Vulture toxic drugs linger

Diclofenac and other banned vulture-killing drugs are still found in pharmacies, posing a threat to the slowly-recuperating populations of the bird in India, writes Spoorthy Raman
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When bee dance inspires robot design

Honeybees are incredible in many ways. Swooshing at over twenty kilometres per hour, they fly a whopping 90,000 kilometres—a distance equal to going around the world 2.2 times—to make half a kilogram of honey. There’s a strategy behind the success: instead of all the workers aimlessly wandering in search of pollen and nectar, a forager bee first ventures out in pursuit of food. When she finds a bounty, she returns to the hive and recruits an army of her kin to bring it all. But there’s a catch—

How Air-Conditioning Creates a Climate Conundrum

Summer is here in North America, which means in many places it’s too hot for comfort. To escape the sweltering heat, birds pant, take a dip in the water, and hide from the sun. Humans have an additional edge over biology: air-conditioning. With access to electricity, we are able to alter the air temperature itself. Air-conditioning is expensive: It costs U.S. homeowners a whopping $29 billion each year. But it saves lives. In summer 2021, a heatwave sent the mercury soaring to record temperatur

Canada mining push puts major carbon sink and Indigenous lands in the crosshairs

Since the last ice age, wide rivers have meandered toward the southern shores of Hudson Bay in Canada, to join its salty waters. On their way, they’ve created swaths of wetlands, filled with carbon-packed peat bog. The Cree Indigenous people who have lived here for millennia call these peatlands Yehewin Aski, or “the Breathing Lands,” for they believe these wetlands act as the lungs of Mother Earth. “It’s such a watery landscape,” says Lorna Harris, a peatland ecosystem scientist at the Wildlif

Indigenous oyster fisheries were ‘fundamentally different’: Q&A with researcher Marco Hatch

In the 18th century, when European ships sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Northwest coast of the Atlantic Ocean, they raved about the “wilderness” of the coast. The enormous natural wealth they saw—the wood from forests and the fur on animals—lured them into setting up a flourishing trade that would last centuries and script a new chapter in history. The visitors thought the coast as pristine and untouched by humans. However, it was home to many Indigenous peoples, including the Nu

The backstory of a bird paradise in Andaman and Nicobar

Cyclones, floods, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes and massive tsunamis— the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have endured it all for millennia. However, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which originated in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, stands out as one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the archipelago in recent times. The tremor shook the land for a good ten minutes. About 50 metres deep inside the ocean, the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate broke apart, rupturing the ground for about 1,

Lessons from panda conservation could help Asia’s other, overlooked, bears

Serving as the mascot of a world-renowned conservation organization, building diplomatic relationships between China and the world, playing protagonists in blockbuster movies — giant pandas have done it all. The public attention and adulation these animals garner make them star attractions at zoos and have helped pump billions into tailor-made conservation programs that have successfully brought the species back from the verge of extinction. “They hit the lottery,” says Willam J. McShea, a wild

Climate change set to upend global fishery agreements, study warns

Unlike boundaries on the land, the ocean is contiguous — fish move and transcend international waters as they please, without bothering about jurisdictions. As long as ocean temperatures remain generally stable, the fish remain in their known habitats and all is well. But as climate change heats up oceans rapidly, fish are on the move, upsetting fishing treaties between nations that stipulate who can catch how much fish in shared waters. “Many of the fisheries management agreements made to regu

The journey of rainforest trees

The rainforests of Southeast Asia are home to iconic animals like the orangutans, rhinoceros, tigers and elephants. The canopy of gigantic trees provides a safe refuge for several plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. These rainforests have four of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots, and constitute 15% of the world’s tropical rainforests. In over 400 species of plants in these forests, the dipterocarp family of trees dominate the landscape.

Lead Bullets Are Stunting the Bald Eagle's Recovery

The Bald Eagle’s comeback is one of America’s most famous conservation success stories. From an all-time low of 417 pairs throughout the United States in 1963, the species numbers 71,467 pairs as of 2021. The primary reason for the bird’s turnaround was the crucial 1972 ban of the pesticide DDT. The birds have bounced back so strongly that the government is even considering upping the amount of Bald Eagles that industry can accidentally kill without penalty. But despite the boom in their number

Climate Change or Habitat Loss? New Study Weighs Which Influences Birds More

In 1900, on Christmas Day, 27 birders in 25 locations across the United States donned winter gear and binoculars, then stepped outside to list all the birds they could see in 24 hours. They didn’t know it then, but they were launching what would become the world's longest-running community science project on birds. Much has changed since that first count: Global temperatures have risen by 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. population has more than quadrupled, and 64 percent o

Translators’ Roundtable: Bringing Science to New Audiences

Today, most breakthrough science is published in English. But in many parts of the world, English is not a native language, making translations essential to bring news, information, and perspectives to diverse audiences. Moving science-focused content across language boundaries requires more than running articles through Google Translate or flipping through a multilingual dictionary in search of a word-for-word translation. Translations have to be both accurate and culturally sensitive—a tough t

Trials and tribulations of scientific research

In the past few weeks, news of scientific malpractice at one of India’s premier research institutes, the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, has stirred up a storm in academic circles. Social media is awash with reports of malpractice, forgery, academic bullying, harassment and toxic work cultures in institutes and labs across the country. For many researchers, this incident has brought back memories of their own struggles, either as witnesses or victims of such practices.

With animals, ecosystems flourish

Animals are nature’s fascinating engineers, building some of the magnificent structures known to us. Giant termite mounds, elaborate anthills and robust dams constructed by some of these animals show their might. But animals can do much more — they can also restore ecosystems to their former grandeur, which is most likely lost due to human activities. Humans have damaged most of the world’s ecosystems in the last few centuries, from the frigid Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforests and ever

What is at stake with India’s first cheetah sanctuary?

If everything goes as planned over the year, the Kuno-Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh could become the country’s first-ever cheetah sanctuary. As it awaits the arrival of six to eight cheetahs from Namibia, the authorities are gearing up for the welcome. Although the plan of bringing cheetahs to India was in the works for more than a decade, it came close to a realisation after the Supreme Court’s nod in January 2020. The now-6,800 km2 expanse of the proposed landscape aimed for a bigger

What does it take to discover geckos?

On a warm summer evening in 2007, Dr Ishan Agarwal, a herpetologist, was scouting the hillocks of Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh. Eyeing his favourite creatures, the lizards, he looked for them under rocks, between crevices, and in thorny bushes. Ishan spotted several lizards—some of which he had seen before and could recollect their names. But, there were two that he could not put his finger on, and he began his quest to find out more. After 13 years of spotting them, this year, he and his coll

Kerala wraps up Asia’s biggest bird survey

A group of enthusiastic birders take part in the survey for Kerala Bird Atlas. [Image credits: Kerala Bird Atlas] Over a thousand birdwatchers, working for over five years, complete Kerala’s first Bird Atlas. In 2015, a group of bird enthusiasts from Kerala decided to start a new endeavour—creating a bird atlas that can map the distribution and abundance of various birds across the entire state. Little did they know that this effort, of 600 days, would turn into Asia’s largest such endeavour.

The sorry tale of snakebites in India

Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii), a venomous snake responsible for half the deaths due to snakebites in India [Image credits: Chandranuj/ CC BY-SA 4.0] On a day in June 2020, a father and his two sons finished their dinner and fell asleep in their hut in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh. Little did they know that it would be their last night, for a venomous snake was lurking inside. Come morning, the villagers discovered the three dead due to snakebites. Although an antivenom, given on time,
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