Local communities aren’t the enemies of big cats: Wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz - The Daily Guardian
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Local communities aren’t the enemies of big cats: Wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz

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National Geographic explorer and wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz talks to The Daily Guardian about her ‘wild’ journeys, how local communities in India play a major role in tiger conservation, and what endangers big cats in India. Excerpts:

National Geographic explorer and wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz.

 Q. How did you end up in the arena of wildlife conservation?

 A. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a wildlife presenter and filmmaker and even today, I honestly feel like I have the most exciting job in the world, as everyday is an opportunity to document a new wild place and help more people connect with the natural world in a way that hopefully triggers positive action.

Q. Your work has let you witness how local communities in India play a major role in tiger conservation. Please share more about that.

A. In India, human-dominated landscapes and wild spaces are beginning to merge. The result of humans and big cats living in close proximity is often substantial economic losses incurred to the communities through loss of livestock, and loss of life. This has resulted in an increased trend of retaliatory killings and poisoning of carcasses, putting yet another dimension of pressure on already threatened and vulnerable populations due to habitat destruction and debilitating rates of poaching. Yet, in some places in India, remarkable coexistence exists between man and big cat. Through my work, I wanted to focus on positive stories of coexistence between communities and big cats — to inspire an understanding that local communities are not the enemies of conservation efforts, but rather the grassroots leaders who can truly scale up wildlife conservation efforts in our country

 Q. While poaching is a major threat to tiger numbers in India, poaching communities have over the years turned into tigers’ biggest defenders. What have you found about this interesting transition?

A. I think the key is providing poaching communities with suitable alternatives that they can economically depend on in the long term. Global trafficking syndicates make the majority of the profits from tiger trafficking, while small-scale poachers are often living in financial instability, food insecurity and the constant fear of being arrested for their work. So, what I’ve found is when they are given alternative work opportunities that allow them to live a life of dignity — in most cases, they will gladly make the switch. These poaching communities often also understand tiger and other wildlife behaviour better than anyone else, so it is incredible to see them transition out of poaching and continue to leverage that skill set while working as rangers, naturalists and tourism operators. One of my favourite parts of filming Living with Predators for Nat Geo Wild was interviewing the children of poachers who are the first generation in their families to receive an education and will grow up to be the tiger’s biggest protectors!

Q. Besides poaching, what endangers big cats in India right now?

A. Habitat destruction is one of the biggest threats that big cats face today in India and across the world. These incredible predators require vast tracts of land to hunt, mate and survive. When we disregard the biodiversity of a region and unsustainably develop infrastructure through it, the forests get fragmented and species like tigers and leopards have to deal with a constricted range size. As a result, they are forced to disperse into human-dominated landscapes where incidents of conflict with humans are a daily reality. We need to prioritise the protection of our biodiversity hotspots and national parks and ensure that our wildlife protection laws and environmental impact assessment processes are upheld and not diluted from a policy perspective.

Q. Has the pandemic affected conservation efforts?

 A. Amid the pandemic, many of India’s most important wildlife zones have been threatened by hydropower projects, road expansion and mining. We need to start seeing the conservation of wildlife and wild spaces as part of the development agenda, and fiercely protect our natural resources. Without water, natural pollinators for agriculture, clean air to breathe and biodiversity to share our planet with — we will not be able to survive. It is important for us to innovate and find ways to simultaneously set aside tracts of untouched land for wildlife, while also providing work opportunities to the millions of Indians who live alongside wildlife.

This pandemic has also made the link between planetary and human health more clear than ever before. I hope that we emerge out of this pandemic with a stronger resolve to protect wildlife and their habitats not just from a conservation standpoint, but also to keep us safe from diseases that stem from exploitation of wildlife.

 As a Nat Geo explorer, Malaika recently created a 3-part film series on community-led big cat conservation in India titled ‘Living with Predators’ that will be aired on Nat Geo Channel on 15, 16 and 17 August at 7pm.

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APPLE MAY LAUNCH M1X POWERED MACBOOK PRO, MAC MINI IN 2021’S Q4

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Washington: Two MacBook Pro models and one Mac mini are expected to arrive within the fourth quarter of this year, with all three machines fueled by American tech giant Apple’s much-talked-about M1X chipset.

According to The Verge, reports suggest that both the M1X MacBook Pro models, which can likely include a 14-inch and a 16-inch version, alongside a Mac mini, will be launched in late October or early November. Since Apple did announce its M1-running MacBook products last year on November 10, this prediction could hold merit, but a lot can happen within the coming months. From what’s known, both the M1X MacBook Pro models are expected to feature mini-LED screens a bit like the M1 iPad Pro.

Unfortunately, Apple has run into supply issues with this particular component, and to mitigate those problems, the company has reportedly added another supplier to assist with production slowdowns.

Even then, Apple isn’t expected to start out production of the new portable Macs until late 2021, and since the Mac mini can’t be announced as a standalone product since it’ll deduct the spotlight from the MacBook Pro family, it’ll likely be unveiled alongside the 14-inch and 16-inch notebooks.

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HERE’S WHY GOOGLE APP ON ANDROID PHONE KEEPS CRASHING

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Washington: If you are an android user who is struggling with the Google app on your phone, then you are not the only one who is complaining and here’s the reason why.

The search engine giant usually keeps updating all its app and the ‘Google’ app is no different, but Mashable India reported that several people on the internet appear to be going through an annoying issue with the app which constantly makes it crash. Users on Twitter highlighted the issue until the officials from the Android Authority took note and figured out that an update to the app- ‘version 12.23.16.23.arm64 and 12.22.8.23’, is the reason behind the same.

Mashable India learnt that according to the note, there is “no easy way to check if you have an affected version of the app, but if you do have an affected version of the app, you will see repeated notifications that the app has stopped working.”

The issue is reportedly “reminiscent of a recent issue with Android System WebView, which caused Gmail and other Google apps to crash”.

There has been no official fix reported to fix this crash but the subsidiaries of Google have suggested that soft rebooting the phone can act as a potential remedy. Other suggestions include installing the latest beta version of the app, or reverting to a previous version.

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Imran Khan’s comic reply exposes evasion

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is being termed as the world’s leading anti-Islamophobia crusader as he has time and again refused to condemn China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim-majority Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

In an interview with ‘Axios on HBO’ on Sunday, when Khan was asked about his outspokenness about Islamophobia in Europe and the US but total silence on the genocide of Muslims in Western China, he replied, “This is not the case, according to them (Chinese authorities).” He has himself exposed the parochiality of his much-hyped anti-Islamophobia campaign. Khan, who just two years ago feigned ignorance on the ongoing religious persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China stating he “didn’t know much about it,” is today fully conversant with this issue.

“Whatever issues we have with the Chinese, we speak to them behind closed doors,” Khan said, appearing to imply that his country had taken up the issue with Beijing but doesn’t dare to take issue publically with China. He also admitted that China had been pouring cash into Pakistan, which is too critical of an alliance to challenge. “China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times. When we were really struggling, when our economy was struggling, China came to our rescue,” he continued, noting that as a result of such financial assistance, “we respect the way they are.”

Xinjiang is a province in Communist China where an estimated two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained since 2016. They are believed to have been placed in detention centres across Xinjiang, according to the US State Department. Many former detainees allege they were subjected to attempted indoctrination, physical abuse, and even sterilisation.

The US government and several Western countries have labelled China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide. But Khan said Beijing had denied reports of widespread abuses of Uyghur Muslims in private conversations with Islamabad. “We respect the way they are. How come this is such a big issue in the Western world? Why are the people of Kashmir ignored? It is much more relevant,” he said.

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PM TRUDEAU FUELS ELECTION SPECULATION AFTER ‘TOXICITY’ BARB ON CANADIAN PARLIAMENT

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OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while fuelling speculation regarding early polls, is portraying Parliament as a place of “toxicity” and “obstructionism” as opposed to his minority government’s agenda. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that with key Bill being debated in the House of Commons, including Liberals’ budget implementation Bill, time is running short to get outstanding legislation passed. “We have seen a level of obstructionism and toxicity in the House that is of real concern,” Trudeau said outside of the steps of Rideau Cottage.

This comes after Trudeau returned from the Group of Seven (G7), NATO, and Canada-EU summits and is now quarantined under the country’s Covid-19 rules. The Canadian PM on Tuesday had said his government’s push to ban conversion therapy and enshrine the country’s aim to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 can happen with the help of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP. Trudeau said he welcomes parliamentary scrutiny of their work but found it troubling to see opposition MPs bring the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada to be publicly shamed. The opposition is demanding information on why two scientists were escorted from Canada’s highest security laboratory in Winnipeg two years ago and eventually fired. The issue has caused potential security concerns involving China.

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WUHAN LAB’S CLASSIFIED INFO HAMPERING COVID ORIGIN SEARCH

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A review of Wuhan Institute of Virology’s public records and internal guidelines have revealed the existence of unspecified classified projects and discussion of the lab’s responsibilities under China’s state secrets law, that hamper the search for the origins of the virus. This came amid mounting pressure over calls for a fresh probe into the origins of Covid-19.

According to Washington Post, some records mention protocols for disclosing information to foreigners and the sealing of some research reports for up to two decades. Tang Kaihong, a local representative of China’s National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, discussed the national security risks of the institute’s research and warned of infiltration efforts by foreign spies, according to an account published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The secrecy may help to explain why efforts to confirm or disprove the lab-leak theory of the pandemic’s origins have made little progress.

The US President had earlier ordered intelligence agencies to ‘redouble their efforts’ to determine the source of the virus, which is exactly the sort of operation the Wuhan lab prepared for more than a decade ago with the setting up of systems to handle confidential information.

The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. The lab leak theory has recently become the subject of renewed public debate after several prominent scientists called for a full investigation into the origins of the virus.

As China’s threshold for the classification of secrets is lower than in some countries, the country’s State Secrets Law entails information on military and diplomatic affairs and on the country’s economic, scientific and social development to be confidential, reported Washington Post.

The topics of the Wuhan lab’s classified projects are unknown. Its guidelines on information disclosure say the institute shares details of its work with the public, except state secrets, research and work secrets, matters under investigation, and disclosures that would violate the law. This year, the lab distributed forms to students for sealing dissertations on confidential topics. One of the forms said “confidential” dissertations would be sealed for up to 10 years and “classified” ones for up to 20 years.

The hypothesis that the virus was accidentally leaked from the lab was largely disregarded by scientists in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. China has repeatedly denied that the lab was responsible for the outbreak.

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GRAVE CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT UYGHUR PERSECUTION AT UN RIGHTS COUNCIL

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Canada delivered a joint statement on behalf of 42 countries at the UN Humans Rights Council, on Tuesday, expressing grave concerns over the “Uyghur genocide” in China’s Xinjiang province,

During the UNHRC meeting on behalf of 40 countries, Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Leslie Norton said, “We urge China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers.” The statement was backed by major countries Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Britain, Spain and the United States, among others.

Norton also called on China to implement the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s Xinjiang-related recommendations, including ending the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. The remarks highlighted reports of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children from their parents by authorities.

“We also share the concerns expressed by UN Special Procedures in their 29 March statement on alleged detention, forced labour and transfers of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities and in a letter published by UN experts describing collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities,” the statement added.

The countries also urged China to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the High Commissioner. Despite mounting evidence, China denies mistreating the Uyghurs and goes on to insist it is simply running “vocational training” centres designed to counter extremism. On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had said that she hopes to agree on terms with China for a visit this year to Xinjiang province, to look into reports of serious abuse against Uyghurs. This is the first time that UN rights official has suggested a timeline for the visit amid the growing pressure from the international community to secure access to Xinjiang.

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