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By Neil Carter
Tigers are one of the world's most iconic wild species, but today they are endangered throughout Asia. They once roamed across much of this region, but widespread habitat loss, prey depletion and poaching have reduced their numbers to only about 4,000 individuals. They live in small pockets of habitat across South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Russian Far East — an area spanning 13 countries and 450,000 square miles (1,160,000 square kilometers).
Letting Humans In<p>Road construction <a href="http://tigers.panda.org/news/asias-infrastructure-development-threatens-worlds-tigers/" target="_blank">worsens existing threats to tigers</a>, such as poaching and development, by paving the way for human intrusion into the heart of the tiger's range. For example, in the Russian Far East, roads have led to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.2008.00458.x" target="_blank">higher tiger mortality</a> due to increased collisions with vehicles and more encounters with poachers.</p><p>To assess this threat across Asia, we focused on areas called Tiger Conservation Landscapes — 76 zones, scattered across the tiger's range, which conservationists see as crucial for the species' recovery. For each zone we calculated road density, distance to the nearest road and relative mean species abundance, which estimates the numbers of mammals in areas near roads compared to areas far from roads. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1522488113" target="_blank">Mean species abundance</a> is our best proxy for estimating how roads affect numbers of mammals, like tigers and their prey, across broad scales.</p><p>We also used <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aabd42" target="_blank">future projections of road building</a> in each country to forecast the length of new roads that might be built in tiger habitats by 2050.</p>
More Roads, Fewer Animals<p>We estimated that more than 83,300 miles (134,000 kilometers) of roads already exist within tiger habitats. This is likely an underestimate, since many logging or local roads are missing from the global data set that we used.</p><p>Road densities in tiger habitat are one-third greater outside of protected areas, such as national parks and tiger reserves, than inside of protected areas. Non-protected areas averaged 1,300 feet of road per square mile (154 meters per square kilometer), while protected areas averaged 980 feet per square mile (115 meters per square kilometer). For tiger populations to grow, they will need to use the forests outside protected areas. However, the high density of roads in those forests will jeopardize tiger recovery.</p><p>Protected areas and priority conservation sites — areas with large populations of tigers — are not immune either. For example, in India — home to more than <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/07/29/746237332/census-finds-nearly-3-000-tigers-in-india" target="_blank">70% of the world's tigers</a> — we estimate that a protected area of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_reserves_of_India" target="_blank">500 square miles, or 1,300 square kilometers</a>, contains about 200 miles (320 kilometers) of road.</p><p>Road networks are expansive. More than 40% of areas where tiger breeding has recently been detected — crucial to tiger population growth — is within just 3 miles (5 kilometers) of a nearby road. This is problematic because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2010.02.009" target="_blank">mammals often are less abundant</a> this close to roads.</p><p>In fact, we estimate that current road networks within tiger habitats may be reducing local populations of tigers and their prey by about 20%. That's a major decrease for a species on the brink of extinction. And the threats from roads are likely to become more severe.</p>
Estimated road densities for 76 tiger conservation landscapes (colored zones), with darker red indicating more roads per unit area. Neil Carter / CC BY-ND
Making Infrastructure Tiger-Friendly<p>Our findings underscore the need for planning development in ways that interfere as minimally as possible with tiger habitat. Multilateral development banks and massive ventures like the Belt and Road Initiative can be important partners in this endeavor. For example, they could help establish an international network of protected areas and habitat corridors to safeguard tigers and many other wild species from road impacts.</p><p>National laws can also do more to promote <a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/27751" target="_blank">tiger-friendly infrastructure planning</a>. This includes keeping road development away from priority tiger populations and other "no go" zones, such as tiger reserves or habitat corridors.</p><p>Zoning can be used around infrastructure to prevent settlement growth and forest loss. Environmental impact assessments for road projects can do a better job of assessing how new roads might exacerbate hunting and poaching pressure on tigers and their prey.</p><p>Funding agencies need to screen proposed road developments using these tiger-friendly criteria before planners finalize decisions on road design, siting and construction. Otherwise, it might be too late to influence road planning.</p><p>There are also opportunities to reduce the negative effects of existing roads on tigers. They include closing roads to vehicular traffic at night, decommissioning existing roads in areas with important tiger populations, adding road signs announcing the presence of tigers and constructing wildlife crossings to allow tigers and other wildlife to move freely through the landscape.</p><p>Roads will become more pervasive features in Asian ecosystems as these nations develop. In my view, now is the time to tackle this mounting challenge to Asian biodiversity, including tigers, through research, national and international collaborations and strong political leadership.</p>
Officials in China have revised the total death toll from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the city where the infectious disease was first reported. The new numbers that China released Friday increase the number of COVID-19 deaths by 1,290, or a 50 percent increase, as CNN reported.
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By Charli Shield
After the novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, it didn't take long for conspiracy theorists to claim it was manufactured in a nearby lab.
Deforestation, habitat encroachment<p>As people move further into the territories of wild animals to clear forests, raise livestock, hunt and extract resources, we are increasingly exposed to the pathogens that normally never leave these places and the bodies they inhabit.</p><p>"We're getting closer and closer to wild animals," says Yan Xiang, professor of virology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, "and that brings us into contact with these viruses."</p><p>"As you increase human population density and increase encroachment onto natural habitats, not just by people but by our domesticated animals, you're increasing the rolls on the die," David Hayman, professor of infectious disease ecology at Massey University in New Zealand, told DW.</p><p>But, as well as increasing the likelihood of transfer, ecosystem disruption also has an impact on how many viruses exist in the wild and how they behave.</p>
Wildlife trade<p>So-called "wet markets" selling produce, meat and live animals provide another incubator for the emergence of infectious disease. Scientists <a href="https://www.cell.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0092-8674%2820%2930328-7" target="_blank">believe</a> there's a strong possibility SARS-CoV-2 emerged at a wet market in Wuhan, China.</p><p>Cramming stressed, sick animals into cages together is, in many ways, the "perfect setting" to incubate new pathogens, Spangenberg says, and "an excellent way to transfer diseases from one species to another." For that reason, many scientists, including Spangenberg, say the world needs, at the very least, to introduce strict regulations for live animal markets.</p><p>That's the message from Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the United Nations' biodiversity chief, who has called for a global ban on wildlife markets.</p><p>But as Mrema also pointed out, millions of people — particularly in low-income communities — rely on the food and income sources these markets provide.</p><p>That's part of what makes solutions to preventing disease outbreak complex, according to Hayman. Animal exploitation is one part of it, he says. But "poverty, access to jobs, how people are treated in remote areas, the way people engage with food" also contribute to conditions that lead to spillovers.</p>
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In a move roundly decried by public health experts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) as his administration investigates the international body's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Chinese city of Shenzhen announced Thursday that it would ban the eating of dogs and cats in the wake of the coronavirus, which is believed to have stemmed from the wildlife trade, according to Reuters.
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As the new coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, the country and city where it originated reported a hopeful milestone.
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The entire country of Italy has gone into lockdown to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
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The World Health Organization has now declared that the fatality rate of the COVID-19 coronavirus is higher than the flu. After several missteps and the deaths of nine Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now saying that it will lift restrictions on testing and will fast-track people who fear they may have been exposed to the virus, according to The New York Times.
COVID-19 Testing Mishaps<p>The CDC's first attempt to screen for COVID-19 hit a snag when they "botched its first attempt to mass produce a diagnostic test kit, a discovery made only after officials had shipped hundreds of kits to state laboratories," as The New York Times reported.</p> <p>The faulty tests took weeks to replace. Still, the replacements did not allow state and local laboratories to make a final diagnosis. </p> <p>"The incompetence has really exceeded what anyone would expect with the C.D.C.," Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, said to The New York Times. "This is not a difficult problem to solve in the world of viruses."</p> <p>"It's really, essentially, inexplicable why the CDC did not have well-performing test kits before now," Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/03/03/811504588/cdc-criticized-for-its-slow-release-of-coronavirus-testing-kits" target="_blank">said to NPR</a>. "But this delay has really been costly in terms of our ability to identify and control the disease."</p> <p>The CDC's response is slightly shocking for an advanced nation, considering that South Korea tested 10,000 people on Friday alone and has established drive-thru COVID-19 screening locations, as <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-cdc-us-facilities-lack-testing-capacity-to-id-cases-2020-3" target="_blank">Business Insider reported</a>.</p>
Narrow and Stringent Testing Criteria<p>The CDC is also taking flak for the narrow and stringent testing criteria it set-up, ensuring that very few Americans would actually be tested for COVID-19. As the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/02/health/coronavirus-testing-cdc.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a> pointed out, "the persistent drumbeat of positive test results has raised critical questions about the government's initial management of the outbreak.</p> <p>Why weren't more Americans tested sooner? How many may be carrying the virus now?"</p> <p>Until last week, the CDC only called for testing people who had <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/" target="_blank">recently traveled</a> to China and come in contact with someone who had a diagnosed case of COVID-19. That strict criteria meant that a patient in California, who tested positive for the coronavirus, went untested for several days at two area hospitals, according to <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-cdc-us-facilities-lack-testing-capacity-to-id-cases-2020-3" target="_blank">Business Insider</a>. </p> <p>Last week, the CDC changed the guideline to include people whose symptoms were so severe that they required hospitalization. However, it still did not offer tests for people who had traveled to Iran or Italy, both spots of severe outbreaks, as Business Insider reported. </p> <p>The case in California was alarming since the patient did not travel to China nor did the patient have direct contact with someone known to have the virus. Furthermore, doctors had to plead with officials to test the patient and to persist in asking before the CDC went ahead and tested the patient, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/27/health/us-cases-coronavirus-community-transmission/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to CNN</a>. </p>
Numbers Disappearing From CDC Website<p>A strange thing happened at the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html#states-confirmed-cases" target="_blank">CDC site</a> that reports on the total number of COVID-19 cases. The CDC had been reporting the number of people who had been tested. Then, on Monday, the numbers disappeared. </p> <p>"All of a sudden those stats vanished," Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said as CNN reported. Pocan <a href="https://twitter.com/repmarkpocan/status/1234640186966978567" target="_blank">wrote a letter</a> of complaint to the CDC Monday night.</p> <p>"Inexplicably, today, the CDC's public webpage dedicated to COVID-19 data no longer displays how many persons have been tested for, or who have died from COVID-19. I would like to know why," Pocan wrote.</p> <p>"Americans are dying. We deserve to know how many Americans have perished from COVID-19, and we deserve to know how many people have been tested for it," Pocan added in his letter.</p> <p>A CDC spokeswoman told <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/health/cdc-website-coronavirus-testing/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> that the numbers were taken down since many states are testing and reporting their own results. Yet, the spokeswoman added, "There's only 50 states. We can get this information relatively easily."</p>
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China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 2,700 lives and infected more than 81,000 people, most of them in China, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
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By Jessica Corbett
As the world's leading health experts wrapped up a two-day forum about the coronavirus at the World Health Organization's Geneva headquarters Wednesday, new figures out of China over the past 24 hours revealed that the respiratory illness has now infected more than 60,000 people globally.
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