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June 2003 Archive

Humans may someday be able to scuttle up walls, scamper across ceilings, and scurry out windows with the agility of a startled gecko in the tropical night—thanks to a new adhesive tape that mimics the lizard's sticky feet.

Gold jewelry and other precious items recovered from 2,800-year-old Assyrian royal tombs, and the royal cemetery of Ur, have been found in Iraq's Central Bank in Baghdad, where they were stashed for safety before the onset of the Gulf War in 1990.

SARS has created more turbulence for the airline industry than 9/11 and the Iraq War, according an airline trade group. Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows says media hype overstates the risk to traveler's and that deals in Toronto and Beijing abound.

SARS has created more turbulence for the airline industry than 9/11 and the Iraq War combined, according to an airline trade group. But Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows says media hype has overstated the risk to travelers and that deals in Toronto and Beijing abound.

More than 160 million people in India are considered "Untouchable"—people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure, less than human. In spite of growing efforts to assert their rights, change is slow and often accompanied by violence.

Unseasonably warm winters in Britain are causing many bird species to breed earlier and more often. As the world warms, birds might not only be changing their breeding strategies, but also migrating to new habitats—warm-weather species expand their territories, while their cool-weather relatives depart for higher latitudes.

Sixty percent of the world's ocean is international, outside any country's jurisdiction, and largely open to uncontrolled access and exploitation. But now all that has to change in order to protect remaining marine ecosystems from neglect and abuse, a meeting of governments, environmental groups, and scientists resolved today.

The source of SARS has mystified medical experts. Some believe it evolved naturally in humans. Others say it must have jumped from an animal, maybe a chicken or an exotic bird. But one group of British scientists suggests a more far-out origin: space.

Radio-tagged tarantulas are being used by researchers to monitor the threatened rainforests of Belize. Each spider emits a unique call sign, allowing it to be identified with a hand-held scanner even when it is in its lair. The health of the arachnids indicates the health of the habitat.

What do you do with a gorgeous Arabian horse that has run into a lethal metal mesh net and died? In war-torn Baghdad, if you're trying to save lives at the city's zoo, you feed the carcass to the lions and hope no one gets mad.

Brothers Chris and Martin Kratt host the Emmy-award-winning PBS series Zaboomafoo and Kratt's Creatures. The self-labeled "creature adventurers" discuss what makes their style of animal presentations so popular with children and relate some of their experiences on Inside Base Camp With Tom Foreman.

Overfishing, over-development, and pollution are leading to the collapse of ocean ecosystems, according to a three-year study. The good news in the much-anticipated Pew Oceans Commission report: It is not too late to act to ensure clean beaches, healthful seafood, abundant ocean wildlife, and thriving coastal communities.

The little-known smalltooth sawfish has become the first U.S. marine fish to be listed as an endangered species. The sawfish, a relative of sharks and rays, is believed to have dwindled to less than 5 percent of its population at the time of European arrival in the New World.

War-traumatized lions which Sadam Hussein's son Uday kept at his Baghdad palace may soon be freed in Africa. A rescue planned by animal charities would airlift nine lions, including six cubs, to a South African sanctuary where they could slowly be conditioned to live in the wild.

Possibly the largest mass poisoning in history may be underway in India and Bangladesh. The culprit is naturally-occurring arsenic in the drinking water. Now Bangladeshis are digging 1,000-foot-deep bore wells—without machinery—in the search to find and map the safest sources of water.

The Earth's climate is changing—raising temperatures, disrupting rain patterns, and stoking diplomatic rows between the nations. But for the world's plant kingdom the recent changes have been well received. New research finds that vegetation is increasing around the globe. Is that good or bad news?

In the movie Finding Nemo an overprotective clownfish named Marlin searches for his son Nemo who is swiped from the ocean for an aquarium. The true protectors of clownfish in the ocean, however, are not parents but rather prickly, stinging sea anemones that live on reefs.

Maryland wildlife officials and environmental groups agree that mute swans, an invasive species native to Europe and Asia, are elegant, beautiful—and highly destructive to the Chesapeake Bay's fragile ecosystem. But how to deal with the bird's exploding population poses a thornier question.

Water—Two Billion People are Dying for It! is the theme of World Environment Day, an annual event celebrated on June 5—today. To more than two billion people, fresh, pure water is more valuable than gold.

In his book Songcatchers, Grateful Dead percussionist and ethnomusicology advocate Mickey Hart recounts how field recordists explored the globe to document the songs, sounds, and lives of cultures—and looks at today's initiatives to preserve those recordings for a long time to come.

Best known as a longtime percussionist with the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart is also a dedicated musicologist and advocate for the preservation of the world's music. His book, Songcatchers, explores the panorama of world music and shares epic tales of the pioneers who traveled far and wide to record it.

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Nick Baker tags along with eco-warriors on an armed hunt for Cambodia's poachers—and finds a more complex story than he bargained for. Watch Poacher Patrol this Sunday June 8, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

In parts of Cambodia, the struggle against poaching has become an armed conflict. The nation's extensive forests enjoyed some protection during the long civil war because people feared to enter this refuge of the vicious Khmer Rouge. Now those forests and their wildlife are besieged by people desperate to survive.

Sunday, June 8, is Canada's first official Rivers Day. Inaugurated in part because of 2003 being International Year of Fresh Water, the day is to become an annual occasion to focus on the country's huge system of rivers. National Geographic News interviews Harris Boyd, chairperson of Rivers Canada.

Radio-tagged tarantulas are being used by researchers to monitor the threatened rain forests of Belize. Each spider emits a unique call sign, allowing it to be identified with a hand-held scanner even when it is in its lair. The health of the arachnids indicates the health of the habitat.

On the pedestal in Fardus Square where the statue of Saddam Hussein toppled, a new sculpture has risen. The sculpture is the creation of the young artists' collective called the Najeen Group, which has emerged with public art and a play that show the new freedom of the city.

Attacks by armed poachers in a reserve in Guatemala have forced a team of biologists to stop monitoring the dazzling scarlet macaw. The pressures facing the macaw are compounded by raging fires that threaten their nesting grounds. This story airs tonight on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today.

In a comprehensive effort to assess children's attitudes towards learning, National Geographic Kids magazine and NFO WorldGroup recently surveyed nearly 1,300 children nationwide in the 6-to-14 age bracket. One of the most significant findings: that over 80 percent of children surveyed think learning is fun.

An unlikely lookout is standing guard over livestock across the United States. Farmers have discovered that South America's llama is a natural and effective "watchdog" to defend their animals from coyotes and other predators.

Each winter, millions of monarch butterflies congregate on the fir-covered hillside Sierra Chincua, Mexico. Logging is threatening this unique and precious habitat, but as our correspondent reports, ecotourism has given local people an incentive to see the high-altitude forest preserved.

For every fourth or fifth generation of monarch butterflies that summer in the U.S. east of the Continental Divide, the pull of high-altitude Oyamel fir forests in central Mexico is irresistible. Now scientists have discovered that they make the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) flight with the help of an internal clock.

Worlds Apart, the National Geographic Channel's new reality series, bridges cultural gaps—by making people neighbors. For nine days, an American family leaves suburbia behind to become part of another culture. Glenda Hersh, executive producer, speaks with National Geographic News about what it's really like to be that family.

Over the course of their migration from Panama to Canada, New World Catharus thrushes spend twice as much energy slurping worms, munching snails, and heating their bodies than they do actually flapping their wings in flight, according to new research.

Simply known as Dr. Ruth, the world's most famous sex therapist has a vast understanding of the cultural context of sexuality. On Inside Base Camp with Tom Foreman, she discusses not only this topic, but also reveals her experiences in the Israeli Defense Force after having escaped the Nazis.

Fossils recovered from Ethiopia lend archaeological credence to the theory that modern humans evolved in Africa before spreading around the world. Owing to the mix of primitive and modern features exhibited by the skulls, scientists assigned them to a new subspecies of Homo sapiens they named Homo sapiens idaltu.

A National Geographic archaeological expedition to Iraq—the first survey of the country's antiquities beyond Baghdad since the April war—reports that although bombs spared most sites and treasures, some ancient locations have been seriously damaged by looting or long-term neglect. In many places hundreds of people were openly making illegal excavations.

As three separate missions journey to Mars this month to search for signs of life, one scientist claims that he already proved there's life on the red planet—in 1976.

Africa has, for years, been losing its heritage to looters, dealers, and sometimes even tourists looking for unusual souvenirs—almost to the point of complete loss. Governments in Africa are cracking down on the trade in irreplaceable traditional and sacred objects.

The virus in chimpanzees believed to have been transmitted to humans to become HIV-1—the virus that causes AIDS—didn't start its life in chimps. Instead, separate viruses jumped from different monkey species into chimps, where they recombined to form a hybrid virus, according to a new study.

With the world focused on SARS, a more deadly disease quietly ravages Africa: malaria. Thousands of African children die daily of the mosquito-born parasitic disease, a recent UN report says. Malaria also endangers the health of pregnant women and acts as a brake on economic development.

Scientists believe they may have cracked the enigma of a rampant neurological disease that causes paralysis, dementia and death in the Chamorro people of the Pacific. A new study correlates rates of bat-eating practiced by the people, with incidence of the disease.

America's female prison population is booming. In the last ten years the number of women in prison has nearly doubled. As these women serve their time, they're not the only ones to pay a price. Innocent victims are suffering for the crimes of others—they are the children of mothers behind bars. Approaches to this difficult issue vary around the nation and around the world, but there's no easy solution to a problem that hurts those unable to help themselves.

Scientists say the sexually precocious offspring of farmed Atlantic salmon threaten the survival of genetically distinct wild stocks. New research suggests the young produced by fish escaping from salmon farms are four times more successful at breeding in rivers than native fish.

A new way of big-game hunting in Africa does not take life—it helps conserve it. It is a safari called "green hunting," and it is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to the old blood sport of bagging iconic animals for trophies. But there are concerns that the new kind of hunting could lead to cruelty and abuse in the name of conservation.

At least 35 million people in the world—more than the entire population of Canada—have been forced to run for their lives, and are either temporarily or permanently exiled from their homes. Half of them are women and children.

For 25 years, Mary Edna Fraser has explored and photographed coastlines around the world from the open cockpit of her grandfather's 1946 airplane. She has watched these landscapes morph as humans try to anchor barrier islands that were never destined to stand still. This story airs tonight on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today.

After a 33-year hunting moratorium, New Jersey black bears have rebounded from near-extinction. But now state officials are reinstituting a legalized hunt that has polarized people across the state. The bear hunt is just one of the issues raised in the documentary "Hunting In America" which airs Monday, June 16, 2003 at 8:00 PM ET/PT.

Pioneer ethnomusicologist Henrietta Yurchenco has spent over 60 adventurous years recording songs and stories around the world. Yurchenco has studied pre-Hispanic music in Mexico and Guatemala; she has also recorded in Spain, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ecuador, and among Morocco's Sephardic Jews.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Kenya depends heavily on its tourist industry. But in the wake of a spate of terrorist attacks on international targets within the country, and subsequent U.S. and British government discouragement of their nationals from visiting Kenya, tourism has all but ended.

Why are humans so hairless compared to other primates? Theorists argue that early humans shed their fur to aid cooling on the sun-baked savanna. Now, scientists suggest that clothes, shelter, and fire allowed us to shed our hair along with the ticks, fleas, and other bloodsuckers that hide in it.

Angelina Jolie, an Oscar-winning actress and star of the recent blockbuster movies, Girl Interrupted and Tomb Raider, speaks with National Geographic News about the world-wide refugee crisis and her experiences at refugee camps.

The "Jesus Box," touted to be the first archaeological proof that Jesus existed, has been found to contain a forged inscription. The Israel Antiquities Authority released a report Wednesday stating that the box's inscription was forged, though the ossuary itself is believed to be dated correctly.

Tori Murden McClure stamped her place in history as the first woman to row across the Atlantic. She discusses her first failure, the hardships of the ocean, and the need for courage with Tom Foreman for Inside Base Camp.

Some 17 million children are refugees, many living wretched lives in tent camps after fleeing persecution and armed conflict. For kids who have lost their parents, life can be even worse as they are forced to become sex slaves, soldiers, or under-age workers. Humanitarian organizations do their best to help, but can only do so much.

The first map known to have named the then-new Western continent "America" has been acquired by the Library of Congress for U.S. ten million dollars. Described as "one of the greatest finds of the modern age" after it was lost for more than two centuries, the 1507 map was drawn from data gathered by explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

Black holes, dark matter, and mysterious dark energy together make up 96 percent of the universe—the so-called dark side of the cosmos. Scientists are slowly unraveling the secrets of these enigmatic forces, shedding light on the past and future structure of the universe.

It is almost certain that Earth will be hit by an asteroid large enough to exterminate a large percentage of our planet's life, including possibly over a billion people, according to researchers. But as such cataclysmic collisions occur on average only once in a million years or so, are they really worth worrying about?

Descended from slaves, driven from their homes, and hustled through refugee camps, the Bantu of Somalia are among the most persecuted people. After attempts to repatriate them to their ancestral southern Africa failed, the United States declared them people of "special interest" and accepted 12,000 for settlement in some 50 U.S. cities.

In a vast labyrinth of caves beneath Madagascar's Ankarana nature reserve, off the coast of eastern Africa, scientists are studying cave-dwelling crocodiles—perhaps the only ones in the world. Are the behemoths that inhabit these caves a new subspecies? To find out, Dr. Brady Barr led a team of researchers into the dark depths of the caves. They emerged with tantalizing clues, a scientific first, and lots of unanswered questions.

Summer camps for canines and their human pack partners are in full swing. Week-long getaways feature rustic cabins, roaring bonfires, and swimming holes. Rooms are shared with four-legged companions. And days are filled with just about every imaginable activity—from Frisbee and flyball to spinning dog hair and making canine cookies.

The Inamori Foundation announced the laureates of its 19th Annual Kyoto Prizes, international awards presented to people who have contributed significantly to mankind's betterment in the categories of Advanced Technology, Basic Science, and Arts and Philosophy.

Today is World Refugee Day, a day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to the plight of the men, women, and children who have been forced to flee their homes in the face of persecution and armed conflict.

Peggy Bulger is the Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, an organization dedicated to preserving American music, stories, customs, festivals, unique skills, and much more. The center's recorded archive houses the music and voices of over a century, and provides an intimate glimpse into America's past and a key to our future. Bulger spoke with National Geographic News about the center's tremendous collection, and the critical importance of preserving and promoting our legacy of recorded sound.

Scientists have found that New Guinea is one of the few places on Earth where agriculture developed independently. Evidence of taro and banana cultivation has been discovered at the site of Kuk, indicating the emergence of agriculture approximately 6,500 years ago.

Charles Maxwell is an underwater cinematographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. A keen diver and lover of the marine environment for 35 years, Maxwell has made documentaries for the National Geographic Society and the BBC. He talks about his life's work and shares some of his favorite underwater images. Two shark photo galleries included:

Traditional farming methods in the Burren, the dramatic limestone landscape in western Ireland, are in decline. The falloff in old-style agriculture has imperiled the region's remarkably diverse plant community, including many rare wildflower species.

Scorpions are known as desert-dwellers with a venomous sting, but non-desert species may outnumber their relatives. Few species are actually dangerous, and fewer have the ability to kill.

Enormous lightning-like flashes spanning huge distances between thunderclouds and the outer atmosphere have been seen and photographed for the first time. The discovery of the "giant jets" has excited atmospheric scientists, who wonder what role they play in the Earth's electric circuitry.

Yesterday, climber Ed Viesturs summited Pakistan's Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth highest mountain. The feat makes Viesturs the first American to climb 13 of the 14 world's 8,000-meter (26,000-foot) peaks—without the use of supplemental oxygen.

For decades, scientists longingly eyed the Gakkel Ridge, a mid-ocean ridge that snakes for 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) beneath the Arctic Ocean. Traveling aboard two icebreakers, researchers embarked on a rare expedition to the region in 2001. Their findings are now changing notions of how the ocean floor forms.

The deaths of 14 firefighters on Colorado's Storm King Mountain in 1994 reawakened public awareness about wildfire dangers. Now, with wildfires taking hundreds of homes, those concerns are once again front and center out West. Tom Foreman talks with author Sebastian Junger about the often uncontrollable infernos.

New York City's Central Park hosts concerts, rallies, weddings, and over 25 million visitors each year. It's also a hotspot of urban biodiversity. Starting tomorrow, hundreds of scientists and volunteers will swarm through the park during its first-ever, 24-hour "bioblitz" to catalog every plant and animal species they can find.

Licensing and monitoring ivory carvers could effectively control the illegal poaching of elephants and at the same time ease the tensions between conservationists and African countries with ivory surpluses, according to new research.

Folk healing is in transition in Paraguay. Medicinal plants are in vogue—so much so that some plants are facing near-extinction because of the demand. At the same time, some Paraguayans are converting to modern medicine.

On a quest in the Madagascar rain forest to find mouse lemurs, primatologist and National Geographic Ultimate Explorer correspondent Mireya Mayor and her team discovered a new species and what may be the smallest primate in the world—a tiny lemur that could sit comfortably on the palm of a hand.

Professional storm chaser Tim Samaras spends every May and June speeding around Tornado Alley seeking the weather phenomenon most people fear—and flee. This week Samaras scored his closest hit yet. This story airs tonight, and this weekend, on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today.

While the population of Britain's rarest bird of prey, the white-tailed sea eagle, has slowly grown since the raptor was re-introduced 28 years ago, numbers remain small. A newly-installed Webcam on a remote Scottish island is giving birders a rare glimpse of a nesting adult pair and chicks.



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