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Elsewhere in The Times: Petco donates fur for Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup; India's cow-smuggling secret; Disneyland is home to goat kids and cats; and more!

May 10, 2010 |  7:15 pm


-- We told you last week about a unique way dogs and cats are helping to combat the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- with their fur! Pet fur, wool, horse hair, feathers and, yes, human hair can all be used by a San Francisco organization called Matter of Trust to fashion mats and booms that helps to contain oil. The Times' environment blog, Greenspace, reports that the list of pet-grooming parlors sending shipments of fur to Matter of Trust is growing. One prominent new addition: Nearly 1,000 Petco stores are donating fur that would normally be discarded for use in the Gulf Coast area. The company says it intends to ship about a ton of fur daily and expected to accumulate 5 million pounds over Mother's Day weekend alone. Richard Ambrose, a UCLA professor of environmental health science, told Greenspace that he'd never heard of hair being put to this use, but provided that "it's cost effective and it works well, then it seems great." 

-- One might think that India would be an earthly paradise for cows, but Times reporter Mark Magnier recently reported on what he calls a "dirty little secret that most Indian politicians don't discuss" -- the thriving cow-smuggling trade between India and neighboring Bangladesh, where beef is consumed by many citizens. Estimates suggest somewhere in the vicinity of 1.5 million cows, some stolen from their Indian caretakers, are smuggled from India to Bangladeshi slaughterhouses each year. "Delhi is biased against cow killing, but beef is very delicious," Haripada Biswas, a state assemblyman from India's Jagadal district, told Magnier. "And many of the illegal cows arrive from cow-loving states. Those guys act all principled, and quickly blame us, but don't seem above making a tidy profit." The local government in India's Murshidabad district even attempted to stem the smuggling tide by issuing photo ID cards to cows, but the measure has been largely ineffective, according to residents.

-- A recent study in which researchers affixed satellite tags to the fins of 22 great white sharks captured off Mexico's Guadalupe Island offered a surprising insight: When tracked, the sharks led a research team to an apparent dead zone about 1,500 miles east of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The sharks seemed to be diving into the remote depths of the ocean, where few food sources exist -- except large squids, including the formidable giant squid. Marine ecologist Michael Domeier of the Marine Conservation Science Institute in Fallbrook, who led the study on great whites' migratory paths, told Times reporter Jill Leovy that he thinks the sharks may actually travel to the area with the express purpose of feeding on the squids. Domeier further believes that the great whites return to coastal waters to breed. The theory is a controversial one among scientists.

-- The Times' home and garden blog, L.A. at Home, shares an unusual -- some (like us) might even go so far as to say bizarre -- new invention. It's a wearable hummingbird feeder -- yes, you read that right -- which some (like us) might say is just a step above the goldfish walker in the technology-for-technology's-sake department. Humboldt County-based inventor Doyle Doss came up with the idea in the 1970s when a hummingbird flew up to his face in an apparent attempt to suck nectar from his beard. "I always wanted to be able to share that experience with other people," he said. Fast-forward to last year, when he uploaded a video showcasing the wearable hummingbird feeder -- essentially a mask that allows hummingbirds to drink sugar water from a hole between the wearer's eyes -- which went viral. Although Doss' video was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, only about 100 people actually bought the thing, but Doss said the experience of wearing it "truly is a personal birding experience unlike any other." That's putting it mildly, no?

-- The Times' Daily Travel & Deal Blog has the details on five goat kids born recently at Disneyland's Circle D Ranch. The kids, born to two different mothers, have been named Squisher, Dory, Pearl, Lilo and Stitch. While none of the kids bears a Mickey Mouse-shaped coat pattern, they're still pretty cute (well, what baby goat isn't?), and visitors can meet them when they join the rest of the animal crew at Disneyland's Big Thunder Ranch in a few weeks.

-- Oh, and speaking of Disneyland, The Times' business blog, Money & Co., offers some insights into the park's nighttime operations, when all the visitors have gone home and only staff -- both human and animal -- remain. That's right, we said animal staff -- and we didn't mean Mickey, Pluto, Pooh and Piglet. See, the park employs a crew of some 200 cats that only come out when the crowds depart. They're there, as you might have guessed, to keep the rodent population in check. Since we've never seen a rodent at Disneyland, we tend to believe they're doing a pretty good job of it.

-- Lindsay Barnett

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Photo: A dog is given a trim at a grooming parlor in a Paris suburb. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

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