It's World Dog Day, let's think about the whole dog
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
By: Kati Loeffler
Posted: Tue, 08/26/2014
Dogs need freedom to keep body and soul together: the freedom to move, to meet friends, to avoid non-friends, to choose where to rest, to greet loved ones, to go to the toilet away from where one eats and sleeps. On a hot, dusty afternoon in South Africa last spring, a man approached our mobile veterinary clinic with five dogs radiating on bits of rope and chain from his hand like so many spokes on a wheel.
The man settled in the shade of a little tree and patiently waited his turn. Four of the dogs settled down with him. They were plump and shiny and panted gently as they watched the chaotic queue of people and dogs and cats and puppies and children bouncing everywhere.
The fifth dog couldn’t settle.
He strained at his chain, lunged and twisted and barked at everyone and everything. He was a tall, athletic dog, but very thin and mangy and his fur dry and patchy.
He was clearly stressed out of his mind.
When the man’s turn came, he explained that he had recently acquired this frenetic dog from someone who wanted to abandon him. He was worried that the dog was not eating well and had bitten people and other dogs.
The other four dogs had come along just to keep the family whole on this excursion, and for us to see how well they looked: the man was proud of how well he took care of his dogs.
He worked as a night security guard at a school, and his dogs went with him to his job. While he spoke, he stroked them in turn, and they blinked and panted and returned his affection with their soft, brown gaze. But the new dog whom he had saved from abandonment couldn’t be stroked: he was too restless and jumpy.
The man explained that the dog had been chained at his previous home, and he kept him chained now because he was so “crazy”.
He was only a young dog, just a year or two.
The man asked if he was possessed?
Perhaps an angry neighbor had put a curse on the dog for barking too much?
We frequently need to dispel superstitions about animals in our work around the world, but in a way, yes, it was a curse.
It was the curse of perpetual chaining.
This young, gorgeous animal was being driven out of body and mind by restriction of one of the most fundamental things that any creature - dog, human, hedgehog, parakeet, wombat, kudu, whale, butterfly and everything in between needs to keep body and soul together: the freedom to move, to meet friends, to avoid non-friends, to choose where to rest, to greet loved ones, to go to the toilet away from where one eats and sleeps.
Living permanently on the end of a chain or in a cage takes away all of an animal’s choices for the most basic decisions, natural behaviors and social needs that we take for granted.
Boredom, isolation, lack of exercise, the elimination of all choices, restriction from the opportunity to interact with the world.
This is what we do to dogs when we chain or cage them.
Taking the dog for exercise and play is as important as feeding her. Moreover, a dog is built to move – particularly a young dog, and one built like our thin, frantic friend.
They must run and play and work their muscles hard.
If they can’t, their minds can’t work properly, just like a child who doesn’t get enough exercise can’t concentrate in school. Add to this the incessant frustration of not being able to do any of the other things that a dog needs to do, and we end up with a mad dog who can express his frustration only by biting and barking and straining at the tether.
He isn’t a “bad” dog.
He isn’t inherently crazy.
He isn’t cursed.
This problem isn’t restricted to dogs who are chained in a dusty shanty town in Africa.
I see it all over the world – from American suburbia to urban China – where dogs are confined to long, lonely, boring days in the house or chained to a stake in the yard while the owners are away at work.
They wait all day for the moment that we return home and take them to the park to run and run and run and play, and to do that with us.
We are their Person, their Pet Human, the Most Important Thing in their World.
We owe them this daily time for exercise and play for what they bring to our own lives, and as responsible and humane guardians of animals.
Taking the dog for exercise and play is as important as feeding her.
So, we did what we do – we looked beyond the immediate problems of bad skin and poor appetite, and looked at the whole dog.
We helped the lovely man with his five dogs fix the fence around his house, and then he removed the thin dog’s chain. We dewormed and vaccinated the dog as standard measures of preventive health care, but he didn’t need any drugs for his skin. His skin would heal as his mind healed.
We also neutered him, which of course is essential for the dog to want to stay home rather than to go out chasing estrous-fragrant lady-dogs all over the county and getting hit by cars and fighting with other boy dogs over said fragrant lady-dogs. In many areas of the world, a dog’s main job is to guard the home.
A neutered dog who is properly exercised and who is made to feel part of the family will stay home and look after that family with a loyalty and commitment that no high-tech alarm system can duplicate.
He or she can’t do that if s/he is chained and isolated and frustrated.
Every day, the man took his dogs into an empty lot in the township where they could run and play until they sank into happy exhaustion.
At home, the dog now mixed with the other four and soon behaved as part of the family. A month later, when I saw him for his booster vaccinations, the dog was filling out and his fur growing in thick and shiny.
His tongue lolled in a happy grin.
He was still very energetic, but this time when he lunged, it was to plant a big slurp on my face.
His Person stroked him and smiled.
Learn more about IFAW efforts for cats & dogs on our campaign page: http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/our-work/cats-and-dogs
Chartered flight brings rescued baby elephant “Ntubya” to Zambia orphanage
Sarah Davies, Public Relations Manager, Game Rangers International
By: Sarah Davies
Posted: Mon, 08/18/2014
"Ntubya" being fed in her travel crate as she arrives at Lilayi Elephant Nursery.Last Wednesday, an 18-month-old elephant calf, named “Ntubya” after the village in which she was rescued, safely arrived safely at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery.
People living in the remote village of Ntubya in Musungwa Chiefdom, bordering Kafue National Park, found her scared and alone after she had been sighted without her herd several times over the last three weeks.
They knew that she needed help and called the Zambia Wildlife Authority who asked the Elephant Orphanage Project to respond.
In this isolated area of Zambia, local residents have limited access to electricity or phone signal but they still managed to get a message out to help this little elephant. The team at the Kafue Release Facility travelled straight to Ntubya and found the calf severely emaciated and dehydrated. It is thought that she has been away from her mother for at least 2-3 weeks.
She is very weak and all our efforts are being concentrated on stabilising her condition.
Also on IFAW.org: On World Elephant Day in India, a “thumbs-up” for the elephants
A rescue mission like Ntubya’s could not have been possible without chartering a plane for which we have to thank Royal Air Charters.
We would also like to thank our partners the Zambia Wildlife Authority for veterinary support, the Millers of Lilayi Farm for logistical support and the communities of Ntubya in Musungwa Chiefdom.
Ntubya has a tough few weeks ahead of her...your support is key to upping her chances.
The Elephant Orphanage Project and Ntubya herself have a tough few weeks ahead of us.
She will be given 24-hour care and all of her medical and emotional needs attended to.
Your support is one of the keys to increasing Ntubya's chances. Donate now: https://www.ifaw.org/united-states/secure/donate/help-save-starving-orphan-elephant?ms=UONDF140820060&cid=701F0000000Razg
The Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) is a project of Game Rangers International, which works in close collaboration with the Zambia Wildlife Authority and is supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
VIDEO: Unheard stories of the unsung heroes working to save India's tigers
By: Sheren Shrestha
Posted: Wed, 07/23/2014
A tiger in the Kanha Tiger Reserve, one of the animals that Ram Singh Dhubre died protecting.
Every year a number of frontline staff lose their lives while protecting India’s natural heritage.
They often face better-armed poachers, and other threats including wild animals themselves.
To ensure the welfare of the guardians of the wild, IFAW-WTI runs a unique accident insurance plan for the frontline staff, providing them and/or their families quick relief in case of injuries or death on duty.
Also on IFAW.org: Death of elephant tusker Satao in Tsavo must not have been in vain
Around 20,000 frontline staff from over 23 Indian states are registered under this insurance plan, and since its launch in 2001, more than 110 families have gratefully received its benefits.
The video below tells the story of a family of one frontline staff member, Ram Singh Dhubre, who worked as a daily wage labourer with the Kanha Tiger Reserve Forest Department.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiW7ndkQH4c
Dhubre was killed in an accident on duty in December 2012 and his family was provided with relief from the insurance plan.
Your support helps keep this insurance program running, consider a donation to IFAW today.https://www.ifaw.org/united-states/secure/donate/support-ifaws-work?ms=UONDR140001013&cid=701F0000000RB6Z
A life of freedom for our six Russian tigers
Anna Fillipova, Campaigner, Russia
By: Anna Fillipova
Posted: Wed, 08/27/2014
When my work day starts, the first thing that I do is check where our released tiger cubs are. They are of course not tiger cubs any more, but independent adult tigers, however, I continue to think of them as babies, as a mother who thinks that her child is always a child.
Recently we received new information about Sparta: she is healthy and again gave birth to a litter cubs. She lives in a Swedish zoo called Norden Ark.As long as there are many tigers whom we helped to survive, let's talk about them one by one.
I will start with Sparta, it is a female tiger, who was rescued by IFAW in 2007. Altogether there were four tiger cubs. We did not have the large rehabilitation center available then, therefore it was not possible to reintroduce those tigers into the wild and they all had to go to different zoos.
Recently we received new information about Sparta: she is healthy and again gave birth to a litter cubs. She lives in a Swedish zoo called Norden Ark.
Let's now go back to our tigers who were a bit luckier and were able to go back into the wild.
The first of these tigers is Zolushka, who is now independently roaming the taiga for over a year.
At the beginning we were also tracking her movement with satellite collar. But one day it stopped transmitting the signal, which really concerned everyone who was involved in Zolushka's rescue. But in projects like this one, there are also backup elements.
By the time the collar stopped transmitting signal, Zolushka already established her territory, and it was highly likely she was not far from that area. Therefore with IFAW support, experts of Ecology and Evolution Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Special Inspectorate “Tiger” and Wildlife Conservation Society went to look for her tracks, and also continued trying to determine her location through the collar satellite tag.
It is important to note, that such a tracking requires high professionalism, good physical and field training.
Other widely used modern ways to study animals are trail cameras. These are cameras which are placed in locations where animals could pass. The camera is triggered by movement and takes pictures of everything within its range.
Such trail cameras with IFAW support were placed within the territory of Bastak Nature Reserve, where Zolushka was released.
Zolushka is hunting successfully: in the first days after her release she was hunting badgers, then she started to hunt larger animals – boars and deer. Experts found many of Zolushka's hunting and resting locations.
These two methods, tracking and trail cameras, provided us with large amount of data confirming that Zolushka successfully found a niche in her “new home”.
She learned to interact with other animals – bears, deer, wolves and lynxes. It is considered that wolves do not inhabit places where tigers live. But there already were wolves in the Bastak Reserve. It is interesting to see how the situation changes: if the wolves remain there, if they leave the area or their population will decrease considerably.
Zolushka is hunting successfully: in the first days after her release she was hunting badgers, then she started to hunt larger animals – boars and deer. Experts found many of Zolushka's hunting and resting locations.
Every Zolushka (Russian for Cinderella) must have a prince: our prince is called Zavetny. It is a strong adult male, who is very interested in Zolushka. Winter tracking showed, that Zavetny followed Zolushka's tracks more than once, and trail cameras placed him in locations which Zolushka visited before.
Earlier the male tiger only stopped by the Bastak territory, now he spends more time there. During the summer Zolushka must get stronger and we are hoping, that the second winter will be as successful for her as the first one. Everyone is waiting for even happier news with bated breath: what if after meeting the male tiger...?
But let us not rush things: Zolushka is quite young, let us wait...
When Zolushka was leaving the rehabilitation center, several other tiger cubs have already been there for several months: Ilona, Svetlaya, Ustin, Borya and Kuzya.
As well as for Zolushka, release of these tiger cubs is just the beginning.
Now we have to make sure that they are able to provide food for themselves and also avoid humans. All tigers were tagged with satellite collars and we are receiving data about their movement. As soon as the tigers moved away enough for the experts to follow their tracks without troubling the tigers, they started tracking. As satellite data allows only for guesses about successful hunts of our tigers, it has to be checked.
A team of staff members of Special Inspectorate “Tiger”, Russian Academy of Sciences and Wildlife Conservation Society implement post-monitoring of the five tigers.
Ilona was the most successful tiger in the first days of her new life. Remains of her meals of wild boar piglets and even an adult roe were found on her path.
No one could think that would happen, as Ilona was the tiger who did not want to leave the transportation cage!
Ilona and Borya remain not far from each other, they are systematically getting familiar with a territory of 40 by 40 km.
We were not able to find remains of Borya's prey, but his feces contained fur and bones of a boar.
Kuzya, while at the rehabilitation center, behaved as a more cautious tiger, but after the release he moved alone to explore further territories and within the first two months he moved over 200 km. At the beginning Kuzya made us all worried, as his movement could not signify successful hunts. But then remains of a very large boar were found.
This was the first large prey of Kuzya!
Ustin and Svetlaya, who were released within the territory of the Jewish Autonomous Region, at the beginning moved alongside, but then they moved somewhat away from each other. Ustin started to move far from the release location, while Svetlaya was gradually enlarging her territory, making larger and larger rounds.
None of these five tigers so far have come out to humans.
All project participants really hope, that these five tigers will have the same experience as Zolushka: successfully spending the winter and making their home in the taiga.
For more information about IFAW efforts to help save the last of the world's tigers, visit our campaign page.http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/our-work/saving-the-last-tigers
Experts dispute claim that panda faked pregnancy to get more bamboo
By Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian
Thursday, August 28, 2014 12:01 EDT
Claims that a six-year-old panda faked signs of pregnancy in order to receive better treatment from her conservation centre carers have been debunked by one of China’s leading panda experts.
China’s state newswire Xinhua reported on Tuesday that Ai Hin may have deliberately demonstrated tell-tale signs of panda pregnancy, including “reduced appetite, less mobility and a surge in progestational hormone”.
Pandas that staff believe to be expecting are given a single, air-conditioned room, as well as more buns, fruit and bamboo than non-pregnant pandas. “So some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life,” Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu research base of giant panda breeding, told Xinhua.
Yet Zhang Heming, director of the China research and conservation centre for the giant panda told the Guardian that Ai Hin’s behaviour was probably more of a hormonal issue than a deliberate ruse. “This phenomenon occurs in 10 to 20% of pandas,” he said. “After the mother panda is inseminated, if her health isn’t so good, the pregnancy will terminate, but she’ll still behave as if she’s pregnant.”
He continued: “This phenomenon also happens to wild pandas, if they don’t have enough bamboo to eat.”
The giant panda is one of the most endangered species on earth – about 1,600 live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of southwest China, according to Xinhua. About 300 live in captivity, and they’re notoriously bad at breeding – only about 24% of captive females give birth.
Pandas ovulate only once a year, and remain fertile for at most 36 hours. Determining pregnancy is complicated because of the size of the foetus – a typical newborn panda is only 1/900th the size of its mother.
Star panda off live broadcast after phantom pregnancy
English.news.cn 2014-08-26 01:59:55
CHENGDU, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- A celebrated giant panda was removed from a widely-anticipated live birth after it was discovered she was not actually pregnant.
The panda Ai Hin, 6, was scheduled to star in the world's first live broadcast of the birth of panda cubs, but the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Center told Xinhua Monday that the panda had a "phantom pregnancy."
Phantom pregnancy is common among the endangered bears. Non-pregnant pandas can exhibit prenatal behaviors as a result of progestational hormone changes. But experts said sometimes the pandas, noticing the difference in treatment after exhibiting initial signs of pregnancy, may carry on with the pregnant behavior.
"After showing prenatal signs, the 'mothers-to-be' are moved into single rooms with air conditioning and around-the-clock care. They also receive more buns, fruits and bamboo, so some clever pandas have used this to their advantage to improve their quality of life," said Wu Kongju, an expert at the Chengdu Base.
Ai Hin showed signs of pregnancy, including reduced appetite, less mobility and a surge in progestational hormone in July, but her behaviors and physiological indexes returned to normal after a two-month observation.
Ai Hin was born to panda Mei Mei in December, 2006 in Japan along with her twin brother. The twins quickly became star attractions and were returned to China in 2012.
There are only about 1,600 pandas living in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Sichuan, while about 300 are held in captivity in zoos worldwide. Most pandas in captivity are not good breeders. Only 24 percent of females in captivity give birth, posing a serious threat to the survival of the species.
Don’t bring exotic rainforest animals home, expert warns
By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 30, 2014 9:48 EDT
Thousands of parrots, monkeys, iguanas, toucans, turtles and other rainforest animals are kept as exotic pets in Costa Rica, a practice putting some species at risk, according to experts.
The Central American country, famous for its rich biodiversity, won plaudits from conservationists two years ago for banning sport hunting in a pioneering move to protect wild animals.
But scientists and activists — gathered this week for the country’s first-ever conference on the issue of captive wildlife — say tropical animals face another major threat in Costa Ricans’ long-time love of exotic pets.
“There are no precise figures, but we know it’s a problem of great magnitude, because a study by the environment ministry found that 25 percent of households have a parrot or a parakeet as a pet,” said Andrea Aguilar of the Instituto Asis, a key figure behind the conference.
That would add up to nearly 400,000 exotic birds in cages, she said.
Aguilar’s institute runs a shelter for wild animals in La Fortuna de San Carlos, a lush region in northern Costa Rica that draws large numbers of foreign tourists with its famous wildlife and tropical vegetation.
The shelter takes in wild animals kept as pets that fall sick or are wounded by people, cars or electric shocks.
It gives them veterinary care and, when possible, prepares them for an eventual return to the wild.
“Costa Rican law forbids keeping wild species as pets, but the law isn’t enough because there’s a very deep-rooted custom. People don’t realize that wild animals are not and cannot be pets,” Aguilar told AFP in an interview ahead of the First Congress on Wildlife Rescue, Recovery and Freedom in San Jose.
She said people have a range of reasons for keeping pets such as white-faced capuchin monkeys, green iguanas or songbirds. They are drawn to the animals’ beauty, they want to entertain their children or they feel it brings them social status.
But the underlying problem is that people are largely ignorant of the animals’ diets, growth, life span, habitat, diseases and behavior.
“A family falls in love with a baby white-faced capuchin because it’s funny and affectionate, but when it reaches two years old its behavior will change. It will become aggressive, bite and pull people’s hair. That’s when it becomes a problem at home,” she said.
Such animals often end up being mistreated or killed, or, with luck, in a shelter, she said.
By that point returning them to their native environment is difficult. They lack survival skills and are unlikely to be accepted by other members of their species.
- Traffic in exotic animals -
The international traffic in exotic animals exacerbates the problem.
The illegal $20-billion-a-year trade has taken a major toll on Costa Rica’s biodiversity, as animals are captured and sold abroad, Aguilar said.
One of the goals of the three-day conference is to prod the Costa Rican government to expand environmental education programs for locals, foreign visitors and ecotourism operators.
“It’s important to make people understand that wild animals have to live in the forest, because they have different needs from domesticated animals,” said Aguilar.
Protecting the environment is also key for the Costa Rican economy, which depends heavily on tourism and attracted 2.4 million visitors last year — many of them drawn by the country’s tropical wildlife and forests.
Japan's annual dolphin slaughter begins at Taiji cove
Bad weather could delay killing on first day of controversial six-month dolphin hunting season, official says
theguardian.com, Monday 1 September 2014 09.55 BST
The controversial six-month dolphin hunting season began on Monday in the infamous town of Taiji, but bad weather would delay any killing, a local official told AFP.
The annual catch, in which people from the southwestern town corral hundreds of dolphins into a secluded bay and butcher them, was thrust into the global spotlight in 2009 when it became the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.
“The dolphin hunting season started today and will last until the end of February,” said an official of the Taiji fisheries association, adding the season for hunting pilot whales, which also begins today, will last until April.
But bad weather on Monday meant there would be no hunting on the day, he said.
Environmental campaigners are already in situ to watch the hunt, the official said.
Last season, activists from international environmental group Sea Shepherd, who call themselves “Cove Guardians”, streamed live footage of the dolphin capture.
Earlier this year, the slaughter sparked renewed global criticism after US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy tweeted her concern at the “inhumaneness” of the hunt.
Defenders say it is a tradition and point out that the animals it targets are not endangered, a position echoed by the Japanese government.
They say Western objections are hypocritical and ignore the vastly larger number of cows, pigs and sheep butchered to satisfy demand elsewhere.
But critics of the practice say there is insufficient demand for the animals’ meat, which in any case contains dangerous levels of mercury.
They say the hunt is only profitable because of the high prices live dolphins can fetch when sold to aquariums and dolphin shows.
On Sunday around 30 people marched in Tokyo to protest the hunt, which they say sullies Japan’s reputation abroad.
Protest at controversial dolphin hunt leads to arrest of animal rights activists
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, August 31, 2014 10:45 EDT
Fourteen animal rights activists have been detained on the Faroe island of Sandoy in the North Atlantic while trying to stop a controversial dolphin hunt, their organisation said Sunday.
The activists were detained Saturday when attempting to save a pod of 33 pilot whales, members of the dolphin family, as the mammals were driven to shore to be killed by waiting hunting parties, according to environmental group Sea Shepherd.
“The 14 have been under arrest since Saturday, and three of our boats have also been seized,” Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France, told AFP.
Large numbers of pilot whales are slaughtered each year on the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark.
The method involves the mammals being forced into a bay by flotillas of small boats before being hacked to death with hooks and knives.
While many locals defend the hunt as a cultural right, animal rights campaigners have denounced it as a “brutal and archaic mass slaughter”.
The group detained on Saturday included six Sea Shepherd members on shore on Sandoy, and eight who were on three small boats near the island.
Sea Shepherd said a ship from the Danish Navy ordered the environmental organisation’s three boats to stand off and later seized the vessels.
A spokesman for the Danish Armed Forces’ Arctic Command, which is responsible for the Faroe Islands, said it was standard procedure for the Danish Navy to assist the Faroese police in its work. Faroese police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Those arrested were eight French citizens, two South Africans, two Spaniards, one Italian and one Australian, according to Essemlali.
After their arrest, the hunt went ahead and all 33 pilot whales were killed, according to Sea Shepherd.
- ‘Atrocity’ -
One of the boats seized on Saturday, B.S. Sheen, is sponsored by American actor Charlie Sheen, who said he was proud his vessel had taken part in trying to stop the “atrocity.”
“The Faroese whalers brutally slaughtered an entire pod of 33 pilot whales today — several generations taken from the sea — and Denmark is complicit in the killing,” Sheen said in a statement.
The demonstrators were taking part in an ongoing campaign in which hundreds of activists have pledged to patrol the waters around the Faroe Islands to block the killing of pilot whales.
The killings — known locally as “grinds” — have emerged as a prominent celebrity cause, with renowned ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem and former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson among the backers of Sea Shepherd’s campaign.
Since records began, more than 265,000 small cetaceans have been killed in the Faroe Islands, mainly between the months of June and October, according to Sea Shepherd.
It says that 267 pilot whales were killed in one grind last year near the Faroese town of Fuglafjorour.
Whaling in the Faroes stretches back to the earliest Norse settlements more than 1,000 years ago, and community-organised hunts date to at least the 16th century.
Charlie Sheen says Danish authorities are complicit in pilot whale ‘slaughter’
Actor had donated boat used by activists who were arrested after trying to save pod of 33 pilot whales in Denmark’s Faroe Islands
Australian Associated Press
theguardian.com, Monday 1 September 2014 03.58 BST
Hollywood star Charlie Sheen has criticised Danish authorities over the arrests of 14 anti-whaling activists in the North Atlantic.
Sheen donated one of three inflatable boats used by Sea Shepherd members to try to save a pod of 33 pilot whales being driven toward hunters on the Faroe island of Sandoy.
Eight activists on the water and six more on land were arrested and detained by Danish officials.
The boats were seized by the Danish navy.
Sheen accused the Danish authorities of being complicit in the “brutal slaughter”.
“I am proud that a vessel bearing my name was there and did all it could to try to stop this atrocity,” the Anger Management star said.
“The 40-foot Zodiac called the BS SHEEN that I donated to Mr [Sea Shepherd leader Paul] Watson’s tireless and heroic efforts, has been shamefully seized. This level of insidious and vicious corruption must be dealt with swiftly and harshly.”
Sea Shepherd claims one of the activists, Spaniard Sergio Toribio, was pulled from a car and assaulted while monitoring the hunt from land, suffering a broken finger.
Large numbers of the mammals are slaughtered each year on the Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark. The method involves the mammals being forced into a bay by flotillas of small boats before being hacked to death with hooks and knives.
Many locals defend the hunt as a cultural right, but animal rights campaigners have denounced it as a “brutal and archaic mass slaughter”.
Eight French citizens, two South Africans, one Australian, one Italian and a second Spaniard were arrested.
'Screaming' cat saves man from fire that gutted house in Melbourne
Craig Jeeves was woken up by his tabby, Sally, and managed to escape with only smoke inhalation injuries
Australian Associated Press
theguardian.com, Monday 1 September 2014 04.59 BST
Plucky pet cat saves his owner from his burning #Melbourne home - http://t.co/Ndoo4pa7sF
— 7NewsMelbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) September 1, 2014
A Melbourne man owes his life to his cat, Sally, after she woke him up as his house was burning down.
Thanks to the quick-thinking tabby, 49-year-old Craig Jeeves was alerted to the early morning fire in his Melbourne home and managed to escape.
“She jumped on my head and was screaming at me,” he told the Nine network.
A Country Fire Authority captain, Paul Spinks, said the owner was lucky to be alive. “The cat woke him up and he found the fire and proceeded to get outside,” Spinks said.
Fire crews found Jeeves in the bushes outside his Wandin North home.
He was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene and will be staying with neighbours until he is able to rebuild the property.
The home was gutted by the fire and Jeeves lost everything. “I’m happy to be alive but you can’t replace the memories,” he said.
Mexico baffled by sudden death of thousands of fish in Lake Cajititlán
Nearly 50 tonnes of popoche chub fish are latest incident of dead fish removed from lagoon in disastrous year for species
Jo Tuckman in Mexico City
The Guardian, Monday 1 September 2014 21.27 BST
Mexicans are baffled at the sudden death of thousands of fish in a lake in the centre of the country, a dramatic intensification of a problem that no one has yet been able to explain.
Nearly 50 tonnes of dead popoche chub fish were removed at the weekend from Lake Cajititlán, a lagoon in the central state of Jalisco.
Fishermen, firefighters, town hall workers and staff from the state agricultural ministry pulled hundreds of thousands of dead popoche chub fish from the lake and buried them in a pit.
The incident comes after of a series of smaller waves of dead popoche chub in the lake in recent months, including one last week, ensuring that 2014 is already by far the worst year for the species, which has been under attack for the past few years.
The authorities in the lakeside town of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, about 25 minutes' drive south of the city of Guadalajara, had previously blamed the deaths on "a cyclical phenomenon caused by temperature variations and the reduction of oxygen".
This weekend, the state's environment secretary, Magdalena Ruiz Mejía, ruled out natural causes and blamed "poor management of the body of water". She pointed to municipal waste water treatment facilities and promised a full investigation.
There have been complaints that a nearby tequila distillery is storing waste in containers that drain into channels that feed into the lake.
Victor Hugo Ornelas, a reporter from the Tlajomulco-based newspaper La Verdad, said it also appeared that fertilisers washed into the lake from surrounding cornfields during the rainy season could be a significant factor. The fertilisers appear to fuel the growth of algae near the surface, where the popoche chub swim.
"It is obvious that there are many sources of pollution around the lake," Ornelas said. "Fertiliser runoff in a particularly heavy rainy season could be the straw that is breaking the camel's back."
José Luis Castillo, who takes tourists around the lake in his boat, told the newspaper El Informador how the fish first attracted attention by swimming even closer to the surface than usual. "After that they died," he said. "Lots and lots have died this year."
The fish deaths are just the latest in a succession of incidents in which large numbers of creatures have been found dead in particular places, from sea lions in California to seabirds in Peru.
Indian court bans animal sacrifice
Rights activists hail Himachal Pradesh's decision to outlaw 'barbaric' slaughter of animals in Hindu temples
Agence France-Presse in Shimla
theguardian.com, Tuesday 2 September 2014 11.03 BST
A court in remote northern India has banned a long tradition of sacrificing animals for religious reasons, deeming the practice cruel and barbaric.
The high court in Himachal Pradesh has asked police and other officials to enforce its ban on the slaughter, mainly of goats in Hindu temples throughout the state.
"No person will sacrifice any animal in any place of worship. It includes adjoining lands and buildings," the two-judge bench of the court ruled late on Monday.
"A startling revelation has been made … thousands of animals are sacrificed every year in the name of worship," the court said.
"Sacrifice causes immense pain and suffering to innocent animals. They cannot be permitted to be sacrificed to appease a god or deity in a barbaric manner," it said.
The court also questioned the reasons for animal sacrifices, saying such rituals "must change in the modern era".
The court was ruling on a petition brought by animal rights activists, who applauded the move on Tuesday as long overdue.
"We welcome this ban on animal sacrifice as it will end centuries of cruelty to animals in the name of religion," local activist Rajeshwar Negi told AFP.
But state lawmaker Maheshwar Singh defended the practice, saying: "This judgment is against the age-old beliefs and customs of many people."
Goats and sometimes sheep are often sacrificed at the start of winter in temples across Himachal Pradesh with the aim of pleasing Hindu deities.
Animals are symbolically offered to the deity and later taken home by villagers and their guests for eating during the Himalayan state's bitterly cold winter.
Some of the sacrifices at festivals, including those of "shaand" and "bhunda", involve large numbers of animals killed using a knife at the entrance of the temples.
The dogs that conquered space
Humans were too risky, monkeys too fidgety, so the Soviet Union chose dogs as its first cosmonauts. It is a story of science, sacrifice and – for those that survived – sausage-filled celebrity
The Guardian, Tuesday 2 September 2014
A streamlined space rocket streaks across the starry sky on a packet of Soviet cigarettes, trailing triumphant slogans, while another spaceship soars past planets on a commemorative plate. The pointed nosecones of satellites sparkle on lapel badges and postage stamps, while further galactic adventures are enacted across the lids of biscuit tins. Produced in the USSR in the 1950s, this collection of memorabilia looks like any other haul of space-race propaganda – until you notice that something's not quite right. Instead of the usual heroic comrades peering from the spaceships' windows, chiselled jaws framed inside the bubble masks of their spacesuits, there are the furry faces of beaming dogs. It could be merchandise from a parallel universe in which our world is ruled by canine overlords.
"We were really struck by the utter surrealism of these images when we first saw them," says Damon Murray of Fuel, publisher of a new book that tells the unlikely story of the Soviet space dogs. "It's more fantastical than the wildest science-fiction comics. You couldn't come up with this stuff if you tried."
Emblazoned on sweet wrappers and matchboxes, postcards and handkerchiefs, the space dogs became cult figures in the Soviet Union of the 1950s and 60s, embodying the plucky spirit of the country's pursuit of space exploration. They appeared on TV and radio, their portraits printed in newspapers and magazines, while politicians queued to be photographed with them, as the first "space pop stars". But behind the scenes, their lives weren't quite so glamorous.
Scavenged from Moscow's backstreets, the stray mongrels were to be the guinea pigs of manned spaceflight, some of the first living creatures to be sent into orbit. Continuing a long tradition of experimenting with dogs, following Ivan Pavlov's work on conditioned reflexes in the 19th century, strays were selected for being naturally hardy. It was thought that their lives fending for themselves would have prepared them to tolerate the traumas of space flight better than domesticated hounds, and help them to stand up to the extreme stresses of weightlessness, cosmic radiation and high G-forces. Monkeys, although used in the American space programme, had been rejected by the Russians for being too emotionally unstable and fidgety. Placid, long-suffering dogs were to become an astronaut's best friend.
The "future space scouts", as they were known, had to be no heavier than 6kg (13lb), and no taller than 35cm (14in), just small enough to fit inside a rocket's nosecone, where they would be confined for days on end. They also had to be female, owing to bitches' calmer temperaments, and because there was no room in the cabin for male dogs to cock their legs (the tricky problem of excretion was handled by a special suction device built into the bespoke pressure-suits).
While it may seem obvious when you see them adorning posters and badges, it took some time for the Soviet space programme to cotton on to the PR potentials of dogs in spacesuits. At the launch of the second manufactured satellite, Sputnik 2, in 1957, the dog was merely listed as another item on board: "airtight container with an experimental animal (canine)," the press release stated, alongside, "air-conditioning system, food supply and research equipment for studying life functions in the conditions of outer space".
Derogatorily nicknamed Muttnik by the Americans, the first dog in space, Laika, became a national hero when she died in action, supposedly euthanised on her seventh day in orbit. In fact, she had suffocated a few hours after the launch, a state secret that was revealed only in 2002. She became something of a viral meme around the world, featured on the pages of Italian comics and Japanese spinning tops – and inspiring the name of a Finnish rock band and a UK indie group.
But not all onlookers were impressed. Celebrated as a martyr in the USSR, Laika was described as the "fuzziest, loneliest, unhappiest dog in the world" by a report in the Times. She stood as a symbol of the ruthless Soviet pursuit of technological progress over animal welfare.
Back home in the USSR, the scientists vowed never to let another dog die in space, and were quick to unveil the next heroes, Belka and Strelka, the cheerful dog duo who would captain the next orbital flight in 1960. After a live broadcast that showed them merrily spinning in zero gravity, they returned safely to a wave of affection, and all the sausages they could eat. Sent on tour in their neatly tailored spacesuits – one red, one green – and immortalised in porcelain figurines, their cheery valour masked the fact that the original team, Chaika and Lisichka, had died a month earlier, when their rocket exploded on the launchpad.
There would be at least six more dog flights before scientists were convinced space was safe enough for humans, but Belka and Strelka would remain beloved national celebrities, eclipsing their human peers. After their landing, Soviet schools even initiated lessons on how to be kind to stray dogs, while the price of mixed-breed puppies doubled. After all, any mongrel, if it wasn't too big, could become a cosmonaut.
Although the last dog flight took off in 1966, concluding around 50 such missions, space dog fever continues, with plans to erect a 5m-high (16ft) memorial in the town of Tomilino, near Moscow, at the site of the Zvezda plant, where the dogs' spacesuits were made. It will depict Belka and Strelka peering out together from inside a giant space helmet, atop a swooshing arrow, emblazoned with the letters USSR and crowned with stars.
The Russian space programme has now moved on to sending "gecko sexplorers" into orbit, to test the effects of zero gravity on reproduction. We can only guess what strange kinds of ephemera these might spawn.
Soviet space dogs – in pictures
On 3 November 1957, Laika became the first Earth-born creature to travel to space. Although she died a few hours after launch, subsequent canine travellers returned from their out-of-this-world missions alive. They became national heroes in the Soviet Union, with their images reproduced on everything from cigarette packets and sweet-tins and stamps to postcards. As the new book Soviet Space Dogs is launched, here’s a look at canine space explorers in Soviet pop culture
Click to view all these pictures: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2014/sep/02/soviet-space-dogs
Russia confirms death of five geckos on space sex mission
Alan Yuhas in New York
The Guardian, Monday 1 September 2014 20.23 BST
Russia’s space agency on Monday confirmed that five geckos, launched into space for an experiment on weightlessness and sexual behavior, have died.
The federal space agency released a statement saying the landing apparatus of the Photon-M satellite had returned to earth as planned, falling into Russia’s Orenburg region at 1.18pm Moscow time, and that the entire herpetological crew had perished at some point during their odyssey. With four female lizards and one male on board, Russian scientists had hoped to learn how zero gravity would affect the sexual habits of geckos.
A representative at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (ISTC), which participated in the experiment, explained to Russian news agency Itar-Tass simply said: “It’s still too early to talk about the geckos’ cause of death.” A source in a scientific commission involved later told the Interfax wire service that “According to the preliminary information, it became clear the geckos froze. Most likely, this happened due to a failure of the equipment meant to ensure the temperature of the box with the animals.”
He continued: “The geckos could have died at any stage of the flight, and it’s impossible to judge when based on the animals’ mummified remains.”
The space agency statement said simply that a “preliminary examination” found the geckos dead, and that “the date and conditions of their deaths will be determined by specialists”.
A source “who took part in securing the lander” told Interfax that “as usually happens in such instances, [the space agency] will soon appoint an emergency commission to find out these animals’ cause of death”.
An experiment with fruit flies was successful, the insects surviving and breeding, according to the space agency. The satellite also carried mushrooms and seeds, meant for tests related to gravity and radiation; all such biological material is being transported to labs for further inspection.
In July, Russia reported that it had lost contact with the satellite, and scientists were concernd that life-support systems could fail, leaving the geckos to die from hunger within three months, according to Interfax. A few days later, the space agency said it had re-established communications and that the experiment was back on track.
ISTC scientists told Itar Tass that loss of contact with the satellite should not have disturbed the animals’ support systems, and that geckos’ metabolisms, which are low relative to humans’, and sticky feet should counteract the effects of weightlessness.
Russia’s storied space program has had a troubled recent past, especially in the wake of poor relations with the US and Nasa. Two rockets have crashed and an Angora rocket launch was aborted since President Vladimir Putin’s May announcement that the government would invest $52bn in the space program.
Gerbils, newts, spiders, butterflies, snails and bacteria all successfully traversed the cosmos in 2007, when international scientists launched them from Russia for a set of 45 experiments.
Polar bear DNA from footprints in Arctic snow reveal bloody killing of seal
First of its kind CSI-style technique to gather genetic material from animals could help track plight of endangered species
theguardian.com, Tuesday 2 September 2014 15.52 BST
Trace DNA samples recovered from footprints in the Arctic snow have been used to reveal the bloody killing of a seal by a polar bear, which was joined by seagulls in devouring the corpse. It is the first time that genetic material from animals has been recovered from footprints, and the CSI-style technique is expected to prove a valuable tool in tracking the plight of endangered species. The method is cheaper, easier and crucially far less invasive than existing approaches which can involve capturing and anaesthetising wild animals.
A WWF expedition on Norway’s Svalbard islands high in the Arctic circle collected the snow in 10 footprints from one set of tracks made by a female polar bear. In the laboratory, the snow was melted and then filtered to collect skin cells from the tracks. The DNA in the cells was multiplied, allowing the identification of the animals and the reconstruction of the grisly scene.
“Probably the bear was eating the seal and there was then some blood on her footprints,” said Dr Eva Bellemain, project leader at Spygen, the company that has pioneered this new DNA analysis. “The gull was probably also feeding on the seal and may have defecated at the site. This footprint tells the whole story.”
The scientists are now finding molecular markers in the DNA which will allow them to identify individual bears. “We will be able to see how they use their territories and how they are related to one another,” Bellemain said. Just a single cell would be enough to give a result, she said.
Spygen, founded by molecular ecologists from the University of Grenoble, is using similar techniques to analyse other water samples to identify which fish and frogs are present in lakes and seas. “The gene can be a spy for us in finding the species from the samples,” said Bellemain.
The new footprint technique is to be used on other polar bear tracks from Canada and to track snow leopards elsewhere. DNA has been retrieved once before from a brown bear track, but the results have yet to be published. The scientists also hope to extend its use to footprints in mud. At this early stage, the scientists do not know how fresh the footprints must be to preserve DNA but other work on animal droppings shows that genetic material can resist degradation for six months in cold conditions.
“This method would be an invaluable tool for conservation biology,” says Arnaud Lyet of WWF. “At present, researchers use expensive, invasive techniques to track the population size and health of wildlife such as polar bears. Using footprint DNA, we could dramatically cut the investment required, so monitoring populations could be done more easily.” The Arctic is hostile, remote and rapidly changing, making it particularly challenging to get reliable information on polar bear populations, he said.
Polar bear numbers in key regions have been shown to be declining, but in many areas data is too scarce to know. Currently there are thought to be no more than 25,000 polar bears. In May, scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute told the Guardian that the proportion of polar bear females in Svalbard giving birth to cubs crashed to just 10% in 2014, following a series of warm years and poor sea ice.
*****************Quito summit is our chance to protect the polar bear by all means
This iconic species should be listed under the Convention on Migratory Species and specific protection measures agreed
theguardian.com, Tuesday 12 August 2014 13.07 BST
Last year I saw my first polar bear in the wild.
I was on board the polar research ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. The vessel, though under Russian command, had been hired by a Canada-based adventure-tourism company for its Arctic excursions. We were at breakfast when John, our rugged Australian expedition leader, told us over the ship’s public address system that a bear had been sighted on land. We were crossing the mouth of one of the westerly fjords of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
“Get your life jackets on,” he urged. “Gangway, 9am.”
Our Zodiac inflatables, each carrying 10 passengers, cruised parallel to the rocky coast. We looked at the bear and the bear looked right back at us. Once or twice, he lifted his head, half raising his torso, before lying down again.
“This bear’s doing what a bear is meant to do,” said our guide Cecilia. “He’s lying down, conserving energy. If you see polar bears walking around, that means they’re hungry and looking for food.”
About 3,000 polar bears live in Svalbard, out of an estimated worldwide total of 20,000. They need ice to survive — it’s where they find the seals that constitute their main food source. For the past couple of years, though, the ice, which in winter used to cover most of the sea around Svalbard, hasn’t arrived.
“You can’t be sure it’s down to global warming,” Cecilia said. “But the reality is that there are some very hungry bears around.”
Last month, the scientific council of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) gave its positive advice on a Norwegian proposal to list the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) under the convention. In the explanatory document, Norway observes that the polar bear is indeed a migratory species, falling within the ambit of CMS. Of the 19 subpopulations (spread out between five countries, at least eight directly overlap two or more national jurisdictions, thus qualifying them for protection under the CMS.
Norway points out that climate change is emerging as the most far-reaching and significant stressor on Arctic biodiversity, including polar bear populations. But contaminants also play a part. Many pollutants reach high levels in polar bears due to their high fat diet and high position in the food chain. A number of the organochlorine pollutants are lipophilic; that is, they are deposited in the fat of the animals that consume them. Because animals in the Arctic marine ecosystem are highly dependent on fat for storing energy, growth, insulation and buoyancy, these pollutants are rapidly accumulated progressively up the food chain.
In proposing the listing of the polar bear under the CMS, Norway argues that, given the pressures polar bears already face, it makes sense for the range states to agree, within the CMS framework, on some specific protection measures.
Increasing activities of Arctic industries, such as petroleum or increased shipping activities, have significant potential to place a further burden on subpopulations already weakened by the cumulative impacts of habitat destruction. As such, there is an urgent need to discuss mitigation of these impacts before they become entrenched and the solutions more difficult to find.”
Norway notes that in the Norwegian Arctic and Russia, polar bears are protected from all forms of harvest except problem or defence kills, although poaching is, apparently, a significant conservation issue in Russia. There is, however, a legal “harvest” of polar bears in Greenland, the US and Canada.
Some 600 of these bears enter each year into international trade. To the disappointment of many, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), at its last meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in March 2013, failed to agree on a ban on international trade in polar bear products.
The failure – for the time being - to agree measures in Cites does not, of course, preclude important action being taken under CMS now. Such measures might, inter alia, relate to habitat protection, or the regulation of shipping or the exploitation of resources such as oil, so as to minimise the impact on polar bear populations.
The 11th conference of the parties to the CMS (COP 11) will take place in Quito, Ecuador, at the beginning of November. The protection of polar bears is not, of course, the only major issue on the table. There are also important proposals for the protection of sharks and rays, and all species of sawfish, as well as lions, and the great bustard. There are also action plans to be approved for the Argali sheep, Pacific loggerhead turtle and the endangered Saker falcon.
Remembering as vividly as I do my Svalbard trip last year and those close encounters with polar bears (we saw five altogether) I have, of course, a particular interest in the Norwegian proposal. “Iconic” may be an overused word. But if the polar bear is not an iconic species, worth protecting by all means, I don’t know what is.
Stanley Johnson is an ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species. His new book, Stanley I Resume, will be published by Robson Books on 23 September.
**************Polar bear POV: videocam shows female hunting and finding a mate
US Geological Survey attached a camera to a bear in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to show how animals are coping with ice loss
theguardian.com, Saturday 7 June 2014 03.10 BST
The first ever film of life from a polar bear's point of view shows the animals hunting and courting.
The first video of life on Arctic sea ice from a polar bear point of view has been released by the US Geological Survey.
The agency on Friday released a clip recorded by a camera attached to the collar of a female polar bear without cubs in the Beaufort Sea north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
The necks of polar bear males are wider than their heads and collars slide off.
The clip shows the bear pursuing a seal under water, dunking a frozen seal into seawater and interacting with a male who might be a suitor.
The cameras are part of a study to find out how polar bears, listed as a threatened species, are responding to sea ice loss from global warming. Scientists in the Beaufort are generally limited to about six weeks of field work each spring, between the time it's light enough to work and before ice begins to break up.
"It's all information that we wouldn't be able to get otherwise," said Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS polar bear research program, from his office in Anchorage.
The collars were attached in April and collected eight to 10 days later as a test run of how they eventually will be deployed for longer periods. Cameras were attached to two bears in 2013, but the batteries could not handle Arctic temperatures, Atwood said.
Redesigned collars were attached to four females that already were going to be captured for blood samples on a study of behaviour and energy expenditure led by USGS research biologist Anthony Pagano.
The bears already carry collars with GPS recording data and accelerometers, an activity sensor that records whether a bear is resting, walking, swimming or hunting.
The USGS is part of the team that will draft a polar bear conservation plan to meet requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The law requires the plan to guide activities for polar bear conservation.
Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXuh_0u4leY