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WebClawer: Octopus floods aquarium, controversy over Dancing Star Sanctuary, couple tries to trade cockatoo for children

February 27, 2009 |  2:07 pm

Octopus From octopuses to farm animals to a bizarre case involving a bird, it's a big day in animal news:

-- A female California two-spotted octopus at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium managed to pry loose a water-control valve in her tank, spilling 200 gallons of saltwater on the facility's newly installed carpets, walls and facades.  Aquarium staff think the octopus grabbed the valve while exploring its tank.  "It found something loose and just pulled on it. They are very smart creatures," said Tara Treiber, the aquarium's education manager. L.A. Now

-- Australia's agriculture minister, Tony Burke, has launched a $17.4-million project designed to research ways to reduce gas emissions from farm animals as part of the fight against global warming.  Methane gas from Australia's 120 million sheep, cows and goats accounts for about 12%  of the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions, Burke said, adding that a beef cow expels the equivalent of 3,300 pounds of carbon annually.  The research is to include study of the animals' diets, chemical and biological controls of stomach bacteria, and genetics.  "We will invest in science to ensure that productivity grows while the industry adapts to lower emissions, particularly as the world food shortage continues," Burke said.  AFP

-- San Luis Obispo County's Dancing Star Sanctuary is a subject of hot debate among many in the animal welfare community.  The foundation, which has recently resorted to layoffs due to economic troubles, has been accused by former workers of euthanizing the animals in its care for financial reasons.  "They said they wanted a total of 50 gone within a couple of months, and then another 30 after that,"said Jason Hamaker, a ranch maintenance supervisor who was recently fired.  The foundation has denied that economics were a factor in euthanizing the animals; rather, it says, the animals were sick.  The accusations prompted an inquiry by the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services department.  Eric Andereson of SLOCAS said the department concluded the euthanized animals were "either beyond treatment or had conditions for which euthanasia would be at least one of the considerations that could responsibly be made."  But others are still skeptical, especially in light of the recent report that the husband-and-wife team who've run the foundation since its founder died in 1999 received salaries of $275,000 and $235,000, respectively.  L.A. Times

-- Two children are now in state custody after an attempt to trade them for a pet cockatoo and $175 was found out.  Paul J. Romero, 46, and Brandy Lynn Romero, 27, of Evangeline Parish, La., reportedly had tried unsuccessfully to conceive for years before the children's babysitter, Donna Greenwell, 53, allegedly offered to give the children to the couple in exchange for about $2,000.  When the couple said they couldn't afford to pay that price, Det. Keith Dupre said, "Ms. Greenwell agreed to make an even trade: the bird for the kids."  The children were apparently being cared for by Greenwell at their mother's request for approximately a year.  The children's father has expressed interest in taking custody of the two, a 5-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.  Associated Press

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: The two-spotted octopus believed responsible for the leak at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.  Credit: Tara Crow / Associated Press.

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