Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birds interfering with the American way of life

In Hawaii, an endangered seabird has put an end to a community's right to spend Friday evening watching their sons run around on a field crashing into each other and possibly risking brain damage.

The young of the Newell's shearwater apparently choose the middle of football season to fly from their nests to the ocean. Every year about thirty of them are disoriented by the bright lights of the football stadium and fall to their deaths. The Kauai Interscholastic Federation has been forced to move its high school football games to Saturday afternoons or risk a fine of $30,000 per dead bird.

You might think it's the same football game no matter what day it's played, but according to Hawaii News Now, this Friday night tradition is "practically sacred." One parent said:

"It's about bringing the community together, it's more than just a football game, it's a way of life."

And State Representative Jimmy Tokioka was quoted as saying, "to just go without having football games at night is really going to hurt the social fabric of our community."

If this really is all they've got, something has to be done about this tragedy, and maybe the culprits can be part of the solution. Who wants to volunteer to go to Hawaii and teach everyone how to go bird-watching?

Artist's vision of birds protected from football injury from Birdorable.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lemurs on the Lam

Two lemurs caused a commotion in Salzburg, Austria after escaping from a zoo and roaming the city for a week.

Reports had them attacking laundry, turning over backyard furniture, raiding orchards and harrassing pets. But every time zookeepers were dispatched to capture them, they had moved on.

They did seem to have a civilized side to their behavior, though, as one report described:

The saucy animals walked through several neighborhoods, climbed over roofs and trees, yet they also used the sidewalks in a most exemplary manner.

It was these tendencies that were their downfall. No doubt tired of the unaccustomed effort of scaring up their own meals, the pair eventually tried to get served in a hotel bar.

Grunauerhof hotel manager Andreas Hasenohrl said: "I couldn't believe it when I came in for work in the morning. It looked like they were looking for something to drink - they were playing with the bottles. But I gave them a real banana instead and quickly shut all the doors and windows."

Keepers were then able to escort them back to the good life at the zoo where their meals are delivered by trained staff. Let's hope they've learned their lesson.

(Thanks for the translation to the blog's official German-language correspondent; note that the photo is from the zoo's website but is not identified as the culprits and may be two totally innocent lemurs, if there is such a thing.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Moko behaves badly no more

It's not often that we get to note the passing of a prominent badly behaved wild animal.

Moko the dolphin was such a well known figure in New Zealand that he was given a funeral and buried in a casket with flowers on top. Speakers at the ceremony, like the woman in this video, said things like:

"He swam in the water with all of us, and the water was filled with love."

Yes, this woman is talking about the same dolphin that we met some time ago, who was famous for "playing" with swimmers, as reported in The Telegraph under the headline "Delinquent dolphin causes terror in the surf:"

Six people have needed rescuing by lifesavers in recent days as the dolphin has become more aggressive.

Among them were two 12-year-old girls who were both injured when they were "mugged" by Moko for their boards.

And a 16-year-old surfer was stranded 500 yards offshore after the delinquent dolphin stole his board.

Gisborne man Dean Makara said he was knocked out of his kayak.

...In an earlier incident, an exhausted woman swimmer feared she would drown after Moko refused to let her return to shore because he had not finished playing with her.

An autopsy was performed, but the pathologists investigating Moko's death reported that they were unable to determine the cause.

Why am I the only one who seems to be wondering the obvious: Was it revenge?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Plenty of room to swing a lizard

Elephants: I have concluded that they are the dolphins of the land. People are totally infatuated with them: they're so intelligent, they have amazing memories, they mourn their dead, blah blah blah.

Somehow we manage to ignore the inconvenient facts, such as highway robbery and alcohol abuse and drunken rampages.

And while elephants may have heartwarming relationships with their fellow elephants, watch out if you're NOT an elephant. Even leaving aside the humans they kill on their rampages - as well as the occasional zookeeper - they're not very nice to their fellow animals.

Take just one other species: there are reports of elephants serially murdering rhinos, as well as video of a male elephant, to put it delicately, sexually harrassing one.

And what's the elephant doing in that picture at the top of this post? In India this elephant captured this LIVE lizard, and for several days, tossed it and swung it around, sometimes dropping it and picking it back up.

The story reporting this incident says of elephants, "Some experts even believe the animal possesses an intuition that allows them to imagine what other elephants are feeling."

Thanks to the persistence of one lucky photographer, now the world knows that their empathy obviously doesn't extend to reptiles. That probably makes them about the same as the majority of humans, of course, but is that any excuse?

See more photos of this despicable animal cruelty at the Daily Mail.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy (?) National Pet Fire Safety Day

Despite feeling that animals should take responsibility for their bad behavior, I'm all for keeping my pets out of harm's way. But that's not our assignment here, so the press release for National Pet Fire Safety Day wasn't something I expected to be relevant to this blog.

Boy, was I wrong:
“National Pet Fire Safety Day”

Prevention Tips to Keep Pets from Starting Home Fires

- New Data Says Pets Start Nearly 1,000 Fires Each Year-

Of course, this isn't a complete surprise. Despite reports of dogs saving their owners from fires, we've also reported on dogs that start them. Cats are certainly not innocent of the same, and the fact that at least some of them then raise the alarm doesn't lessen the blame.

The AKC gives some advice on how to keep your pets from starting fires, but they seem to vastly underestimate the possibilities. Sure, it's a great idea not to have open flames around the house whether you have a pet or not. But removing or covering stove knobs wouldn't have helped the people whose goat knocked over a space heater or the ones whose alligator was suspected of doing the same

And don't think that just adding advice to be careful with those space heaters will eliminate the problem - ask the people whose fan outlet was blocked by a bird's nest. Nor will it do anything to prevent what can happen to people who are stupid about animals, like the man who set his house on fire while trying to kill a spider with a lighter.

So go ahead and cover those knobs, buy fake electric candles, and even be careful about giving your pets water in a glass bowl on a wooden deck.

But don't let those precautions give you a false sense of security, because - like the people whose dog started a fire by peeing on the vacuum cleaner - you never know what animals are going to come up with next.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More bad animal enablers in cat criminal conspiracy

As we've seen again and again on this blog, not only aren't animals punished for bad behavior, they're often rewarded for it. And here we go again:

When Oscar the cat was being fostered by a perfectly lovely couple in Portswood, England, you'd think he'd have been on his best behavior to increase his chances of finding a nice permanent home. Instead, he went on an astonishing spree of thievery:

Over the last three weeks Oscar has brought home dozens of socks, various ladies knickers, builder’s gloves, a knee-pad, a paint roller, rubber gloves and gardening gloves.

Earlier this week he brought home, one by one, ten pairs of children’s underpants.

At first Oscar brought home rather ragged items, but his foster family became concerned as he began to escalate to stealing nicer quality clothing and in particular women's underwear.

Worried about what the neighbors might think, they contacted the police. Exactly the right step to take, but did this lead to, say, an arrest? Was the cat sentenced to community service catching mice, even? Having had his crimes exposed, did he make any kind of restitution to his victims at all?

No! These cat-criminal-conspirators thought it was sufficient "to put their minds at rest that it’s only a cat pinching and not someone more unpleasant.” What's more, convinced that the items are meant as gifts, the couple has decided to reward the thief by giving him a permanent home:

Birgitt Weismantel, 56, who has been fostering Oscar from the Southampton Cats Protection charity since Christmas, said: “He brings them back as presents. We can’t give him back now as he makes such an effort with all these gifts... It was just so touching to see him come home every day with something for us."

Check out the original article at the Southern Daily Echo for video and the requisite "cat burglar" pun.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Never do a favor for a monkey

Readers of this blog know the risk of doing a good deed for a monkey. There was the Chinese fellow who took the trouble to teach his monkey martial arts, only to have them use their skills to attack him.

And there was the handicapped veteran who forgave his service monkey for an attack that landed him in the hospital - only to be attacked again the next week.

Sadly, another man in China had to learn his lesson the hard way.

A Chinese man who saved a one-armed, one-legged monkey says the primate has paid him back - by killing all of his chickens.

Li Chun, from Menghai village, Yunnan province, says the monkey has become a member of his family since he nursed it back to health.

It has become to devoted to the family and performs many chores around the home - but it also copies everything Li does.

When it saw him crack some eggs to make a meal it went into the hen coop and smashed all of the eggs it could find.

And when Li slaughtered a chicken, the monkey copied him and has since killed about 80 chickens, reports the Chuncheng Evening Post.

"From then on, whenever it's not occupied, it jumps into the chicken pen, and kills the chickens, no matter how big or small, and tries to pluck them," said Li.

"His record is nine chickens in one day. The lesson I have learned is to never slaughter a chicken in front of a monkey."

Thanks to Orange News UK for their hard work keeping the English-speaking world informed about animals behaving badly in China.

Monday, July 5, 2010

For animals, all's fair in love

There's a book called "Dogs Never Lie About Love." That's the sort of thing people like to believe, but in fact, deception is as common among other species as it is among our fellow humans. Much of this deception is geared toward the basic goals of food and, yes, love. Some animals, upon finding food, will use a predator alarm call so their buddies will run away and the liar doesn't have to share. Others will do the same to keep fellow males away from an attractive female.

Some deception methods are pretty sophisticated, like the orangutans who use leaves held up to the mouths when they call, so they sound like they're coming from a bigger animal.

In other cases, it's so basic that the animal's actual physiology has evolved to do the trick - like the male lizards who don't change to their adult coloration so they can sneak around mating with females right under the nose of a dominant male.

The latest scientfic discovery about animal liars shows that animals will also fake it to make sure their date sticks around when she shows signs of losing interest. Male topi antelopes were caught in the act, as reported by Science News:

Study leader Jakob Bro-Jørgensen noticed that when a female would start to wander away from a male’s territory, the male would look in the direction she was headed, prick his ears and snort loudly — the same snort the animals use when they’ve noticed a lion, leopard or other approaching predator.

“It was quite funny — it made me laugh,” says Bro-Jørgensen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Liverpool in England. “It’s such an obvious lie — clearly there’s no lion.”

Obvious, maybe, but apparently it works. The researchers played recordings and discovered that females couldn't tell the difference between lying snorts and truthful ones. A snorting male would get two or three more chances at mating, and they didn't hesitate to milk it - their snorts were lies nine times more often than they were true.

Let's face it: of course animals lie about love. It's too important not to. They'd lie about themselves on Internet dating sites too, if they had opposable thumbs to type with. The difference is our superior technology, not animals' superior moral nature.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More bad driving by dogs

We've seen dogs going for parking lot joyrides, crashing into storefronts, and when they're not driving cars irresponsibly, trying to eat them.

I can't decide: Do these stories not count as news anymore, or has it become such a tradition that I should keep reporting on them? But this one's got an extra twist that may call to mind the reports of dogs shooting their owners. From the St Petersburg Times:

Searching for oil leaks underneath his pickup truck, Christopher Bishop placed his Ford F-150 in neutral and left the driver's door open.

Unwittingly, Bishop also left himself vulnerable to his rambunctious bulldog, Tassey.

According to a Hernando County Sheriff's Office report, Tassey hopped into the truck and jumped around in the front seat, knocking it into gear and causing it to roll over the left side of Bishop's body.

Bishop, 43, was transported to Pasco Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

It's hard to know, of course, whether this dog had murderous intent or was just a terrible driver, since even cursory research reveals that bad driving by dogs is rampant. Along with the stories we've blogged about, our friends at Dogster dug up another handful going back to 2001, and I'm sure in-depth reporting would reveal many more.

But either way, perhaps it's time to start addressing this problem with some canine education: Maybe dog owners need to make sure their pets have not just a dog license but a driver's license too.

(Yes, I've used that photo before. But really, you can't see that one too often.)