Watching the World
White Crocodiles Found
“Forest officials in Bhitarkanika National Park in Orissa have found 15 rare white crocodiles . . . during the annual crocodile census,” says India’s newspaper The Hindu. White crocodiles are extremely rare and “are not found anywhere else in the world.” Because of relentless poaching, the saltwater crocodiles in the area were on the verge of extinction in the 1970’s, but the state government, with the help of United Nations programs, set up a crocodile-rearing project within the park. An abundance of mangroves, unpolluted waters, a rich food supply, and less human interference have made the breeding program a success. According to The Hindu, there are now some 1,500 crocodiles with normal coloration in the park along with the rare white ones.
Tobacco, Poverty, and Illness
“The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that almost 84 percent of smokers live in poor countries, where tobacco and poverty have become a vicious cycle,” states the Spanish newspaper Diario Medico. Moreover, in every country “those who smoke the most and experience the greatest number of problems related to tobacco consumption belong to the most deprived sector of the population.” Although consumption of tobacco has diminished in most developed countries, worldwide it has become “the fourth most significant risk factor in causing illness,” the paper reports. In Spain, where the yearly mortality rate attributed to tobacco has reached 60,000, smoking has become “the principal cause of illness, disability, and avoidable death.”
Sheep Remember Faces
“We have found that sheep can recognise the faces of at least 50 other sheep and 10 humans,” writes neurobiologist Keith Kendrick in New Scientist. Kendrick and his team found that after seeing the 60 faces over the course of a few weeks, the sheep remembered all of them “for at least two years.” Not only did the sheep recognize the faces but, like humans, they were also able to “pick up on emotional cues in facial expressions.” The journal reports that sheep “can distinguish between different expressions in humans, and that they can detect changes in the faces of anxious sheep. They also prefer smiling human faces to angry ones.” The researchers found that “the faces of humans who look after sheep can end up being categorised in the same way as a highly familiar member of the flock.” Says Kendrick: “Friendly humans effectively become honorary sheep. This implies that sheep feel an affiliation with their shepherds.”
Australia’s Greenhouse Pollution
“Australians have the highest greenhouse emissions per person of all industrial countries,” states The Australia Institute. Australia produced an average of 27.2 tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per person during 2001. A report from the research institute states that this high figure is due to Australia’s reliance on coal-generated electricity and motorized transport as well as its production of aluminum. The next-largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters were Canada (22 tons) and the United States (21.4 tons). The lowest reported figure for 2001 was Latvia, which produced 0.95 tons of greenhouse gas per person. Despite Australia’s modest population size, its total greenhouse emissions “exceed those of major European economies such as France and Italy (each with around three times Australia’s population),” the report said.
Nightingales’ Songs Versus Traffic Noise
“When the noise increases, nightingales sing louder,” declares the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung. A study conducted by Henrik Brumm of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin found that the volume of the songs, which are intended to establish a bird’s territory and to attract females, varied by 14 decibels, depending on the surrounding noise level. “This does not sound [like] much,” said Brumm, “but it corresponds to a fivefold increase in sound pressure, which means that the pressure in the bird’s lungs must be five times greater.” In peaceful localities, the birdsongs registered 75 decibels. But in places with high traffic density, the birds sang at 89 decibels. “What surprised the researcher in particular,” states the paper, “was the fact that the birds seem to adapt to the situation anew each day. On the weekend, with no commuter traffic, the birds routinely sang more softly than on weekdays.”
Crime in Polish Schools
“Twenty thousand robberies were committed in schools [in Poland]” in 2003, reports the Polish journal Zwierciadło. It adds that “80 percent of [Polish] schoolchildren do not like their school because they feel lonely and find it difficult to get along with teachers and other students.” Why are there so many problems? “Schools do not exist in a vacuum. They are a reflection of what is happening in society,” says mental-health worker Wojciech Eichelberger. “We create the world of social norms and values in which schools are immersed.” Eichelberger recommends that to counteract the problem, parents should spend time with their children, thus teaching them that they feel their children are important.
The Struggle With Body Image
“Young people—and girls in particular—are struggling with their body image at an increasingly young age, and that could have serious health consequences,” says Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Girls aged 10 to 14 were surveyed as to their eating attitudes, and over 2,200 responded. The Globe reports: “Less than 7 per cent of the girls were overweight, but more than 31 per cent described themselves as ‘too fat’ and 29 per cent said they were currently dieting.” Why do healthy girls want to lose weight? According to the paper, much of the blame rests with adult role models who themselves constantly diet and who ridicule people who are overweight. “The media also play a big role in influencing teenage behaviour, by constantly creating ultrathin role models,” says the Globe. Dr. Gail McVey, a research scientist at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, points out that children, parents, and teachers alike need to realize that “weight gain is normal and necessary for children growing into adolescence.”