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Going to the Grocery Store to Chat – A New Concept

In terms of psychology, it’s been well understood that humans a social animals. However, thanks to the COVID pandemic in 2020, the entire world has realized just how much it depends on social interaction. And the older one gets, the more important that community connection is. That’s the reason why near 200 different Jumbo grocery store locations in the Netherlands will be engaging in a chat zone versus just expecting people to buy goods, pay and leave.

The idea, referred to as a “Kletskassa,” which translates to a checkout for chatting, started in a single store back in 2019 before the need became so apparent to everyone. Folks in Vlijmen in Brabant liked the idea so much, it became an instant success. That got the Jumbo store folks thinking, and the idea came to fruition to do a similar store model and chat checkout system for another 200 stores by 2022. And, the program has a key purpose as well. Loneliness has been a common, chronic issue, particularly among older citizens. To combat the mental health issues associated with the disconnection problem, the country has been trying to find ways to reconnect people again. The Kletskassa idea was such a proven tool, it quickly gained support from multiple corners and perspectives.

Loneliness is pervasive at every level of society, but teenagers and the elderly tend to feel it the most. Much of that trend has to do with societal pressure and role expectations. If people don’t fit in, they feel left out and go insular, often a problem with teenagers uncomfortable with how they are changing. If people don’t feel they have utility, they also disconnect and feel ostracized. This is common with the elderly who begin to feel they are a burden on the younger ages. No surprise loneliness can lead to more serious issues like depression and anxiety, and key pathway to serious mental health problems and serious consequences.

The Jumbo store approach specifically aims to provide people someone to talk to in the store who is there to talk to them on a regular basis, i.e. chat. It seems like such a simple thing, but the Kletskassa model works and has proven itself successful with significant acceptance by the shoppers and communities where it is applied. And for the Netherlands health ministry, it is exactly the kind of dynamic that needs to occur to help bring back folks who are suffering from loneliness and its effects.

Jumbo’s executive management is extremely proud to have created the program and its support of communities and plans to continue finding unique ways to positively improve the markets they operate in, beyond just selling product.

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Flavor Flav Boosts U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team as Official Hype Man

Renee Yates

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Flavor Flav, the iconic rapper known for his vibrant personality and clock necklace, has taken on a new role as the official hype man for the U.S. women’s water polo team. The team is gearing up for an ambitious run at their fourth consecutive gold medal at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Maggie Steffens, a veteran player, expressed her excitement on social media. “There is no greater honor than representing Team USA on the Olympic stage side by side with strong, talented & driven women who empower you every day,” she wrote. Steffens also encouraged more people to support women’s sports, particularly water polo, which she feels deserves more recognition.

At 65 years old, Flavor Flav is stepping up not just with his energetic support but also with financial backing. “As a girl dad and supporter of all women’s sports – imma personally sponsor you my girl,,, whatever you need,” he commented on Steffens’ Instagram post. He promised to sponsor the whole team, assuring them, “That’s a FLAVOR FLAV promise.”

Flavor Flav, whose real name is William Jonathan Drayton Jr., is finalizing a sponsorship deal with USA Water Polo. He’s already actively promoting the team on social media and plans to cheer them on from the stands in Paris. “When I come out and watch this water polo team … ‘USA! USA!’ Yo, I’m going to be the biggest hype man that they ever had in their life,” Flav told the Associated Press.

The rapper, a father to four daughters, emphasized his commitment to supporting women in an interview with PEOPLE magazine. “There’s a lot of women, I’m saying that all they want is just a chance,” he said, expressing his desire to help women achieve their dreams.

The team’s reaction to Flavor Flav’s involvement has been one of shock and excitement. “Is this real, this reality?” Steffens said, amazed at the attention from such a famous figure. She described water polo as not just a passion but her life, and Flav’s support as a significant boost.

The U.S. women’s water polo team has been highly successful since the 2012 Olympics but has struggled to gain the same level of attention as other American teams. Steffens, the last remaining member from the 2012 squad, highlighted the ongoing financial challenges Olympic athletes face and how much this new partnership could help.

With Flavor Flav’s infectious enthusiasm and backing, the U.S. women’s water polo team hopes to capture not only another gold medal but also the hearts of more fans worldwide.

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Rare Short-Tailed Bats Heard in Wellington for the First Time in Years

Kelly Taylor

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In an exciting development for wildlife enthusiasts, the endangered short-tailed bats have been heard in Wellington, New Zealand, marking their first recorded presence in the area in seven years. This discovery has brought hope to conservationists who feared that these rare mammals might have vanished from the lower North Island.

Short-tailed bats are among New Zealand’s rarest mammals and play a vital role in the local ecosystem. They are known for their unique flying style and are crucial pollinators and seed dispersers, which helps maintain the health of their natural habitats. These bats are small, with a body size about the length of an adult human’s thumb, and have a distinctive tail that extends beyond their tail membrane, unlike many other bat species.

The recent detection occurred through acoustic monitoring near the Pākuratahi River, just south of the Remutaka Hill Road. This area’s lush environment provides a perfect backdrop for such a significant find. Jo Monk, a lecturer from the University of Otago, highlighted the importance of this discovery, stating, “It’s super exciting to have a known population of short-tailed bats in the lower North Island.”

Protecting these bats is challenging due to predators like rats and stoats, which are common threats to their survival. Effective conservation requires intensive control measures to manage these predators. “Our experience from the South Island is you need really intensive rat control in addition to quite intensive stoat control to protect these populations,” Monk explained.

Ben Paris, a senior conservation advisor from the Auckland Council, and affectionately known as the New Zealand Batman, expressed his surprise and excitement at this finding. “Wellington isn’t very well known for its bat fauna, so to see short-tailed bats, which are one of the more rare bats appear in Wellington, is really exciting,” he said. Paris is optimistic about the future of bat conservation in New Zealand, noting, “I think that it’s really amazing that we are finding these bats in places that we are not expecting, and I feel like we are going to find more of these bats across New Zealand as people get more aware.”

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India Reigns Supreme in Big Cat Conservation: Celebrating Success and Setting New Goals

Renee Yates

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India is now recognized as a global leader in the conservation of big cats, boasting control of 75% of the world’s wild tiger population, serving as the sole sanctuary for Asiatic lions, and celebrating the successful reintroduction of cheetahs. Additionally, populations of leopards and snow leopards in the country are witnessing promising growth. This impressive conservation narrative is getting a further boost with the formation of the International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA), which was officially launched by the Union Cabinet with a funding of Rs 150 crore till 2028. The IBCA secretariat will be headquartered in India, underlining the country’s pivotal role in global big cat conservation efforts.

The Genesis and Goals of the International Big Cat Alliance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the IBCA in April 2023 in Mysuru, marking the 50th anniversary of Project Tiger. The alliance aims to foster international collaboration for the preservation of seven key big cat species: lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards, jaguars, and pumas. India houses five of these species, excluding only the jaguar and puma. This alliance encompasses 96 big cat range countries and various conservation and scientific organizations, demonstrating a robust international effort to protect these vulnerable and endangered species.

Asiatic Lion Conservation: A Beacon of Success

The only wild population of Asiatic lions resides in Gujarat’s Gir National Park and its surroundings, with the population reaching 674 in 2020, up from 523, marking an unprecedented growth rate of 28.87%. This species, once on the brink of extinction with numbers as low as 20, has seen remarkable recovery thanks to dedicated conservation efforts beginning well before India’s independence and formally initiated by the Indian Forest Service in 1965. Plans are now underway to relocate some lions to the Badra Wildlife Sanctuary to manage overpopulation risks in Gir.

Project Tiger: A Legacy of Triumph

India celebrates the resounding success of Project Tiger, initiated in 1973 to reverse the dire decline of tigers from around 40,000 at independence to below 2,000 by 1970 due to rampant hunting and poaching. Today, India hosts 3,682 tigers, a nearly 24% increase from 2018, spread across 53 reserves. This success story is a result of stringent anti-poaching laws, habitat conservation, and local community engagement, positioning India as a leader in tiger tourism and conservation compared to other Asian nations.

The Return of the Cheetah

India has reintroduced cheetahs to its fauna, with initial translocations from Namibia and South Africa to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park. This reintroduction project has faced challenges, but the recent birth of cubs and a survival rate meeting the project’s early goals highlight its potential success. The program aims to not only revive the cheetah population but also to foster ecological tourism and local economic development.

Leopard and Snow Leopard: Thriving Against Odds

Leopards, despite being the smallest of the large cats in India, are flourishing with a population increase from 12,852 in 2018 to 13,874 in 2022. This growth is credited to comprehensive conservation efforts across various states. Similarly, the elusive snow leopard, primarily found in high-altitude regions of the Himalayas, has been systematically surveyed, revealing a stable population that underscores India’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage.

India’s proactive and successful conservation initiatives for big cats not only enhance biodiversity but also bolster local communities and economies, reinforcing the nation’s commitment to maintaining the delicate balance between human progress and environmental stewardship.

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South Africa Plans to Stop Lion Breeding for Hunts

Renee Yates

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South Africa announced its plan on Wednesday to gradually stop the breeding of lions for hunting. This decision aims to end the business that has been criticized for a long time. This business involves raising big cats so that rich hunters, who pay a lot of money, can hunt them. These hunters often take parts of the lions, like their heads or skins, as trophies to keep.

The South African government had already shown its desire to stop lion breeding for hunts in 2021. A special group has been working on this matter for two years. Environment Minister Barabara Creecy, during a news conference in Cape Town, said that this group suggested shutting down the industry. This includes stopping the breeding of lions, keeping them captive, or selling anything obtained from captive lions.

Lion breeders have two years to stop their activities voluntarily and find a different business to do before this new rule is enforced. Even though this plan has met with resistance from the industry, which makes a lot of money, the government approved it recently. However, it’s not yet an official law.

This step is taken as more people, especially in Western countries, are against trophy hunting. Efforts to stop trophy imports are gaining support in the United States, Australia, and some European countries. Kamalasen Chetty, who leads the special group, mentioned that the lion breeding industry is big and complicated. It has a long history but doesn’t fit with the latest international trends or changes in local conservation policies.

Animal rights organizations estimate that there are between 8,000 and 12,000 lions on around 350 farms in South Africa. These groups often criticize the way these animals are kept. In contrast, there are only about 3,500 wild lions, as reported by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, an organization based in South Africa.

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Research Finds That Birds Can Be Polite

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Did you know that birds can be polite, just like humans? Researchers have found that the Japanese tit, a small bird found in Japan, has a unique way of showing politeness through its wing gestures. This fascinating discovery gives us a glimpse into the complex world of bird communication.

At the University of Tokyo, Professor Toshitaka Suzuki and his team studied these birds and made some amazing discoveries. They noticed that when a pair of Japanese tits arrives at their nest box with food, they don’t rush in. Instead, they wait on nearby perches. What happens next is intriguing: one bird flutters its wings toward the other, as if to say, “After you.” This gesture is like holding the door open for someone, showing respect and care.

The Japanese tit, scientifically known as Parus minor, is not just any bird; it’s known for its intelligence and complex behaviors. Professor Suzuki, who has been studying these birds for over 17 years, found that they use specific calls and even combine these calls into phrases, much like how we form sentences. This shows how advanced their communication skills are.

In their study, published in the journal Current Biology, the researchers observed that these wing-fluttering gestures happened mainly between mates and were a clear sign for one to enter the nest before the other. Interestingly, it was usually the female that made the gesture, inviting the male to go first.

This behavior has led scientists to think about how gestures evolved in the animal kingdom. Just like humans developed gestures by using their hands more when they started walking on two legs, birds might have developed gestures by using their wings while perching.

The research on the Japanese tit is part of a larger effort to understand how animals communicate, not just with sounds but also with physical movements. This could help us learn more about how language and communication developed, even in humans.

So, the next time you see birds, think about the complex and polite ways they might be communicating right in front of your eyes!

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