Published: Friday 30 April 2004

big cat in trouble: Indonesia's last tiger species -- the Sumatran tiger -- is on the brink of extinction, warns a report by TRAFFIC and WWF. At least 50 tigers have been poached each year between 1998 and 2002. This is alarming, as only 400-500 tigers were found in Sumatra in 1999. Undercover operations revealed substantial domestic trading in the tiger's parts.

long-term hazards: Researchers from Canada's University of Toronto have found that a chemical once used to manufacture pesticides in Asia has got accumulated in their country, and is now threatening human health. High concentrations of the toxic alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane were detected in the atmosphere of Sable Island. As per the researchers, the chemical followed atmospheric and water flows across the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans to end up in the eastern region of Canada.

unparallel feat: Researchers of the Germany-based European Molecular Biology Laboratory have identified three genes in the vector of the malaria parasite, which determine whether Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite, can survive inside the mosquitoes or not. One of the genes proves fatal for the parasite. The discovery could help treat malaria -- the mosquitoes can be genetically engineering to carry more amount of the fatal gene.

productive test: Transgenic crops are being developed to eradicate indiscriminate use of the phosphate fertiliser. But do better alternatives exist? Yes, says John Hammond of UK's Horticulture Research International. He has developed a test that reveals phosphorus deficiency in crops. When the plants are low on phosphorus, a set of their genes is switched on. These are detected during the test; thereafter they can be fertilised judiciously.

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