World’s oldest Panda in captivity dies in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (Reuters): The oldest giant panda living in captivity, 38-year-old Jia Jia, was euthanised in Hong Kong after rapidly deteriorating health over the past two weeks, her owners Ocean Park said on Sunday. Jia Jia, whose name means “good”, had been gifted to Hong Kong in 1999 along with another panda, to mark the second anniversary of the city’s handover from former colonial ruler Britain. In recent weeks Jia Jia’s food consumption had sharply declined from over 10kg (22 pounds) to less than three kg (six pounds) per day and her average weight dropped from 71kg (156 pounds) to around 67kg (147 pounds).

“Over the past few days, she has been spending less time awake and showing no interest in food or fluids. Her condition became worse this morning. Jia Jia was not able to walk about without difficulties and spent the day laying down,” Ocean Park said in a statement posted on its website.

“Her state became so debilitated that based on ethical reasons and in order to prevent suffering, veterinarians...agreed to a humane euthanasia for Jia Jia.”

Pandas are endangered because most of their natural habitat has been destroyed for timber, farming and construction, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

A Chinese government survey in 2014 estimated 1,864 pandas live in the wild, up 17 percent from 2003. They also have an exceptionally short breeding season, with females fertile for just 24 to 36 hours a year, says a nonprofit body, Pandas International.





Indonesian police seize tiger skin

axMEDAN (AFP): Three Indonesian men have been arrested for allegedly trading in protected species, with police seizing animal parts including a tiger skin, deer genitalia and pangolin scales, an official said Monday. The suspects were caught over the weekend after an undercover police operation at a hotel in the city of Medan on Sumatra island, which is close to national parks that are home to a panoply of exotic animals. Police posing as buyers met one of the men, who agreed to sell a tiger skin for 70 million rupiah ($5,350) before he was arrested.  Authorities later found three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of scales from critically endangered pangolins in his car, which he said he planned to sell for 36 million rupiah to two friends.


Pangolins, known as “scaly anteaters”, are the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal and a global wildlife conference last month voted to ban all trade in the creatures.

The two friends were then caught, and were found to be in possession of genitalia from protected deers, snake skins, and turtle shells, police said.

The men are accused of breaking laws on possessing and trading in protected animals.

“They face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 100 million rupiah,” Toga Habinsaran Panjaitan, from the local police special crimes unit, told reporters.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest archipelago of over 17,000 islands, is one of the world’s most biodiverse nations and its vast expanses of jungle are home to numerous endangered animals.

But many are under threat as poachers increasingly target them for their body parts, which are regarded as edible delicacies and used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Their habitats are also being obliterated by rapid expansion of palm oil and pulpwood plantations.





Thai king portrait vendors scramble to meet huge demand

BANGKOK (Reuters): Shops supplying portraits of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and royal memorabilia are scrambling to meet demand as mourners flock to buy pictures of the revered monarch days after his death.

King Bhumibol, the ninth king of Thailand’s 234-year-old Chakri Dynasty, died on Thursday in Bangkok. The king was venerated as a pillar of stability and his death has plunged the country of 67 million into mourning. In Dinso road, a stone’s throw from the Grand Palace, where King Bhumibol’s remains will be kept for about one year until a royal cremation is held, shops selling gold-framed portraits of the king were packed and business was brisk.

“Business has increased about 70 to 80 percent,” said Charlie Wangthamrongwit, 62, who owns a shop in Dinso road, known by some as ‘portrait street’.

“We just can’t meet demand,” he said, adding that standing portraits of King Bhumibol were proving the most popular. “Everything king-related is in demand now,” he added, as shoppers queued in the searing heat outside his shop.

Parts of Bangkok were decked out in black and white funeral bunting on Monday and portraits of the king framed with black cloth dotted the Thai capital.

“There are no orders to remove portraits of the king,” government spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak told Reuters.

“We are instructing people on ways to rearrange the portraits correctly. For example, the phrase ‘Long live the king’ is now obsolete so we are correcting that,” he said.

King Bhumibol reigned for 70 years and most Thais have known no other monarch in their lifetimes. His portrait is displayed in schools, banks and on the front of government buildings.

Recently, portraits of the king’s son and successor, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, have also increased.

But vendors said they have not yet received orders for the prince’s portrait.

“Nobody has ordered the prince’s portrait yet. Right now we are in a period of mourning,” said Charlie.

The military-led government has said the prince has asked for a delay in proclaiming him king so that he can mourn with the people.

It has declared a year of mourning and asked that any outdoor festivities be cancelled for the first 30 days. Most shops, bars and other entertainment venues, including cinemas, remain open.

Many Thais are wearing black to mourn the king.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said he had met with the Thai Garment Manufacturers’ Association and asked them to accelerate production of black clothing.

“If we don’t have enough, we can produce more right away,” said Chatchai Tuangrattanapan, director of the Thai Retailers’ Association.

Volunteers with gas burners heating black dye offered free dyeing services near the palace on Monday.

In Dinso road, school teacher Vatchara Reantaiseng, 31, loaded his car with black and white cloth.

“It’s difficult to find this cloth at the moment but we know that in this neighbourhood, we can.”




Whale helps Australian rescuers free trapped calf

SYDNEY (Reuters): Rescuers teamed up with a humpback whale to free her four-metre calf, who became entangled in shark nets off Australia’s Gold Coast. The mother pushed the calf above the surface of the water, while a rescue team from Sea World Australia and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol cut the netting with specialised equipment. Saturday’s rescue near Coolangatta Beach took about 30 minutes, Mitchell Olivey, Sea World Australia communications manager, told Reuters on Monday. Mother and calf swam away calmly in good health, the Australian Broadcasting Cooperation reported.





Japan bans Galaxy Note 7 on airplanes over fire risk

TOKYO (AFP): Japan has barred all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones from airplanes, mirroring moves by US regulators and a string of carriers that banned the recalled devices over fire risk concerns. The weekend announcement from Japan’s transport ministry follows an earlier warning that asked airlines to urge passengers not to turn on or charge the smartphones on aircraft. But aviation authorities went a step further on Saturday, ordering airlines to ban the devices completely, a transport ministry official said. The South Korean electronics giant has recalled all Note 7 phones, including replacements, following reports of exploding batteries and fires, which have led to numerous injuries. Samsung has also stopped producing the flagship handset.

Japan’s move came after US transport authorities on Friday issued an emergency order banning the phones and saying anyone attempting to travel with the recalled handsets may face fines and have the devices confiscated. It was not immediately clear what sort of penalties passengers on All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines - the country’s biggest carriers - could face if they were found with the phone. JAL spokesman Takuya Shimoguchi said customers could choose to board planes without their Note 7 phone or the airline would confiscate it.

But “there have been no clear instructions on punitive measures”, he added.

“We’ll act on a case-by-case basis.”

Korean Air follows government guidelines requiring Note 7s to be turned off in-flight and only transported in carry-on luggage. But it operates a total ban on flights to-and-from the US, Canada and Hong Kong.

South Korea’s Asiana has banned Note 7s from all flights starting Monday.

Australian and New Zealand airlines have banned the phone from all planes.

Almost all mainland Chinese airlines have also banned it, while at the weekend Hong Kong’s international airport prohibited passengers from carrying the device on any incoming or outgoing flights, either in checked or carry-on baggage.

The southern Chinese city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific and its low-cost offshoot Dragonair had also said passengers were no longer allowed to carry the devices on any of their flights.

They were joined by Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express - two of the city’s budget carriers.

Singapore Airlines and Taiwan’s two biggest airlines China Airlines and EVA Air have also banned the smartphones.

Malaysia-based AirAsia said it would not allow the devices on any of its flights from Monday while Philippines-based Cebu Pacific is planning a total ban from Tuesday.