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Sea sparkle: Why the magnificent blue glow of Hong Kong seas is as dangerous as it is gorgeous

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 23 Januari 2015 | 22.33

Eerie fluorescent blue patches of water glimmering off Hong Kong's seashore are magnificent, disturbing and potentially toxic, marine biologists say.

The glow is an indicator of a harmful algal bloom created by something called Noctiluca scintillans, nicknamed Sea Sparkle.

It looks like algae and can act like algae. But it's not quite.

It is a single-celled organism that technically can function as both animal and plant.

These type blooms are triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye, who was shown Associated Press photos of the glowing water.

"Those pictures are magnificent. It's just extremely unfortunate that the mysterious and majestic blue hue is created by a Noctiluca,'' Joye wrote in an email Thursday.

This is part of a problem that is growing worldwide, said Joye and other scientists.

Noctiluca is a type of single-cell life that eats plankton and is eaten by other species. The plankton and Noctiluca become more abundant when nitrogen and phosphorous from farm run-off increase.

Unlike similar organisms, Noctiluca doesn't directly produce chemicals that can attack the nervous system or parts of the body.

But recent studies show it is much more complicated and links them to blooms that have been harmful to marine life. Noctiluca's role as both prey and predator can eventually magnify the accumulation of algae toxins in the food chain, according to oceanographer R Eugene Turner at Louisiana State University.

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NGT asks West Bengal government to demolish illegal structures in Sunderbans

KOLKATA: The National Green Tribunal has directed the West Bengal government to demolish illegal constructions coming up in the Sunderbans, habitat of the Royal Bengal tigers and the world's largest mangrove forest.

The tribunal's East Zone bench directed the state to demolish such structures, even if any of these were allowed by statutory bodies, and submit a report to it after six weeks.

It took up suo motu proceedings based on reports of degradation of the tiger and several other flora and fauna habitat, which was also very important for maintaining ecological balance in the region.

Though tiger population in the Sunderbans has been found to be stable in the latest census report released on Wednesday, the tribunal incidentally on the same day came down heavily on the degradation of the forest due to human encroachment in different forms.

The tribunal's East Zone bench directed the state Chief Secretary to demolish all unauthorised structures, encroachments on rivers and river banks and illegally constructed embankments and dykes.

The East Zone bench, comprising Justice (retd) Pratap Roy and Professor P C Mishra, also directed that tiger prawn farming and illegal pisciculture in the mangrove, crisscrossed by a large number of rivers and canals, has to be stopped.

The bench, which had appointed environment activist Subhas Datta as amicus curae, noted from his report that several illegal brick kilns have come up within the reserve and directed that these have to go immediately.

It also directed the Chief Secretary to constitute a committee to monitor such activities in the Sunderbans and to ensure stoppage of all illegal activities there, which could cause environmental degradation.

The committee would submit a progress report after six weeks and thereafter once every month.

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Endangered chimpanzee can disappear in our lifetime

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 22 Januari 2015 | 22.33

NEW YORK: Climate change has threatened the population of the planet's most endangered chimpanzee sub-species, researchers report.

The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is the most endangered of all chimpanzee sub-species in the world, with only about 6,000 individuals estimated in the wild.

The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is perhaps the least studied of all chimpanzee sub-species.

"We were surprised to see that the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees living in the savannah-woodland habitat of central Cameroon are under the most immediate threat of climate change, and may completely lose their habitat within our lifetime," said first author Paul Sesink Clee, graduate research fellow at Drexel University in the US.

The team predicted the mountainous rainforest habitat could disappear almost entirely under the worst case scenario by 2080.

With roughly half of the 6,000 Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees existing in the ecotone habitat of central Cameroon, the results suggest that this sub-species of chimpanzee is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

The research was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

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6 tiger reserves worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore, says valuation study

NEW DELHI: In a first of its kind exercise, India has conducted economic valuation of six of its tiger reserves and placed their value at Rs 1,49,900 crore. The study has also noted that these six reserves have been generating annual monetary benefits worth Rs 7,970 crore.

The six tiger reserves which were surveyed for this study are Corbett, Kanha, Kaziranga, Periyar, Ranthambore and Sundarbans.

India has 47 tiger reserves covering over 2% of the area and approximately 10% of the recorded forest area. Latest tiger census, released on Tuesday, shows that India - which is home to 70% of world's tiger population - has a total of 2,226 tigers.

READ ALSO: 2,226 now — Tiger numbers grow by 30% in 4 years

Can forests sustain India's Big Cat boom?

The valuation study, executed by Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal, at the behest of the environment ministry's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), provides quantitative and qualitative estimates of benefits accruing from tiger reserves which include economic, social and cultural services.

"The study findings indicate that the monetary value of flow benefits emanating from selected tiger reserves range from Rs 830 crore to Rs 1,760 crore annually. In terms of unit area, this translates into Rs 50,000 to Rs 190,000 per hectare per year," said the summary of the report released simultaneously with the tiger census by the Union environment and forests minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday.

The report shows that Periyar tiger reserve has the highest annual flow benefits (Rs 1,760 crore), followed by Kanha (Rs 1,650 crore) and Corbett (Rs 1,470 crore).

The study is expected to assist policy makers in appreciating the economics of tiger conservation and may be considered by them while taking a call on any project in future.

"The study, which is a first of its kind not only in the country but across the world, is a commendable attempt to provide an assessment of economic benefits from tiger reserves across a range of tiger landscape in India," said Javadekar.

The experts while calculating the economic value of these six tiger reserves took into account the monetary estimates of a range of "ecosystem services" including water provisioning, gene-pool protection, carbon storage and sequestration among others tangible and intangible benefits. Potential of employment generation and tourism had also been factored in while conducting the valuation exercise.

The findings may provide justification for enhanced investment in such areas which are critical to ensure flow of vital life-supporting ecological, economic, social and cultural services from these genetic repositories.

"The findings will assist the policy makers appreciating the economics of tiger conservation in India and help in developing and further strengthening policy frameworks for conservation of natural eco-systems", said the 284-page report titled 'Economic Valuation of Tiger Reserves in India: A Value plus Approach'.

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Leopard cub found dead in Amreli

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 20 Januari 2015 | 22.33

RAJKOT: A six-month-old male leopard cub was found dead on a road near Umariya village in Amreli district on Monday morning.

The animal's body was sent to Jasadhar animal care center for postmortem by the forest department officials from Tulsishyam forest range.

Sources said that the cub could have been run over by a vehicle on Sunday night. At least five wild animals including lions have died in road accidents in Saurashtra region in the last one year.

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Widest ever lion census in May 2015

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat's lion census will cover all of Saurashtra, barring Surendranagar, will be carried out over five days beginning on May 2. The last census was conducted in April 2010 and revealed that the lion population had increased by from 359 (in 2005) to 411 in 2010.

The census is conducted every five years. Officials said all eyes are on the census as this year the department will be covering an area covering Bhavnagar-Jamnagar-Porbandar, Rajkot to a wide coastal region. This is the first census that will cover over 25,000 sq km, all across Saurashtra. Officials said that the 2010 census was conducted across 10,000 sq km and had put the population at 359. In 2000, only 5,000 sq km was covered and that put the population at 300.

Officials said that a stray lion was recently captured in Jamnagar and as a result of this, the forest department will carry out the census in pockets of Jamnagar that are adjacent to Junagadh and Porbandar districts. The department will also conduct a count in Barda, where they feel lions could have strayed.

Officials said that with the carving out of new districts, administration of not just Amreli, Porbandar, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and Rajkot will be involved, but new districts of Gir-Somnath, Botad will also be involved. Officials said that apart from the 1,800 sq km sanctuary area, which includes Gir Sanctuary, Gir National Park, Paniya, Mityalaya and Girnar sanctuaries, some 23,200 sq km outside the sanctuary will be covered.

Officials said the census will be conducted using the direct sighting method and pug marks. The officials said the live bait census method has been banned. Officials said also said that the census will be taken up over two rounds, with an initial count and then a final count over three days. Officials said that the department will also use Global Positioning system and photography. The department has also decided that the focus, while taking photographs, has to be on specific marks, said the official.

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Winged visitors throng Bhitarkanika national park of Odisha

Written By kom nampultig on Minggu, 18 Januari 2015 | 22.33

KENDRAPARA: With 66 per cent rise in the number of winter migratory birds, Bhitarkanika national park has re-established its status as one of the prominent avian habitats in Odisha.

As per the latest census report released by the forest department, 1,13,226 feathered species from trans-Himalayan region flew to Bhitarkanika wetland sites in Kendrapara district for their winter sojourn this year.

The census findings have found a substantial 66 per cent rise in the number of winged guests than the preceding year. While 68,514 winter migrant birds had made their way to the national park in 2013, the latest census put the number of winged guests at 1,13,226, official data said.

The enumerators spotted two rare groups of birds of central Asian origin from wetland spots of the park. The rare group of avian species sighted are greater scaup and ferragon pochard. These species were sighted for the first time in Bhitarkanika, said divisional forest officer, Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) forest division, Kedar Kumar Swain.

These winged species come under rare and threatened category. Unable to cope with extreme cold in their original habitat, the feathered species preferred these congenial wetland spots, he said.

The annual winter sojourn of birds in large numbers has re-established the marshy wetlands of Bhitarkanika as one of Odisha's prominent bird habitats, he said.

Harsh cold and snow fall in trans-Himalayan region has resulted in exodus of large number of migrant species to Bhitarkanika. This apart, lack of human interference, congenial environs and rich food reserve here proved ideal for the avian visitors. The enumerators also found that these species were fatigued after their long flight, said the official.

There is ample food security for the birds as the place criss-crossed by innumerable water inlets and nullahs. Lack of human interference, ideal climatic condition, cool breeze and the river system here all have emerged to the liking of these delicate chirpy winged species. This in itself is a positive sign and thus further research on the behavioural pattern of these threatened species is being taken up, Swain said.

Enumerators have also spotted hordes of Back-headed Godwit, Greater Crested Tern, common Shell duck and blue tailed Godwits, which come under rare and threatened category. The prominent species who have also made Bhitarkanika their winter home are Brahmin Duck, Bar-headed Geesse, Godwin, Pintail, painted stork, seagauls, commonteal and tawny eagle.

Other prominent winged visitors to Bhitarkanika this time are Indian Skimmers, Grey Pelicans and White-backed Vultures, Lesser Adjutant, Greater spotted Eagles. All of these species are conferred endangered status under International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN)'s Red Book Data containing the list of highly threatened animals worldwide, Swain added.

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Thamirabarani water bird census to begin on January 2

TIRUNELVELI: The fifth edition of the Thamirabarani water bird census will be held between January 24 and 26. The census will count the number of migratory birds in the Thamirabarani river basin, falling in Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts of Tamil Nadu.

The Tamiraparani wetlands support over 90 species of birds. There are several bird habitats like Koonthankulam, Thirupudaimaruthur and Vagaikulam in Tirunelveli district. Tanks in Srivaikundam region of Tuticorin district also attract a large number of birds.

Over 67,000 birds were counted in last year's census in 53 irrigation tanks.

These birds play a very important role in maintaining the ecosystem, and humans receive enormous benefits from them, says M Mathivanan of the Manimutharu-based Agasthyamalai Community-based Conservation Centre (ACCC).

The ACCC, which is part of the Bengaluru-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), is joining hands with Tamil Nadu forest department, Pearl City Nature Society, and Nellai Nature Club (NNC) to conduct the census this year.

People who are interested in joining the programme can contact the centre at 9488063750 or send an email to awc_accc@atree.org before January 21.

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1,200 trees around Taj to be translocated

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 17 Januari 2015 | 22.33

LUCKNOW: The expansion of roads the around Taj will not cost green trees their life. The trees along the stretch will not be felled but 'safely' translocated to another site to grow.

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has paid state government Rs 1.2 crore to 'translocate' some 1,200 trees, still young and green, from NH-2 in Agra to an alternative site a few kilometers away from the place of construction.

The UP government has outsourced the `translocation' work to a private agency which will dig out trees, transport them to the new site and re-plant. NH-2 has to undergo expansion at Agra and Mathura.

Supreme Court had suggested UP government to translocate trees along the highway than getting them chopped. Forest department officers identified at least 1,200 trees fit for translocation but what delayed the work was lack of technology.

After floating the tender thrice, UP Forest Corporation has now outsourced the work to a private agency which will also take care of re-planted trees till they regenerate. "We have got the money to do work in Agra and will soon start the work," said managing director, UP Forest Corporation, Iqbal Singh. Separate agencies will carry out the work in Agra and Mathura.

Translocation is a fairly new technique and it is for the first time that trees will be `translocated' in UP. It is done using a specially designed machine (at present only Gujarat has it) which costs not less than Rs 2 to Rs 3 crore. Sources in the government said that to invest such a huge amount to translocate 1,000-odd trees is not viable. Work, therefore, has been outsourced.

Instead of cutting down age-old trees for development activities, translocating young trees to an alternative site, made ready for plantation in advance, can save lot of trees which still have years of life left. By translocating a full-grown tree to another site, environmental value is preserved because oxygen generated by a little sapling is no way comparable to the quantity generated by a quintal of foliage of a full grown tree.

Besides, in a state like UP where pressure of population on roads and traffic flow is increasing, road widening is a frequent activity. Since permission to cut down trees for development activities cannot be denied, translocation is a way out.

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White tigress mates with Royal Bengal tiger, delivers cubs

INDORE: A white tigress has given birth to cubs at Kamla Nehru Zoo here after successful breeding with a Royal Bengal tiger shifted here from Bhopal's Van Vihar National Park last year.

The exact number of cubs born is, however, not yet known as the big cat is not letting anybody come near its enclosure.

"After the union of the five-year-old yellow tiger B-1 with the four-year-old white tigress, Deepa, few cubs were born on January 15 night," Zoo Incharge, Dr Uttam Yadav said.

He said the colour of cubs and other details will be known later.

"This is the second experiment of its kind in the state wherein cubs are born after the union of Royal Bengal tiger with white tigress. We are happy with the success of the breeding programme," he said.

In a similar experiment, four yellow cubs were born on September 5 last year after mating of the B-1 tiger with another four-year-old white tigress, Shivani.

"However, three among them died due to the lack of care while the one who survived is now four-and-a-half months old now," Yadav said.

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