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)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

China to ban ivory trade by end of 2017: media

Yahoo – AFP, December 30, 2016

China has a stockpile of ivory purchased with CITES approval in 2008,
which it releases for sale with certification (AFP Photo/FRED DUFOUR)

Beijing (AFP) - China will ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, state media reported Friday, a move hailed by activists as a "game changer" for African elephants.

African ivory is highly sought after in China where it is seen as a status symbol -- prices for a kilo (2.2 pounds) can reach as much as $1,100.

"China will gradually stop the processing and sales of ivories for commercial purposes by the end of 2017," the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a government statement.

"Before that deadline, law enforcement agencies will continue to clamp down on illegalities associated with the elephant's tusk," Xinhua added, citing an official with the State Forestry Administration.

The announcement follows Beijing's announcement in March to widen a ban on imports of all ivory and ivory products acquired before 1975, after pressure to restrict a trade that sees thousands of elephants slaughtered every year.

Major trafficking routes of large-scale African ivory consignments 2000-2015
 (AFP Photo/John SAEKI, Adrian LEUNG)

Xinhua said the complete ban would affect "34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with dozens to be closed by the end of March 2017".

"This is great news that will shut down the world's largest market for elephant ivory," Aili Kang, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Asia, said in a statement.

"I am very proud of my country for showing this leadership that will help ensure that elephants have a fighting chance to beat extinction. This is a game changer for Africa's elephants."

Conservationists estimate that more than 20,000 elephants were killed for their ivory last year, with similar tolls in previous years. The WWF campaign group says 415,000 of the animals remain.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which took effect in 1975, banned the ivory trade in 1989.

China permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban -- and also has a stockpile purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification.

WWF also praised China's move to a complete ban but called on the Chinese territory of Hong Kong to bring forward a plan to end its ivory trade by 2021.

WWF said legal research published by the conservation group shows an ivory ban could be imposed "much sooner under current Hong Kong law".

"With China’s market closed, Hong Kong can become a preferred market for traffickers to launder illegal ivory under cover of the legal ivory trade," said Cheryl Lo, senior wildlife crime officer at WWF.

The United States -- the world's second-largest consumer of illegal ivory after China -- announced in June a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory but with notable exemptions including antiques.

Related Articles:



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

More than 150 new species found in Greater Mekong region

The World Wide Fund for Nature in Greater Mekong recently discovered 163 new species. The discoveries included plants and a frog so small it can sit on one's fingertip.

Deutsche Welle, 19 December 2016


World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) researchers in the ecologically diverse tract of Southeast Asia known as the Greater Mekong region announced on Monday that they had discovered 163 new species there in 2015.

"The Greater Mekong region keeps reminding us that there are many incredible, unexplored areas, leading to new discoveries happening every year, and it is crucial that we protect them before they are lost," said Jimmy Borah of WWF's Greater Mekong team.

The Greater Mekong region includes parts of southwestern China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Though the area is ecologically diverse, wildlife in the area is threatened by dam and road building and the illegal trade of rare and endangered species. Some of the traded commodities are used as collector's items and others in traditional medicine.

The Greater Mekong region in southeast
 Asia has seen more than 2,000 new
species discovered since 1997
"Many collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars or more for the rarest, most unique and most endangered species, often buying them at the region's illegal wildlife markets," said Borah.

From critters to bananas

Of the 163 species discovered, 126 were plants. There were also 14 reptiles, 11 fish, nine amphibians and three mammals that were discovered.

In northern Vietnam, researchers found a rare species of banana that was endangered by increasing deforestation in the area. A species of frog that can fit on a fingertip, the leptolalax isos, was discovered in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Between 1997 and 2015, 2,409 new species were discovered in the Greater Mekong region, a rate of about two new discoveries per week.

kbd/tj (AFP, Reuters)
Related Article:

“…. The First Look

About 200,000 years ago is when it literally began. The concept of the "divine seeding" of planet Earth happened at that point, and the fields metaphorically started to be ploughed. There is an issue and we're going to call it the way species work with Gaia. This is something that happened simultaneously with the grid creation of Gaia. For now we give you something that no one has thought about. When we speak of the grids of the planet, you make an assumption that these grids always existed on the planet. For the planet is old and you might say, "Well the grids have always been there." But I'm here to tell you that only one was always there, and that's the magnetic grid. But it was spiritually void. That is to say, it only had that which was created from the Earth's core movement. Today, when we talk about the grids of the planet, our conversation involves the consciousness of humanity, which is imbued upon the magnetic grid. We also tell you about the Crystalline Grid and about the Grid of Gaia consciousness. Both of these react to Human compassion.

Now, here is the puzzle: If you don't have divine Human consciousness, then what about the grids? Do they exist without the Human Being? The answer is that they needed to be created simultaneously with the seeding of divine DNA. So what the Pleiadians did was not only to start the seeds of humanity's change into divine DNA, but they created the conscious grids of Gaia as well. They had to, for the conscious grids of Gaia are a confluence of humanity's decisions brought to Gaia's energy. The consciousness that we are talking about is the spiritually sanctioned Human Being that exists with a piece of God inside him, and with DNA that has 23 chromosomes instead of the common 24 that all the others have through biological evolution.

Let us back up and say it again and make it simpler, my partner [admonition to Lee to speak more plainly]. The triad of grids on this planet that we have spoken of over and over are the consciousness grids of Gaia, and were created at the same time as the seeding of humanity with Pleiadian DNA. For all the teachings we've been giving, especially about the Crystalline Grid, these grids have been reacting to Human consciousness and compassion. Therefore, the very essence of the current Gaia energy is also related to the creation of humanity.

These are the attributes of the Pleiadians work 200,000 years ago, and it was done quantumly in ways that you have no conscious awareness of at the moment. For these things are beyond your ability to understand right now, since you are still in a single-digit dimensionality. But the result back then was "a conscious Gaia." So you might say Gaia itself was actually created quantumly from the Seven Sisters energy, just like you.

The Gaia that existed before then was still Gaia, but not as it is now. It was a Gaia that was creating the dirt on the earth and the energy of biological life of the earth. It was the mother of all life on the planet, but not a Gaia that responded to Human consciousness. That's very different. So Gaia greatly expanded when the Pleiadians came, and that was by design.

It took 110,000 years for this to settle itself, and for the ground to be ready for more than 16 species of Human Beings to leave so that only one was left. When that occurred at approximately 90,000 years ago is when you can start calibrating who Humans were and who they became.

The Others

Now, what about all of those other types of Humans, and how did they leave? I'm  going to give you an attribute of something that exists even today. This is difficult for my partner, for he has not heard this before. This information has not been brought in this fashion before. Go slowly, my partner.

The variety of species on this planet comes and goes accordingly as they are needed for the energy they create. So one of the tasks of Gaia is to create and eliminate species. When they are no longer needed for the purpose of Gaia's development, they cease to exist and they die out. If new life is necessary, if new concepts of life are needed, Gaia is cooperative and they are then created. The actual creation of species is something that environmentalists have not clearly seen. That is to say the mechanics of how it works is not fully recognized as something that is strongly coordinated with your weather. But you have already seen the mechanics of some of this in your long-term studies, for you have already noted the coming and going of many species through the ages. It's ongoing.

The Appropriateness of the Elimination of Species

Now, along come Humans and they see all this coming and going of living things, but they want to save them all - all the species that exist. For in their linear mind, all species should remain and exist, since they are here. The attribute of Gaia, however, is to eliminate them, cull them out, to bring in new ones. I just gave you the mechanics of the reasons species come and go. It's appropriate and is a natural building process for new species.

When the Pleiadians started to create the grids of the planet, Gaia cooperated in what was to come, knew the purpose, and what was needed for survival of this new spiritual Human. Gaia knew this since the energy of Gaia had seen it before [reason given below]. So the old attribute, which needed many kinds of Human Beings, slowly died out. It was natural. There was not a war. There were no horrible plagues. There were no volcanoes or tsunamis that consumed them. Through attrition, appropriateness, and 110,000 years, they disappeared.

So approximately 110,000 years ago, there was only one kind left, and this is science, for everything that you study will bear this out, and anthropologists have already seen it and have asked, "What happened back then at this time that would have eliminated these other kinds of Human variety?" It's a puzzle in science that I have just answered, for science looks only for physical events as triggers. But instead, it's the marriage of Gaia consciousness that you call "Mother Nature," which facilitated this. It's the same today when you see a variety of species diminish as Humans take over a greater portion of the earth. I'll call this "the appropriate elimination of unique life forms, which allow for the growth of global awareness and quantum evolution." Some species only exist to allow others to climb the ladder of nature, then they disappear. Gaia knows what the ladder looks like. You don't. ... 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dutch Supreme Court upholds ban on fur farming

DutchNews, December 16, 2016

The Dutch Supreme Court has rejected a claim from fur farmers that the pending ban on fur farming conflicts with their human rights. 

The ban on fur farming was introduced in the Netherlands in 2013 and included an 11-year changeover period. In 2014 a lower court found in favour of fur farmers who are furious at being ordered to shut down their companies without compensation.

The state appealed against that ruling and last year the appeal court said the new legislation does take the interest of fur farmers sufficiently into account because of the 11-year changeover period. 

Fur farmers then took their case to the Supreme Court which has now upheld the ban again. ‘There is a balance between the fundamental rights of mink farmers and the general interest which is served by the new law,’ the court said in its ruling. 

The Netherlands has some 160 fur farms producing five million pelts a year. The sector employs some 1,400 people. The Netherlands is the third biggest fur farming nation in the world behind Denmark and China.

Related Articles:


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Python eats wallaby on Australian golf course

Yahoo – AFP, December 13, 2016

A python is seen wrestling with a wallaby in the middle of a fairway on
a golf course in Cairns, Australia (AFP Photo/Robert Willemse)

A routine round of golf has taken a uniquely Australian turn with stunned players finding a giant python wrestling with a wallaby on a fairway.

Robert Willemse was on the 17th hole at the Paradise Palms course in Cairns in north Queensland on Saturday when he heard that a four-metre (13-foot) scrub python was gorging on the native marsupial nearby.

"It had (the wallaby) in a vice-like grip and it was swallowing it," Willemse, who regularly plays at the course, told AFP, having halted his game to take a look.

He snapped photos of the encounter before heading back to finish his round.

"I heard later on... as other golfers and staff members came out to have a look at it, that it did actually succeed in swallowing it all and then it rolled into a dry creek nearby and slithered away into the bush, probably to digest its rather large meal," he said.

"There's a lot of wildlife in the tropical north," Willemse added, noting that wallabies, which resemble a smaller version of kangaroos, were a common sight on the fairways, although snakes were not.

Willemse said the scrub python -- Australia's largest snake which can grow to 8.5 metres long -- was likely to have dropped onto the unsuspecting wallaby from a tree.

"The snake would never have been able to catch the wallaby in the open like where it was eating it," he said.

"It looked like it might have dropped out of a tree, got a hold of (the wallaby), then there was a bit of a struggle and it rolled into the middle of the fairway."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Giraffes 'threatened with extinction'

Yahoo – AFP, Marlowe Hood, December 8, 2016

Wild giraffe numbers have plummeted by 40 percent in the past three decades
 (AFP Photo/Mark RALSTON)

Paris (AFP) - Wild giraffe numbers have plummeted by 40 percent in the last three decades, and the species is now "vulnerable" to extinction, a top conservation body warned Thursday.

The population of the world's tallest land mammal dropped to below 100,000 in 2015, mainly due to shrinking habitat and illegal hunting, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported.

The group added 742 newly-discovered birds to the global species inventory, but said 11 percent were already facing annihilation and 13 previously unknown species have already disappeared in the wild.

"These majestic land animals are undergoing a silent extinction," Julian Fennessy, co-chairman of the IUCN's specialist group on giraffes, said in a statement.

Previously, giraffes held the status of "least concern" on the IUCN's Red List, which tracks the conservation status of fauna and flora and ends with the category "extinct".

Giraffes are mainly spread out across southern 
and eastern Africa (AFP Photo/Mustafa Ozer)
Giraffes are spread out across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller pockets in west and central Africa.

Of nine distinct subspecies, four small populations saw increases. But four larger ones experienced sharp declines, and one remained stable, according to the report.

Numbers have crashed in 30 years from an estimated 157,000 to about 97,500 last year, the IUCN said.

The main culprit is the ever-expanding human population, which has caused a spike in poaching and encroachment upon the giraffe's natural habitat.

"As one of the world's most iconic animals, it is time that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late," said Fennessy.

The report was part of an update of the Red List, unveiled at a meeting in Cancun, Mexico of the 196-nation Convention on Biological Diversity.

The global assessment now covers 85,604 species of plants and animals, of which 24,307 face the threat of extinction.

Downward spiral 

"Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them," said IUCN director general Inger Andersen.

The update "shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought," she said.

Earth has entered a "mass extinction event" in which species are disappearing 1,000 to 10,000 times more quickly than just a century or two ago, according to scientists.

There have been six such wipeouts in the last half-billion years, some of them claiming up to 95 percent of all lifeforms.

The revised Red List now catalogues 11,121 species of birds.

The recently described Antioquia wren of Colombia is now listed as "endangered", in part because half of its habitat risks being wiped out by a single dam, planned but not yet built.

Most of the newly discovered birds were known but are being recognised for the first time as distinct species.

Those already deemed extinct -- preserved in lab and museum specimens -- were island-dwellers, making them vulnerable to predatory or disease-carrying invasive species such as mosquitos that transmit avian malaria.

The Pagan reed-warbler from the South Pacific, along with the Oahu akepa and Laysan honeycreeper from Hawaii, are examples.

The main culprit for the decline in giraffe numbers is the ever-expanding human 
population, which has caused a spike in poaching and encroachment upon the
animals's natural habitat (AFP Photo/Carl De Souza)

"Unfortunately, recognising more than 700 'new' species does not mean that the world's birds are faring better," said Ian Burfield, science coordinator for BirdLife International, which collaborated in the global assessment.

"Unsustainable agriculture, logging, invasive species and other threats are still driving many species towards extinction."

Illegal wildlife trade driven by collectors is emptying forests of some species, the reports said.

Such trafficking caused the African grey parrot of central Africa -- prized for its ability to mimic human speech -- to be reclassified from "vulnerable" to "endangered".

A recent analysis in Nature of nearly 8,688 "threatened" or "near-threatened" animal and plant species showed that three-quarters are over-exploited for commerce, recreation or subsistence.

More than half are suffer the conversion of their natural habitats into industrial farms and plantations, mainly to raise livestock and grow commodity crops for fuel or food.

A fifth of species are affected by climate change.


 The touching moment was captured on film. Photo: Stichting Ambulancewens

Related Articles:
“…. The First Look

About 200,000 years ago is when it literally began. The concept of the "divine seeding" of planet Earth happened at that point, and the fields metaphorically started to be ploughed. There is an issue and we're going to call it the way species work with Gaia. This is something that happened simultaneously with the grid creation of Gaia. For now we give you something that no one has thought about. When we speak of the grids of the planet, you make an assumption that these grids always existed on the planet. For the planet is old and you might say, "Well the grids have always been there." But I'm here to tell you that only one was always there, and that's the magnetic grid. But it was spiritually void. That is to say, it only had that which was created from the Earth's core movement. Today, when we talk about the grids of the planet, our conversation involves the consciousness of humanity, which is imbued upon the magnetic grid. We also tell you about the Crystalline Grid and about the Grid of Gaia consciousness. Both of these react to Human compassion.

Now, here is the puzzle: If you don't have divine Human consciousness, then what about the grids? Do they exist without the Human Being? The answer is that they needed to be created simultaneously with the seeding of divine DNA. So what the Pleiadians did was not only to start the seeds of humanity's change into divine DNA, but they created the conscious grids of Gaia as well. They had to, for the conscious grids of Gaia are a confluence of humanity's decisions brought to Gaia's energy. The consciousness that we are talking about is the spiritually sanctioned Human Being that exists with a piece of God inside him, and with DNA that has 23 chromosomes instead of the common 24 that all the others have through biological evolution.

Let us back up and say it again and make it simpler, my partner [admonition to Lee to speak more plainly]. The triad of grids on this planet that we have spoken of over and over are the consciousness grids of Gaia, and were created at the same time as the seeding of humanity with Pleiadian DNA. For all the teachings we've been giving, especially about the Crystalline Grid, these grids have been reacting to Human consciousness and compassion. Therefore, the very essence of the current Gaia energy is also related to the creation of humanity.

These are the attributes of the Pleiadians work 200,000 years ago, and it was done quantumly in ways that you have no conscious awareness of at the moment. For these things are beyond your ability to understand right now, since you are still in a single-digit dimensionality. But the result back then was "a conscious Gaia." So you might say Gaia itself was actually created quantumly from the Seven Sisters energy, just like you.

The Gaia that existed before then was still Gaia, but not as it is now. It was a Gaia that was creating the dirt on the earth and the energy of biological life of the earth. It was the mother of all life on the planet, but not a Gaia that responded to Human consciousness. That's very different. So Gaia greatly expanded when the Pleiadians came, and that was by design.

It took 110,000 years for this to settle itself, and for the ground to be ready for more than 16 species of Human Beings to leave so that only one was left. When that occurred at approximately 90,000 years ago is when you can start calibrating who Humans were and who they became.

The Others

Now, what about all of those other types of Humans, and how did they leave? I'm  going to give you an attribute of something that exists even today. This is difficult for my partner, for he has not heard this before. This information has not been brought in this fashion before. Go slowly, my partner.

The variety of species on this planet comes and goes accordingly as they are needed for the energy they create. So one of the tasks of Gaia is to create and eliminate species. When they are no longer needed for the purpose of Gaia's development, they cease to exist and they die out. If new life is necessary, if new concepts of life are needed, Gaia is cooperative and they are then created. The actual creation of species is something that environmentalists have not clearly seen. That is to say the mechanics of how it works is not fully recognized as something that is strongly coordinated with your weather. But you have already seen the mechanics of some of this in your long-term studies, for you have already noted the coming and going of many species through the ages. It's ongoing.

The Appropriateness of the Elimination of Species

Now, along come Humans and they see all this coming and going of living things, but they want to save them all - all the species that exist. For in their linear mind, all species should remain and exist, since they are here. The attribute of Gaia, however, is to eliminate them, cull them out, to bring in new ones. I just gave you the mechanics of the reasons species come and go. It's appropriate and is a natural building process for new species.

When the Pleiadians started to create the grids of the planet, Gaia cooperated in what was to come, knew the purpose, and what was needed for survival of this new spiritual Human. Gaia knew this since the energy of Gaia had seen it before [reason given below]. So the old attribute, which needed many kinds of Human Beings, slowly died out. It was natural. There was not a war. There were no horrible plagues. There were no volcanoes or tsunamis that consumed them. Through attrition, appropriateness, and 110,000 years, they disappeared.

So approximately 110,000 years ago, there was only one kind left, and this is science, for everything that you study will bear this out, and anthropologists have already seen it and have asked, "What happened back then at this time that would have eliminated these other kinds of Human variety?" It's a puzzle in science that I have just answered, for science looks only for physical events as triggers. But instead, it's the marriage of Gaia consciousness that you call "Mother Nature," which facilitated this. It's the same today when you see a variety of species diminish as Humans take over a greater portion of the earth. I'll call this "the appropriate elimination of unique life forms, which allow for the growth of global awareness and quantum evolution." Some species only exist to allow others to climb the ladder of nature, then they disappear. Gaia knows what the ladder looks like. You don't. ... 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dutch kill 190,000 ducks to contain bird flu outbreak

Yahoo – AFP, November 27, 2016

Workers in protective gear get ready to cull ducks as part of prevention measures
against bird flu at a duck farm in Hierden, central Netherlands on November 27,
2016 (AFP Photo/Remko de Waal)

The Hague (AFP) - Dutch officials have culled 190,000 ducks on a central Netherlands farm where inspectors have confirmed the presence of a highly infectuous strain of bird flu, officials and local media said Sunday.

The outbreak was detected at a farm in Biddinghuizen, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of Amsterdam, where about 180,000 ducks were put down together with another 10,000 within a one kilometre radius, the Dutch food and safety watchdog NVWA said.

"There are three other poultry farms within a three kilometre radius and they are being monitored," the NVWA added in a statement.

Authorities have also imposed a ban on poultry and poultry product transport within a 10 kilometre radius, the statement said.

Tests indicated that the birds were killed by an H5N8 variant of the disease "which is highly infectuous" for poultry -- killing about 30 percent of infected birds -- but not "very dangerous to humans", public newscaster NOS said.

Earlier this month the Netherlands shuttered petting zoos and banned duck hunting as it stepped up measures to stem a bird flu outbreak blamed for killing scores of poultry and more than a thousand wild birds in the country.

In the western port of Rotterdam, a park closed its animal section after several aquatic birds were found to have died from the H5N8 virus. Others still not affected have been penned in.

And on the banks of Lake Markermeer, close to Amsterdam, about 1,250 wild birds were found dead earlier this month, local news reports said.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 420 people, mainly in southeast Asia, since first appearing in 2003. Another strain of bird flu, H7N9, has claimed more than 200 lives since emerging in 2013, according to World Health Organisation figures.

Avian flu severely hit the Netherlands in 2003 with health authorities destroying some 30 million birds in an effort to quash an outbreak.

Around 106 million chickens are raised on Dutch poultry farms, according to the latest Dutch statistics.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sri Lanka bans use of young elephants for work

Yahoo – AFP, November 23, 2016

A buddhist monk feeds fruits to an elephant at a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka
(AFP Photo/Ishara S.Kodikara)

Sri Lanka unveiled tougher laws Wednesday, including a ban on using young elephants for logging and other physical work, as part of a crackdown on cruelty to domesticated wild animals.

Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said the cabinet approved new regulations imposing tough conditions on owners of elephants, which are considered sacred by Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

The animals are also legally protected but are often subjected to cruel treatment by some owners.

Under the new regulations seen by AFP, owners are banned from using working elephants below the age of 10 years while those under five years cannot be used in parades, even at religious festivals.

There are 41 new conditions aimed at ensuring minimum standards of care, including the daily diet that should include fresh fruit in addition to leaves and vegetables.

Owners must also take their elephants for daily walks of not less than five kilometres (three miles) and the animals must be allowed two and a half hours for bathing.

The minister is also seeking to regulate the use of elephants in movie productions.

Elephants cannot be made to fight each other on camera. Flash or floodlights cannot be shone on the animals and letting off firecrackers near them is also banned.

Sri Lanka elephant owners must take their elephants for daily walks of not less 
than 5km (AFP Photo/Ishara S.Kodikara)

Those violating the new regulations could lose their ownership licence and face up to three years in jail.

The new laws come into force as the authorities investigate allegations that over 40 baby elephants had been stolen from national wildlife parks over the last decade and are being kept as pets.

Asian elephant expert Jayantha Jayewardene said the new rules were welcome.

"The regulations are a step in the right direction, but it will be difficult to enforce things like the quality and the quantity of food that should be given to each animal," Jayawardene told AFP.

Many rich Sri Lankans keep elephants as pets to show off their wealth, but there have been numerous complaints of ill treatment and cruelty.

Capturing wild elephants is illegal. Official records show there are about 200 domesticated elephants in a country where the population in the wild is estimated at about 7,500.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Egyptian crocodile is a mummy in more ways than one as scan reveals 47 babies

DutchNews, November 18, 2016

Photo: Interspectral 
Experts have discovered 47 mummified baby crocodiles packed inside the preserved corpse of a fully-grown beast at a museum in Leiden. 

The surprise find emerged in a new scan of the three metre-long ‘mother’ crocodile, which has been at the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) since 1828.

‘This mummy was intended as a votive, a present to the crocodile god,’ curator Lara Weiss told the Volkskrant. A previous scan in 1996 had shown that the mummy contained two crocodiles bound together, but the babies only became clear on the new 3D scan carried out by Swedish tech firm Interspectral at Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Centre.

‘You can’t see them properly on the old scans unless you know they’re there. And we never expected to find this,’ said Weiss. 

The 2500-year-old crocodile, which the museum acquired in 1828, is one of only two such mummies in the world known to contain the preserved remains of its young. The other is in the British Museum in London. 

Visitors will be able to see the babies in a ‘virtual autopsy’ of the mummy when the National Museum of Antiquities opens its new Egyptian collection gallery on November 18.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Vanilla and spice next to bloom in Dutch greenhouses

Yahoo – AFP, Maude Brulard, November 12, 2016

University of Wageningen researcher Filip van Noort and vanilla grower Joris
Elstgeest inspect vanilla orchids, part of four years of ground-breaking research
(AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

Bleiswijk (Netherlands) (AFP) - Flowers more exotic than the humble tulip will soon flourish for the first time in Dutch greenhouses after intensive research into growing the capricious vanilla orchid to harvest one of the world's most expensive spices.

In the middle of potato fields in a central Dutch rural town, scientists from Wageningen University have for the past four years been nurturing vanilla orchids. And their research has been deemed a success.

"Based on our information, businesses believe vanilla is a plant with a lot of potential for Dutch greenhouses and have decided to start growing it," said researcher Filip van Noort.

How many orchids will be planted will be decided at the start of the next growing season in the spring, and it will take at least three years before the first Dutch-grown vanilla hits the market.

In Bleiswijk, home to the ground-breaking research, vines from about 100 plants stretch metres high in hot, tropical greenhouses. Hidden under fleshy, oval-shaped leaves are the buds, that will eventually become the vanilla pods so prised by chefs the world over.

"The challenge is to ensure the plants blossom and then to be able to pollinate them in a cost-effective way," said van Noort.

Cultivation of the vanilla orchid is hugely labour intensive as the orchid's flowers 
only last one day and must be pollinated by hand if they are to produce fruit
 (AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

Black gold

Cultivation is hugely labour intensive. The orchid's flowers only last one day and must be pollinated by hand if they are to produce fruit. So it was an apt challenge for the Dutch -- renowned for their green fingers and their expertise in greenhouse cultivation.

"A few years ago we were looking for new plants which could be grown in Dutch greenhouses," explained van Noort.

The aim was to increase the variety of crops grown by Dutch farmers as they search for improved profits.

Vanilla made sense. Currently the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar holds a quasi-monopoly over world supply producing some 80 percent of global vanilla bean stocks.

It is also the world's second most expensive spice, with prices climbing to 350 euros ($380) a kilo this month -- compared with 60 euros in 2014.

"In the past the price was too low to be interesting. But today, with demand increasing, the prices are rising," said orchid expert Joris Elstgeest.

The long, black vanilla pods, with their distinctive caramel and at times woody scent, have to be collected by hand from the vines and then dried before being sold.

It is the sticky tiny black seeds scraped from inside the pods which are a baker's delight, lending an almost intoxicating flavour to everything from cakes and ice-cream.

The long, black vanilla pods, with their distinctive caramel and at times woody scent, 
have to be collected by hand from the vines and then dried before being sold 
(AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

All organic

Originating from Mexico, the vanilla orchid was brought to Europe by Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus. But all attempts to grow it in milder climates failed for lack of the type of bee which pollinated the flowers.

It was not until 1841 that someone on the island of Reunion figured out how to pollinate the flowers one-by-one.

That method finally paved the way towards large-scale production, with Madagascar proving the most effective of growers.

But even if prices fall and as other countries explore possible vanilla crops, Dutch growers believe it will prove a good investment.

In past decades, synthetic vanilla flavourings were increasingly adopted by the food industry. But with a return to all things authentic and organic, the real stuff is making a welcome return.

Bleiswijk vanilla is wholly organic, say its Dutch growers, unlike in Madagascar, they claim.

Vanilla is also the world's second most expensive spice, with prices climbing
 to 350 euros ($380) a kilo this month -- compared with 60 euros in 2014 
(AFP Photo/Maude Brulard)

Half of Madagascar's vanilla is exported to Europe, and a third to the United States. But clients say the quality has been slipping, with producers harvesting the pods before they reach maturity to cash in on the price boom.

Some Madagascans even speculate the vanilla industry is being used as a front for the illegal trade in rosewood –- a sought-after product in China.

The Dutch consortium behind the project says it has already received lots of interest from local high-end restaurants as well as food companies.

The Netherlands is a global leader in the art of greenhouse growing with almost 10,000 hectares of this lowlands country set with rows of glasshouses growing all kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables -- compared to just 1,900 hectares in France.

And researchers are already setting their sights on other spices.

"We've also got black pepper, which seems to be adapting well," said van Noort, adding indigo used to dye blue jeans was another project.

And perhaps saffron -- the world's most expensive spice derived from the saffron crocus -- could be next to flourish here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Jailhouse dogs check in at Portugal prison

Yahoo – AFP, Daniel Silva, November 8, 2016

A prisoner in the high security prison at Monsanto in Lisbon cuddles a dog at
a kennel staffed by inmates, and dubbed the "Dog's House" (AFP Photo/
Patricia de Melo Moreira)

Lisbon (AFP) - Gloria is a regular at Portugal's most infamous prison, but it isn't crime that keeps her coming back. The golden Barbado da Terceira is just one of the canine guests at a most unusual dog kennel run by inmates.

Owner Rui Silva checked in his pet, a shaggy Portuguese breed, for a weekend stay in the maximum security jail in Lisbon.

"It did not really phase me," the 48-year-old TV broadcast technician said about leaving his pet at the Monsanto prison, where Portugal's most notorious criminals are housed.

"I asked if they took good care of the animals, they said yes. That's what matters."

The inmates welcome the pets at the so-called Dog House in a modest reception area adorned by photos of former four-legged guests.

They verify vaccination records and receive instructions from pet owners. During the stay, they oversee feeding and bathing, walk the dogs and administer medication.

"It's a lot of responsibility," said Ricardo, an inmate serving a sentence for drug trafficking, as a pit bull licked his hand through the fence of its pen.

"What I really like is having contact with the public," the 34-year-old former bar owner said.

Giving inmates the chance to reboot relational skills and gain job experience is the goal of this unique project in Portugal.

The kennel at Monsanto prison in Lisbon has space for 68 dogs and is often
 full over peak holiday periods when the public need a safe place to leave their 
dogs while travelling (AFP Photo/Patricia de Melo Moreira)

'Time goes by faster'

The kennel, a white and yellow building, is located just outside the barbed-wire fence that surrounds the prison, a former military fort perched atop the highest point of Lisbon among pine and oak trees, with a panoramic view of the capital.

Its 68 dog pens usually fill up during peak vacation periods in summer and at Christmas, as well as over long weekends.

Two to five prisoners work at the kennel, depending on how busy it is. They receive a monthly stipend of around 80 euros ($90) for their work.

"It is totally different than being inside, time goes by faster," said Ricardo, who was dressed in a red tracksuit and grey sweatshirt, as he pointed in the direction of the jail.

Married and with a young daughter on the outside, he said he was thinking of setting up his own kennel after he is released from jail at the end of the year.

The prison initially began the kennel for its staff but in 2000 it opened the facility to the general public.

The kennel charges 10 euros ($11) per day per dog, or just 9.50 euros if the owner brings the pet's own food.

Those who can work at the kennel are selected from the approximately 20 
prisoners who have been assigned to a less restrictive regime due to good 
behaviour (AFP Photo/Patricia de Melo Moreira)

'Reduces aggression'

Prison officials stress the kennel is not a business, but rather a tool to help rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them to return to society by giving them job skills.

"Looking after animals develops emotional ties which the inmates then project onto other people and society in general," Monsanto prison director Ana Cristina Carrolo Pereira Teixeira said.

And many of its regular customers like Silva, who first left his Gloria at the kennel several years ago, support those goals.

"Its being part of a prison maybe makes me want to use it even more, to help out," he said.

But not all prisoners at Monsanto, used to house the nation's most dangerous convicts, make the cut for kennel care.

Among the roughly 160 inmates currently held is an explosives expert with the Basque separatist group ETA who was arrested in Portugal in 2010, and the killer of two young policemen in a Lisbon suburb in 2005.

Those who can work at the kennel are selected from the approximately 20 prisoners who have been assigned to a less restrictive regime due to good behaviour.

"We try to pick ideal people for this role and that like being here," the kennel's veterinarian, Pedro Miguel Canavilhas de Melo, said.

Teixeira, the prison director, said she believes the inmates "are better people when they leave here in the way they relate to others because of their relationship with the animals."

"I think it calms inmates, their relationship with animals reduces aggression," she added.