In Brief

Published: Thursday 15 February 2007

Eye for the rare Slender loris, a nocturnal primate with huge eyes, is endemic to Sri Lanka and is one of the rarest and weirdest animals, which will be the focus of an ambitious conservation project--the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered programme. Led by Zoological Society of London, the plan has identified 100 endangered species with unique evolutionary histories. Initially, it focuses on 10 high-priority species Yangtze river dolphin, long-beaked echidna, hispaniolan solenodon, bactrian camel, pygmy hippopotamus, hirola, golden-rumped elephant shrew, bumblebee bat, long-eared jerboa and slender loris.

Taking note >> The UN Food and Agriculture Organization announced that the Danish pesticide company, Cheminova, has agreed to phase out "World Health Organization Class I pesticides, including methyl parathion and monocrotophos, from developing countries between 2007 and 2010".
>> Twenty-four nations whose fishing fleets ply the Mediterranean have pledged to help dwindling stocks with measures including nets that allow young fish to escape. The nations have also signed off a recovery plan for threatened blue-fin tuna.
>> Illegal coffee farming, going on in 45,000 hectares of Indonesia's protected forestland, is threatening the country's wildlife, notes a recent press note of WWF. If the trend is not halted, the rhinos and tigers will be locally extinct in less than a decade, it warns.
South Asia

fencing landmines The UN has rejected Pakistan's recent decision to fence and mine the border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militancy. Following mounting pressure from the international community to prevent infiltration of Taliban militants (believed to be hiding along the country's porous border with Afghanistan), the Pakistan government had planned to plant landmines and build a fence in 'selected places' along its 2,400-km border with Afghanistan. The decision also prompted demonstrations along the border in east and southeast Afghanistan, where mainly the Pashtoon (the majority ethnic group) live. Millions of this community live on both sides of the border. The move goes against a global treaty on the use of landmines, that has been ratified by more than 150 countries. But Pakistan is one of 40 countries, including the US, that have not signed up.

Landslide kills At least 16 people were killed and around 60,000 displaced in recent landslides caused by heavy rains in the central and southern Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya, a mountainous region, was the worst hit with an estimated 9,000 persons homeless across 15 villages. According to local media reports, access had been cut off in some areas and the military is carrying out relief operations. However, resettling the displaced residents of more than 100 villages in the areas of Walapone and Hnguranketha divisional secretariat has been difficult as the land is prone to more slides.

Chikungunya hits The mosquito-transmitted viral fever chikungunya is fast spreading across the Maldives. According to the public health department's report, of the 20,853 reported cases, 3,634 are confirmed with the virus. So far, the maximum number of cases are reported from the islands in Raa atoll. Health officials say the mosquito breeding control programme is a failure due to poor support from the residents. The education ministry has extended the vacation period for some schools, as the disease has affected a large number of students and teachers.
In Court A catch for fish breeders A small court in south China has made legal history by actually pulling up government agencies in response to a case filed by fish breeders complaining about industries polluting their fishponds. A public interest petition, filed by 82 fish breeders, had alleged that between 2003 and 2004, pollution from factories in the Wenzhou industrial area damaged more than 367 hectares of fishponds and caused damages worth US $21.8 million. Acting on the complaint, the Shangchen district court in Hangzhou has ordered the police to determine why the public security bureau did not act on the complaints of the fish breeders. Though the ruling is an interim order, much depends on whether the judiciary would take the next major step of actually penalising the polluting industries and the environmental protection agency.

fight for Arizona bald eagle The Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society recently filed a suit challenging the Bush administration's suppression of scientific reports concluding that the Arizona Bald Eagle should remain on the endangered species list.The suit seeks an injunction barring the US Fish and Wildlife Service from removing the Arizona eagle from the endangered list and requiring it to incorporate the scientific studies in its management plans.

Nationally, the bald eagle has experienced an extraordinary recovery, growing from just 416 pairs in 1963 to about 10,000 pairs today. But the recovery of Arizona population has been modest. Historically, the US Fish and Wildlife Service managed the Arizona bald eagle as a population distinct from all other eagles and has its own recovery plan and programme. In 1999, however, the agency proposed to treat all eagles, at a dwindling number of 48, as a single population and remove them from the endangered list.

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