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WebClawer: Alleged animal abusers to face burned dog in court; battle over Daphne Sheldrick movie; will 'The Cove' spell the end of Japanese dolphin slaughter?

September 8, 2009 |  4:14 pm

Ric O'Barry

-- Dolphin advocate Ric O'Barry's experiences capturing and training the dolphin stars of the 1960s television series "Flipper" led him to co-found the Dolphin Project (incidentally, the organization's other co-founder was our all-time favorite musician, Fred Neil). O'Barry has spoken memorably of the day his opinions on keeping dolphins in captivity changed, when one of the "Flipper" stars died in his arms -- O'Barry insists the dolphin committed suicide. Earlier this year, O'Barry was the primary figure in the documentary "The Cove," which tells the story of a Japanese port village in which dolphins are systematically rounded up and slaughtered each year. While ticket sales have been slow for "The Cove," publicity has been strong -- but has it been strong enough to halt the killing? O'Barry recently returned to the village in time for the annual slaughter, only to find "[no] dolphins and no dolphin killers." Here's hoping.  (TakePart)

-- A 17-year-old boy and a 22-year-old woman accused of extreme animal cruelty will face the animal they tortured in court.  The two -- who aren't being identified by name over fears that animal lovers could seek revenge -- allegedly poured gasoline on a small mixed-breed dog, setting him on fire and leaving him for dead in the small French village of Espira-de-l'Agly. Amazingly, the dog, named Mambo, was rescued and survived his injuries, which included third-degree burns over half of his body. But poor Mambo still looks a mess, and as such is seen by prosecutors as powerful evidence against the two accused of abusing him. They're scheduled to appear in French court in December; Mambo will be a very different "Witness for the Prosecution."  (Daily Mail)

-- Director Nick Cassavetes ("The Notebook") has sued New Line Cinema, claiming the film studio engaged in fraud and breach of contract over a planned project based upon the life and work of famed conservationist and elephant advocate Dame Daphne Sheldrick.  Our colleague Patrick Goldstein has the details of the breakdown between Cassavetes and New Line, which he says occurred because Cassavetes, while overseeing script edits, decided to take the film in a darker direction. "Suddenly, the project, which the studio envisioned as a warm-hearted, PG-rated survival saga, was populated with graphic, potentially R-rated scenes of elephants being maimed and killed," Goldstein writes. A-list actresses including Kate Winslet, Drew Barrymore, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron had apparently expressed interest in playing Sheldrick.  (The Big Picture)

-- Last month, Winona, Minn., auto mechanic James Prusci got an unpleasant surprise when a woman entered his shop to have a belt replaced on her Chevy Malibu. "Oh, by the way," the customer told Prusci. "I have a goat in my trunk." As it turned out, the woman was attempting to transport a live goat who'd been painted Minnesota Vikings colors -- purple and gold -- and had star Vikings player Brett Favre's number shaved into its fur. Prusci called the local animal control department, which confiscated the abused animal. Now the goat has a great new home at Schultz's Country Barn in Wisconsin, where he lives with 12 pygmy goats and gets lots of petting and delicious vegetable snacks.  And he has a new name: Brett.  (PeoplePets)

-- It's counterintuitive, but a recent study shows that golf courses -- despite their use of pesticides and fertilizers in pursuit of the ultimate well-manicured lawn -- are actually as hospitable to wild wetland creatures as nature reserves, and in some cases more so.  Researchers compared ponds in golf courses in Stockholm, Sweden, to those in nature reserves and parks. They found that the golf course ponds were equally hospitable to invertebrate species as the more environmentally sound ponds of parks and reserves.  (Actually, one species of of dragonfly was only found at the golf courses.)  And the golf course ponds seemed to be more conducive to supporting amphibian life, with one protected species, the great crested newt, seeming to particularly favor the golf courses. One reason this may be the case: Golf course ponds are largely free from both fish and water-clogging plants that would otherwise threaten the newts.  (Discovery News)

-- According to a new report published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, the first domesticators of the dog may have had, shall we say, less-than-noble intentions for doing so. A research team, led by Peter Savolainen of Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology and Jun-Feng Pang of China's Kunming Institute of Zoology, believes that evidence including extensive mitochondrial DNA testing of the first domesticated dogs suggests that the animals were intended not as friends, but as food.  (New York Times)

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Ric O'Barry looks at dolphins in a tank during his visit to the Japanese village of Taiji, the site of an annual dolphin slaughter that -- we hope -- is soon to be defunct.  Credit: Junji Kurokawa / Associated Press

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