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Uganda wildlife soared over past decade: authority

Valuable "President's fish" facing extinction in Philippines
Manila (AFP) Sept 25, 2010 - A species of mullet reputed to be one of the favourite dishes of former president Ferdinand Marcos is facing extinction in the Philippines because it is so valuable, a fisheries official said Saturday. The high value of the lobed river mullet, popularly known as "president's fish" has resulted in overfishing, seriously diminishing their numbers, said Jovita Ayson, a regional director of the fisheries bureau. "It is a threatened species and we have to do something about it before it goes extinct. If we don't stop the indiscriminate catching, in a short while, it could vanish," she told AFP. The fisheries bureau is calling for a five-year ban on the catching of Cestraeus plicatilis, locally known as "ludong" or "banak". It is found in only a few countries, and in the Philippines its habitat is limited to a few rivers in the north. It sells for 5,000 pesos (114 dollars) a kilogram, which only the wealthiest can afford, making it the most expensive fish in the Philippines, Ayson said.

But this also leads fishermen to catch it even during its spawning season, not leaving enough mature fish to breed, she said. "You cannot stop fishermen from catching it. It is too valuable. People even pay the fishermen in advance for their catch," she said. The mullet grows to 32.5 centimetres (12.8 inches), but those being caught are now much smaller, weighing only 250 grams (8.9 ounces) from as much as 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) a few years back, a sign fewer are reaching maturity. Marcos, a native of the northern Philippines who ruled the country from 1965 to 1986 -- much of it under martial rule -- reputedly always had a year-long supply of the fish stocked away, Ayson said. "A lot of people like the smell. It has a unique aroma and a special taste," she said, explaining the demand. The fisheries bureau is experimenting on breeding the fish in captivity and educating the local populace on the need to keep it from dying out, Ayson said.
by Staff Writers
Kampala (AFP) Sept 25, 2010
Wildlife populations at Uganda's major national parks have boomed over the past 10 years with the expulsion of rebels contributing to a fall in poaching, the authority told AFP Saturday.

New statistics from data collected in 2009 and 2010 show that among several major species population sizes more than doubled since 1999, when the previous census was conducted.

"We've been able to reduce poaching by offering increased benefits to the local communities, more ways for them to share in money that comes from wildlife," Uganda Wildlife Authority spokeswoman Lillian Nsubuga said.

While the increases are evident nationwide, Nsubuga said the expulsion of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels from northern Uganda largely led to animal population surges in Murchison Falls National Park.

Much of Murchison Falls, one of Uganda's most popular tourist destination, falls within Gulu district, the epicentre of the LRA war, and wildlife officials were largely unable to control poaching during the conflict.

Gulu has been free of LRA violence for more than four years and the rebels have relocated to neighbouring countries in the region.

There are now more than 11,000 buffalos in Murchison Falls, up from 3,889 in 1999, according the authority's statistics.

The Uganda kob population has increased to from 7,458 to 36,640.

Giraffe, impala, zebra and waterbuck populations all showed three-fold increases nationally.

Nsubuga attributed the rises to "good practices and improved monitoring."

"We can't say that poaching in no longer a problem, but we have been able to reduce it," she said.

earlier related report
Myanmar hails rare white elephant as sign of poll success
Bangkok (AFP) Sept 25, 2010 - Myanmar's military regime on Saturday hailed the capture of a rare white elephant as a sign of a successful "democratic transition" in the upcoming controversial elections.

Historically considered to herald good fortune, the elephant was caught on Thursday in western Rakhine state -- the fifth found since 2001 and a source of "national pride," the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

"People are holding discussions cheerfully that the auspicious occasion coincides with the democratic transition of the nation and it is a good sign for the success of general elections," the article said.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 and the November polls -- the first in two decades -- have been derided internationally as a sham, designed to shore up the regime's power under a civilian guise.

The elephant's capture came three years after a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks, in which at least 31 people were killed and hundreds of activists detained.

The newspaper said the elephant signalled that people would "enjoy peace and stability and prosperity in the time of a new government like in the time of existing government".

More than 2,200 dissidents are being detained by the regime and barred from standing in the polls, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the last election overwhelmingly but was never allowed to take power.

Kings and leaders in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, have traditionally treasured white elephants, whose rare appearances in the country are believed to herald good fortune, including power and political change.

Two private planes for Myanmar's Senior General Than Shwe and four other top leaders were named "White Elephant" this year on the advice of astrologers, according to the Irrawaddy, a respected Thailand-based magazine on Myanmar.

Than Shwe is described by critics and some experts on the regime as deeply superstitious. A popular Yangon astrologer told the Irrawaddy that the name was not only designed to avert bad luck but also a portent to defeat enemies.

Despite its name, a white elephant is more pink than white.

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French troops sent to Niamey after kidnappings: sources
Bamako (AFP) Sept 20, 2010
France has dispatched 80 troops to the Niger capital Niamey following the abduction of seven people including five French nationals, diplomatic and security sources said Monday. The troops have set up a base in the capital and are working in five teams with a mission to find the seven hostages, the sources said. They have French Breguet-Atlantique reconnaissance planes at their disposal ... read more

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