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International News

The Lunar New Year of the Dragon flames colorful festivities across Asian nations, communities


Japan had the fewest babies it has ever recorded last year. Marriages dropped steeply, too.


From The Asian Reporter, V34, #3 (March 4, 2024), page 2.

Man breaks panda park’s strict dietary rules

BEIJING (AP) — Don’t feed the pandas. That’s the rule seemingly broken by a man who was banned for life from one of China’s main panda centers after throwing unspecified "objects" into an enclosure. A notice from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding didn’t identify the objects, but said that feeding pandas may cause them harm, and that the panda appeared to be in normal condition. It identified the visitor as a 53-year-old man with the family name Gao. "In view of Gao’s uncivilized visit and his behavior that may cause harm to giant pandas, he is prohibited from entering the panda base ... for life," the notice said. The panda base has previously imposed lifetime bans for feeding pandas. A man who fed bamboo shoots to panda cubs in an activity area and a woman who gave them peanuts were barred for life last August. Other visitors have been banned for one or five years for offenses such as throwing water at a panda or banging hard on enclosure window glass, according to state media reports. The black and white giant panda has become a national symbol for China, loaned to zoos around the world. President Xi Jinping, on a visit to the U.S. last year, called them "envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples." The breeding base in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is a popular tourist destination. A total of 34 pandas were born last year at two bases in Sichuan, including the one in Chengdu. Some made a special appearance recently as part of Lunar New Year festivities. "The national treasure has strict dietary standards," the base wrote in its notice. It asks visitors to be civilized and lead by example.

Avalanche kills skier while 5 others are rescued

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A Russian skier was killed and five others were rescued, along with their local guide, after an avalanche hit a popular Himalayan ski resort in India-controlled Kashmir, according to officials. The officials said that at least six Russian skiers and their local guide were hit by the avalanche and buried in snow high in the mountains of the tourist town of Gulmarg. Rescuers pulled six survivors from the snow. Officials did not immediately identify the dead Russian skier. Gulmarg is nestled in the Pirpanjal mountain range in the western Himalayas and has one of Asia’s largest ski terrains, where thousands of domestic and international tourists visit. Avalanches and landslides are common in Kashmir and have caused heavy death tolls for the Indian and Pakistani armies camped near the militarized Line of Control on the mountainous and forested frontier that divides Kashmir between the nuclear-armed rivals. In 2010, at least 17 soldiers were killed when an avalanche hit the Indian army’s High Altitude Warfare School in Gulmarg during their training session. Three avalanches in 2017 killed 20 Indian soldiers, and a massive avalanche in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in 2012 killed 140 people, including 129 Pakistani soldiers.

Cambodia reports first death this year from bird flu

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The brother of a boy who died last month from bird flu has tested positive for the virus, according to Cambodia’s Health Ministry. The 9-year-old’s death in the northeastern province of Kratie was the first from bird flu in Cambodia this year, after four were reported last year by the World Health Organization (WHO). Bird flu, also known as avian influenza, normally spreads in poultry and wasn’t deemed a threat to people until a 1997 outbreak among visitors to poultry markets in Hong Kong. Most human cases have involved direct contact with infected poultry, but there have been concerns that the virus could evolve to spread more easily between people. WHO and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization had warned that Lunar New Year festivities celebrated in much of Asia posed an increased risk of spreading the virus. In a statement, Cambodia’s health ministry had said the 16-year old brother tested positive for the virus but exhibited no symptoms. The boy was undergoing medical treatment, and officials are investigating who had contact with the brothers and how and where they contracted the virus. The health ministry said the boy who died last month fell ill with fever, shortness of breath, coughing, and fainting after eating a meal his parents had cooked from chicken and ducks they raised.

Stray whale’s death in a Japanese bay raises questions

TOKYO (AP) — A whale as long as a train car that died after straying into a Japanese bay is set to be buried until it naturally becomes a skeletal specimen for a local museum. It’s the third year in a row that whales have become stranded in Osaka Bay, raising questions about the reasons why and the cost of handling the incidents. The animal was believed to be a male sperm whale, about 39 feet long and weighing an estimated 20 tons, and had been earlier spotted in the Sakai Semboku Port in mid-January. It was since spotted in a number of locations in Osaka Bay, until February 18, when a boat captain reported to the coast guard that the whale was not breathing. Prefectural officials and experts took a boat to check on the whale and confirmed its death, presumably due to starvation. Osaka officials have decided to bury the dead whale at a section of an industrial waste disposal complex after cetacean experts carried out an autopsy, collecting samples to determine the cause of the whale’s death, prefectural environmental department official Toshihiro Yamawaki said. Television footage showed the dead whale being carefully lifted by a crane and transported to the burial site, where it will stay underground for a few years until it becomes naturally skeletonized. Officials will then dig it up and donate it to the local natural museum.

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