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First edition of the Himalayan Bird Count recorded 600+ species

Organised together by Bird Count India, Bird Conservation Nepal and the Royal Society of the Protection of Nature, Bhutan, the Himalayan Bird Count (HBC) is the first of its kind collaboration between India, Nepal and Bhutan. Nearly 400 birders took part in the one-day event on May 14 and uploaded close to 1000 checklists, recording about 607 species. Uttarakhand topped the list clocking 294 species with 185 checklists. Akin to other regional bird count events in the country, such as Onam (Kerala), Pongal (Tamil Nadu) and Bihu (Assam), HBC is to be an annual event for the Himalayan region. The belt is known to attract both seasonal and altitudinal migratory birds. “This will also help in generating a snapshot of bird distribution and abundance,” said Mittal Gala, project coordinator, Bird Count India.

Read more: First-ever Himalayan Bird Count shows encouraging results | Livemint

Himalayan Bulbul perched on a branch
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The Himalayan Bulbul is one of the most common birds reported in the Himalayan region. Photograph by Himanshu Gupta, via Wikimedia Commons under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license 

IIT-M and Harvard researchers develop novel machine learning algorithm to save wildlife

According to the research team, the coordinated use of drones and forest rangers can prevent animals from being poached. Since both are limited resources, the researchers developed an algorithm that provides highly efficient, scalable strategies. The algorithm uses a game theory-based model, and has been named CombSGPO (Combined Security Game Policy Optimisation). Using animal data population in the conserved area and assuming that poachers are aware of the patrolling done at various sites, the algorithm works by handling resource allocation and strategising patrolling.

Read more: Researchers from IIT-M, Harvard make model to prevent wildlife poaching | The Hindu

India’s wolves are as endangered as tigers!

A new study estimates that there may be just 3,100 wolves in India, putting them in the same bracket as tigers. Habitat loss is the primary threat, with diseases such as canine distemper one of the many problems this enigmatic predator faces. According to the government of India’s Wasteland Atlas of India, much of the wolf’s native habitat is barren wastelands that are actively prioritised for development activities. "Only by granting the savanna grasslands of India their legitimacy as a natural we have a chance of saving the wolves," write Abi T. Vanak and Mihir Godbole.

Read more: India’s missing wolves | The Hindu

Indian Wolf in a grassland in Pune
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"Habitat loss is the primary threat, with diseases such as canine distemper one of the many problems this enigmatic predator faces." Photograph of an Indian Wolf by Rudraksha Chodankar, via Wikimedia Commons under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license 

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Iraq shuts down after 9th sandstorm in two months

The start of the week saw Iraq close public buildings and temporarily shut airports as the ninth sandstorm since mid-April descended on the Middle East nation. The capital city of Baghdad was enveloped in dust clouds with usually traffic-choked streets largely deserted and bathed in orange light. Iraq is ranked as one of the five most vulnerable nations to climate change and desertification. As per the environment ministry, over the next two decades, Iraq could endure an average of 272 days of sandstorms a year, rising to above 300 by 2050.

Read more: Ninth sandstorm in less than two months shuts down much of Iraq | The Guardian

Image of a sandstorm in Camp Fallujah Iraq
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A sandstorm rolls through Camp Fallujah, located a few miles east of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006. Photograph by Patrick Smith, via Wikimedia Commons under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, for representative purposes only

Pacific island nation creates a marine park the size of Vietnam to protect its waters

The Pacific island state of Niue has announced that it will protect 317, of the ocean in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which spans roughly the area of Vietnam. These waters surrounding one of the world’s largest raised coral atolls are the only place where the Katuali is found—a sea snake that lives in the island’s underwater caves. Niue is already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis, with warmer sea temperatures leading to coral bleaching. Illegal fishing is yet another serious issue in the Pacific Ocean. “The ocean is everything to us. We have to ensure our reefs and corals remain to provide a healthy ecosystem and continue to create a food source for our people,” said Niue’s premier, Dalton Tagelagi.

Read more: Tiny Pacific island nation declares bold plan to protect 100% of its ocean | The Guardian

Raised coral atoll along the coast in Niue
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Niue is a raised coral atoll with terrain that consists of a central plateau and steep limestone cliffs along the coast. Photograph by Msdstefan, via Wikimedia Commons under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license 

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