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« Reply #390 on: Aug 19, 2014, 06:46 AM »

Cheetah and dog become best of friends at San Diego zoo – video report

TheGuardian
08/19/2014

A baby cheetah who was rejected by his mother is being raised with a puppy at San Diego zoo. Ruuxa will stay lifelong companions with puppy Raina. The pair, who are almost four months old, play and wrestle together. Cheetahs are sometimes paired with dogs to provide companionship and help them stay calm in public settings.

Click to watch: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/aug/19/cheetah-dog-friends-san-diego-zoo-video
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« Reply #391 on: Aug 19, 2014, 06:50 AM »


Barry the manatee drowns at Paris zoo after getting stuck in pool shaft

Three-year-old mammal has died just a month after joining refurbished wildlife park at Vincennes

Anne Penketh in Paris   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 19 August 2014 12.34 BST      

A three-year-old manatee has drowned after getting stuck in a service shaft in its pool just a month after joining a zoo in Paris.

Barry the manatee, who weighed 300kg (660lbs), died last Tuesday but the zoo at Vincennes only acknowledged the mammal's death on Monday and said an investigation was under way. Barry and his 600kg companion Tinus were a star attraction at the zoo, which had been closed for five years for a major renovation.

The 80-year-old zoo reopened in April under its new name, the Paris Zoological Park, having previously been known as the Vincennes zoo.

Barry was born in captivity at the Danish zoo at Odense and had been in Vincennes since 4 July.

A spokeswoman told the Guardian that the mammal "forced its way into the shaft where it got stuck".

Authorities are trying to find out exactly what happened and whether the manatees' enclosure needs to be modified. On the day of the accident, the tropical pool was closed to the public while the shaft was shut and keepers made sure that Tinus was not at risk. The pool was specially built to contain up to three manatees.

The gentle, lumbering manatees are an endangered species, with only a few thousand left in the world. The herbivorous mammals remain submerged in shallow water or just under the surface and need to come up every five minutes to breathe.

The zoo's scientific director, Alexis Lécu, said the manatee pool design had been approved by a body that supervises the breeding programmes and exchanges of European zoos, and had been inspected on site in February before the zoo reopened.

A healthy adult manatee, which can measure about three metres (10ft) and weigh up to 600kg, can live to the age of 60. They spend most of their time eating or sleeping. Young manatees, also known as sea cows, can fall victim to shark or crocodile attacks in the wild, but the greatest threat to them is collisions with motorboats


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« Reply #392 on: Aug 19, 2014, 10:08 AM »


African elephants’ plight worsens as poaching soars

A study by the world’s leading elephant experts found that illegal killings have climbed from 25 percent of all African elephant deaths a decade ago to about 65 percent today.

By JASON STRAZIUSO
The Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Poachers killed an estimated 100,000 elephants across Africa between 2010 and 2012, a huge spike in the continent’s death rate of the world’s largest land mammals because of an increased demand for ivory in China and other Asian nations, a new study published Monday found.

Warnings about massive African elephant slaughters have been ringing for years, but Monday’s study is the first to scientifically quantify the number of deaths across the continent by measuring deaths in one closely monitored park in Kenya and using other published data to extrapolate fatality tolls across the continent.

The study — which was carried out by the world’s leading African elephant experts — found that the proportion of illegally killed elephants has climbed from 25 percent of all elephant deaths a decade ago to about 65 percent of all elephant deaths today, a percentage that, if continued, will lead to the extinction of the species.

China’s rising middle class and the demand for ivory is driving up the black-market price, leading to more impoverished people in Africa “willing to take the criminal risk on and kill elephants. The causation in my mind is clear,” said the study’s lead author, George Wittemyer of Colorado State University.

The peer-review study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was co-authored by experts from Save the Elephants, the Kenya Wildlife Service, an international group called MIKE responsible for monitoring the illegal killings of elephants, and two international universities.

“The current demand for ivory is unsustainable. That is our overarching conclusion. It must come down. Otherwise the elephants will continue to decrease,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

Elephant deaths are not happening at the same rate across Africa. The highest death rate is in Central Africa, with East Africa — Tanzania and Kenya — not far behind.

Botswana is a bright spot, with an elephant population that is holding steady or growing. South Africa’s rhinos are being killed, but poachers have not begun attacking its elephants.

Some individual elephant-death numbers are shocking. The elephant population in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve dropped from 40,000 to 13,000 over the past three years.

China is aware of its image problem concerning the ivory trade. The embassy in Kenya this month donated anti-poaching equipment to four wildlife conservancies. Chinese Ambassador Liu Xianfa said at the handover ceremony that China is increasing publicity and education of its people to increase understanding of the illegal ivory trade.

“Wildlife crimes are a cross-border menace,” Liu said, according to a transcript of the ceremony published by Kenya’s Capital FM. “I assure you that more action will follow as will support to fulfill our promise. We firmly believe that, through joint efforts, the drive of combating wildlife crimes will achieve success.”

Counting elephants is extremely difficult. Even Douglas-Hamilton refuses to offer an estimate as to how many live in Africa.

An often-cited number is about 400,000, but the Save the Elephants founder would argue that no one truly knows.

Counting elephant deaths is just as hard. But a Save the Elephants project in northern Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve has counted elephant births and deaths — including if the death was natural or from poachers — for the past 16 years. Using that data, the authors examined known death numbers in other African regions compared with the rate of natural deaths and were able to determine that the continent’s deaths between 2010-2012 were about 100,000.

“This is the best work available from the best data we have using officials from the top organization, so in my mind this is the best you are going to get at the moment,” Wittemyer said. “Because of the magnitude of the issue and the politics we’ve been very careful. The scrutiny we did internally was at a much greater level than the questions we got in the peer-review process.”

Despite the huge death numbers, both Wittemyer and Douglas-Hamilton believe African elephants can survive. Wittemyer said more elephants will be killed, but in areas where countries are willing to invest in wildlife security, numbers will hold steady, he said.

African elephants survived a huge poaching crisis in the 1970s and 1980s fueled by Japan, Douglas-Hamilton said.

“I have to be an optimist,” he said. “I’ve been through all of this before in the ’70s and ’80s. As a collective group we stopped that killing, and in the savannas there was a reprieve of 20 years. I believe we can do it again.”


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« Reply #393 on: Aug 20, 2014, 06:38 AM »

Pigeon fanciers in Egypt take their hobby to lofty heights

With lofts atop Cairo tenements pigeon keepers let a passion for birds take flight, investing hard-won cash and vying for prizes

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
The Guardian, Tuesday 19 August 2014 19.07 BST   
  
Wagdy Ishak keeps his children on his roof – all 380 of them. They prefer it that way, since these are not his offspring by blood. They are pigeons.

"Without the pigeons, I would have married years ago," muses Ishak, 28, who is known by all as Kouka. "The pigeons are my wife. The pigeons are my children."

Kouka's hobby is not unusual in Egypt. From his pigeon loft – a spindly wooden column that looks like a medieval siege tower – he can see a dozen similar structures that teeter above nearby tenements in east Cairo. There are thousands more across the country, many of which add 10 or 15 metres to the buildings they stand on, and house upwards of 100 pigeons each.

Kouka has rather more, and once had rather fewer. Other breeders inherit their flocks, but he started his as an eight-year-old when an uncle gave him two chicks to care for. He liked them for their loyalty, a characteristic that pigeon fanciers often cite, and began to buy more and more birds at pigeon markets across the capital.

"I had the feeling that pigeons can't betray you," Kouka says. He points at a pair of 15-year-old pigeons that fly back to his loft every time he tries to sell them. "They don't want to leave me. I sold them more than 10 times and they came back again and again."

When fears about bird flu led the government to order the culling of Egypt's pigeons, Kouka refused to let the police take his animals. "I went crazy and I said whoever comes up here I'll shoot with a gun. So eventually they just said, OK, you can keep them but take them from the tower and hide them somewhere else." Not one was killed.

Other animals in Kouka's neighbourhood are kept for their milk and meat – goats and sheep squashed into upstairs rooms, caked in mud. Stray dogs and cats get even less love. But Kouka's pigeons are treated with considerably more reverence. In their orderly loft, each has its own booth in what looks like a oversized blue chest of drawers. Kouka feeds, cleans and medicates them at regular times each day.

He also trains them meticulously. Each young pigeon is first taught to live apart from its parents. Then it learns the layout of the loft. Finally, it is allowed to fly with some of the older pigeons which soar across the rooftops in the early evening for two or three hours.

Kouka teaches them to follow his whistles and signals – and those of his king pigeon, which leads the pack. It's no idle pursuit: Kouka wants his birds to be fit and disciplined so they can compete against other flocks in a local competition known as a nash.

In one version of this competition, a pair of rival breeders release some of their birds from their opponent's loft. With their remaining pigeons, each breeder then tries to entrap members of their opponent's flock. The flock that returns home with the most pigeons wins the nash – and often some prize money.

But for Kouka, it is the kudos, not the cash, that spurs him to compete. "The most important thing about the competitions is not to profit financially but to prove yourself. I compete with people in their 50s and above. For them, I'm very small in the pigeon world."

The centre of that world can be found on a Friday at the weekly pigeon market in Cairo's City of the Dead. Cages of birds line a kilometre-long street that stretches deep into the capital's ancient cemeteries. Some of the pigeons are grey, some brown, others white. There are long necks and short necks, plumed tails and flat tails, drooping beaks and bulging ones.

The humans here are a mixed bag too. Some are just breeders, with no interest in competing. Some are like Kouka: nash competitors who want a flock that can catch rival birds. Others want their pigeons to race in regulated contests over hundreds of miles – and they tend to sniff at young upstarts like Kouka, whose informal nashes are seen as glorified theft.

"The races are organised, but the nashes are all about stealing," winces Sameh Kamel, a keen racer, and one of 300 members of the Cairo Association for Pigeon Races and Development, a new group for pigeon breeders.

There are other hierarchies on display, too. The cheaper pigeons are for sale at the start of the street, for as little as £3. The pricier ones are further along, and the most costly belong to 69-year-old Sayed al-Gazawa, who has bred pigeons for 55 years. The birds he bought in the 1960s cost the equivalent of 50 pence. Now Gazawa sells some animals for more than £300.

There is money to be made if you know how, something Gazawa, the market's elder statesman, thinks has attracted the wrong sort of people to the pigeon world. "The old people with the passion for pigeons have died," he says. "The new young breeders don't treat their pigeons properly."

His son, Hisham Abdel Aal, a vet, agrees. He says cases of Newcastle's disease, which attacks a bird's respiratory and nervous systems, are on the rise. "A lot of people these days don't get them vaccinated," says Abdel Aal, plunging a syringe into a friend's pigeon. "Or they don't clean them properly and they die from bugs and bacteria."

But not Kouka's pigeons, which he treats as family. He makes his money from the recycling trade, most of which he ploughs into his pigeons. They cost him £70 a fortnight, as much as Egypt's average monthly wage, and with food and fuel prices rising in the country, that figure is likely to creep further upwards.

But Kouka says he won't stop spending. "What can I do? I love pigeons," he says from his pigeon loft. "A pigeon doesn't know how to betray, doesn't know how to betray his friend."

*************

Fancier pigeons – in pictures

Photographer Richard Bailey has created an unusual set of portraits of 50 pigeons in honour of Charles Darwin's regard for Columbia livia

theguardian.com, Friday 31 January 2014 08.01 GMT   

Click to view: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/jan/31/fancier-pigeons-in-pictures



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« Reply #394 on: Aug 20, 2014, 06:47 AM »


Passenger pigeon extinction: it's complicated

A newly published study reveals that the extinction of the passenger pigeon likely was due to the combined effects of their natural dramatic population fluctuations and human over-exploitation.

GrrlScientist   
Monday 08/20/2014
theguardian.com     

Passenger Pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, juvenile (left), male (center), female (right). Offset reproduction of watercolor by Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927).

    The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."

    ~ William Beebe (1877-1962)

Once the most abundant bird in the world with a population size estimated to be somewhere between 3 and 5 billion in the early and mid-1800s; the sudden extinction of the passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, in 1914, raises the question of how such an abundant bird could have become extinct in less than 50 years. A newly published study combines high throughput DNA technologies, ecological niche modeling and reconstructions of annual production of acorns upon which the birds fed to show that the passenger pigeon was not always super-abundant. Instead, it was an "outbreak" species that experienced dramatic population fluctuations in response to variations in annual acorn production. Thus, the extinction of the passenger pigeon likely was due to the combined effects of natural population fluctuations and human over-exploitation.

It was one of those career-altering dinner table discussions that seemed to carry on long into the night.

"We were talking about how evil humans can be to wildlife", writes Hung Chih-Ming in email. As he recalled, most of his co-authors -- Shou-Hsien Li, Bob Zink and others -- were at that table when one of them mentioned the tragic story of the passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius. These legendary North American birds' flocks were so numerous that they blocked the sun from view for days when they flew over in the early and mid-1800s; yet less than 50 years later, they were gone.

"The passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in the world, and suddenly it disappeared totally from the Earth."

Mind-boggling.

But how could this be possible? Why did these birds disappear? Was this event due solely the murderous efficiency of gun-toting humans, or were there underlying factors that contributed to the demise of this species?

These are more interesting questions than they may appear to be at first glance. On one hand, it's obvious that rare species with small geographic distributions are more likely to go extinct than are abundant, widespread species. But on the other hand, passenger pigeons had clearly defied all logic. Perhaps there was something special happening to the super-abundant and widespread birds that made them especially vulnerable to extinction? Would it be possible for the researchers identify what that could have been?

The questions fluttered through the gathering gloom like moths around a bright light. Before long, idle curiosity coalesced into a firm resolve, and the researchers, some still students, others seasoned investigators, realised they'd established a team with one objective: to shed light on this mystery.

"[W]e realized 2014 would be the 100th anniversary of its extinction, so we started to plan this project."

This project was initiated when Hung Chih-Ming was writing up his doctoral research under the supervision of Robert Zink, a professor of avian evolution at the University of Minnesota. Dr Hung is now a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Shou-Hsien Li, a professor of Life Sciences at the National Taiwan Normal University.

The team concentrated on a few basic questions that they'd agreed would clarify some important details about the passenger pigeon's murky life history, details that could help explain how humans could drive them to extinction.

Was the passenger pigeon always super-abundant?

To gain a clearer understanding of the ecology and evolution of the passenger pigeon, Dr Hung and his colleagues extracted DNA from nine tissue samples scraped from the toepads of specimens held in two museums, the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis and American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Because this DNA was quite old (known as ancient DNA or "aDNA"), the extraction process was challenging and required the researchers to develop some special techniques (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056301). Even still, only three specimens provided useful aDNA.

The researchers sequenced the aDNA using high-throughput technologies and managed to piece together high-quality genomic sequences for the passenger pigeon -- the longest genome sequence with the highest quality ever obtained for an extinct bird.

Co-author Pen-Jen Shaner, an assistant professor in the the department of Life Sciences at the National Taiwan Normal University, and her colleagues, Wei-Chung Liu and Te-Chin Chu, used two different mathematical approaches to estimate the passenger pigeon's genetically effective population size (Ne). The genetically effective population size is an estimate of the total genetic variation found within a given population (doi:10.1017/S0016672300034455). Increased genetic variation is associated with a greater capacity to survive challenging circumstances. Genetic variation arises through mutation and recombination, whilst natural selection removes variation from a population.

Since the passenger pigeon's census numbers were between 3 and 5 billion individuals in the mid-1800s, the researchers were surprised when they discovered that the passenger pigeon's genetically effective population size (Ne) was remarkably small. The genetically effective population size Ne was just 3.3 × 105 (95% credible interval = 3.25–3.32 × 105), which is approximately 1/10,000 of the estimated number of individuals from the mid-1800s.

This small genetically effective population size suggests that passenger pigeons were not always super-abundant. Instead, their population changed by a thousand-fold over time, a situation seen under two circumstances. First, a low genetically effective population size is characteristic for species that experience wide population fluctuations that only occasionally number into the billions during an "outbreak" phase (doi:10.1017/S0016672300034455). For example, most people are familiar with several outbreak species, particularly lemmings, Lemmus lemmus, and snowshoe hares, Lepus americanus, in the Arctic, and Australian plague locusts, Chortoicetes terminifera.

But an alternative explanation for a low Ne is seen for species that historically had small numbers and only recently experienced a population explosion -- a situation occurring in humans today.

To distinguish between the outbreak species and the population explosion hypotheses, the researchers tested the data using several models; genome-coalescent analysis, ecological niche models (models of climate) and models of carrying capacity. Genome-coalescent analysis calculates the time elapsed since individual passenger pigeon lineages diverged.

This model indicated that passenger pigeons experienced repeated rises and falls in population size, consistent with the "outbreak" species hypothesis.

Why did passenger pigeon populations fluctuate so dramatically?

Although passenger pigeons would eat a variety of foods, especially when breeding, they primarily were seed predators that specialised on acorns. Annual productions of acorns, chestnuts, and beechnuts -- "mast" -- varies tremendously on an annual basis and across different the tree species in North America. (For example, acorn production by red oaks, Quercus rubra, can vary as much as 12-fold between years, and for white oaks, Q. alba, as much as 136-fold.) Mast production is affected over large areas by inclement weather or by a changes in population sizes of the seed predators that consume mast.

To estimate historic acorn production, Professor Shaner and her colleagues developed an ecological climate niche model. It was based upon fossil pollen records for northern and eastern North America and it inferred the oak coverage per square kilometer from 21,000 years before present up to the present day (Figure 4a; larger view). After calculating the historic oak cover, Professor Shaner and her colleagues calculated the passenger pigeon carrying capacity over this time period based on the average acorn production of red oaks (solid black dot; Figure 4b; larger view), and white oaks (open white dot; Figure 4b; larger view), collected from multiple sites and years, and their estimation that each pigeon consumed 30 acorns daily (Figure 4b; larger view):

According to this estimate, the projected acorn production could have supported between 0.6 - 1.7 x 108 and 6.7 - 8.0 x 109 individual passenger pigeons from 6000 years ago up until the present time.
What lessons can passenger pigeons teach us?

Taken together, the data from this study show that the passenger pigeon experienced large, natural population fluctuations -- a surprise to the authors and to the reviewers of this paper according to Dr Hung, since outbreak species are either insects or rodents.

But other factors may have contributed significantly to the passenger pigeon's population fluctuations -- and ultimate demise. For example, the pigeons formed enormous roosting and breeding colonies that caused physical damage to trees (including mast trees) and to the surrounding areas. Of course, the large, highly social flocks and the close proximity of individual birds likely sped up transmission of infectious diseases, too. The birds' natural behaviours may also have made them vulnerable to extinction for other reasons. For example, their conspicuous roosting and breeding behaviors could have made them an obvious target to predators (especially humans), thereby preventing their recovery.

And speaking of humans, let us not forget that, in addition to uncontrolled hunting and ferocious habitat destruction, European immigrants may also have enhanced to this bird's last, final outbreak by unintentionally providing a supplemental food supply in the form of agricultural crops and by relieving hunting pressures from Native Americans.

Dr Hung, Professor Shaner and their colleagues were not looking to discount or disregard the pivotal role that people played in the extinction of this bird. Instead, they were seeking to understand how humans could have reduced this seemingly endless population from billions to none in such a short time period. Based on their research findings, Dr Hung, Professor Shaner and their colleagues propose that the passenger pigeon's population was already in a natural nosedive phase simultaneously with human over-exploitation in the late 1800s, and it was the combination of these two pressures led to its sudden extinction.

But passenger pigeons can teach us other lessons too. For example, they are a tragic example that large, widespread populations may not protect species from extinction -- especially after people have focused their sights on their habitat or upon the animals themselves. Further, these iconic birds should remind us that we cannot accurately assess vulnerability to extinction without understanding each species' special natural history.

Sources:

Hung C.M., Shaner P.J.L., Zink R.M., Liu W.C., Chu T.C., Huang W.S. & Li S.H. (2014). Drastic population fluctuations explain the rapid extinction of the passenger pigeon, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doi:10.1073/pnas.1401526111 [$]

Hung Chih-Ming [emails; 11, 12 & 16 June 2014]

Also cited:

Hung C.M., Lin R.C., Chu J.H., Yeh C.F., Yao C.J. & Li S.H. (2013). The De Novo Assembly of Mitochondrial Genomes of the Extinct Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) with Next Generation Sequencing, PLoS ONE, 8 (2) e56301. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056301 [OA]

Groenen M.A.M., Archibald A.L., Uenishi H., Tuggle C.K., Takeuchi Y., Rothschild M.F., Rogel-Gaillard C., Park C., Milan D., Megens H.J. & et al. (2012). Analyses of pig genomes provide insight into porcine demography and evolution, Nature, 491 (7424) 393-398. doi:10.1038/nature11622 [OA]

Frankham R. (1995). Effective population size/adult population size ratios in wildlife: A Review, Genetical Research, 66 (02) 95-107. doi:10.1017/S0016672300034455 [$]


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« Reply #395 on: Aug 21, 2014, 05:29 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
08/20/2014 04:27 PM

Social Design Made In Turkey: Feeding Istanbul's Stray Dogs, a Bottle at a Time

Interview Conducted By Vivien Timmler

The city of Istanbul is home to a special invention that is the manifestation of social design. A special vending machine dispenses food for stray dogs when people insert recyclable bottles and cans.

There's a vending machine in central Istanbul that takes recyclable cans and bottles and in exchange dispenses free food to some of the estimated 150,000 stray dogs living in the city. It may sound a bit out there, but it is precisely the kind of idea being sought as part of Germany's Orange Social Design Award, a new prize created by DER SPIEGEL's monthly cultural supplement, KulturSPIEGEL, and SPIEGEL ONLINE. The following is an interview with Engin Girgin, the inventor of the "dog food recycling box."

KulturSPIEGEL: Working together with the company Pugedon, you invented something totally new. Can you please explain the concept behind the dispenser?

Girgin: The box itself has three openings: One at the front, more or less at eye-level, a second one for liquids below that and a third one on the right-hand side of the box near the ground. The first opening is for depositing plastic bottles or cans. A sensor recognizes whether they are recyclable or not. If they are, then a certain amount of dog food falls into a bowl in the opening on the lower right-hand side. If there is some water remaining in the bottle and the person doesn't want it anymore, it can be poured into the second opening and the liquid flows into a bowl located right next to the food.

KulturSPIEGEL: So one could describe the box as a classic dog food dispenser?

Girgin: Yes, one could say that. There is an incredibly large number of stray animals, especially dogs, in Turkey. An estimated 150,000 stray dogs live in the city of Istanbul alone. They don't have an owner, but they need to be fed or they won't survive.

KulturSPIEGEL: Does that mean that the recycling aspect is more of a secondary issue and not the primary purpose of the dispenser?

Girgin: My primary goal was to make people see that they don't have to spend any money to help stray dogs. And I also wanted to show that people can do good deeds with things they would normally throw away. At the same time, of course, I know that we don't give much priority to recycling here in Turkey. In my opinion, this has to change. So I basically killed two birds with one stone.

KulturSPIEGEL: How did you come up with the idea?

Girgin: I own five dogs myself and simply love animals -- not just my own but also those that live on the streets, and those are the ones that need help. So I thought about all this for a long time, and put it all down on paper, and then I took it to the head of the company that I work for. Yücesan normally produces high-pressure steam boilers and tanks, repairs railway cars ...

KulturSPIEGEL: A company that usually produces steam boilers is now in the business of dog food dispensers?

Girgin: Yes, exactly. Somehow I managed to convince them of my idea. Thinking about it now, it even seems strange to me. But Yücesan is quite a big and well-known company in Turkey and they are very into social projects.

KulturSPIEGEL: And how does the box work on a daily basis? Can private persons also order one and set it up?

Girgin: Well, since the boxes are going to be located in public spaces, we cooperate with the cities. But it's not like the money comes from the taxes that residents pay. If a city is interested in buying a couple of them, they first have to look for some investors who are willing to spend money on the project. Once they find some, the boxes can be ordered.

KulturSPIEGEL: Not everyone in Turkey is in favor of helping stray dogs. Are you nevertheless getting positive feedback on the project?

Girgin: The first box was set up on April 17 in Eskiehir, a city in northwestern Turkey. I hoped it would be well-received by many people there, but I never would have dreamt that it would be so popular. Of course, not everyone has a positive attitude toward the dogs. Some are bothered by the animals and say that they transmit diseases. But although there are critics, the response has been balanced and there are at least as many people in Istanbul who want to help the animals.

KulturSPIEGEL: And what do residents and neighbors say about the boxes? Has there been any trouble?

Girgin: Not surprisingly, some were skeptical at first. They thought that as soon as the box was installed nearby, huge packs of dogs would come running, but that's not how it is. Every dog has his turf and he won't leave it for an extended period of time, not even for food. There are perhaps four or five dogs in a neighborhood near a box, and the others from the surrounding area might come from time to time to eat, but they leave again afterwards. That's what I've told people, and it now appears I was right.

KulturSPIEGEL: Have any cities outside Turkey expressed an interest in the boxes?

Girgin: We have received queries from 61 countries that have expressed an interest. We will be able to make the first deliveries in the coming weeks to 20 cities outside Turkey.

KulturSPIEGEL: Do the boxes only work in regions where there are large numbers of stray dogs?

Girgin: That might seem like a logical assumption, but no, it's not entirely the case. For example, we'll be sending three boxes to Paris soon. There aren't any stray dogs there, at least not in large numbers. But there are extensive parks in the city where many people go for walks with their dogs. And there are others who take a stroll or go jogging and might take along a bottle of water. Instead of throwing it away, it would better if these bottles ended up in the box.

KulturSPIEGEL: Your project is a great example of social design. This is exactly the kind of idea KulturSPIEGEL and SPIEGEL ONLINE's Orange Social Design Award is looking to reward. Are there lots of similar projects in Turkey and large numbers of people willing to make a difference?

Girgin: There are a few people who want to make a difference, but it often remains just a vague idea and isn't followed up by anything concrete. As demonstrated with these boxes, they're happy when they see them and can help the animals. But quite a lot still has to happen before these people also become active. Ideas have to be created. In comparison to the rest of the world, our country has some catching up to do when it comes to social design. That has to change. I'm working on this and hope that things will continuously improve over time. After all, we can only achieve something if we work together.


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« Reply #396 on: Aug 21, 2014, 05:52 AM »

A time to cull? The battle over Australia's brumbies

It’s been a hard winter for Australia’s wild horses. But things may be about to get much worse for these totemic animals. Their swelling numbers are damaging the continent’s precious alpine ranges, and tensions are mounting over what needs to happen next.

Words by Gabrielle Chan, photography by Mike Bowers
Wednesday 20 August 2014 06.25 BST
The Guardian

The last mare in Dead Horse Gap lies dying on a pure-white bed of snow. Her ears twitch as we approach, but she’s too weak to lift her head. Her rib bones are a scaffold now for her chocolate brown coat.

About her, her fellow mob lie in various stages of decay, food for fat, shiny foxes. Crows line the pretty snow gums above.

This mare, like her mates, has starved here in Australia’s alpine winter landscape for the unhappy chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was caught in a mountain pass when the late snow arrived, and nothing can save her now. And by her eye, she knows it.

This scene is, as the poet Tennyson put it, “nature, red in tooth and claw”. In another life, a mare like her could have been petted and cosseted and dressed in a pink rug by a teenage girl who would have whispered love-torn secrets into that twitching ear. In this story, the foxes will have it.

It’s a bad year for Australia’s wild horses caught in the upper reaches of the Australian Alps. This mountain pass between New South Wales and Victoria is not called Dead Horse Gap for nothing.

But it could get worse for the wild horses as national parks in Victoria and NSW decide how to manage brumby numbers, which they describe as out of control.

Both states are considering “wild horse management plans” for the next five years. Both will address how to cull brumbies with all methods on the table, in an effort to protect Australian habitats and species.
brumby map fact box

They may be dying up top, but down the mountain, on the open plains of the now-deserted gold mining village of Kiandra, a mob of 24 fat and shiny brumbies tramps through the appropriately named Racecourse creek. The creek forms part of the Eucumbene catchment, delivering water to 2.1 million people downstream.

These animals are magnificent as they run through the snow against a pink evening sky. When we follow their tracks, they run along a watercourse, leaving deep prints in a spongy, unstable wetland, before escaping from us to higher ground. As we follow, the scene resembles a Lord of the Rings landscape of soft grassland studded by pools fringed with the “super moss”, sphagnum.

Problem is, this swampy stuff is heritage-listed. Sphagnum is highly prized for holding a lot of water and carbon. It is the breeding ground for the endangered corroboree frog, a black and fluoro smudge that would fit on the end of a teaspoon. The surrounding environment is habitat for other endangered species such as the pygmy possum, the broad-toothed rat, the mountain she-oak skink and the guthega skink.

The alpine bogs, according to Professor Emeritus Geoff Hope of the Australian National University, are the perfect water distribution system. When the rain falls, the bogs hold on to the water and then slowly release it so it does not create great gullies cutting through the landscape. And the brumbies have sharp hooves.

“Horses can do incredible damage incredibly quickly because it is soft stuff and they are great heavy-hoofed animals but the long-term effect is to block the drainage and hold the water in the catchment for a lot longer than it would otherwise be,” Hope says.  

There are 1.6m hectares which make up the heritage-listed Australian Alps, contained within 11 national parks and nature reserves spilling across NSW, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. The mountains are the headwaters to the country’s three best-known rivers, the Murray, the Murrumbidgee and the Snowy rivers. This most reliable of water supplies in a dry continent is estimated to be worth $9.6bn a year.

Meanwhile, the last aerial survey of brumbies by Michelle Dawson in 2009 estimated 7,679 across the alps, up from 2,369 after the 2003 bushfires. In 2009, she forecast the numbers growing to more than 13,000 by 2012. The latest count from the 2014 survey is expected in coming months.

Brumby advocates dispute the numbers, suggesting mustering by helicopter in rugged terrain concentrates horses through valleys, which leads to double counting. It also assumes annual growth of about 20%, which does not account for bad seasons, such as the deaths caused by this year’s late snow.
A brumby dying of starvation.

For millennia the local people gathered in the mountains here to feast on the Bogong moths which migrate to the high plains of Victoria in spring.

When white populations arrived in the area some 150 years ago, they used the high country for summer grazing, building the bush huts still enjoyed by many mountain enthusiasts today.

It was during those very first years of European settlement that horses escaped into the bush. They became known as brumbies after the soldier and landholder James Brumby, who deliberately released his horses because he could no longer keep them.

And the wild horses spread, and grew large in the Australian imagination. Children grow up now on the stories of Elyne Mitchell, who wrote The Silver Brumby series about a stallion in the Snowy mountains.

Mountain horsemanship was most famously captured in Banjo Paterson’s The Man From Snowy River, a poem about the horseback chase of the highly prized colt from “old Regret” which joined a brumby mob.

When Australia chose to portray itself to the world in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, it chose 120 stockmen and women dressed in bush clothing and mounted on stock horses, riding to the soundtrack of The Man From Snowy River movie.

Even so, Paterson also wrote about the wild horses being “a great nuisance to stock owners” and there are accounts from the mid-1800s of stockmen rounding up brumbies and shooting them.

The scientists also arrived here in in the mid-1800s, scouring the bush for new alpine flora and fauna. Geologists and anthropologists joined them, investigating the secrets held in Australia’s highest peaks.

Artists such as Eugene von Guerard painted the new-old landscape in the 1860s. Bushwalkers tramped, hunters trapped and Australia’s skiing industry was first established. The Snowy mountains hydro-electric scheme attracted new migrants to work on the renewable energy operation from the 1950s until it was completed in 1974.

Each of these groups still feels a sense of connection to the “Snowys”, as the area is now known, and the complexity of this issue is not least the tug of war between what governments like to call the various stakeholders.

If we were talking about the other feral animals in the park – the fox, pig, deer and rabbit – it would be an open-and-shut case. Baits would be laid, guns would loaded. No questions asked.

But a horse pulls at the heartstrings like no other introduced species.

In 2000, NSW national parks organised marksmen in helicopters to shoot brumbies in the Guy Fawkes river national park in northern NSW. When the public saw images of some of the 606 brumbies dead or dying in the bush landscape, there was public uproar.

Video link: The fact is the brumbies are here to stay, says cattleman Peter Cochran

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/aug/20/brumbies-here-to-stay-australia-video

Animal welfare advocates lined up with traditional bush communities. Conservationists supported the cull. The political fallout caused a moratorium on aerial culling in NSW. For the public not used to large numbers of animal deaths, it jarred and even now, conservationists are not game to talk publicly about aerial culling.

But there are lots of contradictions here. Animals die en masse every day yet the ones we see, like the results of the Guy Fawkes river brumby cull or the dying mare we found at Dead Horse Gap, become the important ones.

Most farmers and graziers would never let other animals compete for feed and habitat on private land, yet some champion the rights of brumbies on public land. National parks have stopped the longstanding practice of allowing horse riders to take brumbies out of the bush for riding yet agonise over how to control the numbers.

Former soldier and politician Peter Cochran grew up in the mountains. His first horse ride was the long trip on the pommel of his mother’s saddle more than 120 kilometres between houses at the age of two. He runs a horse trekking business now out of his alpine property at Yaouk and is the president of the Snowy mountains bush user group and the chairman of the Tourism Snowy mountains board. He believes the emotion-charged debate over brumbies in the park runs deeper than just horses.

It goes back to the 1950s when the government first removed the rights of local families to graze cattle and continue their livelihoods in the high country. Cochran says communities still resent that decision and are now worried that “greenies” would completely remove the brumbies, which local communities consider part of their history.

“The brumby is symbolic of freedom but is also symbolic of the spiritual relationship between man, land and their horses and there has been a longstanding connection between the human being and the horse which is something underestimated in the world,” Cochran says.

“That relationship extends to the brumby and the brumby has now become symbolic of the battle which the people of the high country have had to maintain their freedom over the years.”

After the 2003 bushfires, cattlemen such as Cochran suggested the fire was a result of the build-up of fuel loads caused by the removal of grazing all those years ago. As one of the last large grazing animals left in the national park, apart from feral deer, Cochran believes horses reduce the fuel load.

However scientists disagree, concluding in one of a number of studies: “The use of livestock grazing in Australian alpine environments as a fire abatement practice is not justified on scientific grounds.”

Earlier this year, the environment minister, Greg Hunt, approved a trial of cattle grazing in a Victorian national park to compare the impacts of grazing. It may signal a change in attitude to large grazing – including by brumbies – in national park areas from the federal government.

Neither the grazing nor the heritage argument pass muster in the timber-panelled walls of the Australian National University’s Fenner school of environment and society. Here academics, led by a protected area management specialist Graeme Worboys, gather to debate the merits of removing horses from the Australian Alps. For them, this is a no-brainer: the horses need to go.

“This is like the Great Barrier Reef, it’s like Kakadu, it’s like Uluru, it’s a national heritage-listed property and Australian society has basically said we want to keep this very special part of Australia intact for the next generation and the generation after,” says Worboys, who has devoted his life to protecting the Snowys.

“They aren’t just the mountains for the graziers, they are everybody’s mountains. That’s what the park does. It achieves overall equity in the use of park.”

Roger Good is a retired alpine ecologist and soil conservationist who worked on restoring degraded areas following the removal of alpine grazing. Such was the feeling in the alpine areas in the 1960s and 1970s that at one stage, this gentle grandfather-type once packed a pistol. Just in case.

"Large grazing is not culturally very significant,” he says. “They thought it was. You can still have the cultural acceptance of it, that it did happen, that it’s been part of the history of the European settlement of the mountains but you don’t have to have stock up there to show the public this is what used to go on.”

Good believes the brumby numbers are unsustainable and that the animals should be culled substantially, down to hundreds rather than thousands.

As the ski traffic streams up the Alpine way towards the mountain resorts of Perisher and Thredbo, it passes by an 1880s hut which is the office of Nev Barrass, livestock carrier and proprietor of the Thredbo Valley Horseriding school. Barrass has a number of ponies in the yard, ready to carry tourists along bush tracks on private land.

He takes brumbies “rehomed” by the National Parks and Wildlife Service for his business because they are sure-footed, hardy and fully acclimatised to the mountain snow. A black mare, Gio, is saddled up for one of his regular clients.

We lean on the bush logs that make up his round yard as he talks about local community anger at losing their “way of life”.

“These animals opened up the country for people, you need to respect their history and their heritage,” says Barrass.

Video link: ‘We don’t want to see them shot’, says supporter

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/aug/20/dont-shoot-brumby-supporters-video

“This hut was built in the 1880s, with logs dragged by horses out of the side of the hill. All these pretty little huts where the bushwalkers like to go and have their cups of tea, they were stockmen that built the bloody things so they could live there with their animals. The only reason the trails are still there is because the brumbies use them consistently.

“Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of time for the Greens and their conservation. Bush users are conservationists as well and the only difference is we are on horseback and we are recognised in the history of the place of the European settlers.

“Declaring the brumbies as ferals is a bit like going down to Australia’s famous Bondi beach lifesavers and saying ‘thanks mate, we’ve declared this wilderness so get off – we don’t need you any more’.”

But in spite of the emotion, there is common ground. All sides of the debate agree the impacts of wild horses on delicate alpine areas should be minimised. The argument is over how to do that.

Since 2004, 1,524 horses (419 trapped and 1,105 roped) have been removed from the Alpine national park in Victoria. The Victorian government is preparing a draft wild horse management plan based on the advice of a roundtable group which included horse advocates, conservationists, animal welfare groups and national parks. It reached agreement on methods such as trapping and mustering horses for culling but could not reach unanimous agreement on aerial or ground shooting. When the draft is released, it will be open for public comment for 60 days.

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has just opened its public consultation process that will inform its next wild horse management plan. Since 2002, NPWS has removed more than 2,600 horses from the Kosciuszko national park through passive trapping, where horses voluntarily enter a yard. Of those, about one third are rehomed. The rest are sent to the abattoir.

Video link: Six academics outline the threat to flora and fauna

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/aug/20/six-brumby-academics-outline-threats-alpine-flora-fauna-video

Both NPWS and Parks Victoria remain reticent about commenting on the issue. No one was available in either service to speak to Guardian Australia.

Dr David Freudenberger is a lecturer and researcher at the ANU’s Fenner school of environment and society and studies the lower Snowy river.

“Part of the conundrum is that the horse is a stunning animal in the wrong place,” he says.

“Every time I see a mob of horses up in that country, it is gob smacking … but they are in the wrong place.”

*******************

The brumby, at home in Australia's high country – in pictures

Perhaps the most loved of Australia’s introduced species, the brumby’s status may not spare it from some form of culling to protect native flora and fauna. Mike Bowers took a trip to the Snowy mountains to document these animals as they tried, some unsuccessfully, to see out the harsh winter in the Australian Alps. Its place in Australian folklore assured, many say it is time the wild horses – and their destructive practices – must be tackled

Please click here to view the wild, beautiful, horse: http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2014/aug/20/the-brumby-at-home-in-australias-high-country-in-pictures

******************

A delicate ecosystem that protects flora, fauna and water supply: Brumby bog fact box

    1. Raised water table supporting sphagnum bog community and surrounding heathlands.
    2. Dense and diverse vegetation cover protects the soil from erosion, protects soil carbon.
    3. Sphagnum bog hummocks, habitat of the endangered corroboree frog.
    4. Dense heath vegetation, habitat for birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
    5. High-quality, erosion-free mountain water; protected from evaporation, with vegetation buffeting and slowing water in serious storms.


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« Reply #397 on: Aug 22, 2014, 05:41 AM »


Koala survives after getting mouth-to-mouth and heart massage

Firefighter had to throw the koala from a tall tree to waiting volunteers after it was hit by a car and climbed to safety

Oliver Milman   
theguardian.com, Friday 22 August 2014 05.04 BST      

A wildlife rescuer has saved the life of a koala by giving it CPR after a dramatic rescue in which the animal was flung from a tall tree to its waiting rescuers.

The koala was hit by a vehicle while crossing a road in Langwarrin, in Melbourne’s southeast, on Thursday night.

It then scurried up a tree and passed out.

A motorist called Wildlife Victoria, which enlisted the help of the Country Fire Authority to get the koala down from the tree.

Video of the rescue shows a firefighter on an elevated platform throwing the koala down to colleagues, who put it in the recovery position.

A Wildlife Victoria volunteer gave the koala heart massage and then mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The fire authority team also administered oxygen.

Their efforts were successful; the koala revived and started growling at his rescuers.

He has been named Sean, after a CFA volunteer. It was initially thought the marsupial was Sir Chompsalot, a well-known local koala.

Amy Amato, spokeswoman for Wildlife Victoria, was hopeful the koala would survive.

“This isn’t something we’d do all of the time but it shows the dedication of volunteers to saving wildlife,” she said. “Koalas often flee up trees after being hit by cars or bitten by dogs. We do get a lot of calls about koalas, unfortunately.

“He is currently being rehabilitated in a wildlife shelter and will be assessed by a vet today. Fingers crossed, with the right care he’ll be OK.

“Often we get koalas when it’s too late, but he seemed to be in fairly good shape. He might just need some R&R.”

Amato said that anyone who sees a koala or other native animal in distress in Victoria should call Wildlife Victoria on 1300 094 535.

Click to watch: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/22/koala-survives-after-rescuers-give-it-cpr-heart-massage-and-oxygen


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« Reply #398 on: Aug 23, 2014, 06:00 AM »

Famed Galapagos tortoise ‘Pepe the Missionary’ dies at age 60

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, August 22, 2014 23:35 EDT

Quito (AFP) – “Pepe the Missionary,” a giant tortoise who rose to fame as one of the most photographed animals on Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, has died at age 60, officials said Friday.

Pepe, who lived in a corral at the Galapagos National Park’s Interpretation Center, died of natural causes, said the park’s ecosystems director, Victor Carrion.

“Several of his organs had been slowly failing,” Carrion told AFP, saying the tortoise was also overweight.

Park director Arturo Izurieta paid tribute to the tortoise on Twitter.

“After 60 years of life, Pepe the Missionary will remain in our memories forever,” Izurieta said.

He brightened the post with a bit of good news for conservationists: “The disappearance of Pepe the tortoise does not put his species in danger.”

Pepe was a member of the Chelonoidis becki species native to Wolf Volcano on the island of Isabela.

About 2,000 tortoises from the same species still live in their native habitat.

Pepe was adopted from the wild by a family from San Cristobal island in the 1940s.

Local fishermen named him “Pepe,” which was then expanded to “Pepe the Missionary” when he was given to Franciscan missionaries on the island in 1967.

He became the missionaries’ mascot and a beloved community pet, often photographed and fed by visitors to the mission.

The missionaries handed him over to the national park in 2012 — the same year the reserve lost another famous tortoise, Lonesome George, the last known member of the subspecies Geochelone nigra abingdoni.

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique flora and fauna studied by Charles Darwin as he developed his theory of evolution.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #399 on: Aug 23, 2014, 06:01 AM »

Federal judge blocks Montana from logging or building roads in grizzly bear habitat

By Reuters
Friday, August 22, 2014 21:51 EDT

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) – Conservation groups on Friday hailed a court decision that blocks Montana from building roads and logging in nearly 37,000 acres of a state forest that serves as core habitat for protected grizzly bears.

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by issuing a permit to Montana allowing it to open the Stillwater State Forest to timber harvests in areas that would damage grizzly territory.

Grizzly bears were classified in 1975 as threatened in the continental United States after nearing extinction from hunting, trapping and poisoning.

Just five populations of the hump-shouldered bruins are found in the Lower 48 states, including roughly 1,000 grizzlies along the northern Continental Divide in Montana, and an estimated 600 in and around Yellowstone National Park in the northern Rockies.

Federal protections make it broadly illegal to injure or kill grizzlies, or to harm them by destroying designated habitat without a special permit.

It is the population along the Continental Divide that is at stake in the legal case brought against logging proposals in the Stillwater State Forest, in northwestern Montana.

Tim Preso, attorney for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, said grizzlies have made a comeback in that region thanks chiefly to habitat protections that curb human activities such as logging.

“Now is not the time to pull back. We need to keep that population of grizzlies secure for the future,” he said.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation argued in the legal case that its plan to build roads and harvest trees would have minimal impact on grizzlies because it called for logging of small areas at different times rather than a full-scale clearing operation.

Profits from the proposed logging were to benefit public schools, said an agency administrator, Shawn Thomas.

The Obama administration has indicated it will seek to strip grizzlies of federal safeguards in areas where they are thriving, including the northern Continental Divide and Yellowstone.

In the same ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy declined to block plans for roads and logging in two other Montana forests tied to conservationists’ claims they would harm imperiled bull trout.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the judge’s decision on trout shows that plans hammered out by state and federal officials can benefit threatened species while allowing “a working conservation landscape” in Montana.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)


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« Reply #400 on: Aug 23, 2014, 06:06 AM »


Italians divided over fate of Daniza the brown bear who attacked man

Animal rights groups beg officials not to capture fugitive bear after attack that left cable car worker needing 50 stitches

Lizzy Davies in Trentino
The Guardian, Friday 22 August 2014 19.37 BST

It was when he had wrestled for around a minute with the growling brown bear on top of him that Daniele Maturi, a heavy-set Italian cable car worker, thought his number was up. "I was exhausted," he says, sitting on a hospital bed, deep scratches on his wrist. "I thought: if this goes on another 20 seconds, I'm finished. My life ends here."

Eventually, after an attack which left Maturi with deep bites on his arm and knee, an injury to his back and "40 or 50 stitches", the bear retreated into the woods. Maturi, 38, who had been foraging for mushrooms near his home in Pinzolo, says he does not know why Daniza, an 18-year-old mother bear with two eight-month-old cubs, let him go. The important thing is that he escaped – battered and bruised but in one piece.

What Maturi could not have imagined is that his tale has, in the week since the attack last Friday, fuelled a row that has spread far beyond the borders of this Alpine province in northern Italy. Perhaps even more surprisingly, he has not even been the saga's protagonist: that award, indisputably, goes to Daniza.

Her fate has divided Italians, with a large web-led campaign by activists and animal rights sympathisers begging the Trentino authorities not to carry out their aim of capturing – and, in extreme circumstances, killing – the bear.

The campaign, so far, has had no success. The autonomous province of Trento is sticking to its policy, insisting it is the only possible response to protect public safety. It is backed by Italy's environment ministry, which said "Daniza the bear must be put in such a condition as to no longer be able to assault people". She will only be killed, however, if she presents "immediate danger" during the capture.

There is, however, a hitch: Daniza, it seems, is not for capturing. For seven days, she has been on the run. In the Italian media, she has become one of the most notorious fugitives of the summer.

"They looked for a mafioso like this too," chuckles Caterina Rosa Marino, of the League for the Abolition of Hunting (LAC), standing beside a protest stall in the city of Trento. Set up by animal rights groups, it is fronted by a flame – which, they say, will be extinguished when and if Daniza is caught. "We do not think she should be captured or killed because she has not shown anomalous behaviour. She simply defended her cubs, which is what any mother would do," Marino says. "The behaviour of the mushroom forager was not suitable."

This is a charge Maturi rejects. He says he was on the route he often takes and was stunned to suddenly see Daniza, with her two cubs, sleeping about six metres away. "I couldn't understand how I had managed to get so near to them without them realising it. Probably because they were sleeping they didn't hear me," he says. "It was a maybe a second from the time I saw them to when the bear woke up."

What happened then, he says, is a blur, but he remembers that the bear started to growl and pushed him with her paw on his back. "I fell to the ground," he says. "And she jumped on top of me." Defending himself against claims that he may have behaved in a way that provoked Daniza, he insists: " I did nothing wrong."

This was the first known real – not merely threatened – attack on a person since Daniza and nine other brown bears were reintroduced into northern Italy from Slovenia between 1999 and 2001. One of Europe's most successful reintroduction schemes, the Life Ursus project, co-funded by the EU, has taken the local population of brown bears from three or four to around 50.

As the numbers have grown, however, so has local opposition, vigorously voiced on the political stage by the rightwing Northern League. In 2011 its Trentino branch held a dinner to express anger with the project. Bear was on the menu as well the agenda.

"I can understand that someone living in London, or Milan, or Rome, or Naples, might think 'how lovely the bears are'. Well, we'll bring the bears there, if they like. And we'll see if they like it," says Maurizio Fugatti, a local councillor and general secretary of the League in Trentino. For years, as attacks on livestock increase and locals grown increasingly disgruntled, he and his party have been calling for an end to Life Ursus. Some proponents of the scheme now fear that what happened to Maturi has put wind in their sails.

"From a local perspective this incident is bad because there are a lot of people, political groups, who say 'we don't like the bears' and now they have the opportunity to say we have shown that the bear can attack," says Osvaldo Negra, a local representative of WWF Italy. "But from the beginning the people who know bears [have said that] they are potentially dangerous. Of course. Like the lynx, like the wolf. But also a truck is a potentially dangerous structure. Also the highway. We have to pay attention. If we like to live in a complex environment with animals bigger than a squirrel, we have to pay attention."

The province, as well as the government in Rome, says the Daniza case is a one-off and the Life Ursus will not be affected. For the moment it has a more urgent priority to attend to: capturing Daniza. Although she wears a radio collar which enables them to locate her at all times, the difficulty lies in enticing her into one of three large tube traps they have lain. So far, the meat and fish have done no good. But Claudio Groff from the province's forest and fauna office remains undeterred. "The bear is moving as bears do. Even with cubs they move around a lot. These traps are positioned across a very big area. We know we have put them in places she often goes, but 'often' can mean once a fortnight or once a month and so we know that the chances of getting her are good but it could take … several weeks."


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« Reply #401 on: Aug 23, 2014, 09:03 AM »


Death of elephant at Seattle zoo mourned, revives debate

Woodland Park Zoo’s African elephant, Watoto, on display for more than four decades, was euthanized Friday after she collapsed in an outdoor exhibit yard.

By Michael J. Berens
Seattle Times staff reporter
08/23/2014
AP / Woodland Park Zoo,Dennis Dow

Woodland Park Zoo’s African elephant, Watoto, on display for more than four decades, was euthanized Friday morning after Seattle zookeepers found her collapsed and unable to rise in an outdoor exhibit yard.

Watoto, 45, was discovered in the south yard of the Elephant Forest exhibit about 7 a.m. after zookeepers arrived to work. Attempts to lift her with cloth straps and heavy machinery failed.

Zookeepers and medical staff made the “difficult decision” to euthanize Watoto because her health continued to deteriorate, zoo officials said. A necropsy will be conducted to determine a possible cause of death. Results will be publicly released.

Watoto, which is Swahili for “children,” was plucked from the African wild at age 2 and transported to Seattle through an international animal exchange, which was a common practice at the time. Today, in most cases, U.S. zoos are prohibited from importing elephants from protected wildlife areas.

Two other female elephants, both Asian, remain at the zoo: Chai, 35, and Bamboo, 47. They are housed in a building from 1989 that is divided into four sections of confinement, the largest measuring about 23 by 38 feet, with about an acre of shared outdoor space.

Friday’s unexpected death elicited widespread public condolences. It also underscored the continuing debate in Seattle and nationally over the humaneness of elephant captivity.

As the world’s largest land mammal, elephants are also considered the most humanlike. They live as families — mothers and daughters bond for life — and possess memory as well as a wide range of emotions, including grief and love, research has shown.

Captive elephants typically have shorter life spans, according to research conducted at the Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Wild African female elephants have lived up to 70 years old, with 56 as the median age.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray called the death “very sad news” in a statement Friday, but added, “At the same time, I do believe that today’s news should reopen a dialogue in this city about the proper habitat for elephants.”

Watoto’s death marks a continuing decline in the number of elephants remaining inside U.S. zoos. Breeding programs have encountered widespread failure, often from injury and disease. About 284 elephants remain in accredited U.S. zoos.

A Seattle Times investigation in 2012 found that for every elephant born in captivity, on average, two others die. The zoo industry has publicly maintained that elephants are “thriving” in captivity.

The Times found that Woodland Park’s youngest female, Chai, endured 112 unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination. She gave birth in November 2000 after she was bred at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri.

But the calf, Hansa, died at age 6 from an infectious herpes virus known as EEHV. Zoo officials remain uncertain how the deadly disease was transmitted.

Nationally, at least 26 zoos have closed or plan to phase out their elephant exhibits, including those in San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago and New York.

Nonetheless, Woodland Park Zoo announced in March a $3 million expansion plan to add more elephants, revamp an aging, landlocked exhibit and reactivate a breeding program.

At the time, Deborah Jensen, zoo president and CEO, said the zoo hoped to relocate Watoto to another accredited facility.

Jensen and other nationally prominent zoo officials have steadfastly defended elephant captivity as a way to raise public awareness and donations that help to preserve elephants in their natural habitats.

But dozens of Seattle activists and national animal-welfare organizations have pushed Woodland Park to retire its elephants to one of two nonprofit sanctuaries, in California or Tennessee, which provide lifelong care for the animals on open acres of rolling land.

Watoto had no known major medical problems, though she had lost a tusk years ago.

Seattle activist Alyne Fortgang, who has monitored Woodland’s program for nearly a decade, said, “Watoto’s suffering is over. She’s free at last.”


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« Reply #402 on: Aug 25, 2014, 05:51 AM »


Star-crossed wolves produce litter of seven

Incredible footage just broadcast in the Italian media reveals that the celebrity wolves Slavc and Juliet have just had a litter of seven cubs.   

Guardian
08/25/2014

On 1 March 2012, a camera trap set by a hunter in a remote valley in the Dolomites in Italy captured footage of a wolf.

A she-wolf adopts a classic female canid posture to urinate. This is Juliet in March 2012, captured on a camera trap set by a local hunter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UAXmLJCvZ8

From the wolf’s posture during urination (in the first seconds of the clip), it appeared to be a she-wolf. This was exciting for two reasons. One: it was the first clear evidence in almost 100 years that a female wolf had entered the region. Two: a radiocollared he-wolf from Slovenia had crossed the Austrian Alps in mid-winter, entered Italy and was heading in the female’s direction. Alessandro Brugnoli (wildlife manager for the Trentino Hunters’ Association) sent a copy of the she-wolf footage to Hubert Potočnik, the Slovenian biologist tracking Slavc’s movements (whose work you can read about in more detail in my last post). “There were some jokes and “bets” over when Slavc would “meet” his bride,” recalls Potočnik.

Rather wonderfully, Slavc and the female did meet up in the Lessinia Natural Regional Park just north of Verona (hence Juliet). They bred at the first available opportunity, producing two cubs in 2013 as revealed by this camera trap footage.

Juliet and two cubs from the 2013 breeding season

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fhVgUkChuA

But the story just gets better. Last week, Potočnik emailed me to say that this year Slavc and Juliet have added another seven pups to the pack, a fact confirmed by an amazing 38-second video clip broadcast on several Italian media channels.

Not everyone is welcoming these new additions to the region, however. Local farmers are obviously concerned and readers of the Verona-based L’Arena newspaper have posted several concerns online.


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« Reply #403 on: Aug 26, 2014, 07:50 AM »


Complaint filed over monkey deaths at Everett, Washington lab

Posted by Sandi Doughton
Associated Press
08/25/2014

An animal-rights group has filed a complaint against an Everett research lab over the deaths of 25 monkeys shipped to Washington from Cambodia.

The Ohio-based group Stop Animal Exploitation Now said in its complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that SNBL USA should be “severely punished” for allowing the animals to perish or become so weak they had to be euthanized.

SNBL records say that when the shipment of 840 macaques arrived in Houston on Oct. 1, 2013, company staff noted that the animals were “very thirsty and thin.” More than 350 animals were shipped to the company’s facility in Alice, Texas, while the rest were loaded into trucks for the nearly three-day trip to Everett.

Of those animals, five died in transit and an additional 20 died or were euthanized shortly after arrival.

SNBL USA Chief Compliance Officer Thomas Beck reported the deaths in an Oct. 21, 2013, letter to the National Institutes of Health, which funds most biomedical research. “We were devastated when this happened,” he said Monday. “We take animal care very seriously.”

Beck said the company has changed it procedures to shorten transport time for animals shipped from abroad.

According to its most recent annual report to the USDA, which regulates laboratory animal welfare, SNBL USA has nearly 2,000 monkeys. The company conducts biomedical research and also sells animals to other labs.

SNBL USA is part of a Japanese company, Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories.

In 2007, a monkey was scalded to death in a cage-cleaning accident at the Everett facility. The company’s most recent USDA inspection, in May,  noted dirty cages piled in a hallway with debris spilling onto the floor.
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« Reply #404 on: Aug 26, 2014, 08:09 AM »


Lola and her puppies: a success for International Homeless Animals Day

Ellie Milano, Companion Animal Programme Intern
By: Ellie Milano
IFAW
Posted: Thu, 08/21/2014

The International Fund for Animal Welfare's local partner in Playa del Carmen, Coco's Cat Rescue, has helped more than 3,000 cats and dogs with your support.In honor of International Homeless Animals Day this past Saturday, a day to draw attention to the problems that homeless dogs and cats around the world face...and in the spirit of responsibility that we as humans have to help - we give you an update on Lola, a dog who was found by a supermarket in Playa del Carmen, Mexico in April, about to give birth to a litter of puppies.

One of more than 3,000 cats and dogs that the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) local partner project, Coco’s Cat Rescue, has been able to help so far this year, Lola represents the plight of many homeless dogs.

Eventually, Lola allowed herself and her then one-month-old puppies to be taken to Coco’s.Our volunteers had been keeping an eye on Lola for weeks after she’d given birth to nine puppies, but were unable to help her because she was extremely secretive about the location of her den. Eventually, she allowed herself and her then one-month-old puppies to be rescued by IFAW staff and volunteers.

She and her puppies were in need of urgent veterinary care and good food.

When the family was finally brought in, they all suffered severe skin disease, malnutrition and heavy parasite infestation.

Unfortunately, two of the puppies died in the process of treatment and rehoming.

A month later, the seven puppies were thriving in their foster homes and ready for Forever Homes.

Lola’s sweet disposition, adaptive personality and cleverness would have allowed her to do well as a street dog, particularly as she was now spayed and wouldn’t have to struggle to feed and care for litter after litter of puppies.

One of the persons who heard about the story on Facebook, Mariana, loved her so much that she decided to adopt her even before she had weaned her puppies.

After the puppies were on their way to their own new homes, Lola was able to settle in with Mariana and a new sister. The two have become fast friends, and are pictured below having a swim in the ocean together.

In many countries, roaming animals are not synonymous with homeless animals, since many dogs and cats who roam the streets are still cared and provided for by one or many guardians. Animals who do not have a guardian however, are in danger of not having their basic needs met. Because cats and dogs are domesticated companion animals, they are dependent on humans to have their basic needs met. Basic needs include adequate food and water, shelter, exercise and play, and veterinary care, and when they are not met, animals suffer.

Homelessness increases the risk that animals develop and spread certain diseases, including diseases that are dangerous to humans, like rabies. Without access to proper veterinary care and annual vaccinations, populations of homeless animals can become a reservoir for these diseases, and risk spreading them to pets with homes, local wildlife, and humans.

Through our work with people and companion animals around the world, IFAW strives to provide good guardianship for all animals, whether owned or not. We improve the relationships between people and their dogs or cats, help people to care well for their animals, and prevent the production of more homeless animals.

Stories like that of Lola and her puppies and the remarkable people who took them in inspire us all.

You can be an animal hero too. Please consider adopting your next pet from a local rescue shelter. And always spay and neuter your pets!

**************

Spotlight Mexico: Lola the dog and her pups find safe haven in foster care

By: Erika Flores
IFAW
Posted: Thu, 04/10/2014

Lola the dog feeding in the store parking lot.She was spotted in the parking lot of a big grocery store; big belly showed she was in a very advanced pregnancy state. We asked on social media who could be able to take her into a foster home while the puppies were weaned, but she didn’t let us meet the puppies until she decided it was the right time.

Lola was fed by several people who did their shopping at the store, with her sweet look and her calm energy she had a couple meals guaranteed for every day.

We tried following her after she ate, but rapidly disappeared through the bushes and after almost an hour of looking for her and her puppies in the dazzling sun. Despite several attempts we could not find them, we tried playing the sound of crying puppies so she would take us to them but she wouldn’t, we fed her lots so she would want to go and sleep with her puppies, that plan didn’t work either.

We tried tying a long rope to Lola and following her, and this attempt was working out; she actually took us to her den, but then Lola had other plans in mind as the den was empty! Clearly she needed her own time and space to raise her puppies, several people talked about her and her puppies on the social media but nobody had succeeded in identifying where the puppies were at all so they could be found and cared for.

Lola in her den.

As I was coming off from the plane last Friday, I received several messages about Lola’s puppies being found, a couple had fed her lots and then followed her, and found the puppies not long after. It is amazing how she waited until she was ready. We had her for a couple of days in a friend’s veterinary clinic and after that we took her and the 9 puppies she had given birth to their foster home. A group of neighbors had arranged it so they would take care of the puppies and mama dog until them all found homes.

Maitena and Nina are the main guardians and are doing a terrific job raising up the puppies and giving them their medicated baths because they got ringworm while in the den.

Lola in her foster home with her litter.

One of the many calls I have received about them was about a couple that want to adopt mama dog; they even named her, they visited her and met the puppies. They believe Lola will be the perfect addition to their family. Lola’s story has had an important role in how the community got together to help in this situation.

Puppies will be spayed, vaccinated, dewormed and given in adoption as soon as they fully recover from their condition.

--EF

Consider fostering dogs as it is a great way to help animals if you cannot adopt and being a foster home is something that has the power of saving lives!


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