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)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

London, a playground for 10,000 urban foxes

Google – AFP,  Jacques Klopp (AFP), 27 august 2013

A fox runs in the Field of Remembrance in London's Westminster 
Abbey on November 11, 2004 (POOL/AFP/File, Arthur Edwards)

LONDON, England — To some they are a nuisance, even a danger. To others, London's 10,000 foxes are a delightful reminder that this concrete wilderness is teeming with wildlife.

The ruddy brown creatures seem out of place on the streets of the British capital -- but they are now so common that 70 percent of Londoners will have seen one slinking around in the last week, according to a recent survey.

For some city-dwellers, the red fox is the ultimate nightmare neighbour.

Many a Londoner will have had a night's sleep ruined by a fox's eerie screeching, only to wake and find their rubbish bins have been upturned. To add insult to injury, the scavenging fox will have left a stench of musk behind.

With their flashing eyes and razor-sharp teeth, the foxes have even been characterised as a menace.

A fox looks through a gate at the Royal
 Courts of Justice in central London on
 September 23, 2003 (AFP/File, Odd 
There have been a spate of reports of babies attacked in their cots by foxes in recent years, though animal rights campaigners say the dangers are wildly exaggerated.

In June, London's mayor Boris Johnson reignited a long-running debate over whether the animals should be culled -- by jokingly suggesting that the traditional sport of fox hunting, outlawed in Britain since 2005, should be legalised in the capital.

"This will cause massive unpopularity and I don't care," said the colourful mayor, who said he was driven to speak out after his cat was apparently attacked by one of London's foxes.

"If people want to get together to form the fox hounds of Islington (a leafy north London borough), I'm all for it."

There are some 33,000 urban foxes in Britain and a third reside in the capital, according to research by Bristol University. A further 250,000 live in rural areas.

"They are adaptable animals which can eat many kinds of food and are by nature opportunists," said Calie Rydings of the animal charity RSPCA.

"So it is not surprising that they can be found in some towns and cities."

With its large parks as well as thousands of houses with private gardens, London is a paradise for foxes.

They have been a part of the city landscape since the 1930s, when the urban sprawl began to encroach on their rural territory.

Despite the complaints, the foxes have mostly cohabited happily with their human neighbours.

Some 86 percent of people like the animals, according to a poll for Channel 4 TV. Another survey by Bristol University found that 10 percent of Londoners regularly feed them.

Britain has some of the highest-density fox populations in the world, according to Stephen Harris, professor of environmental sciences at Bristol.

"Despite this, they cause remarkably few problems and the vast majority of householders like to see the foxes in their garden," he told AFP.

Yet every few years, a case hits the headlines that sparks an outcry against the foxes and a slew of calls for the animals to be culled or moved to the countryside.

In 2010, an east London mother spoke of her "living nightmare" after her nine-month-old twin girls were mauled by a fox as they slept in their cots.

In February, a one-month-old baby boy had his finger ripped off.

But animal charities say such attacks are extremely rare -- and in some case, foxes are not even the culprits.

Trevor Williams, director of the Fox Project charity, said he knew of three reported 'attacks' by foxes on babies in eleven years -- but claims one was actually carried out by the family's own dog.

A fox runs through the Field of 
Remembrance in London's Westminster 
Abbey on November 11, 2004 (POOL/
AFP/File, Kirsty Wigglesworth)
"According to neighbours, the second also involved a dog. The third story was so full of contradictions, few people believe it," he told AFP.

Even if the stories are true, Williams claimed, the rate of attacks is nothing compared to the 250,000 people bitten by pet dogs each year in Britain.

The biggest threat, according to the RSPCA, is to the foxes themselves.

The average life expectancy of an urban fox is only two years, compared to four years in captivity.

Cars are responsible for 60 percent of their deaths. The rest die from illness or are killed by around 100 marksmen authorised to shoot foxes in London.

Three years ago, there was an uproar after a video emerged showing four masked men bludgeoning a fox to death with a cricket bat in a London park.

But it turned out to be a hoax. The perpetrators, film directors Chris Atkins and Johnny Howorth, had faked the killing in a bid to highlight the "ludicrous media coverage" of fox attacks.

Fox in the city (AFP/Graphics)

Related Article:

The Animals are Not Waiting for Us

A fox runs past the door of 10 Downing Street in London (Photo: JustinTallis/AFP)

Dogs ease Namibia's cheetah-farmer conflicts

Google – AFP, Justine Gerardy (AFP) 27 August 2013

An Anatolian Shepherd dog guards a herd of goats at the Cheetah
Conservation Fund center in Otjiwarongo, Namibia (AFP, Jennifer Bruce)

GOBABIS, Namibia / Omaheke Region — Winding through the parched Namibian farmland, Bonzo, an Anatolian shepherd dog, has a singular focus: protecting his herd of goats from lurking predators.

He pads along, sniffing the air and marking the scrubby landscape, just like a bodyguard ready to ward off any threat to his charges, which he considers family.

"They're not pets. They're not allowed to be pets," said Bonzo's owner farmer Retha Joubert.

The breed descends from ancient livestock dogs used thousands of years ago in what is now central Turkey. And they not only save sheep and goats, but have handed a lifeline to Namibia's decimated cheetah numbers by reducing conflicts between farmers and predators.

A cheetah lies at The Cheetah Conservation
 Fund center in Otjiwarongo, Namibia,
on August 13, 2013 (AFP, Jennifer Bruce)
"The dogs are protecting the flock in such a way that the farmers don't have to kill predators," said Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) which breeds the dogs near northern city Otjiwarongo.

"It's a non-lethal predator control method so it is green, it's happy, it's win-win."

The concept is simple.

The dogs are placed with a flock when a few weeks old to bond with the livestock. They live permanently with the animals, loyally heading out with them every day to deter hunters, and bedding down with them at night.

Marker's centre started breeding the livestock dogs to promote cheetah-friendly farming after some 10,000 big cats -- the current total worldwide population -- were killed or moved off farms in the 1980s.

Up to 1,000 cheetahs were being killed a year, mostly by farmers who saw them as livestock killers.

But the use of dogs has slashed losses for sheep and goat farmers and led to less retaliation against the vulnerable cheetah.

"We see about 80 to 100 percent decrease of livestock loss from any predator when the farmers have the dogs," said Marker.

In the last 19 years, around 450 dogs have been placed with farmers and more than 3,000 farmers trained.

There is now a two-year waiting list for the dogs -- either stately Anatolian shepherds or Kangals -- and the programme has expanded to other countries with predators.

For Joubert, staying up late at night worrying about her sheep and goats coming home is a thing of the past.

Her farm near Gobabis, east of the capital Windhoek, lost 60 animals in 2008.

An Anatolian Shepherd dog and two goats
sit at The Cheetah Conservation Fund in 
Otjiwarongo, Namibia, August 13, 2013
(AFP, Jennifer Bruce)
But the arrival of Bonzo, her first Anatolian, as a puppy five years ago has slashed losses to just one animal last year.

Joubert is now training four-month-old Kangal !Nussie -- whose name starts with the exclamation point typical of Namibia's Nama people -- to follow in Bonzo's footsteps.

The fluffy-coated pup is learning the ropes by going out with a flock every day on a leash with a human herder and beds down in the animal enclosure at night. She gets half an hour in the evening to play in the yard.

"She must associate herself with the goats, she must be a goat, she's part of a group, that's the main thing I think to make them to protect the animals," said Joubert, who is deeply proud of her dogs.

The dogs' presence and intimidating bark is usually enough to deter predators, who would rather opt for prey that does not have a guardian.

But they will attack if a hunter does not back off.

Bonzo for example, has killed jackals, who attack in packs and a young, weak cheetah.
"If indeed they do come in, the dog could and would fight to the finish," said Marker.

Altercations between the dogs and cheetahs, though, are rare and those who target livestock are usually desperate, such as being wounded.

But working in Namibia's tough landscape takes its toll.

Bonzo has been bitten by snakes, stung by a scorpion, attacked by baboons and now has tongue cancer from exposure to the relentless sun.

Ironically, despite cheetahs being seen as livestock killers, analysis of their droppings has shown only five percent had preyed on farm animals.

Anatolian Shepherd dog Bonzo leads 
goats on a farm near near Gobabis, east 
of the capital Windhoek, on August 15,
2013 (AFP, Jennifer Bruce)
"They do occasionally take livestock," said Gail Potgieter, a human-wildlife conflict specialist at the Namibia Nature Foundation.

"But the perception that any cheetah is going to start killing livestock as its main diet is very wrong."

Cheetah numbers hit a low of 2,500 in 1986. But the population has now potentially reached nearly 4,000 -- the biggest wild cheetah population in the world.

Cheetahs still face threats on game ranches, where they eat valuable animals, and on cattle farms where the dogs are not suited.

But for small stock farmers, they have proven their worth.

"For the type of livestock farming that's going on in Namibia, it's definitely one of the most promising solutions that they have," said Potgieter, who used to manage the CCF's dog programme.

In Gobabis, Joubert, needs no convincing.

"I will always have dogs here," she said.

Indigenous Peoples Vow to Map Customary Forests

Jakarta Globe, August 27, 2013

A shaman from the Salakhirat group of the indigenous Mentawai tribe
 searches for leaves for a traditional herbal remedy in Siberut, Mentawai
Islands, West Sumatra, on April 4, 2013. (EPA Photo)

An organization representing Indonesia’s indigenous people is determined to map out the country’s customary forests in order to save them from the encroachment of palm oil companies and other development projects.

A recent ruling by the Constitutional Court which acknowledged that indigenous communities — and not the state — have rights over some 40 million hectares of customary forests influenced the decision to chart such lands, the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) said in a statement on Friday.

“We have already mapped seven million hectares of land, but that took us 15 years. We need to take advantage of new mapping tools like GPS and 3D mapping to accelerate the process of charting the more than 30 million hectares we have left to document,” Abdon Nababan, the secretary general of the alliance that represents some 17 million indigenous peoples, said.

Abdon told the Global Conference on Participatory Mapping of Indigenous Territories, which was held in Samosir, North Sumatra, over the weekend, that AMAN is aiming to map out all contested forests by 2020.

Nababan added that the need to map these lands has become more urgent since the Constitutional Court’s decision in May, which determined that a line in the country’s 1999 Forestry Law — which stated that customary forests are state forests — was not constitutional.

To take advantage of the landmark decision, Nababan said it’s crucial for indigenous peoples to put these forests on paper.

“Based on mapping technologies we have used so far and the lack of government support for our mapping efforts, it would take us 30 years to map all indigenous territories,” he said.

“But we don’t have that luxury. We need to learn [about mapping technology] from other indigenous peoples in Asia, Latin America and Africa about how to map more quickly and effectively,” Abdon added.

Kasmita Widodo, the national coordinator of the Participatory Mapping Network (JPKK), an organization that supports indigenous peoples’ mapping efforts, said the government has never mapped customary forests, which often overlap with concessions the government has handed out to palm oil and pulp and paper companies.

“Some 70 percent of forest areas in Indonesia are located in areas with overlapping permits,” he said.

Under its one-map policy, the government hopes to create a single map of all forests in order to clarify overlaps.

“It will be a challenge for the entire country… [but it is necessary] to facilitate a fair decision making process for indigenous peoples and to reduce conflicts,” Widodo said.

At the Global Conference, representatives of indigenous communities from across the globe who have mapped their lands using advanced technology gathered to discuss how to ramp up efforts to protect their forests and lands against development, climate change and other threats.

Indigenous peoples from Nepal, the Philippines, Brazil, Peru, Nicaragua and Kenya attended the event to share their maps and experiences.

The conference was organized by AMAN and the Phillipines-based the Indigenous Peoples’ International Center for Policy Research and Education (Tebtebba)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Endangered Giant Ibis Found in New Cambodia Habitat

Jakarta Globe – AFP, August 20, 2013

A giant ibis walks in a pond in Mondulkiri province, northeast of Phnom Penh.
AFP Photo/World Wildlife Fund-Cambodia

Phnom Penh. Jubilant conservationists expressed hope on Tuesday for the survival of the critically-endangered Giant Ibis after a nest of the bird species was discovered in a previously unknown habitat in northeastern Cambodia.

Habitat loss and poaching has pushed the Giant Ibis to the edge of extinction, with around only 345 of the reclusive creatures — distinctive for their bald heads and long beaks — left anywhere in the world, 90 percent of them in Cambodia.

A farmer in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province discovered the nesting site a few kilometers inland in the biodiverse Mekong Flooded Forest area last month, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement.

An inspection team from the WWF later saw an adult bird sitting on the nest with two eggs.

“The discovery of the Giant Ibis nest on the Mekong is extremely significant because it provides hope for the species’ survival,” said Sok Ko, Forestry Administration official and Bird Nest Project officer with WWF.

The Giant Ibis — or Thaumatibis gigantea — was listed on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1994 as critically endangered, the group said, with its habitat limited to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

“For Giant Ibis to survive… it is key to secure breeding groups in more places. This one nest is part of securing the future for the species,” Gerry Ryan, WWF’s Research Technical Advisor, told AFP.

The group warned that threats remain as the species’ lowland forest habitats continue to be drained and stripped for agriculture, while its eggs are sometimes poached by villagers.

But conservation efforts in the Mekong area where the nest was discovered have brought some reward, Ryan added.

“Giant Ibises don’t like to be disturbed and are very shy — they tend to live far from human settlements,” he said.

“The presence of Cambodia’s national bird is further proof that efforts in managing and conserving the area and its biodiversity are worthwhile and having an effect.”

Agence France-Presse

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Romanian princess and her former sheriff's deputy husband arrested over alleged cockfighting ring

Daily Mail, Daily Mail Reporter, 16 August 2013 

  • Irina Walker, 60, and her husband John Wesley Walker, 67, were charged
  • Accused of hosting cockfighting derbies and illegal gambling at their ranch

A Romanian princess and her husband, a former sheriff's deputy have reportedly been arrested in connection with an alleged cockfighting ring.

Irina Walker, 60, and her husband John Wesley Walker, 67, are charged with hosting cockfighting derbies and illegal gambling at their ranch outside the small Morrow County town of Irrigon.

Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the ranch, listed in state incorporation records as Stokes Landing Sport Horses. 
Irina Walker, 60, and her husband John Wesley Walker, 67, are charged with
 hosting cockfighting derbies and illegal gambling at their ranch outside the small
Morrow County town of Irrigon.

The Oregonian newspaper identified Irina Walker, also known as Irina Kreuger, as a daughter of the last king of Romania.


Personnel records show John Wesley Walker was a Coos County sheriff's deputy from 1998 to 2003.

The Walkers and four other people from Irrigon and Hermiston were to be arraigned in federal court in Portland on Friday on charges of operating an illegal gambling business.

No lawyer for the Walkers or other defendants was listed as yet in court records.

Twelve others from Oregon and Washington face lesser charges of conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act through illegal animal fighting. They are to be arraigned in Portland and Yakima, Wash.

'Cockfighting is illegal under federal law and under the laws of all 50 states,' Amanda Marshall, U.S. attorney for Oregon, said in a statement.

Twelve others from Oregon and Washington face lesser charges of
conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act through illegal animal fighting

'Besides being a barbaric practice, cockfighting jeopardizes public health and safety and facilitates the commission of other criminal acts.'

The indictment said 10 different cockfighting derbies were held at the Walker's ranch between April 2012 and April 2013, bringing in as much as $2,000 a day.

Blades were attached to the birds' legs, spectators were charged admission, and food and drink were sold, the indictment said.

The four others charged with being part of the gambling business are Mario Perez, 62, of Hermiston; David Sanchez, 29, of Irrigon; Jose Luis Virgen Ramirez, 48, of Hermiston; and Aurelia Garcia Mendoza, 33, of Irrigon.

The exiled King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania attended the baptism of Princess Irina's daughter in Portland in 1987.

At the time, she and her first husband, John Kreuger, raised horses near the southern Oregon Coast.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Carnivore 'teddy bear' emerges from the mists of Ecuador

Olinguito is first new carnivore identified in western hemisphere for 35 years, bringing 100 years of mistaken identity to an end

The, Ian Sample, science correspondent, Thursday 15 August 2013

The olinguito, which lives in the cloud forests of Ecuador, has been described
as a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat. Photograph: Mark Gurney

A small, wide-eyed beast with luxuriant orange fur has been identified as a new species more than 100 years after it first went on display in the world's museums.

The discovery brings to an end one of the longest zoological cases of mistaken identity and establishes the "olinguito" (which rhymes with mojito) as the first new carnivore recorded in the western hemisphere for 35 years.

The animal – which has been described as a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat – had been displayed in museums around the globe and exhibited at numerous US zoos for decades without scientists grasping that it had been mislabelled.

One adult female, named Ringerl, was kept at Louisville zoo in the 1960s, but was moved to Tucson zoo, to the Smithsonian's National zoo, and to the Bronx zoo after keepers repeatedly failed in their attempts to breed the animal. The reason for that failure is now clear: it was a different species to the mates on offer.

The true identity of the overlooked beast only emerged after Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, launched a 10-year investigation into an obscure group of raccoon-like mammals called olingos. What began with a drawer-full of remains ended with a nighttime trek through the cloud forests of Ecuador, where scientists photographed the creature living in the trees.

"If you look up olingos in a book today, pretty much everyone says we don't know quite how many species there are, what their ranges are, and which are endangered. I set out to resolve all that, I wanted to put olingos on the map," Helgen told the Guardian.

"But in the process of trying to do that, and because we were the first group in generations to look closely at his part of the carnivore family tree, we revealed this incredible and beautiful animal that everyone had overlooked," he said.

The moment of realisation came when Helgen was going through skins and skulls of mammals at the Field Museum in Chicago. "I pulled out a drawer and there were these brilliant, beautiful orange-red pelts with long flowing fur. It was nothing like olingo fur. I then looked at the skulls and the shape was very different. I wondered, 'is this a mammal that's been missed by every other zoologist?' It turns out that it was," he said.

The animal had been mistaken for an olingo because of some broad similarities, but these turned out to be superficial. Helgen's animal was different on almost every measure: it was smaller, much furrier, had a shorter tail, different teeth, and smaller ears. "We are not talking about splitting hairs. If you saw the two animals side by side you would wonder how they could ever be confused," Helgen said.

Convinced they had a new species on their hands, Helgen's team arranged an expedition to the cloud forests of the Andes, where similar creatures had come from. Trekking at night through the dense vegetation, and accompanied by a chorus of frogs and crickets, they spotted other nocturnal beasts in the beams of their headtorches: kinkajous and porcupines.

"Eventually, there it was, an olinguito. We got it in the beam, running around, jumping from tree to tree, but getting close enough so that when it turned and looked into the beam we knew exactly what it was," he said.

The olinguito is a carnivore, but the term has two meanings in biology. The most familiar is an animal that eats meat, but the other is any animal that belongs to the order Carnivora, which includes cats, dogs, tigers, bears and others. They are not all meat eaters, and the olinguito mostly eats fruit.

Working with local museums, the team later extracted DNA from animals on display and confirmed that some were olinguitos, a previously unknown relative of the olingo. They have since confirmed there are at least four sub-species of the animals.

The DNA evidence took the scientists back to the Smithsonian Institution. There they found that scientific databases already contained olinguito DNA that had been wrongly labelled as olingo. It also led them to tissues from a Colombian olinguito held in storage at the museum. They belonged to Ringerl, the unfortunate female that toured US zoos.

"We tracked down Ringerl's keeper and asked why she moved her around so much. She said 'we couldn't get her to breed with any of the olingos.' This animal wasn't fussy, it just wasn't the same species. It would have been impossible. It was a glorious case of mistaken identity," said Helgen.

The name olinguito means small or adorable olingo, but writing in the journal ZooKeys, the team give the animal a formal scientific name too, Bassaricyon neblina. The species name, neblina, means "fog" or "mist" in Spanish, a nod to the cloud forests where the animal lives. But it also means obscured. "That's exactly what the olinguito has been," Helgen said. "Lost in the fog."

Related Article:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

China zoo under fire for disguising dog as lion

Google – AFP, 15 August 2013

A Tibetan mastiff at a dog show in
 Baoding, Hebei province, on March 9,
2013 (AFP/File, Ed Jones)
BEIJING — A Chinese zoo's supposed "African lion" was exposed as a fraud when the dog used as a substitute started barking.

The zoo in the People's Park of Luohe, in the central province of Henan, replaced exotic exhibits with common species, according to the state-run Beijing Youth Daily.

It quoted a customer surnamed Liu who wanted to show her son the different sounds animals made -- but he pointed out that the animal in the cage labelled "African lion" was barking.

The beast was in fact a Tibetan mastiff -- a large and long-haired breed of dog.

"The zoo is absolutely cheating us," the paper quoted Liu, who was charged 15 yuan ($2.45) for the ticket, as saying. "They are trying to disguise the dogs as lions."

Three other species housed incorrectly included two coypu rodents in a snake's cage, a white fox in a leopard's den, and another dog in a wolf pen.

The chief of the park's animal department, Liu Suya, told the paper that while it does have a lion, it had been taken to a breeding facility and the dog -- which belonged to an employee -- had been temporarily housed in the zoo over safety concerns.

Users of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo service mocked the zoo.

"This is not funny at all. It's sad for both the zoo and the animals," said one.

"They should at least use a husky to pretend to be a wolf," said another.

Related Article:

Over six tonnes of rare live pangolins found in Vietnam

Google – AFP, 14 August 2013

Seized pangolins are held in plastic crates in Medan city on July 31, 
2012 (AFP/File)

HANOI — Vietnamese customs officials said Wednesday they had found more than six tonnes of live protected pangolins inside a shipping container sent from Indonesia.

The rare creatures -- known as "scaly anteaters" for their unusual appearance and prized in China and Vietnam as an exotic meal -- were discovered last week during an inspection at the northern port of Hai Phong, a customs official told AFP, declining to provide further details.

The container, which was due to be shipped onwards to an undisclosed final destination, provided documents claiming it contained frozen fish, fins and fish bones, according to a report on the Vietnamese government's website.

Authorities have not specified what will happen to the pangolins.

Naomi Doak of wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC estimated there were several hundred of the mammals in last week's haul and told AFP there were no rescue centres in Vietnam equipped to deal with such large numbers.

"They're hard to keep in captivity and feed, they only eat termites... my guess is they'll be killed and sold," she said.

Since the start of the year, more than 10 tonnes of pangolin -- both live and frozen -- have been confiscated at Hai Phong port, the government report said.

Authorities have also seized 1.2 tonnes of pangolin scales -- which are sought after in traditional Vietnamese and Chinese medicine as a remedy for allergies and to help male potency.

The small mammals are nearly entirely covered with scales, made of keratin -- the same protein that makes up human hair.

Pangolins sell for between eight to ten million dong ($380 - $480) per kilogram at restaurants in Vietnam, according to state media reports.

Trade in pangolins is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More Chinese pharmacies stop selling controversial bear bile

Want China Times, Xinhua 2013-08-11

Bears in captivity at the Guizhen Church black bear breeding base
in southeastern China's Fujian province. (Photo/CNS)

Eight Chinese pharmacy chains announced on Thursday that they have stopped selling bear bile products, as they joined a campaign launched by an animal charity to end controversial bear farming.

The eight chains, with 151 drugstores in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan province, issued the statement at an activity held by the Animals Asia Foundation.

Overall, 260 drugstores of 11 chains across the country have joined the AAF campaign to stop such sales. The eight local chains included Chengdu Dahua Pharmacy, Furong Grand Pharmacy and Chengdu Grand Pharmacy.

Bear bile is held in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory as a cure for ailments such as eye and liver problems, but the brutal practice of tapping bile from live bears has drawn much criticism in recent years from animal rights activists and the public.

Zhong Yuanwei, vice general manager of Chengdu Dahua, said the business endorsed the AAF campaign to shoulder its social and environmental responsibilities as well as to ensure the health of customers.

Medical practitioners, including many TCM doctors, have expressed doubt about the safety of bear bile, whose extraction process inflicts so much pain and damage to bears' health that they are often left fatally ill.

"Brutal bile extraction violates the idea of TCM of seeking harmony between man and nature. Besides, it can be replaced by many herbs that are similar in effect but cheaper," said veteran TCM doctor Liu Zhengcai.

Liu said the use of bear bile could not be found in most TCM classics, suggesting it has never figured prominently in medical practices in China.

Medical uses of bear parts have a long history in China but have faced mounting opposition in recent years thanks to rising animal welfare awareness among the public. Last year, a renowned bear bile producer abandoned its IPO application amid a groundswell of condemnation.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Five dead in Indonesian volcanic eruption

Google – AFP, 10 Aug 2013

Mount Rokatenda volcano spews a huge column of hot ash during
an eruption on August 10, 2013 (AFP)

JAKARTA — A volcano erupted in central Indonesia on Saturday, spewing hot ash and rocks high into the air and killing five people, an official said.

Mount Rokatenda, on the tiny island of Palue, sent fast-moving red-hot ash onto a nearby beach, leaving three adults and two children dead, said vulcanology centre head Surono.

Rokatenda has been on high alert since October, with authorities banning people from any activities within three kilometres (1.9 miles) from the crater on the island of around 7,000 inhabitants.

Surono, speaking from Bandung city on Java island, said his staff at the scene had reported the five people had been killed within the exclusion zone.

It was not clear what the victims had been doing in the restricted area when it erupted, he said.

"We have found the bodies of the adults, but we are still looking for the children, and it is difficult because the area is still very hot," Surono, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

The volcano began erupting at 04:27 am (2027 GMT Friday) and it continued for nearly four hours, said Surono.

He said volcanic ash travelled as far as 2,000 metres (6,560 feet) from the crater.

The Indonesian archipelago has dozens of active volcanoes and straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the "Ring of Fire" between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of violent eruptions in 2010.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Rare Sumatran Tiger Cubs Born at US Zoo

Jakarta Globe – AFP, August 9, 2013

Kirana, a female Sumatran tiger nuzzles one of her month-old cubs in their
 enclosure at Chester Zoo in northern England July 1, 2013. (Reuters Photo/
Phil Noble)

Washington. Two rare Sumatran tiger cubs were born this week at the National Zoo in the US capital, in what zookeepers described Thursday as a conservation victory for the critically endangered cats.

The births late Monday were a first for the tiger mom, Damai, who mated with the zoo’s 12-year-old male Kavi.

The babies’ eyes are not yet open, but they are nursing and crawling all over their mother, “as if her body is a jungle gym,” the zoo said in a statement.

A webcam on the National Zoo’s site showed black and white images of the cubs lounging and rolling in a darkened den with their mom on Thursday morning.

A zoo spokeswoman told AFP that no humans have come near the cubs yet, and they have no plans to for a couple of weeks.

“Not only are our two new Sumatran tiger cubs the cutest cubs in town but they are also a huge conservation success,” the zoo statement said.

“With fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers in the wild, the birth of these cubs makes a stride in the direction towards saving this critically endangered species.”

The only place in the world where these tigers are found in the wild is on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where poaching and deforestation are major threats to the species’ survival, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Agence France-Presse

Monday, August 5, 2013

Roots breakthrough for drought-resistant rice

Google – AFP, 5 Aug 2013

An Indian woman plants paddy saplings in the fields on the outskirts
of Hyderabad on July 20, 2011 (AFP/File, Noah Seelam)

PARIS — Japanese biotechnologists on Sunday said they had developed a rice plant with deeper roots that can sustain high yields in droughts that wipe out conventional rice crops.

It is the third breakthrough in new cereal strains in less than two years, boosting the quest to feed the world's spiralling population at a time of worsening climate change.

Writing in the journal Nature Genetics, a team led by Yusaku Uga of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences in Tsukuba describe how they found a remarkable gene in a rice plant cultivated in the dry uplands of the Philippines.

This rice strain, also called cultivar, is called Kinandang Patong. Its big characteristic is roots that are deep and grow straight downwards, delving into parched soil for water, as opposed to root systems that are shallow and grow out sideways in typical water-rich paddy fields.

The gene for this, called Deep Rooting -- dubbed DR01 -- was spliced into a cultivar called IR64, a paddy rice plant that is grown around Asia.

The team then put the new plant through its paces, planting it and standard IR64 in upland fields in three kinds of conditions -- no drought, moderate drought and severe drought.

Indian farmers carry young rice plants on
 their heads in Canning village, south of
 Kolkata on July 29, 2012 (AFP/File,
Dibyangshu Sarkar)
Moderate drought reduced yield from IR64 to just 42 percent of no-drought conditions. Severe drought destroyed it totally.

But IR64 with the DR01 gene was almost unaffected by moderate drought. In severe drought, yield fell -- but not catastrophically -- by around 30 percent.

"Based on our results, this variety can be adapted to upland (agriculture) without irrigation," Uga said in an email exchange with AFP.

"We are also evaluating the DRO1 performance under rain-fed lowland with the International Rice Research Institute," he said. "If we can get positive results in farmer's fields, we hope to release the variety for Asian countries. We are also going to introduce the DRO1 into leading varieties in Latin America with CIAT," the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, he said.

Without genetic technology, it would have been extraordinarily hard to have pinpointed, and then inserted, the right gene, said Uga.

"Development of GM rice plants is... one of (the) useful strategies to improve drought resistance," he said.

In January 2012, scientists in Britain and Japan said they had developed a fast-track technique, called MutMat, that identifies useful genetic variants, or mutations, in rice plants. They used it to derive a strain from Japan's Hitomebore wild rice that is resistant to salinity -- a boon for farmers whose fields have high salt content through irrigation.

In March 2012, researchers in Australia said they had bred durum wheat with a salt-loving gene whose yields were up to 25 percent greater than ordinary counterparts when grown on saline fields.

The world's population is expected to reach 9.6 billion by mid-century, from 7.2 billion today, according to UN estimates. By 2100, the tally could be 10.9 billion.

To feed this rising number at a time of worsening drought and flood will require a campaign against food waste, smarter use of land, water, fertiliser and pesticides and agricultural innovation to select higher-yield or climate-resistant strains of cereals, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and France's National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).

Improvements in rice strains -- leading to a short, stubby "semi-dwarf" plant with a full head of grain -- unleashed the Green Revolution of the 1960s, boosting harvests in China and other rice-dependent countries that used to teeter perpetually on the brink of famine.

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“… New ideas are things you never thought of. These ideas will be given to you so you will have answers to the most profound questions that your societies have had since you were born. Inventions will bring clean water to every Human on the planet, cheaply and everywhere. Inventions will give you power, cheaply and everywhere. These ideas will wipe out all of the reasons you now have for pollution, and when you look back on it, you'll go, "This solution was always there. Why didn't we think of that? Why didn't we do this sooner?" Because it wasn't time and you were not ready. You hadn't planted the seeds and you were still battling the old energy, deciding whether you were going to terminate yourselves before 2012. Now you didn't…. and now you didn't.

It's funny, what you ponder about, and what your sociologists consider the "great current problems of mankind", for your new ideas will simply eliminate the very concepts of the questions just as they did in the past. Do you remember? Two hundred years ago, the predictions of sociologists said that you would run out of food, since there wasn't enough land to sustain a greater population. Then you discovered crop rotation and fertilizer. Suddenly, each plot of land could produce many times what it could before. Do you remember the predictions that you would run out of wood to heat your homes? Probably not. That was before electricity. It goes on and on.

So today's puzzles are just as quaint, as you will see. (1)How do you strengthen the power grids of your great nations so that they are not vulnerable to failure or don't require massive infrastructure improvement expenditures? Because cold is coming, and you are going to need more power. (2) What can you do about pollution? (3) What about world overpopulation? Some experts will tell you that a pandemic will be the answer; nature [Gaia] will kill off about one-third of the earth's population. The best minds of the century ponder these puzzles and tell you that you are headed for real problems. You have heard these things all your life.

Let me ask you this. (1) What if you could eliminate the power grid altogether? You can and will. (2) What if pollution-creating sources simply go away, due to new ideas and invention, and the environment starts to self-correct? (3) Overpopulation? You assume that humanity will continue to have children at an exponential rate since they are stupid and can't help themselves. This, dear ones, is a consciousness and education issue, and that is going to change. Imagine a zero growth attribute of many countries - something that will be common. Did you notice that some of your children today are actually starting to ponder if they should have any children at all? What a concept! ….”