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Author Topic: For All Daemon Souls and Dog Lovers  (Read 18173 times)
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« Reply #435 on: Sep 13, 2014, 10:21 AM »

Posted in: Animal News Posted: September 13, 2014

Ground Zero Search Dog Now Uses Special Talents To Help Special Kids

Ground Zero search dog now helps special needs children.Ground Zero search dog now helps special needs children.

Meet Bretagne, a search dog with a very special gift. In the dark, depressed days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, those who rescued survivors and those who watched the horrific search at the World Trade Center often felt unspeakably devastated at the loss of so many lives. But Bretagne, who was then only 2-years-old, did more than search at Ground Zero. This intuitive search dog seemed to know when people were in emotional pain, her owner told Today on September 11.

The beautiful golden retriever search dog faithfully did the grim work of finding what she could. But she seemed to feel that her mission of helping included offering her love and healing powers to the living. This included, at one point, a firefighter seated on the ground, recalled her owner Denise Corliss of Cypress, Texas, who thought the firefighter looked annoyed.

“I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw,” Corliss said of her highly trained search dog. “She went right to that firefighter and laid down next to him and put her head on his lap.”

A veterinarian praised the search dogs at that scene for all that they contributed. While their physical attributes (keen eyes, trained noses, and determined paws) were essential, their unconditional love and furry, soothing presence meant just as much to the humans tasked with doing the difficult work.

Given the job of caring for 9/11 search dogs at Ground Zero, Dr. Cindy Otto praised what those dogs contributed.

“You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile,” Otto recalled. “Those (search) dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”

Although Bretagne continued to use her search dog skills in rescues throughout the nation, the golden retriever retired from that type of work when she turned 9. But now, at what is the equivalent of 93 human years, the former search dog has no intention of slowing down, reported Firehouse News on September 11.

Bretagne now helps children learn to read at a local elementary school. Just as determined as when she was a search dog at Ground Zero, the beautiful golden retriever proudly wears her service vest and helps children with special needs learn to read out loud.

“She still has this attitude of putting her paw up and saying, ‘Put me in, coach!’” Corliss said. “She absolutely loves it.”

“I’ve seen Bretagne almost select a child,” praised Shelley Swedlaw, a special education director who works with the retired search dog. “She’s just really good about knowing who needs that kind, canine attention.”

To honor her search dog work, Bretagne is a finalist for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards. But it’s the petting most of all that matters to dogs, as The Inquisitr reported. And that new research, which revealed that dogs love to be caressed even more than verbal praise, may reveal why search dogs such as this gentle golden retriever love to curl up next to their humans.

Whether it’s a highly trained search dog or a plump mutt trying to look endearing behind the bars at an animal shelter adoption center, dogs just want to feel our love. As the searchers on those grim days after 9/11 learned, dogs are eager to give all that they can without expecting any reward other than love.

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« Reply #436 on: Sep 15, 2014, 05:39 AM »

A Porpoise Is Ensnared by Criminals and Nets

SEPT. 14, 2014

SAN FELIPE, Mexico — It is a rare moment when scientists can point to an animal at the edge of extinction and predict when it might disappear forever. But it is happening here, under the golden waters of the desert-rimmed sea, where a small porpoise has almost vanished.

Nobody imagined that the end would approach so quickly. What changed was the appearance of a new threat to the snub-nosed porpoise known as the vaquita: organized crime.

The vaquita, a shy marine mammal, is simply collateral damage as poachers here sweep up another endangered species, a giant fish called the totoaba, to please consumers in China. The vaquitas become entangled and die in the nets set for totoaba.

Like the Chinese demand for other rare animal parts, including shark fins, the market for totoaba is driven by customers who pay generously, in this case, for the totoaba’s swim bladder. Dried and served in soup, it is believed to have medicinal qualities.   

With each kilogram of swim bladder fetching as much as $10,000 here, its sale is more lucrative than that of marijuana.

The effect of the totoaba poaching on the vaquita came as a shock to conservationists. A study released in July concluded that half of the population, which inhabits the northern reaches of the Gulf of California, had been killed in two years, leaving just 97 vaquitas.

The numbers prompted a group of Mexican and international vaquita experts to issue a dramatic warning. Without drastic steps to save the world’s smallest marine mammal, the group said, it would disappear within four years.

“It’s definitely the last call for this species,” said Barbara Taylor, a marine mammal expert who is part of the scientists’ group, the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita.

The only way to restore the vaquita, the experts said, would be to shut down the illegal totoaba trade and impose severe new restrictions on the shrimp fisheries here when the season begins on Saturday.

“We’re encouraging them to reinvent the northern gulf,” said Dr. Taylor, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “I don’t trivialize how difficult it will be. These guys making millions of dollars trafficking in endangered species are not going to go quietly.”

Nor will the local shrimp fishermen.

“They are more interested in the vaquita than in human beings,” Raúl Gutiérrez, a fisherman in this town on the west side of the gulf, said of the conservationists.

Until now, the shrimp fishermen have been the focus of the effort to protect the vaquita in the northern Gulf of California. Their long gillnets sway like curtains in the current and have been lethal to the porpoise.

Mexican officials say they are taking the committee’s recommendations to heart. Eight navy speedboats are scheduled for delivery in the northern gulf over the next few weeks, and more are expected next year. The government will start aerial monitoring with two light planes and eventually drones, said Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, an under secretary with the Mexican Environment Ministry.

But it may be the fishermen, not the poachers, who feel the rule of law first. Mr. Pacchiano said the authorities would also start enforcing regulations on the length of fishing nets: 200 meters, or about 220 yards. Fishermen acknowledge that they typically set them five times as long.

The prospect of new limits on how and where shrimp can be caught has caused anxiety in the gulf’s northern fishing villages.

Carlos Alberto Tirado, the leader of one of the fishing federations in the small town of El Golfo de Santa Clara, on the northeastern tip of the gulf, said that scientists’ recommendation to ban all gillnets across a wide area of the northern gulf would wipe out the industry.

“They deal with conservation, but they do not deal with how the communities will remain communities,” he said. “They would become ghost towns.”

Officials acknowledge that measures to save the vaquita will hurt the fishermen. “It’s a big dilemma,” said Juan José Guerra Abud, Mexico’s environment secretary. “But without doubt, the objective is to preserve it. We are looking for what kind of stimulus, what kind of support we can give to compensate.”

Conservationists argue that there is a way for fishermen to continue working without harming the vaquita, by switching to baglike trawl nets that do not snare the porpoise.

But Antonio García Orozco, a fisherman who has been working with environmental groups on the trawl net’s design, said it could not work when miles of gillnets are stretched out across the fishing grounds. “We need time and space to demonstrate that we can get 100 percent” of the catch.

The government had planned to phase in the new nets by 2016. But even the fishermen who made the switch voluntarily say they cannot provide for their families.

“We are considered the heroes of the vaquita because we were the first to change,” said Javier Valverde, 66, one of the few fishermen to have seen the elusive animal. “But we are losing a lot.”

The jolt of urgency now comes after the government has already spent about $55 million since 2007 to protect the vaquita.

It began paying compensation to fishermen for the loss of fishing grounds after an area of 1,260 square kilometers, or 486 square miles, was declared off-limits as a vaquita refuge in 2005. There was another subsidy to change to trawl nets. Then there was a payout to encourage the fishermen to switch to tourism, but few could make it work.

Still, there was progress. The population decline fell to 4.5 percent a year by 2010, about half of what it was in earlier years.

The totoaba trade reversed that, speeding up the loss to 18.5 percent a year.

The authorities on both sides of the Mexican-United States border are just beginning to get a glimpse of how totoaba smuggling works. Last year, after officials at the Calexico border crossing in California found 27 totoaba bladders hidden in Song Shen Zhen’s car, they searched his house and discovered 214 more laid out under whirring fans — a haul worth more than $3.6 million on the Asian black market, the authorities said.

Then came the June murder in El Golfo de Santa Clara of Samuel Gallardo Castro, a prosperous fisherman whom Mexican military authorities had linked to drug trafficking. A suspected hit man suggested that Mr. Gallardo was shot over an unpaid totoaba debt.

The distinction between legal fishermen and totoaba poachers is fuzzier than many here would like to admit. Indebted fishermen may find it hard to resist the temptation to solve their problems by catching one totoaba — and then another.

As they wait for the promised government action to materialize, many fishermen are skeptical it will do much good.

“Every year it’s the same,” José Luis Romero said. The promise is, “ ‘This time, really, we will put security in place.’ They go out one day, two days, and that’s it.”

Mr. Romero, with a bushy gray beard, cuts an eccentric figure in this town of cowboy boots and pickup trucks. He is different in another way. He believes that the vaquita is worth saving.

“It would be a shame if it were lost through our negligence,” he said, “ours, the fishermen.”

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« Reply #437 on: Sep 15, 2014, 06:47 AM »

Star of ‘Dolphin Tale’ movie in middle of aquarium squabble

14 Sep 2014                   

CLEARWATER Fla. (Reuters) – The family-friendly hit “Dolphin Tale,” whose sequel opened in theaters this weekend, tells the true story of a dolphin who learns to swim without a tail. The movie ends with Winter, the tail-less dolphin, helping save the struggling Florida aquarium that rescued her. In real-life, the story has not yet wrapped up so neatly.

Even Hollywood fame could not provide Winter a pass on aquarium politics at a time when live marine animal exhibitions are facing intense public scrutiny.

An ambitious proposal to build Winter a new waterfront home was scaled back recently amid concern about expenses and the potential for staged performances like those under fire at SeaWorld’s theme parks.

“Winter can’t do those kind of shows, even if we wanted to, which we don’t,” said David Yates, chief executive officer at her home, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “We have never been about big shows. That was a misperception.”

Winter’s latest dilemma started when crowds of camera-toting tourists showed up to meet the chirping star of the 2011 hit, featuring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.

“Dolphin Tale” and its sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2,” were filmed at the Clearwater aquarium, a sun-bleached former sewage treatment plant retrofitted as a marine animal hospital.

Attendance at the west central Florida attraction soared after the release of the movie, from about 100,000 visitors in typical years prior to 750,000 since.

“We are just wildly overcrowded,” Yates said, adding that one-third of the visitors are children with disabilities, or families drawn to Winter’s story after their own hardships.

The chance to watch Winter maneuver her amputated tail and exercise with a novel prosthetic tail lured the Main family of Galesburg, Illinois, in planning a Florida vacation.

“We both lost our moms, and we both went through something in our lives but didn’t give up,” Destany Main, 17, said during a visit this week, slurping snowcones with her cousin, Macy Main, 8.

The attendance surge helped expand a turtle ICU and build a dolphin rehabilitation deck at the aquarium, which did not share in the proceeds from the movie that grossed $72.3 million at domestic box offices. Yet other amenities remain outdated.

There is no permanent ticket center by a makeshift food court, and it’s hard to maneuver wheelchairs through narrow hallways to view the dolphins underwater.

Winter’s emotional pull could not silence local skepticism over an expansion initially projected to cost $160 million.

Incidents at other attractions in which trainers have been injured or even killed are raising questions internationally about staged marine animal performances, which critics say are stressful for sea mammals and often take place in enclosures that are too small.

Locally, competition for visitors was another concern about the expansion, with the Florida Aquarium’s larger facilities only 45 minutes away in Tampa.

Winter’s keepers last month responded with revised plans calling for a $68 million aquarium. Gone are the proposals for stadium bleachers that raised questions about staged animal performances.

As fundraising ramps up around the sequel’s release, the aquarium now has Hope, another rescued dolphin who co-stars as Winter’s companion in “Dolphin Tale 2,” which highlights the aquarium’s motto of “Rescue, Rehab, Release.”

“From a fundraising perspective,” Yates said, “it’s spot on about our mission.”

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« Reply #438 on: Sep 15, 2014, 06:51 AM »

Newly discovered flying dinosaur named after beasts from James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’

14 Sep 2014                   

Some of the most visually stunning sequences from director James Cameron’s blockbuster movie “Avatar” involved graceful flying creatures that were ridden by blue human-like beings facing ecological destruction on a moon called Pandora.

It turns out that an animal very similar to those “Avatar” creatures, called Ikran, actually did exist here on Earth long ago.

Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of fossils in China of a new species of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled the creatures from the 2009 film that they named it after them.

It is called Ikrandraco avatar, meaning “Ikran dragon” from “Avatar.” And this pterosaur is noteworthy for more than just its resemblance to a movie creature.

The scientists said it appears that Ikrandraco avatar had a throat pouch similar to that of a pelican. It probably fed on small fish from freshwater lakes, flying low over the water and catching prey by skimming its lower jaw into the water, they said. It may have stored the fish in the pouch, they added.

This Cretaceous Period pterosaur boasted an unusual blade-like crest on its lower jaw like the one on the movie creatures.

“The head structure is similar in this pterosaur to the Ikran in ‘Avatar,’” said one of the researchers, paleontologist Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

“Of course, nobody and nothing can ride this pterosaur,” Wang added.

Another of the researchers, paleontologist Alexander Kellner of Brazil’s National Museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, joked: “Please, (there were) no blue hominids during the Cretaceous.”

Ikrandraco avatar, whose fossils were unearthed in China’s Liaoning province, boasted a wingspan of about 8 feet (2.5 meters), Kellner said.

It did not have a crest on the top of its elongated head as many pterosaurs did. Behind the lower jaw crest was a hook-like structure that appears to have been the anchor point for the throat pouch, Kellner said. It had relatively small teeth good for snaring small fish.

It lived in a warm region teeming with life, with feathered dinosaurs, birds, mammals, frogs, turtles and other animals along with a variety of trees and other plants, Wang said.

The researchers studied fossils of two specimens of Ikrandraco avatar.

Pterosaurs were Earth’s first flying vertebrates, with birds and bats making their appearances later. They thrived from about 220 million years ago to 65 million years ago, when they were wiped out by the asteroid that also doomed the dinosaurs.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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« Reply #439 on: Sep 16, 2014, 05:29 AM »

Japan leads opposition to establishing marine sanctuary for whales

Environmentalists say sanctuary is needed to protect whales from human threats

Arthur Neslen, Tuesday 16 September 2014 00.52 BST      

The fate of a proposed 50m sq miles sanctuary for migratory whales was hanging in the balance on Monday night after objections from enough delegates on the conference floor of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)'s biennial conference to block its creation.

Japan has led the opposition to establishing a marine reserve in the South Atlantic – supported by Norway, Iceland and some Caribbean states – arguing that the IWC's remit should prioritise commercial over conservation considerations.

Environmentalists are concerned that a vote, which could come as early as Tuesday, may now turn the clocks back to a time before the IWC considered the environmental impacts of unfettered exploitation of the world's marine reserves.

"Given the objections raised in the plenary today from Japan and its supporters, I'm not sure that we will attain the three-quarters majority we need for the motion to pass," said Kitty Block, vice-president and head of the delegation for the Humane Society International.

"It is shocking that these nations do not want to allow a sanctuary protecting the breeding and calving area for whales, which face so many environmental threats."

As well as whalers' harpoons, whales must navigate the dangers of ship strikes, entanglements in shipping nets and other ocean apparatus, disorientating man-made ocean noises, habitat destruction, resource exploitation, climate change and pollution.

"Undoubtedly they're facing more man-made threats than at any other time in history," Block said. These may soon be amplified.

The sanctuary vote is being seen as a precursor to a touchstone debate at the IWC conference in Portoroz, Slovenia, over an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling last March that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean violated the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling.

New Zealand is expected to propose that no further "illegal permits for scientific whaling" be issued. This dovetails with the ICJ's ruling that Japan's annual cull of up to 900 minkes and a smaller number of fin whales in the Antarctic was not primarily motivated by research purposes.

Japan ceased whaling in the Antarctic after the ruling, but has continued to hunt the sea mammals in the North Pacific, and now plans to propose a new round of 'scientific whaling' programmes at the IWC.

British Labour MEP David Martin called on the EU delegates to vote with their conscience.

"I have already written to (Environment) Commissioner Potocnik and the Italian presidency, urging them to ensure that EU officials go to the International Whaling Commission meeting determined to prevent any further scientific whaling activities by Japan," he told the Guardian. "All forms of commercial whaling are unacceptable, and we must not let this barbaric practice continue under the guide of scientific research."

The final vote may hinge on whether the EU takes a common position – which depends on consensus – or whether opposition materialises from states such as Denmark, which has traditionally defended the practice among aboriginals in its former colony of Greenland. In the absence of unanimity, the bloc is likely to abstain.

On Monday EU states voted en masse to support a motion raising the quota for aboriginal whale kills in Greenland to 207 per year by 2018. The vote passed by 46 to 11, with three abstentions

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« Reply #440 on: Sep 16, 2014, 06:35 AM »

Scientists make mice learn tasks faster by splicing human brain gene into their DNA

15 Sep 2014     

Although it’s far from the sort of brain transplant beloved by science fiction enthusiasts, scientists have taken one step in that direction: they have spliced a key human brain gene into mice.

In the first study designed to assess how partially ‘humanizing’ brains of a different species affects key cognitive functions, scientists reported on Monday that mice carrying a human gene associated with language learned new ways to find food in mazes faster than normal mice.

By isolating the effects of one gene, the work sheds light on its function and hints at the evolutionary changes that led to the unique capabilities of the human brain.

For the study, scientists used hundreds of mice genetically engineered to carry the human version of Foxp2, a gene linked to speech and language. In a 2009 study, mice carrying human Foxp2 developed more-complex neurons and more-efficient brain circuits.

Building on that, neuroscientists led by Christiane Schreiweis and Ann Graybiel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology trained mice to find chocolate in a maze. The animals had two options: use landmarks like lab equipment and furniture visible from the maze (“at the T-intersection, turn toward the chair”) or by the feel of the floor (“smooth, turn right;” “nubby, turn left”).

Mice with the human gene learned the route as well by seven days as regular mice did by 11, scientists reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Surprisingly, however, when the scientists removed all the landmarks in the room, so mice could only learn by the feel-of-the-floor rule, the regular rodents did as well as the humanized ones. They also did just as well when the landmarks were present but the floor textiles were removed.

It was only when mice could use both learning techniques that those with the human brain gene excelled.

That suggested, Graybiel said, that what the human gene does is increase cognitive flexibility: it lets the brain segue from remembering consciously in what’s called declarative learning (“turn left at the gas station”) to remembering unconsciously (take a right once the floor turns from tile to carpet).

Unconscious, or procedural, learning is the kind the feel-of-the-floor cue produced: the mice didn’t have to consciously think about the meaning of rough or smooth. They felt, they turned – much as people stop consciously thinking about directions on a regular route and navigate automatically.

“No one knows how the brain makes transitions from thinking about something consciously to doing it unconsciously,” Graybiel said. “But mice with the human form of Foxp2 did much better.”

If Foxp2 produces the cognitive flexibility to switch between forms of learning, that may help explain its role in speech and language.

When children learn to speak, they transition from consciously mimicking words they hear to speaking automatically. That suggests that switching from declarative to procedural memory, as the humanized mice did so well thanks to Foxp2, “is a crucial part of the process,” Graybiel said.

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« Reply #441 on: Sep 17, 2014, 06:37 AM »

French chefs fight to put songbird back on menu

Michelin-starred cooks request annual waiver to serve ortolan, which diners devour while covering their faces with a napkin

Reuters in Paris
The Guardian, Tuesday 16 September 2014 17.58 BST   

Four French chefs are requesting a waiver to serve a long-banned delicacy – a small songbird called the ortolan that fans including one of the country's former presidents used to devour, bones and all, while wearing a napkin over their heads.

The request for the once-a-year waiver is being lodged by, among others, Alain Ducasse, the internationally acclaimed chef, Le Parisien newspaper reported. The ortolan, which is little bigger than a child's hand, has been banned from menus in much of Europe since 1999.

The seed-eating bird is believed to have been part of François Mitterrand's last meal before he died in 1996. One customary way of preparing ortolan consists of force-feeding it until fat and dousing it in Armagnac brandy before roasting it whole in the oven.

Fans often wear a large, usually white, napkin over their head while eating. Some say it serves to conceal them while they spit out bones, some say the headgear seals in aromas, while others say it serves to fend off the shame of being seen by God eating a songbird.

The request for the right to serve ortolan one day or one weekend a year would be lodged in coming days with the French authorities, Le Parisien newspaper cited Michel Guerard, another chef with three Michelin stars, as saying.

A representative for Ducasse did not immediately answer a request for comment.

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« Reply #442 on: Sep 17, 2014, 07:17 AM »

Irate banker, tired of barking dog, shoots wrong corgi in front of horrified neighbors

David Edwards
16 Sep 2014   

A “prominent” Washington state banker who became enraged by a barking dog reportedly tried to kill the animal in front of its owners but shot the wrong dog, KIRO reported this week.

According to The Bellingham Herald, 55-year-old David William Latham had heard a dog barking for hours on Sept. 13 so he grabbed a rifle and walked across the street to where the dogs were confined in a neighbor’s fence.

Loyce Andrews told the paper that her dogs did not know Latham, and ran to the fence when he approached. She said that Latham fired a single round into one of the dogs’ chests without uttering a single word. He then turned around to walk home.

Andrews recalled that her husband, Cary Chunyk, ran after Latham.

“You just shot my dog!” he shouted.

“He turned and gave me this look like, ‘I just shot your dog,’” Chunyk told KIRO.

But Latham allegedly brandished the rifle, and the dog owner backed down.

It took another 30 minutes for Molly, the couple’s 13-month-old corgi, to bleed to death. On Monday, the lawn was still stained red.

“It’s a horrible, horrible way to die,” Andrews said to KIRO. “You don’t do that. I don’t care whose dog it is. You don’t do that.”

“Here’s her blood,” she added while showing The Bellingham Herald where the dog died.

Latham was arrested at his home on the night of the shooting. Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said that he admitted shooting the dog.

“He was very cooperative with officers,” Vander Yacht noted. “I don’t know what caused him to snap. But something made him go over the edge, beyond reason.”

Even after Molly died, however, neighbors had heard another large dog barking for two more hours. Andrews said that Latham acknowledged to police that he had mistakenly killed the wrong dog.

“He said to the cops, ‘Oh my God, I shot the wrong dog,’” Andrews remarked. “As if there’s a right dog.”

In a court hearing on Monday, Latham’s attorney told the judge that he knew his client “felt terrible about this situation.”

But the attorney declined to say why Latham was pleading not guilty to the charges of felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor of reckless endangerment, aiming or discharging a firearm within Bellingham city limits, and illegal carrying, drawing or exhibiting of a weapon.

Latham was released on $20,000 bond. The judge said he did not have a violent criminal history, and that he did not think he would be a danger to the neighbors.

But Andrews wasn’t so sure.

“I’m scared to death of what he’s going to do. I don’t know if he’s going to come over here and shoot me,” she said.

Latham has been ordered to turn over all firearms, and to stay away from the dog’s owners. He was due back in court on Oct. 26.

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« Reply #443 on: Sep 17, 2014, 07:21 AM »

Scientists given rare glimpse of 770-lbs colossal squid

Agence France-Presse
16 Sep 2014   

Scientists said Tuesday a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic.

The squid had been kept in optimum freezing conditions at the Te Papa museum in Wellington ever since it was brought back to New Zealand from the seas off the frozen continent during the southern hemisphere’s summer.

The colossal squid is thought to extend up to 4-5 metres (13-16 feet) from tip to tentacle and weigh up to 500 kilograms. Its relation, the giant squid, can grow a lot longer but is much more spindly.

This specimen, like other octopus and squid species, has three hearts — one to pump blood around the body and two for its gills (lungs) — and is estimated to be about 3.5 metres in length.

“This one had two perfect eyes,” scientist Kat Bolstad from Auckland University of Technology who led the examination told AFP.

“They have very large and very delicate eyes because they live in the deep sea. It’s very rare to see an eye in good condition at all.”

Measurements revealed the animal’s eye was 35 centimetres (14 inches) in diameter, and confirmed that the specimen was a female.

“We were excited to find that out… as it turns out this one is a female, and it has got some eggs,” Bolstad told reporters.

“This was by far the most perfect colossal squid that I have seen.”

The only other time scientists anywhere have had the chance to examine an intact colossal squid was in 2008, also at Te Papa, the museum said. That specimen was also female.

Bolstad said the latest specimen was so well preserved the scientists were able to examine it with an unusual level of detail, including the lens on the eyes.

“The fact that we have a specimen in good shape, but that we can get so much information from and still have in good shape, is a win-win,” Bolstad said

The squid was found by a fishing vessel in Antarctica last southern hemisphere summer when the boat’s captain, recognising what had come to the surface, carefully netted it and brought it onboard.

The number of colossal squid in the ocean is unknown but Bolstad said sperm whales in the Antarctic ate a lot of the animals.

After samples were taken from the squid examined on Tuesday, it would be preserved for further research and display, she added.

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« Reply #444 on: Sep 18, 2014, 07:11 AM »

Whaling Meeting Votes Against Japan's Hunt

SEPT. 18, 2014, 8:51 A.M. E.D.T.

PORTOROZ, Slovenia — An international whaling conference voted Thursday against Japan's highly criticized plans to resume whaling in the Antarctic next year, but Japan vowed to go ahead anyway.

A resolution adopted at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia, said Japan should abide by an International Court of Justice ruling that said that its whaling program is illegal because it isn't for research purposes.

Immediately after the resolution was adopted by a 35-20 vote, Japan announced it will launch a new "research" program that will resume whale hunting in the Antarctic in 2015. The U.N. court ruling said some "scientific" whaling is allowed under very strict conditions, which Japan said it would meet.

"We will be providing and submitting a new research plan in the Antarctic Ocean so that we implement research activities starting from 2015," said Joji Morishita, head of Japan's delegation. "And all these activities are perfectly in accordance with international law, scientific basis as well as the ICJ judgment."

Approval from the commission's scientific committee isn't mandatory, but Japan's resumption of whaling in the Antarctic without the body's specific consent after a one-year pause would likely face intense scrutiny. The resolution said that no further "special permits" for whaling will be issued under Japan's existing programs, or any new program, unless strict "scientific" criteria are met.

Australia led the opposition. Many conference member countries believe Japan's whaling program is not for research, but commercial purposes — producing meat and oil.

Animal protection groups welcomed the passage of the resolution, but denounced Japan's decision to ignore it.

"Additional action is needed to encourage and persuade the government of Japan to reconcile itself to the emerging global consensus for whale conservation, instead of whale killing, in the name of science in the 21st century," said Patrick Ramage, director of the whales program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
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« Reply #445 on: Sep 18, 2014, 07:37 AM »

Scientists say coordinated violence among chimps is an evolutionary strategy

Agence France-Presse
17 Sep 2014                   

Chimpanzees can be lethally violent to each other but this stems from an inherent streak and not, as some have suggested, from human interference, a study said on Wednesday.

Zoologists, led by the famed Jane Goodall, have speculated for years on the causes of “chimpanzee wars” among Man’s genetically-closest relatives.

One theory is that the apes are made more aggressive as a result of human influence: loss of habitat or food creates ever-greater competition for resources.

But new research, published in the journal Nature, said coordinated violence by Pan troglodytes is an evolutionary strategy.

Chimps kill to wipe out rivals, thus gaining territory, mates, water or food, it suggests. In Darwinian terms, they seek an advantage to help them survive and hand on their genes to future generations.

The evidence comes from an examination of five decades of research into 18 closely-studied chimpanzee communities in African forests.

The researchers pored over 152 killings by chimps, most of which were carried out by males acting together.

The groups would often band together to carry out murderous raids on another community, typically killing rival males and infants who were not genetically related.

They sometimes snatched babies from nursing mothers to slaughter them but spared the females.

The investigators had to determine whether these acts were driven by hunger, human disturbance or deforestation and whether the protected area the chimps inhabited was large or small.

Most of the killings occurred in east African communities that were least affected by human interference of any kind.

“Wild chimpanzee communities are often divided into two broad categories depending on whether they exist in pristine or human-disturbed environments,” said David Morgan, a specialist in ape conservation at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, who has studied chimps in central Africa for 14 years.

“Study sites included in this investigation spanned the spectrum. We found human impact did not predict the rate of killing among communities.”

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« Reply #446 on: Sep 19, 2014, 07:05 AM »

‘Miracle’ panda triplets open their eyes in Chinese zoo

Agence France-Presse
19 Sep 2014     

A set of panda triplets, known as the world’s only surviving trio, have opened their eyes for the first time more than a month after their birth in a Chinese zoo.

The trio’s births at the end of July were hailed as a “miracle” given the animal’s famously low reproductive rate.

A video from the zoo showed the three cubs now covered with white and black fur squealing and moving about with their eyes open.

“The panda triplets have all opened their eyes and are in good, healthy condition,” Guangzhou’s Chimelong Safari Park said in a statement Thursday.

The second panda to be born was the first to open their eyes, followed by the lastborn and then the firstborn.

The cubs, the size of a small dog, weighed from 2,678 to 2,886 grams (5.9 to 6.3 pounds), the statement said.

“Each one is starting to show its own individuality. For example, the third one is the most lively,” it said, adding that the cubs are now living in wooden boxes.

The cubs’ next stage in development will be to start walking, the statement continued.

The zoo also has said that a naming competition is already underway and will end in mid-October.

The gender of the cubs cannot be determined until they grow older.

The mother panda, named Juxiao, meaning “chrysanthemum smile”, delivered the triplets at Guangzhou’s Chimelong Safari Park in the early hours of July 29.

A video showed Juxiao sitting in the corner of a room as she delivered her cubs for four gruelling hours and licking them after they were born. By the time it came to the delivery of the third cub, she was lying on her side in exhaustion.

The first known case of triplets from a giant panda was recorded in 1999, when a 15-year-old mother gave birth following artificial insemination in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu.

However the youngest of the trio died after living for just three days because of a bladder disorder.

Pandas, whose natural habitat lies in mountainous southwestern China, have a notoriously low reproductive rate and are under pressure from factors such as habitat loss. China has about 1,600 pandas living in the wild.

Their normal breeding season is mid-April to May.

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« Reply #447 on: Sep 21, 2014, 07:03 AM »

Spotlight Russia: Summer play for bear cubs at Orphan Bears Rehabilitation Center

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
By: Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova
Posted: Fri, 09/19/2014

This summer's bear cubs at the Orphan Bears Rehabilitation Center.

The post below comes in to us from IFAW Russia Office staff member Mila Danilova. – MV

The 13 bear cubs at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Orphan Bears Rehabilitation Center have divided themselves into two groups, which are independently moving within the territory of the enclosure and its surroundings.

Not all bear cubs always love being with their peers. For instance, the smallest bear cub, Nelly, prefers solitude to interaction with other cubs, even though she has moved together with the group. When Nelly is with the rest of the group during meal times, she is very actively fighting for food despite her small size, which can be quite amusing to witness.

Mishka, a bear cub from the Smolensk region, is different from his peers due to his “higher” playfulness and sociability. Wherever he is, there is always some play going on – with branches, cones or other bear cubs.

The cubs love chasing each other, but they are already more cautious. When a human approaches, they either run away very fast, or climb the nearest tree.

Playful cubs splashing at center’s nearby pond.

This summer has been very hot. The bear cubs frequent a small water pond near the enclosure, where they bathe, swim, play, splash, and move from one side of the pond to the other various sticks and branches.

The bear cubs are currently foraging for natural food, including plenty of ripe ashberry, apples, acorns and nuts. One of their most favorite “dishes” is angelica ursina. The bear cubs find thickets of this herb and enjoy their meals until they fall asleep right there, full and satisfied.

Time for sleep! Tuckered out after a busy day!

Now is a very important time for the bear cubs, as they have to gain sufficient amount of fat to winter successfully.


IFAW Orphan Bear Rescue Project – Russia

IFAW's Bear Rescue Center, located 350km northwest of Moscow, rescues orphan baby bears, and then cares for them until they are old enough to be released back to the forest. This video shows the steps the bears go through as they grow up and learn the skills they need to survive in the wild.

Click to watch:

* Cub_Pack_web.jpg (279.17 KB, 610x392 - viewed 3 times.)

* Cub_Splashin_web.jpg (243.49 KB, 610x479 - viewed 3 times.)

* Cub_sleeping_web.jpg (369.86 KB, 610x405 - viewed 3 times.)
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