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1Africa's elusive forest elephants are disappearing

Africa's elusive forest elephants are disappearingThe clock is ticking to save Central Africa's forest elephants. Populations of the elusive elephants have plunged by around 80 percent inside one of the region's most important nature preserves. Within Gabon's Minkébé National Park, poachers likely killed about 25,000 forest elephants for their ivory tusks between 2004 and 2014, according to a Duke University-led study in the journal Current Biology. SEE ALSO: The world's fastest land animal is even more threatened than we thought That's a significant number of animals, considering that Gabon holds about half of the estimated 100,000 forest elephants across all of Central Africa. Forest elephants in Gabon's Minkébé National Park. Image: john poulsen "The loss of 25,000 elephants from this key sanctuary is a considerable setback for the preservation of the species," John Poulsen, an assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke'd Nicholas School of the Environment, said Monday in a statement. The dramatic population decline from one of Central Africa's largest, most remote protected areas "is a startling warning that no place is safe from poaching," he added. Across the African continent, populations of all elephants have plummeted from about 1.3 million in the 1970s to less than 500,000 today due to poaching and habitat loss. This week's dismal numbers from Gabon arrive in spite of a concerted effort by governments and conversationists to halt the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory, meat and other parts.  Soldiers watch as ivory elephant tusks are burned on a pyre in Libreville, Gabon. Image: Joel Bouopda Tatou/AP/REX/Shutterstock In December, two major global conversation unions adopted resolutions to ban all domestic ivory sales, on top of existing bans on international ivory trading. China, the world's largest ivory market, said it plans to shut down its ivory trade by the end of 2017. Gabon itself has also taken important steps to curb poaching, Poulsen said.  The government created a National Park Police force, elevated the conservation status of forest elephants to "fully protected," and doubled the national park agency's budget. In 2012, Gabon was the first African country to burn all its confiscated ivory ? a gesture meant to snuff out the spike in poaching. Yet Gabon's elephants are still vanishing, as the new research shows. For their study, researchers estimated a population loss of between 78 and 81 percent by comparing data from two large-scale surveys of elephant dung in the Minkébé park, which were done in 2004 and 2014.  The team also used different analytical approaches to account for periods of heavy rainfall, which might've sped up the dung's decay and skewed the accuracy of the surveys. Poulsen and his colleagues said that most poachers likely came from outside of Gabon, including the neighboring country of Cameroon.  The edge of Minkébé National Park lies just 3.8 miles from a major Cameroon road, which makes it easy for Camaroonese poachers to cross into Gabon, do their dirty work and bring their illegal haul back into Cameroon.   Poulsen and his colleagues urged governments in Central Africa to team up to stop illegal cross-border traffic, including by establishing new multinational protected areas and coordinating international law enforcement. BONUS: Elephants take their final bow at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus


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2Africa's elusive forest elephants are disappearing

Africa's elusive forest elephants are disappearingThe clock is ticking to save Central Africa's forest elephants. Populations of the elusive elephants have plunged by around 80 percent inside one of the region's most important nature preserves. Within Gabon's Minkébé National Park, poachers likely killed about 25,000 forest elephants for their ivory tusks between 2004 and 2014, according to a Duke University-led study in the journal Current Biology. SEE ALSO: The world's fastest land animal is even more threatened than we thought That's a significant number of animals, considering that Gabon holds about half of the estimated 100,000 forest elephants across all of Central Africa. Forest elephants in Gabon's Minkébé National Park. Image: john poulsen "The loss of 25,000 elephants from this key sanctuary is a considerable setback for the preservation of the species," John Poulsen, an assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke'd Nicholas School of the Environment, said Monday in a statement. The dramatic population decline from one of Central Africa's largest, most remote protected areas "is a startling warning that no place is safe from poaching," he added. Across the African continent, populations of all elephants have plummeted from about 1.3 million in the 1970s to less than 500,000 today due to poaching and habitat loss. This week's dismal numbers from Gabon arrive in spite of a concerted effort by governments and conversationists to halt the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory, meat and other parts.  Soldiers watch as ivory elephant tusks are burned on a pyre in Libreville, Gabon. Image: Joel Bouopda Tatou/AP/REX/Shutterstock In December, two major global conversation unions adopted resolutions to ban all domestic ivory sales, on top of existing bans on international ivory trading. China, the world's largest ivory market, said it plans to shut down its ivory trade by the end of 2017. Gabon itself has also taken important steps to curb poaching, Poulsen said.  The government created a National Park Police force, elevated the conservation status of forest elephants to "fully protected," and doubled the national park agency's budget. In 2012, Gabon was the first African country to burn all its confiscated ivory ? a gesture meant to snuff out the spike in poaching. Yet Gabon's elephants are still vanishing, as the new research shows. For their study, researchers estimated a population loss of between 78 and 81 percent by comparing data from two large-scale surveys of elephant dung in the Minkébé park, which were done in 2004 and 2014.  The team also used different analytical approaches to account for periods of heavy rainfall, which might've sped up the dung's decay and skewed the accuracy of the surveys. Poulsen and his colleagues said that most poachers likely came from outside of Gabon, including the neighboring country of Cameroon.  The edge of Minkébé National Park lies just 3.8 miles from a major Cameroon road, which makes it easy for Camaroonese poachers to cross into Gabon, do their dirty work and bring their illegal haul back into Cameroon.   Poulsen and his colleagues urged governments in Central Africa to team up to stop illegal cross-border traffic, including by establishing new multinational protected areas and coordinating international law enforcement. BONUS: Elephants take their final bow at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus


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3'A Serbian Trap': Freezing conditions in Belgrade are not the biggest problem for refugees in Belgrade

'A Serbian Trap': Freezing conditions in Belgrade are not the biggest problem for refugees in BelgradeA trip along the refugee track within Serbia reveals that the old route through the Balkans is still being used despite strong border control, harsh conditions and frozen temperatures. Despite the existence of camps built by the Serbian state, the migrants are here trying to make their way into European Union countries illegally.


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4Iraqi forces on Mosul hilltop gird for fierce fight ahead

Iraqi forces on Mosul hilltop gird for fierce fight aheadABU SAIF, Iraq (AP) ? Iraqi troops worked to secure a strategic hilltop overlooking Mosul's international airport and a nearby military base on Tuesday, fearing the Islamic State group, which still holds both facilities, may launch another wave of nighttime counterattacks.


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5Brazil's race to save drought-hit city

Brazil's race to save drought-hit cityThe shrunken carcasses of cows lie in scorched fields outside the city of Campina Grande in northeast Brazil, and hungry goats search for food on the cracked-earth floor of the Boqueirao reservoir that serves the desperate town. After five years of drought, farmer Edivaldo Brito says he cannot remember when the Boqueirăo reservoir was last full. Brazil's arid northeast is weathering its worst drought on record and Campina Grande, which has 400,000 residents that depend on the reservoir, is running out of water.


 
 

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