Thursday, June 28, 2012

Apes learn to reverse surgery?

A bit late on this story from back in April, but it should not escape mention on this blog:

Conan, the twice-vasectomized former research chimp, has fathered yet another surprise baby at Chimp Haven.
That makes two for Conan, and there may be a third on the way.
That's the word from the Keithville sanctuary, following DNA testing to determine the paternity of Valentina Rose, born on Valentine's Day to 29-year-old Flora.
This surprised Chimp Haven employees because all of the male chimps in the group have had vasectomies. Especially Conan, who was re-vasectomized after another unexpected birth in 2006.
Flora's surprise pregnancy prompted a round of tests for the rest of the females in her group, which revealed yet another pregnancy. 42-year-old Ginger is expected to deliver in late July or early August.
Despite the fact that it doesn't seem to do any good, plans were underway to give Conan a vasectomy again. I don't have any idea what's going on here, but it's definitely bad behavior.

The only good chimp is a chimp statue, by Flickr user Haags Uitboro.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Should we call this a canine cat burglar?

It's been a while since we saw a kleptomanic kitty on the blog, perhaps because that sort of thing isn't even news anymore. In England, in Seattle and California, cats have been reported who collect stolen items from all over their neighborhoods: gloves, toys, shoes and even underwear. There are so many of these cats that the editor of the book wouldn't let me include them all, claiming they were boringly repetitive.

But I don't think we've ever reported on a similar canine criminal. So now, meet this Australian golden retriever:
Owner Michael Shaw explained that his eight-year-old pooch mysteriously turned up with an unopened loaf of bread on Sunday morning, dropping it on the front step and lying down proudly next to her freshly baked trophy.

It didn’t stop there. Gillie has since returned with a total of 12 full loaves of sliced bread and two packets of muffins, despite the fact the closest shop is a 10-minute drive away.

“She brings back things quite often, but normally it’s an old gumboot or something like that,” Mr Shaw, 25, said today. “The only thing she’s eaten is the first bag of muffins and there was a new fresh bag there this morning and it was untouched.”

Gillie’s modus operandi up to this point has been to deliver the loaves one-by-one at the front step, then lie amongst her baked booty proudly with a wag in her tail.

“It’s like she’s bringing us gifts - she just lies around all of them,” Mr Shaw said.
He is yet to hear from neighbours about any missing baked goods, so the mystery continues.

While this is the first doggy thief and hoarder of this sort that has appeared on the blog, let's be careful not to let this become a salvo in the eternal war between cat people and dog people. It's hardly evidence that dogs are more moral than cats: the only reason we don't hear of such cases more often is that so many places now have laws against letting dogs roam.  They have the means and motive, they just don't usually have the opportunity. And let's keep it that way.

Speaking of animal thieves, are you reading Animals Behaving Badly on Tumblr? If you're not, you missed a lemur with an umbrella. It's not too late!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bad animal longreads

I simply cannot keep up with the bad animals! Go and read these three stories, they all deserve your full attention:

-A first person account by a man who was nearly killed by a cow:
It's hard to comprehend just how big a cow is until you're underneath one, looking up at it. I've no idea what made her so angry – I've waved at cows before and they've always backed off. But this one seemed possessed. She was making the most terrible bellowing, bawling sound – I think she genuinely wanted to kill me.

-A warning for bunnyhugger types: A man in Oregon tried to save a mouse from a cat and is now in critical condition with plague. Yes, that plague. THE BLACK DEATH.

-And before you order any more of that delicious calamari: Squid can have sex with your mouth. Experts emphasize that this can't actually make your pregnant with squid, but does that really make it any better?

Photo by Flickr user - and person who was lucky to escape with his life - rick harrison.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Classics old and new

Animals interfering with transportation is an old theme on this blog, and two recent cases carry on the tradition:

-In New York City, a woman - welll, I'll let the Daily News tell it:
A hotel supervisor was forced to drop her pants in the middle of a full midtown subway car Friday — when a brazen rat darted up her trouser leg. Ana Vargas, 40, said she was sitting in an A train heading downtown as it approached the Columbus Circle station about 7:50 a.m. when the rodent suddenly sprang. 
“I thought it was my pants moving,” Vargas told the Daily News. “It just crawled up my leg. I shook it and nothing came out.” But then she realized she was being attacked. “I said, ‘Oh, my God — it’s an animal on my leg!’ ” she recalled. “He was very big. I was shaking, but nothing was coming out . . . I had to pull my pants down in front of everyone on the train.”
-This one is a twofer, also falling in the long tradition of animal drunkenness: A driver in northern France was forced off the road when a drunk deer stumbled in front of his car:
The driver was unharmed. But the police officers and firemen who rushed to the site were bemused. The deer was still there, bumbling across the road. They surrounded him in the central reservation on the road and noticed the deer clearly seemed under the weather - stumbling and disoriented.

It later emerged the deer was drunk after consuming one too many spring buds - a common cause of deer inebriation in spring.

And speaking of animals and people dropping their pants, we may be seeing the start of a new bad animal tradition. Recently we saw a man attacked by a bear while in an outhouse. And now an interesting story out of Sweden:

A half-naked 61-year-old Swedish man who was relieving himself in the woods got quite a start when a rampaging bear chasing an elk knocked him down – all as his wife recorded the unlikely chain of events with an iPad.

Last Sunday, Ola Åkesson left his normally tranquil summer cabin in the Ängraån nature reserve in northerneastern Sweden to take what he referred to as his “night time piss”.

Looking up as he heeded nature's call, Åkesson saw a baby elk on the other side of the stream.

“I called to my wife to get out the iPad to film the elk, when all of a sudden she screamed that there was a bear behind me,” Åkesson told The Local.

“I turned around and there was a huge bear right beside me – maybe half a metre away, I could have reached out and touched it – but I didn’t even have time to think.”

As the bear came charging onto the scene, Åkesson fell to the ground, all the while with his wife screaming in the background while filming the commotion.

Wondering how we've gotten to the end of this long post and still have no explanation of that seemingly unrelated photograph? Check out the new Animals Behaving Badly Tumblr, where we'll be collecting bad animal stories with particularly cool photos.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Possums vs Politicans

The most cursory search of this blog reveals that in Australia, animals are always out to get you,
from violent and perverted kangaroos to home-invading crocs to cute wombats gone mad, just to name a few.

And these animals are no respecters of status or precious cultural artifacts, as the Australian prime minister has found.

In the past Australian wildlife has been on Julia Gillard's side. When she was running for office in 2010, a crocodile correctly predicted the results of the election when it ate the chicken decorated with her photo, instead of one of her opponent.

But now she's narrowly escaped international embarrassment and been forced out of her official residence by some cute, fluffy Australian natives. She was hosting a dinner for a visiting foreign leader when suddenly all the guests were politely but quickly shooed out of the dining room. The reason, she told a reporter:
"It was because someone had spotted that wee was making its way down the wall to one of the very precious paintings from the National Gallery."
Due in part to these peeing possums living in the roof, she's moving out so the residence can be renovated.

Of course, news reports also noted that the 80-year old building badly needs new wiring and the removal of asbestos, and the possums are just the last straw for a project that's been neglected for decades. Perhaps these badly behaved marsupials are on her side after all?

Stand back from those possums in the rafters photographed by Flickr user Deirdre who knows better than to get too close, and thanks for the story tip to faithful reader Jennah Ferrara.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bad animal historical dramas

Major developments in a couple of very long-running stories, one that we didn't even know was a story till now:

-In Austria, a tale to dent in any faith you may have left in marriage: Two tortoises who've been a couple for 115 years are getting a divorce, or at least a trial separation. They had to be moved to separate cages after they started attacking each other:

Zoo boss Helga Happ said: "We get the feeling they can't stand the sight of each other anymore."
Zoo management have called in animal experts to try and give the pair counselling - feeding them romantic good mood food and trying to get them to join in joint games - but so far without effect.
Zoo boss Helga added: "They are both 115 years old - they have been together since they were young and grew up together, eventually becoming a pair.

"But for no reason that anyone can discover they seem to have fallen out, they just can't stand each other."
 -And in London, the discovery of what might be called a prequel to the research we celebrated on Dead Duck Day: On the Scott expeditions to the Antaractic in 1910-1913, scientist George Murray Levick observed Adélie penguins during their breeding season, and what he saw was deemed so shocking that it was basically suppressed till now:
During that time, he witnessed males having sex with other males and also with dead females, including several that had died the previous year. He also saw them sexually coerce females and chicks and occasionally kill them.
He omitted this sexual depravity from his published work on the species, reporting it only in a privately circulated paper that the Natural History Museum has unearthed and, finally, published.

The museum's curator of birds, who found the pamphlet, makes excuses both for Levick's concealment of the truth, and for the penguins:
"For example, a dead penguin, lying with its eyes half-open, is very similar in appearance to a compliant female. The result is the so-called necrophilia that Levick witnessed and which so disgusted him.... Levick was also a gentleman, travelling with a group of men in very difficult circumstances, witnessing behaviour he neither expected nor understood," said Russell. "It is not surprising that he was shocked by his findings."
I'm not sure any of that's an excuse, but it's only fair to say that Levick is not alone: here's part of what the author of the research on which Dead Duck Day is based says about the story:
I know what Levick must have felt. In 1995, it took me six years before I decided to publish my observation of (the first case of) homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.

I don't know what those Adelie penguins are doing in that photo by Flickr user StromPetrel, but it's probably better not to ask.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bad animals can be anywhere

A few stories from the last couple of weeks to remind us that there's no place you're safe:

-In Washington State, a man was bitten by a rattlesnake while shopping at Wal-Mart:

Mr Craig said the serpent attacked as he reached down to brush away what he thought was a stick from a bag of mulch.
The purchase was intended for his marijuana plants, which Mr Craig said he was licensed to grow for medical reasons.
-In California, a woman found a mountain lion in her garage:
Michelle Taylor called 911 at about 8 a.m. after her husband, Jesse Taylor, rooted around the garage in search of what he thought was a raccoon or other small critter. Instead, less than 3 feet from him, he spotted a large paw and the face of the mountain lion.

-And before you go to the beach this summer, read this post from Deep Sea News about MASSIVE SQUID THAT HUNT IN PACKS. They not only coordinate their hunting behavior, but carefully position themselves in the group:
Why? It’s likely high levels of cannibalism, with smaller individuals being more prone to cannibalism by larger ones, helps squids remember to keep their distance.
Sure, they're usually hunting for fish. But if they're eat their own kind, why would they stop at you?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Happy (?) Dead Duck Day!

Tomorrow is Dead Duck Day, still the only official - and scientifically validated - holiday for an animal behaving badly that I know of, now celebrated for the last 16 years. In honor of the occasion, a repost from the archives:
The only official holiday for an animal behaving badly that I know of, Dead Duck Day has been celebrated on June 5 for the past 13 years at the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam. It commemorates the victim of the first scientifically documented case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck, described in the abstract of the full original article thusly:
On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam and died. Another drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex.
The research was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Biology in 2003, and you can read about last year's celebration of Dead Duck Day at the Annals of Improbable Research, here and here.

Photo: a Drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in full breeding plumage (left) next to the dead drake mallard (NMR 9997-00232) just after collision with the new wing of the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam; b the same couple during copulation, two minutes after photo a was taken. [photo: C.W. Moeliker]

Check out the invitation for the 2012 ceremony in Rotterdam here.