The Taliban have been great for falcons

There haven't been many feel-good stories coming out of the tribal regions of Pakistan, which for several years now have served as the front line in the American-led fight against the Taliban and the remnants of al Qaeda. The Pakistani army has launched several offensives to dislodge militant groups, the CIA has periodically carried out drone strikes in the area, and since 2008 at least 163,000 families -- the actual number is likely much higher -- have fled the violence. But all of this violence and unrest has resulted in an unlikely beneficiary: the local falcon population.

Pakistan's falcons are thriving, according to an Inter Press Service report. The violence, it seems, has made it too dangerous for hunters and poachers to operate in the area, freeing falcons of their main threat. In 2005, when the birds were labeled an endangered species, there were only 2,000 falcons in the tribal region; by 2008 the population had swelled to 8,000.

Falcons are prized birds in the Arab world, where they are used for hunting, and a prime Pakistani falcon can fetch as much as $100,000. With money like that at stake, it is a testament to the intensity of the violence that hunters and poachers have been largely flushed from the area.

The bitter irony of a brutal civil war creating significant environmental benefits is not something that has environmentalists looking to Pakistan as a model for conservation strategies. Still, the falcons are probably happy.



Russia's Chelyabinsk region wants to trademark itself as world's 'meteorite capital'

The fervor may have died down a bit since Chelyabinsk, Russia was hit by a huge space rock in February, but the region is still working hard to turn that meteorite into money.

As I noted in an earlier post, Chelyabinsk initially went the tourism route. Local officials set up a design contest for a meteorite-themed logo to slap onto calendars, booklets, magnets, and other souvenirs, hoping to capitalize on the hundreds of people who flocked to the area in the days after the interplanetary incident in search of bits of space stone. Now, officials want the region to be an international landmark. The Moscow Times reports today that Chelyabinsk is petitioning Russia's patent service for rights to the title, "the meteorite capital." The paper has more:

The Chelyabinsk region wants an official trademark for use of the meteorite title in products and advertising, and the governor's administration has already submitted an application to the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks, RIA-Novosti reported Wednesday.

According to Natalya Denisova, head of the regional administration's department for special projects, the trademark would most likely be used in tourism services and cultural events, as well as publishing and video products.

"It's unlikely that we'd have a conflict of interest with Chebarkul or with businesspeople. ... We're all after one main goal here: to promote a positive image of the Chelyabinsk region," Denisova said in comments carried by RIA-Novosti.

Chebarkul, a city in Chelyabinsk, was the meteorite's final destination.

If Chebarkul doesn't put up a fight for trademark rights, maybe Antartica will. A Pittsburgh University geologist once called the continent the "meteorite capital of the world," though it appears he did not go so far as to secure a trademark.