April 20, 2018

Endangered African penguins threatened by avian flu

iStock/Thinkstock(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) -- Endangered African penguins living in a colony on Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, have been further threatened by an outbreak of avian flu. According to Nature, veterinarians detected the virus in February among penguins there as well as Cape cormorants, swift terns and peregrine falcons. By March, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs called for a halt to research activities for fear of further spreading the infection to other colonies. Over 16 “abnormal deaths” have been recorded since February and residents and tourists have been advised not to handle any sick or dead birds. The African penguin population has been in a steady decline and is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In the 1930s there were about 1.5 million adult penguins living along the southern African coast but due to human activity, their numbers have decreased by 90 percent in less than a century. The Boulders population is currently about 1,700 birds. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
April 20, 2018

700-year-old Banyan tree in southern India put on a ‘drip’ to save it

Forest Department/Telangana(NEW YORK) -- A 700-year-old Banyan tree whose branches spread across about three acres is believed to be one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the world. But when one of the branches of the tree in Telangana in southern India broke off in December, forest officials found the tree to be infested with termites, and the area, a major tourist destination, was immediately closed to the public. The tree has now been put on a "drip" of diluted pesticides. The Banyan is the national tree of India and is considered sacred by Hindus. ‘We drilled holes in the affected branches and injected the pesticide, chlorpyrifos, every two meters," Chukka Ganga Reddy, the District Forest Officer told ABC News. Two meters is about 6.5 feet. "We are maintaining the flow of the chemical through drips," Reddy said. "We are also washing the roots with the same pesticide and treating the adjoining areas to prevent the termites spreading." Concrete pillars are also being built to support the sprawling branches of the tree. Banyan trees are known to spread laterally as roots dropped by their branches mature into thick trunks which support the tree. "The results are encouraging, and we hope the tree will recover in two to three months. We will then decide when to open the area for tourists," Reddy said. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
April 20, 2018

Australian ex-deputy prime minister welcomes baby with former staffer

Michael Masters/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The former deputy prime minister of Australia and his partner, Vikki Campion, have welcomed a baby boy. Joyce quit his government post and position as leader of the National Party of Australia after it emerged he was having an affair with Campion, his former media adviser, and that she was expecting a baby. After the affair, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull banned ministers from having sexual relationships with their staff. Joyce has four daughters with his wife, Natalie. After the baby, who has been named Sebastian, was born at Armidale Hospital, Joyce told Australian outlets “We are very happy and just taking it quietly.” The affair was not Joyce’s only recent political crisis. In 2017, he was disqualified from running in a by-election when he was forced from his seat after it was revealed he held dual Australian-New Zealand citizenship. After renouncing his secondary citizenship he was ruled eligible and won back his seat with more than 60 percent of the vote, according to Australian media outlets. The dual citizenship crisis affected several members of Parliament, and resulted in nine seats lost, including Joyce’s. On the news of his partner's pregnancy, Joyce told Australian media the paternity of Campion's then-unborn child was a "gray area" given his travel schedule and the estimated date of conception. He added however that he was planning to bring up the child as his own regardless of who the father was. Joyce later said that the child's paternity was "nobody else's business", and in comments to Fairfax Media on Friday said the arrival of the baby had "comprehensively removed any doubts about paternity on the basis of date". Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
April 20, 2018

Direct hotline set up for North, South Korea presidents

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- A direct hotline has been set up between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A test call was made Friday between Seoul's presidential office and Pyongyang's State Affairs Commission. The two sides checked connections and talked about weather, according to the South's presidential Blue House. The two leaders did not talk on Friday. Their first conversation using the hotline is expected soon -- sometime before next Friday. That's when the two will meet in person for the first time at the historic summit to take place at the truce village of Panmunjom at the border. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.