Voices from Russia

Monday, 1 April 2013

Cat Threat: New Zealand to Give Puss the Boot

00 kitty cat in gaol. cartoon. 01.04.13


In an attempt to turn New Zealand into a sanctuary for flightless kiwi birds and other endangered local wildlife, the island nation’s parliament is considering a measure to expel all cats from the country, bringing a disdainful hiss from all feline lovers. The issue has divided New Zealanders for years, with wildlife activists claiming that the domesticated balls of fluff are still “natural-born killers”, genetically-coded to dispatch a kiwi with a single paw swipe. Only some 5 percent of kiwi chicks manage to survive to adulthood, whilst struggling against an onslaught of invasive purry predators. Prof Phil Kummer {this may be an insider’s joke, профиль кума in Russian is “the godfather’s profile”… a “godfather” being the chekist in charge of internal security at a GULag camp: editor}, leading expert at the Organisation for Helping Ground Animals with Defence (OHGAWD), said, “If we’re serious about kiwi conservation, we must give up our cat addiction. Cute and fluffy as they come, our felines are birds’ natural enemies. We must stop kiwi killings by cats once and for all, to secure a future for New Zealand’s national symbol”. One proposal is to load all cats onto a barge, then, to ship them off to a more suitable place, one ready to give this mewing cargo a new home. This Noah’s puss ark could drop anchor in Australia, amongst other destinations, where they could set up a shelter to let the exiled tabbies frolic around and bask in the sunlight without wreaking havoc on defenceless kiwis.

1 April 2013

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’? Look at the date… my, my, my… Barnum WAS right, wasn’t he? Give a round (of applause and drinks, both) to the VOR gang… this was top-shelf tongue-in-cheek ironic comedy… from people whose native tongue isn’t English. This restores my faith in humanity… and in its enduring good-sense…



1 April is International Bird Day… and that’s NO April’s Fool!

00 A Little Bird Told Me


Click here and here for image galleries devoted to International Bird Day

1 April is International Bird Day, which marks the beginning of their return to northern parts from their wintering sites. On 19 March 1902, various countries agreed to the International Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture came into force, which more than a dozen states signed. It entered into force on 12 December 1905. On 18 October 1950, in Paris, diplomats signed the International Convention for the Protection of Birds, which replaced the previous document.

1 April is also associated with children’s events centred on birds, arranged in 1894 by a teacher from a small American town of Oil City PA, Charles Babcock. Soon Bird Day was widely-held as a national holiday throughout the USA. Bird Day found support in Russia, where the festival has a long tradition . On old Russian calendars, one finds such holidays as the Day of the Return of Migratory Birds, Day of Capturing Birds (St Gerasimos Day, 4/17 March, The Return of the Rooks), Day of the Swallows (St George Day (23 April/6 May), also known as St George Spring). On 22 March, Russians baked pastries in the shaped of larks, to mark the return of the birds, and with them, the return of spring. At Annunciation, people released birds from cages to go back into the wild.

For many years, Russians have attracted birds with artificial nests, birdhouses, and feeders. Famous traveller Peter Simon Pallas said that Russian peasants made cylindrical boxes made of bark to attract starlings. In the Ukraine and Belarus, traditionally, people fastened wagon wheels on poles to attract storks. In 1879, the official newspaper Правительственный вестник (Pravitelstvenny vestnik: Government Gazette) published a proposal to establish special niches in houses and on roofs under tiles in southern Russia to attract rosy starlings. One of the first books in the world devoted to the protection of birds, The Universal Protection of Birds, and the Implementation of its Principles by Baron Hans German Karl Lyudvig von Berlepsh was published in 1900 in St Petersburg. The Church took an active part in promoting the protection of birds by publishing environmentally-themed books.

During the Revolution and Civil War, people forgot Bird Day, but in 1924, naturalists at the Central Biological Station in Moscow, sought its revival, as one of the professors at the station, Nikolai Dergunov, was a keen bird enthusiast. In the same year, Smolensk Oblast activists also celebrated Bird Day. The next year was the first official Bird Day in the USSR; naturalists installed birdhouses in the Leninskie Gory (Lenin Hills) (now, Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills)) in Moscow. In 1927, Bird Day excitement infected all of Moscow. Over 5,000 children placed over 1,000 birdhouses. By 1928, Bird Day became popular throughout the country, and about 65,000 enthusiasts put up 15,000 birdhouses.

The magazines Юный натуралист (Yuny naturalist: Young Naturalist), Листки БЮН (Listki BYuN: Leaves BYuN) {a play on words in Russian, лист (list) can mean either “leaf” or “page”: editor}, Живая природа (Zhivaya priroda: Nature’s Wildlife), and others actively propagated the idea of Bird Day. Since the early 1930s, utilitarian ideas of nature gradually replaced noble environmental impulses. Sadly, the cheerful children’s party was forgotten. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Bird Day had a brief revival. In Moscow, Pyotr Smolin was an active promoter of it, being youth section chairman of the all-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature (VOOP). However, soon, the state turned the spontaneous, popular, and joyful celebrations of Bird Day into boring, mandatory measures. Thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic birders, the all-Russian public organisation Russian Bird Conservation Union (SOPR) (created in 1993), revived the holiday in 1994.

The theme of the holiday is the conservation of bird species diversity and the preservation and increase of their populations. This day marks the first return of migratory birds from their wintering sites. The rooks are the first to come, then, the wild geese, ducks, cranes, and gulls arrive. In April, the thrushes, robins, greenfinches, chaffinches, finches, and buntings return. Traditionally, at this time, in anticipation of the arrival of the birds, people hang birdhouses and build artificial nests. Birders warn that if birds go extinct, it’d cause an environmental catastrophe, with unpredictable effects upon human civilisation. They tell us that such obliteration of fauna would cause irreparable damage to biological diversity.

More and more countries are involved in the annual selection of the “Bird of the Year” . National social and professional organisations concerned with the protection of birds take part in this “election”. Typically, the choice of the award-winning bird is due to different reasons… a bird is popular in this-or-that country, with close-links to a national culture, or it’s a bird species under threat of extinction, to draw attention to its species preservation, or it’s a bird chosen to demonstrate the diversity of bird life. Clearly, the Bird of the Year reflects the success of national response measures to avian protection and successfully promotes the achievements of environmental organisations and the success of their programmes.

Besides this, the Russian Bird Conservation Union annually elects a “Bird of the Year”. The requirements are simple… the bird’s range should cover all or most of Russia, and it should be a recognisable species in need help and attention. Ornithologists and ecologists select the spotlighted Bird of the Year, and they conduct seminars, publish literature and brochures on this kind of bird, to promote conservation and care of them. Thus, in 1996, the “Bird of the Year” was the Corncrake, followed by:

In 2013, for the eighteenth time, the Union of the Russian Bird Conservation time selected a “Bird of the Year”. It selected the regal White-Tailed Eagle.

1 April 2013



Bears at the Moscow Zoo-Park Waking Up After Hibernation

00 Sleepy bear. cartoon. 01.04.13

There’s bears in the gutter and be careful not to utter a sound that might disturb them…


On Monday, a spokesman for the Moscow Zoo-Park told RIA-Novosti that the Brown and Himalayan Black Bears slowly began to wake up after hibernation, saying, “The bears in the zoo haven’t woken up completely. They’ve just started to stretch in their cage; they’re not fully-awake, yet. Right now, the bears are only drinking; we’re not feeding them at present”. She noted that not all of the Moscow Zoo-Park bears hibernate. For example, the Sloth Bear, Spectacled Bear, and the Polar Bear with her cubs didn’t sleep over the winter. According to her, five bears at the zoo hibernate in the winter… two Brown Bears and three Himalayan Black Bears.

1 April 2013




About 75 Vehicles Collided on Highway in Southern Virginia in the USA, Three Dead

00 auto accident. cartoon. 01.04.13


On Sunday, citing local police sources, the Associated Press reported that about 75 vehicles collided on a highway in the eastern USA, killing at least three people, and injuring more than 20. The accident occurred in south-western Virginia, near the North Carolina border, around 13.15 EDT (10.15 PDT. 18.15 UTC. 21.15 MSK. 04.15 1 April AEST). Police say that the accident snarled up traffic on the highway for over 13 kilometres (8 miles). Several cars caught fire, but firemen rapidly extinguished the flames. Presumably, the accident was due to severe weather conditions… there was thick fog in the area of the accident. RIA-Novosti reported that emergency crews are on the scene.

1 April 2013

Voice of Russia World Service


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