Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The Moken are a semi-nomadic Austronesian people, who live in the Mergui Archipelago, a group of approximately 800 islands in the Andaman Sea that is claimed both by Burma and Thailand.
Thought to have migrated to Thailand, Burma and Malaysia from Southern China approximately 4,000 years ago, the Moken have traditionally lived on hand-built wooden boats called kabang for most of the year, migrating in flotillas between islands according to factors such as subsistence needs, wind patterns, security concerns and disease. They have historically shunned material possessions and rejected outside technology.
From May to October, when the south-western monsoon brings heavy rain and big seas, they have traditionally lived – as the semi-nomadic families still do – in temporary stilt houses on the eastern side of the islands, where they find protection from blustery winds.
Today, their maritime existence that recognizes no national boundaries is endangered. A peaceable people, they have frequently been persecuted by the Burmese and Thai governments, both of whom are wary of their border-less lives, and have tried to settle the Moken permanently in national parks.
Their semi-nomadic numbers have diminished in recent years due to political and post-tsunami regulations, companies drilling for oil off-shore, governments seizing their lands for tourism development and industrial fishing. ‘Today, the big boats come and take every fish. I wonder what they will do when the ocean is empty?’ Hook Suriyan Katale told film-maker Runar J. Wiik, who has created the website Moken Projects to raise awareness of their situation. Many Moken now live permanently in bamboo hut ‘villages’, selling handicrafts as souvenirs and working as boatmen, gardeners and garbage collectors for the tourist industry.
A few Moken families, however, still sail across the turquoise waters of the Mergui Archipelago in their kabang for seven or eight months of the year. ‘For the Moken, the ocean is our entire universe,’ says Hook Suriyan Katale.
The Moken are skilled navigators and divers. Pe Tat wears home-made goggles made from wood and plastic fashioned from water containers. The lenses are constructed from the glass of broken bottles and glued to the goggles with tree-sap.
The Moken eat fish, dugong, sea-cucumber and crustaceans, which they catch with harpoons, spears and hand-lines. Hook Suriyan Natale says that such sustainable methods ensure that ‘there will always be fish left in the sea.’
They also use nets to catch shell-fish from the rock pools and forest shallows. Before certain species are harvested, the Moken make spiritual offerings as a mark of respect, using the spirit pole or ‘lobong’, which bears the faces of protective spirits.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Saiga (Saiga tatarica) populations have collapsed: dropping around 95 percent in just 15 years. The species, a relic of the Pleistocene, is currently listed as Critically Endangered.
And now, a booming cashmere trade is eating up habitat for saiga, as well as other animals, like snow leopards and wild yaks.
Read more: MongaBay.com
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Same-Sex Buddhist Nuptials: Their union may not be legal, but Yu Ya-ting and Huang Mei-yu are Taiwan’s first lesbian couple to be married in a Buddhist ceremony.
Huang said the couple hoped that a wedding blessed by a Buddhist master would encourage more Taiwanese, 80 percent of whom are Buddhist, to support same-sex marriage.
“I remember when I told my parents that we would get married, their first question was, ‘Is this legal?’” Huang said. “I could only say to them that it would soon, but I didn’t know when would be considered soon. So we hope it will become legal.”
by Amy Maxmen
No animal has gone completely without sex for as long as bdelloid rotifers, who have been celibate for millions of years. The always female, translucent, and half-a-millimeter long creatures perplex evolutionary biologists, who believe that combining the DNA of two parents is necessary to create the genetic diversity that animal populations need to adapt to a changing environment. (Bacteria manage to diversify without sex because genes can easily jump from one bacterium to another.)
Yet with more than 460 species, bdelloid rotifers have managed to survive and diversify over evolutionary time too. So how do they do it? They may do it by “stealing" genes from other organisms.
Reporting online today in Nature, researchers have found that the genome of the bdelloid rotifer Adineta vaga (electron microscope image, above) contains an unusual amount of DNA from other organisms that appears to have “jumped" in through a process called horizontal gene transfer that occurs often in asexual bacteria, but very rarely in animals.
About 8% of Adineta’s genes derive from bacteria and other nonanimal kingdoms of life. The authors suggest that fraction helps keep their populations genetically diverse and adaptable—no whoopee required.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
the bajau laut are some of the world’s last true sea normads, living as they have for centuries almost entirely in the waters of the coral triangle ("the amazon of the seas") on long boats known as lepa lepa.
hunters of fish, pearls and sea cucumbers, the bajau people free dive to depths of 20 meters, hold their breath for up to three minutes, and spend up to 60% of their time in the water submerged - the equivalent of a sea otter. it is a common practice amongst bajau people to intentionally burst their ear drums at an early age to deal with the problem of equalizing.
as photographer james morgan explains, “traditional bajau cosmology - a syncretism of animism and islam - reveals a complex relationship with the ocean, which for them is a multifarious and living entity. there are spirits in currents and tides, in coral reefs and mangroves." the bajau people, for example, will not spit in the ocean.
in the last few decades, dwindling fish stocks and government efforts have forced many to settle permanently on land and abandon a life of self sufficiency known as cari laut, or ‘searching the ocean’. a dwindling few, however, still choose to live the majority of their lives at sea