Stories tagged Africa

Do you like hot weather? Do you like playing with graphs? Combine those two interests in at this interactive website that charts the fluxuation in global temperature over your own personal lifetime.

Our recent national headlines have kicked up the abortion debate again – a new Supreme Court nominee and the shooting of an abortion doctor. Here's some startling news about the unintended toll abortions take in Tanzania, where abortion is an illegal activity.

Mar
09
2009

Evolution: We're all tall enough to ride
Evolution: We're all tall enough to rideCourtesy kevindooley
When and where in Africa did modern humans evolve?

Jim Fairman, the director of the Science Museum of Minnesota's Science Division invites you to find out at a lecture this Wednesday night.

The Science Division is pleased to co-sponsor a lecture by Dr. Curtis Marean on March 11, 2009 in the auditorium of the Science Museum at 7 p.m. Dr. Marean, is a paleoanthropologist and expert on human origins. In this lecture he will broach the questions "where in Africa did modern humans evolve?" and "when did they become behaviorally modern and why then and at that place?" This lecture is free and open to the public, but seating may be limited (currently we have about 150 reservations, maximum seating 275). Please call the ticket office at 651-221-9444 and mention this lecture on March 11th. This free, public lecture is part of Marean’s residency through the Rydell Professorship at Gustavus funded by the Drs. Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell.

Marean is currently a professor at the Institute of Human Origins as part of the School of Human Evolution & Social Change at Arizona State University in Tempe. He teaches courses on the Stone Age of Africa, prehistoric and historic hunger-gatherers, zooarchaeology, and paleoecology. During the last decade he has put more effort into on-site archaeological excavations. In 2007, Marean and colleagues announced that they had found the oldest known evidence for the use of coastal resources, dating back to about 164,000 years ago, in Cave 13B at Pinnacle Point, on the South African coastline near Mossel Bay within the Cape Floral Kingdom.

The Rydell Professorship at Gustavus is a scholar-in-residence program designed to bring Nobel laureates, Nobel Conference lecturers, and similarly distinguished scholars to the campus as catalysts for enhancing learning and teaching. It was established in 1995 by Drs. Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell of Minnetonka, Minn., to give students the opportunity to learn from and interact with leading scholars.

It’s Super Bowl week – the ultimate exercise of male bonding. So it’s only right that research is announced this week that male chimps exhibit stronger signs of bonding within their gender than females chimps do within theirs. And there’s no football involved!!

Government officials in Zimbabwe have (finally) declared a state of emergency in the cholera epidemic that has already sickened more than 12,000 people and killed more than 550. Caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium, cholera's hallmarks are massive watery diarrhea and vomiting, and people who die from cholera generally die from dehydration. It's a terrible cycle: people get cholera from a contaminated water supply (or food that's been tainted through contaminated water. They don't have clean water to drink, so have no means of safe rehydration, and they don't have safe sewage systems, so waste infected with the cholera bacteria goes right back into the water where it can infect others.

Cholera is rare in the developed world today, but it wasn't always. For a fascinating real-life epidemiological detective story about the deadliest cholera outbreak in London's history (in August, 1854), check out Steven Johnson's "The Ghost Map." Even if you're not into non-fiction, it's a great read. I couldn't put it down.

We've had plenty of discussion about text messaging here on the Buzz recently. Here's a video report about a novel use of that technology in Kenya, where a wild elephant sends regular text messages about his whereabouts for an amazing reason. What I don't get is how his big hoofs and type on those little cellphone keypads.

OMG: Here's another video report on a monk seal in Greece that texts reports of her daily activities to an animal shelter that rehabbed her from injuries. And here's a link on that story to a report of a crocodile that sends text messages to scientists. What's come over these animals?

It's described as the first-ever live lion hunt to be webcast. Here's a link to video footage of the event for your lunch time Internet browsing enjoyment.

Sep
15
2008

Are you tracking me?: GPS technology saved the life of an elephant in Africa last week and is being used extensively to track the migration patterns of many types of animals.
Are you tracking me?: GPS technology saved the life of an elephant in Africa last week and is being used extensively to track the migration patterns of many types of animals.Courtesy Lee R. Berger
GPS – global positioning systems – can do some amazing things. Even saving the life of an elephant.

Here’s an account of how a GPS unit spared an African elephant in Kenya from being slaughtered by irate farmers. Mountain Bull, which wears a GPS unit on around his neck, was noticed missing one day last week from his herd near Mount Kenya. Using the GPS tracking technology, his biologist observes tracked him down with a rogue pack of elephants ravaging the goodies of farm field nearby.

Efforts to rebuilt Africa’s elephant population have had the unintended consequence of putting more pressure on Kenyan agriculture. Elephant herds looking for easy food are more commonly heading to the farm field buffet.

The Kenyan Wildlife Services officials followed the GPS signal to find Mountain Bull in the sights of being exterminated by local farmers. Equipped with GPS tracking information showing that Mountain Bull had never been out looking for a farm-field free lunch before, they were able to talk the farmers into granting him mercy on this indiscretion.

While this is a pretty dramatic story of GPS coming to the aid of wildlife, biologists are using the technology in many other ways.
Integrating the GPS readings with Google Maps technology, researchers are able to map migration patterns and find out which locations are high traffic areas for different animals. Armed with that information, biologists can better target their efforts for habitat preservation and improving species numbers.

That’s all good news if you’re an African elephant; maybe not so good news if you’re a Kenyan farmer.

Jul
09
2008

So I'm surfing the web and I come across an item about DDT use in Africa. If it's true, then this is the kind of thing that really frosts my shorts. But, as the blogger notes, the item has only appeared in a couple of fringe outlets. Not that I consider the MSM the font of credibility. But I've already been taken to task for the Space Camp Barbie post, so it would be nice to have verification.

Anyway, according to this report, a Dutch textile firm is refusing to buy cotton from parts of Uganda which use the chemical DDT to combat malaria. Malaria kills up to 100,000 Ugandans every year. DDT effectively controls the mosquitoes that spread the disease.

But DDT has a downside -- it gets into the environment and poisons fish, birds and other wildlife. For this reason, it has been banned in the US and other Western countries for more than 30 years.

Countries that use DDT today don't spray food crops. They use small, safe amounts and generally confine its use to indoors, protecting people from malaria-ridden mosquitoes.

But this apparently is not good enough for the Dutch. According to the report, the company is refusing to buy cotton from areas that use DDT, claiming the crop is no longer "organic." As a result, farmers from those areas cannot sell their cotton at full price, and are losing money.

Basically, European eco-purists are giving African farmers a choice: avoid DDT and die of malaria, or use DDT and die of starvation. The Euro-elites, of course, face neither of these fates.

Like I said, this is based on just one report. It would be nice to get independent confirmation.