Bomb Injures 11 University Students In Cameroon

A map of Cameroon, a Central African country of varied terrain and wildlife.

 

A homemade bomb thrown through the roof of a university lecture hall wounded 11 students on Wednesday, the vice-chancellor said, in an English-speaking region of Cameroon in the grip of a bloody separatist conflict.

University of Buea vice-chancellor Horace Ngomo Manga that “the device fell to the ground and exploded”.

One boy and 10 girls were wounded, he told state radio CRTV, adding that all were in a stable condition.

He did not elaborate on the nature of the bomb or who might have thrown it.

Buea is the capital of Cameroon’s Southwest region. Both the Southwest and Northwest regions are mainly English-speaking in the otherwise predominantly French-speaking central African country.

A decades-long campaign by militants to redress perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority flared into a declaration of independence on October 1, 2017, sparking a crackdown by security forces.

The conflict has claimed more than 3,500 lives and forced 700,000 people to flee their homes, according to NGO estimates that have not been updated in more than a year despite an escalation in violence in recent months.

The United Nations and international organisations regularly denounce abuses and crimes committed against civilians by both sides.

Wednesday’s bombing has not been claimed, but the anglophone separatists have regularly attacked schools and universities which they accuse of favouring French-language education.

The separatists have also recently ramped up attacks on the country’s armed forces using improvised explosive devices.

In September, a Buea court sentenced four men to death over the killing of seven schoolchildren a year before, however Human Rights Watch called the trial a “sham”.

AFP

Lions Kill Three Children Near Wildlife Reserve

The nomadic communities around the wildlife reserves in Tanzania were urged to to take precautions against wild animals, especially when they task their children with taking care of livestock. By TONY KARUMBA (AFP)

 

 

Three young children were killed by lions near Tanzania’s world-renowned Ngorongoro wildlife reserve as they went to look for lost cattle, police said on Thursday.

The youngsters aged between nine and 11 had arrived home from school on Monday and gone into a forest near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to search for the missing animals, Arusha police chief Justine Masejo said.

“That is when the lions attacked and killed three children while injuring one,” he added.

Ngorongoro in northern Tanzania is a World Heritage Site that is home to wildlife including big cats such as lions, cheetahs and leopards.

“I would like to urge the nomadic communities around the reserved areas to take precautions against fierce animals especially when they task their children to take care of the livestock. That will help to protect the children and their families,” Masejo said.

Tanzania allows some communities such as the Maasai, who graze their livestock alongside wild animals, to live within national parks.

However, they are often in conflict with animals such as lions and elephants which can attack people, livestock and destroy crops.

Last year, Tanzania relocated 36 lions from the Serengeti National Park after attacks on humans and cattle from the surrounding communities.

How Chimps Learn ‘Handshakes’

This file photo shows a chimpanzee and its baby at a zoo in Singapore. Photo: AFP

 

Chimpanzees develop specific handshake-like gestures depending on their social group, according to the results of a 12-year observational study published on Wednesday that sheds light on the animals’ complex social structures.

Chimps are often referred to as being the most “humanlike” non-human species, given their propensity to perform complicated tasks, such as tool use, which were long thought to be the sole preserve of mankind.

Edwin van Leeuwen, an expert in animal behaviour at the University of Antwerp and the city’s Royal Zoological Society, studied dozens of chimpanzees sheltered at Zambia’s Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust over a 12-year span.

Despite a large turnover in the chimp population due to deaths and births, Van Leeuwen was able to observe specific and repeated hand gestures among chimps in two distinct groups.

The gesture, known as the grooming handclasp, involves “each of the participants simultaneously (extending) an arm overhead and the other (clasping) the other’s wrist or hand or both clasping each other’s hand,” according to the results of his study, published in the journal Royal Society Biology Letters.

Through years of observation, Van Leeuwen found that palm-to-palm grasping was “substantially more pronounced” in one group, or society, of chimps than the other.

He also found that female chimps were far more likely than males to grasp palms, while males were more likely to grasp wrists, likely due to males’ desires to assert or affirm dominance.

“The fact that they have developed different styles in different groups reflects that they learn the style socially within their groups,” Van Leeuwen told AFP.

He said the chimps appeared to have learned to perform the grasps “to some extent” as a ritual, reminiscent of secret handshakes performed by humans.

“The handclasp fits into the whole social interaction that two individuals engage in sometimes, making it a special connection within an already intimate grooming bout.”

‘Some serious, some care-free’

Van Leeuwen said his study was evidence of chimps’ ability to preserve “the stability of traditions”, a behaviour that among humans is thought of as cultural persistence.

He said the behaviour could not be explained by genetic or environmental factors since the composition of the two separate chimp groups was essentially identical — yet they each developed distinct grasping techniques.

He said the specific gestures and their longevity within each group could be a result of “the shared trait of social learning”.

With more than a decade spent observing the chimps’ behaviour, Van Leeuwen said he got to know the personality traits of each individual animal.

“Like humans, they have their individual ways of doing — be it during play, eating or grooming,” he said.

“Some chimpanzees are very serious, always on the lookout for ripples in the social atmosphere,” added Van Leeuwen.

“Some are more care-free and interact with even high-ranking individuals in their group with light touches of play.”

AFP

Zimbabwe Finds 10 More Dead Elephants, Suspects Bacteria

Zimbabwe is home to vast gold and mineral reserves, including diamonds and platinum.
Zimbabwe is home to vast gold and mineral reserves, including diamonds and platinum.

 

Zimbabwe wildlife authorities on Thursday said they suspect ten more elephants succumbed to a bacterial infection that killed 12 young pachyderms last week.

The latest carcasses were discovered on Tuesday and Wednesday near the northwestern Pandamasuwe Forest, where the previous 12 were found.

“We now have a total of 22 elephants that have died,” parks and wildlife authority spokesman Tinashe Farawo told AFP on Thursday.

“We have taken samples for testing but we suspect they died from the same cause as the 12 that were found dead last week.”

Laboratory results suggest the first dozen — discovered between Hwange National Park and the resort town of Victoria Falls — were killed by a bacteria.

Park authorities believe the elephants, aged between two and six, were too short to eat leaves from treetops and may have ingested the bacteria by grazing on infected plants.

They ruled out poaching because the animals were found with their tusks intact.

Zimbabwe has more than 84,000 elephants. Scores of elephants have succumbed to starvation and lack of water in recent years.

Others have been poisoned by poachers for their ivory, used to make ornaments and traditional medicine in Asia and the Middle East.

At least 300 elephants died of cyanide poisoning at water holes in Hwange in 2013.

Neighbouring Botswana, home to the world’s largest elephant population of around 130,000, lost around 300 elephants early this year. They are thought to have succumbed to natural toxins.

AFP

Three Russians Charged In Sri Lanka For Stealing Animals, Exotic Plants

File photo of forest used to illustrate the story.

Three Russians have been charged with stealing hundreds of endangered animals and exotic plant samples from Sri Lanka’s rainforests and sanctuaries, an official said Friday.

The men were arrested in February in the Horton Plains National Park with 529 animal species, most of which are endemic to the country, wildlife department ranger Pradeep Kumara told AFP.

They had visited rainforests and reserves across the country.

The trio will face court on May 28 on charges of biopiracy and illegally collecting live animals and plants from protected sanctuaries.

“We managed to rescue 230 animals, including scorpions, spiders, butterflies, geckos and lizards and they were released to their natural habitat,” Kumara said.

“The others were already dead.”

The men — a biologist, archaeologist and IT expert — had been in custody but were released on bail as authorities sought to ease overcrowding in prisons during the coronavirus outbreak.

Sri Lanka has confirmed 925 virus cases, including nine deaths.

Foreigners convicted of biopiracy are usually fined and jailed if they fail to pay.

Two Chinese citizens were fined a record 7.9 million rupees ($52,000) in April last year for attempting to remove 79 insects from national parks.

This year a Chinese man was fined $500 for trying to smuggle out 200 scorpions.

AFP

Amid Coronavirus Crisis, China Considers ‘Complete Ban’ On Wildlife Trade

This file photo taken on March 8, 2019 shows a general view of the second plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP
This file photo taken on March 8, 2019 shows a general view of the second plenary session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

China’s top legislative committee on Monday began deliberating a proposal to ban all trade and consumption of wild animals, a practice believed responsible for the country’s deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The official Xinhua news agency said the proposal was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

“It aims to completely ban the eating of wild animals and crack down on illegal wildlife trade,” it said.

The report added that the measure was aimed at “safeguarding public health and ecological security”.

The Standing Committee is responsible for convening the 3,000-member NPC, but is widely expected to postpone the annual session due to the health crisis.

The session was due to start early next month.

Chinese health officials have said the virus likely emerged from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals as food.

Late last month after the epidemic began exploding across the country, China ordered a temporary ban “until the national epidemic situation is over”.

The new coronavirus has killed 2,592 people in China, infected some 77,000 so far and paralysed its economy. It has spread to at least two dozen countries, infecting 1,500 people and killing nearly 30.

It was not clear when a decision would be made on the proposed ban, which is likely to face scepticism.

Conservationists accuse China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or use in traditional medicines whose efficacy is not confirmed by science.

China instituted a similar temporary ban after the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 and was also traced to wild-animal consumption.

But the wildlife trade soon resumed.

Health experts say it poses a significant and growing public health risk by exposing humans to dangerous animal-borne pathogens.

The exact source of the coronavirus remains unconfirmed, with scientists variously speculating it originated in bats, pangolins, or some other mammal.

Scientists say SARS likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.

Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed as for sale by one of the merchants at the Wuhan market according to a price list that circulated on China’s internet.

Other items included rats, snakes, giant salamanders and live wolf pups.

 

AFP

Tourists Spend Thousands To Swim Among Penguins In Antarctic

Tourists and Barbijo penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) are seen on Half Moon island, Antarctica on November 09, 2019. PHOTO: Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

“It’s like getting stabbed,” a tourist exclaims, as he plunges into the three-degree Celsius (37-Fahrenheit) water, all under the intrigued gaze of a group of penguins.

All around Half Moon Island, off the Peninsula, blocks of ice of all sizes float by on a calm sea, their varying forms resembling weightless origami shapes.

To reach the Antarctic destination the 58-year-old Norwegian, Even Carlsen, travelled 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles), and spent thousands of euros.

Mostly indifferent to the bipeds donning neon-coloured windbreakers, wildlife abounds in the deafening silence of the icy landscape.

The penguins are as awkward on land as they are agile in water, while massive and majestic whales slip through the waves, and sea lions and seals laze in the sun.

Antarctica, a land of adventure without rulers, is “like the heart of the Earth,” according to Marcelo Leppe, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute.

He said it expands and contracts like a beating heart, while the mighty current which revolves around the continent is like a circulatory system absorbing warm currents from other oceans and redistributing cold water.

But this long tongue of land that stretches towards South America is warming rapidly. Its glaciers are melting and its ecosystem has been invaded by microplastics carried by currents.

 ‘Keep nothing but memories’

Tourists are also flocking to the area in greater numbers. This season nearly 80,000 visitors are expected, a 40-percent increase compared to last year.

Antarctic tour operators insist they are promoting responsible tourism.

“Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, keep nothing but memories,” is their motto.

It is Antarctica’s very vulnerability that is a draw, with tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of what one day might be gone.

But critics question this sort of tourism, as the emissions from world-crossing flights and soot or black carbon in the exhaust gases of cruise ships are part of what is putting the region under threat.

On Half Moon Island, chinstrap penguins — named for the black stripe on their chin — strut about in the spring breeding season, raising their beaks and screeching from their rocky nests.

“This is to tell other males ‘this is my space’ and also, perhaps, ‘this is my female’,” ornithologist Rebecca Hodgkiss tells AFP.

The colony of 2,500 penguins has been gradually declining over the years. It is not known if it is the fault of humanity.

AFP

Seven Elephants Killed In Sri Lanka After Alleged Poisoning By Villagers

Villagers stand next to the dead body of an elephant laying in a field near Sigiriya village, some 177 kms north of the capital of Colombo on September 27, 2019.PHOTOS: STR / AFP

 

Wildlife officials found three more dead wild elephants in central Sri Lanka Saturday, raising the number believed to have been poisoned by angry villagers to seven.

The animals were found at a forest reserve near Sigiriya, a fifth-century rock fortress and UNESCO-protected heritage site, police said.

“Since Friday, we have found the remains of seven cow elephants, including a tusker,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

Nearly 200 elephants are killed every year on the island, many by farmers after the animals stray onto their land.

Marauding elephants kill roughly 50 people annually, mostly when the creatures stray into villages near their habitat.

A pregnant female and a male were among the four carcasses found on Friday.

Wildlife experts and vets will carry out autopsies, said a police official in Sigiriya, north of Colombo, as they suspect the animals may have been poisoned.

Police said there had been a spate of incidents involving wild elephants storming villages and destroying crops in the area.

Killing the animals is in theory punishable by death.

Sri Lanka’s elephant population has dwindled to just over 7,000, according to the latest census, down from an estimated 12,000 at the beginning of the last century.

Deforestation, Climate Change – Dead End For Wildlife

Oyo Govt Warns Residents Against Illegal Tree Felling
File photo

 

Climate change combined with galloping tropical deforestation is cutting off wildlife from life-saving cooler climes, heightening the risk of extinction, researchers said Monday.

Less than two-fifths of forests across Latin America, Asia and Africa currently allow for animals and plants to avoid potentially intolerable increases in temperature, they reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The loss of tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 led to an area larger than India losing the capacity to protect species from the effects of climate change,” lead author Rebecca Senior, a professor at the University of Sheffield, told AFP.

“Not only does forest loss remove habitat directly, it also makes it harder for species to move.”

The lack of escape routes to cooler habitats means that warming “will likely result in national and global extinction of vulnerable species,” she added.

At current rates of climate change, animals and plants moving to the least heat-ravaged spots accessible today would, on average, be exposed by 2070 to an environment 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.8 F) hotter than during the second half of the 20th century, the study found.

Even under a best-case scenario in which humanity caps global warming at 2 C — an increasingly unlikely prospect — species in tropical regions would still see a jump of 0.8 C by that date.

Extreme Fragmentation

The 2015 Paris climate treaty enjoins nations to hold warming to “well below” 2 C.

Last year, the UN climate science panel concluded that even this threshold would not prevent severe impacts, such as the loss of shallow-water coral reefs, which anchor a quarter of marine life.

A single degree of warming since the industrial revolution has already boosted the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts and tropical storms.

Animal and plant species have always moved up or down mountains, towards or away from the poles, or into cooler or warmer waters when faced with shifts in climate.

But rarely has climate change been so rapid, and never has it been combined with extreme habitat fragmentation.

“Tropical species are particularly sensitive to temperature change,” Senior said. “Most are found nowhere else on Earth, and make up a huge proportion of global biodiversity.”

Scores of studies have shown how rising temperatures have forced fauna and flora to adapt their behaviour in ways that curtain their ability to collect food, reproduce or both.

Some 550 species – more than half already threatened with extinction — are listed as vulnerable to droughts and temperature extremes on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.

Nail In The Coffin

They include mammals such at red-handed howler monkeys, jaguars and giant otters.

Amphibians – already besieged globally by mysterious pathogens – are especially vulnerable.

“They are highly specialised to particular habitats, can’t move very far, and are very sensitive to overheating and drying out,” Senior pointed out.

“This is another nail in their coffin.”

Higher temperatures force some tropical hummingbirds to seek shade rather than forage, testing their capacity to adapt.

Other research has documented species decline and loss due to forest loss and fragmentation, which has created islands of primary forest hemmed in by palm oil plantations, biofuel crops, cattle ranches and the soyabean crops used to feed livestock.

An area of tropical forest five times the size of England — some 600,000 square kilometres (230,000 square miles) — has been destroyed since 2014, according to Global Forest Watch, a research unit at the University of Maryland.

The new study, however, is the first to investigate the interaction between tropical habitat loss and climate change on a global scale over more than a decade.

US, NGOs Call For Concerted Action On Marine Wildlife Conservation

File photo by: Pedro PARDO / AFP

 

Nigerians have been asked to treat the conservation of the oceans and aquatic wildlife as an individual responsibility, in order to preserve marine habitats for future generations.

The Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, Mr. Russell Brooks, made this appeal on Tuesday at the commemoration of 2019 World Wildlife Day, held at the U.S. Consulate General office in Lagos.

World Wildlife Day is observed annually on March 3, following a proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2013.

The programme, which was organised in collaboration with the International Climate Change Development Initiative (ICCDI) and Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative, was attended by leading environmental conservation activists.

Speaking on the theme of Life below Water, Mr Brooks stated that as much as 40% of the world’s oceans have been negatively affected by human activity, including over-exploitation of marine species, loss of coastal habitats and pollution.

“Marine wildlife has sustained human civilization and development for over a thousand years, from providing food and nourishment, to providing material for handicrafts and construction. We cannot take their survival for granted.

“We can reduce some of the negative effects of our activity on life under the water, by working hard to spread the message to reduce marine pollution,” he said.

Earlier, the Communications Director at ICCDI, Mr Abiodun Adekoya, noted that effective climate change mitigation in the country would require concerted action by governments and individuals, with an emphasis on conservation education, recycling programmes and the creation of a legal framework for the nation’s policy on the environment.

18 Workers Abducted In DR Congo Wildlife Park

FILE PHOTO Wildlife Service rangers load a tranquillized elephant bull into a truck at the Lamuria, Nyeri county, on February 21, 2018, during the transfer of elephants from Solio, Sangare and Lewa to the northern part of Tsavo East National Park in Ithumba.
SIMON MAINA / AFP

 

Eighteen employees of a gorilla sanctuary in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have been abducted by a militia group, sources said on Wednesday.

An official with an NGO said the abduction took place on Monday in the area of Nzovu, which lies in the huge Kahuzi-Biega National Park, and an armed group called the Mai-Mai Raia Mutomboki was responsible.

The victims comprise nine administrative employees, who were carrying out an inventory, and nine guards, the source said.

“(Eighteen) workers in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park were kidnapped by militiamen,” Kashombana Bin-Saleh, administrator of Shabunda territory, confirmed to AFP.

“The 18 are alive and talks for negotiating their release will start as soon as a team from the (park) arrives in Shabunda,” Kashombana added.

The abductors are demanding a large ransom, according to sources in local civil society groups.

They seized the group’s luggage at the same time and forced local people to carry it. This group was released later, the sources said.

The park extends over 6,000 square kilometres of rainforest (2,300 square miles) — more than twice the size of Luxembourg — in largely mountainous terrain.

The designated UNESCO heritage site is one of the last refuges of the endangered eastern lowland gorilla, of which only about 250 now survive, as well as many other rare species.

The park was established in 1970 by Belgian conservationist Adrien Deschryver, taking its name from two dormant volcanoes that lie within its boundaries.

However, it abuts one of the most troubled regions in Africa, where armed conflicts have seethed for more than two decades.

AFP

Animal, Plant Conservation Would Boost Nigeria’s Tourism – Experts

The role of wildlife in maintaining the balance of the eco-system has been highlighted in this edition of Earthfile.

A botanist, Dr. Kadiri Akinbabalola, called for the conservation of animals and plants.

He said that there was need to use plants and animals wisely to make sure that the coming generation would benefit from the natural resources.

Safeguarding of Gardens is necessary to ensure that these resources serve its purposes.

The Director, Zoological Gardens, University of Ibadan, Dr. Adejumoke Morenikeji, stressed that need for proper care of Zoological gardens as they serve as places of relaxation, research and for conservation.

An Environmentalist, Dr. Adetokunbo Adedeji, also emphasised the need for the Nigerian government to pay more attention to conservation of animals and plants.

“I have not seen any serious programme by the government that has addressed the issue of conservation,” he said.

Proper conservation of the wildlife will boost Nigeria’s tourism sector and create jobs.

The Edition of Earthfile looks at the need for conservation of animals and plants to save the environment.