Valentine Love Animal-Style

Want to pull out all the stops for your Valentine today? Looking for tips to impress? Well, you may want to think more than twice before emulating any of these strange critters.
‘Dead’ Special

American burying beetles, for example, have a freaky take on romance. The male beetle’s way of getting ready for love is unique. No bunches of red roses for his beloved. What he likes to sniff out for her is a nicely rotting corpse. And why not. It seems he can smell a carcass (small mammal or bird) from miles away – well, at least two miles, which is still pretty impressive. And by the way, isn’t he a handsome guy? Who could resist him.

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American burying beetle courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

He uses the ‘scent’ to lure the female to the spot and together they go to town ripping fur (or feathers) from the cadaver. Then they roll what’s left into a ball, ‘seasoning’ it with their oral and anal secretions. Eek.

The next step is equally macabre. They bury the carcass ‘ball’ in a grave lined with its own fur or feathers. Once the task is completed, it’s ‘down to business’. Finally, the now fertilised eggs are deposited in a tunnel right next to the grave. When the baby burying beetles hatch there’s a tasty ‘well-seasoned’ corpse right there for them to feast on. Go beetles!

Love Among the Ratites (nothing to do with rats)

The biggest birds in the world and flightless to boot, they make for “stellar dads and unusual lovers”. Ratites are the emus, ostriches, cassowaries, kiwis and rheas.

All male ratites (with the exception of the ostriches) are super-dads. They both incubate the eggs and take care of the chicks after they are hatched.

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Emu super-dad with his super-cute chicks

But what comes before the egg? What about the big birds’ love life? Very unusually in birds, ratites have penises, “really dense, collagenous penises” that they push out of their body cavity to mate. Truly. What can I say.

Really?

For dodgy doings and trickery we enter the world of the arachnid. A certain S. American spider gift-wraps in his silk the tasty prey he’s captured, before offering it to his beloved. But who knows what’s really inside that silk parcel? This gent is prone to giving in to his greed and presenting his sweetheart with an offering that is, yes indeed, beautifully wrapped. But when she tears off the layers in excitement, she discovers she’s been conned. All that’s inside are the inedible bits, worthless remains – damning evidence of his gluttony and lack of self-control. What a cheapskate.

You’ll Want for Nothing, Darling
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Great Grey Shrike

No such scamming for this pretty little songbird. His modus operandi is 100% above board. Everything he has to offer he puts on conspicuous display to catch the eye of passing females. But don’t be deceived by those cute looks, this little avian has a startlingly macabre side. His love gift is a well-stocked ‘larder’… of corpses. If you’re ever in Scandinavia and stumble across  a spiky bush gruesomely adorned with the carcasses of insects, frogs, toads, fish, lizards, mice, voles, stoats, bats or maybe even other birds , all brutally skewered on its thorns, you’ll know ‘the butcher bird’ is not far away.

I Made it Myself

How about a delicious ball of spit? And not just any old ball of spit. The male scorpion fly (so called because his tail-end, actually his genitalia, resembles a scorpion’s sting) offers his girl a ball a whole tenth of his body-weight in spit. That’s an impressive amount of spit. If the protein-rich saliva wins her over, she eats it, and the deal is sealed.

Still, a ball of spit is one up on the ball of something else the dung beetle has to offer. I think I’ll pass, thanks.

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Better Alone?

Though we all long to feel the warm glow of basking in our Valentine’s love, there are times one might be better off alone. Watch the peacock spider pulling his best moves to woo his very irritable-looking beloved.

Oh dear. Well that didn’t quite go to plan, did it? Looks like she’s not the romantic kind.

Happily Not All Animal Courtships End That Way

Though some might seem like a fate worse than death! Take the Golden Shower of the male porcupine for example. The Golden Shower is not as it sounds, some priceless treasure Mr P bestows upon his princess. Or may be it is. You be the judge. The ‘Golden Shower’, a vital part of porcupine courtship, is an explosive jet of urine with which he drenches his lady. Apparently it encourages her to ovulate. There have to be kinder ways!

Hippos go one better. To attract a mate a male will pee and defecate at the same time. Ever wondered why hippos have those funny little tails?

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Well, in case the lassie didn’t quite get the message, the male with his mind on mating uses his to waft the smelly concoction around, and even spray it in the female’s face. Smooth moves.

Only a handful of animals will mate for life

And some on the list are quite a surprise. Would you believe – termites, vultures and skink? Of all the faithful-for-life animal kind, prairie voles must surely win the prize for cuteness.

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Want to get to know some of our furry and feathery friends a little better? Rainforest Action Network have a fun new ‘chat’ app called OKCritters. What better time to try it out.
And now brace yourself for Valentine cuteness overload ❤️

HAVE A HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

 

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Teddy Bear the Porcupine’s Valentine Treats

67 Year Old Mum-in-a-Million Does It Again!

Sources

5 romantic animals that mate for life

Strange Love: 10 Animals with Truly Weird Courtship Rituals

American Burying Beetles: A Love Story

World’s Biggest Birds Are Stellar Dads & Unusual Lovers

 

How Do Squirrels Remember Where They Buried Their Nuts?

It’s Christmas. Time to put your feet up. Ready for a festive quiz question to mull over with your mince pie, cuppa, glass of wine?

How many acorns does a squirrel need to stash to get him/her through the dark cold days of winter?
I’ll give you a few clues:
  • a small acorn weighs about 10 grams
  • a hefty one closer to 14
  • and a squirrel eats an average of 450 grams a week
By my reckoning that’s about 37 and a half average-size acorns a week. And if December, January and February together add up to 13 weeks, it makes the seasonal total 488 to the nearest nut. That’s a lot of acorns to bury – and importantly, find again.

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Have you ever played that party game where you are presented with 25 random household objects on a tray, you have 1 minute to study them before the tray is removed, and then you have to write down every item you can remember?

Well, I hate to tell you this but when it comes to memory, a squirrel is a pretty major contender for the prize. Because research has it that a squirrel remembers where it has hidden a good 95% of its nut-shaped snacks.

This year I planted 343 spring-flowering bulbs in my garden, and I had to mark everything with small sticks to avoid digging up bulbs already planted, while planting more. No way could I remember where 343 bulbs were buried, so remembering approaching 500 tiny burial spots under a carpet of fallen leaves is a feat indeed. (But maybe that’s just me🤔)

Squirrels bury thousands of nuts over a lifetime. And in spite of stuffing themselves with tons and tons and millions of pounds worth of seed from garden birdfeeders every year here in the UK, and our calcs came up with a mere 500-nut figure for one squirrel to survive the winter, he/she may actually cache as many as 3,000 nuts a year.

3,000 and they still remember exactly where 95% of them are buried. How is that possible?

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Grey squirrels “scatter-hoard”, so it’s one nut, one hole. But it’s not random. They sort their harvestings, clustering each type of nut or seed with its kind. It’s called “chunking”, and helps to “decrease the memory load”, as scientists put it.

They also sort their stash according to their ‘best before date’ – how long they are likely to ‘keep’ once buried. And by the acorns’ tannin content. Our squirrels are not partial to the bitter taste – nice white tannin-light acorns are for eating right away. The darker tannin-heavy nuts are buried, left to leach out some of the compound over time. Both of these ways of sorting the nuts may also serve as aides memoire. “That patch is where I put my bbf-February stash, and that one my vintage acorns ‘brut’.”

It used to be thought that the little tree dwellers had awful memories and located their buried chow by scent. But what if, as does happen, several squirrels cache their hoards in the same area? How would they tell theirs apart from the others? Don’t all acorns smell much of a muchness?

For our clever furry friends, it’s no problem. A 1991 study tested them out in just such a situation and found individual squirrels were easily able to locate their own personal caches. So it can’t just be that delicious nutty smell that’s guiding them straight to target.

“From my own observation, I think they are using landmarks,” says Japanese researcher Pizza Ka Yee Chow. “They recognise the trees, and they are gauging the distance between themselves, the tree and their own nests.” (Besides, simply following their noses wouldn’t be much use when the earth is covered in a blanket of snow.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re above a bit of opportunistic thieving from each other. From a convenient lookout in a nearby tree they watch their counterparts burying acorns and hiding the signs of soil disturbance with a careful sprinkle of autumn leaves. Waiting until the hoarders are gone, the watchers get right in there and dig up their ill-gotten swag.

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(Perhaps the surprisingly huge number of nuts cached is in anticipation of such lawless looting. And also allowing for the 5% they will probably forget. No squirrel is perfect!)

But forewarned is forearmed. If the hoarders realise they’re under surveillance, they only pretend to cache the nut, then strew the leaves and scurry off to bury it in a spot safely away from prying squirrel eyes.

It’s not just in their remarkable ability to locate vast numbers of nuts that they top the leaderboard for memory. The squirrel’s longer term recall is enviable too. In her 2017 study, the same researcher found that once a squirrel has solved a problem to get an edible treat, when presented with the same problem after a gap of 2 years, they instantly remember exactly how they did it the first time.

“These little creatures may be way smarter than we thought,” she says.

Or are they …

They may have got the measure of their thieving fellows, but here comes another woodland robber, the cunning blue jay.

Still, in spite of sitting there watching the squirrel bury the nut, it can’t be said the jays home in on the precise location first try. Come on jays, you’re supposed to be clever corvids.

Perhaps the squirrels can keep the Best Memory trophy after all.

(Even though no-one still seems entirely sure exactly how they do it.)

Love squirrels? You may want to watch the BBC’s Super Squirrels. Apparently fox squirrels can remember where they buried 9,000 nuts! Super squirrels indeed.


PS Just to put in a good word for the much-maligned grey squirrel :-

“Nuts clearly are dependent on either gravity or animals for dispersal. Squirrels are one of the most important species in this regard.  

“But not all squirrels provide this service. Red squirrels store nuts in piles on the ground. Those piled-up nuts tend to dry out and don’t take root. Whereas grey squirrels bury nuts all over the place, and [sometimes] forget them. That results in trees [like oak, beech and hazel] growing in new areas.” 

Grey squirrels are not simply forgetting where they put 5% of their autumn nut haul, they are providing eco-services😊


PPS

May peace and compassion reign over all living beings this Christmas, and may we each play our part in 2019 to help liberate the world’s oppressed, human and non-human.


Sources

How Do Squirrels Remember Where They Buried Their Nuts?

Squirrel Hoarding

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A Cat, a Dog, or a Human – Which is Best for Bedtime Cuddles?

And the answer is ……… (Clue: don’t be fooled by the picture above)

🐾🐾DOGS!🐾🐾 But of course you knew that already, didn’t you?

Well, it’s true for women at least. It’s unclear why a college in New York state opted to research women’s sleep in particular, but research it they did. Their study has the serious and meaningful title “An Examination of Adult Women’s Sleep Quality and Sleep Routines in Relation to Pet Ownership and Bedsharing”

Their conclusion?

“Compared with human bed partners, dogs who slept in the owner’s bed were perceived to disturb sleep less and were associated with stronger feelings of comfort and security.”

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Conversely, cats who slept in their owner’s bed were reported to be equally as disruptive as human partners, and were associated with weaker feelings of comfort and security than both human and dog bed partners.”

So it turns out cats are the worst. Do you think cats care? Course not. They know who really rules the roost. Besides, it’s totally beneath them to compete against lesser beings.

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And in any case, it seems women who sleep with their canine friends go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Boring…

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With Christmas coming up and another new year about to begin, we may think about adding a fur baby to our family. Here are 8 great reasons to adopt a dog (or a cat, depending on how much sleep we want!)

  1. Who wants to support puppy mills or breeders who are just in it for the money?
  2. Rescue buddies come in all shapes, shades, sizes and personalities – there’s a perfect fit out there for the pooch-shaped hole in our lives
  3. Most ‘pre-owned’ mutts are already house-trained – phew!
  4. Our new bff will already have the vet’s seal approval, and be microchipped, vaccinated, often spayed or neutered
  5. Pure gold as he/she is, our rescue canine will cost a lot less than buying from a store or breeder
  6. We will save a life. In the UK 5,000, in the U.S. 670,000 shelter dogs are euthanised each year. Those are not statistics. Those are doggy individuals with hearts full of love and hope
  7. We can never be lonely with that pup by our side
  8.  We will reap all the unquestioning love and devotion brimming from those big brown eyes
 And now we have a 9th – they are THE best snuggle-monsters! After all, hasn’t science just proved it?

PS The researchers didn’t question me, but it makes no difference to the results. My little rescue dog – who by day would bite the postman’s ankles if he got half a chance – is by night under the covers snuggled up close, his head on my shoulder – bliss!

 

#adoptdontshop

Source: For some women, a dog in the bed is so much better than a human 

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LOL – Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018!

Cover photo: Overall winner Mary McGowan ‘Caught in the Act’ (Photo: Mary McGowan/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards) Mary also won the Affinity Photo People’s Choice Award and Alex Walker’s Serian Creatures of the Land Award.

What can I say – enjoy!

‘While these images are downright humorous, the competition highlights the serious issue of conservation and partners with Born Free Foundation, a wildlife charity that works to help wild animals living in captivity.

‘The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards encourages its followers to follow their mantra. “We want you to take up our banner of wildlife conservation, bang the drum, beat the cymbal and make some noise, we need to spread the word – wildlife, as we know it, is in danger, all over the world and we need to do something to help save it.”‘ – from MNN

Spectrum Photo Creatures of the Air Award

‘Peekaboo’ (Photo: Shane Keena/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Think Tank Under the Sea Category Award

‘Smiling shark’ (Photo: Tanya Houppermans/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Junior Category

‘Nature Calls…’ (Photo: Arshdeep Singh/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Amazing Internet Portfolio Award

‘Mother home early from school parents meeting’ (Photo: Valterri Mulkahainen/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)
Highly Commended Winners

‘So There’ (Photo: Barney Koszalka/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Bear with a sore head’ (Photo: Danielle D’Ermo/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Splits’ (Photo: Geert Weggen/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Drive Safe!’ (Photo: Jonathan Irish/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Rhinopeacock’ (Photo: Kallol Mukherjee/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Tango’ (Photo: Michael Watts/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘PhotograBear’ (Photo: Roie Galitz/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Martian Tango’ (Photo: Sergey Savvi/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘This is Sparta’ (Photo: Sergey Savvi/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)

‘Mother home early from school parents meeting’ (Photo: Valterri Mulkahainen/Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards
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Snorting, Barking Trains in Japan Save Animal Lives!

If you never had the Japanese down as a nation of animal-lovers, get this – on the Japanese rail network Animals Rule. 

Monkeys, dogs, goats, lobsters (lobsters?!) and a tortoise proudly hold the official title of stationmaster at rail depots around the country. The most famous to occupy the post in recent years was a cat called Tama, who died in 2015 at the good old age of 16. Her funeral was attended by thousands of local commuters and admirers hailing from near and far. Following a period of mourning, the newly minted Honorable Eternal Stationmaster was replaced by Nitama, a former apprentice of Tama who beat out other candidates for the job partially based on her “willingness to wear a hat.”‘

The only thing vaguely similar of which we can boast here in the UK, is the day last April when a large herd of cows took it upon themselves to congregate on Hever station platform in Kent. Strangely, in spite of having a wealth of applicants to choose from, Network Rail declined to appoint any of them to their staff.

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Cows spotted on Hever station platform CREDIT: LUKE RYAN

But Network Rail does have one heartening animal trick up its sleeve. Paradoxical, startling, but nonetheless true – the rail network and surrounding land managed by NR is possibly the most biodiverse wildlife haven in the UK. An unseen Shangri-la for rare and endangered species such as the large blue butterfly, the dormouse, the osprey, the natterjack toad and the great crested newt. If we were permitted access, which of course we are not, we might also find an abundance of lizards, grass snakes, slow worms, water voles, deer, foxes, badgers, and bats.

But – and it’s a very big but – the network is both haven and hazard. Between 2003/4 and 2013/14 the number of animals struck by trains tripled, and the unfortunate animals logging up the highest death count are deer.

“Deer have excellent peripheral vision, but most deer incidents take place while the beasts are traversing the railway as part of their natural movement pattern between habitats at dawn/dusk – a time when more trains are running as part of the morning and evening peaks.”¹

What is Network Rail doing to prevent animals getting on the tracks?

Not an awful lot it seems. They “educate land owners about the dangers and disruption caused by animal incursions, emphasising the need to keep gates securely closed and encouraging them to use additional measures such as electric fencing.” 

And that’s it. Good as far as it goes, and fine for domestic animals: horses, sheep and cattle – but if we look for NR’s ideas on keeping deer and other wildlife off the tracks, we draw a blank. This in spite of their desire to minimise collisions and costly disruptions to the rail timetable.

Over in Japan, they do things differently

Yes, certainly there is the same imperative not to let collisions with animals mess up the schedule. (Magnify that sixty-fold. The Japanese don’t have a name for super-efficiency for nothing, and Japanese trains are precise to the second. Last November a rail company felt compelled to issue a public apology for one of its trains departing 20 seconds early, at 9.44.20, instead of 9.44.40 – can you imagine it!)

And yes, as in the UK, the most frequent victims of death by train are deer. The deer are “reportedly attracted to the lines due to a need for iron in their diets, licking up small iron filings left behind by the grinding of train wheels on the tracks.”

But in Japan it’s not just about the timetable. As their unlikely choice of stationmasters/mistresses attest, in the world of the locomotive the Japanese have a care for animals. And that extends to the wild kind, whose interaction with trains is too often fatal.

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Creatures as small as turtles can come a cropper, as well as cause delays, so one rail company has worked with wildlife experts to create safe crossings in the form of special turtle trenches running underneath the tracks. Rail workers even carry out regular inspections to see if the little guys need an extra helping hand.

For the bigger animals the usual ropes, fences, and flashing lights have all been tried – without success. Now, displaying a creativity sadly lacking in Network Rail, the Japanese are coming up with all kinds of imaginative ways to prevent costly timetable disruptions and animal deaths.

The ideas

One of the most out there was someone’s brainwave of mixing water with lion dung garnered from a safari park, and spraying the solution along the track. Hey presto, it worked! Not one deer was run over. Even though Japanese deer have never seen a lion, it seems they recognise the smell of an apex predator when they come across it.

The dung spray though 100% effective, did have several drawbacks:

  1. The spraying was very labour-intensive, impractical on a larger scale
  2. It got washed away in the rain
  3. And finally, it REEKED! Railway staff, passengers, and folk living near the line alike, all complained

Based on the observation that the deer are drawn to the iron from the lines, one company developed another effective method to divert the deer – definitely less off-the-wall and decidedly less offensive than the lion poop  – ‘yukuru’, simple salt-lick blocks containing the vital ingredient iron.

When it really hit home

One night in 2015 a family of deer were crossing the tracks when a young fawn at the rear of the group was struck by a train and killed. Yuji Hikita, an employee of Kintetsu Railway Co. saw it happening. And continued to watch while a parent deer stood motionless, staring down at the fallen fawn for a full 40 minutes. After witnessing the whole heart-wrenching scene, he determined to find a way to stop such a sorrowful event happening again.

Hikita’s focus was on finding a way to help the deer cross the tracks in safety, rather than simply blocking them out.

He made an on-the-ground study of the deers’ movements. Finding hoof prints and dung (deer droppings, not lion!) helped him establish which spots the animals used as crossing points. The line was enclosed with 2 metre-high netting, but crossing places were left open. In the crossing gaps, ultrasonic waves formed temporary barriers at the riskiest times, dawn and dusk, but were switched off overnight when the trains stopped running.

The ultrasonic waves, inaudible to us, have the advantage of not being a terrible assault on human senses like the lion poop.

Hikita’s ingenious plan won him a 2017 Good Design Award.“This is an excellent example of how railway companies can tackle the deer-train collision problem from the deer’s perspective,” a judge for the Good Design Award said in 2017, “and it owes to the countless number sacrificed in the accidents.”

Meanwhile researchers at the RTRI (Railway Technical Research Institute) have been testing trains that snort like a deer and bark like a dog. With the usual Japanese precision and attention to detail, the formula is thus: a three-second burst of deer-snort noises, followed by 20 seconds of dog-barking.

The deer-snorting noises replicate deer’s alarm warnings to each other, which would alert any real deer getting too close to the tracks. The dogs’ barking finishes the job by scaring them away. And the snort-bark formula works. In fact, it’s proving so successful the Institute is considering setting up stationary snort-bark devices along the tracks near crossing places favoured by the deer.

Network Rail, are you listening?

 

Sources

¹Analysis of the risk from animals on the line

In Japan, custom trenches help turtles cross railroad tracks with ease

Japanese trains save deer with sound effects

Read also

Wildlife transport kills on the rise in India

‘Plan Bee’ gets Indian elephants to buzz off railways

With 100s of reindeer already being killed by freight trains, Norway decides in favour of wild reindeer over a wind farm

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Fiona the Hippo Predicts Superbowl Winner – Harmless Fun or Shameless Exploitation?

“Fiona the hippo knows who will win Super Bowl 2018. This is science.”

Apparently.

Harmless fun or shameless exploitation? A bit of both. Fiona certainly looks to be enjoying her salad, so hopefully no hippo was harmed in the making of this video.

All I can add to my previous post about adorable Fiona, is that Cincinnati Zoo knew what it was doing when it appointed its marketing director. No profitable opportunity is missed. He/she is making the little hippo worth her ever-expanding weight in gold for the zoo’s coffers.

The zoo is non-profit, so let us hope all those extra dollars Fiona is unwittingly spinning  will conserve wildlife where we want it to be – in the wild.

Update 5th February 2018

Fiona was right on the button, or should I say, on the lettuce. She picked the underdog Eagles and the underdogs won! I believe the POTUS will be visiting Cincinnati this week. I do hope he doesn’t get to pay a visit to little Fi. Now that would be cruelty to animals.

Sources

Photo and video from CZ

Here’s Who Will Win Super Bowl 2018, According to a Hippo

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The Runaway Cow Wild Wintering With Bison

Image credit: Rafal Kowalczyk / Facebook

Scientists said, It chose freedom”. I say, She chose freedom.” The story of the cow who prized freedom above the safety of home.

The story is set in Poland. So, as the heroine of this tale remains nameless as yet, I shall call her Swoboda, Polish for ‘Freedom’.

Ornithologist Adam Zbyryt was the first to spot her near the wild primeval forest of Bialowieza. “It’s not unusual to see bison near the Bialowieza Forest, but one animal caught my eye. It was a completely different shade from the rest of the herd, light-brown” he told a Polish news channel.

On closer inspection Swoboda turned out to be a Limousin cow, a French breed common in Poland. In spite of living on the hoof, so to speak, and exposed to the Polish winter, she was looking good – apparently healthy and unfazed by the snow and the giant bovines with horns of her adopted herd.

Another sighting of Swoboda took place this week, this time by biologist Rafal Kowalczyk. She is still keeping up with the bison, and happily still in fine fettle. At night wolves patrol the edges of the Bialowiez wilderness. A lone cow would be no match against such fearsome predators. For Swoboda to be surviving there, the bison must be protecting her.

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The defiant cow has survived in the wild in the rough, Polish winter. Image credits: Adam Zbyryt / Facebook

All the same, Swoboda remains a bit of an outsider, not fully integrated in the herd. And while that is a cause for concern, if she can survive the winter, not getting too close to her shaggy friends could be a blessing in disguise. What if a big male bison were to take a fancy to her? End result – a hybrid calf. Diluting the bison genes would threaten the survival of the bison population, as of now standing at a precarious 520. What the herd needs is healthy bison babies with 100% bison genes.

And worse for Swoboda, a half-bison calf would likely be too big for her to carry and safely deliver. It could endanger her life.

All in all, come Spring someone may have to guide Swoboda back to the safety of confinement with her own kind. (Temporary safety. Safe that is, until humans are done with her.)

Meanwhile, stay close to your woolly friends Swoboda, and keep on relishing that sweet taste of freedom!

Update 7th February 2018 Swoboda is not the only cow who wants to be free.  Hermien too. Heroic cow escapes trip to slaughterhouse, hides in Dutch forest for weeks. And there is definitely going to be a happy ending for this brave lass

 

Source: Domestic cow runs away, spending the winter with Wild Bison

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Christmas Spoiler – Rudolph is an Impostor!

Prepare yourselves for a Christmas bombshell guys

The most famous of all reindeer ever, the dude with the shiny red nose (how did he come by that schnoz, I wonder) is NOT WHO HE SEEMS. There’ve been rumours – confirmed just this week – that Rudolph has been masquerading all these years under a false identity. For Rudolph is not Rudolph.

I’ll whisper the dreadful truth: –

Shh, don’t tell the kids, but Rudolph… is… really… Rudolpha!

Kids aside, the hard facts must be faced – none of Santa’s dancing, prancing sleigh team are boys – it’s a physical impossibility.

This little video explains all.

By the time of the autumn rut, the male reindeer have grown magnificent antlers in preparation for the battle to bag themselves mating rights. But after they’ve clashed antlers, and done all the rest that’s required of them, they’re left flagging, energy low, having burned up nearly all of their body fat. Certainly not up to the challenge of pulling a gift-heavy sleigh from the North Pole all the way around the world and back again.

Not only that, but by the early days of December those impressive antlers will already have been shed into the snow. So by the time Christmas Eve comes round male strength is sapped, and heads are bare. How is that going to look on the Christmas cards.

Step up the girls: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Unlike the boys, and still sporting their headgear – because yes, out of the entire deer family, reindeer females alone have antler equality with the males – they are Christmas-ready, fit and raring to go.

The first sighting of the girls in the night sky was celebrated in verse almost 200 years ago, in 1823

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

with a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer, and Vixen!

“On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!”

(A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore)

Rudolph(a) on the other hand, is a bit of a johnny/jeannie-come-lately. For more than a century Santa successfully negotiated the chimneys of the world with his regular team of eight. But in the thick pea-souper that blanketed the earth on the Christmas Eve of 1939, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and the rest refused to come out of their stalls. They said to embark on the flight in such conditions would be madness. There were muttering about Health and Safety regulations, and even, unthinkably, about cancelling Christmas altogether.

But for that fateful fog, Rudolph(a) may never have got her big break. Suddenly, the luminous red snooter that all her life had brought her nothing but ridicule, now became a uniquely invaluable asset, indispensable to light Santa on his worldwide way.

Why exactly she adopted the alter ego of Rudolph is anyone’s guess. But the rest as they say, is history. It will take more than some smarty-pants biologist telling us male reindeer shed their antlers well before Christmas to dislodge Rudolph – the hero celebrated in song, the saviour of the Christmas stocking, Santa’s main ‘man’, from his/her unassailable place in children’s dreams of Christmas.

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But now might be a good time to tweak the traditions a little. Real life reindeer (known as caribou in N. America) are remarkable animals, and have their own complex lives in the wild which definitely don’t involve pulling sleighs for us, or even for Santa. And the ‘rein’ in reindeer doesn’t mean, as we might have supposed, that that is their purpose in life. It actually has nothing to do with reins, but comes from Old Norse hreinn meaning ‘horned’. More reindeer/caribou facts:-

  • They are smaller than you think, standing at only 1.2m at the shoulder
  • They have clowns’ feet – wide spreading hooves that make perfect snowshoes, shovels to shift snow (to get at the food beneath) and paddles for swimming
  • It’s true they do have unusual noses – not normally red! – because they are furry. In fact their special insulating hollow fur covers every bit of a reindeer’s body from furry nose to furry feet, except of course their eyes
  • They talk to each other with their feet. When the herd is moving, “they make a delicate clicking or popping sound. Being surrounded by a small herd sounds a bit like being in a bowl of puffed rice as the milk is poured on to it”
  • They are long distance runners, travelling the furthest of any land mammal in the world, up to 5,000 km a year
  • They can run at up to 80 kmh
  • Surprisingly there are two herds numbering several thousand at the South Pole – well, almost. The animals were introduced to South Georgia a century ago and are still flourishing
  • But, once widespread in the northern states of the US, they are now the country’s most endangered mammal with barely a dozen remaining
  • In Canada, caribou populations have fallen by as much as 90%
  • Reindeer are also found in Scandinavia and Russia where their populations are estimated to have fallen by 60% in the last three decades

Main threats to these beautiful creatures are the usual suspects: human-caused habitat loss and disturbance by industrial development. And now, human-caused climate change.

And considering how wonderfully adapted are these gentle, quiet and sensitive animals to conditions in the Arctic, it is heartless and inhumane to bring them into hot, noisy crowded shopping malls and festive fairs for Christmas ‘entertainment’. So much better left in kids’ imagination at the North Pole with Santa.*

hsMnOHmm, it looks like Santa may have been hiding a secret too. Nowadays, he sails through the night sky on a Tesla electric sleigh. Don’t worry, Rudolph(a), Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen are still there alongside the man in red as he chimney-hops around the world on Christmas Eve. But for reindeer heavy sleigh-pulling is so last century. In 2017 the famous nine will be dancing across the wild blue yonder – just because they want to, just for fun. 

PS Santa wants it to be known that he still loves his mince pies. Just make sure you leave him vegan ones

 

* Find out more: Why Putting Live Reindeer and Other Animals on Display Is Inhumane

If you live in Canada, please sign this petition to protect caribou habitat

Sources

Eight reasons to love reindeer even more!

Are Santa’s Reindeer Male?

Santa Claus’ reindeer

Earth’s Endangered Creatures

Caribou – An Iconic Canadian Species

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Christmas Haiku – Blood of the Innocents

And the Winners Are … Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2017

We’ve seen the nominees. Now for the best of the best. (You may recognise a few familiar faces – and rear ends!)

I seriously doubt anyone could dispute Tibor Kerccz’s right to be crowned Overall Winner 2017 and Winner of Amazing Internet Portfolio Prize with these fabulous 4 images

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Another worthy winner with “The Laughing Dormouse”, Andrea Zampatti

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Highly Commended “Wtf” By George Cathcart

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Highly Commended “All Dressed and Ready for Church” by Carl Henry

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Highly Commended “Must Have Three-Putted” by Douglas Croft

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Highly Commended “Hitching A Ride” by Daisy Gilardini

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Highly Commended “Cheering Sea Otter” by Penny Palmer

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Winner Of The Padi Under The Sea Category “Slap” by Troy Mayne

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Highly Commended “Caught In The Act” By Bence Mate

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Highly Commended “Monkey Escape” by Katy Laveck-Foster

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Highly Commended “Animal Encounters” by Jean Jacques Alcalay

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Highly Commended “Eh What’s Up Doc?” by Olivier Coll

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Winner of The Kenya Airways In the Air Category “Duck Speed” by John Threlfall

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Highly Commended “Mudskippers Got Talent” by Daniel Trim

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Source Funniest Wildlife Photos of 2017 Have Been Announced

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Russian Miner Takes Stunning Photos of Foxes in the Wild

 

Meet Naruto “Person of the Year”

Whatever you may think of PETA, this is a genius move IMHO. By honoring Naruto, the crested black macaque with a famously goofy grin, as “Person of the Year” the organisation is emphasising that “he is someone, not something”. And what a person he is! I only wish he were able to revel in this accolade – though as long as he is safe and happy…. Go Naruto!

Monkey takes selfie

To find out more about the strange tale surrounding Naruto’s fame, look at Naruto & the Selfie – The Case is Settled

Source

Indonesia’s selfie-snapping monkey named ‘Person of the Year’

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