Inbreeding Could Pose Threat to White-Tailed Eagle

White-tailed Eagle Haförn Hafernir

The Icelandic white-tailed eagle could be threatened by genetic homogeneity and inbreeding, a new article in the journal Molecular Ecology notes. The eagle’s fertility is one-third that of its Scandinavian cousins.

Icelandic and Greenlandic eagles genetically more homogeneous than their cousins

A study of the Icelandic white-tailed eagle and its cousins ​​is reported on in an article that was recently published in the scientific journal Molecular Ecology. Among other things, the authors of the study processed blood samples from Icelandic eaglets that had been collected since the turn of the century.

Professor Snæbjörn Pálsson at the University of Iceland managed the project. He told RÚV that Greenlandic and Icelandic eagles differ from their cousins ​​in the Nordic countries, mainly because of how genetically homogeneous they are and also because there are indications that the Icelandic eagle suffers from inbreeding.

As noted in the article: “island populations may suffer from low genetic variation, and thus be more prone to inbreeding depression or extinction, both due to founder effect bottlenecks during colonization and as a result of increased genetic drift in small isolated populations.”

Sveinbjörn explained to RÚV that this low genetic variation on the islands, especially in Iceland, could explain why fertility rates of the white-tailed eagle in Iceland are very low, or approximately one-third of the fertility rates of its cousins in Scandinavia.

READ MORE: Eagle Empire from the Iceland Review magazine

The Icelandic white-tailed eagle was almost eradicated by Icelanders during the 20th century. It was protected in 1914, but the population subsequently grew slowly; rates of population growth have, however, slightly improved after the practice of leaving out poisoned carcasses to kill off Arctic foxes was banned in 1964. The population of white-tailed eagles in Iceland now numbers approximately ninety pairs.

“Nevertheless, fertility rates are low compared to white-tailed eagles in mainland Europe,” an article on the website of the University of Iceland from last December notes.

Inbreeding could be detrimental to the eagle

Inbreeding within the eagle population could also serve to increase the risk of harmful mutations taking hold and causing harm to the population. This also makes the eagle less capable of adapting to changes such as new diseases, changes in prey, climate, temperature, and more.

Professor Snæbjörn Pálsson told RÚV that the next step in the research would be examining individual genes in the eagle’s genome: “Examining genes related to the breakdown of toxins, for example. Persistent organic toxins are known to have a negative impact on the life expectancy of white-tailed eagles in the twentieth century,” Snæbjörn observed.

Europol Experts Believed Terror Suspects Posed Imminent Threat

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The two men recently charged with planning a domestic terrorist attack were believed to pose an imminent threat by Europol experts, Vísir reports. A ruling made by the Court of Appeal, published yesterday, notes that the defendants had discussed launching an attack on Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, and the police authorities.

The Court of Appeal overturns custody ruling

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by Reykjavík’s District Court revoking the extended custody of two men recently charged with violating Article No. 100 of Iceland’s General Penal Code (pertaining to acts of terrorism). The Court of Appeal ruled that the defendants, who had been held in custody since September, were to be released on the basis of a mental assessment that concluded that they were not a danger to themselves or others.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal published its ruling on its  website. The judgment references the overturned Reykjavík District Court ruling, which notes that the police authorities had consulted with Europol experts on the case. Having reviewed the case files, the Europol experts concluded that the two men were likely to take imminent action and commit acts of terrorism in Iceland.

Had begun penning his own manifesto

As reported by Iceland Review earlier this year, when the defendants were arrested in September, the police seized semi-automatic rifles, including AK-47s and AR-15s, along with ammunition and components for 3D-printed guns. Court documents state that the police also seized an item that could be inserted into an AR-15 rifle so as to make it automatic.

Court documents also note that the men possessed material concerning known terrorists and their atrocities, in addition to manifestos. The suspect who is the subject of the ruling denied that he was planning an act of domestic terrorism, maintaining that comments concerning various terrorist atrocities were harmless: they had been made in jest and under the influence of alcohol. The same held for all the other material that they had acquired.

Court documents further maintain that the defendant had begun to pen his own manifesto.

Last night, RÚV reported that the District Attorney would yet again motion for custody.



Origin of Horse Head Used for Pagan Curse Still Unknown

Capital-area police are still trying to determine the origin of the severed horse head that was mounted on a stake on the land of a small capital-area community last week, RÚV reports. The grotesque totem, which derives from ancient pagan tradition, is called a nithing pole and is intended to curse the receiver.

See Also: ‘I take it as a threat’: Nithing Pole Erected at Local Commune 

DCI Stella Mjöll Aðalsteinsdóttir says that police have not received any reports of missing horses. Icelandic horses are microchipped, but this is no use to authorities in this instance, either: the head used on the nithing pole was severed above the neck, where its chip would have been located. Police are still awaiting the final report from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), but are conducting their own parallel investigation, which Stella Mjöll said she was unable to comment further on at time of writing.

Animal did not suffer

Police believe it unlikely that the head was taken from a slaughterhouse, as there are strict rules about the disposal of byproducts at such facilities. According to the information that MAST has been able to provide about the animal thus far, the horse was two years old and was killed with a single shot to the head. Sigríður Björnsdóttir, a veterinarian of equine diseases at MAST, noted that the head has not started to rot, which either means that the animal was shot shortly before the nithing pole was erected, or that the head was stored in a refrigerator beforehand.

Under Icelandic law, horse owners are permitted to slaughter their animals without a veterinarian present, as long as it is done correctly. Thankfully, this seems to have been the case with the horse in question. Hallgerður Hauksdóttir, chair of the Animal Welfare Association of Iceland, says the organization will not be investigating the incident themselves, as it does not appear that the animal suffered.

Nithing poles in recent years

As mentioned, nithing poles are used in pagan tradition to curse the receiver. It is only considered a true nithing pole if a horse head is used.

One of the most famous uses of a nithing pole occurs in ch. 60 of Egill’s saga, which was written around 1240 AD, but nithing poles—or symbolic variations thereof—have been erected in Iceland several times in much more recent memory.

The last instance of a real nithing pole being erected was in the Reykjavík suburb of Breiðholt in 2012. In that case, it remains unknown who the pole was intended to curse, or where the horse head was sourced.

In 2006, a farmer in Otradalur in the Westfjords attempted to curse a neighbor using a nithing pole topped with a calf’s head. The man was charged with making a threat on the neighbor’s life.

In 2018, an opponent of salmon farming erected a nithing pole topped with a cod’s head in Bíldudalur in West Iceland.

Flawed Investigation In Policeman’s Case

iceland terrorism

An investigation into a policeman threatening a young woman was flawed, RÚV reports. The District Court of Reykjanes reached this conclusion recently, but the shortcomings are thought not to have affected the policeman’s defense. The case revolves around threats a young women received from a policeman, whom she had been dating.

The flaws in the investigation were mainly twofold: A report was not taken from the woman’s sister, who was present when she received the threats by Snapchat messages. The other flaw was that the phone which received the threats was not investigated. Rather, screenshots from the victim’s phone which she sent to the police were considered enough.

The woman is in her early twenties while the policeman is close to thirty years old. They had been dating for a while but the relationship had taken a sour turn when he sent her messages on the past 26th of January. In that message, he sought after sexual relations with the woman and asked her to pick him up downtown. She denied doing that and received in return angry messages which included, among other things, threats to her life.

The woman’s sister contacted the police through Facebook and let them know of the messages. The police contacted the woman three days later, and then received permission to search the policeman’s home, who was arrested and interrogated. He claimed right from the off that this was a case of drunken foolery, with no real intent behind the messages. He added that he was distraught and had repeatedly apologized to the woman.

Guilty of four messages out of six

The district attorney charged the man for six messages in total. One of them, where he asks the woman to have sexual relations with him, was handled as a sense of modesty crime. The other five messages were handled as threats. The policeman was found not guilty of the sense of modesty crime, as the content of the message was considered similar to messages the woman had sent to the policeman in the summer before. The sentence thus concluded that the woman’s sense of modesty had not been breached upon. The policeman was found guilty of threatening messages for four out of the five remaining messages, as the fifth message was not considered as him threatening the woman with her life.

The policeman claimed that it was preposterous that he would ever go through with what he said in the messages. “I’ve said some crazy and ugly things, and was upset and in a fit of anger as well as hurting, and take it out on her”, the policeman said in the report.

Regret leads to a reduced sentence

The sentence stated that it doesn’t matter that the policeman did not go through with the threats, as the refraction had already taken place when he sent the messages. It was clear to him that the messages included threats and that they would invoke the woman’s fear. The sentence takes into note, however, that the man has a clear criminal record. The sentence also takes into account that the accused did not act on the threats. He also apologized to the woman right after, as well as reiterating the apology multiple times. The court thus decided not to challenge that the man showed great regret for his actions.

The policeman has not been working for the police since the case was revealed by Vísir in September, 2017.

Man Sentenced to Prison Time for Threatening Vets

A man has been sentenced to 60 days in prison for threatening the staff of a veterinary clinic via Facebook, RÚV reports. The threats were made via Facebook in 2016, after the man took his dog to the clinic.

“there’s every indication that […]they were negligent in their work when my gloria went in for her general exam three weeks ago,” read the post. “and if i find out that’s the case tomorrow morning you all won’t see me on [fb] in the coming days […] I AM SO INSANE RIGHT NOW THAT I SEE JAIL TIME AHEAD,” he wrote, and went on to threaten to kill the staff outright.

The man was also found guilty of importing imitation firearms. He had been charged with attempting to import real illegal firearms, but these were found to have been fake.