is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Doug Johnson.
And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week, we will tell about ice loss in the
Arctic Sea. We also will tell about a
campaign to improve treatment of snakebites. And we report on an effort to save wild lions in Africa.
American scientists say ice covering the Arctic Sea continued
to shrink last winter. The scientists say
they recently found that older, thicker sea ice was increasingly replaced with
new ice. The new ice is thinner and melts
faster than the older ice.
scientists work for the American space agency and the National Snow and Ice
Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. The
two government agencies have been studying Arctic Sea ice from space since
nineteen seventy-nine. One of the scientists
says the past six years have shown the lowest Arctic sea ice cover ever measured.
study found an average ice cover of about fifteen million square kilometers in March.
That is seven hundred thirty kilometers
above the record low set three years ago. But it represents a loss of about five hundred ninety thousand
kilometers from the yearly average between nineteen seventy-nine and two
say ninety percent of all Arctic sea ice is only one or two years old. This is up from forty to sixty percent in the
nineteen nineties. The newer ice,
experts say, is less resistant to melting during the summer months.
The amount of ice cover and its
thickness are two measures of the health of the Arctic Sea. Arctic
sea ice is important because it throws sunlight back into space, keeping the
sea cold. The ice also cools the air. But when the ice melts, the sun warms ocean
Walter Meier is a scientist with the National Snow and
Ice Data Center. He says a
warmer Arctic and thinner sea ice changes the balance between the normally cold
Arctic and warmer areas. He says changes to the ice cover also affect Arctic
wildlife and people who depend on the local environment. The melting has already threatened native
animals like the polar bear. Arctic
melting could also affect Earth's climate.
Meier also says the possibility of ships being able to move through newly
unfrozen parts of the Arctic could lead to losses of natural resources. He says the competition this could create may
also threaten international security.
The study follows a separate report by the United
States Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Joint Institute for the
Study of Atmosphere and Ocean. That
study used computers and current ice-level information to predict future ice
levels. The findings predicted that most
of the Arctic's summer ice could disappear in thirty years.
Parts of Antarctica are also believed to be melting
because of climate change. Satellite
images show an ice bridge that held a huge Antarctic ice shelf in place
recently broke apart.
than four million people around the world are bitten by snakes each year. At least one hundred twenty-five thousand of
these people die. Almost three million
others are seriously injured. Doctors
and researchers say the world does not provide enough good treatment for
poisonous snakebites. To help improve
the situation, experts have formed a project called the Global Snakebite
snakebites are common in rural areas of many developing countries with warm
climates. Many victims are agricultural
workers and children in Asia and southern Africa. Shortages of antivenom medicines, the
treatment for snakebite, are common there. Existing supplies may not be high quality or developed correctly for
Winkel directs the University of Melbourne's Australian Venom Research
Unit. He and university scientist David
Williams are among the organizers of the Global Snakebite Initiative. Other project leaders are from Britain,
Brazil, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and Singapore.
International Society of Toxinology supported the Initiative at the recent World
Congress of Plant, Animal and Microbial Toxins in Recife, Brazil.
Winkel says antivenom treatment is too costly for many poor people who need it
most. The drugs are developed from the
venom of poisonous snakes.
The Global Snakebite Initiative is working
to increase the availability of good quality antivenom treatments and improve
medical training for patient care. Another goal is to help manufacturers of antivenom medicines improve
The project also wants
communities to learn about snakebites and first aid. It wants more research and reporting
systems. And it aims to help national
health officials choose antivenoms for their countries' special needs.
The antivenom that cures the bite of one kind of snake
may not be effective for another kind of snake. And the medicines for a cobra bite in the Philippines may not work for
someone bitten by a similar snake in West Africa.
look forward to improvements in worldwide treatment for snakebite. But they say the best ways to reduce death
and injury from snakebites are education and prevention.
to two hundred thousand lions lived in Africa twenty years ago. Today, fewer than thirty thousand lions live
there, many in protected areas. But
environmental activists are working to save the animals. And, the activists have some unexpected
Members of the Maasai people have stopped killing lions
and now are protecting them. Maasai
herders care for cattle, sheep and goats on the Mbirikani Group Ranch. This community-owned ranch is in southeastern
Kenya. It covers more than one hundred twenty
one thousand hectares.
Maasai warriors in their late
teenage years, twenties and early thirties are called murran. The murran normally gain fame and honor if
they kill a lion. But some of them now
defend the animals and work to keep them alive. The murran are called Lion Guardians. They are part of a scientific and environmental-protection group called
Living with Lions.
The Lion Guardians help herders find
lost sheep, goats and cows. They observe
the movement of lions and warn herders of their presence. Sometimes the guardians intervene and break
If a lion does kill a herd animal, the Maasai receive money
from a program that repays herders for losses.
The program has lessened the traditional conflict between herders and
murrans can follow a lion for hours without needing to drink water. They also learn radio work. That knowledge helps them find lions wearing
radio collars. Scientists place the
devices around the lions' necks so they can follow their movements.
guardians also learn to read and write so they can keep records of their
work. Others keep records using
The Lion Guardians have been facing an especially
difficult situation in recent times.
Herders in Kenya are suspected of killing lions with a pesticide
product, Furadan. They reportedly pour
the product on dead animals that lions eat. Furadan makes the lions unable to move, then causes a painful death.
Laurence Frank is
a lion expert with the University of California at Berkeley. He says up to seventy-five wild Kenyan lions
may have died this way during the past five years. Professor Frank heads the Living with Lions
In reaction to protests, the manufacturer of Furadan stopped
all sales of it in Kenya. But environmental
activists worry that the pesticide is already in stores and people's
homes. Farmers use it to protect crops
from insects, worms and mites.
African lions are
also threatened by human expansion into areas that once were wild lion
country. Other enemies are hunters who
kill lions for their body parts. The
parts are then used in traditional medicines and souvenirs.
And, diseases sometimes kill large numbers of
lions. Infectious animal tuberculosis,
for example, has established itself as a threat to lions in southern Africa. Researchers also blame long periods of dry
weather and heavy rain. Some scientists
say climate change makes this worse.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson and Brianna Blake, who was
also our producer. I'm Faith Lapidus.
And I'm Doug Johnson.
Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs are at
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again
next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of