Archive for April, 2013

Thai Days: Quick travel advisory on taxis running out of gas.

April 30, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has constantly ridden Bangkok taxis – very cheap, one heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a car in the city if you are a visitor and if things go a bit skew whiff, you get lost (the driver gets lost) then that’s not really an issue. It takes longer than expected or the driver weaves through strange alleys like an escape artist for The Italian Job and you are an hour ahead of that crucial meeting. I really like Bangkok taxi drivers.

Just sometimes they go wrong.

Hence this quick travel advisory. If you are in a hurry to get to the airport and everything is somewhat carelessly not strapped to your testicles and you look affluent and flustered and are covered in gold bangles, then the driver might suddenly run out of gas and in the interests of speed, beg you to get out and push the vehicle to the curb.

Like every great scam this one relies on:

1. The victims being in a state of agitation, being late, being worried about missing their flight, getting stuck in the midst of hurtling scooters, large trucks with blare blare horns, fear, confusion about protocol in a new country, disorientation, kids suddenly appearing at the taxi windows looking on their deathbeds and selling jasmine garlands for good luck.

2. Trust. The victims trust the taxi driver. He has a certificate dangling beside his rear view mirror. He is, in this confusion, an authority figure. Like a Bangkok traffic cop. Nuff said on that one.

3. Hope and sympathy. The taxi driver explains he is out of gas (again) and asks his passengers to help push the taxi out of harm’s way.

4. Compliance mixed with desperation, hope and still a degree of sympathy for the taxi driver’s dreadful plight. Out the door spill the victims of the scam. And they push. They really push. Hoping everything will work out. After a bit of pushing, the taxi re-finds its gas pedal and clears off with all the belongings and is never seen again.

5. Hugh Paxton’s Blog Advisory: If your taxi runs out of gas en route to an airport, smack the driver repeatedly in the face while the vehicle is stationary, shout loudly, scream, lower windows and scream even more loudly. Or, play it cool and suggest that you handle the steering wheel and he does the pushing.

This is a new scam, quite ingenious, and honest policemen (even dishonest policemen) are going to squash it fairly swiftly. Could take a few months, though. Taking a taxi to the Intl airport do it through your hotel or backpackers lodge . If you are staying with honest people they’ll know honest taxi drivers.

I’ve only had one fight with a taxi driver. Outside Robinsons department store on Sukhumvit. The little bastard was in league with the doorman, switched his meter off as soon as we climbed in and demanded with menaces 200 baht. In retrospect, not a significant sum – three times the legal norm if his meter was running. None the less a pitiful scam. I hammered his windows, yelled expletives, told him I was going to smash his head in and he auto-locked the doors.

This was not his intention. He wanted this raging foreigner out of his cab but he couldn’t unlock the doors. I gave him more hell. The idiot wannabe gangster had put his seatbelt on and it’s really difficult to punch somebody in the backseat if your seatbelt has jammed.

More shouting, fierce trapped rat, not a player.

I think it was my wife who opened the doors. It was me who won the “F****k you!” contest.

Then we caught another taxi. The Robinsons doorman had vanished. No loyalty amongst thieves.

Cheers from Bangkok! Trust me most taxis are safe!

Thai Days: Specialty License Plate Programs – a way to help save tigers? we hope so

April 29, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is hoping to expand this specialty license plate scheme pioneered so successfully in Florida to Asia and beyond to raise funds for conservation and make your car’s license plate a little bit more colourful and a driver in the fight against extinction. There’s quite a mouthful of stats attached, seriously motivated research and the whole scheme is falling into place rapidly.

I feel optimistic.

Have a look and think…speciality number plates.

Best from Bangkok

Hugh
Final Report – Specialty License Plates.docx
2009 Wildlife Foundation of Florida Financial Records.pdf
2011 Wildlife Foundation of Florida Financial Records.pdf
2012 Florida Statutes.pdf
Coastal Angler Magazine Article.pdf

Nova Scotia Article.pdf
Turtle Tag Brochure.pdf
Vermont Application.pdf

Japan times: the answer is blowing in the wind?

April 28, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s blog never got around to visiting Yakushima. The island is a Japan eco-tourism must but has been over-visited by tourists who chuck rubbish here and there and who trample around ignoring all those boring notices that say things like “don’t chuck your rubbish here and there” and “don’t trample around.”

Tourism may be the least of Yakushima’s problems.

“A mysterious pestilence has befallen the primeval forests of Japan’s Yakushima island, leaving behind the bleached, skeletal remains of dead trees that now dot the dark green mountainsides.”

Says Martin Fackler, The New York Times.

He goes on.

“Osamu Nagafuchi, an environmental engineer with a passion for the island and its rugged terrain, believes he knows the culprit – airborne pollutants from smog-belching China, hundreds of kilometres away.”

Nagafuchi has been worried about this for years but has been ignored, and in some cases ridiculed as a crackpot. Silent Spring syndrome, I call it.

Let’s get back to the New York Times article.

“Japan has been taking his warnings more seriously, as the nation has been gripped by a national health scare over potentially dangerous airborne particles that have swept into other parts of Japan and that many now believe were produced by China, it’s huge and rapidly industrialising neighbour. ”

Pot calling kettle black?  Yes. During Japan’s industrial burst, Japan didn’t give a hoot for the consequences. Minamata being one case in point. The people died or were perpetually deformed by mercury contaminated effluent from the Chisso factory. Anybody who complained was branded a communist. Some of the victims of ‘dancing cat’ disease were actually stoned by the good citizens of Minamata.

That’s historic. Shameful. And there is a book called Bitter Sea that rather incoherently explains what happened in the Minamata case.

But it is the past. What is happening now is now happening.

“Japanese officials still dispute whether air-borne pollutants are responsible for killing the pine trees. But they and other scientists have at last begun to view Yakushima, which is far from Japan’s own industrial centres, as a pristine laboratory for understanding how China’s growing environmental problems could be affecting its neighbours.”

That’s from the NYT again.

“We are starting to feel like the canary in a coal mine. Our island is right downwind from China, so we get the brunt of it.”

Koji Araki, mayor of Yakushima Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonie’s View: Another disreputable Irish joke – Paddy goes to the florist …

April 26, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has received yet another post from Leonie in Namibia. It is as scurrilous (and amusing) as usual.

It’s also short enough to remember. A useful thing if you are a joke.

START:

Paddy goes into a Dublin Florist shop and says,

“I would like to buy a bunch of flowers for my girlfriend”.


The florist looked at him and said, “Certainly Sir, what is it you’re after?”A shag”, Paddy replies.

Field reports indicate slaughter of elephants, conservation staff evacuated

April 26, 2013

Photos: Forest elephants at Dzanga Sangha in Central African Republic. Credit: Cristin Samper/WCS

Media Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Field reports indicate slaughter of elephants, conservation staff evacuated

April 25, 2013 — WWF and WCS have received alarming reports from their field operations that elephants are being slaughtered in the violence-ridden Central African Republic (CAR), where new powers in place struggle to gain control over the situation. The conservation organizations are issuing today a joint call for immediate action.

Due to the violence and chaos in the area, the exact number of elephants slaughtered is not known, however initial reports indicate it may be extensive. WWF has confirmed information that forest elephants are being poached near the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas, a World Heritage Site. Elephant meat is reportedly being openly sold in local markets and available in nearby villages. The security situation is preventing park staff from searching the dense forest for elephant carcasses.

The two organizations, WWF and WCS that have worked in CAR since the 1980s, are calling on the Central African Republic and its neighbors to immediately increase security in the region to protect the area’s people and elephants. Governments are meeting next week at an extraordinary meeting to discuss ways to stop the poaching that has plagued the region. Up to 30,000 elephants are killed in Africa each year for their ivory tusks, which are in demand in Asia.

The following statements have been issued by WWF and WCS:

Jim Leape, WWF Director General said:

The elephant poaching crisis driven by insatiable ivory demand is so severe that no area is safe, not even the World Heritage Site Dzanga-Sangha where both WWF and WCS have now worked for the conservation of elephants for decades. Heroic rangers are standing firm in the face of immense danger, but they alone cannot safeguard the special species and places the world treasures. When meeting next week, Central African governments must urgently join forces against this criminal activity that is also threatening the stability and economic development of their countries. I encourage them in the strongest terms to take a stand against wildlife crime and together declare that poaching and illicit trafficking will not be tolerated.

Cristian Samper, WCS President and CEO said:

Together, WCS and WWF, are calling on the Central African Republic government to immediately increase security in the region to protect these elephants from poachers and is asking other regional governments to provide assistance to stop the killing. Our staffs have been forced to evacuate in the chaos. I recently visited CAR and saw first-hand that without a full-time conservation presence in the region, these elephants are in jeopardy from poachers. WCS and our partners will continue to work tirelessly to protect elephants across their range.

WWF has worked in Dzanga-Sangha for 30 years and supports protected area management, gorilla research, law enforcement and tourism development. WCS has been in the area for more than 20 years, in charge of monitoring and research of the elephants of Dzanga Bai, a forest clearing containing a mineral-rich watering hole. In addition, WCS works immediately across the border in the Republic of Congo to protect the same population of elephants there where the government is working to ensure their additional security on that side of the border.

###

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org.

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. To learn more about WWFs wildlife trade campaign visit panda.org/wildlifecrime and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.

Photographs are available here: https://photos.panda.org/gpn/external?albumId=4238

For further information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

WCS: Mary Dixon; mdixon 1-347-840-1242; Stephen Sautner: ssautner; 1-908-247-2585

WWF: Alona Rivord, arivord, +41 79 959 1963

Stephen Sautner

Director of Communications

Wildlife Conservation Society

Bronx Zoo

Bronx, NY 10460

p: 718-220-3682

ssautner

Skype: scsautner

www.wcs.org

Twitter: @TheWCS

This message has been scanned for malware by Websense. www.websense.com

Thai Days: dream finds ancient skeleton

April 25, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s blog finds this skeleton story of interest. Fascinating, in fact.

The grandson of a Thai rubber planter had a dream that there was great wealth in the family’s rubber tree plot. The youngster went out to dig it up and found it.

The skeleton was buried with pieces of jewelry and has been dated (very roughly) by the Thai Fine Arts Department archaeologist, Pimnara Kijchoteprasert,  as 2,000 years old.

Pottery found in the vicinity of the skeleton indicate time of burial. Archaeologists are thrilled. More skeletons are expected and more remains to be found.

Promin Marakhob had a dream that came true. Doesn’t often happen, but in this case, yes.

Dream on, Promin. What elses lurks beneath your rubber trees? More bones and gold beneath the roots?

Petition Time Again: Cameroon: Act Now to Save Cross River Gorillas

April 25, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog presents you with yet another opportunity to sign a petition. Some people don’t sign this sort of petition for fear that they’ll be bothered by spam and lots of viruses and their computers will be dominated by alien forces. Or explode.

This petition site is clean and fear free. I’ve signed lots and nothing untoward has happened. I remain unconvinced that petitions are a cure-all, particularly in countries that have very little rule of law. But at the same time, petitions have made a difference in the past and some will make a difference now and in the future. Will this petition make a difference? Sign it and see, say I.

Best from Bangkok

Hugh

From: Emily V., Care2 Action Alerts [mailto:actionalerts@care2.com]
Sent: 25 April 2013 01:13 PM
To: Hugh Paxton
Subject: Cameroon: Act Now to Save Cross River Gorillas

Care2 subscriber since Dec 15, 2012 Unsubscribe | Share on Facebook | Take Action
care2 petitionsite actionAlert

action alert!

A cross river gorilla was brutally killed just outside a proposed wildlife sanctuary. Cameroon needs to act now to prevent another tragedy.

Please sign the petition today! Protect Cross River Gorillas

take action

please share

it helps!

share on facebook share on twitter share via email

Dear Hugh,

A cross river gorilla — one of the most endangered subspecies on earth — was found dead just outside the border of a proposed wildlife sanctuary in Cameroon. According to reports, the poor animal was beaten with stones and clubbed before he was shot 45 times.

Demand Cameroon speed up designating the wildlife sanctuary to prevent another tragedy!

The killing of this gorilla isn’t a random act. It was sanctioned by the Chief of the Gendarmerie Brigade, ostensibly in the name of "self-defense." But that raises the question: how much danger were people in if they could torture the animal before it died? It’s time for the government to act.

Tell Cameroon to designate safe areas now and work with conservation groups on sensitization with nearby communities.

care2 Thank you for taking action,

Emily V.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

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Yikes another Leonie View: Afghanistan diplomat

April 25, 2013

Yikes. Hugh Paxton’s Blog has received yet another Leonie’s View. The Afghans won’t be impressed. But it is, as usual, politically incorrect, and very funny. I am waiting for Leonie and my Blog to receive a fatwah.

Hugh in Bangkok

Afghanistan Diplomat

An Afghanistan diplomat visiting the US for the first time was being wined and dined by the State Department.

The diplomat was not used to the salt in American foods (French fries, cheeses, salami, anchovies, etc.)
and was constantly sending his manservant Abdul to fetch him a glass of water.

Time and again, Abdul would scamper off and return with a glass of water, but then came the time when he returned empty handed.

"Abdul, you son of an ugly camel, where is my water?" demanded the diplomat.

"A thousand pardons, O Illustrious One," stammered the wretched Abdul.

"But a man is sitting on the well!"

Thai Days: Rocket Scientists Stop firing rockets or it’s a death penalty. And lower those lanterns.

April 25, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog advises any would be rocket scientists to desist from experimental launches within the vicinity of Thailand’s airports.

Amateur rockets constructed from readily available materials have done really well in the altitude department.

In Udon Thani, recently, one rocket shot up to 3,600 meters. Another in Ubon Ratchathani hit 2,700 meters.

Cool it guys.

You are flying too high, and your festival enthusiasm and creativity are threatening civil aviation.

I’ve seen bamboo rockets in action. In Sabah. I was dawdling in an ad hoc river side bar and the owner suddenly said “Dive”.

I didn’t do anything. Dive? There are copper coloured crocs in the Kinabatangan river. I’m not diving anywhere near, thought I.

The rockets missed me but hit the bar. It was impressive. All they were using was bamboo and…

BLOG ED NOTE: Let’s not give anybody any ideas?

HUGH: Fair enough. I’ll skip the recipe. But those rockets whizzed and blew up and if I’d had a similar rocket launcher I’d have fired one back over the water at the launchers. Human nature at its most childish.

Anyway, the Thai government wants people to stop launching rockets made from..

BLOG ED NOTE: Hugh, you are telling people not to make rockets. Cut the recipe. Really. Please?

HUGH: Here are the rules. If you fire a rocket you can’t fire it higher than one thousand five hundred meters.

BLOG ED: Hard to measure.

HUGH: Yes. Unless it accidentally hits an AIR ASIA flight at 3,700 meters. evidence would then suggest the rocket had flown higher than allowed.

BLOG ED: Makes sense. Any other restrictions? Advice?

HUGH: Any makeshift rocket is banned from being launched in a radius of 8 kilometers of an airport. Festival lanterns with flickering candles in them must stay six km clear of an airport and can’t be released anywhere before 9 pm.

BLOG ED: You mentioned the death penalty?

HUGH: Fraid so. Transport permanent secretary, Pol Gen Wichean Potephoseree said yesterday  “those found guilty of interfering with aviation or damaging aircraft could face the death penalty or be sentenced to life imprisonment.”

BLOG ED QUERY? Do you think this is a serious issue?

HUGH: Not really. Everybody will keep building rockets and the candle lanterns will float up and Thailand will stay the same. It’s why I like it here. But I do think  rockets and airports are a bad combination. Even if it is just for fun. Over and out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Days: More White Elephant News

April 25, 2013

Just a quick post from Hugh Paxton’s Blog to keep you up to date on the white elephant story.

One. The calf, believed to be male, has yet to be found and as a result nobody can be sure that it is white (see previous blog post for qualifications needed to be white if you are an elephant – pink toenails, genitals etc.) The only evidence to date is sourced from photographer, Apichart Puangnoi, who caught it on film while covering the deaths of two elephants in the protected area. One pregnant female beheaded.

Two. More park rangers have been deployed in Kaeng Krachan National Park to find the elephant and thwart poachers.

Three. Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNPWPC) chief, Manophat Huamuangkaew, has announced that Deputy Prime Minister, Plodprasop Suraswadi, is” concerned” about elephant poaching in the Kaeng Krachan NP.

Four. The Royal family is involved. “Acting on the Queen’s advice, the department ( that’s the DNPWPC in case you were wondering which department it was) is now providing food for elephants and increasing the number of forestry patrol guards dealing with elephant poaching.”

Five: This quote, unattributed, by the Bangkok Post newspaper – “Investors are thought to have offered 6 million Baht to any poachers who can capture the white calf”.

BLOG ED NOTE: I mentioned the bounty in my first blog and got that wrong. The sum remains the same. I’d assumed the reward was issued by royalists and people concerned with the elephant’s well being. Not scumbags. I really got that wrong.

Six. Kaeng Krachan is now a hub of activity. Park chief, Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn, wishes to confirm the elephant as white but lacks physical evidence. Nobody can find it. “It would be good news for the nation if it is a white elephant,” he said.

That’s it for now. But if you are really interested in white elephants I posted a blog last year – the Burmese government announced they had found a white elephant and that it would bring a new era of prosperity to the country.

 


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