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‘Eco-passages’ and other lessons on curbing roadkill

An estimated 10,000 wild animals — representing more than 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds — were crushed to death annually on a 3.6 km, two-lane road that passes through a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in Canada.

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New Delhi, May 27: An estimated 10,000 wild animals — representing more than 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds — were crushed to death annually on a 3.6 km, two-lane road that passes through a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve in Canada.

Not any more.

With $2.7 million in government and private funding, a 10-year community-led project on Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario has used special fencing, “eco passages” and public awareness campaigns to dramatically reduce “fatal interactions” between vehicles and wildlife.

The project holds lessons for India where roadkill mortality of wild animals, especially tigers and elephants, is common.

As recently as last month, 31 wild vultures feeding on a cow on a rail track in Jorbeer — the largest vulture site in Asia that falls on the migratory route of raptors from Eurasia and Mongolia — in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district, were killed when a train mowed them down.

A paper of the Canadian success story, “Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality”, published on Friday in the journal Wildlife Society Bulletin, estimates that 89 percent fewer turtles and 28 percent fewer snakes now venture onto the road.

The road, or causeway, separates Long Point Bay and the marshy wetlands of Big Creek National Wildlife Area, all part of the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

While amphibians were by far the most common casualties, the biggest concern was the number of dead reptiles, particularly at-risk and endangered species such as Blanding’s turtles, snapping turtles, Eastern foxsnakes and others.

“With most of the causeway now fully fenced, the average number of turtles venturing onto the road has dropped by 89 percent and snake numbers are down 28 percent,” Chantel Markle, a McMaster University biologist who led a research project, said.

Markle and her co-investigators also studied wildlife activity in several aquatic and terrestrial culverts — special tunnels of different sizes and materials constructed under the causeway to allow the natural movement of turtles, snakes and other animals.

This project can be replicated in other areas that report roadkill.

Co-investigator Scott Gilling water, a species-at-risk biologist with the Upper Thames Valley Conservation Authority, said: “The success story documented in our study is very important because it offers a model that can be used and adapted in other areas where road mortality threatens important wetlands biodiversity.”

In 2003, the recurring annual carnage earned the Long Point Causeway the dubious distinction of fourth-place ranking on a list of the world’s top turtle road mortality sites (after two sites in Florida and one in Montana).

Built in the 1920s to create land access to the beaches on Long Point, the causeway has presented a near century-old hazard for turtles needing a place to lay eggs, to reach summer habitat and to find winter hibernation sites.

Often female turtles, which only reach reproductive age in their teens, use the gravel shoulders for nesting, making them and their hatchlings especially susceptible to cars.

The paper says the construction of exclusion fencing began in 2008 and, two years later, most of the causeway was fenced, despite daunting challenges presented by the marsh and lake shore conditions.

Soon, overall reptile road kill numbers had fallen by half and by 60 per cent for important species-at-risk reptiles.

Quoting insurance industry statistics the paper says in the US alone drivers report hitting one million to two million animals every year — figures that don’t include millions of unreported collisions with smaller animals like turtles, raccoons or squirrels.

IANS

By Vishal Gulati 

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])

Startups News

Google ‘Launchpad Accelerator’ India chapter to nurture desi startups

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New Delhi, July 10: In a bid to nurture Indian startups working in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Google on Tuesday announced to open the India chapter of its global “Launchpad Accelerator” mentorship programme.

The three-month “Launchpad Accelerator” India programme has been designed to grow the AI/ML ecosystem by helping desi startups build scalable solutions for the country’s unique problems.

The programme, based out of Bengaluru, will provide a cohort of 8-10 Indian startups mentorship and support from the best of Google in AI/ML, Cloud, UX, Android, web, product strategy and marketing, along with up to $100K of Google Cloud credits, the company said in a statement.

“India has the appetite to build entrepreneurs of the future and we are proud to announce a focused programme for the next wave of Indian entrepreneurs, who are using new technologies to solve the country’s needs,” said Roy Glasberg, Global Launchpad Founder.

Over the years, Google has worked with some incredible startups across India who are using advanced technologies such as AI/ML to tackle everything from agri-tech to language web, healthcare and transportation.

“With the dedicated India-only Launchpad Accelerator programme, we will be able to build a bridge between startups and the industry ecosystem and support them to drive innovation in the India market,” Glasberg added.

Applications for the first class is open till July 31 and the first class will start in September 2018.

In an effort to mentor emerging start-ups, Google India hosted a four-day boot camp for the first 10 Indian startups as part of its ‘Solve for India’ programme.

The India-focused accelerator programme is building on Google’s “Solve for India” roadshow from last year.

Ten Indian startups were shortlisted from across India which underwent four days in one-on-one consults with experts from Google and mentors from the industry to solve critical product and growth challenges.

“We shortlisted 10 startups from 160 home-grown start-ups by travelling across 15 cities in India, and are now ready to scale this pilot as a dedicated programme for India,” Karthik Padmanabhan, Developer Relations Lead, Google India, said at that time.

The participants were the founders of startups including Nebulaa, Slang Labs, PregBuddy, LegalDesk, PaySack, Vokal, FarMart, Meesho, Pratilipi and M-Indicator.

“Launchpad” regional accelerators are tailored specifically to their local markets, helping startups build great products, Google said.

IANS

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Fuel prices hiked for fifth consecutive day

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New Delhi July 9: Petrol and diesel prices on Monday hiked for the fifth consecutive day, according to the Indian Oil Corporation data.

Petrol is being sold in Delhi at Rs.76.36 per litre, as against Rs.76.13 on Sunday, while diesel is being sold at Rs.68.07 per litre, as against Rs. 67.86 on the previous day.

While in Mumbai, petrol prices increased from Rs. 83.52 on Sunday, to Rs. 83.75 per litre on Monday, and diesel prices from Rs.72 to Rs. 72.23 per litre.

Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last month, agreed to jointly increase oil production, which was estimated to be about one million barrels a day.

The deal, which came after days of negotiation, was reportedly aimed at easing fears of a global supply crunch.

WeForNews 

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China’s cross-border e-commerce players value India, Middle East markets

The Indian market enjoys a huge population and high potential for economic growth, thus attracting many e-commerce players to expand their presence.

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Beijing, July 8 (IANS) :China’s major cross-border e-commerce players put much focus on the Indian and Middle Eastern markets, a report revealed on Sunday.

According to app data provider App Annie, the Indian market enjoys a huge population and high potential for economic growth, thus attracting many e-commerce players to expand their presence, reports Xinhua news agency.

Smartphones are popular in Arab countries and local consumers have strong purchasing power.

But the oil-rich countries lack textiles and other light sectors, offering cross-border e-commerce opportunities for products like apparel.

Alibaba’s AliExpress tops the list, which mainly reviews the performances of third-party business-to-consumer e-commerce platforms targeting overseas consumers.

The report also showed that South American markets pose rising growth potential while developed markets in Europe and the US remain attractive to Chinese e-commerce players.

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