Saturday 28 February 2009

Park ranger mauled by Komodo dragon

A park ranger in Indonesia has been badly injured in an attack by a Komodo dragon which had climbed a ladder into his hut.

The victim received severe lacerations when the dragon mauled his hand and foot.
The attack on Rinca, one of three islands where the world's largest lizard can be found in the wild, saw the creature lunge at the victim while he was at his desk, a Komodo National Park official said.

The 46-year-old victim screamed for help and jumped on to his desk, clutching the neck of the reptile. He then let go and fled out the window as colleagues raced to his aid and used wooden sticks to force the dragon out of the hut.

He needed more than 30 stitches to his injuries but is now recovering well in hospital.

Speaking from his hospital bed on the nearby island of Bali, he said: "I'm lucky I survived. Nothing like this has ever happened to me... in 25 years on the job. I've never been attacked."

Attacks on humans by Komodo dragons are rare but one did attack and kill an eight-year-old boy in 2007 on Komodo island, the first recorded deadly attack on a human by one of the giant lizards in 33 years.

The reptile can grow up to 10ft long and weigh as much as 150lb. They have shark-like serrated teeth and their saliva contains about 50 bacteria strains, so infection is also a risk.

Yeti evidence is 'convincing' says wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough

By Sara Nelson
Last updated at 12:18 PM on 28th February 2009

Sir David Attenborough believes there is 'very convincing' evidence that yetis exist.

Speaking on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, the revered wildlife expert said: 'I'm baffled by the Abominable Snowman - very convincing footprints have been found at 19,000ft.

'No-one does that for a joke. I think it's unanswered.'

The yeti is an ape-like creature said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet.

A photograph of a mysterious footprint, rumoured to be that of the yeti was taken in the Menlung Basin in the Himalayas in 1951.

A team of mountaineers travelled to the region on a reconnaissance mission before attempting to conquer Everest for the first time, a feat achieved two years later.

Eric Shipton recorded the footprint, and Tom Bourdillon, passing on the evidence to his friend Michael Davies, wrote: 'Dear Mick, Here are the footprint photos: sorry for the delay. We came across them on a high pass on the Nepal-Tibet watershed during the 1951 Everest expedition.

'They seemed to have come over a secondary pass at about 19,500 ft, down to 19,000 ft where we first saw them, and then went on down the glacier.'

In 1954, the Daily Mail reported the discovery of hair specimens from what was said to be the scalp of a yeti.

Professor Frederick Woods Jones, an expert in human and comparative anatomy, failed to reach a conclusion, but said the dark brown hair was not from a bear or an anthropoid (manlike) ape.

Alleged sightings and debate has continued through the decades - but so far no-one has been able to produce a clear, definitive photograph of the world's most elusive being.

Tibetan folklore has it that the yeti is nocturnal, whistles, and can kill with a single punch.

Investigators believe that at least two types of yeti exist: the dzu-teh ('big thing'), which is 7ft-8ft tall, and the nich-teh, which is 5ft-6ft.

Sir David also spoke about not being able to halt climate change.

He said: 'We can never go back, there's no doubt about that... it's the speed at which we're changing.

'Before, it was thousands of years and now it's decades... but we can slow down the rate at which we change.'

Despite skeptics, West Branch Bigfoot devotee making presentations about sightings

by Jerry Nunn | The Bay City Times
Friday February 27, 2009, 9:33 AM

WEST BRANCH - An illusion of the light, a figment of the shadows, a trick played on a travel-weary eye?

Hard telling.

A quick glimpse was all that Phil Shaw and his wife ever received, but he was certain of this much: The creature that crossed the forest clearing stood upright, was much larger than a man and moved in a way that was definitely non-human.

"There was an opening in the trees and this guy was just going across there," says Shaw. "She and I looked at each other and at the same time we said, 'Did you see what I saw?'

"We didn't see any hair or clothes, like you would on a human. And he had a funny gait, which is often the case in a Bigfoot sighting; people say their movements are not quite human."

That was three years ago during a family vacation to the Canadian Maritime Provinces.

Returning home to Ogemaw County, Carol Shaw put the beastly episode out of her mind, claiming one of those first three possibilities probably holds the truth.

But not Phil Shaw.

Three years worth of studies and interviews have only strengthened his belief that Bigfoot is lurking out there.

"I'm just intrigued by the possibility that Bigfoot is real, I guess," Shaw says, noting there are more than 100 recorded sightings in Michigan. "I'm convinced there is something to this. There is far more evidence to prove there is a Bigfoot than there is evidence to suggest that there is not."

Shaw is not shy when it comes to discussing Bigfoot. He'll deliver a presentation to any group that invites him. Still, he is well aware that most folks don't take the idea of a 700-pound, ape-like creature running through the local forest too seriously.

"I think people are spooked by it," he says. "I don't know why - I'm not talking religion, I'm not talking politics, I'm not talking sex. Why should they be spooked? You can tell they are embarrassed because they try to change the subject."

He admits that the Bigfoot phenomenon attracts more than its share of charlatans and frauds, such as the rubber-ape suit frozen in ice that was presented to the world last fall during a nationally televised press conference. Perpetrators of those frauds cast an air of suspicion over those seeking honest answers and legitimate discussion about Bigfoot's possibility, Shaw said.

Yet enough legitimate evidence, published books and articles and first-hand accounts exist that Shaw can't dismiss the idea of an unknown giant ape living in relative isolation among us.

"There are a limited number of motion pictures and films. We have photographs. We have footprints and hand castings - there are thousands of those," Shaw says. Add to that body impressions, scat and hair samples, beds and structures and, the way Shaw sees it, the evidence points to the existence of Bigfoot.

What's more, the group of believers is growing ever larger and includes anthropologists, biologists and wildlife experts.

Nationally, there are more than 5,000 claimed sightings and similar creatures are a world-wide phenomenon stretching back centuries. Counting the notorious Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest, Florida's skunk ape, Ohio's grassmen, the Himalayan yeti and others, Bigfoot is part of a very large family, too.

Still, those who claim to see Bigfoot are often met with derision. Shaw, retired from the federal Farmers Home Administration, says the only reason he dares to speak out is "because I don't have a boss that can fire me."

"You can't blame people for not saying anything," Shaw said. "A lot of these sightings go back 10, 15, 20 years. They say, 'I mentioned it to my family and they ridiculed me so much I never mentioned it again.' And for every one that comes forward, there are 10 or 15 sightings that are never told."

By Shaw's argument, the creatures prevent detection by residing remotely, often in swamps and mountain ranges. And he feels they are closer to apes than man - bipedal with lots of hair, good night vision, mainly herbivore. Close encounters indicate they smell bad, a completely understandable result of their swamp environment, Shaw says.

Those who have heard vocalizations, including locals, call them haunting.

The sound they make is long and low, but it can be quite loud," Shaw said.

"If they're intelligent at all, and I think they are, they could remain undetected," Shaw says. "They're very shy, like a bear, and it's lucky they are. If they offended one of us, we'd get up a posse and go out and kill them."

Shaw has been part of a posse before, though he wasn't looking to bag a Bigfoot. But the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, a scientific research group, does hold organized expeditions across the country. Shaw participated in one that took a group of Bigfoot believers through the Upper Peninsula woods on an unsuccessful search for the creature.

Sooner or later someone will meet with success, Shaw says, and deliver hard evidence - an irrefutable photograph, a video or DNA evidence. In the meantime, the Internet has expanded the capacity for scientists, backyard researchers and Bigfoot believers to communicate and share ideas.

It also has become a way for first-time observers, many of whom previously either did not believe or gave the legend no thought, to share their stories.

Until, like Shaw, they saw a Bigfoot for themselves.

"People should be more open minded; that's my conclusion," Shaw said. "If anyone is out in the woods, take a camera. You might only have a minute or two, but that might be enough time to get a photo."

Curious octopus floods aquarium

By staff writers
February 27, 2009 01:36pm
  • Octopus gets too touchy with valve
  • Floods aquarium and staff offices
  • Apparently make good pets
A CURIOUS octopus has flooded an aquarium in California, sending hundreds of litres of water into staff offices.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium aquarist Brianne Emhiser said the culprit was an “incredibly gregarious” two-spotted octopus that pulled open a valve in its tank.

The two-spotted octopus is named for two blue eye-like spots on each side of its head. They are apparently considered good pets.

Aquarium spokeswoman Tara Crow said the incident was “actually quite comical”.

“I think the whole staff is still laughing about the ordeal,” she said.

“The only heartbreaking part is that our new office floors are potentially damaged. Even after two hours of cleaning up, we still have salt water seeping up between the tiles every step we take.”

No sea life was harmed during the misadventure.,27574,25114190-13762,00.html

Friday 27 February 2009

GIANT STINGRAY PICTURE: Largest Freshwater Fish?

February 24, 2009--Fishers and scientists announced this week the catch, and release, of what is likely the world's largest known freshwater giant stingray.

The giant stingray, weighing an estimated 550 to 990 pounds (250 to 450 kilograms) was reeled in on January 28, 2009, as part of a National Geographic expedition in Thailand.

The stingray's body measured 6.6 feet (2 meters) wide by 6.9 feet (2.1) meters long. The tail was missing. If it had been there, the ray's total length would have been between 14.8 and 16.4 feet (4.5 and 5 meters), estimated University of Nevada Biologist Zeb Hogan.

Hogan was in Thailand searching for giant fish as part of the Megafishes Project — an effort to document Earth's 20 or so freshwater giants.

The new find gives Hogan hope that the giant stingray, once overfished, may be more abundant than previously thought. And it may confirm the giant stingray as the heavyweight champ of the Megafishes Project.

"Honestly, we just don't know how much it weighed. But it's clear that the giant stingray has the potential to be the largest freshwater fish in the world," said Hogan, also a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)

"The Thai populations were once considered critically endangered, although with the discovery of new populations the stingray's abundance appears higher than previously believed," added Hogan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the freshwater giant stingray as vulnerable.

Last March Hogan found a 14-foot-long (4.3-meter-long) ray near the Thai city of Chachoengsao. (See previous giant stingray news and video.)

Freshwater giant stingrays are among the largest of the approximately 200 species of rays. They can be found in a handful of rivers in Southeast Asia and northern Australia.

Much is still unknown about the mammoth ray species, including whether or not it can swim out to and survive at sea. The species was first described scientifically only in 1989.

Hogan and his colleagues are still looking for new varieties and populations of the giant stingray.

--Tasha Eichenseher
Photograph: Zeb Hogan

Circus slammed over elephant act

Elephants are making a controversial return to the big top in a show the RSPCA has branded a disgrace.

Three will be performing at the Great British Circus in Nottinghamshire, ten years after the last circus performance by an elephant in the UK.

The animal charity said the planned return was a "body blow for animal welfare in this country".

It has called on the Government to ban wild animals from circuses and urged the public to think twice before going to the show.

The Great British Circus' website lauded their return, as well as boasting "the only white tiger in any British circus" would be making an appearance.

It said: "Two Asian and one African elephant rolled into town today, the first time for over ten years that a European elephant act has been brought to a circus in the UK."

It added: "Sonja, Delhi and Vana Mana look very content as they slurp their daily ration of 200 litres of water. Despite their size these three lovely ladies are very gentle creatures.

"You can see how clever they are at every show when the Great British Circus comes to your town."

The RSPCA's Dr Rob Atkinson said: "This is a body blow for animal welfare in this country.

"I am sure this news will shock and sadden the public which has consistently shown its opposition to the use of wild animals in circuses.

"Asking these majestic animals to behave in unnatural ways in the name of entertainment is a disgrace - a disgrace which is already banned in several other European countries.

"This has to be a wake-up call for the Government which pledged to ban certain species in circuses almost three years ago.

"The argument that the practice will die out naturally has now been shown to be null and void."

He added: "After all, how are we benefited as a nation for permitting tigers to leap through hoops and bears to ride bicycles?"

Researchers fear hotter temperatures threaten sea turtles

By Maria Hatzakis
Posted Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:00am AEDT

Marine researchers monitoring green sea turtle hatchlings at Heron Island off Gladstone in central Queensland say hot weather could see the threatened species become extinct.

A zoologist from the University of Queensland says scientists have been examining how soaring temperatures have been affecting the turtles for the past three years.

Dr David Booth says this year's hatchlings are at a greater risk of being eaten because they are slower swimmers.

"One of the biggest dangers to the turtles is when they're swimming across the reef flat just escaping the island into deeper water and predation rates are very, very high because of the high density of fish there," he said.

"The predation rate directly depends on their swimming ability - the slower swimmers have a bigger chance of being eaten, so if you're a slower swimmer there's less chance of you making it across that first threshold of life."

Dr Booth says the turtle's sex is also determined by temperature and warmer weather produces females.

He says the species would be further threatened if there are not enough males to fertilise the females.

"In the end turtles will have to find other nesting areas to be more successful because of the increase in temperature," he said.

"It should be noted that sea turtles have been around in their present form for million of years and have experienced temperature changes and have been able to shift their location of nesting beaches.

"However, that's been done over tens of thousands of years not in tens of years, which will have to happen now."

Missing mobile found inside fish

A businessman who lost his mobile phone on a beach was amazed when it turned up - in the belly of a giant cod.

Andrew Cheatle thought it had been swept out to sea after it slipped from his pocket.

But a week later his girlfriend's mobile rang and it was fisherman Glen Kerley saying he'd found the phone in a 25lb fish, reports The Sun.

Andrew got the handset back, dried it out - and amazingly it still works.

Andrew, 45, said: "I was messing about with my dog and my phone must have fallen out and been swept out in the swell. I kept calling it but I gave up hope after a couple of days."

He was shopping for a new phone with girlfriend Rita Smith, 33, when her mobile went off.

She told him: "Your old mobile number is calling my phone."

Andrew continued: "She said some guy was going on about my phone and a cod so she handed it over to me and he told me where he had found it.

"I thought he was winding me up but he assured me he had caught a cod that morning and was gutting it for his fish stall and that my Nokia was inside it - a bit worse for wear."

Glen, of Worthing, West Sussex, said: "Cod are greedy fish - they'll eat anything. They have big heads and big mouths.

"I've found plastic cups, stones, teaspoons, batteries and I've also heard of someone finding false teeth in one.

"It was a bit smelly but I was glad to return it."

Psychedelic fish 'is new species'

By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

A brightly-coloured fish which bounces along the seabed has been hailed as a new species by scientists - who have dubbed it "psychedelica".

Research published in the US scientific journal Copeia says the fish was spotted by scuba divers off the island of Ambon in eastern Indonesia.

It belongs to the frogfish family, but its looks are unique even among its peers, the journal reported.

The question with this new discovery is how it went unnoticed for so long.

The new psychedelica frogfish is completely covered in swirling concentric stripes - white and blue on a peach background - radiating out from its aqua-coloured eyes.

It has a broad flat face, thick fleshy cheeks and chin, and eyes that look forward like a human's.

The fish was spotted by divers off the coast of Ambon island last year.

The divers described it moving away from them in a series of short hops, its pelvic fins pushing it off the sea bed with each bounce.

"The overall impression" says the Copeia research paper, was of "an inflated rubber ball bouncing along the bottom".

The species was first discovered almost 20 years ago, but sat on a shelf - wrongly labelled and gathering dust - until this most recent find.

It came to light when the divers were unable to identify the fish from photographs circulated among their colleagues, and sent pictures to a frogfish expert at the University of Washington.

Whistling orangutan

A perky orangutan has shocked zoo staff by learning to whistle.

Bonnie, is the first orangutan ever documented making the sound, according to the National Zoo in Washington DC.

The 32-year-old's keeper, Erin Stromberg, said Bonnie's new-found skill has implications on ideas about the evolution of speech, reports the Daily Telegraph.

He said: "I think what makes it significant is that you can train apes to whistle, but no one trained her to do it. She decided to do it on her own,"

The zoo said that Bonnie taught herself by listening zoo keepers who whistle while they work. She is also thought to have taught another orangutan called Indah to whistle too.

Mr Stromberg helped researchers study her behaviour for a paper published in Primates by whistling basic patterns to see whether Bonnie could copy them.

They found that her behaviour disproves the argument that orangutans have no control over their vocalisations and their sounds are purely involuntary responses to stimuli such as predators.

Mr Stromberg said: "I think what makes it significant is that she decided to do it on her own. Something made her want to whistle, or at least try it out. And so to me, she was challenging herself to do something else."

Cattle takes over city railway station

A Chinese city's railway station has so few passengers that it has become a pasture for animals.

Only two train services run from Beihai station, in Guangxi province, and they take twice as long as the bus.

The station is so quiet that cattle grazes on the grass outside, reports the Star Online. Ducks waddle around the entrance while chickens search for scraps of food.

Locals say they have got used to the rural scene and would be surprised if they didn't see any wildlife.

But Beihei is a popular tourism centre, close to renowned beaches and home to one of China's biggest aquariums.

Wang Haibo, director of the railway station, revealed: "In the past six months, we have had only 24,506 passengers. That's too few for a big railway station like this one."

Only two trains stopped at the station and the travel time to either destination was three hours.

"However, it only takes one and a half hours to travel the same distance by bus. Therefore most passengers choose to take the bus," he added.

"We are looking for ways to attract more people to take the train."

Ancient Whale Bones Found In SD County

SAN DIEGO -- The first ancient whale bones ever found in San Diego County were unearthed this month at an East Village construction site, beneath the remains of a Columbian mammoth that were found earlier, it was announced Thursday.

The bones of a baleen whale from the Pleistocene Era were discovered Wednesday afternoon at 11th and Island avenues at a construction site for the new Thomas Jefferson School of Law campus, the school's Chris Saunders said.

The bones are from the first marine mammal to be dug up in San Diego County from that period, which ranged from 10,000 to 1.8 million years ago, according to Tom Demere of the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

Demere believes the whale was more than 40 feet long based on the size of its ribs.

Saunders said several ribs, a piece of skull and part of the lower jaw have been found.

The whale bones were discovered 10 feet below where an eight-foot mammoth tusk was uncovered Feb. 4 by a backhoe operator. Scientists eventually dug out the other tusk, a skull and other bones belonging to the mammoth, which roamed the earth about 500,000 years ago.

The law school, currently based in Old Town, is building a new $68.5 million, eight-story building that's scheduled to be open in time for the 2010- 11 school year.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Fish fossil clue to origin of sex

A fossil fish from Australia was one of the earliest known vertebrates to reproduce by fertilising eggs inside the female, a study suggests.

Nature journal says the ancient fish was carrying a 5cm-long embryo.

The fertilisation of eggs by sperm outside the mother's body - external fertilisation - is thought to have evolved before copulation.

The fossil suggests the fertilisation of eggs inside the female's body evolved sooner than previously thought.

"These (fish) show some of the earliest evidence for internal reproduction," Zerina Johanson, curator of fossil fish at London's Natural History Museum (NHM), told BBC News.

"We expected that these early fishes would show a more primitive type of reproduction, where sperm and eggs combine in the water and embryos develop outside the fish."

According to Dr Johanson, the 365 million-year-old specimen shows that "the type of advanced fertilisation, taking place inside the mother, was more common among early fishes than previously thought.

"This discovery is incredibly important because evidence of reproductive biology is extremely rare in the fossil record," she said.

Dating to the Upper Devonian Period, the specimen has been bestowed with the scientific name Incisoscutum ritchiei.

It belongs to a group of early fish known as placoderms, which were covered in tough armour.

Full article with video and pictures at:

Author reveals her encounter with mystery Falmouth creature

4:10pm Wednesday 25th February 2009

By James Toseland

A third person has come forward with a sighting of the mysterious creature around Falmouth.

Sheila Bird, a local historian and author, spotted a strange cat-like animal in a tree in the swampy area round the back of Swanpool in 2006, a similar area to where Falmouth man Sam Bradbury saw the creature last month, but did not go to the local press.

After seeing Mr Bradbury’s sketch and then hearing the news of a sighting by another woman, Rita Shelton, on Pendennis headland, Mrs Bird referred to her diary entry from the misty morning on December 27, 2006, when she encountered the creature in the trees above the pool.

She said: “It was about 10.15am and I was walking across the cliff path from Gyllyngvase to Swanpool and around the pool on my way to a physio appointment when I noticed a large black form up in the branches.

“I looked closer to see a large cat-like animal with its ears pointing up.

“It was high up in the trees so in order for the creature to get up in the branches it must have been quite agile.

“It was curled in a cat’s cradle position and looked a bit like an enormous Kuala bear with a long bushy tail. It had long black hair with a brownish tinge.”

Mrs Bird, who has written many books about the paranormal around Cornwall, went on to say that she was very intrigued because, like most people, she does not associate cats with a love of water.

They stared at each other for about 50 minutes as the mist cleared and the creature kept almost completely still, but for the odd head movement.

She returned to the spot the next day with her camera only to see the creature had gone.

“I thought it was a great privilege to see an animal like this so clearly,” she said.

Mrs Bird added that now three people have come forward with sightings, she hopes more people would appreciate the mystery of nature.

Best Beware Thy Stingray

by Vera H-C Chan
February 25, 2009 12:13:42 PM

A record-breaking stingray capture, by the numbers:
  • 1 rod and line
  • 90 minutes for one British biologist (with help) to reel in the freshwater fish
  • 13 men to drag said fish onto a boat
  • 125 pounds—that's the difference between the stingray's weight at 771 pounds and the previous record rod-&-reel capture of a catfish
The Thailand capture of the massive female stingray was part of a program to tag such Maeklong River residents. The captive, part of a "vulnerable species" listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, measured a hefty 7 feet by 7 feet. That doesn't include the 10-foot-long poisonous tail.

Such creatures are dangerous, of course: Famed Australian TV personality Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died from a stingray barb at the Great Barrier Reef in 2006.

The numbers currently put one Ian Welch on the world record books. (Pictures of Welch posing with his female companion can be found here.) The stingray's resistance nearly dunked Welch into the river, and he was literally saved by the seat of his pants when a crewmate grabbed his trousers.

Another reason that this marine fish is so huge: She's pregnant. (Cue soap-opera gasp.) After she had been towed to the bank (too big to be onboard the boat), she was duly marked, had DNA samples removed, and returned to the river whence she unwillingly came. Welch gave her a farewell smooch, then spent the rest of the day with a cold beer and memories of her.

By the way, one number isn't known: the exact stingray population count, which has shrunk 20 percent in the past decade. With this lady's help, at least one more will be added to this number...and with a tale to tell.

Foxes 'nest' in tree

A family of foxes has made its home 30ft up in the air at the top of a tree in Suffolk.

Donna Martell, from Ipswich, discovered the unlikely den after noticing a young fox club scaling the branches.

It's thought the foxes, which usually live in burrows underground, were escaping the cold weather, reports The Sun.

Miss Martell, 26, and partner Carl Clark, 33, say the family has been living in the tree in their garden since January.

"When I first saw them I called Carl and said there was a cat stuck in the tree," said Miss Martell,

"But when we looked closer we realised it was a fox up there, not just one but two. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw them up so high.

"I think they must like it up there because there are vines and branches which they can lay on in the sunshine during the day."

Julian Roughton, Director of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said it was very unusual for foxes to climb as high as trees and especially make a home in them.

He said: "They are good climbers when they need to be but this is certainly not normal behaviour.

"It might be that they are out and about feeding at night, but during the day they are happy to lay back and bask in a sunny spot."

Frogs to save the day in Belarus?

Scientists in Belarus say they have come up with a way to jump-start their credit-crunched economy - breeding edible frogs.

Boffins say that exporting the local delicacy could turn the former Soviet state into an agriculture super-power.

"We have immense reserves. The republic could expect a huge foreign currency inflow if it developed the industrial breeding of these amphibians," explained Ruslan Novitsky, a member of the country's National Academy of Sciences.

The former Soviet republic is home to the marsh frog, the pool frog and the edible frog - all three of which are considered delicacies in many countries around the world.

Novitsky said that mass breeding of the frogs would also be low-cost using existing fish-farms.

"It's extremely easy. Frogs could be farmed along with fish, in fish ponds," he said, adding the amphibians could also be sold for scientific research to generate more cash.

Big cat man stalks beast of Stroud

Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 08:00

Big cat tracker Frank Tunbridge is lying in wait to capture the secretive felines on film following a sighting on the A419.

His sights are firmly set on a stretch between Stroud and Chalford where a large black cat was seen crossing the road at the same point several times late last month.

Frank sits in a lay-by, armed only with his digital camcorder, waiting for the beast to show up.

He also has trip cameras set up in Minchinhampton and Eastcombe in an effort to document the big cats he has been tracking for 20 years.

"Three weeks ago I was told of a sighting near Chalford where the cat crossed the road early on a Sunday morning," said Frank, who runs car boot sales at Kemble Airfield and checks out the site as often as he can.

"It fitted the description of so many other sightings – a black cat, sleek, with a small head, long tail and about the size of a Labrador dog."

He believes a sighting in Eastcombe was of a lynx but the Chalford cat and another in Minchinhampton was of an animal fitting his description.

"They could be pumas but, judging from the same descriptions people who have seen them are reporting, they could be developing into a species of their own," said Mr Tunbridge.

He says many big cats were let loose by their owners during the two world wars as an alternative to shooting them when meat was rationed.

Frank believes the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act, which toughened up laws on keeping wild animals, made it too expensive for owners who, rather than having them put down, freed them.

Around a dozen big cats are at large in Gloucestershire, he believes.

Frank, who lives in Podsmead, Gloucester, said: "There are more sightings at this time of year because the females are in season and the males take more risks to move about."

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Missing dinosaur link found in Argentina

February 16th, 2009 in General Science / Archaeology & Fossils

Scientists have found fossil remains of an omnivorous dinosaur in Argentina -- a missing link to the carnivores, a researcher said Monday.

"It is an omnivore -- in other words it ate everything (plants and meat) -- which is the missing link between carnivorous dinosaurs and giant four-footed herbivores," said Oscar Alcober, also director of the Natural Sciences Museum in San Juan, 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) west of Buenos Aires.

"This is a very important piece of the puzzle on the origin of dinosaurs," said Alcober.

Alcober and Ricardo Martinez, chief of the museum's paleontology division, found the remains three years ago in the Ischigualasto-Valle de la Luna park, north of the provincial capital San Juan. They released their findings Monday in the online journal of peer reviewed science

Argentina has earned fame as a bit of a Jurassic Park in the 1980s with discoveries including fossils in Neuquen of the Argentinosaurus Huinculensis, the largest known herbivore, at over 40 meters (131 ft) long.

Later, in 1993, scientists found remains of the Giganotosaurus Carolinii, the largest known carnivorous dinosaur amid dozens of fossil fields still being explored.

Montana horse slaughterhouse bill moves forward

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The Montana House of Representatives is strongly endorsing a bill that aims to pave the way for a horse slaughterhouse in Montana.

For full story, see:

Beaver living wild in Fife forest

A BEAVER is living in the wild in Fife ahead of a scheme to reintroduce the species to Scotland.

The animal is thought to have been illegally released or to have escaped from a private collection, but has thwarted attempts to capture it for almost a year.

Gnawed trees gave away its presence last spring but so far it has ignored traps baited with vegetables.

The exact location of the beaver has been kept under wraps by the Scottish Government for fear of it being disturbed by people hoping to spot it, but The Courier understands it is living in Tentsmuir Forest in north-east Fife.

Beavers are to be brought back to Scotland in a joint project by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

It is intended to release four beaver families in Knapdale, mid Argyll, in the spring but releasing beavers into the wild without the necessary licence is a criminal offence.

There are concerns for the Fife beaver as the species usually lives in groups.

The government’s Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture agency has been involved with attempting to catch the animal for the past couple of months, alongside the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

A Scottish Government spokesman said, “When the animal is caught zoos and private collections will be sought to rehouse it.”

He added, “In the case of the planned reintroduction in Knapdale the beavers will have been quarantined and extensively checked for diseases before release.

“We are also aware that as social animals it is cruel to abandon a beaver in the countryside without any chance of finding a mate.

“Most importantly, without the proper planning and consultation which informs reintroduction programmes it is likely that the presence of these animals could cause conflict with local landowners and farmers.”

Shape-shifting coral evade identification

Photo: Zac Forsman
Contact: Charlotte Webber
BioMed Central

The evolutionary tendency of corals to alter their skeletal structure makes it difficult to assign them to different species. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology have used genetic markers to examine coral groupings and investigate how these markers relate to alterations in shape, in the process discovering that our inaccurate picture of coral species is compromising our ability to conserve coral reefs.

Zac Forsman led a team of researchers from University of Hawaii at Manoa's Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology who carried out the molecular studies. He said, "Our study represents important progress towards understanding the evolution and biodiversity of corals, and provides a foundation for future work. As coral ecosystems are increasingly threatened, we need to understand how many groups exist that can interbreed rather than judging potential for extinction by just looking at groups according to their shape alone".

Skeletal shape is currently used to differentiate coral species. According to the authors, this can make them notoriously difficult to tell apart as shape can change independent of reproductive isolation or evolutionary divergence, the factors most commonly understood to define 'species'. By studying the genetic characteristics of corals at several regions of the genome, Forsman and his colleagues were able to confirm many morphological species groupings, while finding evidence that appearances are very deceiving in a few groups; some corals were genetically indistinguishable despite differing in size and shape, such as branching and massive corals, whereas some corals with similar appearance had deep genetic divergence. The authors said, "Our analysis of multiple molecular markers reveals previously unrecognised cryptic patterns of species diversity within the coral genus Porites. Our approach shows that morphological characters previously thought capable of delineating species must be re-examined to accurately understand patterns of evolution, and biodiversity in reef-building coral".

The authors' research will be very useful in aiding efforts to understand and preserve coral biodiversity. According to Forsman, "Currently used species definitions are likely to be misleading and confound attempts to identify, understand, and conserve coral biodiversity or to recognize its loss".

ISESCO supports international conference on animals

2/24/2009 4:43:00 PM

RABAT, Feb 24 (KUNA) -- The 29th session of the International Conference on Zoology starts on Tuesday in the city Jamshor Pakistan, said Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).

The Conference which is attended by a select group of scientists specializing in zoology from Pakistan and other countries will support them and the organization of the Society of Animal Science in Pakistan, said organization in press release.

Organization also added, the work of this Conference will address the international research and study a number of environmental issues, including the latest developments which are known to zoology in order to use them for the benefit of community development.

The Organization also noted the decision made during this conference will give gold medals to some eminent scientists in the field of Animal Science in recognition of their efforts to serve science and society. (end) sf.hs KUNA 241643 Feb 09NNNN

Govt to try getting lions from Gujarat

25 Feb 2009, 0442 hrs IST, TNN

CHANDIGARH: Punjab forest minister Tikshan Sood assured on Tuesday to take up the issue of transfer of lions from Gujarat for Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, Chhatbir.

He was talking to mediapersons after laying the foundation stone of Falcon Complex on the zoo premises. The lion population in the zoo’s safari is under threat as its gene pool is quite limited.

“This is the most popular zoological park we have. We wish to make more additions to it for attracting tourists from across the country. Besides this, our animal adoption scheme has evoked a good response and department has received some queries as well,” Sood said.

The Falcon Complex, built at a cost of Rs 56 lakh, is part of the Central Zoo Authority of India’s project for preserving and breeding the species.

Chhatbir is the coordinating zoo for the programme.

“Rs 51 lakh will be spent on the caging and other requirements for falcons. We will catch the birds from the wild,” Dharminder Sharma, the zoo director said. Sood denied that government had proposed setting up a development park in the region.

Accompanied by zoo officials and Punjab Wildlife Department personnel, the minister spent over an hour in the 200 hectare zoo and enquired about the projects at hand and the proposals pending with various zoos.

As his ride to the zoo had been bumpy, Sood assured its management that he will take up the issue of release of funds for better infrastructure and more facilities at the park.

Panda lecture on the bear necessities

Published Date: 24 February 2009

A LECTURE about the giant panda, one of the most iconic endangered species in the world, is to take place in Edinburgh.

The 'it's not all black and white' talk is part of the Edinburgh Lectures Series and will include three eminent speakers from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS).

Co-presented by Queen Margaret University and the city council, the lecture is part of the Chinese Connections programme.

Professor Alan Gilloran, vice principal at Queen Margaret University, who will be chairing the lecture, said: "It is a privilege for Queen Margaret University to be co-hosting such a special lecture which is appealing to such a wide audience.

"This lecture, which will highlight important elements of China's environmental impact, fits well with Queen Margaret University's commitment to sustainability and research."

David Windmill, chief executive of RZSS, said: "We have been working to bring giant pandas to Scotland for a number of years now and we hope to welcome them in 2010. Caring for giant pandas means so much more to us than introducing a new species to our collection."

The lecture takes place on March 27 at The Hub in Edinburgh.

It's a frog. With seven legs.

It's been a while since we had a good animal with an unexpectedly large number of legs. We are pleased to rectify that situation now, as we present to you A Frog With Seven Legs.

The Frog With Seven Legs was found at a restaurant of Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, China. That is pretty much all we know about The Frog With Seven Legs.

This has been your Frog With Seven Legs update. Thankyou for reading.

Clever Cat Picks Up Telephone

10:53am UK, Wednesday February 25, 2009

What happens when the phone rings and you are in the middle of something that you cannot quite tear yourself away from? Cue the clever cat.

The feline in this video hears the phone ringing, jumps up onto the desk and slowly, but surely works out what to do next.

It answers the phone without much trouble, but does leave the caller hanging.

The cat leaves the receiver off the hook and makes off for other adventures.

Worm causes computer crash

A Somerset man suspected a worm virus when his computer crashed - but was shocked to learn the problem was a real wom.

Mark Taylor called out an IT repairmen who found a five inch earthworm inside his laptop, reports the Daily Telegraph.

It had crawled into his computer through an air vent and wrapped itself around the internal fan, leading to a total breakdown.

Mr Taylor, 45, suspects the culprits were his two cats who are in the habit of pouncing on earthworms outside and bringing them into the house.

Mr Taylor, from Yeovil, said: "The worm was obviously looking for a hiding place and must have crawled in through the air vent to get away from the cats.

"I couldn't help thinking that people get computer worms all the time, but not real life ones."

Computer technician Sam Robinson, 28, who discovered the worm said: "I took the back off and had a look inside. Then I spotted what at first I thought was some sort of hair band or elastic band wrapped around the fan.

"I soon discovered that it was a worm which had been burned to a frazzle. It had obviously wrapped around the fan when somebody had turned on the computer and caused the breakdown due to the fan jamming.

"Needless to say I hadn't come across a problem like this before but was happy to sort it out for Mark."

Florida to start taping magnets to crocodiles

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In a bold step forward for the science of crocodile avoidance, wildlife managers in Florida have launched an experiment to see if they can keep crocodiles from entering to residential neighborhoods by taping magnets to their heads.

The method attempts to disrupt the crocodiles' 'homing' ability.

They got the idea from researchers at Mexico's Crocodile Museum in Chiapas, who reported in a biology newsletter they had some success with the method.

'We said, "Hey, we might as well give this a try,"' said Lindsey Hord, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's crocodile response coordinator.

The Mexican researchers say they have successfully used the technique to permanently relocate 20 of the reptiles since 2004.

Crocodiles are notoriously territorial, and when biologists move them away from urban areas to new homes in the wild, they often head straight back to the place where they were captured.

Scientists believe they rely in part on the Earth's magnetic fields to navigate, and that taping magnets to both sides of their heads disorients them.

'They're just taped on temporarily,' Hord noted.

'We just put the magnets on when they're captured and since they don't know where we take them, they're lost. The hope would be that they stay where we take them to.'

Hord and his co-workers have tried it on two crocodiles since launching the experiment in January, affixing 'a common old laboratory magnet' to both sides of the animals' heads.

One got run over by a car and died, but the other has yet to return, Hord said.

Crocodiles which return to their old haunts twice after being moved on are sent to zoos or otherwise placed in captivity, something biologists hope to avoid if the magnet experiment works.

'This one is by no means a really well-developed scientific study with a control group. I's just something we thought we would try,' Hord cautioned.

Rare cheetah captured on camera

The first camera-trap photographs of the critically endangered Northwest African, or Saharan cheetah, have been obtained in an experiment in Algeria.

The images were captured as part of a project run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Office du Parc National de l'Ahaggar (OPNA).

The animal is known with certainty to range in six countries: Algeria, Togo, Niger, Mali, Benin, and Burkina Faso.

But the total population may be fewer than 250 mature individuals.

The pictures come from a systematic camera-trap survey across the central Sahara.

It managed to identify four different Saharan cheetahs using spot patterns unique to each animal.

"The Saharan cheetah is critically endangered, yet virtually nothing is known about the population, so this new evidence, and the ongoing research work, is hugely significant," said ZSL's Dr Sarah Durant.

Farid Belbachir, who is running the field survey, added: "This is an incredibly rare and elusive subspecies of cheetah and current population estimates, which stand at less than 250 mature individuals, are based on guesswork.

"This study is helping us to turn a corner in our understanding, providing us with information about population numbers, movement and ecology."

For photo please see article at:

A Brazilian Werewolf – is back

São Paulo, Feb 13:

Woman claims to have been attacked by ‘werewolf’

According to the victim’s account, the creature looked like a big dog. Police is looking for a suspect that may have used a costume to attack the girl.

The inhabitants of São Sepé, Rio Grande do Sul, [Brazil] have one more reason to fear Friday the 13th. Besides the bad luck and the strange happenings during the day, a ‘werewolf’ is supposedly at large. One of the possible victims, a 20-year-old, recorded her complaint in the police.

According to the police, Kelly Martins Becker claims to have been attacked in the night of January 28 by an animal that looked like a big dog, that was standing on its back feet and walked as if it were a man. She made a sketch of the creature.

According to the complaint, the creature scratched the face and arms of the victim. The police informed that Kelly underwent medical examination, where the wounds were confirmed. Officers also claim they will investigate if someone is using a werewolf costume to scare people. No suspect was arrested until Friday.

For full article with pictures please see:

British angler lands monster stingray in Thailand

Steven Morris
Tuesday 24 February 2009 13.35 GMT

Catch weighing up to 350kg could be the largest freshwater fish ever caught by rod and line

A British angler – with a dozen helpers – has landed what could be the biggest freshwater fish ever caught with a rod and line, it emerged today.

The giant freshwater stingray, weighing as much as 350kg (772lbs, or about 55 stone), was the size of a garden shed and so cumbersome that Ian Welch had to enlist the aid of 12 other people to get it out of the water.

Welch, a professional fisherman, biologist and columnist for the magazine Angler's Mail, was visiting Thailand to help with a stingray tagging programme when he landed the monster in the Maeklong river. The 45-year-old said he was nearly pulled over the side of the boat when the specimen took his bait.

He said: "It dragged me across the boat and would have pulled me in had my colleague not grabbed my trousers – it was like the whole earth had just moved. I knew it was going to a big one.

"It buried itself on the bottom and the main fight was trying to get it off the floor. I tried with every ounce of power but it just would not budge. After half an hour my arms began shaking and after an hour my legs went. Another 30 minutes went by and then I put a glove on and physically pulled the line with gritted teeth and somehow I found the reserves to shift the fish."

Once the stingray was off the bottom, Welch, who weighs a relatively modest 73kg, managed to lift it to the surface relatively easily.

"As soon as we saw it there was just silence because everyone was just in awe of this thing," he said. "That line from the film Jaws came to mind about needing a bigger boat because we had to get it to the shore to tag it."

The group managed to put a large net under the fish and towed it to the bank. Welch, from Aldershot, Hampshire, said: "It took 13 people to lift it into a large paddling pool we had set up in order to tag it and take DNA samples.

"I was absolutely exhausted afterwards and did very little for the rest of the day and just had a cold beer. As a life-long angler and a biologist it is great that my two passions have come together and culminated in something I could only have dreamed of."

The female stingray was about 2 metres (7ft) long and the same width, and its tail measured about 3 metres (10ft). From its measurements it was calculated that it weighed at least 265kg, and possibly up to 350kg.

Its venomous barb had to be wrapped in cloth while it was out of the water. Once it was tagged the fish was released back into the river. Welch said he swam out with the fish and kissed it goodbye.

Angler's Mail has billed Welch's specimen as probably the largest freshwater fish fully authenticated as caught by rod and line.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Giant fish washes up on English coast

LONDON (AFP) – A three-metre (10-foot) long oarfish was discovered by a member of the public in Tynemouth, northeastern England, on Tuesday.

The perfectly-preserved oarfish, the longest species of bony fish, would be taken to a nearby aquarium where scientists will try to determine how it died.

Oarfish can measure up to eight metres in length, though there have been reports of individual oarfish measuring up to twice that, Blue Reef Aquarium said in a press release.

According to aquarium curator Zahra d'Aronville, Tuesday's find was only the fourth such specimen to have been recorded since 1981.

Oarfish are found throughout the deep seas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, usually at a depth of 180 metres (600 feet). Their diet typically consists of plankton, small crustaceans and small squid.

Researchers solve mystery of deep-sea fish with tubular eyes and transparent head

23 February 2009
MBARI News Release

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently solved the half-century-old mystery of a fish with tubular eyes and a transparent head. Ever since the "barreleye" fish Macropinna microstoma was first described in 1939, marine biologists have known that its tubular eyes are very good at collecting light. However, the eyes were believed to be fixed in place and seemed to provide only a "tunnel-vision" view of whatever was directly above the fish's head. A new paper by Bruce Robison and Kim Reisenbichler shows that these unusual eyes can rotate within a transparent shield that covers the fish's head. This allows the barreleye to peer up at potential prey or focus forward to see what it is eating.

Deep-sea fish have adapted to their pitch-black environment in a variety of amazing ways. Several species of deep-water fishes in the family Opisthoproctidae are called "barreleyes" because their eyes are tubular in shape. Barreleyes typically live near the depth where sunlight from the surface fades to complete blackness. They use their ultra-sensitive tubular eyes to search for the faint silhouettes of prey overhead.

Although such tubular eyes are very good at collecting light, they have a very narrow field of view. Furthermore, until now, most marine biologists believed that barreleye's eyes were fixed in their heads, which would allow them to only look upward. This would make it impossible for the fishes to see what was directly in front of them, and very difficult for them to capture prey with their small, pointed mouths.

Robison and Reisenbichler used video from MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to study barreleyes in the deep waters just offshore of Central California. At depths of 600 to 800 meters (2,000 to 2,600 feet) below the surface, the ROV cameras typically showed these fish hanging motionless in the water, their eyes glowing a vivid green in the ROV's bright lights. The ROV video also revealed a previously undescribed feature of these fish--its eyes are surrounded by a transparent, fluid-filled shield that covers the top of the fish's head.

Most existing descriptions and illustrations of this fish do not show its fluid-filled shield, probably because this fragile structure was destroyed when the fish were brought up from the deep in nets. However, Robison and Reisenbichler were extremely fortunate--they were able to bring a net-caught barreleye to the surface alive, where it survived for several hours in a ship-board aquarium. Within this controlled environment, the researchers were able to confirm what they had seen in the ROV video--the fish rotated its tubular eyes as it turned its body from a horizontal to a vertical position.

In addition to their amazing "headgear," barreleyes have a variety of other interesting adaptations to deep-sea life. Their large, flat fins allow them to remain nearly motionless in the water, and to maneuver very precisely (much like MBARI's ROVs). Their small mouths suggest that they can be very precise and selective in capturing small prey. On the other hand, their digestive systems are very large, which suggests that they can eat a variety of small drifting animals as well as jellies. In fact, the stomachs of the two net-caught fish contained fragments of jellies.

After documenting and studying the barreleye's unique adaptations, Robison and Reisenbichler developed a working hypothesis about how this animal makes a living. Most of the time, the fish hangs motionless in the water, with its body in a horizontal position and its eyes looking upward. The green pigments in its eyes may filter out sunlight coming directly from the sea surface, helping the barreleye spot the bioluminescent glow of jellies or other animals directly overhead. When it spots prey (such as a drifting jelly), the fish rotates its eyes forward and swims upward, in feeding mode.

Barreleyes share their deep-sea environment with many different types of jellies. Some of the most common are siphonophores (colonial jellies) in the genus Apolemia. These siphonophores grow to over 10 meters (33 feet) long. Like living drift nets, they trail thousands of stinging tentacles, which capture copepods and other small animals. The researchers speculate that barreleyes may maneuver carefully among the siphonophore's tentacles, picking off the captured organisms. The fish's eyes would rotate to help the fish keep its "eyes on the prize," while its transparent shield would protect the fish's eyes from the siphonophore's stinging cells.

Robison and Reisenbichler hope to do further research to find out if their discoveries about Macropinna microstoma also apply to other deep-sea fish with tubular eyes. The bizarre physiological adaptations of the barreleyes have puzzled oceanographers for generations. It is only with the advent of modern underwater robots that scientists have been able to observe such animals in their native environment, and thus to fully understand how these physical adaptations help them survive.


For more information or images relating to this news release, please contact Kim Fulton-Bennett : (831) 775-1835,

For photos and video see:

Strange Bird Sighting at Magic Island

Written by Lisa Kubota -
February 23, 2009 05:41 PM

A strange bird sighting at a popular Oahu park prompted lots of questions. People first noticed the unusual-looking animal a couple of weeks ago at Magic Island. Some park regulars were concerned because it appeared to be getting weaker.

"It's white and black, and it's very large. That's what caught our eye, the size of it," said Canadian visitor Fred Aertsealer.

Aertsealer and his wife travel to Hawaii to vacation each winter. The Canadian snowbirds stopped to take picture of the bird they guessed was a goose.

"It's kind of laying there with its head tucked under sleeping. It doesn't look like it's well because it's not moving around," said Aertsealer. "We have geese back home and normally if you got this close to one they'd either wander away or actually chase you."

Park regulars said the bird just mysteriously appeared.

"I thought it was somebody's pet. They were here just spending the day or whatever but as time went on it's always been here. The poor thing hasn't moved," said Hawaii Kai resident Doug Olson.

Someone placed containers of water nearby. Lettuce was also scattered in the grass, but some people are still worried about their feathered friend.

"It was unusual to see it laying there. We weren't sure if it was okay or not. We're hoping it is though," said Bobbi Aertsealer.

Experts at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture identified the bird as a domesticated Muscovy duck. It is native to Mexico, as well as Central and South America. They were introduced to Hawaii and state wildlife officials estimate there are a few hundred of them here. Still, those who frequent the park hope the duck finds a new home.

"I hope somebody comes to pick it up, somebody responsible (like) the Humane Society or state agriculture or somebody," Olson said.

A Hawaiian Humane Society spokesperson said a couple of calls came in about the bird, but the duck flew away each time a worker tried to catch it.

See the video here:

Man sees fabled beast – not for the first time

Published Date: 24 February 2009
By Carl Gavaghan

THERE has been another possible sighting of the fabled Beast of the Bay in Sleights.
A large paw print was found in the snow in Eskdaleside by a local resident who had gone for a walk.

John Bradley (87) saw the print outside his home recently and instantly knew it was too big to belong to a cat or a dog.

This is not Mr Bradley’s first encounter with the beast, having seen the large black cat last year, he said. This time he had gone out and seen the prints in fresh snow.

He said: “It looked like it had been walking around in the field outside our house although I don’t know how it was able to get over the fence.

“The prints were quite large.

“Last year I saw a large black cat like creature walking in the fields.”

On a related note, The Big Cats in Britain group is holding its third annual conference at the Marton Country Club in Middlesbrough.

Investigators from around the British Isles and Ireland will be attending the meeting on the weekend of 20-22 March.

The sightings of the beast in and around the Whitby area will be used as evidence of big cat activity in the UK.

Monday 23 February 2009

Large black cat sighting in Stone Gloucestershire

By Jayne Bennett

MYSTERY surrounds the sighting of a large black cat which was apparently seen on the A38 at Stone.

The jet black creature was spotted coming out of Stone Cricket Club grounds, when it crossed the road in front of a passing vehicle.

The animal was said to be between two and three feet long – about the size of a Border Collie – with a long stretched body and feline head.

Frank Tonbridge, a black cat expert who has spent many years tracking black cats in the region, says that he has received dozens of reports of sightings in recent weeks.

"When I got the call about the cat in Stone I wasn't at all surprised," said Frank.

"The driver had been heading back to Dursley at the time and described it as `soft and silent as a barn owl's flight'. This is a typical description.

"There was another sighting close to the car park at Coaley Peak just before Christmas – I think this may well be the same cat.

"The consensus is that this is a hybrid type of cat, which has been breeding in wild in Britain for up to 50 years."

Frank added: "I believe the Dangerous Animals Act to 1976 had a part to play. So many animals - including pumas and panthers - were simply dumped by their owners and they have been breeding ever since.

"The fact that we have so many deer around here also aids their survival. I have come to the conclusion that most of these animals are probably lying out in quarries and caves underground – and we've got plenty of those around here."

The sighting was reported in the early hours of Friday, February 13.

Pete Lavis, of Stone Cricket Club, was also not surprised to hear reports of the big cat in the grounds of the club.

"I haven't seen it myself," said Pete," but I do know that a couple of people at the club saw a similar animal last summer, only that time it was the other side, close to the deer park."

If anyone has seen the elusive black cat, or any unexplained deer kill, call Frank Tonbridge on 07711 476715.

Gazette 23/2/09

Russian priest to investigate bigfoot sighting in Siberia

19 February 2009
RIA Novosti
Copyright 2009 RIA Vesti. All Rights Reserved.

KEMEROVO, February 19 (RIA Novosti) - A group of people led by the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Kemerovo and a regional official set out on Thursday in search of a bigfoot sighted in the Tashtagol area by hunters, a regional spokesman said.

Earlier this week, the Kemerovo regional administration released a report that local hunters had spotted "some hairy humanoid creatures with a height of 1.5-2 meters [5'6"-6']" near the Azass Cave on Mount Shoriya. The report was illustrated with a photograph from inside the cave showing the track of an unidentified creature.

"From the nearest village of Ust-Kabyrz, the bishop, regional head and a group of others will reach the Azass Cave by the only transportation possible: snowmobiles," the spokesman told RIA Novosti.

He added that the priest would also make a private visit to Mount Shoriya, where he will open and bless a small church at a gulag barracks open to tourists. In the Soviet era, there were a large number of gulag camps in the area northeast of Novosibirsk.

According to the head of the department of anthropology at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow, anthropologists have never seen or studied the body of a bigfoot or yeti, although there are numerous reports of their sightings throughout the world.

He also noted that yetis for some reason are always spotted singularly, which is "biological nonsense," as a large population must exist in order to create generation after generation. According to the anthropologist, Earth has been studied so thoroughly that if a population of yeti existed it would have been confirmed.

The Kemerovo regional spokesman said a scientific expedition is being organized for the summer to investigate the sighting. The financial details of the expedition are being worked out and there are already many enthusiasts, businessmen and hunters ready to help.

Hunt for the Yeti after 10 sightings

From Will Stewart in Moscow
19 February 2009
The Daily Express

A HUNT for the legendary Yeti is to be launched in Siberia after more than 10 sightings of unidentified creatures near a mountain cave.

The animals are described as more than 6ft tall, with reddishblack hair, leaving large and distinctive footprints that include toe marks.

"There have been reports for years about these creatures, but now the number has increased dramatically, " said Galina Pustogacheva, spokeswoman for Tashtagol, a mining town 2,430 miles east of Moscow. The creatures, walking on two legs, have also been seen by villagers in Elbeza and Kabarza and by tourists at the Azass cave on Mount Shoriya.

One petrified witness said: "He is covered in hair all over the body."

Town officials are to launch a search with hunters and anthropologists in the coming weeks. "People are scared they will attack villages because of hunger. We need to understand if they are dangerous and calm people down, " said official Nikita Shulbayev.

New Search For Ginger Minger Yeti

from WILL STEWART in Moscow
19 February 2009
Daily Star

Villagers live in terror.

A FAMILY of Yetis is being tracked by hunters after reports that the creatures are living in a mountain cave complex.

The animals are said to be more than 6ft tall with ginger-black hair and leave large, distinctive footprints that include toe marks.

Sightings have been made near the remote Russian mining town of Tashtagol in Siberia.
Galina Pustogacheva, spokesman for the town, said: "There have been reports over the years about these creatures, but the number has increased dramatically.

"We have had more than 10 sightings in recent weeks." The creatures have been seen walking on two legs by villagers from the hamlets of Elbeza and Kabarza and tourists visiting the region around the Azass caves on Mount Shoriya.

Sightings have worried locals and forced officials to launch an expedition, led by hunters and anthropologists.

"People here are scared the creatures will attack villages because of hunger, " said Nikita Shulbayev, deputy head of the local administration.

"We made a decision to send an expedition to research this issue.

"We need to understand whether they are dangerous for people. We need to calm people down.

"Scientists from Kemerovo University will help us discover what the creatures are – whether they are a rare kind of bear or a surviving primate from pre-historic times." No photographs have been taken of the beasts.

"No-one can get close enough, " said a hunter.

But one witness said: "The creature reminds me of a bear. In his footprints one can clearly see toes.

"He is 1.5 to two metres high. He is covered with red and black hair and can climb trees."


19 February 2009
The Sun

A hunt for legendary yeti is under way after ten sightings in Siberia.


19 February 2009
The Sun

A HUNT for legendary yeti is under way after ten sightings in Siberia of mysterious 6ft animals with reddish-black hair living in a mountain cave complex.

Hunters begin search for Russian Yeti

19 February 2009
Asian News International
© Copyright 2009. HT Media Limited. All rights reserved.

London, Feb. 19 -- Hunters are tracking a family of Yetis after reports that the creatures are living in a mountain cave complex in a Russian town. According to a report in the Daily Star, sightings have been made near the remote Russian mining town of Tashtagol in Siberia. The animals are said to be more than 6ft tall with ginger-black hair and leave large, distinctive footprints that include toe marks. "There have been reports over the years about these creatures, but the number has increased dramatically," said Galina Pustogacheva, spokesman for the town. "We have had more than 10 sightings in recent weeks," she added. The creatures have been seen walking on two legs by villagers from the hamlets of Elbeza and Kabarza and tourists visiting the region around the Azass caves on Mount Shoriya. Sightings have worried locals and forced officials to launch an expedition, led by hunters and anthropologists.

"People here are scared the creatures will attack villages because of hunger," said Nikita Shulbayev, deputy head of the local administration. "We made a decision to send an expedition to research this issue. We need to understand whether they are dangerous for people. We need to calm people down," she added. "Scientists from Kemerovo University will help us discover what the creatures are - whether they are a rare kind of bear or a surviving primate from pre-historic times," she informed. No photographs have been taken of the beasts. But, according to one witness, "The creature reminds me of a bear. In his footprints, one can clearly see toes. He is 1.5 to two metres high. He is covered with red and black hair and can climb trees."
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian News International.

Off on a big, hairy quest

20 February 2009
Chicago Tribune
Copyright 2009, Chicago Tribune. All Rights Reserved.

In "Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie," the elusive hairy creatures are the least interesting characters.

Rather, filmmaker Jay Delaney focuses on two eccentric Bigfoot researchers, Dallas and Wayne, friends from impoverished rural Ohio.

Although there are blurry shots of what could be a Midwestern Yeti, the doc isn't primarily concerned whether Bigfoot is real.

"What really interested me were these two people," says Delaney, an Ohio native and current Edgewater resident. "It's a real reflection of who they are and how they see themselves."

That's not to say Delaney himself wasn't caught up in the Bigfoot hunting.
"I'm not a believer or a disbeliever, but there were some times when we heard some interesting sounds," he says. "What was so interesting to me was that they believed."
But what makes people want to believe?

"That's one of the ongoing mysteries to me," says Delaney. "I think there's an element of it that's almost like this childhood dream ... that childhood desire to believe in things -- desire for something greater and bigger than ourselves."
Delaney sees Dallas and Wayne as heroes.

"For me, they are actually inspiring people because they could have given up on life and sat home and watched TV," he says. "But instead, they are out there, trying to do something."

Screens Saturday and Monday at the Gene Siskel Film Center. See review in Other Venues.

Letter: mailbag - Where's the black cat?

20 February 2009
Huddersfield Examiner
(c) 2009 Examiner News and Information Services Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

ROLL on spring and summer when we will no doubt have a sighting of our large black cat which stalks our area.

Funny it is never seen in winter and probably lives on takeaways left on our streets and has a secret lair to go back to.

It would be a good idea if the Examiner ran a competition on these lines: First prize - a photograph of the catwhile giving it a large saucer of milk.

Second prize - a photograph of the cat while stroking it.

Third prize - a photograph of the cat with a well-known landmark in the background.
Just like the Yeti, our black cat is seen but never captured.

I have written this to show in our darkest days Britons have always had a sense of humour to get us over difficult times - so many gloomy faces about hoping this may raise a smile or two.

BLACK CAT FAN Huddersfield

Sinkhole holds 12,000-yr-old clues to how early Americans lived

19 February 2009
Asian News International
© Copyright 2009. HT Media Limited. All rights reserved.

Washington, Feb. 19 -- Divers exploring a southern Florida sinkhole have uncovered clues going back to 12,000 years as to what life was like for some of America's first residents. According to a report in National Geographic News, the sinkhole, which lies in Little Salt Spring, 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of Sarasota, is being explored by a team of underwater archaeologists led by University of Miami professor John Gifford. Archaeologists have been recovering primitive relics from the spring since 1977, when divers found the remains of a large, now extinct tortoise and a sharpened stake that may have been used by a hungry hunter to kill the animal 12,000 years ago. In 1986, Gifford and his colleagues recovered a skull with brain tissue from what he thinks was an ancient burial in shallow water near the spring. He continues to work with DNA samples to determine the date of the find.

Gifford and other archaeologists found more from the tortoise this past July, along with the slaughtered remains of a giant ground sloth. The discovery of the sloth's bones could indicate that Little Salt Spring was a sort of ancient butcher shop where hunters often killed and their prey and prepared meat when this was dry land. "This is a warehouse of environmental, natural, historical, and archaeological remains in a very, very well preserved environment," said Roger Smith, Florida's state underwater archaeologist. "That's why it's a world-class site. I would call it a portal back into time," he added. When Little Salt Spring was formed during the last Ice Age, sea level was lower and what is now the Florida peninsula was much wider. Sources of freshwater were scarce. Ancient Native Americans came to the sinkhole to drink the water and perhaps find a meal. "Florida was much drier than it is today," Gifford said. "Essentially, Little Salt Spring was an oasis," he added. Gifford and his divers worked last summer on a ledge about 90 feet (27 meters) below the surface where the stake and tortoise remains were found. Gifford's divers will return to lower depths of Little Salt Spring soon, but will wait until their recent finds have been analyzed. They hope to eventually uncover evidence of campfires on the ledge. "There may be lots of stuff-basketry, woven fabrics, wooden implements-that you wouldn't otherwise find in an archaeological context," said Bruce Smith, curator of North American Archaeology at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Finding fragile wooden artifacts would "open a new window" of understanding how early Native Americans lived, Smith added.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Asian News International.

Tiger-centric conservation pushing others to the brink?

Divya Gandhi
21 February 2009
The Hindu

Red List will more than double in 10 years, says Simon Stuart

Bangalore: While India’s protected areas are becoming the “last refuges” in South and Southeast Asia for threatened species, much of the country’s wildlife – for instance the spotted Malabar civet cat of the Western Ghats and the pigmy hog in Assam – could be teetering on the brink of extinction, cautions Simon Stuart, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission.

“In all our focus on the tiger, we might be neglecting several other species that need attention. For instance, the Barasingha deer and wild Asian water buffalo are now confined to isolated pockets in India,” said Dr. Stuart who is in the city to attend an international conference to mark 125 years of Bombay Natural History Society.

He said almost every species of primates – other than the rhesus macaque and common langur — is threatened.

“Globally, the current extinction rate may be 100 to 1,000 times the natural rate. I would call it an extinction crisis,” said Dr. Stuart.

“There have been 29 extinctions in just the last 24 years – including birds, amphibians and molluscs. We believe the Yangtze River Dolphin is possibly already extinct and the Sumatran Rhinoceros is in all likelihood extinct on the Asian mainland.”

The formidable Red List of threatened species could more than double in size in a decade as IUCN intensifies its research into the status of the planet’s wildlife, he said. Nearly 17,000 species of animals and plants feature on Red List as “threatened species,” a figure that could grow to exceed 40,000 when IUCN completed its target inventory in about 10 years, he said.

The Red List comprised a database of 45,000 species – including mammals, birds, amphibians, freshwater crabs, warm-water reef building corals, conifers and cycads – both threatened and non-threatened.

The single biggest reason for extinction was habitat loss, although pollution and disease play a smaller but significant part especially in the decline of amphibians, he said.

“More land has been converted to cropland in the last half century than in the 18th and 19th Century combined.”

However, the good news was that conservation worked, he said.

How Homo erectus surpassed the apes: hot meals

21 February 2009
The Globe and Mail

Cooking can feel like a chore sometimes, but it may have given early humans a decided advantage over apes. That's the controversial theory researchers defended at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago.

The first cooks were probably Homo erectus, an extinct species that lived 1.8 million years ago. Why did they bother? Richard Wrangham, a Harvard primatologist, argues that cooking food makes it softer, which means the body uses less energy to chew and digest it. Eventually, he argues, the switch to hot meals led to smaller teeth and bigger brains.

Mammoth breakthrough

Goudarzi, Sara
23 February 2009
Science World
ISSN: 1041-1410; Volume 65; Issue 10
Copyright 2009 Gale Group Inc. All rights reserved.

Woolly mammoths roamed Earth thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age. Even though the furry elephant-like creatures are now extinct, scientists are learning about mammoths from fossils and body parts frozen in ice.

Recently, scientists from Pennsylvania State University analyzed the DNA, or chemical that carries hereditary information, from hairs that had been plucked from a woolly mammoth that was frozen in the Siberian snow for roughly 20,000 years. This is the first time anyone has sequenced the genome (an organism's complete sequence of DNA) of an extinct animal.

The scientists compared the mammoth's DNA with genetic material from elephants. It turns out, the animals' genes are nearly identical to each other. This means that if scientists were to take DNA from an elephant and change it just a little, they possibly could re-create a living woolly mammoth.

"I would like to see a woolly mammoth and maybe my grandchildren will," says Webb Miller who co-headed the study.

The genome, or complete genetic sequence, of each species varies in its number of DNA molecules. Which organism's genome is closest in size to the woolly mammoth's?

Borneo's 100ft snake stretches the truth

20 February 2009
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009. All rights reserved

An impossibly long serpent has been spotted in Borneo, prompting the question: What are your favourite examples of picture fakery?

The Daily Telegraph reports today that a 100ft (30m) snake has been spotted lurking in a river in Borneo, "sparking great concern among local communities".

The photograph used to corroborate this story shows a wiggly snake-like object (as drawn by a pre-school child with their first green felt tip) creating a suspicious amount of wash as it rips through the Baleh river.

An unnamed member of an unnamed disaster team monitoring flood regions on the South East Asian island allegedly captured the image while hovering over the Baleh river in a helicopter.

Read more:

Q WHICH cryptid has the most scientific evidence to support the probability of...

22 February 2009
Canberra Times

Q: WHICH cryptid has the most scientific evidence to support the probability of its existence? Sherry Woodruff, Charnwood

A: THE THYLACINE. Cryptids include animals that definitely once existed and just might still be kicking about. This marsupial was most certainly with us as late as the 1930s, giving it a head start on all those other unknown animals, equivalent to almost the entire length of the track. That said, the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" principal espoused by sceptics still applies, and gives even us non-zoologists a good start point. We'd want a recent specimen available for study, not a fuzzy photo. Without this, Bigfoot, the bunyip and the Mokele - mbembe all have about the same status as the unicorn. It would be wonderful if, say, Nessie herself surfaced, but on my own trips to Loch Ness it was evident the locals were too canny to believe a word of it.

This doesn't rule out some strange things in the ocean depths or beyond the earth, but you've still gotta get that evidence. The ball is with the cryptozoologists! This answer is from Stephen Wilks, of the Canberra Skeptics. IF YOU have a question about the world around us or even about the worlds we may not see email or write to Nyssa Skilton at The Canberra Times, PO Box 7155, Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610. Please provide your name and suburb.

Beaver sighting in Detroit River is first in at least 75 years

17 February 2009
Charleston Gazette

DETROIT - Wildlife officials are celebrating the sighting of a beaver in the Detroit River for the first time in decades, signaling that efforts to clean up the waterway are paying off.

The Detroit Free Press reports that a beaver lodge has been discovered in an intake canal at a Detroit Edison riverfront plant. Officials believe the beaver spotted by the utility's motion-sensitive camera marks the animal's return to the river for the first time in at least 75 years.

Photos and video were taken in November, but Detroit Edison didn't want to release them until they could ensure the animal's safety.

John Hartig, Detroit River refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the cleanup along the river has also brought back sturgeons, peregrine falcons and other species.

Qld: Crocs captured in two SE Qld cities

20 February 2009
Australian Associated Press General News

CROCODILES BRISBANE, Feb 20 AAP - Two crocodiles have unexpectedly shown up in two southeast Queensland cities - one less than 100 kilometres away from the NSW border.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has criticised the dumping of a freshwater crocodile in a Logan suburb, south of Brisbane, 1,300km south of its natural environment.

EPA officers, supported by local police, responded quickly to a call received on the EPA Crocodile Sighting Hotline in the early on Friday.

EPA Wildlife Branch director Nick Rigby said a 1.6 metre adult freshwater crocodile was captured at Greenbank and taken to an EPA holding facility on the Gold Coast.

"The appearance of the animal strongly indicates that it has been held in captivity which means that it has either been deliberately dumped or escaped from captivity," he said.

"If this is a prank, it is in very poor taste, given recent tragic events.

A similar incident happened in Bundaberg, with a half-metre crocodile found in Airport Road on Thursday.

An EPA spokesman said they only found out about the crocodile when a local resident captured it and brought it in.
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