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Locusts Block Out Sun in Iran as Bug Swarms Threaten Famine From Africa to Asia

The swarms of desert locusts are sweeping across the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, threatening tens of millions of people with famine.

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – While the year began with fears that World War III would break out in the Middle East, it would appear that a different threat is tearing through the region – one of the worst locust infestations in modern history which is slamming Iran.

The plague of locusts has grown so bad in the south of Iran that the country’s leadership is considering deploying its military to combat the horrific insect infestation, which could ravage the country’s agriculture and food supplies.

Mohammed Reza Mir, a spokesman for the Iranian Agriculture Ministry’s Plant Protection Organization, told the semiofficial news agency ILNA last week that the country’s military hopes to join in the fight to ward off the invasion. Mir said:

“The military have promised to help fight the desert locusts, including by providing all-terrain vehicles for use in areas which are hard to access. Last year the military provided personnel and vehicles, and that was a big help.”

About 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) of orchards and farmland have already been devoured by the swarm, the official said. And nearly 2.5 million acres of land could face utter decimation if nothing is done to halt the biblical-scale migration of insects.

In terrifying video footage that is reportedly from Iran, a humongous cloud of locusts can be seen nearly obscuring the sun as a car drives through the swarm.

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The emergency is slamming the country as it contends with an economy ravaged by U.S.-led sanctions, collapsing oil prices, and the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

ABC reports that the locusts are capable of traveling in swarms as large as 50 million insects and can travel over 90 miles and eat up to 200 tons of crops every single day.

The last locust outbreak occurring on a comparable scale took place in the mid-20th century, when monitoring and reporting was a much slower manual process. However, the availability of chemical pesticides wasn’t as much an issue then as now, allowing for relatively efficient control operations.

Officials in Iran claim that the ground in one afflicted area was covered in a 6-inch-high layer of dead locusts after they sprayed it with pesticides, but clearly this was far from enough.

However, this is the second consecutive year that the locust swarms have wreaked havoc across the region – and it’s a problem that’s grown much worse due to the erratic and unpredictable shifts in climate conditions, which have entailed unseasonal rainfall, cyclones, and other factors contributing to the birth of new locust generations.

Warming waters in the Indian Ocean—known as the Indian Ocean Dipole or “Indian Niño” due to its similarity to El Niño in the Pacific—have also been linked to an uptick in cyclones across the region, as well as dry weather, flooding, and even the raging bushfires across Australia.

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Muhammad Azhar Ehsan, a researcher at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told Vox:

“The western side of the Indian Ocean was unusually warm as compared to the eastern side. So when the western side was warm, we had a lot of evaporation happening over there, and that evaporation turned into a rainfall.”

The humongous swarms of desert locusts are also sweeping across the Horn of Africa and South Asia. The locusts are threatening to plunge tens of millions of people into famine, especially as it coincides with the novel coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic shutdown rippling across the globe.

About 20 million people are already in the grips of food insecurity while roughly 17 million people in war-ravaged Yemen face grave danger.

In some areas, the recent swarms have seen nearly 100 percent of crops lost to the swarms. For many countries, this is also the first swarm they’ve seen in decades – meaning they are poorly equipped to control the plague of locusts.

Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the U.N. Food and Agricultural Orgnization (FAO), said “It’s like a fire in a country that has no fire department.”

And to make matters worse, some people believe that the scarcity created by the locusts could itself be a contributing factor to armed conflict in the region.

A failure to urgently fund and step up the campaign to suppress the desert locust infestations could see the insects’ numbers grow to 20 times worst than the last outbreak – ensuring that desert locusts will ruin this year’s harvest season.

Animals

Police Rescue Dogs Trapped In Car on Sizzling Hot Day, Owners Complain About Broken Window

Elias Marat

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Police in the UK acted quickly to save a two dogs locked inside a car in sizzling hot temperatures by smashing open a window, upsetting the car’s owner over the damage.

Officers responded Sunday to reports that a beagle and another dog were trapped in a car parked in the seaside British city of Brighton on a day of boiling heat.

In video captured of the incident, an officer can be seen jamming his baton through a rear window before finally shattering it to free the pooches.

This prompts the car alarm to go off as the car’s owners can be seen rushing toward it, upset over the police intervention.

A woman, standing with her shocked family, says: “You broke my window out!”

One of the officer responded: “It’s a hot day. You shouldn’t be leaving the dog in the car in this weather.”

The incident happened on a day when people across the region flock to the seaside resort city to dip into the beaches amid surging hot temperatures.

The onlooker who filmed the incident noted that the owners seemed unaware of the dangers posed to their pets by weather conditions.

“Where they had parked there is just no shade,” they told The Sun. “It’s directly on the seafront in 25°C (77°F) weather outside – I’ve got no idea what it was inside the car.”

The family was indignant over what they claim was an overreaction by the police.

“At first it was ‘what the f*** are you doing, why did you break my car window? I was only gone for 10 minutes,’” another witness explained.

“The bloke obviously thought he was completely in the right,” they added. “He didn’t really seem to have much empathy.”

According to UK animal welfare group RSPCA, outside temperatures of 22°C (71°F) can reach a brutal 47°C (116.6°F) inside a car within an hour.

“Police officers attended and tried to get a contact number for the owners of the car but were unable,” a Sussex Police spokesperson said. “Officers had no choice but to smash the side window to gain access and a kind member of the public donated a bottle of water.”

Authorities added that the officers let the pet owners off with a stern warning, without ticketing the family or separating their dogs from them.

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Animals

Golden Retriever Filmed Giving Woodchuck Ride Across Massachusetts Lake

Elias Marat

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There are some occasions when the natural world resembles something we might think belongs to the realm of Disney films but no – it’s simply the animal kingdom in motion.

Such was the case when a dog owner captured amazing footage of her dog giving a ride to a small rodent across a lake in Massachusetts.

Lauren Russel was with her dog, Wally the golden retriever, at Hickory Hills Lake in Lunenburg last month when the dog encountered a woodchuck in the water.

So Wally did one any good dog of his breed would do – he gave his new friend a ride back to shore.

“He was about 100 meters out and a woodchuck, I think, just crawled right up on his back and he swam back to shore with him,” Russell told WCVB on Monday.

She always knew that her Wally was a friendly pooch, but she never imagined something like this.

“We were flabbergasted. It was unbelievable. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” Russell continued.

To top things off, once they arrived onshore, Wally and his fast friend gave each other what appeared to be a kiss.

“They like touched snouts and then he ran away,” Russell said.

You can watch the video of the touching event here:

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Animals

Tiny Creature Frozen for 24,000 Years is Brought Back to Life

Elias Marat

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A microscopic creature has come back to life and reproduced asexually after 24,000 years of lying dormant in the permafrost of Siberia.

Russian scientists found the tiny freshwater creature, called the bdelloid rotifer, in the rich soil of the Alazeya river of Russia’s far northern Siberan region of Yakutia.

The multicellular organism is common throughout the world and is known to be extremely resilient, capable of surviving extreme cold, dryness, starvation and low oxygen.

While previous research found that it could survive a decade when frozen at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit), the new study published by the journal Current Biology offers a stunning testimony of the survivability of the tiny animal – which is by far the longest survival period known of any creature in the world.

“Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism,” said Stas Malavin, an author of the study, in a statement.

Malavin’s Soil Cryology Lab in Pushchino, Russia, used a drilling rig to extract the miniscule organism from roughly a dozen feet below the remote Arctic location.

Once the ancient organism thawed, it reproduced on its own through a process of parthenogenesis. Researchers then found that it could withstand repeatedly being frozen and thawed dozens of times due to its innate processes of cell and organ protection.

“The takeaway is that a multicellular organism can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then return back to life – a dream of many fiction writers,” Malavin said.

“Of course, the more complex the organism, the trickier it is to preserve it alive frozen and, for mammals, it’s not currently possible,” the scientist added. “Yet, moving from a single-celled organism to an organism with a gut and brain, though microscopic, is a big step forward.”

Researchers hope that the knowledge gleaned from studying the microscopic organism will bring further insights on how to preserve animals’ cells, tissues and organs – including those belonging to human beings.

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