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The Free Press WV

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The Free Press WV

In Outdoors….

The Free Press WV

►  Berlin gives celebrity welcome to 2 giant pandas from China

Two giant pandas – Meng Meng and Jiao Qing – received a celebrity welcome Saturday in Berlin from the German capital’s mayor and the Chinese ambassador after they safely weathered a long flight from China.

Meng Meng and Jiao Qing flew the animal equivalent of first class, getting royal treatment on their 12-hour-flight from Chengdu in southwestern China. Their entourage included a Berlin veterinarian, two Chinese zookeepers and a bunch of journalists.

“They slept a bit, munched on their bamboo and nibbled on some cookies,“ veterinarian Andreas Ochs told reporters at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport shortly after the arrival. Medication for motion sickness was not needed.

“They did just fine,“ he said.

The German capital is going nuts over the impossibly cute bears, who will be presented to the public at Berlin Zoo on July 6. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping are also expected to visit the new animal stars ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany in early July.

“It was my personal wish to come and welcome our new residents,“ Mayor Michael Mueller said. “We are delighted that Berlin has gained another fantastic attraction with these bears.“

Jiao Qing, which means “darling,“ is a 7-year-old male and weighs 238 pounds. Female Meng Meng, which translates as “sweet dream,“ is three years old and weighs 169 pounds.

The pandas were taken from the airport to the zoo with police protection so they didn’t have to stop at any red lights. They also brought their own food on the plane – one metric ton of bamboo from China. Once they’ve chewed up all of that, the zoo will start importing special bamboo from the Netherlands.

The furry couple will move into a ritzy new $10 million compound, furbished with Chinese-style pavilions, red lanterns, a climbing area and a mountain landscape. They will be the only pandas in the country, the German news agency dpa reported.

Expectations are high the two will have babies soon, even though Ochs warned that Meng Meng is not yet sexually mature.

The arrival of the black-and-white bears was preceded by yearslong bilateral negotiations, since giant pandas are unique to China and sent abroad as diplomatic envoys.

“In China, pandas are regarded as a national treasure,“ Chinese ambassador Shi Mingde said. “Therefore the breeding and conservation of these animals is a top priority for us.“

The pandas will be on loan from China for 15 years – a deal for which the Asian country is charging $1.1 million each year, dpa reported.

Berlin’s last panda, Bao Bao, was sent in 1980 as a gift from then-Chinese leader Hua Guofeng to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Bao Bao died in 2012.

Berlin’s most famous zoo animal, the polar bear Knut, died of a sudden illness in 2011.


►  YouthBuild assists WVDNR with Shavers Fork River trout habitat project

Students with Elkins-based YouthBuild North Central recently worked with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program to restore fish and wildlife habitats at the site of the historic logging town of Spruce, near the head of the Shavers Fork River. Since the old town was abandoned and demolished in the 1940s, the site had remained largely unforested.

With the cooperation of the State Rail Authority, the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, Cass Scenic Railroad, Snowshoe and landowner Steve Callen, DNR and West Virginia University led an ambitious reforestation project at the remote site, with a primary goal of improving trout habitat in Upper Shavers Fork.

Two dozen students and staff from YouthBuild North Central worked with DNR and WVU staff on the project. They planted, limed and fertilized more than 2,600 trees and shrubs over the course of a week in May.

The goal of YouthBuild is to give young adults the tools to find and keep a good job. YouthBuild helps young adults become responsible members of their families and communities by strengthening their educational backgrounds, teaching them marketable skills and entrepreneurship, and instilling leadership values that relate to home, work and community. YouthBuild participants earn money while they get valuable hands-on work experience.

David Thorne, a DNR Fisheries biologist who oversaw the project, explained that the reforestation effort was focused on establishing fast-growing trees on riverbanks to shade the water and reduce water temperatures to levels preferred by trout. Riverbanks on both sides of more than a mile of Shavers Fork and a tributary received plantings during the project. Thorne praised the work of the YouthBuild participants as essential to the effort.

“Our planting window was very tight and we simply could not have completed this ambitious project without the great work of YouthBuild,” Thorne said.

This work is reinforced with classroom instruction, job shadowing and personal guidance. GED preparation and testing is another key component of the program. Out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24 are eligible to apply.

The program, which lasts between six and 10 months, is funded from a variety of state, federal and nonprofit grants. More information can be found online at the YouthBuild website: rchawv.org/youthbuild/youthbuild-3.html.

The goal of the DNR Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program is to enhance aquatic habitats for fish and anglers. The program is funded with fishing license revenue, federal excise taxes on fishing equipment and frequent grant funding from the National Fish Habitat Partnership. The WVU Natural Resource Analysis Program is an integral partner with DNR in the statewide habitat effort.


►  2 LSU researchers get nearly $1M to study honeybee stress

Two Louisiana State University researchers are getting nearly $1 million for a two-year study of how mite treatment and stress affect honeybee health.

Kristen Healy and Daniel Swale are working with U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers in Baton Rouge and the nation’s largest beekeeper, the LSU AgCenter said in a news release Thursday.

They’ll be studying 400 hives of honeybees owned by Adee Honey Farms of Bruce, South Dakota, including some that are moved to California for the fall almond harvest and then to Mississippi for the winter.

Healy said they will sample pollen, nectar and bees from hives during and at the end of the study.

“We can look at which colonies failed and which ones didn’t and quantify which stress variables were more important to the relative health of the bees,“ Healy said.

LSU is getting $935,000. It’s among seven universities getting a total of $6.8 million from the USDA to study pollinators.

Healy will see how bees treated with a mite control product compare to untreated bees.

Swale will study whether the moves make them spend more energy, reducing their fat storage – and if there’s a way to boost those fats.

The researchers also are interested how a virus that causes deformed wings is spread.

The grant also includes an extension component so the researchers can determine the best methods to get bee health information to beekeepers and the public.

The USDA estimates honeybees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops.

Little Kanawha Trail Group Hopes To Shine Big Light on Little Kanawha River

The Free Press WV

The evolution of the kayak and the exploding popularity of the personalized craft for fishing is a perfect fit for West Virginia.  Public interest groups are using the groundswell of kayak activity as a catalyst to spotlight some of West Virginia’s smaller rivers which for years had been hidden and largely neglected.

We’ve reported in recent months on MetroNews about the successful efforts to resurrect the Coal River, the Tug Fork, Tygart, and Cheat Rivers.  Others are following suit with great work happening in places like the Guyandotte and the Little Kanawha.

“I know some of these other river trails have definitely been a huge inspiration to us,” said Kathy Gilbert, Executive Director of the Little Kanawha River Trail. “They have definitely given us great guidelines with their cleanups and some of them have really nice amenities like campgrounds and access.  It’s definitely increased the use of the river.”

Kathy is a native West Virginian and for many years left the state to work.  She’s home now and saw the opportunity to create a tourist attraction in her hometown of Glenville and decided to get involved.

“We formed to increase tourism and usage of boaters on our river,” she said. “From I-79 coming toward Glenville there are four public access points already. We designed a brochure to guide kayakers and boaters down the river.”

The organization formed two years ago with high ambitions.  The group has already started volunteer cleanups of the waterway and is working on a major access point int he town of Glenville.   An old building along the river was purchased and razed by the local Economic Development Authority.   The goal now is to create a major access point in town to draw visitors.

“We wanted a nice place for the boaters to get on the river, rather than just an eyesore of a building,” she said.

The project has become more ambitious with the interest from a growing number of volunteers.  The local economic development authority has put some more money into the access project and the plan is to create not only a walk down access, but also a ramp for motorized craft as well.

Fishing on the Little Kanawha River is strong, the waterway recently produced a new state record musky.  The river also has an added bonus that other volunteer organizations haven’t enjoyed, the water quality is already in good shape.

“We have a nice, healthy river,” Gilbert explained. “Our biology students at Glenville State have partnered with us and done baseline tests on the water quality.  We want to keep the river clean and keep it healthy and open for fishermen and tourists.”

The growing organization started in Gilmer County, but hopes to expand to the entire length of the river from Burnsville to Parkersburg in the coming years.    You can learn more about the Little Kanawha River Trail on their Facebook page. 

~~  Chris Lawrence ~~

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