Wednesday

These heroic Samoan fire crew after fighting the fires in California take the time to sing their traditional song and is a sight to see.

About a dozen American Samoa crew members performed their ritual beside a Cal Fire helicopter in the mountains near Fort Bragg.

Drew Rhoads posted the video to Facebook Sunday night and most comments praise the men for their hardwork battling the wildfires.

Samoans were renown through the Pacific for their seafaring culture and thus was named the Navigator Islands by the first European visitors upon witnessing first hand the Samoan people's seafaring skills.

The Samoan people and culture form a vital link and stepping stone in the formation and spread of the Polynesian culture, language and religion throughout Eastern Polynesia.

A Polynesian culture of trade, religion, war, colonialism are important identifying markers within the Polynesian culture that almost certainly formed its roots within the Samoan culture.


Samoa's colonial history with the kingdom of Tonga, Fiji and French Polynesia forming the impases for what is the modern Polynesian cultural marker points.

Footage of an endangered white rhino trained to perform in a circus has prompted an outpouring of anger and calls to boycott shows featuring live animals.

Social-media users were furious at the videos taken in Russia showing a rhino being forced to parade or carry a man on its back in a circus ring, while the trainer holds whips at the ready. Rhinos are rarely seen in circuses, although elephants have long been used – and are being phased out following years of protests about cruel training and the unnatural conditions they are kept in.

In a clip circulating online taken at the Russian State Circus, the rhino is made to sit and let the trainer clamber onto his back before setting off to tour the ring. A couple of times the animal also appears to turn away quickly from the trainer as he approaches with a whip.

In another clip, suspected of having been shot at the Safari Circus in Moscow, what is thought to be the same rhino is seen on a circular platform under a bright spotlight, hesitating several times before stepping off.

Experts in wild-animal welfare said using a white rhino - which can weigh up to 2,300kg - in public show was extremely risky for the trainer and spectators. “It could quickly cause injury to the trainer, and if there isn’t a substantial barrier, to the public,” said Chris Draper, of the Born Free wildlife charity. “However well trained it is, rhinos are naturally nervous and impulsive.”

The animal, probably hired out from one circus to another, would have been trained using cruel, painful methods behind the scenes to perform as instructed, he said.


“To see the animal in this circumstance when you’ve seen one in the wild is utterly incongruent,” he said. “Not only is it being exposed to substantial noise, but the use of the whip is wrong. They would say it doesn’t hurt, but if that’s the case why use it at all?”

Transporting the rhino around would also inflict stress and strain on him, Dr Draper added.

In a separate video, the rhino, Mafa, is filmed away from the ring, being fed by the trainer, Sergey Nesterov, who says: “I put a bed next to it, and I left it only when I had to eat, in order to spend more time with it. This way it got used to people.”


Mr Nesterov says it took a year to arrange the paperwork to transport Mafa from South Africa.

The Safari Circus’s website states that it uses exotic animals, and said that in 1996 Sergei Nesterov and Elena Fedotova decided to create a new attraction with exotic animals based on an older one created by Elena's parents.


Safari’s site features photos of the rhino, as well as shots of a kangaroo with a chain around its neck and boxing gloves on, apparently sparring with a human. There are also photos of five white tigers in the ring with the trainer. Facebook and Twitter users condemned the use of the rhino, saying the animal belonged in the wild and had not been domesticated like a cat or dog.

Monday

First, there is a long snout with two black nostrils as full stops. The mouth is open, as if in shock. Eyes that could be made of glass in a huge, wide head beneath cartoonish round ears.

He waits. The metal shutter is lifted. The eyes peer, anxious. And then a huge paw, nails so long they remind me of Freddy Krueger, takes a very first step on to grass. Kai, a 17-year-old Ussuri brown bear who has lived in a 6ft by 9ft cage since being snatched as a cub from his mother – who was shot by hunters – places a paw on something that isn’t cold, hard concrete. Yikes!

He snorts. He can’t believe it’s soft. He spies a toy, donated by the local fire service, one of many made from old hoses. Kai has never owned a toy. He picks it up and, thrilled, carries it inside his den.

The keepers at Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster don’t want to cheer, as that would be alarming. Instead, water leaks from eyes as phones are held aloft to record this momentous moment.Kai is one of four bears who existed as ‘living’ exhibits in the Ainu Culture Museum on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s islands. The cubs were once sacrificed, but when that practice ended they were simply locked up. These brown bears are rare: there are only about 10,000 left in Japan.

Eighteen months ago, Western tourists, shocked at the barren conditions, brought the four bears to the attention of Wild Welfare, a UK charity that helps captive wild animals. The two brothers, Kai and Riku, would eat, then vomit, as that gave them something to do; all four bears would pace, driven mad with boredom.

‘The museum wanted the bears rehomed,’ Georgina Groves of Wild Welfare tells me. ‘They didn’t have the facilities. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anywhere in Japan that would take them.’


She got in touch with Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP), which has an incredible reputation for rehabilitating wild animals. They said yes, of course. Kai and his fellow inmates were flown 5,400 miles from Japan to the UK, where they arrived on August 3. DHL provided air-conditioned road transport – at a discount price – while the bears were flown in the hold by Japanese Airlines. The journey alone cost £150,000.


A team of five vets – two from Japan – helped with the move, which began in 36C heat. Only Hanako, the 27-year-old female, the most inquisitive of the four, went willingly into a crate. Amu, 27, a gentle giant, and brothers Kai and Riku had to be tranquillised. The bears were flown first to Tokyo for the connecting flight to Heathrow.

Alan Tevendale, one of the vets, says: ‘We offered them water when we landed and fans were placed around the cages. Conditions were not ideal. We were anxious.’


When the bears arrived in Yorkshire, tired and confused, they were given time to emerge from the crates, and venture into their huge, enriched dens: deep straw beds, water, and fruit, vegetables, yogurt and eggs. They were also offered strawberries and, you guessed it, honey. As greedy as Pooh, the new diet ‘never touched the sides’ says Debbie Porter, animal manager at YWP, one of a team of five devoted to their care.


It’s all a far cry from their diet in Japan, where they lived on scraps. ‘We have many, many tins of pilchards,’ adds Debbie.

Hanako and Amu are hidden away in two dens out of bounds to anyone other than their carers: they will take a few weeks to recover from their journey, not to mention their 27-year confinement in a cage where they were only able to take four steps. But today is the first time the two brothers (‘They do look very alike,’ says Debbie) have been offered the freedom of the four-acre, £400,000 compound, enriched, thanks to volunteers, with climbing frames, a hammock, a giant tyre and a wobble pole.


Kai’s door is opened first, and he takes that all-important first step. After a sojourn back indoors with his fireman’s toy, he ventures out again, this time much bolder. Riku, the shyer of the two, refuses to leave his den, standing on his back paws unable to believe his beady eyes. But there is no stopping Kai! He’s cantering!

Within minutes, having ripped the bark off a tree stump as easily as if it were a plaster, he has discovered the lake. Whoosh!

Advocacy groups sued the Trump administration Wednesday over what they call the biased makeup of a wildlife advisory council.

The lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in New York alleges that the International Wildlife Conservation Council is made up of “hunting enthusiasts” and “politically-connected donors” who are likely to craft favorable policy for groups that profit from hunting “imperiled animals,” the complaint said.

“It’s very obvious [the 17-member council has] an intent to undermine some of the protections put in place” based on the affiliations of its members, Zak Smith, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Washington Post. Smith said the law requires advisory councils to be balanced so that all sides are represented.

The panel was announced in November 2017 by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its purpose is to increase American awareness of conservation, ensure the support of hunting as a tool to combat illegal poaching and recommend the “removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife,” the charter said. In its ranks are a National Rifle Association official, six members who are listed as active hunters and five members who are said to represent wildlife conservation groups.

Paul Babaz, the president of Safari Club International, is listed as a conservationist, and his organization has been criticized for endorsing the hunting of vulnerable animals. SCI, which told The Post in an email it is monitoring the lawsuit, endorsed Zinke in his House campaign in Montana in 2016 and donated $10,000, according to OpenSecrets.

The lawsuit is largely cautionary, Smith said, as the council has yet to publicly issue an advisory. But advocates are still worried about the potential sway that the “biased” council might have — as advisory recommendations are “looked at more closely and are likely to be readily adopted,” Smith said.


“If we have to sue to get our government to listen to wildlife conservation experts, we’re happy to do so,” Smith said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed by the Democracy Forward Foundation on behalf of the NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.

Advocacy groups in the complaint also alleged the council disobeyed long-standing rules by not publishing transcripts and detailed notes of its meetings in the proper amount of time. Groups in the complaint said they diverted organizational resources to procure “records that should [already be] public.”


The Interior Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, announced in March that it would break with an Obama-era ban on elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe, saying it would permit entry on an individual basis. The NRA and SCI heralded the decision, according to The Hill.

Thirty-three lion trophy permits were granted between 2016 and 2018, and half of the recipients donated to Republicans or have a connection to SCI, according to a Friends of Animals report.

Sunday

Shasta County is Trump country. The president won the county with 65% of the vote. In February, Shasta County voted to become a “non-sanctuary” zone for immigrants in the country illegally.

But for the fire crew of Mexican immigrants, politics never enters the mind. This isn’t about Trump or his supporters, or about border walls. It’s about the pride of protecting people’s homes. Rocha said residents have been grateful.

“When people appreciate what we do, it makes us feel good,” he said. “Even at stores, people thank us and they’re happy we’re here helping.”

The fire crew was trained and hired by R&R Contracting, a private company based in Salem, Oregon, and operated by one of Rocha’s relatives. The company is also just one of hundreds in Oregon that are contracted by state and federal governments to fight forest fires.

Experts say Oregon is in the forefront of states that have created certification programs for contract firefighters. A sizable number of them are Latino immigrants.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection could not immediately say what percentage of its firefighters were immigrants.


From an observational standpoint, Mike Mohler, deputy director of communications for Cal Fire, said the department is pretty diverse.

“This job is hard and a little dangerous,” he said. “But you have to do what you can for the family.”

Cisneros, who is from Michoacán, said the job is hard work because of the heavy gear and intense labor.

“It can get tiring,” he said, adding that while it is physically challenging, it is rewarding.

“I feel important when someone says thank you for the work we do,” he said. “When we’re walking around people say thank you to us for being here and fighting a fire.”
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