Southeast Asia plans wildlife crime-busting units
Special wildlife crime-busting units will form the core of Southeast Asia’s first coordinated effort against the multi-billion-dollar illegal trade in animals and plants, officials said recently. Plans for the task forces were agreed during a two-day meeting in Bangkok of police, customs and wildlife officials from the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). “They will go after the big guys,” Steve Galster, director of WildAid Thailand, told Reuters. The task forces are part of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, launched in December, which aims to target traffickers and criminal syndicates in a region that accounts for a quarter of the global illegal wildlife trade. Thailand, a major transit point for everything from rhino horns and tiger skins to rare snakes, and the Philippines have already set up task forces on paper, Galster said. “The next step is to train them up and activate them this year. Indonesia wants to be next,” he said, but it could take a few years for other countries to follow. Asia is an international hotspot for the illegal trade in endangered plants and animals.
Sub tropic warming could mean bigger deserts
Earth’s atmosphere is warming faster over the subtropics than anywhere else, which could mean bigger deserts and more droughts from Africa to Australia to the Middle East, researchers said recently. The fast-heating area girdles the globe at about 30 degrees north and south latitude, crossing the southern United States, southern China and north Africa in the Northern Hemisphere, and southern Australia, South Africa and southern South America in the Southern Hemisphere. Based on 25 years of satellite data, researchers at the University of Washington also determined that the jet streams – a pattern of westerly winds that help drive weather in both hemispheres – have shifted about 70 miles toward their respective poles. The dry subtropical climate regions, which contain some of the world’s major deserts, could encroach into temperate regions, Wallace said. Areas such as the Mediterranean, southern Europe and the northern part of the Middle East could have a tendency towards more droughts, Wallace said. The same might happen in southern Australia and South Africa, he said.