Fresh hunt for Tasmanian tiger, 80 years after ‘extinction’

Dog-like, with stripes. Thinkstock Dog-like, with stripes. Thinkstock

The thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian tiger, has been officially extinct for 80 years. Now, reported sightings have set Australian scientists on a fresh search for the animal.

Although native to Tasmania, the thylacine was not really a tiger but a carnivorous marsupial. The last confirmed report of a sighting in Tasmania was in 1930, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the last captive animal died in 1936. A post on the IUCN website says the thylacine was driven to extinction primarily by direct persecution, but habitat loss, competition with domestic dogs and disease all played a role.

The newly reported sightings have taken place in mainland Australia: in Queensland. The field survey, undertaken by James Cook University, will be led by Dr Sandra Abell, using more than 50 high-tech “camera traps” to survey prospective sites, according to a post on the university website.

The post describes co-investigator Professor Bill Laurance’s discussions with two people in north Queensland who have “provided plausible and detailed descriptions of animals that could potentially be thylacines”. “One of those observers was a long-time employee of the Queensland National Parks Service, and the other was a frequent camper and outdoorsman in north Queensland,” Professor Laurance is quoted as saying.

The thylacine had the general appearance of a large dog, except for its stiff tail and abdominal pouch. Dark stripes that radiated from the top of its back, similar to those of a tiger, led to its unofficial name. It is believed to have been a shy, nocturnal creature, its extinction hastened by the arrival of European settlers.

In mainland Australia, the thylacine is believed to have been near-extinct for centuries. In Tasmania, the last captive thylacine died in Hobart zoo three years after its capture in 1933. Photos and videos of this last known specimen, named “Benjamin” but possibly female according to some suggestions, are in wide circulation on the internet.

Several sightings have been reported over the years but none was conclusively proven. Now, scientists find the newly reported sightings “plausible”. “We have cross-checked the descriptions we received of eyeshine colour, body size and shape, animal behaviour, and other attributes, and these are inconsistent with known attributes of other large-bodied species in north Queensland such as dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs,” Professor Laurance says on the James Cook University website.

National Geographic Australia quotes one of those who reported a sighting. “These animals, I’ve never seen anything like them before in my life. They were dog-shaped… and in the spotlight, I could see they were tan in colour, and they had stripes on their sides,” former tourism operator Brian Hobbs told the magazine.

“Can it be true?” tweeted Richard Dawkins, the English ethologist and popular science author. “Has Thylacinus been seen alive? And in mainland Australia not Tasmania? I so want it to be true.”

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‘Undertaking detailed analysis’: Patients report eye inflammation, Intas recalls its drug batch

Representational image. Representational image.

With some patients reporting inflammation in their eyes due to Intas Pharmaceuticals’ drug Razumab, the company has advised the doctors to not use any drug of this particular batch. It has also recalled this batch from the market to undergo internal testing at its quality control (QC) lab.

“Intas is aware of few incidences of post injection inflammation reported pertaining to this specific batch, the reported incidences are well within the limits, which were managed by usual anti-inflammatory treatment. We are extremely conscious of our product quality and are undertaking a detailed analysis of the same. Since patient’s safety is paramount to us, hence till the time the analysis is completed, we have advised the doctors to avoid using the product from this specific batch,” Intas Pharmaceuticals’ spokesperson told The Indian Express.

According to an email sent by Raja Narayanan, secretary, Vitreo Retina Society – India (VRSI), to its members, the company has “advised not use Razumab injection of batch number 18020020”. The VRSI has total 750 ophthalmologists as its members spread across the country. “VRSI is gathering more facts on the situation. It is advised that all members be alert and exercise abundance of precaution with other batches of Razumab also,” Narayanan added in his email. In its preliminary report, the VRSI stated that

Intas has recalled all vials of this batch for internal testing at company’s QC lab.

This is the second time VRSI has reported the adverse reactions of Razumab. It first reported the adverse reactions in 2015, just two months after the brand was launched by Intas Pharmaceuticals. Consequently, Intas had curtailed the distribution of Razumab then. Ranibizumab is the name of the molecule; Intas Pharmaceuticals and Novartis sell them in the Indian market under the brand name Razumab and Lucentis, respectively. Lucentis is the market leader and is available for approximately Rs 75000 per 1 ml injection at a retail chemist.

In 2015, Intas became the first company globally to launch biosimilar version of Ranibizumab. According to retailers, Razumab is available at around 25 per cent lower price in the country. Meanwhile, Naryanan told The Indian Express that as a standard procedure, Intas Pharma has withdrawn this particular batch of Razumab that has caused adverse reactions in some patients.

Intas Pharmaceuticals’ spokesperson told The Indian Express: “It is a known fact that, few patients getting such intravitreal injections are likely to experience such inflammation, as also reported in published data and pack insert of innovator Ranibizumab (mentioned as 18 per cent of patients). The reported incidences are well within the limits.”

In people with a certain type of eye disease, new blood vessels grow under the retina where they leak blood and fluid. This is known as the “wet form” of macular degeneration. Ranibizumab is used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. This molecule is also used to treat swelling in the retina caused by diabetes or by a blockage in the blood vessels.

The VRSI had issued a primary alert on March 18 after first incidents of intraocular (middle layer of the eye) inflammation were reported, after which it did a preliminary investigation. In preliminary investigation, it found that “total 11 eyes from 5 centers” have reported this inflammation.

“Batch (180200)20 was released from factory on February 28. Intas had released 824 vials of Razumab to stockists. 435 vials were purchased by various doctors/hospitals. 182 out of those 435 were used on patients. The first reports of inflammation were received on March 9. As soon as the first events were reported to Intas, the company gave two samples each for clinical testing to two VRSI members. Both reported inflammation after the first injection itself. Intas advised us to stop use of batch 20,” the preliminary report stated.

“Total 11 eyes from 5 centers out of 182 injections have officially reported inflammation. All patients were treated with topical steroids and some with oral steroids. Intas has recalled all vials of batch 20 and is undergoing internal testing in their QC lab. Other batches have not been reported to cause inflammation. Intas will share the QC report with VRSI in the next three days, “ the preliminary report of VRSI added.

Intas Pharmaceuticals’ spokesperson told The Indian Express: “Intas markets Razumab for debilitating eye complications of diabetes like diabetic macular edema, diabetic retinopathy where no other alternatives exist. We market it as social responsibility to alleviate sufferings of such patients of our country. As a responsible organization, we continuously strive to update the medical experts on the scientific aspects of our products and expected adverse events.”

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Mercury’s march: 1,142 heatstroke cases, 4 deaths in a month in Maharashtra

With four deaths due to heatstroke in a week, the state health department has sprung into action, training doctors and earmarking dedicated beds for patients in all district hospitals. According to the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), air-conditioners and air-coolers are being installed in separate wards at district hospitals for patients affected by hyperthermia.

In the month of March alone, 1,142 hyperthermia patients were attended to by the government-run ambulance service, 108, across the state, of which maximum were from Amravati (89) followed by Mumbai (81), Pune (72) and Yavatmal (70).

The toll-free ambulance aims to provide first aid to save critical time. “The protocol is to reduce body temperature by taking the patient to a cooler shed and by removing excessive clothing,” said an official from the helpline, adding that patients might be given oral rehydration solution (ORS) to stabilise them before reaching hospital.

“We have identified 18 to 20 districts where summers are most harsh. Training to medical staff and allocation of four beds each in district hospital have been done. In other districts, doctors have been sensitised about treatment for heatstroke,” said Dr Satish Pawar, director at DHS. Dhule, Jalgaon, Solapur, and districts falling under Marathwada and Vidarbha have reported higher temperatures with maximum soaring above 40 degrees Celsius this year.

The high cases of heatstrokes, where body temperature rises above normal due to prolonged exposure to intense heat, have been attributed to prolonged drought-like conditions in the state in the last two years. Data from the emergency ambulance service shows a steady rise in hyperthermia cases in last three years. From 185 patients handled in 2014 (April to May), the count of hyperthermia patients rose to 1,255 in 2015 and 2,688 in 2016.

Last year, maximum calls came from Amravati (393) followed by Mumbai (206), Yavatmal (148) and Chandrapur (122). This year, Bhira village in Raigad reported maximum temperature in India on March 29 at 46.5 degrees Celsius.

On Sunday, the India Meteorological Department reported that maximum temperatures reached 41 degrees in Amravati, 40.8 degrees in Beed, 41 degrees in Bhira, 42 degrees in Jalgaon and 32 degrees in Mumbai (Santacruz). Patients affected by heatwave are given cold water bath, admitted in a room with an air-cooler or air-conditioner, and efforts are made to bring down their body temperature. Exhaustion in sun is also responsible for heatstroke, officials said, adding that prolonged exposure to sun must be avoided and regular water intake must be ensured in this season.

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More than a dozen reported tornadoes touch down in Texas [Video]

Steve: Sigh… REALLY Moonbeam??? How about you quit handing out BILLIONS of dollars per year to those here illegally instead? What about all the countless other transportation bond measures, special taxes and other measure enacted that were supposed to improve our roads? Where’s that money, Moonbeam? How about you account for both of these matters BEFORE you start asking for more?


Risat-1 satellite is functioning normally, says Isro

Nellore: The US space agency Nasa has reported that India’s earth observation satellite Risat-1 had experienced a “fragmentation event” in September last year, when pieces appeared to have broken off. The report, in Nasa’s quarterly magazine Orbital Debris, said the cause was not known. An Isro official said there was some anomaly which had been rectified, and the satellite was functioning normally.

Risat-1 (Radar Imaging Satellite) was launched on April 26, 2012, on board a PSLV rocket. It had been in space for 4.4 years when the incident reported by Nasa occurred. The magazine said Risat-1 experienced the fragmentation event between 0200 and 0600 GMT (7.30 am and 11.30 am IST). Over 12 fragments were observed by the Space Surveillance Network of the US, it said. By November 8, only one piece, designated SSN 41797, had entered the catalog, having decayed — from orbit on October 12, 2016. The other pieces had decayed — moved away from the satellite — as well. Eventually, space debris in the near earth orbit tends to enter the earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

The magazine said the event was categorised as an “anomalous separation of multiple high area-to-mass ratio debris”. Events like this are sometimes referred to as a shedding event. Nasa’s Space Debris Programme continuously tracks 17,000 space objects and maintains record of all space debris — non-functional objects in space — as well as operational satellites.

When contacted for clarification, Isro spokesperson Deviprasad Karnik said the satellite was functioning normally. He said Isro scientists had corrected some anomaly which had nothing to do with what was reported in the Nasa magazine. Operating in the microwave frequency, Risat-1 carries a first of its kind synthetic aperture payload. The camera which enables imaging of the surface features during both the day and night under all weather conditions. The satellite can be used for management of natural disasters like flood and cyclones, monitoring crop especially paddy in the Kharif season, generic vegetation, forestry, soil moisture, geology, and sea ice.


285 theft cases registered at 13 airports in over 3 yrs, says govt

Sinha said various steps, including frisking of ground handling staff is being done while leaving the airport, are carried out to prevent incident of theft at airports. (Photo: File)

New Delhi: As many as 285 theft cases have been reported at 13 airports in little over three years, according to the government.

Giving the figures of “theft cases reported/registered” for the period from 2014 till February this year, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told the Rajya Sabha that “there is no significant increase” in such incidents.

According to the data provided by him as part of a written reply, there have been 285 such cases during the period. The figures are for 13 airports — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Trivandrum, Calicut, Kolkata, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Imphal, Amristar, Bangalore, Lucknow and Jammu.

This year till February, six theft cases were reported — five of them from the Delhi airport and one from Mumbai aerodrome.

Last year, 64 cases of theft were reported or registered across these airports while the count was much higher at 101 in 2015. The figure stood at 114 in 2014.

Sinha said various steps, including frisking of ground handling staff is being done while leaving the airport, are carried out to prevent incident of theft at airports.