TENDUA - Association for biodiversity conservation

Newsletter n°11 - March 2014

Dear Members and Friends,

After the soil microbiology and the danger that nitrogenous fertilizers represent to the faune living in our soils and that is necessary to the good health our lands, it seemed good to remind the origin of nitrogenous fertilizers that are nowadays poisoning our lands and seas. Indeed, the so-called fertilizers come from the “death industry” ... And they are responsible for the accelerated phenomenon of eutrophication.

Once more we feel concerned about our oceans. There is evidence now that overfishing is responsible for the proliferation of jellyfish. Are we going soon to enjoy some jellyfish sashimi?
In Mozambique an excessive déforestation ruins the country.
In Iran, a récent study on Asian cheetahs leaves little hope for this fragile animal.
Finally, you will find in our agenda a date for the International Forest Day and the photographes’ exhibition “Latitudes animales 2014” and, of course, our pink book with the Black-backed jackal.

Enjoy your reading!



Why do we have “nitrates” in our food?

When you hear the word “nitrates”, you inevitably think about some fertilizers and manure that pollute rivers and coasts, while their almost systematic presence in our food is dangerous for our health.

The essential element of the “black powder”

The “black powder” (also called gunpowder), discovered in China, long before the French chemist Lavoisier determines, in the XVIIIth century, that nitrogen and oxygen are the constituents of air and that they both combine in the “nitre”, or the saltpetre (one nitrogen and three atoms of oxygen: NO3) , was introduced to Europe by the Arabs around 1230.

Salpeter or Potassium nitrate
Salpeter or Potassium nitrate
© Source : Randomania plus.

With the charcoal and sulfur, the saltpetre is one of the three main elements of the first explosive used by man. We know that this “mineral niter” or saltpeter, collected on the walls of wet areas, is potassium nitrate. The caves and cellars where was collected the saltpetre became highly protected areas because the saltpetre was required for the manufacture of gunpowder. Who’s got the saltpetre gets the gunpowder, and then has the supremacy by the effectiveness of its weapons ... Woe to the chap who wanted to enter these damp cellars : it was punished as a crime!
In the XIVth and XVth centuries in the Western world, the composition of gunpowder was : 6 parts saltpeter for 1 part of sulfur and 1 part of charcoal. Subsequently, men devised varying compositions according to the purpose for which the powder was intended as mining, hunting, war and fireworks.

Fireworks for the 14<sup class="typo_exposants">th</sup> of July, the French National Day
Fireworks for the 14th of July, the French National Day
© M. Dupuis

In the XVIIth century in France, the “Royal Arsenal - powder and saltpetre Commission” was in charge of the powder production and had sole rights on behalf of the king. Considering the increasing needs of powder due to many wars waged by Louis XIV, it was necessary to renovate old production sites or build new. Thus, the explosives industry was well historically the first user of nitrates, which are still the basis of the most violent explosive like nitroglycerin synthesized in 1846 by Italian Ascanio Sobrero and stabilized by Alfred Nobel in the form of dynamite or melinite and TNT (trinitrotoluene).

from chemistry to agriculture

In 1840, the German Justus von Liebig demonstrated in his “Applied organic chemistry to physiology and agriculture” that only mineral elements in the soil are involved in plant nutrition. Among them, nitrates are essential. Therefore, it is necessary to give back to land the quantities that the vegetation has taken.
This assumption became the rationale for the fledgling chemical industry. People did not care about how the land gets by without human intervention. Once again, we’re not going until the end of the reasoning and we ignore the consequences of our intervention ... Then, the chemist becomes an indispensable contributor to the farmer, first for the analysis of soils, then for determining the formula of the fertilizer required for the planned production.

The common sense of farmers

However, all that “stuff” is expensive. Why should we invest heavily in the production of nitrogen while nature provides it for free?
The nature provided the soil with bacteria that convert organic material into nitrates ; leguminous plants well know how to fix nitrogen from the air. The agriculture does not need external aid.
The farmer knew that he had to alternate the different productions, to make the necessary amendments to balance animal and plant productions and to treat manure quality, to select the best breeds suited, to develop the relevant plows, and, finally, to obtain from the natural environment the best of what it can provide, at the lowest cost.
Let’s return today to this ancient tradition of “letting nature take its course” after the terrible situation of leached and sick soils of all industrialized countries ... and other countries to which we export our poisons for “economic” reasons ....

From explosive to fertilizers

At the time, as the nitrates remained an industrial luxury product, this discourse of common sense has been heard. The great works of the late XIXth century, and especially armed conflicts, come make a difference. It takes more and more nitrates for explosives.
But where to find the raw material? Combine the nitrogen and the oxygen in the air is an obvious solution, but even if the basic products are free, processes are very expensive.

© internet

The World War of 1914-18 accelerates the development of this industry and allows the birth of famous chemical groups that still make billions nowadays.

After the war, what to do with all these stocks of synthetic nitrogen products? Agriculture is becoming a natural outlet. This is the time when posters invite farmers to agricultural patriotism: “You serve your country when you fertilize your land .” Nevertheless, the farmer does not let himself be so easily convinced.
The liftoff of the nitrates industry is done after the II World War. The “liberty ships” of the Marshall Plan have poured the huge surplus of nitrates released by the American war industry on Europe. There is a need to rebuild the cities and to feed people while taking in the farming community , at the same time, the labor force required for the works.

In 1975, the Roundup total herbicide is put on the market and knows a great success.
In 1975, the Roundup total herbicide is put on the market and knows a great success.
© Source : internet.cf. http://www.combat-monsanto.org/spip...

It is especially time to furbish arms of a new war, a “cold” war that is first led in the field of economics. The search for yield is launched. This is the beginning of “the Thirty Glorious” and the productivist reign.
Cf. http://www.combat-monsanto.org/spip...

A reign that is ending today, leaving us, in the name of progress, facing an environmental mess that we do not know if we can recover, productivist appetites being neither sated nor taking into account past mistakes ...


Nitrates and eutrophication of rivers and others water bodies

Eutrophication is a long-term natural phenomenon that converts, during thousands of years, a water plan into a meadow and then in a forest. The eutrophication reveals that the capacity of self-purification of a healthy aquatic environment has reached its limits, either punctually or a chronic way.

Natural eutrophication of a body of water, natural reserve of Kaluga region, Russia
Natural eutrophication of a body of water, natural reserve of Kaluga region, Russia
© M. Dupuis

Indeed, a healthy environment contains a good biodiversity with full of nutrients, fish, and thus a good oxygen rates in water.

However, pollutants and other external fertilizers used in agriculture, flow naturally into the nearest water plans ... Fertilizers allow crops to grow faster; in water, they have the same effect on algae and other aquatic plants which, in fact, grow and compete for oxygen with other species. The natural balance is upset, the ecosystem is impoverished, plants and algae are gaining ground: it’s eutrophication. Many of our lakes are affected by this phenomenon today mainly due to additional pollution such as agricultural spraying and industrial and urban waste (laundry, household products ...).

Solution : inverse the process

As usual, there are various ways of control and mitigation (“déseutrophisation”). The technology exists but, obviously, the individual responsibility and the political courage are absent. Examples of what could be done:
* Reduce the use of pesticides : when they arrive in the watercourse, they kill many organisms, or, by limiting the “higher” plants, they can contribute to aggravate or induce eutrophication ;
* conduct agronomic soil analysis and focus on natural fertilizers ;
* reduce the use of eutrophic pollutants from the upper watershed ;
* develop watershed that restore hedged farmland networks, banks, hedges and grass strips, sufficient in size and consistent with the terrain and soils (soil study); Stormwater runoff can promote the training of nutrients such as phosphorus that are better retained if the soil infiltration capacity is restored ;
* protect and restore buffer zones (ideally combining a riparian forest with grass strips) between fields and rivers ;
* replace all the phosphates from detergents with anti-limestone agents with no impact on the environment;
* better removal of nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater treatment plants (which can be equipped with methods of denitrification and phosphorus removal).

So, when do we begin ???

Green algae in the Bay of Douardenez
Green algae in the Bay of Douardenez
Green algae (Ulva) preferentially feed on nitrogen that is in low quantities in the marine environment, in particular from spring to autumn. In confined coastal areas, more or less continuous contributions of nitrates, natural chemicals involved in the nitrogen cycle, are coming from rivers flowing directly into the marine environment. These nitrates then promote excessive growth of green algae. - © L.Mignaux



WORLD : ready to eat jellyfish ?

Source : Universcience

Are we going to eat jellyfish in the coming years ? Quite possible as there are more and more jellyfish and less and les fish in the oceans. A study published in the Bulletin of marine science, done by Philippe Cury from the Institute for Research and Development (IRD), shows that proliferation of jellyfish is due to overfishing of small pelagic fish. Sardines, herring, anchovies feed on zooplankton such as jellyfish.

The jellyfish
The jellyfish’s food chain
© internet

In areas where fish are overfished, they release an ecological niche and then jellyfish can thrive. Moreover, the fish eat the eggs and larvae of jellyfish. In the absence of fish, jellyfish have no predators, and are free to multiply.

To highlight the role of overfishing, the researchers compared two ecosystems in the Benguela Current, south of Africa. The first, located offshore Namibia is an area of ​​intensive fishing. Jellyfish swarm there and replace the missing fish. In the second 1000 km further south, fishing is on the contrary highly regulated for 60 years and the population of jellyfish has not increased.

Pelagia noctiluca in the Mediterranean sea
Pelagia noctiluca in the Mediterranean sea
© M. Dupuis

Common sense leads us to think that, without delay, we should stop fishing as we do and listen a little more scientific recommendations. But common sense isn’t it the thing less well distributed in our world today? As we have many opportunities to see, the economic, financial, political are far more important than the future of our planet, of our oceans, of our children, although all that destroys the environment is done in their name ...

So if you like fish, choose your fishmonger well!

Sustainable fishing
Sustainable fishing
© M. Dupuis

And also, to see:
“Le règne des méduses” or “the jellyfish reign”, a Laurent Lutaud film (2013)

The pitch: these last ten years, there are small purple jellyfish that return every summer on the beaches of the Mediterranean. Others are poised to colonize the North Sea or are dying by the thousands on the Atlantic coast ... These waves of jellyfish reflect an imbalance in the marine ecosystem which the causes and scope are not yet fully understood . They also intrigue the scientific community that rallies for 10 years to try to understand the phenomenon of proliferation.


MOZAMBIQUE: the systematic destruction of forests

Sources : Courrier International

The prosperous exploitation of Mozambican exotic wood is out of control thanks to a background of corruption.

Some figures

Almost 70% of Mozambique (54.8 million hectares) are (or were ...) covered with forest areas. About 80% of the population, or 16 million people live in rural areas, where poverty concerns more than 50% of the population. This rural population depends on the forest. Despite the discovery of large deposits of gas and coal, the Mozambican population is still predominantly cooking with wood and charcoal. During the civil war (1981-1992), Mozambicans have destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. Today, they are forced, for lack of other economically accessible solutions to cut down trees to build homes and cooking. Thus nearly 20 million m3 of wood are burned each year (85% of energy consumed) ....

Mozambic map
Mozambic map
© internet

According to the Inventário Forestal Nacional [National Forest Inventory], 0.58% of forest resources in Mozambique, or 219,000 hectares disappear each year (2008) ... and it lasts for several years now ...

Unfortunately, that’s not all ...

If rural poverty is one cause of this deforestation, the trucks that you come across on the country’s roads, laden with gigantic trunks, are dramatically more responsible for deforestation. These trunks are used to make furniture in China, where the expanding market requires huge amounts of wood but also in Indonesia and India, often for final consumption in Western countries.

The Mozambican wood is excellent and cheap. It arouses fierce appetites that lead to a slow but steady destruction of vast forest areas in the central provinces and northern countries, particularly those of Sofala, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado.

Dry forests of the far north of Mozambique, Cabo Delgado
Dry forests of the far north of Mozambique, Cabo Delgado
© O. Pascal

Local newspapers and associations regularly denounce the plundering of forests, but traffic continues.

An illegal trafficking, a corrupted system

Deforestation around Palma, Cabo Delgado Province, Northern Mozambique
Deforestation around Palma, Cabo Delgado Province, Northern Mozambique

Traffickers make contact with local authorities. Once they get the green light to exploit the forest, they recruit pisteiros [trackers] to find valuable species. They then hire locals called “Pingo Pingo”, who cut down trees and load them into trucks.

Simple License holder cuts down a hardwood tree in Meceburi Forest Reserve, Mozambique.
Simple License holder cuts down a hardwood tree in Meceburi Forest Reserve, Mozambique.
© M. Goldwater

To export the wood, it must then obtain permission from three institutions: the Customs, the provincial Service of forestry and wildlife and the directions of industry and trade of concerned provinces. Buyers do not get dirty hands : they remain in the shadows and wait in the port cities. The illegal timber trade is a known issue with all authorities that bemoan their own inability to oppose a more structured system that their services. Even the local communities protect illegal loggers.
“Often, it is precisely the inhabitants of these areas that cut trees and when we ask them why, they say they need money to survive”, said an Mocuba administration official, quoted by Savana. Mozambican authorities seize each year large quantities of valuable timber. If the number of seizures and fines increase, the volume of illegal exports remains immense. And despite the introduction of new rules, the raw wood continues to be exported, mostly to Asian countries. In July 2011, a Chinese company has been penalized for having cut 10% more trees than the allowed amount. The essence of the wood cut must appear in indelible ink on the trunks. This information is used to determine the export taxes that apply. According to local daily “O Pais”, logs seized in 2011 were inscribed with chalk indicating a wood second category, whereas it was actually pink ivory (Berchemia zeyheri), a protected variety. 

Berchemia zeyheri or Red ivory
Berchemia zeyheri or Red ivory
© internet

Transformed Pink ivory...
Transformed Pink ivory...
© internet


This prosperous traffic amid corruption. With the support of their political influence, the wood’s exporters bribe the employees of port companies in order for logs to be not reported. Many leaders, suspected of involvement in trafficking, were arrested, but when we try to learn more, authorities are often reluctant to provide details, probably for fear of reprisals from the organized crime. 


These are gangs that determine the price of timber. Faced with this problem, small loggers begin to form associations. At a meeting held in June 2012 in Beira, they expressed their displeasure at that time vis-à-vis the government : they feel “abandoned”. To date, there is no scale of timber prices. Commercial use causes degradation of forests and opens the door to other harmful activities to the environment, such as charcoal production, warns the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in a report released in 2012.

Reforestation projects ... good but not enough

Along the road from Mozambique to South Africa trees are scarce. It is a barren wasteland that unfolds before your eyes, with only a hut here and there.
Several international NGOs are financing reforestation projects in areas now devoid of vegetation, as Massaca on the outskirts of Maputo. This village is in a catastrophic situation from an environmental point of view: its forest heritage has been completely destroyed. Antonio Cossa, from the Department of Economic Activities of the County of Boane, remembers the days when Massaca was a green area. “In the 1980s, the village did not exist yet. It was a dense forest. There were just a few colliers that cut wood to turn it into charcoal and sell it in Maputo. Today, there is not even a single tree.” 

The coal that is used by Mozambicans is coming from harvested wood from natural forests without control and without reforestation ever envisioned. Current policies are going in the right direction, but, in practice, nothing is really done to enforce the law. Yet in July 2011, President Armando Guebuza received the Earth World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for its efforts to protect natural resources development including awareness campaigns children for reforestation. Perhaps this is still not enough to change attitudes according to which, in the words of the Mozambican writer Mia Couto, trees are “enemies to be destroyed” ?

IRAN : only 70 Asiatic cheetahs remain in the wild, estimate scientists.

Source : AFP

Asiatic cheetahs, one of the world’s most endangered animals, are forced to eat livestock in areas where their wild prey is in decline, a study has found.
An international team of scientists working in Iran investigated what the animals ate in places where game numbers had been reduced by poachers.
They found the cats had turned to hunting domestic animals because they could not survive on smaller prey.
Safeguarding the cats needs a clamp down on poaching, the scientists found.

It had been suggested that the Asiatic cheetah might survive by eating more rodents and hares in areas where medium-sized ungulates had declined.
But this study suggests that is not true.
The scientists completed the investigation over five years in two reserves in north-east Iran, near the Turkmenistan border.

One of the world
One of the world’s most endangered animals
© internet

The areas had a depleted population of wild ungulates such as gazelle, wild sheep and goats.
By sampling the cheetahs’ scat they gained an insight into what the animals were eating in those areas.
Results suggest that while hares and rodents formed part of the cats’ diet, they were not a significant source of nutrition.
The cheetahs mainly fed on medium-sized herbivores, resorting to livestock if necessary, according to the study.
“The hare or the rabbit... [are] a very important part of their diet. But that’s such a hard thing to catch for so little that it’s not sustainable,” explained Dr Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, who collaborated on the Iranian study.
“We need to have the small and medium-sized antelope,” she said.
The scientists’ study reported that local herders seemed unaware of the Asiatic cheetah’s “depredation of their stock”, perhaps because the cats are so rare.
But in order to avoid future conflict with local communities, the scientists recommended that anti-poaching regulations to be enforced and that other activities in the reserves are adapted to the needs of the Asiatic cheetah.
“After the revolution the game reserves, which were sacrosanct before, were opened up to the communities,” said Dr Marker.
“[The cheetahs] are in game reserves and in the game reserves there’s been a large influx of herders bringing their livestock, which have reduced the land space for where the prey can be and so the prey gets pushed out.”
By enforcing no-grazing zones, the Asiatic cheetah would stand a better chance of accessing the wild ungulates it needs, according to the study.

Cheetah: peril & hope
Cheetah: peril & hope
© internet

The Asiatic cheetah in Iran has been compared to the panda in China, or the tiger in India, as a symbol for wildlife conservation.
Some experts thought the subspecies numbered around 200 individuals in the 1970s but Dr Marker said the current estimate is that there are only 70 Asiatic cheetahs remaining in the wild, all of them in Iran.



March,15th, 2014 : the civil disobedience rallies with the Kit anti-requins 2014

For once, it is not endangered animals, but “the financial sharks”. This little booklet that you can obtain from March 15th, 2014 denouncing the actions of three major economic players that are BNP Paribas, Unilever and Societe Generale.
The Societe Generale supports the Alpha Coal project in Australia, i.e. the annual exploitation and the export of 30 millions of tons of coal to the Asiatic markets.
According to Attac,

“The Societe Generale has also invested € 1.9 billion in coal mines between 2005 and mid-2013. Supporting Alpha Coal, the SG is contributing to transform the Great Barrier Reef into a marine highway of coal. Ignoring the major risk posed by coal development on this World Heritage, SG is thus supporting a project that would threaten biodiversity and habitats of protected species. "The Societe Generale has also invested € 1.9 billion in coal mines between 2005 and mid-2013. Supporting Alpha Coal, the SG is contributing to transform the Great Barrier Reef into a marine highway of coal. Ignoring the major risk posed by coal development on this World Heritage, SG is thus supporting a project that would threaten biodiversity and habitats of protected species. The Alpha Coal project would capture most of the water resources of the region, enough to disrupt the water system and endanger people and agriculture where underground water resources are essential. Moreover, these are 50,000 people who see their jobs disappear because of the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Societe Generale is also committed up to € 15m in the Polish company PGNiG SA, the Poland’s leader in the development of shale gas.”

It is always interesting to know how our bank uses our deposits, isn’t it? And the question is, as a responsible consumer, do we endorse the investment choices of the Societe Generale ...?

03/21/2014 : International Forest Day

Following the International Year of Forests in 2011, the United Nations wanted to establish a day involving forests in the spotlight: the March 21 has become the International Forest Day .
Around the world are organized events to promote, protect and celebrate forests.

Which forest do we want? Everything depends on the men we want to be. All started in the forest, and the future of man is at a stake in the forest.

Jacques Perrin, the sponsor of the first edition.

Recommanded book: “Histoires remarquables”

parution chez Delachaux & Niestlé, texte by François Moutou and illustrations of François Desbordes


From April 3 to 8th, 2014 :

Latitudes animales 2014
Latitudes animales 2014
© T. Crocetta


The Black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) has not always a good reputation. Opportunistic scavenger, it is omnivorous, but usually feeds on insects, rodents, lizards, fruit and carrion. Predator, it is easily prey to leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, wild dogs, pythons and large raptors.
It can measure up to 1 meter long, 40 cm at the withers and weigh 11 kg. Its common names, “Black-backed jackal”, also known as the Silver-backed or Red jackal, refers to the band of Black fur that covers his back, head to the tip of the tail of the animal.
The couple is united for life. The gestation period is 60 days. The average litter size is four cubs. Couples keep their cubs with them for one year to assist in the hunt.

Baby jackal at home
Baby jackal at home
© M. Dupuis

Is there anybody ?
Is there anybody ?
© M. Dupuis

After meal...
After meal...
© M. Dupuis

Parents care tenderly for their offspring and it is clear that it lacks nothing!

Thank you and see you soon!


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