Indonesian village gives owls their jobs back

The local government has supported the program by putting into place a law that bans shooting or disturbing birds in the area. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 October 2017

Indonesian village gives owls their jobs back

TLOGOWERU:The owls of Tlogoweru have their jobs back.
Six years ago farmers in this small Indonesian village were fighting a losing battle against rats and other pests ravaging their crops.
They tried smoking out the pests, but it failed. Hunting them was also impractical. The villagers also wanted to avoid using pesticides for fear of damaging their crops.
Pujo Arto had an idea. Bring back a natural predator — the barn owl.
Since then, the farmer-turned-breeder has raised nearly 2,000 owls through his Natural Predator Program and released them into the wild to combat pests.
“We fostered awareness within our community by building homes for these owls, while government officials helped in implementing laws,” said Arto, 50.
Common barn owls, due to their size and diet, were most suited for the job, Arto said.
In the wild, a barn owl will lay between three and 12 eggs, but not many nestlings survive. Arto brings the eggs back to the facility to increase the survival rate, releasing the birds back into the wild when they are four months old.
So far, Arto has set up 140 nesting boxes in the village for the owls to lay their eggs, the houses standing tall on posts amidst the green fields of corn.
Deforested land used for agriculture reduces locations for nesting, so the boxes provide the birds with an incentive to stay and thrive.
The local government has supported Arto’s program by putting into place a law that bans shooting or disturbing birds in the area.
Thanks to Arto’s initiative, Tlogoweru village has now become a popular destination for people looking to learn about the importance of maintaining a balanced ecosystem in nature.


Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Updated 05 May 2021

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

  • Group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side
  • In Belgian village of Erquelinnes, the mayor appeared keen to avoid an international incident

BRUSSELS: A Belgian farmer unwittingly extended his country’s territory by moving an ancient stone marking the border with France that was on his land.
A group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side.
The discovery of the stone, now sitting 2.20 meters (7.2 feet) away from where it was placed in accordance with a border agreement two centuries ago, has caused a flap in a normally sleepy rural area.
“If it belongs to us, it belongs to us. We don’t want to be robbed of 2 meters,” a resident of the French village of Bousignies-sur-Roc told RTL Info.
On the other side, in the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, mayor David Lavaux appeared keen to avoid an international incident.
“The land was sold and I think the person who bought it changed the borders the way he wanted,” he said. “But this isn’t just a private border, it’s a border between countries and you can’t just at will move boundary markers that have been there for a long time.”


Five charged in snatching at gunpoint of Lady Gaga’s dogs

Updated 30 April 2021

Five charged in snatching at gunpoint of Lady Gaga’s dogs

  • Gaga was filming in Rome in February when her dog walker was shot and her dogs stolen
  • The dogs were returned unharmed after Gaga offered a $500,000 reward

LOS ANGELES: Five people have been charged with attempted murder, robbery and other offenses in connection with the snatching at gunpoint in February of Lady Gaga’s dogs and the shooting of their walker, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said on Thursday.
Police said in a separate statement that four of the five people arrested were known gang members. The fifth person, a woman, was the person who reported she had found the dogs and returned them.
The singer’s two dogs were returned two days after they were stolen in Hollywood.
The French bulldogs were snatched at night after their dog walker was shot in the chest. They were returned unharmed after Gaga offered a $500,000 reward.
Los Angeles police said on Thursday that detectives do not believe the suspects were targeting the victim because of the dogs’ owner.
“However, evidence suggests the suspects knew the great value of the breed of dogs and was the motivation for the robbery,” the statement said.
Gaga was filming in Rome when the theft occurred. Her dog walker, Ryan Fischer, said later that he had suffered “a very close call with death.”
Fischer was walking three of Gaga’s bulldogs in a residential area in Hollywood when a car pulled up alongside them and two men demanded he turn over the animals, police said at the time.
Fischer was shot once by the assailants, who drove off with two of the dogs. A third escaped and was later found by police.
The District Attorney’s Office said the defendants were expected to be arraigned later on Thursday.
Three individuals were charged with one count each of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree robbery. One of the three also was charged with assault and a firearms offense. The woman who claimed to have found the dogs and a fifth defendant were charged with being accessories after the fact. The woman additionally was charged with receiving stolen property.
“This was a brazen street crime that left a man seriously wounded,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
“We have alleged very serious charges in this case and have faith that justice will be appropriately served as this case unfolds in court.”


Polluted Lebanon lake spews out tons of dead fish

Updated 29 April 2021

Polluted Lebanon lake spews out tons of dead fish

  • A preliminary report said a virus had killed only carp in the highly polluted Qaraoun lake
  • Hundreds of fish lay dead on the lake’s banks and the stench of their rotting flesh clung to the air Thursday

QAROUN: Tonnes of dead fish have washed up on the shore of a highly polluted lake in eastern Lebanon in recent days, an official said Thursday.
It was not immediately clear what caused the dead fish in Lake Qaraoun on the Litani river, which several local fishermen said was unprecedented in scale.
A preliminary report said a virus had killed only carp in the lake, but a veteran water expert said their deaths could also have been caused by pollution.
Hundreds of fish of all sizes lay dead on the banks of the more than five kilometer long lake Thursday, and the stench of their rotting flesh clung to the air.
Men shoveled carcasses into a wheelbarrow, as a mechanical digger scooped up more into the back of a truck.
“It’s our third day here picking up dead fish,” said Nassrallah el-Hajj, from the Litani River Authority, dressed in fishing waders, adding they had so far “carried away around 40 tons.”
On the water’s edge, 61-year-old fisherman Mahmoud Afif said it was a “disaster.”
“In my life I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the father-of-two.
The Qaraoun lake was built as a reservoir on the Litani river in 1959 to produce hydropower and provide water for irrigation.
But in recent years experts have warned huge quantities of wastewater, industrial waste, and agricultural runoff containing pesticides and fertilizer flooding into it have made it increasingly toxic.
Since 2018 fishing has been forbidden in the reservoir as the fish there was declared unfit for human consumption, though fish from the lake have continued to appear in several markets.
The Litani River Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon on Friday warned of a “viral epidemic,” and called for fishing to be forbidden in the Litani as well as in the lake.
It said the likely disease had only affected carp, while four other types of fish appeared to be unaffected.
AFP saw several dead fish with white cysts on their scales.
Kamal Slim, a water expert who has been taking samples of the lake water for the past 15 years, said pollution could also be the cause.
“Without analysis, we cannot be decisive,” said the researcher.
But the lake is also home to cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, and in warmer months the excess nutrients from pollution have caused the bacteria to erupt into bright green blooms that release toxins.
“Right now there is a cyanobacteria bloom, though less thick than last year,” he said, with the blooms harming fish, especially when they are weaker during mating and spawning seasons.
“Another possibility is very toxic ammonium,” he said.
In July 2016, Lebanese media reported that tons of fish floated to the surface overnight in Qaraoun.
Slim said at the time it was due to a toxic bloom.


Prince William, Kate release images to mark 10th anniversary

Updated 29 April 2021

Prince William, Kate release images to mark 10th anniversary

  • Two photographs show Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, and the former Kate Middleton in complementary shades of blue
  • William married his former university flatmate on April 29, 2011, at Westminster Abbey in a ceremony televised globally

LONDON: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marked their 10th wedding anniversary Thursday by releasing photographs and a video offering an image of domestic bliss — a contrast to the tensions that have gripped Britain’s royal family in recent weeks.
Two photographs show Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, and the former Kate Middleton in complementary shades of blue. A video released later showed the family at play, replete with their smiling children walking near the sea.
William married his former university flatmate on April 29, 2011, at Westminster Abbey in a ceremony televised globally. They have three children: Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 3. The traditional gift for a 10th wedding anniversary is tin, a symbol of durability.
“Thank you to everyone for the kind messages on our wedding anniversary,” the couple said on their Twitter feed. “We are enormously grateful for the 10 years of support we have received in our lives as a family.”
The celebration comes 12 days after the funeral of Prince Philip, William’s grandfather, who died April 9 at the age of 99.
Last month, the family was rocked by an interview in which Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, alleged that palace staff had been insensitive toward Meghan and a member of the royal family had made racist comments about the couple’s first child. Harry, William’s younger brother, stepped away from royal duties last year and moved to California with his wife and son.


Female car repair shop owner blazes a trail in UAE

Updated 25 April 2021

Female car repair shop owner blazes a trail in UAE

  • Cars have been a hobby for Matroushi, 36, since childhood
  • Matroushi’s family had doubts about her pursuing a job in car mechanics

SHARJAH: Huda Al-Matroushi is one of few Emirati women to venture into the car repair business, an industry that has long been dominated by men in the Arab world.
“I enjoy it a lot,” says Matroushi, holding up her oil-stained work glove. “Because I’m on top of my job, and it’s my business, I belong to it: I feel proud of myself.”
Cars have been a hobby for Matroushi, 36, since childhood.
“I like cars and their models and their details. I like sports cars, I like luxurious cars, even normal non-luxurious cars, I love them all.”
She turned that passion into a profession and now owns and manages a car repair shop in Sharjah, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.
Matroushi’s family had doubts about her pursuing a job in car mechanics, but she asked her father to take a leap of faith with her.
“I said: ‘Dad, please trust me and you will see what I will do.’ He said: ‘OK, OK!’. Most of my family are surprised ... because this project, this business, it’s not easy for ladies,” she said.
Matroushi’s male employee, Mohammed Halawani, said it was initially strange to see a woman in charge of the garage.
“But after I joined and we started working and she’d tell me: disassemble this, assemble that, [it was clear] that she has experience.”
Matroushi hopes she can transform her single garage into a big repair center, or open more garages across the UAE.
The UAE stipulates under new legislation that came into effect last month that UAE-based companies must have at least one woman on their board of directors.

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