How Dogs are Detecting the Coronavirus
Across the globe researchers are racing to find a solution to the global pandemic inducing COVID-19 . From detection to treatment, there is still much to be learned about the virus and how to prevent a second wave of the fatal strain.
Like Timmy in the Well…
Help seems to be on the way in the form of “man’s best friend”. A study published by the University of Helsinki has added one more skill to dog’s already impressive resume. The study found that scent detection trained canines have the ability to smell the virus in urine samples obtained by both positive and negative tested individuals. Upon future test results, the study hopes this information will be able to assist in the prevention of mass or cluster infection by utilizing scent detection dogs in airports, hospitals, and other high-risk exposure environments.
Due to being equipped with approximately 100 million sensory receptors, dogs utilize both smell AND sight together to analyze things around them. While these canines can’t see the virus, the amount of space in their brain devoted to analyzing and interpreting smells is 40 times greater than their human counterpart. This kind of biology has made these animals historically supportive in almost every aspect of human life.
While all dogs have these receptors, there are breeds more frequently trained due to a particularly heightened sniffer. Breeds such as Labrador Retriever, German Shepard, and Belgian Malinois have a long history of scent detection for hunting, security, and military purposes.
Protecting the Pups
As for the protection of our furry forensic investigators, those undertaking the research have utilized a distance model to expose dogs to the scent without getting them close enough to risk of infection. The CDC has confirmed dogs can carry trace amounts of the virus on their bodies, and has confirmed a few cases of dogs contracting the virus similarly to human infection.
The hunt for a cure starts with detection. From researchers in universities across the world, to a seasoned trainer and former Air Force survival instructor in Florida, studies are proving over and over that dogs ability to detect the virus proves almost perfect. While still early, this type of discovery offers hope for an end of a global pandemic.
For more Good Boy Good News, check out how to video chat with a puppy during you summer social distancing.
Deep in the Missouri Ozarks is a man on a mission, which was seemingly impossible until the mid 2000’s. Steve Bost is a modern Indiana Jones who has spent countless hours searching for an extinct tree, the Ozark Chinquapin Tree.
The mysterious Chinquapin tree was thought to have died out due to a blight in the mid 1900’s, but rumors swirled that if you were willing to take on the task of trekking the mountainous regions of the Ozarks you would possibly discover a few surviving trees.
Discover he did, as Bost took on the task of searching for, and rescuing, a once extinct species of trees. The naturalist, and President of the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation, has been able to grow at least 117 trees in a handful of plots that are generally unmapped for the curious wanderer. But it is not just resuscitating the species that Bost is concentrating on, but changing the game of forestry all together.
By using the genetics of the few trees that managed to survive the species wiping blight, Bost and his team have been able to crossbreed strains of three different chestnut trees in an effort to create one completely blight resistant strain. In a study the organization conducted in 2019 they were able to utilize the fungus which caused the original blight in order to test the resistance of a few samples. Results of the testing show that their years of hard work have managed to produce an almost blight resistant screening.
Historically, the Ozark Chinquapin has nourished many of the wildlife lucky enough to come across the sweet chestnut. But it was not just the wildlife who benefited from this foliaged feeder. Native Americans indigenous to the Ozarks would grind the nut from the tree to create a flour for breads.
The genetics of the tree made it one of the most diverse strains of tree and when a blight moved down into the Ozarks it only took a decade to wipe most of the population.
While this may seem like just a tree, conservation efforts have brought this species back from the brink of extinction and have utilized science to crossbreed the genetics of the tree to create something truly remarkable. Mendel would surely be floored by Bost and his team’s aspirations to create the Superman of trees.
Learn more about about conservation of the Ozark Chinquapin Tree on The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation website.
Over the past 40 years, the most devastating pandemics have all come from animal origin but nobody seems to talk about reforming wildlife trade….until now.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council released an action plan detailing steps to end wildlife trade in the US. The plan includes four categories of actions that they believe should be implemented by Congress and federal agencies.
- Lead a global crackdown on wildlife trade;
- Strengthen U.S. conservation laws to fight wildlife trade;
- Invest $10 billion in U.S. and global capacity to stop wildlife trade, while helping communities transition to alternative livelihoods; and
- Resume the U.S. position as a global leader in international wildlife conservation.
A Global Problem
According to WAN, worldwide there are 224 Million live animals traded each year. The United States is a major contributor to this and can even be a hotspot for illegal animal trade. When ending wildlife trade is made a priority in the US, many other countries will follow suit.
Conservation organizations have always opposed wildlife trade because it is a major threat to biodiversity, but now its also a health threat.
Approximately one-quarter of human deaths worldwide are caused by infectious diseases. Of those, 60% are considered zoonotic — meaning they jump from other animals to people — and more than 70% originate with wildlife.End Wildlife Trade Action Plan
Hope For The Future
As a global community, we can prevent future pandemics such as HIV, SARS, and COVID-19, but we have to act. Ending wildlife trade could be the best way to keep the public and our wildlife safe. Take action by contacting Congress to express your support for the action plan! The Center for Biological Diversity provides an online tool to help you contact Congress.
Click here to learn how robotic sea-life can end animal captivity in aquariums.
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Zoos and aquariums can be great educational resources and can help protect endangered species but many conservationists question the morality of captivity. Modern robotics may have the answer to our moral dilemma, life-like animatronic animals. This development could change how we view conservation and education for years to come.
A Need Rises
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries such as China have halted the trade of wildlife as an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Policies such as this have stopped zoos and aquariums from importing new animals. This is great for our wildlife but it leaves zoo and aquarium owners in a tough spot. Luckily, one New Zealand entrepreneur has been working to create robotic animals that could take the place of live animals in captivity.
Melanie Langlotz and her team of experts helped build a 600lb (270kg) animatronic dolphin that moves and reacts just like the real thing. Working as an augmented gaming professional in Auckland, New Zealand, Langlotz was approached to help design an aquarium for dolphins in China. She needed to find a way to create a beautiful attraction without subjecting wild animals to captivity.
“I started talking to anyone I could get my hands on who has ever had anything to do with animatronics. I was pretty much told that, ‘this is too hard’, ‘it’s really difficult’, ‘it’s a real piece of engineering artwork’ because they would be in salt water, there’s lots of electronics in there, let alone that they need to be on display for a long time. I couldn’t find anyone.”Melanie Langlotz via RNZ
Langlotz did find help for the project, super-star help. Roger Holzberg and Walt Conti are known in the entertainment business for their work on animatronics in movies, so they came well equipped. The team created a prototype robot dolphin and began testing, with great results.
Realizing The Future
Imagine visiting your local aquarium and seeing the rarest and most exotic sea-life from around the world, even extinct species. Now imagine jumping in the tank to take a swim with the sharks, without the fear of getting bit! The incredible potential of animatronics is changing how we see more than just aquariums.
“This type of technology doesn’t just have to live in a themed aquarium. If I were to imagine … a sequel to Whale Rider, where we could go into the ocean, this technology would serve that incredibly well. This technology could also serve television, other kinds of storytelling media very well, and other sort of educational means.”Roger Holtzberg via RNZ
Thanks to hard-working entrepreneurs like Melanie Langlotz the needs of business and conservation efforts are being met as one. Time will tell if regulation and technology can change the tides on animal captivity for future generations.
Forest and wildlife officials have announced a 9% increase in the tiger population of India’s Sunderbans Reserve. A survey conducted just months ago has determined there are 96 tigers on the reserve, up from 88 found in 2018.
The Royal Bengal tiger is one of India’s most feared predators but after years of overhunting and deforestation, there are now protected areas for the tiger.
The study was conducted in the protected Sunderbans forest reserve, located outside Kolkata, in West Bengal. On the reserve, the total area is about 4,200 sq km and there are 3,700 sq km (1430 sq mi) being used as big cat habitat. However, the increase in tigers means more habitat may be needed.
“We need to increase the mangrove cover in a bid to provide for more space to tigers in coming days,”Forest minister Rajib Bandyopadhyay , via PTI
The state took advantage of a new tool to help with data collection this year, cameras. According to the head of the Sunderbans Tiger Project, Sudhir Chandra Das, they used 768 cameras placed throughout the tiger habitat. The Wire reports this method can be more reliable than traditional methods and estimations.
The counting exercise, done in a lab in Dehradun, involves comparison of the images of tigers based on their stripes […] the big cats were identified through their stripe patterns.Sudhir Chandra Das via The Wire
A New Chapter
This is the greatest increase in tiger numbers in the history of the survey, according to officials. Protecting the apex predator can have positive effects throughout the animal kingdom and global ecosystems, but can we keep it up? The return of Bengal tigers is a great sign for the future of conservation in India. Hopefully, this trend will continue for years to come!
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been under coronavirus induced lock-down since March 23rd and many citizens have been left jobless, but the Pakistani government has a plan to get its people back to work. Aljazeera reports that government officials in Pakistan want to hire upwards of 60,000 day laborers to help with the country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami program.
Due to the lock-down in Pakistan, millions of people in the Punjab province have been laid off so there is a desperate need to provide stimulus. Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office, Pakistan said via twitter that a “Green Stimulus” package was officially approved.
Progress is possible
The 10 Billion Tree Tsunami program started in 2014 and has already planted over 30 million indigenous saplings. Pakistan has a dismal 6% area with tree coverage, so much work remains. The project was paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak but officials now see it’s a great way to create jobs.
…earlier this month, the prime minister granted an exemption to allow the forestry agency to restart the programme and create more than 63,600 jobs, according to government officials.Aljazeera
Most of the work for the program takes place near the capital, Islamabad, but there are other state-owned sites for the project across the country.
The jobs tend to focus on employing women, and young people who are out of work. Planting saplings, building nurseries, and serving as a forest guard are just some duties workers will be tasked with. The expected daily wage is between 500-800 rupees ($3-5 USD). This may seem like an unlivable wage but one Punjab province resident told the Thomson Reuters Foundation,
“All of us now have a way of earning daily wages again to feed our families,”Aljazeera
Do you think other countries should promote conservation projects to support their workforce? Comment Below!
Scientists with the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) recently announced their observations of the Arctic Ozone layer via Twitter.
A record setting hole in the arctic ozone layer formed earlier this month according to The Independent. Holes in the ozone layer cause the suns harmful radiation to penetrate the earths’ atmosphere and can accelerate the process of global warming.
Ozone layer holes around the arctic and antarctic are actually usual occurrences. When freezing temperatures are brought on by the changing seasons the ozone layer is more likely to be damaged by chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs). The recent record breaking arctic ozone hole was brought on by one unusually strong polar vortex earlier this month, according to CAMS.
“Although it looks like the polar vortex has not quite come to an end yet and will reform in the next few days, ozone values will not go back to the very low levels seen earlier in April”CAMS Twitter
The positive news about the arctic ozone layer comes after years of environmental efforts and regulations from countries and organizations around the globe. The ban on CFCs years ago has allowed the ozone layer to slowly recover, much more still needs to be done.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a highly reduced rate of human pollution to the environment but when CAMS was asked if lock-downs have contributed to the closure of the ozone hole , they said,
“This Arctic ozone hole actually has nothing to do with coronavirus-related lockdowns, but rather was caused by an unusually strong and long-lived polar vortex.”CAMS via Independent
Hopefully the closing of this arctic ozone hole is a sign that the people of this planet are finally taking environmentalism seriously.
What are your ideas for reducing your carbon footprint? Comment below!