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, July 11, 2018

Animals still a draw, despite shrinking crowds, says Chinese circus

Yahoo – AFP, Xin LIU, Joanna CHIU, July 10, 2018

A caged Siberian tiger at the Chinese Prosperous Nation Circus Troupe while
in Dongguan (AFP Photo/NICOLAS ASFOURI)

A crowd of just 10 people watched the endangered Siberian tiger roar on command on his hind legs and pounce through hoops inside the big top of the Chinese Prosperous Nation Circus Troupe.

Lions and a young bear with a wound on its snout followed, performing tricks for the few who braved the sweltering heat in southern Guangdong province to help keep the travelling circus going for another day.

The use of wild animals in circus shows has come under growing criticism around the world, with some countries banning the practice, but for the Chinese troupe, the beasts are considered a major attraction.

"Many Chinese live in big cities where it's hard to get out into the wilderness. We bring nature to them," Li Weisheng, the troup's manager, told AFP.

Circuses have a long history in China. Called "maxi", pronounced "mah-shi" meaning "stunts on a horse", they have a history going back more than 2,500 years and would often pair acrobatic performances with stunts on galloping horses.

A Harbin black bear performs at the Chinese Prosperous Nation Circus Troupe, 
which considers its animals a major attraction (AFP Photo/NICOLAS ASFOURI)

The use of large cats, monkeys and bears is a more recent practice.

China has some of the world's laxest animal rights laws, and campaigners have long called for tougher regulations on the treatment of animals in travelling circuses.

The two owners of the troupe, Li Rongrong and Li Ruisheng, were arrested in 2016 for illegally transporting rare and endangered animals and sentenced to 10 and eight years in prison, respectively, but were cleared of all charges at a second trial last year.

The troupe's animals -- two African lions, a two-year-old black bear, a pack of dogs and the tiger -- spend most of their time in tiny metal cages under a big tent.

The animals are a major draw, Li, the manager, said, standing next to the red and white striped tent in the city of Dongguan, although he admitted attendance has dropped in recent years.

The tiger and a lioness with a cut tail -- both about a year old -- share one cage, in which they restlessly pace around each other. A few times a day, they are allowed to play in the circus ring.

The members of the Chinese Prosperous Nation Circus Troupe say they will do what 
they have to do to keep their tradition alive, despite falling attendances (AFP Photo/
NICOLAS ASFOURI)

The lone bear grasped the top bars of his cage and swung his body back and forth.

In the past few years, multiple videos have emerged of apparent animal abuse in China, such as a circus tying down a Siberian tiger for audience members to sit on for photos, which sparked widespread outrage.

Chinese people are increasingly calling for better protection for captive animals.

The members of the Chinese Prosperous Nation Circus Troupe, however, say they will do what they have to to keep their tradition alive and insist they are working in the interests both of the public and the animals.

"We are helping the public learn more about nature and animals," said Li.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Minister pledges action after slaughterhouse animal abuse is revealed

DutchNews, June 20, 2018

Photo: Despositphotos.com 

Dutch farm minister Carola Schouten says she will tighten up the rules on abattoir closures and increase fines for animal cruelty following revelations about conditions in Dutch slaughterhouses. 

An item on RTL Nieuws, based on government inspectors’ reports, said that 48 fines had been handed down to 19 abattoirs which process cows, sheep and pigs over the past two years because of serious animal welfare issues. 

Inspectors had seen several instances of pigs being placed in vats of very hot water when they were anaesthetised but still alive and trying to swim. The animals were then held under the water by slaughterhouse workers until they drowned. 

In another case, calf was skinned alive. The inspector wrote: ‘despite the calf’s movements, the slaughterman went ahead with removing the skin from its head.’ 

There were also 16 cases of animals being dismembered while they were still alive because their carotid artery had not been properly cut, RTL Nieuws said.   

Millions

Every year some 15 million pigs, 2 million cows and 500,000 sheep are killed in the Netherlands’ 180 slaughterhouses. 

Fines for breaking the law range from €500 for a ‘slight infringement’ to €10,000 for a very serious or repeat offences. 

MPs from across the political spectrum have now called on the minister to get tough. In particular, they say fines should be increased and abattoirs which are multiple offenders should be closed down. 

‘This is absolute horror for the animals,’ said Esther Ouwehand of the pro-animal PvdD. ‘We are supposed to believe that everything is so well arranged here in the Netherlands. But a slaughterhouse which skins an animal alive, drowns them in a piping hot bath or chucks them in the bin should be shut down.’

Monday, June 18, 2018

Indonesian woman swallowed by giant python

Yahoo – AFP, June 16, 2018

Residents of a village in Indonesia were suspicious that a python had eaten their
neighbour so they cut it open and found the woman's body inside, according to
the local police chief (AFP Photo/ROBERT SULLIVAN)

An Indonesian woman has been found in the belly of a giant python after the swollen snake was captured near where she vanished while tending her vegetable garden, police said Saturday.

The body of 54-year-old Wa Tiba was found Friday when villagers cut open the seven-metre (23-foot) python which was found bloated in the village of Persiapan Lawela on the island of Muna, offshore of Sulawesi.

"Residents were suspicious the snake swallowed the victim, so they killed it, then carried it out of the garden," said local police chief Hamka, who like many Indonesians has only one name.

"The snake's belly was cut open and the body of the victim was found inside."

Some 100 residents, including worried relatives, launched a search for the woman after she failed to return from her garden Thursday night.

Hamka said villagers found the giant serpent lying about 30 metres from Tiba's sandals and machete, adding she was swallowed head first and her body was found intact.

The garden in which she disappeared was at the base of a rocky cliff, pockmarked by caves, and known to be home to snakes, Hamka added.

Giant pythons, which regularly top six metres, are commonly found in Indonesia and the Philippines.

While the serpents have been known to attack small animals, attempts to eat people are rare.

In March last year, a farmer was killed by a python in the village of Salubiro on Sulawesi island.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Penka the cow spared death over crossing EU border

Yahoo – AFP, June 11, 2018

This handout picture taken near the village of Kopilovtsi in Bulgaria and released by
 the Four Paws Foundation shows Penka the cow that risked death by staying
over the EU border. (AFP Photo/Hristo Vladev)

Sofia (AFP) - Bulgarian authorities announced Monday that Penka, the cow who risked death by straying over the EU border, will not be put down after all.

"Laboratory analyses of the cow that spent 15 days in Serbia and crossed the border back (into Bulgaria) are negative for all the tested diseases," Bulgaria's Food Safety Agency announced Monday.

"She will not be killed and will return to her herd by the end of the week," agency spokeswoman Ekaterina Stoilova confirmed to AFP.

Penka's plight went viral on social media and made headlines around the world after her owner Ivan Haralampiev, from the western village of Kopilovtsi, launched an appeal 10 days ago to save her.

The animal had wandered away from her herd near the western Bulgarian village of Mazarachevo on May 12 and spent more than two weeks in Serbia before local farmers identified her from her earmarks.

Penka then fell foul of strict EU rules on the import of live animals from third countries, which require extensive paperwork giving the animal a clean bill of health before it can enter the bloc.

Haralampiev lacked the necessary documents to authorise her return and was only allowed to take her back if he agreed to put her down within days.

But instead he launched an appeal on television to save her, sparking a worldwide outpouring of sympathy.

By Monday more than 30,750 people -- including former Beatle Paul McCartney -- had signed an online petition to save Penka addressed to EU institutions.

Penka's fans shared her story with the hashtag #SavePenka and even wrote a poem describing her odyssey.

Haralampiev told Bulgarian media on Monday that he was very grateful "to all the people from across the world who stood up for my poor animal".

"You have no idea how much stress this cost me but it was worth it," Haralampiev said, adding that he was looking forward to an emotional reunion.

Penka would have "luxury fodder" and "lots of caresses" to look forward to and had become "very special" for the family, he said.

Penka was even discussed during the European Commission's daily briefing on Friday with climate spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen answering extensive questions from journalists regarding the cow's situation.

Bulgarian food safety authorities say it is not an isolated case, with animals from Serbia and Macedonia often entering Bulgarian territory, and they are holding talks with the neighbouring countries to resolve the issue.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rare white bison born at Belgrade Zoo

Yahoo – AFP, 30 May 2018

"Dusanka", an extremely rare white bison, was born at Belgrade zoo

One of the world's rarest animals -- a white bison -- has been born at Belgrade zoo, officials said.

The calf, named Dusanka, was born on Monday and trotted around her enclosure in "good health", according to the zoo's veterinarian.

"According to my information, no other (American) white bison has been born in Europe," veterinarian Jozef Ezvedj told AFP.

"Her father Jovan (a white bison) came to us in 2007, imported from America when he was still very young, practically a baby. Dusanka inherited his genes," Ezvedj said.

Dusanka's father was also a white bison

"We are making sure that she is in good health and that she enjoys a peaceful childhood."

Many Native Americans consider white bison to be a good omen and a symbol of hope.

Thousands of Native Americans joined in celebrations of the birth of a white bison female in the US state of Wisconsin in 1994.

"Perhaps we should inform them? Bison among Native Americans are very important in terms of mythological significance," Ezvedj said.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A new weapon against sexual assault: Dutch police dogs trained to sniff out sperm

DutchNews, May 15, 2018

Police dogs have many roles. Photo: Graham Dockery

Dutch police have a new weapon at their disposal in the hunt for rapists – a dog which has been trained to sniff out sperm outdoors, RTL Nieuws said on Tuesday afternoon. 

The two dogs have been involved in 80 cases and the trial was so successful that four more dogs will be trained to work in places where sexual assaults have taken place, RTL said. 

In two cases, the dog’s evidence was instrumental in solving two sex crimes – one of which involved a young girl who was knocked off her bike and raped. 

The dogs are able to identify specific sperm up to a week after the incident. This, says RTL, saves on laboratory time because technicians can identify the sperm sample’s dna straight away, rather than test all sorts of different items for potential evidence. 

The sperm dogs are part of a team of 120 sniffer dogs, all trained to focus on specific smells, such as drugs or money. 

Last year, the police abandoned plans to train up sniffer rats. They were going to be used to detect illegal fireworks, fake cigarettes and human bones but the plan was dropped because they could not be made ‘operational’.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Bangladesh puppy killer sentenced

Yahoo – AFP, May 10, 2018

Activists have in recent years successfully campaigned to stop mass cullings
of street dogs in Dhaka and other cities (AFP Photo/MUNIR UZ ZAMAN)

A Bangladeshi security guard was handed a jail sentence on Thursday for burying alive two dogs and their 14 puppies, in what activists hailed as the country's first ever animal cruelty conviction.

Mohammad Siddique, who buried the dogs in polythene sacks, "was sentenced to six months in jail and fined 200 taka ($2.50)," prosecutor Forkan Mia told AFP after the trial in Dhaka.

Animal rights campaigners, who have long lobbied for replacing the South Asian country's colonial-era laws on animal maltreatment, said they hoped the sentence would act as a deterrent.

"The fact that this case was heard by the magistrate is a major achievement," said Rakibul Haq Emil from animal rights group the PAW Foundation, who brought the case.

"I am sure it will send a warning message that it won't be easy to get away with cruel treatment to animals in Bangladesh," he said.

The bodies of the dogs were discovered in October in a Dhaka neighbourhood. But despite outrage from campaigners, police were initially reluctant to take up the case.

Cruelty towards animals is commonplace in Bangladesh but activists have in recent years successfully campaigned to stop mass cullings of street dogs in the capital and other major cities.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Australia pledges cash to help save the koala

Yahoo – AFP, May 7, 2018

Habitat loss, dog attacks, car strikes, climate change and disease have taken
their toll on one of Australia's most recognisable animals (AFP Photo/Peter PARKS)

Australia unveiled on Monday a US$34 million plan to help bring its koala population back from the brink, following a rapid decline in the furry marsupial's fortunes.

The Australian Koala Foundation estimates there may be as few as 43,000 koalas left in the wild, down from a population believed to number more than 10 million prior to European settlement of the continent in 1788.

"Koalas are a national treasure," said Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales state, in announcing her government's conservation plan.

"It would be such a shame if this nationally iconic marsupial did not have its future secured."

Habitat loss, dog attacks, car strikes, climate change and disease have taken their toll on one of Australia's most recognisable animals.

Studies show a 26 percent decline in the koala population in New South Wales over the last 15-20 years. The state lists the species as "vulnerable", while in other parts of the country they are effectively extinct.

Under the Aus$45 million plan, thousands of hectares will be set aside to preserve the marsupial's natural habitat.

Funds will be used to tackle diseases ravaging koala populations, including chlamydia -- which causes blindness, infertility and death in the species.

Cash has also been earmarked for research, roadkill hotspot upgrades and a new hospital to care for sick and injured koalas. A hotline will also be set up to report koalas in trouble.

The move follows an independent report in late 2016 that recommended a clearer strategy to deal with the population decline.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

50 live crocodiles from Malaysia seized at London airport

Yahoo – AFP, May 4, 2018

Saltwater crocodiles from Malaysia found at London Heathrow Airport had not been
packed in accordance with international regulations, making the importation illegal
(AFP Photo/ARNO BURGI)

British officials have seized an illegal shipment of 50 live crocodiles at London Heathrow Airport, the UK Border Force said Friday.

The year-old juvenile saltwater crocodiles were found crammed into five boxes coming from Malaysia.

The were bound for a farm in Cambridgeshire, eastern England, where they were to be bred for their meat.

The animals had not been packed in accordance with international regulations, making the importation illegal.

Each box only had room for four crocodiles but 10 had been packed into each one.

"It is just not acceptable for reptiles to be transported in this way," said Grant Miller, head of the national Border Force Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at Heathrow.

"The crocodiles had started to fight each other during the flight as space was limited, so little attention had been paid to their welfare.

"We will seize anything that contravenes CITES regulations, so this should serve as a warning to those thinking about transporting wildlife in such conditions."

The crocodiles were found on April 27. One has since died and the others are being cared for before being rehomed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

VIDEO: Deaf since childhood, Razali Bin Mohamad Habidin has developed a closer bond with the creatures under his care than any other keeper at Singapore's Jurong Bird Park, where other staff refer to him simply as the "bird whisperer"

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fans jubilant as Bollywood star Salman Khan freed on bail

Yahoo – AFP, April 7, 2018

Salman Khan is one of the world's highest-paid actors (AFP Photo)

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan left prison on Saturday after being granted bail so he can contest a five-year jail sentence for killing rare antelopes.

Hundreds of frenzied fans awaited the 52-year-old as his vehicle sped through the gates of Jodhpur Central Jail, where the action star had spent two nights after being sentenced on Thursday.

Some tried to cling to the sides of his sports utility vehicle and scores of motorbikes followed Khan as he was driven at high speed to Jodhpur airport to a waiting chartered jet.

He flew to Mumbai where more crowds -- with many men emulating Khan's distinctive hairstyle and clothes -- gathered outside his luxury apartment, dancing to songs from his films.

Khan appeared on the terrace of his apartment with his family and waved to his fans.

A judge released Khan, one of the world's highest-paid actors, in return for bail and sureties totalling 100,000 rupees ($1,500). He cannot leave India without court permission.

Hordes of fans outside the court erupted in celebration on hearing the result, beating drums and chanting Khan's name.

Khan did not attend the bail hearing but prosecutor Mahipal Bishnoi said the actor must appear in court again on May 7.

Khan's army of fans and the Bollywood elite were stunned by the court sentence in the 20-year-old case.

Khan had denied shooting dead two rare antelopes known as black bucks on a hunting trip while filming a movie in 1998.

The court found him guilty while acquitting four other actors.

The actor enjoys a cult-like status and is affectionately known by the Hindi name "bhai", or "brother".

Relief and anger

"Prayers of millions worked," said television actor Arjun Bijlani in a tweet.

But while his fans and producers of costly upcoming films may be relieved, Khan still faces a major courtroom drama.

Bollywood actor Salman Khan's advocate Hastimal Saraswat briefs the 
media outside court (AFP Photo)

Throughout the multiple cases, eyewitnesses have stated they saw Khan firing a gun in October 1998.

Animal rights group PETA said it was disappointed with Khan's bail.

"While Salman Khan gets to go back home to his movie star life for now, black bucks were made to pay the highest price, with their lives," Manilal Valliyate, chief executive of PETA India, said in a statement.

Khan has accused Rajasthan's forest department of trying to frame him. His lawyers claim the black bucks died of natural causes such as overeating, insisting there was no evidence they were shot.

Four other Bollywood stars -- Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari -- who were also accused in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Khan remains one of Bollywood's biggest draws despite the off-screen drama, starring in more than 100 films and television shows.

He finished second behind Shah Rukh Khan in the 2017 Bollywood earnings rankings. Both the Khans are among the world's top 10 best-paid actors.

The Bollywood heartthrob's latest blockbuster "Tiger Zinda Hai" (Tiger is Alive) collected some $85 million worldwide.

Khan has nearly $90 million riding on his projects in coming months with at least three films in the pipeline, analysts say.

A director of one of Khan's upcoming films "Race 3" expressed relief at his release.

"I am happy that he has got bail. After working with him so closely I have become a huge fan of him, not only as an actor but also as a human being," Remo D'Souza told the Press Trust of India.

"Almost 90 percent of the shoot for (the film) is over and the remaining portions will mostly be shot in India."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pretty polly or pests? Dutch in a flap over parakeets

Yahoo – AFP, Charlotte VAN OUWERKERK, 12 March 2018

Thousands of rose-ringed parakeets, close relatives of parrots, have made their
home in the Netherlands over the past five decades, and their growing presence has
become a source of noisy debate

To their detractors, they're dirty alien invaders whose incessant chatter ruins Sunday morning lie-ins. To their supporters, they're beautiful, cheerful reminders of warmer climes amid the winter chill.

Love 'em or hate 'em, thousands of rose-ringed parakeets, close relatives of parrots, have made their home in the Netherlands over the past five decades, and their growing presence has become a source of noisy debate.

Like in other European cities such as London and Paris, the colourful green birds with distinctive red beaks have proliferated over the years.

They gather in garden trees and around schools; they even roost outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague, with urban legend telling how one debate was drowned out by the birds' constant calls.

Imported from Pakistan in the 1960s to brighten the aviaries of wealthy Europeans -- especially the Dutch and British -- over the years many escaped and have now successfully adapted to life in the city.

Indeed, the rose-ringed, or ring-necked parakeet was listed among Europe's top 100 most invasive species in the scientific journal "Biological Invasions" in December.

While their fans claim they are victims of a knee-jerk fear of anything new, some groups actively lobby for their numbers to be culled.

In Amsterdam, where one of the largest colonies of parakeets lives, the town hall has banned residents from putting out food in some areas or risk a 70 euro ($86) fine.

Critics argue the flying flocks undermine the natural order, pinching the resting spaces of owls and bats, leaving behind piles of bird droppings and ravaging trees and plants.

"Some residents are even thinking of moving house because of their infernal noise," said Wilfred Reinhold, president of an association fighting against the birds' presence in the country.

'Charming, but destructive'

With plentiful food, few predators and lots of water, the living is easy in the Netherlands, where the flocks have grown unchecked.

In Leiden, biologist Roelant Jonker has taken the country's oldest colony of the birds under his wing, despite being allergic to their feathers and even though his passion was sorely tested six years ago.

In Amsterdam, home to one of the largest colonies of
parakeets, the town hall has banned residents from
putting out food in some areas or risk a fine of 70 euros

While studying a group of yellow-eared parrots in the jungles of Colombia, Jonker was taken hostage by FARC rebels, a "traumatising experience" which lasted eight months.

But he remains determined to protect the estimated 15,000 parakeets which now call the Netherlands home. By comparison, France is 15 times bigger but counts only some 10,000 parakeets.

"Of course they are charming... but they also cause a lot of damage," said Reinhold, keeping a watchful eye on some budding chestnut trees outside the Dutch parliament.

A recently published picture of an embassy-lined street near the royal palace sullied with parrot droppings has only added grist to his mill.

'Here to stay'

Reinhold insists that measures should be taken to stop the flocks.

"Nets could be dropped on the trees at night to catch hundreds of them," he suggested, accepting however that using guns to shoot them down "would not be a very good idea in the city".

But removing them would be too costly, argued Jonker, declaring: "There is nothing to do. They are here, they are going to stay."

He pointed to some birch trees, saying they had once been imported by the Romans and were now an integral part of the Dutch landscape.

The next generation will see the parakeets "as ordinary birds... and they will be as ordinary as all the different colours of people and birds in Europe," he added.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Dutch scientists use dna testing to identify illegally logged wood

DutchNews, March 5, 2018


Researchers at Wageningen University are using dna testing to help identify tropical hardwood which has been cut down illegally. 

Around 30 to 90% of all tropical hardwood is logged illegally, and checks on the origin of wood, however thorough, are not particularly effective because documentation may be fraudulent, the universitysays

The new method identifies the wood’s dna and is precise enough to differentiate between trees cut down in places that are practically next door to each other. This is important because position can mark the difference between legal and illegally logged wood. 

‘The fact that we can accurately differentiate the origin of timber down to a 14 km radius is new,’ says lead author Mart Vlam of the Forest Ecology and Forest Management Research Group at Wageningen University. ‘Previous studies only managed to do that on a much less refined scale.’ 

The research involved collecting several hundred timber samples in five timber concessions in Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville together with two logging companies. These samples were used to create a reference-database. 

‘We ran a blind test on some of the samples,’ says Vlam. ‘I had 12 pieces of timber of which I knew the origin but the genetic specialists at Wageningen Environmental Research didn’t. I gave them the samples and asked them to identify which concessions they came from. They got it right 92% of the time – that’s a great score.’ 

This study demonstrates that genetic analysis has great potential for use in forensic testing of tropical hardwood. 

‘But a lot needs to be done before these tests can be used as evidence in court,’says lead researcher Pieter Zuidema. ‘We need to collect timber samples from a much larger area and our analyses and labs will have to meet strict criteria. We can’t do that on our own, so we are collaborating in a worldwide network of researchers, labs and authorities.’

Monday, February 26, 2018

Malaysia elephant sanctuary trumpets effort to cut human-animal conflict

Yahoo – AFP, M Jegathesan, February 25, 2018

Selendang lost part of its leg after it was caught in a snare trap and has been
fitted with a prosthetic limb (AFP Photo/Manan VATSYAYANA)

A herd of elephants tramp through jungle before lumbering into a river under the watchful gaze of their keepers, training at a Malaysian sanctuary for their vital work in reducing human-animal conflict.

The sanctuary in Kuala Gandah, central Malaysia, is an area of secluded rainforest where "mahouts" -- as the keepers are known -- care for a 26-strong group of endangered Asian elephants.

A handful were rescued after suffering injuries or being orphaned, but most of them have been domesticated and trained to aid the National Elephant Conservation Centre's effort to help elephants who become embroiled in conflicts with humans.

They accompany a highly-trained team on their missions to find and subdue fellow pachyderms whose habitats have been encroached on, and are putting themselves and villagers at risk.

Since the centre started operations about 30 years ago, its staff have relocated more than 700 wild elephants, taking them away from inhabited areas and deep into the jungle.

Malaysia is home to vast tracts of rainforest and a kaleidoscope of exotic wildlife, from elephants to orangutans and tigers, but the numbers of many rare species have fallen dramatically in recent decades.

Some have been hunted for their body parts that are then sold on the black market, but a growing number are falling victim to human-animal conflict -- which happens when rapid expansion of plantations or development of settlements encroaches on animals' natural habitats.

Mahouts care for a 26-strong group of endangered Asian elephants at the
sanctuary (AFP Photo/Manan VATSYAYANA)

Many elephants in Malaysia have been injured or killed after coming into contact with humans when they wander onto the country's ubiquitous palm oil plantations, or enter settlements and eat crops.

Villagers and plantation workers sometimes target them, viewing them as pests and not realising they are endangered and protected by law.

One elephant among the herd at the 30-acre (12-hectare) sanctuary, Selendang, lost part of its leg after it was caught in a snare trap, and has been fitted with a prosthetic limb.

On a recent visit to the centre, a dozen of the resident elephants marched in single file with their trunks swinging as their mahouts put them through the paces during a morning workout.

They emitted trumpeting sounds before splashing into a river, where the mahouts scrubbed their bellies and trunks.

There are believed to be some 1,200 wild Asian elephants in peninsular Malaysia, down from as many as 1,700 in 2011.

"If their remaining habitat faces rapid deforestation, I think before the end of the century, there will be no more wild elephants left," warned Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, a Malaysia-based elephant expert.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Spotted hyena returns to Gabon park after 20 years: researchers

Yahoo – AFP, January 20, 2018

Spotted hyenas have been spotted in Gabon for the first time in 20 years
 (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

Libreville (AFP) - A spotted hyena has been sighted in a Gabon national park for the first time in 20 years, conservationists said Friday, the latest large predator to have returned to a region where many had gone locally extinct.

The Bateke Plateau National Park lies close to Gabon's border with the Republic of Congo.

Its forests and grasslands once teemed with wildlife, including many large mammal predators, but the ecosystem was decimated by decades of poaching.

Officials said a spotted hyena had been caught on camera traps in the park for the first time in two decades giving hope that more large mammals might return after years of conservation efforts.

The sighting comes two years after a lone male lion was photographed by camera traps after returning.

"The return of these large carnivores is a great demonstration that the efforts of our rangers and partners are having a positive effect on Bateke wildlife," professor Lee White, director of Gabon's National Parks Agency said in a press release.

The spotted hyena was so unknown in recent memories that when researchers showed local park rangers the photographs from the camera traps they did not know the species.

But village elders in communities north of the park instantly recognised the hyena, researchers said.

The sightings are a far cry from when researchers first set up their camera traps in 2001.

That year all they photographed in Bateke was a lone antelope and multiple poachers crossing into the park from the Republic of Congo.

The lion first spotted in 2015 has since made the park his home. But he has yet to be joined by any others.

"This lion... has been continuously photographed during his three-year reign of the park, but remains alone, calling for a mate," the researchers said.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stray dogs 'murdered' in Russian World Cup cities: MPs

Yahoo – AFP, Jan 11, 2018

The World Cup will be held in 11 Russian cities this summer, from the enclave of
Kaliningrad in the West to Yekaterinburg in the East (AFP Photo/Mladen ANTONOV)

Moscow (AFP) - Stray dogs are being killed in Russian cities set to host the 2018 World Cup as authorities follow orders to get thousands of feral animals under control, Russian MPs claimed Thursday.

"We have received many appeals from animal rights activists and just caring citizens saying mass shooting and euthanasia of stray animals is taking place in a number of World Cup-host cities," the head of the Russian lower house's environmental protection committee Vladimir Burmatov told Parlamentskaya Gazeta newspaper.

Packs of stray dogs are a common sight in Russian cities, fuelled by public reluctance to sterilise pets, and some can be aggressive or beg for food.

Last month first deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko estimated there are some two million stray animals in the host cities and urged them to solve the problem humanely.

Burmatov said his committee had sent an official letter to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov warning of "mass destruction of homeless animals" in host cities, and asking him to ask the regional authorities to use "humane methods without causing death or mutilating or injuring the animals."

Burmatov called for stray dogs to be placed in temporary holding centres and sterilised, saying this would be no more costly than killing them and would improve Russia's image.

"These troubling signals must stop, our country's reputation is at stake. Because we're not savages carrying out mass killings of animals on the streets, throwing their bloodied bodies into vans and driving them round the city.

"For the same money you can easily carry out catching, vaccination and sterilisation and accommodating the animals in holding centres," Burmatov said.

In response to the letter sports minister Kolobkov said he had told the host cities to use humane methods in order to avoid a negative public reaction, Parlamentskaya Gazeta newspaper reported.

The World Cup will be held in 11 Russian cities this summer, from the enclave of Kaliningrad in the West to Yekaterinburg in the East.