‘World’s loneliest bird’ Nigel dies in New Zealand

This undated handout picture provided by the Friends of Mana Island and released on February 7, 2018 by the Department of Conservation — New Zealand shows fake concrete gannets on the Mana Island off the Wellington coast. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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‘World’s loneliest bird’ Nigel dies in New Zealand

WELLINGTON: New Zealand wildlife lovers are mourning the death of a gannet named Nigel, dubbed “the loneliest bird in the world” due to the absence of any feathered friends on his island home.
Instead the seabird, also known as “no-mates Nigel,” spent years living among a colony of fake concrete birds set up by conservationists in a bid to attract wildlife.
The antisocial avian fell in love with one of the decoys on Mana Island, off the Wellington coast, and was seen preening, nestling and even trying to mate with it.
“Nigel chose to live on Mana, and we know he was happy there because he could have left any time and didn’t,” Department of Conservation ranger Chris Bell said Wednesday.
“It was odd behavior for a gannet, but every group has their individuals.”
Bell found Nigel’s body lying next to his stony sweetheart late last month and believes he died of old age, although an autopsy is yet to confirm the theory.
Sadly, Nigel may have died just as the fake colony was having its desired effect, with Bell reporting that three gannets began visiting Mana in late December.
Bell said Australasian gannets like Nigel, while not endangered, needed nesting sites that were not vulnerable to introduced pests such as rats and stoats.
“Gannets are extremely social birds and they make their decisions on where to live based on that,” he said.
“The decoys are our way of telling passing-by gannets that this place is safe, it’s predator free and it would be a good place for them to live.”
He said the three gannet newcomers were now regular visitors to the island and may yet set up a colony that could act as Nigel’s legacy.
“We are conscious that without Nigel the other three might not choose to nest here but only time will tell. We’re optimistic,” he said.


Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad

Updated 15 November 2018
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Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad

DIWANIYA, Iraq: The toughest fight that Iraqi freestyle wrestler Alia Hussein ever faced was convincing her family that women should be allowed to grapple.
The 26-year-old student was a keen cyclist and basketball player but when she told her family last year that she wanted to try her hand at the physical world of wrestling she was met with abuse.
"I was humiliated and even beaten by my family, but I defied them all," Hussein told Reuters.
"I feel that I can express myself through this sport. I wanted to prove to society that wrestling is not confined to men only and that Iraqi women can be wrestlers and can win and fight."
On the blue mats of the Al-Rafideen Club in the conservative city of Diwaniya, some 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, Hussein trains three times a week with 30 other female wrestlers, some still wearing headscarves. When a big competition comes up, they train every day.
In September, Hussein won a silver medal in the 75 kg (165 lb) freestyle category at a regional event in Lebanon and gold at a local tournament in Baghdad.
"I faced opposition from my family at the beginning, but after my participation in Baghdad and Beirut tournaments they started to encourage me, thank God," Hussein said.
This is the second attempt by the Iraqi Wrestling Federation (IWF) to grow women's wrestling, this time prompted by the threat of a ban by the sport's global body if they didn't.
The first ended when the club in Diwaniya was disbanded in 2012 after complaints from the local community that the sport was in defiance of local traditions and culture.
The IWF has managed to recruit 70 female wrestlers who train at 15 clubs across the country, a spokesman for the body said. Each is entitled to a payment of 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($84) a month, but the money has stopped for the last three months as the IWF invests in a new wrestling hall in Baghdad.
Despite the financial offer, recruitment is tough.
Nihaya Dhaher Hussein, a 50-year-old school teacher, is the driving force behind the burgeoning team in Diwaniya which started in 2016.
She drives the squad to practice, trains them and undertakes the dangerous task of convincing families to let their daughters, sisters or wives wrestle.
"A woman wrestling is alien to our conservative tribal society," she said. "The idea is hard to accept. It was so difficult to attract girls and convince their families.
"I was threatened myself by a brother of a player who verbally abused me and tried to hit me. It is so difficult to bring them to training and return them to their houses."