Thursday, 25 August 2011

Press Release - Premiere of The Lost World

PRESS RELEASE: Premiere of The Lost World: Introduced by Michael Palin, at the Royal Geographical Society, Tues. 13th September 2011

On Tuesday 13th September 2011, Ibex Earth will premiere ‘The Lost World’ – a fifty minute documentary about Mount Roraima, the South American plateau that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous adventure novel ‘The Lost World’ and was most recently accredited with being the major influence behind Disney Pixar’s 2009 animated blockbuster ‘UP’. The Premiere will be introduced by Michael Palin.

Mount Roraima is situated in the heart of the remote Guiana Highlands, which is home to more than one hundred colossal sandstone plateaus that tower above the South American rainforests and savannahs, their summits often lost in the clouds above. Encircled by sheer, vertical cliffs (that rise up to one thousand meters), the summits of these incredible tablelands have remained relatively isolated and unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs.

Today, these plateaus harbour unique plants, animals and ecosystems set amidst some of the most spectacular scenery found anywhere on our planet – in fact 35% of species found on any single plateau are endemic to that one plateau summit. Sadly, the threats of unsustainable/unregulated tourism, the introduction of foreign plant and animal species and illegal gold mining is threatening the very future of these remarkable lands.

The Lost World documentary captures the natural wonder of Mount Roraima and highlights the conservation threats to the region – footage will also include some film shot in 1933 of when Jimmie Angel discovered the legendary Angel Falls.

Event Details: Premiere of The Lost World
Venue: The Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR
Date: Tuesday 13th September 2011
Time: 18:15-21:15 (film to be premiered at 19:15).


For Press Passes to the Premiere of The Lost World please email

Exclusive footage and photographs taken during expeditions to Mount Roraima can be made available upon request.

Ibex Earth will be looking to run a number of competitions with respected media outlets to win tickets to the Premiere of The Lost World for further information please email

A video overview of Mount Roraima and the Guiana Highlands can be found via the following link:

Ibex Earth is a non-profit organisation that was established in 2008 to promote the importance of the conservation of our planet’s natural resources and to provide support, advice and assistance to environmental charities and other non-profit organisations. To date we have provided in excess of over £250,000 worth of free legal advice to a total of twenty five charities from some of the world’s leading international law firms (Baker & McKenzie, Norton Rose, Speechly Bircham, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Hogan Lovells).

The Lost World Project is Ibex Earth’s major conservation initiative for 2010-2012 period and has been endorsed by Sir David Attenborough, the WWF, Royal Geographical Society, Zoological Society of London and in 2010 won the prestigious Captain Scott Society ‘Spirit of Adventure’ Award.

The Original 'The Lost World' 1925...

We have spent well over two years working on Ibex Earth's 'The Lost World' - a fifty minute documentary about Mount Roraima, the South American plateau that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous adventure novel 'The Lost World', which was originally published in 1912.

13 years later and a silent movie called 'The Lost World' had been made - here is the film for your viewing pleasure!

If you would like to attend the Premiere of our version of 'The Lost World' then please visit where you will be able to purchase a ticket for just £15.00

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Pictures from The Lost World's publication in The Strand, 1912.

Venezuela's Oilman unmasks vast oil reserves

Rafael Ramírez: Venezuela's oilman finds more reserves for the colonel Energy minister is the man who tends the ever-growing mineral wealth of Hugo Chávez's government

By Virginia Lopez,, Thursday 18 August
Rafael Ramírez should be ranked as one of the most powerful men in the world. As the Venezuelan minister for energy, he is also head of the country's state oil company – and, therefore, now controls the world's biggest proven oil reserves.

In a little-reported development, Opec recently certified that the South American nation was number one in national reserves, after a vast field of what was previously classified as tar was redefined as extra heavy crude. La Faja, as the heavy oil belt along the Orinoco river is referred to, contains nearly 220bn barrels. That takes Venezuela's reserves to 297bn – close to 20% of the world's oil – and leapfrogs it over Saudi Arabia on 265bn.

Although Ramírez has been in his job for almost a decade, he gives all the credit for the country's preeminence in oil to its controversial president, Hugo Chávez. If it hadn't been for the colonel, he says, Venezuela would have surrendered its reserves to multinationals long ago – and the price of oil would be nowhere near its current level.

"If President Chávez had not arrived to power," he says in his Caracas office, "we would be out of Opec, the price of oil would have not recovered, and Venezuelan oil would be in the hands of privates. At the international level, we strengthened Opec and called for a meeting of all its members … We established a fair price and gave unity to the market."
All of which should make Ramírez just as important a figure as the powerful Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, and make the country's state oil company, PDVSA, a force to be reckoned with. But this is Chávez's Venezuela and PDVSA is far more than an oil company. In fact, critics say that its huge diversity of operations – it's involved in health and welfare programmes, importing food, housebuilding and even making jam – means that PDVSA does not have what it takes to capitalise on the bounteous wealth beneath the Orinoco basin.

But Ramírez disagrees. "My greatest satisfaction [after 10 years as minister] is my team. We all come from the left, and I feel great pride in having recovered the industry for all of the Venezuelans," he says. "Before, PDVSA was an oil enclave. It had nothing to do with the rest of the country. I worked at one of its subsidiaries and I quit. I couldn't stand their almighty attitude and their disdain for the people. They referred to themselves as a first-world company within a third-world nation."

Ramírez, 48, was born into a communist family. His father was a well-known guerrillero and Ramírez's surname has led some to suspect that he is related to the notorious Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal (real name Ilich Ramírez), who was also an Andean communist.

He laughs off the link, joking that the name Ramírez is as common as Smith is in Britain, but the trail doesn't end there: one of his vice ministers was Lenin Ramírez, Carlos's brother.

PDVSA's radical transformation came about after Chávez cemented his control of the country following a coup attempt in 2002 and, later that year, a two-month-long strike during which Chávez's opponents cut off the oil supply in an effort to force his resignation.

"We knew something was going to happen. It was not a secret to anyone, so we prepared. If there was another coup, we knew our advantage lay with the oilfield workers, so we went from oilfield to oilfield talking to the workers. The oil sabotage didn't find us in the office, but in the field [with the people]," Ramírez says.

By February 2003, Chávez was firmly in power, and PDVSA changed forever. Close to 20,000 of the 50,000 people who worked there at the time were fired and its private, corporate approach was substituted for what came to be known as "the new PDVSA", run by political ideology more than by market rules or production standards.

Ramírez describes this ruling ideology as national, popular and revolutionary. A very tall man, Ramírez sits in front of a wall lined with paintings of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Chávez and Simón Bolívar, the Latin American figures that have inspired Chavismo, and redefined Venezuela's oil production.

"We are national, because our interest lies in charging what any nation that is in the least bit nationalistic would charge to favour their national interests," he says. "It is popular because we will not turn our backs on the people. And it is revolutionary because we are proposing a development model that is socialist – where we must go against the previous rentist model – where we have taken close to $300bn and invested it in the social areas of the country: literacy, education and food."

But for all the good intentions, eight years of social programmes have taken their toll on the company's core business, resulting in a decline in oil production. And with that comes criticism. Asdrúbal Oliveros, director of Ecoanalítica, a public policy consulting firm, says: "With the old PDVSA, you had an oil policy with no relation to the development policy, but now you have a company that builds houses, buys electricity plants, imports food and even makes jam. In the end, you do wonder if all this must make part of the oil industry. "It became a heavily politicised company that looks more like a ministry of social works, and both extremes are bad."

Ramírez denies that diverting attention to the misiones, as PDVSA's social programmes are called, has affected productivity. He claims it was opposition-led "oil sabotage" that led to the slump in production, and that they have since succeeded in bringing it back to close to 3m barrels a day (about4% of the global total). Measures are under way to ensure it reaches 4m barrels per day (bpd) by 2015, he says.

Depending on whom you talk to, PDVSA's exports range from 2m bpd to 3m bpd. This discrepancy in the numbers reflects one of the company's main problems: that even if its productivity has not decreased, its credibility has.

Francisco Monaldi, an oil expert at Venezuela's IESA business school, says: "Nobody believes in this government. They announce they will invest $150bn in the next six years and investors take it as a token gesture because to date none of these types of announcements have come to fruition."

For all the fear and distrust it inspires, PDVSA has succeeded in signing agreements with close to 20 multinationals to develop La Faja. Nor does Ramirez see a problem with the recent nationalisations of some multinational oil companies' assets in Venezuela. For the new PDVSA it was a matter of reestablishing the country's sovereignty, he says.

"Today, I can tell you that we have total control of our industry and total control over all the oil businesses in our country under a mixed capital scheme. All of the companies that were operating in Venezuela accepted this, except for ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, which left the country." Both of these companies are in a legal battle with PDVSA that could see the latter lose one of its refineries.

Ramírez prefers in any case to look at the big picture and is confident that Venezuela's total reserves will rise to 313bn barrels.

"One thing is oil on site, of which we have 1.3 trillion barrels, and another thing is to be able to extract that oil," he says. "The concept of reserve means that you have the oil and that you have the ability to extract it. With the technology we have, we can extract 20% of that oil … But the US department of geology has said that with our present technology we could actually extract close to 45%. That would be 511bn barrels – or oil for about 140 years."

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Some strange country of nightmares...

Mount Roraima is a gigantic sandstone plateau that rises some 2,800 metres above sea level. It was made famous in 1912 when Arthur Conan Doyle published his classic novel ‘The Lost World’, in which the intrepid adventurer Professor Challenger scaled a South American plateau to uncover a mysterious prehistoric land of dinosaurs, ape men and a lost human civilization.

Conan Doyle was inspired by the British botanist Everard Im Thurn, who in December 1884 became the first person to reach Roraima’s summit, describing it as “some strange country of nightmares”. This was my own inspiration to travel to Venezuela and discover a lost world that has remained unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs.

After two days of trekking through the rolling hills of the fire-scorched Gran Sabana you reach the foot of Roraima’s daunting cliff-face, which appears to tower far into the heavens and beyond. Our Pemon guides explained the legends behind Roraima and the other ‘tepuis’, which they believed were the home of the gods, and canaimas, their evil spirits. It is easy to see why, as the clouds often mask the summit, allowing your imagination to run wild.

The climb itself is tiring, yet spectacular. For a little over four hours you walk through cloud forest, clamber over tripping roots and scramble up rocky slopes. At one point you need to cross a cascading waterfall, which marks the start of the steepest point of the climb – it was incredible to witness the speed at which our Pemon guides climbed up this section carrying backpacks twice their size, wearing Manchester United shirts 
and a colourful combination of wellington boots and croc sandals.

When you finally reach the summit you are met with a sight that simply takes your breath away - bizarre rock formations carved by millions of years of relentless rain and wind, towering stone labyrinths, an entire valley layered with beautiful quartz crystals and dark chasms that drop hundreds of feet, one slip leading to certain death. Oh, and water, lots and lots of water – after all this is the wettest destination on the planet.

The summit could easily be mistaken for some weird alien landscape, or the ideal setting for the next Hollywood blockbuster. It is a hostile environment, which we spent four days exploring and marvelling at how any species could live on this cold, damp summit, let alone thrive. Scorpions, tarantulas, amphibians and carnivorous pitcher-plants were found in every nook and cranny – some were even described as ‘living fossils’ because they hadn’t changed in seventy million years.

On the final day we climbed Roraima’s highest peak - aptly named ‘The Maverick’ - which provided the perfect setting to reflect on a journey that takes you back in time. The incredible view of the sun setting over the Gran Sabana will stay with me forever, as will the uniqueness and wonder of this ancient world – you are almost left disappointed when you don’t see pterodactyls flying away into the horizon. 

To book your ticket to the Premiere of The Lost World, introduced by Michael Palin at the Royal Geographical Society on Tuesday 13th September 2011 please visit

Friday, 19 August 2011

Invite to the Premiere of The Lost World - introduced by Michael Palin

Tuesday 13th September 2011
Royal Geographical Society

You are invited to attend the Premiere of Ibex Earth’s ‘The Lost World’ a fifty minute documentary about Mount Roraima – the South American plateau that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous novel ‘The Lost World’ and most recently was accredited as the major influence behind Disney Pixar’s 2009 animated blockbuster ‘UP’.

The film aims to highlight the pressing environmental threats to Mount Roraima and the Guiana Highlands, which include unsustainable/unregulated tourism, illegal goldmining and the introduction of non-endemic species to the mountain's summit, which has remained largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs.

The film will include a world exclusive - some footage shot in 1933 of Jimmie Angel discovering the legendary Angel Falls and by attending the premiere you will be amongst the first people to ever see this. You can watch a short overview of the project by visiting and we will be announcing a joint conservation initiative with the WWF at the Premiere, which looks to create one of the world's largest tri-national parks, spanning three South American countries (Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana).

The evening will be introduced by Michael Palin and we are looking to offer discounted tickets to those who originally signed up to The Lost World Project. Tickets are priced at just £15.00  and if you would like to attend you will be able to purchase your ticket by visiting
For further information please email

40 per cent of man-made carbon dioxide absorbed by forests...

The world's forests are much more important than previously thought in absorbing CO2, according to a paper published in Science. The study showed that forests are absorbing almost 40 per cent of the 38 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide created by mankind every year 

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent, the Daily Telegraph

The University of Leeds research found forests absorb nearly 40 per cent of man made fossil fuel emissions every year.

The first study to look at all the world’s forests together found that established forests, from boreal forests in the north to tropical rainforests in the south, absorb 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Scientists work out how much carbon is being absorbed by measuring the density of wood, height and width of different tree species over time.

A further 6 billion tonnes is “mopped up” by newly planted forests around the world.

However 10.8 billion tonnes is released as a consequence of deforestation as trees are chopped down and a further 28 billon tonnes is generated by cars, factories and other sources of fossil fuels.

The study showed that forests are absorbing almost 40 per cent of the 38 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide created by mankind every year.

Dr Simon Lewis, a tropical ecologist from the University of Leeds and co-author of the study, said trees are much more important to tacking climate change than previously thought.

He pointed out that halting deforestation and planting more trees could make a huge different.

"Humans are altering the world's forests in a number of ways, from their outright destruction to the much more subtle impacts on even the most remote forests caused by global changes to the environment.

"Our research shows these changes are having globally important impacts, which highlights the critical role forests play in the global cycling of carbon and therefore the speed and severity of future climate change.

"The practical importance of this new information is that if schemes to reduce deforestation are successful they would have significant positive global impacts, as would similar efforts promoting forest restoration."

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Why are we plagued by jellyfish?

Pacific Sea Nettle jellyfish

Jellyfish numbers appear to be on the rise in UK waters, research suggests. So why is the sea turning into "jellyfish soup"? Britain's beaches are increasingly facing some unusual visitors, with research suggesting jellyfish numbers are on the increase in UK waters.

It's not only beach-goers who have to watch out. Torness nuclear power plant in Scotland recently had to shut down after moon jellyfish blocked the water intake system. Several tonnes of the creatures had to be cleared out.

Some areas, including the Irish Sea and the east coast of Scotland, have been invaded by so many they now resemble a "jellyfish soup", says the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). So why do they appear to be on the increase?

According to research there is strong evidence that an increase is linked to three main factors - pollution, overfishing and possibly climate change.

 Pollution such as sewage and fertilisers run off the land and into the sea, causing increased nutrients in the water. This can boost jellyfish numbers as the nutrients increase plankton which they feed on, along with fish.
Overfishing means jellyfish do not face their usual predators and competitors, which usually regulate population growth. Large fish, which eat jellyfish, have been drastically reduced by bad fishing practices, says Ocean 2012, a pressure group which campaigns to stop overfishing. So have smaller fish which compete for food with the stingers.

It is argued that climate change can cause more favourable conditions for jellyfish, with their adaptability giving them an advantage over some other sea creatures.

Huge blooms

It is difficult to estimate the jellyfish population in UK waters because very little research has been done and in the past they were ignored in long-term fishing surveys, says Dr Victoria Hobson, from EcoJel, a project researching the distribution and abundance of jellyfish. Its current study has been running since 2008.

Tagging a jellyfish Researchers are tagging jellyfish to follow their movements

"This also makes it difficult to get a handle on how numbers have changed," she says. "Even in recent years people are doing a lot more watersports so are spotting more. "With the development of smartphones it is also much easier to report those sightings. It makes it difficult to interpret if there are actually more jellyfish or just more sightings."

The MCS has been running a national jellyfish survey since 2003, where the public report sightings. Dr Richardson agrees it's probably too early to draw any firm conclusions from the data, but says a few other organisations have been doing systematic at-seas surveys over recent decades and they have shown a rise in jellyfish numbers in UK waters.

"Our survey reflects that," he says. "Some of the people who have been reporting jellyfish to us say they have lived by the coast for years and never seen anything like it. "This year we received our first reports of the huge but harmless barrel jellyfish off north Wales back in early January. This species has occurred in huge numbers in the Irish Sea and beyond ever since, with reports received from north Somerset to the Firth of Clyde."

There are hundreds of types of jellyfish, with a few common species in the UK. These include the moon jellyfish, which can grow to the size of a saucer, and the barrel jellyfish, which can get as big as a large household dustbin. Some do sting, but in most cases it causes just a mild rash. The occasional Portuguese man o'war has been spotted in UK waters and its sting is far more serious.

Economic impact

A group of jellyfish is called a "bloom". Scientists say it is difficult to measure blooms because of the sheer numbers involved and the fact jellyfish spend time at depth, as well as on the surface. But a bloom of barrel jellyfish can cover an area the size of Carmarthen Bay in Wales and numbers can run into hundreds of thousands, says Dr Hobson.
A part of BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer questions behind the headlines
EcoJel's project involves tagging jellyfish to study their movements. Monitoring jellyfish numbers is important because they are an indication of the state of oceans. If they overtake fish and start to dominate an area - as they have off the coast of Namibia - this causes environmental and economic problems, says Dr Hobson.
In 2007 a jellyfish invasion wiped out Northern Ireland's only salmon farm, killing more than 100,000 fish. At the time a spokesman said the attack could cost the company more than £1m. They can also have an impact on tourism. In 2008 the Red Cross treated 400 people for jellyfish stings in a single day on a beach in Malaga, Spain.

But one consequence to come from the growing numbers is increased sightings of leatherback sea turtles, which feed on them, in UK waters. Dr Richards says there has been an unusually high number of sighting in 2011 - six in six days recently.

"That's an amazing number, it's definitely a good year for turtles."

Original story taken from the BBC News website

Otters return to every county in England

Two otters have been seen in Kent, signalling their return to every English county following efforts to save them from extinction. Kent was the only county found without otters in a survey of rivers across England carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) last year.

Since then at least two otters have been spotted, with holts on the Medway and Eden rivers, the EA said.

A survey on the Ribble in Lancashire showed a 44% increase since 2008.

Otter numbers fell as a result of toxic pesticides, which damaged their health and reduced their supplies of fish. They had almost disappeared from England by the 1970s.

Improvements in water quality, along with legal protection, has helped their recovery.

The fact that otters are now returning to Kent is the final piece in the jigsaw for otter recovery in England”

"The recovery of otters from near-extinction shows how far we've come in controlling pollution and improving water quality," said the EA's national conservation manager, Alastair Driver.

"Rivers in England are the healthiest for over 20 years and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning to many rivers for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

"The fact that otters are now returning to Kent is the final piece in the jigsaw for otter recovery in England and is a symbol of great success for everybody involved in otter conservation."

The otter survey of England, which examined 3,327 river sites between July 2009 and March 2010, showed the number of places with evidence of otter life had increased tenfold in 30 years.

But recovery was slowest in the South East, with conservationists predicting otters may not be resident in Kent for another 10 years.

Their return was also a "fantastic reward" for efforts by the agency to improve water quality, said Mr Driver.

More on this story:

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Trailer

After all of our blogs yesterday about primate conservation and how the Rise of the Planet of the Apes could actually do more for the conservation work than environmental organisations we thought it might be wise to post the trailer to the film on here...CGI look incredible.

New Species of Eel discovered

A newly discovered eel that inhabits an undersea cave in the Pacific Ocean has been dubbed a "living fossil" because of its primitive features. It is so distinct, scientists created a new taxonomic family to describe its relationship to other eels.

The US-Palauan-Japanese team say the eel's features suggest it has a long and independent evolutionary history stretching back 200m years.

The animal used as the basis for the new study was an 18cm-long female, collected by one of the researchers during a dive at a 35m-deep cave in the Republic of Palau.

But the scientists also mention other examples of the new eel species in their research paper.

At first there was much discussion among the researchers about the animal's affinities. But genetic analysis confirmed that the fish was a "true" eel - albeit a primitive one.

"In some features it is more primitive than recent eels, and in others, even more primitive than the oldest known fossil eels, suggesting that it represents a 'living fossil' without a known fossil record," write the scientists.

In order to classify the new animal, the researchers had to create a new family, genus and species, bestowing on the animal the latin name Protoanguilla palau.

The team - including Masaki Miya from Chiba's Natural History Museum in Japan, Jiro Sakaue from the Southern Marine Laboratory in Palau and G David Johnson from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC - drew up a family tree of different eels, showing the relationships between them.

This allowed them to estimate when the ancestors of P. palau split away from other types of eel.

Their results suggest this new family has been evolving independently for the last 200m years, placing their origins in the early Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs were beginning their domination of the planet.

The researchers say the Protoanguilla lineage must have once been more widely distributed, because the undersea ridge where its cave home is located is between 60 and 70 million years old.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

New Facebook game helps save gorillas

Following on from our previous blog about how 'The Rise of the Planet of the Apes' could be a huge benefit to the conservation of endangered primates, here is a bit of a follow up, which looks to promote how a game on Facebook is looking to protect gorillas. It will be really interesting to see how conservation groups develop social media to help with their work in the future.
The trend for social networking games with positive real world environmental impacts continues with the recently released gorilla saving game My Conservation Park.

Despite being released by developer Good World Games in early June, the new Facebook game only began attracting media buzz in early August after blog post by the developers.

The real world benefits of the game come in game purchases, 15 percent of which the developers pledge to donate to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, WildAid and three more undisclosed conservation organizations to help preserve a variety of wildlife - principally gorillas.

The game revolves around players trying to protect an endangered animal from environmental and human threats while at the same time adding native flora and fauna to the area in an effort to create a sustainable habitat.

The development of social networking games with positive real world environmental benefits is a growing trend, other examples of which include eMission, in which players have to maintain a costal habitat, gaining in-game rewards for real world environmental actions, and Ecotopia, the developers of which recently pledged to plant 25,000 trees in Brazil if players did the same in the game.

Conservation Park -

eMission -

ecotopia -

Can Rise of the Planet of the Apes help save endangered primates?

The Guardian's Adam Vaughan writes an interesting article this week about whether the Hollywood blockbuster 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' can help save our planet's endangered primates? It will certainly be worth noting the conservation impact that the computer-generated apes in the Planet of the Apes prequel could achieve more than decades worth of primate conservation?

The chimpanzee unhooks a loft hatch, swings itself around to climb up, then leaps cheerfully from beam to beam. Later, he sits reading books and drawing and, later still, responds to an inhuman primate "rescue centre" by leading a rebellion, side by side with a gorilla and an orangutan.

In this prequel to Planet of the Apes, out at the weekend, there are no monkey suits - just amazing computer-generated images of apes that are so good that I forgot they were CGI. Using a combination of anthropomorphism and the delight the apes take in exerting their physical abilities, the film's creators do a good job of making their audience empathise with these species, our closest living relatives.

It led me to wonder: can computer-generated apes achieve more than conservationists?

Despite decades of campaigning by specialist NGOs and massive international organisations like WWF, the numbers of our apes are still declining, with only some, such as mountain gorillas, stabilising in number. Of the 14 "great ape" taxonomic groups such as the bonobo, Sumatran orangutan and eastern chimpanzee, 10 are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, and the other four are critically endangered.

One of the few things the film and reality have in common is that humanity is the threat.

Orangutan translates literally as "person of the forest". The problem is that we're chopping down those forests, often for one of the key ingredients in margarine, cereals and biscuits. Natural rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are being cleared so rapidly for palm oil plantations that up to 98% may be destroyed by 2022, with the lowland homes of orangutans going much sooner, according to a 2007 UN report.

The conservationist and scientists tasked with mapping the great apes warn that we're sleepwalking into this disaster, which interestingly they couch almost as a case of a lack of empathy:

Their lives are priceless, of themselves; but their loss will mark us evermore – that knowing so much as we did, still we bowed to our blind hungers, and failed to spare our nearest kin.

Hollywood does, obviously, deal with wildlife and the threats to it. But in recent memory, it's usually been through non-fiction: Crimson Wing for flamingoes, or The Cove for dolphins. "Rise..." is unusual for putting animal rights and survival at the heart of a piece of fiction. While it isn't explicitly about conservation, its mainstream appeal and emotional punch might reach and inspire people that the traditional 'green' groups can't.

For the original article please visit:

Monday, 15 August 2011

Great Barrier Reef - 'at risk from pesticide'

Agricultural pesticides are causing significant damage to the Great Barrier Reef, according to a new Australian government report on water quality at the site. The report says some farmers must be more careful with their chemicals.

By Nick Bryant - BBC News.

It found that nearly one-quarter of horticulture producers and 12% of pastoral farmers were using practices deemed unacceptable by the industry.

In recent years, it has been coral bleaching caused by climate change that has damaged the Great Barrier Reef, but the first Australian government report on water quality there has found that agricultural pesticides are posing significant risks.

Pesticides have been found up to 60km (38 miles) inside the reef at toxic concentrations known to harm coral.

The heavy flooding and a cyclone that ripped through northern Queensland earlier in the year are thought to have made things worse, by flushing pollutants out to sea.

The report said many horticulture producers were using practices considered unacceptable, and that the sugar cane industry in the wet tropics of northern Queensland was particularly to blame.

However, the agriculture industry has said the findings are based on old data, and that there has been a significant change.

The government agrees that farmers have been using more environmentally friendly methods, but says those improvements had been undermined by Cyclone Yasi.

There have been calls from conservationists to limit the use of pesticides and to ban certain weed killers.

But sugar cane producers have argued that there are no alternatives to adequately protect their crops.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Fish Fight brought EU fisheries' waste into our homes...

The Fish Fight campaign organised by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has achieved something quite remarkable in galvanising public attention on the terrible waste caused by fish being thrown back into the sea dead.

Because discarding is something that happens over the horizon it was out of our consciousness. Imagine if half the lambs slaughtered were allowed to litter the countryside – there would have been an outrage right from the start. The Fish Fight has brought the horrible sight of discards into our homes.

By Richard Benyon who is fisheries minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This article first appeared in the Guardian on Friday 12th August 2011.

Seagulls follow fishing trawler off the coast of Galicia, Spain 
So Hugh has managed to do something that no politician can. Through four hours of television, he's shown what happens at sea and the disastrous impact of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). He has united the public in calling for change.

But while Hugh's programmes have given an excellent picture of the problem, they haven't shown what's being done to bring these disgraceful practices to an end.

I have been passionate about this for many years. The devastating waste of good, healthy food should be condemned in any society – and in a world where food prices and food security area a burning issue, it is reprehensible. If I could achieve one lasting thing in my time as a minister, it would be to achieve a radical reform of a broken Common Fisheries Policy that has not helped fish stocks recover or secured the survival of the fishing industry.

The European Commission has now published its ideas for reforming the CFP. But we haven't been standing still waiting for the Commission to publish its proposals. For the past two years, my department has been working on many ways to end discards.

We have started initiatives such as catch-quota trials, where fishermen have been able to land all their catch. Indeed, we arranged for Hugh to take part in one of these trials for his programme. We have also been working with fishermen in the south-west on Project 50%, which experimented with different types of fishing gear and resulted in a significant reduction in discards. And a few weeks ago we published our Fishing for the Markets project, an initiative to find ways of encouraging people to try different types of fish instead of always choosing species under pressure, such as cod. While the rules imposed by Europe mean that 22% of fish thrown back dead are due to quotas, 54 per cent of discards are simply because there is no market for them.

Hugh had some fun at my expense in his programmes, even suggesting that I was stonewalling him on the phone – it wasn't me on the other end of the line – over his invitation to go on a trawler with him. I didn't do too well on his fish test, about which George Monbiot has taken pleasure in reminding me. However, what is more important is that I know and understand what the problems are and want to fix them.

One of these problems, which George Monbiot has raised, is the very serious issue of mackerel fishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Mackerel numbers are in danger of collapsing within a few years if this irresponsible hoovering up of fish is allowed to continue.

But Mr Monbiot is wrong to say no one is negotiating – we and many other European countries keep pushing the issue, but Iceland and the Faroes keep walking away from the table. It's hard to negotiate with people if they're not willing to be in the room.

Our door has always been open and it's now time to settle this at the top, at minister level. The Marine Stewardship Council has already threatened to remove its sustainable fish accreditation from mackerel, which would be a travesty for a fish that was once hailed as being among the most sustainable. Short-sighted overfishing can't be allowed to continue.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Pictures from Mount Roraima

Premier of The Lost World Film, 13th September 2011

On Tuesday 13th September Ibex Earth will premiere 'The Lost World' at the Royal Geographical Society - a fifty minute documentary about Mount Roraima, the South American plateau that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous adventure novel 'The Lost World' and has most recently been accredited with being the major influence behind Disney Pixar's 2009 animated blockbuster 'UP'.

The film will be introduced by Michael Palin and will see the launch of a joint conservation initiative between Ibex Earth and the WWF to raise funds to prevent unsustainable/unregulated tourism, illegal goldmining and the introduction of foreign animal and plant species to Mount Roraima and the Guiana Highlands.

To book your ticket for the evening please visit - tickets are priced at just £15.00 or visit for further information.

A short video of The Lost World Project is available via the following link:

Badger Culls don't stop TB

Badger culls don't stop tuberculosis in cattle – the evidence is clearThe government is ignoring scientists' advice on bovine TB – killing badgers is not the solution. Members of the public who may know little about farming – or wildlife – could be forgiven for thinking that farmers' lives are being ruined by badgers.

Article was written by Julia Kaminski and first appeared on the Guardian's Website on Thursday 11th August 2011

It is a message being peddled by the farming press, by some – but not all – farmers, and even by the BBC's Countryfile programme. They say that thousands of cattle are being slaughtered every year (30,000 in 2010) because of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) – an airborne respiratory disease – at enormous cost to farmers and the taxpayer: £100m last year. This much is true. They also say that bTB is being passed to cattle by badgers. This I dispute, based on evidence from those who know better than me – scientists.

Those of us who want to protect badgers from such bad press are forced on to the defensive. Particularly now, as the government has said it is "minded" to authorise a massive cull of badgers in an effort to control bTB.

It wasn't always like this. Bovine TB was almost eradicated by 1970, when there were only about 1,000 cases. Eleven years of localised badger culling failed to reduce the toll further. But the end of annual cattle testing in the mid-80s, and the devastating effects of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease, when testing was abandoned altogether, meant that many farms lost thousands of animals, and afterward there was a rush to restock. Regulations were relaxed, so cattle were bought and sold and – crucially – moved all over the country. Bovine tuberculosis was back. These relaxations of the movement and testing regimes – not badgers – were to blame.

So, to the question of whether badgers are responsible for increasing infection rates in cattle. If they are, how have cattle remained free of bTB in Scotland, where no badgers have been killed? Why do they have it in the Isle of Man, where there are no badgers? And why are bTB rates twice as high in Ireland, where so many badgers have been killed that they are extinct in many areas?

Could it be possible that cattle are infecting badgers? After all, cattle far outnumber badgers – 9 million cattle to, at most, a quarter of a million badgers.

George Pearce, a wildlife consultant, used to be a farmer. In his new book, Badger Behaviour, Conservation and Rehabilitation: 70 Years of Getting to Know Badgers, he explains how his family's farm, which always had badger setts on it, managed to remain free of bTB from 1950 to 2008, when the herd was dispersed.

Since the 1930s, there have been four important measures used to combat bTB: very strict movement controls, thorough cleansing of livestock buildings, good ventilation and double fencing on all boundaries to prevent cattle in adjoining fields from exchanging saliva.

Pearce says that if we want to solve this crisis, we should be talking about cattle, not badgers.

Aside from these measures, he suggests that we look at the bloodlines of our cattle. All bulls, whether used naturally or artificially, should have blood tests to assess their susceptibility to bTB. The reduced gene pool of bulls over the past 60 years could be contributing to the problem.

Cattle that were largely bTB-free in the 60s and 70s, he adds – mostly British breeds – have gradually been replaced by continental breeds. Are they less resistant?

What's more, cattle are bred much more intensively now, and bTB is known to be a stress-related disease.

What about dietary deficiencies? Dick Roper in Gloucestershire was anxious to find out why one of his farms was hit by bTB when his others were not. On the affected farm, the cattle were fed on maize, which badgers also love. But maize lacks selenium, a mineral that – in humans and livestock – is necessary to maintain a strong immune system. So, Roper introduced selenium mineral licks for his cattle, and for the badgers on his land – to the amusement of his neighbours – and cured his problem, despite all the farms around him becoming infected. Are cattle getting bTB because their immune system is compromised?

In the past two years, improved cattle testing, biosecurity and movement controls in England have led to a 15% reduction in the rates of bTB infection. In Wales, during the same period, the number of cattle slaughtered because of bTB has fallen by 36%, and by 45% in Dyfed. The Welsh Assembly Government had proposed a cull, before being forced to drop the plan.

And this, without a single badger being culled – despite the fact that a few rogue farmers have been swapping the ID tags of cattle so that valuable animals with bTB were, illegally, kept on farms, while healthy, but less valuable, ones were sent to slaughter in their place.

David Williams, the Badger Trust's chairman, said in April:

"The effect of these offences is apparent: the guilty parties are harbouring and spreading disease by keeping infected cattle on farms. The cattle-based measures now in place depend absolutely on effective movement controls, honest and accurate record keeping and discipline. They have been producing heartening results without killing a single badger, particularly in Wales. However, if badger culling had been introduced last year, these improvements would have been claimed as 'proof' that culling had been necessary."

Meanwhile, the statistics about the number of cattle slaughtered every year because of bTB, and the amount this costs, have been very visible in the media, but no one mentions the other causes of premature slaughter.

In 2009, 120,000 cattle were slaughtered because they were infertile. In 2008, 75,000 were slaughtered because they were "not in calf"; 50,000 because of mastitis; 25,000 because of lameness; and 7,000 because they were "low yield". Not to mention the male dairy calves that are killed at birth because they are unprofitable. Compare these figures with the 30,000 with bTB that are slaughtered.

No one mentions these because they are not caused by wildlife. Several factors, including bad luck and bad husbandry, are at play. Farmers receive no compensation for these animals. They accept these losses as an unfortunate part of their livelihood – there is no one to blame.

Last year, the government announced a public consultation on whether we should have a cull. It ended in December, but the results had not been made public. Why not? A request for the information under the Freedom of Information Act was turned down because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said releasing the information "would affect their policy". Isn't that what a consultation is meant to do? They have, however, now included the results as part of another consultation, which closes on 20 September. Those figures show that, of those who responded, 69% would not want to cull and 31% were in favour of culling but alongside vaccination. Not exactly a resounding endorsement of the government's proposals.

In other polls, too, the public have made their opposition clear: 97% against in a 2007 poll for the Labour government; 68%, both rural and urban, against in a recent BBC poll; 90.9% against in a Guardian poll in July. Even a recent poll by Countryfile, which largely has a farming audience, polled more than 60% against a cull.

Would badger culling help? The answer is no. And to support this conclusion, we need only look back at the evidence of the Krebs trial, a massive pilot cull of badgers over 10 years between 1997 and 2007, overseen by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG). It is a well-worn argument, but it bears repeating: the trial showed that bTB in the culling area was reduced only marginally. Outside the culling area, it actually rose, a result of what is called perturbation, where badgers who have survived a cull spread out to escape danger. This behaviour does not occur in any other species. The conclusion of this massive trial was that "culling can make no meaningful contribution to the reduction of bTB".

In the weeks leading up to the government's latest announcement, seven former members of the ISG wrote a letter to the Times opposing a proposed cull. They included Lord Krebs, who designed the 10-year trial and is now chairman of the House of Lords science and technology select committee, Professor John Bourne, the ISG's chairman, and Dr Chris Cheeseman, the principal scientist for many years at Defra's Woodchester Park study area in Gloucestershire, where farmers themselves were involved in research into badgers, cattle and bTB. They said there was "no empirical data on the cost or effectiveness (or indeed humaneness or safety) of controlling badgers by shooting, which has been illegal for decades".

In early July, Lord Krebs said: "The trial evidence should be interpreted as an argument against culling. You cull intensively for at least four years, you will have a net benefit of reducing TB in cattle of 12% to 16%. So you leave 85% of the problem still there."

It seems their arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Make no mistake, this is an argument the government does not want to hear.

If bTB is in decline, why is the government not saying this in public? This lack of openness appears to vindicate those who believe that a decision to cull is a matter of political expediency, to secure the farmers' vote, and is not based on the available evidence.

But those of us who have an interest in all animals, whether wild or farmed, are tired of badgers being the scapegoat.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Some strange country of nightmares...

Everard Im Thurn - the first explorer to reach the summit of the lost world - described the landscape he discovered as “some strange country of nightmares”, because the flat upper surface of Mount Roraima had been sculpted into an extraordinary wasteland of twisted stone adorned intermittently with pools of standing water, sediment floored drainage channels or pockets of low-growing vegetation and valleys lined with sparkling quartz crystals. This ancient landscape has remained little changed for millions of years.

The prominent rock formations of the tepuis are diverse and complex, and often bizarre and intricate. 

Towering rock arches, immense mushroom-shaped masses, and gigantic columns — sometimes many meters tall and often supported on thin, narrow bases — are among the rock features that make up the diverse landscapes of the surfaces of the tepuis. On many of the lost worlds, gigantic mazes of rock pinnacles continue across the summits for kilometres, forming huge labyrinths of stone.

Often the rock labyrinths are criss-crossed with ravines, so their exploration is both difficult and slow. As a result, most remain little explored, and haunted with the beliefs of local Pemon Amerindians who regard the plateau summits as the lands of the god and spirits. As many of the rock formations may resemble shapes, animals and even faces, it is easy to understand this revered spirituality!

To book your ticket for the Premiere of The Lost World Film on Tuesday 13th September 2011 please visit - tickets are priced at just £15.00

Monday, 8 August 2011

125th Anniversary of first ascent of Mount Roraima

December 14th, 2009 marked the 125th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Roraima  - South America's lost world - a colossal plateau skirted on all sides by sheer vertical cliffs up to 600 meters tall. The summit of the mountain has remained isolated for millions of years, and today is home to one of the greatest concentration of unique plants and animals found anywhere on Earth, including ancient living fossils that have remained little-changed since the time of the dinosaurs.

Ever since 1838, expedition after expedition reached the base of the towering plateau, but all failed to find a way up the towering cliff sides to the lofty mountain summit. Just after all hope had been abandoned, the chance discovery of a remote ledge in the towering cliffsides allowed one last effort to be conquer the might mountain and discover the lost world.

On December 14th, 1884, Everard Im Thurn battled up the ledge and finally reach the summit, stepping into a land that had never before been seen by mankind. Unlike other colonial expeditions, for example, to the Amazon, Im Thurn didn’t just discover a few species along his journey. Rather, when he reached the summit of Roraima, it was as if he stepped onto another planet – practically everything he saw as new to science, and he returned with hundreds of plant and animal specimens representing a wealth of new discoveries! Still today, this extraordinary land remains little known!