Customs in north China's Hebei Province have seized 2.3 kg of products made of wild animals and a specimen of a hawksbill turtle, local customs authorities said Saturday.
The seized items included rhino and antelope horns, ivory products and dried seahorses, said a customs officer.
Those items involved two illegal wildlife product smuggling cases, which were cracked by the Shijiazhuang Customs from March 27 to April 1.
"Smuggling of wild animals and wildlife products will not only endanger the wildlife but also affect the balance of the ecosystem," said the officer, adding that the customs will step up efforts to crack down on the illegal smuggling cases.
On Feb. 24, the country's top legislature adopted a decision on thoroughly prohibiting the illegal trade of wildlife and eliminating the consumption of wild animals.
Scientists have found a new species of sandgrouse in rocks dating back 6 to 9 million years in northwest China's Gansu Province, pointing to dry, arid habitats near the edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as it rose to its current extreme altitude.
The new species, found by researchers from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been named Linxiavis inaquosus, and fills a gap in the sandgrouse fossil record.
The fossil of the partial skeleton includes much of the body, such as the shoulder girdles, wishbone, bones from both wings, vertebrae, and part of a leg. Unfortunately, the head is missing, said researchers.
The discovery was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
"As the oldest fossil of a sandgrouse in Asia and the most complete fossil known from the group, the new skeleton provides a key link in expanding our understanding of the evolution of the sandgrouse living in China today, as well as the ecosystem associated with the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the species that live only there," said Li Zhiheng, first author of the study.
Sandgrouse are a group of 16 species of birds related to pigeons that live in some of the most arid areas across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The association between sandgrouse and dry environments has helped scientists determine that the area next to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was equally arid when Linxiavis inaquosus lived during the period known as the late Miocene.
According to the data updated by the Health Ministry of Pakistan late Friday night, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 2,547 in the country, with 37 deaths reported.
According to the data, the most populated eastern Punjab province is the worst-hit area with 977 cases, followed by 783 cases in southern Sindh province.
The number of cases reached 343 in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 190 in north Gilgit-Baltistan region, 175 in southwest Balochistan province, and 68 in the capital Islamabad.
Sindh province recorded 12 deaths followed by Punjab with 11 causalities. The data showed that 126 people were also discharged from hospitals after recovery which is almost 5 percent of the total confirmed cases.
Earlier on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to bolster the construction sector by announcing a package, including cash support, waivers, subsidies and high rebates in the terms of sales tax, capital gain tax and withholding tax, to mitigate the COVID-19 impact on the country's economy.
The government opened the construction industry under strict medical guidelines so that the daily wagers and laborers can earn their livelihoods. Khan said around 90 million Pakistanis are facing severe financial issues due to the lockdown measures.
Last month, the government also unveiled a COVID-19 relief package of 1,200 billion rupees (7.21 billion U.S. dollars) to the poor and daily-wagers, but economists said the support was not enough to counter the issues of unemployed people.
India's federal health ministry said Saturday morning that the death toll due to COVID-19 in India rose to 68 and the total number of confirmed cases in the country reached 2,902.
"As of 9:00 a.m (local time) today, 68 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," read the information released by the ministry.
This is a jump of six deaths and an increase of 355 confirmed cases since Friday evening.
On Friday evening the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 2,547 and the death toll was 62.
According to ministry officials, so far 184 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.
"The number of active cases in the country right now is 2,650," read the information.
Saturday marks the eleventh straight day of the ongoing 21-day lockdown across the country announced by the government to contain the spread of the pandemic. Authorities have imposed strict curfew-like restrictions to prevent the movement of people across the country. All road, rail and air services have been suspended in wake of the lockdown, except essential services which are exempted.
The federal government has asked states to strictly enforce the ongoing lockdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus and break the chain of its transmission in the country.
A veteran lawyer for the federal government has been selected to oversee Grand Canyon National Park — a rare appointment of someone who did not move up through the ranks of the National Park Service.
Edward Keable currently serves as the assistant solicitor of general law for the Interior Department's Office of the Solicitor. He is expected to assume his new post as Grand Canyon superintendent in the next 60 days, the Park Service announced Friday.
Keable replaces Christine Lehnertz, who resigned as the park's superintendent in early 2019 after being cleared of allegations she created a hostile workplace. Others have filled the role temporarily.
Keable said he has long regarded the Grand Canyon, which gets about 6 million visitors a year, as "the most beautiful place on Earth." It has been closed since Wednesday because of the coronavirus outbreak.
David Vela, the Park Service's deputy director, said Keable will bring "excellent leadership skills and passion for our nation's public lands" to his new role as superintendent.
"His experience at the Department of the Interior also provides a broader perspective that will be an enormous benefit to the park, employees, and visitors," Vela said in a statement.
Keable has been in his current job since 2012 and has worked in the Office of the Solicitor for 23 years and for the federal government for a total of 30 years, the Park Service said.
Groups including the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Center for Western Priorities questioned whether Keable is qualified to be superintendent and whether he could put the park above political agendas.
"Mr. Keable's selection sets a terrible precedent and robs the National Park Service career workforce, who have decades of expertise working in national parks, of opportunities to lead the agency in senior superintendent posts," said Phil Francis, the chair of the coalition, said in a statement.
The Grand Canyon typically is the second-busiest national park in the country behind Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The last few Grand Canyon superintendents worked for the Park Service before taking on the leadership role.
Steve Martin, who led the park from 2007 to 2011, said Keable's appointment was surprising and concerning.
The park faces a backlog of maintenance projects, including replacing a water pipeline that frequently breaks. Outside the park, developers have proposed pumped storage facilities, a resort, RV park and other lodging. Mining companies also are pushing the federal government to open the door to extract uranium.
"It takes a tremendous amount of operational understanding to keep track of everything in a park like that," Martin said. "It takes a deep appreciation of the resources as well, and experience, having a background of being out in the field and working with the communities and the people who are both in the park, coming to the park and surrounding the park.
"On the other hand, we have to give everybody a chance," he said.