Photographer settles ‘monkey selfie’ legal fight

David Slater with macaque moneys in IndonesiaImage copyright
©David J Slater

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Mr Slater said that he had to earn the trust of the monkeys over several days before venturing close enough to get the selfie

A photographer has settled a two-year legal fight against an animal rights group over a “monkey selfie” picture.

Naruto the macaque monkey took the image in the Indonesian jungle in 2011 when it picked up a camera owned by David Slater from Monmouthshire.

US judges had said copyright protection could not be applied to the monkey but Peta said the animal should benefit.

Peta’s appeal on the “monkey’s behalf” was dismissed but Mr Slater has agreed to donate 25% of any future revenue.

In a joint statement from Peta and Mr Slater, it said the photographer will give a quarter of the funds he receives from selling the monkey selfies to registered charities “dedicated to protecting the welfare or habitat of Naruto”.

“Peta’s groundbreaking case sparked a massive international discussion about the need to extend fundamental rights to animals for their own sake, not in relation to how they can be exploited by humans,” said Peta lawyer Jeff Kerr.

Mr Slater, of Chepstow, said he put in a lot of effort which was more than enough for him to claim copyright.

Image copyright
Wildlife Personalities/David J Slater

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Peta claimed the monkey is a female called Naruto but Mr Slater claimed it was a different male macaque

He also said he was a conservationist and interest in the image had already helped animals in Indonesia.

The case was listed as “Naruto v David Slater” but the identity of the monkey had also been in dispute, with Peta claiming it is a female called Naruto and Mr Slater saying it is a different male macaque.

But appeal judges at a court in San Francisco ruled in Mr Slater’s favour after a two-year legal fight.

In the joint-statement between Peta and Mr Slater, they say this case “raises important, cutting-edge issues about expanding legal rights for non-human animals”.

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Paris climate aim ‘still achievable’

A man fishes in Cocibolca Lake in the province of Rivas, about 125km south of the Nicaraguan capital ManaguaImage copyright

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Renewable energy in Nicaragua

The 2015 Paris agreement’s ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C remains within reach, a study suggests.

The study is one of several to address the “carbon budget”, which – among other things – determines how much CO2 the planet can emit and still reach a given limit for global warming.

It indicates the 2015 target, perceived by some as tough, could be met with very stringent emissions cuts.

It used computer models that project climate behaviour into the future.

The aim of the Paris deal was “holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5C.”

But scientists admit they were taken by surprise by the ambition of the 1.5C figure.

The results of the work with computer models have been published in Nature Geoscience. This type of work necessarily contains uncertainties regarding the way the Earth’s climate will respond in future and how quickly societies can move away from fossil fuel use.

But the study authors say: “Pursuing ‘efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C’ is not chasing a geophysical impossibility”.

Co-author Michael Grubb, from University College London, said: “This paper shows that the Paris goals are within reach, but clarifies what the commitment to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C’ really implies.”

Those commitments would require strengthening the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – the pledges to cut emissions contained in the Paris agreement.

Previous estimates of the remaining 1.5C carbon budget, based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment of the climate, were around four times lower.

But unlike those figures, which relied on one line of evidence, the new study uses multiple approaches to examine the same question, arriving at a rather different result.

Co-author Prof Pierre Friedlingstein, from the University of Exeter, said: “This is very good news for the achievability of the Paris targets.”

Prof Myles Allen, another author, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News: “In the main body of the IPCC assessment, what it would take to meet a 1.5C goal wasn’t assessed in any detail. To be honest, it wasn’t thought to be the policy priority at the time.

“Perhaps it should have been, but that was the view of the academic community then. But the ambition of Paris caught a lot of people by surprise.”

Analysis by David Shukman, BBC Science Editor:

The climate models are exaggerating. The predictions are too alarmist. The Tuvaluans and other islanders are safer than we thought. These are among the conclusions that some might reach from this latest work. In reality, nothing is quite that straightforward. The models are simulated approximations of possible futures. Inevitably they are going to be at least slightly adrift of reality, either in the amount of warming or its timing.

They come with caveats and margins of error. In many ways, it’s remarkable that these computer constructs are even roughly on track. And models designed to come up with very broad potential outcomes for the end of the century may not be fine-tuned enough to give more detailed forecasts year-by-year.

The authors themselves are anxious that their research is not misunderstood. The need for urgent action to reduce emissions is unchanged, they say. It’s just that the most ambitious of the Paris Agreement targets is not as unachievable as many once thought, that there is time to act, though the task remains a monumental one.

Myles Allen added: “For a two in three chance of keeping temperatures within 1.5C, we’d have to reduce emissions in a straight line to zero from where we are now over the next 40 years.

“It’s possible, but extremely challenging. So if people are saying: can we now relax? That’s not the right message to take at all.”

Different take

Scientists agree urgent action will be needed to tackle the effects of rapid temperature increase over the next century.

But a study earlier this year in the journal Nature Climate Change suggested the allowable carbon budget had probably been overestimated.

It said the “pre-industrial baseline” used to benchmark present day warming was probably older than the IPCC had assumed.

Therefore, the degree of warming since that baseline was probably greater than had been believed.

On Twitter, one of the authors of that report, Prof Michael Mann, said the latest research in Nature Geoscience, “doesn’t account for [the] pre-industrial baseline issue we examined”.

He added: “There is some debate about [the] precise amount of committed warming if we cease emitting carbon immediately. We’re probably very close to 1.5C.”

Meanwhile, another paper in Nature Geoscience, by Gunnar Myhre, from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, in Oslo, and colleagues, suggests the greenhouse effect caused by human-induced CO2 emissions is now half-way to doubling compared with pre-industrial conditions.

Although the concentrations themselves have not yet reached the halfway mark, this is being described as an iconic watermark.

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The man trying to save bats’ lives

Dr Matt Zeale leads a team of conservationists tracking the rare barbastrelle bat.

Using tagging technology and thermal imaging cameras, the team hopes to help preserve the animal’s future.

More on this story on BBC London’s Inside Out programme on BBC1 on Monday 18 September at 19:30 BST.

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Horsey seal injured by flying ring ‘making recovery’

A seal captured by volunteers on a beach is recovering at a specialist centre after getting a flying ring trapped around its neck.

The animal was first spotted trapped in the ring on Horsey beach in Norfolk six months ago, but previous attempts to capture it and remove the frisbee-like ring failed.

BBC News visited the seal at the RSPCA hospital in East Winch, where it was taken by the Friends of Horsey Seals.

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Size matters when it comes to extinction risk

Elephant with egretImage copyright
Getty Images

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The large and the small are most at risk of extinction, on land and in water

The biggest and the smallest of the world’s animals are most at risk of dying out, according to a new analysis.

Size matters when it comes to extinction risk, with vertebrates in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” – not too big and not too small – winning out, say scientists.

Action is needed to protect animals at both ends of the scale, they say.

Heavyweights are threatened mainly by hunting, while featherweights are losing out to pollution and logging.

“The largest vertebrates are mostly threatened by direct killing by humans,” said a team led by Prof Bill Ripple of Oregon State University in Corvallis, US.

“Whereas the smallest species are more likely to have restricted geographic ranges – an important predictor of extinction risk – and be threatened by habitat degradation.”

Image copyright
Jurgen Leckie

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The great hammerhead shark is under threat from illegal fishing

The research adds to evidence that animals are dying out on such a scale that a sixth extinction is considered under way.

This has prompted efforts to determine the key drivers of extinction risk.

One clue is body size. Research on birds and mammals has shown that those with larger bodies are more likely to go extinct.

Yet, when the researchers made a data base of thousands of birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles at risk of extinction, they found disproportionate losses at the large and small ends of the scale.

“Surprisingly, we found that not only the largest of all vertebrate animal species are most threatened, but the very tiniest ones are also highly threatened with extinction,” Prof Ripple told BBC News.

Image copyright
Dave Young

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Warty swamp frog: This frog is believed to be in decline across much of its range

Large charismatic animals, such as elephants, rhinos and lions have long been the target of protection efforts.

However, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians that are the giants of their kind, such as the whale shark, Somali ostrich and Chinese giant salamander, tend to be overlooked.

Meanwhile, small species at risk – such as frogs and shrews – receive very little attention.

“I think, for the smallest species, first of all we need to bring higher awareness to them, because the larger ones get a lot of attention, but the smaller ones get very little,” said Prof Ripple.

In the study, researchers from the US, UK, Switzerland and Australia compared body mass and extinction risk for more than 25,000 vertebrate species.

Of these, around 4,000 are threatened with extinction, as assessed by the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Vertebrates with the smallest and the largest bodies were found to be most at risk of disappearing, whether they were on land or living in oceans, streams or rivers.

Image copyright
R Hutterer

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The Canarian shrew is a tiny endangered mammal living only on the Canary Islands

Threats facing the heaviest included:

  • Regulated and unregulated fishing
  • Hunting and trapping for food, trade or medicines

The lightest were mainly at risk from:

  • Pollution of lakes, streams and rivers
  • Farming
  • Logging of forests
  • Development.

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The Bavarian pine vole is thought to be critically endangered

The researchers say that while different approaches are needed for the conservation of large versus small species, there is an urgent need to step up efforts for both.

“Ultimately, reducing global consumption of wild meat is a key step necessary to reduce negative impacts of human hunting, fishing, and trapping on the world’s vertebrates,” they write in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which published the study.

“Indeed, based on our findings, human activity seems poised to chop off both the head and tail of the size distribution of life.”

Extinction can be a natural process, affecting a handful of species each year.

However, estimates suggest the world is now losing species at hundreds of times the “background” rate.

Co-researcher Thomas Newsome of the University of Sydney in Australia said for large animals lessening the negative impacts of hunting, fishing and trapping was key.

“But it’s ultimately slowing the human population growth rate that will be the crucial long-term factor in limiting extinction risks to many species,” he said.

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Cassini: Saturn ‘death dive’ spacecraft in numbers

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‘Long live Cassini’: Nasa scientists say farewell

The chief scientists who worked on the Nasa spacecraft react after it destroyed itself by plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Cassini survived for about a minute before being broken apart.

It had run out of fuel and Nasa had determined that the probe should not be allowed to simply wander uncontrolled among Saturn and its moons.

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Rhino horn smuggled as jewellery

Raw and carved rhino horn is sold primarily in Vietnam and ChinaImage copyright
Wildlife Justice Commission

Criminal networks smuggling rhino horn out of Africa are turning it into jewellery to evade its detection in airports, an investigation has found.

Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic revealed an “emerging trend” of making and smuggling beads, bracelets and bangles and rhino horn powder.

The lead investigator told BBC News the trade in rhino horn was now “morphing” into a market for luxury items.

At least 7,100 rhinos are estimated to have been killed in Africa since 2007.

Today, about 25,000 of the animals remain.

Julian Rademeyer from Traffic explained that the production of rhino horn “trinkets” mirrored some of the patterns seen in the trade in ivory.

“It’s very worrying,” he told BBC News. “Because if someone’s walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them?

“Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns.”

Status symbol

The primary destinations for smuggled rhino horn remain the same; the largest markets are in China and Vietnam. But this investigation also found that smuggling routes constantly changed and adapted, becoming more complex in order to avoid countries and airports where law enforcement resources were being focused.

This shift in how horn is processed before it is moved could make it more difficult to detect.

“This is quite a preliminary assessment,” explained Mr Rademeyer, “but it’s vital that there’s information sharing about these new trends – particularly with law enforcement.”

He added that the market for medicinal rhino horn – believed by many to be a cure for a range of illnesses, from rheumatism to cancer – seemed to have “reduced somewhat”.

But owning rhino horn – particularly for wealthy men in Vietnam – is also seen as a status symbol.

“It’s about power – about showing off your wealth,” said Mr Rademeyer. “It’s been called the Ferrari factor – having something says you are wealthy and that you’re untouchable [by the law].”

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Susie Offord-Woolley, managing director of the charity Save the Rhino International, said this kind of information was “essential” in order that law enforcement officers could be trained to identify rhino horn jewellery.

“The fact they’re carving [the horn] up now means these gangs are getting more concerned about security, and that’s a good sign,” she added.

At the current rate of poaching, Save the Rhino says that rhinos could be extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

“That’s what we’re all trying to avoid,” said Ms Offord-Woolley.

And while this is a fight to save a species, she added, “this also affects so many people”.

She added: “In last 10 years, 1,000 rangers have been killed in Africa while on patrol protecting rhinos.

“So this is an issue for people’s lives, as well.”

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Koala ‘hitches’ ride under car wheel arch

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Henry the hippo reunites with his baby Fiona

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© Warren Fyfe