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Could thawing permafrost unleash long-gone deadly viruses?

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We meet the people behind fascinating environmental, health and technological innovations in a bid for sustainable solutions to our changing world. Saturday at 7.20 pm. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2013-10-14

Birth control in the savannah

In South Africa, efforts to protect elephants have been so effective that today there are too many and they are destructive. Humans have created the problem, humans are trying to solve it...using birth control.

Unlike other parts of the continent where poaching is having a devastating effect on elephant numbers, South Africa is facing the opposite problem: there are too many elephants for the available park space.

Since culling was banned in the mid-nineties elephant numbers have surged to unmanageable levels. To limit the ever-expanding population scientists have turned to birth control.

This week Down to Earth visits the Welgevonden Game Reserve north of Johannesburg where the elephant herd receives annual contraception. The process involves flying a helicopter low over the reserve and darting the elephants directly from the air.

The contraception is in fact a vaccine, made from a protein extracted from pig ovaries. The vaccine produces antibodies that prevent the elephant sperm from fertilising the egg. It’s known as immunocontraception.

While the vaccine is reversible, some of the country's eminent elephant experts object to using such a birth control vaccine to treat a problem created by humans.

By Mairead DUNDAS , Marina BERTSCH , Juliette LACHARNAY

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2018-05-18 environment

Could thawing permafrost unleash long-gone deadly viruses?

In the remote town of Longyearbyen, in Norway’s Arctic region, the ground is permanently frozen. As temperatures rise, the thawing permafrost could open a Pandora's box, with...

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2018-05-04 pollution

Will cleaner air accelerate global warming?

It's probably part of your daily life, even if you don’t notice it. And yet, it kills an estimated seven million people each year. Around the world, countries are waking up and...

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2018-04-17 agriculture

Can France bid 'adieu' to popular weedkiller glyphosate?

France is Europe's top agricultural producer and also its top consumer of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in history. Each year, nearly 8,000 tons of it are used in...

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2018-04-03 climate change

Can the courtroom save the planet?

The planet may have found its newest and perhaps greatest ally: the law. In the past three years, the number of climate-related lawsuits across the world has tripled. In 2017,...

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2018-03-20 Germany

German villages sacrificed in the name of coal

In Germany, one of Europe’s largest coal mines is gaining ground, destroying dozens of villages in its path. Some 35,000 people have already been relocated and 24 new villages...

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