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Wildlife revival: Conservation wins for tigers and gorillas | Environment



As we mark World Conservation Day this week, it is a good time for some heartening news from the environmental world, which shows how the determined efforts of the few can create positive change and even bring species back from the brink.

Deep in central Africa – where the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda meet – lies one of the most ancient habitats on the continent and the last refuge of one of the rarest animals on earth: the mountain gorilla.

By the 1980s, the effects of decades of devastating civil war and unbridled poaching had reduced their numbers to about 350 animals. The shadow of extinction was closing in.

When we flew through the mist swirling over forest-clad mountains in 2011, the primate was still critically endangered. From above we could see how the hillsides had been stripped bare for cultivation, butting up against the edge of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live.

The potential for conflict between man and great ape was clear, the fields providing easy pickings for the gorillas which were often subsequently killed in large numbers.

A mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park [File: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

Fear and wonder

After a sweltering trek of several hours through the rainforest, we homed in on a gorilla group. I remember being so close that we could pick out their scent – pretty much how pungent, sweaty humans would smell after a lifetime without shower gel. They share 98 percent of our DNA after all.

Suddenly Safari, a big alpha male, bowled purposefully into view, stopped and stared us down. We were frozen by an adrenalising combination of fear and wonder. As he shambled off into the undergrowth, a couple of infants, no more than two years old, crashed about in the trees. Their mother, sitting on her haunches, sat calmly observing, chewing handfuls of fibrous leaves.

The fact that these gorillas were there at all is down to the success of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. A 12km long buffer zone had been established along the fringes of the national park, protecting the gorillas and so allowing tourist dollars to flow. Locals could then get a job with the conservation programme itself, becoming guides or trackers, while others could make money from basket weavings and carvings.

In 2018, the primate’s status was changed from critically endangered to endangered, with its population noted to be “increasing”. Today, mountain gorillas in the wild number more than 1,000.

INTERACTIVE: The Green Read - gorillas and tigers

Dangers during the pandemic

Mountain gorillas have seen a spectacular revival, but there are new dangers, so efforts must be redoubled.

COVID-19 and the absence of cash-rich Westerners have affected local livelihoods with government officials in central Africa warning that people could resort to poaching out of desperation.

Conservationists, though, are determined not to lose the gains made by decades of work. The populations of mountain gorillas must continue to thrive and grow.

Cross River gorilla babies

Meanwhile, recent photos of another sub-species – the Cross River gorilla – have been released, taken in the mountains of southern Nigeria.

At most 300 are known to exist in the wild but the pictures show a number of infant gorillas with the group. And when animals at risk of extinction are reproducing, that can only be good news.

INTERACTIVE: The Green Read - gorillas and tigers

Tigers rebound

This week also marks Global Tiger Day and here too they are bending the curve. Wild tiger numbers are increasing in five countries.

In India – in a recovery the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called an “astonishing success” – the estimate of tigers in the wild more than doubled between 2006 and 2018. In Nepal, numbers have nearly doubled since 2009. In the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, they more than doubled from 2010 to 2018. And in China and the Russian Far East, tiger populations are increasing and dispersing into new areas, the NGO said. 

Elsewhere, conservation group Panthera captured just-released footage of tigers from a forest in western Thailand, where the endangered animals have not been seen for years. 

“From an historic population low in 2010, tigers are finally making a remarkable comeback in much of South Asia, Russia and China,” said Stuart Chapman, leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “And that’s great news for the other threatened species they share their home with, and also the millions of people dependent on these ecosystems.”

The importance of tiger conservation is evident in that Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia have already lost their total tiger populations, while Myanmar is thought to have just 23 individuals left. And all tigers are under intense pressure from the illegal wildlife trade, especially in China.

So as threats and challenges continue to grow, this week it is hats off to the unsung heroes of the conservation world. From bringing Red Kites back from the brink in the British countryside to protecting the peatlands of the Congo Basin, from preserving endangered Arctic lichens to enabling the return of beavers in northern Europe, let these stories of success inspire us in challenging times.

INTERACTIVE: The Green Read - gorillas and tigers

Your environment round-up

1. Environmental murders: A total of 212 land defenders were killed in 2019, with the majority of deaths in Latin America, according to a report by Global Witness. The five most deadly countries were Colombia, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and Honduras.

2. Nuclear fusion: As the world scrambles for more renewable sources of energy, construction has begun on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Funded by 35 nations, the megaproject plans to replicate fusion – the process that powers the sun – by colliding hydrogen nuclei to generate heat. It is the world’s first industrial-scale device of its kind, and aims to create limitless, waste-free energy.

3. Bushfires: A new report estimates that almost three billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia’s bushfires between 2019 and 2020. Dermot O’Gorman, WWF-Australia’s chief executive officer, calls it “one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history”.

4. US elections: With the Donald Trump administration rolling back environmental protections, and the US preparing to leave the Paris climate agreement on November 4 – just one day after the presidential polls – many worry that the fight to save the planet will be harder than ever if Trump is re-elected.

5. Ancient seaweed: A team of scientists has found 16,000-year-old kelp off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and France, which they hope can help us better understand marine plants’ responses to extreme climate changes.

The final word

Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.

Jane Goodall, Primatologist


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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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