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IBERS scientists embark on giant panda research

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ACP_1584-1 copy (1)Scientists at Aberystwyth University’s IBERS are well known for their research into agricultural animals and plants, but now a team of young researchers at the Institute are embarking on a new project to evaluate how a parasite which can affect giant pandas responds to anti-parasitic drugs.

Dr Russ Morphew and PhD student Cat Pye are working with Iain Valentine of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the conservation charity that owns and manages RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, with links to Chinese research centres, on a three year project to identify how the parasite responds to anti–parasitic drugs and, more specifically, whether drug resistance is the cause of repeat infections in captive giant panda populations.

Dr Morphew said: “We hope that our findings will not only help to inform conservation strategies in captivity and across China’s giant panda reserves, but also that they could lead to improved control strategies to deal with infection in the future.”

The project has been awarded CASE studentship funding by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council). This is a collaborative training grant that will provide Cat with a first-rate, challenging research training experience, allowing her (as a top quality bioscience graduate) to undertake research, leading to a PhD, that is of benefit to her and the partner organisations involved.

Giant pandas, the international symbol of conservation, are one of the most loved species in the world. In a similar way to domestic dogs and cats, giant pandas can be affected by a panda-specific parasitic roundworm called Baylisascaris schroederi. If left unchecked in the wild the roundworm can be fatal, as infection from the parasite can cause damage to the intestines and ultimately reach the brain and eyes.

Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas for RZSS, said: “Like most animals – from dogs and cats to farm and zoo animals – giant pandas can catch roundworms specific to their species and, as part of good zoological husbandry practices, all animals including giant pandas are regularly wormed. However, evidence suggests that over time worms become resistant to some of the drugs currently being used.”

“Nearly all giant pandas are infected with worms from their mother when they are cubs and it is then nearly impossible to eradicate them permanently. When animals are treated regularly the worms go into a dormant state in their body, but when females are pregnant, hormones allow the encysted larvae to hatch, hence the reason why nearly all puppies and kittens have worms as they are passed through their mother’s milk.”

“Although Yang Guang our male is extremely rare in having never shown any signs of worms or their eggs, Tian Tian has shed three worms in the last three years. Although this is a only a few worms  which has had no impact on Tian Tian’s health, it does allow scientists to use her faeces to try to develop new and improved drugs to help pandas who are affected more seriously by this condition.”

“RZSS is sharing expertise, funding and contacts to assist scientists at Aberystwyth University’s IBERS in undertaking this important research. Our colleagues in China are particularly excited by the results that may be achieved and the potential that exists to improve panda care.”

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Cardigan: Welsh language nursery’s treasurer stole £16,336 from coffers

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A FORMER treasurer of Cylch Meithrin Penparc in Cardigan has been jailed today for a fraud that brought the Welsh language nursery to its knees.
Catrin Davies, a 33 year old single mother of two daughters, cheated the organisation out of £16,336.
After she left the post the nursery struggled to pay debts and at one stage was left with £1.84p in its bank.
Davies, of Bwthyn Lleine, Ferwig, admitted fraud and was jailed for eight months.
Judge Geraint Walters, sitting at Swansea Crown Court, told her the offending was too series for the sentence to be suspended.
Craig Jones, prosecuting, said Davies was appointed treasurer in September, 2015, and left the post in December 2016.
The new treasurer noticed discrepancies in the accounts. Davies tried to cover them up by sticking pieces of paper onto bank statements to blank out figures, photocopying them, and then carefully typing in new and bogus figures.
By then Davies had failed to pay money into the account and withdrawn some herself.
Mr Jones said that at one stage the nursery had to pay a roof repair bill. Davies knew there wasn’t enough money in the account but to keep the fraud going and to avoid detection she actually paid the bill out of her own money.
Mr Jones said after the true financial situation had been established Cylch Meithrin Penparc was at risk of closure. Internet access was cut off because the telephone bill could not be paid and staff found themselves buying essential items out of their own money.
And there was still a fear, he added, that the nursery would struggle to overcome the blow and to recover the confidence of parents.
Janet Gedrych, representing Davies, said she had suffered a devastating fall from grace.
Davies ran the Pink Orchid florists in Priory Street, Cardigan, for nine years and had a good reputation in the town.
But her partner left her and his debts behind and ran up more and she owed £30,000 in personal and business debts. By October, 2015, debt collectors were knocking on her door and she defrauded Cylch Meithrin Penparc to pay them off.
Judge Walters said the nursery provided a hugely valuable service to parents who wanted their children to learn Welsh and Davies had helped herself to money they had paid in.
“Your activity has reduced its ability to operate. It has not closed but it’s hanging by a thread.”
Judge Walters said he accepted that Davies had found herself squeezed financially, but many people struggled under similar circumstances.

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Police appeal for information about Cardigan crash

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CARDIGAN police are appealing for information about an RTC involving two cars, on the A487 Cardigan to Tanygroes, at around 5:45pm on Monday (Nov 13).

A white Mitsubishi Shogun and a blue/silver Fiat Bravo were involved in the collision, on the bypass near Cardigan Tesco. The two drivers were taken to hospital; one has since been released.

Anyone who witnessed the collision, or was driving along the road around the time, is asked to contact Ceredigion Roads Policing Unit by calling 101.

If you are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908, quoting Ref: 326 of 13 November.

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Police reaffirms commitment to a safe working environment

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has pledged to maintain its ongoing work to provide a safe working environment for all its staff.

Following the high profile accusations against members of the entertainment industry and reports that have subsequently followed from all corners of society, the force has taken action to ensure its staff and officers are aware of the existing support and mechanisms available to them.

While much work has already been – and continues to be – undertaken to tackle and eliminate unacceptable behaviour within Dyfed-Powys Police, chief officers are actively developing a culture where all members of staff are confident in speaking out.

An open letter has been issued to all employees, in which Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Claire Parmenter has reaffirmed that ensuring all staff can work in a fair and safe environment remains a key priority.

In it, she says: “The chief officer group wants to reassure you all that in Dyfed-Powys Police we hold our staff at the heart of our service and we will do everything we can to provide a safe working environment where everyone has the equal right to respect and dignity.

“The #MeToo Campaign was re-launched in the wake of the early allegations and has since been used by millions of women and men as an instantly recognisable method of removing the stigma that surrounds sexual harassment, by both victims and supporters of the campaign.

“While much work has already been undertaken to tackle and eliminate harassment, bullying and discrimination, work in this area is never done. Therefore, ensuring a fair, safe and equitable working environment for our staff in Dyfed-Powys Police remains an absolute priority.

“I have pledged my support to ongoing work aimed at reminding all officers and staff of the existing support and mechanisms available by which Dyfed-Powys Police encourages the reporting of wrong-doing. We will be reviewing policy, procedure and practice to ensure they remain current and that they are both supportive of victims and alleged perpetrators.

“We will also engage with staff associations and networks, the Police Federation and Unison to better understand staff concerns, embed high standards of conduct and reduce fear experienced by victims.”

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