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New species of ‘horned’ spider unearthed in Angola

Researchers first came across the odd looking spider in 2015 when collecting specimens as part of surveys

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South African researchers have revealed the discovery of a new species of spider with an unusual horn-like protrusion on its back from the forests of central Angola, considered the first of its kind. 

Named ‘Ceratogyrus attonitifer’, the arachnid belongs to the group known as the horned baboon spiders that possess a type of protuberance, but nothing like the softer and longer protrusion of this species.   

“So this spider is absolutely unique in the world. It has this huge horn sticking out the middle of its head and no other spider in the world has anything like that,” South African national biodiversity institute arachnologist Dr Ian Engelbrecht told AFP.

“There are other species that have a horn on the carapace but that’s a muscular structure… This structure looks like it’s full of fatty tissue.”

Researchers first came across the odd looking spider in 2015 when collecting specimens as part of surveys done in the Okavango catchment, straddling Angola, Namibia and Botswana.

Several female specimens from the Miombo forests of central Angola were collected out of burrows for the Okavango Wilderness Project. 

Surprisingly locals were able to furnish experts with information on the biology and behaviour of the spider they had long dubbed as “chandachuly”.

South African researchers have only sketched the description of their new specimen but remain unsure of the horn function.

“It doesn’t make sense that the spider has such a big horn,” Engelbrecht said adding that it might “provide some functionality similar to a camel hump or something like that but at this point we really have no idea.” 

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Africa News & Updates

Kenyan authorities say Ebola case is a “false alarm”

The Health Ministry has spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya has already taken.

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Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki speaks to the media as travellers at the arrival terminal are screened by port health service, at the Jommo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi

Kenya sought to reassure the public and foreign visitors on Monday after a suspected Ebola case, which turned out to be negative, was detected near the border with Uganda.

Uganda last week reported three cases of Ebola, two of them fatal, among people who had been to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an epidemic has been underway since last August.

Kenyan Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said a 36-year-old woman in the western county of Kericho had fallen ill with headache, fever and vomiting, which can also be symptoms of Ebola.

Further examination found she did not have the disease, Kariuki said at a press conference staged at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“The Rapid Surveillance and Response Team has examined the patient, who is in stable condition, and has confirmed that she does not meet the case definition for Ebola,” she said.

“I wish to reassure all Kenyans and our visitors that we do not have any cases of Ebola.”

The Ugandan cases were confirmed in a town that is more than 600 kilometres from the border with Kenya.

Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken.

They included the installation of thermal cameras at entry points to detect people with high temperatures, as well as isolation units to host suspected cases. More than 250 health ministry workers have been deployed at entry points as part of this strategy.

The minister called on the public to be vigilant, urging anyone with Ebola-like symptoms who had travelled to affected countries to go to the nearest hospital.

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Conservation News & Stories

Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

An agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather

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Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals – including elephants and giraffes – to generate $1.1 million for conservation.

“Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management,” environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the country estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. 

“The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation,” Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.

Namibia’s cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.

They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus — all from national parks.

The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.

The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.

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East Africa News & Stories

Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

The victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo

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Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

Nine civilians were executed by a local militia in Somalia after the killing of a policeman by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, police said Saturday.

The revenge attack on Friday just outside Galkayo – one of the most developed cities in the centre of the country – targeted the Rahanweyn clan, several of whose members are suspected of being Shabaab fighters.

“This was a horrible incident, a gruesome killing against nine unarmed innocent civilians in southern Galkayo. All of the civilians belong to one clan and the gunmen shot them dead in one location a few minutes after suspected Shabaab gunmen killed” a policeman, Mohamed Abdirahman, a local police official said.

“This is an unacceptable act and we will bring those perpetrators to justice,” said Hussein Dini, a traditional elder. 

“Their killing cannot be justified. It seems that the merciless gunmen were retaliating for the security official who they believe was killed by Al-Shabaab gunmen belonging to the clan of the victims.”

Witnesses told local media that the victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo.

Local officials have in the past fingered the Rahanweyn clan for fomenting instability in the region and supplying fighters to the Shabaab.

The local militia which staged the revenge attack are from the Saad Habargidir, a sub-clan of the Hawiye group which is dominant in the southern part of the city. 

Galkayo, situated about 600 kilometres (380 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, straddles the frontier with the self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug. 

The city has been the scene of violent clashes between forces of the two regions in recent years and also witnessed violence between the two rival clans occupying its northern and southern districts.

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