Tracking elephants across Africa

first_imgThe satellite collars used to track theelephants are produced in South Africausing global positioning units outfitted withextra protection to survive the rigours ofelephant life.(Image: University of MassachusettsAmherst)Staff reporterAcross Africa, elephants are frequent visitors to farms and villages as they roam the landscape searching for food and water – often bringing them into conflict with humans. Now a team of researchers including Tanzanian Alfred Kikoti and Mike Chase of Botswana are tracking the animals’ movements through southern and eastern Africa using satellite collars in an effort to understand their ecology and help prevent these conflicts.The project is run by the department of natural resources conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Kikoti is a doctoral student and Chase completed his doctorate in 2007.“Elephant populations have been increasing in Botswana and Tanzania since the late 1980s, when protection measures banned the international ivory trade,” says Curtice Griffin of UMass Amherst. “But human populations are also rising. Elephants graze in areas used by cattle and some raid farm fields, where they do a lot of damage in a short time. People have been killed when they try to chase elephants away or encounter them unexpectedly at night.”The research team recently founded Elephants Without Borders (EWB), a nonprofit group dedicated to understanding elephant ecology and behaviours and developing elephant conservation programs. EWB is launching a major fundraising campaign in 2008 to build the World Elephant Conservation Centre.Chase and Griffin have tagged nearly 50 elephants in northern Botswana and Namibia, a vast area of the Kalahari Desert. “Elephants aren’t staying in the parks,” says Griffin. “We have followed them from Botswana into Zimbabwe and Zambia, and they are moving across the Caprivi Strip of Namibia into Angola, where tens of thousands of elephants roamed before being decimated by 25 years of civil war.” As they recolonise southern Angola, the elephants move through mine fields without triggering the mines. Griffin suspects that their keen sense of smell helps them avoid the mines.Kikoti and Griffin have also fitted 20 elephants with satellite collars in northern Tanzania. “The problem of human-elephant conflict is worse in Tanzania,” says Griffin. “There are more people and farms. Elephants compete for water with Maasai cattle in the dry shrublands and raid large farms on the western slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.The satellite collars used to track the elephants are produced in South Africa using global positioning units outfitted with extra protection to survive the rigours of elephant life. Periodic downloads of satellite GPS data via e-mail lets Griffin check on the herds from Massachusetts. Data are used to understand the seasonal movements of elephants and identify important corridors used as they make their way across the African landscape.Elephants for developmentChase and Griffin have documented some of the largest seasonal movements of elephants in Africa, and shown that the corridors used by elephants can be narrow and hemmed in by villages and roads, which elephants try to avoid. Communities and governments are encouraged to keep these ancient elephant paths open and establish wildlife conservation corridors free of huts and farms. This information is also important for community development.“Although having elephants near your village can be risky, they bring in tourists who bring in revenue,” says Griffin. “This is especially important in arid regions where there are few other sources of income. When communities realise they can earn money from tourists coming to see the elephants, they are much less likely to harm them when conflict occurs.”Attaching collars to elephants is a dangerous job. “We dart them with tranquilisers from a helicopter, and we usually dart the matriarch, the old female herd leader,” says Griffin. “If she is down, the rest of the herd stays away while we put on the collar. If we dart another herd member, the matriarch will sometimes circle back and try to kill us.” Elephants stay in breeding herds of about 18, so collaring one member lets the team monitor the entire herd.Collars are also attached to bull elephants. “When a bull is darted, the rest of the bulls could care less,” says Griffin. “In their search for mates, bulls have different movement patterns and indulge in risky behavior like traveling far from water. Bulls are fairly laid back compared to females with calves, but when they are in musth, a state of heightened breeding condition, they can be aggressive and dangerous.”Griffin regularly leads student trips from UMass Amherst to Africa, and will be returning in the summer of 2008 for an 18-day safari. This research has been supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other donors. EWB works closely with governments and communities in Africa as well as private conservation organisations such as Conservation International, the African Wildlife Foundation and the Grumeti Fund.Related articlesElephant culling a ‘last resort’Useful linksElephants Without BordersUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstConservation InternationalAfrican Wildlife InternationalGrumeti Fundlast_img read more

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MeerKAT in demand among scientists

first_imgDishes belonging to the KAT-7 array, which is now fully operational. (Image: SKA Africa) South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope is scheduled to become operational only in five years’ time, but scientists from around the world are lining up to book research time at the facility.More than 43 000 hours have already been allocated to interested radio astronomers, who were invited to submit their proposals in October 2009. This amounts to more than five years’ worth of observing time.A total of 21 proposals involving over 500 astronomers, 59 of them from Africa, were received. All proposals were carefully considered and rated by a committee of local and international experts.According to SKA, the most highly rated projects were a survey of radio pulsars, and two proposals to study neutral hydrogen gas in the deep universe. The first received 8 000 hours and the hydrogen gas proposals received 5 000 hours jointly.Eight other proposals, including a survey of the nearby (65-million light years away) Fornax galaxy cluster and a high frequency survey of the galactic plane, were allocated time ranging from 1 950 hours to 6 500 hours.Besides the ten approved projects, said SKA director Dr Bernie Fanaroff, the team is keen to use MeerKAT in the ongoing search for extraterrestrial intelligence as well as collaborating with Nasa in downloading data from that organisation’s space probes which are exploring other planets.The successful teams are expected to collaborate with MeerKAT staff on the design phase of the telescope and to help build human capacity.MeerKAT will help scientists understand the evolution of individual galaxies and clusters of galaxies, phenomena such as cosmic magnetism, and the influence of the mysterious entities of dark matter and dark energy on galaxies and clusters.Exploring the universeThe MeerKAT is the precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), funded by the Department of Science and Technology.At around 100 times more sensitive than any comparable existing facility, this giant radio telescope will be the most powerful ever built. Consisting of about 3 000 parabolic antennae with a total collecting area of around 100ha, or a square kilometre, SKA will construct images of the universe from radio waves, instead of light waves.South Africa and Australia are in the race for the privilege of hosting this key scientific facility, with the winning nation to be announced in late 2011 or early 2012.In South Africa all construction is taking place near the small town of Carnarvon in the Karoo, Northern Cape province. Here the climate is dry and there is minimal light pollution and radio interference, and with little commercial activity the area is expected to remain quiet in years to come.Spanning a vast area of Southern Africa, the SKA will consist of a core and five spiral arms, each containing increasingly remote stations of about 30 dishes each. The outermost stations will spill over into neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, and Zambia.Construction is expected to start in 2012, with the full array completed by 2021 at a cost of R14.54-billion (US$2.09-billion).The SKA will send information via the data processing station on site to its control centre in Cape Town, over a high speed data network.Technological capabilityMeerKAT has its own precursor, the Karoo Array Telescope or KAT-7, which is already in place. KAT-7, also known as the MeerKAT Precursor Array, yielded its first images earlier in 2010 and is now fully online.It consists of seven dishes which produce images using a technique known as radio interferometry – the production of high-resolution images using a cluster of smaller telescopes rather than one large instrument. The more telescopes in the cluster, the better the result. MeerKAT and SKA, too, will use this technique to probe deeply into the universe.With KAT-7 up and running, the focus can now turn to MeerKAT, which will demonstrate South Africa’s technological capabilities for the SKA project.Recently it was announced that MeerKAT will consist of 64 Gregorian offset antennae – named after the eminent 17th-century Scottish astronomer James Gregory – each with a diameter of 13.5m. According to Anita Loots, SKA Africa’s associate director, this configuration will allow MeerKAT to operate at a sensitivity of over 220 m²/K, making it one of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes in its own right.The next step is to build a prototype dish of the new design, and test it against the existing format.last_img read more

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Ohio cancels live bird shows due to avian flu risk

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest In an aggressive move designed to help protect Ohio’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from the avian flu that has so negatively impacted other poultry-producing states, today the Ohio Department of Agriculture canceled all live bird exhibitions this year. The ban includes county and independent fairs, the Ohio State Fair, and all other gatherings of birds for show or for sale, including auctions and swap meets. Similar bans have been enacted in other poultry states. So far, Ohio is virus-free and the move is intended to continue that status.Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) — also called the avian flu — is an extremely contagious virus that primarily affects domestic poultry and is believed to be spread by wild, migrating birds. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) first confirmed the virus in the U.S. beginning in late 2014. Since that time more than 44 million birds at more than 197 locations have been affected.“This was a difficult decision because it means young people can’t show their birds at fairs, but it’s in the best interest of an industry that literally thousands of Ohio families and businesses depend on and which provides billions of dollars to our state’s economy. The right move isn’t always the easy move, but this is the right move, especially when you see just how devastating the virus has been to other big poultry states like Iowa and Minnesota. Ohioans need to do all we can to ensure that we protect our industry and that we help avoid a costly spike in the price of important foods like chicken, turkey and eggs,” said David T. Daniels, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director.Ohio is the second largest egg producer in the country and home to 28 million laying chickens, 12 million broilers, 8.5 million pullets and 2 million turkeys. Ohio’s egg, chicken and turkey farms employ more than 14,600 jobs and contribute $2.3 billion to the state’s economy. Ohio’s role in national poultry production is even greater considering the loss that other major poultry states are experiencing.“One of the ways avian influenza spreads is by direct contact with contaminated materials coming from other infected birds. This means that exhibitions, auctions and swap meets where birds are co-mingling pose a high risk of unintentionally spreading this disease. Until we can be sure that there has been no transference from the wild bird population migrating through the state, we need to do all we can to minimize the exposure for our domestic birds,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey.Similar concern about the potential spread of disease that can happen when birds are brought together for shows and sales has caused Ohio’s neighboring states of Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan to make the decision to cancel shows for at least the 2015 fair season. Of those states, only Indiana has had a flock test positive for HPAI.The Ohio Department of Agriculture is working closely with the state’s poultry producers and the USDA APHIS to provide training and to closely monitor the health of poultry in the state. Detailed plans and protocols are in place to allow for a quick and coordinated response in the event HPAI is detected in Ohio. Human health and food safetyDespite the severity of the outbreak in birds, no human infections have been associated with HPAI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from these viruses to be low. Federal and state law already ensures birds and poultry products that are affected by HPAI are prohibited from entering the food chain.Consumers should continue to employ standard food safety practices. Cooking poultry, including game birds, to the proper temperature and preventing cross contamination between raw and cooked food are always recommended to protect against viruses and bacteria. Recommendations for local fairsThe department is working with county and independent fair boards to identify options that will keep youth who are already raising poultry from losing their opportunity to have a fair project. The recommendations include amending the deadlines for students to switch projects and allowing the use of props or photos in place of live birds.“The experience of raising a live animal to show at the fair builds character and teaches responsibility. We don’t want to deprive anyone the opportunity to complete their projects. For that reason, we are working with Ohio State University Extension to send out guidance to the fair boards and 4-H committees urging them to be creative and find a solution that will allow their young people to still have a fair experience, even if they cannot bring their project to the fairgrounds,” said Director Daniels. Biosecurity recommendations for poultry ownersDr. Forshey is reminding all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, to continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, keep birds inside as much as possible, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to their veterinarian immediately.Good biosecurity practices for poultry owners include the following:Monitor flocks for unusual signs of illness such as “snicking” (sneezing), a 1 percent or more decrease in egg production, or an increase in mortality. Other signs to look for are wheezing, lethargy, and depression.Practice personal biosecurity and avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.Keep unauthorized visitors from having contact with poultry, a good practice whether or not there is a disease threat. Authorized persons should be required to wear protective clothing and shoes before entering a commercial poultry house.Avoid contact between your birds and wild birds whenever possible due to the migratory nature of HPAI. These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick.Clean and disinfect farm vehicles or equipment before moving them on and off your property.Sick birds or unusual bird deaths should also be immediately reported to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health at 1-614-728-6220 or through USDA APHIS’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity from USDA APHIS for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov or by visiting www.ohioagriculture.gov.last_img read more

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Bucks’ Brogdon to be sidelined up to 8 weeks with injury

first_imgRead Next View comments John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding AFP official booed out of forum Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles02:29Giannis Antetokounmpo powers Bucks in bounce back win over Celtics01:43Who are Filipinos rooting for in the NBA Finals?01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City MOST READ Globe Business launches leading cloud-enabled and hardware-agnostic conferencing platform in PH Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon, left, puts up a reverse layup as Philadelphia 76ers’ Justin Anderson tries to defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)MILWAUKEE  — Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon will be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a partially torn left quadriceps tendon.Brogdon suffered the injury during the second quarter of the Bucks’ 108-89 loss at Minnesota on Thursday night. The reigning Rookie of the Year went down after a dunk and needed to be helped off the floor.ADVERTISEMENT The Bucks said in a statement Friday they learned the extent of Brogdon’s injury after he underwent an MRI and an examination by the team’s doctor.Bucks forward D.J. Wilson said he had feared that Brogdon’s injury was even worse.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“Finding out that he’s going to be out for a couple of months kind of shocked me. Shocked all of us,” Wilson said. “Six to eight weeks is a long time, but not as long as it could have been.”Brogdon has played in 46 games this season and is averaging 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only Bucks players to win the league’s top rookie honors.center_img NEXT BLOCK ASIA 2.0 introduces GURUS AWARDS to recognize and reward industry influencers LATEST STORIES Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Magnolia seizes solo PH Cup lead 2 ‘newbie’ drug pushers fall in Lucena sting Slow and steady hope for near-extinct Bangladesh tortoises “It’s unfortunate that he got hurt. We understand that it’s part of the game,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “He’s tough-minded and he will battle through this.”last_img read more

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Zorn bill makes weatherization a priority

first_img Measure creates efficiency in federal weatherization programThe House Appropriations Committee approved legislation last week sponsored by state Rep. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, which requires the allocation of federal funding to the state’s low-income housing weatherization programs at the beginning of the fiscal year.“The agencies that rely on federal funding to protect the well-being of our most needy Michiganders must know how much money is in their budget to help when that need arises,” said Zorn. “With literally thousands of low-income residents on a waiting list for weatherization, there is no denying that the need is great.”Currently, funding for state weatherization programs from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is inconsistent and unpredictable. The funds are often allocated late in the fiscal year after additional state dollars have been allocated out of necessity. Agencies then scramble to provide services due to the unpredictable fluctuations in need and funding.Often much, if not all, of the LIHEAP funds are spent on emergency heating funds to pay energy bills for low income housing residents. Zorn says this only treats the symptoms and does nothing to fix the problem.“We had to stop the bleeding of tax dollars when it came to assisting our most needy in heating their homes,” Zorn said. “Weatherization is the answer. My bill ensures that we are not just throwing more money at this problem, but that we are actually fixing it.”House Bill 4544 requires the allocation of LIHEAP funds to go toward weatherization programming at the start of the fiscal year. This upfront and more consistent funding will allow for a more effective and efficient use of tax-dollars to assist low-income residents in reducing their energy costs and make it easier for agencies to help Michigan families.The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration.### 08Dec Zorn bill makes weatherization a priority Categories: Newslast_img read more

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Research from German industry association Bitkom s

first_imgResearch from German industry association Bitkom shows that 46% of TVs sold in Germany are now connected TVs.One in six German homes now has a connected TV and that will soon rise to over 20%, according to Bitkom.Furthermore, almost a third of the installed base of connected TV owners use the Internet functionality.last_img

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