Quick Takes: Hippo rehoming | WORLD
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Quick Takes: Hippo rehoming

Colombia plans to spend big bucks to shrink a big problem

Illustration by Navina Chhabria

Quick Takes: Hippo rehoming
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At long last, Colombia appears ready to solve its hippopotamus problem. Infamous drug smuggler Pablo Escobar amassed a hippopotamus collection at his Colombian hideout in the 1980s. In the decades after Escobar’s 1993 death, the herd swelled to 130 or more hippos as they reproduced rapidly in the Magdalena River basin where they face no natural predators. Colombian wildlife officials have tried to stem the population boom through the use of contraceptive darts and other birth control methods but have found little success. At a press conference March 29, Colombian government officials announced a $3.5 million plan to capture, crate, and transport 60 hippos to a facility in India and another 10 hippos to a sanctuary in Mexico.

No English allowed

New legislation proposed in Italy seeks to prohibit English words in official Italian documents and suggests a fine of up to approximately $110,000 for officials who engage in what the bill calls “Anglomania.” The proposal, put forward by members of the Brothers of Italy party, would also direct the culture ministry to create a committee for establishing correct pronunciations of Italian words and issuing fines to advertisers, schools, and media firms found to be in violation. “It is not just a matter of fashion, as fashions pass, but Anglomania has repercussions for society as a whole,” the proposal states.

Bits and pieces

When a cylinder containing radioactive material went missing from a Thailand power plant in March, government officials hoped the presumed thief would quickly return it. Instead, workers in Prachinburi province say they discovered evidence of the 55-pound drum, which contained radioactive Cesium-137, at a steel recycling foundry. Officials, who found the remains after the Cesium tripped detectors scanning for radioactivity, cordoned off the area for cleanup and sent foundry workers home.

Awarding the winners

If a trio of North Carolina lawmakers get their way, the era of participation trophies will be over. The Republican state senators sponsored a measure March 30 that, if enacted, would prohibit youth sports leagues in the state from giving awards based on anything other than performance achievements. The bill means not everyone would get a trophy. The prohibition would extend to any youth league “operated under the authority of a local government.”

Egg-cessive baggage

What gave away one Taiwanese passenger making his way through customs at Miami International Airport was the squeaking and chirping emanating from his carry-on suitcase. Customs officials decided to give Szu Ta Wu’s luggage a closer inspection March 23 after hearing the sounds. Initially, the man pulled a bird egg out of the bag. Undaunted, a customs officer looked inside the bag and found more eggs—and a baby bird that had apparently recently hatched. Customs officials eventually discovered 29 eggs—eight of which were fully or partially hatched. Federal officials charged Wu with felony smuggling.

Mystery meat

It smelled like roasted crocodile. That’s how some witnesses described a meatball that cooks prepared using cultured woolly mammoth meat. The meatball was the brainchild of new Australian company Vow, which specializes in engineering edible meat in a lab. Vow scientists took genetic information from the long-extinct woolly mammoth, filled in the missing bits with African elephant DNA, and injected the genetic material into a sheep cell. But what the meatball tastes like is still a mystery because no one has sampled the resulting meat. Instead, the meatball was on display in an Amsterdam science museum in late March.

Discovery of drama

Nearly four centuries after his death, Spain’s most prolific playwright is about to have another title published. Deep in the archives of Spain’s National Library, officials have been using artificial intelligence to identify and transcribe a pile of anonymous works whose provenance was lost to history. Earlier this year, the AI program flagged one play—titled La francesa Laura—as likely the work of Félix Lope de Vega, the celebrated baroque writer who died in 1635. Scholars confirmed the work is likely one of several hundred plays that Lope de Vega wrote. A Spanish publishing house said it intends to publish the lost play later this year.


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