Tag Archives: lion

Matters of Facts, and Opinions this week

Shepherds direct their herd as they migrate to summer pastures in Serra da Estrela, near Seia, Portugal June 27, 2015. In late June, shepherds young and old in the Seia region of central Portugal start guiding sheep, goats and cattle to the Serra da Estrela, the country’s highest mountains, in search of better pastures. There they stay until the end of September. Modern-day shepherds may have mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends, but their lifestyle has changed little for centuries. The sound of cowbells and the bark of longhaired mastiffs starts early in the morning as the animals – often decorated with traditional woollen balls on their horns - are herded up steep, narrow paths.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Photo-essay:

Old Traditions, New Pastures: Portugal’s last shepherds (unlocked)*

Photographer Rafael Marchante, of Reuters, accompanied a flock of sheep and goats from the Portuguese region of Seia during the first three days of ascent, living alongside some of the last shepherds who preserve this ancient tradition. Modern-day shepherds may have mobile phones to keep in touch with family and friends, but their lifestyle has changed little for centuries.Transhumance, the ascent in search of better pastures, normally takes place from June to late September. In the area around the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in Portugal, this seasonal ritual has been followed since Roman times.  Click here for more photo-essays.

Dispatches:

No snow, no problem — China wins 2022 Winter Olympics. By Reuters (unlocked)*

The snow will be fake, but the very real financial muscle China boasts proved decisive on Friday when Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Human rights activists criticized the award, saying the International Olympic Committee had sent the wrong message at a time of growing government pressure on activists and civil society.

Stop killer robots, researchers warn in open letter. By Toby Walsh (unlocked)*

An open letter by major researchers and thinkers calls for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons, known as “killer robots.” The July 27 letter was signed by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Skype co-founder Jaan Talinn linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, plus some 1,000  leading researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

Ebola vaccine holds hope for end of scourge. By Reuters (unlocked)*

The world is on the verge of being able to protect humans against Ebola, the World Health Organization said, as a trial in Guinea found a vaccine to have been 100 percent effective. Initial results from the trial, which tested Merck and NewLink Genetics’ VSV-ZEBOV vaccine on some 4,000 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed Ebola case, showed complete protection after 10 days.

 The search for sustainable plastics. By Phil McKenna (unlocked)*

3314227532_e338e91363_oThe fate of the world’s oceans may rest inside a stainless steel tank not quite the size of a small beer keg. Inside, genetically modified bacteria turn corn syrup into a churning mass of polymers that can be used to produce a wide variety of common plastics. 

Commentary:

Why it’s right not to vote in Canada, by Tom Regan (unlocked)*

There’s a brouhaha as Canada prepares for the upcoming federal election, over whether Canadians like me who live abroad should have the right to vote after being out of the country for a certain period of time. We should not. Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it. It would be like throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded.

Canada’s pipeline project runs through swamp of Malaysian politics, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)*

British Columbians need to know how closely the fate of their $40 billion natural gas pipeline deal is tied to the survival of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. There are two unsavoury reasons. If Najib loses control of his position, his successor may see  projects associated with him as tainted. Should he survive, does Premier Christie Clark relish the prospect of the northern pipeline project, in which she has invested so much political capital and of which she has such grandiose expectations, resting in the hands of a man, Najib, around whom swirls the smell of bribery, corruption and even murder?

Robert Goddard and The Big Blue Marble, by Jim McNiven (unlocked)*

Robert Goddard was the quintessential Yankee inventor. Born in 1882, he was raised and lived much of his life in Worcester, Massachusetts. Goddard was a sickly boy who fell behind in school and did not graduate until he was twenty-two. Spending lots of time home in bed, he became a voracious reader, and was highly taken with H.G.Wells’s War of the Worlds, which was published when he was sixteen. At seventeen he discovered his life’s work while staring at the sky as he pruned trees around his parents’ house. He would devise a way to escape Earth’s gravity and travel through space.

Living With an Ankle Bracelet in America. By M.M., Loose Leaf salon  (unlocked)*

I cannot sleep. There is a device on my leg. It requires that I wake up an hour early so I can plug it into a charger and stand next to the outlet, like a cell phone charging up for the day. Not the day, actually, but 12 hours. After that, the device runs out of juice. Wherever I am, I have to find an outlet to plug myself into. If I don’t, I’m likely to be thrown back onto Rikers Island. At the age of 22, I landed in prison. Though I had grown up around violence, it was my first time in trouble. I’d taken the law into my own hands during an altercation, because where I come from, we don’t dial 911 for help — we see how badly police officers treat people like us. 

Arts:

Anne Murray. Guy McPherson photo courtesy of the Fraser MacPherson estate

Finding Her Roots in Country Music: Anne Murray, by Brian Brennan (paywall)*

At a press conference I once asked Donny Osmond how many times a day he brushed his teeth to keep them so sparkling white. He answered, in all seriousness, that his teeth were capped. Then his publicist kicked me out of the room. Clearly, I was not showing the proper respect. I was also kicked out of the room when I asked the Bay City Rollers if a singer had to be five foot five or less in order to qualify for membership in the band. In Anne Murray’s case, I didn’t ask any silly questions.

The Man Booker is stacked in favour of big publishers. By Stevie Marsden (unlocked)*

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction has announced its longlist for the 2015 award. Now in its 46th year, the award is among the most prestigious in the literary world. It is also incredibly generous to the big publishing houses.

Expert Witness: 

Cecil the lion’s fate a matter of conservation. By Lochran Traill and Norman Owen-Smith (unlocked)*

Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death. But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.

 

Brent Stapelkamp

Cecil and a lioness. Brent Stapelkamp

 

Recommended elsewhere: 

Life with the lions: revisited, Oxford university science blog, by Pete Wilton

The killing of Cecil the lion was one of the lions fitted with a GPS collar as part of Oxford University research led by Andrew Loveridge. Oxford revisits a 2012 interview with Loveridge about his work with lions. … read more on Oxford’s site.

Last but not least, in memory of Cecil and all other creatures killed by “trophy” hunters:

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Cecil the lion’s fate a matter of conservation

By Lochran Traill and Norman Owen-Smith, University of the Witwatersrand 
July, 2015

Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death. But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.

Trophy hunting, or the selective removal of animals from a population based on a desirable trait, is a deeply polarising issue. Ethical standpoints against the deliberate killing of animals for sport are what drive the public response that we now see.

Biologists have concerns about undesirable evolutionary outcomes that may arise from the killing of ‘prime individual animals. These animals are typically males that exhibit a desirable trait, like a large mane. Conservationists, have concerns that hunting may cause inbreeding, or drive rare species’ populations in isolated protected areas to the brink of extinction.

Hunting brings in money

Despite the controversy, trophy hunting remains a legally sanctioned activity in most African countries. That is because hunting generates income. Sportsmen and women visiting Africa contribute as much as USD 201 million a year directly through hunting. This is excluding economic multipliers. And safari operators are custodians of at least 1.4 million km2 of land in sub-Saharan Africa, exceeding the area encompassed by national parks in those countries where hunting is permitted by over 20%.

Conservationists recognise that trophy hunting contributes to the protection of land from other uses such as pastoralism, where ecotourism is unviable. Bans on trophy hunting in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia have been associated with an accelerated loss of wildlife, not the other way around.

The halving of Africa’s lion population over the past 20 years is not the result of trophy hunting. African lions have declined through the classic drivers of extinction, namely habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and disease.

What’s different about Cecil

Cecil was no ordinary lion. Reportedly aged 13 years old, he was well past the normal breeding age for males of his species, what we term senescent. Male lions only gain opportunities to mate after taking over pride ownership after at least five years of age. They may hold tenure for between two and four years before being displaced by younger males. Cecil should thus have completed the genetic contribution that he could be expected to make before he was shot, and could not have been expected to live much past 15 years.

Why then had Cecil remained a breeding pride male for so long? One reason may be that the younger males that would have contested pride ownership, had been removed by hunters operating in lands neighbouring the Hwange National Park. Indeed, the Oxford University researchers who had been following Cecil’s life performance reported that 72% of the males they collared within the national park had been killed by trophy hunters, and 30% of those males shot were under four years old.

In this way, hunting taking place legitimately on land outside the formally protected area is prejudicing not only scientific research, but also the role of a flagship national park in protecting viable populations of large carnivores.

How should this conflict be resolved?

If the professional hunter and his client broke the law, then let the Zimbabwean legal system take care of that. More generally, how do conservationists trade off the money generated by trophy hunters against the huge costs of maintaining protected areas? What restrictions should be placed on where hunting takes place so that opportunities to draw candidates for hunting out of protected areas using baits placed outside their borders are prevented?

The traditional boundaries drawn on maps from parks and zones where these animals are need to be re-assessed. They need softening and buffer regions where hunting is not allowed. Alternatively, areas effectively protected within the park should have non-poaching activities that people can enjoy. Perhaps the activities in the buffer zone could be foot safaris, providing the excitement of encounters with wild animals without the destructive outcome associated with hunting.

The worldwide emotional response to the killing of this eminent animal could potentially lead to more effective reconciliation between the legitimate contributions that hunting can make to conservation, and the efforts to set aside sufficient land in protected areas to ensure the long-term persistence of the species these areas are supposed to protect.

Whatever the outcome following the death of Cecil, an emotive, uncompromising standpoint around the ethics of trophy hunting alone will not assist the conservation effort in Africa. In fact, it may well have the unintended consequence of undermining it.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Lochran Traill is Research Fellow, Centre for African Ecology, Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at University of the WitwatersrandNorman Owen-Smith is Emeritus Research Professor of African Ecology at University of the Witwatersrand. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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