Will the Philippines become a hornbill graveyard?

Dr. William Oliver

Dr. William Oliver

British conservationist Dr. William Oliver, director of Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc (PBCFI), believes another species of Philippine hornbill will become extinct within the next five years.

Oliver, a frequent visitor to Bacolod as the PBCFI is a partner of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI), made the prediction at last week’s International Hornbill Conference in Makati.

“It’s inevitable and it’s depressing,” he said “But, with sufficient effort the future can be secured if enough priority is given to these magnificent birds. Having said that I don’t hold out a lot of hope for a large percentage of that species.”

Oliver stressed that the extinction of a hornbill sub-species was not new to the country.

“Among the world’s 57 hornbill species, the Ticao Tarictic, a subspecies of the Visayan hornbill found only on Ticao Island in Masbate, is considered extinct,” he added

Visayan tarictic hornbill

Visayan tarictic hornbill

Dr. Joanne Justo, curator of the NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Bacolod City said that hornbills are an eye-catching bird species with noticeably large, colorful beaks. Unfortunately for them, this makes the birds attractive pets.

“But the biggest threat to hornbills is habitat loss. They depend primarily on forests to survive and with the country’s dwindling forest cover, the hornbill’s chance of survival also declines,” she said.

Oliver added: “It’s a rule of thumb that if you’ve lose 95 per cent of your forest, you lose 50 per cent of your species.”

He noted that Mindoro has lost more than 93 per cent of its forest over.

Mining is also a threat to hornbills as mining companies use vast forest areas for their operations.

Oliver said there is no one-size fits all solution to hornbill conservation. But added that awareness of the problem is a positive first step.

“We need to get more people in the Philippines to be aware that this country is endowed with a

The Rufous-headed hornbill

The Rufous-headed hornbill

huge diversity of hornbills. Not only are they beautiful birds, they also perform a valuable ecological services such as seed dispersers.”

In the Western Visayas the Rufous-headed hornbill (Aceros waldeni) is considered  one of the most threatened hornbill species in the world. It is only known or presumed to occur only in three islands – Panay, Negros and Guimaras.

The other species of hornbill found in Negros is the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini).

NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center at the Provincial Lagoon is home to many threatened animals and birds including three species of hornbills. Members of the public can see these remarkable birds as well as other rare and endangered animals including warty pigs, spotted deer and leopard cats at the BCC from Mondays to Saturdays.

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Grope me at your peril!

A team of three Indian engineering students, including 20 year-old Monisha Mohan, has invented an anti-rape, bra-like device that responds to aggressive pinching and pulling at a woman� breasts.

The anti-rape bra

The anti-rape bra

The device was inspired by the brutal mass rape and subsequent death last December of a 23 year-old law student in Delhi that sent shock-waves throughout the world.

Mohan calls the device � retaliation against menaces in society.
Mohan and her fellow-students, Rimpy Tripathy and Niladri Basu, from the Indian state of Chennai set out to invent electrified ‘anti-rape lingerie’ to protect women from sexual assault.  Apart from giving would-be rapist a severe shock, the bra carries GPS and GSM devices which send an alert to the victim’s parents and the police in the event of an attack.

The anti-rape bra inventors

The anti-rape bra inventors

Called Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE) it comes equipped with a shock circuit board near the bra. The lingerie can send more than 82 high voltage electric shocks to the assailant – enough to cause severe burn marks.

Rape is a common occurrence in many parts of the world,” said Mohan. “We thought it would not come to an end until some innovative idea for solving this problem comes out. Discussions on rape cases alone are no solution. We need to do something practical to stop rapes. The Delhi rape incident motivated us to find ways.”

The SHE device is an undergarment which is set up inside the innerwear of a woman in a way that when pressure is applied to it during an assault, a strong electric shock is generated.

Simultaneously, the device sends out two messages – one to the police station and other to a family member.

At the moment, the anti-rape bra is not available in the shops as the team is busy making it more compact and more effective. But if a company does start manufacturing it, Mohan said the team would like to make the device as cheap as possible.

We would want it to reach every section of society and not be only affordable to the affluent. Our objective is to protect women and not to earn profit.

British firm awarded vaccine contract for DOH

British Ambassador Stephen Lillie

British Ambassador Stephen Lillie

British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline has won a tender called by UNICEF to supply the Department of Health (DOH) with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) for the Philippines.

The vaccination program is part of the Department of Health� (DOH�) Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine provided by GSK is unique in that, unlike its counterparts, it has demonstrated ability to prevent not only pneumonia – the number one cause of mortality among Filipino children aged 1to 4 years – but also a host of other diseases such as meningitis and otitis media.

British Ambassador Stephen Lillie recently hosted a reception for those who are involved in this component of the Philippines’ Universal Healthcare Agenda.

�e have been very pleased to support GSK in its bids for the vaccine program here in the Philippines. Its success is a reflection of the excellence of GSK as a leading British and global company. It is also a testament to the commitment of the Aquino administration to transparent and open tendering. We�e delighted that British multinational companies can come here and can succeed in a free, fair and open bidding environment,�he said.

Norman Begg, vice president at GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals based in Belgium, acknowledged the Philippines as not only a great place to do business but also a great place to do research. He mentioned that many clinical trials are done by GSK with the assistance of Filipino physicians and hospitals in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Health Assistant Secretary Enrique �ric�Tayag thanked GSK for its contribution to the EPI through a study that will help create a more effective blueprint to administer the vaccination program. Assistant Secretary Tayag also called on the international community to help the Department of Health build its capacity to ensure the success of its vaccination program.

Hornbill gab slated for April 24-26

6th International Hornbill Conference

6th International Hornbill Conference

Dr. Joanne Justo, curator of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation’s (NFEFI) Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) in Bacolod City, will join other experts at the 6th International Hornbill Conference at the Ayala Museum and Asian Institute of Management, Makati City on April 24-26.

Organized by the Wild Bird Cub of the Philippines, Hornbill Research Foundation and Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, this is the first time the conference will be held in the Philippines.

While the conference topic may appear to be somewhat esoteric to some, Dr. Justo emphasized that these beautiful birds play a serious role in our ecology as they are important seed dispersers and more needs to be done to protect them.

“A number of species of hornbill are threatened with extinction including the two species that are found in Negros Island,” said Dr. Justo.

“The Rufous-headed hornbill (Aceros waldeni) is considered  one of the most threatened hornbill species in the world. It is only known or presumed to occur only in three islands – Panay, Negros and Guimaras. They are already presumed extinct in Guimaras and very small number remains in the other two islands”

Visayan tarictic hornbill

Visayan tarictic hornbill

The other species of hornbill found in Negros is the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini).

The theme of the conference is ‘Hornbills and Caring Communities. Helping Forests to Thrive,’ reflecting the integral relationships between hornbills and ecological communities and the role they play in ensuring the sustainability of forests and providing ecosystem services.

Rufous-headed hornbill - critically endangered

Rufous-headed hornbill – critically endangered

Delegates from around the world will participate in the conference which aims to bring together people studying or interested in hornbills to present and share studies, information and conservation techniques.

Keynote speakers will be Dr. Pilai Poonswad from the Hornbill Research Foundation at Mahidol University in Bangkok and Dr. Juan Carlos Gonzalez, assistant professor at the Institute for Biological Sciences at UP Los Baños, Laguna.

Dr. Justo added that after the conference it is expected that a group of delegates will visit NFEFI where they will see the conservation center’s three species of  hornbills and hear about local programs to protect and conserve these and other wildlife.

Hell’s Smells

The compensation culture of Europe is alive and well and working overtime in Romania.

Madalin Ciculescu and Bishop Argatu

Madalin Ciculescu and Bishop Argatu

Romanian lawyer, Madalin Ciculescu, is suing his local Orthodox bishop, Constantin Argatu, and four priests claiming they failed to properly exorcise flatulent demons that were forcing him out of his office and home.

He said the priests turned up at his office in Pitesti in central Romania several times to exorcise the smelly spirits that he claims were living there and driving away his clients.

“But they failed to get rid of the demons. In fact they then came to haunt me in my house,” he said.

This is the first time such a case has reached a Romanian court of law. It was already rejected by a lower court and was rejected again last week by the Romanian High Court.

But Circulescu is not giving up. He says he plans to go to the European Court of Human Rights.

Speaking in the local court he said, “These priests did not remove the demons that made these bad smells as they promised to do. I still see all sorts of demons in the form of animals, usually crows but also other such things, that are making my life miserable.

“When I am at home they switch the TV on and off all the time, they make foul smells that give me headaches and basically roam unhindered around my house and my business.”

Circulescu’s mother is backing him up. She said that even the hair-dryer was possessed and a black shadow came out of it when anyone tried to use it. And she claimed the ref was infested with flatulent demons.

In response a lawyer representing the church said the exorcisms were carried out in accordance with the strict rules laid down by the church.

“Perhaps the bad smells and demon sightings are a product of the man’s imagination,” added the lawyer.

Some commentators believe that Circulescu doesn’t need a lawyer, but a psychiatrist. “He’s a crackpot” said one. Other suggest he get a plumber to check out the drains in his properties.

But this is not the first report of flatulence ghosts. Apparently a castle in Germany is famous for having such a demon. There’s no smell, but the noise is unmistakable I’m told.

Female Tourists Shun India

Female tourists are giving India a wide berth following the savage rape by a Delhi gang of a 23 year-old girl, who later died.

Exotic India - plenty to see, but dangers lurk

Exotic India – plenty to see, but dangers lurk

According to a survey conducted by India’s Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, female tourist numbers are down by more than 30 pert cent.

And the Delhi rape case was not an isolated incident. A Swiss couple, cycling across India,  were attacked recently in Madhya Pradesh state. The woman was gang-raped as her husband was held at gunpoint.

Almost immediately afterwards, a British woman in Agra, home of the famed Taj Mahal, jumped from a second-floor hotel room when she feared the manager was attempting to break in.

And this week, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that undercover police patrols are riding Calcutta underground railway trains in an attempt to make it safer for women.

Every day a team of 20 officers – ten men and ten 10 women – ride the metro system to make sure that men keep their hands to themselves.

The Chamber said it surveyed 1,200 tour operators across India. Said secretary-general, D S Rawat: �he inflows of women foreign tourists to the country have gone down by 35 per cent and the overall tourism has fallen by 25 per cent.”

Incredible India - but not safe for female tourists

Incredible India – but not safe for female tourists

In particular, women travelers from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are cancelling in large numbers.

“Obviously the rape cases have raised concerns about the safety of female travelers to India. Tourists appear to be switching to other Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam,” he added.

Tourism in India is a developing industry. Last year it attracted only 6.6 million overseas visits – less than tiny Hong Kong. One in eight of the tourists to India is British.

The British government warns that women travelers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment by individuals or groups of men. British women have been the victims of sexual assaults in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan.

It adds �omen travelers should exercise caution when traveling in India even if they are traveling in a group�

These highly publicized attacks on women present a major obstacle to India� tourism ministry which aims to increase foreign tourist arrivals by 12 per cent a year and double its foreign-exchange earnings by 2016.

Embarrassed? You Bet

How embarrassing

How embarrassing

Can you recall embarrassing moments of your life?

One of my most cringe-making occasions was in London in 1968 when I told my then girlfriend I was going away for the weekend, so we couldn’t meet up. But instead I was planning to date another girl.

I booked a table at Spot 3, my favorite London restaurant. I arrived with my new date and we settled down to a convivial evening. Ten minutes later, the other girlfriend arrived with a relative for dinner and was seated at the next table – only inches away.

I must have gone the color of a ripe red apple as girlfriend number one looked daggers at me the entire evening. That was a memorable evening, but for all the wrong reasons.

I was reminded of this incident after reading of a new study in the UK among 2,000 people which revealed that many Britons embarrass themselves up to seven times a week.

Sending a personal message to the wrong person can be embarrassing

Sending a personal message to the wrong person can be embarrassing

Common moments of acute embarrassment include walking around all day with your flies undone; gossiping about someone and then realizing they are right behind you and sending a personal email to the wrong person.

But such moments pale into insignificance when compared to some seriously embarrassing instances such as the New Yorker who was having a romantic evening on the eve of his 18th birthday with his girlfriend as his parents had gone to watch a movie.

As they lay in bed, they heard the telephone ring downstairs. For a laugh he suggested he give his girlfriend a piggyback ride to the phone. They were both naked.

As he romped down the stairs with girlfriend on his back, the lights suddenly came on and there was his entire family holding a giant birthday cake and all yelling “Surprise”. Needless to say, that the was last surprise birthday that family gave.

Or the woman sitting upstairs on a red London bus. Thinking the man in front of her was an old friend, she rolled up her newspaper and gently hit him on the back of his head. Alas, it was not her friend, but a rather puzzled gentleman wondering why he’d been attacked.

A really cringeworthy moment came when a couple drove to a local supermarket, only to have the car break down in the car park. The man told his wife to carry on with the shopping while he fixed the car. The wife returned later to see a small group of people near the car.

On closer inspection, she saw a pair of hairy legs protruding from under the car. Unfortunately, although the man was in shorts, his lack of underpants turned his private parts into glaringly public ones.

Unable to stand the embarrassment, she dutifully stepped forward, quickly put her hand up his shorts and tucked everything back into place. On getting up, she looked across the hood to find herself staring at her husband who was standing idly by watching.

The car mechanic, however, had to have three stitches in his forehead.

Interestingly, it seems the older I get, the less embarrassed I am. The other day my shorts fell down while strolling though a shopping mall. I stopped, pulled them back up and went on my way.

Embarrassed? Funnily enough, not at all.