Mumbai, India — under lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 — finds itself suddenly playing host to a massive influx of flamingos.
Thousands of the birds have descended upon the nation’s largest city in recent weeks, with many congregating in urban areas usually trafficked by humans.
Photos published in the Hindustan Times show a row of apartment buildings towering above wetlands overrun with the pink birds.
Flamingos traditionally migrate to Mumbai and the surrounding regions during their feeding and breeding season, which lasts from about October to March. This year, however, city residents have reported seeing an unusually high number of the birds in and around the city, likely due to an unexpected surplus of available space.
And there has, in fact, been a population boom. About 150,000 flamingos have come to Mumbai this year, an increase of about 25% from 2019, according to an estimate by the Bombay Natural History Society in a report cited by CBS and other outlets.
The national coronavirus lockdown has also led to a decline in industrial waste and a surge in domestic sewage that have, in turn, spurred the formation of the planktons and algae that make up the flamingos’ diet, according to the BNHS.
“A major reason for the large numbers is also the large flocks of juveniles moving to these sites, following the successful breeding documented two years ago,” Deepak Apte, the conservation group’s director, told the Hindustan Times. “Additionally, the lockdown is giving these birds peace for roosting, no disturbance in their attempt to obtain food, and overall encouraging habitat.”
Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown as part of a national effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Beginning March 25, the stay-at-home order was deemed the world’s most extensive as it affected some 1.3 billion residents.
The national lockdown has since been extended through May 3, though some Indian states have already discussed plans to continue it further. As of Thursday afternoon, the country had confirmed a total of 33,610 COVID-19 cases and 1,075 deaths.
Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, some residents have come to view the influx of flamingos as an unexpected perk.
“Residents are cooped up at home spending their mornings and evenings at their balconies taking photographs and videos of these relaxed birds,” Sunil Agarwal told the Hindustan Times. “The lockdown will at least prompt people to focus on what is around them, which they had been taking for granted, and hopefully this site will be declared a flamingo sanctuary soon.”
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus
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Peel Regional Police in Canada spent their Friday night investigating a report that there was an alligator in a storm drainage pond in Brampton, Ontario.
– Area of Creditview Rd/James Potter Rd in #Brampton
– Reports of alligator in storm drainage pond
– Officers on scene searching for 5-6 foot alligator
– I always thought they only had 4 feet…
– Officers are ready to provide Gator-aid
— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPolice) May 2, 2020
– The park will be closed to the public, so that @CityBrampton Animal Services or @ONresources can attend and conduct a search during daylight hours.
— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPolice) May 2, 2020
Though the idea of an animal that is only native to the southern US and China somehow being loose in the Greater Toronto Area is bonkers enough, the story somehow gets both weirder and easier to explain.
According to follow-up tweets by the police, it turns out the animal was actually just a beaver. You know, your standard Canadian animal.
– Animal Control Officers from the City of Brampton have attended.
– Based on video from social media, they have determined that it was a beaver in the water and not an alligator.
— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPolice) May 2, 2020
– Just to be clear, Animal services has attended and also reviewed the video on social media. The animal was observed was determined to be a Beaver.
– Any further inquiries regarding the video/incident can be directed to Brampton Animal Control
— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPolice) May 2, 2020
Just for reference, the average North American beaver is around a metre long, including its tail. Your average American alligator on the other hand? About triple that size.
Which opens up the whole situation to even more questions including “How do you confuse a beaver for an alligator?”, “What is happening in Brampton?” and “Is social isolation melting all our brains?”.
Twitter users seemed to be just as confused because they reacted with a mix of joy and confusion.
How in the world is there an alligator on the loose in Brampton? 😂
— Mahendra (@mahendram95) May 2, 2020
Only in Canada does a city freak out thinking there’s an alligator in a storm drain and it turns out to be a beaver.
— Pulse (@pulseidiot) May 2, 2020
Question of the day..how does one mistake a beaver for an alligator? 😨 #brampton
— gab.ai/libour (@_libour_) May 2, 2020
Someone also linked to the alleged video that sparked the investigation.
You can’t really discern anything from the video and no hate to the girl recording but she doesn’t seem like the sharpest tool in the shed, so it probably is a beaver afterall. pic.twitter.com/UhuDMBbRJV
— m (@friedchickenl0l) May 2, 2020
And of course, the reported Brampton Alligator now has a Twitter account.
Oh so now it’s a crime to go swimming?!?
— Brampton Alligator (@BramptonAlliga1) May 2, 2020
It’s 2020, so all of this just might as well happen at this point, right? At least it spices up social distancing.
Also on HuffPost:
Tabitha Brown is giving us all some much-needed comfort during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 41-year-old actress is rapidly winning over people on social media with her TikTok videos that invite us into her kitchen — and heart — with her warm, Southern accent. Since joining the app in March, Brown has gained 2.5 million followers with her combination of vegan cooking tutorials, motivational messages and videos with her family.
She’s created more than just a food blog. She’s created a sense of comfort, joy and hope at a time when so much feels so uncertain. And she’s been able to give her audience virtual hugs while staying true to her purpose.
“Baby, stop trying to fit in when clearly you were meant to stand out,” she says in one of her more popular non-food-related videos, a testament to her journey. Since going viral on the Gen Z-dominated platform, Brown has shared more than 100 videos displaying her infectious charm and showing how to properly use seasonings “like so, like that,” and adding lots of lime juice to guacamole “cause that’s our business.”
She’s signed with Creative Arts Agency, a dream of hers that was 15 years in the making. Though Brown is seeing success now, her path wasn’t linear. She never really knew how to cook and she definitely didn’t want to make videos for the internet. But she said that listening to God has led her to get out of her comfort zone and win the hearts of millions.
Brown has wanted to act since she was a little girl watching play Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” She found her calling early as she began performing in school plays, at church and in community theater. Brown and her husband, Chance, moved to Los Angeles from Eden, North Carolina, in 1998 so she could pursue a career in acting, but she was unprepared, she told HuffPost, so she moved back to North Carolina.
The plan was to move back to Los Angeles in a year, but that year turned into nearly five and a forgotten dream. Thanks to a nudge from God in the form of a literal dream and a supportive husband, they were able to move back to L.A. in 2004.
After her second move to LA, her mother was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It altered life as she knew it.
“My world stopped,” she said. She found herself back in North Carolina for long periods to help care for her mom until she died in 2007. “During that time, it was very eye-opening for me as far as how short life is, and it started making me look at the world a little different,” she said. “However, I still wasn’t free within myself.”
On top of dealing with her mom being sick, she had to deal with overcoming the obstacle of not aligning with the very homogenous look and sound that Hollywood wanted.
“I was still covering my accent because that’s what my agents had told me was necessary. And also, working in corporate America for a while, you learn to do that to be accepted,” she said. “I was always natural, but I would wear my hair very straight. I would flat iron it every day, wear it long and straight. And to have this one look that was acceptable, right? And constantly starving myself and trying to be skinny, working out crazy and barely eating and taking all kinds of diet pills, trying to fit into this look of Hollywood.”
Brown’s wake-up call to stop conforming came when she got sick in 2016. She had chronic fatigue and a headache for a year and seven months. Doctors weren’t able to diagnose the ailment. Brown eventually fell into a deep depression.
“I really thought I was going to die, and I was in a really dark, dark place of depression and anxiety and of asking God, ‘Why you even keep waking me up? I’m exhausted with this life,’” she recalled. “And I feel like when you get so far to the bottom and you get so far into that dark space, when you look back, you never want to go back there if you come out of it.”
Then she had a “come-to-Jesus moment.” She prayed, “God, I’ve been sick for so long, but if you heal me, I’ll do whatever you ask and you can have me.” She said she felt released from the former version of herself (“old Tab,” as she puts it). She had a revelation that she was probably sick because she was suffocating the real her.
“I decided, ‘You know what? No more trying to be somebody who was trying to fit in when I was always meant to stand out,’” she said. “This is who I am, and honey, people are either going to love it or they’re going to hate you. I ain’t going to try to talk proper no more. I mean, I’m an actress, so if I have to for a role or a character, then I’ll develop that character. But if not, honey, this is who you’re going to get. And so, I just made a choice to be free.”
In August 2017, Brown’s daughter, Choyce, suggested she try veganism after watching the documentary “What The Health” at school. Since the medicines doctors prescribed her weren’t helping, she decided to try a 30-day vegan challenge with Chance. Within the first 10 days, her fatigue and headache went away. Though Chance didn’t make the change, Brown decided to go vegan full-time.
“I always tell people that I used to think vegan meant skinny, honey, but let me tell you, it don’t mean that because Tab is big. Okay?” she said.
But her physical health wasn’t the only transformation for Brown. On the road to healing, she had a dream that she saw herself on a TV show with short hair. She woke up confused, as she hadn’t been auditioning while she was sick and she couldn’t make out which show it was. She prayed about it and said God told her to “start doing videos.”
“I was offended. I thought people who did videos were never taken serious in Hollywood,” she told HuffPost.
She was skeptical, but remembered the promise she made to God at the peak of her illness.
“And he told me, ‘If you start doing videos, you’ll reach thousands in minutes.’ And I was so hesitant because I didn’t have thousands of followers,” she continued. “But I live a life of obedience, now more so than ever. And when you are desperate for healing and you prayed a specific prayer, then you do what he has asked. And that is what kept me being consistent. Looking back over my life every time I’ve ever heard the voice or saw a sign or had a dream, I’ve always had this feeling of a calling on my life.”
The mother of two began posting videos on Facebook. In December 2017, Brown posted one of her first videos that would go viral. The video was an impromptu review of Whole Foods’ TTLA sandwich (tempeh, tomato, lettuce and avocado). Brown’s convincing review led to the viral TTLA challenge in which people recorded themselves trying the sandwich for the first time.
Whole Foods then hired Brown as an ambassador. She appeared in commercials and traveled around the country to talk about veganism. Since then, she’s appeared in various roles, including a guest spot in a January episode of “Will and Grace.”
In March, Choyce told her mom that she should create a TikTok page. Brown was hesitant until her Whole Foods colleague suggested it as well, saying that people would love her personality on the app. Choyce taught her mom, who really only wanted to join to learn the Renegade dance, how to use the app and ever since, Brown has been blessing her followers with her unique and welcoming personality.
“I was literally shocked at all the response that I got, and the outpour from the younger generation of kids and teenagers blew my mind that they felt love for me,” she said. “And then, it became something more of a responsibility to me to them, because I read comments and I look at the responses, and I’m blown away at how many people need love.”
Her dream role is to play America’s mom. “I always say I’m the new Clair Huxtable meets Roseanne right in the middle,” she said. Her goal is to have her own show, ideally a scripted comedy similar to “The Bernie Mac Show.” She also wants to help make Hollywood more authentic so people know that being themselves is enough.
“I can’t stop. That’s why I’ve never stopped because I believe, I truly believe that this was meant for my life,” she said. “Now, it’s blowing my mind every day, though, that it keeps happening. I can’t imagine some of the things that have happened already. It just blows my mind. But I’ve always believed that I’m supposed to do this.”
Some of the world’s most populous countries have reported worrisome new peaks in infections amid easing coronavirus lockdowns.
If you’ve ever struggled with body image or wished you could change specific things about your appearance, you’ve probably heard someone say, “It’s only a big deal to you, no one else notices!”
Often, that’s true, but just as often it’s unhelpful ― we care what other people think, sure, but these issues are rooted in the way we view ourselves. That’s why the issue is also playing out during COVID-19 quarantine: We’re all staying home and out of sight of other people, and yet for many, body dysmorphia and body dissatisfaction are more intense than ever.
However, there’s no need to let these feelings swirl around in your head unchecked. Here’s why you may be experiencing this issue, plus some expert advice on how to manage feelings of body dysmorphia amid everything happening right now:
First, know that body dysmorphia exists on a spectrum, and low levels of it are common.
If you’ve never heard the term “body dysmorphia,” here’s a quick explainer: “Body dysmorphia is essentially the intense preoccupation with some perceived flaw in physical appearance that’s either small or not even observable to others,” said Jenny Weinar, a Philadelphia-based psychotherapist and director of Home Body Therapy.
The “flaw” might be a small one you believe is much more noticeable than it is, or something that isn’t actually there at all. “It could be a fixation on the skin, asymmetry in the face or body, obsession with proportions or musculature, or something like that. Or, it could be weight- or size-related,” Weinar said.
Ideally, none of us would have these negative feelings about our bodies, but low-level body dysmorphia is common.
“Many folks may feel dissatisfied with some aspects of their body, but the amount of distress or preoccupation related to those thoughts varies considerably from person to person,” said Becca Eckstein, a licensed psychotherapist and the executive director of Veritas Collaborative’s Adult Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
There’s a lot of fear-mongering right now around weight gain and bodily changes in quarantine. I think people are just thinking about their appearance more in general, and have more time and space to fixate on it.Jenny Weinar, Philadelphia-based psychotherapist
People who have eating disorders often experience extreme body dysmorphia, typically related to size and weight. And body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a separate diagnosis that exists on the OCD spectrum, characterized by body dysmorphia so intense that it causes severe distress and interferes with daily life without eating disorder behaviors.
Anyone who suspects they have an eating disorder or BDD ― or if their issues with their body are intensely interrupting their daily life ― should seek help from a licensed therapist who specializes in treating the relevant disorder.
A crisis can trigger body dysmorphia, even if you don’t have BDD or an eating disorder.
“Just like there are traits of subclinical anxiety or depression, people can experience body dysmorphia, body distress, that doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria,” Eckstein said.
“Right now, that body distress could be exacerbated because anxiety in general is so high for folks, and there are certainly additional stressors at play,” like fear and uncertainty over what’s happening in the world, adjusting to a new routine, and not having a clear delineation between work and home, Eckstein continued.
“We’re sitting dead center in the middle of a crisis and traumatic event,” added Ebony Butler, an Austin, Texas-based licensed psychologist and food relationship strategist.
What’s happening is completely out of our control, so we naturally turn our anxieties about it around on ourselves. “If there was already some pre-existing issue with appearance, weight or body, then that might be the thing that consumes you,” Butler said. “It’s something you think you have most control over ― even if you don’t ― so you rush towards it.”
Establish a routine or distract yourself to keep your mind from fixating on your body.
“Right now, we don’t have the simple distractions of going to work, going to the mall, going to dinner to hang out with friends. We’re stuck with ourselves,” Butler said.
Negative body thoughts that would typically get interrupted in everyday life might now be going unchecked. Any kind of routine, mundane as it may seem, provides some distraction.
“Creating some kind of structure would be useful: meals and snacks at a similar time each day, waking up at a similar time each day,” Eckstein added. “Creating that kind of internal compass is helpful in not letting your mind wander too much.”
It almost sounds too easy, but simply giving your brain something else to focus on can also help silence body dysmorphia. And, while lots of things are off-limits right now, there’s plenty you can do at home to distract yourself for a little while.
“If your mind is going places that feel unhelpful, cook a new recipe, buy a craft kit off Etsy, FaceTime a friend, or watch a favourite movie,” Eckstein said.
You don’t need to be doing all the things, all the time (another pressure that many of us are feeling in quarantine), but having some go-to activities can help keep your mind from wandering to places that don’t feel good.
Be present when you’re on Zoom or FaceTime. That is, try not to focus on your own face.
The way we connect to others has shifted dramatically. Now when we’re in a meeting or at “happy hour,” we’re not just looking at the people we’re with—we’re also looking at our own faces.
“I’ve been hearing that from a lot of clients in particular, how hard it is to be looking at themselves all the time, and comparing their faces to other people’s faces, noticing expressions,” Weinar said.
If you find yourself focusing mostly on your own face when you’re in a virtual meeting, the first step is to bring awareness to that. Then, handle it in the way that feels best to you.
“For some people, it might actually help to keep seeing yourself, to try and desensitize yourself to your appearance that way,” Weinar said.
She says it can be helpful to offer neutral observations of your own appearance (although probably not while you’re in the middle of a work meeting): My hair is brown, my eyes are green, I have a mole on my left cheek, etc.
For other people, so much exposure to their own appearance might be too much.
“It might be helpful to actually cover your face on the Zoom call with a post-it note or something, to practice being fully present with the other people in the call, and to build that muscle before you reintroduce seeing yourself so often,” Weinar said.
Limit your time on social media.
Surprise, surprise: Social media is another huge trigger for body dysmorphia. Many people are spending more time than ever scrolling through photos on Instagram or Facebook, both as a way to feel connected and a response to boredom.
“What we’re seeing are a lot of ‘perfect’ bodies, a lot of ‘perfect’ pictures,” Butler said, noting that there’s really no such thing. “It makes us over-focus on those things more than we normally would.”
Think about it. Before we were all stuck at home, we were exposed to hundreds of real-life bodies every day; now, the only exposure to other bodies (outside our household) we have is through carefully selected images. We’re also inundated with at-home workout ideas and tips for “avoiding quarantine weight gain” (eyeroll), which can trigger body image distress.
Limit your exposure, and call social media out for what it is. “Social media is about aesthetics,” Butler said. Plenty of the “perfect” pictures are posted by people who are also struggling, and who may not actually look like that in real life. Of course, we all know this, but “we’re so consumed with our own flaws, so triggered by these images of other bodies, that we can’t rationally break things down.”
Unfollow anyone who makes your feel bad about yourself, or just mute them if they’re a real-life friend. And, set a daily time limit on your social media use.
Move in ways that feel good.
Actually moving your body can be another way to shift your thoughts away from your appearance. Eckstein warned that anyone with or in recovery from an eating disorder should talk to their treatment team before engaging in any new kind of movement, as even gentle activities might be dangerous.
For anyone who is otherwise healthy, mindful movement like yoga and stretching can help you feel more in tune with how your body moves and feels, and take some focus off of how it looks.
More strenuous forms of exercise can do this, as well, if you’re doing them for the right reasons. Exercising to change or punish your body will only exacerbate feelings of body dysmorphia. But using movement as a way to blow off steam, experience some normalcy, or get in touch with your body can be helpful.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself.
We’re all especially anxious right now, and it’s not surprising that some of that anxiety might manifest as body dysmorphia.
“There’s a lot of fear-mongering right now around weight gain and bodily changes in quarantine,” Weinar said. “I think people are just thinking about their appearance more in general, and have more time and space to fixate on it.”
Over time, you can work toward tuning out those negative body messages. In the meantime, the advice above can help you shut down distressing body thoughts whenever they pop up.
A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus
As if you needed another reason to put down your phone, it turns out the blue light emitted by your cellphone and computer screens can not only make it harder to fall asleep at night, it could be damaging your skin, too.
Blue light, the kind emitted from screens, is a type of high energy visible light, or HEV. While blue light is strongest from environmental sources like the sun, there are studies that show electronic screens can have similar effects.
But first, it’s important to note that the light from your screen isn’t as harmful as a day spent at the pool. The sun is still the biggest enemy when it comes to long term dangers like DNA damage and skin cancer.
“Blue light causes a slightly different type of damage. It causes generation of reactive oxygen species which damages collagen, causes wrinkling, pigment changes and laxity,” said Michele Farber, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York. The sun, on the other hand, causes photoaging to a greater degree than blue light, and can also induce skin cancers, she said.
Blue light hasn’t been shown to cause skin cancer. In fact, in medical settings it’s used to prevent skin cancer. But cosmetic dermatologist Kenneth Mark, who has practices in New York and Colorado, warned that blue light can “increase signs of aging, such as hyperpigmentation, collagen breakdown, redness, inflammation, swelling/edema and oxidative stress in the form of free radicals.”
“Blue light has been shown to generate reactive oxygen species, causing damage to collagen, inflammation and pigment changes,” noted Farber.
Blue light’s sleep-disrupting qualities have a direct effect on skin, too: “Watching TV and using our phones at night also disrupts our sleep-wake cycle, and lack of sleep also results in hormone fluctuations that can flare skin conditions and can accelerate aging,” Farber said.
Even exposure time as short as an hour can cause oxidative stress in skin cells that leads to aging. Other studies show that humans are exposed to enough blue light in the course of a normal day to decrease carotenoids (an antioxidant) in skin, which increases free radicals (which can cause skin damage).
Keep in mind that many studies have been small, so more data is needed to confirm the full extent of blue light’s effects on skin. But preliminary results show that it can be significant enough to warrant action.
Blue light’s not all bad ― it has benefits
During the day, blue light can be a good thing. It boosts energy and mood, and keeps us awake. But don’t go sticking your face in front of your phone for an at-home spa session.
“The difference is controlled vs. uncontrolled light exposure,” Farber said. “Blue light used as LED therapy in an office has a wavelength of 415 nanometers, which is clinically proven to help decrease inflammation and bacteria in acne, and can also help treat other skin conditions including precancerous lesions. However, the blue light that we are exposed to in the environment has a broader spectrum. The full range, rather than the single wavelength, of high-energy visible light is the cause of accelerated photoaging and skin concerns related to blue light.”
How to protect yourself from potential damage
The good news is that you don’t need to buy a new skin care product to protect yourself.
“The best protection is to minimize exposure by utilizing the blue light filters on the phone,” Mark said. There are free apps that reduce blue light (I use Night Shift on my Mac and iPhone), and you can buy screen protectors that block blue light, too. For your eyes, Farber suggests blue-light blocking glasses.
But to fully protect yourself, use sunscreens specifically formulated to block blue light. Not all will.
“Pick sunscreens that have a broad spectrum to protect your skin,” Farber suggested. “Physical blockers with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide help reflect light rays to offer broad protection against UV and high-energy visible light.”
The newest sunscreens protect skin without the heavy, white cast of zinc oxide, and many have skin-healthy features, too.
“SkinBetter Sunbetter Sheer SPF 56 Sunscreen Stick is a great option,” Farber said. (Her practice promotes the $45, 0.7-ounce stick.) “Sunscreens with tint can add another layer of protection because they typically contain iron oxides that cover the blue light spectrum.” She also suggests Revision Intellishade TruPhysical for its antioxidants and blendability. “Don’t forget your vitamin C serums, as this is another layer of antioxidant and environmental protection,” she added.
Many of Supergoop’s sunscreens protect against blue light, including Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen with SPF 40, which uses red algae to protect skin.
So, while it can feel pointless to put on sunscreen for days spent inside staring at computer screens or scrolling through phones, don’t forget to protect your skin from blue light. Even if only by downloading an app.
A woman has been found dead at a home in Brisbane’s south in the early hours of this morning.