Kenya road project blamed for lion deaths

A new road and railway project cutting through an inner city Nairobi nature reserve poses increased risks to wildlife, livestock and human beings, conservationists say, after two lions were killed in the space of just 48 hours.


Kenyan wildlife rangers shot dead a male lion named “Mohawk” on Wednesday after it strayed from Nairobi National Park and attacked and injured a local resident.

The next day, following a helicopter and ground search, rangers found the body of another lion speared to death in a township to the south of Nairobi.

Conservationists said construction work on the new road which will link Nairobi airport to the city centre was affecting animal behaviour and leading more big cats to attempt to break free in search of quieter hunting grounds.

“Before construction started in the park the lions were not escaping, so there are indications that the noise and blasting is affecting their movements,” said Robert Ndetei, species conservation manager at World Wildlife Fund’s Nairobi office.

“If you don’t plan properly, if you don’t do proper environmental impact assessments, then you are doomed to fail and at the Nairobi National Park this could lead to more lions and other animals coming into contact with a growing human presence,” Ndetei told Reuters.

Nairobi National Park is home to about 35 lions. There are about 2,000 remaining in the whole of Kenya.

A senior Kenyan Wildlife Service official told reporters that contractors working on the new road project had accidentally cut an electric fence on the park’s boundary, giving the lions an escape route to find livestock.

“A key concern is that the developer is not taking proper care to ensure there is less disturbance of the habitat while also securing the perimeter fencing,” said Lucy Waruingi, acting secretary to the Conservation Alliance of Kenya.

Human settlements and activity have long been encroaching on the Nairobi National Park, which was established in 1946 on the city limits and provides views of lions, giraffes, zebras and other wildlife against a backdrop of high-rise buildings.

Kenya’s economy is expected to grow by 5.9 per cent this year and by 6 per cent in 2017, increasing pressure on the environment and exacerbating conflicts between humans and wildlife.

But wildlife tourism is also an essential foreign revenue earner for East Africa’s largest economy.

Marshall has Cowboys on high alert

The return of an off contract Benji Marshall has North Queensland on high alert ahead of Saturday night’s NRL clash with the Dragons in Townsville.


The Dragons’ attack is not exactly firing despite notching two straight wins.

The visitors have amassed the fewest points in the NRL in the first month, averaging just 10 a game.

But Cowboys coach Paul Green expects all that to change with Marshall back from a two week hamstring complaint.

While Green admitted on Friday that the evergreen Marshall was always a threat, he said he believed the Dragons playmaker would be out to produce something special with his NRL future still up in the air.

Marshall has made it clear he wants to play on until at least 2017 in what would be his 13th NRL season.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor has given him the first eight rounds to prove his worth.

Green did not have to be told Marshall would be out to make up for lost time against the Cowboys.

“What he uses as motivation, that’s up to him,” Green said when asked if he expected the veteran half to fire up.

“But normally when guys are in that (off contract) situation you see the best come out.

“That’s what I am expecting on Saturday night.”

Marshall’s return ensures the Dragons will boast their preferred spine for the first time this season, with fullback Josh Dugan expected to prove a perfect foil for the Kiwi half.

But Green said Marshall wouldn’t be the only one out to prove a point.

The Cowboys mentor said his reigning premiers were desperate to make amends after their last round golden point loss to Brisbane in the NRL grand final re-match.

“The boys are pretty frustrated given we had our chances to nail that game,” Green said.

“Hopefully that will give us a fire in the belly.”

The clash marks the first of three straight games in Queensland for St George Illawarra.

Javid Bowen – nephew of Cowboys great Matt Bowen – makes his NRL debut, replacing centre Kane Linnett (shoulder).

Prop James Tamou will become the 10th Cowboy to notch game No.150.


* The Cowboys have won four of the past five meetings against the Dragons and seven of the past nine at home

* North Queensland’s forwards are ranked first in the NRL for overall run metres (1581m)

* The Dragons are yet to score more than 16 points in 2016 and average 10 points, 1.5 tries and two line breaks per game – ranked last in all three categories

* The Dragons have lost five straight away matches.

Homicide case in India overpass collapse

Indian police have opened a case of culpable homicide against the company building a highway overpass that collapsed in the eastern city of Kolkata, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more.


Rescuers worked all night with cranes and jackhammers to clear concrete slabs and steel girders from the 100-metre length of the overpass that broke off suddenly and crashed down on pedestrians and vehicles on the road below.

Ninety were rescued, many with serious trauma injuries, but chances of finding survivors in the wreckage had dwindled nearly a full day after Thursday’s disaster in a teeming commercial district near the city’s Girish Park.

“It is being ensured that there are no more dead bodies under the debris,” SS Guleria, a deputy inspector general of the National Disaster Response Force, told Reuters Television.

Television channels broadcast images of a street scene with two motorised rickshaws and a crowd of people suddenly obliterated by a mass of falling concrete that narrowly missed cars crawling in a traffic jam.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose centre-left party is seeking re-election next month in the state of West Bengal, said those responsible would not be spared and blamed the previous state government that had awarded the overpass contract in 2007.

Yet she herself faces questions about a construction project that has been plagued by delays and safety fears under her rule.

A newspaper reported last November that Banerjee wanted the overpass – already five years overdue – to be completed by February. Project engineers expressed concerns over whether this would be possible, the Telegraph newspaper said at the time.

The disaster could play a role in the election in West Bengal, whose capital is Kolkata. The poll is one of five being held this month that will give an interim verdict on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nearly two years in power.

Related reading

Indian company IVRCL was building the 2km Vivekananda Road overpass, according to its web site.

Its shares fell another six per cent on Friday as police announced they had opened a case of culpable homicide.

The local offices of IVRCL were sealed and a police team was on its way to interview bosses at the company’s headquarters in the southern city of Hyderabad, according to reports.

A senior IVRCL manager had drawn national condemnation for calling the disaster an act of God.

“We did not use any inferior quality material and we will co-operate with the investigators,” the company’s director of operations, A.G.K. Murthy told reporters on Thursday. “We are in a state of shock.”

Years of delays may have caused corrosion to metal elements of the overpass, undermining its stability, according to rescuers who examined the wreckage. Locals said that concrete was poured on the stretch the night before its collapse.

Search for survivors continues

Rescue crews are working frantically to free at least 100 people trapped in the rubble of a collapsed highway overpass under construction in the bustling Indian city of Kolkata.

The incident has so far claimed 22 lives.

“Twelve dead bodies have been handed over to their families and three are awaiting final documentation. Six bodies are still unidentified,” said AITC, the ruling party in the state of West Bengal, of which Kolkata is the capital.

About 80 metres of the overpass, which was under construction, collapsed on Thursday morning in a congested part of the central Burrabazar district, trapping vehicles and people underneath it.

“There was a deafening noise and there was dust all around, it went down in seconds,” Mahesh Sarkar, a witness to the collapse, said.

Rescue operations continued into the night, with the army, police and disaster relief force cutting and sifting through mangled metal and concrete debris to find those still trapped.

“One girder seems to have fallen and then another collapsed,” said KP Rao, spokesman for IVRCL, the construction company responsible for the overpass.

“This is a very serious incident,” said Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state.

“But our first priority is to rescue the trapped, treat the injured in hospital and console the families of those who have died,” Banerjee said.

Six units of the National Disaster Response Force were rushed to the site and cranes were being used to lift debris. News footage showed mangled, half-burnt cars being lifted out from the rubble.

Many people had head and neck injuries, and several suffered burns when their vehicles caught fire, police said.

At least 30 engineers were working at the site.

“At least two of our engineers are missing,” Rao said from IVRCL headquarters in Hyderabad.

The army has also been called in to help, said Banerjee, who called off an election rally to visit the site in the state capital. Around 400 army personnel including engineers and medical personnel were deployed, reports said.

Residents formed a human chain to keep onlookers back from rescue operations, reports said.

“Shocked and saddened by collapse of under construction flyover in Kolkata,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter.

Construction on the overpass started in 2008 but had stopped and started several times amid apparent financial trouble suffered by IVCRL, according to an India Today report.

My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata. May the injured recover at the earliest.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 31, 2016

Gap in hospital funds despite $3b: states

State and territory leaders have unenthusiastically accepted a $2.


9 billion offer to patch up some of the hospital funding stripped out by the former Abbott government.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered the extra cash to fund hospitals to 2020 during the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra on Friday.

In return, the states will try to reduce demand for hospital services by giving chronically ill people better care to keep them out of wards.

It’s a solution to what states and doctors warned would be a health crisis from July 2017, after the Abbott government stripped $7 billion from state hospitals out to 2020.

While acknowledging the extra funding was a “good first step”, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there was still a huge gap that would put a strain on hospitals.

“It will mean more work for our doctors, our nurses, our administrators,” she told reporters after the COAG meeting.

Fellow Labor premier Daniel Andrews agreed the offer did not make up for the billions of dollars taken away from Victorian hospitals.

“There’s no getting away from, or getting around, or politely explaining away the fact that billions of dollars will not be flowing to hospitals in my state,” the Victorian premier said.

“(The cuts) are not reversed today and that’s a really important point for us all to acknowledge.”

Mr Turnbull wants governments to be more effective and innovative to provide services in the face of increasing demand and dwindling revenue, urging leaders to be “clear-eyed” in their choices.

But South Australian premier Jay Weatherill believes hospital expenditure is “locked and loaded”.

“These people are coming into our hospitals,” he told reporters.

“The real question is who bears the burden of actually meeting that need.”

He wants a “substantial discussion” on increasing revenue, citing his proposal for a GST on financial services.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr appreciates the prime minister’s offer of $50 million for his government but says it’s a long way off the $250 million that was cut from Canberra’s hospitals.

“It’s disappointing we have not properly resolved this matter,” he said.

But Liberal NSW Premier Mike Baird believes the offer is “very fair and reasonable” and a “big step forward”.

“The fiscal reality, look at (the federal government’s) budget,” he said.

“I mean, their budget is a massive challenge.”

He believes the states now have enough funding for hospitals out to 2020 but warns of challenges in the following years.

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler labelled the offer inadequate.

“People will wait longer and hospitals will be more overcrowded,” he told Sky news.

Conlogue finally wins Bells surf title

Two years after Courtney Conlogue’s mother carried her off a local beach with a wrecked ankle, the American surfer was chaired up Bells Beach in triumph.


The 23-year-old won her first Rip Curl Pro title on Friday and with it shot to the top of the world championship tour standings.

Conlogue surfed a smart final at the Bells bowl, taking the lead with a 9.03 wave and then holding off Australian two-time winner Sally Fitzgibbons for a riveting 16.53 to 16.43 win.

She was free surfing at nearby 13th Beach in 2014 when she hurt her ankle.

Conlogue needed help from mother Tracey to leave the beach and the injury forced her to miss three rounds of the world tour, shredding her title hopes.

Last year, Conlogue lost her Bells semi-final to Australian Stephanie Gilmore and eventually finished runner-up in the world championship to Hawaiian Carissa Moore.

So when Conlogue finally rang the famed Bells trophy, it looked like she was trying to break it.

“Man, it felt so good to ring that bell,” she said.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for six years – actually, since I was a little girl.

“I am so honoured … now I have my name there.”

Conlogue has never won the world championship, but she is this season’s early frontrunner.

She was runner-up to Australian Tyler Wright at last month’s first round on the Gold Coast and then reversed that result earlier on Friday in the quarter-finals.

That meant Conlogue already had the tour lead for the Bells final.

She also is defending champion at the next two tour events, WA’s Margaret River and then Rio.

“Having a start like this is great, but there are still eight events on the tour and everyone is going to be coming for me,” Conlogue said.

Moore’s run of three-straight Bells titles was ended when Fitzgibbons beat her in the semis.

Conlogue paid tribute to Fitzgibbons, who won Bells in 2011 and `12.

“You want to have it (the final) against someone who’s won it,” she said.

“Every time I come up against Sal … oh, it’s so `on’.

“Sally is always bringing her A-game and she’s such an athlete and so consistent.”

Fitzgibbons returned the compliment, saying Conlogue was a worthy champion.

“Running down those stairs after fourteen years of coming here never gets old,” Fitzgibbons said of the final.

“I just love it when my opponent is at their best.

“Courtney was in really great form this whole event and when my opponents are going out there and trying to better themselves, as a competitor I revel in that challenge.”

Also on Friday, the men completed round four and are halfway through the sudden-death fifth round ahead of the quarter-finals.

Australian legend Mick Fanning, who could be competing at his last Bells, is yet to surf his round-five heat.

The men’s Bells winner should be decided this weekend.

Tas roadkill problem at worst: experts

Tasmania is renowned for its stunning wilderness, clean air and great food, but the island-paradise image is being sullied by roads littered with dead wildlife.


The southern state has long held the title as Australia’s roadkill capital but experts say the carnage is at its worst and some are calling for urgent action.

As Tassie’s clocks are wound back on Sunday, bringing dusk to an earlier hour, the bitumen butchery will worsen, Hobart-based research scientist Alistair Hobday said.

“Late summer is always the peak in roadkill … and when we lose daylight saving that will get even worse,” he told AAP.

After more than five years of intensive roadkill analysis, Dr Hobday found an unprecedented rate of wildlife deaths on Tasmania’s roads – far greater than any other state or territory.

During the same period he was able to confirm at least eight human deaths as the result of vehicles swerving to miss animals.

“We know about those deaths because someone else in the car survived to tell the tale, but how many more people have died alone from the same cause?” Dr Hobday asked.

University of Tasmania ecologist Barry Brook said the cost of human life and injury is just one reason why the issue must be addressed.

“There are serious economic and health impacts.

“(But roadkill) is a serious issue because it is a major mortality factor for some of the state’s threatened species including devils and bandicoots.

“It has and will affect population ecology.”

In some cases, certain species have no known predator other than vehicles.

“There does need to be a systematic analysis into this to determine how authorities might be able to address the issue,” Prof Brook said.

“It could be relatively easily investigated, followed by some trials with modifying roadside vegetation.”

Dry conditions is among the speculative causes of why roadkill has been so prevalent – Tasmania received its lowest rainfall on record between September and December and wildlife go looking for food which can often be found roadside.

“It has been the hottest average temperature on record this summer and relatively dry, it’s an El Nino year,” Prof Brook said.

“Beside roads there is green pick around to eat and drainage lines as well – things that attract animals might become more striking during weather like this.”

Biologist and wildlife expert Nick Mooney said drivers need to slow down.

And he contrasted the common view that tourists – unfamiliar with Tasmania’s roads and wildlife numbers – are responsible for much of the roadkill.

“Local road users have become immune to it but tourists are not,” he said.

“Tourists aren’t the problem: they don’t want to have an insurance claim in their rental car and are rarely driving at night.”

Instead Mr Mooney pointed the finger at Tasmanians and particularly those in four-wheel drives, who have become blase about hitting wildlife on the roads.

“We just need to slow down, that really is the most cost-effective solution,” he said.

“There needs to be greater guidance in our training of how to drive with wildlife.”

Mr Mooney agreed the problem is at a height.

“It’s spectacular, the roadkill at the moment, and there are a number of reasons for that including an increase in the number of cars on Tasmania’s roads.”

He is disappointed by the community attitude which seems to be most concerned with cosmetics: cleaning up the carcass.

Drivers who hit wildlife in their car should always stop, Mr Mooney said.

“Probably once a month I find a wallaby on the side of the road alive but with a broken back.

“It’s incredibly rare that people stop to check the animal and about a third of those hit struggle off the road and are left suffering just metres away.

“People always stop if they hit a dog and I think the same should apply if they hit a wallaby.”

Roadkill mitigation measures are varied.

Most common and financially viable is keeping roadsides manicured, but more technical options are emerging including virtual fencing, which is an invisible perimeter where boundaries are drawn entirely by GPS and an alarm sounds when animals approach.

Wildlife overpasses, used above major highways, have been built by some mainland states.

Tax deal dropped, hospitals get lifeline

State premiers have left Canberra with $2.


9 billion in their pockets for hospitals, but no long-term funding deal for health and schools.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also been left without a tax reform plan, after the premiers rejected the idea of them levying their own income tax.

Instead the states will look at taking a share of the income tax revenue pool, while at the same time losing some tied federal grants.

The premiers were pleased with the offer of an extra $2.9 billion in funding from July 2017 to June 2020, despite it not fully covering the $7 billion cut in Tony Abbott’s 2014 federal budget.

But there was disappointment over a lack of commitment to schools funding, with a deal still to be struck by early 2017 and no guarantee that the former Labor government’s Gonski deal will be honoured.

“We are not wedded to … the ‘full Gonski’,” Mr Turnbull said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten described the COAG outcome as “pathetic”.

“The Liberals have taken our hospitals to the brink and this is nothing more than a band-aid on a bullet hole,” Mr Shorten said.

“It’s staggering that Mr Turnbull talks so much about innovation, yet is planning to cut every single commonwealth dollar from public education.”

Mr Turnbull said the new income tax arrangement would mean fewer conditions on the money provided to the states and greater incentive for them to spend the money more wisely.

But the commonwealth would not be raising the overall tax burden, he said.

“We have to live within our means,” Mr Turnbull said.

The prime minister’s closest state ally, NSW Premier Mike Baird, was still confident the federal government had “left open the option” of extending the Gonski funding beyond 2018.

However, his WA counterpart Colin Barnett said it had always been a false promise by the Gillard government and never had any real funding attached to it.

Mr Baird said the premiers had not given up on tax reform.

“I don’t want anyone to think that there has been any white flags raised in relation to tax reform … because funding that gap, ensuring the economy is growing, remains a challenge.”

The COAG agenda was not all about economics.

The meeting confirmed a deal to bring in new laws which would allow terrorists to remain in detention beyond their jail sentences.

And there was agreement on a domestic violence summit in Brisbane in October.

We’re not just drummers in the Windies band, says Simmons

Gayle scored an unbeaten century in the Caribbean side’s first pool match against England, which set up their successful run chase of 183, reaching the target with 11 balls to spare in Mumbai.


Since then, he has scored nine further runs.

He was dismissed for five in the semi-final against India before Simmons smashed 82 from 51 balls, while Andre Russell scored 43 from 20 to guide their side into Sunday’s showdown with Eoin Morgan’s team in Kolkata on Sunday.

“I think England will certainly be aware that it’s not a one-man show in this team,” Simmons told reporters.

“Chris Gayle didn’t get off but we still managed to get over the line and it was a big total.

“Even when he didn’t perform, we were still able to get up and fight and that shows a lot of character from our players.”

The team have needed to rely on their character and collective will after a turbulent few months in which they have been pilloried for their performances in test matches and one day internationals.

They have also been galvanised by yet another bitter pay dispute with their board, who less than two months ago threatened to send a second string side to the tournament in India unless the squad accepted their offer.

Since Gayle’s blistering start to the tournament, others have assumed the mantle of trying to chase down the totals they have been set in all five games.

Andre Fletcher scored 84 not out in their seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka, while Johnson Charles (32) and Marlon Samuels (43) saw them to a three-wicket win over South Africa.

“Every one of our players are match winners in our team,” Simmons added. “We have a lot of batting power and I think we can chase any run total, we always back ourselves to chase totals.”

That confidence has also been evident in Morgan’s side after they comfortably accounted for New Zealand in the other semi-final, with man of the match Jason Roy epitomising the aggressive attitude that has filtered through the team.

That aggression, and confidence, made them a better outfit than the England team that won the World Twenty20 in 2010, according to the captain of that side, Paul Collingwood.

“In the past our line-up probably had one or two players that were real match-winners, this team is full of match-winners,” Collingwood told the ECB website.

“These guys are mentally different to what we used to be. ‘Who dares wins’ is pretty much the motto.

“We probably would think, ‘this is a big game’ and pull back a little bit. It seems to be the other way round for these guys, they seem to thrive on the excitement of the big stage.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by NicK Mulvenney)

‘Looking forward to bringing the party together’: Trump meets with Republican leadership

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has made a surprise closed-door visit to the Republican National Committee after a tumultuous two days on the campaign trail that included a reversal of his pledge to support the party’s nominee.


Trump, who also has sought to contain the fallout from his comments on Wednesday supporting punishment for women who have an abortion, said on Twitter afterward he had a “nice meeting” with RNC chairman Reince Preibus but divulged no details.

“Looking forward to bringing the party together,” he said. “And it will happen!”

Just had a very nice meeting with @Reince Priebus and the @GOP. Looking forward to bringing the Party

together — and it will happen!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2016

An RNC spokeswoman described the meeting as “a productive conversation about the state of the race” and said it was part of Preibus’s regular communications with the party’s presidential candidates.

Trump’s relationship with the RNC has been contentious at times, and he recently complained the party was not treating him fairly as it prepared for a possible contested convention in July in Cleveland.

On Tuesday, Trump backed away from a loyalty pledge he signed in September promising to support the party’s eventual nominee and not to run an independent campaign for the White House.

The RNC pledge has unravelled as Trump’s remaining rivals, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich, also indicated they were unlikely to observe it if Trump was the nominee.

Barry Bennett, an adviser to the Trump campaign, said Thursday’s visit was about Trump helping the RNC raise money.

“The meeting is to help the RNC,” he said on MSNBC.

The billionaire businessman was in Washington for an announced gathering of his newly established foreign policy team.

A source who attended said the group discussed threats from Islamic State militants, nuclear proliferation, homeland security assessments and European security levels.

The Trump campaign has been busy trying to dig out from under an avalanche of criticism over his comment that women should face punishment for getting an abortion if the procedure was outlawed, although he quickly reversed his stance.

Trump pulled back from his initial comments within an hour, first issuing a statement that US states should handle abortion issues and later saying doctors who perform abortions are the ones who should be held responsible.

“You have a presidential candidate that clarified the record not once but twice,” Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told CNN, describing the initial comments as a “simple misspeak”.

She said Trump was “pro-life with exceptions” and said his statements after the comments in an MSNBC interview were an accurate depiction of his views.

“We shouldn’t make this a 24-hour headline when we have things like terrorism going on in the world.”

Trump’s latest controversy threatened to further erode his standing with women voters, many of whom have been offended by his use of vulgarities and insulting language to describe women during the presidential race.

The abortion flap erupted as Trump campaigned in Wisconsin ahead of the state’s critical primary on Tuesday.

An opinion poll released on Wednesday showed Cruz gaining ground and moving ahead of Trump by 10 percentage points in Wisconsin.

Trump’s meetings with his new foreign policy advisers follows several controversial statements on national security issues, prompting critics to question his suitability to be commander in chief.

In recent interviews, Trump has declared NATO obsolete, said Saudi Arabia is too dependent on the US, and said Japan and South Korea may need to develop their own nuclear programs because the US security umbrella is too costly to maintain.

He also refused to rule out the potential use of nuclear weapons in Europe or the Middle East to combat IS militants.

Yen for animation inspired HK robot

Like innumerable children with imaginations fired by animated films, Hong Kong product and graphic designer Ricky Ma grew up watching cartoons featuring the adventures of robots, and dreamt of building his own one day.


Unlike most of the others, however, Ma has realised his childhood dream at the age of 42, by successfully constructing a life-sized robot from scratch on the balcony of his home.

The fruit of his labours of a year-and-a-half, and a budget of more than $50,000, is a female robot prototype he calls the Mark 1, modelled after a Hollywood star whose name he wants to keep under wraps. It responds to a set of programmed verbal commands spoken into a microphone.

“I figured I should just do it when the timing is right and realise my dream. If I realise my dream, I will have no regrets in life,” said Ma, who had to learn about fields completely new to him before he could build the complex gadget.

Besides simple movements of its arms and legs, turning its head and bowing, Ma’s robot, which has dark blonde hair and liquid eyes, and wears a grey skirt and cropped top, can create detailed facial expressions.

In response to the compliment, “Mark 1, you are so beautiful”, its brows and the muscles around its eyes relax, and the corners of its lips lift, creating a natural-seeming smile, and it says, “Hehe, thank you.”

A 3D-printed skeleton lies beneath Mark 1’s silicone skin, wrapping its mechanical and electronic parts. About 70 per cent of its body was created using 3D printing technology.

Ma’s journey of creation was a lonely one, however. He said he did not know of anyone else in the former British colony who builds humanoid robots as a hobby and few in the city understood his ambition.

“During this process, a lot of people would say things like, ‘Are you stupid? This takes a lot of money. Do you even know how to do it? It’s really hard,'” Ma said.

He adopted a trial-and-error method in which he encountered obstacles ranging from frequent burnt-out electric motors to the robot losing its balance and toppling over.

“When you look at everything together, it was really difficult,” said Ma, who had to master unfamiliar topics from electromechanics to programming along the way, besides learning how to fit the robot’s external skin over its components.

Ma, who believes the importance of robots will only grow, hopes an investor will buy his prototype, giving him the capital to build more, and wants to write a book about his experience, to help other enthusiasts.

The rise of robots and artificial intelligence are among disruptive labour market changes that the World Economic Forum projects will lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years.