Gbenga Oluboye

Gbenga Oluboye

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The Manitoba government is allocating funds to 621 early learning and child care spaces at 63 centres across the province, Families Minister Scott Fielding announced today.

“We know the value of early learning and child care to a child’s social, cognitive and emotional development and how it gives them a better chance to succeed in life,” said Fielding. “We also know its importance to parents and guardians who are able to attend school or work, knowing their children are safe, cared for and learning.”   

The money is part of The Canada-Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the federal government, announced Feb. 23. The bilateral agreement commits $47 million over three years to create up to 1,400 new and newly-funded spaces for children under the age of six. Of that, $2.3 million annually will provide new operating grant funding for 621 existing licensed spaces, which were previously created by facility-driven expansion and on a waiting list to receive subsidy. The minister said the funding ensures centres can remain affordable for Manitoba families and financially stable, so they can continue to offer child care in their communities.

Centres can expect to start receiving these funds over the next week.

The minister noted the agreement will target up to 94 newly-funded spaces at centres that offer French language programming and services. As well, 61 of today’s newly-funded spaces are in centres that support French immersion school communities.

“In distributing this money, the agreement identified we should give priority to spaces based on whether they serve higher-needs communities, such as French language, rural and northern, as well as infant and preschool spaces and early learning services for children under the age of six,” said Fielding.

The minister noted there is potential to fund additional spots in the future, as the province can identify additional spaces over the three-year period.

As part of the bilateral agreement, the province continues to determine allocation of up to 750 new spaces for children under age six that will be developed through capital projects. Work also continues to develop a broader provincial early learning and child care strategy.

A new survey using drones will enable the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) to gather data on the distribution and population of dugongs in the remote Aldabra Atoll.

The Atoll which is managed by the SIF is the last remaining place where the manatee-like species can be seen in the island nation.

Jake Letori, who is a volunteer in the research team at the foundation, said that drones will facilitate the capture of spatial data.

Letori said this method will provide the foundation with information about the dugong distribution, their exact locations and movements within the lagoon and surrounding reef habitats.

“Imagery acquired from surveys could tell us about dugong health and interactions with other marine organisms, especially predators,” said Letori.

 Letori said that remotely piloted aircraft provides an alternative tool for persons in the field wanting to monitor wildlife. (Seychelles Islands Foundation) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

The dugong -- a medium-sized marine mammal closely related to the manatee -- is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae and is largely dependent on sea grass communities for subsistence. 

Letori said that this species is likely to survive on Aldabra because they are highly protected from coastal activities.

“In other dugong monitoring studies, analysis of photos or videos using software has been used to record metrics such as body length and weight, assessing dugong health while also providing a record of individual dugongs through identification of natural markings,” explained Letori.

Letori said marine mammals like dugongs are routinely monitored from the sky due to their highly mobile and extensive ranges.

“This was previously done with traditional aircraft such as planes and helicopters, but as we progress through the digital age of the 21st century, the miniaturisation of technology, remotely piloted aircraft provides an alternative tool for persons in the field wanting to monitor wildlife,” Letori said.

The remote and isolated location of Aldabra, one of Seychelles' UNESCO World Heritage Sites, makes the monitoring of mobile animals very complex where logistics are concerned.

“Drone surveys can also be logistically more practical, with low operational costs. There is no need for fuel. Thus reduce transportation and chartering fees,” explained Letori.

The volunteer said these surveys “are also safer for personnel, extremely useful when considering Aldabra’s remoteness and hostility during an emergency.”

Dugongs are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Aldabra’s population status is unknown, although it is estimated to be somewhere around 25 individuals.

“There have been sightings of groups of up to four individuals, some with juveniles and calves, suggesting that Aldabra may be used as a breeding and nursery ground. The dugongs could be resident or migratory as they are known to travel large distances - up to 600 km. Four individual dugongs have been observed in the lagoon over the past 4 months on Aldabra,” said Letori.

Already the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority has presented the first draft of proposed regulations on the flying of remote pilot aircraft, giving operators the chance to provide feedback.

The proposed regulations are in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation that obliges states to protect civil aircraft through regulatory enforcement action from drone activity at aerodromes. The regulations make provisions to safe-guard the property and privacy of the general public.

Apart from monitoring species, drones are commonly used locally in photography and cinematography to take an aerial view of Seychelles - a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. Recently a comedy series, titled ‘High and Dry’, which unfolds with passengers surviving a plane crash on a deserted tropical island, was filmed using drones.  

A Seychelles’ UNESCO World Heritage site is introducing for the first time trial methods to fight against invasive ants that pose a threat to native species in the area, a Vallee de Mai official said.

Officials working in Vallee de Mai on Praslin, the second-most populated island, have recorded an increase in the number of yellow Anoplolepis gracilipes - commonly known as yellow crazy ants – over the past year. Their distribution over Vallee de Mai -- a protected reserve and home to the endemic coco de mer -- has increased from 74 percent in 2016 to 92 percent in 2017.

Yellow crazy ants -- so called because of their colour and frenetic movements -- have been observed attacking or killing native species such as black parrot chicks, caecilians, amphibians and black scorpions.

One beetle was no match for a host of Yellow crazy ants, Anoplolepis gracilipes (John Tann/Flickr) Photo License: (CC BY 2.0)

One method to be tried to control them is tree wrapping. Selected trees will be wrapped in cling wrap sprayed with furniture polish or cloth soaked in eucalyptus oil.

“These methods are not toxic and aim to act as deterrents to the ants. This approach will prevent the ants from accessing the canopy and therefore black parrot nests,” said Vicky Stravens, the Vallee de Mai science coordinator.

Currently, this is being done on trees that have an active trail of ants. These are being checked frequently in order to monitor for impacts on any other species.

A second trial using a specially designed ant bait dispenser is also to be trialed later in the year. The ant bait stations are also expected to have minimal non-target impacts.

Designed specifically for ants, other species such as geckos or skinks can’t access the bait. Stravens said that “yellow crazy ants are so numerous that they will monopolise the bait, preventing other insect species getting to it.”

Every year, a survey is carried out to monitor ant distribution over time, and to determine whether they are spreading to new areas or increasing in number.

The Vallee de Mai science coordinator told SNA that “monitoring invasive species is a key first step towards understanding their impact on the ecosystem and in designing control or eradication methodologies.”

The survey carried out last year showed that the crazy yellow ant population has spread out all over Vallee de Mai, except for a narrow strip in the southern part of the forest. Out of 50 core points included in the survey, yellow crazy ants were present in 46 randomly selected sites.

Yellow crazy ants -- a species of tramp ant -- can create ‘supercolonies’ of many millions of ants spread over a vast area. 

Norwegian is continuing its Irish expansion by doubling the number of flights on its popular Dublin-New York services.

Europe’s third largest low-cost airline first launched transatlantic flights from Dublin to Stewart International Airport in New York State and Providence, Rhode Island, last summer using brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft offering up to 189 seats.

Each destination serves as a gateway to the metropolitan areas of New York City and Boston, in addition to major tourist attractions in New York State and New England which include Woodbury Common Premium Shopping Outlets, Cape Cod, and Nantucket.

From April 26th, Norwegian’s daily non-stop flights from Dublin to Stewart International Airport, will increase to a twice-daily service.

The new early morning departure at 08:10 will offer passengers the earliest flight from Dublin to New York, which lands at 10:30 local time.

The convenient flight schedule will give passengers several hours to shop at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in New York State and depart for Dublin at 08:30 the same evening.

Thomas Ramdahl, chief commercial officer at Norwegian said: “More than 130,000 passengers have flown Norwegian between Ireland and the USA since flights commenced last July, and today marks our continued expansion by introducing twice-daily Dublin-New York flights.

“With strong demand from Irish holidaymakers and business travellers for our high-quality flights in brand new aircraft, it was naturally our next move to increase capacity in Ireland even further.

“Not only are Irish passengers benefitting from more flights to the USA, but we’re also making it easier for Americans to access Ireland and beyond at much better value.”

Upon arrival at Stewart International Airport in New York, passengers have the option of direct shuttle bus services into New York City which are timed to meet Norwegian’s flight arrivals.

A new shuttle service will commence between Stewart Airport and Woodbury Common for passengers arriving on the new morning flight from Dublin.

From March 24th, shuttle buses departing Woodbury Common will be timed for passengers to arrive at the airport three hours before Norwegian’s evening flight departures.

Norwegian currently operates six routes from Dublin to destinations in the USA and Nordic countries including Providence, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.

Passengers flying Norwegian from Dublin and Shannon can use US preclearance facilities to clear US immigration and customs before departure.

The airline opened a new pilot base at Dublin Airport in 2017 to support the airline’s growing international operations.

Norwegian will also increase the number of transatlantic flights from Shannon.

From March 27th, the airline will double its frequency to Providence from two to four flights a week and will add a third weekly flight to Stewart, New York.

This month, it was confirmed Stewart International Airport will be renamed New York Stewart International Airport as part of a $37 million airport upgrade to better handle soaring international passenger numbers.

Norwegian is the only airline to operate international flights from Stewart International Airport.

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