Thursday 31 March 2011

Millions of Mummy Puppies Revealed at Egyptian Catacombs

Dog remains in the catacomb uncovered beneath the Egyptian desert.
CREDIT: Scott Williams, Cardiff University
Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 30 March 2011 Time: 11:01 AM ET

The excavation of a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the Egyptian desert has revealed the remains of millions of animals, mostly dogs and jackals. Many appear to have been only hours or days old when they were killed and mummified.

The Dog Catacombs, as they are known, date to 747-730 B.C., and are dedicated to the Anubis, the Egyptians' jackal-headed god of the dead. They were first documented in the 19th century; however, they were never fully excavated. A team, led by Paul Nicholson, an archaeologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, is now examining the tunnels and their contents, they announced this week. [Image of mummified puppy remains]

They estimate the catacombs contain the remains of 8 million animals. Given the sheer numbers of animals, it is likely they were bred by the thousands in puppy farms around the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, according to the researchers. The Dog Catacombs are located at Saqqara, the burial ground for the ancient capital Memphis.

"Our findings indicate a rather different view of the relationship between people and the animals they worshipped than that normally associated with the ancient Egyptians, since many animals were killed and mummified when only a matter of hours or days old," Nicholson said. "These animals were not strictly 'sacrificial.' Rather, the dedication of an animal mummy was regarded as a pious act, with the animal acting as intermediary between the donor and the gods." [Prehistoric Cemetery Reveals Man and Fox Were Pals]

In 1897, the French Egyptologist Jacques De Morgan published a map of the necropolis of Saqqara, which included a plan for the Dog Catacombs, but no information about the date or circumstances of their discovery, Nichols wrote in the September/October 2010 issue of Archaeology Magazine.

"In fact, virtually nothing is known about these catacombs," he wrote.

Police: Video Shows Animal Rights Activist Beating Dog

Ottumwa Police Charge Woman With Animal Cruelty

POSTED: 9:30 pm CDT March 29, 2011
UPDATED: 10:11 am CDT March 30, 2011

OTTUMWA, Iowa -- Ottumwa police said they have a shocking video that shows a local animal rights activist beating a dog with a club.

Investigators said what happened on the video is not only cruel but criminal.

"Fifteen times taking a club to an animal, nearly pulling its leg out of a socket, in my mind -- that's abuse," Ottumwa police Chief Jim Clark said.

Officers said 41-year-old Noelle Stanbridge faces one count of cruelty to animals.

"Unfortunately, with our state laws, if you beat your own dog and it does not suffer serious injuries, it's just a simple misdemeanor," Clark said. "It appeared that she was going beyond disciplining the animals and actually abusing them."

Detectives said a concerned resident videotaped the incident.

"It appears she was disciplining the dog for digging in the backyard," Clark said. "I think it's, frankly, pretty hypocritical of her to turn around and treat the animals like you see on this video."

Clark said Stanbridge identifies herself as an animal rights activist and is very critical of his department's policy on stray dogs.

"We put them down after seven days, which is very common around the state. And yet, you can see for yourself on the video how she treats her animals," Clark said.

Stanbridge refused to comment about the video or her arrest.

Officers accompanied by a licensed veterinarian served a search warrant at her home Tuesday afternoon and discovered 10 dogs inside.

Investigators said none of them showed obvious signs of injury and will be allowed to stay for now.

Stanbridge will appear in court Wednesday morning and if convicted, she could face a $500 fine.

The case is far from complete. Investigators expect more charges to be filed and a judge will decide whether the 10 dogs in her home should remain there.

Video at:

Flathead Co. wants couple to relinquish control of their cats

Posted: Mar 30, 2011 4:11 PM by Katy Harris (KAJ News)
Updated: Mar 30, 2011 6:43 PM

COLUMBIA FALLS- Back in December, animal wardens seized over 100 cats from a remote location in Marion. Animal Cruelty charges are pending for Cheryl and Edwin Criswell, meanwhile The Flathead County Spay and Neuter Task Force is spending hundreds of dollars still caring for the cats.

The county wants the Criswell's to relinquish control so that they can now start to be adopted.

The Criswells want to keep anywhere from 15 to 45 of their 100 cats that are currently housed in the task force shelter but the county says they will not have any of the cats back in their possession.

The Criswells are charged with cruelty to animals and aggravated animal cruelty. Because of the crowded and poor conditions the cats were living in, one was put down, 2 cats are blind in both eyes due to conjunctivitis and 6 have only one eye. 5 cats had to get surgery to remove teeth due to an immune disorder.

The task force had to purchase a trailer for $500 to specifically accommodate the Criswell's cats. Flathead County pays for food and litter for the cats, which should be paid in restitution costs by the Criswells.

Until the Criswells release control over the animals it will cost the Spay and Neuter Task $150 a day to take care of them.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Ewe have got to be kidding! The 'puppy' born to a SHEEP

'Miracle': The sheep/dog and the ewe that allegedly gave birth to him in
Shaanxi Province, China
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 7:29 PM on 25th March 2011

Vets say it’s impossible - but to Chinese farmer Liu Naiying his birth is a miracle.

For Mr Liu insists one of his sheep has given birth to a dog

The 'puppy' has wool like a lamb but its mouth, nose, eyes, paws and tail look more like a dog's.

His 'sheep dog' even plays like a hound.

The birth has prompted thousands to flock to his farm in Shaanxi Province to see for themselves.

Mr Liu told how he found the unusual baby animal shortly after it was born in one of his fields.

Strange: The 'puppy' has wool like a lamb but it's mouth, nose, eyes,
paws and tail look more like a dog's

‘I was herding the sheep, and saw a sheep licking her newborn lamb on the grassland. The lamb was still wet,’ he said.

‘When I went up close to check on the lamb I was shocked because it looked so weird, like a cross between a sheep and a dog.

‘I was a bit frightened, as I've been raising sheep for 20 years and had never seen such a creature.’

Yue Guozhang, a researcher at Xi'an City Animal Husbandry Technology Centre, said sheep and dogs were different species.

‘It's not possible that a sheep could become pregnant with a puppy,’ he said. ‘It's likely that this is just an abnormal lamb.’

Mysterious tall creature reported In Pennsylvania

March 29th, 2011 9:15 pm ET

Roger Marsh
Paranormal News Examiner

A new Bigfoot case was made available March 29, 2011, after paranormal investigator and author Stan Gordon interviewed a witness from an incident that occurred in Butler County, Pennsylvania, March 18, 2011, between Chicora and East Brady.

Gordon investigated the encounter March 21. Chicora is a rural area about 45 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Gordon is the author of the recently released Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook - the incredible case notes and investigator's behind-the-scenes look at the hundreds of UFO and Bigfoot reports that were reported primarily in southwestern Pennsylvania in 1973 and 1974.

The new case Gordon reports on today is very similar to accounts received throughout the Pennsylvania region over many decades - an unusual creature crossing a roadway and seemingly not interested in the motorist who happens by and watches.

From researcher Stan Gordon - in his own words.

On March 21, 2011, I was contacted by a witness who reported having an encounter with a very strange creature during the early morning hours of March 18, 2011. The incident occurred on a rural road in Butler County between Chicora and East Brady. The witness, a businessman passing through the area, stated that “this was the freakiest thing I ever saw, and it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.”

The man told me that he was driving down the road when from about a qurter-mile away, he observed something on the right side in a grassy area. His first thought was that it was a deer. The driver stepped on the gas to move closer to get a better view. From about 50 yards away, he observed something that appeared to be hunched down, and then stood up. The driver then observed a very tall muscular creature.

At this point, the driver had his high beams on and watched as the creature walked in front of a yellow reflective road sign, then crossed the two lane road in three long steps and continued into a wooded area. What he saw was a humanoid figure that stood at least 8 feet tall that appeared to have smooth leather-like skin that was of either a darker tan or light brown color.

The creature never looked at the witness, and was only observed from its side. The head appeared to be flat in the front section, and then rounded out. “At the top back of skull, it was like one of those aerodynamic helmets. The top was not quite a point, but looked like a ridge on top of the head.” The face was flat, and the eyes were not clearly defined, but the man thought that they might have been pointed in the corner. The ear that was observed on the left side was long and flat, and came up and back and was pointed backwards like a flap.

The arms were muscular and a little longer than that of a human. The hands looked more like a claw, but the number of fingers was unclear. One physical trait that stood out was the extremely muscular legs. The witness stated that it was hard to explain, but the legs did not move like that of a human, and “looked like they bent backwards.” The witness also saw what appeared to be wings on its back which were tucked into its body, with the wing tips extending toward the side of its head.

No unusual sounds or smells were noticed during the observation which was estimated to have been about 7-8 seconds. As the motorist approached the location where the creature entered the woods, it could no longer be seen. The next day the witness decided to drive back to the location of the encounter to look for any evidence. The ground conditions were not suitable for tracks, and nothing was found. The witness did, however, measure the road sign that the creature had walked in front of. The sign was just over 8 feet high, and the head of the creature was estimated to have reached about 4 inches above the sign.

Cat with thunderous purr makes record attempt in UK

In this handout photo released by Northampton College,
Smokey, a gray and white tabby cat prepares to receive a treat
from owner Ruth Adams, in Northampton , England. A British
community college says it has a recorded a house cat whose
lawnmower-like purr hit 73 decibels, 16 times louder than the
average feline. Northampton College in central England said
Wednesday, March 30, 2011, that it had dispatched a music
team with specialist sound equipment to record 12-year-old
Smokey. The recording has been submitted to the Guinness
World Records. (AP Photo, Alisdair Tait, Northampton College)
March 30, 2011
LONDON (AP) -- A British community college has recorded a house cat named Smokey whose lawnmower-like purr hit 73 decibels, which is 16 times louder than the average feline.

Northampton College in central England said Wednesday it received a request from Smokey's owner, Ruth Adams, to provide the equipment needed to file a world record application.

The college agreed, dispatching a team with specialist sound equipment to record Smokey purring in the comfort of Adams' home in the nearby village of Pitsford, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of London.

The recording has now been submitted to Guinness World Records for vetting.

The 12-year-old gray-and-white tabby has already made several media appearances, with journalists comparing the purr to the sound of a Boeing 747 from a mile away. A video posted to the cat's website made it sound more like the cooing of an angry dove.

"Sometimes she purrs so loudly it makes her cough and splutter," the site said. "She even manages to purr while she eats."

Smokey is camera-shy, according to Adams, who said in a statement that the recording session had to be kept quiet and low key to keep the cat from getting upset.

All the attention may have made the Adams household media-shy as well.

"Oh God," said a man who answered the phone at the Adams' home Wednesday. "You're not the only caller." He then hung up.

Guinness World Records spokeswoman Amarilis Whitty said that she was "anxiously waiting" for the recording to see if it meets the group's standards.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Bethersden big cat 'ran out in front of me'

by James Scott

A black panther has been 'seen' roaming the roads in Kent.

The beast was spotted by an unnamed driver who claimed he saw it in Brissenden Green, Bethersden.

He was travelling towards the A28 when the animal ran across the road.

It happened at 6.45pm on Saturday, March 19.

He reported the sighting to Neil Arnold of the Kent Big Cat Research group, which collects data about sightings of exotic animals in the county.

The man said: “A large black panther style cat with a long tail, ran across the road, very fast, in front of my car.

"It actually brought me to a standstill, I think more through sheer amazement at what I had just witnessed.”

“I have heard that a similar cat has been spotted before in the Bethersden and Woodchurch area.

"I’m so pleased that I have finally seen one for myself.”

Wednesday, March 23 2011

Big cat researchers take Santa Cruz sixth-graders to the mounts on research mission

By Nadia Drake - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 03/28/2011 07:39:49 PM PDT

SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS - While the skies unleashed torrents of water on Saturday morning, a group of enthusiastic sixth-graders squelched through mud, jumped into puddles and stopped to stare at poop in the hills above Santa Cruz.

They were on a field trip designed to teach them about the mountain lion, one of Santa Cruz County's most notorious and elusive inhabitants.

"I'm having fun," said Gabby White, 12. "We're learning about poo!"

Yes, among other facts, the group learned that carnivore poop contains fur and bones, but otherwise can look quite similar to doggy-doo. Often, poop and paw prints are the only signs anyone will ever see of the shy, nocturnal mountain lions.

"They live right next to us but keep themselves hidden," said UC Santa Cruz graduate student and biologist Yiwei Wang, one of the students' guides for the day.

Spotting scat along the trail became a source of shrieking amusement for the kids, who also listened closely to Wang and Yasaman Shakeri, both of whom work with UC Santa Cruz environmental scientist Chris Wilmers. Wilmers' group is tracking pumas in the Santa Cruz mountains using high-tech collars that allow scientists to learn not only about lion location, but lion activity.

"The collars let you see if the cat is doing stuff like flicking its tail or hunting prey or resting," said Craig Schroeder, public outreach manager for the Felidae Conservation Fund and organizer of Saturday's field trip.

Learning about the pumas' behavior will help scientists understand the role pumas play in the Santa Cruz Mountain ecosystem. As humans move into mountain lion habitat, encounters and sightings are becoming more frequent - and the mountains have become a habitat island, isolated by roads and water. Animal movement into and out of the mountains is limited.

"When you cut off a population, over time that contributes to extinctions," Schroeder said. "We're trying to mitigate that before it's too late."

The Felidae Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving populations of big cats worldwide, includes field trips as part of their new educational outreach program. Using funds from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, they designed a three-pronged lesson plan aimed toward teaching middle and high school students about pumas. The students learn through lectures, a predator-prey lab exercise, and a field trip led by researchers such as Wang and Shakeri.

"We'd like to get in front of every school we can," Schroeder said. "These kids can see amazing animals right here, and you can see their excitement when they're out in the field."

This group, from Branciforte Middle School, is the fourth class to follow classroom learning with field excursions.

"This is the way to tie together what they've seen in the classroom," said teacher Erin Petersen-Lindberg. "These opportunities are fantastic. The timing is perfect. We're just starting to learn about ecology now."

At the beginning of the field trip, Wang and Shakeri showed students how project biologists catch pumas using 6-foot long cages normally baited with deer legs. When the trap snaps shut, a radio transmitter on the cage emits a characteristic beeping sound that lets project scientists know an animal is inside.

"We sit about half a mile away and check to see if the transmitter is going off," Wang said. "We don't want to leave the cat in there."

Kids tested the cage trap by crawling in. Then they learned how scientists put radio-emitting collars on the cats that let them track animals and remotely download data.

Then they headed into the woods - swathed in ponchos and armed with umbrellas - while Wang and Shakeri spoke about how mountain lions move through natural habitats and stalk prey.

"A lot of times, mountain lions will just wait right off the trail for the opportunity to jump on a deer," said Wang.

That might sound alarming, but pumas rarely attack humans. Six people have been killed by mountain lions in California since 1890.

"You definitely want to treat the lions with respect because they're predators, but they're not something to be fearful of all the time," Wang said. "Hitting a deer in your car is a lot more dangerous."

Indeed, deer are the puma's preferred meal, and Wang and Shakeri led students to a grove of trees about 50 feet off the trail. There, they showed students an old deer-kill site - a months-old pile of bones in the brush beneath a tree - dragged there by a puma so it could dine undisturbed.

"Is that the head right there? I want to see the head!" said White, who appeared fascinated by the skeletal bits near her feet. She prodded the bones with a stick while asking non-stop questions of the researchers. Other kids took pictures.

Then it was time to head back, and students stopped along the way to learn how biologists set up motion-activated cameras to snap photos of pumas walking in the wild. They watched while Shakeri demonstrated how pumas mark territories by scraping leaves into piles with their back feet.

"I had fun, but my feet didn't. They're soaked," said Jessie Martines, 12, as she returned to the school bus. "But I would do this again. Just wear rain boots next time."

Woman's big cat encounter

8:10am Monday 28th March 2011

A Johnston dog walker was left shaken after a big cat sighting in the village.

Elizabeth Herbert was walking her jack russell on the cycle path behind Orchard Court when she she spotted the ‘labrador size’ black cat coming towards her.

The sighting was just after 6pm on Friday, March 11.

“My little jack russell rocketed in the opposite direction,” she said.

Ms Herbert said the large cat then dived under a hole in the fence heading towards the railway track.

Big cat Kamien the newest addition to Pride in Bournemouth

Big cat Kamien the newest addition to Pride in Bournemouth
3:00pm Saturday 26th March 2011

ARTIST Adam Klodzinski is the latest to make his mark on the Pride in Bournemouth public art event.

Known as Soap, Adam was commissioned by Westbourne gallery Metropolis Art to paint Kamien, its life-size lion statue.

Kamien will be one of at least 50 large lion statues to be displayed across Bournemouth this summer.

All will be auctioned off at the end of the event and the proceeds split between charities Julia’s House and the Born Free Foundation.

“As soon as we learned what the project was about, we signed up,” said gallery co-owner Vicki Angus.

“Adam has captured the majesty of the beast beautifully.

Monday 28 March 2011

Unknown Animals Nearly Invisible Yet There

Individuals of the bryozoan Alcyonidium diaphanum
stretch out their tentacles to filter food particles
out of the water. (Credit: Judith Fuchs.)
ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2011) — Bryozoans (moss animals) are a group of aquatic invertebrates that are found in great variety throughout the world, with well over 100 species in Sweden alone. Yet little is known about them. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now studied Swedish bryozoan species using DNA techniques.

"There are currently over 6 000 known species of Bryozoa. Earlier studies were based on visible characteristics of these animals, which is not sufficient to decide how the species are related to each other. To understand the evolution of bryozoans and how they are related to other animals, it is necessary to use molecular data, that's to say DNA," says Judith Fuchs of the Department of Zoology at the University of Gothenburg.

When Bryozoa were discovered in the 16th century, they were regarded as plants. Later on they were found to have a nervous system, muscles and an intestinal system and were classified as animals. On their own, bryozoans are barely visible to the naked eye, but like coral animals all bryozoans build colonies that reach several centimetres in size and some species build colonies of over 30cm.

In her thesis, Fuchs has studied the evolution and relationships of Bryozoa using molecular data (DNA) from more than 30 bryozoan species, most collected in Sweden. The results show that this animal group developed from a common ancestor that probably lived in the sea. Two groups of Bryozoa evolved from this common ancestor: a group that stayed in the marine environment and another that evolved in freshwater. The DNA studies of the larval stage of Bryozoa can also contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of life cycles and larval stages of other multicellular animals.

Together with her supervisor, Matthias Obst, over a period of four years she has also taken part in the marine inventory of the Swedish Species Project along the west coast of Sweden. The collection of all marine bottom-living animals is based on more than 500 samples from 400 locations.

"We found as many as 120 marine bryozoan species in our waters, and many of them had not been previously known in Sweden. We also found a completely new species of Bryozoa. This is a very small bryozoan with characteristic spikes on its surface, which I have described in my thesis."

To date, 45 per cent of the bryozoans collected in the inventory have been determined.

"Sweden has a very rich bryozoan fauna. On your next trip to the beach you might perhaps take a closer look at seaweed or pebbles. If you see a white covering with small holes in it, you have found a bryozoan colony for yourself."

There are currently over 6 000 known species of Bryozoa. Earlier studies were based on visible characteristics of these animals, which is not sufficient to decide how the species are related to each other. To understand the evolution of bryozoans and how they are related to other animals, it is necessary to use molecular data, that's to say DNA," says Judith Fuchs of the Department of Zoology at the University of Gothenburg.

Zoo's Dolphin Habitat Celebrates 50th Anniversary

March 25, 2011
Kane Farabaugh | Chicago

More than two million people each year visit the Brookfield Zoo’s Seven Seas exhibit in suburban Chicago. The exhibit, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is the oldest inland dolphin habitat in the United States. It focuses on the Chicago Zoological Society’s efforts to promote marine conservation.

Fifty years ago, the only way people in the US. Midwest could see dolphins up close was by visiting the coastline. The Chicago Zoological Society wanted to bring that experience closer to home.

"This was a very groundbreaking facility," said Rita Stacey, curator of the Seven Seas exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. She's worked with dolphins at the zoo for twenty years. "It was the first inland Dolphinarium. It was the first one to use artificial saltwater. We now create our own man-made saltwater here."

That technological advance allowed the zoo to create a permanent habitat for marine mammals far from the ocean. The exhibit, which Stacey said is as close to their natural environment as possible, attracts millions of visitors every year, even when temperatures are below freezing outside.

"This is actually our second building," said Stacey. "Our first building was operated for close to about 25 years. And in that 25 years, we had estimated about 11.5 million people had gone into that facility and saw the dolphins there."

Stacey said the Chicago Zoological Society, which runs the Brookfield Zoo, is one of the leading institutions promoting a better understanding of marine life. She said some research, including how dolphins breed and communicate, is a product of studying dolphins at the zoo.

"There is so much that we have learned in the last 50 years about caring for the dolphins, about the inner workings of their society and their relationships with each other, as well as about anatomy and about how dolphins actually work," said Stacey.

Melissa Zabojnik is a senior keeper at the Seven Seas exhibit. She has been working with dolphins for 10 years, and helps show the mammals to the public.

"We can use the dolphins as ambassadors to teach the public," said Zabojnik. "The zoo’s mission is to inspire conservation leadership, so that’s something that we try to portray in our dolphin shows as well."

The Zoo’s conservation efforts were tested during last year’s Gulf Oil spill. The Chicago Zoological Society’s Dolphin Research Center in Sarasota Florida, a sister facility, saw some changes in the dolphin population in the Gulf.

Zabojnik said their history with the mammals is helping them track the long term environmental effects of the disaster. "Because we’ve gotten to know these animals so well in the past, it helps us in the future by determining if the oil spill has any effect on the future of them….. where the animals spend their time, if they migrate for any reason, if there’s any difference of their health and population year after year because of the oil spill."

The Brookfield Zoo now works with six other U.S. facilities that also are away from coastlines. Together, they promote a better understanding of the world under the sea.

Experts DNA test England's adders to help halt decline

28 March 2011

Ecologists are running DNA tests on adders to check their genetic diversity amid fears the UK's only venomous snake is vanishing from the wild.

A recent study found that numbers of the reptile had declined since 2007.

Conservationists believe inbreeding in small, isolated populations could lead to a further decrease in numbers.

Experts from Natural England, the Zoological Society of London and Oxford University are taking swabs from the reptiles at 16 sites across England.

Ecologist Nigel Hand has already carried out health checks and collected DNA samples from five snakes at a Surrey Wildlife Trust site and 27 adders from an area in Norfolk.

Once captured, the reptiles are placed in a plastic tube to measure their length and protect the handler from their bite.

A swab is taken and they are marked before they are released back into the wild.

The DNA is then analysed to see whether larger or smaller populations have different levels of genetic variety.

Jim Foster, of Natural England, said: "With around a third of adder populations now restricted to isolated pockets of habitat, and with only a handful of snakes per sites, they could be especially vulnerable."

It is estimated that there are 1,000 populations of adder in the country with some groups made up of fewer than 10 adults.

Mr Foster said the tests would also help them understand why some adders had been found with abnormalities including malformed scales and missing eyes.

He added: "In the longer term, the last resort option is whether we should move animals between populations, artificially encouraging them to mix."

'Runaway' tigress

By: Amit Singh
Date: 2011-03-22
Place: Delhi

The officials at the Capital's National Zoological Park had to face some tense moments on Monday morning after a white tigress escaped from her cage and jumped over a 12ft high fence of her enclosure.

The tigress was later captured and put back into her cage. Interestingly, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh was supposed to visit the zoo for an event related to the World Forestry Day in the evening.

The incident took place at around 9:30am when the caretakers opened the cage of the tigress for its routine exercise. The moment the cage was opened, she came out and jumped over the fence into the adjacent enclosure. The zoo staff then rushed the visitors to safe areas and closed the entry to the park.

"The moment she escaped, a team of 10-15 officials was formed who after two hours managed to render the tigress unconscious using tranquilisers and then put her back into the cage. Luckily neither any animal nor any visitor was hurt," said spokesperson of National Zoological Park, Riaz Khan while speaking to MiD DAY, Talking about the incident, a zoo official said, "The fence of tiger's enclosure is supposed to be 10ft high, but Delhi Zoo has around 12ft high fence. We may now consider making the fence four more feet high to prevent such incidents from happening."

Shocking number of animals dying at Kiev Zoo

Dozens, maybe hundreds, have died in recent years, animal welfare groups say

By Maria Danilova
The Associated Press
updated 3/23/2011 8:42:37 PM ET

KIEV, Ukraine — An Indian elephant called Boy, the pride of the Kiev Zoo, collapsed and died in his enclosure. Around the same time, Maya the camel succumbed to a digestive illness and Theo the zebra died after crashing into a metal fence.

And there's more, much more.

The animals just keep on dying at the Kiev Zoo, a place some have likened to an unkempt warehouse for those with fur and feathers. Animal welfare groups say dozens if not hundreds of animals have died at the zoo in recent years due to malnutrition, a lack of medical care and mistreatment — and some suspect that corruption is at the heart of the problem.

Naturewatch, a British-based animal welfare group, is among the organizations calling for the 100-year-old zoo to be closed and its animals sent elsewhere in Europe.

"The Kiev Zoo will never attain any basic standards, it's so far removed from any zoo in Europe," said John Ruane of Naturewatch. "The conditions have been absolutely horrendous and no matter how many more directors were appointed the situation still remained the same."

New managers appointed in October said that nearly half of the zoo's animals either died or mysteriously disappeared over two years under their predecessors, and a government audit found that thousands of dollars were misspent as animals were illegally sold and funds earmarked for their food and care disappeared. Ukrainian prosecutors have also opened an investigation.

But despite the management change, the zoo's animals are still dying. Some activists suspect a secret real estate deal is in the works — that the zoo is being deliberately decimated so it can be closed down and the prime land that it sits on in the center of Kiev can be sold.

Other violations included the purchase of medication for already deceased apes, paying for hyenas that were never shipped to the zoo, the illegal sale of 12 macaques, the unrecorded sale of zoo tickets and the misallocation of funds earmarked for feeding zoo animals. The violations totaled the equivalent of $200,000, according to Irina Parkhomenko, spokeswoman for the government auditing agency.

Deterioration started after Soviet Union's collapse
Once the jewel of the Ukrainian capital and a favorite weekend spot for families, the zoo began to deteriorate after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and the years of poverty that followed. Animals were kept in cramped, poorly lit and poorly heated enclosures, fed improperly and left unattended, according to watchdogs.

The Kiev Zoo gained international notoriety in 2007 when it was expelled from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria after the tragic death of a female bear.

The elderly brown bear named Dinara had been moved from a small enclosure where she had spent all her life to a bigger pen with a male Malayan sun bear. Stressed by the new premises and her new companion, Dinara began to bang her head against the concrete walls of the enclosure, leaving blood stains on the walls and floor. After days of this, she was euthanized.

On a recent visit, the zoo looked desolate. The elephant's pen stood empty, a lonely wolf paced an open-air enclosure, a collection of farm animals was closed to visitors and two giraffes were locked in two small indoor cells.

Mayor accused of mismanagement
The zoo's problems grew worse under the leadership of the city's eccentric mayor, Leonid Chernovetsky, who has been widely accused of mismanagement. Under his appointed zoo director, Svitlana Berzina, about a quarter of the animals died and another quarter disappeared in the two years before she was ousted in October, according to the new zoo director, Oleksiy Tolstoukhov.

Boy, the biggest Indian elephant in a European zoo, collapsed in his enclosure and died in April at age 39. Berzina denied any wrongdoing and claimed the elephant was poisoned.

Others disagree. Serhiy Hryhoryev, a zoo worker who has set up a group to protect the animals, believes that Boy was killed by a yo-yo diet. He said zoo staff considered Boy to be overweight and put him on a diet of mainly water and hay, causing him to lose more than a third of his weight in four months.

"By the end, his ribs were sticking out," Hryhoryev said.

Then Boy was put back on beets, carrots and apples, which caused rapid weight gain, which Hryhoryev said led to the elephant's heart failure. An autopsy was inconclusive.

Bad diet — or poison?
A month later, Maya the camel died. Hryhoryev said zoo workers failed to treat her for abdominal bloating after a sudden diet change. The zoo, however, blamed the death on a mysterious poisoner, a middle-aged man with an earring who just happened to resemble the whistleblower Hryhoryev. He was fired from his job but then reinstated through a court order late last year.

Theo the zebra died in late March after being separated from his female companions, as the animals were let outside after spending the winter in cramped indoor quarters. The male zebra threw himself into a metal fence in a desperate attempt to reach the females.

Officials are having a hard time determining exactly how many animals died or disappeared under the previous management. The zoo now has 2,600 animals from 328 species.

'Not as bad as they say'
Oleksandr Mazurchak, deputy head of the Kiev city administration, said about 250 animals died due to "problems" during two years under Berzina. The government audit last year also found that 131 other animals were missing.

Mazurchak said 50 animals have died since Tolstoukhov took over, though most from old age. But some deaths could have been avoided, like those of the three fish that died in late December when a power outage stopped the flow of oxygen into their tank.

Defending his record, the new director said the zoo has not purchased any new animals in recent years due to funding shortages and 60 percent of the zoo's animals are approaching the end of their natural life span anyway.

"It's not as bad as they say," Tolstoukhov said. "In all the zoos, including in Europe, animals don't live a million years. They also die and get sick."

Ecologist cites close to 250 deaths
But Volodymyr Boreiko, an ecologist who has monitored developments at the zoo, said in a report last week that the number of animals that have died since the new managers took over in October is closer to 250 and includes a penguin, a crane, turkeys and mongooses. The zoo said his findings are falsified.

Tolstoukhov said the zoo hopes to attract funds to restore existing enclosures and build new ones, and to repair the heating, air conditioning and electric systems. The zoo also plans to acquire new animals, including two young female elephants and 12 blue sheep.

He denied any plans to sell the 84 acres of land the zoo occupies in central Kiev.

Luisa Kuznetsova, 26, who came to the zoo last week with her 2-year-old twins Kolya and Karina, hopes it can be saved.

"I want there to be a beautiful zoo here with all the beautiful animals because the kids are growing and the zoo helps them develop," Kuznetsova said as the twins watched a giraffe attempt to kiss them through a glass wall.

But Tamara Tarnavska of the Kiev-based SOS animal rights group believes the zoo must be closed to protect its animals from further abuse.

"The zoo is in such a condition that it's no longer a zoo, it's a concentration camp," Tarnavska said. "When I look those animals in the eyes, I am ashamed to be a human being."

Sunday 27 March 2011

Are Chupacabra Recollections Real?

Analysis by Benjamin Radford
Thu Mar 24, 2011 07:08 PM ET

As reported here on Discovery News and elsewhere, the origin of the mysterious vampire beast el chupacabra can be traced back to an eyewitness who saw the 1995 film Species, which featured an identical monster. Most people assume that the chupacabra dates back decades, though in my research the best evidence so far is that it has only been around for about 15 years.

SLIDE SHOW: Chupacabra Inspired by Horror Film Beast

Certainly, vampire beliefs have existed for millennia all around the world, and there was a pre-existing belief that something mysterious was occasionally attacking animals prior to 1995 in Puerto Rico (and elsewhere, including Nebraska). And, as researcher Loren Coleman discovered, there was a 1960 mention of a "chupacabra" in the TV show "Bonanza," referring to a whippoorwill bird.

But so far there seems no reference to a blood-sucking monster called "chupacabra" before mid-1995 in Puerto Rico (or anywhere else).

And yet one common reaction I've gotten from readers about my chupacabra research is that the monster did indeed exist before 1995, because they heard about it as early as the 1950s. A few examples taken from recent posted comments on the story:

LeahMEseny: "I grew up in New Mexico and remember hearing stories about the chupacabra in the 80s."

Hiram Mag: "This story dates back to the 50s and 60s in Texas."

Glory Mooncalled: "I grew up hearing of it in the 70s and 80s."

Mousekakat: "I am just shy of 45, and grew up in Houston hearing about the chupacabra."

AlisonP: "I was at Arecibo Radio Observatory [in Puerto Rico] in 1993, and the legend of chupacabra was already pretty widespread then."

In all, nearly a dozen people insist that they heard about the chupacabra before 1995. (Note that even if there exists a reference to a “chupacabra” before 1995 it has no bearing on the fact that the description of the original Puerto Rican chupacabra was inspired by the film Species. The only question is if the word itself was in use earlier.) What can we make of these reports? There are only a few possibilities:

1) The "chupacabra" (vampiric monster) was known, written about, and discussed decades earlier than current research shows; or

2) We have a fascinating memory experiment in progress, in which dozens (perhaps hundreds) of people are incorrectly remembering the same thing: hearing stories about the chupacabra from decades ago.

Who's right? I honestly have no idea. Just because I didn't find any references to a vampiric “chupacabra” before 1995 doesn't mean there aren't any. I'm a pretty thorough researcher, but no one's perfect, and I might have missed an earlier reference. Surely if a chupacabra was widely known and discussed as far back as the 1950s, there should be plenty of written references in newspapers, magazines, books, folklore journals, etc., dating back decades. It seems there are none.

Then again, memory research has shown that the perception that something has been around for a long time influences our beliefs and recollections.

Experiments by researchers Kathryn Brown, Rhiannon Ellis, and Elizabeth Loftus, for example, shows how people can create false memories of experiencing things that never happened. In one experiment they found that by (falsely) telling people that they had experienced something in their youths, they came to believe it. In one study, after being prompted, adults specifically remembered meeting a Bugs Bunny character at Disney World, which could not have happened (Bugs is a Warner Bros. character). The same thing happened with Werther's Original caramels, which adults reminisced about enjoying as children in the 1950s and 1960s -- but could not have, since they were only created in 1969. (For more on this see Braun, K. A., Ellis, R., & Loftus, E.F. 2002. Make My Memory: How Advertising Can Change Our Memories of the Past, in Psychology and Marketing, 19(1): 1-23.)

As the authors write: “Remembering is often a social activity in which people come to some agreement about the past and it is much more likely to take place in the context of friends, family, or advertising than with psychotherapists. In some sense, life is a continual memory alteration experiment where memories continually are shaped by new incoming information.”

In this light it seems quite possible that people who are certain they grew up hearing tales of the bloodthirsty chupacabra beast may be merely incorrectly remembering the dates and details of when they first heard about it. The irony is, of course, that it was a Puerto Rican eyewitness’s faulty memory that confused a film monster with real life and essentially created the chupacabra.

Mass error, or incomplete research? Let’s find out! I'll offer a public $250 reward (plus a signed copy of my book Tracking the Chupacabra) for the first verifiable written evidence of a blood-sucking monster called the chupacabra (or chupacabras) that dates before 1990. It must be a published, dated reference; I can be contacted via Discovery News.

Let's see what turns up!

Illustration by Ben Radford

El Chupacabra Legend Eliminated, Expert Claims

Mar 23, 2011, 12:59 by John Steele

While leprechauns and bigfoots remain on the loose across the world, one mysterious monster appears to have been nothing more than folklore.

El Chupacabra, a bipedal alien-like creature nicknamed "goatsucker" was first spotted in Puerto Rico in 1995 when two goats were found drained of all their blood. Since then, this supposed being has appeared in many different iterations from Mexico to Florida to Texas, whenever livestock turn up dead.

But now, well-published writer and skeptic Benjamin Radford, author of several books on monsters and paranormal phenomena, managing editor of the journal The Skeptical Inquirer and LiveScience columnist, has released what he says to be definitive proof that El Chupacabra is not real, but rather a forgotten memory from the 1995 sci-fi film Species.

According to Gawker, Radford reported noticing a strong resemblance to the alien/human hybrid in Species. When he spoke to El Chupacabra's first reported victim Madelyne Tolentino, he asked her if the thing that she saw could have been inspired by the film. Indeed, she had seen the movie in the weeks prior to making her description.

"You can make a direct connection between the film hitting theaters, her seeing the creature in the film, seeing it in the street, making the report and entering the public conscious," Radford said.

After speaking with Tolentino, Radford went on to the other reported sightings, none of which were described nearly the same as the original. One farmer in Texas even managed to shoot a predator he believed to be El Chupacabra but it turned out to be a coyote with a severe case of mange.

"By the mid-2000s, anything weird was being called El Chupacabra," he said. "Mangy coyotes. Dead raccoons. Even a dried fish in New Mexico, which looks nothing like El Chupacabra."

But that doesn't mean the myth won't live on. Every livestock death has a scapegoat, and gives the media a fun story. The myth even has a Facebook fan club. And Radford is fine with that. In fact, he hopes he is proven wrong someday.

"If next month or next year somebody finds El Chupacabra that's sucking blood from animals, I'm happy to eat my crow and add a chapter to the book," he says.

Source: Fox News

Deadly Egyptian cobra missing from Bronx Zoo

By Deborah Brunswick, CNN
March 27, 2011 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)

New York (CNN) -- A venomous Egyptian cobra went missing from New York's Bronx Zoo, prompting the closure of the zoo's reptile house until further notice.

Staff was alerted Saturday that the adolescent Egyptian cobra was missing from an off-exhibit enclosure, according to a statement from the zoo. Staff members closed and secured the reptile house.

Zoo officials said they are confident the 20-inch-long snake is contained in a nonpublic, isolated area of the building.

"Based on our knowledge of the natural history and behavior of snakes, we know they seek closed-in spaces and are not comfortable in open areas," the zoo statement said.

The Egyptian cobra is most commonly found in North Africa. Its venom is so deadly that it can kill a full-grown elephant in three hours -- or a person in about 15 minutes, according to wildlife experts. The venom destroys nerve tissue and causes paralysis and death due to respiratory failure.

Scholars believe the Egyptian cobra was known in ancient times as the asp. Legend has it that Cleopatra, the ancient Egyptian queen, used an asp to commit suicide.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Mountain lions sighted on Scottsdale golf course

Courtesy of Linda Borman
A family of mountain lions came out after the rains
this week at Desert Mountain Golf Club's Cochise Course.
by Philip Haldiman - Mar. 25, 2011 02:33 PM
The Arizona Republic

A north Scottsdale couple feel lucky to have made a rare sighting of three mountain lions this week on the fourth hole of Desert Mountain Golf Club's Cochise Course.

Desert Mountain resident Linda Borman said she quickly snapped a few photographs on Monday afternoon after her husband, Ty, saw the mother and her two cubs lounging on the fairway of the 546-yard, par-5 hole.

Photos of the mountain lions in Scottsdale

"Ty has a habit of looking out the window in hopes of seeing something," Linda said. "They came out after the rain. I think because nobody was out on the golf course at that time."

Tom Cadden, public information officer for Arizona Game and Fish, said mountain lions live throughout the state, most commonly in rocky areas, where people don't usually see them.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona's mountain lion population could be as high as 3,000. He said that part of the Valley is home to that species of cat.

"There are certainly some mountain lions in that habitat," Cadden said.

The Bormans have lived along the course - one of six private tracts surrounded by rugged Sonoran Desert - for six years. In that time, they said that they have seen all kinds of native wildlife: javelinas, bobcats, coyotes, diamondback rattlesnakes - but never mountain lions, until Monday.

Linda said the impressive cats hung around for about five minutes, seemingly undisturbed by her taking photos.

It was a "once-in-a-lifetime spectacle," she said.

Ty called it a " 'National Geographic' moment.'"

Linda said she took the first photos through a window because she didn't want to scare away the animals.

"Then I went outside to get a little closer; each time I clicked, they looked at me," she said. "The cubs seemed curious, but not afraid, and the mother looked very protective.

"My husband still hasn't come down from Cloud 9."

In North Carolina, Bigfoot Crossed the Road

Published March 24, 2011 |

Bigfoot caught on tape?

A Shelby, North Carolina man claims to have a video of the legendary Bigfoot.

Thomas Byers was driving with a friend when he says he saw Bigfoot cross Golden Valley Church Road in Rutherford County Tuesday evening. Naturally, he whipped out his video camera and was able to capture a five-second video from about 15 to 20 feet away.

"It ran across the road and into the woods right in front of us and I was able to film it," Byers wrote in an e-mail to WCNC NewsChannel 36 in Charlotte, N.C. "In the short video you can hear it snarl or growl at me."

And Bigfoot, it seems, is in desperate need of a shower. "One thing I know is the smell of it was horrid. It smelled like a cross between road kill and a skunk. And it did not like the fact that I was there on the road with it. In the video you can hear it snarl or growl at me as it crosses the road."

Byers details the event on a personal website where he has posted the video plus a few pictures. In the description, he explains that Bigfoot, or Knobby as it's known locally, has been "spotted for years."

Commenters on his site remained divided over the authenticity of the video.

"Unfortunately, until one is captured or killed and delivered to a lab, nothing can be proven," said online user 'Mike'. "Any sighting could be staged, or a prank by someone in a primate-like costume."

"I personally believe you," said 'Luke'. "But if you want to convince the skeptics out there you need a better video and physical evidence such as droppings."

As the debate rages on over whether or not this was the real deal, Byers is satisfied simply to have experienced the moment. "It was truly one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen," he said on his website.

Representatives of the American Bigfoot Society and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

See alsoBigfoot Sighting? North Carolina Man Posts Footage of Sighting

Alligator reportedly sighted in Adair County

This photo, provided by the Adair County Sheriff's Office, shows what is reported to be an alligator seen in Adair County near Watts. Courtesy
By SHEILA STOGSDILL World Correspondent
Published: 3/26/2011 2:26 PM
Last Modified: 3/26/2011 3:13 PM

WATTS — Adair County law enforcement officers and state game wardens believe the reported sighting of an alligator in a muddy stream near Watts may have some teeth and not be an outrageous fish tale.

Believed to be an alligator because of the fresh water surroundings, the gator has been spotted in a muddy oxbow near Ballard Creek, just off the Illinois River, near Watts. The stream is not used for boating or canoeing or any other recreational uses, said Chris Reese, who saw the alligator on March 18.

“I was driving down the road — daydreaming when I noticed a bunch of turtles on a log,” Reese said. “One of the turtles was beaten up pretty bad — then I saw a gator on the bank.”

When the 27-year-old Army veteran took a second look, the four- to five-foot long reptile scurried into the muddy stream. Reese said he and two other men were about 100 feet away from alligator.

“We all just looked at each other in disbelief,” Reese said.

Reese tried to get a photo with his cell phone of the alligator, but missed the shot. The men later returned to the area later that day and saw the alligator for a second time, he said.

Pretty soon word spread throughout the tiny town of over 300 about the alligator. A friend of Reese’s family also saw the alligator and was able to take a photograph, which was provided to law enforcement. The woman asked not to be identified and has declined to be interviewed.

While there is an alligator population in McCurtain County in the southeast corner of the state, it’s rare to ever see an alligator in eastern Oklahoma.

State game wardens Cody Youngblood and Jared Cramer are taking the sighting serious.

Neither warden has seen the alligator but Cramer said he has received multiple reports of sightings. Both men believe the alligator was a pet and someone released it.

Read more in Sunday's Tulsa World.

By SHEILA STOGSDILL World Correspondent

Coyote, black Lab form unlikely partnership in Duluth

A black Lab and coyote have been seen together near
Orange Street in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood.
This photo was taken in 2008. (Photo by Steve Owen)
Published March 26, 2011, 12:05 AM

People in the Piedmont Heights area of Duluth assert that a black Labrador retriever is living a wild life in the woods. And that’s only the half of it. The other half is that the canine has formed a relationship with a coyote.

By: Lisa Baumann, Duluth News Tribune

People in the Piedmont Heights area started talking after the News Tribune reported last month about a black Lab taking down a deer in someone’s driveway.

Sue Hansen, owner of Hansen’s Auto Service on Trinity Road, said she saw the article and couldn’t wait to speak with customer Andrew Frielund when he came into the store.

“I asked why he didn’t write (a letter to the editor) explaining about that black Lab,” she said with a laugh. “He said he didn’t want people to think he was nuts.”

They assert that a black Labrador retriever is living a wild life in the woods. And that’s only the half of it. The other half is that the canine has formed a relationship with a coyote.

“Don’t laugh, because seriously, they exist,” Hansen said. “They were outside on the wood line of my house tearing up a deer about two months ago.”

“They are well-documented in the area,” Frielund added.

He’s seen them twice together in the woods near the antenna farm by Orange Street. He also has seen what he believes could be their offspring — an animal he calls “the creature.”

Bunter Knowles, who lives on Orange Street near the famed ice volcano, has seen the pair several times in the past few years.

In fact, he’s seen them out his window, the coyote sleeping while the Lab stands sentinel.

“There’s no question there’s been a pair of a coyote and a black Lab traveling together. … I’ve seen them 30 yards away with binoculars,” he said. “It’s quite a funny pairing.”

When asked about it Friday, Martha Minchak, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources assistant area wildlife manager in Duluth, said she wasn’t buying it.

“There wouldn’t be a Lab and coyote running around together,” she said.

And then she saw the photos taken by Steve Owen in 2008. He was able to sneak up on the pair as they were lounging in the backyard of his mother’s house at 2328 Springvale St.

“So, I stand corrected and obviously (the dog and coyote) haven’t read the behavior books!” Minchak wrote in an e-mail. “I have no real explanation other than the coyote must have been rejected from its pack for some reason and has obviously taken up with the Lab. It seems like it’s been a successful strategy for both of them if they are catching deer.”

She also said it was possible for the two to breed.

Owen said Friday he knows the Lab is alive and well because he last saw it on Monday.

“He was lying in the grass, sunning himself,” he said. “I didn’t see any coyotes with him.”

Owen said he doesn’t believe the Lab has a human home to visit.

“He was skittish enough the day I took their pictures,” he said. “As soon as the coyote and dog saw me, they went away. It wasn’t like he wanted to come down and look for a treat.”

With an abundance of deer in the city, Minchak also speculated that the dog was on its own — except for the coyote.

“It’s more like the Lab has gone over to the coyote side,” she said.

No one interviewed said they’d experienced any aggressive behavior from either animal, and Duluth animal control officer Carrie Lane said no one has ever reported the animals to her office, whether as a nuisance or a curiousity.

Knowles said he’s been out in the woods nearly every day snowshoeing and although he thinks he hears the Lab bark at his dog, they never approach him.

“I haven’t seen any damage by them so I wouldn’t have any recommendation to make to interfere,” Knowles said. “It’s something that’s unusual … but it’s not as if I’d try to break up a mixed marriage.”

Minchak concurred.

“Before I would have said (the two together are) something from Walt Disney movies, but now I guess I’d say it’s a classic odd-couple pairing,” she said.

She said she’d leave them alone because she didn’t think anyone would be able to rehabilitate the dog.

For her part, Hansen isn’t so sure.

“I don’t like domestic dogs that have gone wild,” she said. “I haven’t walked in my woods since then. It makes me a lot more nervous in that area than I’ve ever been.”

Do you have any pictures?

Send your photos of the black Lab-coyote pair to

Trap Put On Elementary School Grounds After Dog Sighting

Posted: 5:37 pm EDT March 22, 2011Updated: 5:51 pm EDT March 22, 2011

INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. -- Union County Animal Services placed a dog trap on the grounds of Poplin Elementary School in Indian Trail last week after a dog resembling a pit bull was seen walking around the campus.

It marked the second time in about a month that students and administrators had seen the animal. School officials emphasized the dog was not seen acting aggressively.

“The unknown of an animal no one’s familiar with is, what is it going to do?” said Sgt. Lynn Yow with Union County Animal Services.

Channel 9 arranged for Yow to demonstrate the type of trap used to catch nuisance and stray dogs. It was a black metal cage about three feet high and four feet long. Dog food is used as a bait to attract the animals, and when they step into the trap, it triggers a mechanism to close it. The trap is meant to contain the dogs and not hurt them.

“(Strangers) don’t know how (the dog) reacts to human contact,” Yow said. “If it’s going to walk up to you, if it’s going to run off if you try to approach it (or) if it’s going to attack you if you try to walk up to it.”

The sightings come at a time of heightened concern about the potential dangers of dogs. Earlier this month, a school resource officer shot and killed a German shepherd at a school in Monroe after it threatened a student. In January, two pit bulls mauled 5-year-old Makayla Woodard to death in Waxhaw and severely injured her grandmother as she tried to save Makayla. The incident prompted town leaders in Waxhaw to consider amendments to its animal control ordinance.

Parents of students at Poplin said they didn’t want anything like that happening at their school.

“What else can they really do, except put the trap out and keep an eye, which I know that they will do,” Judy Silberquit said.

Jemal Davis said his fourth-grade daughter told him about the dog sighting last week. While he said he’s reassured by the actions of the school district and the county, his daughter was not.

“She was a little nervous about it because of all the reports of the bad dogs,” he said.

Animal Services said being aware is the best defense, especially since calls for nuisance dogs went up in the weeks following the Waxhaw incident. Yow said it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Especially on school property,” he added.

Friday 25 March 2011

Baby dolphin saved after dumped in rice field by tsunami

TOKYO | Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:53am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A baby dolphin has been rescued in Japan after being dumped in a rice field by a giant tsunami that hit the coast on March 11.

The dolphin was spotted in the flooded field, about 2 km (a mile) from the coast, said Ryo Taira, a pet-shop owner who has been rescuing animals abandoned after the 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami left 23,000 people dead or missing.

"A man passing by said he had found the dolphin in the rice paddy and that we had to do something to save it," the 32-year-old Taira told Reuters.

Taira found the dolphin struggling in the shallow seawater on Tuesday and after failing to net it, waded in to the field, which had yet to be sown with rice, to cradle the 1.2-meter (four foot) animal in his arms.

"It was pretty weak by then, which was probably the only reason we could catch it," he said.

Taira and some friends wrapped the dolphin in wet towels and drove it back to the sea, where they set it free. The dolphin appeared to perk up when it was back in the Pacific, he said.

"I don't know if it will live, but it's certainly a lot better than dying in a rice paddy," Taira told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel and Sanjeev Miglani)

First humans in Americas: prehistoric Texans?

Central Texas creek site, more than 15,000 years old, predates Clovis society

By Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer
updated 3/24/2011 4:31:34 PM ET

Humans camped by the shores of a small creek in Texas possibly even before the Clovis society, classically regarded as the first human inhabitants of the Americas, settled in the West.

The site, located in central Texas on the bank of Buttermilk Creek, has produced almost 16,000 artifacts, including stone chips and blade-like objects, in soil dating up to 15,500 years old, more than 2,000 years before the first evidence of Clovis culture. Many of the items are flakes from cutting or sharpening of tools, but the research team also found about 50 tools, including several cutting surfaces — including spear points and knives.

"The tools that we found there indicate that they were camping along the Buttermilk Creek," study researcher Mike Waters, at Texas A&M University, told LiveScience. "This probably would have been a place where they were living and conducting daily activities."

All of the objects were small and light and seem to indicate that the group led a mobile lifestyle, moving from place to place but always returning. From the wear and tear on the artifacts, some seem to have been used for cutting soft materials, like hides, while others may have been used on harder materials, like stone.

The prehistoric humans seem to have used the site for multiple centuries, as the soil where the artifacts were found was dated to between 12,800 and 15,500 years ago. "They would leave the site and come back, and each time leave behind evidence of their activities," Waters said. "They slowly but surely built up these deposits. Dating them shows they range from 15,500 years ago, then just keep going until the Clovis material."

The researchers couldn't date the material with the gold-standard method using carbon-14, since none of the artifacts had organic components, such as plant matter. The team used a different kind of dating on the soil around the artifacts, and some researchers called it into question. Extended excavation of the site could reveal carbon-dateable objects, which would confirm the age of the site.

If the dating is correct, this group would predate the Clovis society, long thought to have colonized the Americas 13,000 years ago, and could have given rise to the Clovis society. These prehistoric human societies are generally defined by the stone tools they used, the size and shape of which changed over time. Clovis used bigger blades and tools than those found at this layer of the Buttermilk site.

The site isn't the first to predate Clovis, though Waters believes his evidence is the clearest yet.

Not everyone agrees with Waters' interpretations of the findings, though. While other researchers don't question that there were probably human populations in America before Clovis, th

Tom Dillehay, a researcher at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee who wasn't involved in the study, told LiveScience that the ecological conditions at the site, including rain-swept mud and remnants of creek flooding, may have mixed the sediment layers, meaning the Clovis sediments could have been buried on top of the artifacts described by Waters, and therefore been considered more recent. The top layers are very thin.

Gary Haynes, of the University of Nevada, Reno, praised the authors for a "potentially major find" but had many of the same concerns about the research.

"They need to excavate a bigger area of the site before they can draw these kinds of conclusions," Dillehay told LiveScience. "I don't see that the data is there to present the conclusions that they are presenting."

Thursday 24 March 2011

Official yeti probe planned after recent sightings

23 March 2011

Government officials in Siberia are planning to set up a special research institute dedicated to the study of yetis following a number of recent mysterious sightings of the folkloric creature.

Hominology experts, who are lined up to lead the studies at Kemerovo University, are eager to prove their existence after people in remote parts of the region claim to have caught a glimpse of the elusive being.

According to 15 witness statements by Siberian locals in the Kemerovo region, 7-ft tall, hairy, manlike creatures have been spotted wandering the Mount Shoria wilderness, with one man even claiming to have saved a yeti from drowning in a river while hunting.

Villager, Afanasy Kiskorov in Tashtagol reportedly witnessed the yeti activity first-hand. He said: "Their bodies were covered in red-and-black fur and they could climb trees. The creature was screaming in fear after falling into a swollen mountain river."

Despite the alleged sightings, no photographic evidence as yet confirms the existence of the 'abominable snowmen.'

However, hair specimens, large footprints and huge branch shelters in forests have fuelled scientific belief to traces of the yetis, described as the 'Neanderthal ancestors of man.'

Officials of the Kemerovo administration in western Siberia have said that organising an institute or a scientific centre would be a logical continuation of research into the yeti.

Dr. Igor Burtsev, director of the International Center of Hominology, will join the brand new research unit if the plans go ahead. He said: "In Russia there are about 30 authoritative scientists who are engaged in studying the phenomenon of the abonimable snowman."

"All of them will be integrated into this institute. The primary goal is to establish contact with one of the creatures."

Dr. Burtsev told Russian newspaper Itar Press after a yeti expedition last year: "I saw markers (half-broken branches) the creature uses to mark the controlled territory. In the woods I have found several artifacts to confirm my theory. I plan to find the Bigfoot's shelter and even try to contact the creature."

Speaking on 'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross' in 2009, British wildlife expert David Attenborough said he believed that there was very convincing evidence that yetis do exist.

The Administration of Kemerovo, the regional government, will announce its final decision on whether they will implement the research institute after it hosts an international conference on yetis later this year.

Written by Gaby Leslie

Siberia plans 'institute to study yetis'

March 23, 2011

Officials in a Siberian region on Wednesday announced plans to open a scientific institute for researchers to study yetis, despite opposition from academics.

"Organising an institute or a scientific centre would be a logical continuation of research into the yeti," the administration of the Russian coal-mining region of Kemerovo in western Siberia said.

The region will announce its final decision after hosting an international conference on yetis later this year, the statement said, citing the regional government's education and science department.

"The town of Tashtagol will host an international conference with leading experts into hominids. Based on its results, we will take a decision on opening a scientific research institute to study the yeti."

Yetis, or Abominable Snowmen, are hairy ape-like creatures of popular myth, that are generally held to inhabit the Himalayas.

But some believe Russia also holds a population of yetis, which it calls Snow Men, in remote areas of Siberia such as the mountains in the southern part of Kemerovo around Tashtagol.

Kemerovo officials cited yeti researcher Igor Burtsev as saying that around 30 Russian scientists are studying yetis and could work together at the planned institute.

"We think that the yeti is a separate branch of human evolution. It lives in harmony with nature," Burtsev was quoted as saying.

Burtsev earlier told the ITAR-TASS news agency that the institute was planned to open as part of the region's state university.

The university swiftly denied the claim in a statement, saying that "studying yetis is not among the research interests of the scientific teams at Kemerovo State University". The Kemerovo region has used its reputation for sightings of yetis to promote tourism. It holds an annual Yeti Day and this year it will run an ice sculpture competition called "In the World of the Yeti".
(Submitted by Liz R)

Bigfoot Hoaxers Not Even Trying Anymore

Mar 24, 2011

Adrian Chen — Bigfoot Hoaxers Not Even Trying Anymore Hey look! It's Bigfoot! No it's not. It's obviously some dude in a gorilla suit. But, nice try, Thomas Bryers of North Carolina.

According to YouTube caption, Bryers saw the bigfoot on March 22nd: "It came from out of the field from the direction of the creek and we later took photos of feet prints in a freshly plowed field. I jumped from the truck and took this video of it as it crossed the road in front of us." And for some reason the camera was completely out of focus and only had enough batteries for five seconds of filming.

Time was, you used to get a nice, long shot of fake Bigfoot. Now it's a measly five seconds? We can't take a minute out of our day, even for monsters. [Daily Mail via The Awl]!5785330/bigfoot-hoaxers-not-even-trying-anymore

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Edinburgh Haymarket ferret 'took London train'

Staff have named the ferret Mickey
22 March 2011

A ferret has been rescued from an Edinburgh station after apparently getting off a train from London.

The male ferret, named Mickey by animal welfare officers, was found at Haymarket train station on Monday.

He appeared on platform four at about 1900 GMT when the train from London was in the station.

Staff managed to catch the ferret, which is now being cared for by the Scottish SPCA. The animal charity is urging his owner to come forward.

Insp Jenny Scott, of the Scottish SPCA, said: "When I arrived to collect the ferret, the staff had managed to catch him and put him in a box.

"We're not sure if he has escaped from someone's house nearby or if he has ventured further and travelled all the way from England on the train.

"He's very friendly so he is obviously someone's pet.

"We'd love to return him to his owner as I'm sure they'll be missing him a lot."

The ferret is now being cared for at the charity's animal rescue and rehoming centre in Balerno.

Prehistoric reptile skin secrets revealed in new image

23 March 2011

By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News

A unique image, for the first time, has mapped organic compounds that are still surviving in a 50-million-year-old sample of reptile skin.

The infra-red picture reveals the chemical profile of the skin, offering an insight into how it was preserved.

A team of UK scientists say the sample was so well preserved that it was hard to tell the difference between the fossil and the fresh samples.

The details appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"It is a relatively new technique - I think we are the first people to apply it to palaeontology," said co-author Roy Wogelius, a geochemist from the University of Manchester, UK.

He told BBC News that the technology allows non-destructive analysis, meaning that it could be used on rare, valuable museum specimens.

"Now we can apply this organic technique [it] means that there is an awful lot of material that we can analyse in ways people did not realise were possible."

Possible specimens could include invertebrates, marine creatures and plant material, Dr Wogelius said.

He explained that the the infra-red mapping technique worked in a manner that was similar to a record player.

"What you do is you take something that transmits light, so if you take a very small needle - about the size of an old phonograph stylus - and make it so it can transmit light," he revealed.

"You can shine light down through the needle and then when the needle is in contact with the specimen's surface, a little of that light will be absorbed - that is the signal that we use.

"When there is a little more absorption at a certain frequency, that is a fingerprint for a particular organic compound."

Dr Wogelius explained that the team of UK and US researchers had attempted to use the technology before, on a sample from a sample known as "dino-mummy", a 67-million-year-old fossil that still had much of its soft tissue intact.

"This was one of the best preserved dinosaurs discovered, and we were able to show that there was organic compound from the skin remaining (on the fossil)," he observed.

"The problem was that the (sample) fell apart so easily, we could not map anything. So while we were confident that what we had was skin residue, we just could not see if there was any biological structure there."

Prehistoric 'whiff'

With the latest sample, Dr Wogelius said that the preservation was both remarkable and, perhaps more importantly, solid.

"It was also flat which made it very, very convenient to map it," he added.

"So we took this new technology... and the detail of what we were able to reveal was quite striking."

Using the infra-red technique, as well as a series of X-rays, the team were able to confirm that soft tissue was present on the fossil.

They were also able to offer a hypothesis on how the tissue had survived for 50 million years.

The details from the study suggest that when skin's organic compounds began to break down, they formed a chemical bond with trace metals that, under certain circumstances, then go on to build a "bridge" with the surrounding minerals.

A result of this process meant that the skin and remaining soft tissue was protected from further decomposition or further erosion.

"These new infra-red and X-ray methods reveal intricate chemical patterns that have been overlooked by traditional methods for decades," Dr Wogelius explained.

"We have learned that some of these compounds, if the chemistry is just right, can give us a bit of a whiff of the chemistry of these ancient organisms."

He went on to say that the team's findings had offered an insight into a number of area.

"By doing the infra-red analysis, we get some detail about the soft tissue that remains," he said.

"In fact, the chemical remains - in terms of the organic compounds - very closely resemble what we get when we look at modern gecko skin. That means that some of the organic components have been conserved over that period of time.

"Some of the trace metal chemistry is also original to the organism, and that give us hope in terms of understanding some bio-metallic complexes, in particular understanding the colouration and pigmentation of the skin.

"It is very exciting because we can start to pull out more detail."

Dr Wogelius said that this sort of information could unlock a better understanding of a range of research avenues, including prehistoric creatures' diets.

Australia urged to help halt Mekong dam

Ron Corben
March 10, 2011

Environmental groups want Australia's help to halt a $3.5 billion hydro-electricity power project on the Mekong River which has pitted our South-East Asian neighbours against each other.

Thailand and Laos want to press ahead with the Xayaburi Dam project, but Australia - through the Mekong River Commission (MRC) - has backed concerns by Vietnam and Cambodia over project.

The Xayaburi Dam in Laos is the first of 11 proposed hydropower developments on the lower Mekong River.

Concerns have been raised about the dam's impact on the biodiversity of the river and the 40 million people who depend on it for their livelihoods.

The United States has already called for development to be deferred for 10 years to allow further environmental impact studies to be carried out.

Environmental groups in Australia have also pressed Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to back calls for a stay on hydro-power development along the river.

Ame Trandem, a representative for environmental group International Rivers, says Australia needs to step up pressure on the commission given fears of the wider impact hydropower dams will have on the Mekong River.

"Australia should be applying more pressure on the Mekong River Commission to make sure that the four countries take a precautionary approach to the dams and that they are fully informed and aware of the impact the dams will cause," Ms Trandem said.

A decision on the project by the commission could come as early as March 22.

The Laos-based MRC is internationally donor sponsored, with Australia a key contributor.

The MRC advises the four countries - Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam - over the direction of development on the Mekong River.

Laos, in official statements, says it sees no reason for delaying the Xayaburi Dam, having met all legal, environmental and social measures.

In 2007, Laos signed a memorandum of understanding to sell 95 per cent of the electricity produced by the Xayaburi project to Thailand.

Financing and construction for the $3.5 billion development is also set to come from Thai banks and construction companies.

University of New South Wales political analyst, Carl Thayer, says Australia faces difficult diplomatic times given Thailand and Laos' ambition to press on with the Xayaburi hydro-power development.

"Vietnam's got Australia's ears," Mr Thayer said.

"Laos needs the money from selling electricity. All northeast Thailand and Vietnam are importers of electricity from Laos - it cuts the other way," he said.

"By Australia and environmentalists raising it, it is because the scientific evidence isn't clear enough. And be careful what you wish for because it could do irrevocable damage for downstream states," he told AAP.

"There's no win-win situation for Australia because each country (has its) own national interest in getting... the water and using its flow."

The 4900-kilometre Mekong River starts in the Tibetan Plateau, running through southern China, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia and onto the Vietnam's delta region to the South China Sea.

China has gone ahead with programs to dam the upper Mekong, while the Xayaburi Dam is the first planned construction on the lower Mekong's mainstream.

Climatologist Anond Snidvongs from Chulalongkorn University says dams will impact the region's agriculture.

"Dams are definitely going to affect the biodiversity, that's one thing. It's very clear and very well proven," he said.

Of key concern is the impact on fisheries on Cambodia's Ton Le Sap Lake and Vietnam's delta, both vital sources of food and income for millions of people on the Lower Mekong.

"Fish in the Mekong, they are both food and also economics. About one third of the economy of Cambodia at the moment relies on the exporting of fish (from the lake) to other countries, especially Thailand," Mr Anond said.

In Vietnam, a deputy minister of natural resources and environment warned the Xayaburi Dam would greatly affect Vietnam's agricultural production and aquaculture.

Reduced fresh water flows into the Mekong Delta in Vietnam would lead to greater saltwater intrusion into agricultural soils damaging rice output from the delta - the rice bowl of the country.
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