GABON—A HAVEN FOR WILDLIFE

CAN you imagine a tropical beach where elephants graze by the seaside, hippos swim, and whales and dolphins gather offshore? On the African coast, there are 60 miles [100 km] of beaches where such scenes are still common.
For such scenes to be enjoyed in the future, this unique coastal area would clearly need to be preserved. Happily, this conservation priority was addressed on September 4, 2002, when the president of Gabon announced that 10 percent of Gabon—including stretches of pristine coastline—would be set aside as national parks.
These wilderness areas, covering some 10,000 square miles [30,000 km2]—equivalent to the size of Belgium—have much to offer. “Gabon has the potential to become a natural mecca, attracting pilgrims from the four points of the compass in search of the last remaining natural wonders on earth,” noted President Omar Bongo Ondimba.
What makes these reserves so important? Some 85 percent of Gabon is still forested, and as many as 20 percent of its plant species are found nowhere else on earth. Furthermore, its equatorial forests offer a haven for lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and many other threatened species. The recently created parks will convert Gabon into an outstanding custodian of African biodiversity.
Loango—A Beach Like No Other
Loango National Park is possibly one of the most outstanding wildlife destinations in Africa. It conserves miles of unspoiled beaches fringed by freshwater lagoons and dense equatorial forest. But what really make Loango’s beaches unique are the animals that walk along the sand—hippos, forest elephants, buffalo, leopards, and gorillas.
Why does the beach attract those animals of the forest? Lining Loango’s white, sandy beaches are pastures where hippos and buffalo can graze. Rônier palm trees, which grow alongside the beach, produce abundant fruit that attracts forest elephants almost as much as ice cream attracts children. But most important of all is the solitude. The only footprints on the sand are those of animals.
The absence of human intrusion encourages the endangered leatherback turtles to choose these lonely beaches as a place to lay their eggs. Rosy bee-eaters have similar nesting tastes, and they excavate their colonial nests in the sand just a few yards above the high-water mark. During the summer months, over a thousand humpback whales congregate in Loango’s undisturbed waters to mate.
Two immense lagoons separate the beaches of Loango from the equatorial forest, and they provide an ideal habitat for crocodiles and hippos. Fish are plentiful in these inland seas, whose banks are lined with mangrove forests. African fish eagles and ospreys scour the open water of the lagoons, while several species of colorful kingfishers search for fish in the shallow waters. Elephants, who love water, happily swim across the lagoons to reach the beach and gorge on their favorite fruit.
Inside the equatorial forest, monkeys scamper along the upper branches of the canopy, while colorful butterflies glide around the sunny clearings. Fruit bats roost in their favorite trees during the day and then, during the night, go about their vital work of spreading seeds throughout the forest. At the forest edges, glittering sunbirds sip nectar from flowering trees and bushes. Understandably, Loango has aptly been described as “a place where you can experience the mood of equatorial Africa.”
Lopé—One of the Gorillas’ Last Stands
Lopé National Park includes large tracts of virgin rain forest, along with a patchwork of savanna and gallery forest in the north of the park. It is an ideal place for nature lovers who would like to observe gorillas, chimpanzees, or mandrills in the wild. There are between 3,000 and 5,000 gorillas roaming the 2,000 square miles [5,000 km2] of protected area.
Augustin, a former park official, remembers a unique encounter with gorillas in 2002. “While walking in the forest, I came upon a family of four gorillas,” he recalls. “The male, a huge silverback about 35 years old, towered over me. He must have weighed at least three times as much as I did. Following the recommended procedure, I immediately sat down, lowered my head, and looked at the ground in a sign of submission. The gorilla came and sat alongside me and put his hand on my shoulder. Then he got hold of my hand, opened it, and examined my palm. Once satisfied that I was no threat to his family, he ambled off into the jungle. On that memorable day, I discovered the fascination of coming into contact with animals in their natural habitat. Although people kill gorillas for bush meat or in the misguided belief that they are dangerous, they are peaceable animals that deserve our protection.”
In Lopé, mandrills, large baboons, congregate in huge groups that occasionally number over a thousand animals. This is one of the largest gatherings of primates in the world, and it is certainly a noisy one. A visitor from Cameroon describes his experience with one of these huge groups.
“Our guide detected the mandrills, thanks to the radio collars that several animals wear. We moved ahead of the group, quickly erected a camouflaged blind, and awaited their arrival. For 20 minutes we listened to the music of the forest, performed by a host of birds and insects. This tranquillity was abruptly broken when the mandrill troop drew near. The sound of snapping branches and loud calls gave me the impression that a big storm was approaching. But when I spotted the [leaders], they looked more like the advance guard of an army. The large males took the lead, walking briskly along the forest floor, while females and juveniles leaped from branch to branch above. Suddenly, one of the large males halted in his tracks and looked around suspiciously. A young mandrill that was moving along in the canopy had spotted us and sounded the alarm. The whole group accelerated its march, and the noise got even greater as they angrily shouted their annoyance. Within a few moments, they were gone. My guide estimated that some 400 mandrills had passed by alongside us.”
Chimpanzees make just as much noise as the mandrills and are even harder to spot as they move briskly through the forest in a constant search for food. On the other hand, visitors invariably see putty-nosed monkeys that sometimes bound along in the savanna bordering the forest. Perhaps the most reclusive resident of Lopé is the sun-tailed monkey, an endemic species that was only discovered about 20 years ago.
The large, colorful birds of the forest—such as turacos and hornbills—advertise their presence with raucous calls. Some 400 species of birds have been recorded within the park, making it a mecca for birdwatchers.
A Haven of Biodiversity
Loango and Lopé are only two of Gabon’s 13 national parks. Other parks preserve mangrove forests, protect unique flora, and safeguard areas for migratory birds. “Gabon has set aside the best ecosystems found in the entire country,” explains Lee White of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It is not just the size but the quality of the areas conserved that matters. In 2002, they created overnight an optimum national park system, one that captures all the biodiversity of the country.”
Of course, many challenges remain, as President Bongo Ondimba freely admits. “We are talking about a world-wide operation,” he says, “that will doubtless involve both long and short term sacrifices, to enable us to achieve our ambition of leaving these wonders of nature to future generations.”
by Albert Oluwaseun
asaconcept@yahoo.com

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COFFEE RAISING YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVEL

IS COFFEE RAISING YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVEL?

RESEARCHERS at the Wageningen Agricultural University, in the Netherlands, say that drinking unfiltered coffee will raise your cholesterol level.
The crucial word is “unfiltered.” Why? Research Reports, a newsletter from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, says that coffee beans contain a cholesterol-raising substance called cafestol. When hot water is poured directly on the ground coffee, the cafestol is extracted. The same is true when finely ground coffee is boiled in water several times, as it is in Turkish coffee, or when a metal filter is used instead of a paper filter, such as in a French press. Without a paper filter, the cafestol ends up in the brew.
One unfiltered cup of coffee, which may contain up to four milligrams of cafestol, can cause the cholesterol level to rise by about 1 percent. Espresso also contains cafestol, since it is made without a paper filter. However, its cholesterol-raising effect is less if you use a demitasse. Less espresso, less cafestol—perhaps as little as one or two milligrams per cup. Research Reports cautions, though, that five small cups of espresso a day can raise the body’s cholesterol level by 2 percent.
The bottom line is that coffee made with a paper filter is cafestol free.
By Albert Oluwaseun

Apple ebook antitrust trial set for 9-12 days in early June

image

Mr Albert

The Justice Department, state
governments and Apple(s aapl) met in a
Manhattan courtroom on Thursday before
U.S. District Denise Cote to make
arrangements for an upcoming trial in
which Apple is accused of colluding with
big publishers to fix the price of ebooks.
The purpose of the hearing was to set
schedules, review witness lists and go
over last-minute evidence objections
ahead of the trial. Cote proposed that
each side should be given 22 hours over a
four day period plus a final day for closing
arguments; the federal government said
it would need at least 30 hours to make
its case, and Apple requested the same,
meaning the total trial would last 12 days.
Cote said she will decide in the near
future.
The parties also reviewed the witness list,
who include prominent publishing CEOs
like Macmillan’s John Sargent and Apple
executive Eddy Cue. Today’s hearing also
raised the possibility that News Corp CEO
James Murdoch, who exchanged a series
of emails with Apple’s Steve Jobs, could
take the stand for cross-examination; the
federal government will decide in coming
days, on the basis of an evidence
issue, whether this will be necessary.
Much of the trial, however, is unlikely to
feature dramatic CEO testimony. Instead,
the core of the trial is likely to slog
through recondite economic arguments
and civil evidence issues; part of today’s
hearing focused on expert witness opinion
about the competitive effects of agency
pricing and whether it coincided with
Apple’s economic self-interest.
Today’s hearing also focused on an
ongoing dispute in which Apple is
attempting to force its competitors,
especially Amazon, to unseal evidence
they have submitted as part of the
proceedings.
At the outset of the hearing, in a
courtroom that rises 15 stories above
lower Manhattan with a view of the
Brooklyn Bridge, Cote stressed that the
case represented an enormous amount or
work, and told the parties to call her “day
or night” if they decided to settle.

Facebook sheds some light on what it can get out of Parse

When Facebook (s fb) acquired Parse last
month, it was unclear what good could
come of the deal for Facebook. On
Thursday, Facebook executives didn’t
share detailed new plans for its developer
platform or Parse per se, but they did lay
out broadly how the social networking
giant can benefit.
Mike Vernal, Facebook’s director of
engineering, said the integration of Parse
technology could boost ad sales by
making development of cross-platform
mobile apps easier for developers to build
and run.
If a startup builds an iOS app with a way
to connect into Facebook, great, but its
reach is limited to the number of people
with iOS devices. Then the developers
would have to start over to build a
version of the app for Android (s goog)
and Windows (s msft) Phone operating
systems.
That’s where Parse comes in. As a
provider of a Mobile Backend as a Service
(MBaaS) with software-development kits
for multiple operating systems, Parse lets
developers quickly build out applications
without having to worry about managing
servers. When a startup expands its
offering from just iOS to Windows and
Phone and Android apps and drops them
in app stores, promotion becomes
important. Facebook can help with that,
by getting ads in front of users. The ads
expose the applications to the startup’s
app, excite users and — here’s the
important part — get more ad revenue.
Getting more from mobile has been a key
area for Facebook, and that’s why the
Parse deal begins to make more sense.
This is particularly important following the
mixed reception of Facebook Home.
Aside from being an ad revenue driver,
Parse makes sense from a content
perspective. Not every Facebook user
updates his or her lists of favorite things
and other fields, so enabling fresher
content from more external sources is
desirable; it could boost engagement.
Facebook recently rolled out to all users
the ability to be selective about what
content third-party applications can push
back to Facebook, and now users can
confidently approve of this sharing of
stories into the news feed and timelines
through more and more apps that
developers come up with.
Down the line, Facebook also wants to
make this data more accessible through
its newish Graph Search tool, Vernal said.
That move would scratch another item off
Facebook’s long Graph Search to-do list.
As for Parse, it will keep running the way
it has been, Sukhar said, whether
developers want to use Facebook as a
means of promotion or not.
One unanswered question is what will
happen to all the apps developers run on
Parse. (s amzn) “It’s business as usual, so
we’re actually staying on Amazon (s amzn)
Web Services,” said Ilya Sukhar, a co-
founder of Parse (pictured). But Facebook
has a boatload of custom-built
infrastructure. Couldn’t it just move
Parse-backed apps to Facebook data
centers, effectively turning Facebook into
a quasi-cloud service provider? Apps will
keep running on AWS “right now,” said
Facebook’s director of product
management, Doug Purdy. But the key
words are “right now.”
Purdy made it clear that Facebook wants
to just enable third-party developers to
build and run apps that people can enjoy
regardless of the device they choose. It
turns out that’s in Facebook’s best
interest, too.

Nasarawa massacre: Director arrested, accused of leaking information to cultists

Still trying to fish out the masterminds
of the massacre of dozens of policemen
and security agents in Alakyo in
Nasarawa State about two weeks ago,
security operatives have arrested a
senior director working with the state
government in connection with the
killings.
The officer was alleged to have passed
strategic security information to the
cultists thereby enabling them to
strike with precision on the fateful
day.
Vanguard learnt from a reliable
source that the director, whose name
was given as Mohammed and works at
the office of the Secretary to the State
Government, was privy to most
security decisions taken by the state on
account of his position in the
administration.
Findings by Vanguard yesterday
revealed that angry security agents,
who are still peeved over the killings of
their colleagues by the dreaded
Ombatse cult group, swooped on
Mohammed after tracing some vital
information leaked to the group, to his
phone.
The suspect, who is believed to be an
Eggon native, where the cult has its
roots and base, was reportedly picked
up from his office to the surprise of his
staff, when the security men
handcuffed and whisked him away in a
commando-like fashion.
Mohammed was initially detained and
questioned by men of the Criminal
Investigation Department in Lafia
before being transferred to Abuja for
further interrogation in connection
with the heinous crime.
A senior official of the Nasarawa State
government, who pleaded anonymity
because he had not been authorised to
speak on the matter, confirmed the
arrest of the director and transfer to
Abuja by security men.
The officer said that the man was
arrested after security agents
established a relationship between
him and the deadly cult group in the
state.
The Inspector General of Police,
Abubakar Mohammed, had on Monday
confirmed the arrest of no fewer than
15 officers and men, who allegedly
connived with the cult group to
massacre the policemen in the state.
The IG said the men were still being
investigated to determine their level
of culpability or otherwise in the
offence.
It would be recalled that no fewer
than 96 police officers and men as well
as Department of State Service, DSS,
officials, who had gone to Eggon, about
10 kilometres away from the Nasarawa
State capital, to arrest the leader of
the Ombatse shrine were ambushed
and murdered by the cultists on May
9, 2013.
As at yesterday, the security agencies
were yet to swoop on the cultists, who
are believed to be holed up in the vast
forests in the area, roaring to descend
on any intruder in the community.
The cult group, which had earlier been
outlawed by the Al-Makura
administration, was reportedly
encouraged by some powerful
politicians to continue with its
malevolent activities, hoping to use
them to outsmart their opponents in
the 2015 elections.

Shazam’s new iPad app automatically tags every song you ever listen to

What a wonderful machine

Gigaom

Shazam released a major update to its iOS (s AAPL) app Thursday that turns your iPad (s AAPL) into an automated log file for every song you listen to, every TV show you watch and every commercial you’re trying to ignore.

This is possibly due to a new feature dubbed auto tagging: Once turned on, Shazam will automatically listen to everything within reach of the iPad’s microphone, generate an acoustic fingerprint every few seconds and ping Shazam’s servers to look for matches. Identified songs, TV shows and ads are automatically sent to a personal queue within the Shazam app.

Users can then browse through these finds, add songs to their favorites, buy them on iTunes or stream them through Rdio. What’s interesting about this feature is that it also works in the background, while you’re doing something in another app or even when the iPad’s lock screen is enabled. iPad…

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Suicide Bombers Kill 20 Soldiers In Niger Republic, Nigeria Mounts Troops Across Borders With Niger

Movement for Oneness and
Jihad in West Africa  (MUJAO),
an Islamic group which claims to
be committed to the
enforcement of Shariah law in
West Africa, has claimed
responsibility for a twin suicide
bombing attack this morning at
the Nigerian/Niger border in
which over 20 Nigerien soldiers
were killed.
A journalist in transit in the
area told SaharaReporters that
the terrorists also injured about
15 other soldiers, while four of
their own were killed.
The terrorists struck in a
military barracks in Agades, one
of the major cities in Niger
Republic, while another group
belonging to the same group
struck in a uranium plant in
Arlit.
According to the journalists, the
suicide bombers arrived in a
bomb-laden car and forced their
way into the military facility.
The journalist also said that
more Nigerian troops have been
deployed to the Niger-Nigerian
border since yesterday, and that
today’s bombings may also alert
the Nigerian authorities to
further strengthen the security
situation.
By SaharaReporters