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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.

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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.

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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