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Author Topic: For All Daemon Souls and Dog Lovers  (Read 83727 times)
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« Reply #165 on: Nov 13, 2013, 06:14 AM »

Abandoned puppy rescued from Indian trash dump becomes ‘first dog’ to tackle Mount Everest

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 7:04 EST

An abandoned puppy rescued from a rubbish dump in India has trekked to Everest Base Camp, becoming what is believed to be the first dog to tackle the peak, his owner said Wednesday.

Former professional golfer Joanne Lefson told AFP she adopted the 11-month-old dog, called Rupee, in the mountainous Indian town of Leh last September and decided to take him on a trip to base camp at 5,364 metres (17,598 feet).

The pair began “Expedition Mutt Everest 2013″ in the Himalayan town of Lukla on October 14, intending to raise awareness about the plight of homeless dogs and promote pet adoption.

They accomplished their record-making feat thirteen days later, describing it as “one giant leap for dog-kind” on Facebook.

“I am so proud of Rupee. I thought I might have to carry him on some days, but instead, he took the lead and pulled me along,” Lefson said.

“I hope his accomplishment will compel people to be kinder to animals, especially strays. We need to realise that every life matters,” she added.

Rupee and his owner trekked across rickety bridges and wet mountain paths, dodging landslides along the way.

Despite missing part of his right ear and being close to death only a few weeks ago, Rupee had no trouble adjusting to the altitude and relished his first taste of snow.

“He loved the snow, he ate it, he played in it, if I had let him, he would have slept in it too,” Lefson said.

Photographs on the Facebook site show the puppy enjoying the sights and sounds of Nepal, cuddling with bearded Hindu monks in Kathmandu and playing with children in the Himalayan town of Namche Bazaar.

The pair are now in Lefson’s native South Africa, where Rupee is catching up on his sleep.

Lefson is preparing to launch a book next week devoted to her former dog Oscar who accompanied her around the world.

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« Reply #166 on: Nov 13, 2013, 06:49 AM »

Saola sighting in Vietnam raises hopes for rare mammal's recovery

Long-horned ox photographed in forest in central Vietnam, 15 years after last sighting of threatened species in wild

Associated Press in Hanoi, Wednesday 13 November 2013 08.09 GMT   

One of the rarest and most threatened mammals on earth has been caught on camera in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years, renewing hope for the recovery of the species, an international conservation group said on Wednesday.

The saola, a long-horned ox, was photographed in a forest in central Vietnam in September, WWF said.

"This is a breathtaking discovery and renews hope for the recovery of the species," Van Ngoc Thinh, the group's Vietnam country director said.

The animal was first discovered in the remote areas of high mountains near the border with Laos in 1992 when a joint team from WWF and Vietnam's forest control agency found a skull with unusual horns in a hunter's home. The find proved to be the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years.
Saola The saola caught on camera in September. Photograph: AP

In Vietnam, the last sighting of a saola in the wild was in 1998, according to Dang Dinh Nguyen, director of the Saola natural reserve in the central province of Quang Nam.

The WWF has recruited forest guards from local communities to remove snares and battle illegal hunting in the area where the saola was photographed. It said poaching was the greatest threat to saola's survival. The snares are set to largely catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are a delicacy in Vietnam.

Twenty years after its discovery, little is known about saola and the difficulty in detecting the elusive animal has prevented scientists from making a precise population estimate.

At best, no more than a few hundred, and maybe only a few dozen, survive in the remote, dense forests along the border with Laos, according to WWF.


'Asian unicorn' dies after capture in Laos

Rare saola caught by villagers and shown to conservationists was thought to be one of only a few hundred left in the wild

• Frozen zoo aims to bring species back from the brink   

Helen Pidd and agencies
The Guardian, Thursday 16 September 2010 13.34 BST   

It is one of the rarest animals in the world, a horned beast sighted so rarely it is nicknamed "the Asian unicorn".

So when villagers in a remote region of Laos became the first people in a decade to spot a saola they were keen to keep the antelope-like creature, which has large white streaks of fur that look like eyebrows.

But in their enthusiasm to protect it they may have killed the animal. It died last month after a few days in captivity, conservationists said.

The critically endangered mammal is found in the mountains of Vietnam and Laos. It was discovered in 1992.

The saola looks similar to the antelope of North Africa but is more closely related to wild cattle and is likened to the mythical unicorn because of its rarity.

It has never been seen by conservation experts in the wild and the last confirmed sighting was from automated cameras in 1999.

The species is listed as critically endangered, with just a few hundred thought to exist in the wild. There are none in zoos and almost nothing is known about how to keep them in captivity, meaning if they vanish in the wild they will be extinct.

The Lao government said villagers in the country's central province of Bolikhamxay captured the saola in late August and brought it to their village.

When news of the capture reached the authorities a team was sent, advised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to examine and release the animal.

But the adult male saola died shortly after the team reached the remote village. It was photographed while still alive.

The IUCN's saola expert William Robichaud said:

"We hope the information gained from the incident can be used to ensure that this is not the last saola anyone has a chance to see."

The provincial conservation unit of Bolikhamxay province said the animal's death was "unfortunate" but the incident confirmed an area where it was still found and the government would immediately strengthen conservation efforts there.

Dr Pierre Comizzoli, a member of the IUCN saola working group, said study of the animal's carcass could yield some good.

"Our lack of knowledge of saola biology is a major constraint to efforts to conserve it. This can be a major step forward in understanding this remarkable and mysterious species."


Discovered, wiped out and cloned: the bizarre life cycle of the saola

Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Sunday 17 December 2006 02.04 GMT   

Just over a decade ago, the saola made headlines round the world. Scientists discovered the animal in the remote Vietnamese highlands, the first large mammal to have been found anywhere in the world in more than half a century.

Since then the creature, which looks like an antelope but is related to cattle, has been discovered in several areas across the country. In the late 1990s ecologists estimated about a thousand of these shy creatures, with their long pairs of distinctive black horns, were living in the Annamite hills of central Vietnam and Laos. The creature quickly became an icon for Vietnam's fledgling environmental movement.

But not for much longer. Scientists working with WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature) discovered last month that in less than 10 years saola numbers had crashed to around 200. Even worse, population numbers are becoming so thin that prospects of them meeting and breeding are now becoming worryingly slim. Now Vietnamese scientists are locked in a bitter battle about how to save the saola.

The WWF team believes many saolas are being caught in snares for other creatures, such as bears, which are prized in the East for the 'healing properties' of their gall bladders. In addition, the saola is often hunted in its own right, so its distinctive head can be mounted as a trophy.

Scientists have been unable to breed saolas in captivity. About 20 have been captured but all died within a few weeks, with the exception of two that were released into the wild again. According to David Wildt, head of the Centre for Species Survival at the Smithsonian, near Front Royal, Virginia, this problem is not unexpected. 'Certain animals in captivity, especially ungulates, are highly sensitive to stress,' he told the journal Science.

Thus Vietnam has found it is close to achieving an unenviable ecological record: discovering a new species of large mammal and then rendering it extinct in a few years. It is a prospect that has so alarmed scientists they have launched the ultimate hi-tech bid to save the stricken creature: they are planning to clone it.

The project is the idea of scientists at the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology in Hanoi. Led by Bui Xuan Nguyen, the team has already isolated saola DNA from tissue samples from creatures in the wild and, working with French scientists, have injected these into the eggs of cows, a goat and a swamp buff alo. Early saola embryos were successfully created this way, but all died after a few days.

'We don't have any idea how to get past this stage,' Nguyen admitted to Science - the basic problem, he said, being a lack of knowledge about how saolas breed. 'We have no information on the reproductive cycle and no idea how long pregnancy lasts.' However, he said that recent progress had been encouraging. Nguyen and other scientists remain confident they can clone the saola, a prospect that does little to impress other researchers. 'Cloning is a tool for last-ditch heroics,' said Wildt. 'It's too premature to consider it.'

Or as another ecologist put it: 'There is no conservation benefit from cloning the saola. The money would be better spent trying to protect the species in the wild.'

The saolas, which were once icons of conservation, are now almost extinct.


The saola 'Asian unicorn' in pictures

This antelope-like reclusive species - which actually has two horns but is known as a unicorn for its rarity - lives in remote regions on the border of Vietnam and Laos. Under 100 may now be left in the wild

Click to view:

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« Reply #167 on: Nov 13, 2013, 07:30 AM »

Researchers: Cooler climate helped penguins’ march through evolution

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 20:25 EST

Penguins waddled into the book of life around 20 million years ago and diversified thanks to global cooling which opened up Antarctica for habitation, a study said on Wednesday.

Scientists led by Sankar Subramanian of Griffith University in Australia sequenced telltale signatures of DNA from the genome of 11 penguin species that are alive today.

They compared these stretches to make a “molecular clock” — a way of calculating how species evolve on the basis of regular mutations in DNA.

By this yardstick, the forerunner of all penguins lived 20.4 million years ago, according to the paper, published in the British journal Biology Letters.

If so, penguins showed up more recently than thought. Previous estimates put their emergence at 41-51 million years ago.

Penguins then diversified around 11 to 16 million years ago to form most of the species that are around today, according to the study.

“This overlaps with the sharp decline in Antarctic temperatures that began approximately 12 million years ago, suggesting a possible relationship between climate change and penguin evolution.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #168 on: Nov 14, 2013, 06:17 AM »

U.S. posts $1 million reward against Laotian poaching ring

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 20:14 EST

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday offered a $1 million reward to help smash a Laos-based poaching network slaughtering endangered elephants and rhinos for their precious horns and tusks.

The reward, the first of its kind by the State Department, targeted the Xaysavang network which operates from Laos as far afield as South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China.

“The involvement of sophisticated transnational criminal organizations in wildlife trafficking perpetuates corruption, threatens the rule of law and border security in fragile regions,” Kerry said in a statement.

He estimated that annual profits from wildlife trafficking reached as much as $8 billion to $10 billion, and were then pumped into other “illicit activities such as narcotics, arms, and human trafficking.”

Another effect of poaching was that it “destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for biodiversity and eco-tourism,” he said.

Offering the department’s first reward under the transnational organized crime rewards program, Kerry said the Xaysavang network “facilitates the killing of endangered elephants, rhinos, and other species for products such as ivory.”

He revealed that several major seizures of illegal wildlife products had been traced back to the network.

The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn, used in traditional medicine, and ivory has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.

Police in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar on Wednesday said they had seized a 40-foot (12-meter) container hiding an estimated several tonnes’ worth of ivory.

The seizure comes as authorities in Tanzania crack down on poaching amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #169 on: Nov 14, 2013, 06:53 AM »

11/13/2013 05:36 PM

Cutting Antibiotics: Denmark Leads Way in Healthier Pig Farming

By Julia Koch

Many tons of antibiotics are administered every year to chickens and pigs in Europe, a trend that encourages the rise of drug-resistant microbes. But Denmark has shown how farmers can be made to abandon this policy of dangerous over-medication.

Before Michael Nielsen goes into his barn, he first strips down to just his T-shirt, socks and underwear, pulls on a white jumpsuit and rubber shoes, and scrubs his hands with disinfectant. Only then does he check on his pigs.

Nielsen has 650 sows on his farm near Copenhagen, and he plans to increase that number to 850 soon. With each sow bearing up to 30 piglets a year, the Danish farmer will then have over 25,000 pigs, give or take.

"We check on every single one of the animals, every day," Nielsen says. That's because in the kind of intensive livestock farming he practices, illnesses are unavoidable. Piglets catch diarrhea and coughs from one another, and the older pigs acquire bites and scratches in fights. Sows get infections if the farmer has to intervene in a birth, and bored young pigs bite each other's tails until they're bloody.

In such cases, Nielsen takes up his syringe and administers Duoprim for diarrhea, Streptocillin for infections. But only if more than a quarter of the pigs in one barn have diarrhea does Nielsen treat the whole herd at once by mixing antibiotics into their drinking water. If he doesn't, he says, there's too great a risk the pigs could end up all contracting the infection.

Unlike his counterparts in Germany, Nielsen is required to report every single treatment he administers. Denmark monitors the use of antibiotics in agriculture more rigorously than almost any other country, in response to concerns over drug-resistant microbes.

The Approach of a Post-Antibiotic Era

Each use of antibiotics creates more bacteria with genetic resistance to antimicrobial agents, eventually resulting in drug-resistant "killer bugs" that can make a lung infection, for example, life threatening for humans as well.

"The more antibiotics we use today, the less chance we'll still have effective antibiotics tomorrow," warns Steven Solomon from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. Already, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC estimate that each year over 40,000 people in the European Union and the United States die of infections caused by multi-resistant microbes. Epidemiologists predict a coming "post-antibiotic era."

Scientists believe part of the responsibility lies with farmers' careless overuse of these drugs. Doctors, too, overprescribe antibiotics for human patients, but experts estimate that twice as many antibiotics are now prescribed to healthy animals as to sick humans. "I think we have this the wrong way round," says England's Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies. "Epidemiologists don't need to prove that using antibiotics for livestock poses a danger. The vets need to prove why they need so many antibiotics."

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan likewise criticizes a powerful lobby she says wants to "prevent regulation of any kind." Just one country, Denmark, is a "pioneer in its handling of this problem," Chan says.

Denmark first slammed on the brakes and began strictly regulating the use of antibiotics 20 years ago. If farmers' usage increases despite these regulations, they face sanctions. In Germany, on the other hand, until recently there was no data on the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture. And analysis broken down by species or by individual farm, as is available in Denmark, doesn't exist in Germany.

Germany 'Lagging Behind Other Countries'

Not until September of last year were figures on German antibiotics usage in agriculture published. According to data collected by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, in 2011 pharmaceutical companies supplied German veterinarians with a staggering 1,734 tons of antimicrobial agents. Only around 800 tons were used in human medicine during the same time period.

In October, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) published a study comparing the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine in 25 European countries. The differences are considerable. In 2011, German livestock farmers administered an average of 211 milligrams of these agents per kilogram of "biomass treated." Only Spanish, Italian and Cypriot famers used more. The frugal Danes, in contrast, got by with just 43 milligrams.

"We've taken the easy route for too long," admits Thomas Blaha, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover (TiHo). "Now we're lagging behind other countries."

Every injection farmer Nielsen gives his pigs is recorded in a centralized register run by the Danish Integrated Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring and Research Program (DANMAP). If his usage were to exceed a certain limit, he would receive a letter from the organization, a so-called "yellow card," and have to pay a fine. In the worst-case scenario, authorities could force him to reduce the number of animals on his farm. And anyone would be able to read online that Nielsen from Slangerup had administered too many drugs to his livestock.

And so the farmer does everything he can to make sure that doesn't happen. His use of antibiotics, Nielsen says, is below the national average.

Vets Selling Medications

Nielsen and his five employees always start their daily rounds through the halls of his 5,000-square-meter (54,000-square-foot) facility with the youngest animals, so they don't introduce germs from the older pigs to the younger ones. The piglets in the first of Nielsen's 26 barns are just 12 days old. Some are suckling at their mothers' teats, while others snuggle together in the red glow of the heat lamps.

A couple of doors further on, piglets tussle over toys dangling from the ceiling. In another room, newly inseminated sows lounge in the straw, smacking their lips. The older animals bear ear markers that are recognized by the dispensing station of the farm's automatic feeding system. For each hungry animal, an individual feed mix spills into the trough. And the farmer can check on his computer whether any of the animals has skipped a meal, since lack of appetite can be a sign of infection.

When Nielsen wants to refill the small medical refrigerator in the feeding room, his veterinarian issues the prescription. But to fill that prescription, the farmer has to go to the pharmacy. This procedure was revolutionary for veterinarians. Until 1994, vets were allowed to sell medications too, earning good money with the sale of drugs they themselves had prescribed.

This dispensing permission, now abolished in Denmark, is still in effect in Germany, where antibiotics account for 20 percent of sales at some veterinary practices. "Saying this doesn't exactly endear me to my European colleagues," says Jan Dahl, a veterinarian with the Danish Agricultural and Food Council, "but Danish veterinarians make their living from their medical expertise, not from the drugs they sell."

Since 2000, administering antibiotics to healthy animals for the purpose of making them grow faster has also been prohibited in Denmark. The EU as a whole didn't follow with a ban on such "growth enhancers" until six years later. And in the US and Asia, farmers continue to pump piglets full of antimicrobial agents. "They look like sausages on four legs," says Nielsen, whose own piglets tend to look bonier. "But that's not meat I would want to eat."

Wading Through Pig Manure

Additionally, Danish veterinarians don't use the types of antibiotics that are important in human medicine -- third- and fourth-generation fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins.

Thanks to all these measures, Denmark's usage of antimicrobial agents is around 60 percent less than it was in the mid-1990s, and there are plans to reduce it further still. Currently in the works is a method that will make it possible to accurately determine whether antibiotics are needed at all. Jens Peter Nielsen, a veterinary science professor at Copenhagen University, has developed a cotton sock that farmers can pull over their shoes before they wade through the pig manure in their barns. They then send the manure-drenched sock to a laboratory for testing. Only if the pathogenic bacteria count found there exceeds a certain level are antibiotics recommended.

Germany doesn't have such limits in place. There are plans, though, to start keeping closer track of usage here, when Amendment 16 of Germany's Medicinal Products Act comes into effect on April 1, 2014. However, the amendment does little to establish concrete goals for reducing usage or sanctions for farmers who are too free in their application of antibiotics.

At the core of the reform is a database that will record every instance of antibiotics use by every individual farmer. This, too, is urgently needed, as a monitoring system established in 2011 by a company called QS GmbH shows. The company's database, VetProof, contains information on the antibiotics use of most pork and poultry producers in Germany.

Pinpointing 'High Users'

Epidemiologist Thomas Blaha at TiHo recently analyzed a first set of data. His conclusion: "Around 20 percent of our livestock farmers use 80 percent of the antibiotics. There are farmers using up to 100 times as much per animal as their neighbors, who are raising the same animals in the same region."

Just pinpointing these "high users" and providing advice targeted specifically to them would be a huge step forward, Blaha believes. "There are farmers who treat the entire herd as soon as one pig develops a cough," he says. "Others place sick animals in a separate pen and give the drugs only to them."

Then there are farmers who compensate for the poor conditions in which they keep their livestock by pumping the animals full of drugs, says Theodor Mantel, president of Germany's Federal Chamber of Veterinarians. Installing a new ventilation system or completely rebuilding a barn to make it more modern is more expensive than buying a couple bottles of these problematic antibiotics.

Michael Nielsen, the Danish farmer, built his ultramodern facility in the late 1990s. His pigs have 30 percent more space than stipulated by law and the piglets remain with their mothers longer than required.

"I wanted to build barns that would comply with future laws as well," he explains, proudly reaching in to pick up a piglet from one of his pens. The piglet squeals indignantly, and manure of a rather liquid consistency splashes onto Nielsen's white jumpsuit. "Oh," he jokes. "Guess I'll need to treat that after all."

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

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« Reply #170 on: Nov 15, 2013, 05:25 AM »

DNA analysis shows modern dogs descended from ancient European wolves

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 14, 2013 14:52 EST

If your dog could talk, he might have a European accent.

A new study out Thursday comparing DNA from modern canines to ancient fossils suggests that today’s pets descended from wolves in Europe.

Man’s earliest best friends likely scavenged bones from scrap piles left behind by hunter-gatherers, said the report by international researchers in the journal Science.

The bolder the wolf, the more he would be able to eat and the more loyal to humans he would become.

Scientists now believe this process of domestication likely began as many as 19,000 to 32,000 years ago.

“All modern dogs have a very close relationship to ancient dogs or wolves from Europe,” lead author Olaf Thalmann, a researcher at the University of Turku in Finland, told AFP.

The team analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of 18 prehistoric canines — eight dogs and 10 wolves — and compared them to 77 mitochondrial genomes, showcasing traits inherited from the mother, from dogs from all over the world.

The ancient samples came from Russia, Ukraine, Central Europe, the United States and Argentina, Thalmann said. Some were more than 30,000 years old.

The modern DNA from dogs and wolves spanned the globe, from Israel to China, Sweden to Mexico.

“The oldest domesticated dog material came from Europe,” said co-author Robert Wayne, a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California Los Angeles.

“It was an inescapable conclusion.”

However, other researchers say the matter of who tamed dogs first and where it happened is far from settled.

A separate team of researchers published a study in Science in 2002, saying that the modern dogs came from southern China.

“Our data points to origins in China and I am still pretty sure that is the place,” said Peter Savolainen, an associate professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.

Savolainen said the study by Thalmann and colleagues lacks samples from important parts of the world — namely the Middle East and China.

“If you are looking for the origins of dogs and you only have samples from Europe, then of course it must be Europe,” he told AFP.

Savolainen said that much like the “Out of Africa” theory that says humans originated in Africa and migrated elsewhere, dog history follows an “Out of south China” scheme.

“You see several branches that are unique among dogs in south China and you don’t see them anywhere else,” he said.

Asked about the criticism from China theorists, Thalmann countered that his team used more complete DNA sequencing and older samples that show Europe was indeed the place where it all began.

Still, the matter is far from settled, Thalmann told AFP. More research in the years to come may reveal more on the topic, perhaps through the discovery of more fossils, or a more complete look at the genetic data.

In the meantime, most experts agree that early dogs became a part of human life long before the development of agriculture and farming societies.

Little is known about the people who domesticated them, or how they did it.

But Savolainen believes that wolves took the lead when it came to befriending humans, at least initially.

“They approached human camps and ate from the scrap heaps and those who dared come closer would get most of the food and they would have an evolutionary advantage,” he told AFP.

“So with each generation they would sort of tame themselves to get accustomed to humans. That is everybody’s favorite theory, and I think it is a nice theory as well.”

As some wolves relied less on killing prey and more on eating scraps, their snouts gradually grew shorter. They likely followed human groups whenever they picked up and moved camps.

Then, about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, the closer friendship truly began.

“At some point, people and wolves really started interacting and humans took over the rest of the domestication process,” said Savolainen.

Thalmann said his team’s evidence suggests dogs likely accompanied European explorers to the New World.

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« Reply #171 on: Nov 16, 2013, 06:37 AM »

Hundreds of rare primates seized from animal smugglers in Indonesia

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, November 15, 2013 8:36 EST

Hundreds of slow lorises have been seized on Indonesia’s Java island as animal smugglers were about to send the protected primates to markets to be sold as pets, officials said on Friday.

Government officials last week discovered 238 of the nocturnal animals, one of the few mammals that has a toxic bite, packed into small plastic crates at the port of Merak in the north-west of Java.

They had been smuggled from Sumatra, a vast, jungle-covered, biodiverse island that is home to many rare animals, said protection group the International Animal Rescue Foundation Indonesia.

The group took them to their rescue centre but on the way “six of them died… because they were squeezed tight in the crates and lacked food and water,” the foundation’s Aris Hidayat told AFP.

The animals were about to be sent to markets in the capital Jakarta and surrounding cities when they were rescued, Hidayat said.

Vets at the rescue centre believe the animals had only been captured recently and said hopefully they could be released back into the wild soon, he said.

The Natural Resources Conservation Agency, the government body that discovered the lorises, said a man had been named a suspect in the case and would face trial soon.

Under Indonesian law, someone caught selling protected animals faces a maximum of five years in jail and a 100 million rupiah ($8,700) fine.

The slow loris, which has big eyes, grey fur and is closely related to the lemur, is found across Southeast Asia.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature categorises the lorises on Sumatra as vulnerable.

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« Reply #172 on: Nov 19, 2013, 07:00 AM »

TV host Melissa Bachman criticized for smiling photograph of herself with dead lion

By Scott Kaufman
Monday, November 18, 2013 12:51 EST

NEW: Watch Melissa Bachman take down her first moose.

A Minnesota-based host of a big-game hunting program caused a worldwide controversy after she posted a picture of herself posing with a male lion she had just shot in South Africa.

“An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion,” Melissa Bachman tweeted. “What a hunt!”

The response was swift, including Facebook group devoted to “stopping” her and numerous petitions, both in the United States and abroad.

“She is an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation, this country prides itself on,” one petition reads. “As tax payers we demand she no longer be granted access to this country and its natural resources.”

Although African lions aren’t considered endangered, conservationists have been trying to educate trophy hunters about how to identify the age of the lions they shoot. Hunters tend to prefer the older, dominant males, which creates potentially devastating infighting problems within the pride. Males seeking to fill the dominant position have been known to kill the cubs and lionesses of their former rivals.

The response by English comedian and The Office co-creator Ricky Gervais called attention to Bachmann’s initial tweet:

    “@MelissaBachman: incredible day in South Africa! Stalked this male lion…what a hunt!” spot the typo
    — Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) November 14, 2013

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« Reply #173 on: Nov 20, 2013, 07:46 AM »

Twin lion cubs born in Gaza

The cubs – one male, one female – are offspring of lions smuggled into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt four years ago

Harriet Sherwood, Jerusalem correspondent, Wednesday 20 November 2013 09.29 GMT   

Two unusual additions to Gaza's ballooning population have been proudly announced by Hamas: twin lion cubs, the first to be born inside the beleaguered coastal strip.

Their arrival at the Bissan amusement park, a Hamas-run enterprise in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza, came in the week of the anniversary of last year's eight-day conflict with Israel. To mark the timing, the cubs – one male, one female – were named Fajr and Sijil.

Fajr is Arabic for dawn, but is also the name of some of the missiles fired by Hamas and other militant groups at Israel last November. Sijil translates as clay, and is the name Hamas gave to last year's conflict.

The cubs' parents were smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels under the border with Egypt four years ago.

"The lioness gave birth yesterday [Monday] to two cubs, one male and one female," said Nahed al-Majdub, Bissan's manager, on Tuesday. "It is the first time lions have been born in the Gaza Strip," he added.

The cubs now face a life of captivity within captivity. Animals are kept in cages next to picnic areas. Bissan is one of several zoos in Gaza, most of which are populated with animals brought through smuggling tunnels.

Around the time of the cubs' birth, a woman from Gaza gave birth to sextuplets following fertility treatment. Ghada Hammad, 34, delivered four boys and two girls at a hospital in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military struck four targets in Gaza on Tuesday night, following rocket fire earlier in the day.

There has been sporadic fire over the last week, marking the anniversary of the conflict in which 158 Palestinians were killed, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Six Israelis also died in the conflict.

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« Reply #174 on: Nov 21, 2013, 07:40 AM »

Canada's refusal to protect polar bears comes under scrutiny

Allies and neighbours call for formal investigation into government's decision to offer only limited protection

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 21 November 2013 11.59 GMT      

Canada's closest allies and neighbours have called for a formal investigation into the government's refusal to offer full protection to polar bears threatened with extinction because of climate change.

The secretariat of the Central Environmental Commission (CEC) said this week there were "central open questions" about Canada's decision to offer only limited protection to polar bears. The CEC, which was set up by America, Canada, and Mexico under the North America free trade agreement, went on to call for an investigation.

Canadian officials may not have given enough importance to research predicting the loss of two-thirds of the world's polar bears by 2050 due to melting of Arctic sea ice, the secretariat suggested. The 2007 study by US Geological Survey researchers said a number of polar bear populations inside Canada would disappear entirely, or be severely decimated.

Partly in response to that work, America declared polar bears an endangered species in 2008, but Canada stopped short, listing polar bears as a "species of special concern" in 2011.

This week's recommendations from the CEC secretariat, in response to a petition from the Centre for Biological Diversity, further underlined the Canadian government's international isolation over its environmental policies. The Centre for Global Development this week ranked Canada last among the world's 27 richest countries for its environmental record.

Canada has also come under strong criticism at the international climate negotiations in Warsaw this week for expanding the carbon-heavy Alberta tar sands and dropping out of the Kyoto protocol.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been accused of weakening environmental regulations and "muzzling" government scientists who do not fit in with his energy agenda.

"This is a government that believes first of all that economic development, particularly resource extraction, is substantially more important than environmental protection and environmental stewardship," said Chris Turner, whose book, The War on Science, charts the government's clashes with scientists.

Now, in a further rebuff to the Canadian government, it appears even the neighbours have doubts about its environmental stewardship.

"The secretariat finds that there remain central open questions about Canada's enforcement of the Species at Risk Act, in respect of the polar bear species," said the CEC.

It went on to call for an investigation leading to the publication of a "factual record" tracing the key steps in Canada's decision to deny top tier protection to a critically at risk species. The secretariat has given the CEC council 60 days to respond.

In calling for the investigation, the secretariat said it was unclear whether Canada had based its decision on the "best available" science. The Canadian government this week defended its 2011 decision, saying the polar bears were protected under "strong domestic legislation to conserve and protect wildlife in Canada".

Sara Uhlemann, the senior attorney who pursued the Centre for Biological Diversity's case, said that determination was critical.

"The most critical part of this is really questioning the science by which Canada made its decision to refuse protections to polar bear," she said. "It says there are open questions as to whether Canada was looking at best climate science out there and that the climate science is very clear."

She said the designation offered little in the way of real protection. "If you are listed as that third category as a species of special concern you really don't get any special protection," she said.

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« Reply #175 on: Nov 21, 2013, 09:26 AM »

Dog thought killed by tornado rescued after 30 hours buried under rubble

By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 17:50 EST

A survivor of the devastating tornadoes that struck the Midwest and Ohio Valley earlier this week was reunited with his beloved dog, who had been buried beneath the rubble of his house for nearly 30 hours.

In the moments before a tornado struck his Washington, Illinois home, Jonathan Byler Dann and his four children attempted to coax their dog Maggie out her kennel and into the basement with them. She refused to leave, and after his house was destroyed, Byler Dann assumed Maggie was dead.

But 30 hours later, as family and friends sifted through the rubble of his former home, they heard a faint barking. Beneath the debris, wrapped in a roll of carpet, was Maggie. Byler Dann reportedly burst into tears.

Maggie was suffering from exposure and in great pain, but she was alive. She is being treated for a dislocated hip at the Teegarden Veterinary Clinic.

Her medical bills, which will eventually total over $1,000, have been paid for by donations, but the clinic is working with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation to solicit more funds to treat other animals injured in the storm.

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« Reply #176 on: Nov 22, 2013, 06:18 AM »

Gaza zoo blames Israel after two lion cubs die

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 21, 2013 13:17 EST

Two lion cubs born in Gaza this week and named in honour of Hamas’ last major clash with Israel died on Thursday, a zoo official said.

“The lions named Fajr and Sijil (Dawn and Clay in Arabic) died today due to a deterioration of their health at birth,” Shadi Hamad, supervisor of animals at Bissan park, told AFP.

“The cause of death is a lack of experience and resources for the birth and treatment of cubs. Food and medicines for such a situation are not available” because of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, said Hamad.

“We had tried to contact the relevant authorities in Egypt, but these are blockade conditions,” he added without elaborating.

Since toppling Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, the Egyptian army has destroyed nearly all tunnels used for smuggling goods into the Palestinian territory that Israel prohibits.

The lions were born in the Hamas-run Bissan park less than a week after the first anniversary of the eight-day conflict between Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Israel in November 2012.

The head of the park, Nahed al-Majdub, announced their birth on Tuesday, saying the male and female cubs’ parents were imported from Egypt four years ago.

At the time, Hamas armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades congratulated itself on having smuggled the cubs’ parents past the Israeli blockade.

The group said on Twitter: “Despite Israel’s unjust siege, Palestinians managed to smuggle these 2 lions to draw a smile on faces of Gaza kids.”

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« Reply #177 on: Nov 23, 2013, 06:24 AM »

Rhino poaching nearly outpaces births, group warns

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, November 22, 2013 10:46 EST

Deaths of rhinos by poaching are fast approaching a tipping point, with the number of endangered creatures killed annually nearly outnumbering births for the first time, international experts warned Friday.

South Africa is the epicenter of the crisis, with a record 827 black and white rhinos killed so far this year, already far surpassing last year’s record of 668, said the International Rhino Foundation.

“These poaching levels threaten to wipe out decades of conservation progress, and it is imperative that we take action now,” said IRF executive director Susie Ellis.

Despite the heavy toll of poaching, birth rates by black rhinos — of which there are 5,000 left in nine countries in Africa — continue to slowly increase, said the IRF.

Meanwhile, the white rhino population of about 20,400 is also slowly increasing.

“Overall, populations have remained relatively stable in the face of increasingly aggressive and sophisticated poaching, but the situation is almost certainly unsustainable in the long term,” said the IRF in its annual State of the Rhino report released on Friday.

Representatives of the US-based foundation were meeting with conservation leaders from around the world in Tampa, Florida to discuss new strategies to end the crisis.

All five kinds of rhino species alive today face some kind of threat, whether from poaching, loss of habitat through deforestation or human settlements encroaching on their land.

Demand for rhino horn is driven by lucrative criminal trafficking and the belief in some Asian countries that it can cure cancer and other ailments, though experts say the horn has no special powers and is made of the same material as fingernails.

“Despite the crisis, there is hope for rhinos,” Ellis said.

“We believe that the situation can be turned around. The sticking point is whether rhino countries like South Africa and consumer countries like Vietnam and China will enforce their laws and whether countries like Indonesia will take the bold actions needed to save Sumatran and Javan rhinos.”

As few as 100 Sumatran rhinos are left, and there are around 44 Javan rhinos. Both are critically endangered and considered on the brink of extinction.

The State of the Rhino report also warned of “recent increases in poaching activity in northeastern India,” home to the greater one-horned rhino of which about 3,300 remain in the world.

Detailing steps forward in the worldwide effort to save the ancient creatures, it touted some successes in Botswana, Zimbabwe, India and Indonesia, and urged officials to ramp up their efforts to protect rhinos and their habitat.

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« Reply #178 on: Nov 23, 2013, 07:52 AM »

November 22, 2013

Wind Energy Company to Pay $1 Million in Bird Deaths


Duke Energy agreed on Friday to pay $1 million in fines as part of the Justice Department’s first criminal case against a wind power company for the deaths of protected birds.

A subsidiary of the company, Duke Energy Renewables, pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Wyoming on Friday to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that protects migratory birds. The company was charged with killing 14 golden eagles and dozens of other birds at two wind projects in Wyoming since 2009.

In a plea agreement, the company said it would pay the fines to several conservation groups, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The company must also put a plan in place to prevent bird deaths in the future, federal officials said. “In this plea agreement, Duke Energy Renewables acknowledges that it constructed these wind projects in a manner it knew beforehand would likely result in avian deaths,” Robert G. Dreher, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division, said in a statement.

Birds are often killed when they collide with the wind turbines, meteorological towers and power facilities associated with wind power projects, federal officials said. The golden eagle, which is named for its golden feathers and has a wingspan of about six feet, is commonly found in the western Plains.
Duke Energy said it had already been working with federal officials to limit bird deaths. The company is installing new radar technology to detect birds and using field biologists to look for eagles and determine when turbines need to be shut down, the company said. “Our goal is to provide the benefits of wind energy in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” Greg Wolf, the president of Duke Energy Renewables, said in a statement. “We deeply regret the impacts to golden eagles at two of our wind facilities.”

The American Bird Conservancy, a nonprofit group that supports protections for bird habitats, said that the plea agreement was a positive step toward addressing bird deaths caused by the wind industry, but that federal officials needed to do more to address violations by other companies. “All wind projects will kill some birds,” Michael Hutchins, national coordinator of the group’s bird-smart wind energy campaign, said Friday. “It is, sadly, unavoidable, but some areas are worse than others, and we can predict where many of these will be.”
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« Reply #179 on: Nov 26, 2013, 06:28 AM »

Animal rights activist charged with abuse after exposing cattle company’s cruelty

By Arturo Garcia
Monday, November 25, 2013 17:43 EST

Activist charged with abuse after exposing cattle farm's cruelty [YouTube]

Employees at a Colorado cattle ranch are facing animal cruelty charges after being caught on video mishandling newborn calves — but so is the woman who brought their activities to the attention of authorities.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that the sheriff’s office in Weld County charged Taylor Radig along with employees at the Quanah Cattle Company for not sharing her information until two months after ending her stint there as a temporary employee.

Sheriff John B. Cooke said in a statement that “Radig’s failure to report the alleged abuse of the animals in a timely manner adheres to the definition of acting with negligence and substantiates the charge,” and that she is believed to have taken part in the activities she filmed.

According to KMGH-TV, Radig identified herself as a “contractor” for Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights group. She worked at Quanah from mid-July 2013 through the end of September, then handed over footage of employees dragging the male calves, pushing them around and other forms of abuse.

Quanah employees Tomas Cerda, Larry Loma and Ernesto Daniel Valenzuela-Alvarez are each facing one misdemeanor charge of animal abuse, which carries penalties of a fine ranging between $500 and $5,000, as well as a possible jail sentence of six to 18 months. The company announced it had fired the three men in the wake of Radig’s revelation.

Compassion Over Killing executive director Erica Meier criticized the charges against Radig, saying, “This shoot-the-messenger strategy is aimed at detracting attention away from the crimes of those who actually abused animals.”

Watch some of Radig’s footage depicting the conditions at Quanah, as posted by Compassion Over Killing earlier this month, below.

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