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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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Police call for vigilance to report illegal raves

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is asking farmers and local landowners to be on the alert over the next few months for warning signs of any illegal gatherings planned for their land over the summer.

Gatherings – such as illegal raves – can cause considerable anxiety to the community and if they are not dealt with swiftly, they are difficult to stop or otherwise control, due often to the sheer numbers of persons involved and the safety aspects surrounding breaking up such an event.

Superintendent Robyn Mason said: “There is little doubt that these type of events are very well planned, organised and that local knowledge is important in drawing down the main group to a particular ‘vulnerable’ field, or area of land which has been targeted previously as a suitable venue.

“Farmers, landowners and local communities are encouraged to report any suspicious activity immediately to the Police; this may be an unusual numbers of vehicles, especially camper vans, vans or trucks in the locality, illegal trespassers who may be doing ‘recce’ of sites in advance of the event.

“I can assure local communities that Police will take the appropriate action to deter illegal gatherings and deal robustly with any criminal offences discovered or disclosed.”  

Members of the public are also urged to be vigilant of persons who approach landowners or enquiring for land, in the guise of hiring for apparently acceptable activities such as gymkhanas and scouts/guides events.

Please contact Police on 101 with reports on any suspicious activity.

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Wheelchair-bound man jailed for child sex offences

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A CHILD sex offender from Ystrad Meurig has been jailed despite being wheelchair-bound.

Dean Harper, aged 61, had distributed child pornography and tried to entice a 10-year-old girl into sexually abusing herself and sending him photographs.

Harper, of Sisial y Pin, Ffair Rhos, admitted downloading 317 indecent images of children in the most serious category A, 400 in category B and 500 in C.

He also admitted sending images in all three categories to a third party, all on a single day in October, 2016.

Harper also admitted attempting to incite the girl into sexual activity knowing that she was only 10-years-old.

Kevin Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that the distribution of the images alerted the police who raided Harper’s home and removed computer equipment.

An examination of his internet activity revealed he had made contact with a girl via social media and swapped messages with her.

The judge, Mr Recorder Peter Griffiths told Harper his offending was serious and a jail sentence was inevitable despite his disability.

Harper was jailed for a total of two years and ordered to register with the police as a sex offender for 10 years.

He was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order which will restrict his contact with young people and his internet activity after his release from prison.

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Royals set to visit Ceredigion during summer visit

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AS PART of their annual summer visit to Wales, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be visiting Ceredigion next month.

From July 2-6, Charles and Camilla will tour the country, undertaking over 20 engagements across the country.

On July 3, The Prince of Wales will visit Dà Mhìle Distillery, Llandysul, the first organic distillery in the UK approved by the Soil Association, where he was previously gifted the thousandth bottle to be produced by Dà Mhìle.

The Prince of Wales will also visit St. Gwenog’s Church, Llanwenog, and view their unique carvings created by Joseph Reubens, a Belgian World War One refugee. His Royal Highness will also meet members of their local community.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall’s fourteenth annual Summer visit to Wales will feature celebrations to mark the 70th Anniversary of The National Health Service and the marking the 150th anniversary of the Heart of Wales railway line amongst other events.

A Clarence House spokesperson said: “The Prince and The Duchess are really looking forward to their annual summer visit to Wales where they will be celebrating key anniversaries for the National Health Service, the Heart of Wales railway line and the 90th anniversary of Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisation. Their Royal Highnesses relish the opportunity to meet members of the community who are making a difference to Welsh life.”

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