Red light for red squirrels
QUESTION Is there a plan to introduce red squirrels to the Isle of Man?
In 2016, the Isle of Man’s Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture issued a public consultation over a law change that would allow the introduction of red squirrels.
Red squirrels in Britain have been threatened by grey squirrels, which were introduced from north America as an ornamental species in the 1870s. Competition for habitat and the transmission of the deadly parapoxvirus has seen the number of reds drop from 3.5 million to between 120,000 and 160,000. There are believed to be just 15,000 in England.
The plans were shelved following opposition from the Manx Wildlife Trust, which pointed out the dangers of introducing an alien species to an island. They were concerned that the limited food sources for squirrels could have a devastating effect on birds’ eggs.
The trust is attempting to revive the fortunes of the native puffins, which are under threat, and fear that the introduction of red squirrels could wipe them out.
Red squirrels are not threatened on a European scale, which means there are other species that require more pressing conservation action.
J. E. A. Simmonds, Douglas, Isle of Man.
QUESTION Is there any evidence for the claim that British soldiers deliberately infected Native Americans with blankets impregnated with smallpox?
ThEsE highly contentious events took place during the siege of Fort Pitt, shortly after the British victory in the French and Indian War of 1754 to 1763, the name given to the north American front of the seven Years’ War.
There is direct evidence of germ warfare against native Americans.
In 1763, the Odawa Chief Pontiac sparked an uprising against English settlers in the Great Lakes region, dubbed Pontiac’s War. Inspired by his exploits, Lenape Indians laid siege to Fort Pitt, now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 22, 1763. The fort held out under the command of Captain simeon Ecuyer, a 22-year veteran swiss mercenary in the British service.
smallpox, a deadly disease characterised by a skin rash, had broken out among the garrison. During a parley — negotiations to end hostilities — on June 24, 1763, Ecuyer gave the besieging Indians infected items: ‘We gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital.’
Jeffery Amherst, commander-in-chief of the British forces, had the same idea. he sent Colonel henry Bouquet, head of a Pitt relief party, a letter on June 29: ‘Could it not be contrived to send the smallpox among the disaffected tribes of Indians? We must use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.’
Amherst had a loathing for the native Americans because of the killing of British soldiers who had surrendered at Fort henry in 1757, the inspiration for James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Last Of The Mohicans.
The 19th- century historian Francis Parkman estimated that 60 to 80 native Americans in the Ohio Valley died in a localised smallpox epidemic after the gift of the impregnated blankets.
But he argued they might equally have been infected by the clothing their warriors had taken from the 2,000 settlers they had killed or abducted.
The conflict was resolved by a conventional battle with a British contingent fighting the native Americans to relieve the fort. Michael Lowry, Stapleford, Notts.
QUESTION Why is vanadium touted as ‘the most important commodity you’ve never heard of’?
VANADIUM is a medium-hard, silverygrey metal. It has been a useful commodity for many years because when alloyed with iron, it makes a shock and corrosion-resistant steel additive called ferrovanadium.
Just 2lb added to a tonne of steel doubles its strength.
henry Ford was the first to use vanadium on an industrial scale to strengthen the 1908 Model T car chassis.
Vanadium steel alloys are used to make high-tensile tools such as axles, car gears, springs, cutting tools and crankshafts. They are also used to make nuclear reactors because of their low neutron-absorbing properties.
however, what is really exciting investors is vanadium’s use in flow battery technology, a high- capacity electrical storage device.
The large capacities possible from vanadium redox batteries make them well suited for regulating variable power generation sources such as wind or solar power.
Ironically, the demand for vanadium in the steel industry, especially in China, has driven up the costs of this scarce metal, which is affecting the growth of the flow battery market.
Dr Ian Smith, Cambridge.
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