Thursday, 30 June 2016

From 'guard cats' to monkeys who shop: our favourite urban animal stories

More than two years after the launch of Guardian Cities, it seems high time for a round-up of all the animal-related stories that have kept us amused along the way. Here’s our top 10 – now tell us yours

Venkman, named after one of the Ghostbusters, guards the grain at the Empirical brewery in Chicago

Thursday 9 June 201607.30 BSTLast modified on Thursday 9 June 201613.27 BST

Four feral cats, named after the original Ghostbusters, are being “employed” in a Chicago brewery to guard the grain from rats. In exchange, they are paid a daily rate in the only currency they understand: dry cat food.

As Medill Reports Chicago explains, the owners of the Empirical brewery in Chicago decided to employ these cats, rather than pest control companies, because they are both cheaper and, to quote verbatim, “adorable”.

The programme is part of a wider strategy to release 3,500 feral cats to deal with Chicago’s unaccountably virulent rat problem. Chicago is apparently the“rattiest” city in the US.

That same charity, Tree House, is also raising funds to build a “cat house”: a large apartment building in which 200 cats would live alongside a vet and other feline-specific facilities. Naturally, Tree House has produced a reality TV show to drum up cash for this initiative – mainly featuring cats behaving cattily towards each other.

Fur flies during the Real Tree House Cats of Chicago
If all this makes you think that Chicago is undergoing a kind of collective delusion brought on by those parasites that supposedly live in cat litter and embed themselves into the brain stems of their hosts, to slowly shift human behaviour over time in pro-cat ways, all we can observe is that it’s not just Chicago, or cats. Increasingly, wild animals are making their mark on urban environments in a host of new and inventive ways. Behold ...

Pigeons with backpacks
In London, pigeons have been equipped with little backpacks to measure air pollution. The ones over Victoria Park wear Fjallraven. No, not really.

Vultures with Go-Pros
Lima, Peru has a rubbish dumping problem so topographically dynamic that it actually needs to be mapped aerially. So what better animal to track garbage mounds from the skies (caw!) than a vulture?

Lima’s black vultures, or gallinazo, are also large enough to wear Go-Pro video cameras, and well-trained enough by Alfredo Correa at Lima’s Huachipa zoo to return with said cameras. 

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