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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Survey of invasive Harlequin Ladybirds launched
An alien species called the Harlequin Ladybird has invaded the United Kingdom and is out-competing, even eating, native ladybird species which share aphids as their food.

In an effort to monitor the effects of this invasive species the University of Cambridge, invertebrate charity Buglife, the Centre for Ecology + Hydrology and Anglia Polytechnic University have launched a survey which will allow the public to record sightings of this unwelcome invader.

The Harlequin Ladybird website offers detailed descriptions of the Harlequin Ladybird as well as various, smaller and less spotty, native species. It can be tricky to tell the two types apart so people are being asked to take, and submit, digital photographs which will allow reported sightings to be confirmed by experts.

It is thought the harlequin ladybird was introduced to the UK on imported house-plants, and that there is now little chance they will ever be eliminated. Researchers are trying to develop species-specific pheromone traps which will lure the invaders to their doom, but this could take years of development work.

A separate Ladybird Survey site has also been launched in order for people to report sightings of the country's 46 native ladybirds species. If you wish to do this, you might find the following pictures of use...

Harlequin varieties

Native species

Snare Wire Art weblog
Earth Info is pleased to announce that it has launched a weblog for the Painted Dog Conservation project in Zimbabwe.

The Painted Dog conservation project was set up 15 years ago by Greg Rasmussen. Over this time Greg has persuaded many farmers to stop shooting dogs, and also invented a special collar which can cut through wire snares and help drivers to see dogs on the road. Sadly, despite these valiant efforts, Painted Dogs, which used to roam across much of Africa, remain three times rarer than the Giant Panda, and critically endangered.

Greg employs over 50 people and, as part of their work, the project's team of rangers have so far collected over 10,000 wire snares. Poachers use these snares to catch bush meat and illegally, indiscriminately and painfully kill 1000s of animals each year.

Recently, local artists have started converting this wire in beautiful works of art, such as those in the picture below. Last year some of these sculptures where sold in a celebrity auction at Christie's in London and raised £13,000 for the project.

In addition to the project's core conservation efforts, Greg has recently established a fantastic bush camp for local children and a new bush trail.

This is all the more impressive when you know that Greg recently survived a terrible plane crash, which resulted in him shattering both of his legs.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Protecting the rights of the Sami people in Finland
Dave Walsh, the editor of the Forest Rescue Station weblog in Finland has been in touch to let this site know about the state forestry company's efforts to take over reindeer grazing areas used by the Sami people.

The Sámi Reindeer Forests of Arctic Finland are amongst the few remaining areas of ancient forest left in Europe.

The Reindeer Forest is under siege by the Finnish government's own logging company, Metsähallitus. Sámi reindeer herding co-operatives have identified areas of forest vital for the free grazing of reindeer - areas that continue to be logged by Metsähallitus. Up to 70% of the timber logged by Metsähallitus in Sámi areas goes into the production of pulp + paper - ending up as magazine and copy paper throughout Europe.

The sami people have their own language, traditional clothing, handicraft, and music, and are distinctively different from other ethnic groups in Scandinavia. Although the sami have full citizenship in Norway, Sweden + Finland they are denied the rights guaranteed to indigenous people in the UN Declaration of Human Rights in Sweden and Finland. In these two countries the sami are considered an ethnic minority, and not a separate people.

Only Norway provides the protections enshrined in the UN's declaration, and logging interests are now asserting themselves in sami areas that have traditionally been used for hunting, fishing + reindeer herding.

Visit the Forest Rescue Station weblog to find out more...

P.S. You might be interested to learn that one sami word, tundra, is widely used in the english speaking world, and that the word lapp is a derogatory term of abuse which refers to patchy and worn clothes.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Donna the Stork electrocuted by powerlines
Birdlife International: Press release

Six years after she was satellite-tagged as a chick, Donna the White Stork has been killed by power lines. Hatched in Belgium, the much-travelled Donna had left her wintering grounds in southern Spain, and died as she reached her breeding site in the Calvados region of France.

Wim Van den Bossche, leader of the Storks Without Borders project, followed Donna's progress for the 2,033 days of her life after she started her first autumn migration. Wim says Donna was the world-record holder in the young science of satellite-tracking birds. "No other bird has been tracked on a daily basis for such a long period. Donna provided us with a mass of unique scientific data."

Donna left Seville in Southern Spain on the 11 February, stopped off near Madrid for ten days, and reached Calvados on the 4 March. The next day local stork specialist Alain Chartier found her dead under power lines near the estuary of the river Seine. Alain says she was in prime breeding condition.

"Electrocution and collision with power lines are the main known causes of death among White Storks," Wim reports. "Along migration routes, up to 59% of dead storks and 90% of wounded storks examined by researchers have hit wires." Storks can live up to 30 years.

Wim says that "bird-friendly" alterations to power lines can reduce stork mortality. Plastic caps and tubes can be fitted quickly and cheaply to existing pylons, poles and cables, and guidelines are available to ensure that new power lines present the minimum risk to birds.

Visit the Storks Without Borders website to find out more.