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« Reply #15 on: Nov 22, 2015, 06:33 AM »

Rare Giant Catfish Signals Hope for Species

The endangered Mekong giant catfish can be as big as a grizzly bear. One was just caught and released.
Picture of rare giant catfish, caught in Cambodia.

By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic
PUBLISHED November 22, 2015

A group of Cambodian fishermen caught quite a surprise earlier this month: a massive Mekong giant catfish, the first one seen in the country in a year.

Caught near Phnom Penh, the fish was nearly seven feet long and weighed an estimated 200 to 250 pounds (90 to 114 kilograms), says Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno who examined and tagged the fish.

“It wasn’t that big for a Mekong giant catfish, but it was still larger than any catfish caught in North America over the past century,” says Hogan, who is also a National Geographic Explorer and the host of Nat Geo WILD’s Monster Fish show.

The largest known catfish in North America was a 143-pound (65-kilogram) blue cat caught in North Carolina in 2011. But that’s dwarfed by the grizzly-bear sized Mekong giant catfish caught in Thailand in 2005, which weighed 646 pounds (293 kilograms) and was nearly nine feet long (2.7 meters).

As their name implies, Mekong giant catfish live in the Mekong River system in Southeast Asia. They’re the world’s largest scaleless freshwater fish and are called “royal fish” in the region because of their size and importance to local culture. (Learn about other giant fish.)

“This catch is exciting because it signals that the incredibly rare, endangered fish are still in the river and still making their annual spawning migration out of the Tonle Sap Lake and into the Mekong River,” Hogan says.

In the 1800s, thousands of Mekong giant catfish were caught in the river every year. But their numbers have declined by 95 percent due to overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. Now, less than half a dozen of the fish are spotted throughout their range in a year.

It’s illegal to kill the fish in the region, but the construction of a new series of massive dams on the river may choke off the catfish habitat.

“If all their spawning grounds are above the dams, they may be driven to extinction,” says Hogan, who has studied the fish for 20 years. “We just don’t know.”

To better understand the fish’s behavior, Hogan and officials from the Cambodian Department of Fisheries attached a plastic tag to the animal’s fin. If it is seen again, the team will have a better idea of its movements. The fish can live past 60 years old, so it could provide data for some time.
Picture of a rare giant catfish being tagged before being released.

The big fish was nearly seven feet long and weighed an estimated 200 to 250 pounds (90 to 114 kilograms).

To release the behemoth, Hogan dove into the river about 10 feet (3 meters). It quickly swam off on its own and seemed to be in good health, he says. When it was first caught, fishermen had sprinkled it with perfumed water, a cultural sign of respect.

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« Reply #16 on: Nov 22, 2015, 06:36 AM »

A Good Week for Lions, Despite Demand from U.S. Trophy Hunters

France just banned the import of sport-hunted lion trophies. In the U.S., where the majority of trophy hunters come from, some lawmakers are trying to do the same.

By Rachael Bale, National Geographic

We all came to know Cecil, the majestic lion with the black mane shot by a Minnesota dentist. “Justice for Cecil” became a rallying cry, and soon people who’d never been involved in the conservation movement before had found a new cause—ending lion hunting.

We’ve been following it closely because this blog, Wildlife Watch, tells stories about wildlife crime, conservation, and exploitation. It’s nice to be able to write about some positive change.

This has been a good week for lions. France is banning the import of lion trophies from sport hunts (think lion heads, rugs, pelts, and whatnot), and South Africa’s getting closer to ending canned lion hunting. That’s when ranches breed and raise lions in captivity and then release them into confined areas to be shot by hunters.

Is the end near for canned lion hunting? South Africa’s hunting association just voted to distance itself from the captive-bred lion hunting industry, Africa Geographic reported yesterday. The documentary Blood Lions, which exposed the dark underside of the industry, had a lot to do with it. Much like what Blackfish has done for orcas and The Cove has done for dolphins, Blood Lions introduced us to the realities of canned hunting.

When the documentary aired in the U.S., National Geographic wrote:

Up to 7,000 lions are living behind bars in South Africa. Raised in captivity on private breeding farms and hunting “reserves,” some of these animals are petted as cubs by tourists, who can also walk alongside or even feed more mature lions.

Eventually, many are shot in “canned” hunts, in which lions are pursued and killed in confined areas that make them easy targets. Hunt fees can be as high as $50,000.

Last year, Australia became the first country to ban lion trophies. And after Cecil’s death this summer, Zimbabwe banned lion hunting altogether...for 10 days. Now France has also decided to ban hunters from bringing their prized lion parts home.

What has the U.S. done? Mostly, propped up the industry.

The U.S. is actually the biggest importer of lion trophies. And more and more of them are coming from canned hunts. FiveThirtyEight, which crunched the numbers, wrote:

Because the lions are brought up by human caretakers, they often lack survival instincts and are easy prey for tourist hunters. (Before they are hunted for trophies, some captive-bred lions start their lives in petting zoo, becoming acclimated to people so they are easier to stalk and kill.)

This year alone, 405 lion trophies have been brought to the U.S., according to NBC Bay Area’s new analysis of import permits. Nearly 7,300 have been imported in the last 15 years.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is trying to put a lid on it. His CECIL Animals Trophies Act would make it illegal to import parts from any animal considered threatened or endangered (lions are listed as “threatened” on the Endangered Species Act).

The bill is in committee now, but with powerful opponents like the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International...well, they’ve fought these battles before.

Then again, they don’t always win.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

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« Reply #17 on: Nov 22, 2015, 06:40 AM »

337 Whales Beached in Largest Stranding Ever

The cause of the massive die-off, discovered in remote waters off Patagonia, Chile, is being investigated. Scientists say they are most likely sei whales, which are endangered.

By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic

Scientists made a startling discovery on an observation flight over a remote fjord in southern Chile’s Patagonia: 337 dead whales. That is the biggest single whale stranding event known to science.

Because of the remoteness of the area and the roughness of the seas, scientists have not been able to examine the whales directly, but aerial and satellite photography identified 305 bodies and 32 skeletons in an area between the Gulf of Penas and Puerto Natales, toward the southern tip of the continent.

Many of the remains were in advanced states of decay so it’s unclear what species they are, says lead scientist Carolina Simon Gutstein of the Universidad de Chile and Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales in Santiago. But based on their size and location, they are probably sei whales, she says.

Endangered throughout its range, sei whales are large, bluish-gray baleen whales that filter the water to feed on krill and other small creatures. They can reach 64 feet (19.5 meters) long and 50 tons. Considered the fastest cetacean, sei whales can swim at speeds up to 31 miles (50 kilometers) per hour. Their lifespan is 50 to 70 years, and they are usually found in deep waters far from coastlines. The worldwide population is estimated at about 80,000.

Gutstein and colleagues actually made the discovery on June 23, with support for the observation flights provided by the National Geographic Society Waitt Grants Program. The team is analyzing its findings for publication in a scientific journal, but the story leaked Friday in the Chilean press. “We are planning on going back there in the summer to try to study them more closely,” says Gutstein.

Thirty sei whales were seen stranded in the same general area in April by Vreni Häussermann of the Huinay Scientific Field Station. That prompted Gutstein and Häussermann to team up, pool resources, and to look further with flights and remote imagery (the pair made the discovery jointly on June 23, with the Institut de Ecologia y Biodiversidad). (Learn how people can help stranded whales.)

The scientists are still trying to figure out what caused the die-off, and the Chilean government has launched an investigation since whales are protected there. Gutstein did not want to speculate on the cause of death but in the past red tides (blooms of toxic microorganisms) have been blamed for whale deaths in the region. Red tides can be caused or exacerbated by nutrients from sewage and fertilizer, although it’s often “very difficult to find one person or corporation culpable,” says Gutstein.

(Learn how a DVD case killed a whale: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/01/150107-sea-trash-whales-dolphins-marine-mammals/ )

The status of whales off Chile is poorly known, she adds. “We know some about how many have died now but how many are alive? We don’t know,” she says. “We don’t have much data.”

Toxic blooms may have been the culprit in mass death of marine mammals off Chile three to five million years ago, according to another National Geographic explorer. That evidence was found by Nicholas Pyenson of the Smithsonian in a fossil bed in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

About fifteen years ago, some 600 gray whales were stranded on the North American Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico, but that occurred over a vast area and over a longer span. In Patagonia, the whales were found close together. Nearly 200 whales were stranded in New Zealand in February.

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« Reply #18 on: Nov 22, 2015, 06:46 AM »

Should U.S. Zoos Be Allowed to Import 18 African Elephants?

Conservationists and animal advocates say no, but the zoos say the elephants will be killed if they aren’t brought to the U.S.

By Christina Russo, for National Geographic

Three zoos in the United States—Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo and the Dallas Zoo—intend to import 18 African elephants from Swaziland. The 3 male elephants and 15 females were born in the wild and range from 6 to 25 years old, according to a press release by the zoos.

The project is being overseen by Room for Rhinos, a partnership between the zoos and officials in Swaziland. The zoos say the move is essential because the elephants are crowding out rhinos and other animals in Swaziland—and if they don’t come to the U.S., they’ll have to be killed.

In an open letter, 80 conservationists, scientists, and animal welfare advocates around the world have condemned the plan. They argue that elephants confined in zoos display abnormal behavior, suffer physical disabilities, and die young—and too often.

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which promotes and oversees zoos in the U.S., there are 160 African elephants and 139 Asian elephants in its affiliated institutions.

Room for Rhinos says the elephants will be housed in top-notch exhibition quarters: Henry Doorly Zoo’s elephant habitat is new—part of a $73-million-dollar expansion—and Sedgwick County Zoo’s habitat is the third largest in the country.

In Swaziland, a private nonprofit trust called Big Game Parks manages three game reserves, including Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve, which hold some 33 elephants.

The zoos say they want to bring in the elephants “to improve the sustainability of elephants in North America,” according to Dennis Pate, director of the Henry Doorly Zoo. Another reason, as reported in the Omaha World-Herald, is that they plan to use the three male elephants for breeding.

Elephants, especially babies, draw crowds. “It’s not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’ we will have young elephant calves born here,” said Mark Reed, Sedgwick County Zoo’s director, in the Wichita Eagle. “That’s going to skyrocket the attendance like nothing ever has here.”

In 2012, an award-winning special report by the Seattle Times found that the infant mortality rate of elephants in U.S. zoos was almost triple that of elephants in the wild. “Of the 321 elephant deaths for which the Times had complete records,” the report states, “half were dead by age 23, more than a quarter of a century before their expected life spans of 50 to 60 years.”

The reporters analyzed zoo fatalities from the past 50 years and found that most elephants “died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity.” These included “chronic foot problems caused by standing on hard surfaces to musculoskeletal disorders from inactivity caused by being penned or chained for days and weeks at a time.”

Too Many Elephants?

Swaziland has been experiencing a serious drought, and according to Room for Rhinos, the elephants in the reserves are “consuming the parks’ tree and plant life faster than it can naturally regenerate.”

Room for Rhinos says it’s now putting new emphasis on conserving rhinos and that “the habitats currently decimated by the impact of a few dozen elephants have the potential to support hundreds of black and white rhinos.” Although African elephants are being poached in the tens of thousands every year, their overall numbers are still estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Rhinos, on the other hand, have been reduced continent-wide to about 25,000.

    What they’re doing is farming elephants. They’re breeding them to export.

Cynthia Moss, elephant expert

The signers of the open letter say the rationale behind the import—that the elephants pose, as Room for Rhinos says, a “significant threat to other wildlife, which range more widely in the major portions of the reserves”—is “highly questionable” and that the plan is “a business transaction” with “no single redeeming virtue.”

According to an environmental assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is evaluating the import proposal, the elephants lived in two fenced enclosures totaling around 15,000 acres—a fraction of the reserves’ total areas.

No information has been made public as to the numbers of rhinos in these fenced areas, nor any documentation of habitat competition between the rhinos and elephants, according to the letter.

If the elephants can’t be brought to the U.S. zoos, Big Game Parks claims that the only option is to cull them.

Such a drastic step is “unethical,” says conservationist Ian Redmond, ambassador of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species and one of the signers of the open letter. “Anyone who has experienced elephant behavior and cognition would see elephants as beings of higher order and intelligence. An elephant is a being who deserves respect.” 

The Export-Import Approval Process

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Laury Parramore said the service “may authorize the import of live African elephants from Swaziland if regulatory requirements under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [CITES] are met.” The service is accepting public comments until November 23 and will take those into consideration when making its determination.

Under international law set by CITES, which regulates the international wildlife trade, Swaziland’s elephants are threatened with extinction. Therefore, CITES stipulates, trade in the species must be only be authorized in exceptional circumstances.

Pictures: Elephants Around the World: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/11/151119-elephants-zoos-Swaziland-import-conservation-rhinos/#

To keep the ivory from the black market, a ranger hacks the tusks off a bull elephant killed illegally in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

That means the import must not be “detrimental to the survival of the species involved” and that the elephants must “not to be used for primarily commercial purposes.”

It's unclear under CITES whether a country should consider imports for zoological exhibition a “primarily commercial purpose.” But David Favre, an animal law professor at Michigan State University who has written a book about international trade in endangered species, writes that CITES allows zoos to import animals even though they'll make money from displaying them.

“There has never been a conclusion in CITES that zoos are not commercial institutions,” says Liu Yuan, a CITES communications officer. “It all depends on the nature of each transaction, and the decision has to be made by the importing country.” 

Swaziland also must evaluate and approve the transfer, once the U.S. has given approval. Swaziland’s CITES official charged with granting an export permit is Ted Reilly, and as it happens, Reilly is also the CEO of Big Game Parks.

Neither Reilly nor Big Game Parks responded to repeated requests for comment on the export-import plan.

Déjà Vu

This isn’t the first time Big Game Parks has sent elephants to U.S. zoos. In 2003, two of its reserves held 30 adults and 6 calves, and wildlife managers, citing overpopulation, arranged for 11 elephants to go to San Diego Zoo and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The zoos paid $133,000 for the elephants. If this hadn’t happened, Big Game Parks said at the time, the elephants would have had to be killed.

Born Free, an animal advocacy organization, sued unsuccessfully to prevent the 2003 export.

What’s happening now, says Cynthia Moss, the founder of Kenya’s Amboseli Trust for Elephants, a conservation and research organization, “is the same thing, absolutely. Same group. Basically what they’re doing is farming elephants. They’re breeding them to export.”

Will Travers, the president of Born Free, agrees. “I see no logic to this export except U.S. zoos want elephants, and Swaziland would like to have the cash.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service reports that the zoos have agreed to give Big Game Parks $450,000 over the next five years in exchange for the elephants.

Big Game Parks’s argument that the elephants are destroying the habitat for other wildlife is “nonsense,” said Keith Lindsay, a conservation biologist and scientific adviser for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

“They’re kept in such small parts of the reserves, and there are huge areas with no elephants,” he said. Besides, “Elephants eat trees—that’s what they do. If there are a lot of elephants in a small space and not a lot of trees, that’s what will happen.”

Even if a reserve does have too many elephants, Will Travers says, there are reasonable alternatives to killing some or sending them to zoos.

One possibility is immunocontraception, a non-invasive birth control method that has been used successfully in South Africa. Another is to move the elephants to reserves elsewhere in Swaziland. Reportedly, South Africa has said it would be open to taking them.

As Dereck Joubert, a wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, points out, elephants have been relocated successfully before, including from Botswana to Angola and within Mozambique and Malawi.

“Wild elephants and zoos are a horrible combination,” Joubert says. “Elephants need to roam and feed and interact with others daily, hourly, year after year. They need to revisit ancient burial sites and wander ancestral paths. They need the opportunities to be playful, to stand and just be with their sisters and aunts and extended families, and they need to hear a call from five miles away from a nearby clan.”

They need to live that way, he says, “to be whole. And they can’t be whole in a zoo.”

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« Reply #19 on: Nov 22, 2015, 06:50 AM »

Does SeaWorld’s Announcement Signal End to Captive Orcas?

San Diego park’s announced changes come amid rising public scrutiny of whale shows.

By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic

“Who thought it was a good idea to put a whale in a pool?” Howard Stern recently wondered on his satellite radio program.

The shock jock’s comment hints at just how much public scrutiny of captive orca shows has increased, driven by well-organized animal advocates and written into a new bill to outlaw the practice that was introduced in Congress last week.

SeaWorld—the most famous keeper of orcas, also known as killer whales—responded on Monday by announcing sweeping changes to programs at its flagship San Diego location, including phasing out the “Shamu” orca act.

SeaWorld’s strategy documents, posted online Monday, say the company will replace that act with a more "informative" experience in a more natural setting that will carry a "conservation message inspiring people to act."

The developments come amid reports of falling admission to its 11 parks around the United States. SeaWorld’s share prices have also been sliding steadily since a series of high-profile demonstrations by animal advocates, spurred by the successful 2013 documentary film Blackfish, which cast a critical eye on the marine entertainment industry.

SeaWorld had fought back with public statements defending what it calls humane treatment of orcas and pointing to the rescue and conservation work the company underwrites.

But animal advocates say that Monday's announcement could mark a turning point in their war against keeping orcas captive. Public opinion has shifted “in favor of ending the archaic and cruel practice of keeping orcas in captivity,” said Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation’s director of animal law, in a statement.

U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who on Friday introduced federal legislation that would prohibit the breeding of captive orcas, end the capture of wild orcas, and stop the import and export of the animals, agrees.

“The decision by SeaWorld to phase out killer whale shows in San Diego is a welcome step along the path towards ending the captivity of these magnificent creatures,” he says.
More Bans on Captive Orcas

In recent years, everyone from schoolchildren to the musical acts Cheap Trick and Willie Nelson have publicly boycotted SeaWorld.

“With captive facilities such as SeaWorld being promoted since childhood, especially for those of us raised in the US, as ‘good clean fun’ and traditional family vacation destinations, it is incongruent for many to consider the dark underbelly of captivity,” the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group writes on its website.

A 2014 survey by that group found that half of American adults oppose the practice of keeping orcas in captivity, a rise of 11% since 2012.

There are 57 captive orcas around the world, but at least 14 countries have passed laws that prohibit their captivity, including India and several countries in Europe and Latin America. Similar laws have also passed in South Carolina and New York.

Earlier this year, the California Coastal Commission ruled that SeaWorld could no longer breed its orcas in the state. SeaWorld has not said what its plans are for its killer whale shows at its Orlando and San Antonio locations.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

“I would urge the company to curtail the breeding of their orcas and partner in the creation of ocean sanctuaries,” says Schiff.

PETA’s Goodman also says SeaWorld’s proposed changes don’t go far enough. “Changing the tanks or the style of show is not going to meaningfully relieve the animals of suffering,” he says.

Concerns for Orca Health

“The public is upset about their suffering and the movie Blackfish was the beginning of the end for the practice,” Goodman says.

Problems for the animals in captivity include breakup of wild orca pods, stress, and the killing of human trainers, including the high-profile killing of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

“Unfortunately, after all the years of experience that I had, I saw the psychological and physical trauma that results from captivity,” former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove previously told National Geographic. “A massive corporate entity is exploiting the hell out of the whales and the trainers.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said there were an estimated 2,000 captive orcas around the world. There are an estimated 2,000 captive cetaceans of all types and 57 captive orcas.

Jane J. Lee contributed reporting for this story.

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« Reply #20 on: Nov 22, 2015, 06:57 AM »

Cougars May Spread to U.S. Midwest Within Decades

A new model suggests the big cats will soon recolonize Arkansas, Missouri, and other parts of the American heartland.

By Maggie Ryan Sandford, National Geographic

The cougar may be returning to America’s heartland. And it could take just a few decades, according to a new model. 

A cougar roaming the Midwest isn’t as unusual as TV westerns would have us believe: The big cats—also called mountain lions and pumas—used to be abundant in the region, but development and hunting killed them off nearly a century ago.

Cougars now dwell in western states, but have been slowly expanding their ranges eastward. The cougar's hypothetical return to middle America is based on an analysis of more than 40 years of data on cougar populations and 1.1 million square miles (3 million square kilometers) of U.S. habitat.

For the new analysis, scientists also took into account factors such as how far female mountain lions migrate, locations of ideal cougar habitat (rugged and wooded terrain, far from humans and roads), and comparable population changes among other large predators.

(See National Geographic's amazing pictures of cougars ... http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/cougars/winter-photography )

What emerged is a complex model that suggests the animals may colonize parts of Arkansas and Missouri, and possibly sustain existing populations in the Dakotas and Nebraska, to the same extent as their western counterparts within 25 years.

The study, published online November 6 in the journal Ecological Modelling, is the first of its kind for U.S. mountain lions, notes study co-author Michelle LaRue, a conservation biologist at the University of Minnesota.

“If there’s one thing I hope comes from this, it’s to dispel the myths around cougars being dangerous to humans," she says. In most cases, cougars do not pose a threat to people. “You’re far more likely to be attacked by your neighbor’s dog than a big cat.”

More importantly, "large carnivores are good for ecosystems," she says.

As predators of herbivores, for instance, they help balance populations of other species. “It will be interesting to see how the ecosystem changes––if at all––if the cougars come back.”

(Watch video: "Chasing a Mountain Lion in Hollywood's Urban Jungle."  http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/ngm-cougar-hollywood )

Ghost Cats

David A. Steen, a conservation biologist at Auburn University in Alabama, says the cougar-rich scenarios in the study seem plausible. “There are a lot of unknowns when conducting modeling exercises of this scope,” he says via email, adding that it's especially challenging to gather enough data.

One of the reasons for the statistics-driven study is that cougars are traditionally a tricky species to track, particularly in the central U.S. More than 800 confirmed cougar sightings have occurred in the region between 1990 and 2015, but they've often been shrouded in doubt.

(Read the story "Ghost Cats" in National Geographic magazine... http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/cougars/chadwick-text )

“For years, the conventional wisdom was that these [cougar] observations represented either released or escaped pets, isolated dispersers [roamers], or they were discounted as cases of mistaken identity,” Steen says.

In fact LaRue’s research shows most people who report seeing a cougar actually don't—it's usually a bobcat, large domestic cat, golden retriever, or even a deer seen from an odd angle. And when people think they’ve found cougar tracks, “It’s almost always some sort of canid dog,” she says.

Which brings up another point that should put some people's minds at ease: “Even if the cats do start to move in,” she says, “Most people will never see one. One of the indicators of good cougar habitat is it's somewhere humans are not.”

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« Reply #21 on: Nov 22, 2015, 08:23 AM »

Russia gives France puppy to replace killed police dog

November 21, 2015 8:45 AM

Moscow (AFP) - Russia has offered to send an Alsatian puppy to France in a gesture of solidarity after a police dog was killed during a raid on jihadists linked to the Paris attacks.

Russia's interior minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said he had written to his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve offering to send a puppy named Dobrynya to replace Diesel, a Belgian Shepherd killed in a huge raid north of Paris last Wednesday.

Kolokoltsev said that as "a sign of solidarity with the people and police of France," he was offering the puppy, which "will be able to occupy the place in service of the police dog Diesel killed during a special operation to neutralise terrorists."

The dog is named after a hero of Russian folk legend, Dobrynya Nikitch, famed for his strength, goodness and courage, he added.

The ministry late Friday posted pictures of the small fluffy puppy and a video of him playing with a ball, which can be viewed here: https://mvd.ru/news/item/6802710.

The puppy was also shown on state television on Saturday.

Dobrynya is two months old and lives at a police dog centre in the Moscow region, Channel One television reported. He will have to undergo medical checks and quarantine before going to France.

Two dog-handlers from Moscow police's special forces also posed with their dogs and signs with the hashtag "Je Suis Diesel" on the service's Instagram account.

"Our four-legged friends also serve the police, protecting society from terrorist threats," the Moscow police service said.

The hashtag #JeSuisChien (I am a dog) trended on Twitter after French police announced that seven-year-old Diesel died in the raid targeting Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Three people died during the massive operation at the apartment in Saint-Denis north of Paris -- Abaaoud, his cousin Hasna Aitboulahcen, and a suicide bomber who has yet to be identified.

Seven people arrested during the raid were freed on Saturday.


Diesel the Belgian Malinois police dog dies in a hail of gunfire in raid that killed Paris attacks mastermind

BY Tobias Salinger
Wednesday, November 18, 2015, 2:38 PM
A Belgian Malinois police dog died in the early Wednesday raid that killed the mastermind of the Paris attacks, officials said.

Diesel, a 7-year-old shepherd, was “killed by terrorists” in the sweep on an apartment in suburban Saint-Denis, according to France’s National Police.

The dog from the Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence (RAID) unit went down in a hail of gunfire when it led the way into the apartment to scout the scene, The Guardian reported. The resulting standoff led to the deaths of at least two suspects, the arrest of eight others and the wounding of five officers.

“Assault and explosives search dogs: indispensable in the missions of the operators of the #RAID,” the National Police Tweeted with a picture of a Malinois flanked by officers.

The picture wasn’t thought to be a portrait of Diesel. A spokesman for the National Police said the dog’s master was so saddened by Diesel’s death that he didn’t want to release the dog’s picture.

The announcement of Diesel's passing prompted a wave of responses on Twitter, where “#JeSuisChien” or “#IAmDog” began trending hours later. Social media commenters posted their own pictures of heroic doggies, paid tribute to Diesel’s courage and questioned whether the Twitterverse cared more about dogs than human terrorism victims.

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« Reply #22 on: Nov 22, 2015, 10:37 AM »

Woodland Park Zoo gorilla mom rejects newborn

Originally published November 20, 2015 at 5:03 pm Updated November 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm

A baby gorilla born Friday at Woodland Park Zoo was being bottle-fed and cared for by keepers after her mother showed little interest in the infant.

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times staff reporter

A female gorilla born Friday at Woodland Park Zoo was being bottle-fed and cared for by keepers after her mother showed little interest in the infant.

Zoo staff remain optimistic that 19-year-old Nadiri, who gave birth for the first time, will warm to her new daughter, said zoo spokeswoman Gigi Allianic.

“They hope that she will pick up her baby, start to nurse her and cuddle her,” Allianic said.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015. Nadiri, the 19-year-old Woodland Park Zoo gorilla is going to give birth this month. The zoo plans to start a 24 hour birth watch soon.

Woodland Park Zoo prepares for the arrival of a baby gorilla

The infant, which weighed about five pounds, had a good appetite and appeared healthy. She was born at 11:30 a.m., after four hours of labor.

But instead of immediately cleaning and nursing the baby, Nadiri walked away.

“She wasn’t showing the kind of maternal behavior that a mom normally would as soon as a baby is born,” Allianic said.

So zoo staff quickly retrieved the infant, kept her warm and fed her the same formula given to human babies.

Nadiri was rejected by her own mother and raised by zoo staff for the first 10 months of her life. Concerned about her potential child-rearing skills, zoo personnel had been training Nadiri to cradle a baby-sized burlap doll and hand it to keepers.

But that training didn’t seem to kick in on Friday.

During an “introduction session” several hours after the birth, zoo staff gave Nadiri access to the baby. But though she kept her eyes on the infant and uttered grunts that signal contentment, she didn’t approach the baby.

It’s possible that the new mother is simply exhausted, and that she will come around once she has a chance to rest, Allianic said.

The first 72 hours are critical for the baby’s survival, she added. It needs to be fed regularly and kept warm, functions that zoo staff will perform. They’ll also hold, rock and cuddle the infant.

Nadiri will be in an adjacent den, and able to see, smell and hear the baby through wire mesh.

If the mother gorilla’s behavior doesn’t change, Woodland Park — which recently weathered a furious debate over captive elephant breeding and the fate of the zoo’s two female elephants — will face a difficult choice.

In the past, primates were commonly hand-reared in zoos. But the practice is now discouraged, because such animals often have problems integrating socially with members of their own species.

The other option would be to find an experienced and nurturing female at another zoo who could act as a surrogate mother. Nina, the female who acted as Nadiri’s surrogate mother, died in May at the age of 47.

Woodland Park has 11 gorillas, living in three family groups. The latest birth is the 13th at the zoo, but the first in more than eight years.

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« Reply #23 on: Nov 22, 2015, 11:02 AM »

From California kill shelter to adoption for 1,000 dogs

Originally published November 20, 2015 at 9:39 pm Updated November 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Some 1,000 dogs and 100 cats that had been destined to be killed at California shelters were flown Friday to various Pacific Northwest airports to be taken to no-kill shelters.

By Erik Lacitis
Seattle Times staff reporter

In these turbulent, sad days, we need a happy dog story.

This is about 1,000 dogs and 100 cats that, instead of being euthanized, on Friday headed out in private planes toward happy adopted lives.

A family to throw Frisbees for them. Kids who need to cuddle with them at night. A wagging tail that brightens the end of a bad workday.

Want to adopt an animal?

Go to the Wings of Rescue website and click “Holiday Airlift 2015” for a list of participating shelters.

A batch of about 100 dogs and a few cats arrived at Paine Field in Everett from Van Nuys Airport on a Fairchild Metroliner twin-engine cargo plane.

You could hear the barking even before the door was opened.

Hey, what would you do if you had been in a stack of dog kennels for nearly four hours? The outnumbered cats were considerably quieter.

Waiting for them were workers and volunteers for shelters that included the Skagit and Kitsap County Humane Societies, PAWS and the Noah Center.

By now, the crews had a routine. Line up the kennels on the tarmac right outside Castle & Cooke Aviation. Check the paperwork. Start loading into the lined-up vans for the drive to the shelters.

These shelters have been part of Wings of Rescue, based in Woodland Hills in Los Angeles, for a year or more, meeting the planes once or twice a month. On Friday, two leased cargo planes and 23 smaller aircraft flew out the 1,100 dogs and cats, “our biggest holiday airlift ever.”

In California, shelters are overcrowded and euthanasia is common. In the Pacific Northwest, shelters actively look for dogs.

Says Ric Browde, the transport coordinator for the California group, “Washington is a godsend for us. You people, you’re more educated, more responsible. You have a higher level of humanity and compassion. People tend to vaccinate, keep pets indoors.

“Maybe it’s the weather in Los Angeles. Sunny skies 12 months a year. We have dogs in the streets, procreating.”

Wings of Rescue was founded by Cindy Smith, a real-estate broker, and Yehuda Netanel, a real-estate developer. Both also are recreational pilots and dog enthusiasts.

Maybe a little more than enthusiasts.

“How many dogs do I have?” says Smith. “I have an eclectic bunch. A Chihuahua. Pit bulls. A Great Dane mix. I have lots. I don’t want to get into trouble with animal control.”

They decided to make dogs their cause. 

The two founded the group in 2011, with the idea of having pilots use their planes to save animals from kill shelters.

Their “squadron” of pilots has so far flown out 15,200 dogs, with some flights costing $2,500 to $5,000 for fuel and hangar costs, depending on distance.

A few of the dogs came Friday with a little bit of narrative.

“My name is: Tiger. I’ll be available: NOW! I’m an altered male, brown, short haired Chihuahua mix. My friends at the shelter think I’m about 9 years old. I came to the shelter as an owner surrender … ” says one.

Browde says the California shelters that give them dogs typically don’t provide any kind of story about the animals. And forget about a short video that many shelters here use to attract possible owners.

On his website, Browde took it upon himself to promote some dogs.

“Roxy is a cuddly 8 year old brown and white spayed female Boxer who was dumped … her former owners woke up that day and decided that they no longer wanted the responsibility of taking care of a dog.”

“Wiley is a regal 7 year old black male Labrador retriever who was found without either a collar and attached identification tags or a microchip … Wiley is a perfect gentleman and an ideal indoor pet for an individual or family living in a private home.”

He says it works wonders to provide some personality to the animals, and they get adopted much more quickly.

Browde also has the task of naming the dogs. It’s easier to adopt out a Monty than a No. A4881243 M.

It’s a task, with hundreds of dogs to name, so he’s gotten to names like “Onyx.”

After a few days of R&R, the new arrivals here will be ready for adoption.

“Little furries for the holidays,” says Katherine Spink of PAWS.

Or in the case of Roofer, a Rottweiler mix soon available at the Skagit Humane Society, a big guy who’ll lick your hand if you brush it past his kennel.

Come on, and you know who you are, you need a Roofer in your life.

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« Reply #24 on: Nov 23, 2015, 06:06 AM »

November 22, 2015

Rare neon Blue Dragon slug spotted in Australia

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

An unusual, neon-blue creature spotted earlier this month on a beach in Queensland, Australia might resemble a tiny Targaryen dragon, but in reality the bizarre lifeform is a type of sea slug commonly called the Blue Dragon.

Video footage captured by locals show the amazing striped creature wriggling around the waters of Queensland’s Broadbent beach, and according to Tech Times and Mental Floss, it is officially named the Glaucus atlanticus. These slugs float on their backs and move using the water’s surface tension, and are typically found in moderate to tropical bodies of water.


The slug feeds on venomous jellyfish, but instead of being harmed by its prey’s toxic sting cells (nematocysts), the Blue Dragon digests them and stores the venom on the outside of its body. It uses this as a defense mechanism against would-be predators or nosy humans, and as one would expect, experts recommend not touching the slug, no matter how incredible it may look.

In addition, G. atlanticus, which typically grows to between 3-4 centimeters (1.18-1.57 inches) in length, uses its strange stripes as camouflage to hide from potential threats from both above and below. As it floats along, its blue underside helps it blend in with the water’s surface, while its silver back creates the illusion of the shimmering surface of its oceanic home.

A ‘beautiful’ but dangerous creature

The Blue Dragon slug featured in the video was discovered by Queensland resident Lucinda Fry on Thursday morning, according to the Gold Coast Bulletin. It was later identified by Kylie Pitt, a professor and marine invertebrates expert from Griffin University in nearby Brisbane.

In addition, atlanticus is a nudibranch, a type of soft-bodied marine creature that initially has a shell, then sheds it following its larval stage, Pitt explained. These gastropod mollusks are typically known for their striking shapes and colors, and according to the World Register of Marine Species, most of the 2,300 known nudibranch species are omnivorous predators and scavengers.

The Dodo, a website dedicated to animal-related stories, said that the Blue Dragons are “rarely seen by humans” but are “probably among the most beautiful animals on the planet.” The video, they added, provides “a fleeting glimpse of one of Earth's prettiest inhabitants” – an unusual title for a slug to have, if we’re perfectly honest.

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« Reply #25 on: Nov 23, 2015, 06:11 AM »

Northern white rhino dies in US, leaving only three alive


One of the world's last four remaining northern white rhinos has died in a zoo in the United States.

The condition of Nola, a 41-year-old female, had deteriorated after surgery and she was put down on Sunday.

Nola had been a popular attraction at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1989.

The remaining three northern white rhinos - all elderly - are kept closely guarded at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Surrogacy programme

Nola underwent surgery on 13 November to drain a hip abscess. However, her health deteriorated a week ago and worsened again over the weekend and it was decided she should be put down.

The northern white rhino population was devastated by poachers seeking their prized horns, and was declared extinct in the wild in 2008.

San Diego zoo has recently brought in six southern white rhinos, hoping to use them as surrogate mothers for northern white rhino embryos.

There are about 20,000 southern white rhinos in the world, but studies are still taking place to determine whether the subspecies are genetically similar enough for the surrogacy to work.

Zoo researchers say that, if successful, the programme could see a northern white rhino calf born within 10 to 15 years.

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« Reply #26 on: Nov 23, 2015, 06:26 AM »

Are "killer" Africanized bees really that dangerous?

Media reports and bad movies would have you think they are remorseless and unstoppable killers. They are a risk, but they are not coming to get you

23 November 2015

Reputation: Killer bees are huge and are equipped with lethal venom

Reality: Killer bees are actually smaller than regular honeybees. Their venom is also less powerful. They are aggressive, but not in Puerto Rico

The story of the killer bee reads like science fiction.

    The Africanized honey bee is slightly smaller than its European cousin, so it actually carries less venom

In 1956, a Brazilian scientist called Warwick Kerr imported African honeybees to South America with the intention of breeding a more productive strain. Some of them escaped and bred with European honeybees in the wild, giving rise to a hybrid species.

These Africanized honeybees began to spread. By 1985, they had made it as far as Mexico. In 2014, researchers studying the spread of these hybrids across California found they had reached San Francisco.

Early in this invasion, the Africanized honey bees acquired the nickname "killer bees", inspiring plenty of fear and a rash of second-rate bee-related movies along the way.

The truth about killer bees is not quite what these films would have us believe.

For a start, the Africanized honey bee is slightly smaller than its European cousin, so it actually carries less venom. This venom is no more potent either so, bee for bee, the killer bee is the lesser threat.

    The term gives the impression that these bees are out to kill, when they are actually defending their hive

The danger comes from the way these bees defend a hive. "Africanized bees respond to colony disturbance more quickly, in greater numbers, and with more stinging," researchers concluded in 1982. This finding has been replicated in several subsequent studies.

This aggressive response helps explain why Africanized honey bees have caused the death of several hundred people over the last 50 years.

In the absence of an allergic reaction, it would take around 1000 bee stings to deliver a lethal dose of toxin to an average-sized adult. European bees are rarely this combative. Africanized bees can be.

Nevertheless, referring to them as "killer bees" is misleading, says Bert Rivera-Marchand, an entomologist at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón.

    The Puerto Rican bees are slower to sting, and do so less frequently

"The term gives the impression that these bees are out to kill, when they are actually defending their hive," says Rivera-Marchand. "Regardless of how defensive a hive may be, foraging bees in the field do not attack and there is no aggression seen during swarming events."

Furthermore, Rivera-Marchand has found that Africanized honey bees on Puerto Rico, where they were first detected in 1994, show significantly reduced defensive behaviour.

In a paper published in 2012, he and his colleagues demonstrated that the Puerto Rican bees are slower to sting, and do so less frequently, than Africanized honeybees on the continent. The Puerto Rican killer bees behaved almost exactly like European honeybees.

The genetic makeup of these "gentle" bees bears an unmistakable Africanized stamp. Yet somehow, in less than 20 years, they have lost the extreme defensiveness that we have come to expect of killer bees. "The Puerto Rico beekeepers are using local Africanized bees for in their industry and do not report problems with highly defensive behaviour," says Rivera-Marchand.

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« Reply #27 on: Nov 23, 2015, 06:34 AM »

'Rat Vision' May Give Humans Best Sight of All

November 23, 2015
University of Sydney

Humans have the best of all possible visual worlds because our full stereo vision combines with primitive visual pathways to quickly spot danger, a study led by the University of Sydney has discovered.

The surprising finding published today in Current Biology shows that in humans and other primates, information from the eyes is not only sent to the visual cortex for the complex processing that allows stereoscopic vision, but also could feed directly into deep brain circuits for attention and emotion.

"The brain cells that we identified suggest that human and other primates retain a visual pathway that traces back to the primitive systems of vertebrates like fish and frogs," said University of Sydney's Professor Paul Martin from the Sydney Medical School, who led the team that made the discovery.

"These connections may not have been lost during evolution of humans and other primates after all," says Martin, who speculates that primates have the best of all possible visual worlds: full stereo vision, and the ability to quickly spot and respond to danger.

The ability of the primate visual system to generate 3-D pictures of its surroundings is well recognised -- that's what enables humans to play a game of tennis, and enjoy other fine motor skills such as threading a needle.

To do this, primates have two forward-facing eyes that capture the same view from slightly different angles, and a visual system that keeps information from each eye separate until it reaches the brain's visual cortex. There, complex processing combines the two views of the same scene to create 3-D vision.

Rodents, on the other hand, are more preoccupied with detecting and avoiding predators, and their visual systems reflect this: their eyes are on each side of their head, scanning different fields of view, and stereo vision is poor.

In both primates and rodents, messages from the two eyes enters the brain through a small structure called the lateral geniculate nucleus or LGN, which is made of slivers of nerve cells, arranged like sponge in a layer cake. And whereas in rodents LGN cells may fire in response to one or both eyes, until now, neuroscientists had thought that in primates, LGN cells fired only in response to inputs from a single eye.

Now, the Martin team has found a subset of cells, squeezed in between the main LGN layers in marmoset monkeys that fire in response to inputs from both eyes. The properties and connections of these 'two-eye' cells resemble cells in the rodent LGN.

"At first we thought we'd made a mistake, but we repeated the experiment, and we were right -- the cells responded to inputs from either eye," says Natalie Zeater, a CIBF PhD Student and lead author on the paper.

What's more, in rodents the two-eye cells hook into sub-cortical areas of the brain such as the amygdala that help process emotion and fear responses, and areas that play a role in an animal's ability to spot salient events in its environment -- an approaching cat for instance. How these primitive circuits work exactly is still mysterious. But they can be traced back in vertebrate brains from fish to frogs to rodents. The available evidence suggests that they trigger an alarm circuit that makes the brain more attentive to important visual cues -- those to do with danger or food, for instance.

"There is no doubt that processing of complex visual information in the cerebral cortex is what enables uniquely human behaviours," says Martin. "But these two-eye cells suggest that other types of visual information are just as important -- they allow the human species to survive to engage in the complex behaviours."

The researchers plan to delve deeper into the function of the two-eye cells, initially investigating whether there are the same direct connections between two-eye cells and emotion-processing centres as there are in rats.

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Sydney. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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« Reply #28 on: Nov 23, 2015, 06:40 AM »

Engineers Develop New Method to Repair Elephant Tusks

November 23, 2015
University of Alabama at Birmingham

When Birmingham Zoo veterinarians approached researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering to help them stop a crack from growing in their oldest elephant's tusk, the engineers saw an opportunity to use their expertise in materials science to improve the industry standard for the repair process.

Cracks in elephants' tusks have historically been repaired by adhering a metal ring to the tusk in order to stabilize the crack and prevent it from growing any farther up the tusk.

The Birmingham Zoo asked the director of UAB's Materials Processing and Applications Development Center, Brian Pillay, Ph.D., to do just that, for Bulwagi, a 35-year-old male African elephant in their care.

Pillay's immediate response was to innovate the process, and apply some of the science the lab uses in other materials processes to create a new, more robust and seamless treatment for the crack.

"When the team at the Zoo asked me to create this metal ring, I thought, 'we can do better,'" Pillay said. "We can use what we know about materials development to make something that will work better for the elephant."

"This is something that's bridging the gap between what Dr. Pillay's lab does working with industrial settings and what we do working with a biologic situation," said Richard Sim, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Zoo. "It's a first of its kind in that way -- combining engineering that would normally be used in structures like bridges and applying it to an elephant."

A cracked tusk can become infected and pose problems for an elephant. Tusks with cracks that are left untreated may ultimately have to be removed.

"An open crack is a site for infection, as a tusk is basically a tooth," Pillay said. "Imagine having a crack in your tooth -- it's rather painful for the elephants as well."

The Zoo's team of veterinarians, animal care specialists and curators worked with students and researchers from UAB to prepare, then apply, the composite fiberglass and carbon-fiber band and resin on Bulwagi's tusk.

"We worked with Dr. Pillay's lab to practice applying this product on a PVC pipe to start off with as a model," Sim said. "I went down to the UAB lab on two occasions to really try to hammer out the details of how this was actually going to work. The first time I went down, we had a very successful practice session; but our idea of how we were going to apply it to a real-life setting was just not going to work for the elephant."

Through training with MPAD staff engineer Ben Willis, Sim and Pillay's team worked to perfect the process, and the end result was successful.

"We put a number of layers of carbon fiber and fiberglass around the tusk, and then used a vacuum pump to suck the resin, kind of like an epoxy, up into that product, and it set and became a really hard structure that is going to resist the forces that resulted in the crack," Sim said. "No one has done this before, so it's our hope that this will be a process that will stand the test of time."

"It's the latest in technology, and it's a great deal lighter, stronger and tougher than steel," Pillay said. "The standard ring that would have been traditionally used is four to five times heavier than what Bulwagi has now. This is a significantly better solution."

Tusk cracks are fairly common in elephants, because a great deal of pressure is put on the tusk as the elephants use them to interact with their environment and other elephants, so the repair process is something that will always be in demand.

While Bulwagi may eventually lose his tusk because of the progression of this particular crack, UAB and the Zoo sought to use this development process as a way to help other elephants in the future.

"Our hope is that we came up with something that will help a lot of elephants moving forward," Pillay said.

The team's next step is to wait and see how, and whether, the crack continues to develop over time, to evaluate how their creation will work for other elephants.

"Right now it's just a waiting game, but we feel good about what we created and are looking forward to seeing if it can help other elephants," Pillay said. "We're hopeful that when vets first observe cracks, they will be able to go in and replicate this procedure to prevent the cracks from growing any farther and save the elephants' tusks."

Regardless of the outcome, this project has served another purpose -- fostering collaboration between two Birmingham organizations.

"Having a partnership with the Greater Birmingham area is a model we use in caring for our animals," Sim said. "It can only benefit us by employing the expertise of our community to help with issues that are outside of the scope of what we can do here."

"It's a perfect partnership, with the Zoo's environmental responsibility to protect and care for the animals," Pillay said. "At UAB, we do a lot of work in terms of human care; but it's great to be able to take some of that technology and apply it to the animal world.

"Working with the Zoo to innovate and create something that serves to benefit animals has been tremendously rewarding for our team of researchers and students. For our students, specifically, it's opening their eyes to how diverse the engineering industry can be. Being able work on a project like this as undergraduate and graduate students has been invaluable for their career development."

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Alabama at Birmingham. The original item was written by Katherine Shonesy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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« Reply #29 on: Nov 23, 2015, 06:46 AM »

Tiny Island Nation's Enormous New Ocean Reserve is Official

By Jane J. Lee, National Geographic

An island nation in the Pacific Ocean that's smaller than New York City has created an ocean reserve that's bigger than California.

The president of Palau signed legislation Wednesday designating a reserve that's about 193,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometers) in size. This makes it one of the five largest fully protected marine areas in the world.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed the designation and retweeted accounts of the ceremony and notes of congratulations.

Palau's Congress had recently signed off on keeping 80 percent of its territorial waters from any extractive activities, including fishing and mining. The remaining 20 percent would remain open to fishing by locals and a limited number of small commercial operations.

"Island communities have been among the hardest hit by the threats facing the ocean," Remengesau said in an earlier statement. "Creating this sanctuary is a bold move that the people of Palau recognize as essential to our survival."

Enric Sala, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and head of the Pristine Seas project, said that "Palau has really blown it out of the water."

The country "is one of the places with the highest marine biodiversity on the planet," he says. Pristine Seas helped evaluate the effectiveness of smaller, traditional marine reserves in Palau.

The country's waters are home to over 1,300 species of fish, about 700 species of hard and soft corals, and marine lakes that host hordes of non-stinging jellyfish.

Experience the the stunning biodiversity of the Republic of Palau's waters with National Geographic’s Pristine Seas.

Palauans have a long history of bul, or setting aside smaller reef areas during fish spawning and feeding periods as a way of giving those populations time to recover from fishing practices. The federal government has now effectively extended that practice to encompass the majority of the country's ocean.

The government is still working out the details when it comes to enforcement of their new marine reserve. The nation has no military and only one law enforcement ship.

But "Palau is serious about enforcing their laws and protecting their resources," says Sala. Earlier this year, the country confiscated wooden boats from Vietnam that were fishing in Palau's waters illegally and burned them. (Learn more about the incident: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150612-palau-burns-illegal-fishing-boats-pirate-poaching-marine-conservation/ )

"We will not tolerate any more unsustainable acts," Remengesau told National Geographic earlier this year. "Palau guarantees, [poachers] will return with nothing."

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