Nam, fewer than 150 exists.

Ivory prices are the highest in the world in Vietnam, with tusks selling for up to

USD1500/kg. Small, cut pieces are selling for up to USD1863/kg. Trade in ivory was

outlawed in Viet Nam in 1992, but a major loophole exists in the legislation, which permits

shops to sell ivory in stock dating from the prohibition. This gives an avenue to some

shop owners to restock illegally with recently made carved ivory. Smugglers from other

Asian countries also might be misusing this proviso with local abetment. Around 4,000

tonnes of illegal wildlife products are estimated to pass through Vietnam every year.

The report recommends that Viet Nam should comply with its obligations under CITES

(the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora),

This includes reporting of ivory seizures, tightening of national regulations and their

enforcement, prosecution of offenders, and seizure of ivory for sale in retail outlets. The

report also recommends better training for wildlife law enforcement officers and continued

participation in the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN).


Tahrcountry Musings

The matter requires urgent intervention from other SE Asian countries. It is not a matter

to be looked in to by Vietnam alone. ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-

WEN) needs to be strengthened and given more teeth. Time to act is now. Prevarication

would bring in the death knell of elephants across SE Asia.

Tropical rainforests: New study reveals tropical

rainforests absorb…

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The latest issue of journal Nature has a nice paper on tropical rainforests and its utility in

acting as carbon sink. S.L. Lewis et al reports that undisturbed tropical forests are

absorbing nearly a fifth of carbon dioxide released annually by the burning of fossil fuels.

According to Lewis this is akin to receiving a free subsidy from nature. The paper is the

outcome of analysis of 40 years of data from rainforests in the Central African country of

Gabon, data from African rainforests and previously published data from the Americas

and Asia.

It has been estimated that tropical forests of Africa alone sequestered more than a billion

metric tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide each year during the past four decades.

The calculation is that humans emit 32 billion tons of carbon each year in to the

atmosphere. Tropical forests of the world sequester 8.5 billion tons of this carbon every

year. 8.5 billion tons is dissolved in oceans. Soils and other types of vegetation absorb

the balance. This leaves 15 billion of the 32 billion tons emitted by humans each year in

the atmosphere.

The paper highlights the importance of rainforest conservation. This initiative should be a

combined venture of the nations around the world. It has been suggested by many

scientists that rich polluting countries should transfer a major chunk of resources to

countries with tropical forests to reduce their deforestation rates. The deforestation is

mainly in pursuance of the avowed policy of development. It is big logging companies

that hog the major benefits

The end beneficiary of rainforest conservation is not the country with tropical forests

alone. The benefits percolate to entire humanity. Global warming has given an added

impetus to the urgent need.

Lewis the principal investigator is an ecologist at the University of Leeds in England.

The paper: S.L. Lewis et al. Increasing carbon storage in intact African tropical forests.

NATURE| Vol 457| 19 February 2009

Tahrcountry Musings


Reducing the world's mercury- Hope in the


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reducing the world’s mercury has been a contentious issue so far. Mercury pollution is a

problem of global magnitude. On an average, three times more mercury now falls out of

the sky than before the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago. Increasing mercury

concentrations are now being found in a number of fish-eating wildlife in remote areas.

Mercury exposure may lead to population declines in birds and possibly in fish and


After protracted negotiations United Nations environment ministers meeting in Nairobi

has overcome seven years obstacles and have committed to reducing the world’s

mercury. Formal negotiations will get under way later this year. The treaty will have under

its ambit procedures to reduce the supply of mercury and its use in products, such as the

thermometers, and processes, like plastics production and paper making. Mercury

emissions from coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for about half of the world’s

mercury pollution will also be curtailed.

Mercury can travel thousands of kilometers from its original source,. It damages the

central nervous system. It is especially dangerous to pregnant women and babies

United states is coming to the forefront of the initiatives. A welcome change under

Obama administration.Bush administration had blocked international efforts to limit


Alarm Bell Rings for Asian Box Turtles

Monday, February 23, 2009

According to a new report by the wildlife trade-monitoring network TRAFFIC Unregulated

trade, at 10 to 100 times legal level, has caused Southeast Asian Box Turtles almost to

vanish from parts of Indonesia. The turtles are used for meat and in Traditional Chinese

Medicine. Major consumers are Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Malaysia. Box turtles

are also in demand as pets in the US, Europe and Japan.

The study noted 18 traders operating in Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Kalimantan dealing

illegally in Southeast Asian Box Turtles. Each trader was handling on an average 2,230

turtles. Indonesia’s official annual export quota for this species is 18,000 turtles per year.

The trade is ten times the official export quota. TRAFFIC says this is a conservative

estimate. It could be as high as 100 times. At this rate the turtle would be wiped out

across Indonesia in no time at all.

Weak enforcement of existing laws is a key problem. Non-inspection of shipments,

falsification of CITES export permits, and lack of training amongst enforcement officers

compound the problem. The report recommends better training and more cooperation

between Indonesian enforcement authorities and those in importing countries to tackle

illegal wildlife trade


Tahrcountry Musings

Reptile Smuggling Attempt Foiled in Australia – A

Guest Post

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

According to an Australian news site, a man was arrested for attempting to smuggle 44

native reptiles out of Australia. The 24-year old Sydney man was apprehended by

Customs and Border Protection as he made his way through Sydney International

Airport. One of the more valuable specimens in the seizure was an Albino Carpet Python,

worth more than $20,000.

It is estimated that only 100 of these very rare snakes still exist in the world.

Authorities found the snakes in the man’s checked bags when they went through x-ray

screening before his scheduled flight to Bangkok, Thailand. The reptiles were hidden in

socks, small cloth bags and other articles of clothing. All of them were alive when they

were seized.

The reptile menagerie included: 24 Shingleback Lizards, 16 Bluetongue Lizards and four

snakes. In addition to the Albino Python, there were also three Black-headed pythons,

which are extremely endangered as well. Before it left the tarmac, the man was removed

from the plane and charged by Customs and Border Protection with attempting to export

native species without a permit.

The reptiles are all very valuable on the black market, with a combined estimated worth

of $160,000 and $200,000. None of the reptiles were harmed during their short trip and

have been taken to the Sydney Wildlife World where they were examined by

veterinarians and are receiving care and proper nutrition.

Wildlife smuggling is a serious offense and authorities will push maximum penalties to

help curtail the practice. The man, from Bonnet Bay in Sydney, is out on bail but must

appear in Downing Centre Local Court on March 24, 2009. He faces a maximum penalty

of $110,000 and/or 10 years in jail is mandated under the Environment Protection and

Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Though this is a heartening example of increased awareness by border and customs

agents regarding this issue, demand for rare species continues unabated in much of the

world and authorities are left playing catch up. And because it is easy for almost anyone

to smuggle many different types of (valuable) wildlife undetected, supply remains high

and black market profits skyrocket.


This post was contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the online

courses. She invites your feedback at [email protected]

Excellent Example of Public and Private Sector

Participation in Con…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Goldman Sachs has announced the gift of a sprawling wilderness area in Chile to the

Wildlife Conservation Society. The 272,000 hectares has old growth forests ,unique

grasslands, rivers and wetlands teeming with wildlife. The guanaco, a member of the

camel family, is the region’s signature animal. Other wildlife includes Magellanic

woodpeckers, Firecrown Hummingbirds, and the Culpeo Fox. The reserve is home to

around 700 plant species, including several types of moss, which are unique to these


Tahrcountry Musings


Goldman Sachs, the Goldman Sachs Charitable Fund, and WCS are establishing a

formal Alliance to make conservation meaningful for the area. Ecotourism, will be

promoted to support conservation objectives and to provide benefit to local communities.

It was in February 2002, that Goldman Sachs acquired the area as part of distressed

assets of the Trillium Corporation, a US company that owned the Chilean lands. Trillium

had planned to use the land for logging. This was opposed tooth and nail by Chilean

environmentalists. Goldman Sachs initially wanted to sell the area for a profit. The bank

considered selling the land but realized it would face the same opposition as Trillium had.

So it chose the prudent option to salvage the situation. It gave the land away as gift to

WCS. Lot of deliberation was done before the Goldman Sachs Charitable Fund

determined that WCS is ideally suited to manage the reserve and protect the key

ecological features of this land. Goldman Sachs has pledged around $12m of its own

money to ensure the land’s protection for years to come. In this process Goldman Sachs

has enhanced its green credentials. A case of killing two birds with one shot. The end

beneficiary is conservation.

Bottled water Guzzles Energy-Think Twice

Before You Buy One

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Do you really need that bottle of packaged drinking water? The latest research on bottled

water has confirmed what the environmentalists have charged all these years. Weighed

against tap water bottled water consumes between 1100 and 2000 times more energy on

an average.

Environmental scientist Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute did the

study. Details like how much energy goes into making a plastic bottle; processing the

water; labeling, filling, and sealing a bottle; transporting it for sale; and cooling the water

prior to consumption went in to the research. Manufacturing the bottle and transportation

were found the most energy hogging activities.

Startling details have emerged from the study. The global demand for bottle production

alone uses 50 million barrels of oil a year. Drinking an imported bottle of water is about

two-and-a-half to four times more energy intensive than getting it locally. This often

surpasses the energy needed to make the bottle. Bottled water has now surpassed milk

and beer in sales.

So think twice before you grab that next bottle. If you are in a position to bring a bottle of

water from home do plumb for it.

Details of the research appears in the latest issue of journal Environmental Research



Tahrcountry Musings

Want to marry? Plant trees

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Indonesia has long been troubled by deforestation. It has the unenviable reputation of

having the highest rate of deforestation in Asia. Palm oil lobbies have played havoc with

the environment. Environmentalists have been going hammer and tongs at the

Government for its lackadaisical ways in enforcing forest laws.

Against the background of the above mentioned facts I was delighted to hear this piece of

news from my Indonesian contacts. In an innovative move Garut district administration in

Indonesia has come out with the rider that if the marriage is to be legally Okayed, the

couple panning to get married must give ten trees to district administration for

reforestation drive. In an adjunct move the administration has also decreed that divorces

will be granted only after the supply of one tree. The latest move from the Garut

administration comes in the wake of financial difficulties. Central administration had

recently launched a scheme to plant million tress across Indonesia. Garut does not have

the wherewithal to pursue the programme. The dovetailing of marriage registration to tree

planting was a clever move to overcome the difficulties experienced.

The man who came up with the idea for the administration deserves fulsome praise. Hats

off to him.

Tropical Forests’ Carbon Sink Function Affected

by Drought.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tropical rainforests act as important carbon sinks.These forests have been continuously

giving us a subsidy. Latest research indicates that with global warming this important

function cannot be taken for granted any more.Drought is affecting the capacity of tropical

forests to act as carbon sinks. This has far reaching effects for the global community. It is

even feared that they could turn to be carbon ‘source’. The report appears in science

today magazine

The assumption is based on a study of, 2005 drought, of Amazon basin. The drought has

turned some of the affected areas of the Amazon from a carbon sink to carbon source.

Research plots that were monitored regularly before and after the drought revealed that

forest patches subjected to a 100-millimeter decrease in rainfall released on average 5.3

tonnes of carbon per hectare as trees in the area died.

Scientists have estimated that mature tropical forests, which cover about 10% of Earth's

land, absorb around 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon per year. This is the equivalent of around

20% of carbon emissions from fossil-fuel burning. This works out to around 40% of the

total global terrestrial carbon sink

The need to protect tropical rainforest has acquired great significance. A global initiative

is what is needed. Countries acting alone and out of sync with others will not deliver the


Tahrcountry Musings


5th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates-

Online Registration

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Online registration is now open for the 5th World Congress on Mountain Ungulates. Log

on to the conference website www.vworldconferenceungulates.org for details. You can

click here and go to the website

Plastic Trash in the Oceans and the Plight of the


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Plastics ingestion by leatherback turtles is taking a heavy toll of the critically endangered

species. This is the result arrived at by Dr. Mike James and colleagues from Dalhousie

University after detailed analysis of post-mortems report of leatherbacks for the past four

decades. Over one third of the turtles had ingested plastic. Ingestion of plastic leads to

partial or complete obstruction of gastrointestinal tract, which in turn leads to starvation

and death.

Leatherbacks often confuse plastic trash with one of their favorite prey, jellyfish.

Unfortunately both jellyfish and plastic trash are often found in areas where oceanic water

masses meet.

The only way out of this tragic situation is use of biodegradable materials and recycling.

Leatherbacks have inhabited the earth for over a hundred million years and it would be a

shame if they disappear due to the folly and profligacy of man. As the old saying goes

little drops of water makes the mighty ocean. Each one of us has a bounden duty to do

whatever is possible to save this critically endangered turtle. Concerted action will

certainly pay rich dividends in the long run.

Details of the study appear in Marine Pollution Bullentin.

Mrosovsky et al. Leatherback turtles: The menace of plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin,

2009; 58 (2): 287 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.10.018

Chemical Warfare by Plants

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Professor Byron Lamont from Curtin University of Technology Australia, and his

colleagues, has come up with some surprising findings regarding the defence mechanism

of plants. The Australian native plant Hakea is using chemical warfare to prevent its

bright red flowers being eaten by animals. This goes against established beliefs. The

belief till now was that flowers evolved as a way for plants to attract birds and animals for


The team studied 51 species of Hakea, and found that they could be easily divided into

two groups, insect-pollinated species and bird-pollinated species. Insect-pollinated


Tahrcountry Musings

species have predominantly tiny, white flowers surrounded by spiky, dense foliage. This

stops animals such as emus and cockatoos from eating the flower. Bird-pollinated

species have soft open leaves and bright, easily accessible, usually red, flowers where

birds can easily land. This makes the plant vulnerable to being eaten by emus and


Professor Byron Lamont and his colleagues macerated the flowers on-site and then used

an enzyme and a strip of paper that was sensitive to cyanide to test for its presence.

They found that plants with red flowers contain 10 milligrams of cyanide per gram. This

was enough to make an animal sick. It is presumed that animals that eat the red Hakea

flowers may learn to associate the colour with the bitter taste produced by the cyanide.

The colour red acts as a warning to herbivores like emus, parrots and kangaroos sending

the message that the flower contains distasteful cyanogenic compounds.

Details of the study appear in the latest edition of journal New Phytologist.

Two New Greenhouse Gases Accumulating in

the Atmosphere

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

According to the latest research spearheaded by Climate scientist Dr Paul Fraser two

new greenhouse gases, one emitted by the electronic industry and the other used in pest

control, are rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere. The gases are Nitrogen trifluoride

(NF3) and Sulfuryl fluoride (SO2F2). NF3 is used by the electronics industry in the

manufacture of circuit boards in liquid-crystal flat-panel screens. SO2F2 is used as a


The scientists have made a fervent plea to include these two gases for control in the

revision of the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto Protocol has set emission targets for six gases,

carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, PFCs, hydrofluorcarbons and sulfur hexafluoride.

Even though the quantity SO2F2 and NF3 gases are low right now, the danger signals

are already there and the time is ripe for control. NF3 is 17,000 times more potent than

CO2, while SO2F2 is 5000 times more potent. NF3 persists for hundreds of years in the

atmosphere. The gas accumulation is growing at around 5% a year. This is faster than

any other greenhouse gasses included in the Kyoto Protocol.

Details of research appears in the 12 March edition of the Journal of Geophysical


Now a Contraceptive Pill for Desert Rats

Thursday, March 26, 2009

For some time now exploding Gerbil population in their Xinjiang region has exasperated

the Chinese officials. Gerbils have threatened the fragile desert ecosystem of Xinjiang.

Only few plants can survive in this harsh and arid region. Ceaseless burrowing by Gerbils

is destroying even this sparse vegetation.

Chinese authorities tried various options like traps and biological control. Predatory birds

were introduced in the region. But the problem persisted. Forestry officials are now trying

Tahrcountry Musings


a new way to control Gerbils. They are using contraceptive pills. The pill is mixed with

feeds and placed in strategic locations.

The pills prevent females from getting pregnant and cause abortion in those already

pregnant. The Chinese authorities consider this to be much more humane option than

poisoning Gerbils. The new experiment seems to be working. If it becomes a real

success the authorities are planning to introduce the system in other areas also.

Leaf-Cutting Ants Help Develop New Drugs

Monday, March 30, 2009

In a spectacular case of symbiosis leaf-cutting ants have been cultivating fungus gardens

that provide a safe home for the fungi and a food source for the ants for the last 50

million-years. It was only 10 years back that Cameron Currie, a microbial ecologist then

at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, discovered that leaf-cutting ants carry

colonies of actinomycete bacteria on their bodies. This bacteria produce an antibiotic that

protects the ants’ fungal crops from associated parasitic fungi.

Currie was fascinated by his discovery and wanted to know the nitty gritty of the entire

symbiosis.On 29 March, Currie, Jon Clardy at the Harvard Medical School in Boston and

their colleagues reported that they had isolated and purified one of these antifungals.

They named the new antifungal dentigerumycin. The story does not stop here. This newly

discovered antifungal was found to slow down the growth of a drug-resistant strain of the

fungus Candida albicans, which causes yeast infections in people. An excited Currie has

described the ants as walking pharmaceutical factories. Different ant species cultivate

different fungal crops, which in turn is affected by different parasites. So researchers are

hoping to find and develop new drugs.

Another spin off of the research is the discovery that fungi associated with ants are very

efficient at breaking down cellulose. Unravelling the process might allow us to make more

efficient biofuels. than those made from sugary foods, such as maize.

Details of the study appears in Nature Chem. Bio (D.-C. Oh et al. Nature Chem. Bio. doi:

10.1038/nchembio.159; 2009).

Have a look at what Currie has to say about his research by clicking here

The new discovery points to the urgent need to protect our biodiversity. Everything is

interlinked and mans’ folly is destroying the cornucopia before we get a chance to study

them properly.

Virus Powered Batteries are On Its Way

Friday, April 03, 2009

Virus powered batteries? Sounds a wee bit far fetched but it is true; they are in its way. A

team of scientists from MIT in the US led by Professor Angela Belcher has come up with

this seemingly impossible feat. Professor Belcher used viruses to build both the positively

and negatively charged ends of a battery and it is working. A lithium-ion battery has been

constructed, where generically engineered viruses were used to create the negatively


Tahrcountry Musings

charged anode and positively charged cathode. The beauty is that virus is harmless to


The batteries have the capacity and performance of rechargeable batteries that is used to

power plug-in hybrid cars. The prototype battery is the size of a coin but Professor

Belcher believes that the technology developed can be used to create flexible batteries

that can take the shape of their container. This meets the requirements of mobile and

other small devices to a dot. Right now the virus battery can only be charged and

discharged about 100 times, but Professor Belcher says improved versions with linger life

are on its way.

Conservationists would be delighted to learn that the process to build the batteries uses

no harmful or toxic materials. What we need is things like this, development of

technologies that does not harm the environment. Tahrcountry salutes Professor Angela

Belcher. Full details of the research appear in the journal Science

Kenyan Inventor Develops Cheap Efficient Solar

Cooker and Wins an A…

Friday, April 10, 2009

I was delighted to hear about this news about a new solar cooker with enormous

potential. A Kenyan inventor has won the $75,000 prize for his solar cooker made from

cardboard. The cooker is made from two cardboard boxes, which use reflective foil and

black paint to maximise absorption of solar energy. The temperatures inside the pot can

reach at least 80C. The device can be used for cooking and for sterilising water.

The competition was organized by the organization Forum for the Future in association

with Financial Times newspaper and technology company HP. The aim of the

competition was to support concepts that have “moved off the drawing board and

demonstrated their feasibility” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but have not

gained corporate backing.

The inventor says the device will help to reduce dependence on firewood thereby putting

a brake on deforestation. According to him it will also give a boost to health as it has the

potential to reduce the ill effects of smoke. Nearly two billion people in the world use

firewood as their primary fuel. So the potential is enormous.

I did not give you the name of the inventor. Here it is. He is Jon Bohmer, who founded the

company Kyoto Energy in Kenya. Hats off to him for developing a simple device that has

the potential to reduce deforestation in developing and under developed countries.

The Tale of the elephant from the Tail

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I was fascinated to read about this new technique developed by Professor Thure Cerling

and associates to decode eating habits of the elephants from its tail. It is amazing.

Professor Thure Cerling used Global Positioning System and analyzed carbon and other

isotopes in the tail hair of elephants to monitor their movements and varied diet in the

Buffalo Springs national reserves in northern Kenya.

Tahrcountry Musings


Clear cut evidences of elephants gorging on grasses during rainy season and switching

over to trees and shrubs emerged from the isotope based study of elephants ‘ tail.

There are enough reasons for the elephants to gorge on grass. This is a ploy intended to

bulk up for pregnancy. 22 months after conceiving, the elephants gave birth to healthy


Use of water also came under the scanner. According to Professor Cerling in the dry

season, rivers tend to be quite evaporated and have different isotope ratios than in rainy

season, when they are flowing. The elephants drink the water, and it actually changes the

isotope composition of their blood, which is reflected in the isotope composition of the


The research brought to the fore the impact of overgrazing by cattle on the typical wet

season diet of elephants. Competition with cattle results in poor access to high-quality

grass forage as the cattle keep the grass very short by its distinctive feeding habits, thus

our competing elephants in the rush for prime forage.The study warns that as Kenya’s

population continues to explode, and as global warming brings in more droughts, the

competition for grass with domestic cattle might threaten the elephants’ ability to bulk up

for pregnancy.

The advantage of the new method according to Professor Cerling is that we get a

continuous record of elephants’ diet even though we don’t have anyone on the ground

watching them. This will be of great help to the mangers of wildlife in devising their


Details of the study appears in the on line edition of Proceedings of the National

Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Newly Discovered Lichen Named after President


Thursday, April 16, 2009

A California researcher, Kerry Knudsen from the University of California-Riverside (UCR),

has named a new species of Lichen discovered by him after President Barak Obama.

The name given is Caloplaca obamae. The researcher says this is intended to show his

appreciation for the president’s support of science and science education.

The new species is Endemic to Santa Rosa Island, the second largest island off

California’s coast. The new discovery is a shot in the arm for public support for preserving

public lands as ecological sanctuaries. Cattle ranching had nearly wiped out the species.

Fortunately a lawsuit by the National Parks Conservation Association in 1996 put an end

to rampant uncontrolled grazing. But for this action the species would not have been

discovered. Knudsen says this is a stark reminder that many species are disappearing

without ever being known to science.


Tahrcountry Musings

Sidamo Lark on the Way to Oblivion?

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Ethiopiaian Sidamo Lark (Heteromirafra sidamoensis), one of the most ancient types

of larks, is in parlous state. Unless efforts are made on a war footing to conserve the

species it will have the dubious distinction of being the first recorded bird extinction on the

continent. The forebodings are the outcome of a survey of the bird’s habitat done by

zoologist Claire Spottiswoode of the University of Cambridge. The associates for the

study were the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Birdlife International and

the University of East Anglia. The study found that Sidamo lark is now restricted to a

single patch of grassland of 35 square kilometres. The survey also revealed that a

maximum of 358 Sidamo Larks remain. The lower estimate is just 90.

Scientists discovered Sidamo Lark only in 1968. The bird was only seen once during the

course of last 25 years.

The main reason attributed for the sorry state of affairs is the depredation of highland

savannah. The savannah used to be maintained by fire and by the grazing of large

herbivores. Borana pastoralists also played a part in the past. They used to walk their

cattle across the plain in the course of their migration between different wet and dry

season grasslands. The situation is completely changed now. The numbers of Wild

animals have dipped and the present numbers is too low to stop shrubs from invading the

grasslands. The pastoralists have abandoned their old time tested ways. The new fad is

intensively reared livestock and agriculture, which impacts the birds quite badly.

Factors outside Ethiopia also contribute to the woes of the bird. The conflict in

neighbouring Somalia is driving armed nomads to cross the border and move into the

region to graze their cattle. Increasing droughts and climate change also are threats that

loom over the survival of the bird.

The researchers have advocated control of grazing by domestic cattle. They have also

advocated that the shrubs that have sprouted in the grassland should be removed. A

careful watch over expansion of agriculture in to the habitat of the critically endangered

bird has also been advocated.

Based on the researchers recommendations Lark is being uplisted to Critically

Endangered – the highest level of threat – in the 2009 Red List of birds. The new list will

be released on May 14th.

Imminent Danger- Forests as Sources of

Greenhouse Gases

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Forests are considered to be a great source of carbon sinks. But this rosy picture is likely

to change with the global warming. The warning has come from International Union of

Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

The latest report of International Union of Forest Research Organizations titled

Tahrcountry Musings


“Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment” and

authored by 35 forestry scientists, made a detailed analysis of the likely impacts of

climate change across the world’s major forest types and their capacity adapt to climate

shifts. The report will be formally presented at the next session of the United Nations

Forum on Forests (UNFF) taking place from 20th April to1 of May 2009 at the UN


Dr Risto Seppälä, a professor at the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) and Past

President of IUFRO, who chaired the expert panel that produced the report says, “We

normally think of forests as putting the brakes on global warming, but in fact over the next

few decades, damage induced by climate change could cause forests to release huge

quantities of carbon and create a situation in which they do more to accelerate warming

than to slow it down”. A 2.5-degree-C rise in temperatures would eliminate the net carbon

sequestering function of global forests. Presently forests worldwide capture about a

quarter of carbon emissions.

The study observes that as climate change progresses over the next decades:

1) Droughts are projected to become more intense and frequent in subtropical and

southern temperate forests, especially in the western United States, northern

China, southern Europe and the Mediterranean, subtropical Africa, Central

America and Australia. These droughts will also increase the prevalence of fire and

predispose large areas of forest to pests and pathogens. .

2) In some arid and semi-arid environments, such as the interior of the American

West, forestry experts’ worry that climate change could be so dramatic that timber

productivity could “decline to the extent that forests are no longer viable.”

3) Decreased rainfall and more severe droughts are expected to be particularly stressful

for forest-dependent people in Africa who look to forests for food, clean water and other

basic needs. For them, the scientists predict climate change could mean “deepening

poverty, deteriorating public health, and social conflict.”

4) In certain areas, climate change could lead to substantial gains in the supply of timber.

The combination of warming temperatures and the fertilizing effect of increased carbon in

the atmosphere could fuel a northward expansion of what is known as the boreal forest,

the coniferous timber lands that run across the earth’s northern latitudes and include

forests in Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden. Research from the report indicates that

climate change could cause more than a 40 percent increase in timber growth in Finland.

However, over the long-term, if climate change continues at the current pace the boreal

expansion eventually will be offset by an increase in insect invasions, fires, and storms.

Ameliorative strategies

The report says that sustainable forest management practices could help ameliorate

some of the impacts of climate change, but such efforts may only be a temporary

reprieve in the face of rising carbon emissions.

Professor Andreas Fischlin of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, who is one of

the lead authors of the study says “Even if adaptation measures are fully implemented,

unmitigated climate change would, during the course of the current century, exceed the

adaptive capacity of many forests,” “The fact remains that the only way to ensure that


Tahrcountry Musings

forests do not suffer unprecedented harm is to achieve large reductions in greenhouse

gas emissions.”

The report concludes by saying more research is needed to better understand precisely

how climate change will impact forests and how effective different adaptation responses

will be. The challenge to policy makers is that they must act even in the face of imperfect

data because “climate change is progressing too quickly to postpone action.

Good News from Afghanistan on the Environment


Thursday, April 23, 2009

What we hear regularly from Afghanistan is depressing news about bombings,

ambushes, excesses of Taliban and suffering of the common man. Here is something

that will give you cheer. On the occasion of the Earth Day, Afghanistan has declared its

first National Park. This is an event for the entire world to rejoice.

The newly declared Band-e-Amir National Park near Bamyan Valley is a spectacular

region of deep blue lakes separated by natural dams of travertine, a mineral deposit. If

Bamayan Valley rings a familiar tone for you, you are smack on target. Yes, it was here

that Taliban destroyed 1,500-year-old giant Buddha statues.

Next on the agenda of the Afghan administration is efforts directed towards acquiring the

World Heritage Status for the park. This will give a tremendous boost to the park. It will

also bring in foreign tourists. Even though foreign tourists have given the place a wide

birth after the eruption of violence in 1979 thousands of afghans visit the place every year

Much of the Park’s wildlife has been lost in the continuing violence. But Ibex and Urial still

survive there precariously. The region also boasts of Afghan Snow Finch which is a bird

found only in Afghanistan. The conservation community the world over is watching with

great interest the happenings in Afghanistan

Grey Whale conservation -Sakhalin Energy

consortium heeds to the ca…

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Heeding to the call of environmentalists Russia’s Sakhalin Energy consortium has agreed

to suspend oil operations during the breeding season of Grey Whales (Eschrichtius

robustus). The main feeding area of the whales is in the Piltun Bay at the northeastern

part of Sakhalin shelf. Conservationists the world over are delighted. Once declared

extinct, the Western Pacific Gray whale was rediscovered in the late 1970s.

The Western Grey Whale is one of the world’s most endangered whales, with only 25

breeding females remaining. The whale feeds only in the summer. The whale is listed as

“critically endangered” by Russia and is on the redlist of International Union for the

Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Recent research had shown how oil exploration could alter the behaviour of grey whales.

Noise from oil and gas exploration has driven the whales into deeper waters making it

Tahrcountry Musings


hard for their calves to feed and thrive.

Things are not very rosy however. BP, Exxon and Rosneft operating in the area have

ignored the appeal from conservationists so far. Conservationists the world over are

making repeated appeals to the erring firms to heed to their call. Let us hope that wiser

counsel would prevail.

Arabian Tahr gets Increased Protection

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The United Arab Emirates has established the Wadi Wurayah Fujairah, the habitat of

endangered Arabian Tahr as the country’s first protected mountain reserve. The 129 km-

square protected area occupies the northern reaches of Fujairah between the towns of

Masafi, Khor Fakkan and Bidiyah. His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammad Al

Sharqi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Fujairah, issued a decree this week

that officially established the mountain reserve. The Arabian Tahr (Arabitragus jayakari)

is highly endangered, with fewer than 2,500 adults in the wild.

Under the proposed protection plan reviewed by the royal court protection will be

intensified and steps will be taken to educate the visitors. Visitors will be fined for leaving

litter behind, polluting the water and painting graffiti.

The move comes at a time when there is international concern about the welfare of

Arabian Tahr. Tahrcountry salutes the architects of the new initiatives.

The Sunning Chameleons- What are they really

up to?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The myriad ways in which nature works never ceases to amaze me. I was reading the

other day, a paper by Dr Kristopher Karsten and associates from Texas Christian

University in Fort Worth, about the behaviour of lizards basking in the sun. The paper

fascinated me with its depth of observations.

Till now it was assumed that the lizards bask in the sun to thermoregulate their body

temperature. But latest research by Karsten and associates has added a new dimension

to what seemingly is a lazy action by the lizards. Dr Karsten discovered that the main

function of sun basking by lizards is to acquire vitamin D from sunlight.

To test the assumption that chameleons alter their sunning behavior based on dietary

vitamin D intake, Dr Karsten observed the behavioral pattern of two different groups of

chameleons. One was fed crickets dusted with a vitamin D powder. The other group was

fed on regular crickets and thus had low vitamin D content. The chameleons were then

placed in individual outdoor enclosures that offered open area for direct sun, and a tree to

offer filtered sun. The animals were free to move between sunny, UV-rich areas and

shaded low-UV areas. Chameleons fed on low vitamin D diet readily compensated lack of

Vitamin D by increasing their exposure to the sun’s UV rays. According to Dr Kristen “The

chameleons were as effective as mathematically possible by our methods at regulating

toward optimal UV exposure for their vitamin D profile,”


Tahrcountry Musings

Scientists have not been able to find out the exact mechanism that enables the lizards to

sense their internal vitamin D levels. Dr Karsten thinks there may be a brain receptor

sensitive to the vitamin d levels which triggers the behavior of sun basking. Getting to

know the intricacies of why lizards do what they do will certainly help people who

manages animals in captivity.

Details of the research appears in the May/June issue of journal Physiological and

Biochemical Zoology

V World Conference on Mountain Ungulates –

Photography Contest on M…

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To mark the V World Conference on

Mountain Ungulates, to be held from 10-14

N o v e m b e r 2 0 0 9 a t t h e P a l a c i o d e

Exposiciones y Congresos de Granada

(Granada Exhibition and Conference

Centre), as part of the activities scheduled

to commemorate the 20th anniversary of

the declaration of Sierra Nevada as a Natural Reserve and 10 years as a National Park a

Photographic Contest on Mountain Ungulates has been organised, sponsored by Nikon.

Anybody can enter the contest; registration is free and the entry form is available at the

conference website


The photographs entered must reflect some aspect of biology and ecology of the different

species of mountain ungulates and must be accompanied by a brief explanatory text.

There are three prizes for the best photographs.

1st prize: Nikon D60 + AF-S DX 18-55mm + AF-S DX 55-200mm + bag for the SLR +

tripod. The winning photograph will be shown on the front cover of the journal of acts.

2nd prize: Nikon D40 + AF-S DX 18-55mm + binoculars + bag for the SLR + tripod.

3rd prize: Nikon D40 + AF-S DX 18-55mm + bag for the SLR + tripod.

Deadline for sending photographs is until 8 p.m. on 15 September 2009.


1.OrganiserRegional Ministry of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía

2.ParticipantsParticipation in this contest is open to any natural person. Registration is

free, simply by filling in a form on this web page. Participation in the contest entails full

acceptance of the rules.

3.Photographic theme: The photographs must represent some aspect of biology and

ecology of the different mountain ungulate species together with a brief explanatory text

(around 50 words) for each photograph.

Tahrcountry Musings


Ethical code: To ensure more efficient preservation of nature, an ethical code must be

followed that ensures and enhances photographers’ relationship with nature. No irregular

action that contravenes the protectionist spirit that governs all human contact with nature

is permitted. Further information is available at: www.aefona.org.

4.Sending photographs: Participants must fill in the form and attached the photographs

and send these to the following e-mail address (one form for each photograph):

[email protected]

Photographs that are received without including all of the details requested will not be

allowed to take part in the contest.

Only digital photographs will be accepted. They must be sent in JPG format and be of a

minimum pixel size of 1500 × 2000, horizontally or vertically, of a maximum size of

between 500 KBytes and 6 MBytes and with a recommended resolution of 300dpi.

The photographs must be sent in colour and only basic adjustments to the photographs,

such as levels, contrast, will be accepted. The photographs cannot have a border or a

frame. The photographs sent must be unpublished and cannot have won prizes in other

contests or have been used commercially for journalistic, advertising or any other


5.Deadline The deadline for sending photographs is until 8 p.m. on 15 September 2009.

Book Recommendation- He Knew He Was Right:

The Irrepressible Life…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

He Knew He Was Right: The Irrepressible Life of

James Lovelock and Gaia is a definitive,

authorized biography of Jim Lovelock, the iconic

figure in British science, best known for his Gaia

theory. The book throws light on the varied

aspects of the life of this multifaceted personality.

The throwback to earlier years is wonderful,

inspiring and gripping. I was fascinated to read

about the trials and tribulations he had to

undergo. In the early days for some time he

supported his family by selling his own blood. As

Lovelock approaches his ninetieth birthday this

book is indeed a fitting tribute. I recommend the

book unreservedly.

Format : Hardback

ISBN: 9781846140167

Size : 235 × 159mm

Pages : 356 £20.00

Published : 26 Feb 2009

Publisher : Allen Lane

A paperback is also in the offing


Tahrcountry Musings

Format : Paperback

ISBN: 9780141031613

Size : 129 × 198mm

Pages : 356

Published : 01 Oct 2009 £9.99

Publisher : Penguin

Penguin Kidnaps Chick of Mortal Enemy

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I was fascinated to read in the journal Polar Biology, about this kidnapping of the chick of

its mortal enemy by a Penguin.

An adult penguin was observed to kidnap a skua chick on Marion Island, in the sub-

Antarctic. Penguins have been observed in the past to raise chicks of other species, but it

was the first time that scientists observed Penguins trying to raise the young of its natural

predator. Mature skuas go after penguins, preying on their chicks. Occasionally it grabs

adults also. Chris Oosthuizen and Nico de Bruyn of the Mammal Research Institute at the

University of Pretoria, South Africa, spotted the unusual behavior while en route to

Goodhope Bay on Marion Island.

One Skua repeatedly went after the Penguin trying to win back the chick. But the Penguin

successfully defended the attempt. This continued till a human observer stepped in and

returned the chick to its real parents.

This kind of kidnapping usually occurs when a parent fails to correctly identify their

offspring, owing to the loss of nests or because they can’t resist the calls of chicks. But,

usually, the behaviour and diet of adopting and adopted species are analogous.

Scientists think that an increased level of the hormone prolactin, known as the “parenting

hormone” is responsible for the behavior. The hormone usually helps maintain the bond

between chicks and adults when they’re away foraging.

Amazing are the ways of Mother Nature. We have only probed the tip of the iceberg

Good News – World’s Largest Leatherback Turtle

Population Discovered

Monday, May 18, 2009

Here is some good news about Leatherback Turtles. A team of international Scientists

have discovered the world’s largest population of nesting leatherback sea turtles

(Dermochelys coriacea), on the beaches of Gabon in West Africa. The research was led

by the University of Exeter working in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society

(WCS). Others who chipped in include University of Florence, IUCN-France,

PROTOMAC (Gabon), CNDIO-Gabon, IBONGA-ACPE (Gabon), Agence Nationale des

Parcs Nationaux (Gabon), Gabon Environnment, Aventures Sans Frontières (Gabon) and

WWF-Gabon. The estimated population is between 15,730 and 41,373 female turtles.

Leatherbacks conservation gathered momentum around the world after populations in the

Indo-Pacific crashed by more than 90 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. The leatherback

Tahrcountry Musings


turtle has survived for more than a hundred million years, but is now facing extinction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed leatherback turtles

as critically endangered.

The population of leatherback turtles around the globe have been placed around 43,000

nesting females. The new discovery in Gabon may give a boost to that estimation.

The Gabon study indicated that that around 79 percent of the nesting occurs within

National Parks and other protected areas which is a good sign. Gabon had created a

network of National Parks in 2002 which has gone a long way in giving protection to


The details of the research are published in the May issue of Biological Conservation

Fact Sheet Leatherback

As a major jellyfish predator, the leatherback turtle provides natural control of jellyfish

populations. Jellyfish can feed on fish larvae and reduce population growth of

commercially important fish. Thus leatherback turtles play a very important role in

nature’s scheme of things.

Leatherbacks are the most widely distributed marine turtles, and are found in the Pacific,

Indian and Atlantic oceans.

The leatherbacks are the largest sea turtle, reaching up to nearly two metres and

weighing around 540kg

Leatherbacks are sexually mature at about 10 years or age and may live to be 40 years


Leatherback is the deepest diving turtle. The deepest recorded dive is 1.2 kilometres

Unlike other sea turtles, the leatherback does not have a hard shell

The incubation period of Leatherback is around 60 days. The sex of leatherbacks is

determined by the temperature of eggs during incubation. Temperatures above 29

degrees centigrade will result in female hatchlings.

Instead of teeth the Leatherback turtle has points on the tomium of its upper lip.

Leatherback has backwards spines in its throat to help it swallow food.

Leatherbacks are also the fastest reptiles on record. They have been recorded to cross

35Km per hour.


Tahrcountry Musings

The humble flour beetle is about to play a major

role in the manage…

Friday, May 22, 2009

Huge impacts sometimes come from humble unexpected sources. What scientists have

achieved with the flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) recently is a case in point. Scientists

have been working with various organisms in their pursuit to get to the roots of genetic

erosion and consequent extinction. They have now and zeroed in on the flour beetle as

the perfect tool to work with. Flour beetle will be the model in a major new study of

University of East Anglia, seeking answers to the consequences of inbreeding.

When the gene pool is reduced it brings about inbreeding between relatives. This entails

losses in genetic variability and is a causative factor for the decline of many species

around the world. The project will determine how much new variability must be re-

introduced to genetically rescue an inbred population. This is bound to give a huge boost

to the working resources of managers of conservation and captive breeding projects.

They are indeed a delighted lot.

The project will experimentally evaluate which specific reproductive traits are affected by

inbreeding. The full-fledged study is slated to run a course of three year. Deleterious

effects of inbreeding are a priority in conservation initiatives set by the International Union

for Conservation of Nature. Conservationists around the world are eagerly looking

forward to the data generated from this unique project. Thumbs up for the humble flour


Video by Kazakhstan Animal Rescue and

Education Centre

Friday, May 22, 2009

Alejandro Medina from the organization Kazakhstan Animal Rescue and Education has

sent me this good video on cruelty to pets made by them. Alejandro Medina says it is

targeted at “irresponsible” owners of pets.This was originally made in Russian. Have a

look at it here

Top 10 New Species Described in 2008

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The International Institute for Species Exploration and an international committee of

taxonomists have released the list of top 10 new species described in 2008. The

international committee of experts was chaired by Janine N. Caira of the University of


The annual top 10 new species announcement and issuance of the SOS report (The

State of Observed Species report) commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Carolus

Linnaeus, who was responsible for the modern system of plant and animal names and

classifications. An estimated 1.8 million species have been described since Linnaeus

started his path breaking work. The estimate of species (I would like to call it guestimate)

is between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth. Most scientists peg it closer to 10

Tahrcountry Musings



Here is a List of the Top Ten Species

1) A tiny seahorse (Hippocampus satomiae ) with a standard length of 13.8 millimeters

and an approximate height of 11.5 millimeters

2) A genus of palm (Tahina spectablilis ) with fewer than 100 individuals found only in a

small area of northwestern Madagascar.

3) A caffeine-free coffee from Cameroon (Coffea charrieriana )

4) An extremophile bacteria that was discovered in hairspray by Japanese scientists

(Microbacterium hatanonis )

5) World’s longest insect with a body length of 36.6 centimeters and overall length of 56.7

centimeters (Phobaeticus chain)

6) World’s smallest snake, the Barbados Threadsnake ( Leptotyphlops carlae ) 104

millimeters in length.

7) The ghost slug (Selenochlamys ysbryda )

8) A snail (Opisthostoma vermiculum ) found in Malaysia

9) A beautiful species of damselfish (Chromis abyssus )

10) A fossilized specimen ( Materpiscis attenboroughi ) , the oldest known vertebrate to

be viviparous.

The study reminds us just how incomplete our knowledge of Earth’s species is.

Plants as Building Blocks for Plastics and Fuels

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In a path breaking research, chemists have successfully converted cellulose directly into

a building block for plastics and fuels, called HMF (5-hydroxymethylfurfural). The new

research breakthrough bypasses the sugar-forming step and goes straight from cellulose

to HMF.

The research was led by chemist Z. Conrad Zhang from Pacific Northwest National

Laboratory. A combination of copper chloride and chromium chloride under 120 degrees

Celsius broke down the cellulose without creating the usual unwanted byproducts. This is

ten times faster than the use of acid for breaking down cellulose and works at much lower


The new technology converted about 57 percent of the sugar content in the cellulose

feedstock to HMF through a single process. The team recovered more than 90% of the

HMF formed. The final product from the process was an amazingly 96% pure.

Metal chlorides and ionic liquid could be reused a number of times without losing their

effectiveness. This mean the cost of production of HMF will come down. Fuel and plastic

from plants is not science fiction any more. It is right here at our doorstep. A few tweaks

are of course needed before the process goes commercial.

Need oriented research like this can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Journal Reference:

Y. Su, H.M. Brown, X. Huang, X.-d. Zhou, J.E. Amonette, Z.C. Zhang. Single-Step

Conversion of Cellulose to 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a Versatile Platform


Tahrcountry Musings

C h e m i c a l . A p p l i e d C a t a l y s i s A : G e n e r a l , O n l i n e 9 A p r i l 2 0 0 9 D O I : 1 0 . 1 0 1 6 / j . a p c a t a . 2 0 0 9 . 0 4 . 0 0 2

Birds that Use Tools

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birds fashioning tools and using them to meet specific needs may sound something

straight out of fiction for children .But it is true. Researchers at the Universities of

Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London have found that Rooks, a member of

the crow family, are capable of using and making tools. The research was carried out at

the University of Cambridge by Christopher Bird, a PhD student, and his supervisor, Dr.

Nathan Emery from Queen Mary University of London.

Rooks do not use tools in the wild state. But amazingly in captivity they quickly learn this

trick and were a step ahead of habitual tools users such as chimpanzees. When the

correct tool was placed out of reach, they went for another tool to get it.

In a fascinating experiment the rooks quickly learnd to drop a stone to smash a platform

and get a piece of food. They very easily mastered the right size and shape of stone

needed for the purpose without any training or prodding.

In another test, the rooks were able to use a hook tool to get food out of a tube. The birds

even managed to bend a straight piece of wire to make it reach the food.

The scientists presume that that rooks’ ability to use tools and fashion them for specific

purposes may be a by-product of a sophisticated form of physical intelligence rather than

tool use having evolved as an adaptive specialization.

The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of

Sciences (Online May 25, 2009)

Reproduction cycle of the Spanish Lynx Defined

from Faeces

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Researcher Teresa Abáigar Ancín, of the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA

- CSIC) arid areas experiment station has succeeded in defining reproduction cycle of the

Spanish Lynx (Lynx pardinus) from its faeces. She used an analysis of the sexual

hormones concentration- estrogen, progesterone and testosterone- in the feces of the

animal to arrive at her conclusions.

The present assumption that reproduction season is between January and February is

not based on any scientific report. It depends on scanty field data. The new research

unraveled the fact that the estrogen concentration levels in the feces of female lynxes are

very low when they are sexually inactive. At the beginning of the female reproduction

season there is a definite increase in the concentration of estrogen. It increases up to five

times. This allows scientists to accurately determine the exact moment of ovulation.

The ovaries are the organs that produce the hormones progesterone and estrogen.

Testosterone is produced by the testicles. These hormones go from the reproductive

organs to the bloodstream and then to the digestive system, from where they are

Tahrcountry Musings


expelled outside the body. Once the pregnancy ends, or if there is no pregnancy, the

production of estrogen hormones goes back to low levels until the next reproduction

cycle. Thus an accurate picture of reproduction cycle is easily generated.

The research also helped the scientists to determine the end of the puberty in Iberian

Lynx. The concentration levels were very low until they reached 22 months. From that

age onwards, the presence of this hormone increases enormously until it touches the

hormonal cycle of an adult lynx.

The results of the research will come in handy for the field management as well as

captive breeding of Lynx. The spinoff is expected to benefit other carnivores also.


Andalucía Innova (2009, May 26). Spanish Lynx Reproduction Cycle Determined By

Analysis Of Their Feces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27,

Whales – Good News from USA

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ships entering Boston harbor has been a constant threat to North Atlantic Right Whales.

Risk of collisions between large ships and whales was always a looming threat. More

than half of the world’s North Atlantic right whales are known to be in Boston area during

the spring Environmentalists have been clamouring for action for some time now. Slow

moving North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered whales in the world.

From June 1, ships of more than 300 gross tons will be asked to avoid an area in the

Great South Channel from April to July. Ships from southern side and entering Boston

Harbour will follow a different path. This is the time whales face the highest chance of

being struck by ships. The channel is a key feeding area for the North Atlantic right

whale. The International Maritime Organization has adopted both of these changes. The

new move is expected to bring down expected reduction in ship strikes by74%. On an

average 3,500 ships move through the Boston shipping lanes every year.

The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is one of three right whale species

belonging to the genus Eubalaena. They migrate between feeding grounds in the Gulf of

Maine and wintering and calving areas in Georgia and Florida. Adult right whales

measure 11–17 m in length and weigh up to 63,500 kg. The body of the whale is very

dark grey or black, occasionally with some white patches on the belly. Females are larger

than males. Forty percent of a right whale’s body weight is blubber. Females give birth to

their first calf at an average age of 9-10 The total population of North Atlantic right whales

is thought to be around 400 only.Gestation lasts approximately 1 year. It is believed that

right whales live at least 50 years.

There are two other species of right whale, Eubalaena australis, which lives in the

southern hemisphere and Eubalaena japonica, the North Pacific right whale.


Tahrcountry Musings

Environment – Individuals Can Make Big


Monday, June 01, 2009

Magnificent Example from Canada

In the pursuit of protecting the environment individuals can make a big difference. We

need not depend on Government initiatives or doles. Here is a magnificent example of

what one man can do for the welfare of the environment, from Mount Douglas Park,

Saanich, Canada.

Dick Battles has been awarded Saanich Environmental Award for his selfless work in

protecting the environment of Mount Douglas Park. Since 2001, Dick Battles has spent

well over 2000 hours in Mt. Douglas Park removing English ivy and other invasive

species. The effort was purely voluntary. He has singlehandedly removed ivy from large

areas. He has been striving relentlessly to increase public understanding and

appreciation for the value of native plants and natural areas. According to Saanich’s

Environmental Advisory Committee he is an exemplary ambassador for the park and

richly deserves recognition for his many years of environmental stewardship in Saanich.

Tahrcountry salutes this magnificent ambassador for Mount Douglas Park. His actions

speak louder than words and should be an inspiration for citizens round the world.

Here is a Surprise – Plants Can Recognize Self

from Non-Self

Monday, June 01, 2009

Here is an amazing piece of information from a recent research on plants done by Dr

Richard Karban from Department of Entomology, University of California and Dr Kaori

Shiojiri from Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University.

The scientists have gathered enough proof to come to the conclusion that Plants can

recognize self from non-Self. The Experiments were done on sagebrush plant (Artemisia

tridentate) and they have proved that the plants can recognize a genetically identical

cutting growing nearby. The two clones communicate and cooperate with one another, to

avoid damage by herbivores.

Identical experiments have shown that if a plant’s roots grow near an unrelated plant, the

two will try to compete for nutrients and water. On the contrary if the roots grow close to

another plant from the same parent plant, the two do not compete.

Dr Karban says the plants are capable of more sophisticated behaviour than we have


The scientists placed the cuttings near its genetic parent, or near unrelated sagebrush,

and let the plants grow wild in the University of California Sagehen Creek Natural

Reserve. The researchers clipped each clone they planted, inducing the same kind of

damage that might be caused by natural herbivores such as grasshoppers. After one

year, they found that plants growing alongside their damaged clones suffered 42% less

herbivore damage than those growing alongside damaged plants that were unrelated.

Tahrcountry Musings


The clipped plants appeared to be warning their genetically identical neighbours that an

attack was round the corner. But clipped plants didn’t appear to warn unrelated


The findings are sure to alter the way we look at plants and have much wider

ramifications when we think about it.

The details of the research are published in the journal Ecology Letters. (Volume 12

Issue 6, Pages 502 – 506)

Migration Pattern of Wild Animals Altered


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Migration of millions of Wildebeest across Serengeti Plains is familiar to anyone who

watches Discovery or National Geographic channel. It is an amazing phenomenon that

keeps us glued to the screen. People who have seen it first have been spell bound by the

spectacle. This magnificent natural phenomenon is in danger of disappearing from the

face of earth due to man’s avarice.

According to a new study by Dr Grant Harris from Center for Biodiversity and

Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and associates published in the

journal Endangered Species Research, all of the world’s large-scale terrestrial migrations

have been severely reduced and a quarter of the migrating species are believed to no

longer migrate.

D r Grant Harris says “Conservation science has done a poor job in understanding how

migrations work, and as a result many migrations have gone extinct”

Migration occurs when animals search for higher quality habitat or more abundant food.

Ecologically, there are two reasons attributed to food availability and subsequent

migration. In temperate regions of the world, higher-quality food shifts as the seasons

change, and animals respond by moving along well-established routes. In the case of

savannah ecosystems, rain and fire allow higher-quality food to grow. To track this

animals sometimes have to move across expansive landscapes.

Human activity has severely affected the landscape and this prevents large groups of

ungulates from tracking their food. Fencing, farming, and water restrictions have

contributed to the change. Over-harvesting of the animals themselves has played a role

in reducing the number of migrants.

Harris and his co-authors gathered information on all 24 species of large (over 20

kilograms) ungulates known for their mass migrations. The study covered Arctic tundra

(Caribou), Eurasian steppes and plateaus (Chiru and Saiga), North American plains

(bison and elk), and African savannahs (zebra and wildebeests).

All the 24 species in the current study lost migration routes and were reduced in number

of individuals. In North America, bison are still considered migratory, but their range is

now restricted to two small sites in Yellowstone and Alberta. Similar changes are found

on other continents where human activity has affected the ability of species to move to


Tahrcountry Musings

new patches of food.

For six species in particular the situation is alarming. The springbok (Antidorcas

marsupialis), black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou), the blesbok (Damaliscus dorcas),

and quagga (Equus quagga) of southern Africa; the kulan (Equus hemionus) of central

Asia; and scimitar horned oryx (Oryx dammah) of northern Africa either no longer migrate

or are impossible to be considered as migratory animals.

We are paying a heavy price for “development’ without any forethought about impact on


Posted with inputs from American Museum of Natural History

Galapagos Islands – Alien Mosquito Threat to


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mosquitoes brought to Galapagos by tourists by way of ships and aircrafts is posing a

serious threat to the wildlife there.

The endemic black salt marsh mosquito of Galapagos has lived on the Islands for

thousands of years. It is part of the ecosystem there and does not create any problem.

Scientists fear the endemic insect could pick up diseases from other mainland

mosquitoes brought to the Galapagos by tourists and then transmit the infections to the

rare wildlife on the islands which includes the giant tortoise, the marine iguana and the

flightless cormorant. Diseases such as West Nile fever are the conservationists’ bugbear.

Unlike other species of mosquitoes the black salt marsh mosquito distributed throughout

the island can feed on the blood of reptiles as well as mammals and birds.

The scientists believe that rather than controlling the islands’ own mosquito, there should

be a concerted effort to stop mainland mosquitoes from hitching a ride on ships and


The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

England – The Return of the Great Bustard

Friday, June 05, 2009

When there is heartwarming events regarding wildlife in any country it is celebration time

for conservationists across the globe. Here is some excellent news from England.

My British contacts tell me that the globally-threatened Great Bustard (Otis tarda) has

bred successfully in Britain for the first time since 1832. The last female with a chick was

observed in Suffolk 177 years ago.The reintroduction programme was started 5 years

back. Young birds from southern Russia were brought in for the programme. A female

produced two chicks last week. The authorities are very secretive about the site on

Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire for obvious reasons.

The bird is very charismatic. It finds a place on the coats of arms of Wiltshire and

Tahrcountry Musings


Cambridgeshire county councils and is on the badge of the Royal School of Artillery on

Salisbury Plain.

Great Bustard Fact Sheet

The Great Bustard is the only member of the genus Otis and is in the bustard family.

Even though the species is extinct in England Sizeable populations exist in Hungary,

Portugal, Slovakia, Russia and Spain. It may look like a rosy picture but the species is

declining due to habitat loss throughout its range. It is the national bird of Hungary. So

Hungary is taking special interest for its conservation.

An adult male bird is 90-110 cm in length and weighs around10 to 15 kg. The heaviest

recorded was 21 kg. The female is 30% smaller, 80 cm in length and weighs around 3.5-

5 kg. Despite their large size the birds can fly at a high velocity (around 60


The bird prefers open grassy lands and feeds on seeds, insects and other small

creatures, including frogs.

Great Bustards usually live for around 10 years, but some have been known to live up to

15 years.

Bats Can Recognize the Voices of Others of their


Sunday, June 07, 2009

According to a new study by researchers from the University of Tuebingen, Germany and

the University of Applied Sciences in Konstanz, Germany, bats have the ability to

recognize each other using voice cues.

The experiments were done on greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis). The

researchers first tested the ability of bats to distinguish between the echolocation calls of

other bats. Next in line was development of a computer model that reproduces the

recognition behaviour of the bats. The researchers after extensive trials and observations

concluded that signals contains individual-specific information that allows one bat to

recognize another. The analysis showed that each bat has a typical distribution in the

frequencies it emits, probably a result of the differences in each animal’s vocal chords.

According to the researchers the ability to use these continuously emitted calls for

recognition might facilitate many of the social behaviours observed in bats. The

comparison of the bats with the model strongly implies that the bats are using a prototype

classification approach: they learn the average call characteristics of individuals and use

them as a reference for classification.

The bats required 15–24 days before they were able to correctly recognize the individuals

in more than 75% of the trials.

Details of the research appear in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.



Tahrcountry Musings

The Voice of Bats: How Greater Mouse-eared Bats Recognize Individuals Based on

Their Echolocation Calls Yossi Yovel1, Mariana Laura Melcon1, Matthias O. Franz2,

Annette Denzinger1, Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler1

1 Animal Physiology, Institute for Neurobiology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen,

Germany, 2 University of Applied Sciences, Konstanz, Germany

World Oceans Day

Monday, June 08, 2009

Today the world is celebrating the World Oceans Day. This annual event serves to

remind all of us our responsibility to protect the world’s living ocean and conserve its

resources for present and future generations.

The world's ocean covers 70% of our planet, yet less than 1% of our ocean habitat is

protected. Beneath the surface of the ocean there is a mind boggling diversity of life. It is

estimated that more than one million species live on coral reefs alone. Scientists estimate

that at least ten million species live in the deep seas.

Ocean acidification and the warming of seawater temperature as a sequel to global

warming is a looming threat that needs to be addressed immediately. The impacts of

ocean warming and acidification associated with greenhouse gas emissions threaten the

livelihoods and food security of millions of people round the world and in many cases it

affects severely the most vulnerable people. The reduction of human induced stresses

like overfishing, pollution and unsustainable coastal development needs to be tackled on

a war footing.

June 8th is now officially designated as World Oceans Day by the United Nations.

Wildlife and Environment in Afghanistan- More

Encouraging News

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The war has taken a heavy toll of Afghanistan’s wildlife. Ecosystem in many areas has

been devastated by more than 30 years of conflict. By 2002, 52 percent of the forest

cover had been lost. The new threats that follow the war are contractors and the

development agenda. Habitat degradation has affected both the wildlife and the people.

In spite of all these problems Afghanistan still has lot of wildlife. It still has 9 felid species

compared to 11 for the African continent. Afghanistan has sizable populations of snow

leopards, Persian leopards and the charismatic Marco Polo Sheep, the world’s largest


The prophets of doom have been proved wrong. Amidst all the cacophony in

Afghanistan, things are looking up for the wildlife. Recently Afghanistan had designated

its first National Park in Band-e-Amir. Close on the heels of this comes another exciting


Afghanistan’s first-ever listing of protected wildlife list has been released by the

Afghanistan Wildlife Exectivbe Committee (AWEC) coming under Afghanistan’s National

Environment Protection Agency (NEPA). Thirty-three species twenty mammals, seven

Tahrcountry Musings


birds, four plants, one amphibian, and one insect finds place in the list. Protected species

include Snow Leopard, Wolves, Brown Bears, Goitered gazelle and paghman

salamander. The list also includes the Himalayan elm tree.

Afghanistan is also looking at the possibility of creating a network of parks. Conservation

is very critical in a country where so many people directly depend on local natural

resources for their survival. One man who has championed the cause of wildlife

relentlessly is the legendary wildlife biologist Dr. George B Schaller. Schaller’s dream is

to bring the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and China together in an

effort to develop a four-country transboundary park in the Pamirs to give a boost to the

protection of this unique mountain ecosystem.

WILD9 – The 9th World Wilderness Congress

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Registration is now open for the 9th World

Wilderness Congress

For the first time ever, the WWC will

convene in Latin America from 6-13

November, in the city of Merida, Yucatan, in

the heart of the Mayan world. Many of the

world’s leading conservation experts,

politicians, academics, corporations, artists,

native peoples, students and many others

will gather in Merida, Mexico to debate and

act upon the most urgent environmental

issues of our time.

With Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón as the Honorary Host of WILD9, the schedule is

already filled with leading names in conservation today. Wilderness and Climate Change

is a central theme – driving the message that protecting wild nature eliminates at least 1/4

of the carbon threat.

Other topics such as Freshwater and Underground Wilderness, Climate Change and

Biodiversity, Fire in Nature, Transboundary Conservation and Connectivity, Marine and

Oceanic Wilderness, and the Role of Human Communities in Nature will guide the

trainings, plenary sessions, local excursions, working and poster sessions, cultural

events and celebrations. In one of many associated sessions, the world’s best

conservation photographers will participate in the first RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual

Expedition) of Mexico’s unique Yucatan Peninsula.

WILD9 is a project of The WILD Foundation, Unidos para la Conservacion, and many

collaborating organizations, institutions and government agencies from Latin America and

around the world.

For the most up-to-date information, Subscribe to the WILD9 newsletter and visit the

WILD 9 website regularly!


Tahrcountry Musings

The Science behind the Taming of Animals

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

All of us have at some time or other wondered why some animals are easy to tame while

others are difficult if not impossible to tame. Here come answers to the riddle from the


In a path breaking research a team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Sweden have

discovered a set of genetic regions responsible for animal tameness. Most delighted

would be animal breeders, farmers, zoologists, and anyone else who handles and raises

animals. For them this will be a blessing indeed. This can also be used as a way to

produce tame animals.

Frank Albert, a scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in

Germany and the first author of the research is all excited about the prospects the new

research offers. He says “Maybe we would be able to domesticate a few of those species

where humans have historically not been successful like the wild African Buffalo.” The

study will lead to a detailed understanding of the genetics and biology of tameness.

The roots of this study date back to 1972 when researchers in Novosibirsk, USSR (now

Russia) caught a group of rats in the wilderness around the city. Some of the rats were

aggressive while others were tame. The scientists mated the tame with the aggressive

rats and identified regions in the rat genome that cause a rat to be tamer or more


End result of this research is that it offers clues about how genomes can be manipulated

to breed tame animals of species once believed to be untamable.

The details are published in the June 2009 issue of the journal Genetics


1. Albert et al. Genetic Architecture of Tameness in a Rat Model of Animal Domestication.

Genetics, 2009; 182 (2): 541 DOI: 10.1534/genetics.109.102186

A Bird that is faster than Jets

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A bird that outpaces a Jet sounds unbelievable and has the feel of a leaf out of science

fiction. But it is true. During courtship flights, male Anna’s hummingbirds sustain

accelerations that would put to shame a fighter pilot.

Chris Clark, a biologist at the University of California used high-speed video footage to

study the bird’s flight. His cameras were able to capture 500 frames per second. He has

shown that, relative to their body size, Anna’s hummingbirds are the fastest moving


And why does the bird push itself to such acrobatic displays? It is to impress the females

during courtship. To impress the females, the males drop out of the sky in U-shaped

Tahrcountry Musings


flights and as they dive they travel nearly 400 times their body length each second. It is

greater than the top speed of a fighter jet with its afterburners on, 885 metres per second,

or the space shuttle during atmospheric re-entry, 7,700metres per second. . Centripetal

accelerations reach 10 g, a force equivalent to 10 times the gravitational pull of Earth.

Fighter jet pilots can pass out at accelerations above 7 g.

Clark used decoy stuffed models of female birds for his experiment. The males readily

responded to the decoys.

Personally I am humbled by these mysteries of nature that is surfacing. We know so little

about nature and still we are going all out to damage our environment. We have only

scratched the surface.

The details of the amazing findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal

Society B.

Nature’s Delicate Tightrope Walk

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We still have not fully understood the intricacies of working of nature. We fiddle with it

sometimes with good intentions but end up getting counterproductive results. Here is an

example of how overzealous conservation efforts drove a species of butterfly, Large Blue

Butterflies’ (Maculinea arion), to extinction in UK but was brought back from the brink

after careful study and understanding of the ecosystem processes. The whole scenario

was the culmination of 40-year research effort by Dr Jeremy Thomas of the University of

Oxford in Oxford, UK.

The butterflies disappeared from Britain in 1979. Butterfly collectors were generally

blamed for the decline of this butterfly. This was far from the truth. The study throws light

on how the large blue butterflies’ dependence on a single species of ant led to the

butterflies’ disappearance.

Adult females of Large Blue butterflies lay their eggs on Thyme flowers in the summer.

The caterpillars secrete chemicals that attract red ants and fool them into thinking the

caterpillars are ant grubs. The ants carry the caterpillars into their underground nests.

Caterpillars that have been taken to the nest of one particular ant species, Myrmica

sabuleti, will survive to adulthood. The caterpillars’ secretions are a close match to those

of M. sabuleti grubs. Ants never discover that they have been fooled, and continue to

protect the caterpillars for 10 months even though they feed on the ants’ own brood. In

early June, the caterpillars form a chrysalis and crawl above ground. Two weeks later

they become full-fledged butterflies.

In their overzealous attitude to conservation the authorities initially fenced off the habitat

of the butterflies to prevent entry and give total protection to the butterflies. The scientists

soon realized that the grass in the butterflies’ habitat had grown too long, as grazing had

been completely stopped with the formation of fences. The soil characteristics also

changed. It was now too cool to support adequate numbers of M. sabuleti ants. Without

enough ants to raise their young, the large blue butterflies dwindled.

In the late 1970s, after 40 years of trying to save the large blue by preventing entry of

butterfly collectors, conservationists followed Dr Thomas’ recommendations, They


Tahrcountry Musings

restored the butterfly’ habitat by clearing scrub and reintroducing grazing animals.

Grazing was intimately associated with the ecological processes.

Starting in 1983, Thomas and his colleagues began introducing large blue butterflies

imported from Sweden, into the restored habitat. The butterflies started establishing. The

butterflies now occupy 30 percent more colonies than they had in the 1950s. The large

blue is now one of three butterflies on course to meet the Convention of Biological

Diversity’s target to reverse species’ declines by 2010. In the 1970s, the International

Union for Conservation of Nature selected three butterflies, the Large Blue, Queen

Alexandra’s Birdwing of Papua New Guinea and the monarch butterfly of North America

as global flagships for the cause of lepidopteran conservation.

The research paper is entitled, “Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea

Butterfly.” It is slated to appear in Science, at the Science Express website, on 18 June


Whisky and wildlife Conservation

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Whisky and wildlife conservation sounds a wee bit awry. But Scotland’s Famous Grouse

Whisky and RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) have a fantastic

ongoing programme worthy of emulation by others.

Money donated by Famous Grouse Whisky is utilized for conservation of endangered

iconic bird of Scotland the Grouse. This partnership was recently given the ‘Best

Partnership’ award at the Scottish Charity Awards (hosted by the Scottish Council for

Voluntary Organisations – SCVO). Famous Grouse is launching a new whisky which will

benefit the threatened black grouse. 50p per bottle will be donated from sales to the


RSPB’s uses the money for habitat restoration work for the threatened species. The deal

has raised £30 000 so far. Gregg Wilkie, Senior Marketing Officer with RSPB Scotland,

who initiated the Partnership, says “What better excuse is there to enjoy a dram of

Scotland’s national drink?”

Tahrcountry exhorts other business houses to follow this wonderful example.

Humans are Much Closer to Orangutans than

Chimpanzees – New Evidences

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Path breaking research by scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and the Buffalo

Museum of Science, headed by Dr Jeffrey H. Schwartz and Dr John R. Grehan, based on

DNA analysis, indicates that humans are much closer to orangutans than chimpanzees.

Till now the belief was that humans are closely related to chimpanzees. But this has

never been supported by fossil evidence.

The new report says humans, orangutans, and early apes belong to a group separate

from chimpanzees and gorillas. Schwartz and Grehan analysed hundreds of physical

Tahrcountry Musings


characteristics cited as evidence of evolutionary relationships among humans and other

great apes, the chimps, gorillas, and orangutan. They selected 63 that could be verified

as unique within this group. The rider was that they should not appear in other primates.

Analysis of these features found that humans shared 28 unique physical characteristics

with orangutans, compared to only two features with chimpanzees.

Schwartz and Grehan then examined 56 features uniquely shared among modern

humans, fossil hominid and fossil apes. They found that orangutans shared eight features

with early humans. Chimpanzees and gorillas were found to share only those features

found in all great apes. Schwartz and Grehan have classified humans, orangutans, and

the fossil apes into a new group called “dental hominoids,” named after their similarly

thick-enameled teeth.

One conundrum in the midst of all these evidences was that early human and ape fossils

are largely found in Africa, whereas modern orangutans are found only in Southeast Asia.

As an explanation they propose that the last common human-orangutan ancestor

migrated between Africa, Europe, and Asia at some point that ended 12 million to 13

million years ago. Plant fossils indicate that forests once extended from southern Europe,

through Central Asia, and into China prior to the formation of the Himalayas. Schwartz

and Grehan say the ancestral dental hominoid lived and roamed throughout this vast

area. As the Earth’s surface and local ecosystems changed, descendants of dental

hominoids became geographically isolated from one another.

The fascinating details of the study appears in the latest issue of Journal of Biogeography

Tracking Animals-Combining Indigenous Skills

and Modern DNA Analysis

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inuits of Canada have the uncanny ability to identify a Polar Bear’s sex, age and size

from its foot prints in the snow. Hunters have been utilizing these skills for a long time.

Now scientists are utilizing the skills along with modern technology to survey Polar Bears

that are becoming scarce.

Polar bears across the Arctic are imperiled due to overharvesting and climate change.

Reproductive and survival rates have declined due to changes in the sea ice. There are

currently 19 populations of polar bears in the Arctic, in Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway

and Greenland. Thirteen of these populations live wholly or partially in Canada.

The new project is headed by Biologists Peter V.C. de Groot and Peter Boag. In the new

method a number of “hair traps,” (fenced enclosures baited with meat) will be set up

about 15 kilometers apart across a 600 kilometer stretch of wilderness. Bits of hair left

behind by the bears as they attempt to grab the meat are sent to Dr. Boag’s lab, where

the number and sex of the animals are determined using DNA markers. As adjunct to the

experiment samples of bear feces are collected and genetically screened at the

Laboratory of Wildlife Diseases at the San Diego Zoo for the presence of pathogens that

may infect polar bears. Analysis of Polar bear footprints is part of Dr. de Groot’s tracking

method where Inuits’ skills come in handy. The new method is cheaper and much easier

than the current tracking practice, in which the bears are spotted from helicopters,

tranquilized and marked.


Tahrcountry Musings

The efforts of Canadian scientists are laudable. The skills of indigenous communities are

utilized in the research and management of wildlife. The communities stand to benefit

economically also. It is worthy of emulation by other nations.

Sweden Plumbs for Climate-friendly Food


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Swedish authorities have devised guidelines entitled ‘Environmentally-smart Food

Choices’, for climate-friendly food choices. The authorities have recommended to the

citizens to reduce their meat and rice consumption to help reduce greenhouse gas

emissions. According to the report meat is the food group that has the greatest impact on

the environment.

Meat consumption in Sweden has grown by an average ten kilos per person over the

past ten years and now totals 65 kilos

One kilo of beef contributes up to 15-25 kilos of greenhouse gases. This is ten times

more than the carbon footprint of the equivalent amount of chicken.

The authorities recommend that eating less meat, and making careful choices about what

is eaten, is the smartest environmental choice the citizens can make.

Further recommendations include eating seasonal, locally-produced fruits, vegetables

and berries, avoiding bottled water, soda and palm oil and limiting rice consumption as its

cultivation produces methane.

The Swedish authorities are the first in Europe to develop such recommendations. They

will be sent out to other EU countries for a broader discussion before it is implemented in


Extinction crisis Looms Large Over Open Ocean

(pelagic) Sharks and …

Friday, June 26, 2009

Overfishing and bycatch of Open Ocean (pelagic) Sharks and Rays is driving them to the

brink of extinction. A recent study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature

(IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, has set the alarm bells ringing. The study found that 32

percent of the species are threatened with extinction. They are now more threatened than

birds (12 percent), mammals (20 percent), and even amphibians (31 percent).

The demand for shark meat and fins are on the rise. Shark fin soup is considered a

delicacy in many areas. In finning the crudely is abhorrent. The fins are sliced off the

shark and the body tossed overboard. Sharks take many years to mature and have

relatively few young. So the effect of overfishing is profound.

IUCN has requested all countries to strictly enforce laws and protect the species

considered Critically Endangered and Endangered. 24 percent of the species are Near

Tahrcountry Musings


Threatened and 25 percent Data Deficient.

Here is a list of the shark species.

Endangered, 4 species

Ornate eagle ray Aetomylaeus vespertilio; Giant devilray

Mobula mobular ; Scalloped hammerhead Sphyrna lewini ;

Great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran.

Vulnerable, 16 species

Whale shark Rhincodon typus; Smalltooth sand tiger

Odontaspis ferox; Pelagic thresher Alopias pelagicus;

Bigeye thresher Alopias superciliosus; Thresher shark

Alopias vulpinus; Basking shark Cetorhinus maximus;

Great white Carcharodon carcharias; Shortfin mako Isurus oxyrinchus; Longfin mako

Isurus paucus; Porbeagle shark Lamna nasus; Tope shark Galeorhinus galeus; Oceanic

whitetip shark Carcharhinus longimanus; Dusky shark Carcharhinus obscurus; Sandbar

shark Carcharhinus plumbeus; Night shark Carcharhinus signatus; Smooth hammerhead

Sphyrna zygaena.

Near threatened, 15 species

Frilled shark Chlamydoselachus anguineus; Bluntnose sixgill shark Hexanchus griseus;

Spotted eagle ray Aetobatus narinari; Manta Oceanic Manta birostris; Spinetail devilray

Mobula japanica; Crocodile shark Pseudocarcharias kamoharai; Silvertip shark

Carcharhinus albimarginatus; Bronze whaler Carcharhinus brachyurus; Spinner shark

Carcharhinus brevipinna; Silky shark Oceanic Carcharhinus falciformis; Galapagos shark

Carcharhinus galapagensis; Bull shark Carcharhinus leucas; Blacktip shark Carcharhinus

limbatus; Tiger shark Semipelagic Galeocerdo cuvier; Blue shark Prionace glauca.

For more information please contact:

• Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0127, m +41 79 528 3486, e

[email protected]

• Rob McNeil, International Media Director, Conservation International, t +1 703 341

2561, e [email protected]

• M o n a S a m a r i , S h a r k A l l i a n c e , t + 4 4 ( 0 ) 7 5 1 5 8 2 8 9 3 9 , e

m o n a @ c o m m u n i c a t i o n s i n c . c o . u k

Danger List of World Heritage Sites Needs

Radical Change – IUCN

Monday, June 29, 2009

IUCN considers that the Danger List of World Heritage Sites needs radical change if it is

to remain an effective conservation tool. Many nations do not realize the fact that it is

intended to be a constructive conservation tool, which mobilizes the international

community to support national efforts.


Tahrcountry Musings

Putting a site on the danger list is often seen by Governments as criticism and opposition

follows from the unenlightened quarters.Taking umbrage shows a poor understanding of

the whole concept. IUCN strongly opines that the list of World Heritage in Danger needs

to be re-established as a way to ensure and maintain credible standards for protecting

the world’s natural and cultural treasures.

According to Tim Badman,IUCN’s Special Advisor on World Heritage,the World Heritage

List in Danger is not working as it was intended and it needs an overhaul. The danger list

is intended to turn international concern in to real conservation results. The World

Heritage Committee which met in Seville last week added two natural sites to the danger

list; Los Katios National Park and the Belize Barrier Reef. A third threatened site was not


The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra was not added to the List of World Heritage

in Danger, despite IUCN’s recommendation.Road construction, illegal logging, poaching,

uncontrolled tourism, as well as insufficient support from the government, are among the

threats facing the site. Survival of key species, such as the Sumatran tiger, rhino,

orangutan and elephant is hanging in balance.

Posted with inputs from IUCN

To read the full report, please click here

For more information please contact:

* Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations Officer, m +41 79 857 4072, e

[email protected]

* Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations Officer, m +41 79 528 3486, e

[email protected]

Photos and audio material available here

No Upadates for 2 Weeks

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

For the coming two weeks I will be travelling to places where I have no access to the

internet. So there won’t be any updates to the blog during this period

Back on the Net

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hi Guys,

I am back on the net. Sorry about this inordinate delay in posting. I was hamstrung by a

lack of access to the internet during my sojourn

Tahrcountry Musings


Rhinos- WWF Rings Alarm Bells

Thursday, August 06, 2009

According to WWF sources Rhinos are in a desperate situation. Poaching driven by

demands from some Asian countries is casting a shadow on the very existence of rhinos.

Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai nationals are mainly behind this racket of poaching.

Between 2000 and 2005 an estimated two to three Rhinos were killed a week. The total

population worldwide is around 18,000 only. At least 12 rhinoceroses are being poached

each month in South Africa and Zimbabwe alone. About 10 rhinos have been poached in

India and at least seven in Nepal since January 2009. The combined population of India

and Nepal is only 2,400.

According to WWF lack of adequate law enforcement and a low level of prosecutions for

poachers are the main reasons for the plight of rhinos. Many Governments are

lackadaisical in their ways of administering wildlife reserves.

WWF has exhorted the Governments concerned to crack the whip and come down on

organized criminal elements responsible for this trade. Only tough actions can ensure

future survival of rhinos

Environmentally Responsible Traps for Pest

Hornets are Round the Co…

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Hornets are a nuisance. They raid beehives and ravages fruit crops. This makes them a

serious pest to man. Thanks to new research, a way out is round the corner. The cue

comes from nature itself. Read on.

Orchids usually have nothing of value to offer their pollinators. To overcome this

drawback nature has devised ingenious ways. Orchids lure the pollinators with the scents

of more rewarding flowers or potential mates.

Scientists have now discovered that a species of orchid, which lives on the Chinese

island of Hainan, Dendrobium sinense, fools its hornet pollinator (Vespa bicolor) by

issuing a chemical that honeybees use to send an alarm. Hornets capture honeybees to

serve as food for their larvae. The deception by the dendrobium by secreting this

particular chemical makes the hornets pounce on orchid flowers as though they were

attacking prey. Result is pollination by proxy.

Scientists have identified the chemical responsible for this aggressive behavior by the

hornets. It is Z-11-eicosen-1-ol. The chemical is a major compound of honeybees’ alarm

pheromone. Here comes the clue for making an environmentally responsible trap for Pest

Hornets. Details of the study have been published online on August 6th in Current


Here is yet another reason for conserving our biodiversity. For many of our headaches

there are remedies in nature. We do not have to run after toxic chemicals. Humans are

concerned about short term gains only and plunder the nature without blinking an eyelid.


Tahrcountry Musings

We tend to forget the big picture in nature. It is high time we realized our follies and start

paying more attention to holistic conservation.

Dogs are Smarter than We Thought

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Leading canine researcher Dr Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia has

come up with some new surprising information about dogs. The researcher says dogs

have the ability to solve complex problems and are more like humans and other higher

primates than previously thought. They understand more than 150 words and have the

ability to intentionally deceive other dogs and people to get treats. According to Dr Coren,

dogs’ mental abilities are close to a human child age 2 to 2.5 years.

Dr Coren says. “There are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is

bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems)

and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’).” The average dog can

easily learn 165 words, including signals. Dogs can also count up to four or five.

Impressively dogs can learn the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the

environment (the fastest way to a favorite chair), and how to operate mechanisms (such

as latches and simple machines). Dr coran says dogs are as successful in deceiving

humans as humans are in deceiving dogs.

Dr Coran gave the new insights when he spoke at the American Psychological

Association’s 117th Annual Convention

New standards for Graphically Representing

Biological Information

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Till now, biology lacked a standardized notation for describing biological interactions. This

was a big drawback in pursuing biological research. The vacuum was clearly felt by many

scientists. This has just been overcome by dedicated research and development.

Scientists from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and their colleagues from 30

labs round the world worldwide have devised a new set of standards for graphically

representing biological information. The innovators have described it as biology

equivalent of the circuit diagram in electronics.

The project which was initiated by Hiroaki Kitano of the Systems Biology Institute in

Tokyo, Japan, is coordinated by Nicolas Le Novère of the European Molecular Biology

Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, England, and senior

research fellow Michael Hucka, co-director of the Biological Network Modeling Center at

Caltech’s Beckman Institute.

The new standard is called the Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN). SBGN will

make it easier for biologists to understand each other’s models. This will also help them

share network diagrams effectively. SBGN is bound to act as a facilitator for the

emergence of new industries devoted to the creation of software tools for working with

SBGN, and its teaching and publication. SBGN combines an intuitive notation with the

Tahrcountry Musings


rigorous style of engineering and math

To ensure that the newly developed system does not become too vast and complicated,

the researchers decided to define three separate types of diagram, which defines

molecular process, relationships between entities, and links among biochemical activities.

These different types of diagrams complement each other by representing different

“views” of the same information, presented in different ways for different purposes. This

approach reduces the complexity of any one type of diagram while broadening the range

of what can be expressed about a given biological system.

The new standard was published in the August 8 issue of the journal Nature


Excellent Use for Throwaway Mango Seeds


Friday, August 14, 2009

Mango seeds are thrown away without a second thought after relishing the pulp. Here is

a surprise discovery. Christina Engels from the University of Alberta has found a way to

turn the throwaway mango kernels in mangoes into a natural food preservative that could

help prevent food poisoning caused by various bacteria. Listeriosis outbreaks originating

from contaminated preserved meat had killed 21 Canadians last year.

Ms Engels extracted pure tannins from the mango kernels and found that they have

proven inhibitory effects against various strains of bacteria. She did the work to earn her

master’s degree from the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the

University of Alberta

Mango is ranked fifth in world production among the major fruit crops. So the scope for

commercial utilization of the discovery of Ms Engels is enormous. The discovery also

underlines the need to preserve out biodiversity. Multifarious benefits are yet to be fully

tapped. We have only scratched the surface of this cornucopia. A gold mine is waiting to

be tapped. But man is destroying the biodiversity for short term benefits.

Details of the research are published in the latest issue of Journal of Agricultural and

Food Chemistry.

Birds that have a Penchant for Aromatherapy

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The mysteries of nature are always a source of wonder. Think of cleansing your home.

You thought only humans do it? Wrong. Scientists have discovered that birds also do it.

The information came from observations of Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) nests. Blue tits

use medicinal plants to disinfect their nests. The birds line their nests with aromatic plants

to kill bacteria. Plants such as mint (Mentha suaveolens) and lavender (Lavandula

stoechas), are used. Scientists observed significant change in the composition of

bacterial communities living on blue tit nestlings after the aromatic plants were introduced

by the birds in the nests.


Tahrcountry Musings

According to scientists different birds prefer different aromatics, regardless of their local


There is mystery surrounding the selection of aromatic plants. For example, in a territory

with big bushes of lavender, for some unknown reason blue tits collect mint that can only

be found far away from their nests. Scientists are keen to find out the reasons behind

these personal preferences.

Adele Mennerat and colleagues from France’s National Centre of Scientific Research,

based in Montpellier, and the University of Toulouse were behind this fascinating


The details of the research appear in the journal Oecologia.

Giant Panda Update – China Celebrates 140th

Anniversary of the Disc…

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It was Pere Jean Pierre Armand David, a French Catholic missionary, who introduced

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca )to the western world 140 years back. He took the

first photograph of the animal in 1869 in Sichuan.

To commemorate the event twenty hikers from various provinces of China have started

climbing the mountain trails covering 350-km followed by Pere David. They are expected

to reach the Ya’an Bifengxia Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre on Aug 25th.

China plans to make the event an awareness creation venture and hopes to attract more

people to join the protection programme of the endangered giant pandas.

It is estimated that about 1,590 pandas live in the wild in China in Sichuan, Shaanxi and

Gansu provinces. The first giant panda protection zone was established in the

1950s.China currently has 27 giant panda protection zones. Pandas once used to roam

the mountains in central and south China, and in Myanmar and Vietnam. Now they live

precariously in limited pockets in China. China has artificially-bred giant pandas in an

effort to give a boost to its protection.

May 12th earthquake last year had devastated the panda protection centre in Wolong

Nature Reserve. This was subsequently moved to Bifengxia, about 130 km northwest of

Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. A new breeding center is coming up at Wolong to

replace the quake-damaged centre.

Pandas are solitary animals. They come together only during the mating season. Pandas

are usually vegetarian, with bamboo forming 99% of their diet. Occasionally they

consume meat. They reach sexual maturity between ages 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 years and mate

during March, April, and May. A single cub is born five months after the mating. The new

baby is born in a nest constructed of bamboo. The cubs are weaned after nine months,

but often stay with their mothers for about two years. Wild pandas are estimated to have

longevity of 15 to 25 years. Captive pandas have been known to live over 30 years.

Chinese scientists were recently successful in sequencing of the giant panda genome.

Tahrcountry Musings


Giant panda genome sequence will enable more detailed studies of giant panda

populations in the wild

Environmentalists round the world are happy about the enthusiasm shown by China for

the protection the iconic Giant Panda. Tahrcountry joins them in wishing the Chinese

Godspeed on this 140th Anniversary.

Why flamingos stand on one leg

Monday, August 17, 2009

Have you ever wondered why flamingos stand on one leg? I have pondered over this

many a time. Several hypotheses have been offered in the past, but none of them were

very convincing.

Here comes a convincing explanation. Scientists Matthew Anderson and Sarah Williams

from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia think they have the answer. Their studies

indicate that Flamingos stand on one leg to regulate their body temperature

The research began by seeing whether the birds show any preference over which side of

their bodies they use for various tasks. They found that flamingos prefer to rest with their

heads on one side more than the other. Which side a flamingo rests its head is

determined by how aggressive it is toward others in the flock. This led the researchers to

investigate whether flamingos also prefer to stand on one leg more than the other, and

why they stand on one leg. They spent several months observing the habits of captive

Caribbean flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber) at Philadelphia Zoo, Pennsylvania.

The researchers found that flamingos prefer to stand on one leg far more often when they

are standing in water than when standing on land. As water invariably draws away more

body heat, this result supports the thermoregulation hypothesis. In other words birds

stand on one leg to conserve body heat. The birds also switch their legs to avoid one leg

becoming too cold.

The scientists do not rule out the possibility that there may be added benefits as well as

conserving body heat.

Details appear in the latest issue of journal Zoo Biology

Bugs and the Art of Fooling The Ants

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mutualism exhibited by Acacia plants and ants is a well known phenomenon. The plants

provide the ants with shelter and food in the form of nectar and protein. As a quid pro quo

the ants defend the tree against anything that comes near the trees in the form of insects,

birds and small mammals.

One species of bug, in the family Coreidae, is an exception. These bugs exploit the

plants without giving anything in return. They cleverly outwit the defending ants.

Scientists have been long puzzled by this phenomenon.

Susan Whitehead of the University of Colorado decided to have a closer look at this

phenomenon of how the bugs fool the ants.


Tahrcountry Musings

Ants use pheromones to communicate with one another. Whitehead presumed the bugs

were mimicking the scent of the ants. When the bugs were immobilized the ants still did

not attack them. But when the researchers washed the bugs in a chemical solvent and

returned them to the plants, the ants immediately attacked the bugs.

The key to this puzzle was the removal of chemicals on the bugs’ exoskeleton. Resorting

to chromatography and spectrometry, the researchers compared the bugs’ exoskeletal

chemicals with that of the ants. The scientists were bang on target. The chemicals in the

bugs’ cuticle matched that of the ants. The bugs were mimicking the hydrocarbons that

the ants produce and the ants don’t recognize them as something foreign.

Details of this interesting piece of research work is published in the current issue of

journal PloS One

A Little Known Fact about Carl Linnaeus

Monday, August 31, 2009

Carl Linnaeus is known as the father of modern taxonomy. There are no arguments

about it. Recently I was surprised to get to know about another fascinating facet of Carl

Linnaeus that is not known to many.

Carl Linnaeus is the inventor of the index card. The pioneering scientist had to deal with

vast amount of data. It was at times very perplexing. To overcome the problems

presented by this gargantuan data he came up with the revolutionary invention: the index


Index cards solved many of the problems faced by researchers. They could be shuffled

around and retrieved for updating and comparing information. An unheralded invention

that was way ahead of his time.

Tahrcountry is glad to share this fascinating information about this pioneer of information

retrieval with the readers.

Chimpanzees that have developed multiple tool


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chimpanzees in the Congo have developed tool kits to feed on army ants. The finding is

the outcome of the research led by Dr Crickette Sanz. Dr Sanz recovered 1,060 tools and

collected 25 video recordings of chimpanzees using the tools. Till now there have been

no reports of regular use of more than one type of tool. 36% of recovered tools sets

contained two types of tools, nest perforating tools and ant-dipping probes.

The new research suggests that chimpanzees are selecting tools depending on the

characteristics of the ant species. The researchers think these techniques’ ensure

sustainable harvesting as the ants will stay in that location allowing the chimpanzees to

revisit this renewable source of food. Chimps have been observed re-using tools which

Tahrcountry Musings


have been discarded by other individuals during previous visits.

Details of the research appears in the latest issue of the journal American Journal of


Saola the Rare Asian Animal Facing Extinction

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) the rare Asian animal is staring in the face of

extinction. Saola inhabits remote valleys of the Annamite Mountains along the border of

Lao PDR and Vietnam. It was discovered only in 1992 and is restricted to a small range.

The wild population is not more than a few hundreds. The IUCN Red List of Threatened

Species lists Saola as critically endangered

Saola resemble the desert antelopes of Arabia, but are more closely related to wild cattle.

Saola have rarely been seen or photographed by scientists. None is held captive in any

zoo, anywhere in the world. The white facial markings and long tapering horns makes the

animal a picture of beauty.

The direct threat to the species is hunting. Snaring and hunting with dogs is adopted by


Conservation biologists under the auspices of the International Union for Conservation of

Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) met in Vientiane, Lao PDR, from

August 19-21, to address the extinction threat.

At the meeting the following points were highlighted for the conservation of the species

• Improved methods to detect Saola in the wild;

• Radio tracking to understand the animal’s conservation needs;

• Heightened awareness in Lao PDR, Vietnam and within the world conservation

community of the perilous status of the species; and

• Markedly increased donor support for Saola conservation.

It would be a shame if this beautiful animal goes extinct.

Out in the Wilderness

Friday, September 04, 2009

For the next 10 days I will be travelling to wilderness areas inconnction with my recce of

Nilgiri Tahr areas. There is absolutely no possibility of getting internet access

National Moth Night in UK

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thousands of people will take part to report sightings of moths in a national attempt to

track the movements of moths in UK.

Akin to bird ringing 13,000 moths will be released over the weekend marked with small

spots of poster paint. Members of the public will record the sighting and the data sent to

scientists. Moth night was launched in 1999 and has taken place annually.


Tahrcountry Musings

The event was founded by Atropos (the journal for butterfly, moth and dragonfly

enthusiasts) and it is now run jointly with UK charity Butterfly Conservation . The event is

intended to produce information about moths, and raise awareness about the declines in

moth populations.

2,500 different types of moth are seen in UK. Only six of these have been known to

damage stored clothing.

Mark Tunmore is the National Moth Night co-ordinator in UK

Coming- Micro aircrafts Inspired by locusts

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A micro-aircraft that flies with the maneuverability and energy efficiency of locusts is

round the corner. This has been made possible after decoding the aerodynamic secrets

of locusts.

Dr John Young, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, and a

team of animal flight researchers from Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, used

high-speed digital video cameras to capture how the shape of a locust’s wing changes in

flight. They used that information to create a computer model for detailed analysis.

Locusts fly extremely long distances on very limited energy reserves. This has always

been a riddle. Now scientists are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and hope to

design a micro-light with the efficiency of the wings of locusts.

Details of the interesting study appear in the latest issue of journal Science.

Uncertain Future for Grizzly Bears in Canada

Monday, September 21, 2009

In Canada a sudden drop in the numbers of wild bears have been noted on salmon

streams and key coastal areas where they would normally be feeding. Alarmed

conservationists have started lobbying the government to suspend the annual bear-

hunting season.

Environmentalists say that a dearth of salmon stocks may be responsible for the drop in

numbers. According to them many bears are starving in their dens during hibernation. In

the Fraser river on Canada’s west coast, 10 million sockeye salmon were expected back

to spawn this summer. Against the estimate only one million turned up.

Many people have rubbished the apprehensions of the environmentalists but

conservation group Pacific Wild says shortage of food is a serious problem and is driving

the grizzlies into town. Reports from stream walkers, who monitor salmon streams have

been very consistent the group adds.. The government has promised a count of bears at

the end of this season. Environmentalists are still pessimistic about the government


Tahrcountry Musings


V World Conference on Mountain Ungulates-

Preparations Right on Sch…

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The preparations for the V World Conference on Mountain Ungulates is fast apace and

right on schedule. The organizing committee is working hard to make the conference a

resounding success. The committee is leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of


We at the Tahrcountry are very sure that this conference will be a memorable one.

Fresh Hope for Critically Endangered Giant Sable

Antelope of Angola

Sunday, September 27, 2009

There is new hope on the horizon for the critically endangered Giant Sable Antelope

(Hippotragus niger variani) of Angola. Fewer than 100 of these iconic animals that are

revered by locals are believed to exist, a sequel to Angola’s 27-year civil war.

Now a new breeding program to save the species from extinction has just been launched.

After painstaking six years of monitoring and tracking, scientists at the Catholic University

of Angola in Luanda have finally managed to capture 10 purebred antelopes, which will

form the core of am ambitious breeding program. The project is still in its infancy and has

a long way to go.

Giant Sable Antelopes live in herds of 10 – 30 individuals Giant Sable Antelopes prefer

wooded savanna and tall grass near water sources. They stand around 120 – 140

centimeters at the shoulder and weigh between 200 and 270 kilograms. They are

herbivores and feed on grass, leaves and herbs and have a preference for those that

grow on termite mounds. After a gestation period of around 9 months, the female gives

birth to a single young. The young are weaned around 8 months and becomes sexually

mature between 2 and 3 years. The life span of a Giant Sable Antelope is around 17


Blog Action Day 09

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the

same issue on the same day. The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global


Blog Action Day was founded by Collis & Cyan Ta’eed in the summer of 2007. With the

support of their team at Envato in Australia as well as numerous volunteers, they

recruited over 20,000 bloggers to write about the issue of Environment on October 15,

2007 – making the first Blog Action Day an immediate and quite unexpected success.

Topic for Blog Action Day 2009 is Climate Change and the date is October 15. Do join


Tahrcountry Musings

the movement and make it a trailblazer.












Twitter Posts

Friday, October 02, 2009

I am very very busy nowadays. I may not be able to post regularly.Follow me on twitter.

Follow tahrman

The Plight of Romania’s Wildlife

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Romania’s protected area system is under threat. It is on the verge of collapse. Dwindling

resources and bureaucratic hurdles are contributing to the plight of Europe’s largest

remaining natural forests. The Romanian forests also house more than half of Europe’s

populations of bears, wolves, and other large carnivores. It also contains the globally

important Carpathian Mountains and Danube Delta ecoregions.

Salaries of many park rangers and other staff have not been paid for months.

Communication networks are in disarray. WWF says the situation is now critical and

wants Romanian government to take immediate action to address the crisis faced by the

country’s protected areas and their tremendous natural wealth.

Tahrcountry feels that the situation is not within the ambit of control of Romania alone.

The financial position is indeed very bleak. We feel that European community should chip

in with help to tide over the present difficult situation. The bureaucratic set up in Romania

should come out of the present lethargy. Avenues are there to pursue which they are not

doing. Wake up guys

Serious Hikers and Backpackers tend to become

Supporters of Environ…

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just read this interesting article about the relationship between Serious hikers and

backpackers and support of environmental and conservation groups. I found it topical and

very interesting.

Tahrcountry Musings


Oliver Pergams, visiting research assistant professor of biological sciences at the

University of Illinois and Patricia Zaradic, director of the Red Rock Institute in

Pennsylvania along with Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy has

come up with some interesting findings. They have found that only people who engage in

vigorous outdoor sports, like hiking and backpacking, tend later to become supporters of

mainline conservation groups. Those who only go sightseeing or fishing do not become

hardcore conservationists.

The scientists say the key to conservation awareness and support is to spread the

message of conservation to children early in life with appropriate educational programs

that introduce them to vigorous outdoor recreation. If we don’t do this they are not going

to care about nature when they get older.

The findings have important bearing for conservation. Environmental groups depend on a

very narrow base of support. This base is shrinking with economic downturn. Pergams

says the finding is a wake-up call to environmental groups that their base is shrinking.

Details of the research are reported in the journal PLoS ONE dated October 09.

Plants can Recognize Their Siblings

Friday, October 16, 2009

Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered that plants can recognize

their siblings. The study was led by Harsh Bais, assistant professor of plant and soil

sciences at the University of Delaware. The ID system of the plant is in the roots and the

chemical cues they emanate. The discovery has implications for the future of agriculture

and even home gardening.

In 2007 Susan Dudley, an evolutionary plant ecologist at McMaster University in

Hamilton, Ontario, and her colleagues had observed that when siblings are grown next to

each other in the soil, they “play nice” and don’t send out more roots to compete with one

another. In the contrary the moment one of the plants is thrown in with strangers, it

begins competing with them by rapidly growing more roots to take up the water and

mineral nutrients in the soil. Bais wanted to find the mechanism behind the sibling

recognition and set up a study with wild populations of Arabidopsis thaliana.

Young seedlings were exposed to liquid media containing the root secretions or

“exudates” from siblings, from strangers (non-siblings), or only their own exudates. The

length of the longest lateral root and of the hypocotyl, the first leaf-like structure that

forms on the plant, was measured. In one experiment, the root exudates were inhibited

by sodium orthovanadate, which specifically blocks root secretions without imparting

adverse growth effects on roots. The exposure of plants to the root exudates of strangers

induced greater lateral root formation than exposure of plants to sibling exudates.

Stranger recognition was abolished upon treatment with the secretion inhibitor.

Bais noted that Strangers planted next to each other are often shorter, as so much of

their energy is directed at root growth. Siblings does not compete against each other and

their roots are often much shallower. He also observed that sibling plants grow next to

each other, their leaves often will touch and intertwine compared to strangers that grow

rigidly upright and avoid touching.


Tahrcountry Musings

Details of the research appear in the journal Communicative & Integrative Biology.

Watch out- Drinking water from plastic bottles

made with the toxic …

Saturday, October 17, 2009

According to a new study by researchers from Harvard University and the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention, drinking water from plastic bottles made with the toxic

chemical bisphenol A (BPA), increases urinary levels of the chemical by nearly 70

percent. The chemical is widely used in plastic drinking bottles, infant bottles. Resins that

line cans of food and infant formula also contain this chemical. Babies are being exposed

to the chemical unwittingly.

BPA, an industrial chemical that makes plastics hard and transparent has been shown to

disrupt the hormonal system. This could in turn lead to reproductive defects, brain

damage, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.

The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Health


The Dilemma of GM Foods. Is it Hobson’s


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Disturbing news about GM foods is coming from UK. GM has already penetrated the food

supply in UK. Of the 2.6m tonnes of soya imported into the UK last year, nearly two-thirds

was genetically modified. GM soya oil finds a place in the catering industry. It has come

to a position where if you buy food from the supermarket shelf, you would find traces of

GM in it.

The argument touted by protagonists of GM food that GM food is very essential to feed

the burgeoning population cuts no ice. A UN-sponsored review, involving more than 400

international scientists have already concluded that GM technologies are unlikely to have

more than a limited role in tackling global food shortage.

According to activists the multinational seed corporations, Cargill, ADM and Bunge are

behind spreading the myth of food shortage. In less than three decades, intellectual

property rights have been sanctioned to 82% of the global seed market. Multinational

firms control nearly half of the total global market in proprietary seeds, worth $22bn a

year. The share is like this, Monsanto 23%, DuPont 15% and Syngenta 9%.

The multinational firms are working overtime in many countries to push their seeds and

attain monopoly over seed supply. So watch out

Tahrcountry Musings


The Plight of The African Elephants

Monday, October 19, 2009

I was saddened to read this article about the plight of the African elephants, in Telegraph,

UK. If urgent steps are not immediately implemented the animals could be gone in

another 15 years time. What a shame.

The population of African elephants currently standing at 600,000, is diminishing at the

rate of 38,000 each year. This clearly exceeds the birth rates. In 2006 alone 11 metric

tonnes of illegal ivory were seized from ships bound for Taiwan and Japan. Chad’s

Zakouma National Park had 3,885 elephants in 2005 but by 2009 the figure had come

down to 617. 11 rangers were killed by poachers during the same period.

Stopping the legal ivory sales worldwide is must if we are to come out of this vortex.

Kenya’s proposal to extend the current “resting period” on elephant and ivory sales from

nine to 20 years at the next CITES meeting in March 2010 should also be actively


Tahrcountry exhorts environmentalists’ worldwide to raise their voice.

Logged Rainforests Can be Made Productive with

Imaginative Planning

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New research at the University of Leeds has found that Logged rainforests can support

as much plant, animal and insect life as virgin forest within 15 years if properly managed.

The research compared biodiversity of birds in three adjoining areas of tropical forest in

the north-east of Borneo. First site selected, a managed one, is the oldest and largest

area of rehabilitated forest in the tropics which was logged around 20 years ago. The

Second site is a naturally regenerating area of forest which was logged at the same time.

The third is a conservation area of unlogged forest.

The researchers found that the number and range of species of birds in rehabilitated

tropical forest recovered to levels very close to those found in unlogged forest after just

15 years. Forest that was left to regenerate naturally showed less diversity.

Because tropical forest trees soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide, restoring logged

forest through planting new trees could also be used in carbon trading. The new research

has shown that it is possible to have both carbon sequestration and biodiversity benefits

within the same scheme

Details of the research appears in the latest issue of Conservation Biology


Tahrcountry Musings

Good Read – Endangered species for every

country in the world

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I just read this interesting article in Guardian about endangered species of the world. The

thrust is on how Humans have accelerated the rate at which species disappear.

11,686 species have been classed as endangered. US host the lion’s share with 10%.

About 6% of the total species are in Brazil. Even the tiny island nation of Singapore

has100 endangered species.

Read the full article here

Fascinating Paper on Predator-Prey relationships

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The latest edition of Ecology Letters has a fascinating paper on the relationship between

Predator-Prey authored by Daniel R. MacNulty et al

MacNulty has followed 94 radio-collared wolves in Yellowstone for 13 years. MacNulty

was puzzled by some of his observations. The breeding pair in one of the packs in

Yellowstone National Park he was monitoring frequently stopped during the elk hunts to

rest. He says they sat on the sidelines while their offspring did the work. After their kids

made the kill, they would amble up to feed. T he two adult wolves were almost 5 years

old, which is fairly old age for wolves. Wolves are old when they’re 4. Those older wolves

manage to survive because the younger ones in their pack kill the elk and let all the pack

members to feed.

MacNulty observed that the wolves’ kill rate on elk in Yellowstone declined significantly as

the number of older members in the wolf population increased. Ecologists are starting to

realize that age needs to be taken in to reckoning, in models of predator-prey abundance.

The usual ploy of managers who want to boost numbers of elk is to kill wolves. This study

clearly shows we are probably increasing the problem by this practice as we end up with

younger wolves that kill more prey.

Eyes of Mantis Shrimp Could Inspire Design of

Sophisticated DVD and…

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Mantis Shrimp research conducted at the University of Bristol’s School of Biological

Sciences in collaboration with colleagues at UMBC, USA and the University of

Queensland, Australia is likely to inspire a new generation of highly sophisticated CD and

DVD players.

The Mantis Shrimps is found on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. These shrimps have

the most complex vision systems known to science. They can see in twelve colours .

Humans see in only three colors. Mantis Shrimp can also distinguish between different

Tahrcountry Musings


forms of polarized light.

Artificial devices only tend to work well for one colour of light while the natural mechanism

in the mantis shrimp’s eyes works perfectly across the whole visible spectrum of light.

This natural mechanism, comprised of cell membranes rolled into tubes outperforms

synthetic designs by all counts. Scientists believe that it could help us make better optical

devices in the future using liquid crystals that have been chemically engineered to mimic

the properties of the cells in the mantis shrimp’s eye.

Details of the research appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature Photonics.

Tiger Moth Uses Ultrasonic Clicks to Jam Bat’s

Sonar and Escape Death.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tiger Moth (Bertholdia trigona ) make up to 450 ultrasonic clicks in a tenth of a second to

jam bat’s sonar and escape death. This discovery was made by Aaron Corcoran, a Wake

Forest University graduate student, and William Conner, professor of biology at Wake

Forest. High-speed infrared video cameras were used to record the interactions between

predator and prey. The researchers also recorded the high-frequency sounds made by

both the bats and the moths during each interaction.

The moth clicks back using a paired set of structures called “tymbals. This disrupt the

bat’s echolocation cycle. The researchers are yet to discover exactly how the jamming


Sonar jamming extends the defensive repertoire available to prey in the long-standing

evolutionary arms race between bats and insects.

Details of the research appears in Science magazine

Light as an Aid for Bird Migration

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Latest research on European Robins is making established facts about migration of birds

on its head. Scientists have discovered that In European Robins, a visual center in the

brain and light-sensing cells in the eye and not magnetic sensing cells in the beak allow

the songbirds to sense which direction is north and migrate correctly.

Researchers have known that built-in biological compasses tell migrating birds which way

to fly, but the details of how birds detect magnetic fields has been unclear.

Special proteins called cryptochromes in the birds’ eyes may mediate this light-

dependent magnetic sensing according to the scientists. Light hitting the proteins

produces a pair of free radicals, highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. These

electrons have a property called spin which may be sensitive to Earth’s magnetic field.

Signals from the free radicals may then move to nerve cells in cluster N, ultimately telling

the birds where north is.


Tahrcountry Musings

To find the location that houses the magnetic compass the scientists caught 36 migratory

European robins and made sure that the birds could all orient correctly under natural and

induced magnetic fields. Next, the researchers performed surgeries on the birds to

deactivate one of the two systems. The team either severed the nerve that connects the

beak cells to the brain, or damaged the brain cells in cluster N that receive light signals

from cells in the eye.

Birds with the severed beak-to-brain nerve, called the trigeminal nerve, still oriented

perfectly. On the other hand, birds with damaged cluster N regions could no longer sense

and orient to magnetic fields. These robins failed to pick up both the Earth’s natural

magnetic field and the artificial fields created by the researchers.

Details of the study appear in Nature dated October 29th.

Pesticides: Easier Detection of Pollution and

Impact in Rivers Made…

Friday, October 30, 2009

Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have

developed a tool that can easily estimate the harmful effect of pesticides on living

organisms in rivers and on water quality. This can be done in minutes.

Pesticides cause characteristic changes to the composition of the life community that is

affected. What is required is to find out which living creatures, e.g. insects and crabs, are

found at a certain point along the river and in what numbers. The scientists have now set

up a Web application where this data can be entered and evaluated to show immediately

the level of pollution.

Regional data is currently available for Germany, France, Finland and Western Siberia,

but the system has also been tested in the UK and in Australia. There is no charge for

using the service. The advantage of the new tool is that in many cases, complex,

expensive chemical analyses will no longer be necessary.

Journal reference:

Beketov M.A., Foit K., Schäfer R.B., Schriever C.A., Sacchi A., Capri E., Biggs J., Wells

C., Liess, M. SPEAR indicates pesticide effects in streams – comparative use of species-

and family-level biomonitoring data.Environmental Pollution, 157(6), June 2009

Fascinating Mating Habits of Seahorses

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Did you know that Seahorses are the only species in which males truly become


The other day I read a fascinating piece on the mating habits of Seahorses in Guardian


Seahorses inhabit a wide stretch of the oceans. It is a misconception that they are

restricted to warm azure waters of equatorial shores.

Tahrcountry Musings


As mating prelude Seahorses greet each other with a nose-to-nose caress. Then they

wrap their tails around a single blade of grass and begin a seductive dance, spiraling

round and round each other. The first time a seahorse couple meets, this gentle courtship

carries on for hours, days even. Then a short hollow tube emerges from the female,

which she pushes into an opening in her partner’s belly and the female shoots an egg-

laden liquid into the male. The male then sways and wiggles his body, settling the eggs

into position where they will remain for the next few weeks, growing in a protected

internal pond.

So what makes them the male of the species if they get pregnant?” The simple answer is


If you want to read the full story click here

Back in Kochi

Friday, November 27, 2009


I am back in Kochi after attending the 5th World conference on Mountain ungulates. The

conference was a revelation. The present status of mountain ungulates worldwide was

discussed threadbare by the leading lights of conservation. I stand benefited immensely

from the proceedings of this wonderfully organized conference. Hats off to the organizers.

New Method for Counting Birds Developed

Friday, November 27, 2009

It was fascinating to read about this new acoustic technique developed by , Deanna

Dawson of the US Geological Survey and Murray Efford of the University of Otago, New

Zealand, for counting birds. The acoustic technique gives a more accurate estimate of

bird numbers than using nets to capture birds.

Deanna has worked out a way of using recordings of birdsong to accurately measure the

size of bird populations. The technique involves innovative combination of sound

recording with spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR). Sound spreading through a

forest or other habitat leaves a ‘footprint’ and the size of the footprint depends on how

quickly the sound attenuates.

The new technique can also be used to measure hard-to-reach populations of marine

mammals, such as whales and dolphins.

The findings have been published in the latest issue of the British Ecological Society’s

Journal of Applied Ecology.


Tahrcountry Musings

Smallest Orchid in the World Discovered

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dr Lou Jost, an American botanist has discovered the world’s smallest orchid in the Cerro

Candelaria reserve in the eastern Andes of Ecuador. Dr Jost, who works for the

EcoMinga Foundation, is one of the world’s leading orchid hunters.

The discovery was quite accidental. The orchid was hidden among the roots of a larger

plant. The orchid is just 2.1mm wide. The petals of the flower are just one cell thick and


More than 1,000 orchid species have been discovered in Ecuador in the past century.

Dr Jost has also recently discovered a group of 28 types of orchid of Teagueia genus

evolved in a mountainous area the size of London. Discovery of 28 closely related

orchids in such a small patch of land has been described as a botanical equivalent of

Darwin’s finches by the scientists.

Gift Ideas from Nature Conservancy

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Nature Conservancy works for you and future generations through great science and

smart partnerships in nature conservation. The organization is working around the world

to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The

Conservancy and its more than one million members have protected nearly 120 million

acres worldwide.

Here are some gift gift ideas from Nature Conservancy that will help protect some of the

world’s most precious habitats for future generations.

Top 5 Green Holiday Gifts:

Adopt an Acre – in the US or abroad:


Plant Trees in the Atlantic Forest, each tree is just $1


Adopt a Coral Reef


Help Save the Northern Jaguar


Give the Gift of Clean Water


View all available eco-friendly holiday gifts at: http://www.nature.org/giftguide

Tahrcountry Musings


Leading Climate Change Scientist Arraigns the

Copenhagen Summit on …

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I read this good piece of writing on Copenhagen summit on climate change in Times

Online. Here is a gist of what I read.

Dr James Hansen acclaimed as the grandfather of global warming has branded the

Copenhagen summit on climate change next week as a farce. Dr Hansen is the director

of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an adjunct professor at Columbia

University’s Earth Institute in New York. His was one of the first voices to raise the alarm

about rising global temperatures in the early 1980s. His predictions are coming amazingly


Dr Hansen says the conference is seeking a counter-productive agreement to limit

emissions through a “cap and trade” system. He told The Times that “They are selling

indulgences there. The developed nations want to continue basically business as usual

so they are expected to purchase indulgences to give some small amount of money to

developing countries. They do that in the form of offsets and adaptation funds.” “The

fundamental problem is that fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy. As long as they

are, they are going to be used,” he said. “It’s remarkable. They refuse to recognise and

address the fundamental problem and the obvious solution.”

Dr Hansen continues “We are going to have to move beyond fossil fuels at some point.

Why continue to stretch it out longer? The only way we can do that is by putting a price

on carbon emissions. The business community and the public need to understand that

there will be a gradually increasing price on carbon emissions. The world must be

prepared to abandon coal unless its emissions are captured and embrace a new

generation of nuclear power”

A Window that Washes Itself

Friday, December 04, 2009

Yesterday I read this very interesting piece of info on Eurekalert. A window that washes

itself is now a distinct possibility.

Tel Aviv University researchers have made a breakthrough in assembling peptides at the

nano-scale level that could make this futuristic vision come true. The research began as

an attempt to find a new cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The scientists have not manufactured the actual material but are developing a basic-

science technology that could lead to self-cleaning windows and more efficient energy

storage devices in just a few years. Coated with the new material, the sealed outer

windows of skyscrapers may never need to be washed again. It can repel rainwater, as

well as the dust and dirt it carries.

Details of the research appears in the latest issue of journal Nature Nanotechnology


Tahrcountry Musings

Biodiversity Loss Can Put You at Greater Risk of

Catching Infectiou…

Sunday, December 06, 2009

New research suggests that biodiversity loss may put you at greater risk for catching

some nasty disease.

According to the researchers, University of Vermont biologist Joe Roman, EPA scientist

Montira Pongsiri, and seven others lots of new diseases are emerging and diseases that

were once local are now global. A host of new infectious diseases like the West Nile

Virus have appeared. Diseases like malaria have reasserted themselves and spread.

The present research is the first linking spread of diseases with biodiversity change,

decline and extinction. Investigation in Peru was the first to demonstrate that malaria

transmission can rise in response to deforestation. It appears that loss of the structural

diversity provided by trees led to higher density of Anopheles darlingi mosquitoes, a

potent transmitter of malaria, as well as to higher biting rates. The new research brings

epidemiology and ecology together.

The researchers conclude “The standard argument for protecting biodiversity is often

that, well, there are medicines out there and you don’t want to destroy a forest where you

might have a cure for cancer," he says, "and that's true -- but I don't think that's as

compelling as the argument that if you cut down the forest you or your kids are more

prone to infectious diseases.”

Details of research appear in December issue of the journal BioScience available online

on Dec. 7.

EcoCradle- Green alternative to polystyrene

packaging made from far…

Monday, December 07, 2009

EcoCradle, the green alternative to polystyrene packaging made from farm waste and

mushrooms is just off the block. The inventors are Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, classmates

from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

The product uses 10 times less energy to produce, and biodegrades into a natural

fertilizer. It is created using almost no energy, and almost no CO2 emissions. The

production cost is comparable to that of polystyrene.

Environmentalist world-wide are pinning lot of hopes on this new material.

Tahrcountry Musings


Out of Station

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Between 20th and 28th I will be travelling to areas with no internet facility. There won’t be

any update during this period.

I take this opportunity to wish all of you A Very Happy Christmas

Best Wishes

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010 is the international year of biodiversity. Best wishes for your conservation mission

during the year 2010.

Cross-border conservation efforts can yield better

results than goi…

Monday, January 04, 2010

After extensive research, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in

Australia have found out that Cross-border conservation efforts can yield better results

than going it alone by individual states.

The researchers zoomed in on the terrestrial Mediterranean basin for their study due to

its complexity. It holds over 25 countries with 250 million people and it is an important

global biodiversity hotspot with many endemic and rare species. Currently, conservation

efforts are largely uncoordinated across the whole region. The study found that there

could be a saving of 45 % in costs of conservation if efforts of endemic vertebrates’

research were coordinated across Mediterranean ecosystem. This works out to $67-

billion in savings.

Countries across the globe can take leaf out of this path breaking research.

The details of the study appear in “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

of the USA”.

04/01/2010 09:00:06

Evidence of Culture in Wild Chimpanzees

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Researchers Thibaud Gruber, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK, Budongo

Conservation Field Station, Masindi, Uganda; Martin N. Muller, University of New Mexico,

Albuquerque, NM, Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Fort Portal, Uganda; Pontus Strimling,

University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK; Richard Wrangham, Kibale Chimpanzee

Project, Fort Portal, Uganda, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and Klaus Zuberbuhler,

University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK, Budongo Conservation Field Station, Masindi,

Uganda have come up with fascinating evidence of culture in Wild Chimpanzees. The


Tahrcountry Musings

word “Culture” here refers to a population-specific set of behaviors acquired through

social learning, such as imitation. 15 years were spent in the field to come up with these

fascinating observations.

The study clearly showed that neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda used

different tools to solve a problem like extracting honey trapped within a fallen log. Kibale

Forest chimpanzees use sticks to get at the honey, whereas Budongo Forest

chimpanzees rely on leaf sponges that they make out of chewed leaves. The researchers

say the difference in tool use was that chimpanzees resorted to preexisting cultural

knowledge in trying to solve the novel task .This is in contrast to an animal or human

learning something on his or her own through trial and error.

Details of the research appears in Current Biology

Heroic behaviour among animals is far more

common than previously t…

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The mysteries of nature are a constant source of wonder for me. Here is something that

seems improbable.

Research by Dr Elise Nowbahari, from the University of Paris has come up with

fascinating evidence of heroic behaviour among animals.

Dolphins endanger themselves to rescue trapped dolphins, lifting an injured dolphin to

the water’s surface so that the trapped dolphin can breathe

Monkeys will drive away an attacker from a vulnerable female or infants.

Female fruit bats help other fruit bats in labour for easier birth.

Ants frequently help other ants from the same colony if they are caught in traps or by a


Dr Nowbahari has drawn up a four-point model that could be applied to the behaviour of

any creature, including humans, to identify heroic acts.

Details of the work is published in the latest issue of Communicative and Integrative


Safe and Ecologically Sound Pesticide from

Scorpion Venom

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Here is yet another reason for conserving biodiversity. Scorpion venom is coming to the

succor of agricultural industry.

Scorpions deliver a complex cocktail of poisonous peptides which has the power to

immobilize animal prey on the spot. However, some of the toxins in this cocktail damages

Tahrcountry Musings


only insects. Prof. MichaelGurevitz from Tel Aviv University has harnessed this property

to create a safe and ecologically sound pesticide.

Prof. Gurevitz developed genetic methods for producing and manipulating the desired

toxins in bacteria. He then investigated how they act against insects and mammals.

Some neurotoxins in the scorpion are highly active against some insects like leaf-eating

moths, locusts, flies and beetles ― but have no effect on beneficial insects like honeybees

or on mammals like humans. This has great potential for the agriculture industry.

The agriculture industry already uses mostly pyrethroids that can penetrate into insects

and attack their nervous systems, leading to paralysis and death. The main drawback of

this method is that, they lack specificity and the danger these compounds pose to the

environment, livestock and humans.

The new research thus brings in a very safe alternative to dangerous traditionally used


Details of the research appears in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution

Grasshoppers and their relatives that pollinates


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Here is a surprise. Grasshoppers and crickets like most members of the insect order

Orthoptera are notorious for eating plants rather than helping them. Scientists have

discovered that Grasshoppers and their relatives can pollinate plants like bees. The

finding has come from the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, where a cricket was

observed pollinating an orchid. Till now the process of pollinating was the preserve of

honey bees, ants, beetles, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, birds and bats.

The pollination by cricket was recorded on a camera trap set up by orchid researcher

Claire Micheneau in a Réunion forest. The species involved was an orchid called

Angraecum cadetii.

Dr Micheneau’s discovery has been published in the latest issue of journal Annals of


Breeding area of the Large-billed reed warbler,

the world’s least k…

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Amidst the grim scenario in Afghanistan here comes something to cheer about.

Researchers of the Wildlife Conservation Society have discovered for the first time the

breeding area of the large-billed reed warbler in the remote Wakhan Corridor of the Pamir

Mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan. Large-billed reed warbler was rated in 2007 by

‘BirdLife International’ as “the world’s least known bird species”. Practically nothing is

known about this species. The first specimen was discovered in India in 1867. It was

more than a century later that a second discovery of a single bird was made in Thailand

in 2006.


Tahrcountry Musings

Ornithologists around the world are excited about the discovery. Details appear in the

latest issue of BirdingASIA. The authors include: Robert Timmins, Naqeebullah

Mostafawi, Ali Madad Rajabi, Hafizullah Noori, Stephane Ostrowski and Colin Poole, of

the Wildlife Conservation Society; Urban Olsson of Göteborg University, Sweden; and

Lars Svensson.

Ecuador Throw Up New Surprises

Friday, January 15, 2010

A team of scientists working for Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International, in a

threatened rain forest around Cerro Pata de Pájaro in Ecuador have discovered a gecko

so small it can perch on top of a pencil. Other fascinating discoveries include a species of

snail sucking snake, 30 varieties of frog, four previously unseen types of stick insect and

salamanders that have dispensed with lungs and breathe entirely through their skin.

Some of the frogs lay their eggs in trees, rather than in water

The sad part of the story is that the area is being rapidly deforested. About 95% of the

trees have been felled. Mans’ avarice know no bounds.

Establishment of ‘knots’ by Mice While Exploring

a New Environment

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Path breaking research by Anna Dvorkin and Ilan Golan of Department of Zoology, Tel

Aviv University Tel Aviv, Israel, and Henry Szechtman of Department of Psychiatry and

Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada have come

up with fascinating insights in to the “Knots” established by mice and their significance.

“Knots” established by mice are preferred places visited sporadically and marked by the

formation of twists and turns. Research suggests that the tortuous movements improve

the interpretation of the visual scene, enhance the memory of the place and provide the

mouse with multiple views that turn the established places into navigational landmarks.

Using advanced computational tools the researchers establish how a particular type knot

is formed and then used by mice. It shows clearly how the animals map the environment,

and what they try to accomplish. Until recently, rodents’ exploration of an open field has

been considered to be largely random.

Details of the research appear in the latest issue of PLoS Computational Biology.

Tahrcountry Musings


Race to Save One of the Rarest Plant Species in

the World

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scientists are working overtime to save one of the rarest plant species in the world. This

is the Bastard Gumwood tree (Commidendrum rotundifolium) found on the tiny South

Atlantic island of St Helena. The tree is dying.

To keep the Bastard Gumwood in existence, it has to be pollinated so that it will produce

a fertile seed which in turn will grow new seedlings. This is not an easy task.

The tree is under netting to prevent insects cross-pollinating with its near neighbour, the

False Gumwood. Because there are no other individuals in existence, the tree must self-

pollinate, which is not happening.

Every day, botanist Phil Lambdon from Kew Gardens and his team uses small paint

brushes to collect pollen grains, which they spread from one flower to another. But

pollination is not happening. Scientists are flummoxed by the tree’s refusal to pollinate


According to Dr Lambdon only around 1 in 10,000 pollen grains have the small genetic

mutation which will allow self-pollination to take place. Scientists are keeping their fingers

crossed. The only way of knowing whether the seeds produced are fertile is to plant


The scientists hope that these efforts will be more successful than with the St Helena

Olive, which was also only found here, but which went extinct in 2003

The Bornean Orangutan that Acted as a


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The latest issue of journal Primates has a very fascinating paper on a Bornean

Orangutan that acted as a peacemaker in a dispute.

It was Dr Tomoyuki Tajima of Kyoto University in Japan, who recorded the behaviour

along with his colleague Mr Hidetoshi Kurotori, a keeper at the Tama Zoological Park in

Tokyo. The intervention by the Orangutan ended the squabbles to ensure that they do

not get out of control. It is the first time that an orangutan has been seen behaving in this


The conclusions were arrived at from observing five orangutans, comprising two adults,

two juveniles and an infant, housed at the Tama Zoological Park. During this time, one of

the juveniles, a six-year-old female named Kiki, was introduced to the group. A much

older female called Chappy, estimated to be 34 years old, became repeatedly aggressive

toward Kiki, and was observed chasing or physically attacking kiki on 28 separate

occasions. During 19 of these squabbles, another orangutan intervened, physically

stepping between the two squabbling apes, to separate them. The peacemaker was an

elder female orangutan called Gypsy, who is estimated to be 51 years old. A young


Tahrcountry Musings

juvenile male called Poppy was also observed to step in to quell the trouble.

Similar peacemaking behaviour has been seen in gorillas and chimpanzees, but these

are naturally group-living apes. Wild orangutans usually prefer to lead relatively solitary

lives and it is the first time that peacemaking efforts have been recorded in them


Post from K.V Uthaman

Friday, January 22, 2010

Initial protection before planting at Nettur

on the bank of Kuyyalipuzha during 1997

Mangrove raised during 1997 is just

coming up at Nettur

Mangrove raised during 1998 is coming up

at Nettur-photo of 2000

Mangrove plantation during 2004 at Nettur

Mangrove restoration is not a pipe dream.

Here is an example of what dedicated work

can do.

Now read on what Uthaman writes.


Mangrove forests are comprised 0f special plant community, which are salt tolerant and

thrive in intertidal zones of sheltered tropical shores and estuaries. Mangrove trees have

specially adapted aerial and salt-filtering roots and salt-excreting leaves that enable them

to occupy the saline wetlands where other plant life cannot survive. Mangrove species

can propagate successfully in a marine environment because of special adaptations like

viviparity. Mangrove forests are vital for healthy coastal ecosystems. The forest detritus,

Tahrcountry Musings


consisting mainly of fallen from the mangroves, provides leaves and branches nutrients

for the marine environment and supports immense varieties of sea life in intricate food

webs associated directly through detritus or indirectly through the planktonic and

epiphytic algal food chains.

Mangroves are highly productive habitat. They stabilize shorelines, providing them with

protection from storm surges and ocean currents. Mangroves serve as a buffer zone

between land and sea. Mangroves help prevent soil erosion & reclaim land from seas.

They serve as a breeding area and nursery grounds for a number of marine organisms.

An estimated 75% of fish caught commercially spend some time in the mangrove or are

dependent on food chains, which derive from these coastal forests. Mangroves shelter for

many wildlife species. The surface soil of mangrove swamp is alternatively inundated and

drained. It supports animals such as crabs, amphibians, reptiles, air-breathing fishes, and

mammals, whose distributions are governed by degree of tidal penetration and by nature

of the substratum. Sediments trapped by the mangrove roots prevent silting of adjacent

marine habitat. Mangrove plays a great role in nutrient cycling & carbon export. There is

constant movement of living matter into and out of the mangrove swamp. They serve as

a reservoir in the tertiary assimilation of waste.

Kerala had good extent of mangroves over 700 Km2. But most of them destroyed in the

flood of development. They were treated as wastelands. A report by Dr. Chand Basha

shows the extent as 16.7 Km2 during 1992. At present only a few pockets of remnants

are found in the estuaries of Kerala. Major portion of existing mangroves come across in

Kannur District. Kerala Forest Department initiated protection and afforestation of

mangroves during 1997. The mangroves raised during that period are coming up well.

The regeneration works of mangroves started with ‘rubber band’ technology where in the

wildling/seedling is tied, to a bamboo stake/splits which is driven in mud flat, by rubber

band. This was warranted for protecting the seedling from the wave action felt in shores.

Afterward the seedlings were raised in nursery and planted in the field giving support with

bamboo stakes. The mangrove afforestation works at Thalassery, Kannur, were done

when I served as Range Officer.


Thank you Uthaman .That sure is an eye opener. I would like to get more success stories

from you.

Mangrove Regeneration – More Pictures from


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Initial work near Moidu bridge near Dharmadan on the bank of Dharmadam river

Initial work near Moidu bridge near Dharmadan on the bank of Dharmadam river

Work of regeneration of mangrove in progress at Moidu bridge

“Bamboo encasement” method tried at Moidu bridge. Here the seedlings were planted in

bamboo after removing it’s inter nodes, so as to give protection to the seedlings from

heavy wave action


Tahrcountry Musings

View after 6 years near Moidu bridge near

Dharmadan on the bank of Dharmadam




Prairie dogs- The Chatterbox of Animal Kingdom

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I read this fascinating piece of information about Prairie dogs In Telegraph.UK

Biologists studying Prairie dogs have discovered that they have one of the most

sophisticated languages in the animal kingdom, rivalled only by humans. Till now the

belief was that mankind’s closest relatives, primates, and mammals such as dolphins

were likely to be the most talkative species after humans. The surprising discovery was

made by Professor Con Slobodchikoff, a biologist at Northern Arizona University.

Prairie dogs are highly social animals and live in large colonies called towns. The town

can span hundreds of acres of the grasslands of North America. When a threat was

Tahrcountry Musings


perceived they used loud panic calls to alert other members of the colony.

The bark of Prairie dogs contains surprising amounts of information that can describe

colours, size, directions of travel and even speed. They used specific calls for different

types of predator. As an example Professor Slobodchikoff says “a human walking

through the prairie dog town with a blue shirt produces a call that is subtly different from

the same human wearing a yellow shirt”.

Details about his path breaking research can be gleaned from Natural World – Prairie

Dogs: Talk of the Town to be broadcast on BBC Two on Wednesday 3 February at 8pm

Some More Mangrove Pictures from Uthaman

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Which wall is better?The one on the left(Masonry structure), costs lakhs where as the

one on the right(Mangrove) costs a few thousand. A mangrove regeneration area on the

bank of Eranholi river near Thalassery)

Sad story – Mangroves are felled at

Valapatanam in the name of development

Development at the cost of mangrove – A

Govt aided prawn farm at Eranholi

A fish farm of ADAK at Eranholi. Another

sad example of lopsided development


Tahrcountry Musings

Gecko inspired microelectronics

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Gecko sticks to the smooth of surfaces via strong van der Waals force between its

millions of hairs. This has inspired researchers at Rice University to come up with a way

to transfer forests of strongly aligned, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) from one

surface to any other surface in a matter of minutes.

The template used to grow the nanotubes, with its catalyst particles still intact, can be

used repeatedly to grow more nanotubes. Researcher Cary Pint says it is akin to inking a

rubber stamp. Researchers hope to develop sensors, highly efficient solar panels and

electronic components with the new technique. This could be scaled up easily, for

embedding nanotube circuitry into electronic devices.

Details of the research appear in the online version of the journal ACS Nano.

  1. Van der Waals’ forces are forces that exist between molecules of the same substance

and are quite different from the forces that make up the molecule. The forces are named

after the Dutch physicist Johannes van der Waals.

Cambridge University’s compilation of top 50

books on sustainability

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I was fascinated to read in Guardian.UK, the list of top 50 green books selected by

Cambridge University.

University of Cambridge’s programme for sustainability came up with the list of top 50

‘green’ books. The university requested its alumni of around 2,000 senior leaders from

around the world who have participated in its sustainability programmes over the past

decade or more, to list some of their favourite “sustainability” books. Out came a list of

the most influential and thought-provoking books of all time.

Have a look at the list

The full list (in alphabetical order)

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the battle Against World Poverty, by Muhammad


Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine Benyus, 2003

Blueprint for a Green Economy: by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward B.

Barbier, 1989

Business as Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits and Principles, by Anita

Roddick, 2005

Tahrcountry Musings


Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, by John

Elkington, 1999

Capitalism as if the World Matters, by Jonathon Porritt, 2005

Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity, by Stuart Hart,


Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment,

by Stephan Schmidheiny and WBCSD, 1992

The Chaos Point: The World at the Crossroads, by Ervin Laszlo, 2006

The Civil Corporation: The New Economy of Corporate Citizenship, by Simon Zadek,


Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, by Jared Diamond, 2005

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, by Joel Bakan, 2005

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and

Michael Braungart, 2002

The Dream of Earth, by Thomas Berry, 1990

Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen, 2000

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, by Paul Hawken, 1994

The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, by Nicholas Stern, 2007

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, by Jeffrey Sachs, 2005.

Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resources Use-A Report to the Club of Rome, by

Ernst Von Weizsäcker, 1998

False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, by John Gray, 2002

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side on the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser, 2005

A Fate Worse than Debt: The World Financial Crisis and the Poor, by Susan George,


For The Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment

and a Sustainable Future, by Herman Daly and John Cobb, 1989

Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, by C.K.

Prahalad, 2004

Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, by James Lovelock, 2000

Globalization and its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz, 2002

Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, by George Monbiot, 2006

Human-Scale Development: Conception, Application and Further Reflections, by Manfred

Max-Neef, 1991

The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism: The Quest for Purpose in the Modern World, by

Charles Handy, 1999

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can

Do About It, by Al Gore, 2006

The Limits to Growth, by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows and Jorgen Randers,


Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace, by Ricardo

Semler, 1993

The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else,

by Hernando De Soto, 2000

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory

Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, 2000

No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, by Naomi Klein, 2002

Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism, by George Soros, 2000

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, by Buckminster Fuller, 1969

Our Common Future, by The World Commission on Environment and Development,


The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, 1969


Tahrcountry Musings

Presence: An Explanation of Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society, by

Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers, 2005

The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future, by Elizabeth C.

Economy, 2004

Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, 1949

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, 1962

The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg, 2001

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, by E.F. Schumacher, 1973

Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development, by Vandana Shiva, 1989

The Turning Point: Science Society and the Rising Culture, by Fritjof Capra, 1984

Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile, by Ralph

Nader, 1965

When Corporations Rule the World, by David Korten, 2001

When the Rivers Run Dry: What Happens When Our Water Runs Out? by Fred Pearce,


Wildlife and Habitat Conservation News:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Click on the link below for a good article on beneficial aspects of forest fire

Wildlife and Habitat Conservation News:

Posted using ShareThis

The Retaliation of the Fig Trees When Fig Wasps

Don’t Service Them

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mysteries of nature are always a source of wonder. Reading about figs and fig wasps

made me realize that we have only scratched the surface in our endeavour to solve the

mysteries of nature. We are yet to fathom lot of facts from the abysmal ocean. It is a

known fact that Fig wasps lay their eggs inside the fruit where the wasp larvae can safely

develop, and in return, the wasps pollinate the figs. But here is the surprise. Scientists

have discovered that when a wasp lays its eggs but fails to pollinate the fig, the trees get

even by dropping those figs to the ground, killing the baby wasps inside. The researchers

of this fascinating study are Charlotte Jandér, a Cornell graduate student in neurobiology

and behavior, who conducted the study as a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

predoctoral fellow and Edward Allen Herre, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian institute in

Panama. Details of the research appears online on Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the

Royal Society B

Tahrcountry Musings


My Friend Rajiv and Carnivorous Plants

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The other day I was talking to my friend Rajiv from Calicut. Rajiv is an electronics

engineer by profession but crazy about wildlife and nature conservation. Rajiv had just

returned from hiking in Munnar areas and our conversation veered towards carnivorous

plants. The carnivorous plant we have in High Ranges, Drocera peltata, traps tiny

insects. It is locally known as Kosuvetty. Translated in to English it means the plant that

traps mosquitoes. Rajiv wanted to know whether there are plants that can trap small

animals. When I told him about the Nepenthes attenboroughii that can trap a rat he was

surprised. He told me that many people are not aware of it and requested me to put the

details on my blog. So here it goes. Nepenthes attenboroughii was discovered in 2007 by

Alastair Robinson, Stewart McPherson and Volker Heinrich in the central Philippines and

is large enough to catch a rat. The plant was formally described only in 2009 and is

named after naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough. The plant preys on insects

and animals that fall into its gaping maw. Nepenthes attenboroughii occur only on the

summit of one mountain in Palawan, Philippines. Nepenthes rajah, the only species of

pitcher plant bigger than N. attenboroughii, has been known to digest rodents since the

British naturalist Spencer St John discovered a drowned rat in a specimen in Borneo in

1862. The formal description of Nepenthes attenboroughii was published as; Robinson

A.S., A.S. Fleischmann, S.R. McPherson, V.B. Heinrich, E.P. Gironella & C.Q. Peña,

2009. “A spectacular new species of Nepenthes L. (Nepenthaceae) pitcher plant from

central Palawan, Philippines”, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 159(2): 195�202.

Eat Your Greens – Grandmas Advice is Very


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Peanuts are an excellent source of protein. But eating peanuts and peanut butter may

expose you to Aflatoxin, a carcinogen. Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National

Laboratory have discovered that eating leafy greens is an excellent way to neutralize the

potential Aflatoxin.

Lawrence Livermore researchers Graham Bench and Ken Turteltaub found that giving a

small dose of chlorophyll (Chla) or chlorophyllin (CHL) found in green leafy vegetables

could reverse the effects of aflatoxin poisoning.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring carcinogenic mycotoxin that is associated with the

growth of two types of mold: Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Food and

food crops most prone to aflatoxin contamination include corn and corn products,

cottonseed, peanuts and peanut products, tree nuts and milk.

The team initially gave each of three volunteers a small dose of carbon 14 labeled

aflatoxin (less than the amount that would be found in a peanut butter sandwich.) In

subsequent experiments the patients were given a small amount of Chla or CHL

concomitantly with the same dose of carbon 14 labeled aflatoxin. The Chla and CHL

treatment each significantly reduced aflatoxin absorption and bioavailability.

The research, which is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Resource


Tahrcountry Musings

for Biomedical Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, appeared in the December issue of the

journal, Cancer Prevention Research.

Well-designed plantations Can Provide the Same

Ecosystem Services a…

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Forest plantations have acquired a bad reputation when it comes to biodiversity. Against

this background I was fascinated to read about the latest research by Alain Paquette from

the Université du Québec à Montréal. According to Alain Paquette not all plantations

need to be biological deserts. Observations of Alain Paquette came from his latest

research. He goes on to add that well-planned plantations can actually alleviate some of

the social, economic and ecological burden currently being placed on natural forests. In

addition, these biologically diverse, multi-purposed plantations can mitigate climate

change by sequestering carbon, off-setting deforestation and reducing ecological strain

on natural forests. The researchers found that plantations were capable of alleviating the

ecological stressors placed on natural forests when used within an integrated forest

zoning approach—that is, when rules are enforced to ensure any increase in plantations

is matched by protected areas within the same landscape. The researchers says that

even industrial monocultures can produce meaningful ecological services when managed

correctly Paquette says “We have to look beyond the rows of uniform trees and evaluate

plantations over larger temporal and spatial scales” By improving plantation design

through, among other methods, less intensive soil preparation, mixed-species vegetation

and greater tolerance of other species in long-term maintenance, the authors believe that

such plantations can deliver social, economic and environmental services similar to that

of natural forests. Details of the research appears in February’s issue of the journal

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Mimicry in butterflies and the Riddle of the wing

Colour and Pattern

Saturday, February 06, 2010

I have always wondered about the mimicry in butterflies, how two butterfly species have

evolved exactly the same striking wing colour and pattern. For years, scientists have

pondered whether when different species evolve to look the same, they have a common

genetic mechanism. Because there are thousands of genes in the butterflies’ genome,

most scientists felt it was unlikely that the same genes should be involved. Now Scientists

at Cambridge have cracked the riddle. The Cambridge led study suggest that despite the

many thousands of genes in the genome of butterflies there is only one or two that are

useful for changing this colour pattern.

Results of the study appears in the latest issue of journal PLoS Genetics

Müllerian mimicry happens when two poisonous or unpalatable species evolve to look

the same. Batesian mimicry happens when an edible species evolve to look like a

species that is toxic or unpleasant to eat.

Tahrcountry Musings


Hilly Areas with a Mix of Habitats Such as

Woodland and Grassland a…

Monday, February 08, 2010

Latest research by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Butterfly Conservation

and the University of York has convincingly shown that hilly areas with a mix of habitats

such as woodland and grassland are ideal to maintain stable butterfly populations. A mix

of terrain was found to help the butterflies survive better in the face of threats such as

drought. The findings are based on data from satellites. Areas with varied features, such

as slopes facing north, south, east and west, were also found to be more ideal for the

insects. The study highlights the importance of taking a landscape perspective for

species conservation Details of the study appears in the latest issue of journal Ecology


Environmentally Safe Biological Weapon to

Counter Tree-eating Bark …

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Researchers at Northern Arizona University have developed an environmentally safe

method to counter the threat posed by tree-eating armies of bark beetles. The

researchers exposed the beetles to digitally altered recordings of their own calls, the

sounds they make to attract or repel other beetles. The response was instantaneous. The

beetles stopped mating or burrowing. Some fled, and some violently attacked each other.

As far as the researchers were concerned the best result was that they stopped chewing

the bark of the trees. Bark beetles have killed nearly 80 million ponderosa, piñon and

lodgepole pines in Arizona and New Mexico. Scientists are now experimenting with

variations of the calls and studying its effects. When they made the beetle sounds louder

and stronger than a typical male mating call the female beetle rejected the male and

moved toward the electronic sound. When the researchers manipulated the sounds, at a

certain point, the male stopped mating and tore the female apart. Researchers are

confident that they can come up with an ideal mix of electronic calls to thwart the beetles.

The First Ever Footage of the Sunda Clouded

Leopard (Neofelis diard…

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Researchers have captured on camera the first footage of the Sunda clouded leopard

(Neofelis diardi) in Malaysia.The video was captured in the Dermakot Forest Reserve in

the Malaysian part of Borneo. The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in

Berlin, Germany was instrumental in this venture.It was in 2006 that genetic evidence

and analysis of its markings proved it was quite different from the clouded leopard

(Neofelis nebulosa) and treated as a new species.The Sunda clouded leopard is

classified as Vulnerable by IUCN and is threatened by habitat loss. Forest cover in

Borneo has plummeted to 50 percent in less than 60 years. 80 percent of Borneo’s cats

face extinction. Widespread deforestation for timber and oil palm plantations are the main

reasons for the disappearance of the forests.


Tahrcountry Musings

Beer, Old Age and Osteoporosis

Friday, February 12, 2010

The other day I was discussing wildlife matters with my friend Rajiv. By chance it veered

towards beer. Rajiv is an aficionado of beer. When I told him about this excellent article

about beer that I had read in Sciencedaily he was fascinated and insisted that I share it

with others by putting the new info on my blog even though the focus of my blog is

wildlife. So folks here it comes A new study by researchers from the Department of Food

Science & Technology at the University of California, Davis has come up with the finding

that beer is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for increasing bone

mineral density. The researchers examined a wide range of beer styles for their silicon

content and also studied the impact of raw materials and the brewing process on the

quantities of silicon that enter wort and beer. Silicon is present in beer in the soluble form

of orthosilicic acid (OSA). Soluble OSA is important for the growth and development of

bone and connective tissue, and beer appears to be a major contributor to Si intake.

Based on these findings the studies suggest that moderate beer consumption may help

fight osteoporosis, a disease of the skeletal system. The hop samples analyzed showed

surprisingly high levels of silicon with as much as four times more silicon than is found in

malt. Highly hopped beers naturally would have higher silicon levels. The average silicon

content of the beers sampled was 6.4 to 56.5 mg/L.So aficionados of beer quaff your

drink but in moderation.

Details of this study are available in the February issue of the Journal of the Science of

Food and Agriculture, published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Society of Chemical


Wildlife Management- Lessons from Indigenous


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canadian wildlife authorities recently learned that indigenous wisdom is often better than

modern computations. For many centuries the Cree, an indigenous group of people living

in the James Bay region of northern Quebec have lived in harmony with their

environment taking what they need and nothing more. They hunt a variety of animals

including beaver, bear, and moose, killing just enough to feed and clothe them.

The Cree used to rotate the territories over which they hunt, and killed only adult animals.

This ensured that the animal populations always remained stable. The Cree were the

only people who hunted in the region.

In the mid 1980s, following pressure from sport-hunting and fishing groups, the Canadian

authorities relented and granted access to the region to sports hunters. Wildlife managers

also believed that the move would relieve the pressure on hunting grounds further south.

Canadian authorities relied on aerial surveys to monitor moose numbers in hunting

territories and were happy with their arrangements.

By the late 1980s the Cree people became concerned about the moose numbers and

told the authorities about their apprehensions. Using their time tested system of

monitoring moose populations, based on moose sightings, tracks and faeces the Cree

had detected a significant decline in population. The authorities’ cold shouldered the

concerns and insisted that the moose population must be stable because the ‘catch per

unit effort’ (average number of moose caught by hunters in a particular time period) had

Tahrcountry Musings


remained the same over the years.

But by early 1990s the authorities were forced to concede that there indeed was a

problem. It became very clear that a severe crash in population had occurred. The drop

was a staggering 50%. The scientists conceded that opening the roads for hunting had

opened up opportunities for the forestry sector as well, enabling them to clear cut the

forest and leaving the moose with less cover to hide in. The moose became easy targets.

Since ‘catch per unit effort’ remained stable, the authorities were lulled into a false sense

of security.

It became very apparent that the traditional methods of monitoring and managing

moose, used by the Cree hunters, were a better measure of moose population. These

methods rely on more variables and have a greater complexity the scientists grudgingly


Today the Canadian wildlife authorities have learned their lesson. They work closely in

tandem with the Cree, listening to what they have to say, and respecting their intimate

knowledge of the environment.

Spanish Woman Bequeaths 3m Euros to Iberian


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I was really happy to hear from my Spanish contacts about this

Spanish woman who left 3million Euros in her will to help

protect the Iberian lynx, the world’s most endangered cat. The

noble lady in fact bequeathed a total of nine million Euros to

animal charities, one-third of which will go to the lynxes.

The woman died in October 2008 in Spain’s Canary Islands at

the age of 60. Little else is known about her.

The Iberian lynx was once distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula but is now

restricted to very small areas mostly in protected areas of southern Spain. Barely 200

Iberian lynxes are believed to remain in the wild. At the start of the 20th century there

were around 100,000 in Spain and Portugal. The International Union for Conservation of

Nature lists the species as “critically endangered”. Its critical status is mainly due to

habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching. The habitat loss is

mainly due to infrastructure development, urban & resort development and tree


Decoding the secret Language of the Elephants

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Researchers at San Diego Zoo have come up with some new findings regarding the

communication in Elephants. They have discovered that two-thirds of the partly audible

elephant call is at frequencies that are too low to be picked up by human ears.

To unravel the intricacies of the inaudible part of the growl, the team attached a

microphone sensitive to these low frequencies and a GPS tracking system to eight of the


Tahrcountry Musings

zoo’s female elephants. The researchers then correlateted the noises the animals were

making with their activity patterns.

The team has discovered that pregnant females use this low frequency communication to

announce to the rest of their herd the imminent parturition. In the last 12 days preceding

parturition there is definite change in the low part of the growl, the low part that we can’t

hear. The researchers believe that the signals are also meant to be an alert for other

elephants in the herd to look out for predators. Animals like packs of hyenas are a big

threat to new born babies.

Another fascinating finding was that the infrasonic calls made by female elephants in

season can be heard by males more than two miles away.

The scientists are continuing to analyze data to learn more about this secret language of

the elephants. This sure has connotations in the conservation of elephants.

Wasps Discovered Antibiotics Millions of Years


Monday, March 01, 2010

Some discoveries make you feel humble. I was amazed when I read about the use of

antibiotics by wasps. They have been using it for millions of years. Invading fungal mold

and harmful bacteria are major threats to the wasp larvae. The insects were using nine

antibiotic varieties to ward off trouble. For us the era of antibiotics began only in 1928

when Alexander Fleming spotted how penicillin produced by green mold killed bacteria.

The amazing discovery was made by the scientists of Max Planck Institute for Chemical

Ecology in Germany. Philanthus wasps use beneficial bacteria to manufacture a cocktail

of drugs that protect its larvae from infection. According to the scientists writing in the

journal Nature Chemical Biology the insects not only evolved a method of manufacturing

antibiotics, they used them in a highly effective way. Philanthus wasps teamed up with a

type of bacteria called Streptomyces in a symbiotic relationship that benefited both

species. In exchange for the coziness of a home, the bugs produced a cocktail of nine

different antibiotics effective against a broad range of harmful bacteria and fungi. The

scientists believe that the discovery could assist the development of new agents to

combat human ‘‘superbugs’‘.

Very Effective Anti-Fungal Drug Developed from

Carnivorous Plants

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Here is yet another example of the benefits that accrue from conserving biodiversity.

Scientists have developed drugs from pitcher plant Nepenthes khasiana that work as

effective anti-fungal agent. Fungal infections are widespread in hospitals around the

world. Secondary fungal infections acquired during stay as patients in hospitals are a

constant source of worry for the doctors. Skin fungal infections lack effective

treatments.Scientist say to avoid sharing precious food resources with other micro-

organisms such as fungi, the carnivorous plant has developed a host of agents that act

as natural anti-fungal agents. Scientists have zoomed in to this characteristic of the

pitcher plants.The credit for the discovery goes to Prof. Aviah Zilberstein, Prof. Esther

Tahrcountry Musings


Segal and Dr. Haviva Eilenberg from Tel Aviv University.Details appear in the latest issue

ofJournal of Experimental Biology

King Cobra Charms Researchers

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Here is yet another bonanza arising from conserving wildlife. This time it comes from King

Cobra.Researchershave been studying King Cobra venom for the past 50 years.They are

still continuing to find new compounds. The latest discovery of a new protein has

enormous potential for new drug discovery and to advance understanding of disease


Many common drugs such as the widely prescribed blood pressure medication Captopril

and anti-clotting drug Eptifibatide have been developed from snake and other animal


The newly discovered protein has been named haditoxin. Haditoxin was discovered in

Professor Manjunatha Kini’s laboratory at the National University of Singapore Co-

researcher is Dr S Niru Nirthanan, now at Griffith University on the Gold Coast.

The new toxin is a relatively large complex made up of two identical protein molecules

known as three-finger toxins linked together.This has enormous potential according to

researchers.The new discovery has the potential for developing drugs for Alzheimer’s

and Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, anxiety and depressive disorders and nicotine


The details of the research appear in Journal of Biological Chemistry (March 12, 2010).

The editorial board of the journal has selected this work as the “Paper of the Week”

The Fresh Air Fund

Thursday, March 11, 2010

This blog post is at the request of Ms Sara Wilson of The Fresh Air Fund and is mainly

targeted at US citizens. Others can gain inspiration from the programme and try to start

similar programme in their countries. Here I would like to mention germane research by

Zaradic. Zaradic has recently proved that time spent hiking or backpacking is correlated

with increased conservation contributions 11–12 years later. Their results suggest that

each hiker or backpacker translates to $200–$300 annually in future NGO contributions.

They project that the recent decline in popularity of hiking and backpacking will negatively

impact conservation NGO contributions from approximately 2010–2011 through at least


THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free

summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income

communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund

programs annually. In 2008, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in

suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and

Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in

Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000

young people each year. In 2009, The Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family program,

called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18,

free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared

their friendship and homes up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from

Virginia to Maine and Canada. Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few

weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods


Tahrcountry Musings

have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences. Friendly Town host families are

volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities. Host familiesFresh Air

experience is as enriching for their own families, as it is for the inner-city children. There

are no financial requirements for hosting a child. Volunteersrange in size, ethnicity and

background, but share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an

experience they will never forget. Hosts say the may request the age-group and gender

of the Fresh Air youngster they would like to host. Children on first-time visits are six to 12

years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the

same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer

summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer

host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to

create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.

The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often

families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city

youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play

spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through

the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.

Fresh Air childrenare registered by more than 90 participating social service and

community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of

New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in

need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas. Each agency is responsible for

registering children for the program.

Visit http://freshairfundhosts.com/ to get to know more about the programme and contribute your mite.

In Praise of Moringa Tree

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Drumsticks from Moringa (Moringa oleifera) are used extensively in Indian cooking. The

leaf is an excellent vegetable additive.Another facet of the tree known to indigenous

communities is now getting scientific validation. The seeds of Moringa are an excellent

base for purifying water.A low-cost water purification technique published in Current

Protocols in Microbiology is based on Moringa seeds. The technique can produce a

90.00% to 99.99% bacterial reduction in previously untreated water. Read this against

fact that a billion people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are estimated to rely on

untreated surface water sources for their daily water needs. Of these, some two million

are thought to die from diseases caught from contaminated water every year.The

researchers rates Moringa to be to be one of the world’s most useful trees. Moringa tree

seeds, when crushed into powder, can be used as a water-soluble extract in suspension.

This acts as an effective natural clarification agent for highly turbid and untreated

pathogenic surface water.The paper has been made free to download as part of access

programs under John Wiley & Sons’ Corporate Citizenship Initiative. Read it here

Tahrcountry Musings


Now You Can Identify People Based on the

Bacteria They Leave Behind

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I was fascinated to read in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about

the forensic identification using skin bacterial communities. Scientists Noah Fierera and

associates at the University of Colorado in Boulder have been able to identify individuals

based on the bacteria they leave behind on their computers.Every individual harbours a

mix of microbe that’s different from their neighbors. This has been effectively used by

Noah to identify specific individuals. There is a high degree of interindividual variability in

the composition of bacterial communities.Skin-associated bacteria can be readily

recovered from surfaces, including computer keys and computer mice.The signatures

can be recovered for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. The scientist say the new

discovery introduces a forensics approach that could eventually be used to independently

evaluate results obtained using more traditional forensic practices.

Fascinating Information about Octopuses.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The information from nature that we regularly cull never ceases to amaze me with its

complexities. Sometimes it makes you feel humble. The latest issue of Journal

ofExperimental Biology has some fascinating information about octopuses. Believe it or

not the octopuses are far more excited by HDTV when compared to standard definition

TV.The research was headed by Ms Renata Pronk from Macquarie University, Sydney,

Australia and colleagues. The team collected gloomy octopuses (Octopus tetricus) from

Sydney Harbour, transferred them to a tank at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science

and exposed the octopuses to three HDTV videos, recording the animals’ response.In

experiments evaluating how the creatures react to moving images, the animals

responded far more vigorously to HDTV than standard definition TV. HDTV has roughly

five times as many pixels as standard definition TV (SDTV).Scientists say Octopuses

appear to be intelligent animals. They respond to their environment with brilliant colour

changes. They have relatively high standard eyesight.The scientist also demonstrated

that gloomy octopuses have “episodic personalities”, which means their personality

varies over time. One day an octopus would react excitedly to the crab video, but it would

show little interest on another day. Crab is a favorite food of octopuses.

CITES Needs New Direction

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Doha conference has clearly exposed the limits of environmental co-operation when

it comes to CITES. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species)

imposes restrictions of varying severity on the trade on 5,000 species of animals and

28,000 plants. Everything looks rosy on paper but ground realities are very grim. CITES

suffers from limited funding and no legal powers to enforce its rulings on member states.

Smugglers and poachers have devised ways to overcome official restrictions. Internet

has emerged as one of the chief threats. The agreement between 175 member states of

CITES is very tenuous. There are increasing attempts to breach the consensus. Look at

what has happened to Blurfin Tuna. After intense lobbying, Japan succeeded in


Tahrcountry Musings

stonewalling attempts to impose a ban on Bluefin tuna fishing. Trade in red and pink coral

also went the same way with pressure from Italy and China. The species is on its way to

extinction. Short-term national interests ride roughshod over science and conservation.

CITES clearly needs a shot in the arm. Member countries will have to give preference to

science and conservation over their parochial interests if the organization is to achieve

what it is intended for.

Butterflies are Declining Worldwide

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Butterflies are a sight to behold anytime. They are as source of inspiration even for the

urban people with their miniscule gardens. Sadly butterflies are on the decline worldwide.

Butterfly experts from around the world are meeting in Reading, Berkshire, attending

Butterfly Conservation’s Sixth International Symposium against the backdrop of declining

butterflies worldwide. Sir David Attenborough who is President of Butterfly Conservation

says “Butterflies are sensitive indicators. They decline when habitats are destroyed and

when man harms the environment. We have known about butterfly losses in Britain for

over 50 years. Now there is mounting evidence that it is a global problem. If butterflies

are disappearing, other wildlife will be declining too. Some will be facing extinction. “ The

conference is part of the attempt to assess the success of efforts around the world in

meeting the United Nation’s target of halting biodiversity declines by 2010. Sir David adds

halting biodiversity loss is on a par with getting a man on the moon in the 1960s.

Tahrcountry wishes the very best for the conference and hopes that something concrete

would emerge from the deliberations to halt the decline of the butterflies.

Predator – Prey Relationships – New Findings

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our understanding of predator-prey relationship has undergone sea changes with the

publication of latest research findings. As a wildlife manger I followed the findings with

great interest.

Some of the the findings shake our present concepts about predator prey relationships

and calls for changes of management strategies in some wildlife reserves. I have posted

a piece on this fascinating research in my other blog. Click here to read it.

SOS Blog Post from Uthaman – Help protect this

tree to conserve mos…

Thursday, April 01, 2010

K.V Uthaman has sent a guest blog post requesting your help in protecting a tree that is

used every year by a pair of endangered WHITE BELLIED SEA EAGLE to build nest and

lay eggs. Unfortunately this tree stands on private property and the owner wants to sell

off his land after hacking the tree. Read on what Uthaman has to say and chip in with

your help. Uthman can be contacted at [email protected]

WHITE BELLIED SEA EAGLEProtect this tree to conserve most endangered bird of prey

White bellied sea eagle is an endangered bird of prey and its distribution in southern

India is very sparse. The southernmost population is known up to Mahe. White bellied

Tahrcountry Musings


sea eagle at Mahe

Near Mahe, there is a place called

Puthalam. There is a huge mango tree near

Puthalam Temple, which is about 35- 40

meters in height. Every year one pair of

white bellied sea eagle comes here, build

nest and lay eggs on this tree. One or two

chicks are reared and they fly off when the

young ones are mature enough to fly. The

local people have never disturbed the bird

all these years. On the contrary they watch

the avian guests with fascination. It could

very well be the same pair of birds that are

coming here for the last many years. White

Bellied Sea Eagle guarding nestIn previous

years, when there is more than one chick,

one of them used to fall down from the

nest. The fallen chick was carefully reared

by one Mr. Venu, who is a tailor by

profession and fond of birds. It becomes his

head ache to protect the bird and feed them

fish even to the tune of Rs. 150/- per day.

When the chicks are grown up and ready to

fly, Venu allows them to fly off. This year

also one chick fell down and it was cared

for and reared by VenuA White Bellied Sea

Eagle Chicthat has fallen from the nestat

Puthalathand reared by Mr. Venu The land

in which the tree stands is under private

ownership and now the owner wants to sell

the land after cutting the tree. The agitated

local people approached the owner and

requested him not to fell the tree. He

agreed not to fell the tree till the chicks are

grown up and fly off. Now the birds have

flown off after breeding. This tree may be

cut any time now. The poor white bellied

sea eagle will come here next year also

looking for the tree for nesting. The local

people vouch that the birds have been

coming here, at least for the last 10 to 15

years. It is hypothetical but by virtue of their

using the tree for the past many years the

birds have become more or less the owners

of the tree. The question is whether

anybody has got the right to cut the tree

and destroy the maternal home of this

endangered bird. But sadly it is going to happen. It is a big question how to protect this

tree and the species which is using the tree during their breeding season. If such trees

are felled you could very well imagine the plight of the species. The tree is presently


Tahrcountry Musings

under the threat of axe. It may not be

possible to protect the tree with the local

initiatives alone. Mahe being part of

Pondicherry State, pressure has to be

exerted on Government of Pondicherry to

protect the tree. We may even have to think

of paying compensation to the landowner

and acquire the land to protect the tree. We

seek your help in protecting this tree.K V

UTHAMAN[email protected]

bellied sea eagle with pearl spot brought to

feed its young A White Bellied Sea Eagle Chic that has fallen from the nest

Toads and Precognition

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The latest issue of Journal of Zoology has a very interesting paper on the ability of

Common toads to sense an impending earthquake. This discovery has great portents in

our pursuit of credible early warning system for earthquake. Nature itself is showing us a

way. It also shows yet another reason to protect our biodiversity.

The clear cut evidence comes from the study of a population of toads which left their

breeding colony three days before an earthquake that struck L’Aquila in Italy in 2009.

Five days before the earthquake, the number of male common toads in the breeding

colony fell by 96%. Usually once they have bred, the male toads remain active in large

numbers at breeding sites until spawning has finished.

The quake was a 6.3-magnitude event. The colony was 74km from the quake’s epicenter

yet the toads reacted with great alacrity. The study was spearheaded by Dr Grant

This visible change in the toads’ behaviour coincided with disruptions in the ionosphere,

which researchers detected around the time of the L’Aquila quake using a technique

known as very low frequency (VLF) radio sounding. This kind of changes in the

atmosphere has been linked by some scientists to the release of radon gas, or gravity

waves, prior to an earthquake. In the case of the L’Aquila quake, Dr Grant could not

determine what exactly caused the disruptions in the ionosphere. However, her findings

point to the fact that the toads can detect something that points to an impending


Even though in the past fish, rodents and snakes have been shown to react shortly

before earthquakes strikes, this is the first time that an animal has been shown to react to

earthquake days in advance.

Tahrcountry Musings


All plantations Need Not Necessarily be

‘Biological Desserts’

Monday, April 05, 2010

Forest plantations have acquired a bad reputation over the years. They are branded as

‘Biological Desserts’. Latest research indicates that this need not be true in all cases.

Well-planned biologically diverse plantations can actually alleviate some of the social,

economic and ecological burden currently being placed on natural forests. They can also

mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon, off-setting deforestation and reducing

ecological strain on natural forests according to Alain Paquette from the Université du

Québec à Montréal, who co-authored the study with colleague Christian Messier.The

researchers looked at the types of plantations currently in practice, their pros and cons

and tried to arrive at the best methods for creating the greatest social, economic and

environmental return. The researchers found that plantations were capable of

ameliorating the ecological stressors placed on natural forests when used within an

integrated forest zoning approach. This is to say is, any increase in plantations has to be

matched by protected areas within the same landscape.Alain Paquette adds “We have to

look beyond the rows of uniform trees and evaluate plantations over larger temporal and

spatial scales,”. “Well-planned, multi-purposed plantations can help preserve high

diversity, old-growth forests that would be cut otherwise.” “We can do better locally by

using biologically diverse, multi-purposed plantations,” “Theory and experimental works

suggest that even more services could be produced with carefully chosen mixtures of

species to promote the optimal use of resources.“By improving plantation design through

less intensive soil preparation, mixed-species vegetation and greater tolerance of other

species in long-term maintenance, the researchers believe that plantations can deliver

social, economic and environmental services similar to that of natural forests.“Our goal is

to use low intensity forestry practices and increase the proportion of protected land in the

area,” Paquette says. The researchers hope that their model will support the practical

applications of well-planned, biologically-diverse plantations worldwide.

ReferenceAlain Paquette, Christian Messier (2010), The role of plantations in managing

the world’s forests in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: Vol. 8,

No. 1, pp. 27-34.

The Eel Mystery

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A study on eel study published in the online edition of the Journal of Heredity authored by

Joshua Reece a graduate student in biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University

in St. Louis and co-authored by Bowen, Allan Larson, PhD, professor of biology at

Washington University and Reece’s advisor, and two biology undergraduate students at

Washington University: Kavita Joshi, and Vadim Goz, makes very interesting reading. It is

akin to a mystery novel.Joshua Reece was startled to find seven species eels eating the

same thing and, quite literally, living under the same rock. He asks “how cans this

happen? Species don’t do that; if they exploit the same niche they don’t diversify, and if

they diversify they don’t exploit the same niche.”Reece and his colleagues collected two

species of eels, the undulated moray (Gymnothorax undulatus) and the yellow-edged

moray (G. flavimarginatus) from different locations across the Indo-Pacific Ocean,

covering two-thirds of Earth’s surface. They were interested in finding out the genetic

differences that might indicate interruptions in gene flow among populations of the eels


Tahrcountry Musings

now or in the past. They found both species to be genetically homogeneous across the

entire ocean basin.The mystery now takes a twist. How did these two species and the

other 150 species of moray eel in the Indo-Pacific formed separate species?The

mechanism for speciation is geographic isolation. If one group gets separated from the

other, by say a mountain range, natural selection and genetic drift gradually remodel the

two similar groups into two dissimilar ones. Now we have to see whether there are

barriers in the ocean that play the same role in speciation as the mountain ranges do on

land. Eastern Pacific Barrier and the Sunda Shelf might be doing this but needs deeper

probe.The scientist looked at selected mitochondrial and nuclear genes and asked

whether there were unique alleles of these genes and whether the degree of variance

was correlated to geographic separation. They found lots of variation among the eel

genes but virtually none of it had any geographic structure. The same alleles are found in

South Africa as you do in Panama.The scientists are keen to crack the mystery. If both

species of eel are able to maintain genetic connectivity across the entire ocean basin,

how did the species arise in the first place? When and how did they form separate

species if their larvae make them nearly impervious to geographic isolation? Many of eel

species share habitat, share distributions and share prey items. When that happens as

per rule of thumb one species outcompetes the other and the loser fade in to oblivion.

The rules don’t seem to apply to the morays and nobody has a clue to this mystery right


The Lemur that Came Back from Oblivion

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Research is a primary component in conservation. Here is yet another example of

constant research helping conservation. Researchers from McGill University have

rediscovered a species of lemur, Sibree’s Dwarf Lemur, more than a century after it was

last spotted.Sibree’s Dwarf Lemur was first described in 1896, but no follow up measures

were taken to study the species. Meanwhile lot of deforestation took place in the area

and the species was not seen at all. The belief was that the species has gone extinct.One

dwarf lemurs at Tsinjoarivo, in Eastern Madagascar intrigued Dr Mitchell Irwin of McGill

University who was doing explorative research in the area. He had an ankling that it was

a new species. Genetic analysis of the species by Linn Groeneveld of the German

Primate Center found the lemur to be the Sibree’s Dwarf Lemur. Conservationists around

the world are elated.Scientists say without this genetic study, this species probably would

have gone extinct in the near future.Details of the discovery appear in the current issue of

the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

The State of World’s Mangroves

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coastal development, logging, agriculture, and climate change are proving to be the

nemesis of mangrove forests. The first ever assessment of mangrove species by the

IUCN Red List found 11 out of 70 mangrove species threatened with extinction. Two of

them Sonneratia griffithii and Bruguiera hainesii find a place in critically endangered list.

In the past 60 years Southeast Asia has lost 80 percent of its mangrove ecosystems,In

the pursuit of development many countries forget that mangrove forests provide vital

ecosystem functions. They conveniently overlook the fact in terms of monetary value,

ecosystem services provided by mangroves works out to a staggering 1.6 billion US

dollars annually.Mangroves act as nurseries for a variety of fish and other marine species

Tahrcountry Musings


and act as buffers against erosion. They also provide carbon sequestration. During the

2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia the regions with mangroves suffered less damage than

those without.The study is a timely reminder of the imminent catastrophe. Details of the

study appear in the latest issue of journal PLoS ONE.

Birds making a comeback thanks to farmers

Thursday, April 15, 2010

When rare birds make a comeback due to efforts of farmers it is great news. Usually we

hear about disappearance of birds due to the activities of farmers. To buck this trend here

comes a great story from UK

East Yorkshirefarmers are celebrating the runaway success of a scheme intended to

boost wildlife on their land.They have been working with bird charity the RSPB to help

rare species make a comeback in the region.

RSPB volunteers visit farms to record the number of birds each farm has and also to map

out their territories.The volunteers discuss ground realities threadbare with farmers and

inputs are given to boost the bird population. The Farmers can also utilize the free survey

to helps them join Government environmental stewardship schemes, which pay them to

care for the countryside.

Some of the bird that have come back in the farms is from RSPB’s endangered list, like

reed bunting.In many farms the numbers have gradually goneup.

This great scheme is worthy of emulation worldwide.

I f y o u l i v e i n U K y o u c a n r e q u e s t a f r e e s u r v e y b y e – m a i l a t

v o l u n t e e r & f a r m e r a l l i a n c e @ r s p b . o r g . u k o r c a l l ( 0 1 7 6 7 ) 6 8 0 5 5 1 .

The Science Behind the Raising of the Hood by


Sunday, April 18, 2010

The latest issue Journal of Experimental Biology has some fascinating information about

the science behind the raising of hood by cobras.By measuring the electrical activity from

the snakes’ muscles, the scientists were able to zoom in on the precise group of muscles

used by cobras to raise the hoods. The rib bones and the muscles that work them are

used for the display. The scientists wanted to find out the way in which the ribs were

freed up to rotate into the presentation position, and how the muscles were used to

accomplish display and then return to a relaxed position.The researchers implanted tiny

electrodes into the snake’s neck muscles, with the animal anaesthetized. Once the snake

recovered the scientist were ready for filming and recording the muscle activity as the

animal flared its neck. They found that eight muscles were involved in “hooding”.The

scientist say cobras are not the only snakes to hood and want to crack the mechanism

behind these other snakes raising of hoods.


Tahrcountry Musings

New Caledonian Crows put up an Amazing


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Till now we thought that the ability to fashion tools are unique to primates. Here comes a

surprise from the crows.Scientists from New Zealand’s University of Auckland have found

that New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) are able to use three tools in

succession while searching for food. These birds are the only birds known to craft and

use tools in the wild.To extract food from hard-to-reach nooks the crows fashion

branches into hooks and tear leaves into barbed probes. The birds can craft new tools

even out of unfamiliar materials. This has left the scientists in awe. Yes, we are yet to

fathom the full mysteries of nature.Details of the research is published in the current

issue ofProceedings of the Royal Society B

New Genetic Evidence Supporting the Theory

there are Several Specie…

Friday, April 23, 2010

The latest issue of the journal Genome Research, has an article where scientists report

finding strong genetic evidence supporting the theory there are several species of killer

whales (Orcinus orca).Differences in behavior, feeding preferences and subtle physical

features had the scientists postulating that there could be several species of killer whales.

The scientists got the proof from using a relatively new method called, ‘highly parallel

sequencing’ to map the entire genome of the cell’s mitochondria from a worldwide sample

of killer whales.Two types of killer whales in the Antarctic that eat fish and seals,

respectively, are suggested as separate species, along with mammal-eating “transient”

killer whales in the North Pacific. Several other types of killer whales may also be

separate species or subspecies, but for conclusive evidence additional analysis is

required.Using old technique the examination of mitochondrial DNA genome in one

sample could have taken several months. But with the use of high throughput

sequencing, researchers can complete the same analysis for 50 or more samples in just

a few weeks.According to the scientists understanding how many species of killer whales

there are is critically to establish conservation priorities and to better understand the

ecological role of killer whales in the world’s oceans.

A Conservation Therapy Programme from


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, is plumbing for a new prescription to

improve the nation’s health. Get back to nature and get well. He advocates outdoor

activities like organic gardening and forest improvement to combat a range of diseases.

According to the doctor exercise rates in Scotland are notoriously poor and needs

improvement.The chief says outdoor pursuits should become part of mainstream

treatment for conditions such as obesity, heart diseases and mental health. Pilot projects

have brought a reduction in suicidal tendencies among mental-health patients and a fall

in cigarette smoking. A conservation therapy programme involving manual work in the

Tahrcountry Musings


forest at Chatelherault Country Park, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, is aimed at people

suffering from drug and alcohol misuse.Encouraged by the results from the pilot projects

the authorities are trying to get these activities incorporated into mainstream health

service delivery system of Scotland.

Hermit Crabs and their Social Networking

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

May/June 2010 issue of the journal Behavioral Ecology available online, charmed me no

end. It has some incredible info on the social networking of hermit crabs. It is a study of

hermit crabs by biologists at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and the New

England Aquarium and it has given us a better understanding of social interactions

among hermit crabs.Hermit crabs require empty snail shells for shelter. As they grow

bigger they need to find new shells. When there aren’t enough suitable shells to go

around and some hermit crabs have to go naked. This makes them very vulnerable to

predators. So they invariably have to go and scout for new homes if they are to survive in

the hostile environment.When a new shell becomes available, crabs gather around it and

queue up in a line from largest to smallest. Once the largest crab moves into the vacant

shell, each crab in the queue latches on to the newly vacated shell in front of them. A

chain of shell vacancies is created that ultimately leads to many crabs getting new shells.

This is indeed a very carefully crafted housing policy.

Prickly pear Cactus, the Amazing Water Purifier

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A few days back we wrote about water purification using Moringa (Moringa oleifera). On

the heels of this piece of information here comes news about water purification using

Prickly pear Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) found worldwide. This is not exactly new

information. 19th-century Mexican communities were using Prickly pear Cactus as a

water purifier and then it went in to limbo.It was a team of researchers from University of

South Florida that came up with the latest findings. The team extracted the cactus’s

mucilage and mixed this with water to which they had added high levels of either

sediment or the bacterium Bacillus cereus. The mucilage acted as a flocculant, causing

the sediment particles to join together and settle to the bottom. This also caused the

bacteria to combine and settle. 98 per cent of bacteria were filtered from the water.Full

details appear in the latest issue of journal Environmental Science and

TechnologyRemoval of Sediment and Bacteria from Water Using Green

ChemistryAudrey L. Buttice†, Joyce M. Stroot‡, Daniel V. Lim‡, Peter G. Stroot§ and

Norma A. Alcantar*† Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Department

of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology, and Department of Civil and

Environmental Engineering, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620


Tahrcountry Musings

Snails to the Rescue of Gorillas

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), a subspecies of the western gorilla was thought

to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1980s. Present populations are restricted to

densely forested hills and mountains across the Nigeria-Cameroon border. It is estimated

that only 250-300 Cross River gorillas remains in the wild. People living near Cross River

gorillas poach them as they have no alternative sources of income and food. This makes

the survival of the Gorllas very, very difficult.Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has

come up with a new plan to protect the Cross River gorilla, from poachers by providing

locals with an alternate income from farming snails. Snails? Yes. In Nigeria, snails are a

highly sought-after delicacy and can provide the wherewithal to support a family. The

snails reproduce quickly and provide high protein. The upfront cost to run a snail farm is

about 87 US dollars, whereas profit from 3000 snails sold annually comes to about 413

US dollars. This leaves in the hand of the snail farmer 326 US dollars a year. Poaching a

gorilla for bushmeat brings in only about 70 US dollars. This is indeed a very

commendable effort by WCS.If you want to have more details about Cross River gorilla

click here

The Role of Isolation in Speciation: New findings

Friday, April 30, 2010

New research by Professor Roger Thorpe and colleagues Yann Surget-Groba and

Helena Johansson, at Bangor University, UK, is turning conventional evolutionary theory

on its head. A genetic study of island lizards shows that even those that have been

geographically isolated for many millions of years have not evolved into separate

species.The area where the research was done, Martinique in the Lesser Antilles, is

composed of several ancient islands that have only recently coalesced into a single

entity. The phylogeny and geology demonstrates that these ancient islands have had

their own tree lizard species for about six to eight million years.The scientists genetically

tested the lizards for reproductive isolation from one another. They found that these tree

lizards are freely exchanging genes and therefore not behaving as separate species. In

fact there is more genetic isolation between conspecifics from different habitats than

between those lizards originating from separate ancient islands.The latest findings

suggest the potential importance of speciation due to differences in ecological conditions

(ecological speciation).Details of the research appear in the latest issue of journal PLoS


Mammoths and their Anti-freeze Blood

Monday, May 03, 2010

Under usual circumstances the ability of haemoglobin to release oxygen to the body’s

tissues is inhibited by the cold. A team of Scientists from University of Manitoba,

University of Adelaide, Yokohama City University, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary

Anthropology, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Aarhus,.Harvard Medical School,

and University of York have found that Mammoths possessed a genetic adaptation

allowing their haemoglobin to release oxygen into the body even at low temperatures.

How they discovered the anti freeze properties of Mammoth blood reads like science

Tahrcountry Musings


fiction. The researchers sequenced haemoglobin genes from the DNA of three Siberian

mammoths, preserved in the permafrost. These DNA sequences were converted into

RNA and inserted into E. coli bacteria. The bacteria manufactured the mammoth protein

to a T. This is akin to going back in time and taking a blood sample from a real mammoth.

Scientists found that three distinctive changes in the haemoglobin sequence allowed

mammoth blood to deliver oxygen to cells even at very low temperatures. This is

something the haemoglobin in living elephants cannot do. Amazing piece of research


Details appear in the journal Nature Genetics

Nature Genetics /DOI: doi:10.1038/ng.574/Published online 02 May 2010

Bee Research- Amazing Serendipity

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

In a rare coincidence, researchers working in Turkey and Iran discovered on the same

day how a rare species of bee Osima (Ozbekosima) avoseta builds its underground

nests. A group of American researchers were working near Antalya, Turkey while another

group of researchers from Iran were in the field in Fars Province, Iran.

The rare bee line the nest’s brood chambers with petals of pink, yellow, blue, and purple

flowers. The female builds a nest in one or two vertical chambers close to the surface or

between 1.5 and 5 cm below ground.

After bringing in the petals the female brings in claylike mud to the nest, plasters a thin

layer (about 0.5 mm thick) on the petals, and finishes the lining with another layer of

petals. A mix of nectar and pollen are then placed on the chamber’s floor. An egg is

deposited on its surface, and the chamber is closed by carefully folding the petals at the

top. The larvae eat the deposited food, spin a cocoon, and goes into a 10-month sleep

until spring.

About 20,000 bee species have been described so far. Nearly 75% of bee species are


Details of research appear in American Museum Novitates.

Cleaning Sewage and Generating Power Using


Friday, May 07, 2010

Fundamental discoveries by scientists have sometimes the potential to revolutionize our

lives. Here is a case where fundamental discoveries by microbiologists have the potential

to revolutionize sewage treatment.Conventional sewage treatment is an energy intensive

process. Here micro-organisms digest solid waste in “activated sludge”. They convert

organic matter into methane but leave liquid waste containing ammonium and

phosphates which is again another headache. This has to be perforce removed before

the water can be poured into rivers. It is calculated that this process consumes on an

average of 44 watt-hours per day for each person.Now Dr Gijis Kuenen and colleagues

from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands are developing a technique that

cuts out the energy intensive processes. The key to their new process is the newly

discovered anammox bacteria. These bacteria convert ammonium directly into nitrogen

gas. The by-product of the process is methane. Dr Kuenen proposes to harvest this

methane and use it as fuel. The process could generate 24 watt-hours per person per


Tahrcountry Musings

day. Waste water treatment plants can be made completely sustainable.This is an ample

demonstration of how small things can sometimes bring in unexpected jackpot.

Tahrcountry salutesDr Gijis Kuenen and his team.

Wonder Dam Built by Beavers

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This post is at the behest of Narain my

friend from Wynad. Narain is one of those

guys who believe small is beautiful. He

lives a contended life making a living from

his small farm. His passion is nature

conservation and Reiki. It is these two

subjects that bonded our friendship.I ran in

to Narain the other day and as is wont we

started talking about nature conservation

and wildlife. The subject veered towards

the amazing dam that beavers have built that can be seen from space. Narain wanted me

to do a blog post on it as not many people are aware of it.An animal-made structurethat is

visible from space. Is this science fiction? No. The world’s largest beaver dam was

discovered last week in a remote area of Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada. The dam

spans 850 metres and is the size of Switzerland. The amazing fact is that the dam is

visible from space.Scientists believe the beavers began their work four decades ago.

This means the work is the culmination of many generations of beavers. Truly amazing.

New Family of Jellyfish Discovered off the Coast

of Tasmania

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Researchers from the Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery in Launceston and the South

Australian Museum have discovered a new species of jellyfish (Csiromedusa

medeopolis)recently off the coast of Tasmania.In an instance of what we can call as

serendipity the discovery was made off the jetty of a wharf belonging to Australia’s

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).The new finding

represents not only a new species but also a new family. Discovery of a new family is

very uncommon feature nowadays and the scientists are justifiably elated. It belongs to

the narcomedusa group of jellyfish that are found in deep water. Many new species were

hauled in by the scientists but this jellyfish stood out from the rest as it had a structure

that was totally different from any known species of jellyfish.The new species is shaped

like a flying saucer with a hole in the top of its head from where the gonads stick out

prominently.More research is needed to find out the details of the life cycle of the newly

discovered species. Usually jellyfish have two stages in their life cycle. They start as

polyps floating or attached to the ocean floor, rocks or clumps of algae. From the polyp

stage comes out the jellyfish that floats in the ocean currents. The mature jellyfish

releases sperm and eggs into the water, and these are fertilized outside the jellyfish in

majority of the species.

Tahrcountry Musings


Biological Infrastructure that Supports Life in

Jeopardy Says the l…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The latest Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 (GBO3) report is a grim reminder of the risks that

face biological infrastructure that supports life. This is a lengthy post. I have tried to put in

a nutshell the salient points of the report.

• Species which have been assessed for extinction risk are on average moving closer

to extinction. Amphibians face the greatest risk and coral species are deteriorating

most rapidly in status. Nearly a quarter of plant species are estimated to be

threatened with extinction.

• The abundance of vertebrate species, based on assessed populations, fell by nearly

a third on average between 1970 and 2006, and continues to fall globally, with

especially severe declines in the tropics and among freshwater species.

• Natural habitats in most parts of the world continue to decline in extent and integrity,

although there has been significant progress in slowing the rate of loss for tropical

forests and mangroves, in some regions. Freshwater wetlands, sea ice habitats, salt

marshes, coral reefs, seagrass beds and shellfish reefs are all showing serious


• Extensive fragmentation and degradation of forests, rivers and other ecosystems

have also led to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

• Crop and livestock genetic diversity continues to decline in agricultural systems.

• The five principal pressures directly driving biodiversity loss (habitat change,

overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change) are either

constant or increasing in intensity.

• The ecological footprint of humanity exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth by a

wider margin than at the time the 2010 target was agreed.

The continued loss of biodiversity has major implications for current and future human

well-being. The provision of food, fibre, medicines and fresh water, pollination of crops,

filtration of pollutants, and protection from natural disasters are among those ecosystem

services potentially threatened by loss of biodiversity. Cultural services such as spiritual

and religious values, opportunities for knowledge and education have declined.

Recreational and aesthetic values are also declining.The report recommends

• Much greater efficiency in the use of land, energy, fresh water and materials to meet

growing demand.

• Use of market incentives, and avoidance of perverse subsidies to minimize

unsustainable resource use and wasteful consumption.

• Strategic planning in the use of land, inland waters and marine resources to

reconcile development with conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of

multiple ecosystem services. While some actions may entail moderate costs or

tradeoffs, the gains for biodiversity can be large in comparison.

• Ensuring that the benefits arising from use of and access to genetic resources and

associated traditional knowledge, for example through the development of drugs and

cosmetics, are equitably shared with the countries and cultures from which they are


• Communication, education and awareness raising to ensure that as far as possible,

everyone understands the value of biodiversity and what steps they can take to

protect it, including through changes in personal consumption and behaviour.

Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 (ISBN-92-9225-220-8) is an open access publication,

subject to the terms of the Creative Commons. Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 is freely


Tahrcountry Musings

available online: www.cbd.int/GBO3.

Bad News for the Promoters of GM Crops – New

Study confirms Relianc…

Friday, May 14, 2010

GM cops were touted by their promoters as environmental saviours. Latest research from

China indicates that this belief is absolutely wrong.Traditional cotton farmers in China

used to spray their crops with insecticides to combat destructive bollworm pests.

Introduction of Bt cotton helped them initially to save money by spraying their crops less.

There was euphoria all around. But the excitement was short lived. The bugs have

surged back with increased vigour.A 10-year study across six major cotton-growing

regions of China found that by spraying their crops less, farmers inadvertently allowed

mirid bugs to thrive and this infested their own and neighbouring farms. Mirid bugs can

devastate around 200 varieties of fruit, vegetable and corn crops. The infestations are

potentially catastrophic for more than 10m small-scale farmers who cultivate 26m

hectares of vulnerable crops in the region studied.Now scientists are calling for the long-

term risks of GM crops to be reassessed. Opponents of GM crops say this was bound to

happen. This is nature’s comeuppance.Details of the research, led by Kongming Wu of

the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing appears in US Journal,Science

Increasing Human Noise is Affecting Corals

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A study carried out by a team at the Carmabi Foundation in Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles

led by Dr Mark Vermeij have discovered that coral larvae use sound as a cue to find coral

reefs and swim towards it. How these simple creatures, the larvae of which look like tiny

eggs covered in hairs, detect sound is still a mystery.Coral aggregate to form vast reefs

and this is now the most threatened ecosystems in the world. We still do not know the full

intricacies of how these vulnerable animals complete their life-cycle.Coral reefs develop

in shallow, warm water, usually near land, and mostly in the tropics. The preferred

temperature is 21 – 30 °C. Coral reefs can be found off the eastern coast of Africa, off the

southern coast of India, in the Red Sea, off the coasts of northeast and northwest

Australia, Polynesia, off the coast of Florida, Caribbean islands and Brazil. Presently the

major threats are water pollution from sewage and agricultural runoff, dredging,

unsustainable collection of coral and sedimentationThe latest concern is the masking

effects of human noise pollution in coral environments. Small boats, shipping, and drilling

have contributed to the masking effects. The threat acquires urgency against the

backdrop of the new findings.Details of the research is published in the latest issue of

journal PLoS ONE

Tahrcountry Musings


Poachers Using Satellite Pictures to Localize

Groups of Elephants i…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The story of Chad elephants is a very sad chapter in the conservation annals. From a

population of around 20,000 in the 1980s, it has been reduced to a little more than 3,000.

This means a decline of 85 percent in less than three decades.Amidst poverty, hunger,

violence, and hundreds of thousands of refugees in Chad the elephants do not stand a

chance. 80 percent of the population in Chad lives below the poverty line. Poaching is

rampant. In the month of April alone 105 elephants were killed by poachers. If the trend

continues, not a single elephant will be left in Chad in three years time.Poachers are

equipped with the latest in technological devices like GPS and satellite phones. Now they

have started using satellite pictures to localize groups of Elephants. The poachers are

increasingly becoming a menace. Last month poachers killed two Chadian soldiers in a

single weekend.Conservationists believe the ivory does not stay in Africa, but ends up in

far-away China, Japan and Thailand. The ETIS (Elephant Trade Information System)

analysis identifies Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Thailand as the

three countries most heavily implicated in the global illicit ivory trade. Cameroon, Gabon

and Mozambique Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam

were also identified as important nodes in the illicit ivory trade. Here is a shocker. U.S. is

still one of the world’s largest consumers of ivory.The conservationists firmly believe that

local action alone cannot stop the decimation of elephants In Chad. International

cooperation is urgently needed.

iPhone Application to the Rescue of DR Congo

mountain gorillas

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It is heartening to read technology being utilized for conservation works. The news

becomes even sweeter when the species in question happens to be one of the most

endangered species in the world.An iPhone application called called iGorilla has been

launched to help protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas in DR Congo. The

new app, launched by the Virunga National Park, allows users to choose a gorilla family,

find out about individual members and follow their lives through reports, photographs and

videos. Each app costs $4 (£3).Major chunk of the money going to the park. Virunga

National Park is a Unesco World Heritage Site.Only720 mountain gorillas remain in the

wild with an estimated 211 of the great apes living in Virunga National Park.

Back From the Brink- World’ Smallest Water-Lily

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Photo Credit: RBG Kew

The importance of botanic gardens for conservation was reemphasized by the success of

cracking the enigma of growing a rare species of African water-lily by the Royal Botanic

Gardens, Kew. The feat was achieved by Kew’s top propagation ‘code-breaker’,

horticulturist Carlos Magdalena. Waterlilies are among the most ancient of flowering


Tahrcountry Musings

plants.The rare species of African waterlily

(Nymphaea thermarum), believed to be the

smallest waterlily in the world with pads

less than 1cm in diameter was discovered

in 1985 by German botanist Professor

Eberhard Fischer of Koblenz-Landau

University. It was endemic to just one

known location in Mashyuza, Rwanda. The

plant grows in damp mud caused by the

overflow of a hot spring. Water reaches the

surface at 50C but the plant colonizes an

area where the water has cooled to a temperature of 25C.The species disappeared from

Mashyuza about two years ago due to over-exploitation of the hot spring that fed the

habitat. Right now no plant is known to survive in the wild.Professor Eberhard Fischer

had transported a few specimens to Bonn Botanic Gardens soon after its discovery. The

species proved extremely difficult to propagate.As part of a conservation plant exchange

between Bonn and Kew, a handful of seeds and pre-germinated seedlings were

transported to Kew in July 2009. Professor Carlos took the propagation as a challenge.

The professor, who has a track record of bringing the rarest and most difficult plants back

from the brink, unraveled the secrets of successfully propagating Nymphaea thermarum

over many months of assiduous work.The plant did not grow submerged in the deep

waters of lakes, rivers or marshes like other water lily. It grows in the damp conditions at

the edge of a thermal hot spring. This was the vital clue needed to crack the code. The

professor placed seeds and seedlings into pots of loam within small containers filled with

water, thus keeping the water at the same level as the surface of the compost, at a

temperature of 25°C. The plants started to improve and after a few weeks, eight plants

began to grow very well. In November 2009 heralding a new era of success Kew’s

collection of Nymphea thermarum flowered for the first time. Now Kew has over 30

healthy plants growing very well.Professor Eberhard Fischer says if the natural flow of

water in its historic location can be restored, plants grown at Kew can then be

reintroduced into the wild.On Saturday 22 May 2010 visitors to Kew Gardens will be able

to see Nymphaea thermarum on display.Tahrcountry salutes Dr Carlos Magdalena. Here

is an admirable example where individuals, by doing practical things with plants, can

make a real difference to biodiversity conservation.

Mystery – Garden Birds Prefer Non-Organic Food

to Organic, New Stud…

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The latest issue of Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture has an interesting

paper on the feeding habits of birds. I read it with great fascination. The new research

has found that when presented with an opportunity between organic and non-organic

foods garden birds such as robins and house sparrows invariably plumbed for non

organic food.When offered both varieties of wheat seed, the birds were able to discern

between the two and ate up to 20 per cent more of non-organic variety. When the grain in

the feeders was switched around, the birds soon were able to spot the difference and

again settled for of non-organic variety.Analysis of the wheat found that the non organic

seeds have an average 10 per cent higher protein content than the organic seeds and

this is the most likely explanation for the food preference of birds.The researchers say the

Tahrcountry Musings


study does not take into account the long-term health implications of using chemical

fertilizers and pesticides, but it does raise questions about the nutritional benefits of

organic food.The garden bird work was confirmed by laboratory studies on canaries.The

lead researcher for the three-year study was Dr Ailsa McKenzie, based at Newcastle

University’s School of Biology.Soil Association of UK has come up with a strong rejoinder.

They say: "The UK Government’s own advisors found that bird life is up to 50% greater

on organic farms showing that most birds do choose organic. Animals like chimpanzees

and even rats have been shown to prefer organic food. This study has absolutely no

bearing on whether organic food is better for human health or not.”

The Tongue that Helps Musk Turtle to Breathe

Underwater and Stay Su…

Friday, May 21, 2010

I was fascinated to read about the cracking of the mystery surrounding Musk Turtle that

can stay underwater for months.Musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), adults spend most

of their lives underwater. Juveniles occasionally come onto land to search for food. This

has always been a mystery. Scientists have just cracked the mystery. The discovery was

made by zoologist Egon Heiss, who is studying for his PhD at the University of Vienna in

Austria.Egon Heiss has discovered that the turtles use its specialized tongue to exchange

oxygen. The tongue is lined with specialized buds called papillae.Usually all marine

turtles must come to the surface at least every few hours to draw in air.In the case of

freshwater turtles, some cannot breathe underwater, while others do so via their skin.

Details appear in the latest issue of journal The Anatomical Record.

The Role of Urban Forests in Bird Migration

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The latest issue of journal Landscape Ecology has an excellent paper by landscape

ecologists Stephen Matthews and Paul Rodewaldon on the role played by urban forests

in bird migration. The scientists gathered the data by fitting tiny tags to Swainson’s

thrushes (Catharus ustulatus). The study examined seven urban forests, the smallest of

which was an arboretum that was less than one hectare.The new study says even a

small urban forest can help migrating birds. Urban greenery is used by birds to rest and

refuel in the middle of their journey between winter and breeding sites. The scientist says

it was not necessarily the forest size that was influencing the birds. On the contrary they

were responding to internal factors, such as fat reserves they had. Within migration, land

birds spend up to 90% of their time resting and regaining energy at stopover sites.The

new study suggests that remnant forests within urban areas have conservation value for

Swainson’s thrushes and, potentially, other migrant land birds.


Tahrcountry Musings

Scientists Choose Top 10 List of Newly

Discovered Species of 2009

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an

international committee of taxonomists have announced the eagerly awaited top 10 new

species described in 2009. The annual top 10 new species announcement commemorate

the anniversary of the birth of Carolus Linnaeus, who initiated the modern system of plant

and animal names and classifications. The 300th anniversary of his birth on May 23 was

celebrated worldwide in 2007.The 10 Toppers are1) A minnow with fangs (Danionella

dracula ) found in a stream at Sha Du Zup between Mogaung and Tanai in Kachin State,

Myanmar.2) The golden orb spider ( Nephila komaci) discovered in Madagascar is the

first species of Nephila to be described since 1879.3) A carnivorous deep-sea sponge

(Chondrocladia (Meliiderma) turbiformis) discovered from Chatham Rise, Pyre

Seamount, New Zealand,4) A worm discovered off the central coast of California (Swima

bombiviridis) that when threatened releases “bombs” that illuminate for several seconds

with green bioluminescence.5) A sea slug (Aiteng ater) discovered from Pak Phanang

Bay, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, Thailand, eats bugs, which is unusual since nearly

all sacoglossans eat algae and a few specialize in gastropod eggs. Its discovery has

resulted in a new family, Aitengidae.6) A frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) that has an

unusual psychedelic pattern and is unique among frogfishes for its flat face. This hairless

striated frogfish was re-discovered by Maluku Divers in Ambon, Indonesia.7) A two-inch

mushroom (Phallus drewesii discovered off the coast of West Africa8) An electric fish

(Gymnotus omarorum) discovered in Uruguay, goes by the common name Omars’

banded knifefish9) A carnivorous plant species (Nepenthes attenboroughii) discovered in

Philippines produces one of the largest pitchers known.10) An “udderly weird yam”

(Dioscorea orangeana) that was found in Madagascar. Photos and other information

about the top 10 new species, including the explorers who made the discoveries are

online at http://species.asu.edu.

Can Bacteria Increase Learning Behavior?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It is a known fact that exposure to certain bacteria in the environment have

antidepressant qualities. Research findings presented at the 110th General Meeting of

the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego yesterday, by Dr. Dorothy Matthews

and Susan Jenks of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, goes a step further.

According to the researchers, Mycobacterium vaccae the natural soil bacterium which

people are likely ingest or breath in when they spend time in nature could increase

learning behavior.Matthews and Jenks fed live bacteria to mice and assessed their ability

to navigate a maze. This was compared with control mice that were not fed the

bacteria.The researchers found that mice that were fed live Mycobacterium vaccae,

navigated the maze twice as fast when compared to control mice.In a second experiment

the bacteria were removed from the diet of the experimental mice and the test was

repeated. The mice ran the maze slower than they did when they were ingesting the

bacteria, but they were still faster than the controls.

A final test was done after three weeks’ rest. The experimental mice continued to

navigate the maze faster than the controls but according to researchers the results were

no longer statistically significant. This points out that the effect is temporary limited to the

Tahrcountry Musings


time when they were ingesting the bacteria. The research definitely suggests that

Mycobacterium vaccae may play a role in learning in mammals.

The researchers end their note speculating the interesting possibility that creating

learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where Mycobacterium

vaccae is present may improve the ability to learn new tasks. This also underlines the

fact that benefits of spending time in wilderness has multiple benefits

Little Things Have Tremendous Influence in the

Functioning Of Ecosy…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The latest issue of the journal PLoS Biology has a paper titled “Spatial Pattern Enhances

Ecosystem Functioning in an African Savanna” authored by Robert M. Pringle, Daniel F.

Doak, Alison K. Brody, Rudy Jocqué and Todd M. Palmer. I read it with great fascination.

It showed in clear cut terms how small things play a great role in ecology.

When we think of the savannah ecosystem lions, elephants, and giraffes pop up in our

mind. But it seems the lowly termite has a mega role in the ecosystem. They contribute

mightily to grassland productivity in central Kenya via a network of uniformly distributed

colonies. Termite mounds enhance plant and animal productivity at the local level, while

their even distribution over a larger area maximizes this productivity.The termites have

tremendous influence and are central to the functioning of this ecosystem.

Dr Pringle and his associates began to quantify ecological productivity relative to mound

density. They found that each mound supported dense aggregations of flora and fauna.

Plants grew more rapidly near the mounds, and animal populations and reproductive

rates fell sharply with greater distance.

Satellite imagery of the mound was even more spectacular. The mounds stood at the

center of a burst of floral productivity. The highly regular spatial pattern of fertile mounds

generated by termites actually increases overall levels of ecosystem production.

Dr Pringle believes that the termites import coarse particles into the otherwise fine soil in

near their mounds. These coarser particles promote water infiltration of the soil. They

also discourage disruptive shrinking and swelling of topsoil in response to precipitation or

drought. Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen were high in the mounds.

The new findings have important implications for conservation

Conservation Credit Scheme for Builders

Launched in UK

Saturday, May 29, 2010

UK has launched an innovative conservation credit scheme for builders to offset the

damage they are doing elsewhere.The pilot project has been launched with the sale of

shares in a £100m project to restore and reconnect fragmented wetlands, woodlands and

grasslands around the headwaters of the river Thames. The shares are being sold

through the Environment Bank, a bank launched with the avowed aim of delivering


Tahrcountry Musings

mitigation and compensation schemes associated with planned development. The bank

was set up the three years ago by Rob Gillespie, a town planner and Professor David

Hill, an ecologist. The new Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron is a votary of this

scheme.The builders would be encouraged to invest in schemes in the same region as

their business, so that local communities would stand to benefit.Conservation credit

schemes are on trial n the US, Australia and South Africa. In the US, which is at the

forefront of conservation credit schemes, $3bn was raised for wetlands alone in 2008.

This week’s Best Wildlife Images

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guardian’s“This week in wildlife” is a source of joy. Wonderful images of wildlife are on

display which is soul filling and is a feast for the eye. Click here to have a look at this

week’s images. Have a great week end.

Book Recommendation – Seasons of Life by

Russell Foster and Leon …

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Here is an excellent book on chronobiology, the biological rhythms that living things need

to thrive and survive. Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman weave a fascinating account of

the intricacies of chronobiology

The authors point out that just as all creatures have an internal, 24-hour clock, they also

have an internal calendar governed by Earth’s 365-day rotation around the sun and it is

much more complicated than circadian clock.

In this fascinating book, Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman bank on recent scientific

advances to explain how seasonal change affects organisms, and how plants and

animals over countless generations have evolved sensitivities and adaptations to the

seasons. The authors also point out the impact of seasonal change on human health and


Tahrcountry Musings


Here are some surprising facts from the book

· The timing of human birth has a small but significant effect on various later life attributes

like susceptibility to many illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. ·

Plants have the ability to measure the length of a period of light, and they germinate,

flower, and reproduce on the basis of this accrued information. · Birds migrate not in

response to weather changes but by using an internal calendar. · Akin to 24-hour

circadian, many animals have a circannual clock in their brains that predicts the seasons.

The authors lament that climate change is wreaking havoc with the Earth’s

chronobiology. Here is a good example. The eggs of winter moths of Arnhem, Holland

must hatch within a 25-day time to ensure sufficient edible oak foliage to ensure its

survival. The great tit must time the hatching of its eggs to coincide with this burgeon of

winter moth caterpillars. The oak buds now burst 10 days earlier than they did 20 years

ago. Here the caterpillars have overcompensated, hatching 15 days earlier. But it is not

sure whether the great tits would synchronize or not.

A great read for those interested in the intricacies of circannual clock.

Russell G. Foster is Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and

a Fellow of the Royal Society. Leon Kreitzman is a science writer, broadcaster and a

respected futurologist.

ISBN 1861979142

ISBN 13 9781861979148

June 2009

Price £20.00

Hardback, 320 pp.

Whales – Why are there so many whale species?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Whales are amazing creatures and are about 55 million years old. There are 84 living

species and more than 400 other species that have gone extinct. They represent the

most successful invasion of oceans by a mammalian lineage. The largest animal known

to have ever existed is the blue whale, which is more than 100 feet long. By contrast the

smallest whale is about the size of a dog.The amazing diversity of whales has always

fascinated the scientists. UCLA biologists decided to have a closer look at this

phenomenon. They used molecular and computational techniques to go back 35 million

years, when the ancestor of all living whales appeared.The scientists found that very

early in their history, whales went their separate ways in terms of size, and ecology.

Species diversification and variations in body size were established very early in the

evolution of whales. The shape of variation that we see in modern whales is the result of

partitioning of body sizes early on in their history. The differences today were apparent

very early on.The rate of body-size evolution in the killer whale is the fastest. They

become larger over the last 10 million years. Killer whales eat mammals, including other

whales.The analytical tools for integrating the fossil data with the molecular data are just


Tahrcountry Musings

being developed and exciting things are in store for the future.Full details appear in the

latest issue of journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

An Integrated Method to Create Habitat Suitability

Models for Fragm…

Monday, May 31, 2010

Valerio Amici and Francesco Geri from Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali “G. Sarfatti”,

Università di Siena, Italy, and Corrado Battisti from Ufficio Conservazione natura, Servizio

Ambiente, Provincia di Roma, Italy, has come out with an excellent new model to create

habitat suitability models for fragmented landscapes.Habitat suitability models are

theoretical concepts that can be used for planning in fragmented landscapes and habitat

conservation. The most commonly used models are based on single species and on the

assignment of suitability values for some environmental variables. Generally the

cartographic basis for modeling suitability is thematic maps produced by a Boolean logic.

In the new method the scientists propose a model based on a set of focal species and on

maps produced by a fuzzy classification method. This method allows a better detection of

ecological gradients within a landscape.The scientists’ applied the new methodology to

the Tuscany region focusing on terrestrial mammals. Performing a fuzzy classification

they produced five land cover maps and through image processing operations they

obtained a suitability model which applies a continuity criterion. The resulting suitability

fuzzy model seems better for the study of connectivity and fragmentation, especially in

areas with high spatial complexity.

Preventing Bank and credit cards Fraud –

Butterflies Comes to the …

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A study of the stunningly bright and beautiful colors found on the wings of Indonesian

Peacock or Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio blumei) might come in handy for the banking

industry. It has the potential revolutionize the security printing industry. Till now mimicking

nature’s most colourful, eye-catching surfaces of butterfly wings has proved elusive. The

colours are produced by light bouncing off microscopic structures on the insects’

wings.Using a combination of nanofabrication procedures Dr Mathias Kolle, working with

Professor Ullrich Steiner and Professor Jeremy Baumberg of the University of Cambridge

made structurally identical copies of the butterfly scales, and these copies produced the

same vivid colours as the butterflies’ wings.The artificial structures could be used to

encrypt information in optical signatures on banknotes and credit cards to protect them

against forgery.Full details appear in the latest issue of journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Britain: The Return of the Blue Butterfly

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Blue butterfly had vanished from the British countryside in the late 70s. But A

successful reintroduction project over the past 25 years has seen the butterflies return to

25 sites.The large blue begins life as a caterpillar feeding on wild thyme flowers. Then it

tricks a species of red ant into thinking it is a lost ant grub. The gullible ants take the grub

Tahrcountry Musings


into the nest, where it feeds on the actual grubs for 10 months before emerging as a

butterfly. The species only thrives on dry grassland where wild thyme or marjoram and

the red ants are found.A blue blog is being launched online by the national trust with

updates on how the butterfly is doing and pictures from the site.For more info log on to


Squirrels and Adoption

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Adoption is noticed in social animals but it is much less common among asocial animals.

A study by Guelph University Prof. Andrew McAdam, along with researchers from the

University of Alberta and McGill University, has revealed that asocial red squirrels will

adopt pups that have lost their mother.The scientists say social animals like lions and

chimpanzees, are often surrounded by relatives, so it’s not surprising that a female would

adopt an orphaned family member. But red squirrels live in complete isolation and are

very territorial. The only time they will allow another squirrel on their territory is the one

day a year when the females are ready to mate or when they are nursing their pups.The

researchers found that relatedness plays a critical role in deciding whether a

neighbouring squirrel will adopt or not. In the five adoption cases recorded by the

researchers, the pups were nieces, nephews, siblings or grandchildren to the adoptive

mother.Adoption jeopardizes the survival of their offspring. So why does an animal adopt

in the first place. It is still a mystery. The researchers say in some cases it might be a

good bet to adopt as under the right conditions, an animal can propagate more copies of

its genes by helping relatives to raise their offspring than by producing offspring of their

own.Squirrels will only adopt an orphaned pup when the costs of adoption are low and

when the orphans carry a large percentage of the same genes such as siblings, nieces or

nephews rather than more distant relatives. Amazingly squirrels are able to assess which

pups are related or not.Details are published in the latest issue of journal Nature


Modeling Preferred Habitat of Birds with Laser

Thursday, June 03, 2010

There is exciting news for ornithologists. Study of bird habitat has entered hi-tech area. A

team of NASA-funded researchers led by Dr Scott Goetz of the Woods Hole Research

Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, has completed an experiment to remotely sense and

predict birds’ preferred habitat.NASA’s Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) was the

key to the team’s success. LVIS data indicated the height of the trees, the state of

branches and the canopy layers beneath tree tops. The composition of trees and shrubs

determines habitat quality, which in turn influences a bird’s presence and population

density.Painstaking field verification was a natural corollary to the experiment. Dr Scott

Goetz and his team combined satellite data, a ground-based bird census, light detection

and ranging (lidar), and a new modeling technique to correctly predict the presence of

song birds in the forestThe observations were based on the Black-throated Blue Warbler,

a small songbird that prefers lower-lying vegetation. Using four years of LVIS data, the

researchers ranked various forest habitats as good, fair, or poor based on canopy

structure. Their good rankings for the warbler matched actual ground data 90 percent of

the time.Full details appear in the latest edition of journal Ecology.


Tahrcountry Musings

Arabian Tahr in Dire Straits Reports Muscat Daily

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Muscat Daily reports in its issue dated 1/06/10 that poaching of endangered Arabian Tahr

is on the increase. This is happening in spite of the stringent measures taken by Omani

Government for the protection of Arabian Tahr.Last month Omani Environment ministry

officials had, with the help of the Omani Police, foiled an attempt by the smugglers to

smuggle out of the country two Arabian Tahrs. This is the 5th incident since May

2009.Here is a report from the Royal Omani Police websiteArabian Tahr Smugglers

Arrested (18/7/2009) The ROP arrested three Omanis recently and foiled their attempt to

smuggle Arabian Tahr. After a tip-off on their smuggling activities, the Directorate General

of Inquiries and Criminal Investigtions formed a working group to lead the operations. The

ROP arrested the smugglers on the run, found two animals, and handed them over to the

Department of Environment and Climate Affairs in Buraimi.

Conservationists’ are advocating increased community participation, in the conservation

efforts of Arabian Tahr, to check the menace of poaching.

Cockroaches Make Collective Decision

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A study published in the latest edition of Springer journal Behavioural Ecology and

Sociobiology fascinated me no end. It is about collective decisions taken by cockroaches.

It clearly demonstrated that groups of cockroaches can forage for food collectively, rather

than independently.According to Dr Mathieu Lihoreau from Queen Mary’s School of

Biological and Chemical Sciences, who led the research, Cockroaches cost our economy

millions of pounds in wasted food and perishable products. Better understanding of how

they seek out our food would allow us to develop better pest control measures,In the

experiments cockroaches (Blattella germanica) were released into an enclosure, where

they could choose between one of two piles of food. The majority of the cockroaches fed

solely on one piece of food.The researchers say these observations coupled with

simulations of a mathematical model indicate that cockroaches communicate through

close contact when they are on the food source.The scientist presumes that cockroaches

use a ‘foraging pheromone’ to communicate. But they are yet to identify it. Once

identified, a man-made ‘foraging pheromone’ could be used to improve pest control.

Mongooses Can Pass on Traditions

Sunday, June 06, 2010

This is incredible. Latest research shows that Mongooses can pass on traditions from

one generation to the next. Till now we thought it is a trait that is the prerogative of

animals with big brain.The research was headed by Dr Corsin Müller, now at the

University of Vienna.When banded mongoose pups emerge from the den, most of them

form exclusive one-to-one associations with a particular adult, usually an older brother,

cousin, or uncle. This new associate becomes their primary caretaker and “escort.” says

the scientists.Banded mongooses feed on a wide range of prey species including bird

eggs and rhinoceros beetles. They crack open the food item either by holding them in

place with their front paws and biting them open or hurling them against a hard surface

such as a stone or tree trunk.For his experiment Müller used a modified “Kinder Egg”

Tahrcountry Musings


plastic container containing a mix of rice and fish that could be opened using either the

biting or the smashing method. The mongooses differed markedly in their preference for

one or the other technique. The acquired traits persisted over time.Now the question was,

were the traits passed on from adults to pups?The researchers report the answer is yes.

In the experiments involving plastic canisters juvenile mongooses, when tested with the

novel food item for the first time, tended to copy what they had observed their escort

do.Details appear in the latest issue of Current Biology

Anthill: Fiction from EO Wilson

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Professor EO Wilson, the world’s most renowned biologist,

known as the father of sociobiology has come up with a

fiction based on the life of ants. The novel chronicles the

rise and fall of a particular ant colony. The novel is based

on Wilson’s intimate knowledge about ants. The renowned

biologist imagines exactly what it is like to be an ant and

come up with a sure fire winner. Wilson makes ecosystem

a central character in the book, to which the ants give

body and life.The ant species, evolved over 100 million

years, represents nearly two thirds of the world’s insect

biomass. Professor Wilson says “ant histories are epics

that unfold on picnic grounds”, in which “ants are a

metaphor for us, and we for them.” E.O Wilson adds “An

individual ant has a brain one millionth the size of our

brain, but still they are capable of quite complicated

behaviour”.Many ant species are capable of learning a

maze about half as fast as a rat. They can retain five locations where they can get food,

and they can recall how to get there, and retain what time of day the food is offered if it

comes regularly.” Then there is the mind of the colony. Each ant nest has a distributed

intelligence that dovetails through complex interactions to become a communal will. The

group in its communal mind has a very good idea of every square inch of the terrain

around the nest.The Anthill chronicle begins, with the death of the queen and the

subsequent events that evolve in the life of the colony

Much of what we know about social insects has been a result of E.O Wilson’s research

and observation. Professor Wilson officially retired from Harvard in 1996, but continues to

hold the posts of Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology.

Book Details

• Hardcover

• April 2010

ISBN 978-0-393-07119-1


Tahrcountry Musings

Breakthrough Cisgenics Study Heralds New

Exciting Vistas for Forestry

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Scientists have demonstrated that growth rate and other characteristics of trees can be

changed through “cisgenics”. Cisgenics is a type of genetic engineering that is

conceptually similar to traditional plant breeding, and uses genes from closely related

species that are sexually compatible. The path breaking research was pioneered by

forestry scientists at Oregon State University. The study was done with poplar trees.In

conventional transgenic, traits from one plant or animal can be transferred to an

unrelated species. But cisgenics uses whole genes from the same plant or a very closely

related species. The enormous increases in the speed of genome sequencing have

helped the scientists. Sequencing that used to take years can now be accomplished in

days.With the aid if the new technology a gene that gives plants more heat tolerance

might be useful in helping plants to deal with a warming climate. Ornamental trees could

be developed for shorter height for use in urban areas. Sky is the limit for

experimentation.The new findings have been published in the latest issue of journal Plant

Biotechnology Journal.

Evidences of Mathematical Strategies Followed

by Marine Animals Whi…

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The latest issue of journal Naturedated June 9 has a paper on the fascinating hunting

pattern of marine animals. The authors show that the hunting pattern is not a random

one. The animals follow a mathematical pattern called Lévy walks, punctuated by rare,

long forays in any direction. Dr David Sims, a researcher at the Marine Biological

Association of the United Kingdom in Plymouth was the lead researcher.Dr Sims and his

colleagues say they have firm evidence for Lévy behavior in 14 species of open-ocean

marine predators, including tuna, swordfish, marlin and sharks. The group managed to

collect more than 12 million data points for their research.Lévy behavior was more

prominent in waters where plankton, fish and other food was scarce. According to Dr

Sims Lévy motion improves the chances of finding prey.It was Gandhimohan

Viswanathan, a theoretical physicist at the Federal University of Alagoas in Maceió,

Brazil, who first demonstrated Lévy walks pattern in wandering albatrosses. Wandering

albatrosses, fitted with radio-tracking devices, made the occasional long flight that is the

hallmark of a Lévy pattern.Dr Sims and his team are now looking to identify Levy

behavior in lower marine animals such as octopuses.

Blindfolded Seals Can Track Passing Fish with

Their Whiskers

Friday, June 11, 2010

Here is another piece of incredible news from the nature world. Blindfolded Seals can

track passing fish with their whiskers.The fascinating information is the outcome of

research by Wolf Hanke , Sven Wieskotten, Hanke, Guido Dehnhardt, Björn Mauck and

Lars Miersch from the University of Rostock, Germany.The researchers found that the

Tahrcountry Musings


seals can also track passing mini-submarines for a distance of 40m. Latching on to

hydrodynamic trails in water with their sensitive whiskers; seals easily track passing fish

even in the most turbid waters.Details appear in the latest issue of in The Journal of

Experimental Biology.

This Week’s Best Wildlife Pictures from Guardian

Friday, June 11, 2010

Have a look at this week’s best wildlife pictures from Guardian. Click here

Fungi Can Speed Up Growth Rate of Rice by

Two to Five Times

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Plant pathologist Ian Sanders and colleagues from University of Lausanne, Switzerland,

have evolved a method by which fungi can speed up growth rate of rice by two to five

times.Nearly 80% of plant species have established a bond with a common fungus. In

return for sugar, the fungus helps the plants extract nutrients from the soil. But fungi do

not have this special relationship with rice. The aim of Dr Sanders was to devise a

method to artificially enable the method in rice.Dr Sanders collected single fungal spores

from fields near Zürich and cultivated them in the lab. The researchers extracted

individual spores from each parent and grew them for three generations. The scientists

found that the third generation of fungi bonded with rice and increased the plants’ growth

rate by two to five times. The scientist attributes the success of bonding to third

generation’s greater genetic variability.The work is still in the labs but scientist hope that

in the immediate future it can be taken to the field on an extensive basis.Full details

appear in the latest issue of journal Current Biology.

Humpback Whales Discovered to Form Lasting


Monday, June 14, 2010

Scientists have discovered that individual female humpbacks reunite each summer to

feed and swim together. Even though Toothed whales, such as sperm whales, associate

with one another this is a first observation of its kind for baleen whales, which are the

largest of all whales.The discovery was made by Dr Christian Ramp and colleagues of

the Mingan Island Cetacean Study group based in St Lambert, Canada. They have found

that female humpbacks reunite each summer to feed and swim together in the Gulf of St

Lawrence, off Canada. The longest recorded friendships lasted six years. How the

whales find each other each summer is still an enigma. The scientists suspects the

whales use sound to find and recognize other individuals.

Details of the discovery are published in the journalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.


Tahrcountry Musings

Small Carnivores Play Important Role in Helping

Fruiting Plants to …

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It is a known fact that many small carnivores eat fruits as supplements. It was assumed

that it was purely an incidental happening and does not have much ecological

significance. This is set to change now.Scientists from the University of Santiago de

Compostela (USC) have shown that carnivorous animals such as foxes and martens play

an important role in helping fruiting plants to reproduce and disperse their seeds.The

researchers studied how foxes and (Vulpes vulpes) and the European pine marten

(Martes martes) consumed the fruit of the rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) in the Cordillera

Cantábrica mountain range. They found that that both species were capable of tracking

yearly differences in the abundance of rowan fruit in Cantabrian forests and plumbed for

the most productive trees. The Carnivores were helping to disperse the seeds. The

carnivores consumed considerable proportion of the fallen fruit and this was much more

than the amount destroyed by rodents during the same period.The Rowan is a pioneer

species that colonizes secondary scrub and “prepares the way for further

succession.According to the researchers, the rowan-fox-marten system could be

important in mountain ecosystems on the Iberian Peninsula.Full details appear in the

latest issue of journal Acta Oecologica

Whales Help Offset Carbon Emission

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Here is an interesting piece of information about sperm whales. Australian researchers

say Sperm whale faeces may help oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The

research was led by Dr Trish Lavery from Flinders University in Adelaide.Sperm whales

release about 50 tonnes of iron every year via its faeces. This stimulates the growth of

phytoplankton which absorbs CO2 during photosynthesis. This in turn results in the

absorption of about 40,000 tonnes of carbon which is more than twice as much as the

whales release by breathing. The calculations are based on Southern Ocean sperm

whales. The researchers say that the global total could be much more substantial. Lack

of iron limits phytoplankton growth in many regions.The sperm whales eat mainly squid in

the deep ocean, and defecate in the upper waters where phytoplankton can grow. Here is

the twist. If the sperm whales eat and defecate in the same place they would absorb and

release the same amounts of iron. Myriad are the ways of nature.

Details are published in Royal Society journal Proceedings B

Crayfish Comes As an Excellent, Practical Model

for Insight into Hu…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

University of Maryland researchers headed by Dr Jens Herberholz, have come to the

conclusion that Crayfish make surprisingly complex, cost-benefit calculations and this

may help unravel the cellular brain activity involved in human decisions. Their study is the

first to isolate individual crayfish neurons involved in value-based decisions. According to

the researchers matching individual neurons to the decision making processes in the

Tahrcountry Musings


human brain is simply impractical for the time being now. The happy news is that basic

organization of neurons and the underlying neurochemistry are similar, involving

serotonin and dopamine.In the experiments Crayfish was offered a choice between

finding their next meal and becoming a meal for an apparent predator. Dr Herberholz

says the fish carefully weighed the risk of attack against the expected reward.To make a

quick escape, the crayfish would flip their tails and swim backwards. This action was

preceded by a strong, measurable electric neural impulse. Specific neurons that come in

to play during the decision-making process were identified. The fish take the action in a

matter of milliseconds.When the predator appears to be moving too rapidly for escape

the crayfish chose to freeze.The research has shown that crayfish, similar to organisms

of higher complexity, integrate different sensory stimuli that are present in their

environment, and they select a behavioural output according to the current values for

each choice.Details of the study appear in online edition of Proceedings of the Royal

Society B.

Research on Wild Potato Germplasm Points to

the Urgent Need to Cons…

Friday, June 18, 2010

Research led by Dr Dennis Halterman and Dr Shelley from the ARS Vegetable Crops

Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, has demonstrated that the wild potato

germplasm offers resistance to some major potato diseases.The researchers have

identified a wild potato species called Solanum verrucosum that contains a gene with

resistance to late blight. Late blight is considered to be the most destructive disease

afflicting potato. The scientists plan to move the late-blight resistance gene into the

cultivated potato. Efforts are also on to tackle early blight, a fungal disease that affects

the potato.Next on the agenda is tackling Verticillium wilt, a fungal disease that can linger

in the soil for up to 10 years. The scientists have developed a molecular marker to screen

potato germplasm for resistance against this disease which makes the work of

researchers easier. More work is on the anvil which will revolutionize potato

cultivation.The research points to the need for conserving the wild relatives of our

cultivated food plants. Our future food security depends on it. This should also act as an

eye opener for our politicians whose “development” agenda spells doom for biodiversity

in many areas.

Unconventional Natural Gas

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I just read a good piece of writing in New Scientist on Unconventional Natural Gas and its

enormous potential as a source of clean energy. Unconventional Natural Gas?

YesUnconventional natural gas tends to be trapped in impermeable hard rock or

sandstone or in shale deposits. New technology to extract natural gas from

unconventional deposits has great portent for previously gas-poor countries in the

Americas, Asia and western Europe. They could now have enough cheap gas to last for

another 100 years.The problem with coal is that it is dirty. Nuclear power is very

expensive. Renewables are not predictable. So the best option is to go in for gas. The

world consumes around 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas each year, and

consequently reserves from conventional sources will run out by 2068. At current rates of

consumption unconventional reserves could give us an extra 60 years. The estimate for


Tahrcountry Musings

unconventional reserves is900 trillion cubic meters. The scenario is bright.

This Week’s Wildlife Photos from Guardian

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Have a look at this week’s stunning wildlife images from The Guardian. Click HERE

Scientists Crack the Biomechanics of Ant’s

Balancing Act Using video

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The balancing act of ants while carrying heavy load must have intrigued many. As a kid I

have watched it with utter fascination. Now the scientists have unraveled the science

behind the delicate balancing act. The lead researchers were Dr Karin Moll and Dr Walter

Federle from the University of Cambridge. Dr Falvio Roces from the University of

Wurzburg in Germany was an associate. The experiments were done on Grass-cutting

ants (Atta vollenweideri) that carry plant fragments many times heavier and longer than

themselves.To maintain stability,centre of gravity of ant and load needs to remain above

the area of the supporting legs. Using high speed video cameras the scientists have

recorded controlled head movements that aid balance. The ant’s neck also plays a very

critical part in balancing the load. This feature is previously unknown in any insect. The

neck joint being involved in the adjustment of the load position was in fact a surprise.Full

details appear in the latest issue of Journal of Comparative Physiology

Orangutans Communicate Intelligently Using

Gestures, Researchers Ha…

Monday, June 21, 2010

Two British scientists from the University of St Andrews who spent nine months observing

the great apes at Twycross Zoo in the UK, Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands,

and the Durrell trust in Jersey have identified 40 frequently used body language signals

of Orang-utans. These signals were employed repeatedly to send messages such as “I

want to play”, “give it to me”, “go away”, “follow me”, or “stop doing that”. The research also shed light on the origins of human speech millions of years ago. Orangutans can

learn human sign language.The gestures have been compiled into the first ape


Details of the study appear in the latest issue of journal Animal Cognition.

BBC Guide to Whales

Monday, June 21, 2010

Have a look at this wonderful guide to whales from BBC.Really informative. Click here

Tahrcountry Musings


Experts Bemoan Decline in UK’s Scientific Study

of Insects

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I read a few minutes back a very interesting article on insects in “The Independent”. The

article bemoans the decline in the UK’s scientific study of Insects. It has portents in other

places also.As The Independent mentions insects are among the planet’s smallest

creatures, yet they have the power to change the world. It is our ally pollinating our crops,

and also our greatest enemy, spreading disease and killing millions. 75 per cent of

described animal species are insects and they help run all the ecosystems.Britain used to

be world leader in entomology. There is a palpable downswing in the interest shown in

the subject. Scientists are warning that Britain’s pool of expertise is draining away,

making Britain vulnerable to new dangerous insect pests. The Royal Entomological

Society warns that this spells a substantial threat to Britain’s ecosystems, food security

and health.Experts blame the school system for not capitalizing on children’s early

interest in bugs. This holds good everywhere.What Independent mentions mirrors in

other countries also. Lot of money is spent on research on mammals. But very little

money goes in to research on insects. With global warming posing a continuous threat it

is the need of the hour to pay more attention to insects that play a vital role in running our


Birdsong Learning is Very Similar to The Way

That Children Learn Ho…

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sleep- learning by birds…..? Does it sound like Science fiction? Read on what scientists

at Utrecht University have discovered. The researchers, M. H. Gobes, M. A. Zandbergen,

and J. J. Bolhuis at Utrecht have found that that when zebra finches learn their songs

from their father early in life, their brain remains active during sleep. The research has

also established that birdsong learning is very similar to the way that our children learn

how to speak.This discovery will increase our understanding of the role of sleep in the

formation of memory.In children different brain regions are involved in learning speaking

or singing. The new research has established that in zebra finches also this happens.

This makes songbirds a good animal model to study the role of sleep in human speech

acquisition.Details of the study appear in the journalProceedings of the Royal Society B:

Biological Sciences.

Chimpanzees kill Their Rivals to Acquire Land

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The latest issue of journal Current Biology has a very interesting paper titled “Lethal

intergroup aggression leads to territorial expansion in wild chimpanzees” The paper give

details about the first evidence that Chimpanzees kill their rivals to acquire land.John

Mitani a primatologist from the University of Michigan, David P. Watts from Department of

Anthropology, Yale University, and Sylvia J. Amsler from the Department of Sociology

and Anthropology, University of Arkansas, have observed that the Ngogo chimpanzee

troop in Uganda’s Kibale National Park engaged in 18 lethal attacks led by Ngogo males


Tahrcountry Musings

on another, smaller group of chimps of Kahama community between 1999 and 2009. In

2009 after the culmination of the bloody war the victors seized the territory held by the

vanquished.The scientists say this internecine fight resembles lethal intergroup raiding in

humans. The prominent hypothesis suggests that chimpanzees attack neighbors to

expand their territories and to gain access to more food. Femaleswith abundant food

supply tend to have more offspring. Territorial gains could also bring in females from

neighbouring troops, offering more mating opportunities to the males.

A Conservation Initiative Worthy of Emulation

Friday, June 25, 2010

When a species thought to be extinct in an area returns there is cheer in the conservation

community. This time the good news comes from Britain. The conservation community

has much to cheer in the return of small blue, Britain’s tiniest butterfly species in

Hertfordshire.The small blue had not been seen in Hertfordshire for eight years. Four

years ago a major restoration project was started. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

have been working hard at the reserve to remove scrub vegetation and encourage plants

needed by butterflies, particularly kidney vetch preferred by small blue.A survey earlier

this month found several individuals at Albury Nowers, a nature reserve near Tring

managed by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Good weather also caee as a

blessing for the conservation initative.Tahr country salutes Herts and Middlesex Wildlife

Trust for the wonderful work they have done

This week’s Widlife Images from the Guardian

Friday, June 25, 2010

Have a look at this week’s wildlife images from the Guardian. Click here

Why Are Tropical Forests Biologically Rich?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The question why are tropical forests biologically rich is a question posed by many

people. Smithsonian researchers have come up with an answer to this puzzle.According

to the researchers one explanation for the maintenance of the diversity of tropical trees is

that adult trees harbor pests and diseases that harm seedlings of their own species more

than they do seedlings of other species. The study showed that underground organisms

are the key to species diversity and patterns of tree-species relative abundance.Dr

Mangan the lead researcher planted seedlings of five species under adults of each

species in the forest. In a greenhouse experiment he grew seedlings of each species in

soil collected around the base of each of the other species. Dr Mangan and colleagues

found that the ability of seedlings of a species to survive when grown in soil from the

same species predicted how common or rare they are as adults. Plant interactions with

soil biota alone are powerful and specific enough to explain why multiple species co-

exist.Neutral Theory of Biodiversity, which is premised on the idea that all species are the

same, has been turned on its head by the new researchDetails of the study is published

in the journal, Nature

Tahrcountry Musings


The Plant that was Brought Back from Oblivion

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Since the 1950s Anogramma ascensionis fern found in Ascension Island in the South

Atlantic was presumed extinct by the scientists.Here is something that will warm the

cockles of the heart of the conservation enthusiasts. Scientists attached to the London’s

Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew have rediscovered the fern and rescued it. The discovery

was made on a mountainside in the harsh volcanic landscape of the island. The excited

scientists got pieces of the ferns back to Kew so that more plants could be grown in the

safety and sterility of their lab.

The spores of ferns are vulnerable to drying and contamination, and the team had just 24

hours to transfer the spores to Kew. The samples were flown to a military airport in the

UK, from where it was raced to Kew.

The plant started growing in the lab of Kew and the scientists are justifiably elated. They

have now succeeded in growing 60 new plants in culture. A plant has been saved from

the brink of total extinction.

The long term plan is torestore Anogramma to its former wild habitats in Ascension Island

Distance affects the Survival Rates of Rare

Species in Tropical For…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Here is a fascinating piece of information from the tropical forests. Seedlings of rare

species do better when they grow farther from members of their own species. The finding

is the result of research done by Liza Comita, an ecologist at the National Center for

Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California.When Seedlings were

planted at varying distances from an adult tree, the more distant ones are more likely to

survive. Comita looked at 30,000 seedlings of 180 tree species in a 50-hectare, long-term

plot on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Komita found that seedlings were more likely to

survive if they were farther away from adults or other seedlings of the same species.

Seedlings of common species did not seem to be affected when they are close together.

This could be the reason why they are more common. The hypothesis is that the farther a

seedling is from members of its own species, the better its chance of avoiding enemies

like viruses, leaf-eating insects. Further experiments are on to find out whether common

species are more resistant to diseases and insects.

Whither Carbon Sequestration?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The latest issue of journal, Nature Geoscience has an excellent paper on pros and cons

of underground Carbon sequestration.European Union plans to invest billions of Euros

within the next ten years to develop carbon capture and storage. The idea is to extract

CO2 from power plants and other combustion sites and store it underground.A pertinent

question that has been raised against the back drop of underground storage is what are


Tahrcountry Musings

the long-term consequences of leakage?Professor Gary Shaffer from Niels Bohr Institute

has made long term model projections for a number of sequestration/leakage scenarios.

The results show that leakage of the stored CO2 may bring about atmosphere warming,

sea level rise, oxygen depletion, acidification and increased CO2 concentrations in the

ocean.Geological storage may be effective only if we can ensure CO2 leakage of 1 % or

less per thousand years. Carbon in light form will always seek its way out.

CO2sequestration should not be used as an excuse for continued high fossil fuel

emissions. The wise course would be to limit CO2 emissions in our time so that it does

not become a burden for future society.

New Study – Asian Elephants Living in a

Combination of Fragmented F…

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I just read a paper titled “Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) habitat use and ranging in

fragmented rainforest and plantations in the Anamalai Hills, India, authored by Kumar, M.

A., Mudappa, D. and Raman in Tropical Conservation Science.The study says Asian

elephants living in a mix of fragmented forests and agricultural landscapes still depend

heavily on natural landscapes—rivers and forests—for survival. Forest fragments and

riparian vegetation play important roles in the ecology of elephants. Conserving these

patches and protecting them from further degradation is crucial for conservation of

elephants as they are highly dependent on natural vegetation despite its patchy and

clumped distribution.The elephants spend lot of time near rivers and forest fragments. In

an area covered with coffee, tea and eucalyptus the elephants avoided tea as far as

possible. Time spent in tea plantations was mainly for nighttime crossing of the

landscape. Grass growth in plantations of coffee and Eucalyptus appeared to provide

cover and fodder for elephants. The concentration of elephants along a major riparian

system in the center of the landscape emphasized the role of water and food availability

in habitat use during the dry seasonThe authors say logging should be prohibited within

20 meters of rivers, to ensure elephants room to forage. The study recommends

promoting coffee and Eucalyptus over tea plantations. Coffee has the advantage of

having lot of shade trees.The authors conclude that Protection of rainforest fragments,

secondary vegetation along rivers, and regulated and sequential felling (instead of clear-

felling) of Eucalyptus along elephant movement routes will help retain forage, cover, and

passage routes of elephant herds and may reduce direct human-elephant encounters in

such fragmented landscapes

Bees Observe a Strict Working Day

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Scientists working on bees have come up with a surprising finding. Even in conditions of

24-hour sunlight they observe a regime of strict working day. The research was

pioneered by Ralph Stelzer and Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London,

UK.The movements of bees during the constant light of the Arctic summer were carefully

monitored using radio tags.Increased daylight provides an opportunity for bees to forage

and maximize their intake. But the bees do not take advantage of this opportunity.For

comparison the researchers studied both native bees and a group of bee colonies they

imported into the Arctic. Both the sets retired to their nests well before midnight.

Maximum activity was around midday.Stelzer and Chittka are trying to work out the riddle.

Tahrcountry Musings


They speculate that the bees must have some way of telling the time in the absence of

day/night cues. They could be sensitive to light intensity or changes in

temperature.Despite the light, temperatures fall during the Arctic ‘night’. There is a

possibility that the bees return in order to warm their brood. Stelzer and Chittka are

determined to get to the root of it.Details of the work appear in the latest issue of journal

BMC Biology.

Unraveling the Mystery of Menopause Though

Killer Whales

Friday, July 02, 2010

Results of a new research done by scientists of Universities of Exeter and Cambridge on

killer whales, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide

fascinating insight in to menopause in killer whales and humans.Killer whales, pilot

whales and humans are the only three known species where females stop breeding

relatively early in their lifespan.

According to researchers as age advances females become more related to those

around them and it creates a ‘grandmother’ role, where the success rate of breeding in

the group can be helped by older females sharing parenting knowledge and stopping

breeding which in turn allow younger females easier access to resources. Females

become more closely related to infants in the group as they get older. This predisposes

females of humans and those of killer whales and pilot whales, to the evolution of

menopause and late life helping.

In other long lived mammals it is typically males who leave the group to breed, and

females who stay with their mother. Older females will be selected to continue breeding.

This Week’s Magnificent Wildlife Images from

The Guardian

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Have a look at this week’s magnificent wildlife Images from

The Guardian. Click Here

Article in Guardian – Conservation can be a

weapon against poverty

Monday, July 05, 2010

I read an excellent article by Daniela Pastrana in Guardian titled “Conservation can be a

weapon against poverty”. It gives a graphic description of how local people are paid for

protecting their environment, in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Read the

story here


Tahrcountry Musings

Hydroelectric Power is not as clean as it is made

out to be

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hydroelectric power is listed as a very clean source of power, totally unpolluting. This

conventional thought has been turned on its head by a latest piece of research by Brazil’s

National Institute for Research in the Amazon.The study says the hydroelectric power

generation systems could be releasing significant amounts of methane into the

environment. This release is done by the rotting vegetation in the dam.The submerged

vegetation will decompose without oxygen over time, producing dissolved methane. The

flow brings in a continuous supply of plant matter to decay. Plants that grow on the banks

of reservoir are submerged when the rainy season comes. The dissolved methane is

released into the atmosphere when the water passes through the dam’s turbines.A study

of one dam in Pará, Brazil found that its effect on the climate was more than three and a

half times greater than if the same quantity of energy had been produced by burning

oil.Even if we take in to consideration the fact that the plants will have taken some carbon

dioxide out of the atmosphere during their growth cycle the effect is still deleterious as

methane is 21 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Hydroelectric power still scores as it is a renewable source of energy.

Reducing Global Warming with Coriander

Turmeric and Cumin

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The slow digestive system of ruminants such as cows and sheep contribute to global

warming as the digestive process produces methane. Methane is a major contributor to

global warming.Scientists from Newcastle University have found that adding coriander,

turmeric and cumin to fodder can reduce the amount of methane produced by sheep by

up to 40 per cent. This makes digestive process more efficient producing less methane. It

is estimated that each sheep produces around 20 litres of methane a day. 12% of the

food energy goes waste as methane. Coriander reduced methane production from

14ml/gram of ‘‘food’‘ to 8ml/g – a drop of 40%. Turmeric produced a 30 per cent reduction

and cumin 22 per cent.

Coriander seeds are often prescribed for stomach complaints while turmeric and cloves

are strong antiseptics.

Details of the research appear in Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 2010.

Vocal Mimicry at its Best

Friday, July 09, 2010

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and UFAM (Federal

University of Amazonas) have documented the first recorded instance of a wild cat

species in the Americas mimicking the calls of its prey.The researchers were observing

Pied Tamarins feeding in a ficus tree. To their utter fascination they observed a Margay

emitting calls similar to those made by tamarin babies.The Tamarin “sentinel, climbed

Tahrcountry Musings


down from the tree to investigate the sounds coming from a tangle of lianas. At that

moment, a margay emerged from the foliage and moved surreptitiously towards the

monkeys. The sentinel realized the ruse and screamed in alarm. This sent the other

tamarins fleeing for cover.According to researchers this vocal manipulation of prey

species indicates a psychological cunning which merits further study.Details of the

research appear in the June issue of Neotropical Primates.

Termite Queens Use Specific Chemicals to

Prevent Other Termites fro…

Saturday, July 10, 2010

North Carolina State University entomologist Dr. Ed Vargo and colleagues from Japan

and Switzerland have for the first time shown that specific chemicals are used by some

termite queens to prevent other termites in the colony from developing into new

queens.The key is a combination of two chemical compounds called n-butyl-n-butyrate

and 2-methyl-1-butanol in a pheromone perfume. The study gives a peep into the

mechanisms behind the ways colonies of termites and other social insects regulate

themselves.The scientists say termites molt frequently throughout their lives and can

change castes depending on conditions in the colony.Details of the study appears in the

latest issue of journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Sea Otters and Carbon Sequestration

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Scientists have calculated that Sea otters remove at least 0.18 kilograms of carbon from

the atmosphere for every square meter they occupy in coastal waters. This piece of info

comes from Dr Chris Wilmer and team from the University of California, Santa Cruz.It is

estimated that in North America alone they could collectively lock up 1010 kg of carbon

which is worth more than $700 million in the carbon-trading market.Sea otters have a

stellar role in the ecology of sea. They promote the luxuriant growth of kelp by consuming

sea urchins.Unfortunately Sea Otters are on the decline. In Alaska the populations have

dropped from up to 125,000 in the 1970s to around 70,000 today.According to Dr Chris

Wilmer the new calculations provide an incentive to protect sea otters.

Antibacterial Properties’ of Honey – Scientists

Crack the Riddle

Monday, July 12, 2010

It is a known fact that honey kills bacteria, but the mechanism behind it has always been

a mystery. Now scientists have cracked the riddle.Scientists at the Academic Medical

Center in Amsterdam have discovered that bees make a protein called defensin-1, which

they add to the honey. This protein defensin-1 is the agent responsible for the

antibacterial property of honey.The new information also sheds light on the inner

workings of honey bee immune systems. This could help us to breed healthier honey

bees.Scientists say honey-derived medicines might come in handy for prevention and

treatment of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.Full details appear in July

2010 print edition of FASEB Journal.


Tahrcountry Musings

Mammals Decline in Africa’s National Parks

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A new study published in Biological Conservation paints disturbing scenario of wildlife in

Africa. Parks like Masai Mara and the Serengeti have seen populations of large

mammals decline by up to 59 per cent.The study was headed by scientist from the

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Cambridge University.An average decline of

almost 60 per cent in the population abundance of 69 key species including lion,

wildebeest, giraffe, buffalo and zebra was noticed between 1970 and 2005, in 78

protected areas throughout Africa.Lack of financial and personnel resources, high rates

of habitat degradation and the growing bushmeat trade are attributed as reasons for the

worrisome decline.The situation outside the parks is even worse. Many species like rhino

are practically extinct outside national parks.

Have alook at my article on Masai Mara HERE

One in Four of All Flowering Plants are Under

Threat of Extinction

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The results of recent research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society

B makes disturbing reading. One in four of all flowering plants are under threat of

extinction. The figures are truly alarming.The research was headed by Stuart Pimm of

Duke University in North Carolina, David Roberts, of the Durrell Institute of Conservation

and Ecology and Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge.The researchers’

initially carried out an independent review of how many flowering exist. The team

calculated that against the “best estimate” of 352,282 flowering plants there are another

10-20%, or 35,000-70,000, which are yet to be officially discovered.The next step to

assess the level of threats from habitat loss arising from clearing land for planting crops

or trees, development and indirect causes like falling groundwater levels and pollution.

The researchers say that new species are likely to be found in “biodiversity hotspots”,

where there are huge numbers of endemic species and a high level of habitat loss.

Based on this assumption they estimated that all so-far-undiscovered flowering plants

were also at risk.According to researchers if the number of species that are currently

known to be threatened are added to that those that are yet to be discovered, we arrive

at an estimate that between 27% and 33% of all flowering plants will be threatened with

extinction. These estimates are based on immediate threat, and do not consider further

development of destructive factors, including climate disruption.

Common Names for Endangered Species

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Some of Britain’s endangered species which did not have common names have been

given appropriate common names. Have a look at the wonderful pictures and slide show

of these endangered species from BBC HERE

Tahrcountry Musings


Wildlife Images

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Every weekend, I eagerly look forward to wildlife images from Guardian. I am utterly

fascinated by the sheer beauty of the images. Have a look at this week’s wonderful

images. Click Here

The Return of the World’s Least Known Bird

Sunday, July 18, 2010

After a single specimen of Large-billed Reed warbler (Acrocephalus orinus) billed as the

world’s least known bird, was found in Himachal Pradesh, India in 1867, the species was

not seen again until 2006. A live bird was trapped in Thailand in 2006. The bird has

remained an enigmatic figure.Now a breeding site of the bird has been found in Tajikistan

by scientists. Ornithologists Dr Raffael Aye and Mr Manuel Schweizer of the Society for

Field Ornithology and Bird Protection in Central Asia, and Dr Stephan Hertwig of the

Natural History Museum in Bern, Switzerland have discovered eight individual large-billed

reed warblers living at three different riverine woodland sites in the Gorno-Badakhshan

Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. This is the first confirmed breeding site of the species

since its discovery by science.Conservationists around the world are elated by the


Sad News – Poachers Kill Last Female Rhino in

South Africa’s Kruger…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rhino poaching has reached an all-time high in Africa. The Poachers have killed the last

female rhino in South Africa’s Kruger Park. The rhino bled to death after having its horn

hacked off by poachers. They sawed off the horns with a chainsaw. Poachers used

tranquillizer guns and a helicopter for their heinous activity. Now there are only 18,000

black and white rhinos in entire Africa, down from 65,000 in the 1970s. How sad.

Back from the Oblivian – Sri Lanka’s Horton

Plains Slender loris

Monday, July 19, 2010

For over six decades the Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides,)

was thought to be extinct by researchers. The subspecies has been seen only four times

since 1937. Attempts to photograph the animal did not succeed.The species has been

rediscovered during a recent expedition by the scientists of the Zoological Society of

London working in conjunction with Sri Lankan scientists. They have also managed to get

photographs of the elusive animal. The picture shows an adult male characterized by

short limbs and long dense fur, sitting on a tree.Horton Plains slender loris measure

about 6-10inches in length. The research team has estimated an upper count of 100 and

a lower count of 60 for the animal.The researchers say the rediscovered loris could even

be a species in its own rightFor a picture of the animal which has appeared in


Tahrcountry Musings

Metro.co.uk click HERE

Fungal Disease Threatens to Wipe Out

Amphibians before they are dis…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The disease chytridiomycosis, is proving to be the nemesis of Amphibians.

Chytridiomycosis caused by the chytrid fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis,

threatens more than 2,800 amphibian species worldwide. Amphibians infected by the

disease develop skin several times thicker than normal skin, which in turn affects their

ability to breathe and the transfer of electrolytes.Details of research published in the

latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of Science USA makes disturbing

reading. A Panamanian park has lost around 40% of its amphibian species in the past

decade. Some had died out before biologists had even learned of their existence. Using

latest DNA bar-coding biologists discovered 11 new species, only to find that five of them

are already extinct in the area. DNA bar-coding involves sequencing standardized DNA

marker fragments to match specimens with known species. Dr Andrew Crawford from the

University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, was the lead scientist.The disease is

spreading fast. Scientists are trying the use of probiotics to stall the tragedy. Frogs and

salamanders have symbiotic bacteria growing on their skin, defending them against the

fungus. Scientist are taking bacteria from healthy populations in the wild and culturing

them in the lab. They hope to inoculate wild populations with heavy doses of their own

beneficial bacteria.Scientists also plan to preserve animals by removing some of them

from their natural habitat. Animals can be cured with anti-fungal solutions, but the

headache is how to introduce them back to wilderness without causing reinfections.

Biologists are racing against time.

A Map Showing the Height of the World’s Forests

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Michael Lefsky, the remote sensing specialist from Colorado State University has

produced a first of its kind map that shows in detail the height of the world’s forests, using

satellite data. The data was collected using NASA’s ICESat, Terra, and Aqua satellites.

LIDAR that’s capable of capturing vertical slices of surface features was also put to use.

LIDAR is the only instrument that can penetrate the top layer of forest canopy and

provides a fully-textured snapshot of the vertical structure of the forest.The data shows

that the world’s tallest forests are in the Pacific Northwest of North America and portions

of Southeast Asia. Redwoods and sequoias have the tallest canopies well above 40

meters. The height of tropical rain forests is around 25 meters. In boreal forests the

canopy is less than 20 meters.It is hoped that the data generated would help us to build

an inventory of how much carbon the world’s forests store and how fast that carbon

cycles goes through ecosystems and back into the atmosphere.

Tahrcountry Musings


Coffee and Genetic Diversity in Tropical Forests

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A new study by a University of Michigan biologist Christopher Dick and a colleague at the

University of California, Berkeley, Shalene Jha, has found that Shade-grown coffee farms

support native bees that in turn help maintain the genetic diversity in tropical forests.

Native bees carried pollen twice as far in a shade-coffee habitat than they did in the

forest.By pollinating native trees on shade-coffee farms and adjacent patches of forest,

the bees help preserve the genetic diversity. Increasingly fragmented landscapes due to

onslaught of agriculture are isolating native plant populations in many tropical areas. An

estimated 32.1 million acres of tropical forest are destroyed each year this

way.Increasing tendency for coffee growers to resort to “sun coffee,” which involves

thinning or removing the canopy has to be seen against the backdrop of this new

research. There is urgent need to encourage the traditional style of agriculture where

coffee is grown in the shade of big trees.The study was done in shade-grown coffee

farms in the highlands of southern Chiapas, Mexico.Details of the study appear in the

latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pain Killer from Sea Snail Saliva

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Here is yet another example where biodiversity comes to our help, this time in the form of

a very effective pain killer that holds great promise.The new medicine is as effective as

morphine but without the risk of addiction.Snails inject the chemicals in the saliva into

passing prey with hypodermic-needle-like teeth that shoot from their mouths like

harpoons.People with peripheral neuropathy stand to benefit immensely from the new

discovery.The bottom line is the need to conserve our biodiversity. We have only touched

the tip of the ice-berg in our efforts to find new drugs derived from wild plants and

animals. Sadly in the inexorable drive for “development” biodiversity id getting depleted at

a fast rate worldwide.Details of the study appears in the latest issue of journal Chemical &

Engineering News

This week’s stunning wildlife pictures from


Friday, July 30, 2010

Have a look at this week’s stunning wildlife images from Guardian. Click Here

Busted – The belief that monoculture plantations

would capture more…

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Australian scientists, after extensive research have found that the reforestation of

damaged rainforests is much more efficient at capturing carbon than softwood

monoculture plantations. This finding turns on its head the current thinking.

The scientist studied three projects in Australia: monoculture plantations of native


Tahrcountry Musings

conifers, mixed species plantations and rainforest restoration projects. They found that

restoration planting stored significantly more carbon in above-ground biomass than the

monoculture plantations of native conifers and tended to store more than mixed species

timber plantations.

Restoration projects are more expensive then monoculture plantations. So it is unlikely

that carbon markets will plumb for restoration projects immediately

Details are published in the latest issue of journal Ecological Management and


The Riddle Cracked – Why in Some Species of

Spiders the Males are m…

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

In some species of spiders the males are much smaller than females. Till now no

satisfactory explanation was in place for this riddle. Now a Spanish research team

headed by Dr Guadalupe Corcobado from the Spanish National Research Council’s Arid

Zones Research Station in Almeria has come up with an explanation.

The researchers say evolution favours small, light males as it gives them the ability to

traverse thin strands of silk. Smaller size also ensures more mating opportunities. Large

females are favoured because they reproduce more abundantly. In some species

females are more than 12 times longer than males.

Plant dwelling spider produce strands of silk and allows the wind to carry one end of it.

When the silk strand lands on a leaf or stem the spider pulls it tight and secures the near

end. It then crawls across hanging upside down from the strand. Smaller sized males

were very successful in bridging.

The link to bridging is a new concept derived by the Spanish researchers.

Details appear in the journalBMC Evolutionary Biology.

No update for 10 days

Sunday, August 08, 2010

For the next 10 days I am not in a position to access internet. So there won’t be any

update during this period

Tahrcountry Musings


Like Human Beings Bees like a warm Drink on a

Cold Day

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I was fascinated to read about the preferences of bees for a hot drink on a cold day and

vice versa cold drink on a hot day. The info is the outcome of study by insect scientists

Drs Melanie Norgate and Adrian Dyer shows of Monash University.

As part of the research, on a cold day the researchers presented artificial flowers with

nectar-like liquids that were warmer than the ambient temperature. At ambient

temperatures of 23-30°C bees displayed a marked preference for feeding from artificial

flowers which were warmer. Warmth along with nectar was an important component in

the scheme of things.

Next the researchers measured the body temperature of bees after they had ingested

warm nectar. It was noticed that warm nectar helped bees maintain a body temperature

of 30-34°C which the researchers think is likely to be required by insects to maintain

active flight.

The researchers now plan to investigate how the plants modify the temperature of their

flowers to present rewards to pollinating insects. This modulation could be an important

factor in the the distribution of flowers in different regions.Details of the research appears

in the latest issue of journalPLoS One.

Stealth Hunters of Dusk

Friday, August 20, 2010

We have heard of stealth aircrafts that zooms in on target undetected. Here comes an

equivalent from the nature world.

Researchers from the University of Bristol have discovered that barbastelle bats hunt

moths using stealth technique.

Moths can usually hear bat echolocation signals and take evasive action to avoid being

eaten. They have sensitive ears that pick up ultrasonic bat sounds.

Barbastelle bats produces echolocation calls up to 100 times quieter than those of other

bats to hoodwink the moths. Moths can detect other bats more than 30 metres away, but

the barbastelle gets as close as 3.5 metres using its modified echolocation calls. The bat

zoos in before the moth becomes aware of the approaching bat.

This Week’s Best Flora and Fauna Images from

Around the World

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Have a look at this week’s stunning wildlife images from Guardian. ClickHERE


Tahrcountry Musings

Unravelled – The Anti-freeze Mechanism of Arctic


Thursday, August 26, 2010

I have always wondered why the fish in the arctic region do not freeze. Temperature of

minus 1.8 ° C is enough to freeze any fish. The freezing point of fish blood is estimated to

be about minus 0.9 ° C. Research led by Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith (Physical Chemistry

II of the RUB) and her team has finally unraveled the mystery.

It is a known fact that there are special frost protection proteins in the blood of arctic fish.

How they work was a mystery.

Dr. Martina Havenith and team used a special technique, terahertz spectroscopy, to

unravel the underlying mechanism. With the aid of terahertz radiation the researchers

were able to show that water molecules, which usually perform a permanent dance in

liquid water, and constantly enter new bonds dance a more ordered dance in the

presence of proteins. This is the key behind the anti-freeze. This effect is more

pronounced at low temperatures than at room temperature.

The mechanism devised by nature using anti-freeze proteins, works far better than any

household antifreeze.

Details of the research appear in the latest issue of theJournal of the American Chemical


Banana to the rescue of Crohn’s disease patients

Friday, August 27, 2010

Crohn’s diseasecauses chronic intestinal inflammation, leading to pain, bleeding and

diarrhoea. People with Crohn’s disease have increased numbers of a ‘sticky’ type ofE.

coliwhich weakens the ability to fight off invading intestinal bacteria. The stickyE. coliare

capable of penetrating the gut wall via special cells, called M-cells. M-cells act as the

‘gatekeepers’ to the lymphatic system. In patients with Crohn’s disease this results in

chronic inflammation of the gut.

Scientists of Liverpool Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) have found that plantain’s

soluble fibers prevented the uptake and transport ofE. coliacross M.cells. They compared

these results with tests on polysorbate-80 – a fat emulsifier used in processed food to

bind ingredients together. The tests revealed that polysorbate had the opposite effect to

plantain fibres, and encouraged the movement of bacteria through the cells.

According to Dr Barry Campbell, the research has shown that different dietary

components can have powerful effects on the movement of bacteria through the bowel.

We have known for some time the general health benefits of eating plantain and broccoli,

which are both high in vitamins and minerals, but until now we have not understood how

they can boost the body’s natural defences against infection common in Crohn’s patients.

The research suggests that it might be important for patients with this condition to eat

healthily and limit their intake of processed foods.

Researchers are working with biotechnology company, Provexis, to test a new plantain

based food product that could treat patients with Crohn’s disease.

Tahrcountry Musings


Bugs and the art of using bifocals

Sunday, August 29, 2010

University of Cincinnati researchers have reported the discovery of a bug with bifocals in

the latest issue of journal CurrentBiology.

The two eyes of larvae of sunburst diving beetle (Thermonectus marmoratus) have

bifocal lens which amazed the scientists. Using two retinas and two distinct focal planes

that are substantially separated, the larvae can more efficiently use these bifocals. This

enables them to see and catch their prey efficiently. They lose these intricate lenses

when they become a beetle.

The scientists first used a microscope to look through the lenses of the two eyes detailed

in the research article. They discovered how the lens could make a second image grow

sharper. This is something that could only happen with a bifocal. Their findings were

confirmed with more research in addition to observing the lens and the two focal planes

via a microscope. They saw the bifocal again when they used a method to project a

narrow light beam through the lens. This could only be explained by a truly bifocal lens.

The discovery could have uses in imaging technology. The bug inspired imaging devices

could be round the corner. The discovery also highlights the importance of conserving

our biodiversity.

Malaysia fast becoming a transit point for illegal

wildlife trade

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On Tuesday, Wildlife officers seized two tonnes of elephant ivory and five rhino horns at

Kenya’s international airport which was on its way toMalaysia.

A growing number of illegal ivory shipments are passing through Malaysian ports. Pasir

Gudang in Johor is notorious for this. In August 2006, 2,910 kg of ivory transiting through

this port was seized in Japan. Another large shipment of 5,647 kg of ivory which was

clandestinely routed was seized in Viet Nam.

Till now Vietnam had this dubious distinction of being a transit point. NowMalaysia is also

in the list, which is a concern that has to be addressed on a war footing.It is Africa that is

at the receiving end of this scourge. 180 rhinos have been slaughtered for their horns in

South Africa this year alone. Conservationists have issued a call to identify the players

involved in the illegal rhino horn and elephant ivory trade in Malaysia and put a brake on

their nefarious activities.


Tahrcountry Musings

Hunting for ‘Conservation’ comes a cropper

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Hunting for conservation has been touted as an answer to conservation problems. There

are many votaries for it and lion conservation in Africa is linked to it. But a new study

suggests that hunters who pay to shoot the animals are killing too many lions and pretty

soon they will become endangered.Seventy years ago Africa had an estimated 450,000

lions. It has come down to less than a tenth of that.The research team looked at several

explanations for the decline of lions and the decreasing success rate of hunters.

Expanding agriculture, disease, and retaliatory killings were taken in to reckoning.The

team sayshunters have been overexploiting the lions and this is the main reason for the

decline of lions.The research was led by Dr by Craig Packer of the University of

Minnesota Details of the research will appear in an upcoming issue of

journalConservation Biology.

Ant tree-guards that Deter the Elephants

Friday, September 03, 2010

The latest issue of journal Current Biology has a very fascinating paper on how ants

protect Acacia drepanolobium from marauding elephants. Groups of ants that weigh

about only five milligrams swarms up the trunk of much more massive elephants and stop

them in their tracks. Elephants freely feed on other species of trees that do not harbour

ants. The scientists’ removed the ants from some trees and transferred them to one of

the elephants’ favourite tree foods, a different Acacia species called Acacia mellifera.

When other tree species had ants on them, the elephants avoided those trees also.

Elephants appeared to perceive the presence of tree ants by their smell. The scientists

say this raised the possibility of using ant odours on crops to deter elephants.

Smashing wildlife images from Guardian

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Have a look at this week’s pick of wildlife images from Guardian. ClickHERE

Bacteria and the Art of Purifying Gold

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Here comes a surprise. Bacteria can purify gold. The discovery was made by scientists

from Australia and is reported in the latest issue of journal Geology.

The catch is in a thin layer of microbes, known as a biofilm that is up to 40 μm thick,

found enveloping gold grains in a Queensland mine. This biofilm dissolves the gold on

contact and creates toxic gold ions that can break down the bacteria’s cell walls. The

bacteria fight back by transforming the ions into metallic gold nanoparticles. These

nanoparticles later coalesce into lace-like crystals. This form of gold is much purer than

the original gold grains. Original gold grains contain silver and mercury.

The researchers hope to genetically modify the bacteria to become much more efficient

Tahrcountry Musings


gold purifies.

New Face of Cockroaches – Guardians of Health

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Simon Lee a researcher from University of Nottingham has presented exciting new

information on how health benefits could be derived from much maligned cockroaches

and other insets like crickets. He was making his presentation at General Microbiology’s

autumn meeting in Nottingham.Simon and colleagues have identified up to nine different

molecules in the insect tissues that were toxic to bacteria. The insects were able to kill

more than 90% of Meticillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus(MRSA) and Escherichia coli,

without harming human cells. This could be the harbinger of novel treatments for multi-

drug resistant bacterial infections. These new antibiotics could also in future provide

alternatives to currently available drugs that may be effective but have serious side

effects.The researchers say “Insects often live in unsanitary and unhygienic

environments where they encounter many different types of bacteria. It is therefore

logical that they have developed ways of protecting themselves against micro-

organisms”This gives us yet another reason to conserve our biodiversity. We are losing

our biodiversity before we even scratch the surface.

Cleaning up Polluted Rivers – A Lesson from


Thursday, September 09, 2010

The concerted efforts to clean up polluted rivers and improve their habitats in England

have started paying off. The number Sea trout and salmon found in some English rivers

have gone up by leaps and bounds. According to Environment Agency rivers are at their

cleanest for over a centuryIn river Tyne no salmon and trout were seen 50 years ago.

The picture has taken a complete turnaround. More than 15,000 salmon and sea trout

have already been recorded migrating this year up the river Tyne.River Thames was

declared biologically dead in the 1950s. Now record numbers of sea trout have been

recorded in the Thames.The river Mersey, once rated as the most polluted river in

Europe, is very clean now. The cleanest it has been for a century.The remarkable

turnaround was achieved through investment by water companies, tougher action against

polluters, reducing discharges from industry into waterways and changing farming

practices. Building fish and eel passes and creating shallows which shelter fish from

predators along rivers have also contributed to the improvement

Freshwater Turtles on a Downswing

Saturday, September 11, 2010

According to a new analysis by Conservation International (CI) more than a third of the

estimated 280 species ofFreshwater Turtlesaround the world are now threatened with

extinction. This figure makes turtles some of the most threatened animals on the

planet.Red river giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is in deep trouble.

Unsustainable collection of turtles for food and pet trade are the main villains. Habitat

loss as a result of river-damming for hydro-electricity is a major headache. When the

natural flow patterns in rivers are disturbed their nests on the sandbank high up get


Tahrcountry Musings

flooded at the wrong time of year with disastrous consequences. In China their

consumption is perceived to have medicinal benefits.

These turtles take 15-20 years to reach maturity and if they are taken out before that it is

catastrophic. Now is the time to take action. It is not too late.

For more information log on towww.conservation.org/turtles.A CI science expert is

answering your questions about freshwater turtles and tortoises..

This week’s wildlife images from Guardian

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Have a look at this week’s wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

Scoop by BBC Team – Highest Living Tigers


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Here comes solid evidence that tigers can live and breed at extremely high altitudes. The

evidence has been provided by an intrepid BBC camera team working in the high altitude

areas of Bhutan. The tigers were filmed more than 4,000 metres high in the Himalayas.In

this dramatic expedition explorer Steve Backshall , cameraman Justine Evans, scientist

George McGavin and big cat biologist Alan Rabinowitz is joined by sniffer dog

Bruiser.The discovery could pave the way to create a conservation corridor, linking

populations of the endangered tiger across Asia.The documentary Lost Land of the

Tigerwill be broadcast on BBC One at 21.00BST on Tuesday 21st, Wednesday 22nd and

Thursday 23rd September.

Scientists Crack Cuckoo Mystery

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How a cuckoo chick is able to hatch in advance of a host’s eggs has always been a

mystery. Now scientists from University of Sheffield have cracked the mystery. The team

was headed by Professor Tim Birkhead, from the University’s Department of Animal and

Plant Sciences.

The researchers discovered that cuckoo eggs are internally incubated by the female bird

for up to 24 hours before birth. This internal incubation gives the cuckoo a 24 hour head

start over its host’s eggs.

When eggs are incubated by the adult birds in the nest, their eggs are at about 36oC.

Inside the female, the egg is at a body temperature of 40oC. This difference in

temperature gives the cuckoo egg a 31 hour head start to be precise.

The results of the study appear in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal

Society of London, Series B

Tahrcountry Musings


German conservation photographer Florian

Schulz is CIWEM Environmen…

Thursday, September 23, 2010

German conservation photographer, Florian Schulz., has won the best photographer

award in the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2010 awards.

Florian shot a picture of thousands of Munkiana Devil rays swimming through the ocean.

An amazing phenomenon for which no explanation is forthcoming. We are yet to fathom

the full mysteries of the ocean.

Telegraph has published this amazing picture. Click here to view it

This week’s Stunning Wildlife Images

Friday, September 24, 2010

Have a look at this week’s magnificent wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

UK’s Most Wildlife Friendly Farmers

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Two brothers John and James Davison from the hills of County Antrim, Northern Ireland,

have won this year’s Nature of Farming Award, in UK.

The award was in recognition of their tireless efforts to create the ideal habitat for

lapwings, curlews, Irish hares and a host of other insect and plant life. The brothers raise

sheep and cattle on their 350-hectare farm near Ballymena. They garnered 53 per cent of

the public’s vote.

The award is instituted by the RSPB with support from BBC Countryfile Magazine,

Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation. It is funded by the EU Life+ programme.

The winners will receive the top prize of £1,000 which will be presented with their award

later this year.

World DNA Barcode Library

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A DNA barcode library has been put in place in Toronto by An international consortium of

geneticists. The aim is to build a digital identification system for all life on Earth.

Barcoding for 80,000 species with one million barcode records is complete. This is the

largest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken.

By 2015, scientists expect to enter DNA barcode records from five million specimens

representing half a million species.

This DNA barcoding project will reduce the time and cost of species identification. It

promises a future where everyone will have rapid access to the names and biological

features of every species on Earth. It will be a vital tool for conservation. A handheld

barcode reader is round the corner.

“The International Barcode of Life is assembling a global network of taxonomists,


Tahrcountry Musings

biologists and geneticists to embark on the next great exploration of the natural world,”

says Dr. Christian Burks, President and CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute and Chair

of the iBOL Consortium board of directors.

Mountain coati the Least Studied Carnivore in the


Monday, September 27, 2010

I was fascinated to read about the only Mountain coati (Nasuella olivacea), kept in

captivity. The mountain coati was confiscated from poachers by police and environmental

authorities. It is being kept in at Bioparque la Reserva in Cota, Colombia.

The mountain coati is perhaps the least studied carnivore in the world. Information about

it is very limited as it is a very elusive animal. Deficient data available are from skins,

tissue samples and skulls kept in natural history museums. It belongs to same family of

raccoons and kinkajous and lives in the forests of Colombia and Ecuador



Monday, September 27, 2010

Guardian is offering you a golden chance to put your questions

to legendary conservationist David Attenborough. These

questions will be the basis for an interview slated for next


For the past 50 years David Attenborough has been crusading

for nature conservation. Even at 84 he is at his favorite passion.

Next month, in First Life, he explores the lives of the world’s

very first animals in BBC.

Questions should be sent

[email protected] the end of Tuesday

28September or tweet them [email protected]

Before sending the questions please log on to Guardian. Click


Forestry and Climate Change – The portents

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forestry commission of England is keeping one step ahead in anticipation of vagaries of

climate change. They have come up with some recommendations to tackle the menace. I

found the research note very useful.

Here is an excerpt.

The changing climate presents challenges for forest planning and forest management.

The commission says the projected increases in temperature, changes in the seasonality

of rainfall, and an increased frequency of extreme events add complexity to species

Tahrcountry Musings


selection and silvicultural practice. The commission calls for adjusting forest management

now to take care of anticipated future changes. There is an urgent need to increase

resilience by reducing exposure to risks in forestry and in the goods and services that

woodlands provide for society.

As a result of climate change tree growth will increase in some areas while they will

decline elsewhere. The effects will vary with species. Some relatively less known species

will become predominant. This could include some species from other continents. New

approaches to woodland management will be required to address the threats of drought

and risk from pests, diseases, wind and fire.

There are many uncertainties associated with climate change with imponderable impacts

on trees, silviculture and forest operations. This uncertainty should not prevent adaptation

but should act as a driver for woodland managers to implement measures that increase

resilience whatever climate change brings. A key concept in managing risk is

diversification. This include broadening the choice of genetic material and mixing tree

species in different ways, to varying management systems and the timing of operations.

The report is free. Click Here if you are keen to read the full report

One-fifth of the World’s Plants are Under Threat

of Extinction

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A study conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Natural History Museum, London and

the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has revealed that one in

five of the world’s plant species are threatened with extinction. The study was in response

to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity and the 2010 Biodiversity

Target.The study gives a clear global picture of extinction threat to the world’s known

plants. According to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Director, Professor Stephen

Hopper plants are the foundation of biodiversity and their significance in uncertain

climatic, economic and political times has been overlooked for far too long.The study

revealed that Plants are more threatened than birds, as threatened as mammals and less

threatened than amphibians or corals. Gymnosperms are the most threatened group. The

most threatened habitat is tropical rain forest.The study assumes significance against

backdrop that governments are to meet in Nagoya, Japan in mid-October 2010 to set

new targets at the United Nations Biodiversity Summit.For more information log on to

Kew Gardens.

Surprise- A Fish that Suckles its Young

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I read with utter fascination the news about the fish that suckles its young A team of

biologists from Denmark, led by Prof Skov of the University of Copenhagen, have

discovered a fish that suckles its young. Even more surprising the young suckle while still

within their mother’s body. The fish that has thrown up the surprise is European eelpout

(Zoarces viviparus). Eelpout is found near the coastal waters throughout large parts of

Europe, from the southern parts of the English Channel to the Baltic Sea and the White

Sea.Eelpout has pregnancies, lasting approximately six months and give birth to large

baby fish quite disproportionate to its size. Scientists say the suckling explains why it can

give birth to large, live baby fish.Other fish, such as guppies and mollies, also give birth to

live young but they have short gestation times lasting a few weeks or less, and their


Tahrcountry Musings

embryos feed on yolk from egg sacs within their mother’s body.Details of the discovery

are published in the latest issue of Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

This week’s Wildlife Images

Friday, October 01, 2010

Have a look at this week’s beautiful wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

Book Recommendation

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Here is a book worth possessing. Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves, a

new book by Dr Richard Kirby

Dr Kirby examines the hidden microcosm of life, the world of plankton, lurking behind the

waves. The microscopic algae and the tiny animals that eat them float freely on the

surface of the sea. They are the basis of marine food chain, generating oxygen, and

playing a key role in the global carbon cycle.

Dr Richard Kirby’s superb high-magnification photographs and informative text is a feast

for the eye and a great read.

• Paperback: 192 pages

• Publisher: Studio Cactus Ltd (September 15, 2010)

ISBN-10: 1904239102

ISBN-13: 978-1904239109

Guardian has published superb images from this book. Click here to view it.

This Year’s Ig Nobels – a Rip-roaring, Rib

Tickling Lighter Look at…

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Here is something on the lighter side for Sunday. My friend Jeffrey from England has

mailed me info about this year’s Ig Nobels winners.

For those of you who have no clue about Ig Nobels, it is an event organized by the humor

journal Annals of Improbable Research to promote the public appreciation of science. It is

a reward for scientists who take a lighter look at science making the people laugh, and

then make them think. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Ig Nobel Prizes.

Here is the roundup of this year’s winners.

Engineering: Marine biologist Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse of the Zoological Society of

London and colleagues. They get the award for their method of collecting samples of

whale snot using a remote-controlled helicopter.

Medicine: Psychologist Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands

and colleagues. They get the award for discovering that asthma symptoms can be

successfully treated with roller-coaster rides.

Tahrcountry Musings


Physics: Public health researcher Lianne Parkin of the University of Otago in New

Zealand and colleagues. The get it for proving that wearing socks on the outside of shoes

reduces slips on icy surfaces.

Peace: Psychologist Richard Stephens of Keele University in the United Kingdom and

colleagues. The grab the prize for demonstrating that swearing alleviates pain.

Public health: Microbiologist Manuel Barbeito of the Industrial Health and Safety Office at

Fort Detrick, Maryland, and colleagues for determining that microbes flourish in the

beards of scientists.

Economics: The executives of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns,

Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar “for creating and promoting new ways to invest money—ways

that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a

portion thereof.

Chemistry: Engineer Eric Adams of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in

Cambridge and colleagues. They get it for disproving the belief that oil and water don’t


Management: Social scientist Alessandro Pluchino of the University of Catania in Italy

and colleagues for mathematically demonstrating that organizations can increase

efficiency by giving people promotions at random.

Biology: Biologist Libiao Zhang of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and

colleagues for their study of fellatio in fruit bats.

Real Nobel winners receive around $1.4 million dollars, but not Ig Nobels winners. This

year’s ceremony was an exception. It included a cash prize: A $100 trillion note from

Zimbabwe the value of which is around 0 as a result of hyperinflation.

England – Policeman Gets Award for Wildlife


Monday, October 04, 2010

A cop keen about wildlife is a rarity. Here comes a glowing example from England that

turns the belief on its head. A Scottish policeman Charles Everitt has been given a UK-

wide award for his work in tackling wildlife crime. The award is titled Wildlife Law Enforcer

of the Year.Charles Everitt , who has been in this job for the last eight years, investigated

27 wildlife cases last year. He is not the sort of guy who does only what the statute books

says. He recently helped set up a community peregrine-watch on a site near Edinburgh.

This site had been plagued by chick poachers. As a result of his dedicated work the site

saw the first hatching of the birds in 15 years. Everitt has waged a relentless battle

against deer poaching, hare coursing and unlicensed zoo animals. In an operation

against Scottish traditional medicine shops selling products containing protected species

this policeman seized goods worth a fortune.Tahrcountry salutes this magnificent

policeman and exhorts policemen around the world to follow the trail shown by Charles



Tahrcountry Musings

Biodiversity Underpins not only Ecosystems, but


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I read with great interest and interview ofDr. Christopher N. Herndon, Published by

Mongabay. Dr Herndon stresses the importance of biodiversity in terms of medicine in

this well paced interview.The ecosystems such as rainforests and coral reefs that have

given us some of the world’s most important drugs are also among the most endangered.

Ocean acidification and warming temperatures connected to climate change may spell

doom for coral reefs. Rainforests continue to vanish at an estimated rate of 32,300

hectares every day. Tropical rainforests forests are found only 6% of the earth's land

surface but they contain over half of its terrestrial biodiversity.Dr Herndon says it’s truly

difficult to know how many species have been tested for medicinal properties, or for that

matter how many have already been lost forever. Less than one percent of all species

has been fully examined for medical potential. Most of nature’s medicine is stored among

plants, fungi, and invertebrates.There is an urgent need to protect our biodiversity. Read

the full interview here

Pictures of New Ocean Species Discovered

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A census of marine life has been completed with maps and three books, increasing the

number of counted and validated species to 201,206. The 10 year effort involved 2,700

scientists. According to the scientists there may be at least another 750,000 still waiting

to be discovered. Telegraph has published 29 beautiful images of newly discovered

species. Click here to view it.

Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade – Good News from


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It is always good news for conservationists, when they hear about arrest and punishment

of poachers and smugglers of wildlife and wildlife artifacts. Here comes a good piece of

info from UK.

Due to the diligent efforts of UK authorities, Donald Allison, of Preston, Lancashire, an

antiques dealer, who tried to smuggle rhino horns out of Manchester Airport has been

jailed for 12 months. He had hidden the two horns in a sculpture as he tried to board a

flight to China. The worth of horns is estimated to be around £600,000. They were

destined for Chinese medicine market.The investigators used DNA samples to trace the

horns to the rhino Simba, which died from natural causes at the Essex zoo in 2009. The

rhino’s entire head was stolen and sold for £400 after its body was sent for statutory

disposal.Simba was a white rhinoceros from southern Africa, an animal protected under

the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). The convention

stipulates that the bodies of protected species should be incinerated after

death.Preventing the horns being sold on to the illegal world market is vital to the long

term conservation of endangered species. UK authorities have acted with alacrity. Tahr

country salutes the officials.

Tahrcountry Musings


Family Ties in Lizards

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have found that desert night

lizards in the Mojave Desert lives in family groups and shows patterns of social behavior

more commonly associated with mammals and birds. These lizards are viviparous, giving

birth to live young instead of laying eggs. According to researchers it is this viviparity that

predisposes the animal to form family groups.Usually individuals in most species of

lizards avoid each other. Young desert night lizards stay with their mother, father, and

siblings for several years after birth.

Details of the research appears in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal

Society B: Biological Sciences

Good Book on Ecological Restoration

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Restoring Ecological Health to Your Land by Steven I. Apfelbaum and Alan Haney

Here is a great book for practitioners of ecological restoration and budding

restorationists.Restoring Ecological Health to Your Land is the first practical guidebook to

give restorationists and would-be restorationists with little or no scientific training or

background the “how to” information and knowledge they need to plan and implement

ecological restoration activities. The book gives step-by-step process for developing,

implementing, monitoring, restoration projects. Steeped in land ethic and solid ecology,

this volume spells out the route for restoration, from initial concept to planning,

implementation, and long-term management. Great book.

Steven I. Apfelbaum is chairman of Applied Ecological Services Inc., a company he

founded in 1975. He has worked on design, construction, management, monitoring, and

research of ecosystems and has taught ecosystem restoration to land trusts,

conservation organizations, and families interested in restoring their property.

Alan Haney is a forest ecologist and emeritus professor of forestry and former dean of

the College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. His research

and teaching focus on ecosystem structure and function, including restoration ecology.

Published: 05/11/2010

Publisher: Island PressThe Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration Series

ISBN: 9781597265713Hardcover: $60.00

It is Not Too Late to Save Our Declining Coral


Friday, October 08, 2010

Eminent marine scientists from Australia and the USA writing in the latest issue of Trends

in Ecology and Evolution (TREE) say there is still time to save our coral reefs even

though they are in precarious condition in some areas. About 125,000 square kilometres

of the world’s corals have disappeared so far. According to latest report 19% of all reefs

have been effectively lost, another 15% are critical and likely to be lost in 10–20 years,

and a further 20% are under threat from local human pressures.The efforts should be to

improve the resilience of coral reefs, so that they can withstand the impacts of climate

change and other human activities. The scientists say some reefs degenerate into a


Tahrcountry Musings

mass of weeds and never recover – an event known as a ‘phase shift’ – while on other

reefs the corals manage to bounce back successfully, showing a quality known as

resilience. The degradation and disappearance of corals can be arrested and reversed

with the right management prescriptions.The team has come up with certain


• Empower and educate local people to look after their own reefs

• Change land uses that cause damaging runoff and sediment

• Control not only fishing, but also fish markets to protect herbivorous fish

• Integrate resilience science with reef management and support for local communities

in restoring their reefs

• Improve laws that protect coral reefs globally

• Confront climate change as the single most important issue for coral reef

management and conservation by sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Restoration of sites in Hawaii, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean, Bahamas

and Philippines amply demonstrates that with dedicated efforts restoring coral reefs is not

a pipe dream

The Fresh Air Fund

Friday, October 08, 2010

Some time back we had published a post about The Fresh Air Fund

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund has been giving inner-city children the joy of a summer

vacation with volunteer host families and at Fund camps, creating unforgettable

memories and fresh possibilities.Sara Wilson, of Fresh Air Fund informs me that lot of

interest was generated this summer within the blogosphere. They had close to 5000

volunteer host families open their home to a NYC child and 3000 children visited their

camps. Their Facebook Page continues to be a hub of activity. There are some excellent

photos and videos from their host families. You can follow the excellent work at


This Week’s Wildlife Images

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Have a look at the smashing wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

International Year of the Bats

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Bats, the worlds only flying mammals are one of the planet’s most misunderstood and

persecuted mammals. Around half of to the world’s 1100 bat species are currently at risk.

Bats save the farming industry millions of dollars each year. They also play a key part in

sustaining the world’s forests. Bats provide ecological benefits such as pest control and

seed dispersal. Bat populations in large urban areas can consume up to 30,000 pounds

of insects in a single night. An estimated 134 plants that yield products used by humans

are partially or entirely dependent on bats for seed dispersal or pollination. Environmental

experts say bats as indicators of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems

Tahrcountry Musings


Most people are unaware that bats provide invaluable services to the environment. Bat

populations have declined alarmingly in recent decades. Despite intensified conservation

efforts, over half of all bats species are now classified by the International Union for

Conservation as threatened or near threatened.

The recently launched, UNEP-backed ‘Year of the Bat’ will promote conservation,

research and education on bats. The Year of the Bat in 2011 will coincide with the United

Nations’ International Year of Forests. The Year of the Bat will encourage people across

the world to get involved in bat conservation efforts

Dr. Merlin Tuttle, a leading ecologist and wildlife photographer and founder of Bat

Conservation International has been designated as the honorary ambassador for the

Year of the Bat.

Slideshow of Hundreds of New Species Found in

Papua New Guinea Prov…

Sunday, October 10, 2010

During a 2-month exploration researchers have discovered 200 new species of plants

and animals deep within the forests of Papua New Guinea. This includes two new

mammals, 24 new species of frogs, nine new plants, and almost 100 new insects. Have a

look at the slide-show.Click HERE

Listen to Live Feed of Whale Songs

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Michael Andre’, a bioacoustician at the Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona,

Spain has come up with an ingenious method of listening to live feeds of whale songs.

He has created a website where you can listen to the live feeds.

The songs come from 10 hydrophones spread around European waters, and one in

Canada. Several more are planned to come soon in Canada and in Asia.The primary aim

of the researchers was to study the effects of human activity on whales and dolphins. The

hydrophones are placed on the seabed, on existing research platforms that monitor

earthquakes and tsunami. The streams of audio data go to a server where the signals are

analysed and published directly on the internet. An algorithm developed by Andre’ filters

the different frequencies in the signal to identify specific sounds, including the songs of

26 species of whales and dolphins. The new system could also reveal the effects of noise

pollution on whales’ .It should be possible to determine if animals change course in

response to bursts of noise, or alter their preferred routes because of new sources of

noise like shipping routes or harbours.So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and listen

to the whale songs. Click here.

Ireland – Golden eagles to the rescue of sheep

Monday, October 11, 2010

I read with great interest in Belfast Telegraph the reintroduction success of iconic Golden

eagles in Ireland and how some of the apprehensions of farmers have been proved

wrong.When Golden eagles were reintroduced in Ulster there was lot of protest from

farmers who feared that the eagles will lift their lambs. They have realized that their fears


Tahrcountry Musings

were misplaced. Golden eagles are proving to be the best friends of the sheep farmers.

There is a definite decline in the number of attacks by local hooded grey crows on

newborn lambs.The eagles were reintroduced after an absence of more than 100 years.

A total of 58 young golden eagles have been released since the project began in 2001.

The plan is to release a total of 75 birds

The project group had to meet the 53 reintroduction guidelines set by the International

Union for conservation of Nature before they obtained a license to import golden eagle

chicks from Scotland. Scotland has a stable golden eagle population of 420 breeding


Unbelievable but true – Monarch butterflies have

evolved the abilit…

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Here is something that will make you wonder how little we actually know about the

intricacies of nature. Research by biologists at Emory University has shown that Monarch

butterflies appear to use medicinal plants to treat their offspring for disease.The

researchers discovered that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants

that will make their offspring less sick. The research points to the best evidence to date

that animal’s use medication.The research also throws up exciting possibilities of viewing

animals and insects as indicators of medicinal properties of plants.Details of the research

appear in the latest issue of journal Ecology Letters.

Colonization of Land by Plants Pushed Back by

10 Million Years

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The latest issue journal New Phytologist, has an interesting paper on the evolution of

plants, the arguments of which push back Colonization of land by plants, by 10 million

years. The startling discovery was made by a team of researchers led by Dr Claudia

Rubinstein of the Department of Palaeontology at the Argentine Institute of Snow, Ice and

Environmental Research in Mendoza, Argentina. The place of discovery was Rio

Capillas, in the Sierras Subandinas in the Central Andean Basin of northwest Argentina.

The newly discovered plants are fossils of liverworts. The discovery also affirms that

liverworts are the ancestors of all land plants.

The authors’ moot that diverse land plants had evolved by 472 million years ago. The

researchers’ best estimate is that the colonization of land could have occurred during the

early Ordovician period (488 to 472 million years ago) or even during the late Cambrian

period (499 to 488 million years ago).

The Horse is a Dog says a Vet

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What have we got here? A conundrum? A wee bit. Read on

The Uffington White Horse is very famous. It is an ancient carving in the Oxfordshire

hillside dating back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age. The figure is not anatomically correct,

says retired vet, Olaf Swarbrick. He believes that the figure looks more like a hunting

Tahrcountry Musings


hound at full stretch. According to him anatomically it’s not a horse at all.

National Trust has rejected Mr Swarbrick’s ideas. They say it’s a stylized horse and there

is no doubt about it being a horse. The observations of Olaf Swarbrick have kicked up a

row and it is talking point in scientific circles now.

Blog Action Day 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today is Blog Action Day 2010. The theme this year is water and thousands of bloggers

from over 125 different countries will come together to write about water issues in their

communities and around the world. Nearly 1 billion people across the world lack access

to clean water. The situation is pathetic in many parts of Africa. African women walk over

40 billion hours each year carrying pots weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water.India

is also heading towards a water crisis. Urgent steps on a war footing are needed if we are

to avert it. The per capita availability of water in India was 3450 cu m in 1952. It stands at

1800 cu m now and experts forecast that by 2025 it will plummet to 1200 1500 cu m per

person.Water quality also is deteriorating at an alarming rate. A 1982 study came up with

a report that 70 per cent of all available water in India was polluted. The situation has

gone worse now.

India’s fourteen major river systems are heavily polluted. This happens mainly from the

50 million cubic meters of untreated sewage discharged into the rivers. Farming is also

contributing to pollution of the groundwater due to unregulated use of agrochemicals.

Sanitation and wastewater treatment should go hand in hand along with assurance of

potable water. Unfortunately this is not happening in many areas. There is often

dichotomy between implementing agencies. This has to be tackled urgently.

So folks spare a thought for water today. Use it judiciously. You can make a

difference.Here is some food for your thought. The cotton t-shirt you’re wearing right now

took 1,514 liters of water to produce, and your jeans required an extra 6,813 liters. Over

17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture water bottles, 86 percent of which will

never be recycled.

The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. Find out how much you use and

device ways to reduce it.

Here is a list of dos compiled by Go Green Travel Green

1. Shorten Your Showers. An average shower goes through 5 or more gallons of water

per minute.

2. Cut Back on Bathing. Consider showering every other day, especially if you’re not

working up a sweat each day. Caveat: If you wreak after a day of hiking in the woods,

hop in the shower before climbing into your hostel bed.

3.Re-Wear Clothes. Wash your clothes when they’re dirty instead of tossing them in the

laundry bag after wearing them for a couple of hours.

4. Pack Eco-Friendly Soaps. Bring low-impact soap, laundry detergent, and dish soap to

make sure the water you do use isn’t polluted.

5. Turn Off the Tap While Brushing. Most of us shut off the water at home when we’re

brushing our teeth, but good habits sometimes fall by the wayside when we’re traveling.

6. Reuse Cooking Water. When you’re cooking in a hostel, there’s no reason you need a

pot of water for your potatoes and another one for your pasta. Instead, cook the potatoes

first and reuse the water for the pasta.

7. Read the Signs. When you’re hiking, don’t wash your clothes or bathe in fresh water

streams unless it’s permitted.

8. Skip Bottled Water. If tap water is safe to drink always go for it


Tahrcountry Musings

Earth’s temperature is controlled by Carbon

dioxide – Results of a …

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A new atmosphere-ocean climate modeling study by Dr Andrew Lacis and colleagues at

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York has shown that the

planet’s temperature ultimately depends on the atmospheric level of carbon

dioxide.Carbon dioxide accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect, water

vapor and clouds together account for another 75 percent, and minor gases and aerosols

make up the remaining five percent. The researchers conclude that it is the 25 percent

non-condensing greenhouse gas component, which includes carbon dioxide that is the

key factor in sustaining Earth’s greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide is responsible for 80

percent of the radiative forcing that sustains the Earth’s greenhouse effect. CO2, like

ozone, N2O, CH4, and chlorofluorocarbons, does not condense and precipitate from the

atmosphere at current climate temperatures, whereas water vapor can and does.The

modeling also enabled the researchers to demonstrate that direct relationship exists

between rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and rising global temperature.

The paper titled “Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob

Governing Earth’s Temperature” appear in the latest issue of


This week’s wildlife images

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Have a look at this week’s beautiful wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

Hot News about Coral reefs and Rainforests

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Here is some breaking news. We are all aware that Coral reefs and rainforests are hot

spots of biodiversity, but latest research is adding a pleasant twist. These two

ecosystems may actually seed clouds and produce rainfall.The new study says if we take

Amazon rainforest as an example the forests act as its own ‘bioreactor’. Clouds and

p r e c i p i t a t i o n a r e p r o d u c e d b y t h e a b u n d a n c e o f p l a n t m a t e r i a l s i n t h e ecosystem.According to researchers the trees ‘sweat out’ organic molecules that react

with compounds in the atmosphere, producing tiny particles that are around 20 to 200

nanometers in size. Eighty percent of supermicron particles above the Amazon were

produced by rainforests. The research thus emphasizes the need to protect the

forests.The research also indicates that a substance called dimethylsulphide or DMS

produced by coral reefs also seeds clouds and brings precipitation. DMS oxidizes in the

atmosphere to produce cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). The DMS is produced by the

algae living in coral tissues.

This is exciting news for the conservationists.Details of the study appear in Science

Tahrcountry Musings


Smashing close-up photographs of insects and

spiders by John Hallmén

Monday, October 18, 2010

Have a look at the amazing close up photographs of insects published by Telegraph.

They will leave you spell-bound.

Click HERE

Good News from South Africa – Black wildebeest

Reintroduced to the …

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Here is some heartwarming news for nature lovers. A herd of black wildebeest have been

reintroduced to the Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve on the north-east boundary of the

Eastern Cape, in South Africa, on the Lesotho border. Black wildebeest had disappeared

from the area a century ago due to over-hunting.

30 animals have been released so far. The black wildebeest were introduced to

Ongeluksnek from the Tsolwana Nature Reserve.

Ongeluksnek Nature Reserve is 13 000 ha in extent and was proclaimed as a protected

area in 1976.

No Updates for the Next 3 days

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I am travelling and have no access to the internet for the next 3 days. Consequently there

won’t be any updates for the next 3 days.

South Africa Fits GPS on Rhinos in an Effort to

Stem Poaching

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More than 200 rhinos have been slaughtered in South Africa since the start of this year.

This is a precarious situation. Alarmed by this South African wildlife authorities have

plumbed for GPS in an innovative trial. They have fitted five rhinos in the Mafikeng Game

Reserve of North West province with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to help protect

them from poachers.

A small hole is drilled in the dead part of the horn and the GPS chip is fitted there. The

system connects with the cell phone system and the wildlife authorities are able to track

the movement if Rhinos. One alarm is specifically for excessive movement. Another goes

off if the rhino sleeps for longer than six hours. The park rangers get an alert if the Rhino

goes outside the game reserve.

The authorities are planning to tag more animals in the coming weeks.


Tahrcountry Musings

This Week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Have a look at this week’s beautiful wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

Chemistry is the Winner of ‘Dance Your Ph.D.

2010’ Award

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dance your Ph.D. is an award given to turn your Ph.D. thesis into a dance, sponsored by

Science. Maureen McKeague, a chemistry Ph.D. student at Carleton University in

Ottawa, Canada has been declared winner of ‘Dance Your Ph.D. 2010’ Award. Her dance

was an interpretation of her research on designer molecules. She gets $1000 prize ($500

for being a finalist, $500 for winning) from Science, which sponsored the contest. 45

dances were submitted to this year’s contest.McKeague’s aim is to use SELEX to create

aptamers. SELEX (systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment) is a

technique which generates short segments of DNA and RNA called aptamers. Aptamers

cheaply and accurately measure homocysteine in blood samples.




Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some of my readers have requested me to post details of Fourth Forest Engineering

Conference. In deference to their wishes I am posting details of 1st announcement.

First Announcement

The Department of Forest and Wood Science at Stellenbosch University, South Africa in

conjunction with IUFRO, is proud to announce the presentation of the 4th Forest

Engineering Conference in April 5-7, 2011 at the Protea Hotel, The Winkler, in White

River, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

The Forest Engineering Conference (FEC) is an international event held every four years

and is a forum for forest engineers from around the world to share their knowledge,

experience, and emerging ideas. This meeting follows previous successful FEC events

held, in Mont-Tremblant, Canada (2007); Växjö, Sweden (2003); and the inaugural event

in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1999.

The three-day conference, will include both oral and poster presentations. A full-day field

excursion is being arranged for the 6th of April in and around the Nelspruit and White

River industrial forestry plantation of Komatiland Forests and York Timbers. A call for

papers and posters related to the conference theme and other important information will

follow this first announcement. FEC sponsors’ logos will be added to the website, other

official correspondence and future announcements.

Tahrcountry Musings


Important Dates:

Early Registration Deadline December 31, 2010

Late Registration Deadline January 31, 2011

Abstract Submission August 15, 2010

Contact Information:

For further information please contact Hannél Ham ([email protected]) or Pierre

Ackerman ([email protected]).

Elephants in the Garb of Ecological Engineers:

They Can Create More…

Monday, October 25, 2010

Areas heavily damaged by elephants are a frequent sight in forest areas. Some view it as

a nuisance and waste of resources. Here is a surprising piece of info that adds a new

twist to it. New research by a team from Georgia Southern University, US, has come up

with the findings that areas heavily damaged by elephants are home to more species of

amphibians and reptiles than areas where they are excluded. The elephants are living up

to the name “ecological engineers” given to them by some ecologists.By digging with

their front legs, pulling up grass and bringing big trees crashing down, the elephants

inadvertently change the shape of the landscape. The digestive system of elephants is

not good at processing many of the seeds that they eat and in the process they

unwittingly act as seed carriers and rejuvenate the landscape by transporting seeds to

new places. Elephant faeces act as a good fertilizer.“Eighteen herpetofaunal species

were identified in areas of high elephant damage. Medium damage areas had 12

species, while areas of low damage had 11 species. A control fenced area maintained by

the scientists had the lowest species richness with only eight speciesThe scientist says

the craters and coarse woody debris formed by uprooted and broken trees increased the

number of refuges against predators. They added that the locations were also favoured

by insects, which were an important food source for amphibians and reptiles. Amphibians

and reptiles tend to be sensitive to habitat change, and many of them are limited in terms

of how far they can go in a relatively short space of time to escape problems.The

scientists maintain that the findings have implications for habitat and wildlife management

strategies.Things may not look particularly pretty to a human eye but that does not mean

that it is detrimental to all the life out there in the wilderness.Details of the study appear in

the latest issue of African Journal of Ecology

Book Recommendation – Butterflies – Messages

from Psyche

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Here is a great book on butterflies, a book which has been described as most visually

exciting book of the year by Simon Barnes of The Times. Philip Howse makes an attempt

to decode the colours, patterns, and designs on the wings of butterflies and moths. He

explains how these living tapestries have been designed by evolution to protect insects

from their principal predators, including birds, lizards, and monkeys.


Tahrcountry Musings

Surprising images are revealed if we look at the

details of pattern on a butterfly in the way that a

bird sees it from different angles. These are

features of owl eyes, snake heads, caterpillars,

lizards, wasps, scorpions, and bird beaks and

they carry very complex meanings.

Here are two examples from the book. The Atlas

moth, found in the subtropical forests in south

East Asia which has wingspans of up to 12

inches, has brightly coloured bands which make it

look like a snake’s head. The giant owl butterfly,

Caligo memnon, found in the rainforests of

Mexico and the Amazon, has a large black and

yellow spot on its wing which looks like the head

of a toad.

This is a book worth the bucks you spend on it.

Butterflies – Messages from PsychePhilip HowsePaperback (192 pages)Publisher:

Papadakis,UKISBN 97819010902806

Amazing Discovery about Bees

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bees have a brain the size of a grass seed. We don’t usually give much importance to

such a small entity. Now, here is the surprise. Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of

London have discovered that bees can solve complex mathematical problems. They

could easily solve the ‘travelling salesman’s’ shortest route problem. They learn to fly the

shortest route between flowers discovered in random order.

In experiments conducted bees quickly learned to fly the best route for saving time and

energy. Scientists are stumped by this feat of bees and are probing ways of getting to the

root of the mystery. There seems to be no end to the mysteries of nature. We have only

scratched the surface.

Fascinating details of the discovery appear in the latest issue of journal The American


‘Gender-Bending’ Chemicals Affecting

Reproduction in Fish – First S…

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A four year study, led by scientists from the universities of Exeter and Brunel have

discovered that ‘Gender-bending’ chemicals which find their way from human products

into rivers and oceans have started affecting the reproduction in fishes. The culprit is

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) coming from sources like female contraceptive

drugs, hormone replacement therapy pills and washing up liquid which disrupt the ways

that hormones work in the bodies of vertebrates.

Tahrcountry Musings


The research was done focusing on wild roach in two UK rivers (Bourne and Arun). This

is the first solid evidence of EDCs affecting fishes. The scientist discovered that intersex

fish -- those that had their sexuality compromised by EDCs and which contain both male

(sperm) and female (eggs) sex cells, had their reproductive performance reduced by up

to 76%. Scientists are apprehensive that some of the effects seen in fish could occur in

other animals too as hormone systems are quite similar across all vertebrates.

Catherine A. Harris, Patrick B. Hamilton, Tamsin J. Runnalls, Veronica Vinciotti, Alan

Henshaw, Dave Hodgson, Tobias S. Coe, Susan Jobling, Charles R. Tyler, John P.

Sumpter. The Consequences of Feminisation in Breeding Groups of Wild Fish.

Environmental Health Perspectives.

Cycads under Treat of Extinction

Friday, October 29, 2010

IUCN has warned thatcycad, which is the world’s oldest living seedplantis facing

extinction. Cycads – evolved about 300 million years ago, even before the dinosaurs.The

threat is from people who collect wild plants from their natural habitats and plant them in

gardens.Collectors in America and the Far East are prepared to pay up to £6,000 for a

large specimen of a rare species.The removal of cycads from the wild for private

collections has resulted in two species becoming extinct in the wild.Cycads are the most

threatened group of organisms assessedby IUCN. The assessmentof 308 cycad species

shows that their status has declined from 53% threatened in 2003 to 62% threatened in

2010.More than 75% of cycad species are currently threatened with extinction.Cycads

grow slowly andto get a long stem it takes about 400 to 800 years.Some cycads grow up

to 40 feet while some are miniscule. They need to be close to other cycads to

pollinate.Concerted international action is the need of the hour

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, October 30, 2010

From blue fang skeleton spiders to green iguanas, have a look at this week’s wildlife

images from Guardian. Click HERE

This Monkey sneezes when it Rains

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The newly discovered Burmese monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri)has thrown up a

surprise. It sneezes when it rains. To avoid getting rainwater in their noses they spend

rainy days sitting with their heads tucked between their knees.It was an international

team of primatologists led by Ngwe Lwin from the Myanmar Biodiversity and Nature

Conservation Association supported by an international team of primatologists from

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the People Resources and Biodiversity Foundation

that discovered the new species of monkey in Northern Myanmar. The species is limited

to the Maw River area. It is classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN. The species has

been namedRhinopithecus strykeriin honour of Jon Stryker, President and Founder of the

Arcus Foundation who supported the project.The new monkey has almost entirely

blackish fur with white fur only on ear tufts, chin beard and perineal area.It has a


Tahrcountry Musings

relatively long tail.Full details appear inthe latest issue ofAmerican Journal of


Geissmann. T, Lwin. G, Aung. S, Naing Aung. T, Aung.Z M, Hla. T, Grindley.M,

Momberg. F, “A new species of Snub-nosed monkey, Genus Rhinopithecus Milne-

Edwards, 1872 (Primates, Colobianae), From Northern Kachin State, Northeastern

Myanmar”,American Journal of Primatology

Hop on for a Virtual Tour of the World’s Wildlife

Refuges and Prot…

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My friend Ramesh has requested me to blog on the new initiative of UNEP, which allows

virtual tour of world’s protected areas. Ramesh says many people are not aware of it.

UNEP has turned tothe wiki-world in an attempt to improve protection of the natural

areas.UNEP maintains a database of protected areas around the world, based on data

from government agencies.The database doesn’t get updated regularly and UNEP thinks

the best way for upgradation is to reach out to the public via WIKIThe new imitative

allows people to visitlittle-known protected areas. UNEP hopes this will generate revenue

and improve knowledge about them.So what are you waiting for? Click HERE for a virtual

tour of wildlife reserves of the world.

Britain sets Up the World’s Largest Marine


Monday, November 01, 2010

I was delighted to hear from Brian my friend from UK about the setting up of world’s

largest fully protected marine reserve. Britain has set up the world’s largest fully protected

marine reserve. This has come upinthe British territorial waters of the Chagos

Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean.The Chagos reserve covers an area of 544,000 square

kilometers. It harbourscritically endangered hawksbill turtle, green sea turtles and

dolphins. It also shelters one of the world’s largest coral reefs.The reserve will not remain

a protected area on paper only.A fisheries patrol vessel will police the

watersregularly.Tahrcountry salutes the authorities of UK instrumental in forming the

marine reserve.

The Deal to Protect the World’s Wild Species and

Places – We have b…

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I read in Guardian a very severe indictment of much touted deal to protect the world’s

wild species and places. The writing was by George Monbiot.Monbiot says the

declaration ofthe so-called summit in Japanwas a mere hypebole. The problem he sees

is this: none of the journalists who made these claims has seen it.All that they had read

was a press release which, though three pages long, is almost content-free.The draft

agreement, published a month ago, contained no binding obligations.No government is

obliged to change its policies.A third of the countries attending the conference couldn’t

even be bothered to send a minister.Monbiot continues “Japan was praised for its slick

Tahrcountry Musings


management of the meeting, but still insists on completing its mission to turn the last

bluefin tuna into fancy fast food. Russia signed a new agreement in September to protect

its tigers (the world’s largest remaining population), but an unrepealed law in effect

renders poachers immune from prosecution, even when they’re caught with a gun and a

dead tiger. The US, despite proclaiming a new commitment to multilateralism, refuses to

ratify the convention on biological diversity.”Read the full article in Guardian. Click HERE

Colombia’s Indigenous Wayuu People Skip

Eating Turtle Meat to Save …

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Here is a great story that is bound to warm the cockles of the heart of the conservation


Wayuu people of Colombia have shown that carefully crafted conservation strategy can

pay rich dividends. For Wayuu people eating turtle meat as a main protein source is an

age-old tradition.Turtles were becoming scarcer and scarcer over the years.

Conservationist drove home the ground realities and the need to protect the turtles to

Wayuu people. The Wayuu people were all ears and the community decided to skip

eating turtle meat.At a beach on Bahia Hondita the Wayuu children released 200

Caguama turtles aided by the local NGO the Wayuu Taya Foundation. Community

volunteers patrol the beach three times a day to monitor nests and protect baby turtles

from natural predators.This is a glowing example of empowering the community to

protect wildlife. We need more such efforts all over the world.

This Week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Have a look at this week’s wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

Scientists Develop a New Statistical Model that

Predict Where Big C…

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Habitat fragmentation is one of the greatest threats to large carnivores’ across the world.

Crisscrossing roads that cuts up habitat is a big nuisance and throws up lot of

management challenges Now a team of Scientists from Germany and Mexico have

developed a new statistical model that identifies where big cats are most likely to cross

busy roads that passes through their Habitat.

Years of data collected from GPS and radio-telemetry collars fitted to jaguars in Central

America were used to come up with the new tool.The new model is expected to give a

big boost to carnivore conservation. The field trials have been highly satisfactory.

Details appear in the latest issue of journal Animal Conservation.


Tahrcountry Musings

England – Crash of Eel Population Worries


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A baffling rapid decline of eels in Welsh rivers has flummoxed the conservationists and

made them a worried lot.Overfishing and dams that stop elvers (Young eels) migrating up

rivers are suspects.

Since 1980 there has been 70%decrease in the number of eels making the two-year

migration from the Caribbean.Limits on eel catches do not seem to work. To add to the

worries we still don’t know where exactly eels spawn. Smallest eels were recorded in the

Sargasso Sea.Young eels, called glass eels are carried by the Gulf Stream and reach

river systems across Europe.

Eel is a prized lot. Recentlymarket prices hit a record $2800 per kilogramme. Last year

CITES recommended that trade in eels should be controlled. Scientists who advise the

European Commission on CITES has called for zero exports this year. Strangely at a

meeting in Brussels last week, France which happens to be Europe’s leading exporter

vetoed the suggestion.

Unless concerted international action is taken on a war footing the outlook for eels looks

very bleak.

Predator Prey Relationship – Similarities between

Marine and Terres…

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A new study done by scientists from Oregon State University and the University of

Washington, have come up with the findings that there are lot of similarities between

marine and terrestrial ecosystems when it comes topredator prey relationship.The study

examined the interactions between wolves and elk in the United States, and sharks and

dugongs in Australia.When sharks are abundant, dugongs graze less in shallow water

where they are most vulnerable to sharks. In this process they sacrifice food they might

otherwise consume. This allows the seagrass meadows to thrive, with ripple effects on a

range of other plant and marine animal species. This is akin to the presence of wolves in

Yellowstone which alters the behavior of Elk constantly, as they try to avoid encounters.

The elk graze less in sensitive habitats, which is helping streamside shrubs and aspen

trees to recover.Scientists say a more frequent information exchange between terrestrial

and marine ecologists could provide additional insights into ecosystem function.Details of

the study appear in the latest issue of journal Frontiersin Ecology and the Environment.

Cracked – The Puzzle of How Cats Lap up Liquid

so Elegantly

Friday, November 12, 2010

The way cats lap up liquid so elegantly has always enamored people. Now the mystery

has been cracked byDr Roman Stocker Working with researchers from Virginia

Polytechnic Institute and Princeton Universityusing high speed camera.The scientists

discovered that cats use their tongues to delicately draw up water without breaking the

surface of the liquid. Dr Sticker explains “The fluid comes in contact with the tongue and

Tahrcountry Musings


sticks to it, and then the action of the tongue being drawn upwards very rapidly creates a

liquid column.Then, by closing its jaw, the cat captures part of that liquid”.This is quite

different from dogs, which employ the method of scooping action to quench their

thirst.Big cats such as tigers, leopards and cheetahs also use the same mechanism to

draw up liquid.

Details of the study appears in the journalScience

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Have a look at this week’s wildlife images from Guardian. ClickHERE

The Tricks of Kalahari Drongos

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I was reading the other day a paper on Kalahari drongosin the journalProceedings of the

Royal Society B. The paper dealt with an ingenious ruse used by drongos to scare away

competition and steal their food. The research was carried out by Tom Flower, a

Cambridge University PhD student. What hooked me is the neat trick used by drongos.

They mimic the alarm calls of other species in order to steal food.

PoorMeerkats are at the receiving end of the clever ploy. The drongos make fake alarm

calls that mimic other species that meerkats are wary of. The meerkats run for cover in

hearing the call. The drongos then swoop in and have a hearty meal. The birds were

observed to deliberately change the type of call they make to make them sound


In the paper the researcher propose a novel hypothesis that false mimicked alarm calls

could be used deceptively to scare other species and steal their food.

Europe is heading towards ‘environmental

catastrophe’ warns Dr He…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A new book,The Systemic Insecticides: A

Disaster in the Makingby toxicologist Dr

Henk Tennekeswarns thatdangerous

insecticides known as neonicotinoids are

seriously affecting bird and insect lifeacross

Europe. He says Europe is heading

towards ‘environmental catastrophe’.Since

t h e i r i n t r o d u c t i o n i n t h e 1 9 9 0 s ,

neonicotinoids have become the most

widely used insecticides worldwide.

These dangerous insecticides spread throughout the entire plant and into the nectar and

pollen. Bees or butterflies that collect pollen or nectar are poisoned.They also leach and

contaminate soils and groundwater.Numerous bird species do not find enough food for

their chicks as insects are being exterminated by pesticides.


Tahrcountry Musings

Dr Henk A. Tennekes (born in 1950 in Zutphen, The Netherlands) graduated from the

Agricultural University of Wageningen in 1974 and did his Ph.D at Shell Research Ltd in

Sittingbourne, Kent, UK.

The Shark that Lost its Bearings while Visiting

South Africa

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I was fascinated to read about the latest on theelusive great white sharks (Carcharodon

carcharias) of the Mediterranean Sea. The provenance of white sharks in the

Mediterranean is a mystery and an important conservation issue.New research indicates

that white sharks of the Mediterranean Sea may be descended from a single small

Australian population that lost its bearings while visiting South Africa 450,000 years ago.

Dr Leslie Noble of the University of Aberdeen says the sharks were probably returning to

the Antipodes but became trapped after passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. The

sharks got lost during the Pleistocene epoch, around 450,000 years ago.

Details if the research appear in the latest issue ofProceedings of the Royal Society B

Antipodean white sharks on a Mediterranean walkabout? Historical dispersal leads to

genetic discontinuity and an endangered anomalous population1.Chrysoula Gubili1,2,†,

Raşit Bilgin3,†, Evrim Kalkan3,†,S. Ünsal Karhan4,†, Catherine S. Jones1,†,David W.

Sims2,5,Hakan Kabasakal6, Andrew P. Martin7 and Leslie R. Noble1,*

Author Affiliations 1. 1Institute of Biological and Environmental Science, University of

Aberdeen,Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK 2. 2Marine Biological Association

of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK 3. 3Institute

of Environmental Sciences, Boğaziçi University, Hisar Campus, Bebek, Istanbul TR-

34342, Turkey 4. 4Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Istanbul University,

Vezneciler, Istanbul TR-34134, Turkey 5. 5Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre,

Marine Institute, School of Marine Sciences and Engineering, University of Plymouth,

Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK 6. 6Ichthyological Research Society, Atatürk Mahallesi,

Menteşoğlu Caddesi, Idil Apartment no. 30/4, Ümraniye, Istanbul TR-34764, Turkey 7.

7Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, N122 Ramaley, University of

Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA

Tahrcountry Musings


Environmental Justice Foundation EJF: Call to

ban Endosulfan

Friday, November 19, 2010

Endosulfan is an extremely hazardous and outdated agro-

chemical banned in over 70 countries, including all EU

countries, the US, Australia and Brazil.

Click on the link below to know more. Send a letter to Mr Jairam Ramesh, Indian Minister

for Environment and urge the Indian Government to show that it values the health of its

people and the environment by supporting a global ban on endosulfan.

Environmental Justice Foundation EJF: Protecting People and Planet

Can the abundance of tigers be assessed from

their Signs? A New Paper

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The paper “Can the abundance of tigers be assessed from their signs?, authored by

Yadvendradev Jhala, Qamar Qureshi and Rajesh Gopal , published inJournal of Applied

Ecologyis worth a read by all wildlifers dealing with tiger conservation.The authors assess

the utility of indices for estimating the abundance of the endangered tiger at landscape

scales and come up with a winner. It offers cost effective and rapid methods for

estimating abundance of endangered species across large landscapes.

The researchers used double sampling to estimate two indices of tiger abundance

(encounters of pugmarks and scats per km searched) and calibrate those indices against

contemporaneous estimates of tiger densities obtained using camera-trap

mark–recapture (CTMR) at 21 sites (5185 km2) in Central and North India.

The new model developed permit rapid and cost effective assessments of abundance to

monitor the status of tigers at landscape scales. The researchers have certainly done a

commendable job.

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Have a look at this week’s wonderful wildlife images from Guardian. Click HERE

England- The Return of the “Extinct” Spider

Monday, November 22, 2010

Conservationists in England are an elated lot. The Rosser’s sac spider, thought to be

extinct in the UK has been photographed for the first time. The discovery was made at

Chippenham Fen in Cambridgeshire.

The light brown spider was first discovered in the 1950s and had slowly disappeared

mainly due to changing farming practices. It’s a member of the clubionid family of spiders

who like to hunt their prey rather than catch them in a web.

The rediscovery was made by spider enthusiast Ian Dawson and the first photograph was


Tahrcountry Musings

taken by Peter Harvey.

Mark Ryan Darmarai from Malaysia wins the BBC

Wildlife Magazine cam…

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mark Ryan Darmarai from Malaysia has notched up the first prize ofBBC Wildlife

Magazine camera trap photo competition.

His magnificent picture of a tigress and her adolescent cub investigating Mark’s trap won

hands down.

Tahrcountry congratulates Mark Ryan Darmarai.

To view the picture click HERE

Climate Change Report was a Copy and Paste


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Statistician Edward Wegman has alleged that research report on climate change led by

scientist Michael Mann was a copy and paste affair. The research report had claimed that

global temperatures were highest in the last century than the previous 1,000 years.

Wegman says ‘significant’ sections of the 91-page report were lifted from ‘textbooks,

Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticised in the report’.

Computer expert John Mashey says 35 of the report’s 91 pages were ‘mostly plagiarized.

We at tahrcountry are shocked by the academic impropriety.

Obesity levels are increasing dramatically in

research animals and …

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It is a known fact that dramatic increase inobesity has occurred among humans within the

last several decades. I was fascinated to read in the journalProceedings of the Royal

Society B.about the increasing levels ofobesity in research animals and others living

close to humans.David Allison,a statistical geneticist at the University of Alabama,

Birmingham, and his colleagues gathered data on body weights of more than 20,000

adult animals from 24 populations of 8 different species from around North America. All

24 populations of animals, which ranged from primates housed in research facilities to

feral rats living in the greater Baltimore area, showed measurable increase in body

weight.Average body weights of captive chimpanzees increased at a rate of 33 percent

each decade. It was 9 percent per decade in captive marmosets. Laboratory mice got 12

percent increase every ten years. The average weight of cats increased by almost 10

percent each decade, while dogs’ weights increased by 3 percent every decade.In 23 out

of the 24 populations animals were not just overweight, they were plain obese. Read this

against the fact that records of exactly what research animals were fed and their housing

conditions haven’t changed much in the past 50 years.

Scientists suspect that Environmental toxins and viruses could be the causative factors

for the aberration. Endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) and some tin-

containing compounds have been shown to increase body mass. Adenovirus, have also

Tahrcountry Musings


been linked to significantly increased body mass.

The Yasuní Dilemma

Friday, November 26, 2010

Want to make a guess about the most bio-diverse forest on earth? Many people I put this

question to said Western Ghats. They are wrong. It isEcuador’s Yasuni National Park.

Yasunihas the highest number of species on the planet. Inonehectare of Yasuní, 644

different species of trees have been identified.Records for amphibians, reptiles, and

batsare also unprecedented.It covers about a million hectares. Asingle hectare of forest

in Yasuní is projected to contain 100,000 different insect species.This biosphere reserve

is also the abode of the indigenous Huaorani people.

Yasuni happens to sit atop Ecuador’s second largest reserve of crude oil.There are 846

million barrels of recoverable oil reserves. This is a dilemma for the Government. Oil

lobby has been eying the area for years. Theresearchers working in the area have waged

an international campaign to protect the location.

It was in 2007 that the Ecuador President Rafael Correa offered the proposal in which his

c o u n t r y w o u l d , i n e x c h a n g e f o r s e v e r a l b i l l i o n d o l l a r s , k e e p t h e o i l indefinitelyunderground.This proposal has started bearing fruit.United Nations has agreed

to oversee a trust fund paid to Ecuador for the project. On August 3rd2010

theGovernment of Ecuador and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

signed a historic deal establishing a trust fund. Thefundswould be used by the country to

conserve its forests, develop renewable energy, and promote social development.

The Yasuni Initiative urgently needs more international funders .This is needed to offset

the tremendous pressure from oil lobby.

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Have a look at this weeks magnificent wildlife images from Guardian. ClickHere

Shifting Diving Geometry in Whale Sharks

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I read a very interesting paper in the British Ecological Society’s journal Functional

Ecology. The scientists describe how Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) use geometry to

enhance their natural negative buoyancy. The research at Ningaloo Reef in Western

Australia was headed by Dr Adrian Gleiss from Swansea University. The scientists

attached animal-borne motion sensors and accelerometers, to the free-swimming Whale

sharks to measure their swimming activity and vertical movement. The data collected

revealed that sharks are able to glide without investing energy into movement when

descending, but they had to beat their tails when they ascended. This is because sharks,

unlike many fish, have negative buoyancy. The steeper the sharks ascended, the harder

they had to beat their tail. The Whale sharks displayed two kinds of movement modes.

One was shallow ascent angles, which minimize the energetic demands of moving in the

horizontal while the second movement of steeper ascent angles, optimized the energetic

cost of vertical movement. The scientists conclude that geometry plays a crucial role in

movement strategies of sharks. Movement geometry significantly affects power


Tahrcountry Musings

requirements in a manner similar to travel speed. Sharks are presumed to shift diving

geometry with changing currencies and ecological context.

Moved by that sinking feeling: variable diving geometry underlies movement strategies in

whale sharks Adrian C. Gleiss, Brad Norman,Rory P. Wilson

Functional Ecology

Article first published online: 24 NOV 2010

Whale Inspired Under Water Turbines

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The spinoffs from wildlife conservation are enormous. We have only touched the tip of

the iceberg. But in our inexorable push for “development” we give scant thought for

wildlife conservation. Here is an example of a spinoff from marine conservation.

The low velocity associated with many tidal flows and the difficulty of extracting useful

energy from low speed flows had put a damper on the effort to generate electricity from

ocean tides. Now researchers from United States Naval Academy have taken a cue from

whales to tackle this problem.

The researchers have designed a novel blade modification, which was inspired by

humpback whale flippers. The new design has improved stall characteristics and

aerodynamic performance .The turbines are very effective in extracting energy at low

speeds. Hurray wildlife conservation.

The stronger the water flow in an area, the

greater the biodiversit…

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Here is something interesting. Scientists DrJames E Palardy,and DrJon D. Witman of

thedepartment of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology,Brown University, USAhave discovered

that water flow has a net positive effect on the biodiversity of benthic invertebrate

communities. Enhanced water flow treatments resulted in higher levels of species density

(+56%) and richness (+74%).

The research was done inbenthic marine communities of Palau, Maine and Alaska.The

researchers wanted to test the following hypothesizes.

(1) Increased water flow velocities lead to increased local species density and species

richness and(2) Water flow generates increased species richness by promoting the

increased recruitment of rare species.

The study clearly showed that the assembly and maintenance of diversity within the

benthic invertebrate communities is strongly affected by flow. The communities exposed

to higher water flow had greater species densities and richness.According to

researchersa stronger current would increase the number of species whose larvae would

land and settle on a particular area.

The researchers got identical results in two marine regions of the world separated by

4,000 miles with completely different regional diversities. The research clearly

demonstrates that water flow is a really strong predictor of how many species are present

in a particular area of the ocean.

Tahrcountry Musings


Book Recommendation

Friday, December 03, 2010

World Atlas of Mangroves

This atlas authored by Mark Spalding, Mami Kainuma

and Lorna Collins provides a global assessment of the

state of the world’s mangroves. The full colour atlas

contains 60 full-page maps, hundreds of photographs

and illustration and a comprehensive country-by-country

assessment of mangroves. It covers 124 countries.

Changes in mangrove forest cover worldwide and at

regional and national levels have been highlighted. The

book also presents a global statistics on biodiversity,

habitat area, loss and economic value. The book is a

very valuable reference book. Highly recommended.

Dr Mark Spalding is Senior Marine Scientist at the Conservation Strategies Division of

The Nature Conservancy, UK. Mami Kainuma is the Project Coordinator and a Senior

Researcher for the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems. Japan. Lorna Collins

has worked as a research associate for The Nature Conservancy and is currently

studying for an MRes in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth.

ISBN-13: 9781844076574

Parthenium Threat to Serengeti

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Masai Mara ecosystem in Africa which witnesses the largest wildlife migration known to

man,every year, is under threat from thenoxious weed Parthenium (Parthenium

hysterophorus).If left unchecked it will affect 5 million wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s

gazelle and 200,000 zebra.Serengeti boasts 70 large mammal species and some 500

different bird species.

The new threat compounds problems from existingillegal hunting, land conversion, and

fencing. Parthenium can grow from seed to maturity in 4-6 weeks and has an ability to

produce 10,000–25,000 seeds. It produces chemicals which inhibit the growth of other

plants.If left unchecked it can reducecarrying capacities of habitats of grazing animals by

up to 90%.

Geoffrey Howard, IUCN’s Global Invasive Species Programme Coordinator says“Unless

action is taken immediately to eradicate known infestations in the Masai-Mara it is not

unrealistic to expect a drastic reduction in wildlife populations in the long term as the

parthenium rapidly expands as an invading species,”IUCN has urged international

community to work together in support of the Kenyan government. This national and

global treasure has to be conserved for our children’s grand-children. Time to act is



Tahrcountry Musings

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Have a look at this week’s wildlife Images from Guardian. Click HERE

One of the world’s rarest birds sighted in Peru

Monday, December 06, 2010

When one of the world’s rarest birds is sighted it is celebration time for conservationists.

Recently some lucky birdwatchers were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime sighting when they

observed the rare Peruvian long-whiskered owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi ) for a lengthy time.

Only a handful of people had seen it before. You can count the lucky people on your


The Owlet is mainly brown with a whitish belly and eyebrow.The large eyes are orange-

brown in color. It is a nocturnal bird and is endemic to a small patch of forest in the Andes

of northern Peru. Very little is known about the biology of the birdThe bird is so rare that it

was discovered only in 1976. For a 26-year interregnum there were no confirmed

sightings at all.The estimated population is between 250 and 1000 individuals in the wild.

IUCN has classified the species as Endangered.

Oriental Hornets and the Art of Tapping Solar


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The mysteries of nature never cease to fascinate me. Here is something amazing that I

learned the other day.Scientists have discovered that oriental Hornets (Vespa orientalis),

are capable of harvesting solar energy. The discovery was made by a team of

researchers working in Israel and the UK, led by Dr Marian Plotkin of Tel-Aviv University.

The fact that Oriental hornet workers, which dig out nests underground, correlate their

digging activity with the intensity of sunlight had always puzzled the researchers. The late

Professor Jacob S Ishay had proposed that the insects may somehow be capable of

harvesting solar radiation.

The team led by Dr Plotkin’s tested this hypothesis, with remarkable results. Using an

atomic force microscope, the researchers examined the fine structure of the hornet’s

cuticle. The clue lay in the structure of the yellow part of the hornet’s body. These

structures had the ability to stop light being reflected off the hornet’s body. The light is

trapped, and harvested for energy. Within the cuticle there is a pigment that captures the

energy of the sun’s rays. This aids the hornets with their energy demanding digging

activity, Wow

The details of the discovery appear in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

Tahrcountry Musings


Rise in Population of Endangered Mountain

gorillas – Spin off from …

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Conservationists are elated by news emanating from Virunga Massif. A census carried

out in the Virunga Massif, where most of the world’s mountain gorillas live has come up

with a figure of 480 individuals living in 36 groups.

The population has increased by over 25% in the last seven years. This is satisfactory

against backdrop of scenario in Africa. Collaborative transboundary effort by

organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda has acted as a

primer.The mountain gorilla is the only one of the nine subspecies of African great apes

experiencing a population increase.

30 years ago, only 250 gorillas survived inVirunga.302 mountain gorillas are living in

Bwindi. Thus the total population works out to780 now.

UK – Woodcocks losing sense of direction?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Large numbers of woodcocks crashing in to windows is worrying conservationists in


Woodcocks migrate from places like Russia and Finland to the UK to escape harsh

winters. Climate in UK is milder and finding food is easier.The birdsmigrate during the

night at a low level.

Reports are pouring in from buildings close to rivers. In all probability the woodcocks are

f o l l o w i n g t h e r i v e r s o n m i g r a t i o n a n d c r a s h i n g i n t o b u i l d i n g s a l o n g t h e banks.Conservationists say the birds are failing to see buildings and windows, possibly

because they are attracted to light. Another reason could be that they mistake reflections

in windows for the open sky.

RSPB has advocated fixing an object to the outside of the glass to indicate the obstacle.

According to experts of RSPB the most effective shape is likely to be a hawk.Self-

adhesive bird silhouettes would do the job.Silhouettes of birds of prey create the

instinctive reaction in small birds to avoid it.

Using Habitat and Landscape Models to Focus

Conservation Planning

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I just read a good paper on conservation planning. The paper titled “Improving the

viability of large-mammal populations by using habitat and landscape models to focus

conservation planning” was authored by Yongyut Trisurat, Anak Pattanavibool, George A.

Galeand David H. Reed.

The authors tryto define suitable habitat for sambar (Cervus unicolor), banteng (Bos

javanicus), gaur (Bos gaurus), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and tiger (Panthera

tigris) in the Western Forest Complex, Thailand, and to assess their current status as well

as estimate how the landscape needs to be managed to maintain viable populations.

The paper demonstrates a method for combining a rapid ecological assessment,

landscape indices, GIS-based wildlife-habitat models and knowledge of minimum viable


Tahrcountry Musings

population sizes to guide landscape-management decisions and improve conservation

outcomes through habitat restoration.

The researchers conclude that if managers wish to upgrade the viabilities of gaur,

elephant, tiger and banteng within the next 10 years, park rangers and stakeholders

should aim to increase the amount of usable habitat by ~2170 km2 or 17%of existing

suitable habitats. The key strategies are to reduce human pressures, enhance ungulate

habitats and increase connectivity of suitable habitats outside the current distributions.

The paper clearly provides a particularly useful method for managers and forest-policy

planners forassessing and managing habitat suitability for target wildlife and their

population viability in protected-area networks where knowledge of the demographic

attributes (e.g. birth and death rates) of wildlife populations are too limited to perform

population viability analysis.

I am indebted to Dr Yongyut Trisurat , Department of Forest Biology, Faculty of Forestry,

Kasetsart University, Bangkok 10900, Thailand for sending me a complimentary copy of

the paper.

New Drugs from the Sea

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nature has given us lot of drugs from terrestrial vegetation. Now the sea promises to

deliver new effective remedies for many of our health related problems. A sea snail has

already formed the basis of a new painkiller.

Scientists in UK believe that Starfish could be the key to potential new treatments for

inflammatory conditions such as asthma and arthritis.

The scientists are working onspiny starfish (Marthasterias glacialis). What they are

interested in is the slimy goo that covers its body.

Dr Charlie Bavington, from GlycoMar, a marine biotechnology company based at the

Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban recently told BBC“Starfish live in the

sea, and are bathed in a solution of bacteria, larvae, viruses and all sorts of things that

are looking for somewhere to live. But starfish are better than Teflon: they have a very

efficient anti-fouling surface that prevents things from sticking.”

It is this non-stick property that has fascinated the medical scientists, particularly in the

field of inflammation.Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury or infection.

Inflammatory conditions are caused when the immune system gets skewered.White

blood cells, which normally flow easily through our blood vessels, begin to build up and

stick to the blood vessel wall. This in turn causes tissue damage.

The researchers believe that starfish slime could effectively coat our blood vessels in the

same way the goo covers the marine creature, and this offers a clue for drugs for


The team is now working on creating suitable drugs in the laboratory.

Tahrcountry Musings


An amazing facet of the sociobiology of leaf-

cutter ants

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What do leaf-cutter ants do whentheir razor-sharp mandibles wear out? They let their

more efficient sisters take over cutting, while still remaining productive. The cutting ants

rest their blades and join the delivery staff, carrying the discs cut from the leaves into their


The interesting piece of information comes from the research by afour-member team of

researchers from the UO and Oregon State University led by Dr Robert Schofield, a

scientist at the University of Oregon. Dr Schofield says “While division of labor is well

documented in social insects, this is the first suggestion that some social insects stop

performing certain tasks because they are no longer as good at them as they used to be.

As social organisms, these ants have the luxury of being able to leave the cutting task to

their more efficient sisters.”

Leaf cutters carry pieces of leaves back to the underground nest where they grow an

edible fungus on the resulting substrate. The foragers doing the cutting work are second

in size to the majors, the large workers that protect the colony and do heavy clearing

work.In addition to cutting, the foragers transport the cuttings and lookout for new


The details will appearin the upcoming issue ofjournalBehavioral Ecology and

Sociobiology. The studyhas appeared online ahead of regular publication.

This week’s Wildlife Images from Guardian

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Have a look at thus week’s beautiful wildlife images from Guardian. ClickHERE

Taking a Break

Monday, December 13, 2010

I am taking a break for the next 10 days. Consequently, there won’t be any updates

during this period.

A Must Read Paper for Wildlife Managers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I am still in the midst of my break. I just read this interesting paper on human leopard

conflict and thought it is worth an immediate post.

Translocation as a Tool for Mitigating Conflict with Leopards in Human-Dominated

Landscapes of India



Tahrcountry Musings

Conservation Biology,

A few years back, I was pilloried by self styled environmentalists for opposing vehemently

the translocation of a leopard from Wayand to Parmabikulam. For the men at the top and

for the uninitiated politicians it is a quick fix method for alleviating the man animal conflict.

They never bother about the ecological impacts. A release without a comprehensive

study of all factors involved is fraught with lot of imponderables.


come up with an excellent paper on the impacts of translocation of leopards based on

their study in the Junnar region (4275 km2, 185 people/km2), Maharashtra, India. The

authors’ report that prior to the large-scale translocation program, there was an average

of four leopard attacks on humans each year between 1993 and 2001. Surprisingly after

the translocation program was initiated, the average increased to 17 attacks.

The attacks decreased when leopards were removed for releases far away. According to

the authors potential explanations for the aberrant behavior include increased aggression

induced by stress of the translocation process, movement through unfamiliar human-

dominated landscapes following release, and loss of fear of humans due to familiarity

with humans acquired during captivity.

The study emphasize the potential ineffectiveness of translocation to reduce

human–carnivore conflict The authors suggest that making improvements to the

administration of compensation programme for wildlife attacks and linking this to some

form of insurance scheme that can be administered by local communities might help

increase tolerance for low intensity, chronic predation on livestock by leopards. This is

likely to decrease the demand for management action to remove leopards.

I feel this paper is a must read for the wildlife managers. So guys go ahead and read it.

I am thankful to Dr Ullas Karanth for se