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Author Topic: ANIMAL NEWS FOR DAEMON SOULS AND ALL ANIMAL LOVERS  (Read 919619 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #4500 on: Feb 12, 2018, 05:23 AM »


Whale and shark species at increasing risk from microplastic pollution – study

Large filter feeders, such as baleen whales and basking sharks, could be particularly at risk from ingesting the tiny plastic particles, say scientists

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Guardian
2/12/2018

Whales, some sharks and other marine species such as rays are increasingly at risk from microplastics in the oceans, a new study suggests.

Species such as baleen whales and basking sharks, which feed through filtering seawater for plankton, are ingesting the tiny particles of indigestible plastic which now appear to permeate oceans throughout the world. Some of these species have evolved to swallow hundreds or even thousands of cubic metres of seawater a day, but taking in microplastic can block their ability to absorb nutrients, and may have toxic side-effects.

The new study, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, advises more research on the megafauna of the oceans, as the effects of microplastics on them is currently not well understood. Scientists have found, for instance through examining the bodies of beached whales, large pieces of plastic in the guts of such creatures, but the effect of microplastics, though less obvious, may be just as harmful.

Elitza Germanov, a researcher at the Marine Megafauna Foundation and co-author the study, said: “Despite the growing research on microplastics in the marine environment, there are only a few studies that examine the effects on large filter feeders. We are still trying to understand the magnitude of the issue. It has become clear, though, that microplastic contamination has the potential to further reduce the population numbers of these species, many of which are long-lived and have few offspring throughout their lives.”

Many species of whale, filter-feeding shark and rays are already under threat from other problems, such as overfishing and pollution. The added stress from microplastics could push some species further towards extinction, the authors of the study warned.

One possibility is that the microplastics will convey toxins to the bodies of the megafauna, though this process is currently poorly understood.

Maria Cristina Fossi, a professor at the University of Siena and co-author of the study, told the Guardian that although there was no evidence currently that microplastics alone could kill filter-feeders, they could produce “sub-lethal effects” which would endanger their health.

She said research on whale sharks and fin whales had confirmed that filter-feeding species were exposed to toxic chemicals, perhaps through the breakdown of microplastics in their digestive systems. “Exposure to these plastic-associated toxins pose a major threat to the health of these animals since it can alter the hormones,” she said.


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« Reply #4501 on: Feb 12, 2018, 05:25 AM »


Two men jailed for badger-baiting in Wales

Huntsman David Thomas sentenced to 22 weeks and accomplice to 20 in case RSPCA says shows animal cruelty is rife

Steven Morris
Guardian
12 Feb 2018 17.45 GMT

An experienced huntsman has been jailed after being caught badger-baiting on remote farmland in north Wales. RSPCA inspectors and police also found two foxes in a cage next to a pack of dogs on the farm, a meeting place for the Dwyryd Hunt, and believe they were going to be released for dogs to attack.

The RSPCA said the case showed that badger-baiting, which has been banned since 1835, and other forms of animal cruelty were still rife.

Some animal campaigners claim it also suggests the government’s badger cull has caused the mammals to become “demonised” and led to an increase in cruelty towards them.

Speaking after the sentencing, Ch Insp Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA’s special operations unit, said: “This was a major and landmark investigation in which the RSPCA caught individuals red-handed in the act of using their dogs to barbarically fight with a badger.

“Badger-baiting has been illegal for over 180 years and it is sickening to find people still seeking to spend their time inflicting pain, suffering and misery on animals in this way. This was coordinated and carefully planned cruelty.”

He added: “Badger persecution is rife across the country. There are numerous gangs out to target badgers. The badger is seen as the most worthy opponent, the biggest test for their dogs. But the people involved in this sort of activity just like killing things.

“It’s extremely difficult to detect. These people are going out into secluded woodlands, sometimes on to farmland with permission of the owner, which makes it extremely difficult to investigate.”

David Thomas, 51, from Blaenau Ffestiniog, was jailed for 22 weeks, told to pay costs of £5,000 and disqualified from keeping dogs for eight years for offences including causing a badger to suffer, keeping premises for an animal fight, and causing the suffering of two confined foxes. The court was told he had been involved in local hunts for 32 years.

A second man, Jordan Houlston, 24, was jailed for 20 weeks, and a third man was given a suspended sentence. A youth was handed a referral order.

Llandudno magistrates court was shown footage captured during undercover surveillance of dogs attacking a badger. Images produced in court also included fake setts – used to hold a badger for baiting – and animal skulls, which could have been those of foxes or badgers.

RSPCA inspectors attended the farm in February last year with police and seized 23 dogs. At the same time, a search was conducted at Houlston’s address in Llandudno, where a further eight dogs were seized. At this address a veterinary kit was found, including syringes, and a selection of books, one of them titled Badger Digging with Terriers.

Modern-day badger baiters often create fake setts in which they place a badger that has been dug out of its home sett. The first part of the event involves “drawing out” the badger by the dogs.

Once this has been done, the fight begins. Usually the badger will be stunned or in some other way disabled to ensure the dogs will triumph, but most of the animals usually end up severely injured. Once the badger can no longer fight, it is killed.

A spokesperson for North Wales Hunt Saboteurs said: “We are glad to see prison sentences handed out. We believe it’s the only way you can stop them. Given Thomas has been banned from keeping dogs for eight years, we believe the only solution is for this hunt to be disbanded.”

Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Badger Trust, said: “We have no doubt that the demonisation of the badger in relation to the cull policy is resulting in increased persecution and sett interference.”

According to figures collated by the Badger Trust, there was an increase in incidents of badger persecution after the start of the cull in 2013, which is intended to curb TB In cattle. In 2013, there were just under 700 incidents, the charity said. The number dipped to 404 in 2014 but rose to 465 in 2015 and 625 in 2016.


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« Reply #4502 on: Feb 12, 2018, 05:29 AM »


Yes, Animals Have Personalities, and They're More Important Than Looks

By Katie O'Reilly
Ecowatch
2/12/2018

Describe a guppy as stubborn or a chicken as crafty, and you might attract sidelong glances from old-fashioned wildlife biologists. Scientists have long disdained anthropomorphism, or the notion that whatever emotions humans experience, animals must, too.

A species' behavior, biologists held, was determined solely by what it ate, what was out to eat it, and its drive to kill or forage. That's what wildlife biologist Dr. John Shivik was taught in graduate school—that animals operate simply by instinct.

After spending years watching coyotes and working as a state predator biologist, federal regional wildlife researcher, and search-and-rescue dog handler, however, Shivik concluded that individual animals such as coyotes could actually be, well, pretty unpredictable.

"Observing long enough, I've concluded that they are bipolar animals: sometimes aggressive predators and sometimes wary cowards," he writes in his latest book, Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes: The Science of Animal Personalities (Beacon Press).

As Shivik, the author of 2014's The Predator Paradox: Ending the War with Wolves, Bears, Cougars, and Coyotes, continued to study wildlife and commune with fellow biologists, evidence of animal personality kept piling up: Studies revealed that individuals within a single species, such as western bluebirds, range from aggressive to passive. Mosquitofish can be adventurers or homebodies. Some spiders are loners, while others prefer to live in groups. Elk can be even-keeled and consistent, or just as easily exhibit flighty and capricious behavior. Primates read emotional situations to resolve conflicts of personality, and reptiles form cliques—Shivik describes their society as "lizard high school." The playfully enlightening Mousy Cats chronicles the author's deepening understanding that, like people, all animals are individuals—and that their internal conditions and behavior patterns are major factors determining their outcomes.

The book details experiments that demonstrate how every insect, fish, bird and mammal is its own special snowflake, and how such individual characteristics render them adaptive to changing environmental conditions. These studies of animal emotion and individuality, Shivik writes, are freeing wildlife biologists up to use the term "personality"—some are going so far as to use Meyers-Brigg categorization to describe creatures including dolphins. In the process, they are breaking science free from some bounds of unconscious bias, i.e. errors of omission due to anthropocentric hubris.

For pet owners and anyone else who's ever bonded with an animal, the "every critter is unique" conclusion might not land like breaking news. As I write this, my overconfident ham of a German shepherd/pitbull mix is glaring in his defiant way, making a point of pilfering carefully arranged throw pillows from the couch, and taking them onto the table where I'm working (and where he's not allowed) to rigorously shake them back and forth, like prey he's snatched from the forest floor. This is a clear attempt to will me to close my laptop—I know he'll be happy, and behave, once I pay his antics attention.

Meanwhile, his sister, a vizsla mix (and an INFP to her brother's ENTP, by my amateur estimations), serenely snuggles my feet. A fearful dog, she lives to please, and is at her most content when her human protectors are close, calm, and still. If I get up to tend to her brother, she'll get extra needy and grumble. Shivik, too, has long been well aware, on a personal level, that animals are as variable and idiosyncratic as we are. Mousy Cats is peppered with entertaining and often heartwarming anecdotes about the coyotes, cats and dogs he's come to know and love—the most memorable among which is Pinguino (pictured below), the loud, mischievous, demanding, and annoying cat who gets credit on the page for teaching Shivik that "sometimes, you need to be an asshole to survive."

In Mousy Cats, Shivik describes personality as "an elusive alchemy of the identifiable and ineffable," a force "that has to be consistent to be demonstrable, but that can't be static robotic programming." He explains, "We accept [personality] intuitively but can't measure it succinctly, like height or weight." The blossoming field of animal-personality research, indeed, requires more than dry objectivity—"Science has to rely on other tools, such as stories, too." This right-brained approach has those who study animal behavior confirming that nature selects for a variety of personality types, in everyone from one-celled creatures to humans, and that evolution is thus driven by difference, not sameness. What's more, behavior, as scientists are learning, is every bit as important for individuals and species competing and cooperating in the wild as physiology. ("I enjoy when science aligns with what my mother told me growing up: personality is more important than looks," the author shares.)

For instance, one Mousy Cats case study shows that male striders (also known as water bugs) that exhibit confidence have a lot more sex. However, the ones who act so assertive to be, as Shivik writes, "assholes," turn female striders off with their hyper-aggressive ways—the ladies end up fleeing from the pools these guys inhabit. It begs the question of why Darwinian forces of natural selection wouldn't wipe out the pesty bugs once and for all, ensuring that future generations of striders are marked by suave confidence. Not so fast. The science presented in this book sheds light on how, exactly, societies form, and shows that to thrive, they must exist as collectives of leaders, followers, fighters, lovers and everyone in between. It's a powerful—and particularly prescient—argument for the importance of all manner of diversity.

Mousy Cats breaks down assumptions like "aggressive fighter birds who win the best nest sites should dominate populations," by showing that "peacenik homebody birds" are also crucial. For one, they're more attractive as mates, and reproduce at more successful rates. "Opposites not only attract," Shivik writes, "but the vigor of the variability they instill in their young is also hugely beneficial; the paired parents with either extreme of the behavioral spectrum produced fledglings in the best condition, which led to the highest nest success."

Individual personalities create emergent properties which build societies in ways that drive ecological systems. The book makes a case for why breeders (as well as countries, and corporations) should not try to micro-engineer their populations by selecting for single desirable traits—like hens capable of laying the most eggs. As Mousy Cats' cautionary parable about "super-chickens" reveals, amassing teams of top performers leads to in-fighting and aggression, which actually slows down innovation. It's a thought that might make you more patient not only with your fear-addled dog or macho cat, but also with your loud, pushy coworker, or your shy neighbor who won't say "hi" back.

Mousy Cats is a charmingly written, amusing read, and it's chock-full of cocktail conversation fodder for animal lovers (did you know, for instance, that cloning doesn't recreate personality, or that spider monkeys ritualistically connect by hugging—a tool that softens the edges between different personalities)? The book is feel-good and practically applicable—it certainly left me more appreciative of my canines' individual quirks and needs. But more importantly, it subtly reinforces the notion that individual variation is the fundamental driver of success for life on Earth.

What would we learn if we took the insights gleaned from observing bluebirds and spiders and lizards, and applied them to humans? Shivik states that, particularly because we have perfected our weapons to the point that we could very well cause our own extinction, humans should look to the animal kingdom for cues on how to balance our bellicose propensities with our peaceful ones. "Having too many serene lovers may seem like it would usher in an age of unambitious ennui, but one too many brave fighters who are willing to push to the brink of nuclear war will spawn an age of doom."

Ultimately, Shivik makes a strong case for "zoomorphizing," which is using animals and their behaviors and societies as mirrors of human individual and collective behaviors. Mousy Cats will certainly give you more reason than ever to observe and protect wildlife—and it'll also help justify all that time spent in your backyard or before your cat's condo, marveling at the scientifically proven specialness of your pet's wiles.

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.


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« Reply #4503 on: Feb 13, 2018, 05:38 AM »

Blind, bisexual and polyamorous goose involved in love triangle dies, aged 40

13 February 2018
Independent

A blind bisexual goose named Thomas has died in New Zealand at the age of 40. He spent six years in a love triangle with two swans and helped raise their dozens of babies.

Years ago, Thomas segregated himself from other geese and instead chose a black male swan named Henry as his life-long mate for 24 years.

When Henry fell in love with another swan, Henrietta, Thomas stayed with the pair and helped raise their cygnets up until Henry died in 2009.

Thomas finally retired to the Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust (WRBT) sanctuary in 2013 and he eventually went blind.

The WRBT confirmed with indy100 that Thomas passed away on Saturday 3 February. It  announced the sad passing on Facebook on Tuesday:

    We have loved having Thomas as a part of the WBRT family and have treated him with extra special love and care!

    He lived for corn on the cob and if it wasn't there when we put him back into his house at night, he was not happy.

Birdwatcher Mik Peryer, who was familiar with Thomas, told Stuff it was a 30 year love story “that should be celebrated". He added:

    Prior to Henrietta turning up they had about 18 happy gay years together.

It is understood there is now talk of plans to bury his body next to his soulmate Henry in the park where they lived for all those years.

Meanwhile, tributes have been pouring in for Thomas from around the world.

    Hi 👋 this is why I'm crying today. https://t.co/yn6y0EnMkI
    — Jennifer Green (@JelitaJane) February 7, 2018

    My poor, brittle, polyamorous, bisexual heart is exploding.

    "Thomas The Bisexual Goose Will Be Buried Beside His Male Partner Of 30 Years" -- @KristinaSaurusR https://t.co/y6sWWaLSIm pic.twitter.com/pirtrR1DGI
    — Zachary Zane (@ZacharyZane_) February 7, 2018

    😢 #LoveIsLove ❤️.
    — FormerUSN80-86 (@JoniHPetSitter) February 9, 2018

    Sounds like an absolute legend
    — Double Underscore (@inpreparation__) February 9, 2018

    Thomas will be missed
    — Felicity Carter (@FelicityCarter6) February 9, 2018

Rest in peace Thomas, you will be missed.


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« Reply #4504 on: Feb 13, 2018, 05:49 AM »

Mutant Pig With 2 Bodies, 8 Legs Discovered On Chinese Farm

By Andrew N. White
IBT
2/13/2018

A mutant pig, born with two heads and eight legs, died just minutes after birth on a farm in China. A Chinese farmer, Gao Baiqi, who raises animals, said he "had never seen anything like it."

The mutant piglet appeared to have been born with a parasitic twin, according to Daily Mail Monday. Baiqi, who lives in Fe County in Linyi City, located in China’s eastern Shandong Province, said he discovered the mutant piglet among the litter after birth.

"Besides having one head, two bodies and eight legs, the piglet appeared normal and had all other organs," Baiqi told Asia Wire.

Because it was weak, Baiqi reportedly planned to nurture the abnormal piglet by hand instead of letting it feed from its mother. It was born with underdeveloped skin, and it jerked and thrashed about before it abruptly stopped breathing.

"I had prepared milk and wanted to feed it myself, but it died in a few minutes," Baiqi said. He reportedly buried the piglet before he showed it to nearby residents.

Baiqi hasn’t figured out what caused the piglet’s deformities. However, the birth defect was possibly the result of an egg that hadn’t separated during conception, as is the case in human conjoined twins.

According to a report by Berkeley regarding evolution and causes of mutation, deformities happen for many reasons and are "naturally occurring."

"For example, when a cell divides, it makes a copy of its DNA — and sometimes the copy is not quite perfect. That small difference from the original DNA sequence is a mutation," the report read.

External influences also caused mutations, according to the report.

"Mutations can also be caused by exposure to specific chemicals or radiation," the report continued. "These agents cause the DNA to break down. When the cell repairs the DNA, it might not do a perfect job of the repair. So the cell would end up with DNA slightly different than the original DNA and hence, a mutation."

Another deformed pig surfaced in China in 2015, though this time the animal bared what some said resembled a penis on its forehead, according to Mirror. A Chinese farmer named Tao Lu noticed the deformed pig among the litter after birth.

"It was a large litter, and the mutant was one of the last of 19 piglets to be born," Tao said. "All the others were normal, just this one was really bizarre.

"It is a shame it died, I could have got more money for it than for the rest of the family put together based on what people were offering me on the phone," he continued.

The farmer said he intended to put the malformed pig on display for locals to behold. One local, Wu Kung, 32, witnessed the animal close up.

"I was one of a dozen people who went there to see the piglet, and it really did have human face and exactly like he said, a penis growing out of its forehead," he said.


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« Reply #4505 on: Feb 13, 2018, 05:51 AM »

ONE FOR THE LIONS !!

Suspected poacher eaten by lions in South Africa

Agence France-Presse
13 Feb 2018 at 06:53 ET 

A suspected poacher was mauled to death and eaten by a pack of lions close to the Kruger National Park in South Africa, police said Monday, adding that little was left of the victim's body.

The remains were found at the weekend in the bush at a private game park near Hoedspruit in the northern province of Limpopo, where animals have been poached in increasing numbers over recent years.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions. They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe told AFP.

A loaded hunting rifle was found near the body on Saturday morning. Police are trying to establish the victim's identity.

Last year, several lions were found poisoned near a farm in the same province with their heads and paws sawn off.

Lion body parts are used in traditional medicine.

Poachers also often target rhinoceroses in South Africa's game parks to feed a booming demand for rhino horn in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, where it is believed to have medicinal qualities.


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« Reply #4506 on: Feb 13, 2018, 05:54 AM »

Fake nests fight real threat of extinction for the shy albatross – video

Guardian
2/13/2018

Tasmanian scientists are trialling  a new tactic to help the shy albatross fight extinction: constructing artificial nests. Over one hundred specially built mudbrick and aerated concrete artificial nests were airlifted on to Bass Strait’s Albatross Island in July 2017 as a trial program. So far the results are looking promising with the breeding success of pairs on artificial nests 20% higher than those on natural nests. Conservationists hope the nests will boost the population of the threatened seabird, which is vulnerable to climate change

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/embed/4_uebID0i78?enablejsapi=1&rel=0&showinfo=0&origin=https://www.theguardian.com


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« Reply #4507 on: Feb 13, 2018, 05:56 AM »

Population Of ‘World’s Rarest Fish’ Doubles After Discovery Off Australia’s Coast

By Himanshu Goenka
Independent
2/13/2018

Off the east coast of the island of Tasmania, Australia, a very unusual fish is found — a fish that uses its fins not to swim but to push itself along the seafloor, almost like walking on its hands. And that, along with its color, gives it its name — red handfish.

Other than being quite unusual among fish, the red handfish (Thymichthys politus) is also very rare. It was thought till recently only 20-40 individuals survived in a single population off southeast Tasmania. But following a tip-off from someone who claimed to have seen a red handfish in a different area, researchers discovered another population with another 20-40 individuals.

Given the rarity of the creature, the new site where the fish was found is not being publicly disclosed till such time as authorities have decided a management mechanism. But it is several kilometers away from the other site — Frederick Henry Bay, also in southeast Tasmania — with a red handfish population. The two populations are definitely distinct because the range of the red handfish is limited to about the size of two tennis courts, given the way it moves.

After receiving a tip-off, a team of seven divers from the Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies (IMAS), at University of Tasmania in Hobart, spent two days looking for the fish, and were on the verge of giving up when Antonia Cooper, a technical officer at IMAS, spotted one.

“We were diving for approximately three and a half hours and at about the two hour mark we were all looking at each other thinking this is not looking promising. My dive partner went to tell the other divers that we were going to start heading in and I was half-heartedly flicking algae around when, lo and behold, I found a red handfish. Finding a new population that is definitely distinct from the existing one is very exciting.  It means there’s potentially a bigger gene pool and also that there are potentially other populations out there that we’re yet to find, so it’s very exciting indeed,” Cooper said in a statement Tuesday.

Eight individuals were identified from the area, leading researchers to conclude the population could actually be between 20 and 40 individuals. That effectively doubles the estimate of how many red handfish remain in total in the world.

IMAS scientist Rick Stuart-Smith said in the statement: “Finding this second population is a huge relief as it effectively doubles how many we think are left on the planet. We’ve already learned a lot from finding this second population because their habitat isn’t identical to that of the first population, so we can take some heart from knowing red handfish are not as critically dependent on that particular set of local conditions.”

While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) doesn’t have a listing for red handfish, it is listed as critically endangered by the Australian government. There are some other species of handfish in the region which are also extremely rare. For instance, there is the spotted handfish, which is critically endangered according the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Even with an increased estimated population of between 40 and 80 individuals, the red handfish is still pretty rare, and could well be the world’s rarest fish, like the researchers said in the statement. It is possibly rarer than Deils Hole pupfish, which is found only in one location in Death Valley National Park, Nevada, and is often referred to as the rarest fish in the world. It is also listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List, with 63 individuals during a count in fall 2013.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6MEM3b7Uqc


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« Reply #4508 on: Feb 13, 2018, 06:00 AM »


Country diary: a marsh harrier causes havoc among the wildfowl

Farlington Marshes, Hampshire: Thousands of waders and other birds exploded into flight, blossoming across the sky like fireworks

Claire Stares
Guardian
2/13/2018 2018 05.30 GMT

As I raised my binoculars to scan the reed bed for bearded tits, a stocky, chocolate-brown bird of prey lazily flapped across my field of vision. “Marsh harrier!” I exclaimed as it drifted a few metres above the fronded stems, its wings held in a characteristic shallow V. The harrier was silhouetted against the setting sun but, as it pirouetted around, its pale-coloured crown flared gold in the late afternoon light.

Marsh harriers were once widespread in Britain but, by the early 1970s, persecution and habitat loss saw the population dwindle to a single breeding pair. Thanks to a reduction in pesticide use and efforts to improve and expand their preferred wetland habitat, this number has risen to about 400 pairs.

Although traditionally summer migrants, wintering as far south as sub-Saharan Africa, a growing number – usually females – remain all year round. Though their stronghold is in East Anglia, they breed in low numbers in other regions where large reed beds are found. But these majestic raptors remain a rare sight in Hampshire. A pair raised two chicks at Titchfield Haven in 2017 – only the second time marsh harriers have bred in the county since 1957.

As the harrier methodically quartered its hunting ground in search of prey, it flushed out a flock of lapwing, their wings flickering as they wheeled up over the lagoon. At the sound of their kazoo-like alarm calls, thousands of waders and wildfowl exploded into flight, blossoming across the sky like fireworks. Chevrons of brent geese, wigeon and shelduck headed out to sea; while pulsating nebulas of black-tailed godwits, curlew, dunlin and oystercatchers performed evasive aerial manoeuvres.

Banking to avoid a mob of black-headed gulls, the harrier flew into the maelstrom and made a pass at a lagging teal, but missed. As it circled back, sending up a second wave of water birds, the soaring form of a falcon drew my attention. A kestrel was winnowing above the harrier, seemingly using the larger bird as cover.
The harrier carved a path through a murmuration of starlings. As one bird jinked out of its grasp, the kestrel pulled smoothly out of its slipstream and sailed past, plunging down to strike the unsuspecting starling’s back with outstretched talons.


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« Reply #4509 on: Feb 14, 2018, 05:06 AM »


Sale of puppies in pet shops may be banned in crackdown

Michael Gove unveils new rules for puppy trade and consults on ban on third-party sales

Alexandra Topping
Guardian
14 Feb 2018 11.29 GMT

He has been called many things during his time as a minister, but now Michael Gove may be able to add another moniker: saviour of puppies.

The environment secretary has announced that the government is considering a ban on the sale of puppies in pet shops, and he unveiled measures to crack down on unscrupulous puppy breeders.

A ban would mean anyone buying or adopting a dog would deal directly with the breeder or an animal rehousing centre.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a call for evidence on the proposed ban. Last year the department concluded that a ban on third-party sales would lead to the creation of an illegal market, after hearing evidence from the Dogs Trust and Blue Cross.

Paula Boyden, a veterinary director for the Dogs Trust, said “crucial steps” had to be taken before any ban was introduced, to prevent unscrupulous puppy farmers from setting up unregulated rehoming centres or bogus sanctuaries.

“Licensing and inspection of dog breeders and sellers must also be stronger to ensure that everyone involved in the trade is on the radar of local authorities,” she said. “The government must tackle these loopholes now so we can be confident a ban will be the success we all want to see.”

The RSPCA’s deputy chief executive, Chris Wainwright, said the organisation was delighted that Defra was considering a ban on third-party sales of puppies. “We have always said that an end to third-party sales alone would not be enough to end the puppy trade crisis, and we are pleased that this is being looked at alongside enhanced licensing conditions for breeders which will come into force later this year,” he said.

Gove said the government was cracking down on rogue puppy sellers, including the breeding of dogs with genetic disorders. “We need to do everything we can to make sure the nation’s much-loved pets get the right start in life,” he said. “This is a further step to raise the bar on animal welfare standards. We are also introducing mandatory CCTV in all slaughterhouses and increasing maximum prison sentences tenfold for animal abusers.”

Under new rules to take effect later this year, breeders and sellers must be licensed and will be banned from selling puppies and kittens under eight weeks old. Puppies will have to be shown alongside their mothers, and sales will have to be completed in person with the new owner present. Dog breeders will only be able to sell puppies they have bred themselves.

Defra’s call for evidence on the ban on third-party sales of puppies closes on 2 May.


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« Reply #4510 on: Feb 14, 2018, 05:08 AM »


Australia's cat plague is back after 40 years – and the solution is vaccination

Herd immunity is essential. If parvovirus vaccination rates fall below 70%, cats are in trouble

Mark Westman and Richard Malik for The Conversation
Mark Westman is a shelter vet/postdoctoral researcher, and Richard Malik is a vet internist (specialist)
Guardian
Wed 7 Feb 2018 01.15 GMT

A deadly feline disease is now spreading between cats after hiding for nearly 40 years. Multiple cases of feline parvovirus, also known as cat plague, or panleukopenia, have been reported in stray kittens in the greater Melbourne area this week.

Feline parvovirus was a common disease in the 1960s and 1970s. Australia was one of the first countries to develop an effective vaccine. Once widespread vaccination became routine, the disease was pushed back into nature.

In the 1970s, cases were typically seen in unvaccinated kittens purchased from markets or pet stores, and in shelters where vaccination protocols were lax.

Between the early 1980s and 2015, cases were unreported, but no doubt feral and semi-owned cats were still sporadically infected.

The re-emergence first occurred in animal shelters in Mildura and Melbourne in 2016 and south-western Sydney in 2016. Many cats died. Even survivors suffered greatly. In all these outbreaks, affected cats had one thing in common – they had not been vaccinated.

What is feline parvovirus and how does it kill?

Feline parvovirus has a predilection for infecting rapidly dividing tissues. Cells lining the small intestine of infected cats are killed, resulting in vomiting, diarrhoea (often bloody), fever, lethargy, anorexia and sometimes sudden death.

The bone marrow is transiently wiped out by the virus, resulting in a depletion of white blood cells. As a result, infected cats are unable to fight the invasion by secondary bacteria that attack the leaky gut wall.

Most cases of feline parvovirus are in unvaccinated kittens or young cats. The welfare of cats is hugely impacted by this terrible disease – it makes cats miserable for many days, if they survive.

Treatment involves intensive therapy in hospital: intravenous fluids by infusion pump, medication to reduce vomiting, expensive anti-viral treatment (omega-interferon), opioids for pain relief, antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections, and occasionally blood or plasma transfusions and nutritional support (feeding tubes).

Treatment can costs thousands of dollars, and many owners just can’t afford it. But even with treatment, the fatality rate remains high.

Feline parvovirus is spread by faeco-oral contamination: from infected cats shedding virus in their faeces. Litter trays and natural latrines (such as sandboxes) are prime sources of infection.

This may occur where infected cats are kept close to uninfected cats (in shelters and pounds), and in homes where cats have outdoor access. But you can track feline parvovirus into your house on your shoes or clothing, so even 100% indoor cats are not safe.

Feline parvovirus can usually be quickly diagnosed by veterinarians using rapid point-of-care test kits and then confirmed in a lab.

There is no risk of this virus spreading to human patients.

How did it re-emerge?

Feline parvovirus was never completely eliminated from the Australian cat population and instead has been maintained at low levels in the unowned and feral cat population for the past 40 years. Remember, there are perhaps six times as many unowned cats than owned cats in Australia!

This adaptable virus also has the potential to infect foxes and wild dogs, only later to be passed back to cats, providing a variety of potential environmental reservoirs.

Perhaps with an increased effort to rehabilitate and rehome “fringe dwelling cats”, it was inevitable that the virus would spill back from these unvaccinated cats into the general pet cat population, given waning herd immunity.

Consistent with this hypothesis is the first outbreak occurring in rural Mildura, a somewhat underprivileged socioeconomic area (government figures show the median household income is $878 per week), and subject to incursions by feral cats, foxes and wild dogs – including dogs used for hunting.

It is our suspicion that the cost of vaccinating the family cat (currently more than $200 for a kitten requiring a course of two to three vaccines) exceeds the budget for many pet owners.

The best protection for any cat (and every cat) is widespread vaccination of as many cats as possible in the community at large. This “herd immunity” is the best protection against this highly contagious, persistent, resistant virus. When vaccination rates fall below 70%, cat populations are in trouble.

Vaccination against feline parvovirus is highly effective (more than 99%) and is given by veterinarians as part of an F3 or F4 vaccine at the same time as a routine health check.

The Australian Veterinary Association recently recommended all cats be vaccinated annually. But with the modern range of vaccines, there is good evidence that in kittens older than 16 weeks, a single vaccination produces immunity which last several years.

If a kitten has received two or three kitten vaccinations (the last one at 16-18 weeks of age), and a booster one year later, it likely has excellent protection against the virus, probably for several years, and possibly for life.

If your adult cat has received an annual vaccination in the past three years, it likely has excellent protection.

If your cat is more than three years overdue for its vaccination, it is sensible to visit your local veterinarian soon. Your cat will develop or maintain excellent protection within a few days of vaccination.
But what about unowned and feral cats?

We need to support efforts to vaccinate cats that have never been vaccinated against feline parvovirus – cats owned by people who are unable to afford vaccinations, and cats that have been dumped and are now unowned and free-roaming.

New South Wales is making some progress in this area. The NSW Cat Protection Society responded to a 2017 outbreak by subsidising free vaccinations for cat owners in Sydney. RSPCA NSW has ongoing targeted low-cost vaccination programs for cat owners, particularly in regional and remote areas of NSW.

Trap, neuter and return programs, while controversial, usually involve administering a F3/F4 vaccination to unowned and feral cats, thereby boosting herd immunity against feline parvovirus and also possibly reducing cat numbers.

Finally, for people who cannot afford veterinary care because of their life circumstances, Pets in the Park and similar charities can provide another option for vaccination.

Remember, the larger the proportion of the cat population that is vaccinated, the less chance any cat and every cat has of becoming infected. Stated another way, it’s far more effective to maximise the proportion of the cat population that is vaccinated, rather than over-vaccinating only a limited proportion of cats.

Mark Westman is National Director of Pets in the Park. This article was originally published on The Conversation.


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« Reply #4511 on: Feb 14, 2018, 05:11 AM »


Country diary: blackbird song is all the better for its thievery

Claxton, Norfolk: The song thrush is a much more frequent borrower of other birds’ sounds but, like all great artists, blackbirds will steal on occasions

Mark Cocker
Guardian
14 Feb 2018 10.54 GMT

It has been a surprise to be woken several mornings recently by blackbird song, because normally in our parish I seldom hear the full performance before March. I call this bird’s output “song” but, in truth, it is quite like subsong, which is a late-autumn version of a bird’s true vocalisations, usually performed by young males as they practise and explore their species’ sound structures and repertoire. It strikes you as monochrome and introverted hedge-bottom stuff, as if the bird were singing mainly for itself.

Yet this midwinter blackbird is more than that. It has some of the outline of true song, and several of the typical phrases, which, from a bird in full voice, have the richness and contours of a hawthorn swollen with blossom; but this bird’s motifs are smaller, more muted, as if they have been trimmed and blanched by cold air.

They also contain a trace of mimicry. Several times there was a distinct hint of curlew song. I love these acts of song thievery. Among the family, the song thrush is a much more frequent borrower of other birds’ sounds but, like all great artists, blackbirds will steal on occasions.

There was a wonderful story from Colchester where a family matriarch used a four-note whistle to summon her children. One of the latter described how in 1949 a local blackbird, whose favourite songpost was near his mother’s pantry window, nicked the riff and perfected it and then gave it to other local blackbirds. Never more than five or six but never fewer than two of these golden-mouthed songsters deployed the whistle and kept it going until it finally died away 13 years later.

Alas, my blackbird usually gives up just after dawn, before the light is pencil-lead grey. I go to the window and see why. Daffodils are spearing all across the garden but the hedge is bare. There are two yellow crocuses flowering on the bank, but as yet there are no daisies spreading like a small galaxy through the lawn. There may be robin song from our hollies, but for now the dawn chorus is elsewhere.


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« Reply #4512 on: Feb 14, 2018, 05:12 AM »


Stable genius: Britain’s first guide horse for blind people

An American miniature horse is training to become a faithful assistant to a visually impaired man from Lancashire – and causing quite a stir on the streets of Blackburn

Simon Usborne
Guardian
14 Feb 2018 15.47 GMT

Mohammed Salim Patel knew he was causing a stir in Blackburn market on Monday because he could hear it. “There were people around us saying, ‘Oh, look at that’, and I could hear the shutter sounds going on all their phones,” the 23-year-old says. The cause of the disturbance: Digby, Britain’s first guide horse for blind people.

Patel, who lives in the Lancashire town, was enjoying his second meeting with the American miniature horse and the animal’s trainer, Katy Smith. Once Digby, who is eight months old, is fully trained (in about two years), he will move into a miniature stable in Patel’s garden.

“At the minute, I’m heavily reliant on people,” says Patel, who has a dog phobia. He works as a journalist at BBC North West Tonight in Salford. “I have a support worker who picks me up and takes me home and supports me full time in the office. Digby would relieve a lot of that.”

Smith has eight small horses at her stables in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, where she runs KL Pony Therapy. She takes the animals into care and nursing homes, but heard about their use as service animals in America for people with dog phobias or allergies.

“They’re almost like dogs,” she says. “It’s the way they watch you and want to be with you. They want to please you.” They live up to the age of 45, Smith says, adding: “Get some panniers and they can also carry your shopping.”

The animals need suitable outdoor accommodation, and ideally a nearby stables for the odd gallop. Smith, who works with police horse trainers and Guide Dogs for the Blind, also fits her horses with nappies known as “thunder pants”. She has had an enquiry from one other blind person, and plans to train a second foal.

Patel, who has an inherited retinal condition, first met Digby last year. “Obviously, I’ve not stopped thinking about him since then but he also remembered,” he says. “He rubbed his neck against my leg and stood next to me, which apparently is a sign. I’m amazed at how good his temperament is, despite the fact he’s only eight months old.”


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« Reply #4513 on: Feb 14, 2018, 05:15 AM »

Meet the dogs of Chernobyl – the abandoned pets that formed their own canine community

Hundreds of stray dogs have learned to survive in the woods around the exclusion zone – mainly descendants of those left behind after the nuclear disaster, when residents were banned from taking their beloved pets to safety

by Julie McDowall
Guardian
14 Feb 2018 12.34 GMT

We are in the woods behind the Chernobyl plant when the dog runs at us. It is thin, with brindle fur and yellow eyes. Igor, our guide, makes a lunge and clamps his hands over its snout. They wrestle in the snow and icy water shakes from the trees. The dog’s eyes flash as Igor grabs a stick and throws it into the trees. Distracted, the animal chases it and our little group is free to move. But the dog reappears and drops the stick at Igor’s foot. He throws it again. The dog brings it back. I almost laugh with relief.

Igor, who, it turns out, is very familiar with the dog, throws a few snowballs, which it tries to catch and chew. “This is Tarzan,” says Igor. “He’s a stray who lives in the exclusion zone. His mum was killed by a wolf, so the guides look out for him, chuck a few sticks, play a few games. He’s only a baby, really …”

Tarzan isn’t alone. There are approximately 300 stray dogs in the 2,600km² zone. They live among the moose and lynx, the hares and wolves that have also found a home here. But while the Mongolian horses and Belarusian bears were recently introduced to the area, and other animals have come in as opportunists, the dogs are native.

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Pripyat and the surrounding villages were abandoned, and residents were not allowed to take their pets to safety. Chernobyl Prayer, a devastating oral history of the period, tells of “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.” Heartbroken families pinned notes to their doors: “Don’t kill our Zhulka. She’s a good dog.” There was no mercy. Squads were sent in to shoot the animals. But some survived and it is mainly their descendants that populate the zone.

Life is not easy for the Chernobyl strays. Not only must they endure harsh Ukrainian winters with no proper shelter, but they often carry increased levels of radiation in their fur and have a shortened life expectancy. Few live beyond the age of six.

But it’s not all bad news. The dogs that live near the zone’s checkpoints have little huts made for them by the guards, and some are wise enough to congregate near the local cafe, having learned that a human presence equals food. These canine gangs act as unofficial Chernobyl mascots, there to greet visitors who stop at Cafe Desyatka for some borscht.

Nadezhda Starodub, a guide with the Chernobyl tour specialist Solo East, says the visitors (there are no “tourists” in the zone) love the dogs. “Most of the time people find them cute, but some think they might be contaminated and so avoid touching the dogs.” There are no rules that forbid a visitor from handling them, but Nadezhda asks her charges to exercise the same common sense they would when approaching any stray. “Some guides are afraid of complaints,” she says, “so they try to avoid the dogs to stay on the safe side. But I love them.”

While the dogs get some food and play from the visitors, their health needs are met by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-profit organisation that helps communities affected by industrial accidents, which has set up three veterinary clinics in the area, including one inside the Chernobyl plant. The clinics treat emergencies and issue vaccinations against rabies, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis. They are also neutering the dogs. Lucas Hixson, the fund’s co-founder, says: “I don’t think we’ll ever get zero dogs in the exclusion zone but we want to get the population down to a manageable size so we can feed and provide long-term care for them.” This makes Chernobyl safer for the dogs, but also for the workers and visitors.

The Chernobyl plant has recently been sealed under a new “sarcophagus” designed and built by a multinational group of experts, and similar cooperation can be seen with the dogs. In the woods behind Chernobyl I look again at yellow-eyed Tarzan and see, not a wild animal, but a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.


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« Reply #4514 on: Feb 15, 2018, 05:18 AM »


Trump Budget Sells Out Wild Horses Again

Ecowatch
2/15/2018

The Trump administration's $1 billion budget request for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeks $66.7 million for the Wild Horse and Burro Management program and a continued push to eliminate annual appropriations bill riders that prohibit the sale or killing of the federally protected animals.

Congress has yet to act on the administration's 2018 budget request, which also requested lifting the appropriations riders.

"The 2019 budget continues to propose the elimination of appropriations language restricting BLM's use of all of the management options authorized in the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act," the Interior Department's plan states, in reference to the 1971 law that calls for the "protection, management and control" of the animals on public land.

"This change will provide BLM with the full suite of tools to manage the unsustainable growth of wild horse and burro herds."

For more than a decade, Congress has used appropriations bill riders to prohibit the BLM from spending taxpayer money on "the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of [BLM] or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products."

The BLM uses helicopters to round up thousands of wild horses and burros from public lands each year. About 45,000 captured animals are held in government corrals and pastures, costing taxpayers $50 million annually. Another 67,000 wild horses and burros roam around on federal land.

The bureau asserted last year that a high number of "excess wild horses and burros causes habitat damage that forces animals to leave public lands and travel onto private property or even highways in search of food and water" and requested that Congress remove some restrictions on the sale and disposition of "excess" animals.

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) condemned the president's latest budget proposal. The horse advocacy group worries that the animals in holding and those considered "excess" on the range would be killed en masse if Congress were to grant the BLM's budget request.

"The Trump administration continues to defy the will of the American people by proposing the slaughter of America's iconic wild horses and burros," said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign.

A poll cited by the AWHC showed that 80 percent of Americans—including 86 percent of Trump voters and 77 percent of Clinton voters—oppose the slaughter and mass killing of wild horses and burros.

"The administration's decision to prioritize slaughter over humane management alternatives recommended by the National Academy of Sciences is irresponsible, reckless and politically unacceptable," Roy said.

A 2013 National Academy of Sciences review of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Management program found that a birth control vaccine was among the most safe, effective and economical ways to humanely reduce horse reproductive rates on the range.

But according to the AWHC, the BLM "has refused to use this method in more than a token manner, opting instead for costly and cruel helicopter roundups."


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