Current Affairs : Environment
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  • The latest dive reached 10,927m (35,849ft) beneath the waves making a new record.
  • An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive. Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km to the deepest place in the ocean the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.
  • He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep.
  • He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers. It is the third time humans have reached the ocean's extreme depths.
  • The first dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench took place in 1960 by US Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard in a vessel called the bathyscaphe Trieste.
  • Movie director James Cameron then made a solo plunge half a century later in 2012 in his bright green sub.
  • The latest descent, which reached 10,927m (35,849ft) beneath the waves, is now the deepest by 11m - making Victor Vescovo the new record holder.
  • In total, Mr Vescovo and his team made five dives to the bottom of the trench during the expedition. Robotic landers were also deployed to explore the remote terrain.
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  • Snakehead fishes of the family Channidae are predatory freshwater fishes comprising 50 valid species, many of which are important food fishes
  • Researchers at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) have discovered a new species of “snakehead fish” lurking in the subterranean waters of Kerala.
  • The bizarre fish has been scientifically named Aenigmachanna Gollum (Gollum Snakehead- common name) after ‘Gollum’, a character from the ‘The Lord of the Rings’, a creature that went underground and during its subterranean life changed its morphological features.
  • The fish is not only a new species, but also a remarkable new genus of the snakehead family channidae (which is currently represented by two other genera, Channa in Asia, and Parachanna in Africa), said Rajeev Raghavan, Asst Professor at the Dept of Fisheries Resource Management, Kufos.
  • Snakehead fishes (Varaal – in Malayalam) of the family Channidae are predatory freshwater fishes comprising 50 valid species, many of which are important food fishes.
  • Some are also popular in the aquarium fish trade, and others have been introduced around the world with several species becoming highly invasive.
  • Normally subterranean fishes show many unique characters which are interestingly absent in Aenigmachanna.
  • This suggests two possibilities either it represents a lineage that only recently began a subterranean lifestyle and still has maintained its surface-life features, or that it lives in a habitat in which regular excursions to the surface-water still occur.
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  • Climate change and rising sea levels eventually may wipe out one of the world’s last and largest tiger strongholds, scientists warned in a new study.
  • The cats are among nearly 500,000 land species whose survival is in question because of threats to their natural habitats, according to a report 6th May by the United Nations.
  • The Sundarbans, 4,000 square miles of marshy land in Bangladesh and India, hosts the world’s largest mangrove forest and a rich ecosystem supporting several hundred animal species, including the endangered Bengal tiger.
  • But 70 per cent of the land is just a few feet above sea level, and grave changes are in store for the region, Australian and Bangladeshi researchers reported in the journal Science of The Total Environment.
  • Changes wrought by a warming planet will be “enough to decimate” the few hundred or so Bengal tigers remaining there.
  • “By 2070, there will be no suitable tiger habitats remaining in the Bangladesh Sundarbans,” concluded the study by 10 researchers.
  • The paper, which relies on climate scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its simulation models, adds to existing studies that offered similarly grim predictions for wildlife in the Sundarbans.
  • In 2010, a study led by the World Wide Fund for Nature projected that a sea level rise of 11 inches could reduce the number of tigers in the Sundarbans by 96 per cent within a few decades.
  • Climate change has harmed almost half of the world’s endangered mammals, far more than previously thought, a recent study found.
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  • For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel, an endangered species listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 at Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu. Owing to habitat loss and poaching, the species has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
  • A team of researchers and wildlife activists from Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF), a non-profit organisation were conducting a survey in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee when they spotted grizzled giant squirrels. Over 300 nests of the endangered species were spotted by the group.
  • K. Raman of IBF said that the group had earlier spotted a pair of squirrels while trekking through the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests in 2016.
  • “We had photographed an individual but it disappeared among the trees. But this was the first time we spotted as many as 363 nests in the reserve based on grid mapping.
  • The sighting of the squirrels was surprising as it had previously not been recorded. While nests were also spotted in adjoining Anandapuram Reserve, a majority of the nests were found only in Pakkamalai,” he said.
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  • The last captive white tiger inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) died of age-related complications on 3rd May morning. The animal was 18 years old.
  • Park officials said the tiger, named Bajirao, was the eldest male in their enclosure and was unable to walk for the past 10 days.
  • “It is a great loss for the park as Bajirao was the last remaining captive albino tiger we had,” said Anwar Ahmed, director and chief conservator of forest, SGNP. “However, this puts an end to the animal’s long-suffering. He was not part of the tiger safari due to his condition.”
  • Senior veterinarian Dr Shailesh Pethe, who works at SNGP, said the average lifespan of tigers is between 14 and 16. “Bajirao had been suffering for the past four years due to chronic ankylosis (a form of arthritis primarily causing inflammation and resulting in severe chronic pain).
  • His elbow joint had disappeared resulting in the formation of a single bone, which deterred him from walking,” he said.
  • Bajirao was born in SGNP in 2001 to tigress Renuka and tiger Siddharth, both white tigers brought from Aurangabad Zoo in 1999. While Renuka died in 2009 after being diagnosed with skin cancer at the age of 13, 20-year-old Siddharth died on June 4, 2015, due to old age.SGNP, since its inception, has had only four white tigers in captivity.
  • An expert advisory committee, comprising of senior veterinarians, both current and retired from SGNP and the Bombay Veterinary College (BVC), had been monitoring Bajirao’s health over the past four years.
  • The tiger’s autopsy carried out by the pathology department of BVC indicated multiple organ failures along with old age as the probable cause of death. “The post mortem findings were suggestive of lesions (rotting or putrefied tissues) in visceral organs such as the kidney, heart, and liver,” said Pethe.
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  • There’s an amusing reason why Sandeep Das, a young researcher at the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), and other herpetologists like him in the state refer to the Purple frog, an odd-looking species endemic to the Western Ghats, as the ‘Maveli’ frog.
  • According to mythology, Mahabali, or Maveli, was a benevolent asura king who ruled over the region of Kerala but was banished into the netherworld by Lord Vishnu in order to appease the gods. But Maveli was granted one wish: he could return to Kerala for a single day and meet his subjects.
  • This day in Kerala came to be celebrated as ‘Thiruvonam’, the most auspicious day of Onam when people would greet their old king. Quite similar to the lore of King Maveli, researchers have found that the Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), which lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
  • Once it lays it’s eggs, the bloated frogs characterised by a protruding snout and powerful hind legs return to the earth’s deepest layers.
  • If all goes well, this intriguing frog species, listed as endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), could soon be designated as Kerala’s state amphibian a title that researchers hope would go a long way in protecting it’s fragile habitat and knowing more about its rich antecedents.
  • A proposal floated by Das for the same is set to come up on the agenda when a committee of the Wildlife Advisory Board meets later this month.
  • “It’s a unique species that every amphibian expert is aware of. It’s endemic to this part of the southern Western Ghats and cannot be found anywhere else,” said Palot.
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  • Cyclone Fani, which has been strengthening in south-east Bay of Bengal, is very likely to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm during the next 12 hours and into a very severe cyclonic storm during the subsequent 24 hours.
  • Fani is very likely to move northwestwards till May 1 and thereafter recurve towards northeast gradually.
  • “Cyclonic Storm ‘FANI’ lay centred at 0530 hrs over southeast Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood, about 745 km east-southeast of Trincomalee (Sri Lanka), 1050 km southeast of Chennai (Tamil Nadu) and 1230 km south-southeast of Machilipatnam (Andhra Pradesh), a bulletin by the Indian Meterological Department (IMD) said.
  • Gale wind speed reaching 80-90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph is prevailing over south-east Bay of Bengal and adjoining areas.
  • It is very likely to become 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph from the evening of April 28 over the same area, 120-130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph over south-west Bay of Bengal from morning of April 30, and 155-165 kmph gusting to 175 kmph over southwest and adjoining west-central Bay of Bengal off north Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and south Andhra Pradesh Coasts from the evening of May 1,” the IMD said.
  • The wind speed is likely to decrease gradually thereafter with gale wind speed reaching 130-140 kmph gusting to 150 kmph over west-central Bay of Bengal off Andhra Pradesh Coast on May 3.
  • Light to moderate rainfall at many places with heavy rains at isolated places are very likely over Kerala on April 29 and 30. Light to moderate rainfall is expected at few places over north coastal Tamil Nadu and coastal Andhra Pradesh on April 29 and 30, the IMD said.
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  • Global warming has made more than twice ocean dwellers disappear in comparison to land dwellers from their habitats, a study discovered.
  • The greater vulnerability of sea creatures may significantly impact human communities that rely on fish for food and economic activity.
  • The research was conducted on nearly 400 species from lizards, fish to spiders. The details were published in the Journal of Nature The greater vulnerability of sea creatures may significantly impact human communities that rely on fish and shellfish for food and economic activity.
  • The authors combed through worldwide research on nearly 400 species from lizards and fish to spiders. They calculated safe conditions for 88 marine and 294 land species as well as the coolest temperatures available to each species during the hottest parts of the year.
  • "We find that, globally, marine species are being eliminated from their habitats by warming temperatures twice as often as land species," said lead author Malin Pinsky.
  • The researchers found that marine species are, on average, more likely to live on the edge of dangerously high temperatures. Additionally, many land animals can hide from the heat in forests, shaded areas or underground, a luxury not open to many sea animals.
  • The loss of a population can deplete the species' genetic diversity, have cascading impacts on their predators and prey and alter ecosystems that benefit human society.
  • The study notes that ancient extinctions have often been concentrated at specific latitudes and in specific ecosystems when the climate changed rapidly. Future warming is likely to trigger the loss of more marine species from local habitats and more species turnover in the ocean.
  • "Understanding which species and ecosystems will be most severely affected by warming as climate change advances is important for guiding conservation and management," the study says.
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  • UAE's flag carrier Etihad Airways has become the first airline in the Gulf region to operate a flight without any single-use plastics on board, in a bid to raise awareness about pollution on Earth Day (April 22)
  • According to the Abu Dhabi-based national airline of the UAE, the flight EY484 landed in Brisbane on the day.
  • The milestone flight is part of Etihad's pledge to reduce single-use plastic usage by 80 per cent not just in-flight, but across the entire organisation by the end of 2022, the airline said in a statement.
  • Etihad identified that over 95 single-use plastic products are used across its aircraft cabins. Once removed from the Earth Day flight, Etihad prevented over 50 kilograms of plastics from being landfilled.
  • Guests on board enjoyed replacement products including sustainable amenity kits, award-winning eco-thread blankets made out of recycled plastic bottles, tablet toothpaste and edible coffee cups while children were treated to eco-plush toys.
  • As a result of planning the Earth Day flight, Etihad additionally committed to remove up to 20 per cent of the single-use plastic items on board by June 1, the statement said.
  • By the end of this year, Etihad will have removed 100 tonnes of single-use plastics from its inflight service, the airline announced.
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  • No matter how friendly a dolphin might appear, the Araguaian river dolphin of Brazil has remained a mystery. A new study has found that there are hundreds of sound that the dolphins use to communicate.
  • The study was published in the Journal ‘PeerJ’.“We found that they do interact socially and are making more sounds than previously thought. Their vocal repertoire is very diverse,” Laura May Collado said.
  • The Araguaian dolphins, also called botos, are hard to find and difficult to study.
  • The team used underwater cameras and microphones to record sounds and interactions between the dolphins and took some genetic samples.
  • They identified 237 different types of sounds that the dolphins make, but even with 20 hours of recordings, the researchers don’t think they captured the animals’ entire acoustic repertoire.
  • The most common sounds were short, two-part calls that baby dolphins made when they were approaching their mothers.”It’s exciting; marine dolphins like the bottlenose use signature whistles for contact, and here we have a different sound used by river dolphins for the same purpose,” said May Collado.
  • The dolphins also made longer calls and whistles, however, they were rare. “There are a lot of obstacles like flooded forests and vegetation in their habitat, so this signal could have evolved to avoid echoes from vegetation and improve the communication range of mothers and their calves,” she said.
  • The Araguaian dolphins are closely related to two other species, the Bolivian river dolphin and the Amazon River dolphin.
  • The Araguaian dolphins were only described as a separate species in 2014, and that classification is still under debate. But there seems to be a large amount of variation in the repertoire of sounds each species makes.
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  • Satellite measurements by Nasa researchers have verified the ground-based data which shows the Earth's surface has been warming globally over the past 15 years.
  • The team used measurements of the 'skin' temperature of the Earth taken by a satellite based infrared measurement system called AIRS (Atmospheric Infra-Red Sounder) from 2003 to 2017.
  • Recommended By Colombia The researchers compared these with station-based analyses of surface air temperature anomalies principally the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP).
  • The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found a high level of consistency between the two datasets over the past 15 years.
  • "AIRS data complement GISTEMP because they are at a higher spatial resolution than GISTEMP, and have more complete global coverage," said Joel Susskind, from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in the US.
  • "Both data sets demonstrate the Earth's surface has been warming globally over this period, and that 2016, 2017, and 2015 have been the warmest years in the instrumental record, in that order," Susskind said in a statement.
  • "This is important because of the intense interest in the detail of how estimates of global and regional temperature change are constructed from surface temperature data, and how known imperfections in the raw data are handled," he said. AIRS data reflects skin temperature at the surface of the ocean, land and snow/ice covered regions.
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  • The only known female member of one of the world’s rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China, officials said on 14th April.
  • The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The Suzhou zoo, where the female turtle lived since 2008 when she was moved from the Changsha Ecological Zoo, also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle.
  • She was moved to mate with the male turtle, who is reportedly over 100 years old, a zoo employee told China’s Global Times on condition of anonymity.The other two turtles live in Vietnam, but their genders are unknown.
  • The turtle died on 13th April afternoon, the Suzhou city government said in a statement, citing the zoo. It said experts have already used technology to collect the turtle’s ovarian tissue for future research.
  • The state-run People’s Daily reported that the turtle was over 90 years old and had undergone a fifth attempt at artificial insemination shortly before she died.
  • A medical examination found the turtle to be in good health prior to the procedure, the People’s Daily said, and the artificial insemination appeared to go smoothly.But the turtle died the following day.
  • The Rafetus swinhoei, more popularly known as Yangtze giant softshell turtles, originated in China, making their homes in the Yangtze River and Taihu Lake, according to the People’s Daily.
  • The species is often referred to as the most endangered turtle in the world.Loss of habitat and poaching are among the reasons for the decline of the species’ population, according to a report by Mongabay, a conservation and environmental science news service.
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  • India''s first nocturnal zoo, Kankaria, has recorded over Rs. 3 crore yearly income.
  • The two-floor zoo is designed to create a night-like environment in the day time and vice versa.
  • "Total investment on this zoo was Rs. 17 crore and we get around Rs. 3.6 crore annual return a year," said RK Sahu, director.
  • It was built in 2017, housing nocturnal animals such as Hedgehog, Jungle cat, and Striped Hyena, who are active in dark.
  • It has got a geothermal system for aeration, introduced first time in India for animals as well as visitors.
  • It is also provided with a special lighting system to give it a night-like look, said Sahu.
  • The whole property is designed in a way to give it a jungle-like texture also.
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  • The levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are higher today than ever before in the past three million years, according to a study.
  • For the first time, scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany succeeded to do a computer simulation that fits ocean floor sediment data of climate evolution over this period of time.
  • The study found that Ice Age onset, and the start of the glacial cycles from cold to warm and back, was mainly triggered by a decrease of CO2-levels.
  • Today, it is the increase of greenhouse gases due to the burning of fossil fuels that is fundamentally changing our planet, according to the study published in the journal Science Advances.
  • Global mean temperatures never exceeded the preindustrial levels by more than 2 degrees Celsius in the past three million years, the study shows.
  • The current climate policy inaction, if continued, would exceed the 2° limit already in the next 50 years, researchers said.
  • “We know from the analysis of sediments on the bottom of our seas about past ocean temperatures and ice volumes, but so far the role of CO2 changes in shaping the glacial cycles has not been fully understood,” said Matteo Willeit of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author.
  • “It is a breakthrough that we can now show in computer simulations that changes in CO2 levels were a main driver of the ice ages, together with variations of how the Earth’s orbits around the sun, the so-called Milankovitch cycles,” he said.
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  • A rare three-month-old albino penguin made its first public appearance at a zoo in the Polish Baltic port city of Gdansk, where its keepers claim it is the only one of its kind in captivity.
  • The all-white African black-foot penguin was born on December 14, but zoo staff decided to keep its arrival secret as they were unsure the vulnerable newborn would survive.
  • Zoo staff are waiting until they are able to determine its sex to name the youngster. "As far as we know, there is no other such specimen alive (in captivity) in the world," Michal Targowski, director of the Gdansk Zoo, told a news channel.
  • "The baby is active, in good health, eats well and, what's very important, its parents are taking very good care of it," Targowski said.
  • To ensure its safety, the youngster is being kept with a small group of six adults, including its parents, part of a group of 70 penguins living at the Gdansk Zoo. "We're really doting on him so that nothing bad happens to him," Targowski, explaining that other penguins in the troop could take exception to the baby's unique look and harm it.
  • African black-footed penguins, also known as jackass penguins due to their braying noise, have been rated as endangered since 2010 after suffering from commercial fishing, shortage of prey and pollution.
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  • The world observed Water Day on 22th march On the occasion, best Ice Stupas built in more than a dozen villages in Ladakh region awarded in Leh district; Ladakh is creating awareness on water conservation through Ice Stupas.
  • On World Water Day, Leh has taken upon itself a unique task of preserving water through artificial glaciers.
  • The day is important because fresh water resources are being depleted and are a huge threat to sustainable development. Clearly preserving fresh water is of vital importance.
  • The 6th Sustainable Development Goal is crystal clear it says water for all by 2030. The UN reports that billions of people are still living without safe water in their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive.
  • The most marginalized groups are women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, and disabled people who are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination. But the bigger issue is about tackling the water crisis.
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  • Dept. of Science and Technology’s forthcoming study may lead to portal with district-wise data The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India.
  • This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States and discussed at last year’s U.N. climate change conference in Poland that found States such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand vulnerable to climate change.
  • “We eventually hope to have a climate portal, whereby users can zoom in on any district in the country and get a sense of what kind of risks climate, socio-economic are present,” said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.
  • Last year the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) at Mandi and Guwahati, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, coordinated with State authorities in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, the hill districts of West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, to evolve a common methodology, and determine how districts there are equipped to deal with the vagaries of climate change.
  • The researchers prepared a ‘vulnerability index’ of each of these States based on district-level data. Vulnerability would be a measure of the inherent risks a district faces, primarily by virtue of its geography and socio-economic situation.
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  • Long-term exposure to harmful smog particles increases the risk of diabetes, a new study in China has shown, providing evidence for a link between the country's air pollution and the disease.
  • China is facing the largest diabetes problem in the world with around 11 per cent of its population suffering from the metabolic illness, according to a United States study published in 2017.
  • Increased prosperity has brought changing diets and lifestyles, along with an air pollution crisis that the World Health Organization estimates causes over a million premature deaths every year.
  • The risk of diabetes rose by about 16 percent for an increase of 10 microgrammes per cubic metre in long-term PM2.5 particle exposure, researchers from Fuwai Hospital in Beijing and Emory University in the US found in a study published online by Environment International last week.
  • "Sustained improvement of air quality will help decrease the diabetes epidemic in China," Lu Xiangfeng, one of the study's authors, told AFP in an email.
  • Researchers collected data from over 88,000 subjects across 15 provinces, estimating their exposure to PM2.5 based on satellite data from 2004 to 2015.
  • PM2.5 includes toxins like sulfate and black carbon, which can penetrate deep into the lungs or cardiovascular system, and have been linked to higher rates of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and heart disease.
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  • The power ministry 7th march said two more electrical appliances microwave ovens and washing machines will now be assigned star ratings based on their energy efficiency metrics.
  • The star labelling programme have been formulated by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), as part of its mandate, under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, a power ministry statement said.
  • "The programme will now include these two appliances for grant of star rating in terms of their energy performance.
  • Initially, the programme for above two appliances will be implemented on a voluntary basis and will be valid up to December 31, 2020," the statement said.
  • The programme is aimed at improving energy efficiency in household appliances to reduce energy bills of common consumers.
  • The BEE has also revise the criteria for washing machine for inclusion of water efficiency in addition to energy performance for grant of star rating.
  • The ministry has estimated savings of over three billion units of electricity at consumer-end through adoption of star-rated microwave ovens and washing machines by 2030.
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  • Declaration signed to conserve and review population of Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every 4 years
  • India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The five rhino range nations signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species at the recently held Second Asian Rhino Range Countries meeting here.
  • During the meet, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan affirmed India’s commitment towards rhino conservation.
  • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.
  • “The national strategy will pave the path for long-term conservation of the Greater one-horned rhinos in India.
  • The declaration includes undertaking studies on health issues of the rhinos, their potential diseases and taking necessary steps; collaborating and strengthening wildlife forensics for the purpose of investigation and strengthening of transboundary collaboration among India, Nepal and Bhutan for the conservation and protection of the Greater one-horned rhino.
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  • The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad has set up the world’s first gene bank that is powered entirely by solar energy.
  • Spread across 4,500 sq metres, the gene bank is powered by a 500 kW solar power plant generating 60,000 units per month. A gene bank is a type of bio-repository that preserves genetic material of plants and animals.
  • The ‘greening’ of the gene bank was funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and is expected to reduce power-related expenses by up to 75%, which will amount to huge savings over the next few decades.
  • Gene banks need constant cooling systems which sometimes need to be at temperatures of minus 20 degrees. They are home to in vitro storage of plants, freezing cuttings from a plant or stocking of seeds.
  • Such banks are critical to global food security as they conserve genetic resources of major crop plants.
  • The facility in Hyderabad is the largest in the world for ICRISAT’s mandate crops or those which can address food security issues in the semi-arid and tropics of Africa and Asia.
  • These areas which are collectively known as tropical drylands are home to two billion people out of which 600 million are considered to be poor. Their geographical focus area spreads across 55 countries and 6.5 million sq km.
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  • Animals living in the deepest ocean trenches have been found with plastic fragments in their gut, according to new research published 27th Feb. showing how manmade pollution reaches into the bowels of the planet.
  • More than 300 million tonnes of plastics are produced annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans.
  • Because deep-sea exploration is expensive and time-consuming, most studies on plastic pollution up until now had been close to the surface, showing a widespread level of plastic contamination in fish, turtles, whales and sea birds.
  • Now a British team of researchers say they have discovered cases of plastic ingestion among tiny shrimp in six of the world’s deepest ocean trenches.
  • In the Mariana Trench east of the Philippines, the deepest depression on Earth, 100 percent of the animals studied had plastic fibres in their digestive tracts.
  • “Half of me was expecting to find something but that is huge,” said Alan Jamieson, from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.
  • Jamieson and his team normally spend their time looking for new species in the depths of the ocean.
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  • Dr Divya Karnad, a 33-year-old PhD in marine fisheries management from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, who is also an assistant professor of Environment Studies at Ashoka University.
  • She is a Wipro Sustainable Fellow and her brain child, InSeason Fish, a sustainable seafood initiative based in Tamil Nadu, and Young Women in Conservation programme among other marine conservation programmes enabled her to win the prestigious 50,000 euro award.
  • Dr Divya Karnad was chosen from a list of 125 global applicants by an international jury consisting of global conservationists.
  • The key focus areas of her work include, marine conservation of endangered species of Olive Ridley turtles, sustainable fishing practices, reduction in bycatch of endangered sharks along Coromandel coast and establishing linkages between sea food consumers and fishermen.
  • Speaking on her stellar achievements, Simon Stuart of the International Selection Committee said, " Divya is clearly an outstanding leader and has already initiated an impressive number of programmes and organisations focussed on marine species conservation in India.
  • She is now giving her attention to multiple globally threatened shark species, working with an impressively wide array of stakeholders."
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  • At least five new species of jumping spiders have been discovered from different parts of India over the past year
  • Last week, a group of arachnologists from Thrissur came across a spider that had never been reported before. Hidden in the crevices of the bark of teak trees, Cocalus lacinia are hairy, yellow-brown spiders with a distinctive v-shaped mark on their head.
  • They happen to be closely related to a species of spider in Australia, adding to the theory that the continents were once united.
  • A couple of year earlier, this time in Assam, another researcher stumbled upon a large, hairy eight-eyed arachnid that had made a nest for itself between two leaves.
  • He snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram, and last December, it was established that this was Hyllus diardi, a spider known to be so ‘friendly’, it’s kept as a pet in parts of the world.
  • In the middle of last year, in West Bengal, a wildlife photographer chanced upon a bunch of very tiny spiders lurking in an orchard.
  • They were identified later as belonging to the genus Neobrettus, which lives, hunts and breeds in the dried leaves of the banana plant.
  • They are related to another genus, Portia, found across south and southeast Asia, Africa and Australia and known for their remarkably intelligent hunting behaviour and their penchant for feeding on other spiders.
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  • Hike around the natural habitats of San Diego County and it becomes abundantly clear that honey bees, foreign to the area, are everywhere.
  • In a study published last year, researchers at the University of California San Diego found that honey bees are the most widespread and abundant pollinators of wild plants in the world, with the San Diego region having exceptionally high honey bee visitation on native plants roughly three-quarters of all observed pollinators.
  • New research from the same team found that honey bees focus their foraging on the most abundantly flowering native plant species, where they often account for more than 90 percent of pollinators observed visiting flowers.
  • The new study by Keng-Lou James Hung, Jennifer Kingston, Adrienne Lee, David Holway and Joshua Kohn of UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences is published on Feb. 20 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
  • "To have a non-native species that removes the lion's share of pollen and nectar in a diverse ecosystem such as ours is stunning" said Kohn, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. "Think about if we had an invasive plant that covered 75 percent of the region's land area it's similar to that level."
  • The honey bees' monopoly over the most abundantly blooming plant species may strongly affect the ecology and evolution of species that are foundational to the stability of the region's plant-pollinator interactions, the researchers said.
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