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PARIS - National parks and other protected areas offer hope for threatened species at a time of plunging wildlife numbers, conservationist group WWF said Tuesday, but their success has not been universal. Credit: Getty Editorial While the headcount of land-dwelling animals declined an estimated 39 percent overall from 1970 to 2012, that of species in protected areas dropped at the lower rate of 18 percent, the organisation said in its 2014 Living Planet Report. Some animals, like Nepal's tigers and the mountain gorillas of central Africa, even increased. "Populations in protected areas are faring better than terrestrial populations as a whole," said the biennial WWF update on the state...

PARIS - A survey of over 3,000 species has found that animal numbers have plunged by more than half in just 40 years as Earth's human population has nearly doubled, conservationists said Tuesday. Credit: Getty Creative From 1970 to 2010, there was a 39-percent drop in numbers across a representative sample of land- and sea-dwelling species, while freshwater populations dropped 76 percent, the green group WWF said in its 2014 Living Planet Report. All told, "the number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish across the globe is, on average, about half the size it was 40 years ago," it said. The 52-percent decrease confirms mankind is chomping through nature's bounty much faster...

Frisky Donkey Couple: 1, Prudes: 0

WARSAW - A pair of amorous Polish donkeys have recovered their right to make love in public after a local official sought to keep them apart. Credit: Associated Press The scandal erupted earlier this week when zoo-goers saw the animals, which have already produced six offspring over their decade together, coupling in plain view. Two appalled mothers expressed outrage over the act at the zoo in the western city of Poznan, complaining that the scene was unsuitable for young eyes. They found a sympathetic ear in local councillor Lidia Dudziak, from the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, who wasted no time in tackling the issue. Persuaded by her arguments, zoo management rapidly put up...

OTTAWA - A Canadian has been caught at the US-Canada border with 51 live turtles stuffed in his pants in what American authorities claimed was an elaborate reptile smuggling operation. Eastern Box Turtle. Credit: Getty Creative The scheme was uncovered last month but was only revealed this week in US federal court documents cited in a Friday report by the Toronto Globe and Mail. According to the newspaper, Canadian border officials arrested Kai Xu as he tried to cross into Windsor, Ontario from Detroit, Michigan, in August, and handed him over to US authorities. "Xu was found to have 51 live turtles taped to his person," a US Fish and Wildlife Service said in an affidavit cited by the...

NEW YORK - Politics can sometimes be unpredictable, as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio learned following reports that a groundhog he dropped during a photo session died last February. Credit: Getty Editorial The groundhog, named Chuck, squirmed out of the six-foot-three mayor's arms while he was posing for photos on February 2 -- Groundhog Day -- and plummeted to the floor, the New York Post reported Thursday. The rodent died a week later from "acute internal injuries," the newspaper reported. According to popular folklore, if a groundhog emerges from its cage and sees its own shadow, winter will continue for another six weeks. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog does not cast a shadow,...

Alarm Over Fate of Monarch Butterfly

MEXICO CITY - The migration of monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico is threatened by the use of pesticides that have reduced food sources for their epic journey, Mexican experts warned Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press The orange-and-black butterflies consume milkweed as they fly across the United States on their way to their winter grounds in the forests of central and western Mexico. But the availability of the plant has "fallen considerably" due to the heavy use of pesticides in Canadian and US soybean and corn fields, said Luis Fueyo Mac Donald, the commissioner of the National Protected Areas of Mexico. The monarch butterfly population was the lowest in 20 years during the...