Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.2 earthquake hits San Juan, Argentina.

5.0 earthquake hits Jujuy, Argentina.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Atlantic Ocean – Sub-Tropical Storm Andrea is located about 295 mi…475 km wsw of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds…40 mph…65 km/h. Present movement…n or 360 degrees at 6 mph…9 km/h.

NewsBytes:

USA – Fears of flash flooding followed a series of potentially life-threatening tornadoes that swept through parts of Texas and Oklahoma Monday night. A total of 14 tornadoes were confirmed in central Oklahoma and western Texas, carrying warnings of “considerable” damage to homes, businesses and vehicles. In the past three days, 52 tornadoes were reported across seven states.

USA – The Army Corps of Engineers is looking into strengthening flood control along the Missouri River in response to the record deluge this spring and criticism that the agency is not doing enough to protect communities. The Army Corps is considering realigning its levees along the Missouri and expanding or building new systems such as floodways, easements and retention basins to capture more floodwater.

Wildlife

India’s soaring wildlife crime

In February this year, customs officials at Chennai International Airport in southern India heard unusual squeaks coming from the luggage of a man who had arrived from Bangkok. Inside his bag was a tiny leopard cub in a basket.

The customs department in Chennai has been seizing star tortoises, sea cucumbers and pangolin scales being smuggled out of the country for years. Officials now say exotic species being smuggled in are on the rise. But where the exotic wildlife being smuggled into India is going is anybody’s guess.

The illegal trade in wildlife is driving species all over the globe to the brink of extinction. In India, the trade is expanding rapidly, driven by demand for rare species—headed for the pet market—as well as for species believed to have medicinal properties. The main consumer markets are China and South East Asia, but wildlife—alive or as body parts—is also smuggled to the Gulf, Europe and Northern America. Beyond India, the main transit countries are Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Indian wildlife species and products commonly smuggled out of the country are tiger and leopard skins, their bones and other body parts, rhino horns, ivory, turtles and tortoises, sea horses, snake venom, mongoose hair, snake skins, tokay gecko, sea cucumber, chiru fleece, musk pods, bear bile, medicinal plants, red sanders timber and caged birds such as parakeets, mynas, munias. Most people probably don’t even realize that this wealth of species even exists in India. But they are perishing fast, with a population of only about 25 of the chiru remaining.

The most trafficked species are pangolins, seahorses and tortoises:

– In 2018, TRAFFIC India released a study which revealed that at least 5,772 pangolins were captured in India from 2009 to 2017 for illegal trade.

– The Patagonian seahorse (hippocampus patagonicus) is one of the three sea horse species which is trafficked for its use in medicine.

– The Indian star tortoise is now the most trafficked tortoise worldwide as it is in high demand as a pet.

The tokay gecko has come into the picture recently after a number of seizures, mainly in northeast India. The trade is believed to be fueled by unfounded claims it can be used as a cure for AIDS. A crackdown by agencies in several Indian states has led to the arrest of more than 300 gecko traffickers in the past year. More than 1,000 geckos have been confiscated in India during this period and released back into the wild.

Rat poison affects peri-urban wildlife in Cape Town, South Africa

Urban rat poisons are spilling over into Cape Town’s natural environment, threatening species such as caracal, mongoose, otter and owl, a team of University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers in the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild) has discovered.

In their recent paper, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the researchers found that anticoagulant rat poisons are infiltrating Cape Town’s peri-urban wildlife food chains. They identified six predator species at risk: caracal, Cape clawless otter, Cape eagle owl, large spotted genet, honey badger and water mongoose. Others are likely affected as well.

They detected at least one of the four most toxic rat poison compounds, all available in over-the-counter products, in six of the seven species tested. Caracals living in or near vineyards had the highest exposure to rat poisons but the route to exposure is unclear.

One of the most significant findings of the study is that exposure occurs at all ages. Several lactating female caracals were sampled in the study and found to be exposed to rat poisons, suggesting that kittens may be exposed through their mother’s milk.

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As consumers, we need more eco-friendly alternatives to rat poison and the simplest solution is well within everyone’s reach – improve the management of waste which attracts rats in the first place.

Environment

Scientists Went to One of the World’s Most Remote Island Atolls. They Found 414 Million Pieces of Plastic

The amount of plastic pollution previously thought to exist around the world may be a dramatic underestimate — because the vast majority of plastic pollution may actually be below the surface.

That’s the takeaway from a survey of plastic pollution on the beaches of Australia’s Cocos Islands, made up of two coral atolls.

An estimated 414 million pieces of debris are now littering the remote islands, and the vast majority of that waste is buried below the surface, according to a new study. But even that is likely an underestimate, a group of researchers reported May 16 in the journal Scientific Reports.

What’s more, because most of this plastic is buried below the surface, and most global surveys don’t look below the surface, the amount of plastic pollution worldwide may be way more than we previously thought, they reported.

The scientists surveyed seven of the 27 islands, which made up 88 percent of the total landmass of the islands, and estimated that they were littered with 262 tons (238 metric tons) of plastic. A quarter of those pieces of debris were single-use or disposable items such as straws, bags and toothbrushes (about 373,000 of them), The researchers also identified some 977,000 shoes.

Roughly 93% of the debris found, most of it tiny micro-debris, was actually buried below the surface. But because they only dug 3.94 inches (10 centimeters) into the sand, and couldn’t access some beaches that are known to have a lot of debris, these numbers are likely conservative.

The amount of debris buried up to about 4 inches (10 cm) below the surface of the beach is 26 times higher than the amount visible on its surface, the researchers wrote.

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Wildfires

Wildfires – North West Territories, Canada

Three new person-caused wildfires have appeared in the NWT’s South Slave in the past two days, officials said on Monday. One fire erupted at the abandoned former mining community of Pine Point, while two more began outside Fort Smith.

Disease

Anthrax – Zimbabwe

Anthrax is suspected in the deaths of several wildlife animals in Zambezi Valley. Several animals have died including at least eight elephants, several buffaloes, impala, hyenas. This follows an outbreak last year that killed more than a dozen hippos in the Binga District of Zimbabwe.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) – Namibia

The Ministry of Health and Social Services of Namibia officially declared an outbreak of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) on May 6 after reporting a number of cases from different regions of the country.As of 15 May 2019, seven suspected cases of CCHF were reported from five regions, including one laboratory confirmed case, and one death (case fatality ratio 14%).

Measles – Ukraine – Update

Ukrainian health authorities report that the number of measles cases recorded in 2019 to date is very close to 50,000. During the week ending May 18, the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine reported an additional 1,935 cases, putting the total at 49,288. In addition, the number of measles-related fatalities has risen to 17 this year.