SciBlogs

Archive March 2012

Desperate measures – kotuku chicks Brendan Moyle Mar 23

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White herons or kotuku are one of the most beautiful and elegant birds in out avifauna. This sadly contributed to their decline here when their nuptial feathers became a prized fashion product and bids were harvested. Numbers have been increasing since the nest site at Okarito was protected & this traffic ended. In fact, the reserve has a rich range of birdlife, so should be on any naturalists 'must see' places in New Zealand.

The tour company that runs the trips out to the nesting site is very good. The hides are spacious enough for everyone to get a good view of the nesting site. For photographers, you'll be wanting lenses with focal lengths of 400-500mm at a minimum though to get good shots.

Children are likely to appreciate the jet-boat trip into the lagoon area itself.

For the faint of heart though, the breeding of the kotuku is a grim affair. The kotuku have more chicks than they're prepared to feed, so the young birds are locked in a grim struggle for food. Any chick that is unable to compete with its siblings will starve to death. The parent exhibits no concern for the fate of its starving offspring.

This shot shows the difference in size of the two chicks


In this lunge, the smaller chick tried to prompt the parent to feed it. The beak grabbing is the usual trigger for being fed. It didn't succeed.


This shot shows how little weight the smaller chick is accumulating


And in this shot, it has turned its attention to its sibling and made a grab for its beak to try to get food


Desperate measures – kotuku chicks Brendan Moyle Mar 23

No Comments

White herons or kotuku are one of the most beautiful and elegant birds in out avifauna. This sadly contributed to their decline here when their nuptial feathers became a prized fashion product and bids were harvested. Numbers have been increasing since the nest site at Okarito was protected & this traffic ended. In fact, the reserve has a rich range of birdlife, so should be on any naturalists 'must see' places in New Zealand.

The tour company that runs the trips out to the nesting site is very good. The hides are spacious enough for everyone to get a good view of the nesting site. For photographers, you'll be wanting lenses with focal lengths of 400-500mm at a minimum though to get good shots.

Children are likely to appreciate the jet-boat trip into the lagoon area itself.

For the faint of heart though, the breeding of the kotuku is a grim affair. The kotuku have more chicks than they're prepared to feed, so the young birds are locked in a grim struggle for food. Any chick that is unable to compete with its siblings will starve to death. The parent exhibits no concern for the fate of its starving offspring.

This shot shows the difference in size of the two chicks


In this lunge, the smaller chick tried to prompt the parent to feed it. The beak grabbing is the usual trigger for being fed. It didn't succeed.


This shot shows how little weight the smaller chick is accumulating


And in this shot, it has turned its attention to its sibling and made a grab for its beak to try to get food


Tigers returning to Korea – #tiger #conservation Brendan Moyle Mar 19

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This is a fascinating story from Korea, where a restoration project for the tiger is underway. Historically the Siberian tiger had an extensive range that included the Korean peninsular. Like most of the other subspecies, the Siberian tiger has gone from most of its former range. In fact, it had dwindled to critically low levels in Russia int he mid-20th C and it was migration of Siberian tigers from China back into the Russian Far East that helped repopulate it.

Part of the range also included the Korean peninsular. While we've know that the Siberian tiger isn't found in South Korea, there were optimistic rumours that a few may have persisted in North Korea. It was just that nobody could find a way to do a survey in North Korea. But that faint hope has died as conditions in North Korea leaked out.

Now the Korea Times is announcing the release of two Siberian tigers (donated by China) in a purpose built reserve (Baekdu-daegan arboretum). Well, at least they're announcing plans to release two Siberian tigers by 2014 :). The intention is to expand this reserve to a point where 30 tigers can be sustained.



One for the photographers- counterfeit cards Brendan Moyle Mar 16

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One of the staples of the digital photographer is the memory card- usually sold in CF or SD form. I'm someone whose invested carefully in such cards because much rides on them working properly. If you're shooting in wilderness areas where temperatures can range from -25 to +45 C, you don't want anything risking your pictures. Sometimes you will only get a fleeting and unrepeatable opportunity to photograph some animals. It seems a bit foolish carrying thousands of dollars of cameras and lenses and baulk at getting good memory cards.

That leads in to the problem of counterfeit cards. So, I've set up a little survey for you photographers out there to get some feedback on concern about counterfeit cards

If you're interested, just follow the link to a short (5 question) survey – Thank you.

Is education making poaching wildlife worse? Brendan Moyle Mar 14

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In the last post I mentioned that 'education' campaigns are an increasingly popular way to try to reduce demand for endangered species in Asia. The problem is that it's very opaque as to what they're achieving. My last post showed a billboard up in a small border town in Yunnan from before the Beijing Olympics. Species like tigers and elephants were targeted in these campaigns. In the late 1990s The ACAP (Active Conservation Awareness Program) was started, which showed graphic TC ads in Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Mainland China. This program has continued. Charismatic spokespersons- like Jackie Chan- were recruited into these campaigns.

So, why have these had so little impact on curbing demand?

Well, one major reason is that these are very broad-brush campaigns. As I've mentioned earlier, nobody has ever caught a final consumer of tiger-parts inside China. So education campaigns have to be broad-brush because we don't know what motivates these consumers and where they're located. And for that reason, it's quite easy to miss the target audience completely.

The second problem is more sinister. It comes down to the message that gets communicated. If we have a lot of people in China who really had no or little awareness that tiger-bone had a medicinal purpose, then these campaigns act as a constant reminder that does have an (alleged) medicinal function. They are made more aware that they could be taking tiger-bone medicines for their ailments. This would be a sad and perverse outcome of these efforts.

Ivory wars- conservation back in retreat. Brendan Moyle Mar 13

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The recent Economist magazine had an article on the surge in elephant poaching now occurring in Africa. Much of the article covers familiar territory. Organised, well-resourced and competent international criminal conspiracies have upped the poaching pressure on elephants. And they pretty much have the initiative.


This threatens to return African elephants to the crisis times of the 1970s and 1980s, when poaching was rampant and extinction loomed for many populations. This led to an ivory trade ban, in 1989, and in turn to a collapse in demand for ivory.

– The Economist

Well, this kind of simplifies the story. The ivory ban was well-broadcast in advance and people were busy stockpiling ivory as fast as they could acquire it in Asia. This kept ivory prices accelerating until the ban kicked in. The bidding-war for stocks stopped and the price-bubble collapsed.

It did have a temporary benefit also of disrupting the supply-chain from Africa to Asia. Smugglers were laundering poached ivory into the legal stream as this was the least-cost route. As a consequence, they had to rebuild new supply networks. It bought some time for elephants.


In southern Africa, where there is relatively little poaching, support for lifting the trade ban is strong. But east African countries, especially Kenya, which led the original campaign for it, say this would increase demand for ivory, which would often be met by poaching



Of course, the interesting question is why there is little poaching in southern Africa. Poaching isn't a ubiquitous problem. Even during the 1980s as wild elephant numbers were plummeting, populations in southern Africa were actually growing. It seems you can achieve effective protection on the ground and this does hinder poaching.

And please, not the legal trade will increase demand argument. What happened to illegal alcohol producers in the US after prohibition ended. Did the legal trade increase the demand for illegal alcohol- or simply out-compete it to extinction. It out-competed it. Just as what happened in the crocodile leather market as well. Legal supply is a competitive force.

Yes, there are ways in which a legal trade can lead to more increased illegal traffic, but this isn't moderated by the demand-side of the market.

Let's point out that the last legal shipment to hit China from Africa was in 2008. One can hardly be surprised that prices are now on the rise and spurring poaching.


Yet if the trade ban is losing its force, what will save the elephants? Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants, an advocacy group, says educating Chinese shoppers about the bloody origins of their purchase would help.



And when law enforcement can't get the initiative back from poachers, what do we so often come up with. Aah, that's right, 'education'. Education has become that catchall phrase of what to do, when you really don't have a clue as to what to do.

I thought this shot (I took it on some tiger black-market work) would be appropriate. It's from China in 2008. That's 4 years ago. You can see elephants are one of the targeted species.


This was taken at one of China's smuggling hotspots- the border between Vietnam and Yunnan. There have been education campaigns running in these countries for years. I'm really unconvinced we have the means to shift demand by education, and dubious that this is the appropriate focus for anti-smuggling campaigns.



Okay- so what’s this spider? Brendan Moyle Mar 12

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This large spider was moving across some Cordyline leaves on the forest floor at night when I spotted it. I got the chance for two pics before it motored away. The first pic was out of focus so this is all I'm left with. It's a big spider…but one I've not seen before.

Here's the preview


And if you want a larger version
Larger Image

So, any would-be taxonomists want to have a guess at what it is?

Green is good- native katydids Brendan Moyle Mar 09

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The NZ Katydid Caedicia simplex is found in both NZ and Australia. It's a relative of grasshoppers and wetas (Orthopetra). These shots were taken at night and that meant I could capture the egg-laying behaviour of one female. Of course, taking pictures at night involves other challenges. For one thing, its dark so focusing on the subject presents some challenges. The other I discovered, is the ability to spot cat poo is greatly reduced. Hence I had a squishy and very smelly souvenir on my shoes when I'd finished.

#1 Katydid


#2 Laying Eggs


#3 Head shot

E-book ponderings Brendan Moyle Mar 07

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So far the lure of an e-book reader has escaped me but of late, I’ve been pondering as the options increase.

I do seem to accumulate a lot of pdf files- scientific papers and the like- and it strikes me that would be a possible good use for an e-book reader. It’s often inconvenient to have a laptop running in many places. And my desire to transport lots and lots of printouts is pretty weak.

The other potentially useful application I see, would be as a photo-album viewer.

Which I guess makes reading actual e-books pretty low on my list. So do any e-book aficionados have any recommendations of e-book readers that handle pdfs well and display photos gorgeously? :)

Native lynx spider Brendan Moyle Mar 05

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These were handheld shots taken in January of our native lynx spider. This is also a free-ranging hunter rather than web-builder, but tends to rely more on stealth and ambush than our jumping spiders.







For more, please follow the link to the album

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