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WebClawer: France in trouble with EU over giant hamsters; fugitive hog turns up in swimming pool; students photograph desert tortoises

June 30, 2009 |  7:14 pm

California desert tortoise

Animals are making news all over the world today, from tortoises here in Southern California to giant hamsters in France.  A few stories that caught our attention today:

-- Students from seven Southern California high schools have embarked on an innovative project -- documenting the lives of California desert tortoises through digital photography.  The resulting portraits will be placed on exhibit in the Mojave National Preserve's historic Kelso Depot Desert Light Gallery in February.  "I'll never go into the desert again with the mind I had when I started the program," high school junior and aspiring photographer Keya Cason said. "I always thought the desert was just heat and dirt. Now I see how beautiful its plants, creatures and landscapes really are."  (Greenspace)

-- France is in trouble with the European Union over its treatment of hamsters -- yes, you read that right.  The Alsace hamster, also known as the European hamster, is a larger cousin of the domestic hamsters we know (it measures about 8-14 inches long).  It's also in danger of extinction, and the EU's executive body says France hasn't done enough to safeguard it.  According to the EU, Alsace hamsters currently occupy a tiny, 8,500-acre area in an eastern French region -- but they need about 600,000 acres of protected land to thrive.  France could face a hefty fine over the animals, whose numbers total less than 200 in the region.  (Telegraph )

-- A Sussex, England policeman who was trampled by a herd of cows while walking his dog in 2007 has been awarded more than £10,000 (about $16,500 U.S.) in an out-of-court settlement with the farmer.  Chris Poole suffered severe injuries in the incident -- including a severed artery, broken ribs and a punctured lung -- and says he has yet to fully recover.  "I really want to put out the message that cows can't be trusted," Poole said, adding that farmers should place signs warning dog-walkers and others of bovine-related danger.  (Daily Mail)

-- When a trailer carrying about 90 hogs to slaughter overturned in Arkansas, one wily oinker managed to evade capture for a week.  Recently, he was found by homeowner LeeAnn Baldy, who said she noticed the 800-pound hog in her swimming pool.  A spokesman for sausage company Odom's Tennessee Pride said the fugitive hog can't be used for human consumption, since no one knows what sort of food he was eating during the week he was on the loose.  Baldy told her local newspaper that she had found a farmer willing to take the hog in.  Score: Hogs 1, Sausage Company 0.  (Associated Press)

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A California desert tortoise.  Credit: Los Angeles Times

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