Axed: Rampant Logging Hits India's Batmakers for Six

A worker crafts a Kashmiri willow wood cricket bat at a factory in Kashmir's Sangam village, on August 19, 2023. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP
A worker crafts a Kashmiri willow wood cricket bat at a factory in Kashmir's Sangam village, on August 19, 2023. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP
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Axed: Rampant Logging Hits India's Batmakers for Six

A worker crafts a Kashmiri willow wood cricket bat at a factory in Kashmir's Sangam village, on August 19, 2023. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP
A worker crafts a Kashmiri willow wood cricket bat at a factory in Kashmir's Sangam village, on August 19, 2023. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

When the Cricket World Cup opens in India next month several players will carry Kashmiri willow wood bats, but manufacturers say over-exploitation of trees means their craft faces ruin.

Unchecked logging without replanting has reduced swathes of woodland to scrub in the disputed Indian-administered Himalayan territory, and bat manufacturers face a bleak future, said AFP.

"It's a case of culling all the time and no sowing," said Irfan Ali Shah, a senior official in the government's forest service.

Willow grows far more slowly than the more commercially viable poplar, and bat-makers warn the entire industry -- a major employer -- is at risk.

"We have started searching far-off corners of the valley, but there is not much good willow to be found anywhere for making the best quality bats," said Fawzul Kabiir, whose GR8 bats are International Cricket Council-approved and sold worldwide.

"If the government doesn't help plant again soon on a large scale... we will run out of raw material in three to five years," he told AFP.

Found from Europe to central Asia, water-loving white willows -- scientific name Salix alba -- are deciduous trees growing up to 30 meters (100 feet) tall.

Numbers expanded enormously during the 19th century under British colonial rule, when plantations were laid for firewood during the freezing mountain winter.

The ready supply of willow -- the wood favored by cricketers -- also sparked a craft in bats.

Tendulkar, Kohli and Waugh
Willow has criss-crossing fibers that give it strength and tiny air pockets that reduce vibrations, making the wood light but powerful enough to smash a ball for six.

International big hitters have traditionally preferred willow from England, but the same tree grows in Kashmir and every year the region now produces three million "clefts" -- the rough-cut blocks of wood ready for shaping.

It is the bulk of global supply and bat-maker Kabiir, 31, insists: "The best Kashmir willow bat is at least as good as English willow."

GR8 says its customers include cricketing greats from Indian heroes Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli to Australia's Steve Waugh and South Africa's Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers.

Kashmir's bat-makers prospered over the decades as cricket's popularity grew -- demand surged after India's 1983 World Cup win and the sport now has more than a billion fans globally.

Today, the industry employs some 120,000 people across 400 workshops, according to manufacturers.

It is a key contributor to the economy of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed in full by both India and Pakistan but split between them, with the portion controlled by New Delhi roiled by a long-running insurgency.

- 'Near extermination' -

But supplies are vanishing fast.

Agricultural scientists at Sher-e-Kashmir University have warned female willow trees -- the most suitable for bat-making -- are facing "near extermination" in Kashmir.

Nearly a million trees were logged in the past decade as the government removed plantations sucking up water from the shrinking Wular lake, protected under the United Nations Ramsar convention.

Elsewhere, willows have been hacked down to make space for farmland and rice paddies.

Demand for timber from other industries, including plywood and pencils, has meant some have replaced willow with swifter-growing poplar.

"A willow tree matures in 30 years and poplar in half the time, and it fetches the same price," said Feroz Ahmed Reshi, whose family has supplied willow wood to bat-makers for generations. "This year, we planted 300 poplars and about five willows."

'Our SOS'
The government banned cleft exports to the rest of India or overseas 25 years ago in a bid to control logging and boost industry in Kashmir.

But the law is repeatedly flouted with some 100,000 clefts illegally sent elsewhere annually, a bat-makers association official said.

"Smuggling of our precious raw material has not stopped," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

Authorities used to plant willow on state land to maintain firewood supplies but stopped decades ago as electricity and gas became available for heating.

Shah, the forestry official, believes bat-makers must "plant their own willow on their own land" to replace each tree felled.

But private land is scarce in Kashmir, and prices have surged since New Delhi suspended the region's semi-autonomous status and imposed direct rule in 2019.

That allowed Indians from elsewhere to buy land in Kashmir for the first time, a policy denounced by critics as "settler colonialism".

GR8's factory and showroom are in the small town of Sangam, the center of the bat industry, where tourists snap up bats from lines of stores, spending anything from $12 to $180.

"This is our SOS to the government," owner Kabiir said. "We cannot do it alone."



18,000 Students from 39 Countries Participate in World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth

Organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) in collaboration with KAUST, this global competition took place simultaneously in 39 countries, drawing over 18,000 students from public schools. SPA
Organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) in collaboration with KAUST, this global competition took place simultaneously in 39 countries, drawing over 18,000 students from public schools. SPA
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18,000 Students from 39 Countries Participate in World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth

Organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) in collaboration with KAUST, this global competition took place simultaneously in 39 countries, drawing over 18,000 students from public schools. SPA
Organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) in collaboration with KAUST, this global competition took place simultaneously in 39 countries, drawing over 18,000 students from public schools. SPA

The World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth (WAICY) was held at the headquarters of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia.

Organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) in collaboration with KAUST, this global competition took place simultaneously in 39 countries, drawing over 18,000 students from public schools.

ReadyAl CEO Roozbeh Aliabadi, Director of KAUST Academy Sultan Albarakati, and SDAIA representative Ahmed Al-Senan spoke at the opening ceremony, emphasizing the importance of the competition to fostering AI skills and knowledge among young people.

Each team had the opportunity to present its projects in a 15-minute presentation. Following that, Research Professor Dave Touretzky from Carnegie Mellon University delivered a lecture on teaching AI in K-12 education.

A tour of KAUST was also organized for teachers, coordinators and students, followed by a lecture on AI and education delivered by KAUST Instructional Assistant Professor Naeemullah Khan.

The first day concluded with a boat trip from the KAUST marina, providing a memorable experience for all participants.

WAICY is one of the largest global competitions; it was adopted by SDAIA to encourage the younger generation to take advantage of the power of AI. The competition aims to inspire students to develop AI projects that address real-world challenges, understand the AI significance and impact on various aspects of life, and encourage their participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The event attests to the commitment of SDAIA and KAUST to nurture young talent and promote AI education and innovation on a global scale.


Red Sea Int’l Film Festival Celebrates ‘Women in Cinema’ Once Again

Mohammed al-Turki and Nabilah Ebeid (RedSeaIFF)
Mohammed al-Turki and Nabilah Ebeid (RedSeaIFF)
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Red Sea Int’l Film Festival Celebrates ‘Women in Cinema’ Once Again

Mohammed al-Turki and Nabilah Ebeid (RedSeaIFF)
Mohammed al-Turki and Nabilah Ebeid (RedSeaIFF)

In celebration of female voices in film, the Red Sea International Film Festival (RedSeaIFF) hosted its annual “Women in Cinema” gathering in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah on Friday.

The event included a large turnout of global stars such as Katrina Kaif, Naomi Campbell, and Sharon Stone.

The ceremony also witnessed the honoring of Egypt’s first screen icon, Nabila Ebeid.

The accolade presented to Ebeid marked a pinnacle in her achievements for the current year.

Ebeid, an artist who achieved unprecedented box office success in the eighties and nineties, received this recognition as a testament to her enduring impact on the film industry.

Moreover, Ebeid expressed profound joy at receiving this honor.

Despite confining her remarks to a brief thank-you on the platform, she joined her fellow actresses in what she dubbed a “dance of joy” during the event, which was enlivened by the performance of Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram.

Notable Arab figures, including cinematic icons such as Yousra, Yasmin Sabri, Amina Khalil, Nadine Njeim, and others attended the event.

The event, organized by the RedSeaIFF and Vanity Fair Europe, didn’t overlook the presence of these esteemed Arab personalities.

It is noteworthy that the annual event brings together key players in the heart of the film industry to celebrate the wise talents of women, both in front of and behind the camera, from around the globe.

The festival continues to support the film industry in addressing and finding solutions to global challenges through a robust year-round program dedicated to supporting Arab, Asian, and African women in cinema.

The aim is to enhance the professional lives of women working in the film industry, empowering a new generation of talented and creative storytellers.

The festival plays a crucial role in ensuring the widest possible audience for women’s stories and providing a platform to amplify their voices.


Royal Commission for AlUla Signs Partnership with Space for Giants Organization

The partnership aims to protect biodiversity in AlUla, reduce carbon emissions, and increase carbon storage capabilities in AlUla's natural reserves. (SPA)
The partnership aims to protect biodiversity in AlUla, reduce carbon emissions, and increase carbon storage capabilities in AlUla's natural reserves. (SPA)
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Royal Commission for AlUla Signs Partnership with Space for Giants Organization

The partnership aims to protect biodiversity in AlUla, reduce carbon emissions, and increase carbon storage capabilities in AlUla's natural reserves. (SPA)
The partnership aims to protect biodiversity in AlUla, reduce carbon emissions, and increase carbon storage capabilities in AlUla's natural reserves. (SPA)

The Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate (RCU) has partnered with Space for Giants, an organization specializing in environmental conservation.

The partnership aims to protect biodiversity in AlUla, reduce carbon emissions, and increase carbon storage capabilities in AlUla's natural reserves.

Over the next three years, the two parties will work together to design and implement joint activities focused on managing, protecting, and monitoring biodiversity and natural environments.

These efforts will align with international standards and support the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative and the Kingdom's Vision 2030.


Glasgow Airport Runway Open, Flights to Resume after Heavy Snow

02 December 2023, United Kingdom, Glasgow: Cars are covered with snow in a street in Glasgow. (dpa)
02 December 2023, United Kingdom, Glasgow: Cars are covered with snow in a street in Glasgow. (dpa)
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Glasgow Airport Runway Open, Flights to Resume after Heavy Snow

02 December 2023, United Kingdom, Glasgow: Cars are covered with snow in a street in Glasgow. (dpa)
02 December 2023, United Kingdom, Glasgow: Cars are covered with snow in a street in Glasgow. (dpa)

Glasgow Airport on Saturday said its runway was now fully operational and it would resume flights after planes were grounded earlier due to heavy snowfall.

"Our runway is now fully operational again and we are working with our airline partners and their handlers to resume flight schedules," Glasgow Airport said.

The Scottish airport had earlier said flight operations were suspended because of a combination of heavier than forecast snow and freezing conditions throughout the night and early morning.

Britain's Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for snow and ice across parts of northwest England and southern Scotland, with wintry showers expected to lead to some icy patches and snow cover in places.

Across Britain, some soccer matches and horse racing fixtures were amongst the events abandoned or suspended due to snow or unsafe playing surfaces.

Several Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) matches due to be played on Saturday have been postponed, including a game between Livingston and Ross County because of a frozen pitch.

Newcastle Racecourse in northern England also abandoned Saturday's high-profile hurdle race fixture due to frozen ground.


Bolivia’s Indigenous Women Climbers Fear for Their Future as the Andean Glaciers Melt

Cholita climbers Suibel Gonzales, left, and her mother Lidia Huayllas descend the Huayna Potosi mountain, near El Alto, Bolivia, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (AP)
Cholita climbers Suibel Gonzales, left, and her mother Lidia Huayllas descend the Huayna Potosi mountain, near El Alto, Bolivia, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (AP)
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Bolivia’s Indigenous Women Climbers Fear for Their Future as the Andean Glaciers Melt

Cholita climbers Suibel Gonzales, left, and her mother Lidia Huayllas descend the Huayna Potosi mountain, near El Alto, Bolivia, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (AP)
Cholita climbers Suibel Gonzales, left, and her mother Lidia Huayllas descend the Huayna Potosi mountain, near El Alto, Bolivia, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (AP)

When they first started climbing the Andes peaks, they could hear the ice crunching under their crampons. These days, it’s the sound of melted water running beneath their feet that they mostly listen to as they make their ascents.

Dressed in colorful, multilayered skirts, a group of 20 Indigenous Bolivian women — known as the Cholita climbers — have been climbing the mountain range for the past eight years, working as tourist guides. But as the glaciers in the South American country retreat as a result of climate change, they worry about the future of their jobs.

The Aymara women remember a time when practically every spot on the glaciers was covered in snow, but now there are parts with nothing but rocks.

"There used to be a white blanket and now there is only rock," said Lidia Huayllas, one of the climbers. "The thaw is very noticeable."

Huayllas said she has seen the snow-capped Huayna Potosí mountain, a 6,000-meter (19,600-feet) peak near the Bolivian city of El Alto, shrink little by little in the past two decades.

"We used to walk normally; now, there are rocks and water overflowing," said the 57-year-old woman as she jumped from stone to stone to avoid getting her skirt and feet wet.

Edson Ramírez, a glaciologist from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in France, estimates that in the last 30 years, Bolivian glaciers have lost 40% of their thickness due to climate change. In the lower parts of the mountain, he says, the ice has basically vanished.

"We already lost Chacaltaya," said Ramírez, referring to a 5,400-meter (17,700-feet) mountain that used to be a popular ski resort and now has no ice left.

With no ice left in the lower parts of the mountain range, the Cholita climbers need to go further up to find it. This has reduced the number of tourists seeking their services as guides.

Huayllas would not say how much she makes as a tour guide, but she said a Cholita climber currently makes about $30 per tour. That is less than the $50 per tour they used to make.

In 2022, during the September-December climbing season, the Cholitas did 30 tours, Huayllas said. This year, through early November, they had barely done 16.

The situation has gotten so critical, the 20 women have looked for other jobs to make ends meet. Some of the Cholitas have started making and selling blankets and coats with alpaca wool from the Andes, Huayllas said.

"If this continues, we're going to have to work in commerce or do something else for a living," said Huayllas, although she quickly dismissed her own pessimistic thought, somehow hoping for a change: "No. This is our source of work."


Police Charge Director of Miss Nicaragua Pageant with Running ‘Beauty Queen Coup’ Plot

 Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, smiles after being crowned Miss Universe at the 72nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (AP)
Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, smiles after being crowned Miss Universe at the 72nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (AP)
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Police Charge Director of Miss Nicaragua Pageant with Running ‘Beauty Queen Coup’ Plot

 Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, smiles after being crowned Miss Universe at the 72nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (AP)
Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, smiles after being crowned Miss Universe at the 72nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (AP)

Nicaraguan police said Friday they want to arrest the director of the Miss Nicaragua pageant, accusing her of intentionally rigging contests so that anti-government beauty queens would win the pageants as part of a plot to overthrow the government.

The charges against pageant director Karen Celebertti would not be out of place in a vintage James Bond movie with a repressive, closed off government, coup-plotting claims, foreign agents and beauty queens.

It all started Nov. 18, when Miss Nicaragua, Nicaragua’s Sheynnis Palacios won the Miss Universe competition. The government of President Daniel Ortega briefly thought it had scored a rare public relations victory, calling her win a moment of “legitimate joy and pride.”

But the tone quickly soured the day after the win when it emerged that Palacios had posted photos of herself on Facebook participating in one of the mass anti-government protests in 2018.

The protests were violently repressed, and human rights officials say 355 people were killed by government forces. Ortega claimed the protests were an attempted coup with foreign backing, aiming for his overthrow. His opponents said Nicaraguans were protesting his increasingly repressive rule and seemingly endless urge to hold on to power.

A statement by the National Police claimed Celebertti “participated actively, on the internet and in the streets in the terrorist actions of a failed coup," an apparent reference to the 2018 protests.

Celebertti apparently slipped through the hands of police after she was reportedly denied permission to enter the country a few days ago. But some local media reported that her son and husband had been taken into custody.

Celebertti, her husband and son face charges of “treason to the motherland.” They have not spoken publicly about the charges against them.

Celebertti “remained in contact with the traitors, and offered to employ the franchises, platforms and spaces supposedly used to promote ‘innocent’ beauty pageants, in a conspiracy orchestrated to convert the contests into traps and political ambushes financed by foreign agents,” according to the statement.

It didn't help that many ordinary Nicaraguans — who are largely forbidden to protest or carry the national flag in marches — took advantage of the Miss Universe win as a rare opportunity to celebrate in the streets.

Their use of the blue-and-white national flag, as opposed to Ortega’s red-and-black Sandinista banner, further angered the government, who claimed the plotters “would take to the streets again in December, in a repeat of history's worst chapter of vileness.”

Just five days after Palacio's win, Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo was lashing out at opposition social media sites (many run from exile) that celebrated Palacios’ win as a victory for the opposition.

“In these days of a new victory, we are seeing the evil, terrorist commentators making a clumsy and insulting attempt to turn what should be a beautiful and well-deserved moment of pride into destructive coup-mongering,” Murillo said.

Ortega’s government seized and closed the Jesuit University of Central America in Nicaragua, which was a hub for 2018 protests against the Ortega regime, along with at least 26 other Nicaraguan universities.

The government has also outlawed or closed more than 3,000 civic groups and non-governmental organizations, arrested and expelled opponents, stripped them of their citizenship and confiscated their assets. Thousands have fled into exile.

Palacios, who became the first Nicaraguan to win Miss Universe, has not commented on the situation.

During the contest, Palacios, 23, said she wants to work to promote mental health after suffering debilitating bouts of anxiety herself. She also said she wants to work to close the salary gap between the genders.

But on a since-deleted Facebook account under her name, Palacios posted photos of herself at a protest, writing she had initially been afraid of participating. “I didn’t know whether to go, I was afraid of what might happen.”

Some who attended the march that day recall seeing the tall, striking Palacios there.


Saudi Space Agency, US Sierra Space Sign MoU to Develop National Capabilities in Space

The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sierra Space to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences in fields related to the space sector. (SPA)
The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sierra Space to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences in fields related to the space sector. (SPA)
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Saudi Space Agency, US Sierra Space Sign MoU to Develop National Capabilities in Space

The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sierra Space to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences in fields related to the space sector. (SPA)
The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sierra Space to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences in fields related to the space sector. (SPA)

The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sierra Space, a US leading company in the field of space technologies, to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences and develop national capabilities and competencies in fields related to the space sector and its technologies, SPA said on Saturday.
The move confirms SSA’s commitment to expanding its global partnerships in the area of space.
The memorandum was signed by SSA CEO, Dr. Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, and Sierra Space CEO, Tom Vice.
The signing ceremony was attended by the Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the SSA, Eng. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha.
Sawaha heads the delegation of the digital economy, space and innovation system, which is on an official visit to the United States of America, to deepen and enhance partnerships in various areas of technology, space and innovation.
With this MoU and other memorandums, and agreements concluded with US parties specialized in space and its exploration, the SSA seeks to share its aspirations, develop and create specialized training programs for students and employees, which contributes to the growth of the local and global space sector, and building a sustainable future driven by innovation.


Mission to Rescue Lions, Hyenas in War-torn Sudan

Happier times at the Sudan Animal Rescue center in February, 2022 - AFP
Happier times at the Sudan Animal Rescue center in February, 2022 - AFP
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Mission to Rescue Lions, Hyenas in War-torn Sudan

Happier times at the Sudan Animal Rescue center in February, 2022 - AFP
Happier times at the Sudan Animal Rescue center in February, 2022 - AFP

The small menagerie of animals echoed the human suffering from seven months of war between rival generals that shattered Sudan -- they were starving, traumatised and trapped in the crossfire.

On the southern outskirts of the capital Khartoum, volunteers had opened a modest reserve in 2021, crowdfunding online to rescue malnourished and sick lions from a rundown zoo in the city.

Barely two years later, they found themselves in a war zone.

With a military base just next door, a skeleton staff of animal lovers fought to keep their charges alive as "bombs fell on the refuge, damaging infrastructure and injuring animals", Sudan Animal Rescue founder Othman Salih told AFP.

After months of struggling to feed and care for them, Salih finally managed to set up a high-risk rescue mission in coordination with Austrian animal welfare organisation Four Paws.

A total of 50 animals, including 15 lions and a host of hyenas and birds, have now been evacuated through a labyrinth of army and paramilitary checkpoints that have for seven months controlled all movement in and out of Khartoum.

On April 15, war erupted between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). By early November, more than 10,000 people had been killed in the conflict, according to a conservative estimate by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project.

The fighting has also displaced 6.3 million people, the UN says. Sudan's already fragile infrastructure has been destroyed, creating an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that has left no living creature there unscathed.

"We lost seven lions, most of them due to illness," Salih said, although one lioness "was shot dead by a stray bullet".

The animal center was unable to offer the necessary veterinary care as the specter of famine loomed large over the already impoverished country.

Volunteers, who before the war would often themselves pay for the five to 10 kilos (22 pounds) of meat each big cat needed daily, watched in horror as the famished pack devoured the carcass of the lioness that had been shot.

Amir Khalil, the Four Paws vet in charge of the high-risk mission, said this "unusual behaviour" stemmed from how "physically weakened and psychologically traumatized all the animals are".

Salih has given everything to provide for the animals, several of whom he has cared for since infancy.

In addition to those he rescued from starvation in the Khartoum zoo, he remembers "Moody and Mina... I took care of them myself when they were little lion cubs".

Last year, his team walked AFP correspondents through the small refuge, proud to show off the safe haven they had given the animals.

"We worked very hard to provide food and water during the war," Salih said, but such hard work could only go so far.

Nothing comes in or leaves Khartoum without the express approval of both the army and the RSF.

In concentric circles, both forces enclose the city, interrogating and detaining travellers, and confiscating supplies from those entering or leaving the capital.

Taking the animals from southern Khartoum to the east of Sudan was "one of the most dangerous" missions undertaken by Four Paws -- which has also carried out rescues in war-torn Libya, the Gaza Strip and Mosul in Iraq -- Khalil said.

Success or failure in the "meticulously planned rescue mission" rested on a set of "security measures", principal among which was "communication with both parties to the conflict", he told AFP.

With the animals sedated in transport cages, the team took hours to drive just 140 kilometres (87 miles) along a checkpoint-dotted road to the Um Barona National Park in Wad Madani, a city that has largely been spared the fighting, despite it crawling ever closer.

"The animals need a few days to recover" from the journey, Khalil said, before being taken onwards to Dinder National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve on the border with Ethiopia.

Although lions live in Dinder, it is not known precisely how many survive in the wild in Sudan, the third largest country in Africa.

Across the continent, lion populations fell 43 percent between 1993 and 2014, according to WWF, with an estimated 20,000 left in the wild.


Saudi Space Agency, Axiom Space Sign MoU to Develop National Space Capabilities

The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
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Saudi Space Agency, Axiom Space Sign MoU to Develop National Space Capabilities

The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat

The Saudi Space Agency has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Axiom Space with the aim of developing Saudi national capabilities in various areas of the space sector.
The MoU was signed during an official visit of the Saudi Digital Economy, Space, and Innovation delegation to the United States.

The delegation was led by Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Space Agency Engineer Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawahah. It also included the CEO of the Saudi Space Agency, Dr. Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, and several senior officials from the agency.

According to the terms of the MoU, Axiom Space will provide several opportunities for Saudi student training and on-the-job staff training, as well as the exchange of knowledge, skills, and experiences in the field of manned spaceflights. The MoU covers cooperation between both parties in various aspects of developing national capabilities in the space sector and related fields.

The company will offer educational and training programs relevant to its scope for Saudi students.

It is expected that the memorandum will enhance educational and professional development opportunities for Saudi students and employees, deepen cooperation, and enhance mutual benefits between the Saudi Space Agency and the company.


Young Humpback Whale Leaps Out of Seattle Bay, Dazzling Onlookers

In this image taken from a video, a humpback whale breaches from the waters off Seattle on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)
In this image taken from a video, a humpback whale breaches from the waters off Seattle on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)
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Young Humpback Whale Leaps Out of Seattle Bay, Dazzling Onlookers

In this image taken from a video, a humpback whale breaches from the waters off Seattle on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)
In this image taken from a video, a humpback whale breaches from the waters off Seattle on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)

A humpback whale visiting the waters off Seattle dazzled onlookers Thursday with several breaches in the bay just beyond the city's downtown area.
The whale has been spotted for the last three days swimming around Elliott Bay. But on Thursday, the whale breached for about 40 minutes, also performing several pectoral fin slaps and dives.
Local whale watching groups have identified the young humpback as the calf of an adult female with the identification BCY0995, better known as “Smiley,” The Associated Press reported.
It’s not unusual for humpback whales to visit the waters off Seattle as they migrate along the West Coast.
Smiley's last calf, Chip, was fatally struck by a Washington state ferry in 2020, according to the Canadian group Vancouver Island Whale Watch. On Thursday, personnel from Soundwatch Boater Education Program shadowed the whale for most of its time in the bay to alert other vessels of it.
Jeff Hogan, co-coordinator of the program's Seattle branch, said he counted about 30 breaches. And afterward, the young whale slept.
He said the whale looked healthy.
“It was a joyful day,” Hogan said. “Everyone was working together to go out of their way to make space for that animal to do its thing. If we want these guys to be here and come back, we gotta do that.”