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From The Asian Reporter, V34, #7 (July 1, 2024), page 2.

Suspects arrested for 26 endangered Javan rhino deaths

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities have arrested six suspects in an international poaching ring targeting the Javan rhinoceros, a critically endangered species. The suspects are part of a network that used homemade firearms to kill at least 26 Javan rhinos since 2018 to get their horns. The horns are in high demand in Asia where they’re predominantly used in traditional Chinese medicine and increasingly for making ornaments, said Banten provincial police chief Abdul Karim. He said the six men were arrested in a joint operation by police and the Forestry and Environment Ministry in May. One of the leaders of the syndicate, Sunendi, was arrested last year and sentenced to 12 years in prison and a 100-million rupiah ($6,135) fine. Police and a team of rangers from Banten’s Ujung Kulon National Park were searching for eight other members of the syndicate, officials said. Karim said an investigation found that Sunendi, who uses a single name like many Indonesians, and nine others had killed 22 Javan rhinos since 2018, while another group had killed four more since 2021. They sold the horns to Chinese buyers through a local handler, who is currently on trial. Police seized homemade firearms, bullets, gun powder, a steel sling noose, and other equipment used to poach rhinos. Rasio Ridho Sani, the head of law enforcement at the Forestry and Environment Ministry, said the population of the Javan rhino is declining and only about 80 mature animals remain, mostly in the Ujung Kulon National Park in the western part of Indonesia’s main Java island. They are threatened by destruction of tropical forest habitat and poachers, he said. "Poaching of protected animals is a serious crime and is of international concern," Sani said. "We are working closely with the Banten Regional Police to search and arrest the perpetrators of animal poaching crimes who managed to escape during the operation."

Fire sweeps Thailand’s famous Chatuchak Weekend Market

BANGKOK (AP) — Hundreds of caged animals died after a fire struck Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the most famous markets in Thailand’s capital. The fire was reported early in the morning and quickly swept across more than 100 shops in the market’s pet section, according to the Bangkok government. Officials said it took them about an hour to bring the fire under control. There were no reports of human casualties, but Thai media reports suggested that the fire killed several hundred animals, including puppies, fish, snakes, birds, and rabbits, kept in cages and locked inside the shops. The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt, who visited the scene after the fire was put out. Officials could be seen at the site in the morning, inspecting the charred shops or breaking metal gates to bring out animals that survived the fire. Officials are estimating the cost of damage and said affected shop owners could register for compensation. The sprawling weekend market is a major tourist draw, bringing in shoppers from all over the world to browse its hundreds of shops and stalls for items ranging from food and drink to clothing, furniture, plants, books, and pets. Wildlife organizations have often accused some vendors of involvement in the trafficking of rare and endangered species, such as turtles, tortoises, and birds.

Lunar probe returns with samples from far side of the moon

BANGKOK (AP) — China’s Chang’e 6 probe returned to Earth with rock and soil samples from the little-explored far side of the moon in a global first. The probe landed in the Inner Mongolian region in northern China. "I now declare that the Chang’e 6 Lunar Exploration Mission achieved complete success," Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration, said in a televised news conference after the landing. Chinese scientists anticipate the returned samples will include 2.5 million-year-old volcanic rock and other material that scientists hope will answer questions about geographic differences on the moon’s two sides. The near side is what is seen from Earth, and the far side faces outer space. The far side is also known to have mountains and impact craters, contrasting with the relatively flat expanses visible on the near side. The probe had landed in the moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin, an impact crater created more than 4 billion years ago. The samples scientists are expecting will likely come from different layers of the basin, which will bear traces of the different geological events across its long chronology, such as when the moon was younger and had an active inside that could produce volcanic rock. While past U.S. and Soviet missions have collected samples from the moon’s near side, the Chinese mission was the first to collect samples from the far side. "This is a global first in the sense that it’s the first time anyone has been able to take off from the far side of the moon and bring back samples," said Richard de Grijs, a professor of astrophysics at Macquarie University in Australia. The moon program is part of a growing rivalry with the U.S. — still the leader in space exploration — and others, including Japan and India. China has put its own space station in orbit and regularly sends crews there. The probe left earth on May 3, and its journey lasted 53 days. The probe drilled into the core and scooped rocks from the surface. The samples "are expected to answer one of the most fundamental scientific questions in lunar science research: what geologic activity is responsible for the differences between the two sides?" said Zongyu Yue, a geologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement issued in the Innovation, a journal published in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. China in recent years has launched multiple successful missions to the moon, collecting samples from the moon’s near side with the Chang’e 5 probe previously.

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