Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The giant Amazon arapaima fish is 'under threat'

By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

The arapaima, a giant species of fish that lurks in the Amazon river, may be threatened by overfishing.

Studies reveal that errors in the classification of the species could mean that it is being pushed closer to the edge of extinction than thought.

The arapaima is the largest freshwater fish with scales in the world.

But there may actually be four species rather than one, say scientists, and a lack of research and management may allow some to be fished to extinction.

The threat to the future of these fish has been revealed in research conducted by Dr Leandro Castello of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, US, and Professor Donald Stewart of the State University of New York in Syracuse, US.

They have reviewed what is known about populations of the arapaima, and conducted detailed investigations into the status of the fish in the wild.

Previously, it was thought there was one species of arapaima (Arapaima gigas), which also goes by the common names pirarucu or paiche.

This perspective is based on a taxonomic review done over 160 years ago.

Adults grow to almost 3m in length and can weigh more than 200kg, making the fish the largest with scales living in freshwater anywhere in the world.

They are also air-breathers, coming to the surface every 5 to 15 minutes to gulp air, a behaviour which allows them to colonise muddy oxygen-poor rivers and lakes within the Amazonian basin and prey on other fish that find it difficult to move in such conditions.

However, in an ongoing study, Prof Stewart has analysed nearly all preserved specimens of supposed arapaima available in museums in the world.

So far he has only found one specimen of Arapaima gigas.

The others are suspected to be closely related species, including some as yet unreported.

"Our new analyses indicate that there are at least four species of arapaima," says Dr Castello.

"So, until further field surveys of appropriate areas are completed, we will not know if Arapaima gigas is extinct or still swimming about."

Concern about the fish's numbers comes from other work done by Dr Castello and Prof Stewart.

That suggests that arapaima sexually mature relatively late, and need very specific habitats to both live and reproduce.

Their research also shows that populations of the fish are being put under severe pressure by fishermen.

Because of the fish's huge size and habit of coming to the surface, it has long been a favoured fish to catch, with fisherman using harpoons and gill nets to land their prey.

"They have the curse of being tasty and of having to breathe air," says Dr Castello.

Fishermen have been catching large numbers of arapaima in this way since the 1800s.

But now, while a few populations are increasing, others are being overfished, say the researchers, who have published a paper warning of the fish's fate in the Journal of Applied Ichthyology.

And while Brazil implemented regulations to manage arapaima fisheries some 20 years ago, most fishermen do not follow the regulations, say the authors.

"Arapaima can be viewed as badly overexploited and under some level of threat of extinction," says Dr Castello.

One solution, they say, is to encourage community-based schemes for fisheries, and there is much need for additional action on the part of the government.

For example, their research shows that fishermen who specialise in hunting arapaima with harpoons can accurately count the fish, due to the fish's habit of breaching the surface for air.

The fishermen can then select a sustainable proportion of the population to hunt.

"Populations of arapaima managed with this system increased about 50% annually, while yielding increasing catches and hence economic profits to the fishermen," says Dr Castello.

Around 100 such community schemes are in place, and some previously overexploited populations have recovered.

"Such results are extremely rare in wildlife conservation, especially in tropical countries where wildlife conservation challenges are greater than elsewhere," says Dr Castello.

But much more needs to be done to research these fish in more detail and prevent overfishing, the scientists warn.

In particular, "the present situation may be one in which one species of arapaima is recovering in certain areas, while unrecognised species are going extinct," they say.

(Submitted by Lidsay Selby)

Cambridge role in chameleon discovery

The newly discovered chameleon (Kinyongia magomberae), found by conservation zoologist Trevor Jones in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania.

News - Academia/Research
Written by News Desk
Tuesday, 05 January 2010 10:32

A new species of chameleon discovered in Tanzania has been identified and named by a team of life science experts including Anglia Ruskin University Research Fellow Trevor Jones.

Conservation zoologist Trevor was the first to photograph the newly-named ‘Magombera’ chameleon when he spotted it walking on the inside of his tent.

He was camped in the Mwanihana forest, in the Udzungwa Mountains of south-central Tanzania, studying endangered monkeys, and knew that there was no species of its kind reported from that site.

One year later, Dr Andrew Marshall, from the University of York, also spotted the reptile while surveying monkeys in another forest, the Magombera Forest, when he disturbed a tree snake eating one. The specimen was collected and tested and compared to others found in East Africa.

The study that followed included Dr Marshall and researchers from the Meseo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Stellenbosch.

Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science & Technology’s life sciences team has also been instrumental in the discovery of a new species of monkey and elephant-shrew, both in Tanzania.

The chameleon has been named Kinyongia magomberae (the Magombera chameleon). It was named after the second forest it was discovered in, to highlight this unprotected and highly threatened site. It is hoped that the naming of the chameleon will help to convince the government to give further protection to the area.

The Magombera discovery brings the total of known chameleon species to 161. Chameleons are a specialised group of lizards that often have the ability to change colours and are known for their dinosaur-like heads and parrot-like feet. The new species is most easily distinguished from its closest relatives by a very small and immobile horn-like appendage on the end of its nose.

Trevor Jones is a conservation zoologist who has worked on a wide range of mammals and birds in East Africa and Europe. Since 2002, he has carried out ecological research, monitoring and training in the biodiverse forests of the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania.

From 2002-2004, he habituated a group of endemic Sanje mangabeys, and completed the first systematic study of their ecology and behaviour. In 2004, during an exhibition searching for unconfirmed populations of mangabeys, he instead discovered one of the two known populations of ‘kipunji’, Africa’s first new monkey species for 20 years.


Dolphins Are 'Non-Human Persons'

Scientists agree on this amazing statement

By Tudor Vieru, Science Editor
5th of January 2010, 09:20 GMT

The scientific community has finally come to a consensus regarding dolphins. Experts believe that the marine animals are the second most intelligent species on the planet after humans. The creatures are so smart and bright, that they should be referred to as non-human persons, they add. Recent research has demonstrated that their brains are similar to our own in many key features that denote high intelligence. Other tests have also shown that dolphins can learn basic language, and also that they are a lot smarter than chimpanzees. The primates have been considered for a long time the second most intelligent species, but the new work disproves that, Times Online reports.

“Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size. The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions,” zoologist Lori Marino, from the Atlanta, Georgia-based Emory University, explains. The expert scanned the brains of many dolphins using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and also conducted a number of comparative tests between the brains of the marine animals and those of primates.

Previous investigations in dolphins' routines showed that each of the animals had a unique personality that was shaped by the society it lived in, exactly as was the case with humans. They also communicate with each other via a complex language, even if not articulated. They have the ability to recognize themselves in the mirror, which makes them one of a handful of species capable of doing this. Some specialists say that a fully developed dolphin can reach the level of intelligence of a three-year-old human being, which is no small feat.

The animals also have the ability to teach each other various tricks. For example, a formerly captive dolphin that was taught to tail-walk in an aquarium, was seen teaching others to do the same thing, after it was released. Needless to say, the researchers were amazed to see this happening right before their eyes. The feat denotes a high degree of intelligence, trust and cooperation on the animals' part, which is very rare to come by in species other than humans. “The scientific research […] suggests that dolphins are ‘non-human persons’ who qualify for moral standing as individuals,” Loyola Marymount University Ethics Professor Thomas White says.


Family: Edinburgh Zoo

Published Date: 04 January 2010

If you go down to the zoo today be sure you're wrapped in a warm, furry coat. And even then you might find Corstophine Hill a little on the chilly side, rather like the animals, a substantial number of whom had retreated into their nests, burrows, pens and generally cosy places when we visited.

The painted hunting dogs dozed deep among the hay, dreaming of the dog days of summer on the plains of their African homeland, the gibbons curled tight around each other like a two-for-one scarf offer in the sales and the flamingos were just a pink blush of a memory, nowhere to be seen.

Which left centre stage to the penguins, who couldn't have been happier with the cold snap. They puffed out their chests, waddled up to meet any visitors, proudly showed off their fluffy King Penguin baby, the first at the zoo in five years, flapped along to the end of their diving board and took turns to do a will-I-won't-I routine, then flopped into the icy water and performed underwater aerobatics with an exhilaration we've never seen them display in summer. They were looping the loop and kicking their height with delight, loving every minute. We could have watched them all day, if we hadn't lost the feeling in our feet and fingers after half an hour and retreated to the monkey house where a warm welcome awaited us.

Cheeky little monkeys of various varieties performed on the ropes and beautiful big Drills, with Cheryl Cole cheekbones and a steady gaze held ours. "They look sad," said my daughter, aged six (pictured left). But with so few left in just a tiny area of the Congo, they're a perfect example of the argument for keeping animals in captivity in order to protect the species, and to engage in conservation and research. That can also be said of the pygmy hippos whose pen we visited next to see the baby born this summer. With so few people visiting the zoo, now is the perfect time to engage the keepers in conversation and we heard of their excitement when the newborn hippo was found in the pen, and that they're one of only two breeding pairs in the UK.

Back out on the hill, by the time we'd reached the place where the big cats live I was ready to climb in beside the tigers and leopards for a cuddle but, after a quick count of spots and stripes, we headed instead for the Budongo Trail, where Edinburgh Zoo's chimps hang out in their new state-of-the-art home. As we thawed and watched their antics, we also learnt a bit about the Royal Zoological Society's work with chimps in Uganda and then before we knew it, it was chucking out time. It had happened again – time had been gobbled up like a croc chewing on a wildebeest and we hadn't seen half of the animals we'd intended to visit and we left, saying as always: "We'll be back."

Edinburgh Zoo, 134 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS, 0131-334 9171, www.edinburghzoo.org.uk, open every day, November to February 9am to 4.30pm, tickets adults £14, children 3-15, £9.50, under threes free, concession £12, family tickets from £29.

• This article first appeared in the Scotsman on Saturday 2 January, 2010


Sharks need friends

By danielclark, YourNews contributor
Posted January 4, 2010

SEBASTIAN — Sharks - demons of the sea - or a diverse group of animals that deserves an image makeover?

Marine biologist Hannah Mead will change your perception of them in "Even Sharks Need Friends," a presentation of the Turtle Coast Sierra Club at the Library in Sebastian on Jan. 19, at 7 p.m.

Mead will show you what makes a shark a shark, and how those traits make them susceptible to overfishing. Emerging evidence suggests that the use of unsustainable fishing practices, like long lining and a profitable market for shark fins, are causing the depletion of local and global shark populations.

Mead earned dual degrees in Marine Biology and Ecology from Florida Tech. She recently returned from living in South Africa, where she earned a Master's degree in Zoology from the Marine Biology Research Institute at the University of Cape Town. All of her free time was spent at sea with white sharks, either tagging/observing them for governmental and PhD projects, or as an onboard scientist for a commercial cage diving company, promoting education and conservation among the clients.

Her free time was also spent catching shy sharks for research or cruising with the cow sharks off the Cape peninsula and the whale sharks of Mozambique. Being immersed in such a "sharky" community solidified her commitment to research, and their conservation.

Admission to this program is free and open to the public. A social hour with refreshments begins at 6:30 p.m. The North Indian River County Library is located three miles west of U.S. 1 on Sebastian Boulevard. Call (772) 589-1355 for more information.


Zoological Survey stall a huge draw

Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Tarantula spider, kept in a sand-filled glass case, was centre of attention at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) stall at the Pride of India Exhibition organised on the sidelines of the ongoing 97th Indian Science Congress.

Most visitors tapped and stroked the glass case trying to evoke some response while the exhibitors requested them to leave the creature in peace.

Tarantulas are found in tropical and desert regions and are mostly harmless to humans.

The spider was the only live specimen on display at the stall. Preserved exhibits of rare moths, dragonflies, butterflies, fish varieties and small reptiles endemic to the Western Ghats were drawing crowds. Preserved specimens of ‘atlas moth,’ the largest moth species in the country; the rare ‘pig nosed frog, also called ‘living fossil,’ etc were on display.

“It is called living fossil because molecular studies show that this species has not had any morphological changes since two million years. Which means that it has lived with the dinosaurs,” said K.P. Dinesh, zoological assistant at ZSI, Kozhikode.

The Giant Earth Worm, another species endemic to Nilambur in Kerala, is another interesting display. This worm can grow up to a metre in length.

Taxidermy of a large size anteater was another interesting sight at the stall which also had on display lively pictures of the flora and fauna from the Western Ghats.


Canadian family's dog saves 11-year-old boy from cougar

A Canadian family's golden retriever saved its 11-year-old owner's life on Saturday when the boy was charged by a cougar in British Columbia.

Published: 11:52PM GMT 04 Jan 2010

Austin Forman was in his family's garden in Boston Bar with Angela, the family's 18-month-old pet dog, when he was charged by the wild cat.

Angel positioned herself between her young master and the cougar, sustaining puncture wounds.

"I was really scared. At first, I didn't know it was a cougar. I thought it was another dog," Austin told the Canadian news website CTV News on Sunday. "As soon as it went underneath the light, I saw that it was a cougar. I knew at that moment, I had to go inside."

The boy fled into his home, yelling: "A cougar is eating Angel!"

Sherri Forman, Austin's mother, called police, and a nearby constable from the RCMP sped to the scene, where the wild cat was attacking the dog.

The cougar had dragged Angel under the porch, where it continued to savage the dog's neck and face despite the officer firing two rounds into its hind quarters.

When the officer finally shot and killed the wild cat, its jaws remained closed on the dog's face.

When the cat was finally killed, the dog was silent for a few moments, then took a big gasp of air and got to her feet.

The dog, which has a swollen eye, was expected to recover with the help of a local vet.

Mrs Forman praised the family pet.

"She must've known something was up," she said. "Now, she's our guardian angel."


See also: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100104/bc_cougar_100104/20100104?hub=Canada (inlcudes video)
(Submitted by Kelly McGillis)

Mammoth Task As London Zoo Takes Stock

2:49am UK, Tuesday January 05, 2010

Laura Bundock, Sky News Online

From the tallest giraffes to the tiniest spiders, London Zoo is carrying out its annual animal stock take.

Zookeepers there will spend the day counting every creature.

Which is easy if you're in charge of the slow-moving sloths, but slightly trickier if you're Rachel Jones, the aquarium manager.

With 5,500 fish to count, it can get confusing.

"There are some that spend their lives living in the rock and occasionally you'll see a little face poking out, and you have to be quick to count it," she said.

"Others bomb all over the place and are really hard to catch up with."

It's not just the fish which are counted. Every coral, snail and starfish is also added up.

London Zoo is home to 752 species and, with several new exhibits, this year's stock take will be the zoo's biggest ever.

Last year, they counted 15,107 animals. This time around, there are giant Galapagos tortoises, aardvarks, a new Komodo dragon and newborn lion cubs to include.

And with births, deaths and even disappearances each year, the annual roll call is vital for keeping tabs on the zoo's inhabitants.

"On the whole we've got a good idea of how many animals there are, especially if they change tanks or we move them, but the count does give us a clear picture of exactly who's where," added Rachel.


Mouse nest found on policeman's filthy desk

Exterminators called in to deal with an infestation at a police station found a mouse nest on a messy desk.

Published: 9:21AM GMT 05 Jan 2010

Pest controllers were called to an office in Kennington, south London, used by weapons and technology experts at the Metropolitan Police after reports of 'mice everywhere'.

According to internal police reports, a family of mice even set up home in one police worker's desk - burying themselves in his paperwork.

The report reminds workers of 'the Met's clear desk policy' - meaning everything on your desk must be filed away by the end of each day so cleaners can do their jobs.

It states: "Employees came across a number of mice at a police building.

"Action was taken to remove the mice from the premises and there have not been any sighting of mice since."

A spokeswoman for the Met said that the 'paperwork home' set up on one desk by mice consisted of 'paperwork that did not relate to operational police matters'.

"Some of the desks were so messy it was a wonder anyone could find anything," said one officer.

"It got to the stage where mice droppings were found on desks and that's when everyone thought 'it's time to do something about our desks'.

"That's when one guy found a mouse nest in his paperwork. It's fair to say he was a little embarrassed."

Lambeth cops spend more than £25,000 on vermin exterminators last year, including £4,299 to get rid of 'unwanted birds' and £12,018 on 'rodent or mammal extermination'.

The sum also included £108 for 'getting rid of geese', although a police spokesman could not shed any further light on this particular expense.


Kumble to co-opt Men in Blue to save forests and animals

Mysore, Jan 3, DH News Service:

Anil Kumble has said he will co-opt his fellow cricketers for advocating conservation of the rich natural resources of Karnataka.

The former India cricket team skipper, who is Vice-Chairman of Karnataka Wildlife Board said on Sunday that many Indian cricketers were interested in protection of wildlife and they would be requested to create awareness among people.

“The time has come to show that both man and animal can co-exist without giving any scope for confrontation,” said Kumble, who was here in connection with the valedictory function of Youth Club of Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens. There was urgent need to protect whatever wild animals left in Karnataka forests, he felt.

After assuming office as vice-chairman of Wildlife Board, he had visited Bandipur National Park and interacted with field staff and also with forest officials working in the national park.He came across several shortfalls in maintaining the national park and discused problems of the staff. He would submit a detailed report to the State government for action.

He said he would also be visiting Nagarhole National park to study problems and issues. Protection of flora and fauna is everybody’s duty and participation of general public in this endeavour is a must.

Patrolling must

Asked about his impressions of his visit to Bandipur National Park, Kumble said every State is facing one or the other problems in regard to protection of flora and fauna. As for Karnataka, there is an critical need to intensify patrolling of roads that pass through national parks in order to check rash and negligent driving. People tended to drive vehicles in neck-break speed without concerns for animals, resulting in death of wild animals.

Kumble said the Wildlife Board intended to help the Department of Forest which is striving for protection of natural resources. He would like to meet villagers and understand their problems in order to put an end to the problem of man-animal confrontation especially in villages bordering forests. The problem of animals straying into villages is because of encroachment of forest by people. NGOs will be involved in the efforts.


Monday, 4 January 2010

Firefighters battle blaze, and many, many pythons

Firefighters trying to control a trailer fire in southern Utah discovered they had an unexpected further problem to contend with: lots of snakes.

Tom Phillips

Kristeen Checketts, the animal control officer in St. George, Utah, said there were about 19 pet pythons in the trailer when it caught fire Thursday morning at a park for recreational vehicles.

Once the fire was put out, Checketts and firefighters began pulling out snake after snake - most of them in cages, and some up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) long.

Checketts says 11of the reptiles survived, according to The Spectrum newspaper.

The snakes' owner tried to revive another by massaging it and blowing into its mouth through a plastic pipe.

Fire Captain Jason Whipple says the accidental fire started with a heat lamp in one of the snake cages.


Puffin warden wanted for Welsh island

A fresh start for the New Year is up for grabs - as a castaway on a remote island with just half a million birds for company.

Published: 10:09AM GMT 04 Jan 2010

The vacancy for the job as warden of Skomer Island is expected to attract hundreds of applications from people wanting to get away from it all.

It is being described as the British equivalent of The Best Job in the World - the competition held last year to find a warden for Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Skomer, two miles off the Pembrokeshire coast, has no blazing sunshine, coral reef or exotic wildlife.

But to those who want the great escape, it is closest Britain has to a desert island paradise.

It has no mains water, no electricity, no roads, shop, or pub, and is separated from the mainland by Jack Sound, one of the most treacherous stretches of water off the British coast.

It is inhabited by puffins, manx shearwaters, kittiwakes, razor bills and guillemots, along with thousands of wild rabbits.

It even has its own unique species - a tiny creature called the Skomer Vole which is not found anywhere else in the world.

The island is carpeted by bluebells throughout the spring and surrounded by a marine reserve, rich in sealife, including dolphins and porpoises.

And the new warden will live in a clifftop bungalow in the heart of the island's main puffin colony.

Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales chief executive Sarah Kessell said: "We are looking for a very special person to take care of our flagship reserve.

"The warden will have to manage people and resources, be familiar with conservation techniques and be confident on board boats."

The vacancy has come up because the current warden Jo Milborrow wants to return to the mainland after six years on Skomer and its sister island Skokholm.

She and her husband Dave, the assistant warden on Skomer, want a fresh challenge.

Jo, 33, said: "After six unforgettable years we have packed up and shipped our belongings off for the last time.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have lived in such an amazing place.

"Gaining an intimate knowledge of one place, its wildlife and seasonal rhythms are things I value greatly.

"This in-depth relationship with our surroundings is hard to establish in modern life."

The job pays between £14,000 and £16,000 for a 48 hours week with accommodation thrown in free.

Part of the work involves greeting the hundreds of birdwatchers and day trippers who arrive by the tiny ferry boat in the spring and summer - weather permitting.

But only the warden and a few overnight visitors get to see the island's greatest spectacle - the nightly arrival of hundreds of thousands of Manx Shearwaters, a rare seabird which lives underground.

A third of the world's breeding population of Manx Shearwaters breed each summer on Skomer before flying off to warmer climes in the winter.

Jo said: "To have shared my home with puffins, peregrine falcons, shearwaters and storm petrels and to be able to help protect these birds and inspire other people about them has been a high point of my life.

"I wish the new warden as many memorable times as we have been lucky enough to share."


Couple taped up tortoises to smuggle into Britain

A couple kept seven wild tortoises in a hotel room while holidaying on a Greek island then tried to smuggle them into the UK, a court heard today.

Published: 3:54PM GMT 04 Jan 2010

Herpetologist Michael Mates and his partner Carol Wormley, both 42 and from Walthamstow, east London, returned from Corfu with the animals hidden in luggage, magistrates in Harlow, Essex, were told.

Both were ordered to carry out unpaid work and banned from keeping reptiles for 10 years after admitting breaking laws designed to protect wildlife.

Prosecutor Angela Hughes said the Hermann's Tortoises had been taken from their natural habitat in Corfu then packed in bags and suitcases. She said one was taped to stop it moving around.

Miss Hughes said the couple kept the creatures in a hotel room before taking them on to a plane and flying to Stansted.

She told the court that both were arrested when they landed at the airport in July.

Magistrates were told that Gates was a herpetologist who had a collection of reptiles.

Jeremy Sirrell, for Gates, said his client had been trying to rescue the tortoises after seeing them treated cruelly and had not intended to sell them.

Mr Sirrell said while on holiday Gates had picked up tortoises he saw being kicked around by boys, then bought more from a ''woman selling flowers''.

He said Gates had been ''stupid'' by deciding to bring the tortoises home instead of going through proper channels.

David Dadds, for Wormley, said his client had ''gone along'' with Gates' wishes and had not understood that what she was doing was wrong.

Gates, who worked as a driver, admitted causing unnecessary suffering, failing to ensure animals' needs were met and transporting live animals taken from the wild. He was ordered to carrying out 150 hours of unpaid work. Wormley, who worked in the retail industry, admitted failing to ensure animals' needs were met and transporting live animals taken from the wild. She was ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.


Giant tongue almost kills dog

04 January 2010 16:30 PM

A dog in Scotland almost died after an accident left her with a giant tongue.

Family pet Penny almost suffocated when her tongue swelled to four times its normal size following a bizarre accident.

The pooch was tucking into to her favourite treat - a pig's heart - when part of the dead animal's aorta became stuck around the base of her tongue.

As her mouth muscle started to swell, the 18-year-old animal frantically clawed at her face to try and free it.

Penny's owner Linda Donnelly rushed the animal to a pet hospital in Glasgow.

Vet Dermot Mullen said: "I am just pleased I was able to save her. The prognosis was not at all good."

Linda added: "Pigs' hearts are now completely off the menu!"


Ivory Power

A forensic zoologist has devised a smart way to limit the world trade in illegal ivory. Under EU law, only antique ivory from before 1947 can be traded legally but there was no accurate way to date ivory... until now.

Dr Ross McEwing from Edinbugh Zoo has devised a technique to test for levels of the carbon 14 isotope in bones and tusks. The higher the level, the more likely it is to originate for the post-1947 era. Testing begins this summer.

Metro, 4 January 2010, p9.

Frito the llama escapes getting munched, back at home in Wyo. after 2nd llama killed by cougar

Associated Press
Last update: December 31, 2009 - 1:50 PM

ALTA, Wyo. - Frito the llama defied his name and didn't get eaten.

Lou Centrella seemed sure that was Frito's fate after a mountain lion killed another of his llamas on Sunday. Frito was nowhere to be found after the attack on the other llama, named Grayson.

On Monday, the cougar returned to the Centrellas' yard in western Wyoming to feed on the llama it had killed. Concerned the big cat may have acquired a taste for llama, Centrella shot it.

Wildlife officials say he was within his rights, but Centrella says he felt bad about killing the mountain lion.

Centrella and his daughters Lane and Mila went looking for Frito on Wednesday. They found him four miles away, across the state line in Driggs, Idaho.

They put a rope on the errant llama and led him home through the snow.
Information from: Jackson Hole News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/


(Submitted by D.R. Shoop)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tropical wildlife washed-up on Dorset beaches

3:00pm Saturday 19th December 2009
WILD and windy weather has washed up some rare and unusual visitors to Dorset’s beaches.

Tropical crabs, birds blown off course and rare barnacles are among the wildlife reported by Dorset Wildlife Trust after storms and strong south-westerlies.

Six rare types of goose barnacle have reached the coast in recent weeks, including one, Conchoderma virgatum, which trust staff have nicknamed the “pyjama barnacle” because of its stripy skin.

“These animals usually spend their lives in warmer waters, drifting around the oceans of the world, hitching a lift on any floating debris, whether it be mats of seaweed, bird feathers or plastic bottles,” said Julie Hatcher, marine officer.

Very rarely, other oceanic hitch-hikers find their way to the coastline, including a tropical Columbus crab, found by local marine expert Lin Baldock on Ringstead beach.

This is only the second time in 100 years that Columbus crabs have been found here. They hit the headlines in 2006 when around 30 were discovered on the beaches, following extremely stormy conditions.

Among birds driven by the storms was a grey phalarope, a wading bird blown off course as it headed for the southern oceans from its Arctic breeding grounds.

It was seen surfing the waves and picking tiny bugs from the water just below the trust’s Fine Foundation Marine Centre, at Kimmeridge.

Birds including puffins and petrels, that are normally far out to sea at this time of year, have been washed up dead, battered by the wind and waves and unable to feed.

“Now is the time to get out on the beach and search among the strandline,” said Julie. “After such a stormy period you never know what creatures you may turn up, and it may even be something never recorded in Dorset before.

“Take photos and send them to Dorset Wildlife Trust for recording. The more we know about what’s out there, the better we will be able to protect it,” she said.

Send marine sightings to kimmeridge@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk or call 01929 481044.


(Submitted by Mark North)

Rare wildlife found at Purbeck firing range

1:00pm Thursday 31st December 2009

By James Tourgout

A LIVE firing range in Purbeck is home to some of the rarest pond life in the country.

Ponds on Ministry of Defence land on the Lulworth firing ranges at Povington contain a caddis larva never before recorded in Dorset and a number of nationally scarce insects and plants.

They include the small red damselfly, the Downy Emerald dragonfly, the threatened medicinal leech, pilwort rare aquatic fern and rare beetles.

The 11 ponds were investigated as part of the Purbeck Important Ponds Project and feature high on the list of the best of the area’s ponds.

Rachel Janes, who is Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Purbeck pond project co-ordinator, said: “The exciting thing about these ponds is that, while they do not have a vast range of species because they are naturally acidic, many of the species that they do have are rare and certainly special to this kind of habitat.

“These ponds are extremely important nationally.”

Dorset Wildlife Trust led the project with funding by Biffa Waste Services’ Biffaward, the Environment Agency and the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It identified the best of Purbeck’s ponds with the help of landowners, including the MoD.

The ponds remained undisturbed because of their location in a live firing area and are free of agricultural chemicals or introduced species such as fish. Stuart Otway, head of Natural Environment for Defence Estates, said management of defence estate land presented an enormous challenge because of its size and diversity.

“It is vital that we provide the right facilities needed to train and prepare our service personnel, in particular for current operations in Afghanistan,” he said. “But we must also balance that requirement with sensible stewardship of the estate.”

Oliver Howells, natural environment advisor for Defence Estates said: “The ponds across Lulworth ranges receive no active management and the survey has shown how pristine these ponds are because they’ve not been drained or modified.

“The fact they’ve never been stocked with fish is also very important.”


(Submitted by Mark North)

Weymouth Sea Life 'dragons' fall for mistletoe

9:40am Tuesday 29th December 2009
By Martin Lea

MISTLETOE has tricked leafy seadragon creatures at the Sea Life Park in Weymouth into a mating frenzy after they confused the Christmas plant for a love-rival.

The odd-looking marine creatures bear a striking resemblance to the Christmas kissing plant.

So when the males were a little slow in getting to know the female seadragons at an aquarium, staff decided to decorate their tank with sprigs of mistletoe.

And it had the desired effect as it apparently sparked jealousy in the male seadragons who now see the plant as a love rival.

Fiona Smith, display supervisor at the Sea Life Park, said: “The males have suddenly started engaging in heated courtship with the females.

“It seems the males view the Christmas decorations as potential rivals and they are making sure they don’t lose out.

“We knew the seadragons looked like mistletoe and at first we decorated the tank as a bit of fun but it has had the desired effect.

“It looks like mistletoe can fire underwater passions so we may keep it in the tank year round.

”The Sea Life Park hopes to be the first place in Europe to breed the animals that are usually found around Australia.

The attraction has only recently taken delivery of the creatures, but were not encouraged with their initial lack of courtship.

Seadragons – phycodurus eques in Latin – are close relatives of seahorses and like them, it is the male that looks after the eggs by carrying them in a clump on his belly.

The Sea Life Park is one of the world’s most successful seahorse breeding facilities and its marine experts hope their expertise will guide them to similar success with the seadragons.

(Submitted by Mark North)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Bass Strait barnacle 300 million-year-old king of species

December 30, 2009

A RARE barnacle found only in Bass Strait is the oldest of the species, as well as one of its most unique members, according to researchers who came across the crustacean by a lucky accident.

The tiny ibliform barnacle, which is just 2.5 millimetres long, dates back to the Paleozoic era, about 300 million years ago.

That means the ibliform barnacle pre-dates all other types of barnacles and gives researchers a clue as to how the species evolved.

''Their earliest forms evolved from Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea,'' said John Buckeridge, professor of natural resources engineering at RMIT University.

And unlike most barnacles, which rely on shells and camouflage to protect them from predators, Professor Buckeridge said the cream-coloured barnacle used the toxic substance bromine, collected from sea water, to make itself unpalatable to predators such as carnivorous snails, small fish and crustaceans.

The ibliform, however, has an incomplete shell that does not cover the barnacle's lower, vulnerable areas where the bromine-heavy parts are mostly concentrated.

Professor Buckeridge's research with RMIT research fellow Jessica Reeves, published this month in the journal Integrative Zoology, found up to 7 per cent of some parts of its body is bromine.

''That's a remarkably high percentage,'' Professor Buckeridge said. ''It's much higher than anything else I've ever seen apart from an algae, also found in Bass Strait. It would be more than unpalatable, it would be poisonous.''

He said there was only one other type of barnacle, the deep sea tetrachaelasma found in waters off Madagascar, which had bromine in its body.

''The shells of these ibliform are made of the same stuff as our teeth. It's a primitive feature not found in modern barnacles,'' Professor Buckeridge said.

The ibliform barnacle, which was recognised as a new species in 2006, is so rare that scientists have only six specimens.

It was found by accident after fishermen delivered a coral-like substance to Museum Victoria, not realising there was a barnacle attached.


Endangered species to get daily web spot in 2010

GENEVA (Reuters) - Endangered species from polar bears to giant salamanders, great white sharks to beluga whales and Namibian quiver trees to Cuban crocodiles will have their day on the Internet throughout 2010.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said on Thursday it would issue throughout the coming year an extensive daily portrait of each of the 365 animals, birds and plants most under threat of disappearance.

"It is time for governments to get serious about saving species and making sure it is high on their agenda for next year, as we're really running out of time," said Jane Smart, a biodiversity expert at the Swiss-based IUCN.

"The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting," Smart said. A third of the some 1.8 million identified species were under growing threat.

Experts believe there could be as many as 6 to 12 million more species as yet unknown to science.

From January 1 2010, declared the U.N. Year of Biodiversity, IUCN will draw on latest research for its annual Red List of endangered wildlife to portray in detail the possibly doomed species of the day.

The material will be posted on the IUCN website (www.iucn.org).

"We will start with some better known species before moving to cover plants, fungi, invertebrates, and more, including less charismatic ones," the inter-governmental body said.

The polar bear, whose fate as the arctic ice-shelf melts has been widely recognized, will have star billing on January 1.

Before December's U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, IUCN said inaction would put the future of some of the world's best-known creatures at risk.

These also included the emperor penguin, the arctic fox, clownfish which were popularized by the hit film "Finding Nemo," Australia's koala bear and almost every species of salmon, both marine and freshwater.

By Robert Evans
Reuters UK

'Chicken' frog saved from pot

Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 09:12

PAIGNTON Zoo has joined a global conservation project with the arrival of a rare species.

It is now home to a giant frog which has two misfortunes — it is both tasty and large enough to be a meal.

The mountain chicken, or giant ditch frog, is one of the largest frogs in the world weighing in at more than 2lbs.

A zoo spokesman said: "The mountain chicken might be one of the most-confusing animals in the world. It is not a bird and it doesn't live in the mountains but it is certainly one of the most endangered."

Disease and the threat is human consumption has contributed to its decline.

"The national dish of Dominica, the mountain chicken was so-called because of its large size and because its meat is said to taste like chicken.

"Its importance to Dominican culture is reflected in its inclusion in the national coat of arms.

"On Montserrat, in the Caribbean, the eruption of the island's volcano destroyed vital habitat."

It is listed as critically endangered and there are only about 160 individuals in captivity anywhere in the world

Now Paignton Zoo has taken receipt of its first mountain chicken, a four-year-old female has from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust at Jersey Zoo via the Zoological Society of London.

She is being kept under strict bio-security conditions to protect against the spread of disease.

Mike Bungard, curator of lower vertebrates, said: "We want to get used to the basic husbandry of the species before we take on more.

"The plan is for us to act as a holding station for first generation zoo born.

"The plan is to release these frogs into the wild, although that relies on overcoming the problems in the wild that caused the decline in the first place."

The wild population has declined by 80 per cent in the last 10 years and the species is now critically endangered.

There are thought to be just 8,000 individuals left, and the species is found on the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Montserrat, though its range formerly extended to Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Zoological Society of London are leading the conservation work.

Paignton Zoo head reptile keeper Rod Keen is going to Jersey Zoo at the end of the month to train to work with the species.


Christmas lights? No, it’s the wagtail tree: Hundreds of roosting birds cover every twig and branch

Going back to Jon's posting a few days ago about the pied wagtails outside Tesco in Barnstaple, here is another sighting of a wagtail roost over the festive season - this time in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

With most town centres currently festooned with fairy lights, you might not give this tree a second glance.

But take a closer look and you'll realise that it's not been decorated but is in fact alive with little birds.
The long-tailed black and white bird is usually seen on its own, flitting through the sky in search of insects. Its other common trait is to stand on the ground frantically wagging its tail up and down – hence the name.

But when dusk falls, they gather in large numbers.

This flock was spotted by photographer David Tipling among the decorations in Tunbridge Wells.

He said: 'At first I thought they were lights that weren't working. People were walking underneath oblivious.

‘It has been so cold recently that perhaps they find it warmer roosting in the middle of town rather than out in the countryside.

'They did look a little spooky, all of them gathered there together.'

Dr Nigel Collar, from conservation group BirdLife International, said: 'There are two theories as to why so many wagtails roost together. The first is information exchange – they're all sizing each other up to see who's put on weight, lost weight and where the best food is to be found.

'The second is that it helps protect them from nocturnal predators as the larger numbers mean there's always one bird with his eyes open.'

The birds can be found across most of the UK, and leave some of the highland and northern areas of Scotland in winter.

They are a sub-species of the White wagtail, which breeds in much of Europe, Asia and north Africa.

By Emily Andrews

Daily Mail Online

Biodiversity board prepares list of species

Imran Khan
First Published : 30 Dec 2009 04:08:00 AM IST

BANGALORE: The Karnataka Biodiversity Board (KBB) has prepared a list of the threatened species in Karnataka, wherein along with tiger, sparrow, frog and lion-tailed macaque, 89 plant species of Western Ghats have been included.

The list, prepared with help from Zoological Survey of India and Botanical Survey of India, has listed 19 animal species of Karnataka and 89 plant species of Western Ghats as threatened.

Along with tiger, bonnet macaque, purple frog and Malabar spotted civet have been listed as threatened species.

The list also includes marine mammals like dugong and blue whale along with leather- back turtle and hawks bill turtle.

Indian vulture, free-tailed bat and Salim Ali’s fruit bat - which goes with the scientific name ‘latidens Salimali’ - have also been made part of the threatened species list.

About the list, member secretary of the Karnataka Biodiversity Board, R C Prajapati said, “We had received a letter from the National Biodiversity Board urging the state board to declare certain species as threatened in Karnataka”.

He said subsequent to that, a list was prepared. Prajapati said that the list had been sent to the state government. "It will be forwarded to the union ministry and once the ministry takes a look, it would issue a notification in this regard," Prajapati added.


UGC forms panel to look into dissections

Saturday, Jan 02, 2010
Special Correspondent

Animal lovers raise hue and cry

NEW DELHI: Giving animal lovers a reason to rejoice, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has set up an expert committee to look into the possibility of banning dissection of animals for zoological experiments in colleges and universities. The five-member committee will hold its first meeting on January 6. Frogs, cockroaches and earthworms are most commonly dissected species from Class X onwards in science groups. Constituted at the initiative of Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, it will suggest ways and means to switch from actual dissection of animals and insects for experiments to virtual experimentation with the help of computers.

The committee is chaired by H.A. Ranganath, Vice Chancellor of Bangalore University, and comprises S. Balasubramanian, Director of DRDO Centre for Life Sciences at Bharathiar University in Coimbatore; Sunil Chhumber of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences; Roop Lal, Department of Zoology of Delhi University; and a nominee of the Director-General of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Balasubramanian said: “I have some ideas which I will discuss during the meeting.”

Mr. Sibal’s initiative came after some pharmacology students drew his attention into the issue.

Animal rights activists have been raising the issue and following a hue and cry raised by them, the Ministry of Environment and Forests came up with a set of guidelines to be followed by the institutions and researchers.


Tarantula Owner Sees Red After Hairy Moment

3:58pm UK, Friday January 01, 2010

Lulu Sinclair, Sky News Online

Tarantula lovers are being warned to avoid getting up close and personal with their pet - or else do it from the other side of an aquarium pane.

That is a lesson that a 29-year-old man from Leeds in Britain learned the hard way, according to the medical journal, The Lancet.

In February of last year, the man turned up at St James's University Hospital in Leeds after three weeks of stinging pain in one eye, which had become red, watery and light-sensitive.

Doctors prescribed antibiotics, assuming he was afflicted with a particularly stubborn case of conjunctivitis, but the treatment did not help the symptoms.

When they re-examined the patient with high-magnification lenses, doctors spotted ultra-thin, hair-like projections sticking into the cornea.

They were so small that even microforceps could not remove them.

That is when the man recalled a close encounter with his pet spider shortly before his eye first became irritated.

While cleaning a stubborn stain on the glass tank that was home to his Chilean Rose tarantula, he turned his head to find the fist-sized arachnid very near by.

The spider released a "mist of hairs" which hit his eye and face, according the journal.

Treatment with topical steroids largely cleared his symptoms, but as late as August he continued to complain of mild discomfort.

"As a defence mechanism against potential predators, the tarantula will rub its hind legs against its abdomen to dislodge special hairs from the back of its body," the study explained.

"Multiple barbs allow the hairs to migrate through ocular tissue as well as other surfaces."

Moral of the story? "We suggest that tarantula keepers be advised to wear eye protection routinely when handling these animals," it concluded.


Friday, 1 January 2010


Dec 30th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Genetically modified prairie voles may illuminate the human condition

LOVE, of course, is what makes the world go round, but what makes love go round? To aesthetes, such a question is imponderable. To scientists, it is not only ponderable but increasingly open to scrutiny---the more so now that Zoe Donaldson and her colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, have succeeded in creating a new kind of transgenic prairie vole. For, unlikely as it might seem, these tiny rodents could be the key to understanding bonding, trust and even decision-making in humans.

For those unfamiliar with the delightful prairie vole, it is a small rodent found in the grasslands of central North America. What makes it unusual among mammals is that it is both sociable and monogamous. Prairie voles groom each other, nest with one another, collaborate to guard their territory and are affectionate and attentive parents who form, for the most part, devoted couples. Their close relatives the
meadow voles, by contrast, prefer a solitary, promiscuous existence.

It turns out that these large behavioural differences between the two species are caused by small genetic ones. To be precise, they have been linked to a hormone called vasopressin and the protein molecule that acts as its receptor. Prairie voles have many vasopressin receptors in the reward centres of their brains. It seems as though these are wired up in a way that causes the animal to take pleasure from monogamy. In people, by contrast, certain variations of the vasopressin receptor have been linked with rocky marriages, and overenthusiastic journalists have
dubbed it the "divorce gene".

Being able to create genetic variants of prairie voles to order would therefore be helpful to research. And that, as they describe in the December issue of /Biology of Reproduction/ , is what Dr Donaldson and her team have done. Using viruses as carriers, they have introduced novel genetic material into embryonic prairie-vole cells, and then grown each modified cell into a complete animal.

In this case, to prove the point, the gene they introduced was for green fluorescent protein---a molecule derived from jellyfish. This molecule, as its name suggests, glows bright green when exposed to light of a suitable frequency. The resulting glowing prairie voles were evidence that the embryos had indeed been altered, and that the alteration had been transmitted to every cell in the vole's body, including its sex cells. The offspring of such voles will therefore carry the change as well.

Having proved the principle, Dr Donaldson--- or anybody else who wishes to---will now be able to make voles that do more than just glow in the dark. Biologists will thus be able to test theories about how behaviour is governed by the vole's various genes. This, in turn, should help explain complex social interactions seen in both rodents and people.

In some cases the monogamous rodents will, no doubt, become promiscuous. Certainly, the reverse can happen. One study has already shown that it is possible to inject a viral vector for the vasopressin receptor into the brains of the fickle meadow voles and make them better partners and parents. It may be some time before such interventions are available for human males, but women can always live in hope.

Vultures face extinction as gamblers seek visions of the future

Inhaling smoked vulture's brain confers gift of premonition, according to vendors of traditional medicine in parts of Africa

David Smith in Johannesburg, guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 December 2009 17.52 GMT

It's a tiny organ that, the superstition goes, holds the secrets of the future. When smoked and inhaled, the brain of a vulture is said to confer the gift of premonition. To put it bluntly, most users hope to sneak a look at next week's national lottery numbers.

Such is the demand for vulture brains to use in muti – traditional medicine – that wildlife experts fear the birds could be driven to extinction within two or three decades. They also warn that hunting could intensify as gamblers seek an advantage when betting on the football World Cup in South Africa.

Vultures' acute vision, and ability to find prey, has kindled a belief that they possess clairvoyant powers. Their brains are dried and rolled into a cigarette or inhaled as vapours in the hope they will bring a vision of the future - including lottery numbers and sports results.

Andre Botha, manager of the birds of prey working group at the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa, said: "People believe it's foresight and this finds fertile ground in people's imagination. If it worked for the lottery, everyone would use it and we'd have a lot of millionaires walking around today.

"There is a lot of betting in South Africa. So we may see an increase connected to gambling around the 2010 World Cup."

A 2007 study found that 160 vultures are sold a year for muti in eastern South Africa, with the total across the region thought to be much higher. About 1,000 are killed every year in Tanzania alone.

The birds are shot, trapped or poisoned by hunters. One tactic is to poison an animal so the vultures that feed on the carcass themselves fall victim. "You can have 300 or 400 converge on a poisoned carcass and all be wiped out," Botha added. Brains and other body parts are then sold at street markets or shops in Johannesburg and other cities.

Steve McKean, a researcher at the conservation body Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, was quoted by South Africa's Star newspaper: "Traditional use as it is currently happening is likely to render vultures extinct in southern Africa on its own within 20 to 30 years."

Seven of the nine species of vulture are rated endangered. Botha said there was demand for the bearded vulture in Eastern Cape province. Traditional healers prefer that the bird be captured alive as the head needs to be removed while it is still living so that "the brain does not flow down into the spinal cord" and the muti loses its potency.


Thursday, 31 December 2009

'Best Job' winner stung by deadly jellyfish

December 30, 2009

Ben Southall - the winner of a competition for the best job in the world - has been stung by a deadly jellyfish.

The 34-year-old Brit was just days away from the end of his six month stint at "caretaker" of Hamilton Island in Queensland when he was stung by a deadly Irukandji jellyfish.

Though tiny (they measure just 2cm) the Irukandji are extremely venomous and stings can often result in people being hospitalised, and are sometimes fatal.

Ben had been on a 'hard-earned break' from his £75,000, six-month job when he was stung while jetsking.

Given that his normal duties include scuba-diving to check on marine life and writing a blog about his experiences we are finding it a bit hard to feel sorry for him.
Speaking of the jellyfish sting Ben said: "I’ve spent nearly six months here in the tropical paradise that is Queensland and so far I thought I’d done particularly well at avoiding any contact with any of the dangerous critters that consider this part of the world their home.

"I was enjoying a post Christmas jetski session with some friends at a quiet beach on Hamilton Island and as I climbed off the back of the ski and onto the beach felt a small bee-like sting on my forearm."

Feeling hot, sweaty, sick and having a headache Ben went to see a doctor who knew instantly what it was and straight away put him on a course of treatment.

" I had a couple of injections which immediately took away the uncomfortable pain I was feeling and I slipped into a comfortable sleep," Ben added.

"I’d had a minor brush with what can be a very serious jellyfish and has led to people being hospitalised for a number of days, my slight knock was enough to tell me that it’s not something to be messed around with and I really should have been wearing a full stinger suit."


Skunk diet

30 December 2009 16:30 PM

A skunk in Britain has lost a quarter of his body weight after going on a diet.

The animal - named Mr. Bumbles - was put on a crash diet after his weight reached almost 15lb, which is twice the recommended weight for a skunk of his size.

Mr. Bumbles was given to the Tropiquaria Zoo in Somerset, South West England after his owners admitted to feeding him two greasy bacon sandwiches a day.

He has now lost 4.5lb after following a strict diet of fruit and enjoying two long walks a day.


Keep pets on leash on New Year's Eve: website

Agence France-Presse 12/31/2009 11:34 AM

SOFIA, Bulgaria – Pet owners should walk their animals on a leash during the New Year's firecracker season to prevent a surge in the number of lost animals, a Bulgarian pet-finding website urged on Wednesday.

The website www.bezdom.info, which finds homes for stray animals and reunites lost pets with their owners, said it was bracing for the traditional flood of ads for lost and found animals during the holiday.

"It's always the same reason -- animals get stressed out and panicked by the loud noises of traditional fireworks and crackers on New Year's Eve," the website said.

"Walk your pets on a leash only and during the daytime," it advised.

"If you lose your pet, do not leave the place where you last saw it, as chances are it will soon come back."


Pigs close motorway after crash

Agence France-Presse 12/31/2009 9:36 AM

LONDON – A busy motorway was closed for hours on Wednesday after an accident involving a lorry carrying a herd of pigs, posing a risk to motorists, police said.

Some 12 pigs ran around on the carriageway of the M11 motorway north of London following the early-morning crash, involving a truck carrying a load of 82 animals.

The other pigs, each weighing some 20 stones (125 kilos), were trapped in the wreckage, said a spokesman, adding that some of the escaped animals subsequently began grazing on a motorway embankment.

"The southbound carriageway has been closed at Junction 8 and the road is likely to remain shut for around six hours while recovery work and repairs to the central reservation continues," said an Essex Police spokesman.

"The northbound carriageway has also been closed and could remain shut for about two hours because of fears that the pigs could cross from the southbound lane and be a danger to road users."


Dog rescued from duck pond by 17 firemen

A dog who slipped into an frozen duck pond escaped death after a team of 17 firefighters came to his rescue.

Published: 7:30AM GMT 31 Dec 2009

Matt - an eight-year-old Cocker Spaniel - ran across ice and tumbled into freezing waters in Dean Country Park, Kilmarnock.

As the dog struggled to escape, fire crews from Kilmarnock and a water rescue unit from Ayr raced to the scene after the alarm was raised.

Using ladders and specialist equipment, they managed to reach Matt and fish the shivering Spaniel out of the pond.

Matt had been taken for a walk by his owner's neighbours when the drama unfolded.

The firefighters were hailed as heroes by grateful owner Shelia Johnston

"I still can't believe one little dog caused so much fuss and had 17 firemen looking after him. I'm so grateful to all of them," she said.

"Matt came from the SSPCA's rescue centre at Cardonald so it's actually not the first time he's been rescued - but hopefully it will be the last.

"The vets have told me he's going to be fine. They put him under the heat lamp and hair dryer as soon as he arrived at the surgery.

"He had been out for a walk with my neighbours when he ran on to the pond and fell in.

"They were as delighted as me that everything turned out all right in the end."

Stevie Logan, Kilmarnock Fire Brigade's station commander, said: "The dog was in clear distress and had been in the water for some time when we arrived.

"He was trapped in a circle of water with ice surrounding it and couldn't get out.

"The people in this case did exactly the right thing by phoning us, and not attempting to rescue it themselves.

"Too many people have drowned trying to rescue their dogs, and although it is a hard thing to do to stand by and watch the dog struggling, we do have the specialist knowledge and equipment to carry out a rescue."


Photographs capture baby panda as it tries to escape playpen

These pictures show a baby panda trying – and failing – to make a clean getaway from her playpen in the Sichuan Province, China.

Published: 8:14AM GMT 31 Dec 2009

The images of Wen Li and her twin sister Ya Li were taken at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Institute.

They show Wen Li struggling up the side of her playpen, before losing her balance and toppling over the side. Fortunately the panda cub was caught by one of her handlers before hitting the floor.

Wen Li and Ya Li were born on July 19, 2009. Just two other pandas were born at the institute in the same year, compared to 18 born in 2008.

Researches have argued that mothers at the institute were simply too “exhausted” to have any more babies.

The institute was set up 1987 with six pandas rescued from the wild. Just over two decades later it is home to 83 giant pandas, about a third of the total pandas kept in captivity in China.

They are a source of national pride in China and their dwindling numbers have become a countrywide concern. They are the rarest type of bears and, with fewer than 3,000 still in the wild, are considered to be among the world’s most endangered species.


Lifeguards to get texts from approaching sharks

December 31, 2009 7:52 AM

Australian lifeguards will soon get text messages when Great White sharks swim near the beaches they are patrolling.

Researchers are electronically tagging the man-eating predators with GPS units which will constantly monitor their movements.

If the sharks then get too near to a beach a satellite receiver will automatically send out emails and text messages to wildlife officials and lifeguards.

Currently 74 white sharks have been tagged and there are 20 communications-equipped monitoring stations have been installed off the Perth coast.

Bosses say they hope the network will "provide timely alerts of tagged sharks' presence close to beaches" -- obviously this is unless the lifeguard is busy playing a game on his phone at the time. Australian Department of Fisheries’ Senior Research Scientist Dr Rory McAuley said: "With more monitors installed we have improved chances of hearing from tagged sharks, when they are around.

"Although sharks are being tagged to improve our understanding of the risk of attacks, it is also important that beachgoers are advised of detections."


Will Britons Lap Up Creamy Camel Milk?

11:13am UK, Thursday December 31, 2009

Ashish Joshi, Gulf correspondent

Camel milk could soon be on supermarket shelves in Europe after a Dubai-based dairy applied for an export licence.

Camelicious already sells its products across the Gulf region and now the company has ambitious plans to break the European market.

But it needs to convince EU officials the camel milk meets stringent health and safety tests.

Camelicious lawyer David Wernery says camel milk is far more nutritious than its cow counterpart.

"First of all, the vitamin C content is very much higher in camel milk than in cow's milk, about 4 or 5% more," he said.

"It is low in fat, naturally low in fat, so cow's milk has about 4%, camel milk has almost 2% fat.

"So it is like drinking skimmed cow's milk but it still has the rich texture and full body taste of normal milk."

The idea was first hatched almost 10 years ago by David's father Ulrich, who is Dubai's chief veterinarian.

He had just returned from a conference on camel husbandry in Tajikistan.

This is where he first tasted milk from the humped beast.

Mr Wernery Sr was so taken with the milk that he set about persuading his employer, Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed, to invest in his plan.

"The Bedouins who lived in the desert lived mainly from camel milk and dates," he said.

"Without camels, they would not have survived in the desert.

"The milk was a very good source of protein but it has never been used for commerce.

"When I came back from the conference, I told Sheikh Mohammed that he has wonderful race camels but they also produce milk.

"It is the white gold of the desert and I tried to convince him to open a commercial dairy farm. He was very enthusiastic.

"For two years we tested 16 camels with a camel-milking machine and a stand.

"It was then that Sheikh Mohammed called me and said 'let's start the dairy farm tomorrow'."

That small experiment has grown into a multi-million pound dairy and the specialist hand-selected herd is now over 3,000 strong.

The custom-made machinery and the state-of-the-art milking plant are top secret.

Journalists are not allowed on site because, according to the dairy managers, they "may carry infections that could compromise the camel herd".

But it's more probably because the race is on in the Arab world to farm and harvest one of the few abundantly available resources.

One problem facing potential dairy farmers is that most camels produce insufficient milk to make commercial profit.

One way around that is to invent one that does. Earlier this year scientists in Dubai unveiled Injaz, the world's first cloned camel.

She was created in a laboratory using cells taken from the ear of a slaughtered camel.

Injaz represents hope for the future of the uber camel: one that is stronger, faster and more productive.

One by-product of camel milk that is already available in Europe is chocolate.

Because it is less than 50% animal product, it is not subject to the same rules as the milk.

The chocolate is popular in the Far East and Camelicious claims it struggles to meet growing demand from its local Middle Eastern customers.

General manager Martin Van Almsick reckons once customers get over their initial reservations they are hooked after their first bite.

"What is inside the chocolate fulfils the promise. Everyone who has a chocolate in their mouth is able to tell," he said.

"Camel milk has a slightly salty taste, we tried to preserve that special quality in the chocolate and everybody can tell."

See video at: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Strange-News/Camel-Milk-Camelicious-Dairy-From-Dubai-Hoping-To-Export-White-Gold-Of-The-Desert-To-Europe/Article/200912415511568?f=rss

Woman hit by falling moose head in bar

31 December 2009

A New York woman is suing a bar - after she suffered concussion when she was hit by a falling moose head.

Raina Kumra says she was minding her own business at the White Slab Palace on the Lower East Side when the stuffed head fell off a wall.

In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, her lawyer complained: "The taxidermy moose head weighed approximately 150lbs, with antlers spanning over three feet."

Ms Kumra says it caused her "chronic neck pain, anxiety, fatigue, dizziness and other serious and severe personal injuries," including "embarrassment".

Ms Kumra, an internet design consultant, declined to comment, reports the New York Post.

But the lawsuit says that since the incident, her "overall health, strength and vitality have been greatly impaired."

The suit seeks unspecified money damages from the bar for "failing to ensure that the plaintiff and other patrons of the defendants would not be struck by the loosely affixed... moose head".

The White Slab Palace is also declining to comment.


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Puerto Rico Primate breeding project controversy continues

Opponents of the Bioculture monkey breeding facility at Pueblito del Carmen in Guayama announced Tuesday that a Superior Court judge has ordered the controversial project to be halted, but an attorney for the firm is denying the claim, contending that he has not been notified.

Emil Rodríguez Escudero, an attorney for Bioculture, said through a spokeswoman, Annie Bird, that neither the company nor its lawyers have been notified of such a court decision. Olga Colón, a Pueblito del Carmen resident who supports the project, said she has received numerous phone calls from area residents saddened by the possibility that Bioculture may have to cease operations.

“If this were true it would be very sad and they are hurting the community because at least 50 individuals will now be left jobless,” said Colón, who noted that the firm has also created more than 100 indirect jobs.

The information that a Guayama judge had paralyzed the project was made by Roberto Brito, a resident of Pueblito del Carmen who has spent more than a year fighting the Bioculture facility, which has also stirred up opposition from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, politicians and actors, including Benicio del Toro.

Brito and other opponents of the facility filed a petition for an injunction in October, contending that Bioculture officials broke the law in their obtaining of permits from government agencies. They said the firm’s operations could hurt the environment and pollute the water. The company is slated to breed Macaque monkeys so they can be used, elsewhere, for scientific experiments.

Bioculture officials, who have denied that they have broken local laws, filed a defamation lawsuit against Brito in November. The reported ruling against Bioculture Tuesday was hailed by Guayama Mayor Glorimarie Jaime, who opposes the project even though the past municipal administration had given it a seal of approval. “We are not interested in having the monkeys in Guayama. If these monkeys are not going to be sold here then what is the interest in raising them here?” she told a television news station.

Colón, a school principal, said that while Brito lives in the community he does not represent the majority, who support the project. She said more than 300 Pueblito del Carmen residents out of 450 endorsed in writing the Bioculture project. “Brito is representing people who do not live in the community and is being supported by PETA. He receives Social Security and does not care about taking away jobs from the people” she charged.

Brito could not immediately be reached for comment.

She said Pueblito del Carmen is a community on the verge of extinction and in dire need of jobs. “We have up to 20 abandoned homes from people who went to the states because they could not get jobs. Our elementary school is on the verge of closing because of low enrollment,” she said. Colón also blasted the mayor for her “failure” to ensure young people in Guayama have jobs. “Jaime opposes Bioculture but has failed to provide alternatives to help her community. I am very saddened by her attitude,” she said. “As far as I am concerned, we will continue to support[Bioculture].”

World's oldest duck died


Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009 'Oldest duck' Edwina dies aged 22. A 22-year-old tea drinking mallard, thought to be one of the oldest
recorded living ducks, has died.

Edwina was rescued by Ian Knight and Christine Christopher two decades
ago after she was almost pecked to death by her family. The couple, from Ringwood, Hampshire, initially called her Edward but changed her name when she started to lay eggs.

Mr Knight said Edwina, who died on Monday, had been buried in their
garden under an ornamental duck as a memorial.


He said that when he first discovered Edwina she was being attacked by her family as she was the "runt of the litter". The family rescued her, but when Mr Knight attempted to release her
back into the wild she followed him home and had lived with the family ever since.

Edwina also became fond of tea and toast, which she would have for breakfast in the family home where she spent time living in the garden and garage. Mr Knight told BBC News the family was "devastated". "She wasn't well over Christmas because of the cold spell we have been
having and her legs became a bit wobbly.

"We were going to take her to the vet after the holidays but we found her inside her little house. It was going to happen eventually but it's like losing one of your family, I have had her since she was only a few days old."

Edwina was buried in the family's garden in a box, with an ornamental duck placed on top of her final resting place as a memorial. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) said the oldest known wild mallard in the UK is 20 years and five months. The oldest known wigeon stands at 34 years, the oldest gadwall at 21 and the oldest teal at just over 18 years. But the oldest wild duck on record is a sea-duck called Eider at 35 years and six months.

The birds' ages have been calculated through the BTO's ringing scheme.

MOOSE ATTACK (well sort of)


NEW YORK - A Web designer says she was struck by the decor at a New York City restaurant - when it fell on her head. Raina Kumra says in a negligence lawsuit filed last week that a 150-pound stuffed moose head with 3-foot-wide antlers plummeted off a wall at the Scandinavian-themed White Slab Palace onOct. 4 and hit her. She says she suffered a concussion and other injuries.The owner of the Manhattan restaurant hasn't returned a telephone message left by The Associated Press. Nor has Kumra, who's representing herself inthe case.Kumra filed her lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. She's seeking unspecified damages

'World's best job' man stung by tiny, lethal jellyfish


Page last updated at 05:39 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009
'World's best job' man stung by tiny, lethal jellyfish

The man who landed what was dubbed "the best job in the world" as the caretaker on a tropical island off Australia has been stung by a lethal jellyfish.

Briton Ben Southall, who beat 34,000 applicants to secure the position, was stung during his last week in the job.

The culprit was the peanut-sized Irukandji jellyfish, whose venomous sting can be lethal.

In his blog, which he keeps as part of his job, he describes the incident as "a little sting on the beach".

But it was his progressive symptoms of fever, headache, lower back pain, chest tightness and high blood pressure that led doctors to diagnose the sting.

"I thought I'd done particularly well at avoiding any contact with any of the dangerous critters that consider this part of the world their home," Mr Southall writes in the latest update to his online diary.

Stinger suit

"I've avoided being boxed by a kangaroo, nibbled by a shark and bitten by a spider or a snake - but then in my final few days on Hamilton Island I fell foul of a miniscule little creature known as an Irukandji," his blog continues.

The jellyfish - which struck as he descended from a jet-ski - is virtually invisible to the naked eye and can be deadly - in 2002 two tourists died after being stung.

It is so small it can pass through the nets that protect popular swimming spots in Queensland from larger jellyfish.

But Mr Southall - who has fully recovered after a dose of antibiotics and rest - admitted that he had been inadequately dressed for the excursion.

"It's not something to be messed around with. I really should have been wearing a full stinger suit, as is recommended at all beaches here this time of year," he said.

Mr Southall, 34, a charity fundraiser from Hampshire had to undergo a gruelling selection process to get the A$150,000 ($134,000) role - including swimming, snorkelling and one-to-one interviews.

Leopard cat found for 1st time in decades on Tsushima's lower island

Leopard cat found for 1st time in decades on Tsushima's lower island
Dec 29

NAGASAKI, Dec. 29 (AP) - (Kyodo)—A rare leopard cat has been found for the first time on the lower island of Tsushima, in Nagasaki Prefecture, directly confirming their existence there for the first time in more than two decades, conservation officers said Tuesday.

The highly protected Tsushima leopard cat, one of two species of wildcats found in Japan, was until recently feared to have completely disappeared from Tsushima's lower island, though as many as 150 are thought to still survive on its upper island.

Officers of the Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center said the 1,130- gram juvenile, a male thought to have been born only last spring, was found in a weakened state Monday on the property of a company in Izuhara town by an employee who notified authorities.

Officials of the Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center, established by the Environment Ministry to study the Tsushima leopard cat and assist in recovery of the critically endangered species, were summoned to the scene.

They said the rescued feline, apparently suffering from malnutrition, is currently being nursed back to health at the center.

Leopard cats leave their mother's home range 6 or 7 months after birth, at which time they must struggle to survive on their own.

The Tsushima leopard cat, which is about the same size as a domestic cat but can be distinguished by a white spot on the back of each ear, is thought to have arrived on Tsushima from the Asian continent about 100,000 years ago.

The 696-square-kilometer mountainous territory of some 40,000 people lies in the Korea Strait, only 49.5 kilometers off the Korean Peninsula and 138 km away from Kyushu Island. It separated into two main islands by artificial waterways.

Kamijima, Tsushima's larger and less populated upper island, is home to an estimated 80-110 of the small wildcats, down from an estimated 250-300 in the 1960s, conservation officers said.

But on Shimojima, the lower island, the last confirmed wildcat sighting was in March 2007 when an automatic camera took a photograph of one, confirming their existence there for the first time since 1984 when one was found dead along a road, they said.

Wildlife officer Shinsuke Mizusaki said the leopard cat's numbers have been declining throughout Tsushima mainly due to habitat loss and road kill. Since 1991, 42 of the wildcats have been killed on Kamijima roads, including one earlier this month.

To reverse the decline of the Tsushima leopard cat, which was designated by the Japanese government as a Natural Monument in 1971, it was declared a National Endangered Species in 1994 and a government-funded project was established to protect it.

The project involves field research, habitat restoration, captive breeding and public education about threats to the wildcats which also include diseases carried by domestic cats, illegal snare trapping and feral dogs.

In recent years, the Japanese government has been studying the feasibility of reintroducing wildcats to Shimojima.

The Tsushima leopard cat, which goes by the scientific name Prionailurus bengalensis euptilura, is regarded as an isolated subspecies of the leopard cat, found across Eurasia.

Japan's other wildcat species is the Iriomote cat, or Prionailurus iriomotensis, found on the island of Iriomote in southern Okinawa Prefecture.


Monday, 28 December 2009

Britain's biggest bullock weighs 3,682lbs

A colossal bull called The Field Marshall has reaffirmed his title as Britain's biggest bullock.

Published: 9:09AM GMT 25 Dec 2009

The eight-year-old Charolais tipped the scales at 3,682lbs (1,670kg) - a staggering 300lbs more - than he weighed one year ago.

He took part in a charity 'guess the weight' contest, where organisers had to use specialist scales used to weigh lorries to calculate his mass.

The Field Marshall has overtaken the previous record holder, his former stablemate The Colonel, who stood 6ft 5ins tall and weighed 3,500lbs, before his death in 2005.

The record-breaking bullock is the equivalent of a late teenager and is still growing.

Owner Arthur Duckett, 80, who bought the white steer four years ago, said: ''He's in very good health and there's no reason why he won't keep on growing.

''He's only eight and unless something unforeseen happens he will get bigger and bigger. But he's not fat - he's all muscle.

''I could feed him heavier but I don't want to make him look grotesque, I want him to be healthy and put on weight naturally.

''That's why I keep him outdoors in a field and not inside.''

The Field Marshall shares a field on Mr Duckett's farm in Alstone, Somerset, with a 5ft 6in Highland steer and a small Friesian.

He is now heavier than a Mini Cooper car which weighs 2,458lbs, and a BMW 3 series which tips the scales at just 3,053lbs.

Arthur, just 5ft 8ins tall, puts The Field Marshall's incredible size down to his parentage, appetite and the fact that he has been neutered, which boosts his growth.

He eats more than 17lbs of feed every day and enjoys oats, barley, potatoes, fodder beet followed by a portion of hay.

The Field Marshall was weighed at the Fatstock agricultural show at Sedgemoor Auction Centre near North Petherton, Somerset.

Visitors paid £2 to guess his weight and the winner received a tonne of cattle feed or the cash equivalent.

The charity event raised £1,641 for Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital in Somerset.

Arthur said: ''I haven't force-fed him he just has the same food every day. Oats, barley, potatoes, fodder beet and also a portion of hay.

''He's got a very good temperament but he's not really domesticated so you have to treat him with respect.

''He's very strong and he's got a mind of his own but we get along very well.''

Three years ago Arthur and his wife Helen broke records with their 6ft 5in bull The Colonel.

The Simmental Holstein breed who had to be put down in August 2005 at the age of nine because of back problems.

There is no longer an official record for the world's biggest bullock as Guinness World Records does not want to encourage overfeeding.

The previous holder for Britain was a bull in Essex that died in 1830 weighing 4,480lbs.

The last record to be recognised was set by a steer called Old Ben, who died in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1910. He weighed 4,720lbs and stood 6ft 4ins tall.

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