Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From the Inbox - Help us certify 150,000 habitats

Time is running out!  Help us certify 150,000 habitats
Dear Friend,

Time’s running out to meet our goal!

Thermometer graphicNational Wildlife Federation set the ambitious goal to certify 150,000 backyards as Certified Wildlife Habitat™ sites by the end of 2010. And we’re close to meeting that number, thanks to generous friends of wildlife like you!

Help us meet our goal — certify your yard today!

Many wildlife species are already benefiting from established Certified Wildlife Habitat™ sites. But so many more — in neighborhoods just like yours — still need someone to provide them with essentials like food, water, shelter and places to raise their young.

By turning your backyard into an official NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat™ site, we’ll help you create a beautiful garden that attracts and provides for birds, butterflies and other critters year-round. In addition, you’ll join thousands of other nature enthusiasts in our nationwide movement to certify 150,000 yards.

Goldfinch plushWhen you certify for just $20
, you’ll receive many other
benefits too! (see sidebar to right)
And as a special, limited time
offer, you’ll also receive an
adorable goldfinch plush — with
our thanks!

After a long, hot summer, there’s no better time than now to rejuvenate your yard. Turn it into a lush haven for wildlife by creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat™ site today!

David MizejewskiSincerely,
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David Mizejewski
NWF Naturalist, Media
Spokesperson, Author

Certify Today

Benefits of Certification

Your $20 application fee helps National Wildlife Federation continue its important conservation and education work.

Thousands flee as long-sleepy Sumatra volcano erupts

A volcano in western Indonesia spewed hot lava and sand high 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) into the air early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years. Thousands of Indonesians were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano on Sunday after it erupted.

Mount Sinabung, in the north of the island of Sumatra, began erupting around midnight after rumbling for several days, prompting some villagers to panic before the mass evacuation got under way.

Mount Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don't know the volcano's eruption pattern and are monitoring it closely for more activity.

Evacuations on the volcano's slopes started Friday at the first signs of activity. Up to 10,000 people who fled are staying in government buildings, houses of worship and other evacuation centers in two nearby towns.

The government has distributed 7,000 masks to refugees and set up public kitchens so people can cook food, said Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

Indonesia is on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and geological fault lines triggering frequent earthquakes around the Pacific Basin. The eruption triggered the highest red volcano alert.

Two people died, one from breathing problems and the other from a heart attack, and two suffered injuries in road accidents as trucks, ambulances and buses were mobilized in the rescue operation.

Authorities took at least 12,000 people from high risk areas on the slopes of the 2,460-meter volcano to temporary shelters. Local TV showed showed women and children wearing face masks in cramped tents.

The area around the volcano is largely agricultural.

"Since this is the first eruption we've had in Sinabung, we're anticipating residents will remain at the shelters for at least a week while waiting for further status alert," said Priyadi Kardono.

The eruption has not damaged roads or bridges. The nearest big city is Medan where there were no disruptions to any of the air flights.

Second Eruption

The volcano, Mount Sinabung, erupted again on Monday, pitching ash two km (1.5 miles) into the air and sending nearby residents scurrying from their homes.

Villages were emptying fast near Mount Sinabung on the north of Sumatra island, leaving behind only officials from the bureau of meteorology and the police. Short-haul flights skirting the volcano were delayed.

About 21,000 people had been evacuated. Displaced residents, including children wearing masks, milled about in a makeshift reception center
with a roof but no walls.

Satebi Ginting, a vegetable farmer who fled her village to shelter in the nearby town of Brastagi, said she did not know when she would return home.

"I am still too scared to go back," she said in a camp hosting around 400 people, where a band was playing traditional local tunes.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono instructed the disaster mitigation agency to help set up emergency tents, kitchens and toilets, said presidential spokesman Julian Pasha.

Surono, head of Indonesia's vulcanology center, earlier said Monday's eruption was more powerful than the first a day earlier.

"Earlier today was another eruption at 6.30 a.m., sending out smoke as high as two km, more or less," he told Reuters.

A Reuters photographer said he saw plumes of smoke rising from the
volcano after the second eruption. Inactive since 1600, it had been rumbling for several days.

"I saw some hot pieces of volcanic rock come out and burn trees in the area," he said. A smell of sulphur pervaded the air as residents moved out of their homes to temporary shelters.

Many residents fled to Medan, 50 km (30 miles), Indonesia's third-largest city, northeast of the volcano. Officials said much of the movement was unnecessary.

"People have been evacuated from areas within a six km (four-mile)
radius of the volcano," vulcanologist Surono said. "Beyond six km it is safe, but there has still been a lot of panic among people here who don't understand that."

He said it was impossible to know when the eruptions would stop, but it was unlikely volcanic dust would drift to neighboring countries. Air flights continue to be unaffected.

Reuters, "Thousands flee as long-sleepy Sumatra volcano erupts", accessed August 30, 2010
Reuters,"Indonesian volcano erupts again, many evacuated", accessed August 30, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

From the Inbox: Good Times at Rainforest Action Network

Rainforest Action Network Monthly News

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Join us in San Francisco on October 14th for REVEL: The Art of Activism, RAN's 25th Anniversary bash!

Get all the details at RAN.org/REVEL.


Credo Button

We've spent this summer side by side with so many of you pushing and pushing mammoth corporations to do the right thing for forests, for people, for the climate. Sometimes, it feels like an uphill battle and you wonder whether these giants will ever move...until they do. As summer comes to a close, we've got really fantastic news for you. From Wall Street to the rainforest, our work together is having a real impact. Good times.

Table of Contents

    1. Wall Street Backing Down From Mountaintop Removal

    2. General Mills On The Verge

    3. Indigenous Rights Now

    4. Vote Chevron Into The Corporate Hall of Shame

    5. RAN Recommends

Wall Street Backing Down From Mountaintop Removal

Two years ago no bank had a policy on coal mining. Wall Street was funding the most destructive form of coal mining, mountaintop removal (MTR), without blinking an eye. Thanks to you and many incredible RAN allies, after three years of unrelenting action Bank of America, Citi, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have all passed public policies limiting their financial relationships with mountaintop removal coal mining companies. And all of them have completely cut their ties to Massey Energy, the largest MTR company in the country.

General Mills On The Verge

Rainforest Clearcutting and Kids BooksThanks so much for all your letters, phone calls, and visits to General Mills demanding that they create a palm oil policy that protects Indonesia's rainforests. Last week, General Mills announced that they have started work on a new palm oil policy! Help us make sure they go for the strongest policy possible by writing CEO Ken Powell one last time (hopefully), to let him know you're counting on him to seize this opportunity to the fullest.

Indigenous Rights Now

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is the most comprehensive international statement on Indigenous rights to date. When the UN General Assembly adopted this Declaration in 2007, the U.S. government was one of only four countries that voted "no." President Obama must make an unwavering stand for Indigenous rights, and turn this vote around.

Vote Chevron Into The Corporate Hall of Shame

Chevron Logo Jam Each year, the most environmentally and socially irresponsible companies in the world are nominated for the Corporate Hall of Shame. In 2010, the upper echelon of corporate wrongdoing is well represented, and of course that means Chevron is up for this "prestigious" award for the toxic oil pollution it refuses to clean up in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest. Chevron deserves your vote!


The Climate War

The Climate War

By Eric Pooley

No Rain In The Amazon

No Rain in the Amazon
By Nikolas Kozloff

Ketamine for Depression: Yay or Neigh?

Venn diagram of psychoactive drugs [click for larger image]

NOTE: This post is part of a Nature Blog Focus on hallucinogenic drugs in medicine and mental health, inspired by a recent Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper, The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders, by Franz Vollenweider & Michael Kometer. This article will be freely available, with registration, until September 23. For more information on this Blog Focus, see the Table of Contents.

The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry is discussed over at Neurophilosophy. Neuroskeptic covers Serotonin, Psychedelics and Depression while Mind Hacks provides a personal look at yagé in Visions of a psychedelic future.

Veterinary Anesthetic, Club Drug, or Antidepressant?

Club drug "Special K" (aka ketamine) is stepping out of the laser light into the broad daylight of mainstream psychiatry with the publication of a new review article by Vollenweider and Kometer (2010). Long used to anesthetize animals (and children), ketamine was classified as a "dissociative anesthetic" by Domino et al. (1965) for its combined effects of sedation/analgesia and hallucinations. Domino (2010) recently revisited his classic paper, which reported on a study in 20 volunteers incarcerated at the Jackson Prison in Michigan:
The first human was given ketamine in an intravenous subanesthetic dose on August 3, 1964. Guenter [Corssen, M.D.] and I gradually increased the dose from no effect, to conscious but “spaced out,” and finally to enough for general anesthesia. Our findings were remarkable! The overall incidence of side effects was about one out of three volunteers. Frank emergence delirium was minimal. Most of our subjects described strange experiences like a feeling of floating in outer space and having no feeling in their arms or legs.
The ego death of the "K hole" can be a terrifying experience for some ("I ceased to exist") or transformative for others ("I witnessed myself as a part of the universal collective of strange energy")1. In their Nature Reviews Neuroscience opinion piece, Vollenweider and Kometer considered ketamine a psychedelic, along with the traditional hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. They noted that both classes of drugs may have psychotherapeutic effects through actions on the excitatory glutamate neurotransmitter system.

Ketamine is an antagonist of the glutamate NMDA receptor and is thought to work by blocking NMDA receptors on inhibitory GABA-containing interneurons, ultimately promoting glutamate release. In a scientific tour de force, Li and colleagues (2010) demonstrated that the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) protein kinase pathway is rapidly activated by ketamine. This sets off a cascade of events including the formation of new synapses on dendritic spines. Using a combination of cellular, molecular, electrophysiological, behavioral, and phamacological techniques, ketamine was shown to exhibit antidepressant properties in animal models of depression and anxiety, perhaps via rapid induction of synaptic plasticity in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC). Regions of the medial PFC in humans, particularly the ventral anterior cingulate cortex, have been implicated in the pathophysiology of major depression.

Human clinical trials of ketamine as a rapidly acting antidepressant aren't especially new. A randomized, double-blind study in 2000 involved administration of saline or a single subanesthetic dose of ketamine (0.5 mg/kg intraveneously) to nine depressed patients, seven of whom completed the trial (Berman et al., 2000). Within 72 hrs, amelioration of depressive symptoms was observed. Half of the treated patients showed a 50% or greater improvement in depression scores. However, these therapeutic effects weren't very long-lasting, returning to baseline levels in 1-2 weeks. In a larger study, 18 patients with major depression participated in a similar double-blind cross-over design where they received the 0.5 mg/kg dose of ketamine and placebo one week apart (Zarate et al., 2006). The patients were rated at baseline and at 40, 80, 110, and 230 minutes and 1, 2, 3, and 7 days post-infusion on a number of clinical scales, including the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) positive symptoms subscale, and the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS).

The primary outcome measure was change in HDRS score, shown in Figure 2 below (top graph). Significant improvements began at the 110 min time point. Scores declined further from 1-3 days and remained below placebo levels for 7 days. However, unusual experiences were noted at 40 min, with substantial increases in scores for psychosis-like and mania-like symptoms. Other adverse events associated with ketamine included...
...perceptual disturbances, confusion, elevations in blood pressure, euphoria, dizziness, and increased libido. ... The majority of these adverse effects ceased within 80 minutes after the infusion. In no case did euphoria [YMRS] or derealization/depersonalization [BPRS] persist beyond 110 minutes (Figure 2, middle and bottom graphs).

Figure 2 (Zarate et al., 2006). Change in the 21-item HDRS, BPRS positive symptoms subscale, and YMRS scores over 1 week (n=18). Values are expressed as generalized least squares means and standard errors for the completer analysis. * indicates P<.05; †, P<.01; ‡, P<.001.

So here we have several research groups that say yay! to ketamine as an antidepressant. Are there any naysayers?

Although the immediate onset of symptom amelioration gives ketamine a substantial advantage over traditional antidepressants (which take 4-6 weeks to work), there are definite limitations (Tsai, 2007). Drawbacks include the possibility of ketamine-induced psychosis (Javitt, 2010), limited duration of effectiveness (aan het Rot et al., 2010), potential long-term deleterious effects such as white matter abnormalities (Liao et al., 2010), and an inability to truly blind the ketamine condition due to obvious dissociative effects in many participants.

At present, what are the most promising uses for ketamine as a fast-acting antidepressant? Given the disadvantages discussed above, short-term use for immediate relief of life-threatening or end-of-life depressive symptoms seem to be the best indications.

Suicidal Ideation

Acute ketamine treatment in suicidal patients presenting at the ER has the potential to provide immediate changes in the risk that a patient will harm herself when released, when accompanied by proper followup and appropriate long-term treatment. An open label study in 33 patients with refractory depression involved infusion of 0.5 mg/kg ketamine over a period of 40 min (DiazGranados et al., 2010). Those with high scores on the Scale for Suicide Ideation showed significant improvements at 40 min that were maintained for the 230 min duration of the study. Obviously, one would like to follow actively suicidal patients for a longer period of time than 4 hrs, and future clinical trials should take this into account.

Palliative Care

Watching a terminally ill loved one suffer from unbearably excruciating pain is one of the most emotionally wrenching experiences you'll ever have. Anything, and I mean anything2, that will relieve this sort of suffering should be freely administered without reservation or stigma. As discussed in The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry, psilocybin has been shown to alleviate anxiety and pain in cancer patients. Reports of psychedelic psychotherapy in the 60s and 70s suggested that many patients overcame their fear of death through LSD-facilitated sessions. More recently, an open label study in two hospice patients, each with a prognosis of only weeks or months to live, showed beneficial effects of ketamine in the treatment of anxiety and depression (Irwin & Iglewicz, 2010). A single oral dose produced rapid improvement of symptoms and improved end of life quality. To disentangle the pain relieving and antidepressant effects of ketamine, the authors emphasized the importance of conducting clinical trials for this particular indication.

Better Drugs for a Brighter Tomorrow

Newer NMDA antagonist drugs with fewer dissociative side effects (e.g., more selective antagonists such as NR2B receptor blocker EVT 101) are undergoing testing and development. Personalized medicine and pharmacogenomics may ultimately shift psychedelic experiences out of the realm of hippies and into the doctor's arsenal.

ADDENDUM: Moheb Costandi summarizes all four posts in this article for The Guardian, and there's more coverage at The Great Beyond, 3 Quarks Daily, The Atlantic, and Boing Boing.


1 Personal communication and Erowid Experience Vault.

2 Heroin.


aan het Rot M, Collins KA, Murrough JW, Perez AM, Reich DL, Charney DS, Mathew SJ. (2010). Safety and efficacy of repeated-dose intravenous ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Biol Psychiatry 67:139-45.

Berman RM, Cappiello A, Anand A, Oren DA, Heninger GR, Charney DS, Krystal JH. (2000). Antidepressant effects of ketamine in depressed patients. Biol Psychiatry 47:351-4.

DiazGranados N, Ibrahim LA, Brutsche NE, Ameli R, Henter ID, Luckenbaugh DA, Machado-Vieira R, Zarate CA Jr. (2010). Rapid resolution of suicidal ideation after a single infusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. Jul 13. [Epub ahead of print]
Domino EF. (2010). Taming the ketamine tiger. Anesthesiology 113:678-84.

Domino EF, Chodoff P, Corssen G. (1965). Pharmacologic Effects of CI-581, a New Dissociative Anesthetic, in Man. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 6:279-91.

Irwin SA, Iglewicz A. (2010). Oral ketamine for the rapid treatment of depression and anxiety in patients receiving hospice care. J Palliat Med. 13:903-8.

Javitt DC. (2010). Glutamatergic theories of schizophrenia. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 47:4-16.

Li N, Lee B, Liu RJ, Banasr M, Dwyer JM, Iwata M, Li XY, Aghajanian G, Duman RS. (2010). mTOR-dependent synapse formation underlies the rapid antidepressant effects of NMDA antagonists. Science 329(5994):959-64.

Liao Y, Tang J, Ma M, Wu Z, Yang M, Wang X, Liu T, Chen X, Fletcher PC, Hao W. (2010). Frontal white matter abnormalities following chronic ketamine use: a diffusion tensor imaging study. Brain 133:2115-22.

Tsai GE. (2007). Searching for rational anti N-methyl-D-aspartate treatment for depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry 64:1099-100; author reply 1100-1.

Vollenweider, F., & Kometer, M. (2010). The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11 (9), 642-651 DOI: 10.1038/nrn2884

Zarate CA Jr, Singh JB, Carlson PJ, Brutsche NE, Ameli R, Luckenbaugh DA, Charney DS, Manji HK. (2006). A randomized trial of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in treatment-resistant major depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry 63:856-64.


For my father.

Oil in Greenland Black stuff in a green land

When Cairn Energy, a British petrochemicals company, this week announced the first firm indication of worthwhile oil deposits off Greenland’s coast, inhabitants of Nuuk, the island’s gritty capital, greeted the news with their customary equanimity. “That’s nice,” said a housewife less interested in the implications of a possible oil bonanza than in negotiating her country’s sole pedestrian crossing in the sleeting rain.

Several hundred miles north in Baffin Bay, Greenpeace eco-warriors
seeking to halt offshore oil exploration in the Arctic faced down a Danish warship. The government hotly contests Greenpeace’s claim that, because oil degrades far more slowly in freezing waters, a Mexican Gulf-style oil spill would mean calamity for the fragile environment. “Our safety standards are the highest in the world,” says Henrik Stendal, chief geologist at the Government Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum.

In recent months the bureau has run an extensive public-information program in Greenland, drawing full houses at meetings throughout the sprawling country. A plethora of newly enacted legislation is designed to avert offshore accidents and to prevent a small spill becoming a big catastrophe should something go wrong.

Most of Greenland’s 56,000 inhabitants seem persuaded. Despite the vulnerability of the country’s ice sheet to global warming, a recent Greenpeace meeting in Nuuk drew a paltry 45 people. Even this minimal interest in the environmentalists’ message could fall further as the implications of this week’s news start to sink in.

Greenland has been searching for the black stuff for decades. Five wells drilled in the 1970s turned out to be dry, as was a sixth in 2000. But this
one looks like the game-changer. Cairn says it has found natural gas in thin sand layers in one of its test wells, indicating the presence of oil. Overall, it estimates that the acreage it is licensed to drill in holds 4 billion barrels of oil. Data from the United States Geological Survey suggest the seabed between Greenland and Canada holds a total of 17 billion barrels.

There may be further riches off the vast island’s eastern coast. According to some estimates the bedrock beneath the Greenland Sea could hold more oil than the North Sea, which has partially powered the British, Dutch and Norwegian economies for decades. This area will be opened for exploration in 2012.

Greenland’s exploration adventure does not stop there. Dozens of mining companies are trawling the narrow strip of land abutting its 44,087-kilometer coastline for diamonds, gold and rubies and possibly
more exotic treasures.

Sniffing opportunity, even before the oil starts flowing and the rubies glisten, the world has started to arrive in Greenland. Australian and American accents are commonplace in Kangerlussuaq international airport. The restaurant at Nuuk’s only upmarket hotel has no difficulty attracting clients for its exclusive wagyu beef fillet.

It is impossible to estimate how much money this bounty could generate for Greenland’s cash-strapped government. But although the potential to transform the economy is obvious, there is no talk yet of using the proceeds to buy full independence from Denmark.
Self-government became law only last year, and it will take decades to wean Greenland off its annual DKr3 billion ($500m) grant from Copenhagen—which accounts for over half of Greenland’s revenues.

As for the locals, having had their hopes raised and dashed so many times before, they are taking nothing for granted. “We won’t get rich overnight,” says Brian Juhl, a supermarket manager. “But perhaps in the future.”

The Economist, "Oil in Greenland: Black stuff in a green land", accessed August 26, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

From the Inbox: Conservation International eNews Update

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© Javier García

NEW SPECIES DISCOVERED: The adorable titi monkey

What’s adorable, furry and has never been seen before? Callicebus caquetensis, a new species of titi monkey discovered on a scientific expedition to the Colombian Amazon. Researchers from the National University of Colombia who discovered the new primate consider it to be critically endangered due to rapid loss of the forest where it lives and its small population.

Titi monkeys (or zogui zogui as they are called in Spanish) have one of the most complex calls in the animal kingdom and use it every morning to mark their territory.

This discovery is particularly important because it reminds us that we should celebrate the diversity of earth but also we must take action now to preserve it," said José Vicente Rodríguez, head of science at Conservation International in Colombia and president of the Colombia Association of Zoology.

Hear the call of the titi monkey | Read the press release | See titi monkey photos

In Focus
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Click here to follow the search

The global search of a lifetime: Search for the Lost Frogs

Over the next few months, CI is supporting expeditions by amphibian experts in 20 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia. Led by members of International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Amphibian Specialist Group, the research teams are in search of around 40 species that haven’t been seen for more than a decade. Although there is no guarantee of success, scientists are optimistic about the prospect of at least one rediscovery.

Whatever the results, the expedition findings will expand our global understanding of the threats to amphibians and bring us closer to finding solutions for the animals' protection. Bold conservation efforts are not only critical for the future of many amphibians themselves, but also for the benefit of humans that rely on pest control, nutrient cycling and other services the animals provide.

At the latest count, CI is supporting 32 teams in 20 countries participating in this one-of-a-kind search. No search of this scale and type has ever been undertaken before.

Click here to receive weekly updates on discoveries and news from the field.

See our frog maps and images | Send a Lost Frogs eCard | Upload your own photos

Scientists have discovered a remarkable new frog, one of the world’s tiniest, on the southeastern Asian island of Borneo. Researchers discovered the species, known as Microhyla nepenthicola, in Bornean swamp forests. The frog is about 10 millimeters long, or close to the size of a pea. Read the press relase here.

On the Ground

Coral Reef

© Comstock Images

The unprecedented 'Pacific Oceanscape'

An unprecedented agreement toward the cooperative stewardship of a vast swath of Pacific Ocean has been reached, and conservationists are heralding it as among the most ambitious, innovative, and collaborative marine initiatives on Earth.

Meeting in Port Villa, Vanuatu, at the annual Pacific Islands Leadership Forum, heads of state and governments from 15 nations endorsed a draft framework for the long-term, sustainable and cooperative management of 38.5 million square kilometers–larger than the land size of Canada, the United States and Mexico combined.

The Framework, called the Pacific Oceanscape, aims to address all ocean issues from governance to climate change. It also aims to design policies and implement practices that will improve ocean health, increase resources and expertise, and encourage governments to factor ocean issues into decisions about economic and sustainable development. It represents perhaps the largest marine conservation management initiative in history, as measured by countries and area, and a new, united Pacific voice on ocean conservation and management.

“It is, without doubt, the most ambitious, most innovative, and most well-grounded marine initiative I have seen in my 32 years as a marine biologist and conservationist,” said Dr. Greg Stone, CI’s Chief Ocean Scientist and Senior Vice President for Marine Conservation.

See a map of the Pacific Oceanscape | Read more | Learn about the Ocean Health Index

This issue of eNews features many conservation successes and programs - share the good news!

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Header photo credits:
© CI/photo by Cristano Noguiero
© Robin Moore
© CI/photo by Russell Mittermeier