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Stories by John Platt


Kenyans Reportedly Chewing "Potency" Herb into Extinction

Add another species to the long list of plants and animals being eaten out of existence so men can try to get it up in the bedroom.This time, instead of medically useless tiger penises or sea turtle eggs, it's an African plant called White's ginger ( Mondia whitei ), often wrongly referred to as "white ginger." It goes by many names in Africa, most notably mukombero in Kenya, where it is said that chewing the root of the plant or drinking it in tea form can boost virility and stamina in the bedroom"It never disappoints, my wife is one happy woman," one Kenyan man told Radio Netherlands Worldwide ...

July 30, 2011 — John Platt
The Sciences

Whitebark Pine Turned Down for Endangered Species List

Whitebark pine ( Pinus albicaulis ) are at risk of extinction due to climate change and invasive species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared on Monday, but the trees will not be added to the endangered species list because other as yet protected species are a "higher priority." (In other words, there's just not enough money to protect them at this time.)According to the FWS press release on the matter, "The Service will add the whitebark pine to the list of candidate species eligible for ESA protection and review its status annually...

July 21, 2011 — John Platt

Want to Conserve Bats? There's an App for That

Many smartphone applications are designed more for fun than substance (Angry Birds, anyone?), but a new app from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Bat Conservation Trust offers individuals and communities a chance to get involved in citizen science in a very real way and to help conserve bat populations in the process.The app is called iBats, named after the Indicator Bats Program, which got its start in Transylvania in 2006...

July 19, 2011 — John Platt
The Sciences

Last Wild Camels in China Could be Saved with Embryonic Transfer Technique Perfected in U.A.E.

The critically endangered wild Bactrian camel ( Camelus ferus ) is so rare and lives in such remote areas that it was only recognized (after a few years of scientific debate) as its own species in 2008, decades after China started using one of its few habitats, the the Lop Nur Desert, to test nuclear bombs.Amazingly, this two-humped camel appears to be no worse for wear following the tests, but now more humans are entering those once-remote areas...

July 7, 2011 — John Platt
The Sciences

Enormous, Endangered, Epileptic Loggerhead Turtle Gets MRI Brain Scan [Video]

How do you find out why a 1.5-meter-long endangered sea turtle is having epileptic fits? The first step is to find an MRI machine big enough to accommodate her not-so-ladylike girth.On June 25, "Snorkel," a 68-kilogram loggerhead sea turtle ( Caretta caretta ), traveled more than 500 kilometers from her home at National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth, England, to Cheltenham Imaging Center, home of one the country's first open-bore MRI machines...

July 5, 2011 — John Platt

Platypus Threatened by Climate Change

The thick, waterproof fur that once made the platypus ( Ornithorhynchus anatinus ) a valuable target for trappers may soon present another danger for the unique mammal: Australia could soon end up being too hot for the species to survive.Platypus fur is so warm and watertight that it insulates the semiaquatic animals from virtually all heat loss—an important function, because platypus spend up to 10 hours a day in 0 degree Celsius streams and rivers...

June 23, 2011 — John Platt
The Sciences

Polly Wanna a Date? Rare Parrot Needs a Mate [Video]

Coco the Hyacinth macaw ( Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus ), one of the last males of his species in Paraguay, has had a rough start. Since his birth nine years ago he has been captured from the wild by illegal parrot traders, rescued, placed into Paraguay's Asunción Zoo, and then stolen from there—a crime that turned him into such a media celebrity that the thieves could not sell him and decided to set him free.Now he's back at Asunción Zoo and looking for a mate...

June 22, 2011 — John Platt

China's Yangtze Finless Porpoise Faces 80 Percent Decrease in 30 Years

The already rare Yangtze finless porpoise ( Neophocaena phocaenoides asiaeorientalis ) faces an 80 percent drop in its population over the next 30 years, according to research by the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.Currently, around 1,000 of the freshwater porpoises live in China's Yangtze River and its surrounding lakes, down from 2,700 in 1991 and 2,000 in the year 2000...

June 8, 2011 — John Platt
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