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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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Aberystwyth: Driver on drugs hits lorry and causes ‘road chaos’

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A DRIVER high on drugs caused 15 miles of chaos as he approached Aberystwyth on the A44.

Brian Pitts hit an oncoming lorry and road signs as he drove on the wrong side of the road.

A car passenger filmed him because she was sure a serious accident was about to happen.

Pitts, aged 57, of Delmont Close, Tipton, west Midlands, admitted dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drugs he had taken.

Dean Pulling, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that on June 16 last year Pitts had been driving his Rover MGZR, towing a trailer full of wooden fencing posts, towards Aberystwyth from his home.

Richard Brooks followed the car through Llangurig and became so concerned he telephoned the police while his wife Victoria filmed Pitts on her mobile.

The Rover collided with a 13 tonne lorry driven by Andrew Paxton but failed to stop.

Pitts failed to take a roundabout and hit road signs and an embankment but still carried on.

During the 15 miles, said Mr Pulling, oncoming traffic had to swerve off the carriageway to avoid a collision.

Several motorists telephoned the police to report what they were witnessing, he added.

Pitts came to a stop in the middle of the road and another motorist snatched the keys out of the ignition–and noticed that Pitts had been driving with a dog on his lap.

Mr Pulling said police officers could tell there was something wrong with Pitts, but an alcohol text showed he was below the limit.

“He was clearly unfit,” said Mr Pulling, although it was still unclear what drugs he had taken.

Pitts was taken to Aberystwyth police station and then to Bronglais hospital, where he appeared to recover after treatment. But he soon deteriorated and had to be taken back to the hospital.

Pitts developed pneumonia and had to be kept in for nine days.

His barrister, Tom Scapens, said when Pitts had been shown the mobile telephone footage he felt physically sick.

Judge T Mervyn Hughes jailed Pitts for 10 months and banned him from driving for four years.

He told him, “If you had not been stopped I am quite sure you would have caused serious injury if not death.”

Pitts was told to pass an extended driving test before getting his licence back.

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Motion to support the reduction of plastic use in Ceredigion approved

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In a Full Council meeting on 22 February 2018, the Council unanimously supported a motion to reduce the use of plastic and to support plastic reduction initiatives in Ceredigion.

The motion was proposed by Councillor Mark Strong and was seconded by Councillor Gethin Davies. The motion calls on Ceredigion County Council to support the various ‘Plastic Free’ campaigns throughout the county by reducing single-use plastics within Council facilities and offices and to promote the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics at all Council supported events.

Councillor Mark Strong said, “I’m delighted that the Council unanimously supported the motion. This is an important step for the Council but we must carry on to reduce plastic use. Everyone has a responsibility to reduce the environmental damage caused by plastic. Carrying out small acts such as buying milk from your local milkman supports the local economy but in turn also supports our environment by using reusable glass bottles.”

The motion also calls on the Council to encourage local businesses, organisations, schools and communities to move away from single-use plastics and use sustainable alternatives as well as to support beach cleans and other events which aim to raise awareness of the issues of single-use plastics under the “Plastic Free”, Caru Ceredigion, Tidy Towns or any similar initiative.

The motion was amended in the meeting to include the establishment of a Members’ Task and Finish group to support measures to reduce the Council’s use of plastic and to support initiatives in the county that reduce plastic use.

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Richards-Keegan cleared of sending underage girl nude pictures

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A BOW STREET man has been cleared of charges that he sent an underage girl photographs of his penis.

Paul Robert Morgan Richards-Keegan, aged 21, had denied two allegations of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Richards-Keegan, of Tregerddan, said the only messages he sent her via the internet were in response to approaches from her and did not include photographs of his private parts.

Catherine Richards, prosecuting, had told a jury at Swansea Crown Court that the 14-year-old girl had shared messages with Richards-Keegan via Snapchat.

At one stage police issued to him a child abduction notice, which he signed, instructing him not to contact the girl

In 2016 she told her mother that he was again sending her unwanted photographs of his penis attached to messages.

Richards-Keegan was arrested, and told police he had obeyed the order apart from messages he had sent after being contacted by the complainant.

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