A Litoria frog, which uses a loud ringing song to call for a mate, was discovered in a rainforest during a Conservation International (CI) led Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition of Papua New Guinea's highlands wilderness in 2008 is pictured in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Steve Richards/Conservation International/Handout


"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)
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Friday, November 28, 2014

Pedigree dog health and welfare in spotlight, breeders pledge action

DutchNews.nl, November 27, 2014

The Dutch dog breeders’ association is taking steps to improve the health of pedigree dogs, in particular by ensuring they don’t have problems because of their extreme appearance, broadcaster Nos says on Thursday.

Vets will be present at all dog shows from 2016 and will make their own judgements about ‘best of breed’, alongside the judges, Nos says. The aim is to have eradicated health problems caused by physical deformities such as very flat noses and multiple skin folds by 2024.

The association’s plan, entitled Fairfok, or ‘fair breeding’, was presented to junior economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma on Thursday.

From 2018, pedigree dog family trees will be able to apply for Fairfok approval, which shows the breeding has taken place with appropriate consideration for the behaviour, health and welfare of both the parents and puppies.

There are between 1.5 million and 1.8 million dogs in the Netherlands, of which around 500,000 are pedigrees.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Old Traditions for Saving Water

Jakarta Globe, Sitti Aminah, Nov 27, 2014

A villager collects water from a well, which was dug from the bottom of a lake
 that had dried up in Gunung 
Kidul village, near Yogyakarta in Java. Drought
 continually plagues the area and the villagers who reside there. (Reuters
Photo/Dwi Oblo)

Jakarta. Indonesia is home to some of the world’s largest water deposits. According to the Water Environment Partnership in Asia, WEPA, almost 6 percent of the world’s water resources  can be found in Indonesia. Additionally, Indonesia controls 21 percent of water resources in the Asia-Pacific region.

Geographically, it can be said that Indonesia is blessed with an abundance of water in storage.

Mountainous areas covered in rain forests form natural water catchments. Mangrove forests in coastal areas, meanwhile, protect inland water storage from saltwater intrusion.

Indonesia undoubtedly plays an important role in global water security and environmental conservation. This, however, does not mean Indonesia is immune from water-related problems.

Water is one of several basic necessities, a valuable asset that has the potential to trigger problems should it be manipulated or managed unwisely. Speaking of manipulating water resources, the government and the private-sector play an increasing role in this sector.

The 1945 Constitution mandates the government as the sole manager of water resources throughout the archipelago. It is given the mandate so that it can fulfill the people’s basic necessities.

Overwhelmed by the task, the government has delegated part of its water authority to the private sector. They require the private sector to ensure that Indonesia’s need for water is balanced with accessible supplies.

Excessive use

Despite efforts to maintain supply, most urban populations in Indonesia use water excessively.  It may be because to them, water is something easily available, not something that they struggle to attain.

Lower- to middle-income people in Indonesia use 169.11 liters per day, per person on average. The figure is higher for those in the middle-to-upper class group who use 247.36 liters. Almost every domestic activity requires water, from washing clothes and cleaning the dishes to cooking, drinking and watering gardens.

According the Indonesia Water Institute, since 2000, various regions in Indonesia have been forced to deal with water scarcity. Such shortages are blamed by environmental degradation. Additionally, water becomes scarce due to unwise management.

The Baduy people

An examination of the traditional practices of some indigenous groups, including the Baduy people in Banten is insightful. Their actions are in line with sustainable development principles, consisting of three pillars: environment, economy and community. Under those principles, they are able to manage the environment wisely.

The practice, supervised by their elderly, bars Baduy Dalam (Inner Baduy) people, who live deep in the forest, from cutting down trees. Cutting trees is only allowed should the tree be of a sufficient age. If they cut down one tree, in exchange, they must plant two trees. We can see here an effort to balance the ecosystem, and maintain an abundance of trees.

The indigenous Baduy people demonstrate to us how to manage our relations with the environment. By preserving the forest, they maintain the availability of water in the soil.

In terms of their other two pillars, economy and community, an examination of Baduy Luar (outer Baduy) people’s practices is useful.  They are allowed to sell their crops to meet daily necessities, but only if they maintain the sustainability of their plantations and don’t harvest excessively — which can damage their forests. The Baduy sees nature as an integral part of their life that must to be respected. It is a remarkable value, one which has allowed them to avoid environmental-related problems, including water scarcity.

If we apply such values to our modern society, everyone will benefit. Indonesians need to wake from their long sleep and consider such core environmental principles. Unique traditional values that respect nature are part of our country’s identity. Even though they often originate from different cultural practices, they have one thing in common: a unique, traditional solution for environmental issues.

Every region in Indonesia is moving towards preserving the environment as one solution for water scarcity. I’m optimistic that this will work. I’m also aware, though, that it is going to be a life-long project to make people understand environmental principles.

Once they understand the actions they can take to alleviate water scarcity, their behavior will change. Let’s appreciate what we have, and let’s move forward with it.

Sitti “Ina” Aminah is a knowledge management officer at the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Yayasan Kehati)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pachydermis Stormborn: Taipei Zoo baby hippo named after the rain

Want China Times, CNA and Staff Reporter 2014-11-23

Baby hippo Yu and mother Najuzhong at Taipei Zoo, Nov. 21. (Photo
courtesy of Taipei Zoo)

Taipei Zoo said Friday that a baby hippopotamus was born in a pond at the zoo as rain poured down on the night of Nov. 16.

The baby hippo, currently smaller than its mother's head, was named Yu, which means rain, and its mother's name Najuzhong was added, the zoo said on its official website.

The zoo said its veterinary staff observed last Sunday afternoon that the mother had gone into labor and they monitored her until she gave birth at about 10pm.

Since then, Najuzhong Yu has been sticking close to its mother's side but can already dive, the zoo said.

The calf's sex has not yet been determined because the mother would not allow the veterinary staff to get too close, the zoo said.

It said the mother and newborn are being kept in the Asian rainforest display area because the enclosure for its African animals is under renovation.

The best time for visitors to see the baby hippo is when the mother leaves the pond to feed. "If you're lucky, you may have a chance to see her breastfeeding," a zoo keeper said.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Australia Brings ‘Koala Diplomacy’ to Bear at G20

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Nov 16, 2014

First Lady Iriana Widodo holds a koala while on a spouse visit to a koala sanctuary
 at the G20 conference in Brisbane, Australia on Nov. 15, 2014. (EPA Photo/Ian Waldie/
Pool Australia And New Zealand Out)

Brisbane. Australia arranged a warm and fuzzy welcome for the world’s most powerful leaders at this weekend’s G20 summit with a campaign dubbed “koala diplomacy”, in which top politicians cuddled the shy native marsupials.

While there may have been sharp differences during policy discussions, G20 leaders were unanimous in their desire be photographed with the furry grey animals, which were brought in from a local wildlife park for the summit.

Everyone from US President Barack Obama to China’s first lady Peng Liyuan queued up to hold the koalas as the world’s press snapped away.

Even host Tony Abbott’s pre-summit threat to aggressively “shirtfront” Russian leader Vladimir Putin was temporarily forgotten as the pair smiled and posed side-by-side cradling koalas in their arms.

The well-traveled White House press corps, normally immune to the charms of “local color”, were also enchanted by the iconic bush creatures when they met a two-year-old female named Jimbelung.

The koala, which is destined to be sent to Japan as a gift, munched contentedly on eucalyptus leaves but her handler said she was too tired to pose with reporters after photo sessions with Putin and Obama.

However, there was time for one more round of pictures when local powerbroker Campbell Newman, the Premier of Queensland state, turned up with a gaggle of media in tow.

But handler Al Mucci, from the Dreamworld wildlife park on the nearby Gold Coast tourist strip, said bringing the koalas to the summit was not just about ramping up the event’s cuteness factor.

He said Jimbelung, whose name means “friends” in the local Aboriginal dialect, belongs to a species struggling with declining numbers as human development encroaches on their habitat.

“As an Australian, I am proud of the fact that we are hosting the G20 and I’m proud that today we can share the koala story,” he told AFP.

“Koalas and people aren’t learning to live together and their population is dropping. We want to share that with the global community, that more help is required to make sure that people and koalas live together for another 200 years here in Australia.”

While not listed as endangered, koalas are officially considered “vulnerable”, and efforts to boost their population have been stepped up in recent years.

A 2011 study estimated there were more than 10 million before British settlers arrived in 1788 but numbers had declined to less than 45,000 in the wild, though it noted their existence high in the treetops makes them difficult to count.

Koalas spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping. On the rare occasions when they are spotted in the wild, they are usually nestled in the crook of two branches either napping or chewing leaves.

Agence France-Presse

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, left, and US President Barack Obama each
 hold a koala before the G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane on Nov. 15, 2014.
(Reuters Photo/G20 Australia/Handout)

Related Article:


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Indonesia Tsunami Warning Lifted After 7.1 Earthquake

Jakarta Globe, Nov 15, 2014

A screenshot of the USGS website showing the series of earthquakes in
eastern Indonesia on Saturday. (JG Photo)

Jakarta. Indonesian authorities have lifted a tsunami warning after a magnitude-7.1 earthquake hit the east of the country on Saturday morning.

The quake struck at 9:31 a.m. some 156 kilometers northwest of the island of Ternate in the Malukus. Several aftershocks ranging in magnitude from 4.3 to 5.8 were registered as of 1:13 p.m., according to the United States Geological Survey.

The initial quake prompted a tsunami warning from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), but the waves generated were not as high as feared in places such as Jailolo and Tobelo, in the Maluku chain, and in Manado, North Sulawesi.

The BMKG withdrew its tsunami warning at 13:45 p.m. in the affected area, while the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it would continue to monitor the seismic activity in the region.

“Any time there’s a tsunami warning, the people must evacuate to higher ground,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the BNPB, adding that in that particular region, there was only a 30-minute window for an evacuation, given the speed at which the tsunami waves moved.

The region, where the Eurasian and Filipino tectonic plates meet, has a history of earthquakes capable of generating tsunamis. The last recorded tsunami was in 1932, when a quake of magnitude 8.3 struck. Before that, a 7.4 quake in 1858 also generated a tsunami.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New antibiotic in mushroom that grows on horse dung


Researchers from the Institute of Microbiology at ETH Zurich have discovered a new protein with antibiotic properties in a mushroom that grows on horse dung. Researchers are now exploring the various potential applications.

The scientists isolated the new active compound from the grey shag that grows
on horse dung. (Photo: Andreas Gminder / mushroomobserver.org / CC BY-NC-SA 3)

Microbiologists and molecular biologists at ETH Zurich and the University of Bonn have discovered a new agent in fungi that kills bacteria. The substance, known as copsin, has the same effect as traditional antibiotics, but belongs to a different class of biochemical substances. Copsin is a protein, whereas traditional antibiotics are often non-protein organic compounds.

The researchers led by Markus Aebi, Professor of Mycology, discovered the substance in the common inky cap mushroom Coprinopsis cinerea that grows on horse dung. When they began their research, the scientists were interested in understanding how this fungus and various bacteria affect each other's growth. This involved cultivating the fungus in a laboratory along with several different types of bacteria. It was found that C. cinerea is able to kill certain bacteria. Further research demonstrated that the copsin produced by the mushroom is responsible for this antibiotic effect.

Copsin belongs to the group of defensins, a class of small proteins produced by many organisms to combat microorganisms that cause disease. The human body also produces defensins to protect itself against infections. They have been found, for example, on the skin and in the mucous membranes.

A question for basic research

For Aebi, the main focus of this research project was not primarily on applications for the new substance. “Whether copsin will one day be used as an antibiotic in medicine remains to be seen. This is by no means certain, but it cannot be ruled out either,” he says.

The ETH professor is much more intrigued by fundamental questions, such as how fungi have used defensins and other naturally antibiotic substances for millions of years to protect themselves against bacteria. Why does this work for fungi while humans have been using antibiotics in medicine for just 70 years with many of them already becoming useless due to resistance? “Fungi have internal instructions on how to use these substances without resulting in selection of resistant bacteria. How to decode these instructions is an intriguing problem for basic research,” explains Aebi.

An extremely stable protein

The three-dimensional structure studied by
 ETH researchers exhibits the compact form
of copsin. (Source: Essig A et al. JBC 2014)
Andreas Essig, a postdoc in Aebi's group and lead author of the study, is currently exploring potential applications for copsin that has been registered for patent approval. It was the biochemical properties of the substance that led the scientist to do so. “Copsin is an exceptionally stable protein,” says Essig. Proteins are generally susceptible to protein-degrading enzymes and high temperatures. Copsin is an exception because it also remains stable when heated to a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius for several hours or when subjected to protein-degrading enzymes. The researchers believe that the protein has these properties because of its extremely compact three-dimensional structure, as NMR spectroscopy has shown.

The ETH researchers were also able to unravel the exact mechanism of action, discovering that copsin can bind to lipid II, an essential building block for the cell wall of bacteria. “Building the cell wall is the Achilles heel of bacteria,” explains Essig. If copsin binds to lipid II, the bacteria die because they are unable to build new cell wall.

In addition to being used as an antibiotic in medicine, it may also be possible to use copsin in the food industry as well. This is because copsin kills many pathogens including Listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning and is therefore feared, especially in the production of non-heat treated foodstuffs such as raw milk cheeses and dried meats.

Literature reference

Essig A, Hofmann D, Münch D, Gayathri S, Künzler M, Kallio PT, Sahl HG, Wider G, Schneider T, Aebi M: Copsin, a novel peptide-based fungal antibiotic interfering with the peptidoglycan synthesis. Journal of Biological Chemistry, online publication 23 October 2014, doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.599878

Friday, November 7, 2014

Chinese officials 'on illegal African ivory buying sprees'

Yahoo – AFP, Tom Hancock, 6 Nov 2014

The environmental group WWF estimated that around 25,000 African elephants
were hunted for ivory in 2011 (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Beijing (AFP) - Chinese diplomatic and military staff went on buying sprees for illegal ivory while on official visits to East Africa, sending prices soaring, an environmental activist group said Thursday.

Tens of thousands of elephants are estimated to be slaughtered in Africa each year to feed rising Asian demand for ivory products, mostly from China, the continent's biggest trading partner.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tanzania in March 2013, members of his government and business delegation bought so much ivory that local prices doubled to $700 per kilogram, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said in a report, citing ivory traders in the city of Dar es Salaam.

"When the guest come, the whole delegation, that's then time when the business goes up," the EIA quoted a vendor named Suleiman as saying.

The traders alleged that the buyers took advantage of a lack of security checks for diplomatic visitors to smuggle their purchases back to China on Xi's plane.

Similar sales were made on a previous trip by China's former President Hu Jintao, the report said, adding that Chinese embassy staff have been "major buyers", since at least 2006.

There could be as few as 470,000 African elephants, according to the 
environmental group WWF (AFP Photo)

A Chinese navy visit to Tanzania last year by vessels returning from anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden "prompted a surge in business for Dar es Salaam-based ivory traders", it said.

A Chinese national named Yu Bo was arrested during the naval visit as he attempted to enter the city's port in a lorry containing 81 elephant tusks -- hidden under wooden carvings -- which he planned to deliver to two mid-ranking Chinese naval officers, the EIA said.

Yu was convicted by a local court in March and sentenced to 20 years in jail, it added.

Key China ally

Tanzania, which has large reserves of natural gas, is a key ally of China in East Africa, and its President Jakaya Kikwete reportedly signed deals with the Asian giant worth $1.7 billion while on a visit to Beijing last month.

Tanzania had about 142,000 elephants when Kikwete took office in 2005, the EIA said, adding that by 2015 the population is likely to have plummeted to about 55,000 as a result of poaching.

Almost all ivory sales were banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which both China and Tanzania are signatories.

Politicians from Tanzania's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party and well-connected business people are also involved in the ivory trade, with most demand coming from China, the EIA said.

The EIA report did say that enforcement of the ban on ivory sales had slightly improved last year, with smuggling syndicates growing "more cautious", after Yu's conviction, as well as a high-profile raid.

Police found 706 ivory tusks weighing over 1.8 tonnes at a house in Dar es Salaam last November, along with three Chinese nationals who were detained at the scene after trying to pay a $50,000 bribe, the EIA said.

Seized ivory tusks are displayed prior to their destruction by incineration in
Hong Kong on May 15, 2014. (AFP Photo/Philippe Lopez)

Meng Xianlin, a Chinese forestry administration official who oversees Beijing's commitments under CITES told AFP that the claims made in the EIA's report were "baloney".

"I have not heard of such a matter," he said, adding: "Do not hype this up."

China often says that it pays "great attention", to the protection of endangered wildlife, and in recent years has carried out several high-profile arrests of smugglers caught in its territory, along with a televised incineration of seized ivory.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei described the report as "groundless" at a regular briefing in Beijing Thursday, adding that China was "strongly dissatisfied" with it.

"We attach importance to the protection of wild animals like elephants," he said.

"Recently, in light of the illegal actions of poaching and smuggling of elephant tusks, the Chinese government enacted a series of laws and regulations."

The environmental group WWF estimated that around 25,000 African elephants were hunted for ivory in 2011, predicting that the toll would rise. There could be as few as 470,000 left, according to the group.

Related Article:


Monday, November 3, 2014

Thick Haze Returns to Central Kalimantan

Jakarta Globe, Nov 02, 2014

Haze at a airport in South Sulawesi, in this Oct. 6, 2014, file photo. (Antara
Photo/Herry Murdy Hermawan)

Jakarta. Thick haze, usually caused by forest fires, on Saturday made a comeback in parts of Central Kalimantan that had just experienced a smoke-free week.

The Sampit area East Kotawaringin district was blanketed in smoke so thick that flights had to be diverted.

“The air here in East Kotawaringin district was free of haze for a week, but since Saturday the haze has come back and blanketed Sampit,” Sumi, a resident, told state-run news agency Antara on Sunday.

Fadlian Noor, head of East Kotawaringin’s Communications and Informatics Office, said visibility was just 10 meters — a far cry from the minimum of 2,000 meters for safe flight movements.

“The haze seems to have gotten worse — so bad that flights coming here have had to be diverted,” he said, as quoted by Antara on Sunday.

“Yesterday there was even a flight from Jakarta [to Sampit] that had to be diverted all the way to Surabaya [in East Java] because of the haze,” he added.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

S.Africa arrests two Vietnamese with record 41kg of rhino horns

Yahoo – AFP, 2 Nov 2014

A cache of 41kg of smuggled rhino horns is seen at O.R. Tambo Airport in 
Johannesburg after it was confiscated from two Vietnamese passengers on a
flight to Hanoi from Mozambique (AFP Photo/Ho)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Two Vietnamese men were arrested at Johannesburg airport with a record haul of 18 rhino horns, weighing 41 kilos (90 pounds), during a stopover on a flight from Mozambique to Vietnam, South African police said Saturday.

"This is the largest haul of rhino horns seized in one operation in South Africa," said a joint statement from police and customs officials.

Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung, fights 
back tears as she stands near the carcass
 of a decomposing white rhino on the banks
 of a river in the Kruger National Park on
September 12, 2014 (AFP Photo/Marco
Longari)
The flight had started in Maputo, Mozambique, and was heading to Hanoi.

Police said it was believed the horns, which were still intact, were removed from South African rhinos.

The two Vietnamese, aged 25 and 26, were in police custody after being stopped late Friday. They were due to appear in court on Monday.

"They will possibly be charged with transporting, possession and dealing in endangered species," said lieutenant general Solomon Makgale, a police spokesman.

The Qatar Airways flight had been due to make a one-hour stop at OR Tambo airport but a "very credible" tip-off led authorities to ask passengers to leave the plane so they could investigate, Makgale said.

Demand for rhinoceros horn -- which is made from keratin, the same material in hair and nails -- has skyrocketed in recent years, largely driven by demand from Asia, where the powdered horn is valued for its supposed medicinal properties.

A campaign poster on a building in downtown Hanoi on August 28, 2014 warns
 people not to buy rhino horn (AFP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam)

South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhinos, some 80 percent of the worldwide population.

The country is in the midst of a growing rhino poaching crisis, and has seen more than 730 rhinos killed this year.

Child jockeys, big stakes on Indonesia's horse-racing island

Yahoo – AFP, Chris McCall, 1 Nov 2014

Sumba child jockeys practice at the Waingapu race track, on Indonesia's 
Sumba island, on September 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Chris McCall)

Waingapu (Indonesia) (AFP) - Umar Marampa is only 14, but he is already a veteran of horse races on an Indonesian island famed for its schoolboy jockeys who compete on sandy circuits with tiny steeds.

At a recent training session with a group of other riders in Sumba's main city of Waingapu, he put his stocky little horse through its paces, galloping around a track at breakneck speed.

Marampa began racing aged nine and is now relatively old for a Sumba jockey -- some start as young as five. Some of the youngsters were clearly struggling as they sought to control the feisty animals, which stomped around angrily before racing.

Horses graze in a field on early morning, in
 Waingapu, on Indonesia's Sumba island,
on September 24, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Chris McCall)
"We start by climbing on horses in the hills. We learn by ourselves," Marampa told AFP, highlighting that horse-riding is deeply ingrained in the local culture of the poor, central Indonesian island, and a source of pride for the young jockeys.

Sumba is famous throughout Indonesia for its child jockeys and 'Sandel' horses named after the sandalwood that was once exported from the island.

The small, fast animals are found across the island, and are widely believed to be descended from steeds once ridden by the fierce Mongol warriors in war.

The influence of horses is everywhere -- one of the focal points of Waingapu is a statue showing boys riding horses, and ceremonial battles on horseback are played out every year, evoking ancient clashes between rival clans on the island.

Races are held frequently and are typically riotous affairs, with lots of illegal gambling and frequent fights when one punter's horse loses. Children occasionally fall from their horses and break limbs, although deaths are rare.

Police sometimes have to step in and cancel events but it would be difficult to axe them all. Not only are horses and horse-racing woven into the fabric of the arid island's local culture, large amounts of money are at stake.

Big cash prizes

Many local people have chosen to invest in racehorses, as cash prizes for important events are as much as 10 million rupiah (about $830) -- a huge amount in a country where many live on less than $2 a day.

As competition intensifies, larger horses, cross-breeds with Australian steeds, have started to appear. They tend to be taller and stronger, and do better.

Child rights activists have long been calling for the practice of youngsters racing to be banned but realise they face an uphill battle against local traditions.

Sumba child jockeys ride their horses to Waingapu race track, on Indonesia's
Sumba island, on September 21, 2014 (AFP Photo/Chris McCall)

"The worst part of all of this is that it puts children in danger," said Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the national commission for child protection.

However local residents insist that precautions are taken to ensure the youngsters are well prepared before they start racing.

When jockeys reach their late teens, they generally retire, and some go on to train younger riders. The boys are slowly introduced to the race track, said Abraham Endruyan Wunu, a local teacher who assists with the training.

A ceremony based on local beliefs is also performed, which is aimed at ensuring they do not feel pain, he added.

However, most adults prefer being spectators to taking part. Civil servant Julianus Amahu said that, while he owns a racehorse himself, he would be reluctant to join a band of youngsters galloping with abandon round a track.

"I would be scared," the 42-year-old admitted.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Rains hamper Sri Lanka mudslide tragedy search effort

Yahoo – AFP, Ishara Kodikara, 30 Oct 2014

A road damaged after a landslide caused by heavy monsoon rains in Koslanda
village in central Sri Lanka on October 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)

Koslanda (Sri Lanka) (AFP) - Heavy rains disrupted a massive search Thursday for scores of people feared buried in a landslide on a Sri Lankan tea estate, further dimming prospects of finding anyone alive.

An estimated 100 people are still listed as missing, according to the national Disaster Management Centre (DMC), a day after dozens of tin-roofed homes were buried under tonnes of mud, with only a handful of bodies recovered so far.

Hundreds of troops suspended their work with rains threatening more mudslides at the plantation in central Sri Lanka.

A government-run relief camp at Poonagalla
 on October 30, 2014 after a deadly landslide
 on a Sri Lankan tea estate that buried
scores of tin-roofed homes under tonnes
of mud (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)
"We are suspending the search operation because it is not safe to work in this rain," the region's top military officer, Major General Mano Perera, told reporters.

"We hope to start work tomorrow morning if the weather improves."

Perera said they failed to find any survivors or bodies from the disaster site on Thursday. He did not hold out much hope of finding survivors as the site was covered in tonnes of mud.

"There were no concrete structures which could have acted as air traps for victims to survive," he added.

Shop keeper Vevaratnam Marathamuttu said he ran when tonnes of earth came crashing down the hill on Wednesday morning, fearing there had been an explosion.

"I thought it was some sort of a bomb blast and fled from my shop," Marathamuttu said. "I saved my life because I ran away."

Truck driver Sinniah Yogarajan, 48, said there was "no point in my living" after five members of his family along with his friends were buried in the disaster.

"The entire neighbourhood has vanished. Now there is a river of mud where our houses once stood," Yogarajan told AFP at a nearby school where survivors were sheltering.

"The soldiers are trying their best but every time they scoop out some of the mud the hole then just gets filled up again with more mud."

There had been fears of an even higher toll when officials initially said that up to 300 people were unaccounted for.

But the government's disaster management minister said most of those who were classified as missing were later found at work, with the DMC saying at least 227 people survived because they were out of their homes when the tragedy struck.

Some 75 children were already at their school nearby when their homes were buried, officials said, adding that they were checking on reports that at least two children had lost both parents.

Fears of more landslides

President Mahinda Rajapakse visited the disaster area in Koslanda on Thursday, speaking with survivors sheltering at two schools. He later inspected the Meeriyabedda tea plantation, which bore the full brunt of the mudslide.

During the day, soldiers were seen clearing debris from the mud, as curious onlookers as well as survivors whose relatives were missing gathered at the site despite appeals to stay away.

Sri Lankan residents watch search and rescue operations at the site of a landslide
 caused by heavy monsoon rains in Koslanda village in central Sri Lanka on
October 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Ishara S. Kodikara)

Labourer Arumugam Thyagarajah, 28, said his six-year-old daughter was washed away in the mudslide as she walked with her older brother to school.

At least 1,200 people from nearby tea plantations have also been evacuated from their homes amid fears that ongoing rains could lead to more mudslides, officials said adding that more people were expected at relief centres.

Sri Lanka's picturesque hill region is famed for producing Ceylon tea, and has become a major tourist attraction with visitors able to stay on the plantations.

The number of homes destroyed was revised down to 63 on Thursday from 150 given earlier by the DMC.

"We had difficulty communicating with our officers and sometimes rumours were reported to us as facts," the Colombo-based DMC spokesman Sarath Kumara told AFP.

An office where village records were maintained was also destroyed in the disaster, causing problems for the authorities in compiling reliable casualty figures.

Sri Lanka, a tropical island at the foot of India, is prone to weather-related disasters -- especially during the monsoon season when the rains are often welcomed by farmers.

If the death toll does reach three figures, the disaster would be the country's worst since the December 2004 tsunami when 31,000 people died.

Related Article:


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Antibiotics may help animals spread salmonella

Yahoo – AFP, 21 Oct 2014

Giving animals antibiotics may make them sicker and could lead some to spread even
more salmonella than they would have otherwise, US researchers experimenting
on mice said (AFP Photo/Jean-Francois Monier)

Washington (AFP) - Giving animals antibiotics may make them sicker and could lead some to spread even more salmonella than they would have otherwise, US researchers experimenting on mice said.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could point to a new concern over feeding healthy livestock low doses of antibiotics to help them grow and stave off common illnesses, a practice that critics say may fuel drug-resistant superbugs.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine gave oral antibiotics to mice infected with Salmonella typhimurium, a bacteria which can cause food poisoning.

A small minority, known as "superspreaders" because they had been shedding high amounts of salmonella in their feces for weeks, remained healthy. It appears neither the antibiotic or the illness had much effect on them.

"The rest of the mice got sicker instead of better and, oddly, started shedding like superspreaders," the university said in a statement describing the research.

A previous Stanford study found that giving non-superspreader mice an oral antibiotic led to a rapid increase in salmonella shed in their feces.

This study showed that giving streptomycin, an antibiotic, to salmonella-infected mice, led most of them to begin shedding high levels of the pathogen in both their gut and their feces.

Most of the treated mice also appeared sicker after the antibiotics.

"They lost weight, had ruffled fur and hunched up the in corners of their cages," said Denise Monack, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and the study's senior author.

"They also began to shed much larger quantities of bacteria."

The same thing happened when the mice were given another antibiotic, neomycin, suggesting that the medicine had the opposite of its intended effect.

"If this holds true for livestock as well -- and I think it will -- it would have obvious public health implications," Monack said.

"We need to think about the possibility that we're not only selecting for antibiotic-resistant microbes, but also impairing the health of our livestock and increasing the spread of contagious pathogens among them and us."


Related Article:


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stranded trekkers in storm-hit Nepal region 'safe'

Yahoo – AFP, October 18, 2014

Stranded trekkers in storm-hit region safe: Nepal official

Kathmandu (AFP) - All trekkers left stranded by a major snowstorm in Nepal's Himalayas are safe, officials said Saturday, with the focus now shifting to the recovery of bodies four days after the disaster killed at least 32 people.

Nepalese army choppers circled the upper reaches of the popular Annapurna Circuit trekking region to locate bodies, while officials flew in a team of experts from Kathmandu to assist with retrieval.

Tuesday's unseasonal storm, which hit at the height of the trekking season triggering avalanches, caught hikers unaware on their way up to an exposed high mountain pass, and killed at least 17 tourists.

"We understand that all remaining trekkers in the region are safe," said Binay Acharya of the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN), an industry body organising rescue efforts.

"We have not received any further calls for rescue or for information about stranded people," Acharya told AFP.

Emergency workers have so far rescued 385 people from the affected area, according to police.

"Since Wednesday, we have rescued 385 people, including 180 foreigners," said police official Harikrishna KC.

Rescuers Friday recovered the body of a Nepalese porter, taking the death toll to 32, including 24 hikers, guides and porters on the trekking circuit, three yak herders as well as five climbers on a mountain in the area.

Thousands of people head to the Annapurna Circuit every October, when weather conditions are usually clear.

However, the region has seen unusually heavy snowfall this week sparked by Cyclone Hudhud, which slammed into India's east coast Sunday.

The disaster prompted Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to announce plans to set up a weather warning system across the mountainous country, which relies heavily on tourism revenues from climbing and trekking.

The Annapurna Circuit is particularly popular among tourists, and has come to be known as the "apple pie" trek for the food served at the small lodges, known as teahouses, that line the route.

The snowstorm is one of Nepal's worst trekking disasters since 1995 when a huge avalanche struck the camp of a Japanese trekking group in the Mount Everest region, killing 42 people including 13 Japanese.

The Himalayan nation has suffered multiple avalanches this year, with 16 guides killed in April in the deadliest accident to hit Mount Everest, forcing an unprecedented shutdown of the world's highest peak.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

National panda park planned for Sichuan

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-10-14

Two giant pandas play at a panda reserve in Sichuan, July 7.
(Photo/CNS)

A national park devoted to giant panda conservation could be the best way to protect the species, at least Southwest China's Sichuan provincial forestry department said on Saturday.

Yao Sidan, head of the department, put forward the idea of a national park for giant pandas in a provincial environmental plan released Friday.

A repackaging of current natural reserves, forestry and wetland parks in western Sichuan, the national park would be a major innovation in the protection of the endangered species, Yao said.

The plan calls for the giant panda habitat to be no less than 26.5 million mu (1.77 million hectares), and be established by 2020.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Indonesia Seeks Asean Help to Tackle Haze Woes

Reaching Out: An adviser to President Yudhoyono says countries such as Singapore and Malaysia now have ‘legal ground’ to help

Jakarta Globe, Tunggadewa Mattangkilang & Vento Saudale, Oct 13, 2014

Residents cross the road amid haze in Banjar, South Kalimantan on Oct. 6, 2014.
(Antara Photo/Murdy Herry Hermawan)

Balikpapan/Jakarta. Indonesia is inviting its Southeast Asian neighbors to help tackle forest fires and haze that are once again plaguing Sumatra and Kalimantan, following its ratification last month of a regional agreement allowing transboundary cooperation on haze pollution.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BNPB, reported more than 500 fire hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan over the weekend, causing haze that forced at least four airports to shut down and sent air pollution indices to hazardous levels in several regions.

Agus Purnomo, an adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on climate change, said that with the House of Representatives finally ratifying last month the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, countries like Singapore and Malaysia, which are often affected by the haze, could now actively take part in measures to tackle the problem.

“The agreement makes it easier for our neighbors to help us tackle fires and haze. They now have a legal ground to help,” Agus told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.

Parties to the agreement, signed in 2002, are required to cooperate in measures to mitigate transboundary haze pollution, as well as to respond promptly to “a request for relevant information sought by a state or states that are or may be affected” by such pollution in order to minimize the impacts.

The second part in particular has been a sensitive issue for Indonesia, which is why it was the last Asean member state to ratify the agreement, despite being the prime generator of haze from forest fires in Southeast Asia.

The BNPB said 153 hot spots were detected on Sumatra by satellites as of 5 a.m. on Sunday, with 144 in South Sumatra province alone.

Kalimantan, which barely reported any major fire and haze events last year, had a recorded 357 hot spots on Saturday, according to satellite imagery. Most of the hot spots were concentrated in Central Kalimantan (220), followed by South Kalimantan (61), East Kalimantan (50) and West Kalimantan (26).

Haze in Jambi, Sumatra on Oct. 10, 2014.
(Antara PhotoWahdi Septiawan)
BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday that the numbers from Sumatra were not yet complete because another satellite had yet to make a pass over the region on Sunday afternoon.

“So the figure may be bigger,” he said.

The BNPB had not yet updated the data by press time on Sunday night.

Thick haze forced the temporary closure of Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman Airport in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Saturday.

“We had to close down the airport because of the haze, the visibility was less than a kilometer. The minimum visibility for aviation is 1.5 kilometers,” airport spokesman Awaluddin told the Globe.

Awaluddin said five flights were delayed and six flights were diverted to Hassanudin Airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

“This is the first time we’ve had to delay flights and divert planes since the haze first hit Balikpapan,” he said. The airport, previously known as Sepinggan, resumed operation later in the day.

On Sunday, four other airports were shut down, this time in Sumatra: Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau; Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands; Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport in Palembang, South Sumatra; and Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin Airport in Jambi.

“The arrival schedules have been delayed, as currently the visibility is only 500 meters,” Baiquni Sudrajat, a spokesman for Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport, told Detik.com on Sunday.

The haze affected most flights to and from Pekanbaru on Sunday.

“Because the arriving planes were delayed, the planes departing from this airport are also delayed,” Baiquni said.

Air quality also plunged in several regions worst hit by fire-induced haze, including Libo village in the Riau capital of Pekanbaru, where the Pollutant Standard Index reached 399, above the minimum hazardous level of 300.

Air quality is considered “good” for a PSI reading of between 0 and 50, “moderate” for PSI between 51-100, “unhealthy” for 101-200, “very unhealthy” for 201-300 and “dangerous” for a PSI more than 300.

“In Rumbai, the index reached 251; in Minas it was 176; in Duri the index was 136; in Dumai 148…” Sutopo said, citing PSI indices in a number of regions in Riau.

The Balikpapan Health Office, meanwhile, reported that more than 2,000 people had been diagnosed with upper-respiratory tract infections due to the haze. By comparison 1,300 people were recorded with the same diagnosis in September.

Sutopo said his office was working with local authorities on various fire-fighting efforts, including on the ground and through aerial water drops.

The haze problem has re-emerged just six months after the Riau provincial administration lifted the emergency status imposed after last year’s haze, which was one of the worst cases in the country in decades. The fires, burning more frequently, are attributed largely to the slash-and-burn clearing of forests by farmers to open up land for oil palm plantations.

Authorities in Kalimantan, which has not been as badly hit as Sumatra, have also blamed plantation companies for the fires. A spokesman for the East Kalimantan Police said police were investigating the fires.