Posted in Do you know? Interesting facts

Wildlife Reacting to Climate Changes

American scientists say rising temperatures on Earth’s surface are forcing animals and plants to move to cooler areas and make other changes. Their studies found that warmer weather is causing many kinds of wildlife to leave their native environments. They also found that such natural events as tree flowering and long-distance travel by birds are now happening earlier in the year. Nature magazine reported the findings.

The scientists say the result of these changes could be environmental damage and local losses of wildlife. They also warn that some creatures could disappear completely.

Plants and animals have always had to react to changing environments. However, the climate is now changing faster than ever before. Many scientists blame heat-trapping industrial gases for the warmer weather.

Camille Parmesan (PAR-meh-zahn) is a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin. She organized one of the studies with economist Gary Yohe (YO-ee) of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut . They examined other studies that followed the movements of about one-thousand-seven-hundred kinds of wildlife over many years. They used mathematical programs to make sure that only the best information was studied.

Their most detailed effort involved ninety-nine kinds of birds, insects and plants in North America and Europe. They found that the territory where these plants and animals live has moved north by an average of six kilometers every ten years. In Europe, some butterflies now live as much as one-hundred kilometers to the north because of changes linked to higher temperatures.

Professors Parmesan and Yohe used similar methods to examine one-hundred-seventy-two kinds of wildlife. They examined the timing of events in the spring, such as the appearance of flowers and the reproduction of animals. They found that these events happened an average of two days earlier than normal every ten years.

In the second study, scientists at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, examined wildlife and climate information from one-hundred-forty-three studies. They found that about eighty percent of the creatures studied had made changes because of warmer weather.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by George Grow.

Posted in Do you know? Interesting facts

Big Ben


London’s Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament’s iconic clock tower is one of London’s most famous landmarks. Don’t leave London without visiting Big Ben!

The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, are among London’s most iconic landmarks. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg).  The clock tower looks spectacular at night when the four clock faces are illuminated.

 Big Ben Facts

  • Each dial is seven metres in diameter
  • The minute hands are 4.2 metres long and weigh about 100kg (including counterweights)
  • The numbers are approximately 60cm long
  • There are 312 pieces of glass in each clock dial
  • A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when parliament is in session
  • Big Ben’s timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum.
  • Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours.
  • The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on 31 December 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.
  • The latin words under the clockface read DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which meansO Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First
  • In June 2012 the House of Commons announced that the clock tower was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

The History of Big Ben

The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. In 1844, it was decided the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament should include a tower and a clock.

A massive bell was required and the first attempt (made by John Warner & Sons at Stockton-on-Tees) cracked irreparably. The metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel in 1858. Big Ben first rang across Westminster on 31 May 1859. A short time later, in September 1859, Big Ben cracked. A lighter hammer was fitted and the bell rotated to present an undamaged section to the hammer. This is the bell as we hear it today.

London’s Favourite Landmark: Why Ben?

The origin of the name Big Ben is not known, although two different theories exist.

  • The first is that is was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of works, a large man who was known affectionately in the house as “Big Ben”.
  • The second theory is that it was named after a heavyweight boxing champion at that time, Benjamin Caunt. Also known as “Big Ben”, this nickname was commonly bestowed in society to anything that was the heaviest in its class.
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Enjoy these fun tiger facts for kids. Learn about different types of tigers, how big they are, how fast they run, how they hunt and more.

  • The tiger is the biggest species of the cat family.

  • Tigers can reach a length of up to 3.3 metres (11 feet) and weigh as much as 300 kilograms (660 pounds).

  • Subspecies of the tiger include the Sumatran Tiger, Siberian Tiger, Bengal Tiger, South China Tiger, Malayan Tiger and Indochinese Tiger.

  • Many subspecies of the tiger are either endangered or already extinct. Humans are the primary cause of this through hunting and the destruction of habitats.

  • Around half of tiger cubs don’t live beyond two years of age.

  • Tiger cubs leave their mother when they are around 2 years of age.

  • A group of tigers is known as an ‘ambush’ or ‘streak’.

  • Tigers are good swimmers and can swim up to 6 kilometres.

  • Rare white tigers carry a gene that is only present in around 1 in every 10000 tigers.

  • Tigers usually hunt alone at night time.

  • Tigers have been known to reach speeds up to 65 kph (40 mph).

  • Less than 10% of hunts end successfully for tigers

  • Tigers can easily jump over 5 metres in length.

  • Various tiger subspecies are the national animals of Bangladesh, India, North Korea, South Korea and Malaysia.

  • There are more tigers held privately as pets than there are in the wild.

  • Tigers that breed with lions give birth to hybrids known as tigons and ligers.

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ssLiving and hunting in packs, wolves are wild dogs, that come from the same group as the dingo and coyote.

They can reach speeds of 65 km/h (40 mph) when chasing prey and include a number of species such as the gray wolf (also known as the grey wolf or timber wolf), red wolf, arctic wolf, Mexican wolf and white wolf.

  • Wolves are excellent hunters and have been found to be living in more places in the world than any other mammal except humans.
  • The wolf is the ancestor of all breeds of domestic dog. It is part of a group of animals called the wild dogs which also includes the dingo and the coyote.
  • Most wolves weigh about 40 kilograms but the heaviest wolf ever recorded weighed over 80 kilograms!
  • Adult wolves have large feet. A fully grown wolf would have a paw print nearly 13 centimetres long and 10 centimetres wide.
  • Wolves live and hunt in groups called a pack. A pack can range from two wolves to as many as 20 wolves depending on such factors as habitat and food supply. Most packs have one breeding pair of wolves, called the alpha pair, who lead the hunt.
  • Wolf pups are born deaf and blind while weighing around 0.5 kg (1 lb). It takes about 8 months before they are old enough to actively join in wolf pack hunts.
  • Wolves in the Arctic have to travel much longer distances than wolves in the forest to find food and will sometimes go for several days without eating.
  • When hunting alone, the wolf catches small animals such as squirrels, hares, chipmunks, raccoons or rabbits. However, a pack of wolves can hunt very large animals like moose, caribou and yaks.
  • When the pack kills an animal, the alpha pair always eats first. As food supply is often irregular for wolves, they will eat up to 1/5th of their own body weight at a time to make up for days of missed food.
  • Wolves have two layers of fur, an undercoat and a top coat, which allow them to survive in temperatures as low at minus 40 degrees Celsius! In warmer weather they flatten their fur to keep cool.
  • A wolf can run at a speed of 65 kilometres per hour during a chase. Wolves have long legs and spend most of their time trotting at a speed of 12-16 kilometres per hour. They can keep up a reasonable pace for hours and have been known to cover distances of 90 kilometres in one night.