Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Cannock Chase and the spooky demonic ghost dog

Mar 31 2009

The Chase’s latest paranormal resident - the fabled Hellhound - has proved a hit all across the world with websites as far afield as the United States chronicling its history.

Last week it was revealed the forest land had a rich history of spooky encounters with the demonic dog, which is believed to be a portent of doom.

The hound, also known as the ‘ghost dog of Brereton’, has been seen on numerous occasions stalking the roads leading into Cannock and Huntington.

And such is the interest in the story, websites such as Paranormal Nights - which runs spooky, adventure theme activities over the Chase and, American-based Creatures of Time, have all flagged our stories on the Hellhound.

Paranormal website Level Beyond has even asked visitors to the Chase to submit any spooky encounters to it them.

They write: “Over the years, Level Beyond has reported on various mysteries surrounding the English town known as Cannock Chase. Besides the alien and bigfoot references, another mysterious creature is said to roam the area: a big, black dog.”

The apparition has been described as a large dog with sharp pointed ears and strangely glowing eyes. The most prominent sightings happened in the 1970s and early 1980s.

While driving through the Chase in 1972, resident Nigel Lea described seeing a ball of light crash into the ground.

He slowed down to take a closer look and was confronted by ‘the biggest bloody dog I have ever seen’.

Within a month one of Mr Leas’ close friends died in an industrial accident, which Mr Lea believed may be connected to the dog apparition.

In January, 1985, Sylvia Everett described a strange misty figure moving across the road as she and her husband drove on a warm and clear summer night. Although they could not explain the incident, Mrs Everett believed that it may have been connected to the dog-lore of Brereton.

Argentina: A Cattle Mutilation in Victoria

Source: Vision Ovni
www.visionovni. com.ar
Date: March 30, 2009

Argentina: A Cattle Mutilation in Victoria
By Silvia Pérez Simondini

On the evening of March 28, 2009, a new mutilation took place in the city of Victoria, Province of Entre Rios (Argentina) at a small ranch owned by Mr. Ignacio Oñativia. A yearling calf was found mutilated, displaying the same incisions we have been seeing since 2002. The clean cuts can be seen in the photographs, with nothing but small traces of blood left behind. The details surrounding the case are unique: in conversation with Mr. Oñativia, he told me that he only kept four (4) animals at that location, among them a rather troublesome calf who posed a problem when it came to putting it in a pen. However, last night, when he entered his ranch, he saw the three animals inside the pen without anyone’s prompting. This drew his attention, and made him think that the missing [calf] must surely be dead. He said to himself that the same situation always seemed to happen – whenever he brought animals from the island, one of them died. He set out to find the missing one. Upon finding it, the first thought that crossed his mind was that it could have died of hoof-and-mouth disease, but when he approached it, he quickly realized that a mutilation was involved. He came to find me at the Museo OVNI and took me to the site, so that I could see for myself.

This location is only meters away from the entrance roundabout to Victoria from Gualeguay, 100 meters from the high voltage wires and 1000 meters from El Ceibo Creek, elements that are never missing in cattle mutilations.

I would like to extend my thanks to the Oñativia family, especially Mr. Ignacio, who not only came to find me, but also assisted me in videotaping and photographing the animal, as the dark of night was complete.

(Translation (c) 2009, S. Corrales, IHU. Special thanks to Silvia Pérez Simondini and Visión Ovni)

How Floss the runaway cow escaped capture for nine months and was saved from slaughter

By Andrew Levy
Last updated at 1:00 AM on 31st March 2009

She must be the ultimate free-range farm animal. When Floss the Highland cow became separated from her calf, she immediately struck out on her own to look for it.

Nine months later she was still on the run - having travelled 60 miles across three counties.

The six-year-old's adventures earned the nickname the Beast of Ealand, after the area in Lincolnshire where she was found.

Floss was bought separately from her calf at a market in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, in June last year and taken to a farm in Goole, 42 miles away.

But her maternal instincts seemed to kick in and she escaped into a neighbouring field.

A vet was called in the following morning but was unable to get close enough to hit her with a tranquiliser dart before she trotted off.

Floss then began moving across country. In July she was spotted eight miles away in Thorne, South Yorkshire.

In early September, she was seen ten miles out in Keadby, North Lincolnshire, a village on the bank of the River Trent.

Later that month, she settled in an old tip in Ealand, near Scunthorpe - having travelled an estimated 60 miles on her round-about route. But the relative tranquility there was frequently shattered.

She was chased by yobs on quad bikes on one occasion and almost run down by joyriders on another. Her life as a renegade came to an end when police were called after some men turned up in a 4x4 to take pot shots at her.

Hearing of Floss's plight, animal rescue workers arranged to lure her out with food and she was captured using a tranquiliser dart last month.

She was then returned to her owner, and might have been destined for the slaughterhouse. But those who rescued her were so taken with Floss that they arranged to buy her instead.

Floss's journey concluded on Friday when she was transported another 150 miles to Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk.There she can spend the rest of her life ruminating on her wild young days.

Tracey Jaine, 39, who owns a smallholding in Crowle, near Doncaster, and who helped raise the £500 needed to buy Floss, said: 'I thought it was such a shame she was running loose and fending for herself.

'I thought of Hillside because a while ago I stopped eating mass-produced meat after watching various videos they had produced.

'I gave them a call to see if they would take her and when we raised the money to buy her we drove down there.'

She was helped by Sue McCauley, an administration assistant at a college in Ealand, who said: ' I was happy she got caught but I wanted to raise the money to buy her to keep her safe.

'Seeing her off at Hillside was fantastic. Floss trotted off the back of the trailer and it was the most wonderful thing.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1165838/How-Floss-runaway-cow-escaped-capture-months-saved-slaughter.html

Bigfoot Continues to Outsmart Mankind

Photo: www.flickr.com

Bigfoot... Sasquatch... Ohio Grassman, most of us know some version of the hairy creature, who lives in the wild, and has never been found.

It is a mystery that fascinates some, horrifies others, and is humorous to the rest.

WHIZ's Emily Baird takes a crack at uncovering the truth behind this ape-man who continues to outsmart mankind.

Click on the video link for more: http://www.whiznews.com/video.php?articleId=25241

New theory on largest known mass extinction in the history of the earth

Did volatile halogenated gases from giant salt lakes at the end of the Permian Age lead to a mass extinction of species?

Leipzig/Heidelberg. The largest mass extinction in the history of the earth could have been triggered off by giant salt lakes, whose emissions of halogenated gases changed the atmospheric composition so dramatically that vegetation was irretrievably damaged. At least that is what an international team of scientists have reported in the most recent edition of the "Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences". At the Permian/Triassic boundary, 250 million years ago about 90 percent of the animal and plant species ashore became extinct. Previously it was thought that volcanic eruptions, the impacts of asteroids, or methane hydrate were instigating causes. The new theory is based on a comparison with today’s biochemical and atmospheric chemical processes. "Our calculations show that airborne pollutants from giant salt lakes like the Zechstein Sea must have had catastrophic effects at that time", states co-author Dr. Ludwig Weißflog from the Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). Forecasts predict an increase in the surface areas of deserts and salt lakes due to climate change. That is why the researchers expect that the effects of these halogenated gases will equally increase.

The team of researchers from Russia, Austria, South Africa and Germany investigated whether a process that has been taking place since primordial times on earth could have led to global mass extinctions, particularly at the end of the Permian. The starting point for this theory was their discovery in the south of Russia and South Africa that microbial processes in present-day salt lakes naturally produce and emit highly volatile halocarbons such as chloroform, trichloroethene, and tetrachloroethene. They transcribed these findings to the Zechstein Sea, which about 250 million years ago in the Permian Age, was situated about where present day Central Europe is. The Zechstein Sea with a total surface area of around 600.000 km2 was almost as large as France is today. The hyper saline flat sea at that time was exposed to a predominantly dry continental desert climate and intensive solar radiation - like today’s salt seas. "Consequently, we assume that the climatic, geo-chemical and microbial conditions in the area of the Zechstein Sea were comparable with those of the present day salt seas that we investigated," Weißflog said.

In their current publication the authors explain the similarities between the complex processes of the CO2-cycle in the Permian Age as well as between global warming from that time and at present. Based on comparable calculations from halogenated gas emissions in the atmosphere from present-day salt seas in the south of Russia, the scientists calculated that from the Zechstein Sea alone an annual VHC emissions rate of at least 1.3 million tonnes of trichloroethene, 1.3 million tonnes of tetrachloroethene, 1.1 million tonnes of chloroform as well as 0.050 million tonnes of methyl chloroform can be assumed. By comparison, the annual global industrial emissions of trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene amount to only about 20 percent of that respectively, and only about 5 percent of the chloroform from the emissions calculated for the Zechstein Sea by the scientists. Incidentally, the industrial production of methyl chloroform, which depletes the ozone layer, has been banned since 1987 by regulation of the Montreal Protocol.

"Using steppe plant species we were able to prove that halogenated gases contribute to speeding up desertification: The combination of stress induced by dryness and the simultaneous chemical stressor `halogenated hydrocarbons´ disproportionately damages and destabilize the plants and speeds up the process of erosion," Dr. Karsten Kotte from the University of Heidelberg explained.

Based on both of these findings the researchers were able to form their new hypothesis: At the end of the Permian Age the emissions of halogenated gases from the Zechstein Sea and other salt seas were responsible in a complex chain of events for the world’s largest mass extinction in the history of the earth, in which about 90 percent of the animal and plant species of that time became extinct.

According to the forecast from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), increasing temperatures and aridity due to climate change will also speed up desertification, increasing with it the number and surface area of salt seas, salt lagoons and salt marshlands. Moreover, this will then lead to an increase in naturally formed halogenated gases. The phytotoxic effects of these substances become intensified in conjunction with other atmospheric pollutants and at the same time increasing dryness and exponentiate the eco-toxicological consequences of climate change.

The new theory could be like a jigsaw piece that contributes to solving the puzzle of the largest mass extinction in the history of the earth. "The question as to whether the halogenated gases from the giant salt lakes alone were responsible for it or whether it was a combination of various factors with volcanic eruptions, the impact of asteroids, or methane hydrate equally playing their role still remains unanswered," Ludwig Weißflog said. What is fact however is that the effects of salt seas were previously underestimated. In their publication the researchers working with Dr. Ludwig Weißflog from the UFZ and Dr. Karsten Kotte from the University of Heidelberg want to prove that recent salt lakes and salt deserts of south-east Europe, Middle Asia, Australia, Africa, America can not only influence the regional but also the global climate. The new findings on the effects of these halogenated gases are important for revising climate models, which form the basis for climate forecasts.

Tilo Arnhold

http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=17896

Kofi the sniffer rat

metro.co.uk

Bear sighting in Suffolk woods was 'promotional' hoax staged by theatre group

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:46 AM on 31st March 2009

Reports of a brown bear roaming through a Suffolk forest were part of an elaborate hoax dreamed up by a team of actors to promote a play, it has emerged.

Ramblers and dog walkers were urged to take care after bear sightings were reported around Rendlesham Forest near Woodbridge, Ipswich.

But the mystery of the alleged sightings was finally solved as bare-faced theatre bosses admitted they had dreamed the whole thing up.

The Red Rose Chain Theatre Company, who were staging an outdoor summer production of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, admitted they were behind the stunt.

The script contains a famous stage direction ' 'Exit, pursued by a bear' and the actors chose to use the phrase as the inspiration for its promotional campaign.
Actor and designer Jimmy Grimes said they had wanted to make one of the Bard's lesser-known plays more appealing to families and children.

Jimmy said: 'We didn't want to scare anyone. The idea is to get kids interested and excited about the play. We want to create a family-friendly, fairytale feel for the production.

'No one really knows that much about the play. There's a tiny little stage direction "Exit, pursued by a bear" and a bear is supposed to follow him and it turns out he gets eaten by the bear.

'In Shakespeare's day they probably would have had a real live bear at the Globe.

'But this tiny little stage direction is probably the most famous part of the play and it's something we thought we could use to get kids interested.'

As well as sending out intriguing emails detailing fictitious sightings of the mystifying animal in the woods, the inspired theatre company even posted hoax videos of it on Youtube.

Watch the video here:



But walker Jenny Pearce insisted she saw the creature while exploring the area with her three-year-old son after having a picnic.

She said: 'I saw it moving through the trees ahead. It was much bigger than a dog. I picked up my son and left for the car straight away.'

Rendlesham Forest made headlines after a UFO was allegedly spotted there in 1980.
The incident became known as 'Britain's Roswell.'

A Suffolk Police spokesman said: 'If there was a bear in the woods, it would be a matter of concern. But we have received no reports.'

Alec Suttenwood of Ipswich Wildlife Care and Rescue said: 'We have heard reports of big cats in the past - but never a bear.

'Some dogs like a big chow, which is very hairy, can look like bears.

'I think a bear could survive in Rendlesham Forest although it would be a big danger to people.'

Wild brown bears are thought to have become extinct in the UK in the 11th century.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1165868/Bear-sighting-Suffolk-woods-promotional-hoax-staged-theatre-group.html

Bear spotted in Rendlesham Forest

REBECCA LEFORT
Last updated: 30/03/2009 12:24:00

IF you go down to the woods today you're in for a big surprise…

According to a number of visitors to Rendlesham Forest, bears are roaming the Suffolk countryside.

At least three people claim to have seen the grizzly beasts in the forest within the last week, although bears are not native to Britain.

Bizarre sightings are nothing new to the site which is a favourite among conspiracy theorists after UFOs were supposedly spotted there in the 1980s.

One of those who saw the creature is Jenny Pearce who said: “I was on the green at Rendlesham Forest having a picnic with my three-year-old son and his friend's family.

“After the picnic we stayed to play and explore the woods. While we were in the forest I saw a large animal moving through the trees ahead.

“I thought it was a big dog, so I picked up my son because he has never really got into dogs and gets easily scared. But as it continued away from us it was clearly not a dog.

“It was much bigger and there wasn't anyone there to be walking it if it was a large dog.

“I left for the car straight away, and looked for a forest person to tell but there were none about. I mentioned it to another parent in the car park and they said it could be fox or husky, as huskies are kept nearby, but it really was a lot bigger.”

Meanwhile Nick Deptford, who also contacted the East Anglian Daily Times, added: “I've seen some sort of animal in Rendlesham forest this weekend and the people in the forest say that it could only be a deer or a dog, but it was much bigger, more like a bear although I don't think we've got bears here.

“Definitely not aliens this time though like all that stuff that was meant to have happened in 1980!”

But Suffolk animal expert Alec Suttenwood of the Ipswich Wildlife Care and Rescue said it was highly unlikely that bears were actually roaming Rendlesham Forest.

“There are no bears I know of, though I've heard big cats reported,” he said.

“Some big dogs like a big chow, which is very hairy, can look like bears.

“I think a bear could survive in Rendlesham Forest but it would be a big danger to people.

“But it is unlikely to be a bear because there is nowhere it could even escape from.”

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said he had not heard of any bear sightings in the forest and added: “We don't have bears in this country, so it would have to be a release or escape, but we have had no reports of it.

“If people do see a bear they ought to call the police because it would be very dangerous.”

Suffolk police said the force had not received any bear sightings.

- Have you spotted a bear or any other unusual animal in the Suffolk countryside? If so, contact the EADT newsdesk on 01473 324736 or email news@eadt.co.uk

http://www.eadt.co.uk/content/eadt/news/story.aspx?brand=EADOnline&category=News&tBrand=EADOnline&tCategory=xDefault&itemid=IPED29%20Mar%202009%2021%3A26%3A26%3A343

Mythical Creatures - 16 June 2009

A set of six stamps depicting Mythical Creatures will be issued by Royal Mail this summer
Fantasy and myth are popular subjects for both films and books. Here fantasy artist Dave McKean (who worked on the Harry Potter movies) takes a look at some of the most popular and unusual creatures from legend. The UK has a rich and diverse folklore around mythical creatures: some famous nationally and others regionally. This set features: unicorn, mermaid - legends very common around UK coast inc northern isles of Scotland), Giant (inspired by Finn McCool associated with the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland), Fairy queen (in a chariot pulled by birds), Pixie (which feature in Cornish folklore), and Dragon (emblem of Wales).

http://www.norvic-philatelics.co.uk/2009/06a-mythical_creatures.htm

Fears after 'big cat' spotted near Worcester

Mar 30 2009 by Adam Aspinall, Birmingham Mail

A BIG cat may be on the prowl in Worcestershire after two men claimed to have spotted a panther-like creature while walking their dogs.

The men went to investigate but the cat got up, jumped into the undergrowth and disappeared.

The pair spotted the creature as they walked their two whippets and terrier close to the near Bromyard Road, outside Worcester.

“It was definitely a cat but not a domestic one, it was huge, it was bigger than our dogs, perhaps the size of an alsatian”, said one of the men.

“It was jet black and had a tail that was curled up.

“It looked at us, its ears pricked up and it jumped back into the undergrowth.

“It was really chunky and definitely had cat features. It was too agile and quick to be anything other than a cat.”

Bob Lawrence, director of wildlife at West Midland Safari Park, Bewdley, said: “It is possible there may be one or two of these animals around.

“But with the law of averages there would be a picture somewhere. Where is the evidence?”

It is not the first time that big cats have been spotted in Worcester and the surrounding area.

In 2006, a survey compiled by the British Big Cats Society showed there were 48 sightings in Herefordshire and Worcestershire between April 2004 and July 2005, making the county a hotspot for mystery sightings.

http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2009/03/30/fears-after-big-cat-spotted-near-worcester-97319-23260428/

Monday, 30 March 2009

Evolution study focuses on snail

By Sarah Mukherjee
Environment correspondent, BBC News

Members of the public across Europe are being asked to look in their gardens or local green spaces for banded snails as part of a UK-led evolutionary study.

The Open University says its Evolution MegaLab will be one of the largest evolutionary studies ever undertaken.

Scientists believe the research could show how the creatures have evolved in the past 40 years to reflect changes in temperature and their predators.

The six-month study, starting in April, will ask people to submit data online.

'Ideal organism'

Professor Jonathan Silvertown, from the OU, said: "I was thinking about Darwin year and how we could help people get an idea of what Darwin was talking about.

"The banded snail has been studied for 60 or more years, so it's an ideal organism to use. It's something that's very common, we know what the genetics are and it's safe to handle."

Professor Silvertown said there were two main evolutionary drivers that affect where yellow and brown banded snails are found.

The first is climate - darker-shelled snails tend to be further north, and scientists believe this is because dark shells get warmer quicker than lighter ones.

Darker-shelled snails could also be active for longer - which would make a difference to how much they could eat and how many offspring they could have.

The second evolutionary driver is predation by thrushes.

The birds hunt by sight and they find it more difficult to find yellow-striped shells around grass and brown shells against brown leaves - so yellow-shelled snails have been more common in grassland and darker ones in areas with brownish background environments.

'Genuine study'

"We think [the snails] have changed in the last 40 or 50 years," said Professor Silvertown.

"Firstly, the climate has warmed up, so we think the distribution of colours has probably changed.

"Secondly, thrushes have become far less common in the last 30 years or so - so snail colouring in different habitats might be less important."

This is what the Evolution MegaLab, which will run from April to October, will be trying to discover.

"There's a lot of historical data on the website," said Professor Silvertown.

"We have data from the past on 8,000 or so snail populations, so if you submit your data on the website, it will automatically make a comparison telling you whether there's been any change in your area."

Professor Silvertown said this was a genuine scientific study and not just a public relations exercise.

It has been funded in part by the Royal Society and the British Council, and he and his team are hoping that a major report will be published on the data collected at the beginning of next year.

He also points out that this could be an invaluable tool for researchers of the future who will be able to look at this project and compare any further evolutionary changes.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7971200.stm

Rescue Pets Make Credit Crunch Lunch

metro.co.uk

City's animal instincts help raise Rs 10L for AMC

30 Mar 2009, 0326 hrs IST, TNN

Ahmedabad: Little celebrities of Kankaria Zoo have raised a stunning sponsorship for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) this year. Around 57 animals and birds were adopted by donors, animal lovers and children. Birds have been most popular, say AMC sources.

Till now, animals adopted under Friends of zoo' programme have raised a total of Rs 10.9 lakh donations for the zoo. At least 12 mammals, 29 birds and 15 reptiles have been adopted. Of 29 birds, seven peacocks were popular among donors. At least 37 donors have come forward for adoptions. Two major ones include Jani and Jani construction company and Sheetal builders, who have adopted a tiger, crocodile and an elephant. Zoo authorities say that children have a lot of interest in the peacock, owing to its National bird' status.

Some popular celebrities in the zoo like Ashok the elephant, Devi the hippo, and Raja the tiger have drawn maximum donations. The cobra, pheasants, lovebirds, badgers, pythons and Nicobar pigeons have also gained curiosity of kids.

Finance department and zoo authorities of Kamla Nehru Zoological Park have drawn up a unique plan to divert the sponsorship money. With adoption money, authorities plan to create infrastructure for animals in the zoo. Coolers during summers, clean drinking water facility, modern cages, food for animals and birds, as well as medical facilities are among things planned.

"At least five pythons, cobras and crocodiles have takers under reptiles, while parakettes, love birds and peacocks are famous among children. For some reason, the Macau has not generated much fan following. We are planning on an innovative way to attract more donors," says a senior AMC official.

Zoo also plans to organise seminars and even prepare and distribute information on animals, birds or reptiles who are being adopted. A special club of donors is on the cards, which will meet on scheduled dates to discuss and participate in the upkeep of zoo and educational programmes.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Ahmedabad/Citys-animal-instincts-help-raise-Rs-10L-for-AMC/articleshow/4331827.cms

Marlin Perkins left an enduring legacy as teacher of the animal world

By Tim O'Neil
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
03/29/2009

Marlin Perkins swam with sea lions, grappled with an anaconda and bore the harsh effects of an Indian elephant's tusk, all to teach us about the world of animals.

Perkins, a former director of the St. Louis Zoo, was famous three decades ago on a national television show called "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." He brought us stories of animals filmed in their exotic, far-flung habitats and told about them in the patient voice of a dedicated teacher. He was a pioneer in television nature shows and an ardent spokesman for conservation and protection of endangered animals.

Back in St. Louis, folks were proud to have as their zoo chief the "Wild Kingdom" man with the mustache and toothy grin.

Perkins died in 1986 at age 81 at his home in Clayton. He was St. Louis Zoo director from April 1962 until this week in 1970 but stayed as director emeritus. He hosted "Wild Kingdom" from 1962 to 1985.

Perkins was born March 28, 1905, in Carthage, in far southwestern Missouri, and studied zoology at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where one of his pet snakes escaped and flustered the landlady.

He left after two years for the zoo, where he was curator of reptiles for 10 years until 1938. He became curator of the zoo in Buffalo, N.Y., and later was director of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, where he and his animal charges broke into TV.

He returned to St. Louis in 1962, the year "Wild Kingdom" began showing his tales of animals and conservation.

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/1B406FB4090F73938625758600809F60?OpenDocument

My Best Teacher - David Bellamy

Features | Published in TES Magazine on 27 March, 2009 | By: Paula Barnett

This national treasure’s love of botany and zoology was nurtured by a teacher with a twinkle in his eye

I thought I had a career in ballet, but by the time I was 14 I was the size I am now. My parents had always wanted me to be a medic, so when my proposed dancing career had tumbled away, I decided to study botany, zoology, chemistry and physics.

An enormously respected man dressed in tweed with spectacles, Mr Hutchings, was my A-level botany and zoology teacher at Sutton Grammar School for Boys. He was strict, but always with a twinkle in his eye. We were a little clan in sixth form science and I was lucky to have such a good teacher with a fantastic sense of humour.

Mr Hutchings was the proud owner of a set of slides and once when he left the room, we prepared a new addition to his collection. Its label bore a rude title about Mr Hutchings, but instead of exploding at us, he studied its preparation carefully and then complimented us for being such good slide makers.

The teachers at Sutton were set apart from us: I was called Bellamy and in return he was Mr Hutchings or Sir, yet we became great friends.

After A-levels, we decided to take Mr Hutchings to London Zoo for the day as a way of saying thank you. At one point, he was standing next to a Bactrian camel and explaining lots of facts when it began to salivate on the top of his head. We didn’t laugh but helped him clean up and then to complete the day, took him to see Oklahoma!

When I was about 14, I accidentally blew off the front of my friend’s house. We had been making fireworks using explosives from a doodlebug that had landed intact near my house. We were the best firework makers in town, but this particular time we got the formula wrong. I woke up on the floor and I could see all my neighbours looking in as there was no window anymore, not even a frame. I made the local papers and when I got back to school swathed in bandages, I was dragged up in front of everyone and castigated for being an idiot.

On the way down, as I passed the teachers, I heard Mr Coult, my chemistry teacher, whisper: “Bellamy, well done. You will make a scientist yet.”

If Mr Hutchings inspired my love of botany, my dad developed it. Running the local Boots chemist, people were always coming in for advice and I learnt which medicines were made from which herbs. It all linked together, and although originally studying to be a medic, I found it an easy jump to botany once I left school.

One of the most amazing things in my life was when I opened my first nature reserve. It was a long time ago now, but I remember an old Victorian primary school in Liverpool with a playground where they had planted raised beds. I chose the smallest little girl to cut the ribbon with me and as we walked across hand in hand she looked at me. “David Bellamy,” she said, “you see the trees and the plants, we put them there, but the butterflies and birds came along by themselves.”

A botanist, broadcaster, author and environmental campaigner, David Bellamy OBE has written more than 40 books and 80 scientific papers and has presented about 400 TV programmes. He was talking to Paula Barnett.

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6010899

Malaysia's Mini-Chickens Big It up After Flu Scare

By Jennifer Henderson
March 30, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters Life!) - They strut around like supermodels, oozing glamour and with their chests held high, but despite the attitude, the world's smallest chickens are lucky to have survived.

Standing at around 6 inches tall, the Malaysian Serama faced extinction during Asia's bird flu outbreak of 2004, when over 50,000 were culled as part of government safety measures.

But the miniature breed has since fought its way back into the hearts and homes of people around the world, as well as onto the catwalk of a poultry beauty pageant.

"Seramas are very beautiful birds," said Nesa Subramamiam, a veterinary student who attended the recent Malaysian Serama Competition, the first to be held since the avian flu outbreak.

"It's a chicken but it is very egotistical, I like its color and how it stands."

Read full story at: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=7205150

Frogs 'marry' to bring rain to Bangladesh

Agence France-Presse | 03/30/2009 8:11 AM

DHAKA - More than 250 people in northern Bangladesh have attended a wedding ceremony between two frogs as part of a ritual to bring rain to the parched region, a newspaper said Friday.

The "bride" and "groom" came from two neighbouring villages 110 kilometres (68 miles) north of the capital Dhaka, according to the Bengali paper Jugantor.

Villagers organised the wedding ceremony because the region was suffering a water shortage as it waited for monsoon rains to arrive, according to school teacher Noor Mohammad Kalon, who was a guest on behalf of the "groom."

"More than 250 men, women and children came to the wedding. We all danced and sang," the teacher, 42, told AFP by telephone, adding that the guests were served a traditional wedding feast of rice, lentils, fish, beef and sweets.

"The bride and groom were in special wedding dress. We blessed them in the ceremony and released them in a nearby pond afterwards.

"Last night there was rain. I believe it was because of the wedding."

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/classified-odd/03/30/09/frogs-marry-bring-rain-bangladesh

Police catch students stealing triceratops

Remember the joke that goes: What do you call a one-eyed dinosaur? A do-you-think-he-saurus.
Unfortunately for 14 sozzled students, a sharp-eyed policeman did as they tried to make off with a model dinosaur.

The students, out celebrating the end of their course, spied a museum's 6.1m (20ft) long, 3.5m (10ft) high triceratops model and hauled it over some iron railings intent on depositing it on a roundabout.

But, half way down the road, the officer spotted them and ordered them to take it back.

'He caught 14 of us in the High Street at about 2.30am – we'd managed to get it half way up there,' said student Steve Fry.

'We were really sorry for causing any hassle.' Insp Les Fry, of Dorchester Police, said the pranksters had apologised to the town's Dinosaur Museum.

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?Police_catch_students_stealing_triceratops&in_article_id=600663&in_page_id=34

Thirsty camels 'turning the taps on' in central Australia

Camels are coming into communities in central Australia and turning on the taps, the Macdonnell Shire Council says.

The shire has applied to the Federal Government for a $4.5 million slice of infrastructure funding to build camel-proof boundaries around 14 communities.

Wayne Wright from the shire says thirsty camels are causing significant damage.

"In a number of our communities it's quite common for camels to enter the community and if there are any taps adjacent to houses they're quite capable of either turning the taps on or knocking the taps off so they get water."

The intention is to put cattle grids at the entrances of the communities and place fencing around them.

The fencing would also protect the communities from other feral animals, such as donkeys and horses.

Mr Wright says the animals rip up plants and thwart efforts to improve the aesthetics of the communities.

"The big issue for us is should we try to do any beautification works in our communities - tree planting, grassing of areas.

"Unless we can limit the access to those areas, we are going to be wasting our money."

The shire is expecting to find out if the application has been successful next month.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/30/2529601.htm

Sunday, 29 March 2009

'War' on poisonous Australia toad



People in the Australian state of Queensland have taken part in a mass-killing of poisonous cane toads, as part of a collective effort at pest control, known as Toad Day Out.

The toads have to be captured unharmed, examined by experts, and then killed humanely under the event rules.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7970877.stm

Spanish town cancels bullfighting

The residents of a small town in central Spain have voted in a referendum to cancel their annual bullfighting festival because of the economic crisis, the BBC's Steve Kingstone reports.

The move was proposed by the mayor of Manzanares el Real - on the grounds that the event would divert resources from other municipal services. But the result has caused an outcry among supporters of bullfighting.

Fifty-two percent of those who voted agreed the bullfighting festival should be scrapped. Thirty-five percent voted to keep the event.

And only 13% chose a compromise option - to maintain the festival, but scale down its cost.

On paper, that result means that Manzanares el Real will lose its bullfight - traditionally, part of the social and cultural fabric of small-town Spain.

The mayor had argued that the cost of the event, at more than 125,000 euros ($165,000; £116,000), was too high for a community struggling through a recession.

But supporters of local bullfighting are furious, and some protested in the town when the result became known.

They point that turnout was just 22% - too low, they say, to justify doing away with a cherished tradition.

The outcome puts the mayor of Manzanares in a difficult position.

After assessing the result and the passions on all sides, he will take what may be a career-shaping final decision during the coming week.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7969868.stm

Jack Horner's Plan to Bring Dinosaurs Back to Life

The world's most famous dino-hunter says the key is embryonic development, not genetics.

by Jack Horner and James Gorman
From the April 2009 issue, publi

Hans Larsson is a fast walker and a fast talker. You need to be fit to keep up with him on the hills of the McGill University neighborhood in Montreal, let alone on the remote islands of the Canadian Arctic where he searches for fossils in summer fieldwork. He talks the way he walks, in a freely swinging fast-paced lope that ranges from the philosophy of science to genetic probes to the rich Cretaceous ecosystem he is exploring at another field site in Alberta.

Larsson is at the forefront of merging paleontology and molecular biology in an effort to connect major evolutionary changes—the development of new species and new characteristics, new shapes and structures, new kinds of animals—to changes in specific genes and in how those genes are regulated. He is interested in reactivating dormant genes or changing the regulation of active genes in embryos to bring back ancestral traits that have been lost in evolution.

Scientists can do this now because we have the fossils. We have the lessons of developmental biology. And we have the tools of molecular biology. All of these are being merged in the study of the history of life in evolutionary developmental biology, or evo devo.

Read full story at: http://discovermagazine.com/2009/apr/27-jack-horner.s-plan-bring-dinosaurs-back-to-life

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Horse treated for grass allergy



A horse is having to be kept covered up after it developed an allergy to grass.

Emily Pearce, from Henley-on-Thames, has owned five-year-old Pandora for the past two years.

She said she first noticed the horse becoming unwell last year when Pandora developed large boils and breathing problems after touching the grass.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7962579.stm

An end to suffering for stranded whales

RSPCA
26.03.09

Three years after the 'Thames Whale' captured the attention of news networks around the world, new scientific evidence has informed the Marine Animal Rescue Coalition (MARC), of which the RSPCA is a member, on how to better respond to stranded whales.

Evidence from veterinary pathologists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has concluded that, unfortunately, beaked and sperm whales have little or no chance of survival if they strand.

Stranded whales deteriorate quickly
RSPCA senior scientific officer, Adam Grogan, said: "The findings show that when these whales are outside of their normal range, they become dehydrated as a result of not being able to feed, and quickly begin to deteriorate.

"They then become stranded, which damages their muscles, and leads eventually to kidney failure.

"This is what happened to the northern bottlenose whale spotted in the Thames in January 2006.

"As a result of its deteriorating condition, two days later, British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) took the decision to euthanase the whale."

Post mortem evidence from the 'Thames Whale' and a number of other beaked whales is now firm proof that attempts to rescue and refloat stranded animals in such poor condition will always have fatal consequences.

Unanimous agreement to end suffering
Therefore, MARC members have unanimously agreed that, to spare their suffering, stranded beaked and sperm whales will be euthanased.

However, this will be judged on a case by case basis because there may be exceptional circumstances where the situation merits a refloat attempt. For example, if close to a deep water habitat and if the refloat can be achieved within less than an hour.

This policy will be reviewed on a regular basis.

http://www.rspca.org.uk/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RSPCA/RSPCARedirect&pg=NewsFeature&articleId=1236788526403

Reputations in the mist - Gorillas may not be as vegetarian as they are supposed to be

Mar 26th 2009
From The Economist print edition

GORILLAS are gentle giants, chimpanzees aggressive killers and bonobos sex-crazed vegetarians. That, at least, is the PR which has been created around the three species of ape most closely related to man. They are simple stories—and simple stories sell books, TV programmes and even, whisper it softly, newspaper articles.

In nature, of course, things are a little more complicated. Chimpanzees are undoubtedly successful hunters, but the “wars” seen between neighbouring bands seem to have been brought on by human encroachment on their habitat rather than original sin. Bonobos, too, have been shown in the past year to hunt animals for food, and are losing their promiscuous aura as more data come in. Only gorillas have retained their reputations intact. Until now.

Part of the reason for the stories was that apes are hard to watch in the wild, and few people are prepared to put in the time needed to do so. Early observations were assumed to be representative, but were based on small samples. One way to extend those observations is to study animals in zoos.

And that is what Steve Ross, a primatologist at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, has done. He has looked, in particular, at the interactions between zoo-held apes and local birds and small mammals. Some of his findings cast further doubt on the stereotypes.

Mr Ross and his colleagues, who have just published their results in the American Journal of Primatology, asked 71 zoos around the United States about interactions between the local wildlife and any bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas or orangutans in their collections. The chimps did live up to their reputations. Four-fifths of the zoos that had them reported that they had killed at least one local animal during the past five years. Two-fifths of zoos with orangutans had likewise seen those animals hunt successfully over that period—which might surprise the layman, but such hunting has been seen in the wild. The most aggressive apes of all were the bonobos. In every zoo that kept them, these allegedly vegetarian creatures had killed visiting wildlife in the past five years.

But it was the gorillas that surprised the researchers most. In the wild, they seem to eat only plants and insects. Yet 30% of the zoos in the survey reported that their gorillas had killed some local wildlife, and in at least one case had eaten a bird.

This seemingly uncharacteristic aggression may be the result of captivity. Aberrant behaviour, often brought on by boredom, is not unusual in zoo animals. In fact, bonobo promiscuity seems to be an example of this. Wild bonobos (those few that have been watched carefully, at any rate) do not seem overly promiscuous. It is also possible, though, that gorillas hunt in the wild, but that no zoologist has yet observed them do so. If that is the case, then another carefully constructed zoological reputation will bite the dust.

http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13361488

New antpitta discovered in Colombia – Probably already extinct

Antpitta discovered in London's Natural History Museum
March 2009. A new subspecies of antpitta - a thrush-sized ground-living bird - from near the Colombian city of Medellin has been discovered among the one million bird specimens at the Natural History Museum in London, after lying undiscovered in the collection for 120 years. However the new antpitta is now feared extinct.

Collected in 1878
The new bird, called Giles's Antpitta (Grallaria milleri gilesi), was collected in September 1878 by the British ornithologist Thomas Knight Salmon, when he made his last collection of bird skins from the forested hills surrounding the city of Medellin before his abrupt death.

Found in the Natural History Museum
"There were no bird identification guides in the late nineteenth century so Thomas Salmon sent the specimens he'd collected to be identified by scientists in Britain, where many were deposited at the world's largest bird collection here at London's Natural History Museum," explained the Museum's head of bird group Dr Robert Prŷs-Jones. "While there were many new and exciting discoveries, one unusual specimen of an antpitta was amazingly overlooked."

Overlooked for 130 years
The new antpitta lay unrecognised in the Museum's collection until 2001, when bird artist Norman Arlott uncovered the specimen. He drew it to the attention of both Robert Prŷs-Jones and Natural History Museum scientific associate Dr Paul Salaman.

"We immediately recognized the specimen was previously undescribed" exclaimed Dr Paul Salaman, "yet it seems inconceivable that this distinctive specimen could have had been overlooked for 130 years."
Habitat has disappeared

Thomas Knight Salmon collected the bird in the Andean mountains at Santa Elena, a neighbouring town to Colombia's third largest city, Medellin. Formerly forested, with their cool climate and rich soils these are prime locations for coffee cultivation, agriculture and cattle grazing. Very little of the original lush Andean forests remain and the region has very few protected areas. Several recent searches by Fundación ProAves fieldworkers in the region have failed to locate any living individuals.

"Sadly, the new subspecies appears to have been restricted to Andean forests" said Dr Prŷs-Jones "a habitat that has been almost completely destroyed around Medellin and replaced by non-native pine trees and exotic eucalyptus trees."

"If we had known about this extraordinary specimen decades before, it is possible the bird could have been located and saved, but sadly it lay overlooked for generations and as a bitter consequence we have probably lost it forever," concluded Dr Salaman.

Colombia's national bird conservation organization, Fundación ProAves, has received extensive support from British conservation philanthropist and keen birder, Robert Giles, who has supported the protection of many threatened bird species in Colombia. The new bird has been named in his honour.

The description of the new bird is published in the March 2009 issue of Bulletin of the British Ornithologist's Club, by three Fundación ProAves Council members - Robert Prŷs-Jones, Thomas Donegan, and Paul Salaman.

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/colomboa-antpitta009.html#cr

Friday, 27 March 2009

Mystery solved of elephant in Belfast back yard

Friday, 27 March 2009

A mystery Belfast woman who cared for a baby elephant in her back garden during the war years has finally been identified.


The ‘elephant angel’ was Denise Weston Austin, who was one of the first female zoo keepers in Belfast Zoo.

Along with her mother Irene, Denise took baby elephant Sheila in to her north Belfast home after it escaped an order to euthanize some of the more dangerous animals at the zoo.

Nine lions, two tigers and a number of bears and wolves were killed on the orders of the Ministry of Public Security because of fears that they would escape and threaten the public if the zoo was damaged in a German bombing raid.

Earlier this week the zoo - which is celebrating its 75th anniversary - launched a campaign to find the mystery owner and, through a surviving relative, have found more information on her identity.

Her second cousin, David Ramsey from Belfast, described her as an “eccentric” lady who lived in an exotic home in north Belfast called Loughview House.

Mr Ramsey also said that Sheila the elephant only lived with Ms Austin in the evening.

He said: “When the Head Keeper, Dick Foster, left work, Denise took Sheila from her enclosure, walked her a short distance to her house at Whitewell Road, and walked her back up to the zoo in the morning, sometimes stopping at a shop, the Thrones Stores, on the Whitewell road for stale bread.

“It was also known in the area that she took Sheila for evening walks. During the night Sheila slept in the Austin’s garage.

“Sheila was given hay from the family farm, which was of a much better quality than the zoo could provide during an era of rationing.”

Sheila managed to stay hidden due to the large walls which surrounded the house, and zoo staff were not aware of her second home until she chased a dog into a neighbours garden, breaking the fence.

Neighbours brought the incident to the attention of the Head Keeper, whereupon Sheila had to remain in the zoo. Denise continued to visit Sheila in the zoo, particularly at night during Luftwaffe air raids, when she rubbed her ears to keep her calm.

Ms Austin died in 1997, but her cousin said he believed she would have been “tickled pink with all the attention”.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/mystery-solved-of-elephant-in-belfast-back-yard-14245746.html

Elephant angel mystery solved

Belfast Zoo has identified the woman who looked after one of its elephants in her backyard during the Second World War.

Sheila the baby elephant was moved out of the zoo over fears for her safety during the Belfast Blitz of 1941, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Grainy photographs of her drinking from a bucket outside a red brick house revealed that she had been offered sanctuary in somebody's backyard.

Now, after a public appeal for information, it has been discovered that it was the one of the zoo's first female keepers.

The so-called 'elephant angel' was Denise Austin, who used to walk Sheila about the streets of north Belfast calling into shops where the calf was treated to portions of stale bread.

Denise died in 1997 but the long-running puzzle was solved by one of her surviving relatives, second cousin David Ramsey.

"Denise was eccentric and lived in a rather exotic home in North Belfast called Loughview House," he said.

The Belfast man explained that Sheila stayed in her enclosure at the zoo during the day and went home to Denise's house at night.

"When the head keeper Dick Foster left work, Denise took Sheila from her enclosure, walked her a short distance to her house at 278 Whitewell Road, and walked her back up to the zoo in the morning, sometimes stopping at a shop, the Thrones Stores, on the Whitewell road for stale bread."

Sheila was one of the lucky ones at the zoo, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Many animals were killed because of public safety fears of an escape during the bombing.

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_3256255.html

So monsters of the deep really could exist!

Published Date:
25 March 2009

By Siôn Donovan
Education reporter

They were thought to be mythical monsters of the deep. But a Portsmouth scientist says sea-serpents may exist in our oceans and seas today.

Dr Darren Naish says the discovery of several large marine animals during the past 35 years demonstrates there are sea mammals in existence waiting to be found.

As well as several sightings of mysterious creatures every year, he also point to the discovery of a large serpent-like carcass inside the stomach of a sperm whale off the coast of Canada in 1937.

Dr Naish, who carried out the study along with researchers from the University of London, concluded there are likely to be three species of sea-lion and walrus-like creatures – called pinnipeds – yet to be discovered.

He said: 'We're not talking about the Loch Ness Monster here or mermaids seen by 16th century sailors.

'The purpose of the paper was to assess the discovery curve of pinnipeds. We found from that data that there are more unusual and large species of sea lions and walruses to be found.

'It's possible that these new creatures could exist.'

Mammals need to surface to breathe but the scientists have some theories about why they've yet to be discovered.

As well as being few in number and living in remote regions, the creatures could also feed in 1km deep waters like sperm whales which are rarely seen on the surface.

Dr Naish said: 'There were more sightings in the past. It could be that people then were more prone to making mistakes and fantasising.

'But the behaviour of shipping has changed.

'Improved technology means ships can navigate straighter paths and are not as widespread across the seas.

'Engine noise could also frighten the creatures away.'

There is no active search for the creatures in such vast oceans. But Dr Naish said they could be found in the future by the whaling industry, snagged on ships or beached on shorelines.

The paper was published in the academic journal Historical Biology.

Fellow author Michael Woodley, of Royal Holloway, University of London, said: 'There is a need for scepticism as all known pinnipeds are noisy animals with close ties to land.

'These pinnipeds would have to possess some exceptional characteristics, if they exist.'

But he said: 'Many sightings have been made by trained observers, including military personnel and experienced naturalists.'

GREAT DISCOVERIES...

There are several examples of large animals that have been discovered in the oceans in the past 35 years which include the:
  • Lesser or Peruvian beaked whale – a strikingly marked whale more than three metres in length from the eastern Pacific which was discovered in 1975.

  • Megamouth, a large, filter-feeding shark known from tropical seas worldwide which can grow up to 5.5m in length, which was discovered in 1976.

  • Omura's whale – little is known about this giant species, described as a smaller version of the 27 metre long Fin whale, and only discovered in the late 1970s.

  • Indonesian coelacanth – a deep-sea fish more than a metre long with a striking metallic sheen which was discovered in 1998.
http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/newshome/So-monsters-of-the-deep.5107423.jp

Rabid bobcat walks into bar, attacks patrons

Last Update: 3/26 12:35 pm

COTTONWOOD, Ariz. (AP) -- A bobcat has attacked three people in the central Arizona community of Cottonwood, including two men who were bitten by the animal after it wandered inside a bar.

Officers called to the Chapparal Bar arrived to find the bobcat in the parking lot, where they shot and killed it.

Tests were ordered to determine if the animal was rabid. It wasn't clear how seriously the victims had been wounded.

Cottonwood police say the animal attacked Monday when it scratched a woman who thought she had hit it with her car. Then police got a report of a bobcat acting aggressively toward a woman outside a Pizza Hut.

About 11 p.m. came the call from the bar that a bobcat was inside as patrons climbed atop bar stools to get away.

------

Information from: KVRD-FM, http://www.myradioplace.com/

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Toxic toads targeted in Australia's 'Toad Day Out'

By KRISTEN GELINEAU

SYDNEY (AP) — For decades, the poisonous cane toad has plagued Australians, breeding rapidly, eating voraciously and bestowing death upon most animals that dare consume it.

So officials came up with a novel — and, some say, poetic — solution: hold a festive mass killing of the creatures and turn the corpses into fertilizer for the very farmers who've battled the pests for years.

On Saturday, residents of five communities in cane toad-plagued northern Queensland state will grab their flashlights and fan out into the night to hunt down the hated animals as part of the inaugural "Toad Day Out" celebration. The toads will be brought to collection points the next morning to be weighed and killed, with some of the remains ground into fertilizer for sugarcane farmers at a local waste management plant.

"It's just a circle of poetic justice!" Toad Day Out organizer Lisa Ahrens said. "Seventy-five years later, they're a benefit to the cane farmer."

The toads were imported from South America to Queensland in 1935 in a failed attempt to control beetles on sugarcane plantations. The problem? The toads couldn't jump high enough to eat the beetles, which live on top of cane stalks.

The ample amphibians, which grow up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length, bred rapidly, and their millions-strong population now threatens many local species across Australia. They spread diseases, such as salmonella, and produce highly toxic venom from glands in their skin that can kill would-be predators. The toads are also voracious eaters, chomping up insects, frogs, small reptiles and mammals — even birds. Cane toads are only harmful to humans if their poison is swallowed.

"The cane toad is probably the most disgusting creature and the most destructive creature," said Queensland politician Shane Knuth, a longtime loather of cane toads who came up with the Toad Day Out idea. "They're killing our native wildlife, they're taking over our habitat and they're hopping all through this country."

Knuth, who has been pushing a proposal to offer a 40 Australian cent ($0.28) bounty on the creatures since 2007, said each adult female cane toad can produce 20,000 eggs. "So if we're able to remove 3,000 female toads, we have the potential in the long run of removing 60 million toads from our environment," he said. No one knows exactly how many cane toads live in Australia.

Organizers are trying to woo thousands of people to take part in the hunt by offering prizes for those with the biggest toad and the highest total weight of toads. Goodies range from cane toad trophies (made of actual stuffed cane toads) to a gift certificate for a local resort.

An organizers' tip sheet gives advice on how to create toad traps — or "detention camps" — and recommends that participants "study detention techniques to ensure your own, as well as the toad's safety — they must be alive and unharmed for interrogation."

Live toads brought to the collection points will be examined by experts to ensure they're not harmless frogs and then killed, either by freezing or by being placed in plastic bags filled with carbon dioxide.

Haydn Slattery, manager of the SITA waste management plant in Cairns, said he's hoping to receive about 220 pounds (100 kilograms).

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has applauded the effort — with one caveat.

"We're only supportive of the plan if the toads are killed humanely — in other words, they're not hit with baseball bats or cricket bats and golf clubs," said spokesman Michael Beatty.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

USA TV focus on new Nessie mystery

By Donald Wilson
Published: 26 March, 2009

THE latest "monster" sighting on Loch Ness revealed by the Highland News is set to feature on one of the biggest breakfast shows on US television.

A TV crew from London visited the Loch Ness Exhibition at Drumnadrochit this week filming for Good Morning America, which is broadcast by the giant ABC network and attracts more than five million viewers.

Naturalist Adrian Shine, who designed the exhibition, has been interviewed by the programme makers.

They have also received copies of the Highland News with the latest story of a possible Nessie sighting by a couple who were spending a romantic weekend in the Highlands in January.

Such is the worldwide interest in the legend of the loch, our story about Ian Monckton and his fiancee Tracey Gordon from Solihull who unwitting captured a still photograph of something on the loch, has attracted more than 32,000 hits since it went on to our website, www.highland-news.co.uk.

Ian and Tracey were on their way back to a cottage in Invermoriston when they stopped at a layby at 11pm.

The couple heard a commotion in the water and scrambled down the bank towards the shore of the loch.

Ian's digital camera went off accidentally and it was only when he got back to their cottage that he found an image on it which they hoped might be Nessie.

Ian admitted both he and his girlfriend were very much Nessie sceptics when they came north to celebrate Tracey's 30th birthday.

But he said getting the photograph was the highlight of their trip and would make them want to come back.

"Having had this experience, I would say we now have a very open mind on the matter," he said.

Nick Watt, a London-based presenter with ABC, said the programme they are making for Good Morning America is entitled "In Search of the Truth".

"Loch Ness is one of a series of three programmes," he said. "We are also looking at the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle and vampires.

"What we are trying to do is catalogue overwhelming human testimony – like this story in the Highland News – and balance that against rational scientific evidence.

"What appeals to Americans about the mystery of Loch Ness is the beautiful setting and the fact no one can prove or disprove the legend one way or the other. They love the story and I'm sure every single American has heard of Nessie.

"No one has been able to prove it's nonsense and stories like this in the Highland News fuel this enduring mystery."

Ian's photograph was sent to Adrian to get his expert opinion and, like much of the photographic evidence that has gone before, it doesn't solve the mystery of the loch.

"Unfortunately, I can see nothing I can interpret in the picture," Adrian admitted. "I went down to the lochside and to the lay-by where this couple had parked.

"But there are an awful lot of trees and I was not able to find exactly where the picture was taken. There's nothing really on the picture to speculate what it might be.

"But this story underlines my contention that anything you see on the loch and do not understand may well be interpreted as what we would expect to be in the loch.

"The interest in the story on your website just shows the worldwide appeal of the Nessie story.

"This couple admitted they didn't see anything when they were at the loch. It was only afterwards they saw this image on the camera. But it has given them something to remember their visit by."

d.wilson@highland-news.co.uk

http://www.highland-news.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/5362/USA_TV_focus_on_new_Nessie_mystery.html

Mutilated Cows Still A Big Mystery

Posted: March 26, 2009 01:23 AM
Updated: March 26, 2009 02:03 AM

By Sean Hauser
s.hauser@krdo.com

WALSENBURG - In the past month, three different ranchers in Southern Colorado have all reported that their cows were mutilated.

The first was reported at the Purgatoire River near Weston, ten days later, another report came in, this time in Trinidad. And the most recent case came last Sunday, when yet another cow was found dead near Walsenburg.

Three Separate cows, three separate ranchers... all with the same bizarre story. Each of them found one of their cows' dead... and we're not talking death by natural causes...the cows were reportedly mutilated. NEWSCHANNEL 13 received pictured to prove it, some of them are too disturbing to show.

The cows ears were cut off by what ranchers say had to have been a laser, their organs all pulled from their body. The ranchers say no animal tracks or human tracks were found anywhere near the bodies, and the attacks have nothing in common with an animal attack.

Sound strange? Well, the story only gets stranger...

The ranchers don't think its animals or humans to blame for the killings. So who else could it be? Well, some believe that we've had some visitors from the sky.

But believe it or not... the evidence is startling.

Each rancher says there are no bite marks on the cows, and no blood trails around the body that you would typically see in an animal attack.

One of the ranchers, Tom Miller, told NEWSCHANNEL 13 that he's not sure what to believe.

"It's still a mystery," said Miller. "Both their ears were cut off, they were very smooth cuts, no animal or knife could have done it."

Cow mutilation cases have been reported in Colorado since the 60s. Other states, and other countries have also reported similar cases.

Local UFO expert, Chuck Zukowski has been investigating UFOs for over 20 years. He is now investigating the recent cow mutilation cases.

Zukowski says on the night that Miller's calf was killed; he received reports of a dark, triangular craft flying over Colorado Springs.

We decided to ask what residents in Walsenburg thought.

"Yeah... you have to be open minded," replied Jane Cruz, when asked if she believe in UFOs. "Anything is possible, if there's a heaven and hell, why not UFOs?" added Cruz.

"Anything is a possibility, I keep an open mind you know," said Joe McCoy. "They could be out there."

But not everyone is convinced.

"I think they're crazy," said Eric Helms. "I don't believe in UFOs... I'd have to see a UFO myself and see aliens pop out of the ship and take the parts off themselves," said Helms when asked what it would take to believe it.

http://www.krdo.com/Global/story.asp?S=10072494&nav=menu552_1

Third cattle mutilation found in county

By Randy Woock
Staff writer, The Times Independent

A cattle was found mutilated on a ranch in northern Las Animas County last weekend, the third to be found in such a state this month.

The mutilated cow was owned by Jim Garren, and found at about 1:30 p.m. March 21 by his ranch manager on Garren's land located about 12.5 miles southeast of Walsenburg.

"Her udder had been surgically removed," Garren said. "And that's the extent...there wasn't any other trauma on the cow at all."

The two-and-a-half year old Kobe and Angus crossbreed had last been seen at feeding time the previous day. It had also given birth to a calf that night that was discovered hiding in the brush about 50 yards from the carcass.

Garren said that he noticed no tracks around the carcass. "No marks, no disturbance of any kind of the soil," he said. "She was partially underneath a juniper tree, and there was no breakage in the tree, no branches or anything; it just looked like the cow had laid down very peacefully; there was no trauma on the cow, on her head or any parts of her body, we could find zero holes."

Garren added, "There wasn't any blood around anywhere."

Asked if he was aware of the other cattle mutilations that have taken place around the county recently, Garren replied, "Yeah, I just didn't think it would happen to me; guess I got elected."

Garren contacted authorities after discovering the carcass and was put in touch with the local brand inspector.

The first of the new wave of cattle mutilations reported in Las Animas County occurred March 8 to a cow owned by Trinidad School District No. 1 instructor Mike Duran. That cow had been discovered by Duran lying dead on its side by a stream at his winter grazing pastures west of Weston, it's udder and uterus removed. The second mutilation, a week old calf, was discovered March 17 by owner Tom Miller on his ranch east of Hoehne.

Miller reported that the only things left on the calf was some hide, the forelegs and its neck and head. "All the rest of the organs were gone...you could look right into the ribcage and everything," Miller said during a previous interview, adding that the hipbones on the calf were also broken.

Miller and Duran both reported a previous mutilation as having occurred in their herds in the mid-to-late 1990s. Garren said the March 21 mutilation was his first.

"He probably picked my best bred heifer out of the whole herd," Garren said. "That's the way it goes; when you lose one it's your best one."

Through the county's brand inspector Garren was put in touch with Chuck Zukowski, a field investigator from the Mutual UFO Network who also investigated the Duran and Miller mutilations.

"What was interesting about the Garren mutilation is that the stomach tissue was still there," Zukowski said. "You figure if a predator would get it, it would not only go for the udder but also take the stomach tissue."

Zukowski noted that predators seemed to have gotten to the carcass somewhat the following night, but that pictures taken upon discovery of the carcass that afternoon showed it untouched.

"It was just completely incomprehensible how anything or a body, person or whatever would have the ability to do that without leaving some sort of signatures around," Garren said.

http://www.trinidad-times.com/main.asp?SectionID=14&SubSectionID=151&ArticleID=2038

Shepherds reveal viral ad secrets


A group of shepherds talk to Penny Roberts about the challenges of making an 'extreme shepherding' internet advertisement for Samsung and YouTube. The viral advert on site YouTube has already had thousands of viewers. The shepherds claim it was "good dogs and good sheep", not computer trickery.

Footage courtesy of Samsung and YouTube

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7961889.stm

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Bid to aid daddy longlegs numbers

Climate change is killing off cranefly and in turn threatening the survival of upland wild bird species that feed on them, RSPB Scotland has warned.

Researchers found the larvae of cranefly - also known as daddy longlegs - perish as warmer summer weather dries out the wet peaty soils they live in.

RSPB Scotland said a dramatic decline of the insect could lead to localised extinctions of some birds.

Ditches are being blocked at Forsinard, Caithness, in a bid to help the larvae.

Research into cranefly decline in the UK and its impact on birds such as golden plover was carried out by the conservation charity and the universities of Aberystwyth, Newcastle and Manchester.

It found that higher late summer temperatures kill the cranefly larvae in peatland soils as the surface dries out, resulting in a drop of up to 95% in numbers of adult cranefly emerging the following spring.

With these craneflies providing a crucial food source for a wide range of upland birds like golden plover, this means starvation and death for many chicks.

In the Peak District, it was found that an average temperature rise of 1.9ºC over the last 35 years had become the most important climatic factor affecting the local golden plover population.

Dr James Pearce Higgins, of RSPB Scotland, said: "This is the most worrying development that I have found in my scientific career to date.

"However, by understanding these processes, we now have the chance to respond. If we can maintain good quality habitats for craneflies then we can help the birds too.

"For example, by blocking drainage ditches on our Forsinard reserve in the North of Scotland we hope to raise water levels and reduce the likelihood of the cranefly larvae drying out in hot summers."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7963088.stm

Crabs 'sense and remember pain'

Queen's University says new research it conducted shows crabs not only suffer pain but retain a memory of it.

The study, which looked at the reactions of hermit crabs to small electric shocks, was carried out by Professor Bob Elwood and Mirjam Appel.

The crabs reacted adversely to the shocks but also seemed to try to avoid future shocks, suggesting that they recalled the past ones.

The research is published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Professor Elwood said the research highlighted the need to investigate how crustaceans used in food industries are treated, saying that a "potentially very large problem" was being ignored.

Shell shocked

Hermit crabs have no shell of their own so inhabit other structures.

As part of the research, wires were attached to shells to deliver small shocks to the abdomen of some of the crabs.

The study revealed the only crabs to get out of their shells were those which had received shocks, indicating that the experience was unpleasant for them.

Hermit crabs are known to prefer some species of shells to others and it was found that they were more likely to come out of the shells they least preferred.

The main aim of the experiment was to deliver a shock just under the threshold that causes crabs to move out of the shell, to see what happened when a new shell was then offered.

Those responsible for the study said crabs that had been shocked but remained in their shell appeared to remember the experience of the shock.

They said these crabs quickly moved towards the new shell, investigated it briefly and were more likely to change to the new shell compared to those that had not been shocked.

Professor Elwood, who previously carried out a study showing that prawns endure pain, said: "There has been a long debate about whether crustaceans including crabs, prawns and lobsters feel pain.

"We know from previous research that they can detect harmful stimuli and withdraw from the source of the stimuli but that could be a simple reflex without the inner 'feeling' of unpleasantness that we associate with pain.

"This research demonstrates that it is not a simple reflex but that crabs trade-off their need for a quality shell with the need to avoid the harmful stimulus.

Crustaceans

"Trade-offs of this type have not been previously demonstrated in crustaceans. The results are consistent with the idea of pain being experienced by these animals."

Queen's said the findings of both studies were consistent with observations of pain in mammals.

However, Professor Elwood said that in contrast to mammals, little protection is given to the millions of crustaceans that are used in the fishing and food industries each day.

"Legislation to protect crustaceans has been proposed but it is likely to cover only scientific research," he said.

"Millions of crustaceans are caught or reared in aquaculture for the food industry.

"There is no protection for these animals - with the possible exception of certain states in Australia - as the presumption is that they cannot experience pain.

"With vertebrates we are asked to err on the side of caution and I believe this is the approach to take with these crustaceans."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7966807.stm

Millions of fish shoal in seconds

Researchers in the US have recorded the point at which hundreds of millions of herring coalesce into a vast shoal.

The team used equipment, which they also invented, that uses sound waves to remotely monitor movement of the fish.

They found that, when the herring numbers reach a tipping point, or "critical threshold", this triggers a chain reaction whereby the shoal forms within seconds.

The findings are reported in the journal Science.

Herring form shoals to migrate during the autumn spawning season.

The shoal moves in a "highly organised fashion" and hundreds of millions of herring travel together to shallower waters to spawn.

The very ordered movement of the fish has reinforced an earlier theory that very large groups of migrating animals - swarms or shoals - act as one.

Fibre optic ocean

The technology the researchers used is called Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing.

This produces an image of the whole shoal by bouncing sound waves off the bodies of the fish.

With this equipment, measurements could be taken at such a high speed that the team was able to create a moving image of the forming shoal.

Using sound waves to monitor animals in the darkness of the ocean is not new.

But traditionally, a single survey vessel sends high-frequency sound beams into the ocean - taking a snapshot of a relatively small area.

The new system uses much lower frequency sound that can travel much farther.

"It's like using the ocean as a fibre optic cable," explained Nicholas Makris, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor who led the research.

"The low frequency beams stay trapped in the water column and can cover a 100km area in a minute and a half."

This, says Professor Makris, is a vast improvement over conventional techniques, which Makris compared to "watching one pixel on a movie screen" while the new technology allows you to "see the entire movie."

'Cities of fish'

The herring's initial movement seems to be triggered by the reduction in light as the sun sets.

"When the light fades, it's safer for the fish to move away from the seabed," says Professor Makris.

"Once they have a certain number of other fish in their sphere of perception, they suddenly come together - forming a shoal covering tens of kilometres within tens of minutes."

The herring gather in such huge numbers, and under cover of darkness, for "synchronised spawning". This helps protect them from predators.

The ordered movement of the shoal means the fish can reach their spawning ground more quickly and more safely.

"This is truly a commute," says Professor Makris. "And there are truly cities of fish down there."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7966335.stm

Prehistoric-looking fish hooked by stunned schoolboy

metro.co.uk

Shaun gets a scare from 'alien' catfish

Friday, March 27, 2009, 09:30

When Shaun Brown went fishing with friends, he had no idea he would find a "scary" monster from the deep.

The 14-year-old was at the Grand Union Canal, near Wigston, when he spotted a rare South American armoured suckermouth catfish washed up on the bank.

The 10in-long specimen is native to the warm waters of Panama, Costa Rica and parts of South America.

Experts said it was the first to be found in British waterways and they had no way of knowing where it came from.

Keen to learn what it was, the Countesthorpe teenager took the fish, which was dead when he found it, to an angling shop.

He said: "It was definitely the most interesting thing I've ever come across in the six years I've been fishing.

"I caught a 96lb catfish in Spain before, which was as big as me, but this was really weird.

"It looked a bit scary. I thought it could have been dangerous.

"You can usually only catch roach there. We don't see anything like this around here.

"If I had caught it, I would have just thrown it back in the water, but as it was dead, I thought I should find out what it was."

Shaun took the fish to John Hall's All Seasons angling shop, in Wigston.

Mr Hall said: "Its scales were very shiny and very hard, almost like a crocodile.

"Shaun went home and looked it up on the internet to try to see what it was, but he couldn't, so I sent pictures off to someone I know to try to identify it.

"It had teeth. I'm sure it would have scared a lot of anglers who saw it swimming up river, but it looks worse than it actually is."

Despite the creature's fierce appearance, it is a herbivore, which lives off the algae at the bottom of rivers.

Fisheries scientist Ian Wellby said: "It's not something you want in your freshwaters, but it's quite harmless.

"It's the first one I have ever heard of in Britain.

"It's a warm-water fish and could not survive our winters."

It is believed the suckermouth catfish poses no threat to humans, although it is not known what effect it would have on native fish if it was to breed here.

Lyn Traley, of the Environment Agency, said it was not uncommon to find alien catfish in Britain's waters.

She said: "People often throw them in rivers if they outgrow a garden pond.

"It's a big risk and people shouldn't do it because they carry alien diseases and parasites which can be lethal to other wildlife. If you catch one, you should not throw it back."

http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/news/Shaun-gets-scare-alien-catfish/article-849570-detail/article.html

Germany's Stone Age Cannibalism

Tens of thousands of ancient human bones found in Germany suggest that victims were not killed just to satisfy hunger, writes Pierre Le Hir in Le Monde

The German city of Speyer, in Rheinland-Palatinate, well known for its ­Romanesque cathedral, also boasts some much more macabre relics. A collection of skulls, shin bones and vertebrae might not seem unusual in an archaeology museum, but these particular remains are special. They all show signs of having been cut, scraped or broken, indicating that their owners were cannibalised.

"Look at these grooves, running from the base of the nose to the back of the neck, or here on the temples," says Andrea Zeeb-Lanz, the regional head of archaeology, holding up a skull. "The grooves show, beyond all possible doubt, that the flesh was torn off." It takes good eyesight to catch the fine parallel incisions made by the cutting edge of the flint stone. She then shows me a piece of thigh-bone the end of which has been crushed. Judging by the state of the bone tissue, it was smashed shortly after the victim was killed.

All these human remains were found at the stone-age site at Herxheim, near Speyer. About 7,000 years ago farmers, who grew wheat and barley, raised pigs, sheep and cattle, settled here, building a village of four to 12 houses, the post holes of which have survived. At the time the first farmer-stockherders were moving into Europe, supplanting their hunter-gatherer predecessors. The Herxheim settlers came from the north (between 5,400 and 4,950BC) and belonged to the Linear Pottery culture.

Two lines of ditches were dug around the settlement. They can't have been defensive because they weren't continuous. Nor were they intended for use as an ossuary, as the Linear Pottery people generally buried or burned their dead. However, during a rescue dig just before the area was developed as an industrial estate, in some of the ditches archaeologists uncovered tens of thousands of ­human bones.

During the first series of excavations, at the end of the 1990s, the numerous injuries visible on the skeletons were taken as evidence that the victims had been massacred. But in 2008 Bruno Boulestin, an anthropologist at Bordeaux University, examined the fragments recovered from one of the trenches, pointing out that nearly 2,000 samples belonged to fewer than 10 individuals.

"It is impossible to establish direct proof of cannibalism. But here we have systematic, repetitive gestures, which suggest that the bodies were eaten," says Boulestin. The marks of breaking, cutting, scraping and crushing indicate that the bodies were dismembered, the tendons and ligaments severed, the flesh torn off, the bones smashed. The vertebra were cut up to remove the ribs, just as butchers do today with loin chops. The tops of skulls were opened to extract the brains. Another telling clue is that there are proportionately fewer bones containing marrow, particularly vertebrae and short bones, suggesting they were set aside.

A quick investigation of the bones in neighbouring ditches showed that they had suffered the same fate. Extrapolating to the whole site, only half of which was excavated, about 1,000 people must have been butchered. There is no other example in prehistory of a mass grave of this size. "We are dealing with an exceptional event," says Zeeb-Lanz. Other cases of neolithic cannibalism have certainly been identified, in particular in France, at the caves at Fontbrégoua and Adaouste, near the south coast, or at Les Perrats, further west, but never on this scale.

What can this bloodbath mean? The potsherds found among the human remains suggest it must have occurred over a period of no longer than 50 years. There is nothing to imply the victims were killed for food. Only under extreme conditions would 100 or so farmers have been able to overcome about 10 times their number. The archaeologists have therefore concluded that this was some form of ritual killing. In some cases the tops of skulls were arranged to form a nest, scattered with pottery fragments, broken adzes, jewellery made of shells, the paws and jawbones of dogs.

There are two main types of ritual cannibalism, as the historian Jean Guilaine and palaeopathologist Jean Zammit explain in The Origins of War: Violence in Prehistory. Exocannibalism targets people outside the community: by eating a conquered enemy the aim was not so much to feed on their body as to make them disappear for ever, appropriating their strength, energy and valour.

Endocannibalism, within a community, was a token of affection, the recognition of a bond that needed to be maintained. The scientists have also excluded this possibility, given the small size of the village. But wartime exocannibalism also seems unlikely, as it would have involved raids on remote communities to bring back hordes of prisoners and their pottery.

The team that discovered the site have come up with another hypothesis. Members of the Linear Pottery culture deliberately gathered here, with their prisoners and pottery, to take part in sacrificial cere­monies.

"At this time, the Linear Pottery culture was undergoing a crisis, which led to its disappearance," says Zeeb-Lanz. "Perhaps they hoped to prevent the end of their world through some ceremony, of which cannibalism was just a part."

http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=1000&catID=17
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