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WWF-Russia Seeks to Reintroduce Wondrous Persian Leopards to Wild

Sarrah M

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If you have never set sights on a pair of Persian leopards in person, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Person leopards are also known by the term Caucasian Leopard and they are most closely tied with Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Caucasus. According to a report compiled by the WWF in collaboration with the Russian Federation, there are fewer than 50 individual Persian Leopards within the entirety of the Caucusus. Now, a pair of leopards named Kodor (M) and Laba (F) is looking to change the situation.

Kodor and Laba were both born and raised within the Sochi National Park. The two big cats were brought up in the special training and breeding center located in the Caucasus Mountains since 2009. Having reached maturity and adulthood, the two leopards were to be released into the wild.

According to two of their trainers at the Caucasus Reserve, “Koda and Laba successfully passed all exams.” What does this mean in a more practical sense? Well, it appears that Kodor and Laba had accomplished all of the necessary tests, tasks, and trials to prove that they were ready to be released in the wild. According to Dmitriy Gorshkov, Director at WWF-Russia, the hope is that Kodor and Laba can bring about the first kittens born in the wild for that neck of the woods.

This isn’t the first time that WWF-Russia has attempted to re-introduce leopards to the Caucasus. In fact, this would mark the third successful attempt at reintroducing leopards to the area. The record would only hold for about a week when WWF-Russia would release another pair of big cats, this time in the form of Baksan (M) and Agura (F). According to Gorshkov, leopards are representative of a uniting symbol for the people of the Caucasus. Gorshkov would go on to say that the release of the four cats would show the world a new ‘humanity’ to help ‘realize mistakes’ that they could move toward addressing.

At this point in time, you might be wondering why there is such a focus on releasing leopards in the Caucusus. That is an understandable question and one that is imperative to understand. Ecologists have widely understood that the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve is pretty near to ideal when it comes to the traditional leopard habitat. Far-reaching stretches of the unbroken forest create the perfect environment for these big climbing cats to thrive. Reintroducing these cats to the Caucusus is part of an effort to rejuvenate their entire population.

Persian Leopards once roamed across Asia, Africa, and Eurasia and now their numbers are dwindling in horrific ways. Changes due to global warming as well as human expansion and habitat destruction have made it impossible for these cats to return to the original roots. Leopards are incredibly secretive and wide-ranging, so they are particularly beholden to the devastating impacts of climate change and habitat destruction.

One of the leading reasons that Russia is working so hard to reintroduce leopards to the Caucusus is due to their own damage to the species. Poaching within Russia has been atrocious for leopards, leading in part to their endangered status on the Red List at the IUCN. Leopards continue to vanish due to poaching, habitat deforestation, and hunting.

Persian Leopards can grow in size up to 102 inches in length with a weight of more than 140 lbs. Persian Leopards are distinguishable for their pale and dark color variations as well as their slim body types and climbing capabilities. At the time of this writing, there are an estimated 1,290 mature Persian Leopards left on the face of the planet.

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British Woman Goes From Teen Volunteer to Adult Head of Charity for Tanzanian Youths

Danielle S

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A British woman who went to Tanzania when she was in her late teens today is “foster mother” to 14 Tanzanian youths. When Letty McMaster left Tunbridge Wells (located about 30 miles southeast of London) in 2013, her purpose was to be a volunteer at a Tanzanian orphanage for one month.

She ended up spending three years helping youth at the orphanage and raising money for their medical and educational needs. After the facility was shut down by local officials in 2016, she was determined to make a home for nine of the former residents who had no place to go.

The Truth About Some Orphanages

During her years as a volunteer in and near Iringa, Tanzania, McMaster learned some unpleasant facts about how orphaned and homeless youth were treated at many orphanages. She explained that too often the people who ran orphanages exploited or abused the residents. And Western tourists unwittingly donated money in the belief that it they were helping the children and youths.

But the donations that some administrators received usually didn’t help needy people because most funds were diverted to their pockets. Too many of the residents of orphanages are physically and emotionally abused, McMasters said. Some youths told her that they got only one meal a day.

McMasters reported that even the residents of the orphanage where she volunteered didn’t go to school. They often hung out in the streets. She was determined to give the young people who had no place to go after the orphanage closed what she calls “a family home.”

McMasters Takes Charge

In addition to the first nine youths she gave housing and guidance to, McMasters welcomed five more. She is now the legal guardian of 14 young people. Street Children Iringa is the UK-registered charity that she founded to pay for the food, housing, medical and educational needs of the young people under her care.

McMasters is proud of what her charity has done. She stated that all who are under her care do well academically. Most of the residents are boys. One was 11 years old when she saw him malnourished at a dump site. Since then, he’s been accepted at a well-known soccer academy.

Success Stories

She brought another male to the home after seeing him on the streets wearing just a T-shirt. His mother had just died. He became a top-20 student at his school. Another youth that McMasters guided for seven years went on to study at one of the country’s most prestigious private schools. A teenage girl is doing well at the university she attends. McMasters, who speaks fluent Swahili, described herself as being like a mother to the younger residents and like a sister to the older ones. What she describes as the “drive, determination and success” of the children and youth she has come to know motivates her.

Other Work

The safe house she runs is open three days a week to meet the food, shelter and other needs of young people who live on the street. Despite what she has done so far, McMasters cited fundraising as her most difficult job. Two women assist her in her work and their help allows her to return to England occasionally to raise funds. In between all this work, McMasters was able to earn a degree in Development Studies from the SOAS University of London, which specializes in the studies of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. She is intent on keeping her social service work in Tanzania going.

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Good News! The Iberian Lynx Population Is Increasing In Number

Jolie

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The Iberian Peninsula currently has 894 specimens of Iberian wild lynx, and this breed are on the brink of extinction.

The Iberian lynx was on the brink of extinction in 2002 when a disappearance of some kind was noticed. Thus, a program began to rescue them from extinction. Success was recorded as number of animals grew by 23% in 2019.

The last census revealed this. It was discovered that 583 specimens lived free and from this number, 476 creatures existed in Spanish land (81.6%) and 107 lived on Portuguese regions.

This number is boosted by the quantity of young ones birthed. 311 puppies were delivered in 2019. Altogether, there are 894 lynx species.

A major percentage (57%) of the lynxes counted in the Iberian Peninsula in 2019 stay in one of the four secured population centers in Andalusia: Andújar-Cardeña (145), Guarrizas in Granada (71), Doñana-Aljarafe (69) and Guadalmellato in Córdoba (46).

In total, there are 331 lynxes. This data was put together by the Ministry for Ecological Transition.

80% of the total of the Peninsula lives in Andalusia, where 70% of those who live in Spain are found

Spain alone is where most of the lynxes stay. 70% of the lynx live in Andalusia.

Castilla-La Mancha has 84 lynxes (17.7%) and Extremadura, 58 (12.2%).

In addition, the Andalusian zone contain the largest quantity of potent females, possessing 120 (63.85%) of the 188 animals in the Spanish-Portuguese region.

The Andújar-Cardeña nucleus has 53 females and 54 births of offspring have been recorded.

In Donana, it’s estimated that there are 25 females (with 28 births in 2019), 24 in Guarrizas (26 births) and 15 in Guadalmellato (14 births)

The Andalusian community welcomes 120 breeding females

Data collated is extremely vital to enable the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassify lynx species from being named as “endangered species” to “vulnerable species”

There’s however a standard to be maintained: 125 breeding females for at least 5 consecutive years.

Expand the biological connection

If the lynx species can be consolidated in Andalusia, there are bigger challenges to be achieved. One of them is amplifying their connection with other living lynx species.

This is urgently needed for areas like the Donana-Aljarafe region which is dwindling in numbers. In recent times, there’s been a dispatch of some species to boost the population at other places most importantly the Vale do Guardiana (Portugal).

Unfortunately this hasn’t been done for the Donana-Aljarafe region. This is critical to progress with the genetic reinforcement actions.

The new Life project

The Ministry of Agriculture recently set up a program called The new Life Lynxconnect Project “Creating a genetically and demographically functional Iberian lynx metapopulation”. This was established in September.

The project is expected to last five years and already has a budget of 18,754,029 euros with the European Union settling 60.67% of the total eligible expenses.

“The main challenge is to achieve a genetically viable self-sustaining population of Iberian lynx, consolidate the populations of Andalusia, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura and Portugal, and create two more: one in Murcia and the other in Sierra Harana, in Granada”, indicates an informative note from the Junta de Andalucia.

Some of the aims created by Lynxconnect is the achievement of actions to enhance the genetic diversity of wild populations of the Iberian Lynx and execute the conservation and habitat improvement measures through tools for the stewardship of the territory and social participation. It also include limiting the risk of extinction, boost their population status and confront other menaces affecting their existence.

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Baby Born Mid-Air Becomes India’s First Ever Baby To Be Born On A Domestic Flight

Jolie

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Sanjay Misura, a pilot will forever remember this day as one experience never to forget. Being in command of Flight 6E 122, one of the travelers gave birth aboard.

Good news, but what made it spectacular was that it was the first time a baby was ever born on a domestic flight in India.

“The youngster was born on Cloud Nine with the help of a doctor from Cloud Nine,” the pilot wrote after landing.

The flight had commenced at 5:13 p.m taking off from Delhi and made its landing on Bangalore some minutes after 7:30 p.m. In the space of these hours, a lot had happened.

The airline, Indigo had broken the news with its press release but it didn’t suffice with more details. A statement by the airline read, “We confirm that a baby boy was delivered prematurely on flight 6E 122 from Delhi to Bangalore. There are no further details available.”

First account of the pilot revealed two doctors was aboard the flight, a gynecologist included.  But there were also rumored Indigo crew members assisted as they had been trained on how to safely deliver a baby. “All crew members who fly have been trained to handle deliveries of babies in case of emergencies,” a top executive of the airline said.

The pilot was originally confused on what decision to take in those two hours. “As he decided not to land mid-way in these Covid times and especially as the mother was travelling alone, it was not easy, but the Captain along with his team held fort and maintained calm. It is heartening to see how everybody collectively made this miracle happen,” said an civil aviation industry insider.

Unconfirmed reports claim the baby was a premature delivery.

“The baby is premature but both mother and the baby are doing fine. We are hoping that both the baby and the mother get back to their normal routine,” the Indigo executive added.

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Coal mining in Hwange and other game parks banned after public outcry

Danielle S

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The decision to allow Chinese firms explore national parks in Zimbabwe, including the grand Hwange game park for coal has been revoked after a campaign against ecological degradation. The movement involved a series of court proceedings against the government who previously sanctioned and licensed the exploration of coal by two firms in Hwange. Hwange is home to a plethora of wildlife, including the endangered black rhino and about 40,000 elephants. It is also the biggest national park in all of Zimbabwe. 

The Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) in their court papers filed on Monday warned that the natural integrity and ambience of the park may be in danger if it becomes a “site for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys,” – common practices that are part of coal exploration.

A cabinet meeting on Monday sealed the decision to ban coal mining in all the national parks and it was announced by Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa. In her words, “Steps are being undertaken to immediately cancel all mining titles held in national parks.”

Her announcement also disclosed a ban on mining along most river beds- a decision that is certain to hit small-scale Chinese and local gold miners really hard. 

Zimbabwe and China have ties in the international world. The East Asian country is a major investor in Zimbabwe and a close government ally. A “Look East” policy to boost the struggling economy has been long sought by China, following sanctions imposed by Western juggernauts triggered by the government’s controversial land reform program and human rights record. 

The plan was for two Chinese firms to join forces with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation in mining coal resources of the national parks. 

Coal exploration in the country’s biggest park was always going to be a sensitive issue, and as expected, the decision to allow foreign companies mine the area did not receive a friendly reception. The government suffered a lot of backlash from the public and even on social media with the hashtag #SaveHwangenationalpark trending on Twitter in Zimbabwe. Environmental and wildlife enthusiasts argued that coal mining in the parks would be the end of wildlife as well as tourism. 

The government caved to the outcry of the public, and announced the ban on exploration rights to the Chinese. This came only after the vigorous and fierce non-acceptance of the previously approved policy. State-run The Herald newspaper quoted Mines minister Winston Chitando saying that the mining rights were given in 2015 but exploration only began recently.

The decision is unlikely to affect ties between Zimbabwe and China. The governments of both countries are aware of the delicate situation, and such kickback against the policy was surely expected. 

Despite the decision to revoke the Chinese exploration rights, many Zimbabweans want more. They argue that years of gold mining along rivers has led to environmental degradation, and therefore want the ban to be lawfully constituted in a bid to protect the environment and prevent possible future occurrences. 

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African Emerald Cuckoos Are Beautiful and Intriguing

Liz L

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Just a step above the brown birds is the beautiful green birds. I mean this in terms of my level of interest in birds. Green is a beautiful color but it is meant for birds to blend in easily and hide. This takes away from the beauty of the green bird. With that being said, please do not take this out of context because green is still one of my favorite colors.

Sometimes, however, I still come across a green bird that always proves me wrong. Every so often I may stumble across one. When I do, it is hard for me to take my eyes off of it.

One of them happens to be the African emerald cuckoo. I can bet you have probably never heard or seen this one before.

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