African giant rats tapped to sniff out environmental crimes

November 24, 2016 by  
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African Giant Pouched Rats have detected landmines for several years, and now they might be put to work stopping wildlife crimes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is allocating $100,000 to a trial project run by Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) in partnership with APOPO to see if giant rats can sniff out illegal shipments. The trial will determine if the rats can detect hardwood timber and pangolin scales and skin. The US government is funding 12 creative methods of stopping wildlife trafficking and poaching in 11 different countries, and the giant rats program is one of them. APOPO, which was founded almost two decades ago, has already demonstrated the rats’ sharp sense of smell is useful for detecting landmines and tuberculosis, and the new trial project will determine whether they can pick out the smells of illegally trafficked products. The first step of the program is to assess if the rats can distinguish between control substances and target substances in a laboratory. Related: U.S. gives South Africa millions of dollars to combat wildlife poaching According to EWT project head Kirsty Brebner and program manager Adam Pires , the giant rats are “relatively cheap to source, feed, train, breed, and maintain, and their small size makes them cheap and easy to transport.” A typical rat lives between one and two years, but giant rats can live for as much as eight years. Many illegal products are moved in shipping containers , and dogs have provided some help in sniffing out shipments in the past. But with superior agility and ability to reach container vents, giant rats might be able to detect illegal products more effectively than a dog can. EWT says if the program is successful, the giant rats may be trained to also detect other illegally trafficked products like rhino horns and elephant ivory. + APOPO + Endangered Wildlife Trust Via the Los Angeles Times Images via APOPO’s HeroRATS Facebook

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African giant rats tapped to sniff out environmental crimes

Uniti Sweden unveils super high-tech tiny EV for urbanites

November 24, 2016 by  
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Companies like Tesla have done a lot to advance electric car technology to curb carbon emissions . Now Uniti Sweden is seeking to take electric car transportation to the next level with a tiny “super high-tech” electric vehicle specifically designed for urbanies . The group ahs just raised over $1.3 million on crowdfunding platform FundedByMe to make their sleek, eco-friendly car a reality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCKHUv1hKS0 Uniti Sweden’s car, also called Uniti, is a two-seat vehicle designed for short range trips, like a city commute, although the car has a 150 kilometer, or around 93 mile, range. The small car weighs a mere 400 kilograms, or almost 882 pounds. But the company didn’t compromise on safety; they say they were able to drastically slash car weight by removing “excess plastic moulding, furnishings, and static interfaces such as plastic buttons,” according to their crowdfunding page. The sporty car is equipped with a 15kW AC motor and is comprised primarily of biomaterials. Uniti Sweden describes the city car as sustainable and socially responsible. Related: Tiny electric car smashes world record by hitting 0-60 mph in 1.5 seconds Not only is the Uniti environmentally friendly, it includes several futuristic features like an augmented reality Head-Up Display that offers information like current speed while a user is on the road. Their technology tracks a driver’s head movements and hands to enhance the experience. The car is even designed to be able to drive autonomously . In a video describing their design, Uniti said, “The idea felt obvious: cars in our cities are overweight, over-sized, overpowered, pump out poisonous gases, and there are 1.2 billion of them on Earth today. And for all that environmental harm, economic strain, and health impact, cars generally carry around only one or two people for short distances.” The $1.3 million Uniti Sweden just raised on FundedByMe will go towards developing the technology, creating the first prototype, and expanding the team. They aim to finish their prototype in 2017, and ultimately plan to start distribution in Western Europe. + Uniti Sweden Images via Uniti

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Uniti Sweden unveils super high-tech tiny EV for urbanites

U.S. gives South Africa millions of dollars to combat wildlife poaching

December 24, 2015 by  
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South Africa is home to 80 percent of the world’s rhinoceros population, yet poaching practices are devastating the species. The first eight months of this year saw 749 killings of wild rhinos – up from 719 last year. South Africa’s recent decision to remove a ban on domestic trading of rhinoceros horns is now leaving many worried those numbers will continue to climb. The United States is taking action against poaching in this region, dedicating millions of dollars to research and training local officials to protect endangered species. Considering the U.S. has become the second largest market for illegal wildlife products and is key in smuggling poached contraband across the Pacific ocean, it is only right that officials take the matter seriously. The U.S.’ concern is not only for the wild animals needing protection, but also for national security. The same gangs that deal in poached animal parts are also known to smuggle guns, people, and drugs. Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D), who introduced legislation for strategy development based on individual countries, says, “The impacts of this rapidly growing crisis are spreading around the world, now even threatening our national security.” Some U.S. funding is going to the Endangered Wildlife Trust , who are training officials – normally only used to dealing with street crime and murders – to secure poaching crime scenes and collect evidence for prosecutors. The U.S. Department of Justice also just received $100,000 to train southern African judges and prosecutors to fight illegal plant and animal sales. Related: Can cameras embedded in rhino horns catch poachers? Luckily, it has been observed how effective these trainings and supports have been. In Kruger National Park, a prime spot for poachers, officials nearly doubled their arrests over the last few years, catching 138 criminals versus last year’s 81. The funding for night vision goggles, boots, and tents will allow local officials to ramp up their presence and abilities to interrupt even more poaching behaviors in the area. With continued attention from multiple governmental entities, the future of the rhinoceros and other African wildlife may be taking a promising turn for the better. Via The New York Times Images via Shutterstock ( 1 , 2 )

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U.S. gives South Africa millions of dollars to combat wildlife poaching

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