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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

News Follow-up

Air Date: Week of September 7, 2001

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New developments in stories we've been following recently.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Time now to follow up on some of the news stories we've been tracking lately. Last spring we talked about the search for the perfect orchid. A new report, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, tells about another kind of orchid fever. Folks in Tanzania are harvesting orchid tubers to make a meatless sausage delicacy called chickanda. Tim Davenport is an author of this report. He says the trade with Zambia is pushing these rare orchids towards extinction.

DAVENPORT: As well as the harvesting, the business is highly unsustainable. I would guess, and this is a guess, that the business will not last more than another two or three years, at the current rate.

CURWOOD: All orchids are protected under the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species, or CITES. But until recently, the full extent of this orchid tuber harvest was not known by the Tanzanian government.

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CURWOOD: Nighttime light pollution is the nemesis of astronomers. Now, for the first time, a world atlas of so-called artificial sky brightness has been published by Britain's Royal Astronomical Society. Taking data from 1996 and 1997 satellite photos, scientists figured out how well one can see the stars from sea level, all over the planet. Physical scientist Chris Elvidge, of NOAA, says regular folks are just as interested in the atlas as astronomers.

ELVIDGE: The fact that they no longer live in an area where you can see the Milky Way was not something they were aware of before. And they've become aware of the fact that they're no longer able to do something that they would probably find very enjoyable.

CURWOOD: Scientists overlaid the map with population numbers, and discovered that more than two-thirds of the people in the U.S. can't see the Milky Way from where they live.

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CURWOOD: Earlier, we reported about the treatment of antibiotic resistant strains of malaria with a compound made from the herb artemesia. Now scientists have developed a new drug that attacks malaria infected red blood cells the same way the herb does, but is completely synthetic. Johns Hopkins University chemist Gary Posner says the manmade drug has advantages over artemesia.

POSNER: It's obviously an agricultural source, so you have all the variations of climate and weather, in terms of how much of this material the plant produces. Plus, the content of this material in plants is low and therefore you have to grow many thousands of acres to obtain a good supply.

CURWOOD: The new drug is a carboxyphenyl trioxane and has been highly effective in small animals. Researchers now hope to produce a larger quantity of the compound and test it in large animals and humans.

(Music)

CURWOOD: And finally, thanks to the needlework of knitters around the world, the little penguins of Australia have a stockpile of protective sweaters. The Tanzamanian Conservation Trust had put out the call for help earlier this year, and now, 3,100 penguins can be outfitted with little woollies in the event of oil spills, to make sure they don't ingest oil while grooming their feathers.

And that's this week follow-up on the news from Living on Earth.

 

 

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