Wildlife

African vultures headed for extinction

Africa’s vultures are vanishing, according to a report released on Thursday, a situation that could affect human health and livestock since populations of other scavengers such as rats and jackals could rise as a result.

The assessment, carried out by conservation group BirdLife International, found that six of Africa’s 11 vulture species were at risk of extinction.

Deliberate targeting by poachers is one of the reasons as the birds, which circle the sights where they feed, can alert authorities to the carcasses of illegally slain animals.

“Vultures are important. They come in, they clean up and they leave,” said Ross Wanless of BirdLife South Africa.

Vultures also help to stem the spread of disease on the world’s poorest continent by eating carcasses that would otherwise rot.

Other reasons behind the decline of the big birds include indiscriminate poisonings and the popularity of vulture parts for traditional medicine.

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Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Etna (Sicily, Italy): After several weeks of calm, new activity has started during the past days inside the central Voragine crater. Mild strombolian explosions have been observed from a vent at the bottom of the crater.

Ibu (Halmahera, Indonesia): Our recent group who visited the volcano reports small to moderate explosion from the central vent at intervals of 5-20 minutes.

Aso (Kyushu): While the volcano continues to degas strongly and has intermittent, mostly small ash emissions, a stronger explosion occurred again early on 23 Oct around 6 am local time. An ash plume rose approx. 1.5 km above the Nakadake crater and dissipated quickly. Alert level remains at 3 out of 5, and an exclusion zone of 2 km around the crater is in place.

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Ash emissions occurred from the volcano yesterday, suggesting ongoing mild explosive activity. VAAC Darwin reported a low-level plume extending 50 km northwest from Bagana.

Batu Tara (Sunda Islands, Indonesia): A volcanic ash plume at 5,000 ft (1.5 km) altitude extending 80 km west of the volcano was reported by VAAC Darwin this morning.

Dukono (Halmahera): The volcano continues to erupt continuous, loud, roaring jets of gas and small amounts of spatter from vents at the bottom of the deep crater. Ash plumes are regularly being reported by VAAC Darwin.

Turrialba (Costa Rica): After several months of relative calm, the volcano began to erupt ash plumes again since 23 Oct. Some of the explosions have been relatively strong and caused very small pyroclastic flows limited to the crater area. The origin of these emissions are likely phreatic explosions, i.e. caused by overheated ground water flashing to steam. Whether this is the case or at least some fresh magma is involved is unclear. Seismic activity, which could suggest the rise of new magma, has been reported to have picked up recently.

Cotopaxi (Ecuador): No significant changes have occurred during the past days. The activity remains characterized by intense degassing and occasional mild ash emissions mixed into the plume.

Tungurahua (Ecuador): Mild to moderate ash emissions, with ash plumes rising 1-2 km above the crater, have become more frequent over the past days, suggesting the volcano’s activity has started to picking up. An explosion at 04:33 yesterday morning was seen ejecting incandescent material that rolled down the western flank to up to 1 km distance. Light ash fall occurred later in Chacauco, Cotaló and Manzano. The ash was reported to be black and red in colour and sugary in grain size. The first (colour) suggest that it is from new magma (as opposed to typically gray-brown coloured ash from pulverized older rock). The volcano observatory also reported an increase in seismic activity associated with fluid movements. One possibility is that the volcano (after all, one of the world’s most active ones) enters a more vigorous phase of activity in the near future, as often occurred in the past.

Wildlife

280 bears massacred in shocking Florida bear hunt

More than 200 bears have been savagely massacred in a bear hunt in Florida, USA despite widespread outcry from animal rights activists.

The week-long cull – branded a “trophy hunt” by activists – began across the state yesterday amid furious protests.

One of the first kills of the hunt went to 49-year-old Bryan Smith, who claimed: “He had a good life and a good death.”

Several lactating females have also being killed, according to local media reports – meaning their cubs will starve to death.

The hunt was approved after officials claimed Florida’s black bear population had grown to 3,500 – up from several hundred in the 1970s – and presented a safety hazard.

Almost 3,800 permits were sold for the hunt to blood-thirsty Americans before the deadline on Friday.

Those with permits are allowed to use firearms and bows to kill the creatures this week – but unleashed dogs or bait are banned.

Animal activists deplored the hunt saying that: “There is not a bear problem in Florida but a leadership problem. If wealthy land developers have their way in Florida we will have no bears or panthers and will be left with the endless strip malls of box stores.”

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Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits the Mid-Indian ridge.

5.3 Earthquake hits Pakistan.

5.2 Earthquake hits El Salvador.

5.2 Earthquake hits off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Mid-Indian ridge.

Record-Breaking 408 Earthquakes Hit Bay Area City

A whopping 408 earthquakes have hit San Ramon, California, in the past two weeks, including 11 in one 24-hour stretch.

This record-breaking earthquake swarm is nothing to fear, however, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Periods of tectonic unrest are common in the area and probably don’t presage a larger quake, the USGS said.

Most of the quakes affecting this Bay Area city are tiny. The one that kicked off the swarm at 8:50 a.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 13 was a mere magnitude 0.8. People don’t usually feel earthquakes until they reach a magnitude of 2.5; quakes between magnitude 2.5 and 5.4 can be felt but rarely cause much damage.

The quakes are hitting on the north end of the Pleasanton Fault in the Calaveras Fault zone, according to the USGS. Swarms of small earthquakes are common in this fault system. In fact, in 1990, a swarm of 351 earthquakes struck over a 42-day period. The largest quake in that swarm was a magnitude 4.2, a level unlikely to cause serious damage.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Florida, USA – A King tide has caused flooding in parts of Florida. While South Florida cities have dealt with nuisance King Tide floods each October, now they’re becoming deeper, more widespread and chronic.

Environment

Indonesia Smoke Haze Death Toll Rises

The death toll from acrid haze blanketing parts of Indonesia has climbed to 19, a minister said Wednesday, almost double the previous figure as the crisis from widespread forest fires worsens.

For nearly two months, thousands of fires caused by slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia have choked vast expanses of Southeast Asia, forcing schools to close and scores of flights and some international events to be cancelled.

An estimated half a million people have suffered respiratory illnesses since the fires started in July. Indonesia’s disaster agency previously stated the fires had killed 10 people, some of whom died while fighting the blazes and others from the pollution.

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Wildlife also affected

The environmental catastrophe that is unfolding across Indonesian Borneo is threatening to engulf precious sanctuaries where a third of endangered great ape’s entire population hangs on for survival.

For two months, uncontrolled fires have been raging across the Borneo landscape, spewing up thick black clouds of smoke that have caused respiratory infections in 500,000 people.

The financial cost for Indonesia is also immense, with the fires costing the economy as much as £30billion. Conservationists are warning the fires’ impacts have taken a sinister twist by setting light to huge swathes of virgin peat swamp forest, a precious tropical wilderness where endangered clouded leopards and orangutans keep one step from extinction.

But, it is the Sabangau Forest, with the world’s largest population of nearly 7,000 wild orangutans, which is facing the greatest threat. For the orangutans, recent decades have seen their wild kingdoms eroded by the onset of logging and the turning over of forest for oil palm plantations.

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Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.0 Earthquake hits Tarapaca, Chile.

5.0 Earthquake hits eastern Xizang, China.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical Storm Olaf is located about 1290 mi…2080 km ENE of Hilo Hawaii with maximum sustained winds…45 mph…75 km/h. Present movement…ENE or 65 degrees at 12 mph…19 km/h.

NewsBytes:

Pakistan – A snowstorm in Babusar, Pakistan has claimed the lifone of a person. At least 70 tourists have been evacuated from Naran valley. The earliest snowfall in 40 years has dumped three feet of snow on one town in less than 24 hours. The snowfall has also damaged the power lines and some small bridges.

Louisiana, USA – Parts of Louisiana were under water early Monday as severe thunderstorms moved into the Gulf Coast area after drenching Texas over the weekend.

Global Warming

Antarctic Ozone Hole

Intense depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica happens each year. In October 2015 it was more than 1.5 million square miles larger (2.5Mkm2) than in 2014, which is an area larger than the North American continent.

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Disease

Shingella Outbreak in San Francisco, USA

Nearly 200 people in the San Francisco area have been sickened by an intestinal disease caused by the highly contagious Shigella bacteria since an outbreak began at a Mexican seafood restaurant 10 days ago, health officials said on Monday.

The outbreak had spread across six counties and infected 182 people as of last Friday, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said in a statement.

Many of those sickened have required hospitalization and at least a dozen were admitted to intensive care units. Transmission typically occurs when faecal matter enters the mouth, possibly when an infected food handler prepares meals consumed by unwitting diners.

Shigella infections can trigger watery or bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and other symptoms. The bacteria is “extremely contagious,” sickened individuals should avoid going to work.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

7.7 Earthquake hits the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan.

Initial reports that at least 12 people were killed in northwestern Pakistan. Shockwaves were felt in northern India and in Pakistan’s capital, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them. The quake was 213km deep and centred 254km north-east of Kabul in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range.

5.5 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits Guerrero, Mexico.

5.1 Earthquake hits south of Fiji.

5.1 Earthquake hits southwest of Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical Storm Olaf is located about 1030 mi…1660 km ENE of Honolulu Hawaii and about 890 mi…1435 km ENE of Hilo Hawaii with maximum sustained winds…70 mph…110 km/h. Present movement…NE or 40 degrees at 12 mph…19 km/h.

NewsBytes:

South Africa – A lightning storm in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa has claimed the lives of two women.

Middle East – Stormy weather in Israel has claimed the life of one person and left thousands without power. A 20-year old worker died in Pardes Hanna when a wall collapsed at a construction site because of the strong winds. The Airport Authority briefly closed Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv due to the weather conditions. Similarly, severe weather in Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria has claimed the lives of six people, including two children.

Texas, USA – Heavy rains fuelled by the meeting of two storm systems, one the remnants of Hurricane Patricia, pounded southeastern Texas, triggering flash floods in Houston.

Disease

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – South Korea

On 12 October 2015, the National IHR Focal Point of the Republic of Korea provided follow-up information on a previously reported case of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection. The patient, who was discharged from hospital on 3 October following two consecutive negative PCR tests for MERS-CoV, was readmitted to hospital with fever on 11 October and tested again positive for MERS-CoV on 12 October.

Syria cholera outbreak sparks fears of ‘international threat’

Cholera has broken out in Syria, with one child having already died after contracting the disease – and the outbreak could constitute an “international threat”.

The break-out, which follows one in Iraq, could spread rapidly, according to Dr Ahmad Tarakji, president of the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams), the largest medical NGO still working in Syria. There are over four million registered Syrian refugees and nearly eight million internally displaced.

There have already been 1,200 confirmed cases of cholera in Iraq in recent weeks, including six deaths. An immunisation programme is due to start there next week.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Soputan (North Sulawesi, Indonesia): The volcano is calm at the surface, but seismic activity shows it is at unrest and might erupt again soon. Deep volcanic quakes (5-10 km depth) and shallow tremors has been more frequent (10 -15 times per day) since 3 oct – 22 oct. This suggests there is probably magma raising up slowly, but there are still no glowing spots visible.

Rinjani (Lombok): A small explosive eruption with ash emissions was reported from the volcano this morning. It seems to have occurred from the Baru Jari cone inside the caldera lake (and the site of all recent eruptions of the volcano) at around 10:45 local time. Hikers from and near the camp at the lake were evacuated and all trekking routes through the Rinjani National Park were closed, including those through Sembulan and Timbanuh, East Lombok, and Senaru and North Lombok. No significant seismic activity seems to have accompanied the explosion. The ash emission was too small to be detected on satellite data. The aviation alert level of the volcano was raised to Orange (VAAC Darwin).

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Coquimbo, Chile.