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Saturday, May 15, 2004

50% of Earth's Bamboo Disappearing: Taking Many Species and Cultures Along with It

The report identifies unique and endangered species, whose fates are intimately linked with those of bamboos, in every region where bamboos occur. In Asia these include the red panda and Himalayan black bear, and perhaps best known, the giant panda. In Africa, mountain gorillas depend on bamboos for up to 90% of their diet in some seasons. The survival in the wild of the mountain bongo depends on conservation of the bamboo thickets to which it migrates during the dry season. In Madagascar, the critically endangered greater and golden bamboo lemurs depend on bamboo for much of their diet, and the rarest tortoise in the world, the ploughshare tortoise, is also intimately connected with bamboos. In South America, the spectacled bear, the mountain tapir and many endangered bird species are connected with bamboo in the Andes, Amazon and Atlantic forests. To download the full report, click here.

Urgent action is needed to protect one of the world’s most ancient life forms and the species that depend on it. A new study estimates that as many as half of the world’s 1200 woody bamboo species may be in danger of extinction as a result of massive forest destruction.

Consequently, many extraordinary and vulnerable species such as lemurs, giant pandas and mountain gorillas that depend almost entirely on bamboo for food and shelter face an even-greater struggle for survival. Millions of people use wild bamboo for construction, handicrafts and food. And international trade in bamboo products, mostly from cultivated sources, is worth more than $2 billion annually.

The study, produced by INBAR (International Network for Bamboo and Rattan) and UNEP-WCMC (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre), is the most comprehensive ever undertaken on the subject and uses novel analyses to combine data on the distributions of bamboo species and on existing forest cover. It shows that many bamboo species, including relatives of those cultivated commercially, have tiny amounts of forest remaining within their native ranges.

Some 250 woody bamboo species have less than 2000 km2 of forest (an area the size of London, UK) remaining within their ranges. This study shows locations of high forest bamboo diversity and the areas where deforestation risks are highest, creating a valuable planning tool for conservation action.

The extraordinary life cycle of bamboos – individuals of each species flower once simultaneously every 20 to 100 years and then die – make them especially vulnerable to rapid deforestation that is restricting the areas in which they can survive.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “Bamboos are some of the oldest and most fascinating life forms on Earth with high economic and conservation value. Many curious and unique species depend on bamboo. Trade in these plants is worth as much as bananas or American beef. Yet until now, their status and condition have been largely ignored with many species taken for granted. This new report highlights how vital it now is for the international community to take a far greater interest in these extraordinary plant species.”

“Governments at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) two years ago agreed to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity. This new report makes it clear that conserving bamboo, for the sake of people and for the sake of wildlife, should have a high priority in this global effort,” he said.

Ian Hunter, Director General, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) comments: “The report is the first step towards quantifying existing resources of bamboo. The survival of many potentially important bamboo species may be threatened as they grow in forests that are shrinking under human pressure. INBAR is greatly concerned about this potential loss of biodiversity and wishes to encourage both in-situ and ex-situ conservation.”

Mark Collins, Director of UNEP-WCMC, explains that the researchers have used unique mapping techniques to identify for the first time the worldwide distribution of bamboos and this has revealed some surprising findings: “Woody bamboos are important world-wide. Many people will be surprised to learn they are found not only in Asia but also in the forests of the Amazon and the Andes and even in African cloud forests.

“They are associated with threatened plant species and many highly specialised animal species including the bamboo lemurs of Madagascar, Giant Pandas, Mountain Gorillas, and tiny species such as the world’s second smallest bat (3.5cm), which roosts inside bamboo stems. “

Posted by Richard
5/15/2004 06:03:18 PM | PermaLink

Friday, May 14, 2004

To Spray or not to Spray this Summer?

Also see Beyond Pesticides for valuable information and suggestions on moving beyond herbicides and pesticides.

Via: Globe and Mail
More than 60 Canadian cities have either passed or have pending by-laws restricting the cosmetic use of lawn pesticides. Among them are Canada's two biggest, Toronto and Montreal. Scores of smaller communities have also told residents to start taking a live-and-let-live attitude toward the dandelions on their lawns.

The drive for pesticide restrictions has come from public-health and environmental activists, who fret that spraying chemicals powerful enough to kill bugs and weeds around homes is creating a needless health hazard.

That view received a major boost last month, when the Ontario College of Family Physicians said evidence on the health dangers from pesticides is so overwhelming it advised doctors to tell patients to reduce exposures to these chemicals.

Millions of Canadians have sprayed their lawns, or have neighbours who do. Should the public be concerned? Martin Mittelstaedt provides a question-and-answer review of the issues.

Q: Just how risky is pesticide use or exposure, to an average homeowner?

A: Many studies link pesticide exposure with human illnesses, a not entirely unsurprising discovery considering that the products have been developed to kill plants and dispatch animals to an early death.

But on this issue, there is some moderately good news for homeowners. Most of the scientific research that links pesticides to elevated rates of brain cancers, prostate cancers, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and immune-system impairments, among other unpleasant ailments, is based on farmers and commercial-pesticide applicators and their families.

Members of these occupational groups and their children have exposures to a vast cocktail of pesticides and are likely to experience doses many times higher than someone who scatters weed-and-feed on a lawn once a year.

It's probably safe to say that the risk for homeowners is far less than for those with occupational exposures. As well, the most commonly used lawn pesticide, the 2,4-D applied to kill dandelions, was once laced with dioxin, but has since been cleaned up.

Even so, the Ontario family doctors, looking at the available evidence, concluded people should put their own health ahead of the look of their lawns, advice that for the risk averse is worth following.

Q: Who is most at risk from pesticide spraying?

A: Children and pregnant women should avoid exposure. The young and fetuses are at risk because their bodies are undergoing rapid cell division and shouldn't have exposure to any chemicals that interfere with this process.

A senior citizen exposed to a cancer-causing agent is likely to die of something else first, given the long latency periods for the disease. The same isn't true for an exposure during childhood.

Q: Doesn't the federal government ensure that pesticides are safe?

A: Health Canada oversees pesticide regulation in Canada, and all of the products sold must be approved.

Unfortunately, Health Canada isn't an aggressive regulator. The department's oversight of pesticides was savaged last October in a review by federal Environment Commissioner Johanne Gelinas.

She found many older pesticides haven't been checked to see if they meet current standards, and she believes many wouldn't be deemed safe if analyzed. Some reviews have been under way for more than a decade, such as the one for 2,4-D. The department announced its review in October of 1980. Health Canada staff are expected to complete their work next month.

Q: Can people who use pesticides play it safe?

A: Pesticides have a high rate of absorption through the skin and through breathing. Label directions on pesticide packages advise people to wear gloves and shower after using the products, excellent advice to follow. Farmers sometimes wear respirators and homeowners can consider them, too.

Pesticides sprayed on lawns can be tracked into homes on shoes and by pets. Many pesticides, when exposed to sunlight, break down quickly. But this beneficial breakdown doesn't occur in carpets and floors in the home, so users should try to limit the amount they track into the home.

Because it's a good idea to minimize children's exposures, schools and playgrounds shouldn't be sprayed.

Q: Are there alternatives to pesticides?

A: Many gardening experts advise going organic. This involves creating a healthy lawn by "top dressing" with compost and sowing grass seeds in any thin patches. Weeds that appear can be hand-pulled.

Better mowing practices can also keep lawns looking healthier, as grass that is mown too short encourages weeds.

Q: What are other countries doing?

A: Municipal programs to curb urban pesticide use are widespread, but usually rely on voluntary appeals. Outright bans, such as those now being pioneered in Canada, are unique and considered to be the most effective way of achieving large reductions in pesticide usage.

Posted by Richard
5/14/2004 01:13:57 PM | PermaLink

Thursday, May 13, 2004

End of the Line for Cod Feared by 2020

One can read the entire report, or the report summary, at the WWF's website.

At the end of the article below, hope is drawn that this issue may be tackled by the World Conservation Union in Bangkok later this year. However, while some good can come of this international mega-conferences, there is little reason to think that the sort of mandated, sweeping, and enforced policy shifts that are necessary to end species extinction -- cod or otherwise -- are a feasible outcome.

The very fact that the conference is scheduled to "debate how the planet can meet the needs of growing populations and expanding markets without sacrificing nature" means that this is a development greenwash. There is no debate necessary on this question: the planet can not meet the needs of growing population and expanding transnational capitalist markets without sacrificing nature. And when we say sacrificing nature, this is a polite way of saying, exterminating entire species of hundreds of millions of beings, rampantly destroying mega and micro habitats, paving over traditional cultures, igniting genocidal warfare, and adding to the ongoing risk of global ecological catastrophe within a century's time.

Via: Herald UK
Cod stocks could be wiped out in the next 15 years because of overfishing and oil exploration, an environment group warned yesterday.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) added that the largest remaining cod stock, in the Barents Sea, is under particular threat and could suffer the same fate as in Canadian waters.

A report by the group said cod fisheries are disappearing so fast, stocks could be gone by 2020. The global catch declined from 3.1 million tons in 1970 to 950,000 tons in 2000. "If such a trend continues, the world's cod stocks will disappear in 15 years time," WWF said.

In North America the catch has declined by 90% since the early 1980s, while the catch of the North Sea cod is now just one-quarter of what it was in that decade.

"Overfishing of cod continues because fisheries policies are driven by short-term economic interests," said Simon Cripps, head of WWF's oceans programme.

The Barents Sea, north of Norway and Russia, is one of the world's richest fishing grounds, accounting for half the global cod catch. However, the WWF claimed that this year's high fishing quotas are unsustainable.

As well as the quotas, up to 100,000 tons of cod is believed to be caught illegally in the Barents every year, the WWF said.

"The onus is on Russia and Norway to prevent the Barents Sea cod stock suffering a similar fate as the Canadian cod stock which collapsed in the 1990s and has not yet recovered," Cripps said.

The WWF also said that it believes Barents Sea cod are threatened by expanded shipping and oil exploration plans.

On Tuesday, Norwegian authorities said the potentially oil-rich sea would be reopened for exploration, after a pause to address environmental concerns about protecting the fragile ecosystem in Arctic waters.

Russia plans to boost shipping by developing a new export route via its ice-free deep-water port of Murmansk, with supertankers taking oil to the US east coast.

The extinction of species is among environmental problems to be tackled by thousands of delegates at a conference in Thailand later this year.

More than 3000 activists, scientists and government officials are expected in Bangkok on November 17 for the meeting of the World Conservation Union.

The union's third congress will debate how the planet can meet the needs of growing populations and expanding markets without sacrificing nature.

The UN's environmental body will launch a "red list" of threatened species before the conference.

The review by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or Cites, offers varying degrees of protection to some 30,000 plant and animal species.

Among proposals received is a request from Namibia to loosen a ban on ivory sales, from Japan to ease restrictions on trade in whales, and from Australia for protection for the great white shark by adding it to a trade-ban list

Posted by Richard
5/13/2004 09:40:38 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Sweet Smell of Cancer-Causing Formaldehyde

Time to "unplug" and get rid of all of that "Muzak of the air." Glade products have been found to be the worst threat of them all. Then there is the background concern of parent companies who make these things and their connection to animal testing and toxic production. Bottom line: no.

Note: I stupidly brought some of these into my own home upon the arrival of my new kitten and basset hound in an attempt to combat the rising stench. The thought wasn't bad, but the answer was dangerous. Why did I do it? Unconsciousness and efficiency...the way the market furthers and extends itself.

Back to incense...

Via: Nature
Air-fresheners cause a stink

A potentially harmful smog can form inside homes through reactions between air-fresheners and ozone, say researchers at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The reactions generate formaldehyde, classed as a probable carcinogen, and related compounds that many experts believe are responsible for respiratory problems.

The researchers studied the reactions between ozone gas and fragrance molecules such as pinene and limonene, which are emitted by air-fresheners that plug into electrical outlets. Ozone, produced at ground level when vehicle exhaust emissions react with sunlight, is a common urban pollutant, and environmental bodies have set limits on outdoor levels of it.

"If you open a window on a high-ozone day, you could trigger these reactions," says Mark Mason, an environmental scientist at the EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory, North Carolina. Mason led the study, which is published in Environmental Science and Technology1.

Some people actually use ozone generators in their homes to remove unwanted odours and 'clean' their air, which could create indoor ozone levels that are much higher than those in the study. There is currently no regulation of household ozone levels.

"If you are concerned about indoor air, you should not introduce any extra chemical sources to your home, and that includes volatile organic compounds and ozone," advises Frank Princiotta, director of the EPA's Air Pollution Prevention and Control division.

"This EPA study is only preliminary because it is based on work in a room-sized test chamber rather than a house," cautions Ken Giles, public information officer at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates products such as air-fresheners.

"But we do not think that 'freshening' air is a good way to deal with air pollution," he adds. It is better to prevent the smells you are trying to disguise in the first place, rather than covering them up with more chemicals, he argues.

Particle exposure

Mason's team found that mixing ozone and air-freshening chemicals generated particles of formaldehyde-related compounds at a concentration of about 50 micrograms in each cubic metre of air. This is close to the EPA's outdoor particle limit. But in comparison, a noticeably smoky room will have more than 100 micrograms of particles per cubic metre, says Ken Donaldson, a toxicologist at Edinburgh University, UK.

"The study finds the same sort of exposure that you might get from painting a room, but in the long term the effects may add up," says Donaldson. "Basically, this is yet more particle exposure, which you do not want."

Similar particles are belched out by vehicle exhausts and are known to cause respiratory problems, says Donaldson. As a rough estimate, an increase of ten micrograms of particles per cubic metre of air will lead to a 1% increase in deaths from conditions such as asthma, he calculates.

"We now have reasons to be concerned, but we need specialist health studies before we think about regulation," says Bill Nazaroff, an environmental engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. "I think it is a bad idea to have [ozone generators and air-fresheners] in the same room, but I also think ozone air cleaners are a bad idea, period," he says.

There are potential solutions to the problem, however. "Air-freshener manufacturers could limit these reactions by changing their formulations," suggests Mason. Nazaroff agrees: the room fragrances could be concocted from less reactive chemicals, much as gasoline has been reformulated to produce less smog, he says.


Liu, X., Mason, M., Krebs, K. & Sparks, L. . Environ. Sci. & Technol., published online, doi:10.1021/es030544b , (2004). |Article|

Posted by Richard
5/12/2004 01:28:58 PM | PermaLink

Orcas Boost Call Amid Boat Noise

We know, or should know, that the heavy droning of underwater environments with high-level decibel naval sonars and low-level fishing sonars is clogging the oceans with noise pollution, affecting underwater life, and in some cases killing and injuring whales.

This finding points out that even the recent rise in friendly eco-tourist whale watching is generating negative ecological reactions. The whales, which emit call and response with their own sonar in order to coordinate all forms of group life, simply cannot hear each other amidst the din going on above. As a result, individuals are seeking out less travelled, quieter waters and pods are becoming increasingly fragmented leading to longer calls in the hope of communication.

The irony is clear: humans desire greater communication with whales and in the process are blocking the ability for whales to communicate themselves.

Sometimes the Deep Ecological ethic to stay at home and leave wild animals alone couldn't seem more self-evident.

Why all this need to go co-habit with the whales? As I write this I am looking at a fine houseplant sitting across the room from me on a corner table. I have not spent much quality time lately with this fine being, I think.

Maybe if people who desire nostalgic reconnections with the wild spent more time evaluating how to re-connect up with that which already co-inhabits the places in which they live, everyone would be much better off.

Via: BBC
The findings come from an analysis of killer whale, or orca, calls by British and US researchers which has been published in the journal Nature.

The orcas make longer calls when boats are present in an apparent attempt to be heard above the engine noise.

But the orcas only take this action when noise reaches a critical level.

The killer whales observed in the study came from a population that lives close to the shore in waters off Washington state.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of boats in the area over the past decade. A major commercial shipping lane cuts through the waters, while tourism and whale-watching have become increasingly popular.

Numbers of killer whales have been dropping here since 1996.

Researchers from the University of Durham, UK, and the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, US, compared recordings of calls made by orcas over the periods 1977-81, 1989-92 and 2001-03 in waters made in the absence and presence of boats.

Although no significant difference was found in the length of calls over the 1977-81 and 1989-92 period, the team found a 10-15% increase in the duration of calls made by the orcas during the 2001-03 period.

Long calls

This would appear to suggest that the whales are altering the length of their calls to be heard above the din of background noise from boats.

"The whale-watching vessels quite often act as a beacon attracting the tourist boats," co-author Andrew Foote of the University of Durham told BBC News Online.

"This increases the amount of traffic around the whales even more. While the whale-watching vessels behave responsibly - try not to start their engines up when they're on top of the whales and so on - the tourists aren't always aware of quite how to behave with the whales."

If the growth in boat traffic continues apace, it could start interfering with the orcas' ability to find food, says Mr Foote. The animals partly make calls to keep in touch, but also to co-ordinate foraging.

However, the researchers suggest that because the number of boats increased about fivefold between 1990 and 2000, the orcas only start making longer calls once boat noise reaches a threshold.

Numbers of boats following the killer whales, including registered whale-watching boats and private tourist boats, increased roughly fivefold from 1990 to 2000.

Posted by Richard
5/12/2004 10:57:13 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Ghost Town -- One Woman's Journey into the Heart of Chernobyl

The following website, KidofSpeed, is a fascinating piece of HTML photojournalism called "Ghost Town," done by a Ukranian woman named Elena.

I work in theorizing the democratic internet and believe you me have looked at, evaluated, and created my fair share of websites since I first began my interest with the virtual community back in 1990, on a small local BBS (bulletin board system) in West Palm Beach, Florida, maxing out at about 200 Baud. The look of many websites has evolved to a much greater degree of professionalism, taking on graphic design norms, since then and the amount of information that one can now find on line is truly staggering. If the classic library has not yet been done away with, each year pushes it further and further from view. I honestly did not expect this.

Now, the recent surge in blogging and wikis has led to a resurgence of the idea of the Net as a sort of "public sphere" in which people can speak freely and communicate and debate, igniting new politics and culture. Still, one wonders why with the astounding growth of the internet over the last decade that blogging was required to re-activate all this talk about democracy. Maybe the web was just endless verbiage but not much talk? Maybe it was more look and feel than actual content? Maybe the internet has tended towards being what political theorist Jodi Dean has coined "communicative capitalism"?

Without settling this debate here and now, I wanted to provide it as a background to the KidofSpeed website. For this is definitely not communicative capitalism and is evidence of a way in which the internet truly is providing new knowledge, engaged politics, and novel cultural forms that are taking place at once on and off-line. In the photoessay "Ghost Town" our narrator gathers her motorcycle -- making sure to have a full tank of gas -- and geiger counter and heads off straight into the nuclear wasteland of the Chernobyl disaster area. Along the way, she documents the ways in which nature has moved back in sans the presence of humanity and also the undocumented problems of subjecting free roaming wildlife to such high levels of radioactivity. She gives us lessons about background radiation and urbanity and about the fallout from a nuclear reactor meltdown and then she captures in a way that an academic essay simply never could, the stark reality of a city haunted by technological disaster.

Every once in a while one comes across a startling new presentation on the internet -- this is truly eye-opening stuff. I encourage everyone to visit while it remains active.

Posted by Richard
5/11/2004 08:20:50 AM | PermaLink

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Gentlest of Beasts, Making Love, Ravaged by War

Pay attention to the last half of this article for the connection between ecological crisis, transnational capitalism, and species extinction. The case is heightened here because the symbolic consequence of war is tellingly the Bonobo, who are infamously the "peace loving" chimps, and who in a quasi-Marcusian fashion (that's Herbert Marcuse btw), give vent to rationally liberated erotism in order to sublimate pathological violence.

Make no mistake about it -- warfare and the military machine behind it are principal agents of animal suffering and murder in the present age. Thus, anyone who believes they are for animal welfare, rights or liberation should be brazenly anti-war and as vehement as Bertrand Russell in the name of pro-peace. This is not to say that AR & AL groups should be in direct alliance with narrowly focused groups such as ANSWER, but it is to say that if political advocates for the plights of animals can not and do not develop their own platforms for sounding alarm about global warfare then they stand in blatant contradiction to their own political agenda and consequently are failing the very animals they claim to "speak for" -- call it the Democratic syndrome, if you will.

Finally, I want to point out what is not discussed in this otherwise tell-all article from the Times below. What the piece fails to mention, as people (in the West especially) have failed to mention again and again, is that "the war" in Congo was in fact an outright genocide and holocaust delivering the murder of over 3 million people over a time span akin to WWII. Where were the international powers that be as this was allowed to happen -- the same powers that moved in to the Balkans to prevent genocidal atrocities there and which have now moved into the Middle East in the similar name of liberty, goodness, and freedom? Could it be that they were startlingly absent in Congo because of the color of the skins of the victims? Or could it also be because they had so much to gain as the people of the region were slaughtered?

The final mention in the article below speaks to the post-war fall out of a nation attempting to stabilize itself (with international support now) through loans and trade financed by the destruction of its "resource rich" rain forest. What the article fails to mention is that the war in Congo was itself laregly financed and developed by the sale of coltan, the principle element needed in Western cell phones, computer chips, nuclear reactors, and PlayStations. In other words, the Western market in high technology has boomed at the expense of a silent mass murder campaign that was effected with the assistance of many large multinational corporations, who moved money (for weapons, etc.) in as Congo's resources were moved out.

For more on this relationship see:
Congo and the Role of Coltan
Global Businesses Profit from Congo War, Groups Charge

Via: NY Times
Upstream from this dog-eat-dog capital, where the Congo River spills its tendrils into the belly of the equatorial rain forest, lies the jungle home of one of mankind's closest cousins and one of the most endangered primates on earth: the bonobo.

Genetically, humans and bonobos, a species of chimpanzee, are more than 98 percent similar. Socially, it is another matter. Matriarchal as a rule, bonobos eschew conflict. They do not fight over territory. They do not kill. Any small friction they resolve through sexual contact: a playful rub, oral sex, full intercourse.

Peace-loving they may be, but during Congo's latest war, the bonobos' jungle habitat fell smack on the front line between fighting factions.

Fishing and farming all but ground to a halt during the war, which officially ended last year. Civilians and soldiers alike turned to the forest to fill their bellies.

More and more, the bonobos turned up as supper. Their smoked remains showed up at riverine markets. Babies were orphaned, which is to say they were more or less destined to die: the bonobo infant, accustomed to staying on its mother's back for the first several years of life, has great trouble making it on its own.

So it was that the bonobo orphans of the central African rain forest found themselves hurtling hundreds of miles down the Congo River to this gritty metropolis and into the arms of a redheaded Frenchwoman called Claudine André.

Ms. André recalls it as love at first sight. More than 10 years ago, after a famous, ruinous pillage of Kinshasa, Ms. André, then a businesswoman, went to the ravaged city zoo and chanced upon a bereft infant bonobo. He looked as though he wanted to die, she recalled. She named him Mikano, took him home and became, in her words, his surrogate mother.

When the war came, more orphans trickled in. She kept them on the grounds of an elite American school. Then, last year, when peace came, she opened Lola Ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for orphaned bonobos on a 75-acre patch of green on the fringes of the capital.

Infants are paired up with surrogate mothers. There is an endless supply of bananas and sugar cane (bonobos have an incurable sweet tooth). An electric fence encircles the park, so as to keep the apes from scampering out of the woods and into Kinshasa's traffic. The park is open to visitors.

On a Sunday afternoon not long ago, the park's 31 young charges did what young bonobos do: chewed on blades of grass, swung from palm fronds, kissed, frolicked and fondled.

"It's the hippies of the forest," Ms. André said, taking their wrinkled hairy hands in hers. "When they feel anxious, when they are afraid, they have sex. And they calm down."

As if on cue, a big bonobo mounted a small bonobo. They rolled around on the grass, rubbed against each other and went on their merry ways.

Bonobos are not proprietary about mates, and sex is not always about procreation. Homosexuality is au courant, and sexual play begins when they are barely a year old, though intercourse must wait until they are teenagers. Much to Ms. André's delight, a teenage orphan, a male, arrived recently. Hopefully, she said, mating will soon begin.

"It's really make love, not war," Ms. André said of the bonobo way of life. "It was so sad to see such a pacific animal so destroyed by war."

The plight of the bonobos, a species found only in Congo, is a window into the repercussions of war on the ecology of the Congo River Basin, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and home to more than 400 species of mammals. Mining, logging and a sustained trade in bush meat have all put the squeeze on their habitats.

War having made vast swaths of the country inaccessible to researchers, it is impossible to know precisely how these creatures have fared. Certain habitats may have been left untouched, others devoured.

In the Virunga Highlands near the border of Uganda and Rwanda, the mountain gorilla population has grown, according to a census by the Wildlife Conservation Society. By contrast, in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, the eastern lowland gorilla's population has fallen by 70 percent to fewer than 5,000, according to Conservation International. The elephants in the same park may well have vanished.

As for the bonobo population, scientists have no reliable numbers but fear the species may be nearing extinction. Late last year, the United Nations Environment Program reported that the bonobo, along with the gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutan, could disappear in 50 years.

Peace is likely to present a new challenge to forest dwellers: Congo's rain forests have once again opened up to logging companies, and today the first batches of timber can be seen floating downriver from Équateur Province to the port here in Kinshasa. With blessings from the World Bank, 150 million acres of rain forest could be opened up for logging.

As the World Bank sees it, timber concessions could pour hundreds of millions of dollars into government coffers. Environmentalists fear that the logging could also endanger the habitat of the Pygmy people, who have eked out a living in the forest for centuries. The bonobos are sometimes called Pygmy chimpanzees, because Pygmies too are averse to conflict; they too prefer to hunt and forage in the forest rather than fight one another for territory. United Nations investigators suspect that some of them had been eaten during the war too.

Posted by Richard
5/10/2004 09:19:37 AM | PermaLink

New Veggie Radio Show!

Every Monday, at 12 noon EST, The Green Cutting Board will be on the air at web radio. You can follow this link to hear "The Vegetarian Voice" on the World Wide Web.

The Naked Vegetarian will be hosting an hour of Vegetarian talk radio, news, comment and interviews with Guest Celebrities, "food heads" of all types and "people of interest."

He'll even throw in an occasional recipe for good measure, after all going naked with vegetarian talk can be hungry work.

You can email questions to The Naked Vegetarian or send in your recipes for him to try live on the air (there's a full kitchen at the studio so don't be shy, he's not!).

Posted by Richard
5/10/2004 08:39:40 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Wildlife Group Warns Kangaroos Face Extinction

The organization that is promoting this alarming finding was brought into existence chiefly through the patronage of Steve and Terry Irwin, of Crocodile Hunter fame. I note this not to make a pitch for Irwin as animal advocate but to underline that the expert opinion that has Red Kangaroos extinct in a decade is much more mainstream than many industry spokespeople might have us believe. This is a great summary article on the issue from The Animals Voice, which highlights the unlisting of the Red from governmental protection in conjunction with its being culled by the food and clothing industries. There is an ecological dimension to this too in that a recent ongoing drought, with connections to global heating, is extremely stressing already disturbed kanagroo habitats.

Via: Yahoo News
Australia's iconic kangaroos are being decimated by hunting and drought and the largest of the species could be extinct within 10 years, wildlife activists warned.

The Wildlife Protection Association said Red Kangaroos, the world's largest living marsupials, are in greatest danger as a result of aggressive culling programs.

"I think 10 years is going to see the Red Kangaroos out, unless we stop killing them right now," said association president Pat O'Brien. "There are no ifs, there are no buts -- it will happen."

"We have got figures showing they are being killed far quicker than what they can reproduce," he said.

"The problem is that we are not even going to know about it until they are gone -- they live in the remote areas, they are getting smaller and smaller because the genetically strong animals are being taken out, and the gene pool will just get weaker and weaker and weaker," he said.

Australia's Department of Environment and Heritage sets an annual commercial kangaroo cull quota which last year was put at 6.55 million animals.

Government estimates dating to 1999 put the population of the three main groups, the red, eastern grey and western grey kangaroos, at about 30 million.

In addition to the cull, kangaroo populations have been suffering the affects of a severe drought that has parched large sections of central and eastern Australia for the past two to three years.

Kangaroo meat processors have complained the populations are already down dramatically in South Australia and New South Wales because of the combined effects of culling and drought.

Red Kangaroos, also called Giant Red Kangaroos, are the largest of the species growing to about 1.6 meters (5.4 feet) and weighing up to 90 kilograms (200 pounds).

Like other kangaroos the reds live in small groups of about 10 animals, known as mobs.

O'Brien warned that while Red Kangaroos were the most endangered, Grey Kangaroo populations were "getting a hammering too."

"The big mobs are gone forever, we will never see them again because we have managed to poison them, shoot them, destroy their habitat," he said.

"What we predict will happen is in the next 20 years or perhaps even sooner, we will find the only grey kangaroos left are those that are in small family groups -- we will just have genetically impoverished family groups."

A recent survey by the University of New South Wales showed that kangaroos were the second most recognisable tourist icon in the world, behind the US Statue of Liberty, O'Brien said.

Posted by Richard
5/09/2004 10:09:41 PM | PermaLink

Shaking Things Up: Queer Rights / Animal Rights

This is a spitfire interview with Mirha-Soleil Ross. Some hardcore and insightful takes here...

Via: Steve Best (see Steve's new flashy website)
Whether or not you agree with her views, Mirha-Soleil Ross is a force to be reckoned with. Mirha hit the radar last month when we read the following interview in the Australian-based Vegan Voice magazine and attended her one-woman tour de force, Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thought from an Unrepentant Whore, in New York City.

Mirha-Soleil Ross is many things: transsexual videomaker, performance artist, prostitute and long-time activist for prostitute and sex workers’ rights, and advocate for queer rights and animal rights. She is articulate and provocative, with a sharp wit—a rarity these days. These may seem inherently contradictory, but underlying all is a fierce sense of compassion and justice.

Mirha-Soleil Ross has some very interesting things to say—about queer and gay rights, feminism, animal rights, socio-economic issues, armchair intellectuals, anti-pornography advocacy, you name it—views that are unrepresented in progressive dialogues and at the least deserve to be heard.

Irreverent and controversial, Mirha is long overdue an audience in the U.S. Here, Vegan Voice’s Claudette Vaughan interviews Mirha-Soleil Ross.

Posted by Richard
5/09/2004 06:10:23 PM | PermaLink