Will animals of the future only be safe in captivity?

Look ahead towards the middle of the century and much-loved animals such as lemurs, rhinos and tigers will only survive in some form of captivity.

And extinction will be even more of a threat than it is now.

An overly bleak and pessimistic view? Maybe.

But after reporting on the state of wildlife in Madagascar this past week, I cannot see how many of the most iconic creatures will be able to roam in their natural habitats for much longer.

I don't mean a future necessarily confined to zoos, but one in which lives are led in special zones guarded by fences and patrols and CCTV. Free, but only up to a point.

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Madagascar's lemurs cling to survival

The famous lemurs of Madagascar face such severe threats to their survival that none of them may be left in the wild within 25 years.

That stark warning comes from one of the world's leading specialists in the iconic animals.

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Drastic action to save endangered tortoise

In a desperate bid to save one of the world's most endangered animals, conservationists are taking the controversial step of defacing the last survivors.

Ploughshare tortoises are highly prized for their distinctive gold and black shells and fetch exceptionally high prices on the international black market.

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Philae awakening provides extraordinary opportunity

The Philae lander after separation captured by Rosettas OSIRIS narrow-angle camera
The Philae lander after separation captured by Rosettas OSIRIS narrow-angle camera

The astonishing survival of the comet lander Philae means we have a unique opportunity to witness something previous generations could only dream of.

The tiny spacecraft, nestling in a dark corner of the comet's rugged surface, will have a ringside seat as this alien world approaches the Sun and starts to generate its tail.

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Voyage to the north through ramparts of ice

Fram
Nansen wanted to jam a ship into the ice and let drift do the rest

At first sight the great slabs of grey-blue ice covering the Arctic Ocean appear to be rock-solid and immobile but the extraordinary fact is that they are restless and shifting.

Beneath what appears to be an unbending and endless landscape, the winds and currents are constantly at work reshaping it.

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Climate drives 'new era' in Arctic Ocean

Changes in the Arctic Ocean are so profound that the region is entering what amounts to "a new era", according to Norwegian scientists.

A switch from a permanent cover of thick ice to a new state where thinner ice vanishes in the summer will have far-reaching implications, they say.

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Arctic mission monitors ice shift

A highly unusual expedition is under way in the Arctic Ocean where a research vessel has been parked in the ice all winter.

Run by the Norwegian Polar Institute, the mission is exploring the big questions of how the region is changing and what this means for the ice and the wildlife.

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Longer-term thinking 'needed' on air pollution

Paris
The UK gets some pollution produced in France, and they get some of ours

Warnings about dirty air come so often that only the most severe seem to catch anyone's attention.

The last major episode to grab the headlines came a year ago when many areas of Britain were blanketed in a noxious brew that turned the skies grey-brown for several days.

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What is the point of the Large Hadron Collider?

inside the LHCb experiment
No small undertaking: the experiments occupy huge subterranean caverns

Every time fundamental research hits the headlines you can be sure that someone - maybe lots of people - will question whether it's worth it.

And so it is with the restart of this mother of all physics experiments, ready after its two-year upgrade to explore uncharted corners of the sub-atomic realm.

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Being comfortable in robotics' uncanny valley

Robot
Safety first: This robot moves out of the way as soon as the human reaches over

The robot's eyes flick towards me, and its head turns, eyebrows raised, lips forming a smile, as if we are about to meet and start a conversation.

In the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, I am a little disconcerted by my first encounter with an intelligent machine.

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