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 on: Oct 03, 2015, 05:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Obama says Russian strategy in Syria is ‘recipe for disaster’

US president’s comments follow coalition’s expression of deep concerns over targeting in Russian bombing campaign

Shaun Walker in Moscow Lauren Gambino in New York Ian Black in London and Kareem Shaheen in Beirut

Friday 2 October 2015 23.02 BST

Russia’s failure to distinguish between Islamic State fighters and moderate opposition forces battling against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is a “recipe for disaster,” Barack Obama has said, as more evidence emerged that Moscow is targeting anti-regime rebels and not just Isis.

The US president said his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, “doesn’t distinguish between Isil [Isis] and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr Assad go. From their perspective, they’re all terrorists. And that’s a recipe for disaster.”

A statement released earlier on Friday by the US-led coalition fighting Isis expressed deep concern about attacks by the Russian air force on Hama, Homs and Idlib. The attacks did not hit the jihadi group but caused civilian casualties.

“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalisation,” said the statement by France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US and Britain. “We call on the Russian federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting Isil.”

Speaking at the White House, Obama said that only Assad and Iran supported Russia’s intervention in the conflict, but he pledged that he would not turn the Syrian civil war into a “proxy war” between the US and Russia. “This is not some superpower chessboard contest,” he said.

Moscow’s strategy, he said, was a self-defeating exercise which would strengthen Isis, drive the moderate opposition underground and further complicate any hopes of a political settlement.

“A military solution alone – an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population – is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work,” he said.

'People are angry and boiling': Syrians tell of Russian airstrikes..Read more:

After a meeting with Putin in Paris, the French president, François Hollande said: “Russia’s position hasn’t changed, it has always been about support for Assad and his regime.”

Emphasising to the Russian president that a political solution was needed, the French leader told Putin that Russian airstrikes “should be against Isis and only Isis”.

During the meeting, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: “We shouldn’t forget what has happened in Syria over the past year: hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives before the Islamic State appeared and this was a result of what Assad did with his people.”

The US-led coalition announced that its planes had targeted Isis in 28 airstrikes on Thursday in Iraq and Syria. The UN said it had been unable to deliver humanitarian aid in support of a ceasefire agreement “due to the recent surge of military activity” – which diplomats said was a reference to the Russian bombing.

Amid heightened tensions on the third day of the Russian campaign, an unnamed senior official in Tehran denied a report that Iran was sending hundreds of troops to fight with the Syrian army – a move that would constitute a dramatic departure from Iran’s normally low-profile support for Assad.

It seemed likely the claim, attributed to sources in Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, was intended to reinforce the impression of a powerful alliance backing Assad in the face of western and Arab demands he step down. Analysts have said they expect Syrian government forces to launch a new offensive in the wake of the Russian air campaign.

Syrian state media has been highlighting the “destructive capabilities” of new aircraft.

Moscow’s strategy appears to be to mainly attack central and north-western Syria, areas that form the gateway to Damascus and the coast. But Russian planes also bombed targets west of Raqqa, the capital of Isis’s self-proclaimed caliphate – apparently the first time likely Isis positions have been hit.

Alexei Pushkov, a top Russian foreign affairs official, told French radio he believed the air campaign could last about three to four months. He also hit out at western criticism, tweeting: “The US is criticising Russia for ‘lack of selectivity in our targets’ in Syria. So what stopped them from picking the right targets over a whole year, rather than just pointlessly bombing the desert?!”

Russia admits targeting non-Isis groups in Syria as airstrikes continue..Read more:

Russian officials have denied claims that some of their airstrikes missed their targets and dismissed suggestions from the west that planes were mainly bombing rebel groups opposed to the Assad regime, rather than Isis. “The main target are the Daesh [Isis] groups situated closest to Damascus,” Pushkov insisted.

In fact, Russian targets include fighters who have received limited backing from the US as well as more hardline Islamist groups. The Russian defence ministry said its aircraft carried out 18 sorties in Syria in the past 24 hours, including 10 overnight.

The airstrikes primarily hit non-Isis rebel positions, including in Darat al-Izza – a town in western Aleppo held by rebel fighters including the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra – and Maarat al-Nu’man, a town in Idlib province held by Jaysh al-Fateh, a coalition of rebel fighters that also includes Nusra.

Syrian state TV said Russian aircraft also struck rebel positions in Hama province, where opposition fighters are battling to wrest control of the strategic al-Ghab plain from forces loyal to Assad’s regime, in an effort to advance towards his coastal stronghold of Latakia. Attacks also took place in Idlib, where residents told of widespread destruction.

Russia’s foreign ministry and Putin have spoken of an “informational campaign” against Moscow by the west, reminiscent of the language they used when repeatedly denying the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine over the past year and a half despite evidence to the contrary.

Analysis Who's who in the Syrian conflict, and what happens next? Russian targets so far include secular fighters who have received limited backing from the US, and more hardline Islamist groups..Read more:

Walid al-Muallem, the Syrian foreign minister, attacked Israel, the west, Gulf states and Turkey for backing terrorists. Addressing the UN general assembly on Friday, Muallem said Damascus was committed to a “national dialogue” to resolve political differences. But only Syrians could decide the president’s future, he said.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have continued to insist that Assad must go, but a senior Arab diplomat denied reports that Qatar had stepped up arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in response to the Russian attacks. The US, Britain and others have signalled that Assad could remain during a political transition to end the four-and-a-half-year-old war. The hope in western capitals is that Moscow will use its influence to ensure a transition does indeed take place.

An aide to the French president said Hollande and Putin had an in-depth discussion in which they “tried to narrow down differences on political transition”. But both leaders looked stern as they exchanged handshakes in a yard of the Élysée palace. The talks focused on the goals of the Russian intervention, the safety of civilians and a future transition, Palace sources told Le Monde.

The two also held talks with Merkel and the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, that were meant to focus on resolving the situation in eastern Ukraine. There has been speculation that Putin might attempt to link the two issues, offering cooperation in Syria for de-escalation in Ukraine and a lifting of western sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions there.

There has been edgy diplomacy ahead of the meeting, with Ukraine’s presidential administration claiming Putin had asked for a separate bilateral meeting with Poroshenko on the sidelines of the meeting, which Kiev was considering.

 on: Oct 03, 2015, 05:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
From the archive, 3 October 1838: Darwin’s miniature primaeval monsters

Marine iguanas found by Darwin on the Galapagos Islands confirm the existence of sea-dwelling dinosaurs
Marine iguana: Darwin discovered the Galapagos Island species in 1835.

Saturday 3 October 2015 05.30 BST

The following passage from Lyell’s Elements of Geology may startle many - an account of miniature primaeval monsters yet existing in

    “Some bright little isles of their own,
    In a blue summer ocean far off and alone.”

The author has been describing the gigantic creatures whose fossils attest their existence. “For the last twenty years anatomists have agreed that these extinct saurians must have inhabited the sea, although no living reptile was known. They argued, that, as there are now chelonians, like the tortoise, living in fresh water, and others, as the turtle, frequenting the ocean, so they may have been formerly some saurians proper to salt, others to fresh water. The recent discovery, however, of a maritime saurian has now rendered it unnecessary to speculate on such possibilities.

“This creature was found in the Galapagos Islands, during the visit of H. M. S. Beagle to that archipelago in 1835; and its habits were then observed by Mr. Darwin. The islands alluded to are situated under the equator, nearly six hundred miles on the westward of the coast of South America. They are volcanic, some of them being three thousand or four thousand feet high; and one of them, Albemarle Island, seventy-five miles long. The climate is mild, very little rain falls, and, in the whole archipelago, there is only one rill of fresh water that reaches the coast. The soil is for the most part dry and harsh, and the vegetation scanty.

Galápagos Islands wildlife threatened by battle between locals and scientists..Read more:

“The birds, reptiles, plants, and insects, are, with very few exceptions, of species found nowhere else in the world, although all partake in their general form of an American character. Of the mammalia, says Mr. Darwin, one species alone appears to be indigenous - a large and peculiar kind of mouse; but the great number of lizards, tortoises, and snakes is so great, that it may be called a land of reptiles. The variety, indeed, of species is small; but the individuals of each are in wonderful abundance. There is a turtle, a large tortoise (Testudo indicus), four lizards, and about the same number of snakes, but no frogs or toads.

“Two of the lizards belong to the family Iguanidae of Bell, and to a peculiar genus (Amblyrhynchus) established by that naturalist, and so named for their obtusely truncated head and short snout. Of these lizards, one is terrestrial in its habits, and burrows in the ground, swarming everywhere on the land - having a round tail and a mouth somewhat resembling in form that of the tortoise; the other is aquatic, and has its tail flattened laterally for swimming.

“‘This marine saurian,’ says Mr. Darwin, ‘is extremely common on all the islands throughout the archipelago. It lives exclusively on the rocky sea-beaches, and I never saw one even ten yards in-shore. The usual length is about a yard, but there are some even four feet long. It is of a dirty black colour; sluggish in its movements on the land, but, when in the water, it swims with perfect ease and quickness, by a serpentine movement of its body and flattened tail, the legs during this time being motionless, and closely collapsed on its sides. Their limbs and strong claws are admirably adapted for crawling over the rugged and fissured masses of lava which everywhere form the coast. In such situations a group of six or seven of these hideous reptiles may oftentimes be seen on the black rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking in the sun with outstretched legs.’”

 on: Oct 03, 2015, 05:10 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
India's pledge clears a significant hurdle towards a climate deal in Paris

India’s announcement means all the world’s biggest economies are now publicly in favour of a deal, but there are still challenges ahead

Fiona Harvey
Friday 2 October 2015 14.53 BST
Red Orbit

With India’s plan for curbing carbon emissions now in, most of the major developing economies have responded to the UN’s requests for the commitments on climate change that will form the keystone of an agreement to be signed in Paris this December.

Those commitments – to make absolute cuts in future emissions levels, in the case of developed countries; to curb future emissions growth, in the case of less industrialised nations – will not add up to the cuts that scientists say are needed to avoid more than 2C of warming above pre-industrial levels. This is significant, because the 2C threshold is regarded as the limit of safety, beyond which the changes in the climate are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.

On current commitments, warming is still likely to exceed 2 C or even 3C , with potentially severe consequences in the form of an increase in extreme weather, heatwaves, droughts, floods and rising sea levels, that could wreak havoc across the globe.

But this is not the end of the story.

In Paris, governments are expected to sign up to a new global agreement on the climate that would come into effect from 2020, when current national commitments on emissions expire. But while world governments debate their role in avoiding dangerous warming, other commitments are also likely to be significant.

For instance, cities are expected to play an increasing part in driving down carbon dioxide emissions, and many of these commitments are not included in the national government targets. Businesses, too, are coming forward with plans to reduce their emissions, which could have a major impact. Paris is also not an end point but the beginning of a new process by which emissions could be ratcheted down in future, in the form of five-yearly reviews of targets.

Taken together, these factors could add up to enough to meet scientific advice in the coming decade.

India’s announcement is an important step forward in climate diplomacy, too: the country was the only one to stand alongside China in 2011 in rejecting the UN roadmap that has led to the Paris talks.

Last year, China made a historic move by agreeing, at a meeting with US president Barack Obama, that it would cause its emissions to peak by 2030, the first time Beijing had set such a date.

India’s pledge is less clear, with the centrepiece a commitment to derive 40% of its electricity from renewables and other low carbon sources. With its announcement, however, one of the last obstacles to a landmark agreement has now been cleared. All of the world’s biggest economies are now publicly in favour of a deal in Paris, after French president Francois Hollande earlier said that a miracle would be needed to get agreement among nearly 200 countries.

With less than 60 days to go before the Paris conference, things could still fall apart. Just last month Hollande warned of the risk of failure.

Finance will be key. Developed countries agreed at the last landmark climate conference, in Copenhagen in 2009, that at least $100bn in financial assistance would be provided to poor nations annually by 2020 to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of global warming. Evidence that this will happen has still not been formally accepted, though countries including the UK have recently stepped up their pledges of assistance.

There is also the vexed question of what should be the legal form of any Paris agreement, a subject likely to keep negotiators up late into the night at the conference, and some anxiety among the hosts over whether the text of a deal can be formulated in due time.

Any agreement will have to satisfy the poorest nations of the world, which have less economic power than India and China. They are likely to be the worst equipped to cope with climate change, and plans on how they will be helped to adapt are still in the making. The UN is the only forum in which the least developed countries have an equal voice with the richest, and they will have their say at Paris.

 on: Oct 03, 2015, 05:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
South American bird rhea found in front garden in Hampshire

Police, fire crews and a specialist animal management team rescue the bird but are clueless as to how it ended up in North Boarhunt

Press Association
Friday 2 October 2015 17.28 BST

A rhea has been rescued by police, fire crews and a specialist animal management team after a householder in Hampshire found the large bird in his garden.

Police were called at 12.30pm on Thursday when the man found the rhea in the front garden of his home in North Boarhunt.

It is not known how the bird, nicknamed Snowflake, came to be in the garden, and it has not yet been claimed.

The rhea is a large bird, native to South America, which is a smaller cousin of the ostrich. It is believed that the white female found in the garden might have escaped from a private collection.

Hampshire police and firefighters were helped by the animal management team from Sparsholt college in capturing the bird.

Chris Mitchell, the animal management centre manager, said: “Working with animals, we’re accustomed to unusual conversations involving out of the ordinary situations. However, it did catch me slightly off guard when we had a call from the Hampshire police control room declaring that there was a large bird in a front garden in North Boarhunt and could the college assist.”

The team used specialist equipment to contain the bird, which has been taken to temporary accommodation at the college until it can be reunited with its owner or found a suitable long-term home.

 on: Oct 03, 2015, 05:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
October 2, 2015

Check it out: Professor finds earliest North American Jurassic corals

by Eric Hopton
Red Orbit

In New York Canyon, amid the high and dusty desert of central Nevada, a student and professor from the University of Montana have discovered the earliest North American Jurassic corals. The fossils help paint a graphic picture of a time—about 200 million years ago—when climate change caused the complete collapse of corals and reefs.

There have been five mass extinction events during Earth’s history, each of which wiped out up to 90 percent of global life. After the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event, it took coral reefs more than 20 million years to recover fully.

The finds, by UM doctoral student Montana Hodges and geosciences Professor George Stanley, represent the first North American coral species to reappear after the extinction. Hodges and Stanley are studying the collapse and recovery of coral reefs, and just like today’s corals, those early Jurassic species were particularly vulnerable to subtle changes in ocean temperature and acidity.

200 million years ago, and climate change still gets bad press

There is no evidence that asteroid impact or other such catastrophe caused the Triassic-Jurassic event, and researchers believe the geologic and paleontological records point to massive global climate change as the culprit.

“We believe the warming climate was due to a combination effect from supercontinent Pangea breaking apart, changes in sea level, and massive amounts of gas spewing into the atmosphere from cracks in the Earth's crust,” said Hodges.

For fossil hunters, New York Canyon is a treasure trove of sedimentary rocks which represented the west coast of North America during the Jurassic period. Geologists have flocked to this site for almost a hundred years to study the unique and continuous deposition of rocks that span the Triassic-Jurassic boundary. The fossils in the Canyon’s rocks are like a snapshot of the mass extinction, but, until now, scientists had not realized the significance of the corals found there.

Did they hide in the mud, or were they Pangean migrants?

“The Jurassic corals represent a recovery of all species after the event,” said Hodges. “They are simple, solitary corals that lived in thick mud, which may have helped their survival during such a tumultuous time. Or they may have migrated from the distant side of Pangea.”

Either way, these fossils are the earliest representatives of the coral that would slowly rebuild and diversify over millions of years. Hodges and Stanley hope their work on these unique fossils will lead to a better understanding of survival and recovery for all species.

 on: Oct 03, 2015, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
October 2, 2015

Planet Venus or Psyche asteroid? NASA trying to decide next mission

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

For its next major mission to launch in or around 2020, NASA has narrowed its focus to two primary objectives: Venus or the Solar System’s asteroids.

According to a NASA statement, over the next year, scientists and administrators will assess five investigation concepts—two of the missions would send a probe to Venus, while three of the potential missions would study either single or multiple asteroids.

"The selected investigations have the potential to reveal much about the formation of our solar system and its dynamic processes," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Dynamic and exciting missions like these hold promise to unravel the mysteries of our solar system and inspire future generations of explorers. It's an incredible time for science, and NASA is leading the way."

Which mission will they choose?

One mission called Psyche would deliver a probe to metallic asteroid Psyche, which scientists suspect is the core of a proto-planet that shed its rocky surface layers due to a brutal collision. Another asteroid mission would investigate the Jupiter Trojan asteroids—a gaggle of asteroids sharing Jupiter's orbital path. Researchers think they might offer details on how the solar system developed.

The third asteroid mission would be an extensive asteroid-cataloguing effort. The mission would use the planned Near Earth Object Camera to find and start to define "10 times more near-Earth objects (asteroids) than all NEOs discovered to date."

As for the Venus missions, one would focus on tracking the planet's ever-changing topography while the other mission would assess its atmosphere.

In addition to those two missions, NASA is also said to be working on a project that would send a piloted, helium-filled airship to explore the atmosphere of Venus. The HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operational Concept) project could involve not just investigating Earth’s sister planet, but also setting up human colonies in the clouds that fill its acidic skies.

Instead, HAVOC would sit about 30 miles above the surface in an atmospheric pressure closer to that of Earth. Average temperatures at that altitude would be around 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

 on: Oct 03, 2015, 04:52 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
October 2, 2015

Mother superior? Some medieval priests thought nuns were supreme

by Savanna Walker
Red Orbit

Historian Fiona Griffiths is offering a new perspective on women in the medieval church in her upcoming book, Nuns’ Priests’ Tales: Gender, Authority, and Apologetics in the Medieval Monastery.

Her analysis of medieval texts and imagery has led Griffiths to believe that women’s spirituality was celebrated and at times, and even considered superior to that of men. She also focuses on the opportunities available to women in monastic life and the collaborative relationships between men and women that would spring up within the Church. “Some priests spent their lives serving women, and developed lasting relationships with nuns, whom they admired as their spiritual superiors—even as conduits to the divine,” she says.

Griffiths’ book focuses on the 11th and 12th centuries, a period where religious reform was sweeping the church, and female monasticism was expanding greatly. Female religious communities required a male priest to be present, because only priests could hear confessions and perform the Eucharist. And while many medieval texts neglect to praise male priests in this position, the priests themselves “conceived of their position as having spiritual merit, largely by positioning themselves as women’s inferiors, which they did by characterizing nuns as the brides of Christ.”

Medieval women more respected than we thought

Peter Abelard, the famous French monk and theologian, believed that this status of nuns made their prayers more powerful. Many scholars question the sincerity of his stance and its influence on other scholars, given his scandalous relationship with his student Heloise, who later became a nun, according to a Stanford report.

But Griffiths presents a much later (c. 1450) manuscript that argues for the dignity of women and expresses many of the same arguments as Abelard. This and other supportive documents led Griffiths to believe that such ideas were fairly common in the medieval period.

These men, along with other priests and monks that lived in women’s communities, often formed close spiritual and intellectual friendships with the female inhabitants, and at times even collaborated with them.

The Guta-Sintram Codex (c. 1154), is a manuscript produced by a female scribe and a male artist. The book contains Abelard’s writings on women’s spirituality, and Griffiths believes that the two authors were working together in the same room. “On one of the pages it looks as though their hands alternate,” Griffiths says. This “blows open modern assumptions concerning the separation of the sexes in medieval religious life and men’s resistance to women. It suggests very strongly that there was a valorization of religious figures who engaged with women,” she says.

Griffiths points out that she does not see the medieval period as one in which women were equal to men, even in these religious communities. However, her findings do show that women within the Church were respected to a higher degree than it was previously thought. By “looking at what women themselves said and did, it became clear to me that this was not an entirely oppressive, misogynistic period.”

 on: Oct 02, 2015, 10:08 AM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Sree
Hi Sree,

below ...

Hi Rad

It means that when Pluto is conjunct the N.Node of the Moon that the Soul has already been working on these evolutionary issues prior to the current life, and it intends to continue to do so in the current life.

Checking my understanding

I think it takes many life time to complete a particular evolutionary cycle.So unless a new evolutionary cycle has began,every soul in a particular life time will have many past life working out that evolutionary cycle.And we are not going to have this NN pluto conjunction in everyone's  chart ;then the question is why?


Why ? Because that is what the Soul has decided to do.


or isn't that an evolutionary cycle is not completed through continuous life times.


Various evolutionary dynamics, karma, can come to a place of culmination in the context of a given life. That can occur because of previous lives that have been working to a place of culmination.


Regarding second question some how the " house" came in between .....The question is...if the ruler of Pluto Polarity point Conjunct Pluto does it also means without polarity point.How does this whole dynamics of ruler of ppp conjunct Pluto going to be acted out and experienced ; in a generalized way.


The Pluto polarity point acts in such a way as to evolve the Soul. That evolution then takes place within the natal Pluto by evolving it because of the polarity point. When the planetary ruler of that polarity point is conjunct the natal Pluto it means is the primary dynamic in which this evolution of the natal Pluto takes place. When the planetary ruler of the polarity point is in another house then it's the archetypes that correlate with that house, and the sign that the planet is in, that serve as additional dynamics that the Soul is using to evolve the natal position of Pluto itself.

God Bless, Rad

 on: Oct 02, 2015, 09:07 AM 
Started by Gonzalo - Last post by Gonzalo
Thanks Rad for posting this article. It amazes how this cases challenge what is known about the brain. The baby has almost no cortex but is already saying his first words at his first year of age.  

Here's the birthchart for the baby (without birthtime):

I'm taking note of some possible correlations for the brain condition of the baby-being born without most of the cortex and without the cerebellum:

First, the brain as a whole correlates with Uranus and Neptune and the cortex correlates with Uranus and Saturn.

Here we have that Uranus is Rx square to Pluto Rx. Uranus Rx is in Aries conjunct the South Node in Aries, ruled by Mars conjunct Saturn, both in Scorpio, Mars/Saturn beig inconjunct the South Node and Uranus. Neptune is also Rx in Pisces, and Saturn/Mars are square to the nodes of Neptune. Mercury in Virgo is inconjunct the South Node. Chiron is also Rx in Pisces, opposing Mercury in Virgo, and Chiron/Mercury are square the nodes of Uranus. The north node of Chiron is Libra conjunct the Moon's North Node, and conjunct the south node of Mars in Libra. Pallas is in Libra inconjunct Neptune and square to Pluto, and opposite to its own south node in Aries, ruled by Mars. The north node of Pallas is in Virgo, conjunct Mercury, and square the nodes of Uranus. Saturn/Mars are septile to Pluto, and Mercury is tri-septile to Uranus. Also Eris is in Aries conjunct the South Node.

These symbols suggest the condition would originate in intense violent trauma in prior lifetime directly impacting on the brain/head.  

Some symbols in the chart can correlate with increased brain plasticity: Mercury in Virgo opposing Chiron in Pisces, Jupiter inconjunct to Neptune and Pluto, Mercury inconjunct to the South Node and sextile to Mars,  Chiron is bi-quintile to Jupiter and to the North Node. Also, the North Node ruler, Venus, being in Leo bi-quintile to Pluto and conjunct the north node of Mercury in Leo, with Mercury itself being in Virgo conjunct the Moon, Mercury being trine to Pluto: receiving care, nurturance and love by the family/mother/father.

God Bless, Gonzalo

 on: Oct 02, 2015, 07:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Death of baby elephant at Oklahoma City Zoo fuels breeding debate

Originally published October 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Four-year-old Malee died suddenly. She was treated for a virus similar to the one that killed a young elephant at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in 2007.

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times science reporter

A 4-year-old elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo, where Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo moved its two female elephants this spring, died suddenlyThursday.

Zoo officials say they will perform a necropsy to determine what killed Malee, the first elephant born at the zoo. Staff had treated her for a type of herpes infection particularly deadly to young elephants.

A 6-year-old elephant called Hansa died at the Seattle zoo in 2007 from a related type of herpes infection. Animal-welfare activists who opposed the transfer of Seattle’s two adult females — Chai and Bamboo — to Oklahoma warned they might pass the virus to Malee and her 9-month-old sister, Achara.

But zoo officials dismissed the risk, noting that most elephants carry one or more types of herpes viruses.

Malee and Achara’s mother, Asha, and their aunt, Chandra, were also both exposed to the herpes virus at the Missouri zoo where they were born. A statement from the Oklahoma City Zoo’s veterinarian said the virus has been intermittently detected in both Asha and Chandra during routine testing.

On its website, the Oklahoma City Zoo said keepers noticed Malee moving more slowly than normal Wednesday. They later noticed a discoloration in her mouth, and started treatment for elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV). A second treatment was administered around 1 a.m. Thursday, but the elephant declined rapidly and died about three hours later.

EEHV is known to kill rapidly by causing massive internal hemorrhaging.

Regardless of the cause, Malee’s death is sure to fuel the ongoing debate over captive breeding of elephants. A 2012 Seattle Times investigation found that infant mortality among zoo elephants is 40 percent, nearly three times the rate in wild-elephant populations.

The investigation also found that for every elephant born in a zoo, an average of two elephants die.

Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of the Seattle-based Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, called for an immediate halt to breeding at the Oklahoma City Zoo, which has plans to continue increasing its herd.

“All breeding must stop at zoos which have had elephants who have had, or been exposed to, EEHV,” Fortgang wrote in an email. “Anything less is unethical.”

A spokeswoman for Woodland Park Zoo said it’s too early to comment on the specifics of Malee’s death.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to our family at Oklahoma City Zoo and their herd,” Gigi Allianic wrote in an email. “We are confident that Chai and Bamboo continue to do well with their new herd.”

The statement from the Oklahoma City Zoo said none of the other elephants there appears to be ill.

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