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Hong Kong’s Pink Dolphins Enjoy Comeback as Pandemic Slows Marine Traffic

Rare pink dolphins are returning to the waters between Hong Kong and Macau after the coronavirus pandemic halted ferries, but scientists remain deeply concerned about their long-term survival in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.
The tell-tale flash of pink leaping from the waters alerts Naomi Brennan to the presence of a local Chinese white dolphin and she jots the animal's location into a GPS device.
Conservationists like Brennan regularly board boats in the Pearl River Delta to document how the mammals, known for their eye-catching pink coloring, are faring.
"Today we encountered three different groups of dolphins — six adults and two sub-adults," she explained.
"They were engaging in a range of behavior, from feeding to travelling and socializing."
For years keeping tabs on the dolphins has been a disheartening task.
The population has fallen by 70-80 percent in the past 15 years in what is one of the world's most industrialized estuaries.
But this year their numbers have bounced back — and they have the pandemic to thank.
Ferries between Hong Kong and Macau have been suspended since February, providing local marine scientists an opportunity to study how the mammals have adapted to the "unprecedented quiet".
"We're seeing much larger group sizes as well as much more socializing, mating behavior, which we hadn't really been seeing for the last five years or so," said Dr. Lindsay Porter, a Hong Kong-based marine scientist.
According to Porter's research team, the number of pink dolphins has increased by roughly a third in those waters since March.
"These areas seem to be important for feeding and socializing. So it's great that there's this refuge for them," added Brennan, a member of Porter's team.
Megacities and shipping
The Pearl River Delta is one of the most industrialized coastal areas on Earth. As well as Hong Kong and Macao, it includes Chinese mainland mega-cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dongguan, and is home to some 22 million people.
And aside from heavy shipping traffic, the dolphins' key habitat has been subjected to a host of large-scale developments, including the construction of Hong Kong's airport on reclaimed land and the world's longest sea bridge connecting the financial hub to Macau and Zhuhai.
A huge new reclamation project is also underway to build a third runway for the city's airport.

Map of Pearl River Delta, China, showing the cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Zhuhai

According to the WWF, there are only an estimated 2,000 pink dolphins left in the Pearl River Delta — the minimum number that conservationists believe are needed to sustain the species.
There is a palpable fear the delta's dolphins could go extinct under the population's current trajectory.
"Dolphins, and especially these estuarine dolphins, have a slow birth rate, a slow growth rate, a slow reproductive rate," said Laurence McCook, head of oceans conservation at WWF-Hong Kong.
"So, they need very careful management."
Cantonese heritage
The lack of ferries is a welcome, but potentially brief, respite for the dolphins.
Noise from vessels disturbs mammals that rely on underwater sound for navigation and communication.
The ships also pose the physical threat of striking the creatures, injuring and even killing them.
The rugged southern coastline of Hong Kong's outlying Lantau island provides shelter from typhoons and predators for the dolphins.
But it is also where the ferries between Macau and the financial hub travel.
Conservationists are campaigning to expand an existing marine park to better protect the vulnerable species.
"We've now identified a habitat that could then be reclaimed by them and could really be used to support their population," said Brennan, who believes recent findings could provide an opportunity for conservationists to "turn the tide" for the vulnerable dolphin population.
"The fact that we've seen such a dramatic change, though still early days, from just one of those impacts going away is a really positive shift."
But WWF's McCook warns time is running out for the dolphins.
"They're an icon of the area," he said. "They're a part of Cantonese heritage. They've been around here for millennia."
"It would be a global tragedy to lose this iconic creature from the future of the Greater Bay Area."

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as the United States, China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany. Love to Travel and report daily on destinations reopening with a focus on Domestic travel within Europe, North America and the Caribbean. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Love to follow the English Premier League , the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga.

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Coronavirus

Malaysia’s King Rejects PM’s Request to Declare State of Emergency

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah has rejected Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s request to declare a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The royal palace announced the decision in a statement Sunday, saying the king “is of the opinion that there is no need at the moment for His Majesty to declare an emergency in the country.”

The statement also said the king is pleased with Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s handling of the pandemic, and called on all politicians to stop any campaigning that could seriously damage the government’s stability.

Muhyiddin later issued a statement saying he welcomed the king’s advice and would discuss it with his cabinet.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, March 11, 2020.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, March 11, 2020.

Had the king approved Muhyiddin’s request, the state of emergency would have suspended Parliament before he was scheduled to present a budget in early November. Failure to pass the budget would be the equivalent to a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin and put pressure on him to call for a general election.

Muhyiddin has been prime minister since February, when he was chosen by King Abdullah after then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned and his government collapsed. Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met with the king last month and said he gave him the names of 120 members of the 222-seat parliament who are ready to defect from the prime minister’s razor-thin ruling coalition.

But the royal palace later released a statement saying Anwar only told the king the number of lawmakers who would support his takeover bid without revealing their identities.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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European Markets Nosedive Monday as Global Coronavirus Cases Rise  

European markets were falling Monday as investors appeared increasingly uncertain about the outlook of the global economy due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases across Europe and the United States.

Britain’s benchmark FTSE index was down 0.2% at the midway point of the trading day. The CAC-40 index in France lost 0.4%, and Germany’s DAX index plunged 2.2%.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific rim ended mostly lower earlier Monday. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index finished its trading session down 22 points, but unchanged percentage-wise.

A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and other Asian indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo…
A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and other Asian indexes at a securities firm in Tokyo, Oct. 26, 2020.

The S&P/ASX index in Australia lost 0.1%. Shanghai’s Composite index was 0.8% lower. South Korea’s KOSPI index dropped 0.7%, while in South Asia, Mumbai’s Sensex plunged 1.3%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.5%, and in Taiwan, the TSEC index finished up 10 points, but was unchanged percentage-wise.

In commodities trading, gold was selling at $1,906.20, up one point. U.S. crude oil was selling at $39.10 per barrel, down 1.8%, and Brent crude was selling at $41.05 per barrel, down 1.7%.

All three major U.S. indices were trending negatively in futures trading as investors awaited the opening bell on Wall Street.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Australia’s Second-Largest City to Begin Emerging from Strict COVID-19 Lockdown   

After more than three months under stifling restrictions imposed in response to a second wave of COVID-19 cases, life in Australia’s second-largest city is slowly about to return to normal.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews announced Monday that Melbourne’s five million citizens will be able to leave their homes effective Tuesday at midnight, and that all cafes, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels will be allowed to reopen.

The announcement comes as Melbourne and the surrounding Victoria state recorded its first 24-hour period without any new coronavirus infections since June 9. The state had been plagued by a dramatic spike of new COVID-19 cases, peaking in August when daily new cases rose above 700. The resurgence of new cases has been blamed on security lapses at hotels where travelers were being quarantined after traveling overseas.

With zero new cases, Premier Andrews told reporters that “we are able to say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course.”

Andrews also said that travel restrictions limiting people to no further than 25 kilometers from their home will end on November 8, which will allow people in Melbourne to travel to Victoria’s rural areas.

Testing in Kashgar, China

Health authorities in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province have launched a widespread testing effort in Kashgar after 137 new asymptomatic COVID-19 infections were discovered. The new cases were detected after a 17-year-old girl was found to be asymptomatic. The other asymptomatic cases have been traced to a factory where the girl’s parents work. Authorities say nearly 3 million people in Kashgar have been tested since the outbreak was detected.

Xinjiang was placed under a brief but tight lockdown period after a cluster of coronavirus cases was detected in August.

On the vaccine front

Meanwhile, British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced Monday that a vaccine it has developed in cooperation with the University of Oxford has produced a similar immune response in both younger and older adults, with adverse responses lower among the elderly.

The announcement by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant comes the same day The Financial Times newspaper said early reports from testing showed the experimental vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, produces a robust immune response in elderly people, who are among the highest risk from the disease.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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