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Deadly virus pushing tigers towards extinction

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 08 November 2014 | 22.33

NEW YORK: Adding to the existing pressures of habitat loss, poaching and depletion of prey species, a new threat to tiger populations in the wild has surfaced in the form of a deadly virus.

According to a new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), canine distemper virus (CDV) has the potential to be a significant driver in pushing the tigers towards extinction.

While CDV has recently been shown to lead to the deaths of individual tigers, its long-term impacts on tiger populations had never before been studied, researchers said.

The authors evaluated these impacts on the Amur tiger population in Russia's Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik (SABZ), where tiger numbers declined from 38 individuals to 9 in the years 2007 to 2012.

In 2009 and 2010, six adult tigers died or disappeared from the reserve, and CDV was confirmed in two dead tigers - leading scientists to believe that CDV likely played a role in the overall decline of the population.

Joint investigations of CDV have been an ongoing focus of scientists since its first appearance in tigers in 2003.

The finding shows that smaller populations of tigers were more vulnerable to extinction by CDV. Populations consisting of 25 individuals were 1.65 times more likely to decline in the next 50 years when CDV was present.

The results are profoundly disturbing for global wild tigers given that in most sites where wild tigers persist they are limited to populations of less than 25 adult breeding individuals.

The scientists used computer modelling to simulate the effects of CDV infection on isolated tiger populations of various sizes and through a series of transmission scenarios.

These included tiger-to-tiger transmission and transmission through predation on CDV-infected domestic dogs and/or infected wild carnivores.

High and low-risk scenarios for the model were created based on variation in the prevalence of CDV and the tigers' contact with sources of exposure.

Results showed that CDV infection increased the 50-year extinction probability of tigers in SABZ as much as 55.8 per cent compared to CDV-free populations of equivalent size.

"Although we knew that individual tigers had died from CDV in the wild, we wanted to understand the risk the virus presents to whole populations," said WCS veterinarian Martin Gilbert.

"Tigers are elusive, however, and studying the long-term impact of risk factors is very challenging. Our model, based on tiger ecology data collected over 20 years in SABZ, explored the different ways that tigers might be exposed to the virus and how these impact the extinction risk to tiger populations over the long term," said Gilbert.

(The finding appears in the journal PloSONE.)

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=Wildlife Conservation Society,tiger populations,depletion of prey species,Canine Distemper Virus

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Tripura's capital city Agartala gets green city award

AGARTALA: Tripura's 176-year-old capital Agartala has been awarded the clean and green city award by a New Delhi-based urban policy and development experts group, the city's mayor said here on Saturday.

"Agartala topped the 29 towns and cities shortlisted by the Skoch Foundation for the award. The capital city has been selected for the award because of its green cover, cleanliness and solid waste management," Agartala municipal corporation mayor Prafulla Jit Sinha told reporters.

With a city population of around five lakh, the Agartala Municipal Corporation is northeast India's oldest municipal body.

Sinha said — "More than 600 municipal workers are keeping the city clean day and night. Besides, 30,000 labourers are also being engaged occasionally under the urban job scheme — Tripura Urban Employment Programme, to clean the city."

"Daily 250 tonnes of solid waste is generated in the municipal areas and collected from each home and sent to the sanitary land-fill stations," he said, adding that a large number of vehicles and containers are being procured from outside the state to collect the garbage from each part of the city.

Agartala is also set to become northeast India's first city to have energy efficient illumination with light emitting diode (LED).

Ashutosh Jindal, state urban development secretary, said — "Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) under the union ministry of power, was all set to replace the existing conventional illuminating system of Agartala with LED."

Agartala will be the second city in eastern India after Kolkata where LED street lighting is being installed. So far, Hyderabad and Vijayawada have LED lighting systems.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=Tripura Urban Employment Programme,Tripura,Agartala green city award,Agartala green,Agartala

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Make green laws efficient, cut regulatory bodies: Jairam Ramesh

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 07 November 2014 | 22.33

BENGALURU: Maximize the efficacy of current environment and forest laws. But minimize regulatory bodies to curb official corruption and maladministration. This was former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh speaking as he moderated a panel discussion on challenges to conservation in the context of a pro-growth agenda, Ramesh said: "We need to take a cue from the US which has minimized regulators and maximized the efficacy of its laws to check acid rain which was a common phenomenon a few decades ago.''

Summing up the discussion, he said: "It is imperative for the country to make economic growth not just inclusive and rapid, but also sustainable to ensure conservation."

Mahesh Rangarajan, director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, said effective ecological conservation needs an all-inclusive approach that protects wildlife and secures livelihood of people

Praveen Bhargav, managing trustee of Wildlife First, a Bengaluru-based NGO, said: "I am not against development but I am worried at the way forest and environment clearances are being given to mining and development projects in forest areas. There is a need for better application of mind, science and knowledge while giving such sanctions to make it sustainable.''

Dr Vidya Athreya, research associate, Centre For Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society, India said effective conservation can take place only if the community at large is involved.

To a question from Ramesh on how to make business environment friendly, the panelists suggested recycling as the only hope.

Khoshoo award for Rangarajan

Prof Mahesh Rangarajan, director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi was presented the prestigious TN Khoshoo Memorial Award 2014 for conservation by Jairam Ramesh. Rangarajan was selected for understanding nature-society interactions through his ideas and scholarship on history, politics and environment.

His research explores how the history of humanity's co-existence with forests and wildlife could revise the current conservation practice and writing. In 2010, Rangarajan was chairman of the national elephant task force.

Environmentalists say Rangarajan brought integrity and knowledge-based decision-making to clearance processes.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=Wildlife Conservation Society India,Mahesh Rangarajan,Jairam Ramesh,environment minister

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Eco-tourism project proposed at Sriram Nagar reserve forest

BERHAMPUR: Forest officers have proposed an eco-tourism project at Sriram Nagar reserve forest, adjoining Bhanjanagar reservoir, in Ganjam district of Odisha.

An animal rescue centre is also being planned near Biju Patnaik Children's Park in the town.

State's forest and environment minister Bikaram Keshari Arukh had recently visited the proposed sites and discussed the projects with forest officers. He asked them to submit the detailed project reports (DPRs).

"The DPRs are being prepared and these would estimate cost of the projects," DFO (Ghumusar North) Rama Swamy said.

Thick forest cover, large concentration of wild animals and sylvan surroundings make Sriram Nagar reserve forest an ideal spot for the project. Several species of migratory birds visit the reservoir for their winter sojourn every year.

"Nature lovers and tourists will enjoy spending time at the reserve forest once it is developed into an eco-tourism site," the DFO said. It will have benches, watchtowers, a herbal garden and cottages, he added.

The proposed animal rescue centre will mostly house spotted and barking deer and blackbucks. It will be later developed into a deer park, which will be a major attraction for children visiting the park, official sources said.

Swamy said the eco-tourism project at Saluapalli, 75 km from Bhanjanagar, would soon be opened to tourists. Though the project was completed two years ago, the flow of visitors has been less due to construction of an approach road to the project site, he added.

The main attractions of the 13 km forest streching from Saluapalli to Somanathpalli are a treetop house, medicinal tree garden and a pond with jetty and fibre umbrella sheds.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=forest and environment minister,Bikaram Keshari Arukh

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Rare snow leopard found in China

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 06 November 2014 | 22.34

BEIJING: A rare snow leopard was spotted for the first time in China since 2006 at a nature reserve in the country's northwest.

The animal was spotted in a photo when a researcher, Hellat with the Annanba branch of the forest police bureau of Gansu was sorting pictures.

The photo was taken by a ranger named Junsibieke, or Jensbek (pronunciation), on March 4 from Gansu Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Annanba wild camel national nature reserve was founded in 2006. "This is the first time we have found the snow leopard here. It is such a pity that we didn't see the photo until today," said Hellat.

According to Junsibieke, who is from the Kazak ethnic group, the leopard was crouching in a pothole as he patrolled the nature reserve.

Junsibieke recalled that the leopard was an adult about 1.5 metres long. It had a blood stain on its face.

Snow leopards, one of China's Class A protected animals, are usually found in the Himalayan ranges of central and south Asia at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,500 metres.

The animal has rarely been seen in the wild since last century due to loss of habitat and poaching.

An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards live in the wild, in addition to 600 to 700 more in zoos worldwide.

"In recent years, decreased rainfall, the rise of snowlines and destruction of vegetation on mountains have driven herbivorous animals to river valleys," Hellat said.

"That snow leopard must be following them", he said. Located at the junction of the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Annanba nature reserve covers 39.6 hectares and has an average altitude of about 2,000 meters.

Other rare animals such as the Lynx and Manul also live in the reserve.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=snow leopard in China,Snow Leopard

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Rail and road transport plan big push for bio-diesel

NEW DELHI: Railways has decided to power a fleet of 4,000 locomotives with alternative fuels such as bio-diesel as an attempt to move towards a cleaner environment and decrease its dependency on diesel. In a similar move, the road transport ministry too has claimed it will decide on approving any engine that uses such fuel, within three months from the date of filing an application seeking a go ahead.

Announcing the railway ministry's move at a convention organized by Bio Diesel Association of India (BAI) on Wednesday, minister Sadanand Gowda said, "Railways is the single largest bulk consumer of diesel in the country and as mentioned in railway budget 2014-15, it will start using bio-diesel up to 5% of the total fuel consumption in diesel locomotives." He added this will save foreign exchange substantially.

The national transporter annually consumes over two billion litres of diesel and foots a bill of over Rs 15,000 crore.

Road transport minister Nitin Gadkari also said that while his ministry is pushing for more use of clean and domestically produced fuel, he would take up the issue of allowing bio-diesel producers to sell their produce directly to bulk consumers in India. At present, only 20% of bio-diesel produced in India is sold here and the rest is exported.

"The rural development ministry is also preparing a detailed plan for productive utilization of waste land by allowing both edible and non-edible oilseeds," Gadkari said.

BAI president Sandeep Chaturvedi said while drugs and cosmetics can be sold directly to consumers, there is restriction on selling clean fuel to bulk consumers. "Allowing direct sale of bio-diesel to bulk users can help save upto Rs 420 crore of foreign exchange spent on buying crude," he added.

During 2009-2014, export of bio-diesel contributed a forex earning of around Rs 800 crore.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=Bio-diesel,Bio Diesel Association of India (BAI)

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Small islands may amplify tsunamis: Study

Written By kom nampultig on Rabu, 05 November 2014 | 22.33

PARIS: Small islands, long thought to be natural tsunami barriers for coast-dwellers, may in fact amplify the waves they are supposed to break, researchers warned on Wednesday.

The findings are of concern, for many coastal communities have settled in areas traditionally believed to be shielded from waves by offshore islands.

But simulations of wave motion found that some of these communities may be at higher risk from tsunamis of the kind that devastated villages in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and in northeastern Japan in 2011.

The study is published in a British journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

In 200 computer simulations, not one concluded that the presence of an island defended the coastal area behind it, they found.

Instead, the tsunami's energy was amplified "by as much as 70 percent," co-author Frederic Dias of France's Center for Mathematical Studies and their Applications (CMLA) told AFP.

An island "often acted as a lens, focusing the wave's destructive power," he said.

The simulations varied the island and beach slope, the water depth, the distance between the island and the beach, and tsunami wavelength.

Dias said coastal communities in countries like Greece and Indonesia were particularly at risk from the phenomenon uncovered by the study.

"The findings might stir some inhabitants of apparently shielded coastlines, and the authorities responsible for their safety, to rethink the risks they face," he said.

The research was inspired by scientists observing that Indonesia's Sumatra was particularly badly hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, even though it is dotted with offshore islands.

Similarly, a tsunami that hit the Mentawai islands off Sumatra in 2010 caused the most severe flooding in areas where it was least expected - on the coastline behind offshore islands.

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Rare snow leopard found in China

BEIJING: A rare snow leopard was spotted for the first time in China since 2006 at a nature reserve in the country's northwest.

The animal was spotted in a photo when a researcher, Hellat with the Annanba branch of the forest police bureau of Gansu was sorting pictures.

The photo was taken by a ranger named Junsibieke, or Jensbek (pronunciation), on March 4 from Gansu Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Annanba wild camel national nature reserve was founded in 2006. "This is the first time we have found the snow leopard here. It is such a pity that we didn't see the photo until today," said Hellat.

According to Junsibieke, who is from the Kazak ethnic group, the leopard was crouching in a pothole as he patrolled the nature reserve.

Junsibieke recalled that the leopard was an adult about 1.5 metres long. It had a blood stain on its face.

Snow leopards, one of China's Class A protected animals, are usually found in the Himalayan ranges of central and south Asia at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,500 metres.

The animal has rarely been seen in the wild since last century due to loss of habitat and poaching.

An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards live in the wild, in addition to 600 to 700 more in zoos worldwide.

"In recent years, decreased rainfall, the rise of snowlines and destruction of vegetation on mountains have driven herbivorous animals to river valleys," Hellat said.

"That snow leopard must be following them", he said. Located at the junction of the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Annanba nature reserve covers 39.6 hectares and has an average altitude of about 2,000 meters.

Other rare animals such as the Lynx and Manul also live in the reserve.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=snow leopard in China,Snow Leopard

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Fight to save endangered Indus dolphins, turtles

Written By kom nampultig on Selasa, 04 November 2014 | 22.33

SUKKUR: Local legend has it that Pakistan's Indus River dolphin was once a woman, transformed by a curse from a holy man angry that she forgot to feed him one day.

After thousands of years swimming the mighty river the gentle, blind mammal is under threat from a combination of uncontrolled fishing and damage to its habitat caused by man-made dams.

Conservationists are fighting to save the dolphin as well as the river's black spotted turtle, at risk from poachers who hunt it to sell to collectors and traditional medicine dealers.

The dolphin, which can grow up to 2.5 metres, is one of the world's rarest mammals, with a population of just 1,400 living scattered along a 1,200-kilometre (750-mile) stretch of the Indus, which rises in the Himalayas and flows out into the Arabian Sea near Karachi.

They are classed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species, which says the population has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1944.

Functionally blind, they use echolocation -- a form of natural sonar -- to find fish, shrimp and other prey in the muddy river waters.

Sticking their snouts and heads from the waters, the dolphins bring serenity to the river in the shadow of the Sukkur Barrage, built by the British, around 470 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi.

The monsoon season draws families and picnickers hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins.

But the series of dams and barrages built across the Indus since the late 19th century to help irrigate farmland have divided the dolphin's habitat into 17 separate sections.

The dolphin has died out in 10 of these sections, according to a recent study published in the PLoS One journal by experts from Britain's St Andrews University, and the sub-populations are left more vulnerable by their isolation.

When the river recedes after the heavy rains of the monsoon, the dolphins can become stranded in isolated ponds and tributaries, starving them of food and making them vulnerable to predators.

Another threat to the dolphin, whose pinkish-grey skin breaks the surface of the turbid waters as it comes up to breathe, comes from fishing.

"Narrow fishing nets trap the dolphin under the water and she needs to come out to breathe after every one to two minutes," Muhammad Imran Malik, from the dolphin protection project of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) told AFP on the riverbank in the town of Sukkur.

The WWF has set up a network of fishing communities on both banks of the river and the link canals to keep vigil on any trapped dolphin and report it to conservators.

"We have different awareness activities among local fishermen, communities and other people about the dolphins' habitat, threats and the importance of its existence in the river," Malik told AFP.

Fisherman Gajan Khan Malah is one of the WWF volunteers who plays a role in monitoring the dolphins.

"Some years ago we saw a dolphin stranded in shallow waters, while we were fishing," Malah said.

"We called the WWF officials and they came instantly to rescue her and we netted the dolphin and handed her to them. They released it in the river," he added proudly.

As the WWF and other Pakistani agencies strive to save the dolphin, a new threat to the Indus ecosystem has emerged: smugglers hunting black pond turtles, also known as black spotte turtles, to sell them illegally to clients in China and Thailand.

"There is a market for every species, and this is a very unique turtle. It has a black colour with white and yellow spots, which is fascinating for many turtle lovers who keep them as pets," said Uzma Noureen, the WWF project coordinator at a sanctuary for rescued turtles.

Around 200 turtles, which are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN list, were smuggled from Pakistan to Taxkorgan in China's Xinjiang autonomous region in June.

Pakistan officials travelled by road to bring the turtles back home to the sanctuary in Sukkur, where they were held in a makeshift quarantine.

"It is like we rescued a ship from the clutches of pirates. We are now releasing them into their natural habitat and it is a great accomplishment for me and my whole team," said Javed Mahar, chief of Sindh Wildlife Department, as the turtles were slipped into a tributary of River Indus.

Pakistani customs authorities recently recovered at least two consignments of hundreds of protected turtles, which were being smuggled abroad from Karachi airport.

"There is an alarming rise in smuggling cases of the black spotted turtles because of the lucrative market in countries like Thailand and China," said Ghulam Qadir Shah, researcher at IUCN.

A turtle can fetch $1,600 dollars overseas with prices kept high by both passionate turtle enthusiasts looking for pets and others who want to consume the flesh or use the species for traditional medicine purposes.

Shah stressed the need for regional coordination to protect the turtles.

"We are planning with other Pakistani departments and wild life protectors to stop the smuggling of this beautiful creature".

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=World Wildlife Fund,Sukkur

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Air pollution halves India's potential grain yields

ROME: Air pollution seems to have a direct, negative impact on grain production in India, a study warned on Monday, with recent increases in smog decreasing projected yields by half.

Analysing 30 years of data, scientists developed a statistical model suggesting that air pollution caused wheat yields in densely populated states to be 50% lower than what they could have been in 2010.

Up to 90% of the decrease in potential food production seems linked to smog, made up of black carbon and other pollutants, the study said.

Changes linked to global warming and precipitation levels accounted for the other 10%.

"The numbers are staggering," Jennifer Burney, an author of the study and scientist at the University of California told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We hope our study puts the potential benefits on cleaning up the air on the table," she said, noting that agriculture is often not considered when governments debate the economic costs of air pollution and new legislation aimed at combating it.

The research paper "Recent climate and air pollution impacts on Indian agriculture", published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, analysed what wheat production could have been if there was less pollution.

Food production in India continues to increase because of new technologies and management techniques.

Scientists examined historical data on crop yields, emissions, and precipitation to draw their conclusions.

The historical research generally confirms what chemists and other scientists have said in past studies about the impact of air pollution on food production.

While tackling global warming requires international action, reducing smog is often a simpler process that can take place at the national level.

"The technologies to fix this problem exist," Burney said. Trucks need better particulate filters for diesel, and the Indian government should help rural residents use cleaner fuels in their cooking stoves, rather than biomass, she said.

"None of these (mitigation techniques) are very high tech," she said, adding that better public policies on clean air could help India meet its goal of reducing hunger to zero.

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