Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Circus elephants' retirement home promises pampered life

Yahoo – AFP, Kerry Sheridan, May 2, 2016

An elderly elephant named Mysore gets a pedicure at the Ringling Bros. and
Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Florida on March 8,
2016 (AFP Photo/Kerry Sheridan)

Polk City (United States) (AFP) - When Mysore performed in the Ringling Brothers' traveling circus, she waltzed, she hooked her trunk onto another elephant's tail, and she stood on her hind legs in a line for a trick known as the long mount.

Now at the age of about 70 -- and one of the oldest Asian elephants in the world -- Mysore is retired at the circus's refuge in central Florida, where she gets weekly pedicures, daily baths, naps on a giant dirt pile, eats ground-up hay and more than six loaves of wheat bread a day.

"Boy, she loves the bread," says Janice Aria, the director of animal stewardship at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, where Mysore arrived in 2006.

This week, the remaining 11 elephants that traveled in the Ringling Brothers circus will join Mysore and 27 other pachyderms in retirement, ending a 145-year tradition of elephants performing in the circus.

"It is sad. You feel it is the end of an era," says long-time trainer Trudy Williams.

The circus has faced torrents of criticism from animal rights groups, including widely circulated videos from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that show a male handler hitting elephants with a pointed-stick, known as an ankus, before a performance.

Ringling Brothers was also embroiled in a 14-year lawsuit in which animal rights groups alleged the circus was mistreating its herd.

The case was eventually thrown out after a lead witness was found to have been paid for his testimony by animal rights groups.

By 2014, the plaintiffs, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society, had been ordered to pay the circus $25 million to reimburse its legal fees.

A pair of female elephants stand together on March 8, 2016 in their enclosure at
 the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Florida, where
circus elephants retire (AFP Photo/Kerry Sheridan)

'Outlawed' tool

What finally ended the shows for traveling elephants were the actions of a handful of local municipalities in California, Massachusetts and Virginia that banned circus trainers from using the ankus, a stick about two feet long (0.6 meters) with metal hooks on the end.

Handlers employed by Ringling Brothers maintain that the tool is not used to harm to elephants -- which typically weigh 8,000 pounds (3,600 kilograms) -- but merely to signal them and give them tactile directions.

"You just don't stand around one of these animals without one of these tools," says Aria.

The logistics of being able to perform with elephants in some cities but not others became too much, Aria says, and the circus announced it would end elephant participation in its shows in 2016, two years earlier than planned.

Retirement life

The Ringling Brothers herd is the largest in the western hemisphere for Asian elephants, listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which says 40,000-50,000 exist in the world in highly fragmented populations.

The Polk City conservation facility rests on 200 acres (80 hectares) of land in central Florida where orange groves are a common crop.

It opened in 1995 as a place to keep the herd, to breed and raise young ones -- 26 babies were born here -- and to shelter those who simply "never took a shine to circus life," says Aria.

Female elephants are usually paired up and kept in fields that are fenced in with thin electrical wire.

A train car that used to transport elephants from city to city for the circus is parked
 March 8, 2016 at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City,
Florida (AFP Photo/Kerry Sheridan)

Because of her age, Mysore stays in her own pen.

The males, which like to fight and spar with others, are kept alone behind sturdier bars. Their sperm is collected for breeding purposes, and sometimes a female is put into their enclosure for breeding, or they are sent out to other facilities to mate.

Here, the elephants are fed 2.5 tons of hay daily, and up to 800 pounds of fruit, veggies and greens. They are led into a barn in the afternoon, and chained for the night.

Aria says the elephants are so used to these tethers that they won't relax or eat without them.

But the facility has its critics, and many in the community of people who deal with elephants -- from zoos to sanctuaries to researchers of elephants in the wild -- are divided about what it means to treat elephants well.

"Their environment needs to stimulate them. That particular piece of property is not an environment that would stimulate an elephant," says Carol Buckley, who was part of a team that inspected the Polk City facility several years ago for the lawsuit.

"It is like a stockyard. It is flat, square, boring," says Buckley, who advocates for female-only elephant sanctuaries in which the animals are not dominated by humans and contact with people is kept to a minimum.

But Ringling Brothers trainer Erik Montgomery says people need to know how to live with elephants.

"The truth of the matter is elephants -– especially Asian elephants -- are not going to be around in the future without people's help, without being in responsible, man-managed facilities," he says.

"As long as we can enrich their lives and have a relationship with them -- and enrich our own lives in the process -- I think that is the way to go."

Mysore -- who was born in India and named after a city there before being shipped to the United States in 1947 -- is a prime example of an elephant living a long and healthy life in the care of humans, Montgomery says.

"Without that human intervention, she wouldn't be here today," he adds.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

33 rescued lions flown from Peru to S. Africa

Yahoo – AFP, Moises Avila, April 30, 2016

The lions, with names such as Zeus and Shakira, were freed after the use of
wild animals in circuses was outlawed in Peru in 2011 and Colombia in 2013
(AFP Photo/Cris Bouroncle)

Lima (AFP) - More than 30 lions rescued from abuse in Peruvian and Colombian circuses were flown Friday to South Africa, in what campaigners called the largest-ever airlift of big cats.

The 33 lions, with names such as Zeus and Shakira, were freed after the use of wild animals in circuses was outlawed in Peru in 2011 and Colombia in 2013.

The Colombian circuses gave up the
 lions voluntarily but police had to launch
 raids to free the lions in Peru (AFP
Photo/Cris Bouroncle)
Saved from the lion tamer's whip, they have been rounded up with the help of authorities by Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights charity.

"It's truly wonderful that these lions, after a lifetime of suffering and abuse in circuses, are going home to Africa," said the president of ADI, Jan Creamer.

"All of the lions when they arrive from the circuses have health problems, parasites, disease," she added.

"All of their lives they haven't had enough food, so they have long-term malnutrition problems."

Recent months have been spent in straw-lined cages in a refuge north of Lima, however, they have been well fed and are in generally good health, Creamer said.

Twenty-four lions rescued in Peru were driven from their temporary rescue center to Lima airport to be picked up by a cargo plane that brought another nine over from Colombia.

Late Friday, the airlift took off, transporting the big cats to their new life.

"We are on our way!" read a post on the ADI website.

"The 33 lions are on board the ADI Spirit Of Freedom Flight, on route to their wonderful new lives at Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, South Africa."

Graphic, including map, illustrating how lions from circuses in Peru and
 Colombia are to be released into a game park in South Africa (AFP Photo/
Tamara Hoha)

The contingent of big cats includes Shakira, named after the Colombian pop singer. Her minders say she likes to play with a tire and eat watermelons.

From one of 10 Peruvian circuses comes "Ricardo, the one-eyed lion" and from another "Joseph, the almost-blind lion."

'Heading home to paradise'

Together, the 33 were to take a 15-hour flight to South Africa in travel cages inside the plane chartered by ADI.

They will arrive on Saturday in Johannesburg and be taken on to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in the north of the country.

"The lions will be in their natural habitat for the first time in their lives," Creamer said. "They should fit right into that habitat. It's the best environment for them."

ADI says it is the biggest transfer of such large captive animals ever.

Workers carry a cage containing a former circus lion at the El Dorado Airport
 in Bogota, Colombia, April 29, 2016. Nine former circus lions will be taken to the
 Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa where ADI (Animal Defenders 
International) officials said they will enjoy natural enclosures with drinking
pools, platforms and toys. Reuters/John Vizcaino

In the circuses the lions were poorly fed and trucked around in cages, the group said. The Colombian circuses gave up the nine lions voluntarily but police had to launch raids to free the lions in Peru.

The rescuers say that one of the Peru contingent, Smith, attacked a teacher from a school party when she was invited into his cage by a lion tamer.

"Almost all of the rescued lions have been mutilated to remove their claws, one has lost an eye, another is almost blind, and many have smashed and broken teeth so would not survive in the wild," ADI said in a statement.

At their new home, "the lions will enjoy large natural enclosures situated in pristine African bush, complete with drinking pools, platforms and toys," it added.

"The lion habitats will be steadily expanded over the coming months as the lions become familiar with their new life and are introduced to each other."

The cost of the transfer is $10,000 per cat, ADI said.

"These lions have endured hell on earth," Creamer said.

"Now they are heading home to paradise."

Related Article:

Abused circus lions flown to new home in South African bush

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Korean dog meat farmers seek fresh start

Yahoo – AFP, Hwang Sung-Hee, 27 April 2016

Dogs sit in a cage as they are rescued from a dog meat farm by the US-based 
Humane Society International in Wonju (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

"It's a dying business," Gong In-Young said Wednesday as he watched US activists clear out the cages of the South Korean dog meat farm he has been running for the past decade.

Close to 200 dogs, including Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Rottweilers, Japanese Tosas and Korean Jindo dogs, paced in circles inside the small wire cages, barking furiously at their rescuers.

The dogs in Gong's farm, one of thousands across the country, were bred specifically for consumption and confined in their cages from birth until slaughtered for their meat.

South Koreans are believed to consume somewhere between 1.5 million-2.5 million dogs every year, but the meat farming industry is in decline, with little demand among the younger generation.

Gong's business is the fifth and the largest dog meat farm to be closed down by the US-based Humane Society International (HSI), and Gong said he was happy to get out.

"In the past, people ate dogs because there was nothing else to eat but nowadays, young people don't have to eat it," Gong said. "It's becoming weird for people," he added.

Lola Webber of Humane Society International transport dogs in crates during the 
closure of a dog meat farm in Wonju (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

Changing tastes

A poll conducted by Gallup Korea last year showed that only 20 percent of men in their 20s consumed dog meat in the past year, compared to half of those in their 50s and 60s.

Gong also noted that the increasing popularity of dogs as domestic pets had played a large part in reducing demand for their meat.

The HSI rescued a total of 225 dogs last year, closing down four farms in what they call a "constructive and collaborative" approach to phase out an industry that has long been criticised by international animal welfare groups.

Most of the dogs are flown to the United States and Canada for adoption.

In return for shuttering his business for good, a farmer receives up to $60,000 -- depending on the number of dogs being bred -- that can be used as seed money for a more "humane" farm, growing anything from blueberries to green peppers.

Through its well-publicised rescues, HSI seeks to raise awareness about the cruelty of dog meat farms and "initiate a conversation with South Korean policymakers," the group's campaign manager Andrew Plumbly said.

Dogs sit in a cage as they are rescued from a dog meat farm by the US-based 
Humane Society International in Wonju (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

South Korea is preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, and Plumbly said the global publicity surrounding the event provided an opportunity to push for change.

Olympics spotlight

"Part of the spotlight will touch on the dog meat trade so they may feel pressure in that regard and hopefully they will respond constructively," he said.

The South Korean authorities are sensitive to the negative publicity attached to the dog meat industry, and dog restaurants in Seoul were shut down ahead of the 1988 summer Olympics.

Gong, who stumbled into the dog meat industry after many failed business attempts, admits he was "never proud" of his farm, which only ever earned him a modest living.

In a normal year, he would sell around 200 animals, with an average price -- depending on size -- of about $200.

Adam Parascondola of Humane Society International comforts a dog during an 
operation to shut down a dog meat farm in Wonju (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

"I realised the dogs will become a lot happier if I changed my mind," Gong said, while Snow, his pet Spitz, sauntered between rows of crates with dogs awaiting their departure.

Running a dog farm in South Korea requires no special licence, although Gong said there were regular government checks to ensure neighbours weren't being disturbed and dog waste was being properly disposed of.

Asked to compare the living conditions of Snow and the dogs in the cages, Gong admitted: "It's the difference between heaven and hell."

Related Article:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Gay vulture couple adopts egg in German zoo

Yahoo – AFP, April 26, 2016

A pair of gay vultures in a German zoo have adopted an egg abandoned by its
mother and started to incubate it in a nest they built (AFP Photo/Mujahid Safodien)

Berlin (AFP) - A pair of gay vultures in a German zoo have adopted an egg abandoned by its mother and started to incubate it in a nest they built.

Animal keepers had collected the egg in the muddy ground under a tree where it had been dropped by a griffon vulture called Lisa, said national news agency DPA.

"Lisa had made no attempt to build a nest," the report quoted Nordhorn zoo spokeswoman Ina Deiting as saying.

The egg was temporarily placed in an incubator before being entrusted to the male couple, Isis and Nordhorn, who "promptly sat on it," said Deiting.

The biological parentage of the egg is unclear, and zoo keepers also don't know yet whether it is fertilised.

The story of Isis and Nordhorn is the second involving gay birds to make news in Germany this month.

Several days ago newspapers reported that the gay king penguin couple Stan and Olli had been moved from a Berlin zoo to an all-male enclosure in Hamburg.

German scientists seek way to end live chick shredding

Yahoo – AFP, Mathilde Richter, April 25, 2016

At Dresden's University Clinic, scientists are working to prevent mass culls of newborns
by detecting the sex of chicks before they hatch (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

Dresden (Germany) (AFP) - In a basement of Dresden University, German scientists are busy refining a technique that could save millions of fluffy chicks from being shredded to death moments after they hatch.

The young hatchlings are usually condemned to a violent end simply because they are male, as roosters are deemed largely useless in the world of livestock farming.

Not only are they unable to lay eggs, their meat is not particularly popular.

Male chicks are therefore systematically eradicated. In many cases, they are mechanically shredded or crushed to death and used as animal feed.

At Dresden's University Clinic, analytical chemist Gerald Steiner and his team are working to prevent such mass culls of newborns by detecting the sex of chicks before they hatch.

Scientists use a spectroscopic method, based on the analysis of scattered light 
on blood vessels, to determine the sex of chick embryos in the egg (AFP Photo/
John Macdougall)

Steiner uses a spectroscopic method, based on the analysis of scattered light on blood vessels, to determine the sex of chick embryos in the egg.

Spectroscopy is already used in cancer treatment as it helps to differentiate between abnormal and healthy cells.

"If we are able to identify a tumour, then why not the sex?" said Roberta Galli, a physicist.

'95% accuracy'

Several teams of scientists -- including veterinarians, chemists, engineers and physicists -- are collaborating on the project, which also includes the participation of two private companies.

In the laboratory, Galli and her colleague Grit Preusse take eggs out of the refrigerator to demonstrate their technique.

Scientists use a spectroscopic method, based on the analysis of scattered light 
on blood vessels, to determine the sex of chick embryos in the egg (AFP Photo/
John Macdougall)

The eggs have already been incubated for three days and blood vessels had by now formed.

"But not the nerve cells, so they can't feel pain," Steiner explained.

The team believes that from an ethical point of view, it is preferable to decide the chick's fate before, rather than after, it hatches.

Using a laser beam, the scientists trace a small circle at the top of an egg, which makes a little hole in the shell. Through this they can see veins in the yolk, as well as detect the flutter of a tiny beating heart.

The egg is then placed in a large black box -- the spectrometer -- and quickly, the biochemical properties of the embryo's blood are displayed on a screen.

Eggs pictured after an incision by laser (L) and after a part of the shell is removed
to allow analysis by spectrometer (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

"To the naked eye, we can't see the difference (between male and female embryos) but the computer can, if it's programmed to do so," said Steiner.

His team has been fine-tuning the programme over the past few years, and they now have it down to an identification accuracy rate of 95 percent.

In a process that should ultimately take just a few minutes, an egg containing a male chick is discarded pre-birth, while one containing a female chick is fixed up with a plaster and then returned to the incubator.

A few days later, a chick that will one day be a laying hen hatches.

Steiner believes that some use will eventually be found for the unwanted male embryos -- be it as fish feed or even in shampoo.

'Piling on pressure'

Beyond the challenge of finding a technique that is minimally invasive and which would allow the female "chicks to hatch and be in good health", another important factor is that the method has to have the potential to be automated, said Preusse.

An egg is placed on a Spectrometer at a lab 
at the Carl Gustav Carus Faculty of Medicine
 of the Dresden Institute of Technology 
(AFP Photo/John Macdougall)
The plan is to have a machine bore a hole in the egg, while another machine identifies the gender, fixes up the female eggs and removes the male ones.

A start-up in Dresden is currently working on developing the machines, which could one day be used by poultry farmers.

But one big question is -- when?

In Germany, the timing also has political resonance.

With a public that is increasing concerned about animal welfare, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt had promised that by 2017, male chicks would no longer be sent to be crushed.

At the same time, Schmidt is refusing to impose an outright ban, and is rather counting on Steiner's research -- which the ministry is funding -- to deliver.

"The politicians are piling on pressure ahead of the 2017 elections," said Steiner, who said he was getting phone calls "every week" from the ministry, eager for an update.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rescued Pit Bull Treats 'Little Sister' Kitten Like a Princess

Yahoo – ABC, Eliza Murphy, 23 Apr 2016

Rescued Pit Bull Treats 'Little Sister' Kitten Like a Princess (ABC News)

This may just be the sweetest animal match made in heaven.

Bubba the pit bull terrier absolutely adores his “little sister,” an orange tabby kitten named Rue.

Their owner, Becca Pizzello, says Bubba has always had a soft spot for cats.

“I rescued Bubba six years ago from a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, when he was 3-months-old,” Pizzello, of Brooklyn, New York, told ABC News. “At the same time, my roommate had rescued a litter of kittens that had to be bottle fed until old enough for adoption. Since then, Bubba has had an endless affection for cats. Literally obsessed.”

When Pizzello made the cross-country move to New York, she decided Bubba would love a kitten of his own to help keep him company.

“I always knew he’d love having one of his own but I wanted to wait until we moved to New York City this year,” she said.

“After weeks of applying for any baby kitten available for adoption, I finally received a call from a rescue in Brooklyn," Pizzello recalled. "They had a litter of kittens that were 7-weeks-old and would be ready in a week. A week later I went to Brooklyn to pick up a baby kitten having absolutely no idea what they looked like. Rue stood out like no other and I took her home as fast as I could. She was the only orange baby.”

Bubba and Rue’s matching fur color was a complete coincidence, and Pizzello couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

“The fact that Bubba and Rue have identical coloring still blows my mind,” she said. “I am the luckiest!”

Bubba treats Rue like an absolute Princess, cuddling with her round the clock and even bathing her with kisses.

“They instantly connected and are now inseparable,” Pizzello explained. “I think Rue thinks Bubba is her mom and Bubba loves it. He baths her like a baby and snuggles close to her to make her comfortable. They will definitely be a fun duo to watch grow up together!”

Since Rue is still so tiny, Pizzello says it’s helpful to have Bubba around helping keep an eye on her.

“If I walk away somewhere [Bubba] always follows me," she said. "Now I will say ‘go watch your sister’ and he turns around and goes and watches where she is."

“They're so painfully cute. She follows Bubba around everywhere and is just starting to play. I don't know how I got so lucky with two perfect munchkins.”

Take a look at their adorable four-legged friendship.

Goats play mother to abandoned tapir in Nicaragua zoo

Yahoo – AFP, April 22, 2016

A tapir calf rejected and abandoned by its mother is fed from a goat, at the
National Zoo in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2016 (AFP Photo/Inti Ocon)

Managua (AFP) - A baby tapir abandoned by its mother can thank female goats in Nicaragua's National Zoo for its survival, sucking at their teats for milk, the director said.

"As the mother didn't want it, we decided to give it a bottle with goat's milk, because that doesn't give colic. And then we gave it the teat of a goat that had recently given birth," Marina Arguello told AFP.

But the tapir, Motita, proved too greedy for just one goat, and so others were pressed into milk service, she said.

The zoo has a breeding program for tapirs, which are herbivorous pig-like animals with long, flexible snouts. They are native to Central and South America.

They can grow to be two meters (six and half feet) long, weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and live to 18 years.

The abandoned baby tapir in the zoo got its name because in Nicaragua "Motita" is a term used to refer to orphans.

The zoo's director said it is impossible to force a tapir mother to give milk to its young. "It's a question of character," she said.

Monday, April 18, 2016

'Reverse photosynthesis' could change fuel production

Researchers in Denmark have discovered that a certain enzyme causes sunlight to break down the chemical bonds in plants. The finding could improve industrial processes such as the production of biofuels.

Deutsche Welle, 17 April 2016

Photosynthesis is a process in which plants convert sunlight into chemical energy that can be later released as fuel. But now, a group of scientists from the University of Copenhagen have found that adding an enzyme called monooxygenase to the process causes sunlight to break down plant material instead of helping create it. They refer to this phenomenon as "reverse photosynthesis."

The discovery could be applied to processes that require the breakdown of chemical bonds, such as the production of bioethanol, which is made from biomass via a fermentation process.

In a press release, Professor Claus Felby from the Plant Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen, the head of the study, called the discovery a "game changer" that could transform the production of fuels and chemicals, increasing efficiency and decreasing pollution.

Great usage potential

The first step to producing bioethanol is breaking down cellulose, an organic material that forms the walls in plant cells. This is exactly what happens when monooxygenase is added to the photosynthesis process.

Ethanol is widely used as engine fuel
"Basically, we have found a new way of using solar energy - going directly from sunlight to chemistry," Felby told DW. "This opens up a lot of possibilities."

The scientists' lab tests indicated that applying this process resulted in much faster production of ethanol and at lower temperatures. The duration of some of the chemical reactions was reduced from hours to minutes when sunlight was involved.

Ethanol has a multitude of uses in the modern world, mostly as engine fuel, but also as an ingredient in medical and personal care products.

The team also found that the same process can be applied to oxidizing methane. This produces methanol, a key ingredient in the manufacture of different chemicals.

"Methanol currently requires very large and expensive steel units to produce," explained Felby. "If our method was applied to this process, you would only need small, simple production units, something similar to a greenhouse."

Need to test large-scale application

While the process has proven effective in a lab environment, the scientists need to do further research to determine how it would work in real life.

"We are now working on exploring this," David Cannella, a co-author of the study, told DW. "You need to make sure that sunlight penetrates the organic material that you are converting, and we still need to work out how to do this."

Cannella feels optimistic about the commercial applicability of the process, as does Felby.

"We have to determine the exact amount of light needed for the process and how and when to apply it," said Felby. "But that's just a question of engineering."

He added that going directly from sunlight to chemical energy results in very little energy loss: "It's a near-perfect process."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Global wild tiger count rises for first time in 100 years

Yahoo  - AFP, Annie Banerji, April 11, 2016

A wild tiger at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand, pictured
 a camera trap photo released by the Government of Thailand and the Wildlife
Conservation Society Thailand on February 18, 2016 (AFP Photo/Wildlife
Conservation Society Thailand)

The number of wild tigers across the globe has increased for the first time in more than a century thanks to improved conservation efforts, wildlife groups said on Monday.

Deforestation, encroachment of habitat and poaching have devastated tiger populations across Asia, but countries with the big cats are working to increase their numbers.

Data compiled by the WWF and the Global Tiger Forum show that the global population of wild tigers has risen to an estimated 3,890 from an all-time low of 3,200 in 2010.

The number of wild tigers has gone up
 for the first time in a century, according to 
new figures released by the World Wildlife 
"For the first time after decades of constant decline, tiger numbers are on the rise," Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said in a statement.

It is the first time the number of the endangered cats has gone up since 1900, when there were 100,000 tigers.

India is home to more than half of the world's tiger population with some 2,226 tigers roaming its reserves across 18 states, according to the last count in 2014.

Russia, Bhutan and Nepal also saw higher tiger numbers in their latest surveys.

However, experts cautioned that the numbers may be partly down to improved data gathering, with the inclusion of new sample areas and upgraded survey techniques as well as enhanced protection efforts.

Global efforts

Bangladesh registered a severe decline from 440 tigers in 2010 to 106 in 2015, though conservationists say this may have been due to an over-estimation of the population six years ago.

There has been a rapid fall in Indonesia because of heavy forest destruction to meet a growing global demand for palm oil, pulp and paper.

Cambodia is mulling the idea of reintroducing tigers after declaring them functionally extinct last week following no evidence of the animals since 2007.

Poachers often sell tiger body parts to the lucrative traditional Chinese medicine market, and the felines also face other man-made problems such as habitat loss.

In 2010 the 13 countries with tiger populations -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam -- launched a plan to double their numbers by 2022.

Monday's global census was released a day before a three-day meeting of ministers from these countries in New Delhi to discuss conservation efforts.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the conference which is expected to be attended by around 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers and donors from across the world.

"Due to the concerted efforts of the government and other stakeholders, more than 70 percent of the global wild tiger population is in India," Prakash Javadekar, India's Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister said in a statement.

Conference delegates are expected to discuss some of the key conservation issues including a unified anti-poaching strategy, monitoring protocols, habitat and landscape management.

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose eponymous charitable foundation was also involved in the 2010 tiger conservation plan, voiced his elation at the increased numbers.

"Proud of @World_Wildlife and #LDF's efforts that have helped increase tiger populations for the first time in 100 yrs," the Oscar-winner and environmentalist tweeted.