Fantastic painting, Mike! Really wonderful.

On Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 11:03 AM, Michael Rothman
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Hi everyone,
> Here is a link to the Mongabay online article featuring my recent painting
> of the Samoan tooth-billled pigeon.   The work will be used as part of the
> conservation effort being undertaken as part of an effort to preserve the
> remaining population and associated forest habitats.   The bird is the
> Samoan National Bird and is an important cultural element.    (The painting
> was completed just this past October).
> Cheers,
> Mike R.
> On edge of extinction, could drones and technology save the Little Dodo? *Little
> dodo baby found: conservationists boosted by discovery that species is
> breeding*
>  [image: Detail of new painting highlighting the Manumea or little dodo.
> Painting by: (c) Michael Rothman 2013.]
> *Detail of new painting highlighting the Manumea or little dodo. Painting
> by: (c) Michael Rothman 2013.*
>  Almost nothing is known about the little dodo, a large, archaic,
> pigeon-like bird found only on the islands of Samoa. Worse still, this
> truly bizarre bird is on the verge of extinction, following the fate of its
> much more famous relative, the dodo bird. Recently, conservationists
> estimated that fewer than 200 survived on the island and maybe far fewer;
> frustratingly, sightings of the bird have been almost non-existent in
> recent years. But conservation efforts were buoyed this December when
> researchers stumbled on a juvenile little dodo hanging out in a tree. Not
> only was this an important sighting of a nearly-extinct species, but even
> more so it proved the species is still successfully breeding. In other
> words: there is still time to save the species from extinction.
> "This is the first time breeding has been recorded in over 10 years," says
> biologist Rebecca Stirnemann, who has been working with Samoa's birds birds
> since 2010 and is spearheading efforts to learn more about the imperiled
> species using wildlife drones and the latest in tagging technology.
> "Everyone had questioned whether the bird still existed. Now we know it is
> still alive," added Moeumu Uili with the Samoan Ministry of Natural
> Resources and Environment (MNRE). "One of the team, Fialelei, went outside
> to hang his wet clothes on the line and heard a noise that attracted his
> attention. He looked up to the tree and saw a bird sitting up high on one
> of the tree branches. We got our binoculars and camera, and started looking
> for the hooked bill which is the bird's distinguishing feature. I started
> taking as many pictures as I could before the bird flew off. A closer look
> using binoculars and we knew we had found it, the rare Manumea."
> *A bird of many names*
> The little dodo actually goes by many names. Locally, it's known as the
> Manumea and despite its cryptic, almost invisible nature, the species is
> Samoa's state bird, even appearing on its currency. Globally, it's also
> known as the tooth-billed pigeon and has even been called the "dodlet." Not
> to mention, of course, its Latin name: *Didunculus strigirostris*.
> * [image: A juvenile Manumea found in December of last year. Photo by:
> Moeumu Uili.]A juvenile Manumea found in December of last year. Photo by:
> Moeumu Uili. *  The number of names reveals its distinctiveness: the
> Manumea is the only surviving member of the genus *Didunculus*, which in
> Latin means "little dodo." A genetics study in 2002, found that the little
> dodo or Manumea is the most basal member of the dodo's relatives, both
> living and extinct.
> "[It] is the most ancestral (least derived) member of this group," Beth
> Shapiro, the lead author of the study, explains. "It shared a common
> ancestor with all the other individuals in that group--and was the earliest
> to diverge from that common ancestor."
> Shapiro speculates that the Manumea could have evolved over 60 million
> years ago, noting that "pigeons as a whole are a very old group, and the
> timing of their diversification is not well known."
> The little dodo is characterized by a sharply curved beak with two
> tooth-like structures on the bottom, a blue head and chest, and dark-red
> wings. Photos tend to show a crouched, bulky, brooding bird that looks like
> a cross between a vulture and a dinosaur.
> "The Manumea is a big forest pigeon, about the size of a chicken, with an
> amazingly large bright red beak. That is the first thing you see when you
> come upon one," says Stirnemann. "We see them very rarely so it is always
> very exciting. They can cover large distances quite fast so following them
> is very difficult. Their speed is surprising since they do not look like
> they are designed for flight, they have short wings, short tail and a round
> bulky body. I have now heard them call a few times. The call is a mix of a
> cow 'moo' and a pigeon 'coo,' rather endearing."
> *Conservation in an information vacuum*
> [image: Detail of new painting showing off a little dodo in flight.
> Painting by: (c) Michael Rothman 2013.]
> *Detail of new painting showing off a little dodo in flight. Painting by:
> (c) Michael Rothman 2013.*
> Stirnemann began working with the Ma'oma'o or Mao (*Gymnomyza samoensis*),
> a large forest honeyeater in Samoa, but soon got interested in the even
> more imperiled Manumea (*Didunculus strigirostris*) as well. However, she
> quickly found that in order to move forward at all, they were going to have
> to start from scratch.
> "There is so much information which we need to know to save this species.
> For instance no Manumea nests have ever been recorded in the scientific
> literature," Stienemann told "Therefore we do not know if
> the nest is on the ground and at risk from pigs or high up in a tree and
> being predated by introduced black rats. This means we don't know which
> invasive pest species is causing the decline of chicks and thus management
> to protect nests cannot occur."
> * [image: Researchers looking for birds in Samoa. Photo courtesy of
> Rebecca Stirnemann.]Researchers looking for birds in Samoa. Photo courtesy
> of Rebecca Stirnemann. *  For the time being, captive breeding is out as
> well. Stirnemann says researchers aren't even sure what little dodo chicks
> eat. They also don't know how large Manumea territories area.
> "At the moment if we see one bird one side of the island and have a second
> Manumea sighting on the other side of the island, we do not know if they
> are the same bird traveling a long distance or if it is likely to be two
> birds, with each bird is only using a small area," she notes.
> In order to begin to piece together the private lives of little dodos,
> Stirnemann has crafted an ambitious plan: employ small drones and the
> latest tracking technology to be the first scientists to ever track a
> Manumea's day.
> "The Samoan forest is beautiful and lush. The plants grow fast and form a
> dense understory. Walking though this beautiful forest involves quite a lot
> of chopping and is quite slow," she explains. "The Manumea on the other
> hand, flies over the tops of the trees and within a minute is over the
> gully in front of the people on the ground. Tracking a Manumea is therefore
> rather difficult. Drones will allow us to also fly over the forest and the
> gullies, to get close enough to download the GPS information from the
> Manumea and determine where it has been."
> Stirnemann plans to use new tracking tags developed by Microsoft that can
> be read by high-flying drones.
> "On sensing a weak signal from one postage-stamp-sized tag fixed to an
> animal, a drone can fly towards the creature on autopilot and retrieve the
> tag's data," she says.
> * [image: Photograph of live Manumea in 1901. Photo by: Augustin
> Kramer.]Photograph of live Manumea in 1901. Photo by: Augustin Kramer. * The data retrieved from the tiny tags and drones could be key to saving the
> species from extinction. Once researchers have an idea of the little dodo's
> habitat needs, territorial size, and nesting strategies they will be able
> to begin crafting a real conservation plan. And maybe, just maybe, there is
> still time for the little dodo to avoid the big dodo's end.
> But they still have to catch a Manumea to tag it.
> "Catching Manumea will be tricky since they are so rare," she says.
> "However luckily we have recordings of Manumea calls, we will use these
> calls as a lure to draw them into canopy mist nets. These nets go as high
> as 26 meters into the canopy. We also now know which trees Manumea are
> feeding in and when these trees are fruiting so setting up a net near these
> feeding trees should net us a bird."
> The discovery of the juvenile in December, however, may already present
> conservationists with a clue about what the little dodo needs and why it's
> nearing extinction.
> "[The juvenile] was found in the lowland forest," explains Moeumu Uili.
> "Little lowland forest remains in Samoa and this discovery suggests it is
> very important habitat for this species we now must work with the
> communities to get there support and preserve this special area."
> If scientists can confirm that Manumeas depend on lowland forest, it may
> spur efforts to save what's left and perhaps consider plans for
> reforestation.
> *The funding gap*
> [image: Scientists hope these stuffed Manumeas won't be the only thing
> left of the species in future decades. Photo courtesy of Rebecca
> Stirnemann.]
> *Scientists hope these stuffed Manumeas (including juvenile on top) won't
> be the only thing left of the species in future decades. Photo courtesy of
> Rebecca Stirnemann.*
> But it's not easy to save a species that is almost unheard of outside
> Samoa, a species that doesn't exactly follow the usual tropes of beauty,
> but instead goes its own route, evolutionarily-speaking. Stirnemann says
> the effort to save the Manumea, and Samoa's last lowland forests, still
> requires many champions. She says the project could use help building a
> local conservation group and increased media coverage. She adds that the
> team is interested in producing a documentary about their work, but needs a
> filmmaker.
> "We would also love to create a children's book on the species to build
> support in Samoa and explain to younger generations the importance of their
> native environment," she adds.
> * [image: A living adult little dodo or Manumea. Photo by: Ulf Beichle.]A
> living adult little dodo or Manumea. Photo by: Ulf Beichle. *  Like all
> small conservation projects, the efforts to save the little dodo from
> extinction needs one thing most of all: funding. Last year the conservation
> work was funded by the Rufford Conservation trust, MBZ conservation grant
> and Conservation Leadership grant, but Stirnemann says the group is hoping
> to begin crowd source funding from the public this year.
> "One of the most critical things we need is the funds to hire local staff,
> a project car and pay for technology needed to track this species needs to
> be gathered before time runs out," says Stirnemann.
> And, even with the happy discovery of a juvenile little dodo, there is no
> question that time is running out. The bird's current trajectory is clear:
> in the 1980s there were likely 4,000-7,000 Manumeas left, but by the
> mid-2000s only a few hundred remained. Today, it's less then 200.
> "As with any unique lineage, its extinction would result in the loss of
> biodiversity," says geneticist Shapiro. "It is not closely related to any
> other species, so this would be a huge amount of evolutionary change,
> gone."
> *The little dodo comes to life in art*
> [image: Micheal Rothman's Manumeas in Samoa. Painting by: (c) Michael
> Rothman 2013.]
> *Micheal Rothman's Manumeas in Samoa. Painting by: (c) Michael Rothman 2013.
> *
> But as people are hearing about the bird--and its unmistakable nearness to
> extinction--help has been forthcoming. Last year, U.S. artist Micheal
> Rothman, got in touch with Stirnemann and offered to give the endangered
> species its artistic due.
> "Upon hearing that no good photos of the Manumea in the wild exist,
> [Rothman] volunteered to paint a forest scene of the Manumea to show people
> what could be lost," she says. "He under took considerable research to make
> sure the picture was an accurate example of Samoan forest. This involved
> measuring Manumea skins (from the 1800s right through specimens collected
> during the Whitney South Sea Expediton of 1923) in the American History
> Museum of Natural History as well as research into the trees and plants of
> the Samoan forest."
> * [image: A second photo of the juvenile Manumea in December. Photo by:
> Moeumu Uili.]A second photo of the juvenile Manumea in December. Photo by:
> Moeumu Uili. *  The beautiful painting, which features not one but four
> Manumeas, finally allows these remarkable birds to take center stage. In
> Rothman's heavily-researched work, Manumeas fly and feed with abandon in a
> pristine Samoan forest.
> "His picture will be used to inspire the conservation of this species,"
> explains Stiremann. "It will also be used to show local people the Manumea
> so they can help us find new birds."
> But the paintings impact will hopefully go even beyond Samoa, giving the
> Manumea a larger profile internationally. In fact, the painting will be
> featured at the New York State Museum's Focus on Nature XIII Exhibition
> from April to October.
> "My reason for doing the Manumea painting stems from my longstanding
> interest in conservation biology in general, coupled with my field
> experiences in Samoa in particular, and my desire to continue to produce
> artwork with a useful purpose 'in the world,'" Rothman told
> "The extinct dodo of Mauritius has always been a species of wonder for me,
> and the Manumea, being the dodo's closest living relative phylogenetically,
> has a similar attraction. Since the Manumea still exists and by can by
> definition, be the subject of a coordinated conservation effort, my
> participation through the creation of related artwork seemed natural to
> me."
> Without the hard work of conservation champions like Stirnemann, Rothman,
> Uili, and many others working locally with the bird, the Manumea,
> tooth-billed pigeon, or little dodo would likely vanish into cold
> extinction without a whimper. With their dedication, however, it's possible
> to imagine that this strange bird can persist long enough to craft a
> well-informed conservation plan and gather several more champions. In this
> scenario, the outlook will be sunny for one of the world's weirdest and
> rarest animals.
> [image: Illustration of the little dodo from the 19th Century likely based
> on stuffed specimens. By: John Gould.]
> *Illustration of the little dodo from the 19th Century likely based on
> stuffed specimens. By: John Gould.*
> [image: Black and white illustration of the little dodo or Manumea. By:
> Gustav Mützel/1882.]
> *Black and white illustration of the little dodo or Manumea. By: Gustav
> Mützel/1882.*
>  *Related articles*
> *Extinction warning: racing to save the little dodo from its cousin's fate
> <>*
>  (03/04/2013) Sometime in the late 1600s the world's last dodo perished on
> the island of Mauritius. No one knows how it spent its final moments--rather
> in the grip of some invasive predator or simply fading away from
> loneliness--but with its passing came an icon of extinction, that final
> breath passed by the last of its kind. The dodo, a giant flightless pigeon,
> was a marvel of the animal world: now another island ground pigeon, known
> as the little dodo, is facing its namesake's fate. Found only in Samoa,
> composed of ten islands, the bird has many names: the tooth-billed pigeon,
> the Manumea (local name), and Didunculus ("little dodo") strigirostris,
> which lead one scientist to Christen it the Dodlet. But according to recent
> surveys without rapid action the Dodlet may soon be as extinct as the dodo.
> *How hunters have become key to saving Bulgaria's capercaillie
> <>*
>  (02/04/2014) Surprising clatter cuts through the silence in the snowy
> forest shortly before sunrise. The powerful clicking sounds like a dropping
> Ping-Pong ball before culminating in a loud pop resembling the opening of a
> champagne bottle. This sound is heard clearly and far. Propped on a thick
> pine tree branch, with a peacock-fanned tale, relaxed wings and head
> pointing skyward, a western capercaillie is singing. The song terminates
> with a low-frequency sound similar to scraping a fork to the bottom of a
> frying pan. It's exactly during those last few moments of singing that
> something unusual happens: the male bird goes temporarily deaf. Hence the
> species' common name in Bulgarian--deaf bird.
> *Over 75 percent of large predators declining
> <>*
>  (01/09/2014) The world's top carnivores are in big trouble: this is the
> take-away message from a new review paper published today in Science.
> Looking at 31 large-bodied carnivore species (i.e those over 15 kilograms
> or 33 pounds), the researchers found that 77 percent are in decline and
> more than half have seen their historical ranges decline by over 50
> percent. In fact, the major study comes just days after new research found
> that the genetically-unique West African lion is down to just 250 breeding
> adults.
> *Reversing local extinction: scientists bring the northern bald ibis back
> to Europe after 300 years
> <>*
>  (12/02/2013) The northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), also called the
> hermit ibis or waldrapp, is a migratory bird. Once, the bald ibis lived in
> the Middle East, northern Africa and southern and central Europe, but due
> to hunting, loss of habitat and pesticide-use, the birds disappeared from
> most of these areas and is currently considered Critically Endangered. It
> became extinct in Europe 300 years ago; the bird is almost gone in Syria,
> with only a single individual recorded at the country's lone breeding site
> in 2013; and the only stronghold left is a small population of around 500
> birds in Morocco. But now, a team of scientists from Austria is working to
> reestablish a self-sustaining, migratory population of bald ibis in Europe.
> *Scientists discover new cat species roaming Brazil
> <>*
>  (11/27/2013) As a family, cats are some of the most well-studied animals
> on Earth, but that doesn't mean these adept carnivores don't continue to
> surprise us. Scientists have announced today the stunning discovery of a
> new species of cat, long-confused with another. Looking at the molecular
> data of small cats in Brazil, researchers found that the tigrina--also known
> as the oncilla in Central America--is actually two separate species. The new
> species has been dubbed Leopardus guttulus and is found in the Atlantic
> Forest of southern Brazil, while the other Leopardus tigrinus is found in
> the cerrado and Caatinga ecosystems in northeastern Brazil.
> *Leatherback sea turtle no longer Critically Endangered
> <>*
>  (11/26/2013) The leatherback sea turtle--the world's largest turtle and
> the only member of the genus *Dermochelys*--received good news today. In
> an update of the IUCN Red List, the leatherback sea turtle (*Dermochelys
> coriacea*) has been moved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable.
> However, conservationists warn that the species still remains hugely
> endangered--and in rapid decline--in many parts of its range.
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