As a doctoral student completing my field research in Gorongosa, I participated as the mammal expert on the annual biodiversity surveys. After finishing my Ph.D. in 2018, I shifted to a career in photojournalism. I went on my last two biodiversity surveys in 2018 and 2019 — first in Chimanimani’s buffer zone, then in the heart of Chimanimani — as the photographer.

These surveys are like biological treasure hunts. Scientists, each with a different specialty, are let loose in the landscape to unearth as many species as they can.

The mammalogists set camera traps for large mammals like antelope, live traps for small mammals like rodents, and mist nets for bats. The ornithologists arm themselves primarily with binoculars, their ears and an astonishing memory for bird songs. By day, the entomologists sweep their butterfly nets in the grassland and, by night, often stand at a light surrounded by clouds of insects, picking them out of their hair and waiting for something interesting to land.

The herpetologists, or reptile and amphibian specialists, shoot rubber bands to temporarily stun lizards, dive into knee-high water after agile frogs, and generally avoid being bitten by venomous snakes while far away from medical care.

By contrast, the botanists have a tranquil task: there’s something relaxing and almost elegant about strolling across the mountainside, inspecting beautiful flowers and pressing some in paper for posterity.

Biodiversity surveys are not for the faint of heart, and they cast more than a little doubt on the idea that scientists are all boring nerds in lab coats.

Through the years, I myself have been bitten by a tarantula, several bats, a mouse, countless insects and even a (nonvenomous) snake. Once, back in New Jersey after a survey, a doctor flushed my ears when I complained of muffled hearing. Out poured dozens of tiny, wax-entombed insects in various shapes and sizes. (The experts often wear plugs in their ears while standing at the insect light for this exact reason.)

There’s something about this change of pace that I’ve always found immensely appealing. In the cool Chimanimani mornings, the scientists who didn’t have to be up before dawn chasing their species would lounge, sipping instant coffee from plastic mugs and watching the clouds cast shadows onto the giant rock dome.

Featuring a diverse set of rare and endemic avian species, Chimanimani is a bird-watcher’s paradise. At Rio Nyahedzi, a camp some 4,000 feet above sea level, the survey’s ornithologists found the bokmakierie, a bird that was last seen in Mozambique in the 1970s. (Nyahedzi is close to Mount Binga, which lies directly on the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe.)

As the park gets more attention, it will also attract hikers and rock climbers. Some of the park’s most beautiful waterfalls are 15 miles from the nearest road, and you can hike for days without seeing another human being. The park vibrates with solitude, adventure and discovery.

At the end of the two surveys, scientists in Chimanimani had found more than 1,400 species: 475 plants, 43 mammals, 260 birds, 67 amphibians and reptiles, and at least 582 species of insects. Some are new to science.

“It was amazingly productive as a rapid survey,” said Rob Harris, of Fauna & Flora International’s Mozambique program, emphasizing that the discoveries took place in a relatively short period of time.

The incredible diversity uncovered by the surveys is only a part of what’s known. As a whole, the Chimanimani Mountains are known to contain almost 1,000 plant species alone. Seventy-six plant and animal species are endemic to the Chimanimani Mountains, meaning they exist nowhere else on Earth.

Like all wild places, Chimanimani’s future is anything but certain. Endemic species are particularly threatened by climate change; because of their restricted range, they don’t have anywhere else to go as conditions become unsuitable. And human population growth will continue to jeopardize the fringes of the park. “The deforestation outside the park and in the buffer zone was alarming,” said Zak Pohlen, an ornithologist.

But as I reflect on these surveys and my time in Mozambique, I can’t help but feel full of hope. I am inspired every day by the passion of young Mozambican conservationists to safeguard their country’s disappearing wilderness. And most of all, I’m inspired by their optimism.

One of the goals of these surveys is to train young Mozambicans to take over leadership roles in conservation. Ana Gledis da Conceição, a Mozambican mammalogist, for example, spent several years assisting me in surveying mammals; by 2019, she was co-leading the mammal team with Mnqobi Mamba, a master’s student at the University of Eswatini.

Ms. da Conceição says she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be — a young scientist who fights for the conservation of biodiversity. “I want to invite young people like me to embrace this cause for the good of all of us,” she said.

“In spite of everything,” she added, “Mozambique has much to contribute to the future of conservation.”

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Accident at Covid Hospital in India Kills at Least 22 as Cases Surge

NEW DELHI — India’s health care system shows signs of buckling under the strain of a second wave of coronavirus infections, as the authorities reported nearly 300,000 new cases on Wednesday and an accident at a Covid-19 hospital killed more than 20 people.

The accident happened at a hospital in the western state of Maharashtra after a leak in the hospital’s main oxygen tank stopped the flow of oxygen to dozens of critically ill people. Televised images showed family members wailing in the wards and nurses frantically pounding on the chests of some patients.

All week, hospitals across India have been warning about an acute oxygen shortage. Many hospital officials said they were just a few hours away from running out.

“Nobody imagined this would happen,” said Subhash Salunke, a medical adviser to the Maharashtra government.

recent political rallies held by Mr. Modi that have drawn thousands, as well as the government’s decision to allow an enormous Hindu festival to continue despite signs that it has become a superspreader event. A few days ago, Mr. Modi indicated that he wanted Hindu worshipers to stay away from this year’s festival, called the Kumbh Mela, which is held on the banks of the Ganges river considered sacred by many Hindus.

But the worshipers keep coming — 70,000 showed up on Wednesday for a holy dip, bringing the total to more than 10 million since the festival began in January — and government officials on the ground are doing little to stop them.

Event organizers said that worshipers were required to produce a negative coronavirus test result or be tested on the spot, but they also acknowledged that with such huge crowds, some participants could have slipped in without being tested. Photographs show a sea of worshipers packed together in the gray waters of the river, many without masks. More than 1,000 tested positive at the site in just 48 hours, according to reports by the Indian news media.

Hindu-first worldview, is giving preferential treatment to Hindus.

“It is a clear example of double standards,” said Khalid Rasheed, chairman of the Islamic Center of India, a nonprofit religious organization.

He compared the government’s apparent endorsement of the Kumbh to the way it handled a much smaller gathering of a few thousand Islamic preachers in New Delhi last March. Not only was the seminary that hosted it shut down, but hundreds of people were also detained. Officials from Mr. Modi’s party blamed the seminary for spreading the virus.

an anti-Muslim campaign across India in which Muslims were attacked with cricket bats and run out of their neighborhoods. Many of the Muslims arrested at the seminary a year ago are still awaiting trial.

Government officials have defended the Kumbh festival as safe even as the virus infects some of its most high-profile attendees, including the former king of Nepal and his wife.

Another visitor who was infected is Tirath Singh Rawat, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, which as the state hosting this year’s festival stands to make millions in revenue from the pilgrims and vendors. Mr. Rawat mingled freely in the crowds without a mask, and told those who questioned him that “faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus.”

Shailesh Bagauli, a state official, said the timing of the festival had been determined by “optimal astrological conditions” and that the government had implemented measures like mask wearing and social distancing.

On Wednesday, news of the hospital oxygen leak quickly spread around the country, raising fears that the health care system here, which is chronically underfunded, was about to collapse.

Indian news channels showed images of the oxygen leak at Zakir Hussain Hospital in the city of Nashik.

“When we reached the spot, it was all foggy,” said S.K. Bairagi, a fire chief in the city. He said it took about 30 minutes to repair the tank.

The dwindling oxygen supply is becoming one of the most alarming aspects of India’s second wave. To expedite its delivery to hospitals, India’s railway service has begun running what it calls “oxygen express” trains across the country.

India’s health ministry has said that the daily demand for oxygen at hospitals has reached about 60 percent of the country’s daily production capacity of just over 7,000 metric tons. Government officials countered news reports this week that said India had increased oxygen exports as the second wave of infections was approaching, saying those exports amounted to less than 1 percent of daily production capacity.

But the health ministry also said that it was looking to import 50,000 metric tons of medical oxygen from abroad, a sign that India’s government may be concerned about the domestic supply.

On Tuesday night, more than a dozen hospitals in New Delhi, the capital, put out an alert saying they were hours away from running out of oxygen.

In Lucknow, another major city in northern India, the Mayo Medical Center warned on Wednesday that it was down to a 15-minute backup supply and that “oxygen is not available anywhere in Lucknow.”

Later in the day, hospital officials said they had received 40 oxygen cylinders. But medical experts said that with so many people falling sick, it was a dangerous time to be running low.

“There is definitely an oxygen shortage across the country,” said Shashank Joshi, an endocrinologist and member of the Covid task force in Maharashtra. “The situation is grim.”

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi, andBhadra Sharma from Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Bat Used by Lou Gehrig in 1938 Sells at Auction for $715,120

A baseball bat used by Lou Gehrig at the twilight of his legendary career with the New York Yankees sold for $715,120 over the weekend, the company that auctioned it said on Sunday.

The bat — a 34-inch, 36-ounce Bill Dickey model Louisville Slugger — was used by Gehrig in 1938, his final full season as a key cog in the early dynasties of the Yankees franchise, according to SCP Auctions.

It may have been used by Gehrig in a World Series sweep of the Chicago Cubs that year and the next spring, said the company, which indicated that it had received 26 bids for the bat before online bidding ended on Saturday.

SCP Auctions, which is based in Laguna Niguel, Calif., and specializes in sports memorabilia sales, would not identify the buyer, other than to say it was a private collector.

Earle Combs, a onetime Yankees teammate and coach who, like Gehrig, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the company said.

“It’s one of the best Lou Gehrig bats ever discovered and, obviously, the provenance is impeccable,” David Kohler, the auction house’s owner, president and chief executive, said in an interview on Sunday night.

With his batting average having fallen below .300 and his home run production waning, Gehrig dispensed with his heavier bat toward the end of the 1938 season, according to the auction house.

The 1939 season was Gehrig’s last in baseball; the durable but ailing first baseman, who was known as the Iron Horse, removed himself from the lineup that May after playing in 2,130 straight games.

He was found the next month to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the fatal neurological disorder that later became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He gave his farewell speech on July 4, 1939, a moment dramatized in “The Pride of the Yankees,” a 1942 film starring Gary Cooper.

sold for more than $1 million, SCP Auctions said at the time. A bat used by Ruth to hit the first home run at the old Yankee Stadium in 1923, sold by the same company in conjunction with Sotheby’s, fetched nearly $1.3 million in 2004.

As part of the same online sale in which Gehrig’s bat was auctioned, an original home plate from Yankee Stadium that was installed just before opening day in 1923 sold for $303,277, the auction house said.

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Virus Variants Can Infect Mice, Scientists Report

Bats, humans, monkeys, minks, big cats and big apes — the coronavirus can make a home in many different animals. But now the list of potential hosts has expanded to include mice, according to an unnerving new study.

Infected rodents pose no immediate risk to people, even in cities like London and New York, where they are ubiquitous and unwelcome occupants of subway stations, basements and backyards.

Still, the finding is worrying. Along with previous work, it suggests that new mutations are giving the virus the ability to replicate in a wider array of animal species, experts said.

“The virus is changing, and unfortunately it’s changing pretty fast,” said Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the new study.

only animals known to be able to catch the coronavirus from humans and pass it back. In early November, Denmark culled 17 million farmed mink to prevent the virus from evolving into dangerous new variants in the animals.

More recently, researchers found that B.1.1.7 infections in domesticated cats and dogs can cause the pets to develop heart problems similar to those seen in people with Covid-19.

To establish a successful infection, the coronavirus must bind to a protein on the surface of animal cells, gain entry into the cells, and exploit their machinery to make copies of itself. The virus must also evade the immune system’s early attempts at thwarting the infection.

Given all those requirements, it is “quite extraordinary” that the coronavirus can infect so many species, said Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Typically, viruses have a more curtailed host range.”

Mice are a known reservoir for hantavirus, which causes a rare and deadly disease in people. Even though the coronavirus variants don’t seem to be able to jump from mice to people, there is potential for them to spread among rodents, evolve into new variants, and then infect people again, Dr. Munster said.

black-footed ferrets. “This virus seems to be able to surprise us more than anything else, or any other previous virus,” Dr. Munster said. “We have to err on the side of caution.”

Dr. Sheahan said he was more concerned about transmission to people from farm animals and pets than from mice.

“You’re not catching wild mice in your house and snuggling — getting all up in their face and sharing the same airspace, like maybe with your cat or your dog,” he said. “I’d be more worried about wild or domestic animals with which we have a more intimate relationship.”

But he and other experts said the results emphasized the need to closely monitor the rapid changes in the virus.

“It’s like a moving target — it’s crazy,” he added. “There’s nothing we can do about it, other than try and get people vaccinated really fast.”

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What We Know About the W.H.O.’s Inquiry on the Origin of Covid

More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, the World Health Organization released a report on Tuesday laying out theories on how the virus first spread to humans — but it is already raising more questions than answers, including from the health body’s own leader.

The report, drafted by a 34-member team of Chinese scientists and international experts who led a mission to Wuhan, China, examines a series of politically contentious questions, including whether the virus might have accidentally emerged from a Chinese laboratory.

Some members of the expert team have raised concerns about China’s refusal to share raw data about early Covid-19 cases. In an unusual move, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director-general, acknowledged those concerns while speaking about the report on Tuesday. He said he hoped future studies would include “more timely and comprehensive data sharing.”

report.

prepared remarks released to the news media. “Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”

The experts had said that officials at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses a state-of-the-art laboratory known for its research on bat coronaviruses, assured them that they were not handling any viruses that appeared to be closely related to the coronavirus that caused the recent pandemic, according to meeting notes included in the report. They also said that staff members had been trained in security protocols.

Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where many early cases of Covid-19 emerged. The expert team said that there appeared to be no connection, writing that the lab had not reported any “disruptions or incidents caused by the move” and had not been doing research on coronaviruses.

Some critics have suggested that the team seemed to take the Chinese official position at face value and did not adequately investigate lab officials’ assertions.

Raina MacIntyre, who heads the biosecurity program at the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said the report seemed to dismiss the idea of a lab leak “without strong evidence.”

“A lab accident is certainly a possibility,” she said.

The expert team concluded that the coronavirus probably emerged in bats before spreading to humans through an intermediate animal. But the team said there was not enough evidence to identify the species or to pinpoint where the spillover of the virus from animals first occurred.

Early in the pandemic, Chinese officials floated theories suggesting that the coronavirus outbreak might have started at the Huanan market. More than a year later, the role of animal markets in the story of the pandemic is still unclear, according to the report.

The expert team found that many early cases had no clear connection to Huanan market, which sold sika deer, badgers, bamboo rats, live crocodiles and other animals, according to vendor records cited in the report.

Among those initial confirmed cases, about 28 percent had links to the Huanan market and 23 percent were tied to other markets in Wuhan, while 45 percent had no history of market exposure, according to the report.

“No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn,” the report says.

It says that further studies of farms and wild animals in China are needed, and that more clues about the markets’ role may emerge.

The expert team offers a long list of recommendations for additional research: more testing of wildlife and livestock in China and Southeast Asia, more studies on the earliest cases of Covid-19 and more tracing of pathways from farms to markets in Wuhan.

But it is unclear whether China, which has repeatedly hindered the W.H.O. inquiry, will cooperate. Chinese officials have sought to redirect attention elsewhere, suggesting that the virus could have emerged in the United States or other countries.

Experts say the delays in the inquiry have hurt the ability to prevent other pandemics.

“This delay has obviously compromised the ability of the investigation to reconstruct the origins of Covid-19 and identify ways of reducing the risk of such events happening again in the future,” said Michael Baker, a professor of public health at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

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Killing of Salvadoran Refugee by Police in Mexico Incites Furor

MEXICO CITY — The death at the hands of police of a woman who was a refugee from El Salvador has drawn international condemnation and potential embarrassment for Mexico, which on Monday began hosting a United Nations summit focused on gender equality.

The woman, Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza, died on Saturday after being detained by the police in Tulum, a resort town on the Yucatán Peninsula. Videos shared on social media show an officer kneeling on the woman’s back as she cried out. Officers can later be seen dragging her limp body into the back of a police truck.

Authorities in the state of Quintana Roo confirmed on Monday that the cause of death was a fractured spine, and four officers were arrested in connection with the killing.

On Monday afternoon, the mayor of Tulum, Victor Mas Tah, said at a news conference that the city’s chief of police had been removed from his post.

ever-increasing number of Central Americans who are traveling the length of Mexico in a bid to reach the United States.

Mr. López Obrador has come under intense criticism for his inaction on gender violence from local feminist activists, whom he dismisses as being politically motivated. Earlier this month, hundreds of women marched on the president’s residence, the National Palace, attacking with bats and blowtorches a metal barrier erected by officials to protect the building. On Sunday night, family members of women killed in Mexico held an all-night vigil outside the National Palace to demand justice for the dead.

were arrested in the massacre of 19 people, including several Guatemalan migrants, in the northern state of Tamaulipas, the latest in a long line of killings in Mexico involving government forces.

On Sunday night, President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador sent out a flurry of tweets condemning the killing of Ms. Esperanza and calling on Mexican authorities to punish the officers involved.

“I am sure that the Mexican government will apply the full weight of the law on those responsible,” Mr. Bukele said. “My condolences to Victoria’s family, especially her two daughters, to whom we will give all possible help.”

Ms. Esperanza’s killing in police custody also drew comparisons to the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, who similarly died under an officer’s knee, sparking nationwide protests in the United States and an international reckoning on race and police brutality.

On Sunday, dozens of people marched through the streets of Tulum demanding justice for Ms. Salazar and an end to violence against women in Mexico, local media reported.

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Virus Origins Remain Unclear in W.H.O.-China Inquiry

For 27 days, they searched for clues in Wuhan, visiting hospitals, live animal markets and government laboratories, conducting interviews and pressing Chinese officials for data, but an international team of experts departed the country still far from understanding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 2.8 million people worldwide.

The 124-page report of a joint inquiry by the World Health Organization and China — to be released officially on Tuesday but leaked to the media on Monday — contains a glut of new detail but no profound new insights. And it does little to allay Western concerns about the role of the Chinese Communist Party, which is notoriously resistant to outside scrutiny and has at times sought to hinder any investigation by the W.H.O. The report is also not clear on whether China will permit outside experts to keep digging.

“The investigation runs the risk of going nowhere, and we may never find the true origins of the virus,” said Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The report, an advance copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, says that China still does not have the data or research to indicate how or when the virus began spreading. Some skeptics outside the country say that China may have more information than it admits.

new inquiry into the origin of the pandemic. They said such an inquiry should consider the possibility that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan or infected someone inside it.

The lab leak theory has been promoted by some officials in the Trump administration, including Dr. Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in comments to CNN last week. He offered no evidence and emphasized that it was his opinion; the theory has been widely dismissed by scientists and U.S. intelligence officials.

Matt Apuzzo and Apoorva Mandavilli contributed reporting. Albee Zhang contributed research.

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