Crocodile takes refuge on rooftop in flood-hit Indian state

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2019   •   387

Heavy rain and landslides have killed 147 people in the Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra and forced hundreds of thousands of people to take shelter in relief camps on Monday (August 12).

The flooding has forced hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge in relief camps, while train services were canceled in several flood-hit areas.

Humans were not the only ones seeking higher ground as a crocodile could be seen atop a submerged house after it entered a residential area on Sunday (August 11) in the southern flood-hit Belgaum city.

Floodwater receded in some parts of western Kolhapur and southern Belgaum areas, bringing some relief to the residents.

Belgaum resident Shabana Sandhi said she had been living outside her home for eight days and her food and household materials were severely damaged by the floodwater.

While Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra have been the worst hit this year, several other states including Gujarat, Assam and Bihar have also seen heavy damage due to floods. (REUTERS)

(Production Credit – Polly Rider)

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Taiwan braces for typhoon Bailu, flights cancelled

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Boats are tied securely at a fishing port in Taiwan in preparation for the anticipated arrival of Typhoon Bailu.

Taiwan braced for Typhoon Bailu on Friday (August 23), prompting cancellations of domestic flights amid warnings of floods and high seas on the island.

Typhoon Bailu, categorised at the weakest typhoon level by Taiwan’s weather bureau, was expected to approach the island’s southeastern coast early on Saturday (August 24), weather officials said.

Bailu was carrying maximum winds of 126 km per hour (78 mph) as it approached Taiwan, the weather bureau said, adding that the storm could gain in strength and become the first typhoon to make landfall on the island in more than two years.

Thousands of people were moved to safety, most of them tourists on islands off the east coast, while dozens of domestic flights and ferry services were cancelled.

After passing over Taiwan, the typhoon is expected to cross the Taiwan Strait and hit the Chinese province of Fujian, forecasters said. (Reuters)

(Production: Fabian Hamacher)

Florida scientists induce spawning of Atlantic coral in lab for first time

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

(Courtesy: Florida Aquarium)

Scientists in Florida have artificially induced reproductive spawning of an endangered Atlantic coral species for the first time in an aquarium setting, a breakthrough they say holds great promise in efforts to restore depleted reefs in the wild.

The achievement, announced this week at the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach near Tampa, borrowed from lab techniques developed at the London-based Horniman Museum and Gardens and used previously to induce spawning of 18 species of Pacific coral, officials said.

Scientists plan to use their newly acquired expertise to breed new coral colonies that can one day repopulate the beleaguered Florida reef system, one of the largest in the world and one decimated by climate change, pollution and disease in recent decades.

The newly cultivated corals should make for even stronger populations than existing colonies because each individual will be bred with characteristics that may be better able to withstand damage, Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist at the Florida Aquarium told Reuters.

Inducing corals to release their eggs and sperm in aquarium tanks involves controlling their artificial settings to mimic their natural ocean habitat over the course of a yearlong reproduction cycle.

That means carefully regulating water temperature changes from summer to winter, and using special lighting to imitate sunrise, sunset and even lunar cycles that serve as biological cues for the coral in preparing to spawn.

Collaboration between the Florida and London facilities on the project began in 2017 as the situation facing Florida’s reefs grew more dire because of the spread of a new coral affliction dubbed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

Atlantic pillar coral, which grows in colonies resembling finger- or column-like structures, has been particularly susceptible to the disease and is already classified as virtually extinct in the wild because remaining male and female colonies are too scattered to reproduce.

Corals are a type of marine invertebrate animal, typically living in colonies of tiny sac-like polyps that feed by filtering seawater through a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.

Corals are sensitive to major changes in water temperature, and the Florida Reef Tract, like other major reefs around the world, has been under pressure from climate change for years as the sea grows steadily warmer. (Reuters)

Bolsonaro says Brazil lacks resources to fight Amazon fires

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

The Brazilian government lacks the resources to fight a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday (August 22), weeks after telling donors he did not need their money.

Fires in the Amazon have surged 83% so far this year compared with the same period a year earlier, government figures show, destroying vast swathes of a forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro said, without supporting evidence, that non-governmental organisations were behind the fires.

Questioned again on Thursday about those comments, he said he could not prove that NGOs, for whom he has cut funding, were lighting the fires but that they were “the most likely suspects.”

The firebrand right-wing president has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests, to allow mining and logging companies to exploit its natural resources.

Brazil is facing growing international criticism over its handling of the Amazon, 60% of which lies in the country.

Earlier this month, Norway and Germany suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil after becoming alarmed by changes to the way projects were selected under Bolsonaro.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on his twitter account the fires in the Amazon forest are an international emergency and should be discussed by the G7 summit that will begin on Saturday (August 24) in Biarritz, France.

Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the regular dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil said they are investigating a spike in deforestation and wildfires raging in the Amazon state of Para to determine whether there has been reduced monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections there. (Reuters)

(Production: Pablo Garcia, Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

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