L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: WebClawer

WebClawer: Giant rat species found in Papua New Guinea; California Wildlife Center gets federal grant; fight in San Francisco over cat declawing

-- Among the strange new creatures discovered in a crater atop an inactive volcano in Papua New Guinea is one of the world's largest rat species. (Other discoveries include a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo Grunter, so named for the strange noise that it emits from its swim bladder.) The creature doesn't yet have a formal scientific name but has been termed, in the interim, the Bosavi woolly rat. The new species were discovered during the filming of the BBC program "Lost Land of the Volcano." The rat is described as "a true rat, the same kind you find in the city sewers," by Dr. Kristofer Helgen, a Smithsonian-based scientist who accompanied the BBC expedition. The animal has no fear of humans.  (BBC News)

-- Hooray for rescue! The California Wildlife Center in Calabasas, a nonprofit organization that has rescued and rehabilitated thousands of marine mammals, birds, coyotes, bobcats, deer and squirrels since it opened in 1996, has received a federal grant totaling more than $80,000. It's the fourth time the center has received the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant, which is awarded annually by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce. "These funds will significantly help us continue our efforts in improving rescue programs, upgrading the center's equipment and promoting protection of wildlife," said Cynthia Reyes, the center's director of marine mammal response. (L.A. Now)

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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?

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)

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WebClawer: Army wants to move endangered tortoises, stray dog saves rescuer's son, elephant freed from manhole


From real-life tortoises, dogs and elephants to a presumably fictional worm that spits acid, the Web is full of animal news today.  Some of the stories that grabbed us:

-- In order to prepare for a planned expansion of a training center in the Mojave desert, the U.S. Army has proposed a plan to relocate more than 1,000 endangered California desert tortoises.  The problem? A similar attempt last year, in which 600 of the tortoises were to be moved, ended with the project's being suspended after its first phase when about 90 of the animals were found dead, mainly because of predation by coyotes. The federal Bureau of Land Management must approve the Army's request before it can be put into action; the bureau is conducting an assessment of the situation. (Greenspace)

-- It's a real-life pet story reminiscent of "Old Yeller": When a Florida woman found a stray terrier mix, she left it in the care of a neighbor, Yolanda, and the two women set about trying to find its owner. In the days that passed, Yolanda's two sons, 10-year-old Azaiah and 21-year-old Christian, who has Down syndrome, grew attached to the little dog, whom they named RaeLee. Shortly thereafter, RaeLee interrupted Yolanda while she was watering plants on her porch, barking frantically. Yolanda reentered the house and the little dog led her to Christian, who was having a severe seizure that could have resulted in death. The next morning, Yolanda received a call from RaeLee's owner, who called him Odie and wanted him back. But after seeing the boys' distraught faces when he came to claim the dog, the man changed his mind and allowed them to keep him.  (Fox News)

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WebClawer: Vegan group sues for hot dog warning labels, feral pig wins fans, new hope for endangered frogs

Hot dog

From frogs to pigs to badgers to...hot dogs, the Web is crawling with animal news today.  A few of the stories that grabbed us:

-- A vegan advocacy group called Cancer Project filed a lawsuit last week asking a New Jersey court to compel food companies including Oscar Mayer and Hebrew National to place labels that read "Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer" on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. (L.A. Times)

-- 68-year-old Welshman Gareth Morgan is being called "the Badger Whisperer" for his uncanny knack for, well, communing with badgers. Morgan was birdwatching in a secluded area more than five years ago when he stumbled upon a group of the notoriously secretive animals. Since then, he's returned three times a week, and the badgers have grown to trust him enough to take food from his hand and allow him to treat their wounds with antiseptic. (Daily Mail)

-- A feral pig living in the Cove section of Panama City, Fla., has developed his own sizable fan base (and a Facebook group boasting hundreds of members) as animal control officers try and repeatedly fail to apprehend him. Last week, the pig continued to evade capture even after being shocked with a Taser and shot with four tranquilizer darts. A rural Florida family has offered to take the pig and allow him to roam free on their parcel of land -- but try telling that to an ornery feral pig. (New York Times)

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WebClawer: Spineless hedgehog on the mend, Virgin Mary sighted in bird droppings, sheriff's deputy sued over dogs' testimony


From a spineless-no-more hedgehog to a mysterious vision of the Virgin Mary, erm, painted by a bird, the world is full of animal news today.  A few of the stories we found fascinating:

-- "Ecotourism" -- that segment of the travel industry that allows tourists to get up close (really close) to nature -- may not be all it's cracked up to be. According to some experts, tourists who swim with dolphins, snorkel with sea lions and the like may actually cause unintended harm to the animals.  Swimming-with-dolphins excursions are particularly troublesome, according to a recent Fordham University article, which notes that travelers "are boated to an area of ocean where food is used to lure the marine mammals to the surface. This regular feeding by humans changes natural behaviors and leads to habituation, leaving the animals more vulnerable to other human activities such as fishing and boating."  (Daily Travel & Deal Blog)

-- Good news for a hedgehog we told you about back in March. The little creature, named Spud, was found in an English garden and was mysteriously devoid of spines. The folks at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital knew Spud was suffering from some sort of skin condition but had been unable to find any cure for the ailment.  Fortunately, months and many ointments and lotions later, the hedgehog is beginning to get his groove spines back.  A Tiggywinkles spokesperson said Spud is "looking good" and "doesn’t feel embarrassed about his state any more."  (Can hedgehogs feel embarassed?)  (Daily Mail)

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WebClawer: Penguin romance spurs debate, family tries to lure lost dog home with the scent of their own urine, pet goat gets stuck in tree

Harry and Linda, two-thirds of the San Francisco Zoo's penguin love triangle

From debate over a penguin romance to a greased goat (don't try this at home), the Web is full of animal news today. A few stories that caught our attention:

-- Pundits from both sides of the LGBT-issues fence are weighing in on the San Francisco Zoo's penguin love triangle. We told you earlier this week that Harry, a male Magellanic penguin who's spent the last six years as half of a same-sex penguin couple, recently left his partner Pepper for a female penguin named Linda. The story has spurred a "nature-versus-nurture debate" about the nature of sexuality, says the zoo's curator of birds. One Christian website quotes a "pro-family advocate" who says Harry and Pepper's split shows that "nature prefers heterosexual relationships." An LGBT site ponders the question of whether Harry "is actually bi?" (L.A. Times)

-- A one-legged African gray parrot that requires "specialist care" and "swears a lot" was stolen during a house burglary in Newcastle, England. (No, it wasn't named Lucky.) Two other exotic birds were also stolen from owner and bird enthusiast Bobby Scollins, whose plea for the birds' safe return was covered by the BBC. Good news came for Scollins on Sunday, when two of the birds (including the one-legged, foul-mouthed one) were turned in at a police station. Two men and a woman have been arrested in connection with the burglary, but all have been released on bail.  (BBC)

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WebClawer: They're mad about rabbits (literally) at Leisure World, researchers tag jellyfish, arrests in Florida over stolen skunk

Bunnies at Leisure World

From skunks to birds to jellyfish, the Web is full of animal news today.  A few of the stories that got our attention:

-- The most pressing issue at Seal Beach's Leisure World retirement community -- at least to hear some residents tell it -- is the scourge of adorable rabbits they say are taking over. Pro- and anti-rabbit factions from the upscale gated community met at a recent City Council meeting, arguing over how, and whether, to control the little rodents' population.  Some advocate hiring an outside company to "thin out" the population using pellet guns.  The suggestion horrifies others. "I can't think of a more tranquil sight than a sweet rabbit on the front lawn," said Marsha Gerber, whose mother lives at Leisure World.  (L.A. Times)

-- Little is known about the movements of the barrel jellyfish that live off the coast of South Wales.  To learn more, researchers have instituted a project called EcoJel to track them as they swim.  They attached electronic tags to the jellyfish using cable ties; the tags are designed to fall off and float when the creature dies. "I cannot think of any other species which is so universally recognizable yet we know so little about," said Dr. Victoria Hobson of Swansea University, a member of the study.  "We don't even know how long they live for but we hope this study will provide some answers."  (Telegraph)

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WebClawer: Elephants rescued in Malawi, rare stripeless white tiger born, two-legged Sheltie inspires in Denver


From elephants and tigers to inspirational dogs and bad, bad cats, animals are making headlines all over the world today.  These are a few of the stories that made us take notice:

-- Wildlife advocates have successfully moved 83 African elephants from the Mangochi district of Malawi to a game reserve 100 miles away. Farmers in the area had resorted to shooting or trapping the elephants, which in recent years have raided crops and gored or trampled 20 people to death. Cheering villagers lined the roads as the sedated elephants were trucked away. A helicopter, a crane and two large flatbed trucks -- as well as an estimated $170,000 -- were needed to complete the project.  (Greenspace)

-- A 6-month-old Bengal tiger cub is so unusual that it's believed that there are fewer than 20 like her in existence. The cub, named Fareeda, is a resident of the Cango Wildlife Ranch, a breeding facility for endangered species in South Africa -- and she's stripeless."Some cubs develop stripes in their first few months, but after six months it's clear that Fareeda is truly one of the rarest of her kind," said Odette Claassen of the Cango ranch.  (Most white tigers have stripes, although sometimes the stripes are so light in color as to virtually disappear.)  (Telegraph)

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WebClawer: Afghanistan's only pig is released from quarantine; mysterious parakeet is rescued by scuba diver


From China to Afghanistan to England, animals are making news all over the world today.  These are a few of the stories that caught our eye:

-- As the U.S. military shifts its focus from Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, it also needs to change its notions about transportation.  Humvees and helicopters aren't easily used in the region -- and that's where donkeys and mules come in.  A course on pack animals at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest teaches Marines how to handle the beasts of burden.  (L.A. Times)

-- Chinese animal advocates say a recent raid on a Shanghai cat dealer saved about 300 stolen pet cats from being eaten in restaurants in China's Guangdong province.  The group says it received a tip that the cats were being kept in cages in a freight yard in preparation for shipment to Guangdong; most of the cats have since been returned to their owners. Police detained the dealer, but he was released a few hours later because, a Chinese police officer explained, "Cats are not a protected animal."  (Agence France-Presse)

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WebClawer: Lost cat turns up on TV; Massachusetts pastor invites pets to church; shrinking sheep a result of climate change?


From shrinking sheep to photogenic chipmunks, the Web is chock-full of animal news today.  A few of our favorite stories:

-- When we think of the effects of climate change on animals, images of polar bears and penguins are often the first to pop into our heads.  But a new study, published in the journal Science, shows that these frigid-temperature dwellers aren't the only animals affected by rising temperatures.  Researchers studied feral Soay sheep on the remote Scottish island of Hirta, crunching a huge amount of data about them.  What they found was intriguing and seemingly contradictory to conventional wisdom about evolution: the sheep have grown steadily smaller (at a rate of almost 3 ounces each year) since 1985.  (L.A. Times)

-- Cornwall, England resident Jackie Ellery was wondering where her cat was when a friend called to ask, "Have you seen your cat on the telly?"  Turns out that Tango the cat had wandered into a taping of BBC1's Question Time, a political roundtable show, where he caught the eye of Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Julia Goldsworthy.  Apparently Tango, a one-year-old orange tabby, has become a local celebrity following his TV appearance; Ellery says she's even been asked for his "paw-tograph."  (Daily Mail)

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