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« Reply #285 on: Mar 18, 2014, 06:40 AM »

Canada defends seal hunt in appeal against ban on exports to Europe

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, March 17, 2014 16:49 EDT

Seal-hunters must have the same rights as fishermen, Canada’s Environment Minister Leonoa Aglukkaq insisted Monday, as her country battled a Brussels’ trade ban at the WTO.

Speaking on the sidelines of a World Trade Organization appeal hearing on the European Union’s ban on the import and sale of seal products, Aglukkaq blasted opponents of hunting.

“Everybody, every family is concerned on the territories in Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec and Nunavut,” she told reporters.

“Sealers have the right to make a living like fishers or farmers with the resources of the region,” she added.

All told, 6,000 people hunt seals commercially in Canada, chiefly in Newfoundland.

Canada and fellow seal hunter Norway want the WTO to overturn a ruling that it issued in November, in which it said that the EU ban imposed in 2010 did not breach global trade rules.

The WTO ruled that while there was merit in Norway and Canada’s complaints, that was outweighed by the EU goal of addressing moral concerns about seal welfare.

“Pandora’s box has been opened. Tomorrow, perhaps there’ll be a ban on lamb, or pork or poultry for moral reasons,” said Aglukkaq.

Canada and Norway appealed in January, and Monday saw the start of a three-day WTO hearing.

“We have lost a battle,” Aglukkaq said, vowing to keep up the fight until the ban was voided.

Brussels argues that the EU public overwhelmingly favours the ban, and that scientific evidence backs claims that slaughter methods, such as using a club with a metal spike to stun seals before killing them, are cruel.

Norway and Canada have deployed counter-arguments from scientists, insisting that their seal-hunting methods are humane and no worse than those used in commercial deer-hunting, widespread in the EU.

The countries both kill tens of thousands of seals per year, and say hunting is an age-old method.

“We have a highly regulated industry, based on scientific data,” said Aglukkaq.

“A healthy population of seals is not a large population of seals,” she added.

Canada says the population of Greenland seals, the main species hunted, has tripled since the 1970s to reach 7.3 million.

The number of Grey seals has meanwhile risen 80-fold to 400,000.

While cute seal pups are often deployed by campaigners in their anti-hunting image war, the minister insisted that “we don’t kill baby seals”.

“The hunt is very humane, and sustainable. What is morally wrong is that interest groups have propagated false news and misinformation,” she said, claiming that the goal was to fill campaigners’ coffers with public donations.

Canada and Norway also say the ban is discriminatory because seal products from EU members Sweden and Finland enjoy unimpeded market access within the 28-nation bloc.

Canada’s indigenous Inuits, who have traditionally hunted seal for centuries, are exempt from the ban but say it has ruined the market for their seal products.

[Image via Agence France-Pesse]

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« Reply #286 on: Mar 20, 2014, 05:15 AM »

Kenya elephant and rhino poaching crisis a ‘national disaster’

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 10:54 EDT

Kenya must take drastic action to stem a surge of elephant and rhino poaching, veteran conservationist Richard Leakey warned Wednesday, lamenting that known ringleaders are operating with “outrageous impunity”.

The poachers have “an extraordinary level of international criminal backing… operating with outrageous impunity, killing our elephants and rhinos at levels that will make them extinct within the country,” Leakey told reporters.

“It’s a national disaster, and we have to stand up and say that it cannot go on.”

Kenya, acting as a conduit for smuggling across East Africa, is “now the worst in the world for ivory trafficking,” Leakey said, quoting an Interpol report which said 13 tonnes were seized last year.

The rise in poaching — with rhinos being killed even inside the most heavily guarded zones — show that poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to stem the wave of killings, he said.

“They could not operate with the impunity we are seeing if you did not have some form of protection from law enforcement agencies,” Leakey said.

“It is a problem of a few criminals… the ringleaders are known,” he added, claiming that a core group of around 20 to 30 people were organising the mass poaching but that none had faced justice.

A recent study by the Kenyan conservation campaign group Wildlife Direct found that just four percent of those convicted of wildlife crime spent time in jail.

While declining to name names, Leakey said it was “unthinkable” security forces “do not know the names of the key players”.

Leakey, 69, a Kenyan national and former head of the government’s Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), was key in stemming the rampant poaching of the late 1980s, bringing in extreme measures to combat poachers including sending helicopter gunships into national parks.

Kenya’s elephant and rhino populations recovered from the brink of disaster, but more than two decades later the east African nation is once again facing soaring levels of poaching.

- Rangers ‘risking lives’ -

Leakey warned of a “very similar situation” to the mass poaching of the 1980s, and said the KWS force needed a complete overhaul and new management.

“We cannot afford to lose what is left,” he said. “The only way to stop it is to appeal to President Uhuru Kenyatta to be bold, to take action.”

The situation in Kenya is mirrored elsewhere in Africa.

Armed poachers slaughtered double the number of Kenyan rhinos in 2013 compared to the year before, according to government figures.

At least 59 rhinos were killed for their horns last year, compared to 30 in 2012, while 16 rhinos have been killed already this year.

But Leakey said the number of animals killed was far higher than official statistics suggested, saying that reports that the number of elephants being killed had declined were “patently not true”.

According to official statistics, elephant killings dropped by around a fifth, from 384 killed in 2012 to 302 last year.

Leakey pointed to an elephant census in the vast Tsavo national park last month, which discovered 800 carcasses, and found the number of animals had slumped by 1,500 in the past four years alone.

Ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects, and Leakey picked up a piece of carved tusk from a baby elephant seized from a smuggler.

“It’s worthless, it’s nonsense,” Leakey said, waving the tiny tusk. “What can you do with this?”

But KWS spokesman Paul Udoto said the rangers were being killed by gunmen as they did all they could to stop poaching.

“If there is a crooked character then go and get him,” he said, denying that official statistics were false.

“We are doing our best in very tough conditions.”

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« Reply #287 on: Mar 20, 2014, 05:16 AM »

Tibetan mastiff puppy ‘sold for $2 million’ in China

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 10:58 EDT

A Tibetan mastiff puppy has been sold in China for almost $2 million, a report said Wednesday, in what could be the most expensive dog sale ever.

A property developer paid 12 million yuan ($1.9 million) for the one-year-old golden-haired mastiff at a “luxury pet” fair Tuesday in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the Qianjiang Evening News reported.

“They have lion’s blood and are top-of-the-range mastiff studs,” the dog’s breeder Zhang Gengyun was quoted as telling the paper, adding that another red-haired canine had sold for 6 million yuan.

Enormous and sometimes ferocious, with round manes lending them a passing resemblance to lions, Tibetan mastiffs have become a prized status symbol among China’s wealthy, sending prices skyrocketing.

The golden-haired animal was 80 centimetres (31 inches) tall, and weighed 90 kilograms (nearly 200 pounds), Zhang said, adding that he was sad to sell the animals. Neither was named in the report.

“Pure Tibetan mastiffs are very rare, just like our nationally treasured pandas, so the prices are so high,” he said.

One red mastiff named “Big Splash” reportedly sold for 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in 2011, in the most expensive dog sale then recorded.

The buyer at the Zhejiang expo was said to be a 56-year-old property developer from Qingdao who hopes to breed dogs himself, according to the report.

The newspaper quoted the owner of a mastiff breeding website as saying that last year one animal sold for 27 million yuan at a fair in Beijing.

But an industry insider surnamed Xu told the paper that the high prices may be the result of insider agreements among breeders to boost their dogs’ worth.

“A lot of the sky-high priced deals are just breeders hyping each other up, and no money actually changes hands,” Xu said.

Owners say the mastiffs, descendants of dogs used for hunting by nomadic tribes in central Asia and Tibet, are fiercely loyal and protective.


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« Reply #288 on: Mar 20, 2014, 05:19 AM »

Researchers determine 66-million-year-old fossils belonged to ‘chicken from hell’

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 18:25 EDT

Nicknamed the “chicken from hell,” a newly identified species of feathered dinosaur as tall as a human roamed North America at least 66 million years ago, paleontologists announced Wednesday.

With a hen-like crest on its head, lanky legs like an ostrich, sharp claws on its forelimbs and jaws built for crushing eggs and prey, the Anzu wyliei weighed a hefty 440-660 pounds (200-300 kilograms).

The long-tailed creature is the largest known member of the legendary “egg-thief” dinosaurs, known as Oviraptorosaurs, which are closely related to birds, said the study in the journal PLOS ONE.

“We jokingly call this thing the ‘chicken from hell,’ and I think that’s pretty appropriate,” said lead author Matt Lamanna of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A collection of fossilized bones from three separate dinosaurs provided the first nearly complete glimpse of the 11.5-foot-long (3.5 meter) beast that stood five feet (1.5 meters) high at the hip.

“It would be scary, as well as absurd, to encounter,” said co-author Emma Schachner, a biology postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah.

The dinosaur was named after Anzu, a bird-demon from Mesopotamian mythology, and Wylie, the grandson of a museum trustee.

- Related to Asian cousins -

The skeletal pieces were found over a decade ago in the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota, where many other fossils have been found, including those of T. rex and Triceratops.

The Anzu specimens are dated to between 66 and 68 million years old, very close to the end of the dinosaur era some 65 million years ago when an asteroid is believed to have wiped them out.

The fossils reveal new details about a category of Oviraptorosaurs called caenagnathids, which were first discovered a century ago and came in a variety of sizes, from as small as a turkey to — in the case of Gigantoraptor — as heavy as 1.5 tons.

Philip Currie, a paleontologist and professor at the University of Alberta described the latest findings as “critical” and “anatomically, a fantastic specimen.”

Anzu wyliei appears similar in some ways to its cousins, the Oviraptorids, which have been found in Mongolia and China.

There are differences, too. The jaws from the Mongolian fossils are short and deep, while the North American specimens have longer jaws that are still very bird-like.

Anzu’s legs appear to have been longer, too, said Currie, who was not involved in the study.

“So these were — unlike the ones from Mongolia — animals that were capable of running much faster,” he told AFP.

- Egg thief, or not? -

The first Oviraptor fossil was described in 1924 and was named the “egg thief” because it was found on top of a nest of eggs, and paleontologists assumed it was eating them.

In the 1990s, the same type of fossil egg was found with a baby Oviraptor inside, suggesting that the earlier examples were not raiding nests but were parents, protecting their own eggs.

Currie said he still believes, however, that other dinos’ eggs were a part of Anzu’s diet, based on the shape of its jaws, which had a hollow that was sized just right for an egg and protrusions on the roof for crushing it.

Since dinosaurs only laid eggs at certain times, Anzu wyliei — which was distantly related to the T. rex — likely ate other creatures, too.

“They are also well-adapted for nipping the heads off mammals and birds and things like that,” Currie said.

The latest findings portray a creature double the size of those found in older rock beds, a trend also seen in T. rex and Triceratops, which by the end of the dinosaur age were also the largest of their kind.

“Dinosaur diversity was going down, and at the same time we ended up with more specialized animals in a lot of ways, and they ended up being the biggest animals in each of their lineages,” said Currie.


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« Reply #289 on: Mar 24, 2014, 07:15 AM »

Kosovo restaurant bears: castrating one to save them from captivity– video

Wild world with Patrick Barkham
the Guardian
03/24/2014

Wild bears are still exploited in central Europe, taken from the wild as cubs and often kept in appalling conditions. Patrick Barkham travels to Kosovo, where the Four Paws charity has rescued bears kept in cages at restaurants as entertainment for diners. They are now being cared for at a sanctuary, where vets hope to treat the physically and mentally scarred bears, and where one is castrated to prevent him from breeding and perpetuating the problem of bears in captivity

Click to watch: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2014/mar/24/kosovos-restaurant-bears-castrating-save-video
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« Reply #290 on: Mar 26, 2014, 05:31 AM »


Danish zoo that killed Marius the giraffe puts down four lions

Copenhagen zoo says it has euthanised two old lions and two cubs to make way for a new male

Agence France-Presse in Copenhagen
theguardian.com, Tuesday 25 March 2014 15.13 GMT   
   
A Danish zoo that prompted international outrage by putting down a healthy giraffe and dissecting it in public has killed two lions and their two cubs to make way for a new male.

"Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves," Copenhagen zoo said.

The 10-month-old lions would have been killed by the new male lion "as soon as he got the chance", it said.

The four lions were put down on Monday after the zoo failed to find a new home for them, a spokesman said. All four were from the same family.

He said there would be no public dissection of the animals since "not all our animals are dissected in front of an audience".

Within a few days the new male will be introduced to the zoo's two female lions, who have reached breeding age.

The zoo's chief executive, Steffen Straede, said: "The zoo is recognised worldwide for our work with lions, and I am proud that one of the zoo's own brood now forms the centre of a new pride of lions."

Last month the zoo's scientific director, Bengt Holst, received death threats over the decision to kill an 18-month-old giraffe, Marius, who was put down with a bolt gun before children were allowed to watch his body being chopped up, dissected and fed to lions.

The move shocked thousands of animal lovers around the world who had signed an online petition to save him. The zoo said on its website it had no choice but to prevent the animal attaining adulthood since under European Association of Zoos and Aquaria rules inbreeding between giraffes is to be avoided.

Many Danes were surprised and even angered by the international reaction to the event, with a leading expert on the ethics of the treatment of animals decrying the "Disneyfication" of zoo creatures.


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« Reply #291 on: Mar 26, 2014, 10:26 AM »

Long-Running Conspiracist Fears Still Fuel Anti-Wolf Sentiments In Mountain States

By David Neiwert
March 26, 2014
RawStory

Sentiment against the big canine predators in places like Idaho and Montana, especially among cattlemen, often borders on sheer rage.

To say that there is deep local antipathy to federal wolf recovery efforts in many of the Mountain West states where biologists are attempting to revive the endangered species would be an understatement. Sentiment against the big canine predators in places like Idaho and Montana, especially among cattlemen, often borders on sheer rage.

That has translated, politically, into a situation where lawmakers in Idaho recently approved $400,000 in funding to kill as many as 500 of the state’s estimated population of 650 wolves, leaving as few as ten breeding pairs. The bill was promptly signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter, who has made loathing of wolves a centerpiece of his political image.

Much of the antipathy is predicated on old-fashioned fear about wolves, particularly given their predilection for preying on livestock and family pets in areas where humans inhabit their range, not to mention the potential threat they represent to human life. But there is also a political element, particularly in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, that is fueled by far-right antigovernment paranoia and conspiracy theories.

Wolf recovery efforts are frequently depicted as the imposition of the “New World Order” on residents of the rural areas where the creatures roam. A number of far-right outlets, including the John Birch Society’s magazine and the conspiracist website World Net Daily, have run pieces describing how wolf recovery is a key component of a plot by radical environmentalists on behalf of the United Nations to destroy private property rights in America. In the Mountain West, holding such views is not uncommon.

It was while I was covering a Tea Party event in western Montana, in fact, that I first encountered this melding of conspiracy theory paranoia about wolves and far-right political dogma. Several speakers at the event described how wolf-recovery efforts in the region were part of a United Nations-derived plot to control their lives and destroy their property and gun rights, and a booth at the event handed out literature describing the conspiracy.

When militias were first organizing in Idaho and Montana in the early to mid-1990s, much of the anti-government sentiment that drove recruitment revolved around resentment for the just-instituted wolf recovery efforts.

“It was seen as direct government intervention into their way of life and telling them what they had to put up with and what they couldn’t shoot,” recalls Amaroq Weiss, Wolf Recovery Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization that has filed numerous lawsuits over the years to prevent the wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. “So this goes way back. The wolf has always been a surrogate for hatred for the federal government in the areas where the reintroductions took place.”

Sure enough, the conspiracy theorists who fueled the Patriot movement’s militia organizing in the 1990s also used wolf recovery as a recruitment tool. Bob Fletcher of the Militia of Montana was fond of telling audiences in the 1990s that the wolves’ reintroduction was a predicate to the elimination of private property rights, the culmination of which would be the construction of concentration camps in the Northwest woods to incarcerate formerly gun-owning Americans.

The John Birch Society’s house organ, The New American, published an article in 2001 more or less outlining this same conspiracy: “Simply put, the ‘wolf recovery’ program is a form of environmental terrorism. Thus while the U.S. government is working through the UN to fight a war against terrorism abroad, it is collaborating with UN-linked environmental radicals to wage an eco-terrorist campaign against rural property owners here at home.”

Likewise, World Net Daily’s conspiracy peddler in chief Joseph Farah chimed in: “Just because your particular ox is not being gored by these wolves, your turn is coming. Believe me. If western ranchers don’t have any property rights, guess what? Neither do you – no matter where you live. And they’ll be gunning for you soon enough.”

Even an ostensibly “mainstream” organization like Idaho For Wildlife recently featured an anti-wolf recovery screed about the United Nations and the New World Order.

The embodiment of the extreme nature of these sentiments came this winter when a group of men wearing Klan-like hoods posed with the corpse of a freshly killed wolf and an American flag and then posted it on Facebook. The page that published the picture belonged to a couple of Wyoming outfitters, who later explained that they were harkening back to Western vigilantism: “Trying to make a statement!…Frontier Justice! Wyoming hunters are fed up!”


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« Reply #292 on: Mar 27, 2014, 05:06 AM »


No joy in new pride - Copenhagen zoo defends culling lions

Controversial zoo attacked for killing healthy giraffe and feeding it to the lions now culls two big cats and two cubs

Associated Press in Copenhagen
theguardian.com, Wednesday 26 March 2014 19.10 GMT      

A Danish zoo has defended its decision to kill two ageing lions and two cubs, citing the risk of inbreeding and the arrival of a new male.

This week's cull has again put the Copenhagen zoo on the defensive, a month after it infuriated animal rights activists by killing a healthy giraffe, dissecting it in public and feeding it to the lions.

In a statement, the zoo said it had to put down the lions to make room for the new, nearly three-year-old male, saying it would not have been accepted by the pride if the older male – aged 16 – were still around.

"Furthermore we couldn't risk that the male lion mated with the old female as she was too old to be mated with again due to the fact she would have difficulties with birth and parental care of another litter," the zoo said.

The cubs were also put down because they were not old enough to fend for themselves and would have been killed by the new male lion anyway, officials said.

Zoo officials hope the new male and two females born in 2012 will form the nucleus of a new pride.

They said the culling "may seem harsh, but in nature is necessary to ensure a strong pride of lions with the greatest chance of survival".

In February, the zoo faced protests and even death threats after it killed a two-year-old giraffe, citing the need to prevent inbreeding.

This time the zoo was not planning any public dissection. Still, the deaths drew protests on social media, including an online petition with nearly 50,000 signatures on Wednesday calling on the zoo to stop killing healthy animals.

Each year, thousands of animals are culled in European zoos for a variety of reasons. Zoo managers say their job is to preserve species, not individual animals.


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« Reply #293 on: Mar 30, 2014, 06:53 AM »


Animals 'live a good life' at Copenhagen zoo, where culling comes naturally

Copenhagen zoo caused horror when it killed a healthy giraffe and fed it to the lions. Now it has put down four lions. But staff and visitors say it's just doing what's needed to stop inbreeding

Richard Orange   
The Observer, Saturday 29 March 2014 16.26 GMT   

Even the first sunshine of spring is not enough to prevent the lion enclosure at Copenhagen zoo from looking forlorn. One female lion lounges on a branch basking in the rays, while the other lolls on the dusty ground beneath her. Otherwise the pen is empty.

"They're shifting around the pack a little – that's why those females are here alone," explains Martin, a young zookeeper passing by with a tray of fruit. "We have a new male lion in the holding facility and before we can introduce him to our females, they need to get comfortable."

He doesn't volunteer the fact that, as part of this process, the zoo on Monday slaughtered two older lions and two cubs. But when it's brought up, he's unapologetic.

"It's a necessary part of keeping a healthy population," he shrugs. "Because we don't bring in animals from the wild any more, we need to do this."

On Monday, when the zoo announced that it was putting down the four lions, it argued that if it hadn't, the new male would have done the job himself in a much bloodier fashion.

"The new male in the pride would have killed the immature males as soon as he got the chance," the statement read.

That's not all. The two older lions would have fought with the new male, and the older males would have killed any cubs fathered by the new male.

"This may, of course, seem harsh, but in nature it is necessary to ensure a strong pride of lions with the greatest chance of survival," the zoo explained. It said it had tried and failed to find another institution willing to take the animals and this, along with the risk that the elder male might also impregnate his two daughters, left it with little choice.

"The zoo is recognised worldwide for our work with lions," chief executive Steffen Stræde concluded in the statement. "I am proud that one of the zoo's own brood now forms the centre of a new pride of lions."

Since February, when the zoo put down a healthy giraffe called Marius, dissected it in front of children and then fed the carcass to the lions, Stræde and his scientific director, Bengt Holst, have faced intense criticism from animal rights activists.

Online petitions to save the giraffe, sack Holst and even close the zoo have gathered tens of thousands of signatures across the world.

"We have all had some hate mail and death threats and other nastiness," Carsten Grøndahl, one of the zoo's vets, says when he is stopped while riding his bicycle past the llamas. "But that's all emotional, and you can't argue with emotions."

"We have a low profile now," says Mette Nyborg, another zookeeper, when asked about future dissections. "There has been too much bad attention."

In Denmark, however, at least judging by the 10 or so families at the enclosure on Friday, almost everyone seems to support what the zoo has been doing.

"It's totally OK," says Mette Brendstorp, who is visiting with her daughters, aged two and four. "If you talk about what's cruel, it's wanting to go to the zoo and look at all the animals, and then getting hysterical when the zoo takes responsibility to ensure that there is no inbreeding."

She wholeheartedly approves of the zoo's decision to dissect the giraffe.

"I'm a schoolteacher and I wouldn't blink twice about bringing my fifth grade class to see a dissection. They are not seeing it being killed; they are just seeing it being cut open."

Irene Kyhl, who is visiting the zoo with her grandson, argues that the public should trust the experts. "The people in the zoo are in the best position to know what to do," she says.

Even her four-year-old grandson accepts it. "Maybe it's OK if there is going to be a new dad for the lions," he says, shyly.

"The public is very supportive," Martin, the young zookeeper, tells me. "They see that we have good intentions and we generally have very broad acceptance of the work that we do."

Grøndahl himself didn't put down either Marius or the four lions – that job went to his colleague Mads Bertelsen. But he cheerfully admits to having put to death countless antelopes, a "surplus" zebra, and even an elephant.

"It was a really high dose," he says of the elephant, which had been suffering from arthritis. "She weighed three tonnes, so it took a lot of drugs."

Grøndahl believes that the uproar over the zoo's practices, which it had been quietly following without criticism for many years, has come about because people are now too distanced from the natural world. "It's because we're far from nature now," he says. "I think that people don't realise that the meat they buy in the supermarket was once an animal."

It's clear from the educational material around the enclosures that the zoo wants the public to understand nature's harsher side. In the Arctic Ring, where from the safety of an underwater tunnel the public can watch hulking polar bears swimming by inches above them, there's a seal-killing game for children.

"Imagine you are the polar bear. Try to catch the seal when it comes up to breathe," read the instructions, next to an image of a hole in the ice.

If you press the button at the very moment when the seal's face appears, it is replaced by a spatter of blood.

In the next-door exhibit, the face of a polar bear dissolves at the press of a button to reveal the skull (presumably a real one) lying in a glass case beneath.

Grøndahl believes that it's good that the zoo is helping to give the public a better understanding. "You shouldn't Disney-fy everything under the sun, and think that animals do not have a life expectancy," he argues.

The animals living at Copenhagen zoo are, he argues, fortunate in many ways. "They have a good life," he says of the handful of young male antelopes he puts down every year. "It's not a very long one, but it's good, and in the wild they probably wouldn't live even that long. They have nice surroundings. I think they're happy. And they do not hear the gun go off."


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« Reply #294 on: Mar 31, 2014, 06:15 AM »


Japan told to halt Antarctic whaling by international court

Judge rules that Japanese whaling program is not scientific and that it failed to justify the number of minke whales it kills

Justin McCurry in Osaka
theguardian.com, Monday 31 March 2014 11.30 BST      

The International Court of Justice has ordered a temporary halt to Japan's annual slaughter of whales in the southern ocean after concluding that the hunts are not, as Japan claims, conducted for scientific research.

The UN court's decision, by a 12-4 majority among a panel of judges, casts serious doubt over the long-term future of the jewel in the crown of Japan's controversial whaling programme.

It also marks a dramatic victory for the Australian government, whose four-year campaign to ban the hunts rested on whether it could convince the court that Japan was using scientific research as a cover
for commercial whaling.

In its 2010 application to the court, Australia accused Japan of failing to "observe in good faith the zero catch limit in relation to the killing of whales".

Under the International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban on commercial whaling, Japan was permitted to kill a certain number of whales every year for what it called scientific research.
 
The sale of meat from the hunts in restaurants and supermarkets, while not illegal, prompted accusations from Australia and other anti-whaling nations that Japan was cloaking a commercial operation "in the lab coat of science".

In a lengthy ruling, the presiding judge in the Hague, Peter Tomka, said Japan had failed to prove that its pursuit of hundreds of mainly minke whales in Antarctic waters every winter – under a programme
known as Jarpa II – was for scientific purposes.

"The evidence does not establish that the programme's design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives," Tomka said.

"The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with Jarpa II are not for purposes of scientific research," he added, before ordering
Japan to cease its whaling programme "with immediate effect".

Campaigners welcomed the ruling. "This is an historic decision which lays to rest, once and for all, the grim travesty of Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling and exposes it to the world as the blatant
falsehood it clearly is," said Clare Perry, head of the cetaceans campaign at the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

"With this ruling, Japan must clearly cease its whaling activities in the Antarctic."

The court ruled that Japan had not complied with its obligations covering scientific research as set out in article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Japan, though, had maintained that its annual slaughter of 850 minke whales and up to 50 endangered fin whales every year was necessary to examine the age, health, feeding habits, exposure to toxins and other characteristics of whale populations, with a view to the possible resumption of sustainable commercial whaling.

Officials in Tokyo said the data could not be obtained through non-lethal methods.

Tomka, however, said Japan had not offered sufficient scientific justification for the slaughter of a large number of minke whales, while failing to kill enough fin and humpback whales to be of any
scientific value. It had also failed to explore the possibility of gathering certain scientific data without resorting to killing the mammals, he added.

In its defence, Japan cited only two peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to its program from 2005 to the present, during which it has harpooned 3,600 minke whales, a handful of fin whales, and no humpback whales.

Tuesday's decision, though, leaves room for Japan to revamp its whaling programme to meet an international whaling treaty's requirements for scientific whaling. And it does not mean the end to all whaling. Japan hunts a much smaller number of whales in the northern Pacific, while Norway and
Iceland continue to kill whales for their commercial value, in defiance of the IWC ban.

Japan has slaughtered more than 10,000 whales since the IWC moratorium came into effect, according to the Australian government.

Japan had questioned the court's right to rule on the case, but said before the ruling that it would accept its verdict. The court's judgements are binding and cannot be appealed. Monday's ruling is unlikely to have much impact on the Japanese public, whose appetite for whale meat has declined dramatically since the immediate postwar period.

In recent years, stocks of whale meat have remained unsold, with almost 4,600 tonnes stored in port freezers at the end of 2012, according to Japanese government statistics. Campaigners said they hoped the verdict would result in a permanent end to Japan's whaling programme in the southern ocean.

"The myth that this hunt was in any way scientific can now be dismissed once and for all," said Willie MacKenzie, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK. "We urge Japan to abide by this decision and not
attempt to continue whaling through any newly invented loopholes."


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« Reply #295 on: Apr 01, 2014, 06:29 AM »

Michigan firefighter rescues 6-foot-long python from second story of burning building

By Scott Kaufman
RawStory
Monday, March 31, 2014 13:57 EDT

A Michigan firefighter is being praised for running into a burning building to save a 6-foot-long python.

On Sunday, firefighter Scott Hemmelsbach was asked to enter a two-story, smoked-filled house and rescue the python from a terrarium. The house’s owner “was asking all the firefighters if anyone would go in and rescue the snake, but no one wanted anything to do with it. They looked at me and said, ‘Would you do it?’”

Hemmelsbach had had some experience dealing with large reptiles — he had learned how to handle them for presentations to elementary school students while attending Grand Haven High School — but he wasn’t prepared for what he found upon entering the second-floor living room.

“It was trying to crawl up the side of his terrarium and get out. His face was pushed up on the screen and trying to get out. There was a lot of smoke and he was trapped,” he told The Muskegon Chronicle.

“I removed the screen off the top and knew to approach it by coming up behind his head. He became very active, and I was glad because that meant that he was OK.”

“With my left hand,” he continued, “I secured his head and then I just scooped him up with my right arm and cradled him in my chest and took him over to Canteen 450 where there was a very happy reunion.”

“I would do it for any creature,” he said. “I’m just glad it had a happy ending.”


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« Reply #296 on: Apr 02, 2014, 06:19 AM »

New study claims to solve mystery that baffled Darwin: How did zebras get their stripes?

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 6:48 EDT

Zebras have stripes to deter the tsetse and other blood-sucking flies, according to a fresh bid to settle a debate that has raged among biologists for over 140 years.

Since the 1870s, in a dispute sparked by the founders of evolutionary theory Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, scientists have squabbled over how the zebra got its trademark look.

Are its stripes for camouflage, protecting the zebra with a “motion dazzle confusion effect” against hyenas, lions and other predators in the savannah?

Do the stripes radiate heat to keep the zebra cool?

Or do they have a social role — for group identity, perhaps, or mating?

But a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, says the strongest likelihood is that the stripes discourage parasitic flies.

The finding was intriguingly thrown up by lab experiments in 2012 that showed how blood-feeding flies shun stripey surfaces and prefer instead to land on uniform colors.

Researchers led by Tim Caro of the University of California at Davis, say there is no black-and-white answer to the Great Stripe Riddle — but the insect theory is by far the best bet.

“A solution to the riddle of zebra stripes, discussed by Wallace and Darwin, is at hand,” they write.

The team found a strong geographical overlap between zebras and the two groups of biting flies, Tabanus and Glossina, that feed on equid species, which explains why zebras would need a shield against this pest.

There is also plenty of indirect evidence, they say.

Other equid species, such as wild horses, are far more likely to be plagued by biting insects.

Researchers find comparatively little blood from zebras in tsetse flies, even though the zebra has a thin coat with hair strands that are shorter and finer than those of giraffes and antelopes.

At the same time, zebras are far less susceptible to sleeping sickness, a tsetse-borne disease that is widespread among other African equids.

The correlation between reduced biting-fly nuisance and stripes is “significant,” says the study.

“Conversely, there is no consistent support for camouflage, predator avoidance, heat management or social interaction hypothesis.”

Parasitic flies can hand on a range of diseases when they bite their prey, and their appetite can be enormous.

Experiments with horse-flies carried out in the United States found that cows can lose between 200 and 500 cubic centimeters (0.4 and 1.05 pints) of blood per day to the insects, and as much as 16.9 kilos (37.2 pounds) in weight over eight weeks.


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« Reply #297 on: Apr 03, 2014, 06:36 AM »

Texas couple claims to have caught a ‘chupacabra’

By Arturo Garcia
RawStory
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 22:12 EDT

An East Texas couple claimed to have captured the mythical “chupacabra,” though it is most likely a more common animal.

KAVU-TV reported on Tuesday that the “strange animal” has been living in a small cage in Jackie Stock’s backyard since her husband trapped it in the backyard of their home in Ratcliff. The couple has been feeding it cat food and corn while waiting to determine what it actually is.

“He called me to come and look, and I said, ‘Bubba that looks like a baby chupacabra,’” Stock told KAVU.

But the small, hairless animal appears to in fact be a hairless raccoon. Encounters similar to the Stocks’ have been reported in Florida, Kentucky, and elsewhere in Texas in recent years.

However, at least one Ratcliff resident, Arlen Parma, was apparently convinced the couple’s odd visitor was in fact the goat-killing, blood-sucking beast of urban legend.

“I hunted coons for 20 years with dogs,” Parma told KAVU. “I ain’t ever seen anything that looks like that right there.”


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« Reply #298 on: Apr 07, 2014, 05:03 AM »

Florida woman arrested for torturing, killing animals for fetish videos

By Tom Boggioni
RawStory
Saturday, April 5, 2014 21:04 EDT

A Florida woman, already in custody for violating probation, is facing an additional forty years in prison after police turned up animal torture fetish videos she appeared in where she decapitated live chickens and killed rabbits while engaging in sex acts.

According to the Miami Herald, Sara Zamora, 28, was arrested on eight felony counts of animal cruelty for her feature role in a video called “SOS Barn” that showed her and other porn actresses “torturing and killing a wide variety of animals, including chickens, rabbits and more for the sexual gratification of its viewers.”

The snuff or ‘crush’ video was filmed at the South Miami-Dade home of Adam Redford, who is listed as a co-defendant.

Redford is already on probation for a similar animal cruelty case but has yet to be charged in this most recent case.

Saying he knew nothing about Zamora’s case, Redford said, “I haven’t seen or talked to her in close to a year.”

Police were tipped off to the videos by animal rights group PETA, with director of cruelty cases for PETA, Stephanie Bell, calling the arrest, “Excellent news. We have been waiting for this.”

In one video clip, police said Zamora groped a man’s genitals with her left hand while “repeatedly cutting a chicken’s neck using hedge clippers with her right.”

In others, she posed “in a sexy outfit” after hacking off the head of another screaming bird, beat chickens to death with a wooden stick and karate-chopped the necks of several rabbits whiled they howled in pain, before confessing to killing them.

Zamora had been on probation on two separate cases, on charges including grand-theft with a firearm, credit card fraud, possession of a fictitious driver’s license and cocaine possession, but had been taken into custody after failing a probation mandated drug test.

If convicted on the animal cruelty charges, she could face up to five years in prison on each count.


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« Reply #299 on: Apr 07, 2014, 05:45 AM »


Irish farmer claims to have bred goat-sheep hybrid, or 'geep'

Paddy Murphy says unusual-looking animal was born after he noticed goat mating with his sheep on farm in County Kildare

Press Association
theguardian.com, Friday 4 April 2014 18.35 BST   

An Irish farmer who claims to have bred a cross between a sheep and a goat is launching a charity competion to find a name for the rare creature.

Paddy Murphy, who also runs a village pub in Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare, has been overwhelmed by the interest after a YouTube video of his new arrival went viral.

The hybrid – sometimes referred to as a geep or a shoat – is believed to be extremely unusual.

Murphy said he delivered the animal late at night, and it was only the next morning that he realised it was a bit different.

"I only have white-faced Cheviot sheep, and when this one came out it was black," he said.

"That sometimes happens. But the next morning I said to myself this isn't a lamb at all, it's more like a goat."

He added: "It was moving a bit too quickly for a lamb, its legs were very long and he even has horns like a goat."

Murphy said he had noticed a goat mating with his sheep on the mountainside but assumed nothing would come of it.

A video by the Irish Farmers Journal posted on YouTube has reached more than 16,000 hits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQmJoxuSTcI&list=PLUJkD5jLPKsulLNHCdBK-_CVij-zThIJs

Murphy said he was hoping to raise money for a sick child in the village with a competition for the best name for his young geep.

And he has invited scientists to come to his farm to prove the rare cross-breed. "I have no interest in that side of it at all, but if someone wants to come and do tests they are welcome," he said.

Similar crossings have been reported before in Chile, Jamaica, Malta and Botswana, where scientists found that a hybrid – known as the Toast of Botswana – had 57 chromosomes, a number in between that of sheep and goats.

In most cases the offspring are stillborn.


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