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Wed, 22 Feb 2017
The World for People who Think



Disappearing honey bee population could spell trouble for some crops

Honey bee
The honey bee contributes to a third of the country's food supply but the population is declining. Last year eight percent of the bees disappeared according to the American Beekeepers Federation. The situation was more severe between 2015 and 2016 when there was a 44 percent decrease in colonies.

Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the President of the Bee Informed Partnership, says if this trend continues it could limit the food American's eat. "If we didn't have honey bees, we certainly would lose a lot of our diet," vanEngelsdorp said. He told Fox that would include blueberries, strawberries and vegetables.

The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans. The species can pollinate over 75 percent of flowering plants and crops, making it one of the top pollinators in the U.S. That means the bee can travel up to 6 miles a day and pollinate between 50 to 100 flowers per trip. The pollination process occurs when the pollen sac from one flower sticks to a honey bee's legs and is transferred to another plant. The pollen within the sac spills out when the bee lands on the plant, causing it to be fertilized.

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Brutal ivory trade: Poachers are decimating elephant populations in Africa's most important nature preserve

© Thomas Breuer/PLoS

The population of forest elephants in Gabon's Minkébé National Park—one of Central Africa's largest and most important nature preserves—has declined by a whopping 81.5 percent since 2004 due to poaching. It's considered a major setback for the preservation of this endangered species, of which less than 100,000 remain in the wild.

A discouraging new study published in Current Biology shows that 25,000 elephants were poached in Minkébé National Park for their ivory between 2004 and 2014. That's a lot more than expected, amounting to approximately six to seven elephants killed each day over a 10 year period.

At the turn of the 21st century, the 7,570 square kilometer Minkébé National Park featured the highest population density of forest elephants in all of Central Africa. Given that half of Central Africa's forest elephants, which are distinct from the more well-known savannah elephants, live in Gabon, these losses represent a major setback for the species.

Comment: African elephant populations facing extinction due to hunting and poaching for ivory


Old man in critical condition after bear attack in Odisha, India

An elderly man was seriously injured this morning after a bear attacked him when he had gone to attend nature's call at a farmland near his home in Balasore district of Odisha.

The injured was identified as 70-year-old Bhagaban Nayak of Mahishapata village under Nilagiri police limits in the district.

According to reports, a bear attacked the old man's waist in the morning when he was in a farmland to answer the call of nature.

Bhagaban screamed following the attack and villagers rushed to rescue him from the claws of the wild animal.

He was rushed to Balasore District Headquarters Hospital in a critical condition where on duty doctors suggested to shift him to SCB Medical College and Hospital (SCBMCH) in Cuttack.

Later, he was shifted to SCBMCH for treatment.


Rare great kiskadee spotted in Colleton County, South Carolina

© Kelley Luicky
Great kiskadee on Bear Island
Avid birders have been flocking to the Bear Island Wildlife Management Area in Colleton County for the past 10 days to see a bird that likely has never before visited the Palmetto State.

A great kiskadee - a large, "boisterous" flycatcher typically found in South and Central America, Mexico and the southern edge of Texas - was first spotted by nature photographer Kelley Luikey of Port Royal on the morning of Feb. 9.

"When I arrived at Bear Island that morning, the light and the birds were not cooperating in the areas I had planned on shooting, so I went looking for what else I could find," said Luikey, who was alone.

When she first saw the bird, her view was obscured by branches of a pecan tree, but she was able to keep tracking it because of its call, which is known to be loud and sounds like "kis-ka-dee."

"It was unmistakably something that we do not have here in South Carolina," said Luikey, recalling its bright colors.

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The Vanishing: Europe's farmland birds down 55% in the last 3 decades

© Glyn Sellors
Grey Partridge
The Head of Conservation for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia explains how intensive agriculture has made farmland birds one of the most threatened bird groups in Europe.

Once upon a time, they were all around us - sights and sounds as familiar as the dusky skies their flocks danced in or the wind whistling through the fields. They were the tiny flashes of colour caught by the corner of your eye as you strolled in the countryside. They were the chirps, chatter, coos and caws making music in the hedgerows and the long meadow grasses. But that was before we destroyed their homes. Now, our common farmland birds are not so common.

It's an increasingly rare sight to see a Corn bunting perched on a farm fence before taking off in fluttering flight with its legs dangling, or graceful Yellow wagtail running through wet pastures on its slender black legs. The distinctive orange face and chestnut tail of the once abundant Grey partridge is now glimpsed all too infrequently. When was the last time you admired the splendid crest of a Northern Lapwing or heard the tew it of its display call? How many today would even recognise this once iconic cry? And what of the Barn Owls, Godwits, Corncrakes and Curlews? Or the Redshanks, Whinchats, Twites and Yellowhammers? For the bird lover, the farm has become the tragic symbol of paradise lost.


Man killed by shark off Reunion Island

Former professional shark-spotter Alexandre Naussance, 26, is killed in an area where water sports are banned.

A man who ignored warnings not to surf off the coast of Reunion Island has died after being bitten on the leg by a shark.

Alexandre Naussance, 26, who was once employed as a shark spotter by a surfing association, was attacked while bodyboarding off the northeast coast of the French territory in the Indian Ocean.

He was pulled out of the water by fishermen but pronounced dead after the animal bit through a major artery in his leg.

"This accident happened even though swimming and other water sports are forbidden in this area," the local government office said in a statement.

Better Earth

Over '1 million Magellanic penguins' descend on Punta Tombo, Argentina in spectacular scene

© brendug / Instagram
Over 1 million of the flightless birds are reported to have landed onshore in Argentina
Over one million penguins arrived on Punta Tombo, Argentina in what is thought to be a record number, resulting in stunning displays of wildlife along the shoreline. Often seen in parts of southern Argentina and Chile, the numerous small inlets of Punta Tombo in Argentina's southeast region make a perfect breeding ground for the Magellanic penguins due to the large quantities of sardines and anchovies found close to shore.

Measuring about 45cm (17in) tall and weighing around 4kg (9lbs), the Magellanic penguin sports a large white crescent of feathers on their breast, and have distinctive pink coloring on their faces. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to the peninsula each year to catch a glimpse of the flightless birds but this year is extra special as locals say more than one million of the birds have arrived - a record number - according to AP. While not yet an endangered species, a number of Magellanic penguins die annually when they become tangled in the nets of commercial fisheries.


Could a giant polar bear skull found at an eroding Alaska archaeological site be the legendary 'weasel bear'?

© UIC Science
A huge, unusually shaped polar bear skull, left, emerged in 2014 from an eroding archaeological site southwest of Utqiagvik. It is quite different from most modern polar bear skulls, right.
Aboriginal hunters from Arctic Canada have a couple of names for what they say is an extremely rare polar bear that is huge, narrow-bodied, fast-moving and lithe: "tiriarnaq" or "tigiaqpak," meaning "weasel bear." Now the thawing and rapidly eroding Chukchi Sea coastal permafrost has produced evidence that one of these legendary weasel bears — or some other strange kind of bear — roamed Arctic Alaska centuries ago.

A huge, fully intact and unusually shaped polar bear skull emerged in 2014 from an eroding archaeological site about 13 miles southwest of Utqiaġvik (Barrow). It is one of the biggest polar bear skulls ever found — and quite different from most modern polar bear skulls. It is slender, elongated in the back and has unusual structural features around the nasal area and other areas.

"It looks different from your average polar bear," said Anne Jensen, an Utqiaġvik-based archaeologist who has been leading excavation and research programs in the region. Through radiocarbon dating and subsequent analysis, Jensen and her colleagues estimate that the big bear skull — which appears to be the fourth largest ever found — is from a period between the years 670 and 800. It is possibly the oldest complete polar bear skull found in Alaska, inspiring a name for the departed creature that owned it: The Old One.

Cloud Lightning

Lightning bolt kills 19 cattle in Zimbabwe

Chikomba villagers mill around 18 head of cattle that died after they were struck by lighting on Saturday
Three families from Chikomba district in Mashonaland East province, were left shell-shocked on Saturday after their 19 beasts worth about $10 000, succumbed to a bolt of lightning.

Mable Njowa of Masendu Village lost 10 beasts, while brothers Masiyiwa and Martin Juru of Munhundorima village lost four beasts each in a mid-afternoon incident that has left villagers in panic.

Chikomba district acting livestock production and development officer, Cosmas Ratsakatika, said the incident occurred close to the families' homesteads in headman Neshangwe's area, 60km north-east of Chivhu.

The incident came shortly after a bolt of lightning killed two students and injured 83 others at Chinatsa Secondary School in Marondera district, last month.

Ratsakatika said, two years ago a Feasterstone farmer lost nine head of cattle under similar circumstances.


Stray dog attacks child, drags him out of house in Kerala, India

Nandu was bitten on his hands, legs and thighs.

In a shocking incident, a one-and-a-half-year-old boy was attacked by a stray dog here on Friday.

Nandu, son of Ranjith of Krishna Vilasam near the Palliyadi temple in Chavara, was sleeping inside the house when the dog dragged him out of the house.

The incident happened around 8.30 pm on Friday.

As his parents went to a neighbour's house to fetch water, the dog bit the kid and dragged him out of the house.

Upon hearing his cries, a woman in the neighbourhood rushed to the spot and rescued the kid.