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« Reply #15 on: Apr 24, 2013, 08:40 AM »

Experts warn cheetahs could disappear from the wild by 2030

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 5:13 EDT

The cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal, survived mass extinction during the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

But it has taken just the last few decades for man to place the hunter on the endangered species list, with experts warning it could disappear from the wild by 2030.

Unlike rhinos and elephants, the cheetah is not a target in Africa’s poaching bloodbath. But it is the only big cat to adapt poorly in wildlife reserves as its natural habitat is increasingly wiped out.

“Cheetahs don’t do well in protected wildlife reserves due to increased competition from other larger predators, such as lions and hyenas, which thrive in protected areas,” Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia told AFP.

“Most protected areas are unable to maintain viable cheetah populations,” she added.

In the early 20th century, the global cheetah population was around 100,000 with populations throughout Africa, the Middle East and several Asian countries.

There are barely 10,000 in the wild today, in Africa, and a small population in Iran which is critically endangered.

According to big cat NGO Panthera, cheetahs have disappeared from 77 percent of their original territory in Africa.

The International Union of the Conservation of Nature lists the southern African species as vulnerable.

“The main limitation to the survival of the species in the wild is reduction and fragmentation of habitat as well as human wildlife conflict,” said Marker.

If no special measures are taken, wild cheetah will disappear by 2030, according to Panthera.

The greyhound-like cat, with its distinctive tear-stain-like facial markings and spotted golden coat, is a consistent loser in confrontations with lions or leopards which are heavier and more powerful.

Even in a good scenario, its prey will be stolen before it has a chance to feed. In the worst cases, the cheetah will be killed.

The sprinter, which reaches speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour (74 miles per hour) needs vast open spaces with a low density of fellow carnivores to thrive.

In Africa, it is estimated that 90 percent of cheetahs live alongside humans where they are often in conflict with livestock farms.

Another handicap it faces is natural inbreeding dating back to the last ice age when the global population plunged.

As a result, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, every cheetah today is as closely related as if they were twins, leading to a genetic bottleneck.

This puts the cheetah in an unenviable position. To enable the mixing of genes, they need a greater range than other animals to be able to freely migrate. But as humans increasingly encroach on its environment, this has become even more difficult.

Researchers know that isolated micro-populations of threatened species lead to rapid extinction.

So in the short-term, the easily tamed animal is being raised in captivity. Private farmers, notably in South Africa, exchange individuals to maintain a healthy population.

A pioneer of this approach is the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre near Johannesburg, which has achieved 800 births since the 1970s.

It’s an encouraging figure for the survival of the species. But what lies ahead for those in the wild?

“Our research and experience shows that even wild cheetahs that have not had at least 18 months of life with a mother in their natural habitat have a difficult time being re-wilded,” said the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s Marker.

“They simply don’t learn the survival skills necessary to sustain themselves in the wild.”

“A cheetah born in captivity, one that never has the experience of living in the wild with its mother, would have virtually no chance of success if released.”

Against these odds, some game farm owners are hoping for miracles.

Damien Vergnaud is one of them. In the desert-like Karoo, a few hours from Cape Town, he owns the 10,000 hectare Inverdoorn private reserve.

“We hope to soon release three cheetahs in a totally wild environment, with minimal human interaction,” he told AFP.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund would like to see the cat’s range boosted — not by traditional means of snapping up large areas of land, but through corridors that allow them to move freely.

“We’d like to see the cheetah’s range increasing, with populations linked with each other through corridors, and even see cheetahs reintroduced to former range countries, like India,” said Marker.

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« Reply #16 on: Apr 27, 2013, 09:50 AM »

April 26, 2013

In Texas Blast, Horseman Died Trying to Save Creatures He Loved


WEST, Tex. — The emergency responders who rushed to the fire at a fertilizer plant here in the minutes before a deadly explosion gave their lives trying to protect the town’s people and property. Buck Uptmor gave his for its horses.

As people around West realized that flames had broken out at the plant that night, Mr. Uptmor — a short, feisty man who spent nearly all his 45 years riding, racing and tending to horses — drove to a field to rescue some horses near the plant, friends said.

He and 11 other men died that night while serving officially or unofficially as volunteer firefighters and emergency responders. They were an unpretentious lot, not unlike the town they died saving. They were deer hunters and Nascar fans, practical jokers and backyard BB gun marksmen. They tinkered with their cars — Kevin W. Sanders, 33, had a Superman logo painted on his — and they went by their nicknames so often for so many years that their real names faded, as happened to Mr. Uptmor.

They were goateed, mustachioed McLennan County country boys, with wives and ex-wives, children and stepchildren, grown sons and newborn babies.

Cody Dragoo, 50, used to leave notes reading “I miss you” before he went out of town, so his wife, Patty, would see them when she came home. Douglas Snokhous, also 50, worked at the Central Texas Iron Works, but he was often at Donna’s House of Flowers downtown, helping the owner, his wife of 13 years.

Mr. Uptmor’s full name was William R. Uptmor Jr. Few called him William or Billy or Bill. He was Buck. And as those close to him prepared to gather at St. Mary’s Catholic Church of the Assumption in West for his funeral on Saturday, Mr. Uptmor was given a new distinction: honorary firefighter. He was recognized as such by President Obama and other officials at a memorial service on Thursday for the 12 responders.

It was unclear where his remains were found after the explosion killed him, or what became of the horses.

At least two other people died in the blast on April 17, which left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep in one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas.

Buck Uptmor was a son, a brother, a husband and a father of three. He was also a youth baseball coach, a racehorse jockey, a bull-riding and bareback-bronco-riding rodeo cowboy, and the former drummer of the family country band Billy Uptmor and the Makers. Years ago, he found an abandoned coyote pup and raised it as a pet before it wandered away.

He studied air-conditioning at Hill College, a trade that helped him generally though not specifically in more recent years as the owner and operator of Uptmor Welding and Fencing, building fences, barns and other structures in and around West.

“You can drive around over here and look on some of these fences, it’s got Uptmor on it,” said Al Cinek, 64, a friend of Mr. Uptmor’s. “If you knew Buck the way I knew him, he was all about friends, family, his horses. He went to rescue his horses.”

The explosion was a wave of pressure so forceful that it knocked doors off hinges nearly one mile away and laid able-bodied adults flat on their backs as if pushed by an invisible hand. A Subway sandwich shop off Interstate 35 had some ceiling tiles rattle loose, unremarkable were it not for the fact that the plant was close to two miles away.

The three front steps of 304 West Ronda Street lead to a charred sort of nowhere: a roofless, wall-less jumble of blackened debris, a torn, singed page from a child’s workbook the only sign that people once called this home (“One day when I went outside I saw my brother Josh,” the child had written).

In a town of fewer than 3,000 residents, it was the kind of disaster that had a twofold and threefold impact on people. The chief of the West Volunteer Fire Department, George Nors Sr., 67, lost five of his men and nearly every window in his house. His neighbors — a retired chiropractor, Walt Mellgren Sr., 95, and his wife, Mary, 85 — lost their crystal near the front window, but their granddaughter lost her home and their son lost friends he had come to know in that uniquely small-town sort of way.

Their son, Walt Jr., 66, a chiropractor like his father, had an emu problem years ago. He had a large flock of the long-legged birds that he kept in his backyard but was looking to get rid of and loaded onto a trailer. Naturally, he called one of the few men in West who could corral emus — Mr. Uptmor.

“He’d do anything for anybody,” Dr. Mellgren said as he stood in his parents’ glass-strewn house, their Sacrament of Matrimony certificate knocked off-kilter on a wall behind him. However, the couple themselves, married 69 years, were doing fine, under the circumstances.

The other night, at the century-old Tokio Store, a bar beyond the West city limits, everybody knew somebody who had lost something, or someone. The owner is Mr. Cinek, Mr. Uptmor’s friend, and he sat at a table outside telling Buck stories as a country band played inside. (Mr. Uptmor helped teach Mr. Cinek’s daughter, Erin Bratayasa, now an adult, to ride a horse when she about 10 years old.)

Mr. Cinek also talked about his 84-year-old Uncle Ervin, who was in a nursing home near the plant when it exploded. His uncle survived, pulling himself out of the shattered wallboard and debris and helping an injured friend in a next-door room to safety.

A few bent elbows away stood a cousin of the Snokhous brothers — Robert, 48, and Douglas — two of the volunteer firefighters killed in the explosion. There were nurses who had helped care for the injured, and there was Mike Mellgren, 33, Dr. Mellgren’s son. A chiropractor like his father and grandfather, he remembered the day Mr. Uptmor and another man helped put the emus on the trailer.

“I won’t forget whenever Buck turned around and looked at me, he had gotten kicked,” he said. “He would have been eviscerated if it wasn’t for his coveralls. But they did their jobs. He was a real cowboy. That’s what he was.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research from New York.

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« Reply #17 on: Apr 28, 2013, 07:00 AM »

Insecticide firms in secret bid to stop ban that could save bees

Last-ditch lobbying to sway vote in Brussels to halt use of killer nerve agents

Damian Carrington   
The Observer, Sunday 28 April 2013   

Europe is on the brink of a landmark ban on the world's most widely used insecticides, which have increasingly been linked to serious declines in bee numbers. Despite intense secret lobbying by British ministers and chemical companies against the ban, revealed in documents obtained by the Observer, a vote in Brussels on Monday is expected to lead to the suspension of the nerve agents.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed on disease, loss of habitat and, increasingly, the near ubiquitous use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

The prospect of a ban has prompted a fierce behind-the-scenes campaign. In a letter released to the Observer under freedom of information rules, the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, told the chemicals company Syngenta last week that he was "extremely disappointed" by the European commission's proposed ban. He said that "the UK has been very active" in opposing it and "our efforts will continue and intensify in the coming days".

Publicly, ministers have expressed concern for bees, with David Cameron saying: "If we do not look after our bee populations, very serious consequences will follow."

The chemical companies, which make billions from the products, have also lobbied hard, with Syngenta even threatening to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing a report that found the pesticides posed an unacceptable risk to bees, according to documents seen by the Observer. The report, from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), led the commission to propose a two-year ban on three neonicotinoids. "EFSA has provided a strong, substantive and scientific case for the suspension," a commission spokesman said.

A series of high-profile scientific studies has linked neonicotinoids to huge losses in the number of queens produced and big increases in "disappeared" bees – those that fail to return from foraging trips. Pesticide manufacturers and UK ministers have argued that the science is inconclusive and that a ban would harm food production, but conservationists say harm stemming from dying pollinators is even greater.

"It's a landmark vote," said Joan Walley MP, chairwoman of parliament's green watchdog, the environmental audit committee, whose recent report on pollinators condemned the government's "extraordinary complacency". Walley said: "You have to have scientific evidence, but you also have to have the precautionary principle – that's the heart of this debate."

A ban has been supported by petitions signed by millions of people and Paterson has received 80,000 emails, an influx that he described as a "cyber-attack". "The impact of neonicotinoids on the massive demise of our bees is clear, yet Paterson seems unable to escape the haze of sloppy science and lobbying by powerful pesticide giants," said Iain Keith of the campaign group Avaaz. "Seventy per cent of British people want these poisons banned. Paterson must reconsider or send the bees to chemical Armageddon." Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said a ban would be "a historic moment in the fight to save our bees".

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "As the proposal currently stands we could not support an outright ban. We have always been clear that a healthy bee population is our top priority, that's why decisions need to be taken using the best possible scientific evidence and we want to work with the commission to achieve this. Any action taken must be proportionate and not have any unforeseen knock-on effects."

"This plan is motivated by a quite understandable desire to save the beleaguered bee and concern about a serious decline in other important pollinator species," said the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, "but it is based on a misreading of the currently available evidence." He said the EC plan was a serious "mistake".

Julian Little, a spokesman for Bayer Cropscience, said: "Call me an optimist, but I still believe the commission will see sense. There is so much field evidence to demonstrate safe use [and] an increasing number of member states who reject the apparent drive towards museum agriculture in the European Union." However, Bulgaria is the only nation known to have changed its voting intention and it will reverse its opposition.

The chemical industry has mounted an increasingly desperate lobbying effort against a ban on neonicotinoids, which have been in use for more than a decade. In March the top producers, Syngenta and Bayer, proposed a plan to support bee health, including planting more flowering margins around fields and monitoring for neonicotinoids.

However, the private lobbying began much earlier with a series of letters, obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory and given to the Observer, which were sent to commissioners in the summer of 2012, after France had proposed a unilateral ban. One Syngenta executive, mentioning in passing his recent lunch with Barack Obama, claimed that "a small group of activists and hobby bee-keepers" were behind that campaign for a ban. Another letter claims, without citing evidence, that the production of key crops would fall by "up to 40%".

At that time, the European Crop Protection Association – of which Syngenta and Bayer are members – welcomed the continuing EFSA evaluation. But in January, as the EFSA prepared to issue the damning verdict of its experts, the industry immediately turned on it. Syngenta's lawyers demanded last-minute changes to a press release to prevent "serious damage to the integrity of our product and reputation" and threatened legal action.

The EFSA stood its ground, prompting Syngenta to demand all documents, including handwritten ones, relating to the EFSA's decision and the names of individuals involved. A month later, it told EFSA officials it was considering the "identity of specific defendants" for possible court action. On a more conciliatory note, Syngenta told the EFSA it was considering "large-scale" bee-monitoring studies to "close data gaps", despite previous claims its product had been introduced only after "the most stringent regulatory work". Critics have condemned companies for keeping trial data secret.

A spokesman for Syngenta said: "No evidence from the field has ever been presented that these pesticides actually damage bee health, with the case against them resting on a few studies which identify some highly theoretical risks. Regardless of the outcome, we will continue our work with anyone who shares our goal of improving bee health, which is vital for sustainable agriculture as well as the future of our business."

In the first commission vote in March, 13 countries supported a ban, nine opposed it and five, including the UK and Germany, abstained, which meant there was not a sufficient majority for or against under voting rules, which give larger nations more votes. The result is likely to be repeated on Monday, meaning that the commission would step in and it is determined to see a ban in place.The chemical industry has warned that a ban on neonicotinoids would lead to the return of older, more harmful pesticides and crop losses. But campaigners point out that this has not happened during temporary suspensions in France, Italy and Germany and that the use of natural pest predators and crop rotation can tackle problems.

Professor David Goulson, a bee expert at the University of Sussex whose research has found harmful effects from neonicotinoids, said: "There is now a very substantial body of scientific evidence suggesting that this class of insecticides is impacting on health of wild bees, and perhaps other wildlife too. It is time for the EU's politicians to take a responsible position and support this ban."

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« Reply #18 on: Apr 28, 2013, 07:04 AM »

Baby jaguars celebrate first birthdays at San Diego Zoo – video

Source: ITN
Sunday 28 April 2013

Two jaguar cubs wake up to a cake made from blood and cow's heart to celebrate their first birthdays. Tikal and his sister Maderas woo visitors at San Diego zoo as they explore presents left in their pen on Friday morning. Loss of natural habitats and demand for jaguar fur mean the cats are becoming more endangered 

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« Reply #19 on: Apr 29, 2013, 05:54 AM »

Chilean penguins facing extinction due to human activity

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, April 28, 2013 16:37 EDT

AFP – Several dozen Humboldt penguins sun themselves along the coast of an islet in central Chile where the majestic birds coming here to nest once numbered in the thousands.

Humboldt penguins — which nest only in parts of Chile and Peru — over the years have become decimated by human encroachment, rat infestations and unforgiving weather currents carried by unusually warm El Nino ocean temperatures, naturalists said.

The Pajaro Nino islet, spread across a narrow channel of water from the popular resort area of Algarrobo, once drew about 2,000 of the birds during nesting season.

Today only about 500 of the birds come to this area some 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Santiago.

“This area used to be completely filled with penguins and birds, but over time, their numbers have diminished,” said Ruben Rojas, a local fisherman.

There are various varieties of penguins that inhabit Chile, but the largest colonies of Humboldt can be found in the northern part of the country. The birds are identifiable by the distinctive black bands across their chests.

Experts have expressed alarm over the rapidly vanishing penguins. The once plentiful species is classified in Chile as “vulnerable,” while in Peru, the birds have been labeled “endangered.”

Alejandro Simeone, director of the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity at Andres Bello University, told AFP that there are currently fewer than 50,000 Humboldt penguins left in Chile and Peru.

“A multitude of factors threaten a species that is highly diminished relative to what once existed,” Simeone said.

The beginning of their demise dates back to 1978, when the island, which is also a nature sanctuary, was joined to the mainland by a cement fill-in — a breakwater designed to protect the yachts of millionaire sailing enthusiasts.

It created in effect a 150-meter (500-foot) bridge connecting the mainland to the island, and local residents say they have seen the detrimental impact of its construction on animal and plant life.

Yachters have been accused of trying to rid the region of the birds, and video footage has surfaced showing some deliberately — and illegally — destroying penguin eggs to prevent new broods.

Rojas said the yachters don’t like the excrement left behind by the birds. “They say it makes the island stink,” he explained.

Prosecutors say they are investigating the alleged destruction of the penguins’ eggs.

Part of the blame for the birds’ gradual disappearance goes to fishermen’s nets that ensnare hundreds of the birds each year.

A measure of blame also goes to the El Nino weather phenomenon and the warm water current it carries.

The frigid Humboldt current, which gives the penguin species its name, carries the birds’ favorite foods, like anchovies and sardines.

El Nino currents, however, “warm the waters, making it hard for the penguins to find the fish that make up their usual diet,” said Guillermo Cubillos of the Santiago National Zoo.

If the El Nino warming of the waters occurs during breeding season, many of the eggs or young die of cold and hunger, because their parents are delayed or even fail to return with food.

Rats also are seen as a major culprit. The cement breakwater that connects the islet to the mainland also has given free access to rodents, which feast on the vulnerable eggs and hatchlings of the nesting penguins.

A 2012 study found that almost half of all penguin eggs on the island were devoured, primarily by rodents, within the first 12 hours of breeding period.

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« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2013, 06:57 AM »

Kitten burned in Philly recovering at Hunterdon County vet

Seth Augenstein/The Star-Ledger By Seth Augenstein/The Star-Ledger

on May 01, 2013 at 2:20 PM, updated May 01, 2013 at 6:17 PM
LEBANON — The one-pound kitten was found, burning, at a Philadelphia intersection last Thursday.

A quick-thinking Samaritan took off a coat, and smothered the flames, saving the burning 5-week-old animal’s life.

Six days later, the kitten – now named Justin – is getting delicate medical attention, and he’s expected to mostly recover from the second- and third-degree burns on his back and head.

The tiny kitten is eating and sleeping, and undergoing a regimen of antibiotics, wound dressings, and appetite stimulants at the Crown Veterinary Specialists in Lebanon, said Anne Trinkle, the executive director of Animal Alliance.

“He’s doing remarkably well – but he’s not out of the woods yet,” said Trinkle, of Animal Alliance, a Lambertville-based animal-welfare non-profit, which got the cat the care he needed.

Most of Justin’s ears will have to be removed, and badly-burned splotches on his back will remain bald, said Trinkle. The scorched wounds extend from the top of the feline’s head down the length of his back. The scar tissue has to be carefully debrided regularly to allow the skin to continue healing, she said.

An unknown person had doused the kitten with accelerant and applied a flame – before leaving Justin to die at the intersection of F and Clearfield Streets in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, on April 25, investigators say.
burned-kitten-justin-2.jpgJustin the kitten is expected to mostly recover - but his vet bills will probably be steep. In the meantime, authorities have offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who set him on fire.Courtesy of Animal Alliance

“It’s just depravity,” said Trinkle, who said her group handled four animals in the area who were set on fire last year alone. “It’s just random violence – and it’s toward something tiny that can’t fight back.”

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of as much as $5,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the people responsible for the attack.

“This is the latest in a disturbing string of animals apparently being intentionally lit on fire,” said Sarah Speed, the Humane Society’s Pennsylvania state director. “This depraved act of cruelty will not be tolerated, and we hope this reward will encourage anyone with information to come forward and help bring a perpetrator to justice.”

Six days later, the veternarians are describing Justin the kitten as “spunky” and “animated” – when he’s not sleeping off the anesthesia and medications helping him to recover. The medical bills are likely to be steep – in the range of $5,000 to $6,000, Trinkle said. The all-volunteer group is seeking donations to make his full recovery possible. But they’re confident that good-intentioned people bring that to a reality.

“He’ll look like a little prize-fighter,” Trinkle said. “But we’re hoping he’s going to have a fantastic life.”

Donations are being accepted at

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« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2013, 06:32 AM »

Chinese city uses dogs to predict Earthquakes

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6:59 EDT

A Chinese city is using dogs to predict earthquakes, an official said Tuesday, after state-run media reported that neighbours were complaining of nightly false alarms — in the form of barking.

China is regularly hit by seismic tremors. Around 200 people were left dead or missing by a quake in Sichuan province last month, and hundreds of thousands have been killed in major disasters in the past.

The earthquake authority of Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province in the east, keeps dogs since they will “act abnormally when an earthquake is coming”, sometimes up to 10 days in advance, an official surnamed Song told AFP.

The bureau used the dogs at the request of the provincial government, he added, saying that chickens and ducks could be effective as well.

But neighbours are complaining on social media about the animals’ nightly howling, according to the official provincial news website Dajiang.

“The compound of the Nanchang earthquake authority has I don’t know how many dogs, every night at 11 pm they start barking over and over,” it quoted one as saying.

Song told AFP the dogs had now been sent to a lower-level earthquake bureau in the city but denied they had been barking.

However Dajiang quoted him as saying the dogs could be muzzled to accommodate residents’ concerns.

Asked if that would stop them carrying out their predictive function, he agreed and said he would ask his boss what to do about that, it reported.

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« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2013, 05:53 AM »

05/10/2013 12:51 PM

King No More: The Tragic Plight of Lions in Africa

By Renate Nimtz-Koester

Lions are becoming a threatened species. Trophy hunters and the loss of savannah grasslands have drastically reduced the number of prides. Scientists and conservationists are calling for improved protections for lions -- even if that means fenced-in enclosures.

It's a Sunday in South Africa, and on the green lawn of the Weltevrede Lion Farm, arms reach for a white animal that could double for a cuddly stuffed animal. Visitors are being allowed to pet Lisa, an eight-week-old lion cub with unusual coloring.

Lisa was two weeks old when she was taken from her mother. "To make them manageable you have to do this," explains Christiaan, who is leading visitors on a tour of the grounds.

When cubs are born here, on this lion farm in Vrystaat, a province of South Africa, "each employee is assigned to bottle-feed one of them," says Christiaan. "You can buy a cub for 40,000 rand (€3,400, or $4,455)." A delighted visitor asks whether she can take a lion baby into her room at night. It can be arranged, promises the guide.

Lisa's father, a grown specimen with a stately mane who lives in the enclosure, can be had for about €20,000. Roughly 2,000 lions are kept in captivity in Vrystaat alone, where they are bred for a practice called "canned hunting." It's a diversion that executives at major German companies have been known to enjoy.

The king of the animals has fallen on hard times in his own kingdom. "In all of South Africa, there are almost as many lions behind bars as in the wild," says Fiona Miles of the Vrystaat chapter of the international animal rights group Four Paws, which has been unsuccessful in its efforts to protest the hunting of animals that are somewhat tame and are sometimes even drugged to keep them calm. "As a first step to ban canned hunting," Miles is calling for a moratorium on the breeding of lions.

Across the entire continent, the large African predator, a symbol of strength and majesty, is threatened with decline. Outside fenced enclosures, there is hardly any room left for Panthera leo. Scientists and conservationists warn that the king of the steppes has lost much of his habitat in the last 50 years.

Natural Threats

The main reason is the gradual disappearance of the savannah. With shrinking African grasslands, lion populations have declined dramatically. Of about 100,000 lions that roamed the continent's dry grassy plains in the 1960s, there are no more than 35,000 left today, says Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. "That's a real collapse in populations."

Pimm and an international team of scientists have just published the alarming results of a new study. "Land use and the transformation of land through tremendous population growth have chopped up and destroyed the savannah," Pimm explains. Only a quarter of an ecosystem that was once larger than the United States still exists today, he says, noting that this shrinkage is almost as severe as rainforest loss.

"It's bitterly shocking," says Thomas Lovejoy, an ecologist at George Mason University in Virginia and a member of the Big Cats Initiative, whose goal is to preserve the world's big cats.

"First we have to know what needs to be protected," says Pimm. To obtain more precise figures on the population of African lions, he and his team compiled the most comprehensive collection of data on African lion populations to date. Both the local population and hunting organizations assisted in the effort. The results were published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

Whereas older satellite images depicted a largely intact savannah, higher-resolution imaging technology enabled the scientists to pinpoint small fields and settlements scattered throughout the environment. "Lions can't show up there," says co-author Jason Riggio.

The scientists identified 67 individual savannah zones in which human populations are small enough to allow for the survival of the big cats. Only 10 of them, six in South Africa and four in East Africa, proved to be "bastions" that still offer lions a good chance of survival. Most of these habitats are in protected areas like the Kruger and Serengeti National Parks.

The decline of the lion began long ago. In fact, German zoologist Alfred Brehm began observing it more than a century ago. "The days when 600 lions could be brought together to fight in an arena were thousands of years ago," he concluded. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, up to 100 lions died in a single event. Pompey the Great exhibited 600 lions, while up to 400 were sent to the arena under Caesar. "But it wasn't until the invention of guns" that the animal, a dangerous threat to livestock herds, was "pushed back and eventually exterminated" everywhere, Brehm writes in his book "Brehm's Life of Animals." Hunters, like the legendary Jules Gérard, had rid North Africa of the supposed plague of Berber lions, and Morocco's last lion was shot to death in 1920.

Trophy Hunting
South of the Sahara, man also proved to be a relentless foe of the tawny-coated predator. To this day, nomadic tribes like the Massai retaliate against the hated killers of their livestock by shooting the animals or setting out poisoned bait.

But the hunt engaged in by former colonial rulers and their successors also has other dimensions. Over a period of three years, his great-grandfather Harold "shot over 400 lions as well as numerous leopard," boasts Simon Leach, who operates Eagle Safaris in Harrismith, South Africa. On his website, Leach bills himself as a "hunter and conservationist," and notes: "Eagle Safaris continues this proud tradition and draws on the skills and expertise gained over the years." Inexperienced hunters, including those who require multiple shots to kill an animal, are just as welcome as professionals, and a hunting license is not necessary.

International conservation groups are sharply critical of trophy hunting, which they say is partly to blame for the acute plight of the lion. The business, which is booming in South Africa and Tanzania, in particular, is hastening the decline of the big cat, they warn in a petition to the United States Department of the Interior. Commenting on the extensive studies, Jeffrey Flocken of the International Fund of Animal Welfare (IFAW) says: "Many people will be shocked to know how quickly the numbers have fallen."

Flocken and his allies want to see the African lion listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a US law designed to protect endangered animals. US citizens make up by far the largest number of trophy hunters. The lion currently has limited protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Americans are especially fond of bringing home stuffed lion heads, paws and tails from Africa. Other important importers include Germany, along with Spain and France. Lion parts are also sent to other countries from the United States. The animal's bones are prized in China to make "tiger wine," which the Chinese believe has healing properties, and are used as a replacement for tiger bones, which have now become rare.

According to the petition, the body parts of at least 5,660 killed lions were traded internationally between 1999 and 2008.

The consequences of hunting tourism are often fatal for the entire pride. Hunters covet the magnificent mane and therefore primarily target older, dominant males, which leads to a rise in deadly attacks within the pride. To sire their own offspring, other male lions kill the cubs of their former rival, and sometimes even the mothers, when they try to defend the cubs.

To avoid this additional killing of lions, trophy hunters must be taught to correctly estimate the age of their prey, says wildlife biologist Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. But his appeals apparently fall on deaf ears. "Mr. Lion," as the renowned lion expert is known, is not against hunting in principle, he says, but notes that quotas need to be drastically reduced.

A Disaster for Africa

If we don't act now, the African lion could become extinct, conservationists warn, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service appears to be taking them seriously. The agency is said to be reviewing the possibility of adding the lion to the ESA list, to the consternation of the African hunting and tourism industry. Such action could result in the loss of 60 percent of the trophy market, Alexander Songorwa, director of wildlife for Tanzania's tourism ministry, wrote in the New York Times. It would be a disaster for his country, he added.

At its convention in April, the organization Wildlife Ranching South Africa (WRSA) characterized efforts to list the lion under the ESA as "sabotage." The country's roughly 10,000 private farmers are proud of the "the tremendous growth in the South African wild animal industry," WRSA notes. The industry produces and offers what its trigger-happy customers covet: Kudu, buffalo, impala and other antelopes, and the more costly lions for well-heeled hunters.

Because they value tourists who prefer to shoot wildlife with their cameras over big-game hunters, lion countries Zambia and Botswana are now trying to save their main attraction. Although it generated $3 million (€2.3 million) in annual revenues, Zambia has now outlawed the hunting of lions and leopards. And in Botswana, the country's final hunting season has just begun.

Experts disagree over the best ways to help the beleaguered animal. Pimm stresses cooperation with local inhabitants, saying that they need to learn how to protect their herds more effectively, and that children should be taught how to behave around the predators while still in school.

"Mr. Lion," on the other hand, has lost patience, after 35 years of field research. He no longer believes in the peaceful coexistence between man and lion. Packer argues that it would be more effective to separate the two species by creating more fenced-in sanctuaries.

Packer fears that populations remaining outside such enclosures will be reduced by half in 20 to 40 years. To conduct their study, he and his 57 co-authors determined that it would be much cheaper to establish protective enclosures in 11 African countries than to create management programs for people. Besides, he adds, this approach is measurably far more beneficial to the threatened animal. Lion populations in enclosures, he says, have proved to be "larger and more dense."

In Vrystaat, Four Paws has erected one such enclosure to create a 1,200-hectare (2,965-acre) sanctuary for big cats. A family has just found refuge there. After being released from their shipping containers, a male lion, his lioness and two cubs are able to feel grass under their paws and the African sun on their pelts for the first time.

The four new arrivals came from a Romanian zoo, which had violated a European Union guideline that would have required it to provide the animals with 500 square meters of space by providing them with only 40. More than 80 lions that had been living a miserable existence in European circus cars and small zoos can now lead a humane life in Lionsrock. But after being raised in captivity, the animals would be lost in their ancestral habitat, says Hildegard Pirker, the attendant in charge of the animals. "Releasing them into the wild isn't an option." Their bleak existence in captivity has made the animals incapable of living in the wild.

Pirker, who is also a veterinarian, performs vasectomies to ensure that the powerful cats don't reproduce. "The surgery makes the lions infertile," says Pirker, "but it preserves their sex drive and growth of the mane."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2013, 05:56 AM »

Video of bicycling bear attacking monkey sparks outrage in China

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, May 10, 2013 6:36 EDT

A viral video of a bear attacking a monkey after the two fell off their bicycles at a Chinese zoo has sparked outrage among animal rights activists, but an official on Friday defended the show.

A minute-and-a-half long video surfaced this week showing the bear biting and clawing the monkey after a mock race at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park.

Keepers then pull and beat the bear with wooden sticks, prompting it to eventually release the monkey.

“The performance is pure mistreatment,” Zhang Dan, co-founder of the China Animal Protection Media Saloon, was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper on Friday.

“It goes totally against the nature of the animal. But they cannot speak for themselves about their fear, pain, or unwillingness.”

A park official confirmed the incident, which happened Sunday, to AFP but defended the show, saying the monkey was not injured and both animals had resumed performing the same act.

“The monkey and bear involved have been partners for more than five years and this kind of accident has never happened before,” she told AFP.

“The performance was designed according to the animals’ natural habits,” she added. “Monkeys are good at climbing and imitating, while bears have good stamina, and this is an example of the zoo’s initiative to keep them healthy through exercise.”

Recent images of tigers being mistreated at parks in China’s northwestern province of Jilin and the eastern province of Zhejiang have also caused anger, state media said earlier this month.

China has no laws specifically against cruelty to animals and zoo visitors and staff members are sometimes able to abuse captive creatures without sanction.

“China needs national legislation on animal abuse,” the China Daily quoted Hua Ning of the International Fund for Animal Welfare as saying.

The Shanghai park has previously locked horns with activists over performances featuring animals, including acts such as monkeys climbing poles and elephants playing football.

The latest video appears to have been first posted on a Chinese video-sharing site and went global after it was posted to LiveLeak and the Huffington Post.

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« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2013, 05:58 AM »

US windfarms avoiding prosecution for eagle deaths

More than 83,000 hunting birds are killed by windfarms each year but no wind energy company has been fined

Associated Press, Tuesday 14 May 2013 11.33 BST   

The Obama administration has never fined or prosecuted a windfarm for killing eagles and other protected bird species, shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret, an Associated Press investigation has found.

More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's windfarms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Each death is federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines. No wind energy company has been prosecuted, even those that repeatedly flout the law.

Wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's energy plan. His administration has championed a $1bn-a-year tax break to the industry that has nearly doubled the amount of wind power in his first term.

"It is the rationale that we have to get off of carbon, we have to get off of fossil fuels, that allows them to justify this," said Tom Dougherty, a long-time environmentalist who worked for nearly 20 years for the National Wildlife Federation in the West, until his retirement in 2008. "But at what cost? In this case, the cost is too high."

Documents and emails obtained by The Associated Press offer glimpses of the problem: 14 deaths at seven facilities in California, five each in New Mexico and Oregon, one in Washington state and another in Nevada, where an eagle was found with a hole in its neck, exposing the bone.

One of the deadliest places in the country for golden eagles is Wyoming, where federal officials said windfarms had killed more than four dozen golden eagles since 2009, predominantly in the southeastern part of the state. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to disclose the figures. Getting precise figures is impossible because many companies aren't required to disclose how many birds they kill. And when they do, experts say, the data can be unreliable.

When companies voluntarily report deaths, the Obama administration in many cases refuses to make the information public, saying it belongs to the energy companies or that revealing it would expose trade secrets or implicate ongoing enforcement investigations.

Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years.

"What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK," said Tim Eicher, a former US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says it is investigating 18 bird-death cases involving wind-power facilities and seven have been referred to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to discuss the status of those cases.

In its defence, the wind-energy industry points out that more eagles are killed each year by cars, electrocutions and poisoning than by turbines. Dan Ashe, the Fish and Wildlife Service's director, said that his agency always has made clear to wind companies that if they kill birds they would still be liable.

"We are not allowing them to do it. They do it," he said of the bird deaths. "And we will successfully prosecute wind companies if they are in significant noncompliance."

Windfarms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors the size of jetliners.

Flying eagles behave like drivers texting on their cell phones – they don't look up. As they scan for food, they don't notice the industrial turbine blades until it's too late.

Former interior secretary Ken Salazar, in an interview with the AP before his departure, denied any preferential treatment for wind. Interior Department officials said that criminal prosecution, regardless of the industry, is always a "last resort".

"There's still additional work to be done with eagles and other avian species, but we are working on it very hard," Salazar said. "We will get to the right balance."

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles. The regulation is currently under review at the White House.

The proposal, made at the urging of the wind-energy industry, would allow companies to apply for 30-year permits to kill a set number of bald or golden eagles. Previously, companies were only eligible for five-year permits.

"It's basically guaranteeing a black box for 30 years, and they're saying 'trust us for oversight'. This is not the path forward," said Katie Umekubo, a renewable energy attorney with the Natural Resources Defence Council, who argued in private meetings with the industry and government leaders that the 30-year permit needed an in-depth environmental review.

But the eagle rule is not the first time the administration has made concessions for the wind-energy industry.

Last year, over objections from some of its own wildlife investigators and biologists, the Interior Department updated its guidelines and provided more cover for wind companies that violate the law.

Under both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the death of a single bird without a permit is illegal.

But under the Obama administration's new guidelines, wind-energy companies don't face additional scrutiny until they have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife or habitat.

That rare exception for one industry substantially weakened the government's ability to enforce the law and ignited controversy inside the Interior Department.

"US Fish and Wildlife Service does not do this for the electric utility industry or other industries," Kevin Kritz, a government wildlife biologist in the Rocky Mountain region wrote in internal agency comments in September 2011. "Other industries will want to be judged on a similar standard."

The Obama administration, however, repeatedly overruled its own experts. In the end, the wind energy industry, which was part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines, got almost everything it wanted.

"Clearly, there was a bias to wind energy in their favor because they are a renewable source of energy, and justifiably so," said Rob Manes, who runs the Kansas office for The Nature Conservancy and who served on the committee. "We need renewable energy in this country."

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« Reply #25 on: May 16, 2013, 05:56 AM »

05/15/2013 05:00 PM

Feline Fate: Brigitta the Wheelchair Cat Adopts Lost Kittens

Brigitta the cat became the victim of animal cruelty when someone shot at her for fun, paralyzing her hind legs. A German animal lover took her in, building a cat wheelchair and paying for an operation. Now Brigitta is repaying her kindness -- by adopting two abandoned kittens.

Fate was cruel to Brigitta, the brave, tabby-and-white cat with big friendly green eyes. She was trotting along in her native Bulgaria when someone playing a brutal, callous game fired an air gun at her. The pellet lodged in her spine and paralyzed her hind legs.

All her nine lives seemed to be over. A vet wanted to put her out of her misery. But then German animal lover Angie Heuer heard about the case via Facebook. Heuer, who runs a charity for stray cats, brought Brigitta to Germany for medical attention.

Her local vet wanted to put Brigitta down as well. But Heuer refused. "There was no need for that," she told public broadcaster NDR.

Heuer constructed a pink wheelchair for Brigitta, enabling her to move about with relative ease by pulling herself along on her front legs. Thanks to her guardian angel, Brigitta has gotten a second lease on life in her new home town of Celle near Hanover.

"She's enjoying life, she's happy and confident," said Heuer. "She's great." Even without the wheelchair, Brigitta manages to get about by dragging herself along on her backside.

"She does what she wants," said Heuer. "When she wants to get down the stairs, she just hobbles down. And when she hears her food is ready, she's even faster."

Heuer paid €1,000 ($1,300) for an operation to remove the projectile from Brigitta's spine. But she will never regain the use of her hind legs.

Brigitta hasn't just found a new lease on life but a new role as well -- as an adoptive mother to two abandoned kittens just two weeks old. "I offered the babies to three other cats but they didn't want them," said Heuer.

But Brigitta accepted the kittens as her own. She can't feed them, but she nuzzles and licks them affectionately. "She's got a task now. That's what she needed," said Heuer, looking with fondness and pride at the cat she has saved.

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« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2013, 06:32 AM »

05/21/2013 06:50 PM

Bison Baby: First Wisent Born in German Wild

After being released into the wild in Germany just last month, a herd of wisents has welcomed its first calf. The first European bison to be born free in Germany in centuries has been named "Quintus," and appears to be healthy.

For the first time in centuries, a European bison, or wisent, has been born in the wild in Germany, conservationists announced on Tuesday. The calf, which arrived early this month, belongs to a herd that was released in April.

The young wisent seems "perky," said Jochen Born, a ranger at Wisent Welt Wittgenstein, the forest sanctuary surrounding the western German town of Bad Berleberg that is home to the animals. But any hikers hoping to catch a glimpse of the typically shy bison should keep their distance, he added, because the species is known for fiercely protecting its young.

The calf is the fifth to be born since the sanctuary began its project to reintroduce European bison to their native habitat. The fact that it was born outside of a corral in the Rothaar Mountain region is a "great success," its website said.

The powerful animals were hunted to extinction in the wild long ago, and all of the roughly 3,000 wisents alive today are the descendants of only about a dozen original animals that survived in zoos. Most of today's wild European bison population lives in the forest in eastern Poland. In Germany, Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, 78, one of the most important forest owners in the country, hopes to prove that active species conservation can be combined with forestry.

Years of scientific study preceded the release of the herd of nine wisents. However, one question still remains: Whether the bison, which are one of Europe's largest animals and can weigh up to a metric ton, pose a danger to hikers or mountain bikers. A popular hiking trail called the Rothaarstieg passes directly through the area where they have been reintroduced, though encounters are unlikely due to their shyness.

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« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2013, 06:37 AM »

Animal astronauts return from space mission – video

A Russian space capsule containing mice, geckos, gerbils, snails and fish returns to Earth after a month-long mission in space. The Bion-M craft orbited at a height of 575km (360 miles). Scientists hope the mission will allow them to study the effect of microgravity on animals' bodies. Half of the mice died in space, as did eight gerbils
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« Reply #28 on: May 28, 2013, 07:16 AM »

Scientists warn that mass badger hunt could cause an illegal extermination of the whole population

By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
Monday, May 27, 2013 16:30 EDT

England’s highly controversial badger culls risk illegally wiping out every badger in the cull zones because the animals’ numbers are so poorly known, according to one of the UK’s leading badger experts.

The culls, intended to curb tuberculosis in cattle, are authorised to begin on 1 June but could prove unworkable because of the uncertainty over badger numbers, said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, at the Zoological Society of London.

The government is determined to have an impact on the disease which in 2012 meant that more than 37,000 cattle had to be slaughtered at a cost to the taxpayer of £100m. But the costs of carrying out and policing the culls will mount as animal rights campaigners mobilise to disrupt the night-time shoots and last-minute legal challenges loom.

The two pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset were postponed in October after farmers’ low estimates of badger numbers were rejected in favour of higher government numbers. Now the population estimates have been reduced again, after further government study.

Sources have told the Guardian that David Cameron has made clear to the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, that another U-turn on the culls is unacceptable and that Paterson’s job is at stake. An insider said that key officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are “pale with worry”.

Paterson has remained steadfast on the cull and told the Sunday Times that it could run for decades: “We want to reduce the incidence of disease to less than 0.2% of herds a year. It will take 20-25 years of hard culling to get to that.”

Woodroffe said: “The difficulty of counting badgers is the Achilles heel of the policy.” Woodroffe was a key member of the team that spent a decade and £50m culling 11,000 badgers before concluding that culling could make “no meaningful contribution” to reducing bovine TB. She said: “Badger numbers halted the cull in October and could still be the thing which makes the cull unworkable. That is completely plausible.”

Prof Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser at Defra, said: “The numbers are not precise; there is uncertainty. If the [licence] criteria are not met, we will need to think again about what we are doing, whether we move to a different approach to culling, or to vaccination. But we cannot allow the status quo to continue. We have lost control of this disease in the UK.”

The government has approved two pilot culls to determine whether the untested method of shooting free-running badgers can kill sufficient numbers and do so safely and humanely. Killing at least 70% of badgers in a cull zone is crucial, as the previous decade-long trial showed, otherwise fleeing badgers cause TB in cattle to rise.

But, according to Woodroffe, there are serious uncertainties in the population estimates in the two cull zones. According to the government’s own figures, farmers in Gloucestershire must kill between 2,856 and 2,932 badgers, but the estimate of the population ranges much more widely, from 2,657 to 4,079. Even worse, according to Woodroffe, is that there is a 40% chance the real population lies outside even that range.

If the real population is below the minimum cull target of 2,856, farmers could kill every badger in the area – breaking the strict condition of the licence that forbids local extinctions – while simultaneously failing to kill enough badgers to satisfy the terms of that same licence. The situation is the same in Somerset, where between 2,061 and 2,162 badgers must be culled, but the population estimate ranges from 1,972 to 2,932.

“The new badger population estimates make use of the best available data and provide robust estimates,” said a Defra spokesman. “Scientific evidence and the experience of other countries shows that culling can have a positive effect in helping to reduce bovine TB.”

The Badger Trust, which unsuccessfully attempted to stop the culling through judicial review in July 2012, is concerned about the uncertainty in badger numbers. In a letter to the government’s licensing body, Natural England, the trust’s lawyers noted that badger populations vary through the seasons and from year to year. “There has been a fatal failure to factor this into the cull targets,” their letter said. Ministers had ignored advice from own independent expert panel to repeat October’s surveys this spring. “The Badger Trust is continuing to consider its legal options,” said Jeff Hayden, a director of the trust.

The trust’s legal letter also said it was “reckless and irrational” to proceed with culling when the costs used in the government’s original cost-benefit assessment had been far exceeded. The initial assessment had concluded that the costs actually outweighed the benefits, and at least £1m of additional costs for badger surveying has been incurred since then. The Defra spokesman said: “The pilots will test our and the farming industry’s cost assumptions [and] this will inform our decision on wider roll-out of the policy.”

Activists are gearing up to disrupt the pilot culls, using vuvuzelas and bright torches to frighten badgers away. “Whenever it happens we’ll be ready – it’ll be like an army,” said Joe Thomas of Bristol Hunt Saboteurs. “The number of new volunteers has been astronomical and they are not your normal animal-rights people, it’s everyday, ordinary people who are preparing to help.”

The Defra spokesman said: “Those opposed to culling have the right to undertake peaceful protest. However, those licensed to cull badgers must also be allowed to undertake lawful activity without fear of harm or intimidation.” © Guardian News and Media 2013

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« Reply #29 on: May 29, 2013, 09:09 AM »

Originally published May 28, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Seattle Times   

Horse stuck in ravine rescued through ‘telepathy’

A missing horse was rescued from a deep ravine in Redmond after a horse communicator helped locate her.

By Brian M. Rosenthal

Officials executed a difficult horse rescue on Tuesday, lifting an 800-pound Norwegian fjord out of a deep Redmond ravine without any injuries.

But the most incredible part, says the stable’s owner, is how caretakers found the horse — with the help of a telepathic animal communicator.

Gemma, a 4-year-old with a history of escaping and other behavior problems, apparently got out of her stall at the Saddle Rock Stables, in the 24000 block of Northeast 115th Street, and slipped 70 feet into a steep ravine nearby before settling on a ledge.

Owner Barbara Linstedt said caretakers searched for her for hours before getting connected to acclaimed horse communicator Joan Ranquet on Monday night.

Ranquet apparently communicated via telepathy with Gemma and determined she was in a tight space near shrubbery and could hear road noise and water, Linstedt said.

Linstedt knew that meant the shelf in the ravine.

She and the others looked there and immediately saw Gemma.

Rescuers waited until the morning to move in.

They got the horse out Tuesday afternoon by putting a helmet and harness on her, setting up pulleys and pulling her up.

About 60 rescuers from nine state agencies and nonprofits participated in the effort, which was led by the Washington State Animal Response Team.

Gemma was reportedly doing well Tuesday night.

“It’s amazing,” Linstedt said. “It’s an absolute miracle that we found her and got her out.”

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