News in Brief: The Persian Leopard, Accidental Death of one of the last male Marsican bears, and a mutant enzyme which eats plastics

The Persian Leopard

The Persian Leopard is only found in a few countries and only in very few small numbers. However the fact that it still clings on means that it is far easier to recover this species than it would be were the last few to have disappeared. This is similar to the Amur Leopard which dropped to only a population of perhaps 20 but has made an astounding recovery in the last 10 years where it has gained more than double its population. This is still a very small population base but is likely to lead to a growing population which, because of the support of the Worldwide Conservation Group, has huge amounts of money being thrown at it.

Accidental Death of one of the last male Marsican bears

There is a park in Northern Italy called Abruzzo National Park, and in a recent attempt to move a male bear, the unfortunate animal had a bad reaction to the sedatives used to allow the move to take place. He develop breathing problems and died before anything could be done.

There are only 50 of this subspecies of European bear left and so the loss of an animal is a big problem, particularly as it would seem that the animal sedated was not the one that was intended to be moved anyway as a mistake had been made.

While a cause of death has not been fully ascertained, it has been seen that the bear did have an underlying health problem and while anaesthetic may not have helped it was not the primary cause of death.

A mutant enzyme which eats plastics

In recent years a mutant enzyme which eats plastics was discovered on a Japanese dump. Scientists analysing this enzyme tweaked it to see how it broke down the plastic, but found the tweak actually made the an enzyme more efficient at breaking down plastic.

Furthermore the mutant enzyme only takes a few days rather than a few years to start breaking down plastic bottles. What is even more exciting is that having accidentally discovered this the scientists believe that the enzyme can be tweaked further to allow even more rapid breaking down and potentially become available large-scale process for breaking plastics back up into their constituent parts so that they can be reused.

Currently the recycling of plastic can only turn the plastic into opaque fibres to be used in carpets and clothing, but this enzyme appears that it will allow us to recycle them back into clear plastic bottles thereby significantly reducing the oil required in the world.

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