TENDUA - Association for biodiversity conservation

Newsletter N°8

Dear Members and Friends,

2012 is ending. No scoop about the end of the world, but some news on its condition.
We are proposing two articles, which will give you thoughts to share with your friends. Solutions do exist, but they all ultimately depend on choices our politicians will make. A question of will-power.
First, try to imagine the noise we disperse into our oceans with our incessant economic and military activities, or recreation, and the impact it has on cetaceans.

Second, another subject worries us: seed patents. This is the battle of the “earthen pot” which leads associations such as Kokopelli and Navdanya against the “iron pot” represented by the political agrochemical lobby.

Shark Alliance, whose TENDUA is a member, is waiting for the plenary vote of the European Commission, which will amend the current legislation against the finning on November 22, still very lax in Europe.

The illegal trade of endangered species is one of the top 5 illegal trades among drugs, weapons and counterfeiting ; the rhino and the elephant are victims of this illegal trade ; if we don’t stop this illegal trade NOW, these species are going to dissapear as wild species within the 10 coming years.

Finally some dates in our calendar, and our pink notebook shows us a picture of a jabiru Dad giving a fishing lesson to his three offspring!



Ocean Noise Pollution

The constant hustling and bustling in the oceans create unceasing unimaginable noise. 6000 commercial shipping vessels ply the seas permanently, as well as submarines and sonar (more than 300 are non-NATO), seismic offshore exploration for oil, gas and other minerals, more and more numerous offshore wind turbines, and, of course, the sounds from boats’ propellers and hulls as well as other recreational activities contribute to this racket...
The “silent world”, no longer appropriately named, has in other words become an unbearable cacophony for its inhabitants due to ever-increasing human activities.

According to researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, USA, the increasing ocean acidity may cause the marine environment to become even louder. Changes in the chemical composition of seawater would diminish the capacity to absorb low frequency sounds by 10% compared with the pre-industrial revolution era. Unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (a path we are far from following...), the acidity of the oceans and seas could reach a level such that the noise of ships and guns earthquake would travel 70% farther than at present. No comment.

“Some” last strandings in September 2012
During the same weekend of 09/02/12, dozens of pilot whales were stranded on both sides of the Atlantic, the coast of Scotland and Florida. In North America, it was the third such incident in two days.

Beached whales near St. Andrews, Scotland, Sept. 2, 2012.
Beached whales near St. Andrews, Scotland, Sept. 2, 2012.
© Andrew Milligan/AP/SIPA

26 whales stranded in Scotland
On 02/09/12, a large group of 26 pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) were beached on the eastern coast of Scotland, near St. Andrews. Sixteen died, but rescuers managed to get the other ten back into the water.

 Seismic survey map in Scotland
Seismic survey map in Scotland
© Sibylline

It is believed that the seismic survey performed by the company M / V Polarcus Adira could be responsible for these beachings.

Two other groups of pilot whales were beached at Cape Cod, Massachusetts (North-eastern United States) on 09/01/12, and Canada 09/02/12.

22 whales stranded in Florida

On 09/01/12, 22 whales - only 5 were saved - were stranded on a Florida beach.

Pilot whales stranded in Florida - sept.2012
Pilot whales stranded in Florida - sept.2012
© internet

At the same time, the Sibylline association reminds us that the American company SeaWorld is the largest representative of the captive animals’ industry, which finances and manages safety operations where strandings occur and surviving animals can be found. Is it a coincidence that only young and very young animals have been rescued, while others were euthanized? These young animals were directed to one of the parks (“veterinary centres”), without the need for authorization, as they were declared not “rehabilitated”. So double whammy for SeaWorld: a huge advertising campaign promotes a very positive image of SeaWorld as a rescuer, and the financial transaction is excellent, since a pilot whale, should it be purchased, costs at least $ 250,000 dollars… So here they had five in one go...
The reason for these early September strandings is still yet to be determined.

Echolocation and sonar
Whales produce sounds (clicks, whistles, vocalizations), most of which are characteristic of the species or population by their shape, frequency and duration. They use echolocation systems similar to active sonar
 [1], sometimes over long distances to locate their peers, their prey and their predators.
The increasing noise of oceans and marine environment disorients them, disperses and threatens their livelihood, and may lead them to extinction.

The stranding phenomenon is not recent: the first cetacean stranding was recorded in 1805. Since then around twenty strandings per year have been recorded until the 1960s. But the conclusion is obvious: since the 1960s, there is a sharp increase in cetaceans’ strandings. Of course information flows more easily since the mid-20th century, but is it simply because it is easier to know what is happening on the other side of the Earth, or is it because there are more and more accidents? Correlations have been made between US, British and Spanish Navies’ presence conducting naval manoeuvres with low frequency military sonar noticeable over 100km and cetaceans strandings. Remember that all Navies use the same kind of equipment, so all the seas of the world are affected by these “exercises”...
In 2000, in the Bahamas, a U.S. Navy experiment with a transmitter up to 230 dB in the frequency range of 3,000 to 7,000 Hz caused the beaching of sixteen whales, seven of whom were found dead. Two years later, the U.S. Navy finally recognized its responsibility in this stranding in a report published on 01/01/2002 in the Boston Globe.

 Sonar waves propagation
Sonar waves propagation
© AwayFoundation

The sound of military sonar generates problems in cetaceans’ decompression, followed very often by a stranding.

During their dive, whales experience space only through acoustic signals they receive and issue. For cetaceans, hearing is their most important sense. Their capacity to hear well is vital in all key aspects of their lives, such as finding food, travelling and socialising. Do you know that the auditory nerve of the dolphin is 10 times longer than the man’s one?
To breathe, they take their time, naturally respecting decompression “levels”. But under stress generated by colliding sonar waves, stress hormones are spread throughout the body, the heart rate increases and the leak is obvious: whales undertake a recovery emergency. As with divers, rising up too fast causes an accumulation of gas in the organs.

Stranding of a 6,66m long beaked whale of about 6 tons
Stranding of a 6,66m long beaked whale of about 6 tons
© SNSM, Station de Beg-Meil, France

We know a little more about this phenomenon today thanks to the autopsy of bodies of stranded animals. Scientists discovered that the liver was full of gas bubbles (sometimes the size of a tennis ball), the kidneys ruined and fat particles were found in the blood.

© internet

Cetacean capture sound waves with their lower jaw, lined with highly vascularized adipose tissue. This serves as a resonance structure for echolocation.
However, sonar waves used by the Army – or air guns’ waves for offshore exploration for oil gas and minerals) - are responsible for bleeding in the inner ear of cetaceans and in the region of the lower jaw, as well as for fractures organs causing internal bleeding.

 Nearly 50 whales beached themselves off Tasmania, January 23, 2009
Nearly 50 whales beached themselves off Tasmania, January 23, 2009
© Internet

Animals die a slow death. Some of them lose their strength on the shores. Maybe they approach the land as a way to reach safety?

To understand a little better what these animals are enduring, imagine a comparable scenario: you are in the street and suddenly you hear a noise that makes you lose your sense of direction. The sonar’s intensity is stronger than a jet’s take-off. And it lasts several hours and not a few minutes. Feel your bones and flesh in your body vibrate because of the noise; your ears start bleeding. Since the noise generated by the sonar saturates the oceans for hundreds of miles by creating acoustic barriers is insurmountable for cetaceans, you cannot escape...

Research programs on cetaceans exist, but it is very difficult to have an independent study. In the United States, for example, the Navy funds research programs in marine biology. Only such studies would determine precisely the role of human activities in these strandings and the causes of the disappearance of these marine animals. But no chance to get the truth, as funding only comes from those directly involved…

We already know the consequences of noise on cetaceans. They affect all aspects of their lives, such as:

  • Communication: the destruction of their echolocation system creates problems within the clan. Both males and females can no longer join.
  • Education: the young have difficulties to learn the group codes and more often, they end up lost and stranded on beaches.
  • Migration: forced to deviate from their normal routes, individuals of the same group eventually split up. The researchers found stranded cetaceans in places not usually frequented by these animals.
  • The risk of famine: cetaceans are not able to locate their prey and thus feed.

Are there any solutions to reduce the impact of noise in oceans?
YES but, again, this is a political and financial question…

Among the mentioned solutions, here are a few:

The different species of cetaceans
The different species of cetaceans
© internet

- Change the sonar frequency BUT this is not a solution because other cetaceans’ species will be affected since each cetacean species has different characteristics of resonance clean.

  • Walls of bubbles are generated at the foot of offshore wind turbines, on the sea bottom, to reduce their noise, a bit like anti-noise walls along our highways built to partially absorb the waves. The reduction is effective, but is it sufficient? ...
  • The shipping industry has the manufacturing capacity of building « silent » vessels but it is expensive. And as to date, no national or international obligation has been set. Despite the recommendations made by scientists and associations for several years, nobody wants to pay.
  • Ask Navies to check the cetaceans’ presence thanks to clicks they emit before they manoeuvre. This would imply a radical change of attitude in the military, whatever nationality they are. The Navies could hire marine biologists. They would have to keep their independence at the same time in order to determine impacts of sonar on the fauna’s disappearance. This measure could be quickly put in place but probably never will be...
  • Create more areas where maritime traffic, military manoeuvres, offshore exploration, aquatic recreational activities are totally prohibited, as well as corridors to connect these quiet areas.
  • Join associations that are fighting for these issues ... and talk about it around you and relay info via your networks to members of Parliament: we are public opinion and we can act.

To learn more :http://www.sounds-of-seas.info/


Against the patenting of seeds

Catalogue of seeds and French Law
In the 30s, the idea of a first catalogue was raised in order to reference the names of seeds. Since then, there were many others catalogues and finally a European one. In 1997, in France, vegetable varieties are joining the new catalogue and “Sunday gardeners” are then directly concerned, as well as all small farmers who do not use the F1 hybrid seeds.
What does say this official catalogue, backed-up by French law, say? "Any seed, which is not included in the sale is prohibited, as well as exchange between farmers”, even though this is ancient and international practise.
For the French Ministry of Agriculture interprets these practices as hidden sales. Therefore, the exchange is forbidden by government decree.

The National Seed Group of Inter-professionals (GNIS), whose members are drawn from representatives of the French government and of major players in the agrochemical industry, deals, among others, with catalogues. It seems that the reputation of the GNIS is not based on farmers who know it well because it:
Claims payment of a Voluntary Required Contribution by farmers who reuse their farm-saved seed, that will be donated directly to the seed industry, up to 85% of its amount,
Prosecutes farmers who breed farm seeds of protected varieties by a French law that prohibits it, but which is hardly used since the adoption of a European regulation in 1994 which authorizes this breeding,
Sends its controllers to pursue farmers who conserve, use, exchange, or sell their own farm seeds.
Seed manufacturers do not tolerate that farmers benefit, just like them and legally, the “breeder’s privilege”, which allows them to use the varieties available in the market, select their own varieties, and exchange their seeds for selection and retaining.

F1 hybrid seeds vs old
In order to understand the subject better we must return to the definition of a seed in agriculture, and find out a thing or two about their origin and marketing. To make it short and simple: there are “natural” seeds, used by humans and kept by them, reusable each year. And then there are hybrid seeds, F1 (first generation hybrid) most often. Invented by the Americans in the early XXth century, they are the most common. The process is roughly as follows: the seed industry takes two maize varieties for example, as distant or different as possible, and crosses them over a period of several years (6 or 7 years).
Finally, the seed company gets a hybrid variety with new genetic characteristics: better performance, same size feet, disease resistance, but also a variety, which is sterile. It needs to be bought every year, so this naturally provides an annuity for the seed company and a chronicle of announced ruin for small farms.

The agro-chemical lobby
World leader in GMO, Monsanto is the origin of many controversial products since its inception in 1901. The list is long. The company is the largest producer of PCBs (the pyralene, now banned persistent organic pollutant and responsible for a great deal of pollution), Agent Orange, a herbicide used during the Vietnam War and highly carcinogenic, and growth hormones for bovine and dairy cattle, banned in Europe.
Monsanto is sadly notorious and represents the agrochemical giants well. This has made our industrial agriculture today more like “the management of agricultural pathology” with more and more F1 hybrids, pesticides, herbicides and other chemical means. Then, sick plants generate new human diseases to which the pharmaceutical lobby will probably find a chemical remedy that will produce side effects in its turn, but will also generate income...

sick plant in the USA
sick plant in the USA
© jeff Tuttle

Farewell, golden wheat and green fields from our collective imagination!

Monsanto is not alone, there is also Bayer, Syngenta ... Their interest is to make us believe that without fertilizers or pesticides, agriculture cannot feed the whole world in the end. We “must” therefore use their products to produce more, at the expense of quality and our health, but also to the detriment of the Earth that has nevertheless developed all conditions (trees, humus and clay) to grow hundreds and thousands of plants that we know today and are well adapted to the various climates ...
Of course, this is a huge part of our economy that would go wrong, if we should return to more natural methods which would make it possible, we are sure of it now, to feed the world’s population.
This is a societal choice. Should we feed the whole world according to the laws of nature, or should we continue on a trend that destroys the Earth? and thereby fail to feed everyone, and only provide good economic returns to a small portion of its population?

Associations throughout the world are fighting for a responsible and organic agriculture, as well as the fundamental right to exchange seeds.
In India, for example, Navdanyais working to promote agro-ecology.
Kokopelli is a French association that maintains, distributes and sells organic seeds and old varieties in order to preserve biodiversity and vegetable seeds. In Ales (Gard, South of France) it is a store for more than 3,000 farmers’ varieties.

 Seeds garden - India
Seeds garden - India
© Kokopelli

The association has producers throughout the world and publishes its own catalogue every year, filled with pictures, varieties, advice, etc. It builds projects and gives (i.e. free of charge) many seeds to smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia, and South America to allow them access to food self-sufficiency.

Sued in 2005 by the company Baumaux (“grainetier in Nancy since 1943”) for unfair competition, and after several legal twists, it turns out that Kokopelli is sentenced to a €100,000 fine in damages to pay to Baumaux (whose turnover amounted to €14M in 2011 and net income €2M...). Baumaux also asks for a complete cessation of the association’s activity.
If you want to take action and release the seeds in Europe:
To find out more about different ways to proceed and know more about agro-ecology, here are the names of some exciting documentaries and other links:

  • “Local solutions for global disorder” Coline Serreau, 2010,
  • “Harvest Days of the Future” by Marie-Monique Robin, 2012.
  • « Food, Inc. » , by Robert Kenner, 2009 http://owni.fr/2012/06/06/le-lobby-...



Europe: Shark Alliance is fighting for a better regulation against finning

In September 2012, the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament voted on the proposal from the Commission that sharks should be brought to land with their fins naturally attached. The vote was close and confusing, with an amendment that would have effectively widened the gap, but other changes have been made which always refer to exceptions “fins naturally attached.”

Shark’s finning process
© Shark Alliance

The Fisheries Committee’s report should now be presented in the plenary session of the Parliament. The question will be debated on November 21 with a vote on November 22.

Africa and Asia: illegal traffic of rhino horn

The illegal trade of endangered species today drains large sums. It is the fifth traffic after counterfeiting, drugs, weapons or oil. As a species number decreases, its derivatives are coveted more and more, thus accentuating the probable extinction of the species. At equal weight, a rhino horn is twice the price of gold.
On the Asian market, a rhino horn is synonymous with wealth and power. In Vietnam, the main market for the derivative, data is almost non-existent.
However, the South African figures show very clearly the growing demand. This is proof, if any were needed, that the application of international conventions is far from optimal.

 Illegal traffic of endangered species
Illegal traffic of endangered species
© wwf

How can citizens take action? Lobby to make the species protection a priority for governments. This does not mean simply to strengthen international cooperation. It also means enforcing the laws..
Endangered species trade is a crime. To allow this crime against nature is not an option. Animal life is also part of the wealth of nations. Today we must act quickly because every endangered species is a battlefield.
In northern India, Assam, where 2400 horned rhinoceros still were to be found in 2008, only 2050 remain in 2012. More than 300 animals were killed last year...

CITES March 2013: urgent need to reregister the elephants in the Appendix 1 in order to fight against international trafficking of ivory

populations in Africa have experienced a brief respite of about seven years, between 1990 and 1997. The resounding international campaign in the 1980s led by various organizations culminated in the ban on ivory trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in October 1989: from the Appendix 2 of the Convention (trade authorized under control), all populations of African elephants were transferred to Appendix 1 (totally prohibited trade) where the Asian elephant was already since 1975.

 Elephants in Maasaï Mara
Elephants in Maasaï Mara
© Tendua

This decision had an immediate effect: a spectacular and even unexpected fall of poaching. Experts recognized that there was a subsequent rise in elephant populations who needed a break of at least twenty years to regain their population level of the 1970s anyway.

Unfortunately, supporters of the ivory trade, in particular South Africa, lobbied so hard that there has been a return to Appendix 2 in 1997-2000 of CITES for the elephant populations from four southern African countries: Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and, of course, South Africa. The trade -supposedly controlled, but actually uncontrollable- therefore resumed as before. These countries served as channels for the ivory poached in the other 25 countries in Africa, who chose to remain in Annex 1 to save their last elephants and forego short-term profits. This trafficking however - exclusively and paradoxically granted by the CITES to China and Japan, the two largest consumers of ivory - cost the lives of nearly 40,000 elephants a year, according to estimates based on seizures by customs in different countries. This represents only 10% of illegal ivory exports.

 Elephants - Kenya
Elephants - Kenya
© Tendua

Accordingly, and in order to prevent the inexorable extinction of all elephant populations in the next decade, it is vital that, at the next CITES conference to be held in March 2013, the signatory states vote for the effective return to Annex 1 of the CITES of all populations of African elephants who had been downgraded to Appendix 2 in 1997.
Numerous petitions or requests for financial aid are flowing to the elephants, but not one with a request for REGISTRATION in APPENDIX 1 TO THE CITES. This is the only measure that would stop the ivory trade. When it is ready, we will send it to you.
Source : SNPN



« Le petit-déjeuner du Tarsier et autres indiscrétions sur le monde animal/The breakfast of the Tarsier and other indiscretions on the animal world »

© F. Moutou

by François Moutou, editions « Le Pommier » : to buy for the pleasure of traveling and meeting wild animals.

From 10/23/12 to 08/25/2013 : « Bête de Sexe » at Palais de la découverte, Paris


The exhibition “Animals of Sex”, visible in Paris from 13 October 2012 to 25 August 2013, wants to explore the world of seduction in the animal world and also has us wondering about the moral codes governing our own sex lives.

From Nov. 15 to 18th, 2012 : the 16th Festival of Montier en Der


This year, Jim Brandenburg is the godfather of the exhibition, Hubert Reeves the special guest, and M. and C. Denis-Huot, the guests of honour.

From 15/12 to 12/19/12 : Free screening of the movie « Ocean Days» by Yann Arthus Bertrand at the museum Quai Branly in Paris

As part of its outreach program to the conservation of marine ecosystems, GoodPlanet invites you to its “OCEAN DAYS”, free access, from Dec. 15 to 19th Dec., 2012 at the Quai Branly museum and the Geode in Paris. To register: http://ocean.goodplanet.org/agenda/


The Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) is a large wading bird in the stork family. Along with the Marabou stork, it is the largest species of stork. The bird is elegant: a slender silhouette, a bi-coloured plumage: black and white, sometimes iridescent at the neck. The legs are black, but the “knee” and feet are red-orange.
The long bill measures from 27.3 to 36 cm (10.7 to 14 in). The massive bill is red with a black band and a yellow frontal shield (the “saddle”).

Fishing dad…
Fishing dad…
© Tendua

The base of the bill is covered by a large flat saddle-shaped caruncle, hence the name Saddle-billed Stork in English. The male has two small wattles at the base of the lower mandible. The golden yellow irises of the female and the brown irises and dangling yellow wattles of the male makes it possible to distinguish the sexes readily. These are the only signs of sexual dimorphism in these birds, although the male tends to be slightly larger.
The adult weights between 5 and 7 kg (11 and 15 lb) and can attain a height of 150 cm (59 in), a length of 142 cm (56 in) and a 2.4–2.7 m (7.9–8.9 ft) wingspan.

and the watching youngsters…
and the watching youngsters…
© Tendua

Juveniles are browner grey in plumage, but their feathers - white adult - are greyish. Their beak is dull grey-brown.


[1Echolocation, also called biosonar, is the biological sonar used by several kinds of animals. Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects.

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