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By Laura Zuckerman SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - U.S. wildlife managers at Yellowstone National Park are reporting an unusually high number of grizzly bear deaths, 55, linked to humans this year in a trend believed tied to a growing number of the bruins harming livestock or challenging hunters over freshly killed game. The uptick in bear deaths comes as the Obama administration says the population of roughly 690 bears in and around Yellowstone has come back from the brink of extinction and should be stripped of U.S. Endangered Species Act protections. The plan, proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year, opens the way for hunting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the Northern Rocky Mountain states that border the park.
Ugandan traditional music, which is dying out partly because it requires materials from endangered species, has been placed on UNESCO's protected "Intangible Cultural Heritage" list, along with Portuguese pottery and Ukrainian Cossack songs. A UNESCO world heritage committee, meeting in Addis Ababa Tuesday, decided to include Uganda's Ma'di Bowl Lyre music and dance, one of the oldest cultural practices of the Madi people of Uganda. A black pottery manufacturing process from the Portuguese village of Bisalhaes was also added to the UNESCO list of "Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding".
Alexis Noel, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, began investigating the spines on cat tonguesafter she watched a cat lick a thick blanket and it immediately got its tongue stuck. "I was home for the holidays and watching TV with the family cats," Noel said. "When I was done laughing at this curious cat, the scientist in me began to question how a soft, wet tissue could stick to something so easily," Noel told Live Science.
If you think dinosaurs are amazing and unusual, you may want to take a closer look at your own mammalian family tree — it's brimming with extinct animals that are just as bizarre and fascinating as a duck-billed and crested hadrosaur, or a frilled and horned Triceratops. A new, illustrated "field guide" to extinct prehistoric mammals describes the range of warm-blooded creatures of all sizes that roamed the Earth millions of years ago, and they're stranger and more spectacular than you might imagine. In "The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals" (Princeton University Press, 2016), author Donald Prothero, a research associate in vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, introduces readers to an array of real-life, but seemingly fantastic, beasts — extinct mammals.
Two men were charged Monday with stealing rare pygmy marmosets from an Australian wildlife park as a baby was reunited with her mum and the hunt continued to find dad. Three of the monkeys, the world's smallest, were snatched from their enclosure at the Symbio Wildlife Park south of Sydney on Saturday, with police and zookeepers launching a desperate bid to locate the suckling infant. It was not clear why the monkeys, which are native to South America and usually about 20 centimetres (eight inches) tall, were taken, but Symbio park manager Matthew Radnidge said there would have been a financial motivation.
By David Ingram NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. airports trotted out friendly companion dogs to calm jittery travelers and offered perks including free parking on Wednesday as throngs of people rushed toward their Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. Some travelers early on Wednesday reported smooth experiences. "I got there at 7:10 and there was no line to get past security," said Grant Grindler, 24, of his arrival at Washington Dulles International Airport for his flight to Chicago, where he planned to drive to Wisconsin.
Sydney's Taronga Zoo is celebrating its first successful echidna births in 30 years with three healthy babies, known as puggles, from three different mums hatching within days of each other. Echidnas, or spiny anteaters, are notoriously difficult to breed in human care, but keepers at the zoo are pleased with the progress of the tiny trio and first-time mothers Ganyi, Spike and Pitpa. "All three mothers are doing an amazing job and tending to their puggles as needed," said Suzie Lemon, one of the keepers.
Twin panda cubs born at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo last summer were officially named Fu Feng and Fu Ban at a ceremony on Wednesday - although they were still too small to be there themselves. The cubs were born on Aug. 7 to giant panda Yang Yang. Zoo and other officials gathered for the naming ceremony, where billboards displaying the cubs' pictures and their names were unveiled.
Sri Lanka unveiled tougher laws Wednesday, including a ban on using young elephants for logging and other physical work, as part of a crackdown on cruelty to domesticated wild animals. Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said the cabinet approved new regulations imposing tough conditions on owners of elephants, which are considered sacred by Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Under the new regulations seen by AFP, owners are banned from using working elephants below the age of 10 years while those under five years cannot be used in parades, even at religious festivals.
Twenty-six poachers have been caught at night after a new thermal and infrared camera and software system was introduced in Kenya's famed Maasai Mara and its other national parks, WWF said on Monday. The technology combines the imaging with human detection software and was developed by the World Wildlife Fund. "Nine months after the tech’s installation, more than two dozen poachers have been arrested in the Maasai Mara and two poachers have been apprehended at another undisclosed national park in Kenya," a statement said.
Smugglers of pangolins, elephant tusks and rhino horn, meet your match: the sniffing rats. Conservationists in Tanzania are training the rodents to smell trafficked animal parts and illegal timber in shipments from Africa to Asia. The fledgling program aims to harness rats' keen sense of smell to combat the rampant global trade in illegal goods. Scaly pangolins, elephants and rhinos are facing extinction as poachers hunt more of them down for parts and meat. SEE ALSO: Pangolins, the world's most trafficked mammals, get major boost in battle against extinction APOPO, a Belgian non-profit group involved in the project, has worked for years with African giant pouched rats. Their rodents learn to sniff out mines on old battlefields in Angola, Mozambique and Cambodia, or to detect tuberculosis in phlegm samples from patients in Tanzania and Mozambique. We do not have opposable thumbs. But, who needs ‘em when you can detect #endTB and #landmines with your nose … #rattingitout #ratties pic.twitter.com/4eyCt9XKlz — APOPO's HeroRATs (@HeroRATs) November 1, 2016 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $100,000 to the new anti-poaching effort as part of the Obama administration's broader $1.2 million initiative to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. The grants "support projects on the ground where wildlife trafficking is decimating some of the Earth's most cherished and most unusual species," Dan Ashe, the agency's director, said in an October statement. Endangered Wildlife Trust, a South African organization, is spearheading the latest rat-sniffing initiative with APOPO. The pilot project will begin by rearing 10 to 15 rodents in Tanzania. An APOPO-trained rat sniffs for explosives while being watched by its handler in Maputo, Mozambique, Oct. 7, 2015. Image: AP Photo/Ilec VilanculO The rats, only a few weeks old right now, will begin with "socialization training," which includes riding on people's shoulders and sitting in their pockets to get used to sights and sounds, James Pursey, APOPO's spokesman, told the Associated Press. Next up: "click and reward" training. The trainers feed rats a treat whenever the rodents hear a clicking sound, so that rats will eventually associate the scent of pangolins and other animals with edible rewards. Finally, trainers will reduce the intensity of animal scents and mix in other smells to confuse the rats, leading them to scratch or linger over a certain site. In the real world, this behavior would tip off handlers to a possible find. A pangolin carries its baby at a Bali zoo in Bali, Indonesia. Image: AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati The pilot project will initially focus on illegal hardwood timber and pangolins, which are believed to be the most trafficked animals in the world. Pangolin scales are a common ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and their meat is considered a delicacy in parts of Vietnam and China. Organizers said they next hope to train the rats to find smuggled elephant ivory and rhino horn. If all goes according to plan, the pangolin-sniffing rats could finally get to work in about a year or so. APOPO's Pursey told the AP that the rodents will stick to perusing cargo rather than people's personal luggage. Travelers wouldn't be "particularly enamored" to have rats crawling all over their belongings, he said. Associated Press contributed reporting. BONUS: Manatees are being sent to the Caribbean so they can mate
The Bronx Zoo has been taken over by a horde of adorable animals of an entirely new species — call it Elephas origami. The zoo, run by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), has officially amassed the largest display collection of origami elephants in the world, earning it a spot in the Guinness World Records. The official tally of 78,564 more than doubles the last record holder, the Zoological Society of London/Whipsnade Zoo in Great Britain, which displayed a paltry 33,764 origami elephants in 2014.
By Nguyen Ha Minh and Ho Binh Minh HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam and neighboring countries should shut down illegal wildlife markets and step up their fight against the trafficking of rhino horn, ivory and tiger parts, international conservationists said on Thursday. The call was made during a conference on illegal wildlife trade hosted by Hanoi, with Britain's Prince William, President of United for Wildlife, and representatives from over 50 countries among the attendants. Last Saturday Vietnam destroyed nearly 2.2 tonnes of seized elephant ivory and 70 kg of rhino horns from 23 rhinos and about 330 African elephants, in one of its strongest moves yet to stop illegal wildlife trafficking.
With fewer than 4,000 left in the wild, tigers are on a precipice -- yet more than 100 of the big cats are still killed and illegally trafficked each year, according to fresh analysis published Wednesday. The latest estimate comes as experts and dignitaries, including Britain's Prince William, gather in Vietnam's capital for an international wildlife conference which kicks off on Thursday. The two-day meet joins governments, NGOs and activists to combat illegal wildlife trade and is being hosted in a country that has become a nexus for smuggling and consumption.
A Vietnamese village has become "a supermarket for illegal wildlife trafficking" raking in millions of dollars, a special hearing was told Monday. The two-day public hearing in The Hague is laying out the findings of a year-long undercover investigation by the new Wildlife Justice Commission. The probe has provided "clear and irrefutable evidence of an industrial-scale crime hub in the village of Nhi Khe in Vietnam," said the commission's executive director Olivia Swaak-Goldman.
Animal rights groups have called for the permanent return home of "the saddest polar bear in the world" on display in a shopping mall in southern China after the mall aquarium announced the bear would temporarily be moved during an upgrade. The three-year-old female polar bear, named Pizza, has become a focus of global media attention since Hong Kong-based Animal Asia posted in July an online video of the bear lying on her side in a glass-walled enclosure in the city of Guangzhou. "Pizza the polar bear will temporarily leave Guangzhou and return to her birthplace," the Grandview Mall Aquarium said on its official account on WeChat, a popular mobile-based Chinese social media platform.
Our rising plastic consumption and growing appetite for beef are endangering bird species around the world, scientists said this week. Two separate studies found that our consumer habits are affecting birds more profoundly than we previously thought. Researchers said their work could help inform conservation efforts to protect birds on both land and at sea. SEE ALSO: Hawaii's bees are now protected under U.S. Endangered Species Act The papers were both published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. The first study explores why seabirds are so inclined to gobble up marine plastic pollution. A plastic bottle lies among other plastic debris washed ashore on the Indian Ocean beach in Uswetakeiyawa, Sri Lanka. Image: AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe Plastic bait-and-switch With trillions of pieces of plastic floating in the oceans, about 99 percent of the world's seabird species are expected to suffer from plastic ingestion by 2050, a 2015 study found. Birds often mistake bags, bottle caps, plastic fibers and other materials for food and swallow the plastic, damaging their insides and potentially killing them. Yet little research exists into why plastic confuses birds in the first place, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. Some species of seabirds, including blue petrels, are particularly vulnerable to eating plastic debris at sea. Image: J.J. Harrison Gabrielle Nevitt, an ecologist at UC Davis, and her former graduate student Matthew Savoca found that the smell of algae on marine plastic debris may be what attracts seabirds. Algae leaks a sulfurous compound when it's dying or in distress. When tiny crustaceans feast on algae, the sulfurous scent sends a chemical message to seabirds: "Here is food." In Nevitt's earlier research, she found that petrels, an abundant species of tube-nose seabird, have used this olfactory cue to forage for thousands of years. But that skill turns against petrels when the algae forms on plastic. "The birds don't want to eat the algae. They want to eat what's eating the algae," Savoca, the lead author of Wednesday's paper, told Mashable. "Now [the compound] is telling them where to find the plastic." Plastic bottles, balls and floating trash pollutes Manchester Ship Canal in England. Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Savoca and Nevitt made this finding by tying plastic beads wrapped in mesh bags to ocean buoys. The team collected the beads three weeks later, then took the haul to UC Davis' Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. Researchers confirmed that the marine plastic reeked of the same sulfur compound released by algae. Savoca noted the study is just the "first early evidence" that scent is a key reason why birds eat plastic and said further field research is still needed to validate the findings. Mapping habitat loss Birds are a critical part of any ecosystem: They disperse seeds, pollinate plants and recycle nutrients back into the ground. Because the welfare of birds often points to the overall health of their environments, the new research has consequences far beyond the bird nest. "If there are problems with birds, then there are almost certainly problems with mammals and amphibians," said Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. Pimm co-authored a Wednesday paper that used satellite imaging, remote-sensing data and field work to measure the habitats of bird species worldwide. They found that hundreds of species are at risk due to land-use changes such as deforestation and industrial agriculture. A map of the Velvet-purple Coronet's habitat. Image: NATALIA OCAMPO-PEÑUELA The study fills a critical knowledge gap in conservation research, the authors said. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is responsible for monitoring and listing threatened species around the world, but its methods don't always incorporate modern data tools. The Duke study found that more than 200 bird species at risk of extinction are not included on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Those birds are found in six rapidly developing regions: Brazil's Atlantic forest, Central America, Colombia's western Andes, Sumatra, Madagascar and Southeast Asia. "We were surprised by how extensive the problems are," Pimm told Mashable. The Munchique Wood-Wren. Image: Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela The widely respected Red List helps governments and conservation groups set legal protections and create restricted areas for threatened species. By adding satellite and mapping tools, conservationists would have a much deeper understanding of where birds are in trouble and need extra protection, Pimm said. The study also found that more than 600 species in those six developing areas are seeing their habitats shrink from land-use changes. Of that group, only 108 species are classified by IUCN as at risk of extinction. "Preventing these extinctions requires knowing what species are at risk and where they live," Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela, the study's lead author, said in a statement. Stuart Butchart, who is responsible for the Red List's assessment of birds, said Pimm and his co-authors misunderstood the list's criteria and, as a result, incorrectly identified many species as not appropriately marked as threatened. He said IUCN developed guidelines and material precisely to prevent the researchers' errors. "All Red List assessments are carefully reviewed before they are published to ensure that the criteria are applied correctly and consistently," Butchart told Mashable by email.
More than 90 percent of illegal ivory comes from elephants slaughtered for their tusks in the last three years, not from old government stockpiles, according to a new study released Monday. The finding by Columbia University researchers, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on an analysis of 231 tusks seized in nine different countries from 2002 to 2014. "It shows that ivory is moving through the system fast," said study co-author Kevin Uno, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Despite the threat, it's hard not to want to cuddle the pint-sized furball and her mate Freddy, the only pygmy anteaters in the world to be kept in a zoo. Also called silky anteaters, or Cyclopes didactylus, they are known as creatures of the night, wrapping their little golden-brown bodies around tropical tree branches to feed on ants. The pair are believed to be the longest-lived pygmy anteaters in captivity.
Twin panda cubs born at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo this summer will be officially named at a ceremony this month after animal lovers in an online poll picked a name for the male cub, the park said on Thursday. The Austrian zoo said in October it had chosen the name for the female cub but then appealed to animal lovers to help find a name for her brother. The zoo also revealed for the first time on Thursday the name it had picked for the female cub - Fu Feng.
The race is on to keep Hawaii's native bees from vanishing. Seven of Hawaii's yellow-faced bee species are now officially protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, a step that will allow authorities to carry out recovery programs and limit harm from outside sources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing in October, but the rule formally took effect on Monday. SEE ALSO: This is why millions of bees have died in South Carolina "These are the first bees to be federally protected under the [act], so in a way this is a threshold moment," said Xerces Society's Matthew Shepherd. The conservation group first petitioned the federal government to protect yellow-faced bees in 2009. "Finally, people are taking notice of these insects that generally have been overlooked," Shepherd told Mashable. The seven bee species are among the 60 types of bees in the genus Hylaeus. The bees are named "yellow-faced" for the golden mark between the males' eyes. As pollinators, the native bees play a vital role in keeping Hawaii's native plant species alive and thriving. Those plants in turn sustain food chains and nesting habitats throughout the archipelago. Yet in recent years, Hawaii's expanding urban footprint and the spread of invasive plants and animals have decimated bee colonies. Yellow-faced bees were once the state's most abundant insects. Now they are one of the least observed pollinators on the islands. If the bee populations don't recover, the insects will have a harder time adapting to effects of climate change like harsher droughts, stronger storms, more frequent wildfires and rising sea levels, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. Hylaeus longiceps, a yellow-faced bee species, on Myoporum. Image: State of Hawaii, Division of Forestry and Wildlife And if the bees go, the native plant species and the ecosystems they sustain could also perish. Pollinators are under similar threat on the U.S. mainland. Bumblebees and honeybees, for instance, have suffered staggering losses in the last decade due to the abundant use of pesticides, the spread of parasites and habitat loss from industrial agriculture and suburban development. For Hawaii's bees, the endangerment listing is the first of many steps needed to protect the native species, said Shepherd. The Fish and Wildlife Service's ruling does not designate any "critical habitats," a move that requires federal agencies to protect important characteristics of the designated areas. The government also has not yet developed a "recovery plan" for how the agency will manage and protect the bees. Hylaeus longiceps, a yellow-faced bee species, on Sesbania. Image: State of Hawaii, Division of Forestry and Wildlife Shepherd said Xerces Society, which has studied Hawaii's bees for years, would work to push Fish and Wildlife Service to take these two key measures. "It's wonderful that [the bees] have this listing, but that doesn't mean that miraculously now they will survive," he said. "We now need to actually protect the bees so that the 'protection' isn't just on a piece of paper." The yellow-faced bees' track record suggests they still have a fighting chance. Despite the mounting threats, 11 new native species have been found in Hawaii in the last 15 years. Six of those spcies were from Oahu, the island most heavily impacted by development, Karl Magnacca, a senior researcher at the University of Hawaii, said in a fact sheet. "The future is uncertain for our native pollinators," Magnacca wrote, "but they have already surprised us with their adaptability and perseverance."
The 2016 U.S. presidential election has been memorable for many reasons, but a nuanced discussion about climate change isn't one of them. With just weeks to go before election day, the producers of the documentary series Years of Living Dangerously said they are hoping to break the climate silence with the premiere of the show's second season on Sunday. SEE ALSO: Leonardo DiCaprio's new film 'Before the Flood' says we can fix global warming The first season, which won a 2014 Emmy Award, was the highest profile program on climate change since Al Gore's groundbreaking 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth . The Showtime series paired celebrity correspondents with climate scientists and grassroots activists to highlight the threats that a warming planet poses to families and ecosystems worldwide. Season 2 of Years will air on a new outlet, the National Geographic Channel, and will have a stronger focus on renewable energy solutions. David Gelber, who created the show with Joel Bach, said he hoped Season 2 would influence U.S. voters before they hit the polls on Nov. 8. "We want to put this issue where it belongs. It's the single biggest issue facing the planet right now," Gelber told Mashable at the Sept. 21 season premiere party in New York. "Our hope is to develop a political consensus that this is an urgent matter," he said, adding that if countries don't address climate change, "We're screwed. I got an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old, and their world is going to be turned upside down." Season 2 will revive the successful mix of Hollywood stars, high-profile scientists and environmentalists. The show's executive producers include Gelber, Bach, James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Celebrity correspondents attend the premiere of National Geographic Channel’s "Years of Living Dangerously'"at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Sept. 21, 2016. Image: Anthony Behar/National Geographic/PictureGroup Mashable spoke with a few of this season's correspondents on the sidelines of the September launch party at the American Museum of Natural History. Here's what they had to say about their upcoming episodes: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The former California governor and actor visited with U.S. soldiers in Kuwait. He traveled in a fuel convoy — one of the military's most dangerous missions — and learned how the military is working to reduce its own carbon footprint. "I wanted to travel to the Middle East and be part of the big fuel convoy, because so many of our men and women get killed delivering fuel to the military installations," Schwarzenegger said. "Now, by the military going green and powering their installations with solar and wind, rather than with fuel, they save a lot of lives." "The military is very efficient and they think ahead, years ahead," he added, "unlike some of our politicians that don't think way ahead." America Ferrera. The actress traveled to Waukegan, Illinois, where Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign is working to clean up a retired coal-fired power plant. Environmentalists say the hulking facility continues to taint the air and water and harm the health of nearby residents. Ferrera said she was attracted to Waukegan's story in part because it addresses the environmental injustices that many minority communities face around the country. "A large percentage of the population is Latino and low-income, and they're living around this coal plant that is essentially non-functioning but still continuing to pollute and toxify the air," Ferrera said. "They continue to endanger not only the environment but the lives of people who live around them." I'm excited to be joining season two of @YearsofLiving Dangerously as a correspondent, exploring deforestation and climate change in my beautiful home country of Brazil. The new season will air globally later this year on @NatGeoChannel #Yearsproject #Amazonforest Muito empolgada em participar da segunda temporada do @YearsofLiving Dangerously como correspondente, investigando o desmatamento e as mudanças climáticas no meu lindo país. A nova temporada irá ao ar mundialmente no final do ano no @NatGeoChannel #Florestaamazonica A photo posted by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on Jun 2, 2016 at 7:19am PDT Aasif Mandvi. The comedian and former Daily Show correspondent visited Kenya's wildlife preserves to understand how the effects of climate change, including increased drought and irregular rainfall, are affecting endangered species that are already vulnerable to poaching and habitat loss. "There's only 500,000 elephants on the continent of Africa today, and we're losing 30,000 a year," Mandvi said. "I don't think people realize how close we are to that kind of complete devastation of a species." The actor said the experience had a profound impact on his personal life. He met with members of the Maasai ethnic group in southern Kenya, who are now seeing elephants stampede their farmland as the animals escape their own withering habitats. "Our ecosystem is interdependent and interconnected, and we forget that in our First World lives," Mandvi said. "The water just comes out of the faucet. We don't worry about things like that."
Tanzania's president on Saturday ordered the security forces to go after top criminals financing organised networks behind elephant poaching, saying no one was "untouchable". The East African nation, home to the famous Serengeti which is packed with wildlife and Africa's highest mountain Kilimanjaro, relies on revenues from tourism and safaris but has been blighted by poachers chasing ivory to sell mostly in Asia. Since coming to power in 2015, President John Magufuli has promised root out corruption and mismanagement. "I am behind you ... arrest all those involved in this illicit trade, no one should be spared regardless of his position, age, religion ... or popularity," Magufuli said in a statement.
A federal court jury delivered a surprise verdict on Thursday acquitting anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy and six followers of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in the armed takeover of a wildlife center in Oregon earlier this year. The outcome marked a stinging defeat for federal prosecutors and law enforcement in a trial the defendants sought to turn into a pulpit for airing their opposition to U.S. government control over millions of acres of public lands in the West. Bundy and others, including his brother and co-defendant Ryan Bundy, cast the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a patriotic act of civil disobedience.
On current trends, that plunge in stocks of global wildlife could extend to two-thirds by 2020, an annual decline of two percent, conservation group WWF and the Zoological Society of London warned in their joint biennial Living Planet report. "This should be a wake-up call to marshal efforts to promote the recovery of these populations," said Ken Norris, director of science at the Zoological Society of London.
Sri Lanka said Thursday it will reduce its foreign debt by $1 billion by selling off former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse's vanity projects. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament he wanted to privatise a $1.3 billion port and a $210 million airport in Rajapakse's home constituency which have become huge white elephants. "By turning the debt into equity and forming a public-private partnership to run the airport and the harbour, we will reduce our foreign debt by a billion dollars," Wickremesinghe said.