L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
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Category: Conservation

Happy Feet, wayward emperor penguin found in New Zealand, is released

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — He needed a little push before speeding backward down a makeshift slide. Once in the water, he popped his head up for one last look. And then he was gone. The wayward emperor penguin known as "Happy Feet" was back home in Antarctic waters after an extended sojourn spent capturing hearts in New Zealand.

Happy Feet was released Sunday into the ocean south of New Zealand, more than two months after he came ashore on a beach nearly 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometers) from home and became an instant celebrity.

Speaking from a satellite phone aboard the research vessel Tangaroa, Wellington Zoo veterinarian Lisa Argilla said Happy Feet's release went remarkably smoothly given that the boat was being tossed about in 25-foot (8-meter) swells in the unforgiving Antarctic ocean.

Argilla said crew members from the boat carried the penguin inside his custom-built crate to the stern of the ship for his final send-off about 50 nautical miles (90 kilometers) north of remote Campbell Island. The crew had already cut the engines and put in place a canvas slide that they soaked with water from a hose.

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Nesari, among the few northern white rhinos left, dies at Czech zoo

PRAGUE — A 39-year-old northern white rhinoceros has died at a Czech zoo, further reducing the world's dwindling population of the endangered animal, an official said Friday.

Nesari died in her sleep of old age on May 26, Dvur Kralove zoo spokeswoman Jana Mysliveckova said. She called the death "an irretrievable loss."

The rhino was brought to the zoo in 1975 from Sudan. Nesari's death leaves the zoo with one remaining northern white rhino, 30-year-old Nabire.

In an attempt to save the species from extinction, the Czech zoo moved four of its northern white rhinos to a game park in Kenya in December 2009, hoping it would be easier for them to breed there than in captivity.

Mysliveckova said few of these rhinos are now left: two at a zoo in San Diego; three or four believed to live in Sudan have not been seen since last year.

RELATED RHINO NEWS:
Zimbabwe's rhinos are the targets of poachers with advanced technology
Black rhinoceros who survived being shot by poachers is transported to South African zoo

-- Associated Press

Madagascar's wildlife -- including some newly discovered species -- imperiled by unrest, WWF says

Ring-tailed lemurs

JOHANNESBURG — From giant palm trees to mouse-sized lemurs, unique plants and animals are threatened on Madagascar as political deadlock drags on after a 2009 coup.

The World Wildlife Fund conservation group drew attention to the Indian Ocean island's natural wealth in a report released Monday that looks at the more than 600 new species discovered on the island between 1999 and 2010. Many of the new finds are already endangered, the group said, in large part because deforestation is destroying their habitat.

"We as a species, the human race, we don't understand the complexities of the natural world around us," Richard Hughes, the WWF's Madagascar-based regional director, said in a telephone interview. Yet "we people are the one species with the most power to destroy or protect what's there."

Madagascar's rain forests, with their precious rosewood and other timber, were pillaged amid the instability and political and economic isolation that followed the 2009 coup, the WWF said in its report "Treasure Island: New biodiversity in Madagascar." The killing of forest animals, including lemurs, for food also increased, as did poverty as the crucial tourism trade suffered, the environmental group said.

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Judge denies U.S. motion to dismiss lawsuit from wild-horse advocates

Mustang Roundup

RENO — Horse protection advocates have claimed a rare legal victory as part of a larger effort to end federal roundups of free-roaming mustangs on public lands in the western United States.

A federal judge in Sacramento ruled Wednesday that In Defense of Animals and others can move forward with their lawsuit accusing the Bureau of Land Management of violating U.S. laws that protect the animals on the range.

Judge Morrison England Jr. denied the BLM's motion to dismiss the suit based on claims it is moot because the specific roundup in question was completed months ago in Nevada and California. He says if he ultimately finds the roundups illegal, he can order the horses returned to the range. He says he also can order the BLM to follow the law in future.

RELATED WILD HORSE NEWS:
Speakers at Las Vegas conference argue for the revival of U.S. horse slaughter industry
North Carolina wild horse population faces an uncertain future

-- Scott Sonner, Associated Press

Photo: Wild horses are herded by helicopter in Skull Valley, Utah, in a 2000 photo. Credit: Jason Olson / Associated Press

Deal is reportedly reached to let Yellowstone bison roam in Gardiner Basin conservation area

Bison in Yellowstone

BILLINGS, Mont. — Under a breakthrough agreement expected to be adopted this week, bison from Yellowstone National Park will roam freely across 75,000 acres in southern Montana where for years the animals were shipped to slaughter by the hundreds

The deal -- involving five state and federal agencies and several American Indian tribes -- still limits where bison will be free to go during their winter migrations. Officials say those that move beyond the newly opened habitat and head north into the Paradise Valley will continue to be shot to protect livestock against a disease carried by the wild animals.

But supporters say the agreement will bring some relief to Montana's bison management dilemma, which has dragged on for two decades and resulted in the slaughter of 3,800 bison.

A copy of the agreement obtained by the Associated Press shows bison will be free to roam within an area known as the Gardiner Basin when they migrate from the mountainous park during winter to graze. A map attached to the document depicts a "bison conservation area" estimated by a U.S. Forest Service official at 75,000 acres, although some of that land is too steep to support bison.

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Hanoi's famous Hoan Kiem turtle is captured to receive veterinary care

Vietnam's famous Hoan Kiem turtle is captured for treatment

HANOI, Vietnam — Veterinarians examined a rare giant turtle considered sacred by many Vietnamese at a makeshift hospital in Hanoi on Monday to check mysterious lesions afflicting one of the last four known members of its species.

The giant soft-shell turtle, which has a shell the size of a desk and is estimated to weigh about 440 pounds, was pulled from a lake in the heart of the capital Sunday.

Tests were being run to try to pinpoint what is ailing the creature, said Tim McCormack, program coordinator of the Asian Turtle Program. He said photos taken of it in a holding tank showed injuries on its legs and elsewhere, but it was not yet clear how serious they are.

The animal is believed to be about 80 to 100 years old, though many Vietnamese believe it is the same mythical creature said to have helped King Le Loi fend off the Chinese nearly six centuries ago.

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Obama administration officials and wildlife advocates reach uneasy agreement over gray wolves' status

A gray wolf in Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. — Facing mounting pressure from lawmakers over gray wolves, wildlife advocates reached an agreement with the Obama administration Friday to lift protections for the species in Montana and Idaho and allow hunting.

The settlement agreement, opposed by some environmentalists, is intended to resolve years of litigation that has kept wolves in the Northern Rockies shielded by the Endangered Species Act even as the population expanded dramatically.

It also is meant to preempt action by Congress, where western Republicans are leading efforts to strip wolves of their protections nationwide.

"For too long, wolf management in this country has been caught up in controversy and litigation instead of rooted in science, where it belongs. This proposed settlement provides a path forward," said Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes.

Court documents detailing the proposed agreement between the U.S. Department of Interior and ten conservation groups were filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Montana.

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Canadian harp seals coming to American waters in larger numbers

Harp Seal

PORTLAND, Maine — Harp seals from Canada are showing up in U.S. waters in greater numbers and farther south than usual, and biologists want to know why.

Small numbers of juvenile harp seals are typically found each winter stranded along the coast of the northeastern United States. But this year, well more than 100 adult harp seals -- not juveniles -- have been spotted, said Mendy Garron, regional marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Gloucester, Mass. The sightings are reported by 14 seal stranding and rehabilitation organizations in New England and the Middle Atlantic.

"In some areas they're reporting three times the normal number of sightings," Garron said. "This year, we've had four sightings of adult harp seals in North Carolina, which we've never had before. We typically don't see them that far south."

Seals are common in New England waters, where the most abundant type is the harbor seal, with a population estimated at about 100,000 the last time they were surveyed a decade ago. Gray seals are the second most common seal.

But those numbers are piddling compared to the number of harp seals found in the northwest Atlantic. Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans says 9 million of them can be found off Canada and Greenland.

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Your morning adorable: Koala joey makes her debut at the San Francisco Zoo

Baby koala at the San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo is still celebrating the birth of its newest koala joey -- despite the fact that she was born back in 2010.

Zoo staff first discovered the baby when they checked the pouch of her mother, Zakary, in December. Since koalas are born a little, shall we say, underdone, they remain in their mothers' pouches for months after birth; the joey didn't emerge fully from Zakary's pouch until February. She debuted to media photographers earlier this month.

The joey is the first koala to be born at the zoo since 2000. She hasn't yet been named.

The San Francisco Zoo is a participant in a conservation breeding program designed to help koalas bounce back from a steep population drop that's due in part to an outbreak of stress-induced chlamydiosis among wild members of the species. Both Zakary and the joey's father, Travis Jr., came to the San Francisco Zoo from the San Diego Zoo as part of a temporary loan agreement.

See more photos and video of the joey after the jump!

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Your morning adorable: What's cuter than a north China leopard cub in a basket? Not much

North China leopard cub

The battle for the title of cutest animal baby at the Berlin Zoo is a hotly contested one — think wolf pups, a guanaco calf, caracal kittens, African lion cubs and moose calves, all stunningly adorable in their own way — but we think this north China leopard cub gives them all a run for their money.

The cub, a female named Nekama, was born at the zoo in early January but made her official debut before media photographers on Tuesday.

The north China leopard is one of nine recognized leopard subspecies, rather closely resembling its relative the Amur leopard. As an adult, Nekama is likely to weigh around 70 pounds.

See more photos of Nekama after the jump!

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