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Chinese Workers Eating Endangered Turtles in Iran


turtleIt has been reported recently that the Chinese technicians working on the South Pars Gas Field are eating the turtles that have been listed as endangered species in Iran. The report on the Iranian TV which shows the turtles being prepared and cooked shows this small species of turtle.  Further research is required to find out if the Chinese technicians and workers are aware of the fact that these turtles are listed as endangered species by international organization or if they have been given any warnings by the Iranian authorities.

Several species of Iranian turtles have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is illegal to collect, harm or kill any of the species on the endangered list- The Red List, and most countries around the world have regulations and guidelines against any one or groups causing harm to these endangered species. IUCN continues to list many such species in its Red List and advises countries on the preservation.

In Southern Iran, the shorelines span over 1800 km across the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea with many sites where different species of turtles exist.  Several small and big islands in the Persian Gulf with coastline of about 600 km are also home to several species of turtles.

Safe Tourism


no tourists allowedI remember reading somewhere last year (for the sake of giving the right credit, I think it was a life style magazine) about a couple of British men who were supposedly taking a walking tour in Uganda and by mistake wondered into a Congolese farm where they were chased by a knife-wielding farmer.

The adventure tourism or tourism in the war and conflict zones has become more and more popular over the last few years. Therefore, creating some new discussions about the balance between allowing (or taking) tourists to these troubled parts of the world and making sure tourists are safe.

The most recent news from Egypt that a tourist bus had exploded killing 4 people and injuring 14 in the Egyptian resort town of Taba, (as reported by CNN) has again raised the same questions. The tourist bus reportedly carried 33 tourists from South Korea who had visited the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine’s, in the Sinai Peninsula. The bus was headed to Israel and was waiting in line near a border crossing. A jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The Egyptian revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 has also greatly impacted the tourism industry in Egypt which has always been a great source of revenues for the country. While the Egyptian government has continuously stated that the country is taking safety measures to protect tourists, the safety concerns still remain. Adventure tourism and traveling to conflict zones is a growing business area. The sector includes everything from climbing Mount Everest to visiting conflict areas like Syria, and Afghanistan, is growing by over 15% each year and is worth $billions.

The other factor which is really important in making sure tourists are safe even if the trip is not to a war and conflict zone is “personal safety”. India which has always been a favorite tourist destination has in the last two years experienced very high rates of rapes of tourists (as well as local women who have been raped in several incidences as reported by the international news agencies). Even though the news have not deterred tourists from visiting the country, it is very important for tour agencies, tour guides and local and national officials to create better awareness programs for international tourists. For example the U.S. state department always has warning guidelines for American tourists and American citizens can check these warnings (on the countries they are traveling to) on the U.S. department’s website. In addition, it is important for tourists to clearly follow the instructions given to them by the tourists’ agencies, embassies and in most cases not to wonder through areas where their safety is not guaranteed

Spanish Team Finds Mummy


000_Nic62955503Just about a week ago a Spanish team of archeologists working in Egypt in collaboration with the Egyptian antiquities ministry unearthed a 3,600-year-old mummy in the ancient city of Luxor as reported by the Associated Press and Al-Ahram newspaper.

Archeologists believe that this rare find dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned. The sarcophagus which still bears its original coloring and writings was well preserved in wooden sarcophagus. Archeologists also believe that the mummy most probably belong to a high official since the sarcophagus is engraved with titles of the official. The sarcophagus is engraved with hieroglyphs and decorated with inscriptions of birds’ feathers. However, the exact identity that official will have to be studied.

The Spanish-Egyptian team also found two other burials while digging at the Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank, but they were both empty and believed to have been robbed by grave robbers.

Rhinos Near Extinction


rhinoAfrica’s rhinoceros are facing critical crisis and extinction. The main cause is illegal poaching which has reached record levels last year in South Africa and other countries in Africa. This has been an escalating trend which has worried environmentalists and conservation activists.

Between 1990 and 2007, only 36 rhinos were killed as compared to over 1600 just in the last two years in South Africa alone. The poaching escalation has therefore reached an alarming crisis for South Africa’s white rhino population.

Conservationists blame increasing demand from countries like China and Vietnam, where rhino horn has become a highly prized status symbol and valued gift.

South Africa, Mozambique and other countries in Africa need tougher anti-poaching laws and enforcement which need to be addressed immediately according to activists. According to the New Scientist, earlier this month, $350,000 was raised for rhino conservation by auctioning off the right to kill a specific rhino. Conservation groups ended up protesting the auction which would have raised $1 million.

Last year, the Western black rhinoceros were officially declared extinct and the black rhino was listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as reported by several networks including CNN. The Western black rhino which is a subspecies of black rhino was last seen in 2006, and over 70,000 black rhinos lived in the wild in 1960. However, it has been estimated that less than 4,000 remain today.

Sequencing King Richard III’s Genome



About a year ago a team of archeologists from University of Leicester announced that they had discovered beneath an ordinary parking lot in the town of Leicester, bones that believed to belong to King Richard III. Now as reported by several news outlets, researchers at the University of Leicester, have announced that they are planning to sequence the King’s entire genome by using the DNA from his skeleton.

After finding the skeleton, the researchers used several evidences including the fact that the bones showed signs of scoliosis – the king had a hunched back as well as a raised right shoulder. In addition, carbon dating placed the bones somewhere between 1455 and 1540 (Richard died in 1485), and a DNA test showed that the skeleton’s DNA was a perfect match to that of two known descendants. The archeologists believe that King Richard III experienced a very traumatic death since the skeleton showed several wounds including to the head.

Archeologists and geneticist who will be working with the team are hoping that sequencing DNA from the skeleton can reveal more information about the monarch including facial features like eye colors. In addition, researchers can obtain more information about the genetics of the monarch.

African World Heritage Fund’s Pledge



Late last month (January 2014), over 3 million USD was pledged to the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) Endowment Fund by the Governments of Kenya (1.5 million USD), South Africa (1 million USD), Algeria (400,000 USD), Chad (100,000 USD), and Namibia (50,000 USD).

In a meeting and luncheon, where fifty four member States of the African Union were in attendance and was hosted by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission,  UNESCO joined forces with the African Union Commission to raise awareness and funds (as reported by UNECO). UNESCO highlighted it’s commitment to supporting the AWHF, while other speakers including representatives from the Private Sector acknowledged the central role the AWHF plays in safeguarding heritage in Africa. In addition, all speakers emphasized their wish for more natural and cultural sites in Africa to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the potential and impact of tourism and the economic benefits.

It is important to note that the Endowment Fund still needs 25 million USD in order to render the AWHF independent and fully functional. Therefore, more fundraising is needed to raise the necessary funds. Beside the monetary contributions, Algeria announced the continuation of work by an Algerian specialist with AWHF, as well as the creation of a UNESCO Category II Center in Algeria for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

AWHF was created in 2006 through a joint initiative by the Government of South Africa, the African Union and UNESCO. The organization is an intergovernmental organization based in South Africa whose mission is to assist African countries in many important tasks including: increasing the number of African sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, conserving and managing natural and cultural heritage, rehabilitating sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger, training heritage experts and site managers, and ensuring the participation of local communities in decisions concerning their heritage and to ensure that they receive tangible benefits from World Heritage.

Possible Installation of Replica of Cyrus Cylinder in the Netherlands



Iran’s Museums and Historical Properties Office is further evaluating the possibility of installing a replica of Cyrus Cylinder in the Netherlands. This will be in collaboration with the British Museum in London.

The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State. It is also the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

The Cyrus Cylinder is an iconic ancient Persian World Heritage object which is housed in the British Museum.

The 2,500-year-old inscribed cylinder is known as the world’s first human rights charter. The inscription on the cylinder, which is in the earliest form of writing-Babylonian cuneiform, was made on the clay artifact with an account by Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia (600 or 576 BC-530 BC).

The Achaemenid artifact was found in Babylon, (today’s Iraq) during excavations in 1879, and has been housed in the British Museum ever since. The relic was temporarily given to Iran’s National Museum on loan in 2010-2011.  The Cylinder was also on a tour (Cyrus Cylinder US Tour 2013) in the U.S. from April to December 2013 through a partnership between Iran Heritage Foundation America, the British Museum, and the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery.