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.

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)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Alpaca therapy helps convicts with mental illness

Yahoo – AFP, LENNART PREISS, August 8, 2020

A German psychiatric hospital is offering alpaca therapy for criminals with mental illnesses

Offenders with mental health conditions at a southern German hospital can pitch in with looking after a small herd of alpacas as part of their therapy.

Staff at the Mainkofen psychiatric hospital in Bavaria say the aim is for the generally calm animals to help patients develop skills towards social reintegration.

Those on the programme have daily tasks, such as to feed the around 10 alpacas, walk them, brush their coats, dress their wounds and clean out their stables.

Erwin Meier, whose name has been changed for this report, has helped care for the alpacas since October and believes it has helped him.

"I like it very much," he said.

Patient Erwin Meier (not his real name) says looking after alpacas has helped 
him to control his anger

"It's fun to work with animals. There is something to do every day."

The animals, which can be known to spit, have helped him to control his anger, said Meier, who did not want to give details about his conviction.

"I used to get angry quite quickly, I was impulsive, but it's improved thanks to the animals, because if I get angry, they get angry too, and the calmer I am, the calmer they are too," he added.

Hats and blankets

The programme is open to all patients at the hospital but intended primarily for offenders.

Alpaca owner Silke Lederbogen has a farm with about 50 of the animals and 
uses their wool to make hats and blankets

If they stay out for too long or outside the authorised hours, permission to spend time with the alpacas is revoked.

Silke Lederbogen, the programme leader and owner of the alpacas, runs a nearby farm with her husband with about 50 of the animals, using their wool to make hats and blankets.

"Usually, patients in the hospital do not have contact with 'normal' people," she said.

But, in walking with the alpacas on the hospital grounds, they are given the chance to chat and answer questions about the animals from interested visitors, patients and staff, she added.

"And they can do so competently," she said.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Leopards, wolves vanishing from panda conservation areas: study

Yahoo – AFP, 3 August 2020

It may be one of the most recognisable symbols of conservation, but efforts to protect the giant panda have failed to safeguard large mammals sharing its habitats, according to research published Monday showing dramatic declines of leopards and other predators.

The giant panda is seen as an 'umbrella' species because its conservation is
considered to help many less well-known animals, plants and birds

The giant panda has won the hearts of animal lovers around the world and images of the bamboo-eating creature with its ink-blot eye patches have come to represent global efforts to protect biodiversity.

Since conservation efforts began, China has cracked down on poachers, outlawed the trade in panda hides and mapped out dozens of protected habitats.

The strategy is considered one of the most ambitious and high-profile programmes to save a species from extinction -- and it worked.

The panda was removed from the International Union for Conservation of Nature endangered species list in 2016 although it remains "vulnerable". 

But a new study published on Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution has cast doubt over the idea that efforts to protect the panda automatically help all other animals in its territory.

Researchers found that the leopard, snow leopard, wolf and dhole -- also known as the Asian wild dog -- have almost disappeared from the majority of giant panda protected habitats since the 1960s.

The findings "indicate the insufficiency of giant panda conservation for protecting these large carnivore species," said Sheng Li, of the School of Life Sciences at Peking University, who led the research.

The authors compared survey data from the 1950s to 1970s with information from almost 8,000 camera traps taken between 2008 and 2018.

They found that leopards had disappeared from 81 percent of giant panda reserves, snow leopards from 38 percent, wolves from 77 percent and dholes from 95 percent. 

The predators face threats from poachers, logging and disease, the study found.

The authors said a key challenge was that while pandas may have a home range of up to 13 square kilometres (5 square miles), the four large carnivores can roam across an area exceeding 100 square kilometres.

Sheng Li told AFP that individual panda reserves -- typically around 300-400 sq km -- are too small to support a "viable population of large carnivores like leopards or dholes".

- 'Enormous charisma' -

Panda conservation has helped protect other animals, he said, including small carnivores, pheasants and songbirds.

"Failing to safeguard large carnivore species does not erase the power of giant panda as an effective umbrella that has well sheltered many other species," he added.

But he called for future conservation to see beyond a single species, or animals with "enormous charisma", to focus on broader restoration of natural habitats. 

He said he hoped this can be achieved as part of a proposed new Giant Panda National Park, a long-term programme that would link up existing habitats over thousands of kilometres to allow isolated populations to mingle and potentially breed.

The recovery of large carnivore populations would "increase the resilience and sustainability of the ecosystems not only for giant pandas but also for other wild species", the researcher added.

The IUCN estimates there are between 500 and 1,000 mature adult pandas in the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu regions of China.

The conservation group lists the leopard and snow leopard as vulnerable across the areas they are found in, while the dhole is listed as endangered.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Vietnam suspends wildlife trade as pandemic prods action

Yahoo – AFP, July 24, 2020

Vietnam, one of Asia's biggest consumers of wildlife products, has suspended
all imports of wild animal species "dead or alive" (AFP Photo/HOANG DINH NAM)

Vietnam, one of Asia's biggest consumers of wildlife products, has suspended all imports of wild animal species "dead or alive" and vowed to "eliminate" illegal markets across the country.

The directive signed by the leader of the Communist country follows an international scandal over the sale of wildlife, which has been blamed as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic in neighbouring China.

It is a major victory for conservation groups who have in the past accused Vietnamese authorities of turning a blind eye to the rampant trade in endangered species inside and across its borders.

"The prime minister orders the suspension of imports of wildlife -- dead or alive -- their eggs... parts or derivatives," said the order released Thursday on the government website.

Graphic on pangolins, the world's most heavily trafficked mammals (AFP Photo/AFP)

"All citizens, especially officials... must not participate in illegal poaching, buying, selling, transporting... of illegal wildlife."

Among the most frequently smuggled animal goods are tiger parts, rhino horn and pangolins used in traditional medicine.

Despite the high prices they command -- with ingredients trafficked from as far as Africa -- there is no scientific evidence of their health benefits in humans.

Vietnam locked down swiftly to dodge a major health crisis as COVID-19 emerged, but its economy has been hit hard.

The country will also "resolutely eliminate market and trading sites which trade wildlife illegally", the edict said -- warning of a crackdown on the poaching, trafficking, storing and advertising of animals, birds and reptiles.

It is a major victory for conservation groups who have in the past accused 
Vietnamese authorities of turning a blind eye to the rampant trade in 
endangered species (AFP Photo)

Anti-trafficking group Freeland hailed the move as the most stringent to control the wildlife trade since the pandemic broke out.

"Vietnam is to be congratulated for recognising that COVID-19 and other pandemics are linked to the wildlife trade," said Steven Glaster, its chairman.

"This trade must be banned as a matter of international and public health security," he added.

China, the world's biggest market for illegal wildlife products, has enacted a similar ban. Vietnam has gone further by taking aim at online sales and imposing an indefinite ban on the trade.

While welcoming the move, conservationists warn enforcement will be a challenge across a country with long porous borders and poorly paid officials who can be bent by cash.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Rare red panda born in Dutch safari park

DutchNews, July 14, 2020

An adult red panda Photo: Depositphotos

A rare red panda has been born at the Beekse Bergen safari park in Hilvarenbeek. 

In the wild only 2,500 of the animals are still alive, the park reports, but this newborn is doing well. 

‘We have every confidence that it will grow up,’ head of animal care Kris Jansen said. 

The mother panda was pregnant for four and a half months and the animal was born at the beginning of July. The zoo does not yet know if it is male or female. 

‘In its first period, the young panda is fragile and so we are leaving the mother and father and their son or daughter in peace,’ he added. ‘We disturb them as little as possible, don’t enter the nest and this is why we don’t know the gender of the newborn. Only after three months or so will the young come out of the nest.’ 

However, visitors to the zoo might catch a glimpse of the baby red panda if the mother is cleaning up the nest or temporarily away. Red pandas mostly live in mountainous forests in China near fast-flowing rivers, and eat bamboo, fruit and flowers. They grow to about 50 or 60 cm in height and weigh between three and six kilos, the safari park reports.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Cambodia's tourist hotspot bans dog meat trade

Yahoo – AFP, 8 July 2020

A dog sits in a cage next to a pit where the animals are drowned at a
slaughterhouse in Cambodia

The Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap has banned the dog meat trade, a victory for animal rights campaigners who describe the area as the "lynchpin" of an industry that slaughters millions of creatures each year.

Dog meat, a cheap source of protein, is eaten in several Asian countries, including Cambodia, although it is much more popular in neighbouring Vietnam.

But animal rights group Four Paws has identified Siem Reap province -- home to the famed Angkor Wat temple complex -- as a hub for the trade within the kingdom, where they say three million dogs are butchered annually.

Siem Reap authorities announced a ban late Tuesday, with the provincial agricultural department saying the dog meat trade has descended into "anarchy" in recent years.

"It has caused the infection of rabies and other diseases from one region to another, which affects the public health," said the statement.

"The catching, buying, selling and slaughtering of dogs... will be punished severely."

The maximum penalty for dealing in dogs for slaughter as food is five years in prison, while fines range from 7-50 million riel ($1,700 to $12,200).

How the ban will be enforced remains to be seen, as Cambodia has long struggled with lax policing.

However, Four Paws on Wednesday hailed the decision to take out Siem Reap as a "lynchpin for the Cambodian dog meat trade".

"We hope that Siem Reap will serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow suit," said veterinarian Dr. Katherine Polak.

Their investigation last year found that the northern province served as a gateway for the trade, with roving dog catchers nabbing animals and selling them to over 20 dog meat restaurants in the tourist city.

Thousands are also transported each month to different parts of the country, including the capital Phnom Penh where there are still more than 100 restaurants.

On Wednesday, a streetside vendor in the capital continued to advertise dog meat on his menu, hawking barbecue dishes from $2.50 to $10 a kilogram.

Tourism to Cambodia has seized up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Siem Reap draws the bulk of the kingdom's six million tourists, nearly half from China.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Sri Lanka rangers spot possible rare baby elephant twins

Yahoo – AFP, July 8, 2020

The young tuskers - who rangers estimate are three to four weeks old - were
spotted in the Minneriya sanctuary in Sri Lanka (AFP Photo/SUMITH PILAPITIYA)

A pair of baby elephants feeding from the same mother have been spotted in a Sri Lankan national park, with officials speculating Wednesday the two could be a rare set of twins.

The young tuskers -- who rangers estimate are three to four weeks old -- were spotted in the Minneriya sanctuary about 200 kilometres (125 miles) north-east of Colombo, grazing with a herd of about a dozen elephants.

After observing the pair from a distance, officials are confident enough to "say they are twins," Department of Wildlife Conservation Director-General Tharaka Prasad told AFP.

The two were also photographed feeding from the same cow on Monday by renowned conservationist Sumith Pilapitiy, who also told AFP he believed the two were twins.

Rangers were carrying out DNA tests on the herd's dung to confirm, Prasad said.

If the results matched, it would mark the first time wildlife officials on the Indian Ocean island had sighted twins alongside their mother, he added.

The sighting was near the area where seven elephants died from poisoning in September, in an act blamed on local farmers.

Nearly 200 elephants are killed every year on the island, many by farmers after the pachyderms stray onto their land.

Marauding elephants kill an average of 50 people annually, mostly when they stray into villages near their habitat.

The country's elephant population has declined to just over 7,000 according to the latest census, down from an estimated 12,000 in the early 1900s.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

China aims to phase out sale of live poultry at food markets

Yahoo – AFP, July 3, 2020

The virus is believed to have emerged at a market that sold live animals
in the central city of Wuhan late last year (AFP Photo/Hector RETAMAL)

China on Friday vowed to gradually phase out the slaughter and sale of live poultry at food markets, in a move welcomed by animal rights activists amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came as China stepped up inspections of wholesale food markets and outlawed the sale and consumption of wildlife, after a recent COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing was traced to a major agricultural wholesale market.

The virus is believed to have emerged at a market that sold live animals in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

"China will restrict the trading and slaughter of live poultry, encourage the mass slaughter of live poultry in places with certain conditions, and gradually close live poultry markets," said Chen Xu, an official at the State Administration of Market Regulation, at a press briefing.

Live poultry kept in cages is a common sight in agricultural wholesale food markets and "wet markets" -- smaller-scale fresh food markets -- across China.

The poultry is traditionally butchered on the spot by stallholders, or buyers can opt to slaughter the live animal at home.

Some Chinese people traditionally believe that this allows for maximum freshness. Live seafood, amphibians and other creatures are also commonly sold at wet markets.

Scientists believe the pathogen originated in bats before jumping to humans through a yet-unknown animal intermediary.

Chen urged local governments across China to "strengthen supervision of food safety at agricultural wholesale markets" and "investigate hidden safety risks", taking the Beijing Xinfadi market virus hotspot as an example.

"It is understood that more than 70 percent of meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables enter the market through wholesale agricultural markets," he said.

There are more than 4,100 wholesale markets nationwide, a commerce ministry official told the briefing.

The announcement was welcomed by animal rights groups.

"We are happy to see that live-poultry markets are on their way out in China," said Jason Baker, senior vice president of PETA Asia.

"PETA hopes the State Administration of Market Supervision and Administration continues to stretch their wings and ban all live-animal markets nationwide."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

MPs vote to close mink farms early, after coronavirus hits 17 farms

DutchNews, June 26, 2020 

Mink on a fur farm. Photo: Dzīvnieku brīvība via Flickr 

A majority of MPs voted earlier this week to close down the Dutch mink farming sector three years ahead of schedule, after coronavirus outbreaks on 17 farms in Brabant and Limburg. 

Over 600,000 mink have been gassed since Covid-19 was first found on two farms at the heart of the mink farming industry in Brabant. 

MPs voted in favour of a motion drawn up by Esther Ouwehand, from the pro-animal PvdD, to end mink farming and to ensure the farms which have been have been emptied because of Covid-19 cannot fill their cages again. 

‘Mink farming is not only morally disgusting but a danger for human health,’ Ouwehand said. ‘And by stopping now, rather than in 2024, millions of mink will be spared a miserable life.’ 

There are some 200 mink farms in the Netherlands operated by 165 companies, and the Netherlands is the third biggest mink producer in the world behind Denmark and China. MPs agreed in 2013 to phase out the industry by the end of 2023. 

A spokeswoman for farm minister Carola Schouten told  she is working on plans to help mink farmers stop close down their farms ahead of schedule, but did not comment on the parliamentary vote. 

The vote in the lower house of parliament does not mean fur farming will actually be phased out early. The upper house of parliament will also have to vote in favour and it is unclear if there would be majority support.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Canada launches investigation after 38 dead puppies found on plane

Yahoo – AFP, June 20, 2020

French bulldogs, like those pictured here, are a popular breed in Canada
(AFP Photo/Gary Gershoff)

Montreal (AFP) - Canada has launched an investigation after some 500 puppies -- 38 of them dead -- were found on board a Ukraine International Airlines plane at the Toronto airport, officials said Saturday.

The surviving French bulldogs, a popular breed in Canada, were suffering from symptoms including dehydration, weakness and vomiting when they were found on the flight from Ukraine which landed at Toronto Pearson Airport on June 13, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a statement.

The agency "will determine next steps once the investigation is complete," it said.

A dog handler who was picking up another animal from the airport cargo area where the puppies were discovered last Saturday told the CBC of a "horror scene," adding: "It was a nightmare."

UIA offered its "condolences for the tragic loss of animal life on our flight" and said on Facebook that it was working with local authorities.

Puppy sales are "lucrative" in Canada, Scott Weese of the University of Guelph told the CBC.

Most buyers believe the animals are bred in Canada, but the reality is "we have no idea how many dogs come in, where they go, where they come from," he said, adding that there was "potentially some organized crime component."

"You mentioned 500 French bulldogs. If those are going for sale at $3,000 to $4,000 a dog, that's a massive amount of money," he told the broadcaster.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Wuhan lab had three live bat coronaviruses: Chinese state media

Yahoo – AFP, May 24, 2020

The director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told a Chinese state broadcaster
that the lab has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but that claims the
coronavirus could have leaked from the facility were 'pure fabrication' (AFP Photo/

The Chinese virology institute at the centre of US allegations it may have been the source of the COVID-19 pandemic has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new global contagion, its director has said.

Scientists think COVID-19 -- which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide -- originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal.

But the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster CGTN that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others the virus could have leaked from the facility were "pure fabrication".

In the interview filmed on May 13 but broadcast Saturday night, Wang Yanyi said the centre has "isolated and obtained some coronaviruses from bats".

"Now we have three strains of live viruses... But their highest similarity to SARS-CoV-2 only reaches 79.8 percent," she said, referring to the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.

One of their research teams, led by Professor Shi Zhengli, has been researching bat coronaviruses since 2004 and focused on the "source tracing of SARS", the strain behind another virus outbreak nearly two decades ago.

"We know that the whole genome of SARS-CoV-2 is only 80 percent similar to that of SARS. It's an obvious difference," she said.

"So, in Professor Shi's past research, they didn't pay attention to such viruses which are less similar to the SARS virus."

Plans for more labs

Conspiracy rumours that the biosafety lab was involved in the outbreak swirled online for months before Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought the theory into the mainstream by claiming that there is evidence the pathogen came from the institute.

The United States and Australia have called in recent weeks for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

Chinese scientists have said that the virus first emerged at a market selling live animals in Wuhan, though officials in Beijing more recently cast doubt about its origins.

Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi on Sunday blasted what he called efforts by US politicians to "fabricate rumours" about the pathogen's origins and "stigmatise China".

He said China would be "open" to international cooperation to identify the source of the novel coronavirus, as long as any investigation is "free of political interference".

The World Health Organization has said Washington offered no evidence to support the "speculative" claims about the Wuhan lab.

The Wuhan lab has said it received samples of the then-unknown virus on December 30, determined the viral genome sequence on January 2 and submitted information on the pathogen to the WHO on January 11.

Wang Yanyi said in the interview that before it received samples in December, their team had never "encountered, researched or kept the virus".

"In fact, like everyone else, we didn't even know the virus existed," she said. "How could it have leaked from our lab when we never had it?"

At a press conference Sunday, Zhao Chenxin, deputy secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, said every Chinese prefecture must have its own P3 laboratory to ramp up preparations against infectious diseases.

Apart from the P3 lab plans -- the second-highest biosafety classification for labs handling pathogens -- Zhao said each city should also have a lower-level P2 laboratory so they could "quickly respond in a major epidemic".

The Wuhan institute has both P3 and P4 labs.

Related Articles:

"Kryon on Corona", Reykjavik, Iceland, Mar 13, 2020 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (>13.46 Min - Reference to the Global Coronavirus crisis and the Wuhan lab)

Monday, June 15, 2020

Chinese conservationists battle to save pangolins from poachers

Yahoo – AFP, June 12, 2020

The pangolin was found in a fishpond by a farmer and brought to the
government-run rescue centre in Jinhua (AFP Photo/Handout)

Rescued from a farmer's fishpond, a young pangolin's release back into China's wilderness this week was hailed as a small victory in the battle to save the critically endangered animal.

The freeing of the scaly creature in the eastern province of Zhejiang came after Beijing's Forestry and Grassland Administration granted the world's most trafficked mammal similar protections to that of giant pandas.

It was among at least six pangolins -- poached for their meat and prized scales -- returned to the wild in the last month, according to conservationists.

"This is a great miracle, we have really changed the status quo so that now pangolins are released back into the wild," said Sophia Zhang, director at the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.

The charity's staff, working with Jinhua Animal Rescue Centre, released the young female pangolin into a forest on Thursday.

It was found in a fishpond by a farmer, who reported it to police, and the animal was brought to the government-run rescue centre in Jinhua.

Beijing granted one of the most trafficked mammals similar protections to 
that of giant pandas (AFP Photo/Handout)

Zhang, who helps wildlife rescue centres across China release pangolins back into the wild, said May to July was primetime for spotting the creatures.

"They will often roam around and get lost outside their natural habitat, or end up in farmers' homes in search of food."

But she said it is hard to accurately gauge the number of Chinese pangolins remaining in the wild -- only that "very few" are left.

Zhang added that four creatures, who cannot survive in captivity, were set free last month and another was released in eastern Anhui province last week.

The mammals, native to parts of Africa and Asia, are thought by some scientists to be the possible host of the novel coronavirus that emerged at a market in China's Wuhan city last year.

Beijing recently banned the sale of wild animals for food, citing the risk of diseases spreading to humans, but the trade remains legal for other purposes -- including research and traditional medicine.

The young female pangolin was released into a forest in eastern China's 
Zhejiang province (AFP Photo/Handout)

However, pangolins were left out of the official Chinese Pharmacopoeia this year, the state-owned Health Times reported this week.

The landmark development in the creature's conservation efforts was hailed by campaigners who had lobbied for the change for a long time.

Their scales are prized in traditional Chinese medicine -- despite a lack of scientific proof -- and used for the treatment of various diseases such as arthritis, ulcers and tumours.

A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine told AFP, using his online name Xinglin Daoren because of the sensitivities involved, said the new restrictions would impact some treatments.

He explained: "It can't be replaced."

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Mink farm clearances deal final blow to a dying industry: Volkskrant

DutchNews, June 8, 2020 


As mink farm clearances continue in the wake of high levels of COVID-19 infection among the animals, the Volkskrant took a look at a dying industry. 

The Netherlands is home to some 128 mink farms concentrated in the south of the country, making it the third largest producer of mink pelts in the world after Denmark and China. 

The use of fur and the conditions the animals were kept had prompted calls to ban the industry since 1989 but didn’t result in a law prohibiting the practice until 2013. At the time, fur farmers were told they would get until the end of 2023 to make good on their investments. 

The impact of the impending ban on some farmers was such that a number of them committed suicide, the paper writes. But for some the fur trade – most of it is exported to China, Russia and Japan, and in Europe to Italy and Greece – has been a lucrative business. 

The biggest earner is Jos van Deurzen from Elsendorp who became a multimillionaire with an estimated fortune of €89m. Van Deurzen has at least ten fur farms in the Netherlands and abroad and also owns factories making mink feed and cages. 

Apart from the blow dealt to the industry by COVID-19, fur farmers had been struggling anyway, the paper says. Overproduction in the last few years has caused the market for fur to collapse and instead of €70 for a pelt the price has now halved. 

In September last year the sector came under the scrutiny of the tax office for suspected tax fraud and money laundering. Over €50m of revenue was thought to have been channelled out of sight via accounts in Luxembourg. 

It is not known whether the fur farmers will be compensated for the mink which have been gassed because of Covid-19 or whether farms will be allowed to start up again once the virus has disappeared, the Volkskrant said.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thousands of mink on Dutch fur farms to be culled to clear coronavirus risk

DutchNews, June 3, 2020


Thousands of mink living on eight fur farms where coronavirus has been found are to be gassed, government sources have told website and RTL Nieuws. 

The eight farms, operated by six different companies, are all in Noord-Brabant province, which is at the centre of the Dutch fur farming industry. 

Officials have decided the farms should be cleared for public health reasons, said. At least two farm worker has been infected with coronavirus via the animals. 

The Netherlands is due to have phased out fur farming by 2024. In 2016, the Netherlands had some 160 fur farms producing five million pelts a year and the country was the third biggest fur farming nation in the world behind Denmark and China. 

The government is due to make a formal announcement later on Wednesday.

Related Articles:

Monday, June 1, 2020

Singapore otters' lockdown antics spark backlash

Yahoo – AFP, Catherine Lai, May 30, 2020

With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping
centre, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey
fish stolen from a pond (AFP Photo/Roslan RAHMAN)

Singapore's otters, long adored by the city-state's nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the coronavirus lockdown but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull.

With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping centre, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond.

While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife.

There are estimated to be about 90 otters in Singapore, making up 10 families, and appearances at popular tourist sites around the city-state's downtown waterfront have transformed them into local celebrities.

They featured in a documentary narrated by David Attenborough, are tracked avidly by the local media -- and have been spotted more frequently since people were asked to stay home and workplaces closed in April to fight the virus.

While many think of Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also
relatively green and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant
wildlife (AFP Photo/Roslan RAHMAN)

"When there's restriction of movement, there's less vehicles and there's less people, so the urban space opens up," said N. Sivasothi, a biologist at the National University of Singapore known as "Otterman" due to his work on the animals.

But their newfound freedoms appear to have emboldened the otters, and they are now facing a backlash.

'More daring'

The most high-profile incident was a raid on a pond at a spa shuttered due to the pandemic. The creatures gobbled several fish including an arowana, a prized species that can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

Actress-turned-entrepreneur Jazreel Low, who owns the spa, posted pictures on Facebook of fish parts scattered around the pond and lamented a "massacre".

"They probably realised that there was nobody there and became more daring," Low told entertainment news website 8 DAYS.

With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping
centre, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish
stolen from a pond (AFP Photo/Roslan RAHMAN)

The case sparked a debate about whether more should be done to stop otters rampaging through the city, with a widely discussed letter in a local newspaper calling for air horns and rubber bullets to be used as deterrents.

"Wild boars have never been encouraged to enter urban areas, neither should otters be just because they look cute," wrote Ong Junkai in the correspondence to the Straits Times, which triggered calls from some for a cull.

In other incidents, a video showed a group charging into the lobby of a children's hospital before being shooed away, and the creatures were also filmed frolicking in the empty streets outside a popular shopping centre.

The otters' more frequent forays onto the streets of Singapore are part of a global trend triggered by virus lockdowns, with animals increasingly slipping cover to explore the streets of some of the world's biggest cities.

'Coexist and thrive'

Still, otter experts believe the anger is an overreaction and that the creatures are likely just enjoying the extra freedom to venture to new places.

Fans say people should celebrate the return of an animal that was driven out 
of Singapore by coastal development and water pollution around the 1970s, and 
only started reappearing in the 1990s as waterways were cleaned (AFP Photo/
Roslan RAHMAN)

NUS's Sivasothi criticised calls for a cull as "quite an uneducated response", and said such a move would be ineffective.

He also said many recent sightings were likely of the same family of smooth-coated otters, which have been searching for a new home along the city's rivers. Most of Singapore's otters are the smooth-coated variety, classified as "vulnerable".

Fans believe people should be celebrating the return of an animal that was driven out of Singapore by coastal development and water pollution around the 1970s, and only started reappearing in the 1990s as waterways were cleaned.

"I simply don't understand anyone who could not like them. They are really cute," said Pam Wong, a 35-year-old Singaporean.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong weighed in on the debate Friday, posting a photo he took of otters before the lockdown on his Facebook account.

"Rather than being focused on protecting 'territory', we must find ways to coexist and thrive with our local flora and fauna," he wrote.