National Geographic : 2009 Mar
INSIDE GEOGRAPHIC Fieldwork National Geographic Society programs support scientific research, geographic exploration, and environmental conservation around the globe. O Find more at nationalgeographic.com/news. PHOTOS: CARSTEN PETER LEFT ; JESÚS EDUARDO LÓPEZ REYES This Year in NGS History 1961 Primatologist Jane Goodall, the first to document tool- making by a nonhuman species, continued her observation of chimpanzees in Tanzania using twigs and branches to rustle up a snack of termites. BOTSWANA It's well-known that animal diseases can pass to humans. Veterinarian Kathleen Alex- ander documents the reverse: the first cases of a human disease, tuberculosis, emerging in free-ranging wildlife---the mongoose. Understanding this outbreak will help conservation. TURKEY Nautical archaeologist Deborah Carlson excavated a 2,100-year-old ship in the Aegean and found it loaded with 50 tons of marble. The cargo's elusive destination: a temple dedicated to Apollo. EARTH'S MOON Astrophysicist Arlin Crotts discovered a link between radioactive radon gas and mysterious flashes from the moon. Using robotic tele- scopes, he and his team map this lunar activity. MEXICO Archaeologist Gary Feinman seeks clues to the fall of the Zapotec civilization. Not even a mighty rain god (right) could save agrarian centers from collapse 1,200 years ago. INDIA Rats on a Rampage Throughout Asia bamboo is revered as a symbol of good fortune. But one bamboo species causes dread. It flowers every 50 years in India's Mizoram state--- and its blooming brings tens of millions of hungry rats. After they devour the bamboo fruit, the rats demolish precious crops like rice (above). Biologist Kenneth Aplin is the first scientist to study links between Mizoram's rat outbreak and the bamboo. "They breed non- stop because there's so much food," he says. The region's previous rat outbreak, in the 1950s, led to famine and political upheaval, but disaster relief has tempered the effects of the current season, which began in late 2006 and continued through 2008. Once the bamboo fruiting subsides, so will the rat menace---until about 2057, when Aplin's successors can continue his work. Northeast India's rat outbreak is featured in Rat Attack, a NOVA--National Geographic special on PBS airing February 24. Check local listings for times.