L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Oklahoma woman fights to keep her therapy kangaroo

Irwin the therapy kangaroo

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — An Oklahoma woman suffering from depression has found solace in the company of an unusual companion, but local city officials worry that the therapy pet -- a partially paralyzed kangaroo -- could become a public safety risk.

Christie Carr is seeking an exemption from the Broken Arrow City Council to keep Irwin, a 25-pound great red kangaroo that she cares for much like a child. Irwin rides in a car seat, is dressed in a shirt and pants each day and is rarely away from his doting caretaker.

At the advice of her therapist, Carr began volunteering at a local animal sanctuary, where she met Irwin, then just a baby. Less than a week later, the kangaroo named for famed Australian animal expert Steve Irwin ran into a fence, fracturing his neck and causing severe brain damage.

Carr volunteered to take the animal home and, while nursing him back to health, developed a bond. Irwin cannot stand or walk on his own, although he is slowly gaining back mobility and can hop three or four times in a row with assistance, she said.

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Dog plucked from debris in dramatic Japan rescue is reunited with her owner

TOKYO — A dog rescued from drifting ocean debris immediately jumped to her owner and wagged her tail at their reunion more than three weeks after Japan's tsunami.

Japan Dog Rescue Toshio Suzuki described Monday's reunion at the animal shelter he heads in the tsunami-wrecked Miyagi region of northern Japan. The owner of the 2-year-old mixed breed named Ban saw Friday's rescue on television.

The woman was not identified for privacy reasons. Suzuki said she has an adult daughter and that the family suffered tsunami damage but was not specific.

Public broadcaster NHK aired images of the reunion with the woman hugging Ban and the dog warmly wagging her tail.

A coast guard helicopter crew spotted Ban more than a mile (2 kilometers) off the tsunami-hit town of Kesennuma in Miyagi. It wasn't known how long the dog had been at sea.

Suzuki says the shelter keeps 19 dogs and several cats separated from their owners after the March 11 tsunami.

Japanese rescuers save finless porpoise stranded in rice paddy by tsunami
Animal lovers clamor to adopt Oklahoma puppy that survived euthanasia attempt

-- Associated Press

Video: Associated Press

Photo: Ban, carried by a member of the Japan Coast Guard, arrives at Japan's Shiogama port on April 2. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Bronx Zoo shuts its Reptile House to search for missing Egyptian cobra

NEW YORK — A poisonous cobra has vanished from an enclosure outside public view at the Bronx Zoo, and its Reptile House remained closed Sunday as a precaution while zoo workers searched for the reptile.

Though the roughly 20-inch-long Egyptian cobra -- a highly venomous species of snake -- has been unaccounted for since Friday afternoon, zoo officials say they're confident it hasn't gone far and isn't in a public area. Its enclosure was in an isolation area not open to visitors.

"To understand the situation, you have to understand snakes," zoo Director Jim Breheny said in an email Sunday.

The animals seek out confined spaces, so this one has doubtless hidden in a place it feels safe, he said.

Once the snake gets hungry or thirsty enough to leave its hiding place, workers will have their best opportunity to recover it, Breheny said.

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SigAlert in black-and-white fur, with a happy ending

Driving through a hilly neighborhood the other day, I saw that four cars had stopped ahead of me, for no obvious reason.

It was a fairly quiet street, so why the backup?

Once the cars began to ease forward, I did too, and I saw what the drivers had all stopped for: a fat ol' skunk had been waddling with a slow, ungainly gait across the street. Once he or she had safely reached the other side, the cars, and the skunk, went on their way.

I'm sure some cynics would say the drivers just didn't want to hit the skunk and get their cars skunked with that smell. I like to credit Angeleno drivers, in whatever hurry they're in, with kinder intent than that.

Japanese rescuers save finless porpoise stranded in rice paddy by tsunami
Animal lovers clamor to adopt Oklahoma puppy that survived euthanasia attempt

-- Patt Morrison

Japanese rescuers save finless porpoise stranded in rice paddy by tsunami

PorpoiseAnimal rescuers working to save imperiled dogs and cats in the wake of Japan's earthquake and tsunami wound up helping a very different, but just as needy, sort of animal: a young finless porpoise.

The porpoise had become trapped in a flooded rice paddy in Japan's Miyagi prefecture after the March 11 tsunami and was struggling and growing weak in the shallow water.

"A man passing by said he had found the [porpoise] in the rice paddy and that we had to do something to save it," Ryo Taira, a pet-store owner who has been instrumental in rescuing animals affected by the earthquake, told Reuters.

Taira and other volunteers rushed to save the animal, fashioning a stretcher of sorts from objects -- including a futon mattress -- strewn in the area. But they were unable to catch the porpoise with a net.

Eventually, Taira managed to catch the porpoise in his arms -- a feat he speculated to Reuters was possible only because the creature was so exhausted from its ordeal.

According to Agence France-Presse, damage to nearby aquariums caused by the disaster left the rescuers with no choice but to release the porpoise into the ocean. They wrapped it in wet towels for the trip back to open water and set it free.

Taira told Reuters that the porpoise's condition seemed to improve when it was returned to the ocean. "I don't know if it will live, but it's certainly a lot better than dying in a rice paddy," Reuters quoted the rescuer as telling Japan's Asahi Shumbun news organization.

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Video goodness: Dog rides a scooter

We were mesmerized the moment we first glimpsed Norman, a dog with a remarkable scooter-riding ability, in a post on Urlesque. At the time, we were unaware of his growing stardom -- he's appeared on "Good Morning America" and "Late Night with David Letterman" and is actively seeking film and TV work, according to his Facebook page.

Norman is a Briard, a very old French breed whose original purpose was herding and guarding flocks of sheep. Like many herding breeds, the Briard is typically very intelligent, but the American Kennel Club points out that it is "an independent thinker, so patience is necessary when training." (We can only imagine how much patience was required to teach Norman here how to ride a scooter!)

One of the earliest American fans of this French breed was Thomas Jefferson, who first encountered Briards while working in France.

Fun fact about Briards: Many breeders follow a tradition in which all puppies born in a given year have names beginning with a particular letter of the alphabet designated for that year. The years cycle through the alphabet (skipping some letters that aren't found at the beginning of many words, like Q), so if you meet a Briard whose name starts with B, you'll know it's a year younger than a Briard whose name starts with A.

Video goodness: Confused dog moos like a cow
Video goodness: Hey, that's no midfielder! Terrier crashes soccer game, tries to catch the ball

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: courteous1 via YouTube

America's oldest known wild bird, a Laysan albatross, is found alive after fears it perished in tsunami

Wisdom the albatross

HONOLULU — The oldest known wild bird in the U.S. has returned to a remote atoll northwest of the main Hawaiian islands after surviving this month's tsunami.

Officials at the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Midway Atoll, said Monday that they are thrilled that the Laysan albatross survived the March 11 tsunami. The albatross, named Wisdom, is more than 60 years old.

Complex project leader Barry Stieglitz says the survival of the albatross reinforces the importance of breeding adults in the seabird population.

The tsunami generated by the massive earthquake off Japan killed at least 2,000 adult and 110,000 albatross chicks.

Stieglitz says it is "humbling" that the 8-pound bird is still producing chicks.

Researchers say penguins are harmed by the tracking bands used to study them
Two unusual albino blue-winged kookaburra chicks found in Queensland, Australia

-- Associated Press

Photo: Wisdom the Laysan albatross with a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in February. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey / Associated Press

Knut the polar bear: Necropsy shows 'changes to the brain' likely to blame for his death

KnutSitting BERLIN — Brain problems apparently caused the shockingly early death of Knut, Germany's 4-year-old celebrity polar bear, the Berlin Zoo said Tuesday.

Initial findings from a necropsy performed Monday by an institute in the German capital showed "significant changes to the brain, which can be viewed as a reason for the polar bear's sudden death," the zoo said in a statement.

The zoo didn't elaborate on the changes to the animal's brain, and officials could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Pathologists found no changes to any other organs, the zoo said, adding that it will take several days to produce a final result. Further planned tests include bacteriological and histological, or tissue, examinations.

Knut died Saturday afternoon in front of visitors at the zoo, turning around several times and then falling into the water in his enclosure. Polar bears usually live 15 to 20 years in the wild and even longer in captivity.

Knut, who was born in December 2006 at the Berlin zoo, rose to celebrity status as an irresistibly cute, fluffy cub.

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Your morning adorable: Wallaby joey sucks its 'thumb'

We can't help but be delighted when a video like this one shows us just how similar humans and animals can be. YouTube user chrismorinbc captured this wallaby joey on video while traveling in Australia and points out that the baby is sucking its "thumb" just like a human baby might!

We're quite convinced there isn't a wallaby in the world that isn't adorable -- if you need any more evidence, check out Hannah, a red-necked wallaby joey peering out of her mother's pouch at Australia's Taronga Zoo, or Chai, a rescued agile wallaby joey caught on video taking her very first hops -- but we have to rank this little guy very high on our ever-expanding list of cute wallabies.

Your morning adorable: Parma wallaby joey drinks from a bottle at Cincinnati Zoo
Your morning adorable: Keepers raise wallaby joey in Tokyo zoo

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: chrismorinbc via YouTube

R.I.P. Knut: Remembering the famous Berlin Zoo polar bear's life in photos

Knut the polar bear

Knut, the polar bear whose famously cute visage landed him a Vanity Fair cover and earned him legions of fans back when he was a cub in 2006 and 2007, died over the weekend of unknown causes. The celebrity bear, who was 4, died in his outdoor enclosure at the Berlin Zoo.

Zoo staffers are anxious to determine the cause of Knut's early death, considered extremely unusual for a species that can live up to 20 years in the wild and even longer in captivity. Knut had not appeared sick before his death and he was visible to 600 or 700 people gathered around the zoo's polar bear enclosure at the time of his death on Saturday.

Although it's hard to believe this beloved bear -- frozen in so many fans' memories as an energetic, full-of-life cub -- is gone, we had to smile when looking back over some of his earliest photos. Beginning in early 2007, not long after his birth, they showcase his first months in the spotlight and the special relationship he shared with his late keeper, Thomas Doerflein, who died in 2008.

We've assembled some of our favorite photos of Knut, ranging from his first year all the way to his fourth birthday last December, concluding with images of the makeshift memorial that sprang up at the Berlin Zoo over the weekend as Knut's many fans arrived to pay their respects. (For fans who live a long way from Berlin, the zoo has also set up an online memorial book for Knut.)

Above, Knut is shown at 2 months of age on Feb. 11, 2007. See more photos after the jump! (Photo credit: Peter Griesback / European Pressphoto Agency)

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