Monday, December 31, 2012

Bird sent to re-education camp in China

From The Telegraph, one of those rare cases where the people in charge stand up to a bad animal - let's hope to see more of this in the coming year:

Bird in solitary confinement after abusing zoo visitors

Chinese zookeepers have sentenced a Vietnamese bird to solitary confinement after visitors taught the animal to greet tourists with a barrage of expletives
Initially the birds, imported to the Chinese zoo from Vietnam, were a success, winning visitors over with their “lovely appearances and clever tongues”.
But in recent weeks zookeepers noticed something was wrong. Instead of greeting tourists with the customary “Ni hao” (Hello), one bird started hurling insults at zoo-goers.
Zookeeper Li Yun told the newspaper he had been appalled by the animal’s sudden outburst. “The Myna has a good memory,” he said.
“Maybe some tourist taught the bird this bad language.”
To avoid contaminating its cage mates, the animal, which was not named, has reportedly been placed in solitary confinement where it is undergoing “special training”.
Keen to rehabilitate the foul-mouthed bird, zookeepers have been playing it tapes containing “polite words”. Future offenders will be deprived of food, the newspaper added.
Meanwhile visitors have been asked to refrain from teaching cuss words to the birds. “Human behaviour will affect the animals,” Mr Li said. A sign has also been erected at the zoo. “'Please do not use foul language to get a rise out of the Myna,” it says.
Video of mynah setting a good example by Flickr user istolethetv.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Anticipating a lively Year of the Snake

The coming new year will be the Year of the Snake, and although the Chinese new year doesn't start for a couple of months, already the reptiles are getting more attention in Asia, with pet snakes reportedly becoming more popular as well as brisk sales of other snake-themed items.

This will no doubt result in snakes getting uppity and causing more trouble than usual, but as we often observe on this blog, people are usually afraid of the wrong things when it comes to animals. No doubt you think the greatest thing to fear is snakebite, but since most snakes are not venomous, being bitten by a snake is not actually that big a deal. I've been bitten by many and my reptile keeper friends unanimously agree that we'd rather be bitten by a snake than a dog.

So it's the sneaky threats that we should pay more attention to - for instance one of the most insidious is their habit of causing electrical outages by slithering into substations and other equipment and causing short-circuits. An even more unanticipated trend is shown by a couple of cases in Australia:

- In Queensland, a mother discovered that her three year old son was raising a clutch of seven highly venomous brown snakes. He'd collected the eggs and put them in his wardrobe for safety, where they had stayed warm and hatched out.

-In Darwin, a mother snake opted for professional child care instead: her 23 babies were living inside the wall of a day care (pictured above).

What you may take away from these two stories is that snakes are targeting our innocent children. But another way to interpret this is that snakes are trying to get us to raise their young for them, so who knows what else they've got planned.

Fortunately, Australians also provide some inspiration for standing up to these creatures with whatever comes to hand:

-A radio host in Darwin who calmly improvised a solution while the rest of his family panicked:
"My son yelled out to me to call the snake catcher - but I said, 'Nah, that's for soft cocks down south'," he said.
"It must have been quite a sight to see me walking down the street in my jocks holding a 2m snake."
The Mix 104.9 broadcaster said he was dishing up dinner when his wife Vicki let out a "bloodcurdling scream" from their bedroom about 9.30pm on Sunday.
"There was this snake with its head in my wife's handbag section of the wardrobe," he said.
Mr Davies, 56, was left to wrangle the reptile alone after his 20-year-old son turned his back on the catch and went to his bedroom.

Mr Davies said he used an old crab pot to make a crook before hooking the olive python's belly and pulling it out of the wardrobe.
-And another man who reportedly bit the head off of one of those highly venomous brown snakes, although he did tell reporters he'd had a few drinks beforehand and "said he would tell his four grandchildren what happened but hopes they won’t try it themselves."

I don't recommend the latter approach either, but for their attitude if not the specifics, let's keep these inspiring examples in mind in the coming year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday eve news briefs

-Carrying on the cat burglar tradition that we've seen many times before is a feline in New Zealand named Angus. Angus has had a habit of stealing things from around the neighborhood for a long time:
"Angus had always liked bringing us gifts over the years. In the past he's brought us bread rolls, a toy skunk, kids shoes, a gumboot, pie wrappers, a box of pantyliners, a poi, a red fluffy dogs bone, and a half-eaten subway, to name a few."
But in mid-December his habit escalated to the point of bringing home two or three items a night, and attracting the attention of the local news. Everyone seems mystified but it seems that this is no doubt due to the imminent holiday - what do you expect, given his owner's misguided description of these items as "gifts."

-Some people might find doves hanging around the house to be a festive seasonal addition, but not a woman in Germany who recently reported to police that she was being stalked by a pigeon:
The exasperated woman told officers on Monday that the blue-grey pigeon had been a constant presence at her side for the past three weeks. She said the "strange bird" had been hanging round in her garden or on her terrace constantly, and seemed to be looking for some kind of "familial connection."
 Even once it had been chased out, the persistent pigeon would perch on a nearby branch and wait for the next opportunity to present its credentials as a potential companion.

But the animal failed to recommend itself: when it did get in, the stubborn animal would "leave traces that no good housewife would want in her home," the police report said.
-Finally, two donkeys try to take advantage of their traditional seasonal role as cover to make a break for it:
The pair named Benny and Maria had managed to find a way out of their stable on the outskirts of the city and had wandered undisturbed all the way into the centre where they then went through the automatic doors into the station.

A police spokesman said: "We were surprised they managed to get so far without somebody raising the alarm but we think a lot of people just assumed it was some sort of Nativity stunt. Any other time of the year we would have probably had a lot more calls – but as it was it was only when they ended up at the train station that passengers started calling realising it wasn't safe."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Not all bird attacks are hoaxes

As a bad animal watcher, I was disappointed yesterday to find out that that viral video of an eagle snatching up a toddler was actually a class project in a digital animation program.

Disappointed, you say? Yes, because finding out that this was a hoax means that people will let their guard down. But just because that particular bird of prey was a fake doesn't mean these animals are not a hazard.

Take the recent case of an eagle owl that was making itself at home in a neighborhood in Devon, England. Owls are strangely fashionable these days, practically a mascot of cute for young hipsters and crafters. No doubt this reputation influenced residents who developed a fondness for the bird, one of whom even allowed it to make itself at home in his living room. "He isn’t harming anyone. He was like a pet cat," said the man.

Well, perhaps he was, seeing that we've seen cat attacks so bad that people ended up in the hospital, but soon enough it became clear to others that a predator with a six foot wingspan is not a good neighbor. One local said he'd stopped letting his children play in the yard after the bird attacked their gardener, scratching him on the neck and drawing blood. Another said:
“We haven't been able to let our three young grandchildren out in the garden for months. We got more concerned when the owl tried to attack our poodle Minnie.”
A perfect example of how confused people are about these matters, observe this same man's bizarre ambivalence after expressing relief at the news that the owl has been captured and moved to a wildlife sanctuary:
We love the bird to bits. We have seen it in our garden since February, but it was just the risk it was posing. We were beginning to feel really trapped in our home and it really has been a worry."
People: When a violent criminal is stalking your neighborhood, committing bloody attacks, and trapping you in your homes? It's OK to be happy when it's taken into custody. Even if it's an animal.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bad bird roundup

- Here's one we haven't seen in a while: Once again, animals in the Middle East are suspected of being secret agents. In Sudan, a vulture that was captured and found to be fitted with a GPS system and tags reading "Israel Nature Service" and "Hebrew University, Jerusalem" is accused of being an Israeli spy.  Yeah, sure, "migration study," that's what they all say.

-Even very small birds can interfere with business: In Scotland, a 24-hour supermarket has been forced to cut back its hours because of a robin (pictured above) and a pigeon:
An assistant at the supermarket said: “We’ve had to start closing the store for a while at 11pm, when it’s quiet. All the staff have to go to the staff room and wait while the birds are chased out of the store.”
-In a cemetery in Northern Ireland, thousands of decorative stones had been disappearing from graves over a period of weeks. Locals were baffled, but if only people read this blog they'd solve these cases sooner: it was another case of grave-desecrating crows.

Finally, a woman visiting a family member's grave caught the birds in the act, and the next day, the caretaker saw the culprits - and their lookouts - for himself:
"They stripped the grave bare, it was unbelievable.Some crows stood on the headstone looking around while the rest were picking the stones off the grave."
When the solution to the mystery was reported to the person who'd first noticed the missing stones, she was reportedly 'delighted.' Perhaps she thinks it will be easier to thwart a bird than a human criminal. But as we've seen before, those birds can hold a grudge. So good luck, but they can't say I didn't warn them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More bad cats

As longtime readers of this blog know, there's nothing new about cats roaming neighborhoods, stealing things.

But a cat in England recently added a new technological twist to this. A spate of missing keys in a neighborhood in London turned out not to be an epidemic of contagious forgetfulness, but the work of a cat named Milo who wore a magnetic collar.

The collar was designed to open a cat door, but Milo's owner discovered that she had found another use for it when she caught the cat arriving home with a set of keys dangling from her collar.
She found 12 sets of keys in her back garden and eight dotted around her home – as well as another six sets which were found in neighbour's gardens after they dropped off Milo's collar as she prowled through their gardens.
She said she had also found dozens of metal items scattered around her house, including nails, pins, screws and bolts.
The cat's owner says that "luckily neighbours have seen the funny side of it," but it's sobering to think of what a less ethical cat owner could do with the idea. However, anyone in England thinking of enlisting a cat as a partner in crime should think twice. Not only are cats untrustworthy, it's possible that police are cracking down: in Kent, two officers were recently sent to investigate a cat that stole a roast chicken from a neighbor's kitchen.

The incident has raised controversy amid claims that the cost of dispatching the officers on such a case added up to £2,000.  But the victim says that this was "the tip of the iceberg" of a long string of offenses and the chicken was merely "the last straw."

And a police spokesperson defended the response:
"The caller raised issues to do with a cat but also ongoing concerns for her quality of life."
As a cat owner myself, I know exactly what they mean.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Important lessons

Have got all my fingers back but not 100%, but fortunately these are stories that mostly speak for themselves:

-Just after the incident in our last post, more tourists learn why you don't pet the top predator in an ecosystem, this time in Mexico:
A Swedish couple honeymooning in Cancun, Mexico, were left terrified after being attacked by a dolphin during a swim-with-the-dolphins session held at a marine park.
The eight people were told by the dolphin trainer to splash the water and have the dolphins reciprocate. All was well at first said Cadbrand, until a young woman screamed that she had been bitten. A few seconds later, a middle-aged woman was bitten by the same dolphin who then turned its attention to Cadbrand and bit her on the thigh. Picasso returned once more to attack the middle-aged woman and then began to head back towards Cadbrand. 

 -Why you don't keep pet primates, part 1:
Marla Reeves said she was delivering mail in the mailbox at 4:38 p.m. on County Road 2345 when the lemur jumped into her vehicle, bit her hand and arm and then jumped out.
"I was fixing to pull away and when I looked back to pull away that's when I felt the pain in my hand," Reeves said. "I looked at my hand and the lemur was on my hand and I lifted up my arm like this and blood was running down my arm."
Of course the lemur's owner defended the animal:
"He’s like family. He’s very loving. He gives hugs and kisses and likes to sit in our laps, where he often falls asleep. We have a bed in his room that I sometimes sleep in and he will get under the covers and hold my finger while he falls to sleep. He’s very sweet natured.”
And yet in the very next paragraph:
Over the years, the owner and her daughter have tried to ensure the safety of the both the lemur and visitors by placing the animal in its room when guests were scheduled to come by for a visit, requesting notification from all friends, family and service people prior to their arrival.
Not how you have to manage most "sweet natured" members of a household, is it?
-Why you don't keep pet primates, part 2: Because your illegal monkey is a bad partner in crime. Everything would have been fine if a macaque in Toronto had kept a low profile, but no:
A monkey wearing a miniature shearling coat and diapers was collected by animal services on Sunday afternoon, after shoppers spotted the animal in the parking lot of a Toronto Ikea store.
The owners, who were shopping in the store at the time, have come forward to claim the monkey, Toronto Police Sgt. Ed Dzingala told CBC News.
Dzingala said that the animal was in a car in the parking lot and it somehow let itself out of its crate.
But since I'm always making fun of people who don't understand anything about animals, let's give a small amount of credit where it is due:
While it was not immediately clear why the monkey was in the parking lot, the animal was presumed to be someone's pet, an Ikea spokesperson said, because "he was wearing a jacket." 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Technical difficulties

I have only one typing hand because I fell - ironically, not over a pug or cat - and broke my wrist. So today is just links, but, what links:

Fox steals cell phone, sends text

Snake on a plane!

Gobbler gridlock: Officials on hunt for brazen fowl that blocks traffic 
   Don't miss the actual Wanted poster
Sea World dolphin bites girl

Just one comment from me, on the last one: People, these animals are top predators in their ecosystem. It makes as much sense to have children petting them as to have them petting full-grown tigers. What are you thinking, Sea World? If nothing else, what is your insurance company thinking?

Dolphin teeth long past being disguised by cuteness by Flickr user hynkle.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday shopping guide

Once again, it's our annual guide to gifts that will help spread the truth about animals or give bad animals what they deserve.  And what more effective way to spread the truth than to wear it on your chest? Over at Topatoco they've got a whole category of t-shirts of Animals Doing Things That They Aren't Supposed To Be Doing. I especially recommend this excellent symbolic representation of the true nature of dolphins (catch up with the archives here if you don't believe it).

Know any cats? You need an inflatable Unicorn Horn for Cats from Archie McPhee. That'll show 'em.

And of course, the best way to inform your friends who don't get it about animals: of course you're going to get them the book. (And as this post about the best gifts for a writer explains, that would be an excellent gift for me too!) Full of high-quality animal offensiveness, much never seen on the blog!

Holiday shipping deadlines are fast approaching, so get going on that clicking, and on Thursday we'll return to our regular bad animal news.

PS: If you like the illustrations in the book (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?) my illustrator's t-shirt company is going out of business, so don't miss your last chance to order at