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Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

The maned wolf is the largest canid of South America. Its markings resemble those of foxes, but it is not a fox, nor is it a wolf, as it is not closely related to other canids. It is the only species in the genus Chrysocyon (meaning “golden dog”). This mammal is found in open and semi-open habitats, especially grasslands with scattered bushes and trees, in south, central-west, and southeastern Brazil, Paraguay, northern Argentina, Bolivia east and north of the Andes, and far southeastern Peru. IUCN lists it as near threatened, while it is considered vulnerable by the Brazilian government. The average adult weighs 23 kg and stands 90 cm tall at the shoulder, has a head-body length of 100 cm  with the tail adding another 45 cm. The maned wolf also is known for the distinctive odor of its territory markings, which has earned it the nickname “skunk wolf.” The maned wolf does not form packs. It hunts alone, usually between sundown and midnight. It kills its prey by biting on the neck or back, and shaking the prey violently if necessary. Monogamous pairs may defend a shared territory of approximately 30 km2, although outside of mating, the individuals may meet seldom. The maned wolf is omnivorous. It specializes in small and medium-sized prey, including small mammals, birds, and even fish, but a large portion of its diet (more than 50%, according to some studies) is vegetable matter, including sugarcane, tubers, and fruit.

photo credits: wiki, Sean Crane, graywolfconservation, Sage Ross

Cono de Arita

This 120 meter high feature looks like it could fit in a math textbook to illustrate a cone shape (how do you cut it to create a circle, ellipse, and parabola?) This feature is Cono de Arita, located in the northwest part of Argentina, in the Andes Mountains, and its name literally translates in one of the local languages to meaning “Sharp cone”.

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Venezuela National Day 2015

Date: July 5, 2015

Venezuela’s landscape is an entrancing one. From tropical waters and the Andes in the north, to rich Amazonian forests in the south, the country’s geographic diversity is nothing less than dazzling. No wonder, then, that one of its national symbols is a stunning natural specimen, a microcosm of Venezuela’s kaleidoscopic coloring: the araguaney. Indigenous to the country, this tree’s leaves explode into shades of gold, similar to the bold yellow hue striped across the Venezuelan flag.

With today’s Doodle, we celebrate the nature, culture and people that call Venezuela home on this Cinco de Julio, Venezuela’s day of independence.

Initial doodle sketches, each highlighting aspects of Venezuela’s national identity, by Robinson Wood.


 

 

Location: Venezuela

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Alexis Sanchez: The squirrel who dared to dream of greatness

Sanchez celebrates after scoring the winning penalty in the Copa America final against Argentina

When Alexis Sanchez stepped up to take the decisive penalty in the Copa America final, he carried on his shoulders the prayers of millions of Chileans and the burden of a 99-year trophy drought in the tournament. It didn’t seem to faze him as he calmly stepped up and attempted a cheeky, but very bold, Panenka. It didn’t come off well. But it was enough to send Argentina’s Sergio Romero the wrong way as the ball bounced once before nestling into the back of the net.

Argentina wept. It was their second loss in a major international final in less than a year. Meanwhile, their neighbours on the other side of the Andes Mountains erupted in joy. After suffering agonizing defeats in four previous finals, they finally clinched the coveted trophy on home soil – 28 years after their last appearance in a final.

It capped off a remarkable season for Alexis, wheeling away in celebration with his shirt in his hand, his face the epitome of unbridled joy. After scoring 25 goals with Arsenal in his debut season, he can now go home happy and take a nice long vacation having played non-stop football for two seasons. On a personal note, he may have finally erased the memory of the 2014 World Cup heartbreak when he missed a penalty in the Round of 16 shootout as Brazil eliminated Chile with a 3-2 scoreline.

With South America now conquered, La Roja can only grow in confidence. The pressure was on them as they struggled to beat Peru in the semi-final. But in the end, when it mattered most, Jorge Sampaoli had outwitted Alexis’ old coach Tata Martino and brought la copa home.

For Alexis, home lies in the north of the ridiculously long country that is Chile. As the predominantly Roja crowd at the Nacional Stadium sang the national anthem and toasted their heroes, the people in the small province of Tocopilla would have felt a great sense of pride as one of their own gave the country a night they will never forget.

Alexis Sanchez’s birthplace – Tocopilla, Chile

The squirrel who dared to dream

Looking at Alexis now, you’d be surprised to learn that the man with a chiselled, muscular body was once upon a time a skinny little kid in the port of Tocopilla. Typical of most South American footballers, he grew up playing on uneven, pockmarked streets. But he was different; a lot more skilful and energetic than the rest. Nicknamed Ardilla (Squirrel) thanks to his ability to climb trees and buildings to retrieve lost footballs, Alexis did not exactly live the good life.

In an interview with El Pais, Alexis recalls his time in Tocopilla. As a young boy, he put aside books and a proper education to clean cars to make a living – just to make sure his mother didn’t have to travel 50 miles to sell fish. And when he wasn’t sweating it out over the hood of a car, he was usually found with a ball at his feet, probably dreaming of walking in the footsteps of legends like Carlos Caszely.

“Do not worry,” he assured his mother back then. “I will be a football player and earn enough money.” His loving mother could only laugh at his innocence. But Tocopilla’s Mayor obviously saw something in the boy as he gifted Alexis his very first pair of football boots.

“When the mayor gave me the boots, I couldn’t resist. I put on the Reeboks and went outside to play on the concrete even though they were meant to be played on grass. I was as happy as a dog with two tails.” – Alexis

The mayor should have been a football scout in his spare time as Alexis would go on to become one of the most prodigious talents in the country. He would trade the port city of Tocopilla for Cobreloa in the Atacama Desert and made his professional debut aged only 16 – becoming one of the youngest players to play in the Copa Libertadores (the South American version of the Champions League).

17-year-old Alexis Sanchez playing for Colo-Colo in 2006

Udinese soon came calling and he was signed by the Serie A side, who ensured he completed his football education by loaning him out twice to two South American clubs – Chile’s Colo-Colo and Argentina’s prestigious River Plate – before taking him into the first team for good in  2008.

Alexis experiences the highs and lows in Serie A and La Liga

In the Serie A, he struck up a successful partnership with Udinese legend Antonio Di Natale and together they almost broke the league record for most goals by a duo held by Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet (41 goals), falling just two goals shy. He even managed to score 4 goals in one game in spite of playing less than an hour.

Alexis was already on his way to becoming a Chilean legend and he was being mentioned in the same breath as Chilean players like Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano; he did break their goal-scoring records in the Serie A after all. Barcelona soon stepped in and soon became the first Chilean to wear a Blaugrana shirt for an initial fee of £23m.

“He can play in all three attacking positions, he shows intense defensive skills, he’s direct and, from what I’ve been told, he’s a very nice kid.” – Pep Guardiola after Alexis was signed.

Though the then 22-year-old impressed in his debut season at the Camp Nou (15 goals in 2011/12), he never settled in. He suffered the public’s ire after a poor showing in 2012/13 when he didn’t score his first league goal until February. His final season at the Camp Nou saw him breach the 20-goal mark with crucial goals in El Clasico and almost winning the league for Barca with a strike in the final league game before Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin took it away with a header.

Alexis Sanchez learning from the best at Barcelona

But with the signings of Neymar and Luis Suarez in consecutive seasons, the writing was on the wall. Arsenal stepped in and offered him a way out and he accepted the offer with both hands while Barca coolly pocketed £35m from the Gunners’ new-found riches.

A new lease of life at Arsenal

He never looked back. The Chilean hit the ground running and never stopped. While Wenger is known to rest players who look like they are approaching the infamous “red zone”, Alexis would have none of it. And his energy was contagious, lifting a squad bereft of attacking players who could press opponents when they weren’t in possession.

“He is like a Duracell battery – he just does not give in. Whether it is a cup competition or times when you think maybe it could be a chance for him to come out and rest, he is the first one to say he wants to play and he always wants to be a part of it.” – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the Guardian.

Determined to prove a point, his hard work and tenacity paid off as the Gunners defended the FA Cup title. Alexis played a major part with a brace in the semi-final against Reading and a stunning goal from distance against Aston Villa in the final that set them on course to retaining the cup.

He had carried them in the league as well. When injuries struck key players, it was his goals that made the difference between going home with a point or all three. The longest he went without scoring was six games after the busy festive period, but Arsenal were back on track at that point, winning five of those games.

25 goals in a new league which is usually ruthless on foreign players on their debut season is no joke. Arsene Wenger himself was surprised Alexis scored goals galore, telling Sky Sports towards the end of the season that he didn’t expect so many. “I expected him to be more of a provider than a goalscorer and especially because I’m playing him on the flank where you have less chances.”

Alexis is a player Chile can look up to

Though Chile did have a couple of PR disasters in the form of a drunk Arturo Vidal who crashed his Ferrari and a “touchy issue” with Gonzalo Jara who was suspended before the semi-final, they still had the Arsenal forward and other players like Eduardo Vargas and Gary Medel to show they were a team of hard working individuals working for a collective cause – winning the Copa America on home soil.

The 26-year-old is entering the prime of his career and is probably yet to hit his peak. There is still room for improvement; the selfishness and the traditional anti-Barca/ Arsenal style of play is very evident in his style of play. But given a couple of years, he could be the man Chile look to when the 2018 World Cup comes around.

What sets him apart is how humble and simple his life is outside the pitch. He is more than happy when he has the chance to let his fingers dance across a grand piano or play with his beloved dogs – Atom and Humber. He is happy to give back to the community and the town where he grew up. Tocopilla now has a football pitch paid for by their favourite son.

And when he comes visiting, he brings the kids footballs and new boots. Just as the mayor had done for the scrawny little ardilla all those years ago. 

Originally published on Sportskeeda.com here
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Eve - Simon Anding, Elena Dupressoir, Lucas Durkheim, Paul Regnier, Diane Tran-duc

The Sentinel Sarcophagi of the Warriors of the Clouds

The Warriors of the Clouds, also known as the Chachapoya people, were a culture of Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas region of present day Peru. The incredible sarcophagi they constructed for the deceased were placed on the ledges of high cliff faces and lined up, like a row of sentinels guarding the dead.

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Inka Road still a monumental achievement after 500 years

Smartly timed to coincide with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has presented “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire,” the first major bilingual exhibition on one of the greatest civilizations in South America. The exhibit opened June 26 and will run through June 1, 2018. It explores why and to what end the Inka Road was built more than 500 years ago, and how its construction, without the use of metal or iron, the wheel or stock animals to pull heavy loads, stands as one of the greatest engineering feats of all time.

The paved road is more than 24,000 miles in length, runs north to south crossing through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Inka Road engaged impressive engineering strategies in response to the challenges presented by the rugged Andes mountains. Read more.