Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 January 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Vocational training for school-leavers, dropouts

The government has taken the initiative to recruit school-leavers and school dropouts for vocational training courses under a special programme scheduled to be implemented by the Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Ministry.

Minister of Foreign Employment and Welfare, Dilan Perera told the Junior Observer that school dropouts and school- leavers should not be isolated and they must be given comprehensive training on important vocational fields to enable them to find employment in Sri Lanka and abroad.

"School- leavers must also be given training on important subjects such as English Language and Information Technology, considering that a large number of jobs related to the field of Information Technology are currently available in Sri Lanka and abroad,".

The Minister said jobs are also available in Middle Eastern and other countries for skilled workers and therefore the Ministry has made several plans to train young school-leavers at vocational training institutions throughout the country.

The Minister said these programmes would be started in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Vocational Training and also with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, the authorised foreign employment authority.

Great Barrier Reef under threat from floods

Australia's spectacular Great Barrier Reef is under threat from massive floods swamping the country's northeast which are pouring harmful debris and sediment into the sea, an expert said on January 6.

The full impact of the floods, which are rushing huge volumes of water into the pristine surrounds of the world's largest coral reef, is not yet known, but the influx will stress the colourful corals, said Michelle Devlin.a researcher at James Cook University in northern Queensland.

"This does impact on the reef. It just impacts on the reef's resilience so you get very stressed corals and you get stressed sea grass,"explained Devlin, He said while the rivers have always poured into the reef, the floods were no longer bringing just rainwater, but also sediment, nutrients and pesticides.

"Top soil will run straight off into the water and that will come straight out into the Great Barrier Reef," said the researcher, who chased the flood plumes by boat to take samples and track the extent of the damage.

"There's a lot of water around and already it would be influencing the reef," she said, describing the mixture of fresh, warm water, nutrient-heavy soil and pesticide run-offs as a harmful "cocktail" for the corals.

"There is just going to be this cocktail of water containing a lot of things that they (the corals) wouldn't necessarily have seen before. It is fresh, warm water and that will stress corals out as well."

Devlin said flood plumes were visible near the coastal city of Rockhampton, where floods have virtually cut off the town of 75,000, and already stretched to up to 40 kilometres offshore.

As more floodwaters brought by weeks of torrential rains make their way to the coast, the dirty river water will pour into the reef for weeks, enabling the plume to extend for hundreds of kilometres, she said.

And although the worst of the flooding is at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, experts expect the floodwaters to drift towards the Whitsunday Islands, a tourist hotspot at the centre of the colourful attraction.

Already the plume is at the scenic Keppel islands north of Rockhampton and Devlin said these would likely bear the brunt of the flood impact.

Delvin said the floods were some of the biggest in decades and it was too early to know what impact they would have overall on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which stretches some 2,300 kilometres up the northeast coast.

But she said it was possible that sea grass beds - a key feeding ground for marine creatures such as dugongs - could be wiped out in some areas while the additional nutrients in the water could allow the crown of thorns starfish - a pest on the reef - to flourish.

"This is a really massive event," Devlin said. "It has the potential to shift the food web and it has the potential to shift how the reef operates.""But it is a really robust ecosystem," she said of the reef which teems with marine life and boasts hundreds of coral species.

News from the animal kingdom:

Elephant census in the offing

With the objective of ascertaining the number of elephants left in the country, following the increasing number of deaths reported, wildlife officials intend to conduct an islandwide census on elephants by mid-year.

According to the Director General of the Department of Wildlife, Dr. Chandrawansa Pathiraja, such a census was carried out last in 2007.

It is estimated that there are about 4,000 to 5,000 elephants in the wild but with over 200 elephants being killed annually as a result of the on going elephant-man conflict, the numbers could dwindle very fast.

The government will effect strict measures to protect the elephant population in the country as they are a national treasure, says Dr. Pathiraja.

A sea lion that writes

An eight-year-old sea lion 'Leo' looks at the camera after writing the word 'Rabbit' in Chinese characters as part of a New Year's attraction at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium in Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture, suburban Tokyo in early January this year.February 2011 will mark the start of the Year of the Rabbit according to the lunar calender, a 12-year cycle followed by China and other parts of Asia.








A Panda Cow

A Panda Cow - nicknamed for its panda bear markings, was born on a Northern Colorado farm last month. His mother is a Lowline Angus cow.

The Panda Cow is a very rare breed of miniature cow, with only 24 similar animals in the world as of the last count, according to TPI news.

The male calf has been named Ben. Its markings are the result of genetic manipulations.The farmer, Chris Jessen, specialises in raising miniature cattle, and he also has several other miniature animals on his farm including a miniature kangaroo, more commonly referred to as a 'Wallaby'.

Jessen says the miniature animals are typically sold as pets since they do not have much practical use other than being cute and cuddly.

A panda cow can fetch around $30,000, though at this time he does not anticipate there is much of a market for the cow. The current market is fine by him, though he does not plan on selling it right away.


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