Monday, June 28, 2010

Goats betray their fellows, then pay the price

On an island off South Australia, a population of feral goats, descended from animals brought by settlers for their meat and milk, is following the usual routine of invasive species the world over. They're eating their way through the native plants, including one that's the main food source for the endangered black cockatoo.

By itself, hardly unusual enough to be worthy of mention. But here's where the really bad animals come into the story: the eradication effort, which involves what's being called "Judas goats."

From the Australian Broadcasting Corp:

The unwitting traitors are shipped over from the mainland, sterilised, fitted with radio tracking collars and released.

Project officer Nick Markopoulos says the program exploits the animal's sociable nature.

"Generally the goat will have about a week's sulk and once it gets over its week of sitting down and just adjusting itself to the new environment it's been released into, it will go off ... and find friends," he said.

"The feral goats are quite happy to accept them into their mobs and they fit right in."

The radio collars allow officials to find the group of feral goats and then, let's just say, they don't gather them up and take them to a goat shelter and adopt them out.

But what the Judas goats don't know is that they're going to pay the price for their collusion:

Mr Markopoulos predicts the island's feral population will be eradicated in a year.

Once they have done their job, the judas animals will also be destroyed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup Wildlife

As an American and not a sports fan, I may be prejudiced, but somehow I'm not surprised that the World Cup is bringing out the hooligan in our fellow species:

A parrot in England has caught World Cup fever - and she's added bad language to her taste for vodka and Coke and habit of bathing in beer:

Landlady Amanda Weston, 50, who runs the Duke of Albany pub in Weymouth, Dorset, said: "She loves watching the football and after Saturday's performance it was things like 'come on England you w*****s' and 'shoot the ref'.

Landlord Malcolm Weston, 52, said: "Roxy is a saucy bird. She does raise an eyebrow or two. She comes out with swear words I have never even heard of. I think she's brilliant."

On location at the World Cup itself, though, they've got more to worry about than a little bad language. We reported earlier on concerns that baboons that steal from cars would target tourists, but they're not confining themselves to either tourists or vehicles. Journalist Henry Winter gave a play-by-play of the action at breakfast one morning via his Twitter feed:
Baboons everywhere, grabbing bread off table. Kitchen cats hissing at them & staff seeing them off with pebbles & paint-ball gun. Score-draw.

Baboons just taken the lead - & the sugar, five sachets at a time, even the canderel, now sitting in trees, pouring sugar down throats. 2-1.

Baboons on roof now just out of range of gun-man firing small marbles. “I aim for the arse” says Mr Primate Control. Accurate up to 50 yards.

Nothing is sacred to these maruading primates - not even the athletes themselves and their innocent families. One bunch invaded a hotel room at a resort in Sun City occupied by the family of England's Peter Crouch.

The footballer's fiancee was quoted as saying "These three baboons jumped in, walked straight through the bedroom into the lounge to the fruit bowl, took what they wanted and walked out.” Clearly a levelheaded woman, she doesn't make it sound like much, but remember, these are baboons:

A source close to the family said: “One minute they were sat back having a bit of peace and quiet, the next thing they were confronted by these terrifying beasts.

“It all sounds funny to say some monkeys popped in and burgled them. The actual experience was anything but.

It was like having wild Alsatian dogs in the lounge with them. Fortunately they left without causing any harm.”

The family got off easy: The Johannesburg Times reports that they ignored warnings to keep sliding doors and windows locked in unoccupied rooms. Let's hope they learned their lesson.

Baboon with no respect for property from Flickr user tedlington.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lesson learned - maybe

Here's a warning to us all: the story of a British woman with a phobia of monkeys who couldn't leave well enough alone.

Her fear went back to when her father raised a chimpanzee, an animal she described as "positively evil." With more close-up and personal experience of non-human primates than most people, you'd think she'd realize that her fears were pretty rational, right?

But no. She decided to go on a trip to Thailand, to tour an island full of macaques and "confront her fears." Here's what happened, as reported in The Daily Mail:
After arriving on the beach, she decided to sit down and take in her surroundings.

'I thought I was heading for safety under this rock in the shade, only to cool down. I laid the towel down and there were no monkeys in sight,' said Mrs Darwell.

'The next thing I noticed, this monkey walked up next to me and I thought, "Oh dear". I began to stand up to move away.

'Then, the monkey took my wrist and pounced on my right arm, sinking his teeth in and hung off it.'

He wouldn't let go; he was locked on. I was absolutely petrified. I was shaking from head to foot and I froze,' she said.

'Then another, bigger monkey bit my arm, just next to the other one biting me, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by monkeys.'

She said three or four of the creatures began attacking her from all sides, grabbing her arms, legs and rear end, leaving bruises all over her body.

'I thought, "This is it, I'm going to die, I'm going to be savaged by these monkeys," then I went into shock,' she said.

Of course, if she'd read this blog, she'd know that macaques don't care for tourists and are just as horrible to the locals even in places where they treat them like gods. So what did she expect?

As you can see from the photos in the linked story, the woman seems to have recovered nicely, looking fairly cheerful in a brightly colored sundress despite her bandaged arms. Let's hope she's learned her lesson.

Macaque picture from Sky News. See the teeth? If you live in a nice safe country where these guys do not roam free, have the sense to count your blessings instead of purposely travelling to a place where they do!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Harsh penalty for cow seductress

From the Times of South Africa:

An 18-year-old man on Indonesia's resort island of Bali claimed he was seduced by a cow after being caught having sex with the animal.

A neighbour caught Gusti Ngurah Alit in the act on Sunday and immediately reported him to local authorities, village chief Embang Ida Bagus Legawa said.

"He was caught by one of the residents standing naked while holding the back of the cow," Legawa said.

On Friday, Alit underwent a cleansing ritual in which he was bathed and the cow was drowned in the sea to rid the village of bad luck.

Alit said he did not see a cow but a beautiful young woman. "She called my name and seduced me, so I had sex with her," he said.

He had to pay 2,000 old coins as a traditional punishment while the village chief paid the owner of the cow 5 million rupiah (545 dollars) in compensation.

OK, I'm usually an advocate of placing blame on animals that have earned it instead of humans making excuses for them. And I'm not suggesting Alit should have been drowned as well. Still, the difference in penalties here does seem a bit harsh. Can't we find a middle ground?

Pretty cow by Flickr user GuruAnt.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bad birds and buildings

Avian architecture critics? A bird has put a temporary stop to one building, and a bunch of them have caused a fuss by bypassing one building for another. And as is typical, some of the humans involved don't know whose side they are on.

In England
, a goose has put a hold on a one million pound building project:

The bird has laid three eggs right in the middle of the building site and has been given her own bodyguard to protect her and her brood.

Security guard Jake Fielding has been assigned to give the Canada Goose 24-hour protection and takes his duties extremely seriously.

A spokesman from Fitzgerald admitted that the goose was a source of both amusement and annoyance.

He said: 'The goose has been her for about three weeks now, and she's settling in quite nicely, which is unfortunate for us."

In California, some birds have apparently retired from their career as a tourist attraction to spend their time at a golf course.

The famous swallows that nest at the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano bypassed their traditional summer home for a newly built country club with a golf course:

Facility director Travis Blaylock says the birds' arrival took everyone by surprise.

"I saw a few one day and then it's like they went and told all their friends, 'Hey, I found the spot,'" he says. Soon, thousands of swallows were busily building their conical mud nests.

It took the colony about a week to spit together hundreds of nests along the eaves. Blaylock said their collaborative effort impressed staff and club members.

"If only the contractors I've hired in the past worked as well as these birds," he says with a laugh.

The club's PGA golf pro, Bob Emmons, gave the birds two thumbs up for style.

"What really impresses me is how they color coordinated the nests with the building," he says with a wry smile.

The birds cause extra cleanup because of debris that falls from their nest, and there's the other obvious problem:

Blaylock, who is chief bird watcher and guardian, keeps six extra shirts in his office.

"I've been bombed twice in one day," he says. "I've learned my lesson." He's quick to warn visitors to close their mouths when they look up at the nests and swooping swallows.

Despite this, the staff are inexplicably enthusiastic about the intruders. While the Mission is working with an ornithologist to come up with a plan to lure the birds back, the golf course would be pleased to have them back next year.
"We have everything they need right here at the clubhouse," Blaylock says. "Why would they go anywhere else?"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bad bird briefs

Along with the crows taking a cigarette break in the photo, some birds and their vices in the news.

A wandering parrot returns to its bad habits, From the Times UK:

A parrot that escaped from its home in Brockley, South London, was lured back with a glass of red wine and crisps. Reggie was missing for more than 24 hours before its owner, Hubbell Walker, decided to put the treats on the windowsill. Mr Walker, 27, said: “He loves Pringles and red wine — he’s quite an unhealthy parrot really.”

In Australia, a kookaburra is on a diet. After four weeks of carefully attended spa treatment, the bird is still too fat to return to normal life:
The female bird had a weigh-in on Monday and tipped the scales at 481g - 20g short of its target.

It can't be released back into the wild unless it can shed those last grams, the zoo said.

A local Mosman resident found the over-fed Australian native bird being chased by dogs at Rawson Park on May 4.

It weighed 545g, 40 per cent more than the typical kookaburra, and was unable to take flight.

"I've seen many kookaburras, but never before have I seen one so fat," Taronga Zoo wildlife hospital nurse Gemma Watkinson said in a statement.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Animals vs. Law Enforcement continued: Traffic Division

Despite the fact that dogs love to go for a ride in a car, animals and vehicles are not a good mix. Spring is a particularly bad time of year, when the weather warms up and all kinds of creatures start to dash around, so involved in looking for fresh food and other animals to have sex with that they don't bother to look both ways before crossing the street.

Big wild animals are the most familiar risk. In Maine, authorities are urging motorists to slow down and look for moose, which have already caused at least one highway fatality. "Moose is Maine's most deadly animal," said one official.

But all kinds of animals can cause these problems. Not all are wild: a wandering cow sent two people to the hospital after collisions in Texas. And some are not large at all: a highway in Greece was shut down when millions of frogs crossing it were causing cars to slide off the road.

Elsewhere, officials are doing more than just talk to convince drivers of the danger. In Germany, they've staged crash tests with the model wild boars in the photo above, and the result might convince some drivers to forget about driving and take the train:

But why are we the only ones getting the warnings? 27 humans died and 3,000 were injured in 2009 in Germany, but also, "hundreds of thousands" of animals. Animals can't read the newspaper, but something needs to be done to make them look around and take notice - why isn't someone laminating those photos and passing them around some forests?

Photos from Germany's ADAC auto club via Der Spiegel.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Animals vs. Law Enforcement

In California
, a win: Just making the local news now is a victory back in March, when Santa Cruz county animal services finally caught a stray dog they called Highway Man.

When drivers reported the dog hanging out near a highway exit, authorities feared he'd cause accidents by getting into traffic. It was the start of an extended battle.

"We literally went out there 80 times," [field supervisor] Stosuy said. "All I ever saw of him was his butt because every time he would just run away."

On five to 10 occasions, California Highway Patrol shut down the highway for 10 minutes at a time as Animal Services tried to catch Highway Man.

"He ingested tranquilizers, but didn't go down," Stosuy said. "It was pretty intense. We finally camouflaged the trap so well that it looked like a cave. We rubbed it down with lamb's neck so he could get the scent.

"We finally trapped him on March 31. We weren't ready to give up, but we were starting to think that we would never get this dog."

And what was Highway Man trying so hard to avoid? See the photo above. He's now lying on a comfy blanket in a nice foster home, waiting to be adopted.

In Berlin, a draw: May is crow attack season in the German city. Chicks of the hooded crow begin to leave the nest, and mother crows aggressively "protect" them from innocent passerby who are perceived as threats:

The tabloid Berliner Kurier on Wednesday reported that a cyclist near the Stasi archives was bloodied and needed medical attention after a crow attack. "It was like a Hitchcock horror film," one bystander told the paper. "They simply pecked away! And their beaks aren't so small either."

Of course, as usual, some make excuses, such as the head of a conservation organization:

The strikes vary in scope from threatening dive-bombs to full-on pecking blitzes. But Sorges says that often, too much are made of the attacks. "The attacks are more of a terror and shock for people than they are dangerous," Sorges says. "If a crow does make contact, the injuries are minimal, but nasty scrapes and blood make the attacks look more dramatic than they really are."

Police are swinging into action this year, Der Spiegel reports - but unfortuately their efforts are not too impressive:

Officials have put up red and white tape around the entrance and exit to a central-Berlin parking lot at the archives of the former East German Secret Police, the Stasi, in central Berlin. The area has the look of a crime scene.

A sign at a nearby crosswalk gives notice to pedestrians: "Warning: Aggressive Crows."

(And they litter, too - photo of crow taking trash out of a bin in Berlin by Flickr user colinruminant.)