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A Massive NZ Effort in Rat Eradication Saves Endangered Birds

Danielle S

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Most times, thanks to development and people’s encroachment, endangered species tend to drop in numbers, requiring significant protection to stabilize. However, recently, that hasn’t been the case on the Wellington Miramar Peninsula. Instead, multiple bird species have been exploding in numbers, easily growing their presence into robust populations than can fend off the elements, disease, predators and competition. Overall, this gain in strength has been a 51 percent expansion of original species presence since their last measurement. In some cases, specific species of birds involved have increased their numbers up to 500 percent.

Much of previous risks and threats to the birds involved rodents. Rats as well as possums were notorious for killing birds, particularly the younger ones in nests, essentially culling the numbers and holding them back from any reasonable growth. However, significant efforts under the Predator Free 2050 program have been extremely effective in not only stopping the impact of the rodents but wiping them out from any viable presence as well. It wasn’t an easy battle, however.

The job of eliminating rodents from the Miramar peninsula involved over 11,000 rodent traps alone, as well as all the personnel, time and work involved to check, clear and reset the traps to do their job. Obviously, with any kind of threat, animals learn from experience and observation what could kill them, so the traps had to be altered as well to remain effective. In addition to the crew involved, some 3,000 volunteers and local residents took part in the effort as well. It was essentially an invasion of workers against the rodents and a persistence of eradication.

The rodent list wasn’t limited to the night creepers either. Every major rodent capable of harming the bird populations were targeted. As a result, weasels, stoats, and mustelids were caught up in the bio-dragnet as well. If one could think of a gang task force mission, this probably would have been called Operation Dead Rat or something similar and final.

Tracking and monitoring helped confirm the rat eradication efforts as well. Well over 300 cameras were used in different locations to confirm that the work was having an effect and that personnel were not just being duped by savvy hiding critters. The video work has also been effective in confirming the bird population growth as well. Instead of seeing rodent culprits, birds have been filling the gap left by the dead mammals and confirming their re-establishment now that their threat is gone.

Of course, cats might want to argue that they can help, but the project management has been advising homeowners to keep their cats indoors. Essentially, anything small on four legs is pretty much a target in the Mirimar Peninsula, without exception.

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Vacant Church Classrooms In Eau Claire To Be Made Into Veteran Housing Units

Sarrah M

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A nonprofit organization in Eau Claire, Wisconsin is working to convert vacant church classrooms into housing for veterans. Veterans Community Project (VCP) was founded by a group of veterans who wanted to help their fellow veterans who were homeless.

The organization found several unoccupied classrooms in a local church and plans to convert them into housing units for veterans. The church has agreed to lease the space to VCP at a reduced rate, allowing the project to happen.

VCP plans to build small, self-contained living units with private bathrooms and kitchens within the classrooms. The units will be energy-efficient, with solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and other eco-friendly features.

The VCP will also offer counseling, job training, and financial assistance to veterans living in the units. To ensure that veterans have access to the resources they require, the organization will work closely with local veterans’ organizations and government agencies.

According to the organization’s founder, VCP is dedicated to providing veterans with a safe, stable, and affordable place to live. They recognize that many veterans face unique challenges, such as PTSD and physical disabilities, and they want to ensure that the housing units are designed with veterans in mind.

The organization is raising funds for the project through grants and donations from local individuals and businesses. Volunteers are also needed to assist with the construction and operation of the housing units.

The VCP has already received community support, and the local government has provided a grant for the project. The organization hopes to break ground on the project in the coming months and has housing units ready for veterans to move into by the end of next year.

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Ukrainian Service Dog Among Scores of war prisoners Released From Russia During Prisoner Exchange

Liz L

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Dogs are not only a man’s best friend, but are critical aides during armed conflicts. Therefore, when Adik, a Pit Bull Terrier from Ukraine was captured alongside hundreds of other soldiers during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war last year, no stone was left unturned for his safe return.

Indeed he was returned on New Year’s Day along with many soldiers in a prisoner swap which has brought much relief to the Ukraine military, family members, and the country as a whole.

In a prisoner swap over the New Year, a dog that Russian soldiers had taken and delivered to Chechen commander Kadyrov as a “trophy” has finally been released and given back to a Ukrainian servicewoman.

Adik, an American Pit Bull Terrier, was allegedly given as a “trophy” to Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, by a Ukrainian service member in June.

But as part of a prisoner exchange over the New Year that saw 140 Ukrainian troops released from Russian custody, Adik has now been handed back to Ukraine.

Along with his owner who is a Ukrainian service woman and Mariupol’s defenders, Adik, an American Pit Bull Terrier, was captured at Azovstal Iron and Steel Works.

During a prisoner exchange over the New Year that saw 140 Ukrainian troops extricated from the custody of the Russian military, Adik has now been handed back to Ukraine.

He was given to the special services until Kadyrov received it, and has since named the dog Adidas, by volunteer Yuriy Kovanov.

Adik’s picture appeared in a tweet that read, “Ukraine needs everyone! A pit bull terrier was freed from Russian captivity while defending Mariupol with our men!

The prisoner exchange, which occurred at unspecified locations, resulted in the release of 200 plus Ukrainian as well as Russian soldiers.

The joy on the faces of the Ukrainian soldiers as they shared their freedom was captured on camera.

On New Year’s Day, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that more than 80 Russian soldiers had already been freed by Ukraine.

Along with his owner and Mariupol’s defenders, Adik was captured at Azovstal Iron and Steel Works.

Ramzan Kadyrov (left) received Akin as a “prize” from volunteer Yuriy Kovanov after having been given to the secret services.

Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff for the Ukrainian president, reported that 140 Ukrainian service members had been sent to Russia in exchange.

According to the Telegram channel Yermak, some of the released Ukrainian soldiers—132 men and eight women—had fought to protect Snake Island and Mariupol, a Black Sea coastal city. A large number of soldiers suffered wounds during the battle.

Despite a total collapse in larger diplomatic negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, the two parties have swapped hundreds of seized soldiers in many waves of prisoner exchanges over several months.

At the unknown location on Saturday, a stream of military soldiers from Ukraine emerged from several buses wearing military fatigues.

As they were freed as captives of war recently, the now-free warriors hugged their loved ones.

As they exited the buses and entered freedom, the troops shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” and lifted their fists in the air in jubilation.

They were greeted with smiles by family members and Ukrainian officials, who gave them white tote bags that looked to hold necessary supplies and paperwork.

They then posed for a picture while carrying several Ukrainian flags in a line. Glory to Ukraine! was shouted once more as they clapped and cheered together.

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The Comeback of a Brazilian Air-Breathing Fish Monster

Amanda J

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In the Amazon, one particular fish is king of the waters. It’s giveaway tends to be the amazingly loud racket of splashing the fish creates simply because of size alone. However, unlike the other denizens of Brazilian waters, the Pirarucu is an air-breathing animal, requiring a new batch of air every quarter of an hour. And, it’s that particular vulnerability that has been the Achilles Heel of the fish, being caught easily as it surfaces to breathe.

Some of the Pirarucu are sizeable, but an average adult can easily reach over 10 feet in length and have a 450 pound drag when pulled out of the water. They are ideal for eating and frequently targeted by poachers looking to make some good money off of local fish food markets. No surprise, the Pirarucu have been decimated as a result, with their population numbers shrinking rapidly across the region.

The Brazilian government has, with targeted conservation, been making a significant effort to reverse the damage of over-fishing of the Pirarucu, which has begun producing positive results. It’s a significant challenge considering that the fish is within a 4,300 square mile range of jungle the government is trying to protect.

Now, the Pirarucu are allowed to be fished within a government-approved three-week window, i.e. a limited fishing season. Local villagers take full advantage of the short time, grabbing as many of the Pirarucu as they can during the short harvest season. They generally sit in boats quietly, waiting for the fish to surface to breathe. When it does, the fishermen encircle the location of the fish and drop their nets, basically cutting off escape until the given Pirarucu is caught in a net and pulled up.

That said, the Pirarucu don’t give up easily. With their heavy body size, the fish puts up a hell of a fight trying to get loose. To stop resistance, the fishermen essentially bludgeon the fish with bats and clubs to make it easier to finish the catch. Then the fish, knocked out, is dragged into the boat.

Out of the water, the Pirarucu looks like something out of a sci-fi movie thrown back in time. It’s far more similar to an oversized eel than a typical fish. The long body, red-tinged scales and big mouth make the Pirarucu seem more like a dinosaur-age fish than a modern one. The body tends to be so big and heavy that when the water level is low, the harvest has to be dragged on a stretcher out of the boat so it can still float back to the village.

For a good day in the harvest window, catching eight or more Pirarucu is like winning the lottery for the local villagers. The catch is counted, inventoried and reported to the government to adjust population numbers. Once the harvest window is closed, then local conservation regulators and researchers track the remaining live population to make sure it stays stable and continues to grow. There is also a keen awareness and proactive search for poachers as well.

For all involved, the current program works better and makes more sense. Some of the older villagers remember things being so bad, they would fish for days on end and maybe get lucky if one Pirarucu was caught at the end of a week. The program has clearly become a model of how local fishing and conservation can work together for improvement overall.

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Toronto Puts Forward a New Paradigm in Senior Care Homes

Liz L

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Looking for a care home is not something seniors look forward to. It’s a bit of acknowledging that the end of one’s life is coming, and you’re on the bus toward eventually being separated from normal life and becoming a cared-for senior waiting for the end, at least that’s how many look at it. However, the simple fact is that many families don’t have the time, training or availability to take care of a senior relative, especially one that needs regular medical attention, and many seniors also can’t take care of themselves anymore either.

Louis Capozzi was now facing the same situation; he was not looking forward to moving into a care home, and he knew he didn’t have a choice in the matter. At the age of 70 and suffering from a form of ALS, personal care was going to be essential for Capozzi just to survive. As it turned out, however, his fears were unfounded. The Lakeshore Lodge at Toronto was going to be an entirely different experience versus what Capozzi had heard about care homes as well as the rumors he himself was germinating after reading too much on the Internet.

Capozzi has now been a resident of Lakeshore Lodge since June 2022, and he hasn’t regretted a day of it. The difference is in how the facility is being run. The goal of the system is very different from the typical managed care approach. Instead, Lakeshore Lodge is “resident-centered,” which means the residents get to make most of the choices of how they are cared for, what they eat, how to stay active, when they wake up and even the decor of the interior design. Capozzi himself is well-involved; his former career was in construction, so he’s regularly involved with building discussion and decisions on changes. Plus, he also gets to work on his hobby, cooking.

Dubbed, “CareTO,” the resident-centered program is an intentional move for a different approach in senior care, especially in a care home setting. Where the traditional model was about treating all the senior patients as cogs, running them through the same course, schedule, food and events for maximum efficiency and cost control, the resident-centered approach focuses on giving seniors their freedom again. Of course, that costs extra, and it’s only possible because Toronto is providing the extra money with $16.1 million via the next five years to support the efficacy of the new treatment model. It doesn’t just go to Lakehouse Lodge; some 272 positions are being supported in 10 different care homes to make this new program work. It’s a split-funded program between the Province and city with two-thirds carried by the Province’s support.

The change is more than appropriate. As the Boomer generation is crashing headlong into their senior years, the demand for senior care and care home beds has increased exponentially. Because the issue is so pressing, Toronto’s government decided 2022 was the year to really push a different paradigm in senior care. CareTO became the answer to that call. The recent COVID pandemic also demanded a different approach. Too many caretakers in the old system had been burned out by the COVID strain, workload and losses. More importantly, the new program is working.

The seniors in the program are doing better, they are happier, healthier and the staff feel they can successfully do their jobs again. Nothing is ever perfect, but the majority, patients and staff agree, the CareTO program is a game-changer.

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The Chick-fil-A 3-Day Workweek Experiment

Sarrah M

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Just as dramatic in terms of when everyone left the office due to the pandemic, now most workplaces are dealing the return, whether they like it or not. And many workers are making it clear they don’t like the idea of being back at an office desk, enough to even quit and work somewhere else. That said, some employers have permanently adapted to the changed environment and institute a hybrid approach, with some days in the office and some remote.

Traditionally, the workweek has been a five-day commitment, generally 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. However, the pandemic shattered long-standing institutions, not only showing that businesses and agencies could operate just as well with remote workers, but in many cases, the productivity increased. Thus, management is admitting the return to the office is more about culture than results. However, some businesses are trying an alternative to in-office or remote work. Instead, they are shortening the workweek altogether.

A number of British companies started experimenting with four-day workweeks. They suffered no notable loss in productivity and instead realized an improvement in employee morale. The chicken fast food chain, Chick-fil-A has jumped onto the same bandwagon, experimenting with a three-day workweek themselves.

There are some qualifications in order. Most positions at Chick-fil-A are parttime in the first place. So the big impact has been on the store management positions who work the full week and those staff employees that run a fulltime schedule. However, part time employees see their work shifts condensed to three specific days versus across the entire week. The shift is not for the faint of heart either; employees on the three-day cycle put in somewhere between 13 and 14-hour schedules each day. One of the days was already a given, since the chicken restaurant is never open on Sundays.

Yet, despite all the fuss on the news, the change is not chain-wide in Chick-fil-A, yet. It’s actually only being applied in one Miami store. The first challenge was getting everyone to adapt to an extended schedule for the days being worked. It literally meant being up and standing for at least 13 hours. However, many of the workers involved realized immediate benefits with easier childcare planning, being able to pick up additional work on the days off or school and having more time to rest from the work shift. At the same time, the affected regular workers still kept their full-time status and employee benefits.

For Chick-fil-A the entire week, aside from Sunday, was still being worked, just with alternating crews. What the company found, however, was that retention shot through the roof. In addition, the restaurant got flooded with applications from other workers wanting the same work schedule. Even better, the Miami location has skyrocketed to the top of the list for being one of the best earner franchises in the company’s network of restaurants. The results speak for themselves and make others both in Chick-fil-A and competitors rethink their approach to hiring and productivity.

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