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 on: Jul 02, 2015, 06:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dinosaur in the log pile

Crook, County Durham: We watched the rhinoceros beetle take lumbering steps across our kitchen table like some prehistoric monster

Phil Gates
Thursday 2 July 2015 05.29 BST

David Elliston Allen, chronicler of naturalists in Britain, once described the natural history field club, a Victorian invention popular for its self improvement ethos and convivial excursions into the countryside, as a masterpiece of social mechanics.

Perhaps future generations might take a similar view of today’s expanding community of naturalists linked via the web, digital photography and social media, forming virtual field clubs.

It has never been easier for anyone with the slightest interest in wildlife to find help identifying discoveries then sharing them with others. Recently my wife found an unfamiliar black beetle on the log pile in our garden, so I uploaded a photograph to iSpot, the excellent Open University website where volunteer experts help other naturalists to put names to their discoveries.

Within a few days Darren Mann, a coleopterist at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, confirmed that we had found a rhinoceros beetle, Sinodendron cylindricum.

The beetle was a female, without the impressive head appendage that gives the species its common name. We started looking for a male and soon found one, although at the time we had no idea what it was because it had been crawling under the peeling bark of a tree and its head was shrouded in spiders’ webs it was struggling to remove.

I brought it home and removed the sticky threads with tweezers, revealing its spectacular curved “rhino” horn tipped with a brush of golden hairs and mounted on a head armoured like that of a Triceratops dinosaur.

We watched it take lumbering steps across our kitchen table like some prehistoric monster, albeit no larger than my thumbnail, then released it into the log pile in the garden to find the female.

We will enjoy sharing the discovery on Twitter and a blog, but that digital dialogue will never quite match the excitement I’ve felt when I’ve tugged on a fellow naturalist’s sleeve during real field excursions, opened a matchbox and revealed the beetles I’ve found.

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
‘Rats of the sea’: South Australian MP calls for fur seal cull

Liberal MP Adrian Pederick proposes sustainable harvesting of New Zealand fur seals, accusing them of ‘causing major havoc’ to the SA fishing industry

Australian Associated Press
Thursday 2 July 2015 08.55 BST   

A South Australian MP wants a fur seal cull along parts of the SA coast because they are causing problems for other wildlife and the fishing industry.

Liberal MP Adrian Pederick moved a motion in state parliament on Thursday calling for a management plan and a sustainable harvesting of New Zealand fur seals.

Seal numbers around the Murray Lakes and the Coorong, south of Adelaide, have been increasing in recent years and are now estimated at more than 100,000.

“They’re just invading the Coorong, lakes Albert and Alexandrina and they’ve even gone north of Murray Bridge,” Pederick said.

“They’re also causing major havoc to the fishing industry down here because they’re just like rats of the sea, they attack nets and bite fish in half.”

Pederick said the seals were responsible for slaughtering penguin populations on Kangaroo and Granite islands and also caused problems for other birdlife including pelicans.

Greens MP Tammy Franks opposed any cull, describing it as a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem.

She said her party was equally concerned for the fishing industry and other wildlife but that other options should be considered including acoustic harassment devices.

“We need to be talking with the experts and the community and exhausting other options before we resort to practices like culling,” she said.

Pederick said he understood the idea of a shooting program was a sensitive issue and said he remained open to other suggestions that would solve the problem.

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 05:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Is this new coral the longest-living marine organism?

July 1, 2015
Eric Hopton for – Your Universe Online

Sometimes a species lives undetected right under the gaze of scientists for years – we see it but we don’t recognize it. That’s the case this week, as biologists reported the identification of a deep-water black coral in the Hawaiian Islands which was previously misidentified as a species from the Mediterranean Sea. Better still, the coral may be the longest-lived marine organism known to date.

Look at those rings

Like the growth rings of trees, deep-water corals can be aged by the marks that form each year as they grow. High-resolution radiocarbon measurements on these growth rings show this species can live more than 4,000 years.

The discovery, description, and naming of the coral were announced in the scientific journal Zootaxa. Scientists from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, found the coral at depths of 1,000 to 1,600 feet throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including in the protected waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM).

“We know so little about the deep sea that most times we do not even know what to call the species that live there,” says PMNM Research Specialist Daniel Wagner, Ph.D. “Describing and assigning names to new species is an important first step to facilitate future research on these important yet greatly understudied organisms.”

Due to its remarkable longevity, Wagner and his fellow researchers named the new coral Leiopathes annosa, derived from the Latin name “annosa” meaning long-lived.

Hidden in plain sight

In depth studies revealed substantial morphological differences between L. annosa and its Mediterranean counterpart. Specimens were collected by the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab (HURL) from the Pisces research submersible. They are now in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, where they will be available for future studies.

“This research emphasizes how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments such as those found in the remote Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, of which only a small fraction has been explored,” said Wagner.

Papahānaumokuākea is cooperatively managed to ensure ecological integrity and aims to achieve the long-term protection and perpetuation of North-western Hawaiian Island ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations.

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 09:23 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
More evidence that global warming is intensifying extreme weather

A new study finds that global warming is causing weather whiplash.

John Abraham
Wednesday 1 July 2015 14.45 BST

Just this week, a new article appeared in the journal Nature that provides more evidence of a connection between extreme weather and global warming. This falls on the heels of last week’s article which made a similar connection. So, what is new with the second paper? A lot.

Extreme weather can be exacerbated by global warming either because the currents of atmosphere and oceans change, or it can be exacerbated through thermodynamics (the interaction of heat, energy, moisture, etc.). Last week’s study dealt with thermodynamics, this week’s study dealt with atmospheric currents. So they approached the problem differently.

The authors, Daniel Horton, Noah Diffenbaugh and colleagues used a new technique to tease apart the complex influences of warming on changes to atmospheric circulation. Dr. Horton told me,

    Our study focuses on the need to understand the underlying physical causes of extreme weather events, and to systematically test whether the probability of those underlying conditions has changed in recent decades. Events that are so extreme that they fall outside of our historical experience often result from a suite of complex interacting factors. To better understand these factors we’ve developed a method that allows us to partition the climate influences.

In particular, the authors focused on pressure levels up into the atmosphere (heights of approximately 5 km) from 1979 onwards. Those patterns gave information about atmospheric circulation. The authors grouped the patterns, using seven geographical regions (Europe, Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Western North America, Central North America, and Eastern North America) and four different periods of the year (winter, spring, summer and fall).

They separated changes in circulation from changes in thermodynamic effects. What they found is that most regions have seen increases in summertime warm temperatures in the past three decades. Furthermore, they found that in some regions, a large part of this trend is due to the increases in anticyclonic circulation and atmospheric blocking. The blocking that has been associated with extreme swings of weather (bringing very warm weather to the Western USA and simultaneous cold weather to the east for instance).

The authors show that as the Earth warms, we expect fewer cold temperature events generally. But, in some cases the circulation changes has led to extreme cold outbreaks in some regions. What has happened is that the arctic front, which typically confines cold weather to the Arctic region, has undulated sufficiently to allow cold-air breakouts to the south. Think of the polar vortex from last year.

These findings support the commonly-heard term that has emerged in the past few years of “weather whiplash - wild swings from one extreme to another. Importantly, the authors show that the trends are “statistically significant” and are unlikely just random occurrences.

That said, the authors clarify,

    The majority of the observed changes in extreme temperature occurrence have resulted from changes in the heat content of the climate system. However, we also find that the risk of extreme temperatures over some regions has been altered by changes in the motion of the atmosphere via changes in the frequency and duration of regional circulation patterns.

It’s important to note that the authors do not explicitly attribute the trends to human causes or natural causes. The authors state clearly that we need a deeper understanding of the causes of the trends they’ve found. In particular, a future step will be to separate human-causes from natural variability in the climate on the decadal scale. At the same time, they write,

    our quantitative partitioning, in conjunction with targeted climate model simulations offers the potential to fingerprint dynamic and thermodynamic influences in isolation, which in turn may facilitate attribution of the observed trends and projection of future trends.

And that is really what we want to know. How much of this is from humans? How much is natural? And how will things change into the future?

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 09:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Good egg: rare specimen discovered after 100 years in a drawer

When curator Alan Knox came across a rare egg in a museum drawer he just had to figure out its story
Jerdon's courser egg

Henry Nicholls
1 July 2015 07.04 BST

Name: ABDUZ: 70169
Species: Rhinoptilus bitorquatus
Dates: 1917
Claim to fame: The only known egg of Jerdon’s courser
Where now: Zoology Museum, University of Aberdeen

Alan Knox was checking museum’s store room for insects when he found the egg. There, in an uncatalogued drawer of oological specimens, was a label that caught his eye.   

Amongst ornithologists, this plover-like bird from southern India has an almost mythological status. We know of its existence from just a handful of specimens, the first collected by British zoologist Thomas Jerdon in around 1844. For most of the 20th century, it was assumed extinct. Then, in January 1986, a trapper spotted a live courser near the town of Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh, managed to catch it and kept it alive until Bharat Bhushan, an ornithologist at the Bombay Natural History Society, arrived to confirm its identity.

When Knox chanced upon this egg in the stores of the Zoology Museum at the University of Aberdeen in 2008, he quickly ran some background checks. As far as he could tell, there was no formal description of a Jerdon’s courser egg anywhere and not a single other specimen on record. This egg – if it was what it claimed to be – was one of a kind.

But what if the person that penned the label was mistaken? What if the egg did not belong to Jerdon’s courser but to some other bird? “How do you actually identify something nobody has ever seen before?” wrote Knox in a University of Aberdeen magazine.

The answer was DNA. There are just five preserved skins of Jerdon’s courser that survive and two of them are in the ornithological collection at the Natural History Museum, Tring. A colleague Stuart Piertney took scrapings from the membrane lining the inside the mystery egg and shavings from a toe-pad from one of the two courser skins. “The sequences obtained from the egg and the toe-pad were identical, indicating that they had come from the same species,” wrote Knox and Piertney in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.

So how did an egg of so rare a species wend its way to Aberdeen? Knox worked hard to figure this out and wrote it up in Archives of Natural History last year. The egg appears to have been collected in around 1917 by Ernest Gilbert Meaton, a vet working at the Kolar Gold Fields to the east of Bangalore. Meaton sold his collection (including the courser egg) to George Falconer Rose (an engineer-cum-entrepreneur in Calcutta), who gifted the eggs to his alma mater Aberdeen Grammar School, which passed them on to the Zoology Museum of the University of Aberdeen in around 1978.

Jerdon’s courser is “critically endangered” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. The egg went on display in the Zoology Museum in Aberdeen for a time but has been returned to the safety of storage.

“What other treasures await discovery in our outstanding local museums?” wrote Knox and Piertney.

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 09:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Yellow-breasted buntings 'being eaten to extinction by China'

Birds once abundant in Europe and Asia could share the same fate as passenger pigeon as they are killed in millions for food

Agence France-Presse
7/1/ 2015 09.33 BST

A bird that was once one of the most abundant in Europe and Asia is being hunted to near extinction because of Chinese eating habits, according to a study published on Tuesday.

The population of the yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola) has plunged by 90% since 1980, all but disappearing from eastern Europe, Japan and large parts of Russia, said the study, published in the Conservation Biology journal.

Following initial population declines, China in 1997 banned the hunting of the species, known in the country as the “rice bird”.

However, millions of these birds, along with other songbirds, were still being killed for food and sold on the black market as late as 2013, said the study.

It said consumption of these birds has increased as a result of economic growth and prosperity in east Asia, with an estimate in 2001 claiming 1m buntings were consumed in China’s southern Guangdong province alone.

The birds breed north of the Himalayas and spend their winters in warmer southeast Asia, passing through eastern China where they have been hunted for more than 2,000 years, according to the conservation group BirdLife International.

At their wintering grounds, they gather in huge flocks at night-time roosts, making them easy prey for trappers using nets, the group said.

The songbird, which nests on the ground in open scrubs, is distinctive for its yellow underparts.

The paper in Conservation Biology drew parallels between the migratory bird and the North American passenger pigeon, which became extinct in 1914 due to industrial-scale hunting.

“The magnitude and speed of the decline is unprecedented among birds distributed over such a large area, with the exception of the passenger pigeon,” the paper’s lead author, Dr Johannes Kamp from the University of Munster, said in a statement released by BirdLife International.

“High levels of hunting also appear to be responsible for the declines we are seeing in yellow-breasted bunting.”

Yellow-breasted buntings have since 2013 been classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as an “endangered” species due to rapid population decline from trapping outside their breeding grounds.

“To reverse these declines we need to better educate people of the consequences of eating wildlife. We also need a better and more efficient reporting system for law enforcement,” said BirdLife International’s senior conservation officer Simba Chan.

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 09:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Greater sage-grouse sounds the alarm over shrinking habitat in US

Moves to protect this revered American bird could also safeguard the future for more than 350 native species

Abi Hayward
7/1/ 2015 08.30 BST

It might look like a glorified chicken, but the greater sage-grouse is a bird of stature. Revered by native Americans and feasted upon by pioneers, this once abundant bird still draws a crowd with its elaborate mating dance, involving a flashy display of the male’s chest sacs. But while these plucky birds can fight off other males, fighting off their own demise is another matter.

Between 2007 and 2013, the number of breeding males fell by more than half to just 48,641 across 11 states, with their sagebrush habitat diminished by wildfire and human activity. And it’s not just the grouse that suffer: more than 350 species of plant and animal rely on the same habitat. “We can think of sage-grouse as the canary in the coalmine for our sagebrush ecosystem,” says Jack Connelly, a sage-grouse expert formerly with the Idaho department of fish and game. “If we’re able to successfully conserve sage-grouse, we are paving the way for conservation of many other species.”

In the 90s, Connelly and his colleagues were among the first to raise the alarm that greater sage-grouse were imperilled and lobbyists began petitioning the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list sage-grouse as an endangered species. In September, the service will determine whether sage-grouse will indeed be listed.

In the meantime, conservation plans are ruffling feathers. Last month the Bureau of Land Management, which manages over 60% of sagebrush habitat in the US, announced plans to save the grouse with proposals including a limit on mining and ranching activities, plus restrictions on oil, gas and renewable energy development.

It’s a hard bargain to strike, but conservationists are cautiously optimistic. “It looks like they’ve made some pretty significant improvements [on the last plans], so we’re hopeful” says Connelly, “but it’s too early to say whether these plans will do the job.”

Click to watch:

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 07:30 AM 
Started by Gonzalo - Last post by Gonzalo
In my prior post I referred to the brain circuits that mediate attachment processes, according to Panksepp. I referred also to the dyadic attunement of the child's brain with the mother's brain, serving as the means through which emotional regulation naturally occurs and imprints the neuronal functioning in the developing child's brain. This latter idea rather than Panksepp's, comes from other authors such as Allan Schore. I'm posting a link to an article by Judith and Allan Schore, called: "Modern Attachment Theory: The Central Role of Affect Regulation in Development and Treatment".

The perspective of Schore is very interesting because it is centered around the role of emotional dyadic regulation in the development of the right brain. This is different than other authors with more cognitive approaches who rather consider the importance of the left brain, and pre-frontal structures in serving to 'control' emotional states triggered at lower brain areas. Schore in turn is focused on how the right hemisphere provides a basis for the sense of Self, and how this sense of self is dependent on early experience.

The article says"The dyadic implicit processing of these nonverbal attachment communications are the product of the operations of the infant’s right hemisphere interacting with the mother’s right hemisphere. Attachment experiences are thus imprinted in an internal working model that encodes strategies of affect regulation that act at implicit nonconscious levels (...)  In a study of hemispheric lateralization of
avoidant attachment, Cohen and Shaver ( 2004 ) conclude ‘‘Emotional negativity and withdrawal motivation have been connected in psychophysiological studies with the right frontal lobe of the brain’’, and that avoidant individuals show ‘‘a right hemisphere advantage for processing negative emotion and attachment-related words’’

Here's the link:

God Bless, Gonzalo

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 07:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Brazil announces massive reforestation and renewable energy plan with US

President Dilma Rousseff pledged to restore 12m hectares of deforested land and increase renewable energy use by 2030 as part of climate partnership with US

Suzanne Goldenberg, Dan Roberts and agencies
Tuesday 30 June 2015 17.17 BST

Barack Obama and Dilma Rousseff put climate change at the top of their agenda at their bilateral meeting on Tuesday, with the US and Brazil agreeing to obtain up to 20% of their electricity from renewable power by 2030.

Brazil also committed to restoring up to 12m hectares of forest – an area about the size of England or Pennsylvania – in another attempt to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

The White House said the initiatives were part of a new US-Brazil climate partnership, loosely modelled on the historic US-China agreement reached during Obama’s visit to Beijing last November, intended to build momentum for a global deal to fight climate change in Paris at the end of the year.

“Following progress during my trips to China and India, this shows that the world’s major economies can begin to transcend some of the old divides and work together to confront the common challenge that we face,” said Obama at a joint press conference with his Brazilian counterpart.

Rousseff also heralded the agreement as a highlight of her trip, claiming it would help progress towards a global emissions reductions agreement at upcoming talks in Paris.

“Climate change is one of the central challenges of the 21st century,” she said. “And we have one important objective, which is, number one, to ensure that the energy mix in our two countries will have a substantial share of renewable sources of energy.

“As countries that are as vast as continents, we have this very important greenhouse gas emissions target,” added Rousseff. “We attach a great deal of importance to reducing [deforestation].. and we also wish to turn the page and engage in a clear-cut reforestation-oriented policy.”

The pledge will require the US to triple its production of wind and solar power and other renewable energies. Brazil will need to double its production of clean energy. The figures do not include hydro power.

“This is a big deal,” Brian Deese, the White House climate adviser, told a call with reporters.

He said putting climate change at the centre of the US-Brazil relationship would help drive action on the issue. “We are shining a spotlight on the issues and elevating the conversation around them,” he said.

Rich and poor countries alike have been putting forth their commitments, known as nationally determined contributions, to reduce emissions as part of the treaty, which world leaders hope to finalise later this year in Paris.

Brazil also plans to expand renewable energy sources other than hydropower to between 28% and 33% of its total energy mix by 2030.

And in the electricity sector, the US and Brazil jointly announced intentions to increase their share of renewable, non-hydropower sources to 20% by 2030. Deese said boosting renewables that high in the US would be dependent on controversial power plant emission limits that the Obama administration has proposed.

“We believe that this is an ambitious target, but one that is actually achievable and will create new low-cost opportunities for the American economy,” Deese said. “To achieve it, we’re going to have to continue to hit our marks in implementing the regulations we’ve identified to date.”

The US has already announced its full commitment to the climate treaty: a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of up to 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. But a key sticking point in the climate treaty has been whether developing countries like Brazil will be willing to make substantial contributions. Poorer nations have balked, arguing that industrialised nations that have polluted more historically bear more of the responsibility for curbing climate change.

The announcement comes on the second day of Rousseff’s visit to Washington, where she met with Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning.

In their visit, Obama and Rousseff have been working to show they have moved beyond tensions sparked by the revelation nearly two years ago that the US was spying on Rousseff. She cancelled a planned state visit in response. Officials in both countries say neither leader is interested in rehashing the spying issues this week and instead want to focus on ways to deepen cooperation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

 on: Jul 01, 2015, 06:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mumbai's endangered Parsis fight to preserve the city's greenest space

When the tree-lined enclave of Dadar was threatened by the arrival of street hawkers, Mumbai’s proud Parsi community staged its first protest in living memory. Now the plan has been withdrawn, to the relief of many in the city

Bachi Karkaria in Mumbai
Monday 29 June 2015 09.34 BST
The Parsi colony in Mumbai’s Dadar neighbourhood is unique. It is the world’s largest concentration of Parsis, now down to its last 80,000 despite the community’s wealth and education.

Locally, this central urban enclave is everything that this great Indian city is not: low-rise, languorous, its 25 acres embracing 14 gardens, its roads lined with pavements and 30 species of tree including the rare mahogany and ebony. Bird-call triumphs over traffic-honk. Most exceptionally, it is untouched by Mumbai’s signature slums.

But this year, the placid colony has been in a roil. On a blistering Sunday in April, for the first time in memory, the Parsis marched in protest. Too sophisticated to shout slogans, they walked to the statue of the colony’s founder, Mancherji Joshi. Leading them was his granddaughter, Zarine Engineer, veteran of many a battle to preserve the colony’s pristine heritage.

The object of their cool fury wasn’t the carts dispensing aloe vera juice to the walkers, yoga practitioners, the laughter-club members who descend on the colony’s huge greens, nor the dubious “beautification” by local councillors driven more by kickbacks than aesthetics. The real and present danger was the Street Vendors’ Act 2014, bringing in Mumbai’s No 1 enemy: hawkers.

    The new municipal commissioner realises the folly of destroying those rare enclaves still spared the clutter of hawkers

Licences had been issued for 544 street stalls here and in the adjacent Matunga Hindu colony (as sylvan, if less homogeneous). The allotment showed scant regard for the community’s fire temple and schools, which continue to replenish communal bonds.

The Street Vendors’ Act was prompted by the constitutional right to livelihood, but it would have spelled the death of the unique colony. The hawkers – and their illegal brethren who would inevitably follow – would have strangled the streets with clutter, garbage and raucous cries, pushing schoolchildren and the enclave’s predominantly ageing residents perilously off the pavements.

The protest, taken up by civic and heritage activists, spread to other wards which were to be similarly “hawker-fied”. The outrage found a fortuitous ally in the wider condemnation of the latest, and manifestly absurd Mumbai Development Plan – a planning blueprint up to the year 2034 which threatened to develop the city’s remaining green zones. Under this combined onslaught, the plan was kept in abeyance. Then, last week, it was completely withdrawn: a new municipal commissioner has taken over, who realises the folly of destroying those rare enclaves still spared the clutter of hawkers.

This is paradise rescued for the thousands of Mumbaikars who draw on these green lungs. For the Dadar colony’s Parsis, it is inheritance regained. The brutalisation of their genteel space would have been the last nail in a coffin, already filled with paranoid hurt. This once-distinguished community, having created much of colonial Bombay’s glory, has been been pushed to the margins. The hawker invasion was seen as a denial of their last little acre.

Roll back more than a century to another Mumbai development plan: the Bombay City Improvement Trust’s Dadar-Matunga-Wadala-Sion scheme of 1899-1900, which was the first planned decongestion of the plague-afflicted town centre. A total of 440 acres of marsh and forest were developed to relocate 145,000 people in a residential, commercial and institutional mix. Buildings limited to three storeys, airy parks, sanitation and street layout were all blueprinted.

Mancherji Joshi, an engineer working for the improvement trust, persuaded its elders to wrest 25 acres for the Parsis of Bombay. The purpose-formed Parsee Central Association Cooperative Housing Society was given a 999-year lease of 103 plots, with certain covenants restricting their use to Parsi Zoroastrians alone.

Initially, only the intrepid were ready to leave their traditional comfort zones in Bombay’s southern Fort area: “Live in that faraway jungle? Has our brain gone to pasture?” But new infrastructure soon eroded this resistance: an arterial road from the central Crawford Market, a tramway extension, and a new bridge connecting the Great Indian Peninsular Railways’ central and western lines.

In 1924, Kaikobad Tarapore came to live in one of the first three new buildings. In 2014, his grandson Zubin turned a flaking outhouse into the charming Cafe 792, an outlet for 17 local Parsi home-caterers and croissant and cake-makers. He sits shooting the breeze with his two partners, pretty Jahan and the swashbuckling Danish (not pronounced as in the pastry, but “Daanish”). Ava Mobedjina – creator of a storeyed macaroon torte – drops by, as do other colony-ites.

    Initially, only the intrepid were ready to leave their traditional comfort zones in Bombay’s southern Fort area

The Dadar flyover. Bombay’s 1899-1900 decongestion plan provided a blueprint for generous street layouts, low-rise buildings and spacious parks.

They joke with the Parsis’ characteristic corny humour, and discuss jazzercise, bicycles, which of the colony’s youngsters are an “item”, or whose cousin is visiting from Australia, Canada or New Zealand. They no longer hang out on the iron railings of the Five Gardens because “now there’s too much riff-raff”. Prompted, they talk of the trees they clambered on to pluck mulberry, the juicy white and purple “jaamun” and, of course, mangoes. “Remember how that show-off Fali had to be rescued by the fire brigade?”

Dinaz, fair and willowy like so many of this once-Persian race, came from “outside” to marry colony-boy Hosi Wadia, over 40 years ago. “DPC [Dadar Parsi Colony] is an extended family. Generations have lived, celebrated and grieved together here”, she said. “In the early years, if I screamed ‘thief’ in the tranquility of the afternoon, a dozen young men would appear in a trice still in their pyjamas and sadras [the Zoroastrian’s ritualistic muslin vest] and thrash the daylights out of the fellow.”

Charles Correa wanted to design a better Mumbai – but the city let him down

As this island city’s real estate turned into a goldmine, by the 1980s several of the colony’s buildings began to be “redeveloped” with the addition of new floors. When these were sold to outsiders who were ready, willing and able to pay bigger bucks, the old Parsee Central Association fought and finally won a six-year legal battle to retain DPC’s monoculture in 2006. Such communal exclusion may be anachronistic, but it was a psychological boost for a once-lionised community now in its winter of discontent.

The next threat has retreated with the shelving of the hawker licences. But for how long can this urban idyll remain? Its ethnic and architectural signature, profligate open spaces and suspension in time are all unreal in a multicultural, overcrowded 21st-century city.

While a major celebration of Parsi culture in New Delhi has just been announced for next March, Mumbai’s desperate population is eyeing the Dadar colony greedily. The Parsis’ numbers are tumbling (the birth-death ratio has plummeted to 1:7). Their last bastion in Dadar is in double jeopardy: from external seizure and the siege within.

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