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Snow Leopards Need To Be Protected ... But How?

One conservationist has a radical new plan—treating the rare cat as a "domesticated" animal.

By Christine Dell'Amore, National Geographic News

The snow leopard in Pakistan is an endangered species. The population of the rarely seen big cat has likely fallen to fewer than 450 in the country, mainly due to hunting. Now an expert has come up with an unconventional—and controversial—proposal to save the snow leopard: Classify it as a domesticated animal.

That doesn't mean that snow leopards are literally tame, like a chicken, explained Shafqat Hussain, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who spoke during the National Geographic Explorers Symposium in Washington, D.C., in June: "When I say that snow leopards are like domestic cats, I mean it rhetorically to make contrast with the word wild."

His idea stems from the changing relationship between snow leopards and humans. Where the cats do remain in the Himalaya, they increasingly share their habitat with mountain herders. A 2010 study of snow leopard scat found that up to 70 percent of the species' diet in the Gilgit Baltistan Province (map) comes from sheep, cattle, and other domestic animals. Some herders have killed snow leopards in retaliation for preying on their livestock.

Given the snow leopards' diet, "how do we see these mythical, elusive wild animals? Are they really wild in the sense that of meaning we attach to the word wild—existing on its own, having no connection with society and domestic economy?" Hussain said.

"Clearly not."

Supporting Locals

So the way to enable snow leopards to survive, says Hussain, is not to create protected areas that sequester them from local communities. That solution often alienates farmers, who lose their grazing areas as a result. He would suggest supporting local herders instead so they can make a living despite snow leopard incursions.

And that's exactly what he's been doing for more than a decade. In 1999 Hussain founded the Snow Leopard Project, an insurance scheme that compensates local people in snow leopard-range countries if their livestock are killed by the predators.

Various branches of the successful project, which is jointly managed by project officials and a committee of villagers, have spread to 400 households covering 3,000 animals across central Asia.

Since 1998, close to U.S. $7,000 has been paid out in compensation for lost animals, and $13,000 invested on improving livestock corrals and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, the snow leopard population seems to have remained stable, if not grown, Hussain said.

Snow Leopard Perspective Controversial

Not everyone agrees. In fact, there is great consternation in the big-cat conservation community about Hussain's ideas, particularly that conservation groups don't work with locals.

Tom McCarthy, executive director of the Snow Leopard Program for the big-cat conservation group Panthera, said that he doesn't "know a single conservation [nongovernmental organization] working on snow leopards today that would support setting up reserves for the cats at the expense of local people."

For example, before Hussain set up the Snow Leopard Project, McCarthy and colleagues founded the award-winning Snow Leopard Enterprises, which helps local people in snow leopard countries generate income.

Conservation biologist and snow leopard expert Jerry Roe also said by email that relabeling the snow leopard as domestic will not resolve the conflict between snow leopards and herders or benefit the species.

For one, "a change of definition will not alter the perspective of snow leopards as a pest species in the eyes of herders," said Roe, co-founder of California-based Nomad Ecology, an ecological consulting and research company.

Living With Snow Leopards

Hussain thinks the objections are just not valid. Local people—at least in Pakistan—do not have an "atavistic enmity to snow leopards, [nor] this itch to kill it," he said. "If they get compensated for their losses, they have no interest in eliminating this animal."

Such is the case with Mohammed Ibrahim, chairman of Skoyo Krabathang Basingo Conservation and Development Organization in Krabathang, Pakistan (map), who also owns 15 goats. In a phone interview with an Urdu interpreter, Ibrahim said that he's not worried about snow leopards, mostly because of insurance schemes such as Project Snow Leopard that compensate herders for lost animals.

And since snow leopards have never been known to attack people, Hussain is confident that his scheme would work far better than a conservation policy that separates the leopards from the locals: "The idea of co-existing with snow leopards is easy to implement if you satisfy the villagers."

Ultimately, conservationists share the same goal: Ensuring that the snow leopard—what Hussain calls a "symbol of the high mountains"—can survive. Whether that will continue to be an animal dependent on people for food, though, is still up in the air.


Why Do High-Altitude Snow Leopards Breathe Like Pussycats?

How these big cats thrive in low-oxygen mountain habitats is still a mystery, study says.Despite living at high elevation, the snow leopard breathes in a similar way to cat species at sea level, a new study says.

Photograph by Tim Fitzharris, Minden Pictures/National Geographic
By Carrie Arnold, National Geographic
 August 05, 2015

The snow leopard might rule the high reaches of the Himalaya, but they share some unexpected similarities with the humble house cat, a new study says.

Despite living at elevations of more than 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), these spotted big cats breathe in the same way as other feline species that live at sea level—notably your pet kitty.

(See snow leopard pictures in National Geographic magazine...

Anyone who has ever tried to run even a short distance on a mountain has felt the effects of high elevation. The difficulties people and other animals have breathing isn’t due to lower oxygen, but rather low air pressure at high altitudes. Each breath takes in less oxygen and fewer air molecules overall.

Without adequate oxygen, mammals can't stay warm, run to chase prey, or escape predators. To get around this, other high-dwelling animals have evolved coping strategies—in particular, many of them have more efficient hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein in the blood.

Related Video...    WATCH: Big Cats Up Close:

Scientists wondered if snow leopards had the same adaptation. But the new research, published August 5 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, reveals they don't.

In fact, the predators take in about half as much oxygen with each breath as they would at sea level. (See pictures and video of snow leopards in Afghanistan..

"We were very surprised," said study leader Jan Janecka, an evolutionary biologist at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. "Changing hemoglobin is one of the simplest ways to adapt to high altitudes."

Mountain High

Scientists already knew that low-altitude feline species generally have hemoglobin that's not good at binding with oxygen.

Even so, Janecka and colleagues suspected that they would find differences in the hemoglobin properties of snow leopards compared with other cats.
The team obtained blood samples from big cats living in various U.S. zoos, including the African lion, tiger, leopard, panther, and of course snow leopard. They also took blood from domestic housecats.

When the scientists looked at the genes that make hemoglobin, as well as the protein itself, they found no differences between snow leopards and the other cat species.

"We still don’t know how snow leopards adapted [to life at altitude]. Our study raised more questions than it answered," Janecka said.

"There Must Be Other Things Going On"

Graham Scott, an evolutionary physiologist at McMaster University who was not involved in the study, says it was "technically very well done and used state-of-the art analyses."

"What’s unique about this study is that it shows us there must be other things going on" in the leopards' ability to live at altitude, he notes. (Learn about National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.)

For instance, Janecka and others believe that snow leopards might simply breathe harder to bring more oxygen into their bloodstream, and have begun studying that theory.

"As long as the animal is getting enough oxygen, natural selection isn't picky," Scott says.

“It shows," he quipped, "that there’s more than one way to skin a cat."


Out of the Shadows: The elusive Central Asian snow leopard steps into a risk-filled future

By Douglas H. Chadwick
National Geographic
Photograph by Steve Winter

When a snow leopard stalks prey among the mountain walls, it moves on broad paws with extra fur between the toes, softly, slowly, "like snow slipping off a ledge as it melts," Raghu says.

"You almost have to turn away for a minute to tell the animal is going anywhere. If it knocks a stone loose, it will reach out a foot to stop it from falling and making noise." One might be moving right now, perfectly silent and perfectly tensed, maybe close by. But where? That's always the question. That, and how many are left to see?

Raghunandan Singh Chundawat has watched snow leopards as often as anyone alive. The New Delhi biologist studied them closely for five years in Hemis High Altitude National Park in Ladakh, the largest, loftiest district of northern India, and carried out wildlife surveys in the region over nine additional years. We're in the 1,300-square-mile park this evening, setting up camp in a deeply cleft canyon near 12,000 feet. It's June, and the blue sheep have new lambs.

We keep one eye on a group crossing a scree slope, the other eye on the cliffs at its top. Leopards are ambush hunters that like to attack from above. While the common leopard of Asia and Africa relies on branches and leaves for concealment, the snow leopard loses itself among steep jumbles of stone. This is exactly the kind of setting one would favor. But I'm not holding my breath. Raghu has sighted only a few dozen in his whole career.

Lengthening shadows coalesce into dusk. Wild roses perfume the Himalayan canyon as passing squalls brush the ridgetops with new snow. I imagine a leopard easing down the darkened slopes. It flows low to the ground, with huge gold eyes and a coat the color of dappled moonlight on frost. The body stretches four feet from nose to rump. Its tail, the most striking in the feline family, is almost as long, and so thick and mobile it looks as if the cat is being followed by a fuzzy python. The snow leopard sometimes uses its tail to send signals during social encounters or to wrap partway around itself like a scarf when bedded down in bitter weather. But the main function of this plume is to add balance in an environment with thousand-foot drops.

In Mongolia a park ranger once told me he'd seen snow leopards crouch and sway that plume in the air to lure curious marmots closer, just as hunters do with white rags. Possible. But I heard a simpler explanation from Sodnomdeleg Bazarhuyag, a retired doctor in a community of herders in northwestern Mongolia. We went to search out snow leopard sign in a gorge glistening with river ice. When a band of scimitarhorned wild goats (ibex) appeared on the skyline, Bazarhuyag scanned carefully around them, saying, "Snow leopards are good at hiding, but sometimes they forget about their tail."

DARKNESS CLAIMS the last crags. Raghu and I won't glimpse a snow leopard this day. It's not a disappointment. The great cat is only living up to its reputation for being impossible to find. Called shan in Ladakhi, irbis in Mongolian, and barfani chita—snow cheetah—in Urdu, the carnivore scientists label Uncia uncia ranges across about a million square miles and portions of 12 nations. You'll never hear one give away its whereabouts by roaring; it lacks the throat structure, though it can hiss, chuff, mew, growl, and wail. Besides being secretive, well camouflaged, and usually solitary, snow leopards are most active at night and in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn, amid the most formidable tumult of mountains on Earth: the Himalaya and Karakoram; the Plateau of Tibet and adjoining Kunlun; the Hindu Kush, Pamirs, and Tian Shan; the Altay, whose peaks define Mongolia's border with China, Kazakhstan, and Russia; and the Sayan chain west of Lake Baikal.

Bound to high, cold, steep terrain, snow leopards have always remained at fairly low densities, but became still more sparse during the past century because thousands were turned into pelts for the fashion trade. Though officially protected since 1975 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the spotted cats continue to be killed for their coat, worth a black market fortune. Demand for their bones and penis, hyped as tonics in eastern Asia, is increasing. Conflicts with livestock keep growing too, which leads to more persecution by herders. Bait, snares, pitfall traps, and poisons make it far easier to kill a snow leopard than to see one alive. The current population is estimated at only 4,000 to 7,000. While these aren't hard figures, the number may be less than half of what it was a century ago. Some authorities fear that the actual number may already have slipped below 3,500. Five of the countries in snow leopard range may have 200 or fewer.

There's no escaping the fact that most of the world's big cats are in deep trouble, from the heavily poached tiger to the last 30 free-roaming Amur leopards. Snow leopards are no exception. But here's some encouraging news: the rise of grassroots conservation efforts in a few locales to halt the snow leopard's downward spiral. Several community-based programs in India and Mongolia sounded especially promising—at least on paper. But how well do they really work?

Saving an animal means getting to know it, and scientific information about the leopard is scarce. Perhaps no other large, popular land mammal has so many details of its natural history still missing. Raghu, the regional director of science and conservation for the nonprofit Snow Leopard Trust, knows as much as anyone, and he has that sixth sense that researchers with years afield develop, an extra awareness that guides him to the fragile leg bones of an infant blue sheep here in a ravine, or an ibex skull lying there, high on a slope where wind whips the wildflowers into blurs of color, and lets him say things like: "At a fresh carcass, you can tell if a snow leopard with young made the kill. The ears will be gnawed off. Those are all the cubs can get at until she opens up the hide for them." Tall and fit, with a long-legged stride, Raghu is a wizard at trailing faint paw prints across stony ground. But the otherwise ghostlike predators also leave behind a surprising amount of more obvious clues. It helps to picture 80- to 120-pound cats in a colossal litter box.

Droppings, together with scrapes made by the rear legs, reveal habitual routes that tend to follow ridgelines or the base of cliffs. Scrambling for footing day after day, I gradually realize that these travelers like to mark the same type of features that draw my attention en route: solitary boulders, sharp corners along gullies, knolls, and saddles. Near tree line, they stripe the occasional trunk with long, vertical claw marks.

If my eyes are too busy taking in scenery to notice a fresh scrape, my nose will still register the acrid tang of leopard pee. Elsewhere, I'll catch a musky aroma sprayed from anal glands up onto an overhanging rock. Frequently used scent posts take on an oily sheen. Passing cats stretch to rub their cheeks against them, leaving white hairs for me to tuck in a pocket for luck scaling the next rock face. Fifteen, sixteen thousand feet, no matter how far up I climb, some villager will have gone higher and left stone cairns bearing prayer flags or stacks of horns. Later, the cats come by and leave their own markings on these offerings. "A lot of research on snow leopard movements really tells you more about the limits of human abilities," says Raghu after crossing a cascade swollen with glacial melt. "You can only climb so many slopes before you grow exhausted or encounter sheer cliffs. It is just not possible to keep up." So Raghu tried capturing the cats to attach radios to them. He finally collared a female. But, like previous investigators, he was seldom able to monitor a signal for long before the animal dropped behind some ridge that blocked the transmission.

Over the years, biologists reported snow leopards covering territories of five to fourteen square miles. But when American biologist Tom McCarthy first placed a satellite collar on one in Mongolia in 1996, he found it roaming 386 square miles. "My guess is that the more satellite collars we get out, the larger we'll discover snow leopard territories to actually be," said McCarthy, now the science and conservation director of Snow Leopard Trust. Ten years passed before the next satellite tag was put on, again by McCarthy, this time in Pakistan. By mid-2007 the cat wearing it had revealed its movements over a 115-square-mile area and had moved across the border to Afghanistan.

SNOW LEOPARD RESEARCHERS need to gather more than cat facts, because you can neither understand nor save a predator without doing the same for its prey. Snow leopards hunt chiefly Asia's high-country array of hoofed wildlife: ibex, argali and urial sheep, blue sheep, tahr, the goat-antelopes known as gorals and serows, Tibetan antelope, Tibetan and goitered gazelles, musk deer, red deer, wild boars, wild asses, wild yaks, and wild Bactrian camels. Marmots, hares, and mouse hares (pikas) are on the menu too, along with partridges and turkey-size snow cocks. On top of everything else, snow leopards routinely add the tall, feathery shrub Myricaria and other plants to their diet. Curious, but then my house cat swallows grass and loves cantaloupe.

As the top carnivore of the alpine and subalpine zones, the snow leopard strongly influences the numbers and whereabouts of hoofed herds over time. That in turn affects plant communities and thus shapes the niches of many a smaller organism down the food chain. The leopard's presence—or absence—affects competing hunters and scavengers too, namely wolves, wild dogs, jackals, foxes, bears, and lynx. This cascade of consequences makes Uncia uncia a governing force in the ecosystem, what scientists term a keystone species.

Since the range of the snow leopard overlaps those of so many other creatures, protecting its habitat also preserves homes for the majority of mountain flora and fauna. While we were exploring part of the Zanskar Range in Ladakh, Raghu and I crossed tracks that sent him racing off to an overlook. A few minutes later, a brown bear—the same species as North America's grizzly—galloped and slid down a high riverbank, swam across surging rapids, muscled halfway up a cliff wall, and finally lay down to dry its silver-tipped fur in the warm morning sun. We had found one of the last few dozen of its kind in that huge section of the Himalaya.

Do snow leopards attack humans, as bears sometimes do? No, never, Raghu says. He once watched a village girl pulling on one end of a dead goat, unaware that the other end, hidden by a bush, was snagged in a snow leopard's jaws. She came away unscratched. But a single leopard swatfest in a herd of livestock can plunge a family into desperate poverty.

Because farming is marginal at best in Central Asia's cold, dry landscapes, traditional cultures depend mainly upon livestock to get by. Some herders operate from mountainside hamlets. Others are nomadic, migrating long distances between seasonal pastures. Either way, snow leopard conflicts come with the lifestyle. Wired to select the unwary and the stragglers among wild ungulates, the cats can hardly help picking off a few domesticated versions. At night, when flocks are stuffed into low stone corrals, a leopard can all too easily hop in to join them.

During a several-day trek through the Sham area of the Ladakh Range, which rises to the north of the Zanskar Range, on the other side of the Indus River Valley, Jigmet Dadul, a conservationist, and I made our way over the passes to the barley fields and poplar groves of the village of Ang. There we looked up Sonam Namgil. Three nights before, a snow leopard had leaped atop his stout mud-brick outbuilding and then ten feet down through a ventilation hole onto the floor. When Namgil opened the door in the morning, he found wide golden eyes staring back amid the bodies of nine goat kids and a sheep.

"The wolf comes and kills, eats, and goes somewhere else," said the 64-year-old herder in a ragged sheepskin coat, "but snow leopards are always around. They have killed one or two animals in the pastures many times. This was the first problem at my home. Everybody wanted to finish this leopard."

The cats may claim only a small part of livestock herds, but the loss may be huge to the owner. Where losses mount, it's often because human hunting has made natural prey scarce. Overgrazing by livestock also reduces the natural capacity of rangelands to support native herds. Hungry leopards turn to the tame flocks for food, and angry herders kill the cats in retaliation. With little or no government enforcement of wildlife regulations in remote areas, a protection strategy has little chance of breaking these cycles unless it gains local support.

Religious leaders have recently spoken up on the leopards' behalf. Within the mountain ringed courtyard of the Rangdum monastery, between the Zanskar Range and the main Himalaya, Tsering Tundup, a Buddhist monk, said, "Whenever we have an opportunity, we talk to people and encourage them not to kill any being." Several people told me that the villagers listened when a lama farther up the valley condemned a spate of revenge shootings of snow leopards. Soon afterward, a new lotus-shaped shrine was built with the herders' guns cemented inside.

The Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism, who is widely followed in Central Asia, has specifically urged followers to safeguard snow leopards and avoid wearing their pelts as part of traditional festive clothing. "People depend upon animals, but we must not use them for our luxury," he told me during an interview in Washington. "Wild animals are the ornaments of our planet and have every right to exist peacefully. Some, including snow leopards, are quite rare and visible only at high altitudes. So we need to pay special attention to protect them."

Financial incentives can also make a difference. Jigmet Dadul's employer, Snow Leopard Conservancy–India, had helped set up Himalayan Homestays, a program that steers trekkers to the houses of herders who agree to protect snow leopards and their wild neighbors. For a clean room and bed, meals with the family, and a warm introduction to their culture, visitors pay about ten dollars a night and save carrying a tent and food. Having guests once every couple weeks through the tourist season provides the hosts with more than enough income to replace stock lost to predators.

The conservancy donates funds to cover livestock pens with stout wire mesh. Rodney Jackson, the pioneering snow leopard researcher who founded the conservancy, says, "We figure each project to predator-proof the corrals of a village this way saves an average of five leopards." The organization also launches small-scale livestock insurance programs and provides seed money for parachute cafés—trailside tea shops beneath an army surplus parachute pitched like a big tent. Meanwhile, teams conduct environmental classes at village schools and train Homestays members as nature guides, available for hire. Homestays families pool 10 percent of their profits for community projects that conserve cultural values, such as renovating a monastery, or improve habitat for wildlife.

In case you're wondering what happened to the marauding cat that was stuck inside the tall building in the village of Ang, the news that brought villagers crowding in for a peek also reached the ears of a local Homestays nature guide. By insisting that they let authorities relocate the animal, the young man saved a snow leopard from being beaten to death.

"That is the kind of story that keeps you going," says Rinchen Wangchuck, who helped conceive Homestays.

Snow leopard numbers for Hemis National Park and other strongholds in Ladakh look stable or even on an upward trend. Blue sheep are definitely increasing, and urial sheep have made a strong comeback from lows caused by poaching. Regional wildlife departments, nonprofit groups, and the mountain villages can all claim the credit together.

Success stories like these are rare in other parts of snow leopard range, where the cats continue to vanish from many locales like snow patches under a summer sun. Sprawling China hosts the greatest share—perhaps 2,000, mostly spread across the wrinkled immensity of Tibet. Yet authorities worry that the cats are being heavily hunted in China, the world's largest market for illegal tiger and leopard products. To undermine the Dalai Lama's influence, officials have even forced some Tibetans to wear snow leopard fur. Due to recent heavy poaching in Kyrgyzstan, the next-largest population of the predators may now belong to Mongolia, which probably holds 800 to 1,700.

Mongolia remains almost as much a nation of herders as it was during the era of Genghis Khan. Livestock outnumbers the 2.6 million humans fifteen to one. Though an admirable network of parks and reserves has been established in western Mongolia, the infrastructure to manage them is thin.

"We don't have enough staff to protect their core wildlands from heavy livestock grazing, poaching, forest fires, and illegal woodcutting," explained Mantai Khavalkhan, the superintendent of four reserves in Mongolia's Altay region. Yet the cat Khavalkhan called "the most secret of animals" appears to be holding its own where conservation efforts have won local support.

One winter Dashdavaa Khulaa, a park ranger in the Turgen Range, watched a herd of 27 ibex take shelter in a cliff-face cave. A mother snow leopard with two partly grown cubs followed them in. Only 24 ibex made it out. For Khulaa, the tale is part of a larger story: Though the Turgen Range, part of the Altay Mountains, saw some heavy wildlife poaching in the past, it has become a stronghold for ibex and their predators. One of the reasons is a grassroots antipoaching patrol in the Altay region known as the Snow Leopard Brigade. Ganbold Bataar, former director of Mongolia's national park system here in the province of Uvs, is its founder and current chief.

"With two employees for this whole province, we couldn't hope to keep up," Bataar said. "But we have more than 290 volunteers here." They were local herders, and their eyes were everywhere in the countryside. Whoever turned in a poacher stood to gain 15 percent of the fine as a reward. But that wasn't always the main incentive. Toward evening, three horsemen driving their flocks home galloped over to visit our camp. They all considered themselves volunteer members of the antipoaching brigade. They knew the mother snow leopard well. She'd had three new cubs the previous year, they said. The two from her earlier litter had gone off to establish territories of their own on the mountain slopes just across the river. One had appeared prowling the iron-red ledges there just recently. One of the horsemen said simply, "I'm proud to live in a place with snow leopards."

A small, soft-spoken woman named Bayarjargal Agvaantseren has found another way to enlist local communities in conservation. Twice every year, this former schoolteacher sets out from the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, to visit some of the 24 herder communities she has engaged in a handicrafts project tagged Snow Leopard Enterprises (SLE), a program of the Snow Leopard Trust.

Most herder families used to sell the soft underfur of goats—cashmere—to middlemen, earning about $600 a year. Thanks to Agvaantseren, women in the community now also make an array of products using wool from their goats, sheep, yaks, and camels: skeins of soft yarn, felt and decorative rugs, seat pads, children's booties, or Christmas tree ornaments shaped like snow leopards and ibex. My favorites were doll mice with whiskers of stiff yak tail hair—toys for little cats, designed to save big ones.

Through Agvaantseren, the organization buys these items from herding families and arranges to market them abroad. Participants must first sign a pledge to preserve snow leopards and their prey and to encourage neighbors to do the same. The arrangement boosts incomes by 10 to 15 percent, which elevates the status of the women and translates into more emphasis on education and health care. If no one in the community kills protected species over the course of a year, the program members receive a 20 percent bonus.

In one of Agvaantseren's communities, a winter village of herders in far northwestern Mongolia, a lively scene of trade took place on the floor of a ger heated by a stove fueled with yak dung. A Khazakh woman named Saulekhan Kekei had brought 17 felt rugs made over 68 days. She had six children and an ill husband to support. Those rugs would bring the equivalent of nearly three months' wages in her job as a janitor and guard at the village school. "I own only 12 sheep," Saulekhan said. "I have to buy wool from neighbors. But I am able to provide for everyone at home now and pay for my eldest daughter to go to college."

An independent review in 2006 found no poaching of snow leopards in areas where SLE operates. Agvaantseren just added eight more communities and intends to expand a microcredit scheme that lets members borrow at a discount to buy items such as spinning wheels or material to improve corrals. "People hear good reports from neighbors, and they come to us now asking how to join," she said.

In our imagination, snow leopards belong to a realm beyond the dust and noise of human affairs. In reality, only about a fifth of their range lies within reserves, and many of these contain villages and livestock. Informal protected zones exist around many Buddhist monasteries, but the Western model of establishing nature sanctuaries in landscapes unoccupied by humans simply doesn't fit much of Asia.

Projects like the Homestays program in India and the handicrafts business in Mongolia, however, seem to fit very well. Though they cover only a small fraction of the species' homeland so far, they make live leopards more valuable to more people each year, and in doing so they mark a path toward the conservation of high mountain ecosystems.

I never minded not seeing snow leopards—not as long as I found plenty of their sign. It was my guarantee that I would soon come across other spectacular wildlife. And it meant that I could still dream of pulling myself up to the spine of a ridge, as Raghu once did, and meeting face-to-face with a snow-cloud-colored cat climbing from the other side.

 on: Today at 09:12 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Finding the Last Cheetahs of Iran

Posted by Luke Hunter of Panthera in Cat Watch on October 25, 2012

This week, National Geographic magazine published extraordinary new images of wild Asiatic cheetahs in Iran. Shown cresting a barren, mountainous ridge devoid of green, Iran’s cheetahs could not be any more distant–geographically and ecologically–from their African counterparts pictured in the same article navigating tourist traffic-jams on Kenyan grasslands. And unlike Kenya’s spectacularly photogenic cheetahs, Iranian cats are virtually invisible. Intensely shy, scattered like grains of sand over Iran’s vast central plateau, and hovering on the edge of extinction, they are essentially impossible to see.

That National Geographic was able to photograph these rarest of cheetahs is testament to 11 years of conservation work by the Iranian Department of Environment. In 2001, with support from the United Nations Development Programme, the DoE initiated a comprehensive long-term program to pull the cheetah back from the extinction cliff. The ambitious “Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project” (CACP) designated five landscapes as specially protected cheetah reserves and provided the resources to make them safe havens–dozens of dedicated cheetah guards, new vehicles, motorbikes and other materiel. Alongside the necessity of vigorous protection, the CACP mounted a nationwide campaign to draw attention to the cheetah’s plight. Back then, most Iranians had no idea they were the custodians of the last Asiatic cheetahs on earth. By the time of my first visit to Iran in 2004, that had already changed. When buying supplies in a roadside store in a tiny, remote desert town, I saw a CACP poster pinned behind the counter showing Marita, then the only Asiatic cheetah in captivity (Marita died in 2003: Koshki, shown on page 115 of the magazine, is one of two captive Asiatic cheetahs in the world today). The ancient shopkeeper proudly told me his village was in the heart of yuz palang country and that only Iran has the cheetahs; he was correct on both counts.

    The surveys corroborate what Iranian biologists have long suspected: There are fewer than 100 Asiatic cheetahs left on Earth.

The CACP also initiated the first scientific surveys of cheetahs. Assisted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and later my organization Panthera (both groups still cooperate with the Department of Environment in conserving the cheetah), the CACP began camera-trapping. Camera-traps–remote triggered cameras that silently capture images of anything passing by–were unknown in Iran prior to the CACP. Today, the project has completed 24 massive surveys logging almost 34,000 camera-trap nights (10 individual camera-traps running for one night equals 10 trap-nights). From the original five core areas known to harbor cheetahs, they have been confirmed from a further 10 sites in the country. Evidence of residency and breeding including terrific pictures of young cubs, is now confirmed from 10 of the 15. Incredibly, even though this herculean effort has produced tens of thousands of images of wildlife, cheetahs have been photographed on fewer than 400 occasions in more than a decade. The surveys corroborate what Iranian biologists have long suspected–there are fewer than 100 Asiatic cheetahs left on Earth.

Formidable Challenge

It was these incredibly long odds that faced Geographic photographer Frans Lanting when he hit the ground in April 2011. I accompanied Frans on this first expedition to help find promising sites for his high-end version of the camera-trap–digital SLRs linked to multiple flashes and inch-wide sensor beams positioned with blow-torch precision to trigger the shot. Everything hinged on being able to anticipate where the cheetahs would move. It was a formidable challenge given the arid enormity of their desert habitat where identifying cheetah-friendly locations felt like looking for pennies on a sandy beach. Not only that, Iranian cheetahs live at the lowest density recorded anywhere for the species, one to two cats per 1,000 square kilometers; the same-size area on East African plains can hold 100 cheetahs.  So, even if we found a site with promise–a freshwater spring, scent-marking tree or natural trail–it might be months before a cheetah happened along.

Fortunately for us, the expedition had more expertise than my semi-educated guesses. From their years of surveying, the CACP scientists as well as biologists from the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and the Iranian Cheetah Society had built up a very detailed picture of how cheetahs move through the forbidding landscape. Iranian field knowledge was the reason the mission had any chance at all. Guided by their know-how, our desert trip became a whirlwind “greatest hits” tour of good cheetah sites, the best of which Frans was able to select for his cameras. Combining exquisite Iranian field knowledge with Frans’ technical wizardry and perfect composition, the resulting images are a spectacular first.

    Iranian field knowledge was the reason the mission had any chance at all.

My hope is that National Geographic’s wonderful photographs bring the predicament of this critically endangered cat to a new audience who, like most Iranians a decade ago, had never heard of the cheetah’s existence in the country. I also hope the photos celebrate the dedication of the Iranian Department of Environment, the CACP staff and Iran’s energetic NGO community to conserving the cheetahs. Here in the West, we are rarely given such a positive glimpse into Iran without the over-heated rhetoric of politics. As the only country on Earth that has managed to keep this remarkable cat alive, Iran deserves to be congratulated.

Photograph by Frans Lanting:

Rescued as a cub from the hands of a poacher, five-year-old Koshki grew up in a reserve in northeast Iran. He’s one of only two Asiatic cheetahs living in captivity. A thick tuft of fur on his shoulders, needed for bitter winters on the high steppes of central Iran, sets him apart from African cheetahs.

 on: Today at 07:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
In Search of the Elusive Sea Wolf Along Canada's Rugged Coast

At Canada's western edge, beachcombing wolves swim between islands, eating whatever the sea serves up.

By Susan McGrath
National Geographic

"You feeling lucky?” Ian McAllister calls.

We’re standing on a speck of an island, eight miles west of the British Columbia mainland. Wooded, windswept, it’s one of thousands of islands along this storm-scoured coast, naught but a series of seal-draped rocks between this one and Japan. The April wind whips away my bark of disbelief that luck would come my way, and besides, McAllister—environmental activist, photographer, wolf whisperer—has already made up his mind. He settles into the windrow of bleached driftwood at the high tide line, and so do I. Before us, a gravel tide bar some hundred yards long connects our little island to another. Ensconced in our bony nests, we scan the far island’s twisty green-gold Sitka spruce and cedar, the bladder wrack and eelgrass. And just like that, luck strikes.

A pale stick figure of a wolf steps out of the salals and picks its way down the bank to the beach opposite us. With its muzzle, it pokes at the eelgrass. It plants a paw on something, tears at it with its teeth—a dead salmon maybe. Then another wolf materializes alongside the first. The two touch muzzles, turn to the gravel bar, and begin to plod across its tide pools in our direction.

In our collective imaginations, wolves lope across the tundra after caribou or weave through timber in Big Sky country or stalk stray sheep. They’re carnivores, hunting deer, moose, mountain goats, caribou, and anything else running about on hooves. Indeed, wolves barely more than howling distance inland make their living that way. But not out here. On the outer coast of British Columbia, whole generations of wolves have never seen a mountain goat or a moose. Some may have never seen a deer.

For decades headlines across the West have howled about wolves—their comebacks, their setbacks, the debate about whether and how to manage them. They’ve been studied, profiled, vilified, and glorified. You’d think by this time we’d know all there is to know about them. But aside from Homo sapiens, there are few mammals more adaptable or more diverse in their habitats than Canis lupus. And these wolves of the British Columbia coast appear to be unique.

Chris Darimont, from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, has spent over ten years developing a fine-grain picture of coastal wolves, which he lightheartedly calls “Canada’s newest marine mammal.” New to science, he means.

Halfway across the land bridge now, the pair of unlikely marine mammals paces into focus. The wolf on the right is nearly white with age. “Alpha female,” McAllister calls out. The fur on her face is worn to fuzz, like a child’s old stuffed toy. Her eyes are bald, round buttons. The other wolf, an alpha male, is an Adonis—tawny, with a loose mantle of black-tipped fur. The wolves reach our beach. Closer. Bigger. At last the matriarch stops, looks up. She coughs a growly, hostile chuff and disappears up the beach.

Adonis raises his head, loses his slump, pins me with his amber eyes—and keeps coming. Slow, deliberate, bold—ignoring McAllister and coming straight at me.

Even if you offered the prize of a pound of smoked salmon, most Canadians couldn’t tell you much about British Columbia’s remote coast. Vancouver Island bookends it to the south, the big Haida Gwaii Islands and southeast Alaska to the west and north, respectively. In between, open to the full fury of the Pacific, lies this coast. It stretches 250 miles as the raven flies. But glaciers raked deep fjords here during the last ice age, gouging a steep-sided labyrinthine and fingerlike tidal coastline. Icy, plankton-rich ocean currents bathe it, sustaining an extraordinary abundance of life in the sea—whales, seabirds, salmon, sea lions, seals—and on land, grizzly and black bears, including the fantastic white variant, the Kermode, or spirit bear. A misty temperate rain forest of conifers shrouds it all, from waterline to Coast Mountains crest. It’s roughly 25,000 square miles in area—a Switzerland-and-a-half of forest—one of the biggest swaths of its kind left in the world. It’s called the Great Bear Rainforest.

In the early 2000s Ian McAllister and Canadian wolf biologist Paul Paquet became intrigued when they saw coastal mainland wolves eating salmon. With local First Nations’ support, they recruited graduate student Chris Darimont to investigate. Darimont narrowed his study area to Heiltsuk First Nations territory on the central coast—one-third of it water, the rest largely roadless, dense with towering Sitka spruce and cedar, and often extremely steep. Darimont and Paquet ditched the traditional approach of collecting blood and hair directly from the animal.

“We collected poop,” Darimont tells me. Wolf scat, he means, and also wolf hair, veritable libraries of data about home range, sex, diet, genetics, and other variables. “Wolves are deliberate poopers, not random like deer,” Darimont says, “and they use travel corridors very reliably.” Wolves’ anal glands add oily deposits to scat, appending messages intended for other wolves. They favor posting their messages conspicuously, especially at trail intersections, where one missive gets twice the readership.

“I’d throw a mountain bike out of the boat onto a logging road or game trail and spend ten sweaty hours scat hunting,” Darimont says.

Ten years, innumerable poop jokes, more than 3,000 miles, and 7,000 samples later—autoclaved, washed, bagged, labeled, and eventually stored in Darimont’s mother’s basement—the feces began to deliver the facts.

The data from coastal wolves along the mainland quantified what many locals already knew: Wolves eat salmon. In spawning season the fish make up 25 percent of these wolves’ diet.

These wolves are beachcombers. They chew barnacles, scarf up the roe that herring lay on kelp, and feast on dead whales.

The shocker came from the rest of the data. Going in, Darimont and Paquet had assumed that the coastal wolves on the islands were simply normal wolves that moved between islands and the mainland, pushing on whenever they’d polished off the deer. Instead the data showed that wolves can spend their whole lives on outer islands that have no salmon runs and few or even no deer. These wolves are more likely to mate with other islanders, not with salmon-eaters. And they’re beachcombers. They chew barnacles. Scarf up the gluey roe that herring lay on kelp. Feast on whales that wash up dead. Swim out into the ocean and clamber nimbly up onto rocks to pounce on basking seals. “As much as 90 percent of these wolves’ diet can come directly from the sea,” Darimont says.

Most extraordinary is the wolves’ swimming prowess. They often swim across miles of ocean between islands. In 1996 wolves showed up on Dundas Islands for the first time in the Tsimshian people’s long collective memory—eight miles from the nearest land.

Paquet says these types of coastal wolves aren’t an anomaly, they’re a remnant. “There’s little doubt these wolves once lived along Washington State’s coast too. Humans wiped them out. They still live on islands in southeast Alaska, but they’re heavily persecuted there.” British Columbia permits almost unfettered hunting of wolves, but the vast, nearly roadless forest, low human population, and First Nations’ tenure along this coast have made the Great Bear wolves’ chances for survival look halcyon compared with the outlook for southeast Alaska’s wolves.

Despite these advantages, and despite the wolves’ impressive adaptability, their prospects are changing.

A controversial energy project called the Northern Gateway Pipelines aims to bring twin pipelines from Alberta’s tar sands across the Coast Mountains and down to a new terminal on a fjord far up into the province’s northern coast. With the pipelines working at capacity, nearly every day a tanker could be making the perilous inland passage. At the same time multiple shipping terminals for liquefied natural gas from Canada’s fracking fields are on the drawing board, promising even more tankers in these waters. The oily specter of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound haunts many on this coast. In a rare display of accord, dozens of First Nations bands officially opposed the Northern Gateway project last year. Will they have the clout to stop it? “Our Nations have been stewards of our homelands since time before memory,” says Jessie Housty, a young Heiltsuk Tribal Council member who’s actively opposing the project. “Northern Gateway can’t break 10,000 years and more of guardianship.” Nevertheless, at such times, an ancient, rugged coast can suddenly appear fragile.

The male wolf stalks nearer, closer. Bigger. My eyes flicker over to McAllister. His expression: impassive. Has he brought pepper spray? I don’t think so. I review in my mind what I know about wolves. Does one look a wolf in the eye? The wolf is close now, 20 feet from me and still coming. Staring. Staring.

Then, as if breaching from the waves, a third wolf porpoises up from below the driftwood directly in front of me—a younger, redder replica of Adonis. It slams an adoring cheek against the male’s, whimpering ecstatically, nuzzling his face from below in an exuberant display of affection. For a moment longer Adonis’s gaze stays locked on mine. Then he turns to greet the joyful youngster. The younger wolf ambles toward the water and lies down on the sand. As my eye follows the youngster, the alpha male vanishes. And just as suddenly reappears at my left, downwind of me, on my drift log. My breath catches. He sniffs the air. Drills me with his eyes. Then he abruptly loses interest in our conversation. He steps down to the beach, lies down near his offspring, and gazes out across the wild gray Pacific Ocean, where food comes from.

 on: Today at 07:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
November 28, 2015

Understanding synapse degradation could lead to Alzheimer’s treatment

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

The discovery of how brain cell synapses degrade during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease could eventually lead to new ways to treat this deadly form of dementia.

In a study published Friday in the journal Nature Communications, Dr. Vladimir Sytnyk of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales and his colleagues explained that they studied a type of protein, neural cell adhesion molecule 2, that helps physically connect the membranes of synapses in the brain.
Neural cell adhesion molecule 2, or NCAM2, also helps stabilize synaptic connections between neurons, they explained. The loss of synapses and the destruction of neural connections are some of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Sytnyk said. It occurs early on in the disease, when patients typically only have mild cognitive impairment and well before nerve cells die off.

“Synapses are required for all brain functions,” he explained in a statement, “and particularly for learning and forming memories.” He added that he and his UNSW associates had “identified a new molecular mechanism which directly contributes to this synapse loss – a discovery we hope could eventually lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease and new treatments.”

NCAM2 broken down by beta-amyloid protein

Dr. Syntnyk’s team used post-mortem brain tissue from both Alzheimer’s patients and people who did not have the condition. By analyzing this tissue, they discovered that individuals that had the disease had lower levels of synaptic NCAM2 in the hippocampus, which is among the first parts of the brain to be affected by the disease.

Furthermore, mice studies and laboratory research both demonstrated that NCAM2 was broken down by beta-amyloid, another type of protein that makes up the majority of the plaque which is known to accumulate in the brains of people suffering from the neurodegenerative condition.

“Our research shows the loss of synapses is linked to the loss of NCAM2 as a result of the toxic effects of beta-amyloid,” said Dr. Sytnyk, who worked with first author Dr. Iryna Leshchyns'ka of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. “It opens up a new avenue for research on possible treatments that can prevent the destruction of NCAM2 in the brain.”

 on: Today at 07:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
November 28, 2015

Scientists get first look at a star being swallowed up by a black hole

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

For the first time, astrophysicists have observed a star being consumed by a supermassive black hole, ejecting a short-lived and high-speed thermal flare as it is swallowed up by a dense pocket of spacetime, according to research published this week in Science.

According to Sjoert van Velzen, a Hubble fellow at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and his colleagues, the star is approximately the same size as our sun and has been yanked from its customary path by the gravitational pull of the black hole. The flare it emitted moved at close to the speed of light, the team of 13 international scientists added in their report.
A black hole is a region of space that is so dense that its gravity prevents matter, gases, and even light from escaping, causing them to be essentially invisible and creating the appearance that there is a void in the very fabric of space. Astrophysicists predicted that a black hole that suddenly takes in large amounts of gas (say, the amount found in a whole star that is being consumed), a fast-moving jet of plasma could escape from the event horizon.

In a statement, van Velzen said that these events are “extremely rare.” In fact, he noted, this was “the first time we see everything from the stellar destruction followed by the launch of a conical outflow, also called a jet, and we watched it unfold over several months... Previous efforts to find evidence for these jets, including my own, were late to the game.”

Black hole’s close proximity made the observations possible

The supermassive black hole being observed by the Johns Hopkins-led team is about one million times the mass of our sun, meaning that it is on the lighter end of the spectrum. Nonetheless, the black hole is still more than strong enough to swallow a star whole, van Velzen’s team said.

A team at the Ohio State University, working with an optical telescope in Hawaii first witnessed the star being consumed and announced their discovery via social media in December 2014. Shortly thereafter, van Velzen and a team of astrophysicists from Oxford University used a radio telescope array to conduct follow up observations, hoping to catch the deed being done.

They were just in time, and were able to collect X-ray, radio and optical data from both satellites and ground-based observatories, providing what they called a “multi-wavelength” portrait of the phenomenon. Helping their cause was the fact that the galaxy was a mere 300 million light years from Earth, making it at least three times closer than other, similar supermassive black holes.

“The destruction of a star by a black hole is beautifully complicated, and far from understood,” said van Velzen, who studied supermassive black hole jets as a doctoral student at Radboud University. “From our observations, we learn the streams of stellar debris can organize and make a jet rather quickly, which is valuable input for constructing a complete theory of these events.”

 on: Today at 07:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
November 28, 2015

Natural greenhouse gas emissions could speed up climate change more than expected

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Natural greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate change alongside man-made gasses-- and the rate of natural emissions will rise as the climate changes, meaning that the effects of global warming will progress more quickly than previously believed, researchers at Linköping University’s Tema Environmental Change center report in a new study.

Sivakiruthika Natchimuthu, a doctoral student at the university has spent the last two years examining greenhouse gas emissions alongside her colleagues, including their most recent project measuring natural methane emissions. Each study came to effectively the same conclusion: as the temperature rises, natural greenhouse gas emissions will increase.
As Natchimuthu explained in a statement, “Everything indicates that global warming caused by humans leads to increased natural greenhouse gas emissions. Our detailed measurements reveal a clear pattern of greater methane emissions from lakes at higher temperatures.”

She and her co-authors examined methane emissions from three lakes, and found that emissions of the gas increased exponentially along with temperature. As the team wrote in the latest issue of the journal Limnology and Oceanography, a temperature increase of 15 to 20 degrees Celsius nearly doubled the methane level at those lakes.

Reducing human-caused gas emissions twice as effective

While anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gas emissions are regularly included in climate models, the future behavior of naturally-occurring emissions has been unclear, the study authors explained. Their findings indicate that there is a cycle in which human-caused emissions result in higher temperatures, in turn leading to increased natural emissions and higher temperatures.

“We're not talking about hypotheses anymore,” said co-author David Bastviken, a professor at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University. “The evidence is growing and the results of the detailed studies are surprisingly clear. The question is no longer if the natural emissions will increase but rather how much they will increase with warming.”

As a result, he said, climate change will take place faster than had been anticipated by models using anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions alone. In addition, this indicates that reductions in the burning of fossil fuels or other human-caused activity would be twice as effective – not only would it reduce the direct impact on climate change, but it would lessen the ensuing natural greenhouse gas emissions that would result from hotter conditions.

 on: Today at 07:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

At this point I thought it would be good to make another example of all that we have been discussing to this point in our understanding and application of the transiting Lunar Nodes, and the transit of Neptune. Of course this can also include transiting planets in aspect to natal Neptune as well as transiting planets moving through the 12th House, in aspect to the natal Neptune Nodal Axis, and in aspect to planets in the natal 12th House in terms of understanding the total picture of the Neptune, Pisces, and 12th House archetypes given that we are now focusing on the fact the the transiting Lunar Nodes has just shifted to Pisces and Virgo.

The example will be the founder of Evolutionary Astrology itself: JWG. Some of you are aware that the entire 'idea' of EA came to him in a dream one night in which the entire first book on Pluto was given to him. The whole book in one dream. This dream took place shortly after he had begun to read the book called Autobiography Of A Yogi by Yogananda. Yogananda's teacher or guru was a Soul named Yukestwar who  was also a 'galactic astrologer'. The dream was actually caused by Yukestwar. The dream was all in Sanskrit which JWG often dreamed in and understood perfectly in the dreams: as well as other languages. You will notice in his birth chart that his S.Node of Neptune is in the 3rd House in Aquarius. Thus, in his context, this is the symbol of dreaming in other languages. The ruler of his Lunar Node is Jupiter in his 12th House as well that squares his Neptune Nodal Axis.

In any case on the night that he had this dream the transit of Pluto was conjunct his natal Neptune in his 11th, trine his S.Node of Neptune in his 3rd, and sextile his N.Node of Neptune in the 9th. The transiting S.Lunar Node of the Moon was in Aries in his 6th, karma yoga, that then refers to his natal 2nd House Mars in Sagittarius. That Mars is conjunct the S.Node of Uranus which was receiving the transiting Neptune at that time. That Neptune was also trine his natal Pluto and Saturn, sextile the natal Neptune, square in Moon in Pisces in the 4th. That Moon was then receiving a sextile from the transiting Mars itself that was in Taurus. The transiting S.Node of Mars was also directly conjunct the natal Neptune that was, again receiving the transiting Pluto. The transiting S.Node of Mars was thus also making the trine to his S.Node of Neptune, sextiling the N.Node of Neptune.

The transiting N.Node of the Moon was in Libra in his 12th House that then referred to his natal Venus in Scorpio in his 1st yet conjunct his natal 12th House Jupiter. His natal Venus is also conjunct his N.Node of Venus in his 1st. The transiting North of the Moon  was forming as exact transiting trine to his natal Uranus in the 8th house, and sextilling his natal Mars in his 2nd which is in opposition to this natal Uranus. This Uranus was being transited by Jupiter which is, again the ruler of his Lunar S.Node. The transiting Venus when the dream manifested was in Taurus in his 7th, in opposition to his natal Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, the N.Node of Venus, and squaring his M.C. and I.C.

Once he had this dream he began to lecture, to put it into the astrology world, immediately. And, yes, there was much opposition to him and this revolutionary form of astrology that he founded called Evolutionary Astrology by the existing powers that be. Yet wherever he went in the world with this lecture the lecture halls were always packed. And to this day it continues to spread around the world. With the S.Node of his Neptune in mind consider that the first book on Pluto has been put into, at various points, Chinese, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Bosnian, and English.

As you look at the charts you will see other connections as well.

If you have any questions and/ or observations that you would like to share please do so now before we continue on.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Nov 28, 2015, 04:38 PM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Help
Millions of thanks rad. Good luck mate

 on: Nov 28, 2015, 10:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Tacoma zoo polar bear dies of cancer, despite chemo

Originally published November 27, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Glacier was believed to be the first polar bear treated with chemotherapy in the U.S. He died Wednesday at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

By Stacia Glenn
The (Tacoma) News Tribune

The first polar bear believed to be treated with chemotherapy in the United States died Wednesday at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium from liver cancer, officials said Friday.

Glacier, 19, was diagnosed in February with advanced liver cancer, which spread to his lungs and abdominal lymph nodes. He also suffered from heart disease.

“Our entire zoo family is saddened by the loss of Glacier,” said Karen Goodrowe Beck, the zoo’s general curator. “He was a magnificent ambassador for his species, helping hundreds of thousands of zoo visitors to connect with polar bears and learn more about the perils they face in the wild.”

Glacier was one of three polar bears at Point Defiance. He came to Tacoma in 1997 with another bear, Blizzard, after the two were orphaned in Manitoba, Canada. Boris, 29, also lives at the zoo in the Arctic Tundra area. 

A routine exam in February uncovered Glacier’s mass and heart murmur.

Veterinarians worked most of the year with specialists in cardiology, radiology, oncology and surgery to devise a unique treatment plan for the polar bear’s cancer.

Oral and intravenous chemotherapy started in April with the help of Dr. Lisa Parshley from Olympia Veterinary Cancer Center.

“Glacier was extremely sick from two very bad diseases when we first diagnosed him,” zoo veterinarian Karen Wolf said. “He was not moving well, he was sleeping more, he wasn’t interacting with zookeepers and he was uncomfortable.”

She said the treatment improved his quality of life for the last eight months and allowed him to eat more, wander near the stream in his exhibit, participate in his training and swim in his saltwater pool.

A necropsy was performed Thursday. He died of complications from a large liver tumor, according to Point Defiance Zoo.

The record of his treatment likely will help with the future treatment of polar bears, and possibly other bears, Wolf said.

Glacier was 9 feet tall and weighed about 950 pounds.

 on: Nov 28, 2015, 10:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Bill Gates to commit billions for clean energy

Originally published November 27, 2015 at 9:14 pm

The announcement of the Gates fund is intended to give momentum to the two-week climate talks in Paris.

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean-energy fund Monday at the opening of a Paris summit intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The fund, which one of the sources described as the largest such effort in history, is meant to pay for research and development of new clean-energy technologies. It will include contributions from other billionaires and philanthropies, and a commitment by the United States to double its budget for clean-energy research and development, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The announcement of the fund, which has the joint backing of the governments of the United States, China, India and other countries, the sources said, is intended to give momentum to the two-week Paris climate talks.

Negotiators hope to strike a deal committing every nation to enacting policies to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, will join more than 100 world leaders, including President Obama, in Paris on Monday to begin the talks.
The pending announcement was first reported by ClimateWire, an online news organization. A spokesman for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

If successful, the Paris meeting could spur a fundamental shift away from the use of oil, coal and gas to the use of renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar power. But that transition would require major breakthroughs in technology and huge infrastructure investments by governments and industry.

Where that money would come from has been a question leading up to the Paris talks. Developing countries such as India, the third-largest fossil-fuel polluter, have pushed for commitments by developed nations to pay for their energy transition, either through direct government spending or through inexpensive access to new technology.

India has emerged as a pivotal player in the Paris talks. The announcement by Gates appears intended to help secure India’s support of a deal.

As secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged that developed countries would send $100 billion annually to poor countries by 2020 to help them pay for the energy transition. Indian officials have demanded that the Paris deal lock in language that the money would come from public funds, a deal breaker for rich countries.

This summer, Gates pledged to spend $1 billion of his personal fortune on researching and deploying clean-energy technology, but the people with knowledge of his plans said the new fund would include larger commitments.

In a blog post in July, Gates wrote: “If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently and saving lives by reducing pollution.”

Gates met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. In a June meeting in Paris, Gates told President François Hollande of France that the Paris deal should include robust provisions on clean-energy research and development.

“Bill’s been making that point for years, and he’s going to make it more emphatically in Paris,” said Hal Harvey, chief of Energy Innovation, an energy consultancy.

Harvey noted that at the core of the emerging Paris agreement are plans and pledges already put forth by more than 170 countries detailing how they will reduce emissions.

“If you tote up the plans, you see a very significant demand signal, and Bill wants to see that we meet that cheaply,” he said.

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