Animal Magic

The focus of Hands On this week is on animals, and their relationship with humans. Ranging from some of the smallest creatures, bees and leeches, to the largest, elephants the programme explores how their instinctive abilities can be put to use, and how modern technologies can help us understand their world better.

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Trunk Call – Kenya

image from videoBefore the 1989 ban on the ivory trade, elephants were heavily poached and in danger of extinction. Since then elephant conservation is proving successful in several parts of Africa. However, this success can cause problems where they and humans come into conflict over land. Using modern mobile telephone technology to track elephants, information is being generated to help resolve this conflict.

Anti-Terror Sting – UK

image from videoWith the rise in international terrorism, the need to protect the public has never been so urgent. Scientists have been looking to harness animals’ unique abilities such as the sense of scent. Their research turned to bees as they have an incredibly sensitive scenting system that guides them to blooming plants, even from miles away. Scientists are now finding ways to use these attributes to detect such things as explosives and drugs.

A Dog’s Tale – Hungary

image from videoIn Hungary over 15,000 people are blind or partially sighted. Many of them use a white stick to help them negotiate the streets, but a guide dog can provide so much more. The Vodafone Hungary Foundation has supported the costs of running Hungary’s only guide dog training school. So now blind people have the opportunity of achieving independent travel with safety, through the use of professionally trained guide dogs.

A Vein Hope – UK

image from video Historically it was believed that ‘blood letting’, using the leech’s natural thirst for blood, had great health benefits. Up to the 19th century it was a standard medical practice, but then was generally abandoned and considered out dated. Now research is showing that leeches are effective in complimenting modern plastic and reconstructive surgery and they have been reintroduced into the operating room.

Ass You Like It – Switzerland

Wolves, as well as lynx and bears, have made a come back in Switzerland. Whilst many welcome this development, for the farmers in the area wolves in particular pose a threat to their herds. To protect them they are turning to an unusual solution – using donkeys as guard animals.

Buy Skinny, Sell Fat – Laos

The traditional methods of farming in the upland regions of Laos are based on shifting cultivation systems that allow the land plenty of time between crops to recover fertility and reduce weeds. But increasing population pressure and environmental changes have reduced fallow areas and increased soil erosion. It has led to a loss of soil fertility, increased weed pressure, and lower yields for the already poor rice farmers. By growing grasses, known as forages, to feed their animals, they are discovering a new cash income.