An alleged Russian spy whale is refusing to leave a Norwegian port city, in what appears to be a high-profile defection after a week of global attention on the unnamed beluga.
Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries official Jorgen Ree Wiig told The Washington Post that the beluga “was the first thing I saw outside of the window” of his patrolling ship in the morning. Speaking from the city of Hammerfest, he said the whale had only moved about 25 miles within the last week and appeared to enjoy the proximity to humans, which he noted was rather “strange” for a beluga.
Contrary to the species’ normal behavior, the beluga had allowed residents to pet the animal’s nose over the last few days.
The whale was first spotted by Norwegian fishermen last week, when they noticed that the whale defied normal behavior by persistently harassing their boats. The fishermen subsequently spotted a strange harness wrapped around the whale’s body.
Wiig said an inscription on the harness they later recovered read “Equipment St. Petersburg.” He said he had handed the harness over to Norway’s special police security agency (PST). No details over the status of this probe have been made public, and the PST did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Researchers say the harness could have carried weapons or cameras, triggering fresh speculation about a sea mammal special operations program that the Russian navy is believed to have been pursuing for years. Although the Russian Defense Ministry has denied the existence of such a program, the same ministry published an ad in 2016 seeking three male and two female bottlenose dolphins and offering a total of $24,000.
In this part of Europe, nobody would be surprised if the latest Norwegian discovery did indeed turn out to be the fallout of a military experiment gone wrong. Since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, there have been behind creepy reminders of the Kremlin’s massive military apparatus lurking on Europe’s eastern outskirts: mystery submarines; unidentified jets, including one that almost crashed with a passenger plane; and strange troop movements.
Should the Norwegians need advice on the latest discovery, they might want to ask their U.S. allies for help. While the possible existence of a Russian sea mammal military program seemed stunning when it was made public last week, it was in fact the United States that spearheaded the use of sea mammals for military purposes in the 1950s.
According to the U.S. Navy, its own dolphin and sea lion recruits are used to locate sea mines, retrieve objects from the ocean floor and gather intelligence for military divers. They are not, however, involved in offensive operations.
With far less experience in dealing with military-trained sea mammals than their U.S. counterparts, Norwegian officials were pondering what to do with the beluga. One option, Wiig said, was to transport the animal – who has yet to be given a name – to a sanctuary in Iceland, about 1,250 miles from Hammerfest.
UIDAI warns people not to use public computer for downloading Aadhaar
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) recently warned people of using a public computer for downloading Aadhaar.
‘Aadhaar Essentials Download your Aadhaar only from official UIDAI portal: eaadhaar.uidai.gov.in. If you used a public computer to download, don’t forget to delete the downloaded file after you have taken a print out,’ UIDAI tweeted.
The UIDAI had also tweeted about how it discourages Plastic or PVC Aadhaar copies. It said, ‘Your Aadhaar letter or Aadhaar downloaded from uidai.gov.in or mAadhaar profile is enough for any Aadhaar related service.’
#AadhaarEssentials Download your Aadhaar only from official UIDAI portal: https://t.co/C190bVXBCk. If you used a public computer to download, don't forget to delete the downloaded file after you have taken a print out. pic.twitter.com/CR0PZimIvX
— Aadhaar (@UIDAI) April 26, 2019
The UIDAI in its press release stated: UIDAI has asked people to keep away from such elements/shops/vendors. Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO, UIDAI said, ‘So-called Aadhaar Smart card is totally unnecessary and a waste as during such printing its QR code often becomes dysfunctional. The Aadhaar card or the downloaded Aadhaar card printed on ordinary paper or mAadhaar is perfectly valid for all kind of uses.’
Apart from letting people know about how to download the Aadhaar card, it also talked about how one can apply for updating address online through UIDAI portal.
One of these facilities enables the user to apply for a change in the address fed into the Aadhaar database. The user can update the address online by submitting valid documents or an address validation letter (for those without documents), according to the UIDAI’s website – uidai.gov.in.
‘Maveli’ frog to be the official frog of Kerala??
Researchers at the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) have decided to honour a little-known frog from Kerala’s Western Ghats by naming it Maveli (short for Mahābalī) and petitioning the government to recognise it as the state frog. If approved, Kerala would be the first state in India to have an official frog or amphibian.
Commonly known as the purple or pig-nosed frog, this robust, dark purple species is elusive and spends most of its time under the soil. “We decided to name it Maveli since much like the Asura King, it comes out of the soil once a year. It comes out during monsoons, typically to mate and moves to fresh streams to lay eggs,” Sandeep D, an EDGE fellow and PhD student at KFRI who has sent the proposal to make Maveli the state frog.
Known in academic circles by the scientific name Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis, the purple frog was discovered in 2003 by SD Biju, from the Tropical Botanic Garden, and Franky Bossuyt, from the Free University of Brussels.
As per the IUCN’s Red List, the purple frog is placed in the fourth highest category of threatened species. It is also ranked third in the list of threatened amphibians under the EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) list. This is out of 8,007 amphibians in the world.
“The purple frog is considered an important species globally and it is endemic to Kerala. Making it a state frog can help boost its conservation,” Sandeep added. Conserving the frog has other benefits: It could also lead to protecting the aquatic ecosystem of the Western Ghats, including tiny species living in the springs and pools.
“Since this frog only breeds in the seasonal springs, it becomes an umbrella species. If we have to conserve the frog, we have to conserve the whole aquatic ecosystem of the springs,” Sandeep adds. A proposal has been sent to members of the State Wildlife Advisory Board and a decision is expected to be taken in June.
Climate Change is not the only thing affecting Mount Everest
A dedicated clean-up team sent to Mount Everest has collected three tonnes of garbage in its first two weeks, officials said Wednesday, in an ambitious plan to clean the world’s highest rubbish dump. Decades of commercial mountaineering have left the pristine mountain polluted as an increasing number of big-spending climbers pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.
Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment, empty gas canisters and even human excrement litter the well-trodden route to the summit of the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak. As this year’s spring climbing season kicked off last month, the Nepal government sent a 14-member team with a target to bring back 10,000 kilograms (10 tonnes) of trash from Everest within a month and a half.
The team has collected and bundled the three tonnes of rubbish, including empty cans, bottles, plastic and discarded climbing gear from the base camp and surrounding areas bustling with climbers preparing and acclimatising to summit Everest.
“The clean-up campaign team has just started and members have ascended to higher camps to collect more garbage,” said Dandu Raj Ghimire, chief of Nepal’s tourism department. An army helicopter transported a third of the collected trash to Kathmandu for recycling. The remaining biodegradable trash was taken to the neighbouring Okhaldhunga district for proper disposal.
Eight members are now cleaning Camp 2 at 6,400 metres and teams of three will take turns to go up to Camp 4 at 7,950 metres, where they will spend 15 days litter-picking on the snowy slopes. “The clean-up campaign will be continued in the coming seasons as well to make the world’s tallest mountain clean. It is our responsibility to keep our mountains clean,” Ghimire said.
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