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FLORA AND FAUNA
Britain's panda 'suffers miscarriage'
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Oct 15, 2013


Zimbabwe elephant poisoning toll reaches 100
Harare (AFP) Oct 15, 2013 - Zimbabwean wildlife authorities said Tuesday they had discovered another 10 elephant carcasses, bringing the number of the animals poisoned by cyanide for their ivory to over 100 in the past month.

"Ten elephant carcasses were recovered in Hwange (national park) the day before yesterday (Sunday), two suspects were arrested and 14 pieces of ivory recovered," said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, spokesperson for the parks and wildlife authority.

In mid-September the park reported 81 elephants had been killed, and Washaya-Moyo said the discovery of the latest carcasses, and several others in between, brought the figure to over 100.

Twelve people have been arrested in recent weeks in connection with the killings, three of whom were sentenced in September to at least 15 years in prison each.

The magistrate also ordered them to pay $600,000 (440,000 euro) to the Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks Authority for killing the animals by the end of the year.

Authorities have given villagers living around the park until the end of October to hand over any cyanide they might have or risk arrest.

Traditional leaders in Tsholotsho, a village bordering the park, pleaded with the authorities to pardon the villagers saying they were driven by poverty to kill the elephants and not by greed.

Just 50 rangers patrol the 14,650-square kilometre (5,660-square mile) park, and wildlife authorities say 10 times that number are needed.

There are more than 120,000 elephants roaming Zimbabwe's national parks.

Elephant tusks and other body parts are prized in Asia and the Middle East for ornaments, as talismans, and for use in traditional medicine.

The international trade in ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after the population of African elephants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to just 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Wildlife expert estimate that the illegal international ivory trade is worth up to $10 billion a year.

Britain's only female giant panda is believed to have suffered a miscarriage, Edinburgh Zoo said on Tuesday.

It was a doubly sad day for British zoos, after London Zoo also announced Tuesday that the first tiger cub born there in 17 years had drowned.

Edinburgh said its panda Tian Tian, who is spending a decade in the Scottish capital on loan from China with her male companion Yang Guang, had been displaying all the signs of pregnancy but is now thought to have lost her cub.

"Experts at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland can now confirm that they no longer believe Edinburgh Zoo's female giant panda, Tian Tian, is pregnant," the zoo said in a statement.

"All of her hormonal and behavioural signs now indicate that she had conceived and carried a foetus until late term, but then lost it."

Hopes had been high that Tian Tian was about to give birth to Britain's first ever panda cub after the zoo said in August that she was showing signs of pregnancy, including a lack of appetite, moodiness, and changes in her hormone levels.

"We are all saddened by this turn of events after so many weeks of waiting," said Chris West, CEO of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

"The panda enclosure will remain closed until the end of the week, in order to give Tian Tian time to get back into her routine and provide her keepers with the chance to recuperate after this long period of waiting."

Tian Tian ("Sweetie") was artificially inseminated in April after repeated attempts to make her mate with Yang Guang ("Sunshine").

Pandas are famously disinterested in sex for most of the year, and when they do couple they must adopt a very precise position in order to mate successfully.

Edinburgh is paying around $1 million (750,000 euros) a year to Chinese authorities for Tian Tian and Yang Guang -- the only pair of giant pandas in Britain -- who arrived in 2011.

Fewer than 1,600 pandas remain in the wild, mainly in China's Sichuan province, with a further 300 in captivity around the world.

At London Zoo, meanwhile, keepers were "distraught" after finding its newborn Sumatran tiger cub dead at the edge of a pool inside its enclosure.

The zoo said the unnamed cub -- which was born just two weeks ago -- had been discovered on Saturday morning.

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