Monday, May 30, 2011

Three Bad-Animal Weekend

For the holiday, a few quick headlines, posted in-between Blogger outages:

Mutant turtles terrorize London ponds

California family finds mountain lion in garage

Nazi scientists tried to create an army of talking dogs

Also, it's a good time to make sure you didn't miss the classic post about squirrels behaving badly on Memorial Day.

Photo of poster publicizing fearsome Maryland relative of those London terrapins by Flickr user clearly ambiguous.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crowdsourcing the war on bad animals

Last week we saw that some researchers are bravely documenting bad animal behavior. This week they're doing it again, but this time, it's not just for science. They're hoping to do something to stop it, and enlisting average people to help.

The news comes out of Australia, where animals from other places have a history of laying waste to the ecosystem - including cane toads, rabbits,and in this case, camels.

Feral camels in the Australian outback are multiplying out of control, ravaging the native wildlife and disturbing human communities as well. They can be particularly destructive in their search for water, an expert told Discovery News: "When water is short, they go for running water. They will take pipes and air conditioning units off of walls, and smash up toilet systems."

Efforts to control the camels require information about where they are, so officials have started a website where sightings can be reported.

So if there's anyone out there in the outback reading this blog: You don't have to let bad animals get away with it. Do your part: If you see something, say something.

Is that camel by Tambako the Jaguar laughing at us? Don't let her get away with it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

World Turtle Day is Not Safe for Work

Last week, I knew that World Turtle Day was on the way, but I wasn't sure if there was a way to mark the occasion on this blog. There just isn't that much news about turtles and tortoises behaving badly.

Then on Friday I want to my volunteer gig at the zoo and was asked to clean the Aldabra tortoise exhibit, and I thought, how could I have forgotten? Not only is this a disgusting job, it was accompanied by a disgusting spectacle, with a disgusting soundtrack of loud moans and groans. In fact at one point both of the huge males attempted to mate with the smaller female at the same time.

Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me, but you can always count on the internet for pictures of sex, right? So enjoy - if that's the word - these pictures of tortoises behaving badly by Flickr users derpunk, schristia, and David Berkowitz.

And if that's not enough, did you doubt that there'd also be video? Particularly unsafe for work with the sound on. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hey, we're not the only ones!

For some reasons humans cherish the illusion that animals are better than we are. Some still believe that humans are uniquely violent, that animals only kill their own kind when they need to. Well, sure, if when they "need to" is when babies are inconvenient, when they want territory... you get the picture.

Now we may be joined in yet another "unique" human offense by our close relatives. Scientists have discovered that in Uganda, chimpanzees may be hunting red colobus monkeys to extinction.

One less thing for us to feel uniquely guilty about! Although, the monkeys may have a chance: The population has been declining for at least three decades, but lately for some unknown reason, the chimps have been hunting less, so the youngsters aren't learning how to do it as well.

Will the colobus be saved because these kids today are are lazy and shiftless? Only time will tell.

Watch out, that chimp by Flickr user Tambako the Jaguar has teeth and knows how to use them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not safe in our own homes

A home invasion committed by a feral cat resulted in an attack so bad that Texas resident Charles Gibson needed to be airlifted to a hospital:

It was around 1 p.m. when investigators said Gibson came home and found a 20-pound tabby standing in the middle of his living room staring back at him. Scared, police said, the man grabbed a knife to try to protect himself.

But seconds later, the feral cat attacked him in the bathroom, authorities said.

Gibson admitted he stabbed the cat multiple times, but could not remember anything else.

When medics arrived, he was bleeding profusely and was rushed to the hospital.

If you've got a strong stomach you can watch a news video with a quick view of one of his stitched-up injuries here. At the time of that report, Gibson was home, but it's not over - doctors said he would need additional surgery.

According to the video, the cat got in because the front door was left open. Think you live in a neighborhood that's safe enough to leave your doors unlocked? Maybe you should reconsider.

Photo by Flickr user sonjalovas. I don't know what I think about that company's logo - I wouldn't be so sure that cat's on my side.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Not above the law

Last week we saw a small dog with the force of the law behind her bad behavior. This week we're encouraged to see movement in the opposite direction.

Celebrities often act like the rules are made for someone else. But the city council in Brighton, UK is standing up to a bad animal despite his fame.

Bodhi, the skateboarding terrier, is all over the internet. You can follow him via his owner Jonathan Fell's Twitter account, Flickr photos like the one above, and You Tube videos. He's appeared on the website People Pets, in Skateboarding magazine... and he's also been in the newspapers, where not everyone is so enthusiastic.

Back in February, Fell was warned that he and his dog risked being fined and issued an ASBO, which for you non-Brits, is an Anti-Social Behavior Order.

What's the problem with this charming activity? In many communities, of course, skateboarding itself is seen as anti-social behavior, with kids endangering innocent pedestrians and public infrastructure by doing dangerous stunts on property that's not designed to stand up to the abuse.

But for a dog, there's an additional issue: The leash laws.

Fell poo-pooed the complaints: "As far as I am concerned if Bodhi is under control he is not causing a problem. He is always under control. If I call him he comes to me and sits," and told The Telegraph that if he was the first to get an ASBO for a skateboarding dog, "I would be proud of that. I would hang it on the wall. He is not doing anything wrong, it is a joke, Bodhi is no criminal."

But authorities disagree. This week, after two women complained about tripping over the skateboard, Fell was fined eighty pounds for having Bodhi off-leash.

He has two weeks to pay up, otherwise he may have to appear before the authorities and pay a penalty of a thousand pounds.

A spokesperson for the city council, obviously sensitive to the implication that they are spoilsports, said "We know Bodhi's antics are an amusing sight and the dog and spectators appear to enjoy it. But when people start getting hurt and we receive complaints we have a legal duty to act."

The spokesperson also pointed out that enforcing the leash laws was not the same as prohibiting skateboarding: Bodhi is free to legally continue skating in the local parks.

There's a time and a place for everything. Such reasonable restrictions, however, are often ignored by human skateboarders. Will the dog set a good example? We will continue to follow this story.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A word from our sponsor

Taking a break from regular blogging to say: Buy my new book!

Although the wombat prominently featured in this mystery does not try to kill anyone and the sloths do not dive into sewers, just a bit of the jacket copy should convince you that it is appropriately mentioned on this blog:

Everyone comes to the zoo to see the charming yearly ritual of elephants playfully stomping pumpkins at Halloween. Small mammal keeper Hannah usually thinks it's not fair--why do the big animals get all the attention? But this year the fun turns deadly: Victor, lover of charismatic zoo director Allison, is found dead in the elephant yard--where he'd been left with a pumpkin carved to fit his head.

You can read a sample chapter here.

And in other shopping news:

This bad animal t-shirt is on sale for only ten dollars for a limited time over at Toothpaste for Dinner. If you've got any money left after ordering my book, go for it!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dog fought the law... and the dog won

In a legal setback in the battle against bad small dogs, a Mississippi appeals court recently overturned a decision awarding $130,000 to a woman who was almost attacked by a four-month-old, four-pound dachshund puppy called Sophie.

The basic facts of the case of Penny Pinchers vs Outlaw (I am not making that up) as reported by legal blogger Philip Thomas:

Sophie's owner took her to work with her at Penny Pinchers. The rest is history. Outlaw—being afraid of dogs—ran for the back of the store upon entering and hearing Sophie bark. Outlaw could hear Sophie's claws on the floor and, I presume, her jaws snapping.

When Outlaw saw it was little Sophie, she laughed and resumed shopping. Large quantities of catfish and sugar were on her list. But Outlaw was soon hysterical with pain in her bum hip. An ambulance was dispatched. The lawsuit followed.

The appeals court concluded that Outlaw had not proven that the presence of the dachshund met the standard for a "dangerous condition" that Penny Pinchers could be legally responsible for, and notes that "we must consider that Sophie was a four pound puppy at the time of the incident."

Apparently the Mississippi judge hasn't read my post on the study that says that dachshunds are one of the breeds most likely to bite. The only reason we're safe from these monsters is that they tend to pick on victims their own size: they've been known to maul babies, and in some cases (reported here and here), dachshund attacks on infants have been fatal.

And they may have more than babies in the sights. Let's not forget the cases where other cute small dogs have tried to consume their owners bit by bit.

That photo is the last thing you'll see if you die by dachshund puppy attack. Don't underestimate them because they're little... especially now that they have the law on their side.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My evil favorites, continued

OK, I haven't run across a story of murderous capybaras yet. But we've got breaking news that rounds out the evil lurking in my favorite family.

You'd never guess they are relatives, but anteaters and sloths are both members of a group called xenarthrans.

We've already seen those adorable critters committing birdicide and diving into poop.Now it's been discovered that the third member of the family, the armadillo, is making us sick.

Armadillos had previously been considered good guys in the story of leprosy.Because they are susceptible to it, they could be used in research to study the disease.

But now, genetic analysis reveals that about 1/3 of the cases of leprosy in the US each year originate from armadillos.

Now, on the bright side, this is only true of the nine-banded armadillo, which is not the cutest one: so far we're still safe from the adorable three-banded:

And despite the traditional terror associated with leprosy, it's not as big a deal in modern as in Biblical times. If caught early, it can be cured with antibiotics. And it's not actually that contagious - transmission requires extended, close contact. So the only people at risk are the ones that cuddle armadillos - or eat them.

But I know - I'm just making excuses. If you're also still not convinced, don't miss this video of a vicious attack.

First photo by Flickr user Leppyone, who adds to the problem by making that animal look so artistic.