Bats have different accents
It’s not just people who have different accents, but bats as well develop dialects depending on where they live, which can help identify and protect different species, Australian scientists said. Researcher Brad Law of the Forest Science Centre found that bats living in the forests along the east coast of the state of New South Wales had different calls. He said scientists had long suspected bats had distinctive regional calls — as studies have shown with some other animals — but this was the first time it had been proven in the field. Law said the different calls of about 30 bat species were used to develop a system so that scientists could identify the various bats along the coast, assess their numbers and protect them.
Quake-rattled kiwi hatches
An endangered kiwi that survived a buffeting in its egg during this month’s Christchurch earthquake has hatched safely, in a boost to conservation efforts, officials said yesterday. Named Rickter, after the scale of the magnitude 7.0 quake, the chick hatched on Sunday at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch. The ground-dwelling kiwi, the avian symbol of the country, is threatened by a host of introduced predators, including rats, cats, dogs, ferrets and possums. Department of Conservation spokesman Rory Newsam said there were fewer than 70,000 kiwis left in the wild and the rowi, the sub-species to which Rickter belongs, numbered only 300. Newsam said Rickter’s egg rolled around in its incubator during the Sept. 4 earthquake but rubber matting prevented any damage.
Minister apologizes to POWs
The foreign minister has apologized to former World War II prisoners of war (POW) who are visiting from the US and says they were treated inhumanely. The six POWs and relatives of two who died who were in Tokyo yesterday are the first group of US POWs to visit with government sponsorship. The group’s leader, 90-year-old Lester Tenney, said he welcomed the government’s apology, but still seeks recognition from the private companies that used prisoners in their mines and factories, often under brutal conditions.
Team to probe panda death
Beijing will send a team to Japan this week to probe the death of a giant panda on loan to a Japanese zoo and could seek US$500,000 in compensation for the loss, state press said yesterday. Kou Kou died on Thursday of cardiac arrest after failing to recover from an anaesthetic at the Oji Zoo in the western port city of Kobe. Veterinarians had sedated the 14-year-old male as part of a program to impregnate his partner Tan Tan, and were seeking to extract semen from the male panda when he died. Beijing’s forestry administration has called on the Japanese zoo to seal up the corpse of the animal and will dispatch a team to Japan to investigate the case, state media said.
Small quakes rattles island
A magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck off northern areas of the country yesterday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. There were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning. The tremor hit at 2:48pm, at a depth of 60km in waters between the main island of Honshu and the northern island of Hokkaido, the agency said.
Military drugs claim probed
Military police are investigating claims that servicemen may have trafficked heroin out of Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said on Sunday. An inquiry has been launched into what officials termed “unsubstantiated” allegations that service personnel had bought the drug and used military aircraft to transport it out of the war-torn country. Troops at airports in Camp Bastion and Kandahar are under investigation and security has been tightened with additional sniffer dogs brought in as part of the crackdown. She added that if any troops were found to have smuggled illegal narcotics they would “feel the full weight of the law.”