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SOUTH ASIA

30/12/2006

Tracking the snow leopard: The life and habits of the elusive snow leopard will no longer be a mystery. For the first time, a team has fitted a snow leopard with a global positioning system (GPS) collar to track its movements. The 35 kg female was captured on the Purdum Mali ridge in Pakistan. Over the next few months, the team aims to tag another four snow leopards. The solitary nature of snow leopards and their habitat in remote rocky terrains, make them difficult for study. Much of the information available on it is based on anecdotes, extrapolations or older researches using less accurate radio collars. GPS technology will enable experts to protect the endangered animal.

Nepal food plan hit: The World Food Programme (WFP), which has begun a food aid scheme for Nepal's 31 food-deficit districts, is facing hurdles in the country's western region. In the last week of November, a convoy of WFP vehicles carrying food to villagers was held up for nearly a week by the Nepal Transport Union due to a disagreement between the union and local businessmen. Even during the country's worst periods of conflict, they had never experienced such a blockade, officials of the UN agency said. Following the incident, WFP has threatened it will discontinue its support if such blockades continue. Under its programme, WFP plans to support 50,000 villagers during the country's lean season, until January 2007.

Chikungunya in lanka: Chikungunya has spread to Jaffna, after a recent outbreak in the eastern Sri Lanka's Ampara district. At least 5,000 people have been suspected with the disease, media reports note. The most vulnerable are the people who still live in crowded camps after their houses were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami. New cases have also been reported from the district of Trincomalee, home to a large number of people displaced by the ongoing civil strife in the country. Nihal Abeysinghe of Sri Lanka's health department said that cases have also been reported from Colombo city.

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