The littlest rat catchers: New Zealand schoolchildren trap and kill 600 pests in 100 days

As part of an attempt to rid Stewart Island of the rodents, children as young as five have taken part in a rat catching competition, with remarkable results

In a tiny school on the southern-most tip of New Zealand, the children are lining up their kill.

Big brown rats with long tails, their stomaches caked in blood. Smaller rats, stiff from the refrigerator, tails in a tangle.

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Cambodian wildlife official among eight charged in US with smuggling endangered monkeys

Prosecutor says official from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was arrested en route to a conference on protecting endangered species

Eight people in the US have been charged with smuggling endangered monkeys, including a Cambodian wildlife official arrested while travelling to a conference on protecting endangered species.

The group – consisting of the Cambodian official, a colleague in that country’s wildlife agency and six people connected to a Hong Kong-based company – were involved in breeding long-tailed macaques for scientific and academic research, supplying them to labs in Florida and Texas.

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Indian states ban guns and airguns to safeguard Amur falcons

Assam, Nagaland and Manipur officials also confiscate catapults and nets to ensure birds can recuperate

Officials in north-east India have banned the use of guns and airguns and confiscated catapults and nets in an effort to safeguard the small Amur falcons that make an autumn pit stop on their way to sunny South Africa.

Forest officers were patrolling areas of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur states to make sure no one disturbs the long-distance travelling raptors who stop briefly in India.

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All That Breathes review – Delhi’s birdmen on a mission to save the black kite

Two Indian brothers dedicate themselves to rescuing birds that are being poisoned by pollution in this complex and quietly beautiful film

Shaunak Sen’s documentary is a complex, thoughtful, quietly beautiful film about the ecosystem and human community. Two brothers in Delhi, Mohammad and Nadeem (and their humble, faintly put-upon employee Salik) have spent the past two decades on a mission to help the black kite, a commonplace bird that wheels in the skies above the city, but is becoming slowly poisoned with pollution, just as the city’s society is becoming poisoned by sectarianism and hatred. They rescue injured and sick birds and nurse them back to health.

The kites themselves are, arguably, not especially delicate or beautiful creatures: they are fierce predators who have become used to scavenging in the city, encouraged by a tradition of “meat tossing”, and the city’s age-old conviction or superstition that it is good to feed these kites because they eat the sins of those that feed them. Like ravens in the Tower of London, the black kites are thought of as a vital part of the city, a kind of secular holiness. The brothers’ ramshackle animal welfare clinic is dependent on local charity, and they are increasingly stressed and depressed at the lack of support, although a supportive article in the New York Times in 2020 (which presumably inspired this film) does bring in more money.

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Turtle concern: Australian businessman denies threatening to sell Conflict Islands to China

Ian Gowrie-Smith says he was frustrated the Australian government did not respond to urgent funding request for turtle conservation

The owner of 21 tropical islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea says he never threatened to sell them to China and his main aim is to save the turtles that nest there.

Ian Gowrie-Smith, an Australian businessman and investor, bought the Conflict Islands, which lie less than 1,000km from the Australian coast, almost two decades ago.

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Nepal’s tiger numbers recover but attacks on people cause alarm

Nepalese population of Bengal tigers has nearly tripled in 12 years and conflict with humans is increasing

Nepal’s tiger population has nearly tripled in 12 years, the country’s prime minister has announced. But concerns about the human cost of the big cat’s recovery are growing after a rise in fatal attacks.

From a low of 121 in 2010, the Nepalese population of Bengal tigers has risen to 355, according to the latest survey, revealed by the prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to mark International Tiger Day on Friday.

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How nine women are helping save India’s mangroves – with foraging and eco-tours

In a Maharashtra town that once relied on fishing, a women’s collective found boat safaris and edible wild plants pay – and help protect the forest

On a hot summer afternoon along the Mandavi River, Shweta Hule wraps her sari around her ankles and bends to her foraging, picking wild “weeds” from the creek and dropping them into a bowl. The plants will be made into fritters, to be served at the little restaurant attached to the B&B Hule manages in the Indian coastal town of Vengurla.

Wild edibles are common in kitchens here. Hule’s weed is sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum) – known as khari or gole bhaji – a succulent that blooms with pink flowers and is found in mangrove forests. Harvesting some of the plant is helping conserve the mangroves, a globally endangered ecosystem of salt-tolerant trees that stop coastal erosion and absorb storm damage.

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Wild cheetahs to return to India for first time since 1952

Officials announce eight cats will be brought from Namibia in effort to reintroduce animal to its former habitat

Cheetahs are to return to India’s forests this August for the first time in more than 70 years, officials have announced.

Eight wild cats from Namibia will roam freely at Kuno-Palpur national park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in efforts to reintroduce the animal to their natural habitat.

Despite being a vital part of India’s ecosystem, the cheetah was declared extinct from the country in 1952 because of habitat loss and poaching. Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 70mph (113km/h), making them the world’s fastest land animal.

Only about 7,000 cheetahs remain in the wild worldwide and the animals are classified as a vulnerable species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species. Namibia has the world’s largest population of cheetahs.

Officials have been working to relocate the animals since 2020, after India’s supreme court announced that African cheetahs could be brought back in a “carefully chosen location”.

The move coincides with the nation’s 75th Independence Day, celebrating cheetahs as an important part of India’s cultural heritage.

India’s environment minister, Bhupender Yadav, tweeted: “Completing 75 glorious years of Independence with restoring the fastest terrestrial flagship species, the cheetah, in India, will rekindle the ecological dynamics of the landscape.”

He added: “Cheetah reintroduction in India has a larger goal of re-establishing ecological function in Indian grasslands that was lost due to extinction of Asiatic cheetah. This is in conformity with IUCN guidelines on conservation translocations.”

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New Zealand to embark on world’s largest feral predator eradication

Ambitious $2.8m scheme hopes to eliminate damaging species from ecologically significant Rakiura/Stewart Island

New Zealand conservationists are embarking on the largest attempt ever made to eradicate introduced predators from an inhabited island.

Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research, a crown research institute, has signed a $2.8m partnership with Rakiura/Stewart Island’s conservation group, Predator Free Rakiura, to eradicate predators including possums, rats, feral cats and hedgehogs over the next four years.

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Go wild in these countries: five exciting rewilding projects to visit

From Montana’s prairies to Kazakhstan’s steppes, vast tracts of land are being enriched. Here’s how to witness those changes

Mozambique’s civil war (1977-1992) and the poaching connected to it decimated wildlife in Gorongosa national park. Since 2006, the Gorongosa restoration project has set out to bring back nature, starting with buffalo, wildebeest, eland, zebra and other animals being trucked in.

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A&E for trees: pioneering clinic in India provides lifeline for poorly plants

An on-call team at Amritsar’s tree hospital nurses sick neems and gives new life to troubled banyans

Sahib Singh clambers up a portable ladder, reaches out and, with the help of a few tools, tugs at the banyan tree and successfully removes it. The uprooted plant, which had sprouted from a wall inside the living room, is placed in a plastic bag filled with fertilised black soil. “We will replant this on the hospital lawn,” Singh says over Skype, while climbing back down the ladder. The operation lasts barely 20 minutes.

The removal of the banyan tree, considered sacred in Hinduism, is the first of three calls attended by Singh in his tree ambulance on one day in May. He is a gardener and part of the team at the Pushpa Tree and Plant Hospital and Dispensary, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar, launched in January 2020.

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‘Like killing my children’: former loggers now defend Assam’s forests

Illegal logging is robbing Indians of food, medicine and even saffron to dye monks’ robes. Now local people are fighting back

In the pitch dark, the volunteers walk for hours along roads surrounded by dense forest. They patrol in near silence, listening hard for the thump of a trunk hitting the ground, a cracked twig in the dirt. Hunting down timber smugglers is a dangerous undertaking.

In January, Shri Vipin Shyam, 34, came across a man chopping down a tree in the early morning. “He was about to take a swipe at me with his axe until other members caught up to him,” says Vipin, a carpenter and former logger himself who has now become one of the volunteers protecting Assam’s forests.

Vipin and 21 residents from around Chalapothar Shyamgaon, in Charaideo district, are members of a forest protection group created in 2018 to preserve the 680-hectare (1,680-acre) reserve and help the understaffed forestry department.

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Kangaroos in the street and a suitcase of iguanas: India’s exotic pet problem

Abandoned marsupials and other trafficked species reveal the country’s growing illegal trade, driven by a desire for exclusive and costly status symbols

From the red-eared slider turtle, cockatoo and falcon to the yellow-cheeked gibbon, capuchin monkey and orangutan, nothing is too much for those demanding unusual pets in India. But it was the sight of three kangaroos wandering the streets of West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district in April that brought home the extent of the country’s exotic pet trade.

The malnourished kangaroos were intercepted after tipoffs from local residents. One of the rescued marsupials later died, while the remaining two are recovering and will be rehomed at a nearby zoo.

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‘A gaping wound’: how a film about birds of prey is a warning to India’s capital city

Meditative documentary All That Breathes is about two brothers’ devotion to protecting black kites against a backdrop of pollution and violence in Delhi

The award-winning documentary All That Breathes is a meditation on life in Delhi through the eyes and hands of two brothers that nurse injured birds back to health. After winning the world cinema grand jury prize at the Sundance film festival this year it is screening at Cannes, and in many ways it is easier to say what it is not than to define what it is. It is not a wildlife documentary, nor a table thumping call to action; it is not a family drama nor a political film – and yet it contains elements of all these, woven into a poetic and beautiful tapestry. The events depicted are less important than the overall feeling.

Much of that is to do with the Indian capital’s role in the film: a scruffy, belligerent character, integral to the story. “Anyone who lives in Delhi knows that you are constantly surrounded by this grey sensorium,” says the film’s director, Shaunak Sen. “This fabric of greyness, this mood, this tone, where the sky and the clouds and the buildings just sort of mesh into each other has fascinated me for some time. The sun is this diffuse blot and the air that you’re breathing in, the whole ecological bubble you are in, feels hostile to your sense of sustenance.

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‘The tuber man of Kerala’ on a quest to champion India’s rare and indigenous crops

Shaji NM has devoted his life to collecting and farming tubers such as yam, cassava and taro, and promoting them across the country

Known as “the tuber man of Kerala”, Shaji NM has travelled throughout India over the past two decades, sometimes inspecting bushes in tribal villages, at other times studying the ground of forests closer to home among the green hills of Wayanad in Kerala. His one purpose, and what earned him his title, is to collect rare indigenous varieties of tuber crops.

“People call me crazy, but it’s for the love of tubers that I do what I do,” says Shaji. “I have developed an emotional relationship with the tuber. When we did not have anything to eat, we had tubers.”

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