Elephant culling a ‘last resort’

first_imgAn elephant in the Kruger National ParkImage: Tanya JeffreyKhanyi MagubaneThe South African government has announced breakthrough legislation for the control of South Africa’s burgeoning elephant population. Set to be published in the Government Gazette on Friday 29 February, the Norms and Standards for Elephant Management in South Africa is set to reintroduce culling as a last resort to curb the devastating effect elephant overpopulation has on conservation areas and other species.With no significant natural enemies and if protected from hunting and poaching, elephant numbers can explode in the confines of conservation areas. Since culling was outlawed in 1995, South Africa’s elephant population has soared from around 8 000 to more than 20 000.“Our simple reality is that the number of elephants per square kilometre of the current elephant range has risen so much in some Southern African countries that there is concern about [the] impact on the landscape, the viability of other species, and the livelihood and safety of people living in elephant ranges,” Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said when announcing the new measures on Monday 25 February.Elephants are the world’s largest land animal, growing to four metres in height and weighing up to seven tons. A single elephant eats an estimated 170kg of grass, tree bark and leaves a day.Not only do they consume vast amounts of vegetation, they do it destroying their habitat: flattening bushes and ripping up tree roots. Enclosed national parks such at the Kruger cannot let elephant numbers get out of control without serious degradation of the environment, which threatens not only the animals themselves but also many other species, large and small. In the past, as the herd population increased, it would migrate to another, less populated region, allowing the grazed and degraded habitat it left behind to recover. But today’s elepants can no longer roam freely, so their damage is compounded in the fixed range they are allowed to roam.The Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest reserve, has an elephant population of 13 000 – and growing by an estimated 7% a year. If left unchecked, this might reach 20 000 by 2012 and 30 000 by 2019. Researchers say the ideal elephant population for the Kruger would be 7 500.The final draft of the norms and standards follows several months of public consultation with scientists, conservationists and others. Implementation will begin in May.“What has emerged is a thoughtful piece of legislation that balances the interest of elephants with all other aspects of biodiversity, and societal values, ” Van Schalkwyk said. “It includes a ‘toolbox’ of options for the management of elephants, both wild and captive.”Rob Little, conservation director at WWF in South Africa, welcomed the announcement, saying the country’s rapid elephant population growth was unsustainable.“All available options must be available to control the elephant population here and conserve the biodiversity of the national parks,” Little told the UK Guardian. “The new framework imposes a hierarchy of choices, and culling is right at the bottom. We are not going to see a mass destruction of elephants here.”According to the Guardian, the WWF says there are good reasons to believe that culling is one of the ways to deal with the crisis of growing elephant numbers. It argues that South Africa’s national parks will not be able to support either elephants or many of the other large species if matters continue.The measuresCulling is one of the new elephant-control tools, but not the only one. Van Schalkwyk gave the assurance that steps had been taken “to ensure that this will be the option of last resort that is acceptable only under strict conditions”.There would be no “wholesale slaughter”, he said.Culling would be allowed only in terms of a plan prepared by the reserve owner and management, in consultation with an ecologist recognised as an elephant management specialist.The plan would have to show that the existing or projected elephant numbers were “incompatible with the agreed land-use objectives spelt out in the management plan and that a reduction in population numbers was therefore necessary”.It would also need to show that all other population management options, such as reserve expansion, contraception and translocation, had been rejected by the ecologist.In addition, the import and export of captive elephants will be prohibited, as will intensive breeding of the animals in captivity.“The capture of elephants for commercial exhibition facilities, such as elephant-back safari industries or circuses, will as of May 1 be prohibited,” Van Schalkwyk said. The norms and standards would apply to all conservation areas, as well as to private land on which elephants were found.Guiding principlesOn 20 September 2005, Van Schalkwyk outlined the government’s approach to addressing what was considered the increasingly pressing challenge of managing both wild and captive elephants in South Africa. He formed a task team, comprising of representatives from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, conservation authorities in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West provinces. The team also included various specialists in the industry.Principles guiding the task team included:Elephants are intelligent, have strong family bonds and operate within highly socialised groups and unnecessary disruption of these groups by human intervention should be minimised.While it is necessary to recognise the charismatic and iconic status of elephants and the strong local and international support for their protection, proper regard must be given to the impacts of elephants on biodiversity or people living in proximity to elephants.Elephants are recognised engineers of habitat change and their presence or absence has a critical effect on the way in which ecosystems function.Every effort must be made to safeguard elephants from abuse and neglect.Elephant populations in the wild should be managed in the context of objective based management of the complex ecosystem in which they occur.Useful linksDepartment for Environmental Affairs and Tourism Elephant Management and Owners AssociationWWFlast_img read more

Rail expansion ‘to boost SA economy’

first_img5 February 2014 The upgrading and expanding of South Africa’s rail network will relieve the burden on the roads, significantly increase the country’s export capacity and stimulate further investment and job creation, says Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba. Speaking at a briefing in Pretoria on Monday, Gigaba said a total of 6 405 kilometres of rail would be replaced on South Africa’s general freight, coal and ore lines, increasing the country’s freight capacity by 149.7-million tonnes. “Existing logistics corridors will be expanded and new ones will be established, and 1 317 new locomotives and 25 000 new wagons will be procured [over the next five years],” he said. “We will be able to increase our exports of coal by over 50%. Our ability to move general freight on rail will have more than doubled in capacity, and Transnet’s container handling capacity will increase by 75%.”Catalysts for further investment, employment Gigaba said that state-owned companies were acting as catalysts for additional investment in the economy. Infrastructure development was a critical stimulant, Gigaba said, with Eskom planning to invest over R500-billion in the economy over the next five years, and Transnet set to invest over R300-billion over a seven-year period. State-owned companies falling under the Department of Public Enterprises invested R53-billion in the economy three years ago, Gigaba said; this year they would be investing over R113-billion – an increase of over 100%. “Our infrastructure state-owned companies are already key providers of employment, and with the additional infrastructure capacity that will be built, [they] will become even more important sources of employment.” By 2017, he said, Transnet alone would support the direct and indirect employment of approximately 30 000 people. The company had also secured R175-million from the Department of Higher Education and Training to recruit and train 1 000 learners to study maritime engineering. “State-owned companies are playing a leading role in skills development and will be investing over R2.8-billion in the current financial year,” he added. “Over the last year, more than 16 000 learners were trained in scarce and critical learning programmes within state-owned companies of the DPE.” Also addressing Monday’s briefing, outgoing Eskom CEO Brian Dame said the power utility was “serious about helping black business to bloom”, and that Eskom had “finalised the structure of a fund for developing mines to assist emerging black miners”. Gigaba added: “By 2015, we will ensure that over 50% of coal for Eskom comes from black miners.” Source: SAnews.govlast_img read more

Snackr Opens Beta Program

first_imgTags:#RSS & Feeds#web If you’re as addicted to RSS feeds as we here at ReadWriteWeb, then you’ve no doubt tried Snackr, an Adobe Air based RSS ticker that provides a scrolling readout of all the latest information from your favorite feeds. It’s as riveting as it is useful.Now, you could have the chance to help influence where Snackr goes in the future by joining the Snackr beta program.When we first encountered Snackr in May, Marshall Kirkpatrick was “absolutely giddy about it after only a few minutes of use.” And his opinion hasn’t cooled. He recently named it one of the “Top 10 RSS Syndication Products of 2008.” When Marshall initially reviewed the product, however, he did have a few enhancement requests, like bulk feed management and a bookmarklet. In essence, he served as a beta tester. Now you can play a similar role – officially.Narciso Jaramillo, the developer behind Snackr, is rolling out the official beta group in conjunction with the test release of Snackr v.0.39, which includes some new features – like always showing the most current item across all feeds, autostart, and separating Snackr from the Windows taskbar – in addition to a number of bug fixes. Users of all experience levels are needed for the beta group, from complete novice to daily users. Participants must be willing test new builds and respond to surveys about features and functionality. To apply, complete the Snackr beta list signup form. A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketcenter_img Related Posts rick turoczy 1 Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostinglast_img read more

Google’s Twitter Timeline Lets You Explore the Past

first_imgTop Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts mike melanson Tags:#Google#news#NYT#Real-Time Web#web As Google has worked to add more and more real-time search capabilities by adding content from sites like Facebook, MySpace, Buzz and Twitter, we’ve been able to see more and more what people are talking about online. Google’s latest feature, which it is announcing today, takes real-time data and puts it into a perspective we can work with – the past. Rather than letting all of this real-time data simply stream past and evaporate into thin air, Google is rolling out a “replay” feature, that lets you look at real-time data – in this case tweets – at any specific time in the past. The feature offers a timeline of tweets, showing the volume of tweets containing relevant search terms, broken down according to scale. After playing with it for a few minutes, we were able to see that it even gets as narrow as a minute-by-minute breakdown of tweets on a topic. It will be available by clicking on “Show Options” on the left side of the Google search results screen and then “Updates”.For now, Google says that it will offer tweets going back to February 11, 2010 but will soon extend back to March 21, 2006. The company says that the feature is currently rolling out and should be available globally in English within the next few days, but you can give it a whirl before then. As Google points out, the “replay” feature may be a great way to explore “how the news broke about health care legislation in Congress, what people were saying about Justice Paul Stevens’ retirement or what people were tweeting during your own marathon run? These are the kinds of things you can explore with the new updates mode.”We’re looking forward to seeing what this sort of interaction with real-time data, in the aggregate, will bring to the table. It might not only be an invaluable reporting tool, but a great way to find out when a local restaurant is at its busiest. center_img Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

Facebook Gets a Suggested Pages List

first_imgNew Facebook users now see a list of some of the most often “liked” Pages on Facebook when they sign up for the popular social networking service. New users get the option to choose from about 100 popular Pages. These Pages mostly belong to celebrities, brands, news outlets and politicians. Eric Eldon first wrote about this new addition to Facebook’s sign-up process on Inside Facebook and notes that this list is “clearly designed to get users engaged immediately.” To some degree, this list is similar to Twitter’s now defunct Suggested Users List.Glenn Beck, Barack Obama, Walmart and the New York TimesWhen we signed up for a new account to test this feature, Facebook recommended Peter Frampton’s and Barack Obama’s Pages to us, as well as the Pages of Glenn Beck, Trisha Yearwood, Walmart, American Idol, Starbucks, Tide, Coca-Cola and about 100 more Facebook pages. The list we saw featured slightly more celebrities (ranging from Lady Gaga to Paula Deen) than brands, but it also included a number of media outlets, including CNN, the New York Times and Fox News.It is not clear how Facebook organizes this list of suggested Pages, but it looks like the company presents new users with a random mix of some of the most often “liked” pages. Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification Related Posts Tags:#Facebook#web Being included in this list will surely give these Pages a major boost in subscribers. Unlike Twitter’s old Suggested Users List, however, Facebook’s list is not a random sampling of the accounts that Facebook’s engineers like. Instead, the process looks to be more democratic. The list actually shows how many people “liked” a given Facebook Page and the list only highlights the most popular Pages on the site. The number of “likes” for the Pages that appeared when we signed up for a new account ranged between 50,000 to 2 million “likes.” Getting First-Time Users to Like PagesFacebook is clearly trying to make the experience for its first-time users better with this new list. Obviously, the company is also trying to highlight Facebook Pages in the setup process. New Facebook users are probably signing up to connect with their family members and friends, but the new sign-up process also highlights the fact that Facebook can be a good source for news updates and allows users to connect to celebrities and brands.If you would like to connect with the ReadWriteWeb team on Facebook, head over to our ReadWriteWeb Facebook Page. A Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… frederic lardinoislast_img read more

NIH aims to beef up clinical trial design as part of new data sharing rules

first_imgA new NIH policy will also require submission of summary results to ClinicalTrials.gov for all clinical research supported by the agency, including early phase I safety trials and behavioral research. At the moment, even many major academic medical centers aren’t publishing trial results of NIH-funded trials within the required time frame.The data reporting policies largely mirror proposals released for comment in 2014. One noteworthy addition, however, is that the final HHS rule requires that sponsors submit their protocol and original statistical analysis plan along with the summary results. That will dissuade researchers from trying new ways of analyzing their data to get a more interesting result, or “P-value hacking, where people sort of shop around for a statistical test to give them the P value that they love,” said NIH Director Francis Collins in a call with reporters.HHS declined, however, to add narrative summaries to the bare-bones results tables now in ClinicalTrials.gov because it would have been difficult to ensure that the summaries were not biased to suggest that a treatment worked. Instead, officials will continue to encourage patient advocates and other groups to build on the data summaries.The agencies also didn’t feel ready to require that trial sponsors share data for individual patients because experts are still working out how to do that without compromising privacy. University of California, San Francisco, medical informatics researcher Ida Sim, who is co-leading one such project, agrees with that decision. “I think this is an appropriate scope at this moment,” says Sim, who served on a 2015 Institute of Medicine panel urging broader sharing of clinical trial results.The new rules go into effect 18 January 2017 and trial sponsors will have 90 days to begin complying; companies can request an exemption for up to 2 years if FDA hasn’t yet approved sale of the drug. The NIH policy covers studies funded after 18 January 2017. Trial sponsors who fail to comply could face FDA fines and suspension of NIH funding for clinical research.NIH today also announced new guidance for clinical trial proposals, such as a suggested protocol template and training requirements. In addition, instead of sending their trial proposals to NIH as investigator-initiated grant applications, investigators will need to respond to a so-called funding opportunity announcement (FOA). That means NIH will be able to include “review criteria that focus on the rationale, design, and operational and analysis plans,” such as whether sample sizes are adequate, the JAMA article explains. The change will also ensure that proposed trials are routed to peer review panels with the expertise to evaluate those technical details, NIH officials say.In the past, NIH says, a scientifically interesting proposal could sail through peer review and receive funding, even though the design was weak. The changes follow on other new NIH review standards to improve the rigor and reproducibility of NIH-funded preclinical research.“We want to be sure that we are receiving and having the chance to review the most effective applications for clinical trials. It doesn’t work very well for them to sort of slide in randomly through various doorways without having some standardization of exactly what information is going to be included and also a clear path for its review by experts,” Collins explained.The changes may trigger some pushback. But Collins says that researchers shouldn’t worry that the FOAs will be used to limit the scope of the clinical trials. Researchers will still be able to study “a broad range of important medical problems,” he says.*Correction, 16 September, 1:31 p.m.: The article has been clarified to indicate that the final rule requiring that results from certain U.S. Food and Drug Administration-regulated clinical trials be posted in ClinicalTrials.gov was issued by HHS, not FDA. Drug companies and academic researchers will have to step up their public reporting of clinical trial results under new federal policies released today. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, also laid out a new plan for submitting clinical trial proposals that aims to beef up the rigor of the studies.Researchers can no longer submit an unsolicited idea, but must respond to a request for applications that will include specific design requirements. The goal is to cut down on the number of “small crappy studies,” that don’t include sufficient numbers of patients or veer off from the original study plan, NIH staffers say. The agency wants to “reengineer the process by which clinical investigators develop ideas for new trials,” NIH officials explain in a commentary today in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).NIH is timing these changes with the release today of a final U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that expands requirements that sponsors of trials regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submit summary results no more than 1 year after a trial ends to ClinicalTrials.gov, the NIH-run public database. Companies will now have to report results not only for approved products, but also for mid- and late-stage (phase II and III) trials of FDA-regulated drugs and devices that haven’t yet been approved and may never reach the market. 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Germany top FIFA’s year-end standings

first_imgThe German football team topped FIFA’s year-end national team rankings released on Thursday, a reward for their stupendous performance in Brazil culminating in the World Cup triumph.Argentina were second and Colombia came third. Belgium were fourth ahead of the Netherlands while Cup hosts Brazil were sixth, as reported.Euro 2016 hosts France ranked seventh, just ahead of Portugal. 2010 Cup champions Spain were placed in the ninth position while Uruguay climbed to the 10th spot.last_img