L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
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Category: Marsupials

Young koala at Thailand's Chiang Mai Zoo represents hope for the country's political reconciliation

Koala BANGKOK — A baby koala and a young girl are helping move Thailand toward reconciliation after the country's recent bitter political violence.

Four-year-old Lapassarada Mung-opas submitted the winning entry in a contest to name the baby koala at the Chiang Mai Zoo in northern Thailand. Her suggestion, Prong-dong -- "Reconciliation" -- was picked over 496 other names, including "Ice," "Sugar" and "Lotus."

"The situation now is so dire" that people with political differences "can't look each other in the eye," Nipon Wichairat, the zoo's assistant director, said Wednesday.

"It's a reminder for us to turn to each other," he said, explaining the winning entry.

The girl's grandmother, Lampang Marod, 66, said the family visited the zoo last month during the unrest in Bangkok and didn't take sides in the conflict. "We don't discuss politics," she said.

The koala, or joey, was born last year and recently left her mother's pouch.

Lapassarada, who lives in Nonthaburi, a province just north of Bangkok, will receive 10,000 baht ($307) and lifetime free admission to the zoo for her winning submission.

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New Guinea expedition discovers new long-nosed frog, tiny tree kangaroo, multicolored pigeon

Long-nosed frog

Finding a new animal species is a special moment for scientists and even better when one hops into their mountain camp and volunteers to be discovered.

An international team of researchers was camping in the Foja mountains of Indonesia when herpetologist Paul Oliver spied a frog sitting on a bag of rice in the campsite.

On closer look it turned out to be a previously unknown type of long-nosed frog. The scientists dubbed it Pinocchio.

When the frog is calling, its nose points upward, but it deflates when the animal is less active.

"We were sitting around eating lunch," recalled Smithsonian ornithologist Chris Milensky. Oliver "looked down and there's this little frog on a rice sack, and he managed to grab the thing."

"Herpetologists [experts in snakes, lizards etc.] have good reflexes," Milensky observed. "He also caught a gecko, he managed to just jump and grab the thing" off a tree.

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Your morning adorable: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, your one-stop baby koala shop

Koala baby with his mother at the Cleveland Zoo

If there's something cuter than a baby koala, we're hard pressed to think of what it might be. (OK, maybe a baby koala is tied with a giant panda cub for the Most Adorable Animal Baby award. Even so, a baby koala is a cute home run, no?)

This young fellow is a resident of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which, if you're keeping score, is also home to a koala baby so tiny that it's still living in its mother's pouch. Last year, the zoo imported a male koala, Bulkee, from France to participate in its koala breeding program. Seems like that decision has been rewarded with baby koalas galore!

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the zoo spends approximately $90,000 each year to keep its koala population in fresh eucalyptus leaves -- 17 different varieties of the plant, which are trucked in from Florida and shipped by plane from Arizona.

See another photo of mother and baby koala after the jump!

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Your morning adorable: Rescued kangaroo joey goes for a swim

We were shocked -- shocked! -- to discover just how adorable a swimming kangaroo joey could be when we first saw the video above.

YouTube user Lisapud explains that she works at a veterinary clinic where the two joeys seen in her video are being cared for after their mothers were killed. (The champion swimmer is Bella; the other joey shown is Campbell.)

When the joeys are ready, "they will be released to a farm" where they'll have more room to stretch their rather large and muscular legs.

Kangaroos' and wallabies' impressive swimming abilities are little known but very real, according to the Kangaroo Protection Coalition.

Your morning adorable: Kangaroos canoodle at Switzerland's Basel Zoo
Your morning adorable: Orphaned kangaroo joeys get a helping hand in Australia

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: Lisapud via YouTube

Your morning adorable: Ticklish koala flicks its ears

We are so crazy about YouTube user cleelun's video of her encounter with a ticklish koala that we don't even know what to do with ourselves.

This young koala is a resident of the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, Australia. Like others of its species, it's well adapted to a life in the treetops -- koalas have two thumbs on their hands, and the skin on the bottom of their feet has ridges that, rather like the tread on the soles of humans' shoes, provide traction.

(Of course, we're in total agreement with naturalist and blogger David Mizejewsk that, despite how very tempting it would be to reach out and touch a koala, you shouldn't try this at home -- or in the wild. "Never approach any wild animal, because even cute ones will not hesitate to bite and claw you to protect themselves," Mizejewski wrote on his Discovery News blog. "In fact, in the wild koalas have a reputation for being rather nasty when they feel threatened.")

Your morning adorable: New koala in town at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Stress, chlamydiosis killing Australia's koalas in increasing numbers

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: cleelun via YouTube

Your morning adorable: Kangaroos canoodle at Switzerland's Basel Zoo

Western gray kangaroos at Switzerland's Basel Zoo

What's cuter than a western gray kangaroo? Two western gray kangaroos. And what's even cuter than that? Two western gray kangaroos engaged in a public display of affection.

These two are residents of Switzerland's Basel Zoo, where they live in a mob (the word that describes a group of kangaroos) that grew substantially last spring when several joeys were born.

Western gray kangaroos are among the most common species of kangaroo, and also among the largest. Males are typically much larger than females -- sometimes twice as big. And, of course, they're expert hoppers -- a really fast western gray can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour!

See another photo of this cuddly couple after the jump!

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Animal lovers' calendar: Weekend of Jan. 16-17 and beyond


From partying with koalas to pet adoption, Southern California animal lovers have a lot to look forward to over the coming days and weeks.  We've got the details on a number of upcoming events; let us know if we're missing something by leaving a comment!

This Weekend:

Friday-Monday, Jan. 15-18, the San Diego Zoo hosts Koalapalooza, its celebration of Australian animals including koalas (naturally), kangaroos and kookaburras. Activities include "Aussie Outback" tours, demonstrations from zoo researchers and veterinarians, opportunities to meet Australian animals, live music and face painting. Plus, you can enter the zoo's contest to choose a name for its youngest koala!  More information at the zoo's website.

Saturday, Jan. 16, the L.A. Department of Animal Services holds a mobile adoption event at the West Hollywood Petco location, 508 N. Doheny Dr., from 1 to 5 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 17, the L.A. Department of Animal Services hosts mobile adoption events at Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies' Rancho Palos Verdes location, 28901 Western Ave., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and at Studio City's Moorpark Park, 12061 Moorpark St., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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The Year in Cute: 2009's 20 most adorable animals

Regular readers of L.A. Unleashed may be familiar with our addiction to adorableness and, in a related note, with our regular feature, Your Morning Adorable. (Naysayers and grumps may scoff, but we ask you: What better way is there to ensure a great day than by starting it off with a photo or video of an adorable animal? We can't think of one, and that's including coffee.) That being the case, we don't mind telling you that we've looked at a lot of adorable animals this year. We took this year-end opportunity to remember 20 of our top favorites; without further ado, here they are:

Adorabletiger #20: White tiger cub drinks from a bottle
Aschersleben Zoo, Germany

This little fellow, born at Germany's Aschersleben Zoo this past spring, might have a milk mustache -- but how could you tell? 

Contrary to popular belief, white tigers (like those seen in magic shows protested by PETA) aren't albinos; instead, they have a genetic condition that affects the pigment in their fur, causing it to be light-colored rather than the typical orange. 

White tigers do have stripes -- obvious ones, like those you see on this cub, or sometimes so light in color as to virtually disappear. But they're there; we promise. (A true albino tiger wouldn't have any stripes at all, but, if you'll pardon the pun, that's a horse of a different color.)

See more photos of this thirsty fellow in our June 5 installment of Your Morning Adorable.

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Man arrested for kangaroo-smuggling in Indonesia. Wait, what?

Kangaroo JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian police arrested a man accused of smuggling 10 rare kangaroos by boat from New Guinea island, an official said Saturday.

The Indonesian suspect was caught Friday as he offloaded the exotic marsupials at the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, said Police Maj. Widarmanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. Five of the kangaroos had died.

The five surviving kangaroos -- of a small, rain forest-dwelling variety -- were given to a Surabaya animal sanctuary, Widarmanto said.

Illegal trade in rare and exotic animals is rampant in Indonesia, where law enforcement is generally poor.

The suspect, who has not been identified, faces up to five years in jail and a 100-million-rupiah ($11,000) fine for violating Indonesian conservation laws.

Kangaroos are native only to Australia and New Guinea, which is divided into Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua and the country of Papua New Guinea.

-- Associated Press

Photo: An officer of the Natural Resources Conservation Center holds up one of 10 kangaroos that were seized after being smuggled into Indonesia.  Credit: Mochammad Risyal Hidayat / AFP/Getty Images

Stress, chlamydiosis killing Australia's koalas in increasing numbers


The koala, Australia's star symbol, is dying of stress.

Koalas live in the rolling hills and flat plains where eucalyptus trees grow, because they need the leaves for both food and water. But as people move in, koalas are finding themselves with fewer trees, researchers say. The stress is bringing out a latent disease that infects 50 to 90 percent of the animals.

"Koalas are in diabolical trouble," says researcher Frank Carrick, who heads the Koala Study Program at the University of Queensland. "Numbers show that even in their stronghold, koala numbers are declining alarmingly."

The problem came to national attention in August, when the well-known Sam the Koala died during surgery to treat the disease, called chlamydia. Sam captured the world's attention during major wildfires in February, when she was photographed drinking from the water bottle of a firefighter in a smoldering forest.

Sam was in such obvious pain from chlamydia that veterinarian John Butler decided to operate. But her organs were too scarred to complete the surgery, and Sam was euthanized.

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