Shark fin soup: a dangerous delicacy for human beings and sharks alike

Hong Kongs shark fin trade is still robust, even devoted recent frightens over unsafe mercury levels. But public attitudes towards consumption are slowly changing

Its early February two days before the Chinese New Year. I am in Hong Kong and there are shark fins everywhere, to suit all types of customer. You can buy them in general food stores, pharmacies and angling villages. You can buy small ones in plastic bags, multipacks or single large ones with festive red prows tied around them.

The cartilage in the fins is usually shredded and used primarily to provide texture and thickening to shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese soup or broth dating back to the Ballad Dynasty( 960 -1 279 ). The dish is considered a luxury item embodying the ideas of hospitality, status and good fortune.

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Hammerhead fins wrapped in New Year good luck bows Photograph: Carina Milligan

The origin of the dish can be traced to the Emperor Taizu of the Northern Song, who reigned from 960 -9 76. It is said that he established shark fin soup to showcase his power, wealth and generosity. The dishs popularity increased during the Ming Dynasty( 1368 -1 644) from the consequences of an admiral of the imperial navy, Zheng He, who commanded expeditionary voyages around Asia and East Africa from 1405 -1 433, bringing back fins that fishermen had discarded. From this phase onwards shark fin soup became an established dish and by the time of the Qing Dynasty( 1644 -1 912) was in high demand.

It is not surprising that the popularity of a dish embodying such gentry and elitism declined once the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949. However, by the late 1980 s China had undergone far-reaching market-economy reforms which led to a steadily increasing upper and middle class, who were eager to showcase their new-found wealth; shark fin soup once again became a style of doing so. Considering that the price per bowl can range from simply HK$ 5( 45 p) to an incredible HK $2000( 180) depending on the type, style and preparation of the shark fin served, the dish is a viable option for a large number of people.

This increase in demand has led to sharks being targeted exclusively for their fins. Shark finning involves the removal and retention of the shark fins on board, whilst the remainder of the shark( under most circumstances the animal is still alive) is then discarded back into the ocean.

The anglers carrying out this practice are often seduced by short-term gain. The price paid for the fins is higher than for their normal catch, yet they are paid relatively little when compared to the money constructed higher up the chain by the fin traders. In west Africa, shark fishermen often rapidly become trapped in a cycle of debt[ pdf] with South East Asian fin traders. Local shark populations are speedily depleted, entailing the fishermen must travel further distances in search of sharks; in order to be allowed to do so they require larger ships and more fuel. The fund for this is loaned to them by the fin traders, who then subtract a proportion of this from any catches. With decreasing shark numbers the fishermen find it increasingly harder to break even.

I first became aware of this practice in 2003, during my undergraduate degree, when writing a paper on the conservation status of the blue shark ( Prionace glauca ), a highly migratory pelagic species. Back then they were considered to be the most heavily fished shark in the world, with an estimated annual fisheries mortality of between 10 and 20 million people. Ten years later, in 2013, I had the chance to dive with blue sharks in the waters above the Azores Bank to the south west of Faial Island. It was easily one of the most memorable dives I have ever done: the sharks were inquisitive, sleek and stunning, complete with their pilot fish companions accompanying them through their open ocean migration.

Following the diving, one of the operators told us that some of the sharks we had dived with today would probably end up on the deck of a fishing barge next week. Sadly, a study by Queiroz and colleagues in December 2015 suggests that this could well have been the case. The examine used satellite tracking data from six shark species across the North Atlantic together with simultaneous GPS tracking of the entire Spanish and Portuguese longline vessel fishing fleet. Data analysis revealed an 80% overlap of fished areas with shark hotspots, this is particularly bad news for the blue shark which comprises around 70% of the total pelagic shark catches.

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A store room containing dried and bagged fins. Photo: Lauren Smith

With molecular genetics, the identification of species is possible even after the fins have been removed, employing diagnostic DNA sequence exams with species-specific PCR primers. These techniques are the most reliable way to decide which species are the most heavily traded. This is particularly important as traders tend to classify fins employing Chinese name categories on the basis of market value. This entails the relationship between the market category and species becomes unclear.

Once a species breakdown becomes available, however, it is clear that fin trading constitutes a threat to a wide range of species. For instance, the figures from a 2006 study show that in Hong Kong for the period examined, the auctioned fin weight was dominated by the blue shark, which made up over 17% of the overall market.Other taxa identified were the mako( Isurus spp .), thresher( Alopias spp .), tiger ( Galeocerdo cuvier ), silky ( Carcharhinus falciformes ), dusky( C. obscuris ), bull( C. leucas ), oceanic white-tip( C. longimanus ), sandbar( C. plumbeus) and hammerhead( Sphyrna spp .). Two of these hammerhead species( scalloped and great) are classified as endangered.

On the positive side, in recent years there has been an increasing public awareness of the shark fin trade and the need for conservation management of elasmobranchs worldwide. The legislative changes in response to this have varied greatly between countries, with some declaring all shark fishing illegal( Palau) and others stating that although the practice of finning is illegal, importation and trade from other regions is not( Canada ).

In the EU, regulations were strengthened in 2013 with the insistence of sharks being landed with fins naturally attached, a technique widely acknowledged as the most reliable means for implementing a finning prohibit. This was a vast improvement on the original 2003 legislation which outlined a fin landing weight of 5% ratio of the total sharks weight. However, this presented a loophole allowing more fins to be landed per whole animal, given the fact that the primary fin set actually weighs around 2% of the total body weight.

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Caudal( tail) fins. Photo: Lauren Smith

Despite the efforts of campaign groups, conservation scientists and government bodies, the real power to aim the fin trade is firmly rooted in the consumer. Without a doubt in Hong Kong there is still ample opportunity to buy shark fins, but does this mean the product is still in high demand? My investigations exposed a mixed response. Some people told me they had stopped feeing shark fin soup wholly, others told me they still both expected it and enjoyed it at marriage and New Year dinners; other people said they feed it regularly.

For those who had stopped eating it, the reasons given were a combination of the ethical implications as well as recent evidence showing that a percentage of shark fins assessed from five Chinese cities( including Hong Kong ), contained mercury and methylmercury in concentrations high enough to be considered unsafe for human consumption. People who eat it at special occasions assured the dish as an important part of their culture and didnt want that completely lost, and those who consume it regularly simply assured it as their right to do so, despite being aware of the environmental and potential health impacts.

The differences in attitudes of the public is encouraging, although a merchant to present to me that his fin sales had increased by 90% over the Chinese New Year period, suggesting that this dish is still a long way from being relegated to history. Continued public awareness, effective legislation and ongoing scientific research remain essential to the future safeguarding of many shark species.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

A Brazilian widower gets adopted by a penguin. It’s freaking adorable.

Many of us have special places in our hearts for pets. And for most of us, it’s a puppy or a cat that greets us when we come home or wakes us up with slobbery kiss.

There aren’t a lot of people, though, who can say that their kindred animal spirit is a penguin. But Joo Pereira de Souza, a Brazilian widower, is one of them.

Joo lives in a small fishing village near the Brazilian coast, and he formed an unlikely relationship with a penguin named Jinjing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Joo determined his soon-to-be companion on the beach covered in petroleum in 2011. He scooped the little guy up and moved him to a shadier place, where he fed him some sardines.

All images via Wall Street Journal/ YouTube.

Then he took the penguin back to the beach so he could swimming back to wherever he came from. There was one problem, though: Jinjing didn’t really want to go back. He toddled right back out of the ocean and toward Joo.

“He never left me again, ” Joo told of his little penguin friend.

It’s been four years now, and Jinjing does occasionally take trips “out of town.” He tends to take off for a few months around February too. But he always comes back to the village and to Joo.

Why is this story absolutely amazing? Well, first of all, because it’s an adorable penguin friendship. But second, Joo and Jinjing’s story really highlights how important it can be to have a companion even if that companion is an animal.

Spending time with an animal pal can be therapeutic, especially for people who are lonely, anxious, or depressed.

Studies prove that spending time with an animal can lower stress levels and even help people process trauma.

Plus, having an animal buddy can also assist connect people to one another. Anyone who has a puppy knows that it’s almost impossible to take a pup for a walk without fulfilling at least a few people. In a study published in 2000, researchers found that simply strolling a dog outside can help trigger conversations with strangers.

Joo and Jinjing can vouch for that therapy.

When they’re not swimming together in the ocean or strolling on the beach, they hang out with other members of the community, where Jinjing is known as the “village mascot.”

Having a pet can construct you more physically healthy as well. It’s hard to avoid exercise when your dog or cat wants to play every morning, after all. And one analyse found that having a household pet could even help control blood pressure.

So you don’t need a penguin to find heartwarming companionship( and, in fact, “youre supposed to” shouldn’t try to get one ).

But there are plenty of rescue animals in shelters that need forever homes and new best friend! You can even start the adoption process today. And if you want to live vicariously through Joo, you can check out this video of the two BFFs from the Wall street Journal :

Read more: www.upworthy.com

The country set to cash in on climate change

Record temperatures threaten traditional ways of life in Greenland but as the sea ice retreats, new mining, fishing and tourism investments possibilities are helping communities to adapt

Asked if he is fearful about the impact of climate change, Tnnes Kaka Berthelsens response is typical of many Greenlanders. We are more worried about the Maldives, he told bluntly.

Greenland has lived with extreme environmental changes for a decade or more. Sea ice is forming 2 months later and melting one month earlier. River fed by retreating glaciers are at record levels. And temperature records were smashed twice this year, with stunned meteorologists rechecking their measurings after 24 C was recorded in the capital, Nuuk, in June.

Traditional hunters are giving up their dog squads because there is three months less hunting on sea ice but climate change is no disaster, according to Berthelsen, the deputy manager of Knapk, Greenlands hunters and fishers association. The 56,000 dwellers of the largest island in the world that is not a continent must adapt, fast.

In the sea, new fish species are arriving. On land, the melting ice is set to uncover a wealth of zinc, iron, uranium, gold, and rare earth components that some predict is likely to be the largest deposits outside China.

Greenland believes that climate change will bequeath the wealth to win the ultimate political prize: full independence from Denmark. The country gained self-rule in 2009 but its economy is still sustained by a 3.2 bn kroner( 362 m) annual grant from its former colonial masters.

The vast majority more than 90% of Greenlands export income is from fish, and 2016 was the best ever year, according to Berthelsen. Greenlands pink gold, cold-water shrimp, is moving further north and new fish species mackerel, herring, cod and Atlantic bluefin tuna are entering the countrys waters. We havent considered such big cod stocks since the 1970 s, said Berthelsen.

But in the far north, climate change is hastening the decline of hunting. The traditional way of life is very challenged, said Bjarne Ababsi Lyberth, a biologist and hunting expert for the Association of Fishers and Hunters. People used to go hunting for weeks on the sea ice. They would go so far out they couldnt insure any land. Now they can traveling merely for one day by ocean ice, theres too much open water and its unstable.

Greenland has three climate forms polar, Arctic and sub-Arctic and the effects on the nation, its people and wildlife are varied. In the polar region, hunters report that polar bears havent changed much told Lyberth, and still look in good health. Further south, the bears have less body fat and are considered more frequently near villages, scavenging for food. Hunters also find it is impossible to store their meat in caches on the ice, as they once did, because hungry polar bears take it.

The changes that Europe and the rest of the world are becoming aware of have been going on in Greenland for 10 or 20 years, said Lyberth. Its not something that scares people. Its more a question of adapting.

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Dog squads and Inuit hunters in Qaanaaq, Greenland, heading out in the spring during the period of the midnight sunshine. Photo: Louise Murray/ Alamy

Losing three months of sea ice means that hunters are getting rid of their puppy teams, which are expensive to feed and preserve, and switching to angling. But during the long wintertime darkness it is easier to hunt on ice with puppies than take a boat out fishing.

Climate change not only has an economic impact but an enormous impact on culture and how we are dealing with traditional lifestyles, told Aleqa Hammond, the countrys former “ministers “, the first female to be elected in 2013, and now a member of the Danish parliament.

Greenlanders are very good at assuring the new opportunities. We have simply refused to be victimised due to climate change. I am very optimistic. I find more positive options for the country than negatives. I wish that it wasnt happening but it is and thats a fact. Once its there you have an obligation to do the best out of it.

Lyberth gives the example of hunters forming small teams to target minke whales as an example of rapid adaptation: It involves skills and knowledge but the hunters are learning very quickly. But Hammond says investment is required to turn hunters into fishermen: Moving from hunting to fishing is not an easy task for many it requires quite a bit of investment both in equipment but also knowledge to ensure they will be capable of making a living as fishermen.

New processing facilities will be built in Greenland so it can export value-added cod fillets rather than the whole fish: migrant labour may be required to staff these new facilities.

Temperatures

Greenlanders can now buy home-grown potatoes and salad in Nuuk supermarkets but many southern farmers have fought with drought in 2015 and 2016. Grass growth is stunted, sheep are smaller, and farmers are forced to buy winter food rather than use their own fodder. The number of sheep farmers has fallen from 74 in 1983 to about 37 today.

Self-sufficiency in food may be a long way off but 70% of Greenlands energy is now renewable hydropower from melt-fed rivers. Hammond speaks of 100% renewable energy, and attracting energy-hungry server farms, which companies such as Google and Facebook typically situate inside the Arctic Circle. She also predicts a growth in tourism with ships entering newly ice-free fjords. Greenland is becoming a new tourist frontier, she said.

But the vision of a climate-changed Greenland as a tourist-friendly wilderness is challenged by the rapid industrialisation that will occur if Greenland becomes a big mining nation.

Greenlands move towards freedom in 2009 crucially included ownership of its own mineral reserves. Numerous exploratory licences have been issued to multinational mining companies. According to the governments Ministry of Mining Resources, Greenlands first mines a feldspar minerals mine and a ruby and pink sapphire mine are expected to go into production in 2017. Other mining projects include a zinc mine and a rare earth parts mine, drilling for gold in Nuuk fjord, and promising exploratory drilling for a nickel-copper-cobalt mine.

If or when the mining boom takes off, Greenlands indigenous population is likely to be dwarfed by migrant labour. Small countries suddenly enriched by mining often experience corruption or social problems but Hammond insists Greenland has prepared strong laws governing labour rights and mining royalties. The country has established a fund modelled on Norways oil-derived sovereign wealth fund.

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Greenlands prime minister, Kim Kielsen, with an oil-bearing stone from Nuuk. Photograph: Alister Doyle/ Reuters

Greenlands parliament has adopted a mineral money but it doesnt mean well be going round with a million dollars in each pocket, said Hammond. It will not be used in the short-term but will ensure that Greenland is set up for bad days and used with good sense and with a unanimous vote in the parliament.

Sren Hald Mller, permanent secretary for Greenlands prime minister, Kim Kielsen, said the government viewed climate change as a concern, shortening the winter ice season in the north and stopping winter hunting and fishing.

We know that climate change also creates new opportunities, for example in new pelagic[ cod, herring, mackerel] fisheries. But still , no one can simply leap from one occupation to another that is completely different, Mller tells. My hope is that we as a society can adapt in the best possible route to the climatic changes, simply because we as a nation and as a people cannot prevent it.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

11 Ways Dogs Tell You They Love You

Dogs have their own behavioral patterns and when it is necessary to communication their uniqueness really shines.

They actually pick up on little signals from humans and react accordingly. They express love in the cutest styles and when they need something they have their own way of letting you know. When theyve done something wrong, they communicate guilt which can be hilarious.

Here are some tell-tale signs of how dogs communicate with humans.

1. When a dog stares at you, it means they love you .

Apparently when puppies look at you in the eye, the objective is visually hugging you. What gets released within them when they give off these stares is oxytocin, a hormone that also helps with dog mommies bonding with their babies. You shouldnt force the stare onto your puppy, but rather allow it to occur naturally.

2. Bringing you a doll means more than merely wanting to play. They want to share something they value with you .

Sharing is common dog behavior.

3. When a puppy wants to sleep with you rather than alone, it means you are family to him .
4. When a dog cant wait to see you walk through the door, and suffocates you with attention, it means he actually misses you .

5. If you catch your puppy looking at you softly before you leave him alone or dismissing you, its because they are relaxed and trust you to return .

Separation anxiety can be common and usually will happen when a dog starts to panic when you leave. While its a sign that your dog loves you and misses you, its genuinely more of a sign of an anxiety condition that can lead to destructive behaviour. Now if your dog is quiet upon you leaving, this does not mean he or she loves you less! Its more that you dog trusts you will be back.

6. Dogs use their eyes and their body language to tell you if they trust you and tell you exactly what we feeling .

Read more:

Set down the pug: This is why you shouldn’t buy flat-faced dogs

Image: Getty Images / Frank Rumpenhorst / mashable composite

LONDON Veterinarians are urging people not to purchase certain breeds of dogs including pugs, bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and shih-tzus.

Breeds such as these are called brachycephalic dogs, and a range of health problems are associated with their characteristic “flat faces”.

The problems arise from the distinctive shape of the dogs’ muzzle, head, and throat, which can make it difficult for the animals to breathe. Surgical procedures are often needed to remove obstructive tissues in order to clear the major airway passages.

French bulldogs are one of several breeds known as brachycephalic dogs.

Image: getty images / tom williams

Six different dog rescue companies told the BBC that dogs with squashed faces have been turning up in droves at shelters, including Battersea Dogs Home and Bluecross Animal Rescue, which reported receiving a total of 314 “flat-faced” dogs in 2015.

Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said in a quote sent to Mashable, “The surge in popularity of these dogs has increased animal suffering and resulted in unwell pets for owners.

“We strongly encourage people to think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead.

In 2015, the UK Pet Owners Association’s list of the top 10 most popular breeds in Britain included three brachycephalic dogs: the French bulldog, pugs, and bulldogs.

Because the dogs seem to be en vogue, puppy farms and substandard breeders perpetuate the problem by trying to meet the demand for the flat-faced dogs.

So perhaps for the health of the dogs it’s best to think twice before picking up that cute pug.

Read more:

Why Its Impossible To Actually Be A Vegetarian

In case youve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, heres a quick refresher.

Plants make up the base of every food chain of the food web( also called the food cycle ). Plants use available sunlight to convert water from the clay and carbon dioxide emissions from the air into glucose, which dedicates them the energy they need to live. Unlike plants, animals cant synthesize their own food. They survive by feeing plants or other animals.

Clearly, animals feed plants. Whats not so clear from this painting is that plants also feed animals. They prosper on them, in fact( only Google fish emulsion ). In my new volume, A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism, I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one cant has become a vegetarian.

Chew on this

Ill pause to let the collective yowls of both biologists and( erstwhile) vegetarians subside.

A transitive property says that if one component in a sequence associates in a certain route to a second element, and the second element relates in the same route to a third, then the first and third elements pertain in the same way as well.

Take the well-worn trope you are what you eat. Lets say instead that we are who we feed. This stimulates the claim more personal and also implies that the beings who we attain our food arent only things.

How our food lives and succumbs matters. If we are who we feed, our food is who our food eats, too. This means that we are who our food eats in equal measure.

Plants acquire nutrients from the soil, which is composed, among other things, of disintegrated plant and animal remains. So even the individuals who assume they subsist solely on a plant-based diet actually feed animal remains as well.

This is why its impossible to be a vegetarian.

For the record, Ive been a vegetarian for about 20 years and virtually vegan for six. Im not opposed to these eating practices. That isnt my point. But I do think that many vegetarians and vegans could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we build our food.

For example, many vegetarians cite the sentience of animals as a reason to abstain from feeing them. But theres good reason to believe that plants are sentient, too. In other terms, theyre acutely well informed and responsive to their surroundings, and they react, in kind, to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

Check out the work of plant scientists Anthony Trewavas, Stefano Mancuso, Daniel Chamowitz and Frantiek Baluka if you dont believe me. Theyve shown that plants share our five senses and have something like 20 more . They have a hormonal information-processing system thats homologous to animals’ neural network. They exhibit clear signs of self-awareness and intentionality. And they can even learn and teach.

Its also important to be aware that vegetarianism and veganism arent always eco-friendly. Seem no further than the carbon footprint of your morning coffee, or how much water is required to produce the almonds you enjoy as an afternoon snack.

A term for the skeptics

I suspect how some biologists provide responses: first, plants dont actually eat since feeing involves the ingestion via chewing and swallow of other life kinds. Second, while its true that plants absorb nutrients from the soil and that these nutrients could have come from animals, theyre strictly inorganic: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and tracing sums of other elements. Theyre the constituents of recycled minerals, devoid of any vestiges of animality.

As for the first concern, maybe it would help if I said that both plants and animals take in, eat or make use of, rather than employing the word eat. I guess Im only not picky about how I conceptualize what feeing entails. The point is that plants ingest carbon dioxide emissions, sunlight, water and minerals that are then used to build and sustain their bodies. Plants ingest inasmuch as they create, and they arent the least bit particular about the origins of the minerals they acquire.

With respect to the second concern, why should be used matter that the nutrients depicted by plants from animals are inorganic? The phase is that they once played in essential role in facilitating animals lives. Are we who we eat only if we take in organic matter from the beings who become our food? I confess that I dont understand why this should be. Privileging organic matter strikes me as a biologists bias.

Then theres the argument that mineral recycling cleanses the nutrients of their animality. This is a contentious claim, and I dont think this is a fact of the matter. It goes to the core of the way we view our relationship with our food. You could say that there are spiritual issues at stake here , not only matters such as biochemistry.

Changing how we view our food

Lets view our relationship with our food in a different way: by taking into account the fact that were part of a community of living beings plant and animal who occupy the place that we stimulate our home.

Were eaters, yes, and is likewise eat. Thats right, were part of the food web, too! And the well-being of each is dependent on the well-being of all.

From this perspective, what the self-proclaimed farmosopher Glenn Albrecht calls sumbiotarianism( from the Greek word sumbioun, to live together) has clear advantages.

Sumbioculture is a form of permaculture, or sustainable agriculture. Its an organic and biodynamic route of farming thats consistent with the health of entire ecosystems.

Sumbiotarians eat in harmony with their ecosystem. So they exemplify, literally, the idea that the well-being of our food hence, our own well-being is a function of the health of the land.

In order for our needs to be met, the needs and interests of the land must come first. And in areas where its prohibitively difficult to acquire the essential fats that we need from pressed petroleums alone, this may include different forms of animal used only for meat, manure and so forth.

Simply set, living sustainably in such an area whether its New England or the Australian Outback may well entail relying on animals for food, at the least in a limited way.

All life is bound together in a complex web of interdependent relationships among someones, species and entire ecosystems. Each of us borrows, its utilization and returns nutrients. This cycle is what permits life to continue. Rich, black soil is so fertile because its chock full of the composted are still in the dead along with the waste of the living.

Indeed, its not uncommon for indigenous peoples to identify veneration of their ancestors and of their ancestral land with the celebration of the life-giving character of the earth. Consider this from culture ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist Melissa Nelson 😛 TAGEND

The bones of our ancestors have become the clay, the clay grows our food, the food nourishes our bodies, and we become one, literally and metaphorically, with our homelands and territories.

Youre welcome to disagree with me, of course. But its worth noting that what I propose has conceptual roots that may be as old as humanity itself. Its probably worth taking some time to digest this.

Read more: www.iflscience.com

The giant rats that love avocado- and can diagnose deadly TB | Kate Lyons

A team in Tanzania have developed African pouched rats to make life-saving discoveries, sniffing out cases of tuberculosis missed by health clinics

After scampering about a sleek glass and aluminium enclosure, a rat named Riziwan has made a crucial discovery.

In just minutes, Riziwan has positively identified 13 people who may have tuberculosis. The discovery is potentially life-saving news for those whose sputum samples were marked as clear by their local health clinics. But it’s all in a day’s- or rather 15 minutes’- work for Riziwan and the other giant African pouched rats that work at Belgian organisation Apopo‘s TB centre in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Riziwan , now almost a year old, has been trained- almost since birth- to pick up the smell of the disease, which is notoriously difficult to detect.

To carry out his run, Riziwan is placed in a large cage. Into its base, technicians insert a metal bar holding 10 dishes of human sputum, sent to Apopo by a TB clinic. All samples have been heat-treated so there is no risk of infection to either rats or humen. One by one, metal grates in the bottom of the enclosure are opened to allow Riziwan to sniff each petri dish.

There is silence among the technicians as Riziwan investigates the samples. He moves on quickly from slots one and two, but at the third he pauses and scratches the metal bottom of the enclosure, indicating that he reeks the disease.

At the seventh hole he scratches again, and again at the eighth. This time Harumi Ramadhani, the training superintendent, presses a clicker, meaning Riziwan has correctly identified a control sample from one of the clinics. It earns him a reward of mashed banana, avocado and rat pellets.

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Apopo rats find an additional 40% of TB suits on top of those discovered by clinics

In all, Riziwan checks 100 samples. His run done for the day, he is returned to a large open-air playpen. The enclosure is cleaned and a second rat- a female named Pink- is brought in to test his findings.

” No person will be treated only on the comments of a rat ,” says Lena Fiebig, head of the TB programme at Apopo.” The rats at this moment are not approved as a standalone diagnostic tool. We’ll then use a recognised method, and this is mostly concentrated microscopy, where a laboratory technician will re-check these samples. But the rats have already contributed tremendously to narrowing down the focus, so it’s not a team of 10 lab technicians who need a week to re-check .”

On average, Apopo rats find an additional 40% of TB examples on top of those discovered by clinics. Since they started work 10 years ago, they have screened nearly half a million samples and detected more than 12,200 missed lawsuits. They can get through 100 samples in 10 to 20 minutes: a human with a microscope takes four days to test the same number.

The World Health Organization estimates that last year 4. 1m TB occurrences ran undetected, despite it being the world’s top infectious killer in 2016, resulting in 1.7 m demises. Detection rates use conventional light microscopy- the technique used during the clinics that send samples to Apopo for checking- can be as low as 20%.

Tuberculosis is an obvious target for the keen-nosed rats.” It’s known, or perceived, that TB has a specific odour. Reportedly dogs would avoid patients’ rooms with the disease ,” tells Fiebig.” Even physicians have reported cases where they receive a smell off TB patients .”

Workers
Workers at the Apopo TB detection centre

The centre began developing the rats on samples from the central TB laboratory for Tanzania, and the programme became operational in 2007. Apopo now partners with 57 clinics in Tanzania, and has operations in Mozambique and a centre about to open in Ethiopia.

” They are incredible ,” tells Ramadhani.” They can do a lot of things and they’re an easy animal to work with .”

Life is pretty good for the African pouched rats. At the end of the week- on” full-cheek Friday”- they are allowed to stuff their famous pouches with a feast. They live about eight or nine years and when they are too old to run are retired to the playpens.

The versatile species has also proved adept at detecting landmines. In the past 20 years, Apopo’s rats have found more than 100,000 landmines and unexploded regulations, clearing 22 m square metres of land in countries including Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia. The NGO hopes to send teams to Colombia and Zimbabwe next year.

Mine-clearing is still core to what Apopo does and in the early hours of one morning, handlers transport a dozen rats to a 24 -hectare( 29 -acre) field where defused landmines have been interred for them to train with.

The animals, which are nocturnal and susceptible to sunburn, have their tails and ears slathered in clear sunscreen. They are fitted into harness, and methodically check every square inch of ground.

Burhani is being tested today. If he passes- rub at the soil above every interred landmine- he will be sent to Angola to replace a rat nearing retirement. Werrason( named after a Congolese musician) is progressing well, but misses two ours, so is not yet ready to be deployed. The third, Chifupa( named after a late Tanzanian MP) is struggling. She is still on one of the smaller, easier develop fields and misses about half of the mines buried in it. It will be some time before she catches up with the rest of her class.

The human de-miners must have complete religion in the rats’ ability. They are merely let on to minefields when they can detect every explosive in the field during develop, with only one false positive- compared with the tuberculosis rats, which are operational with a sensitivity rate of 75 %.

After a piece of land has been cleared of ours, as part of the handover ceremony to the community, Apopo staff will run across it to prove to sceptical locals that it is safe.

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In the past 20 years, the rats have found more than 100,000 landmines and unexploded ordinances

Cindy Fast, head of Apopo’s training, the investigations and developing, is always on the lookout for more ways the animals might put their noses to good employ.” We are just beginning to tap into their potential ,” she says.

There is talk of using them in disaster zones, receiving survivors buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings. And this week a group of rats began training to recognise the fragrance of African hardwoods as well as the scales of the pangolin, the most trafficked mammal in the world, so they can be used in anti-smuggling operations.

Slowly, these projects are turning rats from pests into heroes among locals.

” In the beginning it was very difficult to get people to understand what we’re doing ,” says Shaibu Hamisi, one of the mine detecting rat trainers.” People didn’t understand how the rodent could be helpful .” He adds that there is still stigma around the animals.

The trainers miss their charges when they are sent abroad for different projects, Hamisi says, but” when we hear this rat has discovered two landmines today, we feel really proud “.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

South Korea closes biggest dog meat market in run-up to Olympics

Animals at Moran market in Seongnam were maintained in inhumane conditions and killed utilizing electrocution, hanging and beating

The shutters have started coming down at South Koreas biggest dog meat market as the country seeks to head off international criticism over its practice of killing puppies for human consumption before it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Moran market in Seongnam sells more than 80,000 puppies, dead or alive, every year and accounts for about a third of South Koreas dog meat consumption, according to local media.

On Monday, public officials and traders began removing butchery facilities and enclosures in which live animals are maintained before they are slaughtered. The decision to close the market came as animal welfare campaigners highlighted the inhumane conditions in which the animals were kept and the methods used to kill them: electrocution, hanging and beating.

The smell and noise had also prompted complaints from nearby residents.

The markets closure has met with opponent, however. South Korean media reported that a handful of the 22 dog meat marketers who initially agreed to the move last December now resist it, and are demanding compensation to make up for the loss of business.

Almost 80% of our clients visit our stores to buy fresh dog meat, so what are they going to do if we cannot offer it for them? Is the government going to pay us? Shin Seung-cheol, a Moran trader, told the Korea Herald.

Animal
Animal rights activists lie in cages as part of a demo against feeing dog meat in Seongnam in 2010. Photo: Park Ji-Hwan/ AFP/ Getty Images

Officials in Seongnam, a city near Seoul, said traders would be given financial support to refurbish their premises and open new business part of an effort to remodel the open-air marketplace and aim its long association with the dog meat trade.

For decades, dog meat sellers have taken advantage of a legal grey area: livestock hygiene laws do not apply to the killing and sale of dogs, constructing it difficult for authorities to regulate the industry.

Activists point out, though, that the animal protection law, while not expressly proscribing the carnage of dogs, does prohibit brutal methods and the killing of animals in the open.

According to the Korean Statistics Information Service 892,820 puppies were being kept at more than 100 farms in 2010, reported the Korea Observer. Supporters of the industry assert that eating dog meat can improve male virility and battle fatigue and illness, particularly during the hot summertime months.

At Moran market, clients typically select live dogs which are then butchered in plain sight of shoppers.

Although only a small proportion of South Koreans regularly eat dog meat, thousands of eateries and health food stores continue to sell it, mainly in soups and stews, or as a herb-infused tonic, according to International Aid for Korean Animals.

International criticism of dog meat intake intensified during the 2002 football World Cup, which South Korea jointly hosted with Japan. Some campaigners have launched online petitions calling for a boycott of next years Pyeongchang Olympics unless the country bans the eating of dog meat.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

South Korea shuts biggest puppy meat market in run-up to Olympics

Animals at Moran market in Seongnam were kept in inhumane conditions and killed employing electrocution, hanging and beating

The shutters have started coming down at South Koreas biggest dog meat market as the country seeks to head off international criticism over its practice of killing puppies for human consumption before it hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Moran market in Seongnam sells more than 80,000 puppies, dead or alive, every year and accounts for about a third of South Koreas dog meat consumption, according to local media.

On Monday, public officials and merchants began removing butchery facilities and cages in which live animals are kept before they are slaughtered. The decision to close the market came as animal welfare campaigners highlighted the inhumane conditions in which the animals were maintained and the methods used to kill them: electrocution, hanging and beating.

The smell and noise had also prompted complaints from nearby residents.

The markets closure has met with opposition, however. South Korean media reported that a handful of the 22 dog meat dealers who initially agreed to the move last December now resist it, and are demanding compensation to make up for the loss of business.

Almost 80% of our clients visit our stores to buy fresh puppy meat, so what are they going to do if we cannot offer it for them? Is the government going to pay us? Shin Seung-cheol, a Moran trader, told the Korea Herald.

Animal
Animal rights activists lie in enclosures as part of a demonstration against eating puppy meat in Seongnam in 2010. Photograph: Park Ji-Hwan/ AFP/ Getty Images

Officials in Seongnam, a city near Seoul, said traders would be given financial support to refurbish their premises and open new business part of an effort to remodel the open-air marketplace and end its long association with the dog meat trade.

For decades, dog meat marketers have taken advantage of a legal grey area: livestock hygiene laws do not apply to the killing and sale of dogs, building it difficult for authorities to regulate the industry.

Activists point out, though, that the animal protection law, while not expressly outlawing the massacre of dogs, does proscribe brutal methods and the killing of animals in the open.

According to the Korean Statistics Information Service 892,820 puppies were being kept at more than 100 farms in 2010, reported the Korea Observer. Advocates of the industry assert that eating dog meat can improve male masculinity and battle fatigue and illness, particularly during the hot summertime months.

At Moran market, customers typically select live dogs which are then butchered in plain sight of shoppers.

Although only a small proportion of South Koreans regularly feed dog meat, thousands of restaurants and health food stores continue to sell it, mainly in soups and stews, or as a herb-infused tonic, according to International Aid for Korean Animals.

International criticism of dog meat intake intensified during the course of its 2002 football World Cup, which South Korea collectively hosted with Japan. Some campaigners have launched online petitions calling for a boycott of next years Pyeongchang Olympics unless the country bans the eating of dog meat.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Koko the rhyming gorilla and the woman trying to get her pregnant

She tells gags, talks in verse and is chums with DiCaprio but theres one thing missing from Kokos life: a baby. A riveting new documentary investigates the controversial bond between one both women and her ape

It wasnt the first time I had looked into the eyes of a gorilla, but it was the first time a gorilla had asked me to sit down so she could check out my nail varnish.

Koko is a 44 -year-old Western Lowland gorilla who comes into contact in sign language. I was in California to make a documentary about her life and, uniquely, Koko had to give final signoff for the cinema to go ahead. Despite the appalling nation of my fingernails, she agreed.

She is a rather unusual gorilla. According to Kokos long-time caregiver, Penny Patterson, she uses more than 1,000 signs, can speak in sentences, tell jokes and talk in verse. She has a number of cats for pets, her own fundraising charge card( for the Gorilla Foundation, the nonprofit in charge of her care) and has gratified celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Isabella Rossellini, Sting and Robin Williams.

Not bad for a gorilla who started their own lives in captivity in San Francisco zoo in 1971. At six months old, Koko became ill and had to be separated from her mother. As she recovered, she was adopted by Patterson, then a Stanford University student. Patterson began to instructor Koko in sign language as part of her PhD dissertation. The project was supposed to last four years, but has ended up lasting 44. Patterson and Koko have a bond like that of mom and daughter. Their life together is a source of inspiration to some, but has also ignited intense controversy.

Read more: www.theguardian.com