“This is fantastic news because before these camera trap images surfaced, only 12 other Javan rhino births were recorded in the past decade,” WWF-Indonesia Ujung Kulon programme chief Adhi Hariyadi said. “The population in Ujung Kulon represents the last real hope for the survival of a species that is on the brink of extinction.” [AFP]
Scientists who track the species had feared that perhaps as few as 40 Javan rhinos remained. This video footage recorded in November and December of last year, as well as other observations, suggests that the population is probably a little larger now, but still only about 50.
So did the hobbits and the giant storks live in peaceful harmony, or did they try to kill each other?
On the island of Flores, the same place where controversial evidence of the tiny ancient hominid Homo floresiensis turned up in 2003, scientists found large leg bones in a cave. A new analysis of those bones published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society indicates that they belong to giant storks taller than any alive today, capable of towering over the Homo floresiensis “hobbits.”
“From the size of its bones, we initially were expecting a giant raptor, which are commonly found on islands, not a stork,” said Hanneke Meijer, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The carnivorous giant (Leptoptilos robustus) was a hitherto unknown species of marabou stork, among the largest birds alive on the planet. [MSNBC]
At about 6 feet in height, the great stork would have stood nearly twice the height of H. floresiensis individuals, who reached just about three and a half feet tall. And like many other over-sized birds, the stork likely wasn’t the flying type. Says Meijer:
“Fly? Not very well, I think. They wouldn’t have gone very far if they could even get off the ground. But I don’t think they needed to fly. They were the top predator of that ecosystem.” [Toronto Star]
At 8 a.m. EDT on Nov. 5, Tomas’ center was about 80 miles south-southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba and 160 miles west of Port Au Prince Haiti…. Tomas is moving to the northeast near 10 mph, and is expected to speed up over the next couple of days. [NASA Press release]
The hurricane is currently a category one, with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, and is expected to continue strengthen throughout Friday before weakening on Saturday. The hurricane’s strong winds and flooding may hit the country hard: Haiti’s earthquake in January left the country particularly susceptible to land slides.
“Haiti has a really serious history of big landslides, almost all of them caused by tropical storm or hurricane rainfall,” said geologist David Petley, the Wilson Professor of Hazard and Risk at Durham University in England. [LiveScience]
If the hurricane stays on its current course it will pass just to the west of the small island nation, but there may still be plenty of damage and human misery. Many Haitians whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake are still living in temporary homes that won’t be able to stand up to the winds.
Indonesia, because it’s an archipelago, might not look like it has a lot of land area. But it’s home to the third largest forest area of any country, and has half the tropical peatlands in the entire world. These forested lands are home to many endangered species, and also store greenhouse gases. Now, thanks to international cooperation (and a big check), more of that area will be saved—for now.
This week, Indonesia pledged to stop giving permits for the destruction of virgin forests:
“We will conduct a moratorium for two years where we stop the conversion of peat land and of forest,” President Yudhoyono said at a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The pledge comes ahead of Thursday’s climate and forest conference in Oslo, which is expected to be attended by officials from some 50 countries [BBC News].
Environmentalists are cheering the reprieve, noting that vast swaths of forest have already been cleared in Indonesia to provide wood for timber and paper industries, and to provide space for palm oil plantations.
A growing conflict between Indonesian loggers and the critically endangered Sumatran tiger has incurred a death toll on both sides, with little solution in sight. Environmentalists say that Asian Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the largest paper companies in the world, has destroyed much of the island of Sumatra’s rainforest. The activists argue that the tigers, whose wild population is thought to hover at around 400 but could be as low as 250, have been left without a natural habitat and have increasingly regarded humans for food. Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of 25 environmental organizations, has released a report to back up the allegation.
By overlaying the locations of [human-tiger] conflicts with government maps of pulpwood plantation concessions, Eyes on the Forest found a direct correlation between tiger conflict and the unsustainable forest practices of APP, its holding company Sinar Mas Group, and other associated companies that supply pulpwood to APP’s mills [Wildlife Extra], with 60 percent of the total 245 human-tiger encounters having taken place on land associated with those companies.