Sunday, 28 February 2010
Huw Borland, Sky News Online
A hungry wild panda broke into a villager's pig pen to chew on bones, China's Central Television has reported.
The black and white beast was first spotted in a field, but later found gnawing on the animal remains left in the enclosure, in Shandong Province.
The panda appeared to be eating bone sections only, spitting meat parts away, the TV channel added.
It had apparently come down from the mountains in search of food.
After eating its fill, the panda quietly left.
Scientists believe there are around 1,590 giant pandas living in the wild in China, most in the mountains of the southwest regions.
The endangered species, which normally eats bamboo, is considered a national icon in China.
The animals are often used to bolster foreign relations, coining the term "panda diplomacy".
See video at: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Strange-News/Panda-Hungry-Bear-Breaks-Into-Pig-Pen-In-Chinese-Village-To-Chew-On-Bones/Article/201002415562101?f=rss
Dozens of the animal kingdom’s most dangerous creatures have arrived at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks.
Entitled 'Venom,' the new editions will feature everything from black widow spiders and venomous lionfish to stinging jellyfish and vipers in a series of innovative new displays – including ‘Tarantula Tower’ where visitors will be able to step inside a Perspex tower surrounded by more than 50 giant spiders.
The new feature contains so many potentially deadly creatures that staff have had to undergo emergency first aid training and bring in life-saving anti-venom kits.
Blue Planet Aquarium’s Paul Renolds said: “Venom will contain one of the highest concentrations of venoms, toxins and poisons anywhere in the UK.
“Every member of our zoological team that will come into contact with the animals has undergone specialist training and will wear protective clothing to ensure their safety,” he added.
A number of the new arrivals are deemed so dangerous that Blue Planet Aquarium will have to notify officials at each local authority through which they will be transported en route to the aquarium.
Venom will be divided into three sections featuring marine creatures, spiders and insects, and reptiles.
Other displays will be home to stonefish – considered to be one of the marine world’s most lethal fish, venomous vipers including the eyelash viper and white lipped tree viper, scorpions, giant tarantulas, golden web spinning spiders, assassin bugs and a whole host of other venomous creatures.
Dawn Brancheau, 40, had just finished a show with Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale, when the animal grabbed her by her ponytail and dragged her underwater.
The Orlando Sentinel
By KEITH MORELLI The Tampa Tribune
and RAY REYES The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 25, 2010
The debate has raged for years.
Animals used in theme park shows are important in educating the public on particular species, some say.
Then again, these shows are fraught with danger and people should not share the same tank or cage with aggressive animals, others say.
The old arguments flared up again after orca trainer Dawn Brancheau died Wednesday at SeaWorld in Orlando. Brancheau, 40, had just finished a show with Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale, when the animal grabbed her by her ponytail and dragged her underwater.
Autopsy results show Brancheau most likely died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning after the whale pulled her into a pool, authorities said.
Chuck Tompkins, the corporate curator of zoological operations for SeaWorld, said all procedures were followed and the death of Brancheau was a tragic accident. Orca shows have been suspended indefinitely.
But the park has been offering marine mammal shows for 46 years and the programs are an important part of learning about the animals, Tompkins said.
"Obviously, we need to evaluate our safety procedures and how we work with these animals, Tompkins said. "But we need to move forward knowing these animals are an incredible, valuable tool for us to learn about them."
Robert Rose, the curator of the Miami Seaquarium, agreed.
"These animals serve a very specific purpose," he said. "They're ambassadors to animals out in the wild. Through parks like ours, you can be entertained and learn about these animals."
But Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with The Humane Society of the United States, said the image presented by the theme parks that the animals are "happy performers" is not true.
As long as orcas are used in interactive shows, incidents involving injury and death are "absolutely going to happen again," Rose said. Orcas, she said, are large predators, "unsuited to permanent confinement, often exhibiting neurotic behaviors in these settings."
Whales and dolphins are intelligent, socially-complex predators that often hunt in pods, Nancy Black, a marine biologist and orca expert with the Monterrey Bay Whale Watch in California said.
"We know so much about their intelligence, their social structures," Black said. "We know they need a lot of space. Living in a tank only stresses them. They are too intelligent for that."
She rejected arguments that parks with orcas in captivity offer educational opportunities and do research into the species. Black promotes excursions into whales' natural habitats.
"There are so many opportunities to see these animals in the wild," she said. "And it costs just as much to go whale watching than go to SeaWorld."
Tompkins agreed that orcas are social animals but said Tilikum exhibited no strange behavior before he pulled his trainer into the water.
"Everything seemed absolutely normal with him," Tompkins said. "There was no abnormal behavior with any other killer whale in the environment, so nothing would lead me to believe that there was anything different in the environment or wrong."
SeaWorld said Tilikum will be kept in isolation and not released into the wild. Russ Rector, a former dolphin trainer at Ocean World in Ft. Lauderdale, said Tilikum won't be set free because the orca would probably attack beachgoers.
"Once an animal kills, it's going to kill again," Rector said.
As for the orca's isolation, Rector said it's because Tilikum is used in breeding and he's worth millions to the theme park.
"If this was a big cat or an elephant that hurt somebody, it would be put down," said Rector, who left the industry after he became vocal about how trainers and marine mammals were treated. He is now a marine animal activist and a rescuer who founded the Dolphin Freedom Foundation.
"This industry is a monster with a happy face," Rector said.
Robert Rose, the Seaquarium curator, said the care and wellbeing of the animals is the trainers' top priority.
"This is what we do for a living," Rose said. "We care for these animals 365 days a year, building a relationship and rapport."
Tompkins said orca trainers at SeaWorld parks are highly specialized.
"Obviously, you don't step in front of a whale on your first day," he said. "It's years before you interact with these killer whales. They're taught about the animals; how to train, how to handle themselves, how to react in just about every environment."
Rector said it doesn't take much to become a marine animal trainer who starts with dolphins and move up the ranks.
"If you look good in a bathing suit, you can do it," he said.
Marine theme parks also downplay the daily injuries trainers receive from agitated or aggressive animals.
"They hurt trainers every day. You just don't show your bites," Rector said. "Captivity dements dolphins. They get tired of people. They go crazy when you put them in pools and make them do stupid pet tricks."
Robert Rose said aquatic parks have an enormous amount of safety protocols in place and trainers form strong bonds with animals to be able to sense when something is wrong.
But Rector said there's only one reason why humans even risk getting in the same tank with megaton predators that dwarf them.
"One word: money," he said. "Orcas are worth more than people. It's a cash cow."
There are 24 orcas in parks across the U.S. and 42 in captivity around the world, said Naomi Rose, the marine mammal scientist from the Humane Society. The last wild capture of an orca was in 2005 when Russia netted a pair, she said.
"Both died within a month," she said.
By Gemma Wheatley
KILLER whale Tilly who attacked and drowned his trainer will not be put down – and may even perform again.
SeaWorld in Florida said last night that six-tonne Tilly is to be spared.
He will remain at the marine fun park, where experts will care for him.
There was an outcry after the giant mammal grabbed his trainer Dawn Brancheau’s ponytail and dragged her to her death in front of a horrified crowd.
Tourists at the park in Orlando, Florida, watched helplessly as the beast “thrashed her around” in the water like a doll.
Tilly, blamed for killing two other people, then swam under water with Dawn, 40, and refused to let her surface.
She died from “multiple trauma injuries” and drowning, an interim post mortem found.
There were angry calls for the “rogue” whale to be executed as a danger to humans.
He also drowned another trainer in 1991, and there was a bizarre incident in 1999 when the body of a naked drowned man was found on the whale’s back.
But animal rights activists demanded the whale should be freed into the ocean.
David Phillips, of the International Marine Mammal Project for the Earth Island Institute, said: “The vast majority
of orca whales in captivity would be better off if they were returned to the wild.
“Orcas are unbelievably ill-suited to life in theme parks and can be successfully released into the wild.”
David, who led the effort to rescue and release killer whale Keiko, made famous by the 1993 movie Free Willy, added: “Orcas deserve a better fate than living in cramped pools. This isn’t the first time stressed-out orca whales have injured or killed people and it won’t be the last.”
But SeaWorld have decided to keep Tilly.
Chuck Tompkins, Corporate Curator of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Parks, said: “Tilly will not be killed.”
He added that bosses would be looking at safety procedures while keeping the whale in the safest possible environment.
Tilly will mingle with other whales at the park, some of which it fathered.
Chuck added: “We’re going to physically and mentally take care of him. It’s too early to say that he won’t perform again.”
Yesterday tourists released grim pictures of the last moments of Dawn, who had worked at the theme park for 17 years.
Chuck said: “He grabbed her hair and pulled her under.”
See video at: http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/view/123925/Death-not-whale-s-fault-say-animal-rights-group/
Feb. 25, 2010
At SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, a killer whale turned on its trainer, pulling her below the water and thrashing her around until she drowned. Trainer Dawn Brancheau was one of the park's best killer whale trainers, with 16 years of experience working with the animals.
Chuck Tompkins, SeaWorld's curator of zoological operations, told ABC News that Tillikum, the killer whale, may have reacted to seeing Brancheau's ponytail swinging in front of him. "Dawn had very long hair in a ponytail. That ponytail had swung in front of him. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her underwater and held her," Tompkins said.
A day after the attack, many questions remain. Why was the whale still performing with a human after it had been involved in two previous deaths? Did the whale show any signs of agitation before the attack?
But the biggest question, which we ask you today: Should Tillikum be euthanized?
By Daniel Farber
(CBS) Animals kill people. People kill animals. People kill people, animals kill animals. The strong prey on the weak, the smarter species prey on the less intellectually well endowed. So it goes on planet Earth.
This week, a 12,000-pound male killer whale named Tilikum grabbed his human trainer in his mouth and drowned her in his SeaWorld tank in Orlando, Fla.
Tilikum has a violent history. In 1991, Tilikum and two female killer whales killed a trainer by drowning in Victoria, British Columbia. In 1999, the orca killed a man who had sneaked into the SeaWorld tank for a swim with the whales.
Tilikum is a serial killer. Perhaps, he should have been put into a higher security facility after the first, or even second, act of violence.
Chuck Tompkins, curator of zoological operations at SeaWorld Orlando indicated that the marine park plans to continue using Tilikum in its shows. "We need to evaluate our handling procedures and how we interact with him .... I can guarantee we will make any change necessary," he said.
Despite Tompkins' wishes, Tilikum, who is an acknowledged member of the top predator species in the ocean, could face the death penalty via lethal injection for his actions.
While Tilikum's actions cannot be condoned, he is also a product of his environment.
Tilikum is a wild animal, by human standards. But in the oceans of the world, the orca dominates as humans do on terra firma. Whales might think of humans as wild animals; diminutive creatures who nonetheless prey on them.
Orcas have an intelligence optimized for their environment. Their brains are nearly four times the size of a human brain. While brain size doesn’t necessarily equate into more intelligent behaviors, at least from a human point of view, according to various studies whales exhibit complex communication, elaborate social structures and cognitive capabilities, including learning-based foraging, cultural variation and possibly mirror self-recognition.
"I don't doubt the intelligent behavior in whales," said Dr. Patrick Hof, a professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine who has done research on whale brains. "The brain of the whale is organized quite differently from the primate brain, especially when you look at microscopic architecture of the cerebral cortex. It's quite likely as a result of adaptation over millions of years to the aquatic environment. The whale brain is wired completely differently from a chimpanzee or human, but it has functions that other animals don't have."
But no one is going to read Tilikum his rights or provide a court-appointed lawyer. The whale-human language interface has not evolved enough for inter-species communications at that level.
It could be that Tilikum needs to be represented by an attorney. A defense lawyer could claim that Tilikum was captured by humans against his will, and has been confined to small space. He is unable to socialize with his pod, which is very family-oriented, and is under extreme duress in an unnatural habitat.
He has also been exploited by marine parks for his splash and studliness. Like a Kentucky Derby winner, Tilikum is worth millions for his sperm, impregnating female orcas who spawn the offspring that puts people into the seats of SeaWorld and other marine parks.
"The setting of SeaWorld is completely foreign to whales,” said Dr. Hof. “A killer whale is a predator, a wild animal. Their hunting behavior is well documented and they can become extremely aggressive. The same situation has happened to elephants in Africa with the pressure of a growing human population encroaching on their habitat. They become anxious and stressed, and can become aggressive.
"In the end, it's an impoverished environment compared to their natural habitat-a big swimming pool, enriched food and some activity programs."
Tilikum cannot defend himself or be judged by a jury of his peers. The human judges should take into account the extenuating circumstances that brought the orca to this juncture.
See video at: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/25/opinion/main6243928.shtml
By Jack Hanna - FOXNews.com
Of course there are dangers when we work with animals but the risks are worth it.
Jack Hanna spoke with "America's Newsroom" host Bill Hemmer on Thursday, February 25.
I knew Dawn, and obviously I'm still in shock with this whole thing. I've actually done stand-ups with Tili in the background over the years when I do "Whales In the Wild -- Killer Whales," I do my stand-ups there. I just want to say real quickly that if Steve Irwin when he died, he would have wanted his legacy carried on, I know Dawn would have, I know if something happens to me, I would have. Because it's an incredible thing what these folks do. These killer whale trainers are like astronauts, they're like Olympic athletes. Dawn, especially was at the top of this entire group of very few people in the world that are killer whale trainers. It says "killer whale" which means it's a dangerous animal. Just like the guys that work with elephants in zoos, the largest land mammal, things happen. Just like when our space shuttle went up and came back and those astronauts were killed. But what did they do? They went back up into space. You know something? I hope SeaWorld continues what they do.
Now as far as Tili...the news is correct, there were two previous deaths. But let's face it, the one several years ago -- it was not SeaWorld's fault or Tili's fault. Someone snuck into the park, at nighttime, at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, jumped in with the whale. -- That's like me jumping across the fence at a NASCAR race and getting hit by a car. The previous death, yes, in Canada, that was Tili. But I have take my hat off to SeaWorld for taking this animal to SeaWorld where this animal has produced..many babies. That is so valuable to the killer whale population. One last thing, most all animals, most all the whales at SeaWorld, were born at SeaWorld, not in the wild. Ninety-nine percent of our animals born at zoos are born at zoological parks, not the wild. People don't know these facts.
And I can tell you that Dawn was an incredible human being and she loved everything she did, and... I just hope that SeaWorld continues the great work.
They're killer whales, they're dangerous animals, and we all know the jobs we have to do. You know, out of one million plus interactions that trainers have had with whales, this is the first time that someone has been killed at SeaWorld, as far as a trainer is concerned and no one ever swam with Tili at SeaWorld.
Jack Hanna is director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and host of Jack
Hanna's "In the Wild."
US entertainment park SeaWorld plans to resume killer whale shows at its facilities yesterday, just days after an orca it described as "an important part of our team" killed a trainer in front of horrified onlookers. "He will remain part of our team," SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment president Jim Atchison said of the whale that killed trainer Dawn Brancheu. "Tilikum is an extraordinary animal," he added. "He is a very special animal that requires very special handling.
Trainers will not be allowed into the water with the Florida marine park's killer whales until a thorough safety review has been completed and its recommendations implemented, he said. Tilikum-a five-tonne orca already linked to two other human deaths since 1991 -- grabbed Brancheau, 40, by her ponytail on Wednesday and dragged her into the water at the end of a show at SeaWorld Orlando.
Atchison addressed reporters Friday at a sometimes tense press conference that took place in front of an underwater observation tank, where seven of the park's orcas swam peacefully. Tilikum was not present. He told reporters, who were escorted one at a time into the park to the observation tank, that Tilikum would not face punishment or isolation. "It's important that I again stress that we provide the highest standard of care and no animal is ever subject to punishment in any form. Tilikum is no exception.
Colleagues from other marine parks in Miami, Georgia and Niagara Falls as well as the United States Navy are assisting in the park's internal investigation, as preparations are made for funeral services for Brancheau in Chicago today and tomorrow. Multiple outside agencies are also investigating the tragedy, including the Orange County, Florida, Sheriff's Office and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The US Department of Agriculture, which administers the federal Animal Welfare Act, will also conduct an inspection. SeaWorld has scrambled to prevent the gruesome attack from becoming a public relations disaster that could hit its lucrative marine show business, and Atchison rejected comparisons between Wednesday's incident and two prior human deaths involving Tilikum.
Those incidents and (the) nature of them had nothing to do with the nature of this event... and are not relevant to his particular altercation," he said. He acknowledged that Wednesday's event was videotaped, but said the footage is part of the ongoing investigation. He also defended the shows and exhibits as educational and an "extraordinary way for people to make connections with marine animals.
Witness Sue Nichols, 67, said the crowd had no warning that anything was brewing as the show was already ending with most of the 50-strong audience having left their seats. The trainer would "pet him, and she would get very close to him. She'd throw fish in his mouth and throw buckets of water in his mouth, which he seemed to enjoy. There was nothing aggravating or anything about it," Nichols told AFP.
She was petting the whale and talking to him, and then all of a sudden he just reached up. He got her in the water, and he took her underwater, and he had her under for quite a while," she said. "He came up out of the water, and he had her in his mouth." Despite the apparently harrowing nature of the attack and wide media coverage, park officials said attendance numbers had not dropped off.
Casey Morgan, 36, visited the park Friday with her husband. "It's going to have to go on. Life goes on," said Morgan, visiting from Alberta, Canada. "We can't just stop and live inside a bubble." The park's chief zoological officer, Brad Andrews, said employees were saddened by Brancheau's death but looking forward to resuming the shows. - AFP
With the increasing trend of resource utilization, there are many manners in which ecosystems and species are being negatively affected. Thus, it is the responsibility of mankind to take necessary steps to ensure the survival of all living beings; as the most intelligent creature on earth.
Hence, as the undergraduates of the Department of Business Administration of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, we believe that it is our responsibility to contribute positively towards this phenomenon. Therefore, in order to undertake a project, we decided to join hands with the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka, with consideration to the high levels of interest currently shown by the public.
The National Zoological Gardens, generally known as the 'Zoo', is beautifully landscaped in 23 acres which is situated 11 km from the Fort - Colombo. The Zoo was started as a menagerie in the late nineteen twenties by John Hagenbeck, a member of the famous show-business family from Hamburg, Germany. The Zoo was officially recognised only in July 1936 upon the acquisition by the Government.
The National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka has a fine collection of animals, birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world. The aquarium is the only one of its kind in Asia and displays over 500 varieties of aquatic life. There is daily elephant performance at the 'Ali Ranga Peeta' in the evenings which attracts visitors from different parts of the world. Also a walk through the Aviary, Reptilian and the Butterfly Park provide a unique experience to the visitors.Moreover, the National Zoological Gardens conducts special educational programs for school which includes student guidance services, mobile exhibition units and facilitates for research activities in order to enhance the knowledge and awareness among the public.
The 'animal hospital' provides primary medical care for over 2500 animals of 350 different species at the Zoological Gardens. Besides providing veterinary care for the animals, it gets involved in both basic and clinical research related to zoological animals; it also functions as a teaching hospital for the veterinary students at the University of Peradeniya.
A special and a separate unit established under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon to take care of the orphaned, captive as well as wild neonatal and juveniles, is known as the 'animal nursery'. It has never been an easy task to bring up these infant animals once they have been neglected or refused by the parent animals due to different reasons.
Therefore, by identifying the importance of this silent but the invaluable service provided by the Nursery, as responsible citizens of the country we made a contribution towards improving the infrastructure of the Nursery, by providing special room heating facilities which had been a necessity for more than a decade. We have also provided our assistance in order to equip the nursery with many other accessories which would further enhance the service rendered by it.
'Pets corner', one of the popular attractions within the premises contributes in many ways to bring awareness among the public. This includes educating the public and constructing a sound relationship through interaction and involvement, which indeed assist in developing a responsible community with lateral thinking and positive attitudes.
Recognizing this valuable service provided by the Young Zoologists of the Pets Corner who provide their voluntary services in taking care of animals, educating the public and through interaction and involvement of the visitors; we have taken initial steps to design and provide them, a uniform (T-shirt) and we believe that it would give them a better identity and much deserved recognition.
By CHRIS VAUGHN
FORT WORTH -- For years, Fort Worth Zoo Director Michael Fouraker and his top curator of coldblooded animals felt that many of nature's masterpieces weren't getting their due.
Creatures as artistically and evolutionally marvelous as the green mamba, Utila Island iguana and Chiricahua leopard frog lived in a plain-Jane box, a half-century-old building crumbling slowly from overuse by millions of energetic children and cramped keepers.
Fouraker and curator Diane Barber knew that a new "snake house" was needed for plumbing and electrical reasons alone. But they also imagined a place that elicited less screaming and more awe from children who have made the reptiles and amphibians some of the most popular animals at the park.
"If you take those same kids to a museum, they are quieter and more attentive," Fouraker said. "We kept thinking, 'How do we create that museum atmosphere where the kids look at the scales, the colors and the patterns of the animals, to where they stop and look and see what is really there in front of them?'"
Their answer was just to simply call it a museum, the Museum of Living Art.
What neither of them anticipated then, in the early 2000s, was that selecting that name would launch the zoo on a course no other zoo in North America had yet charted -- raising millions of dollars to build an architecturally significant and striking herpetarium for animals that have long lived in the shadows of the great apes, elephants and big cats.
"The building is extraordinary -- the feel of it, the shape of it, the concept we initiated," said Ramona Bass, who leads the zoo's board and is largely responsible for pulling off the exhibit. "I don't think there is a herpetarium like this on Earth. This building is a piece of architecture that stands up with the great works in Fort Worth."
Covering new ground
The $19 million Museum of Living Art -- MOLA, in shorthand, a riff on MOMA in New York -- opens to the public Saturday after more than two years of construction on the site of the old aquarium. It serves as the first significant exhibit addition since Texas Wild in 2001.
The world-renowned collection of reptiles and amphibians, enhanced with several major acquisitions in recent months, has been off-exhibit since August, when the zoo permanently closed the old herpetarium, the last vestige of the park before the Fort Worth Zoological Association took over management in 1991.
The 17,000-square-foot building will have large exhibits with multiple animals to give people a sense of what a desert or rain forest ecosystem looks like, as well as significantly larger exhibits for snakes such as the Burmese python and king cobra. The building also has an area where visitors can see hatchlings and tadpoles and get very close to the world's largest species of salamander.
Outside, an additional 13,000 square feet features a 15-foot saltwater crocodile, giant tortoises and more animals selected for their particular beauty: macaws, ring-tailed lemurs and golden lion tamarins. The zoo has also installed a 90,000-gallon tank and stocked it with turtles, fish and gharials, which officials hope will use the sandy beach to lay eggs.
Behind the public area, but equally important to zoo staff, are climate-controlled rooms for breeding, some for endangered species destined for release in the wild.
"They are treading new ground," said Kristin Vehrs, executive director of the Maryland-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "A lot of that goes to the specific interests of the staff at the Fort Worth Zoo, who have been working diligently for years on the global amphibian crisis. The zoo world expects great things from this exhibit."
No 'square box'
When the original herpetarium opened in 1960 -- with snake-handle doors -- it started charming youngsters immediately. The collection of animals was already impressive, one of the world's largest gathered under the new directorship of Lawrence Curtis.
Over the decades, Fort Worth solidified its reputation with coldblooded animals. But despite the growing diversity and prominence of the collection and the zoo's increased efforts to conserve and protect species in the wild, the building was going the other direction.
The plumbing was collapsing, the electrical system was overworked, and the walls and floors had developed cracks and holes -- where escaped animals could hide. Additionally, there were no quarantine areas, and the holding areas were cramped.
Fouraker told the Fort Worth City Council in 2001 that the zoo would build a new herpetarium on the site of the demolished aquarium because it was no longer feasible to keep either building functioning.
"Every day, we're putting more money into a sieve," Fouraker said then.
The zoo had $1.3 million in city bond money available. It had just completed the $40 million Texas Wild exhibit and wasn't planning on hitting the fundraising trail in a big way, so plans for the herpetarium were scaled back to a building roughly the size of the original.
"It was about a $5 million exhibit," Fouraker said. "We were going to build a plain box and hide it with bamboo."
But Bass was having nothing to do with it.
"I just wasn't going to be able to raise money for a square box," she said. "It wasn't going to happen."
The zoo had gone "native" with exhibits such as the World of Primates and gone "cultural" with exhibits such as Texas Wild, which features windmills, wagons and other Western touches.
Bass wanted something different, and jumping off the name Fouraker and Barber gave her, she started dreaming big.
"That led to the idea of building an art museum," Bass said. "Let's do something architecturally significant."
Lake/Flato of San Antonio started out as the architectural firm, but about four years ago, the zoo switched to Gideon Toal, a firm in downtown Fort Worth.
Michael Bennett, Gideon Toal's chief executive officer and the lead designer of the project, said he basically started over with a cardboard model of what he envisioned for the space. Only later did the architectural drawings come.
The zoo had already commissioned Gary Lee of CLR Design to design the animal exhibits, so the architecture came last.
"We didn't want to mess with the exhibits because they had spent a lot of time on those," Bennett said. "So we were left with putting the skin around the exhibits."
Unique to Fort Worth
Bennett's first design was intended to look more like the rolling hills of Texas, he said. From there, with Bass' suggestions, the concept transitioned to an aluminum-covered, undulating roof that gives the appearance of a scale-covered snake, which, not surprisingly, was tricky to pull off when it came time for construction.
"We had to figure out a system that could be built and keep the rain out," he said. "That was the hardest thing to do on the building. It was a very unique and customized feature."
Bass said she is particularly pleased with the selection of the West Texas limestone on the building because it is reminiscent of the Kimbell Art Museum and because the rough-cut stone in one section calls to mind the stone gates at the corner of Forest Park Boulevard and Park Place Drive.
"It fits in a natural setting," Bass said. "It's a piece of contemporary architecture that still fits within a zoo."
Originally, zoo leaders hoped to make the building "green," perhaps even LEED-certified. But that idea was scrapped because caring for coldblooded animals requires generous amounts of heat, humidity and sunlight.
Bass said the zoo switched to "eco-realism" for the building, such as collecting rainwater in cisterns, using recycled rubber for the floor and recycled plastic for the benches, and installing motion sensors on electric fixtures. The design of the roof, Bennett said, will also cut down on cooling costs.
"What we've tried to say is, 'Do what you can to be environmentally responsible,'" Bass said.
Some zoos are already looking at what Fort Worth has done, Fouraker said, and he expects more visibility in zoos from some of the smaller animals, particularly given the worsening crisis of disappearing turtles in Southeast Asia and amphibians worldwide.
But the Museum of Living Art, he said, may be unique to Fort Worth and its long history of reptiles and amphibians.
"I don't know that we would have taken this leap if we did not have the legacy here," Fouraker said. "We had the collection. We had the conservation programs in place. We know how popular it has been with our visitors.
"We might not have convinced the board, without those foundations, to make this large of a commitment to coldbloodeds."
NEWS STAFF REPORTERS
Updated: February 28, 2010
Over its 135-year history, the Buffalo Zoo has never needed a sharpshooter to confront a predator on the loose.
And though it doesn’t expect to confront that scenario anytime soon, the zoo is asking the Buffalo Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics team to be ready to answer the call, just in case.
Members of the police unit have toured the Delaware Park zoological gardens to familiarize themselves with the layout — especially exhibits containing dangerous animals—and a memorandum of understanding between the zoo and the police is being readied, zoo President Donna M. Fernandes said.
The arrangement will include an emergency phone line to the SWAT team, she said.
Rifles always have been kept handy on zoo grounds, and the staff invariably included one or more marksmen capable of dealing with an animal escape or an attack on a keeper. Firing a sedative dart to immobilize the critter would be the preferred course of action.
But never has a bear, lion, tiger or other dangerous critter escaped from its habitat or otherwise posed a threat to the public or zoo workers.
“We’ve been lucky,” Fernandes said.
Deadly force was required once — in 1979, when police were forced to shoot two polar bears to death after an inebriated intruder climbed into their enclosure one night and was mauled.
The changing face of the zoo staff, which is now mostly female, led the zoo to approach the Police Department, which always had jurisdiction in the event a wild animal left the zoo grounds, about responding to an emergency inside the gates.
“We had a lot more hunters on the staff when it was 75 percent men,” Fernandes said. “There were at least 10 when I came here 10 years ago.”
Some of those men remain, and a few female employees are experienced shooters, too, she said. In addition, the staff receives regular training for emergencies.
But most employees are only present during the workday, while SWAT members can respond to a dangerous situation at any hour, Fernandes said.
“We want to make sure we have adequate coverage around the clock, seven days a week,” she said.
By Zafrir Rinat
Senior ecologists and zoologists warned this week of rabies spreading in Israel following refusal of the environmental protection minister to authorize a culling of stray dogs, which spread the disease.
The scientists urged Minister Gilad Erdan to revoke the decision he made at the beginning of the year and allow Israel Nature and Parks Authority inspectors to cull stray dogs.
The Agriculture Ministry said the rabies eruption in the past year was marked by a considerable increase in rabid dogs, both stray and pets.
Failure to cull stray dogs increases their numbers, which in turn raises the risk of spreading the disease, the scientists say. In addition, stray dogs mean increased attacks on wild animals and threatens the extinction of certain species, they said.
Until recently the Veterinary Services in the agriculture and environment ministries used to authorize INPA inspectors to cull stray dogs to prevent rabies from spreading. Erdan demanded the Agriculture Ministry issue regulations determining what circumstances justify shooting dogs before approving the culling.
"Stray dogs wandering in packs have significantly reduced gazelles' ability to reproduce," the scientists wrote to Erdan. "Packs of dogs have devoured rare roe deer in Ramat Hanadiv and four female Persian fallow deer, one of the rarest species in the world, which Israel is saving from extinction and returning to the wild," they wrote.
"I've received complaints from several regions about shooting dogs and of dogs left dying in the field," Erdan said, confirming that he has not authorized culling stray dogs. "It confuses many people who think INPA's job is to protect animals and don't understand why they're shooting dogs. I found there are no clear regulations saying where and in what circumstances shooting stray dogs is permitted," he said.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
February 26, 2010 5:41 PM
Shoppers at a Dubai mall were left fleeing from sharks yesterday, when a massive aquarium sprang a leak.
Water started pouring into the Dubai Mall shopping centre when one of the walls of the giant 2.6 million gallon "indoor ocean" tank cracked.
Amateur video footage shows the shopping centre being evacuated as staff rushed to secure the tank which is home to 33,000 fish and hundreds of sharks.
Bosses insist the fish were not in any danger… except from the near-by sushi chef who was hoping the 75cm-thick viewing panel was going to break.
February 26, 2010
Timmins and District Humane Society manager Lynn Michaud holds up Mr. Fuddles, a stray cat who recently had to undergo intense shaving after he came to the shelter with one of the worst cases of matting the organization has ever seen.
(CHELSEY ROMAIN/QMI Agency)
By CHELSEY ROMAIN, QMI Agency
TIMMINS, Ont. - Mr. Fuddles is feeling a little lighter these days after a much-needed haircut.
The adult cat was taken to the Timmins and District Humane Society Tuesday with so much matted fur, staff had no choice but to shave him.
The persian-type cat had one mat about six-by-three inches in size and pulled him to the right, making it difficult for Mr. Fuddles to stand upright. When he was brought in, he weighed about eight pounds and was a pound and half lighter once the matted hair was removed.
Removing the fur was a job that eventually took three staff members two and a half hours to complete.
Shelter manager Lynn Michaud said it was one of the worst cases of matting she'd ever seen.
"We were horrified," she said. "Every inch of his body was covered and there were patches where the fur had already fallen off or was torn off."
Mr. Fuddles was also emaciated and dehydrated, Michaud said.
But by Friday Mr. Fuddles was fully alert after days of apprehension around people. He was eager to cuddle up to nearest person.
"During the whole thing he never once showed any aggression," said Michaud.
"He's so sweet and just wants to be held."
Published: 7:30AM GMT 27 Feb 2010
John Ruggles, 75, first found the priceless Plesiosaur fossil when he dismantled the garden feature nine years ago.
But while the unusual stone caught his eye, he assumed it was just an ''odd shaped'' rock and moved it around his garden as an ornament, eventually leaving it in his greenhouse.
It was only when curiosity got the better of John in December that he decided to send the sandstone-like rock to his local museum, who identified the startling find.
Last week stunned John was told the results, which showed it was part of a Plesiosaur's paddle bone from the Jurassic period in ''stunning condition''.
Experts described it as ''very rare'', as it has been so well preserved that blood vessels are still visible in the 12 by 8 inches (20 by 30cm) rock.
Retired British Gas meter reader John, who lives with wife Eileen, 70, in a two-bed bungalow in Downham Market, Norfolk, said it was lucky he never threw it away.
He said: ''When we moved in I thought it seemed different to any other rock I had seen but I didn't know what it was so I just left it in the garden.
''But we were curious about it for a number of years and I thought I'm going to find out about it.
''When my daughter read out the letter we just couldn't believe it was a bone, and the age of it as well – you just can't think of something being that old.
''To think it was just sitting in the garden for all those years!''
It was only on December 4 last year that he decided to show the rock to experts at local Lynn Museum in King's Lynn to see if they could shed any light on its origin.
John told them he thought it was just a rock, but receptionists at Lynn Museum sent it to experts at the Sedgewick Museum of Earth Science in Cambridge for testing.
He returned from a holiday in Florida with his family to find a letter from the museum informing him that the rock was a 135-million-year old fossil.
The letter informed him that the 'rock' was a paddle bone from a Plesiosaur, a marine reptile that lived in the Jurassic period over 144 to 65 million years ago.
Father-of-two John told the museum they could have the rock if it turned out to be of interest and he will be donating the rock to the museum's permanent collection.
But before he donates the rock he is arranging for his granddaughter Emily Ruggles-Brown, seven, to take the rock into school for a show and tell.
John added: ''When it goes into the museum people will be able to go and see the bone but not touch it.
''But it's the beauty and excitement of touching something so old that makes it really special.
''I have been handling it for nine years or more but other people haven't had the chance – but I'd never sell it. It belongs in the museum.''
Lynn Museum, which houses a collection of 4,000 year old timbers from Norfolk's Bronze Age timber circle, are looking forward to taking possession of the new artefact.
He said: ''You can still see the blood vessels on the bone itself which is very rare. Usually it's just bone that is preserved rather than fleshy parts.
''It was a chance in a million that he found it in his garden and it's a very nice specimen indeed – we will be extremely pleased to have it in the museum collection.''
The carnivorous Plesiosaurus was a large marine reptile which fed on fish and small reptiles with an extremely long neck and tail and four flippers to propel itself through the water with a ''flying'' motion.
The ocean dweller and could grow to lengths of up to 13m (40 ft) is known to have lived from the late Triassic period, through the Jurassic period and into the late Cretaceous period.
By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter
A warthog has been pictured being groomed by a huge bird known as a ground hornbill.
The warthog approached the southern ground hornbill seeking the favour, and the bird obliged by removing parasites from the warthog's body.
Similar interactions occur between warthogs and other animals such as banded mongooses.
But hornbills are not known to groom in this way, say scientists who photographed the incident.
Details of the behaviour are reported in the African Journal of Ecology.
"The warthogs approached the hornbills and then lay down on their sides to be cleaned," explains Dr Hendri Coetzee of North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
"The warthogs were very nervous, because this behaviour most probably makes them more vulnerable to predation."
Dr Coetzee says he repeatedly observed similar interactions between common warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) and southern ground hornbills (Bucorvus leadbeateri) in the Mabula Game Reserve in South Africa's Limpopo Province.
The arrangement is mutually beneficial: the warthog gets a cleaning service and the ground hornbill a nutritious and easily obtainable food source.
Other animals will also groom warthogs, picking off parasites from the wild pig's body.
For example, banded mongooses remove ticks from warthogs, in what is believed by scientists to be the only symbiotic relationship between two mammal species.
Oxpecker birds also regularly clean the skins of a number of African mammals, including zebra and hippos.
But the interactions with the hornbills stood out because the warthogs usually initiated the grooming.
Southern ground hornbills are large black plumaged birds, with powerful beaks that can kill tortoises and large snakes.
"What surprised me was how delicately they were removing parasites from the warthogs," says Dr Coetzee.
"Adult warthogs even tolerated the ground hornbills probing their ears and around their more delicate areas under their tails."
Dr Coetzee speculates that the animals might be behaving this way in part because they are living on a game reserve, where they might be less threatened and more relaxed.
"It is most likely the result of learned behaviour and regular contact between the same individuals living under somewhat artificial circumstances, where the risk of predation is reduced," he explains.
Friday, 26 February 2010
Maybe they’re not as smart as we thought: The New Caledonian crow, having passed so many other tests of animal cognition, has finally flunked an exam.
New Caledonian crows are valedictorians among corvids, a family of birds that includes ravens, jays and magpies. They’ve wowed scientists with their cognitive powers, even using wire as a food-fetching tool.
On one classic cognition test — retrieving a piece of food tied to a string — corvids perform so well that some researchers thought they didn’t just learn through rote trial and error, but envisioned problems in their head.
In a study published Feb. 22 in Public Library of Science ONE, researchers added a twist: They ran the string through a hole in a plywood platform. Crows could only see the food when directly above the hole. When they pulled back on the string, they’d lose sight of it. If they really did have a mental image of the task, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Twelve crows took the test: four who’d practiced on the old food-on-a-string setup, four who’d never seen it, and four who’d never seen it but could watch their reflection in a mirror.
Crows from the first group succeeded, but only after many attempts. Only one of the second group passed, also with difficulty. Two crows from the third group passed. It wasn’t the ace performance usually seen in crows.
“These results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the crows built a mental scenario,” wrote the researchers. “Our results raise the possibility that spontaneous string pulling in New Caledonian crows may not be based on insight but on operant conditioning mediated by a perceptual-motor feedback cycle.”
In other words, the crows relied on a simple trial-and-error approach. But the researchers did acknowledge that their sample size was limited, and that depth perception could be skewed in a confusing way by the experimental setup.
If nothing else, the crows did far better than finches. And even if they’re not good with spatial relationships, they’re certainly fast learners.
Images: 1) New Caledonian Crows on the old experimental setup at left, and on the new apparatus at right. Credit: University of Auckland. 2) Schematic of the new test design. Credit: University of Auckland.
(Submitted by Liz R)
posted: 23 February 2010 08:00 pm ET
A newfound horned crocodile may have been the largest predator encountered by our ancestors in Africa, researchers now suggest.
Scientists have even found bones from members of the human lineage bearing tooth marks from this reptile, whose scientific name, Crocodylus anthropophagus, means "man-eating crocodile."
This predator, which lived some 1.84 million years ago, possessed a deep snout that would have made it look more robust than modern crocodiles. It also had prominent triangular horns.
"They would have been visible mostly from the side as projections behind the eye," said researcher Christopher Brochu, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Iowa. "If you looked at them from the front, you would have seen ridges projecting upwards."
A couple of living species of crocodile have similar horns, such as the Cuban and Siamese crocodiles. "Males will use these in mating season to show off," Brochu explained. "While submerged they kind of tip their head forward, showing off the prominence of their horns to females."
Scientists found a partial skull and skeleton of the crocodile at Olduvai Gorge in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania in 2007. Past research there famously unearthed numerous fossils of extinct human species and their stone tools, strengthening the argument that our lineage originated in Africa.
Fossil leg and foot bones of at least two hominids from Olduvai bear crocodilian tooth marks, and came from roughly the same time as the newfound horned carnivore and within roughly 300 feet (100 meters) from where the reptile's skeleton was discovered.
"I can't guarantee these crocodiles were killing people, but they were certainly biting them," Brochu said. "Our ancestors would have had to be cautious close to the water, because the water's edge at Olduvai Gorge would have been a very dangerous place."
Crocodiles may have been common predators of hominids, the scientists noted. Larger crocodiles would be capable of consuming our ancestors completely, leaving no trace.
"It was probably as large as a modern Nile crocodile, one of the largest living crocodilians at between 18 to 20 feet," Brochu said. "One thing to bear in mind was that while these crocodiles are not necessarily bigger than the ones today, hominids back then were smaller than we are today, so the crocodiles would have been relatively quite a bit larger."
Crocodiles have a reputation for being living fossils that do not change over time, "and that's just wrong," Brochu added. "If you go back five to 10, 15 million years ago, there were more species of crocodile alive then than there are now, and the general assumption that once we entered the Quaternary period, the ice ages, crocodile diversity dropped. This fossil existed during the Quaternary, so it indicated crocodile diversity remained somewhat higher than expected."
Brochu and his colleagues detailed their findings online Feb. 23 in the journal PLoS ONE.
(Submitted by Richard Freeman)
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
What looks like a 'big cat' has been spotted 30 times in West Dorset since Christmas, according to a man who is trying to discover the truth about the legendary big Dorset cat.
Photographer Alan McNamee, from Bridport, is convinced of the existence of the animal.
He has now assembled a team who are ready to respond to sightings as they are reported.
Alan saw the animal close up in 2004 - an experience he said was "scary".
He said: "I was working late one night at home and I heard a noise. I went downstairs and looked outside, towards the fields at the back of my house, and I saw that the hedge was thrashing about.
"Then I saw a large cat with a badger in its mouth.
"It leapt onto a bank and disappeared.
"It completely shook me up."
Alan called the police who visited the scene immediately.
He said: "The police returned the next day to have a look at the area [in daylight] and they confirmed that they had found paw prints."
Alan's interest has now been renewed after a series of new sightings, and he has contacted a team of experts, including a 'big cat' expert and a specialist vet, to help establish the truth.
Alan said: "I'm hearing of several sightings a week. [The people who see it] are just people going about their normal business.
"The last sighting was Friday evening [19 February 2010].
"A woman was driving over the A35 [between Bridport and Dorchester], and it was running across a field.
"I have also had land owners who have said they have seen it.
"And all of those sightings are of a similar format.
"It's farmers finding unusual footprints on their land, or sheep or cattle being attacked.
"The animals have two punctures in their neck and their internal intestines are gone.
"They have a broken back, there's no blood, and some have been dragged to the top of a tree.
"But to drag a heavy sheep across a field for a 100 yards, over a fence and up a tree - that's not the work of a dog or a fox."
Alan is now waiting for the next sighting, with the hope that he can get to the scene immediately and find enough evidence or remains that can be recorded and analysed.
This needs to be carried out as quickly as possible after an animal attack as this is the key to gathering evidence which can determine what the creature is.
"It's vital we get there within a few hours after a kill, to take photos, take DNA and look around for anything else."
"Everyone says the same thing [about the creature] - it's black, its tail is as long as its body, it's bigger than a labrador and a good 6ft [1.8m] in length.
"There are key things that people see, and what they say is close by, that are key to each sighting."
Alan has this advice for people who think they might have seen it:
"The first thing to do is to make a note of where you've seen it, and then report it straight away to the police."
PC John Snellin, Wildlife Officer for Dorset Police, says all reported sightings are taken seriously.
He said: "We get the sightings fairly regularly and most are from level-headed people.
"It's a fascinating subject but we wouldn't scare monger - we need to keep it in proportion.
"It's not a policing priority but all reports are recorded, but, by my reckoning, there have been nothing like 30 sightings [reported to the police].
"But if you do see one, don't approach it - call the police. It is very likely to just run away."
PC Snellin believes the animal could be a black puma, and one theory is that it was released into the wild after the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act was made law, which banned keeping dangerous animals as pets - but PC Snellin thinks it is very unlikely an animal would have survived that long, or gone on to breed.
Alan McNamee's theory is that it could be an animal that is privately owned, but not officially registered, and is occasionally "let out" to hunt, but PC Snellin believes this is too unlikely as it would be difficult to control.
PC Snellin said: "It's not like calling in a black labrador."
Whatever the truth, Alan McNamee is hoping to get to the bottom of it.
He said: "Most sightings have been in a triangular area between Weymouth, Dorchester and Winterbourne Abbas.
"But there is something out there causing the damage [to the animals] and it's not a dog or a fox.
"It's a predator."
(Submitted by Lindsay Selby)
RIGHT: Terri Petter holds her blonde raccoon Fingers at the site of where her wildlife education center will be built. Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune.CALL OF THE WILDLIFE
A landmark furniture store in Farmington is being transformed into a wildlife education center, along with a gift shop and restaurant.
By DEAN SPIROS, Star Tribune
February 21, 2010 - 7:29 PM
The array of country furniture and accessories displayed in a sprawling timber building has always been but part of the lure of Oak & Treasures in Farmington.
For some, a weekend just wasn't complete without stopping in to talk to Fingers the blonde raccoon, who regularly occupied a pen in the back of the store. Or to get an up-close look at the wolf that often kept Terri Petter company in her office while she worked at the store belonging to her mother, Eunice.
After 15 years, the animals are moving from the back rooms and into the spotlight. Oak & Treasures is closing its doors and will reopen as a wildlife education center in the fall.
"The Habitat" will display a variety of native animals in their natural surroundings inside large, fenced-in pens. The inside of the log building will feature a bar and grill and gift shop. The walls will be adorned with animal mounts accompanied by educational text.
It's the brainchild of Apple Valley native Terri Petter, who grew up with a love of the outdoors and the creatures that inhabit them.
"Working with critters has always been her dream,'' Eunice Petter said. "We've been working toward this point for five years. It's just a good time to do it.''
"I always wanted to educate people on the outdoors and to get kids off the couch and away from the video games,'' Terri Petter said. "Getting people back outside to enjoy wildlife.''
Terri Petter has more than 100 animals, including cougars, wolves, bobcats, lynx, badgers, foxes, prairie dogs and ground hogs. They are housed on her 100-acre ranch in Apple Valley. Petter has a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit, and she said all of the animals have been purchased from a USDA-licensed facility.
"I don't have any kids; those are my kids,'' Terri Petter said. "I protect them like they are my kids.''
A landscape makeover will include the addition of trees, boulders, plants and ponds. "You're going to be able to walk out there and feel like you are up north,'' Terri Petter said.
Admission prices stand at $7.50 for adults and $5.50 for children. Yearly memberships will be available. Petter also is seeking corporate sponsorships and accepts donations.
The Petters have purchased an adjacent 70 acres of farmland they plan to use for future expansion of the habitat. Plans call for a petting farm featuring horses, cows, chickens and the like.
The current going-out-of-business furniture sale runs through May 1. Construction will begin soon after, weather permitting.
Eunice Petter has been in the furniture business for over 30 years, dating back to her days as an antiques dealer at Lake and Hennepin in Minneapolis. She also taught history for 30 years in the Apple Valley school district. While sad to see the furniture store close ("I'll miss the customers"), she's excited about her daughter's new venture.
"It's a big gamble,'' said Terri Petter, who put her ranch and her mom's timber building up for loan collateral. "I might be living in a box in two years. But I think it's worth it.''
(Submitted by D.R. Shoop)
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News
The fossilised remains of a gigantic 10m-long predatory shark have been unearthed in Kansas, US.
Scientists dug up a gigantic jawbone, teeth and scales belonging to the shark which lived 89 million years ago.
The bottom-dwelling predator had huge tooth plates, which it likely used to crush large shelled animals such as giant clams.
Palaeontologists already knew about the shark, but the new specimen suggests it was far bigger than previously thought.
The scientists who made the discovery, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, last week also released details of other newly discovered giant plankton-eating fish that swam in prehistoric seas for more than 100 million years.
But this new fish, called Ptychodus mortoni, is both bigger and more fierce, having a taste for flesh rather than plankton.
It may even have been the largest shellfish-eating animal ever to have roamed the Earth.
Dr Kenshu Shimada of DePaul university in Chicago, Illinois, US found the fossilized remains of the shark in rocks known as the Fort Hays Limestone in Kansas.
"Kansas back then was smack in the middle of an inland sea known as the Western Interior Seaway that extended in a north-south direction across North America," says Dr Shimada.
Along with a piece of jaw, Dr Shimada and colleagues uncovered a piece of jaw, teeth and scales.
"Although it represents a fraction of the entire body of the shark, the jaw fragment is gigantic. The estimated jaw length was almost 1m long, and that would suggest that the shark was likely at least 10m in length," says Dr Shimada.
Due to the lack of a complete skeleton, it is difficult to gauge the physical appearance of the shark.
But Dr Shimada suspects it had a body shaped much like that of a modern nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum), with a broad rounded head and stout body.
However, its teeth and lifestyle would have been very different.
Hundreds of robust teeth line the upper and lower parts of the shark's mouth, forming large slab-like plates capable of crushing shellfish.
"This in turn suggests that P. mortoni was probably a sluggish bottom-dwelling shark, rather than an actively fast swimmer," says Dr Shimada.
Fossils of this and other closely-related species have long been known.
"While there have been many teeth and a few incomplete skeletal remains of P. mortoni in museum collections, the significance of this new specimen is that it contains one of the largest teeth of this species that were found with a gigantic jaw fragment.
"The size of the jaw fragment in fact supports the contention that P. mortoni was likely a gigantic animal," says Dr Shimada.
The scientists have dated the fossil at 88.7 million years old.
At that time, a variety of animals, such as giant clams, other sharks, bony fishes, and predatory marine reptiles called mosasaurs and plesiosaurs inhabited the same water.
Some, including certain mosasaurs would also have grown to gigantic proportions, reaching lengths of 10m or more.
Why P. mortoni became so huge is still a mystery.
"The emergence of large ptychodontids roughly coincides with the timing of when many other kinds of organisms, including clams as well as sharks and bony fishes, became bigger," explains Dr Shimada.
"Clearly, the food resources must have been abundant enough in the marine ecosystem to support such large organisms.
"Becoming big does have advantages such as deterring predators and being able to travel faster, but it does come with disadvantages as well, most notably needing more food for energy."
Another specimen of P. mortoni has been found alongside another type of meat-eating shark called Squalicorax, with some scientists suggesting that the meat-eating shark may have been scavenging on the body of its larger relative.
Last week, Dr Shimada and colleagues published details in the journal Science of how a dynasty of large plankton-eating fish roamed the oceans between 66 and 172 million years ago.
These fish died out with the dinosaurs.
Once they had vanished from the ecosystem, mammals and cartilaginous fish such as manta rays, basking sharks and whale sharks began to adapt to fill a similar ecological role.
(Submitted by Lindsay Selby)
A trainer at the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Florida, has died after being attacked by a killer whale.
Witnesses said the whale had jumped and grabbed Dawn Brancheau by the waist from a poolside platform before dragging her underwater.
Guests were evacuated while fire crews tried to rescue the 40-year-old, but they were unable to revive her.
The orca, Tilikum, was also involved in the death of a female trainer in Canada in 1991, reports said.
Other orcas were also said to have attacked trainers at SeaWorld parks in 2006 and 2004.
'Shaking her violently'
Chuck Tompkins, SeaWorld parks' head of animal training, was quoted by Reuters news agency saying: "She was rubbing the killer whale's head, and [it] grabbed her and pulled her in."
SeaWorld said an investigation was under way into Wednesday afternoon's death of Ms Brancheau, a trainer with 16 years' experience.
Jim Solomons, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said early accounts indicated she could have slipped and fallen into the tank.
He said it was too early to tell if she had been attacked by the 12,000lb (5,450kg) orca.
But witnesses told a different story.
Park visitor Victoria Biniak told a local TV channel that the trainer had just finished explaining to the audience what they were about to see.
At that point, she said, the whale "took off really fast, and then he came back around to the glass, jumped up, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started shaking her violently. The last thing we saw was her shoe floating."
Audience member Eldon Skaggs told AP news agency the whale had "pulled her under and started swimming around with her".
A male spectator who witnessed the tragedy gave CNN a similar version of events.
Brazilian tourist Joao Lucio DeCosta Sobrinho and his girlfriend were at an underwater viewing area when they saw the whale with the trainer in its mouth.
The entertainment park, known for its killer whale, seal and dolphin displays, was closed after the incident. SeaWorld in San Diego also suspended its killer whale show.
Tilikum is said to have been involved in previous incidents, the BBC's Andy Gallacher reports from Florida.
A SeaWorld spokesman said the orca had been one of three whales blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 after she had fallen in a pool at a marine park in British Columbia, Canada.
After the whale - nicknamed Telly - was sold to SeaWorld Orlando it was involved in a second incident when authorities discovered the body of a naked man lying across his back in 1999.
Officials later concluded the man, who had either crept into SeaWorld after closing time or hidden in the park until it closed, probably drowned after suffering hypothermia.
There have been incidents involving other whales at SeaWorld.
In November 2006, a male trainer escaped with a broken foot after he was bitten and held underwater by a female killer whale during a show at SeaWorld's San Diego park.
In 2004, another whale at the company's San Antonio park attempted to bite a trainer, but he too escaped.
Though called a killer whale, the orca (Orcinus orca), is actually the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family.
Animal rights group Peta says it has long been asking SeaWorld to stop taking wild, ocean-going mammals and confining them to an area that, to them, is "the size of a bathtub".
See full story, videos, etc: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8535618.stm
(Submitted by Oll Lewis)
See also: http://www.startribune.com/nation/85237837.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUac8HEaDiaMDCinchO7DU
(Submitted by D.R. Shoop)
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News, San Diego
Researchers at San Diego Zoo have been studying what has been described as the "secret language" of elephants.
They have been monitoring communications between animals that cannot be heard by human ears.
The elephant's trumpeting call will be familiar to most people, but the animals also emit growls.
Their growls, however, are only partly audible; two-thirds of the call is at frequencies that are too low to be picked up by our hearing.
To learn more about the inaudible part of the growl, the team attached a microphone sensitive to these low frequencies and a GPS tracking system to eight of the zoo's female elephants.
The researchers could then correlate the noises the animals were making with what they were doing.
Matt Anderson, who led the project, told BBC News: "We're excited to learn of the hierarchy within the female herd and how they interact and intercede with one another."
The team has already learned that pregnant females use this low frequency communication to announce to the rest of their herd that they are about to give birth.
"We've seen that after their long gestation of over two years, in the last 12 days we see a manipulation of the low part of the growl, the low part that we can't hear.
"This we believe is to announce to the rest of the herd that the baby is imminent," said Dr Anderson.
The researchers believe that this also warns the elephants to look out for predators.
"You may think that a baby calf of about 300 pounds would not be as open to predation as other species," he says. "But packs of hyenas are a big threat in the wild."
Dr Anderson and his team are continuing to analyse data in order to learn more about this secret elephant language.
See video at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8527009.stm
(Submitted by T Peter Park)
An army search dog who saved lives in Afghanistan is to be honoured with the animal version of the Victoria Cross.
Black Labrador Treo, eight, will be awarded the Dickin Medal at the event at the Imperial War Museum in London.
The now retired dog, from 104 Military Working Dog Support Unit, North Luffenham barracks in Rutland, twice found hidden bombs in Helmand province.
Treo will be the 63rd animal to receive the medal created by veterinary charity the PDSA to honour gallantry in war.
The medal, which is the highest accolade a military animal can be awarded, is due to be presented by Princess Alexandra.
A total of 26 other dogs, 32 World War II messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat have won the award which was introduced by PDSA founder Maria Dickin in 1943.
Handler Sgt Dave Heyhoe will join his dog at the ceremony on Wednesday.
The pair have worked together for five years and Treo has now become a family pet.
Sgt Heyhoe said: "We started our time together in Northern Ireland, then moved to North Luffenham, where we then went out to Afghanistan in 2008."
Treo was one of 25 dogs in the country supporting British troops on patrol.
His work involved searching for arms and explosives.
Sgt Heyhoe said: "It's very important. We are part and parcel of the search element. We're not the ultimate answer but we are an aid to search."
Treo was working as a forward detection dog in Sangin when in August and September 2008 he found two hidden "daisy chain" bombs made out of multiple explosives wired together.
His handler said Treo's detective work saved the lives of many soldiers.
Sgt Heyhoe added the pair had a "rapport" and understood each other.
"Everyone will say that he is just a military working dog - yes, he is, but he is also a very good friend of mine. We look after each other."
He said the award was for every dog and handler working in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Maj Chris Ham, officer commanding the Canine Division at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, said dogs played an important role in missions overseas.
He said: "It's being recognised more and more in this day and age that the key capability the armed explosives dog does have lies particularly in finding improvised explosive devices."
See video at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8533382.stm
(Submitted by Liz R)
RIGHT: This animal, Speleonectes tulumensis, is from a group of rare, blind, cave-dwelling crustaceans called "remipedes." The new analysis in Nature shows that the remipedes are the crustaceans most closely related to the insects. Remipedes and insects together are now shown to be a sister group to all the other crustacea including the crabs, shrimps, and lobsters. (Credit: Simon Richards)
Their study is scheduled for publication in the journal Nature on Feb. 24.
Now, for the first time, science has a solid grasp of what those relationships are, and a framework upon which to build. The new study makes a major contribution to our understanding of the nature and origins of the planet's biodiversity. The paper's other researchers are Jerome C. Regier, Andreas Zwick and April Hussey from the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute; Jeffrey W. Shultz of the University of Maryland's Department of Entomology; and Bernard Ball and Clifford W. Cunningham from Duke University's Department of Biology.
There are millions of distinct species of arthropods, including all the insects, crustaceans, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, and a host of other animals, all united by having a hard external shell and jointed legs. They are by far the most numerous, and most diverse, of all creatures on Earth -- in terms of the sheer number of species, no other group comes close. They make up perhaps 1.6 million of the estimated 1.8 to 1.9 million described species, dominating the planet in number, biomass, and diversity.
The economic aspects of arthropods are also overwhelming. From seafood industries worth billions of dollars annually to the world's economy, to the importance of insects as pollinators of ornamental and agriculturally important crops, to the medical role played by arthropods (e.g. as disease vectors and parasites), to biological control of introduced species, to their role in every known food web, to toxicology and biopharmaceuticals, arthropods are by far the planet's most important group of animals.
"We've never really known how arthropods, the most successful animals on Earth, evolved into the diversity we see today," said research scientist and co-author Dr. Regina Wetzer. "For me, what makes this study really exciting is getting such a solid understanding of how these animals are related, so that now we can better understand how they evolved."
Because of their amazing diversity, deciphering the evolutionary history and relationships among the major subgroups of arthropods has proven difficult. Scientists have tried using various combinations of features, in recent years including DNA sequences, to try to understand which groups are related through common ancestors. To date, those attempts have been stymied by the sheer number of species and wild shape variations between the various groups.
One of the most important results of this new study is support for the hypothesis that the insects evolved from a group of crustaceans. So flies, honeybees, ants, and crickets all branched off the arthropod family tree from within the lineage that gave rise to today's crabs, shrimp, and lobsters. Another important finding is that the "Chelicerata" (a group that includes the spiders, scorpions, ticks, and mites) branched off very early, earlier than the millipedes, centipedes, crustaceans, and insects. That means that the spiders, for example, are more distantly related to the insects than many researchers previously thought.
This team approached the problem of illuminating the arthropod family tree by using genetic data (DNA sequences) obtained from 75 species carefully selected to sample the range of arthropod diversity. Many previous analyses were based on the sequences of a handful of genes. The researchers in this study, knowing the daunting diversity they faced, used DNA sequence information from as many genes as they could. In the end, they were able to apply data from 62 protein-coding genes to the problem, leading to an extremely well-supported analysis.
"The Museum's collection of arthropods, and in particular its collection of crustaceans, are what made a study like this possible in the first place," says Dr. Joel W. Martin, NHM Curator of Crustacea and one of the authors who designed the study nearly eight years ago. "The wealth of stored biodiversity information contained in it, both in terms of specimens and in terms of the data, theories, and research related to those specimens, are why natural history museums exist, and why they play such a critical role in explaining the world's diversity. Studies like this confirm the incredible value, not only of existing natural history museum collections, but of continuing to add to these collections every year."
A key problem that the research team had to solve was obtaining specimens of some of rare and obscure organisms whose DNA was needed for the analysis. Because of their extensive experience in field biology, this was a major contribution to the project from NHM scientists. Dr. Wetzer recalls lying on the beach with a microscope at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She was hunting for specimens of a tiny, little-known crustacean that lives between grains of sand. "I got the mystacocarids we needed, but I think I also provided pretty good entertainment to the families at the beach that day," Dr. Wetzer said.
(Tahitipresse) - South Pacific countries are facing a serious threat from alien invasive species according to a new publication coordinated by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP).
The publication lists a number of alien species as a major threat to life on earth, "and unfortunately a number of these now exist in the South Pacific islands", Regional Director of BirdLife International in the Pacific Don Stewart said. Birdlife is a partner in GISP.
Invasive alien species are plants and animals not native to the South Pacific countries but have been introduced either through trade, or through "misguided" attempts to protect local flora and fauna, a Birdlife press release states.
The publication names 542 species documented as invasive aliens in 57 countries including 316 plants, 101 marine organisms, 44 freshwater fish, 43 mammal, 23 bird and 15 amphibian species. An increase in the number and spread of alien species, which adversely affect the habitats they invade, is attributed to a substantial rise in international trade over the past 25 years.
In the Pacific region, the list of the alien species is substantial and includes rats, snakes, cats, ants, mongooses, freshwater fishes, and weeds like miconia, wedelia and mile-a-minute.
"Alien Invasive species 'take over' space and resources of animals and plants that belong in the Pacific. They also often eat native species, like birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. This can lead to native or endemic birds and other animals going extinct", Stewart said.
Dr. Randy Thaman, Professor of Biogeography at the University of the South Pacific endorsed these comments. "Invasive alien species are highly destructive and have led to the serious deterioration of unique Pacific island ecosystems", Thaman added.
Of all animals that have become extinct since 1800, 90% were island birds and 90% of these were lost to invasive species primarily because of rats.
BirdLife International operates a programme, currently funded by the UK Government Darwin Initiative and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, to primarily remove rats from islands in the Pacific that continue to pose a serious threat to seabird populations.
Together with BirdLife Partner organisations, rats have been removed from 17 biologically important islands in Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Palau.
Mr. Stewart said that these efforts have been a major benefit to the region's wildlife, and importantly have also protected crops from damage and drinking water from contamination.
Volume # 10 Issue #9 2/23/09 - Bibliographies Major Herp Publications
Publisher/Editor- Allen Salzberg
Table of Contents
1) Herpetological Monographs, Vol. 23, Issue 1, Dec 2009 (Bibliography)
2) Herpetologica Vol. 65, Issue 4, Dec 2009 (Bibliography
3) Journal of Herpetology Vol. 44, Issue 1, Mar 2010 (Bibliography
1) Herpetological Monographs (Bibliography
Vol. 23, Issue 1, Dec 2009
Philippine Frogs of the Genus Leptobrachium (Anura; Megophryidae): Phylogeny-based Species Delimitation, Taxonomic Review, and Descriptions of Three New Species
Rafe M. Brown, Cameron D. Siler, Arvin C. Diesmos, and Angel C. Alcala
The Spatial and Reproductive Ecology of the Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) at the Northeastern Extreme of Its Range
Charles F. Smith, Gordon W. Schuett, Ryan L. Earley, and Kurt Schwenk
Reproductive Biology of Agkistrodon piscivorus Lacépède (Squamata, Serpentes, Viperidae, Crotalinae)
Dustin S. Siegel, David M. Sever, Justin L. Rheubert, and Kevin M. Gribbins
Selected Body Temperature and Thermoregulatory Behavior in the Sit-and-Wait Foraging Lizard Pseudocordylus melanotus melanotus
Suzanne McConnachie, Graham J. Alexander, and Martin J. Whiting
Two New Species of Cnemidophorus (Squamata: Teiidae) from Islands of the Northeastern Coast of Venezuela
Gabriel N. Ugueto, Michael B. Harvey, and Gilson A. Rivas
2) Herpetologica (Bibliography
Vol. 65, Issue 4, Dec 2009
Sexual Dimorphism in Leposternon microcephalum and L. wuchereri (Squamata: Amphisbaenidae) from Minas Gerais, Southeastern Brazil
Renato Filogonio, Conrado A. B. Galdino, Daniel P. R. Cabral, Alexandre F. Righi, Marcelo F. Lopes, and Luciana B. Nascimento
Effects of Radio Transmitter Burdening on Locomotor Ability and Survival of Iguana Hatchlings
Charles R. Knapp and Juan G. Abarca
Age, Size and Growth in Two Populations of the Southern Crested Newt, Triturus karelinii (Strauch 1870) from Different Altitudes
Nazan Üzüm and Kurtuluþ Olgun
Testing Species Boundaries within theAtractus occipitoalbus Complex (Serpentes: Dipsadidae)
Paulo Passos, Altagratia Chiesse, Omar Torres-Carvajal, and Jay M. Savage
A New species of Coniophanes (Squamata: Colubridae), from the Coast of Michoacán, Mexico
Oscar Flores-Villela and Eric N. Smith
A New species of Microcaecilia (Amphibia: Gymnophona: Caeciliidae) from Suriname
Mark Wilkinson, Ronald Nussbaum, and Marinus Hoogmoed
A Revision of the Fish Scale Geckos, Genus Geckolepis Grandidier (Squamata, Gekkonidae) from Madagascar and the Comoros
Gunther Köhler, Hans-Helmut Diethert, Ronald A. Nussbaum, and Christopher J. Raxworthy
A New Species of Mesobaena Mertens, 1925 (Squamata: Amphisbaenidae) from Brazilian Guiana, with a Key to the Amphisbaenidae of the Guianan Region
Marinus S. Hoogmoed, Roberta R. Pinto, Wáldima Alves da Rocha, and Emiliane G. Pereira
A New Limb-Reduced, Loam-Swimming Skink (Squamata: Scincidae: Brachymeles) from Central Luzon Island, Philippines
Cameron D. Siler, Edmond L. Rico, Mariano R. Duya, and Rafe M. Brown
New Species of Toxicocalamus (Squamata: Elapidae) from Papua New Guinea
A New Species of the Scinax catharinae Species Group (Anura: Hylidae) from Minas Gerais, Southeastern Brazil
Ana Carolina Calijorne Lourenço, Luciana Barreto Nascimento, and Maria Rita Silvério
3) Journal of Herpetology (Bibliography)
Vol. 44, Issue 1, Mar 2010
Sexual Size and Shape Dimorphism Variation in Caesar's Lizard (Gallotia caesaris, Lacertidae) from Different Habitats
M. Molina-Borja, M. A. Rodríguez-Domínguez, C. González-Ortega, and M. L. Bohórquez-Alonso
Macroscopic Recognition of Nontraumatic Osseous Pathology in the Postcranial Skeletons of Crocodilians and Lizards
Density-Dependent Processes during the Juvenile Stage in the Lizard Sceloporus virgatus
V. Mark Manteuffel and Martin Eiblmaier
New Species of Cnemaspis Strauch 1887 (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from Southwestern ambodia
Jesse L. Grismer, L. Lee Grismer, and Thou Chav
New Forest Gecko (Squamata; Gekkonidae; Genus Luperosaurus) from Mt. Mantalingajan, Southern Palawan Island, Philippines
Rafe M. Brown, Arvin C. Diesmos, Melizar V. Duya, Harvey J. D. Garcia, and Edmund Leo B. Rico
New Loam-Swimming Skink, Genus Brachymeles (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) from Luzon and Catanduanes Islands, Philippines
Cameron D. Siler, Arvin C. Diesmos, and Rafe M. Brown
Anuran Calling Survey Optimization: Developing and Testing Predictive Models of Anuran Calling Activity
Charlotte K. Steelman and Michael E. Dorcas
Interaction of an Aquatic Herbicide and Predatory Salamander Density on Wetland Communities
Robert Brodman, W. Dan Newman, Kristin Laurie, Sarah Osterfeld, and Nicole Lenzo
Seasonal Patterns of Body Condition, Hydration State, and Activity of Gila Monsters (Heloderma suspectum) at a Sonoran Desert Site
Jon R. Davis and Dale F. DeNardo
Abundance and Sexual Size Dimorphism of the Giant Gartersnake (Thamnophis gigas) in the Sacramento Valley of California
Glenn D. Wylie, Michael L. Casazza, Christopher J. Gregory, and Brian J. Halstead
Vagility of Aquatic Salamanders: Implications for Wetland Connectivity
Christopher M. Schalk and Thomas M. Luhring
Multiscale Influences of Landscape Composition and Configuration on the Spatial Ecology of Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus)
Shannon K. Hoss, Craig Guyer, Lora L. Smith, and Gordon W. Schuett
Seasonal and Site Variation in Angulate Tortoise Diet and Activity
Quinton I. Joshua, Margaretha D. Hofmeyr, and Brian T. Henen
Nutritional Quality of Natural Foods of Juvenile and Adult Desert Tortoises (Gopherus agassizii): Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium Digestibility
Lisa C. Hazard, Danielle R. Shemanski, and Kenneth A. Nagy
Diet and Reproductive Ecology of the Desert Nightsnake (Hypsiglena chlorophaea) in Central Washington State
Robert E. Weaver
Karyotypes of a Cryptic Diploid Form of the Unisexual Leposoma percarinatum (Squamata, Gymnophthalmidae) and the Bisexual Leposoma ferreirai from the Lower Rio Negro, Amazonian Brazil
Marcia M. Laguna, Miguel T. Rodrigues, Rodrigo M. L. dos Santos, Yatiyo Yonenaga-Yassuda, Teresa C. S. Ávila-Pires, Marinus S. Hoogmoed, and Katia C. M. Pellegrino
Altitude and Rock Cover Explain the Distribution and Abundance of a Mediterranean Alpine Lizard
Camila Monasterio, Alfredo Salvador, and José A. Díaz
Seasonal Variation in Survivorship and Mortality of Desert Tortoises in the Sonoran Desert, Arizona
J. Daren Riedle, Roy C. Averill-Murray, and David D. Grandmaison
Population Structure and Growth of Immature Green Turtles at Mantanani, Sabah, Malaysia
Age and Growth of a Subtropical High-Elevation Torrent Frog, Amolops mantzorum, in Western China
Wen Bo Liao and Xin Lu
Ventral Colored Patches in Tropidurus semitaeniatus (Squamata, Tropiduridae): Sexual Dimorphism and Association with Reproductive Cycle
Leonardo B. Ribeiro, Miguel F. Kolodiuk, and Eliza M. X. Freire
List of Reviewers for the Journal of Herpetology, 2009
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THE ECOLOGY, EXPLOITATION AND CONSERVATION OF RIVER TURTLES
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