Africa Through the Lens of National Geographic News

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Mummies Reflect Primal Urge to Extend Human Life A deep-seated desire to extend human life is the root of mummification all around the world, says a science journalist who explores the subject in a new book. Heather Pringle follows experts as they dissect cadavers and test ancient DNA for clues to the origin of infectious diseases and other fundamental questions of life.

Researchers Lift Obelisk With Kite to Test Theory on Ancient Pyramids Most people think the Egyptian pyramids were built by thousands of slaves who rolled massive stone blocks into place with logs and levers. Recently, a team at Caltech set out to test a theory that the task could have been accomplished by several people using a kite to move the heavy stones.

The Queen of Sheba: More Than a Myth? The Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon takes up 13 lines of the Bible. Those lines created a legend that has spawned thousands of pages of literature, sculptures, paintings, circus acts, operas, and even a restaurant in Houston, Texas. This story has a photo gallery.

Egyptian Mummies Included Animals When it came to mummifying the dead, the ancient Egyptians didn't confine the practice to people. They also prepared their pets and other animals for a long afterlife.

Wildlife and Conservation

Meerkats Become Fat Cats in Large Cooperatives The African mongoose known as the meerkat lives in colonies called mobs, where adults cooperate to help rear the young, find food, and stand guard against predators. Now scientists have determined that the bigger the meerkat mobs the better the individuals fare, plumping up as they gain access to a better diet.

Time Running Out for Exotic Tahrs in Cape Town Cape Town's Table Mountain has a rich and unique ecosystem of flora and fauna, and park officials say it's threatened by a population of imported goat-like animals, called tahrs, that are native to the Himalayas. A culling plan has been underway, but a local group is working frantically to save the 50 remaining tahrs by shipping them to India.

Elephants Airlifted to Repopulate War-Torn Park in Angola About 20 elephants were airlifted from Botswana to Angola's Kissama National Park to begin rehabilitating the sanctuary, which was devastated by more than 25 years of civil war. National Geographic Today reports.

DNA Tests Show African Elephants Are Two Species Genetic fingerprinting shows that Africa's forest and savanna elephants are as different from one another as lions and tigers, and should be considered as two genetically distinct species, researchers report. If the findings bear out, a reclassification of the largest of all living land animals could have major implications for its endangered status.

Africa's New Safari Trend is for the Birds Birds may not have the same power to attract as Africa's famed large wildlife. But southern Africa's remarkable array of bird life—more than 750 species in South Africa alone—is luring a growing number of visitors to the region. This story has a photo gallery.

Female Lions Are Democratic in Breeding, Study Finds Motherhood is an equal-opportunity employer for female lions. A long-term study of lions in Africa shows that the females in a group of lions consistently produce similar numbers of surviving offspring and raise them collectively—egalitarian behavior that's rare among animals that form cooperative societies.

Has Rare Lion of Africa's Cape Eluded Extinction? For 30 years, John Spence searched for descendants of the magnificent black-maned Cape lion, which was thought to be extinct in the Cape region of Africa since the 1850s. His search ended a year ago when he received pictures of a lion at a zoo in Siberia that resembled the former "King of the Cape."

Male Gorillas Make a Splash to Woo Females, New Study Finds Scientists have found that male silverback gorillas in the forests of northern Congo deliberately splash about in swampland clearings as an act of aggression to intimidate their rivals in the battle to woo female companions. The use of water as a tool for communication is thought to be extremely rare among land-based mammals.

Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary On an island in the middle of Lake Victoria a handful of volunteers have set up a sanctuary for wild chimpanzee orphans and refugees from Africa's raging wars, deforestation, and relentless hunting for meat. The sanctuary on Ngamba Island is one of the few places of safety for the threatened great ape. This story is based upon a report aired on National Geographic Today.

Egyptian Tortoises Get Lease of Life on Cairo Rooftop On a rooftop in Cairo, a husband-and-wife team have started a program to rehabilitate and protect the tiny Eqyptian tortoise, one of the world's smallest and most endangered tortoises. National Geographic Today reports.

Gorillas Make Home in "Impenetrable" Forest In central Africa's Bwindi-Impenetrable Forest, humans and gorillas are struggling to survive in the face of political and biological instability.

Scientist Finds that Plants Regulate Elephant Populations Contrary to conventional wisdom, elephant populations in African nature reserves do not need to be controlled through large-scale slaughter as their numbers are regulated by nutrient levels in their food sources, an Israeli scientist has determined.

South Africa Grooms for Sequel to 1992 Earth Summit in Rio Ten years after the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders will meet again next year to assess progress—or the lack of it—since that first "Earth Summit" and to plot a course for the new millennium.

UN Launches Campaign to Save Last Great Apes in the Wild Conservationists led by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) have launched a global effort to save the great apes from extinction in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

"Bush Meat" Crisis Needs Urgent Action, Group Warns Conservationists say illegal commercial hunting of African wildlife for sale as "bush meat" has reached alarming levels and immediate action is needed to address the problem before it's too late to save some seriously threatened species.

Shrinking African Lake Offers Lesson on Finite Resources Lake Chad, once one of Africa's largest freshwater lakes, has shrunk dramatically in the last 40 years. Two researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have been working to determine the causes.

Madagascar Ecotourism Keith Bellows, editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine, reports for National Geographic Today on the benefits of ecotourism for both the traveler and the local people on the African island of Madagascar.

Society and Culture

Ancient Spirits Incarnated in Rare U.S. Exhibition of African Ritual Art Cryptic figurines, enchanting ritual masks, and spiritual power symbols for communication with the dead combine in a new African art exhibit that makes public the power and spiritualism behind African art traditions. This story has a photo gallery.

Millions of Children in Central Africa Vaccinated Against Polio As many as 250,000 health-care workers and volunteers recently spread out across four countries in central Africa to inoculate millions of children against polio. The five-day effort was part of an international campaign launched more than a decade ago to eliminate the disease by 2005.

African Women Assert Themselves in Fight Against AIDS Global commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1, 2000, may have passed almost unnoticed in developed countries, especially in an America transfixed by the presidential election.

Smithsonian Salutes Contemporary African Art More than 60 works of art from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art's permanent collection representing the strength and diversity of contemporary art in Africa and its diaspora are on view in a new exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Glories of African Royalty Celebrated in Photography Cleopatra, the Queen of Sheba, King Balthasar, and Shaka are among Africa's most legendary rulers. Yet few people realize that dozens of kings still reign in Africa today, albeit under vastly changed circumstances. This story has a photo gallery.

Women in West Africa Face Heavy Toll From High Birthrate In coastal West Africa, a woman's ticket to a secure future is to have children. Lots of them. On average, women living in rural Gambia get married at age 15 and have at least six children over the course of their lifetimes.

West African Countries Mobilize Against Child Slavery A flurry of news stories about a missing ship suspected of carrying child slaves stirred the world's moral outrage last week. When the ship finally came to port in Benin, West Africa, only a few unaccompanied children were found on board. The incident nonetheless highlights the very real problem of trafficking in children.

Exploration and Research

Total Eclipse May Help Solve Mystery of Sun's "Halo" Using telescopes on the ground, in space, and mounted on a shooting rocket, scientists will focus on Thursday's total solar eclipse to try to figure out one of the most perplexing enigmas surrounding it: Why is its atmosphere, a halo of incandescent gases, millions of degrees hotter than its surface?

Interview: Mike Fay Is on a Trek to Preserve Forest in Gabon Last year conservationist J. Michael Fay completed a 2,000-mile, fifteen-month walk through pristine forests of central Africa, described in National Geographic Magazine. His latest challenge: a personal campaign to preserve a swath of forest in Gabon as a national park.

Extreme Africa: A Trek Through the Heart of Darkness http:// "This may well be the most beautiful place on Earth," wrote conservationist Michael Fay from the central African forest. Fay walked 1,200 miles across this wilderness over 15 months, recording its flora and fauna on paper, film, and video. This story has a photo gallery.

Megatransect: 1,200 Miles Through the African Forest This is the second of a two-part series about the Megatransect, a 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) walk through central Africa to record the diversity of forest plants and animals with the hope of conserving at least part of a rapidly disappearing wilderness.

Jane Goodall: 40 Years in Africa Jane Goodall spoke recently with National Geographic Today about her past, and future, conservation efforts. Best known for her work with chimpanzees, Goodall has become a worldwide celebrity and activist.

African Frog Study Receives National Geographic's 7,000th Research Grant A study of frogs that could yield benefits for both conservation and human health has received the 7,000th grant awarded by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration.

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