Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Some Real Headlines (UPDATED)

Elephant News, International:

Last week thirteen Asian nations met to discuss the survival of the Asian elephant. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), "Just over five percent of the original Asian elephant habitat remains today, and its population has declined over the past half century to an estimated 30,000-50,000 animals in the wild." Speaking of conservation challenges, here's a thoughtful editorial about the challenge of elephant/human coexistence in Zambia. In Zimbabwe, meanwhile, a call for culls.

In news that is not news, elephants respect big, old females. There's more to the study, but sheesh.

The first pair of Hawthorn elephants have arrived at Hohenwald. Meanwhile, the National Zoo last week put down a 40-year-old elephant named Toni, saying she was arthritic. This after Joyce Poole (one of my heroes) decried the poor conditions in which Toni was kept. In response to the death, PETA has appealed to them to shut down the elephant exhibit and send the three remaining Asian elephants to Hohenwald or the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California. The sad history of elephants in Scranton, PA; illustrative of the ways in which we love nature to death? In WTF news, a man in Grand Forks makes paper products out of elephant poop. Nope, not kidding. He has a website. He sells journals, even. Don't think I'm not tempted.

Festivities in Assam as the annual elephant festival opens. Only days before in Panaja, however, a meeting on ways to handle the elephant "menace."

Kenya News: The drought, again. The UN WFP (World Food Program) believes it could affect 2.5 million people by the end of February. There is concern that conditions are exacerbating tribal conflicts. In head-scratchy news, a New Zealand dog food manufacturer offered to send 42 tons of dog food to starving Kenyans. (From the article: "She was originally quoted . . . as saying she wanted to send dog biscuits but when she heard how many people needed food aid, decided to send the [freeze-dried Raw Dry Nourish] powder.") The Kenyan government has declined the offer.

Government officials aren't coming through this unblemished, however. Four regional officials have been suspended for mismanagement of aid. In addition, reports are that ministers have been blowing state money on luxury SUVs, and that government hiring practices are based on tribalism. That may be only the tip of a multi-million dollar iceberg, though. (AN UPDATE: Finance Minister David Mwiraria has resigned, pleading his innocence. What's going on? It looks as though government contracts may have gone to a phantom corporation which laundered the cash and passed it on to officials involved; since the money came largely from British donors, they're actually upset this time.) Thanks to such reports of corruption, the World Bank has delayed $260 million in loans to Kenya until corruption concerns are allayed.

Kenya's building regulations are being questioned after a building collapse last Monday left fifteen dead. Shoddy workmanship is being blamed. Elsewhere, Kenyan police burned the homes of 300 squatters in the Eburru forest of the Rift Valley. The concern is that human habitation there will contaminate water sources, although there is always the question of other, political motives. Speaking of which, was the murder of Joan Root connected to the plight of Lake Naivasha?

China has launched its first radio station outside its own territory, on Kenyan soil. More concern over the Amboseli handover; can the water supply there support both animals and humans? Also, 40 organizations have written an open letter to President Kibaki, calling on him to stop a deal to export wildlife to Thailand. Elsewhere in the country, the Grevy's zebra is falling prey to anthrax in alarming numbers; it's serious enough, and their numbers are already low enough, that there is fear of extinction.


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